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Signal change Safety changes for a deadly West St. X-ing

BY COLIN MIXSON The city is revamping a perilous West St. intersection where a cyclist was killed this summer, adding a number of safety measures in a project scheduled to conclude before the end of November. The changes come in the wake of the death of Olga Cook after she was fatally struck by an allegedly intoxicated driver at Chambers St. as she cycled down the Hudson River Greenway on June 11, and while her husband wishes the safety improvement had been made years ago, he feels some vindication that her fate put enough political pressure on the city to take steps to prevent future deaths. “At the end of the day it’s all politics,” said Travis Maclean, “but the fact they acknowledged the issue is good. Hopefully nobody else will have to deal with a tragedy that should have never happened in the first place.” In addition to adding high-visibility crosswalk markings and replacing missing bollards, the city will be adding an additional signal phase for traffic lights at the intersection, so that motorists turning onto Chambers St. from West St. will never share the right of way with pedestrians and bicyclists crossing Chambers St. That change, if it was made sooner, might have prevented Cook’s death in June — she was heading north along the greenway crossing Chambers St. just as a motorist heading south on West Street hung a right, leading to the collision that claimed her life. The safety enhancement will come at the cost of less green-light time for bicyclists and pedestrians crossing Chambers St. along the greenway,

OCTOBER 20 – NOVEMBER 02, 2016

Talk to us!

BPCA finally caves, votes to allow public comment at board meetings

Port Authority

Early for the train Port Authority police officer Matthew Binkowitz holds newborn Naheeda Agbere, whom he helped come into the world when her mother Mariam Suleman went into labor in the middle of the Oculus transit hub. For the full story, see page 8.

west st. Continued on page 2

68 Cancers Linked to WTC dust 1 M e t r o t e c h • N YC 112 0 1 • C o p y r i g h t © 2 0 16 N YC C o mm u n i t y M e d i a , L L C

BY COLIN MIXSON The Battery Park City Authority experienced an unexpected change of heart Wednesday morning, when board members voted unanimously to allow public comment at board meetings — reversing its earlier dismissal of the suggestion by pols and locals. BPC residents who have long complained about the authority’s less-thantransparent policies were shocked by the board’s uncharacteristic aboutface, according to one community leader. “I’m pleasantly surprised,” said resident and Community Board 1 chairman Anthony Notaro. “This is a very positive step.” The BPCA will now allow up to 10 members of the BPC community to address the neighborhood’s ruling council during board meetings. Area residents will have two minutes each to speak and will have to restrict their comments to subjects on that meeting’s agenda. Speakers will be required to signup by 5:30 p.m. the day before a bpca comments Continued on page 11

Downtown Residents/Office Workers Eligible Free Consultation

west st. Continued from page 1

who will have 49 seconds of right-of-way as opposed to 79. The trade off, however, should be well worth it, according to one city traffic engineer. “The one downside is bikers will have less green time, but what green time they do have, they won’t have to worry about bozos turning into them,” said Greg Haas, a city planner for the Department of Transportation, who shared the city’s plans for the West St. intersection at a meeting of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee. Community members praised the city for working quickly to institute safety reforms in the wake of Cook’s death. “Considering how long it takes for certain things to happen in government, this is relatively fast,” said Ninfo Segarra, chairwoman

of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee. “So we appreciate it.” Not everyone is satisfied with the speed at which the city is working to improve safety at the hazardous intersection, however, which has been the site of 17 crashes that resulted in serious injuries over the past five years, four of which involved south-bound traffic turning onto Chambers and colliding with bicyclists or pedestrians. “The city should make these type of safety improvements routine, not fixes after the fact,” said Paul White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an organization that promotes bicycling and safe streets. White feels that the city didn’t go far enough in its efforts to improve safety at the intersection, and that cyclists shouldn’t have to rely on drivers heeding traffic signals to prevent accidental collisions. Instead, the city should install physical measures — such as

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Upper West Side resident Olga Cook was struck and killed last month by an allegedly intoxicated driver while biking across Chamber St. along the Hudson River Greenway, which the West Side Highway. Her death has spurred renewed interest in improving safety at the notorious intersection.

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raising the greenway slightly above street level as it crosses Chambers St. and adding safety islands in the middle of the intersection, which would force motorists to turn more slowly and deliberately, according to White. “High visibility crosswalks and signal changes are not enough,” White said. “To prevent further loss of life, the DOT must also install safety islands in the crosswalk to prevent motorists from making fast sweeping turns, and elevate the crosswalk so that the greenway continues at an elevated

grade through the crosswalk, creating a speed table. These two measures should be made standard wherever a class one bike facility intersects with a roadway.” After the safety improvements are installed, the city’s transportation department will study their effects on traffic and safety at the intersection, according to Haas. If the city is satisfied that the changes are beneficial, he said locals can expect to see similar changes to additional West St. intersections south of Chambers St. as early as April next year.


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October 20 - November 02, 2016

Cook was memorialized on July 14 with the placement of a “ghost bike” at the dangerous Chambers St. intersection in Battery Park City where she was killed.


A father’s call for justice Father of firefighter killed in 2007 Deutsche Bank building fire pens blistering indictment of negligent politicians, corrupt contractors

BY BILL EGBERT The father of a firefighter killed in the catastrophic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in 2007 has penned a scathing, book-length indictment of the contractors handling the demolition, the city that was supposed to supervise them, and the system that later conspired to protect the powerful people he holds responsible for the death of his son. Joseph A. Graffagnino lost his only son, Joseph, to the seven-alarm fire that tore through the building on Aug. 18, 2007, also killing fellow firefighter Robert Beddia, and injuring 105 others. In “The Fix Is In: The Deutsche Bank Building Fire Conspiracy,” the Brooklyn writer lays out a meticulous case that the contractors tasked with deconstructing the building willfully neglected safety measures to save money, the city knowingly facilitated the slipshod job to meet artificial deadlines, and after the easily preventable disaster struck, the powers that be exerted extreme political pressure on city agencies, the media, and even the District Attorney’s Office to shield those responsible from accountability. “I wrote ‘The Fix Is In’ because I want you, the reader, to know the truth,” Graffagnino writes in the prologue. “I want to expose the people who benefited from the catastrophe and place blame where it belongs.” The book begins with a detailed account of the FDNY’s efforts to control the fire, cataloging the litany of violations and unsafe conditions that hobbled them — from obstructed hydrants and broken standpipes that kept firefighters from getting water to the flames, to stairways and hallways blocked with plywood and internal fans that spread the blaze. The main factor that made the Deutsche Bank fire so deadly was the failure of the standpipe system, which is meant to allow firefighters to pump water from street level to hose connections on the upper floors of a flaming high-rise. Firefighters who responded to the fire insisted to Graffagnino that workers at the building site repeatedly assured them that the standpipe system was working, so New York’s Bravest charged up to the burning floors, hooked up their hoses, and waited for the water DowntownExpress.com

Associated Press / Eric M. Hazard

(Above) The catastrophic fire at the former Deutsche Bank building on Aug. 18, 2007, killed firefighters Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia, and injured 105 others, because of illegal conditions in the building — which Graffagnino’s father, author of “The Fix Is In,” blames on the shady contractors and political appointees who rushed the demolition job. (Right) Fallen Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino’s wife Linda, center, and father, behind her, follow behind firefighters carrying his casket after the funeral service at St. Ephrem Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn in 2007.

Associated Press / Bebeto Matthews

that their comrades were pumping in from outside. In reality, however, there were several long sections of standpipe missing throughout the building. So as the younger Graffagnino and his fellow firefighters were waiting for their water amid the flames, and their officers assured them it would come, all the while it was gushing uselessly into the basement. “When the men are in there trying to find a working standpipe or water supply, they are being radioed that water would be coming up any minute,” recalled Battalion Chief John Plant in one of several extended interviews with FDNY personnel at the scene. “Any minute, any minute, any minute led to over an hour.” The elder Graffagnino believes the

contractors knew about the defective standpipe system, as well as many other deadly and illegal conditions at the Deutsche Bank building, and that when these lax safety practices turned deadly, those responsible were protected by the book’s titular conspiracy, involving political appointees of the city and state. He makes the case that the powers that be did this because they knew they bore ultimate responsibility for the corners cut at the demolition site because of their desire — for cynical political reasons — to get the long-delayed job done quickly, at any cost. Graffagnino explains how the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation — the entity created to manage the post-9/11 reconstruction of Downtown, and which owned the damaged and

contaminated building — went to suspiciously extreme lengths to install the well-connected Bovis Lend Lease company as the primary contractor, and the John Galt Corp. as its subcontractor for decontamination — without competition — behind the back of the city’s Department of Investigation, which was concerned that the company was unqualified and had possible mob ties. The author points out that, for reasons never fully explained, the Department of Buildings allowed the demolition of the building to proceed under a permit for alterations, rather than a permit for demolition that would have required more rigorous inspections by the FDNY — which would have certainly prevented the illegal conditions that made the 2007 fire so deadly. Despite the contractors’ dubious qualifications, and the lack of safety oversight, the city and the LMDC nonetheless took the unprecedented step of insisting that the decontamination and demolition of the building be done simultaneously, in order to clear the site for redevelopment by the end of 2007. The rush job was a political decision, Graffagnino concludes, made at an emergency meeting at Gracie Mansion in January 2007 in order to meet a deadline set by JP Morgan Chase as a condition for its leasing the 130 Liberty St. site for a new headquarters — which was being touted as a milestone in the rebirth of Lower Manhattan. The risky, under-supervised, hazardous job proceeded at breakneck speed, and the $290-million, 92-year lease was duly signed in June 2007, according to the Real Deal, less than two months before the Deutsche Bank building would go up in flames. In the aftermath investigations found plenty of blame to go around. Several city officials were disciplined after a 2009 DOI report on the fire, including seven FDNY officers and three officials at the Department of Buildings. The DOI report made clear that a complex web of failures by multiple parties prevented the unsafe conditions from being caught and rectified before the deadly fire. But Graffagnino contends that the ultimate responsibility “the fix is in” Continued on page 16

October 20 - November 02, 2016


Halloween hijinks

south of the Brooklyn Bridge. Kids will have access to a pumpkin decorating station, a Lego brick-building zone, and a plethora of other carnival games and snacks. Everyone’s encouraged to come in costume, for a ghoulish dance with music courtesy of Ramblin’ Dan and the Freewheelin’ Band.

Don’t be scared, there’s plenty of stuff to do with your kids Downtown this Halloween BY COLIN MIXSON You wouldn’t be caught dead sitting indoors on Halloween, and why should you? Downtown ghosts and ghouls are already making plans for their All Hallows’ Eve. Follow their lead, and check out this list of spooky family friendly events courtesy of your friends at Downtown Express.

Washington Market Park Carved Pumpkin Contest Chambers and Greenwich Sts. Oct. 29, 5 p.m. start Lower Manhattan’s ultimate pumpkin competition! Knifewielding craftsman of the orange holiday squash will go head to head for awards recognizing the funniest, scariest, and most creatively carved pumpkins. Pumpkins must be carved ahead of time, and participants will be given electronic candles for illumination.

Entrants may choose to leave their creations in the park overnight for the park’s annual Halloween party on the following day.

Brookfield Place Halloween Party Winter Garden, 230 Vesey St. Oct. 29, 12 p.m. Costumed kids are invited to strut their stuff on a costume catwalk and watch performances featuring magic, science, and puppets to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve In the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place. There will also be face-painting, a dance party, and a station where kids can learn to make and share their own Halloween GIFs.

Washington Market Park Halloween Costume Parade and Party Chambers and Greenwich Sts. Oct. 30, 1–3 p.m. Costumed kids will be greeted by a dozen free carnival games, including a penny-in-a-haystack and sandbox bone dig, at Washington Market Park’s longest-running annual event. The event is typically filled with stunt men and marching bands, so expect plenty of spooky sideshow antics to keep the kids entertained.

Halloween at the Seaport District 19 Fulton St. near Front St. Oct. 30, 11 a.m. This seaside spooktacular orga-

File photo by Amanda Byron Zink

At last year’s Seaport spooktacular, Halloween heroes Kolten and Calvin Zink protected their neighborhood from a scary zombie.

nized by Fidi Families has grown from a modest gathering to one of the premier family friendly Halloween events

Halloween Kidz Karnival Pier 26, Hudson River Park Oct. 30, 12 p.m. Youngsters will be treated to a bevy of rides, performances, and carnival attractions, as well as arts and crafts at this city-sponsored Halloween bash, as the riverside park is transformed into “Halloween Central.”


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October 20 - November 02, 2016


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Tasty! Taste of the Seaport benefits schools, clobbers waistlines BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y The cobblestone streets of Front St. and Peck Slip became one big foodand-schmooze fest for the denizens of Downtown and other foodies over the weekend. Tantalizing samples were offered by participating purveyors — from soups to sliders, all sorts of specialties kept the hungry visitors grazing their way through the afternoon. There were also baked goodies, juices, and a wine and beer stall. All the food offerings were donated by local businesses for this seventhannual Taste of the Seaport, which raises money for extra school programs — such as Spanish, music, dance, library books, and teacher development — at the Spruce Street School and the Peck Street School. Taste of the Seaport is the conceptual offspring of Taste of Tribeca, which held its 22nd culinary street feast in May. On Saturday, John St. residents Rick Gilbert and Georgio Ivessa sampled the chicken BLT and the shrimp sandwich from booths on the Fulton St. side. “We like to support events down here, particularly outdoor food events,” Gilbert said.

Photo by Tequila Minsky

Councilmember Margaret Chin and Community Board 1 member Paul Hovitz turned up to show their support — and chow down.


October 20 - November 02, 2016

Photos by Tequila Minsky

(Above) The seventh-annual Taste of the Seaport drew hundreds of foodies to the historic South Street Seaport on Oct. 15 to raise money for local schools. (Right) John St. residents Georgio Ivessa, at left, and husband Rick Gilbert sampled the wares.

While there were many mouthwatering meat sandwiches, volunteer Vicki Raikes, whose two kids go to Peck Slip, had some advice for vegetarians. “Go meet Da Claudio — his grilled vegetable sandwich is absolutely delicious, and also the risotto from Trading Post,” she said. The event, which is about good will as well as good food, always attracts a gaggle of volunteers. It was Shelley Grams’s third year volunteering, greeting people and selling tickets — 5 tastes for $40 — at the entrance at Peck Slip and Front St. She also designed the event’s website. More than 120 volunteers sporting T-shirts emblazoned with “Taste of the Seaport” in aqua blue letters assisted the restaurateurs and generally helped run the four-hour event, which also included live music at the main stage that skirted Water Street. Eric DiVito, a music teacher at Spruce Street, led off the entertainment with his band. Then rock- and soul-a-billy band The Pens — featuring two parents with kids at Spruce Street, Stefan Zovich on guitar and Learan Kahanov on washboard and drums — went on at noon. “Our next gig is Nov. 28 at Cow Girl

Seahorse — a participating restaurant,” Zovich said. Spruce Street parent-volunteer Caroline O’Connor coordinated restaurant recruitment, and said efforts to ensure food safety made her job a bit more difficult. “This is the second year the health department has monitored us,” she said, adding that a few restaurants had pulled out because a rating on their booth can affect their restaurant rating. Councilmember Margaret Chin was persuaded to try Suteishi’s sushi nachos, and nodded approvingly with each bite. On Peck Slip there was face painting for the kids as well as games, and Dunkin’ Donuts had a stall where the kids could top their own donuts. “I wish I had a kid,” a nearby grownup said wistfully.

Photo by Tequila Minsky

Trading Post Chef Arturo Porras served up risotto. DowntownExpress.com

Movie munch

Seaport’s new iPic Theater brings booze, gourmet grub, ‘ninja waiters’ to the movies

Bill Egbert seats are basically La-Z-Boy recliners It’s the only movie theater in New (push-button, no noisy levers) paired York with a sommelier. on either side of a small table for your Imagine if a movie theater had a love- drinks and nosh. Yes, there are a few child with the first-class other high-end thecabin of an airliner, and aters in the city that raised in on a diet of filoffer deep-reclining let mignon sliders and seats, but they don’t signature cocktails — include pillows and that would give you an plush blankets to go idea of what the South with them. Street Seaport’s new Nor do those other iPic Theater feels like. theaters’ reclining seats The first of the have what just may be chain’s high-end ciniPic’s true killer app — emas to open in New the service call button. York City, the Seaport Photo by Eduardo Chacon / iPic Theaters Press it to sumiPic Theater lit up its This trio of angus sliders mon a “ninja waiter” screens in the historic is topped with something — yes, a ninja waiter. Fulton Building on Oct. called “candied espelette Clad in black, trained 7, and it offers and expe- bacon.” in stealth, iPic’s ninja rience beyond what you waiters slink silently would normally expect from going to through the theater and crouch by your the movies. seat, divulging their presence only with Start with the seating, which is all whisper of “what can I get for you?” by reservation. The “Premium Plus” Place your order — for pulled pork

iPic Theaters

The iPic Premium Plus seats are probably more comfortable the chair you have at home.

and grilled cheese sliders, maybe some truffle fries, or even a cocktail — and they’re gone, like the wind. Digging into a plate of lobster rolls or chocolate s’mores cake brought to you in the dark may not be in your comfort zone, but the Premium Plus pods are also equipped with a discrete LED light angled to illuminate the table when needed. After the movie, a check is brought to your seat like at any restaurant. Of course, this Premium Plus expe-

rience comes at a premium-plus price: $29 per seat. But to be fair, that does include unlimited free popcorn. If you want the chance to dine on reuben croquettes or buttermilk fried chicken at the movies but still stay on a budget, iPic also has seats billed as merely “Premium” for just $14, which is comparable to other high-end cinemas such as the Regal Battery Park or AMC Loew’s Village 7. These seats don’t ipic Continued on page 20

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Oculus OBGYNs Port Authority police officers deliver second baby at WTC PATH station BY DENNIS LYNCH The Oculus train station had an unscheduled arrival on Oct. 5, when a woman on her way to an uptown hospital gave birth right beneath the icon’s cathedral-like roof. Mariam Suleman was on her way to Lenox Hill Hospital from New Jersey with her husband Suraji Agbere around 11 p.m. when Suleman told him she couldn’t go any further. Agbere told Port Authority police officer Matthew Binkowitz that his wife was going in to labor, and the officer immediately radioed for backup and an ambulance. But little baby Naheeda­ — whose name means “beautiful” in Arabic — wasn’t going to wait. Binkowitz’s buddies Sergeant Aaron Woody and Officer Brian McGraw — who is also an emergency medical technician — rushed to the rescue. They used a tarp to set up an impromptu delivery room around Suleman for privacy, and within 10

minutes the impatient infant was cooing at commuters, according to the Port Authority. The surreal, almost dream-like setting for Naheeda’s birth was not lost on the mother. “The Oculus is so beautiful, and to have my baby born in a place like that is a memory I’ll never forget,” Suleman said. “We are very thankful for the police officers. They were Port Authority very kind and amazing and God bless After Mariam Suleman, in bed, went into labor in the middle of the Oculus transit hub on Oct. 5, Port Authority cops, from left, Inspector Ronald Shindel, them.” Naheeda’s father was amazed at the Lt. Scot Pomerantz, and Officer Matthew Binkowitz helped her bring lovely Naheeda (whose name means “beautiful” in Arabic) safely into the world — officers’ calm professionalism. much to the relief of her father Suraji Agbere, at right. “I would like to extend my gratitude to them and I was very surprised that they knew what to do, I thought they Binkowitz helped deliver together at their intended destination, Lenox Hill were doctors,” he said. “It is wonder- that station. Hospital. Binkowitz and McGraw called ful to have both of my girls healthy and Last August, they delivered a the experience “incredible.” safe.” baby girl at the Oculus’s predecessor, The Port Authority noted that archiThere’s a reason why the officers the World Trade Center PATH sta- tect Santiago Calatrava’s sleek and moddidn’t have a cow when Suleman start-T:8.75”tion. Binkowitz and a Port Authority ern design of the Oculus was meant to ed to have her baby. Naheeda was Police Department delegation later represent rebirth following the 9/11 actually the second baby McGraw and visited Naheeda and her parents at attacks.

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bpca comments Continued from page 1

scheduled meeting, leaving them with about a day to review the board’s agenda, which it’s required to post 48-hours in advance of its executive gatherings. Elected officials and many BPC dwellers are hailing the authority’s decision as a big win. But some are not so optimistic, and would prefer to postpone celebrations until the public comment period can be observed in action. “We really do need to see how well this will work,” said BPC resident and CB1 member Tammy Metzler. “It’s certainly a small opening of the door and a welcome shift, but how it’s executed will be very telling.” The BPCA board is an unelected panel appointed by the governor that currently includes only one Battery Park City resident. This inherent lack of direct accountability gives the authority little incentive to pay attention to residents’ concerns, according to Ninfa Segarra, chairwoman of CB1’s BPC Committee. “The authority’s structure is insular, not elected, and not representative of the community,” Segarra said. In April, a coalition of state and city elected officials lead by state Sen. Daniel Squadron began pressing for the authority to allow public comment at board meetings, thereby giving locals a chance to address the full board whenever it meets to make decisions. Before the Oct. 19 decision, the only forum where residents could directly address board members has been the quarterly town hall meets where BPCA president Shari Hyman and board chairman Dennis Meheil hold court. Giving residents a chance to comment at board meetings will allow locals to weigh in on authority decisions before they’re put to a vote — rather than just complain about them afterwards — and doing so may result in a considerable

public relations boost for the BPCA, according to Notaro. “What’s interesting is the community isn’t always opposed to the authority’s decision, but its process,” he said. “So there may be things where the community agrees or disagrees with the decision, however, we hear about it after the fact.” Faced with the pols’ push for public comment in the spring, the BPCA initially offered what it considered a more practical compromise and voted to allow elected officials time to speak with the board during meetings, with authority spokesman Nick Sbordone arguing that fully public comment periods are unproductive and don’t allow for a substantive discussion between officials and residents. “Unlike the public comment sessions of some other boards, where individuals read statement after statement to members who sit silently and without discussion, our new policy provides for actual engagement between the public’s elected representatives — on any matter those representatives feel appropriate to discuss — and the BPCA board in an open forum,” Sbordone said following the vote in June. It’s unclear what prompted the sudden reversal, but Meheil did vow to “take it up again,” following an impassioned plea from Squardon to reconsider the policy at last month’s board meeting. What seems certain, however, is that without considerable pressure from community members and elected officials, the authority’s board meeting’s would continue playing host to a silent audience, according to Segarra. “We are very grateful to our elected officials for supporting participatory government, especially state Sen. Daniel Squadron,” Segarra said. “Without their active advocacy, this reform would not be in place.”

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Bedtime for Buddha

State okays Tribeca Buddha Bar, but with early closing times BY COLIN MIXSON Like Siddhartha himself, the State Liquor Authority has taken the Middle Path in approving the liquor license for a Tribeca location of Buddha Bar — a swanky international bar-and-restaurant chain that locals opposed for fear will operate as a nightclub — with a litany of restrictions meant to keep things serene. With its booze permit approved, there’s now nothing standing in the way of Buddha Bar’s opening on currently quiet Thomas St., but the state’s approval came with a laundry list of stringent stipulations that the watering hole owners agreed to adhere to, including early weekday and weekend closing times of 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. respectively. “It is definitely a blow to a nightspot to have to close at midnight on weekends,” said Tribeca resident and former New York Daily News columnist George Rush. “They wanted 2 a.m. closing on weekends and 1 a.m. on weekdays, and I think most of their money comes from the later hours, and it’s seen as a night spot. So that was a big win.” Locals opposed the proposed watering hole for fear that the 12,000-squarefoot franchise would be operated as a nightclub and attract a clientele of rowdy clubbers to the narrow, residential Thomas St. Operators, meanwhile, claimed the

Associated Press

Unlike this reclining Buddha statue in Indonesia, Tribeca residents didn’t take the prospect of a Buddha Bar franchise on their street lying down.

establishment would be run as a highend restaurant. “We want to run a clean, nice operation,” said Nicolas Barthelemy, who will be the restaurant’s director of operations, at a Community Board 1 meeting in April. “We’re not here to ruin your life and make it a nightmare. I reached out to the neighbors. I think we’re being proactive about addressing some of these issues.” But community members pointed to other classy Tribeca restaurants, including Obeca Li and Megu, which were unable to make rent merely by catering just to a

dinner crowd, and eventually turned to party promoters to make ends meet. “Megu started out as a clean, nice operation, it was well loved by the community,” said CB1 member Bruce Ehrmann at the April meeting. “But the space was so large and the street was so obscure that they couldn’t make it, so they took desperate measures to try to stay in business — which was so disruptive that we closed them down.” Ultimately, CB1 voted to oppose Buddha Bar’s liquor license application, and an administrative law judge with the SLA — who presides over hearings

regarding booze permits for bars within 500 feet of other watering holes — also ruled that issuing the bar a license would not be in the public interest. Nevertheless, both the advisory group’s recommendation and its own judge’s ruling were ignored by the SLA on Oct. 11, when the state agency made its decision to approve the license. That license, however, does come with stipulations designed to prevent Buddha Bar from living up to the community’s worst fears and operating as a nightclub. Mainly, they preclude dancing and private parties from occurring at Buddha Bar, in addition to the early closing times that will prevent the kind of late-night revelries that locals dread. The bar operators have furthermore agreed to construct a 400-square-foot vestibule in front of the restaurant in order to reduce noise from the establishment, according to a public interest statement penned by owner Stefan Setfanov. In the end, locals would have preferred the state nix any plans to establish a Buddha Bar on their narrow street altogether, but they’re hopeful that the stipulations will prevent they quality of life apocalypse that called the community to action. “Its somewhere in between a loss and a win,” said Rush.

White Street waves white flag, ditches sports bar plans BY COLIN MIXSON They bowed to social pressure. Faced with the threat of twitstorm from opponents, the owners of West Broadway eatery White Street have abandoned their plan to partner with another restaurant group to transform the upscale Tribeca diner into a sports bar. The move to part ways with the Ainsworth Group came after locals warned that they would absolutely lose their twit if the plan went forward. “When I spoke with the owner after the meeting last month, I made it clear that the neighborhood was ready to use social media to expose any complaints we might have,” said White St. resident Heidi Fasnacht. “This was their biggest fear.” White Street’s owners admitted that the decision to bail on the Ainsworth


October 20 - November 02, 2016

deal was based on local feedback. “After hearing from the Tribeca community, we re-evaluated our potential partnership with the Ainsworth Group at White Street,” co-owner Dan Abrams wrote to the Tribeca Citizen blog. Abrams appeared before Community Board 1 alongside Ainsworth owner Matt Shendell at a Tribeca Committee hearing on Sept. 14, where the pair, alongside lawyer Rob Bookman, announced they were seeking permission from the State Liquor Authority to start serving libations as early as 11 a.m. in order attract brunch and midday diners. At the outset, Bookman stressed that his clients has no legal obligation to share their plans with locals — a strategy clearly intended to engender goodwill between the board and the eatery. But the strategy

backfired, and committee chairwoman Elizabeth Lewinson took exception to the attorney’s impression that he was doing the community a favor. “That sort of attitude, you’re sort of starting off with a really bad foot with the community. If you’re going to antagonize the community board and the neighbors, that’s really not in your best interest,” Lewinson said at the meeting. Board members and locals were even more irritated when Shendell admitted that the restaurant had plans beyond extending its hours of operations, and that 17 television screens would be installed throughout the eatery. The Ainsworth owner insisted that the eatery would continue to cater to lunch and diner crowds — albeit, in addition to attracting sports fans game nights.

But that didn’t make White Street’s neighbors, already feeling blindsided by the plan for early hours, any more comfortable with the sudden changes. “I feel like I’m five hours into a brain surgery and somebody said to me, ‘Is it ok if we operate?’” Fasnacht said at the meeting after Shendell dropped that bomb. “This is a very different entity than from what was there.” Assurances that White Street would keep it classy did not convince her. “You may call it upscale,” Fasnacht responded, “but to me upscale just means they’re obnoxious, noisy, wealthy guys who feel entitled to be noisy because they spent a lot of money.” Abrams did not respond to a request for comment, but Fasnacht is taking a virtual victory lap. DowntownExpress.com

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Cops hunt D’town pickpocket BY COLIN MIXSON Cops are looking for a man suspected of picking pockets across Lower Manhattan, and then going on an illicit spending spree of more than $11,300 on stolen credit cards since Aug. 7. The police first spotted the suspect on the security feed at the Herald Square Macy’s at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 7, where he spent $1,941 using a card he stole from a victim’s purse inside a Ninth Ave. diner near W. 16th St. Investigators next caught sight of the suspect via surveillance footage outside a Jersey City Target, where he used a credit card reported stolen from a Stone St. eatery near Mill Ln. on Aug. 8. The alleged crook had dipped into a diner’s purse as she supped at around 7:30 p.m., police said, before heading to the big box retailer and dropping $508 on the victim’s card. Another victim said he was inside a restaurant on King St. near W. Houston St. at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, when he realized his wallet had been pinched, and detectives later recovered footage of the same suspect buying laptops in a Prince Street Apple store with that victim’s card, cops said. The final theft believed to be connected occurred inside an uptown bar on


Cops suspect this man has been on a pick-pocketing spree across Lower Manhattan.

Park Ave. near E. 45th St. at 1:15 p.m. on Sept. 21, where the alleged thief nabbed another man’s wallet, before heading to a Fifth Ave. electronics store to buy two laptops worth $5,443, then heading to another Fifth Ave. store and buying a Macbook Pro worth $3,482 with the victim’s card, according to police. The suspect is between the ages of 30 and 40 years old, and stands at about six-feet tall, cops said. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577–8477. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577.

‘Law & Order’ actor slashed on E train at World Trade Center BY COLIN MIXSON A knife-wielding whacko attacked an actor best known for his appearance as a facially tattooed gang leader in “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” on a World Trade Center-bound E Train on Oct. 8. Douglas Drucker told police he was aboard the train as it neared the World Trade Center at 6:05 pm, when a crazed man with a scraggly beard burst into the subway car, mumbling incomprehensibly, and then turned to the actor and barking, “What are you looking at?” Drucker started making his way towards the opposite end of the car, he told the New York Daily News. “I was trying to play it cool, but then I realized he was out of his mind,” Drucker told the tabloid. “He was like pacing back and forth, and he came out with a knife.” That’s when the wacko went berserk, charged Drucker from behind, and slugged him, according to police. The actor tried once again to flee from his deranged attacker, but the

Getty Images / Mike Coppola

Actor Douglas Drucker was slashed on an E train Downtown on Oct. 8.

fiend brandished a knife and slashed Drucker’s shoulder and hand, before fleeing between cars, according to police. Drucker is perhaps best known for his role as gangster Angel Rivera on “Law and Order: SVU” in 1999, and has since appeared in roles on numerous television and film productions, including “Scorned,” “Urban Tarzan,” and “Kung Fu and Titties,” according to his IMDB page.


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BAD BUMP A pickpocket made off with a woman’s wallet and headphones inside a Broadway clothing boutique on Oct. 14. The victim told police that she was inside the diner between Spring and Broome Sts. at 7:40 p.m., when some guy suddenly bumped into her. About 20 minutes later, she realized her valuables had disappeared from her purse, cops said.

READY FOR WINTER Cops are hunting an shoplifter wanted for nabbing 13 scarves from a Vesey St. department store on Oct. 16. An employee told police he was in the store near West St. at 2:15 p.m. when the thief swiped a baker’s-dozen worth of Burberry scarves off the shelf, altogether worth a whopping $5,690.

THOUGHTFUL THIEF A thief nabbed a woman’s wallet from inside a Varick St. haunted house on Oct. 16, but returned her passport before making off with her valuables. The victim told police that she was inside the spooky attraction between Charlton and Vandam Sts. at 9 p.m., when the thief ripped her wallet from her purse. But instead of booking it off the bat, the crook turned and returned the victim’s passport before fleeing with her credit cards, cops said.

VICTIM OR VOLUNTEER? A man left $12,375 worth of clothing and jewelry unattended inside a William St. burger joint on Oct. 11 — never to see them again. The victim told police he was dining inside the eatery between Ann and Fulton Sts. at 1:15 p.m., then he stepped outside, but left his sports coat, gold Rolex — worth $10,000 alone — iPhone 6, and sunglasses behind. The man was gone for 45 minutes, and returned to find his stuff stolen, according to police.

18-KARAT CROOK A shoplifter made of with an 18-karat gold bracelet from a Prince St. fashion boutique on Oct. 8. An employee told police he was inside the store between Greene and Wooster Sts. at 1 p.m., when he spotted the crook looking around with a child in tow. The thief somehow managed to disDowntownExpress.com

tract the worker while also grabbing the ritzy bracelet, worth $17,500, cops said.

OFF THE HOOK A 31-year-old woman learned the hard way not to leave her valuables unattended inside a Battery Pl. watering hole on Oct. 4, after a thief made off with more than $11,000 worth of the victim’s swank belongings. The victim told police that she’d hung her valuables on a hook underneath the bar of the lounge near the Korean War Memorial at 11 p.m., and there they stayed as she went to the lady’s room. Upon returning, she discovered to her horror that the ritzy jewelry and designer accessories she’d left unattended had vanished, cops said.

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UN-SAFE Burglars looted a West St. marina on Oct. 3, cleaning out a safe, but for a paltry amount. A rep for the marina told police that the thief had slipped into the boat yard near Liberty St. sometime after 8 p.m., and at around noon the next day the safe was discovered empty — of the $150 it had contained.

PICKED A pickpocket nabbed a woman’s iPhone inside a Vesey St. mall on Oct. 7. The victim told police that she was dining in the upscale shopping center near Fulton St. at 3:15 p.m., when somebody bumped into her, and she discovered her cellphone was missing a few moments later. The victim was able to use a phone tracking application that traced the cell’s location to somewhere in Queens, cops said.

OCULUS STIFFED A thief looted a woman’s purse inside the Oculus shopping center on Greenwich St. on Oct. 8. Cops managed to obtain surveillance footage that shows the crook, wearing all black and with a gold marijuana leaf medallion dangling from his neck, inside the mall between Liberty and Cortland Sts at 4:08 p.m., when he can be seen dipping into the victim’s purse and removing her wallet and cellphone. His loot in hand, the thief then immediately made his way out of the mall in the direction of the Fulton Street Train Station, cops said. — Colin Mixson

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Associated Press / Seth Wenig

From left, Mitchel Alvo, Salvatore DePaola and Jeffrey Melofchik, construction supervisors for Bovis Lend Lease and the John Galt Corporation, were charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide for the deaths of firefighters Joseph Graffagnino and Robert Beddia in the Deutsche Bank building fire — but all were acquitted at trial, in part because of a nonprosecution deal for the city arranged by then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. “The fix is in” Continued from page 3

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lies with the contractors who created the conditions, and the political appointees at the city and LMDC whose pressure to finish the job quickly led to the slipshod work — and perhaps even actively discouraged the rigorous inspections and enforcement that would have saved lives, but cost time and money. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau cut a deal with Bovis that protected it from prosecution, specifically citing his concern about the economic effect of indicting a company that was such a major city contractor. The deal did require Bovis to commit to better safety practices across all its city projects, and acknowledge responsibility for the deadly fire. But the agreement was specifically designed so that the admission could not be used against Bovis in civil cases seeking damages. Morgenthau also struck a deal that protected the city from any charges, while requiring it to admit to failures in oversight and institute reforms. The DA did indict subcontractor John Galt Corp., along with three low-level employees — two construction supervisors with Galt and one with Bovis Lend Lease — but all were acquitted at trial, in part because the city’s admission of failures in its deal with Morgenthau undermined the prosecution’s case. John Galt Corp., in the only criminal conviction in connection with the blaze that killed two firefighters, was found guilty only of a misdemeanor. Graffagnino blasts the deals cut with Bovis and the city, and he faults the city and the DA for going after only lowerlevel figures, but he reserves special outrage for the utter impunity enjoyed by the LMDC, which he sees as the nexus of the entire catastrophe. As the author repeatedly points out, it was the LMDC that hired Bovis and John Galt over the objections of the DOI.

It was also the LMDC that was responsible for scheduling the FDNY inspections that should have prevented the strategy. It was the LMDC that pushed for the job to be rushed. And it was the LMDC that ignored a crucial warning that could have prevented tragedy. Just days before the fire, Graffagnino notes, the LMDC was warned by the project’s safety consultant that the site was “an accident waiting to happen,” and that Bovis could not be trusted to maintain safety. At a Council hearing after the blaze, the LMDC leadership declined to say why they took no action in response. Nonetheless, no one at the LMDC was ever charged or disciplined. As a work of journalism, “The Fix Is In” does have some weaknesses. Lacking any footnotes or endnotes referencing his sources, Graffagnino’s assertions are often left to stand on their own. An index would have made a complicated narrative with so many players much easier to follow, and more rigorous editing would have reduced how much information is repeated unnecessarily. The sheer volume of details that Graffagnino marshals for his case is impressive, but at times overwhelming, and long sections devoted to tangential topics such as the decline of the newspaper industry and a detailed history of non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements, while interesting, can give the reader a feeling of drift. But “The Fix Is In” is, at its heart, a thorough and well-argued polemic fueled by the righteous outrage of a grieving father, and as such, it is a powerful work. Graffagnino’s chapter on his family’s experience after they got the news of his son’s death is quite moving. The younger Graffagnino had recently passed the FDNY lieutenant’s exam, and he and his wife Linda were looking forward “the fix is in” Continued on page 23


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Taking a tour through time New map ‘Lower Manhattan Then & Now’ shows 500 years of history BY DENNIS LYNCH No place in city has more history than Lower Manhattan and now one local cultural organization has packed four centuries of it into a pair of maps that tell the story of New York’s first neighborhood. CultureNOW’s maps include more than 800 significant Downtown events, from Italian explorer Giovanni de Verrazzano’s 1524 landing at the tip of The Battery, to the opening of the $4 billion Oculus transit hub. “Lower Manhattan Then” charts everything up to about the turn of the 20th century, and on the reverse side, “Lower Manhattan Now” covers everything after 1905. Researchers at cultureNOW spent hundreds of hours digging through historical records to pick out significant events of all kinds, said the president and a founding member of the group. “I’m pretty sure we didn’t get everything,” Abby Suckle said. “We put what we thought was impactful — if we thought that the event had some sort of significance, be it an invention, something cultural, or something we thought was interesting.” Suckle built the maps with a team of Harvard University students over the summer, asking them “how do you tell this story [of time and change] in a document?” The map set features the tip of Manhattan south of Houston St., with the historical events listed down the right and left sides. “What we were trying to do when we started the project was to see if we could kind of capture the whole flavor of the neighborhood over time, so the research part of it became ‘what happened, and then how do you organize it?’” she said. They started with historical city maps from the last 350 years and layered them together for “Lower Manhattan Then” — a composite of nine cartographs beginning with the earliest known map of the Dutch New Amsterdam colony, circa 1660. The map reveals how the area’s history has influenced its modern character. Broadway, for example, got its start as a Wickquasgeck Native American trail that 17th-century Dutch colonists expanded into a road in and out of their settlement at the southern end of Manhattan Island. Wall St. got its name from — you guessed it — a defensive wall the Dutch built at the northern edge of that colony in 1653. About 140 years later, colonists founded the New York Stock Exchange under a buttonwood tree there near Hanover Square, just a few grim steps from their slave-trading market, cementing Wall St. as the hub of the American financial system. Further north, an 18th-century map gives way to an 1852 cartograph by John F. Harrison that shows the early plan of a densely packed Lower East Side, Tribeca, Chinatown, and Little Italy. We see the first tenement house built in the city on Mott St. between Bayard and Walker Sts. in 1824, and the 1862 chartering of the Grand Street Ferry Railroad that ran from — you guessed it again! — a ferry on the East River at the end of Grand Street.


October 20 - November 02, 2016


(Above) The front side of cultureNOW’s map, “Lower Manhattan Then,” shows the pre-20thcentury history of Downtown, and lists about 400 historical events from 1524 through 1905. (Right) The reverse side of the map, “Lower Manhattan Now,” is a more conventional-looking rendering of Lower Manhattan that labels notable buildings and the sites of significant events, as well as showing the extent of Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge in 2012 and the projected flood plain in 2050. The margins list historic Downtown events from 1906 through 2016.

The modern Geographic Information System map fills the rest of the map above Canal and Delancey Sts. Along the shore, the nine maps layered on top of each other show the gradual growth of the island outward from its original shoreline as officials flattened the island and dumped the earth into the river. An 1874 topographical map on the side shows the hills and ridges, scraped down for landfill. On the other side of the glossy, 27x36-inch foldout, “Lower Manhattan Now” depicts the steady growth of the Financial District up into the Manhattan skyline, the creation of Battery Park City, and the development of neighborhoods north of Chambers Street as we know them now. The “Lower Manhattan Now” side is much more detailed, with street names and markers for museums, art sculptures, and subways stations, so it’s definitely a better reference for the pavement-pounding history buff. But it also includes its share of historical curiosities, such as lines tracing the routes of the pneumatic

tube system that whisked mail around the city from 1897 to 1953. The map also depicts the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and marks the 2050 flood zone projected by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which reaches all the way to Church Street in the east and engulfs most of the Financial District. Some of the history the maps cover is clearly visible on the streets of Lower Manhattan today, such at Trinity Church’s storied cemetery. But as Suckle and her team looked over the history of the Downtown area, they started to see that a lot happened in Lower Manhattan that fell through the historical cracks. Revolutionary War history is highly celebrated, for then & now Continued on page 24




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Wesley Oler, president of the 1st New York Continental Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, and Wilhelmena Kelly, founding regent of the Increase Carpenter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, laid a wreath on the grave marker for the hero of Saratoga, Gen. Horatio Gates, at lower left, at the Lower Manhattan Historical Society’s commemoration of the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown on Oct. 15 at Trinity Church.

Local heroes

Ceremony recalls battles, honors patriots buried at Trinity Church

BY BILL EGBERT History buffs gathered at Downtown’s Trinity Church on Saturday to honor the victors of the two most important battles of the American Revolution. Though the battles were fought far away — in Upstate New York and coastal Virginia — the officers who won them were buried at the church’s storied cemetery. The battles of Saratoga and Yorktown happened four years apart, but ended on Oct. 17 and Oct. 19, respectively, and those two British surrenders neatly bookend our nation’s fight for independence. After the loss of New York to the British and a string other setbacks in the early years of the war, General Horatio Gates scored a crucial victory at Saratoga in 1777 that helped Benjamin Franklin convince the French to enter the war against Great Britain — a vital turning point in the revolution. DowntownExpress.com

Just how vital was proved four years later at the Siege of Yorktown, where 10,000 French troops combined with 11,000 Americans to defeat British Lt. General Charles Cornwallis in a battle that effectively won the war. The commander leading the Americans’ assault at Yorktown was none other than George Washington’s most trusted aide — now a Broadway sensation — Alexander Hamilton. Though it is well-known that Hamilton, a true Downtowner since he emigrated from his Caribbean birthplace, was buried at Trinity Church, it was only recently that historians realized that the hero of Saratoga, Horatio Gates, was also interned in the churchyard, his marker long ago lost to the elements. A few years ago, the New York chapter of the Daughters of the American heroes Continued from page 19

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ipic Continued from page 7

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Athletes take over the streets of New York again this week with the Bike MS ride on Sunday that will send cyclists all around Manhattan’s edge. With Sunday afternoon football fans headed to the Meadowlands at the same time, there will be a battle for Downtown streets. Several weeknight hockey games will cause fan traffic and some rush hour delays that will impact Lower Manhattan. But the worst of it should be Sunday afternoon — otherwise things should go smoothly this week on the streets. The Bike MS tour will close streets on the west side of Manhattan, from 7 a.m. to roughly 1 p.m. on Sunday, including West St. all the way from The Battery to 54th St., and Canal St. from West St. to the Holland Tunnel Entrance. This means Canal and Broome Sts. will be backed up from Broadway to the tunnel, Varick St. from Van Dam St. to the tunnel, and Hudson St. from the tunnel exit north. Some of the bikers will continue through the Battery Underpass and up the FDR Dr. This will affect the City Hall area as drivers try to make their way to and from the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking or the subway will be the best

offer the seat-side service of Premium Plus, but you can still order the same gourmet personal pizzas and signature cocktails from the “iPic Express” counter (iPic’s take on the traditional concession stand), and carry your food to your seat table. Also, the Premium seats closest to the screen are chaise-lounge style, so you won’t strain your neck, and you can still put your feet up like in one of those sweet Premium Plus La-Z-Boys. Most of the dishes range between $13 and $20, and cocktails between $11 and $17, but the chocolate toffee cookie is just $5, and draft beer pints are comparable to other swank bars at $8 each. Most of the wines from the page-long wine list range from $8 to $19 a glass. The iPic Theater is currently showing “Girl on a Train,” “Birth of a Nation,” “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar

way for Lower Manhattanites to travel on Sunday morning. Forget Uber, taxis, or buses. If you’re a New York football fan, and you’re planning on driving to the MetLife Stadium for the 1 p.m. Ravens vs. Jets game Sunday, avoid the Holland Tunnel at all costs. Game traffic will begin around 11:30 a.m., so traffic in the area will be tough. Opt for transit if you can, taking NJ Transit to Secaucus, and transferring to the Meadowlands line. The Battery Underpass will face closures of its own, with one tube in each direction closed from 10 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Friday, and from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Saturday. Brooklyn Bridge alert! For early bird — and night owl — commuters, the FDR Dr. southbound ramp to the Brooklynbound roadway will close from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday to Saturday. That means drivers should take local streets, and can re-enter at the Pearl St. ramp during that time frame each day. A few subway service changes over the weekend may cause transit troubles for Downtowners. The 1 train will not run between 14th St. and South Ferry over the weekend, from 11:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. Uptown E trains will not stop at Spring or 23rd Sts. from 11:45 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight until Friday.

Children,” and “Masterminds.” You can’t get iPic tickets through third-parties such as Fandango, so to reserve your seats you should go to www.ipic.com or use the iPic app.

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The green seats — billed as merely “Premium” — don’t offer seat-side food and beverage service, but the front row is chaise-lounge style to avoid neck strain.




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October 20 - November 02, 2016



‘Creepy clown’ is redundant, so is the panic Publisher

Jennifer Goodstein Editor

Bill Egbert REPORTERs

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Jack Agliata Allison Greaker Jim Steele Julio Tumbaco Art Director

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Cristina Alcine Photographers

Milo Hess Jefferson Siegel Publisher EMERITUS

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October 20 - November 02, 2016

BY LENORE SKENAZY Let’s face it: Clowns are just creepy. In a way, this current craziness has finally brought that fact out into the open, the way the word “frenemy” finally gave us a way to talk about something we all recognized but hadn’t acknowledged. (As did “bad hair day” before that.) Clowns exist in something called the “uncanny valley,” where dolls and puppets and ventriloquists’ dummies live (or, actually, don’t live) too: A place between too real to be make-believe, but too make-believe to be real. If you really want to jump out of your skin, pick up your baggage at LaGuardia some time, where a cardboard cutout of a stewardess has a hologram for a head — and it speaks. Welcome to New York! But what to make of the clown hysteria sweeping the country, leading to strange sightings, warning letters sent home from school, and actual incidents? Last week a clown with a kitchen knife chased a teen off the 6 train at 96th Street. And in Elmhurst, a 16-year-old glanced out his window and saw a clown lurking. Yikes. And that’s not to mention this weird case — a man in Kentucky shot his gun into the air when he mistook a woman walking her dog for a creepy clown. I’m sure the woman appreciated that all around. It all brings to mind the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s–90s, when Americans were convinced Satanists were raping and torturing children in day-care centers. Across the country, day-care workers were investigated for

Posted To

City: No ‘Play Street’ for Peck Slip (Sept. 30)

This is absurd. The parking lot has an entrance on Pearl Street, so the one on Peck Slip is entirely redundant. Surely the rights of children to play outside supersede the rights of a private lot to have a redundant entrance to their lot. Will

FUN RUN: Locals have a blast at Tunnel to Towers event (Oct. 6) That’s the spirit! Why sit in your apt and complain? Join in and discover how great an event it is! Nobody runs a

crimes including sacrificing animals in front of the kids and flushing kids down the toilet to secret chambers where they’d be abused. Under the sway of what we now understand to be manipulative “therapists,” the tots told stories of being flown in hot air balloons, or taken on boat trips where babies were tossed overboard. No evidence was ever found for this — no drowned babies, no giraffes sliced and diced at the zoo (which you’d think would be hard to miss). And yet, cops, juries, and judges ate this stuff up like bunny entrails. It all sounds so obviously nutty now that when I mention these things to people, they laugh. Hardy har har. Except … look what happened to Fran and Dan Keller in Texas. At their 1992 trial, the jury heard that the Kellers had killed a dog and made the kids cut it up and eat it. They also heard that the couple had taken the kids to a cemetery whereupon they shot a passerby, dismembered the body and buried it in a grave they dug. Testimony also had it that the Kellers had decapitated a baby and thrown its remains in a swimming pool that they made the kids jump into. And in case that all sounded just too plausible, they were also accused of stealing a baby gorilla and chopping off one of its fingers. There were many more allegations added to this list. And the Kellers served 21 years in

better event than T2T; everything they do goes off seamlessly! And it’s all for a great cause; building smart homes for severely disabled vets. It’s simply a great way of turning something terrible, 9/11 attacks, into something positive and uplifting. The fanatics who attacked 9/11 and their idiot supporters still live stupid, nasty, isolated, uncomfortable lives; with events like these we triumph over them every time. Michael Burke

BPC hit-and-run death marked with ‘ghost bike’ memorial (July 20) On October 7, 2016 (Friday) at

prison. In Debbie Nathan’s book about that period, “Satan’s Silence,” she nailed a mind-blowing truth: We think we are so sophisticated and scientific today, and may even scoff at the idea of “Satan,” but we have no trouble believing in “Satanists.” We simply swapped one basic human fear for another that sounds far more plausible to our modern selves. Which could explain why we believe that clowns are out to kill our kids. On the one hand, there’s the rare but terrible truth that some crazy people do shoot kids at school. Combine that with the constant fear that our kids are going to be next, and that it will be by a madman who is nonetheless organized enough to buy a rainbow wig, and you have a mash-up of all our modern parental fears: Stranger danger, randomness, the evil intentions of anyone (especially a male) who likes to work with kids. The security expert Bruce Schneier coined a term for this: Movie-plot threat. We imagine the threat to our kids is just like one we’ve seen in the movies. It is easier to picture Bozo with a bazooka than a car crash when dad is fiddling with the Garmin, so that’s the threat we focus on. We may even start seeing things. Looking back, someday we’ll be amazed that schools were sending warning letters home about clown crime. But in the meantime, we’ll keep worrying. Because that’s what humans seem to do best. Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker, author of the book and blog Free-Range Kids, and a contributor at Reason.com.

approximately 5:30 pm, a very little, young child was hit by a cyclist on the SW corner of Warren and West Streets. This was on the sidewalk/bike path section between the full bike lane lanes and Warren Street. After watching the cyclist trying to comfort the child (to no real effect), he eventually rode off since there was nothing he could do. The mother/guardian told me that he ran the red light and ran into the child. She said it was not too serious. When I looked at the child, he was still crying, one eye seemed a slightly wider than the other (maybe that’s from crying; I don’t posted Continued on page 23


Letters To the Editor, The opening of the iPic movie complex in the historic South Street Seaport area marks an historical occasion for the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Instead of being the first major movie house to geographically service the large population while complementing its unique seafaring location, it another glaring symbol of how Howard Hughes Corporation plans to turn the Seaport Historical District into an upscale, pricey mall. The first thing you discover on entering the new lobby is that there is no list of prices, movies and times anywhere. You will be informed person-

“the Fix is in” Continued from page 16

to a bright future with their two young children — Mia, 4, and Joseph, just nine months — when the call came in to the West Village firehouse of Ladder Company 5 that the Deutsche Bank building was ablaze. The author’s wrenching account of how the loss of his son affected him and his family reminds the reader that the book’s quest to assign blame is more than just an academic exercise. “Mia wanted to know why her daddy wasn’t coming home. Was it something she’d done?” he recalls in the final chapter. “What do you say to a 4-yearold whose father was killed because of

posted Continued from page 22

know), and the mother/guardian was about to clean his cheek or do something like that. Unfortunately, I had to get my young daughter home, and I forgot to get names and more details. When will the politicians and police begin to consistently and permanently enforce the laws regarding cycling, and when will cyclists begin following the law and rules, and become civil and use common sense? RD

ally that this multiplex theater has two price scales, one for its registered, paid annual club membership (lower), and another (higher) price for the public, with a rising scale of prices according to varying degrees of plushy seating and service. In the words of the receptionist, “We are not designed for children and no discount for seniors.” Food varies from restaurant to faster service, including personal service, and what should have been a modern, egalitarian, typical American movie theater is now an elitist cinema club for upscale spenders who don’t ask, “How much?” This is another dramatic example

corporate and political greed?” In addition, as the father of a firefighter killed in the blaze, Graffagnino had not only the drive but also the access to document details that would likely never find their way into a newspaper article or official report. He includes more than 50 pages of verbatim interviews with FDNY personnel at the scene of the fire — from firefighters to captains and battalion chiefs, to a deputy chief who asked to speak anonymously about his belief that city lawyers were trying to coach firefighters’ testimony before they spoke to the grand jury investigating the fatal fire. These elements make “The Fix Is In” a valuable and unique book on

problems tenants may be having. The position allows him to tag along with Very Important People/Politicians. He is a figurehead. Dolores D’Agostino

Lawsuit dispute: Gateway plaintiff accuses landlord of intimidation tactics (Oct. 5)

Is the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association even a real organization? There is no information about how to join or how its officers are elected. It is run by tenants who have lived there for 20+ years who have very different interests/ concerns (e.g., rent control, dogs) than tenants who have moved in in the last few years. As a member of the latter group, I do not feel there is an outlet to have those concerns met. On the one occasion that I tried to contact Glenn and the GPTA, I never received a response. JB

Though he is president of the Tenants’ Association, Glenn Plaskin isn’t interested in Gateway tenants. He didn’t even hold the Annual Meeting for tenants this year as required in the bylaws. He doesn’t want to hear about the

Wasn’t the window replacement project supposed to be completed in 2016? Also, have any Windows been replaced, yet? And, where? Somehow Gateway should not be relied upon (or trusted).


of the implementation of the Howard Hughes business plan, with the support of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, adding to the totally modernist glass cube building now replacing the period, salty, redwood multi-service one on Pier 17 to bury its historical identity. In addition, the attempt to build a forty-eight story tower in the water next to the tin building, and the proposal to move the iconic South Street Seaport Museum to the remote Pier 16 from early 1800s Schermerhorn Row houses, the heart of the historical area, demonstrates what happens when politicians put business (and the commerce-oriented EDC)

Associated Press / Eric M. Hazard

The seven-alarm blaze at the former Deutsche Bank building was so deadly because the building’s standpipe system was broken — unbeknownst to the FDNY.

the catastrophe which only Graffagnino could write. “I need to believe that some good will come will come out of my work,”

(BTW, isn’t it lovely the way they are forcing the church Saint Joswph’s Chapel to pay over $20k in rent per month. It sounds like they want them out so that the space can be used for a business that will pay inflated rent, then overcharge customers for crappy products and service like Le Pain Quotidien.) JD

Signal change: Safety improvements for deadly West St. intersection (Oct. 12) And how many bicyclists will actually stop at their red light to let cars turn and pedestrians cross? A big part of the problem with dangerous situations at the intersection is the reckless behavior of bike riders. Jan David Jan – right now, bicyclists proceed on their green light and cars turn into them while they also have a green light. Bicyclists approaching a RED signal

in charge of priceless cultural sites. Remember, the destruction of the grand old Penn Station to build Madison Square garden (now being talked about razing), and the near-destruction of Grand Central, is what happens when city leaders don’t care about, or learn from, history. Schools include the study of the past to deepen our view and valuing of the present. The South Street Seaport is the last, oldest location where the Manahatta seaport began, and is a place that draws visitors from around the world as well as locals to view our heritage — not a pricey mall. Sy Schleimer

he writes at the end of his book, nearly a decade in the making. “Hopefully, New Yorkers will be more vigilant, and not be complacent and assume the people they put in office will do their jobs.” When you read this book, you will be moved by experiences of the firefighters and the Graffagnino family. You will gain an alarming understanding of just how badly a project like the Deutsche Bank building demolition can go wrong when cost and speed are placed above safety. And most of all, you will share the author’s outrage that the people he holds most responsible for his son’s death were never truly held accountable.

will at least be alerted that vehicular traffic is a hazard for them. Then, they proceed at their own risk. Maryanne Braverman Maryanne – what you describe is a foundation for chaos and tragedy if bike riders assume they need not stay stopped at a red light – pedestrians and drivers (and bike riders) traveling in other directions with their own green lights are under the impression that all red light traffic (including bikes) is not crossing into their path. I’m sure you’ve noticed the huge number of close-calls between bikes and pedestrians, or the actual hits that go unreported. (even one hit is one too many) Bike riders, pedestrians and drivers (of ALL motorized and electrified vehicles) need to take responsibility for following the law and rules and common sense. I’m glad the city is taking a step in the right direction for this part of the West St. – Chambers Street intersection. More is needed, sooner than later. Jan David October 20 - November 02, 2016


then & now Continued from page 18

example, but the story of the evolution of prisons in the area isn’t, she said. “Similarly, with disasters, you see 9/11, you see Sandy,” she said, “but you skip the part where they had a horse poop problem 100 years ago.” “Lower Manhattan Then & Now” is the latest in a series of Lower Manhattan maps the group has put together over the last 15 years. CultureNOW has its roots with Suckle and a group of architects, historians, scholars, and artists that started getting together in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks. They wanted to encourage people to come back to the area and figured that maps high-

lighting history and other attractions in the neighborhoods could do that. They distributed half a million cultural and historical maps of Lower Manhattan across five editions between 2002 and 2006, and maps of culture and art around other parts of the island since then. They’ve also partnered with cities around the country for their “MuseumWithoutWalls” project, which Suckle says “showcases their cultural assets in a new way,” through podcasts and content available through their smartphone app and website. The “Lower Manhattan Then & Now” maps are $10 and available through cultureNOW (send inquires to: info@culturenow.org).

Old Print Shop

Show me your etchings cultureNOW

The front side of cultureNOW’s map, “Lower Manhattan Then,” actually layers nine historical maps and aerial views to show how Downtown has evolved through more than three centuries, (Top left) This map drawn by John Montresor shows the state of the city, now called New York, at the time of our country’s founding, in 1776. (Top right) This 1874 topographical map shows the original physical features of Downtown’s terrain. (Bottom left) This aerial view shows that as recently as 1951, Downtown still bristled with the piers that originally established Lower Manhattan as the economic epicenter of America. (Bottom right) This 1996 aerial view shows Lower Manhattan after it lost most of its piers, but gained Battery Park City.

heroes Continued from page 19

Revolution led a successful effort to install a marker for Gates in the cemetery, and on Saturday, representatives of the DAR and the Sons of the American Revolution laid a wreath at the spot to honor his crucial role in securing our independence. “The purpose of this ceremony is to help New Yorkers understand the significance of these very important but often forgotten Revolutionary War heroes, buried right here in Lower Manhattan,” said Jim Kaplan, president of the Lower Manhattan Historical Society, which helped organize the Saratoga and Yorktown commemora-


October 20 - November 02, 2016

tion, now in its fourth year. The ceremony also honored Marinus Willett, another patriot buried at Trinity, who played a critical, if ancillary, role in not one but two famed Revolutionary War battles. Willett was primarily honored on Saturday for his service as a commander at the Battle of Fort Stanwix, which prevented 3,000 British troops from heading north to join the fight at Saratoga and perhaps tipping the balance against Gates. But Willett first showed his patriot colors two years earlier, right here in Lower Manhattan, just a few blocks from his grave at Trinity Church. In 1775, as a rabble-rousing member of the

William Rollinson made this etching in 1804 based on the last known portrait of Alexander Hamilton before his untimely death at the hands of rival Aaron Burr that same year. The oil painting by Archibald Robertson that it was based on is now lost, the Rollinson etching will be one of many rare artworks and documents on view at the Wall Street Collectors Bourse running Oct. 21–23 at the Museum of American Finance at 48 Wall St. Original Hamilton letters, stock certificates and currency bearing his image will be on exhibit and for sale at the event, which will also feature a virtual exhibit called “Alexander Hamilton: Art and Popular Culture,” expanding on the popularity of “Hamilton – the Musical” and providing commentary on his career and legacy.

Sons of Liberty, Willett jumped in front of a British army convoy coming down Broad Street on its way to bring heavy arms to the British forces in Boston in advance of the Battle of Bunker Hill. His dramatic act inspired other patriots to join him, and they prevented heavy weapons from reaching Boston, where they would have made short work of the rebels in that crucial early battle. In addition to the Lower Manhattan Historical Society, and representatives of the descendants of revolutionary patriots, groups representing French veterans also joined in the ceremony to mark the French contributions to American independence.

Photo by Bill Egbert

Alexander Hamilton, also buried at Trinity Church, was honored as the hero of the Battle of Yorktown. DowntownExpress.com



Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell


phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.


Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.


Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at

a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.


Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.

October 20 - November 02, 2016


Horror Hounds, Theater Freaks & Club Creeps Downtown’s hallow-weirdest happenings


BY SEAN EGAN It can be a hellish task to choose from the sheer variety of Halloween events in that vast and twisted underworld known as Downtown Manhattan, so we’ve handpicked some of the best ways to go about the deadly serious business at hand.

VAMPIRE MASQUERADE It’s not easy describing exactly what “Vampire Masquerade” is — and that’s because this immersive, free-form “happening” (as creator Michael Alan describes it) won’t really exist until it happens, naturally. “There’s a whole lot of things that it’s not,” said Alan, an artist and musician born and raised in New York City. “I don’t see a lot of fine art things around Halloween that are very scary, or even a little scary,” he elaborated. “I really wanted to give people an authentic New York horror show from the arts culture.” While the exact specifics of how the happening will shake down are abstract, what we do know in advance is that it will involve fine art created by Alan and collaborators spanning multiple mediums, from painting, sculpture, image/ video projection, and experimental music, to performance (Alan’s been fleshing out a cast of characters for the evening). And with audience participation greatly encouraged and the requirement to unplug for the happening’s duration (photography and phone use aren’t allowed), “Vampire Masquerade” seems poised to be the kind of strange, fun, had-to-bethere Halloween experience that could only happen in New York. Oct. 22, 7pm–midnight, at Teatro IATI (64 E. Fourth St., btw. Second Ave. & Bowery). Visit michaelalan.com for more info.

FEARnyc FILM FESTIVAL This year sees the inaugural edition of FEARnyc — billed as New York’s biggest horror film festival — featuring dozens of screenings of new features and


October 20 - November 02, 2016

Courtesy Webster Hall

Some of the gory party-goers at Webster Hell, Webster Hall’s after party for the world-famous Village Halloween Parade.

old favorites. “We wanted to give the audience really a tour through the horror world, and represent all of the various subgenres,” said festival founder John Capo. “We really wanted to present variety.” The repertory slate attests to this, featuring a showing of “The Exorcist” with a live séance, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” paired with an in-theater party, and screenings of tons of classics (including “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Psycho”). “For the new films it was about, ‘What are the most exciting new films people haven’t seen that they’re gonna be talking about tomorrow?’ ” Capo revealed, of the lineup that includes

“Dead Awake” by “Final Destination” creator Jeffery Reddick, and a remake of “Blood Feast.” The merits of these films will be weighed by a panel that includes jurors like Kate Siegel, the star/co-writer of the tightly wound thriller “Hush,” and Robert Eggers, director of “The Witch.” “If you like horror films, there’s no better opportunity this year to see so many of them on the big screen,” Capo asserted. “It’s an incredible experience to see these films in a theater full of fans, so I think people will have a great time.” Oct. 21–27 at Cinema Village (22 E. 12th St., btw. University Pl. & Fifth Ave.). Visit fearnyc.com for info.

Luckily, homebodies need not leave their couches to check out some new, adventurous horror cinema; they just need to queue up Joel Potrykus’ latest feature “The Alchemist Cookbook.” Mixing an uneasy blend of dark comedy, intimate character study, and horror, “Alchemist” tells the story of Sean, a loner living off-the-grid in a trailer in the woods, who spends his days mixing chemicals in a ramshackle kitchen lab, and poring over a mysterious book full of Latin incantation and eerie illustrations. His only companions are his cat Kasper, and his supply-bringing friend Cortes — and, well, whatever evil force might be causing the threatening whispers and roars on the wind. As the film progresses things alternate between shaggy, offbeat humor and slowly mounting psychological terror, never letting on what’s coming next. This confident balancing of moods is the film’s greatest strength — it’s unsettling and entertaining in equal measure, making it a thoroughly original must-watch for genre fans. Best of all, it can be yours right now — as Potrykus released the film on Oct. 7 on a “pay-what-you-want” model using BitTorrent. Chances are, though, “Alchemist” will linger with you, and you’ll end up wanting to pay more for the peek into Potrykus’ distinct cinematic world. Visit thealchemistcookbook.oscilloscope.net.

BLOOD MANOR Nothing says Halloween quite like a good, solid haunted house — and Blood Manor is nothing if not a tried-and-true, time-tested scare shack. A perennial favorite of this paper, Blood Manor has been operating for years downtown, consistently and thoroughly providing scares for visitors. Guided through in groups, HALLOWEEN continued on p. 27 DowntownExpress.com

Courtesy the artist

Courtesy the filmmakers

A mask that will be featured in artist/musician Michael Alan’s horror-themed happening “Vampire Masquerade.”

In “Dry Blood” (just one of over 65 screenings happening at FEARnyc), a supernatural mystery interrupts one man’s attempts to sober up.

HALLOWEEN continued from p. 26

the attraction provides visitors with a (pardon the pun) killer lineup of different themed rooms — and with the variety on display, at least one is guaranteed to strike a nerve. Highlights of previous years include a grimy meat locker, a mad scientist’s lab complete with vivisected gorilla, and a neon-soaked zombie strip club (the Manor’s campy sense of humor is also a plus). Real thrillseekers should take note of the special “lights out” nights the Manor offers, upping the ante by leaving victims (er, visitors) to stumble around in the dark. Through Nov. 5, at 163 Varick St. (btw. Charlton & Vandam Sts.).Visit bloodmanor.com.

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY VILLAGE HALLOWEEN COSTUME BALL For those who want to raise the curtain on Halloween in style, look no further than the Theater for the New City’s Village Halloween Costume Ball. Now in its 40th year, the ball (which requires participants to be in costume or don formal wear) finds the theater’s premises transformed into a Halloween wonderland, packed to the gills with artists and activities for those who attend. Starting with outdoor festivities and progressing inside as the night goes on, attendees will be treated to cabaret acts, big bands, dancers, numerology readings, and the “House of Horrors” maze. And naturally, food and drink will be available for purchase at the “Witches’ Cauldron,” ensuring you have enough

energy to party through till the Monsters and Miracles Costume Parade, where participants have a chance to win prizes for their getups. Oct. 31, at Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., btw. E. Ninth & E. 10th Sts.). Visit theaterforthenewcity.net for info.

THE 43rd ANNUAL VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE/WEBSTER HELL The Village Halloween Parade, NYC’s pre-eminent Halloween event, has been thrilling people for years — 43 to be exact — as tens of thousands of costumed New Yorkers march up Sixth Ave., from Spring to 16th Sts., creating a spooky spectacle. Anyone and everyone decked out in a costume is invited to par-

ticipate in the parade (whose entertainment also includes bands, dancers, and giant puppets) with no prior registration needed, making for a truly unique New York community experience. And if you aren’t all Halloween’d out after marching in the parade, you’d do well to head on over to Webster Hall’s annual parade after party. The event, fittingly titled “Webster Hell,” allows visitors the chance to dance into the wee hours of the night and compete for costume prizes, culminating in the climactic annual “virgin sacrifice,” in which the “Demon Queen” hoists a randomly chosen virgin over the crowd in order to spill her blood. Oct. 31 at Webster Hall (125 E. 11th St., btw. Third & Fourth Aves.). Visit halloween-nyc.com and websterhall. com/halloween.

Courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories

Photo by Jonathan Slaff

In “The Alchemist Cookbook,” Sean skulks through the woods, where demonic forces may or may not lurk.

Satiate your theatrical urges, at the Theater for the New City’s 40th Annual Village Halloween Costume Ball.


October 20 - November 02, 2016


Queen of Harlem Renaissance is Subject of ‘Zora’

Holder’s play praises Hurston’s pioneering BY TRAV S.D. The year 2016 saw the 125th birthday of trailblazing African American writer, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). To mark the occasion, the New Federal Theatre is reviving their 1998 production of Laurence Holder’s “Zora Neale Hurston: A Theatrical Biography.” Sometimes known as the “Queen of the Harlem Renaissance,” Hurston had a life and a career that were extraordinary by any standard. Raised in Eatonville, Florida, America’s first town to be incorporated and governed entirely by African Americans, Hurston went on to study at Howard University and later Barnard College. While at Barnard, she was tapped by anthropologist Franz Boas to collect material on the folk culture of African Americans, a lifelong project that would come to embrace a study of the people of the Caribbean as well. Said Woodie King Jr., artistic director of the New Federal Theatre and director of the upcoming play, “She was a pioneer of promoting the folkways of AfricanAmericans that had been unheard up until that time. She went into the South and collected tons of stories. She studied folk music and blues songs, she spoke with people on chain gangs, in prison, in lumber camps, at fishing holes, on front porches. It all had an impact on her.” Hurston had already begun publishing her fiction prior to this folklore fieldwork, becoming one of the key players in the Harlem Renaissance by the mid-1920s alongside such figures as Langston Hughes. Her subsequent studies of folk culture would come to enrich her short stories, novels and non-fiction works of a decade later to a marked degree, giving them a dis-

Photo by Martha Swope

Elizabeth Van Dyke in “Zora Neale Hurston: A Theatrical Biography.”

tinct, authentic flavor. Her principle works were written during the Great Depression: the novels “Jonah’s Gourd Vine” (1934), “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (1937, her best-known work), and “Moses, Man of the Mountain” (1939), and the nonfiction works “Mules and Men” (1935) and “Tell My Horse” (1938). In the 1940s

Theater for the New City • 155 1st Avenue at E. 10th St. Reservations & Info (212) 254-1109 For more info, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net

East Village Halloween Costume Ball Monday, October 31st Come see and be seen and Celebrate the Night of Nights! Costume Parade & Live Bands | Miracles & Monsters HOT FOOD & HOT ENTERTAINMENT Band stage on E. 10th St. at 4:30PM DOORS OPEN 7:30 PM ALL TICKETS, $20!


October 20 - November 02, 2016

there followed a memoir “Dust Tracks on a Road” (1942), and one last published novel “Seraph on the Sewanee” (1948). Over the years she also wrote plays, poetry, short stories, articles, and opinion pieces. In later years she fell out of favor. The fact that she wrote in phonetically rendered black dialect (an outgrowth of her anthropological fieldwork) alienated her from many black readers and intellectuals (including novelist Richard Wright), as did the fact that she was an outspoken political conservative. In 1948 she was framed by Florida authorities, who accused of her molesting a 10-year-old boy, a crime of which she was manifestly innocent, having been in Honduras at the time. This incident finished her career as a public figure. Hurston spent her remaining 12 years both penniless and obscure. According to playwright Holder, Hurston’s famously go-it-alone personality contributed to this isolation. “She didn’t really like authority, and being

a woman, she was constantly being upbraided by men, being told to stay in the kitchen and so forth. She rebelled against it. She knew who she was and was quick to remind everyone. But,” he added admiringly, “she was one bad-ass bitch! She told Langston Hughes and Richard Wright where to go. And these were all guys who were helping her out! She castigated [scholar] Alain [LeRoy] Locke, and he was the one who helped her get into Barnard. So she didn’t really belong to anyone. She was a loner.” In 1973, Hurston’s unmarked grave was located by the young writer Alice Walker, who collaborated with others to erect a headstone, and led the rehabilitation and popularization of Hurston’s place in American literary history, beginning with a 1975 article in Ms. Magazine entitled “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” (later anthologized as “Looking for Zora”). With renewed ZORA continued on p. 29 DowntownExpress.com

Photo by Jonathan Slaff

Laurence Holder at Harlem Besame Restaurant, for a sitespecific March 2016 performance of his play, “Sugar Ray.” ZORA continued from p. 28

interest by the public, Hurston’s works were republished, re-evaluated and celebrated, and are now considered classics. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” was made into a 2005 TV movie by Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones, starring Halle Berry. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is the same book that inspired playwright Laurence Holder’s decades-long engagement with Hurston. “When I read that book I was floored — floored!” he said. According to Holder, he immediately began working on an adaptation that was being workshopped in 1979 when a call from Hurston’s estate shut it down. “That’s when I started writing a biographical play,” says Holder. This became “Zora,” which starred a then-unknown Phylicia Rashad and was presented in 1981 on a double-bill that also included Holder’s biographical play about Malcolm X entitled “When the

Photo by Martha Holmes

Elizabeth Van Dyke and Joseph Lewis Edwards in the 1998 “Zora” production.

Chickens Came Home to Roost” — starring a then-unknown Denzel Washington (now, there’s a night of theatre I wish I could go back in time to see!). In total, Holder has written five theatrical works about Hurston. In 1998, his “Zora Neale Hurston” was presented as a co-production of the American Place Theatre and Woodie King, Jr.’s National Black Touring Circuit, starring Elizabeth Van Dyke, who had directed “Zora” back in 1981. The play is a two-hander; all the men in Hurston’s life were played by Joseph Lewis Edwards. Both actors are returning for the present revival. For her portrayal of Hurston in the original production, Van Dyke won an AUDELCO Award for Best Actress.


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In the 18 years since that last production, America has seen the election of its first black president, and the appointments of its first black attorney general, and two black secretaries of state, including the first black female in that position. Oprah Winfrey became the world’s first black female billionaire. At the same time, America has continued to deal with issues of racial division, most markedly in the area of unfair practices in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. What does a figure like Hurston have to tell us today? Said King, “It would be amazing for me to know that this show would help audiences discover a figure who was present at the Harlem Renaissance,

through the Great Depression, through World War II, through the beginning of the Cold War, who wrote about all this, who gave us that vast canvas, that history. The story of Zora Neale Hurston really is a large part of the story of African Americans in the 20th century.” Through Nov. 20. Thurs., Fri. & Sat. at 8pm; Sat. & Sun. at 2:30pm. At the Castillo Theatre (543 W. 42nd St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). For tickets ($40; $30 for students/seniors; $25 for groups of 10 or more), visit castillo.org or call 212-941-1234. Visit newfederaltheatre. com. A Scholar’s Panel will be held immediately following the 2:30pm Oct. 30 performance.

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MAH JONGG IN JEWISH AND CHINESE HERITAGE Although the precise details of its Qing Dynasty origins will be forever shrouded in mystery (or at least intense debate), there’s nothing open to interpretation about the enduring appeal of Mah Jongg — a draw-and-discard game whose most popular variation (four players sitting around a table) has been part of the social fabric of America’s Chinese and Jewish communities since making its stateside debut in 1920. Co-sponsored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the China Institute, this event will delve into the history, meaning, and tradition of Mah Jongg. Panelist Gregg Swain (co-author of “Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game”) will pay tribute to the craftsmanship of those lost-to-history designers who created the game’s first tiles — while Melissa Martens Yaverbaum, from the Council of American Jewish Museums, speaks to Mah Jongg’s past and present impact on popular culture. Wed., Oct. 26, 7pm, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (36 Battery Pl., at West St. & 1st Pl.). For tickets ($12 general, $10 for MJH and China Institute members), call 646-437-4202 or visit mjhnyc. org. Also visit mahjonggtheartofthegame. com and chinainstitute.org.

ERYC TAYLOR DANCE: THE 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY PERFORMANCES A full decade after its debut performance, the prodigious output, collaborative nature, and nurturing instinct of this prolific company is still in lock step with its founding mission: “advance appreciation of dance by creating and presenting original performances, conducting master classes and workshops, and awarding grants to aspiring choreographers.” Not content to rest on its laurels, this anniversary performance from Eryc Taylor Dance will feature seven world-premiere choreographic works — each with its own stand-alone narrative, choreographed by Taylor and company members, and performed over the course of 60 requisitely tight and dynamic minutes by the quartet of Nicole Baker, Chris Bell, Graham Cole, and Jacob Kruty. The selections include “Grand Duet,” an Eryc Taylor/Timothy Pattersonchoreographed dance featuring Cole and Baker; the Bell-danced “#1 Fan,” which he choreographed, based on his original story. The quartet performs “Song for Cello & Piano,” directed by Taylor to an original composition by author/ composer Daniel Tobias; and “Dances on Wood,” another quartet work choreographed to an original score by renowned composer and longtime Chelsea Hotel resident Gerald Busby.

Fri., Oct. 21 & Sat., Oct. 22, 8pm, at Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance (55 Bethune St., at Washington St.). For tickets ($30; $20 for students & seniors), call 858-401-2456 or visit eryctaylordance.com.

“NICE T!TS!” — A RECONSTRUCTIVE COMEDY Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the appropriately scheduled time for writer/ performer Amy Marcs to present an encore run of this multi-character solo comedy about how breast cancer changed her view of femininity, self-confidence, and mortality. “I have a family history of this disease,” she told this publication prior to the 2015 run of her show. As a teenager, Marcs saw her 51-year-old mother die from the disease. Years later, she responded to her own diagnosis (and, ultimately, a double mastectomy) with “an unbelievable gut instinct that I had the emotional strength to go through this.” Determined to get back what she lost (metaphor and spoiler alert!), “Nice T!ts!” is a frank, funny, sharp, wry, and, at times, unabashedly sad look back at her “quest to find the perfect set of boobs,” and the emotionally complicated aftermath of achieving that goal. Mon., Oct. 24 and Thurs., Oct. 27, 8pm, at The PIT Loft (154 W. 29th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.). For tickets ($10-$20), visit thepit-nyc. com. Aritst info at amymarcs.com.

Photo by Juan Felipe Rangel

Amy Marcs’ tart and smart comedy about breast cancer plays at The PIT Loft through Oct. 27.

Photo by Trevor Messersmith

Tale of the tile: “Mah Jongg in Jewish and Chinese Heritage” pays tribute to the game’s impact on American popular culture.


October 20 - November 02, 2016

Photo by Maria Panina

There is only one, and it’s turning 10: Eryc Taylor Dance celebrates decade #1 with a sevenpremiere program, Oct. 21 & 22.



October 20 - November 02, 2016



October 20 - November 02, 2016


Profile for Schneps Media

Downtown Express  

October 20, 2016

Downtown Express  

October 20, 2016