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School Opens Early

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August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Even With de Blasio as Broker, Two Sides Far Apart on West 97th Street Nursing Home BY JACKSON CHEN

A

midst an ongoing battle between opposing parties regarding a controversial nursing home project on West 97th Street, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration have for some time been quietly working to broker a solution acceptable to both sides. Healthcare nonprofit Jewish Home Lifecare is trying to move forw a r d on a 2 0 - s t o r y n u r s ing home right next door to P.S. 163, but has been held up by a legal challenge that led to a State Supreme Court ruling in December, now under appeal, ordering more environmental review of the project. One of the project’s leading opposition groups, made up of parents of P.S. 163 students, and JHL have been in negotiations over their differences since last fall, but even with the mayor’s intervention, that effort has turned sour. Administration officials, with instructions from de Blasio to try to hammer out a settlement, were on hand for a June 30 meeting, first reported earlier this month by the Daily News. According to a mayoral spokesperson, that meeting was not the first time where administrative officials tried to find common ground between JHL and its critics. “The mayor has been playing a constructive role,” Ethan Geto, a JHL spokesperson, said. “He has tried to facilitate a lot of the conversations, seeing how the city administration can possibly help.” And despite the city’s filing of an amicus brief on March 22 defending the original environmental review process that the opposition strongly criticized, the parents agree that de Blasio has been helpful in the negotiations. “We very much appreciate the mayor’s position that there needs to be significantly more mitigation to resolve the parents’ concern,” Rene Kathawala, the parents’ attorney and himself a P.S. 163 parent, said. “We understand the mayor was hopeful that JHL would offer the necessary mitigation, and he is now aware that JHL has not done so.”

In a written statement, de Blasio said, “The safety of our children is a top priority of my administration. I instructed my team to help facilitate a fair outcome that would ease the genuine concerns of P.S. 163 parents, and I am disappointed that JHL has made a proposal that falls well short of accomplishing that. We remain ready to work productively with both sides and will explore all options available to us in achieving an optimal resolution.” For now, however, the settlement talks, which began last fall with the two sides signing confidentiality agreements limiting their ability to speak publicly about the negotiations, have descended largely into head-butting. According to Kathawala, JHL offered the parents a “very meaningful” settlement in March, only to withdraw it in June for reasons he said “only JHL and its agents know.” Asked why the offer was pulled back, a JHL spokesperson instead pointed out that there was a July 14 settlement offer from the nonprofit, which the parents rejected on July 25. Kathawala said the July offer “totally failed to contain necessary mitigation measures to address the health, safety, and educational concerns the parents have raised consistently since May 2014,” leading to the parents’ rejection of it. The parents’ position is now that the settlement discussions have ended because of JHL’s refusal to compromise, but the nonprofit insists it has an offer on the table and is waiting on any counteroffer from the parents in what it characterizes as continuing talks. “Even though the parents may not be happy about the latest round of negotiations,” Geto said, “as far as we’re concerned, negotiations have not been formally terminated.” According to Kathawala, JHL has offered nothing new to alleviate the parents’ concerns. While he could not elaborate on the specifics of the settlement talks, the parents’ main concerns have always revolved around the noise and hazardous materials created from the construc-

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

COURTESY: GETO & DE MILLY, INC.

A rendering of the proposed 20-story Jewish Home Lifecare nursing home on West 97th Street.

tion, and specifically their impact on students who spend their weekdays at the adjacent school. “The P.S. 163 parent perspective is that JHL is disingenuous, as in their most recent settlement proposal they have failed to address the parents’ legitimate concerns despite saying that P.S. 163 was a top priority,” Kathawala said, and then referring to last year’s ruling from Judge Joan Lobis, added, “JHL has withdrawn everything meaningful that might have helped to address the significant harm that the Supreme Court held would occur if JHL’s appeal is successful and the Final Environmental Impact Statement is the last word on this project.” JHL maintains that it plans additional measures, beyond those mandated by the city, for the nursing home project. “Nobody likes to be next to a construction site, and parents are concerned about their kids being next to construction,” Geto said. “But Jewish Home is committed to

c NURSING HOME, continued on p.12

JACKSON CHEN

P.S. 163, which is adjacent to the site where Jewish Home Lifecare plans to build a 20-story nursing home.

DONNA ACETO

Mayor Bill de Blasio has been trying to broker an agreement between Jewish Home Lifecare and the critics of its proposed nursing home on West 97th Street.

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School Opens Early

On Upper West Side — A Full Year, In Fact BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he new Riverside Center public school will be opening a year early –– by September 2017 –– with P.S. 191 expected to move into the new campus for the 2017-2018 school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during an on-site press conference on August 10. Though the news was widely greeted with praise, P.S. 191’s move remains enveloped in a heated school rezoning debate that has the potential of further rearranging the geography of schools on the Upper West Side. The 122,000-square-foot school space at 21 West End Avenue, at 60th Street, would provide 692 seats for kids from pre-K to eighth grade in the city’s School District 3 that covers Manhattan’s West Side from West 59th to 122nd

Streets. The district is currently dealing with overcrowding issues, inconsistencies in school quality, and a wide diversity in student socioeconomic status. “I want the people of this community to know we heard you loud and clear,” de Blasio said during the press conference. “We heard you loud and clear that we had to invest in more school space, that we had to make the development process work for the community, and that we had to do it quickly because the need was right now.” The expedited opening date was a result of negotiations between the School Construction Authority and the developer, the Dermot Company, which led to a less costly venture, according to City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal. “Our district continues to struggle under the weight of overcrowd-

JACKSON CHEN

The current P.S. 191 campus at 210 West 61st Street.

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Construction is advancing at the new Riverside Center school to be occupied next September by P.S. 191.

ing in the schools,” Rosenthal said. “So the importance of opening a school year early cannot be celebrated enough.” The new school building would not only reduce the strain on other schools, but also offer a state-ofthe-art facility that is fully accessible for youth with disabilities. The completely air-conditioned school would feature art and music rooms, a medical suite, a “gymnatorium,” two rooftop recreational spaces, and a library and science lab for hands-on learning. W h i l e t h e P. S . 1 9 1 m o v e in still requires approval from the Department of Education’s Panel for Educational Policy, the school’s principal, Lauren Keville. is excited to get a fresh start with a move from its current campus at 210 West 61st Street to the new building just a block west.

“Our students, teachers, and parents are extremely excited by the prospect of calling this wonderful new building our home,” Keville said. “This facility would empower our students with vast and incredible resources, it would help grow our student body and school community, and it would encourage learning on a new level.” While the school was previously cited on the state’s list of “persistently dangerous” schools in 2015 –– a designation that puzzled many who knew the school –– it was removed the following year. The Riverside Center school space, however, does not resolve a running debate within District 3 about school rezoning plans that has festered for the past year. After many iterations and spir-

c P.S. 191, continued on p.14

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Neighbors Alarmed by Demolition Plans for 1923 Synagogue BY JACKSON CHEN

A

nother Upper West Side historic religious site in Manhattan may fall to developers, even as distressed neighbors are trying to raise awareness and seek advice regarding their options when faced with plans to demolish a synagogue on West 93rd Street to make way for a 14-story mixed-use building. According to a letter received by neighbors of Congregation Shaare Zedek in April from an unnamed developer, plans are underway to tear down the synagogue, which was dedicated in 1923. The building would then be replaced by an as-of-right mixeduse development containing a new three-story house of worship and condo units on the upper 11 top floors. Since the synagogue space would be considered a “community facility,” the developers are given more allowance for a bigger building within zoning regulations. Ronna Blaser, a neighbor of Congregation Shaare Zedek, said after receiving the unexpected notice, a group of concerned residents banded together to form the West Nineties Neighborhood Coalition to forge opposition to the project. “We were really upset because the building was built in 1922,” Blaser said. “It’s a beautiful, solid neoclassical structure that fits perfectly in the block and it just seemed like it always should be there.” Landmark West!, an Upper West Side preservation organization, noted that Shaare Zedek, in its current space now for nearly a century, is the third oldest congregation in New York City. According to Sean Khorsandi, the organization’s advocacy director, the synagogue unfortunately falls within a “landmarks desert,” which has few designated properties in the immediate vicinity and is outside the boundaries of two nearby historic districts, the Upper West Side-Central Park West and Riverside-West End Historic Districts. Khorsandi said Shaare Zedek was the most recent of many syn-

6

agogues that “may be easy tar gets for developers” because of the common financial struggles faced by religious institutions and the legal allowances for larger replacement structures if they include a community facility. The Jewish Telegraph Agency, an international news ser vice, reported back in May that the synagogue was looking to “embark on its own construction project, which will see its 1923 building demolished to make way for a 14-story construction,” including a three-story synagogue and condo units. For Blaser and likeminded neighbors, there is unhappiness about the vague information provided them in the April letter they received. “There’s really no communication between the developer and us,” Blaser said. “The only time they communicate is if they want to come into the building for engineering things.” After some research, the coalition discovered Scott Leyton and his Long Island-based company, Ornstein Leyton Company, were the developers behind the project. Blaser and Julie Jacobs, another members of the new coalition, approached Community Board 7 for advice in preserving what they feel is a precious part of their neighborhood. Since no plans have been filed with the city’s Department of Buildings, the property was not an agenda item for CB7, but board members agreed to hear the concerns as a preemptive look into the project. Given the lack of plans, however, CB7 could only advise that the coalition reach out to any overseeing bodies to which the synagogue reports in seeking a positive outcome for their concerns. According to Jacobs, the coalition has also reached out to local elected of ficials, including Borough President Gale Brewer, State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal. Councilmember Rosenthal, Jacobs said, was able to guide coalition members through the governmental process the syna-

JACKSON CHEN

The 93-year-old home to Congregation Shaare Zedek on West 93rd Street could be lost if as-of-right plans for its site’s redevelopment move forward.

gogue would most likely face. Rosenthal said she would be keeping an eye on the project, but acknowledged that given its as-of-right nature, the neighbors have only limited “ability to have formal grounds for getting involved.” The Upper West Side has at least two other controversial development projects under consideration on the site of religious institutions –– the conversion of a 1903 church building into residential use at 96th Street and Central Park West and the construction of a nine-story building by a synagogue on property it owns adjacent to its historic temple at CPW and 70th Street.

Rosenthal said the sharp eye that developers are keeping on historic buildings is a symptom of how tight the real estate market on the Upper West Side cur rently is. “It’s a reflection of the mar ket and how valuable people are finding their property,” Rosenthal said. “I think property owners are looking to monetize their property, the market is hot, and that’s what they’re going to do.” She added that many religious institutions struggle financially, particularly those housed in old buildings that can often face burdensome repairs. Community

c SYNAGOGUE, continued on p.9

August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Riverside Center’s Affordable Housing Design

Draws Mixed CB7 Response BY JACKSON CHEN

D

espite plans for three large residential buildings within the five-building Riverside Center complex offering 270 permanent affordable housing units, Community Board 7 is reacting with mixed reviews to the layout of the buildings, with some members voicing concern that a division would be created between types of tenants. The three buildings –– identified as Buildings 1, 3, and 4 –– are part of the eight-acre Riverside Center development between West 59th and 61st Streets on West End Avenue. The developer, General Investment and Development, is creating a total of 1136 units, with nearly 24 percent of them being offered as affordable housing units, divided among the three buildings.

According to Ken Lowenstein, an attorney at Holland & Knight who represents the developer, eligibility for the affordable units will likely be pegged at 60 percent of the official Area Median Income. Extell Development and the Carlyle Group formerly owned the entire Riverside Center site, but have since sold off three of the towers to GID. The plans presented to Community Board 7’s Housing and Land Use Committees on August 17 indicated that each of the three buildings would have almost a quarter of its units be af for dable and integrated throughout its floors. The most striking and controversial among the three, Building 1 on West 61st Street, was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. With a design that looks like two

merging structures, the building will have a common base that branches off into a 37-story portion with condos and a 24-story extension with rental units. According to the plans, Building 1 will include 650 units, with 157 of them affordable rentals. In their first look at the layouts, some CB7 members were worried about the division between renters and condo owners created by having separate entrances and elevators. “My understanding with affordable housing is to very distinctly make sure that it is not poor housing, that people should not feel discriminated against,” Louisa Craddock, a CB7 Land Use Committee member, said about the two entrances creating the possibility of a “poor door.”

“It’s totally unnecessary, and it’s a stigma,” she said. Other members of the committees, however, said the two separate entrances wer e not intended to create a poor door and instead resulted from the building’s large scale. “It’s a function of the size of the building and where you want to go,” Robert Espier, a CB7 Housing Committee member, said. “Whether you’re rental you’re going to go through that entrance, and if you’re condo you have to go through the other way.” A GID spokesperson said a rendering of the buildings could not be provided to Manhattan Express. Most of the committees’ discussion involved Building 1, with

c RIVERSIDE, continued on p.8

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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

7


First Tentative Steps to Open Up East 90th Pier

JACKSON CHEN

Upper East Side residents enjoy “Summer Sizzle,” sponsored by the Friends of the East River Esplanade, on August 7.

BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he determined efforts by the East River Esplanade’s conservancy group to open up the East 90th Street pier for public recreational use finally bore some fruit this summer with the decision by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation to offer limited open hours until Labor Day.

c RIVERSIDE, from p.7 Building 3 and 4 viewed as less controversial, since they have a more uniform shape. Building 3, on West 59th Street and closer to the Hudson River, was designed by Richard Meier & Partners as a 35-story building with 272 units, 64 of which will be affordable rental units. Building 4 was created by Rafael Viñoly Architects as a 33-story building, with 214 units, 49 of which will be affordable rentals. John Gagnier, a GID senior vice president, emphasized that his

8

Though the pier once served as a ferry stop on routes that traveled to and from Yankee Stadium and Wall Street, the Upper East Side pier has mostly been unused in the years since service was discontinued, with only sporadic ferries running from 90th Street to the stadium. On most days, the pier, which overlooks the East River with views of Randall’s Island, Roosevelt Island, and Queens, is gated

company’s goal is to ensure that entrances, elevators, and lobby space in each of the three building is created equally. He added the developer stretched the ratios of rentals to condos as much as it could. “We built the minimum amount of condos we could afford,” Gagnier said. “We love rentals, if we could afford it, we would build them all day.” Housing Committee co-chair Polly Spain noted that CB7 asked GID to provide it with the affordable housing plans prior to their being submitted to the

off and largely ignored by esplanade users. In an attempt to create more open space for a community where it is in short supply, the Friends of the East River Esplanade several years ago approached the Department of Transportation, which owns the pier, and the Parks Department, which maintains it, with their public pier pitch. “We’re so starved for open space on the East Side and everyone says the waterfront should be a priority,” Jennifer Ratner, the founder and board chair of the Friends group, said. “If they’re not using it and it’s literally sitting there in almost brand new condition, how come we can’t open it and use it?” After first engaging the city agencies in late 2014, the conservancy peppered officials with dozens of correspondences before finally given the green light to hold two Sunday events this summer. During the Friends’ “Summer Sizzle” events on July 24 and August 7, Ratner said, turnout exceeded 200 on each day, including Parks’ first deputy commissioner Liam Kavanagh, enjoyed a welcoming pier that offered live Latin music and free Häagen-Dazs ice cream. According to Ratner, the feedback her group heard was that people wanted to see the pier open all the time. “It was like one of those hot, 100-degree days and people, most of them strangers, came,” Ratner said of the July event. “Everyone said, ‘Why can’t this be open all the time, I don’t understand.’” Impressed with the results from the Friends’ events, the Parks Department decided to keep the pier open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the remaining Sundays through Labor Day Weekend. But with such short notice about Parks’ intentions, Ratner explained, her group did not have enough time to plan for additional “Summer Sizzle” events. However, the Friends group is already working on similar events with music and food for two days in the fall.

city’s Housing Preservation and Development agency, which has already happened. Overall, however, board members expressed satisfaction with the percentage of affordable housing being created and how they are dispersed throughout the three buildings. “Given this project in its previous iteration was 20 percent [affordable housing] and this is 24 percent,” Page Cowley, Land Use Committee co-chair, said, “we are getting what we were promised and then some.” The committee suggested

c PIER, continued on p.9 that Building 1 not have differ ent addresses on its two wings or otherwise have its entrances demarcated. Acknowledging that the development would set a precedent for affordable housing developments in the area, some board members were eager to emphasize that the plans do not represent a gold standard to send a message that future developments need to do more. Foundation work has already begun on the development, and it is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, according to Gagnier. n

August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c SYNAGOGUE, from p.6 fundraising to support such congregations can sometimes aid in preservation efforts, but that is a lofty and often ultimately unachievable goal when expensive renovation becomes necessary. From the perspective of Landmark West!, the incentives given developers in building community facilities on sites formerly home to historic congregations pose a hazard to their preservation. “For us, the greater thing would be a better look citywide at the community facility provision and who uses it,” Khorsandi said. “There are a lot of gray areas and unanswered questions in the rules.” Blaser agreed that the current system is not working to the advantage of those hoping to preserve the Upper West Side’s historic character, and that residents have no choice but to speak up. “If this would happen once or twice it would be a coincidence,” Blaser said. “But it’s happening so much in the neighborhood, we feel if we don’t voice our concerns, there are going to be all these beautiful buildings becoming high rises and we’ll really lose the fabric of our neighborhood.” The developer, Ornstein Leyton Company, and the synagogue could not be reached for comment. n

c PIER, from p.8 Ultimately, the conservancy chair said, she hopes the pier can be dedicated for public use full time. With other waterfronts in the city having open piers, Ratner hoped the Upper East Side could secure space for people to relax and enjoy the East River’s breeze. “We would love to add to the open space on the waterfront and it’s just an extra addition,” Ratner said, referring to the adjoining esplanade. “What’s so fabulous about it is you just feel closer to the water, the view is much prettier, and it’s something different.” One potential hitch comes from the Citywide Ferry Service plans for redeploying the East 90th Street Pier as a working pier as part of the East River Soundview line, which is planned to open in 2018. The Friends are hoping they can work out a partnership with the ferry’s operator, the San Francisco-based Hornblower, and are planning to meet company officials in September, Ratner said. A spokesperson for Hornblower said, “We look forward to meeting with the Friends of the East River Esplanade in the near future to promote access and activity along our growing waterfront, including when Citywide Ferry starts servicing the Upper East Side in 2018.” The parks department did not respond to a request for comment as of the time this story was published. n ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

9


Our Perspective

Eliminate Tip Credit for Car Wash Workers

By Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW

C

ar wash workers in New York City – or “carwasheros,” as they call themselves – have made great strides since their campaign to unionize began in 2012. Hundreds of carwasheros at 10 car washes have won the dignity and respect that comes with union membership. Union contracts have given carwasheros – for the first time – paid time off, the ability to return to their home countries for visits and have their jobs protected, and guaranteed wage and benefit improvements. But throughout New York State, the so-called “tip credit” threatens to continue to undermine progress that workers are making in the car wash industry. The tip credit is a part of New York State minimum wage law that allows industry operators to pay car wash workers a different, lower minimum wage. In theory, workers’ tips are supposed to make up the difference, and possibly more. And, if workers’ tips don’t raise the level of pay to at least the minimum wage, car wash employers are supposed to make up the difference in additional hourly wages. In actual practice, it’s a flawed system that enables wage theft and contributes to systemic underpayment of car wash workers – exactly what the car wash unionizing campaign and carwasheros have been fighting against. Investigations have shown that employers don’t always make up the extra pay for workers when tips are short, and carwasheros don’t always receive the tips customers presume they are getting. We shouldn’t be giving unscrupulous employers additional incentives to underpay their workers. Earlier this summer, workers at one Queens car wash won a $130,000 settlement against an owner who was paying below minimum wage, withholding overtime pay, and committing other wage and hour violations. And that’s just the latest settlement of many, including one that saw a New York carwash operator pay almost $4 million in 2014. Wage theft is still rampant in the industry, and the tip credit helps create an environment where it happens. The Cuomo Administration has done a good job prosecuting wage theft, and helping win justice for workers across New York. But we need to do more. We call upon the Governor and the state legislature to eliminate the car wash tip credit, and bring the base pay for all car wash workers in New York up to the minimum wage. It’s an important move that will show New York’s commitment to fighting for worker rights, and protect worker pay.

www.rwdsu.org 10

Police Blotter MISSING PERSON: EMANUEL BRENES (23rd Precinct) Police are asking for help in locating a missing 12-year-old boy from East Harlem who was last seen on August 22 at around 12:30 p.m. inside his home at 405 East 105th Street. Police posted photos of the missing boy (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a Hispanic male, 5’7”, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair, last seen wearing a blue and white striped T-shirt, blue jeans, black sneakers, and a black and white baseball cap.

BURGLARY: INTERNATIONAL HEIST (19th Precinct) The Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia was burglarized by two suspects on August 22 at around 1 a.m., police said. According to police, the suspects entered the consulate at 5 East 68th Street through an unlocked side door. The man and woman grabbed a case of vodka, a Samsung tablet, a suitcase full of clothing, and keys to a van, which they used to drive off in a 2004 tan-colored Honda Odyssey, police said. Police released photos and a video of the suspects (available at manhattanexpressnews. nyc), whom they describe as a male Hispanic, 18 to 25 years old, last seen wearing gray sweatpants and dark-colored sandals, and a female Hispanic, 18 to 25 years old, with black hair, last seen wearing a black and white striped tank top, dark-colored pants, and white sneakers.

ASSAULT: SUBWAY STABBING (26th Precinct) A male suspect stabbed a subway rider after they fought on the Central Park North Station platform at 110th Street on August 6 at around 7 p.m., police said. According to police, the incident began aboard a northbound 2 train when the suspect yelled homophobic slurs at the 28-year-old male victim. Once they arrived at the Central Park North station, the suspect began walking off the train, but not before stepping back in and punching the victim in the face, according to police. The victim followed the suspect off the train and the two fought in the station, where the suspect then stabbed the victim and fled to street level, police said. However, the victim continued chasing the suspect in the streets until he caught up and was stabbed again, police said. The suspect continued fleeing east on West 109th Street. Police released a photo and video of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews. nyc), whom they describe as a male Hispanic, 6’1”, 155 pounds, and last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and a dark green backpack.

UNLAWFUL SURVEILLANCE: CREEPY COMMUTER (Midtown South Precinct) Police said that a male suspect was snapping photos of a 27-year-old female’s body by holding his cellphone beneath her shorts on August 6 at around 11:45 p.m. aboard a 7 train approaching the Grand Central 42nd Street Station. Police released a photo of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a white male, around 5’9”, approximately 175 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair, and last seen wearing a white baseball hat, black sneakers, a green T-shirt, and blue jeans.

FORCIBLE TOUCHING: STRONGARMING SMOOCH (24th Precinct) A man is wanted for attempting to forcibly kiss a 48-year-old female who was walking her dog inside Riverside Park, police said. According to police, on August 5 at around 5:30 a.m., the male suspect approached the female who was around West 107th Street and Riverside Drive and asked for the time. The suspect then grabbed the victim and put her in a headlock, which the woman was able to break out of by striking the man in the groin. During his second attempt at a headlock, he tried to kiss the woman, who then bit him on the lips, at which point he released her and ran away. Police released a sketch of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a Hispanic male, around 20 to 30 years old, 145 to 155 pounds, with a medium complexion, a muscular build, short brown curly hair, brown eyes, and last seen wearing a gray shirt, khaki shorts, and white sneakers.

ROBBERY: RUDE AWAKENING (19th Precinct) Two suspects robbed a sleeping victim at gunpoint on August 9 at around 6 a.m., police said. According to police, the two male suspects approached the 32-year-old man who was sleeping on a bench near 3 East 89th Street, before displaying a handgun. One of the suspects, armed, pistol-whipped the victim when he refused to give up his belongings, police said. The suspects made off with the victim’s laptop and camera and fled into Central Park, according to police. Police released photos of the suspects (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male, 18 to 25 years old, 6’, 150 pounds, and last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans, with a second black male, 18 to 25 years old, 6’, 150 pounds, with a mustache and goatee, and last seen swearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

c BLOTTER, continued on p.11

August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Broadway Dancer, Charged in Boyfriend’s Murder,

Asked Forgiveness on Facebook BY PAUL SCHINDLER

A

man charged in the August 19 strangulation murder of his boyfriend in the Bronx took to Facebook in the immediate aftermath of the violence with a series of posts that amounted to a cryptic confession of sorts. “Forgive me father,” Marcus Bellamy, a 32-year-old Broadway dancer, wrote at 3:57 p.m. that afternoon, just moments after he allegedly killed Bernardo Almonte, Jr., 27, whom the Daily News reported Bellamy told police was his boyfriend. That post was followed in rapid succession by the following posts: “For god so lived the world that he gave his only son.” “Lucifer.” “I am god. I give life and can take it away. So let it be. #‎therapture” “Forgive me. I did it because I love you. I love you all. I loved him also. He told me love and hate are the same emotion. Forgive me. I know not what I do. I did it for love. For god. On high.” The criminal complaint, which charges Bellamy with murder in the second degree and manslaughter in the first degree in Almonte’s strangling at 104 West 174th Street in the Morris Heights section, puts the time of the killing at approximately 4 p.m. The Daily News reported that after the killing, Bellamy left the apartment and told a neighbor that he had just slain Almonte. As of August 23, the Bronx district attor ney’s office had not yet indicted Bellamy. Florida-born Bellamy was a back-up dancer in the Broadway production of “Spider-Man, Tur n Of f the Darkness,” and was in the ensemble of the 2006 production of “Tarzan.” He also danced in the NBC show “Smash,” and the films “Across the Universe” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

c BLOTTER, from p.10 MISSING PERSON: KATHLEEN DIAZ (24th Precinct) A 15-year-old Upper West Sider was reported missing on July 25, according to police. Police said Kathleen Diaz was last seen at her home at 140 West 104th Street on July 25 at 8 a.m. Police attached photos of the missing girl (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a 4’11’ and 120-pound female.

FACEBOOK.COM

LINKEDIN.COM

Marcus Bellamy.

Bernardo Almonte, Jr.

Almonte’s Linkedin.com profile identified him as a freelance IT technician. In the early morning of August 19, between 12 and 15 hours before the killing, Bellamy made a series of bizarre and also cryptic Facebook posts. At 12:43 a.m., he wrote, “About a month ago.. God sent a thought to me. The thought continued to reoccure [sic] in my mind … So. Now.. I am … Asking god .. To let me know. If it’s true.. God said to me not to worry about Donald Trump being elected into presidency.. Because he will pass away before the voting happens. He will pass away from an illness that no amount of money or medication will be able to save him from. That’s what god said to me.. If it will happen.. I don’t know. God” About three hours later, he wrote, “I don’t need to do anything. All I need to do is be. God will work out all the details. #relax #earthquake”

And then, at 4:12 a.m., he wrote, “Trust me. This is just the beginning. Of a whole new world.” In a written statement, Beverly T illery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said, “We are deeply saddened by the homicide of Bernardo Almonte, and send our condolences to his friends and loved ones. Too often we only hear of LGBTQ intimate partner violence through these most tragic homicides.” Earlier intervention in relationship violence before it escalates, Tillery added, is essential. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects documented 15 intimate partner homicides within the LGBTQ community in 2014, the last year for which full data is available. The group has responded to 10 such incidents this year. n

ROBBERY: DUMMY GUN (Midtown North Precinct) Police said an armed robber threatened a jewelry store in Midtown, but his gun fell apart when he attempted to use it. On August 7 at around 4 p.m., police said the suspect entered Rafaello & Co. at 22 West 47th Street and asked the two employees, a 61-year-old male and a 33-year-old female, to see a chain inside a display case. Police said as the male employee went to the back to retrieve the case key, the suspect pulled a handgun and pointed it at the female employee’s head. The male employee ran

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

back after hearing screams and tried wrestling the gun out of the suspect’s hands, according to police. When the suspect got control of the gun and tried to fire, the gun fell apart, police said, and the suspect then fled empty-handed east on West 47th Street. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male, 20 to 25 years old, 6’2”, 160 pounds, and last seen wearing a black jacket, black pants, black shoes, and a black baseball cap.

ASSAULT: PEST CONTROL BREAKS BAD (Midtown South Precinct) Two suspects assaulted a 36-year-old victim by spraying him with an unknown substance as he waited for a train, police said. On July 30 at around 4:30 a.m., the victim was waiting for a 2 train at the northbound platform of the Times Square-42nd Street station. The two suspects began by verbally

c BLOTTER, continued on p.16

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After Yuge Gamble, Intrepid Trumpie Ends Up in Bellevue

in hopes of meeting his hero. News reports said his birth name is Michael Joseph Ryan, but that he recently changed it. The day before, after posting a YouTube video describing himself as an independent researcher seeking a “private audience” with the candidate, Rogata drove to Manhattan, spending the night at the swank Bowery Hotel Downtown. Carrying a backpack, the longhaired Rogata, wearing shorts and a green T -shirt, walked into the glitzy building at midafternoon and made his way to a fifth-floor

outdoor space. After unpacking four large suction cups and two long straps, he climbed the sloping enclosure on the building’s east side before beginning his nearly three-hour vertical ascent. He did not go unnoticed long. Shortly after 3:30 p.m., a 911 call of a possible jumper at the building brought emergency vehicles to Fifth Avenue. Police shut down East 56th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues. Giant yellow airbags were inflated on 56th Street and on a building setback. Barricades along Madison Avenue were soon packed with crowds, their cell phone cameras pointed skyward at the unfolding spectacle. Rogata could be seen wiping each surface before slamming a suction cup against the glass to guarantee a tight seal. Despite occasional gasps and cheers from the crowd below, Rogata never appeared to lose his grip or slip from the straps. As Rogata slowly rose along the dark glass wall, the 58-story building’s sealed windows left police little opportunity to snag the ascending alpinist. Their first attempt involved cutting through metal ventilation grates and extending a ladder across the top of an atrium. But once he saw the distinctive blue helmets of Emergency Service Unit police above him, Rogata changed course, moving horizontally toward the building’s southern wall. After Rogata turned the corner, police several floors up broke one of the double-paned windows. A large piece narrowly missed him as shards

of glass fell to the street below. Two officers then descended in a window washers’ scaffold, stopping three floors directly above Rogata — but, seeing no way to grab him, they soon returned to the roof. As he reached the 18th floor, a large window several floors above began shaking. It appeared police might also break through that window. But moments later, it was clear that glaziers had been brought in to help remove the large window and an adjacent pane. Seeing his upward progress thwarted, Rogata again moved horizontally, but by then the window washers’ basket had returned to block him. Rogata continued climbing along the building’s wall and was soon within easy reach of police at the now-open 21st-floor window. A half-dozen officers watched as Rogata came even with them. As two officers reached out to snag him, Rogata made a last grab of the building’s corner before finally being pulled inside. Crowds cheered as Rogata’s flailing legs followed his body inside. “When [the opportunity] presented itself, I reached out, took hold of his hand and I said, ‘Sir, come with me,’” said Detective Christopher Williams of E.S.U., one of the officers who pulled Rogata inside. Rogata was taken out the building’s Fifth Avenue entrance on a stretcher for transport to Bellevue Hospital, where he spent several days under observation. He was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal trespass. n

scheduling construction to minimize inconvenience. JHL also said it would implement remedial plans approved by the New York State Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation to minimize dust emissions and continuously monitor noise and dust throughout the construction. The School Construction Authority sent a letter to JHL shortly after the June 30 meeting committing to oversee remediation requested by parents that the nonprofit agrees to, according to a mayoral spokesperson. “The city, including the mayor,

has been involved in trying to facilitate a settlement throughout,” Kathawala said. “To their credit, they have offered all of their resources to try and have the parties reach a settlement, but JHL, despite its significant resources and that of its business partner in the land swap, have chosen not to move forward with it.” With no settlement in sight, a decision from the appeals court considering JHL’s request for review of Lobis’ December 2015 order regarding the environmental impact report is the expected to be released soon.

“We hope the appellate division will agree with and affirm the thoughtful analysis in Judge Lobis’ opinion,” Kathawala said. JHL’s spokesperson, meanwhile, said the nonprofit is confident that the nursing home will be constructed, no matter what the outcome of the pending litigation. “Our bottom line is that we’re very hopeful we will be able to proceed here based on how the legal judgments ultimately come out,” Geto said. “Of course, Jewish Home has options to proceed with this project even if the court ruled against it.” n

JEFFERSON SIEGEL

Stephen Rogata, at around the eighth floor of Trump Tower, turns the corner from an east-facing wall to a southfacing one after police cut through ventilation grates above him.

BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL

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n admirer intent on meeting real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump brought Midtown to a standstill on August 10 (as Manhattan Express was last going to press). Traffic didn’t stall at the shock of someone in Manhattan actually supporting Trump. Instead, crowds gathered because the man, identified by police as Stephen Rogata, 19, of Great Falls, Virginia, chose to climb the outside of Trump Tower

c NURSING HOME, from p.3 a construction program that is well beyond each of the governing agencies’ requirements.” On top of noise-attenuating windows and air-conditioning units to be installed on the eastern end of the school, which faces the proposed project’s site, JHL said it is committed to relocating the crane so it will never swing over the school, installing a 10-foot “acoustically-treated” fence, netting, and a cocoon during the concrete pouring phase, and taking the school calendar into consideration when

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August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


in a city rich in shades, here is a COLOR that includes all...

in in a city rich here in shades, here isthat a COLOR that includes all... in a city rich shades, is a COLOR includes all...

COURTESY: RYANISHUNGRY/ FLICKR.COM

A portion of the Keith Haring mural that winds its way up a stairwell at 218 West 108th Street.

Can This Haring Be Saved? BY JACKSON CHEN

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ity Councilmember Mark Levine is calling for landmarking designation of a threatened Keith Haring mural that dances up the interior stairwell of a residential building on West 108th Street. But even many sympathetic preservationists feel it’s an uphill battle, despite the late artist’s renown. The mural, in which Haring drew on the familiar lively figures well known from his work, is located inside 218 West 108th Street, a property that previously housed a Catholic youth organization called the Grace House. According to a 2007 New York Times story, the mural was painted in 1983 or 1984 after Haring was invited to the Grace House several times. The building’s current owner, the Church of the Ascension at 221 West 107th Street, has since switched the building’s use to residential. Faced with financial challenges, however, the church is now looking to sell off the property and is fielding offers from developers, according to Levine. “We assume if the goal is revenue, there would be a temptation for luxury housing,” the councilmember said. “I would hope that it can remain a place for low-income people in the neighborhood to find apartments.” Levine said the request for designation has been submitted to the

Landmarks Preservation Commission, but noted that it would be a complicated process. “This is an unusual case,” Levine said of the mural. “There are provisions in the landmarks law for landmarking interiors, but landmarks law doesn’t provide for landmarking of private residences.” To resolve both hurdles, the councilmember proposed occasional public tours that would not only invite the public to experience the mural firsthand, but also meet the criteria for interior landmarks. But preservationists are not confident that the Landmarks Preservation Commission would heed the call for the mural’s designation. “Typically speaking, interiors that are landmarked are traditionally open to the public,” Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said. “It’s a toughie, especially since it’s such a site-specific artwork. Even the removal of it would be difficult.” Bankoff added that landmarking may not be the best tool to preserve the mural and said the optimal outcome might be an interested individual coming in and purchasing it, despite the potential difficulties of removing it. And according to Peg Breen, the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s president, the LPC rarely designates landmarks over a religious institution’s objections.

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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

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For UWS Teacher, the Hothouse Leads to the White House BY COLIN MIXSON

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pper West Side public school teacher Shakira Provasoli was treated to a once-in-a-lifetime field trip to the White House last week, where the she was honored with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators in recognition of a groundbreaking curriculum she developed to support her school’s greenhouse learning center. But the self-effacing elementary school instructor humbly argued that she’s not the hero, and that the amazing hydroponic growing space atop West 93rd Street’s P.S. 333 deserves all the credit. “It’s definitely the children’s favorite place to go, it’s not about me,” said Provasoli, a Manhattan resident. “It’s like having a field trip, but they get to go every week.” All modesty aside, the teacher’s lack of pretension belies the invaluable curriculum she’s spent the past five years developing to leverage the impressive hothouse — which features pest-eating ladybugs, fertilizer-producing tilapia, and numerous high-tech hydroponic systems — to infuse

c P.S. 191, from p.4 ited debate by parents whose children are affected, the DOE offered up two scenarios in July that revolve around P.S 191 and P.S. 452 at 100 West 77th Street. According to the plans, school officials laid out options that include moving P.S 452 into P.S. 191’s current building, which will be vacant after its move into Riverside Center. That plan doesn’t explore what happens with P.S. 452’s current space afterward. Given the many parents who express displeasure with an option that moves their school 16 blocks south, the DOE also presented an alternative that would create a new school at P.S. 191’s empty building and leave P.S. 452 at its current site. Community Education Council 3, a state-chartered advisory group representing district parents, has not come close to a final position

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SUZANNE SHELLEY

COURTESY: US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

P.S. 333 environmental science teacher Shakira Provasoli in her hothouse and in the White House.

her young students with an impressive competence in, and love of, environmental science. “I want them to love science,” Provasoli said. “I want them to feel confident about their understanding of science, and I want them to believe that they have the power to make a difference in the world.” Provasoli isn’t afraid to use the entrancing space to teach deadly serious science, using

on the debate, but will be discussing the two proposals during its monthly meeting in September. CEC3 is expected to vote on a proposal by November 19, which would affect the 2017-2018 school year, if approved. In the meantime, parents have been r eaching out to Rosenthal to voice their concerns. The councilmember is reviewing both options to make sure that several criteria are met. She explained that for her to be satisfied, the rezoning must address the educational needs of the district’s students and the overcrowding, but most importantly, should promote socioeconomic integration. So far, both options accommodate at least 20 percent of the students being from low-income families or those eligible for reduced lunch prices at each of the two or three schools, Rosenthal said. With the new school space, Rosenthal said, she expects

plants grown in the greenhouse to demonstrate the effects of climate change, subjecting them to drought, storms, hot flashes, and other ugly consequences of our misuse of the earth. But her classes are designed to inspire hope, not despair, and Provasoli instructs students that they can take control of their world and work to make it better by understanding the causes and effects of global warming.

“It’s a scary topic,” she said, “but when you have the tools to change it and lessen the effects, they really can make a differ ence.” The greenhouse, with all its flashy gizmos and critters, goes a long way all on its own –– separate from any lesson Provasoli provides –– in engendering a love of science and the natural world. In fact, there are times when the greenhouse steers the lesson more than Provasoli would like. “You can’t imagine how difficult it is if a shipment of lady bugs arrived and, God forbid, I want to teach about something else,” she said. “Sometimes I have to laugh and understand I’m not as exciting as a ladybug.” The greenhouse at P.S. 333 was among the first at any public school in the city, although the non-profit-funded growing spaces have since expanded to other schools throughout New York, where teachers and students continue to benefit from the curriculum that Provasoli pioneered. “I’m pretty sure that it’s used as the basis for their teaching,” the White House-honored instructor said. n

ED REED/ NYC MAYORAL PRESS OFFICE

Mayor Bill de Blasio with City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal (l.) and School Construction Authority president Lorraine Grillo at an August 10 press conference in the construction site of the new public school at Riverside Center.

three new sections of kindergarten, accommodating around 66 kids, to ease concerns of families whose children are just enter ing the system and worry about overcrowding. Though local elected officials agree that the 2017 opening of the Riverside Center school doesn’t

solve the rezoning debate, they noted it provides greater breathing room for coming to a quick resolution of challenges facing local schools. Rosenthal said that moving forward she is keeping a very close eye on the progress of the new space to ensure it in fact is ready for September 2017. n

August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Safety Tips for Outfitting Youngsters With a New Backpack BY CAROL HEADLEY

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hen it comes to backpack safety, most people tend to think about injuries caused by a heavy backpack, or one worn improperly. But there are other dangers associated with backpacks, as well, one about which caution should be exercised. Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes and can be a handy tool for students and adults. When worn correctly, with weight evenly distributed across the back and shoulders, backpacks can be safer and more effective than using a purse or briefcase. But many people wear overly loaded backpacks slung over one shoulder, which can pose problems with posture and lead to back issues. In addition to the physical strain backpacks can cause, they can be a danger in other ways. Many people fail to recognize how much space a backpack can take up. Entering the tight quarters of a school bus or commuting on a train or bus means a bulky backpack can knock into other people. If that backpack is full of heavy, cumbersome books — or even a laptop computer — an inadvertent bump by the pack can cause injuries. Also, backpacks taken off and placed in bus aisles can be a trip hazard.

Students can also be injured if a heavy pack falls on them. Children tucking backpacks into lockers or classroom cubbies may find that they slide out and hit another classmate. Backpacks change the way individuals walk. Because the student is carrying around extra weight, they may lose balance or trip and fall, especially when going down steps. To avoid these secondary hazards from backpacks, consider these tips: Don’t overload a backpack. Carry only what is necessary. If too many books are the issue, parents should talk to school administrators and teachers to reach a happy medium regarding textbook usage. Safely store it on a lap or under the bus seat. Be sure that straps –– or the pack itself –– are not extending into the aisle. Know how much space the bag takes up when worn. Be conscious of others when tur ning around or entering a confined space. Take care on stairs. To help avoid slips and falls, hold on to stair rails and do not run while wearing a heavy backpack.

Choose a lightweight bag. Canvas backpacks are generally lighter in weight than leather backpacks. Do not add extra weight unnecessarily. Avoid rolling backpacks. These can actually be difficult to roll, and some schools ban this style bag because it is a trip hazard. They also make an awful lot of noise on the sidewalk. n

Integrating the meditation and flexibility of yoga, the deep breathing and flow of Tai Chi, into the striking/grappling skills of karate to evolve the mind, body, and spirit for life. Harmony By Karate Premiered as the martial art of the world famous Reebok Sports Club/NY for 20 years and is rated in the top 10 martial arts schools in the US.

HARMONY BY KARATE FOR ALL AGES 646-387-2073 | HARMONYBYKARATE.cOM | HARMONYKARATE@GMAiL.cOM ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

15


EXPRESS YOURSELVES

Helicoptering Your Kids Don’t Need PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

EDITOR IN-CHIEF PAUL SCHINDLER editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS JACKSON CHEN LINCOLN ANDERSON SCOTT STIFFLER COLIN MIXSON YANNIC RACK ALEX ELLEFSON JANE ARGODALE JEFFERSON SIEGEL LENORE SKENAZY

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

BY LENORE SKENAZY

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an we please stop telling parents that it is normal to be terrified for even the shortest periods of time when kids are doing the most mundane of activities: walking to or from school? Because here’s what NBC’s Alyssa Newcomb reported the other day in an piece on “Back-to-School Safety Tech That Helps Keep Kids Safe” (the title alone reinforcing the idea that kids are not safe without us taking new, tech-assisted precautions): “No matter how mature and responsible a child is, those few blocks without adult supervision are enough to make most parents worry.” Since when? Since crime is back to the level it was in 1963? Since we are living in the safest times in human history according to Harvard’s Steven Pinker? Since even child deaths at the hand of a kidnapper — already extremely rare — are now one-fifth of what they were just 20 years ago? “Most parents worry” about a fewblock walk, in these particularly safe times, even if they know their kids are mature and responsible? That seems like some kind of illness. Yes, it is normal to worry if the neighborhood is truly crime-ridden. And naturally it can be worrying if a child is late getting home, or if it is the first week of school and the child is just getting used to the walk. But for parents to worry no matter how mature their kid, how short the walk, and how safe the neighborhood does not make sense. Igniting the fuse of fear makes sense for only two groups of people: the media, who depend on fear to keep us engaged, and the

makers of tech tracking devices, who depend on our dollars to stay in business. After all, if they can convince us that it is normal to fret any time we take our eyes off our kids, they can sell us products that keep our eyes upon them. And so reporter Newcomb goes on to list four products that track kids and apprise the parents of their location. The Pocketfinder is one. It goes in the child’s backpack and “updates a parent’s smartphone with their location every two minutes.” Obsess much? It also alerts parents the second their child veers off the prescribed path. What a joy that makes walking home: Follow that squirrel for a block and mom calls 911. Then there’s Life 360, which is free and sounds like Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map, showing every family member’s location. But if you pay a premium (aha!) you can get “expanded history data and a live adviser for urgent situations.” Just suggesting “urgent situations” makes the walk sound dire. The Canary, also profiled, is part of a $199 home security system allowing parents “to see live video and hear audio from their home. Parents can even replay the video clip from when their child walked in the door, ensuring that they were with only authorized house guests.” Maybe it should really be called the Stool Pigeon. It seems less like a normal household device and more like the closed-circuit television above the door at a 7-Eleven. And finally there’s the August Smart Lock, which let’s you “see and speak to whoever is at your

c BLOTTER, from p.11 harassing the straphanger and then punched and sprayed him, before fleeing to an unknown location, police said. The victim was left with scratches to his hands and irritation in his eyes, according to police. Police released a video of the suspects (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a Hispanic male, approximately 19 to 20 years old, 5’, 140 pounds, with brown eyes, brown hair, a medium complexion, and last seen wearing tan slacks, black sneakers, and a blue shirt, and a Hispanic female, approximately 19 to 20 years old, 5’, 130 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes, a light complexion, and last seen wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and a gray shirt.

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door, even if you’re not home.” It also locks and unlocks your door long distance, “making it ideal if your kid forgets their key,” according to Newcomb. At $400 it might be more ideal to make your kid a few extra keys, or even hide one someplace clever. So now I, too, have some advice on how to keep your kid safe on the way home from school — advice that the television report, in its haste to hail technological solutions to nearly non-existent dangers, forgot. Teach your children to: •  Look left, look right, look left again when crossing the street. •  Make sure that anyone turning sees them in the crosswalk. • Ask strangers for help if they need it. Teaching “Stranger danger” removes all the people who could help them in an emergency. (Remember that Utah boy scout who was lost for three days because every time he heard a search party member calling his name he scampered off to hide from the “stranger”?) However, teach your kids that they while they can talk to anyone, they cannot go off with anyone. And they should not get into someone’s car. Those are tips that make a lot of sense and, by golly, they are free! Of course, for a premium, I will add a new and pointless tip every month. Sign up now! Lenore Skenazy is author and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids,” and a contributor at reason.com. n

ARSON:BURNING BUSINESSES (19th Precinct) Police are looking for male suspect who is wanted for two arson incidents on the Upper East Side. Police said that on July 26 at around 2:30 a.m., the male suspect intentionally set fire to the front of La Mode Organic Cleaners at 526 East 82nd Street that caused property damage, but no injuries. On August 3 at around 4:30 a.m., a male suspect intentionally set fire to Gentlemen’s Resale at 322 East 81st Street causing property damage, but no injuries. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they don’t otherwise describe. August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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GBT activists affiliated with Gays Against Guns (GAG) took their message to the headquarters of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, to protest its holdings in two gun manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger. The August 15 protest, that drew dozens to the BlackRock offices on East 52nd Street, focused on the role guns produced by those two manufacturers played in the 2012 massacre at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in which 12 people were killed and another 70 were wounded. Twelve protesters, dressed in white veils with each holding a picture of one of the fatally wounded Aurora victims, occupied the lobby of the building for about a quarter of an hour before leaving at the request of security. Other protesters, carrying signs that read, “Black Rock #Drop the Gun $tock$,” staged a die-in while the veiled demonstrators stood vigil, and outside protesters lay down in chalk outlines of shooting victims. According to BlackRock’s most recent financial disclosure, its funds hold more than $8 million in Smith & Wesson stock and more than $7 million in Sturm, Ruger stock — investments it categorizes as “leisure products.” According to GAG member Ken Kidd, the group notified BlackRock of its demands that it divest its gun-maker stocks the previous week, but heard nothing back, “just excuses in the press.”

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In public statements to the media, BlackRock asserted that the index funds it offers are put together using a portfolio created by a “third party,” and the composition cannot be changed. It also noted that it offers separate financial vehicles for investors who do not want to own stock in firearms, alcohol, or tobacco companies. Challenging what it characterizes as BlackRock’s assertion that “their hands are tied,” GAG is critical of the asset manager’s statements that its gun manufacturer investments “contributed meaningfully” to its fund’s performance and that “Firearms manufacturers benefited from strong demand in the US.” The roughly $16 million it owns in firearms dealers represents a miniscule amount of BlackRock’s $4.9 trillion dollars under management. In its public statements, BlackRock emphasized its “history of supporting the LGBT community” and condemned “senseless acts of violence” such as the gun siege of an Orlando LGBT club that killed 49 in June. GAG formed in the wake of that tragedy. The group pledged to continue its pressure on companies with ties to the gun industry in “the weeks and months ahead, especially those that court the LGBTQ community.” “It’s us or them,” said John Grauwiler, a GAG founder. “End your relationship with the death business or the LGBTQ community ends its relationship with you.” n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

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Perfect “Memory,” But No Museum Piece BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

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s Gus the theater cat sings in the splendid revival of “Cats” now back on Broadway, “The theater is certainly not what it was.” Aging Gus’ glory days were a highpoint in art, quite lost in all the modernity of a world that, not incidentally, has passed him by. When he wrote these words, T.S. Eliot was being satirical. Yet in the case of “Cats,” it’s completely true. When “Cats” first arrived in 1982, the virtually plot-free, dance-heavy spectacle was relatively new, but it changed Broadway and paved the way for the now-common jukebox musical. More significantly, Gillian Lynne’s choreography transformed dance on Broadway in a way not seen since Agnes de Mille integrated dance into storytelling in “Oklahoma.” This little foray into theater history is relevant because the new production of “Cats” enters a culture where mass market entertainment is less tied to linear narrative, and dance is more mainstream than ever before thanks to successful TV shows that put dance on a par with other competitive sports and, not incidentally, made it acceptable for boys in ways that it previously was not. In other words, the time seems ideal for “Cats” to come back to Broadway. It arrives looking fresh and exciting with an exuberance and precision that are dazzling. The cast is fantastic and includes stars of the above-mentioned TV shows, a pop star, and more traditional Broadway performers. The score, largely settings of poems from T.S. Eliot about cats, is still every bit as infectious and tuneful as it always was. You’d think after decades the songs wouldn’t get stuck in your head for days again. But you’d be wrong. The costumes by John Napier are appropriately feline, and his sets litter the stage with oversized rubbish that the cats can slink through and around. Yet what really transforms this production is Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography. Based on Lynne’s original work, Blankenbuehler has amped up the athleticism and offers a synthesis of styles and techniques that is thrilling. The result is immediate and contemporary, and suggests that a simple museum-quality reproduction of the original wouldn’t have worked. Among the excellent cast, Tyler Hanes as Rum Tum Tugger, Andy Huntington Jones as Munkustrap, Ricky Ubeda as Mr. Mistoffelees, Eloise Kropp as Jennyanydots, and Georgi-

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MATTHEW MURPHY

Leona Lewis offers an inimitable take on “Memory,” the most enduring song from “Cats.”

na Pazcoguin as Victoria the White Cat are all standouts. British pop star Leona Lewis as Grizabella has the potentially daunting task of making this iconic role her own, and she does. Grizabella doesn’t really have much to do, other than sing the most famous song from the show, “Memory.” In the first act, we get a taste of it, as Grizabella appears for the first time. In the second, though, she gives us the full-throated version. What’s remarkable about Lewis is that although she has the pipes to do it, she doesn’t go all diva on it; she inhabits it. I’ve never really been a fan of “Memory,” but in Lewis’ beautifully rendered performance, the nuances of character are present in ways I’ve never heard before, and, for the first time ever, the song brought tears to my eyes. If theater is to remain vibrant, it can never be “what it was.” It must accommodate contem-

porary tastes while pushing beyond them to entertain and astonish. No one could be more surprised than I that the current instrument for this dynamism is a revival of “Cats.” n

CATS Neil Simon Theatre 250 W. 52nd St. Mon.-Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed. at 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. $59-$149; ticketmaster.com Or 800-745-3000 Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission

August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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Rediscovering a Language, Finding a Voice BY STEVE ERICKSON

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n the “Musings” blog, critic Ryan Wu recently pondered why there have been so many films about the white immigrant experience and so few about Latino or Asian immigrants. He came to the conclusion that a film like “The Namesake” is expected to speak for all Asian immigrants, while “The Immigrant,” despite its title, is free to veer off into left-field tangents in its depiction of Polish immigrants. There have been dozens of films made about French Arabs, but the perils of depicting the experience that Wu described are alive and well in France, judging from Philippe Faucon’s “Fatima.” Strict, conservative parents. Check. Good, studious girl. Check. Bad, rebellious girl. Check. All the clichés about immigrant life are present here. Fatima (Soria Zeroual) is a middle-aged cleaning woman and single mother. She’s taking care of two daughters: 15-year-old Souad (Kenza Noah Aïche) and 18-yearold medical student Nesrine (Zita Hanrot). The girls see their father periodically, but he’s not a major part of their lives. Fatima speaks French badly and has difficulty interacting with her employers; she suspects one of leaving money around to test whether she’d steal it. Her job becomes much more difficult when she slips on the stairs and hurts her arm. She goes on medical leave and begins writing in Arabic. Integration is a funny concept, one that implies that the

c HARING, from p.13 “The odds of having LPC intervene at this point and landmarking it are pretty remote,” she said. “It’s a church-owned building and they have other needs for the property, so I think it would be extraordinary if the LPC acted on it.” Kate Wood, the president of Landmark West!, explained that the designation hinges on whether the interior is “customarily accessible to the public.” As an example, Wood said, the Osborne Apart-

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country immigrants have moved to is superior to the one they came from. In truth, their presence changes the country they move to (just look at the number of Yiddish words present in American English), which scares enough people to fuel xenophobic politicians’ campaigns. Fatima can’t express herself well enough in French to speak at a par ent-teacher conference — a point brought home clumsily by Faucon keeping her in focus and the French parents out of focus — but she writes poetry in Arabic beautifully. In fact, Fatima is inspired by the writings of a real French-Arab female author. It’s not unrealistic that Fatima’s daughters would turn out like they have, but there’s something painfully facile about Faucon’s script. Nesrine tries her best to avoid the attention of young men on the train so she can concentrate on studying for an exam. Apart from skipping school, Souad really doesn’t seem that bad. Her rebellion lies in wearing mini-skirts, not smoking crack, planning school shootings, or even shoplifting. Her father’s hypocrisy and double standards are blatant; he claims that it’s “less okay” for girls to smoke cigarettes because it’s vulgar. I’d be happier if I didn’t get the feeling “Fatima” was pandering to white spectators’ expectations about Arab conservatism. If the broad outline of “Fatima” is often full of crap, the details are penciled in with more care. It’s clear that Fatima and Souad love

each other, no matter how much they argue, and that their differences stem in large part from the language gap between them and the fact that Souad has grown up with more open French attitudes toward sex. Just when the film seems to be taking a turn toward sadism, it allows Fatima to find her own voice, even as she still has to put up with physical pain. I don’t know Faucon’s own ethnic background — and his last name doesn’t sound Arabic — but he claims that the film was inspired by his grandmother’s struggles with the French language. Fatima’s alienation from the country she lives in, stemming first and foremost from her inability to speak its dominant language, comes across loud and clear. If the film has a happy ending, it comes in large part from Fatima’s rediscovery of Arabic.

I just wish “Fatima” was able to express all this in a way that didn’t make me think of a Paul Haggis script. The film won the 2016 César, the French equivalent of the Oscar, for best film. Sadly, it’s guilty of the kind of ideas we call “Oscar bait” in American cinema. n

ments at 205 West 57th Street had its lobby removed from the LPC’s docket of consideration because there were doubts that a residential apartment building lobby met the “accessible to the public” criterion. While the councilmember acknowledged that landmarking interiors is a steep climb, Levine said the effort may help to increase the awareness for a mural that even he and other Haring aficionados were unaware of. “If the landmarking doesn’t prevail, I’m still optimistic we can keep

up the pressure to ensure that this wonderful cultural legacy is preserved,” Levine said. In terms of alternative solutions, Breen said she would like to see an art expert go in to evaluate the mural for its condition, its material, and its possibility of remaining intact. “Rather than focusing on landmarks, people who are really interested in it should try to get a conservator to go in there pro-bono and see it,” she suggested. Breen appreciates the appeal and value of the mural created by

such a well-known artist, but said putting effort into landmarking it would distract from more viable ways of saving it. “There are unfortunately a lot of reasons why this is not likely to be landmarked in place,” Breen said. “It would be lovely if there was a peaceful way to do it.” The church’s pastor, Reverend Dan Kearney, was unable to be reached for comment. Church staff explained that they would not be offering comment or public viewings of the mural. n

KINO LORBER

Soria Zeroual and Zita Hanrot in Philippe Faucon’s “Fatima.”

FATIMA Directed by Philippe Faucon Kino Lorber In French and Arabic with English subtitles Opens Aug. 26 Film Society of Lincoln Center 165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org

August 25 - September 07, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | August 25 - September 07, 2016

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

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