The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
August 11, 2016 • $1.00 Volume 86 • Number 32
Divining by street signs: Activist foresees massive work around Wash. Sq. BY ALEX ELLEFSON
or weeks, longtime Washington Place resident Susan Goren has been watching the streets outside her apartment fill with strange hieroglyphs. The spray-painted markings, like foreboding crop circles appearing over acres of farmland, seemed to signal an imminent upheaval about to
visit her neighborhood. Considering the overabundance of roadwork and renovations around Washington Square Park, she set out to decode the multicolored lines. Although Goren — who was once featured on Page One of The Villager for her kinship with local squirrels — didn’t Signs continued on p. 8
‘We’re being framed!’ City rolls out revamped regs on derelict bikes BY ALEX ELLEFSON
proposal to reform the city’s system for removing abandoned bicycles could clear away some of the junked rides cluttering local sidewalks. The Department of Sanitation, which is responsible for addressing sidewalk obstruc-
tions, held a hearing Tuesday to solicit feedback on reforms to relax criteria used to identify and remove 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 Framed continued on p. 6
Photo by Milo Hess
Through Aug. 11, Citi celebrates “Rio on the Hudson” at Tribeca’s Pier 26. In addition to meet-and-greets with Olympic legends and Paralympians, there is samba, capoeira classes, Brazilian music, food and drinks — and, yes, a flaming cauldron!
Another affront in MePA; Florent storefront is fini By Michael Ossorguine
t a recent hearing about a proposed development on Jane St., a real estate economist said, “We in the business of selling Manhattan properties think of the Landmarks Preservation Commission as a place where real estate dreams go to die.” That claim certainly may be in dispute, however, as yet an-
other heavy-handed development project on Gansevoort St. has been approved, and is well underway. No. 69 Gansevoort St., which used to house the restaurants Florent and, briefly, Gansevoort 69, has been totally gutted by real estate developer DelShah Capital LLC, which bought the building and its air rights in 2013 for roughly $8.6 million. According to three L.P.C.
permits, the developer was granted permission to tear down the existing iconic storefront — made of stainless steel, glass and brick — in order to replace it with a similar facade. The developer also has approval to install HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units at the rear of the roof, and make several interior alterations, including Gansevoort continued on p. 4
Astor Place to get ‘Cube’d again soon�������������� p. 10 Webster Hall is really rockin’ — finally!���������� p. 15 Art to be part of L.E.S. path�� p. 26
Lee off the ballot and narrow down the number of AsianAmerican candidates in the race, Quinn said Niou is right to be concerned about the veteran Chinatown activist. “The bottom line,” he said, “is Don Lee has juice in Chinatown.”
Lady goes Electric: Lady Gaga was at Electric Lady Studios on W. Eighth St. near Sixth Ave. last week. Local activist Sharon Woolums, who lives on the block, walked out her door and happened to see the “Born This Way” singer and quickly snapped a few shots in the dusk as the diva was whisking off. Word was that Gaga had worked in the famed recording studio with Tony Bennett earlier that afternoon.
‘O’Neill’s the real deal’: Great confidence is being expressed in James O’Neill, Bill Bratton’s successor as commissioner of the New York Police Department — and local Councilmember Corey Johnson is no exception. “Chief O’Neill is an exemplary officer and he’s going to be an outstanding commissioner,” Johnson told us. “He’s community-oriented, responsive, thoughtful and incredible when it comes to local issues. On one occasion I had to reach out to Chief O’Neill late at night because constituents were bringing a serious public safety issue to my attention. He picked up, immediately set to work on the problem and had it resolved promptly. It’s very special to have someone who operates at such a high level of dedication and determination. Chief O’Neill is that kind of leader.” It’s great that
Photo by Sharon Woolums
Lady Gaga exited Electric Lady Studios, quickly got into a car and zipped off. It all happened pretty fast, the photographer said, otherwise she would have gotten a cleaner shot.
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“It’s worth the trip down the street!” 2
August 11, 2016
Photo by Tequila Minsky
Councilmember Corey Johnson said that, in his book, new top cop James O’Neill really is the tops.
Johnson has a good relationship with the city’s new top cop, and can call him and get a quick response. (Clearly, that instance worked out much better than that one time the hardcharging young councilmember speed-dialed Bratton and got himself into hot water! Hey, live and learn!) Assembly race recap: With a field of six candidates, it’s a bit hard to keep up with all the doings in the 65th Assembly District Democratic primary, coming up soon on Tues., Sept. 13. But here’s a very quick roundup. Bob Townley, director of Manhattan Youth, has endorsed Gigi Li, praising her advocacy on youth issues. In addition to being former chairperson of Community Board 3, Li was the director of the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, an organization serving local youth and families. Don Lee has been especially active, touting how he encouraged Mayor Mike Bloomberg to reopen the Columbus Park pavilion for community use, decrying how another campaign was tearing down his posters and, critically, fending off a petition challenge by opponent Yuh-Line Niou. Meanwhile, Jenifer Rajkumar recently picked up an out-of-town endorsement — former Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Rajkumar noted that Crist is running for Congress in Florida’s 13th District, which includes part of St. Petersburg and has a lot of snowbirds from Lower Manhattan’s 65th A.D. Meanwhile, longtime local politico John Quinn said his wife, Alice Cancel, who has held the Assembly seat since April after winning a special election, is finally starting to raise some funds. “I’m picking up a $4,000 check tomorrow,” he told us last week. Cancel also had a fundraiser at the Grand Street Guild on Sunday evening. As for Paul Newell’s claim to be the race’s “clear front-runner,” Quinn shrugged, “To be honest, we’ll let you be the front-runner. The front-runner is the one who is always being attacked.” As for Niou’s failed bid to knock
R.I.P., Bob: How come the painting of Bob Arihood, the late great East Village photographer / blogger, wasn’t redone when Antonio “Chico” Garcia recently repainted the awning of Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A? We went straight to “the source,” Chico himself, for the lowdown. Basically, he told us, memorials, generally speaking, have their moment, but then, well...time moves on. Chico put Arihood’s face on the awning’s right-hand side soon after the legendary lensman died in October 2011. Arihood had been diligently covering Occupy Wall Street, trudging all over the streets with the marchers and documenting them at their Zuccotti Park encampment, and it may have taken a toll, as he died from a heart attack shortly afterward. Anyway, Chico told us, “Bob...you know it hurts — but life goes on, brother. Bob was a great camera and everything, but we served the time. I loved him. I didn’t want to get rid of Bob. When I was doing Art Around the Park, Bob was always out there, talking to me. He’s in a better place than us, he’s resting. Ray’s is a business, he’s still going. When I was painting, Bob said to me, ‘Get rid of me, take me off of here. I gave you what I could give you. Take care of Ray, fix up his canopy.’ When I was up on the ladder, his spirit spoke to me,” Chico said, adding, “You’re the only one I told this to.” The graffiti great reflected, “Nothing lasts. We started with typewriters, now we have computers. We started with a little ‘hello’ in your house, and now we have smart phones.” So, Chico said,
Photo by Jim Flynn
Ray says, “Hi!” yes, it was his decision, not egg cream alchemist Ray Alvarez’s, not to put Arihood’s face back on the memorial. We went by the E. Seventh St. hot dog haven Tuesday night, but Ray was sleeping in the back, getting ready to come on for his midnight-to-morning overnight shift. At least he now has some help, with five other workers doing shifts. A woman who was doing the 4 p.m.-to-midnight slot told us she was pretty sure the decision was Chico’s to retire Arihood’s image on the awning. Meanwhile, Chico, who spends most of the year in Tampa nowadays, said he’s finally going to hang up his spray cans when it comes to doing East Village murals. “I really need to take a break,” he said. “I need Chico time. I need to spend time with my wife. Today there’s a lot of artists on the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. I opened the door. Today, graffiti is called ‘modern art.’ ” Chico was wrapping things up on Wednesday, doing a new mural at Zum Schneider, at E. Seventh St. and Avenue C, and another one at a bar on at E. 10th St. He also recently totally redid his murals, featuring students’ faces, in the P.S. 41 courtyard at W. 11th St. and Sixth Ave. But, from the sound of it, these could be the last new pieces by Chico we’ll see around here for a while. But, then again, who knows? TheVillager.com
POLICE BLOTTER The pain in Jane
Two women got into an argument that turned violent at The Jane Hotel, at 113 Jane St., early Sunday morning, police said. At around 2 a.m. on Aug. 7, the victim was sitting at a table in the club when she began to engage in a verbal dispute with another woman. The second woman punched the victim in the face, causing bruising and swelling to her nose and redness to her face. She was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital. Maria Madrazo, 40, was arrested for misdemeanor assault.
Quizzical graffiti An officer said he observed two men making graffiti on a dumpster in public view in front of 50 Grove St. last Friday. The cop spotted the two taggers at 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 5. Upon a search, the pair were found to be in possession of several paint markers. They had made three tags on the dumpster but none were legible. Eric Sanchez, 38, and Ryan Hazley, 34, were arrested for misdemeanor making graffiti.
Random attack According to police, on Fri., Aug. 5, at 2:35 a.m., a man was assaulted on the sidewalk at the northwest corner of Sixth Ave. and W. Fourth St. A stranger came up to the 43-year-old victim and struck
him in the face, causing swelling to his left cheek and substantial pain. Police arrested Rafael R. Collazos, 23, for misdemeanor assault.
Punch perp A man was mugged outside the Christopher St. / Sheridan Square subway stop at Seventh Ave. South and Christopher St. early Sunday morning, police said. At 3:45 a.m. on Aug. 7, a man allegedly punched the victim in the forehead and grabbed the man’s wallet from his shirt’s left breast pocket. The wallet was not recovered. Kaheem Dario, 20, was arrested for felony robbery.
Philly phony, too? A woman walking home from work in the Village at 6:20 a.m. on Sat., Aug. 6, was robbed, police said. While the woman was passing by 203 Bleecker St., a man approached her and said he had a knife in his pocket, and demanded money to get to Philadelphia. The victim feared for her safety, so she gave the man $40 and fled northbound on Sixth Ave. The man was identified by the victim at the Sixth Precinct. No knife was found, and police said it was a simulated weapon. Police arrested Franklin Johnson, 36, for felony robbery.
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August 11, 2016
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Another affront in MePA; Florent storefront is fini Gansevoort continued from p. 1
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The iconic former facade of 69 Gansevoor t, above, has been removed. An allegedly similar-looking “faux-cade” will replace it.
August 11, 2016
filling in windows on the rear wall. “It’s a great facade,” Florent Morellet, longtime operator of the eponymous pioneering Meat Market restaurant, said. “One of the best in the neighborhood, and I took great care of it ever since I bought in in 1985.” Some community members are outraged at what they charge were slapdash approvals for unattractive and inappropriate developments. “Does the L.P.C. have no accountability to the community?” asked David Berry, who lives on Horatio St., in an e-mail to The Villager. “I’ve lived here for 43 years, and am watching the slow destruction of my neighborhood. I still can’t believe we lost the battle of ‘Gansevoort Row.’ ” Earlier this summer, the L.P.C. approved a contentious application from Aurora Capital Associates and William Gottlieb Real Estate to raise the heights of some of the buildings on the stretch of Gansevoort St. between Ninth Ave. and Washington St. Two buildings — one with new rooftop additions, the other all new construction — will rise to 62 and 81 feet tall, respectively, even after being chopped down a bit by L.P.C. during its review process. The project was also O.K.’d to skirt pre-existing zoning restrictions, to create around 111,000 square feet of commercial space, much of which sat vacant in recent decades. The prospect of yet more demolition and development in the Meatpacking District and Village has local activists saying they have to monitor L.P.C. even more closely to ensure it adheres to its own mandate. “The permits for the work on the facade of this important building in the
Meatpacking District require ‘reinstallation of the existing signage and face brick’ while repairs and restoration work is being done, as well as some additional signage added,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “It is therefore our expectation that much of those familiar details of the building will be restored and returned when the work is done. This type of work is commonly approved by the commission and can be an important means of keeping landmarked buildings in good condition.” However, Berman said G.V.S.H.P. “will certainly not be shy” in expressing opinions on the reconstruction, and in ensuring that the facsimile — which some will no doubt deride as a “fauxcade” — recalls historical architecture. The permits issued by the L.P.C. reference the building’s designation report as part of the Gansevoort Historic District. The report described it as a “Moderne-style restaurant and apartment building,” and the permit notes that the old “R&L Restaurant” sign had been present since its designation. However, the permits authorize the replacement of this sign. The permits also state that photos of the ongoing restorations must be sent to the commission periodically to ensure that the developers are not violating the conditions of the approval. Meanwhile, DelShah Capital LLC is happy to have acquired the space in 2013, seeing enormous potential for retail use at the spot, which is situated near the bustling southern entrance to the High Line park, as well as the new Whitney Museum of American Art. While the property’s air rights were being secured, they leased the space to
a subsidiary of The Line Group to access income and pay for the $6.5 million loan they originally received from Berkadia Commercial Mortgage to finance the deal. The former two-story building enclosed 2,950 square feet, and the lot has an additional 7,160 square feet classified as air rights. However, the developer reportedly will not be constructing a structure taller than the former building. “Because this is in a historic district, transferring any air rights would be virtually impossible,” Berman noted. Spokespersons for DelShah Capital LLC could not be reached for comment regarding the company’s plans. John Berry, David’s brother, said they walked into the space behind the construction fence this June to discover that the entire building had been demolished. Afterward, David notified G.V.S.H.P. “I was with him that day,” John said. “We observed that Florent was gone.” Although he lives in Hawaii, John is frequently in the city and is spending this summer with his Village sibling. “I used to eat there all the time,” he said of Florent. “What’s the point of landmarking the Meat Market, if they can do this?” As for Morellet, he only noticed what was going on last week when he was riding by on a Citi Bike on his way to the Hudson River Park bike path and noticed the construction shed up around his former restaurant. Morellet is unhappy that the authentic 1949 diner facade that he faithfully maintained through the years has not be preserved. Asked if he thought the new “faux-cade” would look anything like what was there before, he said with a sigh, “We’ll see.” TheVillager.com
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August 11, 2016
Photo by Alex Ellefson
Karen Over ton, executive director of Rec ycle-A-Bic ycle, testif ying at the Depar tment of Sanitation hearing about reforming criteria for derelict bikes.
‘We’re being framed!’ City rolls out revamped junk-bike regs Frames continued from p. 1
rot and rust 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.” The East and West Village are among the Manhattan neighborhoods with the lion’s share of derelict bicycles, a D.S.N.Y. official said at a City Council hearing last year. Karen Overton, executive director of Recycle-A-Bicycle, which sells salvaged bikes out of its storefront at 75 Avenue C, at E. Fifth St., said the city’s approach to this challenge “has historically lacked the element of common sense.” D.S.N.Y. is considering amending the five standards used to determine if a bike is derelict. The changes would require a bike frame only to 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 percent to 50 percent. Other criteria include if the bike is crushed or not usable; and if the handlebars, pedals, fork or frame are bent or damaged. However, Overton urged D.S.N.Y. to further lower the threshold, so that even a single criteria, such as missing wheels, would allow a bike to be classified as derelict. “Unfortunately, the proposed rule changes do not take us as far as needed to fully address this challenge,” she said.
August 11, 2016
Photo by Jane Argodale
Both of these bikes on W. 21st St., bet ween Eighth and Ninth Aves., have a lot of rust, but only one is tagged for removal. Only the Depar tment of Sanitation knows why.
The current regulations regarding derelict bikes were introduced in 2010 to make the standards clearer and easier to enforce. However, D.S.N.Y.’s strict criteria hobbled the agency’s ability to remove, in an efficient way, abandoned bikes at a time when ridership is soaring. A report by WNYC in 2012 found that the city received 429 complaints about derelict bikes over a one-year period. Of those, only 60 bikes were removed. Some of the speakers at this week’s hearing also said the city was missing out on a golden opportunity to give new life to the discarded rides. They urged D.S.N.Y. to implement programs that
would repurpose abandoned bikes for future use. Pio Tsai, a student involved in the New York University bike-share program, which reuses abandoned rides found on campus, testified at the hearing about the program’s success. “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 D.S.N.Y. 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 administer the policy. In a statement, a D.S.N.Y. spokesperson 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 D.S.N.Y. 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. TheVillager.com
READY, SET, SUBSCRIBE! A new “Qwick Kurb” divider on Kenmare St. at Lafayette St. keeps cars from “cutting corners” during turns.
Nolita nightmare spot gets Vision Zero safety upgrade By Tequil a Minsk y
lexible street barriers now divide the east- and westbound lanes on Kenmare St. at Lafayette St. The intersection where westbound traffic turns onto Lafayette St. is in the top 1 percent of the most dangerous crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists in the city. Last year, there were 11 crashes, though luckily no fatalities. The new center-line “Qwick Kurb” keeps vehicles in their lanes, as well as inhibits faster speeds and “cutting corners” during turns. A Department of Transportation street improvement, it’s part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero street safety effort. Other measures to increase crossing safety at the problem intersection include “Leading Pedestrian Intervals,” signals that give pedestrians a head start — a 12-second lead time for walkers crossing Lafayette — replacement of a green light with a flashing yellow arrow to increase driver caution, and refurbished lane markings and crosswalks. Last week, D.O.T. Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, state Senator Daniel Squadron and Councilmember Margaret Chin met at the intersection as D.O.T. released its Vision Zero study on left-turn crashes in the city. “D.O.T.’s data show that crashes occur disproportionately during left turns and cause nearly a third of pedestrian injuries on our streets,” Trottenberg noted. Earlier this year, this corner crossing was the subject of a “Dear Polly Trottenberg” two-and-a-half -minute video by 9-year old Lucas Maxwell, a fourth grader at nearby P.S. 130. In the documentary, which includes both film footage and animation, Lucas urges the commissioner to take action to fix what he dubbed the “Corner of Death.” The video underscored an inTheVillager.com
tersection that was already on D.O.T.’s radar. “Lucas identified a key goal of Vision Zero,” Trottenberg noted, “the need to protect pedestrians and cyclists when vehicles are turning left. In January, Mayor de Blasio announced a new focus on left turns as part of Vision Zero.” Lucas’s video, “Urgent — Imminent Death!” was produced and filmed by his older brother Zachary, and edited by his dad. However, D.O.T.’s evaluation of the intersection led to more dramatic improvements than he suggests in his video — in which he only requests additional signage. To watch the video, got to https://vimeo. com/168269025 Squadron, who is particularly supportive of citizen engagement in government, said, “Lucas and Zachary’s advocacy on Kenmare and Lafayette shows that all New Yorkers — no matter their age — can get involved with government and make positive changes in their communities.”
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Zachar y, left, and Lucas Max well made a video to call attention to the chaotic intersection at Kenmare and Lafayette Sts.
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August 11, 2016
Divining by signs: Activist foresees massive work SIGnS continued from p. 1
have a Sherlock Holmes-style spyglass, she was armed with a post-it note listing how each spray-painted color corresponds with different types of roadwork. “I kept seeing yellow, orange and red everywhere,” she said. “I figured I better get ready for them to rip up the streets.” The colored markings — scribbled all over W Fourth St., Waverly Place and Mercer St. — indicate where the city plans to lay new electric, gas and communication lines in a four-block area east of the park, according to the Department of Design and Construction. The roadwork is part of an ongoing project, slated to wrap up in the summer of 2018, replacing centuryold water mains and antiquated utilities around the park. For residents weary of the endless noise, construction equipment, and traffic disruptions that have overtaken the streets around the park, Goren’s legwork shows how neighbors can recognize where the next phase of the project is about to land. “This is going to mean two more years of multiple projects going on in the community,” Goren lamented. The project began last fall — barely a year after the city completed a $30.6 million, six-year renovation of Washington Square Park that involved moving the fountain 22 feet toward the center of the plaza. Bob Gormley, district manager of Community Board 2, said that although the latest project is going to undoubtedly cause disruptions in the neighborhood, the upgrades are necessary. “I think people recognize they are going to have to grit their teeth and hope it gets completed on time,” he said. He added that D.D.C. had appointed a community liaison to keep the neighborhood informed about the work’s progress. The project hit an unexpected hurdle soon after it launched, when workers discovered two forgotten burial vaults while digging in the street just to the east of the park. The work stalled momentarily while archeologists examined the 19th-century
Photos by Alex Ellefson
Susan Goren is on the case. Markings around Washington Square foretell of a lot of infrastructure work in the pipeline, she assures.
tombs. The project is now back on track and the D.D.C. spokesperson said neighbors will see street improvements — such as new bike lanes, catch basins, manhole covers, traffic lights and street signage — when the work is completed. However, there will be traffic disruption, including detours, while the roads are being dug up. Piles of metal piping and other equipment about to enter the ground appeared last week along Waverly Place and Mercer St. — suggesting the city is preparing to break ground on the streets east of the park. However, Goren said she will surely know when construction is about begin. “White means the work is imminent,” she explained.
Susan Goren’s self-made key to the sidewalk and street symbols.
August 11, 2016
Street work obscuring the Washington Square Arch — for how long?
This one looks like it might be some kind of hazard warning, but is actually a symbol for pending electrical work. 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.
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August 11, 2016
Photos by Lincoln Anderson
Like tr ying to fit a “Cube” in a square hole… “The Alamo” a.k.a. “The Cube” will be put back here once its restoration is complete.
Enjoying a beautiful day in the new A stor Place plaza, which now spor ts tables and umbrellas, cour tesy of the Village Alliance BID.
Remember ‘The Alamo’? … Well, it’s coming back!
orkers dug a square-shaped hole in the pavement on Tuesday morning for the foundation of “The Alamo” a.k.a. “The Cube” on what was formerly Astor Place. The iconic, spinnable sculpture is being restored and is reportedly set to return to its East Village home — which has been redubbed “Alamo Plaza” — near the end of August, though the date keeps changing, according to the Village Alliance business improvement district. “They are starting the foundation for ‘The Cube,’ which will take a week or so,” said William Kelley, the BID’s executive director. “The city is not stating a return date for the sculpture yet, but this foundation work must be done first. We are close!”
The one-block stretch of Astor Place that used to extend between Fourth Ave. and Lafayette St. has been paved over to create a new plaza, as part of the massive $16 million plaza-ification project for the Astor Place / Cooper Square area. To celebrate the grand opening of the whole area’s reconstruction, which will be completed in the fall, the Village Alliance will be presenting a free three-day extravaganza, dubbed the Astor Alive! Festival, from Thurs., Sept. 15, to Sat., Sept. 17. There will be four stages set up between E. Fourth and E. Ninth Sts., featuring a plethora of performance groups — ranging from local theater and arts troupes to cabaret by Joe’s Pub to spoken word and schools — plus Jim Power’s mosaic poles’s dedication, a grand
Looking nor th from the southern end of the new Cooper Square plaza. The plazas feature ex tensive planting beds, along with seating and a welcome wealth of completely car-free space.
August 11, 2016
procession of puppets and much more. There will also be slam poetry, dance lessons and a weeklong puppet workshop open to all. Performance groups will include La MaMa, Joe’s Pub, Bowery Poetry Club, The Public Theater, Theater for the New City, Hetrik-Martin Institute, Standard Sounds, Rod Rodgers Dance Company, Peridance Capezio Center and Danspace Project. All performances will focus on five historical themes of Astor Place, including “Theater for All,” “Alternative Cultures and Radical Politics,” “Thinkers and Writers,” “Immigrant Populations” and “Architectural Frontiers.”
Relaxing on a new stone bench in the Cooper Square par t of the sweeping plaza project. The benches will also be getting arm rails “to delineate seating and prevent people,” like this guy, “from sleeping on them,” according to William Kelley, director of the Village Alliance. TheVillager.com
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August 11, 2016
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August 11, 2016
James Crown, N.Y.U. political science professor
OBITUARY By Albert Amateau
ames Tracy Crown, a professor of political science at New York University for more than 40 years and author of works on American foreign policy, labor union history and the presidency of John F. Kennedy, died on July 27. Diagnosed with cancer more than 10 years ago, James Crown died in hospice care at his home on E. 10th St. a few days before his 89th birthday, according to his nephew, Samuel Crown, of Virginia Beach, Va. Over their 62 years of married life, he and his wife, Bonnie, who survives him, traveled all over the world. In Benares, India, Jim and Bonnie met the late poet Allen Ginsberg, who enlisted the couple’s support for a group of Indian writers known as “The Hungry Generation.” Bonnie, a literary agent, was at the time a director of the Asia Society’s Asian literature program. During a period of tension between India and China, James Crown interviewed both V.K. Krishna Menon, defense minister, and Jawaharlal Nehru, president of India. Friends of John F. Kennedy’s private secretary Evelyn Lincoln, Jim and Bonnie attended J.F.K.’s inauguration. Lincoln gave Jim a tour of the White House and handed him various doodles and handwritten notes that the president had thrown out. Jim recently donated the scraps to the Kennedy Presidential Library, where they will be on display, according to his grandnephew Jeremy Crown. James T. Crown was born in St. Petersburg, Fla., the youngest of five children of Verna and Earl Taylor Crown. His father was a fire chief in St. Petersburg. James, who earned his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Florida, was a member of Students for Democratic Action, which in 1949 urged the university to admit black students. “Their efforts to integrate the university were all above board and public,” said Bill Raiford, a longtime friend of the Crowns. “Jim phoned the governor of Florida and told him what the group wanted to do. The governor told him, ‘You can go straight to hell,’ and hung up,” Raiford said. “In the 62 years that I knew him, I never once saw him angry,” Raiford added. “The South being what it was in those days, we were the targets of a few threats,” recalled Jim’s nephew Samuel Crown. “Uncle Jim was a major figure in my life,” said Samuel. “In my teens he would talk to me about politics, civil rights, things that were happening. He had a soft tone and he was always interested in what you were doing. Jim always wanted to expose us to things TheVillager.com
we might not come across at home: museums, Off Broadway plays when we went to New York, lectures and McSorley’s for our first beer,” Samuel said. In 1950 Jim came to New York to study at N.Y.U. “We have pictures of him in the 1950s with Eleanor Roosevelt,” said his grandnephew Jeremy. James Crown earned his Ph.D in political science in 1956. A year later, he won an award as a post-doctoral Fulbright research professor at Institut d’Etudes Politiques, popularly known as “Sciences Po,” in Paris. He returned to teach at N.Y.U.’s University Heights campus in the Bronx. “I was his student and then his colleague at the Heights campus,” said Martin Schain, a political science professor at N.Y.U. “To me, he embodied the idea of a university as a community of scholars. I was an engineering student at the Heights when I took a political science course with Jim in 1958. It changed the course of my life. I would never have become an academic without him,” said Schain, who organized Jim’s retirement party at N.Y.U. in 1994. Frances Pinter, an international academic publisher in the United Kingdom, was a student of Jim’s during the late 1960s. “I thought I wanted to go to law school, become a politician, possibly a senator, and change the world,” she said. “However, my scholastic record did not match my ambitions. I was only an average student, but Professor Crown saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. “He thought that I would be an ideal candidate for the junior year abroad program. I applied to the London School of Economics because Jim encouraged me to do so. Much to my surprise, L.S.E. came through with an offer. Much later, I asked the admission officer how I’d gotten in. He showed me the recommendation letter from Jim. He trusted Jim’s judgement, which outweighed my less-than-stellar grades,” Pinter said. “I’m sure that if Jim hadn’t sent me off to L.S.E. my life would have been very different,” she added. “I’ve been Jim and Bonnie’s neighbor on E. 10th St. for 30 years and my grandma was their neighbor before that,” said Pam Arnold. “Jim was always ready to engage you in a wide-ranging conversation about almost anything. He knew so many famous people, but it didn’t seem to affect the way he spoke to everybody,” Arnold added. “About a year ago, when they saw which way their life was going” — Bonnie had Parkinson’s — “they began inviting people over for concerts; they knew a lot of musicians. Those gatherings lasted until a few months ago,” Arnold recalled. In addition to Bonnie, James Crown is survived by many nieces, nephews, grand-nephews and grand-nieces. There will be no public services.
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LISTEN EVERY THURSDAY AT 4:45PM ON BrooklynPaper.com/radio August 11, 2016
Photo by Bob Krasner
Kaylyn, from Pennsylvania, celebrated her 22nd bir thday in Union Square with a light-up hula hoop.
Letters to the Editor On the waterfront: Money To The Editor: Re “Pier pressure: Will lawsuit, small boats sink dazzling ‘Diller Island’?” (news article, July 28): I think this statement by Al Butzel sums up the underlying issue: “If someone offers you $100 million, it’s just going through the motions [to have competitive bidding].” Should we allow lots of money to circumvent public processes that are intended to ensure transparency and democratic decision-making? I’m deeply concerned that allowing money to influence public policy (whether through the electoral process or public infrastructure projects) has led our
society to where we are — a true tale of two cities. Shino Tanikawa
Mais, non! Florent is gone To The Editor: Re “Après Florent, le deluge” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Aug. 4): I notified the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation about the demolition of 69 Gansevoort St. The notion that Andrew Berman or anyone else is “monitoring” the “restoration” of
the facade, is laughable! I went into the work site, and there is nothing left of the former building that housed the beloved restaurant Florent. I don’t understand why we fight for landmarking if the designation is not honored. Does the Landmarks Preservation Commission have no accountability to the community? I’ve lived here 43 years, and am watching the slow destruction of my neighborhood. I still can’t believe we lost the battle of “Gansevoort Row.” Now we are embroiled in a battle over two locations on Jane St. — inside the Greenwich Village Historic District! I’m so angry, it’s hard to convey my thoughts. This destruction must stop! David T. Berry
Her cherry amour To The Editor: Re “Coles demo kicks off N.Y.U. project, triggers community concerns” (news article, Aug. 4): N.Y.U. now does own the land in front of the Coles Sports and Recreation Center. This strip of property was purchased from the city in a deal recorded in September 2015 (document No. 2015091601167002) for $6,388,000, including this and other parcels. There are many trees on this site that will be “removed,” in addition to the stands of Kwanzan cherry trees. I am sure N.Y.U. will provide the required compensation per Parks Department rules. But I still mourn the loss of these mature, beautiful, oxygengiving, life-affirming trees that were planted on what was city land. Terri Cude LETTERS continued on p. 16
August 11, 2016
A former Webster Hall barback tries going back
Notebook By Richard Hayden
he marble steps were just as I remembered. White and elegant, they elevated me and my fellow concertgoers into the foyer beneath the glow of a black chandelier. In the lobby a gorgeous hipster sat behind the information desk shooting us a look that didn’t invite questions. My gaze languished on her tattoos for a moment before I made my way toward the music. Walking through large doors and onto the dancefloor of the Marlin Room — named for the stuffed swordfish hanging above the bar — the sound went from a muffle to a roar. After 16 years I was back at Webster Hall. In 2000 I worked as a barback at the nightclub, at 125 E. 11th St., for six months. As an awkward 20-year-old photography student from Westchester who was into bands like the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, I longed to escape the suburbs. A hip Downtown life was what I wanted, so when a 6-foot-5 drag queen in a yellow biker jacket greeted me the night I applied, this job seemed like my ticket into the glamorous East Village bohemian scene. The manager was enthusiastic and hired me on the spot. We soon developed a great rapport. Ten years my senior, he dated one of the club’s dancers and regaled me with stories of his days as a punk hanging out at CBGB’s in the early 1980s. I thought nothing could have been cooler. The old building was majestic and its history was woven into the fabric of the Village. Built in 1886, it had gone through numerous incarnations that included a speakeasy, a recording studio and a hard-rock venue named The Ritz. In 1992 the space was rechristened Webster Hall and quickly became one of the city’s hot spots. My manager claimed that Leonardo DiCaprio had once been a regular and liked a particular corner of the main room since it afforded him privacy. On slow nights, I dreamed of sneaking up to Leo’s spot with one of the dancers. In New York’s fickle nightlife scene, it’s hard to stay on top for long. Venues go through a hot period before fading out. In 2000 I thought the place would be like Studio 54 but quickly realized it had lost its sparkle. Far from being a hotbed of celebrity activity, the only famous person I ever saw there was Geraldo Rivera. Barbacks were at the bottom of the totem pole; so instead of dancing through beautiful people to deliver liquor to the bar, most of my time was spent cleaning up messes that drunk revelers left behind. Eighteen-and-over nights were the worst because the underage kids were like baby cobras. Not knowing their limits, TheVillager.com
they would mix alcohol and ecstasy before coming in and spew vomit as if it was venom. Finding myself covered in stale beer and smelling like an ashtray at the end of each shift, it was anything but the glamorous life that I had imagined. My biggest complaint was the terrible music. There were four floors — techno, pop, hip hop and salsa. Each had a resident DJ who spun the same set every night. In the Marlin Room, soggy ’80s and ’90s pop songs brought out a crowd that was willing to overpay for a drink as long as they met someone before last call. Independent acts were almost never booked and it was a waste to see such a magnificent space utilized so uninspiringly. After a summer of watching
In 2000, I thought Webster Hall would be like Studio 54, but it had lost its sparkle.
greasy drunk people fall all over each other, I was over it. I had not hooked up with a single woman, much less one of the club’s dancers. On a hot Friday in August they fired my manager, so I quit right then and there. I left Webster Hall that evening feeling like I was born too late. The speakeasy, masquerade balls and delirious rock concerts were gone and would seemingly never return. The fading away was complete. So, now as a married man, college graduate and a Navy veteran living in Queens whose party days were over, it was with great curiosity that I recently went back for a show. Last month, I was there to see Wolfmother, a bluesy Australian rock band that dazzled me at Coachella in 2006. During my journey up the marble steps, I was struck by how clean everything looked. The ratty, used-up feeling that the place exuded 16 years earlier was gone. The Marlin Room had been fitted with a beautiful new bar and was filled with good-looking people. The adjacent room had been redone, too. Sporting a tiki theme and a mini pizza parlor, this laid-back lounge was a nice counterbalance to the booming noise beside it. What most impressed me this time, though, was the music. After playing the previous evening with Guns N’ Roses,
Photo by Eva Rinaldi
Andrew Stockdale and Wolfmother really rocked Webster Hall on July 15 with the kind good music and positive vibe that the author felt were so sorely lacking when he worked there as a barback in 2000.
Photo by Richard Hayden
Wolfmother was the main attraction at Webster Hall on July 15. If their Aussie blues wasn’t enough real for you, there was also augmented reality, as in a wild Pokemon to be captured inside for Pokemon Go players.
Wolfmother came out and absolutely destroyed it. Lead singer and guitarist Andrew Stockdale bounced around the stage and manipulated the dance floor with the power of his voice. The crowd was hot and perspiring in the summer heat, but, unlike in 2000, this time we were grinding it out to a band worthy of the space. The sound tickled us in that spot where skin meets sweat, and I let the waves roll me along. It was ecstasy to finally be there and hearing great music. I left the show with a headache for all the right reasons. The nightclub had come a long way from my days as a barback. The vibes were positive and people were genuinely
having a good time. It had evolved beyond the uninspiring meat market that I remember. In the coming weeks and months, the hip artists Peaches, Cannibal Corpse and Corrine Bailey Rae all had concerts booked, and I was sure they would bring a similar energy. Along with Wolfmother, this eclectic lineup is proof that they have finally hired a booking agent with great taste who recognizes the venue’s potential. The club is now everything that I had wanted it to be when I applied for the job as a 20-year-old kid. Back then I thought I was born too late for Webster Hall. Now I realized I was born too early. August 11, 2016
China Institute is new star in FiDi cultural mix
global village By Bill Weinberg
n a sign of Manhattan’s shifting cultural center of gravity, the China Institute has just moved from its longtime Midtown location to Rector St., just blocks away from the World Trade Center site. The new office-tower digs may be a bit more sterile than the stately old mansion on 65th St., but the institute had “outgrown” its old home, said the organization’s president, James Heimowitz. “We’ve gone from 9,000 to 52,000 square feet, with state-of-the-art classrooms and galleries,” he said. An auditorium and exhibition space for pop-up art exhibits on the first floor are still being prepared. The classrooms on the second floor are already hosting events. Prominently placed in Heimowitz’s office is a bust of Hu Shih — the pioneering scholar and statesman, modernizer in education and literature, and the first Chinese national to receive a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He co-founded the China Institute with the American philosopher John Dewey and others in 1926. “The first mission was to help Chinese be more successful in academia in the United States, to provide a place to acclimatize,” said Heimowitz. “Chinese students at that time were excluded from social events and dorms, so the institute was a place to meet
Collection of Nanking Museum
A detail from “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove and Rong Qiqi,” a rubbing of an impressed-brick mural from the Southern Dynasties period (420-589 CE). This piece will be included in the China Institute’s upcoming exhibit “Ar t in a Time of Chaos: Master works From Six Dynasties China.”
and socialize.” The China Institute was actually first launched with Boxer Indemnity funds — reparations that the Chinese government was made to pay to foreign powers after the 1899-1901 Boxer Rebellion, but which the U.S. later allowed to be used for the education of Chinese in this country. The institute was given the Frederick S. Lee House at 125 E. 65th St. by publishing magnate Henry Luce in 1944. That same year, it was accredited as a nonprofit educational institution by the New York State Board of Regents. Today the mission is a little different —
and aimed more at Americans than Chinese resident scholars and expats. “China and the U.S. are the two most important countries on the planet for the coming time,” Heimowitz explained, describing a central part of the new mission being to “help Americans be more comfortable with China,” through programs in language, culture art and history. The institute is currently engaged in “professional development” of public school programs with the New York City Department of Education. A recent program the institute helped develop around the children’s book “We All Live in the Forbidden City,” by Chiu Kwong-chiu, about life in imperial China, was used in cities across the U.S. and in Canada. An upcoming exhibit at the new gallery will feature archeological treasures from the Six Dynasties period (roughly 220-590 CE). Lunar New Year celebrations at the institute last year featured the actor Liu Xiao Ling Tong, famous in China for playing the role of the Monkey God in the 1980s TV series based on the Ming dynasty epic, “Journey to the West.” On a more politically sensitive note, the institute this May marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution with film and discussion. But criticism of this period of chaos and strife — even if it was unleashed at the whim of Chairman Mao — is permissible in contemporary China. Last September, the institute hosted a dinner presentation for China’s new president, Xi Jinping, in Seattle. Heimowitz stated clearly that the institute seeks to present Chinese perspectives in “unadulterated
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Letters continued from p. 14
Mega-project, mega-anger To The Editor: Re “Coles demo kicks off N.Y.U. project, triggers community concerns” (news article, Aug. 4): Chin and Quinn did us in, and so did all the other councilmembers who voted with them against us. Now you want my vote for your re-election for higher office? Please know that I and many others will not vote for those who set in motion the destruction of our neighborhood and impacted our lives forever. Judith Chazen Walsh
Supersized opposition To The Editor: Re “Coles demo kicks off N.Y.U. project, triggers community concerns” (news article, Aug. 4): Most of Councilmember Margaret Chin’s district is in Chinatown, where the N.Y.U. development was not an issue. This freed her to ignore the vast majority of her constituents in Greenwich Village, despite their numbers and intensity.
August 11, 2016
Anyone who calls that opposition “small” is either grossly misinformed or — more likely — churning out disinformation on behalf of N.Y.U. Every public hearing on the project was packed to overflowing; and N.Y.U.’s own faculty was also overwhelmingly opposed, with resolutions passed against the Sexton plan by 39 schools and departments, most of them unanimous or nearly so. These included the Stern Business School, which voted 52-3 against the plan, and the Economics Department, which was unanimously against the project. While most of Greenwich Village, and N.Y.U.’s faculty, opposed (and still oppose) the Sexton plan, it has the strong support of N.Y.U.’s trustees — and, therefore, Mayor de Blasio’s administration (a body closely tied to N.Y.U.). What’s actually quite “small,” then, is not the opposition to this development, but the support for it. Mark Crispin Miller
One view on Village View To The Editor: Re “Village View is looking at exit from affordable co-op housing program” (news article, Aug.
and direct form,” as an alternative to “news through a Western lens.” He added: “Let people decide for themselves.” “Through revolutions, liberations, cultural revolutions, all of it — we’re still here promoting cultural understanding between the U.S. and China,” he summed up. The Six Dynasties exhibit — with relics on loan from museums in Nanjing and Shanxi — is being curated by Willow Weilan Hai, the institute’s gallery director. She was trained as an archeologist at Nanjing University — among the first generation of Chinese archeologists when academic life resumed after the end of the Cultural Revolution. She participated in excavation of a Neolithic site on the Yangtze River before coming to New York in the late 1980s. “The Six Dynasties were a chaotic period, but they saw intellectual achievements in art, literature and music that are still important to today,” she said, taking obvious pride in the new gallery’s inaugural exhibit, opening Sept. 30. By then, the institute’s permanent entrance at 100 Washington St. should be open — just around the corner from the 40 Rector St. entrance now being used while the ground-floor galleries are prepared. “We are building a new cultural center for New York,” she said, pointing to the Financial District’s recent emergence as a museum district. China Institute is now the third such entry, after the 9/11 museum and the Smithsonian-affiliated National Museum of the American Indian in the old Customs House on Bowling Green. Hai said, with a laugh: “We’re going to build up something new and challenge Midtown.”
4): Village View has fulfilled its Mitchell Lama obligations and the board of directors fiduciary duty is to its current not prospective shareholders. Mitchell Lama was designed as a way to stabilize marginal areas through the creation of middle-income housing. Its sunset provisions — the ability to opt out — were a necessary element in the plan. Developers would not have participated without the ability to withdraw at a later date. The program worked as designed. The East Village is an economically viable and an attractive place to live, as evidenced by the high real estate prices it commands. Village View residents stuck it out when the neighborhood was dangerous and no one in their right mind wanted to live here. So spare me the hypocritical sophism by the jealous. Affordable housing is City Hall’s responsibility not the residents of Village View. Dan Sexton E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 212-2292790 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. TheVillager.com
Street Theater tour ioroughs into our consciousness TNC marks 40 years of serious and zany community theater BY TRAV S.D.
othing’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 more than a little Bertolt Brecht. For “Election Selection, or You Bet!” — through Sept. 18. the past four decades, this unicorn of a show, which is performed in parks and blocked-off streets in all five boroughs, a frequent collaborator with Bread and has been the brainchild of TNC’s artistic Puppet Theater. The new play, titled director, Crystal Field, who writes and “The Expressway,” was designed to protest Robert Moses’ controversial plan to directs every edition. According to Field, who spoke build an elevated highway that would with this publication just days before cut through Little Italy. It was the “Election Selection” had its debut, the first production of the Public Theater, Street Theater can be traced back to and presented outside their building 1971, when poet/playwright/architect/ on Lafayette St. The production had activist Robert Nichols approached her 35 actors and a breakaway stage that to direct a piece which he had writ- was designed to fall apart when a car ten. Nichols was co-founder of Judson rammed into it. Her collaborations with Nichols Poets’ Theater, architect of the 1969 redesign of Washington Square Park’s became annual summer affairs. But, playground, and, since the early 1960s, Field said, “After a few years he decided TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY JULIA SLAFF
TNC’s 40th annual Street Theater musical — tours the five boroughs
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 started 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 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 & STREET THEATER continued on p. 18 August 11, 2016
STREET THEATER continued from p. 17
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 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
August 11, 2016
PHOTO BY JULIA SLAFF
Puppetry and masks are part and parcel of TNC’s summertime Street Theater productions.
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 near-death 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. This year’s Street Theater stands in welcome contrast to the withering negativity and anger we encounter daily in
PHOTO BY TIM ESTEVES
The story of our lives: “Election Selection” showcases a succession of people and events responsible for changing the American landscape.
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 212254-1109. TheVillager.com
Gunning for FringeNYC Alongside ample frivolity, fest delves into timely topics BY DAVID KENNERLEY
he 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, 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
PHOTO BY JOHN MOORE
In “Waiting for Obama,” Brett Aune (left) and Chris Kendall are Coloradans convinced the president is coming for their guns.
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 FRINGE continued on p. 20
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, 2016
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. 19
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. “Machine Gun America,” Joseph Huff-Hannon has taken a sharply different tack, crafting a scathing satire about the rise of gun violence in America. And
August 11, 2016
it’s a campy, over-the-top, 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 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 boy-meets-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 shoot-
ing 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. TheVillager.com
Hot Town The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Summer in the City’ turns 50 BY JIM MELLOAN
hen 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 TheVillager.com
Neil Young; Sebastian also 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 Woody Allen did as a
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
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, 2016
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August 11, 2016
Come up and see Mae West ‘Jeff’ event By Michael Ossorguine
ae West is more renowned for her movies and her bawdy double entendres than her legal troubles at the old Jefferson Market Library. But it is a little-known fact that she was tried and convicted in the Village courthouse in 1927, when today’s Jefferson Market Garden was a women’s prison. Over the years, playwright and Mae West enthusiast LindaAnn Loschiavo fought to have this part of West’s story remembered in the historic building, where she is hosting a birthday celebration for the silver-screen actress on Aug. 17. For West’s annual birthday remembrance, Loschiavo will be hosting 75 people — the capacity of the space she will use — for a culturally enriching experience of 1920s New York. While some people come for the social atmosphere, Loschiavo often turns the event into an impromptu history lesson on West, and the other pioneering actresses who made a name for themselves in 20th-century New York, as well as Hollywood. Loschiavo said she would definitely speak about Texas Guinan, who was one of the first female movie stars, and was present at West’s trial. “People come for the entertainment and leave finding they know so much more about cultural history,” Loschiavo said. The W. Ninth St. historian and scribe also penned the original play “Courting Mae West” in 2003, which was a comedy meant to accurately portray the bold and avant-garde actor in the 1920s and ’30s, when she countered bad reviews by generating even more controversy. In
Photo courtesy LindaAnn Loschiavo
At a per formance of “Cour ting Mae West,” in 2008, from left, Yvonne Sayers as Mae West, with the late T V talk-show legend Joe Franklin and the work’s author, LindaAnn Loschiavo.
order to salvage her career, West wrote and performed in back-to-back Broadway box office hits while intentionally being arrested for allowing openly gay actors to perform in her plays. At a time when actors’ labor unions, such as Actors Equity, which was established in New York City in 1913, refused to represent gay thespians, such actions challenged the social order in admittedly “dangerous” ways. “Courting Mae West” follows the actor’s arrest following the performance of “Sex,” a play that was branded as lewd material in a retroactive law, and resulted in West spending nine days in prison in 1927. “She was an early freedom fighter,” Loschiavo said. She noted that, thanks to her efforts, there is now a Mae West Room in the turreted library building, at Sixth Ave. and W. 10th St.
West went on to dazzle audiences in countless motion pictures, such as “I’m No Angel,” which helped save Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy. Other than hearing speakers, attendees at the Mae West party will be able to view photos of New York City taken in the early 20th century, including one of Seventh Ave. in 1907, when it was still a dirt road — sometimes used for horse racing — with a young Mae West walking across the unpaved thoroughfare. According to Loschiavo, some participants have also received awards in past years, including a complimentary limousine ride. The event will begin at 6 p.m., and last for two hours. For more information about Mae West’s adventures in New York City, go to Loschiavo’s blog at http://maewest.blogspot.com.
South St. art will be decorative and protective By Michael Ossorguine
he bike lane along the Lower East Side waterfront in the shadow of the F.D.R. viaduct could soon be looking a bit brighter. State Senator Daniel Squadron has been facilitating meetings with the Hester Street Collaborative and the Department of Transportation, and recently announced that a temporary public art installment is coming to the bike lane along the section of South St. between Rutgers and Montgomery Sts. The project’s genesis was at a public envisioning meeting last August attended by the Hester Street Collaborative, D.O.T. and Community Board 3. There was a request for proposals [R.F.P.] selection process, followed by months of review by the collaborative team. In the end, designs by artists Samuel Holleran and Chat Travieso were chosen. C.B. 3’s Transportation and Public Safety Committee unanimously supported
August 11, 2016
A rendering of winning design.
the final proposal on July 12. “The selected proposal was rated the highest, but also was most feasible as far as the site goes, regarding safety and the project being a community installation,” Dylan House, of the Hester Street Collaborative, said. Completion is slated for the middle of this month.
The concrete median that will border the bike lane and support the art was funded by D.O.T., while the art is being paid for by federal grants obtained by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler. The project’s budget is $12,000. The art will also be a traffic safety measure, separating pedestrians and cyclists from vehicles on South St. In addition, the project ties in to the ongoing transformation of Piers 35 and 42 into new parks. The art will be brightly colored “geometric forms,” raised a few feet off the ground. Neighborhood volunteers and other participants are the actual designers of each artistic shape, made of wood. Each shape’s size will be based on how long the given resident has lived in the neighborhood. Each shape will be mounted at the same height as its creator. The installation is currently slated to be displayed for only 11 months, though there are discussions about keeping it longer. TheVillager.com
One-stop shop for accessibility, mobility info By Tequil a Minsk y
he area in front of the Morton Williams supermarket at Bleecker St. and LaGuardia Place was the venue for the Village’s first-ever Accessibility and Resources Day on Mon., July 11. Judith Walsh, co-executive director of the Washington Square Village Tenants Association, was concerned that some people in the community were having issues with Access-A-Ride similar to those she had experienced. Since state Senator Hoylman had worked with Walsh on transportation issues, she enlisted him as a co-sponsor for the information fair, along with state Senator Daniel Squadron. All afternoon, visitors stopped by at the tables set up on the sidewalk, manned by representatives of the politicians, who provided information and resource guides. Hoylman and Squadron attended the fair, as did Borough President Gale Brewer and Assemblymember Deboroh Glick. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Paratransit supplied information on Access-A-Ride and reduced-fare senior MetroCards. Hoylman’s staff offered information on SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) and DRIE (Disability Rent Increase Exemption), plus healthcare proxy guides. Those who missed the fair can call his office, at 212-
Photo by Tequila Minsky
At the Accessibility and Resources Day, Auxilliar y Officer Vera Reale gave the 411 to, from left, District Leader Terri Cude, state Senator Brad Hoylman and A ssemblymember Deborah Glick.
633-8052, to get the informational materials. Three nurses from Visiting Neighbors provided free blood pressure screenings and health-related information. Some seniors who felt that they did not need Visiting Neighbors’ services volunteered instead to visit and help those who do. Martin Baranski, Sixth Precinct community affairs officer, handed out pamphlets and advice on safety and avoiding
scams — especially those that target seniors. Fueled by snacks, healthy and otherwise, and also a lunch of couscous and chicken donated by Le Souk restaurant across the street, the informative though informal fair provided Villagers opportunities to voice their concerns to the politicians, all of whom pledged to offer help where needed. Transportation, particularly the bus
routes — the M5 (which no longer turns west from Broadway onto Houston St.) and M1 (discontinued) — were of concern to many. Hoylman spoke with constituents mainly about Access-A-Ride, especially about ideas for making reimbursements easier if people choose to simply take a cab instead of using the regular service. Anne Hearn and Judy Magida, W.S.V.T.A. co-executive directors, joined Walsh in manning the association’s table. They were asking people to sign two petitions, one demanding the return of the M5 bus turn-around at Houston St., and another asking New York University’s new president to pause and learn more about the N.Y.U. 2031 plan and its impact on the community before starting construction. Other co-sponsors of the event included the Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association (BAMRA) and 505 LaGuardia Place, as well as Community Board 2. Four members of C.B. 2 were on hand, including Shirley Secunda, Lois Rakoff and Erik Coler, along with District Leader Terri Cude, who was a major organizer of the event. More than 100 Villagers left with information on vital programs for seniors. “We served a lot of people today,” Walsh said afterward. “It was a good thing. I saw neighbors who really needed information get it.”
Senior workouts are going swimmingly at Dapolito By Tequil a Minsk y
hen water aerobics instructor Gar Mint Huang stands sideways at the pool, he’s so lean you might barely see him. But, there is no mistaking his engagement with the students — who range from age 65 to 90 — who peer up for direction from the dappled waters under the Keith Haring mural. “He’s great!” is the repeated chorus from his devotees at the Dapolito Recreation Center senior swim, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. Not only is Huang, 23, an instructor who the seniors kvell about, he is a son of the hood. “I grew up on Delancey near the Willamsburg Bridge and went to P.S. 130 on Baxter St.,” said this water-exercise motivator. He is teaching seniors for the first time, and his caring enthusiasm for helping them exercise is a talent. He received some training in this area from the Red Cross and he did research on his own — on exercises for adults and seniors — on the Internet. At the first class, he was able to assess likes and dislikes. He sometimes hears, “This is really good,” and then explains why they’re doing a particular exercise and what muscle to use. “I try to adjust to what they like,” he TheVillager.com
Photo by Tequila Minsky
Water aerobic s instructor Gar Mint Huang, left, leading seniors in an exercise class, has been making a splash at the Tony Dapolito pool.
said. “Yes, they’re seniors, but it doesn’t need to restrict them from exercising. He’ll help with technique — a flutter kick is from the hips, not the knees. He’ll adjust exercises for individual physical issues. One woman had trouble getting her feet up for the flutter kick and he supported her with styrofoam water noodles. Village resident Mary-Claire Charba, an actress and mixed-media artist who noticed the class while she was swimming laps at the other end of the pool, decided to participate because “it looked interesting.”
“I’m taking it for the rest of the summer,” she said, commenting on how it was really muscle strengthening. “He stresses keeping your head up. When I leave, I feel my alignment.” Before the class, Huang sets up an array of exercise equipment poolside, including paddleboards, styrofoam water weights and colorful noodles. He does his exercises in sets and cheers the students on with encouragement: “They love that,” he said. For him, it feels good to know they’re getting a good work-
out. Word of the Dapolito classes has spread Uptown and a few Brooklyn women even take the A train for his water workouts. “This is my best time of the day — I look forward to taking the aerobics classes,” one of his senior minnows said. Howard Saldinger, 71, who also uses the Clarkson St. recreation center’s gym to work out, is another fan. “He’s wonderful! He changes the exercises and the order — the classes are not repetitive,” Saldinger said. Huang holds the requisite Water Safety Instructor license, has CPR training and also has a Lifeguard Management certificate. In his fourth summer working for the city’s Parks Department, always at Dapolito, he is also the director of its day camp. Huang studied psychology for four years at Hunter, after which he decided he really wanted to work with kids. He transferred to SUNY Genovese where he is currently studying childhood education for special needs; he knows that everybody learns in different ways. Summing up his senior aerobics class, he said, “I like helping people, I get joy out of it.” Sadly, for his students, his last day at the South Village pool is Fri., Aug. 26, when he’s off, back to school. August 11, 2016
August 11, 2016
August 11, 2016