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Keeping Manhattan’s Construction Boom Safe for New Yorkers 04 Transit Advocates Uneasy About Cuomo MTA Capital Pledge 03 February 11 - 24, 2016 | Vol. 02 No. 03

Enough Chopping of the Choppers?

Linda Lavin Outshines Her Playwright



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February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

Transit Advocates Alarmed by Cuomo Budget’s Language on MTA Capital Pledge BY JACKSON CHEN


ransit advocates are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to immediately make good on his $8.3 billion promise of state funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital program, which includes projects like the long-stalled Second Avenue Subway. Since the governor pledged the $8.3 billion to the MTA in 2015, $1 billion has already been allocated to the agency in the 2015-2016 state budget that ends March 31. In his recently proposed 2016-2017 budget, Cuomo indicated that the remaining $7.3 billion in state money would be made available to the MTA capital program after the transit agency exhausted all its available capital resources. Once the MTA runs out of its own annual funding for its 2015-2019 capital program — which includes big ticket projects like the Second Avenue Subway, the East Side Access Project that will bring Long Island Railroad trains into Grand Central, and the Penn Station Access Project that will bring Metro North trains to the West Side — the state would provide specified portions of its $7.3 billion commitment over the four-year period. According to the governor’s budget, the state would make available $1.5 billion in the first year, $2.6 billion in the second year, $1.84 billion in the third year, and $1.4 billion the fourth year, but only if the MTA depletes its capital resources. After the release of Cuomo’s proposed budget on January 16, transit advocates seized on that contingency, charging that it raises doubts about the certainty of state funding for the overall MTA capital plan. According to the governor’s budget document, “The additional funds provided by the state… shall be scheduled and made available to pay for the costs of the capital program after MTA capital resources planned for the capital program, not including additional city and state funds, have been exhausted, or when MTA capital resources planned for the capital program are not available.” For the Riders Alliance’s deputy director, Nick Sifuentes, the language falls well short of what the group hoped to see in line item budget allocations to fulfill the governor’s commitment from last year. “It’s kind of like telling the agency, ‘Why don’t you max our your credit cards and come back to us and we’ll pay your salary?,’” said Sifuentes. At Grand Central Terminal on February 3, the Riders Alliance trotted out its “Cardboard ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016


The Riders Alliance took “Cardboard Cuomo” to Grand Central Terminal on February 3 to bring attention to their concerns with the governor’s preliminary 2016-2017 budget.


While Phase One of the Second Avenue Subway is due for completion in December, Phase Two completion has been pushed out into the MTA’s 2020-2014 capital plan.

Cuomo” — a PR gambit the group has used in the past to press the governor on mass transit issues — to draw commuters’ attention to the budget issue. “Cardboard Cuomo,” the group said, “‘apologized’ for his inaction on the MTA Capital Plan.” A spokesperson for the New York State Division of the Budget, however, insisted there is no retreat from Cuomo’s MTA funding pledge. “The Governor put unambiguous and ironclad language in the budget to make good on his commitment to provide $8.3 billion towards the MTA’s capital plan,” the Division of Budget’s Morris Peters said in an email. According to the governor’s office, Cuomo’s proposed budget included clear and direct language that makes the state’s billions of dollars in commitment a matter of law and said the state funds will be available whenever the MTA needs them. MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz reiterated

that Cuomo’s language in his budget was ironclad and fully committed the state to provide the agency with the $8.3 billion. He added that the budget preserves a variety of options for the state money consistent with how the MTA’s capital program was funded in the past. Still, the language irks other transit advocates, as well, including Gene Russianoff, staff attorney and spokesperson for the Straphangers Campaign. Russianoff said he prefers more of a guarantee from the governor and the removal of the current language about the exhaustion of resources. “You can’t take this language to the bank,” he said. The Straphangers’ spokesperson said that any shortfall the MTA faces from state funding would have to be made up from other sources, such as the city, the federal government, or even the liquidation of real estate assets. Russianoff noted that Cuomo still has the opportunity to revise the language regarding MTA capital funding in amendments introduced between now and the April 1 deadline for the Legislature to adopt a final budget. For East Siders, a key concern in the MTA’s capital program is the Second Avenue Subway project. The agency is currently still in the midst of completing the project’s first phase that will expand the Q line from 63rd Street to 96th Street by opening three new stations. While the first phase is expected to finish by December of this year, Phase Two of the project was dealt a huge blow after the MTA cut nearly $1 billion from its funding in the 2015-2019 capital plan approved in October. With second phase completion now expected to be pushed into the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital plan, any snags in state support for the transit agency only make the project’s prospects dimmer. “If the state says it can’t even fund what the MTA wants to do, what does it say for Second Avenue Subway?” Sifuentes said. “It sounds like the powers that be kind of walked away from getting Phase Two done.” The MTA’s, Ortiz, however, pushed back against any suggestion the MTA was retreating on the Second Avenue project, emphasizing that the 2019 capital plan retains more than $500 million for its advancement. "MTA is committed to moving the project forward with funds currently programmed in the plan," he said, adding that the agency will seek additional funding under the current plan should progress warrant it. n


Keeping Manhattan’s Construction Boom Safe for New Yorkers


The scene on Worth Street last Friday.



s Manhattan picks up the pieces from a deadly crane collapse in Tribeca, the incident has sent shockwaves of concern throughout the borough. On February 5, a massive crawler crane toppled onto Worth Street between Hudson and Church Streets, scraping along four buildings before crushing David Wichs, a 38-year-old Upper West Sider. In addition to Wichs’ death, three other people suffered injuries from the debris that fell off the buildings hit by the crane. Two days after the incident, Mayor Bill de Blasio issued citywide regulations regarding crane safety that called for more enforcement aimed at the machines’ operators and harsher penalties for the disobedient. According to de Blasio’s four point plan, crawler cranes — like the one that toppled in Tribeca –– that move short distances with their caterpillar tracks will have to


stop work and go into “safety mode” whenever steady winds exceed 20 miles per hour or when gusts exceed 30 miles per hour. Making sure contractors abide by this new restriction until further notice, the city’s Department of Buildings plans to increase fines to at least $10,000 — up from a minimum of $4,800 — on any operator who fails to comply by safeguarding their crane equipment. The mayor’s regulations also called for several city agencies to increase enforcement of the various sidewalk and street closure regulations related to crane activity. The Department of Buildings will conduct inspections and issue violations accordingly if flaggers fail to prevent people from crossing into work zones. The new crane rules also detailed a requirement that operators give proper notice to surrounding residents and businesses whenever they move a crane, where they previously only needed to notify nearby people when the crane was first

installed. Lastly, the city wants to prevent any future incidents by creating a task force charged with evaluating the Worth Street incident and proposing best practices for the city going forward. While the city continues its investigation into the crane collapse, tremors from the incident quickly reached the Upper West Side –– as residents and officials mourned Wichs’ death and also called for better safety regulations. “Our Upper West Side community has been left reeling after learning that one of our own lost his life as a result of the crane collapse in Lower Manhattan,” City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal said in a February 6 written release. “Though no words could ever hope to make David Wichs' family whole again, all of our hearts are with them as they grapple with their tragic loss.” Wichs, who was born in Prague, came to the US at 14, and later graduated from Harvard where

he earned a reputation as a math whiz, was remembered at a February 7 funeral at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on East 85th Street before burial in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. Rosenthal’s statement continued, “Given the increase in construction here on the Upper West Side and across the city, it is critical that the New York City Department of Buildings does everything in its power to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers. In light of the apparent increase in construction-related deaths and injuries in recent months, the city must do more to secure construction sites and protect building workers and passersby alike. I call upon the city to make the results of the multiagency task force available to the public and to take swift action to reform any procedures that could have contributed to this tragedy.” Rosenthal’s West Side colleague Mark Levine told Manhattan Express, “While accidents like the most recent crane collapse are extremely rare, it’s understandable why this tragedy underscores many concerns people have about construction safety in New York City.” Levine, who is the main sponsor of Intro 420, a pending measure that would place limits on construction near schools, said he plans to continuing pushing that bill, but he also commended the new regulations de Blasio announced. “As New York City embarks on a building boom, I believe the mayor’s new proposals offer a much needed step in the right direction,” Levine said. “With new construction projects occurring throughout the five boroughs, safety for workers on site and for residents in surrounding neighborhoods should never become expendable.” Across Central Park on the Upper East Side, the rapid pace of new construction is never from far residents’ attention. Echoing Levine, Councilmember


CRANES, continued on p.5

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


David Wichs, who was killed February 5 when a massive crawler crane fell on Worth Street in Tribeca.







CRANES, from p.4

Ben Kallos said the city is currently experiencing a construction boom, similar he said to the pre-recession one he witnessed while working as chief of staff to former East Side State Assemblymember Jonathan Bing. In 2008, two crane collapses on the Upper East Side happened less than three months apart. According to Department of Buildings accident records, an incident on March 15 of that year left seven people dead and 22 injured after a tower crane collapsed at 303 East 51st Street. Shortly afterwards, on May 30, another crane collapsed at 335 East 91st Street, leaving two dead and one injured. “The last time we were in a construction boom, we saw a similar level of accidents,” Kallos said. “In both cases, we’ve seen lives lost. I wish we could learn from some of our mistakes.” While the councilmember praised the mayor for focusing on the issue now, Kallos said he’s been working on stricter regulations for construction sites since April 2014 when he proposed Intro 299, also known as the Construction Safety Act. Under the bill, workers seeking hoisting machine operator licenses would be required to have qualifying experience in New York City and complete specific examinations administered by the city’s Department of Buildings, instead of other accredited organizations. Kallos said while the industry is moving toward having a national standard of construction safety, New

c ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016

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A horse leaving Clinton Park Stables in Hell’s Kitchen.

In Face of Teamster Opposition, de Blasio, Council Nix Horse Carriage Vote


At a January 22 hearing on the mayor’s horse carriage proposal, after one of the Council’s sergeants-atarms warned that he would kick out any audience member who cheered — or heckled — those in attendance resorted to wiggling their hands to show support for those testifying.



he stable door has been shut, for the time being at least, on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial plan to relocate the Hell’s Kitchen horse carriage stables to Central Park. In the face of sudden opposition from the Teamsters union, which represents the carriage drivers, City Hall announced in a February 4 press release that the vote — sched-


uled for the Council’s full session the following day — was off. “We negotiated in good faith with the City Council and the Teamsters to reach this agreement,” de Blasio said. “The terms of that agreement have not changed during these past weeks, but today the Teamsters decided to back away from the fair compromise they had previously endorsed.” Administration officials empha-

sized that the vote was called off because of opposition from the union, which it had considered a vital partner in the deal, and not because of lack of support among councilmembers. “While we are disappointed this bill will no longer be considered Friday, the people of this city know what I believe, and we will work toward a new path on this issue,” de Blasio said. Critics of the plan had previously called on the Council to delay a vote on the bill, after questions about its content proved pervasive. Carriage drivers, along with Brooklyn Councilmember David Greenfield, said last week that the administration should hold its horses and work out the details of the proposal — which they say would ruin business, and not just for carriage drivers. “This plan is not even close to ready for the Council to vote on it,” said Greenfield, who criticized the administration at a disastrous hearing last month that saw the mayor’s representatives struggling

to answer basic questions about the plan. “The vote should be delayed until a proper study has been undertaken and all outstanding questions have been resolved,” he added. The bill would have eventually reduced the industry’s 220 licensed horses to 95, with 75 animals allowed to work in the park at a time. It would have also restricted pedicabs from operating in the park below 85th Street and seen an existing building along the 85th Street Transverse converted to a stable for the horses by 2018, with a new adjacent structure for the 68 licensed carriages. But at the hearing in front of the Council’s Transportation Committee, City Hall reps were unable to say how many carriage drivers would lose their jobs, how much a new stable in the park would cost, or how pedicab operators would be affected. A few days later, the mayor’s office circulated a “fact sheet” to councilmembers, which confirmed the price tag of $25 million for building the stable and estimated that 40-50 drivers would lose their jobs at the end of the year if the bill passes. But Greenfield argued that many questions, such as whether the deal might still be changed after it is enacted, or how many pedicab drivers would have to give up their jobs, remain unanswered. “The time to study whether your policy is going to put people out of work is before you put those people out of work, not after,” he said. The Transport Workers Union announced earlier last week that it would sue the city if it passed a law restricting the pedicab operators, who were not involved in the discussions for the bill but would nonetheless be banned from much of Central Park under the plan. The de Blasio administration and the speaker of the Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, had been heavily lobbying councilmembers to back the bill until the last minute — while some opposing labor groups were urging the lawmakers to vote “no.” The Teamsters had originally supported the Central Park plan, which the union argued was a compromise to the outright ban on the industry de Blasio promised his mayoral campaign supporters in 2013.


CARRIAGES, continued on p.7

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


The West Side Tradition


CARRIAGES, from p.6


ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016


But George Miranda, president of Teamsters Joint Council 16, made a last-minute U-turn one day before the scheduled vote, saying in a statement that the union opposed the plan. “The Teamsters’ first priority is always our members and their livelihoods,” Miranda said. “With the legislation now finalized, our members are not confident that it provides a viable future for their industry.” According to a spokesperson, the union had been negotiating the details of the bill until earlier last week and ultimately had to side with its members, who vehemently opposed the proposal’s timeline. Under the current plan, the number of horses licensed to operate in the city would have been cut in half by this December, which carriage owners argued would unnecessarily damage their business long before the stable opens a few years down the line. “We are opposed to the bill, and we’re opposed to it for the same reason we were opposed to it at the hearing,” said Christina Hansen, a carriage driver and spokesperson for the industry. “This is not about working with the industry, this is about punishing the industry,” she said. The Central Park Conservancy, which was not involved in the city’s discussions on the plan, also raised concerns about the impact of the stable — and new hack lines in the park — on the city’s most treasured green space. In an email sent to park supporters, Conservancy president and CEO Douglas Blonsky, who also acts as the park’s administrator,

said he saw too many unresolved issues in the bill, according to Capital New York. New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, the group that lobbied for a ban of the carriage industry during de Blasio’s 2013 campaign for mayor, reacted angrily to the announcement of no vote. “The speaker’s decision to continue to place carriage horses in harm’s way is outrageous and wrong,” NYCLASS said in a written release. “Let’s be clear about what this cold-hearted delay means — horses will continue their miserable nose-to-tailpipe existence, horses will continue to be hit and killed by city traffic, horses will continue to work until they are the equivalent of 80 years old, and horses will continue to be sold to slaughter. We have a sensible plan to protect the horses, and it deserves a vote. But instead the speaker is allowing the Teamsters to call the shots and allow the horses to suffer.” As of February 5, it was not clear whether the bill would be amended, or brought back for another hearing in front of the Transportation Committee. The mayor said simply, “We will work toward a new path on this issue.” For the carriage drivers, the news was a reason to celebrate after weeks with the threat of losing their livelihoods hanging over their heads. Stephen Malone, who has driven a carriage in the city for almost 30 years, said the city’s proposal had been too severe to ensure a future for the industry. “We’re all breathing a sigh of relief,” he said. “Now we’ll go back to work.” n



Pedicab operators queued outside City Hall on January 22 to testify against a bill that would ban them from most of Central Park.



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Police Blotter SEXUAL ASSAULT: ALLEGED RAPIST AT LARGE (19TH PRECINCT) Police have identified a suspect wanted for sexual assault on February 6 at 5 a.m., but the male suspect remains at large. According to police, Gregory Anderson approached the 36-year-old female as she crossed Second Avenue walking along East 94th Street. According to police, Anderson grabbed the victim from behind and threw her to the ground, then forced her to walk further down the block. After that, Anderson removed $40 from the victim and sexually assaulted her, police said. The victim was able to flee into a nearby store where Anderson was unable to find her, according to police. Police released a photograph of Anderson (which can be seen at ManhattanExpressNews. nyc), from a 2014 arrest for public drinking. He is described as a 32-year-old black male who is 5’7” and weighs 145 pounds.

BURGLARY: THROUGH YOUR OWN FRONT DOOR (17TH PRECINCT) Police are looking for an individual responsible for six instances of Midtown burglaries ranging from December 15 to January 29, most of which involved the suspect entering through the front door. The earliest incident occurred on December


15 at 9 a.m. at a home located near East 38th Street and Tunnel Exit Street, where the suspect entered through the front window and stole various electronics before fleeing on foot, according to police. Three days later on December 18, the suspect entered a home at 9:30 a.m. near East 30th Street and Lexington Avenue through the bedroom window and did not steal anything before fleeing, police said. About a month later, police said another incident occurred where the suspect entered a home near East 33rd Street and Lexington Avenue on January 17 at 9:45 a.m. through an open front door and stole various electronics. The next day, the suspect entered a home near East 39th Street and Lexington Avenue and stole a cellphone, a bicycle, and trash bags. Caught by a superintendent who snapped a photo of him, the suspect then fled west on East 39th Street by foot, police said. According to police, the penultimate incident occurred on January 25 at approximately 11:15 a.m. when the suspect entered a home near East 34th Street and Third Avenue through the front door and stole a computer and eight watches. In the most recent incident, police said, the suspect entered a home through the front door near East 36th Street and Third Avenue on January 29 at 4 p.m. and stole a cellphone and camera. Police released photos of the suspect (which

can be seen at ManhattanExpressNews.nyc) wanted for questioning, whom they describe as a black adult male, last seen wearing a black jacket, blue-hooded sweatshirt underneath, pants, black shoes, and a black hat, and wielding a screwdriver.

ASSAULT: A STRUGGLE ENDS IN SHOTS (23RD PRECINCT) On February 5 at around 8:15 p.m., two unknown males approached two victims, a 16-yearold male and a 19-year-old male as they were waiting for an elevator inside an apartment building on Lexington Avenue and East 108th Street, police said. The two suspects displayed a firearm to the two teens and demanded their property before engaging in a struggle, according to police. Police said the scuffle ended in the 16-year-old getting shot in the right knee and the 19-year-old getting pistol-whipped. The two victims were taken to an area hospital by responding EMS. Police released a video of the two suspects (which can be seen at ManhattanExpressNews. nyc), whom police did not otherwise describe.

ROBBERY: A REALLY BAD COLD (17TH PRECINCT) Police are looking for two suspects who pilfered cold and flu medicine from the CVS pharmacy located at 757 Third Avenue,

between East 47th and 48th Streets. According to police, the suspects entered the store at 6:45 p.m. on January 19 and began stuffing their book bags with the cold and flu medicine. When a store employee approached the suspects, they slashed the 17-year-old female’s hand with an unknown object before fleeing. The store employee refused medical attention. Police released a surveillance photo of the suspects (which can be seen at ManhattanExpressNews.nyc), whom police did not otherwise describe.

PUBLIC LEWDNESS: UNDERGROUND PERV (14TH PRECINCT) On January 28 at around 7:30 a.m., a man on a southbound 4 train at Grand Central subway station exposed himself to a female passenger, according to police. Immediately after, he hopped into the next train car and proceeded to expose himself again to other female passengers, police said. Police released photos of the suspect (which can be seen at ManhattanExpressNews.nyc), whom they describe as a approximately 30-year-old black male, around 5’9”, and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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State Declines to Appeal Order to Redo UWS Nursing Home Environmental Review BY JACKSON CHEN


ew York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman let a February 1 deadline pass without filing an appeal of a State Supreme Court ruling that called for more environmental review of a proposed 20-story nursing home on the Upper West Side. While opponents of Jewish Home Lifecare’s proposed nursing home development on West 97th Street considered the lack of a state appeal an advantage, Greenberg Traurig — the law firm representing JHL — is still cranking out its own appeal. JHL’s impending appeal comes after State Supreme Court Judge Joan B. Lobis, on December 9, ruled that its proposed nursing home development — to be built adjacent to P.S. 163 and various


P.S. 163’s main entrance, seen from the currently unused lot proposed as the site of JHL’s 20-story nursing home.

residential complexes — would require the “requisite hard look” at the impact of noise and hazardous materials in the state Department of Health’s environmental review.


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After JHL’s filing of a notice of appeal, Schneiderman and his office had until the end of January to file their papers. With the deadline passed for the AG’s appeal, JHL is now alone in challenging Lobis’ decision. According to a JHL spokesperson, they are still moving forward and finalizing the appeal. “We believe we have a strong case for appeal and hope that the Appellate Division will hear arguments in the spring,” the spokesperson said. For the attorneys representing the opposition, they feel they’ll have the upper hand when the case enters the courtroom in the state’s Appellate Division. According to Rene Kathawala, an Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe attorney representing the parents of P.S. 163, JHL missed two deadlines on January 4 and February 1 that would have placed them on the Appellate Division’s calendar for March or April, respectively. Despite JHL’s appeal, Kathawala said Schneiderman choosing not to appeal raises many questions. “We feel that it indicates that the attorney general’s office feels that Judge Lobis’ decision was cor rect, otherwise why wouldn’t the AG appeal?,” Kathawala said. “It’s probable that the DOH said we’re done with this.” Neighboring residents, who filed suit separate from the P.S.

163 parents, felt the AG stepping away from the case is indicative of a more cautious approach by the state. Joel Kupferman, the attorney representing them, said the Flint, Michigan water contamination crisis may have had some effect on Schneiderman and DOH’s decision. “I think they think it’s more important to register any doubt, especially post-Flint and post-Detroit, and that there should be more testing on the table,” Kupferman said, referring to the Michigan debacle that resulted when access to Detroit’s Lake Huron water was denied Flint, which then turned to the Flint River for water. The attorney added that the AG’s office may not agree with JHL’s arguments in its appeal. According to JHL’s court documents, its appeal is based on the assertion that Lobis considered testimony and evidence from experts on the opposition’s side in her decision, even though that information wasn’t part of the public record. Lobis’ ruling allowed “Petitioners to transform the cooperative [State Environmental Quality Review Act] process into an ambush,” JHL argued, according to court documents. In response, Kupferman argued that there were no surprises from what their experts said because their evidence backed up asser tions that the community already brought up during the public review process. Kupferman, who is the executive director of New York Environmental Law and Justice Project, said he would be filing a counter-appeal on behalf of the residents, seeking a complete do-over of the environmental review, as soon as JHL files its appeal. According to the court schedule, JHL has to file its appeal by February 22 to get on court date for May. While JHL’s notice of appeal is valid for nine months, Manhattan Express has learned that JHL is planning to file shortly. n

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Several cranes are located at 701 Seventh Avenue at 47th Street.


CRANES, from p.5

York’s landscape is unique and should have operators with distinct experience within the city. “The key piece is to make sure the folks have training, make sure they’re certified, and make sure their training is local to New York City,” he said. In calling for more safety regulations, Kallos said he wants something similar to de Blasio’s Vision Zero for preventing construction accidents. While there have been no recent crane accidents on the Upper East Side, there were three serious crane-related accidents throughout the borough in the two years leading up to last week’s Tribeca tragedy. According to the DOB’s accident database, a construction worker was injured when a spider crane on the roof of 353 Spring Street tipped over on February 7, 2014. More than a year later, on May 31, 2015, city records show, seven people were injured when a crane dropped an air conditioning unit after trying to hoist it to the roof of 261 Madison Avenue between 38th and 39th Street. A Daily News story on that incident pegged the number of injuries at 10, three more than the DOB reported. Less than a week later, on June 2, a construction worker was injured during the installation of a tower crane at 41 East 22nd Street, according to accident reports. However, it’s only with the most recent incident that the city is now taking steps to reform construction safety. The de Blasio administration is continuing its investigation into the most recent crane collapse, including a forensic examination of the equipment, and the mayor ordered that the DOB inspect all crawler cranes throughout the city before putting them back to work. “No building is worth a person’s life,” de Blasio said. “We are going to ensure the record boom in construction and growth does not come at the expense of safety.” n ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016


DOT Unveils Three Pairs of UES Crosstown Bike Routes


An overview of the DOT’s proposal for crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East Side.



esponding to calls from Upper East Siders for crosstown bike lanes, the Department of Transportation returned to Community Board 8 with a proposal for six painted bike lanes that don’t reduce parking or travel lanes. According to the DOT’s proposal, there would be three pairs of crosstown bike lanes — located at East 84th and East 85th Streets, East 77th and East 78th Streets, and East 67th and East 68th Streets — stretching from Central Park to the East River Esplanade. The department’s pr oposal came nearly three months after CB8 passed a resolution requesting the DOT for mulate some options for crosstown bike lanes. According to the November 12 resolution, the board was looking for a short-term answer in the form of painted bike lanes. “If you’re putting down paint, suddenly what you have is a 10-foot traffic lane,” said CB8 Transportation Committee co-chair Scott Falk of the bike lanes. “People drive more safely simply because there are stripes on the ground.” The six proposed bike lanes


would be similar to the existing painted bike lane pair at East 90th and East 91st Streets. Once implemented, the three new pairs of crosstown routes would also intersect the protected northbound bike lane on First Avenue and the soonto-come protected southbound bike lane on Second Avenue. According to DOT project manager Craig Baerwald, the three crosstown pairs were chosen because of their proximity to the community’s cultural institutions and stations on the Lexington Avenue subway lines. Some residents, however, spoke out against the specific streets the DOT chose because they felt a bike lane would disrupt the nature of their blocks. With each of the blocks mentioned having either schools, firehouses, police stations, or the typical traffic congestion, residents felt the DOT should look at alternatives. “There are other blocks in the Upper East Side that… frankly are safer and less congested than streets like 84th Street and 85th Street,” said Chris Evans, a resident and member of the 84th Street Citizens Alliance. “Each street has its own idiosyncratic set of issues and we have to take that into consideration.”

About a mile south, the East 67th and East 68 Street bike lanes also would put too much strain on the residential streets, according to residents who spoke out. Max Herzog, an East 67th Street resident, said there is barely room to work with in the street’s current configuration. He explained that the M66 competes with the Police Department’s 19th Precinct, the Fire Department’s Engine 39 and Ladder 16 station house, and the double-parked vans of the Fox Television Studios for space on the street. “The Upper East Side is unique because there are a few streets that are single [lanes] that have buses that are ten feet wide,” Herzog said. “There’s already not enough room on those streets for everything else, let alone bikes.” Though the committee did not take a vote just yet, co-chair Falk emphasized the safety benefits of painted bike lanes, which he said would not affect auto travel or parking lanes. “There’s no proposal here to take away traffic lanes,” he said. “What we have now are these completely disorganized streets that are 30 feet wide that have no lane markings.” Other board members requested more transparency in how the DOT chose the six streets because of some hiccups in the East River Esplanade connections under the plan. For cyclists using East 78th Street traveling eastbound, they would eventually hit a street direction change at York Avenue. The DOT would place shared lanes

and signage on York Avenue for cyclists to navigate what becomes a figure eight traffic loop between York and East End Avenue for any rider doing a round trip on the parallel bike lanes on 78th and 77th Streets. Similarly, cyclists leaving the East River Esplanade on Gracie Square would have to travel north on East End Avenue for a block using shared lanes before reaching the westbound East 85th Street painted bike lane. Cyclists in favor of the DOT’s proposal, however, argued the new bike lanes would provide them with safe crosstown options. Liam Jeffries, a weekly cyclist who lives on East 62nd Street, said he’s almost been hit several times by motorists exiting their parked cars. With no lane markings, Jeffries said some sort of organizational structure for the roadway is needed for cyclists. “Cyclists don’t really want to cycle in the middle of the street competing with traffic because that would be dangerous and, at times, deadly,” said Jeffries. CB8 members see the painted bike lanes as a short-term solution they hope might later lead to a plan for  protected crosstown routes from the DOT. In light of several criticisms offered about their proposal, DOT officials concluded their presentation by saying they would review the residential concerns and return to CB8 next month for further discussion of their plans. n


A schematic of the impact of painted bike lanes on parking and auto and bike traffic.

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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The overflow crowd at the February 2 Community Board 7 meeting.



he Department of Transportation’s proposal for an Amsterdam Avenue bike lane won a majority vote in favor from Community Board 7 on February 2. Ending a more than four-hour discussion with comments from residents on both sides, the board tallied 28 votes in favor to 13 against — with two abstentions — giving the proposal for a northbound bike lane from 72nd Street to 110th Street a comfortable margin of victory. The DOT’s redesign of Amsterdam Avenue — a key feature of which is a protected bike lane — would reduce the current four auto lanes to three. First introduced in November, the DOT proposal would also introduce shorter crossing distances through pedestrian islands and would limit some stretches of avenue parking during certain hours to make way for truck delivery loading zones. With the inclusion of a bike lane and left-turn bays for motorists, parking spots would be reduced by 21 percent, which is less than the 25 percent the DOT originally projected. Backing up the CB7 majority that supported the DOT’s proposal, resident cyclists packed the Goddard Riverside Community Center on Columbus Avenue so much that police had to escort dozens of people out of the hallways due to fire safety concerns. Despite limiting access to the

meeting, the proposal’s remaining supporters shared their testimonies in the form of personal stories and calls for a safer avenue. “ We ’ v e a l w a y s k n o w n t h a t Amsterdam has been crazy,” said Kathleen McAnulty, a member of Families for Safe Streets and a 35-year resident of the Upper West Side. For McAnulty, the safety improvements can’t come quickly enough. On January 14, a motorcyclist fatally struck her 73-yearold father on the crosswalk near Amsterdam Avenue and West 96th Street. “Something has to be done,” McAnulty said, adding she was in disbelief that she was able to share her story just three weeks into her mourning. “If it’s not done, more people are going to die.” Joining the voices in favor, City Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal and Mark Levine spoke up for the DOT’s proposal. “The Department of Transportation is responsible for coming up with safe streets,” Rosenthal said. “They’ve done right by us with West End Avenue and they did right by us with Columbus Avenue.” Rosenthal, who’s been pushing for improving Amsterdam Avenue since her days as the CB7 chair in 2007, said she doesn’t want to receive another phone call or tweet about a crash in her district. Representing the district just north of Rosenthal’s, Levine shared

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016


AMSTERDAM, continued on p.26

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Second Try at Fifth Avenue Residential Renovation Falls Flat at CB8 BY JACKSON CHEN


he applicant hoping to renovate the 1143 Fifth Avenue apartment building was back again with a scaled-down proposal that still did not satisfy the building’s neighbors or Community Board 8’s Landmarks Committee. According to the new application, the height of the luxury complex, located between 95th and 96th Streets, would increase by just under 10 feet through the creation of a duplex penthouse on the top of the building. The existing penthouse, which was constructed in 1995, would be removed and replaced with the two-floor alternative. On February 8, CB8’s Landmarks Committee, for the second time, deliberated on a proposal for the building, created by renowned architect J.E.R. Carpenter in the early 1920s and located in the Carnegie Hill Historic District. Stephen Gallira, who represents the building’s owner, French businessman Jean-Claude Marian, originally approached CB8 in October 2015. The previous application involved the addition of six floors to the seven-story building and was rejected by a 29 to 14 vote of the full CB8 board. The following month, the proposal was also denied by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Since then, Marian’s team has come back with a new proposal designed by a different architect, Dominick Pilla. According to Gallira, the new application took into account all the considerations raised by the community as well as Landmarks. Instead of tacking on six floors, the new proposal is a toned-down approach with the addition of a duplex penthouse. The plans also call for the installation of an American with Disabilities Act-compliant elevator and an interlocking scissor-staircase design that would be in line with the city’s building codes regarding fire egresses, according to Gallira. These two accessibility


1143 Fifth Avenue, as it currently looks.

additions are planned toward the rear of the building and would create bulkheads, or structural protrusions, on some areas of the rooftop. Additionally, Pilla said, the project would involve other significant alterations that would preserve only 25 percent of the building in terms of façade and internal layout. The current seven residential units would be reconfigured into a ground floor doctor’s office with six expanded residences above. The majority of the board’s Landmarks Committee concluded the new design still wasn’t appropriate for what they deem a unique historic building. “A big red flag that came up was when the architect said only 25 percent of this building is going to be retained,” said Susan Evans, a member of the committee. According to committee member Elizabeth Ashby, the architect had a tough task in trying to fashion a penthouse on top of such a small building. For her, the proportions of the building would be thrown off


RENOVATION, continued on p.15

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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RENOVATION, from p.14

with the duplex penthouse. “If [the architect] tries an addition like this, it diminishes, if not, overwhelms the building,” Ashby said. As the sole dissenting voice on the committee, Christina Davis said she agreed with the proposal, adding that 1143 Fifth Avenue was merely a good building — and not one of the gems among Carpenter’s works. Davis added that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved applications like Pilla’s throughout the city. However, next-door neighbors remained staunch in their position that the building should be kept as it is. Organized as the Friends of J.E.R. Carpenter to oppose the original proposal, opponents filled the meeting, voicing criticism of the revised application. Local residents said the property was a unique feature of their neighborhood, with one characterizing the proposed addition as similar to stretching out the canvas of a painting by Claude Monet, the French painter who pioneered Impressionism. For John Coleman, an 18-year resident of 1140 Fifth Avenue, the dwarfed height of the building provided a break in Fifth Avenue’s roofscape and offered a unique New York City view. “It was the early morning and I could see in between the gap between 1140 and 1148,” he said. “The sun was rising in the east as it was making it way up to come into the south.” Coleman said he often spends time in the Central Park playground across the street with his children and that the building provides a path for light to create a “wonderful ambiance” in the park. According to Walter Melvin, a preservation architect who is advis-



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ing the Friends group, the new proposal from 1143’s owner is “totally dissonant with the design and the way the building should look.” Melvin said that the emphasis in the team’s proposal on the addition of only one floor was misleading because the bulkheads would add height and change the character of the building. In defending his design, Pilla argued that it was simply bringing the building up to a modern standard of living. “We, as architects and professionals, try to plan for this building to be here for another 100 years,” he said. “The architect who designed it 100 years ago was designing a contemporary building at the time, and now it’s 100 years later and we’re improving it.” Having been voted down by CB8’s Landmarks Committee, the proposal now heads to a full board meeting on February 17. Despite the adversity encountered on February 8, Pilla said the team is in conversations with the Landmarks Preservation Commission right now regarding their new proposal and would be before the LPC on March 8. n

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Enough Chopping of the Choppers? YANNIC RACK

West Side Councilmember Helen Rosenthal speaking at a November rally that drew other elected officials opposed to the Hudson River helicopter tours, including (l. to r.) State Senator Brad Hoylman, Councilmember Margaret Chin, Borough President Gale Brewer, and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler.



he city has reached a surprise deal to cut the helicopter-tour traffic thundering in and out of the busy Downtown Manhattan Heliport in half, but residents in Manhattan say they still want to see the noisy birds sent flying from the city for good. John Dellaportas, who heads the advocacy group Stop the Chop NYNJ, said he felt betrayed by the city councilmembers who had vowed to outright ban the industry, which has long been criticized for terrorizing residents along the Hudson River. “It’s a complete sell-out by our elected officials, especially Councilmembers Chin, Rosenthal, and Menchaca,” he said. “They promised us they were going to try to enact a complete ban, and instead behind our backs cut a deal with the helicopter industry.” Dellaportas added, “The helicopters will continue to fly, 10 hours a day, six days a week. It’s still a pretty steady din, so I don’t think this will have any less impact for us.” The arrangement, hammered out by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which owns the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, preempts far more drastic legislation under consideration by the Council that would effectively banish the helicopter-tour industry from Manhattan. Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal from the Upper West Side, Margaret Chin from Lower Manhattan, and Carlos Menchaca from Brooklyn — the sponsors of the bill — had grilled reps of the EDC and the tour operators at a contentious City Council hearing back in November. But in a joint statement included with the city’s January 31 announcement of the deal, they claimed victory for forcing the EDC’s hand to reach a compromise — signaling to Dellaportas and his fellow critics that the bill was effectively put on hold. “As Council Members, we are proud to have pushed forward legislation that helped give our constituents a voice and a rallying point in the


fight to reduce noise and air pollution caused by the increasing number of tourist helicopter flights,” they said. “Today's announcement — a 50 percent reduction in tourist helicopter flights and no flights on Sundays — is a huge step forward in protecting the quality of life of thousands of New Yorkers, and offers our constituents some sense of immediate relief.” Asked if the deal came in lieu of a ban, a representative from Chin’s office told Community Board members in Lower Manhattan that the legislation was by no means off the table. “The legislation has not been withdrawn,” said Paul Leonard, Chin’s communications chief. He hinted, however, that the councilmembers would only make a move if the deal failed to make a difference. “We will push forward if the industry does not abide by the terms of their agreement,” he said. In an interview, Rosenthal defended the compromise as necessary, especially since the bill did not have enough support to pass the Council anytime soon. “It’s going to take quite a bit of work to get the bill passed,” she said. “And at this point we made a decision, as the ones that are carrying this legislation, that this would provide more immediate relief.” She added that the legislation was still active in the Council and that she would keep pushing her colleagues to support it. “It can always be pulled out again,” she said. “The agreement the administration made with the helicopter industry does not change our feelings about the legislation.” Helicopter-tour operators will now have to cut half of all flights at the Pier 6 heliport near the Battery by January 2017, and end all flights on Sundays by April 1 this year. “The din of helicopters has been a major quality of life issue for New Yorkers living near heavily trafficked routes,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the statement announcing the deal. “Today we’re addressing it.” The cutback will be phased in over the course of the year, with a 20 percent reduction from

2015 levels beginning June 1, and a 40 percent reduction by October 1. The city estimates that by this time next year, the agreement will have eliminated nearly 30,000 helicopter flights annually. Local lawmakers last year said the legislation was overdue after years of complaints about incessant noise and noxious fumes caused by the choppers along their route from the tip of Lower Manhattan up the Hudson River to Washington Heights. “These days the pleasure of a sunny bench and a river view is being obliterated by a fleet of helicopters flying up and down the Hudson,” wrote Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an op-ed published in the New York Times the same weekend the deal was announced. “Just as the noise from one chopper fades away, a new one approaches, and it feels as if we’re trapped in a landing zone on a military base.” But helicopter-tour operators and the de Blasio administration have argued that the economic benefits to the city — which also bags $2.9 million in annual rent for the heliport — outweigh the misery of residents. Those who have suffered the drone of the copters for years — with flights thundering in and out of the heliport as many as 28 times every hour during the day — said this week that the agreement doesn’t go far enough. “It’s very distressing to the people who hear it every day. The helicopters are very noisy,” said Sharon Canns, an Upper West Sider and president of the tenant association at 50 West 93rd Street. “I would like to see it banned. I don’t agree with a lot of compromises, because they never work out well.” Aaron Biller, president of the community group Neighborhood in the Nineties, said the deal would bring some relief but shouldn’t be the end of the discussion. “It’s a good start. I don’t know whether you can realistically expect the city to ban that industry,”


CHOPPERS, continued on p.17

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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CHOPPERS, from p.16

he said. “Like everything else in this town, it comes down to interest groups.” Residents along the helicopters’ flight path also criticized the city for waiting a full year before enacting the full set of restrictions. “We’re not going to see any improvement until next year,” Biller said. “And then the issue will be whether they really enforce this.” A chorus of elected officials, who have been crusading against the tour-chopper scourge, hailed the deal as a step in the right direction, but said they would continue their push to eliminate the choppers altogether. “We have long called for a complete ban on nonessential tourist helicopters from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, and still support a full ban,” proclaimed a joint statement by the pols, including Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. Behind the scenes, some of them seemed to have even stronger feelings about the agreement. “We consider it a half-measure,” a spokesperson for Nadler, who has been working to curb the copters for years, told Manhattan Express. Helen Rosenthal said the fact that the pols released a statement separately from the councilmembers did not mean they weren’t on the same page regarding a ban. “Let’s face it, that entire group has been fighting for fixes to this situation for a decade,” she said. “Their frustration level is very high,

and I understand that. They would like the three of us [councilmembers] to work miracles and pass this bill immediately. We’re working very hard to get it passed, but I’m realistic about our chances for any kind of immediate relief.” Last year, more than 59,000 flights took off from Pier 6. According to Leonard, the reductions will be enforced on a month-to-month basis — meaning the busy summer season will continue to see more flights than the quieter winter months. Tour operators will have to provide monthly reports on the number of flights to both the EDC and the Council, and if they are determined to have violated key terms of the agreement, the EDC will have authority to impose further reductions in the number of flights allowed. A third-party monitor, paid for by the operators, will also conduct field observations, according to the city. Saker Aviation, the concessionaire for the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, has agreed to establish a system to monitor air quality in the vicinity of the heliport and provide monthly reports to the EDC and the Council. Saker has promised to reduce idling by helicopters between flights as well. Currently, 219 people are employed in the helicopter -tour industry, according to the EDC, including 50 at the Downtown heliport. The tours used to take off from two other heliports as well, at East 34th Street and West 30th Street, but they were all moved Downtown by 2010 due to neighborhood opposition. n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016

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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Valentine’s Day?

PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

EDITOR IN-CHIEF PAUL SCHINDLER editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc





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here are holidays filled with joy, love, laughs, and a gladdened heart. And then there’s Valentine’s Day. “I’m not sure he ever recovered,” recalled a friend I’ll call Clarissa, thinking back on the Valentine’s Day when she was engaged to the man of her dreams, who gave her a pair of heart-shaped silver earrings. Nice, right?  Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And wrong. “When I put them on, I realized they were tarnished. I went insane!” said Clarissa. “I thought, ‘This is the end of our relationship!’ I remember going down the street, crying my eyes out, and calling my friend, ‘Matt bought me these tarnished earrings [sob] and I don’t want [sob] to speak to him again!’ [Assume more sobbing.] It was like the tarnish was a metaphor for our relationship. I remember my family talking me down, ‘He doesn’t mean it. He loves you. It was inadvertent.’ But what kind of man gives a woman a tar nished gift?” A man who’s pre-t-t-t-y wor ried about giving her a gift again, I’ll tell you that. Looking back now — with her 30th anniversary coming up (yes, to Tarnish Man!) — Clarissa can’t understand why she went so ballistic.  But I do.  Valentine’s Day is to relationships what pythons are to picnics.  Another friend whose name I can’t use — do you sense a pattern here? — had been married for a few years and V-Day was upon him. “Of course, I was one of those last-minute shoppers,” he admitted. “So I was on Fifth Avenue and I just popped into a Victoria’s Secret to get her some-

thing.” He paused. “I learned a lot that day.” Lessons you males out there may wish to note: • Buying a negligee for a woman is sometimes perceived, per haps unfairly, as more of a gift for you. • S ilk is an expensive material, long valued for its drape, feel, and cost. • Polyester is a cheap, man-made material that can, to some benighted (ex) boyfriend or husband, seem just like silk. • It’s not. Once my friend had learned this lesson the hard way, he never bought his wife any clothing again — not even a scarf. In fact, after that it was mostly gift cards. “Let her handle it,” he says now, sounding a little shaken.  Still married. But shaken.  And then there was the “funny” Valentine’s Day that entrepreneur and corporate keynote speaker Peter Shankman arranged for his date. They’d been going on five months — “Long enough for her to know my sense of humor.”  Or so he thought. “Did you know that on Valentine’s Day, White Castle takes reservations and puts out waiter service, place mats, candy hearts, etc...?” He told the girlfriend to dress up, promising her, “We’re going to someplace romantic.” They drove to Queens. They pulled into White Castle. The girlfriend assumed they just needed a place to park. But — surprise! During dinner, she cried. They broke up a week later. He has since married someone more fun.

Of course, sometimes the gift a guy gives is actually quite perfect. That doesn’t mean all goes as planned. “ O n e y e a r, I h a p p e n e d t o get three bouquets delivered at work,” recalled Manhattan author and poet Elinor Nauen. “Bouquet No. 1 came from Johnny, my new boyfriend at the time. Bouquet No. 2 was from a guy who worked there and had a hopeless crush on me.” The third bouquet was a thank-you from a writer whose story she’d published. The gift just happened to arrive on February 14. “I kept getting interrupted to go to the front desk for yet another delivery, and the small muttering that came at the second bouquet got pretty loud by the third,” said Nauen. And what were those co-workers’ mutters? “Everyone seemed to think I’d sent them all to myself!”  So a day to revel in popularity became a day to realize: “All my coworkers think I’m a neutered, friendless, narcissist. Gee thanks!” Luckily, she is still with Johnny — he of Bouquet No. 1 — decades later. And the fact that he has never given her flowers since is something they’re both okay with.  Maybe the key is to simply sleep through the 14th. Or do what my husband did in the early, giddy days of our relationship: Buy your beloved a pound of bologna. Not as a metaphor. Just as a guilty pleasure that isn’t made out of polyester and can’t tar nish. What’s mor e, it is unlikely your sweetheart will get three pounds on the same day.  Lenore Skenazy is a frequent keynote speaker, author, and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.” n

February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

Manhattan Treasures RECKLESS STILL

way at 60th St., fifth fl. Feb. 13, 7:30 p.m. & 10 p.m.; Feb. 14, 6:30 p.m. & 9 p.m. Tickets are $140 at jazz.org, and include a four-course meal with one wine pairing per person. The 10 p.m. set on Feb. 13 also offers a non-dining admission at $45.

Bryan Adams, the Canadian recording artist who has sold more than 60 million records and recently released his 13th studio album, “Get Up” — whose lead single, “Brand New Day,” has a music video featuring actress Helena Bonham Carter and Theo Hutchcraft of the synth-pop duo Hurts — appears at the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway at W. 74th St. Feb. 11, 8 p.m. Tickets are $51- $127 at beacontheatre.com.


He was 17 when he had a serendipitous encounter with Frank Sinatra and Ol’ Blue Eyes’ long-time pal Jilly Rizzo. The evening changed pianist Monty Alexander’s career forever. He soon became the house pianist at New York’s famed Jilly’s Saloon and developed a unique relationship with Sinatra himself. For two nights, Alexander, joined by singer Kurt Elling, will share songs and stories in honor of Sinatra’s centennial. Jazz at Lincoln’s Rose Theater, 10 Columbus Circle, Broadway at 60th St., fifth fl. Feb. 12-13, 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.50-$130.50. Each evening, a free pre-concert discussion takes place at 7 p.m.




Jazz pianist and singer Freddy Cole happens to be the brother of the late Nat King Cole, and he built his own career at the same time that Nat, who died at age 45 in 1965, became an international star. Freddy, meanwhile, built a reputation as a prolific force in the jazz world. The New York Times has called him “the most maturely expressive male jazz singer of his generation, if not the best alive,” an assessment echoed by DownBeat, which named him “our greatest living jazz singer.” In the past two decades alone, he’s released 20 albums, including the 2010 Grammy-nominated “Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B.” In a two-night Valentine’s Day special, Freddy appears at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, 10 Columbus Circle, Broad-

gay at age 82, sits down with journalist and author Gay Talese at the 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St. Feb. 16, 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $32 at 92y.org.

Grammy and Tony winner songstress Stephanie Mills, last seen in December on NBC as Auntie Em in the live broadcast of “The Wiz,” teams up with Grammy-nominated singer Will Downing for a romantic Valentine’s Day show at the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway at W. 74th St. Feb. 14, 8 p.m. Tickets are $59-$129 at beacontheatre.com.

Fresh on the heels of his eighth album, “Sermon on the Rocks” — recorded in New Orleans and one of his most freewheeling and rollicking to date — Josh Ritter, joined by special guest Elephant Revival, appears one night only at the Beacon Theatre, 2124

AN EMCEE FOR THE AGES Joel Grey, whose career in acting, singing, and dancing has spanned more than six decades, won an Oscar, a Tony, and a Golden Globe Award for his turn as Master of Ceremonies in “Cabaret.” He’s also a photographer whose work is in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Tonight, Grey, who is the son of famous Cleveland Yiddish comedian and klezmer clarinetist Mickey Katz and came out as



MANHATTAN TREASURES continued on p.25







City Tech (New York City College of Technology) is the largest public college of technology in the Northeast and ranked #1 in the nation in producing the highest paid associate-degree earning graduates (PayScale.com).



ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016



Remembrance of Opera Companies Past


Latonia Moore and Carlo Guelfi in the NYCO Renaissance production of "Tosca."



ew York’s surprisingly strong snow storm on January 23 forced cancellation of two of the six performances of “Tosca” scheduled for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater by the newly formed NYCO Renaissance company. Roy G. Niederhoffer, a former board member of the original NYCO, organized and bankrolled NYCO Renaissance and tapped Michael Capasso of the defunct Dicapo Opera Theatre as his general director. In a sentimental gesture toward the past, the nascent company opened with the same Puccini opera that inaugurated the original New York City Opera back in February 1944. This new production recreated the original Adolfo Hohenstein set and costume designs from the 1900 world premiere of “Tosca” at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. The performance was pleasant and respectably professional but seemed an exercise in misplaced nostalgia. It did not resemble anything I remember from


the original New York City Opera. The conductor and opening night prima donna were Dicapo stalwarts. Former Dicapo music director Pacien Mazzagatti conducted an able body of musicians billing themselves as the New York City Opera Orchestra, while Musica Sacra and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus were deputized in place of the disbanded NYCO chorus. Though Lev Pugliese was listed as the stage director, reliable informants suggested that Capasso actually directed most of the rehearsals. What transpired onstage resembled a high-end Dicapo Opera Theatre upgraded from a 200-seat church basement to a 1,000-seat opera house with a larger orchestra and budget. What was gained in higher quality playing and staging came at the cost of the modest homespun charm and intimacy of the original Dicapo experience. In the old days, NYCO would present cutting edge productions of the standard repertory in contrast to the lavish, traditional versions favored by the Metropolitan Opera. This was

reversed this season: Luc Bondy’s stark modernistic “Tosca” played out what was rumored to be its last revival at the Met. Meanwhile, the NYCO Renaissance production featured painted cloth scenery, with Tosca entering Sant’Andrea della Valle in Act I sporting a feathered picture hat and walking stick straight from the pages of the 1912 edition of the “Victor Book of the Opera.” The original designs closely match the historical buildings familiar to the Roman audience in 1900 — much more so than Franco Zeffirelli’s grandiosities at the Met. The painted drops were probably scaled down to fit Rose Hall’s shallow stage. The original sets likely had greater depth and visual detail than were depicted in the design sketches consulted for this production. In Act II, Scarpia’s apartment in the Palazzo Farnese looked like a watercolor blown up to life size with vague washes of pastel colors that did not suit the atmosphere of the scene. It was interesting to see the original set configurations, though not all the original stage directions were respected. Some of the revisionist touches fell flat — Cavaradossi pulling a knife and tackling Angelotti for trespassing in the chapel? In a public space where the Marchesa Attavanti had previously visited? In Act III, the substitution of Spoletta executing Cavaradossi mafia-style with one bullet to the back of the head instead of the traditional firing squad made no sense. In reality, the bloody exit wound would have left no doubt Mario was dead, with Tosca standing only five feet away. Otherwise, it was a standard crucifix and candles affair. “Tosca” is a vehicle for great voices, and here the company provided a mixed bag. I caught both casts, seeing the January 20 first night and the last show the following Sunday afternoon. I have admired Kristin Sampson as Violetta, Butterfly, and Tobias Picker’s Emmeline at Dicapo. As Tosca, Sampson seemed efficient but low-impact in this grander role and surroundings — her dark full lyric soprano had neither the lush beauty for a lyrical conception nor the tonal thrust for a more dramatic reading. As an actress, the petite soprano hit all the marks without finding a personal interpretation. Still, Sampson’s firm soprano has an even scale and a reliable high C — neither of which her Mario, tenor James Valenti, could count on.


OPERA, continued on p.22

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Keeping the Truth at a Distance BY SCOTT STIFFLER



t’s easy to enjoy — but hard to believe — the central character in a flashback-heavy tale of a mother’s confession and the unsettling ripple effect it has on her surviving children. If only that assessment didn’t apply to the play, “Our Mother’s Brief Affair,” as well. During one of many “cry wolf” calls to her deathbed, Anna (Linda Lavin) — a stubbornly tart husk of the shag rug-loving, Burberry trench coat-wearing, Mary Higgins Clark-reading Long Island mother she was in her prime — lets loose with a doozy, telling grown-up gay son Seth (Greg Keller) about the affair she had when he was 15. But are her tales of park bench flirtations and hotel room trysts (engaged in while a youthful Seth took weekly viola lessons at Juilliard) the product of a dying truth-teller, a victim of “mental mayhem natural to someone who’d had too many operations, and way too much anesthesia,” or a vain revisionist gunning for space in the competitive obituary page her son writes? After just over two hours’ worth of anecdotes told, dots connected, and observations made, Seth and his twin sister Abby (Kate Arrington) — still no closer to an answer they can live with — are reduced to wondering, “… who are you?” Despite its finely calibrated, audience-pleasing quips and volleys (and there are many), T ony-winning writer Richard Greenberg’s layered, but ultimate-


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Linda Lavin and Greg Keller in Richard Greenberg’s “Our Mother’s Brief Affair.”

ly wafer -thin play sends you on your way with the feeling of having been cheated out of an investment — not in time spent, but in characters ill-served by one too many plot twists that tantalize, then fail to deliver. Full of juicy details that force a reassessment of the parent they only thought they knew, Anna’s brief affair is grist enough for her befuddled children. However, the even more disturbing revelation that caps Act I plays itself out as little more than a feat of parlor trick misdirection, as does a “Rosebud” moment from Anna’s childhood. That origin story, though, is beautifully written and wrenchingly played — and if this single cal-

OPERA, from p.20

The tall, dashing, but dramatically awkward Valenti produced a wooden sound that unraveled in the passaggio (upper middle break). He had to break the vocal line to realign his tonal placement in order to reach isolated high notes. Baritone Michael Chioldi absolutely stole the show as a juicy-toned, lubricious Scarpia who relished his villainy while wallowing in the masochistic guilt of false piety. The second cast was dominated by Latonia Moore in her role debut as the Roman diva, with


lous act seems incapable of causing Anna to proclaim, “I wasn’t worthy of the good things,” only to make those around her suffer for decades, then something must have done the job. How else to explain the deceased father’s only appearance? (“Everybody with their ‘oh mom’s so sick, mom’s so frail’ — she’ll live forever; one day I’ll drop down dead,” he says.) Recalling what a lousy patient she was during those rounds of getting sick and getting well, Abe (John Procaccino, also cast as Anna’s lover) musters a level of rage so genuine and insightful that it makes the endless comedic observations of Seth and Abby seem as if they belong in a separate, far less important, universe.

luscious tone and dramatic thrust easily at her command. Moore’s velvety lirico-spinto soprano thrives more on broad lyrical phrases than the agitated vocal line of verismo (her “Vissi d’Arte” broke the line with too many sobs yet still brought down the house). Her acting is dutiful rather than spontaneous. Yet this Floria provided vocal glamor and was emotionally moving. Young Italian tenor Raffaele Abete was her Cavaradossi, unveiling a rich, slightly throaty lyric tenor, a natural instinct for Italian style, and bright high notes he wasn’t shy about flinging up to the rear balconies. Carlo Guelfi, a

Not helping matters: The brother and sister deliver their pithy quips directly to the audience. It’s not long before this has the unfortunate effect of turning the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre into a downscale basement comedy club, where cascades of laughter, although wellearned, distract from the business of drilling deep enough to tap what really lurks below the surface. Punchline imperative notwithstanding, Greenberg’s knack for heartfelt moments, achieved with stunning bursts of prose, keeps the whole “Affair” from drifting into sitcom territory — making the experience a disappointment only in the sense of potential not realized because of the roads not taken. As the elusive title character, Linda Lavin has no trouble distinguishing this performance from others in the “formidable parent” genre typical of her recent stage work. So perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to say you can’t quite figure your mother out. Best to show her some love while she’s still around. n

familiar Met Scarpia, displayed the slightly dry and juddery tone of the older veteran singer but also the dramatic and stylistic authority years of experience bring. Mazzagatti favored broad lyrical tempos but too often got out of sync with his soloists in quicker conversational passages. What is in the cards is uncertain: Niederhoffer and Capasso both have failed opera companies in their past. A bigger scaled Dicapo Opera Theatre is no replacement for the old New York City Opera in repertory and artistic scope. But a door has been opened for the future. n February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


When to begin saving for retirement After finishing school and landing their first jobs, the furthest thing on many young professionals’ minds is retirement. Although the day young workers will cash their last paychecks and bid farewell to the workplace may be decades down the road, it’s never too early to begin saving for retirement. The sooner a person begins saving for retirement, the more time his or her money will have to grow. As more deposits are made and interest is compounded, retirement investments can grow considerably. Ideally, workers should begin saving

as soon as possible. Compounding interest produces a better return for professionals who start saving when they are young than for those who delay their retirement savings. Unfortunately, many of today’s new workers are not prioritizing retirement. According to a study from Hewitt Associates, just 31 percent of Generation Y employees (individuals born after 1978) who are able to deposit money into a 401(k) retirement plan actually do so. The easiest way to save for retirement is to make the process entirely automatic. One can achieve this by sign-

ing up for an employer-sponsored 401(k) or another retirement plan. When opening a 401(k), workers will have a predetermined portion of their earnings deducted from their paychecks and deposited into the retirement account. Such contributions are made prior to being taxed, adding even more incentive to begin saving as soon as possible. Money deposited into a 401(k) will then be available for withdrawal when the employee reaches retirement age. If the employer has a matching program, even better, as that means the company will match employee contributions up to a

certain percentage. A person may also want to establish an IRA (individual retirement account). IRAs, which are available as traditional IRAs or Roth IRAs, are typically offered through financial establishments and provide tax-friendly ways to save for retirement. There are differences between traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs, and these differences are related to taxes and may depend on when contributions are made as well as when withdrawals are made. Speak with a financial planner to help you determine the IRA best suited to your personal needs.




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Broadway at W. 74th St. Feb. 20, 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.50- $45.50 at beacontheatre. com. SYMPHONYSPACE.ORG

YOU ARE MY FLOWER Smithsonian Folkways artist Elizabeth Mitchell has twice been nominated for a Grammy. This morning, joined by her family — including her 14-year-old daughter Storey — the M Shanghai String Band, a Brooklyn bluegrass ensemble, and Simi Stone, performs homespun renditions of songs by Woody Guthrie, Bob Marley, the Velvet Underground, Vashti Bunyan, and Gillian Welch. NPR calls Mitchell’s performances “some of the most uplifting kids music out there.” Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Feb. 13, 11 a.m. Tickets are $18 at symphonyspace.org. The concert runs one hour.

SWORD DANCING Sword dancing was originally practiced in the farming and coal-mining regions of northern England, where the annual visit of the dancers to the village homes was thought to guarantee good luck for the year. In the English Sword Dance Festival, dancers weave ceremonial swords into complex configurations as a part of this ancient winter celebration. Central Park’s Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, 110th St., btwn. Lenox & Fifth Aves. Feb. 13, with two performances btwn. 1:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m. Free, and no pre-registration is required. For more information, call 212-860-1374 .

LITTLE RED’S HOOD Little Red is hip, she’s urban cool, but she’s also too focused on her smartphone to notice her surroundings. Wulfric is a misunderstood wolf with a sweet tooth. In “Little Red’s Hood,” when Little Red travels from New York to the country to deliver some cupcakes to her grandma, she encounters a colorful cast of characters as Wulfric the Wolf tries to head her off at the pass. Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, Central Park, W. 79th St. & West Dr. Through Apr. 29: Tue.-Fri., 10:30 a.m. & noon; Sat.-Sun., 1 p.m. Tickets are $10; $7 for children under 12 at cityparksfoundation.org/ arts or 212-988–9093.

WINDMILLS & POP AND LOCK Manzana City Crew, a collective of four young New York artists, presents head spins, windmills, six-step, and pop and lock in a jaw-dropping break dance performance that will keep kids SASKIA KHAN/ engaged from beginning SYMPHONYSPACE.ORG to end. Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Feb. 20 11 a.m. & 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 at aymphonyspace.org. The performance runs one hour.

IS HE A WOLF OR A BUNNY? “Wolfie the Bunny” is a sweet tale of new babies, sibling rivalry, bravery, unconditional love… and veggies, appropriate for kids three to six. The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can — and might — eat them all up! But the bunnies are not necessarily the ones in danger. Author Ame Dyckman and illustrator Zachariah OHora read at Lincoln Center’s David Rubenstein Atrium, Broadway btwn. 62nd & 63rd Sts. Feb. 20, 11 a.m. Admission is free, but reserved seating is available for LC Kids members. For more information on LC Kids visit Kids.LincolnCenter.org/Join.

TIME TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY With spring just around the corner, children four to eight can learn about how taking care of the soil can help grow healthy, nutritious food. First, the kids will see work by artists featured in “The Value of Food,” who use soil as inspiration. Then, everyone will get their hands dirty planting seeds in mud paintings, decorating clay pots, and building soil sculptures. Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St. Feb. 20, 10 a.m.-noon. Admission is $10 per child, with an accompanying adult, at stjohndivine.org.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016

FIVE WEEKENDS OF CONTEMPORARY DANCE The Harkness Dance Festival features five weeks’ worth of innovators and history-makers from today’s contemporary dance scene, opening Feb 11-12, 8 p.m., with the Kathryn Posin Dance Company, made up of leading ballet dancers from New York City Ballet and other companies, presenting a revival of Laurie Spiegel’s “WAVES,” as well a new work by Meredith Monk, John Adam’s “Century Rolls, and Theo Bleckmann performing the suite from Monk’s iconic “Facing North.” On Feb. 19-20, 8 p.m.; Feb. 21, 3 p.m., José Limón Dance Company presents “Dialogues.” On Feb. 26-27, 8 p.m.; Feb. 28, 3 p.m., Keely Garfield Dance performs “Pow.” On Mar. 5, 3 p.m., Pilobolus presents “Rules @ Play.” And to close out the festival, Mar. 18-19, 8 p.m.; Mar. 20, 3 p.m., Tina Croll + Company presents “One Rhinoceros, 3 Birds and a Pineapple.” 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92md St. Tickets are $25-$35 at 92y.org/harknessfestival or 212-415-5500.

ANDY KARL & ORFEH SING THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK Andy Karl has appeared on Broadway in the original productions of “Legally Blonde,” “9 to 5,” and “Rocky the Musical.”

His wife, Orfeh, played Janis Joplin in the Off Broadway show “Love, Janis: and also starred in the Off Broadway hit “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” Tonight, husband and wife appear together to celebrate the Great American Songbook. Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room, 10 Columbus Circle, Broadway at 60th St., fifth fl. Feb. 20, 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $60-$225 at jazz.org.


A GRAHAM OF NASH Grammy-winning singer/ songwriter Graham Nash — a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, for Crosby, Stills and Nash and for the Hollies — sits down with NY1’s Budd Mishkin, where he will discuss his long career, his 2013 New York Times bestselling autobiography, “Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life,” and his new solo release, “This Path Tonight.” 92nd Street Y. Feb. 25, 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 at 92y.org.

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substitute resolution, citing the years of work they put into the original proposal and arguing that a last-minute resolution would be unfair. Board member Mel Wymore said Fine’s resolution was “sand-bagging a two-year process” and that the bike lanes were part of a larger design that would calm the traffic on Amsterdam Avenue. Ultimately, the board sided with the DOT’s proposal but requested both data and oversight. Board members said they wanted to see more numbers regarding the impacts on the elderly and disabled communities as well as on the avenue’s family-run businesses. Having already been part of the creation of a bike lane on Columbus Avenue, CB7 members said they want more involvement this time around, with the DOT continually checking in with the board before, during and, after implementation. With CB7’s supportive vote, the DOT is expected to begin the Amsterdam Avenue redesign as early as spring. n

AMSTERDAM, from p.13

the same sentiments regarding the safety of the Amsterdam Avenue corridor. “A street that was designed 50 or 60 years ago needs to be updated,” Levine said. “It was designed in a different era when the concerns for pedestrians and others were not given primary consideration and the result, not surprisingly, has been unacceptably high numbers of injuries and even fatalities.” To be sure, the crowd didn’t unanimously praise the DOT’s proposal, as some felt the bike lanes would create more congestion, hamper local businesses, and endanger the senior and disabled communities. Picking on their comments from the January 12 CB7 Transpor tation Committee meeting that ended in a 4 to 4 vote, committee co-chairs Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig remained staunch in their opposition. Once again, Zweig asked for a proposal from DOT that would include pedestrian safety improve-


A DOT illustration of the changes planned for Amsterdam Avenue.

ments for Amsterdam Avenue without incorporating a bike lane. The Transportation Committee co-chair advocated implementing the safety features for pedestrians first and then looking at options for a northbound route for bicyclists. Opposition took the form of a substitute resolution proposed by board member Sheldon Fine. His proposal urged the DOT to instead consider installing a two-way route on the existing southbound pro-

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tected bike lane on Columbus Avenue. But Sean Quinn, the co-director of the DOT’s Pedestrian Projects Group, responded that pedestrian safety treatments without the bike lane on Amsterdam Avenue — such as installing neck-downs that would shorten pedestrian crossing distances — wouldn’t be as effective as the planned redesign that includes the bike lane. The board voted down Fine’s


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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 11 - 24, 2016



February 11 - 24, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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