The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
December 21, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 51
Could gay seniors tip garden vs. housing battle in Little Italy? BY SAR AH FERGUSON
he de Blasio administration just brought a new constituency into the battle over the Elizabeth Street Garden: gay seniors. Ever since the city targeted the garden for affordable housing five years ago, the fight over this quirky Little Italy statuary
has pitted the needs of low-income seniors against the need for green space in this dense pocket of Lower Manhattan. But in the new plans for the site unveiled two weeks ago, the city went out of its way to cast the proposed 121-unit residence as affordable, “L.G.B.T.Q.GARDEN continued on p. 10
‘I feel free!’ Immigrant unshackled at Judson Church Sunday service BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y
n Dec. 10, Judson Memorial Church’s Sunday service was more packed than usual. This inclusive congregation extends beyond its Washington Square South location. The building is also is designated New York City landmark, and was also
added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Judson has long been known for social outreach and support and work with social justice programs. On this particular morning, dozens of family members of APOFAM (Popular Assembly MONITOR continued on p. 4
PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
About 400 people toting boom boxes blaring ambient music par ticipated in the annual “Unsilent Night” per formance-ar t walk through the Village Sunday night.
L shutdown plan a real train wreck: Neighbors BY REBECCA FIORE
esidents along 13th St. are concerned and skeptical of the city Department of Transportation’s newly released proposal for the reconstruction of 13th and 14th Sts., just one part of the plan to accommodate the L train 15-month long maintenance project slated to begin April 2019. Polly Trottenberg, the D.O.T. commissioner, spoke before
Safe City, Safe Streets........... p. 12
the City Council Committee on Transportation on Thurs, Dec. 14, revealing a 14th St. busway, where two-way M14 Select Bus Service will travel, blocking off all other vehicles during rush hour, with the exception of Access-A-Ride. Deliveries would be allowed during off-hours. In her testimony, Trottenberg called the S.B.S. an “upgrade-plus” that would include temporary bus bulbs, a sidewalk expansion and improved
station elements at stops. Bus stops would be offset — out of the travel lane — with commercial loading zones in between. This busway street treatment would run between Third and Eighth Aves. traveling westbound and between Ninth and Third Aves. traveling eastbound. It is not clear whether or not these measures would be temporary fixtures as a result of the L train cloLTRAIN continued on p. 6
Johnson sealing deal to be next speaker?........p. 2 E.V. tech honcho hardly neutral on ’Net ........... p. 15 www.TheVillager.com
SPEAKER SQUEAKER: Corey Johnson apparently may be the next speaker of the City Council. According to the Daily News, sources say Johnson and Democratic county leaders are telling people that he has secured the support of the latter, enough so that he will win the closely contested race between the eight candidates currently running to lead the city’s legislative body. The county leaders were reportedly either final-
izing the deal or it was already in place as of Wednesday. The rest of the councilmembers were expected to comply with the party bosses’ wishes. Johnson, 35, has represented the West Side’s Council District 3, which includes the Village and Chelsea, for the past four years, and was recently overwhelmingly re-elected. He faced no opposition in the Democratic primary. Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been speaker since Mayor Bill de Blasio’s election four years ago, will be term-limited out of office at the end of this year. The Council’s 51 members will elect the new speaker in the first week of January. Requests for comment from Johnson, as well as his chief of staff, Erik Bottcher, were not immediately returned. Advocates for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act were elated since Johnson has promised, if he becomes speaker to hold a hearing and vote on the long-stymied bill. By the same token, S.B.J.S.A.’ers were heartened that Robert Cornegy, who has never let the bill have a hearing before his Small Business Committee in the City Council, may not, in fact, be a shoo-in to win, as the scuttlebutt was saying this week.
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Corey Johnson has repor tedly secured enough suppor t from Democratic Par t y count y leaders to win the Cit y Council speakership.
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December 21, 2017
Tax-breaks pitch for renewing small-biz leases BY REBECCA FIORE
n yet another effort to save New York City’s threatened mom-andpop shops, local legislators announced the latest plan to save small businesses. Called the “Mom & Pop Increase Exemption,” the proposal would encourage landlords to enter into long-term affordable leases, with fair renewal clauses, with independently owned businesses, in exchange for property tax abatement, according to a press release from Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander. The idea came from a recently released City Council report, “Planning for Retail Diversity: Supporting NYC’s Neighborhood Businesses.” One of the report’s recommendations — specifically, No. 19 — said that while the city and state have tools to support the development of new commercial space, help individual businesses, support growth in certain areas, and facilitate access to credit, New York lacks the tools to support retail diversity and save small businesses owners from increasing rent demands. “Every week, we lose another muchloved small business in our neighborhoods,” Lander said. “Rising commercial rents are pushing out the ‘Mom-and-pops’ who are the heart of our communities. We need a new tool to help save them.” The bill, Lander said, “is a common-
sense step we can take to save small businesses — and what’s special about our communities.” According to the City Council report, businesses in some neighborhoods are facing rent increases of more than 50 percent, on average, and the rapid rise in Manhattan rents has a direct relationship with the loss of small business and retail diversity. Supporting the legislation at the state level are state Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. Lander’s press release included statements from both of them. “Our city’s diversity should be reflected in the storefronts we see walking down the street,” Kavanagh said, “and I’m proud to introduce legislation that will empower New York City to support neighborhood shops. These small businesses give our neighborhoods the rich character we treasure, employ New Yorkers in their communities, and drive our local economy.” Added Niou, “Small businesses across my district in Lower Manhattan are fighting to stay open, but with rising rents, they often struggle to make ends meet and remain viable.” The Albany bill would authorize New York City to create this new tax program. The bill would not only keep local businesses’ rents low, but also discourage landlords from keeping their storefronts vacant in hopes for higher tenants, according to the bill’s sponsors.
Additionally, the tax-abatement program would be limited to landlords who rent to local, independently owned businesses, in order to discourage the proliferation of chains in the city, which tend to drive up commercial rents drastically, the press release said. Two local business improvement districts support the initiative. “The Chinatown BID / Partnership are delighted to learn of this new effort to help the small businesses and our community,” said Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership. “Any relief to take the pressure off the merchants will, in the long run, be beneficial to all and bring stability to the wasteful cycle of vacating, removal and the long wait for the next tenants.” Added Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, “In this increasingly challenging retail climate, it would be great for the city to provide tax relief for both businesses and property owners that would help create jobs and maintain the character of our local communities.” However, not everyone is pleased with a proposal that would keep commercial rent under landlords’ control. Steven Barrison, the spokesperson for the city’s Small Business Congress, said giving tax exemptions to landlords only further suppresses the voices of small business owners. Barrison said that since this program would be on a voluntary basis, landlords
would not have to comply. “Like every other Council proposal thus far, It doesn’t give any rights to small business owners,” Barrison said. “It doesn’t change anything. Small businesses still have no voice and zero fairness; if they had a voice they would say that this is ridiculous. This is an insult to democracy. “If the councilmembers were truly interested in fairness and helping the small businesses to survive, they would solve the unfair lease-renewal process and ensure that good-standing tenants could get a ‘right to renewal’ with a minimum 10-year lease renewal at a fair rent, so that both the landlord and business get a reasonable return on their investment. The new Council proposal accomplishes neither and will not save one business.” Since commercial rents currently are not regulated, landlords can charge whatever they want. Plus, as the S.B.C. Web site notes, commercial tenants are required to pay their landlord’s property taxes in a “pass-along” tax. “Once a landlord gets a tax break by claiming he would have doubled the rents, that higher increase now becomes the standard for all his other businesses and in the neighborhood area,” the S.B.C. Web site states. “Unscrupulous and greedy landlords will jump upon the higher rents as the new ‘fair market-rate rents,’ thus forcing more businesses to close and workers losing their jobs. Then the rents go even higher.”
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
A repor t of a fire in a four-stor y rear carriage house at 93 Perr y St., bet ween Hudson and Bleecker Sts., last Saturday just before 1 p.m. brought 60 firefighters speeding to the scene in 12 fire trucks and other emergenc y vehicles. The blaze was quickly brought under control. Mitchell Reichler, 56, holding the black dog, Orson, getting a pat from one of New York’s Bravest, above, said he had returned to his groundfloor apar tment and made himself a sandwich about 20 minutes before the firefighters arrived, and only smelled smoke as he rushed back out of his apar tment. A heater in the top apar tment repor tedly sparked the blaze, according to Reichler. He said Orson lives in that unit, but that the owner, who is “a private person,” was not home at the time. Reichler, who works in video production, was holding Orson with a leash made of clear IV tubes that E.M.S. workers gave him. “ We’ve got the greatest Fire Depar tment in the world,” Reichler said. One firefighter was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. TheVillager.com
December 21, 2017
Immigrant is unshackled at Judson Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association News Story, First Place, 2015 Editorial Page, First Place, 2015 Editorials, First Place, 2014 News Story, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009
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December 21, 2017
MONITOR continued from p. 1
of Migrant Families), as well sanctuary families and members of other immigrant groups, crowded into the back of Judson’s sanctuary, to support and bear witness. Gerzon C., 20, came across the MexicoTexas border two years ago, escaping violence and extortion from criminal groups in his Central American country. He was traveling with his brother and sister to get away from aggressive gangs. Upon crossing the border, he was immediately put into U.S. detention. Currently, he is in the process of getting a Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa, or S.I.J. — a protective status for youth fleeing violence in their home countries. In the meantime, however, for much of the past two years, he has worn an anklebracelet monitor, owned and administered by Libre by Nexus, at a cost of $420 a month, which he must pay. The payments have totaled more than $6,000 so far, and none of this money even goes to a bondsman, who would post bail — just as in a criminal court case — to ensure that Gerzon would show up for any immigrationcourt proceedings. As part of the Dec. 10 Sunday service, Gerzon, with the help of Reverend Juan Carlos Ruiz — the organizer and co-founder of the New Sanctuary Movement, based at Judson — removed the ankle bracelet. In front of the packed Judson Hall, Ruiz cut off the ankle bracelet and Judson’s senior minister Reverend Donna Schaper then held it up for all to see. “I feel free!” was Gerzon’s first remark. Through the translation by Ruiz, Gerzon explained why he took this step. “I was being extorted in my country,” the young immigrant said. “I’m being extorted here,” he said, referring to the ankle monitor. Ruiz was asked later if this act doesn’t now put Gerzon at risk. “Gerzon believes there has to be a denunciation of this practice,” he responded. “If this is the land of the free, he wasn’t free and we have to do something. “This is not civil disobedience, this is civil obedience!” Ruiz declared. “This is further violence, sanctioned and sealed by the federal government,” he said of the use of monitoring devices. Ruiz noted that formerly slavery was legal, but that did not make that right. “We have to make civil society aware to defy this shit!” he pronounced. Gerzon wanted to cut off his monitor in a prayerful context. As Schaper explained, this act of defiance took place as a “powerful part of the prayer service in the ‘Joys and Concerns’ part of the Sunday service.” In addition, also at the service were mothers from Latin America who have not seen their children for more than 20 years and were granted a limited-time “humanitarian visa” to enter the U.S. Judson Church helped start and was the lead congregation of the New Sanctuary Coalition — a New York City-area-based
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Reverend Donna Schaper, Judson’s senior minister, held aloft the anklebracelet monitor after it was cut off of Gerzon C., right.
Reverend Donna Schaper cutting off the man’s GPS monitor.
interfaith network of more than 100 congregations, organizations and individuals, standing in solidarity with families and communities resisting detention and deportation in order to stay together. The Libre by Nexus Web site for the monitoring device reads: “We get your loved one out of jail. No collateral.” Its marketing is meant to entice undocumented immigrants, visa violators or criminals who are being held in detention and don’t have the full bond money. The Libre by Nexus program includes the use of GPS technology to secure bonds without cash by clamping an electronic monitor on the released detainee. The
catch: The rental service fee is $420 a month, for as long as the person wears it. According to a March 2017 article in the Washington Post, Libre requires the immigrant to pay 20 percent of his or her bond upfront. Libre then pays the bond agency 15 percent of the required bail to spring the immigrant from detention, while Libre keeps the remaining 5 percent. Meanwhile, the immigrant’s monthly charge is simply for the ankle monitor and does not pay down the amount of the bond. Libre — which means “free” in Spanish but is a for-profit company — lists 22 offices in the U.S. on its Web site. According to the Washington Post article earlier this year, Libre had more than 6,500 clients at that time — though that number no doubt is growing under Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. Libre by Nexus boasts yearly revenue of more than $30 million. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also uses tracking bracelets to monitor documented immigrants, though those individuals do not have to pay. That program monitors about 30,000 persons. Among the congregants at the Judson service was Keen Berger, the West Village female Democratic district leader, who has been a member of the Judson Immigration Task Force for 10 years. “This is a holy act to set the captives free,” she said, quoting from Luke 4-18. “And,” she added, “I agree with Juan Carlos, who before the unshackling, said about the 100 Mexicans plus 200 members of Judson, who bore witness together, ‘We need you and you need us.’” TheVillager.com
POLICE BLOTTER Senior slugger bust An arrest has been made in the case of a senior actress who was robbed while trying to enter her building at 162 W. 13th St., on Fri., Oct. 20, at 6:42 p.m., police said. In the incident, the thug hit the 81-year-old victim from behind on the right side of her face, forcibly removed her pocketbook and fled on foot. The victim complained of facial pain and had bruises. Police tracked her iPhone SE to Hoyt and Livingston Sts. in Brooklyn. Leroy Wright, 59, was arrested Wed., Dec. 13, for felony robbery.
TD Bank robbery Police said that on Thurs., Dec. 14, around 12:45 p.m., an unidentified man entered the TD Bank at 21 E. First St., at Second Ave., approached the employee
and passed a withdrawal slip demanding money. The employee complied and the robber fled with roughly $1,900. The suspect is described as 25 to 35 years old, around 5-feet-5-inches tall and weighing 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt under a blue jacket sporting white stripes and an Adidas logo, plus a red backpack and blue gloves. 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.
Burlington bag A woman was shopping at Burlington
Coat Factory at 40 E. 14th St. when her purse was stolen Fri., July 21, at 5:55 p.m. While the 29-year-old victim was shopping, an unknown woman reached into her cart while the victim was being distracted by the thief’s male accomplice. Both perpetrators then left the location. The total value of the items stolen was $350. George Baez, 29, was arrested Thurs., Dec. 14, and Gladys Arango, 52, was arrested Fri., Dec. 15, for felony grand larceny.
Unsweet swipe Police said a woman was sitting inside Sweets by Chloe, at 185 Bleecker St., when her jacket and purse were swiped on Thurs., Oct. 26, sometime before 7:10 p.m. The victim, 25, noticed before leaving the store that her belongings were missing. She canceled her Chase
credit card and was informed that it had been used to make a $60 purchase at the Walgreens at 145 Fourth Ave., at E. 14th St. The total value of the stolen items was $140. Robert McKay, 57, was charged Wed., Dec. 13, with felony grand larceny.
Attempted break-in Two people were seen inside 206 Thompson St. on Wed., Dec. 13, at 5 p.m., trying to open a locked door, according to police. The building’s superintendent said he did not know the pair and they did not live there. The suspects were spotted with stolen property. Fernando M. Reyes, 36, and Michael A. Buccino, 38, were busted for felony attempted burglary.
Tabia C. Robinson and Lincoln Anderson
PHOTO BY RYAN MUIR
Ho, yeah! Elves ease commute in Hudson Square
aution, Elves crossing! Santa’s helpers pitched in to help ease the rush-hour commute in Hudson Square this month as a group of elves spread holiday cheer with festive songs and dance moves while supporting the Hudson Square ConTheVillager.com
nection’s Pedestrian Traffic Managers program. The elves were spotted at the corner of Varick and Spring Sts., apparently unafraid of being deported back to the North Pole now that President Trump’s name is due to be stripped off the Trump Soho Hotel.
The Connection business improvement district, or BID, created the P.T.M. program five years ago to allow pedestrians to safely cross Varick St. between Spring and W. Houston Sts. during the evening rush hour when Jersey-bound drivers are hell-bent
on getting into the Hudson Tunnel and back to the suburbs. According to the BID, the P.T.M. program has decreased blocked crosswalks in the neighborhood by 43 percent, blocked intersections by 61 percent and honking by 53 percent. December 21, 2017
A cross-section diagram showing the proposed D.O.T. changes to 14th and 13th Sts. prompted by the looming L train shutdown on 14th St. Thirteenth St. would get a t wo-way bike lane, while 14th St. would get Select Bus Ser vice overlaid on the existing bus route.
L shutdown plan a real train wreck: Neighbors LTRAIN continued from p. 1
sure or they would become permanent. According to a D.O.T. spokesperson, “A version of Select Bus Service will remain on 14th St. However, when the L train returns, the ridership demands will lessen and the street design may change accordingly.” Residents are concerned that since car traffic would be restricted on 14th St., drivers would be forced to side streets, such as 13th St., which D.O.T. has additional proposed changes for. “We are carrying a lot of the burden,” Birgitte Philippides-Delaney, president of the W. 13th St. Alliance, said. “This was presented as a plan, a done deal, not a work in progress. It’s been very upsetting to the community. We live in one of the last remaining 19th-century neighborhoods. There’s got to be other solutions besides 13th St. bearing the brunt of this.” Along 13th St., Trottenberg said, would be the first two-way protected crosstown bike lane, stretching from Avenue C to Ninth Ave. To do this, D.O.T. would remove the parking lane on the south side of the street, install the bike lane, and reduce the street to a smaller travel lane with parking on the other side. The new 13th St. crosstown bike lane is “expected to be permanent,” the D.O.T. spokesperson said. “Robert Moses initiated projects without neighborhood input or commentary. A bike lane is not a highway, but it will have major and irreversible impacts on W. 13th St.,” PhilippidesDelaney said. Philippides-Delaney, who lived on W. 13th St. for more than 25 years, said that in the public meetings she attended, held by D.O.T. and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, she had never heard of a plan for bike lanes on
December 21, 2017
An over view of the proposed D.O.T. changes for 14th and 13th Sts.
her block. “The Alliance, we are not opposed to bike lanes in general,” she said. “The question is are the bike lanes appropriate for historical residential streets? Without knowing the details, or not having a chance to speak up during a public commentary period, we are skeptical.” Gary Tomei, president of the W. 13th St. 100 Block Association, echoed similar sentiments that at the previous meetings held on Feb. 23 and March 9 hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, along with D.O.T. and the M.T.A., there was never a discussion of bike lanes along 13th St. “No one is against bicycles and having the use of bicycles,” Tomei said, “but not at the expense of our community and not in this arbitrary way.” Some of the safety concerns for residents living on the block include that the one lane of traffic would be backed up by people getting into or out of cabs or unpacking groceries from cars, that crossing the two-way protected bike
lane could be dangerous, and that children who attend City and Country School, at 146 W. 13th St., would be endangered by cyclists. The school’s principal, Scott Moran, said that his biggest concern is for the safety of his students. “Losing an area for children to easily be dropped off is unnecessarily dangerous,” he said. “Our children range from age 2 to 14, and you can imagine the chaos of having those children crossing an active roadway to get to school.” Currently, the school’s drop-off zone is directly in front of the building, and according to the city’s proposal, the bike lane would run right through that spot. Moran said no officials notified the school of D.O.T.’s proposal and that they heard the news through being active members of the W. 13th St. 100 Block Association. At the Transportation Committee hearing last Thursday, local Councilmember Corey Johnson asked what data was used to show that restricting vehicular traffic on 14th St. wouldn’t
just flood neighboring side streets. While Trottenberg said she would make this data publicly available, that has not yet been done. “We can’t promise there won’t be impacts on neighborhoods,” Trottenberg said, adding that D.O.T. needs to discourage people from driving in Manhattan. “This is the enormity of the challenge we are facing, with 50,000 people on 14th St. that were formerly traveling underground coming up to the surface,” she explained. “We want to accommodate them with buses so they don’t all get into Ubers because that will only make traffic worse... . If we do nothing, unfortunately, the streets of Lower Manhattan will be filled with traffic during these 15 months.” In addition to the bus stops and lanes on 14th St., the plan calls for a 10-footwide pedestrian sidewalk extension, intended to accommodate the droves of additional displaced L train riders. But Tomei doesn’t think that those 50,000 estimated riders would all be coming to Union Square since many commuters currently continue their route connecting to other trains and don’t just get off on 14th St. “Most people that take the L train don’t use it to come to 14th St.,” he stated. “They get to Union Square and change trains either going Downtown or Uptown.” Tomei said he believes the L train construction is just an excuse D.O.T. is using to radically reshape the streets how it sees fit. Similarly, Judy Pesin, a W. 13th St. resident and member of the W. 13th St. 100 Block Association, is not convinced that there will be an influx of people at Union Square. “They are not coming to 14th St.,” she scoffed. “They are coming to change LTRAIN continued on p. 16 TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
So a menorah, a Christmas tree and a â€˜fenceâ€™... ...walk into a park, and.... Thereâ€™s a little of ever y thing in Washington Square Park right now for the holiday season. The â€œGood Fences Make Good Neighborsâ€? public-ar t cage, by Ai Weiwei, under the Washington Square Arch is new this year, though, par t of a four-month-long cit y wide ar t installation on the theme of a new lack of American openness in the era of Trump.
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December 21, 2017
Tree-mendous lighting and singing in Tompkins
t was a holiday weekend in the East Village, starting with Santacon. O.K., enough about Santacon. The annual tree lighting ceremony took place on Sun., Dec. 10, in Tompkins Square Park, drawing about 200 neighborhood participants. The Mandel / Lydon Trio provided musical backup for the singers from the Theater for the New City
and the crowd, who happily sang along to Christmas carols and one Hanukkah tune. Veselka owner Tom Birchard was on hand to provide free hot chocolate and a birthday cake for Crystal Field, the executive artistic director for TNC, who has organized and sung at the holiday event since she started the whole shebang 26 years ago.
Cr ystal Field, Theater for the New Cit y’s executive and ar tistic director, belted out a holiday tune.
Advent & Christmastide at St. Luke’s
ALL ARE WELCOME!
OIN US IN WORSHIP
CHRISTMAS EVE | SUNDAY, DEC 24TH 5:00 pm — Christmas Pageant & Eucharist 9:30 pm — Prelude of Christmas Music 10:00 pm — Festive Choral Eucharist
CHRISTMAS DAY | MONDAY, DEC 25TH 10:30 am — Choral Eucharist
NEW YEARS DAY | MONDAY, JAN. 1ST 2018 FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME 12:00 pm — Choral Eucharist
The Church of Saint Luke in the Fields | 487 Hudson Street West Village (Hudson and Grove) New York, NY 10014 www.stlukeinthefields.org | 212.924.0562 8
December 21, 2017
PHOTOS BY BOB KRASNER
Gathered in front of the Tompkins tannenbaum at the lighting event were all the singers, plus the musicians — Michael Lydon, with guitar, Ellen Mandel nex t to him and Ar t Baron with the trombone — and local kids who attended. Period clothing was lent by the Public Theater. One costume was from the original production of “Hamilton.” TheVillager.com
It’s key to beat Cornegy: S.B.J.S.A. advocates BY SHARON WOOLUMS
press conference was held earlier this month on the City Hall steps by community and business groups opposing Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy being elected City Council speaker. The protesters were not endorsing any of the other seven candidates — simply opposing Cornegy’s candidacy. The first speaker, David Eisenbach, a history professor at Columbia University, stated, “Councilman Cornegy, chairman of the Small Business Committee, was responsible for the well-being of small businesses; to address the crisis of skyhigh rents forcing long-established businesses’ closings in every neighborhood; to hold honest public hearings, and to find real solutions to save our businesses. Failing appallingly under his watch, doing absolutely nothing about it, the crisis has gotten dramatically worse,” Eisenbach charged. “New York City courts evicted, on average, 500 commercial businesses each month — a record of failure that can no longer stand, disqualifying him as a potential City Council speaker.” Ray Rogers, director of the Campaign to Stop REBNY Bullies, said, “Cornegy, a staunch ally of the real estate lobby, has been rigging City Hall for the past eight years to stop a hearing and vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, a bill giving all commercial tenants the right to remain in the business they built and to equally negotiate new fair lease terms. “REBNY [Real Estate Board of New York] wants only their landlord members to have all rights to dictate all terms to continue making windfall profits from exorbitant rent increases,” Rogers said. “REBNY’s pawn, Councilmember Cornegy, adhered to landlords’ dictates, forcing small business owners out of business.” Louis Tejada, founder of the Miraba Sisters tenants group in Upper Manhattan, also spoke. “I oppose Councilmember Cornegy because he does not care about small businesses’ jobs,” he said. “In our immigrant neighborhood, the majority of people work and depend upon small businesses for jobs to survive. Yet, as greedy land-
Activist and recent City Council candidate Marni Halasa as “Miss REBNY 2017” at Cit y Hall handing out cash and axes for the Real Estate Board of New York, por trayed by Elliot Crown, to cut deals with the new Cit y Council speaker.
lords force businesses to close, their jobs are lost. Nobody’s talking about this tragedy. Also, under his chairmanship, unlike past generations, immigrant-owned businesses can no longer leave their businesses to their families. Landlords take over the businesses for themselves, and after years of hard work and sacrifices, the families end up with nothing and everything for the landlords.” Ann McDermott, a longtime activist and co-founder of TakeBackNYC, supports what she and allies say is the best way to save small businesses, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. She said she was angry at Cornegy because, “The only real solution to save our businesses, the S.B.J.S.A., sits in Cornegy’s committee year after year and he does nothing. He has allowed, through his silence, for REBNY to control the Speaker’s Office and rig the system to never allow a public hearing on the S.B.J.S.A. or any real solution.
TakeBackNYC has begged and pleaded for a hearing for the S.B.J.S.A., lobbying for sponsors,” she said, referring to efforts to get even more councilmembers to back
the bill. “But Cornegy has stopped us at every turn. While he’s been head of the Small Business Committee, Cornegy has literally done nothing tangible to help stop the crisis.” The most passionate call against Cornegy becoming speaker came from Steve Barrison, spokesperson for the city’s Small Business Congress. “City Hall’s name should be changed to ‘REBNY Hall’ because of their control over lawmakers,” Barrison declared. “As head of the Small Business Committee, Cornegy served the lobby more than the small business owners and that has made their crisis much worse,” Barrison added. “Of the 51 councilmembers at City Hall, Cornegy’s record of failure should put him at Number 52 in consideration for being the new speaker. His record is so terrible, he shouldn’t even be in the Council, let alone be speaker. The only reason a chairman of a committee with a horrific record is considered for speaker — he served REBNY better than any other councilmember. In the corrupt political world at City Hall, serving REBNY matters.” At the press conference’s end, Cornegy walked out of City Hall with an angry face and refused to answer any questions from the media. He got the protesters’ message — but did the other councilmembers, who will be voting for a new speaker in early January?
For help in the coming year, please don’t hesitate to contact me via the information below.
NYS Senator Brad Hoylman (212) 633-8052 firstname.lastname@example.org 322 8th Avenue Suite 1700 New York, NY 10001 TheVillager.com
December 21, 2017
Could gay seniors tip Elizabeth St. Garden battle? GARDEN continued from p. 1
friendly” senior housing. SAGE — the nation’s largest and oldest advocacy group for L.G.B.T seniors — would have an office and provide onsite services for residents in the proposed complex, as would the housing group Habitat for Humanity, which would move its New York City headquarters there. No doubt, the Mayor’s Office is hoping that the inclusion of such groups — along with its pledge to preserve about onethird of the site as green space — will tip public opinion in favor of the proposed “Haven Green” development. At a rally on Tues., Dec. 12, in support of the project, Councilmember Margaret Chin, the project’s lead sponsor, was quick to champion the needs of gay seniors. “We have an opportunity before us to do the right thing for our seniors, including L.G.B.T.Q. seniors of the Stonewall generation, the pioneers who fought in the face of insurmountable odds to make our city a place that welcomes all of us,” Chin told the crowd of about 30 supporters who gathered beneath the portico at City Hall to shelter from the rain. Behind her, a supporter held a sign that proclaimed: “Housing for L.G.B.T. Seniors is a RIGHT!” Given the legacy of gay-rights activism in Lower Manhattan, it’s clear that Chin — who nearly lost her Council seat amid the fury over this project — just gained some powerful allies. Whether the inclusion of SAGE and its community of advocates will sway those who support preserving the garden — including nearly every other elected official in Lower Manhattan — remains to be seen. Far from bending to the project’s critics, the city appears to making the Elizabeth St. site a showpiece for its new “Housing New York 2.0” agenda (which includes fast-tracking the creation of senior housing on “underutilized public lots”). “We are building a movement,” declared Michael Adams, SAGE’s executive director, speaking out at the rally with Chin. “This is how we are going to make our city a city of equity,” Adams said of the Elizabeth St. project. (SAGE is currently building the city’s first L.G.B.T residences in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and Crotona Park in the Bronx.) Jim Fouratt, who has been a fixture in the Downtown gay community for decades, congratulated Chin for standing up to opponents of the project. “I’m part of the creative community that came to the Village in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Fouratt, who took part in the Stonewall uprising and later co-founded the club Danceteria. “I live in a six-floor walk-up, and for the past year and a half, I’ve been in court with my new landlord. I’m putting in for this lottery!” he shouted, raising his fists. Also lining up alongside Chin were the
December 21, 2017
PHOTO BY SARAH FERGUSON
Jim Fouratt, center, with Councilmember Margaret Chin, right, and other suppor ters of a senior affordable-housing project slated for the Elizabeth St. Garden at a Cit y Hall steps rally last week.
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
The day before the Chin-led rally for the housing project, Downtowners — joined by Comptroller Scott Stringer, left, and other local politicians — rallied in greater numbers in support of saving the Elizabeth St. Garden.
heads of several nonprofit groups serving seniors, including LiveOn NY and Vision Urbana Inc., the latter which serves primarily low-income Latinos on the Lower East Side. All spoke to the pent-up demand for affordable housing. Jackie Wong, director of operations at Chun Pak LDC, a rental building for low-income seniors in Chinatown, said when his company opened the waiting list for apartments there last August, it received more than 7,000 applications. Clearly the need for more senior housing is urgent. The question, of course, is whether such housing should be built atop what is now a much loved, community-run park. “This is a false choice,” declared City Comptroller Scott Stringer, speaking out at a rally called the previous day by the two nonprofit groups fighting to preserve the Elizabeth St. Garden. “Affordable housing cannot come at the expense of green public space,” Stringer told the crowd of about 75 garden supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall. “I’ve tried to struggle with why this is happening,” Stringer continued, remarking on the city’s insistence on destroying the Little Italy garden in the face of broad opposition from local residents and the
repeated condemnation of Community Board 2. “We have to go back to being a city that does community-based planning,” Stringer said, taking a swipe at the topdown way the de Blasio administration tends to go about siting new developments. “We are not accounting for the numbers of amazing children that are coming to Lower Manhattan,” Stringer said. “These kids need a place to play.” Public Advocate Letitia James was equally emphatic. “It is a false choice, it is a Hobson’s choice and it’s a false dichotomy. We can do affordable housing — in fact, we can do more affordable housing,” she declared, referring to the call by C.B. 2 to shift the project to an empty, city-owned lot on Hudson and Clarkson Sts. in Hudson Square, where they say five times as much housing could be built. Considering that, a month ago, James was rallying at City Hall for Chin’s reelection, her divergence from Chin on this issue is significant. “I’ve been to that garden and it is a peaceful place,” James told the crowd. “And I say, the fight is not over. Mr. Mayor, when I tell you the fight is not over, you know I mean it!” Also speaking against the city’s plan
was state Senator Brian Kavanagh, who said he had learned to value the importance of community gardens while serving as the assemblyperson for the adjoining district covering the East Village / Lower East Side. Also there was Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, who said the Little Italy area was already woefully underserved for open space. “Everyone supports affordable housing,” Niou said. “But we can’t be always asking for affordable housing to the point that we make it unlivable.” Niou also faulted the project for not being permanently affordable. Of course, none of the politicians now standing on the side of the gardeners will get to vote on the project as it goes through the city’s Uniform Land-Use Review Process, or ULURP. To move forward, the project must be approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council, which tends to follow the lead of the councilmember in whose district the project falls — in this case, Chin. The community board and Manhattan borough president have only advisory votes, although the borough president can force a supermajority vote if she votes “no.” Thus far, Manhattan Beep Gale Brewer — who’s been a steadfast ally of Chin on other issues — has been noncommittal on the Elizabeth St. site. The city says its plan can deliver both housing and green space. In a press release, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development pledged to “recreate many of the existing features and layout of the site, including passive spaces, sculptures and art pieces, lawns, diverse plantings, space for gardening, and open seating.” But garden advocates say the current proposal, which places the seven-story residential complex on the Elizabeth St. side of the garden and shifts the open space to the Mott St. side, would result in a public lawn that’s mostly in shadow. “There will not be one blade of grass in the garden that’s proposed, so this is a sham” scoffed Kent Barwick, the former president of the Municipal Art Society, who lives on Mott St. “It’s another concrete slab with benches,” charged local mom Emily Hellstrom, one of the founders of Friends of Elizabeth St. Garden. “We’ve found a gravelstrewn lot could provide five times as much housing. Why are we being cast as the villains?” she demanded, prompting the crowd gathered at City Hall to break into chants of “We want both!” But so, apparently, does Chin. When asked why she can’t get behind the community’s push to shift the project to the vacant lot on Hudson St., Chin said she would happily support more senior housing there. “That’s not an alternative site, but an additional one,” she said. “The need for senior housing is so great. We need both.” TheVillager.com
Join Us This Christmas at St. Brigid - St. Emeric! 2017 CHRISTMAS CHILDREN MASS We will have a very special Nativity Mass for Children on Friday, December 15 at 8:00 pm ADVENT NOVENA MASSES (Aguinaldos) Every morning at 6:00 am, December 16-24, followed by breakfast in the church hall ADVENT RETREAT Conducted by Deacon Narciso Hernandez on Saturday, December 16 at 12:00pm to 6:00pm Confessions at 5:00 pm and Mass at 6:00 pm ALL ARE INVITED! RECONCILIATION MONDAY Archdiocese-wide event to help us be better prepared for the birth of Jesus. Monday, December 18, 6:00-8:00 pm CHRISTMAS VIGIL December 24 at 10:00 pm (Bilingual) Christmas Carols (Music) at 9:00 pm CHRISTMAS MASS December 25 at 10:00 am (English) and 11:30 am (Spanish)
HAPPY HOLIDAYS LOBSTERS BY THE TON! c &AN= GJ -L=9E=<