The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
August 3, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 31
Photo by Tony Falcone
A helicopter — likely carr ying commuters or travelers — at the W. 30th St. helipor t last week.
What the hel(iport)? Operator to pay $250K for illegal tourist flights By Lincoln Anderson
he operator of the W. 30th St. heliport has agreed to pay $250,000 to the Hudson River Park Trust after local activists charged that the chopper landing-pad operator had violated a ban on tourist flights. According to a settlement agreement filed in court in June, the money will be paid in
$50,000 installments each July over five years and will be used in the Hudson River Park’s Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen sections. The first payment has already been made. The agreement stipulates that the funds be used “for the sole and dedicated purpose of landscape improvements, maintenance and capital imHeliport continued on p. 6
Photo by Bob Krasner
When one is not enough: Rasheed Howard soloing on trumpet and flugelhorn in Washington Square Park. The Staten Islander plays there regularly on Saturdays.
You’re fired! Trump’s tweets vs. T/G soldiers a bombshell BY PAUL SCHINDLER
n a series of three tweets on July 26, President Donald Trump announced his intention to bar transgender Americans from serving openly in the armed forces. At about 9 a.m. that day, tweeting on his personal account @realDonaldTrump, the president wrote: “After consultation with my Gen-
erals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……,” then, “…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..,” and finally, .”…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.
Thank you.” The announcement marked a sharp U-turn from the policy announced on June 30 of last year by the Obama administration’s defense secretary, Ash Carter, who said that open service by transgender enlistees would roll out in stages over the following year. When the anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was overturned in t’gender continued on p. 10
Falling A/C unit nearly kills L.E.S. woman........p. 4 Alarming facts about recent Village fires..........p. 9 STOLport struggle revisited����p. 7
been put off one week until next week, per the Trust’s request, Tom Fox, one of the plaintiffs, tells us from British Columbia, where he was away on business. Last week, Fox, boating activist Rob Buchanan and their legal team met with the park authority and Diller reps to try to hash out a settlement under which the $250 million “fantasy island of the arts” envisioned for off of W. 13th St., could proceed. Fox, citing the delicate nature of the negotiations, told us he couldn’t say what exact conditions the City Club was demanding — but one could guess that they might involve a much higher degree of transparency and public review than has characterized the plan thus far, which has been one of Fox and Co.’s chief criticisms.
OTTOMANELLI CUT: The court case involving the alleged “noose incident” at Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market has been put off until the fall. However, the Hunts Point-based meat distributor that employs the victim recently “severed ties” with the famed Bleecker St. butcher shop over what it calls the “racist incident.” KUNSTLER’S CASTLE FOR SALE: Randy A press release issued last week said Mosner Family Brands, which employs the aggrieved deliveryman, VicCredico — stand-up comic, political impressionist, tor Sheppard, has been “openly cooperating with the anti-Rockefeller drug laws activist and sometime poauthorities” as they investigate the April confrontation. litical candidate — tells us that the Gay St. home of his Joe Ottomanelli is accused of shoving the noose — the mentor, the late radical attorney William Kunstler, is chilling symbol of racist lynchings in the South — into up for sale for $10 million. Asked if the place has any Sheppard’s chest and telling him to go use it on himself. special features, Credico said, “Two escaped slaves “Mosner Family Brands condemns such intolerance, hiding in the basement died in a fire in the mid-1800s. and any form of racism and discrimination,” Michael It has a big beautiful backyard. And it is a monument Mosner, the company’s president, said. “This incident — the home of William Kunstler.” We tried to confirm warranted the termination of our firm supplying its with Kunstler’s widow, Margaret Ratner Kunstler, but products to this butcher shop. This type of behavior is did not hear back by press time. not in line with our corporate values. We stand united with our employees and their union against racism PIER55 MEETING, PART II: The follow-up and discrimination, and we demonstrate our support meeting between the Pier55 lawsuit plaintiffs from with actions.” Following Sheppard’s harassment, the The City Club of New York and the Hudson River company allowed him extended leave and offered free Park Trust and representatives for Barry Diller has counseling and financial support through its disability policy. When Sheppard expressed a desire to return to work, Mosner offered him an alternative customer delivery route outside of Manhattan “to ensure that he would have no exposure to Ottomanelli & Sons’ storefront.” However, three months later, the deliveryman still has not returned to work. “Mr. Sheppard indicated on three separate occasions that he was ready to resume his MAIL TO: One Metrotech Ctr North, 10th ﬂoor • Brooklyn, NY 11201 duties at Mosner Family Brands, but unfortunately YES! I want to receive The Villager every week of the year. — for undisclosed reasons — did not return to CHECK ONE: New Subscription Renewal work,” the press release states, noting that the last (New Subscription $29•Renewal $24, for 52 weeks, of these three times was by check or credit card, will be added to your current subscription) back in May. “Mosner Family Brands has continName: ued to communicate with Address: the employee’s union repCity: State: Zip Code: resentative on the matter in the hope that Mr. ShepEmail: Phone: pard will, in due time, be Card Type: [ ] Visa [ ] Mastercard [ ] Amex [ ] Discover able to return to his post.” Card Holder’s Signature: Meanwhile, radical atCredit Card Number: torney Ron Kuby, who is representing Ottomanelli Exp. Date: Security Code: & Sons, said, “The noose incident was an ugly and stupid act for which the Ottomanelli family has apologized and promised
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this episode will never be repeated. Ottomanelli’s has served a vibrant and diverse community, without incident, for over a century. Unfortunately, Mr. Sheppard is apparently being advised by his attorney not to return to work, in order to cash in on a civil lawsuit. Not every ugly and stupid act results in a large cash payout. A noose should not be confused with a winning Lotto ticket, with a lawyer taking a third.” Kuby was referring to Sheppard’s attorney, Wylie Stecklow. The two rad legal eagles apparently have an ongoing feud, of which this is just the latest installment.
SCRAPPY INITIATIVE: Composting began this week at Westbeth, in the West Village, and Manhattan Plaza, up on W. 42nd St., according to Erik Bottcher, Councilmember Corey Johnson’s chief of staff. Penn South, in Chelsea, is also being eyed to enter the city’s composting pickup program, Bottcher tells us. In Manhattan, the city’s Department of Sanitation plans just to focus on large residential complexes, in terms of composting pickups, as opposed to townhouses and smaller residential buildings. The existing composting program at Stuyvesant Town — which was recently featured in The Villager — is the largest in Manhattan. SURGERY COMING SOON: In a fi rst step in bringing ambulatory ambulatory surgery to Lenox Health Greenwich Village, Dr. Peter D. McCann has been named director of orthopedic surgery at the health hub on Seventh Ave. between W. 12th and 13th Sts. Plans are for L.H.G.V., early this fall, to open a $25 million, 22,000-square-foot ambulatory surgery suite with six operating rooms and a 23-bed recovery room that will, according to a press release, “offer the highest-quality outpatient surgery technology.” “Dr. McCann is an exceptionally skilled surgeon and his strong leadership experience will be an asset to our new team of fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons at our Downtown location at Lenox Health Greenwich Village,” said Dr. Nicholas Sgaglione, chairperson of orthopedic surgery at Northwell Health. “We are delighted to have Dr. McCann on board to spearhead our orthopedic surgery efforts at our Downtown location,” added Dr. Elliott Hershman, chairperson of orthopedic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. L.H.G.V. opened in 2014 as Manhattan’s fi rst freestanding emergency department. In 2016, they added the Northwell Health Imaging Center, offering a full spectrum of radiology services. “Our goal at Lenox Health Greenwich Village is to provide easy access to high-quality orthopedic care at a convenient site in a brand new facility,” McCann said. “Emphasizing patient-centered care, we will offer weekday appointments before and after work and weekend office hours, as well as same-day appointments for urgent conditions.” McCann previously served as the chairperson of orthopedic surgery at Mount Sinai Beth Israel and was a professor of orthopedic surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He was also a founding member of the Insall Scott Kelly Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in 1991. Nationally, US News and World Report honored McCann as one of the top 1 percent in orthopedic surgery. A native New Yorker, he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy and Columbia College, and did his residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. He completed the Shoulder and Elbow Fellowship at Columbia under the direction of his mentor, Dr. Charles S. Neer II, who is widely recognized as the father of modern shoulder surgery. McCann is also emeritus editor in chief of The American Journal of Orthopedics, one of the most widely circulated professional journals in orthopedic surgery. He is also co-editor of “Sports Medicine,” a comprehensive 782-page textbook on sports medicine. TheVillager.com
Pr. 40 e-survey goes out BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
ommunity Board 2 released its online survey on the “Future of Pier 40” on Monday. A series of monthly meetings by a C.B. 2 working group have failed to generate much turnout. So the e-survey is an effort to cast a wider net and capture a greater sense of the community’s sentiment on how to redevelop the 15.4-acre W. Houston St. pier. The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ community-P40F . The questionnaire queries community members regarding what they do and don’t want to see at the massive former shipping pier, which is simultaneously both a key commercial cog and recreational site in the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park. One question, for example, asks respondents if they would accept taller towers on Pier 40 — which would involve re-massing of the existing three-story pier shed structure, and likely some additional development using the pier’s other existing development rights — in return for opening up new space on the pier. Or, on the other hand, the survey offers, is it more important to keep structures low along the waterfront in Hudson River Park? Another question asks if people think
the pier is a good place to generate solar or wind power. The survey allows some space at the end for respondents to “express any additional thoughts” about Pier 40. The C.B. 2 Future of Pier 40 Working Group hopes to have its recommendations for the pier in place by the end of the year. The Hudson River Park Trust — the park’s state-city governing authority — has made it clear it would like to use as much as possible of the pier’s remaining development rights on the pier itself. If the pier’s existing shed structure is razed, the amount of development rights available on Pier 40 would equal about half the floor area of the Empire State Building. The Trust also wants to change the Hudson River Park Act of 1998 to allow commercial office use on Pier 40 as a revenue generator for the waterfront park. Ironically, back in 2012, developer Douglas Durst pitched a plan for commercial offices on Pier 40 while the Trust and local youth sports leagues were then favoring residential development on or next to the pier. The falling out saw Durst resign as chairperson of the Friends of Hudson River Park. In turn, as first reported by The Villager, Durst recently has been funding The City Club of New York’s lawsuits against the Trust’s $250 million Pier55 plan, which Barry Diller would fund.
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August 3, 2017
Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association News Story, First Place, 2015 Editorial Page, First Place, 2015 Editorials, First Place, 2014 News Story, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009
PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN
EDITOR IN CHIEF LINCOLN ANDERSON
ARTS EDITOR SCOTT STIFFLER
CONTRIBUTORS ALBERT AMATEAU IRA BLUTREICH TINA BENITEZ-EVES SARAH FERGUSON BOB KRASNER TEQUILA MINSKY CLAYTON PATTERSON JEFFERSON SIEGEL SHARON WOOLUMS
PHOTOS BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
A woman (in pink top) was in shock last Wednesday after being grazed by a falling air conditioner at Stanton and Ludlow Sts. Pedestrians and a c yclist (with back to camera, wearing black napsack) rushed over to make sure she was O.K.
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Not cool! Near A/C miss on Ludlow
woman miraculously escaped death after an air conditioner fell out of a fi fth-floor window at Stanton and Ludlow Sts.
on Wed., July 26, around 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., but just skimmed her arm. Clayton Patterson, the Lower East Side documentarian, hap-
pened to be nearby when the potentially deadly accident occurred. “The woman was totally freaked out,” he said. “She was screaming. If it had
been 4 or 5 inches over, she would be dead. That thing was heavy. I was walking by. I heard it and heard the woman screaming.”
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The Villager (USPS 578930) ISSN 0042-6202 Copyright © 2017 by the NYC Community Media LLC is published weekly by NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th ﬂoor Brooklyn, NY 11201. 52 times a year. Business and Editorial Ofﬁces: One Metrotech North, 10th ﬂoor Brooklyn, NY 11201. Accounting and Circulation Ofﬁces: NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th ﬂoor Brooklyn, NY 11201. Call 718-260-2500 to subscribe. Periodicals postage prices is paid at New York, N.Y. Postmaster: Send address changes to The Villager, One Metrotech North, 10th ﬂoor, Brooklyn, NY 11201 Annual subscription by mail in Manhattan and Brooklyn $29 ($35 elsewhere). Single copy price at ofﬁce and newsstands is $1. The entire contents of newspaper, including advertising, are copyrighted and no part may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher - © 2017 NYC Community Media LLC. PUBLISHER’S LIABILITY FOR ERROR
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August 3, 2017
A woman poked her head out of the fifth-floor apar tment that the heav y A /C unit fell from, no doubt incredibly relieved that no one had been killed.
The air conditioner that nearly brained a pedestrian.
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.
August 3, 2017
Heliport to pay $250,000 for illegal tourist ﬂights HELIPORT continued from p. 1
provements to be made to the Hudson River Park…in the ‘upland area’ [that is, on the mainland part of the park, not on the piers] north of 26th St.” The settlement resulted after the Hells Kitchen Neighborhood Association filed an order to show cause, alleging that Air Pegasus, the heliport’s operator, had flouted a 2008 agreement barring “tourism, recreational, sightseeing and other related helicopter operations” at the heliport, which is located in Hudson River Park, just east of the bikeway. Attorneys Dan Alterman and Arlene Boop represented the plaintiffs in the original settlement nine years ago and filed the recent order to show cause. Alterman told The Villager that, after getting wind that tourist flights had started up again, he sent someone over to check it out. The helicopter operator was claiming the flights were solely for professional photographers. “I sent a young guy from my office up,” he said. “There were three or four people from Paris in the helicopter who had nothing to do with taking photography.” Alterman said they were able to document at least 25 illegal tourist flights between October of last year and midJanuary of this year. Under the original settlement, Air Pegasus was to be fined $10,000 for each day it violated the provision against tourist flights. “They were saying if you were Martin Scorsese and for commercial purposes needed photos of the city,” he said of the copter company’s tricky pitch. The rides cost $300 or $400 for 15 minutes, according to Alterman. The plaintiffs in the original ’08 lawsuit included H.K.N.A., plus Friends of Hudson River Park, Chelsea Waterside Park Association, West St. Coalition, Pier 66 Maritime, Inc., John Krevey, Bob Trentlyon, Martin Treat, Andrew Berman and other individuals. According to the recent settlement agreement, Air Pegasus denied any violation of the original agreement and the Trust “has taken no position.” Air Pegasus is a commercial tenant of the Trust, which is the 5-mile-long park’s governing state-city authority. Helicopter flights for other uses — such as medical, business, government and travel — are allowed at the heliport. Attorneys Alterman and Boop hailed the new settlement. “We commend Air Pegasus and the Hudson River Park Trust for promptly resolving this matter and look forward to the time when the park is fi nished,” Alterman said. Added Boop, “The $250,000 to be paid to the Trust over the next five years will help restore parkland in Hell’s Kitchen, which will be a great improve-
August 3, 2017
PHOTOS BY TONY FALCONE
A passenger exits a helicopter at the W. 30th St. helipor t, where business and commuter flights are still allowed.
The helipor t is t ypically busiest around 10 a.m. on weekdays, according to an Air Pegasus employee.
ment to residents and visitors alike.” In an interview just before the recent settlement agreement was reached, a spokesperson for the Trust said the authority had moved quickly to end the tourist flights as soon as being notified of them. “The Trust is concerned that the heliport operator comply with all of its legal obligations,” the spokesperson said. “When the Trust learned in January from Community Board 4 that certain impermissible flights were being operated from the heliport, the Trust immediately contacted the permittee and demanded that the flights stop, and was in touch with C.B. 4, Friends of Hudson River Park and Mr. Alterman to inform them of our actions. The Trust has been assured that all such flights have stopped as of January of this year and has no reason to believe that will change. It is our eventual intention to move the heliport.” The Trust declined comment this week on the new settlement, but did confirm that the first payment from Air Pegasus has been received and that the funds will be used for the specified pur-
poses in the park north of W. 26th St. When The Villager called Air Pegasus for comment, an employee there said they just run the landing pad and that a separate company runs the flights. A spokesperson for the flight operator subsequently called the paper and said they didn’t do anything wrong, either. Told of that, Alterman scoffed, “Well, Air Pegasus did agree to pay the $250,000 settlement, so… .” The W. 30th St. heliport operates under a 1996 permit with the New York State Department of Transportation that was transferred to the Trust when the park was established in 1998. The city’s long-standing position is that a non-tourism heliport on the West Side is needed. A 2013 amendment to the Hudson River Park Act of 1998 allows for the “development, operation and maintenance of a non-tourism / non-recreational heliport” located between W. 29th and W. 32nd Sts., with restrictions on height, parking and requirements about what operations can be over the water versus on the upland area.
Over the years — spurred on by waterfront park activists and the surrounding community — the Trust has worked with the city, state, C.B. 4 and local property owners to forge an agreement on the heliport’s eventual new location. Once there is consensus, the Trust would issue a request for proposals, or R.F.P., for a new operator and plan for the heliport, whose location would have to comply with the park act. For his part, Alterman said the issue of relocating the heliport has “been lurking in the background.” “There’s no question that a park without a heliport is better than a park with a heliport,” he said. Waterfront activist Tom Fox blasted the Trust for legalizing a heliport in the park through the 2013 amendment. However, the city, it seems, has always viewed the Chelsea waterfront as a prime spot for aviation. In the early 1970’s, the community and local politicians fought off the city’s push for a plan for a STOLport — or short-takeoff-and-landing airport — at the Chelsea Piers. According to Ray Guenter, who was Chelsea’s male Democratic district leader back then, the STOLport would have involved decking over the river between some of the piers to create a north-south landing strip at least 1,000 feet long. In March 1971, Guenter moderated a major hearing on the subject, with a panel with Congressmember Bella Abzug, other local politicians and environmentalists all opposed to the plan. Told of the recent tourist-flights violation at the W. 30th St. heliport, Guenter, who now lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, reflected, “The STOLport controversy there really mirrors what goes on today — which is putting the interests and safety of that highly populated area above commercial aviation and the profit motive and the issue of convenience for travelers.”
PHOTOS COURTESY RAY GUENTER
Circa 1970, Congressmember Bella Abzug was joined by longtime Village A ssemblymember Bill Passannante, to the left of her, and Chelsea District Leader Ray Guenter, to Passannante’s left, at a press conference at the W. 30th St. helipor t to protest plans for a cit y-backed STOLpor t (shor t-takeoff-and-landing airpor t) at Chelsea Piers. An alternative called for a floating STOLpor t on t wo aircraft carriers to be anchored on the Chelsea water front — which the feds deemed “feasible.” Due to communit y opposition, the plans were scrapped. Tourist ’copter flights at W. 30th St. were allowed back then — for just $5! The current operator was caught allegedly charging up to $400 for illegal tourist flights.
Former Chelsea District Leader Ray Guenter, at far right, at a press conference with longshoremen opposing Pier 57 on the Chelsea water front from being conver ted from shipping uses to an M.T. A . bus terminal. Two trenchcoat-wearing longshoremen union officials are at left. In the end, the pier was conver ted to a bus depot and the new containerized shipping relcoated to Elizabeth, N.J. Now, as par t of the Hudson River Park, Pier 57 is being transformed into an international food cour t and commercial office space for Google. TheVillager.com
August 3, 2017
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR West Village protector
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To The Editor: Re “Arthur Stoliar, 90, first chairperson of C.B. 2” (obituary, July 27): Arthur Stoliar contributed greatly to keeping the West Village as we know it today. He was a wonderful man and a good friend. This article captures him so perfectly. He will be remembered and missed. Diane Lebedeff
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To The Editor: Re “Last Mass passed, effort to save church goes on” (news article, July 27): There is a significant error in the article about the final Mass at St. Veronica’s Church. You refer to Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity having served the AIDS patients at St. Vincent’s Hospital. That religious congregation is called the Missionaries of Charity, and they never worked at St. Vincent’s, although they certainly do work with AIDS and H.I.V. sufferers right in St. Veronica’s neighborhood. Many of your readers would recognize that it was the Sisters of Charity of New York who ran St. Vincent’s Hospital. Located at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, this hospital became famous for its compassionate and groundbreaking treatment of AIDS patients. Sister Margaret M. O’Brien O’Brien is assistant to president and treasurer, Sisters of Charity of New York
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Pier 40 soccer stadium To The Editor: Re “Survey says? C.B. 2 to release online poll on future of Pier 40” (news article, July 27): Respectfully to Tobi Bergman and the Pier 40 sports community, I still believe that nods to preventing disruption of the pier’s playing fields ought to be made secondary to any plan that gets in and gets out and completes the task as quickly as possible. And that plan is small-arena construction. Period. Nothing else fits. Continuing to suggest that any large overhaul of Pier 40 can be done with minimum disruption is hopeful, but not possible. C’mon.
Construction environments are unsafe by defi nition. It’s why people wear hard hats. It’s why there are environmental impact statements. It’s why workers wear OSHA-approved masks. Why keep pushing this fallacy? On the human-impact side, building a sports arena on Pier 40 would mean temporary weekly crowds — and not even all year-round — rather than daily commuters. And, as I have always argued, a sports arena is a commercial entity consistent with one of the most important constituents on the pier. Pier 40 needs a complete overhaul and there is only one certain way to do it, and the money still is at hand. You know where I stand on that one — a soccer stadium — and I still believe it has never been given a full and fair hearing in front of the Downtown community. I have always argued that people will wait to shoot anything down rather than have to come up with fully fleshed-out ideas. And so here you all are yet again. Though I have always felt hurricane and flood doomsayers to be overly alarmist, I agree with them regarding what should go on or near the pier. Anything that would be disrupted by being unable to move after a surge — a hospital, a school (somewhat), housing (especially senior), offices — should be nonstarters. All of these things would be impacted egregiously by flooding, costing millions, maybe billions, to repair. Meanwhile, in the case of a storm surge hitting a soccer arena at Pier 40, the team would temporarily relocate while the field was repaired. Assuming New York City FC were playing at Pier 40, they would move right back into Yankee Stadium on a temporary basis — all while revenues from TV, ticket sales and any shared revenues and PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) would continue to flow to the pier and the Trust. Why not invite NYCFC to make a pitch to the Downtown community, publicly, transparently. Make it clear what the community wants: that at least 50 percent of the pier’s footprint space be used for recreational activity. Just see if it is possible already — and let the community decide. The soccer team has shown a genuine devotion to community development and community action. They deserve a hearing. Will you invite them to make an open, public pitch? Why not let the community hear them out? When did Greenwich Village become so fearful LETTERS continued on p. 21
August 3, 2017
Three ﬁres and their alarming consequences
NOTEBOOK BY MICHELE HERMAN
ately I’ve been thinking about something hardly anyone likes to think about: building fires. We all know, in an abstract sort of way, that fires are just as common a hazard in New York City as in droughtstricken forests in the West. But here they are impossible to anticipate, cause and blame are often hard to determine, and the water needed to put them out sometimes causes as much damage as the flames and smoke. Fires are on my mind because of three recent ones in the Village, all in buildings that have been an integral part of my life. In June, in the middle of Gay Pride day, 615 Hudson St. burned. The fire shut down the restaurant Tavo (formerly Sung Chu Mei, a favorite of my family), which I wrote about for this newspaper. Fire marshals determined that it was caused by heat from an oven in close proximity to some lumber. Because the fi re is still under investigation, Francisco Decrescenzo, the restaurateur, told me he wasn’t at liberty to talk about it, but he hopes to get the place up and running again soon. A couple of days later, a fi re severely damaged 60 E. Ninth St., a large sixstory postwar luxury apartment house that happens to house our family dentist’s office, leaving us without a dentist for the foreseeable future. This one was caused, according to the Fire Department, by an accumulation of duct grease in the deli on the ground floor. The damage was so widespread that some 55 apartments need to be gutted. But the fire that really shook me was the one that burned last October in 130 Jane St. (also known as Harbor House), a co-op in a converted warehouse on the western edge of the Village. This fire literally hit close to home, because my husband and I lived in the building for four years in the ’80s. More than half the apartments in the six-story building had to be gutted due to a mix of fire and smoke damage and the water used by fi refighters. The likely cause? Something tiny, innocuous and invisible: an electrical conduit between the fourth and fi fth floors. Despite an in-depth investigation, no blame has been assigned. More than nine months later, 130 Jane is still empty and mostly without electricity, and repairs have not begun. When I learned about the long evacuation, I immediately called Annie Yanovsky, a woman who has remained a friend since the days when she was our down-the-hall neighbor, to see how she was faring and fi nd out what TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Firefighters and ladder trucks rushed to Ninth St. and Broadway to battle a major blaze there on Wed., June 28.
was taking so long. “For me the damage was half and half,” reported Yanovsky, a realtor who lives in duplex. “One of my floors had smoke damage and the other was almost destroyed to the studs from the water damage.” The mold was removed, but the building is still uninhabitable because of soot in the ductwork. Yanovsky has been living in temporary quarters with rented furniture on the Upper East Side, and is determined to stay focused on the positive. “Now we have a project manager and an architect,” she said. “The good side is that we’re a tight community, and everyone has been quite civil. And when it’s rebuilt we will have new infrastructure.” Like us, she bought when the building was newly — and rather cheaply — renovated and the block still had a bit of frontier quality. Then the building supply company across the street left, the southernmost segment of the High Line that made the block feel like the wrong side of the tracks was demolished, the Hudson River Park opened and the Whitney Museum arrived. The lobby and the apartments at 130 Jane have been upgraded, some several times over. Among other celebrities who have lived in the building, Rachel Maddow and her partner have an apartment that they used as a piedà-terre during the week. What’s taking so long? Yanovsky pointed to two factors. First, the pre-
dictable messiness of paperwork, coordination of subcontractors, new “hold harmless” agreements for all contractors, decision-making by committee. Second, she says that some residents feel a more urgent need to return than others. “There’s a divide between those with a sense of urgency and those without,” she said. “None of them are bad people, but they just have different circumstances: Some have temporary quarters in luxury buildings paid for by insurance. Others are paying out of pocket. The building is running out of money, and I’m sure there will be assessments.” I spoke to another resident, Keen Berger, whose name will be familiar to many Villagers: She’s the local Democratic district leader. It turns out she has quite a dramatic story. Like Yanovsky, she sustained serious damage to one floor of her duplex, the floor with the living room and kitchen. So she camped out in her small but intact bedroom for three weeks, long after everyone else had fled. She had no heat or power. “November was cold and I borrowed a sleeping bag,” she said. “There was electricity in the lobby, so I could plug in my coffee maker and get Internet. I showered at the Y. I wasn’t worried about safety — the 24-hour doorman was here. Hiram, the super, was here.” Berger stubbornly stayed even when the floor of her living room and the
wall into the next apartment were demolished. “I got my bedroom tested and they said there was no mold,” she noted. She raved about her Chubb insurance agent. Eventually, she said, “he told me I had to leave. He said insurance would pay. ‘If you were my wife or mother,’ he said, ‘I would handcuff you and get you out.’” She moved in with one of her daughters in Brooklyn, where she currently remains, happy to have time with her two grandchildren but worried about overstaying her welcome. Like Yanovsky, Berger has a great attitude given the protracted expulsion from home. “I say to myself that there are Syrian refugees in Germany who may not be welcome, where they don’t speak the language,” she said. Her insurer was willing to spring for a $20,000-a-month temporary West Village apartment. Berger declined. “This is a problem in this nation and in this neighborhood: People are too rich,” she said. “I would be part of the problem and not the solution. I don’t think anyone should live in an apartment that costs anyone $20,000.” Berger doesn’t draw a line between the long-term and more-recent residents. “I just see people,” she said. “They’re cranky now. I don’t think people are negligent. I see people who disagree and argue, but aren’t evil. Why does a relatively minor fire end up evacuating the building? The adjuster says the situation is not unusual — it’s complicated. I believe the board is doing the best it can.” The results of the building’s recent annual election bear this out. Despite some serious grumbling, the shareholders re-elected the board president and most of the members. As for fire prevention, there are some obvious lessons. Get good homeowners’ insurance and never let it lapse. Get your managing agent or property manager to ask all residents for proof of coverage. Keep batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Frank Dwyer of the New York Fire Department press office added: Know whether your building is fireproof or not; this will determine whether you need to evacuate or can “shelter in place.” And, he added, make sure your building’s staff and management are following the fire code. Dwyer also taught me one of those lessons we all occasionally need to relearn about anecdotal evidence. Despite my feeling that fires are breaking out all around me, according to a new press report from the Mayor’s Office, 2016 was a banner year in the city: Serious fi res decreased 9 percent, the biggest one-year drop in eight years. And fire-related deaths (48) were at their lowest in a century. August 3, 2017
You’re ﬁred! Trump tweets to transgenders in military T’GENDER continued from p. 1
late 2010, the military spent nearly 10 months preparing for the transition to open service by gay and lesbian service members. The first clear sign that the Obama / Carter plan might be turned back came when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced on June 30 — one day prior to its planned final implementation — that he was giving military leaders another six months to evaluate how transgender service would affect the “readiness and lethality” of the armed forces. In recent months, as well, some conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill have tried to block transgender service, suggesting either an outright ban or a prohibition on funds spent on medical expenses for gender-transition-related care. That second idea was recently defeated in a close vote in the House. The measure’s sponsor, Missouri Republican Vicky Hartzler, had claimed that medical costs associated with open transgender service would total $1.35 billion over 10 years. In fact, in a study completed last summer, the Rand Corporation, a think tank that works on military-related policy issues, had estimated the annual incremental cost at between $2.4 and $8.4 million annually, a fraction of Hartzler’s claim. Rand estimated that out of 1.3 million service members, there are currently between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender soldiers. Those personnel presumably are now at risk for harassment and discharge under Trump’s new policy. The Rand report, commissioned by the Department of Defense, stated that “only a small portion of service members would likely seek gender transitionrelated medical treatments that would affect their deployability or healthcare costs,” and estimated that each year between 30 and 140 new hormone treatments would be initiated a year and between 25 and 130 gender transitionrelated surgeries would be utilized. Focusing on the question of “readiness,” Rand noted that in 2015 there were 102,500 non-deployable soldiers in the Army alone, 50,000 of them technically in active service, while transgender service would add only 10 to 130 to the number of personnel with reduced deployability. Rand reported that 18 nations — including Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia — allow open transgender military service. Responding to Trump’s tweets, Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, an independent research institute that focuses on issues of sexual minorities in the military, wrote, “The President is creating a worse version of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ As we know from the sad history of that discredited policy, discrimination harms military readiness. This is a shocking and ignorant
August 3, 2017
PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN MILES
Staten Island transgender activist Br yan John Ellicott addressed the protest rally at Times Square last week on Wed., July 26.
attack on our military and on transgender troops who have been serving honorably and effectively for the past year. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen stated yesterday, their service must be respected. The Rand Corporation has estimated that the cost of medical care for transgender troops is approximately one one-hundredth of one percent of the military annual healthcare budget, or at most, $8.4 million per year. To claim otherwise is to lie about the data.” When he announced the Obama administration’s intention last year to move toward open service, Carter said, “The Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now — the finest fighting force the world has ever known. We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or marine who can best accomplish the mission. We have to have access to 100 percent of America’s population. Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honor and distinction.” Trump’s action last week marks the administration’s second attack on the transgender community. In February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed an Obama administration policy that schools receiving federal funding must protect transgender students from discrimination — including in their access to private facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Ironically, Trump’s decision to throw red meat to the right last week comes as he is facing criticism from leading con-
servatives for his attacks on Sessions, whom he is blaming for the continued investigations into Russian interference in the election and any ties to the president’s campaign. Just hours before Trump issued his tweets, the Human Rights Campaign sent out an advisory pointing to an article in Foreign Policy reporting that Vice President Mike Pence has been working with congressional Republicans to block implementation of open transgender service. What remains unclear in the wake of Trump’s tweets is how they will be received by military personnel who have worked for the past 13 months to implement the changes Carter announced. Mattis’s statement this past June 30, in focusing not on implementation questions but rather on fundamental issues of “readiness and lethality,” suggests that he perhaps was second-guessing decisions already settled by the Defense Department under Secretary Carter. But that is not certain, and it bears keeping in mind that Mattis was on vacation at the time of Trump’s tweets. Also, the Pentagon, when contacted about Trump’s tweets, referred calls to the White House, though a spokesperson said the Department of Defense would “work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander-in-chief” and would “provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future.” How on board with the president “his” generals are on this issue remains an open question. The day after Trump’s tweets, three Defense Department officials told CNN that the joint chiefs of staff had not been informed that the president would make the announcement he did. To the thousands of transgender service members whose futures were suddenly thrown into doubt, General Joseph Dunford, the
joint chiefs chairman, assured them there would be “no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidelines.” One of the Capitol Hill’s leading authorities on the military, Senator John McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, immediately criticized Trump’s abrupt policy shift offered without any explanation, saying, “The president’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.” Similarly, Orrin Hatch, a conservative Senate veteran from Utah, told USA Today, “Transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them. I look forward to getting much more information and clarity from our military leaders about the policy the President tweeted today.” Arguing that transgender Americans already serve in the military and that “excommunicating” them only “weakens our readiness,” Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said, “This smacks of politics, pure and simple.” Democrats, of course, were harsh in condemning Trump’s posture. New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, said, “We must be clear-eyed about the threats to our civil rights and unified in opposition to any and every attempt to erode them. I will fight tooth and nail against any policy that discriminates against these patriots and erodes the capability of our military.” Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, cited the ironic historical significance of the day Trump opted to announce his transgender military position. “On this very day in 1948, President Harry Truman signed the executive order desegregating the U.S. military,” she said in a written statement. “Sixtynine years later, President Trump has chosen this day to unleash a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery… . This morning’s tweets reveal a President with no loyalty to the courageous men and women in uniform who risk their lives to defend our freedoms.” The military recruiting station in Times Square, on the evening of July 26, became the venue for the first of a series of New York protests against the Trump announcement. The large crowd, that included many elected officials and L.G.B.T.Q. activists, including retired Army Captain Sue Fulton, an openly lesbian West Point graduate who now leads Spart*a, an L.G.B.T.Q. military organization, marched from Times Square to the Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle and then to Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. TheVillager.com
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POLICE BLOTTER Didn’t work in Theory According to police, a woman entered the Theory clothing store at 38 Gansevoort St., on Tues., July 25, at 1:50 p.m., and took items without paying for then, then walked out the door. A witness said, before leaving, the suspect went inside the dressing room to hide the merchandise in her bag. Jacquelin Humen, 28, was arrested for felony grand larceny.
the man down the block. Anthony J. McGee, 19, was charged with felony grand larceny.
Square phone swipe Police said a woman’s phone was stolen from her hand on Mon., July 24, at 11:02 p.m. while she was at the southwest corner of Washington Square West and Washington Square South. Donte English, 16, was arrested for felony grand larceny.
No Chipotle getaway A woman’s bag was stolen from 504 Sixth Ave., at W. 13th St., on Thurs., July 27, at 9:10 p.m., but she chased down the robber and got it back, police said. An officer spotted the suspect running from the location, and the victim also approached the cop and pointed out the suspect. She said the robber had taken her bag, containing her credit and debit cards and additional property. In fact, the woman had chased down the suspect and retrieved her property. Police canvassed the area and collared
Wig-wearing robber Police said that on Thurs., July 27, around 3:10 p.m., a cross-dressed robber entered the Chase bank, at 204 W. Fourth St., and passed a note to the teller, stating he had a homemade bomb and demanding money. The teller complied and the individual fled with $1000. The suspect is described as male, black, around 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 200 pounds. He wore a black curly wig, a blue purse over his shoulder, a blue shirt and female clothing, but
The many beneﬁts of dance
a o m i Haas, director of Dances for a Variable Population, holds movement classes around town, many of them at local senior centers. This one, above, was held at the Parks D e p a r t m e n t ’s Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, at Clarkson St. and Seventh PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY Ave. South, and A dance instructor from Naomi Haas listening to sefunded by Coun- niors at a movement class at the Dapolito Center on cilmember Corey Clarkson St. Johnson. As Hass explains on her Web site, grams are designed for the appreciation and “DVP’s mission is to inspire older popu- enjoyment of moving, moving with others, lations to move more and to embrace the and creating heightened self-expression study of dance as a viable productive activ- and confidence,” Hass adds. “They take ity that enhances and enriches the quality each person from where they are and move of their lives. Older adults need accessible them forward, supporting a more meanprograms that use creative movement as ingful and fulfilled sense of self. Program a means to improving balance, mobility, participants reflect a broad range of motor flexibility, strength, joyful expression and and cognitive skill levels and include both reduction of isolation in their communi- dance enthusiasts and total newcomers. Many dancers in this program are finding ties. “Our MOVEMENT SPEAKS® pro- their physical voices for the first time.” TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
On Tues., Aug. 1, a man was repor tedly left in critical condition in the hospital after a stabbing at a homeless encampment on E. Second St. just off of Avenue A . Police arrested a man, above, at the spot but it was for an “unrelated minor offense.” “There was a violent assault,” Captain Vincent Greany, the Ninth Precinct commander, said. “The victim and perpetrator are known to each other. It’s unknown what the dispute was over that led to an individual being stabbed. The investigation is moving for ward and we believe an arrest will be made. There has not been an arrest made in regard to this assault yet.”
had a deep voice when he demanded the money. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto
the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential.
Tabia C. Robinson and Lincoln Anderson
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August 3, 2017
August 3, 2017
The stony silent have much to say Smartphone app unlocks ‘Talking Statues’ project
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
During the monologue for Mohandas Gandhi, writer Thrity Umrigar imagines that the practitioner of nonviolence “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.”
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. TheVillager.com
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 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 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 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 flitting, 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. STATUES continued on p. 18 August 3, 2017
STATUES continued from p. 17
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
August 3, 2017
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
A rose is a rose is a rose. Gertrude Stein sits and surveys all in Bryant Park.
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.
months after independence. But my dream of non-violence lives on. Martin Luther King Jr. 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 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.”
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 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.)
JOHN ERICSSON, THE BATTERY 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.” TheVillager.com
This little light of mine ‘Unpacking’ illuminates the ghosts of relationships past BY SCOTT STIFFLER From the overbearing parent to the ex who keeps popping up uninvited to that pillow hog in bed next to you, everyone, it seems, wants to direct. Even you, dear audience member, can’t sit in a theater for more than a few minutes without giving the show a mental rewrite. Don’t feel bad about it. Shifting the focus to your liking is a perfectly natural response to an imperfect world. How lucky for us, then, that the latest sharply crafted piece of comedic, supernatural, existential puzzle work from the writing team of Marina & Nicco includes a nifty (but by no means gimmicky) little device that gives spectators real control over the unfolding drama, while trusting them to exercise that power responsibly. “Unpacking: A Ghost Story Told in the Dark” finds us eavesdropping on Melissa and Anthony’s first night of cohabitation in a newly purchased home. Actually, it’s just a two-bedroom, and not the whole building — but it’s all theirs. Or so it seems. Shortly after a bit of lovey-dovey cooing and some small talk about what color to paint the walls, there’s a block-wide power failure. Things get weird fast, when the seemingly happy couple is momentarily separated during their desperate attempt to figure out what went wrong (lack of electricity isn’t the only thing keeping these two in the dark). Back in the same room, if not entirely on the same page, Anthony compares Melissa’s hastily designed candlelight decor to that of a séance. The strange mojo that clouds the rest of the night, however, is never fully explained. Dead parents (Anthony’s formidable mother and the father who abandoned him) might be real or imagined; and Melissa’s interaction with a fun-loving former roommate and an appealing ex-lover, both of whom are very much alive, might be their astral projections or her wishful thinking. To the writing duo’s credit, this lack of clarity only serves to deepen the mystery by encouraging us to fill in the blanks with issues and agendas and rationalizations of our own. Whatever the cause, how deeply in love can these increasingly tense homeowners be? After all, this isn’t the first time they’ve confided in a specter instead of each other. As their house becomes crowded with spooky guests dispensing largely unsolicited advice, the ghostly visitations shine a light on what went wrong — metaphorically. The literal task of light direction is up to the audience, who’ve been given flashlights and told to point that unflinching beam at their character of choice, the clock on the wall, or the packing boxes in the corner — or leave the entire cast in relative darkness for the rest of the show. Those of us viewing intimate exchanges between lovers, children, and estranged friends from the sidelines will decide what to shine a light on, and when. That’s a clever way to play tag with the fleeting nature of illumination, and it’s worth noting this novel production value never approaches, or even flirts with, cheesy contrivance TheVillager.com
Photo by Giancarlo Osaben
Did you hear something? Cohabitating couple Melissa (SJ Son) and Anthony (Temesgen Tocruray) have ghostly encounters on their first night in the new house.
(another appealing strength of the playwrights also seen in 2016’s time loop audition fantasia, “Room 4”). Effectively staged by Niccolo Aeed, whose direction is especially crisp in moments of tense confrontation, the uniformly strong cast doesn’t seem phased by shifts in status bestowed upon them by the random attention of a flashlight. The lead performers (SJ Son’s Melissa and Temesgen Tocruray’s Anthony) arrive at establishing house rules in a believable and skilled manner best understood, and appreciated, in hindsight. As Anthony’s estranged father, Odera Adimorah’s Lou has a long, particularly compelling, deep-marrow monologue and the most emotionally complex backstory. Written with plenty of flaws and played with even more charisma, he’s the play’s best argument for dealing with your restless nature until the power comes back on.
Image by Chris Kalb
Written by Marina Tempelsman and Niccolo Aeed. Directed by Niccolo Aeed. Produced by Michelle Francesca Thomas. Set design by Ally Spier; Lighting design by Katy Cecchetti. Through Aug. 13; Wed.–Sat. at 7pm, Sun. at 2pm. At HERE (145 Sixth Ave.; enter on Dominick St., 1 block south of Spring St.). Tickets ($25) at here.org. Artist info at marinaandnicco.com. August 3, 2017
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August 3, 2017
PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
Keeping cool: A dog and a cold beer at the corner of Avenue B and E. 10th St.
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Letters to The Editor LETTERS continued from p. 8
of the new? Soccer is social and progressively political, perhaps the best hope to cut into the dominant American macho sports culture. It is pro-woman and pro-girl, and pro-gay. It is pro-Latino, proimmigration and pro-American, all at the same time. Now is the time. If nothing else, it will massively energize this discussion, and draw attention. If not, stubbornness has only done harm. The pier continues to rot. Patrick Shields
Kmart’s crazy To The Editor: Today I went to Kmart to pick up my refi ll of the Simvastatin that my primary-care physician prescribed to me. I expected to pay $9 as part of their annual savings club. The club carried a $10 annual fee to average $9.83 per month and total $118 per year. So, I write because while waiting at the counter I heard the pharmacist tell another customer that Kmart closed the club. But my primary-care phyTheVillager.com
sician closed his office to work at Bellevue full time and he’d written a long-term prescription since I’m not seeing my new doctor until November. But I figured that my membership would still be good through a year. But no, Kmart took the club fee and transferred what their customers paid for prescriptions and put it into their shoppers’ rewards points! Then, they raised the price of the Simvastatin from $9.83 to $19.83 per month and annually to $238 — or an increase of 95 percent. I turned my back and walked out while she was explaining how good the deal was. One friend said, “They Trumped you.” But the fact is that Kmart truly Shkrelied me. Billy Sternberg E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to email@example.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published. August 3, 2017
August 3, 2017
‘Twin Peaks’ paint surreally bad: Society
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preser vation charges that this new paint job on the “Twin Peaks” building — featuring an ash-gray facade and painted-over half-timbering — is out of line with the building’s past look over the years.
BY MICHAEL OSSORGUINE
he two triangular gabled-roof towers of 102 Bedford St. gave the building its nickname, “Twin Peaks,” not to be confused with the 1990 cult TV detective series. Preservationists recently became alarmed when they discovered that since late 2014, a renovation and repainting of the building has been taking place. To make things worse, the changes were O.K.’d by a permit from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission. The building’s facade was previously a beige color, with brown trim for the windowsills and window frames, and the half-timbering that helped give the apartment building a quaint, Old World appearance. Instead, the building has now been painted asphalt gray, with window casements and frames light cream. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation,
called the new color scheme “dull as dishwater,” and argued that it does not reflect the building’s history. Because the building is landmarked, any exterior changes require review by L.P.C. However, these alterations ultimately were permitted. The building’s managers explain that it was aging and needed renovation. They also insist that the facade’s new colors, in fact, mimic the historical ones. “It was completely renovated because it was falling apart,” said Vanessa, a representative of the building management, who requested that only her last name be used. According to Stefano Morisi, the architect who is overseeing the building’s ongoing renovations, its interior was a complete mess. There were leaks in the floors and bathrooms, and rotting paneling throughout the structure, he said. According to Morisi, the interior is not being replaced but simply restored. Indeed, the 2014 L.P.C. permit
requires that “any replacement wood components will match the historic in terms of material, dimensions, profiles and joinery.” Yet, Berman took issue with the facade’s new color scheme, and cited a New York Times article from 1926, which describes the original colors of “Twin Peaks” as orange and black, with blue and green trim. But Morisi said that his team scraped the paint from the building to reveal that the original coats were a dark hue, with various shades of brown for the windows and half-timbering. “Before submitting the project to Landmarks, we did a lot of research,” Morisi said. “What the original designer wanted to do is make the building look like a heavy mass. He did this by painting the roof and the facade the same color.” Morisi also argued that the beige color only appeared around 1938, and that the old building’s original hues have been restored. “The original photos show a dark color for the facades and the roof,” Morisi stated. Since the building is in the Greenwich Village Historic District, G.V.S.H.P. was additionally taken aback that the approvals were given by the L.P.C. with no hearing whatsoever. “It is worrisome that such a decision could be made at the staff level which would so profoundly impact one of the most important buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District,” said Berman in a letter to L.P.C. Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan this June. Since 102 Bedford Street was first dubbed “Twin Peaks” in 1925, its exterior has undergone only two documented changes. The original architect, Clifford Reed Daily, transformed the building — adding the distinctive double-gabled rooftop — with the financial support of banker Otto Khan. Since then, it has changed hands several times. Until being sold, with an asking price of $2.5 million, in 1998, the building was owned by a co-op board. The building’s current owner was not available for interview. The owner is leasing out apartments in the building, which are each roughly a tiny 20 feet by 20 feet. The realty company Paramount Group seems to be managing these affairs. With experience restoring century-old paint jobs in Europe, Morisi assured The Villager that though identifying the right colors is a tough task, he believes that he got it right at “Twin Peaks.” August 3, 2017
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