YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN
Waterside Park Group Covers Lots of Ground BY SEAN EGAN With the fair weather seemingly here to stay, the warm, clear night of April 20 was a perfect evening for the Chelsea Waterside Park Association’s annual meeting. At around 6pm, members of the group — as well as local electeds and community members — gathered in the halls of St. Paul’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church (315 W. 22nd St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) for a pre-meeting reception, enjoying each other’s company, as well as a spread of refreshments. WATERSIDE continued on p. 5
Zap! Pow! Yikes! City Council Corrals Costumed Characters BY JACKSON CHEN The City Council has voted to give the Department of Transportation (DOT) authority over the many pedestrian plazas that have popped up in recent years, leading the costumed characters of Times Square, who worry about the new law’s impact on their activities, to look to legal action to protect their civil rights and livelihoods. And at least one prominent faux superhero has vowed defiance. COSTUMED continued on p. 3
UP ON THE ROOF Artist Ellen Bradshaw’s new exhibit was inspired by views from high atop Manhattan. See page 12.
Photo by Yannic Rack
Marilyn Hemery, a 45-year resident of 15 W. 55th St., is currently recovering from chemotherapy. Her cooking gas was shut off from August 2015 to March 2016.
HOME, SICK: THE HEALTH HAZARDS OF ‘HARASSMENT BY CONSTRUCTION’ BY EILEEN STUKANE Staying healthy while staying put is an unseen battle raging within the community. Now that Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen have emerged as high-rent, luxury neighborhoods, many landlords, seeing dollar signs, are determined to transform their rent-regulated apartments into market-rate units. The landlord/ developer drive to vacate apartments seems unstoppable, even though residents frequently decline to move, and refuse to be bought out. A landlord will commence with demolition and construction plans regardless, knowing that a certain number of tenants will eventually leave. The ones who remain in their homes exist in an environment of dust and debris that has given rise to the term “harassment by construction,” an insidious assault on their health. Tenants can organize to form activist groups to stand their ground and remain in their homes. They can battle the bureaucracy as the landlord practice of falsifying
© CHELSEA NOW 2016 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) permit applications for construction is exposed, and tenants learn that their occupied buildings are filed as “unoccupied” in order to eliminate the need for required Tenant Protection Plans. Tenants can enlist elected officials and community leaders to pursue legislation against unethical landlords. The real fight to save their homes, however, may be the struggle to remain healthy enough to withstand the environmental stress heaped upon them. In one Chelsea building, four of 13 tenants were committed to staying in their homes in 2014 when a new owner commenced construction renovations. “People couldn’t walk into the building with the white dust coming out. I had asthma, and immediately had to get a mask just to walk in the front entrance,” says one of those residents who continued to live in his home. “The HARASSMENT continued on p. 2 VOLUME 08, ISSUE 16 | APRIL 28 - MAY 04, 2016
Anti-Tenant Tactics May Be Hazardous to Your Health HARASSMENT continued from p. 1
Photo by Yannic Rack
Marilyn Hemery, a W. 55th St. resident who is recovering from chemotherapy, says she must deal with constant layers of dust generated by construction.
apartments looked white inside, the way the streets looked after 9/11. You could see footprints on the floors and a lot of people were having breathing problems. I myself was having breathing problems and I’m a healthy athletic guy. I go to the gym, run track — and I started getting sick. If I, a healthy person in my thirties, was suffering, I can’t imagine what a senior citizen would suffer.” (Those who live in buildings with ongoing construction, and are in dispute with their landlords, spoke on the condition of anonymity in order not to further jeopardize their situations.) Two of the four tenants who originally committed to stay moved out. As Chelsea Now interviewed residents who are experiencing, or who have experienced, harassment by construction, it became clear that an abundance of the still rent-regulated apartments (the ones that landlords would like to convert to market-rate) are occupied by seniors who have lived in their homes for decades. These men and women have found refuge within their apartment
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walls. They have roots in the community and have no desire to relocate. At ages where their peers are relaxing in warmer climes, they are breathing in dust, mold and toxic fumes, living with insect infestations and mice, and enduring the noise of jackhammers outside their apartment doors, suffering panic attacks from fear of intruders entering unsecured premises. The requirements of the DOB’s Tenant Protection Plans, even when they are posted as being in place, may be ignored by the landlords who are supposed to be fulfilling them.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE LIVING WITH The Community Health Profile 2015, recently released by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), reports that the air in Manhattan Community District 4 (Hell’s Kitchen/ Clinton, Chelsea and Hudson Yards), when measured for levels of particulate matter (PM2.5), the most harmful pollutant, ranks third highest in the city at 11.4 micrograms per cubic meter. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), the primary standard — which is set to protect the health of asthmatics, children, and seniors — is 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The air in construction sites in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen does not have far to go to surpass the EPA’s acceptable level of pollutants. PM2.5 is made up of fine particles and liquid droplets often found as a result of construction, in dust (which may contain lead), organic chemicals, and metals. Children — who breathe more rapidly than adults and often through their mouths — can inhale more of these fine particles into their lungs. Long-term exposure to fine particles, for adults and children alike, can irritate the airways, affect lung function and cause coughing which is sometimes chronic, difficulty breathing, and asthma. Of the residents interviewed for this article, all reported coughs, some lingering well after construction was completed. In 2014, Healthy Building Network, an organization dedicated to reducing the use of hazardous chemicals in building products, published “Asthmagens In Building Materials: The Problem and Solutions,” a compilation of studies that correlated a link between asthma risk and volatile compounds called phthalates and isocyanates that are found in a variety of building materials such as insulation, paints, adhesives, wall panels and floors.
Although it would be difficult to undertake in New York City, Jim Vallette, Research Director at Healthy Building Network, says that the practice in the green building industry is to empty a residence for two days, with doors and windows open, to “flush out into the air” the toxic effects of paints, adhesives, and even the polyurethane in foam insulation, to reduce the environmental impact for residents. Using paints certified as being low in volatile organic compounds is also recommended. While scientific research to identify pollutants has not been conducted in buildings under construction in our community, Stand for Tenant Safety (STS), a coalition of community organizations fighting to protect tenants from harassment by construction, has been gathering data. STS published a 2015 Summary of Data that identified health-related situations created by construction. In the STS survey of 150 residents who were living in buildings where construction was ongoing, 87% reported excessive dust, which stood as the greatest complaint, followed by excessive noise at 82%. Overall, 71% stated that construction was a threat to their health and safety. Excessive fumes, vermin, construction debris, and building doors left open or unlocked, were all listed as issues. A breakdown of the 2015 STS Summary of Data to Document Construction as Harassment in Rent Stabilized Buildings (undertaken by STS with Research Support from the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center), looks like this: •7 1% reported that construction was a threat to their health and safety. • 82% reported excessive noise. • 87% reported excessive dust. • 42% reported excessive fumes. • 44% reported problems with vermin. • 73% reported construction debris in the hallway. •7 4% reported doors to building left open or unlocked. •1 4% reported fire escapes were not accessible. Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents the area and is chair of the City Council’s Health Committee, is well aware of the harassment by construction health issues, and has responded with support and proposed legislation to HARASSMENT continued on p. 11 .com
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Costumed Superheroes, Naked Cowboy Take It on the Chin at Council COSTUMED continued from p. 1
On April 7, 42 of the Council’s 51 members voted to approve the pedestrian plaza bill introduced by Corey Johnson and Dan Garodnick, whose districts converge in Times Square. “We need to bring some order out of the chaos in Times Square,” Garodnick said. “The costumed characters have become a black eye for New York City, and we need to crack down on the bad actors who ruin the edgy and exciting vibe that makes Times Square unique.” Following the council vote, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the pedestrian plaza bill into law on April 21. “Our pedestrian plazas are popular among tourists and New Yorkers alike,” de Blasio said. “They attract business for the surrounding establishments and create a safe space where people don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic.” The new law grants the DOT power to create regulations for the city’s 53 pedestrian plazas, including the heavily trafficked Times Square. A draw for locals, tourists, and costumed characters, the area will now include three kinds of zones to regulate conduct and traffic flow through the Crossroads of the World, the DOT said. In their presentation before the Council’s Transportation Committee on .com
March 30, department officials outlined a draft proposal that created pedestrian flow zones where foot traffic could pass through unimpeded, general use areas for events and sightseers, and “designated activity zones” where all commercial activities — including the photo-taking that costumed characters conduct with tourists in exchange for tips — would take place. “We are putting into place what we believe are constitutional safeguards to ensure that commercial activity can take place, and pedestrians and tourists can move freely on these plazas,” Johnson said. Not all councilmembers were pleased with the proposal, as five of those on hand formally abstained and one voted against the bill. Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy, the naysayer, argued that the costumed characters help make for a more vibrant New York City. Critical of previous attempts to regulate costumed characters, Cornegy said this time around he is still “not convinced it will do no harm.” He added, “I feel strongly that we should not regulate or police any New Yorkers out of harmless activity that they rely on to keep money in their pockets COSTUMED continued on p. 23
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Chelsea Now is proud to announce the debut installment of this occasional content sharing page, which showcases the work of talented reporters and photographers from our local elementary school’s paper of record: The P.S. 11 Paper. These articles are presented as they appear in the March edition. For that entire issue, and archival content, access ps11chelsea.org/ps11-paper. Visit the website’s home page to find out how you can support the P.S. 11 Farm Market (Wednesday mornings, 8am–10am, mid-June through late November, in front of the school: 320 W. 21st St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.).
P.S. 11 Lego Robotics Team Wins Award
Photo by Eli Parmett
BY OWEN KIVETT The P.S. 11 Lego Robotics team took home the Inspiration Award at the FLL NYC Regional championships, held on March 12 at the Javits Center. This competition is the year’s biggest Lego event in NYC. A total of 80 teams from all five boroughs competed in the 4th to 8th grade age group. The P.S. 11 team included just 4th and 5th graders. Teams had to qualify at a local tournament, first. Only about half the teams at the Horace Mann School event in the Bronx qualified, including P.S. 11. This year’s theme was Trash Trek. It’s all about getting kids into recycling, composting and making the world green. The P.S. 11 team got to show the judges their research on recycling and core values, and their teamwork. They also ran missions
April 28 - May 04, 2016
on the mat using a robot the team programmed. Each team got three chances to run missions in front of the judges. There was a huge crowd of spectators watching. The crowd chanted, “3-2-1 Lego,” and then the team pressed the button to start the robot. Coach Melinda Dibner commented, “Learning to cooperate and be there for each other and respect each other’s ideas at such a young age is a huge challenge and our team does it wonderfully well.” Many of the challengers were in Middle School, but P.S. 11 still earned 30th place in the mat part of the competition and a third place award for “Core: Inspiration.” At the end of the day, P.S. 11 cheered and high-fived all the judges as the team received a trophy made of Lego bricks and got their picture taken.
Terrific Titanosaur BY LUC BASMA AND JENSEN KREBS Have you ever wanted to discover a new dinosaur? Try going to Argentina. A rancher there discovered a 122foot long Titanosaur. Assembled from 84 fossil pieces, it is now held in the American Museum of Natural History and is a bit too big for its exhibit space. Nobody knows what color it was. It could have been red, yellow, black, green or some other color. What we do know is that it’s one titanic discovery. The Titanosaur was discovered in the Patagonia region of Argentina by a rancher four years ago. Argentina is in South America. One day, while the rancher was searching for one of his lost sheep, he stumbled upon an old and mysterious bone. Once the rancher found the bone, he went to a museum and asked paleontologists to help him look for other dinosaur bones. Of course they said, “yes,” because there have been lots of dinosaur finds in Argentina and one bone usually comes along with other bones. When they were finished, not only did they find one Titanosaur, but they found six of them in the same area. In order to get them out, they had to build a new road, so all the bulldozers, tractors, cranes, etc. could travel from the main road to the site and back. This large machinery was used to dig down and around faster. Then, once they got near the bones, they had to transition to small tools, like small picks, chisels and dust brushes, because they might break the very fragile bones by crushing them with big tools. They knew when to transition because the outer layer’s color and texture changed.
Photo by Nandini Bains
The Titanosaur was the biggest animal to ever walk on the planet. It was 30 feet longer than a blue whale, and it could reach the top floor of a 5 story building–that’s 46 feet. It would have been even bigger if it hadn’t died as a young adult. It weighed as much as 10 African elephants. It lived 100 million years ago and it was a herbivore. That means it was a plant eater. It is the best preserved Titanosaur because it had all its bones when it was found. January, 2016 was the first time they showed the Titanosaur in the Muse- um of Natural History. It’s so big that it can’t fit in a single room of the museum. Part of its 39-foot neck sticks out of the exhibit room. The display is made out of fiber glass because the real fossil bones are made out of rock and are too heavy to display. They scanned the real fossil bones to make 3-D models that are not as heavy. It took the scientists 6 months to complete the scanned model. There are 5 real fossil bones in the museum, and at the end of 2016, they will be given back to Argentina, where they found the bones. Scientists will use this dinosaur to learn new things about other dinosaurs like their size, weight, color, the foods they ate, and the size of their brain.
ps11chelsea.org chelseanow.com .com
Meeting Maps the Means of Chelsea Waterside’s Ways WATERSIDE continued from p. 1
A little after 7pm, Zazel Loven, the group’s president, called the meeting to order, welcoming everyone, and joking that her love of horticulture had somehow “turned into a full time job.” Loven then introduced Dave Conover to talk briefly about the Clearwater, a replica of a historic cargo sloop. The ship, which is used as an educational platform, is currently undergoing extensive renovations, and Conover (Interim Executive Director of the Clearwater) was seeking support to complete these efforts by highlighting various fundraising programs. Visit clearwater.org for more info. After this, Loven introduced City Councilmember Corey Johnson. Asserting “I think it deserves a makeover,” Johnson revealed that he has pledged $825,000 towards the renovation of the Chelsea Waterside Park playground. “Chelsea Waterside Park is getting a lot of love…A lot of money and a lot of love,” Johnson said with a laugh. Next up was Assemblymember Richard Gottfried. “The fact that we have Chelsea Waterside Park is really a testament to this community,” Gottfried stated, also revealing that, through his efforts, the park would be receiving a new comfort station in the near future, an announcement that received a great amount of applause. The evening’s keynote speaker was Rashid Poulson, the Horticultural Supervisor of Brooklyn Bridge Park. His presentation, entitled “Resilience at the Waterfront,” addressed the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. A highlight of the presentation came when Poulson drew attention to the kinds of plants that could — and couldn’t — survive the stress brought onto them by the storm. Following Poulson’s presentation was a short speech from Greg Wasserman, a member of the Playground Committee of Friends of the Hudson River Park. “The playground at Chelsea Waterside Park is well used and well loved by kids,” said Wasserman of the facility, installed in 2000, but noted, “along with love and use comes wear and tear.” The proposed renovation project is estimated to cost $1.6 million, and after the money pledged by Johnson, and another $400,000 in private donations secured by Wasserman, about another $400,000 is still needed to make the budget. Wasserman encouraged people .com
Courtesy Hudson River Park Trust
A local family drops off food scraps at Chelsea Waterside Park. Materials produced by a new electric composter, dubbed “the way of the future” by HRPT’s Peter Kelly, will be used along the Chelsea “buffer” between W. 17th and W. 22nd Sts.
to donate, and to send him any information that might help lead to more private donations in order to “fill the rest of the gap.” Visit hudsonriverpark. org/playgrounds for more info. Closing out the meeting were presentations from two members of the Hudson River Park Trust, Horticultural Manager Peter Kelly and Vice President of Marketing and Events Tom Lindon. Kelly’s speech and PowerPoint went over the general accomplishments of the Trust over the past year. Chief amongst the highlights was news of the park’s new electric composter, which Kelly dubbed “the way of the future.” The composter, which was donated to the park last year, helps keep a half-ton of organic waste off the road every day, and saves $40,000 a year in organic litter collection. Trust employees have also taken to bringing in hundreds of pounds of organic waste from home every week, to be compacted. “It’s a big deal,” Kelly said proudly, noting that Chelsea would benefit from the compost, as it was to be used along the Chelsea “buffer” between W. 17th and W. 22nd Sts. Lindon used the platform to draw the crowd’s attention to some of the upcoming summer programming coming to the park soon. Highlighted
Photo by Sean Egan
Dan Conover, left, and Zazel Loven at the start of the meeting.
programs included the popular weekly movie night, kids’ programs, dance performances, and a new senior fishing program. He also announced that the “Summer of Fun” would have its own app, as well as a presence on
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (visit hudsonriverpark.org for all social media info). And with that, all the speakers had said their piece, and the meeting was drawn to a close for another year.
chelseanow.com chelseanow.com April 28 - May 04, 2016
Spotlight on Small Business
La Colombe’s Iced Latte Landing in Chelsea
Photo courtesy La Colombe
What the buzz is all about: La Colombe’s new cafe on W. 27th St. offers a signature drink and sweets from City Bakery — but no Wi-Fi.
BY YANNIC RACK One of the country’s premier coffee roasters opened its doors in Chelsea last week — and just in time to
April 28 - May 04, 2016
refresh residents with its signature Draft Latte this summer. Craft-coffee company La Colombe, which stands apart from
the competition by offering the cool, cold-pressed coffee concoction on tap, opened its sixth location in the city inside the Terminal Warehouse at 601 W. 27th St. last Fri., April 22. “It has been incredible to see this neighborhood grow and change over the years,” said JP Iberti, President and co-founder of La Colombe, adding that the company has actually been based in the area for a while, albeit with an office rather than a storefront. “We’ve had offices here for 15 years, and now we’re excited to be opening a full-service cafe and invite people in,” said Iberti. The cafe chain, which started in 1994 in Philadelphia, is known for the Draft Latte, a textured cold version of the drink made with frothed milk and cold-pressed espresso. La Colombe is partnering with City Bakery to offer freshly baked sweet pastries and savory dishes at its new location, a 2,260-square-foot space used by a manufacturer that
retains elements of the original interior, including exposed brick, large wood columns, and wood floors. Like at the specialty roaster’s other outlets, one key cafe amenity will be missing, however — Wi-Fi, which goes against the brand’s philosophy “to unplug and encourage customers to relax, read, write, and socialize,” according to a statement. With the opening of the new Chelsea location, La Colombe now operates six cafes throughout New York City, as well as additional ones in Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Boston. More outposts are scheduled to open in 2016, according to the company, which also provides signature blends and single-origin coffees to other cafes, hotels, restaurants and retailers around the world. La Colombe (601 W. 27th St., at 11th Ave.) is open from 7am–7pm, Mon.–Fri., and from 8am–7pm on weekends. Visit lacolombe.com.
Spotlight on Small Business
East Village Burger Bistro Heading to Hudson Yards BY YANNIC RACK After making a home in the East Village and opening an outpost near Times Square, Larry Kramer and James Cruickshank, the co-owners of Whitmans, didn’t have to think hard about where to expand their popular burger restaurant next — it had to be Hudson Yards. “We were always looking to expand, and with Hudson Yards opening up for business, it was more enticing for us than anything else,” Kramer said. Back in 2010, when the original Whitmans opened on E. Ninth St., he added, the restaurateurs would have never pictured opening a location on the far West Side. “But when we went over there and saw the developments, and how they’re transforming West Chelsea, and specifically Tenth Ave. into a hub,” he said, “that’s what really excited us.” The pair’s original small sit-down
restaurant quickly became a local favorite, and last year they started serving up its regional creations at a quick-serve kiosk in the Row NYC hotel on W. 44th St. as well. Now, Kramer and Cruickshank have signed a 10-year lease for what will be their biggest location yet, in the Abington House on The High Line, the luxury rental building at 500 W. 30th St. built by Related Companies — also, not coincidentally, the developer of the mega-project right across the street, where the commercial tower at 10 Hudson Yards just topped out. “Whitmans will quickly become a beloved local amenity, not only for Abington House residents but for the many new employees arriving at Hudson Yards this year,” said Benjamin Joseph, senior vice president at Related. The new Whitmans, set to open in WHITMANS continued on p. 15
Photo courtesy Related Companies
Abington House on The High Line, one of the new developments on the West Side that have started to attract restaurants and other amenities to the area.
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POLICE BLOTTER THE 10th PRECINCT Located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Commander: Deputy Inspector Michele Irizarry. Main number: 212-741-8211. Community Affairs: 212-741-8226. Crime Prevention: 212-741-8226. Domestic Violence: 212-741-8216. Youth Officer: 212741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-924-3377. Detective Squad: 212-741-8245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7 p.m., at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced. The next meeting is May 25.
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PETIT LARCENY: Grub grabbers nabbed Everyone knows there’s no such thing as a free meal — but not everyone is aware that cabs make for poor getaway vehicles. One hungry pair with sticky fingers, however, managed to verify both axioms on Fri., Apr. 22. At about 9:30pm, an employee of
THE 13th PRECINCT Located at 230 E. 21st St. (btw. Second & Third Aves.). Deputy Inspector: David Ehrenberg. Call 212-477-7411. Community Affairs: 212-477-7427. Crime Prevention: 212-477-7427. Domestic Violence: 212-477-3863. Youth Officer: 212477-7411. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-477-4380. Detective Squad: 212-477-7444. The Community Council meets on the third Tues. of the month, 6:30 p.m., at the 13th Precinct. The next meeting is May 17.
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Brooklyn Fare (431 W. 37th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) witnessed two individuals conceal a sandwich, a salad, yogurt, pretzels, and cheese — and leave without paying what would have been a $27 bill. The 33-year-old Bronx man and 31-year-old Queens woman then attempted to hop in a cab at the northeast corner of Ninth Ave. & W. 38th St. — but wound up not being able to make a speedy getaway, as they were caught, ID’d by the employee, and subsequently arrested.
CRIMINAL MISCHIEF: Frustrated fare busts backseat At around 1:40am on Sat., Apr. 23, a Brooklyn cabbie was driving an arguing man and woman northbound on the West Side Highway. By the time he reached the 11th Ave. exit (near the northeast corner of W. 19th St.), the male passenger had become so worked up that he punched the video screen in the backseat, causing $250 worth of damage to the piece of equipment. To add insult to injury, the destructive customer did not pay his tab when he and his quarrelsome companion left the cab.
LEAVING THE SCENE: Don’t let them hit the door The scene on Fri., Apr. 22 was something straight out of a slapstick comedy — or maybe an auto insurance commercial, though it was doubtful the blindsided driver found much to laugh about. At 4:45pm, a 33-year-old man parked his car on the 200 block of 12th Ave. (btw. W. 27th & W. 28th Sts.), and opened the driver’s side door. It was at this point that his car was struck by an oncoming vehicle with a New Jersey license plate, which took the door clean off the man’s 2014 Toyota Camry. The New Jersey driver just kept on going, not stopping at the scene to await police or exchange info with their vehicular victim, who was not able to get down the plate number for certain.
LOST PROPERTY: Mysteriously missing masterpiece They say that great art is priceless — but surely someone will have to pay if a piece missing from Marianne Boesky Gallery (509 W. 24th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.) doesn’t turn up soon. As reported to police by a 44-year-old employee, an invoice of the gallery was conducted in late Aug. 2014, and the artwork in question, a Roxy Paine drawing, was still present. On Feb. 29, 2016, however, the piece was discovered to be missing. Though she did not feel the gallery was victim to a crime, the employee reported the $40,000 piece missing to police on Sat., Apr. 23, as it still had not been located.
GRAND LARCENY: Limo loss One unfortunate Rangers fan had more than one high-stakes loss to mourn this past weekend. On Thurs., Apr. 21, a 34-year-old Connecticut man and his two friends attended that ill-fated game, choosing to arrive in style by hiring a limousine. The man decided to leave a number of personal items in the backseat of the vehicle when he and his friends went into Madison Square Garden, while the limo was parked on the northwest corner of Eighth Ave. & W. 24th St. When the man returned to the above location from the arena at about 10pm, he found that his stuff was gone — including a MacBook ($1,400), a Nikon camera ($429), Subaru keys ($300), and an IBM ThinkPad laptop ($200). When he asked the driver about his missing things, the driver said he had “no idea” that the items were taken. He noted that they were still there when he went for dinner, and he knew for a fact that the car was locked. Adding another layer of mystery, there was no damage to the car or sign of forced entry, and no other leads as to how the $2,460 worth of possessions could have gone missing.
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HARASSMENT continued from p. 2
combat this egregious situation. In an email statement to Chelsea Now, Johnson wrote: “It is undeniable that unsafe construction causes conditions that impact the health of tenants. Too often, landlords perform construction work without proper permits and without basic safeguards. Every week, my office hears from tenants who are negatively impacted by construction in their buildings, and we respond aggressively to every report. Unfortunately the Department of Buildings currently lacks the resources and bandwidth to fully enforce tenant protection laws. Luckily, in Chelsea we have great community activists that have been working with me and my colleagues to reform the system so that tenants are protected in all cases. “In September, the City Council unveiled a [12-Bill] package of legislation that would comprehensively reform the Department of Buildings and help protect victims of ‘harassment by construction.’ A bill I co-sponsored with [Councilmember] Helen Rosenthal takes aim at the practice of landlords falsely claiming on permits that their buildings are unoccupied. This legislation would require the DOB to review these claims in certain cases, rather than simply accepting the landlord’s word. Protecting the health and safety of tenants is one of my top priorities.” Although it may seem to work slowly, the legislative process is moving along. The office of Councilmember Rosenthal reports that on Monday, April 18, the legislative package designed to end the use of hazardous construction as a form of tenant harassment had its first hearing before the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee. The package now moves on to a second hearing of the same committee, and then it will be eligible to be presented to the entire Council for consideration.
STRESS AND ANXIETY TAKE THEIR TOLL
Mental health is jeopardized in these situations as well. “I was never anxious [before]. I think I have a wonderful life, and I was having nightmares,” says a male resident of the community. Chelsea residents have learned that the stress of fighting for survival in one’s own home creates an anxiety that can damage and sometimes destroy a marriage, but this is only one example. One Chelsea resident, after undergoing chemotherapy, had to move to a relative’s house in another state to be able to strengthen his immune system away from the worry of what each day would bring in terms
of harassment. Another Chelsea tenant who had a fragile immune system, due to cancer treatment, was faced with a home not habitable for healing — one with burst pipes and mold that could cause infection when inhaled. “When they started working on apartments, they tore out windows and left them open,” says a female resident of Chelsea. “I used to walk up and down the stairs with pepper spray ready to use. I was one of four left in the building and I was the only woman. I live on the fifth floor. I was terrified walking up the stairs at night. It felt desolate, scary, being in a building that’s empty like that.” When construction ended in her building she became calmer. “I can sleep at night,” she said. No longer does she have to worry about debris falling from a floor above and hitting her in the face when she climbs the stairs, as has happened during construction. Marilyn Hemery has lived peacefully in her third floor apartment at 15 W. 55th St. for 45 years. Today, she is battle weary. Two years ago, her building and its adjoining 19 W. 55th St. property were purchased by Assa Properties Inc., renovated, and turned into The Branson. Hemery’s building had 37 apartments on 10 floors. Today there are only seven occupied apartments. “I am the only tenant on the first five floors,” says Hemery, who refused to take buyout money of $225,000, when, according to her, Assa was leasing its renovated apartments for $6,000 a month. “I have mice in my kitchen and have to leave lights on 24/7,” she says. She also has to deal with constant layers of dust, and a cough, and is herself recovering from chemotherapy. “There was asbestos in the building, and the owners never put a notice where anyone could see it,” she continues. “It was hidden. There is supposed to be a tenant protection plan but they do not live by it. They have their own plans.” She and the other tenants have filed over 100 complaints with the city, and lived anxiously as Assa Properties turned their building into what has come to be known as “the city’s worst illegal hotel.” Thanks to the involvement of NY State Senator Liz Krueger, a lawsuit against the owners was filed by the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement in 2015, which closed down the hotel activity. Today 15 W. 55th St. — the entire building — has been leased from Assa Properties by the fashion designer Domenico Vacca, who intends to open an 8,000-square-foot store, and create a members-only club, barber shop, café, beauty salon, rooftop terrace,
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Courtesy Cooper Square Committee
The bathroom of a NYC resident living in a building undergoing construction.
and, in the apartments, have long-term residence stays of 30 days or more — all this in a building that had cooking gas shut off for seven months, from August 2015 to March 2016. “We’re invisible to them,” says Hemery.
THE “NO GAS” TACTIC
According to the NY State Attorney General’s “Tenant’s Rights Guide” (ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ pdfs/publications/Tenants_Rights.pdf): “Under the warranty of habitability, tenants have the right to a livable, safe and sanitary apartment, a right that is implied in every written or oral residential lease…Examples of a breach of this warranty include the failure to provide heat or hot water on a regular basis, or the failure to rid an apartment of an insect infestation.” What seems to be a widespread landlord tactic, as corroborated by every tenant interviewed, is the cutoff of cooking gas for months. The situation at 15 W. 55th St. is not unusual. Landlords are not providing “a livable, safe and sanitary apartment,” which is every tenant’s right to have. Usually there is a reason for Con Edison to turn HARASSMENT continued on p. 16
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Images courtesy Ellen Bradshaw
ABOVE: Ellen Bradshaw’s “Up on the Roof” exhibit finds the artist high above Manhattan and in command of sweeping views.
BELOW: Water towers, as painted from Bradshaw’s perch at 230 Fifth Ave., at 27th St. (12”x36”). On view through May 14 at Pleiades Gallery.
Photo by Filip Wolak, courtesy Whitney Museum of Ame
Your zip code for their zeitgeist: On April 30, the Whitney celebrates its first an sary on Gansevoort St. with free admission for nearby neighbors.
A CAVALCADE OF COMMUNIT BY SCOTT STIFFLER
PENN SOUTH CERAMICS STUDIO SALE
Photo by Judith Sokoloff
Good deals are on the table, at May 7’s Penn South Ceramics Studio Sale.
April 28 - May 04, 2016
Two mere months from now, when offering summertime guests a refreshing beverage or a light snack, you can note with pride that the delivery system is locally sourced. Cups, plates and platters become conversation pieces, when they’ve been crafted by the instructors and students of the Penn South Ceramics Studio. This spring sale, smartly timed to supply
the perfect gift for Mother’s Day procrastinators, packs the Studio workspace with reasonably priced items of the previously mentioned ilk — plus bowls, votive, and jewelry. If mom still cherishes that ceramic frog kitchen sink sponge cozy you made in the third grade, then sign up for a class and surprise her next year with a kiln-fired item of your own creation. Sat., May 7, 11am–6pm at the Penn South Ceramics Studio (276 Ninth Ave., entrance at NE corner of 26th St.). Visit pennsouthceramics.com.
NEIGHBORS’ DAY AT THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART A year goes by after somebody new moves next door, and you’ve either struck up a friendship or filed a lawsuit from the carpal tunnel effects of dialing 311 to complain about the noise. Fortunately, for those living in close proximity to the Whitney Museum of American Art, the first anniversary of its arrival on Gansevoort St. is, by and large, a cause for celebrating how successfully this .com
O YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD:
talent show organized by the Visiting Neighbors senior care organization? Maybe they just couldn’t take the competition from Chelsea’s most talented singers and dancers of a certain age. Cheer them on at this 2–4pm event, the highlight of a street fair that will take place all day on Sat., April 30, on Eighth Ave., from W. 14th to W. 23rd St. For more info on the show, and hovw you can be a Visiting Neighbors volunteer, call 212-260-6200. On the web: visitingneighbors.org. Photo by Kaila Mackenzie
The TADA! Youth Ensemble hoofs it back to 1977, in the family-friendly musical “Up To You.” A post-performance workshop on May 14 lets you get in on the song and dance action.
Photo by Benjamin Niemczyk
L to R, the artists appearing at Chelsea Musica’s May 8 Mother’s Day concert: Laura Wynter, poet, Karen Robbins, flutist, Denise Koncelik, keyboardist and flutist, Cara Tucker, bassoonist, Carolyn Pollak, oboist, Tyler Wayne Smith, countertenor and Benjamin Niemczyk, baritone.
TY ACTIVITIES Uptown transplant’s art, architecture and sweeping terrace vistas have woven themselves into the fabric of the neighborhood. In a gesture of gratitude to a Downtown community that, says museum director Alice Pratt Brown, “has embraced us from the start,” residents of the 10011, 10012, 10013 and 10014 zip codes will be granted free admission on April 30 — just in time to view the “Laura Poitras: Astro Noise” and “Open Plain” exhibitions, closing May 1 and May 14, respectively. .com
Sat., April 30, 10:30am-10pm, at the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort St., btw. Washington & West Sts.). For tickets (two per household; children and teens under 18 always admitted without charge), visit whitney.org/neighborsday. For general info, call 212-570-3600.
VISITING NEIGHBORS TALENT SHOW Is it simply coincidence that “American Idol” aired its final episode so close to the date of this annual
“MUSIC IN CHELSEA” MOTHER’S DAY CONCERT “M” is for the many things she gave you, and “D” is for the suggested donation of $10 — at this Mother’s Day-themed concert from the Chelsea Musica woodwind chamber ensemble, whose “Hearts and Flowers” program of love songs and lullabies will include selections by Becker, Brahms, Britten, Dvorak, Handel, and Mozart. The guest vocalists are baritone Benjamin Niemczyk and countertenor Tyler Wayne Smith. Chelsea-based poet Laura Wynter will read thematically appropriate original works, including “Loving Hand of Nature,” “The Homecoming,” and “Kitchen.” Sun., May 8, 4pm at St. Peter’s Chelsea (346 W. 20th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Suggested donation: $10 ($5 for seniors/students). Proceeds benefit the food pantry at St. Peter’s. Visit chelseamusica.nyc.
TADA! YOUTH THEATER PRESENTS “UP TO YOU” It’s a blast from the past that’s a sign of our times, when the TADA! Resident Youth Ensemble gets transported back to 1977, for an hour-long exploration of self-identity, interpersonal drama, and fiercely competitive campaign tactics. Appropriate for ages 5 and up, the original musical “Up To You” finds the cheerleaders, bullies, geeks and jocks of Hamilton High embroiled in the race for Student Council President, which comes down to a choice between the candidate whose platform is built on the promise of a disco homecoming, and the one who just wants to stop the pranks plaguing the school. The May 14 show is followed by an interactive workshop that allows the audience to perform on the TADA! Stage alongside “Up To You”
cast members, with whom they’ll learn a song and dance from the show. Through May 21: Sat. & Sun. at 2pm & 4pm (no shows May 8). Special performances Wed., May 4 at 10am & 12pm, and at 7pm on Fri., May 13 & 20. At TADA! (15 W. 28 St., btw. Broadway & Fifth Ave.). For tickets ($25 for adults, $15 for children; May 14 interactive ticket, $10 extra), visit tadatheater.com.
SELIS MANOR INDOOR BAZAAR The tenants of Selis Manor and outside vendors invite you to their annual indoor bazaar, which offers perfume, kitchen products, gift baskets and more, all at reasonable prices. Sat., May 7, 11am–5pm at Selis Manor (135 W. 23rd St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.).
“UP ON THE ROOF” ART EXHIBIT It’s no leap for Ellen Bradshaw to paint tall buildings — but the skyscrapers, bridges, public plazas and water towers in her current exhibit didn’t materialize in a single bound, or, necessarily, at rates faster than a speeding bullet. They did, however, all originate from time spent on perches high above the city. Created over the past year, inspiration for “Up on the Roof” struck, says Bradshaw, suddenly and sometimes by accident. A lawyer’s office, her own 25th floor balcony, a rooftop bar and the window of her husband’s room at the Hospital for Special Surgery (as he recovered from a knee replacement!) all commanded Bradshaw’s attention, then her brush. Herald Square, the East River, the Empire State Building and a panoramic view of Flatiron District water towers get the same moody but inviting treatment she gives to her strikingly composed collection of street level images from the South Street Seaport, the High Line and the late, great Fulton Fish Market. Here, however, the view is strictly bird’s eye — but the action (pedestrians in mid-stride, fog crawling across bridges) is once again observed from a distance, and given a soft glow that still somehow manages to vibrate with cinematic intensity. Through May 14 at Pleiades Gallery (fourth floor of 530 W. 25th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Hours: Tues.–Sat., 11am–6pm or by appointment. Visit ellenbradshaw.com. April 28 - May 04, 2016
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April 28 - May 04, 2016
WE’RE ABOUT TO
WHITMANS continued from p. 7
September, will cover around 1,700 square feet and seat 50 people, with 12 more at the bar — almost twice the size of the East Village establishment, which means the offerings will also increase. “This will be a much bigger space. At the East Village, we can only do a little over 30 people,” said Kramer. “We’re going to have more of an expanded menu. We plan on serving breakfast, lunch and dinner there — whereas, in the East Village, we just do breakfast four days a week.” Even though Whitmans already serves a selection of rotating local brews and wines, those looking for more of a kick with their beef will also benefit from an expanded drink menu, courtesy of the State Liquor Authority. “We’re still pushing our local craft beer and wine, but having the enhancement of a full liquor [license] is great as well,” said Kramer. “It will be an added element.” And of course Kramer and Cruickshank are aware that Hudson Yards will itself become a formidable foodie magnet, complete with celebrity chefs. The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, the project’s seven-story retail and restaurant temple, will include a steakhouse and American grill by Thomas Keller, as well as eateries from both José Andrés and Costas Spiliadis. “I think food is now an element for many things — it’s a destination for retail, and it’s also a destination for people to rent and live, knowing that they have food in their building or their neighborhood,” said Kramer. “And there will be a lot of food.” Residents of the Abington House, which opened two years ago, will soon find themselves digging into
HEAT UP THE HARBOR
Photo by Kira Klein
Whitmans, the popular East Village burger restaurant, will bring its cozy atmosphere and signature burgers to a larger location near Hudson Yards this fall.
Whitmans’ specialty burgers — like the Juicy Lucy, a combination of two thin beef patties surrounding a scoop of pimento cheddar to create a molten core of cheese. But the move to the neighborhood will likely start to really pay off for the restaurant over the next few years. By then, the tower will be joined by a whole new skyline of rental, office and commercial buildings — Hudson Yards’ 16 buildings alone are expected to accommodate 125,000 residents, visitors and workers every day, not considering the countless other skyscrapers sprouting up all around. Other amenities are on the way as well: In addition to the already opened 7 Subway line extension and the partially unveiled park north of the neighborhood, the Hudson Yards development will also boast 14 acres of public open space and a 750-seat public school. “We might be ahead of our time, before people move in, but we like that,” Kramer said. “The neighborhood is just starting to build up and evolve, so we’re excited to be one of the first people to be in there and create a local place — kind of like what our East Village location is.” For more info, visit whitmansnyc.com.
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HARASSMENT continued from p. 11
THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER
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off gas — a leaky pipe, a broken stove, an unexplained gas smell. It is up to the landlord to hire a master licensed plumber to come in and do whatever repair is needed, and then call in Con Ed for inspection. Landlords, either because they are trying to convert the buildings to all-electric, or because they simply want to harass tenants, do not hire the plumbers or make the repairs in a timely fashion. Tenants inquire and are told various reasons for the delay, but in the meantime they are forced to order out, or use their own creativity with microwaves and hot plates in order to eat. Hemery did what she could with an electric skillet. At the end of March, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who was appalled by the frequency of cooking gas shutoffs in Manhattan, wrote a letter requesting a full report of all buildings without gas service to: John McAvoy, CEO of Con Edison; NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; the NYC Commissioners of Housing Preservation & Development, the Department of Buildings, and Homes and Community Renewal; and the New York State Public Service Commission. Brewer brought Chelsea Now up to date in this recently emailed statement: “My office is following up with Con Ed and the city and state agencies that received our letter. In the meantime, I’m pleased my colleagues in the City Council have acted by introducing several bills that could help significantly. “I’ve heard that many gas shutoffs stem from heightened caution and scrutiny on
Con Ed’s part, and that Con Ed is finding hazardous, illegal conditions in too many Manhattan buildings’ gas systems. I agree with the carrot-and-stick approach taken in two bills introduced by my colleague Councilmember Jumaane Williams, Int. 1101 and Int. 1102, which would respectively give landlords an incentive to quickly fix illegally installed or modified gas piping systems, and would reclassify many gas-related code violations as ‘immediately hazardous.’ If passed, these changes will spur landlords to act more quickly to fix hazardous gas systems, removing an obstacle to Con Ed restoring service for many tenants. “My colleague Councilmember Rosie Mendez also sponsors Int. 1093, a bill that would require the Department of Buildings to be notified within 24 hours when gas service is suspended for safety reasons. This bill is common sense. I sent my letter in part because of the lack of public information on these gas service shutoffs — Councilmember Mendez’s bill would solve that problem.”
Courtesy Cooper Square Committee
Eighty-seven percent of residents living in buildings under construction report excessive dust. The air likely exceeds the US Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limits.
WHAT TO DO FOR HEALTH ISSUES The NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s hotline for problems is: 1-800-771-7755. The Attorney General’s “Tenant’s Rights Guide” contains four pages of state and city resources for tenants. The NYC Rent Guidelines Board also has information on tenants’ rights and resources: nycrgb.org/html/resources/ attygenguide.html. Calling the city’s 311 number should lead to a complaint reaching the NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which can then either investigate
the complaint or direct it to the appropriate agency, which may be the DOB, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, or the DOHMH. Jeremy House, spokesperson for DOHMH, said, “When there are pollutants in the air or dangerous materials, we would definitely issue a violation. We also coordinate with HPD. As part of the Healthy Homes Program, we take more aggressive steps if children are involved. If HPD notifies that there are children in a building, there will be a cease and desist and move the child.”
Rhymes With Crazy
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April 28 - May 04, 2016
BY LENORE SKENAZY New apps the world is awaiting! (Or maybe not.) Footbook: Facebook for people too shy to look up. Fibr: Allows you to find fiber, instantly, anywhere. KnitBit: Keeps track of how many inches you have knitted in a day. FateBit: After an actuarial table determines when you will die, a stopwatch counts down the time you have left. Wads App: Trident, Wrigley or Bazooka? Photograph the bottom of your shoe and won-
der no more. The Verizon Grrr: Sends a slightly stinging jolt through the phone of friend who hasn’t answered your text within 28 seconds. The Verizon Yowch: Sends a surprisingly robust jolt through the phone of “friend” who hasn’t answered your text within 29 seconds. The Verizon Singe: Sends a searing jolt that leaves a phone-shaped welt on butt of the a**hole who “couldn’t” answer your text within half a minute. Where’s My Brain?: RFID technology locates fantasy
where the brain has strayed and brings it back to the task at hand with a loud “Never gonna happen,” or “Get back to work!” Google Naps: Presents viewer with IRS-generated instructions on how to fill out Tax Form 1099-PATR, Taxable Distributions Received From Cooperatives. Google Naps+: Presents viewer with IRS-generated instructions on how to file for advance payments of the premium tax credit that were not made for you, your spouse, or any individual you enrolled in coverage for whom no one
else is claiming the personal exemption (Part 1). Google Catch: Activates 3-D video of writhing worm. Simply attach phone to fishing line. Google Glug: Allows fish to call each other and laugh about idiot in wading boots. Google Pyke: Allows fish to see each other and laugh about idiot in wading boots. Google Wet Smack: Allows idiot in wading boots to smack self in the head with wet, otherwise no-longer-functioning phone. SKENAZY continued on p. 23 .com
A Raven in Our Oasis at Penn South BY LISA RUIMY HOLZKENNER Why is the Raven here and where is he going? But no one on earth knows why we are here. And which of us remembers the way back? In April, the end of winter, a late afternoon, Going to my nest to get some rest Feeling blessed For living in this Oasis of a place. Nostalgic dreams filled with hopes For spring to be born, All of the things I know that delight our senses: The smell of the earth, the aroma of fresh grass, The flowers in full bloom, a celestial fragrance of perfume. The trees soon will be dressed with new leaves, The birds on branches and twigs In a willful choir will sing a hymn That will speak of wonderful things To see and hear with the coming of spring. All of a sudden I hear an unknown shriek or a croak Sounding like a crow with a sore throat. I look up in the sky, I see a big bird Mysterious looking, strange and wild, A solitary Raven with no visible mate. I wonder what brought him here Away from the Sabbath silence of wilderness, From his element of woods green and air so pristine. Like an astronomer of earth Using his aerial skills as a compass He hovers over my head. I love birds, enjoy and admire their beauty and respect their wisdom. They cojoin us with the natural world A place where we become nostalgic For what we are and always will be: part of nature. Above all I have learned to respect birds for they are wise And have much to teach us about life, Things that we are not ready to hear or willing to feel. I have read about and heard of Ravens But I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting one. Unconstrained by manmade frontiers, Raven crosses from North to South, West to East, the fence and the street. The Grand Seigneur flying restlessly, he seems perplexed Finding a suitable place to get some rest, But he is at his best when he flies toward Heaven Where the sky is his sovereignty, where he can fly and be free. Like a moving breeze with spread wings As he flies higher up there in the sky, he seems at peace. His uttered sounds ring with joy Welcoming nature’s rebirth. Watching this Grand Seigneur Even for several teeny minutes, I am at awe; my heart is in a nameless thrill. His wings a coat-of-arms is his natural attire Interwoven with iridescent shades like an aurora of jet black. His eyes are like meteors, shrewd and sharp, To scrutinize his foe and prey. His beak sharp as a knife, His claws robust as hunting tools. He is the embodiment of his own beauty. A symbol of fierce deeds and a tower of courage .com
With a whimsical nature of double-edge, An ambiguous bird evoking age-old associations Of fury, mercy, life and death. He forebodes death, yet he fed Elijah in the wilderness. In doing so, Raven’s act of sharing devoured death itself. Grateful we are to Raven, for all men are Elijah’s children, And hope that his sharing kindness remains the same. Like an acrobat of speed and sheen He circles, drops and soars higher and higher. Rolling in virtuous waves In the wind he folds, stroke by stroke, and When nearest to the sky, in a mystic ring, He flashes his wings in a rapture divine. I must admit I feel like a proud parent Watching her child excel at what he does best. Raven’s piloting skills make me feel like applauding him, Watching this bird even for fleeting moments Transcend the harshness of reality. Raven swoops above a tree. With ecstasy he sings without words to his tune A hymn for the air, the sun and the earth, Telling of things soon to bloom. He looks solemn, as though in the depth of contemplation, Like a philosopher or a poet choosing his words. Looking around like Mack the Knife, Master of cunning artifice is his survival instinct. His piercing eyes in pursuit of a specific delicacy, He takes off from the tree landing amid The birds, squirrels and those hiding in the grass — his neighborhood meal. On the lawn he hops like a jumping jack. Poor creatures with the predator in their mist Disperse around, watching closely every move Raven makes. The epicurean Raven cannot choose From the smorgasbord displayed before his eyes. Thanks to the fragile luck of grace, no one is dead. He croaks as though in anger, To seek prey for his ancient hunger. From the grass he flies to the top of a tree From where he watches me. I am not sure of what he is thinking. I am fanciful and envision Raven studying me And what conclusion he might reach About my behavior and his magical effect on me. My neck becomes twisted But my love for the bird keeps me allured. I can’t help but wonder if in his ancient memory he still recalls That we all rose from the same origins of life, From the amoeba in the sea, To the earth, the sky, the stars and more,
From which we are all made, Raven and me and all God’s creatures living on earth. Nature separated us to different destinies Yet, we are in many ways alike, Intertwined for eternity Like atoms separate yet connected, Which to the naked eye cannot be seen And to the unconscious are still unknown. All testify to God’s divine creative imagination. Raven flaps his wings. “Oh, please before you leave, now that we are neighbors, I have one request. I implore you try your best. If you have bad news, Find an excuse for death to take its time.” Raven opens his slender mouth on purpose, Uttering sounds of meaning without words. I hear a voice that seems to say, “To change the nature of man and of my kind, we need a science of mind But I pledge to try my best.” I shake my head, knowing well what he means. He takes off from the tree. His wings like a shimmering reverie, And leaps on the back of the wind fully free against gravity. From the fringe of a cloud With mellow music in his throat He seems to sing to me a mystic melody, a salute before he goes. Soaring upward to a roofless world closest to the realm of love and peace, In a wink of an eye he is gone, Breaking the spell of my trance. Raven heading to a dwelling unknown, Who knows his waking dreams? Maybe looking for his family, Maybe finding a mate, Building a nest or attending to a newborn. Whatever his destination, Good luck, Raven, for making your home in our Oasis at Penn South, in Chelsea, In this beautiful country of the United States of America.
Lisa Ruimy Holzkenner was born in Morocco, lived briefly in France and Israel, and has resided in Manhattan for the past 51 years. A psychoanalyst with extensive clinical experience in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, early childhood development, and family therapy, Holzkenner has lectured extensively on her clinical work. She loves photographing birds, flowers, and anything visual that creates nostalgia for what we were, what we are, and what we always will be: part of nature. Her photographs have appeared in various publications, as well as in a traveling exhibition on the life of Bayard Rustin. Most recently, her poem, “Hidden Identities in Transition,” inspired by the Jews of Belmonte, Portugal, appeared in the United Federation of Teachers’ publication, “Reflections in Poetry and Prose 2015.” April 28 - May 04, 2016
Photo by Ashley Wells
Nkosi Nkululeko reading from the page.
Photo by Taylor Mali
L to R: Tyehimba Jess and Nkosi Nkululeko, interviewed by guest host Steven Willis.
Trading Fours at Page Meets Stage Series celebrates a shared love of music and words BY PUMA PERL My first visit to Page Meets Stage took place on a winter’s night just over six years ago. The Bowery Poetry Club was filled to capacity, despite the barriers that often keep people away — an admission charge and no open mike. Onstage sat poets Yusef Komunyakaa, an NYU professor and 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner, and Tyehimba Jess, several decades younger, and a former member of Chicago’s Green Mill Slam Team, where Slam began. Komunyakaa, born in 1941, is the author of over a dozen published books, including verse plays, essays, and a volume of jazz poems, “Testimony: A Tribute to Charlie Parker.” Jess had three books to his credit at the time; his latest was entitled “leadbelly: poems.” Through a shared love of music and words, they connected, trading fours like jazz musicians after midnight, Komunyakaa offering up his short-lined images, and Jess responding in hard-driving lyrics, even breaking out his mouth harp. It’s the rare, sacred night where poetry leaves me breathless. That was one of the few. Poet and educator Taylor Mali is the Founding Curator of the monthly series, originally called Page vs. Stage. The first show took place November
April 28 - May 04, 2016
Photo by Peter Dressel
Taylor Mali at Bowery Poetry Club, during one of the first Stage Meets Page pairings.
11, 2005, at the Bowery Poetry Club and paired Mali, a veteran Slam poet and performance coach, with Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States. “We pretended that it was much more of a competition,” Mali told me, “but it never has been. From the beginning, we’ve called it an ongoing conversation to see where poetry lives. What makes the format unique is the
back-and-forth nature of the reading, which gives the poets the opportunity to ‘answer’ each other.” Following the poem for poem exchange, there is a brief interview conducted by the evening’s host; then the poets close with two poems apiece. There are three members of the Curating Committee in addition to Mali, and a rotation of hosts. At the March 2016 show, Tyehimba
Jess was back for another round. This time, he had jumped from “stage” poet to “page” poet, one of only three who have played both sides of the bill, and was now cast in the role of the elder. His partner, Nkosi Nkululeko, is a 20-year-old Harlem native recently named the NYC Youth Poet Laureate for 2016 (he was also part of the 2014 Urban Word NYC Slam Team and the 2015 Urbana-NYC Team.) The pair played off, and to, one another, each piece enhancing the next. “Nkosi is an amazingly talented young brother who inspired me into the selections I made throughout the reading,” said Jess, when asked about material preparation. “We were both engaged in the call-and-response that allowed us to answer each other’s poems in ways that unfurled and deepened the meaning of our work. I have been raised around poets, musicians, and performers all of my life. My parents took me to many events,” said Nkosi, who is currently a practicing pianist as well as a performance poet. “One thing I would like the audience to know is my deep appreciation for sharing a stage with Tyehimba Jess. My writing is undergoing a transformation from PAGE continued on p. 19 .com
PAGE continued from p. 18
being in the same spaces and learning from those like him, and many other writers, performers, and thinkers who I deeply admire.” As a poet, performer, and obsessively literal person, I pondered the designations of page and stage. “Tyehimba is a great page poet who reads exceptionally well,” explained Mali. “Although curators predict who brings the most passion to performance, often we have readings where both are equally stagey.” Poet/actor Steven Willis served as guest host and curator for the event. “The criteria is that the ‘Page’ works primarily in literature, and typically will have published one or more books, while the ‘Stage’ does primarily spoken word. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have published works, but indicates a solid, core spoken word following,” said Willis. “A page poet says, ‘I don’t need to memorize this because it’s so good on its own,” added Mali. “A stage poet says, ‘This poem is so good it would be shame if I didn’t memorize it.’ ” “Performance poems can have the same complexity as page poems. The
art of memorization brings a new spirit to poetry, and, when memorized well, can bring a totally new meaning to the poem,” Nkosi Nkululeko told me. “I do have some poems published in print and online journals.” “I learned a lot from watching Marc Smith, Patricia Smith, and other phenomenal poets who move crowds with their voice and memorization of the text that frees their gaze from the page and connects them more kinetically with the audience,” added Jess. “I try to bring the lessons I learned from Slam performance to my readings. I try not to define myself — but I work mostly as a poet with a keen interest in history and music, and the many personal stories found in that nexus.” Jess’ newest work, “Olio,” weaves sonnet, song, and narrative to examine the lives of mostly unrecorded African American performers directly before and after the Civil War, up to World War I. Page Meets Stage has been somewhat nomadic since the Bowery Poetry Club closed for remodeling in 2012. In September, they return to their original home. “It’s been a struggle finding the right fit,” said Mali. “We
Photo by Taylor Mali
Performance poet Rives at The DL Lounge.
are thrilled about returning to the Bowery Poetry Club. We’ll be there [the second Wednesday of the month, September through November], and then we will reassess.” Eleven years is long time for a venue to last these days. I am hoping for many more years of surprise and spontaneity, Page Meets Stage-style. The final “Page Meets Stage” of the spring takes place on Wed., May 11, 7:30pm, at The COW (21-A Clinton
St., btw. E. Houston & Stanton Sts). Admission is $12 at the door, $6 if purchased through eventbrite.com. The featured pairing: John Murillo and Caits Meissner. For more info, visit pagemeetsstageseries.wordpress. com. Tyehimba Jess’ latest work, “Olio,” is available from online booksellers, bookstores, and directly from the publisher, Wave Books. Visit wavepoetry. com/products/olio.
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BEACHES April 28 - May 04, 2016
Immersive ‘Idiot’ is StrippedDown Dostoevsky, Ready to Party Carefully calibrated collab mines talent from two tribes
Photos by Carl Skutsch
Purva Bedi (in dress) and Daniel Kublick.
BY TRAV S.D. “Two are better than one.” So saith Ecclesiastes and so doeth Robert Lyons and Kristin Marting, artistic directors of the New Ohio Theatre and HERE, respectively, as they team up for the latest of their cross-institutional collaborations. Currently in previews, “Idiot” — an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” — will be presented at HERE through May 21. “The Idiot” is a novel from what might be called Dostoevsky’s middle period, written in the wake of the success of “Crime and Punishment” and a decade before his culminating work, “The Brothers Karamazov.” It was initially published in serialized form from 1868 to 1869, while the Russian Master was living in Germany. The book is centered around the Christ-like Prince Myshkin, a man who tries to lead a pure life and is treated with scorn and derision by nearly all those around him. This is the third time Lyons and Marting have collaborated on theatre pieces derived from Dostoevsky texts. In 1991, their take on “The Possessed” was presented at the Ohio Theatre’s original Wooster St. location; a second version was produced at HERE in 2008. And in 2001, they assembled an evening called “The Fever,” which drew from the Dostoevsky short stories “White Nights,” “The Double” and “The Landlady.” The current production of “Idiot” is being produced through HARP (the HERE Artist Residency Program). It is being called the world premiere, although earlier incarnations have been presented in workshops. It was first developed at the Catskills Mountain
April 28 - May 04, 2016
L to R: Lauren Cipoletti (hugging), Daniel Kublick and Merlin Whitehawk.
Foundation’s Orchard Project in 2014 and “highly designed workshop versions” were shown last year in HERE’s CultureMart festival, North American Cultural Laboratory’s Deep Space in Highland Lake and New Ohio’s Ice Factory festival. Marting is credited as director and choreographer for the project, Lyon with providing the text. As to how that shakes out in practice, Marting says, “We conceived the project together, and adapted it together, and then Robert does more work on refining the text and putting it into a more contemporary context — and then we work with the designers together to evolve the design concepts, so it’s really intermixed.” It’s a process that Lyons calls “fluid.” “I would also include the designers in that process too,” he continues. “At the end of the day the core storytelling decisions are Kristin’s and mine, but through all of that, everybody’s kind of dramaturgically engaged in the storytelling.” HERE’s mission is to create “new, hybrid performance…a seamless integration of artistic disciplines — theater, dance, music and opera, puppetry, media, visual and installation, spoken word and performance art.”True to form, the current production employs immersive staging, original music, sophisticated live cinematography (i.e. the use of live video), and Marting’s patented employment of stylized gesture and movement. The creative team includes Nick Benacerraf (scenery), Ray Sun (video),
Larry Heinemann (music), Kate Fry (costumes), and Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (lighting). Benacerraf is a core member of The Assembly, a collective of performance artists now in residence at the New Ohio, and Fry is also costume designer on The Assembly’s current production. And yet, though they each have their role to play, Marting adds, “They all weigh in on everything. The costume designer may have ideas about how the video works for one part, the videographer has ideas about a costume moment, and everybody kind of weighs in. Everyone has an investment and people are free to say things about moments, whatever their role is on the project.” Like any good Russian novel, “The Idiot” contains a cast of thousands. The present adaptation boils all that down to the four principal characters: the titular “Idiot,” (Daniel Kublick), his rival Ganya (Merlin Whitehawk), a spoiled socialite (Purva Bedi), and a notorious woman (Lauren Cipoletti). The performers all have movement and dance backgrounds in addition to acting credits, and great use is made of those skills in the current production. As Prince Myshkin, Kublick may have the biggest brunt to bear, as the key to his character — and the entire production — is the fact that the Prince is subject to repeated epileptic fits, requiring controlled contortionism on IDIOT continued on p. 21 .com
IDIOT continued from p. 20
his part, and major shifts in tone and reality from the rest of the team, both onstage and off. The overarching concept is that the audience is at a party. The audience is arrayed on all four sides of the theatre, with the playing space and video screens in the center, and separate spaces for a karaoke stage, a photo booth and a bar. When the audience first arrives, says Marting, the Prince greets each audience member and shows him to his seat, and welcomes him to the party. This is the immersive element. And yet there is an added factor at the center. After the 2015 workshops, says Lyon, “We had this huge conceptual leap and then we said, ‘Okay, the whole thing is happening at this party inside the Prince’s mind. The earlier iteration was more like objective storytelling…now we’re experiencing it through the Prince’s brain.” At key moments the Prince experiences what the artists call “recessions,” moments when he’s thinking about characters and imaging realities with them that don’t exist. And driving it all: the Prince’s periodic fits, indicated through stylized movement, flashing
colored lights and video effects. Marting elaborates, “What we discovered from our research is that a fit has different components. There’s an epiphany, and then after the epiphany there’s the black hole where you really fall into convulsions and you lose consciousness. And so, in the show, what we’re doing is we’re building to the place where he has this real epiphany and he hits this ecstatic moment, one time in the show. But all these other times, he’s seeking it. And he doesn’t find it. But he also doesn’t want to go into it. Because when you go into that ecstatic moment, you don’t get to stay there. Then you fall into this horrible convulsion and lose control of yourself, and you’re not able to be who you are in this. So it’s this very barbed question in his mind.” Adds Lyon: “He’s had access to these epiphanies before, and that’s what fuels his world view. He wants to live in a way that’s transparent and without guile, and because he’s had these visions with the beauty and the harmony and all that. It’s the juxtaposition of those moments and the effect that it had on his personality, with these other three characters — who are all caught up in societal match-mak-
Photo by Carl Skutsch
Merlin Whitehawk (in green) and Daniel Kublick.
ing, greed, obsession, self-destruction — that’s the core juxtaposition of the story. It’s all about love and obsession and hatred and self-hatred and the most combustible of human emotions, and here’s this guileless guy who walks into it, and eventually it takes its toll.” Lyons enthuses about their mutual history: “When the Ohio [Theatre] was on Wooster Street, and then Kristin opened HERE, I always felt like they were like sister theatres or something. [The two theatres] were so close and so many artists went back and forth between them. Then, when we lost
the Wooster Street space, it was like a miracle that I ended up in the West Village, which is still within walking distance of HERE.” Adds Marting, with a laugh, “So we still can meet for drinks at the end of our shows.” But closing night is not until May 21. Til then, the party will be in Prince Myshkin’s mind. Tues.–Sun., 8:30pm, at HERE (145 Sixth Ave., just below Spring St.). In previews through May 2. Opening May 3, then through May 21. For tickets ($25), visit here.org, call 212-352-3101.
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April 28 - May 04, 2016
April 28 - May 04, 2016
SKENAZY continued from p. 16
FaceSlime: Allows others to laugh at idiot with algae on face. InstaSpam: Signs user up for amazing time-share deals. InstaScam: See above. InstaBam: Get your Obama quote of the day — or download the previous 2,627! InstaCram: Summarizes English Class favorites in two or three lines. E.g., “Guy mad that whale ate leg. Also, there’s symbolism.” InstaFam: Lonely? This RFG (Random Family Generator) adds a total of up to 17 people to your family queue, and then deletes two because you are no longer on speaking terms. Note:”BIL” designee will stop by within the hour to borrow your drill (return not guaranteed) and take a beer from your fridge. Snapcat: Snapchat for old ladies. Snaplap: Snapchat for old cats. Temple Shalom Run: Players rush to get to temple on time. Bagels of gold, red and blue provide protection, and a platform for lox. InstaGerm: Function encourages you to hand your phone to a nearby child, then take it back. Shhhazam: Shushes people wearing headphones who don’t
COSTUMED continued from p. 3
and put food on the table. Don’t knock the hustle.” But facing an overwhelming majority in favor of the new regulation, the Spider-Man of Broadway and W. 45th St. vehemently voiced his opposition and his determination to carry out civil disobedience. “I’m not going to follow these rules, to be in the box,” said Abdelamine El-Khezzani, Spidey’s alter ego. “It gives me limitations to move around. What if I just want to walk around in my costume? El-Khezzani said being corralled into the designated commercial zones would cut into his livelihood because he often approaches tourists. If contained in a zone, he said, many of the costumed characters and ticket sellers would be ignored. The inevitable result, he predicted, would be more hostility and tension in the area. .com
realize they’re singing out loud. Spotify, Dry Cleaning Edition: Distracts user applying ketchup, mustard or mayo to sandwich while wearing nice clothes. Google Mistranslate: Takes ordinary English and produces gaffes that may or may not result in war. Doodley: Records each day’s doodles and lets you know if you are approaching fatal levels of boredom. Nozee: Exactly how many times did you push your glasses up your nose today? Enemyster: Create new enemies by finding others who snort at your opinions, hobbies, or moral judgments. Amazon’s Amazon Direct: Leeches, piranhas and intestinal parasites delivered to your door while still alive. MineShaft: Players fall down virtual mine shaft and waste rest of their lives trying to get out. Elfie: Allows user to take photos of self with imaginary friend, who does not show up in photo. Pyft: New app that...never mind. It’s nothing, really. Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker who authored the book, and founded the blog, Free-Range Kids (freerangekids.com).
“They want to shove us like a box of oranges, like sardines,” El-Khezzani said. “They just want us to starve that way.” Robert Burck, whose professional outfit is quite nearly his birthday suit, was equally concerned about the type of environment the zones would create. “If you had 30 people in the box, it’d be like piranhas,” said Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy. Despite some hesitation, Burck said he plans to cooperate with the DOT’s regulations. But, the costumed characters fuming about the vote have their eyes set on legal action against the Council. “I’m prepared to sue the city… other characters with me are ready to sue the city,” said El-Khezzani. “They can pass this law if they want. I’ll be the first one to get arrested… I’m going to fight until the last minute.” April 28 - May 04, 2016
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April 28 - May 04, 2016
April 28, 2016