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Will the Waldorf Astoria’s Majestic Interior Be Saved? 04

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October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Upper West Side SRO Residents Prevail in Housing Court

JACKSON CHEN

The damaged floor in Thomas Tesfagabr’s room at 361 West 116th Street.

BY JACKSON CHEN

S

even tenants of a single-room occupancy building on the Upper West Side are beginning to receive much-needed repairs after filing a lawsuit against their landlord and winning the case in Housing Court. For several years, the residents of 361 West 116th Street have been living amongst rodent and roach infestations in their rooms that are pockmarked with holes in the walls and cracks in the floor. Since the three-story building is set up as single-room occupancy (SRO), the tenants share bathrooms that have been laden with mold reaching from the floor to the ceiling on each floor. Thomas Tesfagabr, an 11-year tenant, fired off a list of serious violations in his room, including a missing stove, a broken freezer, and several water-damaged areas of the wall and floor. During winters, he resorts to taping up the wide cracks of his window frame to keep out the cold. According to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the building has 204 open violations, with 41 of those classified as Class C, or the most severe. Winston Pitts, a 10-year tenant, said the building was built in 1903 and has had building inspectors visit and wonder how the residents can live in such conditions. “This house is disastrous,” Pitts said. “Nobody did nothing here from 1903 to 2016.” Pitts, a retired construction worker, said his main worry was the building collapsing over the next couple of decades and that he wants to find a more suitable place to live.

JACKSON CHEN

The second floor bathroom at 361 West 116th Street.

“You know how much mail people steal from us,” Pitts said, adding that mail is often dumped on the floor or in a milk crate. “This building doesn’t have a doorbell, doesn’t have a mailbox.” Pitts’ next-door neighbor Tesfagabr said that discolored water, with a hue similar to milky brown coffee, has leaked into his apartment. The tenant lifted up a corner of the flooring that resembled shipwrecked wood, tossing slivers of it to the side. To address these longstanding tenant complaints about building conditions, attorneys from the Goddard Riverside Law Project and Manhattan Legal Services represented them in filing a lawsuit against the landlord, John Lasala. Tayyaba Khokar, a Goddard Riverside attorney, said Lasala quickly earned a negative reputation among the tenants after he filed eviction proceedings against them when he took over the building in May. Khokar said the eviction cases were dismissed, but the tenants continue to contend with the poor living conditions. After an October 6 court hearing, Lasala signed consent orders to make repairs in the building, addressing the most severe cases first. While he had roughly 24 hours to fix the Class C violations, the consent agreement laid out dates for the landlord to complete remediation on the rest of the violations affecting individual tenants’ rooms. “The landlord has consented to make all the repairs, therefore we’re able to resolve it there,” Khokar said. “But if he doesn’t, we can certainly bring the case back and say he didn’t actually follow through with them.” During a visit on October 17, this reporter

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

found evidence of repairs in a few of the bathrooms, which had fresh coats of paint, but the tenants’ rooms looked untouched in their disrepair. For the tenants and attorneys, the issue now becomes making sure Lasala follows through on the court-mandated repairs. “The problem with this is you either keep coming back or bringing it up,” Khokar said of keeping tabs on Lasala. “He signed off on the agreement but it doesn’t necessarily make it enforceable if no one follows up on it.” Tesfagabr said he was given repair dates of October 19, 20, and 21 — others tenants indicated they had not yet received any dates for their renovations — but, after conversations with the landlord, he expressed doubt that all the problems would be addressed in a timely manner. “He told me he’s going to move me upstairs to fix my place,” Tesfagabr said. “I tell him fix it with the court dates they give you — October 19, 20, 21, which is for my room. He said forget about the court dates.” Lasala told Manhattan Express the repairs are progressing and on schedule, adding that the dates for working in individual rooms were set at the election of the tenants. n

New York City’s “100 Worst Landlords” Page 16

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Will the Waldorf Astoria’s Majestic Interior Be Saved? BY JACKSON CHEN

A

long Park Avenue, a five-star hotel’s grand façade with gilded lettering welcomes guests to their temporary Manhattan retreat. Past the two central revolving doors, the Waldorf Astoria’s radiantly illuminated Main Lobby serves as a lavish gathering place for hotel patrons, event attendees, and tourists. But as a result of discussions largely kept in the dark, the future of the hotel’s stately interior spaces is being weighed by its new owner and the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The famed hotel that opened in 1931 was purchased in 2014 by a Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group, for $1.95 billion. After the colossal transaction, preservationists kept a careful eye on Anbang’s intentions regarding the storied Waldorf Astoria. While the art decostyle hotel exterior was landmarked in 1993, the question now focused on the similarly-styled interiors that are without landmark protection. And in June, reports of gut renovations planned for the Waldorf’s interior spaces and its 1,413 hotel rooms confirmed the fears of many preservationists. Anbang was prepared to begin three years of construction work that would eventually convert the space into far fewer hotel rooms, with condos taking the place of many. According to the Art Deco Society of New York, the news served as their wake-up call, with preservation groups mobilizing and raising awareness of the threat to the historic hotel. “A lot of people parallel the opening of the new Waldorf Astoria to New York’s development as a global center,” Meghan Weatherby, the director of operations for the Art Deco Society, said. “It’s a melding of different cultures of the world, and it was really coming to the forefront of design and the political world.” Many preservationist groups have their own ideas about which parts of the hotel’s interior should be landmarked. For the Art Deco Society, Weatherby explained, the priorities are the Main Lobby at Park Avenue and the Grand Ballroom. “The Park Avenue Lobby and the Grand Ballroom are the two most important interior spaces just because they are the most overtly art deco,” she said. “While other spaces have deco elements, those two pretty much exemplify deco to a T.” Other preservation groups point to the Pea-

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JACKSON CHEN

The staircase that leads from the Park Avenue entrance to the Waldorf Astoria’s Main Lobby.

cock Alley that immediately follows the Main Lobby as a visitor enters from Park Avenue. With a regal clock in the center and a restaurant/ bar to its side, the space offers patrons a more intimate setting — one many eagerly flock to. In letters to the LPC, the New York Landmarks Conservancy focused on the “streamlined marble and limestone, gorgeous mosaics, artistic bronze work, and elegant plasterwork,” while the Historic Districts Council noted areas like the 18th floor Starlight Roof and the third floor Astor, Jade, and Basildon Rooms. “It is one of the last remaining grand hotel interiors in New York City,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said. “The interiors are these beautifully designed places with a great deal of cultural history that are really gifts to all of New York City.” According to the LPC rules, interior spaces considered for landmarking must be at least 30 years old and have a “special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value” in relation to the city, the state, or the nation’s history. Most interior landmarking efforts fall short because they are unable to meet the criterion that they are “customarily open or accessible to the public.”

c WALDORF ASTORIA, continued on p.17

JACKSON CHEN

The clock in Peacock Alley, just off the Main Lobby.

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Video Confirms Second Ave Subway Being Tested BY JACKSON CHEN

D

espite continued public skepticism that the Second Avenue Subway will meet its year-end deadline for opening, testing of the new line is underway, according to both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and video footage taken by transit enthusiast Max Diamond. In Diamond’s video, taken on October 9, two models of trains — the modern R160s and the more dated R68As — were seen cruising by at the Lexington Avenue–63rd Street stop. “It’s definitely an historic moment,” Diamond told Manhattan Express. “There has not been a lot of times in the last half century where we’ve been able to see a new subway line testing.” Diamond, who also goes by his online handle Dj Hammers, said he was waiting for his train at the Upper East Side station when he heard a train arriving, but out of sight. He said he quickly realized the MTA was conducting test runs of the Second Avenue Subway line on the upper level of the station and went to capture video. Through a publically accessible area, the subway buff said he was able to get a good view of the testing by standing on a staircase. He recorded several trains passing by (view at manhattanexpressnews.nyc/video-confirms-second-ave-subway-tested). Diamond’s video captured views inside the subway cars, some of which contained large rectangular structures, positioned there, he explained, to make up for the lack of actual passengers during the test runs. “Those boxes are just weight to simulate passenger crowds; some trains had them, some didn’t,” Diamond said. “[The MTA] wants to make sure the power system can handle multiple trains on the line at the same time and if the train is loaded with a full load of passengers.” MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz confirmed that testing was underway.

MAX DIAMOND

Subway cars testing the new Second Avenue Subway line at the Lexington Avenue–63rd Street stop.

“We are beginning various tests all along the Second Avenue Subway, as we said we would,” Ortiz said last week. “That testing includes some train runs, which began this weekend.” Ortiz added that the December 31 opening date of the Second Avenue Subway, which has been touted repeatedly by the MTA, has not changed. The most recent quarterly progress update from the MTA Capital Construction division, however, casts more than a shadow of doubt on the agency’s ability to meet that deadline. A September 26 report to the MTA Board’s Capital Program Oversight Committee indicated that entrances and elevators for the 72nd Street Station and fire alarm testing throughout the line could possibly affect the opening date. After witnessing the testing, Diamond said it’s simply a waiting game to see if MTA hits its mark. “I just wouldn’t really have enough info to tell you whether or not they’ll make it or not,” Diamond said. “But testing is definitely a good sign, and at least the tracks, signals, power supply, and platfor ms are in good enough shape that trains can run up and down that line under their own power.” The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, which was initially discussed as early as 1919, will include new stations at 96th, 86th, and 72nd Streets to connect to the existing system at the Lexington Avenue–63rd Street stop. When finally completed – more than a decade from now – the new line will extend 8.5 miles from 125th Street in East Harlem to Hanover Street downtown. n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

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Heaping Praise,

Landmarks Preservation Okays Gilder Center Project

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

A rendering of the entryway into the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation from the Theodore Roosevelt Park.

JACKSON CHEN

Architect Jeanne Gang chats with LPC Commissioner Michael Devonshire about the Gilder Center design at the commission’s October 11 hearing.

BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he American Museum of Natural History’s controversial expansion project on Columbus Avenue won unanimous approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on October 11. The commissioners’ vote followed Community Board 7’s majority approval six days earlier.

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The museum’s Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation has the goal of offering more programmatic space while also alleviating interior visitor flow within the museum. The $325 million project has bumped into strong and continued opposition from residents due to its encroachment on the surrounding Theodore

Roosevelt Park and the building’s “out-of-character” scale, according to those against it. In July, the museum responded to those concerns by unveiling a redesign of the park that included a wider entrance, quiet areas designed for neighborhood use, and the preservation of two notable mature trees. In one of the first steps in its review process, the project went before the LPC because of the demolition of three existing buildings and the creation of the Gilder Center within a museum campus that is landmarked. The commissioners praised the project design, calling it a “beautiful contemporary expression” and a “stunning piece of architecture.” “I think it’s going to be a wonderful addition to one of the best institutions in the world,” LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said. “I think the commission can very proud in approving a project like this… it goes way beyond the appropriateness.” Many of the commissioners took turns commending the design from Jeanne Gang and her team at Studio Gang.

“There’s the very compelling design, this cavernous extra-tall space experience, which I think is just so powerful and really captured the imagination of lots of people in the community,” LPC Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said. The only suggestion the commission offered was its questioning of the use of stucco for the rear façade of the structure, which would be visible from the interior courtyard of the museum. As for the main façade of the Gilder Center, the project’s design team said they would employ the same material, Milford pink granite, used by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall on the other side of the museum. “The museum has been working with the architect to make sure the project respects the existing museum campus and its location in a landmark district and in a public park,” Ellen Futter, the museum’s president, said in a written statement. “We appreciate the careful consideration of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and we look forward to the next steps in the process.” Like the LPC, CB7 signaled its embrace of both the museum’s expansion and the park’s redesign with a full board vote on October 5. “The most difficult question for me is the loss of a quarter acre of park land in favor of a quarter acre of building,” Klari Neuwelt, CB7’s Parks Committee chair said. “I do think, on balance, that the plusses of the design, both the park and new building, outweigh the negatives of removing a quarter acre of park space.” CB7 member Richard Asche noted that the board’s purview that night was to consider the specifics of the museum’s proposed expansion design and the park improvements, and to leave the bigger debate about the overall project for when the environmental impact statement is completed. “It is too bad we’re not allowed to consider all these issues as a whole,” Asche said. “As for the building itself, I think it’s going to enhance the 79th Street corridor… As to the park, the design looks okay. The question is whether the mitigation is adequate, and that we’ll consider when we do an EIS.”

c GILDER, continued on p.8

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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Is There Another Option for Saving Shaare Zedek? BY JACKSON CHEN

I

n the ongoing donnybrook over the future of a 1920s synagogue building threatened with demolition, a neighborhood coalition is charging that Congregation Shaare Zedek on West 93rd Street has received a higher offer than that being paid by a developer that plans a 14-story building for the property. The congregation’s leadership has repeatedly said there is no other offer on the table and it is in a binding contract with the developer. In April, neighbors of the synagogue, located at 212 West 93rd Street, were informed of plans to demolish it and replace it with a new building. While no official plans have been filed, nearby residents have learned the new building will house a three-story synagogue and 11 stories of condo units above. The West Nineties Neighborhood Coalition, a residents organization formed in opposition to the proposed plans, has made pleas to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and Community Board 7 for an emergency landmark designation. In response, representatives of the congregation have argued it is financially suffering and a new synagogue, in partnership with the developer, Ornstein Leyton Company, is the only way it can hold onto the property and maintain a home there. According to Michael Firestone, the congregation’s president, the current building has no American with Disabilities Act compliance

c GILDER, from p.6 During testimony from community members, teachers spoke of the educational value their students would gain from the museum’s expansion, and Columbus Avenue business owners said they would prosper from the extra foot traffic generated by a new museum entrance. However, the opposition filled the room and presented CB7 with sheets filled with thousands of signatures that requested Mayor Bill de Blasio’s intervention, according

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and some portions of the interior are in disrepair or unusable. He added that the congregation cannot afford to heat or cool the building, which limits its usability for several months of the year. The structure, which seats around 1,400 people, is far too big for the congregation’s 80 families, Firestone said. With no plans filed with the Department of Buildings, CB7 has no formal role at this point in the debate over the building’s future, but its meetings have served several times as the platform for debate between the two sides. “We realize it’s a complex situation,” said Ronna Blaser, a member of the coalition. “We definitely understand their institution, but we also value the building as a piece of the history of the Upper West Side and the Jewish community.” At the most recent CB7 Preservation Committee meeting, on October 13, the coalition charged that Shaare Zedek has received a new, higher offer from another Upper West Side congregation, which would preserve the existing building. According to Julie Jacobs, a member of the West Nineties Neighborhood Coalition, that provides a win-win resolution of the ongoing controversy. “If you don’t value the building in its current state because it’s not up to code, because it doesn’t suit your plaster of needs, there’s another synagogue willing to keep the building intact and bring it up to code,” Jacobs said to Shaare Zedek’s leadership. Manhattan Express could not independently confirm information

about another congregation’s interest in the building or the price it is willing to pay. Shaare Zedek’s Firestone has, on several occasions, told Manhattan Express there never was another offer and that the congregation, in any event, is locked into a contract with Ornstein Leyton that cannot be breached. Firestone added that all the questions Shaare Zedek faces from its opposition were raised by its own congregants, who have since voted unanimously in favor of the demolition and new construction. Rosalind Paaswell, a former Shaare Zedek president who is now an honorary trustee, said the proposal is the congregation’s best option after an exhaustive consideration of all its choices. “We explored so many of those options because our chief impulse was to save the building and continue our work in there,” Paaswell said. “We had an engineering study done, we had a discussion with another religious institution to come join us… we discussed all kinds of arrangements.” According to Firestone, the congregation concluded the only feasible route was reaching out to Ornstein Leyton to help it remain financially solvent. He noted that Shaare Zedek is also responsible for the 16-acre Bayside Cemetery in Queens, where congregation funds are put toward upkeep. Paaswell urged CB7 to consider the survival of the synagogue’s faith community rather than the physical structure itself. “In Judaism, buildings aren’t so

important, they are places we use to pursue our religious and community life,” Paaswell explained. “But we move, we move a lot. When a building comes down, it’s not considered a tragedy.” But the coalition argued the building’s historical merits should be decided by the LPC, and urged CB7 to press for that. “If you don’t request a hearing or don’t write a letter asking for a day in court, that will never be decided,” Jacobs said. “It’s for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to decide. If you don’t write a letter, it may never see its day in court.” While the coalition has submitted a request for LPC consideration of the building, the commission has said only that the property may merit designation and could be considered at a later date. At this point, the commission is conducting additional research on the building.n

to Claudia DiSalvo, president of Community United to Protect Theodore Roosevelt Park. William Raudenbush, a member of Community United, said the Gilder Center project would set a precedent for future expansion of the museum at the cost of park land. “We all cherish green space, it’s so quietly rejuvenating,” Raudenbush said. “And they’re not making any more of it. They’re making plenty more museum buildings and plenty more developments, but they’re not giving back park land.” While some board members

noted the impressive number of signatures, the full board ultimately deemed the designs appropriate in a 37 to 1 vote, with three abstentions. “The museum is deeply grateful for the careful and extensive review that Community Board 7 has given our proposal,” Ellen Futter, the museum’s president, said in a written statement. “Community input has played an important role in this project, and we are delighted that the Community Board, along with numerous neighborhood organizations, has offered this strong endorsement.”

The full board’s approval followed on CB7’s Parks and Preservation Committees’ votes on September 20. Despite criticism from the public, the committees forged a consensus in support of the museum’s plans while recommending that it investigate ways to separate museum visitors from park users and to achieve a zero carbon footprint for the expansion. With sweeping approvals so far, the museum will now focus on its draft environmental impact statement that will bring the project in front of CB7 again in 2017. n

JACKSON CHEN

Congregation Shaare Zedek on West 93rd Street.

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


AMERICAN RED CROSS IN GREATER NEW YORK

Brian Reagan, Neal Whittleton, and Neema Bahrami at the American Red Cross in Greater New York’s Heroes Among Us gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 5.

Healing Hearts, Helping Hands BY PAUL SCHINDLER

T

he American Red Cross in Greater New York, at its annual Heroes Among Us gala last week, honored three employees of Orlando’s LGBT Pulse Nightclub who “demonstrated extraordinary courage and selflessness” in helping patrons escape harm as a gunman killed 49 and wounded more than 50 others in an early morning rampage on June 12. Neema Bahrami, Brian Reagan, and Neal Whittleton were among those recognized at the group’s October 5 event at the American Museum of Natural History. “While witnessing unspeakable horrors, all three men demonstrated strength and clear thinking in the most frightening of circumstances,” the Red Cross said in a written statement. “In the weeks following the massacre, these heroes’ resiliency and determination have provided inspiration to others as they, their coworkers, and the Orlando community work to heal and keep Pulse alive.” Since the tragedy, Bahrami has created a charity with his young neighbors called “Hang Your Heart,” which encourages tolerance and acceptance to school age children. Regan has worked on creating programming across Orlando as well as mentoring and shepherding Pulse employees on their road to recovery from the trauma. Whittleton, who was instrumental in guiding patrons out of the building and leading the police to the shooter, Omar Mateen, continues his work in guarding the empty nightclub building and the nearby memorial. The three men, earlier in the day on October 5, visited the Red Cross’ New York headquarters, where they were joined by Josh Lockwood, the CEO of American Red Cross in Greater New York, in a panel discussion about bringing hope to a community in tragedy’s wake. Lockwood, who traveled to Orlando immediately after the deadly shootings, said, “I felt a personal connection to the Orlando community and join them in their efforts to rebuild. Our honorees have showed incredible leadership and determination to inspire hope and healing not just through their own tragedy, but to the nation.” n ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

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Parks Now Open to Returning

Queensboro Oval to Public Control BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Department of Parks and Recreation paused its plans to issue a request for proposals for a private vendor to manage the city’s Queensboro Oval Park on York Avenue, between East 59th and 60th Streets. At a Community Board 8 Parks Committee meeting on September 8, the parks department informed the community that it was preparing a draft RFP that could be ready by mid-October. The park space is currently operated by Sutton East Tennis and its owner, Tony Scolnick — who runs a private tennis franchise for between eight and 10 months out of the year, turning the space over to the public for the summer months — but the license is due to expire in August 2017. With nearly a year’s time left, the parks department was looking to make a seamless transition between the tennis club and its next operator. However, during CB8’s Parks Committee meeting on October 6, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said the RFP process has been put on hold following outspoken opposition from both the community and elected officials. Park’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro reiterated Silver’s stance in a written statement. “NYC Parks is continuing our open dialogue

with community stakeholders, including local elected officials and the Community Board, to determine the best way to activate Queensboro Oval for sports and recreational purposes,” he said. The parks department also agreed to meet with CB8’s chair, Jim Clynes, and the Parks Committee co-chairs, Peggy Price and Susan Evans, in December. Clynes said he is hopeful the board would get more definitive answers at that meeting regarding the possibility that the Queensboro Oval will be managed full time by the city rather than privately. Silver acknowledged that his department will explore that possibility. He noted, however, that Parks would have to discuss the question with the city’s Department of Transportation because the park is underneath the Queensboro Bridge. While the DOT has jurisdiction over the bridge, its concerns regarding changes in the park may involve its ability to access the structure through the oval for repairs or repainting. The DOT had not responded to a request for comment as this story was published. Once the parks department completes this new review of its options, should it determine that public management of the park is not feasible, it would have to decide whether there was still time to issue a vendor RFP or if it must sim-

MICHAEL SHIREY

The Sutton East Tennis club at the Queensboro Oval.

ply seek renewal of Sutton East Tennis’ license for another year one or two. If the department decides to go with a fulltime park, it would need to secure funding for maintenance and operations, an amount that has yet to be calculated. Silver emphasized to CB8, however, that funding would not be the determining factor in deciding whether to open up the park to the public year-round. City Councilmember Ben Kallos, who has been a fierce proponent of CB8’s mission to end private management of the park, said he is ready to allocate funds for this cause.

c OVAL, continued on p.11

Select Bus Service Coming to 79th Street BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Metropolitan T ransit Authority is looking to bring select bus service (SBS) to the M79, a route that serves 18,000 passengers every day with what riders describe as lackluster service, by spring of next year. The M79 route that traverses 79th Street from East End Avenue to Riverside Drive is often plagued with congested intersections and travel lanes blocked due to double-parkers, delivery trucks, and queues from turning vehicles, according to a presentation by the MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation. The agencies acknowl-

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edged that the M79 only travels smoothly 43 percent of the time on its crosstown route. The remainder of the time, their presentation made clear, riders face long boarding lines at bus stops, travel averaging less than 2.5 miles per hour, and other general delays. With select bus service, the route would benefit from dedicated bus lanes with traffic signals prioritized for them. Instead of waiting on long lines to board the bus, SBS passengers pay at sidewalk kiosks and then board through any door, provided they have a fare receipt. Under the new SBS plan, the bus stop at West 81st Street and

Amsterdam Avenue would be discontinued due to low ridership, its proximity to a nearby West 79th Street stop, and the sidewalk’s inability to accommodate the new fare machines. The Bus Tur naround Campaign, a group of transit advocates looking to improve the city’s bus service, released report cards for every single bus line. The M79 clocked in at an average speed of 4.3 miles per hour, with more than eight percent of its buses bunched up. In 2014, the route won the “Pokey Award” from the Straphangers Campaign for the 3.2 miles per hour average speed that group found. To address what he sees as a

JACKSON CHEN

The M79 bus route may soon enjoy select bus service.

wider problem of dismal service, City Councilmember Ben Kallos, in April, had requested that the MTA and DOT expand Select Bus

c M79, continued on p.11

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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Community residents and CB8 members just outside the entrance to Queensboro Oval at a June 25 rally demanding that the park be opened up to the public.

c OVAL, from p.10 “I have already represented to the parks department that I would be interested in investing capital funding from my office,” Kallos said, adding there was additional money available from Borough President Gale Brewer and the state. “I am willing to put my money where my mouth is in investing in this park,” Kallos said. CB8 has brought up the idea of establishing a conservancy for the park that would raise money for maintenance and other expenses. The parks department has indicated that if it decides to revert the Queensboro Oval to public management, it would take more than three years to create a fully accessible park.

c M79, from p.10 Service to the M66 and the M96, in addition to the M79. The agencies visited Community Boards 7 and 8, the two areas through which the M79 travels, and members of both boards agreed that SBS was sorely needed for the route. “There’s slow movement, declining ridership because of that, and it gets caught up in certain places due to long boarding times,” Andrew Albert, CB7’s Transportation Committee co-chair, said. “So we think [SBS] is going to be a great improvement to the route.” Albert told the transportation agencies that they may want to reconsider the ridership figures behind the 81st Street and Amsterdam Avenue stop. The stop, he said, was obstructed

Kallos insisted that in that scenario, the park should not go unused. Sutton East, he said, could remain in the space during the months it has a license to run its tennis facility provided that it return the park to its original condition during the summer months — as its license currently requires. Clynes, the CB8 chair, is encouraging the community board’s Parks Committee to for malize a report about successful public parks around the city that are underneath bridges — including Field 75 at Randalls Island and the Coleman Square Playground in Lower Manhattan — to submit to the parks department as it studies the issue. n

for several months because of a construction project, which may have affected ridership numbers. “We’ve got [SBS] on 86th Street, we definitely should have it on 79th Street,” Jim Clynes, the Community Board 8 chair said. “It’s a major crosstown thoroughfare, and it should be equally treated like 86th Street.” Clynes added that the DOT and the MTA would return to CB8 in November with more information about the M79 changes. The agencies are now focused on finalizing their traffic analysis and developing a street design and service plan, and will begin installation of the off-board fare machines this fall. They will present their draft plan for the M79 SBS to the community boards in December, prior to its launch in spring 2017. n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

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Riverside Park Bike Path Planned to Reduce Spokes’ Sparks BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Department of Parks and Recreation wants to separate pedestrian and cyclist users along a key stretch of Riverside Park’s riverfront esplanade by creating a separated inland bike path. According to the parks department as well as many users of the esplanade, its shared design between West 72nd and 83rd Streets often creates risks for collisions between speedy cyclists and pedestrians caught unawares. With many near-misses and accidents, Parks concluded the safest option was a division of users. “For anybody that’s a pedestrian in that area,” said Margaret Bracken, the department’s landscape architect and chief of design and construction, “if you could turn your head 360 degrees, you would want to do it all the time because you constantly need to be aware of what’s happening and where the next obstacle is coming from.” The separation through a designated bike path was presented at Community Board 7’s Parks Committee meeting on October 17. The new cyclist route would run north from 72nd Street to 83rd Street, east of the esplanade. Bracken explained the $200,000 bike path project — paid for with funds allocated under City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s participatory budgeting process — would require grade reduction in some areas due to its steepness, tree pruning to increase visibility of the path, and improved lighting. According to Bracken, the project should reduce instances of pedestrian and cyclist conflict, though some

JACKSON CHEN

A new bike path in Riverside Park would keep cyclists off the esplanade between West 72nd and 83rd Streets.

points of cross traffic would still exist. To reduce risk there, Parks would be widen the paths around the West 72nd and West 83rd transitional zones forming the terminus points for the new bikeway. For some cyclists, the proposal presents issues related to both the path’s hilliness and its secluded nature. According to an Upper West Sider who rode along the proposed path over the weekend, it had a feeling of isolation that could prove hazardous in emergency situations. “It’s Saturday night, and I decide I’m going to go along this path and see what it’s like at night… but I felt really unsafe,” Reed Rubey said. “Instead of being at the water where

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people are, I’m way up the hill, I’m nowhere near where people are.” Rubey added that despite the West Side Highway’s proximity, because of the tree canopy surrounding the bike path, nobody would be able to see him if he were in trouble. He also said that while he enjoys riding up hills, many other cyclists may have difficulty adjusting to that. Beth Oram, an occasional biker on the esplanade, said the new bike path would pose a burden for many riders, including herself, because the steep areas would prove to be too challenging. “I’m very sad because this is going to keep me off the greenway, I’m not one of those fit Tour de France cyclists,” Oram said, noting she underwent surgery a few months ago. “My salvation was I can bike on level ground and I have worked up so I can bike a fair distance on the greenway. But this will keep me off the greenway. I can’t do the hills.” But CB7 felt that, despite the concerns, the push to reduce collisions by separating bikes from the esplanade was a worthwhile goal. “It’s so extremely nerve-wracking and dangerous, and I absolutely have been almost struck by cyclists,” CB7 member Meisha Hunter Burkett said. “Any effort to help children, elderly, tourists, I

just think is very laudatory.” The bike path project is bundled together with a sidewalk reconstruction near Grant’s Tomb at West 122nd Street in the park and a landscaping improvement project in Crabapple Grove. The landscaping project was also presented to CB7. The Crabapple Grove project, running from West 91st to 95th Streets, was made possible with $500,000 in funding from Councilmember Rosenthal and a $100,000 contribution from a private donor who was described as a horticulturist. Bracken explained that the landscaping effort mostly involves repairing deteriorated path edges, repaving the path’s existing asphalt that is spotted with potholes, and planting more diverse and colorful greenery in the area. CB7 voted to approve both the landscaping and bike path projects, but recommended the fence for Crabapple Grove be reduced from four feet to three and include two gates for access. As for the bike path, the board noted it would like to revisit the option of seasonality — allowing bikers to use the esplanade during months it is underutilized — over the two years following the bike path’s implementation. According to Bracken, the earliest construction start date for the new bikeway would be late 2017. n

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Police Blotter HOMICIDE: BROTHERLY HATE (24TH PRECINCT) Police have arrested 56-year-old Francisco Perez for stabbing his 63-year-old brother to death inside their Upper West Side apartment. Police said that on October 6 at around 9:30 p.m., they found the victim, Luis Gonzalez, lying on the floor inside 58 West 105th Street unconscious, unresponsive, and with knife wounds to his torso. EMS responded and declared Gonzalez deceased at the scene, and police took Perez into custody after recovering a knife there. Perez was charged with murder, according to police.

COLLISION: RIGHT TURN WRECK (19TH PRECINCT) A Yorktown, New York man was arrested and charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care after striking an Upper East Sider who later died, police said. According to police, 73-year-old Blanca Pagan was walking northbound on York Avenue and crossing East 89th Street on October 7 at around 3 p.m. when she was struck. Police said 48-year-old Pjerin Gjerji was driving a white 2013 Chevy van and hit Pagan during a right turn off the southbound York Avenue and onto East 89th Street. Gjerji was taken into custody at the scene, while Pagan was transported to New York Hospital where she later died.

GRAND LARCENY: CHAIN SNATCHER (FIFTH, MIDTOWN SOUTH AND MIDTOWN NORTH PRECINCTS)

(available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as black male, 30 to 35-years-old, 6’2", 170 pounds, and last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans.

A man has been going around on subways snatching chains off of female victims as the trains come to a stop, police said. According to the NYPD, the suspect has been reported in six incidents from August to October aboard the N, Q, F, and 6 trains. In the latest incident, on October 8 at 6 p.m., the suspect yanked a necklace off a 54-year-old female on the southbound F train at the 47-50th Streets— Rockefeller Center stop. Police released photos of the suspect

ASSAULT: TOSSING KIDS BETWEEN CARS IS PROHIBITED (MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT) Police are looking for a male suspect who dragged an 11-year-old boy through a train car and attempted to throw him off the train. On October 5 at around 3:15 p.m., police said, the suspect pulled the 11-year-old boy into the area between train cars when aboard a moving south-

bound 4 train. Police said the suspect "picked him up and shook him as he was going to throw him off the train." According to police, the boy hit his head on the side of the train before a 26-yearold female passenger intervened and pulled the boy back into the train car. The Good Samaritan and the victim got off the 4 train at the 14th Street Union Square stop, while the suspect remained on the train, according to police. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male in his 30s, 6’, and last seen wearing a black sweater and a multi-colored baseball cap.

c BLOTTER, continued on p.15

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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

13


Standards and Appeals Hears

from Shearith Israel & Its Critics BY JACKSON CHEN

E

ight years after its first appearance before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals, an Upper West Side synagogue has once again gone in front of the agency to press for approval of a nine-story mixedused development on property it owns adjacent to its place of worship. Congregation Shearith Israel at 8 West 70th Street was first before the BSA back in 2008 when it received approval for its initial plans for a building that would house five residential floors, three office and classroom floors, and the ground floor lobby. Following zoning challenges and a stop-work order, the synagogue eventually had to reboot its plans by adding “minor amendments” in its application to the BSA filed in June. House HOUSE Calls CALLS

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After a contentious review at Community Board 7, opponents of the project have persisted in their objections as Shearith Israel went before the BSA on October 14. Critics, including State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, told the BSA about their concerns that the modified application was deceptive in characterizing the revisions as “minor changes” and would set a bad precedent for future development in the area. “This block of West 70th Street is home to several architecturally distinctive low-rise brownstones that would be dwarfed by the height of the new building,” Gottfried said. “It would also accelerate the dangerous trend of developers and property owners pushing high-priced luxury development to the detriment of the spirit and the letter of the city’s Same day Service available

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zoning and historic preservation laws by setting a new height standard through a variance.” According to the synagogue’s leadership, the new space was needed for an expanding congregation and greater student enrollment in its programs throughout the week. Seth Haberman, a trustee of CSI, said “the small synagogue” is often used up to three times a day for services and programming. Its seating, he explained, is very limited and oftentimes the staff must either add rows of chairs to accommodate members or limit attendance. One of the project’s leading opponents, Landmark West!, charged that the re-filing of plans with the BSA was CSI’s attempt to bypass what should be a lengthy review process by city agencies after significant revisions and the passage of eight years since the project was first vetted. “Congregation Shearith Israel is asking… to shortcut all of [the] usual procedures, to ignore all the obvious gaps in the record, and approve plans for a building that is substantially different from the one approved eight years ago,” Kate Wood, Landmark West!’s president, said. Attorneys representing the opposition groups all agreed that the changes made to the application warrant a fresh start. “This application shouldn’t be here today,” David Rosenberg, the attorney for Landmark West!, said. “There is such a major change in the building and there’s no basis for the extension. What should happen here is what happens to most applications, it should go to the Department of Buildings.” Rosenberg added that only after being denied by the DOB should the plans then come for review by the BSA, which has authority to grant a variance modifying requirements enforced by the DOB. Critiquing CSI’s application, the Landmark West! attorney argued to the BSA that the synagogue was pursuing an approval process flawed

by what he characterized as substantive discrepancies between the old and new plans. The BSA would typically take the views of the local community board into account in reviewing an application for a variance, but CB7 is still working on a final determination on the merits of the CSI project. In September, the board withheld its approval after a 40-point letter from the BSA to the synagogue raising questions about the application was provided to CB7 by Landmark West!. The preservation group obtained the letter through the state’s Freedom of Information Law. CSI responded to the queries on September 8, but CB7 felt there wasn’t enough time to thoroughly review and discuss the many issued raised by the letter and so put off a decision. CB7 member Mark Diller appeared before the BSA asking the agency to defer its determinations while the community board’s Land Use Committee and full board concluded its deliberations. Diller said a full board resolution on the project’s merits should be adopted at its November 1 meeting. The synagogue’s leadership told the BSA that the new development was critical in the congregation remaining sustainable in the face of a growing membership. “This facility will allow us to protect our past and defend our future,” Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, said. “We’ve been part of the neighborhood from its very beginning, we’ve contributed to the neighborhood since then, and we look forward to continuing to contribute to the neighborhood for many years to come.” The BSA directed the synagogue to provide, by December 7, additional information on the proposed building’s setbacks, to clarify the specific changes between plans originally approved and those now proposed, and to detail the programmatic purposes of the classrooms to be built. The synagogue will have its next hearing before the BSA on January 10. n

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c BLOTTER, from p.13 SEXUAL ASSAULT: ATTEMPTED RAPE IN CENTRAL PARK (CENTRAL PARK PRECINCT) On October 13, police arrested Bronx resident Forest Richardson, a 26-year-old male, for attempted rape, robbery, and assault after an incident on October 10 at around 9:30 p.m. According to police, a 28-year-old female victim was walking inside Central Park at around East 107th Street and East Drive when Richardson approached her from behind and threw her to the ground. Police said that Richardson attempted to sexually assault the victim and then took her cellphone from her pocket. According to police, he ran away after the attempted rape, but was arrested three days later. The victim was taken to a nearby hospital.

MENACING: CRAZED CLOWN (19TH PRECINCT) A 53-year-old man donning a clown costume and carrying a knife was recently arrested for menacing, police said. According to police, Manhattanville resident Thomas Smith, 53, was reported threatening a 16-year-old boy on October 5 at around 2 p.m. on the northbound 6 train at the East 96th Street stop. Police said Smith blocked the path of the victim who was trying to get off the train. After forcing his way past the suspect, the victim continued on his way toward the station exit but turned around and saw that the suspect was carrying a knife, police said. The boy ran out of the station and onto the street, while police were unsure where the clown-costumed man went. Eight days later, Smith was arrested.

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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

15


Public Advocate Calls Out “100 Worst Landlords” BY PAUL SCHINDLER

N

ew York City Public Advocate Letitia James, on October 13, issued her Worst Landlords Watchlist, identifying the 100 residential property owners with the most violations — as of September 6 of this year — from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Buildings. The HPD violations include failure to provide self-closing public doors or adequate lighting in public areas, lack of posted Certificate of Occupancy, failure to remove vermin, and immediately hazardous violations such as inadequate fire exits, rodents, lead-based paint, and lack of heat, hot

water, electricity, or gas. The DOB violations include infractions against the city’s construction code, its zoning resolution, and other applicable laws and regulations. The chart below identifies the head officer of entities owning residential properties, that entity’s rank among the “100 worst,” the number of properties and units it owns, the total of HPD and DOB violations cited against that entity, and details on violations cited against individual properties owned by that entity in Manhattan between 42nd Street and 125th Street. The data was provided by the Public Advocate’s Office, which compiled it from publicly available sources within city agencies. n

ALLAN GOLDMAN, #2

BRUCE HALEY, #12

MARK TRESS, #23

25 buildings, 187 units 1193 HPD violations, 15 DOB violations 664 Ninth Ave. at W. 46th St. 34 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 345 W. 46th St. 53 HPD violations, 2 DOB violations 819 Second Ave. at E. 44th St. 44 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 150 E. 46th St. 45 HPD violations, 5 DOB violations 302 E. 49th St. 44 HPD violations, 1 DOB violation 359 E. 50th St. 20 HPD violations, 1 DOB violation 957 Second Ave. at E. 51st St. 11 HPD violations, 2 DOB violations 1030 Second Ave. at E. 54th St. 35 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 35 E. 60th St. 107 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 37 E. 60th St. 33 HPD violations, 1 DOB violation 39 E. 60th St. 67 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 255 E. 61st St. 52 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 1122 First Ave. at E. 61st St. 125 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 33 E. 65th St. 37 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 985 Lexington Ave. at E. 71st St. 12 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 149 E. 72nd St. 23 HPD violations, 2 DOB violations 1405 Second Ave. at E. 73rd St. 21 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 1047 Lexington Ave. at E. 75th St. 64 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 1134 Madison Ave. at E. 84th St. 30 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 216 E. 89th St. 46 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 220 E. 89th St. 129 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 230 E. 89th St. 55 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

7 buildings, 153 units 769 HPD violations, 14 DOB violations 324 W. 43rd St. 85 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 748 Ninth Ave. at W. 50th St. 49 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 472 Columbus Ave. at W. 83rd St. 77 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 476 Columbus Ave. at W. 83rd St. 99 HPD violations, 1 DOB violation 734 Amsterdam Ave. at W. 96th St. 37 HPD violations, 37 DOB violations

1 buildings, 20 units 650 HPD violations, 14 DOB violations 400 W. 57th St. 650 HPD violations, 14 DOB violations

16

JOEL GOLDSTEIN, #19 19 buildings, 218 units 667 HPD violations, 209 DOB violations 413 E. 114th St. 103 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 220 W. 116th St. 35 HPD violations, 11 DOB violations 224 W. 116th St. 73 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

MARC CHEMTOB, #20 5 buildings, 169 units 655 HPD violations, 37 DOB violations 91 Morningside Ave. at W. 122nd St. 373 HPD violations, 12 DOB violations

MARTIN BAUMRIND, #22 12 buildings, 113 units 673 HPD violations, 6 DOB violations 520 W. 47th St. 46 HPD violations, 1 DOB violation 522 W. 47th St. 66 HPD violations, 1 DOB violation 524 W. 47th St. 74 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 526 W. 47th St. 89 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 319 W. 92nd St. 57 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 256 W. 93rd St. 32 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

SOLOMON GOTTLIEB, #32 7 buildings, 145 units 570 HPD violations, 8 DOB violations 335 W. 43rd St. 57 HPD violations, 2 DOB violations 1741 First Ave. at E. 90th St. 63 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

SARUHAN CAPIN, #62 5 buildings, 41 units 410 HPD violations, 6 DOB violations 325 E. 109th St. 173 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 327 E. 109th St. 29 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 331 E. 109th St. 105 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

ROBERT FARNHADIAN, #76 6 buildings, 76 units 380 HPD violations, 8 DOB violations 19 W. 46th St. 45 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 763 Ninth Ave. at W. 51st St. 35 HPD violations, 3 DOB violations

RICHARD LAGANAI, #78 5 buildings, 74 units 346 HPD violations, 36 DOB violations 440 W. 45th St. 85 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 410 W. 46th St. 69 HPD violations, 4 DOB violations 412 W. 46th St. 65 HPD violations, 16 DOB violations

BITA SASSOUNI, #83

4 buildings, 60 units 473 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 209 E. 116th St. 91 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

7 buildings, 79 units 360 HPD violations, 9 DOB violations 2037 First Ave. at E. 105th St. 52 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 1624 Madison Ave. at E. 108th St. 34 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 144 E. 112th St. 6 HPD violations, 7 DOB violations 455 E. 117th St. 61 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 144 W. 109th St. 41 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

KAMRAN HAKIM, #52

AMANDA REYES, #94

NASIR SASOUNESS, #49

4 buildings, 56 units 453 HPD violations, 2 DOB violations 1205 First Ave. at E. 65th St. 143 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 1209 First Ave. at E. 65th St. 185 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 1211 First Ave. at E. 65th St. 100 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 1296 Madison Ave. at E. 92nd St. 25 HPD violations, 2 DOB violations

RONALD J. SWARTZ, #55 4 buildings, 120 units 442 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 517 E. 83rd St. 137 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

4 buildings, 61 units 338 HPD violations, 8 DOB violations 328 W. 47th St. 87 HPD violations, 8 DOB violations 330 W. 47th St. 39 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations 412 W. 49th St. 128 HPD violations, 0 DOB violations

KHALIL SIKANDER, #99 3 buildings, 61 units 331 HPD violations, 3 DOB violations 503 W. 47th St. 94 HPD violations, 2 DOB violations 271 W. 119th St. 80 HPD violations, 1 DOB violation

JOHN K. ZI, #61 3 buildings, 42 units 399 HPD violations, 19 DOB violations 44 W. 73rd St. 30 HPD violations, 12 DOB violations

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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The Peacock Alley Restaurant in the hotel’s lobby.

c WALDORF ASTORIA, from p.4 Fortunately for Bankoff and his colleagues, the areas in the Waldorf ripe for landmarking are open to the public and easily fulfill other LPC criteria. Through its 85-year history, the Waldorf cemented its reputation as a luxury hotel and was frequented by US presidents, foreign dignitaries, and members of royal families throughout the world. The hotel’s celebrity guest list has also included marquee names from Muhammad Ali to Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. To lend its voice to the conversation about preserving the Waldorf’s interior, Community Board 5’s Landmarks Committee recently compiled a 42-page report that nominates many of the hotel’s notable public rooms to be landmarked. Committee members Sam Levy and Tony Testa emphasized that even public spaces where alterations have occurred over the years merit protection. Their recommendations included the Main Lobby and adjacent spaces, including the Empire and the Vanderbilt Rooms, both of which have undergone heavy alterations. According to the chair of the Landmarks Committee, Layla LawGisiko, members of the committee met with representatives from Anbang who expressed their will-

ingness to work with the LPC in preserving the interiors. Anbang said in a statement that the company is cooperating with the LPC to find an outcome that allows the Waldorf Astoria to thrive for the next century. The company added it would publicly release renovation plans “that will respect the Waldorf’s extraordinary history while bringing the property into the 21st century as an exceptional hotel and event destination for future generations to enjoy” once the work with the LPC is completed. “The Waldorf Astoria is one of the world’s remarkable buildings, and Anbang takes seriously its responsibility to be a good steward of this treasure,” the insurance company said in a statement. “A major reason we bought the hotel is that it is a landmark and an icon, with history and beautiful irreplaceable features.” However, preservationists remain very skeptical and said they’re continuing their efforts at raising awareness as they wait for some solid evidence that suitable protections for appropriate public spaces have been put in place. “Until somebody comes out with a strong statement or releases the plans, we are going to move forward with the idea that the guidance and supervision of the LPC is integral to protecting the historic interiors of the Waldorf Astoria,” Bankoff said. n

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EXPRESS OURSELVES

PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

Trust in Honest Elections Fundamental to Our Democracy BY PAUL SCHINDLER

EDITOR IN-CHIEF PAUL SCHINDLER editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc

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

ART DIRECTOR MICHAEL SHIREY

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

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

Manhattan Express, the newspaper for Midtown and the Upper East and Upper West Sides, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC. Send all inquiries to: Manhattan Express, One Metrotech Center North, Suite 1001, Brooklyn 11201 or call 718-260-4586. Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents © 2016 Manhattan Express. Manhattan Express is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, C.E.O. | Fax: 212-229-2790 Subscriptions: 26 issues, $49.00 ©2016 Manhattan Express, All rights reserved. NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC | ONE METROTECH NORTH, SUITE 1001 | BROOKLYN, NY 11201 | 212-229-1890

T

he latest dispiriting turn in a toxic presidential campaign has been Republican Donald Trump’s insistence that the results on November 8 may be fatally undermined by widespread voter fraud. He first warned of this peril in late summer when post-convention polls showed Hillary Clinton building a comfortable lead. Telling a small town crowd he was confident of winning Pennsylvania, he said the only thing that would prevent that would be shenanigans “elsewhere” in the state. With Clinton’s polling lead now more imposing, Trump is being more specific — and divisive — in his rhetoric. “Watch Philadelphia,” he said this week. “Watch St. Louis. Watch Chicago, watch Chicago. Watch so many other places.” Given Trump’s repeated habit of making racially, ethnically, and religiously tinged voter appeals, few observers failed to note that the cities he mentioned have significant African-American populations — with Philadelphia 44 percent black, St. Louis 47 percent black, and Chicago 32 percent black. The candidate, while willing to warn about specific cities, offered no evidence to back up his claims. About Philadelphia, for example, he simply said, darkly, “I hear these horror shows and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us. And everybody knows what I’m talking about.” President Obama, noting the unprecedented nature of a candidate complaining about fraud even

entists at the University of Wisconsin found “no evidence of fraudulent vote casting or vote buying, even in the states most contested in the presidential campaign.” And, in the most exhaustive examination, Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) professor Justin Levitt concluded that out of one billion ballots cast, only 31 credible cases of voter fraud could be confirmed. None of this should be surprising. American elections are highly decentralized, with voters visiting neighborhood precincts. Organizing voter fraud across this diffuse system would require an elaborate conspiracy easy to detect, while penalties for voters participating — for no personal gain, by the way — would be great. Trump may be talking out of his hat, but the consequences could be severe. Urging his supporters to monitor polling places — particularly in urban neighborhoods — invites voter intimidation with disturbing racial implications. Beyond November 8, his rhetoric could also delegitimize both Hillary Clinton, should she become president (a goal Trump pursued relentlessly regarding Obama through his “birther” nonsense), and our democratic institutions generally. American democracy is not upheld at the point of a bayonet. Our institutions largely endure through voluntary consensus by the people. Calling into question the cornerstone of our democracy — our right to have our vote counted — without any evidence to the contrary can only erode the trust needed to sustain faith in our nation. It is irresponsible, and it is as wrong as any political posturing can be. n

EXPRESS YOURSELVES

You May Be Due A Rent Freeze BY DAN GARODNICK

N

e w Yo r k e r s c a n argue about almost anything. The Yankees or the Mets. Taking the local or waiting for the

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before the election, told Trump to “quit whining,” and Republicans, on the national stage and in state governments around the country, have rejected the GOP nominee’s claim that voter fraud is either common or likely. It’s telling that most of the key swing states this year — including Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, and Arizona — have Republican governors. Surely, Trump is not worried that his own party is in on a conspiracy to seal his defeat. Trump’s stirring the pot about voter fraud doesn’t arise out of nowhere. Over the past couple of decades, Republicans have repeatedly used the risk of fraud to justify tougher voter ID laws, which not coincidentally tend to make it harder for poor people — many of them people of color — to vote. On more than one occasion — such as with Pennsylvania State Treasurer Mike Turzai in 2012 — Republicans have been caught admitting the laws are tailored to depress Democratic voter rolls. As the voter fraud debate has raged, study after study has confirmed that voter fraud essentially never happens in modern American elections — something, of course, at odds with popular notions shaped by tales of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley delivering the presidency to John F. Kennedy in 1960. The Justice Department, under President George W. Bush, spent five years focused on the issue, and came up with just 86 convictions, largely due to incorrectly filed voter registrations and misunderstandings about voter eligibility. A 2013 study by political sci-

express train. Toasting your bagel or eating it untoasted. But there’s one thing we can all agree upon: The rent is too damn high. This is an especially

acute issue for some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers, such as seniors and individuals with disabilities. Luckily, New York City has two programs that allow certain

individuals to freeze their rents: the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and the Disability Rent Increase

c FREEZE, continued on p.19

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


EXPRESS YOURSELVES

When Clowns Carry Our Worries BY LENORE SKENAZY

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et’s face it: Clowns are creepy. In a way, the current craziness out there 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 — and as did “bad hair day” before that. Clowns exist in something called the “uncanny valley,” where dolls and puppets and ventriloquists’ dummies also live (or, actually, don’t live): 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? A couple of weeks back, a clown with a kitchen knife chased a teen off the 6 train at 96th Street. And in Elmhurst, Queens, 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, daycare workers were investigated for 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

c FREEZE, from p.18 Exemption (DRIE). There’s only one problem. Actually, 77,000 problems. Estimates show there are 77,000 potentially eligible New Yorkers who have not yet signed up for SCRIE or DRIE. These individuals are leaving money on the table with each month that goes by without their rent freeze. That’s less in their pocket to pay for groceries, less for a Metrocard, less for important medications. You may even be one of the 77,000. It’s time we change this. That’s why I’ve made October East Side Rent Freeze Month. We’ve got

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

to get as many eligible New Yorkers as possible signed up for the rent freeze they’re entitled to. Individuals over 62 or individuals with a disability are eligible to sign up for a rent freeze. To qualify, you must live in a rent regulated apartment, have a household income of $50,000 or less, and spend more than a third of your income on rent. Once an application is approved, it freezes rent going forward, with the city directly paying landlords any subsequent increases. During my East Side Rent Freeze Month events, staff from my office and the Department of Finance have been on hand to

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

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 prison. In Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker’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 Satan-ists. 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 Google Maps on his phone, 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 the author and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids,” and a contributor at Reason.com. n

answer questions and confirm exactly what paperwork you need to complete the SCRIE or DRIE application. Our final week of events is taking place on October 26-28, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House at 331 East 70th Street. Rent freeze can be a serious and life-changing financial lifeline. By some estimates, 55 percent of all SCRIE participants are extremely rent-burdened. It also strengthens communities. A rent freeze ensures some of our most vulnerable and longtime community members can continue to thrive in the neigh-

borhoods they’ve called home for so many years. If you have a friend or neighbor who may qualify for SCRIE or DRIE, please do your part and tell them about East Side Rent Freeze Month and encourage them to sign up. Trust me, they’ll thank you later. If you plan to stop by our outreach events, please RSVP to Ellen Gustafson at egustafson@council.nyc.gov or 212-788-7383. For more information, check out nyc. gov/rentfreeze. City Councilmember Dan Garodnick represents District 4 on Manhattan’s East Side. n

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Absorbed in Western Self-Absorption BY STEVE ERICKSON

I

magine a film about the Hiroshima bombing that spent two thirds of its running time depicting the son of the American pilot who destroyed that city. Sounds like a strange decision, huh? I felt much the same way about Italian documentarian Gianfranco Rosi’s “Fire At Sea,” which is set on the now-notorious island of Lampedusa. The opening credits inform us that 200,000 migrants have landed there. “Fire At Sea” isn’t the first film about the isle to play New York theaters; the superior “Lampedusa in Winter” played a weekend at Anthology Film Archives last summer. The two films have numerous points of contact, including an absence of narration and interviews, as well as scenes of a radio DJ on the island. However, “Lampedusa in Winter” seems a lot more sure about what it’s doing. A person identified only as the Celluloid Liberation Front attacked “Fire At Sea” in Cinema Scope magazine when it played the Berlin Film Festival last winter for avoiding Western countries’ complicity in the crises that brought the refugees to Lampedusa in the first place. It’s true that the film’s depiction of the Italian Coast Guard shows them in a fairly benevolent light. Even their comments about the migrants’ foul smell turn out to be a fairly simple factual observation; they’ve been soaking in diesel fuel as they rode across the sea. A doctor is similarly portrayed kindly, although he requests the services of a “cultural mediator.” But I never got the feeling Rosi set out to sing the praises of the Italian government and its policy toward migrants. The problem is that he’s more interested in the daily lives of white Italians on Lampedusa while history is being made elsewhere on the island. Some of this is revealing, even politically astute: for instance, he shows the complete segregation between Italians and migrants. The world of the average Roman is probably more multicultural than that of Samuele, the young boy “Fire At Sea” focuses on. Some of Rosi’s footage of Samuele is quite compelling, particularly a creepy scene where he and a friend cut faces in cacti like Halloween pumpkins, then blow and burn holes into the plants with slingshots and small firecrackers. However, the film gains nothing from depicting Samuele’s English class at school. The boy’s problem with a lazy eye is treated as though it were on a dramatic par with an underwater search for corpses. I loved Rosi’s 2010 film “El Sicario, Room 164,” which consists of a feature-length monologue by

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KINO LORBER

Samuele Pucillo, a young Italian boy, in Gianfranco Rosi’s “Fire at Sea.”

a retired Mexican drug cartel hitman. Although difficult to watch due to the brutal nature of the criminal’s memories, it ranks with the most compelling filmed interviews. “Fire At Sea” opens the frame quite a bit. It captures the pretty but harsh Lampedusan landscape: although not a desert, this is an island where cacti thrive. The underwater scenes are quite expressive as well. Beautiful cinematography seems somewhat beside the point, though. The minimalism of “El Sicario, Room 164” was more potent. When “Fire At Sea” settles on migrants, it’s often grimly fascinating. A scene where drastically dehydrated black men are pulled off a packed boat makes one wonder what images of slave ships we might have if cinema existed in the 18th or early 19th century. A Nigerian man tells an unforgettable tale of being forced to drink his urine in the Sahara. The Dutch post-punk band the Ex titled one of their albums “History’s What’s Happening Now.” I’m sure that’s the same point Rosi intended to make, but something got lost in translation. Perhaps he even planned to indict the self-absorption of white Italians. Apart from events with obvious historical or political significance, everyone expe-

riences the minutiae of their daily lives as important, and there shouldn’t be any shame in that. But unless they have some larger point to make, artists should have a wider perspective. “Fire At Sea” suggests that a white family’s spaghetti dinner and a black man’s desperate journey across the Sahara deserve space side by side as comparable experiences. Master directors like Frederick Wiseman or Dziga Vertov could find the balance between the two or find some resonance in their juxtaposition. Rosi isn’t one of them. n

FIRE AT SEA Directed by Gianfranco Rosi Kino Lorber In Italian with English subtitles Opens Oct. 21 Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St. lincolnplazacinema.com IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St. ifccenter.com

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Manhattan Treasures FREE ADMISSION TO HAMILTON! At the sixth annual Wall Street Collectors Bourse, enjoy “Alexander Hamilton: Art and Popular Culture,” a virtual exhibit on the big screen about America’s first treasury secretary, and hear Leonard A. Zax reprise his TED Talk, “Hamilton in Paterson: America’s First Tech Incubator” (Oct. 21, 12:30 p.m.). The bourse is a free exposition, sale, and live auction by international collectors and dealers who will display hundreds of works on paper from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, including stock and bond certificates, fine prints, autographs, photos, coins, and commemorative medals. Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall St. at William St. Oct. 21-22, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Oct. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission to the museum and show are free. More information at wallstreetbourse.com.

TEDx WOMEN TEDxUpperWestSideWomen is all-day event where speakers and artists focus on the theme “It’s About Time.” Most of us feel we never have enough of it. How do we spend our time? Can we find greater solutions for race, gender, poverty, climate change, and technology? Can we reclaim ownership of our health and wellness and mind-body-spirit connection? Speakers include singer Skye Dyer, stay-at-home mom turned self-taught fashion entrepreneur

Andrea Newberry, Eileen Shields-West, chair of Refugees International, Ellen Agler, CEO of the END Fund, which battles tropical diseases, Dune Ives, executive director of the Lonely Whale Foundation, photographer Sean O’Neal, harp musician Mia Theodoratus, photographer and documentarian Beverlye Hyman Fead, and jazz artist Dayramir Gonzalez. Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th St. Oct 27, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets are $100 at symphonyspace.org.

museum will be transformed into a haunted dance party featuring DJ Hector Fonseca, Lady Bunny, and DJ Vito Fun, with a horror show presented by William from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and a costume contest. Madame Tussauds’ traditional attractions (Ghostbusters Haunted House Experience and Marvel’s Superhero Thrill Ride) will also be open. Madame Tussauds, 234 W. 42nd St. Oct. 29, 11 p.m. Tickets start at $55 at vossevents.com/ event.cfm?id=171236. You must be at least 21.

DIVINE DECADENCE

ROCK GOES THE DWEEZIL

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine celebrates Halloween each year with a silent film screening. This year’s cinematic thriller is Robert Wiene’s 1920 “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” the story of an insane hypnotist who uses a somnambulist to commit murders, which will be screened with live accompaniment by renowned organist Timothy Brumfield. St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 110th St. Oct. 28, 7 & 10 p.m. The Mettawee River Theater Company presents a “scary” performance after the 7 p.m. screening. Tickets are $25, $20 for students & seniors at web.ovationtix.com/ trs/pe/10110034.

Dweezil Zappa, the rock guitarist of famed lineage, plays whatever the f@%k he wants tonight in celebration of the half century since poppa Frank got his start in the biz. Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway at 75th St. Oct. 30, 8 p.m. Tickets are $35-$100 at beacontheatre.com.

HOUSE OF WAX Voss Events returns to Madame Tussauds for their ninth annual Halloween blowout party. All eight floors of the famed wax

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

DWEEZILZAPPA.COM

Dweezil Zappa is at the Beacon on October 30.

NETFLIX.COM

UNBREAKABLE! In the hit Netflix series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Ellie Kemper plays a 29-yearold woman just freed from 15 years as a hostage in an underground bunker in Indiana. Naturally she moves to New York, where she lives with a fab gay roommate (Tituss Burgess) in the basement of a ramshackle house owned by a wacked-out landlady (Carol Kane) in a not yet gentrified neighborhood and works for a cluelessly abusive society lady down on her

Ellie Kemper in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

luck (Jane Krakowski). Tonight, the show’s creators — Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, Sam Means, Dan Rubin, Leila Strachan, Azie Dungey, Meredith Scardino, and Lauren Gurganous — discuss the series as part of the citywide celebration of the New York Comedy Festival. 92nd Street Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St. Nov. 5, 1 p.m. Tickets are $60; $15 for those under 35 at 92y.org

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The Man He Becomes BY GARY M. KRAMER

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oonlight” is Barry Jenkins’ extraordinary film adaptation of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” which takes its title from a nighttime scene of teenage sexual experimentation on a Miami beach. Before the film gets there, Jenkins introduces the main char acter, Chiron, as a nine-year-old boy (Alex Hibbert). Nicknamed Little, he is escaping from bullies from school, who threaten to “kick his faggot ass,” by hiding out in a dope hole when he is discovered by Juan (Mahershala Ali), a local drug dealer. After Juan takes him home to his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe), Little doesn’t speak much but he does eat. When Juan returns Little to his mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), she makes clear she doesn’t want Juan involved in her son’s life. Paula, it is soon revealed, is one of Juan’s customers.

A24

Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Barry Jenkins’ "Moonlight,” based on a play by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Juan, however, becomes a kind of father figure to the young boy. A very tender scene has Juan teaching Little how to swim in the ocean, “baptizing” him. He later tells Little, “At some point, you have to decide for yourself who you are going to be. You can’t have anyone else make that decision for you.” These words resonate throughout the film as Chiron grows into adulthood, repeatedly forced to face his true nature.

What is also particularly compelling about “Moonlight” is how much we learn about the characters through their internalized — rather than expressed — emotions. Jenkins deftly captures unspoken empathy between characters, allowing viewers to appreciate why they matter to each other. Little also forges a strong relationship with Kevin (Jaden Piner). Helping Little prove he isn’t “soft,” Kevin wrestles with him in the

grass, and the sexual tension between the two — which plays out over the course of the film — is already palpable. The second act of “Moonlight” focuses on Chiron (Ashton Sanders), now a teenager, seemingly living in constant fear. His mother’s drug habit has escalated out of control, and in a particularly uncomfortable scene she demands money from him. Chiron is also still being bullied at school. His erotic dreams about Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) become reality in the scene on the beach that involves the boys kissing and more. What transpires after this romantic encounter moves “Moonlight” into its third and most compelling act. Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) has now assumed Kevin’s nickname for him, Black. When he gets a call out of the blue from Kevin (André Holland), Black meets his old friend in a diner where Kevin works. As the men reconnect, “Moonlight”

c MOONLIGHT, continued on p.25

NYC Takes Aim at Women’s Underrepresentation in Film, TV BY STEVE BARNES

W

MOME

Julie Menin, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

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hen it comes to the world of film and television, New York City has “the richest talent base in the country,” Julie Menin, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), asserted. But making sure that all segments of that talent base are accorded opportunities remains a problem. According to Menin’s office, several studies have indicated that women — along with people of color, those with disabilities, and the LGBT community — are underrepresented both in front of and behind the camera. One of those studies, done by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, found what it called “an inclusion crisis” in the industry. Not only were just 15.2 percent of directors across film, television, and digital series female,

that low level of representation also extended to writers (28.9 percent), series creators (22.6 percent), and even actors (with just 33.5 percent of speaking roles taken by women). “It’s incredibly discouraging that while women comprise 52 percent of the city’s population, less than 10 percent of the top-grossing films are directed by women,” Menin said. Her office is taking action to address that state of affairs. MOME has announced a series of initiatives directed at expanding the number of women working in all aspects of the film and television industry. From helping filmmakers find funding for their projects to encouraging budding screenwriters and providing a platform for women to showcase their work, these programs are aimed at raising the profile of women in the city’s entertainment industry, which according to Menin’s office, brings $9 billion into

the city’s economy annually. Two of those initiatives are directed specifically at getting female filmmakers the money they need to get the cameras rolling. The first of those, the office’s Women’s Fund for Film and Theatre, will provide $5 million in cash grants over the next five years to “support film and theater projects by, for, or about women.” Those funds will be dispersed at what MOME calls “strategic moments” during the course of those projects selected, providing the assistance needed to complete them. The other initiative takes the idea of speed dating and brings it into the sphere of film finance. In a “speed funding” event for 50 filmmakers, participating directors and producers will have the opportunity to meet with venture capital firms, angel investors, and other funders. To

c MENIN, continued on p.27

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


ADVERTORIAL

Top driver disTracTions Using mobile phones

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.

daydreaming

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

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | October 20 - November 02, 2016

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.

eating

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.

reading

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.

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Comfy Like Those Bunny Slippers Grandma Gave You BY DAVID KENNERLEY

T

he concept is so smart and obvious, it’s a wonder nobody has executed it until now. Find an old Hollywood movie bursting with Irving Berlin tunes, freshen up the book, pack in even more Irving Berlin tunes, rework the choreography, cast a spirited ensemble full of triple-threats, and stage it as a fizzy jukebox musical on Broadway. The result is “Holiday Inn,” inspired by the popular 1942 film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. This delightful “new” musical feels comfortably familiar, boasting nearly two dozen beloved tunes from the Irving Berlin catalogue such as “Blue Skies,” “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” “Easter Parade,” and the treasured “White Christmas” (Bing Crosby’s 1947 version is still the best-selling holiday single of all time in the US). As with any jukebox musical, the challenge is to craft a logical, captivating book that isn’t overwhelmed by the classic songs. For the most part, Gordon Greenberg (who also directs) and Chad Hodge succeed. They even manage to generate some authentically touching moments centering on finding and losing love, the fleeting nature of fame, and grabbing happiness before it’s too late. The story retains its 1940s screwball roots, centering on Jim, an entertainer who escapes the New York rat race to run a farm in Connecticut and marry his dance partner, Lila (Megan Sikora, in full-on vamp mode). But his dream unravels when she runs off with Ted, a fellow performer who’s also his best friend, and he discovers that running a farm takes a helluva lot more sweat and cash than he realized. Enter Linda, a fresh-faced local teacher, and Louise (Megan Lawrence), a capable, snappy

JOAN MARCUS

Corbin Bleu and Megan Sikora in Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge’s “Holiday Inn,” directed by Greenberg and with music by Irving Berlin.

caretaker, both ready and willing to help out. To raise funds, Jim transforms the farm into Holiday Inn, which stages shows on the holidays when his theater pals have time off from their regular gigs. It’s not long before Linda steals Jim’s heart. But will Ted return and steal Linda off to Hollywood before the romance takes hold? Throughout the seasons, the inn serves up fabulous holiday-themed musical extravaganzas (choreographed with flair by Denis Jones) animated with artful, eye-popping costumes by Alejo Vietti. Nearly every major holiday is represented (they wisely cut the movie’s dated Lincoln’s Birthday number depicting a blackface minstrel show). There’s a lot of talent on display here. Bryce Pinkham, Tony-nominated for “Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder,” lends a winsome touch to the role of Jim, even during Jim’s most stubborn moments. Lora Lee Gayer brings

HOLIDAY INN Roundabout Theatre Company Studio 54 Theatre 254 W. 54th St. Through Jan. 1 Tue.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat.-Sun. at 2 p.m. $47-$152; roundabouttheatre.org Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission

an earnest insecurity to the role of Linda, as she discovers the life she’s been longing for is right under her nose. As the fame-hungry Ted, Corbin Bleu (of “High School Musical” fame)

Songs of the Empty Nest BY DAVID NOH

T

he incandescently ebullient Christine Ebersole has returned to the Café Carlyle with a new show she describes as “radically different from the last one I did at 54 Below, which was more rock-oriented. This one has material that is more classical, lots of standards like ‘After the Ball’ and ‘When I Grow Too Old to Dream.’ Its theme is the ‘Empty Nest Syndrome,’ as I have three kids who are now all in college. So, I’ve gotta work! [Laughs.]” One thing you can always be sure of with an Ebersole gig is the impeccable song selection, not to mention her glorious, wide-ranging, and sil-

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c HOLIDAY INN, continued on p.25

CHRISTINE EBERSOLE Café Carlyle

ver bell-like voice. “Marc Shaiman was my accompanist for my very first cabaret show, and I have always relied on [his partner] Scott Wittman to help me with the act, as he’s great with song selection and just knows everything. He’s been so increasingly busy over the years, with everything, that he’s less able to help me, but I always make the effort to run over what I have with him.” Mama may say she’s gone back to work, but the truth is she never stopped from the day she quit her job waitressing at the Lion’s Rock Restaurant when she first arrived in New York to take the role of Nancy, the surly Cockney maid in

35 E. 76th St. Oct. 20-21, 8:45 p.m. Oct. 22, 8:45 & 10:45 p.m. Cover charge is $70-$150 Food & drink minimum is $75 Christine Ebersole is at the Carlyle through October 22.

“Angel Street,” in the 1975 revival starring Dina Merrill. Ironically, her last Broadway appearance was in 2009’s “Blithe Spirit,” co-starring Angela Lansbury — who, with her magnificently multi-varied character work in film and stage, from “Mame” to “Gypsy” to “Sweeney Todd,” is the greatest living actress. Ironic because Lansbury’s very first

goo.gl/etaAUV or 212-744-1600

film role, for which she received an Academy Award nomination at 18, was as Nancy in “Gaslight,” George Cukor’s classic screen adaptation of “Angel Street.” Asked what working with Lansbury was like, Ebersole enthused, “Wonderful, and the consummate

c EBERSOLE, continued on p.25

October 20 - November 02, 2016 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


becomes transcendent. It would spoil the pleasures of this intimate, deeply affecting film to discuss too many details — in part because so much of the story happens inside each character or off screen. One character disappears without explanation, leaving audiences to draw their own conclusions about their fate. Some scenes, such as Paula yelling at her son, are presented twice, to emphasize, even magnify their importance. Jenkins seems less interested in plot than he is in creating a raw space where the film’s potent themes about power and masculinity can be explored. “Moonlight” sensitively investigates what it means to be black and gay amidst a world that revolves around the sale and use of drugs. We understand the characters from quiet moments — such as Little preparing a bath for himself or teenaged Chiron getting a lesson on how to make a bed from Teresa, or when Kevin and Black sit across from each other in a diner. Juan may be a tough drug dealer, but he practically melts when nine-year-old Little looks up at him and begins a series of tough questions by ask-

c HOLIDAY INN, from p.24 tempers selfishness with an easy charm, putting his devilish grin to good use. The singing and dancing at this “Holiday Inn” is everything you’d expect from an old-fashioned, splashy musical on the Great White Way. The showstopper fea-

MOONLIGHT Directed by Barry Jenkins A24 Opens Oct. 21 Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St lincolnplazacinema.com Angelika Film Center 18 W. Houston St. at Mercer St. angelikafilmcenter.com/nyc ing, “What’s a faggot?” Jenkins is not afraid to explore what makes Chiron cry, but he also shows us a shocking act of violence that proves a catalyst in Chiron maturing. Seeing the shy, confused child and later the haunted teen transform into the adult Black, who still grapples with his sexuality and who he is, is remarkable. The three actors who play this one character are all indelible in the role. If Jenkins’ film has a drawback, it is that Teresa and Paula are presented as mother/ saint and crack whore stereotypes, respectively. The lack of nuance here detracts from the film’s overall impact. But in a moving, empowering, even necessary “Moonlight,” this is a minor complaint. n

tures the entire company frenetically decking the halls for Christmas while tap dancing, jumping rope garlands, and crooning “Shaking the Blues Away.” Even for curmudgeons who find this reboot too musty and corny, surely, at least for a few minutes, that rafter-rattling number succeeds in doing just that. n

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c EBORSOLE, from p.24 professional who set the bar very high for the rest of the cast, She never missed a single performance, so, even if I was feeling sick, I would still go on, because Angela surely would.” Ebersole recently finished a Chicago run of the musical “War Paint,” which was about the highly competitive relationship between two redoubtable cosmetics queens, Elizabeth Arden (Ebersole) and Helena Rubinstein (Patti LuPone). Although praise was heaped on the two formidable divas, the play got

decidedly mixed reviews and may or may not reach Broadway. Ebersole thoroughly enjoyed working with LuPone “and my ‘Grey Gardens’ musical team Scott Frankel and Michael Korie. And my Catherine Zuber costumes were fabulous!” Ebersole may well be reunited with Korie in the upcoming “Flying Over Sunset,” along with writer/ director James Lapine. The premise is a particularly intriguing one, involving Clare Booth Luce, Aldous Huxley, and Cary Grant during their highly publicized psychological experimentation with LSD in the 1950s. n

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York Times editor Jill Abramson, and Essence Magazine editor Vanessa De qualify for participation in the event, Luca, as well as telling the stories of filmmakers will have to be part of emerging media figures. “Her Big Idea” a team with a least one member has as its focus the works of women claiming New York City residency. entrepreneurs, including the founders They will also need a finalized script of Sarabeth’s, BarkBox, Fishs Eddy, of at least 60 minutes in length, and more. either written by women or addressAnd as the last of the five initiaing women’s issues, and a screen- tives, a new report, “Women in the writer registered with the Writers Director’s Chair: The MOME Report Guild of America East, as well as on Fairness in the Film Industry,” having a director and producer com- will examine the comparative paths mitted to the project. that male and female directors take Another initiative targets screen- as they progress in their careers. writers. A screenwriting competition Menin said she has received a will give its two winners the chance positive response from leaders in all to have their scripts produced as of the city’s boroughs. pilots on NYC Media’s Channel 25. As these initiatives roll out, One of those pilots will then be pro- Menin said, MOME will reach out duced as an episodic series on the to women across the city to make channel, reaching a potential audi- sure they know about them as well ence of 18 million viewers. as all of the other services MOME Channel 25 is also part of anoth- provides. One of those, the “Made in er MOME project that has raising NY” PA Training Program, offers the the profile of women in the media as chance to learn the ropes as a proits goal. Two new documentary pro- duction assistant, yet another way grams on the channel will focus exclu- to enter the media industry. sively on women. “The Vanguard: For more information on the new Women in Media” will feature such initiative, the “Made in NY” program, media pioneers as TV anchor and or any of MOME’s other offerings, go Man Ex closing ad_Layout 1 10/17/16 2:08 PM Page 1 reporter Connie Chung, former New to nyc.gov/mome. n

c MENIN, from p.22

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