The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
March 16, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 11
The malling of Soho: Big-box plan sparks big anger from locals BY DENNIS LYNCH
he owners of a large, six-story commercial building in Soho who want to convert it into one jumbo-sized retail space enthusiastically presented their plan to locals and the Community Board 2 Land Use Committee last Wednesday night. To their chagrin, they were met with
near-unanimous opposition from those at the meeting. Steve Meringoff, the owner of 462 Broadway, and his team specifically are requesting two special permits to make over the 1880 building into a single, large, 45,000-square-foot store. However, many locals said SOHO continued on p. 4
Black theater Co. is returning to its roots on St. Mark’s Place BY AMY RUSSO
wo weeks ago, on the quiet, empty stage at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s, owner Lorcan Otway sat with Karen Brown and Charles Weldon of the Negro Ensemble Company to discuss the planned return of the historic theater company to the East
PHOTO BY REBECCA WHITE
Leonardo Anguiano, one of the Soho Canada Goose protesters, shows his “269” tattoo. Who really are these uncompromising animal-rights activists — and what does the tattoo mean? See Page 8 for inter views.
Village. Since 1965, N.E.C. has been one of New York’s most notable theater groups of color, giving rise to a long list of top actors, from the likes of Adolph Caesar to Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington. But struggles for funding and recognition among mainstream THEATER continued on p. 23
Rev. Billy’s ‘crude’ protests. ....p. 3 Angry Buddhist on borders ... p. 14
ARE C R E LD ce NYC E n e r e f n Co & o p Ex
017 ning 2 n la p & health r io n e s
Gimme shelter? Board 2 could get homeless sites BY DENNIS LYNCH
mayoral decree together with the City Council’s potential revision of a decades-old policy could mean that the city will look to site homeless shelters in the West Village, Greenwich Vil-
lage, Soho and Noho. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced two weeks ago that he wanted to open 90 new shelters citywide over the next five years and do away with the “cluster sites” approach that houses people in hotels and apartments. He said that
the city will look to open these shelters in neighborhoods based proportionally on where people entering the system last lived. Just 32 people who listed their last address in Community Board 2 (which covers the above neighborhoods) were in HOMELESS continued on p. 6
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THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO: The Village Independent Democrats political club decided to go with Eric Coler as their new president when they elected him back in December, in part, because of the 25-year-old’s youthful energy. Well — talk about vigor! — hey, this guy’s all over the place! He just reported that he climbed Africa’s highest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the other weekend. Reaching the summit of the 16,000-foot dormant volcano, Coler proudly unfurled the V.I.D. banner. “It was an incredible experience,” Coler told us, “very hard, but made it to the top and down safely.” Given the fierce competition between the local Democratic clubs — well, not really, though it actually did once used to be that way — let’s see if the presidents of Downtown Independent Democrats and Village Reform Democratic Club will now follow suit. Either way, though, only V.I.D. can proudly claim to be the fi rst Downtown club to conquer
PHOTO BY SARAH FERGUSON
Ushering in spring — in fier y Persian style — at La Plaza Cultural.
the mighty African mountain. “We work hard for that Mt. Kilimanjaro vote!” Coler crowed.
SPEAKING OF SNOW...AND FIRE: Even the snows of Stella couldn’t stop them. On Tuesday night, a fire dancer performed at La Plaza Cultural, at E. Ninth St. and Avenue C, to celebrate Chaharshanbeh-Suri, an ancient Zoroastrian festival that uses fire to chase away the winter blues at the onset of spring and the Persian new year. At sunset, three small fires were lit in the East Village garden, and participants were invited to jump over them, to “exorcise” any misfortunes or sickness from the old year and welcome in the heat of the sun, as symbolized by the fire. This year, the kids even made a snow slide that was enjoyed by adults and children alike.
You’re invited to join us in honoring
Eric Coler conquers Mt. Kilimanjaro and unfurls the V.I.D. colors.
You’re invited to join us in honoring
Succesful Plaintiff in lawsuit that struck down Defense of Marriage Act
Executive Director New York Civil Liberties Union
Thursday, March 30
Thursday, March 30
A portion of proceeds will be donated to not for proﬁt local LGBT and community organizations
A portion of proceeds will be donated to not for proﬁt local LGBT and community organizations
March 16, 2017
The ol’ Rev. and the fish: A Dakota pipeline parable BY SAR AH FERGUSON
y the standards of most Church of Stop Shopping actions, this one was relatively low-key. Last Friday, as a frigid wind blasted up Astor Place, the activist Reverend Billy a.k.a. Bill Talen and three other church members made their way to the Citibank branch on Broadway near Eighth St. A church member dressed in white cotton scrubs and bearing a tangled wreath of ivy quickly entered the lobby and lay down on the floor. Another activist whipped out a jar of “Bakken crude oil” and began drizzling it onto the man’s forehead and chest. Well, he was actually drizzling a mixture of safflower oil and graphite shaken up in a jar, but the stuff looked like the type of tarry crude oil that’s slated to be carried by the Dakota Access Pipeline when it’s completed. “This is what pipelines do. They destroy the Earth, they destroy nature,” proclaimed choir soprano Barbara Lee, as Talen — dressed in his civvies for this stunt — documented the oil spill on his cell. Talen then turned to the line of dumbstruck customers. “I’m asking you to divest, take your money out of Citibank. Take your money out of banks that destroy the Earth,” he urged them quietly, passing out leaf-
PHOTO BY JOHN QUILTY
Reverend Billy wrestles with, to his surprise, a live carp after getting caught in an “oil spill” at a pipeline-promoting Wells Fargo bank branch at E. 34th St. and Madison Ave. on Feb. 15.
lets which spelled out Citibank’s role in spearheading the consortium of banks financing the $3.8 billion pipeline. A bank manager quickly approached. “You need to leave now, sir. The police have been called,” she said in a rushed whisper. So the group rolled up their tarp, wiped up a bit of black oil with a paper towel and a shot of Fantastic, and made a hasty retreat. The whole stunt took less than 10 minutes, which was kind of the point. What Billy and his choir members are trying to create is not so much a news headline as a prototype: a low-risk act of civil disobedience that anyone can do to draw attention to the role of Citi and other banks in underwriting the Dakota Access Pipeline, whose construction is
now being fast-tracked by the Trump administration. “Our effort is to make it possible for modest-scaled, D.I.Y. actions,” Talen explained afterward. “We want activists in many towns and cities to dress in white, go into one of the 17 banks financing this thing, perform in the lobby with a part of the Earth — a rock, a branch, some kind of symbol of the Earth. Do a ritual anointing of the oil, make a speech and get out. “The plot of this play is: The Earth invades the banks that are financing the Earth-killing,” Talen added. Simple enough, though when the their first action at a Wells Fargo branch in East Midtown last month, that plot got an unexpected twist. Wells Fargo loaned more than $120 million to DAPL, mak-
ing it one of the pipeline’s biggest investors, Talen said. Reverend Billy entered the branch wearing his collar and Pentecostal whites and bearing a 40-pound carp that the church had acquired from a fashion shoot. But when he lay down with the fish on a bed of newspapers to be “anointed” with oil, he discovered the carp was still alive. “We thought we got a deceased carp, but it came to life during action,” said Billy, who found himself wrestling the flapping, oily fish before a startled group of customers. “Apparently, carp are pretty tough and can live for hours out of the water. “So we quickly wrapped up and rushed the fish to the East River, where it swam away,” he said. “It was a bit of unexpected comedy, though of course the animal-cruelty people came down on us,” Billy said. Talen and crew are planning another bank action next week. Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir will perform Uptown this Thurs., March 16, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, at a sold-out event featuring Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek and artist Janine Antoni discussing “How to Reasonably Believe in God,” with Sister Helen Prejean as moderator.
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A photo from 2012 of 462 Broadway, which stretches bet ween Grand and Crosby Sts. It was built in 1880 by Mills & Gibb, a firm specializing in impor ting and jobbing lace, linen and dr y goods.
Soho big-box plan unleashes big anger
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March 16, 2017
SOHO continued from p. 1
the store would bring throngs of customers, noisy late-night deliveries and heaps of trash to the area around it, and made that clear in no uncertain terms. “You have a right to make money, but you don’t have a right to destroy the quality of my life,” a longtime Crosby St. resident declared. He noted that on that street, on a regular basis, delivery trucks unload merchandise and trash trucks pick up refuse from other large retailers. Around 40 local residents turned out for the meeting. Every single one of the two dozen or so who spoke opposed Meringoff’s request for a special permit to allow him to exceed the area’s 10,000 square-foot limit on groundfloor retail. The owner also hopes to use the building’s basement and parts of its upper floors for retail. City zoning regulations require any property owner who wants to obtain such a special per-
mit to bring the application fi rst to the local community board for an advisory vote, after which the Department of Buildings officially decides on the request. Yet, few Soho property owners actually follow that path, many of them bypassing the community board. Soho has become one of the world’s premier retail districts, but is actually zoned for manufacturing. Meringoff, like all the district’s other property owners, needs a separate special permit to rent the ground floor for retail use in the fi rst place. It’s a 60-day review process and Meringoff will either resubmit the current plan for a vote at C.B. 2 or revise and resubmit it for review next month. The Land Use Committee didn’t take an official position on the fi rst proposal, but committee chairperson Anita Brandt said the hope is that the development team returns with a proposal for around three smaller stores on the ground floor and office
space on the upper floors. Many locals are all but completely soured on largescale retail in Soho, though, because of the disruption they say that it brings to the neighborhood. Only adding to residents’ anger and frustration, most property owners who have opened large-scale retail in the area have skirted the special-permit process by exploiting loopholes in city regulations. Some have long accused D.O.B. of failing to — or intentionally choosing not to — enforce the regulations. The last time a property owner requested a similar special permit was in 2009. Owners of an empty lot at Lafayette and E. Houston Sts. received one for an entirely new building with oversized retail in 2013, according to local activist Pete Davies. While many locals commended Meringoff for at least going through the proper process, his apparent genuine desire to go by the books still didn’t warm them to his plans.
In some respects, last Wednesday night at C.B. 2, Meringoff and his team stood in as punching bags for the previous actions of other property owners. Residents voiced their pent-up frustrations — built up over years — passionately venting over late-night deliveries to largescale retailers in the area and the bright lights these stores keep on overnight, even when the stores are closed. But Brandt said she didn’t think the community would want a big-box retailer, even if those bad actors had never poisoned the well. She said large-scale retail creates “an environment of destination shopping where people are driving to a store, doubleparking. It’s creating huge volumes of trash, huge volumes of deliveries. And because [the area is] residential in nature, it’s a confl ict, inherently. “What we’re trying to maintain is a mixed-use community, not one thing or anSOHO continued on p. 7 TheVillager.com
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March 16, 2017
Gimme shelter? C.B. 2 could get homeless sites HOMELESS continued from p. 1
the shelter system as of October 2016, according to the Department of Homeless Services. However, the Council is also mulling a policy to spread shelters around more equitably under a revision of the city’s “Fair Share” policy. A February City Council report on Fair Share stated that “we would not allow local opposition (or increased cost) to prevent communities from getting their Fair Share of firehouses or schools… . We should not allow these to be the reason for failing to fairly site shelters.” The Fair Share report does not explicitly say that the city should build more shelters in District 2. But the Council legislation is “inherently about fairly distributing facilities and services,” according to a spokesperson for Councilmember Brad Lander, the bill’s co-sponsor. And the disparity in the number of beds compared to neighboring districts suggests that C.B. 2 would be a candidate for more. The most recent D.H.S. data show that there are 43 beds in one facility in District 2, the lowest number of beds in any district in Manhattan. That figure is dwarfed by neighboring districts, which provide between 7.8 and 25 times the number of beds that District 2 provides, besides Community Board 1 (Lower
BY TEQUILA MINSKY
For decades, 350 Lafayette was a 43-bed homeless women’s shelter run by the nonprofit Center for Urban Community Ser vices. However, the shelter — which was the only one in Communit y Board 2 — has relocated to the Bronx. Developers bought the building in 2015 and plan to conver t it into retail use. According to neighborhood activist Zella Jones, it was once a horse veterinar y hospital.
Manhattan), which provides 50 beds. However, there are actually now zero beds in C.B. 2 following a women’s shelter just having moved out of its longtime home at 350 Lafayette St. The Noho building’s new owner plans to bring in high-end retail to fill the space. Community Board 4 (Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen) currently provides the most shelter beds of any Downtown Manhattan district, at just under 1,100. Board 3 (East Village) provides 1,092 beds. The shelters in those districts were considerably overcrowded when D.H.S. collected that data: There is only one bed per every two homeless individuals in the system in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, the most overcrowded of the four Downtown districts. Combined, there were 1,332 more people staying in those shelters in Boards 3 and 4, plus Board 5 (Union Square, Flatiron District, Central Park South) than they were designed to house. The Village’s Board 2 also provides proportionally fewer beds per entrants (persons who listed their last known address there) than its neighbors: District 2 provides 1.34 beds for every homeless individual that enters the system, compared to 1.36 for the East Village’s Board 3, 1.72 in Chelsea / Hell’s Kitchen’s District 4, and 1.5 in District 5 (Union Square / Midtown). A D.H.S. spokesperson said the reason for this disparity is that historically the city has sited shelters where space was available. The city has an open Request for Proposals (R.F.P.) for shelter sites for
March 16, 2017
providers to apply to, and the majority of shelter sites have come from those proposals; so siting decisions weren’t necessarily made from the top down. Community Board 2 does not have a general policy about siting shelters within the district, according to its chairperson, Terri Cude. However, the main concern is community notification and involvement, she stressed. “It’s so important that the community be part of any siting process from very early on, and that all aspects of proposals be fully vetted and understood by all,” Cude said. She added that open dialogue between the community and any shelter operator was critical. “I would hope that any shelter sited in our district would be run by excellent operators with a net result of fewer persons on the street because they’re getting the services needed to transition into permanent housing,” Cude said. “The operator would need to provide a direct line of communication with the community, so any emerging problems can be addressed immediately.” It’s not surprising that relatively few shelters have been opened in Board 2. Vacant sites are rare and, in general, property is at a premium. The zip codes that make up the district are among the most expensive in the entire state. Zip code 10012, covering Greenwich Village and Soho, is the second-most expensive in the state — based on home sale prices — just barely behind a zip code in the Hamptons, according to Investopedia. City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents the Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, is one of Lander’s cosponsors on the Fair Share bill. When asked if the policy would mean that more homeless shelters would come to Board 2, Johnson said, in a statement, that the initiative is not narrowly focused, and is about “transparency,” among other things. “Nobody is going into this process with preconceived notions about where the next shelter should be located. That’s not what this is about,” he stressed. “More than anything else, this is about ensuring that we use sound, fair and transparent criteria when we’re placing a school or a shelter or a park. “In part, we need to make sure that one community isn’t oversaturated,” he said. “But there’s much more to be factored in, and that’s why we should constantly be reviewing our methodology and keeping it up to the highest standards of fairness.” Johnson said that Fair Share is also what is responsible for the siting of city parks, for example, and that his Council district notably has fewer of them “than almost anywhere in the city.” “So, improving our Fair Share practices will help us create more complete neighborhoods, with all of the public
HOMELESS continued on p. 22 TheVillager.com
Big-box plan sparks big anger SOHO continued from p. 4
other,” she added. Brandt noted that the city has denied special permits for large retail in the neighborhood before, notably when Scholastic wanted to create up to 32,000 square feet of retail space in its corporate headquarters at 557 Broadway. The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals denied that first application and later approved the retail conversion only if Scholastic broke the space up into parts less than 10,000 square feet in size. Meringoff himself, standing at the front of the New York University classroom where last Wednesday’s C.B. 2 committee meeting was held, bore the brunt of the criticism. He has owned 462 Broadway since 1981. He pledged to put strict stipulations into any lease he signs with a retail tenant. These would include limiting delivery hours and restricting lighting on the building’s upper floors, to prevent the “nightmare” so many locals described with other large-scale retail stores. He said that he would maintain a dialogue with nearby residents and work to solve any issues they brought to him. He said he has no plans to dump the property for an easy dollar. “Listen, this is our baby, we are going to live with this and I will die with this building,” he told the crowd. “This is a legacy asset for us. We are not here to make a quick buck — up the net income and sell it.” Meringoff wants the special permit because the International Culinary Center, which used the space since 1984 as a sort of test kitchen and restaurant, decided to change its business model and use only space on the upper floors. Zoning allowed the culinary school to use such a large space on the ground floor. Meringoff was legally required to advertise the space to get a conforming-use tenant for a year. He said he did so for two years, but didn’t get any bites. Many at the meeting were skeptical, though. Now Meringoff either needs to break up the large space, rent it as commercial — rather than retail — space, or get a special permit. Many locals urged him do either the first option. But he said that Americans With Disabilities Act handicap-access and Landmarks Preservation Commission rules wouldn’t allow for the new entrances that multiple spaces would need. Brandt, who is an architect specializing in landmarked buildings, said Meringoff could make it work, “no sweat,” she said. “We hear that every week at the Landmarks Commission, that’s something you have to solve,” she said. “And, especially, if you do a big development, you can comply with A.D.A. inside the building. A big project like this is perfect for it — build the ramps TheVillager.com
inside. This is an ideal project for smaller stores.” Some people told Meringoff they didn’t think a large-scale retail space would be in his best interests right now, anyway. Soho is ground zero for a citywide retail-market slump, they noted. The price per square foot of retail space in Soho along Broadway dropped from $824 last spring to $755 this past fall, according to figures collected by the Real Estate Board of New York and referenced in a recent New York Times article. Robin Abrams, vice chairperson of real estate firm The Lansco Corporation, said that the retail boom in Soho “is softening partly because rents became overly aggressive and inappropriate.” Retailers are also realizing they can do the same business with lessexpensive, smaller spaces, she said. Abrams offered that community sentiment would mainly depend on what sort of tenant Meringoff wanted to bring into such a large space at 462 Broadway. A retailer similar to Bloomingdale’s, for example, could be better received than a discount big-box store, she noted. “It’s a question of what that use is and why that landlord wants to create a big space, when there’s large retail spaces sitting vacant,” she said. She added that if the space could be divided up in compliance with A.D.A. and L.P.C. rules, then she would market it as flexible — she would offer a variety of options to tenants and fit them in like pieces of a puzzle. “You could have a retailer that takes a portion of the ground floor combined with the upper floor, and another retailer that leases a portion of the ground floor with some of the lower level, with separate individual stores for the remaining ground floor,” she explained. “I would go out to the market on a flexible basis. But if someone came to me and wanted to lease the entire space, then I would present that, as well, and the landlord would compare each scenario in order to choose how to proceed.” One resident who lives across Grand St. from 462 Broadway and wished not to be named told Meringoff maybe it’s time to sell the property or lower his asking rent price to attract a conforming-use tenant. The resident said he bought his loft knowing that “a Best Buy or Bloomingdale’s” wasn’t allowed across the street, and that Meringoff made his purchase knowing the same, so he has to live with it. “Unfortunately, like everyone who makes investments, we are governed by what’s allowed in our spaces,” he said. “So, perhaps you made a poor investment. I think not. I’m sure it’s paid dividends for years, so it’s been a terrific investment. But maybe it won’t be as good as an investment going forward.”
106th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Friday, March 24, 2017 11:30 am - 1:00 pm Washington Place and Greene Street, NYC www.rememberthetriangleﬁre.org
March 16, 2017
The faces of protest: Who really are Canada has such a big share of the fur market in New York City, it’s important to go after them and educate consumers — and hold them accountable for what they’re doing. How many millions of baby coyotes have been orphaned and starved to death because their mothers died after being shot in the head by a trapper for fur decoration? It’s just surreal that this is even a thing in 2017.
INTERVIEWS BY LINCOLN ANDERSON PHOTOS BY REBECCA WHITE
You may have seen the animal-rights protesters outside the new Canada Goose store at 101 Wooster St., between Spring and Prince Sts. If you have, then you definitely have heard them, too. Their deafening demonstrations — which started the day the store opened in midNovember — were driving the block’s residents to distraction. But the activists say they have heard the residents’ complaints — and the warnings by police — and, within the past several weeks have been trying to keep the volume within the legal decibel limit. For a change, they have even held at least one entirely silent, candlelit vigil on Wooster St. But who are these committed activists, really? Beyond the fact that they’re all vegans — not eating or using any animal products — and that some of them dress colorfully, not that much is known about them. And also what does the number 269 — tattooed on their arms and torsos and, sometimes, ears — stand for? Following yet another protest in the bitter cold outside the costly coat merchant last Friday afternoon, nine of them came to The Villager’s office to be interviewed and photographed.
Cooked Quinn’s Goose Donny Moss Originally from: Miami Now lives: Village Age: 45 Job: Full-time animal-rights campaigner. Runs Web site, TheirTurn. net. (Came to New York to attend Columbia) The Villager: How did you get involved in animal-rights activism? Moss: As a constituent of Christine Quinn, I got the mailers, and I saw that she was acting in such a way to suggest that she was trying to preserve St. Vincent’s Hospital, when it wasn’t that way at all. And as City Council speaker, she blocked a vote on every animal-protection bill. I thought I’m going to speak out on a very grassroots level and see if I can make a difference — and I guess I did. I created a Facebook page called “Defeat Quinn.” And then, when she won her third term, it morphed into a campaign to prevent her from becoming mayor. We all knew she was sort of the mayor’s anointed successor. I was just out there in the streets. And then it grew. And it wasn’t just animal people. It was people who were angry about the term-limits extension, St. Vincent’s, the slush-fund scandal — allocating money to fake budget codes and distributing it in exchange for political favors.
March 16, 2017
V: What’s your ultimate goal in the protest against Canada Goose?
And then it became “Anybody but Quinn,” and there were actual people with money who got involved, and sort of amplified what I was doing on a much smaller scale. V: Were you an activist before then on animal or political issues? Moss: Well, gay stuff when I came out of the closet. But over the years, that morphed into...now I’m a full-time animalrights person.
Moss: One is to shut down Canada Goose and send a message to any fur retailer that selling fur is not acceptable in 2017. The other objective in these protests is to educate people about fur. Sometimes it’s effective. We’ve had people unzip the fur trim and give it to us. And you can drop off the fur trim at the Wild Bird Fund; they make blankets out of donated fur for orphaned animals. I think future generations are going to look back at the images of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers walking around with fur decoration around their necks and say, “What were they thinking?” Fur is everywhere. The pompoms you see on their heads now, some of them are real fur. You might not see it. But the animal activists are hardwired — we have a trained eye.
V: Do you have a job? Moss: Not anymore. I did P.R. for years. Now I’m a full-time animal-rights reporter / campaigner. I run a Web site, TheirTurn.net, and I do a lot of animalrights reporting, a lot of video editing, and the videos go viral. I participated in the fur stuff and protests against the circus — but my big campaign now is to demand accountability from the New York Blood Center, which abandoned 66 chimps on islands in Liberia after experimenting on them for 30 years and promising to provide them with lifelong care. I just came back from Liberia a couple weeks ago. They’re on islands with no food or water, and on an emergency basis animal welfare groups are there feeding them. I’m trying to get them to restore the promised funding. They’re all infected with diseases — hepatitis and tropical diseases. V: Why do you feel the protest against Canada Goose is important? Moss: People are walking around the city with like this red patch of death [the coat’s arm patch logo] on them. I think some people are aware that they’re wearing dogs — coyotes are wild dogs — who were captured in these horrific steel leghold traps. Some aren’t. It’s our job as activists to ensure that people at least have the information and can make an informed decision. Because Canada Goose
bunnies and a husky. I have been vegetarian for the past eight years, but vegan since June. I did things against fur starting when I was a teenager. In the ’80s you could kind of get away with things you shouldn’t — pouring paint, throwing paintballs at the windows at fur places. Like water balloons with red paint. V: Did you actually ever throw paint on someone’s coat? Argibay: Yes — from a car. I was young! Now I can appreciate that there are better ways, probably if I would have spoken to the person. I see that, in my youth, that was probably obnoxious and frightening to them. V: Where did you do this? Argibay: Long Island, in Manhattan, Bloomingdale’s... . V: How many times did you do it? Argibay: Maybe a little under a dozen. We threw water balloons from a moving car and it would explode on them. It was like water with the red food coloring. So not actual acrylic paint or like that — it wouldn’t have exploded right. But water does, and it does its damage. I didn’t have any concept of consequence when I was younger, I was just disgusted. I’m disgusted now, too, but I just think there’s a better way to meet people on a more mature playing field. V: Why do you feel the protest against Canada Goose is important?
Ex-paint thrower Elizabeth Argibay Originally from: Queens Village Now lives: Astoria Age: 47 Job: Temp administrative assistant V: When did you become an animalrights activist and why? Argibay: It started when I was a teenager in high school. My father really ingrained in us a love for animals. We had
Argibay: I think it’s important because Canada Goose has revitalized fur, in a way that most people who would never own fur, they’re buying fur. It’s really a matter of, again, educating these people. A lot of people we’ve met on the street really have been turned off that they now know a coyote or dog has died to be on their hood. Some people are so upset that they’ve zippered the fur right off and given it to us, so we can turn it over to Coats for Cubs, which you can do at any Buffalo Exchange, so it will go to a sanctuary and help other animals rehabilitate. An animal that has been orphaned and is in need of making that connection, will still snuggle that collar, and it helps rehabilitate that animal. V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests? Argibay: I think, really affecting their business, that people will known that this is not something they want to purchase. Canada Goose looked at the U.S.A. as an untapped market, and they figured, “We were really going to really do well here.” And they did. The hipsters, the millenniACTIVISTS continued on p. 9 TheVillager.com
Goose activists? Tracking their paths to Soho ACTIVISTS continued from p. 8
als are buying it, that’s their target audience. Everyone thinks that there’s some cool club you belong to when you wear Canada Goose. How these young college kids can afford it, I don’t even know. The coats run from $900 to $2,000 and more. They don’t know what they’re really wearing. I’d really like to see Canada Goose leave New York. They need to take their Arctic coats back to the Arctic.
Won’t back down Leonardo Anguiano Originally from: Brooklyn (“bounced around a lot”: Brownsville, East New York, Sunset Park, Coney Island, Bensonhurst) Now lives: Bensonhurst Age: 35 Job: Research librarian, former middleschool science teacher and pharmacolo-
gist for Pfizer V: When did you become an animalrights activist and why? Anguiano: Fur is something I was pretty much against all my life. I was going to protests in the ’90s. But I was still eating meat and wearing leather then. I’ve been a vegan now for almost four years, and a vegetarian for three-anda-half years before that. I wanted a dog forever. I finally had the time to volunteer at a dog shelter. I fostered a dog who had a very trying first couple of months of his life — he walked his way into my own. I took him to the park and I had that really hippie moment where he’s playing with the other dogs and there were squirrels and birds and I was like, “What am I doing if I’m not seeing them all as one?” Just seeing how cruel people can treat TheVillager.com
animals. He was from a fighting ring, scars everywhere. V: Why do you feel the protest against Canada Goose is important? Anguiano: They were one of the corporations over the last five or 10 years that brought fur back into the mainstream. In the 1990s, fur was heavily contested. There’s all the footage of people throwing paint. But I think people got soft on the issue. And then a company like this crept in, giving celebrities free jackets, so they would be walking billboards. Now you see these other copycat companies that are offering basically the same jacket but with a different logo. But Canada Goose is setting the trend. V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests? Anguiano: At the forefront is the fur. Although we do address the geese and the down — and that’s not anything obviously that any of us condone — it is not at the forefront right now. But at least initially, if Canada Goose were to switch to a faux fur... . I just found out today that Canada Goose does sell faux-fur trim as an option. If that’s something the store on Wooster St. would adopt, that’s moving in the general direction we’d hope for. Ultimately, we don’t want people to see animals as products or as fabric. When people are wearing the fur trim on a hood that’s dangling 2 feet from their head “for warmth” — I mean, it’s not even on your head. If Canada Goose or other companies were to go fur free, we’d consider it a stepping stone. We’d still be there for the geese. It’s frustrating to know that a lot of this will not come to pass in our lifetime. But you can set the foundation for someone else to follow: If there was a fur-free world. V: Have you witnessed cursing at kids or have you cursed at kids during the protests? Anguiano: I’ve definitely been there. I’ve heard it. I have responded a few times. I’ll admit to it, I have responded with language — but I was responding, in that I was not the one to bring it there. In response to somebody threatening me — yeah, I’m going to respond to you with language. V: How did people threaten you? Anguiano: “Get the f--- out of my face before I get you out of my face.” Things of that nature. Or “You wouldn’t say this if you were by yourself,” or “You want to take a walk around the block?” You know, street stuff like that. Neighborhoods that I grew up in, like...you respond accordingly. It’s the way that — I don’t want to say how I was raised by my mom— but it’s how I grew up among friends and peers. We have responded
to language that was initiated by parents. Somebody would be like, “You’re going to say that in front of my f---ing daughter?” And I’ll say, “You’re going to curse in front of your child?”
had a coat a couple of months ago and it had down. But you know what? I bought it in a thrift shop. It was a $10 coat. But I don’t promote second-hand fur. You get me? And the coat didn’t have a brand. You get me?
V: How long will you keep protesting against the store? Anguiano: We plan to keep going for the foreseeable future. The winter coats are still going to be on sale. Maybe not at that particular location, but online. And people are a lot more likely to stop and have a conversation when it’s not cold.
Species-ism disrupter Jennifer Cruz Originally from: Colombia Now lives: Queens Age: 22 Job: Manages a vegan shop
The veterinarian Andrew Kaplan Originally from: Queens Now lives: Upper West Side Age: 52 Job: Veterinarian on U.W.S.
V: When did you become an animalrights activist and why? Kaplan: I’ve always been an animalrights activist. My mind is trained to seeing things that are in need of animal advocacy. As far as actively protesting, I started a couple of years. I became a vegan five years ago. V: Why do you feel the protest against Canada Goose is important? Kaplan: Because animal abuse requires animal advocacy. Use of animals for fashion is abuse — there is no such thing as humane killing of animals for fashion. The way that down is harvested — live-plucking — is horribly cruel. They go through six cycles of that, and then it’s not like those animals get a reprieve. Then they become foie gras or duck meat. And the plucking is a painful process. So it’s torturing until they kill them.
V: When did you become an animalrights activist? Cruz: About two years ago. I started doing disruptions with DXE — that’s “Direct Action Everywhere.” I just remember seeing a video. It was these people in California going into a restaurant, and asking if they served dog meat. It was around the time that they did a dog-meat festival in China. They would disrupt their species-ism. You get me? Like why do you sell cows, but not dogs? People who love dogs, eat pigs — but pigs are smart, they feel pain.
V: It’s painful to geese and ducks to be live-plucked? Kaplan: I know it is. The nerve supply is in those deep feathers. As a vet, I
ACTIVISTS continued on p. 20
V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests? Cruz: To educate people. A lot of people don’t know that this happens. V: Do you guys wear leather? Cruz: No, no, no! I don’t buy new leather. What I had, I already got rid of. I
March 16, 2017
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POLICE BLOTTER L.E.S. beatdown
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March 16, 2017
A fight early last Friday morning that reportedly started in Pianos, the music bar at 158 Ludlow St., spilled outside and ended with a man lying on the sidewalk being stomped on by two assailants, police said. Around 2:45 a.m. on March 10, two men reportedly chased the 24-year-old victim northward up Orchard St. toward Stanton St. They caught up with him in front of 156 Orchard St. and knocked him down, then punched and kicked him, including stomping him in the head and face. The duo then dashed off in a black livery vehicle. The victim was removed to Bellevue Hospital in serious condition, but, according DNAinfo, has since been hospital and is refusing to cooperate with police. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Departmentâ€™s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted on the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential.
Toddler tragedy A 2-year-old tot from Queens tragically died, apparently of suffocation, while visiting her grandmother on the Lower East Side. Jaelah Fox of Rockaway Boulevard was with her mother and her boyfriend Sun., March 12, visiting her grandma at 81 Columbia St. in Masaryk Towers, a Mitchell-Lama affordable housing coop, when the girl began to have trouble breathing, the Daily News reported. Her mother performed CPR on her while the boyfriend called 911. Police responded at 6:37 p.m. and found the child in the buildingâ€™s lobby, unconscious and unresponsive. When medics arrived, Jaelah was not breathing. But they were able to suction food from her throat and revive her before rushing her up to Mount Sinai Hospital, according to the News. However, Jaelah lost consciousness again at the Gramercy hospital, where she died, police said. There were no obvious signs of trauma observed, police said. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death. The investigation is ongoing.
Booze brothers According to police, a pair of booze burglars hit The Chester, at 19 Ninth Ave., on Mon., March 6, at 12:15 a.m., but wound up busted. They allegedly entered the Meatpacking bistro through the employees-only entrance and swiped
bottles of alcohol from shelves behind the bar while the place was closed â€” but apparently not unguarded. Jose Soto, 38, was held at the scene by security and arrested by police. Toe Alexander, 49, fled on foot but, based on surveillance video, was later identified by management as a former employee. Both were charged with felony burglary.
Fails parking test Police said that on Wed., March 8, at 5:55 p.m. in front of 99 MacDougal St., officers observed a man fail to signal while parking. Upon further investigation, cops realized he was driving the car with a suspended license and without the ownerâ€™s consent, plus had two active warrants for his arrest. David Checo, 27, was charged with misdemeanor unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Rite Aid rob...wrong A shoplifter who stole items from the Rite Aid at 501 Sixth Ave., between W. 12th and 13th Sts., on Sun., March 12 at 2 p.m., didnâ€™t get far, police said. The suspect was seen by store security allegedly placing items in his hooded sweatshirtâ€™s pockets. A security guard told police that when he stopped the suspect, the man warned him, â€œIf you donâ€™t let me go, I am going to hurt you.â€? The product-picking perp then pushed the guard out of the way and fled. While canvassing the area with the police, the guard pointed out the suspect. As they were arresting him, the man refused to put his hands behind his back. Tifa William, 19, was slapped with a felony-robbery charge.
2 out of 3 Police have arrested a second suspect in a Jan. 17 burglary of the 49 Grove lounge, but a third individual is still at large. Last week, police arrested Adrian Soto, 22, for felony burglary. On Mon., Mar. 6, police arrested Ketema Robinson, 27, for felony burglary. Taylor True, 30, is still on the loose, police said.
Tabia Robinson and Lincoln Anderson TheVillager.com
Ethical fur versus intolerant animal activists
TALKING POINT BY AL AN HERSCOVICI
s someone brought up in the Canadian fur trade and who has spent much of the past 35 years studying the environmental ethic of North America’s founding industry, I am troubled by the arrogance and ignorance displayed by self-appointed “animal-rights” activists protesting the opening of the Canada Goose boutique in Soho. Responding to complaints about neighbors disturbed and consumers harassed, activists Nathan Semmel and Leonardo Anguiano recently argued in these pages that “it is solely the vile ethics of the Canada Goose corporation that brought about our presence.” (“Call of the Wild: Why we protest Canada Goose,” talking point, March 2): By “vile ethics,” they mean that Canada Goose uses animal products — goose down and coyote fur — to make their remarkably warm parkas. Goose down and fur are two of nature’s best insulators, but it is not SERVING MANHATTAN AND THE ENTIRE TRI-STATE AREA
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surprising that these protesters object. Most of them are — or aspire to be — vegans, and embrace the radical “animal-rights” philosophy, which means they oppose any use of animals, even for food. Most Americans, however, do eat meat, fish, dairy and eggs. Most of us also wear leather, wool and silk. This does not mean we condone the mistreatment of animals. Research confirms that most people believe that humans do have a right to use animals, but only if four important criteria are respected — namely, that animals should be used sustainably, humanely, for an important purpose and with minimal waste. Let’s see how the use of coyote fur stacks up against these widely accepted ethical criteria. Sustainability: Only part of the natural surplus produced in abundant wildlife populations is used for fur today, never endangered species. This is assured by strictly enforced state, national and international regulations. Coyotes are highly abundant and expanding their range across North America; they are, in fact, the number-one predator problem for ranchers in many regions. There are also increasingly frequent reports of coyotes devouring pet dogs and cats. And even if we did not use fur, coyotes (and other predators) often must be managed to protect nesting birds, the eggs of sea turtles, and other
endangered species. When fur prices do not provide sufficient incentive to control coyote populations, several states (and Canadian provinces) have been obliged to offer bounties. But if we have to cull some of these animals, surely it is ethical to use them. Humaneness: Millions of dollars have been invested over the past 35 years in scientific research to ensure that humane methods are used to capture wild, furbearing animals. Many coyotes are now taken with quick-killing devices. Others are taken with live-holding traps designed to minimize injuries to the animals. These are the same traps used by biologists to capture and release wolves, Canadian lynx and other animals, unharmed, for radio-collaring (for research) or reintroduction into regions where they were previously eliminated. Clearly, these are not the diabolical instruments that activists would have us believe. Nor are nature’s ways of controlling wildlife populations — starvation and disease — necessarily preferable. A coyote with sarcoptic mange (a parasitic mite) may scratch itself raw for weeks before dying. Nature is not Disneyland. If humaneness is the concern, modern trapping methods may actually reduce suffering, by maintaining more FUR continued on p. 23
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March 16, 2017
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Countess’s travel travails
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To The Editor: Re “Trump double trouble; N.Y.U. roiled by crackdowns” (news article, March 9): This deportation and banning of respectable, good, hard-working people who contribute to American culture has now been going on for years. Trump just made it a front-and-center issue. This year’s Acker Awards highlighted the struggle of Alex Zapak. An excerpt from Anthony Haden-Guest’s statement in the Acker booklet: “Welcome to L.A. Alex Zapak, universally a.k.a. The Countess, on her way home from London, at last reached the end of the passport line. Uh-Oh! She had overstayed her Canadian visa by 16 days. She was put in a special line... . “ ‘But it didn’t cross my mind that I had a problem until I had to get into a van and go to another part of the airport. My phone was confiscated. I was put in a room. The air conditioning was on and it was freezing. They didn’t see me until about midnight.’ “ ‘An agent questioned me.’ ‘How are you making money?’ She said she had a small income. “ ‘Why did she travel so much? Why the move to New Orleans? And L.A.?’ ‘I said I had left New York because my heart was broken. I was writing and meeting musicians. Then I went to L.A. to get the sound on my movie done and ended up staying.’ “The agent pounced: So she was working? ‘I said, no. That’s what artists do. It’s not work. I’m no getting paid for it.’ The Countess was put on a London plane. Banned from re-entry to the U.S. for five years. It is now seven years and she is still not allowed in… . This is what fascism looks like and is very antiAmerican. Immigrants built America. Trump’s ancestors are not Native Americans. N.Y.U. sounds gutless. They want the money students bring. They want to expand the billion-dollar real-estate empire. But they do not support those who are bringing in the money. Clayton Patterson
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Bicycle Bolsheviks To The Editor: Re “What the L? TransAlt vol is accused of not ID’ing self at forum” (news article, March 9): Transportation Alternatives was once a thoughtful voice in the wilderness against moribund policies of the Department of Transportation and New York
Police Department. But they have essentially become a crazed bunch of bicycle Bolsheviks from Brooklyn who are hell-bent on Disneyfying the gritty streets of the city. Carl Rosenstein
Use some horse sense! To The Editor: People who wear Canada Goose coats are either ignorant or uncaring about the extreme animal cruelty involved. It doesn’t bother them that coyotes are trapped and skinned for their fur to trim the jacket hoods — an unnecessary vanity — and many more geese and ducks are killed to provide their soft, puffy under-feathers — the “goose down.” They believe they have a right to use animals in any way for their own benefit — an age-old argument. Some of us have evolved and some haven’t. But what I am most mystified about is how so many people — millennials, mostly — buy this super-expensive coat for upward of $1,000 — many probably maxing out their credit cards. Men and women alike — all marching to the same beat, with odd arm patches on their uniforms, making them look like they are part of some secret army on their way to a meeting. The coat is boxy with unflattering lines. But it is a status symbol for those who feel the need to fit in due to insecurity, to look like the next person, and to let strangers know that they were able to pay big bucks for their ugly coat. It is most definitely not about warmth since many cruelty-free coats are equally as warm, plus more attractive and less costly. Most ski clothes do not even use down or fur. There is a sucker born every minute. But it is disconcerting that so many younger people do not have an ounce of individuality or creativity and feel the desperate need to belong by joining this odd club. Elizabeth Forel Forel is president and co-founder, Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.
March 16, 2017
To Stanley Bard and his crucible of creativity
NOTEBOOK BY MARY REINHOLZ
he old, red-brick building on the west side of Downtown Manhattan was once home to luminaries like Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Joni Mitchell and any number of wannabes and miscreants who needed an affordable place to crash. This onetime crucible of creativity is nearly empty now, a ghostly construction site as renovations at the world-famous Chelsea Hotel drag on. All the paintings and sculpture that once hung on the lobby walls or dangled from the ceiling, many donated by grateful residents in lieu of back rent, were put in storage years ago or reportedly sold after Stanley Bard, the Chelsea’s late, longtime proprietor, was ousted in 2007 from his position as manager and majority owner by the hotel’s board of directors. I knew Bard back in the day and believe that coup broke his heart. The son of Jewish immigrants from Hungary who grew up in the Bronx, Bard ran the Chelsea for about 50 years, acting as a “Robin Hood of innkeepers,” sometimes lending tenants money, overlooking their overdue bills and encouraging their artistic ambitions. “When Timur Cimkentli, a photographer, owed back rent, Mr. Bard hired him as a bellman,” The New York Times noted on Bard’s passing last month. Although he earned a degree in accounting from New York University, Bard clearly wasn’t consumed with worry about the bottom line. He began working at The Chelsea as a plumber’s assistant a decade after his father became a stakeholder in the hotel in 1947, became manager 10 years later upon his father’s death, and died in Boca Ratan, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. He was 82 and had suffered a massive stroke, according to Ed Hamilton, author of “Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living With Artists and Outlaws in New York’s Rebel Mecca” (2007). Hamilton is one the remaining residents at the hotel. He writes a blog about the Chelsea from the single-room-occupancy (S.R.O.) unit he shares with his wife. About 50 rent-stabilized tenants also live in the 12-story Victorian Gothic edifice with wrought-iron balconies that was built sometime between 1883 and 1885 on 222 W. 23rd St. It was here where Arthur Miller repaired to write “After the Fall,” the play about the 1961 breakup of his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. He stayed for six years and described the Chelsea in a memoir as a spot where “you could get high from the marijuana smoke in the elevators.” “This hotel does not belong to America,” he wrote. “There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and [no] shame.” TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY MARY REINHOLZ
A photo of Stanley Bard, The Chelsea Hotel’s former owner, and a memorial candle that were left atop the hotel lobby’s fireplace after he died last month.
Elsewhere, according to The Guardian, he paid tribute to the two prevailing atmospheres he experienced: “A scary and optimistic chaos which predicted the hip future and at the same time the feel of a massive, old-fashioned, sheltering family.” Other notable residents included William Burroughs, who wrote “Naked Lunch” at The Chelsea, and Bob Dylan, who penned “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” there. Full disclosure: This lowly writer from Los Angeles pecked out an overwrought short story on my portable typewriter that was published in the prestigious Evergreen Review while I was holed up at the Chelsea in the early 1970s as a newcomer to the city. While living at the hotel, I also won a writing competition to become a columnist for the New York Daily News; tangled with Beat poet Gregory Corso, a hero of my youth; and worked for renowned independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke, who resided in a triplex in a roof garden atop The Chelsea. As for Bard, he gave me a break on rent for my cramped high-ceilinged space when my finances went south for a time, and also later when I signed a lease for an apartment owned by The Chelsea and connected to it by an underground tunnel. I hadn’t seen him for nearly 40 years when he died, but wept at the news of his passing, even though I remember the hotel mainly as a glorified flophouse with addicts on my floor. (One died of an
overdose while his girlfriend wailed in the shadowy corridor outside his room and police radios crackled.) Hamilton, an obvious fan of his dwelling place, described Bard in his obit as “the guiding spirit of the greatest experiment in bohemian living in the history of New York, if not the world... .” There was no makeshift shrine outside The Chelsea to memorialize Bard, like the one that appeared for singer / songwriter Leonard Cohen, a former resident, who died late last year at the same age of 82. But there were wilting poppies in a vase on top of the lobby fireplace and two photos of Bard, along with notes citing the dates of birth (June 16, 1934) and death, “in loving memory” when I stopped by hoping to interview Hamilton and the leader of the hotel’s tenant association. Both did not return calls. “It’s sad,” said an actress of a certain age, who has lived at The Chelsea with her husband since the early 1960s, as she passed by the reception area, staffed by a uniformed female employee of a security firm. “He had been ill for several years,” she added. The actress declined to give her name but acknowledged that Bard had helped “people he liked” at the hotel. His corporate successors are clearly more interested in profits and sprucing up the hotel than Bard ever was. Joseph Chetrit of the Chetrit Group purchased The Chelsea for about $80 million in 2011 and, shutting it down for new
guests, began repairs. His renovations spurred a lawsuit from the place’s rentstabilized tenants, who claimed the dust and debris created health hazards. The suit was settled in 2014 by Ed Scheetz, C.E.O. of King & Grove boutique hotels, who bought out Chetrit, a former partner, and an associate for an undisclosed sum. Scheetz, however, apparently exited the scene last year. Robert Born of BD Hotels is now running the show, according to online reports last year in The Real Deal. One thing is clear in all these comings and goings. The Chelsea Hotel without Stanley Bard will never be the same again. And people like me who lived there during his heyday will never forget him or the people they met at his funky establishment. Before and after my ninemonth stay, I interviewed celebrity guests there, including Jane Fonda, Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman and Maurice Girodias, legendary publisher of the Olympia Press, best known for putting in print such banned masterpieces as Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” and Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer.” Girodias also published the “SCUM Manifesto,” the notorious anti-male screed written by actress and panhandler Valerie Solanes, who shot and nearly killed Andy Warhol in 1968. Solanes used to hang around The Chelsea. “She looked rather sweet in her prison uniform,” Girodias told me in wry tones from his room for a piece I wrote about Solanes for the Los Angeles Free Press. Before moving into The Chelsea, I profiled Viva, the Warhol superstar, for a New York Daily News feature. She went on to raise her two daughters at the hotel and “liberated” an adjacent room next to her apartment. Viva also resisted paying rent, reportedly telling Bard her space was a “hellhole” in one of their publicized disputes. Eventually, he took her to housing court. Viva was forced out in 1993 after she failed to pay her $920-a-month rent for two years. “No more Chelsea Mornings for Viva,” blared a story I contributed to the nowdefunct New York Newsday. Yes, there were limits to Bard’s largesse. As Ed Hamilton and others have noted, Bard, a short, energetic man, welldressed and well-spoken, appeared to be oblivious to some of the horrors at The Chelsea. He would never admit anything was wrong about his beloved bohemian haunt. I once indignantly described to him the junkie blood and vomit left by addicts in the communal bathroom I shared on the fourth floor. “Miss Reinholz, Miss Reinholz,” he said, in incredulous tones. He was always polite to me. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We don’t have those kinds of people here.” In 1978, several years after I had left BARD continued on p. 14 March 16, 2017
Trumped-up borders came with the territory THE ANGRY BUDDHIST BY CARL ROSENSTEIN
e “Trump double trouble: N.Y.U. roiled by crackdowns” (news article, March 9): So foreign New York University students are protesting that they were kept in limbo in an air-conditioned room and questioned by authorities at J.F.K. upon re-entering the country. They claim that somehow this is a fascistic act. Please. Haven’t these privileged N.Y.U. kids something better to do? How about protesting the seven immoral and illegal C.I.A.-instigated wars, (five started by Obama / Clinton) that the U.S. is pursuing simultaneously across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia? This is what has created such hatred, mass migration and the refugee crisis in the fi rst place. But speaking for peace takes true moral courage and principled leadership, and there is none of that going around these days. None at the recent
Women’s Strike from Linda Sarsour and Co., and especially not from the inane Democrats. There’s just endless whining and hyperventilating, “Trump, Trump,Trump, Pussy, Pussy Pussy, Russia, Russia, Russia.” However, their collective silence about our permanent state of war is deafening. There can be no true social justice until we first stop bombing our way to peace. There is no greater issue. Having been a free-spirited globetrotter since my late teens, I know something about crossing borders. I learned before I was 20 that when you cross borders anywhere in the world, and particularly upon re-entry into the United States, that you are at the mercy of petty bureaucrats. These folks probably hate their jobs, and for no particular reason — possibly a quota, or just for spite and sadistic pleasure — want to make your life miserable. When you leave or enter any country, you must check your dignity along with your baggage, especially now. This past December at Newark, I was again pulled aside for special treatment and the Customs officer, examining my Xanax, demanded the source of my anxiety. What unmitigated gall. Flash back to 1973. I was only 18, returning from Jamaica through J.F.K. This is prior to the emergence of Bob Marley and the ganga culture of Ras-
tafarianism. I was on the trail of Ian Fleming, Dr. No and Ursula Andress. After breezing through Immigration and Customs to meet my mother, who would drive me back to my sheltered “white” life on Long Island, I was surrounded by four very tall men sporting crew cuts, sunglasses and black suits right out of “Reservoir Dogs.” They never identified themselves. They ushered me into an austere 10-x-10 room, harshly lit by overhead fluorescents. It was air-conditioned. The only piece of furniture in the room was a slab-like stainless-steel table that was undoubtedly used for vivisection. I expected the worst. I was ordered to strip down to my underwear. The gang ransacked my flaming orange backpack with a space cowboy decal on the back flap, and rifled through my clothes. I sat on the cold table wondering if an anal probe was forthcoming. But I was cool, I knew they would never fi nd the one tab of blotter acid buried inside my wallet. One thorough agent tipped over my sneakers, and for a brief moment a fi ne substance poured out. But it was just sand from the beach adjacent to the Montego Bay airport. They all gave me very dirty looks and told me to get the “F” out of there. I’ve led a charmed life. Only a bit later, perhaps in 1974, a
college buddy attending SUNY Buffalo and I were returning from a brief day trip into Canada to view the magnificent Niagara Falls. This was at the tail end of the gruesome and immoral Vietnam War. Walking back across the Peace Bridge into Immigration, we were immediately separated and put into hermetically sealed rooms. I sat there for an hour in Kafkaesque suspension, until an agent fi nally appeared and told me I was free to re-enter my own country. They had checked to see if we were draft dodgers. Those were the days. At Heathrow, I was once pulled aside and interrogated about the box of toothpicks I had in my carry-on (true story). At Charles de Gaulle, I was surrounded by heavily militarized police after I pleaded not to X-ray my precious film canisters from my Himalayan trek. They insisted that the film could be packed with C-4. I have been detained, frisked, humiliated, threatened at gunpoint in Burma, India, Bulgaria, Israel, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Dubai, Brazil and most often in the United States. As long as there are borders, it comes with the territory. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, in his famed 1967 antiwar speech at Riverside Church: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Ommmmmmm.
Stanley’s creative crucible BARD continued from p. 13
The Chelsea, Quentin Crisp, the gay British writer and raconteur, told me his reason for staying there even after a fi re broke out in a nearby room. “I love squalor,” Crisp said. That same year, I also interviewed the great English-American writer and dramatist Christoper Isherwood, who lived in Santa Monica and checked into The Chelsea when he visited New York. During an interview for the arts section of Women’s Wear Daily, I asked Isherwood to describe his reaction to the recent fatal stabbing at
the hotel of Nancy Spungen by punk rocker Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. “Oh, they only do that sort of thing on the other floors,” Isherwood replied airily. Word came back to me from two editors at WWD that Bard was furious by Isherwood’s comment. He apparently regarded it as heresy and considered my article an expression of ingratitude from a former tenant he had helped. So sorry if you felt that way, dear Stanley. You made a difference in my life and so did your familyrun hotel. Many thanks and R.I.P.
You’re invited to join us in honoring
Jillian Weiss Executive Director Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
Thursday, March 30 A portion of proceeds will be donated to not for proﬁt local LGBT and community organizations
Tickets: www.gaycitynews.nyc/impact 14
March 16, 2017
Current Sessions choreographs its next move Series seeks new talent to tackle ‘resistance’ theme
Photo by Corey Melton Photo by Michael Gordon
Alexis Convento founded the Current Sessions, a fusion of performance art and dance, in 2011.
BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC The word “resist” is enjoying an upswing in popularity as of late. For those who oppose the current administration it is a state of mind, a clarion call, a political action, a verb to emblazon on banners, and, of course, a hashtag. But what does resistance look like — how does it manifest — when it comes to art? Alexis Convento, founder of the Current Sessions (TCS), is looking for dancers, choreographers, skateboarders, bodybuilders, martial arts practitioners, visual artists and others to explore the theme of resistance for an upcoming series. As a performing arts organization, TCS has been presenting such curated mixed-bill series at the East Village’s Wild Project since the summer of 2011. “Participating artists will develop choreography from the disobedient and destabilizing to the imaginative and the revolutionary,” Convento said in a recent email to Chelsea Now. “Resistance looks to further classify movement into a broader spectrum by challenging systems of making and observing dance.” Convento said the theme feels like a protest of sorts, especially when connected to the current administration. “Many marginalized groups — black and brown bodies, LGBTQIA, natives, and immigrants — are the most vulnerable,” she said. “I want to make sure that stories from these people are presented; however, TheVillager.com
TCS needs to be diligent on creating a space that can feel safe, is approachable, and open to critique, for both those presenting work, and those attending the event.” Convento met with this publication at Ludlow House social club (139 Ludlow St., btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.) before the election, and said she was considering resistance for this year’s series’ overarching theme. For each of the more recent series, there was an overarching theme, with each evening having its own sub-theme, she explained. For instance, the last TCS series addressed the overall theme of value, with one of the evenings focused on debt, she said. It is a way to be able to curate the works to have a through line, Convento said. She called it “magical” when two choreographers use the same movement phase with different intentions and staging. In Jessica Pretty’s piece called “the third.,” she did a lot of gestures — like throwing her hands up — that evoked Black Lives Matter while she faced the audience, Convento said. Another choreographer, Bobbi Jene Smith, also used the same hands up movement in her work “Desert,” but did it facing upstage, away from the audience, she explained. Sessions’ move toward social issues marks an evolution in what the organization presents — it started
Fana Fraser performed her work, “Stillbirth,” last August as part of an evening that examined credit.
out more focused on spontaneity of movement. In 2011, Convento was working with performance artist Narcissister (narcissister.com), and through her met Ana Mari de Quesada. De Quesada, now the producing artistic director of the not-for-profit Wild Project, had a few nights available at the space and emailed Convento asking to see if she wanted to produce a night at the venue. “At the time, for some reason, I was like, ‘Yeah!’ ” Convento recalled. “I had no experience in production or administration. That’s all self-taught from Current Sessions.” Originally from Philadelphia, Convento said she has been in the dance sphere since she was three, and was trained in ballet as well as tap and hoofing from the ages of 10 to 17. She moved to New York to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance, a joint program at Fordham University with the Ailey School. Trained in Balanchine and Vaganova methods, Convento learned Graham and Horton at Ailey, graduating in 2008. Before starting TCS, she did the whole route of auditioning and had an agent, landing a French tour with Mylène Farmer, whom Convento said is like the Madonna of France. Her experiences motivated her to discover a broader range of expression, and want to TCS continued on p. 15 March 16, 2017
Throwback vibe is new club’s groove
Photos by Corey Melton
For its last series, choreographers explored aspects of “value.” Bobbi Jene Smith performed her piece “Desert” on an evening that focused on the theme of credit. TCS continued from p. 16
fuse performance art with dance. She had begun to make her own work when de Quesada approached her about the night at the Wild Project (195 East Third St., btw. Aves. A & B; thewildproject.com). “She was onboard,” de Quesada said in a phone interview. “She took the challenge.” Convento ended up linking up with friends of friends, who were interested in creating dance pieces for the night. Allison Jones, Jonathan Royse Windham, Yin Yue, Genna Baroni and Yarden Raz were the first choreographers TCS presented for two shows in July 2011, Convento said. “I hired one lighting designer. I had no idea I needed a sound designer,” she said with a laugh. “It went really well — surprising, with the lack of coordination and the lack of the time to prepare.” After the show, Convento said they received a lot of compliments about how the works felt cohesive yet distinct. The choreographers, she said, were working in a similar branch of contemporary dance called Gaga — a movement language created by Ohad Naharin. “I think because of the success or the praise that we got after that, I was curious to email Ana Mari from the Wild Project to get to see if there was some more time that she wanted to give to us, and we had our second one in November,” Convento said. TCS has been housed at the Wild Project since then. “What I really love is the community of choreographers that they bring in,” de Quesada said. “It’s introducing dance to many people. It’s amazing to see them express different things.” Convento said, “Wild Project is smaller, more intimate, so a lot of details in the work really shine through there.” The Current Sessions has received
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funding through a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council grant, and is also looking to branch out to pair with other organizations on curatorial performance series, Convento said. “The more and more we’ve been doing this, the more and more we’ve been realizing we’re a service to artists; it’s not just a show,” she said. “We put in a lot of effort to communicating with the artists and working with the artists beforehand to make sure that they feel okay, and that they feel safe
Gregory Holt performed “Movements 2,001-2,250” in an evening that looked at debt.
to present.” Convento hopes to spur conversations among the artists and among the audience. “I believe that these stories can promote change, can allow one to process and heal, and to hopefully uplift and bring together a community,” she said. To apply for the August series, “Volume VII: On Resistance,” visit thecurrentsessions.com/up-next — which also has info on April 14 & 15’s “TCS x Roya Carreras: The Big Balloon” (at the Wild Project) and Convento’s June 3 & 4 curated programs (part of the La MaMa Moves festival).
Courtesy Winick Realty Group
The facade of the 161 W. 23rd St. space that will be Retroclubnyc come spring.
BY SEAN EGAN “I spent a lot of time going out, checking out the nightlife in the city, and just not seeing any venues that really cater to a slightly older crowd,” explained Jeff Wittels. “I wanted to bring this back to New York.” This line of thinking resulted in the forthcoming Retroclubnyc — a club Wittels will run, catering to guests 35 and older and focusing on throwback music from the ’70s to today. The venue secured a space at 161 W. 23rd St. (btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.), the former home of Meridian, and just last week Winick Realty Group signed a 10-year lease on the location. According to Wittels, they’re aiming for an early-spring opening date on the two-floor, approximately 200-capacity club. The heart of the venture, though, is the music — a sphere Wittels has significant experience with. “I have a massive personal collection of vinyl. I mean, I did DJ work many years ago, so I’m going to be personally handling that whole aspect of it,” said Wittels, who favors danceable cuts. “We’re going to have turntables, vinyl — it’s going to be a little bit of a throwback.” The throwback vibe will even extend to the imbibing options. “We’re going to have kind of a retro drink menu also, specialty cocktails, which is going to be pretty cool — bringing back some of the drinks from back in the day,” said Wittels, who noted that the menu (in addition to their light food options) is still in development. “That’ll be fun for people who haven’t seen that in a while, and also for people who just have never experienced some of the older drinks.” Wittels, did ensure, however, that the
decor would not indulge in kitchy trends from decades past. “It’s not going to be corny; it’ll be fun. It’ll be new, interesting, chic,” he commented, noting that they’re currently in the design phase. Though the opening is a ways off, buzz has already been building via the two Instagram accounts that Wittels runs — @Retroclubnyc and @Vocalclubnyc, which highlight the kinds of old school songs that will be the club’s bread and butter, and singer-songwriters and live acts Wittels enjoys, respectively. It’s a division that will also manifest itself in the club. “It’s a two-name venue, which is unique. It’s Vocalclub and Retroclub, and you’ll see that right on the front,” revealed Wittels. “We’re going to have live music earlier in the evening, and then switch over to more DJ music.” Bridging the gap between the two, Wittels also noted that he plans on working with live cover bands to play old hits as well. “There’s been a lot of positive response from the neighborhood already; and people slightly older are really excited about having a place to go to,” Wittles asserted, noting that he’s only heard positive reactions. “Chelsea’s just a fun area; it’s near the High Line, it’s near Meatpacking — everything’s there. It’s just a nice part of the city,” he said, theorizing that its easily accessible location could attract guest from all across the city. Ultimately, for Wittels, it’s about creating a friendly, positive experience to stand in contrast to many of the less-welcoming, trendy options in the Downtown area. “I want [guests] to feel like they’ve had a good time, they’ve had fun, and enjoyed themselves,” concluded Wittels, who wants people to leave “excited and happy to come back.” TheVillager.com
The Liverpool longing of ‘Penny Lane’ A granny song’s milestone sparks remembrance of nostalgia past BY JIM MELLOAN Soon after my family moved from New Jersey to London in the fall of 1966, we started paying a lot of attention to the music, largely through “Top of the Pops,” the half-hour Top 20 countdown TV show that came on the BBC every Thursday at 7:35 p.m. We got to know acts pretty much unknown on the other side of the pond: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich; Val Doonican; Des O’Connor. We endured seven weeks of Tom Jones’ “Green, Green Grass Of Home” at No. 1 (my mom purchased a copy), but it was a little while before we heard from the Beatles. They had released the “Revolver” album and their most recent single, “Eleanor Rigby”/“Yellow Submarine,” in August of 1966. They broke their silence in midFebruary of 1967 with the release of another double-A-sided single: “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields,” and in doing so ushered world culture into an entirely new era. It was the beginning of the late ’60s, the time span of just three or four years that most people think of when they think of the ’60s. It was soon clear that the single was a must-have for our household, and Mom bought a copy. The cheery melody, brass section, and nostalgic lyrics of “Penny Lane” were right up Mom’s alley, of a piece with Paul’s laterreleased songs “When I’m Sixty-Four” and “Your Mother Should Know” — what John used to call his “granny songs.” “Strawberry Fields” was also a nostalgic song about Liverpool, but of a completely different sort. “Let me take you down,” John proposed, to a place where “nothing is real.” I don’t think we knew this song when we got the disc. It was much darker, stranger. The recording of John’s voice sounded so weird that it caused my dad to wonder if there might be something wrong with our record player. The group had just begun work on what would become the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, and
The Penny Lane of Paul’s song refers to the name of a busy bus terminus at a Liverpool roundabout.
the two songs were originally meant to be included on it. But manager Brian Epstein wanted a new single, and producer George Martin decided to give him those two, which he thought was their best work yet. He later expressed regret that they weren’t part of the album. Both songs featured a multitude of instruments and orchestration that surpassed anything the Beatles had put out thus far. Along with the single they released a pair of promotional films, which aired on “Top of the Pops” on February 16. It was everyone’s first glimpse of the Beatles with — gasp! — facial hair. The films are one of the first examples of what came to be known as music videos. Strawberry Field was the name of a Salvation Army children’s home near John’s childhood home. He and his friends used to climb over a wall to play in the garden next to the building. John’s Aunt Mimi used to warn him not
to play there, and he would respond “They won’t hang me for it.” “Nothing to get hung about” means literally that — nothing to do with so-called “hangups,” which at the time was really an American expression. The lyrics explore the age-old condition of difficulty in relating to others, and yet “it all works out. It doesn’t matter much to me.” In a perfect rendition of semi-coherent stoned rambling, expressing the vital urge to make oneself understood and blowing it completely, John sings, “Always, no, sometimes think it’s me. But you know I know and it’s a dream. I think, er, no, I mean, er, yes, but it’s all wrong. That is I think I disagree.” When John brought the song to the band, Paul took up the challenge. He would write his own Liverpool nostalgia song as a counterpoint, and his would be bright and sunny. The name Penny Lane actually appeared in an early draft of the lyrics for John’s “Rubber Soul” song “In My Life.” Penny Lane is the name of one of the Liverpool streets that came together at a busy bus terminus that went by the same name; the song is about the roundabout there. Paul and John would have to change buses at the terminus when they went to visit each other. Paul sketches an idyllic tableau, with the banker with a motorcar, the fireman with an hourglass and a portrait of the
queen, the nurse selling poppies from a tray, the barber showing photographs of every head he’s had the pleasure to know. For a long time, re: the banker, I thought the line was “the little children have an M behind his back,” and I wondered what that meant. The slyest lyric is “a four of fish and finger pies,” a kind of chain pun in which “four of fish” means fourpence worth of fish, “fish and finger” alludes to fish fingers, and “finger pies” is Liverpool slang for the very intimate kind of fondling that might go on with couples in the bus shelter. Paul called it “a nice little joke for the Liverpool lads who like a bit of smut.” At the American School in London we got to go to nearby Regent’s Park on our lunch breaks during that magical Spring, and as a budding song parodist with such gems as “Stranglers in the Night” and “Meet the Stinker, Polaroid Stinker” under my belt, I found common ground with my friend Dick Wilson, who would sing, “Cellophane is in my ears and in my eyes.” It was the colorful, cheerful heart of the Swinging London era. In the US, it would soon be the Summer of Love. The single was kept out of the No. 1 spot in the UK by Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Please Release Me.” Here in the US, “Penny Lane” was at the top spot just for the week of March 18, 1967 — 50 years ago this week. March 16, 2017
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March 16, 2017
So who are Soho Canada Goose activists really? ACTIVISTS continued from p. 9
know those things. So when a bird loses feathers or has a wound in that area that requires removal of feathers, it’s painful. Nerve and blood supply go together — and that’s where the blood supply is.
Defense attorney Nathan Semmel Originally from: Grew up on E. Third St., in Stuyvesant Town and Long Island Now lives: Upper West Side Age: 46 Job: Criminal defense attorney
V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests? Kaplan: To see Canada Goose stop selling fur. Down has been around forever, and it has not been protested forever. People think, “It’s just feathers. They can collect them on the ground, and it makes a warm coat.” But I think you cross the line into frivolous fashion when you start putting a real fur trim on a coat that has absolutely no real purpose. They say it blocks the wind. You can wear a balaclava like they do for skiing or a hat that covers your ears. They want something that looks nice on their collar. As a vet, I’m vocal in my neighborhood. Every day, I approach at least five to 15 people that I see on the street walking their dog and say, “Excuse me. Are you aware that the fur on your coat comes from a real coyote? Do you make the connection between the coyote and your dog?” Or I say, “Take your hand and run it across the back of your dog. I’d like you to now do the same thing to your collar. Doesn’t it feel like the same thing? Because it is.” I have very good dialogue with people. V: What about accusations that the protesters on Wooster St. have been too loud at times? Kaplan: At times we were, yes. But since the police have directed us otherwise, we have toned it down. Personally, I don’t feel that it’s effective to yell at people, to sling four-letter words at them. Once you get into an argument, you’ve lost them. I’m a believer in the planted seed. Once you’ve gotten the word out and they’ve heard it, that’s where change begins. We discuss this in the protest group. We respect everybody else’s methods. And we learn from each other.
The triathlete Meredith Schriver Originally from: New Britain, CT. Now lives: Upper West Side Age: 31 Job: Senior court advocate at a nonprofit criminal justice organization (Came to New York to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
V: When did you become an animalrights activist and why?
ing at vegan athletes. That started me to be more of a plant-based eater. Then, one day I saw a horrific video of factory farming. I just spent the rest of the day looking at more videos. From that day on, I was 100 percent vegan. But it wasn’t until last year that I felt the need to really get out there and do more of the protesting and make my voice heard. V: As an athlete, do you feel you get enough protein as a vegan? Schriver: Absolutely. Everyone told me I was crazy. People said, “You won’t be able to finish the race. You won’t get the protein and nutrients that you need.” But I actually found like I had more energy. I started running faster. It felt like less recovery time between big workouts.
Schriver: Because it’s Canada Goose’s flagship store in the United States. I think it’s so important to educate people about how inhumane they are, how they trap the animals and how they get the down for the coats. The majority of the people really don’t know that they’re wearing these dead canines around their neck. They think it’s fake.
V: How long will you keep protesting against the store?
Schriver: I became vegan three years ago. It started, honestly, not for the animals. It was more for health reasons. I was training for a big race — the New York City Triathlon — and I was look-
Schriver: As long as it takes. It’s not going to stop when winter’s over. They’re still going to be there with their spring line [much of which contains down]. I don’t think the down is humanely ob-
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Semmel: To shut them down. But I recognize the fact that it’s a behemoth company. It will take a lot of awareness. That so many people don’t know [about the fur]. If you don’t know and you like the look and you want the status — because that’s really what the patch is all about, is the status, because everybody knows how expensive these coats are — so people want other people to know how much they are able to pay for that coat. The ultimate goal is to shut the fur trade down, to stop Canada Goose. It would be wonderful if the people of Wooster St., of Soho, if their gripe was with the store and its practices. We are the response to Canada Goose being there — not the other way around. V: How long will you keep protesting against the store?
V: What does that tattoo “269” on your inner arm mean?
V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests? Schriver: I want to get the word out there. I want to educate as many people as possible. There’s so much cruelty that goes into every single coat. And I’d like to believe the majority of people don’t want to pay for something that’s so inhumane.
V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests?
Semmel: I think, until it stops. Every single day we’re out there, we’re raising awareness. Even if the shoppers don’t walk off that line that day, they may go home and they may research it. They may look online and see the video of what Canada Goose does to animals.
V: Why do you feel the protest against Canada Goose is important?
V: When did you become an animalrights activist and why?
Semmel: It started really with fundraising on behalf of Farm Sanctuary [the Upstate animal-rescue group]. They’re a lot more than rescue — they do outreach, legislation. At the time I was vegetarian. I learned a lot about factory farming. In terms of protesting and street activism, I would say I started within the past year. I went to New York Law School in Tribeca. I was a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for almost six years, and then switched sides. I’ve been doing defense work since 2004. In a lot of ways, there are similarities to animal activism — because there’s a feeling of the deck being stacked against who you’re representing, whether it’s people or animals. There’s a feeling of trying to do what’s right. I think the difference is, with my job, many of the people I represent have committed crimes, they have done wrong. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people. Or maybe they haven’t done everything they’re accused of doing. But in animal advocacy, who we advocate for haven’t done anything wrong at all.
with a woman coming out of a store in a full-length fur coat. But then you didn’t see fur forever. And then it started to come back, and now you see the fur trim — everywhere. That damn patch, that Canada Goose patch. They hide behind this story that “We don’t use fur farms. We don’t use live-plucked goose down.” But whether they use fur farms or not, the methods are barbaric. They can never guarantee that the feathers are not liveplucked. There are undercover videos from all over from places that swear that “this is humane,” that show that this is being done.
V: Why do you feel the protest against Canada Goose is important? Semmel: Long before I went vegan, the idea of wearing fur was just appalling to me. I remember in the 1970s there was a TV commercial, like, “You don’t have to pay a million to look like a million,”
Semmel: “269” is a calf that was born into an Israeli dairy farm. Like all others destined for slaughter, he had a tag number pierced into his ear. As an all-white calf, 269 stood out. He became a symbol of the animal-rights movement. His life was ultimately saved near his slaughter day. But by tattooing his number — the founders of the movement and hundreds of others are actually branded — we show our solidarity with the victims of the animal holocaust all around the world, remembering to never forget. Annually, more than 150 billion animals are murdered worldwide. People say, “I could give up meat. I can’t give up cheese.” What people don’t realize is the dairy industry is the genesis of it all, in a lot of ways. Because the male calf has no value ACTIVISTS continued on p. 22
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Tracking activists’ path to Wooster ACTIVISTS continued from p. 20
in the dairy industry. So the male calf gets sold off to a veal farm, where it lives for one to three months in a crate where it can’t move, so the muscles don’t develop. That’s the appeal of veal, it’s tender. So dairy leads to veal.
Morrissey disciple Andrew Ensenat Originally from: Miami Now lives: Bushwick Age: 27 Job: Graphic designer in DUMBO V: When did you become an animal-rights activist and why? Ensenat: At age 18. I think it all has to do with the guy I worship. His name is Morrissey. He’s a big animal-rights activist. At age 13, I picked up his album “Maladjusted,” and later I bought The Smiths album “Meat Is Murder.” And I started reading the lyrics. Morrissey is badass. [He shows his cell phone; Morrissey is on both its cover and screen background.] So I became vegetarian at age 18. It’s never been the same. My family thought it was a phase. Because I’m CubanAmerican, so our typical staple foods are pork, meat, chicken and seafood. So I decided to get a new diet. I went to Florida State University and met likeminded people and just read more. My fi rst protest was at Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Circus in Miami when I was 18. I got myself more involved through the grapevine a.k.a. Facebook. I demo’d outside The Kooples store in Soho — it’s like a designer store but they use animal byproducts for their
clothing. This stuff still affects me on a personal and emotional level. I wake up angry, I go to sleep angry. I was leafletting in Union Square yesterday for a nonprofit group called Mercy for Animals. V: Why do you feel the protest against Canada Goose is important? Ensenat: That begs the question: Why isn’t it important? These are living entities. These animals want the same things you want: To go home to their family, to live in this world, to roam free, to eat grass, to at least feel grass on their legs, to breathe the air that we breathe. And Canada Goose doesn’t give a s---. They see these animals as profit.
ing an Initial Public Offering of its stock]. There’s going to be a demonstration with PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]. The protesters are going to dress up in suits with fox masks. So the ultimate goal, for all of us, is to stop Canada Goose. Just stop everything.
Stickers got him Alex Reyes Originally from: Bushwick Now lives: Bushwick Age: 25 Job: Dog walker V: When did you become an animal-rights activist and why? Reyes: I started in late December, when I realized that people were protesting against the Canada Goose jackets. I found Rob Banks. I followed him on Instagram. And then I found him in person by coincidence in real life. He was stickering on Bedford Ave. The stickers said, “This Is Your Fur Trim,” with an image of dead coyotes. V: Why do you feel protesting Canada Goose is important? Reyes: A lot of people don’t realize what they’re wearing. It’s just trendy. When you’re protesting, you’ll come across some people who say, “It’s disgusting. Take it off me.”
V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests?
V: What’s your ultimate goal in the Canada Goose protests? Ensenat: Well, this Thursday, Canada Goose is going public [mak-
Reyes: I think it’s to get that store out of Soho. And make a statement, so that all the fur stores would notice this and see that people are not with that.
Gimme shelter? In Comm’y Board 2? HOMELESS from p. 6
amenities and the public services that our city is expected to offer,” he said. In fact, Community Board 2 would not necessarily be the fi rst place the city would look to site shelters under the Fair Share policy. There are districts all around the city with fewer beds than Manhattan Board 2, and the number of people entering the shelter system in those areas far outweighs the number of beds those
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districts provide. Staten Island, for example, has the biggest disparity: As of last October, 1,871 people were in the system in that borough, but only one shelter there provides just 46 beds. Altogether there are seven districts citywide that provide exactly zero shelter beds, but from which nearly a combined total of 900 people were in the system, according to the D.H.S. Just south of Board 2 in Lower Manhattan’s Board 1, there are only 50 home-
less-shelter beds for the 429 people who were in the system there as of this past October. However, that one shelter in C.B. 1 was also housing twice as many people as the number of beds it was scheduled to have. The future of shelters in C.B. 2 is largely dependent on whether the Council passes Johnson and Lander’s Fair Share legislation. Otherwise, the mayor’s plan of siting shelters in communities from which people enter the system
would go into effect. The Mayor’s Office said that the idea of housing homeless families and individuals in the districts in which they last lived is meant to disrupt their lives as little as possible; it allows children in these families in the system to remain at their schools without having to commute from shelters in other parts of the city, and allows the family as a whole to keep closer ties to their neighborhoods while in the system. TheVillager.com
Black theater Co. returning to St. Mark’s roots THEATER continued from p. 1
audiences have proved challenging. The move of N.E.C. to Theatre 80 may help to change that, explained Brown, the company’s executive director. “We now have an opportunity with this relationship to solicit more funding, number one, to do better marketing because, as small as N.E.C. has been, the marketing of all of our artistic offerings has been a little tough because we’re so small,” Brown said. “So being here gives us an opportunity to get ahead where we’ve been struggling.” N.E.C.’s training programs will be relocated to the second floor of Theatre 80, at 80 St. Mark’s Place. There, nine workshops — including acting, playwrighting, stage management, directing and three levels of dance — will be taught. N.E.C.’s school was founded in 1967 to give artists of color a platform where they could practice and cultivate their talent. “The idea was to create professionals who are very highly trained, who are wonderfully talented and very, very significantly skilled, in a culture that accepted only one or two,” Brown said. “Because one of the things about this town, you cannot throw a rock without hitting a theater artist. You just can’t do it. And it’s irrelevant their ethnicity, what they look like, whether they’re straight or gay, whether they’re tall or short. That’s irrelevant.” Otway, Brown and Weldon empha-
PHOTO BY AMY RUSSO
On the stage at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s, from left, Genie Ot way, Karen Brown, Charles Weldon and Lorcan Ot way.
sized the void of artistic homes that have existed for actors of color and the marginalization black theater still faces today. Weldon, a longtime member of the theater scene and N.E.C.’s artistic director, recalled coming to New York as an actor but feeling lost once the play in which he was performing closed. While debating whether to return home and leave the city he immediately loved, he was encouraged to audition for a show at N.E.C. where he interacted with playwright Samm-Art Williams and Victor Willis. Willis is best
known as the original leader singer of the Village People and lyricist of “Y.M.C.A.” Weldon noted that these kind of encounters and relationships were possible because N.E.C. gave artists a space to grow and thrive. However, he doesn’t want this to be an idea of the past, but an ideal to which the company can once again return. “We seem to always think of what we used to have,” he observed, “and I don’t want to do that with the Negro Ensemble Company. I want it to be what we still
have and we’ll always have.” The N.E.C. move blossomed out of a moment of inspiration last December when the company performed Douglas Turner Ward’s “Day of Absence” at Theatre 80 in celebration of N.E.C.’s 50th anniversary. Weldon, a self-described believer in happenstance, called the audience response “overwhelming.” “It was people coming from all over just because we were back on St. Mark’s,” he recalled. “And a lot of people that came remembered when we were down the street. And so it just kind of all came together. And I think that’s when the idea came that, ‘What if we make something out of this? Let’s not let it just pass us by.’ ” All three agreed that the expanded partnership had arrived at a particularly relevant time. Recognizing continuing racial divides in our society, Otway foresees N.E.C. as a spark for a cultural renaissance, as it was in the ’60s and ’70s. “We began to evaluate where America was at this time,” he said, reflecting on the significance of the move. “And we realized that this couldn’t be a one-shot event, that we are in a country that has lost its direction, and that when you look to re-establish political direction, you have to begin with cultural direction.” It’s expected the full move of N.E.C.’s entire operation to Theatre 80 will take up to two years. Meanwhile, the company’s training program will begin hosting classes in about six months at the St. Mark’s Place theater once the secondfloor space has been renovated.
Ethical fur versus intolerant animal activists FUR continued from p. 11
stable and healthy wildlife populations than would occur naturally. Important Use: Animal activists claim that the killing of coyotes or other animals for fur is “unnecessary”, and therefore morally indefensible. Leaving aside the tricky question of determining which, if any, products are really “necessary,” humans do need clothing, and fur is a natural, long-lasting and ultimately biodegradable material. By contrast, fake furs and other synthetics promoted by animal activists are generally made from petrochemicals, a nonrenewable resource. More troubling, recent research reveals that synthetic microfibers can cause considerable harm to wildlife. According to EcoWatch: “When washed, plastic microfibers break off and a single jacket can produce up to 250,000 fibers in washing-machine effluent. Less than 1 millimeter in size, they make their way through wastewater plants and into marine environments where they have been found to enter the food chain. Microfibers make up 85 percent of human-made debris on shorelines around the world, TheVillager.com
according to a 2011 study.” Perhaps natural fur and down are not such frivolous choices after all. No Waste: Most of us are comfortable wearing leather because it is “the envelope that dinner came in,” but we may wonder what happens to the rest of the animals that provide fur. In fact, beaver and muskrat are often eaten by northern Cree and other trappers and their families in remote regions where storebought food is very expensive and alternate income may be hard to come by. Raccoons, opossums and other furbearing animals also provide food in more southern regions. And while coyotes and other predators are not usually eaten by humans, their carcasses are returned to the bush where they feed birds, mice and other animals through the winter, when food is scarce. Nothing is wasted. This short review shows that the North American fur trade does satisfy the four criteria that determine whether the use animals is morally acceptable for most people. Furthermore, while we all “care” about nature, most of us now live in cities with little direct knowledge about what really
happens in the wild. Activists protesting against Canada Goose, for example, claim that “trapped coyote mothers leave behind starving pups.” They are apparently unaware that trapping occurs in late fall and winter when the young of the year are no longer dependent upon their parents. Trappers, by contrast, live close to nature and have the knowledge — and a direct interest — to sound the alarm when wildlife habitat is threatened by industrial activity. It is trappers, for example, who lobby and work with timber companies to maintain uncut forest corridors for wildlife around waterways or important nesting areas. It is the destruction of habitat — not hunters or trappers — that threatens the survival of wildlife. While animal activists like to see themselves as “progressive,” their words and actions reveal an arrogant disregard for the knowledge and values of the hard-working rural people who feed and clothe us. None of this means that anyone is obliged to wear fur. But it does cast doubt on activist claims to have a “moral” justification for imposing their per-
sonal choices on the rest of us. If those promoting the radical “animal-rights” philosophy want to maintain any credibility, they would do well do show more tolerance toward those who make different choices. Too often, while preaching “compassion,” their actions seem to be driven by ideological fundamentalism, aggression and “alternate facts.” Surely, we have enough of that already in Washington. Herscovici was raised in a Montreal fur-manufacturing family. He is the author of “Second Nature: The AnimalRights Controversy” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1985), the first serious critique of the “animal-rights” philosophy from an environmental and social justice perspective. He served for 20 years as executive director of the Fur Council of Canada, in which capacity he created Furisgreen.com. He is now senior researcher for TruthAboutFur. com, a public-information Web portal developed in partnership with North American fur associations, with support from the International Fur Federation (Americas). March 16, 2017
TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones
Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell
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phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.
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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