YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN
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VOLUME 08, ISSUE 25 | JUNE 30 - JULY 06, 2016
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June 30 - July 06, 2016
YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN
Council Considers Regulating Newsracks BY YANNIC RACK A boon for New York’s streetscapes, or a kick to the curb for its newspaper boxes? In an effort to clean up public sidewalks, the City Council is pushing for tighter rules governing the roughly 10,000 newspaper boxes spread across the five boroughs — but the proposed legislation is facing heavy pushback from publishers, who say the measures are an unnecessary burden and will cause a dent in their distribution. A set of five bills, introduced by various councilmembers last week, aims to establish stricter requirements about how often newspaper distribution boxes have to be stocked, cleaned of graffiti and garbage, and where they can be placed. “It’s an issue familiar to many New Yorkers — of newsracks sitting empty and filled with garbage,” said NEWSRACKS continued on p. 3
MAKE A RUN FOR IT
Lace up your jogging shoes and head to Hudson River Park, where the view is inspiring, and hydration opportunities abound! See page 13.
Photo by Jane Argodale
On Ninth Ave. near W. 25th St., sunflowers stretch skyward — courtesy of a Chelsea Garden Club volunteer.
Annual Tour Touts Perennial Tale of Urban Gardening BY JANE ARGODALE On the sunny Saturday morning of June 25, members of the Chelsea Garden Club gathered at the intersection of Eighth Ave. and W. 22nd St. to embark on their annual tree pit tour. Alone or in pairs, volunteers from the club tend to tree pits located on the islands that separate bike lanes from car traffic on the stretches of Eighth and Ninth Aves., between W. 17th and W. 30th Sts. The tour was fairly informal — people came and went as they pleased, and there was no single tour guide leading the group. As the group stopped at each tree pit, the pit’s adoptive caretaker, if present, would point out their
© CHELSEA NOW 2016 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
plants and explain what they had done with their pit. The tour showcased a wide range of flora, along with the gardeners’ skills in growing and tending to healthy plants. Thanks to their hard work, flowers and trees inside the pits flourished in spite of the many hazards that surround these mini-ecosystems. Chelsea Garden Club members work on a small scale — on one island on Eighth Ave. and W. 23rd St. sits a planter about a foot in diameter, that Kent Wang found on the street, filled with soil, and planted with Russian sage. His tree pit, about a block away from the planter, contained lavender, yellow and pink roses, and coralbells. “There’s always something bloom-
ing here,” said Wang as he removed a lighter that had been disposed of in his pit. A common challenge the gardeners faced was appropriately fencing off their tree pits to provide their plants some protection from humans and their pets, who often step on plants and leave their refuse. Some choose not to use fences at all, but the majority use metal fences, rocks, and bamboo to protect their pits. The short metal fence Alyce Broul and Carol Hackett installed around their tree pit — where they grew marigolds and carrots — had been pulled out and TOUR continued on p. 4
VOLUME 08, ISSUE 25 | JUNE 30 - JULY 06, 2016
BID Takes Care of Business on Burgeoning Boulevard BY SEAN EGAN Hudson Boulevard Park was bustling with activity on the evening of Fri., June 24, having served as the site of the Hudson Yards / Hellâ€™s Kitchen Allianceâ€™s Annual Meeting â€” a fitting venue for the group, which has been instrumental in the success of the new park. As a business improvement district (BID) that covers the area approximately between W. 42nd St. and W. 30th St., and Ninth and 11th Aves., the Allianceâ€™s goal is to help improve the quality of life in the area. Guests were welcomed to the green space â€” which sits near the similarly new 7 train subway station â€” with complimentary tote bags, full to the brim with literature highlighting the work that the BID did over the past year, as well as future plans. Under tents, a spread of food was provided by Better Being, a local company within the BID. Live music filled the air, as a duo of musicians strummed on acoustic guitars. Guests hobnobbed for about a half hour before the main event got underway. Alliance Chair Kevin Singleton (also of TF Cornerstone) emceed the eveningâ€™s proceedings, and opened the celebratory event with a quick speech of his own. Noting that theyâ€™ve â€œwitnessed tangible progressâ€? over the course of the past year and â€œare continuing to strengthen our relationship with local community groups,â€? Singleton expressed that, â€œWe believe that as the future unfolds we will have the â€˜live, work,
Photo by Sean Egan
L to R: Alliance Chair Kevin Singleton, the family of Oskar Brecher, Alliance Executive Director and President Robert Benfatto, Mitchell Moinian, Mark Spector, and City Councilmember Corey Johnson.
play,â€™ environment,â€? quoting his personal mantra for the area. The next speaker, Mark Specter of the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, highlighted some of the successes the Alliance saw through the year â€” specifically operating the parkâ€™s programs and the opening of the new 7 train station â€” while also stressing new goals, such as securing more blocks for the park, opening a concession kiosk within it, and constructing a new entrance to the subway.
Singleton took to the podium once again, to present the groupâ€™s annual Visionary Award. This yearâ€™s ceremony was bittersweet, as the award was posthumously given to Oskar Brecher, the late Moinian Group executive and BID member, who was a significant figure in the forthcoming Hudson Yards development. â€œHe was courtly, he was a great joke teller, and a BID continued on p. 14
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June 30 - July 06, 2016
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Photo by William Alatriste/NYC City Council
L to R: Jennifer Goodstein, CEO and publisher of NYC Community Media, and Jeanne Straus, publisher of Straus News, testified at a June 23 City Council hearing on proposed newsrack legislation.
Publishers Say Newsrack Rules Are Kick To The Curb NEWSRACKS continued from p. 1
Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the council’s Transportation Committee, which heard testimony on the proposal from city officials and the newspaper industry on June 23. “These bills are about ensuring that the dispensaries for these papers are clean, regularly filled, and attractive to passers-by,” he added. The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), which oversees and maintains public sidewalks, backs the legislation, and the bills also enjoy support from some business improvement districts, including the Times Square Alliance and the Garment District Alliance. The proposed rules would require newsracks — both single boxes and modular racks that contain multiple publications — to be registered with the city and provide certain information, including delivery schedules and insurance certificates, annually. The legislation would also establish additional standards regarding maintenance and placement, including tighter deadlines by which empty or cluttered boxes have to be cleaned and restocked, and a ban on any boxes in the vicinity of .com
taxi stands (current laws already mandate other placement restrictions). Under the bills, owners of modular racks would also have to submit a plan to the city for approval, and give local community boards opportunity for comment, and single boxes would be banned from blocks that already contain a modular rack. “Taken together, [these bills] will strengthen cleaning and maintenance requirements,” said Vincent Maniscalco, the DOT’s Assistant Commissioner for Highway Inspection and Quality Assurance. “What we are looking for is better compliance,” he added. “We want to work with the industry.” But publishers argue that most of them are already diligent about maintaining their boxes, and say that the additional restrictions would be punishing to an industry that is already struggling to provide vital news to the neighborhoods it serves. “We aren’t the ones filling our racks with garbage or painting them with graffiti,” said Michelle Rea, Executive Director of the New York Press Association, pointing out that current regulations are already so onerous that the number of boxes registered in the
city has declined 25 percent from three years ago. “More regulations aren’t the answer. Enforcing the current regulations is a better solution,” she said. “Without the ability to walk down the street and find a local paper in a newsrack, the very citizens who need to read our coverage will not be able to find it,” added Jennifer Goodstein, CEO of NYC Community Media and the publisher of Chelsea Now (a free newspaper, as are its sister publications Gay City News, Manhattan Express, Villager Express, and Downtown Express). “Newsracks play a very important role in the city. They play a very important role in branding our product. We ask that the rules be enforced, not expanded, and that communication between publishers and the Department of Transportation be improved through the use of email or another form of electronic communication,” Goodstein continued. DOT officials said the city receives several hundred complaints about the boxes every year — mostly about dirty and graffiti-covered boxes used as trash bins — with most complaints coming from Community District 8 on the Upper East Side. In the last fiscal year, the agency
issued over 2,200 notices of correction for non-compliant boxes, but they resulted in only around 350 summonses — prompting even Rodriguez, playing devil’s advocate, to note how low the number was. “If we rely on those numbers, we can say that most are not being targeted by DOT because they comply,” he suggested to the agency brass. But the officials maintained that the rules would simply keep city sidewalks cleaner by way of stricter enforcement. “It will make our streets safer and cleaner, and the publishers will still have their papers out there,” said Maniscalco. “We’re not against newsracks. If we issue a notice of correction and it’s corrected right away, we won’t issue a summons.” The current laws around the boxes, instituted in 2002 and amended in 2004, mainly rely on a self-certification process to show they are kept in shape, only mandating that “best efforts are being made” to keep them clean and stocked, according to Maniscalco. Under the new regulations, this would be replaced with an actual mandate to maintain the boxes at all times, he said. NEWSRACKS continued on p. 11 June 30 - July 06, 2016
No Moss Grows on Chelsea Garden Club Tree Pit Tour TOUR continued from p. 1
pushed in towards the plants. “I don’t know why — why would they do something like this?” Broul exclaimed as she attempted to reposition the fence. At the same pit, she pointed out a fresh cigarette butt in the soil. “People are truly disgusting.” Along the tour, the volunteers would regularly pause at tree pits to check for weeds, and would often begin pulling them out. “Our first motto is ‘Flower Power!’ and our second motto is, ‘Is that a weed?’ ” explained Gloria Schofner, a Chelsea Garden Club member who takes care of a tree pit on Eighth Ave. and W. 22nd St. The fact that even during the tour volunteers were cleaning out trash and pulling weeds highlighted the constant care the tree pits require to survive in such a busy urban area. At his tree pit on Eighth Ave., just a few blocks south of Penn Station, Keith Peterson said, “I know when the cops do their sweep of the homeless people in Penn and they all come down here, I know when a dog has walked on my plants, I know when a human has walked on my plants. I never fenced my tree pit, but maybe I should.” Photos by Jane Argodale
Members of the Chelsea Garden Club on their annual tree pit tour.
Kent Wang sits in front of his tree pit on Eighth Ave. & W. 24th St., where the flowers he tends to include roses and lavender.
June 30 - July 06, 2016
TOUR continued on p. 10
Flowers in a tree pit on Ninth Ave. & W. 26th St.
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June 30 - July 06, 2016
THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER
Editor Scott Stiffler
Editorial Assistant Sean Egan Jane Argodale
Art Director Michael Shirey
THE 10th PRECINCT Located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Commander: Capt. Paul Lanot. Main number: 212741-8211. Community Affairs: 212741-8226. Crime Prevention: 212-7418226. Domestic Violence: 212-7418216. Youth Officer: 212-741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-924-3377. Detective Squad: 212-741-8245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7pm, at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced. They are on hiatus until Sept. 28.
Lincoln Anderson Jane Argodale Stephanie Buhmann Jackson Chen Sean Egan Winnie McCroy Colin Mixson Puma Perl Yannic Rack Paul Schindler Trav S.D. Eileen Stukane
THE 13th PRECINCT Located at 230 E. 21st St. (btw. Second & Third Aves.). Deputy Inspector: Brendan Timony. Call 212477-7411. Community Affairs: 212477-7427. Crime Prevention: 212-4777427. Domestic Violence: 212-4773863. Youth Officer: 212-477-7411. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-477-4380. Detective Squad: 212-477-7444. The Community Council meets on the third Tues. of the month, 6:30pm, at the 13th Precinct. They are on hiatus until Sept. 20.
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June 30 - July 06, 2016
CASH FOR GUNS $100 cash will be given (no questions asked) for each handgun, assault weapon or sawed-off shotgun, up to a maximum payment of $300. Guns are accepted at any Police Precinct, PSA or Transit District.
HARASSMENT: Sometimes, life’s a pitch A 26-year-old Queens woman was crossing the street (at the northwest corner of W. 17th St. & 10th Ave.) at 8:20pm on Thurs., June 23 — when out of nowhere, an unknown individual threw a ball at her, hitting her square in the abdomen. According to the victim, the pitching perp asked his companion something along the lines of, “Why the f**k are we still here?” before hightailing it southbound on 10th Ave. Fortunately, the woman did not sustain any injuries — but unfortunately, a canvas of the area yielded negative results for the cannon-armed criminal.
CRIMINAL MISCHIEF: Bust the mirrors out your truck Perhaps this criminal was inspired by Beyoncé’s baseball bat-armed antics in “Lemonade” — though instead of being a lover scorned, he was reportedly a stranger to his 51-year-old victim. That Brooklyn man was in his truck at about 12pm on Fri., June 24, on the 200 block of W. 28th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.), when the 41-year-old assailant struck him with a closed fist, causing bruising and swelling to his right eye. Not finished with his ambush, the perp then went on to approach the man with an aluminum bat, which significantly alarmed his target. Instead of the man, however, he hit both the truck’s driver’s side mirrors, causing significant damage. Ultimately the aggressor, a Brooklyn resident, struck out, as he was promptly arrested.
PETIT LARCENY: Sour grapes of wrath While illicitly obtained, a man was probably not expecting his snack of some fresh fruit to leave such a bitter taste in his mouth on Fri., June 24. At around 9:30pm, an officer witnessed the 19-year-old man place items into his backpack at a Duane Reade (131 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 16th & W. 17th Sts.), and then proceed to bypass the register with his loot. An effort to apprehend the suspect resulted in a brief chase, when the quick-footed thief attempted to run away from the law. This reaction initially seemed fairly extreme for the $5 worth of grapes recovered from the
individual — but the reason for the foot pursuit soon became clear, as the arresting officer discovered that the man had a warrant out for his arrest. Naturally, the not-so-great grape grabber was arrested. At last report, he was fermenting in jail.
OBSTRUCTION OF FIRE OPERATIONS: You shall not pass (gas) On Sat., June 25, a man found himself catching heat from the fire department, as well as police, when he refused to let them into his apartment on the 300 block of W. 21st St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Those entities were investigating the potential presence of toxic fumes and gases, the smell of which were distinctly emanating from the man’s apartment. The authorities, simply following their noses, were apparently not dissuaded by the man’s silver-tongued attempts to turn them around. “I don’t smell anything,” he asserted innocuously. “What odor?” he cunningly questioned. The firefighters and cops were having none of his shenanigans though, and as the verbal interference escalated to physical force, they proceeded to arrest the 41-year-old man — a process he didn’t go along with easily, wildly flailing his arms to resist being cuffed by officers. A gas leak was indeed found inside (with the line quickly being shut off by Con Ed). Also found: a quantity of a controlled substance there within — making the aggressive recluse’s reluctance to invite the authorities into his abode immediately understandable.
HARASSMENT: I spit on your graveyard shift Perhaps she mistook him for someone else, or perhaps he just had one of those faces — but either way, a driveby-drooling on Sun., June 26 left one employee of a Rite Aid (282 Eighth Ave., at W. 24th St.) scratching his head and reaching for a towel. At about 4:15am, a 29-year-old woman entered the store, and approached the employee, and proceeded to spit on him and throw a water bottle at him. The 24-year-old man maintains that the salivating suspect was a total stranger. While authorities were alerted to the spittle-soaked incident, no arrests were made.
—SEAN EGAN .com
Drowsy Driving can be as Dangerous as Driving impaireD The public is well educated about the dangers of driving while impaired by medication, alcohol or illegal drugs. But drivers may not be aware that driving while tired can be just as dangerous. Driving when tired can be a fatal mistake. Just as alcohol or drugs can slow down reaction time, impair judgment and increase the risk of accident, so, too, can being tired behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is reportedly what caused the fatal crash in June 2014 between a limousine and a Walmart truck that ended the life of comic
James McNair and seriously injured fellow comedian Tracy Morgan. The driver, Kevin Roper, was going 20 miles over the speed limit and was almost at his drive time limit, according to preliminary reports by the National Transportation Safety Board. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 100,000 car crashes in the United States each year occur as the result of an overly tired driver. Various studies demonstrate that drivers who have remained awake for 18 hours prior to driving
mimic the driving performance of intoxicated motorists. In fact, drowsy driving can be confused with driving with a high blood alcohol content. Sleepiness can arise relatively quickly, and according to Thomas Balkin, PhD, director of the behavioral biology program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and a leading expert on sleep and fatigue, it’s difficult for drivers to assess just how sleepy they are. “Sleepiness affects the part of the brain responsible for judgment and self-awareness,”
he says. “When you’ve reached the stage where you are fighting sleep, the effect of any method of reviving yourself can be very short-lived.” Furthermore, people do not have to be in a deep sleep to actually be asleep behind the wheel. Micro-sleeps occur when certain brain cells temporarily shut down for a few seconds. A person is not completely asleep but in a sort of fog as if they are asleep. When sleepiness sets in, the best course of action is to pull off the road. Opening the window, turning on the radio
or blasting cold air is, at best, only a temporary solution. If driving with passengers and feelings of sleepiness appear, hand the keys over to a passenger and have them take over driving, if possible. Otherwise, a short nap and a cup of coffee can be used in combination to increase alertness. It’s also a good idea to avoid beginning a long road trip in mid-afternoon around the hours of two or three o’clock. While alertness generally dips in the evening hours, due to the circadian rhythm, alertness also dips in the late after-
noon, prompting drowsiness. A 2010 study by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety found that as many drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel in the afternoon hours as reported falling asleep late at night. Driving in a warm, quiet car also may spur drowsiness, as would driving after a heavy meal. Driving tired is just as dangerous as other impaired driving. Slow reaction times and unawareness of surroundings can contribute to accidents that are otherwise avoidable..
June 30 - July 06, 2016
The Transcendence of Pride BY GERALD BUSBY As an 80-year-old gay man, I’ve come, perhaps ironically, to regard being gay as I regard being left-handed — a fact of my life with no intrinsic meaning. The difference between content and context became vivid to me as I emerged from the dark, dismal cloud of despair during the AIDS epidemic. The distinction between fact and meaning seemed to reveal the very nexus of being and knowing. Ontology and epistemology were always my favorite topics when I was a philosophy student at Yale, particularly when I read Kierkegaard’s “Either/Or.” It was a thrill to penetrate the core of who I was, and realize it went back to my childhood as a devout Southern Baptist who wanted to know with certainty that I was “saved.” Much of Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness” deals with our dependence on others to know who we are. Within the arena of ego, existential dependence invariably leads to opposition and judgment of others. The only exit from that cul-de-sac is what Sartre called “transcendence of the ego.” My boot camp training toward that awareness brought me to the Samuels Clinic at Roosevelt Hospital where most of us patients were gay, and all of us were HIV-positive. My consciousness was a misty bog in which I wandered, writing music only sporadically and isolating myself from friends. The Samuels Clinic had a lively holistic program, and I signed up for every treatment they offered. Healers of all kinds, mainly massage therapists, contributed their services for a month. My first appointment was with Shayma, a petite and vivacious masseuse whose practice included Reiki. From the moment she stepped into the room where I lay on the massage table, the atmosphere changed — the color of the air turned soft yellow. I closed my eyes and lay completely still, but my senses were brightly alert. During the treatment, most of which Shayma did with her hands barely touching me with a steadily increasing intensity, I saw in my mind’s eye a beautiful young Indian woman with startling black eyes. She was wearing a red and white plaid gingham dress and was standing near a tree with a thick black trunk and effusive foliage. The image persisted throughout the session, and afterwards I told Shayma about it. Without a word, she removed her wallet from her bag and showed me a photograph of that woman wearing that dress. “She’s my meditation teacher,” Shayma said quietly. “And there was a tree with a thick black trunk and dense green leaves,” I quickly added. “Ah, yes,” Shayma responded, “That’s the symbol of our meditation practice. It’s on our stationery.” The following week I saw a notice on the bulletin board that a Reiki master was offering, free of charge, a class in the first level of initiation. “Reiki can facilitate conventional medical regimens,” it stated. The course of first-level initiation was four four-hour sessions. I went for it; I wanted to be as healthy as possible to write music. Four others signed up for the course, too. The Reiki master, a pretty middle-aged woman, spoke gently and guided us into the deepest meditation
June 30 - July 06, 2016
I’d ever experienced. She also taught us the technique of using the palms of our hands to concentrate energy and direct it to specific areas of our bodies. At that time, I was also learning to write music on my computer. It was as if all the particles of my existence that had disintegrated with drugs and despair were reassembling themselves through Reiki and the computer. It was, for me, actually a change of consciousness — the mist in the bog was starting to clear. Reiki was a new tool in my kit. My hands already possessed a sensitive energy I’d developed as a pianist. It occurred to me that I might use Reiki to enhance sex, now that cocaine was no longer part of my life.
Photo by Ivan Cordoba
Gerald Busby, 2016, in naked repose.
I loved this new connection to energy that brought everything into focus regardless of my understanding. This was a kind of knowing that was eminently practical. Writing music was now more like performing, more like improvising, and the more attention I paid to getting the notes clear and legible on the page, the more freely my music flowed from my mind. My practice of Reiki was daily, about an hour doing the whole routine, playing in the background a recording Richard Daniels gave me of the Dalai Lama and his entourage performing healing prayer chants at the bedside of Václav Havel (the first President of the Czech Republic, and an internationally prominent peace advocate). He was gravely ill. As the monks, sort of like backup singers for the Dalai Lama, intoned their lowest note — a low A-sharp that slowly rose in pitch about a quarter tone — I scanned my body
from my head to my groin with the palms of my hands and fell into a deep peaceful sleep. It reminded me of something Judy Sherman, a brilliant classical music recording engineer, taught me when she produced a CD of my music back in the days of analogue sound. The 60-cycle hum is pervasive in electric current, and you have to be constantly on guard to make sure it doesn’t leak into the track. Judy knew all the studios and concert spaces where this invasive hum was least likely to cause trouble in a recording session. The Tibetan monks’ lowest note was near that 60-cycle hum. Maybe it’s the sound of the universe, I thought, and it’s seeping into my consciousness. The transformation I experienced as I practiced Reiki was similar to the difference between analogue and digital recording. In its analogue mode, my mind seemed to respond to impulses outside my body; I was the victim of uncontrollable causes. In its digital mode, my mind seemed to connect with something equivalent to the 60-cycle hum inside my body. This all reminded me that perception itself is a creative act, and its specific aesthetic dimensions originate in my mind. My freedom to be myself wasn’t determined or limited by how masculine or feminine I acted, how high or low my voice was, how I dressed, or what anybody thought or said about me. I am reminded of how Virgil Thomson used to describe gay professional men who were very good at what they did. He called them “perfect queers,” and he always had several in his entourage to do practical things for him. One night during a dinner party at Virgil’s apartment at the Chelsea Hotel, a fuse blew and all the lights suddenly went out. One of those perfect queers sprang into action and perfunctorily restored the electrical current by flipping the right switch. Everyone at the table fell silent and looked at Virgil who said, “There’s nothing like a finger in the right place at the right time.” Virgil liked to sum things up in a nutshell, and he was really good at it. He liked to nail things with the fewest and simplest words, an influence perhaps that came from working with Gertrude Stein. Like a Zen master, Virgil would sometimes talk to me in koans, paradoxical riddles. An example is one of the most important things he taught me. When I complained about someone not behaving as I thought he should, Virgil said, “It is his privilege to behave any way he wishes.” It took me years to figure out what he meant: The freedom I allow others is exactly the freedom I allow myself. Robert Altman personified that axiom. He thoroughly trusted his own instincts, and he wanted me to trust mine to write the score for “3 Women,” even though I’d never written film music, never orchestrated, and never conducted an orchestra. But by far the best example of someone trusting his instincts, and letting others be exactly who they were, was my friend Tobias Schneebaum. He was born in Brooklyn in 1922, was gay, a Jew, a painter, and an anthropologist who spent years of his adult life with BUSBY continued on p. 14 .com
As American as the Stonewall Rebellion BY ANDY HUMM While not quite as deep as the Grand Canyon or as tall as the Statue of Liberty, the 7.7 acres in and around the Stonewall Inn, scene of the monumental 1969 multi-night rebellion in the streets that sparked the modern LGBT movement, were declared, like those iconic parks, an official national monument by President Barack Obama on June 24. Three days later, in the light of day on June 27, the area was dedicated as such by federal and local officials and LGBT activists, including a handful who participated in the rebellion. This recognition of an uprising by LGBT outcasts, who were officially criminal, sinful, mentally ill, and almost wholly closeted before that June 28, 1969 night, was an all-American inclusive affair steeped in patriotism. A soulful version of the national anthem was sung by actor Anthony Wayne. Edie Windsor, 87, who won federal recognition of samesex marriage in 2013 at the US Supreme Court, led a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — leaving out the words “under God,” which is the way she grew up saying it before Congress inserted the deity in 1954 at the behest of the Knights of Columbus. Windsor and her partner and later wife Thea Spyer returned to New York from a vacation the second night of the rebellion and soon became activists themselves. The crowd heard from Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis, US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and out lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, West Side Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, who is credited with quarterbacking the designation locally, and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Village’s out elected local officials –– State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and City Councilmember Corey Johnson also delivered remarks. The keynote speech was delivered by Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt, who was an 18-year-old participant in the rebellion and is now a prominent artist, who painted a vivid verbal picture of the Stonewall in 1969 — “a dingy non-descript building that was like a speakeasy, run by the Mafia.” When the police hit the bar with a routine raid that night, “we didn’t fight back because we loved .com
Photo by Donna Aceto
Officials and activists at the Stonewall National Monument dedication included US Representative Carolyn Maloney, successful DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor, New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Representative Jerrold Nadler, City Councilmember Corey Johnson, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick.
the management of Stonewall,” he said, “but because we were humanized in there,” the one bar where slow dancing — “a full embrace” — was allowed. There was much praise for the administration and local government officials who worked with the near unanimous support of both the LGBT and Village communities to get the national monument designation in place, mainly through the city’s transfer to the federal government of little Christopher Park, across the street from the bar. Secretary Jewell said, “It takes a village to make a national park.” She also said, “We want our history to be known and to reflect who we are — the diversity of our people.” Acknowledging the atrocity in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that was fresh in everyone’s minds, transgender activist Octavia Lewis said, “We have not come far enough. I want this to be a place where I can bring my children and not be fearful.” “We want to tell the American LGBT story to the world,” said Gillibrand, who will continue to work with her congressional colleagues to make it “a national park, not just a monument,” though monuments designated by the president, STONEWALL continued on p. 12
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June 30 - July 06, 2016
Milt Verstanding and Phyllis Waisman stand behind his tree pit on Ninth Ave. & W. 28th St. TOUR continued from p. 4
Despite these challenges, the tree pits showcased a stunning variety of design and vegetation. In her tree pit, Phyllis Waisman grows ferns, day lilies, and Russian sage, or “fake lavender,” as she called it. At one of her large pits on Ninth Ave., Missy Adams pointed out her peaches and hollyhocks. In his tree pit on Eighth Ave. and W. 18th St., Andy Thompson used cocoa shell mulch, that filled the air around the pit with the rich smell of dark chocolate
each time the wind blew. In the mulch grew cosmos, cleomes, and blue salvia. Paul Bodden tended to asters, blue asters, cosmos, and Russian sage in his pit. In Milt Verstandig and Carol Weinburg’s pit, nicotiana or “flowering tobacco” grew in abundance. Harold Gilstein and Maureen Melle-Rothstein grew roses and a plantana tree, with prostrate spurge lining the edge of the pit. The tour ended where it began, at Eighth Ave. and W. 22nd St., after making a circle up Eighth Ave. to W.
Dennis Homlitas (center) stands behind his tree pit on Ninth Ave. & W. 19th St., with fellow Chelsea Garden Club members.
June 30 - July 06, 2016
30th St., then down Ninth Ave., looping back to Eighth Ave. via W. 17th St. Though the tour was somewhat strenuous — as three hours of walking in a bright midday June sun can be — it was a rewarding look at one way members of the Chelsea community have worked to make their neighborhood a little more green. Contact the Chelsea Garden Club at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit chelseagardenclub.blogspot.com and facebook.com/Chelsea-Garden-Club.
Photos by Jane Argodale
Flowers in Keith Peterson’s tree pit on Eighth Ave. & W. 28th St.
Day lilies in a tree pit on Ninth Ave., near W. 26th St.
Chelsea-Based EMT Killed While Hiking
Photo by Stefania M. Brennan
Courtesy of FDNY
A memorial for Lieutenant JoAnn Restko at FDNY-EMS Station 7, where she worked for 14 years.
Restko with her dog, Beanie.
Restko died in a hiking accident on June 19.
BY JANE ARGODALE Lieutenant JoAnn Restko, an EMT who worked out of FDNY-EMS Station 7 (512 W. 23rd St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.), passed away on June 19, while hiking in the Adirondack Mountains near Lake George. Restko, 37, who lived in Staten Island, had been hiking with a friend, when she lost her footing and fell off a ledge above Roaring Brook Falls in Keene Valley. Her friend reported that Restko edged forward towards the ledge to take a photo, tried to turn around, and then disappeared. When the friend was unable to locate Restko, she called Department of
Environmental Conservation rangers, who discovered Restko’s body in the water below. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be multiple blunt force injuries that occurred during the nearly 100-foot fall. In 2012, a coworker of Restko’s, the Paramedic Leonard Joyner, had also passed away during a mountain climbing accident in Colorado. Restko’s passing was announced on the FDNY Women’s Benevolent Association’s Facebook page on June 19. Restko spent 14 years with the FDNY, joining in
2002 as an EMS Cadet. She received her EMT certification in 2003. The following year, she was featured in the FDNY’s subway posters for EMS week. In 2006, Restko was promoted to Paramedic. Throughout her career with FDNY-EMS in Manhattan, Restko earned several Pre-Hospital Save Awards, for acting to get patients resuscitated before their arrival at medical care facilities. A viewing and funeral service were held June 25, at Matthew Funeral Home in Staten Island. There is also a memorial to Restko in the Chelsea station where she worked.
NEWSRACK continued from p. 3
If the bills are enacted, DOT would still issue notices of violation to publishers for dirty, damaged, and empty boxes, but the agency would be able to issue fines more quickly if the problems are not rectified in time. “While most publications try to make sure their boxes are clean and stocked, many newsracks remain a blight on our sidewalks,” said Bronx councilmember James Vacca, a member of the committee and the sponsor of one of the bills. “And our existing rules don’t go far enough to address that.” Some who showed up to the hearing even one-upped the councilmembers, suggesting the bills could be more severe. Christine Berthet, former chair of .com
Community Board 4 and a founder of the advocacy group Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, said she would like to see even stricter rules enforced — including bolting down boxes on the sidewalk and banning any racks within 25 feet of pedestrian crossings. “We wish this legislation would go further,” she said, adding that fewer newspaper boxes would mean increased safety for the 75 percent of New Yorkers who walk at some point in their daily commute. In the end, Rodriguez promised to discuss the legislation further and hear out its opponents, to make sure any new rules would be considerate to the newspaper industry. “We will continue this conversation,” he said. “We’re not in the business of creating a hardship.”
Chelsea Now file photo by Scott Stiffler
The city is pushing for stricter regulations to keep the ubiquitous newspaper boxes found across the five boroughs from being vandalized and used as trash bins. June 30 - July 06, 2016
Pride STONEWALL continued from p. 9
like parks, are run by the National Park Service. Tribute was paid to the history of activism that led up to the rebellion by Obama advisor Jarrett, who cited Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon of the early lesbian group Daughters of Bilitis, Harry Hay of the Mattachine Society, Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings who led a gay and lesbian demonstration each Fourth of July in Philadelphia from 1965 through 1969, Stephen Donaldson, the bisexual activist who formed the Student Homophile League at Columbia University in 1966, and the transgender patrons of San Francisco’s Compton’s Cafeteria who rioted over mistreatment, also in 1966. Jarrett also ticked off the achievements of the Obama administration on LGBT rights, from getting rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to it current efforts to protect transgender rights. Hoylman called Obama “our first gay president.” De Blasio said, “We are not going to sanitize our history, we are going to remember the struggle.” The Stonewall, after all, was a direct rebellion against oppression by the NYPD. Two mini acts of rebellion took place at the ceremony. Ken Kidd and Ann Northrop of Queer Nation unfurled a big Gilbert Baker rainbow banner reading “Equal in Every Way” behind the speaker’s platform, and none of Photo by Donna Aceto the many government security or NYPD personnel on The monument is heralded on a banner hung onto hand tried to remove them. the wall of the Stonewall Inn. Veteran gay activist Jim Fouratt, a rebellion partici-
pant, walked out on the ceremony, writing in an email later that while he supported the monument designation of the streets where the rebellion unfolded, the Stonewall Inn itself “was a symbol of our oppression not our liberation.” He objected to the fact that no “reference was made to how the following three nights were organized in part by a small group of political gay men including myself, disillusioned members of the Mattachine youth component, and gay anti-war activists and lesbians kicked out of the Women’s Liberation Movement.” Fouratt also objected to the “erasure of the Gay Liberation Front birthed in the third night of the Stonewall Rebellion.” Indeed, the historic significance of Stonewall was that it led to immediate and ongoing militant organizing in the community. Historian David Carter, author of a book on Stonewall, said after the ceremony that there were around 30 gay groups at the time of the rebellion and 1,500 just two years later nationwide. Transgender activist Stefanie Rivera, 37, talked afterwards about the continued peril “of going out and not knowing whether you will make it back” and the challenge of finding employment. “This should have happened years ago,” said her friend, Elizabeth Rivera. Veteran gay activist Steve Ashkinazy, a founder of the Harvey Milk High School, said he went to the Stonewall at 16 “because they didn’t card us.” He said of the ceremony: “I am emotionally moved and thankful every time I see progress and change.”
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June 30 - July 06, 2016
Make a Run for Hudson River Park
Photos by Devon Cormack
We picked Hudson River Park for our route. We began at the W. 17th St. portion of Chelsea Piers, and chose a spot off the path for some pre-jogging stretches. To prevent pulls and tears, it’s important to stretch your quads and hamstrings thoroughly before working out.
If you’ve never jogged before, you can start at a VERY slow pace; a bit quicker than a fast walk, but just enough to get your heart pumping the blood a little harder. Don’t set expectations! See how many steps you can jog, and build from there. Alternate between jogging and walking, and try to pass your step record each time you hit the road.
We ended our jog at Pier 40 (at W. Houston St.), which is roughly a one-mile stretch. As a cool down, we walked back, enjoying the scenery and fresh air. Another great feature of this particular stretch of Hudson River Park is the alternate waterside route, right off the main path along the West Side Highway, where it is FOOT TRAFFIC ONLY!
Hydrate! One of the great things about running through Hudson River Park is the many water fountains along the trail. Use them! Hydration is great for your muscles. It also helps to lubricate the joints and regulate body temperature. Like stretching, hydration makes a real difference when it comes to preventing pulls and tears.
BY TEAM HEAT The long days and warm sun of the summer are reason enough to work a one-hour window for health and fitness into your schedule. That, paired with all the beautiful scenery Chelsea has to offer, should have you on your feet and out the door in no time!
Jogging is my go-to workout, no matter where I am or what’s going on in my day. It’s not only good for burning calories and improving your overall cardiovascular health, but it can be done anywhere — and with no equipment (other than a good pair of shoes). Never jogged before? Let us help you begin your fitness journey!
We hope you enjoy this route as much as we did. Try to incorporate health and fitness into your daily or weekly routine, especially with all the beautiful places our city and our neighborhood have to offer.
While prepping for fights, Devon Cormack and Heather “The Heat” Hardy (aka “Team Heat”) work as personal trainers at Gleason’s Gym (77 Front St., Brooklyn). Hardy, a single mom, is a professional boxer with a record of 17 wins and 0 losses (including 4 KOs). Before turning pro, she won championships in Muay Thai and Kickboxing. As a Golden Gloves contestant, she won silver in 2011 and gold in 2012 (125-pound division). Chelsea resident Devon Cormack firstname.lastname@example.org) is a threetime World Kickboxing Champion who teaches martial arts, boxing, and kickboxing, and coordinates fight scenes for film and TV. For more info, visit Heather-Hardy.com and follow her at facebook.com/ TheHeatHeatherHardy. Also visit gleasonsgym.net. June 30 - July 06, 2016
Photos by Sean Egan
A view of the Canoe, a new public plaza on W. 36th St., just west of Ninth Ave. BID continued from p. 2
lover of fine wine,” recalled Singleton. He also noted that evenhandedness and politeness in business matters helped set the “renaissance man” apart. “He would nicely tell you how to go to hell in a way that you’ll enjoy the trip,” Singleton laughed. “I miss my friend.” “[The Hudson Yards] project excited him and allowed him to stretch creatively,” noted Oskar’s son, Matthew Brecher of his father, as he accepted the award on his behalf. “I’m sure he would have been honored to have his peers consider him a visionary.” Next, the Alliance quickly voted on its Board of Directors. The slate was unanimously approved in short order, securing seats for a wide swath of individuals representing local businesses and community organizations.
Finally, keynote speaker City Councilmember Corey Johnson — who, as Singleton noted, continually supported and contributed money to the Alliance — took the podium. “I am proud of the work the BID has done over the year,” Johnson announced, singling out the success of the park, which was years in the making, as being “pretty special.” He again asserted that they were going to be working to secure more blocks for the green space, as well as free WiFi and public art. He also highlighted the creation of the M12 bus line, and spoke with excitement of the forthcoming affordable housing to be built at the district’s Slaughterhouse site (11th Ave., btw. W. 39th & W. 40th Sts.). “This BID has really fostered a community,” Johnson concluded. “I wanted to come here to say thank you.” The Alliance’s Executive Director and
BUSBY continued from p. 8
headhunters and cannibals in Peru and New Guinea. As a child, nothing turned him on as much as the Wild Man of Borneo in a sideshow at Coney Island. When he, as an accomplished painter, was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, he sought out the Harakmbut tribe in Peru, known to be cannibals. A Catholic missionary advised him to present himself naked at his first meeting with the Harakmbut, to show he had no weapons. They would either kill and eat him or take him into their tribe. Nobody could resist Toby’s gentle charm. He was naturally the most present person I ever knew, and I would guess that the cannibals responded to that, as did everyone else who met him. Toby was totally willing to adapt to their way of living without judgment. He hunted with them, worshipped their ancestors alongside them, slept with them piled one on top of the other in a treehouse 80 feet above the ground, had sex with them, and ate human flesh after he accompanied them
June 30 - July 06, 2016
Alliance Chair Kevin Singleton presents the group’s Visionary Award to Oskar Brecher posthumously, after the BID member’s April passing.
President, Robert Benfatto, closed the evening with brief statements of thanks for all those who came out, and praise for the work of the Alliance. “I’d like to end this so we could all get to know each other,” Benfatto finished. And with that, the meeting was adjourned for guests to continue to enjoy the fair weather, food, drinks, and music. The Alliance was right back to business as usual, however, when early the next morning, Johnson and Benfatto attended a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Canoe — a public plaza featuring seven tables and 21 chairs on W. 36th St., just west of Ninth Ave., made possible through the efforts of Johnson and the Alliance. “In this dense urban oasis, there are very few opportunities to reactivate public open space, so we tried to create a usable public plaza here,” Johnson told
on a raid of another tribe. After seven months with the cannibals, Toby returned to New York and wrote a book called “Keep The River On Your Right” — a phrase the Catholic missionary told Toby to remember as his guide out of the jungle. Toward the end of Toby’s life, a documentary film with the same title was made about him. When I met Toby in 1970 I instantly adored him and was fascinated by his history. I wrote a concert piece for him, in which he read a story from his book, “Wild Man,” accompanied by a marimba. The audience at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall was spellbound as Toby told of being taken into a grass hut used specifically to consecrate newly carved canoes and shields. He was stripped naked by eight Asmat tribesmen who held him horizontally, while each successively sucked every extensive of his body, from his ears to his toes, to absorb his spirit and to give him theirs in return. It was their way of initiating him into their tribe with the deepest respect. He became one of them. When Charlie Rose interviewed Toby he asked, “You
Chelsea Now after the ribbon cutting, noting that he allocated funds for the project, and that even early on its first day open it was well-populated — showing the need for this kind of space. Benfatto said he was “happy to have it up and running,” and was grateful for the cooperation of the Department of Transportation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in helping realize the plaza, which previously functioned as an NYPD parking area. He also noted that they were looking to continue to improve the Canoe over time, highlighting the potential addition of more chairs and more plants, as well as the commissioning of a sculpture — displaying the kind of foresight and work that made the Alliance’s last year so successful. For more info, visit hudsonyardshellskitchenalliance.org.
ate human flesh? Why?” “Why not?” Toby responded, then argued that the cannibals were more civilized than we, because everything they did accommodated the primal, practical demands of living in a completely natural, spontaneous, and especially artistic mode of existence. “They were so alive,” Toby kept saying. “I don’t know anyone in New York who comes anywhere near that kind of aliveness except maybe a few actors. I had to totally participate in everything they did with no judgment at all, or they’d never have trusted me, and I wouldn’t be here today.” Gerald Busby is a longtime resident of the Chelsea Hotel and protégé of Virgil Thomson. He is best known for his film score for Robert Altman’s “3 Women” and his dance score for Paul Taylor’s “Runes.” With Craig Lucas, Busby is currently writing an opera based on “3 Women.” Busby’s life at the Chelsea Hotel is the topic of “The Man on the Fifth Floor,” a documentary film currently in production. .com
Photo courtesy TADA! Youth Theater
Members of the TADA! Resident Youth Ensemble.
Youth Theater is an Old Hat at Helping Kids Hone Skills
TADA! programs prompt kids to be present, onstage and off BY LAUREN VESPOLI With a Drama Desk Award under its belt and a roster of famous alumni that includes actress Kerry Washington (“Scandal”) and comedian Jordan Peele (“Key & Peele”), Chelsea’s TADA! Youth Theater offers one of the most prestigious musical theater programs for young people in New York City — and most of its performers aren’t even old enough to drive a car. Founded by Janine Nina Trevens and Linda Reiff in 1984, TADA! reaches more than 50,000 children and families each year through its mainstage productions, in addition to its classes, camps, birthday parties, and signature Resident Youth Ensemble (a free pre-professional theater training program for kids ages 8–18). In addition to sparking a passion for .com
the performing arts in young performers and honing their skills onstage, a large part of TADA!’s mission is helping the children who participate in its programs learn and develop holistically. “Kids are learning how to just perform in school to please a teacher or to get a good grade on a test — rather than learning about collaboration and creative play and really strengthening their brains to think outside of the box, to think for themselves, to be responsible, to have a feeling of success based on their own work,” said Trevens, who serves as the company’s Executive and Artistic Director, and has a background in psychology, education, and stage management. “TADA! really does that, especially [through] working on characters that are written for kids.”
Earning a spot in TADA!’s resident ensemble is highly competitive. According to Trevens, 300–600 children typically audition for 10–25 spots each fall. And while prospective ensemble members must have passion and talent, ever since its conception, TADA! has also prioritized finding a diverse cross-section of city (and tristate area) kids, making a special effort to include disadvantaged kids and families in the free program. In addition to high-level musical theater training, ensemble members receive access to personal and pre-professional development programs, including a job readiness apprenticeship program and college tours and admissions assistance. This year, the theater brought in a program called “Girls Talk, Guys Talk” to help the
company learn more about body image, sexuality, and how media portrayals might affect them, Trevens said. “One of the things that we instill in our ensemble is really the fact that you are part of a community, and that you can make that a better place,” Trevens said. Children and families looking to get a taste of TADA! this summer can participate in the theater’s weeklong camps. Full-day camps, available for children ages 6–14, take children through the entire creative process, from the conception to performance of a mini-musical in just one week, with guidance from professional teaching artists. Half-day “mini-camps” are also available this summer for ages 4–5. TADA! continued on p. 16 June 30 - July 06, 2016
Photo by Paul Martinka Photography
Members of the TADA! Resident Youth Ensemble performed at the theater’s 30th anniversary gala in May.
Photo courtesy TADA! Youth Theater
A scene from “Adventures from Ezra Jack Keats: Skates! & Maggie and the Pirate.”
TADA! continued from p. 15
In addition to providing a safe, creative space for kids and teens, Trevens takes pride in the opportunities TADA! offers local artists. TADA! involves 20–40 artistic and production people with each of its three annual mainstage shows, and also employs nine full-time and five part-time artistic, administrative, and educational staff, Trevens said. “Employing the number of people we employ in New York, and allowing people to make money as an artist and stay in New York — that’s something I’m very proud of at TADA!” she noted.
June 30 - July 06, 2016
This season’s final show, “Adventures from Ezra Jack Keats: Skates! & Maggie and the Pirate,” opens July 9 and runs through August 4. The two-part show serves as the finale of TADA!’s two-year-long 30th anniversary celebration. Both pieces are adaptations of the picture books by Ezra Jack Keats, in honor of the late author’s 100th birthday. “Skates!” is a dance piece that follows the adventures of a pair of dogs who teach themselves to roller skate. “[The kids] had to take a stab at learning how to roller skate and master the skill,” said Associate Artistic
Director and Resident Choreographer Joanna Greer. “It’s a fun show for kids and adults.” “Maggie and the Pirate” tells the whimsical story of a girl named Maggie who sets out to find her stolen pet cricket. This September, audiences can look forward to TADA!’s Banned Broadway Project, during which teens from the ensemble explore banned and censored musical works from Broadway and Off-Broadway during Banned Books Week. The mainstage musical season will begin again at the start of 2017, and include productions of “Everything About A Day (Almost),” which Trevens described as “a musical review in the day of the life of a kid,” and “Odd Day Rain,” which takes place in the future and reckons with technology’s benefits and pitfalls. As for TADA!’s next 30 years, Trevens said she’d love to be able to purchase their building at 15 W. 28th St. and find an additional space to house classes and a workshop for kids interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of theater. She hopes to eventually be able to produce five mainstage shows each year, allowing even more people to be involved with TADA! And, as the first youth theater program to win a Drama Desk Award, Trevens dreams of one day seeing TADA!’s work in children’s theater recognized with a Special Tony Award.
Awards aside, when asked about her proudest moments from TADA!’s past three decades, Trevens cited the impact that the theater has made in the lives of the kids who sing, dance, and act their hearts out on the TADA! stage. “I think what’s happened over and over is knowing that we are actually giving kids a place where they do feel good about themselves, where they fit in, where they are successful, and where they really learn that they have a voice, and learn that they can do whatever it is they want to do in life,” she said. TADA! Youth Theater is located at 15 W. 28th St. (btw. Fifth Ave. & Broadway. “Adventures from Ezra Jack Keats: Skates & Maggie and the Pirate” will run on Tues.–Sat., July 9– Aug. 4, and is recommended for ages 3+. Tickets are $25 ($15 for children, with limited tickets at $15 general, $10 or children). Spaces are still available at TADA!’s weeklong camps for ages 6–14, running now through Sept. 2, and two-week mini-camps for ages 4–5, which begin July 11. One camp is $485 per camper deals available with multiple camp bookings). Visit tadatheater.com or call 212-252-1619. Find them on Facebook at facebook. com/TADAyouththeater and on Twitter at @TadaTheater. .com
Yankee Doodle Deficit Disorder
Tap-happy ‘Cagney’ entertains, but dances around the truth BY TRAV S.D. In the roll calls of show biz immortals, the name “James Cagney” remains pre-eminent. Today, almost 30 years after his death, Cagney is still held up as the gold standard of realistic American movie acting. His most popular movies — “The Public Enemy” (1931), “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942), and “White Heat” (1949) — are still regularly watched by fans. His personal maxim, “Plant your feet, look ’em in the eye, and tell the truth,” has probably been quoted by every acting teacher on the planet. Since mid-March the Westside Theatre has been home to the musical show “Cagney,” which purports to tell the story of this small-statured (5’5”) giant. Much of what “Cagney” promises entertainment-wise, it delivers (eventually). The best thing about it is its star, Robert Creighton, who is close enough to a ringer that he doesn’t have to do a ridiculous Rich Littlestyle impression to achieve his illusion. Creighton’s voice register (which actually sounds more like comedian Bert Wheeler than Cagney) is high enough to remind us that the star’s first hurdle was to convince audiences he was no pipsqueak — a probable origin for his tough guy persona. Creighton is a solid actor, comfortable in his skin (and in suits with padded shoulders), and best of all, he’s a terrific tap dancer. The best moments of the show, and the ones audiences are probably paying to see, are the ones where Creighton does Cagney doing George M. Cohan — and to this practiced eye, he nails it. But (and this is no small thing) the show makes you wait for it — through Peter Colley’s leaden, shapeless, directionless, bloated book, and some forgettable original songs by Creighton and Christopher McGovern. If musicals are a near impossible art form to get right, historical musicals are even harder. For every “1776” and “Hamilton,” there are a thousand Thanksgiving turkeys. The main dilemma in adapting biographical material for the stage is that life and art have different shapes, and a show must pick one or the other in order to succeed. The latter is usually best: pick some discrete, finite aspect of the subject’s complicated life to tell. The .com
Photo by Carol Rosegg
L to R: Bruce Sabath, Ellen Zolezzi, Jeremy Benton, Robert Creighton (as Cagney), Danette Holden and Josh Walden.
alternative, to try to cram every event in some guy’s life into 150 minutes, is seldom fortunate. Yet, that is the tack which “Cagney” takes. Then, ironically, it goes on to spoon-feed us an endless succession of facts that are either misleading or incorrect. “The Public Enemy” was Cagney’s fourth movie, not his first as this play tells us. In a scene taking place in 1919, we get the line “Mr. Keith says you’re going on the road” — but vaudeville impresario B.F. Keith had been dead for four years, and couldn’t have been bothered with a minor act like Cagney at the time, even if he were alive. There are glaring tonal misrepresentations: a big time vaudeville house is hosted by a terrible hack comedian whose repertoire consists of easily identifiable Henny Youngman jokes from 40 years in the future. At times it seems almost like the creators are attempting an homage to Hollywood biopics, a genre notorious for its disregard for truth. Several directorial choices by Bill Castellino lead
one to suspect as much. Actors are directed to be as broad as possible. The sensitive and intelligent Mae Clarke is presented as a gauche, gum-snapping chorus girl; director William Wellman as a swishy, limp-wristed queen from Central Casting. Producer Jack Warner, whose real name was Jakob Wonsal, is WASPified in the manner of Walter Pidgeon’s Flo Ziegfeld in “Funny Girl.” The otherwise inexplicable presence of Bob Hope telegraphs the inevitable, upcoming “Seven Little Foys” nod — but vastly exaggerates the role Hope played in Cagney’s life. That’s okay, though, as the actor playing him neither looks nor sounds like Bob Hope. So perhaps it’s secretly meant to be someone else. The biopic angle wouldn’t be bad if the script focused on it. But it also tries to tell another story, a potentially powerful one juxtaposing Cagney’s performance in the all-time most patriotic movie ever, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” with public suspicions of his left wing politics.
And then there is the framing device of the 1979 SAG awards and a retrospective of his entire career, sometimes amounting to actors reading long lists and descriptions of the films. I kid you not. And then the show stops dead just when some sort of a plot should be heating up, and we get a World War II camp show featuring Cagney’s Cohan tribute. In short, the show has Attention Deficit Disorder. And unfortunately, the excellent Creighton-Cagney-Cohan dance numbers point to all the weaknesses of the rest of the show, leaving your correspondent to wish he were simply watching a production of “Little Johnny Jones” without all the interruptions. At The Westside Theatre (407 W. 43rd St., btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.). Through July 3: Thurs. & Fri. at 8pm, Sat. at 2pm & 8pm, Sun. at 3pm. As of July 5: Tues. at 7pm, Wed. & Sat. at 2pm & 8 pm, Thurs. at 2pm, Fri. at 8pm, Sun. at 3pm. For tickets ($89), visit telecharge.com or call 212-2396200. Also visit cagneythemusical.com. June 30 - July 06, 2016
June 30 - July 06, 2016
Rhymes With Crazy
Our Empty Nest Comes Home To Roost
BY LENORE SKENAZY What is it like to have two teenage boys you never met before move in and stay for the whole school year? Funny you should ask, as the two boys we’ve had living with us for the past 10 months are leaving today. I am hoping the goodbye will not be as hard as I worry it will be. The young men were our exchange students; one from Germany, one from China. Or, as I liked to say: If your country has been at war with America — or may be some day — our home is your home! Why? Well, two years ago, when our older son was heading off to college, I jokingly-not-jokingly told my husband that we should replace him with another kid about his age. Then I started Googling around and found out that the American Field Service, the same exchange student program that was around when I was growing up, is still going strong (now known as AFS-USA). In fact, AFS has been around for more than 70 years, sending kids to and from more than 40 countries. Back in my day, four international kids attended my high school and it was like they were from Planet Maturity. Simply by braving life in a foreign country, they were so much more sophisticated (read: cool) than the
rest of us. So I called the AFS New York office (afsusa.org; 212-299-9000) and immediately, an outreach coordinator was telling me how much I’d love being a host. It is a volunteer position. All we really needed to qualify was an empty bed and a desk. Bingo! Since it was already late in the application process, we had just two kids for us to choose from: A “German boy who loves movies” or an “Italian boy who loves basketball.” “Get the Italian,” said my husband. Thus did Giovanni come to live with us for a year. He moved right into our older son’s now-empty bedroom, and went right off to public high school with our younger son. They were both juniors. They both played basketball, watched basketball, talked basketball — but they also explored the city (my son said he’d never seen half as many neighborhoods as he did once Gio arrived), and cracked up at in-jokes and remained Snapchat friends when Gio went home last June. But once your AFS kid leaves, you’re back at square one, if you don’t like being lonely. (Did I mention I work from home? Just me and my computer.) So this year, we decided to plunge in again and chose Eric from China, and Matteo from Germany. Why two? Why not? The exchange kids shared a room and dinners were lively. Did you know that in China 13 is bad luck, but so is 14 — so some Chinese buildings have three 12th floors? Or how about this German fact: Instead of “Happy Birthday” when the cake comes out, they blast some
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obscure ’80s American pop song. Our German kid was shocked to find this was not also the practice in America when we celebrated my husband’s birthday. Meantime, the boys made him a cake and wrote “Happy Birthday” in Chinese characters along with, “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag.” That’s a lot to write in blue icing. But of course, there were some downsides, starting with the fact that neither of the boys loved my cooking, except for barbecue chicken. So I made a lot of chicken. I also bought truckloads of Chips Ahoy!. There was also extra laundry, of course. And at school, one of them slacked off and we had to deal with the teachers and the principal and a bit of hooky. But the upside? Hearing German and Chinese music around the apartment. Talking to them about everything from Donald Trump to Chairman Mao. Listening to the changes in their vocabulary, from “We are seldom winning the game” to “Our team sucks.” Feeling a swell of pride
as they got to know the city, deal with the subway, discover “South Park” and grow — literally. Yes, they are going home skinny — but taller. Just a few days ago I got up very early and was sitting in our living room at 5am, when the front door opened, and our German student walked in. He had been unable to sleep as thoughts swirled about going home, and how changed he felt. So he had taken a long walk through our Queens neighborhood, which is now his Queens neighborhood. By tomorrow, he will be back home with his real parents. But for a year, he was our boy — they both were — in homesickness and health, schoolwork and skateboarding, and the daily doings that turn a stranger into a son. I hope I can hold it together when we say goodbye. Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker who authored the book, and founded the blog/Twitter feed, Free-Range Kids (freerangekids.com).
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