August 31, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 35
The Paper p of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933 So S o ho, Union Un
Chin ducks Villager debate for District 1, citing another event BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
laiming she has a prior commitment that she cannot break, Councilmember Margaret Chin is declining to participate in this Thursday’s District 2 candidates debate sponsored by The Villager at Judson Church. However, the debate will
go on as scheduled, at the 55 5 Washington Square South h house of worship, featuring the he other three Democrats in the he primary-election race: Aaron n Foldenauer, Dashia Imperiale le and Christopher Marte. A chair and nameplate will ll be left for Chin, though, in case se DISTRICT1 continued on p. 4
District 2 candidates make their case to be Mendez’s successor BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
he five Democratic candidates remaining in the race for the City Council District 2 primary election held forth on a wide range of community, citywide and national issues at a debate hosted by The Villager at Theater for the New City on Mon., Aug. 21.
More than 100 people turned out for the event, which was graciously hosted by the renowned East Village theater and its director, Crystal Field. The candidates included Carlina Rivera, the race’s presumed frontrunner, who was formerly Councilmember Rosie MenDISTRICT2 continued on p. 19
Saxophonist Joshua Redman, with Reuben Rogers on bass, played at the free 25th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park on Sunday.
The public was locked out of ‘Fences’ project BY LEVAR ALONZO AND LINCOLN ANDERSON
e were embargoed. We had a gag order,” Terri Cude, the chairperson of Community Board 2, told The Villager on Tuesday regarding a meeting two months ago at which she and two other board members first learned about the city’s plans for a public-art project by famed
artist Ai Weiwei for an elaborate “fence” to be installed underneath the Washington Square Park arch for nearly four months. Cude later said the actual word used was “confidential,” regarding the information that representatives of the Public Art Fund and the Mayor’s Office shared with her and the two other C.B. 2 members at the meeting — Rich Caccappolo and Robin Rothstein, the
respective chairpersons of the board’s Parks and Waterfront Committee and Arts and Institutions Committee. “We were not free to mention it all,” Cude said of what she called this “preliminary meeting.” “It was presented to us as confidential.” Caccappolo confirmed that the meeting was June 23, two days after the start of summer. FENCES continued on p. 6
Update on Fey ‘Weekend Update’ report............p. 2 Soccer guys almost made amazing save............p. 9 All signs point to Pagane.......p. 23
At the inter faith “Erase the Hate” event on Sunday, Alan Gerson was joined by Deacon Susan Brown of Henr y St.’s St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church.
‘WEEKEND UPDATE’ UPDATE: Two weeks ago, Tina Fey, during a special “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update” edition, announced that neo-Nazis would be gathering in Washington Square Park that Saturday. But other than a friend of our Global Village columnist Bill Weinberg, no one claims to have seen any alt-righters in the Village park or, for that matter, anywhere else Downtown that day. Additionally, in a story that got some online coverage, the far-right-wingers had planned — but then canceled — a protest march against Google in Chelsea for firing an employee who wrote a screed charging that women can’t code. Weinberg, meanwhile, said he kept checking the park for signs of any alt-righters, but found none. There were a few antifa there waiting for them, too, he added. A friend of Weinberg’s, however, said she saw a group of skinheads with German shepherds marching down the Bowery toward E. Houston St. Asked about that alleged sighting, Captain Vincent Gre-
any, commanding officer of the East Village’s Ninth Precinct, told us, “We didn’t have any reports on anything you described nor did we witness any of it.” Similarly, a Police Department spokesperson told us that cops were not aware of any alt-right contingent marching around anywhere and that, even if they had done so, there were no arrests, which would have left a record, at least. The neo-Nazis can’t carry guns here to protect themselves anyway, like they did in Charlottesville, so hopefully they will just stay the hell away.
GERSON GETS OUT THERE: Former City Councilmember Alan Gerson is back in the news, helping lead a rally this past weekend outside the First Romanian Synagogue on East Broadway to decry hate graffiti that was scrawled on the house of worship. “KKK” and “F---” were recently found scrawled on the building’s entrance. At the Sunday event, Rabbi Shumel Spiegel “erased the hate” by painting over the offensive words. Gerson is hoping to get the Democratic State Committee’s nod for the special election to fill former state Senator Daniel Squadron’s seat. However, the Downtown Independent Democrats on Tuesday announced they have endorsed District Leader Paul Newell to succeed Squadron. D.I.D.’s Sean Sweeney said Gerson is counting on support from Chinatown’s United Democratic Organization and Shelly Silver’s Truman Club, but that would only give him 15 percent of the County Committee. “Newell is at least at 40 percent with D.I.D. and the Lower East Side Democrats,” Sweeney assured. Two others are also vying to be the committee’s pick for the November general election, including Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh. Word is that the committee members will vote on Sept. 17, in Manhattan, since it is the larger part of the Manhattan-Brooklyn Senate district.
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Former City Councilmember Carol Greitzer noted that in all the coverage of the demise of The Village Voice’s print edition, she didn’t see anything about the key role the newspaper played in covering the Reform Democratic movement of the 1950s and ’60s — especially the rise of the Village Independent Democrats. “The Voice was very important in our 1961 victory over Carmine de Sapio,” she recalled, “because Mary Nichols was covering all the community stuff we were doing. Dan Wolf wrote a lot of good editorials. He was a very good writer. Ed Fancher was supportive. People talk nostalgically about the ’60s music and drugs, but they don’t talk about the upheaval in politics.” Back then, the Voice was a real community paper, as well. “Oh yes, it was very local,” Greitzer said. “The Villager was covering a lot of things, the library,” she said, referring to this paper’s effort to save the Jefferson Market Courthouse and convert it into a public library branch. “But the Voice kind of frontpaged everything.” On another telling note, Harry Siegel, in his Daily News column, pointed out that current Voice owner Peter Barbey — a newspaper-and-apparel empire heir — lives in none other than the Greenwich Lane, the despised luxury condo that replaced the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. Barbey owns a 4,000-squarefoot apartment there worth $26 million, Siegel reported. How strangely ironic, given the Voice’s community roots. And then to see how few print ads the paper has lately, and barely a single page of classifieds… . For the record, Starbucks C.E.O. Howard Schultz owns the Greenwich Lane’s priciest unit — a $40 million penthouse.
WHY SHE DID IT: Erin Hussein recently dropped out of the City Council race for the Second District. We asked her why, and she told us: “My campaign was never about me. It was primarily about the [“tech hub”] rezoning and also about the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and making it easier for children with disabilities to access services and education. I’m not convinced I can win outright given the existence of a machine-backed candidate, and it’s crucial that a candidate committed to the rezoning and the S.B.J.S.A. wins. This may be our last shot at saving this neighborhood from becoming a bunch of high-tech office buildings with Starbucks in every lobby.” (And Starbucks C.E.O.’s in every penthouse!) ROSIE’S STILL RUNNING: Rosie Mendez will be term-limited out of the City Council at the end of this year, but she isn’t leaving politics. She’s running for her former job, Democratic district leader. If her former legislative aide Carlina Rivera — who recently held the district leader seat — wins the Council seat, then she and Mendez will basically have swapped positions. CELEBRATING SAM: La Mama will celebrate the life and career of Sam Shepard as part of the company’s Coffeehouse Chronicles on Sat., Oct. 7, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, at 66 E. Fourth St. The tribute, emceed by Jean Claude van Itallie, will feature live and video tributes to Shepard, along with rare footage, photos and posters from Shepard’s plays. CORRECTION: The original version of our Aug. 10 article “Squadron resignation shakes up landscape; Special election likely” incorrectly stated that Brian Kavanagh previously lived in the E. 30s and last year moved down to an apartment on Avenue A at E. First St. In fact, according to Kavanagh, he has lived at 248 E. Second St. near Avenue C for four and a half years, since March 2013. He petitioned to be on the ballot and was re-elected to the state Assembly while living at that address in 2014 and 2016. He previously lived on E. 26th St. TheVillager.com
District 2 contenders talk housing and preservation BY LEVAR ALONZO
n Wed., Aug. 24, at the La Mama Theater, four of the five candidates running for City Council in District 2 held forth on issues concerning housing and preservation at a forum sponsored by six local community groups. The City Council seat, currently held by Rosie Mendez, is opening up for the first time in 12 years. Mendez will be term-limited out of office at the end of this year. Mendez sat in the audience listening to what her possible successors had to say. The basement theater was standingroom only as community members packed the place to hear the candidates’ views on issues ranging from affordable housing to the old P.S. 64 building and what will be done about the lax regulations by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. “We are here to listen to the candidates particularly on the issue of housing and preservation,” said Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, one of the cosponsors. “From this we should get an idea of what they stand for on housing and aim to do.” One of the most pressing issues, which was raised by Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, was if the candidates supported the society’s proposed rezoning of the Broadway / University Place corridor in tandem with the city’s plan for a “tech hub” at the P.C. Richard site at 124 E. 14th St. As Berman read his question aloud, many in the audience held up signs that read, “Tech hub must include zoning protection.” The proposed 258,000-square-foot building is slated to include a jobs-training facility and space for local tech start-ups. “This new hub will be the front door for tech in New York city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio declared in a previous statement when design renderings of the building were revealed. However, community groups and Councilmember Mendez stress that the city must first approve the proposed zoning protections in order for the City Council to O.K. the project. All four candidates at the forum — Ronnie Cho, Carlina Rivera, Mary Silver and Jorge Vasquez — said they were in support of the proposed rezoning. All stated that a priority, if elected, would be to preserve the East Village / Lower East Side, and acknowledged that the community is extremely passionate about stopping the proliferation of out-of-scale development. “We don’t need more Silicon Valley bros in the Lower East Side and in our community,” Cho said. “We have to TheVillager.com
keep the East Village weird.” An important issue that had the audience intently hanging onto the candidates’ every word was what their plans were for the old P.S. 64 / former CHARAS-El Bohio community and cultural center. “We dropped the ball on buying the building,” said Vasquez. He said he supports restoring the building as a cultural center with community access. “We need to provide a space for our kids and the elderly,” Silver said. As opposed to Vasquez, she said she believes the community will have to work with the current owner if the building is to be regained. For nearly 20 years, the vacant former school building has been owned by Gregg Singer, who has ideas of redeveloping it as a for-profit college dormitory. The historic building was landmarked nearly 10 years ago, blocking Singer from demolishing it. Another key issue at the forum was to find out the candidates’ ideas on how to hold the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission accountable. The community feels the commission has allowed increasingly noncontextual changes to landmarked buildings and allowed new construction within the East Village Historic District. “Yes, I agree we need to hold the Landmark Commission accountable in following regulations,” said Rivera, who is a former district leader and Mendez aide. “I will work to ensure that the public have the tools to make sure the commission is held to its mandate.” At one point around the middle of the event, Cho spoke of the need to break away from the establishment, and Mendez stood up and put out her hands as it to say, “Here I am!” Rivera, who spoke next, was then heckled by an apparent Vasquez supporter, who angrily accused her of being Mendez’s “handpicked candidate.” The crowd collectively shushed the woman, but after two more outbursts by her, everyone told her to just leave, and she did. Over all, the the forum provided residences with a baseline of how the candidates viewed preserving the community and making sure housing stays affordable. Many residents said they fear that the city will tear down their landmark buildings and bring in more and more bars and usher in a new “tech community” in their neighborhood. Vasquez left the audience with a lasting sentiment that resonated their fears and concerns about rampant change within their community. “Why is it easier to get a mimosa than a sandwich in our community or bring back our bodegas?” he asked.
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August 31, 2017
she changes her mind at the last minute. According to her campaign manager, Paul Leonard, Chin has a “constituent outreach” event scheduled at the Hillman Houses on Grand St. at the same time — 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — as The Villager debate at Judson on Aug. 31. “Margaret will not be able to attend due to a previously scheduled engagement with her constituents, which has already been confirmed,” Leonard said in an email this Tuesday. In fact, however, that followed a period of several days of negotiations on the phone and by e-mail during which Chin tried to change the debate’s conditions to better suit her — namely, shorter exposure to the public and fewer questions from The Villager. The negotiations followed several days during which Leonard did not respond at all to this newspaper’s repeated e-mails and phone messages asking for the reason why Chin was declining. He only finally responded after The Villager said it would post an online article saying Chin was declining to attend the debate. In short, instead of a two-hour debate moderated solely by The Villager, Leonard said Chin wanted the event cut down to one hour — ostensibly so she could attend the Grand St. event — and also that it be co-moderated by Ed Litvak, editor of the Lo-Down, a Lower East Side news blog. The Villager initially decided against acquiescing to both conditions — either having Litvak as a co-moderator or a shorter format. Told that, Leonard responded that Chin had to have at least one of her conditions met in order to participate. The Villager then agreed to cut it down to oneand-a-half hours, but Leonard said the answer was still no. On Wednesday, on second thought, The Villager decided it would be good just to have Chin there, even with a shortened event — so that she could at least answer to the public on some issues — and that Litvak could even co-moderate — basically, agreeing to Chin’s two conditions — but Leonard, at that point, said no. For the record, reached on Wednesday morning after Chin’s final refusal, Litvak said he is actually “taking a pass” on moderating candidate debates and forums this election cycle because it’s time-consuming. Chin has ducked a number of candidate forums this season — notably ones where she expected a hostile reception — including Downtown Independent Democrats’ candidates night and last Friday’s District 1 forum hosted by the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Told of the news, Chin’s opponents all slammed her for skipping Thursday’s Villager debate. Marte said, “Councilmember Chin’s absence from this debate is consistent with her track record of not engaging with her constituents. She was not there for the community during the N.Y.U. negotiation, nor does she stand with residents when
On Fri., Aug. 18, instead of par ticipating in the only televised debate for the First District Democratic primar y election, Councilmember Margaret Chin was on friendly tur f, getting the endorsement of Lower East Side publichousing tenant leaders and other community leaders. Above, Chin, second from left, was endorsed by Aixa Torres, Smith Houses Tenant A ssociation president, as former State Committeeman John Quinn, left, and his wife, Alice Cancel, right, looked on. Cancel held former A ssembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s old seat a few months after winning a special election before losing to current A ssemblymember Yuh-Line Niou in an open Democratic primar y. “I have ser ved our public housing communit y for many years and Margaret Chin has been there alongside me,” Torres said. “A s president of Alfred E. Smith Tenant A ssociation, I’ve seen how she helped procure funding after our disastrous Sandy flooding. She is fighting for us today to keep our Smith Houses safe and affordable.” Cancel said, “Margaret Chin is the only candidate that truly knows our communit y. We were together with her from 9/11 through Sandy, to the present. We have many battles ahead. We need Margaret Chin and her experience on the front lines with us.” Some of the area’s current and former politicians are also suppor ting Chin — but it will be up to voters to decide Sept. 12 if she gets four more years.
they organize to save Elizabeth St. Garden. Her refusal to be held accountable for these decisions at a debate demonstrates her knowledge that these were both instances of betrayal. She will continue to prioritize development and real-estate interests over those of the community — which is why the election on Sept. 12 is critical to preserve our district.” Marte added that he was just endorsed by The New York City Asian-American Democratic Club. For his part, Foldenauer said, “I am ahead of Margaret Chin in the only scientific poll taken in this race, and Margaret Chin is running scared. Worse yet, Margaret Chin also canceled her appearance at the last minute for the only televised debate.” Foldenauer was referring to a debate recorded by Manhattan Neighborhood Network two weeks ago. Instead of that debate, Chin attended an event at which she was endorsed by tenant leaders of several New York City Housing Authority complexes in her district — something that was planned far in advance, accord-
ing to Leonard. “Based on Chin’s corrupt and ineffective leadership, I am not surprised” that she isn’t attending The Villager debate, Foldenauer said. “Margaret Chin is incapable of defending her record, and she knows it. “Our elected representatives should be accountable to the people,” he continued. “You would think that Margaret would at least pretend to speak to the people in advance of a hotly contested election, but her arrogance is beyond measure. Chin’s failure to show up will cost her on Election Day. “It’s time to end pay-to-play politics in City Hall,” Foldenauer declared. “Margaret Chin has failed the citizens of Lower Manhattan and her record is indefensible. Little wonder that Chin is refusing to show up at candidate debates.” “I am not surprised!” Imperiale said of Chin’s plan to be a no-show. “She has been ducking these forums both because she is not liked by the community and people DISTRICT1 continued on p. 5 TheVillager.com
Tries to modify the conditions, before saying No DISTRICT1 continued from p. 4
are finally able to see the evidence of reality around them — affordable housing that is not affordable. She claims to protect seniors but in 80 Rutgers St., 20 seniors are being displaced because of her failed administration. Her legacy will be one of displacement and being in donor service not public service.” Regarding the displacement issue she referred to, Imperiale explained, “There are four additional megatowers being proposed near the Extell tower on the waterfront. One of those towers will be adjacent to 80 Rutgers, which is a senior building. Elderly tenants will need to be displaced — rumored to be the A and B lines — to build that tower. “However, these seniors have no knowledge of this because no one is allowed in the building to do outreach to them, and the person who is supposed to do the outreach is the staff counselor, who represents the management company — the very people who sold the property to the developers.” In other news about the race, during the MNN debate, Foldenauer accused Marte, who is in his late 20s, of never having voted in an election until last year. In return, Marte noted that Foldenauer was a registered Republican until last year. Asked about his voting record by
The Villager, Marte said, “I was traveling in remote China in 2008, the first presidential primary I was allowed to vote in, so the 2016 primary was the first time I voted here. “The same way Trump woke up a lot of voters last year, Sheldon Silver had a similar effect on me. When I was coaching the boys and girls basketball teams at MS131, the school didn’t have enough money to afford uniforms. When the news broke about Silver stealing millions, I realized that it was these kids who were suffering the consequences. That’s when I decided to take action. “I am proud to say that I have always been a registered Democrat who has a track record of fighting for progressive ideals.” Asked if he had voted in 2012 — since he didn’t mention that in his initial response — Marte answered, “No, I didn’t vote in 2012. I regret not being more political at that time, but I believe the most important aspect of civic life is what you do for the other 364 days of the year. “My commitment to this community has never wavered, and that’s why I’ve been able to get wide support from our district’s most vocal activists.” Indeed, Marte is probably the candidate most viewed as the “anti-Chin” in The Villager’s coverage area, with the widest support among local commu-
nity activists, at least those not aligned with Chin. “I have spent my entire campaign,” Marte said, “working to educate residents about the steps the City Council should be taking to stop overdevelopment, strengthen our small businesses, and bring transparency and accountability to our elected officials. It is public record that until last year Aaron Foldenauer was a Republican, but this is not a talking point in my campaign because it is not why I am running. We face the I.D.C. in the state Senate and should not have similar individuals infiltrating the City Council,” he said, referring to a group of rogue Democrats in Albany who have formed a bloc with the Republicans, allowing them to sway close votes on bills. Foldenauer, an attorney, has lived in Lower Manhattan for 12 years. Asked if he was previously a registered G.O.P. voter, he said, “Yes, I was! I was raised in a Republican family in Virginia, but for me, it’s always been about the person, not the party. “I’ve voted for Democratic candidates for many years, and the Republican Party has become increasingly broken in recent years. Donald Trump was the last straw. That’s why I made my longstanding status as a Democrat official last year and decided to run for office. “My message to people is that, ‘All
politics is local,’ and it’s time to focus on reform at the local level. I was proud to vote for Hillary Clinton last year, who herself was also previously a Republican,” he added. Told that Chin was dodging The Villager debate, Terri Cude, chairperson of Community Board 2, said, “I’m sorry to hear that. I would like to see and hear from all of the candidates — the incumbent and all of the challengers. It’s just good when issues get aired and candidates say, ‘This is what I’ve done. This is what I’m going to do.’ ” Sean Sweeney, a leader in the Downtown Independent Democrats political club, noted of Chin’s event on Thursday at the Hillman Houses, that it’s where fallen Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver lives. “She’d rather be with Shelly than with her political constituents,” he scoffed. Regarding Chin’s snubbing The Villager event, Sweeney responded with one of his trademark zingers: “I think Trump has more respect for the press than she does.” Chin does plan to attend a candidates forum on Tuesday on Grand St. organized by the Lower East Side’s settlement houses. However, Marte said that one will be “on friendly turf” for her. He also noted that Chin allocates city funding to those organizations, as well.
LEADERS WE TRUST ARE SUPPORTING
CARLINA RIVERA Council Member Rosie Mendez
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer
Public Advocate Tish James
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Congressman Jerry Nadler
Senator Dan Squadron
Senator Brad Hoylman
Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick
Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou
Fmr. Senator Tom Duane
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The public was locked out of ‘Fences’ project FENCES continued from p. 1
Asked how often in the past C.B. 2 has been asked to keep information secret, Cude said she could not really remember another case. “Almost never in my experience,” she said. “I don’t ever think I’ve had this situation. I’m not comfortable with information I can’t repeat. It was highly unusual. Our job is normally to disseminate information and provide feedback as quickly as possible.” Cude said her first reaction at that meeting was to state that C.B. 2 would be holding a public meeting on the issue as soon as possible. That meeting will be held Wed., Sept. 6, at Judson Church, 55 Washington Square South, starting at 6:30 p.m. Cude said factoring into her decision to respect the gag order was that the project would include several hundred sites around the city. “It was organized by the Mayor’s Office,” she said. “It’s 300 sites citywide. This is much bigger than Washington Square Park. This is a lot larger than C.B. 2. We were provided confidential information and we released it as soon as we could.” Added Caccappolo, “They explained that they were working on a citywide exhibition that could potentially include many sites across all five boroughs, but planning was not complete and they were not ready to announce it. They welcomed the opportunity to come and speak to the community, but said they wanted to wait until after the announcement of their initiative, which they did not anticipate happening until mid to late August. Our September meeting is the first meeting after the announcement.” This fall, Ai Weiwei — considered the world’s foremost creator of political public art — plans to construct hundreds of fence-themed installations throughout Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” as the project is entitled, seeks to reflect on the growing hostility toward immigrants and nationalism throughout the world. The project’s title is a line from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall.” According to the Web site of the Public Art Fund, which commissioned the project, “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” would emphasize sites and locations illustrative of that theme, raising important questions about immigration and cultural exchange today. The project — though viewed as a protest against a growing nationalist sentiment in America — has stirred up some tension in the community around Washington Square Park. The piece slated for under the Washington Square Arch would be placed there during the time the community usually puts up its traditional holiday tree and holds various holiday celebrations there. Indeed, the arch is one of the main images of the project, which the Public
August 31, 2017
A design rendering of a fence that would be installed under the Washington Square Arch this fall for Ai Weiwei’s public-ar t project about immigration and cultural exchange. The fence would have a cutout allowing people to pass through it.
Art Fund is touting as “ambitious and unprecedented.” A video on the group’s home page shows Ai strolling in Washington Square Park and snapping selfies in front of the arch. “The Washington Square Arch is a piece of art itself with history and meaning to the community,” Trevor Sumner, president of the Washington Square Association, said. “The arch shouldn’t be ...used for any political gains: We would never see the Statue of Liberty being considered for decoration.” Ai, who is from China, lived in New York during the 1980s. He stated that this planned project is a reaction to a retreat from the essential attitude of openness in American politics. “Ai Weiwei came to America to meet American artists, like Warhol,” Clayton Patterson, a Lower East Side documentarian, said. “We ruined him. We showed him what social justice was. He was caught up and photographed the political turmoil in the East Village, particularly around Tompkins Square Park.” The Washington Square Association’s members protest that they did not have the opportunity to review the proposal and give input before the Public Art Fund released the arch as one of the project’s possible sites. A rendering of the specific “fence” installation that Ai plans for under the arch shows a cutout that would allow passersby to walk under the artwork and interact with it. But the rendering shows
no place or space for a holiday pine tree. Sumner said association members have no plans or even an idea where the tree would go if a decision is reached to put the installation under the arch. Founded in 1906, the Washington Square Association is one of New York’s oldest community organizations. It has been doing an annual tree lighting under the arch since 1924. The community group usually erects the tree the week after Thanksgiving and it stays up through mid-January. As of now, plans are for the commissioned project to be installed Oct. 12 and run until January, which would overlap the entire time that the holiday tree would normally be there. “Residents enjoy the tree. The holiday tree is welcoming to all passersby,” said Peggy Friedman, executive director of the annual Washington Square Music Festival. “You wouldn’t see them take out the tree at Rockefeller Plaza to make room for a political statement.” Community opponents, though against the “fences” installation under the arch, are not criticizing the installation because of what Ai’s work represents. Their main concern is that the public artwork would diminish and block holiday celebrations, including — beyond the festive evergreen tree — the Children’s Halloween Parade and the Sukkoth sukkah shelter that is erected nearby in early October. “I don’t have a problem with the work
of art because of what it will represent,” Friedman said. “But for four months the installation will disrupt our whole holiday celebration.” Another group that represents and advocates for the park has also issued a statement expressing concern about the community not having advance notice about or involvement with the installation. “The Washington Square Park Conservancy has no connection with the project,” spokesperson Emily Collins stated. “We are disappointed that the installation was approved by the city without broad community involvement and hope that in future instances the city will adopt a different approach.” As Cude said, the issue will go before C.B. 2 in early September. However, the board’s recommendations are advisory only, not binding on the decision’s of city agencies or, for that matter, the mayor. On Monday, the Public Art Fund released a statement refuting the accusations that it has been making decisions about the project in a vacuum. The fund’s president, Susan Freedman, said, “Public Art Fund has prioritized communication with the community, and listening to community feedback throughout the planning of artist Ai Weiwei’s citywide public art exhibition, presented by Public Art Fund with the Parks Department and other relevant city agencies. We have been meeting with community boards and neighborhood groups throughout the spring and summer, including with Community Board 2, the Washington Square Park Conservancy, and the organization of which Mr. Sumner serves as president, The Washington Square Association. “Recognizing the importance of community engagement,” Freedman continued, “we reached out to Mr. Sumner on July 18, had a follow-up call on July 26, and a recent in-person meeting with him in Washington Square Park on Aug 14. On behalf of the community, Trevor Sumner expressed excitement about bringing the project to Washington Square Park, and we have been in close dialogue with him to ensure that the tradition of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony moves ahead without interruption. We have long been on the schedule to present to the community board on Tues. [sic], Sept. 6 [the meeting will be on Wed., Sept. 7] to hear feedback and respond to questions. “The vital qualities of community and open engagement that Washington Square Park embodies,” Freedman added, “are among the characteristics that make it an ideal location for this important exhibition that brings to light a powerful statement about division and separation at a global, national, local and personal level.” Freedman did not return a call for comment asking why the project needed to be kept under wraps. TheVillager.com
POLICE BLOTTER Ver-slash-ce
Little W. 12 attack
A woman was assaulted in front on 18 Ninth Ave. on Sun., Aug. 27, at 3:50 a.m. for allegedly perching on another womanâ€™s purse, according to cops. The suspect reportedly confronted the victim, accusing her, â€œYou sat on my f---ing bag, bitch!â€? She then hit the 30-year-old victim in the face with her hands and slashed her left forearm with a knife, requiring her to get stitches. Zakeela J. Jackson, 23, was arrested for felony assault.
A man was assaulted in front of 10 Little W. 12th St. on Sunday morning by an attacker who hurled anti-gay slurs at him, police said. On Aug. 27, at 4 a.m., the victim, 25, told cops he was punched in the face multiple times, causing bruising, swelling and a bloody nose, and that the suspect was spewing anti-gay curses at him. Francisco Fuentes, 32, was arrested for felony assault.
Trip, kick senior Intimidation Police said a man was threatened at knifepoint at University Place and E. Ninth St. on Sat., Aug. 19, at 4 p.m. While walking with another person, the victim, 53, was approached by two men, one of whom asked, â€œWhy did you call the police on us?â€? and displayed a blade. Raheen Macon, 18, and Dayquan Bently, 15, were arrested Fri., Aug. 25, for felony intimidating a victim.
It was reported to police that on Sat., Aug. 19, around 10 p.m., in the vicinity of E. Fifth St. between Avenues C and D, two males followed a 62-year-old woman and kicked her, causing her to fall to the ground, then fleeing with her purse. The victim sustained bruising and swelling as a result of the assault. The first suspect is described as a male Hispanic in his twenties, last seen wearing a blue jersey with the number 12 on the front, blue jeans and wearing his hat backward. The second suspect is described as
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a male black in his twenties who was shirtless and also wearing his hat backward. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Departmentâ€™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.
J java throw Police said that on Mon., Aug. 21, around 9:45 a.m. inside of the Essex St. J subway station, two women, ages 25 and 24, were walking down the stairs to the mezzanine area when a man snatched $5 in cash from the 25-yearoldâ€™s hand. The cad then threw hot coffee on the two women before running up the stairs to the street and fleeing westbound on Delancey St. The two victims refused medical attention at the scene. The individual is described as 45 to 55 years old, with facial hair and saltand-pepper hair, last seen wearing a
dark-colored long-sleeved shirt and light-colored jeans. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Police Departmentâ€™s Crime Stoppers Hotline.
Cyclist dies Last Thursday, police said a cyclist who was struck by a car at Bowery and Canal St. on Mon, June 26, at 6:44 p.m. died Aug. 14 from his injuries suffered two months earlier. According to police, Edouard Menuau, 59, had run a red light when he was struck in late June by a Ford Escape and suffered severe head trauma and was taken to Bellevue Hospital. Police said the carâ€™s driver, 67, had been traveling northbound on Bowery and had a steady green light, and that the cyclist was traveling eastward through the intersection. The driver remained on the scene and was not ticketed or arrested. Menuau had been living at the New York City Rescue Mission, at 90 Lafayette St., in Tribeca.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR S.B.J.S.A. is job No. 1
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To The Editor: Re “Hey, politicians, stop the B.S.! S.B.J.S.A. is legal!” (talking point, by Sharon Woolums, Aug. 17): Thank you, Villager, for this incredibly important piece of journalism! I am running for public advocate because Tish James has abandoned the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. She supported it when she ran for public advocate, but suddenly flip-flopped in office and started repeating the Real Estate Board of New York talking point that it has “legal issues.” I have the endorsement of the Small Business Congress, which has asked me to be the prime sponsor on the S.B.J.SA., if I am elected. I also have the endorsements of Take Back NYC and New Yorkers for a Human Scale City. I will work every day to make sure the S.B.J.S.A. comes up for a vote and will demand an immediate public hearing on the high-rent blight that is destroying small business in New York City. Unlike my opponent, I will not flip-flop. David Eisenbach Eisenbach is a Democratic candidate for public advocate in the Sept. 12 primary election
Pier 40 pool — not parking To The Editor: Re “Pier-to-pier sharing; Put ‘Pier55’ on Pier 40, Tribeca architect says” (news article, Aug. 24): We live in the West Village and visit the Hudson River Park several times a week. We’d like to say that we strongly support the main elements of Michael Sorkin’s plan for Pier 40, as set out in your issue of Aug. 24. We particularly like the proposal for an outdoor swimming pool — the bigger the better! Mr. Sorkin is right in saying that it is absurd to use the pier, with its wonderful views, as a parking garage. Let the car owners store their cars at their own expense, not at the expense of the people who use the park. Cindy Niedoroda and Frank Stewart
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The river belongs to us To The Editor: Re “Pier-to-pier sharing; Put ‘Pier55’ on Pier 40,
Tribeca architect says” (news article, Aug. 24): This is an idea that should be explored. Many of us oppose Diller Island. We consider it an unseemly giveaway of a piece of the river to a billionaire. The river belongs to all of us and should stay that way. Elaine Young
Right scapegoats Soros To The Editor: Re “Cops let C’ville alt-right rally rage out of control: Photog” (news article, Aug. 24): Right-wing radio talk-show hosts, Alex Jones, Breitbart, etc.: “We denounce the anti-Semetic hate from Nazis and the KKK.” Five minutes later this is what the are saying: “That International Jew moneychanger George Soros is pulling the strings of antifa, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the Democratic Party and every group opposed to us and Trump. He is controlling it all. If you want to blame anyone for that man running over those people in Charlottesville, don’t blame us, blame that Jew George Soros. He really is who made that Nazi so angry he did that.” I swear I have heard this from the right over and over since Charlottesville. John Penley
Zexu sounds cool To The Editor: Re “A tale of two statues: Confucius and Lin Zexu” (talking point, by Bill Weinberg, Aug. 24): Good read. Would like to hear the history of Lin Zexu more explicitly from members of the community. We know he was the official who tried to stop the opium trade that was devastating China and that the British government retaliated, resulting in the Opium Wars. K Webster E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to firstname.lastname@example.org 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 31, 2017
Soccer guys’ assist; Rushed to aid L.E.S. senior
NOTEBOOK BY MICHELE HERMAN
’ve written twice before about the great group of Saturday morning soccer players known fondly in my household as “the soccer guys.” I got to know the Ligafabulosagrande, as they call themselves, because my husband is a soccer player and many years ago we joined their e-mail routing list. He never plays with them, but I have been quietly following their lives and game reports ever since. Recently I had to relegate them to a separate “soccer guys” folder so that their prolific weekly e-mails don’t completely clog up my inbox. Still, I check in regularly to be sure I’m not missing a funny game report or other news. A few Saturdays ago I took a peek and learned that there had been actual life-and-death drama on the field, one that has given me a window onto a stranger’s life that ended in a tragic and possibly preventable death. It was July 22, a hot, muggy Saturday morning near the end of the regular game in East River Park, and the players were drooping. I’ll let Walé Bakare, a Nigerian immigrant who is an eight-year regular at the games and the hero of this sad story, tell what happened: “I saw a lady who had slumped and fallen by the bleachers. I went to investigate because the way she fell looked strange. By the time I got there, another lady was on the phone to 911. A couple of the guys checked to see if she was breathing and couldn’t get a pulse.” It so happens that Bakare, who works as a legal assistant at a law firm, took a one-day CPR training course at work three years ago and a refresher earlier this year. Though he had never actually performed CPR, he stepped right up. “The first three minutes are critical, because you can lose oxygen to the brain,” he said. “I started giving her chest compressions at the same time the other lady was still on the phone trying to get the police or E.M.T.’s to come over. She started to gag, so I couldn’t do mouthto-mouth and kept doing compressions.” According to multiple eyewitness reports from the guys, New York’s Finest were not in their finest form. The first police car on the scene had no AED (automated external defibrillator). The second had a defibrillator, but the cops had little training in using it; one of the cops from the first car pinch-hit with the compressions while Bakare got the device ready. Meanwhile New York’s Bravest were thwarted by highway engineering: A fire truck arrived, but was stuck on the wrong side of the F.D.R. Drive. The guys urged the firefighters to walk across the nearby pedestrian bridge, but they stayed in the truck and made a long, slow, out-of-the-way circle to get on the right side of the highway. Eventually E.M.T.’s drove onto the field and took over with full equipment. By this point the woman, age 75, had been administered a shock and was breathing faintly. They got her on a stretcher and took her to the hospital. It wasn’t until days later, when the one player who had jotted down her name looked her up online, that we learned she died that same day of cardiac arrest. I have since learned quite a bit more about Elma Francis, a woman I never met but now feel I knew. Francis lived in Masaryk Towers, a Mitchell-Lama middle-income building on the Lower East Side. According to her son Cameron Francis, she was a social worker with the city’s Administration for Children’s TheVillager.com
Services. Of immigrant stock like many of the soccer guys — in her case, Dominican and Portuguese — she was born on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. Her life remained true to its dramatic beginning. Pictures on her Facebook page confirm what her son told me: She was a great beauty in her day, who did some stage acting in New York City as a young woman. He also described her as a single mother to two sons, godmother to a young girl who emigrated from Hong Kong, a probation officer, an active volunteer at the Henry Street Settlement, and an executive assistant at the pioneering Dubner computer company in the early days of computing. In the 1990s she got remarried, to her childhood sweetheart, and lived with him in Australia, where she did social work and was a semipro tennis player. Back in New York she completed her B.S. and M.S.W. degrees. Her death while out power-walking in the park, something she did regularly, came with two heartbreaking ironies. First, she had been diagnosed with stage-one pancreatic cancer late in 2016. She had chemo and a successful Whipple Procedure to remove the cancer and was declared cancer-free just three days before she collapsed. What’s more, she was scheduled to go on a cruise to Bermuda with one of her sisters on July 23, the day after she died. Her son said that hundreds showed up at her funeral. I asked Bakare how he felt about performing CPR on Francis, who was then an utter stranger. “Some people might not want to jump in — a good samaritan may be vilified, worry about lawsuits,” he said. “I couldn’t think about all that. I could only think about getting this lady breathing again. “The whole experience was out of body,” he added. “Thinking back, it was really frightening.” He also said that the experience felt just as the instructor said it would. “We were worried in the course about whether we could compress over ribs, which are so rigid,” he said.
“As long as you’re in the right spot, you will feel them go down 2 to 3 inches. You have to press to actually pump the heart, and you have to keep a steady rhythm going, the rhythm of the heart.” The valiant soccer guys immediately decided to get CPR training for themselves. JJ Sulin, a photographer, has been in touch with the Fire Department of New York and plans to organize a session in the fall on site in the park. They also plan to look into the poor response time and preparedness by the city’s first responders. Chances of survival after sudden cardiac arrest decrease between 7 and 10 percent with each minute a victim goes without defibrillation. According to the city’s Police Patrol Guide, there are quite a few checks and balances for AED’s, which apparently failed that day: The desk officer on duty must account for all AED’s and assign them to cops trained to use them, and the officers on patrol must report a missing AED from their squad car. Meanwhile, state law requires defibrillators in many locations, including health clubs, dental offices, public schools and places of public assembly. Another soccer regular, Tauri Piilberg, who manages databases and reports on youth progress for Covenant House International, said a wider review is needed. “I don’t want to speculate about what could have been with prompt response time with lifesaving equipment,” he said. “But procedure and action plan — or rather total lack of it — to access a public park widely used by people of all ages for sports seven days a week needs a serious review by the city.” I’ll give Bakare the last word on teamwork — a necessity for lifesaving, soccer and harmony on this troubled earth: “It was gratifying to use something I’d learned, and I want to make sure a lot of the men can become certified. Playing with these guys is amazing. We’re a mishmash, but we’re like brothers when we come together.”
PHOTO BY SUSAN SILVER
A “bubble man” blew a kid’s mind in Washington Square Park with his supersized soapy creations. August 31, 2017
Monumental statue debate BY LEVAR ALONZO
ayor Bill de Blasio is considering a proposal to remove the Christopher Columbus statue that sits on its 76-foot tower in the middle of Columbus Circle on the Upper West Side. But a longtime Lower East Side / Civic Center activist and his Italian-American allies are vowing to fight any plans to take down the monument to the explorer. “I am deadly opposed to idea of the removal of the Columbus statue. Columbus is a hero,” said John Fratta, who lives in Southbridge Towers near City Hall and chairs the New York State Commission for Social Justice. “In 1920, the Ku Klux Klan fought against Columbus Day,” Fratta said. “Now, in 2017, it’s the politicians.” The mayor has announced a 90-day commission to review all “symbols of hate” on all city property in wake of the violence at the recent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The rally was a protest of the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. De Blasio has said that for this 90-day review, the administration is convening experts and community leaders to create evaluation guidelines for the removal or amendment of controversial public art and structures and offer recommendations on specific items. It’s the beginning
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August 31, 2017
framework of what would ideally be a long-term approach to the evaluation of public structures and contentious pieces of public art. City Council Speaker Melissa MarkViverito has said she thinks Columbus’s history has to be looked at thoroughly. “He is a controversial figure,” MarkViverito stated. “And I know that some may take offense to that. But for many of us that come from the Caribbean islands, we see him as a controversial figure.” More recently, de Blasio said the Columbus statue might benefit from an “explanation plaque.” “There’s more than one way to address this,” he said. “I don’t think anyone should leap to any conclusions. They should see how this commission does its work and what it presents.” The New York Post last week reported that other “contested statues” in the Downtown area might include George Washington (a slave owner) in Union Square, Fiorello LaGuardia (“persecuted” Japanese-Americans during WW II) on LaGuardia Place, General Philip Henry Sheridan (declared, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”) in Sheridan Square, and Peter Stuyvesant in the St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery churchyard, at E. 10th St. and Second Ave. (where he is also buried). In addition, there is a statue of Henry Seward (disparaged Native Americans in Alaska) in Tompkins Square Park.
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August 31, 2017
Cosplay and drag blend at Flame Con Queer geeks offer inclusive, warm place to come home to BY CHARLES BATTERSBY The stereotypes of nerds and gays often appear at odds with each other, but, for the third year in a row, geek culture and the LGBTQ community have enthusiastically teamed up at Flame Con (flamecon. org). The weekend convention, held this year Aug. 19-20 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, gathers the artists and writers who create queer comic books, movies, games, and TV shows to unite them with fans. As with any gathering of geeks or drag queens, many of the attendees wore extravagant costumes based on their favorite characters. Cosplay was once a rare subculture for only the most ardent fans, but it has become a widespread part of any event featuring nerd culture. Flame Con bolstered the ranks of its cosplayers with nerdy drag queens who used their campy style to interpret superheroes, video game heroines, and even Disney princesses. Rachel Greeman moderated panels on cosplay and staffed the Cosplay Corner station at the con. She pointed out a few things that make cosplay at Flame Con feel different than at other cons. “My favorite thing about Flame Con, specifically, is that cosplayers here feel more comfortable in doing what they want for cosplay, and not as much what they think will be popular or what they think will get them a lot of photos taken and stuff like that,” she said, and then, referring to her own Harley Quinn costume, added, “Everybody wants their picture taken but, I think, at Flame Con people are going to take my picture because they like me, and they like what I’m wearing and how I’ve done this. I don’t think people are as nervous about wearing something that might get them called out or ostracized. Because we don’t allow that at Flame Con, and we encourage people to have their own unique sense of style.” Greeman then pointed out a cosplayer wearing a Wolverine dress, with rhinestone trim on the uniform and glittering sparkles on their claws. “I love seeing all the corsetry, the rhinestones, the glamour that goes into it,” she said. “Because when they come to Flame Con they want to be very glamorous. In their own way. They want to define what cosplay means to them. I feel like TheVillager.com
One of the contest judges, Dax ExclamationPoint, as Catwoman (right) with Geisha VI.
you don’t see that anywhere else, because other places don’t welcome that kind of creativity with open arms the same way that Flame Con does, and that’s why I’m so proud to be doing this here.” Flame Con had a costume contest and costume parade on both days of the event. Speaking to our sister publication, Gay City News, one of the contest judges, Dax ExclamationPoint, a drag performer who dressed as Catwoman for the con, illuminated the subtle distinctions between traditional drag and drag as cosplay. “Drag is performance art, so is cosplay, but a different kind of performance,” she explained. “In the contest earlier, they did skits and voices. That’s performance.” The contests at Flame Con did have a more theatrical feel to them when compared to mainstream cons. When a “Steven Universe” cosplayer whipped out their ukulele and started singing the show’s theme song during the costume contest, half the audience joined in and knew the entire song by heart. When a cosplayer dressed as the sea witch Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” quoted the famous “Now, sing!” line from the movie,
the audience once again burst into song. Cosplayer Jay Justice was a special guest at Flame Con, and spoke on several cosplay panels. She told Gay City News, “Cosplay at Flame Con feels more diverse than at other conventions, possibly because there is an overall sense of acceptance and a shared culture, an increased familiarity with the same concepts and ideals. Flame Con feels like coming home to so many of us.” Justice said she also noticed “a lot of original concept cosplay among the queer community. We like to do our own thing, make up a fantasy elven persona, or a futuristic sci-fi hero, or our own gay superhero.” Media, in general, has increasingly focused attention on LGBTQ characters, and there is no shortage of canonically gay characters in geek media, too. This year’s Flame Con saw many costumes based on recent franchises like the video game “Dream Daddy,” and the anime “Yuri On Ice,” both of which were released within the past year. Flame Con’s ideas of inclusion extend beyond the LGBTQ community. There’s
Photo by Charles Battersby
a strong focus on keeping the con accessible to disabled attendees and on ethnic diversity. During one of her panels, Jay Justice recalled a time when she was called out by a child for cosplaying as a character traditionally portrayed as being from another race. “Many of the little black children were extremely excited to see a Batgirl who looked like them and they begged for photos and autographs, holding my hand and giving me hugs,” she said. “The white children were hesitant and one of them, a little boy, gave me a look and a smirk and asked, ‘Doesn’t Batgirl have red hair?’ I could see the enthusiasm start to wilt out of the black children, and I calmly and brightly replied, ‘The cool thing about Batman is that he believes that it doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you are a good person. Anyone can be a superhero.’ The child slowly sat back down and said, ‘That’s true.’ And then we all played and talked about video games. It was a great lesson for everyone.” It was one of many truths about cosplay that Flame Con had to teach. August 31, 2017
Joe Rocha would hate this tribute Comedian, 49, excelled at touching lives, getting laughs There’s nothing so sweet as a joke that lands — and whether carefully constructed or off the cuff, Joe Rocha knew how to hit his target. A staple of San Francisco and, later, NYC comedy clubs and improv theaters, Rocha died on Aug. 22, at the age of 49, of a severe lung infection; empyema complicated by diabetes. The eldest of four children, Bayardo Joseph Rocha was born to parents Bayardo and Norma Rocha on March 3, 1968 in San Francisco, California. After high school, he immersed himself in that city’s comedy scene; first as a host and performer, then as a teacher. He moved to NYC in 1999 and was a regular presence at venues including the Comic Strip Live (where he emceed) and the Peoples Improv Theater, and comedy showcases including Ug! Comedy Show!! and No Name Comedy Variety. Rocha is survived by his sister, Veronica Sophia; brothers Isaac Antonio and Cesar Augusto; niece, Milagro Apollonia Rocha; and, noted Veronica, “countless friends that he considered family.” Excerpts from Facebook postings and remembrances solicited by this publication appear below; their full versions as well as additional testimonials can be found on our website. To access a memorial fund, visit youcaring.com/josephrocha-914304. From 5-8pm on Sept. 10, a “Joe Would Hate This” tribute show will be performed at the Comic Strip Live (1568 Second Ave., NYC; #RoastJoeRocha). We were friends in a time before Facebook, when a whole motley crew would sit outside all night, coming and going on MacDougal Street, until dawn or the garbage truck sprayed juice, talking and laughing and debating until we were hoarse. You never let me feel like the musings and concerns of a 19-year-old were anything less than valid and genuine and worth hearing, and you had the biggest heart, and the best laugh, and gave the most wonderful hugs. … We reconnected recently, having not seen each other in years, and I was so looking forward to seeing you, and hearing you’re gone feels insane, like
August 31, 2017
10 JOE ROCHA JOKES THAT KILLED Cigarettes and black coffee are poor people’s Ritalin. The only reason I’ve joined cults, supported political candidates, followed any and all philosophies is… I really like drinking Kool-Aid. There is a definite sexual tension between this woman and myself. I want to have sex with her, and that makes her very tense.
Courtesy the Rocha family via Facebook
You can blame secularists, atheists and the Constitution for keeping God out of our schools. Truth is, his grades are just not up to snuff. And he refuses to apply himself. I’m sorry, but we have to have standards.
Joe Rocha, eldest of four, was a kid at heart.
my grief is in a vacuum, as I know so few people from that time anymore, but seeing all this outpouring of feeling and emotion is a lot of comfort for a broken heart, and I hope you’re out there somewhere and you see this and know how much we LOVE you. Safe travels, dear friend. —Ani Sarkisian I often think about Joe’s material out of nowhere and laugh. He was a rarity in, as Jess Wood pointed out, he did not talk negatively about people. Or if he did, I didn’t hear it and it was part of his loving spirit. Many don’t know he was additionally a talented artist and gave me a beautiful drawing once. … We were very likeminded, which increased our bond. He was horrified by racism and hate, and talk about rare: a real feminist and quite sensitive to continual prejudice toward women in general. … Joe loved animals, and was a frequent caretaker of quite a few dogs. He often babysat my cats and just adored them. The last note I got from him was the sweetest note in the world about my cat passing, which says so much about him:
“Hope you’re ok. Such terrible news. I hope she wasn’t in pain at the end. Please feel loved and supported by myself and the many who know and love you. I’ll miss her.” —Hilary Schwartz For all his many, many flaws, he was a man of deep passion. He was man of beautiful light. He gave his time. He gave his talent. He gave his humor. He gave us his warmth. If he sought you out you probably never fully appreciated how lucky you were to have him around. I know I didn’t. We all loved this big, funny, f**k-up of a man and the world is going so much darker without him. —Joe Dixon Joe was one of my fi rst friends I met at the Peoples Improv Theater back in 2006. … I would meet Joe a lot after open mics/jams and bounce material off of him, and of course he would always embellish each joke and offer me valid suggestions; essentially making it 10 times funnier than what I had originally written. I would also meet Joe (or “Roch” as I got to calling him) at random between 2 and 3am
God had a massive bestseller with his virgin book, The Bible. Nothing since. Not even a short story or essay. Such promise, yet nothing. He is the J.D. Salinger of deities. My family grew up very poor. We shopped at Incomplete Foods. Another successful white comedian complains on radio show hosted by white host how free speech is now only for minorities. Meanwhile stock in Irony continues to soar. When black people talk during a movie it’s called rude and disrespectful. When white people do it, it’s called “MST3K.” I’m opening a Latino legal consulting firm called Waivers Rancheros. I don’t get the name Bed Bath & Beyond. I mean I see why it’s called bed, and the bath part but beyond? Here’s soap... from the FUTURE!!
Courtesy the Rocha family via Facebook
Joe Rocha’s material was solid, but he was also able to improvise at will, and at length.
on sleepless New York City nights when I was wired from the intense buzz of the city and the stressors of college life. … I will miss the laughter and friendship he brought to me and so many others and all that embodied what Joseph Rocha, the man himself, was; a funny, gentle, kind, selfless human being. —Michaela Quinn He kept me humble on nights I would do well on stage — always pushed me to get better even if I had a great set. I remember some “agent” came up to me after an open mic and gave me his card after a set at a sushi restaurant. I was so full of myself and tore up the card after the guy walked out. He told me to never do that. He said even if the guy was full of shit the fact that he took the time to tell me he liked my set should be worth something. I was so full of myself back then it took a week to really set in after he saw me bomb horribly at Pip’s in Brooklyn. He had the biggest grin on his face as I walked back to the table, he hugged me and said, “Don’t worry. Nobody will give you their card after that one.” I’m glad to see so many people sharing their memories. It’s hard to accept he’s gone. He had a lot TheVillager.com
of friends and he truly deserved them all. Rest in peace, Joseph Rocha. Now please let me sleep. —Charlie Moreno It’s hard to believe I met Joseph Rocha 21 years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s gone now. The reality hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Part of it is the fact that, in comedy you make a lot of friends that drift in and out of your life. Sometimes you see them every night, and then you don’t see them for years. I was always happy when I did see Joe, because he was one of those guys who could get frustrated with the business, but never got bitter. A funny guy, a really strong writer, and a fantastic comedian. I think that’s what he want to be remembered for. Last time I hung out with him was a few years ago, but I would always see him in passing at shows, and I would always be happy to find out he was on the lineup. Facebook memorials are weird, and he would probably be the first one to make fun of me for writing this. That’s okay. Really good dude with his head screwed on to his shoulders. The world is a little bit poorer for his passing —Liam McEneaney
There aren’t a ton of Latin comedians, but Joseph Rocha was always one that I’d see around when I started and he made it a point to introduce you and help you out if you were. Because of him I try to do the same thing. You’ve read how welcoming and nice he was. He was also sharp and just enjoyed doing comedy. He had great energy and I can’t remember him being in a bad mood. I would hope we all treat each other the way he treated all of us. —Alexis Guerreros Joe Rocha was one of the kindest, smartest, flat-out funniest people you could ever hope to meet. He first did “No Name” about 17 years ago, and immediately became one of our most frequent and best-loved guests. He embraced the spirit of playfulness our shows strive to foster, and he remains one of my alltime fave comics to watch work. He was always writing, often even just before going up. And when he got up there, he just ran with his instincts. He might play with the idea that hit him two minutes prior, he might do some wonderfully written, skillfully executed routine, or he might ditch all of that just to
shoot the shit with the audience. My favorite Rocha performance? We were doing a fundraiser at a Moose Lodge. We got paid nicely, and Joe was the headliner, set to do 20-25 minutes. Just before going onstage, he tells me he has to run to do a late spot at the Strip and can only do maybe 10 minutes. I looked at him, horrified; he was already paid, and we had to deliver what we promised. He said he’d try to do close to 15, but he hadda go, he was late. He hits the stage, and the crowd is well-lubricated and, uh, chatty… somebody yells out something, and Joe replied, turning it into a laugh. Somebody else yelled out something, and the same result. Joe then took the bull by the horns, and began talking to the audience, doing crow work. In under two minutes, he had them eating out of his hands, fully in control, and getting some of the biggest laughs I’ve ever heard. He did close to 40 minutes, and not one scrap of material. After the show, I said, ”I thought you had to run to a spot at the Strip?” He says, “Yeah, but I was having fun.” We hung out for a bit, and he went home. —Eric Vetter August 31, 2017
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PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
At the District 2 candidates debate, from left, Ronnie Cho, Carlina Rivera, Jasmin Sanchez, Mar y Silver and Jorge Vasquez.
District 2 candidates make their case DISTRICT2 continued from p. 1
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dez’s legislative director and has the overwhelming support of local politicians; education advocate Mary Silver; Lower East Side activists Jasmin Sanchez and Jorge Vasquez; and Ronnie Cho, who was President Obama’s director of Millennial Outreach. Rivera appeared to have the most support at the event, as well, judging by the many people in the audience wearing her white campaign T-shirts, including her husband, Jamie Rogers, chairperson of the East Village’s Community Board 3. Vasquez, however, had one particularly vocal supporter — his mom — who cheered him on throughout the two-hour event. The event was co-moderated by Lincoln Anderson, editor of The Villager, and Paul Schindler, editor of Gay City News, a sister paper of The Villager. Candidates were asked their position on the Right to Know Act — a package of bills that would require police to identify themselves and explain their interaction with people during nonemergency encounters. They all endorsed the bills. They were also asked what they think the solution is to the two decades-long stalemate over the old P.S. 64, the former CHARAS / El Bohio community and cultural center, at E. Ninth St. near Avenue B. Rivera said she would be the best one to bring all parties, including building owner Gregg Singer, to the table to reach an agreement. Mendez has said that the way the community could get the building back would be through eminent domain; though the city would have to pay fair market
value — possibly $40 million — for it, and would have to put forward a viable use. “I thought Bloomberg would do that — that was kind of his thing,” Rivera reflected. “I’m going to sit across the table with this individual, so that we can truly find a community use” for the building, she said of Singer. Sanchez noted there are several old bathhouses in the district on public-housing grounds that are also sitting abandoned and that should be renovated. She blamed Mendez for not funding the renovation of the bathhouse at the Baruch Houses — where Sanchez grew up and lives — and that today “there’s a tree growing out of it.” For some reason, Vasquez, who is an attorney, said the city, at some point, had missed a chance to purchase the building for $120,000 — though it was unclear where he got that extremely low figure. The building was purchased by Singer at a city auction for $3.2 million in 1998. Silver said it was time to revitalize the vacant former school building, which she derided as a “tomb.” “It’s insane that that building has been paralyzed for 20 years,” Silver said. Sanchez, calling herself the “youth development candidate,” several times touted her work on behalf of young people. On the other hand, Silver, who is the oldest candidate in the race, a couple of times stressed that programs also have to consider the needs of seniors. She received a law degree from New York University School of Law and raised three daughters in the district, all of whom attended public
schools. Silver also advocated for the creation of the new River School in Murray Hill. “I’ve been working in the district 25 years,” she said. She said she was urged to run by the district’s principals and teachers. Cho said he represents “a new generation of leadership.” As opposed to the other candidates, he doesn’t have a long history here, having lived in the East Village for only about four years. Yet, one audience member from Gramercy, afterward said she liked how Cho “thinks outside the box.” Rivera spoke of her neighborhood roots. “This is where I learned to ride my bike, where I won basketball championships, where I fell in love, and where I have served,” Rivera said, noting she is a former Community Board 3 member. “I am someone who has spent my life building relationships and working in a collaborative way.” Rivera noted that the district – which stretches from the Lower East Side public-housing developments up to the E. 30s — has tony areas, like Gramercy, mixed with “pockets of poverty.” “I know this district corner to corner,” she said. “This is my home.” “I’m a proud product of District 2,” Vasquez said. “Min is a pure grassroots campaign,” he said, “We don’t own no one any favors.” Another question asked what the candidates think of Mayor Bill de Blasio, since the winner would have to work with him. “I give de Blasio some credit on the education issue,” Silver said, notDISTRICT2 continued on p. 21 August 31, 2017
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District 2 candidates make their case at theater debate DISTRICT2 continued from p. 19
ing how he got universal pre-K, and saying that former Mayor Bloomberg was so gung ho for charter schools. However, on affordable housing, she said the mayor is “not doing enough.” Referring to the 421a program, she said, “We should not be giving tax breaks to real estate developers when we could be building affordable housing ourselves — not 20 percent, but 100 percent affordable housing.” “Where is the Small Business Jobs Survival Act?” Vasquez demanded. “It hasn’t even hit the floor [for a vote]. Enough is enough!” Yet he gave the mayor credit for cutting down stop and frisk and addressing mental illness. Cho said, “I don’t know what other choice we have for mayor. Unfortunately, we have a system that keeps those in power in power.” The city should be a world leader in every area, but isn’t, Cho said, noting, “Why isn’t every one of our buildings covered in solar panels and green roofs? We just don’t have the guts.” Rivera said “absolutely” the S.B.J.S.A. should be approved. And she said racial profiling by police must stop. All the candidates said that police reform hasn’t gone far enough. “ ‘Broken windows’ theory is broken,” Vasquez declared. “Enough is enough.” Schindler asked the candidates how they would follow up the district’s past
three councilmembers — who have all been openly gay or lesbian – in terms of working with the gay community. “The district remains kind of one of the hometowns for the L.G.B.T. community in New York City,” he noted. All five said they would respect the district’s diversity and everyone’s sexual identity. “This is still a city that has not passed legislation against gay-conversion therapy,” Cho noted. All five said they would work as part of “the resistance” against the Trump administration in D.C. On the issue of Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital downsizing and building a minihospital at E. 13th St. and Second Ave., the candidates expressed great concern. Silver, who noted she gave birth to her third daughter in a taxi, said the district needs facilities that can deliver babies. (Mt. Sinai has moved its obstetrics unit out of Beth Israel.) “Seventy beds is unacceptable,” Rivera said of the planned mini-hospital. “And let’s think about the portfolio of land [at the hospital’s current E. 17th St. site]— is it going to be residential? Likely it will be, so that will be more people” needing healthcare. Cho said the hospital downsizing plan “didn’t even go through an adequate needs assessment.” “We know there are nonprofit mobile units — why aren’t they in our communities?” Vasquez said, stressing that all
approaches must be explored and used to improve the area’s healthcare. In audience questions, Susan Stetzer, district manager for C.B. 3, put Cho on the spot by asking why he had opted out of the city’s campaign-finance program, which provides generous matching funds to candidates if they reach a certain level of fundraising and if they have enough indistrict contributions. Cho is actually in debt, in terms of his campaign financing, because he has spent much of his money flying to out-of-state fundraisers. However, at the debate, Cho answered that he opted out of the matching-funds program because, basically, he felt the city could put the money to better use, “for other people, for other causes.” He went further, slamming what he called “the industrial campaign complex.” In fact, though, he did not qualify for matching funds because he did not raise funds from at least 75 people in District 2. Sanchez, too, said she felt that instead of taking matching funds, the city could put it to better uses. However, Sanchez did not raise enough money to qualify for the program. Rivera said the city’s campaign-finance program is the best in the country. “If someone gives you $10 and you know that’s worth $70, that’s incredibly powerful,” she said, adding that matching funds “level the playing field.” A source close to the Cho campaign
later told The Villager, “From Day One, Ronnie has been focused on going door to door, asking his neighbors about their hopes and concerns for the neighborhood and not their checkbooks. It’s clear his message of bringing a new generation of leadership is resonating as evident by the 5,000-plus [ballot] petition signatures collected by our grassroots team and not an establishment political machine.” At certain points, Sanchez and Vasquez made veiled criticisms of Rivera — Sanchez referring to “the machine” and Vasquez saying that a candidate in the race had taken money from a politician who supported the planned E. 14th St. “tech hub.” In fact, Andrew Rasiej, the head of Civic Hall, the driving force behind the tech hub, has given more than $2,000 to Rivera’s campaign. Over all, however, observers say the District 2 race has not been as “nasty” as the one in District 1, where three challengers are running to unseat Margaret Chin. On the tech hub, Rivera she doesn’t want a “glassy building” for people who aren’t connected to the neighborhood. Cho said he was concerned it would just be for “white dudes.” Vasquez said he supports it strongly because coders’ starting salary is $75,000 and it’s a path to a better life for local youth. Silver said she wants seniors to learn coding there, too. They all agreed: “No tech hub without zoning protections.”
August 31, 2017
August 31, 2017
Signs of the time: Artist marks 200 years of ASL
CLAYTON BY CL AY TON PATTERSON
f I were to name one common trait common to tough guys it would be a hard childhood. Broken homes, juvenile detention centers, orphanages, group homes, foster homes, physical and / or sexual abuse… . I have known a number of tough guys. Jerry Pagane is one of the toughest guys I know. What makes him different from the rest of the tough guys? Two things: his size and his disability. The things I admire most about Jerry are his art, his spirit, his work ethic, his struggle to become an artist and his lifelong dedication to his vision and his art. Recently Jerry came to me because he has a new body of work and he must show this work. The focus and theme of his current exhibition is examples of hand signs: drawings and paintings of hands, using fingers to form letters, words, ideas and so on. This exhibition is happening for two reasons. The first is to highlight Jerry Pagane’s original artwork. The second is his need to acknowledge, support, honor and bring public attention to the fact that September is Deaf Heritage Month and that this year, 2017, is the 200year anniversary celebration of the standardization of American Sign Language (ASL). The exhibit is composed of 13 drawings with color washes and four paintings with acrylic on canvas. I have supported and admired Jerry’s artwork for decades. Beyond his artistic talent, his craftsmanship and control of his tools, I am drawn to his content — his form of social realism, how he incorporates typical neighborhood life into his work. Over time, the community social-realist art works like a neighborhood quality-of-life timeline — early ’80s burned-out buildings, fires raging and firefighters fighting them and saving lives, homeless on street, drugs, cops, then on to pleasant restaurants and to today hipster’s suntanning in Tompkins Square Park. This exhibition is a little different; Jerry needed to stand up and be known as a deaf artist. I felt Jerry’s pain, his anxiety and his need to show this work. The hand-sign artworks are beautiful, well executed, educational, inspiring to be around, and they remind one that Jerry is a deaf artist and that deaf people can become recognized respected artists. Who knows if I am right or not, but for me, there is a connection between great art and the artist’s life and his or her struggle to make the art. Can art help transform a person from a tough guy to a loving family member and contributing community member? Jerry Pagane was born Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1948. Today, as he has been since I met him, Jerry is small and thin, appears a little delicate, but is wiry and very strong. I suspect he was a tiny baby. He was born deaf and without ears. Christmas Eve he was left on a church doorstep. He was passed around from social agencies to five foster homes and two orphanages. The foster homes and orphanages were ethnically and racially diverse. Life was hard. Being deaf has disadvantages, and then to be small and without ears, one cannot even imagine. In junior high school, he gets the chance to become a part of an upper-middle-class family. The mother and father, churchgoing people, wanted to bring a troubled child into their home. The family already had four boys and one girl. The father was a fundraiser, and the stayat-home mother had been a recipient of a national civil service award. The other siblings grew up to become a doctor, an engineer, a computer specialist, a medicalTheVillager.com
PHOTO BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
Ar tist Jerr y Pagane in front of some of his paintings inspired by American Sign Language.
service specialist. And then there was Jerry. Jerry started off as a difficult child. It got to the point where the father sternly warned Jerry to change and become a part of the family, or he would go back to the foster home. It was at that moment Jerry found love. He changed. He took art classes under the youth art programs at Carnegie Mellon University. He got into the Boy Scouts and eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. As an Eagle Scout, he was awarded the rare Arrow Award, which is special because it is your peers who choose the recipient. In 1973, Jerry was the first deaf person to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University. A painting of Jerry hangs in C.M.U. He went on to teach art, and then 1983 moved to E. Seventh St. between Avenues C and D. In an e-mail, Bill, one of Jerry’s brothers, recalled how Jerry suddenly became part of their family, but how it took awhile for everyone to adjust. “Jerry came to live with us in Pittsburgh and became our foster brother when I was a young teenager and Jerry was a few years older, in the 1960s,” he said. “Jerry looked and spoke different from us, and at the
beginning, he rarely smiled. I was a little afraid of him because he was more tough, and more willing to fight, than anybody I knew. Jerry brought with him issues of hearing, speech and language that I never knew could be problems. It was hard to earn Jerry’s trust at first. But little by little, as he got used to our family’s routines, and we got used to Jerry’s personality and the deaf culture he was part of, things got better.” There is much more that has to be said on the subject of Jerry’s work. But, for this show, the goal is to bring attention to deaf art and artists. The hope is the art will inspire and educate all people, but especially deaf people, who can feel the artist’s pride in this work. It’s the truly inspirational and heroic story of survival under very hard conditions, overcoming all the tough-guy baggage, and becoming a New York City artist. Jerry Pagane: “A Sign Of The Times,” at Clayton Gallery and Outlaw Art Museum, 161 Essex St. (between E. Houston and Stanton Sts.), through Sept. 10; closed Sept. 1-4. The works can be viewed by appointment by contacting Clayton Patterson at 646-612-0624 or email@example.com .
Sound off! Write a letter to the editor firstname.lastname@example.org August 31, 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
August 31, 2017
phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.
Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-
haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.
Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and
chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at
a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.
Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.
August 31, 2017