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YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN

DOING JUST FINE ON AVENUE NINE

From 42nd Street all the way up to 57th, last weekend’s Ninth Avenue International Food Festival delivered a feast for the senses. See page 8 for more tasty treats from photographer Christian Miles.

© CHELSEA NOW 2017 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

VOLUME 09, ISSUE 13 | MAY 25-31, 2017


Car Plows Into Times Square Crowd; Driver in Custody, Father of Victim Pens Message of Grief, Gratitude BY JACKSON CHEN A Michigan teenager was killed and at least 22 were injured in Times Square when Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Navy veteran, plowed into the crowds on the pedestrian plaza at around noon on Thurs., May 18, officials said. Rojas, who has two prior arrests for driving while intoxicated and admitted to police that he was high on marijuana laced with PCP, was charged later that day with murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and aggravated vehicular homicide for driving his 2009 maroon Honda Accord into Times Square. Police identified Alyssa Elsman as the 18-year-old tourist from Michigan who died at the scene. Of the 22 injured was Elsman’s sister, Ava, who was being treated for a collapsed lung and broken pelvis, according to NYPD chief of Manhattan South detectives William Aubry. He added that three victims were in critical condition and a 38-yearold woman from Canada was in very critical condition. Rojas was driving southbound on Seventh Ave. when he made a U-turn at W. 42nd St. and then sped onto the sidewalk of Broadway, officials said. Rojas eventually crashed into the metal stanchions at the corner of W. 45th St. and Broadway, leaving his vehicle lopsided, propped up by the metal supports, and emitting white smoke. The driver attempted to flee, but was caught and held down by Good Samaritans and a traffic enforcement officer until police arrived and arrested Rojas, officials said. “I just want to apologize to all the victim’s families... I just want to apologize to my mom,” Rojas said in a jailhouse interview with the New York Post, during which he also noted he was trying to get help. The Navy vet told the paper that his day started as normal after having a meal with his mom and then wanting to take a drive to clear his head. Rojas added that he didn’t remember anything from the incident. While many feared the worst-case scenario of a terrorism attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed it wasn’t an act of terrorism at a press conference shortly after the incident. “Based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism,” de Blasio said at a May 18 press conference at W. 42nd St. and Broadway. Ehab, a food vendor at the corner

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Photo courtesy Abed Hamid and Ehab

The maroon Honda Accord driven by Richard Rojas propped up on the metal stanchions it collided with.

Photo by Christian Miles

The father of Alyssa Elsman added his own message to a makeshift memorial at the site of her May 18 death, after being struck by driver Richard Rojas.

Photo courtesy Abed Hamid and Ehab

of W. 44th St. and Broadway who withheld his last name, said he saw the Honda speeding on Broadway and ramming into several people. Panicked passersby began running away from the center of Times Square, Ehab said, and he was eventually forced to move his food cart down the block by police. Police squads began closing off streets following the incident, eventually blocking off access between W. 42nd and 52nd Sts. and Sixth and Eighth Aves. The street closures left many tourists stranded, unable to reach their hotels

An injured pedestrian gets attention from passersby. Photo courtesy Ehab and Abed Hamid.

ROJAS continued on p. 23 .com


With Hope in Sight, CB4 Presses City on Plight of Blighted Buildings BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC The city says it is taking steps toward finally rehabilitating four dilapidated buildings it owns and that have languished for years — eyesores that have been a source of consternation for neighbors and a community focused on affordable housing. The buildings — 201, 203, 205 and 207 Seventh Ave. (on and near the corner of W. 22nd St.) — have a “long tortured history,” Joe Restuccia, cochair of the Housing, Health & Human Services Committee, said at the start of the Community Board 4 (CB4) meeting on Thurs., May 18. “We’re at the beginning of a new process again.” Restuccia said the city has owned the buildings since 1978. Over the decades, the four buildings shifted from one program to another, he said, while the programs themselves also changed. Around five years ago, the city had “designated” a developer for the renovation, but “that developer did not work out and so now we are at another new chapter of this process,” he said. Restuccia noted it hasn’t been a lack trying on the part of the city agency that manages the programs, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). “Pretty much since the 2012 period, the goal has always been to do a renovation [and] tenant ownership,” Restuccia said. “I’d like to just say upfront we acknowledge that this has taken too long. We acknowledge that it’s an eyesore for the community — no doubt about it,” said Jordan Press, executive director for development and planning for HPD’s government affairs unit. Press said HPD is eager to work with the community and the tenants, “who will become cooperative owners of the building in the future.” The buildings are now part of a city program called the Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program (ANCP), which aims to create affordable co-ops. The ANCP was created in 2012 to rehabilitate buildings via Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) — a program in which tenants renting in cityowned buildings are helped to form co-ops, and manage and maintain their buildings. Eventually, the tenants buy their apartments for $250. The four buildings are separate but contiguous, and have 14 units with four commercial spaces on the ground floor, said Christine Retzlaff O’Connell, director of ANCP’s property disposition and finance. There will be a gut renovation and the four buildings will .com

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Neighbors have complained about vermin, squatting, and the longtime state of disrepair of four city-owned buildings at W. 22nd St. and Seventh Ave.

be joined into one, she said. An elevator will be installed, and the preliminary plan has the building going up two floors to seven stories, increasing the number of units to 18, she said. HPD intends to preserve the facade of the buildings, which Restuccia said were built in 1870. O’Connell declined to say who the new developer was, only noting it was a nonprofit organization. “We are in the process of formalizing the relationship and sharing that with the residents of the project so we tonight are not going to disclose,” she said. Restuccia tried twice to get the information but to no avail. “The community expects to understand what’s happening here” after all these years, he said. O’Connell said that the increase in units meant that the project will be required to go through ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure). Restuccia said CB4 has an affordable housing plan that had identified the four buildings as a site to be developed. When the board looked at the zoning, there was the feeling that at least 22 units could be built, he said. “I’m kind of surprised you’re talking about a ULURP, we actually recommended… a BUILDINGS continued on p. 15

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Removal, Restoration, Roof: Hopper-Gibbons Owner Ordered to Subtract Addition BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC Locked for years in a battle to restore Manhattan’s only documented Underground Railroad site, preservationists have won a major victory regarding the contentious fifth-floor addition to a landmarked building known as the Hopper-Gibbons House. During a Tues., May 23 public meeting of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), a decision was reached that the addition was inappropriate for the row house at 339 W. 29th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), denying that part of the owner’s application. The current structure will be removed, restoring the building to its original height — a roof that has historic significance that ties back to the Civil War and the abolitionist movement. “I’m like shaking with victory because it’s a little bit like my baby,” Fern Luskin told Chelsea Now outside the LPC’s office at 1 Centre St. She called the commission’s decision “the most amazing thing that could happen,” saying that she has been fighting since 2007 against the addition. “I was up on my roof and I saw the steel girders go up and I was very distressed about it. That’s when I delved into the history and I went to the Historic Districts Council,” she said. Led by Luskin and Julie Finch, Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons House Underground Railroad Site spearheaded an effort against the addition, enlisting the help of the Historic Districts Council, the Lamartine Place Block Association, Save Chelsea, elected officials, and the community. “This is amazing,” Finch said of the hard-won decision. “This is completely amazing. I am just — I’m inarticulate.” Attorney Michael Hiller said the LPC did its job Tuesday. “I think I can speak for everyone here that we’re thrilled with the result and we trust that the Landmarks Preservation Commission will continue to stand behind that result, and that this is officially over,” he said. The commission’s decision is that “no rooftop addition could ever be considered to be appropriate within the standard of the Landmarks Law,” Hiller said. “Any rooftop addition would always impinge upon, impair, deface, and defile the cultural significance of this particular landmark.” He added, “No rooftop addition

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Photo by Christian Miles

Like the scaffolding that it has been ensconced in for years, the Hopper-Gibbons house has been at the center of a restoration battle. Preservationists won a major victory as the contentious rooftop structure will be removed and the building will be restored to its original height.

Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

Fern Luskin, left, and Julie Finch, right, fought a rooftop addition to the landmarked Hopper-Gibbons House (seen here on May 23 with attorney Jack Lester, after the LPC decided the addition was inappropriate).

could ever be constructed which is why the members of the opposition are so pleased with the result today.” Abigail Hopper-Gibbons was a prominent abolitionist who participated in several social reform movements. Her home at what was then known as 19 Lamartine Place was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and was targeted during the Draft Riots of 1863. The rioters set the home on fire, and the Hopper-Gibbons family escaped by the roof, running across the buildings to safety. In 2009, the house was landmarked as part of the Lamartine Historic District. Hiller said the city’s Department of

Buildings (DOB) had issued an emergency declaration requiring that the addition be removed. Marvin Mitzner, lawyer for the building’s owner, Tony Mamounas, confirmed that the DOB had issued that work order, but could not say when the structure would be taken down. He said they are waiting for the written letter from the LPC detailing the actions they took on Tuesday, and then will discuss the next appropriate steps. “We’re disappointed that they didn’t approve the rooftop addition but we’re pleased they approved other aspects of the application,” he told Chelsea Now in a Wed., May 24 phone interview. Jack Lester, attorney for the Friends

of the Hopper-Gibbons House, said the LPC’s decision is a testament to the hard work and commitment of Luskin and Finch. “They fought this through the courts, through the Board of Standards and Appeals, back to the courts, back to the Appellate Division. So this is a long process, and this is a culmination and a validation of that process,” he said. “We spent hours and nights going over legal papers, redrafting affidavits, submitting them to judges.” Luskin recalled furiously working the day before Hurricane Sandy hit “because we knew the electricity would go any second.” Lester said a history that has been largely lost — what happened during the Draft Riots, how they persecuted African Americans, how they went after abolitionists — has a chance to be highlighted with the possibility of class trips to the Hopper-Gibbons House, which he called “a monument to the abolitionist movement. This is the only intact symbol of that movement existing in New York City.” In an email statement to Chelsea Now, State Senator Brad Hoylman called the LPC’s decision a “tremendous victory for historic preservation, community activism, and the rule of law. The Hopper-Gibbons House is an irreplaceable piece of our national hisHOPPER-GIBBONS continued on p. 15 .com


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ACT UP’s Eric Sawyer addresses the crowd.

Vigil Held for Imprisoned Gay Chechens as Reports Surface US Resisting Help For Refugee Seekers PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO A crowd of well over 100 demonstrators gathered at Washington Square Park on the evening of Thurs., May 18 to bring attention to the plight of LGBTQ Chechens, roughly 100 of whom have been reported kidnapped by officials and tortured in secret prisons in the Russian republic. Organized by longtime activist Timothy Lunceford and Rise and Resist leader Jay Walker, the protest attracted the support of RUSA LGBT, a network of New York-area Russian descendants, as well as of members of Rise and Resist, Gays Against Guns, and ACT UP. One hundred of the demonstrators wore pink triangles in honor of the estimated number of gay men rounded up in Chechnya. The protesters drew attention to reporting earlier in the day from BuzzFeed News that the US State Department was being unhelpful in efforts by American activists to facilitate the departure of LGBTQ Chechens from their country. BuzzFeed reported that the Russia LGBT Network said as many as 40 gay men are in hiding in Chechnya but that the Network was

RUSA LGBT’s Nina Long addresses the demonstrators.

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May 25-31, 2017

“discouraged” by conversations it initiated with US embassy officials there. Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, a strong ally of the Kremlin’s Vladimir Putin, has denied there is any crackdown on gays, saying, there are no LGBTQ people there, that “in Chechnya we just

Timothy Lunceford.

don’t have this problem.” A vigil in solidarity with LGBTQ Chechens was also held in San Francisco that evening, organized by the Bay Area Queer Anti-Fascist Network. RUSA LGBT, whose leader Nina Long is seen here addressing the demonstra-

tors, was among the organizers of the Sat., May 20 LGBTQ Pride March in Brighton Beach, the first such event hosted by Russian-speaking activists in the nation. —Additional reporting by Paul Schindler

Rise and Resist’s Jay Walker. .com


Tens of Thousands Join AIDS Walk 1SZSP`ObS

Twenty thousand participants joined this year’s AIDS Walk.

PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO In a year when health care is front and center in the nation’s public discourse, 20,000 New Yorkers turned out for the 32nd annual AIDS Walk. Sponsored by Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), it raises funds for that agency and several dozen other AIDS services groups in the tri-state area. Outpacing last year’s haul by roughly $85,000, the event raised an estimated $4.59 million, according figures from GMHC. “Thanks to our supporters, GMHC is leading the charge to demand access to healthcare — for those we serve and for all Americans,� Kelsey Louie, GMHC’s CEO, said in a written statement. “We issued the call, and AIDS Walk participants responded by showing up — to help people living with HIV; to help people in need of food, housing, and care; and to help certain elected leaders see what compassion looks like.� Craig Miller, the event’s senior organizer, took more direct aim at Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act implemented during the Obama administration, saying, “The noise, negativity, and nonsense out of Washington cannot drown out this demand from New Yorkers: We refuse to allow healthcare discrimination against people with HIV, diabetes, heart disease, and dozens of other ‘pre-existing conditions.’ We are fighting lawmakers that seek to strip away healthcare from millions. Our pre-existing conditions of compassion and unity will overcome efforts to divide and exclude.� .com

Jinkx Monsson, of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.�

A group of volunteers from Morgan Stanley.

This year, for the first time, participants were free to choose between the customary 10-kilometer walk through Central Park and the Upper West Side and a five-mile run in the park. And, in addition to the pre-walk Opening Ceremony that featured a dozen or so celebrities, there was a post-walk show helmed by comedian Kathy Griffin.

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Easy to Digest: Sweet and Savory Scenes From

PHOTO ESSAY BY CHRISTIAN MILES

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May 25-31, 2017

.com


The Ninth Avenue International Food Festival

.com

May 25-31, 2017

9


POLICE BLOTTER PETIT LARCENY: Petula tried to warn her

ASSAULT: Subway Sucker Punch

“Don’t Sleep in the Subway” was a big hit for Petula Clark in the summer of 1967 — but nearly a half-century later, some straphangers still haven’t learned much from the catchy tune’s cautionary lyrics. Case in point, the unfortunate incident that unfolded in the early morning hours of Fri., May 19, when a 41-year-old woman boarded the 7 train in Queens, gave her eyes a very long rest, then woke up at the 34th Street–Hudson Yards station to discover $700 worth of belongings had been taken (stored between her feet, the victim noted she did not feel or see anyone take her property — which has a way of happening when you are unconscious). Now she can only dream of being reunited with her wallet, fl ash drive, $300 in cash, Motorola cell phone valued at $400, and miscellaneous forms of identifi cation. At least the subway snoozer had the good sense to cancel her credit cards before any unauthorized charges could be made.

Police, on Sat., May 6, arrested and charged a 45-year-old man with two counts of assault and criminal trespass — for punching a 30-year-old woman in the face while on the southbound platform of the 34th Street-Herald Square station at around 7:30 a.m. on Thurs., May 4. The woman had bruises and swelling on her face, but refused medical attention. Police have also connected a Sat., April 22 incident with the perp, in which, at around 10:45 a.m., he is suspected of approaching a 23-year-old man in a restricted area of the subway system near the same 34th Street-Herald Square station before striking him with a pipe. Police said the attack was prefaced with an exchange of words and the man was hit on his left forearm and suffered swelling.

GRAND LARCENY AUTO: Driver sends engraved invitation to thieves A dim deliveryman has only himself to blame for the loss of precious cargo and

the wounding of pride. The 54-year-old parked his truck in front of 340 W. 28th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) at around 11 a.m. on Sat., May 20, then returned a short time later to find the vehicle missing. The man admitted to police that he left the keys in the ignition, and the door unlocked. A canvas was conducted in the surrounding area — and the responding officers even checked the NYPD tow pound to see if it had been taken away by legal means. Alas, both inquiries yielded negative results. A GPS device on the truck, however, indicated that less than an hour after the vehicle (valued at $6,000) went missing from W. 28th St., it was making its way, outbound, across the Willis Avenue Bridge — driven, one might reasonably surmise, by a thief grateful for the deliveryman’s carelessness, and only too happy to be in possession of his victim’s wallet, $40 cash, a Samsung Galaxy cell phone, and the goodies meant for delivery (60 boxes filled with medical supplies, and a hand truck to help facilitate the unloading process).

FELONY ROBBERY: Afternoon grab, flight A woman was exiting the subway at the northwest corner of Seventh Ave. and W. 14th St. at 2:15 p.m. on Fri., April 21, when a stranger grabbed her cell phone, according to police. When the victim, 23, tried to pull away from the suspect, he punched her on her left cheek and ear and ran away with her phone and other

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May 25-31, 2017

CASH FOR GUNS $100 cash will be given (no questions asked) for each handgun, assault weapon or sawed-off shotgun, up to a maximum payment of $300. Guns are accepted at any Police Precinct, PSA or Transit District.

THE 13th PRECINCT: Located at 230 E. 21st St. (btw. Second & Third Aves.). Deputy Inspector: Brendan Timoney. Call 212-477-7411. Community Affairs: 212-477-7427. Crime Prevention: 212-477-7427. Domestic Violence: 212-477-3863. Youth Officer: 212477-7411. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212477-4380. Detective Squad: 212-4777444. The Community Council meets on the third Tues. of the month, 6:30pm, at the 13th Precinct.

items, police said. Unauthorized charges totaling $575.42 were made on the credit card before the victim could cancel it. The victim reported the robbery an hour and 45 minutes after it happened. A 15-yearold male was arrested Mon., May 8, for felony robbery.

FELONY ROBBERY: Teen ‘takeout’ try A gun-toting 17-year-old tried to stick up the North Village Deli (78 Eighth Ave., on the southeast corner of W. 14th St.) on Tues., May 2, at 1:30 a.m., police said. The teen walked into the location, 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. The 17-year-old was arrested for felony robbery.

—Lincoln Anderson, Jackson Chen, Tabia Robinson, Scott Stiffler

MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT: Located at 357 W. 35th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Inspector: Russel J. Green. Call 212-2399811. Community Affairs: 212239-9846. Crime Prevention: 212239-9846. Domestic Violence: 212-239-9863. Youth Officer: 212239-9817. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-239-9836. Detective Squad: 212-239-9856. The Community Council meets on the third Thurs. of the month, 7pm, at the New Yorker Hotel (481 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 34th & W. 35th St.). Visit midtownsouthcc.org.

THE 10th PRECINCT: Located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Commander: Capt. Paul Lanot. Main number: 212-741-8211. Community Affairs: 212-741-8226. Crime Prevention: 212-741-8226. Domestic Violence: 212-741-8216. Youth Officer: 212-741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-9243377. Detective Squad: 212-7418245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7pm, at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced.

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tory and we have a responsibility protect it for future generations.” He added, “I’m profoundly grateful to Fern Luskin and Julie Finch, who have been the citizen heroes in this long saga, as well as Community Board 4 and all my government colleagues.” Hoylman, along with Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Councilmember Corey Johnson and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried submitted a letter asking the LPC Tuesday “to deny the certificate of appropriateness application for this historic landmark once and for all.” Gottfried praised the HopperGibbons House as an important part of New York City’s history. “The decision this week by the Landmarks Preservation Commission is gratifying to all the New Yorkers who fought long and hard to preserve this historic building,” Gottfried said in an email statement to Chelsea Now. “It wouldn’t have been possible without the determined advocacy of countless preservationists, community activists, and supporters of organizations like Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Save Chelsea.”

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mayoral zoning override to short-circuit this process,” he said. The override would cut down on the timeline HPD proposed, which has construction slated to begin in November 2018. The override is an administrative action as opposed to a full-fledged series of public hearings, he said. Restuccia stressed the board does not take it lightly. “We want to maximize our public sites for affordable housing and I think everyone in the community is on the same wavelength,” he said. O’Connell said there were five families “associated” with the buildings, with three families residing there and two relocated (Restuccia said it was two families living there). After the renovation, which will require all tenants to vacate during construction, tenants can buy in at $2,500, O’Connell said. All the families will have the opportunity to come back, she said, whether they want to be a co-op shareholder or renter. “At this point, we’re determining affordability once we better understand what it costs to renovate the project,” she said, referring to the other vacant units. “We typically set sale prices affordable to families earning 120 percent AMI.” .com

Image via Historic Districts Council

For years, preservation groups, the community, and elected officials have been fighting a fifth-floor rooftop addition of the building known as the Hopper-Gibbons house, saying the structure mars its historic significance. Seen here, the existing and proposed south elevation.

AMI, or area median income, is about $80,000 for an individual or $100,000 or so for a family of four, Press said. The buildings are at a prime location in Chelsea. If put on the market, the assemblage could sell from $9 to $14 million, according to two real estate brokers who appraised the property at Chelsea Now’s request. Joe Rosales, director of investments sales and advisory services for Keller Williams, said in an email there was only 22,204 buildable feet, and estimated the value to be in the $13 to $14 million range in today’s market. Jeremy Curtin, with BOND New York Properties, LLC, estimated $9 million for the assemblage. If the buildings were renovated and upgraded, he estimated a one-bedroom could rent for $3,500 per month. There is currently one commercial tenant at the building: A & A Deli. “There’s a store there, a deli that’s been in the community a long, long, long time,” said Bill Borock, who attended May 18 meeting in his capacity as president of Council of Chelsea Block Associations. “We’ve been fighting for mom and pop stores. We hope you’ll be able to arrange… a long-term lease at a reasonable rate.”

O’Connell said all commercial tenants are currently on a month-to-month lease, and the city does not provide assistance for them. “Typically when a commercial tenant vacates for the construction period, which can be 18 to 22 months, sometimes the commercial tenant finds a new place and they might not want to come back,” she said. “There might be a scenario here where that’s not the case.” Michael Walsh, of the 100 West 20th Street Block Association, asked if the commercial space would become market rate after renovation. Restuccia said yes, and as W. 22nd St. and Seventh Ave. is not off the beaten path, it may be filled by a business that can pay high rent. The owner of A & A Deli declined to comment. Kumaran Vijayakumar, who has lived on W. 22nd St. for about 15 years, said he had attended two or three meetings over the last 10 years about the buildings. “The biggest thing is just, for me like everyone I think, is just the timeframe,” he said. “This all sounds great but makes me think that by 2018 we’re be talking to a different group and another program.” “It is very frustrating for our community to know that this has just been this

total outlier. Many other city buildings have moved ahead,” said Restuccia. HPD did not respond to Chelsea Now’s questions sent after the meeting. Sally Greenspan is a board member of preservation group Save Chelsea, and told Chelsea Now before the meeting it was a “disgrace” that the buildings were the state they were in. “We call it a rat hotel,” she said. “It should be a source of pride for the neighborhood, not a boarded blight.” Greenspan credited City Councilmember Corey Johnson for “tirelessly working” on this issue. After the meeting, she said she was happy HPD came with a plan, but “We’re so aggravated about this; we’re so frustrated. There’s more loose ends than I would like there to be.” Restuccia concurred, telling HPD toward the end of the meeting that the committee was happy they came. “I want caution you not to disappear for six months and come back and say it’s all already to go. That’s not going to be helpful,” he said. “I think it’s important the next time you come back you have full information and also we need to know where the tenants are in this thing.” He added, “It’s not all black and white here, but we do know one thing: The status quo is not tolerable.” May 25-31, 2017

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What Can Fade Has Not Been Forgotten ‘La Lucha Continua’ celebrates enduring message of LES muralists BY PUMA PERL The Lower East Side, late ’70s — garbage in the streets, crime, substandard housing, poverty, and drugs. When someone asked why I liked living down there my immediate reply was, “Because I can walk by La Plaza Cultural on a random Saturday and fi nd Tito Puente playing.” The spirit, the music, and the sense of community carried us through difficult and dangerous times. La Plaza Cultural’s history is a fascinating one. In 1976, a coalition led by founding members of CHARAS / El Bohio Cultural Center, including Chino Garcia and the late Armando Perez, cleared and claimed an empty lot at the corner of East Ninth Street and Avenue C. None other than master architect Buckminster Fuller helped the group build a geodesic dome; artist Gordon Matta-Clark worked with community artists, residents, and activists in constructing an amphitheater, using railroad ties and found materials. Green Guerillas pioneer Liz Christy helped create the iconic gardens and planted towering willow trees. The shared vision was of a public green space to enhance community life. In the ’80s, the space fell into disrepair as developers fought for the land and the neighboring buildings emptied. Gentrification had begun and now, instead of substandard housing, there were burning buildings, forcing the disintegration of families. Surreptitious drug sales had grown into an open-air market, attracting addicts from the entire metropolitan area, and the new businesses and renovated buildings were neither affordable nor culturally relevant to those who hung on. In 1985, Artmakers Inc., an artist-run, community-oriented mural organization founded by the late Eve Cockcroft, posted flyers around the neighborhood calling for “artists of conviction to paint political murals.” Cockcroft, an activist and leader of the national community murals movement, had been inspired by her visit to the San Francisco project known

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Photo (c) Eva Cockcroft

“La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues” (Artmakers Collective, 1985).

Photo (c) Camille Perrottet

Nancy Sullivan’s “Not for Sale” (1985).

as PLACA, in which artists painted murals with political themes. On May 7, 1985, a meeting was held and a call to interested artists was put out. During the summer months, 34 artists convened in the garden and produced 24 “La Lucha Continua” murals on seven walls of four surrounding build-

ings. Today, three of these buildings have been renovated or torn down and replaced, leaving only two murals. The paint has faded and restoration is not possible, but La Plaza Cultural is alive and flourishing. The current exhibit at the Loisaida Center — “La Lucha Continua The

Struggle Continues: 1985 & 2017” — uses text and photographs to take us through the history of the mural project’s creation. Jane Weissman, exhibition curator and longtime Artmakers Inc. administrative director, walked me through and provided fascinating insights. Interestingly, many pieces fell into place almost serendipitously. The Loisaida Center, a multi-purpose space, was not targeted as the home for the exhibition but turned out to be the perfect spot, both logistically (it’s just across the street from La Plaza) and spiritually. The Center began as a grassroots movement in the ’70s, and continues to, as its website notes, “stand fi rm on its original mission: address the serious economic and social disenfranchisement of poor and low-income Latino residents, with employment and training opportunities, comprehensive youth development initiatives, as well as neighborhood revitalization activities that positively highlight the rich culture, heriLA LUCHA continued on p. 18 .com


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tage, and contribution of the Puerto Rican and Latin American community in this City — while offering programming that meets the demands of the times and the neighborhood’s changing demographic.” Libertad O. Guerra, The Loisaida Center’s program director and chief curator, noted that May is Lower East Side History Month, and that the exhibition coincides with the area’s largest community event — the annual Loisaida Festival, taking place this year on Sun., May 28. The Loisaida Center produces and organizes the Festival, and La Plaza Cultural traditionally provides music, poetry, and family activities. Additionally, the Center has joined forces with the Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc) along with other local groups and community members to create a new mural at First Street Green Art Park (33 E. First St., corner of Houston St. & Second Ave.) paying tribute to the group of murals known as “La Lucha Continua.” The original collective mural overlooking La Plaza Cultural addressed the theme of gentrification through negative images on the left side (homeless families, eviction) and positive, hopeful images on the right (solar paneled rooftops, local markets). Individual artists or pairs continued the political themes idealistically and globally, including murals depicting struggles in Nicaragua and South Africa, as well as local and thematic focuses. Rikki Asher’s work, “For the Women of South Africa, Central America and the Lower East Side,” is one of two that still exist. In the left hand corner is the artist’s self-portrait, paintbrush in hand, followed by images of South African and Central American women; in the lower right corner we see a woman hanging laundry on the Lower East Side. In Asher’s words, “the issues that were important then are still relevant now. La Lucha Continua!” “Not for Sale,” by Nancy Sullivan, is a response to the gentrification of the Lower East Side. Two oversized hands are shown trying to stop the wrecking ball, symbolizing development, as children play innocently in the background. Sullivan became an anthropologist and moved to Papua New Guinea, gaining fame as an advocate for residents whose way of life was threatened by logging companies. In 2015, at the age of 57, she was killed while driving on the Taconic State Parkway.

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Photo (c) Camille Perrottet

From a photo taken in 1985, Rikki Asher’s “For the Women of South Africa, Central America and the Lower East Side.”

Photo (c) Jane Weissman

Photo (c) Camille Perrottet

A current view of Rikki Asher’s 1985 work “For the Women of South Africa, Central America and the Lower East Side,” one of only two remaining “La Lucha Continua” murals.

An untitled 1985 work by Luis Frangella.

will lead a gallery tour of the exhibition followed by a visit to La Plaza Cultural, where attendees can take a closer look at the existing murals and get a live sense of the history. My gallery tour with Weissman concluded with a visit to La Plaza Cultural Community Garden (Avenue C, at E. Ninth St.). Despite my decades of familiarity, it provided a new connection on historical and artistic levels. Happily, La Plaza Cultural was fi nally preserved in 2002, and in 2003 was renamed La Plaza Cultural de Armando Perez, in honor of the slain CHARAS co-founder and for-

mer Democratic district leader for the East Village.

Another take on Downtown life occurred when Artmakers Inc. reached out to owners of 8BC (a club/gallery at 337 E. Eighth St.). They were agreeable to a mural painted on the building but preferred that it reflect the burgeoning art scene rather than a “social realist” style. Artist Luis Frangella painted an image he was known for, the “expressionistic head,” which conveyed frustration and outrage more surrealistically. Originally from Argentina, Frangella died of HIV-related causes in 1990. At 2pm on Sat., May 27, Weissman

“La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues: 1985 & 2017” is on view, free of charge, through July 31 at The Loisaida Center (710 E. Ninth St., btw. Aves. C & D). Viewing hours are Thurs., Fri. & Sat., 12–6pm and by appointment. For info, call 212-9893006 or visit laluchaartmakers.org. The 30th Annual Loisaida Festival will take place Sun., May 28,12–5pm, along the Avenue C Corridor (E. Sixth through 12th Sts). For more info, visit loisaida.org. .com


Genuine Affection for ‘Artificial Jungle’ TBTB launches loving revival of Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical classic BY TRAV S.D. The summer of 1967 (50 years ago) is remembered today for many things. On the one hand, it was the “Summer of Love” — the Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and the Monterey Pop Festival brought together many of the top musical acts of the day. On the other hand, it was also known as the “long, hot summer,” when race riots erupted across the United States. It was a tumultuous time of radical change — and in the middle of it all, a brilliant actor, director, and playwright named Charles Ludlam broke away from John Vaccaro’s experimental Playhouse of the Ridiculous to found his own Ridiculous Theatrical Company, bringing with him a troupe of actors who would become legendary, including Mario Montez, Black-Eyed Susan, Lola Pashalinski, Bill Vehr, and John Brockmeyer. Ludlam’s brand of the style known as “The Ridiculous” was multi-faceted. A large portion of the company was openly gay. Drag performance was central to their art; “Camille” was to become one of Ludlam’s most famous roles as well as one of his most famous plays. Camp comedy was central to the Ridiculous sensibility, as was a firm grounding in the classics. Ludlam was just as likely to tweak the nose of Shakespeare or Wagner as he was Hollywood movies or vaudeville. High and low were thrust together in their work and New York audiences loved them for it, packing their Sheridan Square theater for two decades until Ludlam died of AIDS in 1987. Ludlam’s lover and right hand, Everett Quinton, then took over leadership of the company and managed to keep it going for another decade. Unthinkably, New York has now been without a Ridiculous Theatrical Company for 20 years, although their influence is everywhere — not just on stages, but in film and television. In his 1984 biography, “The Divine Bette Midler,” James Spada quoted the star as saying, “I got a great deal of my early inspiration from Charles Ludlam.” On the occasion of the Company’s 25th anniversary, John Waters gushed, “I used to run away from Baltimore to New York as a teenager just to see them.” Fiftieth anniversary commemoration events are already underway. A pubJUNGLE continued on p. 20 .com

Photo by Carol Rosegg

L to R: Rob Minutoli, David Harrell, Alyssa H. Chase, Anthony Michael Lopez and Anita Hollander in Theater Breaking Through Barriers’ revival of “The Artificial Jungle,” through July 1 at the Clurman Theatre.

Photo by Anita and Steve Shevett

L to R: Philip Campanaro, Charles Ludlam, Black-Eyed Susan, Everett Quinton and Ethyl Eichelberger in the 1986 production of “The Artificial Jungle.” May 25-31, 2017

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lic reading and panel discussion with original cast members was presented at CUNY’s Martin E. Segal Theatre Center on May 15 — and Theater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB) is marking the occasion with the first New York revival of Ludlam’s last completed play, “The Artificial Jungle,” currently in previews and opening on June 8 (with readings of several other Ludlam works to take place on June 5, 12, and 19). Everett Quinton will direct. “Our most recent production, last season’s ‘The Healing,’ was a heavy, ultrarealistic drama,” said Nicholas Viselli, artistic director of TBTB. “So I thought our next production ought to be a comedy. As it happens, our general manager Steve Asher also used to be the managing director of the Ridiculous. He reminded me that we are coming up on the 30th anniversary of Charles Ludlam’s death. That seemed rather a grim occasion for us to mark, but we also quickly realized that the 50th anniversary of the Ridiculous happens around the same time. The show will also be open during Pride Month. So it all tumbled into place. I like to say the project chose us.” “The Artificial Jungle” is a hilarious Hollywood noir parody owing much to movies like “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” The Ridiculous aspect is that the events of the story are transplanted to a pet shop, a highly unglamorous setting where the stakes are absurdly small. The tale is told compactly, with a cast of five. For this reason, noted Quinton, “The Artificial Jungle” comes in second only to the two-hander “The Mystery of Irma Vep” as the Ridiculous Theatrical Company’s most-produced play nationwide. Yet the current production will be its first New York City revival. As it was the last play Ludlam ever appeared in, its selection will have even more significance. “It’s a perfect little play, perfect story, perfect for actors,” Quinton said. “But it’s hard to play. It demands one thousand percent of your energy. We’re lucky to have a group of extremely talented people in the cast. It feels like a miracle.” Perhaps even more miraculous: TBTB is an integrated company that is, according to its mission statement, “dedicated to advancing actors and writers with disabilities and changing the image of people with disabilities from dependence to independence.” Three of the five cast members are amputees, and one is legally blind. “People tend to think of disability as limiting,” Viselli said, “but we want to show how the possibilities for people

Photo by Carol Rosegg

L to R: Alyssa H. Chase, Anthony Michael Lopez and David Harrell, from the 2017 production of “Jungle.”

Photo by Anita and Steve Shevett

L to R: Black-Eyed Susan, Everett Quinton and Charles Ludlam, from the 1986 production of “Jungle.”

with disabilities are actually limitless. ‘The Artificial Jungle’ is a high-energy physical comedy, and yet the demands of the play are not an issue. The ongoing issue for us is always more, ‘Are we going to be able to do this without the audience being afraid for the actors?’ Because the actors themselves know they can do it in a way without compromising or dumbing it down and everyone is on board with that. That’s what this company is all about.” Added Quinton: “Charles would have been very happy with this group.” “The Artificial Jungle” runs through July 1: Tues.–Wed. at 7pm, Thurs.–Fri. at 8pm, Sat. at 3pm & 8pm, and Sun. at 3pm. At Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre (410 W. 42nd St., btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.). Tickets are $52.25, via 212-2396200 or at tbtb.org, where you can also find info. on staged readings of Ludlam’s “Turds in Hell” (June 5), “Der Ring Gott Farblonjet” (June 12), and “Galas” (June 19). .com


The Art of Summer’s First Sign Creative options on that long Memorial Day weekend BY SCOTT STIFFLER

THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY’S 22ND ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS Hundreds will fill the theaters and flood the streets — and that’s just the lineup of talent set to entertain the thousands upon thousands who will eat up this tasty smorgasbord of outdoor food and vendor festivities, dance, music, movies, theater, and art representing the heart and soul of Lower East Side cultural diversity. Mindful of the tone set by the current presidential administration, host venue Theater for the New City has declared this year’s theme “Art V. Tyranny.” That “V,” they say, is meant to stand as “a kind of victory sign” — a bold declaration of the inevitable outcome when we “take up art against a sea of troubles.” Always ready for confrontation through its year-round offerings of socially relevant and politically progressive subject matter, Theater for the New City is one scrappy fighter evermindful of the value of cutting loose and raising a little hell just for the fun of it. Case in point, the cavalcade of talent they’ve booked to enthrall and inspire. Here’s a glimpse at the lineup, in no particular order: Faceboy, Maquina Mono Latin rock band, Reno, The Drilling Company, Tammy Faye Starlite, Yangtze Repertory Theatre of America, Zero Boy, Fairytale Marionettes, New Yiddish Rep, Penny Arcade, Glitter Kitty, Cobu Japanese drumming ensemble, Burning City Orchestra, and, you’d better believe it, many, many, many more! Free. At Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., btw. E. Ninth & E. 10th Sts.). Inside TNC from 6pm–1am, Fri.–Sun., May 26–28. The street festival happens on Sat., May 27, 12pm–5pm (on 10th St., btw. First & Second Aves.). Visit theaterforthenewcity.net.

Photo by Peter Welch

Theater for the New City’s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts delivers thousands of thrills in the venerable venue’s four theaters (and at an outside street festival).

Photo by Eric Vitale

Fleet of foot or in need of a lesson? Head to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum’s Battle of the Big Bands on May 27 and swing dance the night away.

FLEET WEEK EVENTS They leave their ships to explore New York City, while we board a ship to explore their world — that’s Fleet Week, Pier 86-style, when The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum puts all hands on deck for a series of activities, themed events, and live demonstrations saluting the arrival of those who serve in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Fri., May 26, the research vessel Neil Armstrong will be open for public tours. Guided talks take place on the hanger deck, and the Intrepid’s free summer movie series takes flight with a screening of “Top Gun,” .com

Photo by Jenny Rubin

Members of our military rock out, take a dive, and show they know the drill, in a series of Times Square Fleet Week events.

introduced by NASA astronaut and former T-38 pilot Gregory C. Johnson (limited seating on a first-come basis). On Sat., May 27, happening throughout the day on Pier 86 (and repeating for the next two days), those hosting hands-on activities and displays include the US Coast Guard, the FDNY, the South Street Seaport Museum, and former Intrepid crewmembers. The Pier 86 stage goes Broadway at noon, with performances from the casts of “School of Rock,” “Cats” and “Kinky Boots.” By 7pm, the area has been taken over by a 2,000-square-foot wood dance floor, for a three-hour Battle of the Big Bands that invites you to “follow the fleet in Navy-inspired outfits and vintage clothes” while you swing dance the night away (ages 21+ only; dance lessons provided). Sun., May 28 sees an 11am demonstration on the flight deck from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Silent Drill Team and an excerpt from the new Off-Broadway musical “Deployed” (about a veteran’s search for purpose after deployment to Iraq) at 1:30pm and 4:30pm. Memorial Day is observed on Mon., May 29, with an 11am public commemoration ceremony attended by veterans of wars and conflicts from World War II to the present. The playing of “Taps,” a wreath laying, and the unfurling of a 100-foot American flag are among the solemn observances that are part of this annual event. At 2pm, the USCG Search and Rescue team will perform a demonstration on Pier 86. Times Square is also hosting its share of Fleet Week happenings, with an emphasis on acts of talent and skill. Access the “Schedule of Events” option on the home page of fleetweeknewyork.com to fi nd out where and when you can see the USCG Silent Drill Team, Navy rock band Rhode Island Sound, a dive tank demonstration, a Navy Band concert, and the Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment. Intrepid Museum and Pier 86 events take place daily through Mon., May 29. Live demonstrations are presented by Intrepid Museum educators, and Fleet Week-themed tour guide talks take place on the hangar deck. Pier events are free; those inside the Museum require admission. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is located at Pier 86 (W. 46th St. & 12th Ave.). Regular weekly hours: Mon.–Fri., 10am–5pm; Sat. & Sun., 10am–6pm. Regular admission: $33 adult, $31 ages 65+; $24 ages 5–12; free for retired and active US Military, US Veterans, & children under 5. NYC residents with photo ID: $19 adults & seniors; $17 ages 5–12. Visit intrepidmuseum.org. May 25-31, 2017

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THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER

PUBLISHER Jennifer Goodstein

EDITOR Scott Stiffler

ART DIRECTOR John Napoli

GRAPHIC DESIGNER Cristina Alcine

CONTRIBUTORS Lincoln Anderson Stephanie Buhmann Jackson Chen Bill Egbert Dusica Sue Malesevic Winnie McCroy Puma Perl Paul Schindler Eileen Stukane

ADVERTISING Photo courtesy Abed Hamid and Ehab

Police apprehending Richard Rojas. ROJAS continued from p. 2

near the crash site. Deb Hagen and Sara Gierdal, two Minnesota tourists, were stuck at a midblock blockade on W. 47th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves., trying to get to their room in the DoubleTree hotel down the block. Hagen said police were very firm about nobody getting through, agreeing only to escort a man who required medication from his hotel room to his destination. The Minnesota tourists said police officers continued flowing in past the barricades while many tourists wheeling their luggage were turned away. Frank Heller, a New Jersey resident, was on his way home but couldn’t bypass the street closures to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. He said the officers couldn’t give an exact answer when asked how he could proceed, and he was left to find open cross streets on his own. When he had arrived in the city earlier, Heller said, the New Jersey resident said he saw the commotion and chose to avoid the more hectic than usual crowds at Times Square. “Well, it’s part of living in the New .com

Amanda Tarley

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES York metropolitan area,” Heller said of the incident. “This is the society we live in, it’s just a microcosm of that.” To pay their respects, New Yorkers joined together in creating a makeshift memorial out of a NYPD concrete barrier, scrawling messages of RIP and hearts. Besides a photo of Elsman, bold letters stated “New York Will Never Forget You Alyssa Elsman.” And on top of the memorial, a framed letter from Elsman’s father, Thomas, expressed a mixture of grief and gratitude following her daughter’s death. “There is no words that can express our gratitude with the outpouring of love and support this city has shown us,” Elsman wrote, adding that there were also 20 other families who were grieving. But for the Elsmans, a void is left after the tragic May 18 incident. “I don’t know anything currently..I always have the answers..but I am blank…I have a hole in my heart that can never be filled,” Elsman wrote. “My world changed when you came into it and it is unexplainable with you leaving it. I love you kid.”

Gayle Greenberg Jim Steele Julio Tumbaco

Published by

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May 25-31, 2017

23


ADVERTORIAL

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

24

May 25-31, 2017

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

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

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

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

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

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

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

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Chelsea Now  

May 25, 2017

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