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YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN

City Council Mulls Sweeping Tenant Safety Measures BY SEAN EGAN When Xiao Ling Chen took her seat before the City Council Housing and Buildings Committee to give testimony in support of new tenant harassment bills, she was probably not expecting to cry. But, in recent years, the longtime Eldridge St. TENANT BILLS continued on p. 2

Locals Want Input on Incoming Hospital BY LESLEY SUSSMAN Mount Sinai Beth Israel officials at their latest community forum on the proposed downsizing and relocation of the historic Beth Israel Hospital, once again heard local residents and public officials express fear and loathing — along with some moments of fire and fury — over the plans for the 128-year-old medical facility. Beth Israel will abandon its present HOSPITAL continued on p. 6

Photo by Caleb Caldwell

L to R: Kelly Maurer and Alison Moore are among a new breed of tenants with the savvy to document and challenge falsely filed DOB permit applications.

THEY’RE COOKING WITH GAS, SO TO SPEAK Knowledgeable Tenants Challenge Lack of Utilities, Shady Landlord Tactics BY WINNIE McCROY As rents continue to skyrocket in the Chelsea area, some landlords are going to extreme lengths to ditch existing tenants, spruce up their units, and rent them at much higher rates as “luxury apartments.” But tenants who want to

remain in their homes are becoming increasingly savvy, reaching out to the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) and their elected officials at the first sign of violations. For Kelly Maurer and Jordan Lage, longtime residents at 311 W. 21st St.,

the last straw came earlier this month, when their 12-year-old daughter was hit in the head during softball practice. After taking her to the emergency room, they returned to a home that had TENANTS continued on p. 3

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VOLUME 09, ISSUE 13 | APRIL 20-26, 2017


Heated Hearing Finds Councilmembers Considering Batch of Tenant-Aiding Bills TENANT BILLS continued from p. 1

resident’s multi-generational family has been crammed into just two rooms due to extensive and invasive construction, subject to mold and insects, and has suffered broken furniture and appliances at the hands of building management making minor repairs. It’s enough to overwhelm anyone. As she began to get emotional, and the tears started falling, Councilmembers Helen Rosenthal and Jumaane Williams approached her in an attempt to calm her down. She quickly excused herself from the chambers. The hearing continued, as more than a dozen others waited to share similarly gut-wrenching accounts of tenant harassment. “It shouldn’t be this hard,” Councilmember Rosenthal told Chelsea Now in an interview prior to the above incident. “I heard a story about a community board meeting that a tenant was at. It was a land use meeting, and an architect was presenting information about a building that was to be gutted because it wasn’t occupied, and the work that he was going to be doing — at which point the tenant stood up and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute; I live in that building.’ ”

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April 20-26, 2017

Via council.nyc.gov/live

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal (at right) came to comfort longtime Eldridge St. resident Xiao Ling Chen (third from right), who began to cry before delivering testimony chronicling her family’s harassment.

Rosenthal’s comments came in advance of Wed., April 19’s City Council Housing and Buildings Committee hearing, whose agenda consisted of discussing five measures which help comprise a package of bills known as the “Stand For Tenant Safety” (STS)

package, designed to help combat such tenant-related incidents. “My office, every year, we see roughly between three and five thousand cases; 80 percent of those cases are related to tenant harassment, in one form or another,” Rosenthal said of the package, which includes a bill she authored. “This legislation is, from my perspective, a package of ideas to help move the ball forward to help these tenants. They’ve been written because of the situations that we’ve seen.” In addition, other tenant-related measures were discussed for the first time, including Rosenthal’s Intro. No. 347-A, which would grant Housing Court judges the ability to award damages and attorney fees for tenant harassment actions. Most notable, however, is Rosenthal’s Intro. No. 1523, which would create the office of Tenant Advocate in the Department of Buildings (DOB). “It tasks them with approving the [tenant protection plans], site safety plans, and communicating with residents about construction,” explained Rosenthal of the potential office. “It could be an incredibly helpful tool for tenants who are trying to get a response out of the Department of Buildings.” “I think opening government to residents is critical, and it shouldn’t be the case that only a councilmember can get through to the Department of Buildings,” she went on. “Tenants are being harassed all the time, and they should know that they have an advocate inside the Department of Buildings that they can access, and where they

can get straight talk and information. We haven’t seen that before.” “We speak to tenants every day from our district who are living in unsafe conditions, are being harassed by their landlords, or simply do not understand their rights as tenants,” concurred Ryan Monell, representing Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, a co-sponsor of Intro. 1523, in an email to Chelsea Now. “Having a singular office that can assist with many of the concerns we see would be tremendously helpful to many, notably those in immigrant communities.” The measure also attracted the attention of the Community Residents Protection (CRP) task force of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA). Bill Borock, CCBA president, told Chelsea Now, “The concept of having a Tenant Advocate in a city agency advocating for tenants when something is not proper is a great idea,” though nonetheless, he remained uncertain of whether the DOB would actually be able to execute the measure efficiently if passed. The group’s watched the DOB consistently drop the ball on tenants’ issues in the past, leaving him concerned that the issues would not be ameliorated without the significant reform of the DOB. It was concern that echoed loudly and frequently, by councilmembers and the public alike, at Wednesday’s hearing, where representatives of the DOB and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) TENANT BILLS continued on p. 15 .com


As Vigilant Tenants Document Harassment, City and Electeds Take Action TENANTS continued from p. 1

no gas to cook her dinner, no hot water for her to take a bath, and no heat. “That was when I said to myself, ‘Enough!’ We have lived in this building for 18 years and it’s our home,” said Maurer. “But all of the renters who were not regulated have been pushed out, our gas has been off for over a year, no maintenance is being done except trash removal, and we often have no heat or hot water.” Following a gas leak, Con Edison cut off the gas in February 2016. The building’s owner, Sidney Rubell, secured permits from the DOB on May 23, 2016 for construction on the gas system in the five-story building. But in August 2016, Rubell sold the building to a new landlord: New York City Management Corporation. The DOB said they issued a Stop Work Order on the gas line job on December 19, 2016, after the contractor listed on the permit withdrew from the job. The order was rescinded on March 9, 2017, after the owners hired a new contractor to supersede the original permit holder. By that point, the building’s residents had been without cooking gas for a year. In June 2016, Canadian transplant Alison Moore moved into the building after marrying her high school sweetheart, Dwight, who has lived there since 1994. She said she was struck by its condition, but made the best of it by purchasing an electric skillet, kettle, rice cooker, and Keurig to “try and round out our ability to cook for ourselves.”

RESIDENTS’ OPTIMISM WANES Lage, who called while on business in China just to share his story, said that initially, representatives from NYC Management Corp. assured him that they wanted to come in and do renovations to make the building nicer for everyone. But over time, that didn’t seem to be the case. “As it turns out, they were being disingenuous,” said Lage. “They didn’t come out and say they were trying to get as many people as possible out of the building so they could renovate these into luxury duplexes and jack up the rent, but that’s what has become clear to the tenants that still remain.” Other tenants told him that the landlord sent workers to their apartments, ostensibly to replace the gas lines. But they were disconcerted when work.com

Photos by Caleb Caldwell

With no gas for the stove, Alison Moore and her husband, Dwight, had to purchase an electric skillet, kettle, rice cooker, and Keurig to “try and round out our ability to cook for ourselves.”

A Stop Work Order on the door of 311 W. 21st St.

ers who didn’t appear to be from the gas company arrived to measure their entire apartment with 3D-imaging scanning machines. Lage said they later discovered those workers were from the property management firm Archidata. Tenants were advised by the DOB that if the landlord insisted the measurements were necessary, they should instruct him to “get it in writing from the DOB, then you come down to us and verify it.” “That had nothing to do with replacing the gas lines,” said Lage angrily. “It all points to one thing, which is that they want to get as many people out as they legally can. They want to attract people of higher socioeconomic strata that Kelly and I.” Moore recalls allowing these socalled “gas inspectors” into her apartment, saying, “A woman in high heels and a fur coat showed up with a team of three very young workers, and wanted to walk through my whole apartment with their 3D device. I tend to be very trusting that people are abiding by the law, but I’d never seen this scale of rampant deception and lying. It turns out they came to measure our spaces. They weren’t gas repair people, and no gas line repairs were ever made.” By then, Lage and his wife had

spoken with folks at City Hall, the DOB, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) about the lack of gas, but were advised to either take their new landlord to Housing Court over the lack of services or ask for a rent reduction. A spokesperson at HPD told Chelsea Now, “HPD is aware of maintenance concerns in this building and continues to closely monitor the situation. HPD issued violations for lack of heat and hot water, which were subsequently remedied by the owner and verified by HPD as resolved. HPD has a pending lawsuit against the owner seeking to compel the owner to resolve all other violations, including the outstanding problems with the lack of cooking gas.”

PATTERN OF HARASSMENT? Although no real construction has begun at 311 W. 21st St., tenants say they are already experiencing some of the early stages of what has become known as “construction as harassment” (as noted by Chelsea Now in April 2016; see the chelseanow.com version of this article for a link to that report). Maurer said that neighbors have become accustomed to calling 311 every week to complain about random shutdowns of the building’s heat and hot water. Moore said her husband had gotten used to taking cold showers every morning. Health issues prevent her from doing the same, so bathing has been confined to the times when there is hot water available. “Every time they do it, we call 311 and complain, and they jump

through hoops to file a report and fix it,” said Moore. “The building turns it on long enough for the complaint to go away, but the next day they turn it off again.” Moore said the apartments are often freezing during the night, compelling her and Dwight to each sleep wearing hoodies and two pairs of socks. Several tenants reported getting sick from the lack of heat. “But the most difficult thing is that we no longer have a front door buzzer,” said Moore. “There’s no way to communicate with people at the door. We can hear them buzz, but we often have to run down five fl ights to let them in.” Residents later discovered that the landlord had applied for a permit with the DOB, claiming the building was unoccupied with no rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenants, and no need for tenant protection. That’s when they knew it was time to take things to the next level.

DOB REJECTS LANDLORD’S PERMIT At their wit’s end, tenants finally reached out to Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office and described the situation. Maurer said she was stunned to receive a return call in 15 minutes. Johnson’s office worked to get the original owners’ name off the permit. But soon after, NYC Management Corp. had their names put on the same permit. Maurer went back to Johnson’s office, and they got the DOB to revoke that particular permit. TENANTS continued on p. 14 April 20-26, 2017

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GOP, Rogue Senate Dems Nix Pulse Memorial Funds BY ANDY HUMM Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state budget allocated a million dollars for his proposed memorial to the victims of the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre and other hate crimes to be sited in Hudson River Park, west of Greenwich Village. A design competition has already been conducted for the memorial, though no winner has been announced. The Democratic-led Assembly approved the funding, but Senate Republicans eliminated it. That led an incredulous and outraged Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay Democrat who represents the West Side district where the memorial is to be located, to offer an amendment to restore it. All the Senate Republicans and their allies in the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) voted against Hoylman’s amendment, as did Senator Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, a nominal Democrat whose vote for Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan has kept the Republican minority in control of the Senate agenda for the past two terms, thwarting numerous progressive reforms coming out of the Assembly — from transgender rights to universal health insurance for all New Yorkers. “This action speaks to a deeper pattern of intolerance for LGBT issues by the Senate Republicans,” Hoylman said. “They won’t touch anything explicitly LGBT-related with a 10-foot pole. Since same-sex marriage, there hasn’t been a stand-alone bill that is LGBT-specific passed nor brought to the floor — not GENDA, not the ban on conversion therapy, not LGBT data parity, nothing.” Republican Leader Flanagan’s office did not return a call for comment. “The viciousness, the malicious intent behind that is astounding,” Hoylman said. “The Senate acted cowardly to strike back at victims and their families in the dark of night, and it is despicable.”

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April 20-26, 2017

Photo by Donna Aceto

State Senator Brad Hoylman made the first push to restore the memorial’s funding but was rebuffed by Senate Republicans and the Democratic members of the IDC.

Hoylman’s speech on the floor of the Senate condemning the Republican action can be seen at the end of this article. In the case of transgender protections sought in GENDA, or the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, and the proposed ban on conversion therapy on minors, Cuomo has taken executive action to put in place the advances spelled out in both measures, but these actions could be rescinded by a future governor — just as the Trump administration in Washington reversed the Obama-era policy on transgender students’ access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

In the end — after Hoylman’s effort to restore funding fell short — the governor used his control over portions of the budget to add back the money for the memorial, which he had announced at a public gathering at the Stonewall in the wake of last year’s Pulse massacre that left 49 dead, mostly Latinx and African American LGBTQ people and their non-LGBTQ friends. The Orlando tragedy was the worst such shooting by a single gunman in American history. The governor’s press office said the governor will “suballocate” $1 million to the Hudson River Park Trust from a $200 million pot allocated to the “NY Works EDF,” or the state Economic Development Fund. One of the submissions for the memorial design came from the late Gilbert Baker, who proposed a 70-foot pole flying his Rainbow Flag, similar to the installation in Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco. Cuomo, the head of the Democratic Party in New York, will not go after the renegade IDC senators led by Jeff Klein of the Bronx, and the party itself has taken no action against them, such as trying to expel them — though some new members of the IDC, including José Peralta of Queens, Marisol Alcantara of Washington Heights, and Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn have

faced protests from constituents for their treachery, including a movement to expel Peralta. The IDC members gain perks for themselves from the Republicans whom they empower, while claiming to have the leverage to pass some reforms, such as raising the age of criminal liability. In other budget news, a million dollars was appropriated for a statewide Hate Crimes Task Force that Cuomo proposed to be made of up of representatives from the State Police, the Division of Human Rights, and the Division of Criminal Justice Services “to mitigate recent incidents of bias-motivated threats, harassment, and violence in New York” that have sharply increased in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. It is tasked to work with local officials and schools to “identify and investigate hate-motivated crimes and bias-related trends, community vulnerabilities, and discriminatory practices.” Editor’s note: Subsequent to the original publication of this story, Candice Giove, the IDC’s director of communications, contacted our sister publication, Gay City News, to say that while the IDC members support funding for the memorial, Hoylman’s effort was a “hostile amendment” and the IDC was already assured the money would be in the budget. A “hostile amendment” is one that is not in line with the intentions of Senate leadership, which had not responded to Gay City News’ query to Leader Flanagan on the matter. Giove pointed to an IDC release from April 9 — not shared at that time with the newspaper — that stated, “The LGBT memorial is an IDC priority which was included in our one-house that the entire minority Democratic conference voted against. This funding is included in this year’s budget and it’s absurd to use this tragedy as a talking point.” Giove’s outreach to Gay City News was the first time the newspaper was able to get comment from the IDC, whose leader, Klein, had previously uniformly failed to respond to the newspaper’s queries over the life of the conference. In response to the Giove’s statement, Mike Murphy, a spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Conference, said, “The IDC has allowed the Senate Republicans to control the Senate, and in that time they have blocked almost every piece of proLGBTQ legislation, including specific funding for this crucial memorial. Secret promises made behind the scenes are not good enough. Hopefully the highlighting of this issue will ensure that this memorial is fully funded.” .com


Ten by Sea: Vessel’s Vital Components Arrive at Hudson Yards BY BIANCA SILVA Hudson Yards is one step closer becoming one of Manhattan’s iconic gathering places, now that construction has begun on Vessel — a structure that will serve as the centerpiece of the emerging neighborhood’s fiveacre Public Square and Gardens. The ambitious project was unveiled last September in a ceremony featuring Related Companies Chairman Stephen Ross, renowned British architect and Vessel concept creator Thomas Heatherwick, landscape architect Thomas Woltz, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This will be one of the great public squares in New York City,” de Blasio predicted. “And it’s going to be a place where people want to be, just to feel the energy of what’s happening.” On April 18, the fi rst 10 pieces of Vessel made their debut at the construction site — having arrived earlier this year following a 15-day journey from a fabrication facility in Monfalcone, Italy, a brief layover at the Port of Newark, and a fivehour trip by barge across the Hudson River. The Vessel’s remaining 65 pieces (each made of steel and copper and weighing 100,000 pounds) will arrive in the coming months via five additional shipments. Ross sounded off the horn just after 10 a.m., and a single piece hanging on a crane to began to move. For Ross, this fi rst step in Vessel’s construction marks a monumental event for the city. “A day like this can make you feel like all your dreams come true,” he said. “This is a very important day for the city of New York. We were able to really kind of show what dreams we’ve been visualizing for quite some time.” Over the course of three years, Ross reached out to several artists for ideas on a design that would transform Hudson Yards, ultimately settling on Heatherwick, who came up with the idea of a Vessel-shaped design. “We wanted to have something different, something very iconic, something that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Ross recalled. “I spent hours talking to him and telling him what we really wanted and what we envisioned to be in the center of this great plaza.” The 150-foot-tall Vessel will be comprised of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs, 2,500 individual .com

Photo by Bianca Silva

Related Companies Chairman Stephen Ross (third from left) and project executives look upon what will be the Hudson Yards Public Square and Gardens. Among the features will be Vessel, whose construction began on April 18.

Courtesy Forbes Massie-Heatherwick Studio Photo by Bianca Silva

The construction of Vessel at Hudson Yards has begun with the rising of its first of 10 pieces.

A Sept. 2016 rendering (Vessel at center) depicts the public square and gardens, looking south from W. 33 St.

the High Line to catch a glimpse of the complex geometry being pieced together like an incredible jigsaw puzzle.” “As one of the most complex and ambitious pieces of steelwork ever made, the next months will provide a one-off opportunity to see a future extraordinary structure emerge for New York,” noted Heatherwick in a press release. “The workmanship is incredible,” marveled Ross at the April 18 event, although he acknowledged that the project’s $200 million price tag was more than anticipated. Still, he insist-

ed Vessel is a gift to New York City due to its uniqueness and ability to be compared to one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. “It’s great for New York to have something like this, that will become to New York to what I believe the Eiffel Tower is to Paris,” Ross said of Vessel, which he revealed is the merely the structure’s working title. In a bid to ensure the towering centerpiece has a moniker that rivals its Parisian counterpart, Ross noted that Related will be launching an online competition where New Yorkers can vote on an official name.

steps, and 80 landings — providing a “one-mile vertical climbing experience.” It is expected to top out by the end of the year, and open to the public in the fall of 2018. In the meantime, you can follow its progress from a vantage point on the nearby High Line, at W. 34th St.’s Hudson Park and Boulevard, and on social media by using the hashtag #vesselrising. “There are so many buildings and projects I wish I saw being made,” Ross said. “So, for those who are interested, I hope it will turn out to have been worth heading onto

April 20-26, 2017

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Impatience, Outpatients: Politicians, Public HOSPITAL continued from p. 1

location, at E. 16th St. and First Ave., in four years and move into a new, scaleddown version at E. 14th St. and Second Ave. on part of the site of its New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. The 799-bed hospital — including 150 behavioral-health beds — has already begun “phase one” of its $500 million plan to rebuild Beth Israel Hospital and create a new Mount Sinai Downtown Healthcare Network. Some services will be relocated within the Downtown network, except for the most complex cases and delivery of babies, which will be cared for in other hospitals within the network. At the Thurs., April 6 forum at 10 Union Square, Dr. Jeremy Boal, the recently appointed president of the Mount Sinai Downtown Healthcare Network, tried to paint a rosy picture of things to come for Beth Israel. But it was not applause that greeted his remarks. Instead, what the hospital’s chief executive heard were local residents and political representatives expressing anger and concern about the hospital’s dramatic loss of beds under the new plan and its reluctance to conduct a communityneeds assessment with a task force of local residents. The number of beds at the new facility will be reduced to 70 (currently, about 450 beds at Beth Israel are used on a daily basis — including 300 general inpatient beds and, again, the 150 behavioral health beds). Boal told the audience there “simply was no time” now to conduct such an assessment because the hospital is in critical financial condition. He said the medical facility has been on financial life support for years, losing $250 million since 2012. “We’re committed 100 percent to working with the community,” he said, “but we’re losing millions at this site, and if we stop work on our plans now to conduct such an assessment, we’ll be buried under a financial avalanche. “There are other ways to move forward on this that will involve the community,” he continued. “We’re committed to going to various community boards and to continue to have conversations with community leaders. “Our first goal was to rebuild the hospital because it has become outmoded and in bad disrepair,” he added. “But that would cost us a billion dollars to do, so and we can’t afford that. And it would become obsolete by the time we finished, anyway.

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April 20-26, 2017

Courtesy The Villager

A rendering of the planned Mount Sinai Downtown Beth Israel Hospital, a 70-bed mini-hospital with an emergency department at E. 14th St. and Second Ave. Part of the reason the new project would open up the corner — beneath the overhanging scrim, at right — is to accommodate the Second Ave. subway, if it ever comes down that far.

“We’ve had a 10 percent annual decrease in patient admissions since 2012,” Boal continued, “and the rate of overall empty beds continues to increase. So we feel that there’s a greater need to build more ambulatory services in order to better address the needs of the community. We want to build a multicampus healthcare system below 34th St. and across Manhattan from river to river.” Boal said that the current plan for the new Beth Israel building calls for completing its construction by 2017. After that, the existing complex in Gramercy will be sold, with all the proceeds helping to offset the costs of the change. Boal also told the audience that, in addition to an expanded state-of-the-art emergency room at the future location, the hospital will beef up its outpatient facilities at three major sites with more than 35 operating and procedure rooms. He said there will also be 16 different physician-practice locations with more than 600 doctors, and that there will be “enhanced behavioral health services” at the Beth Israel Bernstein Building, located between E. 16th and E. 15th Sts. on Nathan D. Perlman Place. The hospital chief executive also promised that at no time will there be “any cutoff of services” and that, in fact, there will even be an increase in some services, such as a major expansion of walk-in services, like primary and specialty care. He also said that if, for some reason, there are not enough beds at the new

70-bed facility to accommodate community needs, “We can always add four more floors of beds.” The new building will be constructed to allow more floors to be added atop it, if necessary. Boal’s statement, however, did not sit well with Councilmember Corey Johnson, who said it was vital that a community-needs assessment be done. “There’s a need for the community to have more information about your plans,” Johnson told Boal. “The community needs to better understand what’s happening. There’s a lot of anxiety among my constituents that our hospitals are being chipped away.” Johnson also said that a promise of future beds — if needed — was not adequate. “Build those four stories with additional beds now,” the councilmember said, “and don’t wait to see if they’re needed in the future.” Jamie Rogers, chairperson of Community Board 3, also voiced disappointment that the hospital would not undertake a hands-on community-needs assessment before proceeding any further with its redevelopment plans. “What we want is a lot more information,” Rogers told the hospital honcho. “We want to talk to you about things like local hiring, transportation and construction noise, along with other local issues.” Rogers later told The Villager (our sister publication) that he was dissatisfied with Boal’s remarks.

“The hospital needs to do a better job of involving the community,” he said. “The hospital is unwilling and unable to sit down with a working group of stakeholders, so that we can provide the feedback that our community desperately wants to give about the health needs of the community, and the impact this transformation is going to have on our already impacted neighborhood from outside forces, such as gentrification.” Another critical voice was that of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “I think we still need to be a better partner with your plans,” she told Boal. “Healthcare is the number one issue for many families in this area. What we need is a real survey, so that the data can be shared with the community to help make the future plans, so that everybody feels comfortable.” However, Boal told Brewer, “We’re committed to doing in-depth work to make sure that we know what the community’s needs are and to make sure we’re addressing them. We already have an extensive amount of data from various studies about the community’s health needs.” Boal added that one of the results of the various community-needs studies the hospital has already conducted will be the creation of an urgent-care walk-in center at its Union Square East location, which, Boal noted, would make it “the largest such free-standing medical facility in the city.” .com


Want Their Say On Impending Mini-Hospital He further explained that, also as a result of studies the hospital has already made, a second MRI unit will also be established at the Union Square site, along with the opening of three nearby sites with 35 operating and procedure rooms where surgeries will be able to be performed. Other expanded programs, he said, will be enhanced behavioral-health services at the Beth Israel Bernstein Building and an expanded visiting-doctors home-visit program that will give emergency-room patients the option of remaining in the ER after treatment or returning home. Also expressing concern about the future downsizing and relocation of the hospital was State Senator Brad Hoylman. “You ask the community what it needs,� Hoylman told Boal. “The community boards want to sit down with you and tell you about their needs.� But Boal, once again, deflected the request, saying, “We always welcome dialogue, but this is not the time to do a needs assessment.� The Mount Sinai Healthcare Network president also responded to a slew of other questions from the audience, ranging from the possible use of the soon-tobe-sold hospital property for affordable housing to whether the hospital’s new proposed outreach programs and ambulatory sites would accept Medicaid. “Our commitment to Medicaid patients and those with no insurance will continue,� Boal vowed. “While we fully support the concept of affordable housing, we do not know who the new buyer will be of our old hospital site and what his plans will be. Right now, our primary mission is to provide the best health services to our community. We’ve got to make sure that we optimize our health services.� Boal was also sharply criticized by one unidentified local resident who said that the hospital was deceiving the community about its loss of revenue due to declining patient admissions. The audience member charged that the financial losses were the results of cuts in services the hospital is now undertaking, such as the elimination of 20 inpatient pediatric beds, the shutdown of the cardiac-surgery operating room and the elimination of several neonatal intensive-care unit beds which, he said, were at one time bringing in millions of dollars of revenue. The hospital leader called those charges untrue and said that, if not for the .com

Courtesy The Villager

Courtesy The Villager

The current Beth Israel Hospital on its “superblock,� on First Ave. btw. E. 16th & 17th Sts., will be sold within the next four years, when the new mini-hospital just several blocks to the southwest is ready to be occupied by the hospital’s staff.

Dr. Jeremy Boal, the head of the new Mount Sinai Downtown Health Network, which will include a new, smaller Beth Israel Hospital once it is built at E. 14th St. and Second Ave.

fact that Beth Israel is part of the Mount Sinai Medical Network, which operates six other medical campuses throughout the city, Beth Israel would have to declare bankruptcy because of plummeting revenue. Local resident Samuel Vegas, a current outpatient at the hospital, angrily told Boal, “Your financial concerns seem to outweigh community concerns. I’m scared about the future of the hospital.� Boal tried to reassure everyone that the hospital’s goal is to provide quality healthcare. “We know that the community is anxious and scared,� he said, “but our mission will always be to provide the best medical services to everyone who lives here.� The proposed hospital closing adds Beth Israel to a list of 19 other hospitals in the city that have either closed or overhauled how they operate since 2000, a reduction in services that has hit Lower Manhattan especially hard. Notably, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village closed in 2010. The decision about Beth Israel also reflects broader trends at a time when many hospitals across the country are also struggling financially. After the meeting, a Mount Sinai spokesperson noted that, as mandatory

under the law, the health system, in fact, will be doing a community-needs assessment that will be concluded this fall. Apparently, however, this is not exactly the same type of comprehensive outreach to the community that local politicians were demanding at the forum. In addition, he issued the following statement: “In anticipation of investing more than $500 million into transforming our Downtown multi-facility campus, we assessed past and current utilization of Mount Sinai Beth Israel, and also analyzed larger trends in healthcare, where we are seeing a significant move from hospital-based delivery of care to ambulatory-based settings. We believe that our plan to dramatically expand and upgrade care for the community in nonhospital settings, coupled with a new inpatient hospital, is the right plan for the Downtown community. “Throughout this process, we have engaged, and will continue to closely engage, with our local community leaders and elected officials to understand and address any questions or concerns. We welcome any and all feedback, and encourage the dialogue to continue.�

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POLICE BLOTTER HARASSMENT: Spit stop On Thurs., April 13, one woman learned the hard way that in New York, sometimes your parade not only gets rained on, but also gets spat on as well. The 32-year-old Brooklynite was sitting on a 1 train stopped at the Seventh Ave. and W. 23rd St. station at 3pm when, for reasons unclear, a total stranger approached her and spat directly on her face. The salivating straphanger then fled the train and station in an unknown direction, evading capture for his crime.

ASSAULT: Break-room brawl Around 3:35am on Sat., April 15, a man entered a 7-Eleven (368 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 28th & 29th Sts.), promptly walked to the back of the store, and went into an area clearly designated for “Employees Only,” seemingly without any clear motivation or any sort of permission or authority to do so. When an employee, a 56-year-old Brooklyn man, attempted to get the intrepid intruder out by politely asking him to leave, the man not only refused, but began punching and scratching his arms. Eventually, police showed up, and arrested the 31-year-old New Jersey man.

VEHICLE TRAFFIC LAW: Methadon’t drive impaired Though F. Scott Fitzgerald might poetically argue that it takes two to make an accident, this Sat., April 15 incident proves all you really need is a parked

sedan and a whole bunch of downers. At 4pm that day, a woman collided with another vehicle — a 2014 Chevy Impala parked on W. 41st St. (btw. 11th & 12th Aves.). When an officer arrived and stopped her in order to investigate the scene, the woman revealed that she was driving home from a methadone clinic — where she had earlier used methadone, and then chased it down with some Xanax. Upon further inspection, the officer also found two plastic straws in her possession, which were filed with alleged crack cocaine residue. “I probably shouldn’t have taken the Xanax with the methadone,” the woman observed, quite astutely. The officer agreed, and she was arrested on the spot.

CRIMINAL TRESPASS: Wrong side of the tracks At around 12:15am on Sat., April

THE 10th PRECINCT: Located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Commander: Capt. Paul Lanot. Main number: 212-741-8211. Community Affairs: 212-7418226. Crime Prevention: 212741-8226. Domestic Violence: 212-741-8216. Youth Officer: 212741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-924-3377. Detective Squad: 212-741-8245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7pm, at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced.

15, an officer observed two individuals enter, and then proceed to loiter at, an Amtrak railroad facility (at W. 38th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.) that they didn’t have permission to be in — as indicated by the signs posted around the area declaring “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out.” The officer approached the pair — a man and a woman, both 21 — for their infraction, and upon further inspection, discovered a quantity of synthetic marijuana on the man. “It’s just K2,” he explained, apparently not realizing that K2 (and all synthetic cannabinoids) have been criminalized in New York State. The trespassing twosome were arrested.

CRIMINAL MISCHIEF: Break the bank Fri., April 14 found a man raging against the fi nancial system in excep-

MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT: Located at 357 W. 35th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Inspector: Russel J. Green. Call 212-2399811. Community Affairs: 212239-9846. Crime Prevention: 212239-9846. Domestic Violence: 212-239-9863. Youth Officer: 212239-9817. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-239-9836. Detective Squad: 212-239-9856. The Community Council meets on the third Thurs. of the month, 7pm, at the New Yorker Hotel (481 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 34th & W. 35th St.). Visit midtownsouthcc.org.

tionally literal fashion, causing a real ruckus at a TD Bank (202 W. 23rd St., at Seventh Ave.). As observed by the manager of the bank at 12:25pm, the man intentionally “deposited” his foot straight into the branch’s front door, causing the costly glass to break. Soon thereafter, however, police arrived and “withdrew” the man from the premises — arresting the 44-year-old, and “transferring” him to the big house.

—SEAN EGAN

CASH FOR GUNS $100 cash will be given (no questions asked) for each handgun, assault weapon or sawed-off shotgun, up to a maximum payment of $300. Guns are accepted at any Police Precinct, PSA or Transit District.

THE 13th PRECINCT: Located at 230 E. 21st St. (btw. Second & Third Aves.). Deputy Inspector: Brendan Timoney. Call 212-477-7411. Community Affairs: 212-477-7427. Crime Prevention: 212-477-7427. Domestic Violence: 212-477-3863. Youth Officer: 212477-7411. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-477-4380. Detective Squad: 212-477-7444. The Community Council meets on the third Tues. of the month, 6:30pm, at the 13th Precinct.

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9


Talking Point

L Train Crisis? Let’s Get Real; It’s Mostly Hype BY JOHN WETHERHOLD The closure of the L train is indeed a huge problem if you live in Brooklyn. Not so much In Manhattan. Extremist groups — who want to achieve a vision that only they want — take advantage of this supposed “crisis” to promote a radical agenda. Are they part of the city government? I think not. We saw that in the recent workshops that were organized by the local politicians. The workshops’ format was not a presentation or facts but a phony discussion of major changes that could take place on 14th St. The role of Transportation Alternatives (transalt.org) in pushing its “PeopleWay” plan should be of major concern to all who want their voices to be heard. This group had salted the tables with their members, of course, who want to throttle or eliminate all traffic on the street, and they presented alternatives that reflected their own views. At each table, notes were recorded on all of the comments on bicycles and pedestrian malls — on other suggestions, not at all. Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Brad Hoylman should not have allowed the participants to be treated this way. The answers that come out of this process are foreordained and do not reflect the views of the residents and taxpayers of the Village. The real increase in traffic, in terms of buses and cars — including taxis — that this plan would cause are not known. Numbers were batted about, including 50,000 riders on the L train in Manhattan, but no one really knows if these counts are correct. They are

Courtesy The Villager

A volunteer for Transportation Alternatives this past winter advocating at Union Square for his group’s “PeopleWay” plan for 14th St. during the coming L train shutdown in Manhattan. The writer claims that during recent community workshops at which the issue was discussed, TransAlt “seeded” tables with its members, who selectively jotted down suggestions that jibed with the plan.

designed to put people in a panic mode. Something must be done. We should prioritize traffic on the basis of velocity, capacity and density. No Select Bus Service is needed. Here are some ideas: First, replace all buses with stairs with fast-loading low-entry buses. Second, bring traffic agents back from ticketing to traffic direction at key intersections. Third, put bus dispatchers on 14th St. routes. Fourth, increase the frequency of buses on 14th St. route — but, again, not Select Bus Service.

Fifth, for the duration of the extra-ridership period, eliminate all street fairs, holiday markets and similar uses that impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic. Sixth, close the following streets to reduce cross traffic: University Place between 13th and 14th Sts.; Union Square West between 17th and 14th Sts.; Irving Place between 15th and 14th Sts. Seventh, do not allow left turns at major avenues, except for emergency vehicles and buses. These suggestions should allow traffic and buses to flow easily. The problem with Select Service Buses is that they demand a dedicated lane that cannot

be used for parking or delivery for businesses. It throttles the street traffic. If that happens, the parking will spill over to residential streets. Of course, eliminating traffic on 14th St. will create a traffic crisis on the parallel streets. This plan to close 14th St. is both impractical and harmful to the residents and taxpayers in this corridor. Our local politicians who are pushing this or some version of it have a great deal of contempt for the “sheeple.” They seem driven by visions and ideas that come from ideology not practical experience. Another amusing aspect to this is that these people represent these changes as temporary. If anyone believes that, I have a bridge to sell you. None of the larger pieces fit together. The mayor wants to increase density. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is throttling traffic on the major avenues. The governor is defunding mass transit. Meanwhile, people are avoiding the subways as undesirable and unreliable. Buses on these deliberately crowded avenues are slow. More and more, average people are using services like Uber (approved by the City Council) and Lyft. The answer from the ideologues is to remove all traffic, so no one has any choice about how to get around; congestion is deliberately created. This passive-aggressive approach is designed to make people give up on using cars at all. It won’t work and DOT should stop trying. The only thing we will face with these proposals is misery for the average taxpaying resident of this area. The “PeopleWay” plan should not move forward. Wetherhold is a W. 13th St. resident.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR SOON IT WILL BE TOO LATE… To The Editor Re: “Do Something Meaningful For Supermarkets” (Talking Point by Kirsten Theodos, April 13): When Ruth Messinger was the Upper West Side councilperson, she helped create the small Business Task Force. It was led by a wonderful cleaning-store owner; it’s so long ago I don’t remember his name. Gale Brewer was there with Ruth, along with an intern named Michael. I do remember how hard everyone

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April 20-26, 2017

worked to get the word out that we were losing our small family stores at a fairly rapid pace due to enormous rent increases. Learning from our effort with Sweet 14 — which ultimately failed to protect local stores — the Small Business Task Force tried to have the businesses lead the fight, but the results were the same. The state again told the city that Albany needed to pass legislation protecting small stores and the city asked the state for the required enabling legislation. Family businesses do not have the time or resources to lobby and take time off from work to save their livelihoods.

Ruth and her staff worked hard on the issue, as did the hatters’ union, which donated a small office, and a few banks sent representatives, and at least two events were mobilized. But business owners are not organizers, and after a few years everyone got discouraged. And now rents have really gotten out of hand and an extraordinary greed for profit is pushing them even higher. No matter how outrageous this all is, it’s hard to stop what’s going on. And this is no longer just a Manhattan issue. Soon it will be too late. Susan Leelike

NO EXCUSE NOT TO VOTE To The Editor: Re: “Do Something Meaningful For Supermarkets” (Talking Point by Kirsten Theodos, April 13): Ms. Theodos is absolutely right. The City Council should bring the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (SBJSA) up for a vote and pass it because this would be in the interest of small businesses — and New Yorkers. There is no excuse for not putting the SBJSA to a vote. Our progressive leaders need to LETTERS continued on p. 23 .com


A Steaming Pile of Triumphs: Trump’s First 100 Days BY MAX BURBANK If you’re reading this on Thursday, it’s Donald Trump’s 98th day as (it still feels nightmarish to say it) President of the United Sates. But see, the 100th day is Saturday and Chelsea Now doesn’t come out on Saturday, so it’s wait ’til after or go early, right? I figure I’ll do early, scoop everybody, and maybe just make up what he does on days 99 and 100. What the hell, why not? I’m not a journalist, I’m a “satirical pundit.” It’ll be funny — unless we’re all dead, in which case you won’t be reading this anyway. So I’m doing my research, and Charles friggin’ Blow over at the New York Times has already written his 100-days column, so screw it! In point of fact, there have been dozens of 100-days columns already, which I guess means your more “seasoned” political hacks all had their “publication schedule versus count to 100” thing figured out already, so I suppose that makes me dumb. Oh, I’m dumb alright. Dumb like a fox. All those name-brand pundits? They divide neatly into two camps. Negative reviews cite Trump’s only achievements at 100 days as: 1) Winning the Electoral College, and 2) Seating Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, a forgone conclusion since Mitch McConnell would have happily seated a wedge of cheese with googly eyes shoved in it, had Trump nominated one. Positive reviews are all variations on, “It’s not as bad as you think. It’s been 100 days, you’re not a pile of radioactive ash yet, and you still have the balls to complain?” Wow, two paragraphs and I’ve already made the “we’ll all be dead by 100 days” joke twice. Hey, it’s a concern. I think the views from both camps are ridiculous. Trump’s first 100 days are neither a “complete horror show” or “arguably slightly better than that.” Observed from the correct angle, Trump has achieved more than any American president in the history of arbitrarily assigning importance to the number 100, a veritable steaming mound of accomplishment towering over all other presidents’ tepid 100-day droppings. Take golf. Though estimates vary on account of his spokespeople lying about how much he plays golf, Trump has golfed at least 14 times as president! Renowned presidential failure and known Kenyan Barack Obama didn’t manage to golf even once during his first 100 days! Sad! Trump has golfed .com

more times in his first 100 days than all previous presidents COMBINED, and I say this without even a paltry nod toward fact-checking. That’s my confidence level for that statement! How about irony? Name one American president who has done even a quarter as much to further the state of irony in this great country. Sure, Nixon’s “I am not a crook” was hilarious, but that was in his second

term; and does it really compare to not mentioning the existence of Jews in the official statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day? Or implying Frederick Douglass was alive in a speech for Black History Month? Or saying what a great guy Bill O’Reilly is during Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Or claiming Assad was worse than Hitler, who at least never used chemical weapons — or

Illustration by Max Burbank

“I’m not golfing. I’m in a meeting. These are my meeting pants.”

maybe he did, but just in Holocaust Centers and not on his own people? Okay, Trump didn’t say that. It was worst Spice Girl ever, Sean “Anti-Semitic Spice” Spicer, but we’re talking about the Trump administration’s first 100 days here, not just Trump specifically. And kleptocracy? Not since William Henry Harrison demanded the US Treasury advance him a quarter of a million dollars every time he sneezed has an American president transferred so much of our country’s wealth into his personal coffers — and while Harrison’s scheme was brilliant, dying 31 days into his term kind of put the kibosh on the whole deal. Trump’s 400-some businesses are held in a blind trust that has 20/20 vision and meets no definition, legal or otherwise, of the word “trust.” Managed by his lawyer and his two big gamehuntin,’ hair gel-hoardin’ sons, Trumpledee and Trumpledum, it was recently amended so that Trump can now withdraw any amount of money, at any time, for any reason, without disclosure. Trump pumps tax dollars into many of those businesses every time he and his staff (or his family and their staff) stay at Trump-branded properties. So at a minimum, every weekend. When Trump discussed his strike on Syria with Chinese President Xi Jinping over “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen,” you picked up the desert tab, and the waiter shoved the proceeds directly into Donald’s pocket. Bad enough news made worse by Mar-a-Lago’s 13 health code violations, making it a safe bet those were not chocolate sprinkles in the frosting. Trump lit up the biggest non-nuclear explodey thing in our arsenal; no Commander-in-Chief has ever done that in a combat theater at all, let alone in their first 100 days! Suck on that, all previous presidents! And no president has been this cozy with Russia since WWII ally Joseph Stalin used to dress up as Eleanor Roosevelt so he could sneak into the White House on poker nights. Sure, their little tiff over Syria is a real “low point” according to Secretary of State Rex “I-don’t-know-how-to-dothis-and-I-have-no -staff,-where’sJared?” Tillerson — but who doesn’t understand that’s a prelude to lifting sanctions to improve relations? Let no one tell you Donald John Trump, our 45th president, has little to show for his first 100 days. You can’t walk without stepping in a pile of his achievements. April 20-26, 2017

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Daffodils Are What’s Doing, and Worth Watching

Longtime local Tom Cayler snapped these sure signs of spring at the Hell’s Kitchen Playground (10th Ave., btw. W. 47th & 48th Sts.). The neighborhood oasis is, Cayler noted, “primarily a playground; handball, basketball, kiddie area — but through the good offices of the 47-48th Street Block Association, the little gardens bordering the playground are now part of the Hell’s Kitchen Park Conservancy. The daffies in these pictures are from the northwest corner garden, bordering 10th and 48th Street.”

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Photos by Caleb Caldwell

A leaky roof caused this water damage. TENANTS continued from p. 3

“My office has met with the tenants at 311 West 21st Street and we have engaged the Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development on this property,” Johnson told Chelsea Now. “Earlier this month, DOB conducted a special audit for falsifying their work permit, which said that this building was unoccupied and did not have rentregulated tenants living in the building. DOB has disapproved their work per-

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mit and we will continue to work with city agencies and the tenants living in this building to ensure they are safe and are able to remain in their homes.” A representative at the DOB said they conducted an audit of 311 W. 21st St. on March 31, and it failed. The landlord was cited for falsification of PW1 (Plan/Work) occupancy and stabilization, the need for tenant protections on a work permit, and was found in violation of “energy compliance regulations.” They were given a notice to revoke SAME DAY SERVICE AVAILABLE

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Kelly Maurer with a message from her family to NYC Management Corp. “We have lived in this building for 18 years,” she said, “and it’s our home.”

that permit. A few days later, Maurer discovered via the DOB website that NYC Management Corp. had resubmitted an application for another permit, again alleging that the building was unoccupied with no rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenants, and no need for tenant protections. The DOB said the permit application was denied on April 7 during the scheduled exam plan, noting that they will continue to closely monitor this property to ensure the safety of the tenants. As Johnson noted, “Tenants have a right to be safe in their homes, and landlords must abide by the law when filing for work permits. Unfortunately, with real estate prices at record highs and a desire to expedite construction activities, some bad actors will stop at nothing to force tenants out of their rent-regulated units by refusing their tenants the required protection plans.” Maurer admitted that after attending a community meeting hosted by Borough President Gale Brewer’s office, she had met many people whose situations were even worse than theirs. But, she said, “Why should we wait

for horrible things to happen here? I’m the mother of a 12-year-old, and I don’t want to wait until there’s lead dust flying through the air. It is very frightening.” In the face of mounting cases like this, elected officials have begun fighting back. City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s “Intro. No. 1523” seeks to create a new office of Tenant Advocate at the DOB. And Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s new legislation, proposed on April 12, would strengthen existing tenant harassment laws, and make it easier to prosecute landlords who force rent-regulated tenants to vacate. “Look, we understand that the building has been purchased, and they have the right to do construction, but they have to do it legally,” said Maurer. “When we’re dealing constantly with false work permits, it’s hard to believe anything else they say. They are working from the point of view of ‘you don’t exist, your homes don’t exist, and therefore we don’t have to protect you.’ ” New York City Management Corp. did not respond to Chelsea Now’s repeated requests for comment.

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At least the stove makes a decent countertop: Kelly Maurer has been using a hot plate ever since the building’s gas was cut off in Feb. 2016. .com


TENANT BILLS continued from p. 2

were present to discuss their positions on the bills as currently written. Sitting on the panel and fielding questions were First Deputy Commissioner Thomas Fariello and Assistant Commissioner, External Affairs Patrick Wehle of the DOB, and Deputy Commissioner Vito Mustaciuolo and Assistant Commissioner Deborah Rand of HPD’s Office of Enforcement and Neighborhood Services. While the representatives of both bodies expressed an eagerness to improve their protection of the city’s tenants, and applauded the councilmembers’ initiative, they still had a number of issues with many of the agenda items. As per Intro. 347-A, Rand and Mustaciuolo questioned the purview and effectiveness of HPD’s housing court in awarding damages, suggesting it may be more appropriate for civil court — despite Rosenthal’s protests that additional trips to court would be a hardship for most suffering from harassment. They also expressed trepidation over the broadness of the language in Intro. 1549 (which seeks to allow tenants to establish a landlord’s bad conduct as “repeated” by citing actions that were not specifically directed at them) and Intro. 1548 (which would codify repeatedly contacting or visiting a tenant at unusual hours as a form of harassment). In response to Intro. 3 — which would allow HPD to make owners place funds in an escrow account for tenant relocation in the neighborhood during construction — Mustaciuolo endorsed the sentiment of the bill, while questioning the ability of HPD to manage potentially hundreds of escrow accounts. Similarly, the DOB reps explained, the watchlist of “bad contractors” who’ve worked without proper permits proposed by STS’s Intro. 938 was an idea they endorse, but would likely not be particularly effective, as contractors are rarely onsite once construction is complete and inspections take place. On all the above issues, the reps encouraged continued conversation between their agencies and City Council to best make the bills work for tenants and their departments. More contentious, however, were the discussions surrounding Intro. 1523, as the DOB representatives were staunch in their assertion that their department did not need to create the office of Tenant Advocate. “Creating a new office as described in the bill will create no improvement,” said Fariello, and he as explained the DOB has plenty of avenues for tenants to contact .com

Via council.nyc.gov/live

Brooklyn’s Councilmember Stephen Levin, co-sponsor of Intro. No. 1523 and lead sponsor of Intro. No. 934, grilled DOB and HPD reps on their effectiveness in enforcement of existing policies.

Via council.nyc.gov/live

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal speaks at the Wed., April 19 Council Housing and Buildings Committee hearing in defense of her Intro. No. 1523.

Via Twitter

New York State Assemblymember Luis Sepúlveda (left) and City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca (right) at a rally for tenants’ rights at Honeywell Apartments in the Bronx.

the department and file complaints (including using 311), and that much of the work that the Tenant Advocate office would do — including ensuring tenant protection plans are in place and being followed — are handled elsewhere in the DOB currently. According to Wehle, “adding another layer” to the existing processes in place now would create more difficulty for tenants and the DOB. “What this office would do is give

the DOB a public platform with which to counter the building owners that are doing things that might be structurally sound, but are obviously construction as harassment,” Rosenthal rejoined. “So why not? If you’re already doing the work, why not have a platform?” On multiple occasions, passions ran high in the Council chambers. Councilmember Stephen Levin blasted the DOB’s 40-day turnaround period for conducting inspections in response to tenant harassment complaints. “It’s not acceptable and it’s not an effective deterrent,” he emphasized, despite protests from Wehle that practically, it often only takes 20 or so days to complete. Councilmember Williams, who chaired the hearing, was forced to bang the gavel at Rosenthal, who ignored her time limits while conducting an impassioned grilling of the commissioners. And, on multiple occasions, Williams had to politely chide the sign-waving and applauding crowd assembled. Williams himself, though, had his own moment of emotional incredulity while defending his Intro. 1156, which would increase minimum civil penalties in harassment cases — which, Mustaciuolo argued, might dissuade

judges from finding landlords guilty of harassment. “Let’s do the math real quick,” Williams said, pausing proceedings to crunch the numbers HPD reps provided of successful harassment cases brought against landlords from 2014–16 — revealing “appalling” and “absurd” figures in the one- and twopercent range. “Thank you for all the work you’re already doing,” Williams said at the end of the questioning period. “But obviously, it’s not working.” The public testimony section was similarly passionate, and served as a strong rebuttal to the DOB and HPD reps’ downplaying of the severity of the issue, and highlighted those agencies’ shortcomings in enforcing existing regulations. Panel after panel of wronged tenants offered anecdotal evidence lending credence to the councilmembers’ claims of widespread harassment, while uniformly endorsing the STS package and associated bills. The Lower East Side’s Seth Wandersman spoke of his building issues being “repeatedly ignored” by the DOB, despite dust proliferating with 300 times the acceptable federal level of lead. Gilbert Sabater, a resident of E. 86th St., noted that in his building (which has 300 rent-controlled units), “We’ve been under constant construction for 30 months,” cataloging noisy early-morning construction, asbestos and dust issues, and inefficient DOB inspections where the contractors downplay projects’ breadths and get let off without infractions. “If that’s not harassment, I don’t know what is.” And, of course, Xiao Ling Chen, the woman who broke down in tears before the councilmembers, regained her composure and re-entered the chamber, translator at her side, to tell about her “nightmare.” For nearly two years, she recounted, her three grandchildren (all 10 and under) have been cramped on two beds displaced out in her living room, while she sleeps on a couch — and the harsh living conditions have impaired their ability to complete their homework. “We’ve become human vacuum cleaners,” she said. “The only way I can describe the dust that’s in my apartment is it’s like a dust storm in Beijing.” It’s exactly this kind of story that’s incensed the City Council to try to push these bills through as quickly as possible — to empower tenants, and to make the ill-acting landlords pay. “How can we get someone who is lying to actually go to jail? Because fines are not enough,” Councilmember Rosie Mendez pressed earlier in the hearing. “There need to be real repercussions.” April 20-26, 2017

15


Top Picks, Tribeca Flicks Sight unseen, we’re sweet on these from fest’s 16th year

Photo by Sean Price Williams

Lindsay Burdge as Gina in “Thirst Street.”

BY SEAN EGAN All day long and well into the night, on screens in Chelsea and its namesake neighborhood, April 19–30’s calendar marks the Tribeca Film Festival’s (TFF) “Sweet 16” — and much like a teenager hitting that age, TFF is growing in ways both expected (an ever-expanding dossier of titles) and surprising (it’s really starting to take an interest in TV, VR, and Snapchat). Still, since 2002, our venerable, homegrown neighborhood fi lm festival’s bread and butter has been its consistently adventurous offerings, brought from both our backyard and abroad — and year-in and year-out, we have dutifully kept our readers abreast of the best of the fest (or, at the very least, what selections we have good reason to believe will emerge as winners). This year, after combing through the TFF’s massive slate of features, we’ve rounded up nine fi ne fi lms that have caught our eye in advance of their festival screenings, based on premise, pedigree, or some combination of the two. Read below to fi nd your best bets on top-tier titles.

FLOWER If the taste of the producers of Max Winkler’s “Flower” — Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Jody Hill, the minds behind warped, character-based comedy opuses like

16

April 20-26, 2017

Photo by Adriel Gonzalez

Kevin Moore films police activity in “Copwatch.”

“Eastbound & Down” — is any indication, it will be an unexpectedly deep dark comedy. The fi lm certainly has a unique, playing-with-fi re premise: Erica, a high schooler who seduces older men for extortion purposes, is forced to live with her mother’s new boyfriend and post-rehab son, complicating her “extracurricular” activities. With alt-comedy ringers Tim Heidecker and Adam Scott in supporting roles, “Flower” hints to be as hilarious and unfl inching as its creative team’s past work.

AARDVARK First-time writer/director Brian Shoaf has managed to assemble a killer cast for his debut feature that would justify a ticket purchase on name recognition alone — but its premise has plenty of potential for intriguing familial drama and quirky comedy. Starring Zachary Quinto as Nathan, a man who suffers from intense hallucinations, “Aaardvark” kicks into gear when Nathan’s estranged TV-star brother (Jon Hamm, fittingly) comes for a visit, and begins to see Nathan’s therapist (“SNL”-alum and “Obvious Child” star Jenny Slate). Sheila Vand, breakout star of “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and Tribeca favorite (delivering two notable performances at TFF last year), rounds out the cast of this dramedy of emotional fragility and familial bonds.

THIRST STREET

HOLY AIR

Last year, Nathan Silver’s feature “Actor Martinez” earned itself enthusiastic reviews from TFF critics, praising the fi lm’s meta sense of humor and its recursive, factor-fiction premise. This year, Silver returns with another movie that makes its cinematic concerns known: Playing out in the aesthetic of classic European fi lm, the movie follows a grief-stricken woman (“Martinez” alum Lindsay Burdge) as she pursues an unrequited relationship. Her subsequent descent into heartbreak and madness (and whatever tricks Silver has up his sleeve) are narrated by Anjelica Huston.

With a logline that reads like an unholy mix of family comedy, “Breaking Bad” and religious parable, “Holy Air” sets itself out from the pack on sheer premise originality. From the mind of Israeli fi lmmaker Shady Srour, it tells the story of an Arab Christian man who bottles and sells so-called holy air from Nazareth in order to support his medically-challenged family. Coming at the crossroads of commerce, faith, and family, the fi lm’s distinct perspective holds potential.

KING OF PEKING “King of Peking” positions itself as a cross-generational dramedy and love letter to cinema, two favorite subjects at TFF. The Beijing-set movie focuses on a father, threatened with losing custody of his son for lack of spousalsupport payments. The pair (both named Wong) fi nd a solution to their problem in the form of the lucrative bootleg DVD market, allowing them to let their cinephilic fl ags fly — that is, until Little Wong starts pondering the ethics of their enterprise. It’s a tale of movies and morality — a winning combination if ever there was one.

WHEN GOD SLEEPS Finding a good subject is half the battle when it comes to documentary fi lmmaking — and Till Schauder has found a great one in the charismatic, genre-blurring Iranian singer/songwriter Shahin Najafi. Banned from Iran, the fi lm follows the now-Germany-based musician in the aftermath of 2015’s Bataclan attacks, living with the life-threatening repercussions of a fatwa issued against him for his politically outspoken lyrics. An added wrinkle comes in the form of the unexpected romance blossoming between Najafi and the granddaughter of the fi rst Prime Minister of Iran. Guaranteeing a mix of heady, topical issues and quality music, “When God TFF PICKS continued on p. 17 .com


Photo by Daniel Miller

L to R: Shmulik Calderon, Shady Srour, Tomer Russo and Byan Anteer in “Holy Air.”

Photo by Angus Gibson

Zhao Jun as Big Wong in “King of Peking,” which wears its film fandom on its sleeve. TFF PICKS continued from p. 16

Sleeps” is one to keep on your radar.

SON OF SOFIA “Son of Sofia” caught our eye, not just because of the dread-inducing realization that the early 2000s are now fodder for period pieces, but for its focus on the perspective of its child protagonist. Set during the highly specific milieu of Greece during the 2004 Athens Olympics, 11-year-old Russian immigrant Misha is subjected to a new living environment and father figure.

In processing these changes, and the darkness of the world around him, Misha copes with fairy tales, cinematically blurring reality and dreams — a theme common to many a beautifully ambiguous fi lm.

Photo by Eli Born

“Super Dark Times” is a ’90s-set tale of innocence lost from first-time director Kevin Phillips.

COPWATCH “Copwatch” fi nds veteran journalist Camilla Hall transitioning to director, as she follows the anti-police brutality group WeCopwatch — whose ranks include Ramsay Orta, the man who fi lmed Eric Garner’s death at the hands of the NYPD in 2014. As

she profi les members of the group — which volunteers to fi lm police action to curtail brutality — Hall examines the on-the-ground life of citizen activists, while questioning the current law-enforcement status quo.

SUPER DARK TIMES Appearing in the often-adventurous “Midnights” section of the festival, “Super Dark Times” intrigues with its stark, seemingly literal title. Few plot specifics can be ascertained from reading a synopsis of the feature — that is, other than the fact that the

genre-straddling movie concerns itself with the violent, paranoid corruption of suburban adolescence, beginning with an incident involving a samurai sword. Combine that with alluringlooking cinematography, 1990s period trappings, and genre-oddity reference points, and Kevin Phillips’ debut feature seems positioned to be a cult fi lm in waiting. For info on screenings and events, visit tribecafilm.com/festival — where you can also purchase tickets ($21, evening/weekend; $12, matinee). To order by phone: 646-502-5296.

Courtesy Partner Pictures

An unexpected romance complicates the life of controversial musician Shahin Najafi in the rock doc “When God Sleeps.”

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April 20-26, 2017

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Courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Immersive programming runs April 21–29, at TFF’s Festival Hub on Varick St.

‘Immersive’ Blender Virtual Reality is here to stay at the Tribeca Film Festival BY CHARLES BATTERSBY There used to be a debate over whether or not video games could be art. Now the new kid on the block is Virtual Reality (VR). Those at the forefront of storytelling are starting to see that VR is neither a fad nor a toy, and that it has a place alongside more established forms of artistic expression. The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) had its first VR program in 2016. This year, TFF’s Tribeca Immersive — an umbrella term for all Virtual Arcade and Storyscapes projects — will show how much the art form has grown. Thirty VR exhibits and tech installation comprise Tribeca Immersive. Many of them deal with serious, even tragic subject matter. A highlight will be “The People’s House,” a virtual history of the White House, by Felix & Paul Studios. Meanwhile, “The Last Goodbye” will place users in a virtual concentration camp, with narration from a Holocaust survivor. We spoke with Loren Hammonds, TFF’s programmer of Film & Experiential, about how they selected the entries. “The storytelling in VR has evolved at an alarming rate,” Hammonds said. “Even between last year and this

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April 20-26, 2017

Courtesy Baobab Studios

Baobab Studios (which had a hit last year with the bunny-themed “Invasion”) returns with “Rainbow Crow,” based on a Lenape Native American legend.

year’s selections, and you can see the difference. That was part of my curatorial decision — to focus on story, much the same as we do for our film program at Tribeca.” One of the commercial hits that debuted at the Virtual Arcade last year was Baobab Studio’s “Invasion!” — an experience where a cute rabbit saves the world. Hammonds says it’s one of the most viewed VR experiences across all platforms. “Something about that little

fluffy white bunny seems to connect, no matter where you are in the globe.” Baobab Studios is returning to the Virtual Arcade this year with “Rainbow Crow,” a VR experience based on a Lenape Native American legend about an eternal winter. We had a look at an early build of the VR, and spoke with Baobab’s Maureen Fan and Eric Darnell about it. Users will notice right away that “Rainbow Crow” avoids hyper-realistic graphics. Instead, its world has a “dith-

ered” effect that gives the animals a soft, fuzzy look, rather than the sharp, geometric edges of many virtual worlds. In our demo, we also had the chance to hear the titular crow sing. In the story, Crow has a beautiful singing voice, so Baobab enlisted Grammy winner John Legend to provide the vocals. The rest of the cast is made up of a diverse group of performers, including narration by Native American tribal elder Randy Edmonds. Maureen Fan pointed out that, “Not only do we have a diverse cast, and it’s based off a Native American legend, but it is about the animals coming to accept each other’s differences, and value each other for those differences.” Several other creators return. Among them is Penrose Studios, who were behind “Allumette,” a heartbreaking, 20-minute VR experience in last year’s festival. Eugene Chung of Penrose Studios discussed his new project. “The first part of ‘Arden’s Wake’ is what we’re releasing at Tribeca,” he said, “but this first chapter is already almost as long as all of ‘Allumette’ itself, and far more visually complex. We’re excited to have VR continued on p. 20 .com


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Courtesy Penrose Studios

Penrose Studios’ VR entry is the “visually complex” first chapter of “Arden’s Wake.” VR continued from p. 18

it on the global stage of the Tribeca Film Festival.” Last year, the VR studio Wevr presented “Holidays: Christmas VR,” which functioned as a side story to the feature film “Holidays.” This year, they’re debuting “Apex.” Wevr co-founder Anthony Batt described it as an “intense immersive experience in a dreamlike state, that has a feeling like entropy is occurring all around you; it feels as if you’re standing in someone else’s dream.” We asked Batt about how Wevr’s experience in the festival last year influenced the release of this new project. “The Tribeca Film Festival shines a light on the producers and the creators of the projects in a very positive way,” he said. “It’s a very coveted spot to get selected, and we’ve been very fortunate to have ‘Apex’ there this year. ‘Apex’ offers an interesting view of what immersive storytelling can be.” Asked what Wevr looks for when producing a new VR project, Batt said it began with finding “people that have a point of view. Specifically with immersive media, you look for people that can actually answer this important question: ‘Why VR?’ ” Eugene Chung of Penrose Studios agreed that VR requires a unique perspective. “With different art forms, stories have to be adapted to fit those art forms. You can’t just take a stage play like ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and turn

20

April 20-26, 2017

Courtesy Wevr

Like all of its projects, Wevr’s “Apex” asks, “Why VR?”

it instantly into a movie. You have to adapt the play for the screen and rethink how to tell that story in cinema,” he explained, noting that “Arden’s Wake” and “Allumette” were “built from the ground up to be told in VR and, because stories can transcend media, they certainly could be told in other art forms — but they would have to be adapted for them. The stories that Penrose crafts are uniquely native to VR and Augmented Reality, and that’s part of the magic.”

Batt compared VR’s current state to how indie films were a few years ago. “[VR] is finding its audience at the festivals, but over time, the festivals are a good proxy to the greater audience, that this is an interesting place. Therefore, we see that [VR] is going to grow. A lot of these projects will influence people in the future,” said Batt. Chung added, “The reality is that the vast majority of the world’s population still hasn’t seen VR, so this continues

to present exciting opportunities. It still seems that the world is in a discovery phase with VR, and it’s exciting to be creating and innovating in that context.” Tribeca Immersive programming runs April 21–29, on the fifth floor of the Tribeca Festival Hub (50 Varick St., btw. Beach & Laight Sts.). Tickets are $40 each, for a three-hour window. Visit tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets or call 646-502-5296. General festival info at tribecafilm.com/festival. .com


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April 20-26, 2017

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER LETTERS continued from p. 10

PUBLISHER Jennifer Goodstein

be brave and stand up against the real estate lobby in a meaningful way. Alison Greenberg

EDITOR Scott Stiffler

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Sean Egan

ART DIRECTOR John Napoli

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Cristina Alcine

CONTRIBUTORS Lincoln Anderson Stephanie Buhmann Jackson Chen Sean Egan Bill Egbert Dusica Sue Malesevic Winnie McCroy Puma Perl Paul Schindler Eileen Stukane

ADVERTISING Amanda Tarley

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Gayle Greenberg Jim Steele Julio Tumbaco

REAL FIGURES WORSE To The Editor: Re: “Do Something Meaningful For Supermarkets” (Talking Point by Kirsten Theodos, April 13): This is a good basic summary. However, as a practicing attorney representing small businesses in New York City for more than 30 years, I can say that only about 15 to 20 percent of businesses will either wait to be evicted or try to fight. That means that the real number of merchants that can’t renew their leases because of the huge greed and jacking up of the rents is about 80 percent. This translates into much higher numbers of small businesses unable to renew their leases, which can be seen by the vacancies on every commercial strip in every neighborhood in all five boroughs. City Hall is rigged by the Real Estate Board of New York! That is the bottom line. Learn the facts, New York — not the phony excuses and alternative facts from people like Councilmember Johnson. Steve Barrison Barrison is co-chairperson, Coalition to Save NYC Small Businesses.

‘THROTTLING’ TRAFFIC Published by

NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201 Phone: (212) 229-1890 Fax: (212) 229-2790 www.chelseanow.com scott@chelseanow.com © 2017 NYC Community Media, LLC Member of the New York Press Association

To The Editor: Re “ ‘Flip Fifth’ Plan Will Create Protected Bike Lane” (news, April 6): Community Boards 2 and 5 have voted to throttle traffic on Fifth Ave. from 23rd St. to Eighth St. This will create the requisite traffic chaos and congestion it is designed to do. Remember that bicycle lanes are not about bicycles (which carry under five percent of the city’s total passengers). They are about creating congestion. This should be of real concern to readers since the politicians of the area, including Deborah Glick and Brad Hoylman,

support traffic throttling on 14th St. due to the L train shutdown “crisis.” Expect more misery and delays from all of this. Congestion pricing failed totally politically, so this is the passiveaggressive answer: Create enough congestion and eliminate parking places, so we cannot park cars in the area. The throttling of traffic on 14th St. will create congestion on the Village side streets, as well as a fight for parking spaces as those on 14th St. are eliminated to make room for Select Bus Service lanes. Bike lanes on 14th St. will just make it worse. It’s time to call our elected representatives. John Wetherhold

A GREAT VICTORY FOR RIVER! To The Editor: Re “ ‘Diller Isle’ Dead in the Water?” (news, April 6): This is a great victory — and no thanks to the Hudson River organizations that dove into the tank, glub, glub, glub, glub, glub, on Diller Island. They turned their backs on the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association’s historic victory over the corrupt $6 billion Westway boondoggle, a victory that set aside this stretch of the river as a sanctuary for juvenile striped bass before they migrated to sea. FYI, Westway was backed by two presidents, Carter and Reagan, two governors, Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, two senators, Pothole D’Amato and Pat Moynihan, Mayor Edward I. Koch, The New York Times, construction unions, real estate interests and David Rockefeller, the latter whom essentially said, “Who cares if 36 percent of the juvenile striped bass disappear each year?” Well, I daresay that he would have cared greatly had 36 percent of his bank’s assets disappeared each year. Three Cheers for The City Club of New York! Robert H. Boyle Boyle is founder, Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and Riverkeeper

‘A BLOW TO THOUSANDS’ To The Editor: Re “ ‘Diller Isle’ Dead in the Water?” (news, April 6): Score a victory for those who’d like to see Hudson River Park sink into the sea. The court ruling, barring Pier55 from moving ahead, was a blow to the thousands who have been looking forward to this new treasure of a park on the city’s majestic waterfront. The asphalt-slabbed Pier 54 was shut for safety reasons years ago. In its place, a generous philanthropic gift offered a lush green garden and nonprofit arts center. Pier55 wasn’t without controversy. The Friends of Hudson River Park — an independent 501(c)(3) organization — participated in hours of public meetings to evaluate this proposal, a gift in excess of $100 million offered by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg. Community Board 2 went through the plan clause by clause — and managed to improve it. In the end, CB2 supported Pier55 after hearing from hundreds of voices in the community. One group that wasn’t there to listen was The City Club of New York — a dormant organization that woke up to file its lawsuit. The City Club pursued its case with no input from the people who actually rely on Hudson River Park for open space — for access to water, yes, and also to sky, and air and green. Hudson River Park is all of these, in a city that hungers for them. Pier55 poses no environmental threat to the Hudson River. Every court decision made that clear, including last week’s. And yet, there are still a few people who believe that the best future for the Hudson River waterfront is one underwater: Let the piers sink into decrepitude. Seventeen million visits to Hudson River Park each year — runners and sit-in-the-sunners alike — are a testament to all the New Yorkers who beg to differ. Susanna Aaron Aaron is secretary, Friends of Hudson River Park.

Chelsea Now is published weekly by NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. (212) 229-1890. Annual subscription by mail in Manhattan and Brooklyn $75. The entire contents of newspaper, including advertising, are copyrighted and no part may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher - © 2017 NYC Community Media LLC, Postmaster: Send address changes to Chelsea Now, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. PUBLISHER’S LIABILITY FOR ERROR: The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for other errors or omissions in connection with an advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue.

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April 20-26, 2017

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ADVERTORIAL

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

24

April 20-26, 2017

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

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

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

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

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

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

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

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Chelsea Now  

April 20, 2017

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