The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
May 11, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 19
Flirting with the Devil: Atzmon and ‘tyranny’ of free speech in E.V. BY SAR AH FERGUSON
hat is the relationship between the Left and Free Speech? And is some speech so beyond the pale, that it’s wrong to even engage in debate? These questions took center stage last Sunday during a political forum held at The-
atre 80 St. Mark’s. The panel was titled: “The Post-Political Condition: Trump, Brexit, the Middle East…What Next?” But the real controversy was over its organizer, jazz saxophonist and author Gilad Atzmon, who’s been accused of peddling Holocaust revisionism and anti-Semitic theories ATZMON continued on p. 18
Town hall’s calls: More Beth Israel hospital beds, single-payer plan BY LESLEY SUSSMAN
ressure continued to mount last week on Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital officials to halt or slow down their four-year plan to downsize the historic healthcare facility and relocate it to a new, much smaller four-story facility adjoining the New York
Eye and Ear Infirmary at E. 13th St. and Second Ave. At a “People’s Town Hall Meeting” last Thursday attended by leaders of various citywide activist groups, politicians and scores of residents, hospital officials were accused of “quietly and secretly, piece by piece” using a little-known HEALTHCARE continued on p. 27
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
Governors Island exploded with color, henna tattoos and fun on Sat., May 6, at the Holi Hai spring fest. The annual Hindu happening celebrates happiness, good’s victor y over evil and the repairing of broken relationships.
Trump trumps all issues at Johnson summit event BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
orey Johnson announced the winners of his district’s participatory-budgeting voting at a “West Side Summit” at the Whitney Museum on Tuesday night. But it was the councilmember’s fiery comments about fighting Donald Trump that won the evening’s strongest applause. After giving a lengthy re-
cap of his accomplishments in District 3 over the past year, Johnson turned his focus to Trump, urging people to keep up “the resistance.” As he did at a rally in Washington Square Park in January, Johnson once again slammed Trump as a “pathological liar” — but this time his litany of accusations went even further. “In the not-too-distant future, Americans of all stripes
and people around the world are going to ask each other, what did you do in 2017?” Johnson said. “What did you do when an authoritarian, autocrat, demagogue, pathological liar rose to power, pitting Americans against Americans, debased fundamental social institutions, pushed societal norms to the side, fired the F.B.I. director and U.S. attorneys, colluded with SUMMIT continued on p. 6
Anti-Trump artist hammers Angry Buddhist....p. 11 Theater owner on why he hosted Atzmon........p. 12 Union Sq. special section....... p. 13
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May 11, 2017
Viva la reconstruction! Local officials recently joined Ellen Baer, head of the Hudson Square Connection business improvement district, to break ground on the renovation of the former Soho Square â€” to be renamed Spring Street Park â€” on Sixth Ave. between Spring and Broome Sts. The project in the former Printing District aims to create â€œa new, green centerpiece for a more walkable and livable Hudson Square.â€? The statue of General Jose Ar tigas, â€œthe father of Uruguayan nationhood,â€? at left, has been removed for restoration and will be moved slightly nor th and rotated 180 degrees to face looking west down Dominick St.
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
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May 11, 2017
Bannon, the White House senior adviser, in a judge’s robe and pulling the puppet strings of a marionette Trump. “The man is just blatantly and sickeningly evil,” Stevens fumed. Asked how the city should welcome the president back from Washington, he said, “I just hope he stays down there and doesn’t ever come back.” The day before, Trump and the Republicans had celebrated the House’s vote to repeal
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
PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN
EDITOR IN CHIEF LINCOLN ANDERSON
ARTS EDITOR SCOTT STIFFLER
CONTRIBUTORS ALBERT AMATEAU IRA BLUTREICH TINA BENITEZ-EVES SARAH FERGUSON BOB KRASNER TEQUILA MINSKY CLAYTON PATTERSON JEFFERSON SIEGEL SHARON WOOLUMS
GRAPHIC DESIGNER CRISTINA ALCINE
Obamacare. There were a few lonely Trump supporters scattered amid the crowd. One of them, Ron H., from Staten Island, said the president was “trying to do good.” Surrounded by anti-Trump protesters on all sides, Ron sought to fi nd a pro-Trump refuge somewhere, repeatedly asking police officers, “Is there any nice people over there?” to which an officer quipped, “There’s nice people everywhere.”
MASTER OF PUPPETS: President Donald Trump’s fi rst homecoming visit to New York City last week was met by a protest of thousands. During his brief May 4 stop in the city, Trump met with Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid to honor the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, a joint U.S.-Australian victory over Japan in World War II. Banging pots and pans, protesters chanted, “Not My President!” as they tried to march as close as they could to the carrier. From Greenwich Village, Melvyn T. Stevens was decked out in a towering costume of Steve
PHOTO BY DONNA ACETO
Melv yn Stevens as a Steve Banon puppetmaster at the anti-Trump protest by the Intrepid last Thursday.
R.I.P., APACHE: Hundreds of mourners packed the Ortiz Funeral Home, at E. Second St. and Second Ave., this past Saturday and Sunday for the wake for John Anthony Mercado a.k.a. Apache. According to John Quinn, the former Lower East Side district leader and husband of former Assemblymember Alice Cancel, Apache died of a heart attack. He was 59. A deejay from the Vladeck Houses, in his younger days, Apache and the late Eddie Garcia made headlines in The Villager and elsewhere for their efforts to clean up the Lower East Side’s Sol Lain Park and reclaim it from drug dealers. Apache earned
his nickname for his long black hair and the bandana headband he always sported. “He was a street guy,” Quinn said. “He had the scars on his arms from all the gang fights down here. He and Eddie took care of the local kids.” Garcia was famous for running youth football and other sports programs at Sol Lain Park, whose playground was renamed Eddie Garcia Field a few years ago in his honor. Hopefully, Apache, Garcia’s partner in their valiant grassroots quality-of life-campaign, will be honored, too.
HOOFING IT: We were really rooting for Gormley on Saturday and wished him good luck...but, oh well. Actually, to be clear, we were rooting for Gormley, the horse in the Kentucky Derby, who came in ninth, and wished good luck, in jest, to Bob Gormley, the district manager of Community Board 2. “Not that close,” D.M. Gormley said afterward. “However, middle of the pack should help him avoid the glue factory.” Hey, there’s always the Preakness and Belmont! But will Gormley run again?
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POLICE BLOTTER Fatal Village ﬁre A 79-year-old man died in a fire that started around 9 a.m. in his apartment at the Butterfield House, at 20 W. 13th St., on Fri., May 5. Firefighters who responded to the scene and put out the 10th-floor blaze found Leon Gold unconscious and unresponsive. E.M.S. medics pronounced him dead at the scene. Gold’s wife was reportedly also in the home at the time of the fire, and refused medical attention. According to news reports, it took firefighters about 40 minutes to get the conflagration under control. Fire officials reportedly do not consider the blaze suspicious. According to the Daily News, it’s believed the inferno was sparked by a candle in the bedroom, which is where Gold was found. The flames did not spread beyond the apartment. The News reported that Gold was a senior partner at the white-shoe law firm Proskauer Rose, formerly serving as the head of its litigation department. Gold handled major cases, including involving digital copyright.
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May 11, 2017
Teen ‘takeout’ try A gun-toting 17-year-old tried to stick up the North Village Deli, at the southeast corner of W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave., on Tues.,
May 2, at 1:30 a.m., police said. Cops said the teen walked into the location, at 78 Eighth Ave., demanded money, showed a handgun and said, “Get the money or I’ll shoot you.” When the employee, 53, behind the counter refused to fork over cash, the suspect went behind the counter and tried to remove the register. But the worker wrestled the suspect to the ground and held him until police arrived. Gustavo W. Gonzalez, 17, was arrested for felony robbery.
East River ‘ﬂoater’ Police responded to a call of a body floating in the East River near E. 14th St. on Sun., May 7, around 2:35 p.m. Police from the SCUBA Unit took the body from a police Marine Unit that had recovered it from the water, and then transported it to the E. 23rd St. marina, where the victim was declared dead by E.M.S. However, the body was badly decomposed, apparently from having been in the river awhile, according to news reports. As of Wednesday, the name and age of the deceased were still being withheld pending family notification, and the investigation is continuing. In addition, the victim’s sex is not 100 percent certain, again due to the corpse’s deteriorated condition.
“Believed to be male,” a police spokesperson told The Villager, adding that it’s not definite. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death.
Face the music A woman was arrested for slashing a man in the face with her fingernails at Le Poisson Rouge music club, at 158 Bleecker St., on Sat., May 6, police said. She scratched the man, 40, on the left side of the face around 2:50 a.m., causing pain and red swelling. Police did not give a motive. Seo H. Park, 28, was busted for misdemeanor assault.
Pocketbook perp An officer spotted a man climbing into a locked, gated area at 109 MacDougal St. at 2:45 a.m. on Sat., May 6, police said. While the suspect was in the gated area, the officer saw him removing property from a pocketbook that he already had in his possession. The bag’s owner, a 28-year-old woman, told police that the satchel was stolen from the above location. Dante M. Stevenson, 32, was charged with felony grand larceny.
Tabia Robinson and Lincoln Anderson TheVillager.com
May 11, 2017
Trump trumps other issues at Johnson summit SUMMIT continued from p. 1
a foreign government, demonized and vilified racial minorities? What did you do in 2017?â€? Johnson noted that the leaders of the African-American civil-rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War and womenâ€™s suffrage struggles and the farm workersâ€™ movement were all from the grassroots. â€œNone of these movements were led by politicians and elected officials,â€? he stressed. â€œThey were started by people, citizens, American people who said, â€˜Enough is enough.â€™ They were movements that made our country and our world a better place. â€œWhen our children and grandchildren look back, I hope they will be able to say we were part of the resistance,â€? Johnson declared, â€œthat we stood up, fought back against a man and a Congress who wanted to bring us back 100 years.â€? The young councilmember said his district, which includes the Village, Chelsea and Hellâ€™s Kitchen, is where the fight is currently being waged most intensely. â€œNew York is the epicenter of that resistance,â€? he stated. â€œThe West Side is the epicenter in New York of that resistance. That is what these neighborhoods have been about for years, long before my time in the Council, even as a community member here â€” to march, to protest and to organize.
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
Councilmember Corey Johnson speaking at his annual West Side Summit, held this year at the Whitney Museum.
â€œWe did it with the Womenâ€™s Marches across the country and we must continue to do it,â€? he said of the ongoing opposition to the president and his policies. Finishing his pummeling of Trump, Johnson concluded, â€œWe cannot normalize what is happening in America right now.â€? As the audience broke out into thunderous applause, nearly drowning him out, he declared, â€œWe must be the face of resistance in America!â€?
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May 11, 2017
Former state Senator Tom Duane, earlier in the program, praised Johnson for his activism against Trump. â€œWhenever thereâ€™s a rally of resistance to the regime in Washington,â€? Johnson is there, Duane said, adding, â€œHeâ€™s a leader in that battle.â€? But Duane â€” who began his career representing the Council seat Johnson now holds â€” also highly praised Johnson as the consummate local politician delivering for his constituents. â€œHas Corey Johnson not knocked on anyoneâ€™s door?â€? he asked. â€œHe holds so many events in the district. He has a wonderful staff. Not since Ruth Messinger was a councilmember on the Upper West Side, do I think anyone thereâ€™s anyone about who deserves to be said, â€˜Are there two of them?â€™ Down at City Hall, heâ€™s very effective from land use to getting funding for programs that really help people who are really need help. You are well represented,â€? he assured the crowd. The eventâ€™s keynote speaker was Comptroller Scott Stringer, who also spoke to how Trump has galvanized New Yorkers into united opposition. â€œIt is amazing what is happening,â€? Stringer said. â€œWe have Jews fighting side by side with Muslims, blacks and Hispanics, young and oldâ€Ś . We are organizing in a way I havenâ€™t seen since the â€™60s and â€™70s, and I believe we will benefit from it when this resistance is over.â€? In addition, Stringer said, Trumpâ€™s tax-cut plan would callously benefit the wealthy. â€œThis is not West Side rhetoric,â€? he stressed. â€œThe millionaires would get a tax cut of $100,000. With corporate loopholes, they could walk away with $200,000. Single-parent households would see a tax increase of hundreds of dollars. This was literally written by the â€˜Mar-a-Lago elite,â€™ â€? Stringer scoffed, â€œmillionaires writing a tax cut for millionaires to make them billionaires.â€? The federal budget backed by Trump
and the Republicans would cut $400 million from the Big Apple, slicing out critical funding for things like special education and Section 8 housing, the comptroller explained. â€œIt is a terrible attack on the city of New York,â€? he said. Meanwhile, Stringer stressed that immigrants â€” much maligned by Trump and Co. â€” are the backbone of New York Cityâ€™s economy. â€œImmigrants make up half of the cityâ€™s workforce and earn $100 billion a year,â€? he said. â€œOur economy is built with the power of immigration.â€? On the local front, taking some apparent shots at Mayor Bill de Blasio, Stringer stressed that, while itâ€™s great that affordable housing is being included in new construction projects, the rents must be set at a level people can actually afford. And he slammed the practice of putting homeless families in what he derided as â€œroach hotels,â€? saying the only alternative is to create more affordable housing. The announcement of the â€œP.B.,â€? or participatory-budgeting winners, came at the end of the two-hour â€œsummit.â€? Johnson reported that 3,518 people had voted this year â€” with around 1,600 of them voting online â€” in late March and early April. About a dozen projects competed for chunks of more than $1 million in capital funding. The top vote-getter was $200,000 for a park in Hellâ€™s Kitchen, on a vacant site at 10th Ave. between W. 48th and W. 49th Sts. that was used for construction of the Third City Water Tunnel. The city also plans to build affordable housing on part of the site. The community will be involved in planning and designing the park, Johnson said. Coming in second was $125,000 for real-time rider-information signs at five key bus stops in the district. This will add to the 10 electronic signs already funded in last yearâ€™s P.B. process. In third place was $150,000 for air conditioning for the library at P.S. 111, at 440 W. 53rd St., which is used for summer school and also as a cooling center. Rounding out the winners at No. 4 was $500,000 for grounds renovations at the Elliot-Chelsea Houses, to install new playground fencing, renovate walkways and revitalize garden areas, designed with the complexâ€™s residents. During his recap of his accomplishments over the past year, Johnson cited the deal involving Pier 40 â€” which he helped broker â€” as the most significant. â€œPier 40 is arguably the most important community assetâ€? in the district, he said. â€œThousands of children use its playing fields and its parking garage generates one-third of the entire Hudson River Parkâ€™s revenue. â€œA robust and transparent public processâ€? resulted in â€œan outstanding deal,â€? Johnson said, in which more than $100 million was secured to shore up the W. SUMMIT continued on p. 8 TheVillager.com
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May 11, 2017
P.B. is better than D.T. SUMMIT continued from p. 6
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Houston St.’s 4,000 corroded steel support piles. The deal will also bring 500 affordable apartments, including for seniors, to the new St. John’s Partners project at 550 Washington St., he noted, and also resulted in the city finally designating for landmark status the final one-third of the South Village Historic District. In addition, no further air-rights transfers from Pier 40 will be allowed into Community Board 2 after the St. John’s deal, in which the developers have agreed to buy 200,000 square feet of development rights from the massive park pier. The 550 Washington St. project will also include a 15,000-square-foot publicly accessible indoor recreation space and an affordable supermarket. Plus, the city Department of Transportation will do a $1.5 million study of traffic along Varick St. and around the Holland Tunnel. Johnson touched on many other initiatives he had a hand in over the past year, such as funding four formerly homeless workers from ACE to help keep the district clean and helping fund a green roof for the new Morton St. middle school. On that last subject, Johnson revealed to applause, “I have it on good authority that the school will be named for Jane Jacobs.” He called the “affordability crisis” the city’s most pressing issue.
“Rents are soaring as many people who have lived here their whole lives are being forced out of the city,” he noted. “Our neighborhoods are being transformed and are struggling to retain their character and spirit. We need affordable housing like our lives depended upon it.” Johnson also said he is a strong support of the long-stalled Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which for years has never been allowed to come up for a vote in the City Council. “Our neighborhood affordable businesses and small businesses are closing at an alarming rate,” he said. At the end, Johnson thanked the crowd, saying it’s an honor to serve his constituents every day, and that he feels like the “luckiest” guy to have his job. “I pinch myself each time that I walk into City Hall,” he said. “I can only serve two terms, then I’m out — so I can only savor every moment.” Johnson has served three-and-a-half years of his first term and is running unopposed for re-election. Finally, the councilmember added he has budgeted $200,000 to fill every empty tree pit in the district, so people should call his office if they see an empty one, and the city will plant a tree in it. “Trees,” Johnson reflected with a sigh, “We need something to feel good about these days. “Let’s keep up the resistance!” he exhorted. “You guys rock!”
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May 11, 2017
TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell
phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.
Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-
haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.
Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and
chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at
a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.
Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.
May 11, 2017
EDITORIAL Tech hubbub
he de Blasio administration’s plan to build a $250 million “tech hub” at the P.C. Richard & Son site on E. 14th St. understandably has generated opposition in the community. For starters, Community Board 3 had strongly recommended that this property — 124 E. 14th St., between Fourth and Third Aves. — be developed as affordable housing. It’s a big spot on a major crosstown street, so a large building can be constructed there, offering a great deal of affordable units at a time when the city is desperate for low- and moderate-income housing. Every day, it seems, there are more and more homeless people on the streets. The only solution, as advocates and local politicians stress, is to create more quality affordable housing. And yet, Mayor de Blasio seems more interested in trying to create some glitzy version of Silicon Valley — they call it “Silicon Alley” — in our community. Just the previous week, the mayor, at a candidates forum of the local Downtown political clubs at the L.G.B.T. Center, repeatedly stated that affordable housing is his administration’s number one priority — and that there is no way he is going to change the city’s plan to build senior affordable housing on most of the Elizabeth St. Garden in Little Italy / Soho. Wait a second... . So much more affordable housing could be built at the P.C. Richard site — the tech hub is slated at 258,000 square feet — yet de Blasio wants to shoehorn a much-smaller project into the garden site on Elizabeth St.? It doesn’t make sense. Plus, the E. 14th St. location is just steps away from the Union Square subway station, a major transit hub. Admittedly, not all seniors might want to use the subway, due to the jostling and crowds, but there is an elevator to the station right down the block. In addition, as you can read in our special “A Salute to Union Square” special section in this week’s issue, the Union Square area already is teeming with tech companies, including some of the industry’s biggest names, such as Dropbox, Hulu, Mashable, Compass, eBay, Facebook and Buzzfeed. This tech nexus has grown organically, on its own. It’s doing fine. If this project is a done deal, however, then the city must absolutely secure zoning protections for the area between Fifth and Third Aves., Union Square and University Place. This slice of the Village is facing rampant development — witness the Macklowe tower rising on the former Bowlmor site on University Place. The tech hub would only further ratchet up this pressure on the area. At a recent candidates forum co-hosted by the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, all the candidates running for City Council District 2 who attended — Erin Hussein, Carlina Rivera and Mary Silver — pledged not to support the needed City Council approvals for the tech hub unless de Blasio agrees to zoning protections for the area. The current East Village councilmember, Rosie Mendez, supports the G.V.S.H.P. rezoning plan. Borough President Gale Brewer, who has a formal role in the approval process for both the tech hub and zoning, has expressed support for the society’s requested rezoning. G.V.S.H.P. stresses, and we agree, that Brewer needs to insist that any approvals for the tech hub not be granted without the rezoning. It will take a united front to protect our neighborhood.
May 11, 2017
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Community media is key
Mayor like G.O.P. on garden
To The Editor: Re “Little Mish kids dig Earth Day!” (news article, May 4): I want to thank you at The Villager for featuring our kids in the newspaper. I am so grateful. But more than that, I want to thank you for the work you do. Community media is so, so, so important to the life of a neighborhood. Now more than ever, I treasure the idea of free press and the kind of local reporting you do. In so many ways, The Villager has impacted the community over the years. It’s a really precious and important thing, and the job you do is vital to our lives. Forgive me for being so impassioned, but more and more, I value this kind of grassroots journalism. The job you do is terribly important and quite endangered and I am behind you all the way. Thank you for giving a voice to these children, and for all you have done for our little organization over the years.
To The Editor: Re “Sorry, housing is No. 1: Mayor on garden battle” (news article, May 4): A vote against the Elizabeth St. Garden is a vote against quality of life. Community Board 2 has offered a win-win proposal similar to the one that was approved in Chelsea in Councilmember Corey Johnson’s district, so why not in ours? Republicans in Washington, D.C., voted against clean air and parks. The mayor is going against the overwhelming wishes of this community. He does not deserve our support in this election
Eileen Johnson Johnson is director, Little Missionary’s Day Nursery
Hey, Bill: ‘Bread and Roses’ To The Editor: Re “Sorry, housing is No. 1: Mayor on garden battle” (news article, May 4): Thank you for your coverage of my question to Mayor de Blasio, when I asked why he was ignoring the community regarding the Elizabeth St. Garden. As you wrote, the mayor said many people think affordable housing for seniors is the top priority — as if that were an answer to my plea. At the forum, and therefore in your article, I could not explain that I agree that affordable housing is the top priority, but it cannot be the only priority: Housing is not the sole need human need. I taught at Sing Sing. Prisons provide a free place to sleep. Humans of every age thrive with community gathering places, growing plants and fresh air — as well as affordable housing. “Bread and Roses,” as the workers’ anthem on YouTube explains. Keen Berger Berger is Democratic district leader, 66th Assembly District, Part A
Area has a lot of parks To The Editor: Re “Must try suing” (editorial, May 4): You editorial ignores the real issue concerning the Elizabeth St. Garden. There has been a steadily increasing housing crisis in this city since the Koch administration, but apparently it’s more important to have an admittedly adorable little — though “previously not too accessible” — park than make the sacrifices needed to solve this major problem. Little Italy is not “park starved,” with four parks within a three-block radius — Liz Christy, First Park, Sara D. Roosevelt and DeSalvio — and two more another block away — Petrosino and the NYCHA park — from the Elizabeth St. site. No neighborhood in the city that I know of has a park every three blocks. People die in this city because of inadequate or unsafe housing, but nobody dies because their neighborhood only has six parks and not seven. Councilmember Chin and Mayor de Blasio should stand their ground and build housing as soon as possible, or this crisis will continue and, with the new administration in D.C., probably worsen. Alec Pruchnicki
Hey, nobody’s perfect To The Editor: Re “Sorry, housing is No. 1: Mayor on garden battle” (news article, May 4): I like Mayor de Blasio. No mayor is going toonbe LETTERS continued p. on 26
Trump ‘Nail-a-thon’ was peaceful and cathartic
TALKING POINT BY SANDR A KOPONEN
am an artist and musician, and have been an activist since I was 18 years old. I moved to the Lower East Side in 1983 and today live in the West Village. It wasn’t until May 3 that I saw the April 20 talking point in The Villager by Carl Rosenstein, “St. Mark’s is truly dead as Trump gets pounded,” in which Rosenstein lambastes the public participatory artwork and performance that I led last month. Rosenstein a.k.a. The Angry Buddhist, by his own admission, approached all of us in the performance while yelling, and did not attempt to engage anyone involved in the performance in a civil discussion. Therefore, in his column, Rosenstein fails to credit me as the creator of the event or even give the title of the performance, which was “Nail-a-thon: A Public Ritual to Disempower Dump and Co.” His column was illustrated not with my artwork but with a poster of Trump that I had never seen before. Rosenstein grossly misrepresented the spirit of the event and the participants’ behavior, made ridiculous assumptions about my political leanings, and grandiosely presumed to know how Allen Ginsberg would have reacted to the “Nail-a-thon.” His column is filled with pejorative adjectives and similes (which will be quoted anon) and it seems he is unable to differentiate between symbolic political theater and real violence against a real person. Most troubling, Rosenstein does not seem to understand why the populace is so concerned about the Trump administration, and defends Trump by pronouncing that the president is an outsider to the “Deep State.” It is only right that I have a chance to respond here and defend my work. In light of the helplessness many have felt post-election, who hasn’t wished they could wave a magic wand and change everything? Inspired by Haitian Vodou, in which a spike driven through the likeness of a person is believed to bring his or her demise, I set about making a sculpture. I painted Trump’s face and head on a block of wood — 15 inches high and 12 inches wide — added two arms with tiny hands stretching up in the air, made a car for it with a rat sculpture as a hood ornament and a tail of rat traps holding
Behold! The Trump Blockhead! Pounding in the nails provides a deep feeling of relief and catharsis, says the writer, who created the public per formance event.
pictures of members of Congress and the administration at the back. Then on Saturday, April 8 (Rosenstein erroneously gave the date as Sunday), I pulled the Rat Mobile with the Trump Blockhead through the streets of the East Village with a live band in a procession. I gave a speech in Tompkins Square Park, explaining why I made the sculpture. We invited people to “Nail Trump” in a collective expression of desire
An event inspired by Haitian Vodou. Yeah, take that, Donald! A young girl takes a whack at the Trump Blockhead in Tompkins Square Park.
to bring the Trump administration down. Almost everyone we passed on the street immediately understood our aim, and people from all walks of life were eager to hammer a nail into the Trump Blockhead. It was a cathartic and merry occasion, not the hateful, angry mob scene that Rosenstein described. Instead of asking about my motive and intention in launching the event, Rosenstein made assumptions and railed against the performance. He called it “moral vomit,” “vulgar and depraved” and “puerile.” And he called the group of accomplished musicians — some of them world-re-
nowned — random participants and “savage East Villagers” and a “lynch mob,” and described our behavior as “gleefully sadistic.” Most outrageously, Rosenstein likened our peaceful ritual — which was done in goodwill and with voluntary participation — to a “public stoning of a homosexual in Daesh or a lynching in Mississippi.” This is a faulty analogy, as it was a symbolic act, not a real one and. No one got hurt in our two-hour performance. In fact, people — from the very young to old, men, women, black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, etc. — were smiling, dancing and went away feeling empowered. The difference between a
lynching and the damaging of an effigy is that the victim of a lynching is not ever socially prominent, wealthy or powerful, whereas the destruction of an effigy is only the symbolic death of a hated, awful and cruel despot or leader. My Trump Blockhead represents the leader of the most powerful country with the largest military in the world. And Trump has just signed for the greatest increase to the military budget ever. The people do not have much power compared to Trump. So, he is the ideal candidate for such a performance, especially since he is one of the least popular presidents in U.S. history, and his policies are truly harming people. As Rosenstein was screaming at us, I yelled back at him, “This is just a block of wood! No one’s getting hurt!” Since I am an artist, not a Vodou priestess or a witch, my spin on Vodou is that hammering a nail into the Trump Blockhead is a physical manifestation of a prayer: The penetration of the nails shall be the “death” of predatory corporate capitalism and those in power who promote policies that discriminate against people and benefit only the wealthy while harming others. It is a passionate expression of commitment to resist a government that disrespects human rights and the environment, and is dismantling democracy, and could very well annihilate life on Earth. Hammering a nail into Trump’s blockhead is cathartic: Seeing the blockhead full of nails pounded in by people of the streets of New York City is a graphic display of our collective desire for Trump, his administration, and all they represent to disappear. One really has to wonder what knowledge Rosenstein has of political street theater and its history in the East Village and the world. I would refer him to a recent article in The New York Times, “How to Stand Up to Trump and Win,” by Nicholas Kristof, on April 13, in which he quotes from Gene Sharp, whose books helped Baltic countries free themselves from Soviet rule: “Nothing deflates an authoritarian more than ridicule. When Serbian youths challenged the dictator Slobodan Milosevic, they put his picture on a barrel and rolled it down the street, allowing passersby to whack it with a bat.” Certainly, if there was ever a time for provocative street theater, it’s now. If you would like to see a nineminute documentary of the April 8 “Nail-a-thon” and judge for yourself, here’s a link to a video by Julius Ludavicius: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=weN8oi08--Q May 11, 2017
More than ever, free speech lives at Theatre 80
TALKING POINT BY LORCAN OT WAY
ver these past several weeks, online, I have been called a sellout and a whore and my theater, Theatre 80 Saint Mark’s — a commercial public accommodation open to all — was picketed for accepting a request to rent the space for an open forum with audience questions. There were four panelists, and some protesters said that one was a “Jew hater” a “Holocaust denier” and a nazi. All the panelists were, in fact, Jewish. In the weeks leading up to the panel event, I pointed out to the objectors that our policy was not to censor the speech of those who rent out the theater. I would not do to our renters that which was done to my father during the McCarthy era, a time much like today. Today, the government’s executive branch has made war on empirical truth. It has sought to deny our nation’s people the right to be informed, so that they can make up their own minds. Our
May 11, 2017
PHOTO BY SARAH FERGUSON
Def ying picketers, Lorcan Ot way recently hosted a panel discussion at his East Village theater featuring provocative author Gilad Atzmon, who has been attacked by critic s as a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite.
government has crippled the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency and sought to limit how much NASA scientists can inform the people on what they need to know to be educated voters. I reminded those who called my decision a “sellout” that Dr. King said,
countless times, that protest was intended to be disruptive, in order to get a seat at the table, to take part in the discussion and achieve rights. However, King did not protest in order to exclude others with whom he had disagreements. The objectors’ response was a repetition of their initial point, peppered with obscenities. I won’t comment on the degree to which any of the charges against one of the speakers, Gilad Atzmon, were supportable, other than to recall the reactions when Bernie Sanders said that he believed in a two-state solution to the Palestine / Israel issue: Half my friends called Sanders a “Zionist,” the other half, a “self-hating Jew.” It’s all the more reason for civil discourse, in my estimation. Free speech lives in the commercial side of Theatre 80. There is another side of my life in theater. For the past 52 years, first my parents and then I have offered the theater to the community for events or theatrical productions that could not afford to rent. Lately, the war on small businesses, which has closed so many old establishments, made this generosity a threat to our existence. So, my wife and I formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Howard Otway and Florence Otway Opportunity Project (HOFOPRO), which honors my parents’ commitment to our community. Through HOFOPRO, we have been able to ask for help in bringing the kind of transformative art to our stage that was core to establishing the renaissance of the 1960s and early ’70s. Today the progress we made during that renaissance is evaporating, and with it, perhaps, humanity’s hope of survival. HOFOPRO took a great leap of faith in the people of this neighborhood, inviting the Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC) to make a home at Theatre
80, beginning a season of some of that company’s most important, transformative works from their early years. The first three of NEC’s plays performed at Theatre 80 have received remarkable reviews, acknowledging this company’s importance in these days of division and ignorance. That leap of faith, however, has yet to be supported by New Yorkers, as no contributions have yet been made to fund the NEC at Theatre 80, other than my own. Those who picketed our theater, who sought not to address with fact and reason those with whom they disagree with and hate, have called for an attack on our funding. David McReynolds, the legendary peace activist, addressed this issue, saying that Villager contributor Bill Weinberg “…does not seem to get the simple fact that by trying to close down this site for Gilad [saying he is free to speak anywhere — but not here], he has taken the first step to saying Gilad should not be allowed to speak anywhere. I believe in that now-most-unpopular thing — free speech. And I ask Bill to realize that, by his attacks, he could help undercut the financial support of Theater 80 St. Mark’s.” Weinberg’s response: “Theatre 80 hosted the Nazi. I suggest you take this concern for the theater’s future funding to Lorcan.” I think it is time to put a stop to the tactic of excluding voices rather than engaging in civil discourse. The advantage in meeting what you believe to be ignorance with fact, is that your point is made stronger in the public forum. Those who suppress debate often lose in the court of public opinion. I think we are safe in saying that if those who oppose a no-censorship policy succeed in their attack on our funding, the result will not advantage progressive free speech, but rather an institution being taken from the people and given to the handful of developers who now own most of our neighborhood. I doubt these developers would do what we have done, such as giving a forum, free of charge, to Lynne Stewart, when she was being prosecuted in the early days of the government’s spreading fear to gain support for ruinous wars; or offering the theater for free for a benefit concert to raise money for the victims of the Second Ave. gas explosion two years ago, or a screening of a film on the environment. In fact, if the developers swooped in, I doubt there would be any public use of this space to the neighborhood’s advantage. We need to build a better America, defined by love of the process of liberty, rather than defi ned by the building of walls of separation based on fear of perceived enemies. Otway is owner, Theatre 80 St. Mark’s
A Salute to Union Square A special Villager supplement Pages 13 to 16
Tech ﬁrms are driving area’s commercial growth
ew York City’s population of technology, advertising, media and information a.k.a. TAMI companies is on the rise — and Union Square is where they’re headed. According to New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, the Big Apple’s tech ecosystem accounts for more than 291,000 jobs and more than $124.7 billion in economic output. The city’s famed tech sector continues to grow each year, and Union Square is cementing its reputation as that community’s hub. “With the area’s unrivaled transportation access and its vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, fitness studios and other amenities around Union Square Park, the district holds a lot of appeal for individuals who work in tech and creative industries,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership Business Improvement District. “New companies are also attracted to the area’s vibrant community that includes a veritable who’s who of the tech world.” Perhaps the biggest announcement in Union Square’s tech scene this year was around the city’s plans for 124 E. 14th St. In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed the city’s new $250 million hub to support New York’s thriving population of tech and innovation start-ups. The development is a key part of the mayor’s commitment to spurring job growth and providing a gateway to digital skills and training for New Yorkers — ultimately creating a strong, inclusive tech ecosystem in New York City. E.D.C. has selected Robert Levine’s RAL Development Services to build the 258,000-square-foot project. The anchor tenant will be Civic Hall, a collaborative work and event space advancing the use of technology for the public good. Designed by Davis Brody Bond, the building will offer classroom and meeting spaces, a digital training hub and flexible office space for earlystage companies. All told, the facility is anticipated to generate 600 tech jobs and facilitate digital training for thousands of New Yorkers. “Since its beginning, Union Square has offered New Yorkers a crossroads not only for transportation, culture, business and health but also for political discourse and free speech,” said Andrew Rasiej, founder and C.E.O. of Civic Hall. “Now with the planned new Civic Hall, Union Square will be able to also offer every New Yorker, regardless of background, gender, age, race or physical ability, access to digital skills, jobs and a renewed sense of civic engagement in the 21st century.” With Union Square at the epicenter of New York’s thriving tech scene, it’s no wonder that the district was chosen as the prime location for the tech hub. Midtown South, which encompasses Union Square, is considered one of the country’s most desirable office submarkets, capturing more than 50 percent of all Manhattan tech leasing for the sixth consecutive year, according to Colliers International. Union Square has become the home of some of the tech industry’s biggest names, including Dropbox, Hulu, Mashable, Compass and eBay. Facebook recently moved into its 200,000-square-foot space at 225 Park Ave. South, where media giant Buzzfeed’s offices are also located. Both companies, combined, bring more TheVillager.com
A rendering of the planned “tech hub” slated for the former P.S. Richard & Son space on E. 14th St. bet ween Four th and Third Aves. Local preser vationists, politicians and residents are demanding that, if the tech hub is built, the cit y must at least rezone the Universit y Place / Broadway corridor south of Union Square to protect against overdevelopment.
than 1,200 employees commuting into Union Square each day. Several existing TAMI tenants are also expanding their footprint in Union Square. Compass took more space at 90 Fifth Ave., where it now occupies 115,000 square feet. WeWork leased three co-working locations around Union Square, including its headquarters at 115 W. 18th St. Between the three locations, WeWork has the capacity to host more than 3,000 co-working members. IBM recently signed a landmark membership deal for all of WeWork’s space at 88 University Place. The co-working company’s space, which occupies eight floors covering about 70,000 square feet, will soon house up to 600 IBM employees. With Union Square office space in high demand, local property owners are taking steps to modernize
spaces to lure new TAMI tenants. The historic restoration and modernization of Tammany Hall, at 44 Union Square, is well underway. The iconic property, leased by Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, will transform more than 75,000 square feet of retail and office space, bringing new life to this historic landmark. This past winter, the project secured a $57.5 million loan for the redevelopment’s construction. “A sign of a healthy city is activity in strong growth industries — and New York’s tech industry is certainly alive, well and growing in Union Square,” Falk said. “As Union Square’s community of tech, advertising, media and information companies has continued to grow, the district is leading the way in driving 21st-century job creation for New Yorkers.” May 11, 2017
A Salute to Union Square EGD<G:HHG:EDGI
Better bike lanes, public programs and more
ith an influx of new residents, commercial tenants and commuters traversing the district every day, it’s no secret that Union Square remains one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods. To keep up with the demand, the Union Square Partnership continues its work with city agencies, neighborhood partners and stakeholders to improve the experience of everyone who lives, works and plays in Union Square. With biking on the rise across the city — and especially in Union Square — U.S.P. has worked with the city’s Department of Transportation to upgrade Union Square’s intricate bike network. Improvements were implemented on Fourth Ave. in 2016, and this year, U.S.P. and its city partners are focusing on extensions and safety measures along Fifth Ave. “In a bustling district like ours, the network’s expansion has improved one of the city’s busiest and most popular biking destinations, making the area safer and more accessible,” said Scott Hobbs, U.S.P. deputy director. “We are continuing to work with our city partners to improve the bike network, and we’re anticipating additional improvements in the coming year.” The district has seen a variety of other capital improvements over the last year. U.S.P. worked to upgrade the lighting around Union Square Park with more than 70 new energy-efficient LED bulbs to provide additional safety at night. This spring, U.S.P. invested in more than 200 new bistro tables and 400 chairs throughout the park and pedestrian plazas for visitors to enjoy during the warm months. In addition to its extensive landscaping and beautification work in the park and around the square, U.S.P. overhauled the median malls along Union Square East and Park Ave. South to include 80 new trees and a brand-new landscaping design. With help from U.S.P.’s partners at ORDA Management and the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, new understory plantings will be added to the malls this spring, as well. As the district continues to see highlevel foot traffic, U.S.P. has worked to expand its public programming to engage even more people and connect them with Union Square’s vibrant business community. “With such a wide variety of area businesses, we’re working to grow our public programs to showcase everything our district has to offer,” said Jennifer Falk, U.S.P. executive director. “We want to ensure that our public programming is geared toward variety, so we can offer something for everyone and enhance their experience in the district.” This past winter, U.S.P. presented the third annual Union Square Sweat Fest to highlight the abundance of innovative studios, gyms, athleisure retailers and healthy eateries in the area. Following
May 11, 2017
PHOTO BY LIZ LIGON
Enjoying a movie night at Summer in the Square.
past years’ successes, U.S.P. expanded the week-long health and fitness event series with even bigger opening and closing celebrations, a full schedule of fitness programs for kids and the largest lineup of new and returning partners than ever before. “Union Square Sweat Fest was a great way for us to connect with the community, and as a New York brand, this is extremely important to us,” said Richard Morris, general manager at New York Health & Racquet Club 13th St. “It’s always great to see new faces come through our doors, and the event series helps us engage with the neighborhood in a fresh and exciting way.” With the summer months approaching, U.S.P. is gearing up for Citi Summer in the Square, the organization’s nineweek free summer entertainment series in Union Square Park, which returns on June 15. Thanks to a title sponsorship from Citi, U.S.P. is adding new programs to the lineup of live performances, fitness classes, family activities and movie nights in the park.
Early-morning fitness on the park’s South Plaza, in collaboration with neighborhood partner Paragon Sports, will feature a variety of classes led by boutique studios based in Union Square. In the evening, the local New York Health & Racquet Club will also host free fitness classes on the North Plaza. Kids programming will include an extensive lineup of children’s performances and activities, including the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre’s “The Princess, The Emperor, and The Duck,” Karma Kids’ Yoga StoryTime, Pop Fit Kids and a special preview performance of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show.” A Children’s Pavilion will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with engaging activities. Attendees can also enjoy live jazz with The New School on their lunch break in the park, and a new performance competition with dueling participants every Thursday, featuring music, dance and more at 5 p.m. on the main stage. The series closes with two “Throwback Thursday”-themed movie nights in August, when moviegoers will gather on the
North Plaza at dusk to enjoy cult classics “The Karate Kid” and “Back to the Future.” In the fall, the 22nd Annual Harvest in the Square will return to Union Square Park on Thurs., Sept. 14. The highly anticipated foodie extravaganza has expanded to include more than 50 local restaurants and more than a dozen wineries and breweries, drawing more than 1,200 attendees. Last year, through the generosity of the community, the event raised more than $378,000 to support U.S.P.’s vital work to maintain, beautify and program Union Square Park. “For more than 40 years, the Union Square Partnership has worked to effect growth and positive change in the district — and thanks to our incredible partners, Union Square is stronger than ever,” Falk said. “As our district continues to grow and attract new businesses, residents and visitors, we look forward to many more years of supporting this incredible community.” TheVillager.com
A Salute to Union Square EGD<G:HHG:EDGI
Retailers dropping anchor in ‘Flagship Central’
lthough New York City’s retail sector has experienced rising vacancies and rent drops in the last year, Union Square has remained stable and continues to rise as one of the city’s hottest shopping destinations. With more than 40 new businesses arriving in Union Square, the district’s vacancy rate remains at a low 1.7 percent. “Union Square’s variety of retailers has remained very diverse with each new opening this year,” said Kriss Casanova, director of economic development for the Union Square Partnership. “The district’s mix of fashion, fitness, beauty and services is very robust, and our vibrant business community has continued to draw foot traffic.” As shoppers continue to flock to Union Square, new retailers are looking to the district as the best place to establish flagships and maiden concepts in New York. “Union Square’s confluence of residents, students, shoppers and employees makes the district a unique point of entry for a company breaking into the New York market,” said William Abramson, co-chairperson of the Union Square Partnership LLC and director of Brokerage at Buchbinder & Warren Realty Group. “In particular, the growing number of tech and creative companies in the area that
appeal to a younger workforce has had a significant impact on the mix of fashion, fitness and beauty retailers that are attracted to Union Square.” Several fashion brands established New York City outposts on the west side of the square this year. Renowned fashion rental startup Rent the Runway relocated to 15th St. and upgraded to a larger space, unveiling its first flagship. Activewear brand Lou & Grey opened its first New York City location at 138 Fifth Ave. in the fall. And further down the avenue, internationally renowned sailing supply company North Sails also made its New York City debut. New eateries also continue to dominate the district landscape, as one-of-a-kind concepts look to Union Square to establish their first locations in the city. Newcomers included Sushi sensation Sugarfish, Washington, D.C.,-based Mediterranean eatery Cava Grill, and Make Sandwich, a new concept from the founders of Bark Hot Dogs and Melt Shop. Union Square even saw an international opening this year as well, in Japanese udon concept TsuruTonTan’s stateside debut on 16th St. last winter. Union Square’s well-established health and wellness sector recently welcomed new additions, as well. New businesses
B U C HB IN D E R U N ION
Dept. 1908 is Paragon Spor ts’ new foot wear experience, boasting 2,500 curated styles of footwear in a fresh, new space inside Paragon. The name is a nod to Paragon’s heritage and as a familyowned and operated, innovative specialty store since 1908.
such as Dept. 1908 Footwear at Paragon Sports and Jordan 23 joined Union
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Square’s lineup of fitness retailers. Known as the epicenter of the city’s health and wellness scene, Union Square now houses more than 100 innovative fitness studios, gyms, athleisure retailers, healthy eateries and juice shops. To complement the abundance of health and wellness retailers, beauty brands have found a natural home in Union Square, as well, in recent years. Last winter, NYX Cosmetics opened its flagship Manhattan store at 41 Union Square West, joining beauty retailers MAC, The Red Door, Sephora, Fresh and Blue Mercury and strengthening the district’s position as a beauty destination. “New York is the ultimate beauty mecca with a very discerning customer, which means the store had to feel special and unique,” said Scott Friedman, president of NYX Professional Makeup. “Through exclusive, interactive areas within our largest footprint yet, customers will be treated to a customized beauty shopping experience unlike any other.” “It’s an exciting time to be a business in Union Square,” Casanova said. “With a diverse mix of existing businesses and an abundance of new concepts, our vibrant community is continuing to see foot traffic as more and more people are spending time in the district.”
S ALUTE S
E ND U RI N G
R E LEVA NCE
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A Salute to Union Square EGD<G:HHG:EDGI
Dining mainstays evolve as next-gen stars arrive
hether you’re a foodie or not, you’ve probably seen, heard and read a lot about Union Square’s dining scene lately. “Union Square truly does have one of New York City’s richest culinary scenes, and this year, we’ve seen a lot of activity within the district,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership. “With exciting news — from storied neighborhood institutions, to a bevy of new concepts opening up — more restaurateurs are looking to find space in the square and become a part of the district’s dynamic foodie culture.” Union Square Cafe has long been known as a staple of the district’s deeprooted culinary culture. This past winter, Danny Meyer debuted the restaurant’s new larger location on Park Ave. South to much fanfare. The eatery, which first opened in 1985 and has remained one of the Greenmarket’s biggest patrons, boasts an updated space while maintaining its original ambiance, and was awarded three stars by The New York Times’s Pete Wells just last month. “We are thrilled to have brought our new home to life with the dishes we have been working on for the year,” said Carmen Quagliata, executive chef of Union Square Cafe. “It put a big smile on my face to settle back into the cadence of the kitchen, and re-engage with the Greenmarket, the seasons and our guests.” Union Square Cafe wasn’t the only Union Square veteran to show off new digs lately. Blue Water Grill celebrated its 20th anniversary this past summer with a renovated interior, a new executive chef and a raw bar and cocktail concept dubbed Metropolis on its lower level. Even as the district’s treasured institutions continue to thrive, many new eateries have joined the district’s dining landscape. And with more than 100,000 employees commuting into Union Square each week, the area’s constantly growing variety of dining options is sure to satisfy anyone’s taste, no matter how particular. New fine-dining eateries have further proven Union Square’s importance as an incubator for new concepts. JeanGeorges Vongerichten unveiled his highly anticipated eatery abcV on E. 19th St. this past winter, offering a sustainable menu based on a plant-centric diet. TsuruTonTan, a Japanese Udon noodle brasserie, opened in Union Square Cafe’s former space on 16th St. With 12 restaurants in Japan, the restaurant is TsuruTonTan’s first location in the U.S. And just last month, Israeli chef Meir Adoni and Breads Bakery founder Gadi Peleg joined forces to open Nur, a modern Middle Eastern concept that marks Adoni’s first stateside restaurant.
May 11, 2017
PHOTO COURTESY CAVA GRILL
Savor y fare at the new Cava Grill in Union Square.
“Nur was opened in Union Square for many of the same reasons I selected the area when opening Breads Bakery,” said Peleg. “The neighborhood is the epicenter of the New York culinary scene, and the Greenmarket serves as the district’s heart and soul. We are thrilled to add Nur to the culinary landscape of this unique neighborhood and strive to be part of this exciting scene for years to come.” Trending eats have made a name for themselves on Union Square’s dining scene, as well. As the poke (“poh-kay”) craze spread through the city, the district saw four different takes on the popular Hawaiian fish salad. Even the food-hall trend made it to the square this year in the form of Union Fare, the part-restaurant part-gastro hall offering everything from baked goods to street food. Many of the newest concepts in Union Square are fine / casual eateries. Combining fine dining’s regard for high-quality ingredients with the price point and service model of a grab-’n’-go, the trend has spread through the district with concepts like sweetgreen and Make Sandwich. Shortly after Union Square Cafe opened in its new location, it debuted Daily Provisions — the most casual eatery in Danny Meyer’s portfolio — offering coffee, baked goods, sandwiches and other savory items next door to Union Square Cafe. Washington, D.C.,-based Mediterranean concept CAVA Grill
chose Union Square to open its first New York location with its chef-driven, customizable menu. “Union Square is an important and historic intersection where people from all backgrounds come together and the roots of food are shared through the seminal Greenmarket,” said CAVA Grill C.E.O. Brett Schulman. “It has been the ideal place for us to introduce the culinary force of CAVA to Manhattan.” Even GrowNYC — the operators of that seminal Greenmarket — brought something new to the square. Building off of the Greenmarket’s success, GrowNYC unveiled a new state-of-theart sustainability center dubbed Project Farmhouse. The new space, located just off the square on 13th St., allows New Yorkers to explore environmental issues through the lens of food, horticulture, the arts and more, and is also open for booking private events. “Union Square’s dining scene has had a truly remarkable year,” said Falk. “Our inventive food culture continues to thrive and we can’t wait to see what next year brings.”
From cooking, composting to talks, tours at Farmhouse BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y
roject Farmhouse, at 76 E. 13th St., an initiative of GrowNYC, officially kicked off at the end of last month with an open house just around the corner from the Hyatt Union Square. A stone’s throw from New York’s flagship Greenmarket — one of the first of the now more than 50 citywide Greenmarkets and also a project of GrowNYC — the new public-education space offered visitors information at tables touting the recycling, gardening and education programs of GrowNYC. Project Farmhouse is intended to be a place where people can explore sustainability issues through food, horticulture, art and architecture programming. It’s a place to “get your hands dirty” and nurture healthy and “green decisions and actions.” In the future, recycling, composting and gardening workshops, chef-led cooking classes, films, panel discussions and special activities for young people will take place in this space. At the open house, there were cooking demos, architecture walks, requisite healthy snacks and a raffle. The flexible, multi-use 3,500-square-foot space, in-
cluding a conference room, is suitable and available for rent for meetings and events.
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Cooking up something good at a demonstration at the new Project Farmhouse. TheVillager.com
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Atzmon and protesters both claim free speech ATZMON continued from p. 1
under the guise of philosophy. A former Israeli soldier and “proud self-hating Jew,” Atzmon clearly relishes his role as provocateur. Though he’s better known as a saxophonist (he used to play with Ian Drury and the Blockheads), he’s parlayed his critiques of Israel, Zionism and Jewish “chosenness” into a certain niche on the American left. His fi rst book, “The Wandering Who?” plays off the Christian mythic figure of the “Wandering Jew” — which has long been an anti-Semitic trope. His latest work, “Being in Time: A Post-Political Manifesto,” has an intro written by former Congresswoman and Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney. That kind of support enrages antiZionist Jews like Bill Weinberg. A Villager columnist and left-wing journalist, Weinberg launched a socialmedia campaign to pressure Theatre 80 owner Lorcan Otway to cancel the panel, saying it would only serve to “legitimize” Atzmon’s “odious” theories. The panel included attorney Stanley Cohen and Gilad Atzmon. Otway responded — in an op-ed post for the “Times of Israel,” no less — that he would not censor Atzmon, despite his own “deepfelt disagreements” with Atzmon’s views on the reasons for the Nazi genocide. The best antidote to hate speech is more speech, Otway argued, noting that the panel would feature other speakers — such as radical attorney Stanley Cohen — who are critical of Atzmon, as well as a Q&A from the audience. Undeterred, Weinberg and fellow antifa (anti-fascist) activists announced plans to picket the event — though they never said they would disrupt it, as some alleged. They pointed out that Atzmon also has admirers on the Right, like David Duke — and questioned why a radical like Cohen would appear with him. Were Weinberg and crew just being “overly sensitive”? In an online article in The Villager two days before the event, Cohen proclaimed it all “lunacy.” And, indeed, from the outside, it seemed crazy that three old-school, left-wing East Villagers were having such a public dust-up over this single event. Was the East Village becoming a Berkeleyesque war zone — a politically correct minefield, where efforts to shut down “bad” speech only serve to amplify the hate? I’d never heard of Atzmon before this — let alone read his books — but all the drama just made me more curious. In fact, there were no rabid Jewish
May 11, 2017
PHOTOS BY SARAH FERGUSON
At one point, Gilad Atzmon drew bell cur ves representing intelligence for Jews and other groups — to what end, it wasn’t exactly clear.
Two of the protesters outside the theater. The woman at right noted that while Eric Clapton might be a good musician, he has made racist and xenophobic comments — implying that while Gilad Atzamon might well be an enter taining speaker and saxophonist, it doesn’t override the fact that things he has said and written are troubling and dangerous. Atzamon per formed a jazz concer t after the panel discussion.
Defense League thugs parked outside Theatre 80 ready to sucker-punch Atzmon or the other panelists when they arrived on Sunday (as Cohen had predicted). Instead, I found Weinberg, who runs an anti-Zionist blog called “New Jewish Resistance,” passing out leaflets that blared: “Jew-haters out of the East Village.” Joining him were a half-dozen other protesters bearing
signs like “Atzmon is Shonde.” A few arguments broke out between the protest group and audience members as they entered the theater. “Why don’t you come inside and hear what [Atzmon] has to say before you judge him? You’re just following the herd,” said one young man who said he was Jewish, smoking a cigarette.
“Why don’t you kill yourself with cancer,” came the retort. By contrast, the panel itself was relatively tame. It consisted of Atzmon, Cohen and two other Jewish iconoclasts, who didn’t really debate so much as expound on their separate themes. They included Michael Lesher, an Orthodox Jew and attorney who has written about sexual abuse in Orthodox communities, and Professor Norton Mezvinsky, a historian of Zionism and the Arab-Israeli confl ict, whose nephew happens to be married to Chelsea Clinton. “We don’t agree on many things,” announced Cohen, kicking off the forum. “But one thing that all four of us agree on is there is no arbiter of free speech.” “Whenever you try to engage in time, place and manner controls based on content, it’s a slippery slope,” Cohen continued. Having defended the rights of everyone from squatters to Hamas and Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law, Cohen said he wasn’t one to favor restricting speech from those with whom he disagreed. He railed against the growing “insularity of the Left,” which he said was too often driven by the “cult of personality,” rather than any real consistency of positions or belief. Similarly, Atzmon spoke on the “tyranny of political correctness,” saying it was in fact “worse than tyranny, because it is self-censorship. It is you who silence yourself.” Atzmon blamed “identity politics,” which he said had divided progressives into “sectarian wars,” allowing “big money” and “the elites” to control us, while alienating the working classes, who have turned to the nativist populism voiced by people like Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s rightwing UK Independence Party. All that seemed well and good — at least until Atzmon got into trying to defi ne who the “elites” running the ship are. At one point, he singled out fi nancier George Soros and his Open Society for “sustaining” this “progressive madness.” Later, he cited the multiculturalism preached by Norman Lear on “All in the Family” as having enormous sway, and even pointed to the preponderance of Jewish landlords in New York City. During the Q&A, Atzmon got more specific. He drew up a series of bell curves to illustrate the dominance of what he termed the “Jewish cognitive elite” — an elite created, he said, by 1,500 years of the children of “European rabbinical Jews” and Jewish merchants intermarrying to foster a “society based on mammon and ATZMON continued on p. 26 TheVillager.com
Mother, Manilow, Mania, Murder Bonus content abounds on Blu-ray of John Waters’ ‘Serial Mom’ BY SCOTT STIFFLER You’re in candid and charming and proudly perverse company when watching a John Waters film with John Waters. “Now this of course is one of my favorite scenes,” the writer-director notes on his audio commentary, just moments before Baltimore housewife Beverly Sutphin beats an annoying neighbor to death with a leg of lamb. “It has everything; murder, shrimping, dog abuse.” Actually, the dog thing is up for interpretation. “No,” he quickly course corrects, “it wasn’t dog abuse, basically, because you just put butter on your toes and a dog will lick your toes all night — one thing we discovered.” That odd little tip is among the many amazing facts and enlightening anecdotes awaiting the discovery of fetish neophytes and Waters completists alike, when they spend a few hours soaking in the bonus content on the Blu-ray collector’s edition of “Serial Mom” — just released from the Scream Factory imprint in time for, depending on her sense of humor, Mother’s Day. Before exploring other revelations peppered throughout the extras on that well-appointed release, this publication had to ask a tough, nagging question at the onset of our recent phone interview with the director who filmed such startling acts as anal stimulation via rosary beads (1970’s “Multiple Maniacs”), feces ingestion (1972’s “Pink Flamingos”), and puke (see most of his oeuvre). Are there, we asked of the “Serial Mom” scene with those buttered-up toes, other cinematic instances of canine-on-human-shrimping? “There are a lot of shots where dogs shove their nose in someone’s crotch,” Waters deadpanned, “but I don’t know. There could be. But off the top of my head? My dog-shrimping history? I don’t know that there’s another one; but I could be proven wrong.” No matter. “Serial Mom” can certainly claim its share of unique moments, as well as unprecedented elements for a John Waters film: first sets to be built from scratch (interiors for the Sutphin home), first use of a stuntman (the conTheVillager.com
cert immolation scene), highest budget ($13 million), and first casting of a mainstream Hollywood star in the lead female role. It’s also the most amount of money the director ever laid out for music rights (more on that later). Released in 1994, “Serial Mom” is Waters’ sendup of suburban banality and true crime dramatizations. Turner, as the well-composed titular menace, bristles at the slightest indignity visited upon son Chip (Matthew Lillard as a blood and gore film fan), blossoming daughter Misty (Ricki Lake, who launched a successful talk show in Sept. 1993), and husband Eugene (Sam Waterson, giving a richly flummoxed performance familiar to fans of his work on the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie”).
SERIAL MOM’S STANDARDS SHARED BY HER CREATOR
PHOTO BY GREG GORMAN
John Waters’ only regret in life is not accepting that offer for a Barry Manilow MasterCard.
COURTESY SHOUT! FACTORY
L to R: Mink Stole and Kathleen Turner as, respectively, the victim and perpetrator of a cruel prank. John Waters credits 1959’s “Pillow Talk” as the source of his affinity for the split screen technique.
“She’s the Breck Girl gone crazy,” says Waters in the making-of featurette, when commenting on Turner’s cheerful but easily crossed mother — who secretly purchases books with titles like “Helter Skelter” and “Hunting Humans,” corresponds by cassette tape with Ted Bundy (Waters, in an uncredited voice-over), and phone pranks her divorced neighbor Dottie Hinkle (Mink Stole) into uttering obscenities. “She thought she was doing the right thing,” Waters told us. “Serial Mom had the right morals, she was just... well, talk about a reactionary.” Stopping short of condoning the ultimate punishment Sutphin doles out more times than you can count on one hand, the character’s creator readily admitted, “I agree with some of the stuff Serial Mom does, like no white after Labor Day.” Waters noted he’s also in the “no velvet before Thanksgiving” camp, adding, “I’m right wing on fashion rules.” Like wife-ofa-dentist Beverly, who makes a visiting detective spit out his gum, Waters told us, “I hate it. It makes me crazy if somebody’s sitting next to me on a plane chewing gum. I feel like I could drag them off, like United Airlines. That’s SERIAL MOM continued on p. 20 May 11, 2017
SERIAL MOM continued from p. 19
what I want to do when I see them, without asking them; just grab them by the feet, pull them right out of the chair and up the aisle, right to the jetway. Chew your gum there.” Vivid daydreams of assault, righteous though they may be, seem to come easy to Waters, whose director’s commentary to the film notes, “I have a huge true crime library, probably one of the better ones in America; and I thought, God knows I know about this stuff. But nobody had ever made a movie that I could think of where you rooted for the serial killer to kill more.” Waters goes on to recall the casting of Patricia Hearst, as a juror who runs afoul of the aforementioned fashion stance regarding the seasonal shelf life of white. It’s Hearst’s second appearance in a Waters film (following 1990’s “Cry-Baby”), and the bonus content includes the backstory of how they met. Waters, who attended her 1976 trial, opines on the etiquette of courtroom hag subculture, and Hearst recalls the phone conversation they had during the June 17, 1994 O.J. Simpson white Bronco chase.
MINK STOLE TALKS TECHNIQUE AND TONE What remains the most famous slow police pursuit in history happened just two months after the release of “Serial Mom” — which, longtime Waters ensemble member Mink Stole noted when we spoke with her by phone, contains an eerily predictive scene (the Sutphin family is followed by a phalanx of police cars as they slowly drive to from home to church). “There’s a shine on it,” Stole said of “Serial Mom,” which she called “polished in a way that none of his other films are. I watched it a couple of days ago for the first time in years and it holds up. There’s not a wrong note or an extra beat; it just works. I think you can credit Kathleen for a lot of that,” Stole noted, “but you can also credit John” for “a gradual progression over the course of the years. I mean, we started out in eight millimeter [film stock], and now, here we were in 35 millimeter; and we had money! When we were making ‘Multiple Maniacs,’ there was no money for reshooting. You had to remember your dialogue from beginning to end. With ‘Serial Mom,’ we had the luxury of being able to afford retakes.” Stole said her performance was also a dip into uncharted waters, so to speak. “This was the first movie where John would tell me to take it down,” she recalled, “which was interesting, and
May 11, 2017
COURTESY SHOUT! FACTORY
A whiz in the kitchen and a killer on the loose: Kathleen Turner as Beverly Sutphin.
an unexpected challenge. What was wonderful about this movie was, there’s an element of restraint to it. Even the scene in the courtroom where I scream and lose control is not the same kind of lunacy as, say, ‘Desperate Living.’ I was aware that the whole film was understated, which is a total departure for John.” Stole’s was especially aware of abiding by that tone in the early phone prank scene, which sets up Stole’s Dottie Hinkle as innocent but easily goaded, while firmly establishing the cat and mouse sadism of its lead character (also notable in the commentary version of this scene is Waters’ nod to 1959’s “Pillow Talk” as the source of his affinity for the split screen technique). “People do like it,” Stole said of the foul-mouthed exchange, in which Sutphin masquerades as a phone company rep who requires Hinkle to use the obscene language she’s been subjected to by her mysterious caller (Serial Mom, of course). “I had to allow myself to be pulled into her sphere,” Stole recalled of working with Turner, “rather than her into mine, and that was great for me.” A later scene, again with Turner as well as Mary Jo Catlett as nosy neighbor and fussy Franklin Mint Faberge Egg collector Rosemary Ackerman, was “like being shot out of a cannon,” Stole said. “I was working with two women I consider consummate professionals. I didn’t want to be bad, and that made me nervous. But Dottie was a little stiff
anyway. She had a personal rigidity, so I was able to incorporate that.” Taking it down more than a few notches paid off. Waters, during the feature commentary version in which both he and Turner watch the film, said of Stole, “I think this is my favorite role she ever did, actually. … The very first day in rehearsal, when I heard Mink calling Kathleen a cocksucker in my living room, I knew my worlds had come together.”
THE HIGH COST OF HIT MUSIC Now back to the matter of what a $13 million budget can buy. That scene with Turner wailing on her neighbor with a leg of lamb (a favorite dish of Waters’ mother) happens as the victim settles in to watch a VHS copy of “Annie,” which she’s told video store clerk Chip Sutphin she won’t be rewinding. The murderous deed happens to the tune of “Tomorrow,” which, on the director’s solo commentary track, Waters pegged as costing $60,000-$70,000. “I don’t know why they just didn’t’ say no,” he told us, about the process of acquiring music rights. “I’ve had many people say no before. They ask for content and I think, oh Christ, there it goes, they’re going to say no. But I think they gave us a really high price, thinking we would say no, because not only do we murder the song, but Kathleen even kills a woman with a leg of lamb in beat with the music, in time. So I think it was
worth the money.” Also of note is the 1976 pop tune “Daybreak,” which Serial Mom sings along with during a high-stress driving situation. “I just thought that Serial Mom would like Barry Manilow’s music,” Waters told us. “I mean, I like it. But ‘Daybreak’ was a mainstream, Middle America hit; and good for him! Barry thought it was funny. He was totally for it.” On the commentary with Turner, Waters recalled, “Later, I got, from Barry, an application to get a Barry Manilow MasterCard.” Pressed for details during our interview, Waters confirmed it wasn’t mere junk mail, but a personal invite from Manilow himself. “I don’t know if it was a joke or not,” Waters said. “I didn’t get one because I already had a MasterCard, but I should have. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t get a Barry Manilow MasterCard.” The “Serial Mom Collector’s Edition Blu-ray” ($34.93) is available now on retail shelves and via Shout! Factory’s genre entertainment imprint, Scream Factory (shoutfactory.com). Bonus material includes two feature commentary tracks (one from Waters, one with Turner and Waters); a “making-of” featurette; a conversation with Waters, Stole and Turner; a “Serial Mom: Surreal Moments” compilation of interviews with cast and crew; the original theatrical trailer; and the featurette “The Kings of Gore: Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman.” TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY SHELDAN C. COLLINS, COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY
COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY
Georgia O’Keeffe: “Music, Pink and Blue No. 2” (1918. Oil on canvas, 35 × 29 15/16in.).
Jacob Lawrence: “War Series: Prayer” (1947 from “War Series.” Tempera on composition board, 16 1/8 × 20 1/4in.).
Buhmann on Art Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900-1960 BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN Engaging in an interesting dialogue with the current Whitney Biennial, this stunning installation organized by David Breslin with Jennie Goldstein and Margaret Kross depicts another tumultuous time in American history. Comprised of works from the museum’s collection, this exhibition focuses on the first six decades of the 20th century — when life changed drastically due to two World Wars, the Industrial Revolution, economic collapse, and growing demands for civil rights. Artists responded in myriad ways, documented here by a variety of iconic works by Louise Bourgeois, John Steuart Curry, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Jacob Lawrence, and Georgia O’Keeffe, among many others. In addition, less prominent names, such as Palmer Hayden, Archibald Motley and PaJaMa, as well as more obscure works by well-known artists like Ellsworth Kelly, are featured. One such gem comes in the form of an envelope, which was sent from Merce Cunningham to Robert Rauschenberg. On it, we find a drawing of two American flags by their mutual friend Jasper Johns. To assure cohesion, the exhibition traces five themes: family and community, work, home, the spiritual, and the nation. Meanwhile, its title is derived from a phrase in W. H. Auden’s poem TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY RON AMSTUTZ, COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY
L to R: Arshile Gorky, “The Artist and His Mother” (1926-c.1936); Louise Bourgeois, “Quarantania” (1941), Henry Billings, “Machines and Men” (1931), Jerome Liebling, “Grain Worker, Minneapolis, MN” (1950) and Jasper Johns, “Three Flags” (1958).
“September 1, 1939,” which he wrote in New York City at the outset of World War II, referring to the day Germany invaded Poland. When thinking of Auden’s words while viewing this installation, one cannot help but further con-
template the fragility of peace, as we still know it. Open-ended run at the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort St., btw. 10th Ave. & Washington St.). Hours: Sun., Mon., Wed., Thurs.,
10:30am–6pm. Fri. & Sat., 10:30am– 10pm. Admission: Online, $22 general, $17 for students/seniors. At the door: $25 general, $18 for students/senior. Free for members and those under 18. Call 212-570-3600 or visit whitney.org. May 11, 2017
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Letters to The Editor LETTERS continued from p. 10
the same side as you on every issue. De Blasio is smart, articulate, hardworking and a consistent fighter for the middle and lower classes. Bob Dal
Chin is a sellout To The Editor: Re “Chin is developers’ doormat, must stop down, activists cry” (news article, May 4): Even her natural allies, the Asian Americans, realize what a disaster and sellout she is. Frances Cunningham
Atzmon deserved it To The Editor: Re “Flirting with the Devil: Gilad Atzmon and the ‘tyranny’ of free speech” (news article, thevillager. com, May 5) I’m very glad that Bill Weinberg and others picketed the event. It’s
critical that supporters of Palestinian human rights have nothing to do with anti-Jewish racists like Atzmon, and the picket makes that clear. If Atzmon hadn’t been born to Jewish parents in Israel, no one would be giving his “philosophy” of contempt against anything Jewish a moment’s notice. In his book “The Wondering Who?” he writes about a man named Otto Weininger: “Weininger was an anti-Semite as well as a radical misogynist.” In the chapter’s conclusion, he writes, “Otto Weininger was just twenty-three when he committed suicide. One may wonder how he knew so much about women. Why did he hate them so? How did he know so much about Jews, and why did he hate them so?” If this doesn’t categorize Atzmon as a fi rst-class putz, nothing will. It’s a scandal that the other panelists appeared with him and it’s sad that Otway gave him a forum. For those interested my review of Atzmon’s “Who?” book, visit http:// w w w.thestruggle.org/review_who. htm . Stanley Heller
Gina Zuckerman, Holocaust survivor who bested mugger
ina Zuckerman, the local senior who fearlessly fought off a mugger who tried to steal her duffel bag from her cart on Fifth Ave. last September, died at home on April 15. She was 91. Zuckerman had lived at 10 W. 15th St. since 1993. According to a statement by the building’s board of directors, She was a Holocaust survivor from Poland and had worked in advertising on Madison Ave. “To neighbors, family and friends, she was a very kind and special person,” the board said. With Zuckerman’s help, the alleged mugger was arrested in December. The nonagenarian said the suspect shouldn’t go to jail if she was mentally ill. “I am not vengeful, I just think this is a terrible thing for her to do,” Zuckerman told the Daily News. “I’ve been thinking about the lady, and I think she should go to a mental hospital. I don’t think she should go to a jail.” In recognition of Zuckerman’s bravery and love of the Village, state Senator Brad Hoylman on presented her on Oct. 27 with a proclamation, declaring it Gina Zuckerman Appreciation Day. She was a longtime member and volunteer at Greenwich House’s Center on
May 11, 2017
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Gina Zuckerman in Washington Square Park.
the Square senior day center on Washington Square North — which is where she was headed when the female thug struck. Laura Marceca, the center’s director, said, “Gina was a main fi xture at the center and will never be forgotten. She was a special woman who dedicated her time to her friends, who were like family to her at our senior center. We will miss her deeply.” There was no service in New York. Zuckerman was buried with her husband in California.
Our eye on Albany To The Editor: I was pleased to see “The good and bad: A look at the state budget,” by Brad Hoylman, in the May 4 issue of The Villager. In this special Progress Report column, Senator Hoylman provides an exceptional view of what’s in and not in the governor’s new budget. Most “ordinary” citizens don’t have an opportunity to examine the ins and outs of documents produced in Albany. Thank you, Senator Hoylman. Annette Zaner
Evil mega-dairies To The Editor: Last week, The Washington Post published a major exposé of the U.S. dairy industry, concluding that megadairies scam consumers into paying extra for “organic” milk that isn’t. The timing, a few days before Mother’s Day, could not be more appropriate. Dairy cows, worldwide symbols of motherhood, never get to see or nurture their babies. The newborn calves are torn from their mothers at birth and turned into
veal cutlets, so the dairy industry can sell their milk. The distraught mothers bellow for days, hoping in vain for their babies’ return. Instead, they are chained on a concrete warehouse floor, milked by machines, then impregnated artificially to renew the pregnancy and keep the milk flowing. When their production drops, around four years of age, they are ground into hamburgers. This Mother’s Day, let’s all honor motherhood and our natural compassion for animals by rejecting the dairy industry’s cruelty. Let’s replace cow’s milk and its products, laden with cholesterol, saturated fats, hormones and antibiotics. Let’s choose delicious, healthful, cruelty-free plant-based milk, cheese and ice cream products offered at our grocery store. Nico Young 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.
Atzmon and free speech ATZMON continued from p. 18
scholarship.” America, he alleged, was caught in the throes of “cognitive partitioning,” with rich Jews leading us around by the nose. Cohen threw up his hands and attempted to put a halt to such talk, saying the audience didn’t come to hear “this kind of debate.” But in fact, many in the crowd did. “We all agree with freedom of speech and association, but you can’t have that without freedom from association,” chimed in one man sitting in the back. This man wanted Atzmon to address how “sociopaths like George Soros” and various Israeli charities had somehow aided and abetted the wave of refugees and immigrants washing across Europe. Couldn’t the “Jewish concept of diaspora” be influencing that, he demanded? I sat there waiting for Atzmon to refute this man’s absurdly broad, anti-Semitic claim, but Atzmon actually gave it credence: “Your question is spot-on,” he responded. “Soros is supporting a lot of pro-immigration lobbies,” he said, along with the rest of the “Jewish intelligentsia.
“For Jews, it is better to live in a society that is fragmented and sectarian,” Atzmon said. “And yet, Israel is the most anti-immigration country in the world.” The real conspiracy, he maintained, wasn’t that Jews somehow controlled things like immigration, but that we’re “not allowed to talk about it.” I looked around to find many of the audience members smiling and shaking their heads in agreement. A guy in back of me started ranting about J.F.K.’s 1965 immigration act, which got rid of country (i.e. racial) quotas for immigration. That, he said, is what “changed everything” in America — for the worse. It was all more than I could bear. I left feeling shocked, not so much by what Atzmon had said, but by the crowd he’d dragged in. Who were these people? And what were they doing in Theatre 80 — this little throwback of a progressive theater run by a Quaker, no less, the son of Irish and Romany (gypsy) immigrants — how could this place have devolved, even temporarily, into a haven for such bigotry? I’ve always believed it’s better to expose hate in the open, rather than allow it to fester in secret. But what if by giving hate a platform, you wind up propelling it instead? TheVillager.com
Beth Israel beds, insurance top town hall issues HEALTHCARE continued from p. 1
state Department of Health provision to advance Beth Israel’s redevelopment plans without the need for full community consultation and participation. Nearly 100 people attended the forum, at the Local 32BJ SEIU building, at 25 W. 18th St. It was convened by the Lower Manhattan chapter of New York Progressive Action Network — a statewide network of 25 affiliates that supported Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid. NYPAN members heard a call from advocacy group leaders to stage rallies and reach out to their city and state politicians to demand that hospital officials do an in-depth community needs study before any further moves to shut down and relocate the hospital’s services is approved by state D.O.H. Mt. Sinai Beth Israel plans to close the doors of its historic Gramercy hospital at E. 16th St. and First Ave. and sell the square-block property to a stillundisclosed developer. The hospital has already discontinued its cardiac-surgery unit, and this or next month will relocate its maternity ward, pediatric-surgery unit and neonatal intensive-care unit to other locations in the extensive Mt. Sinai hospitals system. Arthur Z. Schwartz, Greenwich Village male Democratic district leader and the local NYPAN political director, said
a lack of political leadership is to blame for the Beth Israel situation. “The blame falls on Governor Cuomo,” he said, “and on local elected officials, who should have been on top of this for us. “The new 70-bed hospital they’re planning to build will not be a good substitute for what we have now,” Schwartz added. “Their strategy seems to be to close Beth Israel a piece at a time. They’re exchanging inpatient care for outpatient care.” Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch, a national group that advocates for patients’ access to healthcare facilities, explained that this piecemeal dismantling of various Beth Israel hospital services could be done because of an obscure state Health provision regarding its “certificate of need” program. The program is a review process, mandated under state law, which governs the establishment, ownership, construction, renovation and change in service of specific types of healthcare facilities. Under this state D.O.H. monitoring program, Uttley said, there is a “multiple limited-review process” — an arcane provision that does not require “small multiple changes” in hospital services to be subjected to any full-scale public hearings or other in-depth public scrutiny. “No public hearings are required by the New York State Department of
Health through this provision,” she said, “and Mt. Sinai Beth Israel is taking advantage of this regulation.” Uttley said residents must demand of their political leaders, mayor and governor that this “limited review” provision be revoked, and that public input must be sought anytime a hospital or major medical facility wants to shut down or redistribute any services to other locations, no matter how small the changes may be. “We must increase transparency in this process,” she stressed. “We must insist that a comprehensive plan for the closure of a hospital and redistribution of its services be open to public comment and a full review by the State Department of Health and the Public Health and Planning Council.” Carlina Rivera, the East Village female Democratic district leader and a candidate to succeed Councilmember Rosie Mendez, also spoke. “This is our community,” Rivera said. “We want to make sure that we’re all speaking with one voice about the closing of the hospital. Reducing the number of hospital beds to 70 is a dramatic decrease,” she added. “There already aren’t enough beds for people to rehabilitate.” Also at the town hall, residents were asked to get more involved in pushing for the enactment of the New York Health Act — a “Medicare for All” type of health
system — now before the state Senate. This so-called “single-payer system” would, its advocates say, offer publicly financed healthcare to every person regardless of income, and allow people — including the uninsured — to go to the doctor and hospital of their choice. Alec Pruchnicki, an executive board member of Physicians for A National Health Program, told the meeting that the passage of this universal healthcare act would “eliminate private insurance companies almost entirely.” He also said it would help hospitals survive financially by reducing medical costs due to insurance companies’ excessive charges. He backed up by Mark Hannay, director of NY Metro Health Care for All, a healthcare justice coalition. Hannay said this government-run, taxpayerfunded single-payer insurance program would “expand coverage eligibility to include all residents, regardless of wealth, income, age or health status.” Mt. Sinai has started “phase one” of its $500-million plan to create a new “Mt. Sinai Downtown” healthcare network. The centerpiece, a smaller replacement hospital for Beth Israel — two blocks from the current hospital — could be built as soon as four years from now. Along with 70 inpatient beds, it would have operating and procedure rooms, plus an emergency department.
May 11, 2017
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May 11, 2017
May 11, 2017