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TOMORROW’S VOTERS ARE TODAY’S LEADERS Student Walkout Schools Society on America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

see page 3 Photos by Christian Miles


VOLUME 10, ISSUE 11 | MARCH 15 – 21, 2018

Neighbors’ Restrictive Covenant is Proactive Preservation of Private Property BY RANIA RICHARDSON In an ingenious plan to preserve privately owned green space, a group of Chelsea neighbors teamed up to protect their backyards from development. After collaborating on the terms, six owners from W. 19th and 20th Sts. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) signed a contract that prohibits them from building behind their homes that stand in close proximity. The contract indicates that each party has determined that restrictions on development in their respective rear yards is of significant benefit to each and “for the common good of all.” As a clause in a deed or lease, this contractual “restrictive covenant” limits what an owner can do with the property and allows surrounding property owners with similar agreements to enforce the terms in court. If the real estate changes hands, the restrictive covenant continues to apply, as it “runs with the land,” as part of the deed or lease. In New York City, if homeowners institute restrictive covenants, approvals by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will not override them. Carol J. Ott, co-president of the 300 W. 20th St. Block Association, spearheaded the initiative in a pre-emptive move after the LPC approved a rear yard extension

Photo by Carol J. Ott

Open green yards seen from the 324 W. 20th St. roof, looking slightly eastward.

of 334 W. 20th St. and then one for 318 W. 20th St., despite protests by the community that brought support from Community Board 4 (CB4) and their Chelsea Land Use (CLU) Committee, followed by additional support by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, New York Assemblymember Dick Gottfried,

and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (whose area of coverage includes Chelsea). In a March 9 email statement to Chelsea Now, Johnson noted, “I share the community’s concern about rampant development, especially how it affects air, light, and green spaces in these midblock yards. I stood with Chelsea residents to

help protect these cherished open spaces and I commend the community for taking collective action to include a restrictive covenant to protect their properties from future development that would otherwise be inconsistent with the character of the district.” Concerned for the rest of her block when the LPC approved an extension for 318 W. 20th St., Ott was spurred into action. “The back extensions of these two buildings will act as bookends to the courtyard and significantly reduce the open space,” she said, envisioning the end result of work that has not yet begun. Her first step was to rally her neighbors to consider the options. Some residents have a friendly and longstanding relationship typified by barbeques, alfresco cocktail parties, and children climbing over fences to play with each other (in yards that date back more than 100 years). Nevertheless, despite being a 28-year resident of W. 20th St.’s 300 block, like many New Yorkers, Ott did not know all her neighbors. It was not simple to find the names of all the other owners in the mix of brownstones, co-ops, and rental apartments. Resources from her COVENANT continued on p. 23

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March 15, 2018

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Walkout on West 44th: PS51, Beacon School Students Stand in Solidarity PHOTO ESSAY BY CHRISTIAN MILES

Photo courtesy of St. Peter’s Chelsea

St. Peter’s Rev. Deacon Denise LaVetty outside of the high schools on W. 18th St. in Chelsea supporting students during the National School Walkout for common sense gun laws.

Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen Students Join National Protests for Gun Control BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen students walked out of school on the morning of Wednesday, March 14, as part of a nationwide movement pushing for stricter gun control laws in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Florida. At about 10 a.m., students from schools that are housed at the Bayard Rustin Educational Campus (351 W. 18th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) exited their classrooms to protest gun violence: 17 people died on Feb. 14 after a 19-year-old former student armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle went on a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “They didn’t deserve to die,” Robert

Martinez, 17, said as he and his fellow students poured out of building. The walkout was for 17 minutes — one minute to honor each of the lives lost that day. Martinez, a senior, said it was important to pay respect. Fabian Aguilar, 17, said it is very easy to “brush off” the ideas of the young — but those are the people who are directly affected by school shootings, and talked about how Parkland students have become vocal advocates. “Those students are doing a lot to have their voices heard,” Aguilar, a senior, said. Aguilar said he thought they were going to go a nearby Wells Fargo as WALKOUT continued on p. 19

Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

W. 44TH WALKOUT continued on p. 19 NYC Community Media

Fabian Aguilar, 17, left, and Robert Martinez, 17, participated in a walkout honoring those students who died last month in a school shooting in Florida. March 15, 2018


People with Disabilities and Allies Advocate for Universal Subway Access

Photos courtesy of Sasha Blair-Goldensohn

Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, seen here, said he takes screenshots of the MTA elevator outage website “at the same time as the outage, to document the fact that outages are often not listed. Said non-listing helps the MTA ‘get away’ with it, because it creates an underestimate of outages, and overestimate of elevator availability.”


HOLY WEEK At The Church of St. Luke in the Fields Palm Sunday — March 25

Good Friday — March 30

Blessing of the Palms and Holy Eucharist 8:00 am Said Eucharist 9:15 am Choral Eucharist* 11:15 am Choral Eucharist*

9:00 am Morning Prayer 1:00 pm Good Friday Liturgy * 6:30 pm Stations of the Cross

Mon. Tues.— March 26, 27

Holy Saturday — March 31

6:15 pm Holy Eucharist

Wednesday — March 28 6:15 pm Stations of the Cross and Holy Eucharist

8:00 pm The Great Vigil of Easter The Paschal Vigil and First Eucharist of Easter with Baptism, Conrmation, Reception and Rearmation of Baptismal Vows.

Maundy Thursday — March 29 Easter Day — April 1 6:30 pm Choral Eucharist with Foot Washing, Agape Supper, Stripping of the Altar, and Vigil at the Altar of Repose. An Overnight Watch until 1pm on Good Friday.

8:00 am Said Eucharist 9:15 am Choral Eucharist* 10:30 am Easter Egg Hunt 11:15 am Choral Eucharist*

*Child care is available for children ages 6 and under

The Church of Saint Luke in the Fields | Corner of Hudson and Grove Streets 487 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014 | 212.924.0562 | www.stlukeintheelds.org


March 15, 2018

BY JUDY L. RICHHEIMER On March 1, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), a public forum was held to consider the parlous state of transportation in our city. A panel of experts, both erudite and enraged, discussed, among other topics, snail-paced traffic, the inflated cost of subway construction, and buses that have gone MIA. One topic not mentioned throughout the presentation was the right of the disabled to travel by subway — and why that right, according to advocates for the disabled, is denied systematically. Eventually, during the brief period of audience Q&A, Chelsea Now was able to raise the issue. Of the seven participants, just one, Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board member, Polly Trottenberg, chose to respond. Then the panel quickly moved back to the more general failures of the MTA. “That makes me incensed,” Miriam Fisher, of The People’s MTA (on Twitter, @ThePeoplesMTA) and Auto-Free New York! (auto-free.org), vehemently stated after the event. “It’s not on the agenda, it’s not on the radar. This is the time when subways are in the spotlight, in the news daily, and billion-dollar renovations

are happening. But accessibility is not being highlighted.” There are signs, however, that change is underway. The public is becoming slowly aware of the challenges of the 500,000-plus New Yorkers with disabilities who are being denied full access to the subway system. At last week’s budget hearing, Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the council’s Committee on Transportation, acknowledged, “Our outdated system is keeping hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities from fully participating in our economy.” Councilmember Mark Levine announced a rally that was ultimately held on March 12, at the 163rd St. E train station, due for complete overhaul, to protest the absence of elevators in the renovation plan. And at the panel, Trottenberg said that she and fellow MTA board member Veronica Vanterpool had attempted (unsuccessfully) to persuade other members to reject the billion-dollar “enhanced station initiative” because it did not include access for people with disabilities. On March 13, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of NY became a powerful ally to the Bronx Independent ACCESS continued on p. 20 NYC Community Media

NYU LANGONE MEDICAL ASSOCIATES – CHELSEA At NYU Langone Medical Associates – Chelsea, we treat a range of cardiac conditions, including diseases of the aortic and mitral valves and coronary arteries, as well as venous and arterial disease, congestive heart failure, and adult congenital heart disease. We also provide primary and preventive care for adults, as well as pulmonary care, pulmonary function testing, advanced sleep services, and cardiac imaging and testing in one convenient location. We’re bringing together the comprehensive resources, technology, and expertise of NYU Langone with the physicians you’ve come to know in your neighborhood. Dianne Acuna, MD

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Richard Woronoff, MD

160 West 26th Street, 3rd Floor | New York, NY 10001

To make an appointment: 646-660-9999 | nyulangone.org

NYC Community Media

March 15, 2018


POLICE BLOTTER LOST PROPERTY: He hates winter While shoveling snow on Wed., March 7 at 3:30 p.m., a man realized he was no longer in possession of his wallet. He lost the wallet on the corner of Eighth Ave. and W. 20th St. The 63-year-old does not feel he is the victim of a crime. He told police the wallet was last seen while he was at home.

LOST PROPERTY: Cab confusion A woman returned to her home on the 400 block of W. 21st St. on Tues., March 6 at 8:30 p.m. to find she no longer had her bag. The 26-year-old realized that she left her belongings in a taxi. The bag had her driver’s license, wallet, and two bank cards. The total value of the property is $1,700.

LOST PROPERTY: Luggage left behind A 34-year-old man was traveling out of state and came back on Mon., March 5 at 7:15 p.m. The Megabus dropped him off at the corner of Seventh Ave. and W. 27th St. When he got to the subway


March 15, 2018

station, he realized he left his luggage on the bus. After speaking to representatives of the bus company, no bag was found. The total value of property is $525.

LOST PROPERTY: Wallet worries When 5 p.m. comes, most of us are running to the door to go home. A 41-year-old man did just that on Thurs., March 8 at 5 p.m. and he ended up losing his wallet at 11th Ave. and W. 33rd St. He’s convinced that he dropped it and is not the victim of a crime. His wallet had a motorcycle permit, work identification, a MetroCard, and $130 cash.

LOST PROPERTY: Our Bermuda Triangle A man was staying at the Dream Hotel (355 W. 16th St. btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) when he lost his debit card and ID. The man, 38, said told police that at midnight on Wed., Feb. 28, he walked into the hotel with both items, but he misplaced them throughout the night. He does not believe that he is the victim of a crime. —Tabia C. Robinson

NYC Community Media

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March 15, 2018


Eco-Friendly, Ethically Sourced, Only Organic: Small BY VICTORIA CALI & NICHOLAS ESPOSITO From our captivating parks to the breathtaking skyline, New York City is a landscape just begging to be painted — but the beauty of our city (and the larger world beyond it) is not necessarily everlasting. We all know by now that decades of our not-so-great actions have taken a toll on the environment. The truth is, if we want to preserve the well-being of the city we love to call home, steps (big and small) must be taken to make that happen. Here at the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC), we’re taking a closer look at the businesses in our community and recognizing those doing their part in the global sustainability movement by “going green.”

FURNISH GREEN Many people strive to be more sustainable, but don’t know where to start. Lucky for us, Furnish Green has been providing New Yorkers with fun, vibrant, and unique pieces of furniture since 2007. The best part? All of the products at Furnish Green are ethically sourced and sold at a reasonable price. Thanks to Furnish Green, we can all enjoy some peace of mind — not only about where the environment is concerned, but our wallets as well. At Furnish Green, their philosophy is simple: provide customers with “unique, well-made, long-lasting, and reasonably priced pieces of furniture.” When we spoke with General Manager Marielle Palamaro about what makes Furnish Green sustainable, she told us, “From the rags that we use to clean to the legs and table tops that are married together to make new pieces, we can always find a second use for something.” And don’t think the selection of vintage furniture is going to leave you feeling limited. The inventory at Furnish Green spans a wide range of styles and eras to help you choose an eye-catching and affordable item, whether it’s your fi rst vintage piece or your 100th. Furnish Green recycles and repurposes just about everything they get their hands on. They use a bagless Shop-Vac, an electric high-heat dry vapor steamer, natural wood oils, and a basic vinegar


March 15, 2018

Photo by Marielle Palamaro

At Furnish Green, the selections that make the cut are made to last and reasonably priced.

Photo by Marielle Palamaro

From cleaning products to table tops, Furnish Green recycles and repurposes just about everything they get their hands on.

and water solution to clean most of their items. They also exemplify community involvement by donating whatever items they can and provide continual support for local nonprofits such as Rhythm Break Cares (rbcares.org), an incredible organization that uses a unique and effective dance therapy approach to address the needs of local individuals with Alzheimer’s and associated dementias. Stop by Furnish Green for a unique furniture experience that will be an effective way to reduce your environmental impact. Furnish Green is at 1261 Broadway #309 (btw. W. 31st & 32nd Sts.). Visit furnishgreen.com or call 917-583-9051. For Twitter and Instagram: @furnishgreen. On Facebook: facebook.com/ furnishgreenvintagenyc.


Via The Eco Laundry Company on Instagram

The Eco Laundry Company knows how to wash responsibly, rinse responsibly, and repeat.

Life’s daily chores don’t have to be all bad — for the Earth, that is. Here in NYC, The Eco Laundry Company is providing New Yorkers with ecofriendly laundry and dry cleaning services to support the movement towards sustainability. From their environmenNYC Community Media

Businesses Worth Sustaining

Photo by Linda Pugliese

Farm-to-table organic selections abound, at The Green Table’s Chelsea Market location.

tally friendly soaps and detergents, to even their organic floors, The Eco Laundry Company’s dedication to “going green” is truly embedded in the fabric of the business. At The Eco Laundry Company, their main goal is to “provide world-class laundry and dry cleaning services, with an unwavering commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship.” Their dry cleaning process is 100 percent organic, as they use repurposed containers to store soaps and softeners, which are 100 percent biodegradable, non-toxic and phosphate-free. Dry water (a water-air emulsion) is used whenever possible. They also dry their clothing on low heat in order to consume less energy (and to reduce shrinking mishaps, of course). In order to maximize sustainability, their locations are also run on 100 percent wind energy. Founder and CEO Phillipe Christodoulou told us that after they opened up their doors in 2012, they referred to their venture as the new wave of “happytalism.” It’s in The Eco Laundry Company’s DNA and core philosophy to never put profit before the welfare of people and the planet, instead NYC Community Media

Via The Eco Laundry Company on Instagram

Photo by Linda Pugliese

The Eco Laundry Company’s sustainability ethos is embedded in the fabric of their business — and emblazoned on their shirts.

Eating at The Green Table isn’t just good for you — it also grows the regional farm and food economy.

using it as a vehicle for positive change. Not only does The Eco Laundry Company practice sustainability, they also are committed to educating their customers about “going green.” They teach about water conservation through the “Drop-A-Brick” movement (putting a brick in your toilet to use less water), and proudly support conservation efforts from organizations like One Percent for the Planet, WeForest, and Charity: Water. At the forefront for sustainability and eco-friendly living, The Eco Laundry Company has inspired our community to become more environmentally conscious. Their innovative approach towards sustainability will continue to leave a positive ripple in our community, one wash cycle at a time. The Eco Laundry Company is at 249 W. 18th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Visit ecolaundrycompany.com or call 646-649-3806. For Twitter and Instagram: @theecolaundry. On Facebook: facebook.com/ecolaundrycompanychelsea.

Farming Association-certified farm where they raise chickens, turkeys, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and other products. In addition to their commitment to buying locally, The Green Table is committed to reducing waste as much as possible. They are careful in creating the right amount of product. Besides recycling, they also compost both in their kitchen and at all of their events. Even if the event venue fails to compost, they will bring the compost back to their facility rather than add it to the landfill waste stream. The Green Table strives in growing the regional farm and food economy. While speaking with Director of Operations Emma Hollister, she commented on their commitment to buying local: “While this focus on locally-sourced food is happily growing in popularity, it has been an essential part of our mission statement for almost forty years.” The Green Table is under the same owner and management as the event planning and catering business, The Cleaver Co. as well as Table Green Café. The Green Table is at Chelsea Market (75 Ninth Ave., btw. W. 15th & 16th Sts.). Visit cleaverco.com/ green-table or call 212-741-6623. For Twitter and Instagram: @greentablenyc. On Facebook: facebook. com/thegreentable/?ref=br_rs.

THE GREEN TABLE Going green isn’t just about recycling plastic bottles and keeping the faucet from running too long — it’s also about being sustainable in how we get the food that we eat. You don’t have to worry about that when you’re out to eat at The Green Table. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy a healthy meal that is farm-to-table organic. Located in the heart of the Chelsea Market since 2003, The Green Table gets their supplies from local suppliers who match their focus on sustainability. This year will mark the fifth growing season of Green Table Farms which is their own Northeast Organic

Cali and Esposito are marketing interns for the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. For info on the GVCCC, call 646470-1773 or visit villagechelsea.com. Twitter: @ GVCCHAMBER. On Facebook: facebook.com/ GVCCHAMBER.

March 15, 2018



The West Side Needs a Study for Ferry Service BY JEFFREY C. LeFRANCOIS When Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan for a citywide ferry network in 2014, transit advocates were ecstatic — until we saw that the proposed routes ignored the West Side of Manhattan. The routes were informed by a 2013 study that only reviewed the World Trade Center, Christopher St., and Pier 79 south of 59th St. Fast forward to the spring of 2017, when the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) rolled out Phase I of “NYC Ferry” with great fanfare (ferry.nyc). Only an hour from the Rockaways to Wall Street! Williamsburg to DUMBO to Brooklyn Heights to Wall Street! By the end of 2017, in just eight months, nearly three million lucky people — 34 percent more than expected — traveled for the cost of a swipe of a MetroCard. Next year Phase II will connect The Bronx, Queens, the Upper East Side, E. 34th St., and the Lower East Side with Wall Street, leaving the West

Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

On Feb. 28, Mayor Bill de Blasio and community leaders celebrated the start of construction on the Lower East Side’s new NYC Ferry landing — but with no plans for the West Side, the area remains relegated to undependable trains and buses.

Side relegated to undependable trains and buses. In the past 15 years, huge swaths of Manhattan’s West Side were rezoned from manufacturing to commercial and residential uses: the face of West Chelsea has changed, bringing residential populations west of 10th Ave. The West Clinton rezoning is transforming an industrial corridor of 11th Ave. into a gleaming

row of residential and mixeduse buildings — and at Hudson Yards, the largest development in North America, a forest of towers was created out of thin air atop a windswept rail yard sans a transportation system. Despite all this development, and the consequential population boom, transportation planning has not followed suit. The 2013 study and the 2015 Requests for Proposals to

actualize the ferry plan did not include “future development.” They also ignored Pier 97 at 57th St., Chelsea Piers, Pier 57 at 17th St., and Pier 40 at Houston St. Luxury buildings provide shuttles for residents to the nearest subway station (further clogging streets and polluting the air), while the city’s new affordable housing pushes people to the fringes of transportation networks. New tech employers that occupy former factory buildings on the West Side have thousands of employees. All these people also need a better way to get to work. Affordable housing and increased employment are good things. Yet without adequate infrastructure support, inequity persists and these new communities will not thrive. So is the West Side Phase III? Well, no. The EDC does not have plans for a Phase III of its “citywide” ferry service. It has ignored the Hudson River waterfront, with its profusion of piers and booming population,

even in the face of the looming L train shutdown. Community Boards 1, 2, and 4 and several Business Improvement Districts have asked the EDC for a study that examines the West Side of Manhattan. And that would just be to serve the West Side. What about the rest of the city? When will we rival cities like Istanbul, Vancouver, Seattle, and Sydney? Living in the greatest city in the world has its perks, and our extensive subway system is one. But our public transit system isn’t as top-notch nor as equitable and extensive as it could be. A step toward making that a reality would be committing to study the West Side for expanded ferry service. The city created the demand — now it just needs to supply the ride. LeFrancois is Second Vice Chair of Manhattan Community Board 4 and Director of Operations and Community Affairs for the Meatpacking Business Improvement District.

Extra! Extra! Local News Read all about it!

PUBLISHER Jennifer Goodstein


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March 15, 2018

EDITOR Scott Stiffler ART DIRECTOR John Napoli

CONTRIBUTORS Lincoln Anderson Stephanie Buhmann Dusica Sue Malesevic Winnie McCroy Christian Miles Puma Perl Rania Richardson Tabia C. Robinson Paul Schindler Eileen Stukane

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Chelsea Now is published weekly by NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. (212) 229-1890. Annual subscription by mail in Manhattan and Brooklyn $75. The entire contents of newspaper, including advertising, are copyrighted and no part may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher - © 2017 NYC Community Media LLC, Postmaster: Send address changes to Chelsea Now, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. PUBLISHER’S LIABILITY FOR ERROR: The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for other errors or omissions in connection with an advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue.

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March 15, 2018

NYC Community Media

Signs of Spring and Other Sure Things Lydon’s list tells you where to go, and why BY MICHAEL LYDON Spring, spring, we’ve made it to another spring! Sure, call my wife and me sunny optimists, but frankly dear, we don’t give a damn. Each year we defiantly declare Dec. 21 to be the first day of spring. Why? Because that’s when the sun reverses its course and starts on its welcome and warming trek back north. By Groundhog Day we start seeing buds fattening on Tompkins Square Park’s elm trees, and by Valentine’s Day we’ve spotted the first fresh sprouts pushing bravely through the crisp mulch of last fall’s withered leaves. We call Avenue B and Seventh St. “Daffodil Corner,” because year after year its bright yellow blossoms trumpet their joyful message weeks ahead of the crocuses and tulips. With spring the whole spirit of Tompkins changes. The dog walk fills up again with happy barkers and ballchasers, and the oval of benches by the Hare Krishna elm fills up again with sunbathers. Kids rattle by on their skateboards, the mellow jazz band sets up shop by the Temperance fountain on Sunday afternoons, and the hawk hunters follow their prey every day with the longest telephoto lenses known to man.

A “JUDAS” FOR THE EASTER SEASON Having recently closed a sold-out run of a black comedy, “The Cult Play,” by newcomer Topher Cusumano at E. Fourth St.’s the Paradise Factory theater, The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble is hard at work rehearsing its next production, “Judas,” by Off-Off Broadway pioneer Robert Patrick. Previews at the Wild Project (195 E. Third St., btw. Aves. A & B) start April 25, 26, 27, and 28 — before a gala opening Sat., April 29. Visit phoenixtheatreensemble.org without delay (the first two nights are already sold out!). Robert Patrick’s 50+ year career began at New York’s legendary Caffe Cino with his first play, “Haunted Host.” He later became a leader in the gay theater movement. “Kennedy’s Children” is Patrick’s best-known work, though NYC Community Media

Photo by Monty Stilson

L to R: Josh Tyson as Judas and Jeffrey Marc Alkins as Jesus of Nazareth, in the upcoming Phoenix Theatre Ensemble production of Robert Patrick’s “Judas.”

he believes “Judas” to be his best. In his telling, Christ is a young pacifist, his mother Mary a revolutionary, Pontius Pilate an urbane Roman politician, and Judas a disciple of Jesus and a protégé of Pontius Pilate, struggling to know what to believe and who to follow in this modern-dress battle of wills. The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, founded in 2004 by life partners Craig Smith and Elise Stone, still feels like a newcomer on Downtown’s theater scene — but the actor/manager duo have been working together for almost 30 years, many of them at the late but highly esteemed Jean Cocteau Repertory on the Bowery. Five minutes into any play they put on, whether it’s Molière or Brecht, and you’ll know these folks are

first class pros and seasoned veterans. Aided and abetted by a shifting band of actors and designers — John Lenartz, Josh Tyson, Amy Fitz, James Sterling, Joseph Menino, Ellen Mandel (my wife), and more — Smith and Stone act, direct, run the office, handle promotion, and, when things get hectic, sell cookies and soft drinks at the concession stand at intermission. “Managing an Off-Broadway theater company does not get any easier as the years go passing by,” said Smith with a look somewhere between a grin and a grimace. “For one thing, there’s so much good story-telling, acting, and writing on dozens of digital television channels that I can understand why people stay home. Million-dollar Hollywood pro-

ductions, that’s our competition!”

LOOK OUT WORLD, HERE I COME! So you’ve been playing the guitar for a few years, you sing a bit and have written a few tunes that you believe to be monster hits in the making. Time to sling your guitar over your shoulder and head out to an open mic. The basic deal is the same at all open mics: get to the venue 30 minutes before the show begins, sign up, wait, wait, and wait some more until the MC calls your name, then get up there and pour your heart out for your two songs, get your LYDON continued on p. 16 March 15, 2018


LYDON continued from p. 15

applause, and go home in agony because you missed an F minor chord in your intro to your second song. Well, next time you’ll hit ’em again harder! Clubs with open mic nights come and go. Some schedule Tuesday nights at 8pm, some Saturdays at 5pm. These two websites will get you started: badslava.com/new-york-open-mics.php and openmikes.org/calendar/NY. Once you’re on the scene, you’ll hear about many more. The worst open mics? Those where the MC gives long slots to a dozen favorites in the middle of the night, and you’re not one of the favorites. The best open mics? Where there’s the same favorite system, but you’re one of the lucky favorites! Actually that’s not quite true. I’m a battle-scarred open mic veteran, and I’ve seen many clubs that rely on the “favored few” system become snooty, closed shops. The best open mic I’ve ever played begins with a lottery every Monday night, 7pm at Caffe Vivaldi (32 Jones St. just above Bleecker; caffevivaldi.com). Guitarist-singer-songwriter Bert Lee is the night’s genial host, and instead of coddling favorites, he presents every performer with a downto-earth friendly spirit that brings out their best. Lee, who’s been playing in

Photo by Ellen Mandel

Hope sprouts eternal: On March 10 in Tompkins Square Park, daffodils by the southeast entrance.

the Village since the 1960s, is also one hell of a folk-pop stylist, and the two or three songs he plays when there’s time are often the best of the night.

A NEW, FUNKY, FUN EAST VILLAGE BISTRO Strolling down First Ave. a few

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btw. E. 10th & 11th Sts.; fernsnyc. com).

AND IN CLOSING… “Wait a damn minute,” I hear you saying, “how can it be spring if we just got slammed by a savage nor’easter?” I’ll let Mr. Shelley, Percy Bysshe, that is, answer that: “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

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March 15, 2018

NYC Community Media

Photo by Megan Ching

Steven Prescod tells his coming-of age-story in “A Brooklyn Boy,” running concurrently with “The Bench” at the East Village Playhouse.

A Karmic Win for the Community At the East Village Playhouse, CityKids create and collaborate

Photo by Juliet Gomez

The building at 340 E. Sixth St. is no victim of gentrification: East Village Playhouse and The CityKids Foundation now run their programming out of this location. NYC Community Media

BY PUMA PERL The storefront at 340 E. Sixth St., a tenement built in 1900, remained vacant for almost 10 years after the world music shop Tribal Soundz shut its doors. But this is not your ordinary gentrification story. There is no evil landlord, and the space was not converted to a café featuring high-priced lattes. Instead, neighborhood residents now welcome the East Village Playhouse, a 50-seat Off-Off Broadway black box theater, which is part of The CityKids Foundation. Although Tribal Soundz is dearly missed, people who share its vision of building community through the arts have become the new occupants of this special space. Teaching, collaborating, and creating new genres — while respecting the old — will continue. Musician Nora Balaban, who plays and teaches traditional music of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, owned Tribal Soundz until 2008, when it closed. “Our tag line was ‘Bringing you world music and everything you need to play it,’ ” she recalled. “We were a family there. Classes, concerts. Magic happened.” Balaban emphasized that it was not the landlord who caused the store to close. “I had the nicest landlord in New York,” she said. “He

actually lowered my rent!” The problem was the change in the demographics of the neighborhood. “It was no longer a place where artists, musicians, and creative people could live.” Recently, passing by, she noticed that the door was open and, upon entering, ran into Robert Galinsky, whose play, “The Bench,” an exploration of homelessness in the ’80s, is one of two currently running at the Playhouse. He explained the new programs to her. “Tribal Soundz was mystical and magical, and that space could only be rented by someone doing something creative and beneficial towards our neighborhood. I was so excited to see what they are doing!” CityKids President Laurie Meadoff, who founded the organization in 1985, is also excited about the new space and is well aware of the karmic connection. “We hope to continue the community work,” she told me. CityKids is a “multicultural organization, which instills leadership through the arts,” she explained. “We want to create a hub where young people can create and collaborate with each other and with other artists.” Past collaborators include the late Keith Haring, EVP continued on p. 18 March 15, 2018


EVP continued from p. 17

who designed the logo, and artist Kenny Scharf. Demi Moore has been a spokesperson, and Roger Daltrey performed at a fundraiser. Programs are being developed to take place during the day, including leadership workshops led by Galinsky, who has a long history of merging art and activism. Artistic Director Moises Roberto Belizario directs the CityKids Repertory Company, which provides training in various artistic disciplines. As per their website (citykids.com), it is the mission of CityKids to empower young people to “fi nd and strengthen their individual and collective voices and to support them to raise those voices to impact their lives, their communities, and the world.” Like Tribal Soundz, there is a motto: Each one reach one Each one teach one Each one pull one into the sun Recently, I had the good fortune of attending a production of “A Brooklyn Boy,” running concurrently with “The Bench.” A young man, Steven Prescod, tells his coming-of-age story through taking on the personas of 32 characters. Despite growing up in a stable family, he was pulled into the violence of his environment and, not surpris-


March 15, 2018

Photo by Blair Seagram

Musician Nora Balaban, seen here at Tribal Soundz (which shuttered in 2008), is happy to see the East Village Playhouse thriving at her store’s former site.

ingly, found himself in the court system. Eventually, he found his way to CityKids, where he was mentored by Belizario, who recognized that his stories lent themselves to a produc-

tion which would not only engage but would educate in ways that would resonate with young people. The vivid backdrop, videos of Brooklyn streets and courts, open up the play and support the young actor’s ability to personify many characters. There is a realism that reminded me of my daughter Juliet’s young male friends who grew up in similar environments. Juliet, who attended the play with me, agreed. “For over an hour, I watched Steven Prescod become so many of the Brooklyn Boys I’ve known,” she said. “The Brooklyn boy with one eye on the church and one eye on the block. One foot in the streets and one foot in the dance studio. It is an authentic look at life for young men of color growing up in Brooklyn without being becoming clichéd, trite, or exploitative.” Belizario and Pescod worked together on the book, music, and lyrics that make up the play. Following the production, Belizario, a former CityKid and the play’s director, addressed the audience, sharing the evolution of their mentorship and their creative journey, which included an excerpt of the play performed for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their New York City visit three years ago. They were inspired by the story and helped secure at the National Black Theater, sponsored by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts; this led to many more shows throughout the country. Belizario encouraged people to support the play and to

help young people to come and see it. Fundraising efforts are in place to extend the production beyond April 28. “I mentored Moises,” Meadoff told me. “He was 17 years old and facing 25 years to life on a drug charge when he came to us. Now he has become our Artistic Director and in turn has mentored Steven.” They hope to conduct “A Brooklyn Boy” workshops both on site and off. Although both plays currently running have social themes, that is not a requirement for production. “We are looking for artists to bring a synergy,” she said, “and we would like new collaborations with different artists.” Bringing it all full circle, I touched base with Nora Balaban, who was on her way to see “A Brooklyn Boy” and meeting a friend who hung out at Tribal Soundz and happens to know the staff at the Playhouse. “I’m looking forward to meeting the people involved,” she said. “Maybe I can teach world music to the kids!” And the tradition of “each one teach one” shall continue. The East Village Playhouse is located at 340 E. Sixth St., btw. First & Second Aves. “The Bench” runs through April 13, Fri. at 9pm (tickets, $37.50). “A Brooklyn Boy” runs through April 28, Thurs. and Fri. at 7pm, Sun. at 2pm. ($42.50). For ticket information, including group rates, visit eastvillageplayhouse.com. NYC Community Media

W. 44TH WALKOUT continued from p. 3

Photos by Dusica Sue Malesevic

“It’s important because if we don’t try to make a change then we’re not going to see anything happen,” a 16-year-old junior said about the walkout. WALKOUT continued from p. 3

part of the protest — the bank has ties to the National Rifle Association — but the students went around the block, and then headed back to class. He said he felt “lucky” to live in New York state, where it is more difficult to obtain weapons than other parts of the country. Rev. Deacon Denise LaVetty of St. Peter’s Chelsea passed out cards to the students with the hashtags #NationalSchoolWalkout #ENOUGH #NeverAgain, and a scripture verse from 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” “I don’t call what happened today a protest, I call it a statement of a position,” she said later by phone. “We need to tighten up our controls

on guns.” That includes banning assault weapons, closing loopholes in background checks, raising the minimum age to purchase, and prohibiting high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, LaVetty noted. She pointed to St. Peter’s longtime engagement and support of the Chelsea community and its causes, and said that the walkout was special because it involved the neighborhood’s youth. In Hell’s Kitchen, both younger students from PS51 and high school students from The Beacon School gathered on the street where their schools are located (W. 44th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.), which the NYPD had closed off for the walkout. Students held signs that stated “Enough is Enough,” “You Work for Us,” and “Protect Kids — Not Guns.” —Additional reporting by Christian Miles

Students in Chelsea checked out a card from St. Peter’s in support of Wednesday’s walkout. Photos by Christian Miles

NYC Community Media

March 15, 2018


ACCESS continued from p. 4

Living Services, when it joined that nonprofit in their lawsuit against the MTA, filed in 2016. At that time, the Bronx Independent Living Services charged that the MTA failed to live up to its legal obligation when it rehabilitated the Middletown Road Station in the Bronx — but failed to include elevators in the project. According to the lawsuit, that decision violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which required that rehabilitation of subway stations must include accessibility for people in wheelchairs. But there has always been an out. The act reads, “When the cost of alterations necessary… is disproportionate to the cost of the overall alteration,” then the MTA is exempt from that requirement. Advocates for the disabled claim that the MTA has been far too liberal in awarding itself that exemption, and that, in the case of Middletown Road, the agency was clearly violating the law. (Transit activist Mary Kaessinger attended a hearing on the Middletown renovation. She reported: “The MTA lawyers engaged in circular reasoning. They argued there was no need for an elevator there because no wheelchair rider had ever tried to use that station.”) This month has seen an even more remarkable development in the fight for universal access to NYC subways. On March 5, New York State Supreme Court Justice Shlomo S. Hagler allowed a suit to go forward demanding that mobility-impaired individuals enjoy “full and equal access on equal terms and conditions,” in the words of Maia Goodell, senior staff attorney for the nonprofit law firm Disability Rights Advocates (DRA; dralegal.org), representing nine plaintiffs suing the MTA, New York City Transit, and the City of New York. Justice Hagler will preside over a settlement conference on May 10 (likely not open to the public). On the day after the March 5 hearing, Chelsea Now met with Goodell and her associate Emily Seelenfreund in their new office space. Two days prior they had moved from across the avenue to these larger quarters at 655 Third Ave., in expectation of growing their staff. “I can’t decide whether I should feel optimistic or pessimistic; the need for more attorneys here would mean that there is more discrimination against the disabled,” Goodell observed. Goodell stated that the DRA and its clients had attempted to avoid litigation — the scope of this case is enormous, involving more than 350 stations that lack elevators — but, without judicial intervention, the two sides could not settle. The MTA has gone on record stating


March 15, 2018

Photos by Judy L. Richheimer

Maia Goodell, of Disability Rights Advocates, noted of the recent move to a larger office, “The need for more attorneys here would mean that there is more discrimination against the disabled.”

Emily Seelenfreund, a Wolinsky Fellowship Attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, uses a manual wheelchair for the cardio benefits, but also because it is light, thus allowing fellow passengers to assist when a station’s elevator is broken down.

117 stations are ADA-accessible; 25 more stations are being made ADA-accessible under funding already approved. It is important to note that the suit does not stem from requirements set down by

the ADA, which made scant demands on our transit system. Although the federal law required that accessibility be included in plans for renovating stations, it specified that just one quarter of stations

not otherwise slated for renovation must be retrofitted with elevators. So, DRA drew on the 1965 New York City Human Rights Law, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of disability, pertaining to public accommodations (among other areas of life). That sweeping dictate could deftly apply to subway travel. Goodell and Seelenfreund were polite, but chary of discussions on specific legal strategy. However, Chelsea-based civil rights attorney, Ron Kuby, provided us with context, noting that the DRA’s use of the human rights law was “creative lawyering” of a kind employed by “the civil rights bar as a whole, which thinks outside of traditional actions” when faced with an intractable government entity. A second federal suit, also handled by DRA, is based on ADA law, and addresses the epidemic of broken elevators in the system. (That suit is currently at discovery stage.) Seelenfreund uses a wheelchair, and has chosen a manual one, in part for the built-in “cardio,” but also because it is light, thus allowing fellow passengers to more easily carry her and the chair up subway stairs when a station’s elevator is broken down. Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, a Google software engineer — he spoke with us at the fabled everything-here-is-free-andhealthy-and-delicious Google employeecafeteria — and a plaintiff in the state suit, is, like Seelenfreund, young and fit enough to use a manual chair. (He can do wheelies to hoist himself over and across the gap between the platform and the train.) Blair-Goldensohn regularly takes subways and is never surprised when the elevator is broken. Furthermore, he states that MTA notifications are often not up to date: “I’m not saying like one in ten. I’m saying like half the time that I’ve encountered an elevator that’s out, it’s not listed on the MTA site.” In addition, according to BlairGoldensohn, MTA personnel can be indifferent. “When I leave a station where the elevator’s not working, I’ll pass by the service booth and say to the agent, ‘Hey, the elevator’s out and it’s not listed online.’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh, really? Are you sure? Well, isn’t there another elevator in the back?’ There’s no awareness that this is their responsibility. If you told them that the entrance was blocked off or the track is on fire, they’d say, ‘Oh, crap, we have to get on that.’ But the idea that, for some segment of the population, there are people potentially stuck, unable to get home, is not even in their consciousness.” Monica Bartley, a community outreach organizer for the multi-faceted Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY (CIDNY; cidny.org), which is lead plaintiff on both suits, has been conducting NYC Community Media

tours for politicians to illustrate to them the extent of outage on subway elevators. Her “tourists” have learned firsthand how a person in a wheelchair can often feel like the Flying Dutchman, going almost endlessly from station-tostation, trying to find an elevator that works — just to get out of a station and find another, more reliable, form of transportation. (Unlike Seelenfreund and Blair-Goldensohn, Bartley uses an electric chair, which weighs 400 pounds; her options for being carried are sharply limited.) Typically, a suit of this kind connects the loss of a civil right to the particularities of a plaintiff’s life, demonstrating the legal principle of “harm.” Blair-Goldensohn is an athlete who plays what is known as “adaptive” tennis (Seelenfreund is a rock climber), and drives himself to that activity, though he would much prefer mass transit. But the closest subway, the MetsWillets Point station on the 7 line, is not accessible, which he describes as “one of the most offensive [instances of inaccessibility] because the Mets’ stadium [Citi Field] was rebuilt for a billion dollars, which was two-thirds public money.” Further, “…that station could be accessible; they built a ramp there for millions of dollars, which they only have open for Mets home games [and other stadium events].” Blair-Goldensohn’s observations sounded a theme often voiced by other activists — the MTA can seem wasteful as well as heartless. After all, on days when Blair-Goldensohn goes to play tennis, they lose out on his fare, which could be an indicator of the many other fares that they are forfeiting. Susan Dooha, executive director for CIDNY, expanded the issue of MTA waste and connected it to a broad social view. First, Dooha explained that transportation has been a key reason that the disabled have remained underemployed, with just 30 percent employed fulltime. “So, instead of looking at public policy in silos — subways alone, housing alone — it’s all interrelated. When people cannot work… they become mired in poverty. There are just endless ramifications, you could call them externalities, to not funding accessibility in the subways.” In other words, according to Dooha, if you take the holistic view, subway installation could, in the long run, pay for itself. Meanwhile, Dooha, like many in the accessibility movement, chafes at the MTA’s apparent priorities when rehabbing stations: “Believe me, I totally love the murals. I like to see beauty,” evidenced by her office collection of delicate, Asian art. But she wonders why we can embrace subway art, station Wi-Fi, NYC Community Media

Monica Bartley, a community outreach organizer with the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY, has been conducting tours for politicians to illustrate the extent of outage on subway elevators.

Photos by Judy L. Richheimer

Susan Dooha, executive director, Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY, noted that subway installation could, in the long run, pay for itself by the income generated from those currently denied access.

and other such improvements, but not have money to install and maintain elevators. At the panel, Trottenberg provided something of an answer: the cost of subway elevator installation in the subway is astronomical. “Putting two elevators in the Union Street Station on the R line in Brooklyn, and doing some staircase improvement there, would cost 100 million dollars and counting,” she claimed. “And that’s not even a particularly complicated station.” Activists insist that,

before figures like those are set in stone, outside engineers must be called in to evaluate costs. The disability rights movement, though, is not monolithic as to how and where to allocate funds. Edith Prentiss, the newly elected president of Disabled in Action (DIA; disabledinaction.org), which meets in W. 23rd St.’s Selis Manor (a residence for the blind and visually impaired) and is a plaintiff on the current suit, brings a somewhat different perspective to that issue. “Well, we all want an elevator in

our subway,” she noted. “But we have huge areas in the city that are transportation deserts, when it comes to elevator installation. So it would behoove me as a person with a social conscience not to demand an elevator in my own neighborhood.” It should be pointed out that DIA is considered a giant in the ongoing fight for disability rights. In the mid-1970s, DIA members went so far as to chain themselves to buses lacking wheelchair lifts. Later on, in the early 2000s, Prentiss participated a taxi sit-in, which took place in front of Penn Station. “We pulled up to taxis, opened the door and sat there ‘expecting’ a lift to appear, knowing full it wouldn’t. The taxi starter was apologizing to the people on line. I said to the summer tourists if we had accessible taxis we’d all be riding now, no one would be upset.” Blair-Goldensohn weighed in on Prentiss’ statement: “That reflects to me that Edith is a good person. And also, that we are used to being last in line. You sort of take it into yourself and begin to believe that you are not as valuable. ‘Oh, my station doesn’t have to have an elevator, it’s OK.’ No, it’s not OK!” he pronounced. Blair-Goldensohn believes that all stations in the system must be made accessible, and if after a “feasibility study,” it proves that certain stations cannot be retrofitted, those stations should simply be shut down. No matter how the lawsuits play out, the movement for subway access — like all civil rights movements — needs ardent support, not just from sympathetic politicians, but the larger public. Nearly everyone Chelsea Now spoke to from the disability rights community identified the natural allies in their quest for subway elevators: parents with strollers, shoppers with shopping bags, and travelers with luggage — and, Blair-Goldensohn added, “MTA workers. Sometimes I can’t get into the elevator because there are two MTA handcarts in there already.” But an encounter outside the DRA office might indicate that, when seeking support, the movement need not think only in practical terms. A maintenance worker was curious about the new tenants. “Do they do taxes?” he wanted to know. When told about DRA’s work and particularly the accessibility lawsuits, his eyes widened, and he interrupted his task to make a strong statement: “I spend a lot of time in Toronto. There they have elevators in their subways and escalators and everything works.” This very fit-looking man went on: “They care about grandmas and people with canes. They have heart. We have money. But where is our heart?” March 15, 2018



March 15, 2018

NYC Community Media

Photo by Nick Werner

Rooftop view from W. 19th St. overlooking the rear of the row of brownstones on W. 20th St (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). The restrictive covenant includes buildings within this area.

Photo by Carol J. Ott Photo by Nick Werner

A view from W. 19th St. shows the rear of brownstones from 334 W. 20th St. (far left) to 322 W. 20th St. (far right). COVENANT continued from p. 2

work as the publisher and editor-in-chief of Habitat Magazine, a publication for co-ops and condo boards of directors, became invaluable to her research. Ott sent letters and emails, and made phone calls. Not everyone was available or in a position to participate. Finally, with six building owners joining in, the group enlisted legal counsel and engaged in many discussions. One sticking point was the duration of the covenant, an economic consideration should anyone wish to sell their property. The group compromised on 15 years. The agreement was NYC Community Media

made on Nov. 28, 2017 and ends on Dec. 31, 2032, at which time it can be renewed if all owners at that time agree. Adding a wrinkle to the undertaking was the fact that the W. 20th St. side of the block falls within the West Chelsea Historic District and the W. 19th St. side does not. Four from the group are from W. 20th St. and two are from W. 19th St. This is not the only issue affecting the block, as W. 19th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves. is currently in the news due to concerns about construction at 345 and 347. Late last year, the block was also scrutinized by preservationists because of demolition to the Federal style

Looking west from 324 W. 20th St., in the direction of St. Peter’s Chelsea (which is also on the block), the courtyards of W. 20th St. In this section of the block, the W. 19th St. courtyards are fairly shallow (and not visible here), unlike those toward the east.

facades of 347 and 349, as well as the foundation 347. Encapsulating the entire matter, Ott said, “The fight was to preserve open space — and in our case it’s green space — and it’s astounding that on one hand the city has a sustainability plan that speaks to the benefits of green space and run-off areas, while another city arm, LPC, doesn’t even take this into account.” In a March 7 email, LPC spokesperson Zodet Negron stated, “The Commission has long recognized that additions or extensions at the rear of historic row houses are both historically and architec-

turally appropriate. The modest extensions approved at 318 and 334 West 20th St. were appropriate to the buildings and the district. Nevertheless, property owners are entitled to set limits for themselves on the types and scale of development. Such limits reflect the aesthetic views and other values of these homeowners and not the appropriateness of rear yard additions under the Landmarks Law.” In these circumstances, it’s no surprise that a group of self-reliant citizens have banded together to put provisions into law that will ensure the integrity of the verdant space behind their homes. March 15, 2018


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March 15, 2018

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