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The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933

December 28, 2017 • $1.00 Volume 87 • Number 52

Give them a break! Tax bill offers relief to small businesses BY REBECCA FIORE


n Dec. 22 Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into effect a law that will help nearly 3,000 Manhattan small businesses save an average of $13,000 in annual taxes. On Nov. 30, the mayor gathered at City Hall with the bill’s

two primary sponsors, City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Helen Rosenthal, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to celebrate the passage of Gardonick’s bill that reforms the Commercial Rent Tax. The C.R.T. was created in TAX continued on p. 4

Dana Beal, pot icon, is freed on bail after arrest in California BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


ana Beal — known as the “Grandfather of Marijuana” and the “Last of the Yippies” — has gotten burned again, caught trying to drive 22 pounds of pot out of Northern California. On Sat., Dec. 16, the longtime medical-marijuana advoj

cate was busted in Hayfork, California, 100 miles from the Oregon border, according to the Trinity County sheriff. A sheriff’s spokesperson said it was a traffic stop where a K9 unit “alerted to the odor of narcotics.” The vehicle was swerving, BEAL continued on p. 9


A ghost image lingered (briefly) after Donald Trump’s name was stripped off the awning of the newly rebranded The Dominick Hotel in Soho, at Spring and Varick Sts., last week. See Page 8.

True to roots, bar will close, not raise prices BY REBECCA FIORE


hree-dollar pints of beer, free popcorn, dartboards and disgusting bathrooms are some of the classic characteristics of a dive bar. But for patrons of the Grassroots Tavern, it was much more than just a basement bar, it was a home away from home. The East Village watering hole, which is closing on New Year’s Eve, had a strong 42-year run. Jim Stratton, who is now

Beefcake ’n’ roast beef .......... p. 11

nearly 80, opened the bar in 1975 based on the idea that the Grassroots Tavern, at 20 St. Marks’s Place, between Second and Third Aves., could be anyone’s living room. “You live in a neighborhood where all the apartments are small, and if you have a couple of friends over, you are overflowing,” he said. “But if you can go to a neighborhood bar that’s not much more expensive then buying a six-pack, you can get a conversation and

a neighborhood of people.” He recalled that, back in the day, the area used to be a lot more dangerous and grungy. Stratton thought that if he opened a bar, he could build a safe space for people. “I thought that the bar would be the kind of thing that could actually add something to a neighborhood that was a bit sketchy,” he said, “by providing the ability for someone to go out and feel like there’s protecGRASSROOTS continued on p. 6

Housing activists petition Cardinal Dolan ........ p. 10 How Council speaker can help businesses ...... p. 13 www.TheVillager.com


And a very merry night of park caroling to all


n Christmas Eve, carolers packed into Washington Square Park between the arch and the Christmas tree, the latter which, of course,


December 28, 2017

was displaced from its usual spot under the arch this year for Ai Weiwei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” public artwork. Anyway, a good time was had by all,

as everyone sang along as musicians played atop a raised platform. The crowd was so big, in fact, that people on the edges could barely hear the instruments, creating a

musical lag that resembled a round when some of the songs were sung. The weather was mild yet just nippy enough to help get people into the holiday spirit.



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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









Maria Diaz, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, with Mayor de Blasio after he signed a bill reforming the Commercial Rent Tax.

Tax bill to give relief to small businesses



Member of the New York Member of the National Press Association Newspaper Association

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December 28, 2017

TAX continued from p. 1

1963 as a revenue generator for the city. Initially, the tax applied citywide. Businesses paying more than $250,000 in annual rent were assessed a 3.9 percent levy on that amount. In the 1990s, however, the tax was restricted to Manhattan businesses below 96th St. The last time this tax had seen reform was in 2001, Garodnick said, when the “average ground-floor commercial rent in the heart of Soho was $175 per square foot. Today, that rent is more like $755 per square foot. That’s an increase of 431 percent.” The councilmember added, “You know what hasn’t changed — commercial rent tax. It has been stuck. Every year of inaction by the city has basically been a tax hike on small businesses that were never meant to be affected by this tax in the first place.” Under the revision of the C.R.T., the city is doubling the threshold of the tax to $500,000, which, Garodnick noted, “will deliver relief to nearly 3,000 Manhattan businesses.” He said that, of those 3,000 businesses, about 1,800, making less than $5 million in annual revenue and paying less than $500,000 in annual rent, will no longer be liable for any C.R.T. In addition, another 900 businesses, making up to $10 million in annual revenue and paying up to $550,000 per year in rent, will pay a reduced tax, based on a sliding scale. The

tax relief will come in the form of an offsetting credit against the C.R.T. liability, according to a release from Garodnick’s office. Businesses that pay more than $550,000 in rent would not receive any credit. The credit is available Jan. 1, 2018. Both Garodnick and de Blasio said the bill was specifically targeted only to help small businesses. Natasha Amott, owner of a kitchensupply store, Whisk, at 933 Broadway, between E. 21st and E. 22nd Sts., didn’t even know this tax existed when she opened her store in 2012. “It was only in the beginning of 2015 that I received notification from the city that not only did I have to start paying the tax immediately, but that I also had to pay the other years, with interest,” she said at the press conference. Since then, Amott said, she has paid tens of thousands of dollars to the city in taxes. “My frustration led to questioning those in the government about the fairness of the tax,” she said. Working with the City Council, local politicians and other local business owners, Amott said she finally felt heard. “Not having to pay this annual tax,” she said, “means that each year I can consider making needed updates in my stores, upgrades to my Web site, and pay increases to my staff.” “The small businesses that are going to benefit will save on average $13,000,” de

Blasio said. “For a long time, this was the city of small business. If you had a great idea, you could thrive. We need New York City to be the best place for small businesses in this country.” Rosenthal said every day she hears from Upper West Side constituents concerned about local businesses. “Bringing nearly a billion dollars, we have treated for far too long the tax collected from these businesses as an ATM for the rest of the city,” Rosenthal said. “But let’s be clear, the cost of this tax is felt citywide. These businesses employ residents from throughout the five boroughs. So, when Manhattan small businesses close, all New Yorkers lose.” The mayor discussed the significance of small businesses, which not only serve local neighborhoods, but also give communities character and bring them together. De Blasio said that everyone has seen shops leave at an alarming rate, replaced by empty storefronts or major corporate chains like Starbucks and CVS. “Anyone with eyes understands,” he said, “that there is a crisis with our momand-pop stores.” While this bill is a step in the right direction, it’s just a first step in solving the retail crisis, de Blasio explained. “Consumers have a role to play here, too,” he said. “Buy local. It makes a big difference. If you love a store, patronize it. Don’t talk about patronizing it, actually patronize it. They cannot pay the bills with your good intentions.” TheVillager.com

POLICE BLOTTER Orchard Hotel D.O.A. On Thurs., Dec. 21, around 3:09 a.m., police responded to a 911 call of an unconscious man inside the Orchard Street Hotel, at 163 Orchard St. Upon arrival, officers observed a 63-year-old male, unconscious and unresponsive, with no obvious signs of trauma. E.M.S. responded and pronounced the man dead at the scene. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death, and the police investigation remains ongoing. The identity of the deceased is pending proper family notification. “It was initially believed to be nonsuspicious,” a police spokesperson said of the man’s death. “But who knows at this point? We have to wait for the Medical Examiner.”

alcohol level of .08 percent. He was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence.

Car-sit rage A man told police he spotted someone sitting on his car in the Village and when he told him to get off, the guy went nuts and assaulted him. Police said the incident happened in front of 160 Bleecker St. on Sat., Dec. 23, at 2:43 a.m. The suspect allegedly slapped the 38-year-old victim in the face, causing him pain, and also socked him in the groin and spat in his face. Michael S. Mann, 30 was arrested for misdemeanor assault.

Grove St. robbery Canal fatal crash A speeding drunk driver lost control and crashed his car after exiting the Manhattan Bridge early Tuesday morning, killing his friend, police said. PIX reported that the car came off the bridge and hit a fire hydrant — which flew into a bank window — and then burst into flames as it flipped. The two men were family friends. Police responded to a call about the collision around 1:08 a.m., at Canal St. and Bowery. They found the 22-year-old male driver, Gerald Joseph of East Flatbush, and his 17-year-old passenger, Shareef Bellerand of Flatbush / Ditmas Park, unconscious and unresponsive inside the 2004 Mazda sedan. E.M.S. responded and transported the driver to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition. The passenger was taken to New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Joseph was found to have a blood-

A man was robbed inside Hakata Tonton, at 61 Grove St., on Mon., Oct. 16, at 11:35 p.m., according to police. Two suspects entered the Japanese restaurant and sprayed the 28-year-old victim in the face and eyes with pepper spray. After a short scuffle, the victim noticed that his cellphone, a Samsung Galaxy S5, which was next to him at the beginning of the altercation, was no longer there. He also had substantial pain to his eyes. Junsoke Morita, 35, was arrested Wed., Dec. 20, for felony robbery.

Credit-card cad A woman was on a date with a man and he wound up stealing her credit card, police said. The cad was arrested on another charge and, upon a search, an officer saw the bogus beau was in possession of a credit card not his own. When the cop contacted the 36-yearold victim, she confirmed that she had dinner with the suspect at Terra Wine Bar, at 222 West Broadway, on Sat., Dec. 2. Sal Cruz, 47, and Christopher Cruz, 44, were arrested Mon., Dec. 18, for felony grand larceny.

Candy-store caper Police said that on Thurs., Dec. 21, at 2 p.m., two unknown men entered a small candy store at 228 Varick St., between Carmine and Downing Sts., and demanded money from a 46-year-old male employee. The victim complied and the pair of perps fled on foot with about $2,000. The employee was not injured in the incident. The suspects are described as in their late teens or early 20s, both wearing all black clothing. One was 6-feet-1 -inch tall and weighed 160 pounds and the other stood 5-feet-11-inches and

weighed 140 pounds. 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.

Subway grope Police said that a man grabbed a 34-year-old woman’s buttocks over her clothing at the Christopher St. subway station on Fri., Dec. 8, at 10:30 p.m. The victim was entering the southbound platform, when the man accosted her. She was not injured. The suspect had long hair and was last seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and a gray jacket. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline. (See “Candy story caper” item, above.)

Tabia C. Robinson and Lincoln Anderson

Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, Inc. W. 4th St. pushback According to police, a screaming man assaulted a police officer in front of 224 W. Fourth St. on Tues., Dec. 19, at 11:30 p.m. When police came to arrest him, the suspect refused to be cuffed and pushed a sergeant, injuring his lower back and leg. Antonio Fernandez, 42, was arrested for felony attempted assault.

121st Annual Open Exhibition January 9 - 26, 2018 Benefit Reception

Sound off!

Friday, January 19th, 5:30-8:00pm At the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, NYC Benefits The Metropolitan Museum of Art Donation $25.00

Gallery Hours:

Write a letter to the editor news@thevillager.com TheVillager.com

Mon. - Fri., 10am - 5pm Sat. & Sun. 1-6pm (call ahead) Sculpture Gallery open daily 1-6pm

www.clwac.org December 28, 2017


True to its roots, bar will close, not raise prices GRASSROOTS continued from p. 1

tion at midnight, or a place you can go in if you are feeling downtrodden.” From the bar’s early years, he recalled a woman accidentally getting locked out of her Avenue C apartment. She walked over to Grassroots in her bathrobe, had a drink and used the phone to call her husband. Another time, a group of 20 people, speaking a language Stratton had never heard before, came in and drank, laughed and threw darts all night. “They were from Turkey,” he said. “How they found out about the place no one knew, but they found it and took it for themselves for the evening.” The bar has been a place for first dates, a meeting house for political causes and a SantaCon-free zone. Stratton said all types were welcome, from bikers to poets to chefs, even the occasional celebrity. “If you can name a kind of person, that kind of person has probably been in the bar,” he said. Stratton originally moved to Soho in the 1960s, then to Tribeca in the ’80s, before relocating to Brooklyn five years ago. He is closing the St. Mark’s bar due to rent hikes, a ubiquitous problem many local businesses are facing across the city. He stressed, though, that he was not being kicked out of the space, just that he does not want to change his business approach. “When you are selling a pint of beer for $3, which is what we are doing half the day, and $4 the rest of the day, we just can’t [pay the rent],” he said. “We would have to completely revamp our operation and none of us are really happy about that.” Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance and treasurer of the Downtown Independent Democrats, said the bar’s name comes from Stratton’s own community activism. Stratton founded

D.I.D. in 1972, and the club continued to host its Christmas party at the tavern. “Since he’s a grassroots activist — in politics and community organizing — it is very appropriate and a little ironic that it’s so aptly named,” Sweeney reflected. Sherry Wolf, a public speaker, writer and activist, said from the time she moved to the East Village in 1988, “Grassroots has occupied a special place in my circle of International Socialist Organization comrades.” She remembers the tavern as a space where her friends could talk political theory and strategy. It was a place free of harassment and yuppies, she said. “Grassroots Tavern was often the site where we could walk in alone and find comrades looking for rambling political arguments, fierce polemics or just plain camaraderie,” she said. Sweeney said that while many local community boards aren’t fans of bars, between the noise levels and the flow of drunken customers, Grassroots has never had issues. “When Jim’s license came up for renewal a few years ago, people came out to support his liquor license,” he said. “It’s a community-friendly place. You could almost call it a mom-and-pop.” Harry Pincus, an illustrator and longtime Soho resident, said he would miss this piece of “old New York.” “I still have a couple of scratched old mugs from the Grassroots, going back more than 40 years,” he said. “I will cherish them.” Stratton said he met the bar’s new operator, Richard Precious, who has already applied for a liquor license from Community Board 3. Sweeney said word is the new place will be an “Americanized Irish” pub. “I’m hoping the place will retain a lot of its sense of neighborhood and community that it’s always had,” Stratton said.


Jim Stratton opened the Grassroots Tavern four decades ago on St. Mark’s Place.


A s ever yone was leaving the Grassroots Tavern after last year’s D.I.D. holiday par t y, A ssembly hopeful Yuh-Line Niou, center, posed for a photo with the club’s Sean Sweeney, left, and former State Committeeman John Quinn, right. Niou would eventually go on to win former Speaker Sheldon Silver’s A ssembly seat — beating Quinn’s wife, Alice Cancel, who had earlier won the seat in a special election.


Earlier this month, at the latest Downtown Independent Democrats holiday par t y at Grassroots Tavern — where local politicos literally rub shoulders in a homey atmosphere —D.I.D. President Jeanne Wilcke chatted with former state Senator Terr y Gipson, who is exploring a run against Governor Andrew Cuomo in this year’s election.


December 28, 2017


It isn’t exactly going underground, but you go down to enter the Grassroots Tavern. TheVillager.com

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December 28, 2017


From The Donald to The Dominick; Hotel rebranded


he Trump Soho hotel’s signage was gone from the hotel’s awning on Spring St. on Thurs., Dec. 21, having been removed sometime in the early hours of the morning or late the evening before. For a while, all that was left was the “Ghost of Trump Past” — as in a ghost image of the place’s former name. But maintenance staff soon blotted that out, too. The hotel, at Spring and Varick Sts., is under new management, with its owners having bought out the management contract of the Trump Organization. According to reports, business at the place plummeted during Donald Trump’s campaign for president and only worsened after he won election. NBA basketball teams, led by Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, have made it a point to stay elsewhere while in town. And celebrities are said to have shifted to The Greenwich hotel in Tribeca, owned by Trump super-foe Robert DeNiro — and, of course, so have the paparazzi that cover them. Koi, the restaurant on the Spring St. hotel’s ground floor, also went under. In short the place has been, to use one of Trump’s favorite put-downs…a real loser. At any rate, the soaring tower has been renamed The Dominick Hotel. By 4 p.m. Thursday, the canopy was spic and span, with no sign of “Trump” ever having been there. As a woman was passing by the day before, she said the sign’s pending removal didn’t go far enough. “Too bad it’s just the Trump sign that’s coming down,” she spat.

Lincoln Anderson and Tequila Minsky


No more Trump! How the Dominick Hotel’s canopy looks now after Trump’s name was removed.


A photo of the Trump Soho hotel last December. A s The Villager repor ted back then, paparazzi had not been seen hanging around the front of the Trump Soho for the previous six months — repor tedly because their favorite subject, celebrities, were no longer staying there. In the past, paparazzi could frequently be seen standing to either side of the front door waiting for stars to enter and exit. The Trump Soho sign came down sometime last week bet ween late Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning.


December 28, 2017

“The Ghost of Trump Past” was all that was left at first on the Soho hotel’s canopy after the gilded letters were removed. TheVillager.com

Dana Beal, pot icon, out on bail after new bust BEAL continued from p. 1

plus driving 15 or 20 miles under the speed limit. Beal was charged with two counts: suspicion of misdemeanor possession of cannabis for sale and felony attempt to transport marijuana across state lines. If convicted, he faces up to four years behind bars. Beal was the passenger. The driver was James Statzer, a Michigan resident. Beal grew up in Michigan before moving to New York City in the 1960s and settling at 9 Bleecker St., formerly known as “Yippie Headquarters.” The two pleaded not guilty on both charges last Tuesday, and were being held behind bars after bail for each was initially set at $75,000. However, Aton Edwards, a friend and ally of Beal, told The Villager that Beal was released from jail last Thursday night. The judge accepted Beal’s attorney’s arguments that the septuagenarian is not a flight risk and also has serious health issues. Beal’s bondsman put up a promissory note of $4,500, according to Edwards. Statzer had not been released yet. According to the Daily News, a year ago, Beal and Statzer were arrested together in Oregon when a state trooper searched their vehicle, reportedly finding 55 pounds of pot and $1,800. But the prosecutor chose not to go to trial, due to concerns about how the bust occurred. Before that, Beal was convicted of transporting more than 100 pounds of pot in vans caught by cops at two different times — in Nebraska in 2009 and Wisconsin in 2011. He subsequently served about two years in jail in Nebraska, during which he had a heart attack in 2011, which was reportedly nearly fatal. Since his release, Beal has been working to set up ibogaine clinics in Tibet and Afghanistan, hoping to demonstrate that ibogaine — which is derived from an African plant — is an effective addiction treatment for many substances, including heroin and opioids. During that time, Beal has been living in a Midtown Manhattan synagogue, at the invitation of its rabbi. “This is particularly painful given Dana’s health,” Edwards said, speaking last week after Beal’s latest arrest but before his release on bail. “He suffered a heart attack in jail several years ago and he actually flat-lined. He’s on critical medication. He’ll be 71 in January. He comes from a family that’s prone to stroke and heart attack. “We’re asking for the court to be compassionate,” Edwards said. “He’s ill. And given the shifting position in the country on marijuana — marijuana is becoming normalized. “We don’t want the cycle to repeat,” Edwards said, “though we think that the California system is a little more lenient [than Nebraska].” Another jail stint for TheVillager.com


Dana Beal speaking about marijuana legalization and ibogaine, above, outside Philadelphia City Hall at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.


Dana Beal’s police mug shot after his arrest on Dec. 16 for allegedly transpor ting 22 pounds of pot in Nor thern California.

Beal, Edwards said, “would be a death sentence for him.” Sale of recreational pot will be legal in California starting Jan. 1, though medical pot has been legal there for more

than 10 years. But transporting large amounts of weed or taking it out of state are still illegal. The Newser Web site reported that a person can buy pot in California’s socalled “Emerald Triangle” for $800 or $1,000 a pound and then resell it on the East Coast for $3,000 or $4,000 a pound. The Daily News reported that Beal and Statzer had purchased $17,600 worth of weed before their Dec. 16 bust. Edwards said Beal’s supporters are now strategizing on legal arguments to save him from going back to the slammer, and also working to find him a place to stay in the meantime between court dates. As for ibogaine, some cynically say Beal is trying to position himself to cash

in big time if the U.S. ever legalizes its use for addiction treatment. But Edwards said that’s not the case at all. “Dana’s interest with ibogaine was not to enrich himself,” he said. “It was to have clinics around the world. This is the guy who has been wearing the same pair of boots for 40 years,” he noted. “He wore those boots as he pushed an AIDS patient in a wheelchair 240 miles from Boston to New York,” in support of medical marijuana, Edwards said. Asked if Beal periodically puts new heels and soles on the boots, Edwards said, yes, exactly. In another of the Yippie activist’s sartorial staples, Edwards added that Beal has also worn the same jacket — brown corduroy — forever. “The movement for ibogaine, the movement for weed — Dana is like the grandfather,” Edwards said, reverently. “When people are marching around the world [for pot legalization]…the fact that marijuana is being legalized in 23 states is because of Dana and others. Dana has bled for this. The straw that stirred the drink was Dana. “We’re not going to get another Dana Beal. He’s the last of the Yippies.” John Penley, another longtime friend of Beal, added, “Dana for many years provided New York City military veterans with medical marijuana for little or no cost. Also there is a lot of speculation that Dana did give medical marijuana to Roger Stone because, even though they were at odds on many things, Stone was pro-medical marijuana.” The Villager recently reported that nine years ago, Stone, a G.O.P. “dirty trickster” operative for decades, tried to buy pot from Aron Kay, “The Yippie Pie Man,” at the Yippie Cafe, at 9 Bleecker St. But Kay rebuffed him, saying, “I don’t know you.” Stone is at the center of the current investigation by the House Committee on Intelligence into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Stone reportedly told the committee that Randy Credico, a comedianturned-radio journalist, was his “back channel” connection who introduced him to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks, of course, before the election publicly released e-mails by John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairperson, and by others — after Stone had announced that the Clinton e-mails would be forthcoming. Credico, who is also a longtime druglegalization advocate, in 2008 brought Stone to a comedy night Credico was hosting at the Yippie Cafe, at 9 Bleecker St. A few days afterward, Stone tried to buy pot there from “The Yippie Pie Man.” Credico was recently subpoenaed by the House Committee on Intelligence to give a deposition, but pled the Fifth on the advice of his attorney. The committee waived his requirement to appear. There has been no update. December 28, 2017


Outside the Sheen Center, signing the supplication — a petition to Cardinal Timothy Dolan asking him to allow the vacant Church of the Nativit y to be redeveloped as housing for the poor.

Barred from Sheen, housing activists petition BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


n Sat., Dec. 16, about 15 people gathered in Noho on the sidewalk outside the Sheen Center to gather signatures on a “supplication” to Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, asking him to redevelop the vacant Church of the Nativity property in the East Village into low-income and affordable housing. They also handed out copies of a recent article in The Villager about their efforts. The Catholic-affiliated performing-arts complex, at 18 Bleecker St., was holding an event honoring the late Dorothy Day,

who prayed at Nativity, on Second Ave. between E. Second and E. Third Sts., and is currently being considered for canonization. Adding poignancy to the petitioning effort amid Downtown’s ongoing gentrification, the Sheen Center itself used to be the Holy Name Center, a Catholic-run soup kitchen. Valerio Orselli, the project director for the Cooper Square Community Land Trust, said the Sheen Center told him they weren’t welcome at the event inside because that would “politicize it.” The petitioners included members of

the Catholic Worker (the movement Day founded), parishioners, local residents and housing activists. Among them were Chino Garcia, the director of CHARAS, Lynn Lewis of the East Harlem C.L.T. and Picture the Homeless, a group working to house the homeless. The petitioners stuck it out from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. despite the bitter cold. “Cole Matson from the Sheen Center relented a bit,” Orselli said. “He acknowledged our presence there, took some petitions and copies of The Villager article inside, and agreed to place them inside the gallery space for people to sign, albeit

it seems in an isolated place. He collected four signatures for us. We collected over a hundred.” The Nativity activists have collected around 200 signatures so far on what is technically called a “supplication,” not a petition, to Dolan. “But we have just gotten started,” Orselli vowed. “We are also hearing from folks in other areas who have pledged their support and are interested in starting similar campaigns in their gentrifying neighborhoods, such as East Harlem, where four churches have been desanctified and are for sale.”


Outside the Sheen Center, a petitioner handed out The Villager’s recent ar ticle on the effor t to turn the Church of Nativit y site into lowincome and affordable housing.


December 28, 2017

Valerio Orselli, of the Cooper Square Communit y Land Trust, left, and an ally handing out The Villager ar ticle about the push to redevelop the Nativity site with affordable housing. TheVillager.com


Novac Nour y, left, and his crew of crooning carolers led the enter tainment at the holiday dining ex travaganza.

Beefed-up banquet served up by Sixth’s Finest


here’s the beef? Well, it definitely was at the Annual Police Roast Beef Dinner,

at the Greenwich House / Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center on Wed., Dec. 13. An admission of $13 got hungry

Villagers a hearty meal of roast beef, served by police officers from the Sixth Precinct, plus entertainment by Novac

Noury (the former “Arrow Keyboard Man” of Studio 54 fame) and his merry carolers.

To protect and to ser ve : Police Officer Rober t Jackson, from Communit y Affairs, waiting to help dish out the delectable dinner to community members.

Brendan Coughlin and his fellow police officers ser ved up the delicious roast beef. There was also vegetarian fare.

Detective Jimmy Alberici, of Communit y Affairs, uncorking the vino for the feast. TheVillager.com

Mixing business with pleasure: Proceeds from the dinner will go toward the senior center.

Sweet! Maureen Remacle, president of the Six th Precinct Communit y Council, put together goodie bags of treats that ever yone got when they left. December 28, 2017


EDITORIAL Soho un-Trumped


t the ribbon-cutting for the Trump Soho condo-hotel in April 2010, Donald Trump — ever the salesman — proudly proclaimed it would be a smashing success. “I think the building will do well,” he told The Villager back then, adding, “We’re…involved in the management.” The hotel’s development partners were Bayrock and Alex Sapir, while the Trump Organization was its manager. “I think the Trump Soho is going to do records in terms of volume and food,” the famously coiffed developer continued. As for the 46-story behemoth’s gargantuan size, he stated, “We had a zoning that allowed us to build this tall, and we took advantage of that. I think it’s going to be a landmark in New York.” What of all the community opposition from Soho residents, who even filed a lawsuit against the project? “They’re all our friends now,” Trump brashly assured. “Everybody likes our building.” Uh huh, sure. But fast-forward seven-plus yeas and there was no way Trump could put a positive spin on the recent decision to have the hotel’s new owners — CIM Group, a California investment firm — buy out his management contract. The hotel’s business has plummeted ever since Trump’s campaign for president last year. Under the contract, Trump had to pay the owners if the hotel and condos underperformed. As of last Wednesday, the Trump Organization was no longer involved in the place, which has been redubbed The Dominick Hotel. The Trump Soho signage was quietly removed late last Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Business at all of Trump’s hotels is reportedly down 3 percent since the election — it’s predictably doing worse in blue areas, like New York City, and better in red ones where the president enjoys political support. As has previously been reported, in 2011, Trump and others paid $3 million to settle condo buyers’ complaints that Trump and his children artificially pumped up sales figures for the Soho location. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance came under scrutiny for letting Ivana and Donald Trump, Jr., off the hook in that case. As reported by The New York Times, a separate lawsuit charged that the project was backed by felons and Russian financing and that a sketchy Russian F.B.I. informant helped facilitate the deal. Vance may have looked the other way, but luckily we have the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation on our side. G.V.S.H.P. had persistently argued that the Trump Soho would be illegal — that it would violate the district’s zoning. The Soho Alliance similarly charged the gargantuan condo-hotel would be a “Trojan horse” that would allow people to live residentially in a manufacturing-zoned area that, at that time, did not allow that use. “It was very clear that this was designed to violate the zoning,” Andrew Berman, the society’s director, told The Villager. “The developer was advertising it as a residence.” As a result of pressure by G.V.S.H.P. and also the Soho Alliance, then-City Council Speaker Christine

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Elizabeth St. compromise To The Editor: Re “Could gay seniors tip battle over Elizabeth St. Garden?” (news article, Dec. 21): Chinatown, which is near the Elizabeth St. Garden, is where those of limited means have always shopped — fresh vegetables and fruits from local farmers. Landmark Diner is one of few left anywhere in this city, between Centre and Lafayette Sts. on Grand St. Rising rents and more luxury condos came with the influx of newcomers and real estate interests who rebranded this area as “Nolita.” Small businesses that served practical needs? Diminishing. But we can get very expensive clothing any day of the week. The shared open space in the planned senior affordable-housing project here will be larger than many community gardens that were created with risk to bodily harm in garbage-strewn lots created by landlord-hired arsonists. This garden is not of that history. It was an event space, luxury-artifact showcase, parking lot and dog run for the leaseholder. A shed covers some of it. We are in a housing crisis. There are no “other” places anymore. The alternative site on Hudson St. backed by Community Board 2 needs to be built on — probably for families and adults. However, there are no grocery stores there — at all — not even high-end ones. Elders wait five to seven years for housing. But here the community will be able to age in place and 50 percent of this housing will go to C.B. 2 residents. This is a compromise. Shared space for both. Sorry if it isn’t everything that any of us wants. Little Italy has gentrified. It’s time to acknowledge that and help this city address its housing crisis. Many of us welcome all of you who will live here. Some of us will feel we finally got our neighborhood back.

may have turned out to be apathetic, but we’re not stupid. We know who the players are. REBNY — the Real Estate Board of New York — destroys. Myrna Greenfield

Beal didn’t sell to Stone To The Editor: Re “Dana Beal, pot icon, freed on bail after California bust” (thevillager.com, Dec. 22): Why not print who is saying Beal is trying to profit from ibogaine instead of “false newsing” it, attributing it to an unnamed source? No one ever sold Roger Stone pot unless he got it through Randy Credico. Why not interview me about Dana? I turned him on to pot for the first time in 1964 at Michigan State University and have known him ever since. AJ Weberman

The Twilight Zone The day is finally done; Night is surely ahead; Barely visible setting sun, Dark shapes stir from bed. Laboring bodies demand After surviving another day, In every town and land, Food, rest, safe home stay. Now, a new leader hawk, People cheer, others moan. From Oregon to New York, America in the twilight zone.

K Webster

Where are our stores?

Sy Schleimer

To The Editor: Re “It’s key to beat Cornegy: S.B.J.S.A. advocates” (news article, Sept. 21): Anyone know where I can find a shoemaker? How about when I need a new bra? Do I have to schlep to Macy’s? Where is a stationer? Is my only recourse CVS for a meaningful birthday card or Staples for a copy? Butcher? Candlestick maker? Ha! I’m serious. Look, we

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.


EDITORIAL continued on p. 21

The attacks on 12

December 28, 2017

Trump are relentless! TheVillager.com

Mom-and-pops’ future is in new speaker’s hands



he Villager has published more articles on small businesses closing and the crisis caused by sky-high rent increases than any media in New York City. These articles went beyond what other local media stories covered because they focused on finding a solution to stop the closings and what our local politicians were doing or failing to do to end the crisis. With every lawmaker proclaiming how progressive he or she was and how much they love mom-and-pop businesses, it was difficult for New Yorkers to know who really was committed to saving our small businesses. Many of The Villager’s articles on this subject ended with a message to the newspaper’s readers: Forget all the political rhetoric, the “litmus test” for real progressive lawmakers is that they not be controlled by special interests and are committed to saving small businesses through support of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. This bill — its latest version bottled up in committee the past eight years — gave rights to renew commercial leases and rights to negotiate fair lease terms to all commercial businesses. The majority of at City Hall passed the litmus test. The response from the majority of lawmakers in supporting the bill was very positive, with the bill’s sponsorship rising to 28 out of 51 councilmembers, enough for passage if a vote were taken. The majority of the members of the City Council’s Small Business Committee were sponsors, enough to vote the bill out of committee, allowing the full Council to vote on it. Yet, in a progressive City Council, with all its leadership claiming to be self-proclaimed champions of progressive legislation, the S.B.J.S.A. could not even gain a public hearing these past eight years. For the first time in the long 30-year debate on passing legislation regulating commercial landlords and giving commercial tenants rights in the lease-renewal process, this City Council denied a public hearing on the only real solution to save small businesses. This denial of a public hearing made the S.B.J.S.A. a poor litmus test in terms of identifying lawmakers who hold true progressive values, have high integrity and a moral obligation to New Yorkers in need, reverence for Democracy and for the will of the people, and respect for our city’s immigrant heritage. In short, lawmakers who had no intention of ever standing behind our mom-and-pop businesses and fighting for the S.B.J.S.A. or any legislation regulating commercial landlords were signing up as sponsors of the bill. Others were purposely lying to their constituents about not fighting for a public hearing for the bill because of baseless legal claims that the bill had “legal issues.” Whenever the public gathered to express its anger over their favorite businesses closing, lawmakers would join them to share their outrage, but would always distract the public with useless proposals that gave no rights to business owners and would not save even a single business. The problem for small businesses in getting justice at City Hall, even as their crisis worsened, was that the powerful real estate lobby — the Real Estate Board of New York a.k.a. REBNY — also had a “litmus test” to determine which lawmakers would get the board’s money and political influence. That litmus test centered around never allowing the S.B.J.S.A. or any legislation that regulated commercial landlords to have an honest TheVillager.com

The writer, above, the city’s leading smallbusiness advocate, says it will be up to the new Cit y Council speaker — which appears to be Corey Johnson — to ensure that the Small Business Committee is not stacked against the Small Business Jobs Sur vival Act. The new speaker will be elected in early Januar y.

public hearing and vote. The past two City Council speakers, Christine Quinn and Melissa Mark-Viverito, both passed the REBNY litmus test and used the Speaker’s Office to rig the system at City Hall to favor only REBNY and its landlord members. Both Quinn and Mark-Viverito abdicated the Council’s oversight responsibly for economic policy to REBNY. This antidemocratic act by both speakers allowed the most anti-small business Small Business Committee to continue the charade of helping small businesses.

The past two speakers both passed the REBNY litmus test.

The outcome of this collusion with REBNY was even more exorbitant rent increases, causing more than 1,000 small business closings each month in New York City, 8,000 jobs lost each month and empty storefronts on every main street in the city. The new speaker of the City Council will immediately face a growing crisis that has been purposely ignored by a government unduly influenced by special interests. This mounting crisis is the rapid destruction of the “backbone of our economy” and the largest employer of resident New Yorkers — our small businesses. If ignored and allowed to grow worse, this can only lead to a major recession, record unemployment rates and skyhigh property-tax increases in the near future. The hallmark of leadership for lawmakers has always been how they address a crisis; how quickly, effectively and fairly they pass legislation that offers a real solution to end the crisis. Will the new speaker stand on his progressive principles and restore democracy to represent the will of the people? Or will he follow the path of political ambition and allow REBNY to continue to control the oversight responsibly of economic policy? The litmus test for the new speaker on his leadership qualities, progressive values, respect for democracy

and commitment to save our small businesses and New Yorkers’ jobs is easy to identify. Very simply, the litmus test will be who the speaker selects as the new chairperson of the Small Business Committee, as well as its members. The past two chairpersons of this committee were handpicked by REBNY to “do nothing” but keep the status quo protecting the landlords’ windfall profits. REBNY also stacked the committee with pro-landlord members who would never once call for a public hearing on the S.B.J.S.A. or any legislation to end the crisis. And so, the “REBNY Committee” remained silent as the New York City courts issued warrants to evict 23,000 businesses and 185,000 New Yorkers lost their jobs, as a result. The “REBNY Committee” remained silent as mostly immigrant owners were being extorted for cash demanded by landlords under threat of being thrown out of business. The Small Business Congress has experienced firsthand many lawmakers who were once strong voices and champions of our bill, only to flip and abandon their progressive principles for their own political careers. REBNY has a shortlist of its most loyal cronies who it controls and who have willingly promoted their useless proposals to keep the status quo and who would want to chair the Small Business Committee. REBNY also has a list of potential committee members who have taken its money and shown a lack of courage or conviction to fight for any cause but their own political ambitions. Lawmakers that small-business advocates would not wish to see as chairperson of the Small Business Committee include Robert Cornegy, Brad Lander, Margaret Chin, Ydanis Rodriquez, Peter Koo and Carlos Menchaca. Based on their past records of doing nothing to find a real solution to save our businesses and their promoting REBNY-created do-nothing proposals, appointing any one of these members as chairperson would signal no hope — no hope — for our struggling small business owners. Other councilmembers with appalling records of promoting REBNY status-quo fake substitutes for the S.B.J.S.A. and who do not deserve to be on the committee include Fernando Cabrera and Helen Rosenthal. For the future of our small businesses and countless New Yorkers’ jobs, for our city’s arts community and those who love their neighborhoods, we call upon the new speaker to rise above the corrupt control of REBNY and take back the responsibility of selecting the Small Business Committee’s chairperson and its members. Select only those lawmakers who are independent of REBNY’s control and committed to serving our city’s hardworking small business owners. Mr. Speaker, select a chairperson committed to progressive values who has the courage to stand up for our small business owners and their employees. Select a chairperson who will be a strong voice for our small business owners, who will hold an honest public hearing to find real solutions to the real problems merchants face. Only in this way will democracy be restored at City Hall and will economic disaster be avoided. Kim is the founder of the oldest small business service center in New York City, the Korean American Small Business Service Center, and was chairperson of the first Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Board, appointed by former Mayors David Dinkins and Rudy Giuliani. Kim is co-founder of the Small Business Congress and sole creator of the Small Business Bill of Rights. In 32 years he has personally negotiated and renegotiated an estimated 55,000 commercial leases for his Korean members. He personally consulted on the drafting of the original version of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and every subsequent version introduced by seven prime sponsors. December 28, 2017


Therese Chorun, 55, enviro / justice advocate OBITUARIES BY RICK HILL


herese Marie Chorun, a fi xture in Downtown New York City activist circles, died on Sept. 5. She was 55. After an April 2015 life-saving hospitalization following diagnosis and initial treatment for cervical cancer, she declined mainstream medical care for several months while pursuing alternative remedies. She reconnected with the medical system in her last year and a half, when she had multiple hospitalizations, spent six months at a rehab / nursing facility in Harlem before transferring to Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, a wonderful place for adult cancer patients. She was born May 20, 1962, in Brooklyn, the first of four children of Katherine and Joseph Chorun. Her siblings are a sister, Leslie, and brothers Philip and Alan. Leslie is an MD, Philip a programmer and Alan heads Young Vision Africa, a nonprofit in Africa. Growing up mostly in Byram Township, in northwestern New Jersey, she attended Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope, N.J., before getting her B.A. at Hofstra in Hempstead, Long Island. For her whole life, she lived mostly in Stanhope and Jersey City and around

Therese Chorun.

New York City. Her mother, Katherine, died on Oct. 8, not quite a month after Therese’s death. Therese’s exotic beauty from her Korean father and half-Italian / halfEnglish-German mother made her the ideal model for painters like her friend James Reid and photographers. But she declined nude modeling. She was known

for her wild hair, sparkling eyes, bright smile and slim proportions. She loved nature and had seen many national parks in the U.S. and Canada because her father had a great appreciation for them also and planned several family trips there. She and her sister Leslie took a group tour of Europe in 1985 for a month, and Therese later took a trip to Greece with one of Leslie’s friends. Therese took other trips to South America and Mexico. She played the piano and loved reading and writing. Raised Catholic, including Confirmation, she was later agnostic, then atheist, then agnostic again. On admission to Calvary Hospital, when asked her religion, she answered, “lapsed Catholic,” but received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick a week prior to her death when critically ill. A funeral Mass for her mother was held at St. Michael Catholic Church in Netcong, N.J., on Oct. 17, and Therese was included in the intercessory prayers. Then another Mass was offered for Therese and her mother Nov. 15 at St. Michael the Archangel Church, at 424 W. 34th St. Therese was known as intelligent, honest, thrifty and someone who hated seeing anything wasted. She fought for the preservation of the redwood forests and for human rights in Burma and worldwide. She lived with her boyfriend Vinny for seven years, and in recent years with

Carl on the Lower East Side. For 10 years she was a paid staff member at WBAI, doing data entry, until she was abruptly terminated in a budget move. She was an assistant to poet Steve Cannon of “A Gathering of Tribes” in the East Village. At a packed October memorial potluck at Integral Yoga, at 227 W. 13th St. — where Therese used to fold blankets and arrange pillows — led by Laura of Gentle Yoga and Therese’s companion, writer Carl, she was remembered by family and friends for her extreme empathy toward individuals and social justice / environmental causes. Mitch Cohen sang the Kaddish. Many told amusing stories of her scavenging useful items, including food, and distributing it to appropriate people and organizations, including the Catholic Worker on E. Third St. Over the years, she was also associated also with activities at the E. Sixth St. Community Center, Judson Memorial Church and the former music club Wetlands. It was recalled how her arrest at a Home Depot protest landed her in jail for a traumatic entire weekend while others were quickly released. She also assisted senior citizens at Center on the Square / Greenwich House, often as a volunteer. Attendees were invited to peruse and take any of her lovely garments on tabletops in back at the memorial, and her sister Leslie was striking in Therese’s paisley wrap. Paisley was Therese’s favorite design.

Jeff Brennan: Toured with Taylor, managed Max’s BY RICK HILL


effrey “Jeff” Brennan died early this past August, right after turning 70, in his apartment in Greenwich Village where he’d lived for 40 or 50 years. It was the former apartment of his good friend Howard Smith, American Oscar-winning film director, producer, journalist, screenwriter, actor and radio broadcaster who died in 2014 at age 77. Born in July 1947, Jeff was raised in Maplewood, N.J., where he graduated from Columbia High School, before graduating from American University in Washington, D.C. He leaves a sister, his cousin Jill in India and his old friend Pattie. Together they scattered his ashes in Martha’s Vineyard. Shortly before his death, diabetes forced the removal of part of his left heel and, using a cane, he managed the staircase to his studio apartment at the top of a five-story walkup at 31 W. Eighth St., facing MacDougal St.


December 28, 2017

In recent years, he was a regular at institutions like Lifethyme Natural Foods, around the corner on Sixth Ave., and at Eva’s on W. 8th St., along with the Center on the Square / Greenwich House Senior Center, at 20 Washington Square North, between Five Ave. and MacDougal. Jeff was known for his quiet and gentle nature, quick wit and benign humor and his great command of the best of rock and roll of the ’60s. Through his cousin Jill, who dated James Taylor, he toured with Taylor as a singer and guitarist. Also through Jill, then a waitress at the original Max’s Kansas City, he was manager for seven years at the famous nightclub and restaurant, at 213 Park Ave. South, at E. 18th St. By day a meeting place for people in advertising, Max’s at night morphed into the happening place for the jet set and Andy Warhol, where Debbie Harry was also a waitress. After Bill had been unseen for days, the authorities entered his apartment

Jeffrey Brennan.

in August only to find him dead. Then, in the confusion of the days and weeks that followed, his music along with his many acoustic and electronic guitars vanished.

Unfulfilled was his fantasy to move to Iceland for the climate, beauty, weather and food. He was predeceased by his blonde Swedish girlfriend, who perished in a plane crash in Bali. TheVillager.com

From Reboots to Reckonings: The Best Films of 2017 Cinema delivered solace during a tumultuous year

Via Sony Pictures

Kinetic action sequences and a killer soundtrack jump-start Edgar Wright’s creative crime caper “Baby Driver.”

BY SEAN EGAN Well, we all thought nothing could possibly be as bad as 2016, but boy howdy did 2017 do its best to be worse. From Washington’s daily, anxiety-inducing developments to the stillactive sexual misconduct reckoning facing Hollywood, it seems everything that’s happened this year was calculated for maximum miserability. One area, however, where 2017 managed not to disappoint or depress, was at the movies. Through the year, filmmakers tackled hot-button issues, gave us hope in dark times, made us feel less alone, or simply provided some muchneeded escapism. Below is a list of my personal favorites — unranked, but loosely grouped. They represent some of the best the movies had to offer, or, at the very least, movies that made things better. TheVillager.com

WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE Really, there isn’t much new about Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age film chronicling the senior year of its titular high schooler, “Lady Bird.” You’ve seen the rites of passage unfold on screen time and again. And yet, it’s rare that a movie renders these archetypes and plot points with as much wit and specificity. It’s there in the antagonistic yet warm relationship between Lady Bird and her mother; there in the stumbling forays into romance that seem monumental to the precocious lead. That’s the movie’s greatest trick: You’ve met these characters before, because chances are you’ve been these characters at some point. The film effortlessly guides viewers through the emotional peaks and valleys encountered at the precipice of adulthood,

in ways at once hilarious, awkward, and honest. Ultimately though, it’s that honesty that makes “Lady Bird” a contemporary classic of the genre, and the year’s very best film.

AMERICA, ACROSS THE POND If nothing else, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” solidifies Irish playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh as cinema’s resident master of dialogue — his characters are never at a loss for words, lobbing acerbic digs at one another like Molotov cocktails, while still feeling fully lived in. Following the quest of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand, at her best since “Fargo”) to get answers from her local police department about the brutal rape and murder of her daughter, McDonagh

has created a decidedly non-didactic, humanist character study that taps into something resonant about small-town America in ways only an empathetic but honest outsider could. After years of trouble breaking it in Hollywood, cult UK-director Edgar Wright (beloved flop “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) finally connected with American audiences in earnest by crafting a supremely fun crime caper. From the word “go,” “Baby Driver” wastes no time delivering some of the most creative, masterfully edited action setpieces in recent memory. With its tinnitusafflicted protagonist behind the wheel, cars speed along in time to a carefully curated soundtrack in an exhilarating union of drag race and ballet. With equally sharp comedic timing, the YEAR IN FILM continued on p. 16 December 28, 2017


YEAR IN FILM continued from p. 15

movie’s a cinematic sugar rush that’ll hopefully grant Wright the keys to more expensive Hollywood vehicles moving forward.

SUPERSUBVERSIONS Functioning as a send-off for Hugh Jackman’s venerable Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier, James Mangold’s moody, moving “Logan” expands the scope of what a superhero movie can be by going admirably smallscale and adult. A dusty neo-western, the film focuses on the rapidly-deteriorating super duo grappling with morality and their legacies as they try to help an 11-year-old mutant raised in captivity escape to safety. It’s heavy stuff (and the R-rated violence throughout is resolutely not of the wham-bang variety), but it builds to a climax as evocative and poetic as any movie, comic book or otherwise. If “Logan” expanded on what a superhero movie could be, “Thor: Ragnarok” may well be the perfection of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) formula. Bringing in Kiwi indie darling Taika Waititi to perk up Marvel’s most staid franchise was an inspired move; his excitement behind the camera is palpable. Largely a Thor/Hulk buddy movie, Waititi sets “Ragnarok” in Marvel’s underexplored, candy-colored cosmic universe, bringing in ringers like Jeff Goldblum (nonchalantly nibbling the scenery throughout) and composer Mark Mothersbaugh (basically in fullon DEVO mode) to keep the humorous galactic road trip chugging along. It adds up to 2017’s giddiest blockbuster, breathlessly charging through offbeat action and deadpan banter like it’s getting away with something.

Via A24

The year’s very best film: Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is an exceptional coming-ofage tale, produced with heart and specificity.

forced to do the unthinkable. Riffing on moral culpability and parental neurosis, Lanthimos nonetheless delivers his bleak thesis with a madman’s chuckle: The world is random and cruel, pain is inevitable, and we’re all culpable. Ha, ha. Via Fox Searchlight

Frances McDormand rivals her iconic “Fargo” turn in Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

NOTHING TO FEAR BUT LIFE ITSELF Good horror filmmakers know little separates laughter from horror; excellent horror directors know little separates horror from reality. “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s feature debut about a black man’s sojourn to meet his white girlfriend’s parents, proves the sketch comedy maverick has the makings of a top-tier genre director. The uneasy humor is there in early, cringe-worthy conversations between Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris and his microaggression-oblivious hosts. The horror comes when you realize the truly nightmarish scenario the movie’s got waiting in the wings is not all that different from how black Americans are


December 28, 2017

Via Marvel Studios

Director Taika Waititi breathed new life into the “Thor” franchise by focusing on character, comedy, and Marvel’s candy-colored cosmos.

fetishized, commodified, and mistreated daily. It’s required viewing not just for horror hounds, but for anyone looking to take the pulse of race relations in 2017 America. Despite the unimaginable, horrific acts of violence, what’s most disturbing about “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”

is just how darkly funny it is. In this meta, modern-day riff on Agamemnon, Yorgos Lanthimos’ all-seeing, clinically gliding camera follows characters who converse in stilted monotone (think Wes Anderson calibrated to “creepy” rather than “quirky”) until they’re finally pushed to the breaking point and

REJUVENATED REBOOTS Following up a film as iconic as 1982’s “Blade Runner” after decades could have been disastrous. Fortunately, Denis Villeneuve was more than up to the task, building on the original’s themes and adding some of the stealth humanism found in his last feature, “Arrival.” Gorgeously shot by Roger Deakins, “Blade Runner 2049” is the sort of movie that marinates in its Big Ideas and envelops you in its meditative atmosphere over an expansive running time. It’s the kind of heady but rewarding sci-fi one can only hope to see more of in the mainstream. “Alien: Covenant” is 2017’s most welcome return to form, with original “Alien” helmer Ridley Scott returning the series to its dark, weird, creepy roots. Keeping what worked from his prequel “Prometheus” (specifically Michael Fassbender, turning in a homoerotic dual performance here that must be seen to be believed), Scott dives headfirst into exploring the metaphorically-rich origin YEAR IN FILM continued on p. 17 TheVillager.com

Via Lucasfilm Ltd.

Via A24

The narrative subversion and moral ambiguity thrill as much as the battles in Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Colin Farrell is rendered a modern-day Agamemnon in Yorgos Lanthimos’ darkly humorous “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

YEAR IN FILM continued from p. 16

story of the Xenomorphs. The result is a gonzo, gothic creation myth that treats its philosophical influences as sly jokes and cultural touchstones as pulp fodder. Though it delivers what may well be the most show-stopping lightsaber fight to-date, the most dynamic battles of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” are the internal struggles its characters contend with deep in the heart of war. While some have been hesitant to embrace the film’s more subversive, comedic tone, by focusing on human flaws and stressing a spectrum of gray in a series known for black-and-white morality, writer/director Rian Johnson pushes the “Star Wars” saga and its characters into uncharted, rewarding directions. Plus, come on, those space battles are awesome too!

THEY CAME FROM THE DEEP The humanoid sea creature at the heart of “The Shape of Water” — Guillermo del Toro’s wonky Cold Warera interspecies romance — may well be the director’s most gorgeous grotesquery so far. Much of the credit belongs to actor Doug Jones, who brings him to life with a deft touch, capturing the character’s animalistic and alluring qualities simultaneously. The whole affair plays out like a storybook come to life (granted, one punctuated with graphic violence and the occasional bout of sea monster/human coitus). Delightfully strange and strangely touching, “The Shape of Water” can stand proudly amongst del Toro’s previous masterpieces. Okay, yes, “Monster Trucks,” the movie about monsters that live inside of and operate trucks, was conceived of by the four-year-old son of a now-fired Paramount executive — but doesn’t that TheVillager.com

sound kind of great? Unsurprisingly, the movie bustles along with childlike enthusiasm, as it follows teenager Tripp and his newfound monster buddy Creech, as they attempt to protect Creech’s habitat from a greedy oil-drilling bureaucrat (played to perfection by a Twizzlermunching Rob Lowe). This loopy slice of Americana/quasi-environmentalist fable is the kind of live-action cartoon that recalls the goofy, good-hearted Amblin family films of yore. There’s really no way to explain “Colossal” simply and succinctly that does it justice. In broad strokes, Nacho Vigalondo’s singular sci-fi dramadey concerns an alcoholic 30-something (a career-best Anne Hathaway) whose rock-bottom trip to her hometown coincides with the appearance of an enormous kaiju in South Korea. Though it delivers laughs and the requisite monster movie goods, the film ultimately ends up an effective meditation on addiction and abuse, without betraying its own unique vision or slipping into sentimentality.

JOY AMONG THE HARD TIMES Let’s make one thing clear from the jump: “Girls Trip” is stone-cold filthy, likely the raunchiest comedy to come out of a major studio this year. It’s almost definitely the funniest (and most heartfelt) as well. While special mention must be given to Tiffany Haddish — her live-wire performance and commitment to the act of “grapefruiting” finds her nearly walking away with the movie — Malcolm D. Lee’s girls-gone-wild flick is buoyed by the crack timing of its entire, game-for-anything cast. It’s just a bonus their chemistry comes so naturally and its third-act pathos lands so effectively. Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” chronicles the dog days of summer at

the Magic Castle, a low-rent motel in Florida with a shocking-purple paint job. Its denizens include hard-on-herluck Halle, her young daughter, and the eminently decent manager, Bobby (a gentle Willem Dafoe). As hardscrabble and unflinching as it is full of life and exuberance, this film recognizes the monumental importance of small acts of kindness and captures all the beauty present in everyday life. Make no mis-

take, there are trials and tribulations aplenty — things painful to watch. But its euphoric ending is one of the most affecting scenes of the year, a moment of pure, escapist joy amongst all the tumult and pain of reality, and a stirring act of friendship to boot. While it might not be perfect, and it might not make everything okay, it’s a hard-earned bit of hope — something we all might have earned at the end of 2017.

Via Universal

The star-studded cast of Malcolm D. Lee’s “Girls Trip” bring the raunch (and heart), in the year’s funniest comedy.

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

Bread and Puppet Theater Our Domestic Insurrection Circus and The Honey Let's Go Home Opera Great for Children! Opens December 7 Children 2 and under


Histrionics by Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith and Ben Forstenzer A new Play about the Worst President So Far Opens November 30th Tickets only $15.00

Winter Wonderland

By Marvalee Peart Five orphans, a flight attendant, an ex-con… and the prince of darkness... will any one survive the spirit of Christmas? 12/7-12/24 $18.00

December 28, 2017


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Soho un-Trumped; But condos still to be audited EDITORIAL continued from p. 12

Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer crafted a restrictive declaration for the condo units: As a result, stays in the building’s condos are limited to no more than 29 days in a row within a 36-day period, and 120 days total per year — basically, enforcing the distinction between transient hotel units and residences. An outside auditor is required to examine the records on the condo units. (Back at the ribbon-cutting in 2010, Trump confidently assured us that the auditing would all be done by “computer” and would be “a great system.”) The restrictive declaration also banned the condo units from having “stoves, fixed ranges, dishwashers or washer dryers,” things that would encourage or facilitate long-term stays. Sadly, however, this restrictive declaration — specifically, the auditing of the condos’ usage records — was not initially enforced by the Department of Buildings. G.V.S.H.P. reached out to Quinn and Stringer to pressure them on the is-

sue, but got no response for “many, many months,” according to Berman. Finally, in 2013, G.V.S.H.P. filed a Freedom of Information Law request, and found that for the first three years or so, there was absolutely no enforcement. According to Berman, neither Quinn nor Stringer had asked for an audit to be done or to see the audit results. Enforcement finally started at the end of the Bloomberg administration and has continued under de Blasio. When de Blasio became mayor, Berman noted, G.V.S.H.P. “asked for vigorous enforcement” of the Trump Soho restrictive declaration. Consequently, to date, the hotel has been fined about a half-million dollars for violating the “restrictive dec.” “The de Blasio administration has not been much more forthcoming than the Bloomberg administration,” Berman noted. “But when we FOIL’ed, we saw they were at least doing audits and fining.” The preservationist said his group would keep filing a FOIL each year regarding the auditing of the Trump Soho condos “to ensure that it happens.”

As a result of G.V.S.H.P. “doggedly shaming” two mayoral administrations, as Berman put it, the agreement’s terms are now actually being enforced. “It’s making it harder for the Trump Soho to get around the law and make money in violation of the zoning,” he noted. The condos, no doubt, were intended to be a major part of the property’s moneymaking calculus. When The Villager recently inquired about them, though, the building’s Director of Owner Relations told us, “The sponsor is not selling any units.” Currently owned condos may be available for resale on StreetEasy, though — but, remember, G.V.S.H.P. will be watching! Responding to Berman’s accusations that Stringer was inactive on calling for enforcement, Tyrone Stevens, press secretary for now-City Comptroller Stringer, issued the following statement: “As borough president, Scott Stringer partnered with local groups and other elected officials to fight for restrictions at the Trump Soho property that would benefit the community. These efforts

resulted in an agreement that gave the Department of Buildings the authority to enforce and audit the property to ensure compliance with the city’s zoning laws. And it was Scott Stringer’s office that discovered that the property was being advertised for residences and promptly notified D.O.B., which led the city to take a hard stance on this project. To be clear: Any version of events to the contrary is a fiction. That’s why these claims aren’t just wild distortions of the facts — they’re totally bogus.” Yes, it’s true that D.O.B. is the agency responsible for the actual enforcement here. But couldn’t Stringer have used his position as a bully pulpit to ensure that it occurred? Or…are those just “alternative facts”? At any rate, great job, G.V.S.H.P.! This might not exactly be on par with Robert Mueller’s federal obstruction investigation, but on a local level, it was very important to ensure that enforcement against the Trump Soho was actually occurring — and also that it will now continue against the Donald-less Dominick Hotel.


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TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell


December 28, 2017

phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at

a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.

Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.


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