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The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Low Lower w er e East Side, 1933 Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since e1 19 93 33 3

September 7, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 36





District 1 candidates debate without Chin; Marte cool under fire BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


it y C ou ncil member Margaret Chin missed a lively debate among her three primary-election opponents last Thursday at Judson Memorial Church in the Village. She probably didn’t miss, however, being savagely

attacked by them regarding her record, which no doubt would have been worse were she there. As previously reported, Chin ducked out of last week’s Villager newspaper-sponsored debate for the District 1 DemDEBATE continued on p. 8

Westbeth starts work on $40 million project to fight future flooding PHOTO BY Q. SAKAMAKI



estbeth, the renow ned Village artists’ haven, will be ready this time when the next superstorm hits. On Aug. 4 work began on the largest construction project in Westbeth’s history, and residents are already seeing scaffolding going up. More than $40 million from

the Build it Back program has been allocated to Westbeth to prevent damage from future storm flooding and mitigate what Superstorm Sandy wreaked five years ago on the complex’s basement space, which housed many of the artists’ works and equipment. Formerly home to Bell laboraWESTBETH continued on p. 5

After the administration announced DACA’s end, pro-immigrant protesters descended on Foley Square, where 12 were arrested, including Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, with “Defend America” banner, second from left, above.

Outrage erupts over DACA change BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y


t 11 a.m. on Tues., Sept 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced — as anticipated — that the Trump administration would not renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which was introduced by former President Barack Obama’s executive order five years ago.

Sessions said DACA would end in six months, giving Congress time to formally act. DACA provides temporary legal status to vetted young adults who immigrated to the U.S. before age 16 with their undocumented parents and who are themselves undocumented. Referred to as “Dreamers,” the 800,000 individuals covered under DACA have been protected from deportation and issued

work permits and Social Security numbers. Following the announcement, immigration advocates amassed on both sides of Fifth Ave. outside Trump Tower to protest. Thirty-four were arrested after sitting in the street and blocking traffic. In what might have been called unofficial complicity, the police then set up barricades to shepherd DACA continued on p. 4

Skenazy goes crazy on GMO opponents ........... p. 12 Summer’s-end scenes from Coney Island ....... p. 13 Ex-commish’s loco find..........p. 22


Ai Weiwei snapping a selfie in front of the Washington Square Arch, where he hopes to install the centerpiece of his “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” public-ar t project.

TRYING TO FIND A WEIWEI: The Public Art Fund’s planned citywide “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” project has stirred up some opposition in the Village, due to the Ai Weiwei installation planned for under the Washington Square Arch during the holiday season, which would displace the annual holiday tree. But Nicholas Baume, the nonprofit arts group’s director and chief curator, said the fund has agreed to pay for repositioning the tree, among other things. Baume told us this week that he has been in contact with the community about the installation and where the holiday tree would be placed. “We have gotten an outpouring of support from the community about the installation,” Baume assured. No one seems to know yet, however, where the tree would go. Maybe stick it in the fountain and make sure to keep the water jets off? He also pointed out that they have been in talks with the Wash-

ington Square Association, the primary group that has fought against the installation. “There is a deep respect for the monument and what it represents,” Baume said of the arch. “The installation has been approved and is code-compliant. It will not touch or deface the arch in any way.” By “approved,” Baume meant that, according to him, the project has allegedly already been O.K.’d by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (Washington Square Park is in a landmarked district) and the Parks Department. Yet, strangely, the proposed project still has not gone before Community Board 2, which — the last time we checked — is usually the first step of the approval process in these situations. So, has it really been approved yet? Or is it just a fait accompli? Ai, who is from China, lived in the East Village during the 1980s. The famed artist has said this project is intended as a reaction to America’s retreat from its essential attitude of political openness. Baume stressed that Ai is a passionate advocate for refugees — and people, in general. “Ai views the arch as symbolic — it is a work of art in itself,” Baume said. “Ai was influenced by the political turmoil going on in the [East] Village at the time and by artists like Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. That experience was very informative for him.” Renderings of the underarch installation show a 16-foot-tall cutout of two humans embracing in a hug. Baume said the cutout is a representation of the human spirit. “A border can stop people,” he said, “but the human spirit can break down those barriers.” Baume was scheduled to make a presentation to a joint hearing of Community Board 2’s Parks and Waterfront Committee and Arts and Institutions Committee on the evening of Wed., Sept. 6 — in fact, the first public discussion about the project — as The Villager was going to press.

ROSIE REPORT: City Councilmember Rosie Mendez and District 2

September 7, 2017

Leader Anthony Feliciano are unopposed and so have already “won” election as the East Village’s Democratic district leaders. They will just automatically “win” on Sept. 12 — Feliciano being re-elected and Mendez elected — and take office Sept. 13. Their potential opponents were knocked off the ballot due to “deficiencies” in their petition signatures, we’re told. Mendez, of course, will be term-limited out of office at the end of this year after three terms in the City Council. We asked her what she would do if Brian Kavanagh is picked by the County Committee to run for former state Senator Daniel Squadron’s seat. Would she run for Assembly? Mendez told us, “If there is a vacancy, I’ll consider it. I’m not throwing my hat in the ring — but I’m not dismissing it, either.” Her political club, Coalition for a District Alternative, will vote Sept. 14 on who they will back for state Senate.

ROGERS REPORT: Assuming Carlina Rivera wins Mendez’s Council seat, Rivera’s husband, Jamie Rogers, plans to step down as chairperson of Community Board 3. In an interview with The Villager last October, Rogers told us he would do exactly this. When he would relinquish the position, though, is still up in the air. “If Carlina wins, I would plan to step down as chairperson as early as January 2018, when she would be inaugurated,” Rogers told us. “I will leave it to the C.B. 3 membership whether they would like me to serve out my term [as chairperson], which would end in June. But under no circumstance would I run for chairperson again. As we talked about last year, I don’t think it makes sense for two community leadership positions to be held by two people who live under the same roof. There are many great community board members capable of serving as chairperson.” He plans to serve on the board for one more two-year term. COOPER SUPERSTAR: Speaking of Mendez, she tipped us off last week that Valerio Orselli was retiring from the Cooper Square Committee. His retirement party was at LaMama last Wednesday. Orselli started out with Cooper Square Committee with a stint as an organizer from 1972 to ’79. (The committee, of course, was the group that saved a big chunk of the southern East Village from being razed for a misguided “urban renewal” project that would have seen another pseudoStuyvesant Town roughly centered around the area where the East Houston St. Whole Foods is now.) After a couple of years with ACORN, Orselli returned to Cooper Square Committee in ’81 as its executive director. In ’97, he became the executive director of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, running all the affordable housing the committee saved from demolition. Mendez said it’s just cool to know Orselli, who was part of the counterculture back in the day. “He joined Abbie Hoffman’s Yippie Party,” she said, “and traveled to Washington, D.C., to levitate the Pentagon.” TheVillager.com


September 7, 2017


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DACA suppor ters blocking traffic outside Trump Tower on Tuesday.

Outrage erupts over DACA change


DACA continued from p. 1


protestors across Fifth Ave., blocking traffic for an additional 15 minutes. Early Tuesday evening, DACA supporters rallied in Lower Manhattan at Foley Square with local politicians and la-



bor leaders, who vehemently assured the crowd they would fight this policy change and would offer assistance to immigrants. Following the rally, another civil-disobedience action occurred at the Brooklyn Bridge’s entrance, resulting in several other arrests, including of City Councilmem-

ber Ydanis Rodriguez. Thousands then marched on the pedestrian walkway over the Brooklyn Bridge. Trump tweeted later on Tuesday night, “I will revisit this issue!” if Congress is unable to pass legislation within six months to formalize DACA.



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September 7, 2017

A pro-DACA protester being arrested outside Trump Tower.

Protesting against the repeal of DACA in Foley Square on Tuesday. TheVillager.com

Work starts on Westbeth flood-proofing project WESTBETH continued from p. 1

tories, Westbeth was renovated residentially from 1968 to 1970, when it opened as affordable artists’ housing. A cobbled-together complex of 13 buildings with 383 apartments, it covers a full square block between Washington, Bethune, West and Bank Sts. Westbeth is cited as the first example of adaptive reuse of industrial buildings for artistic and residential use. “Westbeth is a bastion of affordability in what has unfortunately become one of the most expensive real estate markets on the planet,” City Councilmember Corey Johnson said. “We must do everything in our power to ensure its permanent survival, and that includes making sure it’s protected from future storms like Superstorm Sandy. This resiliency project is a big win for the people of Westbeth and it shows what can happen when government and communities work together.” The Build It Back project is overseen by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, but the funding is coming from the federal government. The money is to help prevent what happened during Sandy from occurring again, or at least lessen the impact. “Build It Back made a commitment to our waterfront communities, one we continue to honor,” Amy Peterson, the director of Build It Back, said in a statement. “Tremendous progress has been made… . [Homes] will be safe, resilient, and better able to face the next storm.” The Build it Back program began in 2013, before the start of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term. As of this past June, 74 percent of construction on affected homes and properties had been completed, and work had started on 92 percent of the remaining projects. H.P.D. reviewed Westbeth’s condition and needs, and — after a lengthy process, involving Westbeth, archi-

Westbeth’s inner cour tyard will be a focus of the $40-million flood-proofing and renovation project.

tects, engineers and consultants — determined that the work was ready to start. Between now and mid-2019, the project calls for the development’s boilers and hot-water storage tanks to be raised, an emergency generator to be

installed, the basement windows to be waterproofed and high-capacity sump pumps to be installed to expel any water that gets past the windows and doors. “One of the points we tried to make was that this project is very complicated, and that much planning and scheduling remains in flux,” Westbeth officials said in a statement. Also, as part of the project, in the inner courtyard, all lead-based paint will be removed, along with asbestoscontaining material around the windows. The project’s first step is scaffolding going up around the building’s eastern portion, which is hoped to start in mid-September. The next phase is internal work — heating, electrical and plumbing, which would not have a noticeable effect on residents. The final phase, which will be the most disruptive, is the replacement of the steel holding up the inner courtyard. “At some point, the steel is likely to fail, creating a very dangerous situation,” Westbeth officials wrote in a report to tenants. “Build it Back will replace all of the steel. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do this.” The general plan for the work is that it will proceed from the complex’s top floors downward, and start on the courtyard’s east side. Work on the courtyard’s west side should begin in early October. “Much of the work will be an inconvenience to many of the residents, especially when the asbestos and lead-based paint have to be removed,” said Steven Neil, Westbeth’s executive director. “Any complaints by any tenants, we will try to deal with immediately.” To keep residents updated on the project, a town hall meeting is scheduled at Westbeth for Thurs., Sept. 14, and further meetings will be held to share information about the project.


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


Paid for by Carlina for Council


September 7, 2017


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September 7, 2017


POLICE BLOTTER Extension tension A thug used a box cutter to menace a person on a northbound F train as it was en route to the W. Fourth St. station on Wed., June 7, around 9:35 a.m., police said. The unidentified man pointed the tool at the 31-year-old victim and extended and retracted its blade, according to police. The victim was not injured and exited the train at W. Fourth St. The unidentified man got off the F at 14th St., where he was captured on a surveillance camera. 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.

Where bnb? A man entered 24 Fifth Ave., at E. Ninth St., on Thurs., Aug. 31, at 4:20 p.m. and broke into a locked apartment and stayed there, according

to the 23-year-old resident who lives there. The suspect said he used a card to open the door lock. “I thought I was at the ninth floor,� he told police. Erik S. Penaloza-Badillo, 42, was arrested for felony burglary. In addition, police said, PenalozaBadillo was found in possession of a stolen credit card belonging to the apartment resident. So, he was also charged with felony criminal possession of stolen property.

Umbrella drub Police said a woman was assaulted in front of 150 W. Fourth St. on Sun., Sept. 3, at 1:25 a.m. The victim, 38, was walking with friends when the suspect walked up to them and started an altercation. When the victim tried to break up the scuffle, the suspect hit her in the head with an umbrella, causing bruising and pain. She was treated and taken to the hospital. Johanni Martinez, 24, was charged with felony assault.

FiancĂŠe fork attack According to police, an engaged couple engaged in a physical altercation


Blade runner: Police say this man displayed a box cutter to a person on the F train before fleeing at the W. 14th St. station.

inside 56 Seventh Ave. on Mon., Sept. 4, at 10:55 a.m. The woman reportedly ripped $20 and a cell phone from the man’s pocket and stabbed him with a fork, causing minor injuries. Jamalia Benjamin, 24, was arrested

for felony assault.

Tabia C. Robinson and Lincoln Anderson




Carlina Rivera


Letitia James


Corey Johnson

JUDICIAL DELEGATES Jeanne Kazel Wilcke Jennifer Hoppe Maureen Remacle Lora Tennenbaum Nadine K. Hoffman Norma Ramirez ALTERNATE JUDICIAL DELEGATES

Thomas A. Brown Alix Fredrika Kucker David J. Karlin Katherine Slawinski Deborah Finston Harold Donohue

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District 1 candidates debate without Chin; Marte DEBATE continued from p. 1

ocratic race, saying she had a previous commitment for a “constituent outreach” event at Hillman Housing, one of the large Grand St. Co-ops complexes. Chin has already spent two four-year terms representing the district, which stretches from the Financial District up to Washington Square and over to the Lower East Side, and includes Battery Park City, Tribeca, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown, Southbridge Towers and the South St. Seaport. Speaking before an audience of about 100, the candidates all started out hammering Chin, but two of them — Dashia Imperiale and Aaron Foldenauer — soon turned their sights onto the third challenger, Christopher Marte, who is viewed by many as the strongest opponent to Chin in the race. Imperiale, an indie filmmaker and native Lower East Sider, touted her background as a tenant leader at her Grand St. Guild building on Grand St. She said that in 2010 she successfully led the effort to get the New York Archdiocese to ensure the development would be affordable for the next 40 years. “I am running because the system is rigged,” she told the crowd. “There’s nepotism, cronyism and everything is corrupt right now. I’m fed up. I’m not a politician. I’m just like you. I do not have real estate developers or bankers


Christopher Mar te, right, who is considered by many to be the strongest candidate against Margaret Chin, came under attack from Dashia Imperiale, center, and Aaron Foldenauer at various points throughout the debate, but kept his composure and calmly responded to their accusations.

backing me, or Wall St. backing me. I am real grassroots.” Marte, also a Lower East Side native, noted his parents “immigrated from the

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Dominican Republican for an opportunity... . In the past eight years, we have seen this opportunity diminish. They’re developing on our community gardens. Our tenants can’t afford what affordable housing is considered now. Our small business owners can’t negotiate an affordable lease.” He noted he has been an advocate for saving the Elizabeth St. Garden, where Chin and the mayor want to develop senior affordable housing. Foldenauer, a litigator who is originally from Virginia, has lived near Battery Park City for a dozen years. A former Republican, he said he switched parties last year and voted for Hillary Clinton and decided to try to enter politics due to his concern over Donald Trump. Asked if they felt Chin had alienated voters in the northern end of her district, all said that she had. “What she’s in is, pretty much, donor service not public service,” Imperiale charged. “As a councilmember, you have to listen to your constituents.” Marte said, “I believe that our councilmember has ignored the whole district entirely. She hasn’t been to a Community Board 2 meeting for two years.” He said Chin also “has not fully supported” the Chinatown Working Group’s rezoning plan that would cap heights for new buildings in an area, including Chinatown and the Lower East Side, where “supertall” towers are sprouting up. Marte also blasted Chin for not holding town-hall meetings. But Imperiale asked why Marte himself didn’t attend the town hall Chin co-hosted with May-

or Bill de Blasio in June. “I decided I didn’t want to show up because I didn’t want to grandstand and make the event about me,” he answered. “I wanted residents to actually have the opportunity to ask the mayor about what’s happening with N.Y.U.,” referring to the university’s development plan for its South Village superblocks. He said he wanted residents to be able to ask the mayor and Chin about various issues. “I did decide to go,” Foldenauer stressed, “because I wanted to look Margaret Chin — and Mayor de Blasio — in the eye and tell them that I mean business. It was a fiasco. Margaret Chin controlled the town hall from start to finish. She called on all of her friends and maybe a few others to ask questions.” On the Rivington House scandal, Marte said both the mayor and Chin should be held responsible for the loss of the former city-owned AIDS hospice site to private developers for luxury redevelopment. “She wasn’t doing her job,” Marte said of Chin’s not being on top of the situation. “What happened to Rivington House is a tragedy,” Foldenauer said. “Margaret Chin must have known — and if she didn’t, she was sleeping at the switch.” Imperiale gave the toughest comments on the issue. “Margaret Chin is supposed to be the checks and balances — because she’s the councilmember — of Mayor de Blasio, who is in bed with the Real Estate DEBATE continued on p. 9 TheVillager.com

stays cool under attack DEBATE continued from p. 8

Board of New York. He’s a developer’s prostitute and she’s right there with them. At the end of the day, Margaret Chin and Mayor de Blasio should be held accountable for Rivington House. Period.� They each outlined the top three priorities that they would focus on, if elected. Imperiale said hers would include “fighting back for Rivington House� and using eminent domain to take it back. “At the end of the day, that belongs to the city not greedy developers,� she said, adding that her other priorities would be creating affordable housing and abolishing the 421-a property-tax relief program for developers. Foldenauer listed protecting small businesses, maintaining infrastructure and the environment. “The tragedy in Houston reminds us of all the work we have to do on the environment,� he said. Marte gave as his three: passing campaign-finance reform to get special interests and big developers out of City Council politics; passing the Chinatown Working Group plan, and protecting the waterfront. “I’m the only candidate here tonight that actually goes to every Waterfront Committee meeting, that sat down with the committee chairpersons,� Marte said. “One of the big concerns is we don’t have a plan in place to protect our waterfront.� Marte said big developers helped reelect Chin the last time, “and we have seen the consequences, from [supertall towers] in Two Bridges to development in the Financial District.� He added that he is supporting community members’ lawsuit to stop the next three supertall towers currently in the pipeline for the Lower East Side, and that this is the kind of thing Chin should have been doing. “Our councilmember has rejected their lawsuit...or to support their lawsuit. How many constituents have seen the Extell tower?� Marte asked, calling the 80-story building going up by the Manhattan Bridge a “pure example� of lack of proactive planning on zoning. “These megatowers will have primary, secondary and involuntary displacement,� Imperiale said. “Margaret Chin said that it was an ‘as of right’ for these towers to go up. It wasn’t as of right, it needed a special permit. She waited until a month before the election to hold a press conference about it. These are not ‘minor modifications’... . She should have been saying [something] eight years ago.� “My apartment building was flooded� during Superstorm Sandy, Foldenauer said. “The flood threat is real here in Lower Manhattan. I call for a moratorium on waterfront development until we are protected.� Asked how they would help resist TheVillager.com

the Trump administration, Marte noted that three months ago his building was raided by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents. “I contacted every single neighbor and told them not to open their doors, not let them in,� he said. Speaking about education issues, Marte noted that his experience attending diverse public schools on the Lower East Side broadened his horizons and encouraged him to travel and explore the world. On police issues, Imperiale noted she has an uncle who was a police officer, so she is not anti-cop. On a question about traffic around the Holland Tunnel, she said that cutting back the number of bike lanes, in general, in certain areas around the city could help alleviate congestion. All three candidates said, if elected, they would work to pass the long-stymied Small Business Jobs Survival Act. About half hour in, Dashia ramped up her attacks on Marte, charging, “Everyone knows you are getting money from Wall St.’s bitch, Charles Schumer.� Marte calmly answered that he only met Schumer once. “I don’t know him,� he said. He later told The Villager that Imperiale apparently was referring to a photo showing Marte posing with Schumer, which Marte said was snapped at a Downtown Independent Democrats club event. Imperiale also attacked Marte for allegedly putting a few thousand dollars of his own money into his campaign and not declaring it properly, so that he could get matching funds for it. But Marte later said this was actually money he took out from his retirement fund to live on. “I have a vision for our district,� Marte said in his closing statement. “I’m ready. I have the track record, that on Day One, I will represent the people of District 1.� “I am not a career politician,� Imperiale said in her final remarks. “I am not backed by Wall St., I am not bought and sold or on layaway,� she said. Brandishing a photo rendering of all the supertalls planned on the Lower East Side, she said, “If it happens here, it will happen everywhere.� Foldenauer reminded everyone again that Chin had ducked the debate and said he was ready for the job. Afterward, an informal polling of audience members showed that people had been impressed by both Marte and Imperiale, in particular. People liked “the fighter� in Imperiale, but some felt her remarks – such as calling Schumer “Wall St.’s bitch — for example, would not be befitting of a councilmember. One person said Marte, even though he is the youngest of the bunch, was “the adult in the room� and kept his cool under fire — noting he even calmly poured Imperiale a glass of water after one of her barrages against him.




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Pottery shop can’t survive the real-estate spin TALKING POINT BY HEL AINE SORGEN


orty-four years. Well, it’s been quite a ride. When Clayworks opened in the East Village in January 1974, it was like an outpost of civilization. Empty stores were everywhere. Clayworks, at 322 E. Ninth St. (between First and Second Aves.), was the kind of unique, individual store that helped build this neighborhood into the desirable commodity it is today. Through four decades, I have been able to watch the East Village grow and change from my window. It has been the finest front-row seat I could ask for. Clayworks survived everything the mad universe pitched at it — Hurricane Sandy, blizzards, the Great Recession, swastikas painted across the storefront, the front window being intentionally blown out, water-main breaks, ceiling cave-ins, the crack epidemic and, of course, 9/11, all come to mind, plus the usual personal real-life challenges. Clayworks has always held its own. That is, until the recent and welldocumented invasion of the East Village by predatory landlords and perfidious financiers. The new building owner — along with the plethora of shell companies he hides behind — wants me out,


Helaine Sorgen, above, says her landlord has refused to renew the lease for her Clay works store on E. Ninth St.

and this is a war that I cannot win. I have spent the past two years fighting. I am tired and my time is up. Let me be clear — this is not the story of an unsuccessful store hanging on for dear life. This is the intentional stomping-out of yet another mom-and-pop store by predatory real-estate weasels. Every store whose light goes out is a small death among us. I live here. My heart lives here. I want to see the East Village thrive. I know there are currently two camps of thought. There are those who want to keep the wild, fierce, gritty, creative, independent East Village spirit. Others want less edge and attitude and more sameness — tamer, user-friendly stores, plus bars and restaurants that are trendy and cater more to a new generation’s on-demand desires. Can’t we have a balanced mix? But the Small Business Jobs Survival Act languishes in the City Council purgatory. Some form of this legislation, which supports small businesses the way other more-enlightened cities do, has been moldering since former City Councilmember Miriam Friedlander’s time. Politicians wave it around to get votes, but as soon as they are elected, it goes back into

the junk drawer. Now, we hear there is a movement to form a small-businessonly district and a protective registry for legacy businesses that have been around for 35 years or more. Ironically, it’s too late for Clayworks and me. I am not opposed to change — but, frankly, what is going on here is fullscale rape and pillage. So, folks, it’s up to you. You vote with your ballot and you vote with your dollar. The kind of neighborhood and community you want to see is in your hands. Exercise your right to vote. It has been an incredible privilege to have been a working potter in the East Village. I’ve always hoped that, in a small way, Clayworks helped to make the world a better place, one mug at a time. I want to thank every person who laid down his or her hard-earned bucks to buy my work and support me — everyone who came into this store, who shared their stories and lives, weaving a tapestry of community and friendship. We made magic happen here. My last day will be around Sept. 15. Whatever work I have left is all there’s gonna be, so if you’ve been looking at something and can’t make up your mind, don’t wait too long! I will pack and store the rest with the intention of starting an online store. (Anyone out there who can help me set it up?) Or call me — I’ll meet you at Veselka and I’ll bring the goods!

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September 7, 2017



September 7, 2017


The great GMO freak-out exposé



To The Editor: Re “Pier-to-pier sharing; Put ‘Pier55’ on Pier 40, Tribeca architect says” (news article, Aug. 24): It is obscene that Barry Diller and the Hudson River Park Trust privately negotiated the ultra-vain plan of building a brand-new pier without even a thought to using the $250 million to improve the existing Pier 40 a few blocks south. I agree with Michael Sorkin that Pier 40 could easily accommodate the cultural and architectural landmarks Diller wants to create as a legacy, while preserving the ball fields and boats the community already loves, with room left for commercial activities to fund the upkeep. It could be done for less money and would have avoided the legitimate objections of The City Club of New York and the ire and disdain of us locals. They could have been the philanthropic heroes of the community. Such vanity and hubris. What a waste.


t all began when a neighbor of filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s sent a text asking if she could borrow some organic milk. Kennedy texted back, “You can borrow some milk, but I don’t have organic.” The friend politely declined, which set Kennedy to thinking. His family drank conventional milk. Did that make him a dad who didn’t care about his kids’ safety, or the environment? That would be odd, since he was nominated for an Oscar for his film about a community garden blooming in South-Central Los Angeles. Fortuitously, just as he was processing these ideas about how organic produce had become almost like a secret handshake among his “well-educated and well-intentioned” friends, he was approached by the Institute of Food Technologists, a group of 18,000 food scientists, to make a movie for their 75th anniversary. The idea was to somehow illustrate the intersection of food and science. Eventually, Kennedy and his fellow producer, Brooklynite Trace Sheehan, decided to delve into one issue: GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. That is, plants where a geneticist has taken DNA from one organism and inserted it another to make a food easier to grow, or healthier, or hardier. Like Kennedy’s organic-only neighbor, many folks consider GMOs “Frankenfood.” “The Daily Show” ’s Jon Stewart called “G-M-O” the language’s three scariest letters. Kennedy and Sheehan started wading into the debate. What they found was a war — and a huge disconnect between the science world, which overwhelmingly believes GMOs are safe, and the public, which does not. “I feel like so many people who are skeptical of GMOs sort of lump together a hodgepodge of arguments, as if it’s one monolithic entity,” said Sheehan in a phone interview. There are the people who think we’re growing too much corn, and who hate Monsanto (ignoring that farmers choose to buy the results of the company’s research). There are the people who want sustainable agriculture, but don’t take into account that organic farming can sometimes require more land, water or (“organic”) pesticides than GMOs. Kennedy’s crew flew to Uganda where the banana crop is dying from rotting disease. A genetically modified banana plant is being developed by public-sector scientists there. The farmers are desperate to grow it. In the movie, we meet a mom and her children who survive on her small farm’s banana crop. When the trees die, we grimly understand: So will her kids. “We’ve been screening our film, and we ask before and after, ‘Who has concern about the safety of GMOs?’ And we see time and again, the film is changing minds,” said Sheehan. “No one says the farmers in Africa shouldn’t have the right to grow that genetically modified banana.” Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates the film, “Food Evolution,” which underscores the filmmakers’ message. When people ask Kennedy, “Are you really pro-GMO?’” he responds: “I am pro-science.” I learned from the film that if we want to have enough food to feed the 30 billion people soon to inhabit the planet and we only grow organically, we’ll have to chop down the rainforest and make it farmland. But if we grow GMO crops that need less space and less water, the rainforest is safe.


September 7, 2017

Solo Pier55 is ‘obscene’

Christopher Gaylord

Ai Weiwei must give way To The Editor: Re “The public was locked out of ‘Fences’ process” (news article, Aug. 31): I support public art being displayed in Washington Square Park but it is extremely important that the community be active participants in reviewing proposals. What is lacking here is transparency and public input. I oppose moving the Christmas tree because of its historical significance. It is the oldest public Christmas tree display in New York City. It should not be moved to accommodate a temporary art installation. After this debacle, we must ensure community input takes place before the final decision is imposed on any neighborhood. The only hope is a direct appeal to the artist to adjust his location of the fence display to accommodate the historical and traditional Christmas tree. In the future, let’s set aside designated areas for


displaying public art in Washington Square Park. Bob O’Sullivan

‘Good Neighbors’? Ironic To The Editor: Re “The public was locked out of ‘Fences’ process” (news article, Aug. 31): This is an interesting story that raises more questions than it answers. What is community boards’ purpose if not to inform and listen to the public? It’s ironic that Mr. Ai would create various works of art incorporating the concept of “Good Neighbors” and yet attempt to bypass community input in the process. “Good Neighbors” should be about cooperation, perhaps compromise on Mr. Ai’s part. Considering the Washington Square Association goes back to 1909, and this will be the 93rd annual Christmas tree lighting in Washington Square — the oldest tree lighting tradition in the city — I’m surprised W.S.A. wasn’t the first to be consulted. Maybe the Public Art Fund decided not to ask questions they didn’t want the answer to? As for logistics, Washington Square has eight other entrances but this is the only one home to traditional events, including but not limited to the Christmas tree, its lighting, Christmas caroling and a visit from Santa. The Village is bombarded with mega-events like the Halloween Parade, which often overflows into Washington Square, and draws more than 2 million spectators, or disruptive events like SantaCon. It’s nice to have community events — organized by the community. It’s not only a Christmas tradition. It’s a Village tradition. I haven’t seen the list of 300 locations but I wonder if Ai would expect Brooklynites to move their Christmas tree lighting away from Grand Army Plaza, or Rockefeller Center to move its Christmas tree to accommodate one of his installations. It’s surprising the Village has been the only community to resist so far. Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

Parks Dept. hypocrites LETTERS continued on p. 21


Signs of summer’s end amid the sun and surf SCENE On Monday, Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, out on the Coney Island boardwalk some wistful sights caught the photographer’s eye, like the

setting sun shining through the Parachute Jump or illuminating a beachgoer’s inflatable ring float. Don’t tell the disco dancers that summer is ending, though! They were dancing up their usual sultry storm. Summer actually doesn’t officially end for a couple of more weeks.



September 7, 2017


Nazis are in the streets: How should we react? GLOBAL VILLAGE BY BILL WEINBERG


here are actual Nazis marching in streets, with torches and swastikas, terrorizing those who stand to oppose them. It’s the 1930s again, but this time in the U.S.A. What do we do about it? This question has taken a greater urgency since last weekend’s events in Berkeley, where “antifa” (antifascist) counterprotesters mixed it up physically with “alt-right” protesters. Since then, we’ve seen headlines such as “Blackclad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley” (Washington Post), “Violence by farleft protesters in Berkeley sparks alarm” (L.A. Times) and “The Antifa Protests are Helping Donald Trump” (The New Yorker). Ominous reports indicate the F.B.I. and Homeland Security are now referring to antifa as “terrorists.” Some activists suggest the media reports are distorted, omitting provocation by the right-wing protesters that sparked the violence; others decry undue coverage given to brief clashes amid an overwhelmingly peaceful antifascist mobilization. Others speculate, without evidence, that the Berkeley

hotheads were police infiltrators. On the political left, the debate is polarizing. A majority position (among my friends, at least) holds that Nazis must be physically confronted on their own terms, to the ultimate consequences, and any talk of nonviolence or free speech is naive. This seems to be the emerging consensus of antifa. A minority view calls for not confronting the Nazis directly, since violence plays into their hands, abetting Trump’s moral equivalism and justifying police-state measures that will be used against us. This is the position of the Southern Poverty Law Center. This vital watchdog group on radical-right activities calls for holding anti-Nazi rallies away from the Nazis — which essentially means ceding control of public space to them. Worse still was “Saturday Night Live” comic Tina Fey’s hopefully facetious recommendation to stay home and eat cake instead of confronting them. A smaller minority view calls for understanding that our adversaries are working-class white folk who have been screwed by globalization and ultimately share the same oppressors we do. Such voices advocate reaching out to the Nazis through “dialogue” and “debate,” hoping that we can convert them. There is a place for dialogue, debate and even cooperation with elements

of the grassroots right. I’ve worked in loose coalition around opposing the war on drugs and such issues with right-libertarians and “constitutionalists.” But not Nazis. There are certain things you do not legitimize with debate, and if slavery and genocide do not fall into that category, I don’t what the hell does. Since Reconstruction, there has been a general consensus in this country that slavery was bad. Since World War II there has been a consensus that Nazis are bad. And since the civil-rights era, there has been a general consensus that racism is bad (even if this was partly based on denialism about the extent it still existed). The establishment of this consensus comes from the abolitionists, the “premature antifascists” and those who marched with M.L.K. By embracing Nazis in “dialogue,” we are eroding that consensus, betraying those who struggled to forge it. Talking or working with the grassroots right is always a tricky proposition. But when real Nazis are unleashing terror in the streets, there is only one appropriate response: opposition. I do think — or, at least, want to believe — that nonviolence can be an effective tactic, even against Nazis. Primarily, nonviolence serves to keep us clearly on the moral high ground in the battle for public perception. Second-

arily, it may serve to win the hearts (or weaken the will) of some of the Nazis with a glimmer of human empathy. To some extent, the civil-rights movement ceded use of force to federal authorities — as when the National Guard desegregated the Alabama and Arkansas schools. Today the federal apparatus is under the control of our principal antagonist. We can, however, hope that orders for repression will not be obeyed (just as the military brass may disobey orders to launch the nukes). Defections within the ranks can be seen in the statements from the Joint Chiefs of Staff distancing themselves from Trump’s racism. I’m critical of Black Bloc tactics in Berkeley, both last weekend and in February, to stop a talk by alt-right mouthpiece Milo Yiannopoulos. But I also believe not one inch of public space in America should be ceded to the Nazis to hold their hate fests unopposed. I also have little faith that our contemporary culture encourages the selfdiscipline required for nonviolence. I’m heartened by Boston three weeks ago. The Nazis were massively outnumbered, and retreated. They were confronted directly, not in the deluded way SPLC advocates. There was no violence. With numbers and moral high ground on our side, there didn’t have to be.


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During The Villager’s debate for the Second City Council district Democratic primary election at Theater for the New City two weeks ago, senior activist Tom Connor, above, asked the candidates their position on protecting the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption and what else they would do to advocate on behalf of seniors. All the hopefuls for the East Village Council seat said they supported the cap increase for SCRIE, which raised income

eligibility — previously only available for those earning $29,000 — up to $50,000, and went into effect a few years ago, and said that, if elected, they would do all they can for seniors. Having a stable and affordable residence is obviously one of the most critical parts of aging in place. SCRIE freezes rent for adults above age 62 who live in rentregulated apartments and whose rent exceeds one-third of their household income. TheVillager.com

Excellent ‘LIBRIS’ New NYPL film, retrospective testify to Frederick Wiseman’s talents BY SEAN EGAN “I don’t even use the term documentary,” asserted legendary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, 87. “In my youth when people used the word documentary it always had the connotation of something that would be boring and would be good for you. I don’t think either of those has to be the case. It was almost like Ex-Lax. … That was the connotation of documentary a long time ago. I think there’s still a slight flavor, so to speak, of that. They’re just movies. What’s wrong with that word? It’s a good enough word for me.” Terminology aside, it’s hard to overstate Wiseman’s contribution to the documentary form throughout his career, which has yielded more than 40 films in five decades, from his groundbreaking 1967 debut, “Titicut Follies,” to “In Jackson Heights,” his 2015 neighborhood portrait. The director’s style is low-key and inimitable — fly-on-thewall footage is presented sans narration and subtitles, as careful editing immerses viewers into the milieu of his subjects (often over expansive run times). Wiseman’s importance certainly hasn’t been lost on the film community: Film Forum is gearing up to release his latest work (he’s the theater’s mostpremiered American director), and are currently in the midst of a multipart career retrospective. Over its expansive selection of films, the lookback, titled “The Complete Wiseman,” captures Wiseman in his element, chronicling a number of institutions with unrivaled depth and grace (1989’s “Central Park,” 1995’s “Ballet”). “I think, generally speaking, I’m a curious person. I am ‘Curious Fred’ instead of ‘Curious George,’ if you know that children’s book,” Wiseman remarked. “In a sense, the institution is only an excuse, a pretext, to have a look at what’s going on in America. What I’m trying to do overall is to give an impressionistic account of contemporary life and each institution provides a framework for that,” he noted. Wiseman’s latest, “EX LIBRIS — The New York Public Library,” continues to mine this vein by taking an in-depth look at the New York Public Library (NYPL). Its system, comprised TheVillager.com

Courtesy the New York Public Library

An exterior shot of the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, one of the subjects of “EX LIBRIS.”

of over 92 branches in three boroughs, provides Wiseman with an excellent opportunity to gauge America’s pulse through the lens of a societal cornerstone often taken for granted. “It just occurred to me one day that I had never done a library, and a library might make an interesting addition to this so-called institutional series that I’ve been doing,” Wiseman explained. After getting permission from NYPL President Anthony Marx in 2015, Wiseman visited a number of branches, and started filming soon thereafter. Armed with NYPL activity bulletins, Wiseman bounced around the system for 12 weeks, capturing everything from lectures to NYPL board meetings to simple day-to-day activities. Then, Wiseman began his extensive editing process, poring over hundreds of hours of footage in order to determine the shape and themes of the movie (“I can’t work on structure in the abstract,” he noted). “I had the view, naïve and uninformed, before I started [that] the library was a place you take

out books. That’s only a very small part of what goes on in the New York Public Library,” said Wiseman. “Over the last eight or 10 years, the branches particularly have become important cultural and academic centers in the communities. … I was very moved by the depth and scope of the work of the library.” The film bears out Wiseman’s realization, as “EX LIBRIS” paints an NYPL that’s a far cry from the hushed tones and austerity often associated with libraries. Locals assemble to discuss community politics and take classes; children enjoy after-school activities; and students take advantage of the unique resources exclusive to the NYPL. Philosophy, history, and art are passionately and thoughtfully discussed, in the form of events featuring high-profile figures such as Richard Dawkins, Elvis Costello, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, as well as classes from lesser-known lecturers delivering animated talks on Jewish identity in America, socialism, and the slave trade. Meanwhile, Marx and the board are shown working to improve

the NYPL, debating how to push it further into the 21st century. “I think the library represents the best aspects of democracy. Particularly in this time when there’s an attempt to undermine the very idea of democracy by the Trump Administration,” postulated Wiseman, who cites the accessibility of the library as fostering opportunities for all members of the community. “What you see is democracy in action. You see immigrant groups being helped, you see poor people being helped, improving the possibilities for getting better work, furthering their education, improving their language skills, or their training skills,” he elaborated. “Well, that’s completely opposite to the attitude and the point of view that’s coming out of Washington. The film is very political in that sense; the contrast between the interest in people that the library represents, and the racism and elitism that comes out of the Trump Administration.” WISEMAN continued on p. 16 September 7, 2017




Photo by Kevin Alvey

Marilyn Maye was a big draw for the Metropolitan Room, which bids adieu to W. 22nd St. on Sept. 30.

Cozy to put it mildly, the layout of Chelsea’s Metropolitan Room has always paled in comparison to the expansive roster of talent to grace that tiny stage over the course of any given month. Now, after an 11-year run, the little space that could — and did — provide a friendly and supportive home to drag performers (Hedda Lettuce!), old school Yiddish theater greats (Fyvush Finkel!), autobiographical raconteurs (Leslie Jordan!), and nightclub royalty (Marilyn Maye!) is pulling up stakes and staking its claim on a new Midtown space with enough square footage for a restaurant, piano bar, and two performance rooms. That new club won’t debut until early 2018. Until then, they’ll be presenting some of their longtime performers at a kindred spirit venue that knows a little something about eclecticism: The Triad on W. 72nd St. But the Metropolitan Room isn’t going quietly from its W. 22nd St. space. Trading kicking and screaming for crooning and swinging, the Metropolitan

WISEMAN continued from p. 15

Nonetheless, Wiseman does not consider himself a political filmmaker — that is, his movies, with their decided lack of editorializing, do not trade in the kind of partisan politics or didactic message-distribution many more recent, fi nancially successful documentaries aim for (ones “mainly of the Michael Moore variety,” he quipped). “There’s a famous American philosopher by the name of Samuel Goldwyn who said, ‘If you have a message, send a telegram.’ It would be presumptuous of me to make a statement of what I hope people will get out of [my films]. I hope they enjoy the movies and it provokes and stimulates them to think about the material, the subject matter of the movie, or the group of movies if they see more than one,” Wiseman explained. “We all live such segmented lives. One of the things that movies like [‘EX LIBRIS’] can do is bring the experience of being at the place to people who haven’t had my experience. It’s not many people get a chance to spend 12 weeks wandering around the main branch and the various local branches of the New York Public Library. Or similarly, hang out at bal-


September 7, 2017

Courtesy Zipporah Films

Photo by Erik Madigan Heck

New Yorkers take advantage of the Milstein Microform Reading Room at the NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.

A portrait of Frederick Wiseman, 87, legendary filmmaker and director of “EX LIBRIS.”

let rehearsals for three months. Or if you haven’t been through Army basic training, see what Army basic training is like. Or if you haven’t been riding around in police cars, give you a sense of what that’s about. “When a film like this works it can bring the experience to the viewer,” he asserted. “I don’t have any general wish other than, naturally, because I make the movies, I’d like them to be seen. I hope people will think about what the

movie is about.” It might be a simple request, but Frederick Wiseman has proven time and again over his career that his movies deserve to be not only seen and thought about, but treasured and revisited long after the projection bulb dims. “EX LIBRIS — The New York Public Library.” Director, Sound, Editor, Producer: Frederick Wiseman. 197 minutes. Daily screenings, Sept. 13–26, at 12:15pm, 4pm & 7:45pm. Tickets:

$14, $8 for members. At Film Forum (209 W. Houston St. btw. Varick St. & Sixth Ave.). “The Complete Wiseman: Part II (1986-1996)” runs Sept. 6-14. Call 212-727-8110 or visit filmforum. org. Wiseman appears for Q&A following the 7:45pm screenings on Sept. 13 & 14. He will be in discussion with Errol Morris at the NYPL on Sept. 14, 7–9pm. For tickets ($25) and info, visit nypl.org/LIVE. TheVillager.com

© Down Home Radio etc

John Cohen joins The Down Hill Strugglers (seen here) at the Washington Square Park Folk Festival.

Room bids adieu to Chelsea with a highspirited marathon starring an embarrassment of riches culled from their long list of top-notch headliners. That event goes from 9pm on Sun., Sept. 24 through 9pm on Mon., Sept. 25. The final night, until we meet again, is Sat., Sept. 30, when David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney rule the roost as, respectively, Liberace and Peggy Lee, in the appropriately titled “Lee Squared: An Evening with Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee.” Show at 9:30pm — and don’t lift any glassware on your way out, okay? Let’s remember what the Metropolitan Room taught us, and keep it classy. The Metropolitan Room is located at 34 W. 22nd St. (btw. Fifth & Sixth Aves.). For reservations, call 212-2060440 or visit metropolitanroom.com.

THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK FOLK FESTIVAL Long a prime destination for poets, protesters, and people watchers, Washington Square Park can also claim a storied history (and a not-too-shabby present) as the place where musicians of all stripes gather for impromptu jams, intense debates, and pivotal moments where songs are written and bands are formed. Before the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village took it indoors and exported it globally, the city’s folk scene found a warm and welcoming incubator when the likes of 1940s-era Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger would spend Sunday afternoons making music in the park (followed some years later by a young Bob Dylan). Mindful of that history and determined to keep the traTheVillager.com

dition alive, Greenwich Village native and music producer Eli Smith — along with a formidable crew of likeminded genre enthusiasts and local small business backers — will present the seventh annual edition of their Washington Square Park Folk Festival. The event draws heavily upon local talent. This year’s roster features blues guitar from Zeke Schein (1:45pm), traditional Turkish and Balkan music from Seyyah (2:30pm), and string band Bill and the Belles (3:15pm). Joined by legendary ’60s-era folk musician John Cohen, The Down Hill Strugglers (a trio that claims Smith as a member; Coen Brothers fans known them from the soundtrack to “Inside Llewyn Davis”) open the festival with a 1pm set, and the event closes with a 4pm community square dance called by Alex Kramer. If that afternoon in Washington Square Park gives you the folk bug, or makes it worse, mark your calendar for another Smith-produced event: The 10th Annual Brooklyn Folk Festival, April 6–18, 2018. Details at brooklynfolkfest.com. The Washington Square Park Folk Festival is a free event, held from 1–5pm on Sun., Sept. 10 (stage located by the Garibaldi statue on the park’s East side). For more info, visit wspfolkfest. com.

UNLIKELY HISTORIANS: MATERIALS COLLECTED BY NYPD SURVEILLANCE TEAMS, 1960-1975 Freedom of assembly doesn’t necessarily mean freedom from scrutiny — in fact it often guarantees it, especially when the cause you stand for poses a

Courtesy NYC Municipal Archives

As the United Nations General Assembly opened its 26th session on Sept. 21, 1971, the US opposed replacing the Taiwan-based Nationalist Republic of China with the People’s Republic of China. Those who took to the UN Plaza and surrounding areas in a show of support for the PRC were under surveillance by the NYPD — records of which are on view as part of the “Unlikely Historians” exhibit.

threat, real or imagined, to the powers that be. Decades before making headlines and earning ACLU ire for keeping tabs on the Muslim community and the Black Lives Matter movement, the NYPD was very busy tailing individuals and infiltrating organizations. In doing so, the trail of records left behind survived to become a fascinating, at times infuriating, time capsule of Big Brother’s unblinking eye. This exhibit is rich with photographs and objects from 15 years of surveillance, which saw NYPD scrutiny of organizations such as the Communist Party, Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, The American Renaissance Party, Women Strike for Peace, and Youth Against War and Fascism. Among the documents are photos from a 1963 C.O.R.E. demonstration for fair housing, a 1972 National

Renaissance Party gathering at the Rhodesian Embassy in support of that country’s segregationist government, and Muhammad Ali’s 1968 speech at Muhammad Mosque 7C (following revocation of the boxer’s license after he refused to enlist in the Army). Other items on display include film footage of demonstrations, a copy of a speech written by Martin Luther King Jr., pamphlets, buttons, and magazines. And what does all of this cost to see? It’s free — which seems only fair, given how taxpayer dollars financed all that surveillance in the first place. Sept. 8–Feb. 28, 2018. At the New York City Municipal Archives (1st floor gallery, 31 Chambers St.; northwest corner of Centre & Chambers Sts.). Viewing hours: Mon.–Wed. & Fri., 9am–4:30pm; Thurs., 9am–7pm. Visit nyc.gov/records.

Theater for the New City • 155 1st Avenue at E. 10th St. Reservations & Info (212) 254-1109 For more info, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net

TNC’s Dream Up Festival Aug 27 - Sept 17 25 shows 23 World Premieres 2 American Premieres. Dreamupfestival.org

TNC’s Checks and Balances or Bottoms Up!

Written and Directed by: Crystal Field Music Composed by: Joseph Vernon Banks August 5th - September 17th on August 5th at 2:00 PM 9/9 - Washington Square Park 9/10 - Manhattan - Wise Towers @ 90th St.

September 7, 2017


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September 7, 2017




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September 7, 2017



September 7, 2017


Letters to The Editor

Sound off! Write a letter to the editor news@thevillager.com

LETTERS continued from p. 12

To The Editor: Re “The public was locked out of ‘Fences’ process” (news article, Aug. 31): The city’s Department of Parks has a totally hypocritical and indefensible position on this installation. Based on the revised park rules for artists and other expressive-matter vendors instituted in 2010, no artist can display art in any New York City park within 50 feet of a monument or public-art installation, including ornamental fountains. Needless to say, that would include a huge installation set up inside a monument. Moreover, when then-Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe explained his justification for those new rules, he claimed that artists were obstructing the public’s view of monuments simply by the artists setting up painting displays anywhere near them. Of all the New York City parks, nowhere are those rules more restrictive than in Washington Square Park. As Parks Enforcement Patrol officers explained to artists when these rules were first instituted, because of the unique layout of Washington Square Park and the new rules regarding the necessary width of a sidewalk and distance from

monuments, benches, trees, fountains, etc., there is not a single location where an artist can legally set up a display in that park. If Ai Weiwei wants to make conceptual art about freedom of speech, he should be protesting the New York City Parks Department, not working with it. Robert Lederman Lederman is president of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics)

What about us? Re “District 2 candidates make their case to be Mendez’s successor” and “District 2 contenders talk housing and preservation” (news articles, Aug. 31): I am sorry I missed The Villager candidates night. I did, however, attend one candidate night sponsored by Henry Street Settlement and one at La Mama sponsored by many nonprofit groups. Neither of these events allowed audience questions — although this was advertised in the notices and was why I attended. The nonprofits sold their “good work” to the audiences, while candidates told folks what they thought the neighborhood needed. It truly was a

love fest, with everyone pretty much saying the same thing. Susan Leelike

Violence To The Editor: Violence without reason is murderous. Violence without meaning is endless. Violence without thought is primitive. Violence without regret is survival of the unfittest. Violence begets violence, starting the final chain reaction on our garden planet. Peace! (not pieces). Sy Schleimer E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager. com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.


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Risky ‘locomotion’: Deadly weeds line bike path BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


t’s getting loco out there on the Hudson River Park bike path! Not necessarily because cyclists are whizzing by too fast, but because potentially fatal locoweed — also known as Jimsonweed — and another toxic plant, black nightshade, have been flourishing in the untended planted areas bordering bikeway. Adrian Benepe, the former commissioner of the New York City Parks Department, is currently the director of city park development for the Trust for Public Land. He rides his bike along the greenway on weekends up to Inwood Hill Park or down to the Battery for exercise and to “watch how people use the parks.” For several years now, he’s been upset about the lack of maintenance on both the Hudson River Park bike path’s border area and also on the planted median on Route 9A (the West Side Highway), which has seen both areas become filled with high weeds and trash. So when he was recently biking home from the Greenmarket and noticed the potentially deadly weeds — in a large clump by the bikeway near Chelsea Piers — it was the last straw, and he tweeted about it. It wasn’t Boy Scout training that allowed him to identify the locoweed, but his experience working the city’s parks. “It comes with spending 27 years at the Parks Department and asking questions of smart experts,” he told The Villager. “It’s a very unusual-looking, quite distinctive plant. Once you see it, you don’t forget it!” Jimsonweed — sporting oak-leafshaped white flowers with purple tips — sickens livestock. It’s sometimes used by humans for medicinal purposes and as a hallucinogen, but is potentially fatal in overdoses. “If you eat it in the wrong amount or the wrong time of year, it could be deadly,” Benepe noted. “If you’re a shaman and you know how to use it [maybe it’s safe to use]… . [But] it’s a highly toxic plant growing in close proximity to a public park, in front of Chelsea Piers. Lots of kids go in there.” Asked if he had alerted the recreational complex about it, he said, no. “It’s not on their property and it’s not their responsibility,” he said. Similarly, he said, the poisonous plant patches are neither under the purview of the Hudson River Park Trust nor the city’s Parks Department. Instead, according to Benepe, it should be the Department of Transportation — either the state or city agency — that tends the foliage both along the bike path and in the Route 9A median. It was the state D.O.T. that built both back in the late 1990s. Benepe said if the two agencies want to reach an agreement, state D.O.T. could possibly share the mainte-


September 7, 2017


This black nightshade growing along the bike path outside Pier 57 was recently cut down.

A very large patch of potentially deadly Jimsonweed a.k.a. locoweed outside Chelsea Piers is reportedly flourishing and still there, according to Adrian Benepe.

nance responsibility with city D.O.T., or give it all to city D.O.T., but that one of these two agencies must take control of the situation. In fact, up until about five years ago, state D.O.T. used to give the Trust $1 million annually, which the Trust used to hire contractors to maintain the Route 9A medians and the medians between the greenway and highway. The loss of that funding is the main problem, Benepe said. “The result is very high weeds that you can see throughout, including the Jimsonweed, as well as dead and dying trees and litter along Route 9A,” he said. A call to state D.O.T. for comment was not returned by press time. A Trust spokesperson confirmed that funding state D.O.T. used to give the authority for the medians had been cut off. “It is much more than just one plant,” Benepe subsequently reported after rid-

Former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe posing with some prett y but innocuous hibiscus flowers on the Hudson River greenway in Chelsea.

ing along the park bikeway again. “It’s actually about 100 square feet or more of many plants, all in the same area at 21st St. near the entrance to Pier 61, between the bike path and the roadway. I also found another large Jimsonweed plant at 48th St.” Furthermore, after spotting the Jimsonweed, Benepe notified The Villager that he had spotted a variety of black nightshade next to the bike path. “It’s all over the place,” he said. “It’s a very common tall-weed shrub. Its leaves and the immature berries — that is, the green ones that are all over now — are known to be toxic, and can be fatal to children. “While it can be found all over along the greenway, its biggest shrubs — almost the height of normal adults — can be found along the construction fence adjacent to Pier55 and Pier57 [between W. 13th and 17th Sts.]”

All of these plants are “self-seeded, due to lack of maintenance,” he said. Benepe said he is sure about the Jimsonweed. To confirm that the other plants were indeed black nightshade, he sent his photos to a plant expert, who said he was correct, and that the sample, in fact, looked “extra-healthy.” Nightshade is typically found in “disturbed places,” the expert noted, so it makes sense it sprouted up around the park construction sites. Over this past weekend, Benepe, after spinning by the spots again on his bike, reported to The Villager, “As of yesterday, all the Jimsonweed was still there in both locations. However, the largest grouping of black nightshade — in front of Pier 57 — has been cut down with all the other weeds there. There is still a lot of black nightshade along the greenway, however, including between 48th and 50th Sts.” TheVillager.com


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.

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