YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN
Memories in Store as Tekserve Closes Doors
Photo by Alex Ellefson
A ¼ scale replica statue of Futura, from the 1927 motion picture “Metropolis” alongside a 1984 Apple llc. Both are up for bid as Tekserve closes its Chelsea retail store.
BY ALEX ELLEFSON Most places just have a clearance sale when they go out of business. But Tekserve, the quirky Apple repair shop that has been part of the fabric of Chelsea for almost three decades, will offload a trove of antique treasures after its retail store closes next week. TEKSERVE continued on p. 3
Theater for the New City’s annual Street Theater production tours the five boroughs through Sept. 18. See page 17.
Photo by Yannic Rack
Sam Rosenberg started working in the Flower District in when he was still a teenager, like his father did before him.
UNEASY ARRANGEMENT Change Spreads Like Kudzu Through Flower District
BY YANNIC RACK Among all the captivating corners of the city, one block of Chelsea has stood out for more than a century. Those who are lucky enough to trace their morning commute along W. 28th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. — the center of the neighborhood’s Flower District — are treated to a daily cornucopia of roses, carnations, orchids, and peonies that line the sidewalks there, along with palm trees 10 feet tall and greenery of all shapes and sizes. But when Sam Rosenberg, who owns a small retail florist around the corner on Sixth Ave., walks down the street, he sees something else entirely — or doesn’t see it anymore, to be exact. Many of the original wholesalers, who congregated in the area during the market’s heyday in the mid-20th century, are now gone — save for a few holdouts like Superior Florist (828 Sixth Ave.), which is still kept alive by three generations of Rosenberg’s family.
© CHELSEA NOW 2016 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
“When I started it was so different, you can’t imagine,” recalled the 78-year-old, taking a break from arranging blossoms and tying ribbons in his shop. The small space is still fitted with old-style aluminum countertops, and blackand-white pictures of the neighborhood from the 1930s line the walls. When Sam’s father Louis, an immigrant from Poland, first opened the business a few doors down, the surrounding blocks were home to over five dozen flower wholesalers and retail florists. More than 80 years later, only around 20 remain, including stores specializing in potted plants, silk flowers, and accessories. “It was all flowers,” said Sam’s son, Steven. “Where the hotel is now, all flowers. Where the McDonald’s is, all flowFLOWERS continued on p. 2 VOLUME 08, ISSUE 32 | AUGUST 11 - 17, 2016
Perennial Neighborhood Florists Rooted in Tradition FLOWERS continued from p. 1
ers. The Bank of America, all flowers.” Steven mainly runs the business now, one of the oldest flower shops left in the area, and is already grooming his own 21-year-old son to take over one day. He himself started making deliveries when he was in junior high school and says he basically grew up in the shop. “I’m here since I’m in diapers,” he declared. “It’s in our blood.” But business isn’t booming like it used to: skyrocketing rents, re-zoning that allows for hotels, changing tastes, and increased online sales have all taken their toll, forcing many shops to move to the suburbs. “The world is selling just as many flowers, if not more, than it used to, except the channels of distribution have changed,” Rosenberg said. “For most retailers nowadays, there’s not much reason to come down to this neighborhood anymore.” Specifically, florist wire services, including national brokers like FTD and Teleflora, and so-called “order gatherers” have cut into the business of traditional florists and wholesalers, says Rosenberg. They broker orders using virtual storefronts and charge hefty commissions and fees from the actual florists, which often leaves a small profit margin for the brickand-mortar merchants. “Those orders, when they come back to us, you wind up with 54 cents on the dollar,” complained the younger Rosenberg, who just cancelled his FTD membership after more than 40 years. “But the average consumer doesn’t know. And frankly, they don’t care. They just want their flowers.” As a result of all these factors, the neighborhood florist is rapidly disappearing. Nearly 40 percent of America’s floral businesses have closed since 2000, with
August 11 - 17 , 2016
Photo by Yannic Rack
A colorful cornucopia of flowers greets visitors to Associated Cut Flower Co.
14,000 remaining at last count, in 2013, according to census data. The number of paid employees in the field has been cut in half, according to The New York Times, and a recent market report from IBISWorld glumly declared that “the florists industry has entered the declining stage of its life cycle.” In New York, the beginnings of the Flower District can be traced back to the early 19th century, when vendors — often immigrants from Germany, Poland, Greece, and Ireland, who passed down their businesses — congregated near the Chelsea docks to sell flowers grown and cut on Long Island. The market eventually moved away from the Hudson and over to Sixth Ave.,
where the sellers were closer not only to the elegant residences of Fifth Ave., but also the “Ladies’ Mile” shopping district, a swath of blocks that was home to many of the day’s most fashionable department stores, including Bergdorf Goodman. Superior Florist stopped doing wholesale business decades ago, and the Rosenbergs’ main income now comes from weddings, funerals, and other events, as well as some long-time regulars. But the traditional wholesalers, who mainly peddle their petals to other florists and designers, have also felt the squeeze — and are dealing with it in different ways. At Major Wholesale Florist (41 W. 28th St.) owner Louie Theofanis says the only reason his father’s store is still around is that he owns his shop and grows much of his own blossoms (he also deals in evergreens). For that purpose, he runs four family farms scattered in Virginia, New Jersey and upstate New York. “We cut out the middleman, make some extra money,” said Theofanis, who runs the store with his partner and brother-in-law, Saki Tornesakis. “It’s getting very expensive to do business here.” Theofanis’ father emigrated from Greece and started working at the flower market as a packer in the 1950s, when, he said, his countrymen still largely dominated the business.
He eventually started out on his own, cutting greens on farms and selling to market wholesalers, and finally opened his own shop with a partner when he was in his late 30s. “You didn’t have to speak Greek, but 80 percent of the wholesalers were Greek-owned then,” the younger Theofanis recalled. “When people immigrated here from Greece, they went to the flower businesses — it’s like the Italians; when they came, they went to the construction sites, because that’s where their families were working. Greeks came to the flower market, because that’s where their families were.” In fact, he says his own hometown, a small beach community in Southern Greece, at one time could take credit for around 50 florists in the tri-state area, many of whom were his own customers as well. “Let me put it this way: when I was in Athens in a cab, and I told the driver what part of Greece I was from, he said, ‘I bet you’re in the flower business.’” If you want to get your pick at the best blossoms on offer at the flower market, you have to come early. Theofanis starts work before the sun comes up every morning, and most of the professional customers make a point of stopping by before 9am. FLOWERS continued on p. 12 .com
A Boon For Collectors, During Tekserve’s Final Days TEKSERVE continued from p. 1
Auctioneers are cataloging more than 600 items — including an original 1984 Macintosh computer signed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — to be sold to the highest bidder on Aug. 23. Tekserve’s collection also includes oddball artifacts like a 1970s high-altitude helmet used by a MiG fighter pilot, a more than 300-millionyear-old fossil, scores of early cameras and radios, as well as the store’s beloved 1950s Coca-Cola machine. Tekserve co-founder Dick Demenus, who has been stockpiling old gadgets since he used to pick up discarded radios on his way home from school, said he wants to sell the collection so people can continue enjoying the items’ historical value. “When I look at some of these things, I see the genius that went into it. You can see what people were working with at the time and how one thing builds on another,” he said. “I would rather it go to other people who find it interesting than have it sit in storage.” In June, Tekserve announced that their retail store would close on Aug. 15. The company, a precursor to the now ubiquitous Apple stores, operated out of various locations on the same W. 23rd St. block, between Sixth and Seventh Aves., since it opened in 1987. However, the increasingly crowded retail market, as well as a rent hike when their lease expires this year, made running Tekserve’s brick-and-mortar store unsustainable, said the company’s chief executive, Jerry Gepner. “In today’s world, no one is stunned that a small, local retailer is having a hard time,” Gepner noted, while emphasizing that Tekserve is not going out of business. He said its corporate sales and IT consulting divisions are thriving and will continue to operate. But the face of the company, the retail and repair store that became a Mecca for many of New York’s earliest Mac users, could not survive competition from larger businesses — such as the six Apple Stores now in Manhattan, the Best Buy across the street, or online retailers like Amazon. When Demenus and his business partner, David Lerner, started repairing Macs in a loft space down the street from Tekserve’s current location, interest in personal computers was just taking off. The two met while working at WBAI — a left-leaning, lis.com
Photos by Alex Ellefson
Tekserve co-founder Dick Demenus standing in front of his collection.
tener-supported radio station — and later teamed up to start an electronic engineering business that built audio equipment for museums and the New York Public Library. “Along the way, we started using this thing called a personal computer. And we fell in love with Mac instantly,” Demenus said. “The ease of use, the graphics, and the overall user interface was compatible with what we wanted to do.” Their experience manufacturing electronics provided them with the expertise to fix their computers, and eventually other members of the burgeoning Mac community started asking for repairs. “There was this tight-knit, grassroots community and I think our reputation just sort of grew organically because we did a good job,” Demenus said. The fledgling operation spun into Tekserve. The company started selling Apple products and outgrew several other locations, all on the same block, before settling into its current space in 2002. David Cohen, a longtime customer who works for the Department of Education, said he used to travel from Brooklyn during the mid-90s to buy Apple products and get repairs done at Tekserve. TEKSERVE continued on p. 11
Tekserve has operated on the same W. 23rd St. block for almost three decades.
Tekserve’s “Mac Museum” includes an original Macintosh computer signed by Steve Wozniak. August 11 - 17 , 2016
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
Photo by Jane Argodale
All access passed: L to R, key lockboxes were attached to a tree guard on W. 21st St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) on July 13, but were gone by Aug. 10.
City Prodded to Pick Apart Lockbox Problem BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC Call it the case of the vanishing key lockboxes. Since Chelsea Now’s July 20 article about key keepers on and around W. 21st St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), several have been removed. Pamela Wolff, a longtime resident of W. 21st St., said there has been a drastic decrease in key lockboxes — often used by those putting their apartment on short-term rental sites — on her block. “There is only one left,” she said in a phone interview on Aug. 2. “They’ve all disappeared.” Wolff said at one point, a single building toward Eighth Ave. had four or five key keepers latched to the stoop, but when she checked recently, they were gone. The lockboxes are a way for a host to get keys to a guest without being present. A guest is given the combination to the keeper, which contains the keys to the building and the residence. Chelsea Now first counted the key lockboxes on Wed., July 13, and found 11 on W. 21st St., just on the block between Eighth and Ninth Aves. On a recent visit, Thurs., Aug. 4, there were seven (four between Seventh and Eighth Aves., and none between Sixth and Seventh Aves.). Returning to W. 21st St. on Wed., Aug. 10, there were none between Sixth and Seventh Aves., six between Seventh and Eighth Aves., and seven between Eighth and Ninth Aves. In front of 300 W. 21st St., four lockboxes once rimmed the perimeter of a tree guard, but last week they were gone. Zev Feldstein, the building’s landlord, said he has “no idea” when the lockboxes were put there or when they
August 11 - 17 , 2016
were removed. “Airbnb is illegal. I’m hoping none of my tenants are doing it,” he told Chelsea Now in an Aug. 5 phone interview. Bill Borock, President of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA), said in a phone interview that a lot of block associations in West Chelsea spend time on beautification efforts, such as installing flowerboxes and tree guards. “To see lockboxes on the tree guards — it’s visual pollution,” Borock said. “It’s not nice to look at.” Prices for tree guards can range from $800 to $1,000, according to a Parks Department spokesperson on background in an email. People are not allowed to affix the lockboxes to tree guards, and could receive a summons of between $100 to $400 for doing so, according to the Parks spokesperson. Due to a typo in a statement from Parks to Chelsea Now, our July 21 article indicated that “current policy does not consider the presence of key keeper boxes to be an unauthorized use of Parks property.” Borock said that lockboxes being used to facilitate short-term rentals is both a quality of life and safety issue, and that when CCBA meets in September, it will be discussed. According to Parks, they have not received any complaints about the lockboxes, but they can be tagged and removed like abandoned bikes. Currently, there are no open complaints in the Department of Buildings’ information system for that area of W. 21st St., said a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice on background. The Mayor’s Office of
Criminal Justice handles press inquiries for the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement (MOSE), which responds to complaints and 311 calls about illegal hotels. In February, MOSE issued a violation at 350 W. 21st St. in response to a complaint about transient rentals, according to the spokesperson. Jesse Bodine, district manager for Community Board 4 (CB4), said that a letter — addressed to the Department of Sanitation and the NYPD — is in the works about the possible tagging of the key keepers on public property for removal. The letter will also touch upon safety concerns, Bodine said in a phone interview. “You’re leaving [out] keys, no matter how well-protected,” said Bodine, adding that it puts everyone in the building at risk. There were five robberies this year compared with none for last year for the week of July 25th to the 30th, according to NYPD’s CompStat for the 10th Precinct. There were 18 grand larcenies this year compared with 12 last year, while there were no burglaries compared to two the year before, according to CompStat. Chelsea Now asked the NYPD if there were any crimes associated with the key lockboxes, but was told via email that crimes are not tracked to that level of specificity. Brice Peyre, spokesperson for New York State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, said in an email that his office had been in contact with the 10th Precinct, and officers are not aware of any criminal incidents related to the key lockboxes. State Senator Brad Hoylman said in
an email statement, “Constituents have contacted my office to express concerns about their buildings being less secure, since anyone can guess what’s inside once they know what a key box looks like. It’s yet another way that illegal hotel use puts long-term tenants at risk.” Hoylman said the lockboxes were just one symptom of the bigger problem of illegal hotel use, and that “keeping New Yorkers in their long-term homes and maintaining the affordable housing stock is an absolute priority.” CB4’s Bodine said he would bring this issue up to the chairs of the board’s Housing Committee. “We obviously feel very strongly about affordable housing,” Bodine said, noting that once an affordable unit is lost, it is gone forever. City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, pointed to a report commissioned by the Housing Conservation Coordinators that an estimated 8,000 units citywide were removed from the market and used for short-term rentals on Airbnb. The report, titled “Short Changing New York City: The Impact of Airbnb on New York City’s Housing Market” was released in June, said Sarah Desmond, executive director of Housing Conservation Coordinators, a non-profit that focuses on affordable housing located at 777 10th Ave. in Hell’s Kitchen. “The issue of these key lockboxes is facilitating the illegal rentals,” Desmond said in a phone interview. Peter Schottenfels, an Airbnb spokesperson, disputed the report’s findings, saying that the data it is based on “is LOCKBOXES continued on p. 14 .com
Safety not juSt driverS’ 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.
• Bicyclists must follow the same traffic 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. • Watch out for parked cars. Oftentimes, drivers exit their vehicles and do not check for oncoming traffic or cyclists. You can be hit by a swinging car door. • Make yourself as noticeable as possible. This could include using a light or horn on the bike to signal your presence to drivers. • Always wear a helmet and other applicable safety equipment.
• Maintain your bike so that it is safe to ride. • Do not carry others on your bike (such as a friend or a child) if it is not designed to do so. Riding on the handlebars or behind the cyclist can be dangerous. • Avoid the use of ear buds or headphones while cycling. You want all of your senses to be available to avoid accidents. • Cycle out of the way of drivers’ blind spots so you’ll be more visible.
• Do not ride your bike on the sidewalk where you could injure pedestrians.
• Always use sidewalks and crosswalks when available. If no sidewalk is present, be sure to walk against the direction of traffic. • Use traffic signals as your guide. However, make sure all traffic has stopped before crossing the road or stepping off of the sidewalk. • Keep control of pets when
walking on a leash, so you’re not pulled out into traffic. • Use caution at bus stops. Many injuries occur from pedestrians running to catch a bus or stepping out into traffic after exiting a bus. Remember, there will be another bus behind the one you’re chasing and safety is more important. • Wear brightly colored or reflective clothing if walking at night. • Do not cross highways or interstates on foot.
August 11 - 17 , 2016
DSNY Reviews Rusty Derelict Bike Removal Rules BY ALEX ELLEFSON The wheels of change continue to grind slowly, as the city seeks to make its system for removing abandoned bicycles more effective. The Department of Sanitation (DSNY), which is tasked with clearing sidewalk obstructions, held a hearing on Tues., Aug. 9, to solicit feedback on reforms that would relax criteria for identifying and removing what are called “derelict bikes.” Speakers at the hearing, who unanimously testified in favor of changing the criteria, said the agency’s current system allows many discarded bikes to rot on sidewalks for months or even years. “This change is very necessary and long overdue,” said Julia Kite, policy and research manager for Transportation Alternatives. “These abandoned, unusable bikes create a nuisance and occupy space that could be used by responsible cyclists.” Critics say the stringent criteria make it difficult for obviously abandoned bicycles to be removed. As we reported last week, DSNY did not remove a bike frame chained for
Photo by Alex Ellefson
Photo by Jane Argodale
L to R: Julia Kite, policy and research manager for Transportation Alternatives; Pio Tsai, a student involved in the NYU bike share program; and Karen Overton, executive director for Recycle-A-Bicycle, at the DSNY hearing about reforming criteria for derelict bikes.
Both of these bikes on W. 21st St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) have a lot of rust. Can you figure out why only one of them is tagged for removal?
three years to sign post at W. 15th St. and Eighth Ave. because it did not meet the standards for removal. Even after City Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office intervened, the agency said it still could not remove the bike. Steve Starosta, the Chelsea resident who reported the bicycle to 311, said he hopes reforming the system will allow
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August 11 - 17 , 2016
Sanitation to clear the junked ride on his block. “I don’t understand, it’s just a rusted piece of metal,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s abandoned. There’s not a single person who says the city can’t take the bike.” However, Starosta, who did not attend the hearing, said he was unsure if the new criteria would get rid of the forsaken frame. DSNY is considering amending the five standards used to determine if a bike is derelict. The changes would require a bike frame to only meet two of the criteria, instead of three. It would also eliminate flat or missing tires as a measurement, and reduce the minimum amount of rust from 75% to 50%. However, Karen Overton, executive director of Recycle-A-Bicycle (recycleabicycle.org), said the city needs to take a more common sense approach to carting away abandoned bikes. She urged DSNY to further lower the threshold so even a single criteria, such as missing wheels, would allow a bike to be classified as derelict. “The Department’s approach to this challenge has historically lacked the element of common sense required for timely action, good governance and effective management of the city streetscape,” she said at the hearing. “Unfortunately, the proposed rule changes do not take us as far as needed to fully address this challenge.” The current regulations regarding derelict bikes were introduced in 2010 to make the standards clearer and easier to enforce. However, DSNY’s strict criteria hobbled the agency’s ability to efficiently remove abandoned bikes at a time when
Photo by Alex Ellefson
Karen Overton, executive director for Recycle-A-Bicycle, testifying at DSNY hearing about reforming criteria for derelict bikes.
ridership is soaring. A report by WNYC in 2012 found the city received 429 complaints of derelict bikes over a 12-month period. Of those, only 60 bikes were removed. Some of the speakers at the hearing also said the city was missing out on a golden opportunity to give new life to the discarded rides. They urged DSNY to implement programs that would repurpose abandoned bikes for future use. “We want the department to adopt a cut and salvage, rather than a cut and crush, approach,” said Overton. “Mixed metal is not worth much money. This would put the bikes back on the street, where it has social value.” At NYU — located in one of two community districts that have the lion’s share DERELICT continued on p. 15 .com
LPC Paves Way for New Additions to Historic District’s Oldest House BY SEAN EGAN On July 26, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approved plans to renovate 404 W. 20th St. — widely recognized as the oldest dwelling in the Chelsea Historic District. This news represents a defeat for the coalition of preservationists and elected officials who have spent months engaged in a very public, and very intense, back and forth with the home’s new owner, British banker Ajoy Kapoor. Kapoor’s team asserted that in order to construct the family house he wished to build, extensive reconstruction must take place due to the building being structurally unsound, citing issues such as tilted stairs, sloped floors and cracked walls. Critics describe the proposed renovation as a near total demolition of the house. Since the house falls within the Cushman Row of the Chelsea Historic District, any alterations had to be approved by the LPC. Built from 1829 to 1830 on land leased from Clement Clarke Moore, the property served as home to the Doyel family for more than 40 years. In 2015, Kapoor purchased it for $7.4 million, from Lesley Doyel — who, at the time, was president of Save Chelsea (a position she no longer holds, Doyel currently sits on that preservationist group’s Board of Directors). Local groups, led primarily by Save Chelsea (savechelseany.org), have been vocal about their concern for the house, claiming that any structural issues the owner was facing were self-created and/or fixable. They also insisted that the alterations wouldn’t preserve anything beyond the façade, and that the structure would be a “megamansion” that would be at odds with what the house is now and the neighborhood’s character. It would, essentially, destroy most of the back of the house as it currently stands, resulting in accusations of “façadism.” For their part, the owner’s team countered that they were dealing with longterm structural damage that stemmed from neglect on the part of the previous owner, making such extensive work necessary. The project had come before the LPC in both April and June, during hearings in which the Commission decided to take no action. This time, however, the plans were approved. The new plans represent another scale-down in scope from earlier renderings. While it would still include an additional floor, and a significant extension in the backyard area, the height and size of them, respectively, .com
Courtesy Landmarks Preservation Commission
A view of the restored façade in the approved plans, showing the side yard eliminated. On right, a front view featuring the clapboard-like siding.
were reduced. The plans would also get rid of the side yard, an area of particular interest to advocates, notable for its use of clapboard siding — though the wall to be added would use a clapboard-type material as an homage to the feature. The roofline was also altered from previous plans to better maintain the existing height, and restore the facade. “We are delighted with this approval. Throughout this robust public process, the LPC’s worthy recommendations have guided us toward achieving a design that will enhance West 20th Street,” read a statement from the project’s architect, William Suk. “We remain committed to following principles of respectful restoration and sound engineering to ensure structural integrity, code compliance and modern functionality for family life in today’s Chelsea Historic District.” Community activists, however, remain dismayed, as the house is just one of many preservation-related issues facing the neighborhood. As reported in this paper in June, amongst these groups, there seems to be an increased disappointment in the city’s preservation methods. “It’s very disappointing that the LPC decided the way they did,” noted Bill Borock, president of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations and vice president of Save Chelsea, in a phone interview following the LPC hearing. “Someone’s coming in, buying an historic house, and then asking to change the whole footprint of it, the back-
yard and stuff like that. It seems like Landmarks is doing that all over — the Village and other places — allowing these old historic houses to really be changed from the way they are, and
people are kind of upset,” he commented, noting that in this particular instance the Community Board, elected HOUSE continued on p. 23
August 11 - 17 , 2016
POLICE BLOTTER THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER
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GRAND LARCENY AUTO: The Manhattanite and the motorcycle Perhaps he should have chosen something a little less compact and portable while choosing his new set of wheels. At about 9:30pm on Thurs., Aug. 4 the 30-year-old man parked his cycle directly opposite the Dream Hotel (355 W.16th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), and then left to party at the Toa Lounge a short distance away. When he returned to this spot in the wee hours of the morning, he discovered that his $15,000 2016 Ducati was missing. It just so happens, that while the man was partying, a 23-year-old Brooklyn man witnessed an individual standing in front of a van near the Dream Hotel. Then, a bit later, he was observed pushing a white Ducati motorcycle eastbound on W. 16th St., toward Eighth Ave. Unfortunately, cameras could not be accessed at the time of the police report’s filing, making it more difficult to identify the chopper caper’s culprit.
FORGERY: Cards off the table One gambling man learned that when your number is up, there’s really no such thing as a free ride — except, perhaps, to the big house. At about 1pm on Fri., Aug. 5, officers witnessed a 22-year-old bending the magnetic strip on multiple MetroCards in the 14th St./Eighth Ave. subway station, in order to gain access to the subway system without paying for a swipe. Upon investigation, police found seven such damaged cards on the man — as well as an open docket. The perp himself was presumably bent out of shape when he was arrested.
ASSAULT: Tag team trouble At about 4am on Sat., Aug. 6, officers witnessed three men (ages 24, 25, & 26) on the 200 block of W. 19th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.), punching and kicking a 27-year-old victim from Queens — causing injury to his
head, face, and back. Recognizing this was a totally unfair pileup, and also thoroughly illegal, police arrested the trio of assaulters.
NARCOTICS POSSESION: Citizen Cocaine Have you heard the one about the man who walks into a sex shop… and then refuses to leave? That particular yarn was spun to an officer arriving on the scene at Sexy Boutique (155 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 17th & W. 18th Sts.) on Sat., Aug. 6 by a 33-year-old employee, who asserted that a particular 29-year-old Bronx man on the premises strolled into the store at a gentleman’s 5:30pm, and then refused to leave, despite being told the week prior that he was not allowed back at the establishment (leaving the rich history of his questionable behavior to the imagination). “I am a citizen and free to stay here,” retorted the man, professing his presumed constitutional right to loiter in a sex shop, and deciding to die on that particularly kinky hill. The man’s brave crusade was significantly complicated, though, by an active warrant docket and a quantity of alleged cocaine found in his bag during an inventory search. He was arrested by the officer, who presumably used regular old handcuffs, and not, like, those sexy ones on sale at the store.
PETIT LARCENY: Spicy homemade lime & crime steak recipe! At about 10am on Sat., Aug. 6, a 27-year-old Bronx man discovered a
CASH FOR GUNS $100 cash will be given (no questions asked) for each handgun, assault weapon or sawed-off shotgun, up to a maximum payment of $300. Guns are accepted at any Police Precinct, PSA or Transit District.
delicious new recipe for trouble after shoplifting at a Food Emporium (452 W. 43rd St., btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.). You, too, can try it for yourself, and have a delicious criminal record in 30 minutes or less! Ingredients: Four shell steaks, one pepper, limes, and deodorant (for garnish). Estimated cost, $56. 1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. 2. Steal above listed ingredients. Add some spice by throwing in a liberal dash of “employee witness,” in order to give your crime a lil’ extra kick! 3. Exit store without paying. In order to get caught thoroughly, be sure not to get too far away, and allow your ingredients to be recovered! 4. Sit in hot water, waiting for officer’s arrest. Serves: Time.
THE 10th PRECINCT Located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Commander: Capt. Paul Lanot. Main number: 212741-8211. Community Affairs: 212741-8226. Crime Prevention: 212-7418226. Domestic Violence: 212-7418216. Youth Officer: 212-741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-924-3377. Detective Squad: 212-741-8245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7pm, at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced. They are on hiatus until Sept. 28.
THE 13th PRECINCT Located at 230 E. 21st St. (btw. Second & Third Aves.). Deputy Inspector: Brendan Timoney. Call 212-4777411. Community Affairs: 212-4777427. Crime Prevention: 212-4777427. Domestic Violence: 212-4773863. Youth Officer: 212-477-7411. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-477-4380. Detective Squad: 212-477-7444. The Community Council meets on the third Tues. of the month, 6:30pm, at the 13th Precinct. They are on hiatus until Sept. 20.
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TEKSERVE continued from p. 3
“They were the only place to go in New York City. I think the only other place I knew of was in Long Island,” he recalled. “The service was phenomenal. This is where I learned to swap out RAM, because if you needed them to do a five-minute job like that, they would just do it for free.” Over the years, Tekserve has acted as hub for all kinds of activities: regularly partnering with the Lower East Side Ecology Center for e-waste collection events since 2003, as well as hosting free information seminars and other programs for its community of die-hard Apple fans. It’s also been spotlighted in pop culture — appearing in television shows like “Law & Order” and “Sex and the City.” The cache of vintage electronics, celebrating the evolution of technology, grew as the company matured. The original Macintosh computer, which a staffer asked Wozniak to sign when the Apple co-founder came out of an interview at WNYC, is part of a store exhibit for Apple computers called the “Mac Museum.” “Unlike, say, an Apple Store, where everything is new and there is no reference to the old, I wanted this to be a place of history and wonder,” Demenus said of the Tekserve collection. However, now that the retail store is the latest Chelsea mainstay to give way to the creep of name-brand businesses, those antique electronics are coming off the shelves. Roland Auctions, the company hired to sell off Tekserve’s collection, has its employees sorting through hundreds items in a brick-walled room underneath the sales floor. Some of the items, like
Tekserve in its glory days, when the store was a destination for die-hard Apple fans and an in-demand location for TV shows.
posters from Apple’s iconic “Think Different” campaign, start taking bids for as little as $20, while the store’s classic Coca-Cola vending machine hits the market for $500. Demenus said they plan to auction off the “Mac Museum,” which includes the computer signed by Wozniak, as one item so it can be purchased and preserved by an institution or private collector. “The individual pieces are not extraordinary. You can get them on eBay,” Demenus explained. “But together, they tell a story about the history of Macintosh.” Tekserve will open for a preview of the auction items on Sat., Aug. 20, from 11am to 6pm and Mon., Aug. 22,
from 9am until 6pm. The auction will take place in the store on Tues., Aug. 23, at 11am. Bids can also be placed online or by phone during the auction. For more information, and to view the
catalogue, which is still being updated, visit rolandsantiques.com. “This is a chance for people to walk away with a little piece of Tekserve,” Demenus said.
Photo by Alex Ellefson
David Cohen and his son Zac using the 1950s Coca-Cola vending machine in Tekserve. .com
August 11 - 17 , 2016
Blooming Buds, But Struggling Bus
Photos by Yannic Rack
Carlos Santos, left, and Jesus Rivera prepare orders and arrangements at Superior Florist for the next day.
Louie Theofanis, second from right, in front of Major Wholesale Florist (41 W. 28th S
FLOWERS continued from p. 2
Workers inside of Major Wholesale Florist prepare greens for pickup later that day.
A florist carries his haul along W. 28th St., which starts to fill with wholesale shoppers around 5am most mornings.
August 11 - 17 , 2016
Buyers need a tax identification number to make wholesale purchases, which are typically marked up 400% before they reach shoppers at a retail florist, although several shops along the market welcome retail shoppers as well. Rosenberg says he sells 40 to 50 types of cut flowers in a given week (of roses, for instance, he might have 10 additional variations) and moves up to 6,000 boxes of blossoms and greenery every year. He brings in most of the flowers himself, from Colombia and Ecuador, Holland and California — the main suppliers nowadays, since the days of roses and carnations grown on Long Island, and orchids from New Jersey, are over. “There used to be a lot of flowers grown in the United States. Some of the finest cut flowers in the world were grown in this area,” Rosenberg said. “Back in the day, if something wasn’t growing here, you couldn’t get it,” his father chimed in. In order to stop any more florists from closing up or moving out of the city, the Rosenbergs and other vendors along the street banded together a few years ago to find a suitable space for them elsewhere in Manhattan.
With help from the Bloomberg administration, they sought to create a market hall along the lines of successful flower markets in other cities, like Boston and Los Angeles, but they never reached an agreement and eventually threw in the towel. “The city tried to help us, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot, in that we didn’t finalize negotiations in areas where we should have,” sayidGary Page, owner of G. Page Wholesale Flowers (120 W. 28th St.) and president of the short-lived and now defunct Flower Market Association. “It was recognizing the pressure,” Page says of the relocation effort. “I mean, this area is not destined to be a wholesale flower market, unless someone steps in and landmarks it. But dealing with major land use in Manhattan is very difficult.” Unfortunately, they found that few areas lend themselves to a market hall. The West Side piers, which were eyed for a while, quickly turned into hot real estate. In the Meatpacking District, the florists were likewise “dropped like a hot potato” once museums like the Whitney expressed interest, Page says. Part of the problem, he adds, is that the market is simply not a priority for the .com
sinesses, on a West Chelsea Block
The inside of Foliage Garden resembles an actual rainforest filled with ceiling-high trees and shrubs.
St.), which he runs with his brother-in-law Saki Tornesakis, left.
city, since it gets barely any income from the flower shops. “We’re just not a powerful enough force financially to shoulder our weight,” he said. “The city gets tremendous revenue from that hotel across the street; they get basically jack from us. So it’s hard to compete.” “We’re small fish — it doesn’t pay for them to help us,” Theofanis agreed. For Rosenberg, another issue was the mentality among the wholesalers, who are used to cutthroat competition and haggling over prices, and therefore tend to lean towards a friendly distrust of their neighbors. “The thing about this business and this neighborhood in particular is, nobody trusts each other,” he said. “Everybody’s worried that I’m gonna steal your customer, you’re gonna steal my customer. I think that’s why they couldn’t come to any conclusion.” In the meantime, the market keeps mourning as decades-old institutions close up and boutique hotels replace once-booming and blooming wholesalers. Cathy Sviba is one of those who had to pack up and move out. She recently lost her store after 10 years on the block, and now runs an events business while working part-time as a designer at another store across the street. .com
The shop, Foliage Garden (120 W. 28th St.), resembles an actual rainforest filled with ceiling-high trees and shrubs. Maryann Finnegan, a former landscape architect who also has a degree in horticulture, took over the store after her husband passed away a few years ago. Her specialty, aside from the orchids that line the walls, are trees and other plants that she sells and rents to be used in film sets, photo-shoots, weddings, and corporate events — a niche business that is only possible because Finnegan owns her own greenhouses out in Blue Point, Long Island, from where trucks can be dispatched every day. “If you need twenty Fiddle Leaf Figs, 17-inch, tomorrow, I’m the only person around here who can help you,” she said. “That’s really what differentiates us from everybody else.” Once again, adaptation is the key to survival. “As the industry has shrunk, because people like Whole Foods sell so much of the smaller material, you have to fill in with what you can,” says Finnegan. Page, who shares a building with a handful of other wholesalers, says he’s not optimistic about relocating the market as a whole anymore — at least not
Maryann Finnegan worked as a landscape architect before she took over her late husband’s shop.
right now. He rather thinks that some dramatic event, like a group of shops losing their leases all at once, will be required as a wake-up call for preserving the market. Nonetheless, he said, “One has the feeling that maybe it will be too late.” As more and more wholesalers are pushed out of the city, satellites in South Jersey, Connecticut, or even Pennsylvania, where trucks can pull up and the real estate costs a fraction of the price in Chelsea, are increasingly becoming the norm for florists and designers looking for their wares. But that scattering is neither preferable for the vendors that have lived in the market for decades, nor for the cus-
tomers that make the trip to W. 28th St. every weekday morning. “So many of the customers that I talk to, they’re in the city, they want to be in Manhattan. Do they want to go some place out in Queens or up in the Bronx? No,” Page said. “People come down here for that wholesale experience.” In the end, the flower shops will have to prove if they deserve their spot in the heart of the city, where they wouldn’t be the first historic industry to be slowly forgotten — to wither and die, so to speak. “It’s unfortunate that the retail base has been squeezed — but it happens in every business,” Page mused. “You better be damn good if you want to last.” August 11 - 17 , 2016
Photo by Jane Argodale
These key lockboxes, on a tree guard in front of 308 W. 21 St., are in violation of Parks Department policy. LOCKBOXES continued from p. 4
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August 11 - 17 , 2016
fundamentally flawed because it doesn’t accurately reflect when a listing was available.” Schottenfels put Chelsea Now in touch with Chris Gatto, an East Village resident for 15 years who has been using Airbnb for around five years. Gatto lives in a two-bedroom apartment and is always present while a guest stays at his place. In the state of New York, it is illegal to rent out an entire apartment for less than 30 days, however; it is legal to rent if the tenant is present. Gatto says he does not use key lockboxes and greets guests when they come — going over his house rules, which include being kind and respectful toward his neighbors and not being noisy. “My experience is most unanimously 100 percent positive,” he said in a phone interview. Gatto said he would be apprehensive about leaving a lockbox, and he would have concerns if one of his neighbors left a key keeper. Rosenthal, who is a member of the City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, said she has asked the city to look into the key lockboxes, and for MOSE and Parks to work together on this issue. “They could be indications of where an illegal hotel could be,” she said. “It also could be something legitimate.” Construction companies and realtors have been known to use key lockboxes, and Chelsea Now reached out to brokers to see how frequently the keepers are used. “It’s as rare as snow in the middle of August,” said Aviv Zumin, a licensed real estate broker for 10 years and president of FirstService Realty. FirstService Realty manages over 100 condos and co-ops, and 10 to 15 residential buildings in Chelsea, Zumin said. Landlords often tell their superinten-
dents to remove lockboxes, as it could be an indicator that a tenant may be putting their apartment on a short-term rental site, he said in a phone interview. “You don’t want to put an apartment key in a lockbox that is not very protected,” said Zumin. “There is no reason to have a lockbox. The only reason is to have people coming in at 10 o’clock at night from JFK.” Douglas Wagner, director of brokerage services for BOND New York Properties, LLC, said in an email that there are “one out of two thousand landlords and management companies who use key boxes as a regular operations policy.” He said landlords don’t like brokers to use the key keepers because agents forget to return them or lose the keys. “Landlords fear the risk of squatters or other potential illegal occupants getting possession of a key in order to take over an empty apartment,” said Wagner, who has been in the real estate business for 21 years. Hell’s Kitchen resident Tom Cayler said it is possible that the key keepers are being left for people performing services, such as walking dogs, cleaning the house, or doing laundry. However, “I’ve lived in my neighborhood for a long time and I don’t remember ever seeing these lockboxes on buildings, on tree pits, on fences. Now, walking down the street, I’m like, ‘there’s one, oh, there’s one,’ ” he said. “Now they’re like mushrooms — they’re sprouting everywhere.” There are buildings on W. 48th St. that have illegal hotel complaints, Cayler said, that were found through the Department of Buildings website. Outside of those addresses, he noted, there are lockboxes hanging. At the end of May, Airbnb launched a neighbor’s tool for residents to lodge concerns or complaints. Schottenfels said there have been “17 issues made on the neighbor tool” in New York City, none of which were from Chelsea. .com
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DERELICT continued from p. 6
of Manhattan’s derelict bicycles, according to testimony at a 2015 hearing on the issue — the university has formed a bike share program that reuses abandoned bikes found on campus. Pio Tsai, a student involved in the program, testified at the hearing about the success of the bike share. “It’s much more than a bike share. It’s also a waste management solution,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea to keep these bikes in use and not just have them crushed.” However, it’s an open question whether DSNY has the resources to implement such a program. The agency pushed back against legislation introduced last year that would allow bikes left on the street for longer than 36 hours to be impounded because officials said they lacked the manpower to enforce the policy. The scant resources available to enforce sidewalk obstructions, including removing derelict bikes, can be observed throughout Chelsea. Sanitation enforcement agents can take away a bike seven days after tagging it for removal. However, one bike on Seventh Ave. (btw. W. 21st & W. 22nd Sts.) is still
CONSIDERING BUYING A HOME OR APARTMENT?
Photo by Jane Argodale
This bike on W. 22nd St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) doesn’t appear to qualify as “derelict” bicycle under the current rules.
on the sidewalk more than three weeks after receiving a tag. In a statement, a DSNY spokeswoman said the agency will “carefully consider all comments and written statements it has received on its proposed changes to the current criteria for derelict bicycles so that safe and clean streets and sidewalks can be maintained throughout the City.” The spokesperson said DSNY is reviewing and evaluating the comments made at the hearing and has yet to set a date for when the rule changes might take effect.
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“Election Selection, or You Bet!” — TNC’s 40th annual Street Theater musical — tours the five boroughs through Sept. 18.
Street Theater Tour Boroughs Into Our Consciousness TNC marks 40 years of serious and zany community theater BY TRAV S.D. “Nothing’s ever gonna change!” sings the chorus in “Election Selection, or You Bet!” — the current summer Street Theater production from Theater for the New City (TNC). As far as the show itself goes, that’s a wonderful thing. Now in its 40th year, Theater for the New City’s Street Theater is a sui generis (much like “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,” the company prefers to leave the word “show” or “production” implied). While its avowed mission is “to raise social awareness” and “create civic dialogue,” the styles that inform it pull it in many directions besides conventional urban agitprop: community theater, musical comedy, vaudeville, puppetry/mask, and .com
more than a little Bertolt Brecht. For the past four decades, this unicorn of a show, which is performed in parks and blocked-off streets in all five boroughs, has been the brainchild of TNC’s artistic director, Crystal Field, who writes and directs every edition. According to Field, who spoke with this publication just days before “Election Selection” had its debut, the Street Theater can be traced back to 1971, when poet/playwright/architect/ activist Robert Nichols approached her to direct a piece which he had written. Nichols was co-founder of Judson Poets’ Theater, architect of the 1969 redesign of Washington Square Park’s playground, and, since the early 1960s, a frequent collaborator with Bread and
Puppet Theater. The new play, titled “The Expressway,” was designed to protest Robert Moses’ controversial plan to build an elevated highway that would cut through Little Italy. It was the first production of the Public Theater, and was presented outside their building on Lafayette St. The production had 35 actors and a breakaway stage that was designed to fall apart when a car rammed into it. Her collaborations with Nichols became annual summer affairs. But, Field said, “After a few years he decided he didn’t want to write the whole thing, so he’d write the first line of a scene or the first couple lines of a song and I’d finish the rest. In 1975 he moved to Vermont and the following year I start-
ed was doing the whole thing myself, from start to finish.” The first full-fledged Crystal Field Street Theater show was “Mama Liberty’s Bicentennial” (1976), and this well-oiled, complicated touring machine has performed every year, without interruption, ever since — 40 productions, 12–15 locations a year across five boroughs, thousands of audience members, and hundreds of performers (including, for six years, a young Tim Robbins in his first professional acting roles). Another actor who started with the Street Theater as a child is MichaelDavid Gordon, who has remained with the show for the past 32 years. “The STREET THEATER continued on p. 20 August 11 - 17 , 2016
Gunning For FringeNYC Alongside ample frivolity, fest delves into timely topics
Photo by John Moore
In “Waiting for Obama,” Brett Aune (left) and Chris Kendall are Coloradans convinced the president is coming for their guns.
BY DAVID KENNERLEY The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC), now two decades old, is notorious for being a fount of frivolity. A quick perusal of this year’s nearly 200 offerings confirms this: “Naked Brazilian,” “Humorously Horrendous Haunted Hideaway,” and “A Microwaved Burrito Filled with E. coli.” But over the years, FringeNYC has developed a taste for the topical, staging edgy shows seemingly ripped from the headlines. Soon after the economic meltdown in 2008, there were plays featuring greedy Wall Streeters. A few years ago, there was a profusion of marriage equality plays, and last year it was transgender issues. This is the year of blacks, whites, cops, and guns. And more guns. Not that anyone should be surprised; the nimble Fringe is expert at tackling current issues well ahead of mainstream theater. John Moore, author of “Waiting for Obama,” a biting dramedy about a Colorado family convinced the president is coming for their guns,
August 11 - 17 , 2016
asserts that the Fringe fosters a different kind of creative process where artists can explore what is happening in the moment, go with it, and have it presented much more rapidly. “In the mainstream theater [world], it typically takes even a sure-fire new play at least two years to get read, liked, scheduled, developed, and finally staged,” he said. “As a result, live theater can often seem, well, two years behind the times.” There are only six months between submission and staging at FringeNYC, he explained. Moore is outraged that in such a brief period, the issue of gun violence in America has grown only more numbingly topical. “I keep hoping I’m done keeping my script up to date, but the insane fucking daily headlines keep sending me back to the keyboard to somehow incorporate the latest mass fucking tragedy,” he said. The devastating loss of lives at the hands of deranged gunmen has been covered extensively in the media. What does his piece add to the conversation? “None of those ongoing gun sprees
is changing minds on the gun issue,” Moore said. “And if Sandy Hook didn’t change people’s minds on little issues like background checks, then why even talk about it at all? But I say if we can’t talk about these polarizing issues in our own living rooms for fear of a fight breaking out, then we must talk about them in a theater. That’s why theater exists.” As a lifelong journalist, it would have been easy for Moore to churn out a data-heavy polemic on the gun issue. But he was also the Denver Post theater critic for more than a decade and knows how to engage audiences. “No one gives a damn about statistics in a theater,” he said. “You have to make it real.” Moore keeps it real in his play by portraying both sides of the issue in fresh ways. The protagonist is not a gun control advocate, but a Christian conservative who is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. He’s the one waiting for Obama (any echoes of “Waiting for Godot” are purely intentional). “I was not interested in writing a one-sided screed,” he said. “I wanted a fair fight.” The Theater at the 14th Street Y (344 E. 14th St., at First Ave.); Fri., Aug. 12, 5pm; Sat. Aug. 13, 2pm; Sat., Aug. 13, 9:15pm; Sun., Aug. 14, 8:30pm; Mon., Aug. 15, 6:45pm. Tony Jenkins, author of “Black Magic,” a drama based on spoken word poetry that explores the lives and souls of seven slain black men, is grateful for theater fests like FringeNYC. “I believe that the Fringe accepts and supports work that otherwise wouldn’t be funded,” he said. “It’s easy to get behind a tried and tested family musical and totally disregard another race play. Another controversial play. A play with queer people or a play that redistributes power from the majority. A play we assume won’t make any money in the mainstream.” As an openly gay playwright of color, Jenkins’ work has a highly distinctive bent rarely seen in theater, mainstream or otherwise. “This play gives space for the voices that we never hear,” he explained.
“These black men, after their deaths, are defined and criticized and picked apart by the news cycle and are never able to tell their own stories. Corpses aren’t available for comment.” According to Jenkins, infusing queer themes into his work is “almost inescapable.” In “Black Magic,” two of the characters are gay, which adds a potent dimension to the Black Lives Matter movement. “There was no way to travel to the world of this play without encountering some black men who happened to be gay,” Jenkins said, adding that the first scene he wrote was explicitly queer by accident. “I found myself writing about a different kind of black love. These stories of dead gay black men felt even more silenced and more difficult to unearth. There is an epidemic of homophobia in the black community that remains mostly unchallenged. It is a subtle and destructive force. I am attempting to fight back.” The play wrestles with themes of forgiveness, sacrifice, loss of innocence, love, coming of age, self-discovery, reclamation, and equality. Yet Jenkins contends that the work is also a tribute to black love. “Black men loving black men, specifically and fiercely. The brotherhood. I don’t think we hear nearly enough about that,” he said. What does Jenkins hope audience members take away from “Black Magic?” “The play argues that black lives are remarkable,” he said. “That violence in the world is not the solution that lasts. That we are more connected than we allow ourselves to be. That sometimes we are the ones holding the gun. The play argues that love is the way. The play looks the audience in the eye and dares them to say otherwise.” SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam St., btw. Sixth Ave. & Varick St.); Fri., Aug. 12, 5pm; Mon., Aug. 15, 2pm; Wed., Aug. 17, 7pm; Fri., Aug. 19, 7:15pm; Sat., Aug. 20, 5:45pm. With “Machine Gun America,” Joseph Huff-Hannon has taken a sharply different tack, crafting a scathing FRINGE continued on p. 19 .com
Image by Owen Laheen
Photo by Ryan Coil
Tony Jenkins’ drama “Black Magic” explores the lives and souls of seven slain black men.
George McAuliffe as Officer Scott Baker, in the solo show “Not All Cops Are Bad.”
FRINGE continued from p. 18
satire about the rise of gun violence in America. And it’s a campy, over-thetop, full-throated musical. Like most brilliant theater, the genesis of the piece was purely by chance. “About a year-and-a-half ago, I was deeply struck by a bizarre and tragic news story out of Idaho,” he said. “A two-year-old shot his mother, with her own handgun, in an aisle of the Walmart shortly after Christmas. The gun was kept in a special pocket in her purse especially fitted for firearms — a Christmas present from her husband that year.” Huff-Hannon was motivated to learn more. He found dozens of examples of parents and siblings being killed or maimed, and of kids shooting themselves. He discovered that last year more Americans were murdered by armed toddlers than terrorists. “This is patently insane,” he said. “No other major nation has this kind of problem. But it’s also an inevitable byproduct of a country with more guns than citizens.” According to Huff-Hannon, there are plenty of documentaries and news exposés about America’s gun violence epidemic, but there’s very little in the popular culture, especially in theater. “There’s nothing that really explores the powerful mythos around gun ownership or the reasons that gun owners run one of the strongest lobbying .com
groups in the US,” he said. “So the play came out of that, building up a bizarre reality on the stage, with original upbeat songs and tragicomic characters, with a very traditional boymeets-girl plot arc that’s only one step removed from the national tragicomedy we already live in.” “Machine Gun America” gets its title from a theme park of the same name in Florida that bills itself as a “fully automatic adrenaline attraction.” Appallingly, it’s a place where families (kids as young as 10 are allowed on premises) can learn to shoot firearms at fake zombies or terrorists, and it’s only a few minutes from the Pulse nightclub, where earlier this summer 49 young LGBT people were massacred in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. “After the horrific Orlando killings, I didn’t see any news coverage noting the proximity of these two places, but that doesn’t particularly surprise me,” HuffHannon said. “There’s a lot of public hand-wringing about gun violence, but in this country we have more gun stores than Starbucks and grocery stores combined. And I think that shows us what our consumer priorities are as a nation. When we glorify weapons that can kill a massive amount of people in a short amount of time and make them available for sale almost everywhere, we can’t be surprised when people actually use those guns for what they’re intended to be used for.”
After the Orlando bloodbath, a sign appeared at the entrance of the grisly gun center that offered free shooting lessons so visitors could have the “ammunition they need to fight back.” “I seriously doubt the LGBTQ community in Florida has flocked to Machine Gun America to take them up on the offer,” he said. As an out playwright (in fact, virtually the entire creative team of “Machine Gun America” happens to be gay), this outrageous juxtaposition cuts particularly close to the bone. Huff-Hannon is enthused that the queer community is taking a leadership position in the fight for sensible gun control, with new groups like Gays Against Guns organizing disruptive, ACT UP-style protests. Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente (107 Suffolk St., btw. Rivington &
Delancey Sts.); Sat., Aug. 13, 7:15pm; Mon., Aug. 15, 9:45pm; Mon., Aug. 22, 4:30pm; Wed., Aug. 24, 4:45pm; Sat., Aug. 27, 2pm. To be sure, there are scads of other provocative shows about race, cops, and guns at the Fringe. You may also want to check out “Black & Blue,” “Not All Cops Are Bad,” “Colorblind’d,” “Night of the Living N-Word!!,” “My White Wife, or So I Married a Black Man,” and “Mother Emanuel” (about the tragic 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston). The New York International Fringe Festival runs through Aug. 28 at various downtown venues. For tickets ($18), visit fringenyc.org.
Theater for the New City • 155 1st Avenue at E. 10th St. Reservations & Info (212) 254-1109 For more info, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net
TNC’S AWARD-WINNING STREET THEATER COMPANY’S 2016 ANNUAL SUMMER STREET THEATER TOUR
“ELECTION SELECTION or YOU BET” (An Operetta for the Street) Book, Lyrics & Direction by Crystal Field Music Composed and Arranged by Joseph Vernon Banks
For a full listing of performance locations and times, or to donate visit us online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net
TNC’s 7th Annual
Dream Up Festival
19 Productions, 15 World Premieres! Musicals, Comedy, Drama, Experimental, International and more For a full listing of shows visit DreamUpFestival.org to purchase tickets visit smarttix.com or call (212) 868-4444 August 11 - 17 , 2016
STREET THEATER continued from p. 17
Street Theater is the greatest place in the world for beginnings,” Gordon said, as part of a conversation with several cast members during an “Election Selection” rehearsal at TNC’s home base (155 First Ave., btw. E. Ninth & E. 10th Sts.). “I got my start here,” he recalled, “and now I return every year as a way of giving back.”Emily Pezzella, a cast member for the past seven years, called the Street Theater “a gift to the community.” “Audiences love this Street Theater so much,” said four-year company member Danielle Hauser, who added, “We’ve had shows where people jumped up and joined in the performance, and shows where audience members helped strike the set. At one show, the sound system cut out during the pre-show and the audience joined in singing until showtime. The key is Field’s rapport with audiences. She credits her adroitness in writing and directing for the masses to an illuminating, if harrowing, experience she had in the Street Theater’s early years. The company was performing in a Lower Manhattan neighborhood, working from a script with a lot of local lampoonery and rude elements (one of which, a purposefully off-key vocal chorus, seemed to set the crowd off). “People started throwing stuff at us, and chased us and we had to get the hell out!” Field said, remembering that moment as “an eye-opener. It taught me a lot about how to approach a neighborhood and how to write street theater. They don’t want to be talked down to or patronized. But they do want the issues covered.” Since then she’s gotten more sophisticated about the art of persuasion. Her mission is “to bring really serious subjects to the audience, but with no preaching. I want to hit a beautiful balance between the zany and the serious.” The emphasis is on change at the local level, Field emphasized. “It’s like Bernie [Sanders] says; political power starts at the bottom, the school board, the city council, the block association; fight for the small things and the change will begin to fan out.” The Aug. 6 performance of “Election Selection” was a testament to the public’s devotion to this local institution: I saw faces on the stage and in the audience that I have been seeing regularly at Street Theater performances for the past 15 years. People who were children when I first saw them are now adults; toddlers are now teenagers. Kitchen chairs and milk boxes used as seats make it feel
August 11 - 17 , 2016
Photo by Julia Slaff
Puppetry and masks are part and parcel of TNC’s summertime Street Theater productions.
even more like home. Another old friend is back: the beloved “cranky” — an enormous crank-operated scenic scroll with a large, changing backdrop of painting settings, a mainstay of the Street Theater for many years. Not surprisingly, the theme of this year’s show is the upcoming presidential election. Interestingly, while Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are mentioned, they’re not the focus of the show, despite their great potential for satire. The focus is on “The People” more than the politicians. A worker is suffering due to the “Jobless Recovery.” He finds a job working at the polls, where he meets a bunch of disaffected citizens, and one African American gentleman (Gordon), who supports Trump and dislikes Affirmative Action. Field plays an old lady whose constant refrain is “Nothin’s gonna change.” Our heroes fall onto the subway tracks and have a neardeath experience. A fantasia ensues, containing a succession of people and events who brought change in American history: converted Muslim Muhammad Ali, the Latin culture organization the Young Lords, the suffragettes, and the rioters at Stonewall. The experience causes an epiphany in Gordon’s character. He emerges from the experience committed to change. But first there are battles: Pikachu and his cartoon comrades fight against a “Monster of War, Poverty, and Global Warming.” Finally, the characters organize and make strides to improve their community — and exhort the audience to do the same.
Photo by Tim Esteves
The story of our lives: “Election Selection” showcases a succession of people and events responsible for changing the American landscape.
This year’s Street Theater stands in welcome contrast to the withering negativity and anger we encounter daily in social media. One walks away with the refreshing thought that perhaps everything isn’t hopeless after all. I highly recommend it as an antidote for these troubled times. Through Sept. 18. Free and open to the public. Runtime: One hour, 15 minutes. Manhattan performances of
“Election Selection” include Sat., Aug. 13, 2pm at Tompkins Square Park (E. Seventh St. & Ave. A); Sun., Aug. 14, 2pm at the Central Park Bandshell (72nd St. crosswalk); Sat., Sept. 10, 2pm at Washington Square Park (Fifth Ave. & Waverly Pl.); and Sun, Sept. 18, 2pm at St. Marks Church (E. 10th St. at Second Ave.). For the full schedule, visit theaterforthenewcity.net or call 212-254-1109. .com
Hot Town The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer in the City’ Turns 50 BY JIM MELLOAN When the days in New York City become particularly sweltering, it’s not too unusual for many boomers to hear in their heads a certain catchy piano riff, followed by the phrase “Hot town — summer in the city; back of my neck getting dirt and gritty.” The song, by The Lovin’ Spoonful, went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 50 years ago this Saturday, Aug. 13. It was the only No. 1 hit for the group. For me, growing up in the not-very-mean streets of suburban New Jersey, just 20 miles away, the song was memorably evocative of urban life in the summer, sweating through the days and chasing girls at night, promising a future of teens-and-20s tribulations and delights — “Come on, come on, and dance all night; despite the heat it’ll be all right.” The Spoonful’s leader and principal songwriter, John Sebastian, is a product of Greenwich Village. His father, John Sebastian Sr., was a professional classical harmonica player, an unusual vocation to say the least. He was widely regarded as the best in the world at his job, and many composers wrote scores specifically for him. John Sebastian Jr. started playing guitar in his early teens, and was appearing on recordings by jug bands and other folkie offshoots by the early ’60s. He met guitarist Zal Yanovsky, the clown of the group, through Mama Cass and Denny Doherty, who went on to become half of The Mamas & the Papas. The three, plus Sebastian, ever so tangentially, had been members of a New York City group called The Mugwumps. Yanovsky was a Jew from Toronto whose dad was a Communist and whose mother died of cancer early on. After high school Yanovsky had bummed around Canada homeless for a couple of years, with a brief stint at a kibbutz in Israel, before moving to DC and then to New York. Drummer Joe Butler was from Long Island, and bassist Steve Boone’s family had settled there early on. When Sebastian and Yanovsky were looking to complete the band, they rejected Stephen Stills and Neil Young; Sebastian also .com
declined to tour with Bob Dylan as he put the band together. The name The Lovin’ Spoonful came from a song called “Coffee Blues” by Mississippi John Hurt, whom Sebastian had gotten to know. Lyrics include “I wanna see my baby ‘bout a lovin’ spoonful” — a reference to cunnilingus.
before “Summer in the City”: “Do You Believe in Magic,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Daydream,” and “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind.” All four were by Sebastian; the last two both went to No. 2 on the chart. In early 1966, the band supplied the soundtrack for the first film
hallk.blogspot.com via MGM/Kama Sutra
The Lovin’ Spoonful had their biggest hit with 1966’s “Summer in the City.”
One of the Spoonful’s early venues was a place called The Night Owl Cafe (118 W. Third St., btw. MacDougal & Sixth Ave.). After a couple weeks they were thrown out because they just weren’t that good. They moved to Cafe Bizarre, down the street, and got better. Eventually the Night Owl wanted them back, and promoted them big time. After the Spoonful’s initial success, they were considered as the basis for the show that would eventually become The Monkees. But the idea smelled too prefab for the band. The Spoonful had four Top 10 hits
Woody Allen did as a writer: “What’s Up Tiger Lily?”; the one in which they took an existing kitschy Japanese spy flick and dubbed a completely different, silly script in English about a recipe for egg salad. “Summer in the City” marked a turn from the poppy sweetness of the band’s early hits to a harder, rocking sound. Its kernel originated with Sebastian’s younger brother Mark, who was 14. He left a tape of a song he had composed for John before he went to visit their dad in Italy. It was more from a kid’s point of view, talking about stickball games,
but the “chorus” Mark came up with survived with the music intact (“But at night it’s a different world…”). John wrote new verses, starting with “Hot town…” Bassist Boone contributed the piano lick, played on a Hohner pianet, and drummer Butler came up with the surreal lyric “wheezin’ like a bus stop.” This level of collaboration was unusual for the Spoonful. At some point the song brought to Sebastian’s mind Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and its onomatopoetic horns. He wanted to bring that feel to the recording. The group hired a “funny old sound man” from the old-time radio days who had a bunch of acetate discs of sound effects; they listened for hours to choose what they wanted. The sounds of honking horns and jackhammers completed the urban soundscape. “Summer in the City” was a high point for the group. Yanovsky was fired from the group in 1967, Sebastian left in 1968, and in 1969 the Spoonful disbanded. Sebastian made his first appearance as a solo artist on a January 1969 TV special hosted by Cass Elliot, and in 1976 had a huge hit with the theme song to “Welcome Back, Kotter.” The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. In the early ’70s, record companies were sending a lot of review copies of albums to The Wall Street Journal, where my dad worked, even though the paper did not review records at the time. My dad brought many of them home, enriching our education on contemporary (usually failed) commercial music. One of these records, a favorite of mine, was a 1971 reissue of Yanovsky’s 1968 solo album “Alive and Well in Argentina.” The title track was a countrified rocker about all the most famous Nazis doing fine in the Argentine. The Spoonful often referred to their music as “good-time music.” Yanovsky continued the tradition in his own special way. Jim Melloan is a writer, actor, musician, and editor. His radio show (“50 Years Ago This Week”) airs Tuesdays, 8–10pm on RadioFreeBrooklyn.com. August 11 - 17 , 2016
August 11 - 17 , 2016
Rhymes With Crazy
Stop the Pokémon Go Predator Panic BY LENORE SKENAZY Our governor wants us to panic about a problem that does not exist: sex offenders preying on kids playing Pokémon Go. About a week ago, state Sens. Jeff Klein (D–BronxWestchester) and Diane Savino (D–Coney Island) proposed legislation banning Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from playing the popular new phone game. The senators also demanded that the game’s developers eliminate any Pokémon within 100 feet of the home of a registered sex offender. Not to be outdone, Gov. Cuomo jumped on the Poké-wagon 48 hours later to make an even tougher, first-in-the-nation law: From now on, even a Tier 1 Sex Offender found playing Pokémon Go while on parole could end up in prison. That means that if you happened to be an 18-yearold who got a sext from your 16-year-old girlfriend, and this got you labeled a low-level sex offender (which is already crazy), you could play a game on your phone and end up in prison. It should be noted here that Pokémon Go is more like solitaire than poker. As you walk along, cartoon creatures suddenly appear on your phone. You “catch” them by tapping the screen. Now, I realize that anytime a politician mentions new and harsher sex offender restrictions, many voters cheer. That is why politicians keep proposing them. But these laws will not make our children safer, because they are based on the incorrect idea that registered sex offenders pose a big threat to kids. They do — on “Law & Order: SVU,” because that makes for an exciting plotline: the creep outside the playground, preparing to pounce, or the criminal
mastermind online, stalking children by decoding their posts. But in real life, which is as horrifying as it is mundane, the vast majority of sex abuse occurs at the hands of someone in the child’s life: a relative, family friend, or other trusted adult. “Stranger danger” sounds like a huge threat, but the FBI stats on children abducted for nefarious purposes showing exactly what percent were snatched by registered sex offenders? In 2009, zero. And in 2010, it was less than one percent. Even the group that put missing kids’ pictures on milk cartons, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, has labeled stranger danger a “myth we have been trying to debunk.” What’s hard to believe or even understand is that registered sex offenders pose very little threat to children. A study of Washington, DC neighborhoods compared blocks with registrants on them to those without, and found no difference in the number of sex crimes committed. That’s because even though we have heard that people on the registry are insatiable child molesters, the surprising truth is that they have a very low level of recidivism. It is about five percent. That is lower than any other criminals other than murderers. So the sex offender registry itself is a failed idea, a way of labeling hundreds of thousands of people who are, for the most part, not going to hurt anyone, much less a stranger. In fact, my guess is that you probably know someone — a friend, or a friend of a friend — who is on the registry, even though you know they aren’t a threat to anyone. Add to this the idea that registrants are going to use
Pokémon Go as predator helper and you have created a fantastical scenario that would be a great plot point for a Liam Neeson movie — or maybe “The Simpsons.” But making legislation based on that fantasy is worse than mere grandstanding. Far from reassuring parents, it scares them even more by making it sound as if our kids are in constant danger the second they step outside. These laws ignore the wonderful fact that, in fact, it is the opposite. Kids today are safer today than they’ve been in 50 years — and it isn’t just because they’re “helicoptered” (adults are safer today, too, and we don’t helicopter them). Crime is back to the level it was in 1963. The real danger kids face is in not going outside. Obesity and diabetes are on the rise, not child rape. Making it seem as if registered sex offenders are constantly on the prowl for tots and only harsh new laws can save them is a lie. The new legislation is pointless. Gov. Cuomo, and Sens. Klein and Savino are guilty of a new political crime: fear-pokémongering. Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker who authored the book, and founded the blog, Free-Range Kids (freerangekids.com).
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officials, and preservationist groups in the community all spoke out against the 404 W. 20th St. project. “Both me and Save Chelsea are very, very unhappy about the situation,” echoed Laurence Frommer, the recently installed co-president of Save Chelsea, noting that the decision increases worry about similar situations occurring when properties navigate the preservation system. Citing 404 W. 20th St. and other troubling cases, like the efforts to preserve Hopper-Gibbons House (339 W. 29th St.), a local underground railroad site, he noted “[They] do raise very serious questions about something being wrong, and I think people need to look at that and say, ‘Is it the weakness of the law itself; is it weakness of enforcement; is it a problem in the process — what is it?’ They certainly need to ask if it’s one of those three things.” .com
Courtesy Landmarks Preservation Commission
A rendering of the backyard at 404 W. 20th St., with the current, approved plan on right. August 11 - 17 , 2016
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August 11 - 17 , 2016