VOLUME 30, NUMBER 08
RIP: Linda Belfer, 72 Gateway’s champion BY COLIN MIXSON Long-time Gateway tenant advocate and the “architect” of the residential complex’s rent-stabilization program, Linda Belfer, passed away on April 15. She was 72. Belfer is remembered as a fiercely intelligent and passionate defender of Gateway tenants since the earliest days of the sprawling collection of Battery Park City apartment buildings, who matched wills with Gateway’s well-heeled developers Photo by Maura Lynch and out-talked some Belfer, who of Downtown’s most Linda founded the Gateway influential politicians. Plaza Te n a n t s “She could wear Association in 1982, you down,” said long- and was the driving time friend and fel- force securing rentlow Gateway resident stabilization protections Karlene Wiese. “She for her fellow tenants, would just argue, and passed away at age 72. argue, and argue, and she was always way ahead of everybody. She was very smart and very quick.” Belfer, who was fluent in French, Spanish, and Hebrew in addition to English — and who graduated Saint John’s University School of Law at the age of 36 — founded the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association in 1982. The Gateway tenant advocate went on to envision and model the apartment complex’s long-running, state-authorized rent-stabilization program after New York City’s, and wrangle support from interest groups throughout the neighborhood to see it enacted time and time again. “She was one of the architects of that program that protected tenants up until this day,” said Gateway Plaza Tenant’s Association President Glenn Plaskin. “She was extremely competent and outspoken — brassy. She could hold her own with the ownership, the politicians, the leadership of Lower Manhattan. A very competent woman.” In addition to her service to Gateway tenants, Belfer served the larger community as a volunteer on Community Board 1 and as a local Democratic
APRIL 20 – MAY 03, 2017
‘Charging Bull’ sculptor has a cow over ‘Fearless Girl’ ‘advertisement’ BY COLIN MIXSON The sculptor who created the capitalist icon says that its newly minted neighbor, feminist icon, and social media sensation is utterly derivative of his iconic brass bovine, and is demanding her bigmoney financier take its wildly successful marketing gimmick elsewhere — and even pay him damages for violating his legal rights. “I don’t like it,” said Arturo Di Modica, who spent $360,000 of his own money to fabricate and install “Charging Bull” opposite the New York Stock Exchange without a permit in 1989. “They’re supposed
to find another place to do their advertisement.” Attorneys for Di Modica fired off letters to State Street Global Advisors and marketing firm McCann Worldgroup, which designed the marketing stunt, on Tuesday, which accused the companies of “commercializ[ing] and exploit[ing]” ‘Charging Bull’ and violating copyright laws, before going into the Sicilian artist’s demands that she be relocated and he get paid. “Fearless Girl,” according to Di Modica’s lawyers, wouldn’t be “fearless” if she weren’t fac-
ing down his bull, and the effect that State Street’s statue creates is entirely dependent on Di Modica’s opus. “The statue of the young girl becomes the ‘Fearless Girl’ only because of the ‘Charging Bull,’” the letter reads. “The work is incomplete with Mr. Di Modica’s ‘Charging Bull,’ and as such it constitutes a derivative work of the ‘Charging Bull.’” Attorney Norman Siegel cited State Street promotional materials referencing the new statue’s juxtaBULLFIGHT Continued on page 10
Photo by Tony Falcone
F ried eggs Lukas and Mark Mellott, age 5 and 3 respectively, had a ball (and lots of eggs) at the Easter egg hunt hosted by the New York Fire Museum on April 9. For more, see page 5.
BELFER Continued on page 3 1 M E T R O T E C H • N YC 112 0 1 • C O P Y R I G H T © 2 0 17 N YC C O M M U N I T Y M E D I A , L L C
Then there were none Only resident leaves BPCA board BY COLIN MIXSON The Battery Park City Authorityâ€™s only resident board member, Martha Gallo, announced her resignation on Thursday, leaving Battery Park City residents to be ruled over by a dwindling group of state-appointed out-oftowners. Battery natives werenâ€™t satisfied having just one resident on the board, but not having any locals is intolerable, according to BPC resident and Community Board 1 Chairman Anthony Notaro. â€œEven though we were happy to have Martha as a board member and resident, we never felt that was enough, so now itâ€™s really a problem,â€? said Notaro. â€œNow we have no resident representation, no one who has our perspective or voice.â€? Galloâ€™s resignation leaves the BPCA
board with only four out of seven seats filled â€” Lester Petracca, Hector Batista, Donald Capoccia, and Chairman Dennis Mehiel â€” all of whom live well beyond the borders of the 92-acre neighborhood theyâ€™re responsible for governing. Rules require the BPCA to field four members at any given board meeting to make a quorum, meaning that, in the event any of the remaining Cuomo appointees call in sick, no business can be decided at a given board meeting. In a public statement prepared for her resignation, Gallo described her six-year career on the BPCA board as simply having run its course, and that she ended up staying far longer than she originally had planned. â€œMy intent was to serve the threeyear term of my initial appointment. After twice that time, Iâ€™m proud of what weâ€™ve accomplished, and even more
Martha Gallo, at center, served on the board of the Battery Park City Authority for six years, and was the only member who actually lived in the neighborhood the Albany-appointed board controls. She resigned from the post April 6.
confident in the future of Battery Park City,â€? Galloâ€™s statement read. State Sen. Daniel Squadron praised Galloâ€™s service, while also describing her position as the sole Battery Park City resident on the oft-maligned board as â€œunenviable.â€? The senator, along with assembly members Deborah Glick and Yuh-Line Niou, introduced legislation in Albany requiring the BPCA board to include a majority of local residents, and he took Galloâ€™s resignation as an opportunity to reiterate the need for reform.
â€œI urge the Senate to pass my legislation requiring local representation on the board, along with assembly members Glick and Niou. And I continue my call to the Governor to fill vacancies on the board with local residents,â€? Squadron said. Galloâ€™s service to the BPCA board was highlighted by her work on the groupâ€™s Audit and Finance Committee, which Mehiel credited for recent reaffirmation of the boardâ€™s â€œAAAâ€? bond rating. GALLO Continued on page 3
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April 20 â€“ May 03, 2017
Late for school
Long awaited Trinity Place School years behind schedule BY COLIN MIXSON The long-awaited opening of Trinity Place School has been pushed back by two years, leaving Downtown without any new permanent school seats until the fall of 2022. The delay comes as a crushing blow for local education advocates with the Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force, who claim the city was already egregiously late in adding much-needed school seats even before the new setback came to light, according to member Eric Greenleaf. “It’s very bad news,” Greenleaf said. “The existing schools simply don’t have the space to take all the kids for the coming five years. Most are at or near capacity right now and, in the meantime, you’ve got thousands and thousands of apartments planned, or under construction, or recently opened.” Local civic honcho Patrick Kennell announced the delay at a March 28 meeting of Community Board 1’s Planning Committee, where he said the School Construction Authority is blaming the setback on Trinity Place Holdings — the developer of the 38-story residential tower that will house the new school. The developer now says it won’t be able to produce the socalled “white box” shell structure needed to build out the school until 2019. The additional 18-months additional of construction required by the SCA to transform the building’s barren core into a learning space will mean the school facility won’t be completed until the middle of 2021 — and then students and staff can’t be moved in for another year after that, Kennell said. “SCA won’t get the white box it needs to construct the school until 2019 and it takes 18 months to build the school,” Kennell said. “It’s disappointing, obviously, that the school’s not going to open on time.” The delay, even though due to construction difficulties beyond the SCA’s control, nevertheless accentuates the glacial pace at which the city provides new school seats in Lower Manhattan’s crowded real estate market, where the challenge of finding space to site schools has become increasingly difficult in recent years, Greenleaf said. City officials announced plans to fit the new school into the bottom floors of the planned complex way back in June of 2013, which itself came three years after locals first began clamoring for more seats Downtown.
The 500-foot luxury condominium tower Trinity Place Holdings plans to build is increasingly behind schedule, pushing off the opening of the 476-seat elementary school for three more years.
“This was first recommended by SCA in June 2013, and it’s going to open nine years later!” Greenleaf railed. “Somebody isn’t planning ahead adequately.” Because of overcrowding conditions Downtown, the city was forced to find temporary off-site classroom space for kids during construction of the last three schools built in Lower Manhattan — PS 276, Spruce Street School, and Peck Slip School. And there’s no reason to believe that process,
GALLO Continued from page 2
BELFER Continued from page 1
Mehiel also gave Gallo credit for recent changes in BPCA policy resulting in greater transparency and the ability for locals to comment during public board meetings, which was requested by a coalition of local lawmakers led by Squadron since April 2016. After initial resistance from the board, the public comment period was finally instituted in October.
District Leader. “She was a triple threat, you might say,” Plaskin remarked. In 2009, Belfer spoke in favor of renewing Gateway’s rent-stabilization program through 2020 at a BPCA board meeting, where she was cheered on by some 3,500 of her fellow tenants. “This is the first time I’ve heard whistling at one of
called “incubation,” shouldn’t be used again for kids destined for class at the under-construction Trinity Place, according to CB1 vice chairman Paul Hovitz. “It was always clear that they would need to incubate, because we know we need more kindergarten seats,” Hovitz said. There’s an obstacle, however, in the form of brighteyed pre-schoolers, who have taken over classrooms at Downtown’s traditional incubation site, Chamber Street’s Tweed Courthouse, after the rollout of Mayor de Blasio’s signature universal Pre-K program. Councilwoman Margaret Chin and other Downtown school advocates are optimistic that the city can find alternate places for the little ones at any of a number of other Pre-K centers located Downtown without affecting enrollment. Downtown Express reported last summer that Lower Manhattan has about 250 more Pre-K seats than the neighborhood needs. “We definitely need school seats down here,” said Chin. “So the Tweed Courthouse, which DOE has historically used for incubating, should still be made available for that.” The Department of Education, however, has yet to present a strategy for incubating Trinity Place, and locals are hoping the city comes to the April 28 meeting of the School Overcrowding Task Force armed with a presentation outlining when and where it plans to teach future Trinity Place scholars, said Hovitz. “Now that we know the school is going to be further delayed, and we’re going to need the seats, I think that’s going to be the topic of discussion,” Hovitz said. Greenleaf pointed out that Tweed can only hold three grades worth of students, and with Trinity Place’s opening now delayed until 2022, that means the city will have to wait until 2019 to start incubating, or else risk running out of space. And when Trinity Place School does finally open, locals can begin the long and torturous process of wrangling the city into building a yet another new school — which the data already show the neighborhood is going to need, but for which even the most basic plans have yet to begin. Optimistically, Greenleaf hopes the process could finally get underway sometime this coming decade. “We may have to wait until 2029 for the next one to open, and by then there will be nowhere left for a school in Lower Manhattan,” he said.
these meetings,” said then BPCA chairman James Gill following Belfer’s speech. “And that’s a good thing.” It took about an hour of deliberations for the state-appointed board to acquiesce to the indefatigable Belfer’s demands, and extend the program that would protect the residents of some 1,705 units from facing exorbitant market rates for another 11 years. “I am ecstatic,” Belfer said after the authority approved the deal. “We’re all very, very happy.” April 20 – May 03, 2017
Easter egg hunt at the Fire Museum BY COLIN MIXSON Downtown ankle biters had a blast scouring Spring Street’s Fire Museum for Easter eggs on April 9, moms said. “We had a great time,” said Katya Yazykova, who stopped in for the event during a trip from Virginia with kids Lukas, 5, and Mark, 3. “It was awesome.” The Fire Museum turned out its first and second floors for the egg hunt, and
kids scrambled in and around vintage fire engines in their search for Easter treats, according to Sanda Gazahi, who came all the way from the quaint suburbs of Brooklyn for the event. “Some of them were very creatively hidden, inside the fire trucks and stuff like that,” she said. The kids were joined by the FDNY’s fi re safety mascot, an over-sized Dalmatian named Hot Dog.
“He was greeting the kids and that was very nice,” said Gazahi. Above the Easter egg hunt, the third floor was turned over to arts and crafts, and kids were able to decorate puppets and bags to stash their eggs in. The Fire House should expect some repeat customers come next Easter, according to Kazykova. “This was our first time, but I’m sure we’ll back,” she said.
Photos by Tony Falcone
(Far left) Two-year old Brayden Liu got more eggs than he knew what to do with at the Fire Museum’s Easter egg hunt. (Center) Three-year-old Nikola Gazahi got a cool fi re hat along with some eggs at the April 9 event. (Above) Four-year-old Willem Beckman has a bit of growing to do before he can join New York’s Bravest.
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April 20 – May 03, 2017
â€˜Star Warsâ€™ under the stars Rockefeller Park awakens â€” with free outdoor screening of â€˜Star Wars VIIâ€™ BY COLIN MIXSON Thatâ€™s no moon â€” itâ€™s a free screening of â€œStar Wars: The Force Awakens!â€? The scruffy looking nerf herders of the Battery Park City Authority have realized that these really are the droids weâ€™re looking for, so get ready to watch that bionic beach ball BB-8 roll around the outdoor screen at Rockefeller Park on Ro Thursday, May 4. sday, The he 2015 blockbuster â€” the first Start Wars film from Disney sney â€” picks up the story ory left hanging at hee end of â€œReturn of the Jediâ€? more than 30 years ago, and reunites many of the beloved original characters â€” albeit some tragically briefly.
That auspicious date on the screening coincides with Star Wars Day, the intergalactically recognized celebration of all things â€œStar Warsâ€? â€” acknowledged with the greeting â€œMay the Fourth be with You.â€? The holiday is not endorsed by the federal government, LucasFilm â€” or more importantly, Disney â€” but is none the less celebrated by devout fans the world over, so donâ€™t be surprised to see more than a few growling Wookies, grow clanking stormtroopstormtroo ers, and saber-flapping Jedi sprawled on the lawn in Rockefeller Rockefelle Park, staking out tthe best spots with their th â€œEmpire Strikes Str Backâ€? bedsheet bedsheets and doing their be best to look like wr wretched hives of scum and villainy. y
â€œStar Wars: The Force Awakensâ€? will be screened for free at the lawn in Rockefeller Park at 7 pm on May the 4th.
But donâ€™t worry, the BPCA promises this will be family affair, perfect for the youngling. Epic light saber battles and force-lightning duels will
be strongly discouraged â€” and booze, along with lawn furniture, and probably blasters, are banned from the park. The screening, which is free
and requires no pre-registration, begins at 7 pm, but be sure to arrive early if you want a good seat â€” itâ€™s your only hope.
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A gathering of green thumbs City’s community garden volunteer programs kicks off at The Battery BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y More than a hundred high school students from across the city met in The Battery last week during their spring vacation to kick off this year’s youth community gardening program for high school and college students. The GreenThumb Youth Leadership Council — a project of the Parks Department in partnership with the city’s volunteer program NYC Service — gives high school and college students the chance to volunteer at least twice a month from May through July at local community gardens that grow vegetables or flowers. At the kick-off event, students learned which of the garden sites they would be working in, and met their host gardeners and their college-age mentors, learned about the history of their particular gardens and brainstormed about possible gardening projects. Fifteen community gardens throughout the five boroughs will be hosting the YLC volunteers over the summer. Broken into groups according the gardens they would be working with the budding gardeners broke the ice with their mentors and hosts by telling each other what they imagined their “spirit vegetable” to be — though most opted for a “spirit fruit,” such as mango,
April 20 – May 03, 2017
grapes, and dragon fruit. Afterwards, they toured the Battery Urban Farm. The volunteers will be expected to put in at least 20 hours of community service over the summer, though many students work even more hours. Some city high schools have community-service graduation requirements, and this summer program counts toward that. For Jessica Irimescu, an 11th-grader at Bard High School Early College, this won’t be her first time getting her hands dirty, having participated in gardening projects in her Ridgewood, Queens elementary school. “I love nature and learning to grow things,” she said. Farzana Ahmed, a student at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria signed up out of a sense of civic spirit. “I love helping out in the community,” she said. The program allows students to learn from community gardeners and college mentors about topics such as botany, agriculture, horticulture and community development, picking up skills including composting and working with raised garden beds, as well as sustainable-aggriculture techniques such as drip irrigation. Added perks include learning about
Photo by Tequila Minsky
Volunteer Jessica Irimescu, an 11th-grader at Bard High School Early College, has been into community gardening since elementary school. Perhaps it should be no surprise that her hairdo perfectly matched the Green Thumb swag bags the Parks Department what handing out at the kick-off event for the summer community gardening program.
the neighborhoods where the gardens are located and, most importantly, making a lot of new friends. Many former GreenThumb YLC students are now mentors and stewards of their own com-
munity gardens. “This is a program of intergenerational learning and the passing on of knowledge,” said GreenThumb director Bill LoSasso.
Between God and mammon An almighty rent bill may force famed 9/11 chapel to close BY COLIN MIXSON A beloved Downtown chapel may have survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks only to be destroyed by New York Cityâ€™s ruthless real estate market. South End Avenueâ€™s cherished St. Josephâ€™s Chapel in Battery Park City â€” which miraculously came through 9/11 unscathed and sheltered first responders fleeing the attackâ€™s caustic fallout â€” may be forced to close its doors as soon as this summer, due its $263,000-a-year rent. Its lost is an almost unbearable prospect for locals who lived through the devastating attack and relied on the chapel for spiritual comfort in the aftermath. â€œPeople who came back after 9/11, part of what they held onto are the things that were part of their life before, when life was simple, and part of that was the chapel,â€? said St. Josephâ€™s parishioner Justine Cuccia. â€œWhether youâ€™re catholic or not, itâ€™s something that holds people together.â€? A 1983 lease agreement signed between parish leaders and Gateway Management saw the chapelâ€™s rent increase at a moderate two percent annually, and the parish paid an enviable annual rent of $85,000 when St. Josephâ€™s pastor Father Kevin Madigan negotiated a lease renewal in 2009, according to Cuccia. However, Father Joseph Tyrell replaced Madigan in 2013, and that year hashed out a renewal deal with St. Josephâ€™s landlord that set the chapelâ€™s rent at 90-percent market value, or a whopping $263,000 per year, Cuccia said. Parishioners only found out about the boondoggle in 2015, after the cityâ€™s buildings department came down on the chapel for an outdated certificate of occupancy, which sparked a barrage of questions that ultimately shed light on St. Josephâ€™s out-of-control rent.
Parishioners have since scrambled to organize a new deal with Gateway â€” which is owned by the Lefrak, Fisher, and Olnick families â€” with help from the management companyâ€™s own quasi-governmental landlord, the Battery Park City Authority, which arranged meetings between the company and parish leaders. Though the Gov. Cuomoappointed authority kept a light touch, so as to avoid questions about the separation of church and state. â€œWhile the state has no role in the discussions between the church and its landlord, St. Josephâ€™s is an iconic part of the neighborhood, and we hope the parties can reach an agreement that allows the church to remain in its location,â€? according to BPCA spokesman Nick Sbordone. Gateway had agreed to reduce St. Josephâ€™s annual rent by about 12 percent, to roughly $231,700, with company spokeswoman Brooke Shaughnessy saying, â€œGateway has generously and unilaterally offered a significant reduction in rent to the Church.â€? But St. Josephâ€™s current pastor, Father Jared Quinn, and the parishâ€™s finance committee told parishioners that the bone Gateway had thrown the chapel was still too big to chew, and that the parish could only afford just over $56,000 a year â€” less than what it paid in 2009. Even the chapelâ€™s biggest supporters couldnâ€™t hear the parishâ€™s best offer without wincing, according Cuccia. â€œThatâ€™s ridiculous,â€? she said. â€œIt would be great if theyâ€™re lowballing to get the deal, but itâ€™s not reasonable â€” thatâ€™s a big jump. They should go back to what they were paying before.â€? St. Josephâ€™s Chapel, a satellite of St. Peterâ€™s Catholic Church, was built in 1983 at the beginning of Batter Park City. At that time, it served just
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Battery Park Cityâ€™s St. Josephâ€™s Chapel, which offered aid an comfort to first responders in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, could be forced out in the coming weeks unless the modest church can strike a deal to reduce its rent, which comes to more than a quarter of a million dollars annually.
a handful of early pioneers before development took off, and its congregation swelled. In the 9/11 attacks, the chapel suffered more damage from rescue efforts than from the attack, as the US government used the area as a staging ground and for months emergency workers sought refuge there, eating, drinking, and sleeping on the chapelâ€™s floor. Father Madigan would later undertake a rebuilding effort following the end of emergency work at the chapel, and erected within its walls the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero, which people of all faiths have since been welcome to visit free of charge. But it may not remain there much longer.
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City passes buck on school trafďŹ c safety
Howard Hughes Corp. steps up to the plate for local Little Leaguers, replacing damaged gear
BY COLIN MIXSON vides competitive outdoor baseball City bureaucrats with the Department of BY COLIN MIXSON Transportation are telling locals that the safety The Downtown Little Leagueâ€™s and softball fun for about 1,500 of schoolkids on the streets around the upcoming new season was saved in the bottom Downtown boys and girls, typiTrinity Place School isnâ€™t their problem, and any of the ninth when a local developer cally relies on playersâ€™ moms and trafďŹ c studies or changes with have to funded by volunteered to help replace the dads in the off season to store the the developer. league baseballâ€™s gear that was dis- hundreds of bats, gloves, pads, and Parents and school advocates are ďŹ‚abbergasted covered ruined by improper winter other equipment essential to the that the city would suddenly shift the responsibility storage just weeks before opening Great American Pastime. This year was no different, to a private company that now has little incentive day. to make changes â€” which they see as a short-cited The little league, which pro- except that the parents who stored recipe for tragedy. â€œ[The developer] can just build it the way it is, and then kids will get hit by cars, and then the city will fund the change â€” except it will cost more money at that point, and someone will already have gotten hurt,â€? said Eric Greenleaf, a member of the Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force. The city has purchased property within the residential development helmed by Trinity Place Holdings at 77 Greenwich Street as a site for a 476seat elementary school, which is expected to open sometime in 2022. But the narrow sidewalks surrounding the future school â€” and the siteâ€™s location adjacent to the bustling exit of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel â€” has led community members and local lawmakers to request a number of trafďŹ c changes in the area to reduce risks to students. These include closing a2016 west-bound lane on13, Edgar Street between NUMBER 26 DECEMBER 29, â€“ JANUARY 2017 Greenwich Street and Trinity Place to accommodate a sidewalk extension that would provide plaza where students and faculty can congregate without the this of getting hit by a speeding bus, according to Community Board 1â€™s youth committee co-chair and member of the overcrowding task force. â€œAll they have is this roughly 650-square feet Photo by Tony Falcone courtyard â€” thatâ€™s tiny and itâ€™s not adequate for drop off and pickup for the school,â€? said Tricia Joyce, a member of Community Board 1 and advocate of creating the so-called Edgar Street Bright-eyed Battery Park 3-year-old Zoe Fisher enjoyed the arts and Pedestrian Plaza. â€œA plan has to be in place by the crafts activities at â€œMatzapalooza!â€? at the Museum of Jewish Heritage time on April 2, presented by the Workmenâ€™s Circle and the National Yiddish But this in opens.â€? addition to the triumphs, This was a landmark year for Theatre Folksbiene. The event included a scavenger hunt, costumes But also bureaucrats at theofcityâ€™s saw its share losses,transit agency Downtown, ďŹ lled with grand openings the year and a photo booth, klezmer music and dancing. from a deadly crane accident, to a and tragic losses. TRAFFIC STUDY Continued on page 14 to the passA multitude of parks, shops, sta- tragic hit-and-run death, tions and restaurants opened across ing of beloved residents and formative Lower Manhattan in 2016, which â€” Downtown leaders. In this issue, we take a look back at 15 years after the devasation of 9/11 â€” was the year Downtown came back the major developments that made this such a transformative year. better than ever.
Ma t z apalooz a!
all the leagueâ€™s baseball paraphernalia didnâ€™t anticipate construction work that left the equipment encrusted in caustic dust and mold, according to Community Board 1 Vice Chairman Paul Hovitz. â€œOne of the parents volunteered to store the equipment in their building, and apparently there was construction going on, because the equipment got covered in soot and mold â€” and even after an extensive cleaning a lot of it was unusable,â€? Hovitz said. Making matters worse, the mistake was only discovered a few weeks before the leagueâ€™s April 22nd opening day, Hovitz said, leaving organizers to scramble to ďŹ nd a well-endowed emergency sponsor who could help replace $30,000 worth of gear â€” and fast. â€œThey were in trouble and they were really nervous about how to raise this kind of money,â€? Hovitz said. Enter Saul Scherl, executive vice president for the tri-state area at Howard Hughes Corporation, the developer transforming the oncedeclining historic South Street Seaport District into shopping and dining destination. He stressed the importance of preserving traditional pastimes and old-fashioned sportsmanship â€œWhen something like this happens, itâ€™s important for us to help the kids,â€? said Scherl, â€œIn this day and age, when weâ€™re tied to phones and other modern-day tech, little league is so important. Itâ€™s nice that the kids get out on the ďŹ eld and
VOLUME 26, NUMBER 26
JUNE 5-JUNE 18 2014
Downtown Express photo by Scot Surbeck
File photo by Milo Hess
Start of the New York to Barcelona sailboat race at Battery Park Cityâ€™s North Cove, Sunday June 1, which was organized by Downtownâ€™s Manhattan Yacht Club.
File photo by Tequila Minsky
Photo courtesy of Travis Maclean
B Y K AT J A H E I N E M A N N The week leading up to Memorial Day weekend saw a series of politically symbolic memorials and vigils in the neighborhood, beginning with the unveiling of Private Danny Chen Way, which had been a couple of years in the making, followed by an impromptu vigil for a local grandfather, Wen Hui Ruan, who had
Getty / Thos Robinson
File photo by Milo Hess
File photo by Milo Hess
Also in this issue: 9/11 artifact returned to new E-train corridor Page 5 File photo by Milo Hess
Former CB1 chair may be ousted from board Page 10
AGREEING TO AGREE ON SEAPORT GUIDELINES, BUT DISAGREE ON THE PLAN BY JOSH ROGERS hat happens next? That was the question on the minds of many in the crowd of a few hundred Monday night at the ďŹ rst public meeting of the Seaport Working Group. Regardless of whether they were committee members on the inside, or they were viewing the groupâ€™s development â€œGuidelines and Principlesâ€? for the ďŹ rst time, few were clear on what it would all mean once Howard Hughes Corp. formally submits its plan that includes, at least for now, a 600-foot tower adjacent to the South Street Seaport Historic District. The carefully-worded, draft guidelines were painstakingly constructed after 11 Thursday meetings of two hours or more, and were generally well-received by people who either support or oppose big development at the Seaport. â€œI think if you look at all the guidelines, I would say the project that weâ€™re envisioning is consistent with those guidelines,â€? Chris Curry, Howard Hughes Corp.â€™s senior executive vice president of development, told Downtown Express. He did acknowledge â€œI might have an issueâ€? with Guideline 6, which calls for alternatives to a 50-story tower.
LITTLE LEAGUE Continued on page 14
File photo by Tequila Minsky
Associated Press / Mark Lennihan
been viciously attacked and beaten on an East Village street. And ďŹ nally, two days of memorials for Sister Ping honored the life of a woman who was hailed as saintly community benefactor by her Fujianese compatriots, while wanted, and eventually sentenced, as a ruthless â€œsnakeheadâ€? and proďŹ teer by the authorities. Memorial Day would have been
Danny Chenâ€™s 22nd birthday. The young Army private who died at 19 was found dead on his Army watch post in Afghanistan after enduring relentless, racist hazing by his fellow soldiers and superiors. Family, friends, neighbors and activists gathered on the corner of Continued on page 8
WORLD CUP BRAZIL
Continued on page 11
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A man was arrested for allegedly brawling with paramedics after he refused to leave the side of an injured loved one on Broadway on April 15. The emergency worker told police he was attempting to aid the ailing woman between Morris and Rector streets at 9:40 am, but was hindered by her significant other, who refused to leave her side despite multiple requests to back away. Eventually the man shoved the paramedic, who pushed back, but was then caught in the face with a right hook from the woman’s desperate lover, cops said.
The woman only had $5 in her wallet, but her credit cards were used to fuel an illicit spending spree, cops said.
BUTT HURT Cops arrested a man for allegedly slashing and stabbing another man — in the butt — on West Broadway on April 9. The victim told police that he was near West Houston Street at 12:43 am, when the suspect slashed him across the abdomen and then stabbed him multiple times on the buttocks. The suspect fled following the attack, but cops spotted him as they scoured the area and were later able to recover the knife, according to police.
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Cops are hunting the crooks who nabbed more than $3,000 worth of men’s fragrances from a Water Street fashion outlet amid two incidents spanning April 13 and 14. On the first occasion, a group of four plunderers swept through the store between Fulton and John streets at 8:28 pm, and grabbed no-less-than 28 bottles of ritzy man smell, cops said. The following day, a woman entered the retailer at 5:06 pm, and, acting alone, nabbed another 19 bottles of guy perfume, according to police.
RUNNING THE CLOCK Someone swiped a woman’s pricey Rolex watch as she worked up a sweat inside a Murray Street gym on April 12. The victim told police that she left her $5,000 Rolex on a treadmill inside the fitness center between W. Broadway and Church Street at 8 am, and, realizing her mistake, returned an hour later to find her timepiece stolen.
CLERK JERKS Two thieves stole a woman’s wallet as she labored at a Harrison Street fashion boutique on April 13. The victim told police that she was in the stockroom of the retail outlet between Greenwich and Hudson streets at 5:40 pm, while the dirty duo snuck behind the counter out front where she’d left her wallet.
APPLE PICKING A thief stole a man’s iPhone in a Church Street bar on April 7. The victim told police he was inside the bar between Lispenard and Walker streets at 11:50 pm, when he noticed the smart phone missing from his jacket.
JACKED A shoplifter nabbed two pricey jackets from a Greene Street fashion boutique on March 24. An employee told police that the theft at the store between Grand and Broome streets was discovered at 9 am, when an inventory check turned two missing coats worth more than $2,000.
LOST AND FOUND A taxi driver returned documents that a man had left in his cab on Prince Street on April 7, but held onto the nearly $3,000 worth of other valuables he also neglected to take with him. The victim told police he left his stuff in the cab between Wooster and Greene streets at 3:30 pm, and that he was later successful in getting a hold of the cabbie to have him return his stuff. But when the driver met him, the only property he handed over was the victim’s wallet, passport, and social security card, and not the $500 cash, and the iPad Pro he had left as well, cops said. — Colin Mixson
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ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING RULES IN EFFECT ALL WEEK Gridlock alert! Saturday is Earth Day, and in celebration, Broadway, between 17th and 47th Streets will go Car Free from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Because of diversions, lower Fifth and Park Avenues, as well as 14th Street will be jammed for the day, causing a traffic domino effect that will impact Lower Manhattan. Delays will be extensive, so show your love for Mother Earth and take transit, bike, or walk to your destination. Also on Saturday, the “Stop Trump’s Climate Agenda” rally will bring demonstrators to Foley Square from noon to 1:30 p.m. causing possible slowdowns at the Brooklyn Bridge. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., the LGBT Community Center’s annual cocktail party and dinner will take place at the Cipriani Wall Street, on Wall Street between Hanover and William Streets. On Thursday into Friday, the Brooklyn Bridge, in both directions, will narrow from three lanes to two at 11 p.m. — then, at midnight, only one lane will remain open each way until 6 a.m. On Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the 9/11 Memorial 5K Run, Walk, and Community Day will close Battery Place between Little West and Greenwich Streets, Greenwich Street from Battery
Place to Liberty Street, causing slowdowns at the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel exit onto Greenwich and Trinity Streets. From 11:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, and on weeknights 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly, E trains will run on the F line above W. 4th Street, and A trains will run on the F below W. 4th. From 11:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, 1 trains will not run below 14th Street. From the Mailbag: Dear Transit Sam, The City Hall area has become a traffic disaster! One of the many issues I’ve noticed is that it’s overrun with double parking, especially on Centre, Leonard, and Lafayette Streets. Something needs to be done. Is there anything you can do to help? Sincerely, DJ Dear DJ, I notified the NYPD and the DOT, but I’m not expecting too much. This area is government and landmark heavy — it has multiple courthouses, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Tombs, and various other government buildings. I hate to tell you this, but I don’t have high hopes that law enforcement will do much to enforce parking laws that are contributing to the gridlock. Transit Sam
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BULLFIGHT Continued from page 1
position with the bull at a press conference with the artist on April 12. “A deliberate choice was made to exploit and appropriate the ‘Charging Bull’ through the placement of fearless girl,” said. Furthermore, by turning “Charging Bull” into a de facto emblem of misogyny, State Street unilaterally altered the public meaning of the sculpture — intended by Di Modica as a symbol of American strength in the face of the 1987 stock market crash — into an object of fear, the letter states. “The inescapable implication is that the ‘Charging Bull’ is the source of that fear and power, and a force against what’s right,” Di Modica’s attorneys wrote to the investment firm. But Di Modica’s main beef is that “Fearless Girl” is just an ingenious marketing scheme, with State Street aiming to make a buck off his bull. Throughout the media frenzy the statue enjoyed last month, State Street’s gender-diversity-tracking exchange traded fund — ticker symbol “SHE” — was featured prominently in a plaque placed at her feet, which read: “Know the power of women in leadership — SHE makes a difference.” The plaque was removed in late March after “Fearless Girl” was enrolled in the Department of Transportation’s street art program, which has a specific signage format that the plaque didn’t adhere to, according to McNally. Regardless, the sign proved that “Fearless Girl” was created for commercial purposes, according to Di Modica’s attorneys, therefore voiding any “fair use” protection and violating the artist’s sole right to reproduce the image of the
Photo by Milo Hess
The plaque advertising State Street’s SHE fund (seen here at the statue’s feet) remained in place until the end of March.
April 20 – May 03, 2017
Photo by Colin Mixson
In a press conference last week, “Charging Bull” artist Arturo Di Modica (above) argued that State Street’s “Fearless Girl” statue (right) derives its meaning entirely from its juxtaposition against his own work, thus making it a textbook example of copyright-violating “derivative art.”
bull for financial gain. Ironically, more than a month before Di Modica’s press conference, the creators of “Fearless Girl” made his arguments for him in a March 10 article in AdWeek about the team at the advertising agency that came up with the idea. In the AdWeek article, McCann’s senior copywriter Tali Gumbiner explains how the statue was explicitly conceived and commissioned as an advertisement for State Street’s SHE fund. She also makes it perfectly clear that the whole concept started from Di Modica’s bull, and that their intention, just as the artist alleges, was indeed to “change the meaning” of his work. “How can we do this in a way that’s disruptive, and has not been done before? And the bull just came to us. … We had to figure out a way to change the meaning of the symbol of Wall Street. Working with [McCann North America chief creative officer] Eric Silver and [worldwide CCO] Rob Reilly, the girl came from that.” Making matters worse, it became clear early on that the statue’s corporate sponsor, State Street, is far from an ideal messenger for a righteous crusade to promote women in All Street’s leadership. Only three of State Street’s 11 board members are women, and among its 28 top executives, only five are women — a shortcoming that the company acknowledges. “In terms of practicing what we’re preaching, we absolutely know what have further to go,” said State Street spokeswoman Anne McNally. But some objectors have a problem not just with the messenger, but the message of “Fearless Girl” itself. “It may be surprising to hear this, but a lot of feminists are in firm agreement that it’s time for ‘Fearless Girl’ to go.” wrote Amanda Marcotte on Salon.
Photo by Milo Hess
com over the weekend, calling the statue “infantilizing” and “a terrible symbol for feminism.” Marcotte points out that the symbolism a little girl precociously standing arms akimbo in front of the “Charging Bull” and promising an egalitarian future largely misses the point of its supposed message — that thousands of accomplished, adult women are being discriminated against right now in a male-dominated industry. This celebration of “girl power” is noncontroversial among men who imagine their daughters as the eventual beneficiaries, she adds, but it does little to improve their attitudes towards ambitious female colleagues competing for advancement in the next year-end review. “This all points to the deeper problem with treating ‘girl power’ as a suitable stand-in for actual feminism,” Marcotte wrote. Regardless of the criticism, “Fearless Girl” seems likely to stand her ground for at least another year. The statue suddenly appeared overnight on March 8, installed on a fauxcobblestone extension of the northern tip of Bowling Green, technically separating it from the park — where such installations would face much more public scrutiny — authorized through a one-week street activity permit of the sort used by street fairs and farmers markets. When the selfie magnet because an overnight social media sensation, Mayor de Blasio extended the permit for a month. After an outpouring of adoration by local pols and celebrities, the city enrolled the statue in a more permanent street art program, allowing it to remain for another year. Where “Fearless Girl” will go from there, if she moves at all, remains to be seen.
Di Modica and his legal team were joined at Wednesday’s press conference by Bowling Green Association chairman Arthur Piccolo, who spearheaded the effort to give “Charging Bull” a permanent home at Bowling Green back in 1989. He suggested “Fearless Girl” be moved to Broad Street and positioned to face the New York Stock Exchange, where her message of gender equality could be better directed against the real perpetrators of Wall Street’s patriarchy. “If Fearless Girl has a message of equality, all these companies that are not practicing equality, their stock is traded at the New York Stock Exchange,” Piccolo said. Piccolo was among the first to call out State Street’s own poor record on female empowerment, and to lodge allegations of copyright infringement. In a March 28 letter to city officials, where he wrote, “... McCann Advertising and their executives were involved and are involved in a highly coordinated, carefully planned conspiracy to defraud Arturo Di Modica of his copyright.” The debate fueled by Di Modica’s press conference sparked dueling editorials in the tabloids last week, with the Post siding with Piccolo’s solution of moving “Fearless Girl” to the NYSE. Meanwhile, Downtown Alliance president Jessica Lappin takeing to the pages of the Daily News to argue that the two statues should stay together at Bowling Green, but that the girl should be moved to the south, closer to the bull, and away form the narrow northern tip, where the seflie-snapping throngs are creating a serious safety hazard. State Street acknowledged receipt of Di Modica’s letter, although McNally declined to comment on behalf of the investment firm. Mayor de Blasio did chime in on Twitter, however, where he accused Di Modica of sexism. “Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl,” de Blasio tweeted in reference to a Newsweek article about Di Modica’s beef. In response, Piccolo accused the mayor of libeling the artist, and pointed out that Seigel has filed Freedom of Information requests to uncover any communications between City Hall and State Street Global Advisors or McCann, to determine if the mayor’s office colluded unlawfully in arranging the below-the-radar approval of the project that allowed the stature and advertising plaque to appear by surprise on International Women’s Day — the same day State Street’s SHE fund began trading. DowntownExpress.com
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April 20 â€“ May 03, 2017
E D ITO R IAL
Child’s play helps kids become adults PUBLISHER
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April 20 – May 03, 2017
BY LENORE SKENAZY Every day after school, and all day on weekends, kids run outside … to get to their soccer league, or ballet lesson, or origami boot camp. It’s all good, but here’s what it isn’t. Play. Playing is something else entirely, a chance for kids to make up games, run around, paint a rock or climb a tree. And it is this kind of open-ended, unstructured “just goofing around” that is not only pleasant, but absolutely critical to healthy child development. If we want kids to become problem-solving, socialized, self-controlled people – and we do – we can’t keep filling all their free time with adult-led activities. Why not? Because when adults lead an activity, kids become followers. But when kids lead an activity, they get practice becoming adults. Leaders. Doers. Entrepreneurs, not cogs. That’s the idea behind the “Genius of Play,” an initiative of the Toy Industry Association to raise awareness of play’s importance, and it was the topic of a panel discussion at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan the other day, moderated by the former editor of Parents Magazine, Dana Points. While many parents think of play time as empty calories and believe that even pre-schoolers should spend more time being instructed on math and reading skills, Points said, “More play time at age three is directly related to better vocabulary in kindergarten.” What’s more, she added, “Active play not only helps develop coordination and motor skills, it’s also connected to better sleeping and eating habits. Researchers in Germany found a significant correlation between ample free time [in childhood] and adult social success.”
Posted To BULLFIGHT IN BOWLING GREEN! “CHARGING BULL” ARTIST HAS A COW OVER “FEARLESS GIRL” STATUE (APRIL 15) Mayor de Blasio statement is so ignorant of the issue. The issue is the acknowledgement of the statement and sole placement of art honoring its inherent creation, whether you have criticism or not on an individual level. These are not means for advertisement alone or together. The city should honor its own
What’s the connection? Nancy Schulman, former head of the 92nd street Y’s pre-k program and now head of the Early Learning Center at the Avenues school, put it bluntly: “Everything about play benefits kids. Curiosity, inventiveness, self-esteem, and resilience are the four things that kids really get through play.” Think about what you see when you watch a kid playing; “They will try something over and over and over again and keep failing but keep trying because they are setting the agenda,” said Schulman. They want to make the cat’s cradle, or kick the ball harder. That’s the kind of intense focus they will need in school — and life — but the classroom is a tough place to breed it. When kids are self-motivated, as they are in play (nobody’s forcing anyone to jump double dutch), they get the experience of hard work and practicing without balking at, well, the hard work and practicing. They also get the experience of making something happen. To get a game going, even a game of “I’m the princess, you’re the frog,” you need to convince someone else to play with you. This involves all sorts of social skills, said Leslie Bushara, deputy director of guest services at the Museum: “You’re negotiating, you’re listening.” And if what you hear is that your friend doesn’t want to be the frog, you have to absorb that and adjust or you may not be able to play at all. So you come up with a workable solution: Let’s both be princesses. In the workplace, Bushara added,
creative representation since it was once the center of the art world. Beat Keerl The next time de Blasio says something intelligent — and not full of prejudice and utterly predictable — will be the first. Harry This whole thing is silly. The Charging Bull was dropped by Arturo and friends in front of the NYSE, without permit, and to a lot of controversy. The eventual support to place it
this is called “leadership.” In Little League or hip-hop class, kids learn certain technical skills, and teamwork, but they are not making something happen. What’s more, they are being judged, so they’re not totally free to make up a new game or dance. Free play doesn’t have an authority watching and grading, which means kids get to use their imaginations. If they come up with something that doesn’t work – who cares? It’s just fun. You can’t run the bases backwards at Little League, but you can if you’re “just” playing. Voila: The seeds of innovation. This is the first generation to be deprived of the chance to just hang out with their buddies, getting all those good things going. “Only a quarter of our kids 6 to 15 are getting 60 minutes of play a day,” said Kim McCall, executive director of New York/New Jersey Playworks, an organization that sends play instructors into schools to teach kids the playground games their older siblings no longer teach them. And, she said, many schools take even the meager 20-minute recess away from kids as a punishment, when recess is probably what those kids need the most. How can we give kids back their right to play when parents and schools face so many time constraints and fears? Actually, it’s surprisingly easy. After school, just keep the gym and/or playground open for free play. Maybe have an adult in the corner, for insurance reasons. But otherwise, just throw out some balls, jump ropes and cardboard boxes and let the kids at it. A mind is a terrible thing to waste … by “teaching” it all the time. Lenore Skenazy is a keynote speaker, founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids, and a contributor at Reason.com.
at Bowling Green, permanently, was led by such “despicable” Wall Street firms as Goldman Sachs — forget about State Street. The “Fearless Girl” was created by an another artist, Kristen Visbal, who is no less unknown than was Arturo Di Modica at his time. Yes, agree, Visbal’s work was commissioned by State Street, but that fact is hardly different than the Charging Bull’s support from Wall Street firms. The Fearless Girl was commissioned to be placed at Bowling Green during POSTED Continued on page 13
E D ITO R IAL
Could “Fearless Girl” be afraid of refugees? BY BILL EGBERT Just weeks after the now-iconic statue “Fearless Girl” took her place in Bowling Green staring down the “Charging Bull,” and instantly became a social media sensation and international symbol of “girl power,” another sculpture has joined her in the park in the hope of getting in on the publicity. A group calling itself Refugees United Seeking Entry has installed, directly in front of “Fearless Girl,” another bronze piece depicting several refugee children seeking asylum and safety in America — but being symbolically blocked from entry by the stubbornly defiant young girl. “The symbolism works perfectly,” said the group’s communications director, Ima Joshin. “Just look at her — standing in front of them, arms akimbo, chin jutting out as if to say ‘Not in Trump’s America!’ That’s just the kind of pugnaciously bigoted attitude we want to call out denounce.” The idea for the installation came to Joshin when she witnessed all the attention the park’s new selfie sensation was enjoying, and her group wanted to harness that energy for their own agenda. “We were looking for a way to bring attention to our cause, and the Girl just came to us,” Joshin said. “She had become such a popular image of defiance and empowerment, and we just had to figure out a way to change the meaning of the symbol. The image of her blocking the refugee children came out of that.” In the wake of the new installation, the fresh-faced refugee children have suddenly become a cause célèbre among twittizens — who have likewise turned on their erstwhile bullfighting heroine, with the hashtag #FearlessGirl quickly swamped by #HeartlessGirl. Within hours, the trending tag #TeamRefugees outnumbered #TeamFearlessGirl nearly seven to one. Not everyone hates Fearless Girl’s new role as a standard-bearer of anti-immigrant xenophobia. She has been embraced by the alt-right as the new “Pepe the Frog,” and has shown up in various memes, for example, photoshopped in front of public restrooms smugly blocking entrance to transgenders. And it was not lost on many observers that the group of refugee children is actually a reproduction of London’s Liverpool Street monument to the
POSTED Continued from page 12
International Women’s Day. So while it wasn’t a total commercial, does it really matter? In fact, the circumstances of the times, and end result, are hardly much different than that of Arturo’s. Moreover, this is the same park where colonists destroyed the statue of King George III, and the site of so many historical protests. Face facts, the bull is hardly great art. It’s a tourist attraction where pictures laughingly taken alongside the charging bull’s testicles. Combined, the fearless girl and chargDowntownExpress.com
Original photo via Associated Press / Mark Lennihan — photo-illustration by Bill Egbert
Placing a statue of refugee children at Bowling Green, with the “Fearless Girl” defi antly blocking they way, instantly transforms the girl-power icon into a symbol of anti-immigrant xenophobia — which some might reasonably argue infringes upon the State Street-sponsored art instalation, and even violates the artistic intent sculptor Kristen Visbal.
Kindertransport — the rescue of thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis prior to WWII — leading some to speculate whether “Fearless Girl” should now be considered a symbol of anti-Semitism. Asked whether she thought “Fearless Girl” sculptor Kristen Visbal might resent the appropriation and negative transformation of her most famous work, Joshin expressed some sympathy. “Poor Kirsten!” she said. “The girl is beautiful — it’s a stunning piece of art. But the world changes, and we are now running with this idea.” Perhaps most aggrieved by this turn of events would be State Street, the financial firm that originally commissioned “Fearless Girl” as an advertisement for
its new gender-diversity-tracking “SHE” exchange traded fund, which launched the same day the statute was placed in front of the “Charging Bull.” But State Street could still recover a return on its ad budget, suggests marketing researcher Vin Alitty. “They could launch an ‘America First’ fund that invests only in companies that Trump tweets good things about,” Alitty said. “Or maybe a fund that invests in companies bidding to build the wall. There’s lots of ways State Street can keep making money off this.” EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re read this far and still haven’t gotten the gag, I would recommend to you a highly reliable news service called The Onion.com.
ing bull present better a better message for our time. At least, that is until some other no-name artist supported by Wall Street drops another bronze tourist attraction. So get over it! Cap Worthington
ly as much as any artist could want. Commercial purpose? Really? And Di Modica sells copies of it to this day! So, there you are — point, counterpoint. Get over yourself! Bill Goodhart
I agree with Cap Worthington: get over it! This whole copyright thing isn’t a real issue, and to get on his “high horse” is frankly a lot of bull. As much as he purports to have placed the bull in front of the Stock Exchange to symbolize the strength of the nation’s financial market, that it’s where it is today is real-
Nothing to get over. It’s about respect. Respect Mr. Di Modica’s work. The “Charging Bull” can stand by itself. Can “Fearless Girl” do the same? I don’t think so. That makes her one of those tourists there to scratch the bull’s testicles Jaime Gutierrez
THEN THERE WERE NONE: ONLY RESIDENT LEAVES BPCA BOARD (APRIL6) Please, Gov. Cuomo, appoint a full complement of Board members to the BPCA. There is much work to be done and a quorum is needed for actions to pass. And, of course, please appoint locals to the board. There is no shortage of competent, capable and committed BPC residents from which you may choose. Maryanne P. Braverman April 20 – May 03, 2017
A Steaming Pile of Triumphs Trump’s First 100 Days COMBINED, and I say this without even was in his second term; and does it during Sexual Assault Awareness Month? BY MAX BURBANK If you’re reading this on Thursday, it’s a paltry nod toward fact-checking. That’s really compare to not mentioning the exis- Or claiming Assad was worse than Hitler, tence of Jews in the official statement for who at least never used chemical weapons Donald Trump’s 98th day as (it still feels my confidence level for that statement! How about irony? Name one American International Holocaust Remembrance — or maybe he did, but just in Holocaust nightmarish to say it) President of the United Sates. But see, the 100th day is president who has done even a quarter Day? Or implying Frederick Douglass was Centers and not on his own people? for Black History Okay, Trump didn’t say that. It was worst Saturday and Chelsea Now doesn’t come as much to further the state of irony in alive in a speech saying what a great Spice Girl ever, Sean “Anti-Semitic Spice” out on Saturday, so it’s wait ’til after or go this great country. Sure, Nixon’s “I am Month? Or guy Bill O’Reilly is Spicer, but we’re talking about the Trump early, right? I figure I’ll do early, scoop not a crook” was hilarious, but that administration’s first 100 days here, not everybody, and maybe just make up what just Trump specifically. he does on days 99 and 100. What the And kleptocracy? Not since William hell, why not? I’m not a journalist, I’m a Henry Harrison demanded the US “satirical pundit.” It’ll be funny — unless Treasury advance him a quarter of a milwe’re all dead, in which case you won’t lion dollars every time he sneezed has an be reading this anyway. So I’m doing my research, and Charles American president transferred so much friggin’ Blow over at the New of our country’s wealth into his personal York Times has already written coffers — and while Harrison’s scheme was his 100-days column, so screw brilliant, dying 31 days into his term kind of put it! In point of fact, there have the kibosh on the whole deal. been dozens of 100-days colTrump’s 400-some businesses are held umns already, which I guess in a blind trust that has 20/20 vision and means your more “seasoned” meets no definition, legal or otherwise, of the political hacks all had their word “trust.” Managed by his lawyer and his “publication schedule versus two big gamehuntin,’ hair gel-hoardin’ sons, count to 100” thing figured Trumpledee and Trumpledum, it was recently out already, so I suppose that amended so that Trump can now withdraw makes me dumb. Oh, I’m dumb any amount of money, at any time, for any reaalright. Dumb like a fox. son, without disclosure. Trump pumps tax dollars All those name-brand pundits? into many of those businesses every time he and They divide neatly into two camps. his staff (or his family and their staff) stay at Negative reviews cite Trump’s only Trump-branded properties. So at a minimum, achievements at 100 days as: 1) Winning every weekend. the Electoral College, and 2) Seating Neil When Trump discussed his strike on Syria with Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, a forgone Chinese President Xi Jinping over “the most beauconclusion since Mitch McConnell would have tiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen,” you happily seated a wedge of cheese with googly picked up the desert tab, and the waiter shoved eyes shoved in it, had Trump nominated one. the proceeds directly into Donald’s pocket. Bad Positive reviews are all variations on, “It’s not as enough news made worse by Mar-a-Lago’s 13 bad as you think. It’s been 100 days, you’re not a health code violations, making it a safe bet pile of radioactive ash yet, and you still have the those were not chocolate sprinkles in the balls to complain?” Wow, two paragraphs frosting. and I’ve already made the “we’ll all be Trump lit up the biggest non-nucledead by 100 days” joke twice. Hey, it’s ar explodey thing in our arsenal; no a concern. Commander-in-Chief has ever done that I think the views from both camps in a combat theater at all, let alone in are ridiculous. Trump’s first 100 days their first 100 days! Suck on that, all are neither a “complete horror show” previous presidents! or “arguably slightly better than that.” And no president has been this cozy Observed from the correct angle, Trump has with Russia since WWII ally Joseph Stalin achieved more than any American president used to dress up as Eleanor Roosevelt so he in the history of arbitrarily assigning importance could sneak into the White House on poker to the number 100, a veritable steaming mound of nights. Sure, their little tiff over Syria is a real accomplishment towering over all other presidents’ “low point” according to Secretary of State tepid 100-day droppings. Rex “I-don’t-know-how-to-do-this-and-ITake golf. Though estimates vary on account of his have-no-staff,-where’s-Jared?” Tillerson — spokespeople lying about how much he plays golf, but who doesn’t understand that’s a prelude Trump has golfed at least 14 times as president! to lifting sanctions to improve relations? Renowned presidential failure and known Kenyan Let no one tell you Donald John Trump, Barack Obama didn’t manage to golf even once durour 45th president, has little to show for his ing his first 100 days! Sad! Trump has golfed more Illustration by Max Burbank first 100 days. You can’t walk without times in his first 100 days than all previous presidents “I’m not golfing. I’m in a meeting. These are my meeting pants.” stepping in a pile of his achievements.
April 20 – May 03, 2017
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 DowntownExpress.com
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.
Last year, Nathan Silver’s feature “Actor Martinez” earned itself enthusiastic reviews from TFF critics, praising the film’s meta sense of humor and its recursive, fact-orfiction premise. This year, Silver returns with another movie that makes its cinematic concerns known: Playing out in the aesthetic of classic European film, 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 filmmaking — and Till Schauder has found a great one in the charismatic, genre-blurring Iranian singer/songwriter Shahin Najafi. Banned from Iran, the film 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 first Prime Minister of Iran. Guaranteeing a mix of heady, topical issues and quality music, “When God Sleeps” is one to keep on your radar. TFF PICKS continued on p. 16 April 20 – May 03, 2017
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. 15
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.
COPWATCH “Copwatch” fi nds veteran journalist Camilla Hall transitioning to director, as she follows the anti-police bru-
tality 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 alluring-
Photo by Eli Born
“Super Dark Times” is a ’90s-set tale of innocence lost from first-time director Kevin Phillips.
looking 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.
SOU N D O F F! W WRRITE ITE AA LETTE LETTERR TO TO TH THEE EEDDITO ITOR! R! EEDDITO ITOR@ R@DOW DOWNTOW NTOWN NEXP EXPRRES ESSS.C .COOM M Courtesy Partner Pictures
An unexpected romance complicates the life of controversial musician Shahin Najafi in the rock doc “When God Sleeps.”
April 20 – May 03, 2017
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 DowntownExpress.com
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. 18 April 20 – May 03, 2017
Courtesy Penrose Studios
Penrose Studios’ VR entry is the “visually complex” first chapter of “Arden’s Wake.” VR continued from p. 17
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
April 20 – May 03, 2017
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. DowntownExpress.com
April 20 â€“ May 03, 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
April 20 – May 03, 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.
April 20, 2017