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

February 8, 2018 • $1.00 Volume 88 • Number 6

Google it: Online giant buys Chelsea Market building for $2.5 billion BY WINNIE MCCROY

A

fter years of local residents wondering about the future of the Chelsea Market, it now appears that Google will purchase the famous food hall from its current owner, Jamestown, for nearly $2.5 billion — in excess of $1,600 per square foot. In fact, Google

Maps already lists 75 Ninth Ave. between 15th and 16th Sts. as the “Google Building.” On Tues., Feb. 6, The Real Deal reported that the tech giant was in negotiations to purchase the 1.2-million-square-foot complex. Google is currently the building’s largest tenant, having GOOGLE continued on p. 2

Mt. Sinai mulls more floors on mini-hospital planned on E. 13th St. BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

M

ount Sinai Health System is currently “leaning toward” building an extra four floors atop its new mini-hospital in the works in the northwestern corner of the East Village. While “nothing is set in stone,” ne, Mount Sinai is mulling

including the additional levels “as part of the initial build,” a source recently told The Villager. The new mini-hospital will rise on the east side of Second Ave. between E. 13th and E. 14th Sts. and will be called Mount Sinai Downtown Beth

PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER

Kembra Pfahler in her East Village apar tment with red piano, red dollhouse and forever-empty red shelves. The rest of the ar tist’s home is red, too. See Page 12.

Rivera report: ‘Tech Hub,’ S.B.J.S.A. are key issues BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

HOSPITAL continued on o p. 10

‘B

aptism by fire” is how Carlina Rivera described her initiation to the City Council. In an interview with The Villager last Friday, Rivera, the new councilmember for District 2 — which includes the East Village, Union Square and Gramercy and runs up to Murray Hill — spoke about getting acclimated to her new job at City Hall. She discussed the committees she has been

Episcopals honor Ragbir........ p. 13

assigned to and her goals while in office. And she also weighed in on critical issues like the fate of the long-stymied Small Business Jobs Survival Act, the planned “Tech Hub” on E. 14th St. and more. “The first 30 days have been baptism by fire, I guess,” she said. “It’s been intense.” She has been busy with a flurry of meetings and hearings. In addition, her first day in the City Council, was the day that the 51-member body elect-

ed Corey Johnson their new speaker, or leader. It also happened to be Rivera’s birthday. “I turned 29 for the fifth time,” quipped Rivera, 34. As for voting for Johnson, she said, “I knew I made the right decision. … I think Corey has shown himself to be someone who looks forward to collaborating and working with people.” She underwent two days of training, which she called “the RIVERA continued on p. 4

What the L? Open house was hardly ‘open’........p. 8 Komanoff: Why congestion pricing will work... p. 15 www.TheVillager.com


Behemoth Google buys Chelsea Market building GOOGLE continued from p. 1

previously leased about 400,000 square feet of space. After all, it’s conveniently located right across the street from the search giant’s New York headquarters at 111 Eighth Ave., which it purchased in 2010 for $1.8 billion. This move makes sense when looking at Google’s history at the Chelsea Market; for the past seven years, it has aggressively acquired office space at the location whenever a lease expired. In October 2012, Google added 94,000 square feet to the 1.2 million square feet it was already leasing at Chelsea Market, then leased another 84,000 square feet at the location in 2013. The deal is expected to close within the next two months. Once it does, Jamestown will make a huge profit from its original investment of $225 million in 2011. This is the first billion-dollar-plus real-estate sale to go under contract this year in New York, and it is expected to give an early boost to the city’s investment-sales market. Back in 2011, members of Save Chelsea expressed concerns that Jamestown, an Atlanta-based German company, had planned to obtain the necessary zoning variances for the building only to sell it. Longtime Save Chelsea member David Holowka said that the group strongly opposed granting Jamestown the right to add oa tower atop Chelsea Market that would cast shadows over the High Line, a public park. “It sounded like bulls--- then, and it still does,” Holowka said. “We all suspected that Jamestown, originally a retirementfund investment, was only interested in increasing the value of their property so they could cash out on that increased valuation. And the fact that they haven’t built vertically shows that they were only after additional profit. I suspect that they always had Google in mind.” “It is so transparent that they are looking to cash in on the views up and down the High Line and Hudson River,” he said. “And what irks me is that the value of the air rights above Chelsea Market at that end were enhanced by public money intended for a park. Also, Chelsea Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You don’t lightly change zoning to allow buildings to be built on top of historic places. But all these things came to pass. The local community board got behind their proposal, and I hope they don’t feel like fools now.” Similarly, Bill Borock, President of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, said, “This is exactly what we told the community board that Jamestown would do, but they felt if they didn’t compromise and approve it with stipulations, they would get it anyway.” By 2012, Community Board 4 had indeed approved Jamestown’s plan to add Chelsea Market to the Special West Chelsea District as a mechanism to permit building up to 250 feet above the exist-

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PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN MILES

The Chelsea Market building on the morning of Wed., Feb. 7 — the day after news broke that Google is its likely new owner.

FILE IMAGE COURTESY JAMESTOWN

A design rendering of Chelsea Market, viewed from the West Side Highway, depicting a ver tical expansion that has yet to happen.

ing market. At that time, Michael Philips, then managing director of Jamestown, said the company had no plans to sell, pointing to its long-term $380 million mortgage as evidence of its long-term commitment. Waterfront activist Bob Trentlyon predicted at the time, “I do not believe they are going to get the rights to build the building and then not sell to someone else. Their history is to only stay a few years, then flip it.” Jamestown has a track record of purchasing notable commercial properties — including the General Motors Building and 1290 Avenue of the Americas — solely for the short-term maximization of

return for its investors, selling the properties in an average of five years. C.B. 4 Chairperson Burt Lazarin was resigned to the fact that Google could undertake the vertical expansion that Jamestown had secured. “It’s approved,” he said, “so I wouldn’t be surprised that they did. If I was in real estate, that’s one reason I would want to buy that building, because you don’t have to go through the rezoning process. It was done four years ago, and was very controversial at the time.” “Everybody in Manhattan plays real estate; they don’t keep it for the rest of their lives,” Lazarin added. “Eventually, they move out. And Jamestown is a Ger-

man company. I don’t care if it’s based in Atlanta, they’re only here to make money. I don’t know if this move will be for the better or worse, but I would like Google to honor their community commitments. And I assume they will keep the retail portion. It would be a pretty stupid public-relations move to eliminate the Chelsea Market.” While Google is expected to keep things running as they are in the retail portion of Chelsea Market and the recently-renovated lower level a.k.a. The Chelsea Local, what the impact will be on upstairs tenants — including the Food Network and Major League Baseball, which has a lease through 2022 — is still unknown. It’s also unclear how the sale will affect the community “gets” that Jamestown previously negotiated with C.B. 4, including a one-time capital improvements payment of $17 million to Friends of the High Line, promised hotel jobs and a passel of community programs — some of which Jamestown has already fulfilled. Friends of the High Line declined comment. “It will be interesting to see if the High Line says, ‘We’ll take the $17 million, and we’ll take the shadows,’” Borock offered. In the past seven years, Jamestown has made significant financial contributions to at least a dozen local projects — including a food-worker training program in Long Island City, a food-incubator space, a nutritional program at two local schools, landscaping and public-art displays on the Chelsea Market concourse, sponsoring Fulton Houses’ holiday party and several $10,000 Thanksgiving turkey giveaways. Jamestown’s donations include $100,000 to the James Beard Foundation, $36,000 to the Wellness in the Schools program, $1,500 to P.S. 11’s Annual Gala, $1,000 to the Corlears School and $50,000 to Friends of the High Line. Paul Groncki, president of the 100 W. 16th Block Association, said, “They’re supposed to give money to the High Line. And there’s the TechUp center at Hudson Guild — does this sale put that in danger? Also, Jamestown was involved in helping save the mural from Greenwich Savings Bank [at 14th St. and Sixth Ave.]. What will happen with that? There’s a lot more questions than answers about the implication of this sale. “I would also say it’s disappointing,” Groncki said, “because since the big fights the community had in 2011 about expansion of the Chelsea Market, Jamestown has actually been very proactive about their role in the community in positive ways, and redeemed itself a bit in the eyes of the community. Now to find them flipping and selling and walking away from Chelsea is very disappointing.” Jamestown and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. TheVillager.com


HARD TO STOMACH: In an act of desperation to be allowed to return to their homes, displaced tenants from 85 Bowery will start a hunger strike on Thurs., Feb. 8, at 11 a.m., outside the offices of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, at 100 Gold St. The 75 low-income tenants were forced to evacuate the building on the cold night of Jan. 18, and the city gave the landlord, Joe Betesh — who is also the owner of the Dr. Jay’s chain of stores — two weeks to fix a dangerously slanting staircase. With that deadline passed, tenants are now taking drastic measures, as witnessed by the hunger strike. A press conference and rally will accompany the kickoff of the food-forgoing strike, all of which is sponsored by the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and Lower East Side and the 83-85 Bowery Tenants Association. In a statement, a spokesperson for Bowery 8385 LLC, said, “Our team is working diligently each day to repair the severely damaged infrastructure of 85 Bowery and make the build-

ing safe for habitation. Any reports claiming that we seek to demolish the building or replace it with

a hotel or condominiums are false. We all share the same goal — moving families back into their homes as quickly as possible. We understand this is a very difficult time for families of 85 Bowery and we are providing quality hotel accommodations in Chinatown for the duration of repairs, so families are able to remain in the local community while our work continues.” The spokesperson added Betesh is providing 18 rooms at the nearby Wyndham Garden hotel for 85 Bowery families, and those rooms will remain available, at the owner’s expense, until the repairs are complete.

PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY

At a meet-and-greet with new District 2 Councilmember Carlina Rivera earlier this week, community members, like the woman above, wore stickers urging her to support rezoning protections for Broadway and Univeristy Place south of 14th St. or else not approve the city’s planned “Tech Hub” project for E. 14th St. between Third and Fourth Aves. Rivera did discuss the Tech Hub in her remarks, but mainly focused on how the building could provide sorely needed digital-jobs-training skills for her primarily East Side constituents. Rivera said she also supports creating affordable housing in the area. However, she did not commit to backing the rezoning and landmarking protections that the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has been advocating for. Andrew Berman, executive director of G.V.S.H.P., said he could not comment because he did not attend the event. Harry Bubbins, G.V.S.H.P.’s East Village and special projects director, did attend but deferred comment to Berman. TheVillager.com

Februar y 8, 2018

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RIVERA continued from p. 1

briefest lessons on everything you need to know. They go over land use, finance… . I felt good that I was on staff, otherwise it would have been overwhelming,” she said. Rivera was referring to her stint as former Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s legislative director, during which time she learned the ropes of the City Council. After three terms in office, Mendez was termlimited at the end of last year. Rivera noted that she is “on leadership,” meaning she is one of about 20 members who meet with Speaker Johnson on a regular basis to discuss the Council’s agenda. In addition Johnson has appointed her chairperson of the Committee on Hospitals and co-chairperson of the Women’s Caucus. She is also a member of the Committee on Small Business, the Economic Development Committee and the Committee on Housing and Buildings. “I was very, very happy. I got a lot of the committees I requested,” Rivera noted. She did add that she’s concerned about the relatively small number of women — only 11 — in the Council right now. “We are spread so thin,” she said. “Some committees have no women on them.” In particular, advocates will be watching the Small Business Committee closely, hoping it will finally vote on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. For two decades, powerful real-estate forces and the powers that be at City Hall have essentially colluded to keep this bill from every coming up for a vote before the full City Council. The first step is for the bill to be approved by the committee, though. “I’m going to be a strong advocate for the S.B.J.S.A.,” River pledged. Advocates have blasted the appointment of Mark Gjonaj — who they describe as “a wealthy real estate owner” — as the committee’s chairperson. They note he has stated publicly he does not support the S.B.J.S.A. — and that he even opposes residential rent regulation. However, Rivera said of Gjonaj (pronounced “joe-nai”) as the committee’s leader, “I believe he’s going to be good on small business.” A Johnson spokesperson recently told the paper that it’s important to look at the whole committee’s composition. Namely, also on the committee along with Rivera are Bill Perkins and Diana Ayala. “That’s a good committee,” he stated. “We’ll know soon who’s going to carry the bill; I think that will be more important. We’re going to have a hearing that we’ve been calling for for a long time. Everyone’s saying the bill’s not legal, but where are the specifics? If it isn’t legal, what can be done to make it legal? Let’s put it all on the table — what’s legal and what’s not.” As for Rivera, she said she thinks a mix of different initiatives should be considered to address the issue, from restricting landlords from combining spaces to create extra-large storefronts, to creating “special zones” to keep out formula retail. “I think we have to do multiple things,”

PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

Carlina Rivera during her first media roundtable earlier this week.

she said. In a subsequent media roundtable with The Villager and other local media on Monday, Rivera referred to something that Johnson previously told The Villager, and said she agrees: that the S.B.J.S.A. “is not a silver bullet.” “We’re going to have to look at a 21stcentury version it,” she said of the bill. Meanwhile, the planned “Tech Hub” at the current P.C. Richard & Son site, on E. 14th St. between Third and Fourth Aves., is an issue Rivera will be taking a lead on in the Council, since it’s located in her district. To the chagrin of local activists and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the city recently certified the Tech Hub plan — but without committing to rezone or landmark the area to the south along Broadway and University Place. The certification starts the clocking ticking on the city’s seven-month-long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. Speaking to The Villager last week, Andrew Berman, the executive director of G.V.S.H.P., said Mayor Bill de Blasio “won’t get everything he wants” on the Tech Hub unless he compromises and backs a rezoning, landmarking or some combination of the two. Asked if he meant Rivera would put up resistance, Berman said, yes. Rivera said she has been watching Johnson and how he negotiated the large and complex land-use agreement for the St. John’s Partners project involving air rights purchased from Pier 40. “I am confident that we are going to be able to get a true workforce center there,” she said of the Tech Hub, “and also protect residents of the community and put in the protections they need.” Specifically, she wants a “digital-skills training center” at the location, and wants it to be as big as possible. She noted she recently met with representatives of RAL, the developers of the Tech Hub building, which will be anchored by a group called Civic Hall. “I certainly have my own asks,” she said, “that we have as much workforce space in the building as possible — and, in terms

of Civic Hall, who’s going to be a tenant in there? “I want it to look like something that reflects the community,” she stressed. “I want to see the person I see walking down Avenue D in that Tech Hub taking advantage of services. When we look at this particular industry, women and people of color are underrepresented. I want to make sure there are opportunities inside that building.” Speaking at the media roundtable on Monday, however, Rivera did not indicate that the rezoning was a deal-breaker for her. Instead, she put more emphasis on getting more affordable housing in the area, since that was what many in the community previously wanted at the P.C. Richard site. “We’re still negotiating additional community benefits” as part of the project, she said. Asked if she would put her foot down on demanding the rezoning, she said, “I don’t see us getting to that point. … I don’t think it’s going to get to a ‘take-it-or-leave it’ deal.” Told of Rivera’s position on the rezoning, Berman of G.V.S.H.P. said, “Councilmember Rivera made a clear statement during the campaign that she would use her leverage as a councilmember to condition her support for the mayor’s Tech Hub rezoning upon protections also being provided for the affected neighborhood to the south. She also stated that she agreed that without such protections, the Tech Hub would accelerate inappropriate development in the Village and East Village to the south. I think she knows that thousands of her constituents are looking to her to uphold that pledge. “If the city remains firm in their stance and refuses to offer the necessary protections for the surrounding neighborhood,” Berman continued, “we will be urging Councilmember Rivera to make good on her pledge and to vote no on the Tech Hub rezoning until and unless the city agrees to the necessary protections for the neighborhood, and we will be calling on her colRIVERA continued on p. 5 TheVillager.com


the issues with Rivera RIVERA continued from p. 4

leagues to do the same. I am cautiously optimistic that we won’t get to that point, but we are fully prepared to call for fulfillment of that pledge, if needed.� Regarding New York University, whose sprawl obviously affects Rivera’s district, the councilmember said she would like to see it site its new facilities elsewhere whenever possible, such as Long Island City or Downtown Brooklyn, the latter where N.Y.U. currently has its engineering school, for example. “They could be looking at other neighborhoods,� she said, “to give them a boost — satellite sites in the boroughs.� Queried if she had met with Andrew Hamilton, the president of N.Y.U., yet, she said no. Rivera has, however, already received official congratulations from Baruch and John Jay colleges and The Cooper Union, but nothing yet from N.Y.U. As for public housing, she said, as everyone is now aware due to the ongoing media coverage, there is an infrastructure crisis that is not being addressed — specifically, the boilers. “I spent the first two weeks taking calls, texts, e-mails from people living in public housing saying they had no heat, no hot water,� she said. In general, she is a very strong supporter of creating new senior affordable housing, she said. Asked if she had any comment on the recent flap at Community Board 3, where Chad Marlow resigned after the board’s chairperson, Alysha LewisColeman, removed him as chairperson of his committee, Rivera said no. Basically, Marlow’s Transportation, Public Safety and Environment Committee was pushing a resolution on “alcohol density� — essentially, highlighting the negative impacts on a community’s public health caused by an oversaturation of bars, based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Marlow, who had planned not to seek reappointment to the board in April anyway, was recently removed from the committee by Lewis-Coleman, who took over as board chairperson in January after Jamie Rogers resigned as chairperson after Rivera, his wife, became councilmember. Lewis-Coleman told The Villager that because Marlow had been planning to leave the board, she just decided to remove him earlier from his committee chairperson post. “Mr. Marlow informed C.B. 3 before my appointment he would not be reapplying for another term,� she said. “I chose to fill the position sooner than later.� For his part, Marlow suspects there were real-estate forces at work trying to block his resolution from being put up for a vote. Rivera, while declining comment on the Marlow situation, said, “I’m going to look into this alcohol-density resolution. TheVillager.com

I know density and oversaturation has been an issue.� At the same time, she said, it’s important that there is equal access to liquor licenses for all applicants. “I want to make sure there’s a balance between commerce and community,� she said. As councilmember, Rivera, who formerly served on C.B. 3 herself, will be able to make appointments to multiple community boards, including Boards 2, 3, 5 and 6. Rivera proudly shared that she, along with Deputy Leader Laurie Cumbo, on Jan. 31 introduced the first piece of legislation in the Council in 2018 — to allow inmates to choose the gender of their doctor. “I’m coming at it as a woman,� she explained. In a major East Village story, Mayor de Blasio last year publicly stated that the city is interested in trying to get back the old P.S. 64 building, at E. Ninth St. and Avenue B. However, on Jan. 24, developer Gregg Singer, who purchased the old school in 1998 for about $3.2 million, filed a federal lawsuit, charging a “conspiracy� to block him from redeveloping the building. The suit names multiple defendants, including the city, Mayor de Blasio, the Department of Buildings, G.V.S.H.P, Berman as an individual, Mendez, Rivera and Aaron Sosnick, a member of the East Village Community Coalition, along with “John and Jane Doe 1-100.� Singer is seeking relief and also financial damages. Asked about Singer’s new lawsuit and for an update on where things stand, in general, with efforts to regain the building for a community-oriented use, a Rivera spokesperson said she was unable to comment due to the litigation. However, Rivera, in the past, has been outspoken about wanting to return the building to community use, and also about wanting to sit down with Singer and all other parties and work out a solution. Right before last year’s election, the New York Post’s Page Six broke the story that Rivera and her husband Rogers were living on the Lower East Side in subsidized housing intended for lowincome individuals. The couple subsequently pledged to move out of the building – where Rivera had grown up — should she win election. “We moved,� Rivera told The Villager last Friday. “I spent my life in that building,� she said of her former Pitt St. home. It was like “extended family for her,� she said, though she wasn’t technically related to her neighbors. “I had people that aren’t blood [relatives], and they have taken care of me and they have seen me grow up from an infant,� she said of her former neighbors. She said their new place is “just a block or so away� from their old apartment. And, yes, she said, it’s market rate.

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#MeToo goes too far for some veteran feminists BY MARY REINHOLZ

L

ongtime West Village resident Shirley Jonas is a woman of a certain age, a former freelance television producer for outfits like Fox Broadcasting. She also spent 15 years working on staff at another national news division. She now supports #MeToo, the new feminist movement which has spurred a tsunami-like wave of working women calling out bosses for sexual misconduct, many apparently after reading exposes in The New York Times and The New Yorker about alleged assaults by now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. “It’s about time,” Jonas said during a lunch Saturday at the Bus Stop Cafe on Hudson St. Accusations of sexual harassment have swiftly ended the careers of famous men in media, government and entertainment, among them decadeslong television hosts like Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose. The latter’s persona as a genial Southern gent interviewing people on CBS and PBS stands in sharp contrast to complaints last year that he greeted female staffers in his bathrobe, made unwanted advances and pranced around naked. As for Lauer, Jonas dismissed the former iconic anchor of NBC’s “Today” show as a “predator,” when Jonas was asked about woman’s claim in 2001 that he had locked his office door from a button under his desk and sexually assaulted her. Full disclosure: She and I have known each other for four decades, but I can’t recall Jonas, a trim brunette, complaining about men hitting on her at work. Asked Saturday if she had experienced sexual harassment during her career, she let loose with a sardonic laugh over her turkey burger. “In my business, that was part of the territory,” she said. She went on to describe a hostile environment at her first TV news job in the late 1960s. It was while she was an assignment editor for a station in her native Detroit, where she had covered the 1967 Detroit riots for Time magazine. Jonas recalled being the only woman “above the secretarial level” at the station, which she compared to a “male locker room,” replete with “innuendos and [verbal] attacks.” She was fired after about three years. “Nobody paid any attention to the [civil rights] law” at the time, she said. “I was fired by my boss, who told me, ‘I’ve got to let you go because the men don’t like taking orders from a woman.’ ” After working several years in Chicago for a CBS affiliate, Jonas relocated to New York in 1973. She finally landed a gig as an assignment editor, fill-

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PHOTO BY MARY REINHOLZ

Shirley Jonas atop the Whitney Museum of American Art on Gansevoort St.

ing in as a vacation replacement at the aforementioned news division. She was eventually tapped for a permanent position that lasted until 1988, when she accepted a buyout from the company, offering severance packages to “older” employees. Looking back, she remembers how on-camera stars like Leslie Stahl, who are now in their 60s and 70s, were hired when managers began vigorously implementing affirmative action. This was in the wake of the Federal Communication Commission’s 1972 inclusion of women in its affirmative-action mandate, often cynically looking for “twofers”: women of color who would fulfill requirements for both females and minority hires. Jonas also recalls how women sometimes “seduced” male bosses to advance their careers. “In my day, the way you got ahead was by agreeing to have sexual relationships with men,” said, bluntly. “I could name

a lot of women, but I won’t. Sometimes they seduced the men and they became boyfriend and girlfriend or got married and the woman got promoted.” As for her ability to survive stressful work with long hours in a highly competitive industry, she acknowledged “It wasn’t a fun time. But it wasn’t all the time, it wasn’t every day,” noting she stayed on because of her need for a steady paycheck as a divorced, selfsupporting single woman. She attributes the start of the #MeToo movement’s traction on social media to individuals — “two or three brave and heroic women, like Rose McGowan and other women who came out against Harvey Weinstein,” she said. “That opened the floodgates.” The movement’s origins date back a dozen years to when Tarana Burke, a black woman activist reared in Queens, heard a 13-year-old girl describe sexual abuse. She began trying to connect with females, mostly black and brown,

who had similar experiences, looking to heal through empathy. In 2017, Burke founded a nonprofit called Just Be Inc. and named her crusade, MeToo. Burke, who is currently a senior director of Girls for Gender Equity in Downtown Brooklyn, was named a 2017 Time magazine Person of the Year along with other activists dubbed “The Silence Breakers.” Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano was also lauded by Time for turning Burke’s two-word phrase into the hashtag #MeToo via an October 2017 tweet. In it, Milano asked women to share their experiences of sexual abuse on social media to show “the magnitude” of the problem. Within 24 hours, there were more than 12 million “Me Too” Facebook posts, comments and reactions, CBS News reported. More recently, however, there has been harsh criticism of #MeToo in France, with film legend Catherine Deneuve joining 99 other prominent French women in signing a letter saying the movement has gone “too far,” claiming it has produced censorship and intolerance. American novelist Daphne Merkin recounted in a New York Times op-ed last month how even some feminists wonder when the next man will lose his job over “unproven” accusations of sexual harassment. Shirley Jonas, whose story began this account, believes there was an “egregious” rush to judgment when Morgan Stanley fired former Tennessee congressmember Harold E. Ford, Jr., in December, on the basis of a complaint by a Reuters journalist who claimed the Wall St. executive sexually harassed her several years ago after a bank dinner. He was terminated following a “brief investigation” by Morgan Stanley, according to The New York Times. Ford, who denied the allegation, was taken off the air as a political analyst to MSNBC the next day. Ford’s attorney apparently forced Morgan Stanley to clarify its statement on the matter, with the company saying Ford was terminated “not for sexual harassment” — as claimed by media reports — but for an unexplained breach of “corporate policy.” Vindicated, he went back to work at MSNBC for president Trump’s State of the Union address last week, The New York Post’s Page Six reported. There was far more furor over the forced resignation of former U.S. Senator Al Franken, a liberal Democrat from Minnesota who left his seat on Jan. 2 amid complaints of sexual harassment from six women. This, of course, came after President Trump had been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, and been caught boasting about grabbing females by the genitals on the “Access Hollywood” tape. Franken noted the irony in a pasFEMINISTS continued on p. 23 TheVillager.com


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7


L train / 14th St. plan open house not open BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

T

hey came from as far as Canarsie and as close as Stuyvesant Town to the 14th Street Y near First Ave., with concerns about one thing: the L train shutdown. On the evening of Wed., Jan. 31, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city’s Department of Transportation held their second open house for transit riders and residents inside the Y’s gym, at 344 E. 14th St. Posters detailing the plan thus far for the 15-month closure of the Canarsie Tunnel lined the gym’s perimeter. Stationed beside them were employees from the two agencies. Anyone could ask them questions or learn more about the plan, with work to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy slated to start in April 2019. Some attendees said they were happy with the event’s format and satisfied with the information that was provided. But others complained they really would have preferred a Q&A session and a more public and free-flowing discussion. Ruth Vasquez, a Stuy Town resident of 43 years, said she came to the open house because she wanted to know how long construction would take. “The information has been helpful,” said Vasquez, 73. “I just don’t like that it will take so long.” Angel Lao, 64, who came along with Vasquez, said he was glad the tunnel repairs would be made, but noted it probably needed work before Sandy hit New York City on Oct. 29, 2012. “Sandy was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Lao said. Vasquez and Lao live on 14th St. between Avenues A and B, and wanted to learn about the plans to close the major crosstown boulevard to cars. As part of the city’s scheme, 14th St. — between Ninth and Third Aves. eastbound and between Third and Eighth Aves. westbound — will be transformed into a “busway,” reserved for buses only during certain hours. “Fourteenth St. is congested already today,” said Choresh Wald, a seven-year resident of E. 11th St. between First and Second Aves. “The plan is not bold enough.” Wald, 40, said the city has been vague about the planned hours for the busway, and he thinks there should be a dedicated bus lane from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. He came to the open house, along with his daughter, Noga, 4, and his son, Ofek, 3, specifically to learn more about the proposed protected two-way bike lane on 13th St. Wald said that currently when he bike rides with his children, there is a danger of being hit by cars. “My family is living car-free,” he explained. “Finally, we’re going to have a way that is safe to go across the city.” Noga, wearing a bike helmet, chimed in, “I want to ride safely to my school but

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Februar y 8, 2018

Angel Lao and Ruth Vasquez came from Stuy vestant Town to learn more about the plan.

PHOTOS BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

The open house featured agenc y staffers posted by posters of the project. People were encouraged to come up and talk to the staffers. But some attendees said they would have provided a free-flowing public discussion with a Q& A where ever y thing was shared out in the open.

it’s really hard.” Other residents, however, took issue with both the meeting’s open-house format and the proposed plan. “I think this whole project is going to be a disaster,” said Noreen Shipman, a 30-year Washington Square resident and a Washington Place Block Association member. “We’re as concerned about this project as people on 13th, 14th, 15th Sts.” Shipman, who is a senior, said the city’s plan gives a lot of priority to cyclists. She said she is concerned about how trucks will make deliveries and about traffic that will be diverted from 14th St. to the surrounding side streets,

saying it’s possible that Eighth St., for example, will be affected. “In a nutshell, it appears they have no rational plan for trucks, for the deliveries…and the impact it’s going to have on the surrounding streets,” Shipman said. After the open house, Judy Pesin, who has lived on W. 13th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. for four decades, talked to The Villager by phone. “I was surprised by the format,” said Pesin. “It was like a show-and-tell with junior staffers who were very nice but couldn’t answer my questions. We’re not hearing people’s concerns here.” The one-on-one conservations discouraged open discussion, as did the

comment cards people were asked to fill out at the open house, she said. “How does it tell me anyone’s reading the card?” Pesin said. “Better than nothing, but not much better.” M.T.A. spokesperson Shams Tarek said in an e-mail that personnel working on the plan read all the comment cards, and that these are considered along with all the other public commentary that the agency is receiving in many different ways — such as other meetings, correspondence, social media and public comment at M.T.A. board meetings. As of this Tuesday evening, Tarek said 150 comment cards had been submitted between the first and second open houses. (The first open house was held the previous week in Williamsburg.) David Marcus has lived on 13th St. and Seventh Ave. for around 30 years. Speaking after the 14th Street Y open house, he said, “It wasn’t what we were expecting. We were expecting a dialogue and an exchange with the D.O.T. that would be more substantive.” In short, Marcus was totally underwhelmed and said he did not find the event informative at all. “It’s nothing more than fancy placards listing various aspects of the plan,” he scoffed over the phone. Marcus said the plan is “bound to cause an exacerbation of an already-existing traffic problem on the side streets. We feel it is a thoughtless plan,” he said. The side streets are not built to handle increased traffic, said Marcus, who is a member of the West 13th St. 100 Block Association. “You’re trying to stick a size 12 foot into a size 7 shoe — it’s not going to work,” he said. Similarly, Pesin said she has many concerns about the proposed plan, including where traffic will go when it is not allowed on 14th St. during the times it is a busway. “We anticipate that there will be more traffic on 13th St.,” she said. Pesin and her neighbors — as well as other residents on the surrounding side streets — have been asking why a promised D.O.T. traffic study on 14th St. has yet to be released to the public. D.O.T. did not respond to questions about the traffic study. Another concern for Pesin is the proposed two-way bike lane on 13th St., which will narrow the traffic lane. “How are they going to pick up garbage?” she asked. “How does an ambulance get through? How’s it going to work? I just truly can’t figure it out.” For her part, Assemblymember Deborah Glick told The Villager at the open house that the proposed two-way bike lane on 13th St. “will never have my support.” Glick said the L shutdown is “going to be difficult in any event. There are clearly going to be problems.” LTRAIN continued on p. 9 TheVillager.com


enough for ‘final’ outreach, residents say LTRAIN continued from p. 8

She raised the issue — as did Ruth Vasquez, the Stuy Town resident — about where people who live on the 14th St. will be dropped off when taking a cab or car. “I mean,” Glick said, “I suppose that from the D.O.T.’s point of view, people could be dropped off on the north- or southbound avenue and walk into the block. That’s O.K. for people like me, but there are people for whom 10 extra steps is not possible,” she said. “I mean, are we asking elderly people to be shutins for 15 months? I don’t think that’s acceptable.” While Glick said she would support a dedicated bus lane, she said passenger vehicle traffic cannot be eliminated from 14th St. “You will only make the side streets a parking lot,” she warned. Aaron Sugiura, D.O.T. director of transit policy, said at the open house that it’s all a question of “balance.” “When the busway’s in effect,” he said, “some of the traffic will wind up on the side streets. We’re trying to balance moving as many people as we can on the buses with managing the shifts on the

Choresh Wald brought his children, son Ofek, 3, and daughter Noga, 4, to hear more about bic ycling-safety improvements that the plan will include, notably the t wo-way protected bike lane on 13th St.

side streets.” The shift to the side streets is “not something that D.O.T. would ideally want to have happen,” he said. “This is

in response to a subway closing down. Some of that pain as borne by the local residents is additional traffic on the side streets. So, you know, we don’t see that being a forever condition.” When asked what mitigation plan the D.O.T. has in place for the side streets, Sugiura said, “We’re at the outset of the discussions about what we’re going to be doing for the side streets.” D.O.T. will present the plan to the community boards it will affect— including Community Boards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 — he said, and “from there [will see] what can we do to make…the conditions more workable for locals.” Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit, was at the open house. “I think it’s very important that we do events like this,” he told The Villager, “because at the end of the day, we’re here to serve the traveling public, but also we should be aiming to be good neighbors.” He noted that the agency has no choice: It must close the tunnel to repair the severe damage wrought by Sandy. “So,” he said, “it’s absolutely right that we should present a plan, a credible plan, but not a finished plan to the residents and to the riders of the L line, such that

they can influence that plan and help us to refine it.” Byford said the agency has received feedback about the busway’s hours of operation — which are still under consideration — more transportation provisions for the East Side, such as between First and Third Aves., and concerns “about traffic dispersal onto 13th St., which we’re aware of, and we need to get that right.” “The good news,” he said, “is everyone gets the need to do it. We’re determined to get this right. There’s still a year to go.” Artists Chantal Hardy, 42, and Iku Higuchi, 67, came to the open house to find out more information about the closure. Higuchi lives in Stuy Town but her studio is in Greenpoint, and she also currently has an exhibition in Brooklyn. A frequent L train user, she sees the shutdown as an artistic opportunity. In general, she is looking at it — literally — on the bright side. “I really want to enjoy using the ferry and bus,” she said, noting that during the subway shutdown, she will have a chance while commuting to enjoy the view aboveground.

Anne H. Tonachel, 86, Village native, educator OBITUARY

A

nne Hale (Codding) Tonachel, a native West Villager who co-founded the West Village Nursery School, died suddenly at her Bethune St. home on Fri., Jan. 5. She was 86. Born in Sayre, PA, on Feb. 14, 1931, to Captain E. Hale and Ruth Baldwin Codding, her childhood was spent moving back and forth between Bethune St., a family farm in Towanda, PA, and the home of her grandmother in Waverly, N.Y. Anne attended numerous schools in all three places but none for more than two years in a row. She attended P.S. 3 and P.S. 41, and then City and Country School in the early 1940s for seventh and eighth grades. She was greatly influenced by the model of progressive education that City and Country exemplified. She also made a number of friends there with whom she remained connected for the rest of her life. She graduated from Friends Seminary in 1948, and went on to get a B.A. from Cornell University in 1952, and an M.A. from Columbia University in 1955, prior to beginning her lengthy teaching career. In 1957, she and her then-husband, Pierre A. Tonachel, purchased the house on Bethune St. where TheVillager.com

Anne Tonachel.

she raised her two daughters and lived until her death. Her parents had purchased the same house in 1929 and sold it in 1952 when they moved back to Pennsylvania. Ultimately, four generations of Anne’s family have resided in the house. Anne was a dedicated educator and taught high school social studies for 25 years in the New York City public school system, the majority at the High School of Music and Art and the High School of Performing Arts (now the combined Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts).

After retiring from public education, she taught for several years at the Browning School and then as a volunteer at The Door (an education and support center for adolescents). She also tutored immigrants working to learn English. Up until the time of her death, she volunteered at P.S. 3. Anne’s tenure in the West Village was unusually long. Along with co-founding the West Village Nursery School, she was involved with Jane Jacobs’s campaign to keep major highways out of the city and preserve historic buildings, along with numerous other community-improvement projects throughout her life. She was an active member of the Village Independent Democrats and a regular shopper at the Abingdon Square Farmers Market, a park she frequented all her life. Anne was a lover of the outdoors and took great pride in her city flower garden. She was a strong advocate for exposing children to nature and did a lot of hiking, canoeing and camping, particularly in Bear Mountain Park, the Catskills and the Adirondacks. She had an innate curiosity about other people and would talk to anyone. As a result, she had friends of all ages throughout her life. She had the opportunity to travel extensively, including two trips to China, an African safari and numerous trips to Europe and Latin America, as well as within the U.S. She had strong interests in history and

anthropology, as well as education. Anne treasured her monthly book group, which has met for more than 20 years. Despite macular degeneration that made it harder and harder for her to read, she continued to keep up and turned to audio books in later years in order to do so. In addition to a large number of cherished friends, Anne is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Anne Eliza Tonachel and Robert Warhover, on Bethune St.; her daughter Ruth Baldwin Tonachel in Towanda, PA; four grandchildren, Maggie Belokur, Emma Warhover, Anna Belokur and Miles Warhover, and a great-grandson, Elias Ray Heyer. She is survived by her only sibling and his wife, Elias Hale and Rose Codding, of Houston, Texas, a couple of cousins and many nieces and nephews. In addition, she is survived by her former City and Country classmate and companion of 20 years, Pierre Epstein. A memorial celebration of Anne’s life will be held after the spring flowers bloom. Her ashes will be buried in the Codding family plot in Towanda, PA. Donations in memory of Anne H. Tonachel may be directed to: Planned Parenthood (PPFA) at P.O. Box 97166, Washington, D.C. 20077 or via www. plannedparenthood.org under Memorial Gifts; or to the New York Public Library, 445 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10016 or via www.nypl.org/give (Honor and Memorial Gifts). Februar y 8, 2018

9


Mt. Sinai mulls more floors on new mini-hospital HOSPITAL continued from p. 1

Israel. Construction is slated to begin early this year and finish by late 2020. Mount Sinai is shutting down its historic Gramercy hospital, most of which dates to 1927, located just a few blocks away at E. 16th St. and First Ave. The new mini-M.S.D.B.I. hospital will be the flagship of an expansive new Mount Sinai Downtown health network, covering Manhattan south of 34th St. Previously, hospital officials had discussed maybe constructing additional space atop the new East Village minihospital later on, should it be needed. They always voiced this at public meetings and it was stated during presentations, that the hospital would be built with the capacity to have more floors added later on down the road. But now, Mount Sinai is “leaning toward building them as part of the new hospital from the start,” the source told the paper. “We do not plan to use the extra floors for beds,” he stressed. “However, if trends dramatically shift, we would have the space to add beds, should the need arise. Again, we still believe the 220 beds are the correct number, but the extra floors will give us more flexibility.” All of those beds would not all be located at the new mini-hospital, however. That, as currently planned, would have 70 inpatient beds. The other 150 beds are current ones that Mount Sinai will be keeping for its behavioral health patients at its nearby Bernstein Pavilion, on E. 16th St. at Stuyvesant Square. As for the extra floors at the new minihospital they would, at least initially, be used for “programmatic use” — meaning for various services supporting the hospital. Mount Sinai released an official statement to The Villager regarding the additional floors: “As we have stated from the start, we are continuing to evaluate all of our options, including possibly building the extra four floors as part of the initial build,” the statement said. “We have always committed to an open and transparent process, and after listening to the concerns from local leaders and constituents, as well as our internal advisers and leaders, we are currently leaning toward building the extra four floors for programmatic use, not beds. “We still believe that 220 beds will best meet the needs of the community. However, if we see a dramatic change in the future, we will be better prepared and have greater flexibility to address that issue with these additional floors already built. We will continue to update the community as our progress continues.” At public forums and in discussions with hospital officials over the past couple of years, local politicians have

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Februar y 8, 2018

A view, top, looking from the west, of the planned new Downtown Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, bet ween E. 14th and E. 13th Sts. at Second Ave. The existing New York Eye and Ear Infirmar y — which would remain — can be seen to the right.

A schematic rendering showing the planned new Mount Sinai Downtown Beth Israel mini-hospital, on Second Ave. bet ween E. 13th and E. 14th Sts. Hospital officials are repor tedly now saying it’s prett y likely that an extra four floors would be added during construction atop the new southern building, on E. 13th St., which would potentially allow the new scaled-down hospital to have more bed capacity in the future — if, in fact, more beds are needed someday.

constantly pushed the health system not to wait to add the extra floors, but to include them in the scaled-down-hospital’s initial construction. “There’s a lot of anxiety among my constituents that our hospitals are being chipped away,” Councilmember Corey Johnson said at a community forum on the rebuilding plan last April. “Build those four stories with additional beds now, and don’t wait to see if they’re needed in the future.” The current Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital is licensed for a total of 799 beds. However, as of around a year ago,

only about 450 beds were being used on a daily basis — including 300 general inpatient beds and, again, the 150 behavioral health beds. That number has since dropped, so that at the moment, on average, about 400 inpatient beds are being used daily. As par for the downsizing plan, Mount Sinai has been relocating certain services from Mount Sinai Beth Israel to other hospitals within its health system. Speaking at that same community forum last April, Dr. Jeremy Boal, the head of the Mount Sinai Downtown healthcare network, said, “We’ve had a 10 per-

cent annual decrease in patient admissions since 2012, and the rate of overall empty beds continues to increase. So we feel that there’s a greater need to build more ambulatory services in order to better address the needs of the community. We want to build a multi-campus healthcare system below 34th St. and across Manhattan from river to river.” Carlina Rivera, the East Village’s new councilmember, was happy to hear that Mount Sinai is leaning toward constructing a bigger building with the capacity for more beds. Johnson, who earlier this month was elected the City Council’s new speaker, appointed Rivera chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Hospitals. She noted she will be meeting with Mount Sinai this coming week. “Absolutely! I’m glad to hear it!” Rivera said in response to the news. “It’s a good idea. They’ve been listening to us. We’ve been having a lot of meetings,” she said regarding all the community forums that have been held on the hospital rebuilding project. Rivera, who was formerly a district leader, has been among the officials repeatedly stressing to Mount Sinai at those meetings and elsewhere that 70 hospitals beds simply is not enough to serve the community. TheVillager.com


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Kembra Pfahler, in red and in ‘Horror of BY BOB KR ASNER

K

embra Pfahler is an artist. Which is not to say that she is someone who makes art; it’s simply who she is. Every aspect of her life seems to be a different part of an overall project that is Kembra Pfahler. She refers to herself as “interdisciplinary,” which is certainly backed up by her résumé. Since she moved to New York in 1978, when she was 17, she has been (and continues to be) a filmmaker, actress, model, performance artist, sculptor, visual artist, teacher and writer. Although she grew up in a family of surfers, as a natural blonde on the beaches of Los Angeles, she found herself fascinated with the horrormovie genre. “But not the slasher movies,” she explained. “I was educated more by films than school or literature. I was attracted to the mythological storytelling, and the women in horror films were a completely different kind of women.” Especially alluring was the actress Karen Black, who Pfahler has described as “beautiful and horrifying at the same time.” Armed with a love of punk rock and a supply of black hair dye, Pfahler first settled into the Upper West Side, and when she came Downtown, “saw a lot of great punk shows” at the club Hurrah’s. But she quickly realized that the East Village was the place for her — not necessarily for the legendary CBGB crowd, but because the Hispanic community made her feel right at home. She settled into a building near Avenue C. “It felt like a real community here,” she said. “The buildings were lower to the ground and the people always made me feel safe.” The apartment became the center of her art, frequently functioning as a movie studio. “I made at least 50 films here,” she said, adding, “It’s not much of a domestic space.” For the last 20 years, that space has been painted entirely a deep red — not just the walls, but the furniture, the piano, the lamps, everything. It was all black for a while and at various times it was light blue, green and even chiffon yellow. (That last color, understandably, was the briefest period.) Pfahler prefers the evening hours. “There is a peacefulness and calm in having a nocturnal existence,” she said. “The darkness is colorful to me.” Even her exercise routine is tied to her philosophy. In a workout she calls “Gothletics ©,” she prefers to run at night and use whatever she finds — bars or lampposts, for example — as gym equipment. Her concept of “Availabilism” is also part of her creative process, as she tends to use whatever is nearby as inspiration or as material for a costume or a sculpture. In other words, it’s entirely possible that the ribbon that Pfahler wears in her outrageous wig onstage was previously part of a curtain at home, and that the bowling balls she notably wore under her feet in performances were found one night on the street. Since 1990, with her then-husband Samoa Moriki, she has been pushing the boundaries of performance art with her best-known project, a band called The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. Frequently performing in body paint, a wig and not much else, she presented a stage show that put forth her themes in a contradictory mix of shock makeup, nudity and references to childhood (flowers, ladybugs, tutus). Some of her more shocking performances involved spreading her legs while upside down, so that another performer could crack an egg on her naked crotch, fol-

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Februar y 8, 2018

PHOTOS BY BOB KRASNER

Kembra Pfahler per forming with Samoa Moriki on guitar in front of his painting at the Howl! Happening galler y last month.

lowed by Richard Kern’s film where the same area was sewn shut. Samoa is also her writing partner. “Kembra is a master of breaking rules,” he said. “She was her when she arrived here. New York did not influence her — it was the other way around.” Touching on the subject of visual symbols of youth, he said, “Artists should be like children — open and free.” Stefanie Huang acts as Pfahler’s “head art administrator.” “The world needs more artists like Kembra,” Huang said. “Her art is all about being empowered as human beings who have a right to exist.” Pfahler frequently mentions the marginalized members of society — as well as what is left of our planet — as being in need of our attention. “The subjugation of women and the earth are one and the same,” she said. “My work has a lot to do with

the female presence. But the “#metoo” movement should include Mother Earth; capitalism has raped and devalued her.” Over the years, Pfahler has spent time in a wide variety of jobs, taking something away from each one that has contributed to her outlook and her art. In her teen years, she worked in her mother’s clothing store, her dad’s warehouse and an art gallery. She moved on to everything from construction work to a position as a writer at the Oxford University Press. There was also a stint performing as “Mistress Kembra” in a series of S&M videos for Gotham Gold Video. “Just another day job,” she shrugged. There have been modeling gigs for Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang, Rick Owens and Givenchy. Most recently, she has spent much of her time curating and promoting Samoa’s first solo painting show at the Howl! HappenPFAHLER continued on p. 13 TheVillager.com


Black,’ is a master of breaking the rules perstar!” But things weren’t always great. There were plenty of times when she had no heat, she recalled. “And so many friends died of AIDS,” she said. “I’m grateful to be here in the present. I’m so busy doing work that takes me into the future, that I don’t like to take the time to look back.” Nostalgia has no allure for her. “I call it yesterbating,” she said. Once again turning her attention to her apartment, she noted the lack of clutter and, specifically, the empty shelves. “I have a self-described disorder,” she said, “ ‘Empty Shelf Syndrome.’ Having too much is like overeating — it makes me feel sick. I tend to give things away and keep the shelves empty. I think of it as a place for new ideas to live. And there is nothing more valuable than a good idea.”

PFAHLER continued from p. 13

ing gallery, as well as organizing events and performing there. In addition, she teaches “Performance Art 101” and is currently at work on a new feature film and the next VHoKB record. Pfahler has an interesting habit: She tends to listen to the same record over and over, and read the same books again and again. They have become her standards, as much for the content as for who gave them to her. Her stepfather was hugely influential in her musical tastes, turning her on to artists she still enjoys repeatedly (on vinyl only), such as Captain Beefheart, Leo Kottke, Lou Reed, Parliament-Funkadelic and Iggy Pop. Her library consists mostly of these works: “The Book of Symbols” (a gift of her niece), “Right to Exist” (from Jonas Mekas), “Male Fantasies” (from her brother) and the Miles Davis autobiography (from her stepfather). As for her neighborhood, she doesn’t really miss the decades past. “The East Village has always had a kind of warmth,” she mused. She has fond memories of the ’80s. Hilly Krystal of CBGB, for one, would always greet her, “Hello, su-

Kembra Pfahler in her apar tment with red lamp and mirror.

Samoa will be performing at the Howl! gallery on Feb. 8. Check the Web site for the possibility of a closing party. https://www.howlarts.org For more on Pfahler, visit https://www.facebook.com/kembra.pfahler, and for more on The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, visit https://www.facebook.com/TVHOKB/ .

Immigrant activist honored as ‘D day’ looms BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y

T

he days are counting down until Sat., Feb. 10, when immigrants-rights activist Ravi Ragbir is to report to ICE, to be deported, unless circumstances change. Since his Jan. 29 release from federal detention in Goshen, NY, Ragbir has attended the president’s State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., walked the weekly — seven times around 26 Federal Plaza, at Broadway and Worth St. — Jericho Walk, given numerous media interviews, and was also given an exceptional honor. This past Sunday, Ragbir received the Bishop’s Cross, bestowed by Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, at St. Ann and The Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights. With this honor, the church recognizes Ragbir’s work on behalf of persecuted immigrants. Provenzano said, “As Christians, we are called to serve the most vulnerable among us. Ravi’s dedication to those affected by unjust immigration policies — even at great personal risk — is an inspirational example of how to live out that call.” This is the church giving him thanks for “his extraordinary witness,” Provenzano said. The Long Island diocese has long been a supporter of the 10-year-old, faith-based New Sanctuary Coalition. The mission of the coalition — comprised of about 150 houses of worship and thousands of citizens and noncitizens of all faiths — is to support and protect immigrants threatened by detention and deportation. Ragbir is the group’s executive director. In the last few weeks, there has been an escalation of detentions of immigrants, and their mistreatment has become a central national issue. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has swept up at least five movement leaders recently, in what is widely seen as an effort to silence popular opposition to the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. On Sunday, Ragbir was also the guest preacher prior to his receiving the Bishop’s Cross. He spoke about sickness, the trauma of the children who can sense family stress when a member is vulnerTheVillager.com

PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY

Activist Ravi Ragbir, right, was presented with the Bishop’s Cross — from the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island — by Bishop Lawrence Provenzano last Sunday.

able to deportation. “Even if not discussed, they can feel it,” he said. “This affects how they work, write, study, learn.” He told the congregants that he had been living in fear for the past 12 years — but that he kept it locked it up inside, so he could continue to do his work. Despite all that has transpired in the last three weeks, he said, “I don’t have to be afraid of them. I found out they are afraid of me — because of you. Afraid of me because of the community that has stepped up.” He also mentioned how the ICE officer — so bent on deporting him — after processing Ragbir’s release, drove him up to Judson Memorial Church in the Village, where supporters were waiting to welcome him back. “It was cold out,” Ragbir noted. “That was a kind act.” Ragbir believes that all the “silent witnessing” of the faith-based and other supporters is touching some whose work involves these immigration proceedings.

“Inside, they’re in turmoil,” he assured. “They know the law is wrong, and that’s their job.” Ragbir, who has been on “Deportation Row” for 12 years, as he put it, was whisked to Miami after a Jan. 11 check-in with ICE at 26 Federal Plaza. Legal appeals brought him back to New York State and subsequently out of detention, in order for him to get his affairs in order and say goodbye to his family here. On Feb. 6, Congressmember Nydia Velázquez introduced H.R. 4937, a private immigration bill, on the floor of the House of Representatives, which, if signed, would give Ragbir a path to permanent immigration status. The bill would only apply to him and no one else. “The outrage after Ravi’s detention by ICE is a testament to his status as a community pillar,” Velázquez noted. A rally at Foley Square has been called for Sat., Feb. 10, at 9 a.m., when Ragbir has been ordered to arrive at ICE for deportation. Februar y 8, 2018

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Don, the Con

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To The Editor: Re “My year as an anti-Trump Twitter warrior” (notebook, Kate Walter, Feb. 2): Thanks for keeping up the fight. You are right, Trump is a con man. If you understand that and that he is an inveterate liar, then you can understand him. Donnie Moder

Co-op needs the cash To The Editor: Re “The two towers: Seward Park Co-op debates selling air rights to Bialystoker project” (news article, Feb. 2): As a Seward Park Co-op shareholder, I have had mixed feelings about the sale of our development rights. However, I am really concerned about the financial hole we are in. We lack an adequate reserve fund, and we have a great deal of deferred maintenance that gets addressed as emergencies arise. As a result, we have capital assessments tacked onto our maintenance. Yes, there might be more shadows. Some apartments will lose views. That is the decision we need to make. We should stop the silly conspiracy theories about the motivations of our board and / or the developer. Linda Jones

‘Yaverbaum,’ eh...?

Call 718-260-2516 or e-mail pbeatrice@cnglocal.com

We cover “The Cube”!

To The Editor: Re “The two towers: Seward Park Co-op debates selling air rights to Bialystoker project” (news article, Feb. 2): As a 15-year resident of Seward Park Co-operative, I wonder how Ernie Yaverbaum (a made-up name if ever there was one) knows that the new buildings will “ruin” the parking situation, since it’s basically already impossible to park in the general vicinity. He sounds strangely like an ex-director who accomplished literally nothing during his tenure on the board. And Dan Strum is simple another naysayer, presenting alternative facts that have no basis in reality.

Editor’s note: Yes, the article contained quotes from an opponent of the Bialystoker air-rights project who went by the name “Ernie Yaverbaum” and claimed to be a longtime resident of the Seward Park Co-op. As the above letter writer suspected, Doron Stember, the co-op’s board president, subsequently told The Villager that Frank Durant, the co-op’s general manager, “can confirm that there is no record of anyone by the name of Yaverbaum ever living at Seward Park as a shareholder or resident.” However, Stember said, a person who signs that name has sent “harassing and inaccurate e-mails” to board members, community members and “professionals who have been involved in the air-rights project.” The co-op president added, “He signed one e-mail with a specific apartment number that is actually occupied by a young couple.” The Villager has removed “Yaverbaum” ’s name and quotes from the online version of the article. We regret the error. In addition, the original version of the article stated that 50 percent of shareholders must vote Yes to put the air-rights plan up for a referendum by the co-op. According to the co-op’s bylaws, one-third of shareholders must vote on the referendum to sell the air rights for the vote to be valid; two-thirds of those then must vote Yes to approve the referendum.

Open house off track To The Editor: I wanted to comment about the open house the M.T.A. and D.O.T. offered last Wednesday night. It left many of us who attended feeling frustrated and voiceless. While I appreciate the information given, a public forum and Q&A are needed at these open houses, where the community’s concerns will be heard, as well as responses to those concerns, and this public forum should be covered by the media. The representatives at the open house were open to talking to individuals but this does no good and is an inefficient way of discussing the issues. I can’t help but wonder if this is on purpose, so that people may vent, but their suggestions and concerns are diffused and are not truly considered or addressed. Frankly, the open house was much like a show-andtell science fair. The community was not heard in a constructive

Mitch Lee LETTERS continued on p. 21

IRA BLUTREICH

The “Great Divide!” 14

Februar y 8, 2018

TheVillager.com


Hot-button issues: Bike lanes and congestion

PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

Buttons bashing the cit y’s plan for a protected, t wo-way crosstown bic ycle lane on 13th St. were free for the taking at a meeting Tuesday night of Village and Chelsea block associations opposed to the city’s plan for the upcoming L train shutdown plan. The bike lane is a part of the plan, but would apparently be permanent. Also being distributed were fliers for a March 1 public hearing, titled “Finding Solutions to Our Transportation Crisis,” sponsored by state Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, to be held at the CUNY Graduate Center, at 34th St. and Fifth Ave. The event will feature a panel of transportation experts, including Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the city’s Department of Transportation, and Alex Matthiessen, of Move NY.

Why Downtown should back congestion pricing TALKING POINT BTA model forecasts that the robust congestion charges outlined in the Fix NYC report will cut traffic volumes on those bridges by 25 percent. The reduction will reach 35 percent as subway improvements paid for by the tolls draw even more trips out of automobiles.

BY CHARLES KOMANOFF

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arly last fall, Governor Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” task force chose my intricate Balanced Transportation Analyzer, or BTA, spreadsheet model as its analytical tool to figure out which vehicle tolls and surcharges could best fulfill the governor’s pledge to implement congestion pricing in New York City. Congestion pricing — tolls to drive into the Manhattan Central Business District, or CBD, south of 60th St., and surcharges on for-hire vehicles (taxicabs, Ubers, etc.) operating within the Manhattan “taxi zone” — stands to benefit our city by thinning traffic in and near the CBD and generating revenues to improve subway service. No part of the city will benefit more than Lower Manhattan. Three East River bridges connect Brooklyn with Downtown Manhattan, and a fourth connects Queens with Midtown. For nearly a century, the failure to toll these bridges has led drivers to pour onto our streets to reach destinations served by multiple subway lines or to pass through to New Jersey. My TheVillager.com

Manhattanites should pay much more over all than Brooklyn or Queens residents.

In plain numbers, the 25 percent reduction equates to 10,000 fewer trips in each direction each weekday on each East River bridge. Picture Canal, Broome, Delancey, Chambers, Walker and Varick Sts. and our other “traffic sewers” with thousands fewer cars and trucks. Imagine quieter neighborhoods, healthier air and safer streets for you and your children. Picture our buses not stuck in traffic and our subways not stuck between stations. Congestion pric-

ing offers all this. To be sure, someone has to pay the car and truck tolls and the taxicab and Uber surcharges, and that includes us Downtown residents. My model predicts that under any effective congestion pricing plan, residents of Manhattan will pay much more, over all, than residents of, say, Brooklyn or Queens. While we won’t pay to drive our cars out of the toll area, we will pay when we return across 60th St. or on an East River bridge. More importantly — since relatively few Lower Manhattan residents own cars — we’ll also pay surcharges to use taxis and Ubers and Lyfts within the taxi zone, which could extend up to 96th St. on the East Side and 110th St. on the West Side. I believe that it’s only fair that Manhattan residents collectively pay the most in congestion charges. After all, we’ll reap the greatest benefits of reduced gridlock and healthier streets, so we ought to shoulder the greatest costs. Moreover, every vehicle trip that contributes to congestion, whether in a private car or a for-hire vehicle, should be charged equally for slowing down traffic. And don’t forget political necessity: Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s attempt to enact congestion pricing a decade ago failed in large part because it tilted toward Manhattan; we must not make that mistake again. Change is hard, especially when it goes after an entitlement — in this case, the “right” to tie up our streets without pay-

ing to do so. Typically, the minority enjoying an entitlement organize to defend it, while the majority who stand to benefit from a change stay silent or obsess over details. Witness state Assemblymember Yuh Line-Niou from Lower Manhattan insisting that policymakers “explore a [toll] carve-out for Lower Manhattan”; or West Side Assemblymember Richard Gottfried qualifying his “support [for] the concept [of congestion pricing]” by fretting that “many details still need to be worked out.” Grumbling like that only makes it harder for congestion pricing’s champions — the Assembly speaker, the City Council speaker and the governor himself — to corral legislators from the other boroughs and the suburbs into voting majorities. To pass congestion pricing — in a robust version that will truly decongest our streets and provide the financial wherewithal to revitalize mass transit — the communities that will benefit the most need to speak with a strong, clear voice. Every Manhattan community board, led by those representing Downtown and Midtown, should resoundingly endorse congestion pricing. Komanoff is an energy-policy analyst, a transport economist and an environmental activist. In the 1990s, he co-founded the pedestrian-rights group Right of Way. He lives in Tribeca and has worked in Lower Manhattan since the 1960s. Februar y 8, 2018

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POLICE BLOTTER Oh, Man-itoba… The Daily News’s Confidential column reported that Handsome Dick Manitoba was charged last week for domestic assault for allegedly assaulting Zoe Hansen, his former domestic partner. The arrest, which Confidential reported “involved more than a dozen officers,” occurred at the couple’s apartment at Sixth St. and First Ave. on Fri., Feb. 2, at 9:46 a.m. The location is nearby Manitoba’s eponymous bar on Avenue B, which the pair co-own. Manitoba was arraigned on his charges last Friday and is due back in Criminal Court March 26. He faces three counts of third-degree assault and one count each of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation and second-degree harassment. The charges are all classified as misdemeanors. Manitoba 64, (who was born Richard Blum), was the front man for the Dictators, one of the main punk-rock bands of the early CBGB scene. He shares the apartment with Hansen, 51, though they reportedly have not been romantically involved for eight years, according to Hansen’s Facebook page, Confidential reported. They share a teenage son from their 16-year relationship. According to the criminal complaint, Hansen was “crying, with tears streaming down her face and her body shaking,” when officers arrived. She told the cops, “He bit me. He bit my nose. He grabbed my neck and applied pressure.” In the complaint, a Ninth Precinct officer who responded to the call, said he observed scratches on Hansen’s neck. Hansen fled the apartment and is said to be staying with friends in the area. Asked by The Villager if it was true that more than 12 officers had responded to the call, Deputy Inspector Vincent Greany, the Ninth Precinct’s commanding officer, said, “Not true.” “Domestic violence calls can turn dangerous quickly,” he explained. “There can be a lot of emotion and tension between the individuals involved. “So, often when we can, we back each other up to ensure we maintain a safe outcome for all. I can’t get into specific details of this particular investigation. “A typical example could be an additional unit responded to back the unit that received the call, and in an arrest situation a supervisor may be present. That would be about six officers.”

Christopher attacker Police are looking for a suspect who allegedly assaulted three people on Christopher St. last Saturday night. Police said that on Feb. 3, around 10 p.m., a 22-year-old woman was walk-

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Handsome Dick Manitoba, in his bar two years ago, has been charged in a domestic-asault case against his former par tner.

COURTESY N.Y.P.D.

A sur veillance camera image of a man who allegedly was punching people in the face on Christopher St. Saturday night.

ing near 78 Christopher St., just west of Seventh Ave. South, when a man approached her and struck her in the face, causing a small cut on her lower lip. The man fled. The victim was removed to Lenox Hill Hospital in stable condition. In the second incident, police said that two minutes later, a 35-year-old man was walking near 81 Christopher St. when he was struck in the face by the same suspect, leaving him with a small cut on his nose. The individual fled, and the victim was removed to Lenox Hill Hospital in stable condition. A minute later, the same attacker then reportedly accosted a 60-year-old pedestrian in front of 74 Christopher St.,

hitting him in the face, causing a small cut to his mouth. The suspect fled, and the victim declined medical treatment. Police described the assailant as black, in his mid-20s, 6 feet tall,175 pounds, and wearing all dark clothing. A photo released by police shows a bearded man apparently wearing light-colored clothing, but it’s because the photo was lightened, a police spokesperson said. 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. Tips are confidential.

Sandals swipe According to police, a security guard at DSW, at 40 E. 14th St., saw a woman take a pair of $89 sandals from a shelf inside the place on Wed., Jan. 31, at 2:19 p.m., and try to put them in a Whole Foods bag and leave without paying. Tiffani Hyatt, 30, was arrested for misdemeanor petit larceny.

CVS mess Police said a man got irate after he was asked to leave the CVS store at 65 Fifth Ave., at E. 14th St., on Sun., Feb. 4 at 5:03 p.m. He lunged at two police officers, biting the male cop several times on the arm and leg and hurting the

female officer’s wrist and hands. The suspect reportedly kicked and flailed his arms and spat at the officers as they tried to arrest him. Serge Theronier,31, was charged with felony assault.

Police pier assist A man was at Pier 40, at Houston and West Sts., on Tues., Oct. 17, last year, when he saw two men steal his bag from the playing field and run away, police said. The incident happened around 8 p.m. The man said several people tried to chase down the suspects but could not catch them. The victim’s Apple MacBook worth $2,000 was in the bag. Marco Valencia Guzman,18, was collared Feb. 1 for felony grand larceny.

Subway snatch On Sun., Jan. 29, at 15:20 p.m., a 33 year-old man was inside the W. Fourth St. subway station and bought a MetroCard. When he went to swipe his card through the turnstile, a thief snatched his wallet from his hand and ran out of the station. The victim chased and confronted the suspect outside the station, and the individual punched him in the face. As the perp fled, he dropped the wallet to the ground after removing $270. The victim retrieved his wallet. Tips can be reported to the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline.

Lincoln Anderson and Tabia C. Robinson TheVillager.com


Looking down from 2,000 feet up Daring aerial views reveal man-made patterns, cycles

© Jeffrey Milstein, courtesy Benrubi Gallery

“NYC Fifth Ave” (2016. Archival pigment print. 40.5 x 54 in.).

BY NORMAN BORDEN Talk about having a point of view. Jeffrey Milstein has taken aerial photography to a new level in “Leaning Out,” and the results are stunning, fascinating, and mesmerizing. The 14 large format images in this exhibition of cityscapes, airports, power plants, train yards, and other industrial and transportation sites reflect the artist’s life-long love affair with flying, and with the way things look from the air. “I started when I was 16 when I was learning to fly in Los Angeles at Santa Monica airport,” Milstein recalled. “I had an 8mm movie camera and used TheVillager.com

to fly around LA taking movies from the air.” About seven years ago, the artist (who received his BA in architecture from UC Berkeley in 1968) decided to “turn the lens downward from up above” and began photographing sites in Los Angeles and New York from the air. Many of the pictures he shot are in his recently published book “LANY: Aerial Photographs of Los Angles and New York.” Some are also in “Leaning Out” along with new work that has never been exhibited before. When asked how he decides what sites to photograph, Milstein explained, “I concentrate on how things look from the

air, mostly on the man-made landscapes. As an architect, I’m interested in cities and how they form — what is the geology and geography, their development, structures, and open spaces.” In looking at how things connect from above, he mentioned the image “NYC Fifth Avenue” that he photographed in 2016 from a small plane, 2,000 feet up. “The picture has some of the same features you’d find on a computer board where information is traveling along highways,” Milstein said, “but instead it’s taxis traveling down roads instead of electrons down pathways… Certain things happen at different levels and I’m

kind of fascinated with that; I kind of look for patterns and geometry, things you wouldn’t see from the ground at all.” Looking closely at this image, the cruciform of St. Patrick’s Cathedral stands out as one of the more identifiable landmarks (it helps to orient the viewer to the other buildings). The other way to enjoy this photograph — and to better appreciate what the artist saw from the air — is to step back and view it from about six feet away. When Milstein decided to photograph New York City from above, he and a MILSTEIN continued on p. 18 Februar y 8, 2018

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MILSTEIN continued from p. 17

pilot friend started flying to the city and around the airports. “My friend would fly my Cessna 182 so I could do the shooting if we got permission,” the artist recalled, “or we’d go above the restricted area if we didn’t. He would make steep turns so I could shoot down through an open window. I wanted to photograph New York City but to do that, you need a helicopter or fly 7,500 feet above the control area.” Eager to continue shooting, Milstein began renting small helicopters and had the pilots remove the doors before they took off so he’d be leaning out. “I have a small gyroscope attached to a high resolution digital camera so I can shoot without it shaking too much.” He characterized it as a “big heavy camera that costs as much as an SUV,” but that’s what he needs to make large gallery prints. In fact, six images in the show are 52 1/2 x 70 inches and have an amazing amount of detail. One of them — and one of those never exhibited before — is “Bayview Auto Wreckers, Staten Island, 2.” Who would have thought a junkyard could be so artful or symbolic? A close look reveals rows and rows of car doors and bumpers, a dumpster filled with engines, as well as the requisite piles of assorted auto junk. From the air, the site may appear to have a certain amount of random artfulness, but Milstein explains that one of his interests in photography is how everything, including our bodies, eventually decays, try as we may to avoid it. Referencing another image, “Toyotas, Port of Long Beach,” he said, “The beautiful shiny new cars are unloaded and lined up perfectly… and they eventually end up as wrecks, some of them to be ground up and crushed or shipped back overseas to be reincarnated. It’s the cycle of life and death and I find a strange beauty in the decay state — nature always has its way.” As another example, the artist mentioned “NYC Coney Island Subway Yard,” a tableau that includes some rusting subway cars parked literally at the end of the line. He explained, “The train parts are lying on the ground with weeds growing in them and train cars are filled with garbage bags. Everyone has a closet or garage like that, with stuff we no longer use but don’t get rid of.” With airplanes and airports being Milstein’s life-long passion, it’s no surprise that his two favorite images in “Leaning Out” are “Gatwick 2 Planes” and “Newark #8, Terminal B.” What’s interesting is how different these two airport photographs are from each other — to me, the beauty of the Gatwick picture is its utter simplicity; the two almost toy-like jet planes are perfectly positioned, complementing the geometry

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© Jeffrey Milstein, courtesy Benrubi Gallery

“Gatwick 2 Planes” (2016. Archival pigment print. 52.5 x 70 in.).

© Jeffrey Milstein, courtesy Benrubi Gallery

“Bayview Auto Wreckers, Staten Island, 2” (2017. Archival pigment print. 52.5 x 70 in.).

of the mosaic runway and surrounding grass. In contrast, the Newark image is complicated, with five airplanes parked at the terminal’s gates like spokes in a hub. The baggage carts are barely visible, but are parts of the whole; the shadows

add another dimension. Despite flying with his plane’s window open or the helicopter door off, Milstein says “I’m not a daredevil. I love flying, I love being up in the helicopter at night with the door off. Between pictures, I just

look out at all of it and think like this is in a dream.” Through March 17 at Benrubi Gallery (521 W. 26th St./2nd Floor, btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Hours: Tues.–Sat., 10am–6pm. Visit benrubigallery.com. TheVillager.com


Valentine’s in a Time of Trump What’s love got to do with it? BY MAX BURBANK Valentine’s Day is about a week away, and it’s going to go badly for you. Sorry to be a “downer,” but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, or at least strongly suspect, am I? The preponderance of research I pretend to have read reveals that Valentine’s Day ends up being a pleasant experience for about three out of every 1,000 people. Are those good statistics for you, personally? And don’t bother telling me you’re from Virginia. The state slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers,” was originally “Virginia! Marginally Better Than West Virginia, If You Like Speed Traps, Venomous Snakes, And More Deer Ticks Than There Are Stars In The Sky!” — but that made for an unreadably tiny font on the bumper sticker. It’s not your fault. Valentine’s Day only works out for a very select group of couples, where each partner loves the other exactly equally, and both are exactly equal in their ability and skill to select (and succeed in acquiring) a pleasing gift and card that in no way exceeds the pleasingness of their partner’s gift and card. Any difference, no matter how seemingly insignificant, means one partner “wins” Valentine’s Day and the other “loses.” Veiled feelings of shame and disappointment are gifts you should feel lucky to end up with, as these emotions easily snowball into anger, resentment, depression, confirmation of a deep-seated belief that your life has been a series of terrible mistakes too late to go back on, breakups, divorce, homicide, and, this year, possibly nuclear Armageddon. Did you like that clever segue to the national stage? Because I don’t want to name specific names, but a certain celebrity turned bizarrely unqualified most-powerful-man-on-earth and his Slovenian mail-order bride are very likely heading for a “Stormy” Valentine’s Day. See what I did there? Of course you do. It was easy. You could have done it yourself, but you don’t have a column. Let’s just say that the nice heart-shaped box of chocolates Hope Hicks picked out for Melania from Donald? It better cost more than the sack of hush money his lawyer gave a certain leading lady of the adult film industry whose legal, nonworking name turns out to be Stephanie Gregory Clifford. Oh, damn, I named a bunch of specific names there, didn’t I? I guess now TheVillager.com

review every Valentine’s Day you ever had, from making stuff for your folks they said nice things about but clearly didn’t want, to being required to give every kid in your class a crappy little dollar store valentine illustrated with a movie that was popular six years ago, to whatever semi-adult fiasco you engage in annually now. Looking at how things worked out for Saint Valentine, it’s difficult to imagine

Illustration by Max Burbank

it goes without saying that the card better have nicer poetry than an interview detailing how the president enjoys to be spanked with the issue of Forbes magazine that has his family’s picture on the cover. Also, he’s terrified of sharks. There’s no real way to parallel that with some aspect of Valentine’s Day and I’m not even going to try — I just think it’s hilarious. I mean, it’s not as if there were real sharks around for him to be terrified of, because can you picture Trump in the ocean? You certainly can’t, because first you’d have to picture him in a swimsuit, and that’s more than enough for most folks. No, it was “Shark Week.” Donald Trump admitted to a porn star he was trying to seduce that he was scared silly of pictures of sharks on TV. If you voted for this man and you are not a Russian, you need to take a good, long look at your decisionmaking process. My point is, if the leader of the free world is going to have a crap Valentine’s Day, why wouldn’t you? And me. I’m not excluding myself here, because it’s all of us. Be honest. Take a moment and

how this whole holiday dealio ever took off in the first place, as it’s a somewhat less charming tale than you might imagine. Long story short, and spoiler alert, it ends with Valentine’s head and body being too far away from each other for comfort and one of his desiccated severed fingers on permanent display at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, unless they’re just kidding and it’s, like, the drumstick half of an old Buffalo Wild Wing.

See, Claudius II, emperor of third century Rome, had this idea that married soldiers were less likely to make the ultimate sacrifice and more likely to desert than single soldiers, so he passed a law saying young, able-bodied gentleman below a certain income could not wed. Valentine was all about the love connection, though, and secretly performed weddings, but not secretly enough, as he was soon caught and got “tossed in the pokey.” That means “thrown in jail.” The other thing you’re thinking of is incorrect and might account for why your Valentine’s Day is going to end so badly. While incarcerated, he promptly fell in love with the warden’s daughter, as prisoners often will. Legend has it he signed the love letters he wrote her “Your Valentine” — giving rise to the tradition we celebrate to this day. Maybe, but my guess is his mash notes were less romantic than your standard “Roses are red, violets are blue” and tended more toward “Please try superduper hard to get your dad to not cut my head off.” Apart from the absurdity of a romantic holiday being inspired by a gruesome tragedy, February 14 is just halfway through what’s already the shortest month of the year! That’s very little time to plan, and if you’re like me, you’re still hung over from New Year’s. It’s a set-up, and secretly everybody wants to chuck the whole thing! So here’s what you do: Have a nice sitdown with your significant other, force them to read this delightful column, and come to an agreement that neither one of you will do a damn thing for Valentine’s Day. Then get them something really nice. It’s not like the day was ever going to go well. You might as well win.

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Letters to The Editor LETTERS continued from p. 14

way, and no useful discussion or communication could occur in this format. The research and “numbers data” the M.T.A. and D.O.T. have supposedly conducted to base their plans on also needs to be presented and made public. There must be a public forum. The residents of the Village and Chelsea that will be dramatically affected by the rerouting of 14th St. traffic deserve better than this. Janet Charleston

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To The Editor: Residents and businesses impacted by the M.T.A. / D.O.T. L train shutdown mitigation plans have many valid concerns and questions. However, the two “open houses” already held were the wrong format to foster discussion. Positioning junior D.O.T. / M.T.A. staffers in front of posters resembled a science fair or show-and-tell and, in fact, the discouraged an open exchange. Yes, we filled out comment cards, but that feels like a meaningless exercise. Perhaps they will be read by M.T.A. / D.O.T. staffers, but how does that foster discussion? How do we get answers and feel that our concerns are being taken seriously? We need to hear our concerns addressed openly in a Q&A format with senior officials. How else can we try to find common ground? And it is imperative that D.O.T. share the traffic study (as promised months ago) that underlies these plans in order for us to understand the impact. M.T.A. / D.O.T. — if you are listening — schedule some open Q&A forums ASAP. Judy Pesin

Ravi is ‘home people’ To The Editor: Re “Ravi is free — for now: Still faces deportation” (news article, Feb. 2): I still don’t get the real source of why they want to deport Ravi. That is one of my home people. What has he done so bad that they want to deport him? My prayers are with him and his family. Just keep it real and do the right thing and all will be well! Pam Ling Toth 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. Februar y 8, 2018

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Is #MeToo going too far? Vet feminists consider FEMINISTS continued from p. 6

sionate speech on the Senate floor. His decision to leave the Senate before the Ethics Committee completed its investigation stirred anger among some Democrats, including radical feminists active since the early days of the women’s liberation movement. One of them was Susan Brownmiller, 82, author of the groundbreaking 1975 book on rape, “Against Our Will,” written at her apartment on Jane St. Brownmiller circulated a petition on Facebook calling on the Senate in December to allow Franken to remain in the Senate. The petition noted: “There is a difference between abuse and a mistake.” Manhattan attorney Emily Jane Goodman, a retired New York State Supreme Court justice who has been involved with many feminist causes, helped to create a Facebook group called “Feminists for Franken.” The group countered a claim by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, that there should be no “gradations” made in assessing problematic sexual conduct: “We believe it is crucial to make distinctions and to respond proportion-

Former Judge Emily Jane Goodman.

ally,” the group’s mission statement reads. In an e-mail to this reporter, Goodman, who appeared on CNN to argue the matter, said that it was a “mistake” for Franken to have resigned and “a miscalculation for the Democrats to push him out. He had offered to co-operate with the appropriate ethics committee,” Goodman said. “But such such a process was rejected by his [Democrat-

ic] colleagues. If the goal was to show that the Dems are better than the other party, that is laughable because it has no such effect. You cannot compare the conduct of Trump or [Roy] Moore with the allegations against Franken. What has been accomplished is to push out a reliable vote on women’s issues and an overall progressive senator leaving the seat open to Republicans, even Michele Bachmann.” So goes the back and forth in a divided America at a time when an accused sexual predator occupies the Oval Office — a situation that has not been without precedent in the U.S. Eleanor Pam, president of Veteran Feminists of America, recalls when Anita Hill was vilified in 1991 for accusing then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She also recalls how, during the presidency of Bill Clinton, other females were routinely disbelieved in their stories of victimization and called “nuts and sluts.” Pam believes that Harvey Weinstein’s alleged “assaults and perversions” led to a collective “ah-ha” moment in the national consciousness, when both men

and women got the message imparted by #MeToo. “In the past, women who accused men of sexual harassment were seldom believed,” she wrote in an e-mail. “In the current climate, it’s the men accused of sexual harassment who are seldom believed. Ironic that this recent societal demand for upgraded decency, moral behavior and respect for women should occur at a political time when traditional standards of behavior and social mores have been significantly downgraded.” Graphic artist Tina Rossner, a seventysomething former New York City Chelsea girl now living in New Mexico, said she experienced plenty of sexual harassment working for top ad agencies in her youth — right out of “Mad Men.” But she had no problem when she took a job at the now-defunct Screw magazine because, she said, “people were very lighthearted about sex” at the tabloid and besides, a lot of the men were gay. And there were no problems with the late Screw publisher Al Goldstein, either, Rossner added, noting he just went through the motions of being a womanizer “as a joke.”

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