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The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933

November 3, 2016 • $1.00 Volume 86 • Number 44

‘De Blasio must go!’ Group demands mayor resign for rezoning snub By Kari Lindberg


ith passionate chants of “Racism No More,” “New York City Not For Sale” and “De Blasio, Step Down,” members the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and Lower East Side kicked off their protest outside City Hall last Wednesday. Around 100 protestors,

mainly older Chinese and Latinos, came out alongside activists, wearing signs in English, Spanish and Chinese saying “De Blasio, Step Down” and “Stop Ethnic Racism.” They called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to leave office for failing to protect Asian, African-American and Latino communities from being displaced. The push to rezone a 100Rezoning continued on p. 18

West Village man using common-law marriage in uncommon estate fight BY PAUL SCHINDLER


t was 1958, and 27-year-old Tom Doyle was working at a Manhattan advertising agency. A colleague, whom he had immediately struck up a friendship with, asked him to join two other friends out one evening, but the colleague paused after extending the invitation and asked, “You are gay,

right?” Doyle answered in the affirmative, but recalls that he was a bit awkward in doing so. It was the ’50s, after all, and apparently both men were cautious types. The bond took, and in time, the colleague invited Doyle out to a beach house he had inherited in Breezy Point in the RockEstate continued on p. 8

Photo by Bob Krasner

Looking like a macabre model, one of the marchers in Monday’s Village Halloween Parade made her way up Six th Ave. See Pages 6 and 7 for more photos.

L.P.C. ‘No’ on ‘Political Row’ causes a row in East Village By Dennis Lynch


he Landmarks Preservation Commission recently decided not to landmark a handful of threestory 19th-century homes on E. Seventh St. to the dismay of local preservationists who argued they were deserving for their architecture and place in New York City political history. Preservationists launched

their effort to landmark the buildings in September after the owner of 264 E. Seventh St. applied for a permit to demolish the entire structure. L.P.C. had determined eight years ago that all five of the buildings “appear to be an L.P.C.-eligible historic district,” yet never designated them, according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. executive

director, wants to know why. “Nothing has changed since then,” Berman said, “and they haven’t offered an explanation as to why, unsolicited in 2008, they found those buildings to be worthy of designation then, but now do not think they should be saved.” According to an L.P.C. spokesperson, the buildings were part of an “environmenlandmarks continued on p. 12

At long last, ‘The Cube’ comes back!���������������p. 20 Skenazy: Will robots replace us at work?��������p. 24 Carmen’s garden reopens!���� p. 21

Feeling blue: Villager reader Sheila Haas reports the sad news that one more beloved local small business is apparently being priced out of its space. “Yet another West Village neighborhood staple is about to disappear because of yet another outrageously greedy landlord,” Haas wrote us. “The Blue Ribbon Restaurant at Downing and Bedford Sts. is closing its doors — and its historic 1906 brick oven — at the end of this month because their landlord has increased their rent by multiples. And that means the Blue Ribbon Market on Bedford St. will also be shuttered, as it can’t function without the restaurant to provide most of the items on its shelves. “The restaurant opened in May 1998, and was an immediate hit in our neighborhood,” Haas said. “The basement brick oven has been providing exceptional breads — including the world’s best challah — for almost 20 years. The restaurant’s quality and hospitality are legendary, a reliable and gracious star of the community. The little Market is a neighborhood ‘convenience’ store unique for the exceptional food and drink we buy there and for the very special people who work there and become our friends. After just a few more weeks, I’ll no longer be able to run across the street to pick up items we have relied on for so long. “Yet another hole is being ripped in the fabric of our community as our City Council and mayor diddle and diddle instead of doing something about protecting valued local small business. The loss of the Avignone drugstore nearby on Bleecker St. has left a hole that will never be filled, for one of many examples. And now so will Blue Ribbon.” Standing Rock report: Jean-Louis Bourgeois give us the update on Tuesday from the Dakota Access Pipleline standoff in Standing Rock. Af-



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“It’s worth the trip down the street!” 2

November 3, 2016

Photo by Tequila Minsky

State Senator Brad Hoylman presents a proclamation to Gina Zuckerman in honor of her braver y and her love of the Village.

ter scores of protesters were arrested over this past weekend, Bourgeois helped bail them out, along with a mystery “angel” who reportedly put up $5 million. The arrested activists were held in kennels that were built for attack dogs, Bourgeois reported. The United Nations has been on the scene to inspect for human-rights violations, added Anthony VanDonk, a local New York Lenape who is out there with the Village activist. In other pipelineprotest news, “water protectors” burned a bridge to block law enforcement from crossing it, and a sharpshooting officer nailed an activist’s drone from Digital Smoke Signals that was covering all the action. A protester and his horse were also shot, the equine fatally. It’s really starting to get cold, but Bourgeois vowed, “We’re in for the duration here.”

Spy-cams case canned: Democratic District Leader Arthur Schwartz reported to us last week that charges have been dropped against him in connection with his removing a handful of mini spy cams outside of elderly Ruth Berk’s apartment

at 95 Christopher St. last year. “I had a long-standing offer to pay for the reinstallation of the cameras, and I took it,” Schwartz told us. At first, the landlord demanded $2,400, which Schwartz called “ridiculous.” They settled on $720, which includes the cost of the cameras — from $80 to $125 apiece — plus three hours of installation work at $60 an hour. The district attorney had tried to broker a settlement at a slightly lower fine than the landlord requested. “They had offered a plea bargain where I would plead guilty to disorderly conduct and pay $1,400,” Schwartz said, “so I said no. I didn’t plead guilty to anything.” Meanwhile, the landlord has already put replacement surveillance cams back in at the same spot — but Schwartz is not fighting it anymore, and has no plans to yank them out again. He said he has his reasons, but does not want to state them publicly.

Profile in courage: Gina Zuckerman is a spitfire petite 91-year-old who fought off an assailant who tried to steal her pocketbook more than a month ago. The nonagenarian was walking along Fifth Ave. at W. 11th St. on Sept. 27 when a female mugger knocked her down and savagely dug her fingernails into her, drawing blood — Zuckerman would later need five stitches — but the senior held onto her bag. She had been on her way to volunteer at the Greenwich House senior center at 20 Washington Square North, where she is known as “The Numbers Lady” — that is, she calls out the sequential numbers for lunchers to pass through the midday meal line. Fast-forward to Oct. 27 and Zuckerman was celebrated at the center by state Senator Brad Hoylman, who declared it Gina Zuckerman AppreScoopy continued on p. 12

Extra! Astor vendor avoids newsstand war, again By Dennis Lynch


ocally beloved Astor Place newsstand man Jerry Delakas has seemingly dodged another bullet that could have endangered his three-decades-plus tenure at his stand at the intersection of E. Eighth and Lafayette Sts. and Astor Place. Although their intentions had nothing to do with protecting Delakas’s business, Community Board 3 voted to ask the city’s Department of Transportation not to allow a second newsstand to open across Lafayette St. from Delakas’s at its October fullboard meeting. C.B. 3’s Transportation and Public Safety and Environment Committee asked D.O.T. to find a better place for the newsstand applicant because the spot the agency chose, outside the newly constructed 51 Astor Place tower, was actually set up with electrical lines to accommodate a forthcoming city-designed kiosk. The kiosk apparently will be mainly geared toward selling food and beverages. Committee member David Crane said Delakas’s business was not taken into account at all. Regardless, it was good news for Delakas. In January, Delakas was similarly spared from facing a competitor when

Photo by Dennis Lynch

A stor Place news vendor Jerr y Delakas always has The Villager or The Villager Express in stock.

members of Community Board 2, which borders C.B. 3 at Astor Place, unanimously recommended that the Department of Consumer Affairs deny a newsstand application on the southeast corner of Lafayette St. and Astor Place, so as to protect the vet-

eran vendor’s business. “The community members spoke out against this application,� the C.B. 2 resolution stated, “because of its location located just 50 yards from the current newsstand operated by Jerry Delakas for the last 30 years, who is

part of the neighborhood and will be out of business, if this proposed application is approved.� And the community has come to Delakas’s aid before. Locals rallied behind him between 2010 and 2014 when D.C.A. sought to shut him down because his stand was under his deceased boss’s name and not his own. The department finally did shut his stand and hauled off his goods in 2013, but thanks to overwhelming community support and a lawyer, Arthur Z. Schwartz, who worked pro bono, the Greek immigrant was back open a month later and his fine reduced from $37,000 to $9,000 — which he was allowed to pay back on an installment plan. Sitting outside his stand with a stack of New York Times and Villager Express papers in front of him, Delakas was happy about C.B. 3’s vote. “Sure, it’s good,� he said. “There’s a lot of competition, everyone wants the same thing — candy, magazine, the paper, cigarettes. You get them at CVS, Walgreens. You can get the paper at Starbucks.� He said he’s not planning on going anywhere. “I don’t worry,� he said. “Business gets sick but it never dies. I’ll stick around so long as it’s God’s will.�


November 3, 2016


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November 3, 2016

By Mary Reinholz


ast fall, in an op-ed for Newsday, longtime East Villager Diana Gordon decried the “politics of xenophobia” and “crazy talk” of Republican presidential candidates, like Donald Trump, who had portrayed undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals wreaking havoc in the U.S. at the start of his campaign. Gordon, a retired political science professor who taught at City University of New York, had just published a book, “Village of Immigrants: Latinos in an Emerging America.” In it, she focused on the bucolic community of Greenport on Long Island’s East End, where she has built a second home. Thirty-four percent of Greenport’s residents are Hispanic, and most of the adults are undocumented, she noted. She claimed that their crimes — “with very occasional exceptions” — are usually limited to “driving without a license and driving while intoxicated.” In interviews with The Villager, Gordon also described the Latino immigrants — who live in the shadows of the law, fearing deportation — as the backbone of Greenport’s tourist economy. “Latinos in Greenport are keeping the restaurants open, houses renovated, boats built,” she told this reporter, who (full disclosure) has known Gordon for years, ever since she was a Harvard law student. “They are starting small businesses — many of them, in fact. They are populating the schools, celebrating the festivals of Guadalupe and Esquipulas in the center of town, attending Spanish services in the village. They don’t get welfare; they can’t get rent subsidies,” added Gordon, who takes exception to the term “underclass” applied to immigrants, saying that it suggests “a kind of dependence that is the opposite of most immigrants’ lives.” Gordon, a widow, who spends most of her time in Greenport these days with her companion, Michael Keating, a retired CUNY journalism professor, said there are similar groups of hard-working immigrants discovering small towns across America and enhancing them with their labor. “The most fundamental fact about the Latino population here is that it is needed to make the village a vibrant, successful place,” she said in an e-mail sent from her two-story house near Greenport’s waterfront. As for Latino gangs in Greenport, including the notorious Salvadorian street network known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, cited by the F.B.I. as the most dangerous in the U.S., Gordon contends there has been no “significant” activity by members in her community recently. She noted, however, a “dreadful” 2014 episode in the nearby hamlet of Southold. It involved shootings and a machete attack allegedly carried out by Greenport MS-13 members against two rival gangbangers from Mara-18 (“18th Street Gang”) who

Photo courtesy Diana Gordon

Diana Gordon with a nice seashell she found on a beach in Orient Point on Long Island. In her research, she’s found out a lot about the Nor th Fork community’s Latino immigrant community.

were seriously injured, according to SoutholdLOCAL, a news Web site. One of the suspects was a 17-year-old undocumented landscaper from El Salvador who was arrested at Greenport High School, where he had been a student. Gordon said the incident was “quite isolated.” Martin Flatley, the Southold police chief, said the MS-13 attacks were “initiated” in Greenport. “It would be naive to say there is no gang activity in Greenport,” he told The Villager. “There is, but members don’t hang out in the streets and they don’t claim turf.” He said crime in the expanding Latino communities of Southold town was a “mixture,” including some assaults. Meanwhile, an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants nationwide suffered a crushing blow in June when the deadlocked U.S. Supreme Court, by a 4-4 vote, left in place an Appellate Court ruling blocking President Obama’s 2014 executive order that would have staved off deportation for eligible parents of children born in America. The order would have allowed them to apply for

three-year work permits with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a wing of the Department of Homeland Security. The decision did not halt Obama’s similar executive action in 2012 known as DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals), which granted two years of relief from deportation for eligible children of undocumented immigrants and twoyear work permits. But the court stopped Obama’s 2014 plan to expand DACA for the remainder of his presidency. Asked earlier to assess Obama’s record on immigration, Gordon described it as a “mixed bag.” “Obama has been a protector of some immigrants [through DACA], as well as ‘deporter in chief,’ ” she reflected. “It’s a mixed bag because the real responsibility lies with Congress, which refuses to act and has left a federal vacuum that the executive branch cannot fill.” Gordon predicted that if a Republican president fails to renew Obama’s 2012 executive order establishing DACA, “There would be civil disobedience on a grand scale. I doubt that a Republican president would risk it.”

November 3, 2016


A very booo-tiful night on Halloween in Village;

photos by Milo Hess

The 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade enlivened Soho, the Village and Chelsea along Six th Ave. with thousands of ghosts and goblins and more than a few G.O.P. presidential nominees. This year’s theme was “Reverie,” in which par ticipants were asked to “recreate their waking dreams.” However, some came as their worst nightmare — be it Donald Trump or Hillar y Clinton.


November 3, 2016

Thousands strut up Sixth Ave. in ghoulish getups

November 3, 2016


Common-law marriage in uncommon estate fight Estate continued from p. 1

aways. It was there he got to know Bill Cornwell, who was about five years older and also worked in advertising. Their meeting changed both men’s lives. Today, 58 years later, Doyle is fighting to save the Horatio St. home he and Cornwell shared for more than half a century. Following a brief courtship, Doyle moved into a studio apartment where Cornwell lived on W. Fourth St., and they later moved into a fourth-floor walkup on Bank St., where they paid $69 a month. In 1961, they spied the opportunity for a ground-level floor-through in a townhouse on Horatio St., garden included, and decided the extra $26 a month was worth it. Not that moving from Bank St. to Horatio was the obvious choice back then, Doyle recalled. The nearby Meat Market was still in full swing, and trucks were coming and going at all hours. Bones sometimes flew off the trucks, and underneath a portion of the High Line since taken down, a pedestrian could happen upon an unwelcome carcass. Perhaps of greater concern to the men was the opinion of their old neighbors on Bank St. “It’s kind of slummy over there, isn’t it?” Doyle recalled some of them asking. But peer pressure, in the end, didn’t daunt them. When the building came up for sale in 1979, the couple decided it was a good investment. “We thought we would have it for our retirement,” Doyle explained. Doyle was a graphic artist in fashion advertising who often worked freelance, so Cornwell, with a steady full-time gig as an art director, had the deeper pockets in the family. It was Cornwell who purchased the building through an S Corporation, of which he made Doyle an officer. Throughout the succeeding 35 years until Cornwell’s death in 2014, Doyle said, he continued contributing his half of the apartment’s monthly upkeep. Owning a West Village townhouse with four rental units above their apartment at times made for a colorful life. Larry Kert, the Broadway heartthrob who originated the role of Tony in “West Side Story” and was widely known to be gay, was a tenant. Decades later, so too was supermodel Kate Moss, during the time she was involved with Johnny Depp, who frequently dropped by. Doyle and Cornwell’s relationship with their respective families reflected the changing cultural landscape for gay men during the 56 years they were a couple. Doyle’s parents enjoyed having Cornwell join their son on visits to their home up in the Hudson Valley, Cornwell often helping Mrs. Doyle in the kitchen since he loved to cook. “I guess they figured he was my roommate,” Doyle said. “They never really understood why I wanted to go live in the


November 3, 2016

Photo by Donna Aceto

Tom Doyle, a graphic ar tist in fashion adver tising, in his home studio.

big city.” The couple also visited Cornwell’s family in California. Cornwell’s sister, Elsie, Doyle said, was close to her brother and subtle in her acknowledgement of the two men’s relationship. “I’m glad Bill has someone to live with there in New York,” he recalled her telling him. “You never know what can happen to people.” Elsie visited New York and was, at times, surprised by the sexual freedom apparent on the streets of Greenwich Village. Still, the fact of Doyle’s relationship with her brother remained unspoken. With succeeding generations in the Cornwell family, what had been unspoken became acknowledged and accepted. Elsie’s daughter, Sheila McNichols, calls Doyle “Uncle Tom.” Her daughter’s fiancé, several years back, suggested, “You guys should get married.” Doyle’s own nieces also enjoyed a warm relationship with the couple. After marriage became legal in New York in 2011, the men discussed it — that is, after Cornwell one day began fussing with Doyle’s ring finger, using a paper band to try to measure its circumference. When Cornwell came clean with what he was up to, Doyle recalled thinking, “Good, we’re one step closer.” Cornwell sent off for the wedding rings. According to Doyle, a neighbor inEstate continued on p. 10

Photo Courtesy Tom Doyle

Bill Cornwell with the dog he and Tom Doyle raised.

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Common-law marriage in uncommon estate fight estate continued from p. 8

sisted he would rent a car and take them down to the Marriage Bureau on Worth St. But for Cornwell, in poor health and with many pressing tasks undone — most importantly, a heart pacemaker unattended to — the day was never right for the wedding. Three days after Cornwell’s 88th birthday in June 2014, Doyle left him in their living room to run to the drug store, only to realize he had forgotten something. After fetching what he needed, he called out, “O.K., I’m leaving again,” but realized he had gotten no response. When he peaked his head into the living room, he saw that his life partner of 56 years was gone. The couple never had the chance to place the rings Cornwell bought onto each other’s fingers. In a legal filing submitted in connection with Doyle’s fight for the home that Cornwell alone owned at the time of his death, Doyle wrote, “When Bill died, my life was turned upside down. I lost my best friend, partner and husband and spent a long time grieving over the unexpected loss.” It was Sheila McNichols, Doyle continued, that he turned to for “comfort, support and guidance.” McNichols and her husband have visited Doyle in New York on a nearly monthly basis since Cornwell’s death.



Photo by Donna Aceto

The wedding rings Bill Cornwell bought for Tom Doyle and himself.

Doyle is clearly grateful for the help they have provided in managing the business affairs of the townhouse that his late partner oversaw — even if he has, at times, been perturbed by McNichols’s husband’s snooping around both the apartment and the building generally. It was from Peter Gray, a lawyer that McNichols engaged, that Doyle learned SAME DAY SERVICE AVAILABLE


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that the will Cornwell drew up, leaving the building to Doyle, was fatally flawed because it had only one of the two witness signatures required. With no valid will, the property would instead go to four nieces and nephews of Cornwell’s, McNichols included. Doyle recalls that McNichols’s initial reaction was that this outcome would be unfair, and that Gray then drafted a document in which she would assign her share of the building to Doyle in return for it reverting to her after his death. Doyle understood that she would persuade the other three heirs to do the same. But they would not, and it only slowly became clear to Doyle that he was at risk of losing his home. What Cornwell’s nieces and nephews proposed instead was that Doyle would receive $250,000 from the proceeds of selling the building — currently under contract for more than $7 million — a sale contingent on Doyle being allowed to continue living there for five years at the nominal rent of $10 a month. “The plan I had for my remaining years has become totally distorted,” Doyle wrote in his legal filing. “Bill and I lived comfortably together for over 50 years. We always planned to use the rental income from 69 Horatio Street…to enjoy our remaining years in comfort together. I am now deeply concerned that if I do not receive my share of the estate I will be forced to live like a pauper.” Doyle has now retained attorney Arthur Schwartz, who is challenging the four nieces and nephews in Surrogate’s Court. According to Schwartz, there is no wiggle room on the requirement for two witness signatures on Cornwell’s will. Instead, he is arguing that Doyle is due the full inheritance based on his status as Cornwell’s husband. The couple never married in New York, nor did they

ever register in New York City as domestic partners. The only legal paperwork attesting to their relationship are properly witnessed healthcare proxies and a joint bank account. Schwartz maintains that the time the two men spent together in Pennsylvania — in purchasing a dog in 1991 and on a number of vacation visits to a friend in New Hope — qualifies them as common-law spouses there, a legal relationship not available in New York but available in Pennsylvania during the time Doyle and Cornwell spent there. New York does recognizes valid commonlaw marriages from other states. But to prevail, Doyle will have to convince the Surrogate’s Court to apply last year’s Supreme Court marriage-equality ruling retroactively in Pennsylvania more than a decade earlier. In other words, this is complicated litigation that, if successful, could be historic. Cornwell’s nieces and nephews have not reacted well to Doyle’s efforts to stand up for himself. Gray told The New York Times that the accommodation his clients offered Doyle in terms of a quarter-million dollars and a guaranteed five years more in the apartment may now be off the table. “I don’t know if the nieces and nephews will still feel so benevolent after they’re sued,” he stated. In his court papers, Doyle termed the news from McNichols that the deal she originally offered had not been accepted by the other heirs “shocking.” But he said the two remain “on cordial terms.” “Sheila and I have sort of skirted around the subject,” he said. “She always says, ‘Oh, Uncle Tom, we love you.’” Reached by phone, McNichols complained that Gay City News (The Villager’s sister paper) was “about the fourth publication that Tom’s attorney has set on me,” and declined further comment. Another niece, Carole DeMaio, was quoted in The New York Times as speculating that perhaps Doyle and Cornwell were just “friends” or “great companions.” Asked whether that was an accurate characterization of what she said, DeMaio responded no, but declined further comment, saying, “I don’t trust anybody anymore.” Attempts to reach the two nephews who each stand to inherit a quarter of the $7 million estate were unsuccessful. Doyle said he never met either of them, and in court papers wrote that one, upon learning of Cornwell’s death, said, “Now I get a windfall from my rich uncle.” Doyle has been buoyed by the response of neighbors and friends to news of his situation, including a pledge from the prospective buyer now in contract that they the situation keep him worried, as well. “Sometimes I think I’m in denial to a degree,” Doyle said.


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L.P.C. snub of ‘Political Row’ causes a row in East Village Landmarks continued from p. 1

tal review” process for a 2008 rezoning by the Department of City Planning, at which time they were tagged as “a potentially eligible historic resource.” As the lead agency, Planning had to flag the buildings’ potential eligibility. However, the spokesperson said, “After more research and analysis of the E. Seventh St. sites to determine L.P.C. eligibility in 2016, the agency determined that the buildings submitted for individual and historic district consideration did not rise to the level of New York City landmarks.” Yet, those in favor of the landmarking contended that the homes deserved protected status because they are the “last remaining” stretch of Greek Revival row houses surviving from the 19th-century “Dry Dock District,” when the neighborhood was a shipbuilding hub. Also, they noted, a number of prominent politicians resided there in the latter half of the 19th century, earning the spot the name “Political Row.” But L.P.C. decided that alterations that have been done to the buildings — including painted and resurfaced facades, modifications to the windows, doors and cornices, and replacement

Photo by Dennis Lynch

The owner of 264 E. Seventh St., the blue building second from left, next to the red-brick building, has filed a permit to demolish the entire structure.

ironwork — were “too extensive” to warrant designating any of the buildings individually or even as part of a historic district. The commission also found that the proposed district’s small size and its midblock location were problematic,

even though the agency admitted the buildings are “similar in age and style to those found in the Greenwich Village Historic District, East Village Historic District and others.” In addition, the commission maintained that the buildings were not clearly

Scoopy’s Notebook scoopy continued from p. 2

ciation Day, with fanfare and a proclamation that recognizes her life and courageous act and her love for her Village neighborhood. Zuckerman is a Holocaust survivor who did forced labor in Germany during World War II. Afterward, she was transferred to a displaced-persons camp in Germany, emigrating to the U.S. in 1947 at age 21. She worked in advertising for 28 years. She has been attending the Washington Square North center for 10 years, serving as a volunteer for a part of that time. “Besides being knocked to the ground, Ms. Zuckerman refused to be intimidated,” the proclamation reads. “In Gina Zuckerman, we have an individual worthy of our highest respect and esteem.” Lunchers and staff at the center, along with Hoylman, relished the occasion to celebrate this survivor and show her their appreciation.

Take it to the bank(s): Reader Norma Courrier says the ongoing bank blitz of Sixth Ave. is even worse than she thought. “Just to add to my misery, coming out of St. Joseph’s Church this morning, I looked across the street to find that the empty space next to the new Wells Fargo coming in on Sixth Ave. is being taken over by HSBC bank. They already have a branch barely half a block away. Perhaps they are moving to a smaller space, but do we really need two banks right next door to each other?” D.I.D. D-D-D-decisions: So what’s going 12

November 3, 2016

on at Downtown Independent Democrats after its dueling district leaders bitterly duked it out in the 65th Assembly District race, resulting in neither one of them winning? D.I.D. endorsed Paul Newell over Jenifer Rajkumar in that race, and healing those wounds won’t be easy. Rajkumar, for her part, is saying the club blew it big time because if they had backed her, she would have won. “It would have been nice to have a unified club supporting what final numbers suggest would have been a winning candidate,” she told us. “As I came in second in this crowded field, getting more votes with far less endorsements [than Newell], I’d suggest I should have been that candidate. But still, hindsight is 20/20, so we’ll see what the coming weeks bring in terms of conversations and plans.” Meanwhile, Sean Sweeney, a longtime leading member of the club, said everything will is fine. “D.I.D. will progress as it has for the past 45 years,” he said. “The fact that two of our district leaders vied for the same Assembly seat shows our continuing energy and attraction. The fact that D.I.D. leadership did not put the kibosh on either’s candidacy — as would happen in many clubs — shows our independence. Pundits predicted that Paul and Jenifer running against each other would weaken each’s chances. True, but each wanted to run and there was absolutely no pressure from club leadership for either to withdraw. “There was no infighting,” he assured. “Yes, Paul and Jenifer were rivals, but their respective supporters have not fought amongst themselves. Remember Jenifer got one-third of the endorsement votes, yet her supporters have not bolted from D.I.D., but remain active members. Some even worked on Paul’s

tied to the area’s 19th-century political or economic history, and that the significant buildings in the area that were strongly tied to that period were already demolished. L.P.C. designated two buildings on the block the same year that it determined the row houses to be landmarkeligible. These were the Public National Bank of New York building, at the corner of Avenue C, and the circa 1908 former Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn synagogue, at 242 E. Seventh St. Department of Buildings records show that the previous owners of 264 E. Seventh St. sold it to a limited-liability company with an address on E. 33rd St. in 2015 after 27 years of ownership. D.O.B. has not yet issued a demolition permit to the current owners, but Berman said it could be approved at any time. “There’s still time but the clock is running, the Department of Buildings could issue those any day,” he said. “We’re clearly at the 11th hour here.” G.V.S.H.P. will hold a rally outside 264 E. Seventh St. at noon on Fri., Nov. 4. The group is also asking supporters to write letters of support for the landmarking to Mayor Bill de Blasio and L.P.C. Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan.

campaign once he got the club’s endorsement. “Remember,” Sweeney added, “Hillary and Obama were bitter rivals during the 2008 election. Now they are the best of friends. That’s the nature of Democratic politics, just as it is the nature of Downtown Independent Democrats.”

Still in the ring: Former Community Board 3 chairperson David McWater hasn’t given up the fight. He’s now the C.E.O. of Split-T Management, which manages boxers. “Life has been great,” he told us. “Signed several Olympians — Charles Conwell, Antonio Vargas and Teofimo Lopez — and am just working all the time.” Corrections: The Villager’s recent article on breast imaging services at Lenox Health Greenwich Village incorrectly said the imaging center was open 24/7 365 days a year. While that’s true of the stand-alone emergency department on the Seventh Ave. building’s ground floor, it’s not the case for the imaging center, which has fairly standard hours. Also, in our article on the sukkah in the St. Anthony’s Church space, the headline incorrectly stated that Chabad was somehow involved with that unique arrangement.

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Police Blotter Gompers gunfire A gunman shot three people early Sunday morning near the Lower East Side’s Samuel Gompers Houses, the New York Post reported. The violence occurred around 6 a.m. during a fight between a group of men at Ridge and Stanton Sts., the newspaper said. The shooter fired several rounds, then jumped into a car and sped away down Stanton. One of the wounded men, 26, was shot through his front pants pocket, but the bullet luckily struck his wallet, police sources told the Post. Another man, 34, was said to have been shot once in the left leg, while the third victim, 23, was wounded several times in the stomach and right leg. The victims were taken to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition.

Rude awakening A West Village tenant awoke to a surprise on Tuesday morning Oct. 25. According to police, at 7:50 a.m. that day, the landlord of the building, at 260 Sixth Ave., changed the apartment’s locks but did not supply the tenant with a key, effectively locking him out of his home. The victim told police that while he and his girlfriend were asleep in bed, the landlord entered the apartment without permission. Upon investigation, police found that the landlord had an active order of protection against the resident. Chidi Odili, 31, was arrested for felony burglary.

School swipe Police said a student swiped a teacher’s wallet at City-As-School High School, at 16 Clarkson St., on Mon., Oct. 24. The teacher said she left the billfold, containing four credit cards and $20, on her desk at 10:10 a.m., but a few minutes later, it was missing. Police arrested Yuself Moultrie, 19, for felony grand larceny.

‘I’ll break your face!’ A man on the sidewalk outside 118 MacDougal St. at 10:30 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 26, was approached by a guy who asked him if he wanted coke or crack, police said. The man responded, “No.” The would-be dealer then allegedly grabbed him, pushed him against a wall and said, “If you don’t give me the money, I’m going to break your face.” The aggressor then removed two phones from the victim and chased him for two blocks. Police found the suspect was in possession of alleged cocaine. Harold Linares, 42, was arrested for felony robbery.

Virginia Javier, 49, is missing.

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Missing from E.V. An East Village woman has been missing since Wed., Oct. 26, according to police. Virginia Javier, 49, was last seen leaving her apartment, at 635 E. 12th St., that day at 3 p.m. and has not been seen since. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 200 pounds and has black curly hair. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site,, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.

G’friend got physical A man told police that on Thurs., Oct. 27, at 11:30 p.m., he and his girlfriend were arguing inside his apartment at 142 W. 11th St., and then she struck him in the head, causing swelling and substantial pain. Laura Defuria, 31, was charged with misdemeanor assault.

L.E.S. mugger Police are looking for a teenage suspect in connection with two Lower East Side muggings. In each incident, the youth — who is around age 18 and weighs 180 pounds — reportedly approached a victim and demanded property while stating he was armed with a weapon, before fleeing with cash from the victims. The first robbery was Tues., Oct. 11, at 10:45 a.m. at Rutgers and Cherry Sts. The second was Tues., Oct. 18, at 3:25 p.m. in the turnstile area of the Delancey St. F subway station. Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers.

Emily Siegel and Lincoln Anderson November 3, 2016


Kung-fu porn-da! Sex-toy sellers to hone ‘chops’ By Colin Mixson


alk about getting your kicks. Workers at upscale sex-toy store Babeland — with locations on the Lower East Side and in Soho — may soon get lessons in martial arts as part of their new union-negotiated benefits package. The self-defense is reportedly needed because homophobes and other bigots sometimes get a bit too frisky at the shop. “We asked for a number of different safety trainings, which include self-defense, because customers do get physical,” said Stella Casanave, a non-binarygendered Windsor Terrace native who works at the mom-and-pop shop’s Soho outlet, at 43 Mercer St. The move comes after a recent rise in homophobes entering the shop and targeting their venom at queer and transgender employees, prompting workers to request martial-arts training and other security measures. Babeland’s other Downtown location is at 94 Rivington St. Babeland staff subsequently voted to organize through the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in May, largely because they felt management was not providing enough support for workers facing routine harassment by customers. “Because the demographics of the workforce are such, you do get people who are looking to target trans women, they’re looking to target young lesbian women,” said Phil Andrews, the union director who is negotiating with Babeland on behalf of the workers. Babeland owner Claire Cavanah said the problem is real and her business is doing what it can to deal with it. “There have been a bigger number of prank calls,

Photo courtesy Babeland

Hi-ya! Babeland workers at the business’s Mercer St. location, above, and its other shops may soon be trained to defend themselves against homophobic predators.

and, in some instances, there are people who act inappropriately in the store,” Cavanah said. “People just get kind of crazy, and we kind of stumbled in our actual store-manager positions there, and the hourly workers felt they were not being backed up.” In addition to subsidizing martial-arts training, Babeland will provide seminars teaching employees how to support each other during confrontations, how to formulate exit strategies, how to prevent themselves from getting cornered during an incident, and how to use verbal and physical cues to de-escalate threatening situations. Workers also deal with shoppers who fail to grasp the distinction between asking a salesperson at Home Depot what brand of power sander she prefers, and inquiring whether a sex educator at Babeland prefers her handcuffs with or without fuzz, according to Andrews. “It’s a sex-toy shop, so you have people being a little ignorant and thinking that, because it’s a sex-toy shop they can ask questions like, ‘What vibrator do you use?’ ” Andrews explained. “It’s kind of creepy, but not intentional.” Cavanah pointed out that it is store policy not to divulge if its workers have taken any devices for a test ride, but instead just to point out what product manufacturers purport their products do. Babeland and employees are about halfway through bargaining negotiations, and are expected to sign a contract to put the new training and security measures into effect sometime before year’s end, Andrews said. In addition, as reported by Brooklyn Paper last week, Babeland is certified “senior-friendly” thanks to its wide aisles, discounts and quiet music.

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November 3, 2016

Cops are catching addicts, not dealers: Attorney By Gerard Flynn


he “war on drugs” has had a long — and difficult — history ever since President Nixon declared it in June 1971. Since then, it hasn’t stopped millions of Americans from getting high on hard drugs, and recent data from around the nation signal what the Centers for Disease and Control call a nationwide “heroin epidemic.” The introduction of the F.D.A.-approved OxyContin by Purdue Pharma, the so-called “heroin in a pill,” in 1996, has since seen a virtual explosion of opiate addicts — and an unprecedented number of deaths. Half a million Americans have died from a drug overdose since 2000, more than half of them from opiate abuse. Last year almost 10,000 people nationwide succumbed to a heroin overdose, hundreds of them in New York City, home to many stories on the war on drugs, “The French Connection” among the many. Sam Roberts, a New York lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, has more tales to tell from the dark side of drug abuse — only this time it’s about the law. Roberts has scores of cases pending in which his client was — the attorney contends — unfairly targeted by the New York Police Department’s narc squads, who in getting their man — or woman — do little to help in the crisis, according to Roberts. Instead, in his view, the drug officers only bring more agony to the already-depressing lives of the addicted, a policing practice Roberts called “horrendous from many different perspectives.” More than a thousands times it happens in the city per year, he said, including a recent client who was “arrested for alleged drug sale.” This client

Attorney Sam Rober ts’s profile photo from his Facebook page.

was in a meth clinic trying to get clean from heroin when a woman approached him and “repeatedly begs him to buy one of his methadone pills,” Roberts related. After a back-and-forth for five minutes, his client ended up in cuffs and is now awaiting a lengthy stay in state prison. Unfair or not? Every year, Roberts said, “It happens a thousand times in New York City, in all parts.” Narcotics cops from a variety of units will go out in street teams of plainclothes officers. Their job is to buy drugs on the street, then nab the middle man — the addict — but not the dealer, who gets away.

“They end up catching addicts who act as middle men — or are doing someone a favor,” he explained. “You have a person who is trying to do the right thing, and if it were not for the undercover cop, there would have been no drug sale,” Roberts offered. What’s behind this trend among the city’s narcotic squads? “A lot of this is these teams creating work for themselves,” Roberts said, reiterating that they are “doing nothing to solve the drug problem.” What the N.Y.P.D. do, Roberts admitted, is perfectly legal. Most cases are plea-bargained. However, if a case goes to trial, juries are instructed that there is nothing unlawful about undercover cops posing as street addicts to get drugs. So, while police get an “easy arrest,” the busted drug addicts face months of “turmoil” as they await their fate before the city’s criminal justice system. “It’s such a waste of everyone’s resources,” Roberts said. After all, he added, “People getting arrested in these kinds of cases are consumers of drugs, addicted, who are best dealt with through treatment not arrest.” In other, unrelated news about Roberts, on Oct. 20 he was attacked after a party in Chelsea by Robert Beltrani, an administrative law judge who was allegedly drunk. Roberts was left with a black eye and a separated shoulder. The judge, a former head of the Queens Republican Party, surrendered at the 13th Precinct and was issued a desk-appearance ticket. “Maybe I wasn’t polite to him. I don’t know,” Roberts told the Daily News.


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November 3, 2016


Merchant’s House ‘miracle museum’ marks 80 years By Albert Amateau


he Tredwell House, also known as the Merchant’s House, was built 184 years ago in what was then a quiet suburban block of E. Fourth St. It echoed with the voices of more than 160 visitors recently who were celebrating the 80th anniversary of the house as a museum. The four-story house, at 29 E. Fourth St., was among the first 20 buildings in the city designated as landmarks in 1965. As befits a house with its original 19thcentury furniture and even some original women’s clothing, it was also designated as an interior landmark in 1981, one of only 117 in the city. A museum since 1936, it’s an elegant but fragile old building and receives visitors three afternoons a week — Thursdays, Fridays and Mondays. “We’re holding our breath because an eight-story hotel is planned for next door at 27 E. Fourth St. and the vibrations could damage or destroy our original ornate plasterwork,” said Margaret “Pi” Gardiner, the museum’s executive director. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved plans for the hotel in April 2014 after twice rejecting plans for a nine-story building, but the developers have not applied yet for construction permits. “We’re hoping it means they have a fi-

Photo courtesy Merchant’s House

The stoop of the Merchant’s House Museum on E. Four th St. was decked out with balloons for its recent 80th anniversar y event.

nancing problem and that the hotel won’t be built, at least for a while,” Gardiner told a visitor to the Sept. 22 celebration in the garden. A demolition just east of the house in 1988 caused about $1 million in dam-

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November 3, 2016

ages, but fortunately the decorative plasterwork survived. Nevertheless, the building was closed to visitors for repairs for two years. The house was built in 1832 by Joseph Brewster, and bought three years later by Seabury Tredwell, a prosperous hardware merchant, who moved in with his large family and four servants (young Irish immigrant women). Guests at the celebration were treated to tours of the house that began in the ground-floor kitchen, fitted with original fixtures, including a cast-iron stove installed in the original hearth. Rich Fipphen, a volunteer docent who led one of the tours, noted that the servants, who lived in the dormer area on the top floor, would gather down in the kitchen for work every day. (They each probably had one afternoon off per week). Their duties included carrying buckets of water and coal and trays of food up to all the floors. The parlor floor above the kitchen is devoted to a front and back parlor, separated by floor-to-ceiling doors that open to transform the two rooms into a single grand space. It was the center of social life for Seabury Tredwell, his wife and seven children, the last of whom, Gertrude, was born in the house and lived in it until she died in 1933. Upstairs are two master bedrooms, with their original four-poster beds, and Seabury’s study. Gertrude was born in one of the bedrooms and died in the other in her 90s. At one point in the nearly 100 years of Tredwell occupancy, 17 people lived in the house, Fipphen noted. The bedroom where Gertrude was born also contains a smaller bed with a canopy, where a child would be put during an illness. There was also a tin bathtub and, of course, chamber pots in each bedroom. The water, which had to be hauled

upstairs, came from a cistern in the rear yard where the privy was also located. During the first 15 years, candlelight was the only illumination. The house was connected for gaslight in 1850. The fourth floor, where the children slept, is now occupied by the museum’s offices. The servants lived in the dormer floor, in two simply furnished rooms with dormer windows. “The servants worked hard and didn’t get much pay, but the job provided them with a safe place to live, all their meals, and even some of their clothing, a pretty good deal in those days,” Fipphen said. Tucked away in various secretaries and armoires were scores of 19th-century literary works and books on history and astronomy. Among the personal effects were 39 dresses belonging to Tredwell women. Seabury Tredwell died in 1865, but members of the family continued to live in the house for decades. After many of them moved out or died, Gertrude, who never married, remained. Although the family was quite wealthy (they also had a summer home in Atlantic Highlands, N.J.), by the time Gertrude died in 1933 there was nothing left but the old house and its furnishing. Some say her ghost haunts the place. “When Seabury and his family moved here it was an elite neighborhood,” Fipphen noted. “Not far away, the complex known as the Colonnades on Lafayette St. was the home of Astors, Delanos and Garfields. The neighborhood changed over the years to industrial uses and worse. The Bowery and Third Avenue became a notorious skid row, and it’s changing again,” he added. To save the house for the family honor, a distant cousin, George Chapman, bought the property from Gertrude’s estate, restored it and reopened it as a museum in 1936. But when Chapman died in 1959, the house was again in perilous condition. Various caretakers came forth and in 1962 The Decorators Club, made up of women in the interior design business, took over. The Decorators began a renovation in 1968 after serious water damage was discovered. Along with the architect Joseph Roberto as an adviser, the Decorators took on a full-scale structural and interior restoration for the next nine years. The museum reopened in 1979. After Roberto died in 1988, the museum, with the help of several preservation organizations, raised money to hire professional museum staff. The Vincent Astor Foundation provided a $1 million endowment for the museum. Gardiner said that expensive maintenance is a way of life at the museum. Water intrusion discovered on the western wall of the house will have to be addressed in a project estimated to cost $300,000. So funds raised at events including the recent garden party, sponsored by the design firm Studio Sofield and Fairfax & Sammons Architects, will be spent in short order.

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November 3, 2016


Demands for de Blaz to resign over rezoning snub Rezoning continued from p. 1

block area of the East Village and part of the Lower East Side under Mayor Mike Bloomberg in 2008 sparked fears in surrounding communities to the south that development pressure would, as a result, be pushed into their areas. They demanded that Chinatown and the unprotected parts of the Lower East Side also be included in the rezoning. They were rebuffed and, ultimately, proven right — development with new “supertall” skyscrapers is already underway in the Two Bridges area, where Extell is building an 800foot-tall tower at 227 Cherry St. Speaking on behalf of the coalition, one of its members, Louise Velez, said the rezoning of eight years ago had the effect of “giving protection to the white East Village, and neglecting equal protection to the majority-people-of-color communities within Chinatown and Lower East Side.” That the coalition called for de Blasio to step down underlines their anger at his Mandatory Inclusionary Housing initiative, a key element of his Affordable Housing Plan passed in March. Under the M.I.H. initiative, developers are allowed to build taller buildings in any part of the city, as long as 20 percent of the housing units are dedicated to affordable housing. But rather than a win for affordable housing, coalition members fear the affordable housing initiative will only lead to further luxury development and gentrification of Chinatown, the Lower East Side and other communities of color. “I think that the main goal of this rally is to put up our demand that the mayor step down, that’s why we’re doing it at City Hall,” explained Sarah Ahn. “De Blasio is really targeting communities of color. He is actually paving a road for the developers to go in and develop historically Asian,

African-American and Latino communities.” Several protesters, not affiliated with the coalition, came to decry the use of M.I.H. in Inwood, East New York, Harlem and the South Bronx. Ale Murphy, a Dominican Republic native who has lived in Manhattan since 1976, expressed how disheartened she is with the mayor. “I believed him in his ‘Tale of Two Cities,’” she said. “He completely lied to the whole city. I came here to protest the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing initiative.” She explained that, in the Latino community, “mandato” means to include everyone. “They think its a law bringing housing to everyone,” she said, “but instead of guaranteed affordable housing, it’s displacing residents who can’t even afford housing under M.I.H.” Coalition members’ anger at the mayor is compounded by their sense that de Blasio does not support the Chinatown / L.E.S community because he has not adopted the Chinatown Working Group’s rezoning plan for the vulnerable area. A coalition of community groups and activists dedicated to fighting off development that causes the elimination of affordable housing, the working group’s rezoning plan was the result of an eight-year effort. Specifically, the C.W.G. scheme calls for imposing height caps on new high-rise development, strengthening anti-tenant harassment laws, requiring the city to create more affordable housing, and adjusting the city’s affordable-housing parameters to be in line with Chinatown and the Lower’s East Side median-income levels. Earlier this year, Community Board 3, in reviewing the C.W.G.’s rezoning plan, called for a “prioritization” of core Chinatown areas — including the waterfront, New York City Housing

Photos by Kari Lindberg

Just like Dr. Jek yll and Mr. Hyde? A protester held a combo-head of Mayor de Blasio and the Monopoly game’s Rich Uncle Pennybags.

In multiple languages, the protesters called for the mayor to get on the stick and protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side — or else resign.


November 3, 2016

Authority properties and the historic Chinatown (a seven-block area around the intersection of Mott and Canal Sts.). However, in response to this “prioritization,” City Councilmember Margaret Chin stated that the rezoning plan was “too ambitious.” At the coalition’s Oct. 26 City Hall protest, David Tieu shouted to the crowd, “They say, ‘It’s not feasible, it’s too ambitious for Latinos, Chinese, African-Americans, for poor people to ask for equal protection.’ ” Hua Li, a senior citizen and longtime Chinatown resident, wore a sign around her neck saying, “De Blasio, Step Down” written in Chinese. She accused the mayor of not respecting the rights of non-English-speaking New York residents.

“This protest is important because if this plan is not passed, we will have no protection from higher rents and luxury buildings,” Li shouted, referring to the C.W.G. rezoning. “De Blasio is ignoring the rights of us Chinatown residents. They want to sell us out, this is why we are angry. Look at the Bronx,” she cried. “Everywhere in New York is having this same problem.” The coalition’s Ahn said a hopefully far larger protest is in the works for next month. “We are calling out,” she said, “to all communities facing similar displacement resulting from the mayor’s discriminatory housing policies to come together on Dec. 7 to denounce the city’s racist polices and call for the mayor’s resignation.”

We are NYC’s transit workers. We safely move nearly 8 million bus and subway riders a day: 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. And with growing ridership, we will transport 150 million more riders in 2016 than just a few years ago - with the same number of workers. These are uniquely dangerous and stressful jobs. We are physically assaulted hundreds of times each year. Spitting incidents are at all time highs. Thousands of our brother and sister transit workers, meanwhile, are injured annually by on-the-job industrial accidents. Twelve were killed on duty since 2001. Our contract with the MTA is expiring. We will kick off our campaign for fair raises, solid beneƓts and no givebacks with a rally on 1ov. 15th in Lower Manhattan. We are NYC’s transit workers and We Move NY.





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Transport Workers Union Local 100 John Samuelsen, President 195 Montague St. Brooklyn, NY 11201

November 3, 2016 11/1/16


3:40 PM

Astor Place ‘Cubed’ again as sculpture returns By Lincoln Anderson


he Cube” has landed! Astor Place’s iconic spinnable sculpture has finally returned home from exile in New Jersey, where it underwent a painstaking refurbishment. Formally titled “The Alamo,” the bronze block, 8 feet long on each side, was created in 1967 by Bernard “Tony” Rosenthal. It was removed for an overhaul in connection with the city’s Astor Place / Cooper Square renovation project, which was recently completed and which has vastly increased the area’s pedestrian space. The iconic artwork’s return was delayed several times over the past few months as final touches were being done. In fact, news that “The Cube” was back at its old location Tuesday came as a surprise even to the Village Alliance business improvement district, which has been intimately involved in the Astor Place / Cooper Square renovation project, and even celebrated the new plazas with an “Astor Alive!” festival in September. “It was a surprise,” said Will Lewis, the BID’s marketing and events manager. “We got a call from our security guards at 12:30 — ‘ “The Cube” ’s here!’ ” The alliance quickly got the word out. “We put it on Twitter right away,” Lewis said. Soon a crowd of about 300 people had gathered to watch the reinstallation, which lasted about two hours. Five riggers from New Jersey worked to lower “The Cube” from a flatbed truck onto a pole secured to a base anchored in the sidewalk. But first, they made sure to grease the pole, so the sculpture will turn. “It is amazing how much lubrication it’s got on it,” Lewis said. “They were just slapping it on the pole.” Then the lubed “Cube” was lowered, and it went perfectly. “It was so smooth,” Lewis said. “It went in without a clunk, controlled by crane. It was really graceful, almost like the Times Square ball at New Year’s.” As the bronze behemoth settled onto the base, the crowd broke into applause. “It’s back in position,” Lewis said, “and it spins. They had a good test spin. They’ve still got barricading around it. They want to do a bit of work on its base.” The Department of Design and Construction, which oversaw the plazas-expansion project, will lead a press event within the next week to announce “The Cube” ’s reinstallation. Lewis, who recently move to New York from England, had actually


November 3, 2016

Photos by Will Lewis / Village Alliance

The riggers move “The Cube” ’s hole over the pole on its base during the famed sculpture’s installation.

never seen the sculpture before, but has now come to appreciate the full extent of “Cube”-mania. “There was one person,” he said, “I don’t know how she did this — she came dressed as a Cube. It was a perfect likeness.” In England, “there’s a lot of public art,” Lewis said. “But there’s nothing that has that connection in people’s hearts. It’s interesting to see what it means to people — the passion.” The sculpture has been coated with a protective layer that will make it easier to remove graffiti, which has been a problem over the years. The artwork has also been “bombed” by chalkers in the past and was once draped with a custom-made crocheted covering. The recent Astor Alive! festival featured a “Cube”-making workshop, and the finale, a colorful parade, was festooned with mini-versions of the inscrutable monolith.

“The Alamo,” more familiarly known as “The Cube,” is lifted off of a flatbed truck and moved toward its base.

17 years later, Carmen’s garden finally reopens


n Wed., Oct. 26, Carmen Pabon held the scissors with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the newly refurbished Carmen Pabon Del Amanecer community garden, at 119 Avenue C between Seventh and Eighth Sts. Pabon, now 95, created the garden in the late 1970s from a vacant, rubble-strewn lot. A poet, she held poetry readings and fed the homeless there for many years, before the space was closed in 2000 due to the construction by Donald Capoccia’s BFC Partners of the Eastville Gardens apartment complex next door. For 17 years, what was left of the space — the garden used to be larger — languished behind locked gates. But now it has been redesigned and will be open to the public again.

By Sarah Ferguson

Carmen Pabon, left, and City Councilmember Rosie Mendez cut the ribbon on the newly reopened garden on Avenue C that Pabon star ted in the 1970s. The open space is significantly smaller now than it was back in 2000, when par t of the proper ty was taken over for a residential development project.

Photos by Sarah Ferguson

Although the Avenue C garden today looks ver y different than it did 20 years ago, its distinctive Loisaida mural, left, has been preser ved intact.

November 3, 2016


Letters to the Editor FB’ers deserve an award

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To The Editor: Re “Facebook pages help Villagers connect across time” (notebook, by Patricia Fieldsteel, Oct. 27): Bibbe and Chris Kitlan Burns and Ellen Williams deserve some kind of urban Pulitzer or medal for this work. The Village of the ’60s and ’70s was an indescribably exciting place, or experience, and I’m so grateful for what they are doing to keep it all from fading into the mist. For young people, especially, it changed us; it changed the whole city actually and beyond, as well. We were so lucky to have come through there and then — that is, those of us who came through alive. That’s another story also sometimes touched on in these groups. Brendan Sexton

Your Community News Source

Required reading To The Editor: Re “Facebook pages help Villagers connect across time” (notebook, by Patricia Fieldsteel, Oct. 27): A must-read for anyone who loves the Village is “Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir,” by Anatole Broyard, written in 1933. Minerva Durham

Two-tiered medical system? Call 646-452-2475 or e-mail

To The Editor: Re “Downsized Beth Israel could be done in 4 years” (news article, Oct. 27): It will be pick and choose. If you got the big bucks, you live. And if you’re poor, you just die off. They don’t want to take care of the poor no more. Stay out. My advice to you is to stay out of the hospital. Take care of yourself. You’ll be better off. Helen Murphy

We cover “The Cube”!

Allison in our thoughts To The Editor: Re “Allison Davis Greaker, 70, ad rep for Villager” (obituary, Oct. 27): On behalf of all readers, commenters and other

non-staff followers of NYC Community Media and The Villager, sincerest condolences, and thanks, to Allison and her family. Your loss is most definitively our loss, and your family will be in our thoughts. Patrick Shields

Triangle tricky business To The Editor: Re “Neighbors still trashing Triangle memorial design; ‘Would be major intrusion’” (news article, Oct. 20): It’s a source of amazement to me that officers of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition continue to insist that they worked with the community on the Triangle memorial project. I can state categorically that the first time that members of the Washington Place Block Association heard about the project was at the end of last year, when we read press reports in The New York Times and The Villager about the $1.5 million grant for the memorial awarded to R.T.F.C. by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Our initial contacts with R.T.F.C. took place well after they had decided the memorial’s design and were the result of intervention by outside individuals and groups. For example, as a result of The Villager’s coverage, Community Board 2 convened a town hall in February where we as a group were first afforded an opportunity to discuss the reasons for our opposition to the proposed design with representatives of R.T.F.C. I can only wonder what type of distorted idea the people in R.T.F.C. have of a “community” when they ignore residents living within a few feet of the Triangle fire site. Unlike the casual visitor, we on Washington Place will be faced daily with a memorial that for better or worse will permanently alter our immediate environment. Nevertheless, rather than reaching out to us and other community organizations in the area at the beginning, R.T.F.C. instead chose to lobby and hold meetings with elected officials and other well-placed individuals. Howard Negrin Negrin is president, Washington Place Block Association

Verdict: Great interview! To The Editor: Re “Bike attorney likes how the wheels are turnletters continued on p. 34

ira blutreich

Is this The Donald’s swan song?


November 3, 2016

Dem Elections chief, Trump agree: Fraud is rife



ook out for buses filled with people wearing burkas on Election Day. They may be armed with New York City ID cards, and, along with blacks, Hispanics “and Chinese too,” will be going from poll site to poll site casting fraudulent votes. “People don’t realize certain neighborhoods, in particular, they bus people around,” noted Alan Schulkin, Manhattan’s Democratic commissioner for the New York City Board of Elections. These voters could do all sorts of horrible things to throw an election — perhaps even blow up your poll site. “The Muslims can do that, too,” according to Schulkin. “Your vote gets discounted because they come in with a burka on and your don’t know if they are a voter.” These thoughts and quotes come from a secretly videotaped conversation with Commissioner Schulkin. An undercover employee (with no journalistic ethics) from the ultraconservative Project Veritas ( schmoozed Schulkin at the United Federation of Teachers’ holiday party last December. She identified herself as a union consultant. Her secretly recorded video was only recently posted online and first reported by the New York Post on Oct. 11. Schulkin hasn’t denied or repudiated the video, in which he partially based his fears on New York City’s ID cards for non-U.S. citizen residents: “You can use them for anything,” he said. Schulkin wants to go back in time prior to the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and repeal the New York State law prohibiting voter identification. “Yeah, they should ask for ID,” Schulkin said. “I think there is a lot of voter fraud.” Perhaps the commissioner should refer to New York State Election Law or read the New York City Board of Elections’ “Policies and Procedures.” The procedure to circumvent such fraud is called the affidavit ballot. In New York State, if your name is not in the poll list book, or if your right to vote is challenged at the poll site, don’t whip out your ID card and try to grab a ballot. Instead, you can vote by either appearing before a Supreme Court judge and presenting your case, or voting on an affidavit ballot. The affidavit ballot is for anyone who claims she is properly registered and at the correct poll site for her district. The voter fills out an affidavit oath form with the same information as a

Villager file photo

Lower Manhattan residents being checked in by election workers at a Southbridge Towers poll site during this past April’s 65th A ssembly District special election.

voter registration form — including either the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number or the voter’s full eight-digit New York State ID or driver’s license number. And the voter signs the affidavit oath affirming that everything is true or else the voter can be “convicted and fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed up to 4 years.” The very first question on the form is “Are you a citizen of the U.S.? If you answer NO you cannot register to vote.” The affidavit ballot envelop is only opened after the Board of Elections researches the voter’s information — usually no earlier than a week after the polls close. If anything is not correct or incomplete — including checking the U.S. citizen question — the envelope is stamped “invalid,” remains sealed and never counted. Commissioner Schulkin is also about three to five years behind the times. Voter fraud is essentially a Republican myth, as two recent expensive examples show. In Iowa, Matt Schultz, Republican candidate for secretary of state, made election fraud one of his top campaign issues in 2010. After his election, and after an 18month investigation that cost Iowa taxpayers $150,000, plus salary for a full-time investigator, the secretary of state reluctantly reported that only five cases of voter fraud were uncovered and documented. Then there is Pennsylvania, which had, for two years, the nation’s toughest and most restrictive voter ID law. Republican Governor Tom Corbett and the Republican-controlled Legislature campaigned hard on voter fraud, and legislation was passed in 2012, in time for the presidential election. The law required voters to present multiple IDs. Naturally, civil rights groups protested

and a lawsuit was filed. Surprisingly, while defending the legal challenge in 2013, attorneys for Pennsylvania admitted there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of inperson voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” at any time prior to the law’s passage, and the state had no “knowledge of investigations or prosecutions in other states.” In other words, Pennsylvania passed a draconian law based totally on fear and prejudice, not fact and practice. Thus, the law was declared unconstitutional in January 2014. Governor Tom Corbett served only one term. Back to New York City. The real crime with election fraud is not fraudulent voters. It is voter suppression. Voter ID requirements, challenging voters and intimidating minorities are just some of the bullying tools used to suppress turnout, and they are usually targeted at the minorities Schulkin noted in the video. Commissioner Schulkin refuses to back off on his beliefs. On Wed., Oct. 17, he basically thumbed his nose at Mayor de Blasio’s request for his resignation. Intentionally or not, Schulkin has become a poster fraud believer for Project Veritas. Their Web site features Schulkin’s photo, title and a link to the video noting the New York City Democratic commissioner “…exposes what everyone except the Democrats know to be true; there is a lot of voter fraud.” Schulkin is now in agreement with Donald Trump’s final campaign push — namely, the ELECTION IS RIGGED. And, regrettably, Trump is in agreement with Schulkin’s views on fraudulent voting. Shared by many others, this could be the inspiration for heckling, intimidation, perhaps even violence, all in the name of voter fraud. Trump’s devoted Birthers need no evi-

dence in this apocalyptic post-fact world to be certain that the election is rigged. Donald Trump has told them the truth, that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, Big Wall Street Money and the Media, them Liberals and even the old Republican Insiders are chartering buses right now to haul illegal immigrants and fraudulent voters from poll site to poll site. But here’s the threatening Election Day problem. Donald Trump’s dying campaign rhetoric is encouraging the true believers to do something — become monitors, look for fraud, keep a vigilant eye on our poll sites. The mostly white crowds that heckled and taunted any Trump dissenter now have their final, glorious cry of the Alamo. Taunting, threatening, challenging, objecting and possibly fighting anyone who, to a Trump supporter, might look like a fraudulent voter. On election night, when defeat is inevitable, Trump will still be victorious as the underdog, the victim of election fraud, the maverick hero who shall rise some day soon and Make America Great Again. According to the Pew Research Institute, one in three eligible voters in 2016 are minorities. That’s a lot of buses, and a lot of voters to bar from the poll site. Gay served 12 years as the deputy chief clerk for the New York City Board of Elections and two years as the Democratic deputy commissioner for the Ulster County Board of Elections. He currently divides his time between Chelsea and the Catskill Mountains. November 3, 2016


I, robot. You, not. ... and I’ll take your job! RHYMES WITH CRAZY By Lenore Skenazy


e don’t kill off our retirees just because they’re not working anymore, so don’t worry about our future robot overlords killing off us humans when we’re no longer working, either — which we won’t be, since robots will be doing everything faster and better than us, just as machines have been taking jobs from us since the invention of the sawmill. And in that future robot-ruled time, we might have the choice to actually become one of the superbots by donating our brain after we die, then coming back (sort of) as the brain of a computer just like us, down to our likes, dislikes, sense of humor — and maybe even our looks. That, my friends, was just part of the trippy argument going on at a monthly event called the Soho Forum, where free, open-to-the-public debates examine issues of interest to free-will-loving libertarians. I’m not quite sure how robots and libertarians find common cause. But, in any event, the question to answer was:

“Will robots eventually dominate the world and eliminate humans’ abilities to earn wages.” One professor — Robin Hanson, an associate professor of economics at George Mason University — briskly insisted that in the future, we will see the ascendancy of “Ems” — remarkably human robots that emulate us, because they’re modeled on our own brains. Or at least they’re modeled on the people who would make the very best worker-robots, claimed the author of “The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth.” But that’s not who will choose, said the “Robots will not take over” debater, Bryan Caplan, also an author and econ

professor at George Mason. That’s because, he explained, when we get around to creating worker robots from human brain scans, we will scan only the most docile, efficient workers, to create docile, non-human-killing Ems. And this is where it started getting weird(er): Hanson believes that company chiefs will still want to hire the most-brilliant workers, which means they’ll end up cloning (or replicating, or whatever the word is) jerks. “We expect the highest-productivity workers will be chosen,” said Hanson. In other words, the Ems will be clones of the cutthroat people most of us hate. And, being cutthroats, eventually they’ll cut our throats. “Although it may well be that the first five generations of robots will keep humans around because they feel some vestigial warmth toward our species,” Hanson said. How comforting. Caplan was having none of it. Why on earth would we clone the cutthroats who want to kill us? he asked. Well, over the eons we’ve had quite a lot of experience breeding new beings to do our bidding: Our pets and farm animals. We’ll do the same with humans — cloning the absolutely sweetest ones who also have a fierce work ethic. “We’ve got 7 billion people to choose

from,” Caplan pointed out. “A normal employer has five.” Moderator Gene Epstein, economics editor at Barron’s, tried to make peace. “You’ll tweak it,” he nodded to both. Caplan was not convinced that the day of the Ems will ever come, because who would volunteer to become one? “First thing, you’re actually dead,” he said. “They have to slice your brain in pieces. Very few people would want their biological death in order to have a computer simulation.” Of course this stuff sounds bizarre to us. But think back 1,000 years to the subsistence farmers. If you’d told them that someday we’d be able to talk to someone across an ocean, there’s no way they would have understood much less believed you. And now we have Skype and FaceTime. Would the Ems own property? Would they eventually fight? Or would the earth become a paradise with Ems doing all our work? Those issues were not resolved. In fact, nothing really was. An audience poll found the same number had changed their minds from negative to positive, and vice versa. It was the least-strange moment of a very strange night. Skenazy is author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids”

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November 3, 2016

Horror is the new Fleck tone, in ‘Blacktop Highway’ ‘NEA Four’ performance artist takes a solid turn down a dark path BY SCOTT STIFFLER


alloween will be a thing of the past by the time “Blacktop Highway” parks itself at Dixon Place, but that doesn’t mean you should pass up the opportunity to grip your ticket and enter the creepy old house John Fleck has stocked to the hilt with death, dread, grief, greed, sex, secrets, and lye (and, also, lies). “I like to scare and shock people,” said Fleck, the defunded-circa-1990 “NEA Four” performance artist and, later, busy TV actor, whose new multicharacter solo show lingers on the palate like a sweet confection laced with something bitter, possibly toxic, that you can’t quite put your finger on. Nominally the story of an upscale stranger with car trouble who stumbles upon a taxidermy-filled estate occupied by brother Frank, sister Jane, and a caged creature of dubious parentage, “Blacktop” unfolds as the manic, humorously self-aware live presentation of a screenplay whose constant revisions serve to amp up the drama — and, at times, appeal to the vanity of its writer/performer (“a man in his mid to late 50s” becomes “a non-smoking very attractive man in his early to mid-30s, his lush head of hair blowing in the wind from an open car window; a man steering his own course.”). Grim and goofy, disarming and disturbing, it’s informed as much by familiar Hollywood set pieces and plot twists as Fleck’s knack for hurling kitschy, misty, emotionally complex satire at interpersonal relations, religion, and the raw power of repressed sexual energy. But wait, why gothic horror as the vehicle? It’s hardly an obvious choice for the man whose autobiographical and absurdist theatrical endeavors include “Nothin’ Beats Pussy,” “Psycho Opera,” and “I got the He-Be-She-Be’s.” To be fair, though Fleck has made his mark in the sci-fi genre, having appeared in “Babylon 5” and several incarnations of the “Star Trek” franchise. “I always loved horror,” Fleck insisted. “I had this thing about ‘The Werewolf’ — I liked to pretend I was ‘The Werewolf,’ and I remember, as a kid, we’d play ‘Godzilla’ in the driveway.” It’s


Long-suffering sister Jane floats above it all, as a pitiful creature strives to nail his vocal lesson.

interesting to note, then, that a destructive monster looms large throughout “Blacktop Highway,” as does a gravel-filled, 50-foot strip of driveway that leads from the titular stretch of slickened road to the house where doom awaits. “I kind of grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional family,” Fleck explained, “so you act out things to get it out of your psyche when you can’t share it in the family.” Don’t project too much onto that. An undercurrent of autobiography is standard issue in any creative endeavor — but here, Fleck combines what may or may not be his own secret shames with a movie junkie’s fondness for tropes and an anthropologist’s fascination with the crave/recoil response when confronted with facts that are probably fiction. Lest you think you’re being lectured

to (apart from the point where there’s an actual lecture), Fleck heaps upon this foundation thick layers of sight gags, slapstick and prop comedy, puppetry, virtuoso vocal and facial contortions, and video projections that turn the black box theater into a cinema where the watcher becomes the watched (the screenplay direction “Cut to the attractive man’s POV” is this show’s breakout drinking game phrase). “Here’s the thing,” Fleck confessed, “It’s not the greatest horror story. It’s based on old clichéd scenarios. The deconstruction is what interests me,” he noted, and not just in reference to the spook house genre he both respects and subverts. FLECK continued on p. 29 November 3, 2016


Overall, you’ll ‘Like It’ and that’s ‘That’

Celebration of Puerto Rican cultural has a winning score


The cast of “I Like It Like That” (Caridad De La Luz, center).



n a metal-gated, garbage can-lined street of tenements and storefronts, the eloquent, energizing rhythm of Salsa music whirls through a doorway. In this record store and upstairs live a family unified in love; soon to be divided by life. Is there a riot or a celebration going on…or is it both? Are we to witness a story of hope and achievement, or loss and betrayal — or will it be both? And then there’s the music again; the unmistakable, transporting Latin music. Welcome to “I Like It Like That,” a musical set in El Barrio, aka Spanish Harlem, during the 1970s. The decade NYC nearly went bankrupt and blacked out; where crime, drugs and graffiti ruled the streets; and where a group of woke individuals turned protest into a force for social justice and change whose reach still exists today. A neighborhood whose music came to represent its people and culture during a time when all seemed poised on the wrong side of a sword. And through it all, a father struggles to keep his family hale and whole. It’s a celebration of old-school Puerto Rican culture: street parties and Valencia cake, culture clashes between generations amid poverty and neglect, the battle between the lure of the street and the desire to become something more than the powers that be want you to believe you can be (along with the backlash that you’re not “keeping it real” if you do choose to leave). I know this NYC; I grew up in it as well, albeit in a different neighborhood. Yes, the dialogue was sometimes an excuse to get to the next song — but what songs! The numbers include works by seminal musicians Eddie Palmieri,


November 3, 2016

Hector Lavoe, Tito Puente, La Lupe, Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colon, Fania All-Stars, and more — plus Manny Rodriguez and Tony Pabon, who wrote the title song. And, since this is a musical, we forgive any momentary timeline confusion or clunkiness of phrase while transfixed by the joyous explosion of hips, hair, and feet. Just ask the friend I brought that evening, a full-blooded Caucasian WASP who I thought might leap from her seat in delight at any given time. Unfortunately, many of the “inside” jokes and references that had the sold-out, mostly Latinx crowd roaring weren’t understood by her. And even though the English translations of many Spanish lyrics (and lines) projected on the walls and doorways of the sets were as legible as they were artistically effective, therein lies a dilemma. At times, I didn’t know what the odd word or phrase was either, as I am one of those Nuyoricansof-a-certain-age who grew up speaking English at home; many of my parents’ generation thought it more important to assimilate, as our culture wasn’t as accepted as it is now. Yet this is just one of our many Nuyorican stories. and one which we’ve seen variations of before. Is it an anachronism in today’s Latinx nation? A misplaced nostalgia? Or is it something more — an homage to a specific place and time when you and everyone you knew were young, bristling and hopeful? That is doubly important to me because I don’t think that Latinx culture — and certainly not my own Puerto Rican heritage — has yet to have the nuanced, universal portrayal that sees us as just people; that takes us out of stereotype and into mainstream acceptance. I spoke with actress/poet Caridad De La Luz, who wholly and wonderfully embodied the role of socially aware sister, China. She told me how the timeline in the

show connected with her, too, and since her parents met through salsa, the music is especially close to her heart. She also said, “When I was around six or seven years old, I saw ‘West Side Story’ over and over, emulating Rita Moreno’s character Anita, and promised myself one day I would be in a musical about our people. With ‘I Like It Like That,’ it’s my dream come true. It’s our East Side Story, the story of how our music brought all kinds of people together.” As I left the subway on my way home from the theater, I saw the waning moon and thought of “Moonstruck,” the 1987 film about an ItalianAmerican family set against the backdrop of their neighborhood, and how their lives were truthfully portrayed down to the breakfast egg-bread frying in the cast iron pan. It’s groundbreaking to me because portrays this family as believable people, as opposed to the prevailing stereotypes of the time. And I don’t believe the Puerto Rican-American experience has had such a portrayal…yet. But that’s another thread for another time. “I Like It Like That,” is a show that has legs — 20 of them. Its score should be an album. I’d wish it to have a long, successful run beyond the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre’s self-contained audience. So how can it reach, and win over, the mainstream audience any show must achieve for commercial success? Can it be our “Moonstruck?” I can’t answer that. But if it isn’t…it’s pretty darn close. And I liked it — just like that! Through Nov. 30. Tues.–Fri. at 8pm; Sat. at 5pm & 9pm; Sun. at 3pm & 7pm. At the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre (304 W. 47th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). For tickets ($55–$85), visit ilikeitlikethat. com or call 212-581-9859. Also visit

The force awakens

Gina Gibney’s long revolution expands big-time downtown BY BRIAN McCORMICK


or years, people in the dance field talked about, experimented with, and funded research on “new models” — alternative organizational structures and approaches to creative work, presentation, fundraising, audience development, and press/ marketing practices. While some of these were enabled or empowered by the rise of social media, surprisingly little institutional progress has been made. Due to calcification of leadership and a lack of innovation, the field remains largely unchanged, leaving artists at the mercy of an out-moded system. There is, however, a beacon of hope across from City Hall in Lower Manhattan, where Gina Gibney is building (on) an empire rebels can be proud of. Some may see this as a recent development that capitalized on the 2013 bankruptcy of Dance New Amsterdam (DNA), but the reality is Gibney has spent her entire adult life working on this — well, at least the last 25 years. Gibney Dance Company was founded as a performing and social action dance company in 1991 aimed toward women in need. They used a community action model; while other companies had a dramaturge on the payroll, Gibney had a clinical advisor. 890 Broadway, in the Flatiron District, became the company’s artistic home. With the security of space, Gibney focused on “keeping the company, and being a community actor, while making it viable, and trying not to lose money,” she told our sister publication, Gay City News. “For 20 years we had been working on the same scale, with the same problems, and no momentum,” she said. “The tipping point came when we had enough money earned from the studio space that funders began to pay attention, and expressed a desire to invest in what they saw as a stable entity.” In 2010, the company expanded its footprint at 890 Broadway into an eight-studio community center, and introduced a slew of new programming, events, and partnerships with Dance/NYC among others. Like


Nigel Campbell in Gibney Dance Company’s “Folding In.”

Mark Morris Dance Center and the Ailey Center, Gibney blossomed into a secure community settlement for dance artists. Shifting into high gear, Gibney used earned income from its studio rentals to pilot-test a residency for mid-career artists. The Mellon Foundation has now funded that residency program, which will serve 30 artists over three years. “Instead of paying to turn on the lights,” Gibney explained, “they were paying for added programming. Funders love that.” The same year Gibney was expanding at 890, DNA was close to eviction from its space at 280 Broadway. The company finally went belly-up in 2013 after failing to implement a long-term funding strategy as part of its effort to “come up with a stronger model,” as DNA’s director said at the time. Gibney Dance stepped in, signing a lease on 36,000 square feet at 280 and hosting a wall-breaking party to mark its gut renovation into the Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, which houses performing arts space, studios, and resources for the

arts and social justice communities. Now, like Ailey, the company is also embarking on an expansion, adding 10,000 square feet to the downtown complex, which will house seven smart studios equipped with technologies to create and disseminate high-quality digital content. The company will also deepen the social justice work that has been at the core of its activities since the beginning through its now-global Community Action programming that uses dance

and creativity to empower domestic abuse survivors and their families to take back control of their lives. The center will also provide social justice and community action services and training, and also cultivate partnerships, like the one with the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, with whom Gibney Dance conducted a symposium on bullying and abusive relationships. GIBNEY continued on p. 29

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

The Long and the Short of it written by: Walter Corwin

Directed by Daniel Kelly Features: Sarah Germain Lilly, T. Scott Lilly, Juan Villegas and Skip Dietrich

Nov. 2 - Nov. 13

Wed.- Sat. 8:00 P.M. Sun. at 3:00 P.M.


Victoria Woodhull

written by Claude Solnik Directed By: Donna Mejia “A story about the first woman

to run for president ”

Nov. 17 - Dec 4.

Thurs.- Sat. 8:00 P.M. Sun. at 3:00 P.M.


From Silence

written by Anne Marilyn Lucas Directed by Peter Zachari “A Holocaust Surviver breaks

her silence “ Nov 4. - Nov. 20 Thurs.- Sat. 8:00 P.M. Sunday 3:00 P.M.


November 3, 2016


Can’t walk away ‘Renée’ still finds a way to haunt me BY JIM MELLOAN


ifty years ago, on Oct. 29, 1966, “Walk Away Renée,” by the Left Banke, peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s intricate string arrangement made it a prime example of what came to be called “baroque rock” — already pioneered by George Martin’s arrangements of Beatles songs such as “In My Life” (Lennon actually asked him to play something “baroque-sounding” on the piano), “Yesterday,” and “Eleanor Rigby,” and later echoed by many of the Bee Gees 1967-1968 hits, the Supremes’ “Reflections,” and even Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay,” with its keening dobro. The Left Banke’s harmonies were reminiscent of many Beatles tunes, as well as those of the Zombies and the Mamas and the Papas. In fact, 16-yearold keyboardist and co-writer Michael Brown (who died last year, at age 65, of heart failure) got the idea for the oboe solo from the flute solo in The Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” I moved to England just as the song was topping the charts here. I may have heard it in America, but the Left Banke’s version of the song did not chart over there. But a year later, the Four Tops had a No. 3 hit with it in England (No. 14 here). While unmistakably soul, the Tops’ version retained the plaintive strings and harmonies, evoking the same specific kind of rainyday-glo melancholy. Brown’s father was Harry Lookofsky, a bebop jazz violinist who had put out an album called “Stringsville” in 1958, and who had played with Toscanini, Quincy Jones, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. He owned a studio called World United Studios at W. 48th St. and Broadway. He gave Michael keys to the studio, in exchange for some cleaning and sometimes sitting in as a session pianist. Michael brought his friends in to sing and jam when the studio wasn’t booked. They weren’t great players, but they were great singers. Lookofsky took an interest in the group, and wound up playing all of the strings on “Walk Away Renée.” The song was inspired by Brown’s crush on bass player Tom Finn’s girlfriend


November 3, 2016


In 1966, “Walk Away Renée” was here to stay, after peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Renée Fladen (now Fladen-Kamm), a platinum blonde teenager. Brown wrote the song a month after meeting her. “I was just sort of mythologically in love,” he has said, “if you know what I mean, without having evidence in fact or in deed...But I was as close as anybody could be to the real thing.” Fladen was present during the recording of the song, and Brown was unnerved. He later said, “My hands were shaking when I tried to play, because she was right there in the control room. There was no way I could do it with her around, so I came back and did it later.” A near-perfect story of young, desperate, unrequited love and a resulting masterpiece — but almost certainly not the whole story. The writing credits go to Brown, Bob Calilli, and Harry Sansone. The latter two were never in the band. I haven’t been able to find anything about Calilli except that he was a friend of

the Bronx-born Sansone. Sansone was a friend of Brown’s, although I haven’t been able to find out how. Sansone was at least 10 years older. In a strange 10-minute YouTube interview from 2012, and a National Catholic Register article from July of this year, Sansone continually refers to the song as his own. (A passionate commenter on the YouTube video says, “The NCR article is a poorly sourced puff piece, written by a presumably well-meaning reporter who was bamboozled by a liar.”) The lyrics start with “And when I see the sign that points one way.” Sansone, who comes across more like a boxing promoter than a songwriter, claims that he was inspired by the one-way sign at the corner of Hull Ave. and E. 207th St. in the Bronx. He says he used to see it every day when he was coming out of grammar school. Other accounts say Brown got the inspiration from a one-

way sign at the corner of Falmouth St. and Hampton Ave. in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. The last verse starts with “Your name and mine inside a heart on a wall.” Sansone says there was a heart with “Tony loves Toni” (or maybe vice versa) inscribed near the handball court outside the school. The name Renée, he says, wasn’t based on a real person, merely inspired by the fact that the Beatles had written a song about a French girl named Michelle. He says the song was written in the Bronx with Brown and Calilli, with “a number of other young kids that used to hang out with me” present, and that the Left Banke was formed and asked permission to record the song sometime later. Sansone notes, correctly, that when Frankie Valli recorded the song, he changed the word “block” to “street.” “In New York City,” he explained, “we lived on a block, not on a street. New York City has blocks and lots. Frankie Valli… used the word street. He comes from Jersey; he lived on a street, not a block.” The band’s first live performance came after the song’s release in a gig set up by Sansone at Our Lady of Solace’s Church in the Bronx. They arrived in a limousine with Renée in tow, and were greeted by screaming girls, befitting the rock stars they had just become. Could the truth be somewhere between the two stories? There’s no doubt that Sansone did at least contribute to the song. Perhaps the song was written more or less as Sansone describes, Brown took it downtown and put it on the back burner, and after he met Renée the name struck a chord, and he was inspired to revisit the song and complete it. I used to have a crush on a girl named Linda, and I would get hot and bothered when Paul McCartney’s “The Lovely Linda” came on. There’s another YouTube clip recorded just before the interview of Sansone playing the song. The chords aren’t quite right; at best it’s a simplified version. Perhaps Sansone contributed a sizeable part of the lyrics and refined them, and Brown, unquestionably the better musician, refined the music to complete the classic song. Regardless, the song remains a touchstone for longing hearts everywhere.

FLECK continued from p. 25

“Observation affects behavior,” says Fleck, in the guise of the smug “Blacktop” professor-type who interrupts the action to name-drop the late French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s 1981 “Simulacra and Simulation” treatise, insisting that from this moment on, our man Fleck is “very aware that he is being watched” and, in our own awareness of that fact, the audience becomes “the überwatchers.” “We live in a hyperreal world where there’s no longer a difference between reality and the appearance of reality,” said Fleck of the show’s Baudrillard-inspired, ever-peeling layers of revelations and shifting perspectives. “People want know, ‘Is this all fiction?’ But in a way, I could look at all these characters that came out of my psyche as a mirror aspect of myself; this quest for the pretty face, and me being an aging gay man; the quest to stay young instead of accepting the reality of wanting to change that.” This is just one of the deep insecurities we’re prodded/tempted/encouraged to project onto Fleck, who at one point turns to the audience and quips, “I’m too old to get a job in Hollywood, so I made my own [movie] and play all the parts.” Fleck admitted his bitter little Norma Desmond/Baby Jane routine is “somewhat exaggerated, as we in the theater tend to do,” although work on the small screen has dried up since a long stretch of steady work in episodic and procedural dramas: Check out his IMDb profile for a multitude of unsavory characters, including “Gravedigger,” “CEO” and, yes, “Wolf”. But Fleck isn’t disavowing, or dissing, the dues paid through such steady work. After all, he noted, “I squirreled away enough bucks when I was working in that medium, and now I’m at a point in my life [where] I don’t need to hustle for the TV jobs and am instead focusing on my performance art

and theater. I did a feature film with Margaret Cho called ‘Alaska Is a Drag.’ I just finished acting in a David Greenspan play in LA called ‘Go Back to Where You Are,’ and I’m planning on doing a Pinter play in the spring. I want to be ‘live.’ ” This renewed dedication to theater, it turns out, is steeped in irony. Fleck credits the creation of “Blacktop” to an Internet project that never saw the light of day. “I have this old crone in me,” he said regarding what would become the character of long-suffering sister Jane, “that I got in touch with when I did [Lady Enid in Charles Ludlam’s] ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep,’ so it just kind of evolved. I originally thought about this piece [“Blacktop”] as a web series. I was gonna call it ‘The Door.’ This old woman would answer the door, and there’s a big secret inside.” Our dear readers are strongly advised to enter the doors of Dixon Place, and discover that secret for themselves. Your time will be duly rewarded, promises the man whose Downtown theater credits date back to the early ’80s and include the “Blacktop” host venue as well as PS122 and La MaMa. “I think the power of live theater,” Fleck insisted, will trump the experience of sitting at home “just looking at a screen. I want something to make me feel like I’m a f**king human being, not a robotized media head.” Let’s hope that message reaches the masses — or at least the guy who recently asked what he was up to next. “I said I was going to New York City to do my solo show,” Fleck recalled, “and he asked, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s what I am. I’m a performance artist/theater person.’ And he said no one he knows ‘goes to live theater anymore.’ And I said, ‘Well, if that’s the case, then this an act of defiance and rebellion on my part.’ I truly feel theater, at its core, is about reminding us of our shared humanity — and it has to be live.”


Wing man: Even caged creatures can take flight in the dreamy world of John Fleck.

A live feed of Fleck’s face on the monitor, from a performance of “Blacktop Highway” at REDCAT in Los Angeles.

“Blacktop Highway” is performed Fri. & Sat., Nov. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19. All shows 7:30pm, at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St., btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). For tickets ($18; $15 for students/seniors), visit or call 212-219-0736. Artist info at Written & performed by John Fleck. Directed by Randee Trabitz. Video design by Heather Fipps. Costume design by Christina Wright. Puppet design by Christine Papalexis. Original lighting design by Anne Militello.

GIBNEY continued from p. 27

Perhaps most incredible among Gibney’s accomplishments is the fact that her company members are now 52-week salaried employees with health care and the month of August off. She accomplished this by redesigning their jobs to include activism and advocacy. “What does a company residency look like?” Gibney asks. Since last year, each company member has been assigned an advocacy fellowship. “They envision and implement something they deeply care about using the resources of the organization,” she explained. “We activate dancers as leaders of the community, provide their projects with incubation and mentorship by senior staff. They each choose the area they want to focus on.” And they are making a real difference. Dancer Nigel Campbell

developed and now co-directs Move(NYC), a rigorous, tuitionfree summer dance intensive for talented locals teenagers who lack the financial means to attend summer dance programs like those at Jacob’s Pillow or ADF. This community-based philosophy can also be found at work in some of the curatorial programming, like “Double Plus,” shared evenings of work by artists chosen by other artists. “Artists are coming to us with ideas,” Gibney explained. “We want to have a strong artist-driven selection process, as well as selective presenting curated around a strong point of view. And we are working on how to make that process fair.” As for her own dance-making, the choreographer joked she hasn’t been “cranking them out in the last five years,” but she’ll present her

new evening-length work “Folding In” during the first two weeks of November. “We can’t do one thing all the time in this field. There has to be an acknowledgement of cycles and processes and demographics,” the dance magnate elaborated. “We wear many hats and embrace and use those things. But I put it all behind me when I walk into the studio and breathe the same air as the dancers. Admittedly, making this new work has been slow, stretched out over time, but it feeds me in a way nothing else does.” “Folding In.” Nov. 2–5 at 8pm; Nov. 10–11 at 8pm; Nov. 12 at 2 & 5pm. At 280 Broadway (enter at 53A Chambers St.). For tickets ($1520) and info on programs, services, classes, and events at both Gibney Dance Center spaces, visit or call 646-837-6809.


Gina Gibney is a visionary artist, activist, and entrepreneur who has been rethinking and improving dance infrastructure in New York City for 25 years. November 3, 2016


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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


November 3, 2016

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


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

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


Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

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

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


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

November 3, 2016



The 26th Annual Children’s Halloween Parade, sponsored by Community Board 2 and New York Universit y, was, as usual, frighteningly fun for one and all. The kids, accompanied by lots of “big kids,” too, as in parents, paraded around Washington Square in their costumes. That was followed by free trick-or-treat bags, per formances, games and rides. The event was founded in 1990 by the late Ar t y Strickler, who was then Community Board 2 chairperson.

Kids scare up some fun in Wash. Square Letters to the Editor Letters continued from p. 22

ing” (interview, Oct. 20): What a scintillating interview! Steve Vaccaro comes across as informed, reasoned, dedicated and compassionate. I hope that the two New Yorkers whose drivercaused injuries were described upfront in the article and whom Steve is representing have an eventual return to full health and mobility. Steve chose not to mention that the statute enjoining motor vehicle users from “dooring” other road users is Section 1214 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Charles Komanoff

Nice photo spread To The Editor: Re “Pumpkins, cookies and critters at Harvest Fest” (photos, Oct. 13):


November 3, 2016

Thanks for the nice spread of Tequila Minsky’s photos on the Jefferson Market Garden Harvest Festival. It was truly a lovely Village affair. Sugar Barry

‘Stick’ with St. John’s plan To The Editor: I’m 28, live in Murray Hill and I love playing field hockey. For the past six years, I have been playing with a volunteer-driven women’s field hockey club that practices at the fields at Pier 40 in Hudson River Park. Many of us have been playing the sport since high school. Our club continues to grow as other women discover our team — often by seeing us carrying our field hockey sticks on the subway. I eagerly await our Sunday pickup games at Pier 40. It’s amazing to play in the heart of Downtown Manhattan with a clear view of the shining 1 World Trade Center, along with those playing baseball, rugby and more. It’s a wonderful, passionate network of athletes

from all over the city. I’ve read that our beloved playing fields have an uncertain future. Experts agree that the piles that keep Pier 40 from collapsing into the Hudson River need to be repaired, and soon. I believe that the St. John’s Terminal proposal is the best way to save Pier 40. The proposed sale of the Hudson River Park Trust’s unused air rights from the pier would provide the funds necessary to repair the pier’s piles and preserve the fields. I hope that our community leaders will support this plan so that all of us can continue to enjoy this vibrant and valuable neighborhood resource. Amy Chen E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published. Write a letter to the editor.

Sound off!


Bill would double number of food vendor permits BY JACKSON CHEN


ew Yorkers may be able to enjoy more mobile munchies over the next several years as the City Council considers a package of bills aimed at improving conditions for the city’s many street vendors. The bill — introduced by Upper West Side Councilmember Mark Levine, joined by Council Speaker Melissa MarkViverito and several other colleagues — aims to double the number of permits for street food vendors in the city to more than 8,000 over a span of seven years. These permits have been capped by the city at 4,235 since the 1980s, and that limit has led to a monopolization of the available supply. Permit owners can renew every two years with the city for $200, but often turn around and rent them out for as much as $25,000 in a black market. The proposed Street Vending Modernization Act would allow the city to increase the permit cap incrementally and also better regulate the industry. Under the bill, the city would create a team of officers dedicated to street vendor enforcement and a street vendor advisory panel — comprised of city agencies, community groups, vendors and brick-andmortar store owners — that would guide

Photo by Jackson Chen

Josh Gatewood, owner of the Yankee Doodle Dandy’s food truck, is president of the New York Cit y Food Truck A ssociation.

new vendor regulations while monitoring enforcement and new permit rollouts. According to Levine, the new law’s

first year would be dedicated solely to building a new Office of Street Vendor Enforcement. Beginning in in 2018, the city would offer up to 600 new permits each year until 2024. After that, the cap on street vending permits would be at the discretion of the tobe-created advisory board, according to the bill. Under the S.V.M.A., each two-year permit would cost $1,000. Josh Gatewood, the president of the New York City Food Truck Association, praised the new bill as a step in the right direction. “I think it’s a great first step,” Gatewood said of the City Council proposal. “It sounds like they’re very prosmall business. It sounds like they’re hearing our grievances and they’re going to help us.” Gatewood’s key concern about the bill is its slow, rationed increase in the number of permits, which he worries will do little to curb the black-market control of the industry. “It’s addressing a hole in the side of the ship by putting a patch on, and the patch is still leaky,” he said of the bill. “If we could have some sort of system to ensure people that they’re using it for their own business, that could be the way to go about it.” Echoing the Food Truck Association’s

views, Sean Basinki, director of the Street Vendor Project, a unit of the Urban Justice Center that is a longtime advocate of lifting the caps, described the S.V.M.A. as the beginning of street vendors finally having a voice in city government. But Robert Lederman, who for years has waged a battle to defend the rights of street-artist vendors of First Amendment-protected artwork, attacked the Levine bill as a “conspiracy” between the Council and what he termed the “partly” Council-funded Street Vendor Project that will “create a new policetype enforcement agency to issue many more summonses than the N.Y.P.D. now does.” “Within two years, I predict all of these new food vending permits will be controlled by large vending corporations, possibly offshoots of food chains like McDonald’s or Burger King,” Lederman charged. Food vendors have been a thorny issue in Soho — which deals with heavy pedestrian traffic — among other Downtown areas. “It’s really been an economic ladder for almost every wave of immigrants to come through this city,” Levine said of food vending. “We have an arbitrary cap on the number of food vendor licenses which hasn’t been updated since 1983.” November 3, 2016


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