Serving Tribeca, Battery Park City, the Seaport and the Financial District VOLUME 30, NUMBER 14
JULY 27 – AUGUST 10, 2017
Brookfield brings Common, Lion Babe to BPC for free show Page 8 Photo by Milo Hess
Rapper Common headlined the Lowdown Hudson Music Festival at Brookfield Place in Battery Park City on July 18 and 19.
SHOP.EAT. DRINK. PLAY.
IRVING FARM COFFEE ROASTERS MOLESKINE MRS. BLOOMS PRESSED JUICERY SHAKE SHACK THE GREAT AMERICAN BAGEL WASABI SUSHI & BENTO AND SO MUCH MORE. On the corner of Fulton & Broadway.
1 M E T R O T E C H • N YC 112 0 1 • C O P Y R I G H T © 2 0 17 N YC C O M M U N I T Y M E D I A , L L C
THE STONY SILENT HAVE MUCH TO SAY Smartphone app unlocks voices of ‘Talking Statues’ BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC The ubiquitous sound — a cellphone ringtone — rang out in Bryant Park, but the person on the other end would have surprised historians. It was a call from Gertrude Stein, who passed away over 70 years ago. Okay, so it wasn’t actually Stein, but rather an actor performing a monologue envisioning what the groundbreaking writer would say if she were here, now. Stein — like many other famous and important figures (mostly men) — has been immortalized in sculpture, but in the midst of the city hustle, how many of us stop and pay attention to them? Talking Statues is looking to change that by engaging New Yorkers and tourists alike with history. David Peter Fox began Talking Statues in Copenhagen in 2013, with the idea of giving “voice” to the statues, according to the project’s press release. Writers created short monologues and then actors performed and recorded them, all to be accessed at the statues with a smartphone. After Copenhagen, the project spread to Helsinki, London, San Diego, and Chicago, with Talking Statues officially starting in New York City on Wed., July 12. Visit newyorktalkingstatues.com for full list of talking-statue locations. “It’s been a long journey,” Fox said at the morning launch at the New-York Historical Society. “The project is a present from me to New York City.” Fox said he worked for two years to bring his project to this city. It took some time to get permission and to find the actors, he said. Fox said some 600 actors applied for the gig. One of the actors who made the cut was Stacey Lightman, who performed the Stein monologue at the launch. “I loved it,” she said of the process. “I played Gertrude Stein in a play a year ago — it seemed like kismet. It was a thrill to record [her].” Lightman noted that people go by statues but “don’t see them.” Fox said 35 statues will be animated throughout the five boroughs. He
July 27 – August 10, 2017
declined to provide details about the project’s funding. Here’s how it works. Near the statue, there is a sign with a link, which can be typed into your smartphone’s Internet browser. There is also a QR code that can be scanned by your device after you download the app. You receive a call — complete with a picture of the statue and the person’s name — and then hear
Dan Sheynin and Alanah Rafferty. The man in the front of the sculpture “with the beard on his face and the yarmulke on his head,” says, “I know, it looks like the crowd behind me is tryin’ to run me over, but if you stand at the side you’ll also see that the whole sculpture is sort of shaped like a ship, which I suppose makes me the Jewish equivalent of a mermaid on the prow.
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
To hear the statue “speak,” just type the link into your smartphone’s browser, or scan the QR code with a free app.
spelling: Verrazzano. Inspired by Columbus, Giovanni da Verrazzano became an explorer who in 1524 “was the first European to sail into New York Bay. Yet, a century ago, I was forgotten, overshadowed by the exploits of Henry Hudson who arrived almost one hundred years after me. Some say he even used my maps!” But Verrazzano does not lament for long in a monologue written by Joe Giordano and performed by Roberto Ragone. In 1909, an Italian newspaper in the city, Il Progresso, pushed for his statue, and in 1960 he “was further esteemed by the naming of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that spans the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island.” People also have the option to listen in Italian. Indeed, it was part of Talking Statues’ mission to have the statues “speak” in their native tongue as well.
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
The short play conceived for this arresting sculpture in Battery Park City — “The Immigrants” — reminds the listener “we’re all in this together.”
the monologue. In addition to the Stein statue at Bryant Park featured at the project launch, there are a few talking statues in The Battery.
THE IMMIGRANTS In The Battery, tourists jostle for space to board boats to jet to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It is apt, then, that a statue called “The Immigrants” — depicting several of them — is situated near these powerful symbols. Written by Acito, the piece for The Immigrants is more like a short play than a monologue, and is performed by actors
We look like a ship ‘cause that’s how we got to America. Eight million of us were processed at Castle Garden between 1850 and 1890.” The woman with the “wee baby, leanin’ against me husband,” says, “Generation after generation of immigrants come to America, work hard for very little and still get blamed for all of society’s troubles. This sculpture reminds us that we’re all in the same boat.”
GIOVANNI DA VERRAZZANO It is a name most New Yorkers are familiar with, albeit a slightly different
Located on the outskirts of the park, John Ericsson’s statue proudly boasts one of the Swedish-American engineer’s inventions. “Can you guess what I am holding in my left hand? It is a model of a warship that I … designed. I called my ship the Monitor, but people said it looked like a cheese box on a raft, which was a pretty good joke in 1861 when people still knew what a cheese box was.” Acito wrote this monologue, which was performed by David Dencik, and can also be heard in Swedish. The piece also explains what the picture on the statue’s pedestal depicts — the Monitor “meeting the Virginia just outside Chesapeake Bay. This was the first battle in history between two armored ships, though I think the picture makes the gun turret look more like a hatbox. Which would also be a good joke if anyone still knew what a hatbox was.” DowntownExpress.com
Another big win for tenants Judge rules against landlord in 90 West St. 421-g rent-regulation fight BY COLIN MIXSON Notch one more for the tenants in the battle for rent regulation in the increasingly pricey Downtown area. Residents of a tony West Street apartment building scored a major victory in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday when Justice Robert Reed ruled tenants are entitled to rent stabilization due to a generous tax exemption their landlord enjoys. The Kibel Company, which owns 90 West St., plans to appeal the decision, so tenants are now preparing themselves for the next, potentially decisive phase of the legal contest, according to one resident. “We’re prepared to go the distance,” said Taylor West, who moved into 90 West St. in 2009. “The [tenants] association got into this with its eyes open, realizing that even with a win they’re going to fight it.” The tax exemption, called 421-g, was designed to provide developers an incentive to renovate old Downtown office towers for residential use as businesses fled Lower Manhattan for cushy
Midtown digs in the 1990s. As part of the deal, developers were required to provide their residents with rent stabilization, which offers modest annual rent increases and guaranteed lease renewals, for the duration of the tax break. But just before the state Senate voted on the bill back in 1995, then Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno read the so-called “Giuliani Letter” into the record, in which the former mayor said the city’s interpretation was that rent stabilization under 421-g would be subject to luxury deregulation, which axes the protections for apartments renting above a certain amount — currently $2,700 per month. As the mayor of New York City, Guiliani had no official authority over the state’s legislation, but that has never stopped landlords from citing the letter as an excuse to deprive tenants of rent stabilization ever since. And the courts have sometimes backed the landlords’ argument. On May 2, Supreme Court Justice Shlomo
Photo by Milo Hess
Tenants of 90 West St. won a major victory in State Supreme Court in the ongoing battle over rent regulation at buildings receiving 421-g tax breaks, bringing the decades-old controversy one step closer to a resolution.
Hagler sided with the owner of 85 John St., with his ruling specifically citing the Giuliani letter as justification for withholding rent stabilization from tenants. More recently, however, Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead ruled on July 10 that tenants at 50 Murray St. were entitled not only to rent stabiliza-
tion, but refunds and overcharge fees related to rent increases imposed since they signed their leases. In both decisions, judges Edmead and Reed wrote that the language of 421-g was unambiguous, and that the 90 WEST ST. Continued on page 14
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July 27 – August 10, 2017
City steps up DOT to fund Trinity Place traffic study BY COLIN MIXSON The Department of Transportation has agreed to fund a study of traffic surrounding the future elementary school at Trinity Place, despite past claims that it was up to local elected officials or even the building’s landlord to finance the analysis of how to safeguard youngsters on city streets. The transit agency finally agreed to do its job after realizing that nobody else would step up, according to the vice chairman of Community Board 1 and a member of the Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force. “They were not prepared to commit, so they were looking for an out, and when it was clear no one else was picking up the pieces, they understood it was their responsibility to do so, and, to their credit, they did,” said Paul Hovitz. The new K–5th-grade school is slated for a mixed-use residential building currently going up on Trinity Place between Rector and Edgar streets, and heavy traffic flowing from the nearby
exit of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel has locals concerned that the narrow sidewalks bordering the site would leave pint-sized pupils spilling onto dangerous streets. Civic honchos serving on the Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force proposed closing the west-bound lane of Edgar Street nearest the school and extending the sidewalk to create a pedestrian plaza where kids can congregate as they come and go, arguing that the roughly 100-foot roadway connecting Trinity Place and Greenwich Street isn’t used much anyways, according to Task Force member Eric Greenlief. “We’ve heard that little street is used very, very, very little,” Greenlief said. The DOT told the task force that a traffic study was required to test the feasibility of the plaza plan, but said first that it was the responsibility of Trinity Place Holdings, the developer of the residential building where the city planned to build its school. “As is typical with new develop-
Photo by Bill Egbert
The Department of Transportation has finally agreed to fund a traffi c study around the site of the upcoming Trinity Place School to determine whether the city can close the west-bound lane of tiny Edgar Street to create a small plaza to help keep students off the busy local streets.
ments, a traffic study would need to be conducted by the developer,” DOT spokeswoman Alana Morales to Downtown Express in April. “Any costs associated with traffic changes would be the responsibility of developer [or] property owner.” The agency would later change its tune and plead poverty, saying it needed local elected official to pony up from their discretionary funding to fund the
GET YOUR SUMMER ON
study, according to Hovitz. “Originally the responsibility was shifted, and then finally [DOT Borough Commissioner] Luis Sanchez said we just don’t have the money to do this,” Hovitz said. “That’s when it was shifted back to the elected officials.” Throughout the process, the School Construction Authority also TRAFFIC STUDY Continued on page 6
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July 27 – August 10, 2017
Eichmann in the dock A new exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage explores capture and trial of the last leading Nazi brought to justice BY JACKSON CHEN Follow the thrilling capture of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi behind the death of millions of Jews, in the new exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage that opened July 16. The exhibit, “Operation Finale: The Capture and Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” propels visitors in with a brief history of the Nazi Party, the Holocaust, and Eichmann’s instrumental role in both. Eichmann, who was unsuccessful in high school and failed as a salesman, eventually joined the Nazi Party and quickly rose in the ranks thanks to his efficient plans for the genocide of the Jewish people. As the Nazi Party crumbled after WWII, Eichmann was able to find refuge in Argentina under the pseudonym “Ricardo Klement” escaping prosecution in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war crimes. Operation Finale guides museumgoers through the infamous Nazi fugitive’s discovery and capture by Mossad, the Israeli national intelligence agency, and the subsequent trial that led to Eichmann’s death by hanging in December 1961. The exhibit features declassified artifacts from Mossad that illustrate a historic moment of justice that unfolded more than 50 years ago. And it all sparked from a love story, according to Avner Avraham, a former Mossad agent and curator of the exhibit. Avraham explained that they only began actively pursuing Eichmann after a girl named Sylvia began dating Eichmann’s son by chance. After confirming it was Eichmann and his family living in
Photos by Jackson Chen
(Above) Exhibit curator and former Mossad agent Avner Avraham at the entrance of Operation Finale, which gives visitors a brief history of Eichmann and his role in the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. (Right) The team of Mossad agents flew on separate flights into Argentina to maintain their cover.
Argentina, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, requested Mossad pursue the capture of Eichmann. “You can put [Eichmann] on trial and tell the whole story, not only the story about him,” Avraham said of the importance of the capture and prosecution of a prime architect of the Holocaust by Israelis, rather than the Allies. “The trial was a turning point in Israel because Holocaust survivors didn’t talk about it.” From the very first reconnaissance photos of Eichmann on a 35-mm film camera to a replica of the leather gloves that were used to kidnap the Nazi, visitors are led through the extensive planning and espionage work that went into capturing Eichmann. A team of Mossad agents used everything from a primitive license plate forger to fake official documents to blend into Argentinian society. Avraham explained that Mossad agents treated language skills as a weapon too, which was crucial in establishing a cover. And when Mossad was finally able
to smuggle Eichmann back to Israel, the people put their lives on pause to hear radio broadcasts of the announcement of his capture and follow the trial. “The people stop their life when they broadcast the trial,” Avraham said. “People knew if they have lunch, they have to do it before or after, but not during the broadcast.” Eichmann’s trial before the Jerusalem District Court gave Holocaust survivors a platform to recount the harrowing sights and experiences, which often left them in tears. To recreate the trial, the exhibit immerses guests with three screens showing archival footage of Eichmann projected into a glass box that the Nazi was held in, alongside simultaneous projections of the judges and the survivors. During the trial, he was described by New Yorker writer Hannah Arendt as the embodiment of the “banality of evil.” Eichmann coldly claimed that he was only following orders, submitting a not-guilty plea, and offering no emotion during the gruesome retellings from
survivors. But if the testimonies of his victims did not move him, they did move the nation, and helped Israelis to come to grips with a singularly traumatic episode of Jewish history. “Holocaust survivors didn’t want to talk about anything, they didn’t talk with their kids, their second generation,” Avraham said. “That’s why the trial was very important, to tell the stories of Holocaust survivors to the Israelis and other people.” Operation Finale runs through Dec. 22. July 27 – August 10, 2017
Morris Street Pedestrian Bridge closed until end of year BY COLIN MIXSON Locals living and working around the entrance plaza of the BrooklynBattery Tunnel have to start looking for detours from July 24, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority closed the 66-year-old Morris Street Pedestrian Bridge to begin replacing it with something that isnâ€™t on the verge of collapse. The bridge, which connects Washington and Greenwich streets, first opened in 1951 and served as a much needed connection between the Financial District and Battery Park City, which had been separated during the tunnelâ€™s more than decade-long construction. The pedestrian span would go on to serve locals long past its prime, and a study in 2009 commissioned by the Department of Design and Construction gave the bridge a condi-
TRAFFIC STUDY Continued from page 4
denied any responsibility for funding the study, according to Hovitz, so itâ€™s somewhat ironic that the SCA chipped in some funding to make the study happen, as confi rmed by DOT
tion rating of 3.44 out of 7. For perspective, a city official told members of Community Board 1 at the time that anything under three was â€œprobablyâ€? unsafe. The city did some work to shore up the ailing bridge in 2014, but the span remains in poor condition and the city ended up handing over jurisdiction of the Morris Street span to the MTA, which agreed to replace it. The new bridge will sport illuminated handrails, but will not feature any support pilings leading down the tunnel entrance below, allowing for better traffic management, according to the MTA, which expects the new span to open by the end of the year. In the meantime, locals looking to head east or west on Morris Street, your best bet is to head south on Greenwich or Washington streets and take Battery Place.
Starting July 24, pedestrians have to take a detour to Battery Place to get across the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel entrance plaza now that the Morris Street Pedestrian Bridge is closed while itâ€™s being replaced.
spokeswoman Gloria Chin. â€œThe study is able to move forward at this point thanks to partial funding from the School Construction Authority,â€? Chin said. DOT has not released details about the studyâ€™s cost, timeline, or extent, but
it will focus on the impact of closing the westbound lane of Edgar Street, according to Chin. Community Board 1 is hoping for a broader study aimed at exploring multiple solutions to the safety issue, according to CB1 Chairman Anthony
Photo by Bill Egbert
Notaro, who said the board isnâ€™t married to the pedestrian plaza pitched by the task force. â€œCB1 doesnâ€™t have a firm position yet on this,â€? said Notaro. â€œOur position has been, â€˜letâ€™s study it,â€™ and the plaza is just one option.â€?
July 27 â€“ August 10, 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.
July 27 – August 10, 2017
Music on the water BY COLIN MIXSON Brookfield Place treated Lower Manhattan to two days of free concerts with the Lowdown Hudson Music Festival ouside its swanky upscale mall in Battery Park City on July 18 and 19. The show opened on a stage set up near North Coven Marina with rapper Common, who was followed by electronic-soul duet Lion Babe, featuring follicly gifted singer Jillian Herven and record producer Lucas Goodman. Detroit-based pop singer Flint Eastwood opened on the following day, while the series closed with performance for the OK GO rock quartet.
Photo by Milo Hess
(Above) Common headlined the free concert. (Below) Hundreds of fans thronged the waterfront plaza last week to take in the free tunes.
Photo by Milo Hess
Jillian Herven, half of electronic-soul duet Lion Babe, wowed the crowd.
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Cops are hunting the irate customer who threw his cellphone at a Fulton Street deli worker on July 18, hitting him in the face. The victim told police he was arguing with the suspect at the bodega between Gold and Cliff streets at 4:15 am over some food he’d served the man, when the disgruntled patron began hurling stuff at the deli guy — including his phone — which left him with a minor gash on his face.
then back down to the platform, where she lost him in the crowd, cops said.
TAKE-OUT ORDER A thief stole a food cart worker’s phone on King Street on July 18. The victim told police he was working behind the food cart near Varick Street at 2:25 am, when the crook approached him and demanded his cash. The worker refused and pulled out his phone to call the cops, but the thief snatched it from his hands and ran off, according to police.
RED HANDED WITH
A sticky-fingered thief snatched the wallet from a woman’s backpack in the Fulton Street subway station on July 20. The victim told police she was waiting for a C train at the station near Nassau Street at 9:30 am, when she felt something moving in her backpack and turned around to see the thieves arm coming out with her wallet. The woman let out a scream and gave chase to the thief, who led her up the stairs to the middle corridor, and
SHADY CUSTOMER A sly crook managed to nab more than $1,300 worth of designer shades from a Spring Street sunglasses shop on July 20. An employee told police she was busy elsewhere in the shop between W. Broadway and Wooster Street at 11:50 am, when the suspect snuck three pairs of shades into a brown shopping bag and fled with his ill-gotten eyewear. — Colin Mixson DowntownExpress.com
FINDING A SILVER LINING Shelly seeks a Supreme solution as lawyers say case against him weaker BY MARY REINHOLZ Sheldon Silver, the once-powerful New York State Assembly Speaker turned criminal defendant, still shows he has the savvy of a street-smart power broker. He wants his lawyers to get him a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court in the aftermath of a July 13 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit tossing his conviction on corruption charges. The Associated Press reported late last week that Silver defense attorney Steven Molo has notified the threejudge appellate panel in Manhattan of his plan to request a SCOTUS review on behalf of his client, who continues to remain free on bail. Silver, a 73-year-old Democrat and lifelong Lower East Side resident, still faces federal charges that he abused his former office as speaker to obtain nearly $4 million in purported kickbacks and bribes disguised as legal referrals from two law firms that had retained him as counsel. He was found guilty last year of seven felonies, including extortion, honest-services fraud and money laundering. U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni slapped him with a 12-year sentence. Caproni has a mandate to preside at a second trial for Silver, even though the Court of Appeals judges ruled that she erred in giving jurors in his first one overly broad instructions on what constitutes a corrupt official act. To buttress their ruling, they cited a 2016 SCOTUS decision overturning the corruption conviction of Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, and his wife, Maureen. The McDonell decision narrows the definition of bribery. However, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals judges said government prosecutors did have sufficient evidence to prove Silver’s case at another trial. Justin H. Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District, has said he’s looking forward to his office trying and convicting Silver a second time. He made his intentions known again in a letter to Caproni dated July 24. “The Government intends to re-try the defendant, and believes it is in the public interest for that re-trial to occur promptly,” Kim’s letter states, in part. Kim notes that his office does not DowntownExpress.com
Photo by Jefferson Siegel
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had his corruption conviction overturned on July 13, though prosecutors vow to try him again.
seek further review of its decision on Silver’s conviction, but points out that “the defendant” has notified the Second Circuit that he plans to file a motion to stay the mandate, “pending the filing for a writ of certiorari [the record of the case from the lower court] to the U.S. Supreme Court.” Kim’s letter goes on to state that Silver’s motion to stay the mandate is due on July 27 and concludes: “The Government plans to oppose the defendant’s motion and, if the motion is denied, will seek to reschedule a re-trial at the Court’s earliest convenience.” Sources in the Justice Department say Southern District prosecutors had considered appealing the Second Circuit decision on the Silver verdict, but decided to try him again. That may not be so easy to pull off the second time around. Several prominent figures in New York’s legal community say that Silver’s case has been weakened by the dismissal of his con-
viction and was flawed from the get-go. “I don’t know any judge or lawyer who expected [Silver’s] conviction to stand,” said Manhattan attorney Emily Jane Goodman, a former New York State Supreme Court justice. She added that most of the attorneys she knows regard Silver’s alleged misdeeds in public office to be ethical lapses more than criminal conduct. Goodman, however, doubts that SCOTUS will accept Silver’s case. “But if they did, they are not going to order the case dismissed,” she opined in an e-mail to this reporter. “The U.S. prosecutors will fight this vehemently and the boss — [U.S. Attorney General] Jefferson Sessions or his successor —will never voluntarily back off trying a heavyweight Democrat imo [in my opinion]. Even if they now view the case as substantially weaker, they’ll still let it go to a jury so they have jurors to blame if they lose the case.” Defense attorney Molo was not avail-
able for comment, but his co-counsel Joel Cohen told The Villager that Silver’s prosecution “never should have been brought.” He acknowledged that the former Assembly speaker was not acquitted by the appellate panel, but noted that the three judges ruled “he could have been acquitted by rational jurors if they had been properly charged. The prosecution should have anticipated the McDonnell decision,” he added. Famed criminal defense lawyer Murray Richman of the Bronx, also known as “Don’t Worry Murray,” said he had predicted the reversal of Silver’s conviction early on and had told several reporters “that this case is bulls---.” Richman, who has defended disgraced politicians, mafia figures and hip-hop artists, including rapper DMX — recently charged with income tax invasion — believes that the government’s case against Silver has been “greatly diminished.” Prosecutors, he said, will have a hard time gathering witnesses, including “the old doctor.” He was referring to Dr. Robert Taub, a cancer researcher at a Columbia University clinic to whom Silver funneled $500,000 in two state grants in 2005 and 2006. Silver had recommended that Taub refer patients suffering from asbestos-related mesothelioma to Weitz & Luxemberg, a leading personal-injury law firm that had put Silver on its payroll around 2000. Silver received about $3 million from his share of the referrals. Taub’s testimony was at the heart of the government’s case, even though the doctor, who agreed to testify in exchange for no prosecution, admitted during cross-examination by Molo that he did not have an “explicit” agreement with Silver to exchange referrals for grants, according to The New York Times. A second alleged quid pro quo scheme by Silver concerns about $700,000 he received in referral fees from the small Downtown law firm of Goldberg & Iryami for steering the tax appeal business of real estate developers Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group. In return, Silver allegedly arranged for favorable legislation in Albany on rent regulations for the developers. July 27 – August 10, 2017
THE UGLY TRUTH One mother’s fight to expose the hazards at Ground Zero BY JACKSON CHEN Jenna Orkin was living in Brooklyn on 9/11, when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed into a smoldering pile of rubble and a cloud of toxic dust that enveloped Lower Manhattan. But her son was just a few blocks away from Ground Zero, as a student at Stuyvesant High School. Not long afterwards, with the Environmental Protection Agency and city officials denying that there was any health risk from the ubiquitous dust that permeated Downtown, the Department of Education decided to resume classes at the elite high school just a month later — while the rubble of Ground Zero still smoldered. Orkin didn’t believe the reassurances, but she struggled in the face of government denials and misinformation to convince her son that it was dangerous to be so close to Ground Zero. She was eventually proved right —
with government statistics now confirming that exposure to the dust killed at least 322 Ground Zero recovery workers and sickened more than 17,439 others with respiratory issues or cancer — and even the DOE eventually acknowledged the dangers, having found lead dust levels that exceeded federal and local standards in three Stuyvesant classrooms five months after the city returned students to the school. But at the time, Orkin said, the EPA repeatedly lied about the dangers of being Downtown. And making matters worse, many media outlets credulously reported the EPA’s misinformation as fact, and “grossly misled” the public. Orkin and a small but growing cadre of allies battled relentlessly to make people see the ugly truth. “We had to fight the EPA to clean up Lower Manhattan and they lied about the air quality,” Orkin said. “It was a constant fight.”
Associated Press / Stuart Ramson
Students returned to Stuyvesant High School — some wearing dust masks — just a month after the 9/11 attacks, while the wreckage at Ground Zero still smoldered and toxic dust still blanketed much of Downtown. In the ensuing months, dozens of teachers and students at the school reported respiratory problems, but the government still denied there were any health risks.
Her activism took her through hours upon hours of congressional hearings, press conferences, and meetings where she and other environmental activists aiming to educate each other and the public with the evidence of the hazards. Orkin chronicles her fight in “Ground Zero Wars: The Fight to Reveal the Lies
of the EPA in the Wake of 9/11 and Clean Up Lower Manhattan.” In her book, Orkin recounts the very personal story of how she and other local activists had to fight the government to uncover the actual dangers of living and TRUTH Continued on page 13
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July 27 – August 10, 2017
E D ITO R IAL
She has a life worth saving PUBLISHER
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July 27 – August 10, 2017
BY LENORE SKENAZY Friday was a normal day for my friend Barbie Levin, a physical therapist. She went to the modest home of a brand new patient, a baby who’d had a stroke in utero, was now 1-year-old and still not crawling because one leg was too weak. As the mom watched, Barbie got down on the floor and placed the baby into crawling position. Then she asked the mom to go get the baby’s favorite food — a veggie stick (the kind that’s like a Cheeto, not a piece of celery). As the baby tried to propel herself forward but couldn’t, Barbie propped the weak leg up and the baby managed a tiny scoot. Then Barbie had the mom get on the floor, take her place, and do the same re-propping. The baby took her first three “steps” ever. She reached the treat and, said Barbie, smiling broadly, “ate it with relish.” As she left the mother stunned with joy, Barbie felt pretty good. And also pretty bad. Like that baby, Barbie was born with a medical problem, too: something wrong with her urinary tract that affected her kidneys. As a little kid in the 1950s and ’60s, she was in and out of the hospital in an era when people were a lot less sensitive to what that feels like for a child. “The nurses would practice catheterizing on me,” Barbie, 61, recalls. Each stay at the hospital lasted about a week, and she never knew when another one was coming. “My mom would wake me up and say, ‘It’s a hospital week!’ ” and Barbie would be overwhelmed with terror. Probes and pain and loneliness loomed, as did the humiliation of having interns, mostly men, coming in to examine her
urinary tract and discuss it as if she wasn’t there. Thank God for the arts-and-crafts lady who made her daily rounds. Barbie made a set of tiny dolls. She kept them for 40 years. By then, Barbie was a real mom, a single mom by choice. “I spent all those years working with and falling in love with other people’s children,” she says. “It was time to have my own.” But her kidneys, damaged since childhood, were starting to fail. A few years ago the doctors told her she’d probably need a transplant — terrible words to hear in New York. The wait for the kidney from a deceased donor in our state is seven to nine years, one of the longest waits in the country. (That, by the way, is why we should have people opting out if they don’t want their organs donated upon death, rather than having to opt in by checking a box on our driver licenses. In Spain, everyone is automatically registered for after-death organ donation, unless they choose to check the “No” box. The average wait for a kidney there is eight months). Since the wait here is so long, and since a kidney donated by a living person tends to last up to twice as long as a cadaver kidney, as Barbie’s condition worsened, she started a blog, BarbiesKidneyQuest.wordpress.com. How do you explain to someone who you are, and why they might want to consider giving you a kidney? Barbie’s now college-age daughter
Yona took a stab at it. She and her mom have one of those relationships, she wrote, maybe because it has always been just the two of them, where they sing together in the kitchen. They watch a lot of murder mysteries on television — the British ones. They live in Stuyvesant Town where Yona grew up watching her mom check in on elderly neighbors (there are plenty!) and bring them soup. As Barbie’s friend, I watch and marvel, too. She loves learning things like carpentry and cocktail making. She invented a grated-ginger cocktail in 2012 that is still the talk of our circle. She made her own guitar, and couch, and just did a glassblowing class with her daughter. Even as a child at Jewish sleepaway camp, where one of the offerings was Yiddish class, she signed up. “I was the only one.” She loved it. Like many of her friends, I did a little research and found out that giving a kidney does not shorten the donor’s life or compromise their health. So I got tested to see if I’m a match. I’m not. None of us are. Turns out I couldn’t do a “swap” either, where I’d give my kidney to a patient I matched, and their donor, a match for Barbie, would give her theirs. So instead, I am introducing you to her. A childhood spent at the hospital. An adulthood spent making ailing kids better, and parents weep for joy. Endless curiosity. Deep friendships. And a loving daughter she loves back, more than the moon and the stars. A life worth saving. Lenore Skenazy is founder of FreeRange Kids, a contributor to Reason. com, and author of “Has the World Gone Skenazy?”
Posted To TENANTS SCORE BIG WIN IN RENT-STABILIZATION CASE (JULY 13) This is a very cut and dry issue. Landlords received millions of dollars in tax abatements for up to 20 years, and in many buildings this is ongoing to 2020 or longer. They have tax exemptions and pay no taxes for many years. Yet they crank up the rents egregiously in apartments that are already at market rate. Who can afford thousands of dollars a month in rent increases?
30%, 50%, and in some cases 100%. They are doing this to families with school age children in the public schools and upending lives, community, and those of children, who are forced to move out of Manhattan entirely. This is an injustice to the tenants and to the entire community. May these greedy landlords rot in hell starting with Kibel and Clipper. Both Kibel and Clipper should be added to the landlord hall of shame and go to jail just like Steve Croman.
There is more to life than making money. How about treating others the way you would like yourself and loved ones/family members to be treated? These landlords are truly bad news for the entire Downtown community and need to be stopped. I applaud Judge Edmeade’s decision, but question Hagler’s decision which makes little to no sense. Something doesn’t add up. Jennifer Anderson POSTED Continued on page 13
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9/11 Victim Comp Fund isn’t just for First Responders BY MICHAEL BARASCH There is a common misconception among many 9/11 survivors that the 9/11 Zadroga Health & Compensation Act was established to provide health care and compensation only for first responders. That is not true. It was also established for Michal Novemsky, who was a 15-years-old student at Stuyvesant High School on 9/11. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, at age 30. “When we returned to school the week after 9/11, there was dust everywhere. The air and dust after September 11th definitely played a part in my developing breast cancer. I know this because I was tested for 49 gene mutations for breast cancer and found negative for all,” said Ms. Novemsky. Barasch McGarry is a boutique law firm just two blocks from the World Trade Center. Its 50 attorneys and case managers represent over 10,000 responders and survivors, including over a dozen former students with cancer who returned to their schools in the exposure zone — five of those students were at Stuyvesant High School. In 2015, Congress reauthorized the Zadroga Act — named in honor
TRUTH Continued from page 10
working around Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. After a decade, the public can clearly see the impact on the recovery work-
POSTED Continued from page 12
WTC Health Program. The WTC Health Program will only certify cancers that were diagnosed after what is called a “latency period.” That is the amount of time that the medical community deems necessary to link an illness to environmental toxic exposure. It is important to understand that not all cancers have the same latency period. In order to have a cancer linked to the toxic dust, blood cancers
(leukemia and lymphoma) need to have been diagnosed after July 11, 2002, and thyroid cancer after March 11, 2004. All “hard tumor” cancers (including skin cancers, prostate cancer and breast cancer) need to have been diagnosed after Sept. 11, 2005. All survivors should register with the WTC Health Program by calling 1-888-982-4748, or do so online at https://www.cdc.gov/wtc/index.html There are strict deadlines to register claims with the Victim Compensation Fund. It’s heartbreaking when cancer survivors, or family members of those who died of cancer, call our firm and we have to tell them that their claims are time-barred. Please be aware that the date that a cancer is certified by the health program starts the two-year window to register a VCF claim. And, if a 9/11 survivor passes away due to their cancer, their families must assert a claim within two years of their death. For further information, please visit the VCF website www.vcf.gov, or our law firm’s website, www.wtclawyers. com. Michael Barasch is a managing partner at Barasch McGarry.
ers and neighbors, but Orkin said scientists had long been warning of the “extraordinary” levels of contaminants at Ground Zero, but their voices were initially drowned out by a concerted campaign of government disinforma-
tion, which she thinks is a lesson to remember in an era of fake news and false narratives. “There’s a bigger underlying message. This is only one tragedy, but it’s emblematic of the general modus ope-
randi of the government,” Orkin said. “You have to do your own research and have to be on site yourself. You’ll never get the real picture otherwise.” “Ground Zero Wars” is available on Amazon.com.
to PAY FOR IT.
their tenants or the law. Any judge who is unable to read the clear and unambiguous language of 421g should go back to law school. And the Giuliani letter is a joke. Kibel company now has two buildings that are going to be rent stabilized – 85 John and 90 West because they couldn’t wait to jack up the already high rents until their tax abatements expired. In my opinion they are going to get exactly what they deserve now as they knew all along what they were doing to their tenants. Hopefully many of the tenants of 85 John will fight for their rights. Hagler’s decision will be overturned for the tenants Kibel sued in Supreme Court. What a nasty thing to do to tenants- make them pay rent and sue them. For what?
Because they did not agree with a 30% rent increase and had the audacity to question it? Well what goes around comes around eventually. Corrine
of Barasch’s client, NYPD Det. James Zadroga who died of pulmonary fibrosis — and made clear that it is meant to help all those injured by exposure to toxic dust and fumes around Ground Zero. The Reauthorization extended the World Trade Center Health Program for 70 years and the Victim Compensation Fund until December 18, 2020. Doctors have now linked many respiratory illnesses and 68 cancers to the WTC toxic dust. It is important to know that survivors who worked, lived or went to school south of Canal Street between Sept. 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, could be eligible for both free health care through the World Trade Center Health Program, and significant compensation through the $7.3-billion VCF. In order to be eligible, survivors must prove: 1) that they were in the exposure zone (in Manhattan, south of Canal Street). They need to show that they were caught in the dust cloud and/or returned to work or their home for at least 2 weeks between Sept. 11, 2001 and May 30, 2002, and 2) that they have had their illnesses certified as a 9/11-linked illness by the
Marina Jessup Yet another example of big-money landlords taking taxpayer money on the promise of providing benefits to tenants, not delivering through self-policing and relying on a landlord-friendly judicial system to protect them. Simply put, it stinks Lilli Davis Tax breaks or not rent stabilization is unfair because it hits a single landlord. If you want to give rental assistance, use something like NJ Section 8 plan where the rent is evenly spread among ALL taxpayers. Some landlords literally don’t make enough rent money to maintain a building in good repair. There are o ‘rights’ if some one else has DowntownExpress.com
ANOTHER BIG WIN FOR TENANTS IN 421-G RENT-REGULATION FIGHT (JULY 21) The Kibel Company lost to the tenants at 90 West and ‘won’ in their lawsuit agains the tenants at 85 John. In the 85 John Street case, Judge Hagler relied on the word of “America’s Mayor”. That’s not legislation – that’s more evidence of some politicians in the pockets of landlords, plain and simple. The John Street case will be overturned in appellate court. Lenny Goldman These landlords became greedy. Plain and simple. They do not have respect for
Attorney Michael Barasch
HUDSON RIVER PARK TRUST SUED FOR CYCLIST DEATH (JULY 7) I have posted this before that the intersection at Pier 40 and Houston St. is also very dangerous. When cars are making the righ-hand turn into Pier 40 coming from downtown on the highway, the turning cars and the bikers/ walkers going up and downtown on the bike path both have a green light. I hold my breath when I cross, either on my bike, on foot, or in my car. Karen Bernsohn July 27 – August 10, 2017
Cycle of life Week-long bike ride from Staten Is. to Buffalo raises money to battle cancer BY BRENDAN KIRK More than 100 cyclists from around the country will embark on a seven-day 540-mile trek from Wagner College on Staten Island to Niagara Falls on Friday to raise money for cancer research. All of the proceeds from the 4th-annual Empire State Ride will go to the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, one of the first centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. Michael Strong, a Pratt Institute graduate and Lower East Side resident, with a design studio in Lower Manhattan, will be joining the pack this year. His journey with the Empire State Ride started with his support of a friend of his, Steve Mars, who had participated in the event before. Then, after Strong recently witnessed his wife win a four-month battle with skin cancer and also saw his best friend’s father-in-law lose his fight against pancreatic cancer, he decided — with a small amount of urging from Mars — that it was time to do his part in the effort against the disease. Strong said he’s excited not just for the physical challenge, but also the opportunity to make some new friends along the way. “Cycling is something that we’re going to be doing for seven days in between hanging out with our new best friends. Everyone is going to have a great day for seven days straight,” he said.
90 WEST ST. Continued from page 3
tax exemption provides all residents rent stabilization regardless of luxury deregulation rules. Reed also ordered that tenants of 90 West Street be awarded overcharge fees, but residents of both buildings will have to wait for their money while both landlords pursue a more favorable decision on appeal. Joseph Burden, an attorney who represented landlords in each of the three Supreme Court decisions, pointed to his previous win under Hagler and another decision in Housing Court favoring landlords to argue that Reed’s judgment would be overturned on appeal. “We believe the recent decision
July 27 – August 10, 2017
Originally from Appleton, New York, just outside Buffalo, Strong grew up familiar with Roswell Park. He is excited to reunite with family and says that this is a “big push” for him. A self-described weekend warrior, Strong often bikes 70 to 100 miles in a day, his lengthy rides bringing him into New Jersey and sometimes Connecticut. However, he has never done this many days back-to-back, and is excited to test himself. “Getting fresh air is a nice escape for me,” Strong said. The ride’s first leg is about 57 miles. The cyclists will take the Staten Island Ferry to South Ferry and work their way up Manhattan’s West Side along the Hudson River greenway and Fort Washington Park greenway, crossing the George Washington Bridge to a campground near Stony Point. From there, participants will continue their trek north along the Hudson Valley until reaching Duanesburg on Day 3. After spending the night at another campground, the cyclists will then cut west into central New York State, well on their way to Niagara Falls. Strong is anticipating his wife cheering him on as he cycles up Manhattan and she’ll also be greeting him at the finish line in Niagara Falls. The first three days are what he looks forward to the most — they are the days with the most uphill riding, something Strong describes as a weak point of his. The group’s Facebook page, however, serves
as a strong support group and participants receive a lot of encouragement for the upcoming ride. “Think of it as a bunch of 20-mile rides that you just string together in a day,” one rider explained. A member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Buffalo’s Roswell Institute, with 3,263 employees, is entirely focused on preventing future cancer and curing existing cancer. Organizers hope to raise more than $1 million to help in the development and foundation of cancer research initiatives, including carrying out Phase II testing for a new brain cancer vaccine named SurVaxM, advancing a research initiative to develop new therapies for ovarian cancer, and funding Roswell Park’s Center for Personalized Medicine, which develops and carries out genetic testing to enhance cancer treatment. “By raising critically needed funds
for research, our participants are influencing the future of cancer research and helping us take the next step toward creating a world without this disease,” said Bryan Sidorowicz, the event’s director. Meals are provided for participants, and hydration stations are located every 15 to 20 miles along the route. The Empire State Ride brings together people who share the same goal: winning the fight against the deadly scourge of cancer. The unique and active challenge also aims to bring its participants closer together as they pedal through some of the most beautiful scenery in New York. The Empire State Ride is open to riders of all levels and offers the option of riding between one and seven days. It even suggests a short route for riders unable to ride the 70-plus miles required on most days. To register, find information and donate, visit EmpireStateRide. com.
regarding 90 West Street is legally incorrect and conflicts with other recent decisions… that directly and completely uphold the owner’s position that deregulation was permitted and was intended by the legislature when it first enacted RPTL 421-g,” Burden said. But if legal precedent is anything to go by, that would support tenants — with two Supreme Court decisions and a Housing Court verdict in their favor — according to attorney Serge Joseph, who represented tenants at 90 West St. “I don’t think that’s a great argument,” Joseph said. A group of local elected officials led by Public Advocate Letitia James filed an amicus brief supporting the tenants at 90 West St., as they had in the 50 Murray
St. case, and she counted Reed’s verdict as another step towards a positive resolution to the long-running controversy. “Once again, the courts have spoken up and made clear that landlords cannot manipulate laws to take advantage of tenants,” said James. “421-g was implemented to create much needed affordable housing, not strip it from the very New Yorkers who depend on it. We will always stand by our tenants, and will continue to use every tool at our disposal to support them in the face of unscrupulous landlords.” Tenants at 90 West St. first became interested in the promise of rent stabilization under 421-g after Kibel Company moved to raise their rents by 33 percent in 2016, following years of more modest
rent increases, according to West. The landlord, having perceived that reconstruction following the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were nearing completion and property values were on the rise, was attempting to ditch tenants who had braved the racket of unending construction in favor more affluent crowd now that Lower Manhattan is on the rise, West said. “We endured all the construction at the 9/11 site, we were displaced during Sandy, and we felt we’d been there and embodied what [421-g] was intended to do, and to find that now that all the construction was done and the neighborhood had become a great place to live, they wanted to jack the rent up? That wasn’t right,” said West.
Lower East Side resident Jim Strong will spend seven days cycling to Buffalo as part of the Empire State Ride to raise money for cancer research.
The Entertainment is as Free as the Air Outdoor theater, ﬁve-borough-style BY TRAV S.D. A few weeks ago, one might have been forgiven for predicting that free outdoor productions in New York, in particular those of Shakespeare plays, would soon be heading for the hills. The Public Theater’s controversial Trump-themed production of “Julius Caesar” inflamed passions throughout the entire country. Many theaters received angry letters despite having no connection with the Public, “Julius Caesar,” or even Shakespeare. Nothing daunted, numerous NYC theaters are continuing to ply their trade throughout the rest of this summer, free of charge, at a park near you. In spite of all the angry op-eds and the loss of some corporate sponsorships, the Public Theater itself is midway through its 64th annual summer season of Free Shakespeare in the Park. On July 11, they opened a new production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Lear deBessonet and starring Phylicia Rashad, Robert Joy, and the husband-and-wife acting team of Annaleigh Ashford and Joe Tapper. This “fairytale fantasia” will be at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, 8pm, through Aug. 13 (enter at 81st St. & Central Park West or 79th St. & Fifth Ave.). Renowned cast members and an actual sit-down amphitheater mean that there is always substantial demand for the Public’s Free Shakespeare. The normal procedure is to wait online for tickets at the box office, which opens at noon, on the day of the show. If “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” proves difficult to get into, the Public’s “Public Works” program will be presenting a musical version of “As You Like It” at the same venue from Sept. 1–5, featuring a cast of 200 community members and professionals. More information and tickets available at publictheater.org. This wouldn’t be New York if the Public didn’t have at least a half dozen scrappy competitors waiting in the wings with their own free productions. Here are a few others. “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” is the one with the most whimsical name, and, at 22 years old, it is already becoming an institution itself. Three different theatre troupes have presented this series over its history; The Drilling Company has carried the baton since 2005. The company performs in the parking lot behind The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, located at 114 Norfolk St. in the Lower East Side (btw. Delancey & Rivington Sts.). Seats are available on a first come, first served basis; blankets will be spread out once seats are gone (you can bring your own chair). Having already given us “All’s Well That Ends Well” this summer, their next production will be “Henry VI, Part 3,” presented Thurs.–Sat., 7pm, through Aug. 12. For those who prefer a greener location in Midtown, The Drilling Company is also offering free Shakespeare productions in Bryant Park, as well: “Twelfth Night” (July 28–30) and “The Tempest” (Aug. 25–Sept. 9). Go to shakespeareintheparkinglot.com for more details. DowntownExpress.com
Photo by Jason Marr
Hip to Hip Theatre Company, seen here in a 2016 production, has “Free Shakespeare in the Parks” in rep through Aug. 20.
Meanwhile, the Queens-based Hip to Hip Theatre Company’s “Free Shakespeare in the Parks” will visit outdoor venues in all five boroughs as well as Jersey City and Southampton, Long Island. This season they are presenting “Measure for Measure” and “Henry IV, Part 1” through Aug. 20. Their Manhattan spot is the Harlem Meer in Central Park (110th St & Malcolm X Blvd.). They’ll be there at 6:30pm Aug. 9 (“Measure) and 16 (“Henry”). For details, visit hiptohip.org. Over on the west side, Hudson Warehouse, which styles itself “The OTHER Shakespeare in the Park” will be presenting their version of “Henry V” at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in the Upper West Side’s Riverside Park from July 27–Aug. 20, Thurs.– Sun., 6:30pm (W. 89th St. & Riverside Drive). Go to hudsonwarehouse.net to learn more. Hudson Warehouse just closed their adaptation of “The Three Musketeers” on July 23, but if fans of the Dumas swashbuckler are very quick, they can catch the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s version, which plays at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park through July 30; Tues.–Sun., 8pm; Fri. at 8:30pm, rain or shine (enter the park at 124th St. & Fifth Ave., walk south to the venue). Of the companies listed in this roundup, the Classical Theatre of Harlem is second only to the Public in prestige. The names of the performers may not be household words, but you have seen many of them: most have Broadway, film, and TV
credits. To learn more, go to cthnyc.org. For those who like a little exercise with their Shakespeare, there’s New York Classical Theatre. Their new production of “Macbeth” will be presented in The Battery (meet at Castle Clinton; Battery Pl. at State St.). Audiences participate by walking from scene to scene in various locations within a three-block radius. They also make special provisions for those who require special help getting around. Open rehearsals happen through July 30; official performances run at 7pm July 31–Aug. 20 (excluding Thursdays). Their website is newyorkclassical.org. If your taste in classics runs to the very ancient, the American Thymele Theatre presents its latest annual New York Euripides Summer Festival. This year the Hellenic-themed company presents “The Madness of Hercules,” July 31–Aug. 6, 6pm, at locations including East River Park and Marcus Garvey Park. Visit americanthymeletheatre.yolasite.com. Lastly, sometimes it’s not the play but the concept which is the classic. Theater for the New City’s annual summer Street Theater tour is rapidly approaching the half-century mark. Every year they present an all-new, original musical production with an activist theme, and bring it to parks and other outdoor locations in all five boroughs. This year’s show, entitled “Checks and Balances, or Bottom’s Up!” is up Aug. 5–Sept. 17. It will be playing streets, parks, and playgrounds; see theaterforthenewcity.net for the full schedule. July 27 – August 10, 2017
EPIC Players Act on Inclusion of the ‘Alter-Abled’ Intgrated company’s inaugural production capably challenges BY SCOTT STIFFLER Guided by a vision whose ambition handily matches the scale of its name, EPIC Players theatre company is comprised of alter-abled actors, designers, and technicians who study, train, and work alongside their “neurotypical” counterparts. This acronym-friendly troupe is so inclusive, EPIC (“Empower. Perform. Include. Create.”) even found a way to embrace the palindrome. “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” — playwright Bert V. Royal’s mostly bleak, totally unauthorized, 2004 imagining of the “Peanuts” gang during their difficult teenage years — will be the company’s inaugural Mainstage production. As founder Aubrie Therrien, who also serves as the group’s executive artistic director, explained, “We chose ‘Dog Sees God’ for our first play to mirror the innocence of ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’ and also give our actors living with developmental disabilities a chance to explore themes of sexuality, gender, and loss — issues they often struggle with, just like everyone else, but are never really given the opportunity to express. Too often these individuals are infantilized based on their differences; we wanted to change that.” Advocating for a deeper understanding of the alter-abled is only one goal on the group’s agenda. “Ninety-five percent of characters with disabilities,” their website notes, “are played by able-bodied actors.” EPIC wants to improve that statistic by providing its members with the tools to present themselves as a competitive, even preferred, choice in an industry where a sea of talent vies for a small pool of jobs. While the company rehearses for its two yearly Mainstage productions, members also work to enhance audition prepara-
Photo by Charlene Warner
L to R: Samantha Elisofon, Christian Patane, Gideon Pianko and Travis Burbee in rehearsal for “Dog Sees God.”
tion, scene study, on-camera acting, and “industry networking” (aka schmoozing) skills. Formal auditions are held once a year, but the general public has the opportunity to drop in on classes and workshops for $25 a pop. Once accepted into EPIC, anyone can pitch a film, play, solo show, or other project to Therrien. That’s the roundabout way “Dog Sees God” got its director, David Bonderoff. “I was one of the founding members,” he recalled of nottoo-distant 2016, “but was not part of the production team. I auditioned as an actor, then had the opportunity to create an improv class,” which set the stage for his work at the helm of the play. Bonderoff, who holds certificates in acting with the Stella Adler Studio and in improvisation with the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center, played the role
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July 27 – August 10, 2017
of Beethoven in a production of “Dog” prior to graduating from Stony Brook University in 2015. “It was one of my first shows,” he said, while recalling how his own formative experience as an actor paralleled that of the cast he’s been directing. “It was a great environment for selfimprovement and learning,” Bonderoff said of the rehearsal process. “It gave us the chance to tackle conceptual things within the play, like actors’ motivations, and really getting down to raw feelings; things we don’t get to talk about when we’re not discussing it in terms of the characters we’re playing. We really discovered ourselves and our relationship with the people we’re working next to.” The cast, Bonderoff noted, includes “people living with vision impairment, developmental disabilities including autism, and other general challenges.” Developmental disability and autism, he clarified, “are found within a wide range of neurological characteristics, a spectrum that even includes people who are aligned with the term ‘neurotypical.’ It’s a spectrum because everyone is on it in some way.” Bonderoff, whose approach to preferred nomenclature is less about being politically correct and more about respectful fluidity according to personal preference, said he considers himself neurotypical — but quickly added, “If referring to myself as that were to make somebody uneasy, I would change the way I use the language. The way I see
it, as a cis straight white male, I need to be more open to everyone else and who they are.” Echoing an exercise familiar to actors who tap into empathy as a means of character development, Bonderoff said, of relating to others, “I have no concept of what they are going through, so I do my best to listen, hear, and observe.” Asked if alter-abled cast members brought any unique strengths to the process, Bonderoff referenced the play’s themes of isolation and disenchantment, along with its plot points of bullying and suicide. “This play covers a lot of fragile characters,” he noted, “with people just trying to do their best and live life. And these people [the actors] are so honest; so true to themselves. I view acting as an expression of truth, and sometimes what we need to see on stage is not an actor putting on a show, but a real human being living in the moment. … Our mission is simply to say, with the right amount of preparation, this population can put on a show that an audience will be invested in and impressed by.” The EPIC Players, a resident company of Horse Trade Theater Group, will perform “Dog Sees God” July 27–Aug. 6; Thurs.–Sat. at 7pm, Sun. at 2pm. At The Kraine Theater (85 E. Fourth St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). For tickets ($25, $20 for students/seniors/ military), visit epicplayersnyc.org. For audition & workshop info, email info@ epicplayersnyc.org. On Facebook: facebook.com/epicplayersnyc. DowntownExpress.com
Bullet Catchers Play’s vision of integrated infantry casts women who saw combat BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-sodistant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit. “It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s. For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity — for travel especially.” She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN (servicewomen.org). According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.” The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said. Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted. “Now even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said. Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010. Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches. DowntownExpress.com
“Bullet Catchers” imagines the US Army’s first mixed gender infantry unit, from training to deployment.
During 2016’s research process, the cast and creative team of “Bullet Catchers” met with active duty personnel at Fort Dix.
“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.” Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment. Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.” Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but
said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December. “The nice thing about this process… it was a group effort,” she said. Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone. The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said. Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate
director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone. Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained (trumanproject.org; “a nationwide community, forged in the aftermath of 9/11, fighting for America’s promise on the battlefield, along the campaign trail, and in the halls of government”). Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said. Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members — an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said. A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s BULLET CATCHERS continued on p. 23 July 27 – August 10, 2017
The Stony Silent Have Much to Say Talking statues project has history asking, ‘Can you hear me now?’ BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC The ubiquitous sound — a cellphone ringtone — rang out in Bryant Park, but the person on the other end would have surprised historians. It was, after all, a call from Gertrude Stein, who passed away over 70 years ago. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t Stein, but rather an actor performing a monologue envisioning what the groundbreaking writer would say if she were here, now. Stein — like many other famous and important figures (mostly men) — has been immortalized in sculpture, but in the midst of the city hustle, how many of us stop and pay attention to them? Talking Statues is looking to change that by engaging New Yorkers and tourists alike with history. David Peter Fox began Talking Statues in Copenhagen in 2013, with the idea of giving “voice” to the statues, according to the project’s press release. Writers would create short monologues and then actors would perform and record them. After Copenhagen, the project spread to Helsinki, London, San Diego and Chicago, with Talking Statues officially starting in New York City on Wed., July 12 (visit newyorktalkingstatues. com for statue locations and info). “It’s been a long journey,” Fox said at the morning launch at the New-York Historical Society. “The project is a present from me to New York City.” Fox told this publication afterwards he worked for two years to bring his project to this city. It took some time to get permission and to fi nd the actors, he said. Fox said some 600 actors applied for the gig. One of the actors who made the cut was Stacey Lightman, who performed the monologue conceived for Stein at the launch. “I loved it,” she said of the process. “I played Gertrude Stein in a play a year ago — it seemed like kismet. It was a thrill to record [her].” She noted that people go by statues but “don’t see them.” Fox said 35 statues will be animated throughout the five boroughs. He declined to provide details about the project’s funding. Here’s how it works. Near the statue, there is a sign with a link, which can be typed into your smartphone’s Internet browser. There is also a QR code that can be scanned by your device after you download the app. You receive a
July 27 – August 10, 2017
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
A rose is a rose is a rose. Gertrude Stein sits and surveys all in Bryant Park.
call — complete with a picture of the statue and the person’s name — and then hear the monologue. (When asked about those without smartphones, Fox said later by phone, “There is no alternative, unfortunately not. The system is based on this technology.”)
GERTRUDE STEIN, BRYANT PARK It took this reporter a few tries to get the call but then: “I am sitting, I am thinking. Sitting thinking thoughts of thinking, bits of thoughts, thoughts fl itting, thinking, thinking, thoughts linking. This is how I think, thoughts heard, thoughts blurred, thoughts like birds, becoming words.” The monologue, written by Marc Acito and performed by Lightman, also includes a bit of biographical information. Stein was American but moved to Paris in 1903. She was a poet, a playwright, a writer, and the host of the salon that was graced by the artistic and literary lights of the era — Picasso, Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald among others. In 1934, she returned to America and toured the country but went back to France. “But as I say ‘America is my country, and Paris is my hometown,’ so I returned to Paris, never to see America again. That is, until 1992.
The model for this statue was made in my hometown, but here I sit again in my country, sitting, thinking, thoughts like birds, becoming words.”
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, UNION SQUARE PARK In a leafy part of the park, a voice beckons, “Friend, come closer.” Abraham Lincoln explains how many times he visited New York City: six, and only once as president. But besides his speechifying at the Cooper Union, the 16th president of the United States wonders, “How fares the Union? Is the country a place where one’s labors are fairly rewarded? May a citizen, striving, be made, by that process, a more dignified, spacious being? Is it a fair place, a free place? A generous place?” He continues, “Have we attained that for which we so mightily strove? Do we walk peaceably together, finally, black and white, all traces of the previous cruel inequity eradicated, true equals at last?” George Saunders, most recently author of “Lincoln in the Bardo,” imagined what Lincoln would say to us if he could, ending the monologue performed by Pete Simpson, with: “Well. It is humans down here, after all, so perhaps our work has not yet been perfectly accomplished. But I trust that, if not done, it is at least still being done. And that you are doing your part.”
MOHANDAS GANDHI, UNION SQUARE PARK It is fitting that the statue of Mohandas Gandhi resides in Union Square Park — the starting point for so many protests and parades. On the other side of the park from Lincoln where there is nowhere to hid from the sun’s power, Gandhi’s statue seems to be strolling in a field. Amid the bustle and crowd of the Union Square Greenmarket, he said he thinks he “would have liked it here, a city that respects all races and religions, and where nobody gives you a second glance — regardless what you look like.” Thrity Umrigar pictured what Gandhi, who fought for India’s independence from the British through nonviolent measures, would say about his legacy in a piece performed by Avinash Muddappa: “I was shot to death a few months after independence. But my dream of non-violence lives on. Martin Luther King adopted it in America to earn justice for blacks. Mandela freed South Africans through non-violence. I may have never traveled the world. But the world came to me.”
THE IMMIGRANTS, THE BATTERY In The Battery (once known as STATUES continued on p. 23 DowntownExpress.com
cial training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said. Walton said women have been in the military for a long time — flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.” Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] — can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.
BULLET CATCHERS continued from p. 21
website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.” Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.” “Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel. Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who in the play is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility. While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.
The cast during a recent rehearsal.
One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially aban-
doned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.” On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for spe-
the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island.” (People also have the option to listen in Italian. Indeed, it was part of Talking Statues’ mission to have the statues “speak” in their native tongue as well.)
STATUES continued from p. 22
Battery Park) tourists jostle for space to board boats to jet to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It is apt, then, that a statue called the Immigrants — depicting several of them — is situated near these powerful symbols. Written by Acito, the piece for the Immigrants is more like a short play than a monologue and is performed by actors Dan Sheynin and Alanah Rafferty. The man in the front of the sculpture “with the beard on his face and the yarmulke on his head,” says, “I know, it looks like the crowd behind me is tryin’ to run me over, but if you stand at the side you’ll also see that the whole sculpture is sort of shaped like a ship, which I suppose makes me the Jewish equivalent of a mermaid on the prow. We look like a ship ‘cause that’s how we got to America. Eight million of us were processed at Castle Garden between 1850 and 1890.” The woman with the “wee baby, leanin’ against me husband,” says, “Generation after generation immigrants come to America, work hard for very little and still get blamed for all of society’s troubles. This sculpture reminds us that we’re all in the same boat.” DowntownExpress.com
Through Sat., August 5 (opening night, July 22). At Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South, at Thompson St.). Evening and matinee performance schedule varies. For tickets ($20) and schedule info, visit bulletcatcherstheplay.com. Veterans and active military members can receive discounted rates by sending an email to email@example.com.
JOHN ERICSSON, THE BATTERY
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
David Peter Fox, who started Talking Statues in Copenhagen, said at the launch it was a “long journey” to bring his project to New York City.
GIOVANNI DA VERRAZZANO, THE BATTERY It is a name most New Yorkers are familiar with, albeit a bit different spelling: Verrazzano. Inspired by Columbus, Giovanni da Verrazzano became an explorer that in 1524 “was the first European to sail into New York Bay. Yet, a century ago, I was forgotten, overshadowed by the exploits
of Henry Hudson who arrived almost one hundred years after me. Some say he even used my maps!” But Verrazzano does not lament for long in a monologue written by Joe Giordano and performed by Roberto Ragone. In 1909, an Italian newspaper in the city, Il Progresso, pushed for his statue, and in 1960 he “was further esteemed by the naming of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that spans
Located on the outskirts of the park, John Ericsson’s statue proudly boasts one of the Swedish-American engineer’s invention. “Can you guess what I am holding in my left hand? It is a model of a warship that I … designed. I called my ship the Monitor, but people said it looked like a cheese box on a raft, which was a pretty good joke in 1861 when people still knew what a cheese box was.” Acito wrote this monologue, which was performed by David Dencik, and can also be heard in Swedish. The piece also explains what the picture on the statue’s pedestal is depicting — the Monitor “meeting the Virginia just outside Chesapeake Bay. This was the first battle in history between two armored ships, though I think the picture makes the gun turret look more like a hatbox. Which would also be a good joke if anyone still knew what a hatbox was.” July 27 – August 10, 2017
July 27 â€“ August 10, 2017
July 27, 2017