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October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Going Toe to Toe

With Your Landlord 04 NYC Driverless Cars — When, Not If

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October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Midtown East Rezoning Hearing Highlights Key Unanswered Questions

NYC DEPARTMENT OF CITY PLANNING

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

BY JACKSON CHEN

D

uring the first public hearing on the proposed Midtown East rezoning, held September 22, elected officials, developers, landmarked building owners, and preservation advocates all voiced eagerness for the Department of City Planning to fill in the major blanks in the plan. The DCP filed the Midtown East rezoning draft scope of work, which lays out major areas of focus for the impending environmental impact review, on August 22. The proposed rezoning would cover most of the blocks between East 39th and East 57th Streets, from Fifth Avenue to Third, with the district extending east to Second Avenue between East 42nd and East 43rd Streets. The rezoning is aimed at promoting new office building construction while providing resources to the many landmarked institutions the district is home to. In its draft scope, the DCP mapped out maximum achievable floor-to-area ratios (FARs) — calculated by dividing the total floor space in a building by the square footage of the property on which it sits — of between 18 and 27, depending on the location within the district. Landmarked buildings have the right to sell development air rights to those constructing office towers within the district who wish to exceed the base FAR for their location. The DCP’s proposal drew heavily from a report ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

JACKSON CHEN

Park Avenue, looking north from East 51st Street.

issued late last year by the East Midtown Steering Committee, which was co-chaired by Borough President Gale Brewer and East Side City Councilmember Dan Garodnick. “I think the rezoning has the potential to not only ensure the future of a crucial part of our city,” Brewer said at the hearing, “but also to serve as an example of successful, engaged, community-based planning.” Brewer said the DCP draft stayed true to the spirit of the Steering Committee recommendations issued last October, but she voiced several suggestions for the process moving forward. The DCP should, in the borough president’s view, include the east side of Third Avenue as part of the scope of work since it could serve as a transitional zone between the commercial character of the rezoning district and the residential neighborhoods to the east. Garodnick seconded that proposal, noting the impact the rezoning will have on nearby residential communities. Both Garodnick and Brewer also urged the DCP to incorporate incentives for developers to include open spaces as part of their construction plans. Garodnick noted that the Steering Committee report had recommended giving developers a FAR bonus of 2 if a privately owned public space, or POPS, was created as part of a new construction project. Many of those who spoke during the public hearing noted that the DCP still has work to do

in fine-tuning its draft proposal. Because the department has yet to complete an appraisal of the transferrable development rights from landmarked buildings in the district, it has not laid out a specific process by which owners of these institutions can sell those rights to developers. Nor has the assessment that the city will place on those transactions to fill the coffers of a Public Realm Improvement Fund yet been specified. The unanswered questions have left preservationists like Andrea Goldwyn, the public policy director for the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which was part of last year’s Steering Committee, with many concerns. She explained that without clear guidelines on how development rights can transferred, owners of landmarked buildings remain in the dark about whether these transactions are financially feasible. “We don’t know what this assessment is going to be, and it could have a big impact on whether the landmarks will be able to do the transfers,” Goldwyn said. “That’s a piece of information that the city didn’t have in the scoping documents.” The conservancy would like to see the lowest possible assessments in order to guarantee that landmarks get the most out of the transactions and are able to fund needed restoration and maintenance of their historic buildings. In a joint statement, the Archdiocese of New York and the trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

c REZONE, continued on p.16 3


Going Toe to Toe

With Your Landlord BY JACKSON CHEN

H

aving mounted five flights of stairs, you fumble for the keys to your apartment. But before you’re able to enter your personal sanctuary, a legal notice with the jarring bold words “NOTICE OF EVICTION” is what welcomes you home. You’re instantly shaken out of your after -work mellow and dropped into a place of panic. With no idea what to do next, you’re left only with the fear you’ll be kicked out of your home in the next few days. Yo u ’ r e n o t a l o n e . T e n a n t s throughout the city, especially but not exclusively those of low income, find themselves in Housing Court, fighting over eviction notices, disputes about unpaid rents, and landlord-initiated disruptions. In 2016 to date, more than 60,000 Housing Court judgments have been rendered, according to the New York City Housing Court’s statistics. The eviction notice may or may not clue you in to the next steps required. Once you figure out that you need to head to Housing Court — at either 111 Centre Street downtown or 170 East 121st Street in Harlem — you’ll find yourself in an arena where landlords and their legal representatives have the home court advantage, according to Manhattan tenants who have gone through the process. Those with business in the Centre Street Housing Court are directed to Room 225, which has a hanging sign “landlords and tenants.” The faces of tenants inside carry looks ranging from distress to weariness, while the attorneys who trickle in greet the court staff

4

behind the counter with familiarity, warmth, even enthusiasm. The Housing Court is about as welcoming as a supermarket’s self-checkout aisle, where you have a vague understanding of where to go but no clear idea of how it all works. The clues can be found in a slow-progressing TV slideshow or among the plethora of fliers in the “Forms and Information” section. It’s not uncommon to see families whose native language is not English struggling to figure out the documents before them. Those dressed for work mix in with elderly people, some of them with walkers or canes. The longest line is for “Self Represented Answers.” When you’ve figured out what information you need to present to court staffers, you’ll receive a slip and be told to wait your turn on a bench. When your name is finally called, you are either summoned into the courtroom or informed of the day you must report back to the court. When you do make it into the courtroom, you may feel anxious and alone — and will likely face an attorney representing your landlord who enjoys a rapport with court staffers. As a layperson, you must decipher the legal language being used as you try to explain your case to the judge and defend yourself and your right to a home. Your opponent is a lawyer well versed in the city’s housing laws. “I was scared shitless,” said West Harlem resident Rochelle Thompson of her first appearance in Housing Court. A professional vocalist and the self-styled First Lady of Jazz, Thompson has found herself there for cases every year since 2011. In the worst instance,

c

HOUSING COURT, continued on p.20

JACKSON CHEN

Rochelle Thompson, in her West Harlem apartment, goes through the extensive documentation she has compiled over the past five years to protect herself against her landlord’s determined efforts to get her out of the building.

JACKSON CHEN

Sandra Johnson outside of her East Harlem apartment, which still bears signs of plastic taped up on her doorframe to keep out dust from renovations she believes her landlord is carrying out illegally in her building.

October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Garodnick Pushes Rent Freeze Program for Eligible Seniors, Disabled Tenants BY JACKSON CHEN

Despite rising rents being a common complaint in Manhattan, Garodnick said his Council district has “an unusually high number of people” who fit the bill, but have not enrolled. “There is a shockingly high number of East Side residents who are eligible for this program but are not taking advantage of it,” the councilmember said. “We want to correct that.” According a Department of Finance report from 2014, the Upper East Side falls within the agency’s top 10 under -enrolled neighborhoods, with 1,434 households signed up but 2,316 that are eligible but not enrolled. “Our Rent Freeze program is a top priority for our agency and for the city,” Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha said in a written statement. “We are committed to making this exemption available to every senior citizen and disabled person who is eligible.” In Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village alone, where the coun-

D

uring the month of October, City Councilmember Dan Garodnick is partnering with the Department of Finance to help as many East Siders as possible get a rent freeze on their apartments through two little-known city programs. The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) are two options through the city’s Rent Freeze program where tenants have their rent costs frozen and landlords receive tax credits for any allowable increase they could otherwise levy. The SCRIE and DRIE programs apply to residents of rent-stabilized, rent-controlled, and Mitchell-Lama buildings making no more than $50,000 annually who spend more than a third of their monthly income on rent. For SCRIE, residents must be at least 62 years old, while DRIE requires tenants to be at least 18 and have a qualifying disability.

NYC DEPARTMENT OF CITY PLANNING

City Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha announce a month-long drive in October to enroll East Siders in two rent freeze programs available for seniors and disabled tenants.

cilmember announced the push, the Department of Finance estimates there are roughly 800 eligible households that aren’t enrolled in either program. To address the low enrollment numbers, Garodnick teamed up with the city’s finance department and community institutions to schedule sign-up events.

The East Side effort kicked off at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center at 449 East 14th Street on October 4 and will continue at that location on October 6, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and October 7, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

c RENT FREEZE, continued on p.13

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Driverless Cars in Manhattan a “When,” Not an “If,” Experts Say BY JACKSON CHEN

A

s driverless vehicles have become more a reality than a sci-fi story, the borough president facing the city’s thorniest congestion challenges is pushing discussion about the many gray areas raised by a monumental change that is surely coming. During a September 27 driverless vehicle panel hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the German car manufacturer Audi stated that it is roughly two years away from introducing a vehicle that can drive autonomously on interstate highways up to 25 miles per hour. Autonomous vehicle technology is also being tested throughout country by other major players, with the popular ridesharing app Uber’s self-driving fleet of cars now experimenting in Pittsburgh, Google’s self-driving car project underway in California, and Tesla’s autopilot model being tested on highways. For Brewer’s panel, a prototype version of a next-generation Audi A7 fully capable of driving on freeways by itself sat parked outside the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building downtown. Even as Brad Stertz, Audi’s director of government affairs, acknowledged that being able to drive hands-free in a traffic jam isn’t “that exciting,” he said the widespread progress on prototype development of the technology has grabbed the attention of the American public and is propelling the conversation. On September 19, the US Department of Transportation released guidelines — including a 15-point set of safety standards and regulations that it urged states to refine to meet specific traffic conditions in their localities — that broadly embraced the advent of self-driving cars. “One of the points we want to make with this is it’s essential to get consumers and drivers to under-

6

JACKSON CHEN

Audi’s A7 driverless prototype parked outside the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building.

stand what the technology is and not be afraid of it,” Stertz said. The A7 prototype, which dazzled even New Yorkers who only got the chance to sit in the front seat while it was parked, was developed in 2012, according to Spencer Matthews, the industry and government relations analyst for Volkswagen Group, Audi’s parent company. The vehicle, he explained, is equipped with about 20 different sensors that can absorb external information and translate it into an action within milliseconds — much faster than any human ever could. While the A7 could drive autonomously on freeways, the frequently congested streets of Manhattan present unique physical challenges — and raise legal questions, as well. With Audi’s technology parked right outside, Brewer said the questions surrounding autonomous vehicles don’t start with “if” anymore, but with “how” and “when.” The borough president is eager to learn more herself, even while seeing a need to educate everyday

New Yorkers about the possible impacts the technology would have on Manhattan’s infrastructure, its labor force, and its traffic regulations. Industry experts are needed to inform that discussion, she said. At the city’s Department of Transportation, the internal conversation began roughly a year ago, and the agency now wants to join that to the national discussion of how to move forward. “The ultimate test for autonomous vehicles will be whether or not they can effectively navigate cities like New York,” Will Carry, the DOT’s senior director for special projects, said. “So we really feel like we should be partners in [the national] discussion.” For several of the panelists, Manhattan serves as a unique stress test for the new vehicles because of the obstacles its clogged street grid provides, with cars in transit joined by a glut of pedestrians, increasing numbers of bicyclists, and, of course, the ubiquitous double-parked cars.

Experts raised a variety of concer ns — some of which were contradictory, a sign of just how much is unknowable at this stage. Sarah Kaufman, the assistant director for technology programming at the New York University Rudin Center for Transportation, explained that most autonomous vehicles are programmed to not come within three feet of pedestrians. “Once our pedestrians realize these cars are programmed to stop when they cross the streets, there will be a jaywalking paradise and these cars will never get anywhere,’ she warned, citing the likely impact “pretty much anywhere in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.” She added that driverless cars could result in unanticipated consequences, like residents beginning to move farther out from the city’s center because of the ease of commuting on highways.

c DRIVERLESS, continued on p.7

October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


JACKSON CHEN

Borough President Gale Brewer introduces a panel on driverless vehicles that included Audi’s Brad Stertz, Sarah Kaufman from NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation, the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s Jeff Garber, Will Carry from the city Department of Transportation, and (at r.) Johana Bhuiyan, the panel moderator and Recode.net’s senior transportation editor.

c DRIVERLESS, from p.6 Sam Schwartz, the city’s traffic commissioner in the 1980s and a widely respected transportation engineering consultant, said that autonomous vehicles could also encourage more people to use cars and reverse the recent healthy trend in people walking and cycling to their to destinations. “Inactivity kills four or five times more people than car crashes kill,” Schwartz said. “Even if autonomous vehicles knock down the number of people killed in car crashes, which I have no doubt they will, if we have less activity we may kill more people through inactivity.” One of the biggest concerns raised by driverless cars are about the professions they would impact, such as driving taxis, short-haul delivery vehicles, and long-haul trucks. Jeff Garber, the director of technology and innovation for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, emphasized there is still time for those industries to adjust since he expects the rollout of autonomous vehicles to be a slow transition. “We’re going to have to be adaptable to how this technology looks,” Garber said, adding, “We’re kind of putting the cart before the horse a little bit because we’re not quite sure how it’s going to come. But I do think we have a little more time, it’s not going to be a catastrophic dropping of all the drivers.” Audi’s Stertz said there could even be new job opportunities to supplement the use of driverless cars. He said there are possibilities for traffic management positions to

help autonomous vehicles deal with unique situations that arise. “Until the time when cars truly can outthink us, there’s going to need to be some human management of the fleets that are out there,” Stertz said of the technology’s impact on the labor force. Schwartz, however, predicted that self-driving cars could take over current driver-focused industries as quickly as 20 years, which he said represents rapid change in the grand scheme of a city as complex as New York. “Twenty years to change a workforce is very fast,” he said. “You’re going to have people that are 30-years-olds that are now truck drivers and they’ll be 50-years-olds. What do you do with them when there’s no more truck drivers?” The best solution, according to Schwartz, would be to assimilate self-driving cars slowly into the current transportation infrastructure, with legislation preventing the abrupt domination by autonomous vehicles. Everyone on Brewer’s panel agreed that it’s time to start talking about how to regulate the new technology. “The tech is old and the opportunity is here so it’s time for policy and culture to catch up to the technology that’s enabling self-driving cars,” said James Felton Keith, a member of the public who took the A7 prototype for a stationary spin. “In these cities, as population becomes more and more dense, technologies that keep us out of each other’s way are going to be increasingly important.” n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

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Anxious Over New Port Authority Bus Terminal,

CB4 Talks Up Historic District BY EILEEN STUKANE

D

espite the curr ent mood of détente between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and local elected officials over plans for replacing the time-worn West Side bus terminal, it’s not yet clear just how committed the Port Authority is to heeding the community input it says it welcomes. For now, there is a promise to hold future public meetings, and there will be plenty to discuss about five new alternatives unveiled late last month by the Port Authority. At Community Board 4, opposition to any new bus terminal on Manhattan’s West Side remains strong. Of the five designs, each from a different architectural firm and ranging from $3.7 billion to $15.3 billion in cost, at least one, featuring a rooftop park, would require demolishing neighborhood buildings through the use of eminent domain, a legal procedure that allows government to require a private property owner to sell land needed for a public use. Eminent domain was already a hot issue in public discussions about a new Port Authority bus facility. The initial concepts the agency put forward last year strongly relied on eminent domain, which “would tear out the heart of the Hell’s Kitchen area directly across the street,” Community Board 4 member Betty Mackintosh said at a recent Clinton/ Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee meeting. Those plans, which she charged were “flawed and secretive,” would have demolished homes, small businesses, and other community institutions. Mackintosh now heads CB4’s Hell’s Kitchen Working Group, which has been collecting

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COMMUNITY BOARD 4

The outlined area tentatively maps a Hell’s Kitchen South Historic District under study by Community Board 4.

a broad range of information about the Hell’s Kitchen South area — on measures from the number of residences to air quality — as part of its effort to “battle with the Port Authority,” as she put it at the meeting. One potential weapon in CB4’s fight for the community could be the creation of a Hell’s Kitchen South Historic District, currently envisioned to encompass the area from Eighth Avenue to just west of Ninth Avenue between West 41st and West 34th Streets. A landmarked district cannot easily be altered, and the use of eminent domain cannot be employed. The idea for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate this section of Hell’s Kitchen as an historic district actually first surfaced at CB4 in 2010. “A body of research was done in 2010, but the work was tabled in deference to other more urgent matters at the time,” explained Dale Corvino, a CB4 member who, along with board public member Brian Weber, is spearheading the CB4 Landmarks Task Force. “The work was reactivated when we saw the continued loss of significant buildings and the plans of Port Authority.” Metro Baptist Church at 410 West 40th

Street would be within the proposed historic district, and according to its pastor, Reverend Scott Stearman, the Port Authority plans for a new bus terminal have intensified what has long been a community goal. “The historic district has been in the minds of some neighborhood people for some time,” Stearman said. “I think this has added a bit of energy to the fire. I do see it as a tool in the toolkit. I’ve been appreciative of all the elected officials. If [Port Authority officials] are going to make this kind of transformative change, then it really needs to be thoroughly vetted and all stakeholders engaged.” Corvino explained that the benefit of an historic district designation is that “the buildings that are within an historic district, and of historic significance, can’t be demolished. Being within an historic district saves them, and that’s the goal, to prevent further demolition.” He noted that the Port Authority’s plans could make incursions into areas of Hell’s Kitchen South with early 20th century industrial buildings of 10 to 20 stories that have setbacks that bring light and air into the streets.

c HISTORIC, continued on p.9 October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c HISTORIC, from p.8 “Some of the buildings are more significant than others,” said Corvino, “but it’s not so much about an individual building that we want to save, it’s about an area of buildings of a certain character that we’d like to prevent from being lost forever.” JD Noland, chair of CB4’s Clinton/ Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee, however, noted that CB4 is only in the early stages of its drive to create a new historic district. “The process has just started,” Noland said. “We’ll discuss it, get some ideas, fill out the LPC form. Once we do that, we’ll talk about it in committee, take it to the full board, say, ‘Here are some of our ideas.’ It takes time to figure out.” Meanwhile, as the Port Authority moves forward, some local residents wonder whether a new bus terminal should be situated in an increasingly densely packed West Side at all. On its website, CB4 reports that on a weekday the existing terminal serves approximately 220,000 passenger trips and more than 7,000 bus movements. Estimates are that by 2040, peak-hour passenger traffic will increase between 35 and 51 percent and bus traffic will jump 25 to 39 percent. Despite that, the Port Authority has adamantly opposed any discussion of locating a new bus terminal in New Jersey, which would require transfer to rail for a trip into Manhattan.

PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY/ ARCHILIER ARCHITECTURE CONSORTIUM

This design for a new bus terminal, featuring a rooftop park reached via a public elevator, would require the use of eminent domain because it extends beyond land currently owned by the Port Authority.

“They want to take over Hell’s Kitchen and make it part of New Jersey,” said Noland. “The New York side is pushing back and saying, ‘Wait a minute, you should have something in New Jersey and not destroy the neighborhood here.’ ” Stearman was not ready to give up the battle, despite the Port Authority’s resistance.

“Clearly the New Jersey side does not want it over there,” he said. “I think everybody in Manhattan has to think, ‘Why in the world do we want to bring all those buses in?’ With transportation technology today, there seem to be a thousand reasons to have it across the river.” n

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LinkNYC Web Browsing Flap Pits Quality of Life Against Persistent Digital Divide

DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

Veronica Elliott was dismayed to learn that the web browsing capability has been disabled on LinkNYC kiosks.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

L

inkNYC’s recent disabling of web browsing capabilities on its Wi-Fi kiosks has pitted quality of life concerns against a new technology’s promise of addressing New York’s continuing digital divide. Following installation of the kiosks earlier this year, the effort to bridge that gap was quickly marred by users monopolizing the web browsers and, from multiple reports, at times viewing notsuitable-for-the-streets material. It is unclear whether the web browsing function will be reinstated. If not, a source of Internet accessibility for those of lower incomes as well as homeless people has been cut off. In New York City, 26 percent of households lack broadband Internet at home and 16 percent have no computer at all, according to “Internet Inequality: Broadband Access in NYC.” For the report, released in September 2015, City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. According to the report, 40 percent of those with less than a high school education lack broadband at home compared to 11 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or more. “Internet access has truly become the fourth utility, almost as critical to modern life as water, gas, and electricity — but there is still unequal access across our city,” Stringer said in an email statement. LinkNYC, run by CityBridge under a contract awarded by the city, started rolling out earlier this year, and thus far 400 kiosks have been installed citywide. Natalie Grybauskas, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, said in an email that

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LinkNYC’s purpose was always to bring free Wi-Fi to the city’s streets and sidewalks, and she pointed out that the tablets still provide access to city services through 311 online. She said there are other places in the city, such as libraries and the New York City Housing Authority’s digital vans, where computers are available for public use. “There were concerns about loitering and extended use of LinkNYC kiosks, so the mayor is addressing these quality of life complaints head on,” she said in an email. “Removing the Internet browser from LinkNYC tablets will not affect the other great services LinkNYC provides — superfast Wi-Fi, free phone calls, or access to key city services — but will address concerns we’ve heard from our fellow New Yorkers.” BerlinRosen, the public relations firm representing LinkNYC, and the city’s Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DoITT) declined to answer questions concerning a timeframe for bringing back web browsing and whether it is permanently or just temporarily disabled. In a September 14 story, the New York Times reported that LinkNYC was “switch[ing] off the browsing functions on the computer tablets built into the kiosks as a temporary solution while they consider permanent changes.” According to block associations, community groups, and residents, problems were particularly pronounced on Eighth Avenue in Midtown. Neither BerlinRosen nor DoITT responded to questions concerning the number and nature of the complaints they received about the kiosks. John A. Mudd, president of the Midtown South Community Council, said the problem “started blossoming in June.” “They would play chess,” Mudd said in a phone interview. “They would watch porn. Music videos were big.” Crowded around the kiosks, people would stay there all night and use overturned newspaper boxes and United States Postal Service crates as couches and chairs, he said. Mudd also charged that drug sellers were operating out of the kiosks. “The hottest spot was 40th and Eighth Avenue,” he said. “It was a daily thing.” Mudd said he heard from business owners, hotel managers, and local residents about the problems. Since the web browsing has been disabled, he said, “It’s like night and day from what it was and now. It’s a tremendous change.” Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, said, “The complaints started the minute the links went into service.”

A business improvement district that runs between 35th and 41st Streets from Fifth to Ninth Avenues, the Garment District Alliance, Blair said, received daily complaints immediately after the kiosks went into service in April. Homeless people, she said, gathered around the kiosks and would use thrown-out furniture to sit on. “It can’t be used as an entertainment tool,” said Blair, who added that the kiosks exacerbated quality of life concerns in the area, home to Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a parole board office, and numerous social service agencies. Since the web browsing has been disconnected, Blair said, the Alliance has received zero complaints. David Achelis, president of the West 50s Neighborhood Association, echoed the complaints from Blair and Mudd. “As soon as the thing was up and running… the homeless made it their encampment,” he said in a phone interview. “Certain homeless take over certain towers and make them their own.” Achelis, who is also a member of Community Board 5, said a kiosk in front of Matt’s Grill

c LINKNYC, continued on p.11

JOHN A. MUDD

John A. Mudd of the Midtown South Community Council said the corner of West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue was “the hottest spot” for abuse of LinkNYC kiosks, with Postal Service crates used as chairs by people monopolizing the web browsers that are now disabled.

October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

A LinkNYC user parked at a kiosk on Eighth Avenue.

c LINKNYC, from p.10 at 932 Eighth Avenue near West 55th Street — where he bartends — became a problem by late spring. “No one knew what they would look like and how they would encroach on the neighborhood,” he said. “There are some places that the towers are so inappropriate; some they’re fine.” Achelis said the problem persists at the kiosk outside Matt’s Grill despite the web browsing being disabled, and he thinks that some of the towers need to be removed. “These things are large,” Achelis said. “They are more useless advertising that communities don’t need.” Achelis, Blair, Mudd, and other groups brought their complaints to City Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office. Johnson, in an email, acknowledged that his office also got calls from residents and that he personally noticed some instances of abuse. “It was clear from early on that this was a real problem for many constituents,” he wrote. “When all of these various block associations and community councils and BIDs are reaching out at the same time about the same thing, you know that the issue is affecting a lot of people. It was really a resounding response.” Though the response to disabling the browsers has been positive, Johnson said, his office is “not taking our eye off this yet.” And, he added, there is a moratorium on LinkNYC installing more kiosks on Eighth Avenue that will continue “until we’re confident that the big issues have been resolved. Things are looking better, but it’s too soon to install more kiosks. We’re in ‘wait and see’ mode right now.” Asked whether there is any NIMBY-ism involved with the complaints based in part on the increased visibility of homeless people due to the availability of web access, Johnson responded that LinkNYC was never intended to allow unlimited web browsing on the street. “When it became clear that this was a side effect of this program, we had to address it and find a way to prevent people, regardless of hous-

c LINKNYC, continued on p.13 ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

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Moynihan Train Hall at Farley Post Office on Track for 2020 BY DENNIS LYNCH

A

dvancing a project that has been hobbled by numerous delays, Governor Andrew Cuomo, on September 27, announced a $1.6 billion plan to redevelop the James A. Farley Post Office Building into a “world-class 21st century transportation hub” by 2020. The 250,000 square foot Moynihan Train Hall — larger than four football fields — will house both Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road ticketing and waiting facilities. Riders will be able to access nine platforms and 17 tracks from the Hall, which will have a total floor space 50 percent greater than that of the current Penn Station, creating welcome breathing room for the 650,000 Penn Station daily commuters used to the “dirty, dingy, and dark” station beneath Madison Square Garden, Cuomo said. “With more than twice the passengers of all JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports combined, the current Penn Station is overcrowded, decrepit, and claustrophobic,” the governor said. “The Moynihan Train Hall will have more space than Grand Central’s main concourse, housing both Amtrak and LIRR ticketing and waiting areas, along with state-of-the-art security features, a modern, digital passenger experience, and a host of dining and retail options.” The Hall will feature a one-acre, open-floor concourse under a dramatic glass ceiling reminiscent of the original Penn Station, completed in 1910, that once sat across Eighth Avenue. The city’s flagship post office is roughly eight acres large in all, and was designed by McKim, Mead, and White — the same firm that designed the masterpiece train station demolished in 1963 to make way for Madison Square Garden. A development team of Vornado Realty LP, Related Companies, and Skanska Ab will create 588,000 square feet of office space and 112,000 square feet of retail throughout the rest of the 103-year-old Beaux-Arts post office building, Cuomo said. The trio will pay roughly $600 million for that development opportunity. Empire State Development Corporation will toss in $570 million for the project, while Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the federal government will chip in the remaining $425 million. The first phase of construction at the post office, consisting of building a concourse and expanding the underground corridor between it and Penn Station, is “nearing completion,” according to the governor’s office. The post office isn’t the only building getting a new look. Separately, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will triple the width and raise the ceiling of the LIRR’s 33rd Street Corridor at Penn Station at a cost of $170 million.

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SKIDMORE, OWINGS, AND MERRILL

The Moynihan Train Hall will host ticketing and waiting facilities for the Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak, easing congestion at the underground facilities at Penn Station.

SKIDMORE, OWINGS, AND MERRILL

The renovation of Farley will include 112,000 square feet of retail and dining, as well 588,000 square feet of office space.

The agency will also redesign the subway stations serving the 1, 2, 3, and A, C, E trains at Seventh and Eighth Avenues, respectively. The subway station improvements are “expected as early as 2018,” and will cost roughly $50 million, according to the governor’s office. Meanwhile, independently, the Empire State Development Corporation and Amtrak will rebuild Amtrak’s space at Penn Station. The new station at Farley is named for the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served New York in the US Senate from 1977 until 2001. It was in the early 1990s that Moynihan first proposed turning the post office into a transit station. He championed the project as a way to ease congestion at Penn Station, where, in its original incarnation, he shined shoes as a kid.

Numerous design firms laid out their proposals over the years, but there was little concrete action. Moynihan died in 2003, and only two years later did Governor George Pataki tap Related Properties and Vornado to head the redevelopment of the post office. The firms — as well as advocates for the new station — favored moving Madison Square Garden from its location atop Penn Station and over into the Farley Post Office Building to make room for a more thoroughgoing redesign of the existing train station. That idea and others that followed fell through. Impatient with the lack of progress, Cuomo, early this year, shook up the effort by soliciting new bids for redeveloping Farley, though in the end Related Properties and Vornado remained part of the team. n October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


M A R B L E C O L L E G I AT E C H U R C H

OPEN HOUSE NY SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15, 12-4 PM

DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

Damon Callaway and James Gambardella using an Eighth Avenue to recharge their phones.

c LINKNYC, from p.11 ing status, from using these kiosks as personal computers,” he said. “Expanding access to technology among homeless New Yorkers is something we should absolutely pursue, but that’s a separate issue from resolving the problems that were at hand with LinkNYC.” At this point, in order to connect to a kiosk’s Wi-Fi, a smartphone or similar device is required. According to “New York City Mobile Services Study,” a November 2015 city Department of Consumer Affairs research brief, 79 percent of those surveyed had a smartphone. A recent late afternoon weekday walk up Eighth Avenue from Chelsea to Times Square found no one huddled around LinkNYC kiosks — and no street furniture pulled up to them to facilitate watching the monitor. Some kiosks were not in use, while others were being used to make calls or to charge phones. Ian Defibaugh, 45, a Hell’s Kitchen resident was charging his phone at a kiosk at West 26th Street and Eighth Avenue. “When they first put them up, I thought it was the dumbest idea,” said Defibaugh, who acknowledged

c RENT FREEZE, from p.5 From October 12-14, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., staffers from Garodnick’s office and Finance will be joined by members of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Community Affairs Unit to help applicants at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Senior Center at St. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue at East 54th Street. Lenox Hill Neighborhood House at 331 East 70th Street will hold sign-up days on October 26-28, from 11 a.m. to 2p.m.

he now uses them frequently. “It’s been charging really, really fast,” he said. “I’ve been very happy with it.” James Gambardella, 24, agreed. “It’s super convenient,” he said at a kiosk at West 35th Street and Eighth Avenue. “If you’re in a pinch, you can charge your phone.” Gambardella, a Chelsea resident, was charging his phone while Damon Callaway, a Bronx resident, was also at the station. Callaway, 52, said, “It’s a good thing for the public.” He said he uses the kiosk to charge his phone so he can listen to music on it. “I’ve got to put gas in the car,” he said with a smile, referring to charging his phone. Three blocks up, on West 39th Street, Veronica Elliott, 50, was dismayed to learn that the web browsing had been disconnected. She had been using it look up information. “Oh no. Is it coming back?” she asked. “The Internet is very useful — especially if you don’t have a laptop.” She added, “I think more people need the Internet than not. I don’t think they should discontinue the service.” n

Garodnick said that staffers on hand will have the expertise to help applicants with any questions they may have as they complete the paperwork. According to the Department of Finance, review of the applications takes about a week and re-application is required with lease renewals. “We are going to bring this program directly to the people who are eligible and strongly encourage them to participate,” Garodnick said. “They are simply leaving money and real protections on the table that matter.” n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

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Inspiring young women to be leaders of tomorrow. Sisters of St. Joseph Schools

13


Foldable Bike Riders Win

Access to Office Building Passenger Elevators BY JACKSON CHEN

N

ew York City cyclists can now bring foldable bicycles into office building elevators after Mayor Bill de Blasio signed City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s “Bike to Work” bill into law. The new law from the Upper West Side councilmember requires office buildings to allow cyclists to carry their folded-up bikes into passenger elevators of office buildings throughout the city. After clearing the City Council on September 14, de Blasio signed the bill into law on September 28. “Everyone agrees that biking to work is healthy and good for you,” Rosenthal said. “As a public policy, it’s good to encourage it and make it as easy as possible for people.” Prior to Rosenthal’s bill, New York City residents were only allowed to bring foldable bicycles, which are no bigger than a carry-on suitcase when broken down, into office buildings using freight elevators. However, the city’s Department of Transportation noted that freight elevators often close by 3 or 4 p.m., which Rosenthal added is much earlier than most workers leave the office. And if building owners denied them access because of a foldable bicycle, users were forced to lock their bikes up outside and carry theft-vulnerable portions with them. The councilmember, a foldable bicycle user herself, recalled having to carry her handlebars and seat with her after being told she couldn’t enter City Hall with it. “I remember before I even ran for office, I rode it down to City Hall to attend a hearing,” Rosenthal said. “I ended up having to lock part of my bike up, bring part of my bike up with me, so it resonated with me personally.” Bicycle theft is up 70 percent over the past four years, she pointed out, so even those portions of a bicycle that can be secured with a lock are not fully safe. Rosenthal said the new law

14

DAHON NORTH AMERICA

A Dahon foldable bike at full size and folded up ready to join you going up the elevator to your office.

would not only bring personal health benefits, but also reduce congestion throughout the city by taking cars off the road and reducing crowds inside public transportation. The impact on public transit crowding, however, is not uniformly positive, with the councilmember noting that the subways, the Long Island Rail Road, and Metro North all allow passengers to board with foldable bicycles.

But Peter Frishauf, the director of StreetsPAC, a political action committee dedicated to improving safety and easing congestion on city streets, emphasized that those who live in areas with limited public transportation options will benefit from this law. “In terms of equity and social justice for those people who are in transit deserts,” Frishauf said, “they can ride a bicycle to mass

transit and board the train with their bicycle without having to worry about whether or not they’ll be able to bring their bike into their workplace.” Frishauf, a lifelong resident of the Upper West Side who said he rides his foldable bicycle everywhere, said he’s looking forward to taking a copy of the new law to some of the more troublesome office buildings. Prior to Rosenthal’s bill, if he was denied access to an office building due to his foldable Dahon bike, Frishauf would have to lock up most of the bicycle and carry around his seat and saddle post. “One of the great advantages of a folding bike is that you don’t have to worry about them being stolen if you can take them into an office building,” Frishauf said. “That’s really the most important feature. You don’t have to worry about your nice bicycle being stolen or vandalized.” Frishauf, also the co-founder of Vision Hero, a youth educational program about street safety, said bicycling was the fastest growing mode of transportation in New York due to its health benefits, its recreational and entertainment value, and, in no small measure, the growing network of bicycle lanes created by the city. Now, with Rosenthal’s new law in place, he said, riders won’t have to worry about that last leg of their commute — the elevator ride up to their office floor. In order to inform the public of the new law, office buildings must now post bicycle access plans to inform their office tenants. And Rosenthal’s legislation makes it illegal for building owners to deny tenants access to passenger elevators because they are carrying their folded bikes. “Now more people can rest assured that biking to work is an option for them because at the other end they can safely store their bicycle,” Rosenthal said. n

October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Central Park Restorations

CATHEDRAL HIGH SCHOOL

Planned for West 80s

JOIN US TO LEARN MORE Sunday October 23, 2016 12-3pm (last tour at 2:30PM)

CENTRAL PARK CONSERVANCY

The area of Central Park in the West 80s due for restoration.

BY JACKSON CHEN

A

Logos

fresh landscape by employing a redflag system where if lawns are wet or need to rest to restore themselves, access to them would be temporarily restricted. Also, broad mulch areas will be established around new trees to guard against erosion created by the daily flow of park users. As for the slope near 85th Street, the conservancy will realign its path, reduce its grade, and install handrails to meet accessibility requirements. While accessibility standards can’t be met with every park path, Addonizio explained, main routes, like the ones that lead to the park’s massive reservoir, will be made more welcoming to park users in wheelchairs or with other disabilities. Outside the park, the hexagonal-patterned sidewalk and the benches will be restored. Near the benches and the M10 bus stops on Central Park West, the conservancy will install a smooth grade to accommodate people with disabilities. The project, Addonizio said, will be undertaken in phases, likely beginning late this year or early in 2017. Completion is expected within about one year. n

bookstore

chunk of Central Park from West 86th to West 90th Streets is due for renovations and accessibility improvements, according to the park’s conservancy. The main lawn portion of the four -block area between Central Park West and the West Drive inside the park is often used by parkgoers as a shortcut to get to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and has undergone erosion over the years, according to Lane Addonizio, the Central Park Conservancy’s associate vice president for planning. She added that the pathway closest to the 85th Street Transverse, designed prior to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, has proven to have too steep of a slope for some park users. To remedy both situations, the conservancy plans a restoration program that aims to replace its current dustbowl-like state with an “open, rolling greensward” through the installation of an underground drainage and irrigation system. When that effort is completed, the conservancy plans to maintain the

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

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15


Pols Rally to Holmes Residents Unhappy Over Park Loss

OFFICE OF CITY COUNCILMEMBER BEN KALLOS

City Councilmember Ben Kallos speaks at a Holmes Towers rally on October 1, joined by other elected officials including, at left, Borough President Gale Brewer.

BY JACKSON CHEN

P

oliticians are rallying behind the residents of Holmes Towers who object to the city creating a 50-50 affordable housing/ market-rate apartment complex on the site of a children’s playground at the Upper East Side public housing facility. Elected officials joined Holmes residents and representatives of the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center and Community Voices Heard, a grassroots group that advocates for low-income families, in an October 1 gathering to announce their opposition to plans by the New York City Housing Authority to demolish the Holmes Playground to make way for the first of the agency’s NextGen Neighborhood infill projects. The infill project, expected to draw developers’ interest because of the opportunity it affords to build half of the units as market-rate apart-

ments, is part of NYCHA’s efforts to address its crippling deficit. “We are united against this outrageous taking of land from the public and turning it into privatized luxury housing and taking away a playground from our children,” East Side Congressmember Carolyn Maloney said. She charged that the NextGen project comes at a great cost to residents, with the loss of light, air, and most notably their playground, while not providing guaranteed benefits to Holmes Towers residents themselves. With the Holmes Towers infill project at 403 East 93rd Street and a similar project in Brooklyn, Maloney said, NYCHA is setting an unfortunate precedent of taking public land to create opportunities for private profit. “A park is public, it’s a great equalizer, everyone’s the same, it’s accessible,” Maloney said. “That’s why this park is so important.” Responses to a NYCHA RFP seek-

c REZONE, from p.3 voiced concern about the assessment to be put on the development rights transfers. “Our obligation to both maintain the landmarked Cathedral as well as provide services for New York City’s neediest citizens profoundly emphasizes the importance of maximizing the revenue from development rights sales,” their statement read. “For the city to tax this critically important source of funds erodes the very purpose of allowing flexible transfers.” After reviewing the scoping documents, the archdiocese and the cathedral trustees recommended that the scope of work examine how the diversion of transfer rights proceeds into a pub-

16

ing to find a developer for the proposed infill project were due on September 30, the same day elected officials announced their plans to rally in opposition with Holmes residents. Shortly after the press release about the October 1 gathering went out, NYCHA issued its own release, stating its intention to partner with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation in a series of community workshops next spring to solicit input on the design of a new playground to replace the one planned for demolition. The NYCHA statement offered no schedule for those workshops, which it said would be announced in 2017, following the selection of a developer team. “Engaging residents and the community is at the core of NYCHA’s mission to protect and preserve public housing for the next generation,” Shola Olatoye, NYCHA’s chair and CEO, said in the release. “These playground workshops will bring the whole family to the table, giving young residents the chance to explore their imagination for ideas and see those ideas come to a life in a community-based vision for the new playspace at Holmes Towers.” But dissident Holmes residents and the vocal supporters they have drawn to their side are demanding that the city look elsewhere than their playground for someplace to site the infill development. “Before the mayor or NYCHA tries to sell off our playground so he can put up luxury housing, he should reach into his own pocket,” City Councilmember Ben Kallos said. “And NYCHA and Mayor Bill

lic improvement fund would impact the ability of the district’s landmarked religious institutions to fund their maintenance. On the other side of the equation, developers also voiced concerns about how the transfer of development rights will be facilitated. While SL Green — the developer of the 1,401-foot tower going up across Vanderbilt Place from Grand Central Terminal that has its own zoning text amendment but is within the East Midtown rezoning district — strongly praised the DCP’s efforts, the company made recommendations regarding the timely use of development rights that are purchased. Cameron Tudhope, a development associate at the company, said the DCP should consider limiting the sale of development rights to

de Blasio would go from being the worst landlords in the City of New York to the best landlords in the City of New York.” I n t h e i r c o n t i n u e d o p p o s ition — not only to demolishing the playground, but to the overall infill project itsel — residents of Holmes Towers like Glendora Israel stressed that the new complex would make life rougher for NYCHA residents. “The luxury high-rise will take away our air, our land, and our children’s park,” Israel said. “This will also raise the price of goods and the price of living. The luxury highrise is supposed to generate money to fix repairs we need in our buildings, but the solution for repairs should come from the city budget.” In Bor ough Pr esident Gale Brewer’s view, the housing agency needs to be more transparent in the claims it makes to residents. “NYCHA has not stated anything specific,” Brewer said. “NYCHA says if we’re going to put a building here, we’re going to give you a playground, but there’s no place to put a playground.” She added she would only support the creation of a building that is 100-percent affordable housing and goes through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which would include oversight by the local community board, the City Council, and Brewer herself. “This is an ill-fated, not thoughtout, terrible plan,” the borough president said. “Not only is it taking away the playground, it’s not stating where there would be another playground.” n

companies prepared to start construction or that can otherwise show a readiness to utilize them. He said that development rights should expire within 15 to 20 years to discourage the hoarding of them. SL Green is also suggesting that the DCP create two to three sub-districts within the rezoning area so that the total stock of development rights are evenly distributed throughout. Following the September 22 hearing, the DCP continued taking written comments until October 4. The agency did not respond to a query about when its assessment of development rights values and its recommendation for the city assessment on their transfer would be announced. n October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Police Blotter COLLISION: HIT AND RERUN (26TH PRECINCT)

ROBBERY: BRASS KNUCKLE BEATDOWN (MIDTOWN NORTH PRECINCT)

The driver of a black two-door sedan struck a 25-year-old woman who was crossing midblock on West 125th Street between Amsterdam and Morningside Avenues, police said. The vehicle knocked the victim further into the street, struck her again, running over her legs, and fled westbound on West 125th Street. Police said the victim suffered a concussion, scrapes to her head, and pain in her legs, ankle, and side and was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was treated and released. Police released videos of the suspect, whom they don’t otherwise describe, as well as of the vehicle (available at manhattanexpressnews. nyc).

Two suspects, one with brass knuckles, punched and kicked a straphanger and stole $350 in cash on September 5 at around 5 a.m. at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station, police said. The victim suffered bruising and cuts on his face and lost the cash and other property, police said. Police released photos of the suspects (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a Hispanic male in his 30s, 5’8” to 5’10”, and last seen wearing a gray hooded sweater and light colored pants, and a black male in his 30s, 5’8” to 5’10”, and last seen wearing a gray T-shirt, a black long-sleeved undershirt, and black pants.

ASSAULT: SUBWAY SLICING (MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT)

ASSAULT: SOUTHBOUND SHOEDOWN (MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT)

Police arrested Bronx resident Michael McKenzie and charged the 44-year-old with assault after an incident on September 22 at around 10:15 a.m. on a northbound D train. Police said the suspect and the 38-year-old male victim got into a fight in which McKenzie cut the other man with a sharp object before fleeing the train at the 42nd Street station. The victim suffered cuts to his face, chest, stomach, and hands and was later taken to a nearby hospital.

Police said a woman hit a 75-year-old male subway rider on his head with her shoe on August 19 at around 11:45 a.m. According to police, the two got into a verbal dispute on the southbound 2 train. When the train arrived at the Times Square–42nd Street station, the suspect hit the man with her shoe before fleeing the station. The victim was treated at Lenox Hill Hospital, police said. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black female, around 25 years old, 5’7”, 120 pounds, with brown eyes, long black hair, a medium complexion, and last seen wearing a white dress.

ROBBERY: BOOSTING MOBILES (24TH PRECINCT) Police arrested 43-year-old Robert Spencer and hit him with several charges, including robbery, grand larceny, and criminal possession of a disguised gun, after he was suspected of an armed robbery at a Boost Mobile store at 1003 Columbus Avenue between West 109th and 110th Streets. Police said that on September 19 at around 11 p.m., they responded to a call about a gunpoint robbery at the mobile phone store, from which witnesses saw two males flee — one on foot in an unknown direction and Spencer in a white U-Haul van without its headlights on. When police attempted to pull Spencer over, the suspect parked, but then began fleeing on foot. Officers were able to apprehend Spencer at the corner of West 110th Street and Broadway, police said. According to the NYPD, the vehicle was reported stolen within the 49th Precinct’s jurisdiction and the firearm used in the armed robbery was a black Walther BB gun.

ROBBERY: BOOM AND BUST (19TH PRECINCT) A bank robber threatened a Chase bank teller with a bomb on September 3 at around 5:15 p.m., police said. According to police, the suspect entered the Chase Bank at 201 East 79th Street and passed a note to the teller demanding money and stating he had a bomb. The teller complied and gave the suspect an undetermined amount of money, police said, before the man fled in an unknown direction. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a white male in his 30s, 6’, with a beard, and last seen wearing a white baseball cap and a dark colored hooded sweater.

Midtown North Precinct

19th Precinct

306 West 54th Street 212-767-8400

153 East 67th Street 212-452-0600

Midtown South Precinct

20th Precinct

357 West 35th Street 212-239-9811

120 West 82nd Street 212-580-6411

17th Precinct

Visit our website for full area precint listing.

167 East 51st Street 212-826-3211

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

Supplier Diversity

How to Grow an LGBT-owned Business Enterprise co-hosted by The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)

If you’re like many LGBT owned businesses or corporate buyers, you may never have heard of supplier diversity for LGBT businesses. Major corporations in America have procurement programs in place for LGBT businesses, similar to the well-known programs for minority and women-owned businesses. Please join us for this free educational and networking event. You will learn about emerging procurement initiatives for LGBT businesses during a panel discussion with representatives of NGLCC, an LGBT certified business enterprise (LGBTBE) owner, and two corporate procurement professionals. You will also have a chance to ask questions and then network over food and wine with panelists and guests. Presentation by Jeremy Youett, Senior Events Marketing Manager and Microsoft GLEAM New York Board Lead (GLBT+ Advisory Committee) on Microsoft’s LGBT diversity initiatives. Wednesday, October 26, 6pm - 8pm Microsoft Conference Room Central Park West 6501 11 Times Square 6th Floor (8th Ave. between 42nd and 41st Sts.) Register in advance: http://bit.ly/2ddcj7g

212 473 7875 • manhattancc.org/lgbt 17


EXPRESS OURSELVES

Comptroller’s Report Suggests Straphangers Deserve A Break

PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

EDITOR IN-CHIEF PAUL SCHINDLER editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc

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

ART DIRECTOR MICHAEL SHIREY

EXECUTIVE VP OF ADVERTISING AMANDA TARLEY ads@manhattanexpressnews.nyc 718-260-8340

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES JACK AGLIATA LAUREN BLAIR ALLISON GREAKER ANDREW MARK JIM STEELE JULIO TUMBACO

Manhattan Express, the newspaper for Midtown and the Upper East and Upper West Sides, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC. Send all inquiries to: Manhattan Express, One Metrotech Center North, Suite 1001, Brooklyn 11201 or call 718-260-4586. Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents © 2016 Manhattan Express.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

A

new report from State C o m p t r o l l e r T h o m a s P. DiNapoli credits the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — which oversees the subway system, Metro North and Long Island Rail Roads, and a number of bridges and tunnels — with having improved both “its financial position for the future” and “customer amenities, ser vice, maintenance, and security” throughout the system. The clear implication of DiNapoli’s findings ar e that subway riders — daily confronting trains that are carrying 77 percent more passengers than they were 25 years ago — have a right to expect the MTA to think carefully about whether anticipated fare increases of four percent in 2017 and another four percent in 2019 are, in fact, necessary and appropriate. Even though it’s staggering to think that a subway system more than a century old increased annual ridership from one billion to 1.7 billion since 1991, the daily push and shove we all experience — especially during rush hour, but often at other times of day, as well — make that statistic all too believable.

The crowded trains are often an unpleasant nuisance, but what is mor e galling is that over the past eight years, aver age subway fares have risen 45 percent — three times the rate of inflation and six times the increase in average salaries in the city, according to DiNapoli. Which means that each of us is stretching our wallet ever -thi nner to b oar d ever more-crowded subway cars — more congested than at any time since 1949 — as we go to work and back home each day. If the two future fare increases go into effect as currently anticipated, subway fares will have shot up 53 percent between 2007 and 2019. DiNapoli suggests this need not be. Over the past six months, the MTA has realized $1.6 billion in unanticipated resources, according to the comptroller’s report, about two-thirds of that due to lower than projected debt service and energy costs. The current fiscal year is now expected to end with $200 million in cash on hand, and projected budget gaps have been closed through 2019. On the capital funding side, after protracted wrangling, the state and city late last year finally agreed

on their respective contributions to the MTA’s $29.5 billion building program through 2019. Alluding to the authority’s stronger financial picture and the fact that subway increases came on the heels of the nation’s Great Recession, DiNapoli rightly concluded, “Because fares have soared in recent years, a time when many riders could least afford the hikes, the MTA should look for ways to minimize futur e increases.” In its response to that recommendation, the MTA noted that the two rounds of four-percent increases are merely “forecasts” that have not yet been approved. But an authority spokesperson added that those projected increases are lower than anticipated rates of inflation and also lower than those of past years. That misses the point. During a difficult economic period — for both the MTA and its riders — it was the riders who picked up the slack, paying significantly higher fares and showing greater loyalty to the system through their increased use of subways. Now that things are looking up, the subways’ cramped riders deserve a break. n

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Donald Trump’s 3 a.m. “Tweets that woke the world” last week weren’t the first time a sleep-deprived celebrity shot his mouth off when he should have been counting sheep. Here’s a rundown of other tweeters in history who said too much:

Tutankhamun @PyramidScheme · 1:20 a.m. Crooked Cleopatra is an eating machine. Check out before and after hieroglyphics. #HungryHungryHippo

18

Tutankhamun @PyramidScheme · 2:40 a.m. Crooked Cleo says she’ll help the slaves. Who built your palace, lady? Tutankhamun @PyramidScheme · 3:12 a.m. Cracked Cleopatra is a disaster. Her needle is 1,000 times too big to use. #BADJUDGEMENT! Tutankhamun @PyramidScheme · 3:37 a.m. OpatraCare “choice” a total LIE. You don’t get to pick your healer. If you get bitten by an asp, you die. #Crazy!

Tutankhamun @PyramidScheme · 4:18 a.m. Crooked Cleo’s husband slept with his grape-peeling girl. He is the WORST abuser of women in ancient history! Tutankhamun @PyramidScheme · 4:55 a.m. Crooked Cleopatra is 100% controlled by Rome. #BADLEADERSHIP Tutankhamun @PyramidScheme · 5:12 a.m. An extremely credible source has signaled to my office that Crooked Cleo was born in Mesopotamia.

Freud Envy @i_love_mom · 12:20 a.m. Goofy Jung is the WORST psychoanalyst in Vienna. His patients are all getting crazier. Freud Envy @i_love_mom · 1:42 a.m. Jung has got to be one of the dumbest interpreters of subconscious symbolism ever. Analyze this! : ( Freud Envy @i_love_mom · 3:25 a.m. Still haven’t seen that diploma from the University of Basel! #FRAUD

c TWEET, continued on p.19 October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


EXPRESS YOURSELVES

Fashionably Modest BY LENORE SKENAZY

R

eligiously observant Muslims and Jews convened in Manhattan in September to discuss an item of vital interest to both communities: head scarves. And long skirts. And high collars. And how much arm one can expose. And whatever tension may or may not exist between the faiths on a political level vanished at a symposium on dressing modestly yet fashionably, organized by Daniel Cole of the NYU Costume Studies Department and opened by Nancy Deihl, the program’s director. To give you an idea of how this topic cuts across religious lines, try to guess which of these statements was made by a Jewish woman, and which by a Muslim woman: “I dress modestly because God commanded me to, as a way to focus on my value as a person.” “Why do women cover? Sexuality is something that belongs in the home.” Answer: The first by a Jew; the second, a Muslim. But they were both nodding along with each other. The Jewish woman here is Michelle Honig, a fashion journalist who often writes about the intersection of fashion and modesty. She was wearing a green

c TWEET, from p.18 MC Squared @PatentClerk · 12:48 a.m. Madame Curie is a loose cannon in the lab. No one has WORSE JUDGMENT — except her poor husband. MC Squared @PatentClerk · 1:50 a.m. Maybe Curie should spent a little less time with isotopes and a little more at the hairdresser. MC Squared @PatentClerk · 2:18 a.m. Be careful, Kooky Curie! Your fans are more excited about relativity than radioactivity! #PlayingDice

striped sweater with a white longsleeve shirt underneath, a slim dark skirt, and long blonde hair — a wig that mostly, but not totally, she admitted, covers her hair. Her shoes looked straight out of Vogue. The idea of a religiously observant Muslim, Jewish, or even Christian woman, Honig acknowledged, “doesn’t bring to mind very fashionable women.” But just because they are covering more of themselves than your average secular lass doesn’t mean they have to be dowdy. Honig goes shopping at popular stores, “browsing through the racks, each piece going through some mental calculation of how to modest-ify it.” To do that, she usually adds layers, or maybe she’ll sew up the slit of a slinky skirt. Voila: a fashionable young woman in “normal” clothes that just happen to cover the knees and elbows. Dian Pelangi, head designer of the Indonesian fashion company that bears her name, took the podium next, looking regal in a stunning floor-length green cape with a black hood. “Hijab means ‘to cover,’” she explained to that half of the audience that wasn’t already wearing one of these Muslim head coverings.  “There was a time when the hijab was considered weird, backwards, and old-fashioned,” Pelangi said. But now it is a

MC Squared @PatentClerk · 2:37 a.m. Just another dud lady scientist. #SAD MC Squared  @PatentClerk · 3:01 a.m. Kooky Curie is very weak on quantum theory, which is what the people want. Very weak. Her career is dead. MC Squared  @PatentClerk · 4:07 a.m. Kooky Curie hasn’t created a single bomb in her whole life. She does not have the RIGHT TEMPERAMENT to revolutionize science. MC Squared @PatentClerk · 4:52 a.m. Curie a failed scientist. That glow is her burning out.

“huge trend.” Witness the fact that a Jakarta designer showed the first “modest” fashion line at New York Fashion Week this year. And that both Tommy Hilfiger and DKNY brought out a Ramadan collection. Or that Pelangi has 4.3 million Twitter followers who look to her for advice on modest styles. With 23 percent of the world’s population Islamic, catering to Muslim women’s fashion needs makes business sense. “For me,” said Pelangi, “modest fashion is the next emerging market.” And yet, for the women at this symposium, fashion meant more than just looking good. “The fashion world as it exists today is about very public sexuality,” said Ann Shafer, an art historian and architect specializing in Islamic culture who teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “So I’m trying to provide another worldview” — that “sexuality is not a sort of public phenomenon.” Shafer herself converted to Islam and was covered except for her face. But don’t think this made her — or any of the women on the panel — feel second-class. On the contrary, they spoke of the freedom and joy of dressing this way. In countries like America, where women have the choice to dress any way they please, “If women

Veni Vidi da Vinci @RenaissanceMan · 12:20 a.m. Michelangelo is a joke. He’s in the pocket of the Medicis. Veni Vidi da Vinci @RenaissanceMan · 1:03 a.m. He will never MAKE FIRENZE GREAT AGAIN! Veni Vidi da Vinci @RenaissanceMan · 1:19 a.m. Mediocre Mikey has to make his sculptures big and naked to get attention. #PATHETIC Veni Vidi da Vinci  @RenaissanceMan · 1:57 a.m. I’ve seen paint-by-numbers better than Mikey’s latest Moses. He should go home and relax.

still choose to cover their bodies,” said Honig, they are not “victims” who need to be saved, they’re making a statement. “They take pride in their modesty because it’s part of who they are,” she said. Added Shafer, “It is often assumed that Muslim women who wear conservative dress don’t have a relationship to their bodies.” On the contrary, “Islam is very open about sort of how to treat your body as a sexual phenomenon” — just not in public. The other speakers concurred. They don’t want to be thought of as sexless, maybe just excess-less. Rejecting a culture that reveals too much. “Modest dress should not be the ‘other’ choice, just an equal choice,” said Malky Weichbrod, the observant Jew behind the website “My Therapist Told Me to Write a Fashion Blog.” And if ladies kick it up a notch by making it look great, they’ve got the best of both worlds. As Lyn Bakri, founder of the modest fashion line Aneeqa, said, “You don’t have to show much skin to look beautiful and be confident.” The women at NYU, in their robes and scarves, wigs and heels, were evidence of that. Lenore Skenazy is the author and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids,” and a contributor at Reason.com. n

Veni Vidi da Vinci @RenaissanceMan · 2:14 a.m. If you’ve got a block of marble, keep it away from Mediocre Mikey or he’ll chisel it into a lawn ornament. #LAWNGNOMEART Veni Vidi da Vinci @RenaissanceMan · 2:51 a.m. Interesting how my commissions go up whenever Mikey unveils another painting. Veni Vidi da Vinci  @RenaissanceMan · 3:29 a.m. LIES! I never tried to get the Sistine job! #SimplicityBestSophistication Veni Vidi da Vinci @RenaissanceMan · 4:33 a.m. Pretty sure Mikey was never baptized! #OriginalSin

— LENORE SKENAZY ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

19


c HOUSING COURT, from p.4 Thompson said, her landlord attempted to evict her for an outstanding balance of $7. She was able to satisfy the judge by presenting a clipped stack of paid rent receipts and bank statements. In her first time before a housing judge, Thompson recalled, she felt an emotional burden that crashed over her like a violent wave. “I would be in the hallway alone crying, and I could not under stand why I was crying,” she said. “I realized later it was an involuntary response because I knew I shouldn’t be down here.” Thompson said she’s faced accusations of unpaid rent, money owed in late fees for those unpaid rents, and breaking the terms of her lease. As she thumbed through the stacks of documentation she keeps to protect her home, she paused at the photos of an eviction attempt where black garbage bags filled with her belongings and furniture were plopped right outside her apartment. “They sent a building manager up to my apartment,” Thompson said. “I saw them taking my things out of my apartment.” After a few phone calls and yet again proving no wrongdoing on her part, she told the landlord’s crew to “bring my motherfucking shit right back up here.” After that experience, Thompson began studying housing law and now feels capable of defending herself in court. She even offers advice to others who find themselves equally lost when they first face a battle against their landlord’s attorneys. When Sandra Johnson, an East Harlem resident, faced eviction, she was able to turn to Thompson for guidance through what was a hairy ordeal. Along with the rest of the tenants in her five-story walkup, Johnson was threatened with eviction when her landlord served notice that the building would no longer be rent-regulated within two years. In Housing Court, she found herself having to prove to judges repeatedly that her building is, in fact, rent-regulated under the the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal. In a cascade of eviction attempts, Johnson has been accused of being

20

JACKSON CHEN

Sandra Johnson and her children and grandchildren at home in their East Harlem apartment.

a hoarder, of being a nuisance to other tenants, and of owing money to the landlord. Johnson is no longer a stranger to Housing Court and expects to visit again next week, this time to bring harassment charges against her landlord for the poor living conditions he is imposing on her. One of the building’s few remaining tenants, Johnson said the situation has taken a toll on her and her family, but she is committed to continuing the struggle. “I’m getting tired of fighting,” she said, her voice cracking with exasperation. “They’re wearing me down.” Johnson said her children’s educations have been compromised because of her need to appear in Housing Court. She recalled hectic days where she had her kids with her in Housing Court, and then rushed them to school, before returning to court and later picking them back up when school was out. “I’m fighting for my home, for my kids, and it felt like nobody cared that I was alone,” Johnson said of her experiences in Housing Court. “I felt like a mother that was crippled, like they cut my legs beneath me.” She once hired a lawyer, but was told she didn’t have a case and was

out $250. Eventually, she decided the best option was to represent herself, much as Thompson did. The two women’s experiences have been much the same. “I felt like this court was a kangaroo court, that all the lawyers were being justified by the judge,” Johnson said. “It felt like New York didn’t have honest people anymore, not lawyers, not judges. It was like I was living in a nightmare.” The nuisances she endued from her landlord, she said, didn’t stop with having to spend time in court to defend her home. The building conditions she faces when she returns to that home, she worries, could damage her children and grandchildren’s health. There’s a noticeable sag in portions of the floor as Johnson walks across her apartment. As she shakes the radiator, which she complained often doesn’t provide heat, there is also give there. And glue traps line the edge of her kitchen to guard against the rats, ants, and termites her family lives amidst. Heaps of clothes and housewares are stacked arbitrarily in her hallways and bedrooms because her landlord never completed the promised closets and cabinets. Johnson has complained numerous times about building

renovations outside her apartment she suspects are being carried out illegally. In a back staircase exit from her apartment — access to which has been sealed off in all of the building’s other units — Johnson points to a break in the wall, behind which a new stairwell has been constructed. Her stairway exit leads to a neglected backyard filled with dime bags, refuse, and dead birds. Susan Schwartz, a member of Community Board 7’s Housing Committee, is also butting heads with a landlord seemingly hostile to her presence in his building. The Upper West Side high-rise, she said, has undergone illegal renovations in recent years. She is convinced that that the noisy and dusty construction projects, undertaken without valid per mits, are part of an effort to force rent-stabilized tenants out. “In our building, there are 303 units in a 20-story building,” Schwartz said. “Less than half of them are still rent-stabilized. When I moved in, they were all rent-stabilized.” Over the past five years, she said, 75 apartments in her building have undergone massive renovations that disturb the neighboring ten-

c

HOUSING COURT, continued on p.21

October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c HOUSING COURT, from p.20 ants. And the harassment does not stop at the doorway to those units. Hallway and façade work involving jackhammers and the spread of dust throughout the building has also been a fact of life in the building, according to Schwartz. The only construction mitigation effort she’s seen has been the use of plastic door coverings slapped up with blue painter’s tape. She and her neighbors finally formed a tenants association to pursue their legal rights. “We’re paying rent and yet we feel like we’re living in a construction zone,” Schwartz said. “It’s not a construction zone, it’s our homes.” Shortly after the association formed, Schwartz said, the trash rooms located on each floor were replaced by a central basement garbage receptacle where tenants must lug their garbage via the building’s passenger elevators. Upper West Side City Councilmember Mark Levine and his Bronx colleague Vanessa Gibson have heard similar horror stories from tenants over and over again. For the past two years, they have worked to advance Intro 214-A, which would provide free legal counsel to low-income families facing Housing Court disputes. “There is no fairness in any court when only one side has an attorney,” Levine said. “But that is the reality today for tens of thousands of tenants who face the threat of an eviction.” On September 26, the Council’s Committee on Courts and Legal Services held a roughly six-hour public hearing on Intro 214-A. “Too many families face unscrupulous landlords, they face harassment by their landlords, and they are simply pushed and priced out,” Gibson said. “We recognize that legal representation is about fairness and equity. It is about balancing the scales of justice in Housing Court.” Those testifying at the hearing ranged from legal experts, who explained how proceedings in Housing Court are tipped in favor of landlords, to an 11-year -old girl who represented her Spanish-speaking parents. Dozens of tenants said they often go without gas, heat, or hot water — at times

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JACKSON CHEN

Sandra Johnson in the backyard of her apartment building.

in retaliation for their challenging landlords in Housing Court. Edward Josephson, the director of litigation at Legal Services NYC, has defended tenants in Housing Court for nearly 30 years. “When experienced counsel is provided for tenants, the chance of being evicted is dramatically reduced,” he said. “And even if they have to move, they can move with dignity and not be forced to stay in a shelter in the meantime.” In Josephson’s view, Housing Court is “completely incapable of dispensing even rudimentary justice to low-income families.” Access to adequate representation is sorely lacking, he said. “How do you tell a single mom, disabled person, or senior citizen the person next to her on the bench is going to get a lawyer and she is not?” Josephson said. “The one thing I hate about my job is having to say that over so many years. I am looking forward to the day I and my colleagues will never have to say that again.” Given the economic pressures in today’s housing market, however, even access to legal counsel may not be sufficient to protect Manhattan apartment dwellers, a point underscored by Carmen Vega-Rivera, a tenant’s advocate who is a leader at the nonprofit Community Action for Safe Apartments. “It’s a mosaic of people, it doesn’t matter your race, your income, where you’re from, what your education is,” she said in describing the daily scene at Housing Court. “When a landlord wants you out and he wants to harass you because he wants to displace you, everybody is being pushed out.” n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 06 - 19, 2016

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Museum Hours: Memories of chaos and quiet in ‘70s Manhattan

COLUMBIA PICTURES/ TRI STAR

NYU PRESS

specific goal of coming out, and who, since 1960, had regularly utilized those several institutional margins traversing the Forty-Second Street area in which gay activity thrived, I had to acknowledge with the early newspaper announcement of redevelopment that an order of menace now hung over a goodly portion of the active aspect of my sexual life.” That “order of menace” quickly came to pass with what is now referred to as the Disneyfication of Times Square. The all-night movie theaters and dirty book stores were gone, and the cheap restaurants with them. But then New York by the ‘90s had come to eliminate the consumers of such establishments, as well. The city, as Fran Lebowitz has so sagely observed, has by and large entirely eliminated culture by making itself a home for the very, very rich alone. And said rich can produce nothing. They can only consume. And what they wish to consume is made by classes they no longer find tenable as neighbors. This wasn’t the case in the ‘70s for reasons I was able to observe first-hand. Because for the better part of that decade I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — a matchless commingling of the High and Low. I was first employed in the print reproductions shop of the Met. One of my co-workers was a classic Muscle Queen. Butch to the max to all appearances, Richie adored breaking into a chorus of “Take Back Your Mink” from “Guys and Dolls” at the slightest provocation. I next worked as a

guard and finally in the library of its Department of Prints and Photographs, where I often saw artworld mover and shaker Sam Green bring his petit ami Robert Mapplethorpe to see the museum’s George Platt Lynes holdings — photographs whose elegant homoeroticism Mapplethorpe duly ripped off. Working at the Met in any capacity was an ideal low-key, trouble-free job for a writer, supplying by its very nature no end of time to think about and plan the “real work” that would transpire outside its corridors. But the Met was also a world unto itself. For it was there the elite mixed with the hoi polloi in cheerful confusion. This became quite apparent to me during the period I worked as a guard. I was, in a very general way, an “authority figure,” making sure no harm came to the art and supplying visitors with necessary information about the building’s whys and wherefores, particularly when special ticketed exhibits like the massive Van Gogh show were being featured. Philippe de Montebello, the Met’s chef curator at the time I was there, hated such shows. They herded visitors quickly though rooms filled with far too many paintings to contemplate and therefore appreciate, and were more like a highclass Fun Fair than an art exhibit. To prove his point, he took two Monet paintings from a show then making the rounds of the nation’s galleries and hung them in the great hall — right at the

Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”

BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN

E

veryone chooses to remember what they want to remember,” Mark Jacobson observes in his New York magazine piece “What Everyone Gets Wrong About ‘70s New York” late last year about one of the “few times in recent New York history [that] have been so longed for, so endlessly discussed.” This longing, so prominent today, has been mixed, it should be noted, with equal portions of loathing. For in the last analysis, what everyone “chooses to remember” about New York in the ‘70s is “Taxi Driver,” Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film about the squalor of the city rendered as a vision of Hell visually confected by Guy Peellaert and Hieronymus Bosch with a Bernard Herrmann score simmering ominously in the background. It’s a place no one wants to live. Yet people lived there and thrived there — in ways they don’t at all today. Make no mistake, New York in the ‘70s was no picnic. Filthy, squalid, its streets and buildings badly in need of repair, as its economy teetered on the verge of total collapse, it laid out no welcome mat for anyone. Yet for those keyed to its vaguely sinister rhythms it was still Fun City. Novelist Samuel R. Delany in his non-fiction paean “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue,” writes, “As a Black gay man who had first set off from Harlem for Times Square one Sunday morning in 1957, more than a decade prior to Stonewall, with the

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c MUSEUM HOURS, continued on p.24 October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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CARMELO BAYARCAL/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

c MUSEUM HOURS, from p.22 entrance to the various wings of the museum proper. One could sit and look at them for hours without rush or fuss. And there’s no question that those who did so understood Monet in ways the Van Gogh goers didn’t understand Vincent at all. The embodiment of elegance but in no way a snob, de Montebello was great fun to chat with. He was dedicated to serious art, but there was nothing of the pompous about him — even though he looked as if he’d stepped right out of a late period Visconti movie. Even more fun was Diana Vreeland. A fashion doyenne of exquisite taste and cheeky good humor, Vreeland set up the museum’s Fashion Institute when I was there. It is now named after Miranda Priestly (aka Anna Wintour), a woman who knows everything about the business of fashion but precious little about the art. Vreeland made clear that fashion was art with her exhibition of the work of the great Spanish-born designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. Putting the pieces on display with exquisite care, Vreeland made plain that Balenciaga gowns were works of sculpture created to be worn. No one who attended that show, even if they were indifferent to fashion in general or thought it “frivolous,” could fail to be impressed. My favorite memory of Vreeland is in relation to a quite different show — one devoted to the “chemise” dresses Madeleine Vionnet created just after the turn of the last century. It was a spectacular exhibit. Dresses made of the most delicate lace in gorgeous shades of pale pink, yellow, lavender, and blue were on display — looking like a candy box come to life. Vreeland wasn’t, however, Willy Wonka, though she had her way with children. On this occasion, museum director Thomas Hoving had brought a couple of wealthy donors to view the show

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early in the morning before the museum was open to the general public. This particular couple had a daughter of about six or seven. Vreeland shook their hands and nodded graciously to them and then took hold of the little girl. She brought her right up to the Vionnet dresses, told her about the material they were made of, and explained the revolution they created. For prior to these “chemises,” women were required to wear dresses encumbered with all manner of metal stays, hoops, and the like — their bodies encased in clothes that were not all that different from suits of armor. Vionnet brought an end to all that, freeing women’s bodies, and Vreeland was most intent on making this girl — who had just reached the age of interest in looking “pretty” — precisely why this was so important. The girl was, of course, dazzled. But make no mistake, Vreeland was at her most serious. In education “get them while they’re young” is the watch-cry, and its safe to say this girl — now I’m sure a supremely fashionable adult — learned plenty from what this Auntie Mame on steroids was so spiritedly teaching her that morning. In my duties as a guard, I saw a great many notables come and go through its halls and galleries. The great Italian actor Massimo Girotti (“Ossessione”) was much taken with a Cezanne exhibit, as were the filmmaking couple Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet. They spent an entire day in the Cezanne room, the fruits of their labors made visible in their 1990 film “Cezanne — Conversation with Joachim Gasquet.” The intensity with which their eyes combed every inch of the artist’s canvasses was a sight to behold. Considerably less intense were the frequent gallery sorties of Art Garfunkel, who found the Met the perfect place to meet attractive young ladies, just as he met Theresa Russell at a Klimt exhibit in

Nicolas Roeg’s 1980 “Bad Timing.” Art being occupied, I never engaged him in conversation. Conversation was likewise a non-starter with Woody Allen and Dick Cavett. Almost every afternoon, they met on a bench in the great hall. They never went in to see an exhibit as far as I know. They just sat there — Woody (his face a dour mask) talking to Dick much like an analysand to a shrink. In all the years I saw them there, I never once noticed Cavett saying a single word. The same can’t be said of a trio of gay gentlemen: actor tuned novelist Tom Tyron, his lover gay porn star Cal Culver (aka Casey Donovan of “Boys in the Sand” fame), and their pal actor Richard Deacon (Mel Cooley on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”). Deacon was an art expert and he would give his friends special guided tours of the paintings, imparting all manner of priceless information to them. They were a swellegant triumvirate. Alas, all were taken by AIDS. The best of Special Visitor luck came one day to my friend and fellow guard Ronnie. Gay, black, and wildly sophisticated, it was his good fortune to come face to face with American-born French cabaret legend Josephine Baker. While Ronnie’s primary devotion was to Diana Ross, he knew an immortal goddess when he saw one, and chatted amiably with her for at least 20 minutes. “What did you talk about?” I asked. “Everything!,” Ronnie happily replied. In all my Met years, the one notable I got a chance to talk about “everything” with was Francis Bacon. Periodically a selection of Bacon paintings were put on display in one of the galleries. Keeping with the de Montebello style there were only a select few, available for all to see without a special ticket. Bacon’s unique mixture of the figurative and the abstract was of course unique. Likewise, the violence the paintings displayed: screaming popes, naked men wrestling in a manner more suggestive of murder than romance. His work frightened many of the guards. Frightening to them, too, was the fact that Bacon would come early in the morning before the museum opened and visit his own paintings. He’d stand for hours looking at them, with the same intensity the Straubs showed Cezanne. The thing was these were his own works, yet he regarded them as if they were made by someone else. Perhaps in his own mind they were. Off-putting as he was to many, I always found Bacon a jolly fellow. He chatted me up about places he might go in the city “for a drink,” with the clear indication that mere imbibing wasn’t his only interest. I told him to try Keller’s and the Ramrod in the West Village, down by the piers. There, he was likely to find gentlemen eager to put their cigarettes out in his soft flesh prior to applying a bit of the lash. But those were places of “danger” — both real and theatricalized. The Met was safe haven. And that’s why it’s always embodied the ‘70s for me. The world outside may rage away, but in its cool corridors art and silence reigned. And in the tumult of the ‘70s, who could ask for more? n October 06 - 19, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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