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

March 30, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 13

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Deal brewing to bring Starbucks to Avenue A and St. Mark’s Place BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

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deal reportedly is in the works to bring the first Starbucks to Alphabet City, The Villager has learned. According to a source familiar with the situation, CitiUrban Management, an arm of the owner of the building at the northwest corner of Avenue A and St. Mark’s Place, is far along in negotiations with the multinational coffee chain — although the deal technically hasn’t been sealed yet. The property features a slew of empty storefronts, including the former pizzeria spot on the corner, along with the nowshuttered Hop Devil Grill and Ton-Up Café along St. Mark’s Place. The source spoke on condition of strict anonymity, for professional reasons. “This is like very, very secret,” the source said. “I would say it’s a 90 percent certainty that Starbucks will be in the space. They’re just making sure that Starbucks is comfortable with the layout and arrangement of that corner. They’re trying to

VILLAGER FILE PHOTO

Activist poet Bob Holman led an “Unchain the East Village” protest in Feburar y 2013 after word got out that a 7-Eleven was coming to Avenue A . Now a Starbucks repor tedly is set to follow suit.

negotiate the best space.” Further west, a couple of other retail spaces on the building’s ground floor are still occupied, including 10 Degrees bar, at 121 St. Mark’s Place, and Box Kite Coffee, at 115 St. Mark’s Place. STARBUCKS continued on p. 2

PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER

Helping coax in spring with color, Jenna Kr ypell spray-painted a graffiti mural on a construction trailer at E. First St. and Second Ave. She had permission to do it.

‘Diller Isle’ dead in water? Judge nixes crucial permit BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

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as “Diller Island” suddenly transformed into Atlantis? Could the extravagant plan be sinking into the murky depths of the Hudson? And, if so, ironically, it all might be because of the quirky “pot”-shaped concrete support piles that are the project’s signature design element — which would need to be filled with

pourable concrete after being installed in the river — as opposed to traditional straight concrete piles that are just pounded right into the riverbed as is. ... Talk about “going to pot.” In a stunning decision in federal court last Thursday, Judge Lorna Schofield ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erred in April 2015 when it issued a permit for Pier55, the glitzy $200 million “entertain-

ment fantasy island” proposed to sit off of W. 13th St. in Hudson River Park. In turn, due to the “seriousness of the…deficiencies” in the Army Corps’ permit, the judge vacated it — meaning she yanked the permit. So, the project now lacks a critical requirement without which it cannot move forward. Media mogul Barry Diller PIER continued on p. 6

‘Do the flip’: 5th Ave. gets better bike lane........p. 3 Cab crashes into Jefferson Market Garden ..... p. 11 ‘Checking in’ with Ravi...........p. 13

www.TheVillager.com


First 7-Eleven...now Starbucks on Avenue A? STARBUCKS continued from p. 1

As for when the java giant would open, the source said, “It’s going to be months from now because they still have to renovate. The spaces are a disaster now. But just to tell you how far negotiations have gone, they’re starting to design the space — and they’re doing the foundations for getting permits.” The parties are figuring out exactly how much of the empty storefronts the chain will actually occupy, the source said. As for why the property owners are going for the caffeine-peddling behemoth, the source said, “Like all landlords in New York City, they likely prefer Starbucks. This is an obvious reason the smaller stores are being driven out — landlords want higher rents.” So far, Starbucks has virtually encircled Alphabet City in its pricey “pincers” — to the north, south and west — but has not yet “crossed the Rubicon” onto Avenue A. As of now, there are two Starbucks in the East Village on First Ave. at E. 13th and E. Third Sts., another on Second Ave. at E. Ninth St., of course the big one on Astor Place, another on the Lower East Side on Delancey St., and yet another Starbucks up by Stuyvesant Town on E. 17th St. Four years ago, 7-Eleven was the first to breach Alphabet City when it opened a store on Avenue A at E. 11th St. News that 7-Eleven was coming in sparked a series of outraged “Unchain the East Village” protests by activists led by the likes of Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club and Rob Hollander. A sign is still listed on the allegedly Starbucks-slated property at Avenue A and St. Mark’s, saying “Store For Rent,” and to call Dana Moskowitz about it. Moskowitz is listed in online searches as the president of EVO Real Estate Group, which is apparently a brokerage firm. On Wednesday, Moskowitz referred a call by The Villager to Joshua Halegua, one of the building’s owners, saying to reach him at Citi-Urban. “I really can’t comment. The partners are handling that,” Moskowitz said of the alleged Starbucks deal. Halegua is listed as a principal of EVO — whose name reportedly stems from “evolution.” He, his father, Nathan, and another partner own at least 50 buildings, mostly in Manhattan. A woman who answered at a phone number provided by Moskowitz said Halegua would be out of the office until Monday. Asked if she knew anything about the rumored Starbucks blockbuster deal, she said, “I have no knowledge of that. I’m just the girl up front.” Bob Perl, the owner of Tower Brokerage in the East Village, said he knows the elder Halegua as a good guy. “Nathan has been around since the early ’80s, if not

PHOTOS BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

Filled with empt y storefronts, the corner of Avenue A and St. Mark’s Place is desolate, par ticularly at night. Word is that it could soon could be home to a Starbucks.

Ray Alvarez isn’t afraid of competition by a potential Starbucks beachhead on Avenue A . Where else — where else? — can you get “Obama Coffee?”

late ’70s, smart operator, good humored-guy. He has done a lot of deals. Nathan has been an active, standup real estate operator who has stayed out of the press because he has integrity.” Meanwhile, a block to the south on Avenue A at the corner of E. Seventh St., Ray Alvarez, 84, continues to hawk his own coffee from his hole-in-the-wall store, as he has done faithfully since 1974. However, java is no longer his mainstay, no doubt due to there being so many other options for the beverage in the area nowadays. “I don’t sell that much coffee,” he admitted, speaking through the little sidewalk window of his shop at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, as he was pulling the overnight shift, as usual. “I used to sell thousand coffee a day — now I sell 25. “I actually sell mainly desserts now — fried Oreo, beignets, sundae, fried apples, onion rings...also fried chicken — mainly fried.”

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He inquired briefly about Starbucks’ pastries and cakes. “What are they, $7?” he asked. “It’s complete different than I am. My customers can’t afford that stuff. Most of the stuff I sell is $5. Hot dog is $2.50. Coffee is $1.” And then there’s something you can’t get at Starbucks — “Obama Coffee,” for $2. “It’s black coffee with vanilla ice cream,” Ray explained. Forty-three years ago when Ray took over the eggcream hot spot, taxi drivers would not even dare venture over to Avenue A. Asked if, back then, he could have imagined a Starbucks there, Ray said, no — partly, for obvious reasons. “No, there was no Starbucks,” he noted. “It was a different kind of people, people who loved their hot dog, loved their egg cream. ... I used to sell a lot of cigars, too.” TheVillager.com


‘Flip Fifth’ plan to create protected bike lane BY DENNIS LYNCH

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he city will create a southbound protected bike lane on Fifth Ave. this spring, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week. The protected lane will run along a roughly 17-block stretch along Fifth Ave. from its intersection with Broadway at Madison Square Park down to Eighth St., one block north of its southerly termination at Washington Square Park. The lane will replace a 5-foot-wide unprotected bike lane — where the bike lane is currently bordered by traveling vehicle lanes — installed along that stretch in 1978. Transportation Alternatives, a main proponent, is calling it “Flip Fifth” because the existing bike lane and eastern parking lane basically will be flipped. On the east side of Fifth Ave. between 23rd and 14th Sts., the city will install a green, 6-foot-wide bike lane closest to the sidewalk. Offering the bike path protection will be a 3-foot buffer area, plus an 8-foot-wide parking lane. This will leave three 10-foot-wide travel lanes of moving traffic, and another 8-foot-wide parking lane on the avenue’s west side. The idea is that the wall of parked cars protects bicyclists from traffic. There will also be some small pedestrian islands between the bike lane and the car lanes. That will shorten the walk across Fifth

COURTESY NYC D.O.T.

A rendering by the city’s Depar tment of Transpor tation showing how the new protected Fifth Ave. Bike lane will lay out.

Ave., but these refuges for walkers won’t be raised or protected by a curb. Farther downtown, the configuration from 14th to Ninth St. is similar, but with some differences. Going from east to west, there will be a 6-foot-wide bike lane bordering the sidewalk, but with a 5-foot buffer area, followed by a 9-foot parking lane, two 11-foot-wide travel lanes, and

Scoopy’s Notebook RAJKUMAR REPORT: In case you haven’t noticed, Jenifer Rajkumar isn’t running in the First District City Council primary race. We had heard before that she had vowed never to run for Council again. More to the point, she resigned as Democratic district leader a month ago to take a job in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration. News India Times reported that Rajkumar has been appointed his director of immigration affairs and special counsel for the Department of State. It’s not considered kosher to stay a district leader when taking this kind of political position, so she gave up the seat. Rajkumar will join the governor as a “driving force” for immigration projects in the state, Mercedes Padilla, a Department of State spokesperson, told N.I.T. Rajkumar told the outlet, “One of my priorities is to make sure immigrant families are protected, especially in this climate where ICE is very active,” referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. District Leader Paul Newell is leading the search for a “suitable replacement” for female district leader. The Democratic State Committee members from the Assembly District’s Part C will elect the candidate in a month or so. CHIN NO-SHOW: Speaking of City Council races, the Downtown Independent Democrats held a well-attended canTheVillager.com

didates night last Wednesday. Eyebrows were definitely raised, though, when Councilmember Margaret Chin did not show up. Yet, Chin did put out a release touting her endorsement by the Lower East Side’s Truman Democrats — former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s club. As for what happened Wednesday, Paul Leonard, her communications director, said, “She had prior engagements and unfortunately could not attend the D.I.D. event.” Though it’s unlikely Chin would have picked up D.I.D.’s endorsement, the club’s Sean Sweeney said, “We would have treated her civilly.”

WHITNEY FLAP: Things have calmed down at the Whitney Museum on Gansevoort St. where Black Lives Matter activists were, at least for a while, standing in front of a painting of Emmett Till, titled “Open Casket,” to block people’s view of it. They charged the painting’s white female artist, Dana Schutz, from Brooklyn, had no right to “appropriate” the gruesome image of Till, the black 14-year-old brutally killed in 1955 by Southern racists for allegedly flirting with a white woman. The painting is part of the Whitney’s Biennial show. Museum spokesperson Sara Rubenson said, “Currently, no protests are taking place. There were only protests on March 17 and 18, more than a week ago.”

another 9-foot parking lane. There will also be changes to signal durations for vehicles and bikes, including some split-phase signaling at 14th and Eighth Sts. By using split-phase signals, the Department of Transportation separates pedestrian crossings and vehicle turns at a given crosswalk to better protect pedestrians.

D.O.T. said the plan would not reduce Fifth Ave.’s capacity, but would eliminate 38 parking spots — 20 parking spots between 23rd and 14th Sts., 10 between 14th and Ninth Sts., and eight between Ninth and Eighth Sts. The city identified this section of Fifth Ave. as a Vision Zero Priority Area. One person was killed and two-dozen others severely injured along the stretch between 2010 and 2014, according to D.O.T. Janet Liff, the co-chairperson of Transportation Alternatives’ Manhattan Activist Committee and a public member of C.B. 2, said she was “very impressed” with the design. Liff lives on Fifth Ave. herself and has been “doored” by cars on the existing bike lane. She said many bicyclists have nicknamed this stretch the “black diamond bike lane of New York City,” referring to dangerous ski slopes. “It’s so treacherous. You’re forced in and out of traffic all the time,” she said. Liff added that many advocates wanted the lane extended the extra block to the park. However, she said, many vehicles turn off Fifth Ave. at Eighth St., making it safer south of there. C.B. 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee requested the pedestrian islands between bike lanes and travel lanes be fortified with a curb or concrete barriers. The full board of C.B. 2 has approved the overall plan.

Village Independent Democrats 26 Perry Street, New York, NY 10014 villageindependentdemocrats.org Erik Coler - President

You’re Invited To Meet The Democratic Candidates For: City Council District 1

Female District leader

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Male District leader

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Candidates Will Speak, Followed by Q&A Wednesday, April 5, 6:15 PM- 10:00 PM Judson Memorial Church 239 Thompson St., VID’s free Tenants’ Clinic meets every Wednesday at 6:00 PM at VID headquarters. Bring all necessary documents. No appointment needed. Sponsored by: Village Reform Democratic Club March 30, 2017

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Do something meaningful for markets 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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TALKING POINT BY KIRSTEN THEODOS

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or the past two years, I have dedicated my free time (when I’m not raising my two young children) advocating for the City Council to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a bill that would stop in excess of 1,000 small businesses from closing and save 8,000 jobs each month in New York City. (Court data show that 500 businesses get evicted every month, and it can be assumed that for every one evicted, another probably walks.) The S.B.J.S.A is a simple solution to a serious crisis: Give business owners the right to renew their leases and rights to negotiate equally with landlords for fair lease terms. My advocacy has included helping organize and participate in small-business town halls in four boroughs and meeting with councilmembers seeking their support for the S.B.J.S.A. Living in the East Village, I was sick and tired of losing my favorite shops and restaurants that, in almost every case, shuttered because of an exorbitant rent hike or because they were denied a lease renewal. Now, I am about to lose my affordable supermarket. The Stuyvesant Town Associated supermarket’s lease is up at the end of this year. Even though they are a good tenant and are willing to pay a rent increase, their landlord, Blackstone, has communicated they will not get a lease renewal. I spoke to the store’s owner, Joe Falzon, last week and asked what he needed in terms of legislation in order to survive. “A tax cut isn’t going to help,” he told me. “It won’t help get you a new lease and it won’t make any difference to your bottom line. Something where you can agree to reasonable rent that the landlord has to offer you something — a 10-year lease would help tremendously so businesses can plan… . Right now, if they say you have to go, you have to go.” I have heard this many times before from small-business owners who attended our forums. Joe used to own three supermarkets in the area. The one on Third Ave. shuttered two years ago; it still remains vacant today. Last year, Joe’s Associated on W. 14th St. in Chelsea closed due to a 300 percent rent hike, and that space also currently remains vacant. Recently, at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s town hall moderated by Councilmember Corey Johnson, a woman asked about help for small businesses that face skyrocketing rents. As reported by The Villager last week, “Councilmember Johnson said ‘commercial rent regulation,’ a form of which has

PHOTO BY DENNIS LYNCH

Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Corey Johnson — above, at the recent town hall for Council District 3 — have questioned the legality of the Small Business Jobs Sur vival Act. That’s been Cit y Hall’s default response for years. At the town hall, Johnson dubbed the S.B.J.S. A . a form of “commercial rent control,” which advocates say it is not, and fur thermore — and incorrectly, the writer charges — claimed that the state Legislature would have to approve such a measure, which is why it will never happen.

been proposed in the city for years via the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, can’t happen without Albany’s support. “ However, the S.B.J.S.A. is not commercial rent control and would not need to involve Albany — this was settled decades ago. In October 1988, when the original Jobs Survival Act was introduced by thenCouncilmember Ruth Messinger, it was fiercely opposed by Mayor Ed Koch and Speaker Peter Vallone prior to a scheduled vote by the Economic Development Committee of the City Council. So a special Council public hearing was held. The topic of that hearing was exclusively on the legality of the bill and the city’s authority to enact it. At the hearing’s conclusion, the Economic Development Committee was in full agreement with New York City’s Law Department that the bill was fully constitutional and that the city had “home rule” authority to enact it, and the bill was scheduled for a vote for Dec. 1, 1988. It’s these types of “alternative facts” that originate from the powerful real estate lobby — i.e., the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) — that enable the rigged system that repeatedly has denied a hearing and a vote on the S.B.J.S.A. Councilmember Johnson should be promoting the S.B.J.S.A., a bill that would have saved the Associated market in his district and all the businesses whose leases expired and were either rent-hiked or denied a renewal. Instead, Johnson questions the “legal-

ity” of the bill. A March 24, 2016, article in The Villager, “ ‘Save our supermarket!’ 14th St. grocery faithful take protest to landlord,” reported: “Johnson, who is a sponsor of the [S.B.J.S.A.], said there were doubts about the legality of the bill in its current form, but added that he was committed to resolving the issue.” And Johnson misinforms the public that New York City does not have home rule to regulate commercial rents. So what have our electeds been doing to save mom-andpop shops and their employees’ jobs? Councilmember Dan Garodnick is introducing a bill to provide tax cuts for small-business owners; a bill by Johnson would ensure affordable supermarkets are included in Garodnick’s tax cut; and a bill by Councilmember Margaret Chin requires annual reports on the tax. Meanwhile, two months ago, the Met Food supermarket in Little Italy shuttered because it was denied a lease renewal. Ironically, the two Associateds and the Met Food are in Councilmembers Garodnick, Johnson and Chin’s districts. Instead of promoting the S.B.J.S.A. that would have saved all three of these affordable supermarkets that are vital to their communities, these politicians are pushing tax cuts that won’t save a single small business or job in their district. In short, what good is a tax cut if you don’t have a lease? I’m not sure what is more shameful: pretending like you care that your constituents are losing the only affordable supermarket in their neighborhood by holding showboat rallies; deliberately steering the public in another legislative direction and disingenuously telling them it will save our supermarkets; or promoting REBNY’s alternative facts to ensure that the real solution — the S.B.J.S.A. — doesn’t get an honest hearing and reach the floor for a vote. I am writing this talking point because no one at City Hall is fighting for Joe Falzon and the 90 people he employs. Nor are they fighting for the thousands of Stuy Town seniors who live on a fi xed income and depend on the Associated because it’s affordable and nearby. Are we to believe the commitment of these three lawmakers is sincere in wanting to serve the will of the people and find real solutions to these supermarket closings — or are they influenced by special interests’ campaign funds and political ambition? Every New Yorker knows our hardworking mom-and-pop shop owners are at the mercy of their landlords when their leases expire, and that they desperately need legislation that would give them rights so they can survive. And yet our elected officials work together to introduce bills that wouldn’t save a single business or New Yorker’s job. This is the litmus test of where a lawmaker really stands on passing legislation to save our soon-to-be-extinct supermarkets. Theodos is co-founder, Take Back NYC TheVillager.com


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TheVillager.com

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.

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

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

March 30, 2017

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‘Diller Isle’ dead in water? Judge nixes a crucial PIER continued from p. 1

and his wife, fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, had committed to providing most of the financing to build the pricey pier, which has the support of both the governor and the mayor. The successful suit against the project was brought by two members of The City Club of New York — longtime Hudson River Park activist Tom Fox and boater Robert Buchanan — and also argued by attorney members of the club, including lead attorney Richard Emery. Another lawsuit against the plan that the same plaintiffs had filed in state court, however, repeatedly washed out, culminating in the Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — ultimately refusing to hear the case in October 2016. But the result in federal court on March 23 was clearly a jolting torpedo hit on the dazzling designer pier. “At a minimum, the project is comatose,” Emery said on Friday, “and I don’t think it’s going to recover. We’ll see.” Fox said, “Unless they appeal it and the judge’s decision is overturned, it’s dead in the water. The Trust could appeal, but the Corps would need to join in the appeal because the decision is against the Corps. Right now, the project has no permit, it can’t continue. They would have to go back and appeal it, or perhaps redesign it and reapply for a permit — but that doesn’t happen overnight.” The Hudson River Park Trust — the state-city authority that is building and operates the 5-mile-long West Side waterfront park — teamed up with Diller to create the Pier55 plan. In a statement on Friday, the Trust downplayed the judge’s ruling as “largely procedural,” yet did not immediately say it would appeal.

‘Deeply disappointed’ “We have won four challenges in four courts on this project,” the statement said. “Not one of those decisions determined the proposed project would harm the environment — and neither does this one. But even if largely procedural, we are deeply disappointed by this ruling, and are reviewing it carefully to determine our next steps.” A spokesperson for Diller said he is not issuing any additional comments beyond the ones given by the Trust. Assemblymember Deborah Glick — whose district includes the Pier55 site — on the other hand, praised the ruling. “I think this was a great decision,” she said, “and we’ll see what the next step in the court challenge is.” Asked for comment on the ruling, a spokesperson for City Councilmember Corey Johnson said to use Johnson’s statement that he gave on the Pier55 project in January 2015. “We have reasons to be excited about this endeavor,” the councilmember said, in part, back then, though adding, “We

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A rendering of Pier55, showing its unique “pot”-style suppor t piles. The concrete that would be flowed into metal tubes to create these high-st yle piles would be, legally speaking, a “pollutant” to the Hudson River Park estuarine sanctuar y, which is officially a “special aquatic site” under the Clean Water Act, a federal judge has ruled.

must ensure that the natural habitat of the Hudson River be preserved with the utmost care. Any construction must be done in consultation with relevant environmental agencies and organizations.” Terri Cude, chairperson of Community Board 2, noted that the board was a booster of the project. “Community Board 2 supported a park at Pier55, as we have such limited locations and resources for truly open spaces in our area,” she said. “We’ll wait and see the outcome of this lawsuit and any appeals, and will keep working to retain and add recreation, open space and cultural opportunities where they’re most needed.”

‘Not water dependent’ Basically, Judge Schofield said, the Army Corps violated the federal Clean Water Act by incorrectly finding that the “basic use” of the Pier55 project would be “water dependent,” which enabled the Corps to grant a permit for the project’s construction. In other words — the glitzy, 2.75-acre arts pier with an undulating landscape that was planned to host scores of annual events, drawing thousands of people to the waterfront park, simply does not need to be on a pier — alternative locations exist, and they don’t have be over water. On the other hand, something like a boat

‘They’d have to start the review all over.’ Richard Emery

pier platform within Hudson River State Park with an amphitheater and public restrooms; and to continue to provide safe public-access pier structures within Hudson River State Park.” However, Schofield wrote, “Had the Corps properly defined the project’s basic purpose, it almost certainly would have found that the proposal is not water dependent. … A project whose fundamental goal is to provide park and performance space is not water dependent, regardless of whether the Trust prefers to build such a space on a pier.”

A ‘concrete’ case launch, for example, the judge’s decision notes, obviously is water dependent. As Emery explained, in an interview the day after the decision, “They have to scrupulously look at other alternatives — including land-based. They could do it on Gansevoort Peninsula. They could do it at the tow pound [on Pier 76 at W. 38th St.] It could be a lot places. It doesn’t have to be in the water.” The Army Corps had two basic responsibilities: first, to determine the project’s “basic purpose,” then, to determine if that “basic purpose” is “water dependent.” The Army Corps defined the project’s basic purpose as “providing a vegetated

Specifically, the “trigger” for the project’s scrutiny under the Clean Water Act, according to attorney Emery, is the fact that the law “prohibits the discharge of any pollutant, including dredged or fill materials, into the nation’s navigable waters, except in compliance with [the act’s] provisions… .” In the case of Pier55, that “pollutant” would be concrete: The permit the Hudson River Park Trust applied to the Army Corps for was to allow it to pour “flowable concrete” into tubular piles that would be pounded into the riverbed to create the project’s distinctive “pot”-style supportPIER continued on p. 7 TheVillager.com


permit; Park Trust calls it ‘largely procedural’ PIER continued from p. 6

ing structures. Emery likened these piles to “mushrooms,” adding they are clearly a critical element of the design. “The ‘mushrooms’ require fill,” Emery explained, referring to the concrete. It’s possible that the project now could be redesigned so that standard, solid concrete piles would be used, as opposed to ones that needed to be filled with pourable concrete after being pounded into the river. But Emery was skeptical. “I’m sure that Diller and von Furstenberg are wedded to the mushrooms,” he said. “They’d have to start the review all over. They would have to do an environmental assessment. It would set things back at least a year.” If the Downtown power couple and the Trust do now want to redesign the project, Emery hopes that at least this time the process will be transparent. “They did it in secret before,” he said.

Wildlife sanctuary In addition to bungling the basic use of Pier55, the Army Corps didn’t even define the park’s waters correctly, the judge determined. The Hudson River Park’s founding legislation designated the park’s waters as an “estuarine sanctuary.” As Schofield wrote in her decision, “The Hudson River Park Act states as its sole purpose in creating the Estuarine Sanctuary the protection of fish and wildlife resources.” On the federal side, the equivalent definition for the park’s waters is a “special aquatic site” — which, if there is fill or dredging involved in the project, then triggers the Clean Water Act review as to whether the basic use of the project is water dependent. But the Trust argued — and the Army Corps compliantly agreed — that the park’s waters are not a special aquatic site, and not managed principally for the preservation and use of fish and wildlife resources, but rather are “designed to serve four distinct park purposes: resource protection, public access and recreation, education and research activities.” Unswayed, the judge wrote: “Defendants’ arguments are unpersuasive. … In this case, the New York State Legislature clearly stated that its intent in creating the Estuarine Sanctuary was to protect fish and wildlife resources, without expressing any additional purpose.” The Hudson River Park Act does say the Trust is required to manage the estuarine sanctuary to provide environmental education and research (think the River Project), boating, fishing, swimming and authorized commercial maritime uses. However, the judge wrote, the park’s waters are managed “principally” for the preservation of fish and wildlife resources.

TheVillager.com

TEQUILA MINSKY

Some piles for the Pier 55 project have already been pounded, specifically for a small platform along the shoreline and for one of t wo pedestrian bridges that would have led to the $200 million pier. Will it now be a bridge to nowhere?

Corps ‘contrary to law’ Schofield slammed this key blunder by the Army Corps — having deemed the park’s waters not a special aquatic site — as clearly “contrary to law.” The Trust also tried to argue that Pier55, as an entertainment and recreational site, fits within the park’s “missions and goals.” But again, Schofield returned to the idea of the project’s “basic purpose,” and whether that purpose even needs to be on a pier. In short, she said, there are “practicable” alternatives — meaning, the planned performance venue simply doesn’t need to be in the Hudson River. In fact, due to changes in the project, the Trust had recently filed to modify its Army Corps permit for Pier55. Basically, the Trust had determined that to build the project per the original designs, it would have been way too expensive, so some modifications were made. The formerly undulating pier deck was flattened — with a sort of “filler” material added to create the pier’s rolling hills. Also, some of the piles underneath the center of the pier were simplified — as opposed to using the rounded “pot”-shape style, these were changed to standard-style, straight piles. Yet, the difference would not really have been visible to the eye since the “pot” piles would still have been used around the edges, with the other piles basically hidden further inside, according to renderings provided by the Trust. “We’re obviously going to move the court to vacate that, as well,” Emery said of the permit-modification application. “I think it’s automatically vacated because it amends the one that was vacated.” The modified project still contains

some “pot”-style piles that would be filled with pourable concrete, the attorney said. “Once there is an ounce of fill, it triggers the Army Corps review,” he noted. “It’s the same problem.”

30 days to appeal The Trust and Army Corps have 30 days to appeal Judge Schofield’s ruling on the first permit.

‘It’s good to see somebody enforce the law.’ Tom Fox

“They can appeal it to the Second Circuit,” he said, “but the decision is so wellwritten and so well-reasoned. I would doubt it would be heard. I’m very confident in this judge’s decision.” Last Thursday’s ruling came as a painful blow to supporters of the Trust and the ambitious Pier55 project. After the Community Board 2 monthly meeting that same night, a board member who is a booster of the park, after being asked

about the shocking setback, replied, “That damn City Club.” Asked if he saw comparisons in this case to the lawsuit that defeated the Westway megaproject in the mid-1980s — where it was found that a highway tunnel-and-landfill scheme would have endangered striped bass that wintered in the river — Emery said not really.

‘It’s about the river’ “It’s really about the river. It’s not about snail darters and the Westway thing,” Emery explained of Thursday’s decision. “The consciousness that we have an asset of priceless proportions in the Hudson River, the Legislature recognized that when they created the Hudson River Park in 1998. The Trust was given a stewardship of the Hudson as a protector of the estuarine sanctuary. This is about preserving the Hudson and recognizing it for what it is — one of the great natural resources of the world — and not for putting vanity projects in the middle of the estuarine sanctuary, so Barry Diller can see it from his office,” he scoffed. So how could the Army Corps have botched the decision so badly? “In my view,” Emery offered, “the politics got to them.” In fact, the City Club filed a Freedom of Information Act that revealed that U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and his staffers met with the Corps to lobby on behalf of Pier55. And, of course, both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo openly supported the project. This past July, during the litigation in state court, after PIER continued on p. 8

March 30, 2017

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Abandon ship on Pier55...and put it on Pier 40? Side. …” Meanwhile, for her part, Assemblymember Glick criticized the Trust for using an old E.I.S. (environmental impact statement) from the park’s original general plan to assess the Pier55 plan’s impacts. And, like Judge Schofield, she said the Pier55 scheme is clearly not water dependent. “I always believed there should be a new, full E.I.S.,” Glick said, “because from the time the park’s development began in 1998, many, many new developments have occurred along the waterfront in the park: It would be appropriate for all of those to be part of a new environmental review. And, of course, water-dependent uses for anything that is new. And a brand-new pier into the water was totally inappropriate, I’ve always believed. It’s one thing to redevelop some of the existing piers — but a non-water-dependent pier should not be… and without a new E.I.S. — totally inappropriate.”

PIER continued from p. 7

the Appellate Division had slapped a stop-work order on the project, Cuomo took the unusual step of issuing a press release urging that the construction be allowed to proceed. “It was highly improper,” Emery said, “for Cuomo to put his finger on the scale like that.”

Take it to the bridge...? That stop-work order was partially lifted, allowing the Trust to pound in a small number of more-traditional piles to support a small platform and one of the bridges that would connect to Pier55. “I’m pretty sure they’re non-fill piles,” Emery noted. So what will happen to that lonely bridge remnant if Pier55 never gets built? “It will soon be known as ‘The Bridge to Diller’ — which will be to open water,” the attorney quipped. Fox, one of the two City Club plaintiffs, was the president of the Hudson River Park Conservancy, the Trust’s predecessor, from 1992 to 1995, and was active in the park’s planning as early as the mid-1980s. Like Emery, he, too saw political influence behind their earlier losses in the state courts.

A neutral court “If at first, you don’t succeed — try, try again,” Fox said on Friday. “We found someplace where the judges aren’t appointed by Cuomo. And it’s good to see somebody enforce the law. I’m sure they’ll appeal; they have an awful lot invested in it. But now it’s in a more-neutral venue.” Recalling the early planning of the Hudson River Park, Fox said, “The reason we mapped it as an estuarine sanctuary was to prevent these sort of things. There’s also no reason why this can’t go on Gansevoort,” he said of the Diller project. “Gansevoort Peninsula is 6 acres of landfill.” A portion of Gansevoort is slated for future use as a marine-based transfer station for recyclable trash. But Fox said, so far, he hasn’t seen any funding in any budget having been allocated for that project. A Trust spokesperson, however, said the Gansevoort transfer station is still in the works. At any rate, Fox said, there would be room for both the garbage-hauling barges and the glitzy arts venue to share the peninsula. He added that when Pier55 was recently redesigned, Diller’s lease was also renegotiated and his investment in the project capped at $185 million. And if the project goes over budget, Fox wondered, “Then whose dime is

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March 30, 2017

Plan B...Pier 40?

A rendering showing a redesigned Pier55 with a flat deck. The undulating landscaping above it would then be created with some sor t of filler beneath the plantings. In the original design, the concrete deck itself was undulating, which would have proven far too expensive too build.

‘I thought it was a great design.’ Tobi Bergman

that? Who pays for it?… . We do,” he said.

Public process needed The planning in Hudson River Park needs to be done in the open, he stressed — or you get a situation like this one, with pier projects needing to be significantly redesigned and influential donors worried about costs spiraling out of control. “Public review and involvement isn’t a bad thing,” Fox said. “But it also means you have to listen to people.” Under the Hudson River Park plan, three piers are specifically supposed

to be used for “maritime interpretation” and waterfront history — Piers 26, 54 and 97. Pier55 was proposed as an alternative to rebuilding the decrepit Pier 54, the park’s former main performance pier, and was to be located on a new footprint between the old pile fields of Piers 54 and 56. An amendment to the Park Act was required to allow that. Fox, however, would like to see Pier 54 rebuilt on its old footprint. “For 100 years, the West Side was the launching pad, like Cape Canaveral,” Fox said of the trans-Atlantic liners and other ships that plied the Hudson’s waterways. “We can’t lose the story of who we are — and who we are is where we came from. I can picture the survivors of the Titanic coming off the Carpathia [at Pier 54] and walking to the Riverside Hotel three blocks away.”

Alternative vision As for what he could imagine at a rebuilt Pier 54, Fox said, “Holograms of the Titanic, the history of the Lusitania, the flags of all the ocean-liner companies, the oyster houses that fed the working men of New York’s West

Tobi Bergman, a longtime waterfront park advocate and the immediate past chairperson of C.B. 2, said — speaking for himself — that he was disappointed at the court ruling. C.B. 2 passed a resolution backing the Pier55 plan when David Gruber chaired the board right before Bergman’s tenure. “Community Board 2 supported the proposal for Pier55,” Bergman said, “because we saw new park space and a new cultural institution that would add something special and important to the park and the community. Most people who attended our public hearings were won over by the quality of the created parkland and the proposed new performance venue. But I think all of us understand that a judge has considered this and made a decision based on the law, and if it stands, we can only hope that there will be another place in our neighborhood where this project can move forward. … Pier 40?” Bergman currently chairs the C.B. 2 Future of Pier 4o Working Group, which is considering the Trust’s plan to redevelop the massive 14-acre W. Houston St. pier so that it could provide more revenue for both the pier and the entire park. Pier 40 is home to playing fields that are heavily used by local youth sports leagues, which the Trust has committed to retaining. “To me, the most exciting part of the project was the programming,” Bergman said of the Pier55 idea. “If it can’t go at the planned location, I would like to see it go somewhere else in the park or in the community. I thought it was a great design. The reason I say put it at Pier 40 is it sounds like a park use that might be good for the whole mix there. Maybe it could go on the roof.” TheVillager.com


Generation genetic-tested: Making better babies RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY

C

ongratulations, you’re going to have a baby! Would you like to know if, 50 years or so down the line, he or she might develop colon cancer? And by the way, the baby may also have a slightly increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Would you like to know about that, too? Oh, and how about the odds of acne? Aieee! These are not the questions any of us have ever had to answer — till now. Thanks to an ever-expanding arsenal of genetic testing, sometimes at birth, sometimes in utero, and sometimes even before the baby is conceived (that is, by testing the potential parents for genetic abnormalities), new dilemmas are headed to a pregnancy near you. The genetic tests being developed today are “revolutionizing what we can know about babies, and how we perceive and treat and prevent disease,” says Bonnie Rochman, the former health reporter at Time magazine. She’s the author of the new book “The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids — and the Kids We

Have.” Back in 1971, when Bonnie was an embryo, all her mom knew was that a baby was going to appear in about nine months. No one could test the gender, much less any genetic anomalies. But today, I have two sons who were tested back when they were eight-cell embryos for a genetic mutation they had a 50 percent chance of inheriting: Marfan syndrome. It is a disease my husband has, which can cause things like blindness and heart trouble. Thanks to Yale geneticist Dr. Petros Tsipouras, who located the gene and then figured out how to test for it even while our kids were still in test tubes, we “engineered” the Marfan syndrome out of them. This was not an easy or cheap process, but we are very grateful for the results — our Marfan’s-free sons. But today, 20 years later, genetic test-

ing is even more widely available, for far more issues, and it is this expanding universe that Rochman dives into. “How much information do we want to know?” Rochman asks. That’s the heart of the matter. We already routinely test babies for certain diseases, “some of which may quickly prove fatal if not detected,” she says. Early detection leads to early intervention, and “there’s little question that newborn screening has saved countless lives.” But now, if a new test shows that a baby has a slightly elevated chance of developing, say, schizophrenia, is that something parents would want to be aware of? Or would it simply make them worried? One mom Rochman interviewed in her book had a prenatal test where the doctor announced he’d found something abnormal, but added, “We don’t know what it’s going to mean.” So the woman had new information — something was “off” — but no clue how seriously it would affect her child’s life. “This will happen more and more,” says Rochman, as science develops tests that are “so sensitive they can uncover information no one fully understands.” That is precisely the issue Dr. Tsipouras, our geneticist, is working on now, as the head of a new company called Plumcare. The company will be sequencing newborns’ genomes, but he realizes a full-blown report is not something everyone is ready for.

“My mother would say, ‘Don’t interfere with God’s plan.’ My wife would say, ‘What can I do with this information?’ ” says the doctor. But younger people, he believes, are more comfortable handling and assessing information. And frankly, they’re the ones doing the reproducing. So his company is developing a rubric of when and what information to share. The questions that must be answered before passing on any info are: Is this info relevant to you, specifically? For instance, if a baby has a genetic variation, but it is one shared by his completely healthy dad, uncle and grandpa, it likely won’t have any ill effects. What are the odds? If seven out of 10 people with this genetic variation get seriously ill by age 5, that’s quite different from nine out of 10 living to a ripe old age. The odds must be considered. When and how will this change affect the child? Is it in 10 years — or 70? Will it pack a wallop or is it often mild? The idea is not to freak parents out. It is to alert them to problems before they occur, rather than reacting to them once they appear. Medically, it means we’re moving from curing diseases to prevention via prediction. “When we talk about the info tech revolution, this is the next stage,” Rochman says: using deep data to understand and change our DNA destiny. “And,” she adds, “we’re only at the beginning.”

COMING IN SEPTEMBER OF 2017

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March 30, 2017

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Honoring Triangle victims; Focusing on safety City Council to increase safety standards for all construction workers in New York City. Other speakers included Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Mary Anne Trasciatti, of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, which is spearheading the drive to create a new memorial for the disaster on the building that was the site of the tragedy, which today is owned by New York University. Musical tributes from the New York City Labor Chorus lightened the mood, as did duo Twangtown Paramours, who traveled from Nashville to sing their original song “Chains” inspired by the fi re’s 100th anniversary. The event culminated with the reading aloud of the victims’ names, plus the laying of flowers in front of the building in memory of each worker who died in the tragedy. A Fire Department ladder truck from the same company that responded to the confl agration in 1911 ceremonially raised a ladder to the building’s sixth floor, which was as high as it went in 1911, despite the fi re starting on the eighth floor.

BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y

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ast Friday, family members and politicians, along with union members and their leaders, gathered at Washington Place and Greene St. to commemorate the 106th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. On March 25, 1911, 146 workers, mostly young Italian and Jewish women, were killed during the blaze, when exit doors were locked and the ladders of the fi re engines did not reach the building’s upper floors. Most of the victims were workers on the ninth floor and jumped to their death to avoid the fl ames. Michele Esterman comes every year from Connecticut to pay tribute to her great-aunt Yetta Goldstein, one of the 146 who perished. Yetta emigrated from Bialystok, Poland, to Paterson, N.J. Wanting to be near fashion, she moved to New York to work in a garment factory. “Yetta wanted to be a Gibson Girl,” said her great-niece. One of the worst industrial accidents in New York City, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire led to a number of worker-safety laws. Worker protection — the need for proper training, which is often lacking, even today — was a theme of the commemorative program. Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO addressed the crowd, was among the speakers. “One hundred forty-six workers died that day because profits were deemed more important than safe working conditions and the lives of workers,” he said. “The safety regulations born of this tragedy continue to help protect workers. But we must remain vigilant to ensure that all workers have the training and equipment needed to keep them safe on the job.” “It’s still happening today,” said Edgar Melendez, from the Bronx, a member of the NYC Community Alliance for Worker Justice, as he recounted being hired by a crane-andrigging company as a welder, but was put to work signaling the tower crane without any training. “They didn’t offer safety training or technical classes,” he said. “They just threw me out on the job, and told me I’d learn as I went along.” Thomas Roumbakos, another member of the Alliance for Worker Justice, said that as a safety fi re consultant, he routinely is told not to call the Department of Buildings, Occupational Safety and Health Administration or site safety when there are problems. Public Advocate Letitia James got the crowd chanting “Pass 1447,” referring to the bill that Councilmember Jumaane Williams introduced in

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March 30, 2017

PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY

At last Friday’s anniversar y memorial for the Triangle Shir t waist Fire, a blouse with the name of one of the victims, Rose Oringer, 19, was raised high in front of the N.Y.U. Brown Building, which formerly housed the ill-fated garment factor y on its eighth, ninth and 10th floors when it was known as the A sch Building. Oringer, who had immigrated from Austria, apparently jumped to escape the smoke and flames, and died of her injuries at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

A chorus of labor activists helped lighten the somber mood a bit.

One person’s button said it all at the Triangle Fire Memorial rally. TheVillager.com


Careening cab plants itself in Jefferson Garden BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

S

pring came into the Jefferson Market Garden with a roar — no, not of a lion...but an out-of-control, speeding yellow taxi. The cab went wildly crashing through the garden’s metal fence early Sunday morning. George Paulos, the chairperson of the garden, at Sixth and Greenwich Aves., said that, according to the police report, the taxi slammed into the green oasis at 2:30 a.m., knocking out the bars in four sections of the fence, though the trellis on top somehow remarkably remained intact. The hack hit the fence along the small section of W. Ninth St. that runs between the two avenues, so Paulos thinks the driver must have gone zooming right over Ruth Wittenberg Triangle. Paulos said when he went by at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, the car’s tire tracks were still visible inside the garden. The cabbie reportedly told police that he mistakenly hit the gas instead of the break. Paulos figures the driver had to be coming up Sixth Ave. to achieve a fast enough speed to ram right through the fence. A few trees were damaged, but luckily no one was hurt, Paulos added.

COURTESY JEFFERSON MARKET GARDEN

A runaway cab took out a big piece of the Jefferson Market Garden fence early Sunday morning. Par t of its bumper was still visible inside the green spot later that morning when a garden volunteer snapped this photo.

POLICE BLOTTER Purse perp According to police, a man swiped a woman’s purse at the Red Lion bar when she briefly left it unattended on Tues., March 21 at 3:50 a.m. The woman, 31, said that her purse, containing her checkbook, credit cards, cash and Social Security card, was stolen while she was in the bathroom at the bar, at 151 Bleecker St. Responding officers recovered the stolen goods from the suspect. He also had an alleged controlled substance on him. Mamoudou Diallo, 22, was arrested for felony grand larceny.

Ballsy rampage Was it the food? A woman waged a mini-terror campaign at Negril restaurant, at 70 W. Third St., on Tues., March 21 at 5:43 p.m., according to police. It all started when, for an unknown reason, she grabbed a male employee by his genitals and was promptly asked to leave. During an ensuing struggle, she scratched the 23-year-old victim on both of his arms. The woman then took a heavy wooden menu holder that was posted outside the eatery and slammed it into TheVillager.com

the place’s window, and also kicked the glass with her boots several times. Barbara I. Lewin, 28, was arrested for felony criminal mischief.

Long arm of law According to police, a suspect with five active warrants was spotted in front of 116 Mac Dougal St. on Wed., Mar. 22 at 10:50 p.m. When cops questioned him, the man misrepresented himself by showing a New York State ID that wasn’t his. During a search, police found a counterfeit $20 bill, alleged marijuana and three “zip” bags of cocaine. Tyquan Dupont, 18, was arrested for felony criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Choked senior Police said that on Sun., March 26, around 12:30 a.m., two males approached a 70-year-old man inside the lobby of his apartment building on Sixth Ave. One of them put the senior in a chokehold, causing him to fall to the ground, while the other guy took his money. The pair swiped roughly $1,812 in cash from the victim and fled.

The victim went to an area hospital the next day and was treated for a fractured trachea. The suspects were described as wearing a green hoodie and a black hoodie. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential.

Dead in F station On Sun., March 26, around 8:30 a.m., police responded to a 911 call about a man on the East Broadway F station’s mezzanine level. They found a 28-year-old male unconscious and unresponsive sitting on the ground. E.M.S. medics pronounced him dead at the scene. There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing. Police are withholding releasing the man’s name pending family notification.

Unsafe driving Police busted an off-duty school-safety agent for driving drunk and without a valid license on the Lower East Side.

“Normally, there’s people in there. There’s a bench not far from that spot,” he noted, though the garden doesn’t open until 10 a.m. The driver — who had no passenger — was uninjured and reportedly did not seek medical attention. In the meantime, the Parks Department has put up black storm fencing to cover the hole, and it’s hoped the fence will be fixed so the garden can open by April 8. Three of the fence’s knocked-out poles were damaged beyond repair, but a lot of them can be reused to fix the fence, according to the garden chairperson. Paulos said it looks like Parks will fix the fence and pay for the job, though the garden does have insurance, if needed. The fence was donated in 1998 by the late philanthropist Brooke Astor. “It was Mrs. Astor’s last donation,” Paulos said. “She came down to look at the garden.” The garden’s members hope it will win funding in the current “participatory budgeting” voting this week for Council District 3, to pay for decorative fencing to replace a section of plain chain-link fence next to a parking lot used by the adjacent Jefferson Market Library branch.

Henry Ortiz was driving a Ford Mustang when he slammed into two parked cars on the F.D.R. Drive service road near Delancey St., near the Williamsburg Bridge, around 4:40 a.m., cops said, according to the Daily News. He was charged with driving while alcohol impaired and aggravated unlicensed driving.

Killed by car on L.E.S. On Tues., March 7, at 6:41 p.m., an 87year-old man was struck by a car while crossing Grand St., west of Columbia St. Police found him lying in the street with trauma to his body. He was transported to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead Sat., March 25. An investigation by the Police Department’s Collision Investigation Squad found that a 2014 Nissan Suburban, driven by a 39-year-old man, was going westbound on Grand St. when the pedestrian crossed the street midblock from south to north. The car struck him with its left front bumper, causing him to strike its windshield before falling to the ground. The driver stayed at the scene. The investigation is ongoing. The victim’s name is being withheld pending family notification.

Tabia Robinson and Lincoln Anderson March 30, 2017

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR A great victory for river!

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To The Editor: Re “Fed judge torpedoes ‘Diller Island’; Says no need for it to be in river” (thevillager.com, March 24): This is a great victory — and no thanks to the Hudson River organizations that dove into the tank, glub, glub, glub, glub, glub, on Diller Island. They turned their backs on the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association’s historic victory over the corrupt $6 billion Westway boondoggle, a victory that set aside this stretch of the river as a sanctuary for juvenile striped bass before they migrated to sea. FYI, Westway was backed by two presidents, Carter and Reagan, two governors, Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, two senators, Pothole D’Amato and Pat Moynihan, Mayor Edward I. Koch, The New York Times, construction unions, real estate interests and David Rockefeller, the latter who essentially said, “Who cares if 36 percent of the juvenile striped bass disappear each year?” Well, I daresay that he would have cared greatly had 36 percent of his bank’s assets disappeared each year. Three Cheers for The City Club of New York! Robert H. Boyle Boyle is founder, Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and Riverkeeper

Pier55 is still afloat

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

We cover “The Cube”!

To The Editor: Re “Fed judge torpedoes ‘Diller Island’; Says no need for it to be in river” (thevillager.com, March 24): I am deeply disappointed by The Villager’s misguided coverage of last week’s Pier55 court ruling, replete with uninformed and specious characterizations of the project and the recent court decision. The portrayal of that ruling as fatal to the project is erroneous. The decision was entirely related to procedural claims and, contrary to this paper’s reporting, involved no finding of environmental harm, nor the inability of the project to secure a Clean Water Act permit. Indeed, the plaintiffs never made any claim of such harm. The same was true of the plaintiffs’ failed challenge to the project’s state Department of Environmental Conservation permit, in which they only argued about procedure (and lost). And in the only lawsuit where they claimed envi-

ronmental harm — without any proof — they lost at each of the three levels of the New York State court system. While the reported decision was disappointing, it emphatically did not determine that the project could not be approved, nor that it violates the Clean Water Act. Any responsible reading of the decision would recognize that. It’s a shame The Villager didn’t. Diana Taylor Taylor is chairperson, Hudson River Park Trust Editor’s note: The letter writer is right that one sentence in The Villager’s online article did incorrectly say that the Pier55 project violated the Clean Water Act — when, in fact, it was the Army Corps that violated the act. Judge Lorna Schofield, on p. 5 of her written decision on March 23 on the Pier55 lawsuit by The City Club, states: “[T]he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Clean Water Act...by defining the project’s purpose too narrowly and by relying on that unlawful basic purpose to determine that [the] proposed action is water dependent.”

Throw the book at it To The Editor: Re “Fed judge torpedoes ‘Diller Island’; Says no need for it to be in river” (thevillager.com, March 24): The judge should have added that the “Jetsons”themed entertainment complex is just damn ugly and belongs in Orlando. Carl Rosenstein

‘A blow to thousands’ To The Editor: Re “Fed judge torpedoes ‘Diller Island’; Says no need for it to be in river” (thevillager.com, March 24): Score a victory for those who’d like to see Hudson River Park sink into the sea. Last week’s court ruling, barring Pier55 from moving ahead, was a blow to the thousands who have been looking forward to this new treasure of park on the city’s majestic waterfront. The asphaltslabbed Pier 54 was shut for safety reasons years LETTERS continued on p. 14

EVAN FORSCH

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March 30, 2017

TheVillager.com


Ravi Ragbir on the razor’s edge at ICE check-ins

PEOPLE BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y

W

hen Ravi Ragbir tried to address the crowd at Foley Square on March 9, he was overcome with emotion. At least for that night and the next month he would be going home. Also, during the day’s whole ordeal, he was clearly moved that hundreds came out to support him. Only two hours earlier, numerous faith-based groups, immigration activists dozens from union 32BJ SEIU and local politicians rallied in support of Ragbir during his “check-in” with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers at 26 Federal Plaza. What had been fairly routine in past years now seemed ominous. Ragbir, like dozens of others every day, did not know when he entered the Lower Manhattan building if he would see his family again. The March 9 demonstration, billed as a solidarity rally against deportation, was in support of Ragbir and all the others — dozens of New Yorkers facing deportation who must check-in with ICE officers. With a new hardline administration in Washington, the process that usually was predictable was now anxiety-ridden, with a check-in that was feared could go either way. From Trinidad and Tobago, Ragbir legally emigrated to the U.S. 25 years ago. A 2001 wire-fraud conviction — for which he served a two-and-half year sentence, followed by two years in immigrant detention — left his green card subject to review. Subsequently, authorities exercising prosecutorial discretion granted him a stay of deportation until 2018, with regular check-ins required. At some points, he wore an ankle-bracelet monitor and had to report weekly in Brooklyn. Although he was granted a two-year stay last year, he still had to report for a check-in this March 9. In today’s climate, with the president’s actions on immigration, Ragbir couldn’t predict the outcome of this year’s check-in. At the morning rally, he affirmed to those assembled, “I’m going to see the immigration officers. I’m not going underground.” Ragbir is now an outspoken immigrant-rights activist and the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, based at Judson Memorial Church, on Washington Square South. Launched in 2007, the New York chapter of the New Sanctuary Movement was co-founded by Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper, Judson’s senior minister, to engage faith-based groups in support of immigrants living in the U.S. without legal status to stay here. This movement aimed to give “sancTheVillager.com

PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY

Ravi Ragbir, the executive director of the New Sanctuar y Coalition of New York Cit y, on March 9 in the Village on his way down to Lower Manhattan for a check-in with an ICE officer. Ragbir didn’t know if he would be coming back out of the check-in or not.

tuary” to these deportable immigrants, many of whom had children who were U.S. citizen. Instead of hiding them, however, the movement proposed to publicize their stories, to put a human face on the issues, raise public awareness of their plight, and encourage legislative reform. Ragbir pioneered the idea of accompanying those who are scheduled to check-in.

‘I’m not going to let them just take me away.’ Ravi Ragbir

“We partner U.S. citizens with immigrants in this crises,” he said at the rally. They get support from the community. Ragbir leads trainings, knowing that it makes a difference if a minister and community members accompany the check-in. Ragbir’s legal team is led by Alina Das, co-director of the Immigrant

Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law. She has worked on his case for the past eight years and with their team for the last few months, and has met weekly to work on his case. She, too, emphasizes how local politicians can support immigrants in their districts by showing up at check-ins. At Ragbir’s recent check-in, he was accompanied by state Senator Gustavo Rivera, City Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Ydanis Rodriguez and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, along with clergy, his lawyers and his wife. Ragbir’s wife, Amy Gottleib, is an immigration advocate for American Friends Service Committee. Speaking before his latest check-in, she said, “This is a different atmosphere, so we don’t know what to expect. Trump said, ‘We’re going to get the really bad ones out.’ Ravi, along with many others, are a part of their community.” She also stressed what a difference community support makes. Recently, Ragbir was recognized by the New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators with the Immigrant Excellence Award, given to those demonstrating a “deep commitment to the enhancement of their community.” During the uncertain hour while Ragbir and those accompanying him were inside the ICE office, rally participants joined in what is known as a Jericho Walk, an interfaith walk of solidarity asking for immigrant justice,

seven times encircling in silence the federal building, followed by a prayer. There was quite a sigh when it was learned by a text message that Ragbir had been released. To a jubilant crowd, an exhausted Ragbir exited, joining his supporters at Foley Square. His lawyer Das addressed the crowd and reminded them, “Not everyone is this lucky.” “We are saddened that we’ve been asked to come back in one month,” she said, adding, “Ravi has a stay of removal that is in place until 2018.” At a short rally after the check-in, an emotionally drained Ragbir addressed the crowd. “I am happy,” he said. “But I have to go through this again.” Members of the crowd shouted, “We love you Ravi. We’ll be there.” With emotion, he said, “I have the knife of the guillotine over my head.” He said they asked him to return on April 11 with his travel documents. And when they ask for that, “It means one thing, right?” Ragbir continued. “They said, ‘No, everything is going to stay the same.’ But if everything stays the same, I shouldn’t be checking in next month. “I’m a realist,” he said. “I need to know what could happen and have to prepare for what could happen. I hope I’m wrong.” Ragbir’s debriefing remarks were punctuated with support. “We’re with you Ravi!” came calls from the crowd. “On Nov. 8, when we saw the election results, we knew that this would be a hard day,” he went on. “But we were wrong. I’m glad to be wrong this time. I hope I’m wrong on April 11. No matter what, I will be ready. I’m not going to let them just take me away. I’m going to stand up and fight and speak about it.” It was emphasized numerous times during this post-check-in rally how numerous people faced the same uncertainty as Ragbir at their own check-ins. “I have support, but imagine those who do not,” the activist said. “I am the focus right now, but the focus should be on everyone.” To the chants of support, he asked, “What are we going to do?” Ragbir invited the crowd to rally with him and for the other immigrants on April 11. In particular, Councilmember Williams, from Brooklyn, was really affected by this check-in visit. For him, it was a real eye-opener seeing how many people were awaiting their own check-ins, full of fear, without attorneys to represent them. “It’s one thing to hear,” he said, “another to see a room full of families, grandmothers and children facing deportation with no attorney.” Williams met one grandmother wearing a GPS ankle bracelet. “How is this American?” he posted on Facebook. March 30, 2017

13


Letters to The Editor LETTERS continued from p. 12

ago. In its place, a generous philanthropic gift offered a lush green garden and nonprofit arts center. Pier 55 wasn’t without controversy. The Friends of Hudson River Park — an independent 501(c)(3) organization — participated in hours of public meetings to evaluate this proposal, a gift in excess of $100 million offered by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg. Community Board 2 went through the plan clause by clause — and managed to improve it. In the end, C.B. 2 supported Pier55 after hearing from hundreds of voices in the community. One group that wasn’t there to listen was The City Club of New York — a dormant organization that woke up to fi le its lawsuit. The City Club pursued its case with no input from the people who actually rely on Hudson River Park for open space — for access to water, yes, and also to sky, and air and green. Hudson River Park is all of these, in a city that hungers for them. Pier55 poses no environmental threat to the Hudson River. Every court decision made that clear, including last week’s. And yet, there are still a few people who believe that

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the best future for the Hudson River waterfront is one underwater: Let the piers sink into decrepitude. Seventeen million visits to Hudson River Park each year — runners and sit-in-the-sunners alike — are testament to all the New Yorkers who beg to differ. Susanna Aaron Aaron is secretary, Friends of Hudson River Park

Thanks, ‘Crusty’ Club To The Editor: Re “Fed judge torpedoes ‘Diller Island’; Says no need for it to be in river” (thevillager.com, March 24): I was truly disturbed to learn of the court’s decision to halt the construction of a beautiful public park from being built on Pier55 in Hudson River Park. How did this happen? I’ll tell you: the narrow interests of the obscure City Club, Tom Fox and a select few have selfi shly dealt a huge blow to the creation of a new park and venue for the performing arts. These few individuals are standing in the way of a new park for the thousands of families who live on the West Side and the millions of New Yorkers SAME DAY SERVICE AVAILABLE

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and visitors who seek open green spaces, arts and culture. These folks do not represent the park community and the millions who use Hudson River Park. They have pushed this lawsuit to destroy this gorgeous new park, and would prefer to have nothing in its place. I have previously said that they should give up their obstructionism, but they continue their self-righteous and nonsensical crusade without any concern for what the public wants and needs. Consider the result if these guys succeed: A tremendous display of generosity on the part of Mr. Diller, squandered; a public asset cities around the globe would love to have, lost; the will of the community, snuffed out. All so a small group, fueled by crusty, petty grievances, could feel good about itself. Shame on them. Michael Novogratz Novogratz is chairperson, Friends of Hudson River Park

‘Ridiculous’ garden To The Editor: Re “Blaz shores up Pier 40 but chops Eliz. St. Garden” (news article, March 23): The “Elizabeth St. Garden” was nothing more than a junkyard before the announcement to develop it for affordable senior housing. The argument that residents need green space is ridiculous since Sara Roosevelt Park, at nearly 8 acres, is just two short blocks away. This is just an attempt by some to keep lower-income people out of “their” neighborhood. Karlin Chan

On land and sea... To The Editor: Re “Blaz shores up Pier 40 but chops Eliz. St. Garden” (news article, March 23), and “Fed judge torpedoes ‘Diller Island’; Says no need for it to be in river” (thevillager.com, March 24): The Elizabeth St. Garden group deserves so much more than what it has been given — basically nothing, from Councilmember Margaret Chin and Mayor de Blasio. Sometimes I think that the energy spent on issues should be changed to getting new people elected to office and reforming the election process. It is a shame that we have a mayor who appears not to care very much for Downtown Manhattan. Maybe we need to provide him a gym Downtown, so he doesn’t have schlep to Brooklyn every morning to do his exercising. By the way, de Blasio was chosen by very few New Yorkers in a low-turnout election. It is amazing how much power he has and how few cared to vote. Many residents living near this Pier55 were disturbed that the Hudson River Park Trust — an entity that seems more representative of itself than anything else — could just give away a piece of the river. Will other rich folks to be gifted portions of the Hudson to build trophy islands? People kept saying, “Oh but you can’t reject such a magnanimous present,” implying that we peons should thankfully accept this generous gift. Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg have been generous and we should be very appreciative of their other gifts, such as to the High Line. However, this one crosses the line where they are being given part of a natural resource that should be treated as a treasure commonly owned by all. A member of Community Board 2 evidently said, “Damn that City Club” for winning its lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps over Pier55. I am also a member of C.B. 2 and I thank The City Club for winning. Let’s hope the decision sticks.

Vote for Avella

Elaine

To The Editor: Re “Blaz shores up Pier 40 but chops Eliz. St. Garden” (news article, March 23): Tony Avella for mayor! Get this tyrant de Bozo out!

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 floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.

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Outrageous and Contagious Phil Marcade memoir walks down ‘Punk Avenue’ BY PUMA PERL As I reached the end of Phil Marcade’s upcoming memoir, “Punk Avenue” (May 2, Three Rooms Press), I felt the urge to return to page one and start fresh, both literally and symbolically. I’d been exchanging emails with the author, and had mentioned the laughter and exuberance that hooked me from the start; I’d also asked about his process. “I started this project by taking a little notebook in my back pocket everywhere I went. That was in the spring of 2006,” he responded. “Whenever an old funny anecdote would come to mind, I would take down a few notes. Where it began and where it ended was very important to me and really made sense. After laughter comes tears. I didn’t want it to be just a collection of funny anecdotes; I wanted it to also be a ‘human story.’ ” Each chapter is marked by a song title — opening with “Happy Birthday to You” and closing with “Run Run Run.” As the story begins, Marcade, age 18, is being transferred to an Arizona federal penitentiary. The event unfolds as hilariously as the adventures that follow. Marcade is simultaneously a cool and warmly engaging character, with enough of a bad boy streak to make it work; he possesses a near infallible ability to fall in with the right people at the right time, no matter the circumstances. From his birthplace in France, to Amsterdam, to the States, to the Chelsea Hotel, Max’s Kansas City, CBGB, to every corner where punk exploded, he tears through a history shared by many of us. What makes this memoir shine is his empathy — his “human story.” He speaks fondly of Nancy Spungen, a lonely soul he encouraged to try London in order to fi nd a boyfriend — well, we know how that worked out. He even tolerated the heroin-addicted cat she left in his care, which was in a murderous rage before finally detoxing. In a subsequent chapter he favorably compares the “junkie cat” to an abandoned German Shepherd he rescued. Once home, the dog somehow consumed a bag of pot and, in a stoned TheVillager.com

lineup included guitarist Billy “Wild Bill” Thompson and drummer Marc Bourset, with Danny Ray often joining them on saxophone. “Phil and Steve Shevlin taught me to play unaffectedly and commit to 300 percent sonic storm R&B playing,” remembered Danny Ray. “The Senders was like the Fight Club. I was lucky to be involved with such a cool bunch. That’s how I started.” While we talked, I was watching Senders videos and remarked upon Thompson’s riveting guitar work. “Billy was great before The Senders,” Ray noted. “With them, he became illuminated.” Although the band never reached the heights it should have, nobody can doubt their longevity. In 1981, as Marcade writes, “All that was left of The Senders was one deaf guy [Shevlin had lost his hearing], one in the nuthouse, and two in the dope house.” They played what they thought was their final gig at The Peppermint Lounge. In 1989, Marcade received a call from a record company asking if The Senders could be put back together. With Ritchie Lure replacing Shevlin, and the other three back on track, they played for another 13 years, and, in 2001, were named the “Best Bar Band in New Photo by Eileen Polk, courtesy Three Rooms Press York” by New York Press. L to R: Phil Marcade with Stiv Bators of During that period, both The Dead Boys, 1978. Lure and Bourset died, and were replaced by Ned frenzy, tried to attack him before Brewster and Danny Li, with running off. Danny Ray continuing on Landing in the middle of the New saxophone. York City punk scene, Marcade is “Punk Avenue” leads us introduced to former boxer Steve from the early highs through Shevlin by Johnny Thunders. In the dark periods of addiction 1976, he and Shevlin form The and loss without losing hope. Senders — a raw and dirty rock The epilogue ends on a differand roll band, with a rockabilly/ ent kind of high note. I’ll attest blues mix and a punk sensibility. to the authenticity of Lower Peter Crowley, former Music and East Side life, having walked Art Director of Max’s Kansas City, those same streets. If you were recalled, “The Senders should there, you get to hang with have been huge. They had it all: the gang again. If you weren’t looks, chops, and excellent rock Photo by Marci a Resnick , im around, or if you were as preoc‘n roll taste.” With Shevlin on L to R: age cour tes y Three Rooms Steve Shevlin Press , Johnny Thun cupied as I was, “Punk Avenue” bass, Marcade was the band’s cade, circa ders and Phil 1979, on the Marbook’s jacket original drummer, but moved cover. to frontman, and, by 1978, the PUNK AVENUE continued on p. 17 March 30, 2017

15


Courtesy Martin Roemers

“Broad Street, Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria.”

Sprawl and the City Stunning ‘Metropolis’ captures urban chaos, dynamism BY NORMAN BORDEN “Metropolis” is the culmination of Martin Roemers’ long-standing interest in documenting the growth of megacities — urban areas with populations of more than 10 million inhabitants. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and the United Nations predicts that by 2050, the number will grow to nearly 70 percent. The idea for photographing megacities came to Roemers when he was in Mumbai in 2003. He realized that despite all of the energy and chaos, nobody seemed to mind the crowds or lack of personal space. He said,

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March 30 , 2017

“The smells, the noise, the crowds of people; that was actually the fi rst inspiration for this work.” In undertaking this project, Roemers asked himself: How do individuals manage to live, or survive, in crowded, stressful megacities like Mumbai and Beijing? He wondered whether cities can cope with all the newcomers, and if there’s enough infrastructure and housing. His aim was to capture in a single panoramic image the essence of life in these megacities and show that their growth is the consequence of economic migration. He said, “A city is a magnet for people. It’s a center of economy, so it’s an opportunity to fi nd

jobs and make money.” In 2007, Roemers began traveling around the world to document the impact of global urbanization on people and places. By 2015, he had been to 23 megacities, including Mumbai, Lagos, Nigeria, Tokyo and London. Sixteen of his colorful, compelling images are now on view at Anastasia Photo. He captures the realities of daily life in these large detail-fi lled photographs by showing blurred crowds of humanity co-existing with non-stop traffic of all sorts, surrounded by chaos and tumult. The artist said, “The more chaos, the better it is for me.” Still, all the chaos and dynamism

belies the methodical process and techniques that Roemers uses to take the photos. Before he arrives in a city, he fi nds a local assistant/fi xer who knows the area and understands what he’s looking for. “Before my arrival, we make a list of possible locations, and once I’m in the city, we visit every one and see if there’s an elevated vantage point.” It’s this point of view combined with time exposures of two to four seconds that allows Roemers to visualize the energy, chaos and sensory overload that’s part of urban life. METROPOLIS continued on p. 17 TheVillager.com


METROPOLIS continued from p. 16

He said, “I am shooting the city as a spectacle, and there should be a balance between static and moving elements. While shooting, I am constantly waiting for things to fall into place. I watch the people and movement of the traffic; sometimes I can anticipate it because I know that every two minutes there’s a bus or a tram coming and people have to wait before they cross the street. At the moment when all objects fall into their place, I push the release button. And that’s why these images are really fi lled up — you see elements in every corner.” A good example is the image “Madan Street and Lenin Sarani, Chandni Chowk.” It’s the Kolkata, India street crossing where taxis and rickshaws are forced to stop for the tram that the photographer knew passed by every five minutes. Roemers says it’s a waiting game and in this case, he waited at that location for two days until all the elements came together and the corners were fi lled. The long exposure captures the tram whizzing past as a blur with the taxis, rickshaws, and pedestrians standing still as counterpoint; the energy is palpable. His choosing to wait two days

Courtesy Martin Roemers

“New Market, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh.”

underscores the challenges Roemers faces shooting each image. He said, “I can only follow five or six elements. When I expose, I’m never quite sure these elements will be on the film since so much can change in two or four seconds.” He doesn’t really know what he shot until he develops the film. Even then, he keeps seeing new details every

time he looks at a large print. For example, in the 57x70 inch print, “New Market, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh,” dozens of men sit idly on the ledge that effectively frames the bustling market below where vendors and shoppers conduct business; the combined blur of light bulbs, motor scooters and rickshaws add dynamism. Take a closer look at

the print, and other details and elements will emerge. When Roemers was searching for suitable locations in Lagos, Nigeria to photograph, his local fixer/assistant led him to a site under an overpass used by Muslim taxi drivers for Friday prayers. Apparently, the mosques are so crowded on Fridays that some people pray on the street. The image, “Broad Street, Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria,” reveals how people adapt and have a spiritual moment in the midst of a crowded, congested city. The photographer shows the drivers surrounded by their parked taxis, with the split roadway overhead serving as a strong graphic element — the image is filled with details, corner to corner. With “Metropolis,” Roemers has literally elevated the cityscape to another level and dramatically captured the chaos of urban life. Acknowledging the impact of his work, National Geographic published several images in its March 2017 issue, but seeing the work up close at Anastasia Photo will have its own rewards. On view through April 26 at Anastasia Photo (143 Ludlow St., btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.). Hours: Tues.–Sat., 11am–7pm. Call 212-6779725 or visit anastasia-photo.com.

PUNK AVENUE continued from p. 15

invites us to sit at the cool kids’ table. We don’t even have to lose 20 pounds or master the art of liquid eyeliner. Marcade, who lives in Italy, will perform with his friends The Rousers at two events, with books available for purchase and signing. On Tues., May 2, Three Rooms Press hosts “Mayday 2” at (Le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St.). The Senders’ Steve Shevlin and Danny Ray, The Waldos, Legs McNeil, and others are on board. On Sat., May 27, Marcade and The Rousers will also be part of “ ’76 LP Party,” the closing event of the three-night Max’s Kansas City Festival at Bowery Electric (327 Bowery). “I chose The Senders for the first studio 12-inch on Max’s Kansas City records,” said producer Peter Crowley. “We’ll be celebrating Phil’s book, our LP, and my 76th birthday!” In advance of its May 2 release date, “Punk Avenue” can be pre-ordered on amazon.com. For “Mayday 2” tickets (18+ show; $20), visit lpr. com. For tickets to the Max’s Kansas City Festival show ($15; $40 for the three-day event), visit theboweryelectric.ticketfly.com. Artist info on The Senders at thesenders.us. TheVillager.com

Photo by Alan Jay, courtesy Three Rooms Press

L to R, from 1980: Steve Shevlin, Basile Nodow, Billy “Wild Bill” Thompson, Phil Marcade and Marc Bourset. March 30, 2017

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March 30, 2017

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‘A safe haven’ for delicious gluten-free dining

EATS BY MICHELE HERMAN

M

y husband and I recently treated ourselves to dinner at 99 Bank, the new restaurant on the corner of Bank and Greenwich Sts., former home to the Marrow, Paris Commune and Nadine’s. All we knew about the place was what we could see from a cursory peek from the sidewalk, and the menu had passed my test: There were a couple of entrÊes under $20, which is what passes for a bargain in the West Village. If the main requirement of being a control group is ignorance, we were the perfect customers: We enjoyed our dinner immensely strictly on the merits of the food. It wasn’t until after we had eaten that we realized the entire menu is gluten free. This is particularly impressive given the fact that my husband had a burger on a bun and I had what is ordinarily a gluten feast: spaghetti arabiatta with garlic bread. We’re both perfectly fi ne with gluten, but we know an increasing number of people who report feeling better without it. We also know people (and

The interior of 99 Bank is light, white and open, as opposed to the space’s “bordello�-style look when it was Nadine’s.

are starting to become people) who chafe at the noise and frenzy at the average tightly packed New York res-



  

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March 30, 2017

taurant, and 99 Bank passes that test as well. Since itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a large corner lot, the tables are unusually well spaced. To those of us long accustomed to all the bordello red and gold of Nadineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, 99 Bank is almost shockingly calm in decor as well â&#x20AC;&#x201D; spare, open and white. I called over the manager-looking guy who was roaming around to learn the restaurantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s backstory. He turned out to be Frank Baldassare, the founding partner, who opened the place with his friend and business partner Michelle Kassner and chef Nima Khansari, formerly executive chef at Goldman Sachs. They created the restaurant not to exploit a fad, but because Baldassare is part of the roughly 1 percent of the population with celiac disease, a serious, inherited autoimmune condition. As he describes it, one night in 2002 he went to bed perfectly healthy, only to wake up with blurred vision and numb legs and other alarming symptoms. Baldassare was one of the lucky ones: He received a diagnosis within a few months, not a few years. He had always been health conscious, and says he began following a gluten-free diet like a Marine. But for a long time he remained sick. This was in part because of the havoc wreaked by his overactive immune system, but also because the available food was lousy, especially to a guy raised on Italian food. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, an additional 0.4 percent of the population have a diagnosed

wheat allergy, and a much larger group, possibly up to 18 million people, have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. (Gluten is present in rye and barley in addition to wheat.) Baldassare, a record producer and licensed massage therapist, became increasingly interested in alternative wellness treatments. And he began fi nding better gluten-free products. Eventually, he married the producing to the wellness and began producing his own online cooking show for people with food allergies. He created the restaurant for people like him, but also not like him. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We wanted to make a safe heaven,â&#x20AC;? Baldessare told me. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our goal was to create a restaurant where no one would know we were gluten free. We wanted a safe and real dining experience with a real wine list, with no worry anyone would get sick.â&#x20AC;? One behind-the-scenes hero of the story is Bellyrite Foods, a small gluten-free baked-goods company in Maspeth, N.Y., that is a major supplier for the restaurant. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I drove them crazy on the hamburger buns,â&#x20AC;? recalled Baldassare. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Most gluten-free hamburger buns fall apart.â&#x20AC;? He kept pushing the company until they produced a bun that not only tasted like a bun, it held up to the way diners actually eat a juicy burger: taking a bite, stopping to talk, taking another bite. The restaurant also has a reconfigurable room downstairs for private parties, big enough for 18 for a sitdown meal or 30 with passed hors dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;oeuvres. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s working on a kidsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; menu complete with gluten-free pizza, hot dogs and mac and cheese. Brunch is already being served, with lunch to follow in the spring when the Greenmarket has more to offer. One word to the wise: There are nuts and eggs in some of the menu items, especially dessert. Some observant locals may wonder what happened to the name on the awning that said â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Missing Ingredient.â&#x20AC;? Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the name of Baldassareâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cooking show. He and his partner Kassner figured they would extend the â&#x20AC;&#x153;brandâ&#x20AC;? to the restaurant. But when they gave it a little thought, they realized that a restaurant probably should not emphasize the thing it lacks. So they went with the address: simple and clean. 99 Bank, at 99 Bank St., at the corner of Greenwich St. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch on Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Lunch will be starting soon, Monday to Friday, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 212-524-0030 or e-mail info@99banknyc.com . TheVillager.com


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March 30, 2017

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Trash talkin’ in Soho; Raising awareness is key BY YUKIE OHTA

H

ave you noticed that Soho streets have gotten progressively dirtier since last fall? That trash cans are often overflowing and Citi Bike stations have become mini-dumps? If so, you are not alone. An informal network of residents in the Soho community concerned about the rise of dirty streets and sidewalks and the decline in their quality of life have gotten together to form a group called @ CleanUpSoHo. Launched this past November, this group’s aim is to address this escalating issue through a publicawareness campaign and partnerships with community leaders. Our once relatively rubbish-free sidewalks are now dotted with discarded shopping bags, coffee cups and food containers. This is largely because the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE), subsidized by its founder, Soho resident Henry Buhl, stopped cleaning Soho’s streets last October due to funding challenges. Susan Needles, a consultant to ACE and member of @CleanUpSoHo, only sees the situation further deteriorating. “I think the Soho streets are miserable,” she said, “and I fear as the weather gets warmer and even more people are on the streets with water bottles, ice cream, etc., it will get far worse.” The New York Department of Sanitation and most standard commercial leases require that building owners and commercial tenants keep the sidewalk and curb in front of their establishments clear. This rule applies to all sidewalks in Soho — except corners, where Sanitation must empty public trash bins. Neither Sanitation nor @CleanUpSoHo is able to offer incentives to encourage clean sidewalks, since this would amount to offering rewards for doing what is already a legal responsibility. The alternative, then, is to raise public awareness of this issue by educating the community, highlighting violations and imposing fines on repeat offenders. @CleanUpSoHo is currently working with Sanitation to educate landlords and businesses of their responsibility under New York City law and to target recurring trash problem areas. The anti-garbage group is looking into procuring 45-gallon trash cans that comply with Sanitation regulations and exploring options for sidewalk- and street-cleaning services and community outreach to building owners and commercial landlords to make them aware of Sanitation trash disposal regulations. To this end, @CleanUpSoHo is working with The Andrews Organization, which manages 75 buildings in Soho, to connect with Soho residents and building owners. Andrews fully supports the new group’s efforts, and Divya Rashad, its executive vice president, is on @CleanUpSoHo’s core committee. The committee hopes to forge other such alliances in the near future. TheVillager.com

An all-too-familiar scene in Soho nowadays: a street corner with an over flowing garbage can surrounded by litter on the sidewalk.

Coral Dawson, a member of @CleanUpSoHo and founder of Green Below 14 — a nonprofit that improves parks, playgrounds, and open spaces in Manhattan below 14th St. — agrees that raising awareness should be the focus. “I personally feel that it is the responsibility of city agencies to do their job,” she said. “It’s our responsibility as residents who care about our community to raise our valid concerns and request that they be addressed appropriately and in a timely manner. I do not believe the burden of raising private funds to ensure our streets and sidewalks are clean and safe should fall on the residents.” @CleanUpSoHo is also pressing for support from Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Corey Johnson, as well as Community Board 2. Johnson steered some of his discretionary funds to pay for street cleaning in the part of Soho falling within his Council district (the west side of Thompson St. to Sixth Ave., south of Houston St.), including Father Fagan Park at the corner of Prince St. and Sixth Ave. This contribution has made a noticeable improvement in litter management in that corner of Soho. The anti-trash group is hoping to work with Chin’s office during the upcoming budget cycle to achieve a similar result in areas of Soho in her Council district (east side of Thompson St. to Mercer St, south of Houston St.). This area is especially affected by unsightly and unsanitary trash because it experiences a high volume of tourist traffic, pop-up shops and special promotional events. Recent media coverage has raised @ CleanUpSoHo’s public profile, while persistent calls to 311 and frequent tweets of photos of overflowing trash bins to @ CleanUpSoHo with hashtags of politicians have resulted in Sanitation agree-

ing to double — from once to twice daily — its rounds to empty out the trash bins, though only for a limited period of time. As far as I can tell, from an informal, unofficial and thoroughly unscientific survey, Soho residents are thus far keep-

ing up their end of the bargain. Granted, due to a rise in transients living in Airbnb apartments and lofts, there are more people in the residential community who are unaware of these rules and put trash out incorrectly bagged at all hours. “Soho’s streets have become filthy because we have tens of thousands of visitors daily and only a few dozen litter bins to hold their trash,” said Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance and a member of @CleanUp SoHo. “It’s deplorable that a driver of the city’s economic engine like Soho must resort to a citizens’ campaign to clean filthy streets that the residents did not create.” In 1972, after it was public knowledge that artists were living in Soho’s then-manufacturing buildings, residents formed a group like @CleanUpSoHo and lobbied for curb-side pickup of residential trash. Before then, because Soho was not zoned for residential use, Sanitation did not pick up household trash. Residents had to find creative ways to dispose of their trash — often illegally depositing it in public trash bins and commercial dumpsters. Businesses often complained, and artists were fined if trash was traced back to them through discarded mail with their name and address. Ironically, it is now largely commercial entities that skirt the disposal rules. I have faith @ CleanUpSoHo, businesses and residents will solve our trash issue.

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TheVillager.com

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March 30, 2017

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