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Chasing Humanity, Discovering Himself

03 Q. SAKAMAKI

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | Vol. 03 No. 04

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February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Chasing Humanity, Discovering Himself

Q. SAKAMAKI

Tamil civilians taking military training in Kilinochchi, a stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka in 2006.

BY JACKSON CHEN

I

n his 30 years as a photographer, Q. Sakamaki has walked through the aftermath of 2011’s 9.1-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan. He has documented the destruction and leftover rubble after the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014. In New York, he covered the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riots in the East Village, where encamped homeless people, rebellious youth, and drug addicts clashed with police. His photos capture ex t remely int imate moments where it seems humans are at their most exposed. Sakamaki explained that he is chasing the answer to the question of “what is the meaning of humanity, what is it to be a human being?” in his photography. “Because I’m a photographer, because I’m a journalist, I would like to know what’s behind the scenes, why people fight, why people kill each other, always I’m thinking about it,” Sakamaki said of his thought process, during an interview near his Morningside Heights home. “And then I would like to catch something pretty, so actually doesn’t matter the passion: music, culture, or war.” While he originally envisioned being a novelist or a fashion photographer, his passion for photojournalism sparked after he emigrated from Japan to the East Village in 1986. When he first moved there, he was shocked at the scene the encountered within Tompkins Square Park and in the surrounding neighbor-

hood, comparing what he saw to a Third World country. But as he assimilated into the area, he became absorbed in the energy of those squatting in the park. “ Tompkins Square Park movement was expression of the people’s soul, how people are feeling naturally, instinctively,” Sakamaki said. “It touched me a lot.” And after covering the gritty reality in the park, the protests, and the police brutality that came in response, Sakamaki began steering his photography efforts toward human rights. It was a natural bridge for him to cross given his interest in global affairs since the time he was a teenager, he explained. He completed his master’s degree in International Affairs at Columbia University, informing his future pursuits. Since then, Sakamaki has traveled to an impressive ra nge of countr ies, including Sri Lanka, Burma, Bangladesh, Haiti, Brazil, Sudan, Liberia, Egypt, and more. He has always been attracted to conf lict and war zones. His camera equipment ranges from a Canon DSLR to his iPhone and, when it’s possible to use, a film camera. Due to the expense of developing film, however, that approach is often not feasible, which he regrets given its superior image quality to digital. Sakamaki has, at times, put his life at risk to snap closely personal portraits that make the viewer feel as if they were there. Particularly in Cairo, his camera attracted unwanted attention and he was severely beaten by a mob, captured and jailed for several nights, and

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

JACKSON CHEN

Q. Sakamaki.

Q. SAKAMAKI

New York’s financial district.

blindfolded and interrogated for being a photojournalist in an area he was not welcome. He said he often heard, while blindfolded, people getting beaten until their voices vanished due to what he could only assume was their having passed out. Elsewhere, he was caught by a ricocheting bullet from an Israeli soldier and attacked twice in Brazil. While he produced, in each case, moving images that shaped his own understanding and experience of the world, he was left with a parting burden.

c SAKAMAKI, continued on p.23 3


Immigration Focus of Garodnick’s Second “Call to Action” BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Soviet Union in the 1970s was a hostile environment for its Jewish residents. Simply speaking Hebrew or observing the Sabbath could get you thrown in jail. And the glass ceiling was ever-present for those Jews who were able to find work. As a young Jewish girl, these were the circumstances Marianna Vaidman Stone would have faced. “Everyday, in a zillion little ways, being Jewish in Russia was degrading and difficult,” Vaidman Stone said at a Februar y 15 community meeting called by City Councilmember Dan Garodnick. “My parents found it intolerable but they couldn’t just leave.” The meeting, held at Temple Emanu-El, on East 66th Street, was the second in a series of “call to action” forums the East Side councilmember has hosted in response to the election of Donald Trump. Vaidman Stone recalled that only a limited number of emigrants were granted escape from the Soviet Union, and her family initially was not among the few given permission to leave the country. But on the other side of the world, the American Jewish community mobilized and advocated aggressively on behalf of Russian Jews. Eventually, the US government succeeded in applying enough pressure on the Soviet Union, which granted thousands of exit visas for its Jewish citizens. In 1979, when Vaidman Stone was seven, she and her parents were able to escape the oppression of her native country. But their road to America was a convoluted one, as they were first processed in Vienna and next consigned to Italy before finally entering the US. It w a sn’t e a s y at f i r st , she recalled, as her family dealt with accusations of being Communist spies or “moochers,” due to their receiving food stamps and free school lunches. But her family eventually carved out a new life in America, and Vaidman Stone went on to become a law yer who now works as Garodnick’s chief of staff. A product of her refugee roots and the activism that gave her family a chance, Vaidman Stone is paying it

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JACKSON CHEN

Hasan Agili, a gay Libyan refugee who arrived in the US last June.

forward by trying to help those who are currently in a similar situation. “I’ve never forgotten it was the willingness of total strangers to go to rallies in the cold, to do walkathons, to call their elected officials, and to give money to local organizations,” Vaidman Stone said. “These acts allowed my family to come to America and build a new life.” But the outlook for overseas refugees in the age of Trump is bleak. Hasan Agili grew up in Libya, but realized in his teenage years that he would never belong or be accepted in his home country. He long harbored hopes of being able to pursue the American dream, to live in a

country of immigrants whose residents come from all walks of life. In Libya, he was just an exam away from graduating from medical school, Agili recalled, when he was outed as a gay man to the university by a former friend who had snooped around on his personal computer. “I saw the doors closing on my dreams as I stood there powerless,” Agili said. “I heard news of friends beheaded, thrown from high buildings just for being gay.” He continued, “One night I said, ‘That’s it, I must leave now, I must survive.’” The refugee hopped from Jor-

JACKSON CHEN

Councilmember Dan Garodnick moderates a forum that included Murad Awawdeh, director of political engagement for the New York Immigration Coalition, Victoria Neilson, the legal director at Immigrant Justice Corps, Chloe Tribich, associate director for development at Make the Road NY, and Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS.

dan to Lebanon to escape his home country, all along with the intention of entering the fabled Land of the Free. But for several years he was lost in the system, with US agencies digging into his character, carrying out background checks with fingerprints and medical exams, and putting him through in-person interviews that could last the entire day, Agili said. On June 8, 2016, Agili became the sole Libyan refugee admitted into the US during all of last year. Agili is fortunate that he was able to enter the country before Trump’s first week in office. On January 27, the president signed a sweeping executive order that barred general refugee entry for 120 days as well as suspending all immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — for 90 days and indefinitely banning refugees from Syria. Despite a federal appeals court’s hold on that order, Agili is uncertain of his future. “I have been told after one year of my admission I should get my green card, and five years later I get my citizenship,” Agili said. “Now I have no idea what will happen next June.” Despite the setbacks Trump suffered over his initial executive order, the president announced during a news conference on February 16 that he would be issuing another order on immigration this week. On the weekend of February 11-12, news spread on social media that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been raiding immigrant communities in New York City and elsewhere. As a sanctuary city, New York City and its elected officials have stood in opposition to Trump’s stance on immigrants. Many residents of the city share that view, as evidenced by repeated protests at locations from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Battery Park, the federal courthouses in Foley Square and downtown Brooklyn, and the Stonewall Inn in the West Village. For his second community mobilization event, Garodnick invited

c GARODNICK, continued on p.12

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


City More Than Doubling Funding for Tenants in Housing Court

Our Perspective For Working People, Progress and Resistance By Stuart Appelbaum, President Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW

W COURTESY: OFFICE OF CITY COUNCILMEMBER MARK LEVINE

A buoyant crowd of tenant activists cheered Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Upper West Side Councilmember Mark Levine at the announcement that funding for legal representation for lower-income New Yorkers in Housing Court would be greatly expanded.

BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he city will pump millions of new dollars into tenant legal services that by the fifth year will represent an increase of $93 million over current levels, according to a February 12 announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The new funding will more than double the city’s commitment to providing free legal representation in Housing Court for low-income families that earn less than roughly $50,000 a year. The city calculated the threshold by doubling the federal poverty level for a family of four: $24,250. As many tenants have testified in the past, they are often subject to undeserved harassment or evictions from certain landlords. But soon, they will have greater opportunity to make their case in Housing Court with a city-provided attorney by their side. “Bringing more justice to vulnerable New Yorkers is a hallmark of this City Council,” Mark-Viverito said in a press release. “The groundbreaking legislation outlined by the City Council and the mayor will ensure that no low-income New Yorker is forced from their home without legal representation.” According to the announcement, the $93 million increase in funding would be phased in over five

years, with incremental revenue of $15 million for the coming fiscal year. Currently, the fund for tenant legal services sits at $62 million and when fully implemented in 2022, the budget would reach $155 million and an estimated 400,000 residents would qualify, according to the city. “We are the biggest city in the country to level the playing field between tenants and landlords in Housing Court,” de Blasio said in a release. “To anyone being forced out of their home or neighborhood, we are fighting for you. This is still your city.” The announcement, made at West Side High School on the West 102nd Street, drew ecstatic cheers from a crowd that included Councilmember Mark Levine. The councilmember has been championing a bill that would codify the city’s funding pledge. Intro 214A was introduced by Levine and Bronx Councilmember Vanessa Gibson in 2014 and now has 42 co-sponsors on the Council. The momentum created by the mayor and Council speaker’s funding commitment should carry the bill through a successful vote, but Levine said they would do some slight revisions first. The councilmember explained that the revisions include specify-

orkers at three Babeland stores in New York City a mission-driven, queer-owned sex toy boutique – have made history by ratifying their first union contract after organizing with the RWDSU last year. Workers will receive general wage increases and adjustments, We will fight any attempts to marginalize working people. as well as signing bonuses and post-probationary wage increases. Most significantly, it’s the first union contract that includes added safety and security trainings and protocols to protect Babeland’s predominately LGBTQ and women workforce in this highly emotionally intimate industry. It’s a contract that shows the value of unions, and how union contracts can help workers in any industry and any workplace. Babeland workers have unique, job-specific concerns, and by winning a voice and the power that comes with it they were able to win a contract that will significantly improve their jobs and their work lives. And, it will help protect them in the workplace, which was one of the driving reasons behind their desire to organize. In the era of Trump, it’s In the era of Trump, significant that these workers with those who have proved the power we can all win when we stand together. traditionally been marginalized by society facing uncertain times and an increasingly hostile environment, it’s significant that these workers proved the power we can all win when we stand together. It’s significant because we all deserve to be treated with dignity, justice and respect. Working men and women – regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status – refuse to recede back into the shadows, or succumb to the fear being stoked by our current presidential leadership. We will fight any attempts to marginalize working people. We see it in victories like those at Babeland, and we see it in the emphatic rejection of Andrew Puzder, who would have been the most anti-worker Labor Secretary we have ever known. Even in difficult times, there is power in unity. Across America, people are fighting back, and we in the labor movement are proud to be an integral part of it.

www.rwdsu.org

c HOUSING COURT, continued on p.18

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

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Garodnick Leads Charge on Small Business Rent Tax Relief BY JACKSON CHEN

C

ity councilmembers across Manhattan are calling for reform of a decades-old commercial rent tax they say is burdening many local businesses into extinction. The commercial rent tax (CRT) was created in 1963 as a revenue generator that charges businesses paying more than $250,000 in annual rent a 3.9 percent levy. In the ‘90s, the CRT was restricted to Manhattan businesses below 96th Street, followed by another amendment that exempted part of Lower Manhattan after 9/11. Calling the tax “out of whack and antiquated,” East Side Councilmember Dan Garodnick held a rally on February 13 to build support for a package of bills that were introduced to reform the CRT. The councilmember, who chairs the Council’s Economic Development Committee, said that the tax currently penalizes many small businesses, including restaurants, hardware JACKSON CHEN East Side City Councilmember Dan Garodnick at a February 13 City Hall stores, and boutiques. “You ever wonder why we’re being overrally aimed at building support for reform of the commercial rent tax levied on businesses in Manhattan below 96th Street. r u n by ba n k s a nd ch a i n d r ug stores i n

Ma nhatta n? ” Ga rodnick said. “Well, this tax on commercial rent is one of your prime culprits.” T he f i rst bi ll, sponsored by Ga rodn ick and Upper West Side Councilmember Helen Rosent ha l, would increase t he t hreshold to pay the CR T to $ 500,000 from its current $250,000. Garodnick said they looked at a variety of possible minimum rent levels before settling on $ 500,000, a figure that would exempt up to 4,000 local businesses currently hit with the levy. The CRT, Garodnick said, currently generates around $780 million and earlier estimates from the Council showed the proposed change would cost the city $55 million a year. Two others in the series of bills, sponsored by Borough President Gale Brewer and West Councilmember Corey Johnson, would provide exemptions from the CRT for billboards t h at ad ver t ise t he at r ic a l work s a nd for affordable supermarkets, regardless of the rent they pay. Rosenthal is joined by Lower Manhattan

c SMALL BUSINESS, continued on p.7

Senator Bill Perkins Comes Home to the Council BY JACKSON CHEN

S

tate Senator Bill Perkins will be returning to the City Council after securing victory on February 14 in a nine-candidate special election for Council District 9. Earning a plurality at 33.64 percent of the vote, Perkins won 3,750 votes, according to unoff icia l numbers from t he cit y’s Board of Election, for the seat that runs uptown from Central Park North into Harlem. Mar vin Holland, a long-time labor representative for the Transport Workers Union Local 100, was the runner-up, with 18.59 percent, or 2,073 votes. Athena Moore, a former North Manhattan director in the borough president’s office, placed third, winning 15.09 percent, or 1,682 votes. The seat was subject to a special election after incumbent Inez Dickens, facing ter m limits at the end of this year, won election in November to the State Assem-

6

bly representing the 70th District covering Harlem and portions of the Upper West Side. Dickens’ departure from the Council sparked a spirited content, with 14 candidates initially tossing their hats in the ring and nine making it onto the ballot. The total turnout was 11,149, according to the BOE’s unofficial numbers. Perk i ns comes full ci rcle i n returning to the Council, having served the district from 1998 through 2005, at which time he was succeeded by Dickens. Given his familiarity with the district and the role of councilmember, Perkins, who served in the Senate since his election in 2006, said the transition to councilmember wouldn’t be a big deal. “The idea is to do the most good, wherever t hat oppor t u n it y is offered,” Perkins told Manhattan Express. “I could possibly be more useful and do more good to the same constituency basically on the city level than the state level.”

In Albany, Democrat Perkins has in recent years been part of the minority, which is typically shut out of setting the Senate’s agenda. Perkins said he wasn’t prepared to discuss his first actions as a returning councilmember but noted that some of the issues he’s tried to advance through state legislation could be translated into Council initiatives. Since the February 14 special election merely fills out the remaining 10 months of Inez’s term, Perkins must face another round of elections this fall. As first reported by the Gotham Gazette, Holland, last week’s runner-up, plans to contest the seat again, making clear in a statement later released on his Facebook page that he would be “continuing on to the September primary for City Council.” Holland noted that two-thirds of the voters did not support Perkins, signaling to him that the district wants to see change.

FACEBOOK.COM

State Senator Bill Perkins is set to return to the City Council, where he served from 1998 through 2005.

W hen asked about the cha llenger, Perkins said he welcomed Holland or anyone else prepared to face off aga inst him for t he Council seat. The senator said he was confident he would pre-

c PERKINS, continued on p.7

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c SMALL BUSINESS, from p.6 Councilmember Margaret Chin in another bill that would require t he Depa r t ment of Fina nce to conduct annual reports on what businesses are paying the CRT. Rosenthal said she is acutely aware of the CRT’s impact on businesses in her Upper West Side district and emphasized that those small enterprises provide jobs to workers who come from all over the city. T he t a x ha rdship hits business spanning the Upper East and West Sides as well as certain areas in Lower Manhattan and neighborhoods in Johnson’s district including Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and Times Square. “If you live in a neighborhood and the locksmith closes, or the affordable supermarket closes, or the shoe repair store closes, or the bodega closes, or the local pharmacy... closes, that affects your quality of life in your neighborhood,” Johnson said. “It just doesn’t make any sense that for a sma l l por t ion of t he cit y we have this tax.” A ndrew R igie, t he execut ive d i rector of t he New York Cit y Hospit a l it y A l l ia nce, whose members include restaura nts,

bars, lounges, and hotels, said the package of bills doesn’t completely fix the problem, but is a step in the right direction. “It is ver y depressi ng when everyday it seems like you open a newspaper, listen to the radio, and one of our beloved local businesses has shut dow n,” R ig ie said. “We have this incredible bill that will help 4,000 businesses right here in Manhattan get some desperate financial relief.” Rigie urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to support their efforts and for ot her c ou nc i l me mb er s t o join on to the efforts Garodnick is leading. When asked about the mayor’s and his fellow councilmembers’ views on the proposed measures, Garodnick said there was some openness and that he believes that support for reforming the CRT will build. “ We shou ld do away w it h it entirely,” Garodnick said of the CRT. “We’re taking steps today to start that process, tr ying to deliver some level of immediate fairness to these small businesses for the sake of the businesses t hemselves, t he com mu n it ies they’re ser ving, and the people from all around the city who work in them.” n

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c PERKINS, from p.6 vail again, but also commended the effor ts of his opponents to remain engaged in civic life. Perk ins pledged to cont inue what he described as his record of being a “responsive, v isible, and accessible” elected official. U s i n g h i s M e t r o C a r d a l ot more — as opposed to the weekly A mtrak r uns a nd Greyhounds in and out of A lbany — he said

he would have more time to walk around his district. “ E ach i n st it ut ion of fer s it s ow n gifts, opportunities, chall e n g e s , o b s t a c l e s ,” P e r k i n s explained. “It’s like they’re all kinds of shovels. When you dig a ditch, you decide which one is appropriate for the kind of hole you’re digging and the planting you’re trying to do.” Holland could not be reached for comment. n

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At Packed Waldorf Gala, Streep Rebuts Trump BY PAUL SCHINDLER

I

n the middle of a passionate and powerful rejoinder to President Donald Trump — with whom she’s been at war since her Golden Globes speech in early January — Meryl Streep did something remarkable even for a much-decorated actor who has repeatedly proven her musical chops. Before an February 11 overflow Waldorf Astoria ballroom audience attending the annual Greater New York Dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ lobby, she sang a cappella a musical setting of Emma Lazarus’ 1883 sonnet “The Great Colossus,” the words of which are inscribed at the base of the Statute of Liberty. St reep was reca lling a 1961 school field trip she took as an 11-year-old to the Statute of Liberty from her suburban New Jersey middle school. There, her music teacher, then known as Paul Grossman, led Streep and her classmates in the song. When the actor was in graduate school, she learned that Grossman had transitioned and become one of the nation’s first out transgender women. Paula Grossman returned to the Basking Ridge school, where she was fired, losing her court challenge to her dismissal. “She was a garrulous, cantankerous, terrific teacher but she never taught again,” Streep said of her former music teacher who died in 2003. When the Oscar-winning actor finished singing “The New Colossus,” she said, “I can’t remember what I did Tuesday, but I remember that… It stirred my 11-year-old heart then, and it animates my conscience today. That’s what great teachers do.” Streep dedicated the National Ally Award HRC bestowed on her to the “gay and transgender” teachers, friends, and colleagues she’s known over the years. The earliest among them, she recalled, were “people who made me an artist and lived under duress.” In her remarks, Streep likened the struggle for LGBTQ rights to other social justice movements including those for people of color

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DAVID GOODMAN/ HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

DAVID GOODMAN/ HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN

Meryl Streep addressing the Human Rights Campaign gala crowd at the Waldorf on February 11.

“Late Night” host Seth Meyers.

and women, and of Trump’s election, she said, “We shouldn’t be surprised that fundamentalists of all types everywhere are exercised… We shouldn’t be surprised that these profound changes come at a much deeper cost… We shouldn’t be surprised if not everyone is totally down with it.” Then sounding a resilient note about how those who resist the new administration can gain strength from their struggle, she added, “If we live through this perilous moment, if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to a nuclear winter, we will have much to thank this president for because he will have woken us up to how fragile freedom really is.” The nation can learn, Streep said, “how the authority of the executive in the hands of a selfdealer can be wielded against the people… to intimidate, punish, and humiliate, delegitimize the press… with pathologic regularity and easily provoked predictability.” She then assured the crowd, “Well, we’re not, we’re not going to go back to the bad old days of ignorance and oppression.” Turning specifically to the war of words between herself and the president, Streep acknowledged the “natural instinct to say, ‘Fuck off.’” But that wouldn’t be her style. “I have to stand here,” Streep insisted, her voice rising. “I don’t want to be here. I could be home,

General Jeff Sessions’ announcement the day before that the Justice Department was withdrawing its motion to block a Texas federal judge’s injunction against the Obama administration policy requiring public schools to allow transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, vowed to resist Trump administration efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights, transgender healthcare access, and protections for trans students. “When President Trump attacks one of us, he’s going to hear from all of us,” he vowed. A sweeping anti-LGBTQ executive order that circulated in the White House, Schumer said, “never made it past the drafting table because of a massive public outcry, because of the voices of the people in this room.” Acknowledging that he had fully expected Hillary Clinton to win the presidency, Schumer said he was distraught, knowing that had she won and he become majority leader, “I would have had more fun, and we certainly would have gotten more good things done.’ He t hen added, “But now as minority leader under President Donald Trump, my job is much more important.”

I want to read, and garden, and load my dishwasher. I love that. It’s embarrassing and terrifying, and it puts a target on your forehead. And it sets you up for all sorts of attacks. The armies of brownshirts and bots and worse.” A nd t hen, to t hu nderous applause, she continued, “You have to, you have to, you don’t have an option, you have to. And when I load my dishwasher from where I live in New York City, I look out my window and see the Statue of Liberty, and she reminds me of Mr. Grossman and my first trip there.” Referring to the threat that broad religious exemption laws could gut nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ and other people, Streep insisted, “We as Americans have the right to reject the imposition of unwanted religious practice in our lives. We have the right to live our lives with God or without her.” And she closed by pointing to all Americans’ “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and warned, “If you think people were mad when they thought the government was coming after their guns wait ‘til you see when they try to take away our happiness.” Streep’s speech was the emotional highpoint in an evening that focused ferocious attacks on the new administration and underscored the risks to LGBTQ civil rights advances it poses. Several speakers mentioned Attorney

c STREEP, continued on p.9

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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Senator Chuck Schumer warned that Judge Neil Gorsuch is not assured of 60 votes to block a filibuster against his nomination to the US Supreme Court.

c STREEP, from p.8 Describing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, as “the second coming of John Roberts, a conservative ideologue in sheep’s clothing,” Schumer warned that if he “cannot prove his independence from the president, he will have a great deal of trouble finding the 60 votes in the United States Senate.” The senator acknowledged “the brave gay and, yes, transgender New Yorkers who nearly 50 years ago fought showed the country the power of resistance at Stonewall,” and added, “I implore you not to despair, there is something happening in America,” a reference to the outpouring of protesters in the streets and at Republican congressional town halls. Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, also took on Trump foursquare, say ing t he L GB T Q A mer ica ns “find ourselves at a turning point in our struggle for full equality. Everything we have accomplished together is under siege by a loud minority and it is led by a man who seems hell-bent on undoing all our progress.” Challenging the notion among some in the mainstream media that Trump — informed by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, senior advisor Jared Kushner —

is more friendly to LGBTQ Americans than most GOP leaders, Griffin said, “We won’t stand by as he waves the rainbow f lag while under m i n i ng equa lit y behi nd closed doors.” Griffin also made specific mention of the need to protect the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood, two things he said are vital to serving the healthcare needs of people living with HIV and transgender Americans. Another awardee of the evening was comedian Seth Meyers, host of NBC’s “Late Night.” Meyers opened by joking about his placement at the end of the evening’s program. “If you do this again,” he said, “Meryl Streep is the closer… I can’t believe a room full of gay people had no basic understanding of show business.” On a more serious note, Meyers noted that “Late Night” has hosted a number of transgender guests, from whom he’s learned much. “It does not take courage to do my job, he said. “It requires a little bit of nerve, and nerve is no small thing, but it is very different than courage. Courage is what it takes for a transgender student to go to high school every day.” Meyers then added, “That is why it is so heartbreaking to hear that Jeff Sessions is seeking to undermine protections for transgender students.” n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

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February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


N AT I O N A L C H I L D R E N ’ S D E N TA L H E A LT H M O N T H

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ental braces have been used for decades to correct various alignment and spacing issues in the teeth. Braces can be crucial to the future of one’s oral health and prevent serious issues down the line. Roughly 25 percent of the people in North America who get braces are adults. But braces still are geared toward young people and getting them on the road to straight and properly aligned teeth early on. Braces correct a number of problems, including realigning the jaw and alleviating overcrowding of teeth. Crooked teeth can trap food and debris between them, making it harder to floss and brush. Wearing braces also corrects the bite. If teeth or jaws are not aligned correctly, it can lead to difficulty chewing food or create jaw muscle pain. Braces also may boost self-confidence because they can remedy

GXi\ekjj_flc[jg\XbkfX[\ek`jkfidXb\XeXggf`ekd\ekn`k_Xefi$ k_f[fek`jkkf\mXclXk\k_\`iZ_`c[i\eËjki\Xkd\eke\\[j% appearance issues that may prove embarrassing. Parents eager to get their children on the road to straighter teeth may wonder when is the right time to get their kids braces. Many kids are getting braces earlier and earlier, but when to get braces typically depends on the child and the shape of his

or her teeth. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children see an orthodontist for an evaluation by age 7. The best time for braces will be when the orthodontist and parents collectively decide it’s time to correct the misalignment of a child’s teeth.

Some orthodontists prefer a two-stage approach to orthodontic treatment. They may use a dental appliance or a preliminary amount of braces to begin moving the teeth while a child still has most of his primary teeth. The second stage begins when all the permanent teeth are in. The thought is to shorten the overall duration of treatment. Other orthodontists follow the traditional approach of putting on braces once all the primary teeth have fallen out. This occurs between ages 9 and 14. This is often a less expensive approach because braces need only be applied and removed once. A number of studies have shown that, for common problems alleviated with orthodontic work, youngsters are better off waiting until all of their permanent teeth have come in. Antonio Secchi, a pro-

fessor of orthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania, notes that if parents choose to treat crooked teeth too early, the child may need another phase of intervention a few years down the road. Some problems, like crossbites, overbites, or severe overcrowding, warrant early intervention. Scheduling an orthodontic visit early on means children can get the care they need when they need it. The orthodontist will be able to monitor how teeth are growing in and map out the best treatment plan for all. Braces can help fix an imperfect smile and alleviate oral health concerns. Parents should speak to a dentist or make an appointment with an orthodontist to evaluate their children’s treatment needs. Severity of overcrowding as well as bite issues will dictate when a child should get braces.

?\cgb`[j]\\cZfd]fikXYc\Xkk_\`i[\ekXcm`j`kj R outine dental examinations and cleanings are an important component of oral healthcare for both children and adults. However, many children do not visit the dentist until well after the time recommended by medical and dental professionals. Parents may be unaware of the dental health timeline, or they could be reluctant to bring their children for fear of how their kids will behave — especially if parents are harboring their own apprehensions about the dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1, or within six months of the eruption of his or her first tooth. Yet, according to a survey commissioned by Delta Dental Plans, the average age of a child’s first dental visit is 2.6 years. Parents worried about how their kids will respond to the dentist can take the following steps to acclimate kids to dental visits to make them more

GXi\ekjZXe_\cgZ_`c[i\eY\dfi\Zfd]fikXYc\n`k_^f`e^kfk_\[\ek`jk% comfortable during their appointments: Be a positive role model. Children frequently learn by example. If they see their parents being diligent about dental care, they’re more likely to embrace proper oral hygiene. Bring children to your own dental appointments so they understand the process

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

and become familiar with the type of equipment used. Stick to the first-tooth milestone. Take your child to the dentist on or about when his or her first tooth erupts. Early dental visits will get kids used to going to the dentist and prevent minor problems that may lead to more complex dental issues.

Read books about the dentist and role play. Information can allay kids’ fears about the dentist. Read books together about dental visits and act out possible scenarios with your kids. Give kids toy dental health tools and have them practice exams on you and vice-versa. Be supportive and in-

still trust. Avoid telling your child that everything will be okay. If a procedure is needed, this could affect his or her trust in you and make the dental office an even greater source of anxiety. Simply be supportive and offer a hand to squeeze or a hug if your child needs you. Consider using your dentist. Some parents like to take their children to a pediatric dentist, but it may not always be necessary. Many family practices cater to patients of all ages, and the familiarity of the office may help make children feel more comfortable. Speak with your dentist about the ages they see. Steer clear of negative words. Dr. Michael J. Hanna, a national spokesperson for the Academy, suggests using positive phrases like “clean, strong, healthy teeth” to make the visit seem fun and positive rather than scary and alarming. Let the office staff come up with its own words to describe processes that won’t seem too frightening.

11


CENTRAL PARK WEST PROTESTERS SAY

#NOTMYPRESIDENT PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

T

housa nds of protesters, i ncluding Ma n hatta n Borough President Gale Brewer (center), spent their Presidents’ Day off filling more than half a dozen bl o c k s o f C e nt r a l P a r k We st north of the Trump International Hotel and Towers in Columbus Circle to send an unmistakable message to the current occupant of the White House: “You’re #NotMyPresident.” I n t he mont h si nc e D on a ld T r u mp took of f ice t here have been hundreds of protests nationwide — on every single weekend — beginning with the Women’s Marches the day after his inauguration, continuing with the demonstrations against his immigration/ refugee executive order the following weekend, and including numerous #NotMyPresident rallies in major cities Monday. The Central Park demonstration was the third major anti-Trump demonstration in Manhattan alone on Presidents’ Day Weekend. n

c GARODNICK, from p.4 experts from organizations working to defend those immigrants who are vulnerable. Mark Hetfield, the president of HIAS, a refugee resettlement organization, said he believes Trump’s executive order to be a “declaration of war against refugees” as the order’s language demonizes a collective group. H I A S, represented by t he American Civil Liberties Union, has f i led a lawsuit aga i nst T r ump a nd his order, a nd t he group has litt le hope t hat t he Republican majority in Congress will provide any bulwark against dangerous immigration and refugee restrictions. Details of the Trump administration’s immigration enforce-

12

ment pol icies released by t he Department of Homeland Secur it y on Febr ua r y 21 — wh ich threaten to expand deportation efforts to include those convicted of even minor crimes — bear out HIAS’ concerns. Speakers at the event agreed that Trump’s January 27 executive order was rushed and legally questionable. According to Victoria Neilson, the legal director of the Immigrant Justice Corps, there was little concrete justification for the executive order. “There’s been a lot of hyperbolic rhetoric — ‘safety, fear, jihadists.’ Nothing is linked to any facts,” she said of Trump’s actions. “The court found that the only defense the administration has for this order is to say, ‘I’m president, I can do what I want.’”

Neilson emphasized that so far the courts have sided with the rule of law, looking beyond Trump’s signature as the ultimate authority on immigrant matters. Still, said Murad Awawdeh, the director of political engagement for the New York Immigration Coalition, organizations such as his are working in uncertain times with Trump’s presidency already proving to be a game-changer. Ma ny attendees quest ioned whet her t he ongoi ng protests aga i nst T r ump’s i m m ig rat ion efforts are producing as much impact as they need to and what means they could utilize to achieve greater results. Ch l o e T r i b i c h , t he a s s o c i ate director of development for Make the Road NY, said the prot e st s h ave c r e at e d a c l i m at e

t hat enables judges to do t he right thing and cracks apart the Republican consensus. She urged those who care about immigration issues to get involved with one of the many advocacy groups and also to continue calling their elected officials to make sure their opinions are heard. Garodnick gave out the phone numbers for the elected officials on the city, state, and federal levels who represent the area, while stressing where he stands on the issues. “There’s a deep commitment on behalf of New York City to continue to be a sanctuary city and a feeling that we will stand up to federal efforts that try to deny us that ability,” Garodnick said. “We’re proud of our designation. We think it makes New York City a safer place to be, and that’s not changing.” n

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Recording mogul Russell Simmons, a founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

Comedian Judy Gold.

Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens.

AN ECUMENICAL EMBRACE OF MUSLIM IDENTITY PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

S

Rabbi Bob Kaplan, founding director of the Center for Community Leadership, a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Professor Simran Jeet Singh, a Sikh professor of religion at Trinity University, with his daughter Gia.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Muslim and American identity were joined together.

As with other faiths, Muslim adherents are a diverse group.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

everal thousand demonstrators filled Times Square for a February 19 rally to show solidarity with Muslim Americans and those immigrants and refugees from Muslim nations who hope to enter the US — but face hostility from the Trump administration. The event was organized by the Foundat ion for Et hnic Understanding, a coalition of religious groups led by recording mogul R u s s e l l S i m m on s a nd R a bbi Marc Schneier, the founder of the Ha mpton Sy na gogue i n Westhampton Beach. Simmons and Sch neier, toget her w it h ot her activists, including Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, and Imam Shamsi Ali, chair of the A l-Hikma h Mosque a nd director of Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens, pulled together a broad range of religious figures as well as civic leaders, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, for an afternoon of solidarity in the face of the new president’s crackdown on both refugee entry into the US and undocumented immigrants currently living here. n

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St. John the Divine Landmarked, Adjacent Historic District Created BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, including the surrounding buildings known as its close, a landmark and created the neighboring Morningside Heights Historic District. In two unanimous votes on February 21, more than 115 buildings and one of the largest churches in the world were brought under the purview of the LPC with the aim of preserving their historic legacy. St. John the Divine at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at West 112th Street is just one of the seven buildings on its campus that were designated landmarks. The others that make up the cathedral close include the Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum, St. Faith’s House, the Choir School, Synod House, the Deanery, and the Bishops House. Like many massive cathedrals around the world, St. John’s remains an unfinished structure. The commissioners emphasized that the cathedral’s designation is squarely in line with their preservation mission, in part because it is nominally still evolving. “What makes this designation very unique is that it’s an unfinished building,” LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said. “Our ability to designate and regulate this unusual aspect of this

JACKSON CHEN

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, along with six nearby buildings, now have landmark status, while an adjacent area of Morningside Heights will be part of a new historic district.

building… I think it goes to some of the things we say: preservation is not static, preservation can look toward the future.” While the landmark designation should prevent any obtrusive development within the confines of the cathedral close, in the view of some preservationists, the damage has already been done, with two developments that went forward following the City Council’s override of an earlier LPC designation in 2003. The cathedral trustees approved those projects to strengthen their financial position, but more than a decade later they were supportive of the new landmarking effort.

The cathedral sits just outside the newly approved Morningside Heights Historic District, which runs roughly from West 109th to 119th Streets, between R iverside Drive and Amsterdam Avenue. The district encompasses more than 115 buildings developed between the 1890s and the 1920s including several religious institutions. Representatives from both the Broadway Presbyterian Church at 601 West 114th Street and Congregation Ramath Orah at 550 West 110th Street testified during a December 6 public hearing that they wanted to be excluded from the landmark district. However, LPC staff and the commissioners agreed they would not change the new district’s boundaries to exempt the institutions, which they said add to the area’s historic character. State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, whose West 111th Street apartment is now within the new historic district, said that this designation would guide future changes in his neighborhood and allow a venue for community input. “The vote was in favor of protecting the cohesiveness of our neighborhood by establishing a historic district that includes 115 buildings,”

c St. JOHN, continued on p.16

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February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Goodwill Tents Meet UES Resistance

WONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T YOU JOIN US?

BY JACKSON CHEN

G

oodw ill N Y NJ is talking about once again deploying its mobile collection tents, pickup service, and building-sponsored bins on the Upper East Side. The pilot program was launched in November specific a l ly on t he Upper E a st Side due to the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s large number of donors. According to Vanessa Mack, Goodwillâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s donations coordinator, the Upper East Side is home to students who move in and out of dorms, schools that accumulate unclaimed lost and found items, constantly shifting tenancies, and those who simply like to donate to a good cause. â&#x20AC;&#x153; The reality is people love to shop but t hey may not a lways have the best practices for disposing t hose items when t hey a r e no lon ger w a nte d,â&#x20AC;? M ack said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As mass production and m a s s con su mpt ion r i s e e ach y e a r, s o d o e s t he a m ou nt o f clothing sent to landfills which are not biodegradable.â&#x20AC;? To help address the situation, the Goodwill mobile projectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first phase was launched this past fall and had collection tents near the Lexington Avenue subway stations at 59th, 68th, 77th, 86th, and 96th Streets, Monday to Friday from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Mack said the tents were responsible for collecting â&#x20AC;&#x153;soft goods,â&#x20AC;? or clothing and small household items, until the end of the pilot program on December 30. In t wo mont hsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; t i me, Goodwill secured more than $20,000 worth of donations through its initial model, according to Mack, with donations peaking between Monday and Wednesday. Now, the organization is looki ng to resume t he Upper East Side program in March, first by reaching out to residential buildings to set up donation bins. It is also f loting the idea of restoring the collection tents. But at a February 21 meeting of Community Board 8, that idea was not greeted wholeheartedly. CB 8 member M ichele Bi r nbaum said she applauds the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work and that bringing back pickup service was a good idea. But she had no sympathy

>`SaS\bSRPg GOODWILL

A Goodwill drop-off tent used during this past fallâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pilot program on the Upper East Side.

for any Goodwill plan to return with the drop-off tents. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Once you come on to the street, I have a ver y ser ious problem with it and I would vehemently oppose you going forward with it,â&#x20AC;? Birnbaum said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re stationed at a subway stop with a tent during rush hour in the morning five days a week.â&#x20AC;? The tents, she asserted, created a â&#x20AC;&#x153;visual blightâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; especially when donated goods beg i n to accumulate â&#x20AC;&#x201D; could exacerbate pedestrian congestion, and block storefronts. Mack said that if Goodwill got enough buildings to participate in hosting bins, the group could potentially forgo having mobile collection sites on the streets. Community members and the board had a variety of other suggestions about how to balance t he orga n i z at ionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s good work w it h resident sâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; qua l it y of l i fe concerns. Ideas included placing tents near the new Second Avenue Subway stations, which are located on broader sidewa lks, or working with the areaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s many green markets. Birnbaum offered a sterner criticism, urging Goodwill to hold off on any tents until the group has exhausted all the other options for pickup service, residential building sponsorship, and publicizing those opportunities first. M ac k s a i d G o o d w i l l w ou ld take CB8â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s suggestions into consideration and discuss whether it wa nts to move for ward w ith donation tents again. She added that the organization would reach back out to CB8 once a decision has been made. n

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

This yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s honorees include: Governor David Paterson

Carmen Neely

Ana MarĂ­a Archila & Andrea Batista Schlesinger

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Lisa Cannistraci

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Robyn Streisand

Suzanne Goldberg Charles Rice-Gonzalez

Christopher Tepper & Paul Kelterborn

Oriol R. Gutierrez

Jennifer Flynn Walker

Bishop Zachary Glenn Jones

Jillian Weiss

Howie Katz

Edie Windsor

Terrance Knox

Mel Wymore

Donna Lieberman

Emanuel Xavier

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gaycitynews.nyc 15


EXPRESS YOURSELVES

Not Every Fear Need Be Expressed PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

EDITOR IN-CHIEF PAUL SCHINDLER editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jackson Chen Lincoln Anderson Scott Stiffler RUTH BROWN DENNIS LYNCH COLIN MIXSON Yannic Rack NAEISHA ROSE CAROLINE SPIVACK jefferson siegel lenore skenazy

ART DIRECTOR Michael Shirey

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

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Gayle Greenberg ANDREW MARK JIM STEELE Julio tumbaco

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

BY LENORE SKENAZY

I

f you see something, say something. That campaign, launched in New York after 9/ 11 and rolled out nationally in 2010, suggests that anyone and anything we see could be out to get us, so our job is to immediately alert the authorities. What a wonderful way to turn kind, caring citizens into paranoid busybodies who don’t even actually help each other. All they do is call 911 and smile smugly. “People are submitting thousands and thousands of tips a day,” said Joshua Reeves, author of “Citizen Spies: The Long Rise of America’s Surveillance Society” (NYU Press). He has examined these tips, including gems like, “Someone is standing next to a water fountain, checking their wristwatch.” And, “I saw a suspicious person watching her daughter on the playground.” As a result of being asked to err on the side of extreme caution, said Reeves, “There’s this sort of extended paranoia throughout the culture that everything is a potential signifier of terrorism or crime.” Consider t his sign I saw on New Jersey Transit last week. It began with the usual, “If you see something, say something,” but added, “If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.” Ah, but what if you have been primed by years of going through airport security, being forced to ditch your four f luid ounces of Head & Shoulders in case it is a bomb? At some point, our common sense gets corrupted and even the most innocent items and activities don’t “feel right” anymore. And so

c St. JOHN, from p.14 O’Donnell said in a press release. “This decision is more important now than ever before, with noncontextual development occurring throughout the Upper West Side.” For Laura Friedman, the president of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee, 20 yea rs of ra lly ing for neighbor-

16

we turn to the authorities. In turn, the authorities just keep getting more… authority. You see something like this happening at schools, with kids being told to report any possible bullying to the adults in charge; and on college campuses, where the same goes for students encountering the slights known as “microaggressions.” Of course, no one wants real harassment going unchecked. But our young people are being taught that they are not competent enough to examine or solve interpersonal problems on their own. To Reeves (and now me), this is the one-two punch of the problem: Not just that we overreact to innocent “triggers,” but that we are told to outsource the solution. Two examples: On the subway, there are signs that say (I’m quoting from memory): “If you see a sick passenger, do not attempt to help them yourself. Alert an MTA employee or the police.” So we’re not supposed to exercise basic compassion? Only the authorities are qualified to help another human? Example No. 2: We have also been told to dial 911 if we see a child waiting in a car. This makes us believe that a few minutes’ car wait is automatically dangerous, even though most of us remember waiting in the car when we were kids. But once again, our common sense has been curdled by constant warnings of the worst-case scenario — in this case, the rare deaths of kids forgotten in cars for hours. So now, if we’re not seeing terrorists, we’re seeing terrible parents. But here’s the thing. When parents tell me about coming out of Walgreens only to find someone dialing 911 and screaming

hood protections culminated in her first victory. “We’re very happy and very excited, this particular commission has been very open and interested in what we had to say,” Friedman said. “We look forward to going back in… This is really what we consider the first phase of the historic district.” She noted that areas north of West 125t h St reet a nd east of

at them for “abandoning” their child, the screamers don’t seem to recognize that they were watching the child. They could make sure no kidnapping occurred. (An extremely unlikely crime anyway.) They could hang out a few minutes, making sure the parents returned, and then say something like, “Hi! Just watching to make sure you got back soon. Your kid is so cute. Have a great day.” That is what good Samaritans do. Opening a Child Protective Services investigation on a mom who dashed in to get some Tylenol is what good Samaritans do not do. Yet today’s Samaritans are asked to spy on their neighbors and turn them in. Reeves has felt this in his own life. He and his wife have four kids and the oldest, age seven, goes to karate six blocks away. “We would love to be able to send him over there by himself but we won’t do it,” said Reeves.  They fear that a citizen pumped with fear and armed with a cell phone could call 911 to report a case of child neglect.  Usually, this will not happen. But if we want to create the kind of place we’d like to live, a place where onlookers wave to kids and help them cross the street, we have to dial back the culture of dialing up the cops. Asking citizens to assume the worst at all times is making us paranoid. But asking us to involve the authorities is even creepier: It is making us forget how normal and nice it is to be kind. Lenore Skenazy is the author and founder of the book and blog “FreeRange Kids” and a contributor at Reason.com. n

Amsterdam Avenue are still vulnerable to overdevelopment and her group will continue its efforts with the LPC to try to expand the district’s borders. “The neighborhood was developed as a piece,” Friedman said, adding that the LPC also alluded to that history. “But then they didn’t go the distance on it this time. However, we’re settling for that first phase.” n

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Port Authority Finalizes 10-Year Capital Plan

With $3.5B for New Bus Terminal BY JACKSON CHEN

I

n a February 16 vote, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s board gave final approval to a 10-year capital plan of $32.2 billion. The 2017-2026 plan includes a $3.5 billion allocation for the replacement of its Midtown bus terminal — a project for which there is no agreed-upon approach but that has already spawned fractious controversy. The Port Authority’s bus terminal on Eighth Avenue between West 40th and 42nd Streets has been in desperate need of renovation and is frequently beyond capacity during peak hours. The agency’s original planning for a replacement, which included discussion of using eminent domain — the forced sale of private property for a public purpose project — had to be reset last year following community upheaval and criticism from elected officials about the lack of public input. Even as the planning process begins its restart, the agency decided that $3.5 billion was needed to ensure that the early phase of the new bus terminal project could be undertaken over the next decade. That allocation was first approved preliminarily on January 5, and two public hearings on the budget — one in New York, the other in New Jersey — took place between then and last week’s final budget approval. “There’s no question that the region’s transportation needs are growing at a far greater rate than the resources that are available to address them,” the Port Authority board chair, John Degnan, said in a press release. “For that reason, this board has spent tireless hours coming to a consensus on how our resources will be spent to benefit the region and the customers we serve.” Degnan said that the agency’s plan invests in the most critical needs but provides enough flexibility to accommodate changing circumstances over the next decade. He previously acknowledged that the $3.5 billion wasn’t enough to finish the project — which has been estimated to have a price tag of up to $10 billion — but would hopefully kick-start the bus terminal project to ensure that it could be completed during the life of the following 10-year capital plan. As part of the budget approved, the Port Authority board okayed the start of the bus terminal’s planning process. The agency is now authorized to hire environmental and technical consultants who are needed to steer the project through the review processes at the federal, state, and local levels. At the same time, the Port Authority will pursue interim solutions to relieve

the immediate problems created by its capacity problems. The agency has said it is looking for intermediate-term bus storage facilities to ease the crunch in the terminal during peak hours. “Meeting the needs of the growing number of the region’s bus commuters is an essential component of the Port Authority’s transportation mission,” Pat Foye, the agency’s executive director, said in a statement. “And this project will be done while fully respecting and minimizing the impacts on Manhattan’s West Side after and considering the input of residents there in a formal environmental process.” Community Board 4 and a group tentatively titled the Hell’s Kitchen South Community Coalition have been keeping their eyes on the project’s movement. Delores Rubin, CB4’s chair, previously told Manhattan Express, “We know we will be part of a conversation that will take into account the concerns of our community as well as the commuters and the other community boards that surround the bus terminal but may be affected by any change.” n

MICHAEL SHIREY

The Port Authority Midtown bus terminal during the morning rush hour.

Police Blotter HOMICIDE: FORENSICS FINISHED (25th Precinct)

DOA: DEADLY SLIP AND FALL (19th Precinct)

The city’s medical examiner, on February 16, ruled that a November incident, in which police found a man dead inside his apartment, was a homicide. Police said that on November 23 at around 9:15 p.m., they found 40-year-old Theodore Fortune dead inside the bedroom of his apartment at 2383 Second Avenue, between East 122nd and 123rd Streets. According to police, he was found with facial injuries and a cut to his left leg and EMS pronounced him dead at the scene. Police said there have been no arrests and the investigation was ongoing.

Miguel Angel Gonzalez, an Upper East Side doorman, died on February 9 at around 9:30 a.m. after falling through his building’s front door glass windows when he slipped shoveling snow. Police said the 59year-old Gonzalez was working outside the 333 East 93rd Street building before falling through the glass and suffering cuts on his face and neck. EMS transported Gonzalez to Metropolitan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

ROBBERY: BRUTAL BEATING (24th Precinct)

ESCAPED PRISONER: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (23rd Precinct)

Police have released more information regarding a man they believe is connected with a January 26 robbery incident where the suspect assaulted a woman for her purse (see manhattanexpressnews.nyc/police-blotterfebruary-8-2017). Police released a photo and surveillance video of the suspect (available online), whom they describe as a black male in his 20s, 5’3” and 140 pounds, and last seen wearing a black bubble jacket over a gray hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, and sneakers.

Visit

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

Police are looking for a man who broke out of their grasp on February 11 at around 12:15 p.m. According to police, uniformed officers handcuffed a man behind his back for petit larceny near 50 East 102nd Street and were placing him into a squad car when he dashed away from them heading east on East 102nd Street. Police released two videos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male, 5’11”, 150 pounds, with a thin build and medium complexion. He was last seen wearing an olive green waist length jacket, a green hoodie, gray sweat pants, and a black V-neck shirt.

for area precinct listing. 17


West 90th Catholic School Among Six Shuttering This June BY JACKSON CHEN

S

t. Gregory the Great Catholic School will be closing at the end of the current academic year following an abrupt announcement from the Archdiocese of New York that included word that another five schools would also be shuttered. In addition to St. Gregor y’s, at 138 West 90th Street, four in the Bron x and one in upstate Liberty will also be closed, according to a February 6 archdiocese statement. Du r i ng Su nday Mass at t he adjoi n i ng church on February 5, Father Lawrence Ford told parishioners of the closing and that regular Masses and sacraments would no longer be held at St. Gregor y’s. Several years ago, that chuch was merged with Holy Name of Jesus Church at 207 West 96th Street, with church services held at both locations since then. In its Febr ua r y 6 release, t he a rchdiocese explained it could no longer “maintain the operational and financial viability” of the Upper West Side school as well as of St. Ann’s, St. Mary’s, and Visitation schools in the Bronx. While the Sts. Peter and Paul School in the Bronx will be converted into a universal pre-K school from its K-8 configuration, the others will be shut down. “We understand these are challenging times for many families, and we will work with all students who are seeking to continue their Catholic education to find a seat at another excellent school in the archdiocese,” said Dr. Timothy McNiff, the system’s superintendent. “These are difficult but necessary decisions,

c HOUSING COURT, from p.5 ing the five-year phasing-in of the funding and language spelling out that some families above the federal poverty rate will be among those given access to free consultation with attorneys. Levine hopes the measure can make it out of the Housing Committee quickly and go to a full vote in the City Council within a matter of a few weeks. “This has been my number one priority by far, even before I was on the Council,” Levine said. “From the moment I’ve gotten here, the last three years I worked very hard to push this forward. It is desperately needed in my district that’s overwhelmingly a rental district.” Levine said that the extra $93 million the city will shell out to

18

JACKSON CHEN

St. Gregory the Great Catholic School on West 90th Street will cease operations this June, as regular Mass at the adjoining church shifts to Holy Name of Jesus on West 96th Street.

a nd work ing together we w ill ensure our Catholic schools are stronger than ever.” The roughly 200 students at St. Gregory’s w ill be a llowed to finish t heir 2016-2017 school yea r. A fter t hat, t hey w ill be able to continue their education at the nearby Ascension School at 220 West 108th Street or be guaranteed a seat at any other Catholic school in the area, according to the archdiocese. Julia Pignataro, the president of the Federation of Catholic Teachers, said her group was blindsided by the news. “It was really out of the blue basically,” Pignataro told Manhattan Express. “They just sideswiped these six schools because they had absolutely no idea. The federation president explained that during the previous rounds of school closings, the archdiocese slated certain schools

provide attorneys for low-income families would be greatly mitigated by a reduction in costs for families having to enter the homeless shelter system. The councilmember said the city spends up to $40,000 a year to house a family in the shelters, as opposed to the initial $2,500 cost for providing the same family legal services. “Thousands of families all have been in Housing Court, sometimes on bogus grounds and the majority of them have not had an attorney,” Levine said. “This is a big deal in my district and a big deal citywide.” All across the city, unscrupulous landlords have slapped unfair claims or evictions on their tenants, especially those in in rentstabilized units. Many tenants have recounted the mismatch they face when they step into Housing Court

for an “at-risk list.” She said that while the list raised the threat of closure, the schools’ administ rators were at least given a last chance to make their schools viable. Pignataro, who will be making site visits in the next two to three weeks to each of the schools slated for closure, said she found the abrupt nature of the latest announcement discouraging. “No prior warning was given before today’s notification of the closing of six additional schools,” P ignata ro sa id in a Febr ua r y 6 statement, adding that hundreds of students and 76 full-time and part-time teachers will be without a school. “The archdiocese has not lived up to its word.” According to the archdiocese’s director of communications, Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese is obligated to help tenured teachers find positions in other Catholic schools. As for the non-tenured faculty, the archdiocese will also try to secure positions for them, even though it is not required to under its contract w ith the Federation of Catholic Teachers, Zwilling said. Pignataro acknowledged that the archdiocese had been good on its word to help nontenured faculty in the past. But she also noted that there are now fewer schools to shuffle the teachers among. Zwilling said the archdiocese will meet the parents from all the schools due to close and help them find the next best Catholic school for every kid displaced from St. Gregory’s and the others. St. Gregory’s principal, Donna Gabella, did not respond to requests for comments regarding her school’s closing. n

ED REED/ OFFICE OF THE MAYOR

Councilmember Mark Levine addresses the crowd, with Mayor Bill de Blasio in the background.

alone, while an attorney typically represents the landlord in an arena they’re familiar with. “I think it’s a new era for tenants in New York City where they now k now they won’t be alone when they face the threat of eviction,” Levine said. “Landlords are

going to quickly learn that there’s not a lot to be gained from frivolous lawsuits.” Susanna Blankley, a member of the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, said that on top of families benefitting, the legislation and funding would stem the displacement of residents that is usually followed by the area’s gentrification, which in turn puts pressure on other tenants. “The Right to Counsel Coalition has fought long and hard for this measure that will give families a fighting chance to remain in their homes and communities,” Blankley said in a statement. “[This] landmark agreement sends a strong message to the city’s poorest residents that their lives, homes, and communities matter and that they will be protected.” n

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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19


The Perils of Normalization BY DAVID KENNERLEY

A

s the reality of the Trump administration bent on rolling back hard-won civil liberties starts to take hold, half of America feels blindsided, wondering in disbelief, “How the hell did this happen?” Wallace Shawn, the esteemed, conscience-tweaking dramatist and actor, is probably not so surprised. As the author of “Evening at the Talk House,” a darkly comic examination of the havoc wrought by a cruel, autocratic ruler who traffics in fear and discrimination, perhaps he saw it coming. Written several years ago, the play is chillingly prescient. T he d ra ma received la rgely critical reviews when it premiered at London’s National Theatre in 2015. Perhaps the story, about a society where theater as an art form has been left for dead and violence against perceived outsiders has become the norm, seemed too farfetched. But that was before Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In this top-notch production by the New Group, boosted by a stellar ensemble, it takes a while for the play’s creepy reality to fully sink in. A band of former theater folks has reunited at their old haunt, a genteel, down-at-the-heels club called the Talk House, to reminisce about a play they had staged 10 years earlier. The kindly proprietor, Nellie (Jill Eikenberry), is resistant to change and serves b a sic a l l y t he s a me old t i r e d snacks and cocktails. Clearly, the club’s days are numbered. During the intervening decade, some have fared better than others. The playwright, Robert (Matthew Broderick), who delivers a long introductory monologue that hints at the fraught political climate, is now head writer of an inane and insanely popular T V show. T V comedies are now the

20

MONIQUE CARBONI

Matthew Broderick and Wallace Shawn in Shawn’s “Evening at the Talk House,” directed by of Scott Elliott, at the Pershing Square Signature Center through March 12.

chief form of entertainment — communal artistic pursuits like theater are a thing of the past. “Walls have ears,” cautions Robert. “As do f loors, ceilings, windows, doors, plates, cups, spoons, forks, and, come to think of it, other human beings.” The decade-old play’s former leading man, Tom (Larry Pine), is now the star of that TV show. By ordinar y standards, both men would be branded as sellouts, but in this brave new world, they are heroes. The show’s costumer, Annette (Claudia Shear), tries to eke out a living as a personal tailor. Their producer, Bill (Michael Tucker), has transitioned into a lucrative career as a talent agent. It’s not long before we realize something is terribly awry. Dick (played with acerbic eccentricity by Shawn himself), once a popular TV star, has crashed the festivities in his rumpled pajamas. His face is badly bruised, his mouth crusted with dried blood — the result of a brutal beating by “some friends.” “I haven’t changed,” the dissipat-

ed has-been says in exasperation. “Everything else has changed.” I ncre d ibl y, out of t he blue, Annette admits she has participated in the government program of violence. So have Ted (John Epperson, shedding his Lypsinka persona) and Jane (Annapurna Sriram), the longtime server at the Talk House. Under the meticulous direction of Scott Elliott, “Talk House” is a slow burn of a play. Some of the revelations, however, could use a pop of adrenaline. Sure, the play is disturbing, but the character’s blasé attitude toward the brutality does not translate into gripping theater. There is plenty of talk going on at the Talk House, yet drama is in short supply. To enhance the intimacy of the proceedings, the theater has been configured with the playing area in the center, f lanked by raked seating. Upon entering, theatergoers are offered sparkling water and strange hors d’oeuvres (gummy worms, anyone?), and a few lucky ones are greeted by one of the actors.

EVENING AT THE TALK HOUSE The New Group Pershing Square Signature Center 480 W. 42nd St. Through Mar. 12: Tue.-Fri. at 7:30 p.m. Sat. at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sun. at 2 p.m. $75-$95 at TheNewGroup.org  Or 212-239-6200 100 mins., with no intermission

Derek McLa ne’s set features a comfy lounge area with overstuffed cha irs a nd a n upr ight pia no ( Epper son m a kes good use of it from time to time, even banging out a Sondheim ditty). A quaint crystal chandelier hangs over them all. The supremely unsettling “Talk House” is less concerned with the atrocities perpetrated by otherwise ordinary citizens and more with the normalization of such acts. Complacency comes at a price. A potent lesson, it could be argued, in these times. n

February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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

Daydreaming

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

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

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

Eating

Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

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

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

Reading

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

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February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Are You There, God? BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

MAN FROM NEBRASKA

I

n his brilliant and profoundly affecting and timely new play, “ M a n f r o m N e b r a s k a ,” p l a ywright Tracy Letts takes on one of the most classic literary forms: the quest. From “Gilgamesh” to Tolkein, the epic hero must persevere through seemingly insurmountable challenges on a “road of trials” to redeem themself and move on. Whereas most traditional epics exist in the realm of fantasy, Letts has written a very contemporary quest epic grounded in the real world. Ken Carpenter lives a fairly ordinary life as an insurance executive in Lincoln, Nebraska. His life centers around family, work, and his Baptist faith. It is a comfortable, if largely unexamined, life. One night, Ken awakens to discover that he no longer believes in God. It is a devastating discovery that serves as the herald — speaking in the language of classic quest literature — that calls him to leave his home and embark on a journey. He heads for London, where he was stationed in the service 30 years earlier, in an attempt to discover who he is now. Again, in the language of literature, Ken must experience a metaphoric death and rebirth in order to complete his journey and return home. L etts w r ites w it h wonder ful economy that is consistently gripping. One is on edge throughout as Ken’s different encounters illuminate the changes occurring in him. The juxtaposition of the grand

2econd Stage Theatre 305 W. 43rd St. Through Mar. 12: Tue.-Wed. at 7 p.m. Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $37-$125; 2st.com/tickets/buy-tickets Or 212-246-4422 Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission

JOAN MARCUS

Annette O’Toole and Reed Birney in Stacy Letts’ “Man from Nebraska,” directed by David Cromer, at 2econd Stage through March 12.

epic with unremarkable, quotidian sexual, artistic, and familial encounters gives the piece poignancy and makes Ken, like many quest heroes, an ordinar y man who becomes willing to lose everything to achieve his ends. Not surprisingly, his family and his pastor are baffled by Ken’s journey and the question remains as to whether they can accept the transformed hero. Yet, they, too, perhaps less consciously, have been forced into their own quests by Ken’s actions. A s K e n , R e e d B i r ne y g i v e s another fully realized and magnificently nuanced performance. T h e d e t a i l i n e v e r y m o m e nt plumbs the deceptive simplicity of Letts’ writing. Birney is a

c SAKAMAKI, from p.3 “After that experience in Cairo, I could contain, but some of the Israel-Palestine, got shot, also I was attacked in the streets of Rio de Janeiro twice, those experiences come together,” Sakamaki said of the post-traumatic stress disorder he now contends with. “I can’t deal with it. I thought I could manage to control, but sometimes no. That is dangerous.” Whatever the personal cost, his dedication to his work has been widely acknowledged, securing for him several prestigious awards, including World Press Photo’s People in the News First Place Prize in 2007 for his coverage of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

fearless actor, who makes Ken’s conflict visceral for the audience. David Cromer’s equally brilliant direction finds truth and simplicity in every moment, and one never doubts for a moment that these are real people. The rest of the company is equally sublime. Notably, Annette O’Toole as Nancy, Ken’s wife, is extraordinary. Confused and frightened by her husband’s actions, she struggles to find equilibrium when her world is shaken. Nana Mensah as Tamyra, a bartender Ken opens up to in London, and Max Gordon Moore as Harr y, an artist and Tamyra’s boyfriend who becomes a kind of guide for Ken, are both powerful yet deeply human. With

“Compared to Sudan, compared to Angola, Sri Lanka is okay,” Sakamaki recalled. “Compared to the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’s a socalled ‘unseen war, unseen conflict.’ So I feel like I should, first, like to know what’s going on by myself. Second, I would like to tell other outside people.” These days, he’s still just as attracted to the idea of understanding the humanity of others, but he’s beginning to incorporate introspection into his works of photo-documentary and fine art photography. In an exploration of his own sense of self, he is trying to capture an understanding of his own ever-developing personal identity. He explained that while he’s ethnically Japanese, he feels American, but

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | February 23 - March 08, 2017

the rest of the company, they create a rich world that envelops the audience in the story. The set by Takeshi Kata is simple but effective as the scenes move f luidly between locations, and Keith Parham’s lighting is a dramatic force in and of itself. Though this play is more spare than L etts’ other masterpiece, “August, Osage County,” it is no less ex pa nsive in ter ms of its ex plorat ion of huma n ex per ience. Whether it’s the death of a patriarch, as in “August, Osage County,” or the death of the spirit, as in “Man from Nebraska,” Letts’ unerring skill in rendering classic themes in contemporary settings speaks to human experience that is as old, unsettling, and desperately in search of resolution as the human race itself. The explication of what the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins called “the fate that man was born for” resonates through Letts’ work and represents American literature at its finest. n

he’s also traveled to many different countries where he picked up pieces of culture that also have shaped his identity. He admits it all adds up to a complicated concept to wrap his brain around. “I’m chasing my own identity, I’m actually in limbo all the time,” Sakamaki explained. “Ethnicity is part of it, culture, own experiences, and then changing the identity, step by step, slowly. Identity not only come from blood, not from religion. We can change it, it automatically growing, slighting changing, developing. The point is I would like to know how we develop those identities, those human acts to exist, to coexist with other people.” n

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February 23 - March 08, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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