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West Side Workshop Troubleshoots L Train Shutdown BY DENNIS LYNCH Around 225 people turned out to a city-run Community Workshop at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (328 W. 14th St., btw. Hudson St. & Eighth Ave.), to share their thoughts with city transit agencies on how to best solve the so-called “L-pocalypse” coming in 2019, when the city will completely discontinue service of the L train L SHUTDOWN continued on p. 3

NCO Program Rolled Out at 10th Precinct BY SEAN EGAN There was once a time when community members would know their neighborhood beat cop by name — and that’s the era the NYPD is looking to harken back to with their Neighborhood Coordinating Officer (NCO) Program. Now arriving at the 10th Precinct (NYC’s 39th command to adopt this protocol), the NCO program assigns specific officers exclusively to certain areas, in NCO continued on p. 2


Wallace Shawn’s 2015 drama is timely in the Trump era. See page 18.


A month-long celebration of local merchants

Whitmans comes to Hudson Yards....page 11 GVCCC praises local gems......................page 12 Commercial rent tax reform..................page 14 Closing credits for Alan’s Alley..............page 15


VOLUME 09, ISSUE 9 | MARCH 02 - 08, 2017

NCO Program Puts Priority on Community Bridge-Building NCO continued from p. 1

order to build up community relations and directly address an area’s unique issues. To mark the occasion, the 10th Precinct held an NCO Rollout event at the Fashion Institute of Technology (227 W. 27th St., at Seventh Ave.) on Tues., Feb 28, where enthusiasm and hopes for the program ran high. “I’m excited that the NCO program is coming to the 10th Precinct,” City Councilmember Corey Johnson told Chelsea Now prior to the evening’s presentation, at a cocktail hour where neighborhood stakeholders hobnobbed. “It’s what residents have asked for, for a long time,” he said, noting that interacting with residents and businesses individually has proven to be “an effective policing method.” That sentiment was reiterated (and backed up by stats) once the presentation began in earnest, led by NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan. “As the city has changed, so have we as a police department,” Monahan said, noting that, while the crime rates are lower than ever, in recent years relations with and perceptions of police have been quite negative. “We had to come up with a new way of policing,” he asserted, “to repair some of the disconnect.” The NCO Program was the result. “This is a major philosophical change for us as a department,” he noted. Monahan explained that each participating precinct is divided into smaller areas (the 10th is split into three, in addition to Elliot-Chelsea and Fulton

Photos by Jordan Rathkopf

L to R, the officers of the NCO program: Officer Lisa Mitchell, Sergeant William Coyle, Detective Anthony Marion, Officer Matt Maddox, Officer Robert Karl, Officer George Ricker, and Officer Tamarah Pickney.

Houses), and assigned two officers whose sole job is to get to know and serve residents personally — including giving out their cellphone numbers and email. These officers are allowed to use initiative to make decisions, and reach out to people and neighborhood needs based on what they observe and the connections they make. The hope is that their efforts will lead to people trusting their local officers as a first-line resource for conflict resolution — “humanizing the uniform” as Monahan put it. Other components of the pro-

NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence “Terry” Monahan led the presentation.


March 02 - 08, 2017

gram include the construction of Neighborhood Work Groups (consisting of NCOs and community stakeholders) to regularly discuss issues, the addition of new POs to the precinct, and specialized training courses for NCOs to help optimize their work. “They are your cops,” Monahan said emphatically, noting that participating precincts have already seen notable reductions in crime and positive feedback from locals. “I challenge you today — get to know your NCO. Invite them to your block, invite them to your building… We need to get input from everyone.”

To help facilitate this, after a brief Q&A and featured speakers’ comments (including Johnson and 10th Precinct CO Captain Paul Lanot), the NCO officers were brought up to introduce themselves to the crowd. First were the officers serving the Elliot-Chelsea and Fulton Houses: Officers Julio Jimenez, Kimberly Peralta, Marissa Pineiro, and Mauritius Vogel, who had already been active in the complexes prior to the rollout. Next came the officers from Sector NCO continued on p. 10

Nieghborhood residents got a chance to meet with their NCOs.


City Agencies Float ‘L-Pocalypse” Survival Strategies

Photos by Dennis Lynch

The MTA and DOT asked locals what they thought about proposed solutions to the transit vacuum coming in 2019, potential problem areas, and other transit options available to them.

L SHUTDOWN continued from p. 1

along 14th St. for 18 months to repair the Sandy-damaged Canarsie Tunnel. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) will use the feedback to inform their plan to deal with the massive transit disruption, which they will release this spring. The agencies presented some options about how they will get commuters across the East River to 14th St. — the bulk of the line’s riders. They named a ferry across the river and buses over the Williamsburg Bridge as possible mitigation measures in development. A DOT spokesperson said that generally speaking — without discussing what option they favor — the agency’s goal is to “keep as many people underground as possible.” In other words, they want to move as many people back into the subway system from alternate transportation as much as possible to maintain efficiency. One local agreed — Kimon Retzos, co-chair of the West 15th Street 100 and 200 Block Association, said the city should look to bus people to other subway stations in the area once they get from Brooklyn to Manhattan, so they can get back underground and be on their way. “You need to get the commuters across the East River, but then you need to get them back underground and into the New York City subway system. Taking the bus across Manhattan and using surface transit is not really the best way to go — most of them don’t [go aboveg.com

round] at 14th Street; a lot of them transfer,” Retzos said. “Why not take them, for example, to West Fourth Street?” The agencies also floated some options at their disposal for 14th St., including running more buses with faster curbside ticketing and “dramatic treatments” that have been used around the country in similar circumstances. One such dramatic treatment is barring passenger vehicle traffic on 14th St. to make room for buses, which are the most efficient way to move the 400,000 people who use the L train each day. 50,000 of the 400,000 daily L train riders use it exclusively to get across town. The debate over an “L-pocalypse” solution has largely become a debate over such a plan since the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives (TransAlt; transalt.org) released their “PeopleWay” plan late last year, which would bar those vehicles, and emphasizes pedestrian flow, biking, and above-ground mass transit. So far, many neighborhood groups have come out against the plan, although some local residents have expressed at past community meetings that they do support it. The latter argue that it’s the only viable way to move people across 14th St. at anywhere near the numbers that the L train can move. Opponents worry that blocking 14th St. to passenger vehicle traffic would force those vehicles onto their side streets, creating further congestion on them. Some folks at the workshop think it’s downright mad to suggest such a plan. L SHUTDOWN continued on p. 23 March 02 - 08, 2017


Trump Attack on Trans Youth Sparks Huge Protest at Stonewall BY ANDY HUMM The Trump administration’s bashing of transgender students — rescinding President Barack Obama’s federal guidance that allowed them access to bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity — sparked a massive militant protest on the evening of Thurs., Feb. 23 at the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ movement, Stonewall Place. More than 1,500 community activists and allies — many new to street protests in the wake of the Trump assaults on the rights of women, immigrants, and LGBTQ people — filled the site of the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969. While that rebellion turned violent against police raiding the Stonewall Inn, the anger Thursday was focused on Trump, his bigoted attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and what we now know is his spineless education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who bowed to Sessions’ determination to roll back transgender rights. Joann Prinzivalli, a transgender woman, lawyer, and activist, said, “This is a temporary setback. Justice will prevail.” She and many others are hoping the Gavin Grimm case set to go before the Supreme Court on March 28 will establish once and for all that discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination under Title IX of federal education statute so that Grimm can finally use the boys’ restroom at his Virginia high school, and transgender people everywhere will be protected from discrimination by any federal law barring sex discrimination. New York City has explicitly prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and expression since 2002. And Governor Andrew Cuomo enacted such protections by executive order that took effect in early 2016. But Prinzivalli and others are demanding that the State Senate — still in Republican hands despite their minority status because of Democrats defecting in the leadership vote — stop blocking GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which has repeatedly been passed by the Democratic-led Assembly. Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan assemblymember and a longtime sponsor of the bill, said that during the annual debate on the measure, “all Republicans talk about is where people will go to the bathroom.” Mel Wymore, a transgender man who leads the new political action organization TransPAC, one of the many groups who pulled together the protest, is also working with the recently-


March 02 - 08, 2017

Photo by Donna Aceto

The massive crowd outside the Stonewall Inn on Feb. 23.

launched United Through Action group that is focused on taking back progressive power in New York State by going after Democratic Senate defectors in the so-called Independent Democrat Conference (IDC) who take perks from the Republican minority they empower. The group also aims to win some Long Island districts in 2018 now represented by Republicans. “This is a call to action,” Wymore told the crowd. “We must stand up, come out, and we really need to organize and focus on electoral politics and elect officials who will stand up for every child.” Jillian Weiss, leader of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and herself transgender, said she was there “for our trans kids” and noted that while city law and state policy protect their rights, “trans youth often have to sleep on the streets, can’t find jobs, and are hungry,” so there is much work to be done right in New York. “We must never take things lying down,” Congressmember Jerry Nadler, a West Side Democrat, told the crowd. “We must fight — and it won’t last long if we do — to resist the assault on transgender youth.” He added, “Title IX will prevail!” Bryan John Ellicott of Staten Island, who described himself as “one of the first trans men to work in the New York City Council” for Brooklyn out gay Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (who

also spoke), said, “We are here to tell the federal government that we New Yorkers are fighters!” Also speaking were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Chelsea Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, out Councilmember Jimmy Vacca of the Bronx, and out West Village Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who said, “First they go after transgender youth, then all LGBT youth.” Former State Senator Tom Duane, with Glick one of the earliest out LGBTQ elected officials, said simply, “Trump is a goddamned liar,” for having tried to sound as if he was okay with transgender people accessing appropriate bathrooms during his campaign (except when he wasn’t). Sasha Washington, a trans woman with Community Kinship Life, castigated “all these non-profits that use us to get their numbers and won’t even get us the housing and jobs and living we need.” Lorenzo Van Ness, a trans man and human rights specialist at the City Commission on Human Rights, said, “I am saddened our civil rights are left to the states,” but emphasized that New York City has one of the strongest and broadest human rights laws in the country. Queer activist Andy Velez, a veteran of ACT UP, said, “I’m here because we do not have to send for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for us.”

Progressive activist Daniel Roskoff, a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, said, “We will not be silenced by TrumpPence bashing and bigotry. We all have to resist.” Chris Cooper, a longtime gay activist who is African-American, said that letting the states decide how to treat transgender students as the Trump administration says “sounds reasonable” to some until they remember that America used to “let the states decide what water fountain to drink out of” in the days of legal segregation. Erin Joenk, 28, of Brooklyn, held a sign reflecting that sentiment, and said she was there because she “heard that our government was attacking children. I have friends who are trans. I don’t know why people are so upset about bathrooms. It makes zero sense.” I was pulled aside by the Henners — Gail and Howard, married 55 years and Village residents — who wanted me to know why they had joined the protest. “Everything this man [Trump] is doing is a re-enactment of Hitler,” said Gail Henner, who was very heartened by the energy of the rally. Adam Younger, 24, an NYU graduate student, said, “I came out as gay a year ago” after ending a relationship with a woman. He has now thrown himself into the LGBTQ movement through the new PROTEST continued on p. 5 .com

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Tanya Walker of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group.

PROTEST continued from p. 4

Rise & Resist and other groups, learning about ACT UP from veterans such as Alexis Danzig. He was conscious of the leadership role transgender people played at Stonewall 48 years ago. Thomas Krever, the CEO of the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LGBT youth, posted on Facebook after the rally that it had been “an emotional day… so deeply sad to see how an administration

can focus its energy on bias and bigotry; on fear and ignorance… on preying on [the] most vulnerable of our country… children… But tonight I stood with thousands in solidarity for our transgender and gender liberated youth. Tonight I was heartened to see my community — and those who are allies — rise above, and come together, in support and solidarity. This is the America I was taught to believe in… this is the America I will stand for.”

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Pass Anti-Harass Bills Posthaste, BY JOAQUIN COTLER On the morning of Thurs., Feb. 23, more than 100 people rallied on City Hall’s steps calling for the City Council to pass a package of bills intended to curb “construction-as-harassment.” Their chants couldn’t have been clearer: “What do we want? Our bills passed! When do we want it? Now!” Tenant groups from around the city assembled to vocalize their support for the Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) bills, a collection of 12 regulations designed to help tenants protect themselves against “bad-acting” landlords. But while seven of the bills have already come before the Housing Committee, the City Council hasn’t brought them to the full floor of the Council for a vote. “For the other five that haven’t had a hearing yet, we need to continue to push,” Councilmember Margaret Chin told the crowd. “There are a lot of bills on the agenda for the Housing Committee, but that’s why we need everyone to work with us to ask our colleagues to move it quickly.” Chin, who represents Lower Manhattan, is among the 11 counHOUSE HOUSE CALLS CALLS


cilmembers currently sponsoring tenantsafety bills. She’s a co-sponsor of Intro 918, which, if passed, would strengthen restrictions on construction and ratchet up building inspection. The bill’s other sponsor is Brooklyn’s Carlos Menchaca. Speaking at the rally, he condemned the “disruptive rehabilitation of vacant apartments” and other strategies some landlords use to intimidate tenants. “We need to do whatever we can to help end fear in our country,” Menchaca said. “Passage of these bills will go a long way toward doing that.” His 38th Council District includes several neighborhoods in central and southwest Brooklyn, including part of Gowanus, that are currently seeing widespread construction. “The need for passage of these bills in our community is crystal clear,” said Dave Powell, a community organizer from the Fifth Avenue Committee in Park Slope, just east of Gowanus. “It’s particularly urgent if we’re considering the rezoning of the Gowanus neighborhood. A lot of the displacement came right after the 2003 rezoning. We’re losing so much of our community. There’s an urgency and a SAME DAY SERVICE AVAILABLE

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few days before, Mark-Viverito addressed the issue head-on. “Tenant harassment is far too rampant — but because it can be hard to prove in court, far too often it goes unchecked,” she said. “Even when a tenant does beat the odds and win, they typically get nothing. We’re going to change that. Going forward, the Council will pass legislation so that when a landlord threatens a tenant, the burden will be on the landlord to prove it wasn’t harassment.” She continued by saying that the City Council “will soon take a close look at how some landlords — unscrupulous landlords — may use construction work to push tenants out from their homes.” According to Brandon Kielbasa, a community organizer for Cooper Square Committee in the East Village, having the Council speaker’s support is very important. Even so, he feels the process is being held up unnecessarily. “Every week that we go without these Stand for Tenant Safety bills as laws, more tenants are harassed and more essential, affordable rent-regulated hous-



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fury to the landlords’ harassment, and we can’t wait literally another year.” Idelys Savinon, a tenant at 342 Bergen St. in Gowanus, said she has experienced harassment since a new landlord, Inc. Realty, recently took over her building. “All my neighbors got forced out,” she said. “Now there’s construction, the apartment downstairs has no walls, and my hallway is a disaster.” She said despite it being winter, she hasn’t had heat or hot water for a month and a half. “I would like a nice hot shower. You know... basic living conditions. I’m taking them to court myself Monday, because they think they’re above the law — which they’re not.” “We’ve been to these hearings and events with tenants from 342 Bergen Street, and we’ve done the same with tenants from dozens of other buildings,” Powell said. “Today’s event was really a call to the City Council and particularly the chairperson of the Housing and Buildings Committee, Councilmember Jumaane Williams, and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to show them that there is an urgent need to pass these bills now.” In her State of the City speech just a

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Margaret Chin, front row right, and Helen Rosenthal, to her left, were among the councilmembers at a City Hall rally last week calling for speedy passage of the STS package of anti-harassment bills. At left is Rolando Guzmán of Brooklyn’s St. Nick’s Alliance. ANTI-HARASS continued from p. 6

ing is lost,” Kielbasa stressed. “We need these laws yesterday. Our communities are being torn apart by construction-asharassment.” Kielbasa and the other organizers urged Councilmember Williams to schedule hearings for the remaining five bills in April, in hopes of bringing the full Stand for Tenant Safety legislative package to a vote. He points to the highly publicized case of 159 Stanton St. on the Lower East Side as an example of what can happen if the City Council continues to wait. On Sat., Feb. 25, the Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a vacate order for the second floor of the building, owned by notorious landlord Steve

Croman, as the crumbling ceiling was beginning to give way. Croman currently already has 20 felony charges pending against him, and the building’s walls are wallpapered with violation notices that remain unaddressed. Current residents of 159 Stanton St. have been in and out of court, with little to show for it. However, the STS bills would make it so landlords like Croman would have to cough up their outstanding fines — or risk losing their buildings. “Right now DOB issues lots of violations and they turn into fines,” Kielbasa said. “The city doesn’t force people to pay them. The passing of these laws couldn’t be any more urgent. We need to put an end to this type of illegal harassment.”

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POLICE BLOTTER CRIMINAL POSSESSION OF A HYPODERMIC INSTRUMENT: Knife dope At around 3:30pm on Sun., Feb. 26, an officer noticed an illicit knife clipped to a the back left pocket of a man loitering on the 400 block of W. 26th St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.), in plain view in a public place. Upon further inspection, the officer found a small quantity of a controlled substance and a hypodermic needle on his person. “I use the knife for protection,” the man offered by way of explanation.

“And I have dope on me.” This decided non-excuse did nothing to prevent the 32-year-old man from being arrested.

PETIT LARCENY: Dogged pursuit When attempting to court someone, the usual procedure is to ask for their phone number, rather than taking their phone wholesale — but that’s the tack one less-than-legal lothario took on Sat., Feb 25. While walking her dog near the northeast



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corner of W. 23rd St. and 11th Ave., a 24-year-old woman was approached by a stranger at around 3:45pm, who asked her to pet her canine companion. She acquiesced, and they engaged in conversation for a couple of minutes. This pleasant chat ended after the man asked her out on a date, which the woman politely declined, and then walked away. It was soon thereafter that she realized that her phone — a $500 iPhone 5s in a $50 OtterBox case — was missing from her front pocket, presumably taken by her would-be beau.

of 12th Ave. and W. 24th St., with the driver slumped over the steering wheel, the keys in the ignition, and a puddle of fluid accumulating underneath the engine. Reportedly, the man had bloodshot eyes, was barely coherent, and smelled strongly of alcohol — a condition explained by the open 750ml decanter of Patrón and shot glass riding with him on the passenger’s seat. While he refused to take a breathalyzer test, the evidence was already stacked against him, and the 34-year-old Bronx man was arrested nonetheless.


PETIT LARCENY: Dental hijack

Just before 3am on Sat., Feb. 25, while on a northbound train at the 14th St. station, a police officer witnessed an on-the-go drug deal go down, as one man exchanged some cash for weed. Upon further inspection, the seller was in possession of a Ziploc bag full of weed and a “marijuana cigar.” The dealer and the buyer, both 19 years old, were arrested.

It’s a fact that all five out of five dentists recommend following the law, though that did nothing to stop two toothy thieves on Sat., Feb. 25. A little before 4pm, a CVS (272 Eighth Ave., at W. 24th St.) employee witnessed two men grab some items from a shelf, hide them in their jackets, and then leave the premises without paying. It turns out the two men took six toothbrushes in total (collectively valued at $42), which is simply a very silly number of toothbrushes to have — at least at one time. A canvas was conducted but yielded negative results.

VEHICLE TRAFFIC LAW/ INTOXICATED DRIVING: Shotgun shot glass Around 10pm on Sat., Feb. 25, an officer was called upon to respond to a radio run about a reckless driver on the West Side Highway. When the officer approached the car in question, however, the motorist wasn’t even driving — the car was stopped in the middle of the lane of southbound traffic at the southwest corner








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Courtesy NYPD

A map outlining the different sectors the neighborhood will be divided into for the program. Additional NCO officers are assigned to Elliot-Chelsea and Fulton Houses. NCO continued from p. 2

A (btw. W. 21st & 14th Sts., west of Seventh Ave.): Officer Robert Karl, who’s been with the force 19 years in various roles, and Officer Matt Maddox, a seven year NYPD vet and former New York Giant. “It wasn’t very long — about as long as we’ve been here tonight,” Maddox laughed. The Sector B (btw. W. 29th St. & 21st Sts., west of Seventh Ave.) officers — George Ricker (whose grandparents hailed from Chelsea, giv-

ing him a personal connection to the area) and Tamarah Pickney — followed. Sector C (btw. W. 43rd & 29th Sts., west of Ninth Ave.) was handled by Detective Anthony Marion and Officer Lisa Mitchell. As the meeting came to a close, those assembled were encouraged to mingle with the NCOs and take down their cell numbers and email — as well as connect to them via the newly launched 10th Precinct Facebook page: facebook. com/NYPD10PCT.

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Whitmans Burger Joint Puts Meat on the Bones of an Emerging Neighborhood BY DENNIS LYNCH East Village favorite Whitmans is up and running at its third Manhattan location, right on the edge of Hudson Yards. Chelsea Now stopped by earlier this week to put the kitchen to the test and talk about the new place with co-owner Larry Kramer. Kramer and his cohorts transformed a “completely raw,” high-ceiling space on the ground floor of a luxury 10th Ave. apartment building (between W. 29th and W. 30th St.) into the newest Whitmans. The menu is the same as you get at their other locations, but the actual restaurant is much bigger. It’s got seating for around 65, and does its Village and Hell’s Kitchen sister spaces one better by offering a full-service bar (the others only sell beer and wine). Whitmans is early to the Hudson Yards party; that’s clear on the walk there. There’s commercial and residential towers going up all around it, and you’ll have to navigate some closed sidewalks and construction sites to find the place if you plan to go for a weekday lunch or early dinner. As Kramer put it, they wanted “to get [in] ahead of this curve,” and establish a foothold in the neighborhood before major national companies moved in. Soon enough those apartments and office buildings will fill with tenants — all hungry potential customers. Kramer grew up in the city and is proud to run a local operation. He’s thinking long-term, and hopes that opening in the neighborhoods’ relative infancy will help establish Whitmans as the local spot to get a solid burger. “We’re local, and they could have taken a McDonald’s, but they decided to use a New York brand. We’re happy with that and we decided to jump at this

Larry Kramer shows off Whitmans’ flagship Juicy Lucy burger, a take on a Minnesota tradition of stuffing patties with cheese (the Whitmans version is stuffed with pimento). .com

Photos by Dennis Lynch

The team at Whitmans built out their spacious Hudson Yards location completely from the ground up from what was a “completely raw” space, according to co-owner Larry Kramer.

opportunity,” he said. “I think we’re a few years out on the neighborhood; that’s why we took this chance. Otherwise, you’re paying market rent and I’m not doing that. Now that we’re here, I just want to hit the ground running and try to really get people to make this their local hamburger joint.” The Whitmans model is fairly straightforward. They use all local, fresh ingredients, delivered regularly, and make everything to order. They never use frozen beef and, according to Kramer, don’t even have a freezer for anything but their Blue Marble ice cream desserts (which are assembled on-premise). Kramer gave us three dishes to try — the flagship Juicy Lucy burger, a classic cheeseburger, and the “East Villi Cheese Steak,” a Philly cheesesteak on a hoagie. He suggests first-timers go with the Juicy Lucy, a burger with a cheese-stuffed patty that takes after the Minnesota-born burger of the same name. The Whitmans Juicy Lucy is stuffed

with pimento cheese and topped with caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato, spicy pickles, and a distinctive “special sauce.” The burger is so-named because the cheese keeps the meat around it particularly tender and juicy. It’s about as decadent as it sounds. Kramer also personally favors the “incredible” Hound Burger, with its applewood smoked bacon-infused patty, arugula, smoked gruyere, potato crisps, and potato bun. The Spicy Patty burger — with a patty blended with three hot peppers “that will burn the top of your mouth,” avocado, arugula, and picked red onion, on a sesame bun — is worth a shot too, he said. All but three of their burgers will run you $12, and you can add a dozen toppings and cheeses for $1–2. They also offer three chicken sandwiches, a BLT, and a grilled cheese. They have 10 sides, including sautéed corn and sweet potato fries, along with three salads, pickles, and beer sausage for their starters. Come late March and early April (or

L to R: The East Villi Cheese Steak, Whitmans’ classic cheeseburger, and the unrivaled Juicy Lucy.

“when the weather is constantly good”), Whitmans will start offering a breakfast/ brunch menu, Kramer said. It’s “more burgers and waffles” (they already offer a bacon, egg, and cheese burger) rather than a traditional brunch menu, but there will be plenty of mimosas and Bloody Marys to go around. Kramer hopes to take advantage of the foot traffic on the High Line, which snakes around the corner from Whitmans. Kramer’s also interested in hosting larger parties and events, he said, but he’s not picky about what will get you in the door. “We just want people to come experience Whitmans themselves. I just want them to feel comfortable and come and try it — and I’m excited for that,” he said. Whitmans Hudson Yards is located at 331 10th Ave., btw. W. 29th & 30th Sts). Hours: 12–9pm daily. Visit whitmansnyc.com/hudson-yards or call 212837-1416.

Whitmans gets its name from Walt Whitman, the great American poet of the 19th century. You can read his work while you wait for your burger. March 02 - 08, 2017


Pottery, Pets, Furs and Zen: Tap Into the Un

D Pet Hotels Chelsea, at 104 W. 27th St., offers all bask in the splendor of a “Sensational Suite.”

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Zen Bikes owner John Keoshgerian surveys his store from the comfort of a recently restored barber chair.

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Zen Bikes, at 134 W. 24th St., focuses on educating customers rather than upselling product.


March 02 - 08, 2017

BY MARIA DIAZ Have you walked up and down the streets of Chelsea lately and been surprised to notice that a familiar storefront business is no longer there? At the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC), we know the stories of Manhattan’s ever-changing small business community. Over the last few months, we have taken a step back to evaluate and recognize what we love most about our corner of this city. Without a doubt, it’s the vibrancy and the entrepreneurial spirit of our restaurants, shops, and entertainment destinations — too many of which have disappeared. With longtime establishments such as The City Quilter and XES Lounge having closed over the last year, we recently spoke with a few GVCCC members to find out what concerns they had about

keeping their doors open. Common themes that came up included a prohibitive increase in rent, the inability to renew leases, and the various regulations placed upon our businesses. For some, these issues are insurmountable. Others have been able to thrive because of the unique energy, product, or service they provide to Chelsea — and in celebration of that, we wanted to share their stories.

ZEN BIKES The name is a perfect fit for this lifestyle bike shop. Coming up on seven years in business, the welcoming environment created by owner John Keoshgerian and his staff has resonated with a diverse customer base — so much so that in 2016, TimeOut New York named Zen among NYC’s top three best bike shops. Their profile has also been bolstered by many five-star reviews on Yelp. While these successes are measureable accomplishments, what means the most to Zen is that their customers feel comfortable. Shopping for the perfect bike or the right gear can be a stressful experience, but Keoshgerian and his employees are there to answer any questions rather than pressure customers to make a purchase. Zen .com

nique Energy of Chelsea’s Small Businesses

Chelsea Now file photo courtesy D Pet Hotels Chelsea

Chelsea Now file photo courtesy D Pet Hotels Chelsea

l the amenities of home. Here, pampered pooches

D Pet Hotels Chelsea co-owners Kerry Brown and her husband, Chris Skowlund.

Bikes is a friendly place focused on the education of their customers. They provide niche products and services to Chelsea — including the “zen” we can all use in our New York days. Zen Bikes is located at 134 W. 24th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Hours: Mon.–Sat., 10am–7pm. and Sat./Sun., 10am–6pm. Visit zenbikes.com.

D PET HOTELS CHELSEA What’s a neighborhood without a local place for pampering? Just don’t expect to find too many human clients here! At this hotel, the staff is always at the ready to make your furry little friend’s experience an amazing one. From doga (dog yoga) to recreation areas for your pet to skateboard in, D Pet Hotels Chelsea has a wonderful facility that will make you feel at ease about dropping off your pet. Kerry Brown and her husband, Chris Skowlund, opened the hotel in 2012 and are extremely proud of the connection to the community they have forged. They consider staff family and love that they can be a source of employment to locals. D Pet Hotels Chelsea is located at 104 W. 27th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Call 646-478-7877 or visit chelsea. dpethotels.com. .com

LA MANO POTTERY Coming to La Mano Pottery in the heart of such a modern city isn’t just a means of escape — it’s a way to participate in an ancient skill that merges the practical with the artistic. Fifteen years ago, as students of the craft, cofounders Diane Waller, Julie Hadley and Peggy Clarke realized that it was not only their love for pottery that brought them together, but the desire to create an artistic community. The studio boasts hundreds of customers that range from beginners to independent artists who use the space to create their art. After spending their first decade on W. 18th St., La Mano moved to their present location. Converting what was previously, since 1925, an electrical company, they have created a welcoming space very unlike the traditional setup one thinks of when imagining a pottery studio. La Mano offers a full range of classes for adults and children, including introductory workshops, silver clay workshops, and private lessons. And why is it that they chose Chelsea? It’s the energy of the neighborhood and its central location that allows their customers (and the business itself) to break the mold by creating something personal, unique, and built to last.

Courtesy La Mano Pottery

La Mano Pottery, at 110 W. 26th St., has a sister space in Hell’s Kitchen (Mud Matters, at 654 10th Ave.).

La Mano Pottery is located at 110 W. 26th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Hours: Mon.–Fri., 12–9pm and Sat. & Sun., 12–6pm. Call 212-627-9450 or visit lamanopottery.com. La Mano’s sister studio, Mud Matters, is located at 654 10th Ave., at W. 46th St. Hours: 12–9pm Tues./Fri., and 12–6pm Wed., Thurs., Sat. & Sun. Call 212-974-9121 or visit mudmatters.com. GVCCC continued on p. 16

Courtesy La Mano Pottery

L to R: La Mano Pottery co-founders Julie Hadley, Diane Waller and Peggy Clarke. March 02 - 08, 2017


Rent Tax Reform Would Exempt Affordable Supermarkets

Chelsea Now file photo by Yannic Rack.

Faced with a rent increase from $32,000 a month to more than $100,000, Associated Supermarket closed its doors after 27 years on W. 14 St. and Eighth Ave. This March 2016 rally drew dozens of loyal customers as well as Councilmember Corey Johnson (in tie), with State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (at right) and Public Advocate Letitia James (at left).

BY JACKSON CHEN City 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 St., 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 Mon., Feb. 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 stores, and boutiques. “You ever wonder why we’re being overrun by banks and chain drug stores in Manhattan?� Garodnick asked. “Well, this tax on commercial rent is one of your prime culprits.� The first bill, sponsored by Garodnick and Upper West Side Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, would increase the threshold to pay the CRT 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 Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Corey Johnson, would provide exemptions from the CRT for billboards that advertise theatrical works and for affordable supermarkets, regardless of the rent they pay. Rosenthal is joined by Lower Manhattan Councilmember Margaret Chin in another bill that would require the Department of Finance 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 job to workers who come from all over the city. The tax hardship hits business spanning the Upper East and West Sides, as well TAX REFORM continued on p. 17

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March 02 - 08, 2017


Adieu, Alan’s Alley: Video Rental Shop’s Closing Credits Scrolling Soon BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC They say all good things come to an end, and after nearly three decades of providing recommendations and rentals, Alan’s Alley Video is closing. “We’re really in the process of shutting down,” owner Alan Sklar recently told Chelsea Now at his W. 23rd St. apartment. Sklar, 67, opened his original store at 207A Ninth Ave. (btw. W. 22nd & 23rd Sts.) in November 1988, and moved to his current apartment around a year later. “It took me about a year to realize that this would be the best neighborhood for me to live in; like around the corner from the shop,” he said. For 26 years, Alan’s Alley was a Ninth Ave. staple — but a higher rent that Sklar couldn’t swing forced him to close at that location. “[The landlord] was asking me for a reasonable rent. It’s just that the nature of the video business had changed over the years,” he explained. Sklar had a “going out of business” sale, but found another spot for his store at 164 W. 25th St. near Seventh Ave., and opened there in August 2014. However, being on the fifth floor decreased foot traffic, Sklar told Chelsea Now in March 2015. The landlord then wanted to partially close the building to facilitate elevator repairs. “So customers would only be able to use a freight elevator, and that probably wouldn’t have been opened enough hours for me,” Sklar said. “We wouldn’t have been able to survive that, you know, that elevator being down.” Sklar said the landlord “wasn’t a big fan” of his and was kind of pushing him out of the building. After about a year on 25th St., Sklar closed that location in August 2015 and began scouting for another in the neighborhood. It was important to stay in Chelsea because that’s where his customers were, he said.

Photo by Scott Stiffler

The old Ninth Ave. store, between W. 22nd & 23rd Sts., is now occupied by Garber Hardware.

“So when I started looking for other places, it was staggering what had happened in the year,” Sklar said. “Prices had gone up so dramatically.” He looked for other office spaces and for tiny places at street level, but rents had shot up so much that Sklar said he could have never survived. “I looked for a few months even after we shut down, and I realized that we just weren’t going to get the space in Chelsea that we needed,” he recalled. It took two years for his former space on Ninth Ave. to be filled when Garber Hardware opened last summer. He went in and chatted with the new owner, and said he was “really happy to see a neighborhood kind of hardware store move in. Very happy that they’re there — that it’s not a 7-Eleven or something.” Since last August, Sklar has been working out of his apartment and is now in the process of wrapping up the business. While he is no longer renting movies, he

will make an exception if a former customer really wanted to do so. He is also still acquiring movies at times for customers. He said some of his corporate clients still call, but much of the advertising work he used to do has dwindled as

people don’t need a physical disc like they once did. Sklar does continue to work on projects for those honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center — like Amy Adams, Ethan Hawke, and Morgan Freeman — helping to get DVDs for the honoree’s montage. “I’m hoping somebody does a tribute to Nicolas Cage — I have far too many Nicolas Cage movies,” Sklar said with a laugh. “They’re all here — nobody wants them,” he joked. Sklar has sold off much of his collection, which at one point ran at about 30,000 titles on DVD and VHS. He says that now he has somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 DVDs. “We had another going out of business sale and that reduced the inventory quite a bit,” he said. “Most of the popular things go first. We’re sitting with a lot of B-product. But there’s still a few interesting things around.” Streaming sites like Amazon Prime and Netflix, and the lack of appetite to rent movies, have contributed to the lack ALAN’S ALLEY continued on p. 17

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Alan Sklar, at the Chelsea apartment he originally moved into because of its proximity to the store’s Ninth Ave. location. .com

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GVCCC continued from p. 13

DIMITRIOS FURS NYC, LLC This fourth generation business is a familiar pillar in Chelsea, having provided beautiful furs to our community since 1937. The Dimitrios family emigrated from Kastoria, Greece during a time when there was an influx of Greek presence in NYC. Although the store’s location has changed throughout their history, Dimitrios Furs has held their W. 30th St. storefront for the past five and a half years. The current owner, Peter Dimitrios, notes that his retail store is not just in the business of selling new coats and providing upkeep for customer favorites. He describes it as “an establishment that promotes loyalty and professionalism that is hard to find in other niche areas of the retail space.� Loyalty among Dimitrios’ regulars is something that the family holds close to their heart. The proudest accomplishment for Peter has been maintaining positivity and longevity. “Keeping the family business going gives both strength to the individual but also the family,� he said. It has not been an easy task to compete

Photo by Scott Stiffer

Courtesy Dimitrios Furs NYC, LLC

Dimitrios Furs NYC, LLC has been a family-owned business since 1937.

Dimitrios Furs owner Peter Dimitrios at his store (150 W. 30th St.).

in the shrinking market — but this storefront business, innovative in the creation of coat modifications, has managed to retain their longtime customer base while welcoming new clients from the influx of nearby bars, restaurants, and hotels. Dimitrios Furs is located at 150 W.

comes from those of us who wouldn’t want to live, or work, anywhere else. Maria Diaz is the executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. For info, call 646-4701773 or visit villagechelsea.com. Twitter: @GVCCHAMBER. On Facebook: facebook.com/GVCCHAMBER.

30th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Call 212-695-8469 or email dimitriosfursnyc@gmail.com. Through these unique businesses, it is clear that Chelsea is thriving with commerce — commerce that provides loyalty, community, and a unique flair that

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TAX REFORM continued from p. 14

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,â€? Johnson said. “It just doesn’t make any sense that for a small portion of the city we have this tax.â€? Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, whose members include restaurants, 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 very depressing when every day it seems like you open a newspaper, listen to the radio, and one of our beloved local businesses has shut down,â€? Rigie said. “We have this incredible bill that will help 4,000 businesses right here in Manhattan get some desperate financial relief.â€? Rigie urged Mayor Bill de Blasio to support their efforts and for other councilmembers to join on to the efforts

Photo by Jackson Chen

East Side City Councilmember Dan Garodnick at a Feb. 13 City Hall rally aimed at building support for reform of the commercial rent tax levied on businesses in Manhattan below 96th St.

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 should do away with it entirely,� Garodnick said of the CRT. “We’re taking steps today to start that process, trying to deliver some level of immediate fairness to these small businesses for the sake of the businesses themselves, the communities they’re serving, and the people from all around the city who work in them.�

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Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

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of business. â&#x20AC;&#x153;People donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t even realize that there was a video rental business,â&#x20AC;? Sklar said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Even though everything is not available, the convenience far outweighs what people would have to go through to rent a movie.â&#x20AC;? While Sklar is unsure what his next step will be, he is grateful that he had his business for as long as he did. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The daily routine was always so much fun, it was just very enjoyable,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;People .com

would come in, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d see the kids, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d see multiple generations.â&#x20AC;? He said his customers are now his friends, and he has a bit more time to have a life. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m just very lucky. I just feel like we were fortunate. We had a great neighborhood to be in,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Very loyal following. I appreciate just everything that happened. Not many people get to really love what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re doing for so many years, and not have to cross the street to go work.â&#x20AC;? Sklar says people can get in touch with him at 646-515-4025.

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March 02 - 08, 2017


The Perils of Normalization

Meticulous direction constructs a slow burn for ‘Talk House’ BY DAVID KENNERLEY As the reality of a 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. The drama received largely 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 folk 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 basically the same old tired 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 TV show. TV comedies are now the chief form of entertainment — communal artistic pursuits like theater are a thing of the past. “Walls have ears,” cautions Robert. “As do floors, ceilings, windows, doors, plates, cups, spoons, forks, and, come to think of it, other human beings.”


March 02 - 08, 2017

Photo by Monique Carboni

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

The decade-old play’s former leading man, Tom (Larry Pine), is now the star of that TV show. By ordinary 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 dissipated has-been says in exasperation. “Everything else has changed.”

Incredibly, out of the blue, Annette admits she has participated in the government program of violence. So have Ted (John Epperson, shedding his Lypsinka persona to play a composer) and Jane (Annapurna Sriram), a 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 characters’ 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, flanked 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. Derek McLane’s set features a comfy lounge area with overstuffed chairs and an upright piano (Epperson makes 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. Through March 12, Tues.–Fri. at 7pm; Sat. at 2 & 8 pm; Sun. at 2pm. At Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St. (btw. 10th & Dyer Aves.). 100 min., no intermission. For tickets ($75–95), visit thenewgroup.org or call 212-239-6200. .com

Just Do Art lin; Adria Benjamin,  viola;  Lois Martin,  viola;  Tomoko Fujita, cello; and Adrienne Kim, piano. Mon., March 6, 7–8:30pm at CBST (130 W. 30th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.). Contributions will support CBST’s social justice initiatives, and are tax deductible. Seats begin at $18. For reservations, visit cbst.org and click on the “Upcoming Events” icon on the left side of their home page.


THE CHELSEA SYMPHONY Audiences the world over can see members of The Chelsea Symphony on the Amazon Prime series “Mozart in the Jungle” — but for residents of the group’s namesake neighborhood, a threedimensional, no-streaming-subscriptionnecessary experience is as easy as stepping through the doors of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Paul. These upcoming March concerts are the latest in the Symphony’s 2016/2017 “Flight Paths” season, devoted to the music of composers who have been inspired by, or have immigrated to, the United States of America. On both nights, the program includes Antonín Dvoák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World,” and the world premiere of Danny Gray’s “Summer Mountains” (the winning piece of the TCS Third Annual Composition Competition). Two additional world premieres are performed one night only: On Friday, Sarah Haines, viola, is featured in Michael Boyman’s “Concerto for Viola and Orchestra” — and on Saturday, two tangos by Astor Piazzolla for viola and orchestra feature new arrangements by Adios Nonino. Chelsea Symphony cofounder Miguel Campos Neto returns to conduct both concerts. The orchestra returns to St. Paul’s on April 21 and 22, then concludes its season on June 3 and 4, at W. 37th St.’s DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Fri., March 10 at 8:30pm and Sat., March 11 at 7:30pm. At St. Paul’s (315 W. 22nd St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.; stpaulny.org). General admission tickets at the door are $20 general. For $25 unassigned seats in the reserved section, visit thechelseasymphony.eventbrite. com. Artist info at chelseasymphony.org. Twitter: @chelseasymphony.


Photo by Chris Carlone

Courtesy Copper Canyon Press

Sarah Haines is featured in Michael Boyman’s “Concerto for Viola and Orchestra,” on the first night of The Chelsea Symphony’s March 10-11 concerts.

Poet and essayist Ocean Vuong reads from “Night Sky with Exit Wounds,” March 7 at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

after thorough vetting — was declared one of the year’s Top 10 Books by none other than that “real news” outlet, the New York Times. Vuong’s upcoming appearance at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) will include a reading from his “Night Sky” poetry collection, as well as the signing of his books. Also at FIT: Through March 5, “New Views 2017” is their third annual large-scale faculty exhibition featuring work from over 70 faculty members across the 17 programs that comprise their School of Art and Design. For details on this free exhibit, visit fitnyc.edu. The Ocean Vuong reading and book signing is free. Tues., March 7, 5pm at FIT’s Haft Auditorium, Marvin Feldman Center (Seventh Ave., at W. 27th St.). Artist info at oceanvuong.com.

CONGREGATION BEIT SIMCHAT TORAH PRESENTS “A CONCERT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE” Chelsea’s LGBT synagogue fills their new Wine Family Sanctuary with music that gives voice to their mission as an incubator of progressive religious thought, with particular focus on advancing social justice initiatives not just here at home, but throughout the world. The program features the music of Scherzinger, Leclair, Messiaen, and Shostakovich. Also, folk tunes from The Danish String Quartet’s “Wood Works” 2014 CD will be performed by Sebu Sirinian, violin;  Lisa Tipton,  violin;  Robert Zubrycki,  vio-

POET OCEAN VUONG: BOOK SIGNING & READING While one resident of NYC was out on the campaign trail selling the notion of closed borders, another was spending 2016 as a best-selling author. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, poet and essayist Ocean Vuong immigrated to America at the age of two as a child refugee. Released last year by Copper Canyon Press, his “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” was a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a winner of the 2016 Whiting Award, and — .com

Passing its baton from the flooded streets of Buenos Aires to the grasslands of Mozambique to a swimming hole in the Philippines, “The Human Surge” has the back of its restless cast — at least in the literal sense. Argentinian writer/director Eduardo Williams makes his stubbornly opaque, wonderfully meandering feature film debut by spending an inordinate amount of time tracking a global gaggle of mostly young men from behind as they wander sidewalks, stairs, dark interiors, and dense vegetation in search of a connection — at least in the literal sense. Whether waterlogged, stolen, hexed, or just plain lacking a decent signal, the access provided by one’s cell phone is every bit as elusive as the promise of something beyond subsistence-level existence. “This film comes from my need to avoid the restraining world of dull jobs,” said Williams in film’s press material. “It comes from my need to move towards curiosity and the discovery of other realities and fantasies.” That’s about as solid a lead as you’ll get from this narratively stingy cinematic walkabout, which is best enjoyed as a cumulative experience to be soaked in and savored, rather than questioned for answers. Not rated. 97 minutes. In Spanish, Cebuano, and Portuguese with English subtitles. Begins March 3 at Metrograph (7 Ludlow St., btw. Canal & Hester Sts.). Call 212-660-0312 or visit metrograph.com.


Photo by Laurie Rhodes

Find out what it took to take that painting from the first brush stroke to the gallery wall, when you take a selfguided walking tour of work spaces between the Westbeth Artists and West Chelsea Arts buildings. Generally open

Congregation Beit Simchat Torah’s March 6 concert helps fund their social justice initiatives.

JUST DO ART continued on p. 20 March 02 - 08, 2017


JUST DO ART continued from p. 19

by appointment only, this two-day event invites you into over 30 studios for a glimpse of the creative process — which varies as widely as the multitude of styles and media you’ll be exposed to. Whether you’re a serious collector or simply curious, this unusual chance to peek behind the curtain is also a rare opportunity to purchase work directly from the creator (at a fraction of the asking price you’ll find at the galleries). Free. Noon–6pm on Sat., March 4 and Sun., March 5. The self-guided tour starts at the West Chelsea Arts building (508-526 W. 26th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.), where you can pickup tour maps and information on participating artists. For more info, visit highlineopenstudios.org.

277 DANCE PROJECT PRESENTS “CARDBOARD STAGE” Limbs crane skyward and cut through the air as if under the purposeful direction of robotic arms — but the sculpted muscles, intimate tableaus, and expressive movements also declare there’s humanity at work here. Inspired by NYC urban life, 277 Dance Project’s “Cardboard Stage” is an evening-length work of dance and film. Founder, artistic director and co-choreographer Nicole Philippidis oversees a cast of six as they embark on a tense negotiation for individual identity and meaning while navigating the dark, isolated corners and cold, industrial planes of a “dystopian-like” mechanized society. John Philippidis, co-founder of the indie folk band Burlap to Cashmere, contributes original music whose earthen acoustic elements counterbalance the otherwise industrial aesthetic. Wed., March 8 through Fri., March 10, 7:30pm, at The Underground Theater at Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St., btw. Pitt & Willett Sts.). For tickets ($20), visit 277danceproject.brownpapertickets.com or purchase at the door. Artist info at 277danceproject.com. Instagram: @277danceproject. Facebook: facebook. com/277danceproject.

Courtesy Grasshopper Film

Disconnected youths are knee deep in the search for a decent signal: Eduardo Williams’ “The Human Surge” opens March 3 at Metrograph.

numbers. The Chorale takes that concept and really runs with it for their “Seeing Double Seeing Double” concert. More than 60 singers (twice the Chorale’s usual number) will give voice to this program of music for double choir, curated to maximize the reverberant acoustics of Judson Memorial Church’s Meeting Room. In addition to a pair of psalm settings by Mendelssohn and a composition by Chorale artistic director Colin Britt that incorporates the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, the fivedozen-strong contingent will be broken into two a capella choirs, for Frank Martin’s rarely performed “Mass for Double Choir.” Sun., March 5, 5pm at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Sq. South, at Thompson St.). Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door (students, $10 in advance, $15 at the door). For reservations and info, visit westvillagechorale.org.

Courtesy High Line Open Studios

Maria Fragoudaki’s studio, seen here, is among those on the self-guided High Line Open Studio event, March 4-5.

THE WEST VILLAGE CHORALE If you’ve ever gone all-in and done the full-throated audience participation thing as part of the West Village Chorale’s annual December “Messiah Sing,” you know firsthand there’s nothing quite like the glorious, thunderous sound that comes from strength in


March 02 - 08, 2017

Courtesy 277 Dance Project

“Cardboard Stage,” March 8-10, finds 277 Dance Project in a dystopian society, prepared to take a stand. .com


No Bones About It: Danny Digs Dinosaurs


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BY LENORE SKENAZY If anyone could lay claim to the excuse, “I’m not fat — I’m big boned,” it’s the titanosaur on view at the American Museum of Natural History. This creature has a thigh bone eight feet tall. Taller than Shaq! That’s not just a big bone — it’s the biggest bone in the biggest dinosaur ever discovered. And yet, the titanosaur began life in an egg the size of a “large grapefruit,” says Danny Barta, a PhD candidate in the museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School. Danny is studying dinosaur growth — how do you go from the size of a piece of fruit to something 120 feet long, especially when you’re a vegetarian? “They must have spent most of their day eating,” says Danny. It just goes to show that anyone hoping an all-kale diet will do the trick may end up sorely disappointed (and extinct). The titanosaur is so big, you’d see it and burst into a grin. Holy moly! It doesn’t even fit in any of the museum’s cavernous rooms. Instead, its giant skull sticks out into the hallway, like a dog who can’t wait to go for a walk. And, for the record, what’s on display is not the actual skeleton. It’s a 3-D scanned cast of the bones, which is in some ways even more amazing — something 100 million years old has been rec-

reated by a technology that didn’t come into its own until the 2000s. But if you’re hankering for “real” relics, all you have to do is turn around. There, on display for the first time, are about 30 fossilized bones from the museum’s Big Bone Room — a room Danny compares to a library’s “oversize book section.” These bones include a leg bone the size of a 7-year-old North American studentis (that is, a third grader), and vertebrae that look like snow tires. They’re all part of a long-necked planteating diplodocus dug up by the museum’s dinosaur hunter Barnum Brown (yes, named for the circus meister himself), with Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1897. Ironically the men had gone to Wyoming seeking fossil evidence of ancient mammals, the bones of which do not make for amazing crowd pleasers. Instead, they found this giant beast, which launched the museum’s dinosaur collection. Barnum would go on to discover the first T. rex. Danny actually hails from Wyoming himself, and when he went on trips to the local museum, he fell in love with the dinosaurs. Now he spends his time studying the specimens at the museum and heading out to find more. He spent last summer in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, which sounds like a dream come true: “You wake up, you have breakfast — we’re in a tent — and then you walk around and look to see if there are any bones or eggshells sticking out of the ground. And probably every few minutes you’re seeing something — oftentimes, it’s just some fragments, but sometimes it can be part of a skeleton.” Sign me up! “We had really nice weather — it barely topped 100,” Danny added. “And we experienced one sandstorm.”

Okay, maybe Danny doesn’t really need my help. Once someone discovers what looks like a decent set of bones, the team carefully covers these with the tools of the trade: tin foil, paper towels, or toilet paper. “Fossil collecting has hardly changed at all since Barnum Brown’s day,” says Danny. With the bones protected, the team digs a trench around the skeleton and covers the whole thing with a plaster of Paris “jacket.” Then they dig it up, and ship it to the museum, where three “preparers” excavate the bones, using brushes, dental picks, and a whole lot of patience. But what excites Danny is that the Gobi site has yielded dozens of specimens of one of the dinosaurs he is studying most intently, the Haya griva (named for the Hindu god Hayagriva). Adults of this species are about the size of a beagle, and the littlest ones are the size of crows. What he has now are a series of skeletons, affording him a sort of time-lapse look at how they grow. “Each is a snapshot from a stage of life,” Danny explains. Imagine if the only skeleton left of humans 100 million years from now was that of a five-year-old. Future Earthlings would assume homo sapiens generally grew to the height of a Great Dane. So how do you get a full picture of the life cycle of an animal that’s extinct? “Any living animal, we could watch,” Danny points out — but with dinosaurs, you need skeletons of all different ages. That’s what he has in front of him now. And if he or anyone else ever needs a different dino to study, the museum has tons more — literally. Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker who authored the book, and founded the blog, Free-Range Kids (freerangekids.com).

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March 02 - 08, 2017


L SHUTDOWN continued from p. 3

â&#x20AC;&#x153;I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know if they should be arrested for smoking what theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re smoking, but they shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be selling it,â&#x20AC;? 16th St. resident David Hertzberg said. Hertzberg suggested that the city divert traffic up and down main avenues and to other major crosstown streets such as 34th St. Other critics of PeopleWay accused TransAlt of attending the meeting to push their plan, without full disclosure. Bill Borock is president of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA), and attended the meeting as a representative of the CCBA 14th Street L Train Closing Extended Task Force. Its members include the Flatiron Alliance, LoCal (the Lower Chelsea Alliance), and the Union Square Community Coalition. In a phone interview, Borock told Chelsea Now that at his table, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We started our session, and there was a man standing behind me. â&#x20AC;Ś As we discussed various things, it was obvious he was espousing the Transportation Alternatives position. I asked him if he was a member, and he said, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Yes.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;? Borock takes issue with that, because everyone at his table introduced themselves at the beginning of their session. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The DOB and MTA moderators called on himâ&#x20AC;? several times, Borock noted, both before and after the manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s TransAlt

Photos by Dennis Lynch

Around 50,000 people ride the L train exclusively to get across town each day, according to the MTA.

affiliation came to light. The DOT and MTA have no rules about who can participate in the public workshops and no participants are required to disclose that they belong to any group whatsoever, a DOT spokesperson said. TransAltâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Brian Zumhagen, the 12,000-member groupâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s communications director, said that â&#x20AC;&#x153;many people who live near 14th Streetâ&#x20AC;? agree with the PeopleWay plan and want to â&#x20AC;&#x153;see the city prioritize buses, biking, and walking during this crisis.â&#x20AC;? Zumhagen also refuted any notion that voluntary members of the group should have to identify themselves as such. â&#x20AC;&#x153;People who turn out for meetings of this kind presumably have all types of affiliations (including the people whose

Each table at the workshop drew up routes and options on city maps.

opposition you cite),â&#x20AC;? he told Chelsea Now via email, following the Feb. 23 event. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If someone at a workshop speaks out against the PeopleWay plan, that is legitimate, and it would be unreasonable for us or anyone to demand that those opponents disclose, for example, whether they are members of [a given group] just because they have raised a concern about on-street parking.â&#x20AC;? But Borock countered that among the multitude of community-minded circles he moves in, â&#x20AC;&#x153;There is a sense that Transportation Alternatives, which is a lobbying group, is having undue influenceâ&#x20AC;? in the public debate that shapes

policy. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I have no problem if thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s somebody there with a different position than mine,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I mean, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the way the world is. But he never identified himself. So I asked.â&#x20AC;? The MTA and DOT will not discuss which options they favor until they complete and release a traffic and impact study this year. An additional â&#x20AC;&#x153;East Side Community Workshopâ&#x20AC;? will be held Thurs., March 9, 7-10 p.m. at the Town & Village Synagogue (334 E. 14th St., btw. First & Second Aves.).

â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Additional reporting by Scott Stiffler

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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


March 02 - 08, 2017

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.


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March 02, 2017