Page 1

30 Properties Advance 06

Developer’S Money Woes Imperil Sutton Supertower

Norman Rockwell’s UWS Roots Honored

Bonnie Raitt Coming to the Beacon




March 10 - 23, 2016 | Vol. 02 No. 05



from Backlog as Likely Landmarks

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March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

This Building May Not Being Coming to A Neighborhood Near You BY JACKSON CHEN


local organization filing a rezoning proposal for their neighborhood say they have won a victory — at least temporary, and perhaps significant longer term — due to the recent financial troubles of the developer behind the proposed 90-story 3 Sutton Place skyscraper. The East River 50s Alliance, on January 21, filed a preliminary rezoning statement to restrict the area from East 52nd Street to East 59th Street and from First Avenue to the East River to a 260-height limit, or approximately 25 stories. No construction permits have yet been issued for the Sutton Place project, and ERFA is hopeful rezoning could be in place before the super tower construction can begin. ERFA, its planners and attorneys, and representatives from supportive elected officials had an initial meeting regarding the rezoning proposal with the Department of City Planning on February 26.

The department said the meeting was a standard procedure it offers to applicants, providing technical assistance and guidance to help them complete their paperwork. Although their proposal is still in the pre-application phase, Alan Kersh, ERFA’s president, said he felt the department was very receptive to their rezoning proposal. “We believe there’s a recognition on City Planning’s part that a mega tower in a truly residential neighborhood might not be appropriate,” Kersh said. “So they are taking this request… very seriously.” Kersh added that they’re expecting follow-up meetings between their planners — Douglas Woodward and Sandy Hornick — and the department that delve into the technical details of the rezoning proposal. Chris Rizzo, an attorney from Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP who represents EFRA, concurred that they’ve received good signs from the planning department and hope to move the process along quickly.


A rendering of Bauhouse Group's 3 Sutton Place.

According to Rizzo, the organization’s team has now met with City Planning for both an initial informational meeting and an interdivisional meeting, where various units within the department informally offer assessments of the proposal. So far, the planning department has asked ERFA about alternative approaches to its proposed

height restrictions and whether the group’s proposal for an affordable housing component is necessary, Rizzo said. As the meetings continue, the organization will continue its backand-forth with the planning department until they reach the point


SUTTON PLACE, continued on p.16

Right now, the New York City Council has the opportunity to support a commonsense affordable housing plan that will help more aging adults live independently in their homes in the city they love. Taking action on Mayor de Blasio’s Affordable Housing plan will create 200,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years for low- and moderate-income residents, including seniors and people of all ages. Today, there are 200,000 seniors on waiting lists for affordable housing in our city. This sensible plan will help right this wrong and give all New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet a chance to live and thrive in the city we all call home.

Pass the Mayor’s affordable housing plan.

New Yorkers need affordable housing now.

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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 10 - 23, 2016




English teacher René Mills and some of her Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School students speaking about their efforts to achieve the street renaming.

The intersection of West 103rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue has been renamed Norman Rockwell Place.

Norman Rockwell’s UWS Roots Highlighted, Thanks to High School Students BY JACKSON CHEN


hanks to the efforts of several Upper West Side high school students, the corner of West 103rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue will honor the legacy of American artist Norman Rockwell. Students from Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School, on West 102nd Street, were on hand on February 25 to r ejoice as Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the renaming to Norman Rockwell Place into law. The designation marks the block where Rockwell grew up. The students’ interest in the painter and illustrator — best known for his hundreds of covers on the Saturday Evening Post — all started with their English teacher, René Mills. Specifically, Mills said, Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” oil paintings from 1943 were timeless artworks that still hold relevance today, especially given the cultural tensions currently racking the nation. Based on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address, Rockwell’s paintings portrayed four basic human rights: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and


freedom from fear. After interpreting what those freedoms meant to them, the students concurred they were particularly concerned about freedom from fear in a city where police brutality and unexplained slashings are too frequent. “Walking outside, they have certain fears,” Mills said of her students’ reflections on Rockwell’s art. “You should have that freedom from fear, particularly if you’re a person of color and young.” According to Mills, a teacher for 30 years at the alternative high school, Rockwell’s artworks provided the students with a unique window into American society, from subjects that touched on race, civil rights, and personal expression. After their class visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where the “Four Freedoms” paintings are housed, the students were made aware of the artist’s upbringing on the Upper West Side. Despite being such a ubiquitous name in American culture, the students were hard-pressed to find any ties to Rockwell in the neighborhood. Fueled by Mills, the students wanted to honor Rockwell’s legacy with a street renaming, but on the way, they also earned a valu-

able civics lesson outside the classroom. “Throughout the whole process, it wasn’t just about putting up the street sign,” said Kaitlyn Santiago, one of the students who poured in her efforts. “It’s about how bad you want it. You have to sit at meetings, stay late, do a lot of research, and be determined to get what you want.” Their efforts began on Election Day 2014 when they canvassed voters outside their high school, a designated polling location, for petition signatures. With 300 people signed onto their idea, their next hurdle was winning approving from Community Board 7, which, in short order, voted unanimously to accept the proposal. At every stage, the Nor man Rockwell Museum’s director of education Tom Daly lent his support to the students’ cause. While the students explored their connections to the artist, Daly gave historical insight and stressed the scope of Rockwell’s impact on American culture and, specifically, high school students. Despite his unfaltering support, Daly joined Mills in reminding the youths that their efforts could get stonewalled at any point in the

process. But the students persevered and even stuck around for the full Community Board meetings on several occasions to gain informal lessons in civics. “I’ve been at the museum for 20 years and I haven’t seen a group of kids that excited,” Daly said. “If you consider what the kids at West Side [High School] have to work with, that’s an amazing thing.” As the students gained momentum, their cause was joined by City Councilmember Mark Levine, who drafted the bill that called for the renaming. After being passed by the City Council on February 5, the mayor signed it into law several weeks later, among other street renamings. Levine admitted it was the West Side High School students who clued him into Rockwell’s birthplace being in his district. “No doubt Rockwell’s experiences in the Upper West Side helped inspire him to produce powerful works depicting everything from the civil rights movement to FDR’s Four Freedoms,” Levine said. Alongside Hip Hop Boulevard in the Bronx and Queens’ Randolph Holder Way — memorializing the


ROCKWELL, continued on p.16

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 10 - 23, 2016


30 Properties Advance from Backlog as Likely Landmarks BY JACKSON CHEN


Midtown luxury department store, an Episcopal church on the Upper West Side, a wooden-frame house on the Upper East Side, and a conference center at the United Nations Plaza will get their chance to forever be a part of Manhattan’s architecture after the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) decided to give each a designation hearing by the end of 2016. But while most preservationists rejoiced in the likelihood of many new landmarks, more than double that amount of backlogged properties throughout the city were removed from the commission’s calendar. As part of the commission’s Backlog Initiative — where it addressed the 95 city properties left in landmark limbo — Bergdorf Goodman, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 412 East 85th Street, and the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Center were able to move to the next step in landmark designation. The Bergdorf Goodman name is familiar to many (see “Preservationists Clear Huge Hurdle as Bergdorf Goodman Slated for Designation Hearing,” in the last issue of Manhattan Express at goo.gl/QaHcqK), but likely far fewer people know of a wood-frame house tucked well back from the property lines of adjacent red brick buildings. At 412 East 85th Street, the well-preserved former farmhouse dates back to the middle of the 19th century. Its current resident, architect Alfredo De Vido keeps the secluded property — one of few remaining wood-frame buildings on the Upper East Side — in pristine condition. In contrast, a 12th floor conference center inside the United Nations Plaza is well accustomed to visitors. Constructed in 1964 by the accomplished Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Center is one of four of his works remaining in the US. Currently, the conference center serves as a meet-





The former Hotel Renaissance at 4 West 43rd Street, now owned by the Unification Church, was not approved for a landmark designation hearing.

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church at 225 West 99th Street was one of 30 backlogged properties, out of 95, that were advanced to a designation hearing.

A wood-frame farmhouse at 412 East 85th Street also made the cut.

ing space for the Institute of International Education, which oversees the Fulbright Scholars program. For St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (whose interior is shown on page 1), at 225 West 99th Street, the preservation efforts date back to the 1980s, when the commission first held a hearing for its landmark designation. Like the other properties, the commission’s inaction on St. Michael’s led it to be included in the backlog that was finally addressed on February 23. According to the church’s archivist, Jean Ballard Terepka, the church building was consecrated in 1891. From the 1890s until the 1920s, Louis Comfort Tiffany — a prominent artist whose name is carried on in his distinctive style of stained glass — and his company decorated the church with striking religious depictions. Landmark West! has long had the church on its landmark wish list and the commission’s promise for its designation was good news. But, according to its advocacy director, Sean Khorsandi, the preservation group remains hesitant to celebrate until the church is officially deemed a landmark.

“It’s a little bit of a tricky situation,” Khorsandi said. “The record is closed and there’s no more additional testimony or opportunity to speak... This decision is going to be based in the building’s own merits.” Still, these properties are in a much better position than the sites that were removed from the commission’s calendar. If properties were de-calendared with a no-action letter, they are removed with no judgment from the commission and can later be considered for designation. However, preservationists are concerned that developers will swoop in during the meanwhile to redevelop the historic properties overlooked in this go-round. “There was not a building on that list that did not deserve to be made a landmark,” said Michael Henry Adams, a longtime preservation advocate. “Most of the buildings have been identified by the landmarks commission in the first place as being potential landmarks.” But that potential wavered as complications arose and prevented certain properties from being landmarked. Left neglected for decades by the commission, the 95

backlogged properties were finally addressed during the February 23 meeting. With decisions required on each, properties were de-calendared for a variety of reasons, including a lack of historical merit, owner opposition, or no support from city councilmembers. Such was the case for the former Hotel Renaissance site at 4 West 43rd Street, which now houses the headquarters of the Unification Church and several other nonprofit organizations. The property originally served as a hotel before being converted into the meeting place for the Columbia University Club in the early 1920s. Despite its historical significance, the commission decided to de-calendar the property, amidst some disappointment, due to opposition from the Unification Church. “I’m slightly agonizing over Hotel Renaissance,” said commissioner Fred Bland at the backlog meeting. “I know owner opposition is the chief issue here as opposed to quality of the building.” Many other buildings suffered the same fate, but for dif fer ing reasons. The five-story Sire


LANDMARK, continued on p.10

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

IRT Powerhouse, Still in Use, Among Those Headed for Preservation


The IRT Powerhouse, now owned by Con Edison, appears headed for landmarking.



he city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) cleared a major hurdle in the preservation of an historic powerhouse in Hell’s Kitchen last week, but voted not to consider designating a range of other potential landmarks on the West Side. At a public hearing to address its backlog of 95 buildings across the city, the agency selected 30 sites that will be considered for landmark status by the end of the year, after many of them have languished on its calendar for decades. “The commission has spent months analyzing testimony and conducting further research on these items,” LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said in a statement after the vote. “Our actions today represent an important step in addressing this backlog.” Preservationists across the city rejoiced at the decision to fast-track designation of the former Interborough Rapid Transit Powerhouse on 11th Avenue, but also criticized the agency’s inaction on a majority of the proposed properties. “The powerhouse has been on our wish list for a number of years,” said Kate Wood, the president of Landmark West! “It’s obviously worthy of landmarks designation. It’s a monument of the city.” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, agreed, saying, “I think that, in the end, it was a very open and good process that helped clear up a longstanding concern that the administration had about ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 10 - 23, 2016

the backlog. But I would have liked to see many more buildings prioritized for designation.” The LPC’s decision about the powerhouse came after more than two dozen residents and organizations testified in favor of its preservation at a hearing last November — one of several set up to specifically address the commission’s backlog throughout the five boroughs by gathering input from the public. Stretching for a whole block between West 58th and West 59th Streets, the Beaux-Arts style powerhouse is one of the more ancient additions to the list. It has been in landmarking limbo for more than 35 years — the first time it was considered for designation at a public hearing of the commission was in 1979. Since then, the agency considered the building in 1990 and 2009, but both times decided to delay designation because of opposition from Con Edison, which has owned and operated the station since the 1950s. The plant is currently used as part of the company’s steam system, serving about 1,800 buildings across Manhattan — including some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, like the Empire State Building and Grand Central Terminal, according to a spokesperson. When it was built in 1904, the building was the largest power station in the world, feeding a total of eight substations to power the signal and lighting systems of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway — the city’s first underground transit system. But Con Ed is vehemently opposed to landmarking the iconic building, arguing that the designation would make it difficult to operate the powerhouse. “We have a longstanding and productive working relationship with Landmarks staff that has given us the flexibility to maintain and enhance the production of steam and electricity from our 59th Street steam plant,” a Con Ed spokesperson said in a statement after the LPC’s decision. “We would like to continue that relationship with the Landmarks staff while continuing to meet our customers’ energy needs.” At the hearing last fall, representatives for the company made their position even more clear. “Our 59th Street steam plant is a living and breathing monument to adaptive reuse,” Gus Sanoulis, Con Ed’s vice president for steam operations, told the LPC commissioners then. “We need the flexibility to make changes to the plant’s interior and exterior that enable the cleanest, most efficient, and reliable production of energy.” But its opponents point out that Con Ed has operated under restrictions for years, while the building has remained on the landmarks calen-

dar. And the company has removed details like cornices and roof tiles from the building, as well as all of the station’s six original smokestacks. Bankoff said he was pleasantly surprised by the commissioners’ “strong statement” on the building, considering that there is no precedent for landmarking an active power plant. “I think that was a tough decision, because Con Ed is not in favor of landmarking — and Con Ed is a very potent force,” he said. “They were very vocal in their opposition.” While the powerhouse will now likely be preserved, most of the properties that were considered did not make the cut. The 65 buildings that were removed from the calendar last week include a number of West Side candidates, including the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, a three-story building on West 56th Street that is now part of the nearby High School for Environmental Studies, as well as seven current and former Broadway theaters on West 42nd Street. According to an LPC spokesperson, the theaters were not included on the priority list because they are already subject to historic preservation requirements through New 42nd Street, a nonprofit organization that was formed in 1990 to oversee the redevelopment of the historic venues. That spokesperson also noted that the theaters could be reconsidered for designation “without prejudice” at any time in the future. But the decision didn’t sit well with preservationists like Bankoff, who said that the vote was particularly troubling in light of recent controversy around the Palace Theater on Seventh Avenue, which is set to be lifted up 29 feet to accommodate ground-floor commercial space — a concession to developers, according to preservation groups critical of the plan (see “Palace Theatre Raising the Roof — And Everything Else — 29 Feet for Commercial Space” in the December 17, 2015 issue of Manhattan Express at goo.gl/ DsNoIN). “We understand that there already is a mandated role for the commission,” Bankoff said, “but we felt they really should be designated. If we’re living in a world where theaters in the Theater District are seen as ‘in the way,’ I would prefer to have the oversight from the Landmarks Commission.” Terming the IRT Powerhouse a “gem,” Borough President Gale Brewer said, “Today’s votes mark a real achievement: The Landmarks Preservation Commission is clearing its backlog through a transparent, public, accountable process.”


POWER, continued on p.10



Teddy Roosevelt Park.

Natural History Museum Steps Up Efforts at Community Buy-In on Expansion BY JACKSON CHEN


he American Museum of Natural History, on February 29, announced the formation of two working groups to help address concerns surrounding its controversial expansion project. The museum’s expansion plan, first announced in December 2014, would create the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation on the Columbus Avenue side of the institution. After the museum’s board of trustees approved the conceptual designs on November 4, 2015, many residents were still unhappy with the project, despite a reduction in the amount of the surrounding parkland that would be sacrificed for the project. Throughout the process, neighbors opposed to the expansion expressed their disapproval with its encroachment on the surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park and the possibility of increased traffic congestion. To better involve the community, the two groups announced by the museum on February 29 — a Park Working Group and a Transportation Working Group — are charged with advising the museum on those two issues.



A rendering of the American Museum of Natural History’s expansion.

With much of the controver sy aimed at the takeover of parkland, the museum said the park group would focus on “current and desired uses of the western portion of Theodore Roosevelt Park” and the museum access points, like building entrances and service ways. The park group plans to meet bi-monthly and will be co-chaired by the museum and the Friends of Roosevelt Park, the organization that jointly takes care of the park with the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation. Representatives from City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s office, State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s office, Borough President Gale Brewer’s office, the parks department, and Community Board 7 will join a number of neighborhood organizations, including the Defenders of Teddy Roosevelt Park, on the working group. The Defenders, headed by recently appointed president Adrian Smith, originally were adamantly opposed to any park loss but have since begun to compromise with the museum and its expansion. “We’re really grateful to be a part of it,” Smith said of the working group. “What we’re seeing is this opportunity to work with our neigh-

bors, the museum, elected officials on the building in total.” For Smith and his group, their main goal is to have the museum redesign the park into a quality community area, while also preserving as much as they can. “It’s not just about every spoonful of dirt we’re losing, it’s really about the quality of that space,” Smith said. “We’ve been very clear about what is being put back should be equal or better than what is being lost.” The museum’s announcement last week indicated that the discussion topics would also focus on sustainability and historic preservation of the park, as well as its design, operation, and maintenance. Other members of the working group would include the West 77th Street Block Association, the Theodore Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, and the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District. While Defenders is now working with some measure of collaboration with the museum, some of its members have split away to create their own group called Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park. Community United was formed on February 11 by several defectors from Defenders who charged that the original group was straying from its mission of preserving all of the parkland. According to Claudia DiSalvo, president of Community United and a lifelong museum-goer, the museum should either build the center completely within its existing footprint or create a satellite location for the Gilder Center. Community United will not be being part of the Park Working Group, and Di Salvo added that there should be more transparency

about the expansion project on the museum’s part. Similar to the park group, the Transportation Working Group will enlist membership from the offices of Councilmember Rosenthal, Assemblymember Rosenthal, and Brewer, the city’s Department of Transportation, the parks department, Community Board 7, and the NYPD’s 20th precinct. Chaired by Brewer and Councilmember Rosenthal, the transportation group will focus on conducting a pedestrian safety assessment and reviewing any related concerns with the help of the same neighborhood organizations as the park group. As for the project itself, the museum will seek approval from the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and CB7 before going to a public review process, including an environmental impact assessment. If approved, the museum expects to begin construction of the Gilder Center in 2017, and to open it in 2020. n

Adrian Smith, the new president of the Defenders of Teddy Roosevelt Park.

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

Broadway Super Nova’s Lifeline to Water-Logged Drama Book Shop BY COLIN MIXSON



Rozanne Seelen, the owner of the Drama Book Shop, with her nephew Allen Hubby.

most popular sections. Students need textbooks, and students come here for books and we’re forced to say, ‘Sorry, they drowned.’” So it came as both a blessing, and served as yet another testament to the store’s importance to the theater community, when Lin-Manuel Miranda came to Drama Book Shop’s aid. The creator of “In The Heights,” whose Grammy award-winning musical “Hamilton” is currently Broadway’s most coveted ticket, “saved us,” said Seelen. “I really think he did. He will never have to pay for a book again as long as I live. Any book he wants is free forever.” Having heard of the water damage, Miranda took to Twitter. With a few well-placed hashtags — and in under 140 characters — his words of praise gave the store a much needed boost in sales, helping it produce at least some of the capital needed to finance replacement copies of its waterlogged tomes. “We must have gotten 600 orders saying, ‘Lin sent me,’” Hubby explained. “We didn’t even ask him, he just did it out of the goodness of his sweet heart.” Miranda’s association with the Drama Book Shop is based on more than just a great retail experience. Its three floors on West 40th Street once served as his base of operations. “The @dramabookshop is not only the best place to get theater-related ANYTHING, I wrote most of In The Heights there. Pls support.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 10 - 23, 2016


DRAMA, continued on p.14



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here are few achievements more admirable than nearing the century mark. The Drama Book Shop, a niche bookstore that has served theater artists and enthusiasts since 1917, has persevered through one and a half world wars, a Great Depression, one disastrous experiment in prohibition, 17 US presidents, a near catastrophic fire, and — most ruinous of all — the introduction of cinema with sound, followed decades later by the rise of an online book vendor with ambitions to deliver its product by drone. Now, in the final stretch before its grand centennial anniversary, the venerable Drama Book Shop has run into a stretch of bad luck that nearly drowned its ambition of surviving to its 100th year. Thanks to the enduring love amongst New Yorkers for theater and the performing arts and the unsolicited promotion of one wildly successful playwright, this independent book dealer will survive the digital age and beyond, according to the store’s owner. “I still don’t know how to react the way people have come in and helped us,” said owner Rozanne Seelen. “The response has been phenomenal.” The Drama Book Shop, located at 250 West 40th Street, was recently flooded by several thousand gallons of city water after a pipe broke on the cold night of February 14, turning the pulpy contents of its acting, history, and design sections into so many theater-themed popsicles by the time employees came to open the door the next morning. The nearly lethal turn of events has left the store bereft of some of its most popular titles. The loss of its acting material, which accompanies many budding thespians through their tour of Juilliard and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, was an especially hard blow, according to store’s manager and heir apparent. “Rebuilding the acting section is particularly hard,” said Allen Hubby, Seelen’s nephew. “It’s one of our

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LANDMARK, from p.6

Building, a modest structure at 211 West 58th Street, was judged to be too ordinary, according to the commission’s research staff. Seven theaters on West 42nd Street were discounted since they already have historic preservation regulations through New 42nd Street, the nonprofit that oversees the redevelopment of the theaters. And while the building housing the Osborne Apartments at 205 West 57th Street was designated a landmark in 1991, the ornate lobby within was de-calendared by the commission. Because the interior lobby is private property and not accessible to the public — the Osborne doormen are quick to shoo away photo-taking nonresidents — the commission said it did not qualify. As the commission undertook an enormous amount of research to tackle the massive backlog, preservationists were still hoping for more than the 30 properties citywide that will receive a designation hearing by the end of the year. On top of their disagreements with the commission, preservation-

ists charged that the LPC should have stuck to considering the architectural and historical merit of the properties and left the politics out of their discussions. According to New York Landmarks Conservancy, “the commission’s job is to decide whether a building merits designation” and “the [City] Council was the place to consider politics.” With five buildings removed because they lacked merit, the conservancy said the remaining 60 deserving buildings are now left vulnerable to demolition. Agreeing with the conservancy, Adams said that positions staked out by building owners and the City Council should not have diluted the commission’s consideration of landmarking merit. “What was really deplorable was to hear the commission, instance after instance, say on the record that this building is meritorious but the Council and owner are opposed,” Adams said. He added, “Had that attitude been taken with theaters, hotels, and Grand Central Terminal, all those buildings would’ve been knocked down.” n

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Though the Osborne Apartments on West 57th Street have long been landmarked, their ornate lobby did not qualify for designation.

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POWER, from p.7

Although Con Ed will likely continue to advocate against landmarking the powerhouse, preservationists said they were optimistic about their odds. “I was honestly floored when I saw the powerhouse’s photo up there. It’s long overdue and I’m real-

ly happy,” said Alyssa Bishop, who is the president of the Hudson River Powerhouse Group, a non-profit that was founded in 2007 specifically to get the building landmarked. “We’ve come too far not to be optimistic now,” Bishop added. “The initiative that the LPC took at the hearing was too bold a move for them to back down now.” n

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

West 108th Street Transitional Housing Dramatically Expanding With Permanent Units BY JACKSON CHEN


n Upper West Side transitional homeless shelter is moving beyond its current mission of providing beds on a temporary basis with an expansion project that introduces a large chunk of permanent affordable housing. The proposed development on West 108th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues could bring anywhere from 190 to 280 new permanent units, while increasing its stock of transitional lodgings to 110. According to the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), the expansion of its Valley Lodge location will include a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments, but also include room to grow the exiting stock of 92 transitional beds by 18. Valley Lodge, located at 149 West 108th Street, currently functions as a transitional shelter serving that portion of the homeless population aged 50 or older. The nonprofit organization aims to create a roomier, state-of-theart facility to replace the current building that has been in operation since 1988, according to Paul Freitag, WSFSSH’s executive director.

The new development involves the construction of two buildings, ranging from seven to 11 stories in height, that will bookend the Anibal Aviles Playground. WSFSSH’s proposal requires the demolition of the current facility and three nearby garages owned by the city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency, which, along with other city agencies, has already expressed support. To the west of the playground, the larger Building 1 will house both the 110 transitional beds and between 145 and 200 units of permanent affordable housing units. To the playground’s east, Building 2 will have between 45 and 80 units of permanently affordable housing for senior citizens. Both buildings will have access to support services and community facilities the organization is planning to incorporate into the overall project. Freitag explained that his group is considering the addition of a public general-purpose health clinic as part of the development to serve the local community, and will include public bathrooms as a convenience for users of nearby parks. The nonprofit is currently proposing a devel-


Rusty, a current resident of Valley Lodge, outside the transitional housing facility on West 108th Street.

opment that complies with the R8B zoning for Valley Lodge and which it can proceed on as of right. However, the group has also presented another option involving a taller building that includes 90 more units of affordable housing. That option is dependent on a rezoning to R8A. WSFSSH will look to the reaction by Community Board 7 and the community generally as it decides which option to purse. That deci-


108TH, continued on p.13







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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 10 - 23, 2016



Beep Brewer Offers New Printed Resource Directory for Seniors BY JACKSON CHEN


orough President Gale Brewer released an 80-page resource guide for senior citizens that will be distributed by the thousands throughout Manhattan. To kick-start the circulation of her info packets, Brewer visited three senior centers on March 4 and offered about a hundred copies of “Age-Smart Manhattan” to residents just prior to their lunch hour. While many city dwellers take to the web to search for whatever services they need, senior citizens have a tougher time locating certain resources, she explained. “The issue is senior information is often hard to come by,” Brewer said. “We have to make sure these books get out to seniors who don’t go on the web.” The resource guide acts as both a crash course in understanding what benefits — like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — are available to seniors and a modern

phonebook of relevant city agencies, senior centers, and physicians that are available throughout the borough. “It lists all the senior centers in Manhattan, the services they provide, do they have meals,” Brewer said. “The kinds of stuff that [we] would Google.” However, for the senior community, some with limited tech capabilities, Brewer said, she wants her guide to fill in any gaps that exist. The borough president’s first stop of the tour brought her to Project FIND, a nonprofit senior services provider, and its Woodstock Senior Center at 127 West 43rd Street. Joined by the group’s executive director David Gillcrist and MetroPlus Health Plan’s director of intergovernmental relations, Ron Law, Brewer greeted dozens of residents with packets both in English and Spanish. According to the borough president, one of the bigger issues with the senior population was the lack of affordable dental care. While


Juan Arroyo, a resident of the Woodstock Senior Center on West 43rd Street, has a look at the borough president’s resource guide.

there are many programs for children and their teeth, Brewer said there weren’t many options for seniors. Juan Arroyo, an eight-year resident of the Woodstock center, agreed that dental service was particularly tough for him to find. Equipped with the new resource

guide, Arroyo said, it would come in handy for any service he needed. “It’s better than a phonebook,” Arroyo, 80, said. “This here gives you the information you need.” Leaving the Woodstock residents


BREWER, continued on p.13

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Three land parcels, currently housing parking garages, will be added to the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing’s Valley Lodge on West 108th Street.


108TH, from p.11

sion will determine the number of units the new development can accommodate. “We could go either way, but the message we got from everyone is that we’re in an affordable housing crisis,” Freitag said. “And we want to provide more affordable housing.” The project was first brought in front of CB7 on December 16 for a preliminary informational meeting, and was expected to return to its Land Use Committee on February 17, but venue difficulties forced a postponement to March 16, according to Penny Ryan, CB7’s district manager. Freitag said WSFSSH would present a traffic study to CB7 at the upcoming meeting. During the construction process that is expected to last two years, current tenants of Valley Lodge would be relocated to another building. Freitag added that they’d like to relocate all tenants to one building, but space


availability may have them splitting the residents into two different buildings. Once the expansion is completed, the tenants would be welcomed back into a new facility with many more neighbors. A tenant, who identified her self as Rusty, said the expansion is a positive move that allows the building to take in more homeless people who need a chance. “I’d like to see more people off the streets and off the subway,” Rusty said. “They could use a place to get them off the streets… I feel for them.” Living in Valley Lodge for more than a year now, Rusty said she’s been waiting since December for the opportunity to move into more permanent housing. The organization hopes to begin construction of the new facility in the summer of 2017. Once finished, Freitag said, WSFSSH will begin leasing the apartments in the summer of 2019 and expects the new facility to be fully housed six months later. n



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BREWER, from p.12

to comb through the guide, Brewer headed north to drop off more of her “Age-Smart Manhattan” booklets at senior centers in East and Central Harlem. In addition to her guide, Brewer will be holding a seniors’ informational expo focused on brain health, called “Up With Aging,” on March 20, from 12:30 to 5 p.m., at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street. For more information, visit upwithaging.eventbrite.com. n


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DRAMA, from p.9

#BuyABook,” Miranda tweeted on February 18. Other tweets from that day indicate a bright future in marketing should he choose a new career path. In addition to praising the Shakespeare section’s comfy chairs, he replied to a Twitter follower’s inquiry about whether the upcoming Miranda-penned “Hamilton: The Revolution” would be available for purchase at the Drama Book Shop. “It will be. And I’ll go sign it there,” Mirada vowed. “But they need your help now so I can go sign it there in April.” Other tweets found Miranda naming his most recent purchases (“When I was last there I got a Noel Coward bio, a King Lear DVD starring Brian Blessed, and the Heathers piano/vocal”), and invoking a character from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” who rescues George Bailey from impending bankruptcy and scandal (“If you’re not in NY, you can also purchase items via the site below. BE SAM WAINWRIGHT. HEE HAW”). This latest episode in the long life of Manhattan’s only remaining performing arts bookstore is merely a brief act in an epic play and, when the curtain first rose on the Drama Book Shop in 1917, it revealed a much different set and cast than what you’ll find today. As it was, the Drama Book Shop began less as a bookstore, and more as a bookshelf, located in the Manhattan offices of the Drama League of New York. Back before video (and, later, the Internet) would come to reign as the supreme source of pulp violence, pornography, and off-color humor, theater was the ultimate wellspring of all things unwholesome, and the Drama League helped ardent fans of proper drama sift through the many lewd productions that proliferated during the early 20th century, according to Hubby. “Around the turn of the century, theater had gotten a bad name, because a lot of it was quite tawdry,” he said. “So, this group of people who loved theater formed branches all over the country. The idea was they would recommend plays that were worthy of theater, which basically meant theater that didn’t have sex or violence.” Meanwhile, the bookshelf (or card table, depending on who’s tell-

ing the story) was managed by one Marge Seligman — and, over time, her meager collection of dramas and musicals ballooned, eventually becoming more popular than the haughty Drama League that birthed it, according to Hubby. So, Seligman took her catalogue of plays and established the Drama Book Shop on East 45th Street in 1923, in what was then Manhattan’s Publishing District. From there, the store moved a few times, each time heading further west, until eventually finding its way to West 52nd St., between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, in 1958, when a group of disparate thespians and theater enthusiasts bought the store. Among them was Arthur Seelen, a former actor, whose enthusiasm for theater craft and the people who love it remains a fond recollection of the shop’s more venerable patrons, even after his death in 2000, according to his widow, Rozanne.

The store’s ceiling, though still structurally sound, sustained s

“He loved the young people who came into the store, and he loved the books,” she said. “Even all these years later, people come and say how much they miss him. It’s a great credit to him.” Seleen, his partners, and, later, his wife, cultivated a staff similarly devoted to the performing arts, whose knowledge of the craft and their faithfulness to the store were as critical to the shop’s success as its doting clientele, according to Hubby. “We have an incredibly knowledgeable staff,” he said. “People who come to work here stay for years and years, and they don’t want to leave, even though we pay them next to nothing. We have the best staff in the world.” In fact, the Drama Book Shop

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

has produced at least one stellar addition to the theater world. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane, whose work on “As Bees in Honey Drown,” “The Little Dog Laughed,” “Xanadu,” and “The Nance” have made him a marquee name, worked at the store as a bag checker in the ’80s. But, while the store and its staff are sought after for their prodigious knowledge of theater, that doesn’t always equate to sales — even if they’re able to help the customer pick out the perfect play, according to Hubby. “It is frustrating when someone says, ‘Thank you so much for your help, I’m going to go to Amazon and order that book,’” he explained. Still, the Drama Book Shop is a destination for more than just its written product, much of which is out of print and nearly impossible to come by. In addition to its basement theater, where the store’s resident children’s theater company, the Striking Viking Story Pirates, rehearses and performs, the Drama Book Shop has played host to several high-profile, if impromptu revivals. At one point, cast members from the original production of “A Chorus Line” invaded the store and collectively belted out tunes from the show. That off-the-books revival was followed up by an unofficial production of “Hair,” when cast members of the show’s original and follow-up productions met up at the shop and gaily broke out in song, according to Hubby. The Drama Book Shop has outlived at YANNIC RACK least five other thesignificant damage. ater -themed bookshops in the city, and is now one of three remaining niche performing arts bookstores in the Western world, with one in Los Angeles and another in London still chugging along, according to Hubby. New York’s outpost, unfortunately, is not yet out of rough waters. The approaching end date of its current lease will almost certainly force the Drama Book Shop into yet another period of flux in the face of what’s expected to be an enormous rent hike, Hubby said. “Our lease is up dangerously soon,” he said. “We have a very good relationship with our landlord, but we’ll have to move when our lease is up. It will probably triple.” Whatever happens, chances are good that, somewhere in the city, there will be a cozy chair where somebody will be devouring a stack of plays curated by the Drama Book Shop. “It is not without its challenges. Every day is an adventure,” said Hubby. “Our customers are very resourceful. If they need a monologue, they’ll find us.” n ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 10 - 23, 2016



SUTTON PLACE, from p.3

where a completed application can be submitted. EFRA, the attorney emphasized, is willing to be flexible as long as the group can achieve its main goal. “East River Fifties Alliance is very open to achieving height restrictions in a different manner than what we proposed,” Rizzo said. “The only bottom line is there has to be height protection.” On top of a height restriction, ERFA’s rezoning proposes incentives to developers who provide affordable housing and build community-oriented spaces as part of a contextual project. While the organization continues its push for a rezoning, the developer whose project has drawn so much ire has been inundated with legal problems stemming from a hefty loan to finance construction of the proposed super tower, which was planned for East 58th Street. The developer, Bauhouse Group, defaulted on its $147 million loan from Gamma Real Estate in January, according to Crain’s New York, prompting a foreclosure auction on

the property to be scheduled for February 29. With that deadline looming — and a court declining to issue a temporary restraining order against it — the limited liability corporation controlled by Bauhouse that owns the property filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on February 26, as reported by Crain’s. On top of the legal back-and-forth between Bauhouse and Gamma, the developer is also being sued by JLL, a commercial brokerage firm that helped Bauhouse in its purchase of the 3 Sutton Place property, according to The Real Deal. On top of all that, Nathaniel Christian Group, another commercial real estate firm, is suing Bauhouse for $600,000 for a missing commission payment for its help in Bauhouse’s purchase of the property for its only other project, known as 515 Highline and located at 515 West 29th Street, Crain’s reported. Bauhouse, led by managing member Joseph Beninati, was founded in 2012 with Chris Jones and Danny Lee — both former employees of JLL. Similar to the Sutton Place development, the 515 Highline project has yet to be fin-

ished, despite an expected completion date of December 2015. Beninati was interviewed by the New York Times in May 2015 and said demolition on the Sutton Place site would begin that summer. However, the three buildings expected to be demolished still stand today, with the construction process likely stalled due to Bauhouse’ legal and financial problems. Bauhouse, through its press representative, the Marino Organization, declined comment on its two prospective projects. With the bankruptcy filing buying time for the developer, Kersh said ERFA is wary of what might come next. Even if Bauhouse is unable to move forward on the project, neighborhood advocates are concerned that the developer selling the property or Gamma seizing control of the lot could expose the neighborhood to unwelcome development that can be carried out as of right under existing zoning. “Odds are the next developer may have more financial resources than Bauhouse,” Kersh said. “The goal is to get [the zoning] changed before a new developer comes in who maybe has better resources and better ability to get a site assembled.” For the organization trying to block the construction of a skyscraper in their neighborhood, the recent legal disputes only offer them a head start. “We can’t take our eyes off the ball while this drama is playing out,” Kersh said. “We’re just plowing ahead with City Planning and moving forward with the rezoning as soon as possible.” Kersh said the pre-application process usually lasts anywhere from 18 to 24 months, but he expects his group’s proposal

to take a year. To compile a final application, the ERFA’s team must meet with the City Planning Commission for initial discussions, file an environmental impact report, and go through a public comment process. After clearing those hurdles, the rezoning would move into the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure phase, which can take up to another year. Here again, Kersh predicted that with strong support from local elected officials, his group can move more expeditiously. City Councilmember Ben Kallos — who co-signed the preliminary rezoning statement alongside his colleague Dan Garodnick, Borough President Gale Brewer, and State Senator Liz Krueger — said that time is now on their side in pushing through the rezoning. “We knew this rezoning would move faster than they could build,” Kallos said. “This bankruptcy filing will only draw the process out for years and give the community the time it needs for this rezoning.” Community Board 6 has also offered its endorsement, passing a resolution supporting ERFA’s rezoning efforts at its February full board meeting. After ERFA met with CB6’s Land Use and Waterfront Committee earlier in February, the board agreed to reaffirm support for the rezoning it had first voiced last May. As for the race between ERFA, in getting its rezoning approved, and the developer, hustling to lay down a foundation, Kersh said his organization is doubling down on its efforts to maintain its lead. “Whatever is going on between the lender and Bauhouse will take its place in time,” Kersh said. “But our mission is not missing a day or beat on the rezoning effort.” n


a lot about Norman Rockwell and his pictures he drew... this helps his memory stay alive.” The students ar e now just counting down the days until the June 9 unveiling ceremony, where they will see a physical manifestation of their persistent efforts. “[They] have changed New York City’s history,” Mills said of her students. “[They] have reclaimed Nor man Rockwell back to his birthplace, they city where he got all his spunk to do what he did so well.” n

ROCKWELL, from p.4

police officer who was shot and killed last October while on duty in East Harlem — Norman Rockwell Place was established with de Blasio’s signature, achieving the students’ goal of preserving the artist’s legacy and ties on the Upper West Side. “Not a lot of people recognize what artists do, not only nowadays but back in the 1900s,” said Asia Smiley, another student who joined in the efforts. “We learned


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Relitigating Birth Control A Century Later

PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

EDITOR IN-CHIEF PAUL SCHINDLER editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc





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Manhattan Express, the newspaper for Midtown and the Upper East and Upper West Sides, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC. Send all inquiries to: Manhattan Express, One Metrotech Center North, Suite 1001, Brooklyn 11201 or call 718-260-4586. Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents © 2016 Manhattan Express. Manhattan Express is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, C.E.O. | Fax: 212-229-2790 Subscriptions: 26 issues, $49.00 ©2016 Manhattan Express, All rights reserved. NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC | ONE METROTECH NORTH, SUITE 1001 | BROOKLYN, NY 11201 | 212-229-1890




ne hundred years ago in Brownsv i l l e , B r o o kl yn , our modern era began. In a squat building that no longer exists, a pretty and soft-spoken mom named Margaret opened an office where women could get something they’d never been allowed to obtain before. Birth control. The place wasn’t called Planned Parenthood in 1916. “It didn’t really have a name,” said Sabrina Jones, author of an upcoming graphic novel, “Our Lady of Birth Control: A Car toonist’s Encounter with Margaret Sanger.” Back then, the idea of preventing unwanted pregnancies was so new and controversial, even Sanger herself didn’t expect to provide family planning to anyone other than… families. At the time, Brownsville’s population was predominantly Eastern European and Italian, so Sanger made her flyers in Italian, Yiddish, and English.  “She assumed the clients would be mothers married with lots of children,” Jones explained. “Publicly, she never offered birth control to unmarried people — that was too far.” Sanger didn’t even seem like a revolutionary. Delicate and poised, she had three childr en of her own and, for a time, lived a quiet suburban life up in Hastings. Her hus-

band, a draftsman, worked for the architect Stanford White. He’d urged young Margaret Higgins to marry him while she was still in nursing school, because he was afraid that she’d fall in love with a doctor. Sanger complied, but soon grew restless. As Jones put it, “She wanted a wider world.” Wilder, too. So in 1911 she moved to the Village and was soon mingling — and more — with the socialists and revolutionaries she met. Her new comrade Emma Goldman was probably the person who introduced her to birth control, and did so with an economic argument: Why is it that poor people, who can’t afford more children, always have more of them, while the upper classes don’t? The wealthy had something the poor did not, and that something was contraception. Back then, family planning was still dicey and pricey. “Condoms were very expensive,” said Jones. They were made out of sheep gut. “People washed them and reused them.” Poor women rarely even knew about these. For them, the only birth control was abortion. Sanger worked as a nurse in the slums, where desperate women begged her to tell them the secret: How could they avoid having kids they couldn’t feed, or the abortions they despised? Legally, she wasn’t

allowed to tell them. Nobody was. Discussing birth control was against the law, as was dispensing it. When she finally decided to open her clinic, it was “an act of civil disobedience,” Jones said. Sanger went a step further and actually alerted the district attorney to her deed, because she wanted to go to court and get those laws thrown out. The road to that goal was fraught with protest, prison, and a nearly lethal hunger strike on the part of Sanger’s sister. But in the end, the law cracked, and finally doctors were legally allowed to tell their clients about condoms. Jones’ graphic novel tells that whole story along with the reason she felt compelled to write it. She woke up one morning, turned on the radio, “and I heard the story of a young woman testifying before Congress about the need for contraceptive coverage in student health plans.” That woman, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, was immediately lambasted by Rush Limbaugh, who called her a slut and a prostitute. “She wants to be paid

to have sex!,” Limbaugh told his listeners. “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception!” Jones recalled, “I was horrified that in 2012 a woman could still be shamed for advocating birth control. When I came of age, birth control was a done deal that had achieved near universal acceptance. All the battles wer e about abortion.” Realizing Sanger’s crusade was back in the crosshairs, Jones reached for her drawing board — literally. Creating “social justice comics” is her standard MO. Her topics range from army recruitment wiles to Walt Whitman. My favorite is her book about mass incarceration — a graphic novel version of Marc Mauer’s “Race to Incarcerate,” which tells the story of how America came to imprison a bigger chunk of its population than any other country, including China and Iran. It is stunning in its clarity. Reading it feels like a punch in the gut. Graphic novels have a way of making problems present in a way that simple paragraphs — like these! — cannot. Margaret Sanger had her clinic, Sabrina Jones has her paintbrush, but they share the same mission: Freedom to live and to love. Lenore Skenazy is editor and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids, and a contributor at Reason.com. n

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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Police Blotter PED FATALITY: TAXI TURNED DEADLY (MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT) On February 29, police responded to a 911 call at around 8:30 a.m. regarding a female pedestrian struck by a taxi. According to a preliminary investigation, Buddhi Gurung, a 49-year-old male, was driving a 2013 black Toyota livery vehicle and made a left turn on East 36th Street to begin travelling north on Madison Avenue, where he struck 77-year-old Carol Dauplaise, who was crossing the avenue. Police said Gurung, a Queens resident, remained on the scene and Dauplaise, a Murray Hill resident, was transported by EMS to Bellevue Hospital where she was pronounced deceased. The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is continuing its investigation, but so far has charged Gurung with failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise care.

BURGLARY: HUNGRY FOR HUMMUS (19TH PRECINCT) Police are on the lookout for a male suspect believed to be connected to a February 2 burglary of Hummus Kitchen at 1613 Second Avenue, between East 83rd and 84th Streets. According to police, the person of interest entered the restaurant at around 3:45 a.m. through an unlocked front cellar door. Police said he made off with approximately $25 and a bicycle worth $800. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as an Hispanic male, between 5’5" and 5’9", 160 to 180 pounds, and last seen wearing a multi-colored jacket, a hooded sweatshirt, and a baseball hat.

MISSING PERSON: SILVER ALERT (24TH PRECINCT) Police are asking for help in locating a 64-year-old male who was reported missing on February 26. According to police, Joseph McWalters was last seen at 8:30 a.m. on February 25 before leaving his home at 19 West 100th Street. Police said he was wearing a

black jacket, blue pants, and brown sneakers. Police released a photo of the missing person (available at manhattanexpressnews. nyc), whom they describe as a white, 6’1" male, weighing 180 pounds.

GRAND LARCENY: ALLERGIC TO PAYING (MIDTOWN SOUTH, MIDTOWN NORTH, AND 17TH PRECINCTS) Police are looking for a male suspect believed to be involved in a pattern of stolen over-thecounter medications amounting to more than $15,000 spread across six incidents. According to police, the pattern began with an incident on January 2 at around 9:30 a.m. Police said the suspect entered the Duane Reade at 22 West 48th Street and stuffed $199 worth of over-the-counter (OTC) medications into his bag and left without paying. Police said the spree continued later that day at around 10 a.m. at another Duane Reade, at 711 Third Avenue, between East 44th and 45th Streets. According to police, a male suspect removed OTC allergy medicine from the shelves and returned shortly after for a second attempt, totaling $5,350 in loot. The following week, on January 9, police received reports that a male suspect removed $2,647 in OTC medications from a Duane Reade at 1370 Avenue of the Americas, between West 55th and 56th Streets, at around 10:30 a.m. A week after that, at around 11 a.m. on January 16, the 711 Third Avenue Duane Reade was revisited and lost $2,651 in OTC medication and personal care products, as one male suspect swiped them and another acted as lookout, police said. On January 24, police said the pattern continued as two unknown males entered the Duane Reade at 1350 Broadway, between West 35th and 36th Streets. One of the suspects removed $1,725 worth of OTC medication, while the second suspect removed $1,261 in OTC medicine, according to police. Police have the final incident on February 1 at 8:30 a.m. as the 711 Third Avenue Duane Reade was visited a third time by a male suspect. According to police, the suspect made off with $1,572 in OTC allergy medication.

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Don’t Rock the Boat, Baby


Catherine Ricafort, Roger Bart, Baylee Littrell, Seth Rudetsky, Rachel York, Kevin Chamberlin, and Olivia Phillip in Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s “Disaster!”



isaster!,” a goofy spoof of cheesy 1970s disaster films, is chock full of singing and dancing, but the Playbill doesn’t bother to list musical numbers. That’s because this jukebox musical, by Seth Rudetsky — the unofficial mayor of Broadway — and Jack Plotnick, has a serious case of ADHD. No sooner do you recognize one pop hit when it abruptly jumps to something else. There are scant traditional, fully formed musical numbers. I counted snippets from at least 35 period pop songs, which served as tuneful punch lines. And that’s just one of the many pleasures of this big-hearted, campy comedy. Not only is the timing unexpected, but so are the song choices and contexts. Sure, there are obvious favorites like Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” But I relished forgotten gems like “Do You Wanna Make Love” and “Torn Between Two Lovers,” sung by a


nun to a slot machine, no less. And I wonder if Sony/ ATV Music Publishing had any clue what would be transpiring onstage when it gave permission to use Lionel Richie’s “Three T imes a Lady” (hint: it involves dismembered body parts). The creaky book follows the venerable disaster-movie formula — remember “Earthquake,” “Towering Inferno,” and “The Poseidon Adventure?” Here, the setting is a giant, floating casino moored in the Hudson River. It’s grand opening night, and the guests are a motley bunch with more than their share of personal baggage. We meet a wacky elderly couple from “the last stop on the R train,” Shirley (Faith Prince, channeling Shelley Winters) and Maury (Kevin Chamberlin); a nosy New York Times reporter (Kerry Butler, who starred in a similar parody musical, “Xanadu”); and her lovelorn ex-fiancé (Adam Pascal). Also on board are that singing nun, a long-in-the-tooth lounge singer (Lacretta Nicole), and her brat-

ty preteen twins, among others. These pleasure seekers are in for the time of their lives. That’s not to say it will be a particularly pleasant time. A pesky “disaster expert” (Rudetsky) predicts that an earthquake is imminent and urges everyone to evacuate, but he’s met with fierce pushback from the scumbag casino owner (Roger Bart). When disaster finally strikes, mayhem follows. Who will live to see the dawn of a new day? The second act is fraught with riotous shark and piranha attacks, rescue attempts, thorny romantic entanglements, and carnage. The ship’s hunky security officer (Casey Garvin, who also serves as dance captain) meets an especially gruesome — and hilarious — end. None of this would float were it not for a skilled, committed cast, under the direction of Plotnick. While the calculated histrionics of veterans like Bart and Prince were deliciously on point, my favorite was Jennifer Simard’s nuanced portrayal of Sis-

ter Mary, who has a devil of a time reconciling her love of Jesus and her devotion to slot machines. Her welltimed, deadpan comic delivery was a welcome counterpoint to the chaotic swirl around her. Another standout is Baylee Littrell, son of Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell, who brings a creepy charm to twins Ben and Lisa. Aided by a blonde wig, he slips between characters with aplomb, belting out some impressive solos, like “Ben,” Lisa’s tear-stained ode to her possibly deceased brother. And if you aren’t aware that “Ben” is a Michael Jackson song about a killer rat then you will not fully appreciate this show. Apparently, this is Littrell’s first professional acting gig ever. Adding an extra dose of whimsy are the garish ‘70s costumes, designed by none other than William Ivey Long. There are those who will argue that this “Disaster!,” which originated as a concert in 2011, moved to Off Off Broadway, then Off Broadway before it reached the Nederlander Theatre, doesn’t have enough substance to fill a Broadway stage. The inventive sets, by Tobin Ost, are as crude and flimsy as the plot, and the special effects are low tech in the extreme (makeshift dummies stand in for corpses, for example). Much of the staging is rough around the edges. I would counter that the scrappy lack of polish is a large part of the show’s appeal. What it lacks in heft it makes up for in heart. n

DISASTER! Nederlander Theatre 208 W. 41st St. Through Jul. 3 Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Thu. at 7 p.m. Sat. at 2 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. $65-$135; disastermusical.com Two hrs., five mins., with intermission

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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Manhattan Treasures




It’s been two decades since Natalie Merchant parted ways with her longtime 10,000 Maniacs bandmates and released her first solo effort, the 1995 multi-platinum selling “Tigerlily.” Both she and the songs from “Tigerlily” have matured and changed together, so last summer Merchant re-recorded the 11 songs with different arrangements, inspired by how they had evolved over time in live settings. Merchant, in her only two East Coast appearances, performs at the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway at 75th St. Mar. 11 & 28, 8 p.m. Tickets are $39.50 $79.50.

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.



Folklorist and bandleader Mick Moloney leads a cast of world musicians, singers, and dancers in Symphony Space’s fifth annual Celtic Appalachian celebration. Moloney is joined by the High Ridge Ramblers’ West Virginian mountain blend of banjo, fiddle, and guitar, Green Fields of America, one of the best-known and longest running Irish-American groups, the folk duet Murphy Beds, and rhythmic steps from dancers Shannon Dunne and Megan Downes. Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Mar. 12, 8 p.m. Tickets are $40$60, $25 for students & seniors at symphonyspace.org.

Fleeing starvation during the Great Famine, Irish immigrants poured into New York in the mid-19th century in search of a better life. Working on the docks, many settled in Hell’s Kitchen, then a squalid, crime-ridden. and overcrowded slum, where they struggled to survive poverty and overcome discrimination. Today, the abattoirs, prostitution, gang fights, and sweaty old Madison Square Garden are gone, but in a walking tour timed to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, New School and NYU Manhattan history instructor Joyce Gold leads a walking tour to explore how that past influences the neighborhood today. Meet at the southeast corner of 43rd St. & Ninth Ave. on Mar. 15, 10:30 a.m. for a 90-min. tour. Tickets are $35 at 92y.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 f o r t h e W h i t e H o u s e . 92 n d S t r e e t Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Ave. Mar. 13, 7:30 p.m. Admission is $32 at 92Y.org


REVIVING THE NYCO ORCHESTRA SOUND The New York City Opera Concert Series premieres with the world premiere of David Hertzberg’s “Sunday Morning,” based on a poem by Wallace Stevens, and works by J.S. Bach, Zemlinsky, Korngold, and Golijov. Soprano Sarah Shafer, and mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez join conductor Gil Rose and members of NYCO Orchestra in the intimate


Appel Room, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th St., fifth fl. Mar. 16, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35.50$160.50 at jazz.org.

LISA LAMPANELLI GETS RAUCOUS AT THE BEACON Lisa Lampanelli, the racy insult comic with a heart of gold, appears live at the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway at 75th St. Mar. 18, 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.50 - $99.50 at beacontheatre.com.

TINA CROSS AT HARKNESS The Harkness Dance Festival concludes with Tina Croll + Company’s performance of “One Rhinoceros, 3 Birds and a Pineapple,” which rejects a linear narrative in favor of a more kaleidoscopic vision. Solos and duets are intermingled with a chorus swirling through in geometric patterns — sometimes causing havoc. The company, with 16 dancers participating, also presents “She Rides a Tiger,” “Walkabout,” and “The Stamping Ground.” 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St. Mar. 18-19, 8 p.m.; Mar. 20, 3 p.m. Tickets are $25-$29, $15 for those 35 and younger, at 92y.org/harknessfestival or 212415-5500.

LIVE FROM LONDON: LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES As part of the London West End National Theatre Live program, Symphony Space screens “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” the Donmar Warehouse’s new production directed by Josie Rourke (“Coriolanus”) and starring Elaine Cassidy (“The Paradise”), Janet McTeer (“The White Queen”), and Dominic West (“The Affair,” “The Wire”). In 1782, Choderlos de Laclos’ novel of sex, intrigue, and betrayal in pre-revolutionary France scandalized the world. Two hundred years later, Christopher Hampton’s irresistible adaptation, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, swept the board, winning the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for Best Play. Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony

Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Mar. 19, 7 p.m. Tickets are $24, $22 for seniors, $16 for those 30 and under at symphonyspace.org.

BILLY STRITCH LEADS CY COLEMAN SALUTE Cy Coleman was loved for his Broadway scores from “Sweet Charity” to “City of Angels,” as well as for classic standards like “Witchcraft” and “The Best Is Yet to Come.” Coleman also doubled as a jazz pianist. In “Witchcraft: The Jazz Magic of Cy Coleman,” Grammy-winner Billy Stritch leads an all-star celebration of the composer’s life and work, featuring singers Debby Boone, La Tanya Hall, Nicolas King, and Gabrielle Stravelli, Jay Leonhart on bass, and drummer Rick Montalbano. 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St., Kaufmann Concert Hall. Mar. 19, 8 p.m.; Mar. 20, 2 & 7 p.m.; Mar. 21, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $69-$81 at 92y.org.

NEW JAZZ, INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS The New York Jazzharmonic is a new 17-piece jazz big band dedicated to presenting original music performed by superstar guest soloists from the jazz, crossover, and world music spheres. Argentinian bandoneonist player JP Jofre premieres new big band arrangements of his works, while Canadian violinist Lara St. John offers a tribute to Astor Piazzolla including artistic director Ron Wasserman’s new arrangement of his “Angel Music.” Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Mar. 27, 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, $10 for students at symphonyspace.org.

FOLK MEETS BLUES IN BONNIE RAITT’S ARTISTRY Bonnie Raitt, the longtime folkie whose singular voice also captures the classic American blues idiom, brings her “Dig in Deep” tour to New York for two shows at the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway at 75th St. Apr. 1-2, 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.50 - $126 at beacontheatre.com.

March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Successful ways to stretch retirement savings

Many budding retirees plan to travel, relax and enjoy the company of their spouses when they officially stop working. But such plans only are possible if men and women take steps to secure their financial futures in retirement. According to a recent survey by the personal finance education site MoneyTips.com, roughly onethird of Baby Boomers have no retirement plan. The reason some may have no plan is they have misconceptions about how much money they will need in retirement. Successful retirees under-

net worth of less than $1 million, and many people live comfortably on less than $100,000 annually. When planning for retirement, don’t be dissuaded because you won’t be buying a vineyard or villa in Europe. Set reasonable goals for your retirement and make sure you meet those goals. • Recognize there is no magic wealth-building plan. Saving comes down to formulating a plan specific to your goals, resources, abilities, and skills. Make saving a priority and take advantage of employer-sponsored retirement

stand the steps to take and how to live on a budget. • Have a plan. Many people simply fail to plan for retirement. Even men and women who invest in an employer-sponsored retirement program, such as a 401(k), should not make that the only retirement planning they do. Speak with a financial advisor who can help you develop a plan that ensures you don’t outlive your assets. • Set reasonable goals. Retirement nest eggs do not need to be enormous. Many retirees have a

programs if they are offered. • Don’t underestimate spending. You will need money in retirement, and it’s best that you don’t underestimate just how much you’re going to need. No one wants to be stuck at home during retirement, when people typically want to enjoy themselves and the freedom that comes with retirement. Speak to a financial planner to develop a reasonable estimate of your living expenses when you plan to retire. • Pay down or avoid debt while you can. Retiring with debt is a

big risk. Try to eliminate all of your debts before you retire and, once you have, focus your energy on growing your investments and/or saving money for retirement. • Start early on retirement saving. It’s never too early to begin saving for retirement. Although few twenty-somethings are thinking about retirement, the earlier you begin to invest the more time you have to grow your money. Enroll in a retirement plan now so you have a larger nest egg when you reach retirement age.




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MISTER G EN ESPAÑOL & ENGLISH Mister G, a 2015 Latin Grammy-winner, and his guest stars from the hit Broadway show “School of Rock!” present 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.

YOUNG JAZZ GREATS The New York Youth Symphony’s Jazz Band, considered one of the best ensembles of its kind, includes musicians from age 12 to 22, making the quality of their sound even more astonishing. In an effort to preserve jazz traditions and styles, the ensemble focuses on the music of the 1930s and ‘40s big band orchestras in addition to contemporary pieces. While celebrating the heritage of jazz, the group also values a progressive, emerging new sound. Today, the band pays tribute to one of the greatest artists in jazz history: Dizzy Gillespie. Joining the group tonight is Dizzy’s famous protégé Jon Faddis, now an icon in his own right, known for complete mastery of the trumpet and a dedication to education. Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Broadway & 60th St., fifth fl. Mar. 14, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, $25 for students at jazz.org or 212-258-9595.

MOUSE MARVIN’S EXCELLENT SPACE ODYSSEY What Marvin the mouse wants most is to be popular, but the “cool” rats think he’s a geek and call him a loser. To escape from their bullying, Marvin retreats into his science books and a world of fantasy where he's the hero. In Lightwire Theater’s “Moon Mouse, A Space Odyssey,” join Marvin as he blasts off in a homemade rocket and lands on the surface of the moon where he meets strange creatures, learns of infinite peril, and experiences awesome beauty. Find out if Marvin’s cosmic adventure, enacted in dazzling, luminescent black light, will ultimately make his dreams of acceptance come true. Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Mar. 19, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m., for one-hour shows. Tickets are $18 at symphony space.org.

BABBLE AND VERSE What happens when a nonsense poem becomes music? Find the drama and humor in music by composer-in-residence Esa-Pekka Salonen and others when the New York Philharmonic presents another in its “Young People’s Concert” series, “Once Upon a Time: Babble and Verse.” Lincoln Center, David Geffen Hall. Mar. 19, 2 p.m. Tickets are $13-$39 at nyphil.org. Appropriate for youth six and up.

A CHARMING SHEEPOVER A collie named Laddie saves a sick lamb named Sweet Pea in “SheepOver,” a charming tale of farm animal friendship. Based on a true story that unfolded at a Vermont farm, “SheepOver” uses beautiful photographs of the animals to tell a delightful story. Hear their story and then meet Laddie the collie in an event presented by LC Kids and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Lincoln Center, David Rubenstein Atrium. Mar. 19, 11 a.m., for a 45-min. program best suited for ages three to six. Admission is free, but seating is limited.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 10 - 23, 2016


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March 10 - 23, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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