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JACKSON CHEN

Divisive Voice Reemerges in West Side Council Race

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Affordable Housing Commands Stringer Forum, Council Hearing

CB7, CB8 Demand Designated Street Vendor Locations

Diana Ross Sings City Center

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Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | Vol. 03 No. 08

MANHATTANEXPRESSNEWS.NYC


Maloney: Despite Trump Transit Cuts,

Second Ave Subway Safe BY JACKSON CHEN

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espite hailing from the Big Apple himself a nd tout ing infrastructure improvement during his campaign, President Donald Trump’s cuts to the federal Department of Transportation’s budget could leave two major New York City projects in the shadows. T r u mp’s bud get blue pr i nt , released on March 16, proposes to squeeze $2.4 billion from the federal DOT, representing a 13 percent decrease from last year, leaving it with $16.2 billion of discretionary spending. Within the DOT budget is the Federal Transit Administration and its New Starts program, which funds transit projects costing $300 million or more through competitive grants. And according

JACKSON CHEN

Representative Carolyn Maloney, at a January 26 press conference, detailed the commitment she had earlier received from the Trump transition team about funding for the Second Avenue Subway.

to Trump’s budget blueprint, existing funding would be limited and future funding for new projects would have to be funded “by the

localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.� For New York, which is currently pursuing two extremely important transit projects, funding may dry up if Trump’s budget gets through Congress. In the Gateway project, New York is partnering with New Jersey to repair the two deteriorated tunnels underneath the Hudson R iver con nect i ng Newa rk a nd Manhattan’s Penn Station and build a new tunnel to double the efficiency of the crossing’s overall capacity. As Gateway was expected to receive large sums of funding from the federal government, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand joined New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker in penning a New

York Times op-ed illustrating the dangers of letting the tunnels continue to break down. As noted in their piece, commuters have recently gotten a preview of what an impaired track network in and out of Penn Station would feel like, with derailments of an Amtrak train on March 24 and a New Jersey Transit train on April 3 creating major havoc. “Alarmingly, if we don’t act soon to repair the two tunnels under the Hudson River, that same reduction in service our region experienced last week will become a permanent reality,� the senators wrote in their op-ed. But for the major transit project on the other side of the borough,

 SECOND AVE SUBWAY, continued on p.13

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Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Affordable Housing Is Key

Worry at Stringer Forum BY JACKSON CHEN

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t an Upper West Side town hall hosted by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, affordable housing took center stage as the chief concer n a mong neig hborhood residents who lined up to air their grievances. On April 6, Stringer invited the community to the Goddard Riverside Community Center on Columbus Avenue at West 88th Street to hea r t heir concer ns, which also included President Donald Trump’s impact on New York City, the decline of local small businesses, and the inadequacy of transportation options. Before passing the mic to the public, Stringer said his office is currently focused on using his inf luence as one of the nation’s leading institutional investors in managing the city’s pension funds to press corporations to adopt climate-friendly policies and create greater diversity among their boards of directors. “You basically have the same guys who went to the same schools in Connecticut,” Stringer said. “These corporate boards are too male, too pale… and they’re too stale. They look like me with better suits.” Corporate leaders, he argued, need to better understand the value that women and people of color can bring to the table in steering companies toward better management. But a good deal of the conversation that night revolved around questions about the city’s affordable housing stock, particularly on the Upper West Side. Stringer fielded questions from how rent-regulated and rent-stabilized apartments are kept track of to ways of bringing more affordable housing developments into the community. Josh Pinkerton, a resident of West 76th Street, said that the city is currently in a housing crisis, but it is communities like East New

JACKSON CHEN

Upper West Side residents queue up at Goddard Riverside Community Center to ask questions and make comments during Comptroller Scott Stringer’s April 6 town hall.

JACKSON CHEN

CB7 member Mel Wymore offers his views on the decline of local small businesses to Stringer.

York and East Harlem that are bearing the brunt of addressing the problem. “We need more housing at every income level and every neighborhood,” Pinkerton said. “It’s unfair to ask these low-income neighborhoods to shoulder all the burden of affordable housing in New York.” Stringer said rezoning proposals in different neighborhoods are a step in the right direction but not enough to address the situation. When it came to building housing that is actually affordable, the comptroller said, communitybased planning should be priori-

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

tized and developers shouldn’t be allowed to build whatever they want simply by including some units of affordable housing. “You don’t rely on Midtown luxury developers who build housing for 40 stories and then get a sprinkling of affordable housing that’s unaffordable for so many communities,” Stringer said. He pointed to more than 1,000 city-owned properties, discovered in one of his audits, that could potentially be turned into affordable housing developments. But it’s not just affordable housing that’s squeezed by the real

estate market, said Community Board 7 member Mel Wy more, who recently announced a run for the Upper West Side’s City Council District 6 seat. Small business, as well, is threatened, with its continual decline evident. “ The fact [is] our small businesses are being wiped out of our communities,” he said. “If you walk dow n any avenue of the Upper West Side, you’ll see vacancy after vacancy after vacancy.” St r i n ger ack nowle d ge d t he problem, especially on Columbus a nd A msterda m Avenues, and explained he created his Red Tape Commission specifically to understand what local businesses go through. The comptroller also drew on the experiences he had with small businesses in his days as Manhattan borough president, when he was often invited to grand openings. “But here’s the thing, the politicians come and cut the ribbon,” Stringer said. “And a group of city officials come the following day — the taxman, the consumer affairs department, the Department of Finance, the health department. What they basically do is try to shut the small business down.” Stringer said his commission formulated 60 recommendations, including more transparency in how licenses a nd per m its a re issued, to help local business survive. As comptroller, Stringer has been aggressive in carrying out audits investigating how efficiently and effectively city agencies are carrying out their responsibilities. Seniors in the crowd complained about the lack of ser v ice from Access-A-Ride and also about the rapid proliferation of the Citi Bike program throughout the Upper West Side, both issues Stringer said his office is considering as areas for audit investigations. No town hall these days would

 AFFORDABLE HOUSING, continued on p.15 3


Divisive Voice Reemerges in

West Side Council Race BY JACKSON CHEN

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radical challenger who has repeatedly employed raciallyfueled and demeaning rhetoric to stoke resentment against the Jewish community has once again set his sights on the City Council’s District 7 seat currently occupied by Councilmember Mark Levine. Thomas Lopez-Pierre, 48, who describes himself as “of Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Haitian descent,” has raised $11,754.56 as of April 19 for his 2017 campaign bid. According to Lopez-Pierre, he has been working on his campaign since the 2013 election, when Levine first won his seat on the Council. Lopez-Pierre, a Manhattan Valley resident, said he dropped out of that year’s 10-way Democratic primary race for the open seat because he felt the eight other black and Latino candidates were dividing the vote in communities of color. But his campaign was also rife with controversies, including racebaiting, anti-Semitic email blasts that caught the attention of many. According to a Daily News article, Lopez-Pierre sent a series of emails in the fall of 2012 calling Levine a “White/ Jewish candidate” and accusing him of trying “to sneak into office like a thief in the night.” The candidate upped his rhetoric in a January 2013 email addressed to Brian Benjamin, a Democratic fundraiser and black supporter of Levine’s 2013 run. According to the email, which Lopez-Pierre made available to the media and was published in full by Politico at the time, Lopez-Pierre called Benjamin — now seeking an open State Senate seat in Harlem and the Upper West Side — an “uncle Tom [n-word] bitch,” for supporting Levine. In a homophobic postscript to the email, he added, “[Harlem residents] know that you are a weak, little short man who sucks White/ Jewish cock.” Reached this week about Lopez-

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JACKSON CHEN

Thomas Lopez-Pierre on West 100th Street last week.

Pierre’s emails, Benjamin said, “This is dangerous, hateful rhetor ic r ipped straight out of the Trump playbook. It has no place in our local politics, and I am confident that voters will reject it at the polls.” As recently as this past August, L opez-Pierre, in a fundraising pitch for his new campaign, sent out an email blast that, according to a Daily News story, continued his pattern of race-baiting aimed at the Jewish community. Under the subject line “SAVE HARLEM from Greedy Jewish Landlords,” the candidate wrote, “Greedy Landlords and NYC Council Member Mark Levine are working together to push Black and Hispanic tenants out of Harlem!” That message sparked a sharp rebuke from other elected officials, w it h Council Spea ker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Comptroller Scott

Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler demanding that LopezPierre apologize. The candidate, however, refuses to back down. In an interview with Manhattan Express, he confirmed he had sent all the emails earlier reported but offered no apologies, claiming they weren’t offensive or anti-Semitic. “I don’t see it as anti-Semitic, I’m not going to be ashamed to be committed to the political and economic empowerment of the black community,” Lopez-Pierre told the newspaper on April 14. “Levine has no business representing a black community on the City Council.” Lopez-Pierre clearly hopes to mobilize resentment among lower income voters whose neighborhoods are experiencing gentrification that is changing their demographic profile. According to data

from the 2000 and 2010 censuses, District 7 saw a nearly 40 percent rise in its non-Hispanic white population, with a 20 percent decline in the number of African-American residents and a six percent decline in residents with an Hispanic background. African-American and Latino voters, however, continue to be a majority in the district. District 7, which runs from the Upper West Side through West Harlem into Washington Heights, was represented by Robert Jackson, an African American, for 12 years prior to Levine taking office. Despite the controversy LopezPierre’s rhetoric has spaw ned, he is getting a hearing from local Democrat ic orga ni zat ions. He joined Levine and a third District 7 candidate, Matthew Gros-Werter, along with three candidates from the neighboring Council District 6 — incumbent Helen Rosenthal and challengers Mel Wymore and Cary Goodman — at the Three Parks Independent Democratic Club on April 12. Speaking there to a largely white audience, Lopez-Pierre stuck to his claims about the threat “Jewish landlords” posed to communities of color — pledging to “stop ethnic cleansing of black/ Hispanic tenants” in the district— while attempting a seemingly implausible pivot to appeal to Jewish voters. “For almost 15 to 20 years, these Jewish landlords have been at the forefront at pushing black and Latino people out,” he said. “I think it’s hypocritical for the Jewish community and Jewish leaders to look the other way while black and Latino people are being pushed out of their communities to make room for white people.” At the same time, Lopez-Pierre asked that the “Jewish community” partner with the black and Latino community to halt unfair housing practices in Harlem and

 LOPEZ-PIERRE, continued on p.13

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Passions Flare as Council Takes Up Tenant Protections

NYC.GOV

NYC.GOV

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal (at right) tries to comfort Xiao Ling Chen, who covers her face as she becomes overwhlemed giving testimony chronicling her family’s harassment at the hands of their landlord.

Councilmember Helen Rosenthal grilling agency witnesses at the April 19 hearing.

The committee’s hearing agenda included discussion of five measures which are part of or related to a la rger package of bills known as “Stand For Tenant Safety,” designed to help combat such tenant abuse. “My office, ever y 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 i ncludes bills she authored. “ This legislation is, from my perspective, a package of ideas to help move the ball for ward to help these tenants. They’ve been written because of the situations that we’ve seen.” Among the measures discussed for the first time were Rosenthal’s Intro. 347-A, which would grant Housing Court judges the ability to award damages and attorney fees for tenant harassment actions. Perhaps most notable among the measures, however, is Rosenthal’s Intro. 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,” Rosenthal explained about 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.” She continued, “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. 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.”

BY SEAN EGAN

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hen Xiao Ling Chen took her seat before the City Council Housing and Buildings Committee to give testimony in support of several new tenant harassment bills, she was probably not expecting to cry. But, in recent years, her multi-generational family has been crammed into just two rooms downtown due to extensive and invasive construction, been subjected to mold and insects, and suffered broken furniture and appliances at the hands of building management making minor repairs. As she began to get emotional, and the tears started falling, Upper West Side Councilmember Helen Rosent ha l a nd her Brooklyn colleague Jumaane Williams approached her to help calm her down. She quickly excused herself from the chambers, but more t ha n a dozen w it nesses behind her were armed with similarly gut-wrenching accounts of rampant tenant harassment. “It shou ld n’t be t h is ha rd,” Rosenthal told this reporter in an interview several days before the April 19 hearing. “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.’”

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

I n a n ema i l messa ge, R ya n Monell, a spokesperson for Bronx C ou nc i l memb er R a fael S a l amanca, who is a co-sponsor of the Tenant Advocate measure, said, “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. Having a singular office that can assist with ma ny of t he concer ns we see would be tremendously helpful to many, notably those in immigrant communities.” The concerns raised by Rosent ha l a nd Monel l were echoed loudly and frequently, by councilmembers and members of the public alike, at the April 19 heari ng, where represent at ives of the DOB and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) were on hand to voice their views on the bills as currently written. Sitting on the

 TENANT SAFETY, continued on p.14

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DOT Blind to West 96th-WEA Hazards, Critics Say BY JACKSON CHEN

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it y Cou nci l member Helen Rosenthal, Community Board 7, and local residents are calling for safety improvements at the intersection of West 96th Street and West End Avenue to prevent what they warn is a fatality waiting to happen. Both the north- and southbound traffic flows on West End Avenue are equipped with left turn lanes and left turn signals and there are leading pedestrian intervals for the West 96th Street crossings, giving those on foot a short period of exclusive priority before motorists are given the green light for left turns. Even with these Department of Transportation (DOT) improvements, however, residents say there are too many close calls, with some suggesting that vehicles turning onto the westbound 96th Street lanes may be accelerating in anticipation of merging onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, with its 50 mile-per-hour speed limit. According to the New York Police

JACKSON CHEN

A pedestrian pushing precious cargo crosses West 96th Street at West End Avenue.

Department’s statistics of motor vehicle collisions, there were 12 injuries in 2016 at the intersection, the same as in 2015 and up from seven in 2014 and three in in 2013. Of the 12 injuries in 2016, three involved a pedestrian being injured, according to NYPD stats. The department’s data show that no fatalities have occurred at this intersection from

2012 to the present. On June 8 of last year, Hilda Chazanovitz was one of those injured, after being hit by an SUV making a left turn from West End Avenue onto West 96th Street. Chazanovitz, who has lived on West End for three decades, said she was still struggling through her recovery and was lucky to be alive. “It’s horrifying to me when I’ve actually watched post-crash what it’s like at 96th and West End,” Chazanovitz said. “Even with the light in the crosswalk, you can get hit like I did.” Chazanovitz joined Rosenthal at an April 5 press conference held at the intersection that called for the DOT to reevaluate the intersection and enhance safety measures there. The councilmember’s suggestions have ranged from a dedicated right turn signal, similar to that given traffic making left turns from West End Avenue, to a Barnes Dance setup, where all traffic at an intersection is stopped once each cycle of lights to allow pedestrians to use

any crosswalk unimpeded. Rosenthal brought her concerns to the DOT and said the agency’s responses so far have been insufficient. In a March 13 letter, DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez said that making changes to the signal timing changes — involving the left turn signals and the leading pedestrian intervals already in place — was not feasible. He also said that a pedestrian island placed in the West 96th Street crosswalk on the west side of West End Avenue would not be feasible since that would require a lane reduction on 96th. The DOT said it also looked into extending the hours of the left-turn ban for eastbound vehicles on West 96th Street turning onto West End Avenue, but said that would create traffic problems because a similar restriction exists on West 95th Street, which also carries eastbound traffic off of the Hudson Parkway. The one feasible possibility that

 96TH & WEA, continued on p.7

With Caveats, Brewer Signs Off on Midtown East Rezoning BY JACKSON CHEN

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anhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has given her formal thumbs up to the Midtown East rezoning proposal, but recommended several guidelines for additional steps that should be undertaken in implementing it. The rezoning aims to revitalize the Midtown East area with modern office developments by offering prospective developers denser buildings so long as they contribute to the public realm projects within the district or buy development rights from landmarked buildings. The Midtown East rezoning area runs roughly from East 39th to 57th Streets, between Third and Fifth Avenues, with a slice that extends to Second Avenue between East 42nd and 43rd Streets. The public review process began January 3 when the Department of City Planning (DCP) certified the rezoning application. Since then, the proposal underwent scrutiny at

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JACKSON CHEN

Borough President Gale Brewer (center) at a March 2 forum held by the Borough Board on the proposed Midtown East rezoning.

Community Boards 5, 6, and 8, followed by the Borough Board that is made up of Brewer, the borough’s councilmembers, and the chairs of the 12 community boards. On April 12, Brewer issued her formal recommendation for the rezoning as another step forward for the proposal. “For decades East Midtown has been the economic heart of our city,

and this plan will make it stronger than ever in the decades to come,” Brewer said in a written release. “The linchpin of this plan is the notion that public benefits, like transit improvements, support for landmarks, and open space, should go hand-in-hand with new development. That’s smart planning, and I hope it will be a model for major

rezoning plans to come.” Along with her approval, the borough president offered suggestions for implementing the rezoning, most of them echoing community input voiced at recent stages of public review. In her 30-page letter to the DCP, Brewer made the following

 MIDTOWN EAST, continued on p.7

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


 96TH & WEA, from p.6 Sa nchez noted in his letter to Rosenthal was a curb extension on the southwest corner of West 96th Street, which would result in fewer parking spaces for P.S. 75, the school the intersection sits next to. A DOT spokesperson, emphasizing that the agency continues to work with the communities across the city to address pedestrian safety concerns, said it has evaluated the intersection already this year based on community requests. But Rosenthal challenged the agency’s claim of responsiveness, telling Manhattan Express, “We’ve asked DOT to do street studies, they’ve come back and said there’s nothing we can do. They, so far, have closed the door, and I’m asking them to open it back up.” Neither Rosenthal nor CB7 is satisfied with the agency’s response and emphasized they won’t be giving up. The councilmember said she’d continue to press the agency for specific solutions for that intersection and is also pushing legislation that would require the city to study intersections with high injury incidence rates and consider Barnes

 MIDTOWN EAST, from p.6

Dance configurations among potential solutions. Her bill, Intro 1177, is expected to go before the full Council for a vote on April 25. On April 11, CB7’s Transportation Committee passed another in a series of resolutions calling on the DOT to revisit the intersection. Andrew Albert, its co-chair, said the committee has brought this particular problem to the DOT’s attention dating back more than two years. Albert recently spoke to the DOT and Rosenthal about changing the traffic light timing at West 97th Street to make it virtually impossible for a vehicle to travel south across West 97th without reaching a red light at West 96th Street, thereby slowing the flow of traffic turning onto West End Avenue. The committee passed a resolution calling for three possible solutions, including that change in the signal timing at West 97th Street, a curb extension, and the Barnes Dance setup. “There are things they can do here,” Albert said of city transportation officials. “I just don’t know why they’re refusing. Someone’s going to get killed.”

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buildings on the east side of Third Avenue from the rezoning district;

nine major recommendations: • Require developments on lots of 40,000 square feet or more to create indoor or outdoor public space; • Fund and begin to implement open space commitments, such as improving the East 53rd Corridor Streetscape, creating a pedestrian plaza at Pershing Square East, and improving vehicular patterns on Park Avenue; • Create a “citywide civic organization” that would advise the Governing Group, which is responsible for overseeing the rezoning district’s Public Realm Improvement Fund, on urban design and public space issues; • Increase the transparency and accountability of the Public Realm Improvement Fund with clear procedures, public reporting on its funding, and online publication of meeting transcripts or recordings; • Remove all existing residential

• Reevaluate and lower the value of the transferrable development rights — currently set at $393 per square feet — used to calculate the value of Public Realm Improvement Fund contributions required as part of development rights transfers; • Establish a minimum score for daylight required for all buildings redeveloped under the rezoning plan; • Work with Greenacre Park at 217 East 51st Street to explore the shadow impacts on the park from the rezoning; • Compile annual reports on residential conversions for the borough president and the affected city councilmember and community board. With Brewer’s approval and recommendations delivered, the rezoning now moves to the City Planning Commission and then on to the City Council and the mayor before its implementation.

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

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CB7, CB8 Press for Designated Street Vendor Locations BY JACKSON CHEN

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ommunity Boa rds 7 a nd 8 a re bot h ca lling for designated street merchant locations as the price of their support for the proposed Street Vending Modernization Act that would double the amount of licenses circulating over a half-dozen-year period. The bill is being spearheaded by Upper West Side City Councilmember Mark Levine and was introduced this past October. The legislation would introduce 600 new street vendor permits each year starting in 2018 and going through 2024, almost doubling the current cap of 4,235 permits. With the maximum amount of permits stalled since the 1980s, a black market has allowed those who own permits to rent them out to food truckers for $25,000 for their twoyear life, while they only pay the city $200 every time they renew. The Street Vending Modernization Act would also regulate mobile merchants by creating an Office of Street Vendor Enforcement equipped with enforcement agents. To tackle issues related to the overall economy of street vending, the bill would also create an advisory board made up of vendors, owners of brick and mortar stores, and representatives

JACKSON CHEN

A coffee and breakfast street vendor at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue finishing up the day and preparing to return to the commissary.

from community groups and city agencies. Given the wide reach of street vendors across the city, the bill drew a large crowd at a Council hearing in October, but the issue has since been at a simmer, allowing time for community boards to weigh in on its impact. During an April 11 Community Board 7 Transportation Committee

meeting, members suggested that the local boards should have jurisdiction over whether a food truck or street vendor can locate in a particular spot in their district. Much like how they grant advisory opinions on whether bike lanes are appropriate or if neighborhood businesses should be given liquor licenses, CB7 members wanted oversight on where street vendors can operate in their

community. “Community boards have jurisdiction over newsstands, cafés, all these local things,” Andrew Albert, CB7’s Transportation Committee co-chair, said. “We’re saying we should have the ability to say [yes] or no, put it here instead of there.” Their neighbors to the east across

 STREET VENDORS, continued on p.15

West 108th Housing Critics Release Impact Study BY JACKSON CHEN

A

group opposed to adding an affordable housing development to an existing transitional homeless shelter on West 108th Street has released an environmental study of adverse impacts it says the project would bring. Save Manhattan Valley (SMV) maintains that the proposal for 250 units of affordable housing and an increase to 110 transitional homeless shelter beds would be detrimental to the neighborhood. The project’s sponsor, the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), a non-profit group, currently operates 92 transitional beds at the site at 149 West 108th Street.

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To facilitate the project, WSFS SH needs to demol ish t h ree adjacent city-owned garages to ma ke space for t hei r development. W hi le SM V cla ims t hat many have boiled down the issue to “people versus parking,” the group argues that much more is at risk, including the community’s quality of life and the safety of those nearby. In response to WSFSSH’s plans, SMV retained Michael Hiller, an attorney known for representing residential opposition to major developments, who in turn hired GHD Services, an engineering and environmental consulting firm. GHD completed a n env i ronmental study in Februar y and presented its results to SMV in

M a rch. T he st ud y out l i ne d a number of potential hazards the project could create, including an increased risk of traffic accidents, the release of hazardous materials, and shadow impacts on nearby parks. According to the study, there a re r isks t hat lead, asbestos, and gasoline from storage tanks beneat h t he ex ist i ng ga ra ges could be released as part of the construction. If the development is completed as is proposed, the study asserted, the reduction of parking spaces would cause more gas emissions and a higher risk for traffic accidents due to more vehicles circling the block. “If the city is doing its job, this environmental assessment leaves

no doubt that the project must be stopped,” Hiller said. “But that assumes the city is acting as an honest a nd equitable decision maker.” Mer yl Z e ga r ek , a fou nd i n g member of Save Manhattan Valley, is hoping the environmental study will prompt the city to seriously consider their concerns. “We’re hoping that it’ll start a discussion about it,” Zegarek said of the study. “I think people in the neighborhood have a right to know what’s going on and have a right to know what’s in the building.” Hiller circulated the study to many elected officials, including

 IMPACT STUDY, continued on p.14

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Subway Venting Project Deferred, But Still Draws Murray Hill Ire BY JACKSON CHEN

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espite the fact that a controversial Metropolitan Transportation Authority plan to build an emergency ventilation plant in Murray Hill has been put off until the agency’s next five-year capital plan, neighborhood residents are still fuming. The MTA scheduled a hearing on the project on April 5 to take public testimony as part of the environmental review process, giving residents a chance to air their frustrations about the impact the project would have on their neighborhood. The agency’s proposal would create a ventilation plant to clear smoke created by fire emergencies in the underground tunnels of the Lexington Avenue Subway line between the 33rd Street and Grand Central-42nd Street Stations. The project dates back to a 1994 study in which the MTA acknowledged that the nine-block stretch of subway tunnel has no mechanism for releasing smoke created by fire emergencies and ranked the area fifth out of 252 in terms of priority for remedying such situations. Under the agency’s current consideration, there are 13 alternatives for siting the ventilation plant, all of which fall within the Murray Hill neighborhood. Local residents who oppose the project did receive welcome news earlier this year when State Senator Liz Krueger explained the project was tabled for the time being. According to Krueger, the MTA removed the ventilation plant project from its current five-year capital plan and will revisit it during the 2020-2024 capital plan. Krueger’s letter noted that communit y opposit ion was pa r t ly responsible for the agency’s decision. Even with the project put on pause, however, Murray Hill residents still felt it appropriate to give the MTA an earful, detailing their concerns and skepticism about the ventilation plant. According to Bruce Podwal, a Park Avenue resident and retired civil engineer, the MTA hasn’t proven its case that the ventilation project is needed. Podwal said the MTA’s records show no injuries or deaths from smoke or fire conditions in

METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

The 13 locations for the ventilation plant currently being considered in Murray Hill.

METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY

A schematic of how one alternative for the ventilation plant siting would be designed.

that stretch of the Lexington Avenue Subway. He added that in the case of a terrorist attack involving chemical weapons, ventilation to the street level could potentially cause more deaths and injuries. “There’s no justification to build a vent system that costs $100 million and doesn’t save lives,” Podwal said at the public hearing. “Either go with the no-action option to save money for important projects or build an alternative of just an emergency exit without a vent system.” Many in the crowd that filled the public hearing room at 2 Broadway suggested the MTA simply kill the project and take no action. The agency acknowledged that outside of the 13 options for locating the ventilation plant, it could in fact decide to do nothing. Some residents, however, like Maggie D’Arcy, are convinced the MTA will not much consider public input overall in making its decision. “You’ve already decided what you’re going to do and you’re pushing it off a

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

JACKSON CHEN

Sal Albanese, a former City Council Transportation Committee chair, speaks out against the ventilation project.

little bit,” D’Arcy said during her testimony to the agency. “But frankly, we’re not really included in this and the fact is it shouldn’t happen.” D’Arcy added that beyond substantial neighborhood disruption from undertaking the ventilation, the MTA risked endangering local residents by exposing them to haz-

ardous materials like asbestos and benzene. Others complained about the MTA’s lack of transparency in releasing information about the project. Its opponents created a petition that has garnered close to 1,000 signatures. The ventilation plant’s critics have won the support of Sal Albanese, who chaired the City Council Transportation Committee at the time the 1994 report was completed and is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor. Speaking at the hearing, he urged the MTA to stop the project outright and consider safer alternatives. The fact that the project is based on a 23-year-old study, he said, means the issue should be revisited before the agency takes any action on a ventilation plant. “The proposed ventilation plant would erode the integrity of the neighborhood,” Albanese said. “The landmark buildings would be compromised, severely impacting real estate and business values.” The project may be halted for now, but for critics like Aimee Lee Ball, a 20-year Murray Hill resident, the MTA could revisit the idea at any time. Keeping their eyes on the agency, Ball and others emphasized their commitment to continue pushing against a project they consider unnecessary and damaging to their neighborhood. “MTA, do not spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in a location where there’s never been a problem,” Ball told the agency. “Generations of residents, businesses, and visitors in Murray Hill will live with the consequences of how MTA proceeds now.”

9


Arriving by Sea,

Vessel Takes Shape on Land BY BIANCA SILVA

H

udson Yards is one step closer to 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 five-acre Public Square and Gardens. T he a mbit iou s pr oje c t w a s unveiled last September in a ceremony featuring Related Companies chair Stephen Ross, renowned British architect and Vessel concept creator Thomas Heatherwick, landscape architect Thomas Woltz, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “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 first 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 five-

BIANCA SILVA

Related Companies chair Stephen Ross (third from left) and project executives on hand for the April 18 arrival of the first 10 pieces out of a total of 65 that will be part of Vessel in the Hudson Yards Public Square and Gardens, due to be topped off by the end of the year and open to the public in the fall of 2018. .

hour 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 the horn just after 10 a.m., and a single piece hang-

ing on a crane began to move. For Ross, this first 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

BIANCA SILVA

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

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,

 VESSEL, continued on p.11

Police Blotter DOA: JUDGE ON NYS’ HIGHEST COURT FOUND DEAD (26th Precinct) On April 12 at around 1:45 p.m., police found Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first black woman appointed to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest bench, floating in the Hudson River around West 132nd Street. According to police, the 65-year-old Abdus-Salaam, named to the high court in 2013, was removed from the water and declared dead by EMS on the scene. The Daily News reported that police sources believe that depression may have led the judge to commit suicide. On April 18, police deemed AbdusSalaam’s death “suspicious” and are seeking information from those who may have interacted with her in the days prior to her death.

10

BURGLARY: AN EYE FOR EXPENSIVE (19th Precinct) The police arrested 55-year-old James Leon, an East Harlem resident, on April 6 and charged him with 6 counts of burglary after an incident on March 21 (manhattanexpressnews.nyc/police-blotter-april-5-2017/) in which two Hispanic males were wanted for burglarizing an apartment on East 91st Street, removing an Apple laptop, a Louis Vuitton bag, a watch, jewelry, an Apple MacBook, Beats headphones, and a check book. Police said the investigation is ongoing.

BANK ROBBERY: BALD BANDIT (19th Precinct) A man is wanted for robbing a Chase Bank at 126 East 86th Street on April 10 at around 2:45 p.m.,

police said. According to police, a male suspect entered the bank and passed a note to the teller demanding money. After the teller complied, the man was able to make off with an undetermined amount of cash and fled in an unknown direction. Police released photos of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male, between 45 and 50 years old, 6’, bald, and last seen wearing a darkcolored hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.

ASSAULT: TEENS NOT TOYING AROUND (24th Precinct) Police are looking for a man who fired a gun at a 12-year-old boy on April 11 at around 2:15 p.m. outside 927 Columbus Avenue, between West 105th and 106th Streets. According to police, the

man shot at the boy after exchanging words and fled north on Columbus Avenue afterwards. Police added that no one was injured in the incident. Police released a photo and video of the suspect (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as a black male, 5’9”, and last seen wearing a black shirt and blue shorts.

ROBBERY: AIMING FOR THE CELLS (19th Precinct) Police are looking for two men wanted for robbing a Metro PCS store at 1760 First Avenue, between East 91st and 92nd Streets. According to police, the two suspects struck on April 13 at around 12:30 p.m., when one man displayed a gun and locked two employees in the store’s

 POLICE BLOTTER, continued on p.17

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


FORBES MASSIE-HEATHERWICK STUDIO

Vessel grabs center stage in this rendering of the Hudson Yards Public Square and Gardens viewed looking south from West 33rd Street.

 VESSEL, from p.10 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 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 West 34th Street’s Hudson Park & 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 the High Line to catch a glimpse of the complex geometry being pieced together like an incredible jigsaw puzzle.” In a written release, Heatherwick said, “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.” “The workmanship is incredible,” marveled Ross at the April 18 ceremony, although he acknowledged that the project’s $200 million price tag was more than anticipated. Still, he insisted 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. ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

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 LOPEZ-PIERRE, from p.4 Upper Manhattan — though he could only have made more trouble for himself by comparing the plight of black and Latino tenants to what Jews faced in the Holocaust. “ This is how I would make it simple for Jewish people,” he said. “If there was a candidate that was taking money from the construction managers that built concentration camps, the Jews would not look favorably upon that candidate.” Though the controversial candidate has a war chest of nearly $12,000, t he bulk of t hat was rolled over from his short-lived 2013 bid. “Mark Levine fucked up,” LopezPierre said. “If he did not take the landlord money, he had a chance to get re-elected. But black and Latino voters are not going to elect somebody that has taken almost $100,000 in money from the same landlords that are trying to push them out of their apartments.” Levine currently has $220,917.35 in his campaign coffers for his reelection bid, and Lopez-Pierre claims that roughly half of that

 SECOND AVE SUBWAY, from p.2 the Second Avenue Subway, the main political cheerleader remains confident of federal funding. The Second Avenue Subway’s second phase is estimated to cost $6 billion and would create two new stations at 106th and 116th Streets and connect the new line to the existing 125th Street station for the 4, 5, 6 trains on the overburdened Lexington Avenue line. Congressmember Carolyn Maloney said in January that she spoke directly to Trump’s then-transition team who assured her the Second Avenue Subway was on the list of priority transit projects and would receive $14 billion in federal funding for its next two phases, which would also carry the line downtown. For the stretch up to East Harlem specifically, Maloney said last year she is hoping the federal government will foot a third, or $2 billion, of the second phase’s $6 billion overall cost. Still, though Tr ump pushed improving infrastructure as part of the grab bag of his populist campaign, his budget proposal as

has come from landlords. The incumbent declined to comment directly about Lopez-Pierre, but his campaign spokesperson, Jake Sporn, emailed a statement to Manhattan Express in response to the challenger’s bid. “Council Member Levine’s record as a staunch supporter of tenants and their rights is well known and beyond question,” Sporn wrote. “Since taking office he successfully led the fight to guarantee every New York City tenant universal access to legal counsel in housing court, an historic victory making our city the first place in America to take this bold step to keep countless tenants in their homes. Council Member Levine has also championed legislation that would protect tenants from harassment by making it easier to pursue legal action against abusive landlords, and just recently called on the Rent Guidelines Board to undo decades of unjustified rent increases by instituting the first ever rent rollback in 2018. He has been and will continue to be an undeniably strong and vocal advocate for tenants’ rights.”

president seems to do the opposite. Maloney, however, remains confident that the Second Avenue Subway will receive enough funding to continue. “I have been in touch with the Trump administration and am working hard to ensure that they understand how necessary this project is to the entire region, not just the East Side,” Maloney said in an email this week. She added that the Federal Transit Administration rated the project “one of the best in the nation,” and that the first phase’s success, since its January 1 opening, speaks to the need to continue funding the project. According to Maloney, the project’s second phase is already moving forward, with a little over $1 billion in funding from the state and the MTA pursuing three contracts related to the project. “I am as committed as ever to seeing the Second Avenue Subway constructed in its entirety,” Maloney said. “I am confident that we will get federal funding and that ultimately there will be sufficient funding to build Phase 2.”

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

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 TENANT SAFETY, from p.5 panel and fielding questions were Thomas Fariello, the first deputy commissioner, and Patrick Wehle, the assistant commissioner for external affairs, for the DOB, and, from HPD’s Office of Enforcement and Neighborhood Ser vices, its deputy commissioner, Vito Mustaciuolo, and assistant commissioner, Deborah Rand. While these agency representatives expressed an eagerness to improve their protection of tenants and applauded the councilmembers’ initiative, they raised a number of concerns about the package of bills. Regarding Intro. 347-A, Rand and Mustaciuolo questioned the authority and effectiveness of Housing Court in adjudicating tenant harassment liability, suggesting that might be more appropriately handled in civil court, despite Rosenthal’s protests that additional trips to court would be a hardship for most tenants facing harassment. They also expressed trepidation over the broadness of the language in Intro. 1549, which would allow tenants to establish a landlord’s bad conduct as “repeated” by citing even actions not specifically directed at them, and Intro. 1548, which would define 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 building owners place funds in an escrow account against the potential for tenants having to relocate during construction — Mustaciuolo endorsed the sentiment of the bill, but questioned the feasibility of managing hundreds of escrow accounts. Si m i la rly, t he DOB reps explained, the watchlist of “bad contractors” who’ve worked

 IMPACT STUDY, from p.8 City Councilmember Mark Levine, who contacted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office about the project on March 21. According to documents received by Manhattan Express, Levine’s email stated he received the environmental study as well as a petition with a large number of signatures and supported the group’s request to meet with the mayor to discuss alternatives.

14

without proper permits proposed by Intro. 938 was an idea they endorse, but also believe would likely not be particularly effective since contractors are rarely onsite once construction is complete and inspections take place. On all of these issues, however, the agencies pledged to continue working with the Council to find ways to meet the aims of the proposed legislation. More contentious, however, was the discussion surrounding Intro. 1523, with the DOB representatives staunch in their assertion t hat t heir depa r t ment did not need to create an office of Tenant Advocate. “Creat i ng a new off ice as described in the bill will create no improvement,” said Fariello, and he explained the DOB has plenty of avenues for tenants to contact t he depa r t ment a nd f i le complaints and that much of the work the Tenant Advocate office would do — i ncludi ng ensur i ng tenant protection plans are in place and being followed — are already handled elsewhere in the agency. According to Wehle, “adding another layer” to existing processes in place 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 a lready doing the work, why not have a platform?” On mult iple occasions, passion s r a n h i g h i n t he C ou ncil chambers. Brooklyn 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 from a practical standpoint it often takes only 20 or so days to complete such an inspection. Councilmember Williams, who chaired the hearing, was forced to bang the gavel at Rosenthal, who ignored her time limits while c a r r y i ng out a n i mpa ssioned grilling of the agency representatives. And, on multiple occasions, Williams had to politely chide the sign-waving and applauding crowd assembled. Williams himself, though, had his ow n moment of emot iona l incredulity while defending his Intro. 1156, which would increase m i n i mum civ i l pena lt ies i n harassment cases — something, Mustaciuolo argued, that might dissuade judges f rom f i ndi ng landlords guilty of harassment. “Let’s do the math real quick,” Williams said, pausing the proceedings to crunch the numbers HPD reps provided of successful harassment cases brought against la nd lords f rom 2014 t h roug h 2016 — revealing “appalling” and “absurd” figures in the one- and two-percent 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 simila rly passionate, a nd ser ved as a st rong rebutta l to the DOB and HPD reps’ dow nplay ing of t he issues’ sever it y 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 overall package of reforms. Gilbert Sabater, a resident of East 86th Street, noted that in his building, which has 300 units under rent regulat ion, “ We’ve been under constant construction for 30 months.” He catalogued noisy early morning construction, asbestos and dust issues, and inefficient DOB inspections where the contractors downplayed the breadth of the work they were doing and got let off without being cited for infractions. “If that’s not harassment, I don’t know what is,” Sabater said. X iao Li ng Chen, t he woma n who broke down in tears before the councilmembers, regained her composure and re-entered the chamber, translator at her side, to tell her stor y about her “nightmare.” For nearly two years, she recounted, her three grandchildren, all under 10, have been cramped on beds placed out in her living room — while she sleeps on a couch — the harsh living conditions impairing the children’s ability to complete their homework. “We’ve become human vacuum cleaners,” Chen said. “The only way I can describe the dust that’s in my apartment is it’s like a dust storm in Beijing.” That was exactly the kind of story that has incensed the City Council to try to push the package of refor m bills t hrough as quickly as possible — to empower tenants and to make the ill-acting landlords pay. “How can we get someone who is ly i ng to actua lly go to ja il? Because fines are not enough,” Lower Manhattan Councilmember Rosie Mendez said early in the hearing. “There need to be real repercussions.”

SM V emphasi zed t hat t he group has identified 10 alternate project sites throughout the five boroughs that would suit WSFSSH’s needs, including a relatively nearby site at the soon to be emptied P.S. 191 campus at 210 West 61st Street. “If this project can’t be done so it’s safe, and the height of the building can’t be brought down, and the garage spaces can’t be replaced,” Zegarek said, “maybe

this just isn’t the right space for it.” According to WSFSSH’s executive director, Paul Freitag, the organization is currently working with the city’s Housing Preservation and Development on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. Freitag noted that process would include an environmental review and offer opportunities for public input later in the spring. “We are proud to count almost 2 0 nei g hb orho o d com mu n it y

orga ni zations a nd Ma nhatta n Borough President Gale Brewer as supporters not only of WSFSSH at West 108, but the idea t h at p e r m a ne nt l y a f for d a ble housing and resources for vulnerable seniors and families are a necessa r y component of our neighborhood and city,” Freitag said in a written statement. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Levine’s email seeking a meeting.

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


 STREET VENDORS, from p.8 Central Park at Community Board 8 had earlier begun the charge to give local boards the right to weigh in on permitted locations. Michele Birnbaum, co-chair of CB8’s Vendor Task Force Committee, argued for a city agency that would determine where street vendors can be located and solicit suggestions from community boards. At a February 17 task force meeting, small business owners complained that they face unfair competition from vendors stationed right outside their storefronts. In a full board resolution passed

unanimously on March 20, CB8 explained its objections to increasing the caps until issues of enforcement and location are addressed. Citing widespread complaints about vendors in its district, the board’s resolution endorsed the creation of a city agency responsible for assigning vendor locations with input from community boards. Sean Basinski, the director of the Street Vendor Project, an advocacy group that represents more than 1,800 members, appeared at both Community Boards 7 and 8 to urge their members to listen to the vendors’ side of the question. According to Basinski, academic research sup-

ports the case that street corner coffee vendors and Starbucks cater to different clientele. “In the case where there is a coffee vendor right outside of a Starbucks, the customer who buys a $4 Starbucks coffee is not the same person who buys a 75-cent or $1 coffee,” Basinski told CB7. As for the boards’ push to have vendors’ locations officially designated, Basinski said that is not doable or viable in the city. The vendor advocate said the sheer number of vendors makes the idea unworkable, noting that 5,000 or more candidates looking to have locations approved would swamp community

boards across the city. Basinski did find common ground with CB7 on one reform suggestion — that permit owners be contacted to see if they were personally using their street vending license and, if not, whether they would be willing to surrender their right to vend. With six months having passed since the Street Vending Modernization Act had its Council hearing, Levine’s office has had plenty of time to become acquainted with community concerns from many quarters. According to his office, staff there are working to a mend t he proposa l w it h t hat input in mind.

 AFFORDABLE HOUSING, from p.3 be complete without complaints about Trump and his negative impact on New York City. From questions about his immigration policies, to budget cuts for supportive programs, and even to the money spent on protecting Trump Tower, Stringer offered his reaction to upset residents who voiced concerns. When Madelyn Innocent, CB7’s Public Housing Task Force chair, said she worried about the loss of federal funding for public housing, Stringer said the city should create new funding streams to shore up the New York City Housing Authority. The comptroller contrasted the challenges facing the city’s public housing with the $24 million it has spent protecting Trump Tower, First Lady Melania Trump, and the couple’s son, Barron, in the two months following the inauguration. While acknowledging the need to ensure their safety, Stringer said the federal government should pay the city back in full. “We need to be reimbursed by the federal government,” Stringer said. “We are a city under potential for terrorism attacks, it’s a reality. And at some point, we break the bank.” Regarding Trump’s disruptive handling of the country’s immigration policies, Stringer said that newcomers to this country contribute heavily to the tax base and the businesses in New York. “ This countr y could not run without the immigrants who come here and who have been here,” Stringer said. “This is true in New York, but around the country.” ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

15


EXPRESS OURSELVES

Cuomo Tuition “Breakthrough” Fails Those Most in Need

PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN jgoodstein@cnglocal.com

EDITOR IN-CHIEF PAUL SCHINDLER editor@manhttanexpressnews.nyc

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS JACKSON CHEN LINCOLN ANDERSON BILL EGBERT SCOTT STIFFLER COLIN MIXSON JEFFERSON SIEGEL LENORE SKENAZY

ART DIRECTOR MARCOS RAMOS

ADVERTISING AMANDA TARLEY ads@manhattanexpressnews.nyc 718-260-8340

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES GAYLE GREENBERG

BY PAUL SCHINDLER

S

eizing on an issue whose appeal became clear during the Democratic presidential primary contest last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo has made New York the first state in the nation to provide free tuition to its state colleges and universities. The program, enacted in the new budget adopted early this month and estimated to cost $87 million in its first year, will cover tuition, which ranges from $4,350 a year at two-year public schools to $6,470 at four-year ones. That means students, during the course of earning a bachelor’s degree, can avoid up to $26,000 in debt. That’s a real achievement, one recognized by Senator Bernie Sanders, who appeared with the governor when he announced the program earlier this year and — even after the program’s shortcom-

ings became clear once enacted — tweeted, “Real progress appears to be taking place in New York State.” Without taking away from the real contribution this tuition waiver makes, it’s worth focusing on several ways in which it fails those who most need assistance in getting a college degree. First, the program requires that students stay on track in finishing their program in the two- or four-year time frame required for the degree they are seeking. While it makes sense to ensure students are serious about their goals when providing them with financial support, this requirement ignores the reality that many lower income young people face. As the New York Times pointed out, living expenses, books, and other fees — which are not covered by the program — can total more than twice the cost of tuition. Many students find they must take time

off from school or take fewer courses than needed to graduate on time so they can work to cover their and their families’ living expenses. Writing in GothamGazette.com, City Councilmember Jumaane Williams noted only 10 percent of City College students graduate on time. The lack of any financial support for non-tuition expenses in the new program makes clear that lower income students weren’t really its primary target beneficiaries. Many such students already enjoy federal Pell grants or state aid in covering their tuition. The real hurdle they face is being able to drop out of the full-time labor force to handle a full schedule of classes. The new tuition program does nothing to solve that problem. Finally, the governor’s plan includes an onerous restriction on

 FREE TUITION, continued on p.17

ANDREW MARK

EXPRESS YOURSELVES

JIM STEELE

“Girls” Is Over; Long Live the Girls

JULIO TUMBACO

Manhattan Express, the newspaper for Midtown and the Upper East and Upper West Sides, is published by NYC Community Media, LLC.

BY LENORE SKENAZY Send all inquiries to: Manhattan Express, One Metrotech Center North, Suite 1001, Brooklyn 11201 or call 718-260-4586. Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this paper, in part or whole, can be reproduced or redistributed. All contents © 2016 Manhattan Express. Manhattan Express is a registered trademark of NYC Community Media, LLC. Jennifer Goodstein, C.E.O. | Fax: 212-229-2790 Subscriptions: 26 issues, $49.00 ©2016 Manhattan Express, All rights reserved. NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC | ONE METROTECH NORTH, SUITE 1001 | BROOKLYN, NY 11201 | 212-229-1890

16

I

f you’re t hi n k i ng of w r it i ng a bestseller, I’ve got a word of advice for you: Girl. Put “Girl” in the title and you almost don’t have to do anything else, except figure out a plot, some twists, and an ending. And don’t forget to put a girl character in there, of course. She can be doing anything: kicking a hornet’s nest or sporting a dragon tattoo, like in Stieg Larsson’s epic sellers. Or she can be on a train, like in Paula Hawkins’ bestseller (turned into a leaden movie described by one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer as “Less like hopping on board a train and more climbing onto the bandwagon of dozens of Lifetime movies”… though that didn’t stop it from making $170 million.) Or the girl can be gone, like in Gillian Flynn’s chilling thriller. Or she can have a pearl earring, or marry a lion, or fall from the sky, chase the moon, play with fire, or be interrupted. She can also love

Tom Gordon. And recently I really enjoyed “The Girl You Left Behind,” by Jojo Moyes. All those girls made it big on the bookshelves. To make it big on television, apparently all a girl has to do is hang out with a bunch of her tormented friends who are trying to grow up, like in “2 Broke Girls,” in “New Girl,” or with Lena Dunham’s squad. Or she can have grown up so long ago that now the “girl” part is ironic (see “Golden Girls,” which, come to think of it, may have started something). Just a few years before all this girlishness, the book trend was “wife,” as in “The Paris Wife,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (best book ever), “The Kitchen God’s Wife” (also the best book ever, weirdly enough). Not to mention, on television, “The Good Wife.” But clearly the wives have been ditched for someone younger. Last year, an author named Emily St. John Mandel looked at 810 non-children’s books with the word “Girl” in the title. She

cr unched some numbers a nd found that 79 percent of those were written by women, and yet 65 percent of the time the “girl” in the title is actually a woman. So why call the woman a girl? One theory holds that when we see the word “girl” we automatically feel protective and worried — more than we’d feel about a grown woman. But another theory is that mega bestsellers tend to inspire publishers to copy them slavishly and often. So once you have “Gone Girl” plus “Girl on a Train,” nobody’s going to bother with a “The Comedienne with the Lower Back Tattoo,” or, “Young Female in Hyacinth Blue.” Mandel noticed one other trend: When women write “Girl” books, the girl ends up alive 90 percent of the time. When men put “Girl” in the title, only 68 percent make it out alive. Gee, thanks guys. Anyway, if you’re looking for a title for that bestseller of yours, I’ve

 GIRL, continued on p.17

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


 FREE TUITION, from p.16 graduates who enjoy its benefits — they must work in New York State for as many years as they received tuition assistance. In other words, for somewhere between two and four years, their degree is only good here. According to the New York Post, that requirement was a last-minute add-

 GIRL, from p.16

on by State Senate Republicans, but Cuomo has endorsed their view, arguing, “Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you pick up and you move to California?” Yet, in defending the restriction against charges it holds new graduates back, the program’s boosters point out that between 85 and 90 percent of SUNY grads take

jobs in New York. With no strong evidence of a serious “brain drain,” why are those few grads who find opportunity elsewhere being penalized? The restriction is absurd. Some observers well-versed in New York State higher education see the new program, which by 2019 will assist families earning up to $125,000 a year, for what it is. “It

will help a slice of middle-class students, but it’s only a slice,” Bruce Johnstone, a former SUNY chancellor, told the Times. Strengthening the middle class is important — and it’s also good politics. New York State must yet take on the harder job of providing real educational opportunities to economically marginalized communities.

• The Girl with the Greenish Incisor

• The Girl with the Wagon Tattoo: A Laura Ingalls Wilder Update

• The Girl still on the D Train, Because of a “Sick Passenger” on the Train Ahead of Her

• The Girl Who Mistook Her Hat for My Hat

• The Other Other Boleyn Girl

got some suggestions: • The Girl Last Seen Running Away from a Bunch of Angry Hornets • The Girl with the Misspelled “Pougkeepsie” Tattoo • The Girl You Last Saw in the Dairy Section

• The Little Mulch Girl • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Girl

• The Hardy Girls

• The Girl with the Squirrel Earring

• The Girl Whose “Be Mindful” Lululemon Tote Took Up a Whole Seat

• The Squirrel with the Girl Earring

 POLICE BLOTTER, from p.10

306 West 54th Street 212-767-8400

bathroom in the back. As one of the suspects acted as lookout, the other emptied the store’s cash box of approximately $2,000, police said. The suspects fled in an unknown direction and there were no injuries, according to police. Police released photos of the suspects (available at manhattanexpressnews.nyc), whom they describe as black males, around 20 years old.

BANK ROBBERY: FOILED AFTER THE FOURTH (Midtown South Precinct) Police have arrested Queens resident Abdullahi Shuaibu and charged him with two counts of robbery and two counts of attempted robbery for a series of bank robberies throughout Manhattan. Manhattan Express reported on the first three of the robberies (manhattanexpressnews. nyc/police-blotter-april-5-2017/) and, since then, police said that Shuaibu continued his spree on April 17 at around 2:30 p.m. when he entered an HSBC Bank at 617 Third Avenue, between East 39th and 40th Streets, and followed the pattern of the earlier incidents. Police said Shuaibu tried to get the teller to read the note that demanded money while simulating a gun in his jacket, but was unsuccessful and left the bank empty-handed.

LOCAL POLICE CONTACTS Midtown North Precinct

• Girl, Interrupting • Even Cowgirls Get Sick of Beans

• The Girl from Iwo Jima

• I Am the Coppertone Girl • The Girl Who “Forgot” to Call Her Mother’s Friend’s Super-Nice Son

• Girl Meets Girl

• The Girl Who Chased Viggo Mortensen (And Who Can Blame Her?) • I Am Melania: The Story of a Girl who Stood Up for Trump • Too Many Girls, Not Enough Kombucha (from the “Wild in Williamsburg” series) • The Girl on the D Train

Midtown South Precinct 357 West 35th Street 212-239-9811

17th Precinct 167 East 51st Street 212-826-3211

19th Precinct 153 East 67th Street 212-452-0600

20th Precinct 120 West 82nd Street 212-580-6411

23rd Precinct 162 East 102nd Street 212-860-6411

24th Precinct 151 West 100th Street 212-678-1811

26th Precinct 520 West 126th Street 212-678-1311

Central Park Precinct 86th Street and Transverse Road 212-570-4820

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

• The Girl Who Knew Too Much about the Kennedy Assassination • The Girl Who Sat on a Mound of Scorpions Because She Was Livestreaming Her Desert Vacation • The Girl W ho Couldn’t Sit Down Lenore Skenazy is the author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids” and a contributor at Reason.com.

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Urging Vigilance, a Buoyant Bharara Champions “Facts, Not Falsehoods” BY RAINER TURIM

M

ore than 900 people packed the Cooper Union’s Great Hall downtown on April 6 to hear Preet Bharara, the recently a xed US attorney for the Southern District of New York. But that crowd figure was in dispute — well, not really, but Bharara couldn’t help but take a poke at the new president who unceremoniously fired him. Bharara, who served from 2009 until last month, started his lecture off by decla r ing t he East Village audience was actua lly “1.25 million,” alluding to Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd size follies. For t he vetera n prosecutor, int roduced by Cooper Union’s p r e si de nt , L au r a S p a rk s, a s a “legal trailbla zer,” it was his first major lecture since he was remove d f rom of f ice. T houg h hard-nosed as a prosecutor, taking dow n both State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Senate majority leader, Dean Skelos, Bharara has a surprisingly light touch with humor. “It just figures, for the first time in eight years I’ve literally shown up for a event where I can’t arrest anyone,” he quipped. Earlier that day, the New York Times published an article quoting him as describing his firing as “a direct example of the kind of uncertain helter-skelter incompetence” of the Trump administration. Sparks, in introducing Bharara, said his character combined with the events surrounding his departure from the Southern District inspired the school to host the lecture. “Cooper Union’s Great Hall has been the birthplace of profound social movements and a platform for honest discourse for over 150 years,” she said, “and lectures like those in our John Jay Iselin Memorial Series are part of that tradition. Preet Bharara’s unique

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RAINER TURIM

Preet Bharara, the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York, addresses a large crowd at Cooper Union on April 6.

perspective at this moment in time helps to move forward our national conversations about truth, fairness, integrity, and justice. The Great Hall will be an important venue for these and other conversations critical to our national discourse in the years ahead.” B h a r a r a’s l e c t u r e , S p a r k s added, represented “quintessential Cooper Union.” Recalling his ouster from office, Bha ra ra sa id, “I was asked to resign, I refused. I insisted on being fired, and so I was. I will tell you that I don’t really understand why that was such a big dea l, especially to this White House. I had thought that’s what Donald Trump was good at. I had thought t hat’s i n pa r t how he beca me president.” T he e x- U S at t o r n e y fo n d l y recalled his last eight years leading what is w idely considered the nation’s most prestigious US attorney’s office. “The greatest professional honor

of my life,” he said. “I had the best team in the world.” In discussing his record, he conceded that he wished the office had been able to go further in combatting gang violence. “Is there lots more still left to do?” he asked. “Absolutely, yes.” Regarding local criminal justice matters, Bharara commended Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that Rikers Island would be shuttered in coming years, saying that is a “a spectacular plan.” Telling his audience t hat he was proudest of “maintaining a certain tradition and culture of doing what’s right,” he stressed that no US attorney should feel like “a rubber stamp for the White House,” adding, “That’s how every US attorney should feel.” Bharara urged Americans to be cautious and vigilant as the new administration in Washington takes hold. “Sometimes people lie, and people need to be aware of that,” he

warned. “We choose what news to believe. We choose who to trust.” Bh a r a r a w a s joi ne d b y h i s mother and father for the Cooper Union lecture. “I am the son of a father who came from virtually nothing,” he said, referring to his humble roots in India. He noted, with sadness, the problems some of his fellow Indian immigrants have faced being accepted in America, talking about a recent hate cr ime in Kansas that saw an engineer raised in India and educated in Tex as gu n ned dow n a f ter h is assailant demanded to know if his “status was legal.” Bharara turned to an inspirational high note in concluding his remarks. “Let us unrig the system,” he proclaimed. “Remember the forgotten. Lift the underdog. Drain the swamp. Let us do all those things, but let’s actually do it — not just talk about it. And let’s do it with goodwill and in good faith. Let’s do it as idealists, not cynics. Let’s do it with facts, not falsehoods. And let’s do it in the spirit of hope and harmony, with love and not hate.” Bharara then fielded audience questions in a Q & A session. “W hy do you think you were fired?” he was asked. “Beats the hell out of me. I don’t know,” Bharara said, bemusedly. “The president of the United States is allowed to have the services of whomever he or she wants. And after the election, one presumed there would be a changing of the guard, whether it be US attorneys or ambassadors or anything else.” Bharara went on, however, to note the confusing run-up to his dismissal, in which Trump initially asked him to stay on in his post as US attorney, yet then summarily fired him. “I’m not making any accusation about anyone,” Bharara said, “but I’ve lived long enough to know that you want the record to be clear.”

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


ADVERTORIAL

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

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

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

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

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

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

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

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

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Empress of Pop Sings City Center BY DAVID NOH

DIANA ROSS

D

iana Ross — diva of divas, from a day when the real thing existed — is coming to town! On April 24 – 29, she will be in residence at City Center for a series of concerts that will give both old and new fans a chance to revel in all of her big-haired, Mackie-sequinned, Motown-Billie Holiday“Mahogany”- “ Touch Me in the Morning” fabulousness. A lifetime fan of hers — hello, I’m gay! — I saw her first in my living room in Honolulu on TV in black and white on “Shindig,” I believe. And, boy, did she stand out from t he ot her t wo Supremes, w it h her enormous eyes, wraith-like, hunched-shoulders posture, and fluent, oh-so sexy voice, belting out “Baby Love.” “W ho’s that pretty Hawaiian girl?” my eternal cut-up of a Dad commented. Hit after hit followed, and then ca me “L ady Si ngs t he Blues,” which also really introduced me to Billie Holiday — though their voices couldn’t have been more dissimilar. I finally saw her live in a surprisingly intimate venue, the showroom of Chicago’s Palmer House. She was hugely pregnant and wore a be-plumed gown that made her look like Big Bird, she said. I was present at both of her legendary Central Park concerts, and will never forget the look in her eyes, as, immediately after her entrance in a resplendent Issey Miyake multi-hued fringe coat, a blanket of thick black storm clouds rolled toward her, ruining a perfectly sunny day and her first gig in the park. Ross tur ned 73 last mont h, and I truly hope the lady owns it, because if that’s what a septuagenarian looks like, I say bring it. DAVID NOH: Your voice is a miracle. Do you do anything to care

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New York City Center 131 W. 55th St. Apr. 24-29 $59.50-$357 nycitycenter.org

DR: So many “Endless Memories” and so much beauty and talent. It may be time to write another book. DN: You are the fashion icon for all time. We all loved “Mahogany,” and especially your designs. DR: I always keep creating. I love designing my own costumes. I love glamorous gowns on stage.

COURTESY: ON TOUR PR

Diana Ross appears at City Center April 24-29.

for it, vocalize or a coach, or does it just come naturally? DIANA ROSS: That is so sweet of you. It’s a wonderful compliment. I do think, vocally, my voice has my heart in it. I do try to care for my vocal cords gently. I like tea and local honey. DN: Your daughters are enjoying such splendid success. I’ve already interviewed Rhonda [Ross Kendrick] about her singing career. And Tracee [Ellis Ross] is genius on “Blackish.” How do you feel about them and about all your children’s

talent? DR: I have a huge smile on my face all the time. I love them dearly, and they know it. DN: Although largely put down, “The Wiz” has really come to be appreciated for all the wonderful things in it — your passionate, funky interpretation of the songs, Quincy Jones’ elegant arrangements, Michael Jackson, L ena Horne, the glamorous High 1970s look of the Oz scenes set in the World Trade Center. How do you feel about it today?

DN: Is there an archive of all your outfits somewhere on the planet and if so how is it maintained? DR: My daughter Tracee will not let me give anything away, so I have pretty much kept everything. I have of all of my stage costumes and some very special items that I’ve kept over the years in storage. And she has a lot of them, too. We both love clothes and designing. Evan [her son by Arne Naess, her second husband] and Ashlee [Simpson, Evan’s wife] love great style, too. Each of my children has their own personality and their own personal style. All different, unique, and special. DN: What is a typical day like for Diana Ross? The fantasy of course is you wake up in a perfumed bed of roses, with champagne and caviar for breakfast — all of it impossibly glamorous and fab. DR: Yes, of course, yes! I found this body pillow that I can hug all

 DIANA ROSS, continued on p.21

Apr. 20–May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


Love In a World Collapsing BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE

MISS SAIGON

G

iven its original decade on Broadway and the passion its fans have for “Miss Saigon,” criticism is as pointless as it is effete. Rather, the revival of the 1989 blockbuster now at the Broadway Theatre, as with the current production of “Cats” and the recent return of “Les Misérables,” provides an opportunity to appreciate the power of popular entertainment financially and, to no lesser degree, artistically. The fact of the matter is that while some shows are struggling, “Miss Saigon” is currently packing the house. Before the advent of movies — so, roughly from the 12th century BCE to the last century or so — the theater was where people went for entertainment. Even the Greeks at Epidaurus (in a theater, by the way, dwarfing the largest Broadway house by many thousands of seats) knew the fundamental rule of showbiz: Please the masses. For the Greeks’ predominantly illiterate audiences, three theatrical rules applied: accessible and recognizable characters, dramatic situations, and spectacle. All these years later, those elements still work. And “Miss Saigon” is the proof. With its soaring, operatic score by Claude-Michel Schönberg and its “Madame Butterf ly”-inspired book by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Alan Boubil, the show is largely a series of set pieces that tell the stor y of a young A merican soldier, Ch r is, i n 1975 Viet na m, K im, the local woman he loves and by whom he fathers a child,

 DIANA ROSS, from p.20 night long. Especially when sleeping alone. [Laughs.] Caviar is not something you have all the time, only when it’s free. [Laughs.] I love caviar. In the morning, I get up ver y early before the sunrise. I drink a full bottle of water with lemon a nd t hen have my coffee. One scoop of caffeine, that’s all. For a light breakfast, hard-boiled eggs

Broadway Theatre 1681 Broadway at W. 53rd St. Mon., Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Tue. at 7 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. $39-$165; telecharge.com Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 40 mins., with intermission

MATTHEW MURPHY

Eva Noblezada in the Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon,” directed by Laurence Connor.

their grief as they are torn apart, and their tragedy as Kim sacrifices herself so her son can have a better life. It pushes all the buttons. No matter how sophisticated we may think ourselves, there is something elemental and human

that gives this stor y its power. No ël C ow a r d w a s b ei n g a r ch when a character in his “Private Lives” says, “Strange how potent cheap music is,” but his point was no matter how above it all we see ourselves, none of us is immune to basic emotional triggers. In

and I can love me some bacon, but I don’t have bacon a ll t he time! But, secretly, I love it. If I’m rushing around, I’ll have a protein shake. Then, of course, I get glamorous. I take two hours to put on my face and hair before going out into the public. [Really laughs.] That’s a big lie! I love comfort at this time in my life. No spiked heels for me.

of your life? DR: A ll my husbands? I love my family, all of them. I love my friends, all of them. I love all of my associates, musicians, and people that I work with. I love you. I am a “Love Child,” for sure.

DN: Who was/ is the great love

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

DN: You have an amazing family and friends and fans, but, as I have heard other stars say, does it ever get lonely? DR: Never! I’m always excited

fact, we seek them in entertainment. As Sondheim wrote in “The Frogs,” “Eventually we’ll get to the catharsis and depart.” This new production hits all the marks. Directed by Laurence Con nor, t he show ret a i ns t he monumental scale of the original. Alistair Brammer as Chris sings the role powerfully and acts quite well. The character is not complex, but Brammer imbues him with passion, a good man amidst chaos a nd dest r uct ion. E va Noblezada is excellent as K im, with a clear, strong voice. Connor’s direction underscores that Kim and Chris are outsiders in Saigon’s world. Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer brings a humanity and dimension to a role that has prev iously been more of a caricature. It may be a trick of memory, but the original production coming a mere 14 years after the events portrayed seemed more harrowing than this revival. Still, for fans of the show, this will be a very welcome return, and those new to it will inevitably be swept up into a timeless story of tragic love.

about being in New York City. The energy of New York is amazing. I have so many incredible memories of my time performing here. Central Park. The Apollo. Radio City Music Hall. I love looking out into the audience and seeing your faces and your smiles. Life is wonderful, and I am so very blessed a nd g ratef u l. I have so much appreciation for my life every day, it’s a gift. I’m happy to be back in New York. Let’s have some fun!

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Apr. 20â&#x20AC;&#x201C;May 03, 2017 | ManhattanExpressNews.nyc


IT’S APRIL 15: DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR PRESIDENT’S TAX RETURNS ARE?

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO

O

n Saturday, April 15 thousands of protesters turned out at Bryant Park in Midtown for a Tax Day protest demanding that President Donald Trump release his tax returns — joining tens of thousands nationwide in doing so. In the nearly two years since the president first announced his run for office, his refusal to release his returns has been bolstered by a changing array of excuses — ranging from his claim he is under audit to that the issue was litigated in the election and nobody except the media cares (since November 8) to, again, that he is under audit since every president’s returns are subject to automatic audit every year (the latest).

ManhattanExpressNews.nyc | Apr. 20–May 03, 2017

Protesters included celebrities such as Sarah Silverman and Debra Messing, labor leaders such as Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (at center in the image with the Tax March banner), and elected officials including Borough President Gale Brewer, West Side State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Public Advocate Letitia James. The protest came amidst signs, reported in the New York Times, that Trump’s intransigence on the issue may be creating problems in Congress for his hopes of a major tax reform overhaul this year — a stumble that could add to his list of unfulfilled campaign promises. — Additional reporting by Paul Schindler

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