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The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933

April 20, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 16





V.I.D. backs Marte over Chin in primary for Council District 1 LINCOLN ANDERSON


n a blow to incumbent Margaret Chin, Christopher Marte won the endorsement of the Village Independent Democrats club Tuesday night in the City Council Democratic primary for Lower Manhattan’s District 1. An elated Marte said, “V.I.D. is the oldest voice for reform

and the progressive agenda in the neighborhood. Both our campaign and V.I.D. D. share a clear vision for change nge in this district, and we aree honored to have the support of a club with such a historic legacy, egacy, and impactful future. V.I.D. I.D. has a history of advancing a progressive agenda in New York City, MARTE continued on p. 4

Protests stop...fur now; ow; sts Canada Goose activists will ‘jump [to] the shark’ ark’ PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER



ooster St. residents and, of course, Canada Goose and probably Councilmember Margaret Chin, too, will be relieved to hear that the animal-rights activists “wrapped up the fur season” this past Saturday. Elizabeth Argibay, one

of the hardcore vegans who h have been protesting outside the new Canada Goose store since it opened in Soho back in November and also outside Paragon sporting goods in Union Square — which also carries the costly, real coyote fur-trimmed coats — said this

Lisa, 7, armed w with balloon sword and custom-made bunny basket, made a find at the Easter egg hunt at St. Mark’s Church. See Page 9.

Pier-to-pier park planning; With 55 in limbo, 40 up next

GOOSE continued on p. 4



t turns out the Hudson River Park Trust and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have an additional month — until May 22 — to decide if they want to appeal the recent devastating ruling against the Pier55 project. Last month, a federal judge yanked the Corps’ permit for the glitzy $200 million project planned for off of W. 13th

St., which was to be funded by Lower West Side power couple Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg. Tom Fox, one of the two City Club of New York plaintiffs who filed the successful lawsuit, said the deadline to appeal is longer because a federal agency is involved in this case. Both the Trust — the state-city authority which operates and is building the 5-mile Lower West Side wa-

terfront park — and the Corps would have to appeal. Asked this week if the Trust was planning to challenge the ruling, a spokesperson said, “We are going to decline comment at this point.” If they don’t appeal, then the whole project has to go back to the drawing board for a redesign — that is, assuming the Trust still wants to PIERS continued on p. 4

Afghan imports store fights for its life.............p. 12 PROGRESS REPORT: Special section .... pp. 13 to 20 Singing David Peel goodbye.....p. 6


EX-BOOKSTORE BLUES: It’s not surprising that William Kelley, the director of the Village Alliance business improvement district, is ticked off about the old Barnes & Noble bookstore corner space at Sixth Ave. and Eighth St. having sat empty for more than three years. TD Bank has held the lease on the space all that time. “Having the retail space lie vacant for so long is of course very frustrating,” he told us. “Being one of the gateways to Greenwich Village’s main subway station, it is a struggle for all of our local merchants to contend with the loss of an anchor retail space. But I would be more frustrated if I were a TD Bank shareholder knowing that money is going to waste month after month. Unfortunately for them, there is more retail supply now than when they took the lease in 2014,” he noted. The Barnes & Noble space has been shuttered since Dec. 31, 2012, but TD Bank did not lease the space until about a year and a half after that. “My understanding is that they signed a number of leases over that time period but did not move forward with all of them,” Kelley continued. “I cannot speak to their exact intentions, but the signs you see posted on the building windows confi rm that the current leaseholder is trying to either sublease the space or would renegotiate the lease if a new tenant is found.” And of course, the former St. Mark’s Bookshop space, at Third Ave. and Stuyvesant St., is still empty, too. Is there anything more

depressing than losing a beloved book store — and then seeing the storefront untenanted for years? It’s really a sin. TD Bank and The Cooper Union, which owns the Third Ave. space, should at least do some pop-up book shows periodically. C’mon already! Trigger, the Vietnamese rice paddy-hat-wearing proprietor of the Continental rock club-turnedcheap shots bar on Third Ave. between St. Mark’s Place and Stuyvesant St., is just about as frustrated at Kelley about things — actually more, from the sound of it. “I don’t know what’s going on with the old St. Mark’s Bookshop space,” he said. “It’s been vacant for three years. There are also six vacant stores catty-corner at Ninth St. and Third Ave. at the northeast corner, and the same at Second Ave. and St. Mark’s. My opinion is that the brokers put these crazy numbers — dollar amounts per square foot — in the landlords’ heads, and the landlords get excited,” he said. “But very few tenants last at these infl ated rents. When 7-Eleven leaves St. Mark’s and McDonald’s [on Third Ave.] is leaving soon, something’s very wrong. If they can’t make it, nobody can! I’ve heard that there are well over 100 vacant storefronts each way within five blocks of me. The brokers are parasites and carpetbaggers, scumbags. They don’t make a dime when a landlord renews a lease. That’s their agenda — turnover. And if the new tenant fails, all the better — they’ll make another commission on their replacement!”

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Cyclist hit by truck on 1st Ave. dies of injuries BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


week after being hit by a truck while bicycling at E. Ninth St. and First Ave., a 31-year-old Lower East Side woman has died of her injuries, police reported on Wed., April 12. According to the Daily News, Kelly Hurley died on Tues., April 11. Hurley, who lived at 41 Orchard St., was riding northbound in the First Ave. bike lane on Wed., April 5, around 7:20 a.m. She was hit there by the truck, which had also been traveling north, as it turned left into a so-called “mixing zone,” where cyclists and motorists share space. Intersections at larger streets, like 14th and 23rd Sts., have “split-phase signals,” where separate traffic lights are timed differently for bikes and cars, to prevent left-turning vehicles from coming into contact with riders in bike lanes. Hurley suffered severe head and body trauma and an injury to her left leg, according to police. She was transferred by E.M.S. to Bellevue Hospital in critical condition. The News reported that she skidded to try to avoid the truck, but it slammed into her, police said. The truck driver, 59, remained at the scene, and no arrest has been reported, though the investigation is ongoing. Hurley was a senior studio manager of training and development at SoulCycle

A photo of Kelly Hurley on her Facebook page. She was an avid c yclist and loved riding around the city.

in New York, and oversaw the fitness company’s assistant manager training program, according to her LinkedIn page. She had been a SoulCycle studio

manager for four years, and worked at the chain’s NoMad branch, at 12 W. 27th St., in the Flatiron District. An avid cyclist, Hurley enjoyed rid-

ing around New York City’s streets, and looks like she may have ridden a fixedgear — or one-speed — bicycle. She also liked to have a good time and hang out with friends, and her social-media pages are full of smiling photos of her sharing happy times with pals. She attended California Polytechnic University, in San Luis Obispo, receiving a B.S. in business. Hurley was also a co-founder and vice president of the Movemeant Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. The group aims to counter unrealistic body images and serve as “a catalyst for creating a new era of health, strong and selfassured young women” through fitness and physical movement as a means for social change. A description on Movemeant’s Web page says, “Our young women are bombarded with images and messages that glorify perfection as thin and beautiful. ... We empower women and girls by providing body-positive, self-confidence building tools, resources and experiences where fitness and physical movement is the gateway to her feeling powerful in the skin she’s in. We create opportunities where success on basketball courts, dance floors and yoga mats leads to success in academic performance; in the birth of teamwork and community; and in the creation of healthy habits that will further a girl’s physical and emotional well-being for the rest of her life.”


Manhattan. 2 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10011 A new day care center for children ages two to five will open its door for 2017/2018 school year. The TheVillager.com

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April 20, 2017


Pier-to-pier park plans, from 55 to 40 Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association News Story, First Place, 2015 Editorial Page, First Place, 2015 Editorials, First Place, 2014 News Story, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009









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PIERS continued from p. 1

pursue it. Last month, Judge Lorna Schofield ruled that the Army Corps had erred when it issued a permits for the “arts fantasy island.” Schofield said the Corps had in fact violated the Clean Water Act in issuing the permit because the “basic use” of Pier55 is not “water dependent.” Meanwhile, moving along to the next potentially contentious Hudson River Park site, Community Board 2’s Future of Pier 40 Working Group will hold its inaugural meeting on Thurs., April 27, at The Door, 555 Broome St., starting at 6:30 p.m. According to the C.B. 2 Web site, it will be a presentation to the Working Group by the Trust on what it would like to do at the 14-acre W. Houston St. pier. The Villager has previously reported that the Trust would like to re-mass the currently developed space on the pier. In addition, the Trust wants to add some additional space to what’s there now, especially after Councilmember Corey Johnson brokered a deal for the St. John’s Partners project last year that bars any future air-rights transfers from Pier 40 into the C.B. 2 district. So, the Trust hopes that at least it will be able to increase the developed space on Pier 40. Currently, the pier is ringed by a three-story “doughnut”shaped pier-shed building. St. John’s Partners have

past Saturday’s protest outside Paragon was their last for the time being, now that it has gotten warm. “This is an ‘official’ farewell, if you will, since the fur season is over,” she told The Villager. “But we’ll still check in on them, just not as often


The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for others errors or omissions in connection with an advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue.

agreed to buy 200,000 square feet of air rights from the pier for $100 million for use in their development project on the current St. John’s Center site. The big challenge, of course,

until fur season resumes. We’ll be protesting all year through for different animal causes and needs, such as the shark competition on Long Island in June — where they catch young sharks under the guise of sport — at the circus, etc.” The shark hunt, at Point Lookout, is “repugnant,” she said.


April 20, 2017

Chin worked to tighten up police monitoring of the protesters’ seriously noisy demonstrations after constituents on Wooster St. complained to her that they were being driven to distraction. But the protesters worked to tone down their volume, and even held a silent vigil outside Canada Goose one Saturday in February. Resi-

dents were relieved. “I live here. It’s been 12 weeks of screaming and yelling. This is so moving,” Victoria Barbieri said at the time, regarding the quiet, candle-lit protest. “The screaming and yelling just treated us, the residents, like collateral damage. I’m so happy and grateful to see this.”

Chris Marte wins V.I.D. nod over Chin

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will be trying to find some sort of middle-ground “compromise” between what the Trust wants — i.e., more development on the pier — and what the community and C.B. 2 want — i.e., not the

Activists put fur protests in storage GOOSE continued from p. 1

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A consultant’s rendering from June 2012, showing rudimentar y massing studies — a concept, not a plan per se — for how Pier 40 could have been redeveloped with residential housing, a hotel and spor ts fields. The housing, about 15 stories tall (equal in height to the nearby Mor ton Square residential development), is depicted in yellow, the hotel (just east of a raised soccer field) in dark magenta and the spor ts fields and open space in green. Spaces for the Hudson River Park Trust’s operations and offices are in dark purple and medium purple, respectively. Parking is gray, retail is red and where an indoor field might have gone is shown in blue. This plan never got off the drawing board due to lack of local political suppor t. Now, five years later, the Trust is hoping to be allowed to build commercial office space on the pier, but would need a legislative amendment in Albany to do so.

maximum allowable development on the pier. The Villager recently asked the Trust for clarification, and a spokesperson conceded that the City Council, in the language on last year’s St. John’s deal, did not say anywhere that the Trust is automatically allowed to max out its development rights on Pier 40. Clearly, it will be a negotiating process between the Trust, C.B. 2, local politicians, youth sports leagues and the rest of the wider community. Tobi Bergman, who chairs the Working Group, had expressed concern that Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s C.E.O. and president, was apparently overreaching when, back in December, after the St. John’s deal was reached, she said, “We thank the City Council for acknowledging today that the remaining development rights on Pier 40 should be used on the pier itself in a future redevelopment.” As Bergman correctly pointed out to The Villager, nothing in the St. John’s agreement said that all the W. Houston St. pier’s remaining air rights should be used on the pier. Apparently reluctant to go into more detail on potential plans for the pier at this point, both the Trust and Bergman declined to comment on what to expect at the upcoming meeting on Pier 40.

MARTE continued from p. 1

and their support indicates confidence in my ability to further this mission.” Marte grew up as an immigrant kid on Forsyth St. and worked in his dad’s nearby bodega. He noted that he is “running on a

platform of complete transparency and active community engagement” and that he aims to be “a leading voice for reform in Lower Manhattan politics.” Chin is seeking a third term in the City Council. She, like certain other councilmembers, is allowed to run for a third term as a

“holdover” of the legislative coup orchestrated by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s in brazen defiance of voter referenda by the people of New York, who backed term limits of two terms for councilmembers and other New York City elected officials.


POLICE BLOTTER Etan case sentence On Tues., April 18, Cy Vance, Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, announced the sentencing of Pedro Hernandez, 56, to 25 years to life in state prison for kidnapping and murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz in Soho in 1979. The little boy disappeared while walking by himself a few blocks along Prince St. to a school bus stop on West Broadway. On Feb. 14 of this year, Hernandez was convicted in New York State Supreme Court of one count each of second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. “When Etan did not come home on the afternoon of May 25, 1979, the Patz family was changed forever,” Vance said. “In the intervening years, they did not know where Etan was — whether he was dead or alive, whether he was being abused, or whether he knew that his parents and the police never stopped looking for him. “We, as New Yorkers and as a community of families all over the United States, were also changed forever. Through this painful and utterly horrific real-life story, we came to realize how easily our children could disappear, ripped away from us right in our own neighborhoods. “Today, the living embodiment of that nightmare — Pedro Hernandez, the person that a jury unanimously convicted of killing Etan Patz 38 years ago — is being sent to prison for the maximum sentence possible.” Vance thanked the detectives and prosecutors on the case, as well as the jurors and the judge who went through the long trial. A previous trial of Hernandez had ended in a hung jury when one juror refused to vote to convict him. “Most of all, however, I would like to thank the Patz family for their strength and fortitude throughout this process,” Vance said. “From the very day their son went missing, they have been their child’s strongest advocate, ensuring that Etan and other missing children were never forgotten.” Stanley and Julie Patz were in court on Tuesday for the sentencing. According to the New York Post, Etan’s farther told Hernandez, “After all these years, we finally know what dark secret you kept locked in your heart. You took our precious child and threw him in the garbage. I will never forgive you. The god you pray to will never forgive you. You are the monster in your nightmares and will join your father in hell.” Hernandez was working as a clerk at a bodega on the corner of West Broadway and Prince St., when, acTheVillager.com

cording to prosecutors, he lured Etan Patz into the basement of the convenience store near his bus stop with the promise of a soda. According to Hernandez’s initial confession, which he later recanted, inside the basement, he choked the child until he went limp, then placed the boy’s body in a plastic garbage bag that he concealed inside a cardboard box. He then carried the box containing Etan’s body out of the basement and left it with the trash in the alley of a nearby building on Thompson St., a little more than one block away. In 2012, a relative’s tip led law enforcement to Hernandez, who was living in Maple Shade, N.J. The suspect had told family members and church group friends over the years that he had killed a child years earlier. Hernandez’s attorney, Harvey Fishbein, has vowed to appeal the verdict. There was no hard evidence connecting Hernandez to Etan’s disappearance, and the suspect has a low I.Q. and hallucinates, the attorney has argued. Another suspect, Jose Ramos, who is serving time for child sex abuse, is the guilty one, Fishbein maintains. “Pedro Hernandez is an innocent man and is not the answer as to what caused Etan Patz to disappear in 1979,” Fishbein said the day before the sentencing, as reported by the Daily News. “An unfair process resulted in an unjust verdict — we are confident that the system will correct itself during the appeal process.”

Extra helping

Naughty dread

An employee at Taboonette restaurant, at 30 E. 13th St., was arrested for felony grand larceny on Tues., April 11. On the morning of March 19, a 55-year-old man from the restaurant went to the Sixth Precinct to report that the employee had failed to deposit the business’s money in the bank and had not returned in a week, and was refusing to answer phone calls, text messages or e-mails. Security cameras reportedly showed the suspect putting the place’s cash into her handbag on several occasions without permission to do so. Melissa Pichardo, 20 — who sports a “Life Is Not Practice” arm tattoo — was arrested and charged with stealing $2,000 from the eatery.

A big guy stole another man’s cash in front of 199 MacDougal St. on Wed., April 12, at 1:28 a.m., but he didn’t hang on to the loot for long. Police said the imposing suspect, standing 6 foot 5 with long dreadlocks, approached another man and asked for money. The two men were strangers to each other. The victim took out his wallet and the suspect promptly swiped $200 from his hand, pushed him and fled. An officer who stated that he observed the incident arrested the thief and recovered the cash from him. Conrad Griffin, 51, was arrested for grand larceny.

Wrong car! A car stripper targeted the wrong person’s ride when he went to work on it around 11 p.m. in front of 109 MacDougal St. late in the evening on Wed., April 12. It was a 25-year-old Sixth Precinct officer’s civilian car. Manuel Perez, 25, was busted for felony auto stripping.

Forsyth body Police responding to a 911 call found an unidentified man who was unconscious and unresponsive at Forsyth and Broome Sts. on Thurs., April 13, at 10:48 a.m. E.M.S. pronounced the man dead at the scene. The Medical Examiner will determine cause of death and the investigation is ongoing.

Lincoln Anderson

Arrest in F attack Police arrested an East Village man over the weekend in a frightening attack across town two days earlier on a young actress in the subway station at 14th St. and Sixth Ave. On Sunday at 3 a.m., police collared Kimani, Stephenson, 24, of 709 F.D.R. Drive, at E. Fifth St. and Avenue D, in the Lillian Wald Houses, and charged him with attempted murder, assault and sex abuse. Police said that on Fri., April 14, at 4:20 a.m., a 22-year-old woman was on the northbound F / M platform when she was approached by who touched her chest and groin area. When she confronted him, he pushed her, causing her to fall onto the train tracks. The victim was pulled to safety by a good samaritan. The attacker — who had a construction helmet dangling from his backpack — fled the station. E.M.S. transported the woman to a hospital for treatment of injuries to her left wrist, leg and shoulder. April 20, 2017


‘Streets were his stage’; Friends, fans fittingly


Jamming on David Peel and the Lower East Songs in Tompkins Square.



avid Peel, the late East Village punk singer, street performer and noted cannabis promoter, had his fans. The most famous of whom, John Lennon — who signed Peel to Apple Records — said of him, “He can’t sing. He can’t really play. Picasso spent 40 years trying to get as simple as that.” Simplicity reigned supreme on Saturday, when Peel’s memorial service at Peter Jarema Funeral Home on E. Seventh St. was followed by a raucous sing-along in Tompkins Square Park that epitomized Peel’s D.I.Y. aesthetic. Peel died at age 74 on April 6. Steven Hager, an author/musician/ activist, brought the necessary equipment and led an ad hoc crew, inviting anyone within earshot to come up and sing and play. “Come on, we’ve got the words right here — it’s just like karaoke,” he exhorted the crowd.


April 20, 2017

It started small, just Hager and Gordon Ramsey at the microphone, but grew to a sizable crowd as the sun went down. The constantly changing group — many of whom were in Peel’s various bands — covered all the “hits” (pun possibly intended), including “I Like Marijuana,” “The Pope Smokes Dope,” “Up Against The Wall, Motherf---er,” “Everybody’s Smoking Marijuana” and “Die Yuppie Scum,” raggedly repeating several of the favorites more than once. Hager, a former High Times editor, was a friend of Peel’s for more than 30 years. “The streets were his stage. This was a great way to celebrate his legacy,” he said of the singing memorial. Music journalist Charley Crespo was also there, recalling the early days. “I’ve been to thousands of concerts and people always want to know what my fi rst one was,” he reflected. “Well, when I was 15 years old, I discovered PEEL continued on p. 7 TheVillager.com

honor Peel with park jam

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Critics blast landmark bill as ‘anti-preservation’; Say ‘loophole’ offers little hope BY YANNIC R ACK


contentious bill that will put deadlines on the city’s preservation agency to designate landmarks within two years was passed by the City Council last week. There was heavy opposition from preservationists and even initial disapproval from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission itself — but the measure might be moot due

Jerr y The Peddler “has a marijuana” in honor of his friend David Peel.

to a loophole, according to its chief critics. The legislation, Intro 775A, mandates that L.P.C. vote within one year to designate proposed individual landmarks, and take no longer than two years to vote on proposed historic districts — limits that the bill’s opponents charge could lead to the loss of countless potential landmarks. LANDMARKS continued on p. 12

Hoylman pushes Albany to pass child sex-abuse reform, but Senate stalls BY MICHAEL OSSORGUINE


he Omnibus Child Victims Act, or Senate Bill S6367, is the latest effort from state Democrats to reform the statute of limitations on victims of child sexual abuse. The bill, though still in committee, has momentum in the Senate as victims are stepping forward

and Senate Democrats are arguing against entrenched opposition. State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced the Senate version of the bill with several co-sponsors, including Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the leader of the Democratic Conference. ABUSE continued on p. 14


Thousands of points of light: Monday night’s vigil stretched along Christopher St. from Waverly Place to Seventh Ave. South.

‘We shall overcome’: Vigils draw thousands to Village BY PAUL SCHINDLER


n two vigils in the West Village on Sunday evening, one crowd numbering in the thousands, another in the hundreds voiced shock, grief, and anger over the murder of 50 patrons of an Orlando, Florida, gay bar in the early morning hours of the same day. Speaker after speaker emphasized that the violence cannot be isolated from a climate of anti-L.G.B.T. hatred that continues to persist across the nation, but also pledged to continue building community to respond to hostility and bigotry where it exists.

At the same time, both crowds rejected the notion that hate is an appropriate response to the violence and specifically called out efforts to pit the L.G.B.T. community against the Muslim community over a tragedy in which the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, is reported to have phoned 911 just prior to the massacre and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Ken Kidd, a member of Queer Nation New York, took the lead in organizing a rally outside the Stonewall Inn that drew several thousand people. “We come together because this is a community that will

never be silent again,” he said. “I ask every person to think of someone you knew who was killed because of anti-L.G.B.T. hatred. Think of a time when you felt unsafe in your own community. And I want every single one of you to think not of what anyone else, not of what I, but of what you can do to change that.” Kidd said the L.G.B.T. community should draw strength from the 49 patrons of the Pulse nightclub who were killed. “We must go forward in love,” he said. Mirna Haidar, a representaVIGILS continued on p. 5

Graffiti artist tags Haring group in lawsuit ...... p. 16 Remembering Ramrod rampage of 1980.........p. 21 Here comes the sun energy...p. 18


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or email: pbeatrice@cnglocal.com PEEL continued from p. 6

David Peel in Washington Square Park. My first 20 concerts were by David Peel.” Harold C. Black, a friend for 53 years, was an original member of Peel’s Low-


er East Side band. Having spoken at the memorial at Peter Jarema — which he paid for, as well as the funeral on Monday — Crespo made his way over to the park. Surveying the scene, he said, “David would have been honored and proud,” adding, “If he could, he’d be up there hogging the mic.” April 20, 2017


St. Mark’s ‘egg scramble’ a sweet success;


The people who made it happen: the St. Mark’s Church volunteers, led by interim Pastor Allison Moore, bottom row, right.



f we were playing “Jeopardy,” the answer would be: 750 plastic eggs, 125 kids, 14 volunteers, two jazz musicians and a balloon twister. The question: What went into the making the annual St. Mark’s Church Easter egg hunt? Led by Reverend Allison Moore, the very enthusiastic volunteers made sure that the kids, from infants to age 10 or so, had a great time. Although there was some trouble enforcing the six-eggs-per-kid rule. The egg hunt has been a tradition at the East Village house of worship for more than 25 years. Amidst the chaos, church volunteers Bim Strasberg (bass) and Larry Luger (guitar) provided some jazz for the parents, while the kids fueled up on popcorn and juice, before being let loose in the historic church courtyard at E. 10th St. and Second Ave. “We love welcoming neighbors to the church’s West Yard, to music and balloons and a magic show that can’t quite quell the anticipation of the hunt itself,” Reverend Moore said.


April 20, 2017

“This year, it was especially fun for me to see two teenagers helping parishioners hide eggs.” Vestry member Delores Schaefer noted that the event has been growing. “It’s been attracting more and more kids from the neighborhood, which is great,” she said. “Maybe it’s because we switched from real eggs to plastic eggs fi lled with candy!” Neighborhood resident Landon Nordeman, who brought his wife and kids, said his family really looks forward to the fun event. “We love the East Village, and the community spirit at the St. Mark’s Church Easter egg hunt was a shining example of it,” he said. “Our boys loved hunting for eggs in the garden!” After the egg-cellent search, parents and kids lingered in the East Yard, which is currently fi lled with 100 T-shirts representing children under the age of 11 who were victims of gunshots, many of whom died while playing with an unsecured gun in their homes. TheVillager.com

In other yard, shirts evoke violence’s victims

Forget the egg. Levon, 1 1/2, found the chocolate.

Wait till Townes, 11 months old — with her smiling mom — finds out there’s chocolate in there.

T-shir ts to young victims of gun violence in the St. Mark’s churchyard. TheVillager.com

April 20, 2017


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Driver should be charged

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To The Editor: Re “Cyclist struck by truck on First Ave. dies of her injuries” (news article, thevillager.com, April 13): What a horrific tragedy. Clearly, the driver should be charged with manslaughter. How could he not see this young woman on his left and not in a blind spot? That stretch of bike lane is, in general, terrifying because of the countless morons who bike the wrong way, especially the deliverymen on their electric bikes exceeding 25 miles per hour.

public officials were in the audience and wondered if they were there because they heard he was taking attendance or they were there seeking immunity. Alan Flacks

Vote for integrity To The Editor: Re “Unbowed Bharara jokes, warns about Trump in Cooper Union speech” (news article, April 13): Preet Bharara for New York City mayor!

Carl Rosenstein Susan Brownmiller

Have some marijuana angels

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To The Editor: Re “David Peel, 74, the king of pot, punk and protest” (tribute, Paul DeRienzo, April 13): To my friend David Peel, a genuine stand-up character of the L.E.S. and early punk rocker: May you get your heavenly high as the marijuana angels sing you to your rest. Theater for the New City will miss you at the L.E.S. Fest this May 27, and so will your large street audience. Richard West

Congrats on awards!

Call 718-260-2516 or e-mail pbeatrice@cnglocal.com

To The Editor: Re “Purple praise and very good visuals; The Villager nabs four NYPA awards” (news article, April 13): Congratulations! From the perspective of a longtime reader, these awards are richly deserved. Huzzah! Lora Tenenbaum

Preet’s pretty funny

We cover “The Cube”!

To The Editor: Re “Unbowed Bharara jokes, warns about Trump in Cooper Union speech” (news article, April 13): Preet Bharara certainly does have a lighter side. For the information of your readers, let me relate that once when he was speaking at a New York Law School breakfast, he said that he noticed how many

Legalize it already To The Editor: Observing April 20 as National Pot Day makes sense. Consumption of marijuana for both medical and recreational use is part of mainstream America, transcending generations. Creative entrepreneurs will always meet the citizens’ desire, regardless of government approval. Consumers have voted with their dollars, making marijuana consumption a multibillion-dollar enterprise today. Legalize it and add a sales tax. Revenues will more than cover the costs of any abuse. Our tax dollars will be better used if police and judges spend more time prosecuting those who commit real crimes against individuals or property than going after those who consume or distribute marijuana. Law-enforcement authorities should be free to pursue those who commit real crimes against citizens and property. At 18, you are old enough to vote, be a parent, pay taxes, own a car, take out a bank loan, serve in the military and die for your country — but not consume marijuana. This makes no sense. Let us hope that we have finally learned from the obvious failures of Prohibition. Larry Penner E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th fl oor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.


Yikes! ‘Super’-Trump responds to the latest crisis. 10

April 20, 2017


St. Mark’s is truly dead as Trump gets pounded



his past weekend seated on my favorite bench in Tompkins Square Park, while fi nishing up the must-read neighborhood history “St. Marks is Dead,” by Ada Calhoun, I heard strains of a second-line New Orleans jazz funeral, a perfect dirge for the read. The procession wended its way along Avenue A and crossed on the corner at St. Mark’s Place, where fittingly a new Starbucks is soon to open. A woman was pulling a child’s little red wagon with some sort of sculptural object in it. When they crossed over to the park, I could see that it was a thick, rectangular block of wood, a foot or two high, with a painted colorful caricature of President Trump, replete with two puny arms extending from either side, like an M&M’s character. It created a comical effect. Then I noticed nails penetrating all sides of the sculpture. I cringed and realized instantly what was going down. A crowd rapidly assembled and a hammer was passed around while people took turns playing assassin, pummeling nails into the head of the hated effigy. The crowd jeered and cheered in sadistic glee. It resembled a public stoning of a homosexual in Daesh or a lynching in Mississippi. After observing a couple of attacks, I stepped forward and yelled out, “Violence is not the way to peace. You have become what you hate.” Instantly, the entire pack turned on me, and notwithstanding my “No More War Button,” I was cursed and heckled by these savage East Villagers. I quickly turned and walked away. The so-called “Resistance” cry, “Love Trumps Hate,” has quickly morphed into rhetorical garbage. What transpired that Sunday on St. Mark’s was more vulgar and depraved than the paroxysm of any nihilistic punk or crusty who ever overdosed and vomited on that very corner. It was the equivalent of moral vomit. This lynch mob symbolized yet another St. Mark’s death, a coda for Calhoun’s hip book. I wonder what East Village saint Allen Ginsberg would have done? He’d probably strip naked and “Ommmm” the damn bastards into submission.


This puerile performance plays into the hand of the corporatist Democratic Party still led by the Clintons and Obama and the war-loving neocons of the Republican Party, and personifies their moral vacuity. They are actually just two wings of the same party that tips back and forth every eight years. Both factions serve the Deep State, whose members have been out to destroy and discredit the Trump presidency — not because he called Mexicans “rapists” or for his vulgar locker-room talk. Rather because Trump is a political outsider and a direct threat to the established global order promulgated by the C.I.A. and the international monetary community for the benefit of Wall Street, and especially the military-industrial complex that has made trillions of dollars alone in our two decades of permanent war in the Middle East and always want more. If anybody actually bothered to pay attention, they would have realized that Trump actually ran to the left of Hillary Clinton on major issues of trade and war. The philosophy espoused by Steve Bannon is anti-free trade and antiinterventionism and this philosophy runs deeply against the grain of the globalist agenda. The perverse, xenophobic Russian witch hunt and the baseless claims of election tampering, mimic the McCarthy era of the 1950s. That period of loyalty tests, sordid congressional hearings and blacklists was the ugli-

est and most fascistic moment in the history of our republic. The current witch hunt was hatched by Hillary Clinton and Co. as a distraction from the insider release of John Podesta’s e-mails that revealed the only election that was tampered with was the Democratic primary by the Democratic National Committee. This is fact. The twisted events of the past week, the gas attack in Syria that so many on the left — and I, too — feel was a “false fl ag,” and then the Trump missile response, clearly reveal the true nature of the Democratic Party as a party of war. Overnight they turned from Trump critics to warmongering cheerleaders for the pimps of war in

‘Love Trumps Hate’ is rhetorical garbage.

the mainstream media. Trump may have cleverly launched the strike to get the hounds off his heels. I am still hoping that Trump fulfi lls his promise and is able to achieve a reconciliation and understanding

with Russia, that he can eliminate the tensions between our countries instigated by the Dems and the MSM (mainstream media), open up trade and understanding, and eventually continue the disarmament process dreamed of by John F. Kennedy after he led us away from the brink of nuclear annihilation during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. One of Kennedy’s greatest moments was the commencement speech he gave at American University on June 10, 1963: “What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. “Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children — not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time. “For in the fi nal analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.” For dreaming so, Kennedy was murdered by the Deep State five months later. How far we have fallen. OMMMMMMMMM………..


His Easter was a real drag. ... Late on Sunday afternoon, a man wearing a dark jacket, sunglasses and a chain around his neck lugged a large wooden cross several times around the inside of the Washington Square Park fountain. April 20, 2017



Abdul Nusrat y, 77, in front of his Christopher St. Afghan impor ts store.

Christopher Afghan imports shop ďŹ ghts to stay


bdul Nusraty, 77, who owns Nusraty Afghan Imports, at 85 Christoper St., with his family, is currently in a dispute with the building owner, who wants him to leave imminently.


April 20, 2017

Nusraty hopes the court battle will end shortly and he will be able to stay another year. The store has antiques from 28 countries, including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Bhutan, India, Egypt and Tibet.

Nusraty came to the United States in 1970 after fleeing Kabul, Afghanistan. Originally from Herat, Afghanistan, he has never returned to his homeland. Nusraty has been at 85 Christopher for five years and in the Village since 1979.

His store was previously located at W. 10th and Bleecker St. and then 113 W. Tenth St.

Rebecca White


EGD<G:HHG:EDGI A special Villager supplement, pp. 13 to 20

Striving to help unique small businesses thrive BUSINESS BY MARIA DIAZ Because of the West Village’s creative and avant-garde nature, it will always be an ever-changing, fluid part of the city. Yet, one thing about New York City has always been constant: the definitive characteristics of our neighborhoods and the diverse and multifaceted opportunities they provide. So who creates these opportunities? Here at the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, we believe that it is our multitude of small businesses that are co-creating these opportunities, in concert with their stakeholders. Firms with fewer than 20 employees constitute more than 90 percent of the businesses and employ in excess of 1 million people in the city. A recent study by City Comptroller Scott Stringer notes that: “Recent job growth in New York City has been concentrated in these ‘smaller’ small businesses, with companies with fewer than 20 employees responsible for almost 25 percent of


Maria Diaz is advocating for small businesses on many fronts.

new hires between 2007 and 2012.” Bleecker St. is no longer the center of New York City’s bohemian culture that it once was. It is now populated by nightclubs and fashion design, but this also is changing. Due to the exor-

bitant commercial rent prices, we now see more than 11 vacant storefronts between Seventh and Eighth Aves. alone. Empty storefronts persist for weeks to months to years as landlords wait for the highest bidder. Many are avoiding locking themselves into 10- or 15-year leases, opting to keep their storefronts vacant until they land a tenant who accepts a higher rate. A March 2015 report on small businesses by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer found that: “When small businesses are replaced with chain banks or chain drugstores, the market fails both the business owners and New Yorkers who prefer unique and specialized services.” Many merchants are hampered by the bureaucracy of New York City — waiting months for applications to be approved. “Before opening, a New York City restaurant may need to obtain as many as 30 permits, registrations, licenses and certificates and could face as many as 23 separate inspections,” the B.P.’s report notes. Not only is this expensive, it also takes an average of seven-and-a-half months to properly open a restaurant in

Zoned out: Buildings Dept. is really regressing in Soho



olamente Por Mayor.” Those were the first Spanish words I learned moving into Soho in the 1970s. It was a common notice posted on many stores along Broadway underneath its English translation, “Wholesale Only.” It advised shoppers not to enter seeking a small swatch of leather or a piece of fabric. If you want retail, it enjoined, shop elsewhere. The reason is because zoning in that part of eastern Soho — and its sister neighborhood, Noho — basically permits only wholesale use on the ground floor. Retail use requires a special permit. A few stores were grandfathered. However, in the early 1990s, new retail stores began sprouting along Broadway. As more popped up, the Soho Alliance contacted the Department of Buildings to find out what was TheVillager.com

going on: Stores we knew had been exclusively wholesale were suddenly selling retail without having applied for permission for a change of use. Rudy Giuliani’s Buildings Department’s response was that the landlords had been able to show retail use on the premises in the past, but based on such specious evidence as to be laughable were it not so scandalous. One landlord claimed to have a leaflet advertising a one-day sale “open to the public” 20 years earlier. That’s it! Another outrageous example was a well-known wholesaler with a photocopy machine charging a dime a copy. Thus, the Buildings Department gradually changed Soho’s zoning while bypassing the City Council. Fast-forward 10 years to the Bloomberg administration and witness huge, oversized stores opening along Broadway, such as the Bloomingdale’s 50,000-square-foot department store, for example. But Soho’s zoning limits retail to 10,000 square feet without a special permit. Lacking the $100,000


Looming over Soho and Lower Manhattan, the 46-story Trump Soho Hotel, at Spring and Varick Sts.

needed for a legal challenge, we watched as the Bloomberg administration allowed our zoning to be corrupted. A couple of years ago, under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s watch, we complained to Buildings that Old Navy had a

New York City. The stress is only amplified in sought-after neighborhoods such as the Village, where the rent is higher than average and businesses need to open as quickly as possible. Currently, there is a commercial tax on businesses in Manhattan below 96th St. — the Commercial Real Estate Tax. Clearly outdated, the C.R.T. is a tax that equates to 3.9 percent of a small business’s annual rent. The C.R.T. was established as a means for Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan to compete with Manhattan’s city center. G.V.C.C.C. is part of a coalition of nonprofits attempting to raise the exemption of the C.R.T. from $250,000 to $500,000 a year. This tax punishes successful business owners for growing and investing. Small businesses are the treasures of the Village. We should acknowledge them as such and work to ensure that our neighborhoods remain the creative, historical and vibrant spaces that we all love and appreciate. Diaz is executive director, Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce

20,000-square-foot operation going on for years without obtaining the special permit needed for such oversized use. Two years ago, our councilmember and the borough president wrote to Buildings, inquiring why it was not enforcing the zoning laws. No response. And it’s not just blatant violation of retail uses that the Buildings Department ignores. In 2007, Donald Trump tried to skirt the zoning laws when he applied for a permit to build what he called a “condo hotel” in west Soho. The twist was that, in that part of our neighborhood, hotels can be constructed without much paperwork, but a new residential condo building requires a zoning variance. We all knew Trump’s game. He blatantly advertised his “residential condos” in The New York Times. Yet Buildings accepted his alternative fact that it was a “condo hotel.” Then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn included a restriction limiting condo owners’ stays to no more than 29 days at a time, requiring strict accounting of residents’ stays. We recently asked Buildings to produce the Trump Soho logs. No response. Why? Likely because the agency is, yet again, failing to uphold the law. Sweeney is director, Soho Alliance April 20, 2017



Keeping up the fight — win, lose or redraw BOARD 2 BY TERRI CUDE


ommunity Board 2 works to protect and enhance the neighborhoods in our service area — from 14th St. to Canal St., and from Bowery to the Hudson River. Part of this means reviewing applications for items not automatically allowed per city regulations. We consider input and make recommendations, usually in the form of resolutions crafted in committee hearings that do a deep dive on issues and applications. An application may be supported, withdrawn or redrawn to better meet community needs. Committee recommendations only become official C.B. 2 positions after they are reviewed, possibly modified, and voted on at the monthly full-board meeting. Then government agencies and officials receive our advisory input before approving, rejecting or requiring changes. We are a very busy board! C.B. 2 has the most landmarks applications of any community board citywide. More sidewalk cafes are in our area than in the other four boroughs combined — 19 percent of all sidewalk cafes in New York City are here in C.B. 2. Each month we consider various items, such as land use, liquor licenses, sidewalks, street activities, landmarks, traffic and transportation, education, the arts, local institutions, parks, waterfront, environment, social services, and more. We’ve definitely had some recent “wins” achieved via collaboration among the board, local stakeholders


Terri Cude is relishing C.B. 2’s victories, but ready for upcoming challenges.

and interested parties and politicians. Under the guidance of prior C.B. 2 Chairpersons Tobi Bergman and David Gruber, our board recommendations for 550 Washington St. (the St. John’s Center development project) resulted in many community benefits as the process went through the City Council under Councilmember Corey Johnson’s careful watch and strong advocacy. Among these benefits were needed funds to rebuild the deteriorating pilings below Pier 40; almost 500 units of affordable housing, with more than 170 for seniors; space for a much-needed supermarket; public open space and

indoor recreation; a study that will address traffic around the Holland Tunnel and throughout the West Village; and no further development-rights transfers from Pier 40 into C.B. 2. In addition, the community won landmarks designation of the third phase of the South Village Historic District — with guidelines proposed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation — right before the 550 Washington St. project’s approval. This was vitally important to prevent increased development pressure in the area from destroying nearby neighborhoods. C.B. 2 supported and helped shape the New York City AIDS Memorial at St. Vincent’s Triangle Park. This included a public process at C.B. 2 where the board, advocates, neighbors and local politicians came together to create something unique and important for our area and well beyond. We supported and welcomed the Stonewall National Monument. Now, National Parks Service signage at Christopher Park shows the importance of the Stonewall uprising. This is the first national monument focused on L.G.B.T. history anywhere in the U.S. At the same time, there are challenges ahead for C.B. 2. We support preservation of the Elizabeth St. Garden as a permanent public park. C.B. 2 identified an alternate location for affordable housing that could provide almost five times the amount of units that could fit into the garden location. This alternate site, at Hudson and Clarkson Sts., is currently a gravelcovered lot. Councilmember Johnson recently did a successful swap north of us — providing a better affordable

Ensuring Rivington House debacle doesn’t occur again



ne of the bright spots in a very challenging year in government has been the successful passage of the deed-restriction reform legislation I sponsored with Councilmember Margaret Chin. The bill, which was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio last December, contains a strong set of reforms that correct the problems that


April 20, 2017

led to the loss of Rivington House. Rivington House, a former school building that for years housed an AIDS hospice serving the Lower East Side and East Village communities, was protected by deed restrictions, conditions placed on the property that required it to be used for nonprofit healthcare. When the restrictions were removed and it was sold to a condo developer, it was clear government had screwed up. First, there was a lack of notification to the community and politicians that the deed restriction for nonprofit healthcare use was being removed. Second, there was a lack of oversight or input from the city agency — the Department of Citywide Administra-


Borough President Gale Brewer co-sponsored legislation to tighten up tracking of deed restrictions on formerly cit y-owned proper ties.

housing location in exchange for creating a much-needed park on W. 20th St. We hope Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Johnson will work together for a similar a win-win result in Little Italy — affordability for more people while retaining a much-needed oasis for all. Creating a consensus for the future of Pier 40, at W. Houston St., is a process just now beginning, with many stakeholders and groups represented and C.B. 2 meetings scheduled, which, as always, will be open to the public to attend. Preserving the integrity of landmarked areas, such as the Gansevoort Historic District, is another issue on which C.B. 2 must remain vigilant. Despite a strong resolution by us seeking preservation, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved what we deemed out-of-context heights for the “Gansevoort Row” project at 60-64 Gansevoort St. and demolition of 70-74 Gansevoort St. Save Gansevoort, a neighborhood group, is currently fighting this decision in the courts, and as of this writing a temporary stay of demolition is in place. We will be collecting community input to weigh in on what might be best for our area, including 14th St., during the 15-month L train shutdown. In battles for our neighborhoods, even if we don’t get a full win, we often greatly reduce negative effects. We invite neighbors to connect with us via meetings, e-mail, mail, Facebook and Twitter. Please visit www.cb2manhattan.org to learn more. Cude is chairperson, Community Board 2

tive Services — that actually decides whether to remove the deed restriction. Third, there was a lack of clear accountability in the decision-making process for removing deed restrictions. The city lacked a central list of deedrestricted sites or searchable database. The new law that Councilmember Chin and I sponsored establishes that accountability rests with the mayor, not anonymous bureaucrats. It requires real notice to politicians and the community before any deed restriction is lifted. It gives City Planning a formal role in the process, so that decisions with real land-use impacts aren’t being made in a vacuum by the city’s property-management agency. And, finally, it requires the city track deed-restricted properties going back 50 years in an online, publicly accessible database. Brewer is Manhattan borough president TheVillager.com

People’s Town Hall Meeting s4HE#LOSINGOF"ETH)SRAEL(OSPITAL s4HE#RISISIN(EALTH#ARE)N ,OWER-ANHATTAN s4HE0OTENTIALFOR.93INGLE 0AYER(EALTH#OVERAGE The Town Hall will explore exactly what is happening with the Beth Israel (which has already closed operating rooms and its maternity ward!), and its impact on health care services in south Manhattan. A panel of experts and political leaders to talk about how to move forward, and discuss a plan for the public to get involved. Hear a presentation on the NY Health Act, an effort to establish a Single Payer System in NY, and the potential impact on hospital failures.

Program Chair: Anthony Feliciano - - Director, Commission on the Public’s Health System


Local 32BJ SEIU - 25 West 18th Street (between 5th and 6th)

Convened by Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan a Chapter of the NY Progressive Action Network Co-sponsor list (in formation): Coalition for A District Alternative, Village Reform Democrats, Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club; Rise and Resist; Chelsea Reform Democratic Club; Village Independent Democrats, 504 Democratic Club, Grassroots Action (NYPAN); Metro NY Health Care for All; Commission on the Public’s Health System; Father Walter Tonelotto, Pastor-Our Lady of Pompeii Church; Left Labor Forum; LES Power Partnership; Manhattan Young Democrats

For more info: contact ProgressiveActionNYC@gmail.com TheVillager.com

April 20, 2017



Ready, set, go for fall ’17 at 75 Morton school SCHOOLS BY JEANNINE KIELY


ater this month, M.S. 297, the new middle school at 75 Morton St., will admit its inaugural class of students who will start sixth grade in fall 2017! This past summer, the Department of Education named Jacqui Getz principal for M.S. 297, giving her a full year to launch the new school. This amount of prep time is more than principals have had in the past and was in response to community actions around the creation of the school. Getz brings 30 years of experience as a teacher, literacy expert, assistant principal at P.S. 234, principal at P.S. 290 and, most recently, principal of P.S. 126 / MAT a pre-K-to-eighthgrade school in Chinatown. Getz will implement an inquiry- and projectbased curriculum and hire teachers experienced at supporting and challenging a diverse range of students. Admission to M.S. 297 is by zone or screen. Students who live in the zone and choose 75 Morton are admitted automatically if D.O.E. gets to that choice in the students’ priority list, and those outside the zone are screened based on grades, academic and personal behavior, attendance and test scores. The

Advocates say 75 Mor ton St., above center, represents a model process on how to create a new school.

M.S. 297 zone includes most of the west side of School District 2, from W. 59th St. south to Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Tribeca and Battery Park City. Unlike other partially zoned schools, M.S. 297 will offer one track or program, though the school may offer honors classes for subjects like math. For the 2017-18 school year, M.S. 297 will be co-located at the nearby Clinton School for Writers and Artists, at 10 E. 15th St., due to unforeseen

construction delays at 75 Morton St. Clinton is another new school building that opened two years ago. For its inaugural year, M.S. 297 will have Clinton’s seventh floor for up to 170 students. In fall 2018, M.S. 297 will move into 75 Morton St., a 177,000-square-foot, seven-story handicap-accessible building. In addition to classrooms, science labs, art and music rooms, facilities include a ground-floor, light-filled cafeteria, library and double-height “gyma-

Priorities: Pier 40, Beth Israel, protection vs. Trump



, like many of you, was not prepared for the outcome of the November election. A silver lining is that it has galvanized progressive communities. I will continue to work toward ensuring the greatest protections for our community and New Yorkers as a whole. Pier 40 has long been in need of significant capital repairs. Due to the recently approved ULURP (Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure) for the redevelopment of the St. John’s Terminal site, Pier 40 will receive $100 million from a sale of air rights, as well as $14 million from the city, which will go toward repairing the pier’s piles and other capital needs. This is great news for the pier’s long-term stability. Pier 40 has long been the major source of income for Hudson River


April 20, 2017

Park, and with increased development, this pressure has increased — but so has the demand for both active and passive open space. With most major capital repairs no longer needing funding, any redevelopment of Pier 40 should be smaller and low impact while still allowing for revenue for the whole park. I am pleased that Community Board 2 formed a working group focused on gathering input from the community and stakeholders about the types of uses people want to see on Pier 40. Meetings will be monthly and are open to the public, and details will be on the C.B. 2 Web site. I hope as many people as possible participate in this process on how to best utilize Pier 40 for generations to come. Last year, Mt. Sinai announced that it would be closing Beth Israel Hospital and rebuilding a smaller version of it a few blocks away. While the hospital is outside of my district, the impact of the transformation of health services is something that will impact our greater

Deborah Glick.

community, my district included. My colleagues and I have requested that the Department of Health hold public hearings on Lower Manhattan’s overall healthcare needs and hospital bed requirements. We have also requested additional community engagement from Mt. Sinai to ensure that the community is informed and concerns are addressed well in advance of service changes.

torium,” with retractable seating, and outdoor play yard. M.S. 297 also will have a green roof, thanks to $500,000 from Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Councilmember Corey Johnson and Borough President Gale Brewer. With the opening just around the corner, the community supports naming M.S. 297 the Jane Jacobs Middle School in honor of Jane Jacobs — not only for her legacy of community-based urban planning and the preservation and regeneration of the West Village and surrounding neighborhoods, but also for how our community’s advocacy for a new middle school at 75 Morton St. embodies her legacy. For 10 years, the community pushed for a new middle school and weighed in on the building’s purchase, configuration of grades, school building design, educational philosophy, admission methods, community partnerships, funding for a green roof, after-school programs and the school’s name. Going forward, the hope is that D.O.E. will embrace the 75 Morton model of local community engagement and input for how the city sites, designs and envisions new public schools. For details about M.S. 297, please visit https://www.cecd2.net/ms297-at75-morton-street. Kiely is chairperson, C.B. 2 Schools and Education Committee Several progressive bills that I sponsor, including the Reproductive Health Act and a ban on “gay conversion therapy,” have passed the Assembly this year. The R.H.A. would guarantee New York women access to safe, legal abortions, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The Assembly has passed bills I cosponsored, including one to make New York a “sanctuary state” and the gender non-discrimination act (GENDA) to protect transgender New Yorkers. Other priority bills yet to pass include a state hydrofracking ban, early voting and automatic voter registration, and the New York Health Act, to create a statewide single-payer healthcare system. Local bills I sponsor include expanding speed-camera legislation, limiting how long building scaffolding and sidewalk sheds stay up, and mandating at least one State Liquor Authority member be from New York City. I’m thrilled a great middle school is underway at 75 Morton. Incubating at Clinton is a good temporary solution. I support naming it for Jane Jacobs. Glick is assemblymember, 66th District, covering Greenwich Village, Tribeca, Soho, Noho and part of the East Village TheVillager.com


L.H.G.V., a growing community healthcare hub HEALTH BY ALEX HELLINGER


hile walking down Seventh Ave., you may wonder, â&#x20AC;&#x153;What exactly is that gleaming, white ship-shaped building towering over the street?â&#x20AC;? The landmarked National Maritime Union Building, built in 1963, has undergone massive renovations since Northwell Health acquired it in 2011. In 2014, we opened Manhattanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first and only freestanding emergency center as a first step to fill the gap of healthcare services needed in this neighborhood and ease the hardships our community has endured due to the closure of St. Vincentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Hospital. In building a medical center from scratch, we had the opportunity to step back and take a fresh look at how healthcare should be delivered from a patientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective. Every detail was done with the patient at the center of all of our decisions. We offer private rooms equipped with interactive monitors, giving patients the ability to watch TV or movies, use the Internet, learn about certain illnesses, enjoy a stressrelieving video or even Skype a loved one within our emergency department. Our desire was to create something very special for patients in need of help at a critical time in their lives. Our patients seem to agree. Our emergency department gets rave reviews. In fact, our patient-satisfaction scores are above the 90th percentile in the New York region. Our emergency department is open 24/7/365 and cares for all patients regardless of their ability to pay. We have treated more than 80,000 patients in our first two and a half years. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve administered clot-busting medications to patients with strokes. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve provided critical care to hundreds of patients with heart failure, COPD, aneurysms, respiratory failure, pneumonia, influenza, diabetes, allergic reactions and more. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve sutured thousands of lacerations. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve cared for hundreds of psychiatric patients and thousands with drug- or alcohol-related emergencies. The opening of the emergency center was just the beginning of our $150-million-dollar investment to the residents of this community; we are building a true comprehensive medical network throughout Downtown Manhattan. In July, we opened our state-of-theart Imaging Center, which puts an end to Uptown odysseys for radiology services. We realize that being referred for an imaging study can be a stressful experience that can be compounded by TheVillager.com


Lenox Health Greenwich Village, on Seventh Ave. between 12th and 13th Sts., offers a 24/7 emergency department, imaging ser vices and more.

the inconvenience of having to travel to out-of-the-way facilities. Now, this important service is available right here at Lenox Health Greenwich Village, at W. 13th St. and Seventh Ave. Our Imaging Center offers the most advanced technologies in a comfortable, convenient setting. Here you can get a full range of breast cancer screening exams, including 3D mammography, a new imaging option that diminishes the rate of false positives by about 40 percent. We are one of only a handful of centers that offer this new imagining option. In addition to our full range of breast-imaging services, our brand-new 13,000-square-foot center also offers magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scans, ultrasounds, digital X-rays and bone-density testing. We realize that not every healthcare need requires a trip to an emergency department, which is why we opened a Northwell Health Physician Partners site at 121 W. 20th St., which offers convenient primary- and specialty-care physicians to our community. We will be opening additional physician offices in our neighborhood in the months and years to come, so our residents have access to high-quality care right where they live. We have also partnered with GoHealth Urgent Care Centers to improve access to care and have opened up multiple locations in the Downtown area, including 225 W. 23rd St., 176 Third Ave. and 41 E. Eighth St. Later this year, L.H.G.V. will open an Ambulatory Surgery Center, physician offices and a beautiful new conference room space that will be open for com-

munity use. We believe in and support this community. We have partnerships with the NY Alliance Against Sexual









Assault, The L.G.B.T. Center and the NYC AIDS Memorial. We are sponsors of the Greenwich Village Little League and L.G.B.T. Sports League, and contributed funds to renovate the L.G.B.T. Center. We open our doors for innumerable tours of the facility, administer free flu shots, offer CPR classes and routinely perform health screenings at various health fairs. Following the tragic terrorist bombing in Chelsea last year, nine of the 31 individuals who sustained injuries from the explosion were treated here at L.H.G.V. We proudly accepted a proclamation from the city of New York for the services provided to the community during this event. We feel that our services have become a vital community resource. In short, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re part of the fabric of this community and we encourage you to find out for yourself how we can meet your health needs, now and in the future. We invite you to stop by, visit our Web site, at lenoxhealth.com, or give us a call at 646-665-6000 to learn more about our facility. Hellinger is executive director, Lenox Health Greenwich Village



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I survived, but will Lower Manhattan healthcare? DISTRICT LEADER BY ARTHUR Z. SCHWARTZ


woke up on the last Saturday in January feeling awful. My heart, said “code red.” The first decision was where to go. I live a block from Northwell’s Lenox Health Greenwich Village emergency department, so I figured that would be the fastest way to get an EKG. I went there and told the guy at the front desk, “I think I am having a heart attack.” He told me to have a seat, and I responded, “Did you hear what I said? I said ‘heart attack!’ ” He got up, grabbed a nurse, and they took me right into a room. They hooked up an EKG machine, and immediately a tech said, “Yes, yes.” I said, “Yes what?” “You are going in an ambulance to the Beth Israel cath lab,” I was told. Fearing that doctors were leaving Beth Israel, I replied, “Can’t I go to N.Y.U.? “No, we don’t have an arrangement with N.Y.U.,” they said. I then got wheeled on a gurney and entered the ambulance. The E.M.T. medic asked me my name, and I said: “Am I having a heart attack?” “You are in the middle of one,” he responded. My brain rotated among three related thoughts. First, that I could die any second. The second was how my chances of living were reduced because I must be driven all the way to First Ave. to receive treatment. The third was how much worse my chances would be two or three years from now if Beth Israel were to close. At least the second and third thoughts keep me from focusing on the first. I arrived at Beth Israel and the E.M.T.’s wheeled me up to the cardiac cath lab — which was closed. They then took me down to the emergency room, where I saw my son Jacob and yelled, “Get me out of here!” Of course he couldn’t. Soon, I was immersed in wires and IV’s and, within minutes, I was transferred to the nowopen cath lab, where they ran a wire up to my heart and then sedated me big time. Someone stuck some consent papers near me, I signed, and they added two stents to my heart. Most importantly, I was alive! And my heart, which suffered some damage, is functioning well. One can speak intellectually about hospital closings and how additional minutes in an ambulance can cost lives. I now speak from “the heart.” If Beth Israel had not been here, I might not be alive. Or, the damage to my heart might


April 20, 2017


Ar thur Schwar tz recovering at Beth Israel Hospital this past Januar y after undergoing cardiac surger y.

have been more extensive. Of course, it would have been even better if Northwell’s Lenox Health Greenwich Village were a full-service hospital. The doctors at Beth Israel were outstanding. The cath lab folks and the emergency room technicians saved my life by doing their jobs with precision. The cath unit is a proud group. They are the first line in saving the lives of people with heart attacks, or people at risk of heart attacks. The surgeons and equipment are top of the line. The nurses have 20 to 30 years of experience. Last May 26, Mt. Sinai’s president, Kenneth Davis, said that Beth Israel Hospital was “transforming, not closing,” and that “nobody was closing the doors, taking away the keys and telling everyone who is employed here that they are [no longer] employed, [or] telling patients to find another place.” He repeated that “this is not a closure,” but the nurses told me otherwise. So I began to dig deeper. Other than stent surgery, heart surgery no longer takes place at Beth Israel. So, if someone arrives in an ambulance and the E.R. determines that a bypass is needed, the patient returns to the ambulance and gets sent to Mt. Sinai up on E. 99th St. The nurses told me that whole floors at Beth Israel are closed down, and that nothing at the hospital is being “transformed.” Staff members are leaving in droves since, they say. The staff I met emphasized that there is a constant need for 250 to 300 beds and that Mt. Sinai’s plan for a 70-bed

hospital at E. 14th St. and Second Ave. is a joke. Also, Beth Israel takes everyone —insurance and no insurance. They all believe that if the current Beth Israel, at E. 16th St. and First Ave., closes, Lenox Health Greenwich Village, at W. 12th St. and Seventh Ave., will send people to Bellevue, at E. 27th St. and First Ave., which is an overcrowded city hospital, or Lenox Hill Hospital on E. 77th St. A nurse said the extra time traveling to the Upper East Side could have cost me my life. After I got out, I learned that the state Department of Health commissioner — who reports to Governor Cuomo — had approved nine applications by Mt. Sinai Beth Israel either to alter its Union Square East Phillips Ambulatory Care Center (PACC) and New York Eye and Ear Infirmary facilities or, more importantly, eliminate critical (and profit-making) parts of Beth Israel. These applications are what state D.O.H. has approved since that “closing in four years” announcement was made: • The elimination of 26 inpatient physical-medicine and rehabilitation beds. According to Beth Israel, “In the first six months of 2016, there were 290 discharges, with 3,396 patient days — a 71.6 percent utilization rate.” The 26 beds brought in a $17 million profit in 2015. • The dismantling of 73 inpatient beds in the maternity unit — 42 for mothers and 31 neonatal-care beds — effective May 22, 2017. Also, the closure of 45 bassinet well-baby nurseries ended its status

as a Level III perinatal center. According to Beth Israel, the maternity beds had a 56.7 percent occupancy rate in 2016. As recently as 2013, Beth Israel had 10.5 deliveries per day and a neonatal occupancy rate of 44.6 percent. (In its application, Beth Israel notes that those rates have declined notably in 2017. Could it be because word is out that the hospital is closing down?) This unit brought in a $39 million profit to the hospital in 2015. • The elimination of 20 inpatient pediatric beds (closed on Jan. 24, 2017). During the first six months of 2016, Beth Israel had 761 patients in these beds, for a total of 1,709 patient days — a 21.2 percent utilization rate. These beds brought in a $9 million in profit to the hospital in 2015. • The elimination of the cardiac-surgery operating room. Between 2012 and 2015, Beth Israel performed between 287 and 325 cardiac surgery procedures per year. These surgeries brought in a $17 million profit in 2015. • The elimination of all five pediatric intensive-care unit beds. During the first nine months of 2016, they served 112 patients, who were in the beds a total of 402 patient days. As recently as 2012, the occupancy rate was 41.7 percent. These five beds brought in a profit in excess of $1 million in 2015. • A $10 million demolition of a building at 321 E. 13th St., next to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. • A $4 million renovation at 10 Union Square East to create an urgent-care walk-in center. • The addition of a second MRI to the Union Square East PAAC at a cost of $5.5 million. That such moves could be made — secretly — without public hearings or even public notice from the state Health commissioner, much less Mt. Sinai, and without studies about the impact is a breach of the public’s trust. When Beth Israel closes, there will be no Level I trauma hospital south of 114th St. on the West Side (since Roosevelt Hospital on W. 59th St. is also being “modified”). And below Bellevue, at E. 27th St., there will be no Level I traumacenter hospital, either. There will only be four hospitals between the tip of Manhattan and 70th St. where someone can deliver a baby or have cardiac surgery. The new 70-bed hospital Mt. Sinai plans to open at E. 14th St. and Second Ave. will not serve these needs, or many others. Come to the “Crisis in Lower Manhattan Healthcare Town Hall Meeting,” on Thurs., May 4, at 6 p.m., at Local 32 BJ, at 25 W. 18th St. Schwartz is male Democratic district leader for Greenwich Village and political director of New York Progressive Action Network TheVillager.com


Community’s role is key in shaping major projects BOARD 3 BY JAMIE ROGERS


n the last year, the neighborhoods that make up Community District 3 — the Lower East Side, Chinatown and the East Village — have been affected by one thing in common: development. In 2017 Manhattan, that barely seems like news. Development continues to surge — tearing down, digging into, building up — in every corner of the island. The Villager has well chronicled that story, and its effects, countless times. The stories of development in Community District 3 in 2017 highlight the tensions development brings, the wide range of consequences it causes and, even in the face of large and powerful forces, the potential positive impacts that we can have when we work together as a community to help guide it. For the first time in more than 40 years, buildings rise out of the old parking lots along Delancey St. in what will become “Essex Crossing” (formerly the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA). On this 6-acre site, the community will soon have an affordable grocery story, a revitalized Essex Street Market, a new park, more than 500 permanently affordable units of housing, and land reserved for a much-needed modern middle school. This development was the product of compromise among


On the move: Jamie Rogers with his bic ycle outside the C.B. 3 office on E. Four th St.

a diverse group of stakeholders, our local politicians and Community Board 3. It is an example of what can be achieved when we are unified and strive to build consensus. Meanwhile, immediately to the south, residents of our Two Bridges neighbor-

It takes a Village: Saving Pier 40 took teamwork



he culmination of years-long efforts to save Pier 40 was, to me, the most profound local community victory of the past year. Beyond the many practical benefits of this project, it represents the breadth of what can be accomplished when government and local communities work closely together to accomplish big things. Going into this process — which involved the St. John’s Partners development and the massive W. Houston St. pier across the West Side Highway from it — we faced some serious, complicated challenges. Pier 40, a vital community TheVillager.com


Corey Johnson at the dediction of the NYC AIDS Memorial on World AIDS Day.

hood are working hard to keep their voices heard in discussions over the development of residential towers more than three times higher than any of the existing buildings — some as tall as 1,000 feet. The residents and C.B. 3 are preparing to give feedback on the envi-

resource with athletic fields used by thousands of children and adults every year and a parking garage that generates about one-third of Hudson River Park’s funding, is in danger of literally falling into the Hudson River if its deteriorating pilings are not repaired. Previous attempts to secure the $100 million needed for these repairs were unsuccessful. Through a robust and transparent public process that included local activists, Community Board 2, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Gale Brewer, state Senators Dan Squadron and Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and myself, we reached an outstanding deal that saved Pier 40 and generated several other important “wins” for the community. The process involved many public meetings. Concerned parents, neighbors and community stakeholders of all kinds came out to voice their opinions, their worries, hopes and goals. Because of your involvement, it was always apparent to me what the community wanted to gain out of this process. You made your vision crystal clear, and you produced a roadmap by which we could achieve a number of important

ronmental impact statement, or E.I.S., regarding these primarily market-rate developments, and the Department of City Planning will review the E.I.S. in the coming months. This is our main chance to express the community’s concerns over resident and business displacement by nearby increasing rents, plus the need for improved transportation, as well as more schools and parks, and other impacts caused by these developments. Building on years of neighborhood planning done by the Chinatown Working Group, C.B. 3 is preparing for how to re-engage with the city to develop comprehensive contextual zoning that will protect Chinatown and preserve its character, its affordable housing and its immigrant business community. Along our waterfront, from the Brooklyn Bridge up to E. 25th St., residents have been working with the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency to think through the design of a new, more resilient, more accessible and more engaging East River Park that will protect our neighborhood from storm surges. Finally, in the north of our district, the community prepares for the downsizing of our closest hospital — Mount Sinai Beth Israel — a facility originally founded to serve immigrant Lower East Siders. The community will gain a new, smaller hospital facility, but we will lose many services. Rogers is chairperson, Community Board 3

community victories. We didn’t stop at saving Pier 40. In the midst of an unprecedented affordable housing crisis throughout our city, we ensured that the St. John’s project would bring nearly 500 units of affordable and senior housing to the West Village. We secured a new 15,000-square-foot publicly accessible indoor recreational center at 550 Washington St., as well as a much-needed supermarket. We finally ensured the designation of the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District in the South Village. And we barred future air-rights transfers from Pier 40 into C.B. 2. We also secured a $1.5 million commitment by the Department of Transportation to study traffic and transportation problems in Hudson Square. You can contact my district office at 212-564-7757 or by e-mail at district3@council.nyc.gov. Visit my Web site at www.coreyjohnson.nyc for realtime updates from my office. Johnson is city councilmember, Third District, covering the West Village, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Flatiron and part of Upper West Side. April 20, 2017



New Astor Place squares are hip and happening BID’s BY WILLIAM KELLEY


pring fever is upon us, and Villagers are once again enjoying our streets and open spaces. At long last, the years of planning, design and construction of the transformative Astor Place/Cooper Square renovation project came to fruition over the winter. A decade in the making, these newly created town squares will come to life in the warm weather, primarily as places to sit, relax and observe the city’s bustling streets. In the next month, we will also welcome two small businesses opening kiosks in Astor Place — La NewYorkina and Astor Plate — once again featuring MUD coffee. The kiosks will activate both north and south plazas at Astor Place and contribute to overall plaza maintenance funding. Construction’s end brought with it the eagerly anticipated return of Tony Rosenthal’s iconic “Alamo” (a.k.a. “The Cube”) sculpture, which had been undergoing restoration in New Jersey for almost two years. We are thrilled to welcome “The Cube” back home in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary, an impressive milestone given that it was New York City’s first piece commissioned as part of

Douglas Dunn & Dancers lit up one of the new plazas at the inaugural A stor Alive! per forming-ar ts festival last September.

its first Public Art Program, which also turns 50 this year. We also dedicated another iconic work of art at Astor Place in 2016, Jim Power’s mosaic poles, seven of which are now permanently installed in the plazas. Working with the city and local community stakeholders for approvals and funding, the poles tell the cultural history of the neighborhood, and are a triumph of populist art. To celebrate “The Cube” ’s birthday

and return of the mosaic poles, the Village Alliance is planning a host of free community events and programs in 2017. Beginning with the Astor Poetry Jam on Sat., April 22, our seasonal programs will showcase local performance and visual artists, as well as a broad range of participatory events, in a comfortable and welcoming environment at the crossroads of East and West Villages. Following the Poetry Jam, we are planning the “Creativity Cubed” series, focusing on crafts

and storytelling through paper sculpture, mosaics and other media. The Astor Blaster Silent Disco on Fri., May 5, will commemorate the broad musical legacy of the neighborhood, while later in the fall, the Astor Alive! festival will once again highlight the current Downtown performing-arts scene, all free and open to the public. To stay up to date with the latest events at Astor Place and the surrounding neighborhood, including free fitness classes and more, follow @AstorPlaceNYC on social media or visit www.astorplace.nyc On the business front, our local retailers continue to face challenges from online competition, but also from changing consumer spending habits, which are shifting away from goods and services toward more curated “experiences.” To encourage our community to shop locally, we continue to expand the Village Access Card program, now with more than 75 participants, offering exclusive benefits to neighborhood residents and employees. Our small businesses need your patronage more than ever, visit villagealliance. org/deals to sign up for your free card and explore the best of the Village. Our most recent project installed uniform planters and upgraded tree-pit treatments along University Place. Kelley is executive director, Village Alliance business improvement district

Looking up: From tech to Tammany, park to poké BY JENNIFER E. FALK


strong city needs vibrant, active communities — and that is what we continue to foster in Union Square. We are proud of the progress we have made over the past four decades, and 2017 is poised to bring about even more progress. TAMI (technology, advertising, media and information) companies are continuing to flock to Union Square. Facebook has moved into its 200,000-square-foot space at 225 Park Ave. South — the same property that houses Buzzfeed. Compass expanded its footprint at 90 Fifth Ave., where it now occupies 115,000 square feet. WeWork leased two locations at 88 University Place and 33 Irving Place, not far from its headquarters at 115 W. 18th St. In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed the city’s plans for a new $250 million hub at 124 E. 14th St. Its arrival further solidifies Union Square’s position at the heart of the city’s growing tech scene, and we are confident that it will


April 20, 2017

help drive job creation for all New Yorkers. The historic restoration and modernization of Tammany Hall, which recently secured a $57.5 million loan for construction, will transform more than 75,000 square feet of retail and office space, revitalizing this beloved landmark. With a wide variety of innovative fitness studios, “athleisure” boutiques, beauty retailers and healthy eateries, Union Square remains the city’s epicenter of health and wellness. The Union Square Partnership highlights this market trend each year with our highly successful, weeklong winter celebration, Union Square Sweat Fest. Union Square’s growing work force, anchored by our tech community, has brought tremendous growth to our district’s casual-dining scene. Danny Meyer recently launched a new coffee shop and bakery concept, Daily Provisions, next door to Union Square Cafe’s new location on E. 19th St. At lunchtime, crowds are lining up for new grab-and-go spots, like Cava Grill, Make Sandwich, sweetgreen, plus poké shops, such as The Poké

Jennifer Falk, left, with Borough President Gale Brewer at last year’s Har vest in the Square food-tasting fundraiser for Union Square Park.

Spot and Pokéworks. To help ensure the safety of bicyclists, U.S.P. worked with the city’s Department of Transportation to implement a number of extensions, upgrades and safety measures to our bike network. Last year, U.S.P. raised more than $1.5 million, its highest fundraising total to date, that along with our annual assessment of $2.4 million, allowed

us to make even more investments throughout the district, in our public plazas and within Union Square Park. We are gearing up for “Summer in the Square,” our nine-week free entertainment series, returning June 15. Falk is executive director, Union Square Partnership business improvement district TheVillager.com

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 TheVillager.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. 22 April 20, 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. 21

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.

Theater for the New City • 155 1st Avenue at E. 10th St. Reservations & Info (212) 254-1109 For more info, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net

The Faculty Josh: The Black Rooftop Babe Ruth Room Joy by: William “Electric” Black

by: Michael A Jones Directed By Bette Howard

by: Andrea Fulton Directed By: Ward Nixon

Performances: Thurs. - Sat. 8PM Sun. 3PM

Performances: Wed. - Sat. 8PM Sun. 3PM

Performances: Thurs. - Sat. 8PM Sun. 3PM


April 20, 2017

Wink Hollywood. Homeless. Heartfelt.

by: Neil Koenigsberg Directed by: Ron Beverly Performances: Thurs. - Sat. 8PM Sun. 3PM

Courtesy Partner Pictures

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

‘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 fi rst 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 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 fi lm 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 “dithered” 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 TheVillager.com

Courtesy Wevr

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

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 fi rst part of ‘Arden’s Wake’ is what we’re releasing at Tribeca,” he said, “but this fi rst chapter is already almost as long as all of ‘Allumette’ itself, and far more visually complex. We’re excited to have 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 fi lm “Holidays.” This year, they’re debuting “Apex.” Wevr cofounder 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 fi nding “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 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 fi lms were a few years ago. “[VR] is fi nding 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 fl oor of the Tribeca Festival Hub (50 Varick St., btw. Beach & Laight Sts.). Tickets are $40 each, for a threehour window. Visit tribecafilm.com/ festival/tickets or call 646-502-5296. General festival info at tribecafilm. com/festival. April 20, 2017


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Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell


April 20, 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.


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

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


Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

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

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


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


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The Villager  

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The Villager  

April 20, 2017