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

CHILLY SCENES OF A HOT PLATE THANKSGIVING Tenants Talk Turkey About Living in Buildings Without Cooking Gas see page 3

Photo by Scott Stiffler

L to R, 206 Ninth Ave. tenants Peter Rinaldi, James Followell, Linda Amrani, Yanik Faylayev, and Saul Weitz. Their building has been without gas since May 2015. © CHELSEA NOW 2017 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

VOLUME 09, ISSUE 40 | NOVEMBER 30 - DECEMBER 6, 2017


Luxury and Brit Brands Bound for Hudson Yards BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC Everything is coming up rhubarb at Hudson Yards — the London hospitality group that is, as opposed to the perennials used for pies. “Rhubarb is a quintessential English vegetable,� P.B. Jacobse, CEO of the group, explained when asked about the firm’s notable name, rhubarb, which is with a lowercase “r.� The company’s founding father, he noted, “came up with it 21 years ago.� Jacobse said this is the first international venture for the London-centric restaurant and catering company. “We’re proud to open in New York,� he told this publication by phone. “We think that Hudson Yards is very, very special.� At 30 Hudson Yards, rhubarb will open a 5,800-square-foot restaurant on the fifth floor, as well as a “10,000square-foot bar, restaurant and events space� on the top two floors of the 1,296-foot-tall tower, according to the press release. “We will create something very exciting for the fifth floor and the top floor. They will be unique,� Jacobse said.

Courtesy rhubarb via Related-Oxford

HUDSON YARDS continued on p. 14

London hospitality group rhubarb will bring to their Hudson Yards presence the same flair for drama and detail that was on display at the Natural History Museum’s launch event for Hope the blue whale.

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Tenacious Tenants Seek Solutions as Gas Outages Go On for Years BY WINNIE McCROY Forgoing the classic oven-roasted Thanksgiving turkey for a more manageable pan-sauteed chicken, Chelsea resident Jordan Lage set out to make his family’s holiday dinner last week using only a hot plate and a microwave oven. It’s not that they’re parsimonious; it’s just that they haven’t had cooking gas at their five-story apartment building since February 2016. The situation at 311 W. 21st St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) was outlined in a recent article that looked at NYC Management Corp., the company that took over the former Sidney Rubell property after a gas leak, and never bothered to restore the gas (see Chelsea Now, Oct. 26, 2017: “20 Months After Shutoff, Tenants Still Getting Burned by Lack of Cooking Gas�). Lage and his partner, Kelly Maurer, have lived in the building for nearly 19 years. But in the spring, when their 12-year-old daughter was injured and they realized they had no gas to cook her dinner, no hot water for a bath, and no heat, they finally said, “Enough.� A loosely formed coalition of renters came together to petition their elected officials, including City Councilmember Corey Johnson, to help restore their utilities. And after some stonewalling, the building owner finally agreed to meet with tenants to discuss the situation. “Our office facilitated a meeting last Thursday [Nov. 9], and we made progress in addressing these issues, including plans for construction in the building, which tenants had not heard about, as well as when gas is going to be restored,� said Matt Green, the councilmember’s deputy chief of staff. “Our office is assisting in the city inspection with Con Edison and the Department of Buildings [DOB] to make sure the work the licensed plumber is doing is

Photo by Michael Harwood

In Michael Harwood’s kitchen at 206 Ninth Ave., the non-functioning gas stove is covered with a plywood panel to support his professional grade hot plate. Nearby, a microwave and toaster oven round out the makeshift cooking setup.

done correctly. The owners agreed to make sure they are communicating updates directly with the tenants. I think people felt good about the direction it went in.� Lage said that they had “cautious optimism� about the meeting, which was “a long time in coming.� “Given the circumstances, it is hard for us to be giddy with excitement,� said Maurer, “but there is some movement.� They are also discussing rent abatement with the landlord, noted Lage, who added, “I think once they realized a New York City Councilman’s office was putting pressure on them, their lawyer advised them, ‘You guys should just do this.’ � But he’s still upset it took so long. “Once the pressure came to bear,� recalled Lage, “they said they could get the gas up and running in a just a little while. So why has nothing been done since they took over the building?� As of the week after Thanksgiving, said Maurer, installation of pipes “has been completed from the cellar to the fifth floor� in some areas, but “there’s another section of the building where the piping has not been completed. We’ve been told we should probably have cooking gas within five months.� However, an inspector spoke with another tenant on Nov. 22, saying, noted Mauer, “that his estimate is that we would have gas probably within the next 12 to 18 months. Once Con Ed gets involved, it gets a little sticky.�

A COOK KEPT ON ICE Photo by Scott Stiffler

Some of the tenants at 336 W. 17th St., where the building has been without gas for nearly 30 months. Top row, L to R: Craig Roseberry and Danny Quinones. Bottom row, L to R: John Martin Gutenkauf and Calder Kusmierski Singer.

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A few blocks away at another Sidney Rubell building, 206 Ninth Ave. (btw. W. 22nd & 23rd Sts.), avid cook Michael Harwood and his fellow tenGAS OUTAGES continued on p. 15

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The Special Blends of La Boîte Find a Niche in Hell’s Kitchen BY RANIA RICHARDSON On an industrial stretch of 11th Ave., amidst auto dealerships and body shops, an open door to a small business lets out the captivating smells of a Middle Eastern spice market. Founded in 2009, La Boîte specializes in artisanal spice blends created by founder and owner Lior Lev Sercarz. A classically trained chef, Sercarz sources high-quality product from around the globe to formulate new flavor combinations. There are nearly 200 custom mixtures in his repertoire, and some have names like Penang (sweet chili, onion, turmeric), Chios (basil, tarragon, oregano, fennel), Tangier (rose petals, cumin, cardamom), and Bombay (turmeric, fenugreek, clove) that speak to the international nature of the business and the locales he finds inspiring. “I found my niche in the food industry when I observed a general lack of knowledge about spices across the board,” Sercarz recalled. Interest was on the rise with the ever-growing foodie culture and an expansion in worldwide travel. The popular cookbooks by Sercarz’s friend and fellow Israeli, Yotam Ottolenghi, also spurred the public’s interest in the culinary possibilities of native ingredients like sumac and za’atar. After training in France and spending 20 years as a chef in professional kitchens, including Daniel Boulud’s, Sercarz spent two years in incubator mode, experimenting in his apartment with a spice grinder and the contents of his pantry. His mission was to create blends from a crossover of cultures based on his culinary skills and creativity. He eschewed traditional mixtures such as what some would consider “authentic” Madras curry. His own recipes set him apart — typically a base of three labeled ingredients combined with a number of undisclosed others. The turning point came when an early collaborator, Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert, began an exclusive association with him for spices. As the business developed and interest increased, Sercarz searched for an affordable space for volume production. With affordability in mind, he considered the Lower East Side and East Village, but found that Hell’s Kitchen had the right vibe. “It’s a great dynamic in Hell’s Kitchen, being on the sidelines. It’s an interesting and friendly area with lots of manufacturing,” he said. Proximity to Ninth Ave., with its plethora of ethnic eateries, was not a factor, but is a befitting aspect of the neighborhood. Sercarz scaled up over the years and

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November 30, 2017

Courtesy La Boîte

La Boîte’s “First Step Set” is an excellent introduction to the store’s unique spices.

Courtesy La Boîte

Lior Lev Sercarz’s “The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices” has recipes for blends and a wealth of botanical information. The “Voyager” gift set, seen here, offers several spices along with the book.

now manages 10 employees who help produce, package, and ship the product. Walk-in customers are welcome, but the shop is only open on weekdays. Sample tasting is encouraged. After several years during which his products were available through third party sellers, La Boîte launched its own website for

Photo by Rania Richardson

La Boîte founder and owner Lior Lev Sercarz.

online sales. Professionals (chefs, pastry chefs, mixologists, and manufacturers) make up 70 percent of the business and home cooks make up the other 30 percent. Recent manufacturing partnerships have included gin, beer, popcorn, and chocolate makers who benefit from the addition of complex seasonings.

Sourcing and purchasing is generally done over the phone or online with a network of importers and brokers who interface with small-scale farms, where manual labor presides. The shipments come in from all over the world. India, SPICE continued on p. 23 NYC Community Media




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Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Opens the Holiday Season PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO As has been the case since 1924, New York City’s Holiday Season kicked off early Thanksgiving morning with the annual Macy’s Parade. More than 8,000 participants — accompanied by dozens of balloons and floats — marched the two and a half miles from Central Park West and West 77th St. south to Central Park South, east to Sixth Ave., and then south again to 34th Street, where the parade turned left for its fi nale at Herald Square.

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With crowds turning out as early as the evening before, when the balloons are inflated, the

event attracted enthusiastic throngs and featured, among many celebrities fictional and real, Patti

LaBelle, Jimmy Fallon, Charlie Brown, and, of course, Santa, signaling the parade’s conclusion.

NYC Community Media


Ferry Increase Floated as Way to Ease West Side Congestion BY REBECCA FIORE At its Thurs. Nov. 16, meeting, Community Board 2 (CB2) unanimously voted to strongly urge the city’s Economic Development Corporation to look into adding more ferry service on the Lower West Side to serve the area’s ever-growing population. Shirley Secunda, the CB2 Traffic and Transportation Committee chairperson, said the simple reason behind the resolution is the need to expand transit for city dwellers and commuters alike. “We’re requesting a study be done,â€? Secunda said. “There’s been tremendous development on the far West Side and more is coming.â€? As the board’s resolution states, between the ongoing construction of the virtual “mini-cityâ€? of Hudson Yards and the pending development of nearly 1,600 residential units — including nearly 500 units of affordable housing — at 550 Washington St. (at the current St. John’s Center site), the West Side is expected to attract more residents, as well as workers. Discussions on the future of Pier 40, at W. Houston St., across from 550 Washington St., are still in the works. In short, people who live, work, play or visit the area will need better public transportation, Secunda said. “Whereas there is no close-by public transit in this far western portion of CB2‌ the Hudson River is just a stone’s throw away across West St.,â€? the resolution states. “Currently, the far West Side relies too heavily on for-hire vehicles and private cars for accessible transportation, which cause congestion and denigrate the environment.â€?

The new citywide ferry service has folded the existing subsidized East River Ferry service into it. CB2 is calling for more ferry service on the Lower West Side.

Tom Fox, the former owner of New York Water Taxi and a longtime Hudson River Park advocate, said the ferry plan is a long time coming since the lower West Side is out of other transit options. “Buses take up service space,� he said. “Roadways are already pretty crowded, especially at some of the intersections of Route 9A [West St.]. That highway was designed more than 24 years ago. Between the Whitney Museum, the Standard Hotel, Chelsea Market, and now Hudson Yards, there are more people living there who weren’t there when the highway was developed,� he said. “The West Side is poorly served by north-to-south mass transit.� Fox’s idea for a West Side ferry service, he said, is for a loop from Pier 1 to Pier 97, then down to Pier 84,

Chelsea Piers, Pier 45 and Pier 25, then all the way to the World Trade Center to create a much-needed water route. Piers 40, 45 and 46 were also mentioned in CB2’s resolution as possibly providing spots for ferry service. Fox explained, “It would give you the equivalent to the East Side,� which currently has routes from Manhattan stopping in Queens (Astoria, Long Island City, Hunter’s Point South and Rockaway) and Brooklyn (Greenpoint, North and South Williamsburg, DUMBO, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge). NYC Ferry, operated by Hornblower, has six routes that connect Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. All are on Manhattan’s East Side and two are summer service only. “There could even be an express and a local where you go to W. 79th St., W. 42nd St., Greenwich Village and the World Trade Center,� Fox added. “And you can have a small one that connects various parks on the weekends.� Secunda noted that since the ferries are no longer privatized, a ride costs the same $2.75 as a train or local bus. “Basically, it’s part of the transit system now,� she said, “whereas before it was a private company and you paid a lot more. It’s really a wonderful innovation happening in the city. It’s real mass transit.� The vote of the full board of CB2 was unanimous, with 34 board members in favor. “I think it makes all the sense in the world,� Fox said. “I tried doing that with New York Water Taxi in 2001. It’s a great idea, but not a new one.�

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Singer/ songwriter Holly Near greets Gloria Steinem at Kate Millett’s memorial.

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BY ANDY HUMM Kate Millett, author of the 1970 “Sexual Politics” that became the bible of Second Wave Feminism, was celebrated and sorely missed by hundreds at her New York memorial service on Nov. 9. Millett died of a heart attack in her beloved Paris on Sept. 6 at age 82 on a visit there with her spouse, Sophie Keir, her partner for 39 years. “Don’t you wish we could read Kate on Harvey Weinstein?” said Gloria Steinem, 83, to gales of laughter in the Unitarian Church on Central Park West. The service was attended by many from the feminist movement instrumental in changing the status of women radically 50 years ago, an achievement not without a corresponding massive resistance then that continues to this day with the Trump backlash. In January, Millett, in a wheelchair and holding a sign with her name on it, was at the head of the historic Women’s March in New York against Trump the day after his inauguration — one of many dozen demonstrations that turned out masses in cities throughout the country and around the world. Steinem recalled reading some of the material that became “Sexual Politics” and thinking, “Is it possible that a female American human being could be a global intellectual?” Such was the power of Millett’s Columbia University thesis that became an improbable bestseller and culture-shifting manifesto. An uncharacteristically unsmiling Millett was pictured on the cover of Time magazine in August 1970 as “Kate Millett of Women’s Lib,” the kind of fame

Lesbian activist Linda Clarke said Millett was “an improbable celebrity who was first an intellectual and a bookworm.”

that made her uncomfortable in a movement that she saw as only succeeding based on collective efforts. In December that same year, the center-right Time played up Millett’s bisexuality to tear her and the movement down — something some skittish feminists like Betty Friedan played into (later labeling lesbians in feminism “the lavender menace”). But lesbians such as Barbara Love and Ivy Bottini staged a show of feminist solidarity with Millett that included Steinem, who said at the service, “She let me hold her hand at the press conference and we got to be an item for two weeks.” Yoko Ono, who met Millett as a sister artist, said, “Her smile was not the kind you see on anyone else. It was part of her body and beautiful.” Lisa Millett Rau, now a Philadelphia judge, said, “We knew Aunt Kate as an artist first, sitting on the floor with us, doing art, and talking to us like adults.” She added, “If there was a bully around, Kate would go after them,” including a NYC Community Media


Photo by Andy Humm

Yoko Ono said of Millett, “Her smile was not the kind you see on anyone else.”

perilous mission to Iran after the Islamic revolution in 1979 when Iranian feminists invited her to a women’s conference there. Eleanor Pam of Veteran Feminists of America, which sponsored the service and that Millett co-founded, recalled her “intimate sparring partner and friend,” how when they lived on the Bowery “Kate embraced downward mobility,” and how Millett “fell in love easily and often.” When Millett did make decent money from “Sexual Politics,” she plowed it into a farm in Poughkeepsie that became a women’s art colony known as Kate Millett Farm. Many of the feminist activists and artists who frequented it over the decades came to celebrate her at the service. Lesbian feminist Linda Clarke called her friend of 50 years “an improbable celebrity who was first an intellectual Cover photo by Peter Tewksbury and a bookworm.” She called her someone “who The program for Kate Milchanged the world, all lett’s memorial service. the while doing it with an unruly mind.” Cynthia MacAdams, the photographer famous for capturing images of Second Wave feminists in their early revolutionary days, called Millett “a great teacher, a great lover, and a great artist… Be a warrior as Kate was.” Kathleen Turner read a brief tribute from Hillary Clinton and a longer one from Millett’s longtime comrade Robin Morgan that included this exhortation: “A feminist generation is marching again, this time into shadow. Another generation will march into the sun.” Holly Near led the assembled in the women’s labor anthem “Bread and Roses” and “Singing for Our Lives,” which she wrote in the wake of Harvey Milk’s assassination in 1978 — reminding us “we are a gentle, angry people and we are singing for our lives.” NYC Community Media

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Present Tense? These Gifts Will Put That in the Past BY SCOTT STIFFLER

THE PENN SOUTH CERAMICS STUIDO HOLIDAY SALE

Courtesy Penn South Ceramics

The Handmade’s Tale: Stock up on one-of-a-kind gifts at Dec. 9 and 10’s Penn South Ceramics Studio Holiday Sale.

In our modern if somewhat impersonal world of prepaid gift cards, nothing says you truly care quite like a present that’s been made by hand. But what if your clumsy lobster claws aren’t even remotely capable of creating something that special person on your “Nice” list will actually want to look at before they’ve had their morning coffee? To the rescue comes this annual event, featuring rows and shelves stocked with bowls, plates, vases, mugs, votives, platters, and jewelry — all one-of-a-kind items made by the students and instructors of Penn South Ceramics Studio. Bonus gift: Pick up a brochure while browsing on behalf of others, and return to the studio in 2018 to take a class. By this time next year, your work could be the one with a price tag on it. All thumbs and not interested? No pressure. Those classes also make great gifts. Sat., Dec. 9 & Sun., Dec. 10, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. in the Penn South Ceramics Studio (in Building 6B, 276 Ninth Ave., at the northeast corner of W. 26th St.). For more info, email them at pennsouthceramics@gmail.com.

THE ARChive OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC’S HOLIDAY RECORD & CD SALE The praises we sing about the ARChive of Contemporary Music might sound like a broken record — but you’ll find no nicks, scratches, or skips on the vinyl for sale at this fundraiser for the renowned Downtown not-for-profit, whose collection of popular music sound recordings currently numbers in the three-million-give-ortake range. This library and research center collects, preserves, and provides information on popular music all the way from 1950 to the very day you’re reading this (and, yes, beyond). With the inevitable duplicate recordings taking up valuable space, the ARChive is opening its doors (normally accessible only to scholars and industry) for two weeks. From Dec. 2 through 17, don’t miss your chance to score deals (steals, really) on over 30,000 items. Many of the CDs are new donations from record companies and collectors, so no worries about returning them due to defects. Prices start at $3 for the new stuff, and many of the CDs will come home with you for just a buck (“cheaper than downloading,” the ARChive staff notes). Also on tap are 78s, jazz music in all format, Blues and Latin LPs, picture discs, music

Chelsea Community Church 43rd Annual

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Choir, Congregational Singing and a Reading of A Visit from St. Nicholas by singer-songwriter and author Rosanne Cash Larry J. Long, Choir Director Thomas Bohlert, Organist

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NYC Community Media


Photo by Kristen Felicetti

The West Village Chorale’s Dec. 10 concert makes a great early gift.

books and magazines, DVDs, and kidfriendly LPs — because you’re never too early to become an obsessed collector! Dec. 2–17, daily, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. At the ARChive of Contemporary Music ground floor office at 54 White St. (3 blocks south of Canal St., btw. Broadway & Church St.). Call 212-226-6967 or visit arcmusic.org.

THE WEST VILLAGE CHORALE’S HOLIDAY CONCERT For that friend of yours — and you

know who they are — who will only end up opening their gift early if it just sits there under the tree day after day, surprise them with a ticket to the West Village Chorale’s seasonal concert. This year’s theme is “Christmas Carols Old and New.” Musical Director Dr. Colin Britt is at the podium to conduct (baton in hand, we hope, because we like to get our money’s worth). Longtime Chorale pianist Elena Belli is joined by the Calliope Brass quintet, harpist Adan Vasquez, and cellist David Lasher. Selections include Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” and a musical version of “Twas the Night

Courtesy ARChive of Contemporary Music

From Disney to Marley, there’s something for everyone (or just one eclectic individual) at the ARChive of Contemporary Music’s sale, happening Dec. 2–17.

Before Christmas.” Plenty of sing-along carols are also part of this program — and the nonsectarian, independent chorus has another great event in store, as if Dec. 10’s annual concert weren’t reason enough to sing its praises. On Dec. 17, the Greenwich Village Caroling Walk continues a tradition started in 1974. Fanning out in groups from the Meeting Room of Judson Memorial Church, you’ll stroll through the most

charming parts of the Village while singing seasonal carols and songs. It’s a free event, but donations are gladly accepted. The Holiday Concert happens Sun., Dec. 10, 5 p.m. at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South, at Thompson St.). Tickets are $25 in advance, $10 for students with ID. At the door, $30, $15 for students with ID. Order at brownpapertickets.com/event/3150109. Visit westvillagechorale.org.

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Washington Square Association invites you to join us for the holiday tree lighting Wednesday December 6 th at 6 pm in Washington Square Park near the Arch Sing Along with the Rob Susman Brass Quartet On Christmas Eve December 24th at 5 pm please join us for Christmas Caroling with the Rob Susman Brass Quartet

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PrEP’s Impact Seen in City Prevention Push BY DUNCAN OSBORNE As he was discussing New York’s Plan to End AIDS, an ambitious undertaking that aims to reduce new HIV infections in the state from the estimated 2,481 in 2014 to 750 annually by 2020, the relentlessly upbeat Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, New York City’s deputy commissioner for disease control, was blunt when asked about the plan’s prospects if new HIV infections are not reduced among black and Latino gay and bisexual men. “You lost the game,” Daskalakis said in an interview. Viewed as a math problem, it is clear what the plan must do. The great majority of new HIV infections in New York occur in New York City, so it is here that the reductions must happen. There were an estimated 1,696 new HIV infections in 2015 in the city and 1,288 of those occurred in men who have sex with men (MSM). Estimated new infections are different from documented new diagnoses since diagnoses in a given year capture infections from that year as well as ear-

Photo by Donna Aceto

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, New York City’s deputy commissioner for disease control, at last December’s dedication of the NYC AIDS Memorial in the West Village.

lier ones. If new 2015 HIV diagnoses, however, are viewed as a surrogate for the demographic pattern of new HIV infections, then most of the new infections are occurring among AfricanAmerican and Latino gay and bisexual men. In 2015, there were 2,493 new HIV diagnoses in the city with 2,011 among men, 441 among women, and 42 among transgender New Yorkers. Among men in 2015, 1,450 of the new diagnoses were among MSM, 412 had no known risk factor, and the remaining 149 were among heterosexuals, drug injectors, gay and bisexual men who inject drugs, and just two were mother-to-child transmission cases. In 2015, 745 of the new diagnoses were among black men, 759 were among Latino men, and 386 were among white men, with the remaining 121 occurring among Pacific Islander, Native American, and multiracial men. Recognizing its central role in the IMPACT continued on p. 14

HIV Data for 2016 Show Continued Decline BY DUNCAN OSBORNE New HIV infections among New York City men who have sex with men continued declining in 2016 over 2015, according to an annual report from the city’s health department that details HIV infections last year. There were an estimated 1,541 new HIV infections in the city in 2016 and 1,172, or 76 percent of those new infections, were among men who have sex with men (MSM). That represents a nine percent decline in new estimated

infections among gay and bisexual men over 2015, which is generally consistent with declines seen in other recent year-to-year comparisons. The de Blasio administration has endorsed the Plan to End AIDS, which aims to reduce new HIV infections in the state from the estimated 2,481 in 2014 to 750 annually by 2020. With most new HIV infections occurring in the city and most of those occurring among black and Latino gay and bisexual men, the plan must reduce the

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November 30, 2017

infections among those men to be successful. The city has set its own goal of reducing new HIV infections to 600 annually by 2020. Insofar as new HIV diagnoses, which could have resulted from infections in 2016 or earlier, mirror the pattern of new infections, the report suggests that new HIV infections among black and Latino men are falling as well, though not to the extent that they have declined among white men. There were 2,279 new HIV diagnoses in 2016 with 1,771 of those among men and 1,236, or 70 percent of new diagnoses among men, attributable to men who have sex with men. In 2016 over 2015, new HIV diagnoses among all black men fell from 745 to 689, from 759 to 611 among all Latino men, and from 386 to 323 among all white men. To put the 2016 numbers into context, in 2001, there were 5,906 new HIV diagnoses in the city. “The historic low in new HIV diagnoses is yet another indication that we remain on the road to ending the HIV epidemic in our city,” said Dr. Mary Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, in a November 29 statement that

accompanied the report. “While we have seen a dramatic decrease in HIV diagnoses among the MSM community overall, we must continue to work together to address the excess number of new HIV infections in communities of color.” The new diagnosis rate among black men was more than three times higher than the rate among white men. The new diagnosis rate among Latino men was double the rate among white men. New HIV diagnoses among Asian Pacific Islander men increased to 125 in 2016 over 101 in 2015. New diagnoses among women also increased in 2016, going from 482 in 2015 to 508 in 2016. There were 46 new HIV diagnoses among transgender men and women in 2016 versus 42 new HIV diagnoses in that group in 2015. The Plan to End AIDS uses anti-HIV drugs in HIV-negative people. Postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) prevents infection in people who had a recent exposure to the virus and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a once-a-day pill, offers ongoing HIV prevention. PrEP DATA continued on p. 14 NYC Community Media


NYC Community Media

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IMPACT continued from p. 12

plan, the city has set a goal of getting to 600 new HIV infections by 2020. And the city recognizes that without substantial reductions in new HIV infections among Latino and black MSM, the Plan to End AIDS fails. The plan relies on providing stable housing, nutrition, and other services for people who are HIV-positive and treating them with anti-HIV drugs so they remain healthy and cannot infect others. It offers anti-HIV drugs to HIV-negative people in two ways to prevent infection — post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for people who had a recent exposure to the virus and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for ongoing HIV prevention. PrEP and PEP are highly effective when taken correctly. City health department data suggest that awareness and uptake of PrEP has increased significantly from 2014

DATA continued from p. 12

and PEP are highly effective when taken correctly. The plan treats people who are HIVpositive with anti-HIV drugs so they remain healthy and cannot infect others. The drug regimen is supported with stable housing, nutrition, and other services. While the city health department

through 2016, though that data also suggests that much of the increase in PrEP use is attributable to white men taking the once-a-day pill. “I think that the lesson from the data is that everyone who is working in the PrEP space has done a really good job, but not entirely with MSM who speak Spanish and maybe not entirely with black MSM,” Daskalakis said. “The sort of caveat is the uptake doesn’t 100 percent match the epidemic.” Since December 2016, the city has seen roughly 800 “PrEP starts” at its health clinics, Daskalakis said, with most of those among men. Just over 59 percent of those men were black and Latino. Since October 2016, it has referred 4,500 New Yorkers to providers that can prescribe PrEP. “Right now the main show that we are seeing is mainly MSM in those clinics,” Daskalakis said. “The next phase of what’s going to happen in New York City is we’re going to be going

deeper.” The city issued its annual HIV epidemiology report for 2016 this week, and in discussing that report in advance of its release Daskalakis said some evidence of the plan’s impact will be apparent in that report. He expects to see even more such evidence in the 2017 report, which will be issued in late 2018. “2016 is the first year you will see the impact for the first time,” he said. “I think you’re going to start seeing the impact of [the plan] accelerating declines probably next year… I would expect that the majority of the impact will be seen next year.” AIDS groups are praising the city. The de Blasio administration endorsed the Plan to End AIDS and has been willing to spend money on it. That stands in stark contrast to the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, which cut funding for AIDS and HIV prevention services.

“The city is doing much better, but we still have a way to go to put more priority toward young black and Latino MSM,” said Guillermo Chacon, president of the non-profit Latino Commission on AIDS. “When we talk about Latino MSM, we need more… If we don’t do that, we will not be able to reach our community goals by 2020.” Gary English, who once headed People of Color in Crisis, a now-closed New York City AIDS group, and is now the executive director of Get It Get It, a new HIV prevention group serving black gay men that received a $166,000 city contract to develop PrEP messaging, also lauded the city. “I think we have got to keep the PrEP conversation at the front in the black gay community,” English said. “If we don’t have special program initiatives, we’re not going to see the uptake. It has to be designed for black gay men.”

began ramping up its efforts that are part of the plan late last year, private groups, such as the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and the Community Healthcare Network (CHN), which operates 12 clinics in four boroughs in New York City, have been enrolling clients in PrEP for more than a year or longer. Callen-Lorde has been particularly successful.

The plan, which was conceived by Charles King, the chief executive at Housing Works, an AIDS group, and Mark Harrington, head of the Treatment Action Group, an advocacy organization, is ambitious. The city will have to sustain large declines in new infections among all men who have sex with men, but especially among African-American and Latino gay and bisexual men, over the next four years

for the city to reach 600 new HIV infections in 2020. “I think you’re going to start seeing the impact of [the plan] accelerating declines probably next year,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, New York City’s deputy commissioner for disease control, in an interview prior to the release of the report. “I would expect that the majority of the impact will be seen next year.”

HUDSON YARDS continued from p. 2

At the corner of W. 33rd St. and 10th Ave., 30 Hudson Yards, scheduled for completion in 2019, will be the secondtallest office building in NYC and will also be home to the city’s highest observation deck, according to the release. Jacobse said rhubarb will create “spectacular” and “bespoke” events for the space, which will host both private and corporate events. The group joins an impressive list of culinary juggernauts that includes chef Thomas Keller, who is helping to “curate” the eateries at The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards. “P.B. and rhubarb have created some of the most memorable, innovative and creative culinary events in the UK from the Royal Boxes and Jockey Club at the Royal Ascot racecourse to the Satcchi Gallery, Royal Albert Hall and Sky Garden at the ‘walkie talkie’ building,” Kenneth A. Himmel, a restaurateur who is working with Keller and Related Urban President and CEO, said in the release.

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Courtesy Related-Oxford

A rendering of The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards. Three luxury purveyors are the latest to join the sprawling retail center.

Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group — the firms developing Hudson Yards — will also have office space at 30 Hudson Yards as well as Time Warner Inc., KKR, Wells Fargo, and DNB Bank. In addition to the Tues., Nov. 28

announcement that rhubarb would be making its first international foray at Hudson Yards, Related said luxury jewelry purveyors Cartier, Van Cleef, and Piaget would also be making a home at The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards. The retail center has 720,000

square feet of leasable space and is 70 percent committed thus far, according to the press release. It is slated to open in March 2019 along with the Vessel and the Public Square and Gardens. Jessica Scaperotti, a spokesperson for Related, said there are no details yet where the three jewelers will be situated within the retail center and the square footage for each store. She declined to say how long and for how much the leases were, saying that the company does not release information on leases. In September, Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based, high-end clothing chain, downsized plans for its flagship store at The Shops & Restaurants. The store will be 190,000 square feet, Scaperotti said in an email (down from the 215,000 leasable square feed it had originally contemplated). Neiman Marcus has had “declining ssles for seven consecutive quarters,” The Real Deal reported. There were talks that Hudson Bay Co., owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, might buy Neiman Marcus — but those negotiations ended in June. NYC Community Media


GAS OUTAGES continued from p. 3

ants are experiencing a very similar situation. Harwood moved into the building in 1981 with his partner, who later passed away from AIDS. Back then, Chelsea was a working-class neighborhood with bodegas, street crime — and not much else. In May 2015, after a 6 a.m. fire originating from a stove in the building’s street-level Asian eatery, the city required the landlord to bring the gas piping up to code before Con Edison could restore services. That was 30 months ago, and the building still doesn’t have gas. Chelsea Cottage’s Viet Grill closed and never came back — but the Indian restaurant that now occupies its space enjoys the benefits of cooking with gas. “In the fall of 2016, we heard the empty space had been rented. Construction began soon thereafter,” said Linda Amrani, another tenant in the building. “By the time they opened end of May/early June, they had gas. Since we had been told ever since they signed a lease [fall 2016], ‘We’re waiting for the restaurant construction,’ we were all outraged when they got gas and we didn’t. How did that happen?” asked Amrani. Harwood noted that the situation has “been going on for so long that I’ve adapted to it, but at the same time, it’s ridiculous. I’ve devised a way to cook with a hot plate, microwave, and toaster oven. But obviously, I have no oven, so there’s no baking and no Thanksgiving turkey at all.” He thinks back to the week that Hurricane Sandy left their building without power, recalling how having the stove to cook and to heat the apartment made

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Calder Kusmierski Singer’s stove serves only as a countertop for his induction plate and cast iron pan. A toaster oven, microwave, and hot water kettle also compensate for the building’s lack of gas.

it possible for him to shelter in place. “Now, every time I hear there’s a hurricane coming, I wonder, what will we do? The thing that’s so disturbing is the way we’ve been led on for months and months to believe we’ll be getting gas soon.” Stephen Cole, a writer who lives in the same build-

ing, explained that they have seen “a teeny bit of progress over the years, but last year we started calling 311 and things really started happening.” “First, new gas pipes and lines were put in. Then GAS OUTAGES continued on p. 21

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November 30, 2017

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‘Beanstalk’ Meets Burlesque Beloved English holiday show comes to America BY TRAV S.D. In a time when the US and the UK seem to share all manner of pop stars, hit musicals, movies, TV shows, comedians and best-selling authors, it may be a surprise to learn that there has been at least one uncrackable nut when it comes to the transatlantic cross-fertilization of cultural product — the Christmas Pantomime, or Panto. This centuriesold English theatrical form is a much-beloved annual holiday tradition in the Mother Country and many of her former colonies (and quite different, it must quickly be pointed out, from the muchreviled silent clowning we know in the States as “mime”). For a brief time in the mid-19th century, Panto was popular in New York City, thanks to a beloved comedian named George L. Fox. After Fox passed from the scene, though, so did the Panto as a popular pastime in America. Until 2017. Starting December 6, audiences will have a rare chance to be entertained by this enchanting import when “Jack and the Beanstalk” opens at Abrons Arts Center. And if the rarity of the occasion weren’t enough of an attraction, the show is adapted, produced, and directed by local showbiz royalty, the Beauty and the Beast themselves, husband and wife team Mat Fraser (“American Horror Story: Freak Show”) and international burlesque star and choreographer Julie Atlas Muz, with a cast that includes Downtown performance legends Dirty Martini, drag star Michael Lynch (here billed as Michael Johnnie Lynch), and comedian Matt Roper (best-known for his character Wilfredo). A major key to the appeal of Panto is that it speaks to both old and young. The shows are ostensibly for children (even very young ones), but with an added, coded layer only adults will appreciate. The stories are normally well-known fairy tales, with villains the audience is encouraged to boo and hiss at, heroes to cheer for, and lots of musical numbers, puppets, and animal costumes. At the same time, there are subtly transgressive elements, such as double entendres for the grown-ups to laugh at (but delivered so as to go over the children’s heads), and the gender-bending characters of the Pantomime Dame (a male in female drag, usually a well-known celebrity) and the Principal Boy (a female playing a young male). Some manifestations of these characters have made it to American shores. Australian drag comedian Dame Edna (Barry Humphries) is an outgrowth of the tradition and often stars in Pantos; and the stage and screen character Peter Pan is normally cast Photo by Don Spiro

BEANSTALK continued on p. 18

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November 30, 2017

L to R: Jenni Gil as Jack, Michael Johnnie Lynch as Dame Delancey, and Matt Roper as Silly Simon.

NYC Community Media


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November 30, 2017

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BEANSTALK continued from p. 16

in the Principal Boy tradition (almost always played by a woman). “I grew up watching Panto,” said the English-born Fraser, who adapted the script from traditional sources. “Both of my parents are actors. I grew up seeing them perform in Pantos, and my stepmother is an expert on it. She’s quoted in several books. Doing a Panto has always been on my bucket list.” While Panto is thought of as a quintessentially British form of entertainment, Fraser and Muz quickly realized that a workable transplantation would require some adjustments. “Panto is primarily a celebration of your community,” explained Fraser. “In this production, our job has been to Americanize it.” “And to New Yorkify it,” added director Muz. “For the form to be as successful as it is in the UK you have to create the romantic feeling in the audience that this is their home.” Onstage jump ropes, basketballs, and fire hydrants help generate a native Lower East Side atmosphere. Many in the cast, including the producers and Jenni Gil (who plays the lead character Jack), live near Abrons Arts Center, or are the product of its arts programs, or both. “Jenni is the voice of the neighborhood,” said Muz. “The journey belongs to Jack.” In addition, an outsider perspective definitely forms a key element in how the show was conceived and cast. The name of the Fraser/Muz production company “ONEOFUS” references the 1932 horror movie “Freaks” (“We accept her! One of us! Gooble gobble, gooble gobble!”). Fraser may be the best-known disabled (his preferred term) performer in the world. Born with Thalidomide-induced phocomelia (manifested in his case in underdeveloped arms), he first made his name as a drummer in a number of rock bands, which naturally migrated into acting and variety entertainment. Fraser plays drums in the show (what would music hall gags be without rim shots?), and the cast also features short-statured actress Sarah Folkins. Dirty Martini, who plays the Good Fairy, is widely revered for being a pioneer in redefining popular conceptions of female beauty. People of color and LGBTQ performers are well-represented. And in Panto, there is the traditional element of cross-dressing, with Gill as Principal Boy in the role of Jack, and Michael Lynch as a hilarious Dame Delancey. “While we honor tradition, the form itself is kind of in the Dark Ages about

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November 30, 2017

Photo by Laura Vogel

Julie Atlas Muz directs “Jack and the Beanstalk” and writer Mat Fraser’s adaptation shows much affection for its Lower East Side setting.

Photo by Don Spiro

Dirty Martini as the Good Fairy and Hawthorn Albatross III as Dastardly Dick.

what men and women do in the story,” Fraser elaborated. “But we didn’t want a world where a woman just gets rescued. This is the post-“Frozen” era. So Jack and his love interest Rosie (Christina Duryea) are equal warriors in our version. And it’s all about collective action. The whole community chops down the beanstalk.” If the words burlesque, drag, and sideshow give you pause in this context, the producers are quick to point out that they’re all branches of the same theatrical family — ones with more similarities than differences. Matt Roper, who plays Silly Simon, is like Fraser, now a second-generation Panto performer (his father was British comedian George Roper). He brings a tone of sweetness and innocence to his performance, which is, as Fraser points out, the key to successful Panto. And a chorus of talented local kids are part of the 22-person cast. “What shines most brightly is the joy of childhood,” said Muz. “That’s the most important element in this.” Previews: Wed.–Fri., Dec. 6–8 at 7:30pm and Sat., Dec. 9 at 2pm & 7:30pm. Opening Sun. Dec. 10 at 2pm. Regular performances Dec. 14–16 & 20–23 at 7:30pm; Dec. 16, 17, 23 at 2pm. At Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St., btw. Pitt & Willett Sts.). For tickets ($25–$45), call 212-352-3101 or visit abronsartscenter.org. NYC Community Media


Angry Smokin’ Christmas Icons A one-act drama for this festive time of year BY MAX BURBANK (Lights up on SANTA and JESUS seated at dilapidated bar that last saw renovations in 1978. They are both smoking like chimneys. Several empty glasses and bottles indicate they have been there awhile. An elderly bartender gives them the fish-eye while towel-drying a single tumbler far longer than any tumbler needs to be dried.) SANTA: It’s just… I don’t know, Jesus. Every year. Every damn year it gets a little more… what? Pointless? Futile? Like… some kind of weird-ass, repetitive muscular tic I can’t stop doing because I’ve done it for so long? I think I’m gonna cancel. JESUS: You say that every— SANTA: No, no, no, no, it’s canceled. What’s the point? The elves aren’t into it anymore, there’s no damn joy in handcrafting a frikkin’ Amazon gift card. The reindeer, Jesus, ever since Rudy died, they’re all, like, “You exploited his nose, you knew he was depressed, you worked him to death,” and I’m, like, “Who was it wouldn’t let him play in any reindeer games? ME? Take a long look. I’m a fat, old, HUMAN on his fifth triple bypass. I don’t play REINDEER GAMES!” Judgmental bastards. I tried to INCLUDE RUDY! Buncha flying middle school mean girls in bad fur coats and jingle bells, that’s what they are. JESUS: Santa— SANTA: Mrs. Claus HATES me, she can’t stand the SIGHT of me, she’s all like, “Go, just GO, it’s the one night of the year I get some damn peace, you’ll DIE in that sleigh— JESUS: Come on, Santa— SANTA: “IN-THAT-SLEIGH, because you’ll never retire, you’re too CODEPENDENT!” That’s just ignorant. People can’t be codependent by themselves. She’s all in on this. That woman enables the crap out of me. Screw it. I’m canceling Christmas. (Long pause. They drink.) JESUS: Okay, newsflash, St. Nick. You can’t cancel Christmas. SANTA: Hell I can’t. JESUS: “Oh, I got a cold! Oh, I’m depressed! I’m canceling Christmas!” Well, you CAN’T. As in, you do not have that ability, it’s not your call, it’s not UP to YOU! You wanna scrap your little breaking-and-entering, cookiebingeing, stocking fetish part of it, you go right ahead, but THAT, my morbidly NYC Community Media

obese friend, is not Christmas. You never seen the damn Grinch? Grinch comes down from Grinch Mountain, right? Takes EVERYTHING. Sure. The toys, the trees, the FOOD! The Whos got nothing to frikkin’ EAT! And what do they do? They come out, and they stand in a DAMN CIRCLE and they sing. “Baboo Bores”… “Fahoo fores?” Whatever, they sing Who nonsense words that are Who for, “You can’t CANCEL CHRISTMAS, SANTA!”… I don’t know who told you it’s about you… but it’s not. (Long pause. Santa lights another cigarette, takes a deep drag.) SANTA: I call bullshit. JESUS: What? SANTA: If all the Whos down in Whoville woke up Christmas morning to find the town ransacked, they wouldn’t sing. They’d scream. They’d call the Who cops and then they’d spend the whole damn day bitching on the Who Internet. Probably organize a Who witch-hunt. Round up all the Jew Whos. (Long, dispirited pause. Jesus finishes his drink.) JESUS: I hate you. SANTA: No you don’t. You don’t hate anybody. You’re not human enough. JESUS: I hate you. Damn… fat bastard. I mean, whose birthday is it, right?

What do I get under the tree? I get to listen to every damn prayer, get to hear people thank me for a Golden Globe, survivors of horrendous tragedies saying I must have a purpose for them, like I didn’t have any use for all the other people who DIED, like everyone else in a car crash or a house fire or a WAR, I just let them die? SANTA: Okay, hey, Jesus— JESUS: I blame you. You! Your red suit, all that phony “HO-HO-HO” crap— SANTA: Jesus— JESUS: Because morons focusing what little faith they have on some damn fat-ass, magic elf in a flying sleigh is NICE, right? It SELLS stuff better than a baby being born Prince of Peace all so he can grow up and… and get… SANTA: Okay, now, Jesus, let it… just— JESUS: Think this is what I had in mind? Think I like this? Take a man’s birthday away, turn it into all this… lights… and, and Rudolph and shit? SANTA: Come on, man. Settle down. Turn the other cheek, right? JESUS: Yeah… I know… SANTA: Sure you do. Who better, right? Holidays are tough sometimes, is all. Let me getcha another boilermaker. (They sit together, just drinking. After a long time, Jesus laughs.)

Illustration by Max Burbank

SANTA: What? JESUS: It’s nothing… I was just thinking about… this one word. People say it a lot this time of year… It’s stupid. It just makes me laugh. SANTA: What word? (Jesus looks at Santa. Looks down at his drink. Smiles a little.) JESUS: “Nutcracker.” (Long pause. Jesus starts to giggle. Then Santa giggles.) SANTA: “Nutcracker.” (Santa starts to laugh. Now both men are laughing loudly.) SANTA: NUTCRACKER! JESUS! JESUS: NUT… CRACKER!! (They laugh and laugh. Santa pounds his huge fists on the bar. The bartender starts laughing. Jesus isn’t even making sounds anymore. His mouth is just wide open. It’s a silent laugh and tears are streaming down his face. Jesus, Santa, and the bartender laugh and laugh and every time it starts to die down, someone starts to say “Nutcracker” again and they can’t even get the word out before they’re all howling again. Let’s back away and leave them like that. Back away slowly as the lights start to fade, letting their laughter get quieter and more distant until it’s just a whisper and we can turn and walk away into the dark with the sunrise coming soon, but not quite yet.) November 30, 2017

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POLICE BLOTTER PETIT LARCENY: Give my regrets to Rebar

floor without permission or authority. During a search of the suspect, police found a crack pipe with residue recovered from his right hand.

Never leave your phone unattended. A man was having fun at Rebar (225 W. 19th St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.), when he put his phone down on the coat check counter. On Sat., Nov. 25 just after 2:00 p.m., an unknown person took the 50-year-old’s iPhone 8 without permission. It is unknown whether there is video footage available. The crucial communication device is valued at $800 and the victim’s black OtterBox phone case is valued at $80.

PETIT LARCENY: Sweater swiper A woman went to the Gap (277 W. 23rd St. at Eighth Ave.) and stole nine black gap sweaters. The incident happened on Wed., Nov. 22 just after 3:00 p.m. After she grabbed the sweaters, she walked out of the store without permission or payment. Video surveillance is available. The sweaters are valued at $349.50.

CRIMINAL TRESPASSING: Case ‘cracked’ Don’t stand around in buildings you don’t belong in. On Sun., Nov. 26 at 11:18 a.m. a 47-year-old man was seen in a building on the 200 block of W. 26th St. on the 11th

FELONY ROBBERY: Hit halal guy A vendor working in his halal-food truck at the southwest corner of University Place and E. 14th St. was robbed and slugged on Tues., Nov. 14, around 4 p.m., police said. A man approached the cart and swiped two Gatorades and two Pepsis. When the 31-year-old vendor requested payment, the suspect punched him in the face five times, causing swelling and bleeding to his eye. A search of the suspect by police turned up a small, clear bag of alleged cocaine. The 35-year-old man was charged with felony robbery.

FELONY ROBBERY: Mugged senior According to police, a Chelsea senior was robbed on Mon., Nov. 13, at 10:30 p.m. The man, 76, was entering his residence on the 100 block of W. 21st St. when he was followed by two males. They stopped him in the vestibule area, pushed him against a wall, and covered his mouth. The suspects rifled through his pockets and attempted to remove property. The two males, a 43-year old and a 46-year-old, were arrested Sun., Nov. 19, for attempted felony robbery. —Tabia C. Robinson

Extra! Extra! Local News Read all about it!

PUBLISHER Jennifer Goodstein

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THE 10th PRECINCT Located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Commander: Capt. Paul Lanot. Main number: 212741-8211. Community Affairs: 212-7418226. Crime Prevention: 212-741-8226. Domestic Violence: 212-741-8216. Youth Officer: 212-741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-924-3377. Detective Squad: 212-741-8245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7 p.m., at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced. MIDTOWN SOUTH PRECINCT Located at 357 W. 35th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Inspector Russel J. Green, Commanding Officer. Call 212-239-9811. Community Affairs: 212239-9846. Crime Prevention: 212-2399846. Domestic Violence: 212-2399863. Youth Officer: 212-239-9817. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-239-9836. Detective Squad: 212-239-9856. The Community Council meets on the third Thurs. of the month, 7 p.m., at the New Yorker Hotel (481 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 34th & 35th Sts.). Visit midtownsouthcc.org. THE 13th PRECINCT Located at 230 E. 21st St. (btw. Second & Third Aves.). Deputy Inspector: Brendan Timoney. Call 212477-7411. Community Affairs: 212-4777427. Crime Prevention: 212-477-7427. Domestic Violence: 212-477-3863. Youth Officer: 212-477-7411. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-477-4380. Detective Squad: 212-477-7444. The Community Council meets on the third Tues. of the month, 6:30 p.m., at the 13th Precinct. CASH FOR GUNS $100 cash will be given (no questions asked) for each handgun, assault weapon or sawed-off shotgun, up to a maximum payment of $300. Guns are accepted at any Police Precinct, PSA or Transit District.

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GAS OUTAGES continued from p. 15

there was a big rush about getting stoves. But four months later, those stoves are still just sitting around gathering dust,â€? said Cole. “When the gas plumber shows up, we keep getting told it’s the city’s fault for not inspecting us. We were even told at one point that there was no room in the basement for the meters. But I’ve been living here for 39 years, and of course there were meters in the basement before. It’s very fishy. Why has it been taking so long?â€? The coup de grâce was realizing that the new street-level restaurant had gas. “There were no stopgaps for us,â€? said Cole. “We just bought hot plates and everything ourselves. It was always going to be just for a short while, and then it kept going and going.â€? Amrani explained the holding pattern they’ve been in: “We call 311, Housing Preservation and Development comes out, expresses shock that the DOB hasn’t inspected it yet, says they’ll call them, then we never hear from them about what happened. No one can figure out why we can’t get an inspection.â€?

CUTTING THROUGH THE RED TAPE This publication reached out to DOB to get to the bottom of things, and Senior Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Rudansky outlined the particulars of this situation — as well as how things are supposed to work in these circumstances. Rudansky said that back in June, licensed master plumber Harris Scott Rosen of Triple Crown Plumbing filled out permits to restore the gas. DOB showed up right away to do the inspection. “But the plumber said, ‘Never mind, I’m not ready, I don’t want you to inspect it.’ So that’s an automatic fail for not inspecting it. And that’s the last time we had heard from the plumber,� recalled Rudanksy. “Basically as of right now, our entire team is aware of this problem, and as soon as we get the request to inspect the finished work, we can be there in an hour.� The DOB said that any time a plumber requests an inspection, they will be there within 24 hours, for properties across all boroughs. Assuming the work is done correctly and the system is safe, they will grant the gas authorization, which the plumber then takes to the local utility — in this case, Con Edison — who can restore the gas. Amrani’s husband, Saul Weitz, said he spoke to Rosen and pressed him for NYC Community Media

a case number to follow up with the DOB. “He said he was out working and didn’t have it on him, but then the next day he wouldn’t answer my calls,� noted Weitz. “He has been saying that he had to do a gas integrity test, then let the DOB in to inspect it, and then if it’s okay they’ll give authorization. He claims it will take two weeks because of Thanksgiving.� Over at Councilmember Johnson’s office, Green reached out to Sidney Rubell’s daughter, Elaine Gorlechen, who now owns many of his properties, as well as the plumber, to get the DOB case number. “They said that new meter bars had recently been installed and the plumber was testing them, and would then schedule an inspection to turn it on,� said Green. “We are working with DOB and Con Ed to expedite this.� Shortly after, Rudansky called this publication to say the plumber had contacted DOB to “let us know he intends to request an inspection, although he hasn’t yet. He said it should happen shortly.� When Rosen was contacted last week, he said, “I am setting up for the gas test and then I’ll put in to get it tested. This week, I don’t know — I’ll try to do some of the work tomorrow and Wednesday, but we should have it all done by the end of next week. Then I’ll set it up. We’re down to the final stretch now; it sure took long enough.�

LACK OF UTILITES PART OF ‘HARASSMENT BY NEGLECT’ Seeing these cooking gas problems get resolved has given some hope to Calder Kusmierski Singer, a tenant at 336 W. 17th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves). Like 311 W. 21st St., this 15-unit apartment building was formerly owned by Sidney Rubell Company. Although Singer has only resided in the building since March 2016, he said the building has also been without gas for nearly 30 months. “It was more of the same with no cooking gas, but now it has gotten much worse,� said Singer. “The heat and hot water drop out at least twice a week. Every single non-stabilized tenant lease is not renewed, so the building is half-empty.� Singer said that the intercom and buzzer don’t work correctly, and the hallway lights are often burnt out. He has seen break-ins and mail theft, and is concerned that the basement door is always open, with strangers wander-

Photo by Jordan Lage

At 311 W. 21st St., the recent installation of pipe was a sign of progress. The building has been without cooking gas since Feb. 2016.

ing in and out. He called the pattern “harassment by neglect.� But the last straw came on Sept. 23, when Singer said the super flung open the front door so hard he hit a 90-yearold neighbor in the head, then left the scene without calling anyone to help. “We called management and they never got back to us. That was the tipping point,� said Singer. “Despite having the hot water and heat go off, it took us opening a harassment case against the landlord to get the ball rolling.� Singer said they’ve filed a case with the Division of Housing & Community Renewal (DHCR), which handles situations with rent-regulated apartments. He also said HPD has filed their own case against the landlord, which went to court right before Thanksgiving. “Two days before our court case, the landlord offered us a rent abatement until the services are restored, with the rent credits backdated,� said Singer. “We are asking for more, because this doesn’t make up for the money we have spent on eating out, and the inconve-

nience of not having a proper kitchen.� Ironically, when he signed his lease, Singer said the landlord charged a $50 increase for the installation of a new stove, which “I’ve been paying for ever since, even though it’s basically just an expensive countertop.� He said tenants have asked for a higher abatement through their lawyer, Brenden Ross (a staff attorney at Mobilization for Justice), as well as an agreement that they will no longer have to deal with harassment, and will be given a deadline for essential services being restored. Singer, who grew up in the city, remembers his family fighting similar battles in the ’80s, and winning protections under the Loft Law. “My parents had to fight for their place before I was even born. I’m a second-generation housing activist,� said Singer. “But for me, I’m just lucky my family is in the city, so I can go there for Thanksgiving. Here, I can’t host dinner. I can’t cook it on an induction plate.� According to Green, the legal cases may have hastened gas restoration in this building. He said the owner’s lawyer said the repairs would be finished by the end of November. The plumber will then submit an inspection request for DOB, so Con Edison can restore the gas. “This group of tenants have organized, have filed a group rent reduction request with DHCR, and have had a harassment hearing held,� said Green. “The next steps are calling for a meeting with Con Ed and the DOB to discuss long-term gas outages. Our priority here is to get gas restored safely and quickly. Why does it take a year and a half or two years to get to where we are? We want to make sure the city is doing everything possible to get this done in cases where people are without cooking gas for a long time. Especially around the holiday season, when people are cooking big meals, having gas out for this long is completely unacceptable.�

MANTA SPA FOCUSING ON MAN TO MAN MASSAGE                                                        

             

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SPICE continued from p. 4

his largest supplier, provides the store’s cumin, coriander, fennel and caraway. With the exception of some onions and garlic, none of his ingredients are produced in the US. “It is labor-intensive and not profitable here. It’s not part of our culture,” Sercarz said. Almost everything comes in whole except ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, which are delivered preground due to the unwieldy hammer mills and other equipment needed for pulverization. On occasion, Sercarz travels to meet his suppliers. He recently visited Basque country to witness the harvest of Espelette peppers, the primary element in Le Poivre, a blend from the unique Voyager line for Ripert. In his travels, he keeps his eyes out for anything new, such as cinnamon buds, which he describes as “super-tasty.” Next up, he wants to expand production, as the number of products is plentiful. The large array of spices are contained in pretty jars, and the prices are on the high side. Blends start at $15 for about 2 oz. Single spices such as paprika, cumin, and ginger start at $9 (returned jars earn a discount for future sales). Other products include sweet and savory biscuits that showcase the custom mixtures, and a number of books by Sercarz, including 2016’s encyclopedic “The Spice Companion: A Guide to the World of Spices.” La Boîte itself is a reference for spices, as framed photos with vials that contain the seeds, roots, bark, berries, or leaves for each one line the walls of the space, creating a visual learning adventure to match the olfactory one in the shop. La Boîte is located at 724 11th Ave. (btw. W. 51st & 52nd Sts.). Hours: Mon., 10 a.m. –6 p.m. and Tues.–Fri., 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Call 212-247-4407 or visit laboiteny.com.

Photo by Rania Richardson

Geraldine Taylor, one of the 10 La Boîte employees, packs a shipment.

Photo by Rania Richardson

La Boîte’s Neury Hernandez, right, consults with a customer.

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November 30, 2017

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