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Finding Their Daily Bread 04 Preserving Bergdorf Goodman Clears Huge Hurdle 03 February 25 - March 09, 2016 | Vol. 02 No. 04

Beyoncé’s Friends & (Fewer) Foes 08

Toward the White House, Punching Down 18 MANHATTANEXPRESSNEWS.NYC

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February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

Preservationists Clear Huge Hurdle as Bergdorf Goodman Slated for Designation Hearing BY JACKSON CHEN


n clearing its decades-old backlog, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has earmarked the building housing the renowned luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman for a much-anticipated designation hearing for landmark status. The building, which still retains its exterior bone-white hue, first stepped onto Fifth Avenue at 58th Street in 1928 and replaced a 45-year-old mansion that was home to a widow of the Vander bilt family. With years serving as a high-end department store that tourists and locals flocked to, there were several efforts to landmark the Bergdorf Goodman building dating back to 1970. However, with action repeatedly put off, the building fell into designation limbo and earned a place on the LPC’s sagging shelf of unaddressed items. After tackling its reserve of 95 unresolved properties, the commission’s February 23 decision to give the Bergdorf building, located at 754 Fifth Avenue, a designation hearing sent a strong message to preservationists. For Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, the commission voting to schedule a hearing was a victory for preservationists interested in retaining the history of Midtown’s most exclusive shopping district. “Fifth Avenue is world-renowned as one of the premiere shopping streets on the planet,” Bankoff said. “The Bergdorf Goodman building is very much one of the character -defining buildings of the department stores of Fifth Avenue.” Bankoff said he believes the LPC is favorably inclined toward making a landmark designation, which he expects to follow the hearing. Despite several opportunities to simply reject the Bergdorf’s landmarking in the past, Bankoff said, the commission kicked the can


The Bergdorf Goodman building at 754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street.

down the road and is now granting a hearing nearly 46 years after the question first surfaced. In addressing the many historic properties on its backlog, the LPC chose not to offer a designation hearing for some others because doing so may have been “politically infeasible,” Bankoff said. Yet, the Bergdorf Goodman building, sitting near some of the most expensive properties in the nation, was assigned a designation hearing. In remarks to Manhattan Express last fall, Bankoff noted that the Crown Building across the street from Bergdorf Goodman sold for roughly $1.75 billion in December 2014, and he expressed concern about the pressures on the LPC in considering landmark status for the exclusive retailer’s building. He greeted the commission’s action this week with considerable optimism. “For them to say we are prioritizing Bergdorf Goodman for designation, I don’t require precognition that they’re feeling strongly about wanting to make this into a landmark,” Bankoff said. However, the landmarking of the property is certainly not with-

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 25 - March 09, 2016

out opposition. During its special hearing in November, the owners of the building — 754 Fifth Avenue Associates, L.P., identified in New York State records as a foreign limited partnership — as well as Linda Fargo, a senior vice president at Bergdorf Goodman, and a descendant of the Goodman family all spoke in opposition to a landmark designation. After receiving public testimony from dozens of people, the LPC made a decision that surprised some preservationists and left them hopeful about an eventual landmark designation. Thomas Collins, a preservation advocate, said he was relieved that the LPC decided to give the property a designation hearing, which is a public discussion among commission members without any further public input. “I didn’t think that they would move forward when there was such owner opposition to this property,” Collins said. For Collins, it wasn’t just a matter of historic preservation. With the trend of super tall towers beginning to litter 57th Street — which has now become known as the city’s Billionaire’s Row — Col-

lins said he was afraid the Bergdorf Goodman building would be demolished for a new development with considerably less character. “If we lose this building, it’ll be a banal glass building,” Collins said of any likely replacement. “It won’t relate well, and it’ll just destroy the historic feeling.” Now that the LPC has decided on a designation hearing, Collins and other preservationists expect the commission to follow through by approving the landmarking of the Bergdorf Goodman building. The commission announced that the first of the designation hearings for Backlog Initiative items would be April 12, but the specific properties scheduled for that date were not confirmed. With special hearings with public comment already completed on all the items approved for designation hearings, no further public participation is required — or allowed — on any of them. Should the Bergdorf Goodman building be recommended for landmarking designation by the LPC, the matter would then move to the city’s Planning Commission before ultimately landing at the City Council. n


Finding Their Daily Bread BY JACKSON CHEN


ust steps from the northeastern-most point of Central Park, the hungry are welcomed in and away from February’s icy winds on the Upper East Side. Around 100 or so people looking for a free meal find their way to the New York Common Pantry on a frigid Friday morning. Across Midtown and the Upper East and Upper West Sides, New York Common Pantry is one of more than a dozen places that offer the homeless much-needed free meals. As local politicians have recently worked overtime trying to address the homelessness problem in the city on a macro level, pantries and soup kitchens open up day in and day out to stem the bleeding of a problem seen throughout the city’s streets. A line of mostly middle-aged men extends outside the pantry’s entrance at 8 East 109th Street, and inside it snakes slowly until reaching the servers stationed outside the kitchen. The breakfast varies each day from Monday through Friday — dinner is served Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays starting at 4:30 p.m. — but usually consists of sandwiches, pastries, oatmeal, toast, condiments, and some milk or juice. Once the patrons fill their plastic trays, they find their seats and begin their meal. Elevator jazz is turned on by Marvin Wells, the police officer-turned-pantry security guard, and he informally chats with some of the guests. According to Wells, the pantry can see as many as 150 people a day looking for a free breakfast. He added that around the start of each month, the numbers usually take a small dip because that’s when people cash their monthly assistance checks. The pantry dining area maintains an amiable feel, with Wells patrolling the area with a friendly demeanor. But, the security is needed for more than just firm handshakes and hearty smiles. An abrupt spat arose when a guest attempted to take what seemed to be an unattended sandwich off a table. Followed by curt demands to put it down, the misunderstanding continued as the would-be poacher requested less attitude from the sandwich’s owner. On other days, misunderstandings can be as simple as someone sitting on a hat absentmindedly left on a chair. When the man said that he just wanted to get his hat back, his words were lost on someone who couldn’t understand English. Growing annoyed and raising his volume, he eventually was able to snatch his hat back from under the other man. While the complications tend to de-escalate quickly in the pantry, arguments that arise among homeless New Yorkers in other settings can oftentimes be much worse, according to Kevin S.



Theresa D. and Cynthia W. chat about their efforts to find housing over breakfast at the New York Common Pantry.

Kevin, a homeless man who was eating just seats away from the minor altercation, said if the same situation happened in a homeless shelter, it would’ve likely led to a fight. As someone who’s alternated between the city’s homeless shelter system and roughing it out on the streets for around 10 years, he likened shelters to “an extension of jail.” According to Kevin, his personal belongings had to be in his line of sight at all times and minor daily nuisances could lead to physical confrontations. He recalled incidents where shelter residents would leave their wet clothes in a washing machine for too long. “Nah, you can’t do that, a fight will break out over that,” Kevin explained. “It’s a lot of simple stuff that’s thrown out of proportion.” During one of his shorter shelter stints, he said, he saw one resident assault another with a fire extinguisher. Similar stories of violent outbursts, mental health problems, and rampant drug use were shared, as well, by Mike Capers, homeless after losing his job last October; Cynthia W., who is going on six months in the shelter system; Theresa D., who is dealing with mental health issues and living in a less-than-legal apartment setup; and the Professor, who is now living in reduced-cost housing after two years in the system. Most guests at the food pantry, when asked their view of city homeless shelters, explained they would rather be out on their own. “You get a roof over your head and you’re not

out in the streets,” Kevin said of the shelters. “But you still got the streets within the vicinity. I'd rather be out here in the streets in the cold.” Separating himself from the homeless population of 60,096 living in the city’s shelter system — according to the Coalition for the Homeless’ December 2015 count — Kevin sought personal freedom on the streets, where the numbers are harder to gauge. To get a rough estimate of the homeless currently living on New York’s streets, the city’s Department of Homeless Services performed its annual count, the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate or HOPE, on February 8. While this year’s HOPE numbers won’t be released for several months, DHS tallied 3,182 people living on the streets, parks, subways, or other public spaces in its February 2015 survey. The year prior to that, volunteers counted 3,357 homeless living on the streets. Though those numbers suggest a downward trend, there’s growing conviction everywhere from the streets to the offices of city government, non-profits, and the media that homelessness is on the rise. With the homeless especially visible in cold weather months, officials have jumped on the issue, arguing they are committed to tackling it head-on. The biggest splash came in early January when Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a directive to take homeless people off the streets when


DAILY BREAD, continued on p.12

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 25 - March 09, 2016



Plans for the Spur, designated here as Phase 2, is due to start late this year.


The Spur will send parkgoers right by 10 Hudson Yards, the first office tower of the new neighborhood, which cantilevers over the rail tracks.

Elevated Piazza Is High Line’s Final Act BY YANNIC RACK


he northern section of the High Line could soon get a large public piazza and provide the Hudson Yards neighborhood with the park’s largest open space. Construction on the last stretch of the elevated park — the area known as the Spur that juts out eastward from its West 30th Street stretch, between 11th and 10th Avenues — is scheduled to start later this year, according to the city Department of Parks & Recreation. Preliminary plans for the section were approved by the city’s Design Commission this month, and include a 4,500-square-foot square above 10th Avenue, as well as balconies, a concession area, and stepped seating space. “It’s going to be awesome,” said Cub Barrett, a spokesperson for Friends of the High Line, the group that maintains and programs the park’s 1.45 miles snaking along the West Side between Gansevoort Street in the West Village and West 34th Streets. “We’re very excited about it. It’s something that has been in talks for a long time, and we’re happy things are moving along,” Barrett added. The Spur would be split into three sections, starting with a passage jutting off from the park’s westbound turn at W. 30th St. and running underneath 10 Hudson Yards, the first office tower of the massive development that would cantilever over the rail tracks. The walkway would include two



The mid-section of the extension would send visitors through a planted threshold to the piazza — a remnant, perhaps, of earlier plans that called for a “dense woodland” experience.

balconies that offer vertical views up the tower’s glass façade, as well as space for food vendors similar to those found on other covered passages along the High Line. A densely planted threshold would then lead out onto the piazza, which is to be framed by seating steps and enlivened by a rotating arts program. “When we were trying to figure out what to do with the space, we sort of went back to our roots and looked at what we’re good at — and that’s horticulture, programming, and public art,” Barrett said. In addition to new art works, the

roughly 10,000 square feet available along the Spur would also provide additional space for existing programs like the park’s Teens Art Council program and Latin dance parties, according to the Friends. “The Spur will also provide much-needed storage space for park operations, maintenance, and horticulture, as well as additional public restrooms — meeting a need voiced by our park visitors,” notes the group’s website. The design of the space is in the hands of James Corner Field Operations, the landscape designers behind the rest of the park, and

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, its original architects. A parks department spokesperson said construction is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2016. The budget for the Spur is $31 million, with $15 million privately raised by Friends of the High Line and Related Companies, one of the developers of Hudson Yards, contributing another $15M as part of a zoning contribution. The city is providing the rest of the money, roughly $1 million.


PIAZZA, continued on p.7

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Preliminary plans for the final stretch of the High Line include a 4,500-square-foot public piazza jutting out west along West 30th Street from 11th to 10th Avenue.


PIAZZA, from p.6

The first phase of the park’s northern section, comprising the park’s east-west transverse along West 30th Street, opened in September 2014 and cost roughly $34 million to build, by comparison. Although the Spur represents the last portion of the High Line that has not been restored and opened to the public yet, Barrett said the Interim Walkway wrapping around the rail yards between West 30th and West 34th Streets still had a fenced-off section that would become accessible some time in the future, as well. “There are plans to build that out at some point, but nothing is on the books yet,” he said. The tracks running along the Spur were originally built to sup-


port freight trains headed to the US Postal Service Morgan Processing and Distribution Center that sits on the block between Ninth and 10th Avenues, and West 29th and West 30th Streets. Earlier plans for the Spur, eventually abandoned, included a Jeff Koons-designed art installation called “Train,” that would have featured a full-size replica of a 1940s steam locomotive suspended from a crane above the tracks, according to the Friends of the High Line. The last concept floated for the site was a bowl-shaped structure “rimmed with dense woodlands, meant to offer an immersive experience of nature in the heart of New York City,” according to the group’s website, but those plans, too, were abandoned, due to cost and space constraints. n

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Counter-protesters affiliated with Black Girl Rising! and Black Lives Matter turn out in support of Beyoncé.


Black Girl Rising! organizer Mela Machinko draws up her counterprotest sign that would read: “Where Y’all At?”

Beyoncé’s Friends Greatly Outnumber Detractors at Post-Super Bowl Face-Off BY JACKSON CHEN


utside the National Football League’s Midtown offices, a controversial protest of Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show planned for first thing in the morning on February 16 was easily outflanked by a counter-protest supporting the pop and R&B superstar. By 8 a.m., at least 30 counter-protesters led by the civil rights collective Black Girl Rising! had assembled on the corner of Park Avenue and East 52nd Street, carrying signs referring to Beyoncé’s new single, “Formation.” Meanwhile, the opposition to the iconic star was, at best, sparse; in fact, their presence was only noticed a couple of hours later. The controversy began when Beyoncé debuted her new song, “Formation,” the night before a Super Bowl performance that raked in as many as 115.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen’s estimates. During Beyoncé’s performance, she and her backup dancers — donning garb that many likened to the attire of the radical Black Panther Party — danced in an X formation, alluding to the slain African-American activist Malcolm X. While many Beyoncé fans, who refer to her as Queen Bey, Mrs. Carter, or simply Yoncé, celebrated the beloved star finally taking a stance on social injustice, the opposition proclaimed that her song had anti-police sentiments, arguing it was inappropriate fare for the Super Bowl. Shortly following the release of her “Formation” music video, critics called for a protest to demand that the NFL apologize for the performance and promise to never again air musical


performances with political overtones. Among the few that showed up during the rainy protest, the soft-spoken Ariel Kohane said he had been in the background since 8 a.m. protesting outside the NFL offices. “I would like them to issue a public apology and never have a situation again where you have anti-police lyrics, songs, or statements,” Kohane said of the league and the Super Bowl. “This is not a venue for stirring up either a political debate or whatever feelings you have.” Once his presence became known, dozens of counter-protestors swarmed Kohane, who was sporting a Ted Cruz campaign button. While Beyoncé fans grilled Kohane about what he termed questionable lyrics in “Formation,” he said he didn’t know the organizer of the protest and simply turned out in solidarity with the Blue Lives Matter movement that supports police. One considerably higher profile critic of Beyoncé’s halftime performance was former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, though he made his comments not in the rain last week, but on February 8 in a Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” segment. “This is football, not Hollywood,” said Giuliani. “And I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.” Despite Kohane and April Bedunah — another pro-police protestor against the halftime show — holding tough to their opinions and engaging their opponents in spirited arguments on Park Avenue, the counter-protestors declared that “peace and love won today.”


April Bedunah makes her pro-police points in debate with a swarm of pro-Beyoncé activists.

Mela Machinko, one of the three Black Girl Rising! organizers of the counter-protest, said their numbers and voices trumped the original protestors and their disapproval of Beyoncé and her performance. “I think it’s great you have more of a showing of people who want to push back against their divisive message than the divisive people themselves,” Machinko said of the opposition. “It’s easy to be hateful and be a troll from behind your computer screen when nobody’s watching.” Like the rest of the pro-Beyoncé crowd present, Machinko was dressed in all-black clothing with a matching beret. “We were really excited about Beyoncé, and it felt really joyful, affirming, very black, and we felt solidarity in that,” Machinko said. “Then there popped up this group of people who


BEYONCE, continued on p.9

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


BEYONCE, from p.8

thought that Beyoncé being black out loud was somehow offensive.” Alongside Machinko, Jacky Johnson and Mary Pryor also rallied the troops to voice their opinions in favor of influential stars using their platforms to speak about tough topics. “We came out because we wanted to not let this group send a message to the NFL that as a country we don’t want people to speak out on social justice issues,” Johnson said. According to Johnson, the low numbers of the Beyoncé protestors spoke to the weakness of their arguments and raised questions about the actual identity of the protest’s organizers. “In the age of social media, sometimes people can seem a lot bigger than they are and really could just be one person behind a computer,” Johnson said.


Ariel Kohane was among a small number of critics of Beyoncé on hand.

As the crowd simmered down around noon — despite the original protest having been scheduled to run until 4 p.m. — Queen Bey’s fans considered their counter-protest a victory in expanding the dialogue about racial issues across the nation. “Regardless of how many people showed up, it’s these moments that create the change,” said Johnson. “And we’re going to keep speaking out.” n

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NYS, Con Ed Seek Input On Limiting Century-Old Gas Plant Contamination



An aerial photograph of the West 45th Street gas plant in Hell’s Kitchen from 1924, when its gas holder, seen at the top center, was still in place.

The site of the former gas plant is split into two units, with one, covering most of its footprint, found to contain pollutants dating back to the time of the plant’s operation a century ago.



ew York State has published plans to limit the impact of pollutants found beneath the site of a former gas plant in Hell’s Kitchen, and now seeks input from the public. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), together with Con Edison, is looking for feedback on its proposal for a Remedial Action Work Plan (RAWP), which aims to limit exposure from century-old contamination during future construction work on the blocks between West 44th and West 46th Streets and 10th and 11th Avenues.

Although the area by the Hudson River waterfront is now mostly strewn with parking lots and warehouses, it was a very different location 100 years ago, when it housed the former West 45th Street Gas Works. Beginning in the late 1800s, this manufactured gas plant (MGP) — like hundreds of similar sites across the state — supplied homes and industry with fuel for heating, cooking, and lighting by converting primarily coal and oil into gas. The Hell’s Kitchen plant ceased operation in 1913 and most of its buildings were razed, although the large cylindrical gas holder between West 45th and West 46th Streets

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remained in use until 1965, when it was finally demolished. Con Edison converted the site into a maintenance yard and later sold it to New York State. It is now a parking lot for the nearby Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Today, a handful of businesses line the stretch along 11th Avenue on the eastern end of the blocks: a steakhouse, a printing shop, a hardware store, and an ad agency, to name a few. But New York’s gas plants left behind more than just space for parking lots and small businesses: in many places, by-products of the gas-production process like tar and purifier wastes (materials formed during removal of other unwanted chemicals from the gas before it was sent out to customers) seeped into the ground and have remained there for more than a century.

The DEC is now overseeing the investigation and cleanup of contamination left behind from these plants across the state. Con Ed conducted field investigations at the site of the West 45th Street plant in 2006 and 2007, and found contaminated soil and coal tar 16 to 30 feet beneath the surface. The RAWP essentially provides guidelines to limit and control exposure during future construction work, according to a Con Ed spokesperson. “At this point, there is no immediate remediation work planned because the site is covered by buildings and a parking lot,” the spokesperson said. Members of the public can comment on the plan, which is available at Con Ed’s website (coned. com/mgp), until March 15. n

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DAILY BREAD, from p.4

the temperature dips below 32 degrees, an action that suggested people would be forced into the city shelter system. The executive order took effect on January 5 and is due to remain in force until March 12. The governor’s initiative seemed to be one more slap at Mayor Bill de Blasio, who on December 15 had committed to a 90-day review of the city’s homeless services. Cuomo’s order, in the view of the de Blasio administration, was redundant and might even create legal hiccups regarding the right of the homeless to refuse to go into a shelter. According to de Blasio’s spokesperson Karen Hinton, who spoke to a number of news outlets, the mayor’s office supported the intent of the executive order, but believed that forcibly removing homeless people from the streets, even in freezing weather, would require a change in state law. De Blasio faced pressure from other quarters, as well, when City Comptroller Scott Stringer, on December 18, released an audit showing violations at 87 percent of city shelters and a record number of people living in them, including around 23,000 children. Away from the podiums and the cameras, others are taking a more personal, on-the-ground approach in trying to decrease homelessness. Rob Byrnes, president of the East Midtown Partnership, agreed there was a need for shelter reform, but emphasized a more pressing absence of adequate programming specifically addressing the mental health problems and drug addiction that plague so many in the homeless population. According to Byrnes, the solution isn’t as simple as bringing people into shelters. Many shelters are already overstuffed, and residents coerced into entering them are often quick to flee what they perceive as a dangerous environment, he said. The outreach teams from the partnership as well as the Bowery Residents Committee, he said, try to avoid treating homeless people they encounter as though they’re subject to a government edict, but instead work to understand the people behind the issue. “There isn’t a blanket one-size fits all to deal with what are essentially 50-some odd thousand individual stories and situations,” said Byrnes, who described a seemingly idyllic solution of serving each homeless person with one-to-one interactions through dedicated and persistent caseworkers. “There are some very resistant individuals out there, and the approach has to be tailored individually for each one,” he said, adding it took a full year to persuade one of their clients to receive help. The distrust about accepting agency help runs deep in the homeless population. After being tossed from agencies to organizations to departments, Kevin said he was left with the sense that he was dealing with a system where any given entity’s ability to get funding influenced every sin-


gle encounter he had with them. There is a serious flaw, he argued, in the way government looks at the situation he finds himself in, which he prefers to describe as being “in between places.” In trying to get help, however, he learned that he never quite fit the bill of being “homeless.” Kevin works maintenance with a tour bus company, and having no place of his own to stay he sometimes spends the bulk of the rest of the day visiting an old friend in a nursing home. He said he’s sometimes been advised to quit his job as he seeks some sort of adequate shelter. “There’s different levels of homelessness, and they only look at one level,” Kevin said of his past attempts at seeking assistance. “If you have a job or are somewhat employed, it seems like you don’t get no kind of help.”


Inside from the freezing cold, Ezekiel takes a bite of a ham sandwich at the New York Common Pantry.

Many people who have never experienced homelessness hold on to the common image of a homeless man or woman as a jobless beggar who got there on their own accord. While there are cases of “bad eggs” in the system, experts agree, most of the homeless are people who hit an awful streak of bad luck, according to the Professor. Many who fall into the pit of being homeless have no idea how to locate the rope to lift themselves out. For Mike Capers, the New York Common Pantry guest who was fired from a courier job due to disagreements with his supervisor, his best option was couch-surfing with buddies willing to lend a hand. But he wasn’t able to stay extended periods of times because, as he put it, “you get that look” from hosts with whom you’ve overstayed your welcome. Like Kevin, Capers found little success with the housing assistance programs he sought out, except for the promise of something down the road. For Theresa D., as well, assistance has been slim while the need, given her mental health challenges, is great. Her current living situation

means she could be easily evicted at any moment, but she explained she’s been round and round the revolving door of government help. “They lead you to the water, but there’s no drinking when you get there,” Theresa said. With government and non-profit groups struggling to get and keep their arms around the homelessness problem, it’s often the food pantries and soup kitchens that pick up the slack on the most pressing of needs — temporary relief in the form of hot meals. With growing attention to the unaddressed challenges endured by so many homeless city residents, some local elected officials are now stepping up to create what they see as a needed bridge among the efforts already being waged by religious and other nonprofits and city agencies. On February 8, City Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick teamed up with State Senator Liz Krueger and Borough President Gale Brewer to create the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services, or ETHOS. Besides providing a cheat sheet to all the pantries and soup kitchens in the area, Kallos said the task force will take responsibility for connecting such organizations with city resources, like the discretionary funding the councilmembers have at their disposal. And, he said, it will work to make certain that social services and meals providers and relevant city agencies are all aware of what each other is doing. Even if resources are not adequate to the need, the thinking goes, at least people should not suffer for lack of information about what is available. As ETHOS works to rationalize the fight against homelessness on the East Side, the most determined among the homeless population continue struggling to better their own situation. Leaving Common Pantry, Kevin said he was on his way to a nonprofit social services organization called Common Ground (which in fact recently became known as Breaking Ground), whose goal is the creation of housing for homeless New Yorkers. Still, given a long time without stable housing, he was not upbeat. “I’m still going to try, but I guarantee I’m going to waste my time,” Kevin said. As other Common Pantry guests were on their way out as the breakfast concluded at 9:30, some seemed ashamed, sullen, or indifferent, others determined to hold on to hope that they can turn a corner on their current problems. Capers was the most hopeful among those at the New York Common Pantry that day. He has visions of becoming the next big standup comedian, and his current plight is all part of his story. A cold winter on the streets, endless couch-surfing, and agency run-arounds, he said, would all serve to build a unique comic narrative one day. Even when people don’t have any money in their pockets, Capers insisted, they can still laugh. And, he still does himself, despite his bad luck. “I may be homeless,” Capers said. “But I’m not in a predicament where I don’t have hope.” n

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

Subway System to Revive W Line in Fall ‘16 BY JACKSON CHEN


he Metropolitan Transportation Authority is looking to resurrect the W Line that bridged Manhattan and Queens from 2001 until 2010 — a move that would coincide with the Q Line becoming part of the Second Avenue Subway. The W line traversed along the BMT Broadway route that cur rently carries the N, Q, and R trains until its service was discontinued in June 2010 because of agency budget cuts. The yellow emblem subway traveled from the Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard stop in Queens to the Whitehall Street stop in Downtown Manhattan, entering Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge. Under the MTA’s proposal, the W line would assume its old role of transporting straphangers from Astoria to Whitehall, but with no service on weekends or late nights. As part of the Second Avenue Subway project, the Q train is set to divert toward Upper Manhattan by the end of the year. Instead of crossing the Queensboro Bridge, the Q train will now stop at the F line’s Lexington Ave/ 63rd Street station and the three new stations on Second Avenue — at 72nd Street, 86th Street, and 96th Street. Those three stations are expected to open by the end of the year. If the proposal goes through, the Q line would temporarily terminate at the 57th Street/ Fifth Avenue station until the three new stations are operational. On February 22, the agency’s transit and bus committee approved of the plan to revive the W line as well as final contract modifications for the Second Avenue Subway’s first phase. If implemented, the costs of bringing back the W line would total an annual $13.7 million for the agency. As for the progress on the much-awaited Second Avenue Subway, the agency said the 96th Street Station has switched from temporary construction power to a permanent power supply and workers have completed the last of the new line’s track crossovers allow-

Come fall of this year, subway riders missing the W train can once again ride it from Whitehall Street to Astoria.

ing trains to switch tracks. The full length of the Second Avenue Subway Project, which is split into four phases, would travel the length of Manhattan’s East Side from the existing Lexington Avenue Subway 125th Street station in Harlem to a new Hanover Square station in Lower Manhattan, though the time horizon on the entire length is well over a decade. “With every day’s work on the Second Avenue Subway, the MTA gets closer to fulfilling a promise first made to New Yorkers in 1929,” said MTA chair and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast in a statement. “Opening the Second Avenue Subway will provide new options for our customers and relieve congestion on Lexington Avenue 4, 5, 6 trains.” At a February 24 MTA full board meeting, the agency approved an extra $66 million to be pumped into the Second Avenue Subway project to make sure the MTA meets the first phase December 2016 deadline. The MTA is also planning some service changes as part of its W line proposal. According to the agency, the N line would operate express in Manhattan on weekdays during peak hours, midday, and evenings. The Q line will run local between Brooklyn and Manhattan during late nights. Following approval by the MTA board, the agency plans to bring the W line revival to a public hearing this spring. n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 25 - March 09, 2016

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Chapin Contending with Neighbors’ Lawsuit Over Expansion Plans


The Chapin School, on East End Avenue at 84th Street.



ven as the Chapin School approaches another round of community meetings regarding the proposed expansion of its Upper East Side campus, it must also deal with a lawsuit recently filed by its neighbors.

The private, all-girls K-12 school has been talking about adding three floors to its eight-story campus since May 2014. According to the application the school filed with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), the three extra floors would house a regulation-sized gym, new lockers and training rooms, and a performing arts space. The project would also involve a reconfiguration of existing space within the school, with the fifthfloor gym becoming a design and robotics studio and the second-floor gym being split up between classrooms and offices. Chapin is also at work on construction of a below-grade cafeteria space for its younger students, a development that was deemed as-of-right. After an October 2015 hearing, the BSA okayed the school’s request with some conditions, including a 60 percent reduction in the size of a stairway that would run the height of the building. Residents across the street from the school, which is located at East End Avenue at 84th Street, felt there were several missteps in the BSA’s handling of Chapin’s application and filed an Article 78 lawsuit looking to overturn its approval as well as other variances issued by city agencies. According to the lawsuit filed by the 90 East End Avenue Board of Directors, the school’s neighbors want to see the BSA’s approval voided and are seeking revocation as well of after-hours

A Third Shot at Moscow on the Hudson BY JACKSON CHEN


wo mothers’ efforts to create a Russian dual-language program on the Upper West Side are in need of more support to make their mission a reality. Out of the estimated 180 dual-language programs throughout the city, options for the Russian language can only be found at P.S. 200 and I.S. 228 in Brooklyn. Finding no such option in Manhattan, Julia Stoyanovich and Olga Ilyashenko have enlisted the support of more than 90 families and their 150 or so kids to introduce a Russian dual-language program to the city’s School District 3 on the Upper


West Side. More than just a way to practice their language skills, the program would be a way for students of Russian ethnicity to retain their culture while English-speaking kids would be exposed to a different culture. In dual-language programs, the curriculum is taught in both English and a second language, with the goal of students learning to be bilingual. According to Stoyanovich, one quirky bonus to understanding Russian is the ability to enjoy that culture’s sense of humor, which is usually lost in translation. “Russian humor is essentially

construction permits granted by the city’s Department of Buildings, which they say have left neighbors enduring construction noise as late as midnight and as early as 5:30 a.m. “Chapin has disregarded the law and proper procedure at every turn in order to pursue the construction and meet its self-imposed schedule,” the lawsuit stated. “Chapin’s actions have caused DOB and the BSA to make irrational and unlawful determinations that should be overturned.” The lawsuit, filed on January 27, claims the school and city agencies improperly separated two parts of Chapin’s construction project — the three-story addition on top and the new cafeteria project underground — during the review process. While the below-grade cafeteria was considered as-of-right, requiring little to no review by the BSA, the residents contend that it should have been considered part of the whole project during the public review process. The lawsuit also argues the school and city agencies “ignored the pleas of the community” throughout the public review process. That perspective was echoed by another neighbor of the school’s who does not live at 90 East End. “We started going to BSA meetings, did all of the letter-writing and petitions,” said Cynthia Kramer, a next-door neighbor at 530 East 84th Street

a very important way in which we express ourselves,” Stoyanovich said, pointing to a longstanding history of political jokes that poked fun at the country’s previous Soviet government. “It’s a way to make fun of life and resist the regime a little.” But to make their bilingual Russian program into a reality, they have to identify a school and a principal who will under take the program. According to Ilyashenko, the two have created a list of schools in their district but are still looking to settle on an interested location. The two mothers explained that introducing a dual-language program in the city public school system is a daunting task. They believe they can enrich a school with their bilingual option, but are also concerned about finding an attractive school environment. Selling the concept to an interested principal involves locating a school that has adequate space, resources, and demand for a Rus-


CHAPIN, continued on p.15

sian dual-language initiative. With so many criteria to meet, Stoyanovich and Ilyashenko are working through their list of possible host schools and have so far come up short. They’ve had their eyes on P.S. 191, P.S. 342, and P.S. 145, but have gotten feedback from each that the program would be difficult to implement. The two mothers’ efforts represent the third time parents in the district have tried launching a Russian dual-language program. In 2012, parents had chosen P.S. 75 as a location, but the Department of Education decided that was infeasible. Two years after that, another group of parents vied for the implementation of the program at P.S. 241, Manhattan’s STEM Institute. Even if the parents win the school’s support, the decision is ultimately up to the Department of Education to institute the Russian program on the Upper West


LANGUAGE, continued on p.15

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


CHAPIN, from p.14

Side. “Ultimately, every time, it seems there’s a lot of interest from the community because we are extremely underserved with no dual-language programs in Manhattan at all,” Stoyanovich said of the lack of Russian dual-language programs anywhere other than Brooklyn. In creating a dual-language program, the DOE would seek Russian-speaking students who are looking to strengthen their proficiency in both Russian and English, but also a balance of English-speaking students who are interested in having Russian and English taught jointly in the classroom. “The DOE is committed to expanding high quality and rigorous dual-language programs and works to support schools inter ested in opening programs where there is the student composition and qualified pedagogues,” said DOE's Deputy Press Secretary, Yuridia Peña, in an email mes-


LANGUAGE, from p.14

The West Side Tradition




who is opposed to the expansion. “Month after month, meeting after meeting, we ended up going in front of the board four times.” Kramer said despite the residents making vocal their concerns, the BSA granted quick approval once its fourth meeting on Chapin’s project got underway on October 16. The school’s response to Kramer’s complaints and to the lawsuit is that they are frivolous. The approvals and the permits they received, school officials argue, were thoroughly reviewed and properly granted. “The school believes that the Article 78… that was recently filed by the 90 East End Avenue condominium board and two condominium unit owners is without merit,” according to a Chapin School statement. “The school will continue to proceed with its project in accordance with all required permits and approvals.” The school added that it has been pushing community engagement since the project was first proposed, through a website with a detailed project timeline and a community hotline.

“Chapin… is committed to actively engaging with the school’s neighbors in connection with our academic and facilities expansion,” an earlier statement from the school argued. Chapin added that it has been working with City Councilmember Ben Kallos, State Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, and Community Board 8 to form a Community Advisory Committee as it moves forward with its plans. While CB8 and its chair, Jim Clynes, initially had concerns about its design — with Clynes at one point calling it a “hodgepodge of different layers and different designs” — he now commends Chapin on its community outreach and neighbor involvement. CB8 disapproved of Chapin’s proposal when the school originally appeared before its Land Use Committee during a January 2015 meeting. More than a year later, Chapin said it is continuining its engagement with the local community. In March, officials will brief local residents on mitigation efforts planned during the construction process and what specific developments are in the offing. n


P.S. 191, on West 61st Street, one target of efforts at establishing a Russian dual-language program, has so far resisted advocacy by Julia Stoyanovich, Olga Ilyashenko, and others.

sage. Peña said the department has been collaborating with community stakeholders in District 3 to find new ways to enrich their foreign language curriculum. From the outreach the mothers have achieved so far, they said they’ve identified about a 20 percent share of kids whose families speak exclusively English at home. From the perspective of Stoyanovich and Ilyashenko, a bilingual education would benefit all kids in the local school commu-


ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 25 - March 09, 2016

LANGUAGE, continued on p.21



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Police Blotter ROBBERY: DIRECTION DIVERSION (24TH PRECINCT) Police are looking for a male suspect in connection with a February 18 robbery at 2488 Broadway, between West 92nd and West 93rd Streets. According to police, the suspect entered Shishi Boutique at 2:30 p.m. and asked the sales clerk, a 34-year-old male, for directions. What the suspect really wanted was $50 from the clerk, who refused, according to police. The NYPD said the suspect then simulated a firearm in his jacket and said, “I have a gun and I’ll shoot you,” before forcibly pocketing the victim’s wallet that had $40. There were no injuries from the incident and the suspect fled east on West 92nd Street toward Amsterdam Avenue. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male, at around 5’6” and 150 pounds, with short black hair and a blotchy complexion. According to police, the suspect was last seen wearing gray sweatpants, a fur-trimmed black jacket, and a black Nike T-shirt.

DOA: FACE DOWN FATALITY (MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT) Police found an unconscious and unresponsive female lying face down inside 224 West 35th Street, suite 702, on February 22. Police responded to a call at noon and found the victim inside. EMS responded to the call, as well, and pronounced the victim dead. Police said its investigation is awaiting the medical examiner’s determination of the

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hough much of the news media has rightly taken note of Donald Trump’s ability to surge to the top of the Republican presidential field without filling in more than a bumper sticker’s worth of detail about his many far-flung policy pronouncements, there is a grudging — though, to me, disturbing — respect growing among pundits for what they believe he is doing right in this campaign. According to these albeit reluctant admirers, Trump has an instinctive understanding of the frustrations felt by many Americans and is able to connect to that mood in a visceral way that is turning out huge campaign crowds and voters who follow through at the polls. In its most fanciful extension, this theory holds that Trump’s success serves as indictment of Washington, our nation’s leadership, and politics as usual. The whole thesis would be more persuasive if Trump were not getting his most vociferous embraces at precisely those moments when he is punching down rather than taking on that most amorphous of political targets, the “establishment.” Recall that when T rump entered the race last June — to be sure, as a household name from his days “firing” people on NBC, but hardly a clear favorite in the race — he ranted about Mexican “rapists” making a mockery of our borders and our criminal justice system. Not only was he going to get tough on these lowlifes, but he was going to make their home country foot the bill for the wall he promised to build, as well. In early December, T rump upped the ante on his bigotry bet when he called for a “temporary” halt — until we “figure out what’s going on” — to entry into the US by Muslims. Such a categorical and arbitrary step, of course, is the very definition of invidious discrimination. It

would also play havoc with our relationship with Islamic-majority nations across the globe and poison the climate for winning over hearts and minds on the “Arab Street.” But, it’s important to recall the context in which Trump’s call for the entry ban came up in the first place to realize just how far down he was punching. The proximate news event that motivated his statement was the flood of Syrian refugees pouring into Turkey and from there into Western Europe. There were very few profiles in courage coming out of his party when the refugee crisis mushroomed — and some Democrats proved themselves craven, as well — but it took a particularly ugly demagoguery to fashion the Trumpian response to a staggering humanitarian crisis. Sprinkled in amidst the GOP frontrunner’s inflammatory racism came periodic outbursts of misogyny as well — going after women whom he alternately described as fat (Rosie O’Donnell), unfair of face (Carly Fiorina), menstruating (Megyn Kelly), or simply having to go to the bathroom during a debate television break (Hillary Clinton; “It’s disgusting, I don’t want to talk about it,” he said). Trump appears to draw political benefits from his bellicose rhetoric on immigration. In South Carolina, where he won by 10 points over his nearest competitor, Florida’s Marco Rubio, his margin was near ly 20 points — over Texas’ Ted Cruz — among those who support a temporary ban on Muslim entry into the US. Among those who favor deporting all undocumented immigrants, Trump’s margin — again, over Cruz — was 23 points. Lest we think that the bigotry T rump enables mer ely extends to non-American citizens, we should consider some of the other attitudes held by the group of voters he is bringing together. According to a Public Policy Polling survey of

South Carolina Republicans, while 80 percent of his supporters said Muslims should be barred entry into the US, 62 percent even supported a national database tracking Muslim Americans and 40 percent favored shutting down all mosques. A third thought Islam should be illegal. And while they’re at it on securing the borders, 31 per cent of T rump supporters endorsed keeping gays and lesbians out of the country, as well. And 70 percent of Trump voters said the Confederate flag should still be flying over the South Carolina capitol. To be fair, none of these five policies — as opposed to the entry ban — are anything that T rump has even hinted at. That’s not the point. Instead, the issue is the climate of intolerance that Trump is irresponsibly stoking. Who is willing to say with certainty where all this ends? And for a candidate who first came to the nation’s attention politically with his absurd birther claims about President Barack Obama several years back, is it any surprise that on the night that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, Trump urged this strategy for responding to any replacement nominee on the US Senate: “Delay, delay, delay”? Writing about African-American attitudes toward the Senate GOP’s intransigence on considering a nominee from the president, the New York Times quoted one black man noting that blacks were once counted as three-fifths of a person in tallying up congressional representation and now Obama is being denied the final quarter of his ter m as president. Opposing a judicial nomination from Obama doesn’t make someone a racist, but when politics is played purely as a game of defining and demonizing the “other,” poisonous racial division is the inevitable and tragic consequence for the nation. n

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


The Hemingway of Soap Suds BY LENORE SKENAZY


an vs. man. Man vs. nature. Man vs. himself. These, we lear ned in high school English, are the three great themes in all literature. To which we must add one more: Man vs. newly purchased fancy-schmancy dishwasher. Oh, perhaps there are those who would quibble that “The Old Man and the Maytag” just does not carry the same gravitas as a grizzled grump in a boat moping about a marlin. (That was the basic plot, right? With some metaphors thrown in?) But that’s only because they are not sitting in my kitchen examining, once again, a bunch of strangely slimy plates and stillmilky glasses that just spent the past 90 minutes getting the wash of their lives. A wash courtesy of our new, ergonomic, European-made dishwasher with more buttons than an old BlackBerry and all the cleaning power of a bar of Motel 6 soap. “Read the manual,” said my husband when I called him at work to complain that the dishes

looked as if they’d been licked by a camel with a cold. Read the manual? Perhaps he’d like me to per form a double cornea transplant while I’m at it. Maybe I can pop over to Afghanistan and hammer out some kind “Evening of Healing Songs and Stories” with the Taliban, too. Did I mention the manual for this machine is 55 pages long and includes a section on, among other things, how to “Delay Start” the wash cycle? As if it is a NASA launch and there’s a funnel cloud headed toward Cape Canaveral? Manuals are great for people who read manuals. I have a husband and son who sit down and actually absorb the information, connecting the words to the diagrams to the real-world thing in front of them. They poke and prod, and suddenly the thing lights up or rings or records a television program they then can (somehow) play later. Bully for them. The other 98 percent of us open randomly to a page, see a line like, “Press and hold the 1 and 3 buttons and at the same time turn on

the dishwasher with the ‘On’ (15) button” and wail in there-goesmy-marlin despair. Here. You try reading about that “Delay Start” feature: “To delay the start of the wash [or NASA launch — L.S.], press the 18 button until the desired delayed start time appears in the time display. The delay start is set in one hour steps up to nine hours. If the Delay Start button is pressed after the nine-hour mark the delay start feature will be cancelled and must be re-selected.” Copy that, Houston? I mean — typing it out, word for word, I do get the basic idea: Goof in pressing button 18 and you have to start again. But that’s just one tiny paragraph about one tiny button for one ridiculous feature I will never, ever use. There are still another 54-and-a-half pages about all these other features — the “optic indicator” (the thing has eyes?) and the “data plate” (calling HAL!), and everyone’s favorite, the “non-return valve.” How I love to curl up with a good page or two about non-return valves! The thing is I don’t want a dishwasher that requires years of

study. I don’t want anything in my house that requires years of study, be it my phone, my digital toaster (guess which spouse bought that?), or my master’s degree. I got one of those in less time than it is taking me to calm down about this stupid non-washing dishwasher! And manual! Update: When the toaster-buying dishwasher-decider-in-chief arrived home, he thumbed through the 55-page marriage destroyer and discovered the problem. I hadn’t put in precisely the right amount of detergent: two flat tablespoons. No more, no less. How could I have missed the “Adding Detergent” instructions? There they are, just 28 fascinating pages in. Right after the marlin eats the old man and licks his bones clean. Next time, when I choose the dishwasher, I know what I’m going to get. A marlin. Lenore Skenazy is a frequent keynote speaker, author, and founder of the book and blog “FreeRange Kids.” n

Misogyny and the Audacity of Plans BY KELLY COGSWELL


haven’t written anything about the election yet. Hillary Clinton is running again, and there’s so much misogyny involved I can’t stand it. And sheer idiocy. My God, whole crowds willing to swallow any crazy thing their candidate promises — whether it’s Trump vowing he’ll throw out immigrants or end gay marriage, or Bernie guaranteeing a revolution featuring single-payer healthcare and free college, and pie, and the sky. So for the record, Hillary yes. Bernie no. And post-primaries, any Democrat will do. Don’t bother attacking. It’s clear my opinion doesn’t matter. I’m a woman after all. Judged for my voice: shrieky. My haircut: bad, needs washing. My record: smudged. I mean, I’ve been writing these columns for such a long time, anybody can find dozens (out of several hundred) that prove I’ve been a delusional fool. Nope, I’m not at all clean,

but at least you know what you’re getting. Like with Hillary. Who is competent, careful, and has a reasonably progressive (though smudgy) track record of legislation and policy. When push comes to shove most of her stances are similar to Bernie’s. Though when it comes to women, she’s better. She hasn’t just cast votes, she has initiated a lot of programs and legislation on the national and international level. She has worked for us, horse-traded even, and gotten laws passed and policy implemented. She’s an insider, and I’m okay with that in a world where women are second-class citizens at best; in the worst, raped, enslaved, mutilated, hidden, and murdered, considered less than human. So she doesn’t make the same rousing speeches. I’m thrilled that she’s a policy wonk, an egghead, an annoying Hermione Granger before she bonded with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley over that enormous troll.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 25 - March 09, 2016

She’s the Obama we got after the election. Thoughtful, capable, and tough. And willing to go bipartisan even if the Republicans aren’t. Campaign 2008, Obama gave great speeches sparkling with the audacity of hope. He encouraged us with his deep mellifluous voice: Yes, we can do anything, even end partisan rancor. Behold! The dawn of the most perfect union is near. I thought he was going to be an ineffectual asshole. I was wrong. Once he got elected, he governed as a realistic idealist, getting the job done in spite of the vicious Republican pummeling. He pulled the country back from economic meltdown, compromising his purity in ways that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren no doubt disapprove of. He named Clinton secretary of state and she helped him repair the international relations destroyed by Bush.


MISOGYNY, continued on p.21




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MISOGYNY, from p.19

And because you can’t reform health care by signing, or refusing to sign, a few documents, Obama willingly dirtied his hands with a complicated project of law. Not just mobilizing enormous teams of lawyers to draft a bill that would stand up to a constitutional challenge. But persuading members of his own stodgy Democratic Party to accept it. All of that meant a great deal of politicking and compromise, the insider stuff Bernie says he despises. And if his track record after nearly 26 years in the House and Senate can be relied on, I think we can believe him. Only Senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott have scores as awful as his on the bipartisan index (Georgetown University). And without political skills, Bernie’s the same as every white leftie guy ever, waving his nice clean hands a lot and shouting about income inequality. And getting nothing at all done, because in fact class doesn’t trump everything, particularly race and gender. And blab doesn’t get you very far.


LANGUAGE, from p.15

nity, opening them up to opportunities to be part of what they termed a “multilingual revolution in the 21st century.” Ilyashenko’s two sons, Julian and Lucas, are currently learning three languages — English, Russian, and French. She said it’s fascinating to see how their young brains switch from one language to another. As for Stoyanovich, she and her husband made a conscious decision to speak only Russian in their home to help retain the language and part of their culture for their son. “I really, truly believe that being multilingual or multicultural is essential in today’s world,” Stoyanovich said. “We live in a city that is multicultural, yet in this city, everyone only speaks one language.” Among other parents supporting the cause, Natalia Kovtunova said a Russian dual-language program would give her four year-old son, Maksim, the opportunity to continue a dual-lan-

Nope, I’d rather vote for an imperfect candidate with a wider vision and a pragmatic backbone. Someone who can work with others and is unafraid to evolve. And who will have an unimaginable impact worldwide as the first female president of the enormously powerful United States of America. Time for you to inappropriately invoke Thatcher; list Clinton’s failures; declare Bern a better feminist than Hillary (try googling Dolezal, Rachel). For me, it’s enough that with Hillary we’ll get a good, maybe a great president. And she’ll be more than a symbol of what women everywhere can do, but an actual advocate. I was in France the day after the 2008 elections and I remember looking around the subway at the people of color, and remarking how most of them were grasping newspapers with Obama’s smiling, victorious face. And how they were smiling too, and standing a little straighter. It was extraordinary. Hillary’s victory will mean as much worldwide to women. Maybe more. n

guage education program he’s already started. Currently bringing Maksim to the dual-language pre-kindergarten Bright Minds in Lower Manhattan, Kovtunova wants him to continue that study while attending school closer to home. Signing onto the cause, she’s helping Stoyanovich and Ilyashenko with outreach in hopes that there are people who also join their efforts. “We are like literally three people getting people to get committed,” Kovtunova said of their push. “There’s a ton of families who drag their kids two or three hours for express courses of Russian, so the community is there.” Despite the DOE having the final say, Kovtunova said she felt the key challenges lie with more strongly unifying their own community. In their efforts at reaching out to organizations and parents who share their assessment of the value of dual Russian-English education, the parents hope they can garner enough momentum to make this third try at a program a success. n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 25 - March 09, 2016

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The New King of Lincoln Center


Kelli O’Hara and Hoon Lee in the Lincoln Center production of “The King and I.”



ou can see a new star exploding at Lincoln Center these days in the revival of “The King and I,” in the title role-personage of Hoon Lee. With real majesty, histrionic prowess, vocal chops, and devastating sexiness, this actor has truly transformed the show into an absolute must-see. The chemistry between Lee and co-star Kelli O’Hara is one of the current treasures of the season, and everyone and everything on this stage now positively sparkles. The man has the charisma and talent to cross over in a way that few people of color — Brian Stokes Mitchell, to name one — have been both able and allowed to do. I’d love to see him take a crack at Horace Vandergelder in the announced Bette Midler “Hello, Dolly!” remounting! Describing how he landed the role, Lee told me, “Honestly, I was filming [his Cinemax TV series] ‘Banshee’ in Pittsburgh and just got a call about being a replacement, saying that Ken Watanabe was leaving the show. Sched-


uling was tight, so I came into New York, saw the show in its entirety for the first time ever — [laughs] at the very least, I thought I would get a free show out of it — and had a work session the next day. It was an opportunity to meet and work with people at the top of their game.” Lee grew up in the Boston area, the son of two molecular biologists, and went to Harvard, where he majored in visual art and English lit. “I actually started acting through musical theater,” he said. “I had been a singer in college in bands, but acting wasn’t really on the radar at all, then. While I haven’t sung in a long time in a serious way, I felt like I would have enough for this role of the King, which isn’t all that intense singing-wise, and it’s been nice to start to feel out the corners of that again. I’ve never had any formal training, but I grew up listening to my father, who was a great singer, but only as a hobby. As a boy, I remember hearing him sing and as I got older, I realized he was actually quite good, but my whole family grew up with musicality. I’ve always enjoyed singing, but

never took myself seriously. Lee was prominently featured in David Henry Hwang’s “Yellowface” at the Public Theater, and his strong performance made me wonder if that was sort of a game-changer in his career. “It was a wonderful piece and team,” he recalled. “It’s a cliché, but I feel that what the so-called overnight success really speaks to is the idea that any sort of recognition is an aggregate of smaller advances. What that show really did was put me in the position of doing my first lead, and that’s not an opportunity many people — let alone Asian men — get a lot. It was a good test for myself, an incredible opportunity to do such a complex, nuanced, and funny piece of writing, and to work at the Public under the amazing direction of Leigh Silverman.” Asked about the excited buzz over his turn in “The King and I,” Lee said, “I don’t put much stock in it. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective, this is the kind of business where you’re only as good as your last two jobs. There could be another great opportunity after this or a fall-off, but that’s okay. It’s actually more helpful to me to keep my mind at the task at hand and try to execute it. That’s really the part of theater that I find very difficult but also very satisfying, trying to get yourself to the place where you really dig in every night and develop the necessary stamina, muscles, and ingenuity. You try to give yourself enough of a mental puzzle to solve so that you can really hook in every night. Some days you succeed or don’t, and that’s always the challenge before you.” We were sitting in Lee’s dressing room, which, due to the temporary status of his replacement reign as the King, was largely bare of souvenirs or personal touches, save his royal Catherine Zuber-designed raiment hanging there. I appreciated him giving me an interview just before the evening performance and wondered if vocal rest was ever necessary, especially in light of the ferocious kingly yelling he does at one point, while cracking a bullwhip, which really terrified the Sunday matinee audience I was a part of. He demurred. “The musical form by its nature is a heightened form where the emotion of a scene is carried by music. That exists outside the boundaries of normal everyday expectations, so it doesn’t really serve anything to willfully underplay things that need to be pushed in the other direction. Kelli has the lion’s share of the lifting


KING, continued on p.25

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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Manhattan Treasures



THE HARD BOP TRUMPET OF JIM ROTONDI Hard bop trumpeter Jim Rotondi, who recalls the style of Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan, celebrates the release of his new CD, “Dark Blue,” which reflects on his world-spanning career that has taken him from his boyhood home in Montana to New York, Tokyo, Austria, and the south of France. Rotondi is joined by his quartet, including guitarist Peter Bernstein, pianist David Hazeltine, bass player David Wong, and drummer Jason Brown. Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, 2751 Broadway, btwn. W. 105th & 106th Sts. Feb. 26-28, 7, 9 & 10:30 p.m. The music charge is $38 at smokejazz.com, and the 7 & 9 shows are dinner sets, with dinner optional at the 10:30 shows.

WEEKENDS OF CONTEMPORARY DANCE The Harkness Dance Festival features innovators and history-makers from today’s contemporary dance scene. 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 92nd St. Tickets are $25-$35 at 92y.org/harknessfestival or 212-415-5500.

REFLECTIONS Fashion designer Thom Browne explores ideas of reflection and individuality with an installation that includes more than 50 of the historic and contemporary mirrors and frames in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum. The exhibition is the 13th in an ongoing series in which prominent designers, artists, and architects are invited to mine and interpret the more than 210,000 objects in the Cooper Hewitt collection. 2 E. 91st St. Mar. 4-Oct. 23: Sun.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Admission is $16, $10 for seniors, $7 for students at cooperhewitt. org; add $2 for purchase at the door.



WHEN TRUFFAUT SAT WITH HITCHCOCK In 1962, Francois Truffaut persuaded Alfred Hitchcock to sit with him for a weeklong interview in which the British auteur shared the secrets of his cinema with his young admirer. Truffaut turned the sessions into a powerful and influential book, and now Kent Jones has employed the original recordings to shed light on Hitchcock’s approach to classics including “Psycho,” “The Birds,” “Vertigo,” “Notorious,” “Suspicion,” and “Rope.” Some of today’s leading filmmakers — including Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich, and Paul Schrader — add their insights, as well. Writing in Gay City News, Manhattan Express’ sister publication, Gary M. Kramer observed, “The book ‘Hitchcock/ Truffaut’ was comprehensive. The documentary is deliberately not. However, this is hardly a drawback. If Jones’ film prompts viewers to read (or re-read) the volume to gain more insights about Hitchcock’s work, it has done its job.” Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Feb. 28 & Mar. 5, 5 p.m. Admission is $14, $12 for students & seniors at symphonyspace.org

SONG Y SON Longtime folk rock singer and songwriter Jackson Browne and flamenco-influenced Spanish pop guitarist Raúl


Rodriguez meet in “Song y Son,” an exchange of American sounds and Spanish rhythms. In the first set, Rodriguez, with his band — Mario Mas on flamenco guitar, Guillem Aguilar on bass, Pablo Martín Jones on percussion, and Alex Tobias on drums — perform songs from “Razón de Son,” Rodriguez’s first solo album. In the second set, Browne will play with the band, taking his songs into the flamenco rhythms and “Son” of the Afro-Andalusian Caribbean. The Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St. Mar. 2, 8 p.m. Tickets are $55 at thetownhall.org.

THE FIGHT TO VOTE Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, is the author of “The Fight to Vote,” which argues that the struggle for the right to vote, central to this nation’s history, is still being waged today. Tonight, Waldman appears with ABC News “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos to share his insights into the history of democracy as well as his ideas about moving our democracy in a better direction. 92nd Street Y, Warburg Lounge, 1395 Lexington Ave. Wed., Mar. 2, 6 p.m. Tickets are $32, $15 for those 35 and younger at 92y.org.

SCULPTURE MEETS MOVING IMAGE “Projects 102” is the first solo New York museum exhibition of the work of emerging

Algerian-French artist Neïl Beloufa, who combines moving-image mediums and sculpture to create immersive viewing spaces. By revealing the cables and cords in his works or looping in images of viewers through closed-circuit television, the installation draws attention to the technological and social apparatuses embedded within it. The video at the center of the installation, “People's passion, lifestyle, beautiful wine, gigantic glass towers, all surrounded by water “(2011), features a group of people in an unnamed city enthusiastically describing their experience there. Here, Beloufa teamed up with actors to generate scripts that imitate popular forms like infomercials and science fiction. Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St. Mar. 12-Jun.12: Sat.-Thu., 10:30 a.m.5:30 p.m.; Fri., 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission is $25, $18 for seniors, $14 for students at moma. org.

GREENFIELD, HABERMAN, BURNS ON THE ROAD TO THE WHITE HOUSE Veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield is joined by New York Times presidential campaign correspondent Maggie Haberman and Times Metro political reporter Alex Burns for a look at the 2016 race for the White House. 92nd Street Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Ave. Mar. 13, 7:30 p.m. Admission is $32 at 92Y.org

NO JOKE NOW: CATHERINE O’HARA & EUGENE LEVY SCTV vets Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, who paired up brilliantly in “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind,” are about to take season 2 bows in Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek,” where they play a once-wealthy couple who have lost their fortune and have to rough it with their family in tow, living out of a motel in Schitt’s Creek — a town they once bought as a joke. Tonight, Levy and O’Hara appear in conversation along with a sneak peek at the Mar. 16 season premiere. 92nd Street Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Ave. Mon., Mar. 14, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $45, $35 for those 35 and under at 92y.org.

February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


KING, from p.22

here and has to carry so much of the emotion through song, which she does so incredibly beautifully. For the King, it’s more in the acting and I have to find the power, fear, and uncertainty and match her emotion and energy in the ways that I’m allowed to do it. Yes, I had to take bullwhip lessons, and it’s a terrifying thing to hold, like a gun, as you realize you have something in your hand that’s designed to destroy. “Kelli’s a dream to work with. In any sort of collaborative creative effort, your performance is shaped by those around you, and if people are responding positively to my King it’s because I have such an incredible partner to bolster me, reflect what I am doing, and set the bar even higher to give me something to shoot for. She’s had a tough task, which she’s dealt with very gracefully, having to contend with multiple people coming in to partner her. There are parts of the show which are really like two-handers, so for her to have the deftness and facility to partner so well with myself, Jose [Llana], and Ken speaks largely to her abilities and work ethic.” The subtle romantic attraction between the King and Anna has always been one of this show’s major secret weapons, and the chemistry between Lee and O’Hara is thrillingly palpable yet, deliciously, never overstated. “We’ve been getting that comment since we started, which is wonderful for the show, but such a mystery as to why it happens,” he explained. “We only had one meal together and one rehearsal, and then we started before an audience. I think both of us approached this with open hearts and minds, and again it’s more of a credit to her because she really put in her time after hundreds of performance. It would have been understandable for her to say, ‘This is my show, this is what works.’ But she didn’t approach it that way at all: she was very generous and if people are reading chemistry here, I tend to think it’s because we’re both really trying to work and listen to and find each other onstage. I’m just glad people are able to key into that, especially in an R&H [Rodgers & Hammerstein] show, because in an R&H show like this, which has such

THE KING AND I Lincoln Center Vivian Beaumont Theater 150 W. 65th St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $87-$162; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200

structural integrity that it almost runs itself, that energy flow can really bring things to a different level that really resonates with people.” It’s very easy to make the King a cartoonish, bald-pated figure, as exemplified by the brilliant Phil Hartman “Saturday Night Live” skit, in which he played a venerable but still strutting Yul Brynner doing his 3,000th tour of the role, so I wanted to know how Lee himself saw the character. “I had the benefit of never seeing Brynner in the movie, as it’s good not to get these things stuck in my head,” he said. “When an actor has put his stamp on a role as indelibly as he did, that’s a big warning sign if you’re going to try and tackle it. With any role, I run to the script and try to find any clues given to me. This book is great because it’s deceptive in the seamlessness of the writing, which is simple, but not simplistic, with the efficiency and grace of a writer who had a really refined sensibility.’ Then, returning to the question of the King’s ambiguous, even fraught relationship with Anna, Lee explained, “More of a point was made about the inter national aspects of things, the conflict brewing, the danger of Siam becoming a protectorate. Also the position of the women and the struggles they were facing. It created an arena in which the safety of the kingdom is in jeopardy, which increases the stakes across the board…. It intensifies his need for her as an advisor and also the attitude he might have toward his new wife, Tuptim, from Burma, because all these things are closing in on him. If people are reading a love story between he and Anna in this, it could be because he recognizes that he needs to keep this person around, which he can justify in a political sense, but his real rationale might be emotional, and that’s fun to explore.” n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 25 - March 09, 2016



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BROOKLYN The Community News Group is proud to introduce BROOKLYN PAPER RADIO. Join Brooklyn Paper Editor-in-Chief Vince DiMiceli and the New York Daily News’ Gersh Kuntzman every Monday at 4 pm for an hour of talk on topics Brooklynites hold dear. Each show will feature in-studio guests and call-out segments, and can be listened to live or played anytime at your convenience. WITH





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SALES HELP WANTED PUBLISHER’S NOTICE All employment advertised herein is subject to section 296 of the human rights law, which makes it illegal to advertise any preference, limitation or discrimination because of race, color, creed, national origin, disability, marital status, sex, age, sexual orientation, or arrest conviction record, or intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination. Title 29, U.S. Code, Chap 630, excludes the Federal Gov’t from the age discrimination provisions. This newspaper will not knowingly accept any advertising for employment which is in violation of the law. Our readers are informed that employment offerings advertised in this newspaper are available on an equal opportunity basis.




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JOB INFORMATION Letitia James Warns Consumers About Classified Ads Toll numbers may be a direct line to trouble. Classified ads are intended to help people by facilitating communication and advertising available services; however, some of the hotlines & service numbers in classifieds actually hurt the people who rely on them by cheating them of their hard-earned dollars. “Most newspapers print a disclaimer in their classified ad section to warn readers about numbers that are a direct line to trouble. Any number starting with 900, 540, 595 or 871 charges a fee beyond a local call. In some instances, ads initially advertise calls to a local number, but then direct callers to a second number starting with one of the paid exchanges. “Consumers must also question the legitimacy of vague classifieds because they too could be a scam. Before responding to an ad, consumers should verify the source of all information & always be wary about sending money or signing a contract with an unknown party.” Office of the Public Advocate

PUBLISHER’S NOTICE All real estate advertised herein is subject to the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise “any preference, limitation or discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, sexual orientation or national origin, or intention to make any such preference, limitation or discrimination.” We will not knowingly accept any advertising for real estate which is in violation of the law. All persons are hereby informed that all dwellings advertised are available on an equal opportunity basis.



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TO ADVERTISE: 718-260-2555 CLASSIFIED@CNGLOCAL.COM February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

Kids Count PAINT THAT SOUND Brooklyn-based Mil’s Trills is a children’s music project led by singer-songwriter Amelia Robinson that invites families to celebrate SYMPHONYSPACE.ORG the community through original tunes. Robinson’s music, which can be heard on her albums “Everyone Together Now” and “Now That We’re Friends,” charms listeners with richly layered and accessible songs and her enchanting voice. In a highly interactive show, she encourages kids to be part of the experience while discovering a world of instruments, as they are invited up on stage to “paint the sound” in a visual montage of the songs they hear. Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Mar. 5, 11 a.m. Tickets are $15 at symphonyspace.org. The show runs about one hour.

A NIGHT ABOARD THE INTREPID The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum hosts Operation Slumber, overnight visits for families, organized youth groups, and their chaperones. The overnight includes a visit inside the Space Shuttle Pavilion, a flashlight tour of the flight

deck, a ride in a flight simulator, and snacks and breakfast. Kids also receive a goodie bag with a T-shirt. Ideal for scout troops, school groups, and camp groups, Operation Slumber is a great way for young people to experience life aboard an aircraft carrier. Groups must have an adult: child ratio of at least 1:5. Cots are provided, but bring your own sleeping bag. Space is limited, so call 646-381-5010 or email groupsales@ intrepidmuseum.org to reserve a spot. Pier 86, 12th Ave. at W. 46th St. Mar. 5-6, 6 p.m.-8 a.m. Tickets are $99, which includes a free 60-day pass for the museum. For complete information, including overnights scheduled later in the year, visit intrepidmuseum.org/Overnight JEWISHMUSEUM.ORG

YOUTH SING OUT Francisco J. Núñez, a MacArthur Genius Fellow, founded the Young People’s Chorus of New York City in 1988 to harness the power of music to fulfill the potential of children of any cultural or economic background — even to unforeseen levels of artistry. Each year, more than 1,400 youths ages seven to 18 benefit musically, academically, and socially in a variety of at-school and after-school programs. Tonight, the Chorus performs at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, 10 Columbus Circle, fifth fl. Mar. 7, 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $35 at 212-721-6500.



Mister G, a 2015 Latin Grammy-winner, and his guest stars from the hit Broadway show “School of Rock!” presents a bilingual program of songs ranging from surf rock to bluegrass, reggae, and bossa nova. Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Mar. 12, 11 a.m. Tickets are $15 at symphonyspace.org. The show runs about one hour. To learn more about Mister G, visit mistergsongs.com.

“Pop-Pop-Popcorn” is the latest production from the Paper Bag Players, featuring both new work and classic sketches. The Sun chases the Moon out of a sleepy bedroom, the Players dance and paint, transforming a wild landscape into a beautiful rainbow, and audience members are invited to become jumbo-sized popcorn kernels. The Jewish Museum, Scheuer Auditorium, 1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St. Mar. 13, 11:30 a.m. & 2 p.m. Tickers are $15, $20 for adults at the jewishmuseum.org.







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 25 - March 09, 2016





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February 25 - March 09, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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