The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
August 4, 2016 • $1.00 Volume 86 • Number 31
Coles demo kicks off N.Y.U. project, triggers community concerns By ALEX ELLEFSON
.Y.U. may have triumphed in the courtroom — surviving a legal challenge last year to its ambitious development plan on two South Village superblocks. But now locals will see if the university makes good on its promise to be a good neighbor when construction
gets underway. The first phase of the project, called N.Y.U 2031, starts this month, when the university begins tearing down Coles Gym, at 181 Mercer St., to make way for a much larger multi-purpose facility. The demolition work is expected to continue for a year — and the N.Y.U. continued on p. 4
Village View is looking at exit from affordable co-op housing program Photo by John Penley
BY ALEX ELLEFSON
or more than half a century, residents at the Village View cooperatives enjoyed the benefits of the Mitchell-Lama program. Qualifying tenants could buy an apartment in the sprawling East Village complex for well below market rate. And tax
exemptions helped keep maintenance fees low. However, shareholders are now mulling whether to withdraw from the affordable housing program — considered one the most successful at providing homes for middle-income people. The decision to withdraw would allow residents to Housing continued on p. 3
The par ty’s over! Bernie Sanders suppor ters protesting outside the Democratic National Convention carried a coffin representing the death of the Democratic Par ty — which did not nominate their candidate.
From the seats to streets: Reflections on the D.N.C. BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
illary Clinton got a post-convention bounce in the polls, and local Democrats — admittedly, not all, though many — were feeling similarly uplifted by last week’s Democratic National Convention. The convention was highlighted by soaring speeches and idealism. And after all the xenophobia and fear-monger-
ing on display in at the Republican National Convention, Lenny Kravitz rocked the D.N.C. stage, urging Americans to put aside their differences and “Let Love Rule.” Members of the New York Democratic Delegation had a front-row seat on it all, since they hail from Hillary Clinton’s adopted “home state,” earning them pride of place right by the stage. Most of the elected officials attending from the Down-
town Manhattan area were Clinton delegates. Although among them was notably District Leader Arthur Schwartz, Bernie Sanders’s New York campaign counsel. Meanwhile, fresh from covering — and protesting at — the R.N.C. in Cleveland, former East Village activist John Penley was stirring things up at the D.N.C. in Philadelphia — again covering it, and D.N.C. continued on p. 8
Graffiti great gone wild: LA II’s nutty night......p. 6 L.E.S. loses Al Orensanz and Heshy Jacob. . . . . .p.12 Glick goes gonzo on Trump.....p. 2
tal health professional,” Glick said. “But narcissism is not something that can be cured. Narcissists do not believe they have a problem — the problems are all outside of them. Like saying he was being viciously attacked by Mr. Khan — is that projection, or what?... .” So, now we have Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Crooked Hillary...and Gonzo Don. ... Speaking of Hillary Clinton, Glick said she did fine speaking at the D.N.C. “I think Hillary’s speech was terrific,” she said. “She’s admitted she’s not a great public speaker. But it was so much better than people expected, and it was a very commanding performance.” Glick noted that Clinton, like Al Gore, does better speaking in smaller settings.
Courtesy Brad Hoylman
Enjoying front-row seats at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, from left, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and A ssemblymember Deborah Glick.
Courtesy Arthur Schwartz
Ar thur Schwar tz, Village Democratic district leader, with former Mayor David Dinkins at the D.N.C. Dinkins wasn’t a delegate but an “honored guest.”
The wrath of Khan...and ‘Crazy Don’: Like just about everyone else, it seems, Assemblymember Deborah Glick is shocked at Donald Trump’s escalating feud with Khizr Khan and his family. Khan, of course, spoke at the Democratic National Convention, as his wife, Ghazala, stood silently by his side, about their hero son, Army Captain Humayan Khan, who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War. The son of Pakistani immigrants stepped forward from his unit to inspect a suspicious vehicle, which, it turned out, was packed with explosives and blew up. In a gesture that surely will go down in history, Khizr Khan waved a pocket U.S. Constitution and suggested Trump read it. The G.O.P. nominee blasted back, accusing the
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Khans of viciously attacking him, while slamming Ghazala, implying her muteness was due to the Muslim religion’s subservient status of women. “I think Mr. Khan was an incredibly powerful speaker,” Glick said, “because he was just an average American, but he was threatened by the bigoted messages coming out of the Republican convention, and he had lost a son. The notion that his son might be banned, having saved his fellow soldiers’ lives... . They were private people, this was a very difficult thing for them to do. I don’t even know what to say about Donald Trump anymore. He’s unhinged,” the veteran assemblymember said. “He can’t let anything go. And his remarks about the wife — the way Trump treats women, there’s a hypocrisy and an irony there. ... It is quite alarming to have the Republican nominee be a leading conspiracy theorist and a person that is devoid of any compassion and empathy. That’s basically being a sociopath,” Glick went on, adding, “Donald Trump is nothing but a bag of slogans.” Actually, on second thought, she said she did have an idea for what to do about Trump — or, at least, future Trumps. “They do a psychological review of police candidates,” Glick said, admitting that some think the screening could be more rigorous. “They also do it for the Army. There is no test for people who run for office. Maybe there should be — I may put in a bill,” she said, not really that jokingly. (It sounds like this would actually need to be a federal bill — though, perhaps our local congressmembers and senators will get on board with Glick’s idea.) The state pol doesn’t pretend she could help the bombastic businessman, however. “I’m not a qualified men-
Après Florent, le deluge: It seems you can’t even blink or you’ll miss the next outrageous maneuver a developer is pulling in the Gansevoort Historic District. The battle of “Gansevoort Row” only just recently ended on the south side of the street. The community, unfortunately, largely lost, as the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed to allow a developer to build up and “upzone” most of the classic (and, yes, landmarked!) block between Ninth Ave. and Washington St. Now this week we get a call from legendary Meatpacking District restaurateur Florent Morellet, telling us that another rogue developer has incredibly ripped down the iconic facade of his former eponymous Florent restaurant, at 69 Gansevoort St. — which had preserved the classic pre-Florent R & L Restaurant lettering — on the north side of the block. “It sucks,” Morellet, now of Bushwick, told us on his cell phone as he was biking by to take some photos of la catastrophe. “It’s landmarked — and the landmarking was for the exterior of the building. I kept it. I didn’t change it. If there was one storefront in the Gansevoort Market — that was it. I think it’s unethical.” Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said the society is on it. “We checked immediately when we first heard about this a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the work, which is supposed to replace the facade materials ‘in kind.’ The L.P.C. regularly approves such work. We are closely monitoring to ensure that this iconic facade is restored to its original condition.” For his part, Morellet was skeptical that the signature storefront would be restored to anything resembling what it looked like before. “Let’s see,” he shrugged. Shalom’s so long: We caught up with Shalom Neuman of Fusion Arts the other weekend at his birthday / “end of an era” party on Quincy St. in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. The two-level gallery space was very cool, but unfortunately, it was slated for the wrecking ball in a mere matter of days. We were told by a Neuman assistant that only the building’s facade — featuring an elephant mural and the Fusion Arts sign — would be preserved. Neuman, who is a remarkably young-looking 69, said he had been priced out of the space by property taxes. “They raised my taxes from $3,000 to $50,000 a year,” he said. “They taxed me out.” In a nutshell, he is relocating Fusion Arts to Easton, Pennsylvania, where there is a burgeoning art scene in an area — most importantly — that’s affordable. He also maintains an art space overseas in Prague. New York simply has lost its artistic edge as the city has grown so prohibitively expensive that cutting-edge creators cannot flourish here, he lamented. “Prague and Berlin are the future,” he told us. “You can get an apartment for $700 a month in Prague.” Neuman still has the old Fusion Arts building on Stanton St. on the Lower East Side. “We haven’t given up on Stanton St.,” he told us. “It will be an International Fusionism museum.” Fusion art marries traditional media with modern technology, like light and digital displays.
“It’s worth the trip down the street!” 2
August 4, 2016
Village View to exit program? HOUSING continued from p. 1
sell their units for a huge profit. But some worry it would be shortsighted to cash in on their below-market-rate homes — and that privatizing could further erode the neighborhood’s affordability. Robert Sarota, who has lived in Village View for more than 40 years, said he would like to stay in Mitchell-Lama, but understands why some of his neighbors want to cut loose from the program. “I have a neighbor who would like to leave her son an inheritance,” he explained. “But I think we, who are the beneficiaries of this program, are being greedy if we take the money for ourselves. Why should we destroy relatively inexpensive housing for future generations?” Village View’s board of directors began holding informational meetings in June to discuss withdrawing from Mitchell-Lama and converting to a private co-op. The first step in the process would be to vote in favor of a feasibility study that would examine the consequences of leaving the program. At least 51 percent of shareholders from a minimum of 617 apartments would have to vote to support the study. Village View has a total of 1,236 units spread across seven buildings between E. Second and E. Sixth Sts. and First Ave. and Avenue A. It opened as a Mitchell-Lama co-op in 1964. The shareholders can vote to leave after the development has been enrolled in the program for more than 20 years and all the mortgages have been paid off. Deregulation has its disadvantages. The co-op would experience a significant tax hike, which would have to be covered by the residents. To mitigate this, co-op boards institute a flip tax for those who sell their units after privatization. The money collected from the flip tax fills the co-op’s coffers to offset the increased operating costs. However, Christine Hadlow, who bought a unit at Village View in 2011, is concerned that maintenance costs will spike after the initial flush of fliptax money dries up — forcing the moderate-income tenants to leave. “The only people to gain from this are the ones who want to make a quick buck,” she said. “How long are these flip taxes going to sustain the development?” Withdrawing from the program would require a two-thirds vote by residents of at least 822 apartments. If the measure passes, shareholders could choose to deregulate their units and put them on the market. They could also relinquish their shares by leaving and having their equity returned, or stay on as tenants in rent-regulated apartments. The Mitchell-Lama program, founded in 1955, supported the creation of TheVillager.com
Photo by Alex Ellefson
Village View, in the East Village, boasts more than 1,200 apar tments.
more than 105,000 rentals and limitedequity co-ops for middle-income New Yorkers. However, the city’s ravenous real-estate market has clawed away almost one-third of those units, according to New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Regulators are trying to find ways to plug the outflow of units from the program. The city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development introduced “Article II to Article XI” to allow cooperatives to opt into another affordability program if they privatize. Additionally, lawmakers have convened a task force aimed at strengthening support for the Mitchell-Lama program. Hadlow said Village View’s participation in Mitchell-Lama created an important refuge for middle-income residents to seek shelter from the neighborhood’s ballooning housing prices. Real estate values in the East Village, where the average condo sells for close to $1.5 million, have jumped by more than 50 percent in the last 10 years, according to CityRealty. “There are walk-up railroad apartments across First Ave. that rent for $3,000 a month. How is the market supposed to bear the affordable housing in Village View if we privatize?” she explained. “I think it creates an opportunity for a developer to come in and buy the property.” More than anything, Hadlow said that preserving affordable housing in the East Village keeps the community strong because it encourages longtime residents to remain in the neighborhood. “Mitchell-Lama is such a good deal that many leave the program feet first,” she said. “These are the people who actually have a stake in the community. They are the ones who support the small businesses and contribute to the neighborhood’s vitality.” August 4, 2016
Coles demo kicks off N.Y.U. project Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association News Story, First Place, 2015 Editorial Page, First Place, 2015 Editorials, First Place, 2014 News Story, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009
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August 4, 2016
N.Y.U. continued from p. 1
new building is scheduled for completion in 2021. The foes of the project, who held it up in the courts for three years, are now focused on enforcing regulations put in place to mitigate the mega-project’s impact on the surrounding community. “The community fought valiantly and there was never a question of how the community felt about the project,” said Terri Cude, who battled the development as co-chairperson of Community Alliance Against N.Y.U. 2031. “Now, the job of the community, elected officials and other stakeholders is to minimize the effects of construction.” Cude attended the inaugural meeting on July 15 of the 181 Mercer St. Construction Committee, which was created to act as a liaison between N.Y.U and neighbors. Additional oversight measures — included in the restrictive declaration passed when the City Council green-lighted the project four years ago — require a third-party monitor to ensure noise and emissions from the site are kept to a minimum. However, Cude said N.Y.U should aim to go above and beyond the requirements set by the City Council. “This is an unusually complicated and large site in a very residential neighborhood,” she said. “The question is going to be: If something happens, and something will happen, will N.Y.U. make every effort to be sensitive to the needs of residents? I hope N.Y.U. does what is needed of them and not just what is required of them.” Cude already sees red flags that the university might be slow responding to unforeseen quality-of-life issues. She said it took more than two months for N.Y.U. to address her complaints about skateboarders and bicyclists grinding on top of a low fence the university installed this year at the northern part of the southern superblock. Cude said the skateboarders’ tricks off the railing caused a hazard for pedestrians. She said she sent multiple e-mails to N.Y.U. staff, asking them to resolve the problem. “This is the kind of thing we hoped they were faster in resolving, especially because it was so easy to anticipate,” Cude said. “How did their experts not know something like this would attract bad actors?” N.Y.U. spokesperson John Beckman said the university had to consult with the Parks Department to design new metal “skateboard deterrents,” which are simply square pegs along the railing, to resolve the issue. In a statement, he said, “We are keenly aware of the concerns of our neighbors, and we are committed to moving forward with the project — which has been approved by the City Council and affirmed in the state courts — in a manner that reduces the impact of the demolition of Coles and the construction of the new 181 Mercer building.” N.Y.U. faced vehement opposition from
Photo by Alex Ellefson
It took two months to get N.Y.U. and the Parks Depar tment to add nobs on top of this Bleecker St. fence to stop skateboarders from grinding on it.
neighbors, including many of its own faculty — who live on the superblocks — and local preservationists who opposed shoehorning a mammoth new development into the low-slung residential neighborhood. A coalition of opponents successfully sued to block the project — arguing that four open-space strips along the superblocks were “implied parkland.” However, the state’s high court, the Court of Appeals, ultimately ruled in favor of the university’s plan, paving the way for N.Y.U. to start constructing four new buildings, with a total of nearly 2 million square feet, on the property. N.Y.U. says the new buildings are necessary to keep pace with the university’s growth in recent years and on into the future. The multi-use building replacing Coles Gym — currently known as the “Zipper Building” due to its shape when viewed from above — will include classrooms, performing arts and practice space, an athletic facility, and housing for students and faculty, as well as nearly 7,500 square feet for a public atrium and community use. The university’s expansion plan also calls for another building at the southeast corner of Bleecker St. and LaGuardia Place, currently occupied by a supermarket, and two so-called “Boomerang Buildings” — again, called such due to their shape — on the northern superblock. When the process of demolishing Coles Gym gets underway, workers will begin wrapping the site in a sound-attenuating construction fence. The fence will eliminate parking spaces on the surrounding streets. The M21 bus stop on the north side of Houston St., near Mercer St., will also have to be moved one block west. Additionally, a temporary pedestrian walkway along Houston St. will take away the street’s northernmost lane for car traffic. Bo Riccobono, a member of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, a faculty organization that opposed the expansion
plan, noted that two construction projects east of Broadway have also closed lanes of traffic. He expects the additional lane closure to cause a “traffic nightmare” that will divert motorists onto some of the quieter, residential streets. When Riccobono reached out to a university representative, asking if the fence could be moved off the street after the demolition is finished, he said he received a boilerplate answer, stating that the fence had been approved by the Department of Buildings and Department of Transportation. “N.Y.U. does what N.Y.U wants to do,” he said. “But they should be more aware of citizens’ concerns. The more you squeeze traffic, it causes congestion somewhere else.” The street-lane closure and impending construction work are also making some local small business owners anxious. Wayne Conti, who has operated Mercer Street Books for more than 25 years, said he worries that noise and dust from the work site will drive away his customers. “We don’t have a tremendous advertising reach,” he said. “A lot of our business depends on the attractiveness of the street because many of our customers found us walking by.” Conti said even though the completed project could likely bring more foot traffic to his block, he wonders whether his business will be able to survive so many years of construction. “It’s like saying you’re going to hold a dog underwater for 20 minutes to get rid of all its flees,” he said. “We don’t have the resources of N.Y.U. How are we supposed to survive so many years of construction?” The demolition of Coles gym has also forced the Mercer-Houston Dog Run to be relocated around the corner. It won’t return to its former location, though, since the new N.Y.U. building will cover part of the run’s former footprint. Additionally, workers will begin cutting down the remaining cherry trees around the site when they put up the construction fence. Four of the trees were transplanted across the street, onto the north side of Bleecker St., alongside three new Kwanzan cherry trees. N.Y.U. said on its Web site that it consulted with the Parks Department to try to place the remaining trees somewhere else in the community, but was unable to find a suitable site. But Cude said she had hoped N.Y.U. would make more of an effort to ensure that all the cherry trees found a new home. “We expressed concern about the trees all throughout the approval process,” she said. “N.Y.U. is our neighbor and they could have done more. “Those trees are ours,” she added, noting the cherry trees were the property of the city and not N.Y.U. “They burst into bloom every spring and made everyone happy,” she said. “Now they are going to be chainsawed.” TheVillager.com
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August 4, 2016
LA II tagged with robbery, menacing with a knife By Lincoln Anderson
o hear artist Angel Ortiz and his supporters tell it, the Haring Foundation has tried to obscure the significance of his collaborations in the 1980s with the late Keith Haring. It’s been an ongoing battle for Ortiz over decades to keep the importance of his contributions to Haring’s art from being blurred out of the picture. There have even been rumors he recently sued over the dispute, though the foundation vigorously denies it, and points out there is no record of such litigation. One thing is clear, however. Angel Ortiz, 49, a.k.a. LA II is now in some serious trouble with the law. He is facing a slew of charges — including two felonies, robbery and criminal possession of a weapon — plus menacing and petit larceny, in connection with a night of bizarre behavior in the East Village. Ortiz’s alleged actions on Tues., June 28, are almost as loopy as the paths of his trademark graffiti infill squiggles in Haring’s famed artworks. According to police, on Tues., June 28, at 10:20 p.m., Ortiz, who lives on E. 11th St. near Avenue B, approached a man sitting at a sidewalk table at The Smith restaurant, at 55 E. Third Ave., between E. 10th and 11th Sts. He swiped the unsuspecting diner’s Sam-
Photo by Clayton Patterson
Angel Or tiz a.k.a. L A II struck a fierce pose in this photo in 2010.
sung Galaxy Edge cell phone from the table. The owner told police he tried to grab it back, but Ortiz pulled the flashy phone out of the guy’s hands and walked away.
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August 4, 2016
The phone owner followed Ortiz for a half a block along Third Ave., then attempted to get his Galaxy back again, grabbing Ortiz’s hand. But the graffiti legend reportedly refused to let go of the device, and shoved the man away, while “screaming and yelling” at the man, the victim told police. Ortiz then reportedly ended the struggle — by abruptly spiking the Samsung on the sidewalk. “I am informed by the [victim] that he observed the defendant smash his cell phone on the ground causing screen to shatter,” Police Officer Redmond Halpern of the Ninth Precinct said, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan district attorney. Unfortunately, the mayhem didn’t end there. Ortiz then allegedly entered a second eatery, at the southwest corner of E. 14th St. and Third Ave., grabbed a razor-sharp knife, and started menacing people along E. 14th St. “I am informed by an employee of 5 Napkin Burger...that she observed a shirtless Spanish [sic] male, of small stature, with a Tattoo on his chest... at 10:25 p.m....grab a steak knife and walk out of the restaurant,” Officer Halpern stated. A second man told the cop that at 10:25 p.m. Ortiz then advanced toward him “while holding a steak knife yelling and screaming at him causing [him] to fear for his safety.” A third man told Halpern a similar story, that he was at the southeast corner of Third Ave. and E. 14th St. at 10:35 p.m., when “a shirtless Spanish male, of small stature, with a Tattoo on his chest” advanced on him while holding the knife, again “screaming and yelling” and making him fear for his safety. The officer said when he responded
to the scene at 10:50 p.m., he saw Ortiz at the northeast corner of Second Ave. and E. 14th St., shirtless and “gripping a steak knife in his right hand.” Ortiz subsequently dropped the knife on the pavement and another officer recovered it, Halpern said. Ortiz was indicted by a grand jury on seven charges on July 18. After three weeks behind bars, he was released July 20 after posting bail. The D.A. requested $40,000 bail, but it was set at $15,000. Ortiz’s next criminal court date is Aug. 23. Since his top charge is a “D” nonviolent felony, he faces from twoand-one-third to seven years in jail. The June 28 arrest was first reported by DNAinfo, which noted that Ortiz was also carrying a piece of fruit along with the knife — a detail not in police reports. However, the news outlet did not identify Ortiz as the famed graffiti artist LA II. Ortiz does have a pretty lengthy rap sheet, though it seemed he was cleaning up his act as he matured. His last bust was a pretty innocuous one, in March 2011, when police caught him tagging his “LA II” and “LA ROC” monikers on top of existing murals, including the Joe Strummer one outside Niagara bar, at E. Seventh St. and Avenue A, and a Kenny Scharf mural on the “Graffiti Wall,” on E. Houston St. by the Bowery. In 2003, Ortiz was collared for pot possession. Between 1987 and 2002, he had at least nine other arrests. It was not immediately clear who bailed out Ortiz — whether he raised the money himself, or someone helped him. Lawrence Fine Art, with galleries in Los Angeles and East Hampton, currently represents Ortiz, and showed some of his new work, including graffitied mannequins and canvases, during Art Hamptons in June. Howard Shapiro, the gallery’s owner, when asked if he had helped bail out Ortiz, only said, “You’ve got to ask them — him and Ramona,” referring to Ortiz’s girlfriend, who helps run his East Village gallery. Ortiz could not immediately be reached for comment. Clayton Patterson, the Lower East Side documentarian, had championed Ortiz, wanting to help him get his due for his work with Haring. This latest arrest comes as a big disappointment for him. He said he previously had a falling out with Ortiz over a cat painting he thought the artist had given him, only to have Ortiz demand it back so he could sell it. “It’s sad to see him doing so much damage to himself,” Patterson said. “Because it’s clear to me he was an integral part of the making of Keith Haring. To get caught up in this stupidity is just sad. I had tremendous faith in his ability, but he burned my bridge, too.” In the past, a wild incident like this might just have been dismissed as “an artist being an artist,” Patterson noted. “But that’s not how it is nowadays,” he said. “Not at all.” TheVillager.com
Cool cats blow away the heat with smooth sounds
The heat had tapered off a bit from the weekend’s highs, but there was still some humidity hanging in the air, as a jazz duo kept things cool, and some “cool customers” listened, in Washington Square Park on Wednesday. Photo by Tequila Minsky
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August 4, 2016
From the seats to the streets: Reflections D.N.C. continued from p. 1
again protesting. His photographs of marches and rallies outside the convention center were filled with Sanders supporters and barely any Clinton backers because that was the makeup of the protests. Inside the Wells Fargo Center, the television cameras frequently panned the New York Delegation for reaction shots. Photogenic local state Senator Brad Hoylman was in the center of more than one shot. During Kravitz’s performance, there was a quick cut to Senator Chuck Schumer doing a slow groove. Local politicians and activists shared their thoughts and impressions with The Villager on the quadrennial political-palooza. “For political junkies, the Democratic National Convention is nirvana,” Hoylman said in an e-mail, early on the third day of the fourday event. “It seems you can’t walk two feet without spotting an icon from the world of government or media. The conversations among many of us delegates are often like, ‘Look, there’s Donna Brazile! Rachel Maddow is at the next table over! I saw Governor McAuliffe in the gym today!” But Hoylman stressed that the core of what the delegates were doing at the convention “couldn’t be more serious.” “Our goal is to unify the party and provide a forum to explain to the nation why Hillary Clinton is our best choice in November,” he said. “And thanks in part to Bernie Sanders, the platform we approved this week is the most progressive in history. Helping make the case have been an amazing array of everyday Americans who’ve addressed the convention, including moms who’ve lost kids to gun violence, a young wom-
Photos by John Penley
At a marijuana rally, a giant joint was emblazoned with the message, “Hillar y, Deschedule Cannabis,” as in take it off the federal government’s list of hard and dangerous drugs.
an with a disability, and the children of undocumented immigrants. “Hillary Clinton will win New York handily,” Hoylman predicted. “She’ll also help propel candidates down the ballot, too. So I’m extremely hopeful that, based on the strength of her candidacy we’ve seen on display in Philadelphia this week, New York Democrats will ride her coattails and flip control of the state Senate.” City Councilmember Corey Johnson praised the depth and values on display at the D.N.C. “What a contrast it’s been from last week’s Republican National ConvenD.N.C. continued on p. 9
A protester modeling the now-ubiquitous Guy Fawkes “V for Vendetta” mask.
August 4, 2016
Backing Jill Stein, the Green Par ty presidential candidate, now that progressive champion Bernie Sanders has thrown in the towel. TheVillager.com
on the 2016 Democratic National Convention D.N.C. continued from p. 8
tion in Cleveland!” Johnson said, also emailing on day three. “One thing that’s really striking here is how much depth each member of the party has brought to the national discussion. Whether it’s President Bill Clinton, disability-rights advocate Anastasia Somoza, Senator Cory Booker or any of the other incredible speakers, we have heard one convincing argument after another about why Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are infinitely better suited to face our nation’s challenges and look out for the best interests of the American people. Unlike the other side of the aisle, we’re talking about the needs of every community in America, and engaging in a real dialogue about how we can do a better job for each of them. “Perhaps Michelle Obama put it best,” Johnson reflected, “when she said, ‘This election, and every election, is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.’ ... I think our Democratic leaders have made it clear that we, under President Hillary Clinton, are the party that will actually instill the right values in our children and create positive change for everybody across our great nation.” Much was made in the media of the Sanders supporters’ raucous chanting for their candidate and booing Clinton and her proxies on Monday night. But Schwartz, the Village district leader, said he wasn’t among those making a ruckus. “Bernie asked that we not boo, or turn our backs, or be disruptive, so I followed his wishes,” Schwartz said, also speaking on the convention’s third day. “To a certain extent, I think that those who were disruptive don’t really understand that political change is a long-term process, and don’t understand that Donald Trump is fascistic. “In the New York Sanders Delegation, we voted not to boo,” he said. “The New York Sanders Delegation has been holding meetings around the state, and today we voted to create a new grassroots Democratic organization to pursue reform politics in New York. It will be the New York chapter of the national group Bernie wants to create, but we are ahead of his schedule.” As for his feelings about the D.N.C., Schwartz said, above all, he’s extremely scared — scared about what he sees as the glaring weakness of their candidate. Bombastic G.O.P. nominee Trump had recently edged ahead of Clinton in the polls — though Clinton rebounded after the D.N.C. “The convention conveyed some powerful messages,” Schwartz said, “and the Democratic Party, on most issues, takes compelling positions on inequality, racism and social justice. But we have a very flawed candidate, who has done admirable things in her life, TheVillager.com
A relatively rare Hillar y Clinton suppor ter amid the crowd outside — at least the crowd that the photographer was following.
but is broadly distrusted. I am scared to death that Trump might win. Bernie would have killed him.” Conversely, Assemblymember Deborah Glick put a very positive spin on things. As for the speakers, they were amazing, she said. Michelle Obama was “spectacular,” while Bill Clinton “is an incredible storyteller and hits the high points,” she noted. As for the Bernie boo birds, she said, “There has certainly been a Bernie Sanders segment that has been rude and disrespectful, frankly, to people who didn’t deserve it. The first day was the worst. It really was an isolated group, near the press box, so it was amplified. “A lot of people are here for the first time,” the veteran pol observed. “The Sanders campaign, to his credit, brought a lot of people in. They’re not used to — ‘You don’t always win.’ You have to be able to say, ‘Yes, that we got most of what we wanted.’ ” Glick maintained that Sanders honestly has pushed Clinton to the left on some issues, for example, like higher education and foreign trade. As for the takeaway from the Republicans’ confab, she said, “Look, it’s not a surprise. It was a very negative, hostile message about a country I do not recognize. Doom and gloom — make everyone afraid, and the strongman will come in.” Schwartz had hoped to challenge Glick for Assembly in the September primary. But he recently called it off due to concern about his heart, having experienced high
A Sanders “super”-delegate perhaps?
D.N.C. continued on p. 27
Geraldo Rivera was out repor ting on the hot streets. August 4, 2016
Gropes, slugs her
Mugs, ties her up Police said that on Wed., July 27, around 12:30 a.m., in the vicinity of E. 13th St. and Avenue B, a man followed a 33-year-old woman into her apartment building, told her he had a gun and demanded her property. The victim complied and gave the mugger her cell phone, debit card, jewelry and $35 in cash. The suspect then ordered her to lie face down and tied her hands behind her back, before fleeing the building in an unknown direction. The individual is described as Hispanic, 30 to 40 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 200 to 225 pounds, and last seen wearing a yellow shirt, black jeans and a black baseball cap, and with a black backpack on. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Crime Stoppers Hotline.
5th Ave. rape attempt Police said a man tried to rape a woman right on the sidewalk on Fifth Ave. early last Saturday morning. A 20-year-old woman was walking southbound along the avenue toward W. Eighth St. on July 30 around 4 a.m., when a stranger approached her and engaged her in conversation, police
A sur veillance camera image of a man police say followed a woman to her apar tment at E. 13th St. and Avenue B on Wed., July 27, mugged her, then tied her up.
said. The suspect then grabbed the victim from behind, and sexually abused her by forcibly touching her in an apparent rape attempt. But the victim was able to fight off the man, who fled to an unknown location. The suspect is described as Hispanic, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a medium
Police said that on Sat., July 23, around 1:45 a.m., in front of 208 First Ave. near E. 13th St., a man grabbed a 37-year-old woman’s buttocks. When she confronted him about it, the suspect punched her in the face numerous times, then fled northbound on First Ave. The suspect is described as white, 20 to 25 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 140 pounds, and last seen wearing a dark-colored shirt and blue jeans. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers. com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential. build and wearing a dark-colored baseball cap and backpack. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Crime Stoppers Hotline.
Human roadblock A man got in the way of traffic near the northeast corner of W. Fourth and Greene Sts. on Thursday night. Police said that on July 28 at around 10:30 p.m., an officer instructed a man multiple times to get out of the street so that traffic could proceed. He refused to move while also yelling and causing a disturbance for nearby pedestrians, police said. Niko Rosa, 24, was arrested for disorderly conduct, obstructing traffic and creating a hazardous condition.
W. Houston hoopla
KNOW WHAT TO DO Visit NYC.gov/knowyourzone or call 311 to ﬁnd out what to do to prepare for hurricanes in NYC. #knowyourzone
August 4, 2016
A man reportedly had a lot of trouble leaving Bar Veloce at 146 W. Houston St. early Thursday morning. Police said that at 12:30 a.m. on July 28, the man was removed from the bar after initially refusing to leave. Once outside, he remained on the sidewalk screaming, yelling and shouting obscene language at bar staff and patrons. A police officer attempted to serve the man with a summons for disorderly conduct, at which point he grabbed the officer by the shirt collar, “causing alarm and annoyance,” according to police. Police arrested Michael L. Fitzsimmons, 35, for misdemeanor obstructing government administration.
A blurr y sur veillance camera image of a man police say groped, then punched a woman in the face on Sat., July 23, on First Ave. at E. 13th St.
Pizza perp People can get very worked up about their pizza. Ben’s Pizzeria at 123 MacDougal St. was the scene of a dispute around 11 p.m. on Sunday night July 31, according to police. An employee of the establishment, told cops that a man entered the pizzeria and got into a verbal dispute him. The man then brandished a box cutter and stated, “I’m gonna f--- you up and kill you!” He then slammed the blade on the counter, causing the victim to fear for his safety. Willow Hall, 42, was arrested for misdemeanor menacing.
Bad beating Police said a 22-year-old man was assaulted by two other men early Fri., July 29, around 4 a.m. in front of 169 Bleecker St., after getting into a verbal dispute with them. The duo caused him serious damage by punching him numerous times in the face, police said. The victim was removed to Lenox Hill Greenwich Village, where the emergency department doctor confirmed that he sustained a significant deep wound laceration, requiring numerous sutures. The injury would likely cause permanent scarring and possible facial fractures, according to the police report. Sebastiab Buitrago, 22, and Christian B. Quiceno-Jacome, 21, were arrested for felony assault.
Emily Siegel and Lincoln Anderson TheVillager.com
SAFETY NOT JUST DRIVERSâ€™ RESPONSIBILITY Safety should be a top priority for everyone sharing the road, including cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. The following are a few tips each of those groups of travelers can employ to ensure the roads stay safe for everyone.
sÂŹ "ICYCLISTSÂŹ MUSTÂŹ FOLLOWÂŹ THEÂŹ same trafďŹ c rules as automobile drivers. Stop for red lights and stop signs, signal lane changes or turns, and
drive on the correct side of the road. sÂŹ7ATCHÂŹOUTÂŹFORÂŹPARKEDÂŹCARSÂŹ Oftentimes, drivers exit their vehicles and do not CHECKÂŹ FORÂŹ ONCOMINGÂŹ TRAFlCÂŹ or cyclists. You can be hit by a swinging car door. sÂŹ -AKEÂŹ YOURSELFÂŹ ASÂŹ NOTICEable as possible. This could include using a light or HORNÂŹ ONÂŹ THEÂŹ BIKEÂŹ TOÂŹ SIGNALÂŹ your presence to drivers. sÂŹ !LWAYSÂŹ WEARÂŹ AÂŹ HELMETÂŹ and other applicable safety equipment.
sÂŹ-AINTAINÂŹYOURÂŹBIKEÂŹSOÂŹTHATÂŹ it is safe to ride. sÂŹ$OÂŹNOTÂŹCARRYÂŹOTHERSÂŹONÂŹYOURÂŹ BIKEÂŹ SUCHÂŹ ASÂŹ AÂŹ FRIENDÂŹ ORÂŹ AÂŹ child) if it is not designed to do so. Riding on the handlebars or behind the cyclist can be dangerous. sÂŹ !VOIDÂŹ THEÂŹ USEÂŹ OFÂŹ EARÂŹ BUDSÂŹ or headphones while cycling. You want all of your senses to be available to avoid accidents. sÂŹ#YCLEÂŹOUTÂŹOFÂŹTHEÂŹWAYÂŹOFÂŹDRIVersâ€™ blind spots so youâ€™ll be more visible.
sÂŹ $OÂŹ NOTÂŹ RIDEÂŹ YOURÂŹ BIKEÂŹ ONÂŹ THEÂŹ SIDEWALKÂŹ WHEREÂŹ YOUÂŹ could injure pedestrians.
sÂŹ!LWAYSÂŹUSEÂŹSIDEWALKSÂŹANDÂŹ CROSSWALKSÂŹ WHENÂŹ AVAILABLEÂŹ )FÂŹNOÂŹSIDEWALKÂŹISÂŹPRESENT ÂŹBEÂŹ SUREÂŹTOÂŹWALKÂŹAGAINSTÂŹTHEÂŹDIrection of trafďŹ c. sÂŹ5SEÂŹTRAFlCÂŹSIGNALSÂŹASÂŹYOURÂŹ GUIDEÂŹ (OWEVER ÂŹ MAKEÂŹ SUREÂŹ all trafďŹ c has stopped before crossing the road or STEPPINGÂŹOFFÂŹOFÂŹTHEÂŹSIDEWALK sÂŹ+EEPÂŹCONTROLÂŹOFÂŹPETSÂŹWHENÂŹ
WALKINGÂŹONÂŹAÂŹLEASH ÂŹSOÂŹYOUREÂŹ not pulled out into trafďŹ c. sÂŹ 5SEÂŹ CAUTIONÂŹ ATÂŹ BUSÂŹ STOPSÂŹ -ANYÂŹ INJURIESÂŹ OCCURÂŹ FROMÂŹ pedestrians running to catch a bus or stepping out into trafďŹ c after exiting a bus. Remember, there will be another bus behind the one youâ€™re chasing and safety is more important. sÂŹ 7EARÂŹ BRIGHTLYÂŹ COLOREDÂŹ ORÂŹ REmECTIVEÂŹ CLOTHINGÂŹ IFÂŹ WALKing at night. sÂŹ $OÂŹ NOTÂŹ CROSSÂŹ HIGHWAYSÂŹ ORÂŹ interstates on foot.
August 4, 2016
Al Orensanz, 73, director of L.E.S. arts center
OBITUARY By Albert Amateau Al Orensanz, who restored an abandoned Lower East Side synagogue and ran it as an arts center and a beloved community resource for 30 years, died on July 23. He was 73. His health had been deteriorating for the past few years, said his brother, Angel Orensanz, the Spanish sculptor and visual artist. The center, the Angel Orensanz Foundation, at 172 Norfolk St., built for a German Jewish congregation in 1849, was one of the largest synagogues of its time in the nation. It recently reopened after being closed for nearly a year for an emergency repair project. Angel Orensanz, for whom the center is named, said he would take over from his late brother as director of operations. Angel said that, together with Maria Neri — who for the past 17 years served as Al’s administrative assistant — he would continue the center as a resource for the neighborhood and the artistic community. Al Orensanz was born in Larues, in Aragon in northern Spain, and was of Sephardic Jewish descent. He earned a sociology degree from the London School of Economics (“He was very interested in the Anglo-Saxon mentality,” said Angel.) Al lived in England and Switzerland before coming in the 1970s to New York, where he earned a Ph.D. in sociology from The New School. His doctoral thesis, “Glossy Images and Sour Texts: Tourist Posters in Francoist Spain 1956-1972,” was voted best dissertation of the year by The New School Sociology Department. Al began organizing sculpture shows for his brother in Europe even while studying. Angel was engaged in Barcelona when Al arranged for a show of his brother’s work in London. “The only available space that he found was in Holland Park, a garden in London, when nobody was doing exhibitions in gardens,” Angel recalled. At that same time, the movie star Omar Sharif was in the park making a movie, and his photo, with Angel’s sculpture prominently in the background, appeared on the front page of the Times of London. The photo led to a request for show of Angel’s work in Atlanta. In an online video, Al recalled first coming to New York in the 1970s. “The city was in disarray. Crime was everywhere; it was a war zone. That is gone now. But there were also unique opportunities, spaces where artists could create new realities. That also is gone now. There are no longer such opportunities,” he said. In the mid-1980s, Angel began looking for studio and exhibition space in New York, and on the advice of Al,
August 4, 2016
Courtesy Angel Orensanz Foundation
Al Orensanz, left, with Al Pacino and Maria Neri, Orensanz’s right-hand assistant at the Orensanz Foundation.
prowled the Lower East Side. He found the abandoned and vandalized hulk of the Gothic Revival-style synagogue built more than 130 years earlier for Congregation Ansche Chesed. The synagogue thrived until the 1920s and began declining in following decades. Its last congregation dissolved in 1974. The derelict building was so stuffed with debris at first that the two brothers had to enter through a window. Angel bought the building and the brothers restored it, installing new floors, windows and electricity. It opened in 1986 for an exhibition of Angel’s new work, and a few years later became available for rent for concerts, weddings, lectures and community events, in addition to serving as Angel’s studio and an exhibition hall. “He [Angel] pushed me into what we believed was a four-year project. It became a lifetime project,” Al said. Clayton Patterson, a Lower East Side documentarian, said of Al, “He created a legendary space. It was his vision and Maria [Neri’s]. It was like the Carnegie Hall of Downtown. Gerry Adams from Sinn Fein, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Lou Reed, Patti Smith…I mean, who hasn’t been there? The list of dignitaries that went through that place is huge.” Beyond his accomplishments, Al was also remembered as genuinely nice. “He was very warm,” Patterson said. “I would go hang around with Al and talk about different subjects.” At Al Orensanz’s wake at Redden’s Funeral Home on July 28, Neri recalled that she first met Al at an art exhibition years before the brothers found the
Norfolk St. synagogue. “I was a secretary to an Eastern District [Brooklyn] federal judge when Al asked me to edit his Ph.D. dissertation while he was organizing art shows in Europe for Angel. I continued to edit other things and then helped part-time with the foundation. I quit the judge in 2000 and began working full-time at the foundation,” Neri said. Eileen Johnson, director of the Little Missionary’s Day Nursery in the East Village, recalled Al’s generosity in making space available for benefit events, like their annual Sara Curry Awards. Under Al’s guidance, the foundation allied itself with major cultural organizations, including the Museum of Modern Art, P.S. 1, Goethe House, P.S. 122 on First Ave., the Tenement Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Italian Cultural Institute, Columbia, Princeton and New York universities, the National Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the United Jewish Council of the Lower East Side, the American Academy in Rome, and the Hungarian Cultural Institute, among others. In the late 1990s, Al supported the formation of the Shul of New York, a young Jewish congregation, and invited them to have their Sabbath services in the former synagogue. As a tradition, the congregation returns each year to celebrate the High Holy Days, filling the main space and the balcony. In 2009, the foundation earned a “certificate of merit” from Borough President C. Virginia Fields. The brothers were also honored at the first Acker
Awards for the avant-garde arts. Among noted lectures at the foundation were ones by Jacques Derrida during his last New York visit, Elie Wiesel’s panel about memory, and readings by Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer and E.L. Doctorow. In 2009, Al opened the Orensanz Summer Museum in a building on Governors Island the foundation restored. Al authored books ranging from historical accounts of the Lower East Side to a double portrait of Dorothy Day and Emma Goldman. In 2000 he started the quarterly Artscape Magazine. His funeral on Fri., July 29, was at Most Holy Redeemer Church on E. Third St. Burial was in Rosedale Cemetery in Linden, N.J. A memorial is being planned, possibly for Sept. 21. Some are wondering if Orensanz was Jewish, why did he have a wake, plus a funeral in a Catholic church? A friend, requesting anonymity, explained, “He was very open and flexible, with an intellectual approach to religion. So, he often went to speak to the Irish priest at Holy Redeemer and also visited the Stanton St. Shul — they could come over any time to get him when there was one person missing for the minyan. Al was an admirer of Heinrich Heine,” the 19th-century German poet who converted from Judaism to Catholicism. “Yes, he is from a Sephardic family that was expelled from Spain; at some point, they even ended up in Ukraine. I think his family was already Catholic when he was born and he was baptized.” TheVillager.com
Heshy Jacob, 71, part of Grand St. power trio
OBITUARY By Albert Amateau Harold “Heshy” Jacob, who along with former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and William Rapfogel, former director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, formed a triumvirate of political influence and power on the Lower East Side, died at the age of 71 last month. He had been ill for several months before his death on June 23. At Heshy Jacob’s funeral at the Bialystoker Synagogue just off Grand St., rabbis, politicians and real estate developers were among the crowd. Also among the mourners were Silver, currently out on appeal after his recent corruption conviction, and Rapfogel, who pleaded guilty two years ago to stealing $9 million from his organization. In their day, Shelly, Willie and Heshy, as they were known in the neighborhood, dominated politics in the largely Orthodox Jewish community, which was losing ground to Latino and Asian newcomers. Explaining the dominance of the three men on local politics, Heshy told the Forward, the renowned Jewish journal of the Lower East Side, “We put in time and effort for the people. It’s not that we simply are despots.” Heshy’s power base was his position as general manager of two of the original four Grand St. co-ops, Hillman House and East River House. He had previously managed the Seward Park Co-ops and Amalgamated Co-ops, as well. An editor of the Grand St. News once quipped that Heshy was “at times more general than manager.” A Dec. 5, 2001, Villager article about the co-ops selling briskly after going market rate, noted that Jacob prided himself on having operated the complexes without increasing carrying charges for nine years. “It doesn’t mean it will go on forever, but it does mean we watch every dollar,” he said. “There’s no job that I ask my men to do that I haven’t done myself. If they have to jackhammer a surface, I’ve used a jackhammer myself and I know how it should be done and how long it should take. I watch the commodities market to time heating-oil purchases to get the best price.” A member of Hatzolah, the Jewish volunteer ambulance service, since the early 1960s, Heshy was a founder of its branch on the Lower East Side. (A parade of Hatzolah ambulances was part of the cortege that carried Heshy’s body to its resting place in Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, Long Island.) A 2005 police incident, in which Heshy’s son Shalom was arrested for trying to force his way past an Emergency Medical Service team and its police escort TheVillager.com
Photo by Jefferson Siegel
Heshy Jacob and his wife, Esther, on Nov. 1, 2012, after Superstorm Sandy, sitting by candlelight in their home in the Hillman Housing complex on Grand St. in the blackout zone.
Photo by Clayton Patterson
Heshy Jacob, far right, on Grand St. in Januar y 1999 after the Seward Park Co-op’s garage collapsed, with from left, A ssembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; Jerr y Hauer, commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergenc y Management; and Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
into the apartment of an elderly woman in distress, illustrates the complexity of Heshy’s neighborhood influence. Shalom, a Hatzolah supervisor and a resident of the same building, 575 Grand St., as the woman, insisted that Hatzolah take over attending to her. He was arrested and taken to the Pitt St. police station, but not until Heshy, also a resident of the same building in the East River Houses, turned up with a group of residents as supporters. They all trooped down to the police station and argued for three hours, leaving only after a Manhattan chief of patrol turned up, with Shelly Silver fol-
lowing. It wasn’t until the following day that misdemeanor charges were filed. Heshy was instrumental in convincing the limited-equity co-ops, built by labor unions in the 1930s, to go private. The privatization was a windfall for the original residents. Heshy also fought for 40 years to keep low-income housing from being built in what was left of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA, five blocks between Rivington St. and the Williamsburg Bridge. Supporters of low-income housing charged that their opponents — who included Silver and Rapfogel as well as Jacob — wanted to prevent more Lati-
nos and Asians from coming into the neighborhood and reducing Orthodox Jewish influence. Heshy insisted that the neighborhood had enough low-income housing, built in the late ’60s, and needed instead commercial development that would create jobs. In a Dec. 30, 2010, article in The Villager on then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s SPURA proposal, Jacob told the newspaper that if 300 of the planned 1,000 units in the project were low-income, then the whole SPURA site – including what had already been built up to that point — would effectively be 70 percent low-income. “They want a site 70 percent lowincome — I oppose it,” Jacob stated bluntly. “That’s not called integration. That’s called segregation. … If you added 1,000 market-rate units, the site would still be 53 percent low-income. “We don’t live in Russia or China — people live where they can afford it,” said Jacob, who was not known for his political correctness. “I’d like to ask the mayor, how many low-income people live in his neighborhood? None.” Two decades earlier, Jacob had proposed a plan to make SPURA into an “international mall,” with restaurants, shopping and entertainment. The idea was for a mix of cuisines and entrepreneurs, he said, “Jews, Italians, Chinese, Hispanic, black, Polish, Russian, Mexican, Cuban — a beautiful quilt representing all the ethnic groups.” The city, though, didn’t bite on his proposal. Back in 2010, Jacob supported a Costco or Wal-Mart at SPURA, but said, “I would require them to say 50 percent of people that work there would be from the Lower East Side.” In 2013, the city announced a new mixed-use plan, known as Essex Crossing, calling for 1,000 units of housing, half of them for low-, moderate-and middle-income tenants, a new Essex St. Market, parkland and a museum. Explaining his own preeminence in the neighborhood, Heshy told the Forward in 2013, “If you’re the person that, if somebody has a problem, he goes to you day and night, and you take the time and effort to help them, then they think you’re in charge.” Harold Jacob was born on E. Fifth St. and Avenue D to Shalom and Chana Yaakov. His father died when he was a child and the family moved to Grand St. Educated in a local yeshiva, Heshy studied further with prominent neighborhood rabbis. He served for a time in the office of Harrison Goldin, the city comptroller in the administration of Mayor Ed Koch. Heshy’s wife of 50 years, Esther, survives, as do a brother, Marvin, a sister, Layla Wollman, his sons, Shalom and Dov, his daughters, Rompy Klug, Yocherad Wenz and Aliza Malek, and several grandchildren. August 4, 2016
Comics can’t kill when P.C. police kill speech RHYMES WITH CRAZY By Lenore Skenazy
ust a few weeks after the terror attacks of 9/11, Gilbert Gottfried took to the stage of the Friars Club and explained he had to leave early to catch a plane to California. “I couldn’t get a direct flight,” he said. “We have to make a stop at the Empire State Building.” The crowd booed and someone yelled, “Too soon!” But in fact, Gottfried’s timing was impeccable. He told the joke before the invention of Twitter. Also before outrage became America’s consuming passion. The rollicking new documentary “Can We Take a Joke?” brings our lust for umbrage into sharp focus. Audiences, it points out, have become hypersensitive — especially on campus. Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld have both sworn off college gigs, because, as Rock put it, “You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.” And so the film, by documentarian
Ted Balaker with support from the freespeech advocacy group the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, interviews comedians both famous and upand-coming about how they’re dealing with the onslaught of offendedness. One interviewee, stand-up Jim Norton, has worked his frustration into his routine. “Why is comedy the only form of the arts where people think they have to agree with, or approve the content?” he asks. “You don’t walk through a museum with a towel and throw it over paintings you don’t like [saying], ‘I don’t want anybody else seeing this because I don’t enjoy it.’ ” Comedy’s job is, as George Carlin once said, “to find where the line is drawn and
cross it deliberately.” That’s been the comedian’s job ever since the first jester joked about the king’s much younger wife. “If we steered clear of every topic that could offend someone, we couldn’t open our mouths,” says Lisa Lampanelli, whose entire act is making fun of absolutely everyone. That might not be your thing. But if it’s not, stay home. Instead, audiences are coming in, sitting down, and demanding that comics not say anything crude or cruel. But when my idea of cruel is your idea of hilarious, my super-sensitivity automatically wins. I get to declare not just that the comic isn’t funny, but that he is a bad person and needs to be punished. Consider what happened at Washington State University, where a student named Chris Lee wrote a musical designed to offend absolutely everyone. In fact, he billed it as such. But one night, the university itself requested 40 tickets. Those ticket holders came in and started shouting, “I’m offended!” They stood up and shook their fists. The shouts grew into threats. And guess what? Turns out the university had paid them to attend and disrupt the show. When Chris asked the cops for protection, they wouldn’t promise it. He had become someone not worth saving, because he was politically incorrect. Then there’s Justine Sacco. The young
Letters to the editor What rough beast slouches...
publicist was on her way to South Africa. As she boarded the plane she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white.” She was making a lame joke about the way whites see Africa, the continent where her parents had worked as anti-racism activists. But one of her handful of Twitter followers assumed this was actually a racist remark and retweeted it. It got picked up by more and more people, and by the time Sacco got off her 12-hour flight, she found herself the No. 1 trending item worldwide on Twitter, with people calling for her to be raped or killed. Because of a bad joke. Jon Ronson wrote about her story in his book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.” As he notes in the film: The mob that took her down wasn’t actually making the world a better place. It was just getting off on outrage. “Do you really want to live in a world where everyone has to think twice before they tell any kind of a joke?” asks Greg Lukianoff, the president of FIRE. America, lighten up — or be prepared for dark times. “Can We Take a Joke?” is showing at Cinema Village, 22 E. 12th St., through Thurs., Aug. 4, and is available through iTunes and on demand through most cable and satellite providers.
the dream of America won’t die the truth will win out o’er that petulant pout
his ego’s inflated, his taxes awaited, the myth they created is just gold-plated!
H-U-G-E LETTERS just brass-plated o’er a bankrupt casino desolate, and dated
The “King of Debt” is all wet the bill will come due from women, Hispanics, Muslims and Jews
Exploitation is no joke!
orange hair that’s been elevated doesn’t mean that you’re fated... to head the Ship of State.
CNN, Bloomberg and the old Wash Post Don’t like him, too, and if you’re gay you know what to do
To The Editor:
this “billionaire” is overrated
Ripping off the little guy won’t fly
and we’ll kick him out we’ll kick him out!
To The Editor: I am writing in reference to the “humorous” column by Lenore Skenazy “Going postal is not a bad way at all to find a bride” (Rhymes With Crazy, July 28): A bit of research on Ms. Skenazy’s part would reveal that the “successful” mail-order bride is a small fraction of the outcomes of the exploitative transactions taking place, which bring children and young women from Third World countries to satisfy the selfish needs of creepy western men who can’t get a date on Hudson St! Basically, in the world of the international sex trade and exploitation of young women, the mailorder bride scene is part of the problem, not the solution. Marc Jacoby
Letters continued on p. 27
August 4, 2016
My life and the changing Village: Part II NOTEBOOK By Otis Kidwell Burger
n 1949, I was pregnant and my husband and I moved, just in time, from our roach-filled fiveflight walk-up to rent a tiny ground-level rear house on 13th St. — $80 a month! It was close to the seamen’s cooking school, the current L.G.B.T. Community Center. One dusk, as I was returning home, I saw two burly men coming up behind me. I walked faster, but so did they, and as they passed, I heard them discussing methods of making lemon meringue pie. We had our first daughter there, then moved to a larger apartment near Stuyvesant Park on E. 15th St. in time for a second daughter. Just across the street was the Friends Meeting House. My great-grandmother was Quaker. I occasionally went to meetings and at one meeting, a man accompanied by a large dog said: “I have an announcement. Please don’t feed Otis”. I jumped! It turned out that the dog’s name was Otis. The building we lived in has since been replaced by smaller apartments, but the Friends Meetinghouse is still there. Then we, thank God, moved back to the Village, to a garden duplex on Bleecker St. owned by my Aunt Anita and my Uncle Henry. They had rehabilitated a row of boarded-up buildings in the West Village, all facing into a huge communal garden, complete with swings and a wading pool and conveniently close to St. Luke’s School, to which I already had an odd connection. Once, when we were still living on 13th St., I had put an ad in The Villager to find our missing cat, Edward. Someone called to report a cat on the construction site of St. Luke’s School-to-be. I was very pregnant, wandering around the site in the dusk — some houses had been torn down, nothing much as yet there but the cement foundation — calling plaintively: “Edward, Edward!” A small boy appeared, eyed me up and down, and asked: “Whatcha lookin’ fer, lady? Yer husband?” Thus began a long and happy relationship with St. Luke’s. My children and I acted in plays, worked for the school fair, sang at Christmas. I taught an afterschool clay class. The head of the school was Reverend Paul C. Weed, known of course to the children as Father Seaweed. And some of the teachers there were Mrs. Hathaway Melchior, daughter-in-law of Lauritz Melchior — the pre-eminent Wagnerian opera tenor of the 1920s through ’40s — Mrs. Taylor, Father Leach and Mrs. Munsell. Among the parents were Katherine Maldonado (Lewis), Charles and Eleanor Roth (Topper), Margie Boyce (Katie and Campbell), Edith Schloss Burckhardt (Jacob), Sally Shephard (Hugh and Debbie), Pat de Witt (Susie and Mary). My daughters still attend reunions, revisiting old classmates. The Collier’s magazine staff was also part of our lives, a big, complicated family, with many problems and three-martini lunches. They discovered many new writers, including Kurt Vonnegut, another Cornell friend. My Cornell roommate, Eleanor Porter, also worked there, as did Gertrude Buckman, once married to Delmore Schwartz, who typed Kurt’s manuscripts. We all partied on Bleecker St. together; Norman Mailer always arrived late; we knew the literary agent Don Congdon and his friend, Jerry Salinger, with whom I once had pizza down in the southeast Village. There were also Cornellians Walter and Ann McQuade — he was with the Architecture Forum and TheVillager.com
Courtesy Otis Kidwell Burger
A por trait of the writer, who is now 93, as a young ar tist.
she published a novel and a cooking column for Mademoiselle (though she was a novice cook and once called me up for advice); we played poker, visited their beach house at Riverhead. They were a heady brew, many interesting people. Meanwhile, I was also writing. I published two
Our tenants initially included a magician, a transvestite, Jane Jacobs and an engineer.
books, short stories in Galaxy and Astounding Science Fiction, poetry — some of which made it into the New Yorker, Good Housekeeping and Gourmet — and book reviews in the Times, Voice and Book of the Month Club. And, at Judson Church, I was in-
volved in happenings and also acted in the play “The Great American Desert,” by Joel Oppenheimer; I was a madam. There were street fairs all over the Village. I entered my work in the Jane Street Fair twice. There were many of us who, like me, were involved in the many things that made up “the life of Greenwich Village.” In 1959, we looked at houses in the Village. There were still some empty ones, including a onetime boarding house with a communal dining room on Bedford St. We settled on a four-and-a-half-story brick townhouse, with two floor-through apartments with a porch and a garden downstairs, and two-anda-half upper floors converted to a rooming house, with a room on every window, $8 to $20 a week, with shared bathrooms. There were some exotic tenants, including a magician with “Tetragrammaton” written on the smokestained ceiling, and a closet heaped with empty cat food cans. (My daughters decided he was really a werecat.) Other tenants included a black transvestite, and also Jane Jacobs, who wrote most of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” in an $8-a-week room, and a black engineer with an “L”-shaped room crammed with equipment. They all faded away, quickly replaced briefly by a gang OTIS continued on p. 16 August 4, 2016
My life and the changing Village: Part II OTIS continued from p. 15
of little boys and a dog: “Say, lady, is this your house. Say, lady, can we have a clubhouse up here?” They knew how to get into every vacant house in the Village. Renovation finally expelled them from the top floor, after Hal Edelman, a Cornell friend and a Village architect, had drawn up plans and started a gut job. Walls upstairs were removed, everything was rearranged, new electricity lines, plumbing, kitchens, bathrooms were installed. “Oh, Eddie, you have so much electric!” said the departing boy gang. They gave us their dog. Wonderful dog. We took her with us on a vacation to Montana, and when we came home, she give us five puppies. Over its history, this house, 27 Bethune St., has been rearranged at least twice. A coal chute provided coal for coal-burning grates and fireplaces, and presumably later for an enormous cast-iron cook stove that replaced the immense fireplace — with its hooks and kettles and cranes — in the downstairs rear kitchen for a while. But then a coal-burning furnace was installed, with the pipes going up through the fireplace. The coal-burning furnace was converted to burning oil, and then replaced by a proper oil-burning furnace and huge oil storage tank in the basement, and of course radiators on all floors. No. 25 Bet-
hune St. had no central heating; there was later electric heating for each apartment. No. 29 went to gas. Then we get to the water system. The backyard was a central part of the house, with the outhouse, washtubs, the clothesline and a cistern to collect rainwater from the eaves. All this was swept away — along with all the pumps on the sidewalks that provided, often-polluted, drinking water — when Croton Aqueduct brought fresh drinking water and eventually plumbing to the Village. All the old Village houses had to adapt after the introduction of the Croton Aqueduct in 1842. This house added a rear extension with a kitchen and bathroom. Upstairs, there was a pantry and a dumbwaiter next to the dining room that was made over into a bathroom. The two bathrooms on the top floor seem to have experienced a fairly free-floating existence before arriving at their present location. The four of us and our dog Dutchess and cat Tigger lived under months of plaster and dust and tramping feet. I scraped and painted. For years since then, I have fielded messages from folks who call or write: “I just walked by your house. I’d like to buy it.” The taxes have gone from $800 a year to more than $23,000. The assessment or market value, or whatever, is more than $10 million. Repairs have become constant, repairmen come from all over the world, some larcenous, some
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August 4, 2016
marvelous. The neighborhood has become a Gold Coast. People moved to Brooklyn, but even Brooklyn is becoming too expensive. As an uncle said, “The Good Lord don’t make no more Village townhouses…,” though some people have tried. A friend of mine said recently, “The Depression saved the Village — there was no money for building!” (except the Empire State Building). But there is now. As someone else said, “There are scaffolds everywhere.” And empty stores, waiting for enterprises that can afford staggering rents of $13,000 and up a month, I have heard. Who can pay that? Come to think, who can afford the price of the top floors of what used to be the Village Nursing Home — now known as The Abingdon — at Hudson and W. 12th Sts.? Whatever happened to the old, low, cheap, comfy Village? Bethune St. was a decaying, mixed-use neighborhood. It was only three blocks long, once much shorter, ending in inlets and marshes and Joanna Bethune’s farm. Then came landfill —“garbage, junk, ballast from sailing ships,” someone told me. Under our house, it is big river stones, stretching down to the Hudson. In 1959, there was a big abandoned commercial building on the east end of Bethune. Thieves stripped out all the copper wire. When the building was finally bought, Bethune St. had a party in the vast echoing empty space. Then it was extensively rebuilt into apartments with the restaurant Nadine’s and supermarkets — A&P, Key Food, Duane Reade and now Mrs. Green’s — below. A quick lunch across the way became gourmet. Over the years, a machine shop morphed into D’Agostino, with a pricey castle on top. A garage gained a few stories and became apartments. Pickwick Papers was ingeniously transformed, with two apartments actually underground. Baby Buddha has gone Italian. Westbeth, once Bell Telephone Labs, with hordes of workers, every day, a.m. and p.m., is now subsidized artists’ housing and quieter. And Superior Ink — in whose parking lot we once house-broke a very nice German shepherd found one freezing night on Pier 40 — has added a row of brick neo-townhouses, more costly than the original ones down the street — most of which have been extensively remodeled and updated. We have vastly increased living space, but vastly increased rents and have driven many people to Brooklyn and beyond. The rest of the Village has also changed profoundly. The beautiful, historic Rhinelander Houses were supplanted by P.S. 41. Several of the old houses on W. 12th St. off Seventh Ave. were torn down to erect the National Maritime Union building, with its nautical-decor portholes; I once attended a boxing match there. Nearby was the old Loew’s Sheridan, where I took my two daughters to watch cowboy-and-Indian movies (“Oh, the poor horses!”). When it was torn down, a wall fell, killing a man and his dog. At the
same time, Ralph Campo, a seaman, was across the street getting into a fight with an N.M.U. clerk. The place was already swarming with police due to the accident; it took 10 of them to subdue Ralph. Then container ships finished off the waterfront; the N.M.U. building was sold and converted to doctors’ offices connected to St. Vincent’s Hospital, and more recently into a 24/7 emergency department, while the rest of St. Vincent’s is now condos. Wiped away are all the little craft shops where I once sold my sculptures, Patchin Place Emporium, the Unicorn Shop, Hudson Papers, Ester Gentle and others, and antique shops, shops selling Middle Eastern, African art and exotic jewelry, the pushcarts on Bleecker St. below Sixth Ave. selling fruit and vegetables— all gone. Bleecker St. now sells only clothing. I spent many hours in the St. Vincent’s emergency room over the years, including 40 some years, off and on, with a friend: stroke, pulmonary embolism, bowel resection, heart attack, heart failure, gout, heart transplant, finally, lung cancer. I think he was one of the last people to die in St. Vincent’s upstairs. With him went a whole history of colorful and continuous past. What would we ever have done without St. Vincent’s. What will we do now? We have lost many things besides our hospital: Savarese drug store where you could have a speck removed from your eyes without going to St. Vincent’s; a warehouse near there, with a painted Indian head, replaced by Abingdon Playground and a mini-park; the Emerald Grocery, run by two very Irish Irishmen, now a restaurant; Mrs. Hudson’s glorious video rental store, where you could get everything, including Buster Keaton, Will Rogers, English movies; a lot of houses at Jackson Square replaced by the Van Gogh; the White Castle at 14th St. and Eighth Ave., where a friend regularly left his teeth after a night out — the manager learned to save them until reclaimed — replaced by an immense glass tower. Along 14th St., we have lost Jonas Housewares; Artie’s, invaluable to households and landlords; Patterson’s Silks; and an immense two-floor Woolworth’s, with a basement full of wonderful things. A salesman from PC Richards said wistfully that his mother used to take him to lunch on the main floor at Woolworth’s; the armory is long gone, replaced by apartments and the McBurney YMCA; the treasure troves of May’s and S. Klein’s are long since vanished; and very recently, Met Drugs, the Big D (new treasures every day), Radio Shack, also are no more. All down Eighth Ave., just within the last months, also succumbing to soaring rents have been the House of Cards, Typewriters and Things — for those die-hards who still have typewriters — the Chocolate Bar, Integral Yoga Pharmacy, the Left Bank Book Store — all the comfort shops that helped make the Village a home. We are wealthier but blander. TheVillager.com
The sickest monster movie ever made ·1YPXMTPI1ERMEGW¸VIQEMRWELMKL;EXIVWQEVOSJÁPXL]JYR BY SCOTT STIFFLER
t’s turning out to be a very good summer for widely misunderstood women hell-bent on slaying the competition. Last Thursday, Hillary Clinton rose above decades of slander and scrutiny to accept the Democratic nomination. This Friday, the criminally insane Lady Divine returns to the silver screen in pristine condition, after slowly deteriorating for the better part of 50 years while tucked away in the home of delightfully transgressive cinematic trash merchant John Waters. Shot in his native Baltimore, edited in his attic using a hot splicer and glue, and released in 1970 to the delight of proto-punks and the dismay of respectable society, “Multiple Maniacs” is a campy, often cutting, take on peace and love platitudes, religious ecstasy, social turmoil, and good old-fashioned romantic betrayal — expressed through graphic, often gleeful, acts of robbery, rape, murder, and cannibalism. “It developed because of the ’60s,” Waters said of his second feature film. “There was a war going on. It was us against them. The Black Panthers and the Weathermen were in the news. Bombings were not at all uncommon. There were skyjackings. Nixon [Watergate] came later — but Woodstock, Altamont, that all happened while we were making the film. It was a volatile time.” As for the counterculture (San Francisco and Provincetown were influential ports of call for many cast and crew members), “We lived in the hippie TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY LAWRENCE IRVINE
A connection forged by beads: Mink Stole (left), as Mink, and Divine, as Lady Divine.
world, but we made fun of it at the same time.” The last film Waters would ever shoot in black and white, his use of that stock — along with the presence of objects, clothes, and cars that belong to a century we no longer live in — gives the modern day screening of “Maniacs” a vibe every bit as compelling and slightly off-putting as the
deeply invested performances, which were as much a product of budgetary concerns as natural born quirks and charisma. “We had rehearsals, a lot, in my apartment,” Waters recalled, noting the film has many scenes written as “long takes, so if you didn’t make a mistake, I didn’t do it again. Three or four times, they made a mistake
and I thought, ‘I can live with it.’ There was no digital. This was real 16-millimeter film you had to take to the lab and get developed. It was expensive.” Furthermore, the director quipped, “A performance that is supposed to be funny doesn’t get any better the more times you do it.” MANIACS continued on p. 18 August 4, 2016
PHOTO BY GREG GORMAN
PHOTO BY LAWRENCE IRVINE
John Waters was a hardscrabble pop shop indie pioneer at the time of 1970’s “Multiple Maniacs.”
Michael Renner Jr., as the Infant of Prague, guides Divine, as Lady Divine, to a Catholic church — where a life-changing epiphany (and a rosary job) awaits.
MANIACS continued from p. 17
Back to 1970: “Multiple Maniacs” begins with Mr. David (David Lochary) using his one-of-akind, clipped carnival barker delivery to lure passersby into a tent (“This is the show you want. Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversion, the sleaziest show on earth… real actual filth who have been carefully screened in order to present to you the most flagrant violation of natural law known to man.”). Cavalcade acts include a puke eater, a heroin addict going cold turkey, and, Mr. David points out, “two actual queers kissing each other like lovers on the lips.” In the show’s ritualistic climax, Lady Divine holds curious onlookers at gunpoint and demands their “wallets, jewelry, handbags, any fur items, all loose change, and any narcotics you may be carrying.” When a victim’s backtalk pushes her to the breaking point (not the last time this will happen), she adds murder to her list of crimes. After a gossipy barmaid (the endearing Massey) phones Lady Divine to report the infidelity of her longtime lover, Mr. David (who’s involved with Mary Vivian Pearce’s Bonnie, a desperate Cavalcade wannabe), the rest of “Maniacs” plays out as a violent, sexually charged road trip, albeit conducted entirely within the Baltimore city limits — during which Lady Divine is violated by a glue-sniffing duo, has an encounter with the Infant of Prague, stumbles onto a Catholic church and receives criminal instructions by way of a religious vision, converts to lesbianism after Mink (Stole) gives her a “rosary job” (ask Google if you’ve never heard), suffers a multitude of other indignities, declares herself a “maniac,” and is ultimately
The ensemble includes longtime friends of Waters (Divine, Mink Stole) alongside new discoveries (Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey) — all of whom would further refine the signature Dreamland Studios tone in 1972’s “Pink Flamingos” and 1974’s “Female Trouble.” Few, however, would live to appear in his work after 1981’s “Polyester” (distinguished by its casting of matinee idol Tab Hunter, and the “Odorama” scratch and sniff cards distributed upon admission). Divine, who passed away less than two weeks after the release of 1988’s box office hit “Hairspray,” was the last of the original “Dreamlanders” to star in a Waters film. Johnny Depp, Kathleen Turner, Edward Furlong, Melanie Griffith, and Tracey Ullman had top billing in five subsequent releases, ending with 2004’s “A Dirty Shame.” Nicely scrubbed up by Janus Films and scheduled to open nationwide on August 5, George S. Clinton contributed music to the restored version of “Maniacs.” “He did the soundtrack of ‘A Dirty Shame,’ ” Waters noted, “so I knew he would understand it. Some of it is original [new] music, some was made to sound alike, and some of it is a different version of the exact same music.” Of the surf and rockabilly sound (prominent in all of Waters’ early work, and culled from his extensive collection of vinyl), he noted, “That was the kind of music I liked growing up. I went to real theaters, where those movies were playing, so I have that kind of music in all of my movies. I was just a record guy.”
August August4,4,2016 2016
taken out by the National Guard. “It was a monster movie,” Waters declared, “and the monster always has to die in the end. I mean, look at Divine. She’s a monster; a big, lumbering idiot.” She’s also a killer — as are other Cavalcade denizens whose short fuses help to increase the body count. “Yes, they’re murderers,” Waters readily admitted, “but Divine was out of her mind.” The final straw: Lobstora, a 15-foot crustacean, pins her down on the couch and has his way with her. Wait. What? “It makes perfect sense,” Waters reasoned. “Don’t you think Divine is going crazy at that point? Is it a hallucination? Is it real? It pushes her over the edge. She is having a mental breakdown. She had a tough day. She got a rosary job, raped by a lobster. A lot happened.” Reaction to the film was swift and decisive. “Horrendous. Sickening. Revolting. Most distasteful. The court’s eyes were assaulted,” wrote Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, who declared the work “obnoxious but not legally obscene.” One member of the Maryland State Board of Censors was brought to tears after a screening; and when Waters attempted to retrieve a print seized by the Ontario Board of Censors, the only thing that arrived in the mail was a one-word note: “Destroyed.” Feedback from the mainstream press, which either didn’t get the joke or didn’t like it, was similarly unkind. “Critics would rise to the bait,” Waters noted of his output from this era, “and give us horrendous reviews.” It’s no wonder. At the time, he recalled, “Everything was taboo. ‘Straight people’ meant they didn’t smoke pot. People went to exploitation movies because they wanted to see weird behavior, but they didn’t want to be around it.” Nearly a half-century after the first run of “Multiple Maniacs,” far more heinous examples of the bad behavior and gratuitous nudity found in Lady Divine’s Cavalcade tent are only a click or a swipe away. And while downloadable pictures and video clips certainly have the power to entice and titillate, those weaned on such grab-and-go fare are likely to experience familiar stirrings from disturbing new sources, after spending 96 minutes immersed in Waters’ world. “Religion, I think, will still be the shocking thing,” he said, referencing sex acts and drug use filmed in a real Catholic church. “It still has a kick to it, even to me. I thought, ‘God, what was I thinking about?’ ” Partial insight is provided by a comment made as Waters exited a recent Provincetown International Film Festival screening of what he once dubbed his “celluloid atrocity.” “Somebody said to me, ‘The LSD must have been pretty good back then,’ which he was correct about.” Produced, directed, written, filmed, and edited by John Waters. Opens Fri., Aug. 5 at IFC Center (323 Sixth Ave., at W. Third St.). Daily screenings at 12:40pm, 2:50pm, 5:05pm, 7:20pm & 9:40pm. Visit ifccenter.com and janusfilms.com. TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
Arcade doc gets high score
COURTESY 26 ARIES
Gamers congregate outside of Chinatown Fair prior to its closure in 2011.
BY SEAN EGAN
he first time we ever stepped into the arcade, we were just hit with this really strange feeling which we wanted to capture,” recalled Irene Chin, the writer and producer of “The Lost Arcade,” a documentary centered on the last video arcade in Manhattan, Chinatown Fair (8 Mott St., btw. Chatham Sq. & Worth St.). “It felt very alive. It also felt very unique and rare, especially in Manhattan,” noted director Kurt Vincent, citing the tactic of raising rents to strong-arm longtime locals out of business. “So that was our initial catalyst for starting the investigation.” Their start couldn’t have been more auspiciously timed — just a month after the pair’s first sojourn to the location in 2011, the neighborhood institution shuttered its doors, putting the final nail in the coffin of arcades, which had been on the downswing since their ’80s heyday. Armed with cameras and the connections they made from their visits, the pair began to sift through the storied history of the location, and soon the tight-knit community fostered by the place came into sharper focus. As the film progresses, significant figures who called the arcade home gradually begin to emerge: Sam, the elderly Pakistani man who operated the arcade for decades; Henry, his teenage employee turned devoted manager; and Akuma, a foster home runaway who found a job (and a family) at Chinatown Fair. TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
“It was a struggle to find the story, and I think the turning point happened when Irene and I both realized that what really made us want to make the movie and tell the story was the people, and that’s when it sort of clicked,” Vincent commented. “It became much more of an emotional story based around the people we were connecting with, because to us, the arcade was more about humans and people coming together. That’s what we really found pretty powerful.” To this end, Vincent employs the well-worn building blocks of documentary: allowing archival material, candid footage, and talking heads to do the narrative lifting. It’s in the margins, however, where the filmmakers most effectively capture the spirit of camaraderie unique to the arcade and its community. Opening with a prologue accompanied by some poetic first-person narration, the film then explodes in a sequence of light and color, a frenetic montage of old school gameplay footage and eight-bit art. Set to Gil Talmi’s pulsating, glitchy score (aided in its warmth by the use of analog synths), these sequences periodically pop up and inject a sense of fun that informs the proceedings. Crosscutting between hyper-kinetic, half-forgotten arcade favorites, and the alternatively intense and jovial faces of patrons creates a haze of nostalgia that lingers endearingly over the whole endeavor. “The feeling of being in the arcade is very dreamlike, so we were really trying to capture that visually,” Chin concluded, with Vincent verifying that
COURTESY 26 ARIES
A glimpse inside Chinatown Fair as it once was, bustling with people playing games and forging connections.
they wanted the film’s sense of earnestness reflected in its visual tableau. “We filmed stuff on CRT [cathoderay television] screens,” he revealed. “It would have been easier to just put it on our computer screens and film close ups of video games on our computer
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screens, but to us that was inauthentic,” he explained. “You needed to see the scan lines.” The process of filming and editing wound up taking the team through ARCADE continued on p. 21
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Stump Speech RNC, DNC, WTF: A Convention Comparison
PHOTO VIA FACEBOOK.COM/HILLARYCLINTON
“Thank you. Thank you all. I’d have a flag on stage, but I don’t love America.”
BY MAX BURBANK
y the time you read this, there will be less than 100 days until the general election. Like all good crap storms (and this election is the Crapmageddon of crap storms), awful things are happening a whole big lot, and also quickly. It behooves us (BEHOOVES us, I say!) as thoughtful citizens to pause a moment and reflect. I spent the last two weeks “live tweeting” the conventions for Chelsea Now, watching at least four hours a night — a combined 32 hours more than I usually watch. More than most Americans who did not actually attend a convention, and more than some who did. I got paid for my time, but I’m also getting paid for this. So, having established this exercise benefits us all, let’s review.
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THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION Thunderdome! A whole party enters, one man leaves. I don’t know if you’ve ever worshipped Cthulhu or been a member of one of those quasi-Egyptian death cults Mr. Spielberg seemed so fond of in early ’80s, but I imagine their get-togethers were something like this year’s RNC. Except, you know, more organized and competent. #NeverTrump became #NeverUs with a whimper, beaten to death by the Magic Gavel of Reince Priebus. If only they’d had the foresight to have an alternative candidate, or a path toward nominating one if they existed, or, say, any kind of plan at all. The stars came out! Remember, Trump is a celebrity who hobnobs with all sorts of Hollywood and sports luminaries! He promised a “show biz” convention, and
boy, did he deliver! Scott “Chachi” Baio! Charles in Charge of being asked to speak two days before the convention started! Underwear model and former actor on something or other, Antonio Sabato Jr.! Conventioneers unclear on who he was might have thought him Latino, which could have been a plus, but he left his shirt on, so it was a wash. Golf Lady! Guy who owns that thing where people beat each other bloody in a cage! Seriously? What the hell, Donald? I thought you were supposed to be good at TV! Chachi, Donald? You know how you like to call people “losers?” Chachi. That’s a loser choice. There were plenty of Republican Party movers and shakers. Sure, none of the previous Republican Presidents. Or any of the previous Republican candiSTUMP SPEECH continued on p. 21 TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
STUMP SPEECH continued from p. 20
dates for President, unless you count Bob Dole. It’s not clear he knew who the nominee was. Some of your rivals showed. Rick Perry had a speech, but you put him on in the afternoon when no one was watching. Still been smarting from that time Perry called you “Cancer?” Sarah Palin almost came, but Alaska is just too far away, as any of the delegates from Alaska who all managed to somehow make it will tell you. Rudy Giuliani did… something. I’m not sure what. An attack? He stood on a live wire? Hard to say. Whatever it was, it looked like it hurt. At least Trump has a big family, and that filled some slots! Potential First Lady and time-traveling Bond Girl from the Roger Moore era, Melania Trump, gave a lovely speech that was almost as good as the first time it was delivered. The Trump boys took time out from slaughtering large animals and using all the hair gel there is to speak glowingly of their Dad, a man who… uh… has various human-like qualities often displayed by living people to their non-generic offspring. We were even treated to a description of The Donald hauling drywall, or sheetrock, or some other construction material everyone knows he has never lifted in his entire life, because he has people he’ll later refuse to pay to do that! Tiffany “See? I’m not invisible!” Trump further humanized her Pop with a charming anecdote about this one time? When a close friend of hers died? Her Dad called her! On the phone! Himself! Like a hug, but no touching! And then Ivanka, the “Marilyn” of Trump’s Munster clan… Okay, I’m gonna stop for a sec. That’s like the third time this year I’ve made that joke. I don’t think people truly appreciate it. See, on “The Munsters,” Marilyn looked like a totally normal person and the rest of the family felt bad for her because she wasn’t a freak. See, Ivanka? If you just met her? Out of context? Screw it, that joke is comedy gold. Anyway, Ivanka gave this great speech about women’s rights and equal pay and then she ruined it by saying her Dad was for that stuff. Ivanka. Your Dad wants to date you. He thinks women are Perfect Tens or pigs. I thought she was endorsing Hillary. Imagine my disappointment. Then, the moment we’d all been waiting for — admittedly somewhat diluted, since he’d managed to
ARCADE continued from p. 19
2015; for a film initially about a defunct arcade, a surprising amount of new developments cropped up over time. Fitting for a film so focused on togetherness and community, the pair launched a Kickstarter campaign, the success of which is evident in the wall of text devoted to backers in the credits. “Kickstarter’s awesome because people from all over get to know about your film,” Chin asserted. “It’s a good way to bring a community [together], especially one that’s a culture like gamers. They’re very much online and they’re a really great community, we found out, that supports each other — and they don’t want to see arcades die.” TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
make an appearance every single night: The Annoying Orange himself. I had to listen on earphones to spare my family, which made it like he was yelling directly in my ear for 70 minutes. I felt as if someone used a belt sander on my brain. I have no takeaway beyond the certain knowledge that brown-skinned people are going to murder me and everyone I love and take their sweet time doing it. And at the close, a sentence that is never true, when spoken by anyone about anything: “I alone can fix this.” Superman doesn’t say crap like that. Oh, and lest we forget, Laura Ingraham heiled The Donald’s giant Jumbotroned mug. That happened.
THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION I want to talk an equal amount of smack about the DNC. I truly do. I can’t. I want to say the conventions were comparable. They weren’t. Yes, Bernie got the shaft. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was a disaster long before Donnie’s comrade man-crush outed her. The spectacle of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, gaveling in the convention was an embarrassing reminder of entrenched machine politics. The opening prayer was booed! A prayer, booed! On the other hand, the DNC managed to be about things besides White Identity, Bigotry, Terror (as opposed to Terrorism), and sweaty-faced, spittle-flying hatred. Was the whole show forcefully, strategically overly optimistic? Sure. Did watching Democrats chant “USA, USA” and co-opt Reagan’s “Morning in America” shtick make me a little queasy? Yeah, ’cause it wasn’t morning then — and for a lot of folks, it isn’t now. But it’s not the friggin’ “Purge” either, and listening to that corn silk toupeed jack-o’-lantern holler that we were living the apocalypse, but that the day, the instant after he was elected everything would be fine, was puke-inducing. Sorry. I’m a satirist, not an analyst. And not for nothing, the DNC held together as a TV show. Star Power? Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Sarah Silverman, Elizabeth Banks, Meryl-frikkin-STREEP! Streep alone is equal to 752 Chachis! That’s just math. Bernie endorsed Hillary! Not quite the same as Creepy Ted saying, “Vote your conscience.” Bill made a whole speech that bordered on sweet with no finger wagging
“I think the arcade experience, of people coming together around video games is a profound one that changed people’s lives, and I want people to see that video games are not just simply entertainment — and that’s what I think a lot of people don’t understand. To these people in the arcade, video games are so much more. They gave them a voice, they gave them an outlet of expression,” Vincent added. “Through the video games, it bridged the gap between these different types of people that otherwise never probably would have come in contact.” While the film begins on the bittersweet note of a closure, it ultimately becomes a hopeful celebration of a subculture and its resil-
AP PHOTO BY BILL CLARK
“I’m not the least bit like Hitler. Believe me. Believe me. Believe me. Believe me.”
or lecturing. Joe Biden said “malarkey,” and I’d vote for whoever he told me to based on that alone! And the Obamas. Even the people who didn’t like them are going to miss them. They don’t know it yet, but they will. It’s been less than a week, and what do we have so far? Trump slamming the Khans, implying Hillary wrote their speech, claiming building gaudy-ass monogrammed towers constitutes a SACRIFICE on the level of losing a child, throwing shade at firemen who just pulled his fat, orange ass out of a stuck elevator, throwing a BABY out of his rally, and saying that if Ivanka were to be sexually harassed, she should just get another job! We are well outside of normal and way beyond party politics. The conventions showed there are only two choices on the ballot: Flushing the American experiment down the crapper or not. Choose.
iency. Gamers found ways to adapt to change: Old school fans migrated to a new Brooklyn arcade operated by Henry, while a reopened Chinatown Fair (under new management) nurses a fledgling scene of younger gamers. The sense of community then, is still tangible today, as Vincent recently witnessed firsthand in “a beautiful moment” at Chinatown Fair, when he attempted to try his hand at a Japanese racing import. “I sat down to play it, and I realized that the screen was all in Japanese, so I couldn’t understand how to even select a car. So the guy that was sitting next to me, he was my challenger, he walked me through it and helped me. And after he beat me, he introduced
himself,” Vincent recalled. “It was the first time I had been to Chinatown Fair as a fan. I wasn’t there with a camera, I wasn’t working on the movie, and to have that happen, to be introduced and welcomed into this racing community, it was just incredible, and made me feel happy to see that the spirit of Chinatown Fair is very much alive.” Runtime: 79 minutes. Written by Irene Chin. Directed by Kurt Vincent. Opens Fri., Aug. 12 at Metrograph (7 Ludlow St., btw. Canal & Hester Sts.). Daily screening at 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, & 9pm. Call 212-660-0312 or visit metrograph.com for more info. Also visit facebook.com/ArcadeMovie and 26aries.com. August August 4, 2016
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Building power in local parks By Michael Ossorguine The NYCommons coalition aims to reclaim public lands in the East Village and Lower East Side that they say are currently contributing nothing to the community, and convert them for nonprofit use. In an event last Wednesday dubbed, Land! Money! Power!, the coalition enlisted activists of all ages for an educational workshop meant to give them tools on just how to do that. The gathering, at the BRC Senior Center, at Delancey St. in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, was the last of three targeting the Stanton building, a Parks Department storage warehouse a bit farther north in the park with a history of being a rec center. Among the community’s many suggestions for the space are a bikerepair station or a solar installation. Yet the NYCommons coalition is still undecided on which idea to concentrate their efforts. To gage which are the most popular options, more than 100 people filled out surveys on July 6. The July 27 workshop focused on lobbying methods and funding. “We’re going to be learning about structures and strategies to advocate for parks on the Lower East Side that face the forces of privatization and gentrification,” an NYCommons speaker explained. Starting with a presentation on the “Land!” aspect of Land! Money! Power, Paula Segal from 596 Acres related how 600 public gardens were designated in 1999, after advocates sued to block the auctioning of community gardens to private developers by Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “There were about 1,400 gardens, and the city owned about 20,000 vacant lots,” Segal said. “Instead of auctioning the 18,600 truly vacant lots, Giuliani decided he would auction just the community gardens. He thought the gardens were terrible for neighborhoods because they were places where people got to know each other and started organizing. So the gardeners organized, and they filed a lawsuit, and the settlement of that lawsuit ended up creating around 600 protected community gardens.” Segal also stressed that numerous Parks buildings that were built as public spaces closed in the 1980s, along with the Stanton building, and that reopening them is a lengthy process. Giving an example of how clever bargaining with the city can pan out, Christine Datz-Romero, execu-
August 4, 2016
Photo by Lee Elson
A winter shot of the Stanton building in S.D.R. Park. Hopefully, it could be an all-season facility.
tive director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, explained how her group got a Parks building in East River Park for use as a composting site. They pay no rent but provide volunteer resources to Parks in return for use of the space. Next on the agenda was “Money!” Coalition members described how to secure city funding for local nonprofit initiatives: Proposals need to earn supportive resolutions from the local community board; meetings must be held with local politicians. Leah Worrel, leadership development manager for the Partnership for Parks, described community envisioning, which she called a crucial part of fundraising. “What ‘community envisioning’ is, basically, is if you are a community group, like the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition, how do you find out what the whole community wants?” Worrel said. “It’s a way to actually gather input from the community to find out, if you are going to renovate the park, what do you want to see?” Copies of the Community Board 3 budget cycle and fiscal year 2016 budget priorities were handed out. Similar “public envisioning” meetings are held year-round at the board’s discretion. However, September was highlighted as the month when C.B. 3’s annual priorities for capital expenditures are voted on. “It’s really important for the community to decide priorities for spending money,” Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager, said. Stetzer explained how the community board, whose resolutions are only advisory, is the public’s voice in the budgeting process, and has often successfully lobbied for capital funds to be allocated to
high-priority projects. “There’s a limited amount of money. It’s not just that everything is going to be funded,” Stetzer explained. “There’s a pot of money, and it’s a very fierce competition. But there’s a charter mandate for public participation in the budgeting cycle.” Stetzer noted that efforts to renovate a park next to P.S. 188, at E. Houston St. near Avenue D, ended successfully because parents came to public hearings and informed the board that the space was dilapidated. After the item garnered a No. 1 spot on the C.B. 3 2005 budget priority list, and got support from the Parks Department, Councilmember Rosie Mendez was able to fund the renovations in 2006. “It’s a playground now, and it’s amazing. It’s the most beautiful playground in the state,” Stetzer said. “And that’s how City Council works with the community board.” During the meeting’s “Power!” portion, NYCommons discussed the 10 buildings scattered around the Lower East Side that the group says are underutilized. These include the Baruch Houses bathhouse a.k.a. “The White House,” the Allen St. Mall comfort station, the Hester St. building and of course the Stanton building. Over the next few weeks, the S.D.R. Park Task Force will compile the survey results for the Stanton building and distill them into a clearer picture of the community’s preferences. Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Margaret Chin recently allocated $1 million to renovate the Stanton park building’s bathrooms. But Kathleen Webster, the S.D.R. Coalition director, warned that Parks might need closer to $2.5 million. TheVillager.com
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Letters continued from p. 14
Sad news about Orensanz
Loved talking with Al
To The Editor: Re “Al Orensanz, director of Angel Orensanz Foundation, dies” (obituary, thevillager.com, July 28): Sorry to hear this news. The Orensanz center is a unique and fun venue, a great addition to the neighborhood.
To The Editor: Re “Al Orensanz, director of Angel Orensanz Foundation, dies” (obituary, thevillager.com, July 28): R.I.P., the one and only Al... . Loved talking philosophy and art with him. Never got any work done when we visited together — it was too much fun to talk...about history, architecture, politics, philosophy. Loved him dearly.
Bonnie Sue Stein
Part of the fabric To The Editor: Re “Al Orensanz, director of Angel Orensanz Foundation, dies” (obituary, thevillager.com, July 28): What a wonderful pillar of the community. Jared Goldstein
Brilliant and kind
One of the nicest people
To The Editor: Re “Al Orensanz, director of Angel Orensanz Foundation, dies” (obituary, thevillager.com, July 28): So sad to hear the news. Devastating loss of a brilliant, kind and generous man. He called me “Muse.” I call him “remarkable.” R.I.P., Al.
To The Editor: Re “Al Orensanz, director of Angel Orensanz Foundation, dies” (obituary, thevillager.com, July 28): I am so sorry to hear this, I first met Al and Angel in Russia and did some videos for them both in Russia and later in Venice. Al was indeed one of the nicest persons I’ve
ever met. I would go to the foundation for some business reason, but we’d end up talking about anything and everything, often eating pastrami sandwiches from the nearby Jewish deli. Both brothers are totally unique, and I wish Angel well in stepping in to keep things going. R.I.P., Al.
E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news @thevillager.com or fax to 212229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.
D.N.C. in and out: From the seats to the streets D.N.C. continued from p.9
Enough is enough! Sandernistas declared. TheVillager.com
blood pressure during a confrontation with an obstreperous group of Glick supporters. Meanwhile, things were about to boil over on the steamy South Philly streets near the convention center on the second day, when Penley called in to give a brief report. “All hell is breaking lose,” he said. “Almost turned into a riot, but it didn’t. There’s a massive amount of people gathered at the F.D.R. Park and AT&T subway stop. It’s usually where the delegates come out. It’s a combination of Bernie people and Black Lives Matter people. I’m right in the middle of it here. Gotta go!” Schwartz there was “talk of a protest” against former Mayor Mike Bloomberg when he spoke Wednesday night, but that apparently didn’t materialize. “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business. God help us!” Bloomberg said at a highpoint of his Donald-bashing speech. The camera panned to Hoylman and Co. for a reaction shot. Penley’s former East Village roommate, radical comic book artist Seth Tobocman, was also in Philadelphia. He painted a dozen banners for an environmental march that took place the Sunday before the convention. The banners showed the various steps — and dangers — of fracking. “Railcars that carry fracked gas are explosive,” the artist explained of one sign. “The storage of local gas in communities, refineries,” he said of others. “There’s a refinery in Philadelphia that releases toxic fumes to a whole community. There’s this infrastructure that a lot of us are unaware of.” Tobocman said Clinton actually isn’t a flip-flopper on fracking. “She’s for fracking,” he said. “The only candidate who’s come out against fracking — outside maybe [Green candidate] Jill Stein — is Bernie Sanders. If the Democrats were to come out as the anti-fracking
party, they’d have a lot of support.” Environmentalists at the D.N.C. are actually looking beyond the convention, he said. “The conversation is about a major protest at the inauguration of whoever is elected in January,” he noted. “We know it’s going to be either Trump or Hillary, and neither has good positions on the environment, for sure. “Bernie was very popular with environmentalists,” Tobocman reflected. “It’s probably his best issue. He’s from Vermont, c’mon. He wants a ban on fracking.” After Schwartz dropped out of the Assembly primary, veteran gay activist Jim Fouratt decided to run in his place against Glick in September. Fouratt, who was not a convention delegate, watched the D.N.C. on TV in the Village. On the event’s first night, he posted his thoughts on Facebook as Sanders spoke about the importance of unifying for the sake of defeating Trump. For Fouratt, who was a fervent Sanders supporter, the fact that the next president will shape the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court was the deciding factor for why he’ll vote for Clinton. “I am sitting watching Bernie and tears are streaming down my cheeks,” Fouratt posted. “Sad at what could have been, that for whatever reason is not. I realize that Bernie’s political revolution is not over. That is why I am running for state Assembly. I share Bernie’s vision for the future…one election at a time. But I can’t at this particular moment stop crying. Life goes on… I believe CHANGE is possible… I will vote for the Clinton the Democratic Party chooses for president in this election because I use the Supreme Court as my litmus. Period. I will continue to oppose the T.T.P. [Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal] and fight for universal healthcare. And commit to building a national organization based in grassroots organizing to make the Sanders political revolution a reality. Thank you, Bernie.” August 4, 2016
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