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Tenant Harassment Takes Center Stage

Page 04 JOAQUIN COTLER

Floating Condos Atop Seven-Story Apartments Foiled — For Now 03 March 09 - 22, 2017 | Vol. 03 No. 05

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March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Stacking 10-Story Condos Over

Rent-Stabilized UWS Building Foiled — For Now BY JACKSON CHEN

A

Department of Finance decision based on regulations about city tax lots has halted an unprecedented project that would have floated a 10-story condo above an existing seven-stor y rental building at 711 West End Avenue. T he a mbitious development, located on the block between West 94th and 95th Streets, would sit on a platform to be held up by 10 support columns around the perimeter of the existing building. While occupying the same site, the two buildings would be separated by a gap of several feet between the existing structure’s roof and the proposed development’s ground floor. The project was approved by the city’s Department of Buildings and secured its building permits just under the wire — a week before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, on June 25, 2015, extended the Riverside-West End Historic District to include that block of West End Avenue. However, the DOF recently ruled that the developers — SJP Properties and P2BVentures, organized

as 305 West 95th Street Developer LLC — could not create a new tax lot for the proposed development, which would allow for the construction of condominiums at the site of a rent-stabilized residential building, according to a February 27 letter sent to elected officials. The letter from DOF ’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Sheela h Feinberg, was sent to State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal. “Our property division met with the developer in 2016 and explained that we could not accommodate their request to create two ta x lots,” Feinberg wrote in the letter obtained by Manhattan Express. O’Donnell said he was aware of the agency’s decision about a month ago, but waited to have it in writing before sharing the news with the residents of 711 West End Avenue who oppose the project. “In order for them to build the building on top of this building, they would require a separate tax lot to do that,” O’Donnell said at a February 27 press conference outside of the building. “The city has said they will not and cannot

PBDW ARCHITECTS

A rendering of the 10-story condo project proposed to float above the seven story rent-stabilized apartment building at 711 West End Avenue.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 09 -22, 2017

JACKSON CHEN

City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal and State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell at a February 27 press conference announcing the Department of Finance’s refusal to let a condo development go forward at 711 West End Avenue in its current form.

do that.” Rosenthal has also worked with the tenants in fighting the proposal. To date, opposition efforts had failed to stop the project from moving forward. “We made it clear to the administration that this is not a project that the community wants, and the community has spoken loudly,” Rosenthal said. “The Department of Finance, at the end of the day, has made a solid ruling… [denying] having two tax lots on the single physical space.” She added, “This is one building, it will remain one building with one tax lot.” Stepha n ie Cooper, a nea rly 50-year resident of the building, is relieved the city has halted the project — at least for now. She and many other residents who rallied outside the building as O’Donnell and Rosenthal announced the DOF decision remain concerned. Cooper has opposed the project since it was first announced and created the Tenants Action Group with other residents in response. The group retained Richard Herschlag, a civil and structural engineer, to scrutinize the plans filed with the DOB. Herschlag said that from his

review of the documents and site inspections, he identified several issues of concern. He told Manhattan Express that the clearance between the old building’s roof and the new building’s base wouldn’t provide enough room for firefighters to gain needed access in the event of an emergency, the construction activity would come too close to existing residents’ apartments, with some of them having to vacate them temporarily, and the constant drilling to root the support columns could worsen the already deteriorating condition of 711 West End. Herschlag said he notified the DOB of his discoveries, but has heard nothing in response. “[The DOB] should’ve done a better job at vetting the tenant protection plan,” Herschlag said. “In addition to that, my laundry list of objections encompasses the obvious, the less obvious, but none of it was ever responded to formally.” The DOB said the project has been thoroughly reviewed numerous times, that the work could be done in a safe and code-compliant manner, and that the developer implemented strong protections for

c 711, continued on p.18 3


Tenant Harassment Takes Center Stage BY JOAQUIN COTLER

M

ore than 100 people — tenants, representatives of community and legal advocacy organizations, and elected officials — rallied on City Hall’s steps on the morning of February 23 calling on the City Council to pass a package of bills intended to curb what is often referred to “construction-as-harassment” on the part of landlords. Their chants could not have been more clear: “What do we want? Our bills passed! When do we want it? Now!” Tenant groups from around the city assembled to voice their support for the Stand for Tenant Safety — or STS — bills, a collection of 12 measures aimed at helping tenants protect themselves against bad-acting landlords. Seven of the 12 bills have been already come before the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee, but they have not yet been brought to the f loor to receive an up or down vote by the full Council. “Each year, hundreds and hundreds of residents come to my office to seek help in the face of harassment from their landlords, often in the form of illegal or unscrupulous construction work,” said Upper West Side Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who is one of 11 councilmembers who are sponsoring one or more of the bills in the package of reforms. “We need more tools to help them. We need a Department of Buildings that works for tenants, not just for owners and contractors. The reforms in the Stand for Tenant Safety legislation would be an important step toward re-centering the agency’s priorities to put residents’ safety first and prevent the harassment that too often goes undetected. It is critical that we pass these bills.” Rosenthal’s bill, Intro. 944, would require on-site building permits to identify the occupancy status of a building undergoing construction to prevent landlords from falsely claiming the structure is empty so they can expedite the permitting process and would also penalize those who provide such false information. Rosenthal, who emphasized she was “proud to stand with this citywide coalition and with my citywide coalition of councilmembers, is co-sponsoring that measure with her West Side colleague Corey Johnson. A ffordable housing advocates and many tenants argue that landlords often employ dangerous construction work as a means of harassing rent-regulated tenants to force them to move. “Too often, tenants in rent-regulated apartments are being forced out of their homes to escape construction harassment,” said Jane Li, an attorney with the Community Develop-

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JOAQUIN COTLER

Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal and Margaret Chin, joined by other elected officials and tenants’ advocates, speak at a February 23 rally for the Stand for Tenant Safety package of reform bills currently working their way through the Council.

ment Project of the Urban Justice Center. “New York City residents are put at risk and lose their homes so landlords can reap bigger profits.” In her State of the City speech one week prior to the February 23 rally, Council Speaker Melissa 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. 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 housing is lost,” Kielbasa stressed. “We need these laws yesterday. Our communities are being torn apart by construction-as-harassment.”

Councilmember Margaret Chin, who represents portions of Lower Manhattan, lamented that only seven of the dozen bills have even gotten a hearing. “For the other five that haven’t had a hearing yet, we need to continue to push,” 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 is a co-sponsor, with Brooklyn’s Carlos Menchaca, of Intro. 918, which would strengthen restrictions on construction and ratchet up building inspection. Menchaca condemned “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. Adelis Savignon, a tenant at 342 Bergen Street in Gowanus, said she has experienced

c TENANT HARASSMENT, continued on p.23 March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


STAND FOR TENANT SAFETY The following 12 bills, currently before the City Council, are aimed at improving oversight of building construction and renovation by landlords to prevent them from using that to harass tenants out of their homes. The measures, first introduced in 2015, are sponsored by 11 councilmembers and supported by Stand for Tenant Safety (standfortenantsafety.com), a citywide coalition of community organizations.

Intro. 918, sponsored by Lower Manhattan Councilmember Margaret Chin and Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca: Requires Department of Building (DOB) inspection, rather than developer self-certification, for proposed construction where more than 10 percent of units are occupied and for buildings owned by a person who has been found guilty of tenant harassment.

Intro. 924, sponsored by Brooklyn Councilmember Rafael Espinal: Requires DOB to issue orders to correct simultaneously with orders to vacate where safety conditions warrant that so landlords don’t use unsafe conditions as a pretext to drive tenants out.

Intro. 926, sponsored by East Side Councilmember Dan Garodnick:

Establishes a three-year interagency task force among the DOB, Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Environmental Protection to coordinate a citywide policy toward tenant issues arising from residential rehabilitation and renovation construction work.

Intro. 930 and Intro. 931, sponsored by East Side Councilmember Ben Kallos: Expand the category of buildings where landlord Environmental Control Board fines can be subject to a lien on which the city can move toward foreclosure in the event fines are not paid, and including apartment buildings with 20 or more units where those fines have hit $60,000 or more.

Intro. 934, sponsored by Brooklyn Councilmember Stephen Levin: Creates a Real Time Enforcement unit to conduct inspections of work being done without a permit within two hours of a complaint, carry out periodic and ongoing

inspections of permitted work that alters more than 10 percent of an existing building or creates an addition, and publish online annual statistics on DOB’s performance in accomplishing these goals.

Intro. 936, sponsored by West Side Councilmember Mark Levine: Strengthens the requirements for landlords filing a tenant protection plan as part of the DOB permitting process and makes those plans available online at DOB.

Intro. 938, sponsored by Brooklyn Councilmember Antonio Reynoso: Creates a watch list for contractors who have performed work without a required permit within the preceding two years and increase inspection requirements for sites where they are working.

Intro. 939, also sponsored by Reynoso: Increases the penalty for doing work without a permit in one- or two-family dwellings to eight times (previously four times) the amount of the permit fee, with a $1,000 minimum (up from $500). For larger buildings, increases the penalties to 28 times the permit fee (up from 14 times), with a $10,000 minimum (up from $5,000).

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Intro. 960, sponsored by Lower Manhattan Councilmember Rosie Mendez: Requires landlords to post a “Safe Construction Bill of Rights” at least 14 days prior to the start of construction work, in addition to the required tenant protection plan. — Paul Schindler

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JACKSON CHEN

The 91st Street Marine Trans Station under construction near Asphalt Green on the Upper East Side.

BY JACKSON CHEN

W

ith neighbors of the planned 91st Street Marine Transfer Station (MTS), now under construction, still unhappy about its impending opening in 2020, members of Community Board 8 have stepped up their demands for greater financial accountability regarding the project, including an audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office. The MTS was approved more than a decade ago, in 2006, as pa r t of for mer Mayor M ichael Bloomberg’s Solid Waste Management Plan. The project involves a 10-story facility where garbage trucks will unload trash onto a barge for shipment out of state. T he project has engendered strong community opposition, a nd t he or ig i na l t r uck ra mp, using an East 91st Street access — and cutting a swatch through the Asphalt Green athletic complex — was a particular bone of contention given concerns about you ng people accessi ng t he sports facilities at 91st. In late 2015, the cit y agreed to add a second ramp accessing the MTS v ia 92nd St reet, t houg h t hat entrance will not be ready by the time of the trash facility’s openi ng. T he pla n is to eventua lly have the 92nd Street ramp be the primar y access point, with the original 91st Street ramp used only for emergency situations. With the expected surge in diesel garbage trucks frequenting the area, many Upper East Side residents have raised concerns about the air quality, and safety fears were exacerbated in March

2016, when a 55-year-old pedestrian, Jodi McGrath, was struck a nd k illed by a ga rbage t r uck making a left turn onto First Avenue at East 92nd Street. Now, CB8 is again raising concerns that the city’s cost estimate of $226 million for the project is a low-ball figure. Last April, the board unanimously pa ssed a resolut ion requesting that Stringer audit the project within six months to a year to investigate whether it is going over budget and to assess whether the MTS project was an efficient use of city funds. Nea rly 11 mont hs later, t he board has not received a formal response from Stringer, according to CB8 members. “From what I understand [of the MTS], cost overruns are sign i f ic a nt s o we h ad a ske d for a n aud it,” A br a ha m S a lcedo, CB8’s Environment and Sanitation Committee co-chair, said. “ To date, not only have we not received a n ack nowledgement of the resolution, but we’ve not received a response one way or the other.” Sa lcedo added t hat when he asked St r i nger, du r i ng a n appearance by the comptroller before CB8 later last year, about looking into the MTS, Stringer pulled him aside afterwards and sa id he “was not happy t hat I asked that question.” Stringer, who served as Manhattan borough president from 2006 until 2014, when he became c o m p t r o l l e r, w a s o n r e c o r d encouraging the city to relocate

c MARINE TRANSFER, continued on p.10

March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Brewer, Garodnick Field Feedback on Midtown East Rezoning BY JACKSON CHEN

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ith the Midtown East rezoning plan progressing through its formal approval process, the Manhattan Borough Board — a body composed of the borough president, its councilmembers, and the chairs of its 12 community boards — held a forum to field questions and suggestions from parties who will be affected by the plan aimed at spurring modern office development in that district. On March 2, Borough President Gale Brewer and East Side City Councilmember Dan Garodnick welcomed testimony from those impacted by the planned rezoning of a swath of Midtown bordered by East 39th Street and 57th Streets, between Third and Fifth Avenues, extending to Second Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets. The rezoning would offer developers incentives to build denser office towers than they would other wise be able to by buying unused development rights from landmarked structures throughout the district or by contributing to public realm improvement projects. “It’s officially really just the beginning of the process, that’s why this conversation is so important,” Garodnick said. “We also recognize these plans tend to get better with public contribution.” Garodnick and Brewer had cochaired a steering committee that produced a 2015 report that formed the basis for the Department of City Planning’s rezoning proposal now under consideration. One opinion voiced by numerous organizations involved the $393 square foot floor price, established earlier this year by the DCP, as the peg for setting the contribution made to a Public Realm Improvement Fund in connection w ith development rights sales. That contribution will be calculated as the greater of 20 percent of the sale value or $78.60 per square foot, one-fifth of $393. Critics said the number was far too high given current market conditions. Representatives of major landmarked properties in the area a rgued t hat hav ing to give up $78.60 per square foot would effectively yield them less than 80 cents

JACKSON CHEN

After the Manhattan Borough Board meeting on the Midtown East rezoning plan, Borough President Gale Brewer (center) chats with the Regional Plan Association’s Pierina Sanchez (left) and the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Andrea Goldwyn.

on the dollar for selling their development rights — and could actually depress the volume of rights sold and therefore the total contribution to the Public Realm Improvement Fund, which will be overseen by a governing board to provide for open spaces and transit improvements. Joseph Rosenberg, representing the Archdiocese of New York and the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Marcia Caban, the executive director of Central Synagogue, both claimed the floor price was “unrealistic.” “The floor price is an unrealistic amount for an assumed minimum sales price, and it could actually hinder the transfer of f loor area since it may not be worthwhile to transfer floor area when a disproportionate amount of the sale price

is not actually received,” Caban said, emphasizing that landmarks like the Central Synagogue would be deprived of needed maintenance funds in the process. Caban was joined by Rosenberg and the New York Landmarks Conservancy in calling for doing away with the floor price altogether and relying instead on a simple levy of 20 percent of the development rights’ sale value. Other suggestions, however, would move t he debate in t he other direction. Community Board 5 member Michael Greeley said CB5 would like to see the public improvement lev y increased from 20 to 30 percent, to insure adequate funding for public space amenities. CB5, he said, was satisfied with keeping a floor price, but

JACKSON CHEN

Borough President Brewer and (at far right) Councilmember Dan Garodnick listen to community input on the rezoning plan.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 09 -22, 2017

thought it should be reassessed ever y three years, rather than between three and five years. Greeley was joined by ot her members of Community Boards 5 and 6, which both plan votes on the rezoning this week, in offering their thoughts. Other preservation advocates pressed for greater oversight on the nature of the district’s redevelopment. Simeon Bankoff of the Historic District Councils called for more public oversight and review regarding the as-of-right transfer of development rights to promote transparency and better buildings. Several speakers noted that supertall office buildings could cast shadows on Central Park or Greenacre Park, a tucked-away pocket park at 217 East 51st Street. According to Lois Cremmins, the executive director of the Greenacre Foundation that oversees that park, the additional shade produced by coming developments would impair the park’s honey locust trees, limit the variety of plantings, and reduce park usage. Cremmins’ suggestions were echoed by Thomas Devaney, the Municipal Art Society’s senior director of land use and planning, who also called for shadow mitigation measures, especially for Greenacre Park. CB5’s Greeley also pointed to the need for a shadow study or a mitigation mechanism to prevent unwanted impacts on Central Park and other open spaces. Kathy Thompson, a CB6 member who lives in Turtle Bay, said she feared that expected office development would essentially turn her quiet neighborhood into a commercial district. Thompson’s fellow board member Kathleen Kelly said that there should be more transparency on expenditures from the Public Realm Improvement Fund, citing concern that Metropolitan Transportation Authority projects would be favored over open space projects. As Manhattan Express went to press on March 8, CB6 was taking up the rezoning plan, with CB5 expected to vote the following night during its full board meeting, according to chair Wally Rubin. Their votes will be followed by the Borough Board’s vote on March 16. n

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A Smoother Ride to the Top at Isaacs Houses, Holmes Towers BY JACKSON CHEN

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n a series of improvements with significant daily impact on residents of high-rise towers, the New York City Housing Authority is in the process of modernizing the elevators at the Isaacs Houses and Holmes Towers on First Avenue between East 92nd and 95th Streets. The work on the two complexes is part of NYCHA’s bigger push to upgrade the essential elevators its residents rely on citywide. So far, the agency has upgraded 632 elevators at 32 different sites, spending $315 million since 2010. The new elevators at the Isaacs Houses, which consist of three 24-story towers, cost NYCHA $2.7 million, while the renovation at the Holmes Towers, two 25-story buildings, came to $1.8 million, according to the agency’s deputy press secretary, Zodet Negron. With more than 300 properties serving thousands of residents, NYCHA’s more than 3,000 elevators can see up to 3.2 million trips per day, or roughly 1.2 billion trips a year, according to agency numbers. With so much use, NYCHA elevators sustain a greater than usual amount of wear-and-tear, according to Ford Weiner, a NYCHA elevator administrator. To preempt problems that would result from serious elevator breakdowns, NYCHA is proactively modernizing the elevators in Isaacs a nd Holmes before t hey reach severe levels of outages. Given the height of the towers, Negron said, the agency obviously has to keep one of each building’s two elevators operating while replacing the other. According to Weiner, the 1830 First Avenue building of Isaacs Houses had its A elevator out for 28 weeks — a marked increase over NYCHA’s standard 20-week overhaul schedule — before it was usable again on September 12. A couple of weeks later, crews began work on the B elevator, taking it out of service on September 28. Weiner explained that with receipt of a Department of Buildings certificate of operation expected later this week, the elevator w ill be ready for residents to use.

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JACKSON CHEN

An elevator crew at the Isaac Houses work on the top of a new cab being installed.

JACKSON CHEN

Chris Pedersen checks out the control room for the new elevators at the Isaac Houses’ 1830 First Avenue building.

T he new elevators feature a stainless steel cab that is resistant to graffiti, rust, and water. For tenants’ safety, the cabs are equipped with new LED lighting and security cameras. According to Chris Pedersen, the contract inspector for the elevator modernization program at Isaacs and Holmes, the new elevators’ control systems also represent an advance from earlier models. Pedersen explained that the motor room at the top of the elevators is much quieter, better lit, and equipped w ith modern control systems that monitor the elevator cars and easily identify if and when a problem occurs. The key joints in the motors that operate the elevators are not exposed to oil and grease buildup, as used to be the case. Pedersen added that the motors are also equipped with three sets of brakes for safety redundancy. “Maintenance will be greatly reduced, and the chances of [the elevator] shutting down is going to be greatly reduced,” Pedersen said. “But then if there is something that’s wrong with it, they can assess what it is that much quicker and be able to get it back to service.” With the Isaacs Houses’ second set of elevators opening this week, Weiner said he expects the neighboring Holmes Towers’ elevators to be completed by the end of March. Looking forward, he said, the new equipment should easily last 30 to 50 years with regular monthly service inspections. For residents, no matter what floor they’re on, the elevators are a crucial part of living in NYCHA properties. Prettina Murray, a 15-year resident of Holmes Tower who lives on the third floor, said she a nd her fel low r e sident s were very enthusiastic about the upgrades. Murray helps out the contractors as a volunteer elevator monitor, reporting any problems she notices to Pederson. Asked about her experience with the old elevators, Murray said it “wasn’t too good.” “It was time for an upgrade, definitely,” she added, pointing to her building’s large number of senior and wheelchair-bound residents.

March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Shearith Israel Secures Final OK for Nine-Story Development BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Board of Standards and Appeals, in a swift, unanimous vote on February 28, approved Congregation Shearith Israel’s plans to construct a nine-story mixed-use development behind the synagogue at 8 West 70th Street. The project was originally conceptualized in 2008, with five residential floors topping out a building with three floors of offices and classrooms plus a ground floor lobby. Those plans were approved back in 2008, but faced several roadblocks, and CSI had to return to the BSA for a new approval. CSI and its representatives appeared again before the BSA this past October, and a lengthy public hearing followed on January 10. The unanimous vote last week came without discussion.

JACKSON CHEN

Shearith Israel, on Central Park West and 70th Street, has won approval from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals to proceed with a ninestory mixed-use development behind it on West 70th Street.

According to Zachary Bernstein, a representative for CSI, the synagogue is grateful for the approval and welcomes the chance to finally move the project forward. The opposition to the project voiced disappointment w ith the BSA’s decision, but acknowledged that they could see the handwriting on the wall. Kate Wood, the president of Landmark West!, said she felt her side had strong arguments against the project but conceded that last week’s action put an end to any chance at blocking it through city channels. “I think this whole process has been one of the BSA coaching the applicant to deliver the information... a package they could approve,” she sa id. “I don’t t hink t here was ever a question that they were going to approve it because of the enormous influence the synagogue and their lobbyists were using over the decision process.” Working alongside Wood, neighbors had formed the West Side Neighbors Association and retained Michael Hiller, an attorney

MAX

c Shearith, continued on p.18 ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 09 -22, 2017

9


Queensboro Oval’s Fate Still Uncertain, Sutton East Tennis Given Another Year BY JACKSON CHEN

A

s the debate over the permanent status of the Queensboro Oval continues, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation has announced it will renew the Sutton East Tennis Club’s license to operate at the park for another year. Sutton East Tennis Club has run a seasonal paid facility, housed in an inflatable bubble structure, for up to eight months a year at the Queensboro Oval, on York Avenue between East 59th and 60th Streets, since 1979. But that arrangement has recently been embroiled in controversy, with Community Board 8 attempting to return the space to the public as a full-time park. With CB8 pushing the parks department to reevaluate the best utilization of the 1.2-acre site underneath the Queensboro Bridge, the city last year put off a planned request for proposals for a private operator of the space. The current lease expires on August 31, and with no final decision on whether the park will revert to public control or continue to mix public and private uses, Parks opted to renew the Sutton East Tennis Club’s lease on a one-year basis to avoid having the land sit empty with no recreational facilities. “NYC Parks is pursuing a one-year extension to their license, with potential one-year renewals at Parks’ discretion, while we fully consider the site’s long-term best use,” according to parks department spokesperson Crystal Howard. Emphasizing the goal of keeping the park land in use while any new configuration of the space is designed and built, the department said the tennis club would continue operating until plans are finalized and funds are secured. The parks department presented several designs for a full-time public park in January, and CB8 members voiced greatest support for a plan to have a multi-use field fill the entire space. Though CB8’s Parks Committee previously indicated it wanted to open the park up to the pub-

c MARINE TRANSFER, from p.6 the 91st Street access ramp to a safer location, but has generally been vaguer in his public statements about other aspects of the controversial project. According to CB8 members, a Stringer representative, Eric Holguin, did not offer any useful clarifications about the comptrol-

10

JACKSON CHEN

Tony Scolnick, owner of the Sutton East Tennis Club.

JACKSON CHEN

The entryway to the Sutton East tennis bubble in the Queensboro Oval.

lic permanently as soon as the current Sutton East lease expires, CB8 chair Jim Clynes said the board is “disappointed, but we understand” the parks department’s decision to extend Sutton East’s license. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel since the renewal is just for one year,” he told Manhattan Express. “We will continue to work closely with our elected officials and Commissioner [Mitchell] Silver so that one day the Queensboro Oval is returned to the public full-time year round.” Tony Scolnick, Sutton East’s owner, said he is thrilled he will be able to continue operating

ler’s position on an audit at the full board’s February meeting. Dur ing a later Env ironment and Sanitation Committee meeting, the idea of filing a Freedom of In for mat ion L aw request of Stringer’s office looking for information about the MTS was floated, but instead CB8 chair Jim Clynes was asked to reach out to the comptroller’s office first either

for the time being. He noted that several tennis club players showed up at a CB8 meeting on February 15 to voice their support for his facility and 3,500 people signed an online petition calling for the club’s preservation. “The real question for the parks department... [is] what is the best use for this particular facility,” Scolnick said. “That’s what they are trying to figure out, that’s why they gave us this year extension. They haven’t figured it out yet.” The Sutton East owner argued that an indoor tennis club promotes the greatest use of the Queensboro Oval since it protects players from the harsh winter weather as well as the noise and fumes emanating from the bridge. Scolnick said he did informal tallies using surveillance photos and found that last year on many summer days less than five people were using the park. “We feel the best use is to have it covered because of the elements outside and the amount of people who use it,” Scolnick said. “Having an outdoor turf field, you’re not going to get the same use during the winter where there’s three or four months that no one is really going to be using it.” CB8 members and residents have told parks department officials that low use when the tennis bubble isn’t around could be the result of residents being unfamiliar with the park’s availability since Sutton East operates there for most of the year. If the parks department redesigns the Queensboro Oval as a fulltime park, proponents argue, residents will become more aware of the recreational opportunities available there. Scolnick said that if the parks department eventually decides to end Sutton East’s license for the space, there aren’t many alternative spots in the city to accommodate clay tennis courts, leaving many of his customers — as well as his employees — out of luck. “We have people as young as three, as old as mid-80s playing tennis,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we feel that this is the best use of the facility for this community.” n

through a letter or a phone call. Holguin assured Clynes that his office would follow up with more information. According to Tyrone Stevens, a spokesperson for Stringer, the comptroller’s office is “currently exploring the issues raised about the Marine Transfer Station. We hear the concerns that have been ra ised about gover nment eff i-

ciency and responsiveness. These are two primary reasons for our audits, which require extensive background research before we can commence them.” Stevens emphasi zed t hat Stringer’s office is committed to partnering with local residents a nd st a keholder s “ t o en su r e proper oversight and transparency” regarding the project. n

March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Russian Dual-Language Program Approved for UWS School BY JACKSON CHEN

P

.S. 145 at 150 West 105t h Street will get the borough’s first Russian dual-language program through the city Department of Education starting this September, according to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. To be approved for a dual-language program, the DOE looks for a school where an equal amount of students with English as their primary language and students whose primary tongue is the foreign language want to be taught the curriculum in both. The Russian program coming to P.S. 145, open next year to kindergarteners, is one of 39 dual-language programs being introduced citywide for 2017-2018. Outside dual-language programs, the DOE is also incorporating transitional bilingual education programs into 29 schools in the city. The transitional classes are initially taught in the native language with intensive support in English and gradually become more English-focused until the students are profi-

cient. The entire language initiative of dual-language and transitional bilingual education programs will cost the city $1.1 million. “As a first-generation A merican and former English Language Learner, I know firsthand the many benefits of being bilingual, and this expansion will expose many more students in our city’s schools to multiple languages,” Fariña said in a press release. “We’ve made essential strides for ELL and bilingual students, and these rigorous programs will establish a path to long-term student success while bringing parents to the classroom in new ways.” Each of the schools starting a dual-language program will receive a $20,000 planning grant — transitional classes will get $10,000 — and be provided ongoing training and professional development to ensure the programs’ quality. The effort for the Russian duallanguage program began with two Upper West Side moms, Julia Stoyanovich and Olga Ilyashenko. The women wanted their children to be

JACKSON CHEN

P.S. 145 on West 105th Street will host the borough’s first Russian dual-language program beginning in September.

raised with both languages so they could retain their Russian heritage but also have English-speaking students be exposed to Russian literature and culture. The Russian dual-language program arrives along with 12 Spanish dual-language programs and two Chinese transitional bilingual education programs introduced into Manhat-

tan schools. “We are a city of immigrants that is stronger because of our different cultures and languages,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a written release. “This bilingual expansion will provide thousands more students with high-quality programs, and sends a clear message that we welcome all families in our school system.” n

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11


Serving Your Kitchen From Hellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kitchen for 85 Years BY DENNIS LYNCH

H

ellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Kitchen has changed a lot over the last 100 years, but thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one institution on West 38th Street thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s changed very little. Esposito Meat Market, at 500 Ninth Avenue on the corner of West 38th, a traditional Italian butcher shop run by the family from which it takes its name, is still sending locals home with cuts of the prime meats and a smile on their face. Third-generation owner Robert Esposito said itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that personal service as well as quality products that have kept people coming â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and coming back â&#x20AC;&#x201D; over the years. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the atmosphere of an old time butcher shop,â&#x20AC;? Esposito said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We do one thing, the meats, no supermarket stuff. When going to an oldtime shop, you get better quality and better service.â&#x20AC;? You donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to take his word for it. Ask regular Curtis Jewell, whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been a customer for two decades. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not like a supermarket where youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re just a number,â&#x20AC;? Jewell said.

DENNIS LYNCH

Esposito Meat Market has been on the corner of West 38th and Ninth Avenue for 85 years.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;They know you, they know your name, they know what you like, how to cut it for you, they do the right thing for you.â&#x20AC;? Jewell is right â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the butchers at Esposito have really gotten to know their customers. Many of them have been there for 10 to 15 years and the longest-serving employee has been there for 32 years, nearly as long as Robert himself.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;We try to treat everyone like family, our costumers and our employees,â&#x20AC;? Esposito said. They were on a first-name basis with almost everyone who walked in during this reporterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s visit. Between shooting the breeze with Robert and the others while he waited for his order, Jewell planned a workout session with one before he left with his deli meats, ground

beef, and sausages. When Jewell first started coming to Esposito, Robertâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s father Teddy was running the show behind the counter. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just a young man compared to some of the shopâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s oldest customers. Robert mentioned an elderly woman named Olga who still comes down every month or so to stock up on meats; sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been shopping there for 60 years. The family has passed on the deed to the corner shop from generation to generation since Robertâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grandfather Giovanni first opened there just before the Great Depression hit, joining the dozens of butcher shops and meat markets that lined Ninth Avenue and made up Paddyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Market. Giovanni was already a successful butcher, running his shop first on Mulberry Street and then on West 40th Street, before settling at the corner of 38th and Ninth. The construction of the Lincoln Tunnel access between Ninth and 10th Avenues

c ESPOSITO, continued on p.23

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Police Blotter ASSAULT: ELEVATOR EXCHANGE (19th Precinct) A woman attacked a fellow subwaygoer on March 6 at around 2 p.m. as they waited for the elevator to exit the 86th Street station on Second Avenue, police said. The two began arguing as they waited, according to police, and the suspect pushed the 71-year-old victim and punched her when they got in the elevator. When the elevator reached street level, the suspect fled. The victim refused medical attention when police arrived. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews. nyc), whom they describe as a black female, approximately 28 years old, 5’6”, with a dark complexion, braided hair, and last seen wearing a green jacket, blue jeans, black sneakers, a black hoodie, and glasses, and carrying a tan bag.

tal, where he was pronounced dead.

FATAL COLLISION: STRUCK BY A TRUCK (24th Precinct)

ASSAULT: TERRIBLE TEENS (Midtown South Precinct)

On February 24 at around 6 a.m., a truck going northbound on Amsterdam Avenue struck an 83-year-old man who was trying to cross the avenue at West 95th Street, police said. According to police, a 56year-old man was driving a freight truck in the right lane of the avenue before hitting the pedestrian. The driver stayed on the scene, and the pedestrian was lying in the roadway when police arrived. The man was transported to St. Luke’s Hospi-

Police are looking for three teenagers who may be responsible for assaulting a 25-year-old female victim on February 5 at around 12:30 a.m. According to police, the woman was waiting on the northbound 2 train platform at the Times Square-42nd Street station when she began arguing with the three suspects. When the dispute turned physical, the victim suffered swelling and bruises on her face, but refused medical attention.

The suspects ran off. Police released a video of the suspects (available at manhattanexpressnews. nyc), whom they describe as one black female, two black males, all between 15 and 19 years old.

GRAND LARCENY: SAMSUNG SNATCHED (Midtown South Precinct) Police are looking for two teenagers who were seen snatching a Samsung cellphone from a 40-year-old woman on Feb-

c BLOTTER, continued on p.14

HOMICIDE: CHARGED WITH MURDER (28th Precinct) Police, on March 4, arrested and charged Hector Centeno with the murder of 22-year-old Michael Riley in January. Police said Centeno, a 24-year-old Harlem resident, killed Riley, an upstate Liberty resident who was found on January 25 at around 8 p.m. outside 218 St. Nicholas Avenue, between West 120th and 121st Streets. Riley was found with a gunshot wound to his head and transported to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was declared dead, police said.

ASSAULT: MADMAN AT THE MET (Central Park Precinct) A man smashed a bottle over the head of a Metropolitan Museum of Art security guard on March 3 at around 6:15 p.m., police said. According to police, the suspect struck the security guard with the bottle after a verbal dispute. The 46-year-old victim was taken to Cornell Hospital with a cut to his head and in stable condition. Police released a photo and a video of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a white male, 20 to 25 years old, 5’8”, 150 pounds, and last seen wearing all black clothing.

Visit ManhattanExpressNews.nyc for area precinct listing. ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 09 -22, 2017

13


Waldorf Interiors Win Landmark Designation

JACKSON CHEN

A portion of the first floor lobby of the Waldorf Astoria.

BY JACKSON CHEN

T

he Waldorf Astoria is now a protected landmark, inside and out, as the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved several of the hotel’s hallways and ballrooms as its 119th interior landmark on March 7. On top of a 1993 landmark designation protecting the exterior of the famed Art Deco hotel, the LPC’s new decision now confers landmark status on spaces from the building’s ground to third floors. The first floor’s lobbies, the Park Avenue Lobby and the Main Lobby, are included under the designation, as are the Silver Gallery, the Grand Ballroom, the Basildon Room, the Jade Room, and the Astor Gallery on the third floor. “The Waldorf Astoria Hotel has some of the most internationally renowned rooms in all of New York City,” the LPC’s chair, Meenakshi Srinivasan, said in a written statement. “Today’s action not only protects the rich and beautifully detailed Art Deco features of the

hotel’s interior public spaces, it also preserves the unique experience of moving through the hotel’s varied interiors, which countless New Yorkers and visitors have enjoyed for more than eight decades.” Built with lavish interiors in 1931, the hotel has since hosted innumerable world leaders as well as American presidents on their visits to New York. Given the historical and cultural significance of the Waldorf, many New Yorkers assumed the hotel’s interiors were already protected. But when the Chinese insurance group Anbang bought the property in 2014, landmark advocates rang the bell to secure the hotel interiors’ future. Despite initial rocky relations between Anbang and preservationists, the insurance giant soon came around to cooperating with the LPC and landmarking advocates in charting a course to preserve the hotel’s unique architectural gems during what is expected to be a major makeover of the building. “Anbang knows the Waldorf Astoria’s history is a large part of what

c BLOTTER, from p.13 ruary 28 at around 11:30 a.m. Police said the two were on the southbound platform of the Grand Central-42nd Street station when they grabbed the victim’s cellphone from her hand and then ran up the escalator. Police said there were no injuries in the incident. Police released photos of the suspects (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as black males, approximately 14 to 16 years old, with dark complexions, one with twisted black hair, brown eyes, and last seen wearing a blue jacket, a gray shirt, gray pants, and gray sneakers, and the other with black hair

14

JACKSON CHEN

The stairway to the first floor lobby at the Park Avenue entrance to the Waldorf Astoria.

makes this hotel so unforgettable,” the company said in a statement. “That is why we fully supported the Commission’s recommendations for designation of the Waldorf Astoria’s most important public spaces and applaud the Commission on achieving landmark status for them.” The company added that it was fitting that the Waldorf received the most extensive interior designation of any private building in New York City because of its “unparalleled history and beautiful, irreplaceable features.” The designation came as welcome news for the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which first sounded the alarms after Anbang’s purchase in 2014. A fter initial reports surfaced that the company intended to do gut renovations of the hotel, the conservancy reached out to the LPC to look into landmarking the Waldorf ’s interiors before any construction began. “We were the ones who led the public effort to designate the Waldorf,” said Glen Umberger, the conservancy’s manager of special projects.

and last seen wearing a green jacket and blue jeans.

BANK ROBBERY: MAKING OFF ON MADISON (Midtown South Precinct) A man is wanted for robbing a Santander Bank at 330 Madison Avenue, between 42nd and 43rd Streets on February 27 at around 3:30 p.m., police said. The suspect passed a note to the teller saying he had a gun and wanted cash, according to police. No gun was displayed, police said, but the teller complied and the suspect made off with an undetermined amount of money, fleeing north on Madison Avenue.

“We are thrilled beyond belief that it’s finally a finished designation.” Umberger said there were additional spaces that he would like to have seen landmarked, including the 18th floor Starlight Roof, an elevator lobby on the Lexington Avenue side, and some areas connected to the main lobby. The conservancy, however, is thrilled that the LPC designated most of the areas under discussion. Umberger and his group worked on a similar hotel interiors designation with the nearby Plaza Hotel at 768 Fifth Avenue, just below Central Park, in 2004. He noted that in the case of the Waldorf, the advocates’ efforts were facilitated by having the support of the owner, Anbang. “We’re fortunate that the owners have been supportive of the designation process,” Umberger said. “That’s not always the case. When the owners understand that they have an architectural gem on their hands and they’re willing to work with the LPC and other organizations like us to landmark it, that’s always a good thing.” n

Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male in his mid-40s, 5’10”, a heavyset build, and last seen wearing a black jacket, black hat, and black gloves.

Visit ManhattanExpressNews.nyc for area precinct listing. March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


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15


EXPRESS OURSELVES

Time for Council Action on Tenant Harassment 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.

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

Y

ou can’t swing a dead cat in Manhattan without hitting a politician willing to denounce President Donald Trump in no uncertain terms. Among the justified knocks on the new White House occupant is that his agenda will have a corrosive impact on the faith Americans place in the power of government to play a positive role in their lives. Health care, protection of the environment, productive relationships with longtime US allies, and the tradition of welcoming immigrants to our nation all seem to be on the chopping block. It’s all for the good that New York’s elected officials are willing to mount resistance to the odious and often ill-conceived initiatives of the new president. But, at this critical moment, opposition is not enough. Progressive leaders have a responsibility for showing they can bring meaningful improvements for those who elect them. Our local politicians must seize the initiative. One place where the City Council can play a hugely productive role is in protecting millions of rental tenants from harassment

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

16

undertaken, and enhance coordination among the major city agencies responsible for tenant health, safety, and security. There is no doubt that the 12 proposed measures enjoy wide support. Eleven members of the Council — including seven from Manhattan — are sponsors of one or more of them; Borough President Gale Brewer held a January forum where she championed the package of reforms; and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, an eighth Manhattan representative, endorsed the broad outlines of the package in her recent State of the City Speech. Still, of the 12 bills, which were first introduced in 2015, five have not yet gone before Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams’ Housing and Buildings Committee. It’s time for Williams to hold hearings on the remaining bills and for Mark-Viverito to move the entire package to the Council floor for an up or down vote. New York City has an opportunity to show what progressive government can deliver for its citizens. But for thousands of residents citywide facing hostile landlords, time is of the essence. n

EXPRESS YOURSELVES

Rethinking Violent Crime and Prison

Manhattan Express is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, C.E.O. | Fax: 212-229-2790

by landlords, particularly unscrupulous ones eager to replace rentstabilized residents in their buildings with new tenants willing to pay higher rents. The Council is currently weighing a package of 12 reforms, dubbed the Stand for Tenant Safety legislation, that would bring needed sunshine into the process of landlords undertaking significant renovations of their properties. In too many cases, documented by tenant advocacy groups and elected officials, landlords use such construction as a means of harassing tenants and forcing them to leave. This outrageous practice must stop. The measures under consideration would increase city oversight of such construction and make agencies accountable for carrying out such responsibilities, require landlords to correct emergency problems that necessitate tenants vacating their premises, stiffen fines for bad behavior by landlords and strengthen the city’s leverage in collecting such fines, provide transparency on what representations landlords have made about their renovations and what rights tenants have while they are being

BY LENORE SKENAZY

I

t’s no secret that America loves to send people to prison. We have less than five percent of the world’s population and more than 20 percent of its prisoners — which is odd for a “Land of Liberty.” Lately it has become common to attribute our mass incarceration to the war on drugs. The conversation goes like this: “Why don’t we just release the non-violent drug offenders? That makes so much sense!” And it does. But it will not make that big a dent in the number of people sitting in cells, says John Pfaff, a professor of law at Fordham University and author of the new book, “Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration —

and How to Achieve Real Reform.” (Book titles keep getting longer, don’t they?) Surprisingly, people arrested for drug crimes constitute only about 16 percentof the people in prison. Most of the rest are there for violent crimes. So for Pfaff the question is: Should we start releasing the violent criminals, too? At first blush, that sounds crazy. We need to keep violent offenders off the street! But one point that Pfaff makes is that “violent offender” is a misleading term. It makes it sound as if there is a class of people who are wired wrong and incorrigible. This is wrong on two counts. First of all, some crimes are labeled “violent” that aren’t — like breaking into a house.

But beyond that, some people are labeled “violent” who committed their crime only in the context of one particular situation. “You’re in a bad mood, you have a beer, you get in a fight with your friend at the bar and break his jaw,” said Pfaff. “If we’re trying to minimize future harm, some sort of anger management class might be more effective than prison.” But prison has become our kneejerk response to all violence, even though often this isn’t addressing the real problem. W h ich is? Wel l, sa id P fa f f, “Whenever you have young men who are denied upward social mobility and the state doesn’t do a

c PRISON, continued on p.17

March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c PRISON, from p.16 good job of preventing violent crime, these young men will engage in violence against each other. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s as true in 19th century Czarist Russia as it is in 20th century Los Angeles. What is necessary is a change of circumstance.â&#x20AC;? That might sound like a verse from the â&#x20AC;&#x153;West Side Storyâ&#x20AC;? song â&#x20AC;&#x201D; â&#x20AC;&#x153;Officer Krupke, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re really a slob, this boy donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need a doctor, just a good honest jobâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but Pfaff cites a current theory that looks at violence as an epidemic: A shoots B, Bâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s friends shoot C, Câ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s brother shoots D, and so forth. â&#x20AC;&#x153;One study tied 400 shootings back to one i n it ia l shoot i ng,â&#x20AC;&#x153; said Pfaff. If we could just stop that chain at the start, so many lives would be saved â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and so many fewer people would wind up in a cage. One method shown to work is a program in Boston called Project Ceasefire. It works like this: The cops determine which gangs are responsible for the majority of the gun violence. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Then they sit down and meet with those people and kind of give them two choices: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;If you persist in this violence, we will crack down on you as a group, aggressively,â&#x20AC;&#x2122;â&#x20AC;&#x2030;â&#x20AC;? said Pfaff. But the cops also bring in an array of social workers to help with housing, food, employment, health care. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And they say, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re willing to put this violence behind you, we will help you build a more stable life.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;focused deterrence.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s carrot and stick.â&#x20AC;? A program like this called Cure Violence was introduced in Chicago. â&#x20AC;&#x153;A nd when the state cut the funding a couple of years ago, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exactly when the violence in Chicago began its sharp increase,â&#x20AC;? Pfaff said.

LOCKED IN: THE TRUE CAUSES OF MASS INCARCERATION â&#x20AC;&#x201D; AND HOW TO ACHIEVE REAL REFORM

WONâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T YOU JOIN US?

By John Pfaff Basic Books $27.99; 272 pages

Somehow, one solitary neighborhood managed to keep its funding. And there, says Pfaff, the crime rate continued going down. This doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t definitively prove the program works. â&#x20AC;&#x153;But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s worth a lot more study,â&#x20AC;? he said. It certainly is. And so is a look at the prison guard unions. While many people are concerned about the advent of private prisons â&#x20AC;&#x201D; after all, these make money on â&#x20AC;&#x153;heads in beds,â&#x20AC;? so they support more incarceration â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the role of the public prison guard unions should not be ignored. Here in New York State, said Pfaff, our prison population is down 25 percent, and yet our correctional budget keeps going up. The more guards that are on the payroll, the more potential votes for laws that are tough â&#x20AC;&#x201D; perhaps excessively so â&#x20AC;&#x201D; on crime. After all, jobs depend on it. But lives depend on something else: Preventing violence, not just punishing it. Putting people behind bars ignores the cost to their families, and to taxpayers. If we want to make our cities safer, locking up violent offenders may not be the key. Lenore Skenazy is the author and founder of the book and blog â&#x20AC;&#x153;FreeRange Kidsâ&#x20AC;? and a contributor at Reason.com. n

>`SaS\bSRPg

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

Anthony Nicodemo

Ana MarĂ­a Archila & Andrea Batista Schlesinger

Eunic Ortiz Elisa Padilla

Christopher Bram

Leo Preziosi, Jr.

Lisa Cannistraci

Charles Rice-Gonzalez

Staceyann Chin

Manny Rivera

JD Davids

Doug Robinson

AndrĂŠs Duque

Therese Rodriguez

Bryan John Ellicott

Allen Roskoff

Ashley C. Ford

Robyn Streisand

Suzanne Goldberg Oriol R. Gutierrez

Christopher Tepper & Paul Kelterborn

Bishop Zachary Glenn Jones

Jennifer Flynn Walker

Howie Katz

Jillian Weiss

Terrance Knox

Edie Windsor

Donna Lieberman

Mel Wymore

Carmen Neely

Emanuel Xavier >`SaS\bSRPg(

List in formation

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ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 09 -22, 2017

Imagine

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Contact Amanda Tarley For More Information: 718-260-8340 | amanda@gaycitynews.com

gaycitynews.nyc 17


c Shearith, from p.9

LGBT FINANCIAL, BUSINESS & LEGAL PLANNING IN THE TRUMP ERA

known for representing residential opposition to major development projects. In a February 15 letter to the BSA chair, Margery Perlmutter, however, he also conceded defeat. “After the events that transpired at the most recent hearing, it is apparent to the Coalition that the Board is already disposed (and has been disposed since inception) to grant CSI’s application, and that the Coalition’s submissions

c 711, from p.3 With the election of Donald Trump as President, many new policies are being proposed that may affect your business, taxes, investment strategies and estate planning. The LGBT community may be uniquely impacted. Come learn from our panelists how to develop the best business and personal plans in a rapidly changing environment. Enjoy networking with Manhattan Chamber members and the panelists following the discussion. Panelists Alexander J. Fruchtman, Financial Advisor The Fruchtman Group Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

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18

the tenants of the existing building for the construction period. The agency has committed to continue working with the tenants and elected officials regarding their concerns about the project. While there were several dozen residents crowded outside 711 West End Avenue to praise the DOF decision, at least one resident has a different view of the matter. Liel Leibovitz, a 17-year tenant of the building, said, “The overwhelming majority of people feel favorably or very favorably about the project,” among the 140-odd rental units. According to Leibovitz, the project would provide shared spaces and amenities for both new and current tenants, including possibilities of a renovated lobby, an outdoor garden, and reading rooms. Those benefits, he said, represent a fair trade for the construction burdens necessary to create the 10-story condo topper. “It’s New York, people understand that construction stuff goes on all the time,” Leibovitz said. “If what you’re telling me is it’s going to be a little annoying for a short spell, and then instead of interacting with these two children here in this small apartment, I can go and spend some time in a lovely garden, I’m for it. And I think a lot of other people feel that way.” Characterizing the opposition as a minority of residents, he said most tenants would welcome the upgrades the new development would bring. About the warnings over dangers from the new construction, Leibovitz said, “They don’t pass the smell test.” “I 100-percent trust the people who are going to engineer this project,” he said, “that they would take everything as seriously as possible.”

will not be seriously considered or evaluated,” Hiller wrote. “Accordingly, we regard any substantive response to CSI’s most recent submission to be a waste of our time and our client’s resources.” Wood said there is a bigger question to be examined in light of what she and her allies view as favoritism toward CSI from the BSA. “We have to look at this not just in this specific case, but in the context of the larger concern of the integrity of these agencies and the administration,” she said. n

Cooper countered by saying her opposition group has a majority of the tenants as members. She said the developers have not made serious attempts to speak to any members of the group, except for a letter taped to the building’s elevator. According to the development group, the DOF’s recent rejection is just part of an ongoing discussion about how to create the two-building configuration within the tax laws and other city regulations. “We believe having two separate tax lots would be most consistent with the technical configuration of the permitted new building as well as the existing building,” the developer said in a statement, adding it is in active discussions with the DOF regarding the tax lot question. “To be clear, the feedback from DOF does not imperil the construction of additional residences above 711 West End Avenue,” the developer also said in the statement. “However, it does challenge the development team’s ability to offer the same level of rent concessions to residents and enhancements to the existing building that are intended under a separate tax lot proposal.” O’Donnell said that any administrative agency’s determinations can be challenged in court, but he added that overturning the DOF ruling is a highly unlikely path to success for the developer. The developer could also try to convert the rental building into a co-op or condominium — thereby eliminating the need for separate tax lots — but that would require state-level approvals as well as the cooperation of tenants. Moving forward, Rosenthal suggested tenants continue organizing and also stay on top of any outreach the developers make to individual apartment tenants. n

March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


ADVERTORIAL

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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

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 | March 09 -22, 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.

19


Reckless Abandonment BY DAVID KENNERLEY

J

oshua Harmon’s “Significant Other” was warmly received when it premiered Off-Broadway at the Roundabout’s intimate Laura Pels Theatre nearly two years ago, and for good reason. The heartfelt portrait of Jordan Berman, a socially inept, 29-year-old gay man yearning for love while his gal pals marry off one by one, was as tartly funny as it was touching. Sure, some characters were not fully fleshed out, the narrative had potholes and tired wedding clichés, and the play felt a little like a television sitcom. Overall it was a clever, absorbing diversion. Yet when I heard it was transferring to Broadway, I was dumbfounded. There was little chance, I thought, the modest effort, with no bankable stars, could hold its own in a large venue or satisfy fussy audiences paying $150 a ticket. I may have been too hasty. Under the razor-sharp guidance of director extraordinaire Trip Cullman (“The Substance of Fire,” “Some Men”), “Significant Other” has intensified in both drama and feeling, comfortably commanding the stage at the Booth Theatre. The scene transitions are tighter and Mark Wendland’s ingenious set, combining Jordan’s New York apartment, workplace, nightclubs, wedding venues, and his Grandma’s home, looks better than ever, thanks in part to Japhy Weideman’s expert lighting design. The performances are more polished and nuanced than I recall from the previous run. Gideon Glick brings a mournful strain of vulnerability to the neurotic dweeb Jordan. Although it’s annoyingly curious he has no gay male friends and there’s zero mention of his venturing out to a gay bar or toying with hookup apps like Scruff, he has an endearing quality that earns our empathy. Jordan’s besties are engagingly

20

JOAN MARCUS

Sas Goldberg, Gideon Glick, Rebecca Naomi Jones, and Luke Smith in Joshua Harmon’s “Significant Other,” directed by Trip Cullman, which has transferred to Broadway at the Booth Theatre, after an Off-Broadway run in 2015.

portrayed by Sas Goldberg, Lindsay Mendez, and Rebecca Naomi Jones (the only newcomer to the cast). Luke Smith and John Behlmann do an admirable job juggling the various roles of co-workers, boyfriends, husbands, and other significant others. And theater veteran Barbara Barrie puts a doleful spin on the typical kindly Grandma role. The occasional clichés (godawful bridesmaid dresses, a straight girl vowing to have a turkey-baster baby with her gay best bud if she doesn’t find Mr. Right) take a back seat to the poignant, overarching theme of the play: the soul-crushing fear of living and dying alone. “A ll t he t hings you got from our friendship, you get from Tony now. Which is great,” Jordan says though tears. “But all the things I got, things I really need — I’m not getting them from anyone.” What’s more, the play’s darker undercurrents are more intense. The casual mentions of suicide feel more threateningly real. Jor-

dan’s obsession with Will, the hot guy at the office (played with butch aloofness by Behlmann) isn’t just played for laughs; he’s got some serious self-esteem issues. When he quips that his therapist wants to up the dose of his anti-depressants, it’s not meant to be funny. The comedy has deepened as well. The scene where Jordan is hunched over his laptop, debating on whether to hit the “send” button after writing a mushy email to Will is no longer simply amusing, it’s laugh-out-loud funny and had the entire house in stitches. Glick’s comic timing is impeccable. Sad to say, the unflinching honesty found onstage does not extend to the marketing campaign. The fancy website touts the work as an “entirely delightful” story about how “people and relationships change,” but completely omits a key fact about Jordan — that he’s gay. A case could be made that his plight is universal and that his sexuality is immaterial, but I’m

SIGNIFICANT OTHER Booth Theatre 222 W. 45th St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2:30 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. $99-$147; SignficantOtherBroadway.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 15 mins., with intermission

not buying it. Being gay is a central part of Jordan’s identity and the action onstage. He spends several minutes describing the water glistening off Will’s muscular torso and sneaks into a locker room and sniffs his T-shirt. Later, one rare date ends with a full-on kiss with another man. Perhaps the producers feared that “Significant Other” would be labeled a “gay play” and cut into potential profits. And that’s a shame. n

March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Life — Writ Large

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Nearly a quarter-century after she first won a Tony for “Sunset Boulevard,” Glenn Close once again inhabits Norma Desmond.

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curiosity, a grotesque, and Joe was callous and opportunistic. In this production, the two are tragic heroes, done in by desperation, denial, and the ache to fit into a world that doesn’t want or care about them. In many respects, this is a “Sunset Boulevard” for our celebrity-besotted time, where the faces of the famous change almost as quickly

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 09 -22, 2017

c SUNSET, continued on p.23

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here rea lly is only word to describe the revival of “Sunset Boulevard” now on Broadway: glorious. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sprawling musical adaptation of the Billy Wilder movie has always been larger than life, as befits the legendary Hollywood it attempts to portray. Yet under Lonny Price’s brilliant direction, the musical both maintains its epic scope and becomes a heartbreaking, humanscaled story of longing and loss, a mound of ashes beneath a heavy dusting of glitter. In telling the tale of faded, silent film star Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis, the jaded, failing writer who becomes her lover, Price draws so much depth and dimension out of the characters that one can’t help rooting for them, even as they spiral toward inevitable destruction. The original production was overwhelming and bordered on Grand Guignol. Norma was a macabre

FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW

21


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March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


c Tenant Harassment, from p.4 harassment since a new landlord 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 and 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

c ESPOSITO, from p.12 killed Paddy’s Market, but Esposito endured. It was never broken, so they never had to fix anything, and practices have largely stayed the same at Esposito even as the neighborhood and the customer base have constantly changed. Giovanni used to sell a lot more “peasant’s food” — neckbones and tripe, for example — Robert said. Those cheaper cuts undoubtedly made their way into stews and soups eagerly consumed by hungry laborers who helped build this city. Who knows, maybe there was an Esposito sausage packed in the lunchbox of one of those workers captured in the iconic “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” photo from 1932 — after all Rockefeller Center is only a dozen or so blocks away from the butcher shop. Now customers ask for more prime cuts, such as shell steaks and ribeye steaks. They sell more chicken too. Regardless of demand, Esposito cuts everything in-house from sides and quarters of meat 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, Councilman Jumaane Williams, and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to show them that there is an urgent need to pass these bills now.” Kielbasa and the other organizers urged 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 this spring. Several days after the rally, Kielbasa pointed to a tenant evacuation on the Lower East Side’s Stanton Street as an example of what

stocks just about everything that comes off a cow, lamb, or chicken, so you can ask for any custom cut or peasant food you want. Esposito’s in-house-made sausages are still the best-selling product, though. Esposito uses his traditional family recipe for many of them, but he’s gotten creative too, again to adapt to changing demands. “Back then we’d sell sweet, hot, cheese, and parsley [sausages], now we sell like 20 different varieties,” he said. “Back then it was just pork sausage, now we have a line of chicken sausage — people wanted chicken sausage so we made chicken sausage.” Esposito sources their all-natural, non-steroid meats from around t he count r y — t heir pork a nd chicken come from Pennsylvania, lamb and veal from Colorado, and beef from Nebraska. Their veal and lamb are grass-fed and their beef certified Angus, but for now Esposito doesn’t have much in the way of certified organic meats. That’s not because he doesn’t want to, but

c SUNSET, from p.21 as the covers of the magazines and even among ordinary people notoriety in social media and incessant validation are obsessively pursued. On another level, it’s also a chilling reminder that time can be cruel for those who live in denial. We relate to Norma because we can identify with her feelings of loss, disorientation, and bafflement at life. When presented with operatic drama, all of this is thrillingly cathartic. From the opening moments, one is swept into the production. The on-stage, 40-piece orchestra recalls some of the grandest movie music of all time. Lloyd Webber’s now classic score has never sounded better, nor has it ever made more sense as homage to the scores of movie greats like Max Steiner. ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | March 09 -22, 2017

can happen if the City Council continues to wait. There, on February 25, the Department of Buildings issued a vacate order for the building’s second floor as the crumbling ceiling began to give way. The building is owned by landlord Steve Croman, who has 20 felony charges pending against him, with the Stanton Street building cited with numerous violations that remain unaddressed, despite its tenants having gone to court repeatedly. “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.” n

DENNIS LYNCH

Third-generation owner Robert Esposito holds up a photo of the block from 1932, the year his grandfather Giovanni opened the butcher shop, then one of many in the area once known as Paddy’s Market.

because sourcing a side of organic beef or a quarter of lamb is difficult these days, Esposito said. “All that organic stuff comes prepackaged from the farm, when you go to the supermarket and you see [organic] ground beef in the Cryovac package, that comes from wherever that farm is,” he said. “It’s

And then there’s the cast. Glenn Close gives the performance of a lifetime as Norma. She won a Tony for her original portrayal of Norma, and it’s a safe bet she could walk away with the award again. Yet 24 years after I first saw her in the role in Los Angeles, Close inhabits the role in a very different way. Her Norma now is more complex and clearly conflicted, manic almost. At times girlish and at others more of a Gorgon, there is an inner fragility now that makes her sympathetic. When she returns to the studio thinking she’s about to resume her career, the conflicting emotions she’s feeling are palpable. At that moment of excitement and vulnerability, she sings, “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” It stops the show because Close is so brilliant at taking us with her on this emotional journey. Michael Xavier gives a similarly nuanced

a local farm, not big, and you can’t get wholesale. As more and more people ask for it, maybe it will come to the day when a butcher shop can get whole sides of it.” Until then, Esposito will just have to survive on customer service and quality, which has certainly served this family business well so far. n

performance as Joe Gillis, bitter yet hopeful and driven. Xavier has a wonderful voice and is every bit a match for Close. Fred Johanson as Max, Norma’s first husband and now her companion servant, is spectacular. He has an impeccable bass voice, and he beautifully underplays Max’s devotion to Norma. Siobhan Dillon is excellent as Betty Shaeffer, a writer who almost saves Joe. At the end of the show, as Norma descends into madness, she reverts to the kewpie doll performance that she would have given mugging for the screen three decades earlier in her early 20s. It is creepy wonderful and, like everything in this production, wonderfully detailed and rendered. It is awe-inspiring to be in the presence of so much, as Norma calls it, “magic in the making.” n

23


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March 09 -22, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc

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