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UWS Sunday Market Aims at Reflecting City’s Vibrancy Page 04

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September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Unveiling Midtown East Rezoning Draft,

City Aims for Wrap By Year-End BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Department of City Planning has released its highly anticipated plans for a major Midtown East rezoning intended to spur state-of-the-art office building development in the area. At an August 31 DCP presentation to Community Board 5, board members were eager to weigh in and press the agency on the proposal’s fine points. The DCP’s draft scope of work — a document that details what will need to be looked at in the plan’s eventual environmental review — was released on August 22 and represents the first step in the city’s approval process for rezoning the area roughly from East 39th to 57th Streets between Fifth and Third Avenues, with the district extending east to Second Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets. According to Bob Tuttle, a DCP city planner, the agency’s document took its cues from the East Midtown Steering Committee, co-chaired by Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Dan Garodnick, which released its final report last October. That committee was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod and followed on an unsuccessful Midtown East rezoning effort waged by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013. “We need to ensure that East Midtown continues to lead as a premier business district,” Garodnick said in a written statement about DCP’s draft document. “And that means delivering better mass transit, pedestrian areas that are safe and welcoming, and high quality commercial space.” The DCP’s proposal outlines an overall maximum achievable floorto-area ratio (FAR) — calculated by dividing the total floor space in a building by the square footage of the property on which it sits — of 27 for the portion of the rezoning district closest to Grand Central Terminal, with the FAR maximum

set at 25 for Park Avenue from 47th to 57th Streets and at 23 near other major transit hubs in the district. Elsewhere, the maximum FAR ranges from 18 to 21.6. Developers looking to exceed the FAR limitations and increase the density of the buildings they construct can purchase development air rights from landmarked sites throughout the district, with a percentage of the purchase price — yet to be determined — going into a Public Realm Improvement Fund. Developers can also increase the allowable FAR by committing to a transportation improvement project approved by either the city Department of Transportation or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. DCP is looking at a range between 10 and 20 percent of increased FAR that a developer can access through transportation improvements, so that the value of development rights of landmarks won’t be diminished. “The reason the 10 to 20 percent is important is because it decreases the amount of transit improvements you can do,” Tuttle said. “We don’t want a case in which all of the improvements are coming through transit. We want to make sure the landmarks are part of all of the transactions.” CB5’s Land Use Committee member Edward Klimerman asked how landmarked properties would go about selling their development rights in a market created overnight, and Tuttle explained that while the city would not be involved in the transactions, there are likely two ways they would occur. “It could be market-rate, so a developer goes out to all of them and tries to get the best price,” Tuttle said. “Or it could be a cartel where the landmarks are working together to keep a particular price.” He emphasized that the supply of development rights within the district is finite — totaling roughly 3.6 million square foot — and once they’re all bought out, developers would no longer be able to build more densely by

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

NYC DEPARTMENT OF CITY PLANNING

Floor Area Ratios proposed by the Department of City Planning for the Midtown East rezoning district.

earning the extra FAR from purchasing landmarks’ development rights. CB5 members also raised questions about how the percentage of development rights sale proceeds earmarked for the Public Realm Improvement Fund would be managed by its governing body of mayoral appointees and community organizations. “I see a scenario where the governing body would either spend a small amount of money on little projects, precluding the possibility for a large-scale improvement,” John Murray, CB5’s Land Use Committee vice chair, said. “Or keep saving money and not take any action in the hopes of rights transferring to fund a big project.”

Eric Stern, CB5’s Land Use chair, said he hopes such funds are not applied to routine improvements that should be covered in the DOT and MTA budgets. Tuttle explained that the MTA would mostly be looking at upgrades to station passenger circulation, by creating new street entrances, wider stairs, elevators, and escalators and by bringing some stations up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, while the DOT would generally be looking at creating and improving pedestrian plazas and providing for shared auto, bus, and bicycle use of streets.

c REZONING, continued on p.15 3


UWS Sunday Market Aims at Reflecting City’s Vibrancy BY JACKSON CHEN

E

ach Sunday, an Upper West Side school campus is transformed into a bustling bazaar where vendors try to entice passersby with the impressive variety of their merchandise. In the joint schoolyard shared by P.S. 452, the Anderson School, and the Computer School, tables are set up throughout with goods ranging from the typical flea market knickknacks to colorful Indian tapestries, gourmet foods, and even a collection of college pennants. All of these vendors are part of Grand Bazaar NYC, a weekly year-round market officially making its debut this month at 100 West 77th Street, after a several-week tryout as the successor to GreenFlea Market, an earlier incarnation dating back to 1985. The curated market accommodates 43,000 square feet of outdoor and indoor space and continues GreenFlea’s mission of donating its proceeds to four neighboring public schools — the three housed at the West 77th Street campus as well as the nearby P.S. 87 at 160 West 78th Street. “Back in the day, the parents said, ‘How can we help the kids?,’ and spontaneously did a flea market,” said Marc Seago, Grand Bazaar’s marketing director. “It grew and grew… The social mission and cause for it to be, raising funds for the 4,000 kids, is still the same.” What’s new is the market’s vision and accompanying name, which according to Seago, was chosen to match its grander scope and diversity of merchants. The original GreenFlea name was a nod to both its nature as a flea market and it environmentally-friendly character, he said. Now, the market has a more ambitious and cohesive mission focused on food, artisan crafts, and designers, and it needed a name to match. “We have this big vision — what would match this big vision? — so the word grand came with it,” Seago explained of the new name. “Bazaar came through the fact the city is a melting pot. It has diversity, and a bazaar has diversity.” As both city dwellers and tourists step through the market’s main entrance on Columbus Avenue between West 76th and 77th Streets, they start their journey by browsing through the marked-down clothing and handbags immediately in front. Once done perusing these apéritifs, they will run into intriguing tables of college pennants varying in shapes, sizes, and colors. “I have over 4,000,” Steve Melillo, owner of Americana Memories, said of his entire pennant collection. “You wouldn’t know it but if you counted all the items I had here today, it would be over 1,000.”

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JACKSON CHEN

Simon Karaben, of Pickles, Olives, Etc., completes a sale.

From Harvard to Yale to Brown — and NYU and Columbia for those with hometown loyalties — the majority of Melillo’s collection is custom-framed for display, while his larger and more expensive pieces are clipped to the schoolyard fence. Surprisingly, many of the banner broker’s customers are Europeans who buy them as conversation pieces for their homes since their countries lack the college pennant tradition of the US. A short walk away from the vibrant array of college colors, pungently tart aromas draw shoppers toward Simon Karaben and his assortment of olives and pickles. “We import [olives] from all different Mediterranean countries... Italy, Greece, we import from Turkey, from Spain, all over the place,” Karaben, who handles the retail side of Pickles, Olives, Etc., said. “Every year, we try to add different varieties to our table so when our customers come they can find something different.” The pickles are locally made in the family-owned business’ headquarters in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, Karaben said. A seven-year veteran of the Upper West Side market, the pickle purveyor has established lasting friendships with his customers to the point that he is able to preemptively pack someone’s order as he spots them approaching. “We became like family with the neighborhood,” Karaben said. “They way we’re looking at it, we’re not here just for business, but also here to enjoy the day with our customers.” For those arriving when Grand Bazaar opens

JACKSON CHEN

A small sample of Steve Melillo’s vast pennant collection.

at 10 a.m. who may consider a pickle strong stuff for the morning hours, they can move inside of the school where other vendors are set up out of the sun’s glare. It’s a decidedly sweet scent that greets guests as they step toward the main bazaar area, where Amerrah Brown stands ready to explain to the curious that the pleasant fragrances come from her mix of handmade, vegan, no animal-fat skincare products. “The whole idea is to teach people to love themselves by using my product,” Brown, the owner and founder of Beautiful Amore, said.

c BAZAAR, continued on p.23 September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


For Midtown East, Micro Libraries Are the New Thing

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JACKSON CHEN

The new Little Free Library in East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Park is located near East 114th street and Pleasant Avenue.

BY JACKSON CHEN

C

ommunity Board 6’s Parks, Landmarks & Cultural Affairs Committee is looking into creating a few Little Free Library outposts throughout its East Side district in efforts to encourage people to read and share books. Little Free Library began in Wisconsin in 2009 and has since evolved into a nonprofit with its compact, birdhouse-esque bookshelves found throughout the country. The “take a book, return a book” mantra has already broken into the city, with quaint offerings in Lower Manhattan, Chelsea, the Upper East Side, and East Harlem. With a lack of Little Free Library locations in the Midtown East area, the board’s parks committee began looking into the possibility after a resident brought the idea up during a meeting more than a year ago, according to Mark Thompson, the committee’s chair. “The minute it was brought up, we all loved it,” Thompson recalled. “It’s got this really great vibe, and we’ve been talking about it ever since.” During its September 6 meeting, the parks committee formed a working group to make tangible steps toward introducing a Little Free Library in the area. As of now, the committee is still looking for

possible site locations and community organizations that would sponsor and maintain the structure. In the meantime, the community board is in the process of completing its 2016 Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) report that Thompson said would help identify feasible locations based on the 77 POPS in the district. The chair added that the report would likely be complete within a month. Outside of possible POPS, the committee is also considering approaching the Department of Parks and Recreation for possible locations, like the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on East 47th Street between First and Second Avenues. Working with the parks department, however, may prove to involve more red tape and regulations than partnering with a privately owned space or a coffee shop, Thompson said. As for the Little Free Library that was recently installed inside Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem, that resulted from an already established working relationship between Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park and the parks department that led to a smooth launch. According to Marie Winfield, the founder of the Friends group and vice chair of Community Board

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

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c LIBRARY, continued on p.14 5


Hells Kitchen Kids Honor A Canadian Town’s 9/11 Generosity BY ALEX ELLEFSON

T

hey called them the “plane people.” When air travel over the United States was suspended immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks, passengers on international flights from Europe were rerouted to Gander, Newfoundland. The remote Canadian town, home to about 10,000 residents, sprang into action when 38 planes unexpectedly dropped almost 7,000 people at their doorstep. In honor of their good deed, children attending summer camp at the Hartley House, located on West 46th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, have now painted wooden stars with expressions of gratitude for the people of Gander. The stars will be presented to the town by a group of 12 New Yorkers — made up of members from the 9/11 community, including National September 11 Memorial and Museum guides and volunteers from the 9/11 Tribute Center — on the 15th anniversary of the attacks. “We felt like we had to go to Gander to thank them from the bottom of our hearts,” said Paul Vasquez, one of the museum guides organizing the trip. “On a day as sad and tragic as 9/11, the people there did something positive and showed love is stronger than hate.” Vasquez reached out to his city councilmember, Corey Johnson, to help find students to paint Stars of HOPE — wooden stars meant to be decorated with hopeful messages and displayed in areas impacted by disasters. The councilmember connected the group with Hartley House. Johnson went with Vasquez and fellow museum guide Maria Jaffe on August 25 to collect the stars from the kids and speak with them about the sacrifice and kindness shown by the people of Gander. “By designing and sending these beautifully decorated stars, the kids of Hartley House are showing our city’s deep and everlasting gratitude, and demonstrating that the memory of Gander’s service lives on through the generations,” Johnson said in a written statement. Jaffe explained the idea to make a pilgrimage to Gander first took root this summer when a woman organizing Canada’s National Day of Service in Gander visited the museum. “Ironically, she came to the museum two weeks after a colleague was describing a book about what happened in Gander called ‘The Day the World Came to Town,’” Jaffe said. “I

6

MARIA JAFFE

Stars of HOPE created by youth at the Hartley House summer camp to express gratitude for the town of Gander, Newfoundland’s 9/11 hospitality.

think the story just reinforced that feeling people are inherently good. They rose to the occasion during a time of great need.” The woman who met Jaffe at the museum is Maureen Basnicki, whose husband was at a business meeting on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower when it was struck by one of the planes. After her husband perished in the attacks, the Toronto resident worked to get Canada to observe a National Day of Service on September 11. This year Basnicki is organizing activities in Gander to raise awareness about the day of service — officially recognized by Canada in 2011 — and invited Jaffe and her friends to the town. “When you think of 9/11 you think of hate and horror, the visuals of the planes going into those buildings. I want to work to change that image,” said Basnicki. “I would rather dwell on the goodness that came about that day.” When the group arrives in Gander, they will present the stars at schools, churches, businesses, and other places that helped out the stranded airplane passengers. They will also join the town in observing a parade of first responders as well as an ecumenical faith ceremony marking the anniversary. Kelly Sceviour, the events coordinator for the town of Gander, remembers the day the planes arrived. “It was surreal. We started seeing aircraft after aircraft landing,” she said. “And we just did what we had to because we didn’t want any-

TOWN OF GANDER

Planes that were rerouted to Gander’s small airport on 9/11.

one to be alone at such a horrible time.” Sceviour recalled how the local news station broadcast supplies that were needed and the community would rush to respond. One of her most vivid memories is how the town found ways to entertain a group of children bound for Disneyland by bringing in the town mascot, Commander Gander, alongside some fairies and princesses. Sceviour said she was humbled by some of the recognition heaped on Gander for their hospitality. But it was just part of their nature to be welcoming, she explained. “We would have done this for anyone,” she said. “It’s just who we are. We would never let anyone be stranded or left behind.”

c CANADA, continued on p.7 September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


An Upper West Sider Who Stepped Up to Help 9/11 Families BY BILL EGBERT

B

efore she took on a leading role in establishing the September 11th Families’ Association and the 9/11 Tribute Center, Upper West Side resident Jennifer Adams-Webb was simply a New Yorker who headed downtown in the days after the attack because she wanted to help. Though she had worked in the World Trade Center before 9/11 and still knew people who worked there, Adams-Webb was uptown when the Towers collapsed. The attack, however, took the life of one of her friends, and as rescue workers swarmed over the smoking pile she went down to the site to do what she could for them. “Like many New Yorkers, I wanted to do something to help,” she explained, “so I went down there and started handing out food to the first responders.” As she got to know the firefighters, police officers, and construction workers picking through the debris — and particularly the distraught family members waiting in vigil, hoping their loved ones would be found — Adams-Webb bonded with those most affected by the calamity. After seeing how difficult it was for family members of 9/11 victims not employed by the city to

get information about the recovery mission, in February 2002 AdamsWebb decided to put her management skills to work creating a network to keep them informed. That seed eventually grew into the September 11th Families’ Association, which she now serves as CEO. Working with former firefighter Lee Ielpi, who lost his firefighter son, Jonathan, in the Towers’ collapse, Adams-Webb helped turn the loose network of victims’ families into a powerful force in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. “We worked to give the families a voice in what happened to the area,” she said of the group’s consistent mission to remind the many players working to rebuild the Trade Center site that it wasn’t just a disaster zone in need of recovery but the final resting place of thousands of people. Adams-Webb got the idea for the 9/11 Tribute Center while working for the Families’ Association out of an office overlooking the fenced-off site that was still called Ground Zero even years after the dust had settled and a steady stream of tourists had arrived. “Thousands came down there, but there was nowhere to go,” she said. “That’s when I got the idea for a place where people could learn about what happened.”

Leading the Tribute Center gave Adams-Webb a front-row seat to watch Downtown transform from a sterile business district, to a bleak disaster area, to a churning construction site, to a bustling neighborhood. “When I worked in the Towers, everybody left at night,” she said. “Now you see people 24/ 7. It wasn’t that way before.” Adams-Webb said that it was the residents — those who stayed and those who later came — who have remade Downtown even better than before. “You can build all the infrastructure, but without the people and the community it doesn’t work.” Though the 9/11 Tribute Center was created to fill a temporary void, now that the National September 11th Memorial and Museum is open, it’s finding a new purpose — and a new venue. The Center has welcomed four million visitors in the 10 years since it opened at its current location at 120 Liberty Street, and it recently announced plans to move to a new location at 88 Greenwich Street in order to expand its mission, exhibits, and programs. Adams-Webb said that the Center will continue to offer visitors to the World Trade Center area a place to connect with people from

COURTESY: JENNIFER ADAMS-WEBB

With former firefighter Lee Ielpi, who lost his firefighter son, Jonathan, in the attacks, Upper West Sider Jennifer Adams-Webb co-founded the 9/11 Tribute Center in 2006.

the 9/11 community — survivors, family members of lost loved ones, first responders, and people who live and work in Lower Manhattan — but the expanded venue will allow for a bigger personal gallery about the 2,973 people lost in the attack, and also better accommodate larger groups such as school field trips and package tours. The goal is to open the new space in the spring of 2017, Adams-Webb said, but that depends on the foundation raising $7.5 million for construction and another $4 million for exhibition development. n

c CANADA, from p.6 Jim DeFede, whose book “The Day the World Came to Town” recounts how Gander opened itself up to the stranded passengers, said sacrifice and an eagerness to help is a deeply ingrained value among the people of Newfoundland. “They have this saying in Newfoundland: You can always add a little more water to the soup,” DeFede explained. “Meaning, if our neighbor is hungry, we might not have a lot, we might just have soup for dinner, but we can always water it down and invite our neighbor over to eat.” He described how the town dropped everything to accommodate the thousands of guests. Bus drivers who were on strike immediately got behind the wheel to ferry newcomers around, kitchens started making fresh food, and pharmacists would fill prescriptions without asking for payment. The whole town opened itself up — packing churches, schools, hotels, and homes with the unexpected guests. “I think the story of Gander is about how at a time of incredible darkness, when everyone ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

OFFICE OF COUNCILMEMBER COREY JOHNSON

City Councilmember Corey Johnson address the youth at Hartley House.

wondered if there was any humanity left in the world, the folks in Gander reminded people there is hope and light,” DeFede said. Both Jaffe and Vasquez agreed that Gander’s hospitality was like “a beacon of light” piercing

through a very dark day. “The story of Gander is so positive and uplifting,” said Vasquez. “To travel there on the anniversary of 9/11, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be.”

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Up Next on East End Avenue: Off Off Off Broadway? BY JACKSON CHEN

I

nstead of city offices going dark at 5 p.m., theater companies may be able to keep them lit up — with their footlights — under a new City Council proposal that would allow such organizations to rent the space for rehearsals and performances. The bill’s author, Councilmember Ben Kallos, is hoping to allow artists who are starved for workspace to take advantage of the underutilized city-owned properties during after-hours. According to Kallos’ “City Spaces” legislation, introduced on August 22, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services would identify which city-owned and operated property are able to be rented and the costs associated with that. The agency would also manage the schedule of renters and create a website where the public could book the spaces, according to the bill. “Unfortunately, the difficulties of being an artist are more than just a trope,” Kallos said. “The challenges of space to develop, practice, and perform becomes ever more difficult as real estate becomes scarce, prices continue to skyrocket, and the rest of us get squeezed out.” The Upper East Side councilmember is no stranger to the struggles artists face. In 2010, he worked with the political comedy group Laughing Liberally to produce a stand-up comedy event whose title, “The Pirates of the Bronx: The Curse of Pedro Espada,” poked fun at an indicted state senator who would go on to be convicted on federal corruption charges. One of the challenges in producing that show, Kallos recalled, was the lack of affordable rehearsal space in the city. For the founders of Elephant Run District, a local independent theater company, that same scarcity six years later has led to an Upper West Side apartment serving triple duty as home, office, and oftentimes rehearsal space — at least for sessions that don’t require a full complement of stage equipment. “We do anything to offset the costs of rehearsal space where and when we can because it is such a big item on everybody’s budget,”

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JACKSON CHEN

JACKSON CHEN

Upper East Side City Councilmember Ben Kallos.

Could Gracie Mansion become a world-class incubator of innovative theater?

Chris Harcum, the company’s co-founder and executive director said. “When the biggest item in your budget is real estate, it just feels like things are out of whack, when the biggest thing in your budget should be paying artists.” Guy Yedwab, managing director of the League of Independent Theater, an advocacy group created to ensure the industry’s sustainability, said that an analysis by the New York Innovative Theater Foundation found that on average independent theater companies pay between 40 and 60 percent of their show budget for performance and rehearsal space. When Elephant Run District needs an actual performance space to work with, Harcum said, they look to spacefinder.org, a search tool developed by the arts nonprofit Fractured Atlas. Spacefinder.org currently lists four Manhattan city-owned properties in close proximity downtown that are available for public rental — New York Surrogate’s Court at 31 Chambers Street, New York County Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street, the Tweed Courthouse at 52 Chambers Street, and the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building at 141 Worth Street — as well as two courthouses in Queens, Brooklyn Borough Hall, and the Bronx County Courthouse. According to Kallos, these eight locations were originally posted on Spacefinder.org in 2014 in the hopes they would pave the way for more city-owned spaces opening up. “There are so many municipal city spaces — lots, garages, halls,

hearing rooms, auditoriums, you name it,” Kallos said. “So much of that space isn’t being used.” The councilmember hopes that in the future the city’s embrace of the arts will lead to everything from public schools to New York City Housing Authority properties becoming available for rental. One choice piece of property on East End Avenue at 88th Street on the Upper East Side is the official residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio. “In the event that Gracie Mansion wasn’t being used by the mayor, that would be a prime location in the district for performances,” Kallos said. His bill has already won support from theater organizations, like the League of Independent Theater and IndieSpace, which works to create long-term, permanent space for independent theater. According to the league’s Yedwab, roughly 60 theater spaces have closed down in the last decade or so because of the competitive real estate market in the city. “When you have a theater, it’s not the most profitable use of the space,” he said. “A lot of times many of them were converted into private luxury housing.” Many theater companies that have been pushed out of their former homes have resorted to using conference rooms of businesses or someone’s studio apartment for rehearsal space, Yedwab said. As IndieSpace works on the issue of permanent homes for theater organizations, its executive director, Randi Berry, is pleased that Kallos’ bill is bringing the immediate needs

of these arts organizations to the Council’s attention. “I think the city has started thinking about at least temporary rehearsal space because of initiatives like Ben’s,” Berry said. “It doesn’t make sense that all of these buildings are closing at 5 o’clock and nobody is using them.” If the City Spaces legislation is successful, Berry is hoping that the city will become more amenable to working with IndieSpace and other groups on the challenge of creating permanent spaces for artists, a mission that would bring a host of benefits for the industry overall. With a permanent and reliable venue, Elephant Run District’s Harcum said, artists can feel more comfortable and develop a greater sense of cohesion as they work on perfecting their performances for opening night. “I know very few, if any, indie theater companies that are working consistently out of a single space,” Harcum said. “Having consistent space... it’s just so rare.” But, whether it’s long-term space or just a rental that a company gets in the end, he is hopeful Kallos’ legislation can be a first step in producing a healthy supply of space that artists can rely on. “It’s like the difference between feeding people and not feeding people, like City Harvest,” Har cum said, referring to the nonprofit that collects excess food and then donates it. “The food can go to waste or the food can go to benefit people. To my way of thinking, if there’s empty space, that’s kind of a crime.” n

September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Greece Honors John Catsimatidis

With Stamp BY PAUL SCHINDLER

J

ohn Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes chain of several dozen Manhattan super mar kets, as well as Red Apple Group, with supermarket, convenience store, gas station, oil refining, and real estate holdings GREEK POST OFFICE nationwide, was rec- The John Catsimatidis stamp issued ognized by his nation on September 1. of birth when Greece, on September 1, issued a postage stamp in his honor. Catsimatidis was one of five individuals of Greek heritage living abroad named by the International Foundation for Greece to receive acknowledgement by that nation with a stamp. IFG recognized him with its annual Entrepreneurship Award. Born on the Greek island of Nisyros 68 years ago this week, Catsimatidis immigrated to New York with his parents six months later. He opened up his first Red Apple supermarket while still an engineering student at New York University, and within a decade had built the chain to dozens of stores in Manhattan and the Bronx and begun to diversify his business holdings. Catsimatidis said he had not known of the IFG honors prior to being notified of his selection earlier this summer — and he even admitted he had second thoughts about “schlepping” all the way to Greece (“You know that Greek word ‘schlepping,’ he quipped to this reporter) for the ceremony. “But then I thought of my father and mother and grandparents and how they would be so proud,” he said. Accompanied by his wife, Margo, and two children, Andrea and John, Jr., Catsimatidis traveled to Athens for the splashy awards ceremony last week at the Auditorium of the Acropolis Museum. The trip was his third to his homeland in the past five years, one of them, he said, because a book about his mother had been published there. Despite his 2013 run for the Republican mayoral nomination and his ownership of the Hellenic Times, a Manhattan-based Greek-American

c CATSIMATIDIS, continued on p.18 ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

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Manhattan Dems Face Backlash After Nixing Sitting Judge BY ANDY HUMM

T

he New York County Democratic Party and its vaunted independent screening panel for approving judges for the ballot has come under scorching outrage for the panel’s refusal to recommend Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, a 20-year veteran of the bench without a blemish on her record, for nomination for re-election at the September 22 county convention. That decision marks the first time that a sitting judge, in the absence of any formal complaints — let alone one uniformly praised as “distinguished” by civic and legal groups — has not been recommended by the panel. In response to the controversy, the party’s executive committee held a hastily called emergency session on September 7 to explore whether there is now any legal way to nominate Ling-Cohan this year, but the meeting broke up after roughly two hours with no decision reached. Marc Landis, an Upper West Side district leader, said many in the meeting were “surprised” by the panel’s decision and that Ling-Cohan’s option at this point is to have her name put in nomination from the floor at the county convention. Curtis Arluck, the longtime co-chair of the party’s Judiciary Committee and a Morningside Heights district leader — who prior to the meeting described the panel’s decision as “bizarre” and unprecedented — predicted that Ling-Cohan “is likely to be selected at the convention.” Manhattan City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, a fierce critic of the panel’s move, has pledged to make certain that Ling-Cohan’s name is put into nomination on September 22. A day before the emergency meeting, Arluck and Harlem State Assemblymember Keith Wright, the county leader, emphasized there must be a “firewall” between the party and its screening panel. Both said panelists are free to speak to the press or in public now that their deliberations are over, but panelists have mostly refused comment. Ling-Cohan is the author of the historic 2005 decision ordering

10

DONNA ACETO

MANHATTAN EXPRESS

Justice Doris Ling-Cohan at the LGBT Community Center’s June Garden Party at Midtown’s Pier 84.

City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, flanked by State Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Councilmember Margaret Chin, at Tuesday’s rally protesting the Democratic Party’s snub of Justice Doris Ling-Cohan.

the city to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a decision successfully appealed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, which delayed gay marriages in New York for six years until the Legislature acted in 2011. Her ruling that excluding gay couples from marriage was unconstitutional was ultimately borne out by US Supreme Court rulings that first struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and later overturned all state bans on same-sex marriage. The rejection of Ling-Cohan, first revealed in a New York Post story last week quoting an anonymous source with supposed knowledge of the confidential proceedings as saying the panel viewed her as “lazy,” has called into question the impartiality of the process — now dominated by lawyers who enjoy the opportunity to pick the judges they will appear before in cases involving millions of dollars. “These white shoe lawyers are getting a chance to knock off judges to benefit themselves,” charged Pete Gleason of the Downtown Independent Democrats. Reliable sources say that Ling-Cohan was rejected by a 12-10 vote spearheaded by Deborah Riegel and Bruce N. Lederman, real estate lawyers whose firms would benefit if Ling-Cohan, who is widely supported by tenant groups, were not allowed to run again. Riegel, in an email message, wrote, “Notwithstanding what you may believe, the deliberations are confidential and I have no comment.” A

tenant lawyer who said he spoke to Riegel said that she told him, “The only one who is politicizing this process is Doris Ling-Cohan.” While the 39 groups invited to send panelists reflected racial, gender, and sexual orientation diversity, just 22 sent panelists and the vast majority were attorneys, mostly from the real estate and corporate bars, with some civil rights and immigration attorneys. Ling-Cohan won approval for nomination from the panel subcommittee that interviewed her, but was later given no opportunity to address the concerns raised about her by the full panel. In a September 1 email to Arluck, obtained by Manhattan Express, Ling-Cohan chastised the Judiciary Committee co-chair for holding a meeting to accept the panel’s recommendations without allowing her to be heard. “The committee voted against reconsideration for me, in a close vote,” she wrote. “The fact that there were… people with clear conflicts of interest at the meeting surely influenced the process and a revote should be taken.” Ling-Cohan also advised Arluck that Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks “is available to speak to anyone who wants to check my qualifications… If New York County wants to maintain its reputation as a bastion of judicial reform, your committee should, at a minimum, call him to do a due diligence review on me.” The Post story, Ling-Cohan charged, demonstrated that the “confidentiality of the panel has been severely breached by insid-

ers, including panel members… The fact that there were so many ‘sources’ speaking to the NY Post taints the whole process and clearly indicates that I was unfairly targeted, so that I request there be a new panel constituted.” Emily Jane Goodman, a judge for 30 years and former colleague of Ling-Cohan’s who is now in private practice, said the panel’s failure to follow American Bar Association guidelines regarding sitting judges will have a “chilling effect,” with judges, already worried about media and political reactions to their rulings, now having to be concerned about being turned out by screening panel lawyers who don’t like their rulings. “It is an absolute outrage,” Goodman said at a press conference September 6 at City Hall led by Mendez and her City Council colleague Margaret Chin, both of whom came armed with volumes of material and data attesting to Ling-Cohan’s competence, diligence, and probity — including the fact that in 20 years she has heard more 10,000 cases and only been reversed on appeal 48 times (less than 0.5 percent). In 2015, the National Law Journal named Ling-Cohan one of the 75 Outstanding Women Lawyers in America. More than a 100 supporters rallied for her on Tuesday demanding that the party reverse itself and chanting, “Justice for the Justice.” Mendez emphasized that Ling-Co-

c JUDGE, continued on p.18

September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Police Blotter BURGLARY: PAYDAY IN PARIS (19th Precinct)

ROBBERY: PANERA PURSE SNATCHING (19th Precinct)

A burglar was able to remove a safe with approximately $32,000 in it from a French restaurant at 29 East 65th Street, police said. According to the NYPD, the male suspect entered Match Brasserie by removing a side window on August 24 at around 3:45 a.m. The suspect then entered the restaurant's office and removed the safe with the tens of thousands of dollars, police said. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a bald black male last seen wearing a black shirt.

Police arrested Kips Bay resident Ralph Moore in connection with a robbery that took place on August 30 at around 4:45 p.m. Police said that the 57-year-old Moore entered the Panera Bread location at 120 East 86th Street and tried to grab a purse out of a 25-year-old female's arms. Moore then dragged the victim outside onto the sidewalk and shoved her onto the ground to get a hold of her purse, police said. According to police, Moore fled into the subway and the victim declined medical attention. Moore was charged with robbery and criminal possession of stolen property, police said.

ROBBERY: BANK BANDIT (Midtown North, Midtown South, 13th Precincts) A male suspect with crooked and discolored teeth is on a bank-robbing spree that began on August 24, according to police. The NYPD said that the male suspect first hit the Santander Bank at 1350 Broadway between West 35th and 36th Streets by telling the tellers he had a gun. According to police, the two tellers gave the suspect an undetermined amount of cash and the suspect did not injure anyone or fire any shots before he fled westbound on West 35th Street. Police believe the same man is behind another bank robbery on September 1 at around 6:45 p.m. at the Santander Bank branch at 864 Eighth Avenue, between West 51st and 52nd Streets. According to police, the suspect chatted with a 29-year-old male security guard before pressing a hard object to his back and approaching the teller demanding money. Police said the teller agreed and the suspect made off with an unknown amount of money. Police also connected the suspect to another incident on September 6 at around 5:15 p.m., when the suspect entered a Chase Bank at 245 Seventh Avenue, between West 24th and 25th Streets. Police said the suspect slipped the teller a note demanding money and said that he had a gun, but the teller walked away, prompting the suspect to flee empty-handed. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a white male in his late 40s to early 50s, 5'7", with a thin build, a gray beard, and crooked and discolored teeth, last seen wearing a bright orange T-shirt, blue jeans, and a gray baseball cap with "NY" on it.

FORCIBLE TOUCHING: SUBWAY SQUEEZE (19th Precinct) Police said that a male suspect is wanted for grabbing a 19-year-old's butt as she exited the southbound 6 train at the 68th Street–Hunter College stop on August 29 at around 9:30 a.m. According to police, the suspect then followed the victim into her school and into a classroom, before fleeing when the victim spotted him. Police released photos and a video of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a bald black male in his 40s, 5'10", and last seen wearing a blue T-shirt, light colored shorts, and a backpack.

RAPE: RIVERSIDE ASSAULT (20th Precinct) Bronx native Anthony Camilo was arrested shortly after he allegedly raped a 24-year-old female in Riverside Park, according to police. Police said they responded to the call on August 27 at around 12:15 a.m. in Riverside Park near Riverside Boulevard and West 70th Street, where they found the female victim who said she was just sexually assaulted. Police said they were able to arrest Camilo two blocks north inside the park, and the victim was taken to Saint Luke's Roosevelt Hospital. According to the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, Camilo first encountered the victim on a Brooklyn-bound F train, where he said his friend could offer her a ride to Brooklyn but that they would have to meet him inside Riverside Park. When the female was inside the park, Camilo choked her and forced her to the ground before raping her, police said, as the victim screamed for help at which point Camilo fled. Police charged Camilo with rape, two counts of sexually motivated felony assault, and strangulation.

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11


Sustaining Community Through Music

on the Upper West Side BY JACKSON CHEN

I

n a brownstone with a characteristically Upper West Side feel, the building’s interior charms — unspoiled fireplaces and sunlight pouring in — are overshadowed by the vibrant personalities of those who fill its five floors. The 14 studios that make up the Bloomingdale School of Music at 323 West 108th Street serve as second homes for musicians of all ages and skills. Whether it’s a seasoned pianist deftly performing on the 97-year-old Steinway & Sons grand piano or a group of children creating light-hearted songs, the medley of instruments can often be heard coursing through the halls of the 1899 building. And providing the heartbeat for it all is the executive director, Erika Floreska, 45, who is in her third year leading the community music school that has been at its West 108th location since 1972. Growing up through high school enjoying the benefits of a community music school in Minnesota, Floreska, who plays the flute and sings in choirs, learned early on to appreciate the inherent value of music, the education required to

engage in its performance, and the benefits it brings to a neighborhood. “Part of what a community school can do is bring people together from different schools,” Floreska, now a resident of Long Island, said. “You really introduce people and find how music can be a common language across these differences.” Having lived at West 105th Street and Columbus nearly two decades ago, the school’s executive director felt a homecoming of sorts in returning to the Upper West Side when she took over several years ago following the passing of Bloomingdale’s former leader of 25 years, Lawrence Davis. Prior to taking up her role at Bloomingdale, Floreska worked for 14 years as the director of education for Jazz at Lincoln Center. Carrying through with Bloomingdale’s original mission established when it was housed more informally at the West End Presbyterian Church on West 105th Street, Floreska said the school is committed to providing access to music education to anyone who is interested, “regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and even talent.” “We really believe music is for everyone and

you don’t have to have a special talent to do it,” Floreska said. “We’re really here to create a lifelong love of music that is part of your life forever, whether it becomes a career or avocation.” And the school’s range of offerings spans from the adult who is trying to learn an instrument for the first time, to the younger kids who may be brought there — perhaps a bit unwillingly — by parents because of the brain development benefits music is believed to encourage. According to Floreska, the science behind music education is only now starting to win widespread public acknowledgement, with a greater appreciation for the fact that gaining the skills to read music can boost a child’s language and learning capacity. Floreska’s goal is to provide those benefits to the Upper West Side community. Bloomingdale currently serves 650 students, with age ranges from pre-adolescents to adults and skill ranges from first timers to those seeking a professional future in music. Sticking true to its original mission, the school doesn’t turn away low-income families, Floreska said, explaining that Bloomingdale offers roughly $70,000 a year in financial aid for nearly 100 students. “We make a commitment to families and students,” she said. “If you’re interested in music, we want Bloomingdale to be your home for as long as we can.” Her goal of increasing enrollment numbers

c BLOOMINGDALE, continued on p.13

CB7 Endorses “Flagship” Redesign of All-Inclusive UWS Playground BY JACKSON CHEN

A

sweeping r edesign of the Upper West Side’s Bloomingdale Playground easily cleared Community Board 7, with unanimous support for what board members hailed as a “flagship” example of play space for kids of all ages and abilities. The Department of Parks and Recreation was given a $5.8 million budget to create a “universal design” for the park at West 104th Street and Amsterdam Avenue that aims to foster inclusivity among users of all physical capabilities. “[We] were just very concerned with making sure this is not just an accessible and inclusive park,” Ricardo Hinkle, a parks department landscape architect, said. “But that everything be something that children with disabilities can play in and the children be able to play together.” Parks teased a draft render ing and design during Communi-

12

ty Board 7’s Inclusive Playground Task Force meeting on July 25. After hearing several suggested revisions, the department then tweaked the design, which won unanimous support from both the task force and CB7’s Health & Human Services Committee on August 23 — setting the tone for the full board meeting on September 6, where it was similarly approved. “What’s most impressive from my perspective is that Parks isn’t just saying this is a universally designed playground,” Catherine DeLazzero, co-chair of CB7’s Health & Human Services Committee and coordinator of the task force, said. “But they’re able to articulate how their design choices meet the specific goals of universal design.” In designing the park from the ground up, the parks department said, it was able to look at each piece of equipment and the overall layout to make sure it was usable by everyone. According to the

NYC DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION

An aerial rendering of Bloomingdale Playground at West 104th Street and Amsterdam Avenue after its sweeping redesign.

design, the swing set will accommodate tots with a bucket swing, but also children with disabilities with accessible swings. The park also incorporates audible and tactile elements as part of its play areas and signage that will be in

English, Spanish, and Braille. The centerpiece of the park is an elevated play structure that forms a figure eight-like pathway that’s fully accessible by users in wheel-

c PLAYGROUND, continued on p.13

September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


MARBLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH Sunday Worship at 11:00am

WeWo: Wednesday Worship at 6:15pm

JACKSON CHEN

Erika Floreska has been executive director of the Bloomingdale School of Music for the past two years.

c BLOOMINGDALE, from p.12 involves stepped up outreach to the immediate surrounding neighborhood area, from around West 86th to 125th Streets, from Central Park West to Riverside Drive, as well as to portions of the Bronx accessible via the number 1 train. Bloomingdale, according to Floreska, is a perfect fit with its Upper West Side neighbors, sharing a commitment to non-elitist diversity in its approach to music education. “Bloomingdale is a lot of what keeps the community feeling in the

c PLAYGROUND, from p.12 chairs. And after hearing comments at the August 23 meeting, the parks department expanded the performance space in the turf field adjacent to the basketball courts and introduced sturdier pull-up and parallel bars, with two different heights, in the adult fitness area. “In addition to making this a universal design playground, we are adding so many more recreational opportunities,” Steve Simon, the parks department’s Manhattan chief of staff, said. “Far more than what exists in the current playground, so this is in incredible improvement over what exists today.” Mel Wymore, a transgender man who is a CB7 board member, urged Parks to put more effort into creating what he said would be an appropriate gender-neutral bathroom option for gender nonconforming youth. “This is an inclusive playground, it’s a flagship playground, and to not include these children would

Upper West Side,” Floreska said. “Families come to Bloomingdale because they want their kids to have a more diverse experience and be treated just like any normal kid.” In the hopes of luring more potential students, the school is hosting an “instrument discovery” open house event on Sunday, September 11, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Floreska said the event would encourage children to walk throughout the school, experiment with the 14 different instruments on hand there, and interact with the faculty. n

be a huge travesty,” Wymore said. He suggested a comfort station that would include male, female, and gender-neutral sections. “When I transitioned, the biggest challenge I had in my life was to find a bathroom that I would feel comfortable going in,” Wymore said. “If I were to take 40 years off my life and be a five-year-old feeling that, it would make a huge difference for me to be able to go to a safe place.” The problem the parks department faces from Wymore’s suggestion is that the gender-neutral bathroom would be single-user and require that the door could be locked, something at odds with city regulations. Officials told Wymore that they are awaiting guidance from Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver on that question. Sheldon Fine, a board member who sits on the Inclusive Playground Task Force, underscored the importance that appropriate signage will have in the redesigned

c PLAYGROUND, continued on p.14

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

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13


New Info in Hand, CB7 Rejects Congregation Shearith Israel’s Building Plans

JACKSON CHEN

Congregation Shearith Israel, at the corner of Central Park West and 70th Street, with the vacant lot proposed for development at the synagogue’s rear.

BY JACKSON CHEN

C

omplicating an already convoluted approval process, Community Board 7 rejected for now an Upper West Side synagogue’s plans to develop a mixed-use building directly adjacent to its site on West 70th Street. Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI), located at 8 West 70th Street, has been trying since 2008 to win city approval for creating a nine-story development one lot further back on the side street. When the synagogue recently filed an amended application for a mixed-use building of five residential floors, three office and classroom floors, and one lobby floor to the city’s Board of Standards of Appeal (BSA), CB7 had an another opportunity to weigh in on the matter. Following a July meeting of CB7’s Land Use Committee, where a mixed resolution opposing CSI’s amendments but endorsing additional construction time for the project, the full board, in its September 6 meeting, replaced that with a

c LIBRARY, from p.5 11’s Environment, Open Space & Parks Committee, the department’s district manager for the area was already familiar with Little Free Library because of other such installations. The only cumbersome part of their efforts, Winfield said, was scheduling a day for the parks department to put the lending bookshelf in place. “It was just a matter of being able to schedule a time for installation,” Winfield said. “Once we got our date, we just got it installed and it’s been operational ever since.” Since the Little Free Library was just introduced in July, Winfield said, the Friends group, which is in charge of maintenance, is still at the stage where it must often refill the empty stand.

14

substitute resolution drafted in the wake of new information obtained from Landmark West!, the project’s main opponent. According to an email blast sent out on September 1, “the CB7 office received material information regarding the BSA application for Congregation Shearith Israel... that impacts the resolution as originally written following the committee meeting.” As a result of a Freedom of Information Law request, Landmark West! discovered a letter from the BSA to CSI — which was provided to Manhattan Express — citing 40 comments about the project application, including missing items, a Department of Buildings objection, and several unanswered questions. “This throws a totally different light on the whole thing,” said Kate Wood, president of Landmark West! “None of us had any idea that the BSA was being so critical. It raises the question if the application is insufficient, then it shouldn’t have even gone to Community Board 7.” The majority of CB7 agreed with that perspective, concluding that the letter demonstrated that too much information about the proposed development is missing for the board to vote on the application. “At this stage, for this to come now having already presented a project prematurely knowing there are some things that need to be fixed, we feel that these are significant enough to defer our review until we get the facts and then we’d be very happy to review again.” Page Cowley, CB7’s Land Use Committee co-chair, explained. That sentiment was challenged, not only by supporters of the project, including CSI congregants, but also by several CB7 board members.

“We go by to check on it and encourage community members to give donations,” Winfield said. “Ours is right next to a children’s playground so we encourage not just older books, but children’s books.” CB6 members believe that the district’s commercial and residential mix is conducive to introducing the Little Free Library concept. Private businesses may be willing to host one, but the area is also full of quiet residential pockets where there are no shortage of community groups that could well be willing to sponsor the district’s first outpost. “The community is very supportive of our libraries and education,” Thompson said. “[The Little Free Library] fit into our idea of doing whatever we can to help libraries and encourage people to read.” n

“We’re disappointed that the community board changed its position based on what is frankly a very standard notice of comments issued by the BSA,” said Zachary Bernstein, a Fried Frank attorney representing the congregation. “The synagogue is in the process of responding to those comments, and the community board will be copied simultaneously on the submission of all the responses. Bernstein added that CSI would provide any additional information if the synagogue’s responses generate further questions. CB7 member Meisha Hunter Burkett said she felt that the 40 questions raised by the BSA were “pro-forma” or typical issues asked about any project. “Stalling the process in my view is really unfair to the congregation that’s been working on this for many years,” Burkett said. Many congregants urged the board to consider the synagogue’s deteriorating infrastructure and its need for more program space and not put off approval of the project. Opponents, however, remained firm in their criticism of a building they consider an intrusion at odds with the feel of the neighborhood. “It was too big and out of character when the Community Board 7 rejected it seven years ago,” said State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried. “The new proposal is even more too big and even more too out of character. If the Board of Standards and Appeals believes that it can’t act on it without a whole lot more infor mation, neither should Community Board 7.” Bernstein said that regardless of CB7’s vote, the BSA will be scheduling a hearing on CSI’s application. n

c PLAYGROUND, from p.13 park. “When people enter, they should know this is an inclusive playground and what that means,” Fine said. “The signage should be throughout in English, Spanish, and Braille, and that it should talk about how to use the space so it is collaborative, so it isn’t just nice things that people do separately. He also urged that the parks department not allow sports league usage permits at the new Bloomingdale Playground, arguing that oftentimes leagues reserving park space leaves others excluded. Parents, especially those with kids of mixed abilities, voiced gratitude about the city designing an inclusive park and hope that the new park raises the bar for future playground designs. “There aren’t that many places or opportunities where our whole family and both my children can fully participate in an activity together,” Jodi Fischer, a mother of two sons, one of whom has multiple disabilities. “When an opportunity arises, it’s really a very heartwarming experience.” Fischer, who’s been contributing suggestions throughout as a part of the task force, added that she is ecstatic that the neighborhood she’s been living in for more than nine years is at the forefront of introducing this new all-inclusive playground model. With the green light from CB7, the parks department’s redesign now proceeds to winning approval from the Public Design Commission, after September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


JACKSON CHEN

Park Avenue, looking north from East 51st Street, where the maximum Floor Area Ratio is proposed to be 25.

c REZONING, from p.3 The improvements envisioned, Tuttle emphasized, will not be on the order of magnitude of the $220 million in improvements to Grand Central Terminal that One Vanderbilt and its developer, SL Green, agreed to provide so that it could construct its 1,401-foot tower next to the transit hub on East 42nd Street. That project recently overcame a huge hurdle as the terminal’s owner, Midtown TDR Ventures, withdrew a $1.1 billion lawsuit against the developer, clearing the way for construction. Tuttle told CB5 that the DOT and the MTA are still working on their lists identifying specific improvement projects, and he was uncertain when those would be released. The governing body overseeing the Public Realm Improvement Fund, however, would be bound to its by-laws subject to some guiding principles that DCP would offer, he said. DCP is continuing work on final appraisal of transferrable development rights and a height and setback study, according to Tut-

Express JACKSON CHEN

Madison Avenue, looking north from East 51st Street, where the maximum Floor Area Ratio is proposed to range from 18 to 23.

tle, and when that analysis is complete and the lists of transportation improvements are finalized, the appropriate agencies will report back to CB5 for public input and comments. DCP will be hold a public scoping meeting on September 22, with a deadline for comments of October 4, on which CB5 may request an extension, according to Stern, the CB5 Land Use chair. Tuttle noted, however, that his agency is aiming for city planning certification by the end of year. n

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16

BY GINA QUATTROCHI

I

don’t know much about the Clinton Foundation. My knowledge is limited to what I read online. I do not seem to be alone. Two weeks ago the Trump camp broke what Trump calls “the biggest political scandal of our time” referring to alleged illegal dealings by the foundation. As public memory of political scandals like Watergate recedes, the claim was his to make. No one objected. For two weeks, Trump and the alt-right have portrayed the Clinton Foundation as a sleazy slush fund that allowed foreign donors to buy a seat at the table when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. They also accused the Clintons of using the foundation to boost their speaking fees, which they in turn pumped into their personal accounts. Trump’s base went into a frenzy while centrist Republicans like Joe Scarbor ough and his “Morning Joe” pundits demanded the foundation shut down before week’s end. As the story was unfolding I kept

waiting for the Clinton Foundation to respond. Was their public relations staff missing in action? Were they too distracted by the campaign to care about the foundation? Were other foundations afraid to come to their defense? Ironically, it was James Carville who saved the day. In his inimitable way, he praised the foundation’s programs and scorned the naysayers all in one breath. A few days later, former President Bill Clinton lashed out. It was too late. Founded in 1997, the foundation’s almost 20 years of domestic and global work has been turned into a symbol for greed and treachery. Almost overnight, it became synonymous with “pay to play.” Calls for the foundation’s instant shutdown are disturbing. Under the title “11 Calls to Shutdown the Clinton Foundation by Left-Wing Media,” Brietbart.com, ground zero for the alt-right and home to Trump’s new campaign chief Steve Bannon, quotes articles from the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Daily

Beast, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and USA Today. R yan Grim, the Huf fington Post’s Washington bureau chief, mocked donors with his tweet “If you shut down the Clinton Foundation how would the world’s oligarchs achieve their main goal in life, eradicating disease and poverty??” Slate senior writer Josh Voorhees wrote, “As long as Hillary Clinton is either running for the White House or running the country from inside it, she and her husband should temporarily shutter their foundation.” The most brutal call came from New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, who is quoted as saying, “The Clinton Foundation needs to die.” Some media sources even offered up ways to get the Clintons out. USA Today’s editorial board offered “the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable

c QUATTROCHI, continued on p.17

This September, Let the Kids Grow Up BY LENORE SKENAZY

W

ith our just-out-of-the-nest kids starting up their college life this month, it’s nice — or maybe just weird — to know that at least one university is offering a new class in “adulting.” The program at East Carolina University will attempt to teach incoming students how to be successful adults. Sadly, this does not involve tips on how to pick stocks or useful friends. It is a class on how to roll with the punches. Noting an increase of 1,800 counseling appointments over just two school years — which required the hiring of two new counselors — the university wondered if there was some way to make its students more resilient. The vice chancellor for student

affairs, Virginia Hardy, conducted a study and came to realize the root of the problem: “Students don’t have an opportunity as much these days to manage failure, they don’t experience it in certain ways as much so they don’t know how to manage it when it happens,” as she told Greenville’s Daily Reflector. Now, it is anybody’s guess whether young people really can’t handle distress or are simply more accustomed than earlier generations were with turning to mental health professionals. And there’s something to be said for getting help rather than descending into darkness. There’s even something to be said for learning how to turn off the “You are a loser” tape looping in the brain, which is a stated goal of the class. As a college student, I wish I

could have turned off mine. But as Boston College psych professor Peter Gray has noted in his work on resilience: At least some college students seems to be seeking help for problems they could solve themselves. At BC, for instance, one student sought counseling after seeing a mouse in the dorm. Another came in after a spat with a roommate. So the dark underbelly of being mature enough to seek help is being immature enough to find everyday ups and downs overwhelming. Thus the class at East Carolina U will teach students that setbacks are a normal part of life, as is frustration. In other words: It hopes to teach young people — at last — how to deal.

c SKENAZY, continued on p.17

September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c QUATTROCHI, from p.16 work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” Demands that a foundation with a 20-year track record and hundreds of domestic and global programs transfer its assets and programming instantaneously to another foundation is chilling. It demonstrates that even powerful institutions may be destroyed by unsubstantiated claims of “pay for play.” To date, there is no evidence that any of the foundation’s actions or its dealings with Hillary Clinton’s State Department were illegal. Donors give for a myriad of reasons: commitment to the issue, visibility, access to other supporters, naming opportunities, and sometimes just being seen prominently at benefit galas. That’s the reality of philanthropy. Last year I was walking down the street behind two very well dressed women. One remarked on the success of their charity event the night before. The other replied, “It wasn’t successful, Bill Cunning-

ham never showed up. I promised a few donors they would be in ‘Evening Hours.’ We failed.” If the current pile-up on the Clinton Foundation isn’t stopped, philanthropy in this country is in trouble. In the post 9/11 years, we witnessed stepped up sur veillance of donations to Muslim organizations that were accused of funneling money to terrorists. I don’t know how the donation tracking affected charitable giving to such organizations, but I am betting that support plummeted. The danger of the current attacks on the Clinton Foundation is that donors will pull back their contributions to avoid being dragged into the ugly fray fueled by Trump and the alt-right. What would be criminal is for this scandal to shut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the causes the foundation now supports. Gina Quattrochi has been CEO of Bailey House, the nation’s first AIDS housing organization, since 1991. This article expresses her personal views. n

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September is National Preparedness Month! c SKENAZY, from p.16 Can’t say I didn’t see this coming. This is exactly the life lesson we have, in our love and worry, failed to give our kids. Instead, for the past generation or two, we have been always at their side, overseeing them, monitoring them, making sure they’re okay… to the point where they aren’t. This isn’t the fault of neurotic parents; the whole culture is complicit. My kids went to a variety of New York City public middle and high schools and all of these had tracking systems that allowed us to check how they did on homework, quizzes, and tests — daily! That’s a level of scrutiny no one expected of my own parents. It assumes that intense parental oversight is normal, even neces-

sary. How intense? In some other cities, parents can log on and find out exactly which items their kids chose from the lunch line. But worst of all this excess involvement is the way that adults have taken over play. Today’s children grow up with their elders ever -present to organize the game, settle the scores, and slice the snacks. These youngsters don’t get a chance to improvise a wacky new move, because all the games count. They don’t get a chance to throw the ball a little easier to the youngest kid, because all the kids are the same age. They never get a chance to problem-solve whether the ball was in or out, or even choose the teams (talk about a people skill!) because adults do all that, too.

Join NYC Emergency Management to learn how to prepare for all types of emergencies. Activities throughout September: Free preparedness fairs, events and workshops throughout the five boroughs Family day at the Bronx Zoo on Sunday, Sept. 18 Family day at the Staten Island Children’s Museum on Saturday, Sept. 24 and much more!

For more information, visit

NYC.gov/EmergencyManagement or call 311.

c SKENAZY, continued on p.23

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

17


In Yorkville, Everyone’s German on Steuben Day! GERMANPARADENYC.ORG

c JUDGE, from p.10 han was the first Asian-American woman elected to the State Supreme Court and the first Asian American appointed to the Appellate Term. “Her record speaks for itself,” she said. “She is an independent judge not beholden to anyone but the people,” Chin said. CUNY law professor Joe Rosenberg called her “a role model for CUNY law students and law students throughout New York City.” Also speaking or delivering messages of support for Ling-Cohan at the rally were the Korean American Lawyers Association, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, the Asian American Bar Association of NY, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Mendez, an out lesbian, was joined by other LGBT elected officials at the City Hall gathering, including State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and Councilmember Corey Johnson, all West Siders. Allen Roskoff, president of Jim Owles Club, said, “Doris Ling-Cohan cares about the people. That’s why the landlords don’t like her and the One Percent don’t like her.” He accused “party hacks” in the county organization of wanting her out to get their own candidates in. Many executive committee members, in fact, have their own candidates, including Louise Dankberg, Arluck’s co-chair on the Judiciary Committee, who is supporting Nancy Bannon, who is up for consideration at the convention. In an email message, John Fisher of TenantNet wrote, “Assemblymember Keith Wright, closely allied with [the Real Estate Board of New York]… is seen as allowing the judicial screening panel to knock Justice Ling-Cohan off the ballot. It would not be happening without his acquiescence or specific direction.” To that charge, Wright responded, “Anyone that knows what they are talking about in the picking of judges knows that there is no foundation to that.” Wright’s leadership and the independence of his party’s judicial panels are being put to their greatest test in the history of the county’s judicial nominating process. He and the Manhattan Democratic Party are faced with the daunting challenging of protecting the independence of their selection panels while doing justice to a long-serving jurist who has been maligned by panelists who will not defend or explain their decision. n

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Revelers at last year’s German American Steuben Parade on the Upper East Side.

Manhattan’s annual German American Steuben Parade takes place Saturday, September 17, kicking off at noon — rain or shine — from Fifth Avenue and 70th Street, and traveling north to 86th Street near the heart of Yorkville. Grandstand seating ($15 at germanparadenyc.org) is available in the vicinity of 79th Street. This year’s grand marshals are German Olympic Gold Medal skater Katarina Witt and Germany’s ambassador to the US, Peter Wittig. The parade honors Baron

c CATSIMATIDIS, from p.9 newspaper where his wife had been president at the time of their 1988 marriage, Catsimatidis said he has never taken a public stance on political questions back in Greece. In addition to his business life, Catsimatidis sponsors a scholarship fund at NYU’s Stern School of Business and is a supporter of the National Kidney Foundation, the Juve-

Friedrich von Steuben, who traveled to America during the Revolutionary War to offer his services as a volunteer in the army of General George Washington. The afternoon’s parade is preceded by a 9 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, tickets to the 59th annual Central Park Oktoberfest sold out within three hours of their going on sale online. If you love this year’s parade, start looking early next August to book your place at the park festivities that follow. n

nile Diabetes Foundation, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, and the Ellis Island Awards Foundation. His fellow honorees were journalist George Stephanopoulos, Dr. Peter Diamandis, an engineer, physician, and entrepreneur who founded the XPRIZE Foundation, filmmaker Costa-Gavras, and Rita Wilson, the singer and actress who is also the wife of Tom Hanks. n

September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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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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A “JT Leroy” Apologia From Documentarian Jeff Feuerzeig BY STEVE ERICKSON

I

t’s not necessarily exploitative for a writer to be a recluse or use a pseudonym. Elena Ferrante is one of Italy’s most celebrated contemporary writers, and no one knows who she is, although consensus holds that she’s really a woman. Thomas Pynchon and J.D. Salinger used their real names, but they shied away from the camera and never gave interviews. But Laura Albert, who created the persona of queer and trans teen waif JT Leroy and published two novels and one book of short stories as him, is a different case. For starters, she began using the Leroy persona to call psychological crisis centers. Before Leroy started writing his popular short stories, he was a telephone-only patient of shrink Dr. Terrence Owens, and Albert seems to have recorded all their years’ worth of sessions. (I’m referring to Leroy with masculine pronouns because Albert does, despite the persona’s strong hints of gender ambiguity.) Albert used people in a way that Ferrante hasn’t, and she also exploited drug addicts, HIV-positive people, and the transgender community along the way in creating Leroy’s backstory. Jeff Feuerzeig’s documentary “Author: The JT Leroy Story” — counting a program on the ID cable channel, the third Leroy doc made so far — doesn’t have a skeptical bone in its body. It’s content to gawk at the mess Albert made of her life and claim it’s a profound statement about fame and identity. Albert began writing short stories in the late ‘90s, one of which was published in an anthology of memoirs. She claims she tried to give up fiction, but she ended up writing the acclaimed novel “Sarah.” As it propelled Leroy to fame, her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop, wearing a wig and sunglasses, took on the task of incarnating the writer in person. (He was supposedly too shy to appear at his own readings, so Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine read from “Sarah” at early club dates.) Eventually, “Sarah” led to movie deals and fashion spreads for Leroy, but the fact that the author didn’t really exist was exposed. There are aspects of the JT Leroy story Feuerzeig left on the cutting room floor, probably because they’d make Laura Albert look bad. Albert started out contacting a group of writers whose work dealt with issues of sex and violence in a way superficially similar to hers, including Mary Gaitskill, Bruce Benderson, and Dennis Cooper. With hindsight, one can see that she tailored the Leroy persona to appeal to these authors, in fact. Benderson and Cooper are inter-

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AMAZON STUDIOS / MAGNOLIA PICTURES

Savannah Knoop and Laura Albert in Jeff Feuerzeig’s “Author: The JT Leroy Story.”

viewed in “Author,” but the film doesn’t discuss the way Leroy emotionally manipulated them by constantly calling at all hours of the day claiming he was about to commit suicide. If Albert was genuinely suicidal, it’s odd that she would funnel such intense feelings through a persona. Watching the film, I kept thinking, “She needs help, and she’s not going to get it by talking to her psychiatrist as a person who doesn’t exist.” Albert has a point when she insists that her work was always published as fiction and that her reputation shouldn’t have suffered so much when its true authorship was revealed. She says that she always felt more comfortable writing about the sexual abuse she suffered if presented from the perspective of a comparable male victim. But why didn’t she write the same stories about male Southern Baptist prostitutes and the truck stops they haunt under her real name? I think it would have quickly become obvious that the Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner comparisons she received on a Canadian talk show excerpted in “Author” were wildly overinflated. “Sarah” was always sold as a novel with the frisson of its author’s backstory, giving its readers the thrill of secondhand degradation. For her part, Albert admits that the first truck stop she ever visited was on the set of Asia Argento’s film of her story “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.” So much for a life of teenage prostitution at truck stops across the South! As “Author” progresses, it goes from cute animation — if that applies to a depiction of a teenage junkie shooting up — to endless images of

AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig Amazon Studios/ Magnolia Pictures Opens Sep. 9 Film Society of Lincoln Center 165 W. 65th St. filmlinc.org Landmark Sunshine 143 E. Houston St. Btwn. First & Second Aves. landmarktheatres.com tapes from celebrities like Billy Corgan and Courtney Love playing in an answering machine. The film is slickly made. That only makes its apologia for Albert worse. The woman clearly had and still has numerous problems: an addiction to food that led to childhood teasing about her weight and eventual surgery to prevent diabetes, a frightening ability to switch back and forth between personae. Even without the New York magazine and New York Times articles that destroyed the JT Leroy persona, something was going to give. But “Author” gives Albert the last word in a way that made me faintly nauseous. She describes abusive games at the hand of her uncle, blaming them for the entire course of her life. So it’s okay to manipulate other people while using them to climb the social ladder because you had a rough childhood? If that’s the case, there are millions of potential JT Leroys out there. Can a memoir possibly be far behind? n September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Satisfaction and Salvation, Before It’s Too Late BY DAVID KENNERLEY

D

oes something happen soon? It’s pretty dull, this.” That’s what grumpy Uncle David says about a long-winded story halfway through the first act of “A Day by the Sea,” the latest neglected play reanimated by the Mint Theater Company. Apparently, that’s also what American theatergoers griped when the drama premiered on Broadway in 1955, where it ran for a mere 24 performances. Not even Jessica Tandy or Hume Cronyn could save it (the production, however, had been warmly received in London a couple of years earlier). With the advent of McDonald’s fast food joints and hip-swiveling Elvis, Americans no longer had the patience for talky, three-act Chekhovian domestic dramas. The play’s author, N.C. Hunter, was a celebrated British playwright until he was scuttled in the late 1950s by the wave of Angry Young Men, led by John Osborne. Sedate, restrained naturalism was usurped by gritty, kitchen sink realism. So how does “A Day by the Sea” fare more than a half-century later? Exceptionally well, as it happens. Under the guidance of veteran

RICHARD TERMINE

Katie Firth, Julian Elfer, George Morfogen, and Philip Goodwin in the revival of N.C. Hunter’s “A Day by the Sea,” directed by Austin Pendleton.

director/ actor/ playwright Austin Pendleton, this gentle, meticulously crafted drama is a welcome break from the calculating, overwrought productions typically seen on the boards today. If the drama, set in a vast English coastal estate in 1953, is short on plot, it is long on richly drawn, flesh-and-blood characters, evoked by a highly capable ensemble. Naturally, in a play about the passage of time, a wide range of ages is represented. The 40-year -old master of the

house, Julian Anson (Julian Elfer, who strikes just the right mix of brashness and charm), has just returned after a long stint in Paris serving as an official in the Foreign Service. Julian’s devoted mother, Laura (Jill Tanner), a widow who manages the house, farm, and gardens in his absence, is worried that her workaholic bachelor son is too preoccupied by pressing matters of state to literally stop and smell the

A DAY BY THE SEA Mint Theater Company Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 W. 42nd St. Through Sep. 24 Tue.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun. at 2:30 p.m. $57.50-$65; minttheater.org Two hrs., 50 mins. with two intermissions

c SEA, continued on p.23

A Tunisian Girl Rebels and Also Grows Up BY GARY M. KRAMER

T

he excellent drama “As I Open My Eyes” chronicles the coming of age of Farah (Baya Madhaffar), a baby-faced 18-year-old who lives in Tunis with her mother Hayet (Ghalia Benali). Farah, who is as unruly as her kinky hair, sings political songs in a band called Joujma. She is also romantically — and secretly — involved with her handsome bandmate Bohrène (Montassar Ayari). This film, directed and co-written by Leyla Bouzid in her feature debut, is set in the summer of 2010, a few months before the Jasmine Revolution. The setting’s authenticity provides some nice texture to what might otherwise seem like a familiar story of a young person gaining wisdom. An early scene has Farah drinking her first beer. Bouzid creates atmosphere as she focuses on the wizened faces of elderly men in the bar. Farah entertains an old drunk, who tells her that during the day he suffocates, but at night ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

he is able to sing and his voice frees him. His words comment on her own situation; Farah’s music, which is soulful and mournful, is an expression of her emotional vulnerability but also of her strength. Farah is a rebel, and her mother is duly concerned about her — especially after Hayet’s friend Moncef (Youness Ferhi), a government employee, warns her that Farah is hanging out with people known to the police. Farah is shaming her mother and putting their lives in danger. “As I Open My Eyes” slowly steps up the drama as Farah’s risky behavior escalates. Barred by Hayet from attending a concert, Farah locks her mother in her bedroom and escapes to perform. Though anxious about what she has done, Farah’s singing thrills and inspires her. Empowered by performing songs about the country’s poverty and inequality, Farah’s insistence that she do what she likes may have serious ramifications. When one evening a venue where the band is supposed to perform

is closed, Farah takes to singing in the street, unmindful of warnings that she go home and stop courting trouble. Farah is no bratty teen; instead she emerges as an engaging heroine who, though curious and reckless, is also deeply passionate. The film does not judge her actions. She may be petulant when asked to censor her singing and foolish when Bohrène warns her not to dance so provocatively, but she is willing to heed her father Mahmoud’s (Lassaad Jamoussi) counsel when he tells her to accept more responsibility for her actions. Bouzid is thoughtful and unhurried in presenting Farah’s story. The film absorbs viewers as they soak up the rhythm of Farah’s life going back and forth from home to perform with her band. Eventually, a series of betrayals shift the direction of the story, and the political element lurking in the background overtakes the narrative.

c EYES, continued on p.23 21


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September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c BAZAAR, from p.4 Brown began making soaps in 2001 after her own experience dealing with eczema taught her that many kitchen ingredients, like coconut oil and olive oil can serve — every bit as much as aloe vera — as a natural skincare solution. Now a month into her table at Grand Bazaar, Brown said she’s often had to warn her customers not to eat her soaps, which are scented with ingredients ranging from vanilla lavender to mango butter and lemon pound cake. Further indoors, customers will find traditional — and typically crowd-pleasing — flea market fare like handmade jewelry, porcelain, and yard sale layouts. For Emmy Hardy, the owner of Colorful Treasures, it took roughly

a year to get into the market after embarking on its application process. Now, she boasts a table filled with precious gemstones and grade A jade she’s collected over the years. “I personally love colored stones and gemstones, it’s a hobby,” she explained. “Now I try to make it a business.” Set up on a draped cafeteria table, she’s able to share her passion with the diverse crowd that throngs the market’s aisles. “We can talk to and see different people, it’s all international,” Hardy said. “Customers are very different. They have local people, and some are visitors, from young to old.” Likewise, Sharon Murphy is intent on keeping her spot at the bazaar because of the enjoyment she gets from sharing stories with would-be purchasers about the teacups she’s

c SKENAZY, from p.17 Then these well-loved, well-behaved kids get to college and something as common as roommate troubles seem seismic because for the first time, there’s no adult intermediary. Off they go to find one. So now, even as it offers its adulting class, East Carolina intends to reach out to elementa-

c SEA, from p.21 roses. Once Julian is notified by his boss (Sean Gormley) that his post will not be renewed, he is confronted with the ghastly collision of his past and his future. While on a picnic at the beach, Julian contemplates his lackluster career and empty social life and realizes it’s time to rebound from his mistakes and seize his dreams.

ry, middle, and high schools and try to restore some childhood resiliency. With any luck, this will give schools the academic cover they need to simply intervene a little less and trust kids a little more. Then maybe the parents will, too.  Childhood was never meant to be perfect. It has always had its lumps and bumps, physical

One of his dreams involves his childhood friend Frances (Katie Firth, who springs to life in the third act), now a divorcée with a shameful past, who happens to be visiting with her two rowdy children and governess (Polly McKie) in tow. Julian loathes the idea of becoming an anachronistic country squire. Or does he? Also on hand are 82-year -old Uncle David (George Morfogen),

c EYES, from p.21 “As I Open My Eyes” examines Farah’s maturation through familial, sexual, socio-cultural, and political lenses. She smiles at Bohrène’s clandestine affections in public, as when he touches her skin unbeknownst to others in a bar or kisses her under a tree. In turn, she peeks at his penis one morning after they sleep together. Over time, however, the lovers become more distant from each other, and when Farah publicly reads a letter Bohrène gave her their relationship changes dramatically. The conflict that festers between mother and daughter also reveals Farah’s character. With Mahmoud away working in Gafsa, Hayet struggles to control Farah. A formidaManhattanExpressNews.nyc | September 08 - 21, 2016

collected from around the world, including France, Italy, and Russia. “I have fun meeting people, telling them about these cups, and showing it to them,” Murphy said. “I think that’s a big part of my sales.” Murphy noted that the flea market industry has generally been on a downward slope for years and she simply looks to break even with her presence at Grand Bazaar. In the bigger picture, her table is a means for advertising her etsy.com store, Teacups From Sharon, where she makes a majority of her sales. Hopeful that Grand Bazaar can begin a resurgence at what for three decades had marketed itself as a flea market, she’s content to trust its future to those in charge. Despite its soft opening several Sundays ago, Grand Bazaar NYC makes its official launch on Septem-

ber 11, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., with what it confidently boasts is a unique collection of foods, crafts, and designs with the makings for becoming a choice city marketplace. “There’s no real market for artisans, antiques, food, one that really encompasses it all,” Seago said. “That’s why we have this vision to bring it all together.” n

and emotional. These prepare kids for adulthood. Humanhood. Even rooming-with-a–jerkat-college-hood. A little more unsupervised time as kids can make unsupervised young adults a lot happier. Lenore Skenazy is founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids and a contributor at Reason.com.

his boozy caregiver, Doctor Farley (Philip Goodwin), and a pesky solicitor (Curzon Dobell). “A Day by the Sea” offers the chance to reflect on timeless themes — the power of family bonds, coping with advancing age, seizing the day before it’s too late, and the urge to ignore harsh realities. “Why must we have these wearisome world problems dragged into the garden, among the flow-

ble character, Hayet tries to intimidate Farah by speeding through traffic in one of many contests of wills between them. But when Farah disrespects her, Hayet tells her daughter, “Consider me dead.” The mother and daughter’s battle intensifies, but when Farah is sent off to Gafsa to stay with her father, Hayet’s disposition changes. “As I Open My Eyes” resists being overly melodramatic up until the ending. Bouzid’s neo-realist approach to the story is largely effective, and the cast of largely unprofessional actors offer naturalistic performances that ring true. (Ghalia Benali as Hayet is an exception to the non-actor rule here — just watch her expression and body language as customers in an all-male café stare at her when she enters looking for Farah one

JACKSON CHEN

Natural soaps and other skincare products offered by Amerrah Brown’s Beautiful Amore.

ers?,” Laura says about the men debating the “age of anxiety” and the brutal politics of war. Granted, the nearly three-hour running time (with two intermissions) is not for everyone, and there are lulls. But I found this eloquently complex drama a tranquil, refreshing respite from the harsh realities of today’s political climate, not unlike, well, a day by the sea. It’s an excursion well worth taking. n

AS I OPEN MY EYES Directed by Leyla Bouzid Kino Lorber In Arabic with English subtitles Opens Sep. 9 Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St. lincolnplazacinema.com

evening.) Baya Madhaffar delivers an auspicious turn as Farah, making her character’s difficult transformation from a self-centered teen to a wiser young woman credible and central to the film’s success. n

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September 08 - 21, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

Manhattan Express  

September 08, 2016