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The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933

April 21, 2016 • $1.00 Volume 86 • Number 16

Cancel fends off Niou to win Silver’s old seat in Assembly election BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

A

lice Cancel, running on the Democratic Party line, was the winner of Tuesday’s special election for Lower Manhattan’s 65th Assembly District, according to unofficial Board of Elections results.

Cancel, a longtime Lower East Side Democratic district leader, lives in Southbridge Towers, on the downtown side of the Brooklyn Bridge. She will fill the seat — formerly occupied by the convicted former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — for Cancel continued on p. 8

Heavy metal Toledano; Tenements’ lead levels are through the roof BY YANNIC R ACK

W

hen renovation work started on an empty apartment in her building last month, Holly Slayton was annoyed that she would likely have to deal with nonstop construction noise for a few weeks. But as the work at 514 E.

12th St., a five-story walk-up near Tompkins Square Park, progressed, a more serious problem soon surfaced — lead dust, the highly toxic and potentially fatal substance that is often found in the paint inside old buildings, began to seep through every crevice. lead continued on p. 26

Sanders connects with strikers

page 4

Photo by Sarah Ferguson

Longtime East Villager Isabel Celeste, the mother of Bernie Sanders super-suppor ter actress Rosario Dawson, at Sanders’s Prospect Park rally last Sunday.

Hillary romps Downtown; Bernie runs strong in E.V. By Sarah Ferguson

O

n Tuesday night, even Downtown New York was Hillary Country. After losing the last eight contests, former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walloped Bernie Sanders in New York’s hotly contested Democratic primary, besting the Brooklynborn Vermont Senator by 16 points. Clinton drew some of her most decisive margins in Chelsea, Union Square and Gramercy, where she garnered 68 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

She earned a solid 66 percent of the vote in the West Village, and carried the Lower East Side and Chinatown by 59 percent. Even the progressive East Village went for Hillary by a tight margin of 50.8 to 49.2 percent — a rather hairsplitting result, considering that a measly 7,500 people even bothered to go to the polls in those districts. However, Sanders held on to much of the heart of the East Village, winning with margins of from 51 percent to 58 percent, in most of the electoral districts stretching from E. 14th St. to E. Sixth St. from First Ave. to Avenue C, as well as some

E.D.’s south of there, and also some stretching to Avenue D and Second Ave. Like elsewhere in New York, there were reports of chaos and exclusion at the polls, where many voters said they were told they weren’t registered. “A poll worker told me that roughly 40 percent of the voters that turned up at the 22nd Electoral District in the East Village had to do affidavit paper ballots because their names were not on the voter rolls,” said Internet entrepreneur Paul Garrin, who runs WiFi-NY. That includes Garrin himPrimary continued on p. 6

Panic over missing poll mailer cards.................p. 2 Progress Report: Word from the BID’s...............p.17 www.TheVillager.com


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April 21, 2016

Poll info card chaos: Sparking accusations of “voter suppression,” the Board of Elections didn’t mail out any informational cards to voters this time around to notify people where their polls were for the April 19 presidential primary election. A miffed Doris Diether, the doyenne of Community Board 2, said she called the B.O.E. last week to ask where her card was, so that she would know where to vote. “They told me they were ‘working on it’ — but it was already Thursday!” she told us. Diether had to make further calls to the board to find out her correct poll site. It often switches back and forth between two different locations, so she wanted to know for sure. District Leader Arthur Schwartz, who is Bernie Sanders’s New York campaign counsel, told us he was, in fact, ready to sue the state B.O.E. over the fact that the cards were never mailed out, but had to hold off. “The campaign told me not to sue about it,” he said. “I’m not sure why — but that’s my client.” He may still sue later on. As it was, only 40,000 newly registered voters got the cards. Apparently, under state law, there is a requirement to mail out the cards for state elections — but not for federal ones. At any rate, nowadays, thanks to the Internet, it’s much easier to find one’s polling place, Schwartz noted. “I don’t think it’s voter suppression,” he added. “I tend to think that it’s laziness and incompetence.” But the Sanders campaign, for one, was leaving nothing to chance. Bernie supporters got text messages to tell them where their poll site was and phone calls and door knocks to remind them to vote. “I’ve had people knock on my door twice,” Schwartz said. “It’s so great to get canvassed. I don’t think I’ve ever had people knock on my door for an election.” Getting back to Diether, she is actually a Republican, so we were curious who she voted for. “I voted for ‘Kulan’? It starts with a ‘K...’” she told us. John Kasich? “Yes, that’s the one.” What if Donald Trump is the nominee, would she vote for him? we asked her. “No way! No way!” she immediately blurted out. “He’s a liar — he built ‘Trump Tower’ down here and it was illegal. It was supposed to be a hotel.” She did get five robocalls from Team Trump, though. She only listened to the first one, which was actually The Donald himself, since she was curious what he had to say. But he’s still a liar to Diether — Lyin’ Donald! Assembly foes...spy cams: While Assemblymember Deborah Glick was doing electioneering for Hillary Clinton outside P.S. 41 on W. 11th St. — though while keeping the legally required distance from the poll site — on Tuesday, her September Democratic primary election opponent and Bernie backer, Arthur Schwartz, was taking Ruth

Photo by Jacob Schwartz

District Leader Ar thur Schwar tz taking Ruth Berk to vote at P.S. 3 on Hudson St. on Tuesday.

Berk to vote at P.S. 3 on Hudson St. Berk voted for Bernie, he said. Schwartz was arrested last year for removing a nest of the landlord’s mini-spy cameras that were hidden outside the senior chanteuse’s Christopher St. apartment to keep an eye on her and her daughter, Jessica Berk. “They have reinstalled the cameras,” Schwartz reported. “I am about to file suit about it.” As for his case on removing the previous spy cams, he said he will hear on May 19 when his next trial date is.

Foxy — not proxy: Hudson River Park activist Tom Fox tells us that City Club members will be meeting with their attorneys later this week to consider whether to appeal a judge’s decision to throw out their lawsuit challenging Barry Diller’s new Pier55 “art island” project at W. 13th St. “Chances are 70-30 that we will,” he said of filing an appeal, adding they have to have a careful discussion first. “There’s democracy on this side of the table,” he said cuttingly, in a dig at the Hudson River Park Trust, the state-city agency that is building and operating the 4.5-mile-long West Side waterfront park. They also are considering whether to file an Article 78 lawsuit over the state Department of Environmental Conservation permit for the plan, he noted. To those who blast Fox as a mere “proxy” for Douglas Durst, the former chairperson of Friends of Hudson River Park, who has been a top critic of the Trust since bailing from Friends in 2012, Fox said that’s balderdash. “There’s no proxy — just Foxy,” he said. “That was my nickname as a kid. I was involved in this long before Douglas was. I was involved in the park since 1994. Fortunately or unfortunately, they’re going to have me looking over their shoulder until I can no longer utter a breath or write a word.” Yes, Fox said, he was Durst’s partner in New York Water Taxi, but he sold his share five years ago. TheVillager.com


Hoofing and woofing it down Broadway for paws cause Part of the ASPCA’s 150th anniversary celebration, the ASPCA and the Alliance for NYC’s Animals hosted the first-ever NYC Paws Parade and Adoptapalooza on Sun., April 10, from Madison Square Park to Union Square Park. Hundreds of puppies, dogs, kittens, cats and rabbits in need of loving homes were offered for adoption. Bernadette Peters served as grand marshal. The Broadway legend co-founded Broadway Barks (www.broadwaybarks.com), an annual star-studded adoption event held in Shubert Alley that will be held next on July 30. Speaking of political animals, Senator Chuck Schumer was passing through Union Square and was spotted taking a selfie with an Adoptapalooza worker. Photos by Milo Hess

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Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Editorials, First Place, 2014 News Story, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009

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Sanders connects with Verizon strikers

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Bernie Sanders had strong suppor t among striking Verizon workers, as seen by his campaign stickers and buttons festooning this group rallying in Washington Square Park earlier this week. Earning the wrath of Verizon’s C.E.O., Sanders has cheered on the Verizon strikers and trumpeted his suppor t for labor unions. Last Wednesday, 39,000 of the company’s landline and cable workers walked off the job. Sanders assured them that they would win. Hillar y Clinton said she was “disappointed” negotiations had broken down.

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April 21, 2016

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Downtown Manhattan is Hillary Country; Primary continued from p. 1

self, who had to fill out an affidavit at the polling place where he’s been voting for the last 22 years. “I’m one of the Democratic County Committee representatives for the 22nd District, and being a registered voter is a requirement to serve,” Garrin told The Villager. “So, obviously something’s screwed up if even I came up as not registered to vote.” At La Plaza Cultural, a community garden on E. Ninth St. and Avenue C, there were groans, and shrugs of disgust from the Bernie fans who showed up at an outdoor primary viewing party and barbecue organized by Time’s Up and the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS), with the help of a WiFi-NY Internet connection. About 50 people gathered inside the garden to watch the primary results being live-streamed from a laptop and then projected onto a big screen on the garden’s stone amphitheater. “I’m waiting for her to get indicted, that’s my backup plan,” quipped one East Village bookkeeper who declined to be named, registering his disgust at Clinton’s win in her “adopted hometown” when the results were called at 9:40 pm. It didn’t help the mood much that Donald Trump had just thumped his Republican rivals with a “Yuge!” win, that was announced just as the polls closed at 9 p.m. “I predicted this,” opined East Village tree house designer Roderick Wolgamott. “If she takes this many delegates as they’re showing, it’s basically game over. “He fought a good fight, man,” Wolgamatt added, shaking his head. “He’s got so many people excited. That was amazing that someone as left as he is got that far. I believe in everything he said.” Reflecting how contested this New York turf was, this Downtown Bernie gathering also drew some Hillary supporters, including landscape architect Ross Martin, who said he voted for Clinton because of her “experience — and nostalgia for Bill Clinton.” “If you want to pretend that the Supreme Court doesn’t matter, stay home and be a jerk,” added his partner Eric Hoffman, who also backed Clinton. There was also a young self-proclaimed anarchist who gloated that he didn’t vote and hence had taken a “personal health day” instead. But many said they weren’t at all ready to give up the fight for Sanders, despite the tortured delegate math he now faces. Sanders was never really expected to win in New York — the goal was to hit 45 points or above,

6

April 21, 2016

Photo by The Villager

Bernie Sanders was at least winning the sidewalk stenciling battle on W. 14th St.

Photo by The Villager

Despite their political differences, Clinton booster A ssemblymember Deborah Glick, right, and Sanders backer Leo Weinberger could still pose for a photo together. Weinberger, who is registered as an independent, could not vote in the Democratic primar y, but wore his Sanders T-shir t to show suppor t.

Photo by Tequila Minsky

Actor Har vey Keitel faithfully voted at his regular Tribeca poll spot.

they noted. At 42 points, Sanders was close, and he still managed to garner more votes than Obama did against Clinton in 2008. Still, the results were rather devastating coming after the exuberance that thousands of Bernie fans felt at the mass rallies he held the past week in Mott Haven, Washington Square, Prospect Park and Long Island City.

Despite these mass turnouts, and Sanders outspending Clinton 2-to1 in New York City, he could not translate this surge in popularity at the polls. Many blamed New York’s closed primary system — whereby only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote to nominate a candidate. As a result, more than 3 million inde-

pendents were excluded from the primary, along with all those registered in the Working Families and Green parties. Certainly, many of those people would have gone with Sanders if they had the chance. And many of Sanders’s young volunteers said they had missed the deadline to register for a party by the absurdly early October deadline. “I think it’s ridiculous. I think we should be able to vote for anyone,” said Katrina Echanique, a 23-yearold independent, who was canvassing for Sanders in Union Square on Tuesday. “It’s so ridiculous the way the system divides us,” added Echanique, who said she was attracted to Sanders because of his “positive message for all of us. “He makes you want to stand up and fight for what is right, even if it’s not popular,” Echanique said as she passed out fliers to passersby. And many Sanders fans are already making plans to fan out to the next contests in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island on April 26. Indeed, Reddit is filled with posts from young Sanders supporters about how to do phone-banking and face-banking to bring out the vote in those states. And there’s going to be a big push for the June 7 California primary. However, like New York, California’s primary is not open to independent voters. Whether Sanders can sustain enough convincing wins to bring about a contested Democratic National Convention in July is still up for grabs. But many said that his campaign had already profoundly altered the nation’s political consciousness, regardless of whether he Primary continued on p. 7 TheVillager.com


But Bernie runs strong in East Village

Photo by Sarah Ferguson

This young couple drove nine hours from Virginia to see Bernie Sanders speak at a rally in Long Island Cit y earlier this week.

Photo by Sarah Ferguson

On primar y election night, Michelle Palmer wasn’t ready to throw in the towel at a Bernie BBQ at La Plaza Cultural. Primary continued from p. 6

wins the nomination. The focus, they say, should be on building a movement for progressive change to build on the ideals that Sanders says he stands for. “We have to take back the original patriotic values of this country,” said Jim Glaser, an artist and founder of the events group Kostume Kult, who came to the 28,000-strong Prospect Park, Brooklyn rally dressed like Uncle Sam. “Either Bernie is our candidate or he’s a highly energized senator who can lead our movement from the Senate. “Hillary is a weather vane,” Glaser added. “Like many politicians, she will follow what a constituency says. History is pointing toward campaign finance reform and better environmental policies. With enough pressure from Bernie, Elizabeth Warren and the rest of this movement, she will do the best she can. “I love Bernie,” Glaser continued, TheVillager.com

“but I could live with Hillary, because Bernie will be breathing down Hillary’s neck with all of us behind him. If Bernie is leading the movement and she is taking all the heat from the ‘Repugnicans’ — as I call them — it might not be a bad thing. There will be more cameras focused on him than any other senator… . It’s the movement and getting new people talking like him. He can still lead bottom up, whether he wins or loses.” Kyle Black, a 40-year old sustainable surfboard maker from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, said he had been waiting all his life for a “candidate who would call out the monetary superpowers.” “Say the worst possible outcome happens and Bernie’s not making it through,” Black said. “But at the same time, the collective consciousness of America has been affected by Bernie. Now so many have had their eyes opened, so there’s nowhere to turn.”

Photo by Milo Hess

Up nex t? An anti-Donald Trump poster at Eighth Ave. at W. 16th St. April 21, 2016

7


Cancel wins special election for Silver’s ex-seat Cancel continued from p. 1

the rest of Silver’s term, through the end of this year. However, future control of the Assembly district will be up for grabs once again in September, when there will be an open Democratic primary, followed by a general election in November. With the results of about 98 percent of the district’s poll-site optical scanners reported, Cancel won on Tuesday night with 7,284 — or 41 percent — of the votes. She staved off a stiff challenge from Yuh-Line Niou, running on the Working Families Party line, who came in second with 6,250 — or 35 percent — of the ballots cast. Meanwhile, Lester Chang, running on the Republican line, plus three other party lines, won 3,520 — or 20 percent — of the votes. The district is about 6.5-to-1 Democrat to Republican, yet the G.O.P. was hoping Silver’s downfall on corruption charges would be a “perfect storm,” allowing them to pull off a huge coup by finally winning a Manhattan Assembly seat — in the former speaker’s district, no less. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani even stumped for Chang at a Chinatown dim sum palace fundraiser. But it was not to be. Dennis Levy, the Green Party candidate, ran on a pro-pot platform but didn’t fire up the electorate, winning 661 — or about 4 percent — of the votes. There were also 47 write-ins, though those names — one wonders if others who could not run under the Democratic line in this race or even a few Sheldon Silvers were among them — were not immediately available. Cancel’s husband, State Committeeman John Quinn, said she was decompressing Tuesday night after the tough contest and would be giving interviews later. Speaking on her behalf, he said she withstood Niou’s heaping war chest and negative campaigning, plus the Albany power structure’s clear decision to back Niou, based on all the high-powered political endorsements she got, including Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Letitia James, state Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh. Meanwhile, Cancel’s only major endorsements were local City Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin. Plus, the Working Families Party put on a huge push for Niou. “It was a lopsided race, I’ll tell you that,” Quinn said. “Niou spent $160,000. We had $5,000. “Rosie was incredible. They had all the Albany support. This is coming

8

April 21, 2016

Photos by Roberto Mercado

Alice Cancel, middle row, four th from left, and suppor ters, celebrate her win in Tuesday’s A ssembly special election.

Winning candidate Alice Cancel, second from left, with suppor ters, from left, former District Leader John Fratta, Councilmember Rosie Mendez and District Leader Pedro Cardi.

down from Heastie and and the real power brokers,” he said of current Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “Rosie held Alice up,” Quinn said, with awe. “Let’s face it — they were hitting us left and right.” Quinn said the Puerto Rican-born Cancel’s support came, “naturally,” from the district’s Latino community, but that she also won, for example, Battery Park City. Niou — who has only lived in New York City about five years and only a couple of years in the district — simply doesn’t have deep roots in the community, and it showed, he said. Niou is chief of staff for Queens Assemblymember Ron Kim, who is the state Legislature’s only Asian-American. Quinn said Cancel probably only wants to serve one or two terms tops in the Assembly. “All Alice wants to do is straighten up the mess,” he said, “and then leave.”

Cancel has said she supports term limits in Albany. Quinn said she’s also very interested in having input in the state’s upcoming Constitutional Convention, which only comes around every 20 years. In February, Cancel was chosen from among a handful of candidates as the Democratic nominee for the special election at a closed vote of about 200 Democratic County Committee members. Realizing she didn’t have the numbers to win the County Committee, Niou dramatically dropped out from the running at the last minute, calling the process “flawed and undemocratic.” After Tuesday’s election results had been announced, District Leader Paul Newell — who came in second in February’s County Committee vote — promptly issued a statement putting Cancel on notice that he will be running in the September open primary. “I congratulate Alice Cancel on her

election to the New York State Assembly for the remaining months of Sheldon Silver’s term,” Newell said. “I hope that during her term in office, she will do her best to represent the interests of Lower Manhattan, not the political bosses who have driven the special election process from its inception. “Fortunately,” he declared, “on Sept. 13, the 65th Assembly District will be presented with a real choice.” Other expected candidates in September include District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar and Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li, both of whom were candidates in the February County Committee vote, and Chinatown activist Don Lee, who did not participate in the County Committee process. It was not immediately known if Chang or Levy would try to run again in September. Rob Ryan, Chang’s campaign manager, said they will regroup over the next few days and try to reach a decision. But Niou issued a statement, indicating that she will indeed run in the fall. “We knew that running against the machine, off the Democratic line, would be a challenge, and while we made a valiant effort it appears we were not successful,” she said. “We come out of this campaign stronger, more organized and more determined than ever to fight for reform and the progressive leadership this state needs. We move on tonight from this party-dominated special election to September’s primary, and I look forward to continuing our vigorous fight to advance our progressive values.” Sean Sweeney is a leader in the Downtown Independent Democrats club, which will likely field two candidates, Rajkumar and Newell, in September. Getting some shots in early before the primary, he blasted both the upstart Niou and the winner Cancel. “As expected, the outspent Democrat — who barely campaigned — won, despite a massive effort by the Working Families Party and tens of thousands of dollars expended by Niou’s campaign,” Sweeney said. “I feel that this is a major defeat for the Working Families Party and the local elected officials who selfishly switched allegiance from their own party to endorse a Queens machine candidate backed by the Working Families Party. “This also happened last year on the West Side’s 66th Assembly District race for district leader,” Sweeney noted. “The two establishment incumbent district leaders, Jean Grillo and John Scott, heavily backed by the established electeds, got trounced by two candidates, Terri Cude and Dennis Gault, supported by the grassroots of the party.” TheVillager.com


POLICE BLOTTER

Visions of Poe Thursday, April 28 6:00 - 8:00 pm NYU School of Law 245 Sullivan Street Furman Hall, Room 216 (Between West 3rd and Washington Square South)

Lois Rakoff, Community Director of the Poe Room, and NYU present “Visions of Poe.”

A sur veillance camera image of one of the alleged Suffolk Arms booze bandits.

Cognac caper Police said that on Sun., April 3, at around 5 a.m., three males entered the Suffolk Arms bar, at 269 E. Houston St., by kicking through a windowpane. They removed $3,000 worth of liquor, including a $2,000 bottle of Louis XIII cognac, and fled. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.

Barrow St. bust Around 3 a.m. on Sat., April 16, a police officer observed a man loitering outside an apartment at 42 Barrow St. The officer said he also found more than a gram of a controlled substance believed to be cocaine on the ground by the man. The officer attempted to arrest the man, at which point he flailed his arms, twisted his body, and attempted to pull away and cause alarm. Upon a search, individually packaged alleged controlled substances and a knife were found on the man’s body. Malik Cameron, 31, was arrested for felony criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Graffiti comedown Two taggers got in trouble after they traveled to the roof above 3 Sheets Saloon early Monday morning April 18. A witness reported that, around 2 a.m., he saw the pair on the roof at 134 W. Third St. A police officer responded and found the two at the location withTheVillager.com

Join local artists and members of the community for an evening of entertainment that will illuminate Poe’s work and legacy through a variety of creative works. A reception will follow in the Poe Room. “Visions of Poe” is free and open to the public and an RSVP is required. RSVP today at www.nyu.edu/nyu-in-nyc or call 212-998-2400. Community members and NYU come together and partner on the Poe Room event each fall and spring.

The Suffolk Arms liquor larcenists abscond with their booty.

out permission or authority to be there. They were also found to be in possession of graffiti instruments — and graffiti at the location was consistent with the instruments found. Jesse Koppel, 19, and Alex McNealy, 33, were arrested for misdemeanor making graffiti.

Urban shoplifter A 17-year-old boy attempted to remove a $200 jacket without paying for it from Urban Outfitters, at 526 Sixth Ave., on Sat., April 16, around 10 p.m., police said. When store security moved to apprehend him, the youth resisted and grabbed the place’s security sensor, ripped it off the wall and smashed it into a window. According to the store manager, the sensor and the window were each valued at more than $1,000. Police arrested Matthew Bejamin, 17, for felony criminal mischief.

Emily Siegel and Lincoln Anderson April 21, 2016

9


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Police at the entrance walk way to 635 E. 12th St. following the murder there on the night of April 14. TheVillager.com


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April 21, 2016

TheVillager.com


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13


Doing their civic duty near the Civic Center

Photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie

Voters at 66 Frankfor t St. in Southbridge Towers — not far from City Hall — lined up to check in with poll workers before voting on Tuesday night. On their ballots were candidates in the presidential primar y, plus the special election for the 65th A ssembly District.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR You self-important snobs... To The Editor: Re “Hey, sorry…things change” (letter, by David Moder, March 31): I found the letter written by Donald Moder regarding the closing of Associated supermarket to be quite disturbing. According to him, this community has been taken over by the privileged elite,

Evan Forsch

which includes Google and its employees, and therefore we, the financially challenged, including many seniors, need to live with what he considers “viable alternatives.” Viable to who? This neighborhood was built up — long before many of you self-important snobs were born — by the hard work and sacrifice of small business owners and average people who just wanted a better life for themselves and their families. They were concerned with the health and welfare of their neighbors and

showed respect for the elderly. They were content with basic creature comforts, not greedy excess. And as a community they thrived. Now, if I understand Mr. Moder correctly, this area is fast becoming an exclusive club of self-absorbed individuals whose only concern is that their selfish, excessive needs are met promptly. They are the children of the corporate bloodsuckers, hoarding all the money for themselves while the rest of us suffer and die. We are like vermin... . To get rid of us, take away our affordable food source and we will either leave or succumb. This is just another sad example of the moral decline of our society. The needs of the one come before the needs of the many. Profit is more important than people, and we, the “old folks,” are once again diminished by our losses. Alice Maddox

We need Associated To The Editor: Re “ ‘Save Our Supermarket!’ 14th grocery faithful take protest to landlord” (news article, March 24): What are our councilmembers and politicians doing? Certainly not servicing the need of the community. Luxury condominiums are being built along W. 14th St. — one just completed next to the Associated supermarket — with apartments costing upward of LETTERS continued on p. 16

14

April 21, 2016

TheVillager.com


An outlaw folk hero has a hub in East Village

Photo by Gregg Roth

Singer Malcolm Holcombe is one of the many outlaw folk singer-songwriters who have performed at Kathryn Bloss’s House Concerts.

Kathryn Bloss has made her East Village living room the New York hub of the Austin-Nashville country western circuit.

With gorgeous melodies and poetic lyrics, all drenched in the blues, David Olney’s songs transcend all genres.

PEOPLE

Diana Jones, Paul Sachs, David Massengill, Cliff Eberhardt, Sam Baker and Eliza Gilkyson. Kathryn has been called by Acoustic Live Magazine the New York “Hub of the Austin-Nashville” circuit. The select songwriters she supports are to the folk song what the Elizabethans were to the English language or the Beats to modern verse: a new breed who live uncompromisingly for what I would call “outlaw folk music” — no — nonsense truth-dealing beautydrenched songs of such harsh tenderness that they wrench your guts and fill your heart. The songwriters are outlaws whom the establishment fears to fully embrace because their songs are so powerfully true, their music too poignant. You need a heart to hear them. Kathryn Bloss’s heart is huge. But she’s no mere fan. She paints the stage sets and props at the Metropolitan Opera House. You go see Puccini or to hear Pavarotti at Lincoln Center and if it’s one of the shows she’s worked on. Yeah, that’s her artwork up there 50 feet tall. She’s also a songwriter whose music falls right in with the artists she loves. A walking, living historymaking chronicler of outlaw folk music, in conversation Bloss will take you through the alleyways and legends of the genre’s heroes: people like Townes Van Zandt, regarded by many as the greatest singer-songwriter to come out of the outlaw folk scene, whose songs have been covered by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to John Prine; or Red Foley, whose songs were covered by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, yet who was blown away in his prime by the .22-wielding elder-abusing grandson of an elderly black gent in Austin whom Foley had sought to defend. Legends. Born in Ohio, Kathryn Bloss grew up on the outskirts of Chicago in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood and came to New York City in the ’80s on a prestigious art scholarship. She soon became an integral part of the Soho and East Village art scene. Interestingly, she came to the folk scene when she tried to turn her hand to poetry. Because her verses rhymed, she got cold-shouldered by the open-mike poetry scene, and so said goodbye to all that. She attended a workshop with singer-songwriter Marie Gauthier, who saw great talent and promise in Bloss’s lyrics. Encouraged, Bloss began to follow the music of artists few Easterners then knew of. Those who came to New York City played in her home to an ever-growing appreciative audience. She doesn’t get a single cent from any of this. The singer-songwriters love her because she loves and understands what they do. She can walk into any back-

stage green room where they’re playing and will be warmly received. In the music world, Kathryn’s House Concerts have become as legendary as the musicians themselves. Recently, she brought me to a Lower East Side concert by a young Oklahoman named John Fulbright. The usual shocked awe at the brilliance of the songs and music rumbled through me. After the show we went backstage. Though endowed with a talent as big as Beethoven up close, he just looks like some gentle kid from Oklahoma. Fulbright gratefully embraced Kathryn and confided that he had just taken his firstever subway ride to get from his hotel to the gig. “How was it?” asked Kathryn. “Terrifying” he said. We sat around talking about Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, the Oklahoman origins of the Texas term “red dirt music” and Townes Van Zandt. Kathryn first met Fulbright when he performed in a Folk Alliance showcase. Just in from Okeema, Oklahoma (Woody Guthrie’s hometown), he was scared, alone, 23. Recognizing his brilliance, she booked him immediately for a house concert. After that, he stayed in her guest room whenever performing in town. These days he stays in Manhattan hotels, on the dime of the venues he plays. In May, Kathryn will host two back-to-back house concerts, featuring Aliza Gilkyson on Sun., May 8, a 5:30 p.m. and Sam Baker on Sun., May 15, at 5:30 p.m. On Sun., June 19, at 7 p.m., Kathryn and I will host The East Village Folk Festival at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s. It will be the first time ever that such a large array of these outlaw folk singers will assemble — truly a historic occasion. Maybe the East Village, birthplace of so many major cultural movements and moments, can once more be a home to countercultural energy and creative brilliance. And the ones to make this happen just might be Kathryn Bloss and her outlaw folk singer-songwriter heroes.

BY AL AN K AUFMAN

I

’ve been invited to Kathryn Bloss’s East Village flat, to a living room performance by Nashville singersongwriter David Olney, and I go, though knowing this guy Olney is some kind of country western folk guy — not exactly to my taste. But O.K., be a good sport, right? I mean, Bloss has promised that this Olney guy is some kind of genius. On the night, I get that special seat, front row, just feet from Olney’s mike, the wall to my left, audience to my right. Olney plays a song about Van Gogh, one so beautiful tears shoot from my eyes. Horrified, I look anxiously around. I’m in a fix, my mortified face turned to the wall, shoulders hunched, trapped by tears I don’t want anyone to see. By song’s end, I just give up and sit through the performance, alternately gasping, crying, laughing, oohing and ahhing as one after another of Olney’s astonishing songs grab my throat and my emotions ricochet off of Kathryn’s walls. In the middle of one song, Olney launches into the poem “Kubla Kahn,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. What the hell? I thought this was some kind of country western show! But Olney lyrics transcend all genres. They are pure art, superior to most anything I’ve ever heard in my long transaction with the music and poetry world. His lyrics are set to melodies so gorgeous it makes your bones tremble. And now to top it off, here comes Coleridge recited to blues guitar and somehow, crazily, brilliantly, it all fits perfectly. I find myself muttering to myself, in a way I haven’t since that time when I performed in Berlin with Allen Ginsberg, “Genius!” and that other time I mumbled the “G” word to myself in San Francisco as I read from Woodie Guthrie’s memoir “Bound For Glory” in a show that featured Stevie Earl and Country Joe MacDonald. Kathryn Bloss is right: David Olney is a genius. But it took the genius of Kathryn Bloss to bring him to the East Village on the gamble that a cosmopolitan Manhattan audience would love his work. And, so far, with over 50 house concerts behind her, she has been right. Some of the finest songwriters in America have performed in her living room, including Gurf Morlix, Tom Russell, Malcombe Holcombe, TheVillager.com

For more information on upcoming shows at Kathryn’s House Concerts, contact Kathryn_Space@ yahoo.com . For tickets to The East Village Folk Festival, contact Theatre 80 St. Marks at 212-3880388. For more information contact HYPERLINK “mailto:Akpoem2@aol.com”Akpoem2@aol.com Kaufman is author of the memoir “Drunken Angel.” His forthcoming book is “The Outlaw Bible of American Art.” April 21, 2016

15


Villagers mutinied over Hudson prison barge plan FLASHBACK BY YANNIC R ACK

T

oday, politicians are debating whether to replace Rikers Island with neighborhood jails. But 25 years ago, Villagers were worried about a different form of detention center coming to their neighborhood — a floating prison barge, the Bibby Venture, which the city wanted to moor at Pier 40. The plan caused alarm, and local residents presented “a united front” against the plan when they voiced their opposition to a panel from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1989, according to a front-page report in The Villager’s March 2 issue that year. “ ‘Just because the city is in a quandary and doesn’t know what to do about the crack epidemic,’ said Anthony Hoffman, Democratic Party district leader of the Village 61st District […], ‘doesn’t mean that the barge should be placed on the waterfront,’ ” read the article. Villagers and their elected officials feared the economic impact of the barge, with then-City Councilmember Carol Greitzer warning that tourist guides would now have to announce “the questionable attraction of the river barges” to visitors, while state Senate

Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein blasted the city’s piecemeal approach to prison overcrowding and warned of a dire future with prison boats lining the waterfront. Another concern was that mooring the barge would create an obstacle in the effort toward creating a park and esplanade along the waterfront — where the Hudson River Park graces the shoreline today. The plan to permanently moor the vessel in the Hudson for up to five years was ultimately squashed when the Army Corps, which has jurisdiction over the use of the nation’s waterways, denied the application and issued a one-year permit for the floating prison instead. But the Venture, as well as its sister ship docked on the Lower East Side at Montgomery St., the Bibby Resolution, stayed on for several more years, until the city removed them under threat of federal lawsuits. And the barges are still making waves today. At a recent candidates forum for the 65th state Assembly District special election, Democratic candidate Alice Cancel tried to score points by reminding the audience of her advocacy to get the Bibby Resolution booted from Lower Manhattan. She noted that Assemblymember Sheldon Silver had played a leading role in helping the community get rid of the barge.

d a l g h a y t n Arch ’ r u o y g n i to be read per? a p s w e n y communit Don’t miss a single issue! ! r e g la il V e h T o t e ib r c s b Su Call 646-452-2475

The Bibby Resolution, a prison barge, was moored off of Montgomery St. on the Lower East Side for several years around 1990. A sister prison barge, the Bibby Venture, was moored on the West Village waterfront.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Continued from p. 14

$7 million. Perhaps the purchasers of these apartments don’t care what they spend for food, or don’t know because they don’t do their own shopping. However, this area of Chelsea does not just house the wealthy. Is it the intention of the New York real estate industry to make this city a place for only the affluent?  Associated is the only supermarket on W. 14th St. There are others but they are boutique markets and are very expensive. Associated is an asset to the community. The market is well run, the food fresh and well priced and the staff helpful and knowledgeable. We need this market and the employees need their jobs.  Permitting commercial property owners to triple or quadruple rents when leases expire is obscene. The Small Business Jobs Survival Act must be approved and acted upon.  J.L. Kaufman

Congrats! To The Editor: Re “Villager wins 10 awards; No. 5 in state” (news article, April 14): Congratulations, Lincoln and The Villager staff! We depend on you for fair reporting of all community issues — and you never disappoint! Mary Johnson

16

April 21, 2016

It’s too late for us... To The Editor: Re “L.E.S. gang book’s snub is a punch to the gut” (news article, April 7): Sorry to say, but I think the day is past when Lower East Side activists — most of them white, and by now, most of them “rentrified” out — could team up with Latino gangs to confront the neighborhood’s problems, especially like the gradual emptying out of Jacob Riis Houses, which doesn’t directly affect anyone who doesn’t live or have family in public housing. That does not mean, however, that the intersections between radical organizing and youth gangs cannot be understood in historical perspective, and as possibilities for the future. I shared this controversy with John Hagedorn, who wrote “World of Gangs,” which looks in on exactly this question. I would hope that Clayton would be able to muster the energy and educational zeal to produce exactly this kind of discussion at Bluestockings, perhaps for the upcoming L.E.S. history month. Alan W. Moore E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published. TheVillager.com


Progress Report

Central Village: Enhancing streets and businesses By William Kelley s we move into the busy 2016 summer season, the Village Alliance would like to thank our neighbors, merchants and friends for your continued support. Major highlights this past year include implementation of pedestrian safety improvements to Eighth St. and Ruth Wittenberg Triangle as part of the Village Gateway vision; the conservation of Jim Power’s mosaic poles for installation at Astor Place; and the launch of the Village Access loyalty card that provides incentives for neighbors and investment in our small businesses. This progress report summarizes the Alliance’s major activities over the past year and looks ahead to 2016, as we strive to improve the quality of life and public space throughout the Central Village. We had a successful year implementing the Village Gateway vision, a multifaceted approach to activate, beautify, orient and inform visitors and residents alike at one of the busiest entry points to Greenwich Village. As part of this project, through our advocacy efforts, the city implemented safer pedestrian crossings along Eighth St. and developed strategies to increase bicycle use of the corridor. Also, this past summer we were able to place 25 new landscaped planters and two public art installations in the district gateway, greening the neighborhood and creating a “human-scale” environment for our main commercial thoroughfare. The final component of the Village Gateway project is currently under construction with the expansion of Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, which will extend seating opportunities for pedestrians, include wayfinding signage and shorten dangerous crossings along Sixth Ave. The Village Alliance is also busy year-round caring for trees, tree pits, hanging baskets and other public landscaped areas in the Central Village. In our most thorough effort to date, 40 tree pits along Sixth Ave. were enlarged in 2015 both to improve the health of the trees and the look of the corridor, while providing more permeable area to capture rainwater. Most of the tree pits had never seen any treatment since their installation decades ago. The results were dramatic in creating a much cleaner streetscape that is easier to navigate. Our next major project this summer will be to install uniform planters and upgrade tree pit treatments along the University Place corridor, creating a greenway along the axis connecting Washington Square and Union Square parks.

A

TheVillager.com

Photo by Julie Brown Harwood

Ar tist and entrepreneur Storm Ritter, above, brings unique ar t and vintage fashion to her Graey Studio at the former Whitney mansion at 14 W. Eighth St. Ritter is also an N.Y.U. alumna.

Photo by William Kelley

A larger Ruth Wittenberg Triangle is the final centerpiece of pedestrian safet y enhancements for the Village Gateway project.

In 2015, we introduced our neighborhood merchant loyalty program, the Village Access Card, offering deals and incentives at dozens of local businesses not available anywhere else. The program was launched last summer and expanded again this February; so

far we have distributed thousands of cards to local residents and employees in Village zip codes and look forward to expanding the initiative again this summer. To get your free Village Access Card and discover how you can support

small businesses in Greenwich Village, visit villagealliance.org/deals. Better yet, come visit local businesses yourself on Sat., May 14, at the Positively 8th Street Festival, a celebration of all things Greenwich Village featuring art, music, al fresco dining, children’s activities, games and workshops on one of the Village’s most historic retail corridors. Building on our popular summer Saturday guided tours, we wanted to offer a way for visitors to explore the neighborhood throughout the year and draw additional visitors who will support our local merchants. Toward that end, we created a Web-based, mobilefriendly app for use on any phone that offers 25 curated walking tours, focusing on everything from art, architecture and literature to food and pop culture (villagealliance.org/tours). The Village Alliance also supports local businesses by distributing thousands of neighborhood shopping and dining guides to New York City hotels, tourist and university information centers, and also at our Village Information Booth at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, at Sixth and Greenwich Aves. Our neighborhood social media channels continue to engage under the tag “Greenwich Village NYC,” reflecting our intent to provide content that appeals to the broader neighborhood, as well as to those interested in learning about and/or visiting Greenwich Village. Follow us on Facebook (Greenwich Village NYC), Twitter (@ GrnVillageNYC) and Instagram (@ GreenwichVillageNYC) for the latest neighborhood news, events and new businesses information. If social media is not your thing, then visit our Web site, villagealliance. org, and subscribe to our monthly enewsletter, The Village Beat. Construction is nearing completion on the transformative Astor Place/ Cooper Square Revitalization Project. While there are still a few short months of work left until all four of the new public spaces are open to the public at the end of the summer, the Village Alliance has been working with local government and community stakeholders so that the space is well-managed and can be enjoyed by all. The biggest question on everyone’s mind seems to be when Tony Rosenthal’s iconic “Alamo” cube sculpture will return. Although restoration of the public art piece is taking longer than anticipated due to deterioration of internal parts, we are told by the city that the beloved, spinnable artwork will return home in early summer 2016. Reinstatement of another beloved Central Village continued on p. 19 April 21, 2016

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Progress Report

Union Square: 40 years of evolution and growth By Jennifer E. Falk

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s the Union Square Partnership celebrates its 40th anniversary, our community has a lot to reflect upon. Union Square was a very different place in 1976: New York City was facing decline, and public spaces were no longer considered safe and accessible. That year, a group of community activists known as Sweet 14 joined together to reclaim Union Square Park as a welcoming public space for all. Fast-forward to today: Union Square is transformed. Our bustling retail scene is as vibrant as ever and continues to grow each year. At 2.5 percent, our commercial market boasts one of the lowest vacancy rates in the city and the area has become a highly soughtafter location for the city’s growing population of tech, media, advertising and innovation companies. And our beloved Union Square Park continues to flourish as a world-class urban oasis. Thanks to the efforts of our founding board members, including Con Edison and The New School, the Partnership has worked for four decades to effect the growth and positive change of our neighborhood. As Manhattan’s oldest business improvement district, or BID, the Union Square Partnership has played a multifaceted role in shaping and elevating the experience of everyone who lives, works and visits Union Square. With so much activity over the last year, and even more on the way, we have much to celebrate this anniversary. Several notable projects are coming to the district. Last fall, the city’s Economic Development Corporation announced the redevelopment of the P.C. Richard site at 124 E. 14th St., and the agency is currently reviewing proposals for a new tech hub and an extensive ground-floor retail component. We are proud of our advocacy that helped the current tenant, P.C. Richard, extend its lease until construction on the new development begins, so that the site remains active and vibrant. The iconic Tammany Hall building is also undergoing redevelopment to restore the beauty of this storied landmark and create new opportunities for retail and office space in the district. The property will feature a flagship retail opportunity at one of the square’s most visible corners, at the gateway to Midtown South’s Park Ave. South corridor. As these exciting developments get underway, we look forward to welcoming new neighborhood partners to our community. Union Square experienced exceptional growth over the last year. With more than 40 retail openings, including Dylan’s Candy Bar and Banana Re-

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April 21, 2016

Photo courtesy of the Union Square Partnership

Hot Peas n’ Butter per forms at Summer in the Square, a free weekly summer enter tainment series presented by the Union Square Par tnership.

Jennifer Falk is bullish on Union Square.

public’s new flagship location, our district entered 2016 with one of the city’s strongest retail markets. With such a diverse array of retailers attracting thousands of shoppers to the district each week, it is truly an exciting time for businesses in Union Square. Our district has remained at the center of the city’s culinary news. Our beloved Greenmarket, which is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, continues to draw chefs to our district. In fact, when Danny Meyer sought a new space for Union Square Cafe, he prioritized locations near the Greenmarket in his search. Last fall, we were delighted when he announced that Union Square Cafe would move within the neighborhood to a prime corner space at 235 Park Ave. South, just two blocks from the Greenmarket. Union Square’s reputation as the city’s epicenter for wellness and fitness has also continued to grow with

the arrival of new athletic retailers and studios. Lululemon debuted its 11,500-square-foot flagship last fall, the brand’s largest store to date. At 126 Fifth Ave., Athleta also opened a studio beneath its existing retail, and plans to offer up to five classes a day. High-end fitness apparel retailers, including Bandier, Sweaty Betty and Tory Burch’s Tory Sport, have also opened locations in the district. To showcase the abundance of athleisure retailers, studios and gyms that have flocked to our district, the Partnership presented our second Annual Union Square Sweat Fest in February. Drawing more than 1,000 participants, we opened the weeklong health and fitness festival with three classes led by well-known celebrity trainers. Throughout the week, participants enjoyed complimentary classes and giveaways thanks to dozens of participating local businesses. With more than 383,000 pedestrians visiting the square daily and more than 35 million annual commuters, it is clear that Union Square’s popularity continues to rise. Our district’s highly active transit hub made it a top choice for the city’s first beta location for LinkNYC, an initiative to transform the New York’s payphone infrastructure into Wi-Fi kiosks. In January, four new Wi-Fi kiosks were installed along Third Ave. between 15th and 19th Sts., and we are thrilled that Union Square has been at the forefront of this exciting new program. To keep up with our district’s growing popularity, the Partnership is continuing to invest in the maintenance and beautification of Union Square Park. This year, in addition to our extensive landscaping work in the park,

we also are overhauling the median malls along Union Square East and Park Ave. South, adding 80 new trees and a brand-new landscaping design with help from our partners at ORDA Management and the city’s Department of Parks. In the midst of all of this activity, we are also expanding our public programming to highlight the strength and diversity of our business community. The success of Sweat Fest is already driving excitement for our Summer in the Square series, returning on June 16 with free live performances, family-friendly activities and fitness classes. Following our first highly successful movie screening series in 2015, we are delighted to announce that the Partnership will once again present feature films as part of our program. Looking back on the last four decades, it is undeniable that our district has come a long way. The spirit that drove Sweet 14 to improve, beautify and champion this dynamic neighborhood in 1976 is the same spirit that motivates the Partnership BID to continue that work today. We are proud of what we have accomplished together and thank our board members, community supporters, and city and state partners who have worked collaboratively with us to continue to make Union Square a truly unique neighborhood. We look forward to another 40 years of growth with all of the businesses, residents and visitors that make Union Square a vibrant, welcoming environment. Falk is executive director, Union Square Partnership business improvement district TheVillager.com


Progress Report

Hudson Square: Trees, parks and all that jazz By Ellen Baer

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rom bringing new life to Hudson Square’s sidewalks to creating outdoor spaces that generate an inviting, “campus-like” environment, the Hudson Square Connection is proud to set the standard in sustainable urban planning and development, with exciting projects on the horizon that will enhance the community for the more than 50,000 people who come to the neighborhood every day to work, live and explore. Hudson Square is generally bounded by W. Houston St. on the north, Canal St. on the south, Sixth Ave. on the east and Greenwich St. on the west. As part of our commitment to make Hudson Square a place for people, we have undertaken several public-private partnerships, including one with the Department of Parks and the New York Tree Trust to plant and retrofit trees using the award-winning Hudson Square Standard tree pit. Hailed as the platinum standard for urban forestry, this design yields major environmental and health benefits. This state-of-the-art tree pit program significantly reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and addresses flooding by capturing more than 2.4 million gallons of storm water annually. We are now entering our final phase, and when completed we will have accomplished our ambitious goal of installing 250 Hudson Square Standard trees in the neighborhood. Through an additional partnership with Parks, in March we marked the beginning of an exciting renovation

Amid the bustle of Hudson Square, Freeman Plaza East offers a feeling of bucolic tranquility in the big city.

of the currently named Soho Square, the park at Spring St. and Sixth Ave. With construction set to begin later this year and completion scheduled for 2018, our new park will serve as an inviting, sustainable area where workers, residents and visitors alike can connect, collaborate and relax. With its graphic inspiration and sustainable design, the park will connect Hudson Square to its neighbors, its history and its future. In addition, through a public-private partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the spaces surrounding the Holland Tunnel — previously an unfriendly inaccessible area — were transformed

into an outdoor gathering space that now boasts trees, seating, bistro-style tables and umbrellas. As we spring into the warmer months, we’ll celebrate the re-opening of these spaces

at “Freeman Plaza” with a special kickoff celebration for the community on Thurs., May 12, featuring delicious bites from EET and live music. Freeman Plaza East is located on Varick St., between Broome and Watts Sts., and this summer will feature live musical performances weekly in June and July. Freeman Plaza West is located on Hudson St., between Broome and Watts Sts., and will offer a break from the workday with giant-size games, a little free library, and a selfie frame (positioned to capture the perfect selfie with the Freedom Tower). Freeman Plaza East and West are open during weekdays from 8 a.m. until dusk. With the help of our community, government partners and local businesses, we are eager to advance these developments and continue to make premier investments that will enrich our neighborhood and contribute to the creative, innovative culture of Hudson Square. Baer is president and C.E.O., Hudson Square Connection business improvement district

Streets, stores enhanced Central Village continued from p. 17

public artwork, the mosaic light poles at Astor Place, was also achieved this past year. Jim Power, also known as the “Mosaic Man,” has been creating his “Mosaic Trail” in the East Village for more than 30 years as a way to beautify and document the neighborhood’s history. The call to preserve the mosaic poles as part of the streetscape first stemmed from outreach efforts led by the Village Alliance in 2013 to discuss future programming of the new plazas. Over the past year, a working group comprised of community advocates and city agency representatives came together to develop a solution to restore the poles to the streetscape near their original location in a manner befitting their importance to the TheVillager.com

community. Over the past two decades, the Village Alliance has been a major force in cleaning up our streets, beautifying public spaces and promoting the best the Village has to offer. We hope to see you out on Eighth St., in Astor Place and throughout the district supporting our local businesses, attending events and, in general, enjoying the Village’s magnificent quality of life. We welcome everyone’s feedback and ideas on how we can make the neighborhood a better place to live, work and visit. Our door is always open, so feel free to drop by our storefront office at Eighth E. Eighth St. to say hello. We’ll see you around the neighborhood! Kelley is executive director, Village Alliance business improvement district April 21, 2016

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The Vulcan was down-to-earth Adam Nimoy’s Spock doc earns an emotional response TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW “FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK”

LEONARD PHOTO, COURTESY CBS ARCHIVAL; ADAM PHOTO BY KAI DE MELLO.

Time travel episodes are generally frowned upon, but this is an exception.

BY MAX BURBANK

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have no memory of ever watching an episode of the original “Star Trek” for the first time. I do remember my dad and I watching it first-run on a black and white TV, when I was four. By the time I was watching reruns religiously, I wanted to be James T. Kirk. My lack of success with the ladies at Franklin Elementary made it TheVillager.com

pretty clear that was never going to happen. Maybe though, just maybe, I could be Spock. Standoffish? Check. Alien? I was the only Jew not on a Sunday School felt board any of my classmates had ever seen. Smart? Well, I got punched a lot for using “big words.” That counts, right? So yeah. I could be Spock. Full disclosure, I also thought I’d be a good choice to carry the One Ring to Mordor, which would not have gone well

for anyone. Except, you know, Orcs, I guess. You get the picture. So my dad gave me “Star Trek.” Adam Nimoy’s dad gave him, and the world, Spock. Now Adam has given us “For the Love of Spock.” Begun in 2014, it was originally intended to focus solely on the character of Spock, to commemorate the original series’ 50th anniversary. With Nimoy’s passing, it became clear the film should celebrate the man as well as his creation.

Loaded with archival stills, restored original footage, interviews with original and reboot cast members, family, celebrity superfans (Jason Alexander and Jim “Sheldon” Parsons), scientists (Neil deGrasse Tyson, can I get a what WHAT?) and astronauts, this is the Spockfest everyone wanted, a claim for which there is empirical evidence. Crowdsourced, the documentary holds the Kickstarter record for Most Successful Campaign. Why? Simple. No Spock, no “Trek.” The original “Star Trek” and the eventual franchise (with the possible exception of “Voyager,” sorry, that’s just how I feel) is full of memorable characters, but Spock…Spock resonates. Spock is more than just a character; he’s a way of looking at life, a lens through which to view the human condition. I know, super nerdy, right? But also true. Fascinating. Adam Nimoy grew up with that. Leonard was his dad, but Spock must have loomed over that family. It must have been hard, but there’s not an iota of bitterness or regret in Adam Nimoy’s documentary. It doesn’t shy away from the inevitable difficulty of being Spock’s kid, but there’s an embrace of both the man his father was, and the icon he created. It’s where everyone who ever had a fraught relationship with their father would want to end up. There’s not a lot of new ground here. If there are new insider “Trek” stories to tell, I haven’t heard one in a long time. I SPOCK continued on p. 25 April 21, 2016

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Run to, run from: Egan takes on TFF Multiple standouts aside, ‘Women Who Kill’ dominates the slate BY SEAN EGAN

T

he weather tells me it’s officially spring, which can only mean one thing — it’s time to hole up in a movie theater and take in all the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF; tribecafilm.com) has to offer. Or at least that’s what I gladly did this past weekend, to ensure you needn’t roll the dice on quality when picking your celluloid poison. Here’s the lowdown on some of the best (and not so best) picks you can consider before the festival concludes on Apr. 24. If you can’t make it to TFF (or the remaining screenings are sold out), note that many of its films get picked up for wide release theatrical distribution or become available via streaming services, soon after their festival run. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is an excellent odd couple comedy, and a strong contender for festival breakout hit — which should come as no surprise, considering the talent behind the camera. Hailing from New Zealand, writer/director Taika Waititi’s film tells the story of Ricky (Julian Dennison), a young troublemaker from the city, and his begrudging, detached foster father Hec (Sam Neill), who, through a series of escalating misunderstandings, find themselves the targets of an extensive manhunt, forced to go on the lam for weeks in New Zealand’s expansive forests. While “Wilderpeople” might lack the acidic bite (pun shamelessly intended) of his recent vampire mockumentary “What We Do In The Shadows,” Waititi’s dry, understated sense of humor remains intact, palpable in both the dialogue and visual gags. It’s a sweeter and sadder movie, and Waititi renders the central relationship accordingly — with nuance and specific human flaws — allowing him to avoid the kind of cheap sentimentality that usually sinks this kind of movie. The struggles the duo endure, therefore, feel real, and their personal breakthroughs feel earned — and that makes all the difference in elevating the film from a good-natured crowd-pleaser into something altogether more affecting. For those looking for something a little more gory than gentle, “Holidays” should do the trick. It is, appropriately enough, a holiday-themed horror anthology movie that boasts a startlingly solid lineup of high-quality shorts. True, as with all films of this nature, unevenness is the norm; the opening Valentine’s Day piece has little to praise but its lighting design, and Kevin Smith’s Halloween-themed segment is pretty slight and underwhelming, especially following his deranged, inspired “Tusk” (2014). But that can be forgiven when the hitto-miss ratio is as high as it is here. From the blue-hued, measured tension of Anthony Scott Burns’ “Father’s Day,” to the

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April 21, 2016

PHOTO BY STUART BRERETON

Seth Green in the Christmas-themed segment of “Holidays.”

PHOTO COURTESY THE ORCHARD

L to R: Julian Dennison and Sam Neill in “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

blasphemous black comedy and stunning practical effects of Nicholas McCarthy’s “Easter,” to the nutso, offbeat humor of Gary Shore’s “St. Patrick’s Day,” “Holidays” is a brisk and bloody good midnight movie. Best of all, however, is “Women Who Kill,” a confidently low-key yet hysterical hybrid of dark comedy, queer romantic drama, and murder mystery. Set in Park Slope with a lovingly skewering eye, Morgan (Ingrid Jungermann) produces a podcast about female serial

killers with her ex-girlfriend Jean (Ann Carr). Things begin to go awry when the pair suspects Morgan’s mysterious new sweetheart, Simone (Sheila Vand), may actually be a killer. Vand (also turning in good work in “Holidays”) draws upon the same steely-eyed intensity she brought to her titular breakout role in the 2014 thriller, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” but effectively shades Simone with a tangible vulnerability, refusing to remain a simple cipher or plot point, while Upright Citizens Brigade

Theatre vet Shannon O’Neill brings perfect comedic timing to her empathetic portrayal of best friend Alex. The real find here, though, is multi-hyphenate Jungermann, who handled writing and directing duties, in addition to delivering a perfectly unassuming, deadpan leading turn. As a debut feature, “Women” is remarkably assured, effortlessly balancing its competing tones with emotional ROUNDUP continued on p. 23 TheVillager.com


ROUNDUP continued from p. 22

authenticity, and more than a dash of gallows humor. Simply put, it’s the kind of homegrown gem that Tribeca, at its best, was designed to highlight and bring to the attention of a wider audience. But it can’t all be good, can it? Enter “Nerdland.” Produced by Adult Swim alums Titmouse and boasting a voice cast packed with alt-comedy royalty like Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt and Hannibal Burress, the Hollywood-set animated feature is allegedly a satire of our fameobsessed culture — but damned if Andrew Kevin Walker’s aimless, regressive, mean-spirited script amounts to anything but tired juvenilia and rehashed, dated tropes. Things wouldn’t be so bad had Walker and Co. remembered to make their bad-taste exercise actually funny, but no amount of inventive animation or lively voice work can distract from the dearth of laughs. As it stands, its most effective (and cruelest) joke is on itself. As the opening credits roll, a tongue-incheek song blares: “Get your hopes up,” the voice commands. “It’s gonna be great; it’s gonna be awesome!” “Nerdland” was neither great nor awesome. In fact, it was the worst thing I had the misfortune of seeing at the festival — and with plenty of fine offerings and events coming up, I implore you not to make the same mistake I did in giving this movie time of (a beautiful) day.

PHOTO BY DIANE RUSSO

Writer/director Ingrid Jungermann (left) with Sheila Vand in “Women Who Kill.”

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A weak arc red flags color guard do Concert film falters, but the art form is admirable TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW “CONTEMPORARY COLOR” BY RANIA RICHARDSON

W

hile spinning batons, rifles, sabers or flags in the air, the color guard performs a joyous dance to celebrate school spirit during a football halftime show, to the tune of the high school marching band. Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne stumbled upon the art form and “was knocked out,” and so, to bring it to a wider audience, matched 10 color guard teams chosen from national competition with 10 established composers. The yearlong collaboration culminated in a performance at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015. The motion of the props, the synchronized choreography and the fresh music — as well as the exuberance of the youth — created a lively spectacle that drew crowds. With Byrne as producer, sibling filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross

PHOTO BY JARRED ALTERMAN & WYATT GARFIELD

St. Vincent (pictured) is among the major recording artists who collaborated with color guard teams for a lively Barclays Center performance.

turned the event into the documentary, “Contemporary Color.” Lucius, Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent, How to Dress Well, Zola Jesus and other artists of profiles both high and low worked with the troupes, many of whom were performing their final color guard and saying goodbye to their team forever. It was an emotional time for the student performers, who exhibit di-

versity in body size and ethnicity, and some appear to be social outcasts. Color guard provides a skill, a community, and, it seems, a safe space for misfits. The Ross brothers choose not to adhere to the standard structure of similar films, which usually follow the stories of a few characters closely, document rehearsals, and build momentum towards an exciting

Clash and burn A rock rebel comes of age in Tunisia

main event. Instead, they use camera tricks, such as superimpositions, to add interest, and zero in on some interesting moments, such as the girlfriends who lean on each other for support, the “dads” who pitch in with set building, and a pair of eccentric boys bursting with excitement. Without the typical pattern, though, the film is unfocused and the trajectory falls flat. In the final minutes, all performers come together for a powerful and uplifting group number that hints at what could have been with a more traditional form of storytelling. Not every concert film can be a pinnacle of achievement. For that, we have the Talking Heads in “Stop Making Sense,” directed by Jonathan Demme in 1984. Directors: Bill Ross, Turner Ross. Runtime: 97 minutes. Thurs., Apr. 21, 8pm at Regal Cinemas Battery Park (102 North End Ave., at Vesey St.). Tickets: $20 plus $3.50 phone & web processing fee. Visit tribecafilm. com or call 646-502-5296. For more info, visit contemporarycolor.com.

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW “AS I OPEN MY EYES” BY PUMA PERL

V

PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER

L to R: Montassar Ayari as Bohrène and Baya Medhaffer as Farah in “As I Open My Eyes.”

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April 21, 2016

ivacious, rebellious, 18-year-old Farah (Baya Medhaffer) loves rock and roll, hates convention, and is a member of an underground band — all of which brings about conflict with her mother, who is insistent that she forget about music and go to medical school. This description sounds like any coming of age story, but there is a catch. The film is set on the eve of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, and the young people, fueled by creative energy and disenchantment with the authoritarian government, are more likely to wind up beaten and imprisoned than losing their driving privileges. “I decided to place the mother/daughter relationship in the center of the film. It was a way of demonstrating that the explosiveness and idealism of the younger generation modernized the elder one,” explained writer and director Leyla Bouzid at the Q&A that followed the film’s first Tribeca Film Festival screening. Although the script is not strictly autobiographical, it does include some of her life experiences. Under the AS I continued on p. 25 TheVillager.com


SPOCK continued from p. 21

did come away with some fresh insight into how Nimoy shaped the character of Spock as a reaction to Shatner’s acting style, and that was cool. One thing that’s especially nice? The film dishes no dirt on cast infighting. The elder Nimoy didn’t want that. It focuses on how Spock touched people, and how the character Nimoy created wove himself into people’s lives. Everyone has their Spock story. Here’s mine. Back in the ’80s, I was a camp counselor, and, for movie night one time, we showed “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn,” aka the awesomest “Star Trek” movie. And it’s Spock’s death scene, so I’m crying, even though I’ve seen it like eight times, thank God it’s dark, the kids can’t see. And this one kid, this little privileged rich snot, laughs. Laughs! And I yell “YOU ARE A HEARTLESS A-HOLE!” Except of course I didn’t say “a-hole.” I got a talking to from the owner afterwards, but not a very stern one. ’Cause he was crying too, I guarantee it. Anyone half-human or more cries. Spoiler alert, you’re going to cry at the end of this documentary. You won’t think you will, but there’s a section that sneaks up on you, as stealthy as a Vulcan nerve pinch — and you’ll cry. It’s okay, because Leonard Nimoy is gone, and he will be sorely missed. But Spock is still here. Will you like this documentary if you are not familiar with “Star Trek?” Insufficient data. I’m not a “Trekkie,” or “Trekker,” couldn’t even tell you what the difference between those terms is, but I’m a huge fan. I can’t separate myself from the degree to which “Star Trek” has been the am-

PHOTO COURTESY CBS & ADAM NIMOY

Adam Nimoy as a child, on the set of the original “Star Trek” series. Nice photo, but what’s with the smiling? Clearly not cannon.

bient noise in the background of my life. Embarrassing? Sure. But I’m not sorry. I spent most of the year I was 13 in front of the medicine chest mirror teaching myself to raise one eyebrow. I have never regretted it.

AS I continued from p. 24

dictatorship of Ben Ali, she and some friends ran a cinema club, and, like the film, one trusted compadre turned out to be a police agent. In her discussion, Bouzid exhibited some similarities to her heroine, but was careful to explain that in some ways she was the opposite of her. Farah is fearless, with no regard for limits, whereas Bouzid was extremely conscious of limits and consequences. Central to the film is the music, not only for its narrative component, but also for the intensity of Ghassen Amami’s lyrics and the beauty of Iraqi musician Khyam Allami’s compositions. Medhaffer, a newcomer to the screen, is a riveting performer and has excellent chemistry with her love interest, singer-performer Benali, a fellow band member. Singer Ghalia Ben Ali plays the part of her mother, who is initially seen through the daughter’s eyes as rigid and oppressive. As the story unfolds, we begin to understand her fierce love and devotion to her daughter, and the ways that her past drive her to stop at nothing to protect her. Again, the music is elemental, playing a role in their communication and in their shared healing processes. TheVillager.com

Director: Adam Nimoy. Runtime: 105 m i n u t e s . F r i . , A p r. 22, 3:30pm & Sat., 9:15pm a t B o w Ti e C i n e m a s C h e l s e a ( 2 6 0 W. 2 3 r d S t . , b t w. S e v e n t h & E i g h t h A v e s . ) . Ti c k e t s : $ 2 0

plus $3.50 phone & web processing fee ($10 plus processing for pre-6pm screenings). Vi s i t t r i b e c a f i l m . c o m o r c a l l 646-502-5296. Also visit fortheloveofspock.com.

The close examinations of the familial relationships, as well as the friendships, provide a normality that makes the violent historical events even more shocking. Farah’s bold nature and free spirit are simultaneously admired and judged, even by her nonconformist boyfriend, as she breaks the gender rules that govern women’s behavior. The film atmospherically focuses in on a specific moment in the history of an oppressive, authoritarian government, often utilizing residents as extras in the smoky clubs and dark streets. There continues to be a battle against the limits in Tunisia, but the fact that the film has received funding from the government, and has been shown in festivals there, can only be considered a good sign for the future. Director: Leyla Bouzid. Screenplay: Leyla Bouzid & Marie-Sophie Chambon. R u n t i m e : 1 2 3 m i n u t e s . T h u r s . , A p r. 2 1 , 6 : 4 5 p m a t B o w Ti e C i n e m a s C h e l s e a ( 2 6 0 W. 2 3 r d S t . , b t w. S e v e n t h & E i g h t h A v e s . ) . Ti c k e t s : $ 2 0 p l u s $ 3 . 5 0 p h o n e & w e b p r o c e s s i n g f e e . Vi s i t t r i b e c a f i l m . c o m o r c a l l 646-502-5296.

PHOTO BY SÉBASTIEN GOEPFERT

Director Leyla Bouzid incorporated her own life experiences in the rebellious character of Farah, whose creative awakening happens against the backdrop of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution. April 21, 2016

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Heavy metal Raffi: City finds high lead levels lead continued from p. 1

“The dust is coming underneath my floorboards, in my walls. The hallway is coated in it,” said Slayton, who has lived in the building for 11 years and said that she, along with her seven-year-old daughter, began to experience the physical effects of the fine powder around the same time the renovation started. “I have a sore throat and I’ve had migraines for two months,” she said. “My daughter just had an upperrespiratory infection. I can’t even be in my apartment half the time.” After suffering for more than a month, she made a trip to the doctor last week, who prescribed she wear a facemask. But by that time, she already knew of the potential dangers: In mid-March, after multiple complaints to the city, a team from the Department of Health stopped by the building, as well as two others on E. Fifth St. that are owned by the same landlord. The results of the inspectors’ probes: Up to 16 times the safe amount of lead was found in some common areas, according to federal standards. “And that was a week later, after the renovation was done,” said Sandra Mayer, who lives with her husband at 233 E. Fifth St., the worst offender in the group. “It’s not a healthy environment to be living in.” Last week, tenants from the three buildings — which also include 235 E. Fifth — rallied outside the offices of their landlord, Raphael “Raffi” Toledano, whose property fund Brookhill Properties manages the buildings. It’s not the first time that Toledano — a 25-year-old real estate mogul, who added more than a dozen East Village buildings to his real estate portfolio last year — has been accused of wrongdoing. He is currently the subject of a state investigation into tenant harassment, and residents at 444 E. 13th St. have taken him to court over alleged attempts to drive them out of their rent-stabilized homes through illegal construction and persistent threats and buyout offers. In January, The Villager revealed that the young landlord also has a past assault conviction for beating up a group of teenagers in New Jersey four years ago — news that only ratcheted up the worries of many of his already concerned tenants. Some of them have organized under the banner of the Toledano Tenants Coalition to fight against eviction efforts and other problems at their buildings. They gathered in front of the Brookhill offices at 298 Fifth Ave. on Tues., April 12. “Basically, we’re holding him hostage,” said SaMi Chester, an organizer with the Cooper Square Committee, a housing preservation group that is supporting the tenants. Dressed in hazmat suits and wearing dust masks to illustrate their plight, the group was trying to deliver a letter to Toledano personally. The message asked him to implement a proper lead-mitigation plan, using an E.P.A.-certified abatement contractor, and urged him to follow the guidelines from the city’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of 2003. That law mandates that contractors use safe work practices and trained workers, and perform tests to ensure proper cleanup. “We’re trying to deliver our demands, but he won’t even accept it,” said Chester, as he returned from a futile trip to the landlord’s offices upstairs. According to the city, dust from lead paint — which was banned here in 1960, but is still found in older buildings — is the most common cause of childhood

26

April 21, 2016

Photos by Yannic Rack

Wearing hazmat suits, tenants from three East Village buildings rallied outside the Union Square-area offices of their landlord, Raphael Toledano, last week, calling on him to use legally required lead-abatement procedures.

lead poisoning, which can adversely affect a child’s health, learning and behavior. Lead exposure occurs when lead dust or fumes are inhaled, or when lead is ingested via contaminated hands, food, water, cigarettes or clothing. Lead entering the respiratory and digestive systems is released into the blood and distributed throughout the body. According to the New York State Department of Health, more than 90 percent of the total body burden of lead is accumulated in the bones, where it is stored. The lead may then be released from the bones into the blood later, re-exposing organ systems long after the original exposure. Toledano was not available for a comment last week. But a Brookhill spokesperson told The Villager that, after the company was notified of an issue by the Department of Health, it dispatched “a professional remediation crew [that] quickly rectified the situation and brought the property into full compliance.” “We continue with constant monitoring of the property to ensure the health and safety of all of our tenants, which is our primary concern,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail. But Slayton reports that the work is continuing unabated, and without the proper equipment to contain the dust that is spreading throughout the building. “Yesterday, everything was coated in dust,” she said, speaking on April 12. “Even the sitter is sneezing and coughing when she comes over.” Slayton said the landlord should supply the tenants with air purifiers. She said that Brookhill representatives have been cordial when contacted. But rather than actually doing something to solve the situation, they usually offer to move her to a different apartment instead, she said. The catch, however, is that she would lose her rentstabilized rights. Most of the units in her building, like in other Toledano-owned properties, are not market rate. “Plus, I don’t want to move to Murray Hill,” Slayton said. “I’m part of the neighborhood.” The tenants, many of whom have small children or

Holly Slayton says she and her seven-yearold daughter started feeling the effects of the lead dust when renovations began in their building.

teenagers, fear that more renovations will soon follow. Nina D’Alessandro, who started the coalition, said she has been lucky so far — her building, at 231 E. Fifth St., is still quiet. “They haven’t started yet, but they’re about to,” she said. The group now includes residents from almost two dozen Toledano buildings. “Not only is it illegal, it’s immoral and it’s unacceptable,” D’Alessandro said of the lead-dust pollution. “They keep wanting ‘to do right by their tenants,’ but this kind of mistreatment is very worrying to all of us.” TheVillager.com


Does It Have The Apple Logo? 9G%CP(KZ+V Photos by TEQUILA MINSKY

Girls learned both coding and teamwork at the full-day workshop.

Young techies cracking the code to STEM world BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y

S

eventy-one girls ages 7 to 17 sat in front of laptops, focusing their concentration on a Saturday earlier this month during the “Build a Game in a Day with ‘Scratch’ � app development workshop sponsored by Black Girls CODE. The full-day workshop was held on the second floor of Chelsea Market, across from the Google building. “Many youth — and people in general — don’t know what engineers do, and the events of Black Girls CODE offer opportunities for girls to learn about the profession,� said Raven Ali, one of the two staff members of the New York City Chapter of Black Girls CODE. Ali presented an economic projection statistic: By 2018, there will be 2.4 million unfilled science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, jobs. Engineer Kimberly Bryant started Black Girls CODE in the Bay Area in 2011 with the goal of having events that expose girls to professional women who are engineers, data scientists, user-interface designers and product designers — in other words, STEM professionals. Today, there are 15 chapters nationwide, and the New York City Chapter — one of the most active — draws girls from the metro area, some experienced, others first-timers, to coding. These students attend public, charter, religious and private schools. Google is the major sponsor of the New York City Chapter. The search giant’s head of external affairs, William Floyd, acknowledged the abysmal lack of diversity in tech fields. Partnerships like this help “build a community of technologists,� he said. Sharing laptops provided by Google, the “gamers� worked in pairs led by three technical instructors. They used the coding programming language Scratch and were guided by a team of assisting professionals. Participants built four games. By day’s end, the “game designers� presented TheVillager.com

their creations to parents, as well as the other girls. “By the workshop completion, they experience the achievement of building a game,� Ali said proudly. Black Girls CODE sponsors a three-day Hackathon in late June for girls between 12 and 17 where students in teams of four participate in creating solutions to social issues within their communities — building “skills, confidence, experience and having lots of fun� while building apps. Olivia Ross, 14, who volunteered at the Chelsea workshop has been coding since she was 10 and was part of last year’s winning team. They created apps to combat domestic violence — specifically that helped link to more information, support lines and access to safe places. The winning team members each received $1,500 to further their education. For Ross, who knows how to code, her learning experience was working in a cooperative team situation. Black Girls CODE also runs a twoweek computer camp in the city in midAugust. For more information, visit www. blackgirlscode.com.

Olivia Ross, 14, who volunteered at the workshop, has been coding since she was 10.

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Documentary on infant deaths will shake you RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY

O

n Saturday  night at Cinema Village on E. 12th St. I met Marine Sergeant Aaron Rasheed. He was up from Virginia with his wife and three young children, including baby Elijah, who cried partway through the new documentary we were there to watch: “The Syndrome.” I can’t blame him.  The movie is about shaken baby syndrome — a heinous crime we’ve all heard of. Back in the fall, when Elijah was 3 weeks old, he suffered a seizure. Sergeant Rasheed and his wife rushed him to the hospital. The baby had two hematomas — blood on the brain (or at least it looked like that at the time). How had he gotten them? The desperate parents had no idea.  Tsk tsk. They must be hiding something. Child Protective Services swooped in and accused Rasheed of shaking the baby. Rasheed was floored. He loved his son! He’d never do that!  “But I think because I had served in Afghanistan,” Rasheed said, the au-

Susan Goldsmith outside Cinema Village, where her new documentary, “Syndrome,” is currently screening.

Lenore Skenazy.

thorities assumed he must be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and further assumed he must be taking it out on his baby. All three children were placed in a relative’s custody and Rasheed faced trial. Frantic, he went online and tried to find any information he could about shaken baby syndrome. That’s where he found Susan Goldsmith, the researcher behind “The Syndrome.”

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A journalist for more than 20 years specializing in child abuse, her investigative reporting resulted in two new laws protecting children in foster care. She was especially revolted by the idea of anyone who’d shake a baby. I guess we all are. But the more she looked into this crime, the more surprised she became. It turns out that the constellation of three symptoms that “prove” a baby was shaken (a type of brain swelling, brain bleeding and bleeding in back of the eyes) can actually be caused by all sorts of other problems, including genetic issues, birth trauma — even a fall off a couch. And yet, over and over, distraught parents and caregivers with no history of anything other than loving their babies have been accused of shaking kids to death, simply because the children presented these symptoms — or other unexplained symptoms. To this day, about 250 parents and caregivers are prosecuted for this crime every year. “The Syndrome” tells the tale of how this new category of crime appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the mid-1990s. Goldsmith found that some of the same doctors who had actively promoted the Satanic Panic of the early ’90s — accusing daycare workers of things like sacrificing animals in the classroom and raping the tots in Satanic rites — abandoned that narrative when people started doubting its plausibility.  In its wake, those doctors found a new horror to focus on: shaken baby. As Goldsmith puts it, “They medicalized Satan.” Attention, donations and research money flooded in.  But after Goldsmith’s film interviews, parent after parent who brought their ailing babies to the hospital only to find themselves accused of the sickest, saddest crime possible, the documentary turns to the heroes: doctors who gradually started to question the syndrome. 

Consider the case of Natasha Richardson, says one of them, neurosurgeon Ronald Uscinski: She hit her head in a skiing accident and even joked about it afterward. No big deal! Two days later, she was dead. This happens to children, too, he says. Toddlers toddle. Sometimes they fall. Usually it’s fine, but sometimes it’s tragic. It may be diagnosed as the fallout from a shaking, but here’s the sticking point: If someone shook a baby so hard that its head went flopping back and forth, the neck would show signs of whiplash, right? And yet, the film notes, none of the hundreds of “shaken” baby cases Goldsmith reviewed showed serious neck damage.  Not one. Deborah Tuerkheimer, a Northwestern University law professor interviewed in the film, estimates there are 1,000 people in prison today for a shaken baby crime they did not commit. Rasheed was almost one of them, but he was found not guilty. The idea that the shaken baby diagnosis may be as unfounded as the Satanic Panic does not sit well with the medical establishment. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a 14page document criticizing “The Syndrome.” Three different film festivals were threatened with lawsuits simply for screening it.  But the show goes on. “The Syndrome” is available on demand through iTunes, Amazon, Time Warner Cable — almost everywhere. And Rasheed is hosting a screening back home in Virginia. He knows firsthand how easy it is to end up in the medical establishment or Child Protective Services prosecutors’ crosshairs. It’s enough to leave anyone shaken. Skenazy is author and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids” and a contributor at Reason.com TheVillager.com


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A portrait of Polish pride on St. Mark’s Place

THE NEW SOUND OF

BROOKLYN Photos by Bob Krasner

Janusz Gilewicz, top, and his assistant, Zbigniew Zolkowski a.k.a. JoeyBaby, took a break while creating the mural.

BY BOB KR ASNER

A

lthough other artists were in the running, Janusz Gilewicz was the natural choice to paint a mural commemorating the beginning of Polish statehood, in a neighborhood rich with Polish history. A former resident of Poland until age 24 and a longtime East Villager and Lower East Sider, Gilewicz has to his credit the “world’s largest three-dimensional mural,” which he created with the help of 500 volunteers at 379 Madison St. in 2013. The new mural, on the side of St. Stanislaus the Bishop and Martyr Church, at 104 St. Mark’s Place, however, is a simpler affair. Commissioned by the Polish Cultural Institute, it has four main elements: “POLSKA,” the counTheVillager.com

try’s name in Polish; a fish, an ancient symbol of Christianity; the Polish flag; and the number 966, the year Poland’s first Christian leader, Duke Mieszko I, was baptized. At the upper right, Gilewiicz noted, “You see the pages of history turning.” The artist previously lived two doors down from the church. “Polish people are an integral part of this city and culture,” he said, though adding, “There are hardly any left here anymore. It’s too commercial and too expensive.” The mural was painted in one week on the 150-year-old church’s side. “It will go on further than my life,” he said of the artwork. “It will be here when I am gone.” The finished mural was unveiled Sun., April 17.

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We’re also on the radio. TUNE IN to AM 970 The Answer and AM 570 The Mission, Saturdays at 6:00 PM to listen to Ask the Lawyer with Mike Connors. www.askthelawyer.nyc

Call (718) 238-6500 to make your seminar reservation or schedule a FREE consultation. Offices are located in Bay Ridge, Bayside, Middle Village, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT: Connors and Sullivan Attorneys-At-Law PLLC: 7408 5th Avenue Ste. 2 Brooklyn NY 11209

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April 21, 2016

TheVillager.com

The Villager  

April 21, 2016

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