Serving Tribeca, Battery Park City, the Seaport and the Financial District VOLUME 31, NUMBER 6
MAR 22 – APR 4, 2018
What’s up for Downtown
Our annual Downtown Progress Report Pages 10–11 Humphreys & Partners Architects
Dallas design firm Humphreys & Partners Architects is pitching a high-tech, eco-friendly mixed-use project for the tip of Manhattan that would include vertical farms, photovoltaic windows and landing pads for autonomous fl ying drones. For more on the highly speculative “Pier 2” project — plus some other new developments set for Lower Manhattan on a more near-term timescale — see our Downtown Progress Report on pages 10–11.
Also in this issue:
A snow-day miracle! Page 7
Honoring 1st synagogue Page 6
1 M E T R O T E C H • N YC 112 0 1 • C O P Y R I G H T © 2 0 17 N YC C O M M U N I T Y M E D I A , L L C
Murder in Soho Page 4
Toxic politics Downtown pols, advocates slam Trump for kneecapping WTC Health Program BY COLIN MIXSON Downtown pols and first responders rallied outside the US Capitol Building in Washington earlier this month to protest a provision in President Trump’s budget proposal that would deprive the World Trade Center Health Program of experienced staff and leadership, potentially crippling the healthcare program that thousands of rescuers and Downtown survivors rely on, according to one Downtown Congressman. “The World Trade Center Health Program works,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D–New York), who was among the original sponsors of the bill named for Det. James Zadroga, whose premature death from 9/11-related illness inspired the legislation. “Why on earth would we change it now, just two years after Congress reviewed and reauthorized it?” The program monitors and provides healthcare for 83,000 9/11 responders and survivors, many of whom are
or likely will be afflicted by illness related to the toxic dust that lingered Downtown in the wake of the deadly 2001 terror attack. The healthcare benefits have so far been administered by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), but a budget proposal pitched by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney would reorganize the federal agency, shoving it under the umbrella of the National Institute of Health, and thereby depriving the WTC Health Program of the experienced leadership that NIOSH excels in, according to Nadler and other pols, including Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D–New York) and Congressman Peter King (R–Long Island), who fired off a bipartisan letter to Mulvaney condemning his proposal. “NIOSH is dedicated to occupational health, the exact expertise that is needed by this injured population,” the letter read. “This will unnecessarily
U.S. House Office of Photography
Comedian Jon Stewart, flanked by Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, blasts a provision in the Trump Administration’s proposed budget that could threaten a healthcare program for 9/11 victims.
put at risk the health of those who have been made ill by 9/11, many of whom are still suffering, and in too many cases still dying, from their injuries 17 years later.”
And while Mulvaney’s proposal is clear in that it would deprive the 9/11 healthcare program of its experienced WTC HEALTH Continued on page 18
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Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
Disbelief after caregiver confesses to murder of roommate BY COLIN MIXSON A fun-loving, 92-year-old Soho woman was allegedly murdered by her roommate on Mar. 8, surprising longtime friends, who described the suspected killer, 47-year-old Enrique Leyva, as a caring, if troubled man. â€œI think everybody is absolutely floored that Enrique did this,â€? said Rachael Marotta. â€œHe was so sweet and kind. I was looking back from old e-mails and texts, and he just loved her.â€? Police responded to a 911 call at 6:50 am of an assault in progress at the Sullivan Street apartment between Spring and Broome streets where Leyva lived with Veronica â€œRoniâ€? Ivins, and found the older woman unconscious, lying face up on her bed, according to police. Leyva allegedly confessed to murdering Ivins, telling investigators he smothered her with a pillow, before strangling her with his bare hands â€” â€œto be sure,â€? according to complaint documents provided by the Manhattan District Attorneyâ€™s office. Ivins originally knew Leyva as a friend and neighbor, who lived in an upstairs apartment with his boyfriend, Tony Iannacone, and the cou-
ple became deeply involved with the older woman, accompanying her on dinner dates, ferrying her where she needed to go, and going out of their way to ensure the seniorâ€™s needs were met, according to another longtime friend of Ivins. â€œThey would go to movies, dinner, they got very involved in sort of taking care of one another,â€? said Ruth Halberg, who knew Ivins for 49-years. Leyva and Ivins eventually became so close that the womanâ€™s daughter, who was battling terminal cancer, implored the younger man to continue caring for her mother after her death, Marotta said. â€œShe went to Enrique, and on her death bed said â€˜I need to know somebodyâ€™s going to watch out for my mom,â€™ â€? Marotta recalled. â€œShe picked Enrique, and in my opinion, everybody who knew Enrique and Ronnie were all very happy about that.â€? Leyva moved in with Ivins shortly after her daughterâ€™s death in 2016, where he assisted her, while also working odd jobs, and alternated with Ivins paying rent for the apartment every other month, apparently hoping to take advantage of caregiver privileges to
Photo by Tequila Minsky
A memorial to Roni Ivins at the entrance of the Center on the Square, the senior center that she was such a big part of.
assume control over the elderly womanâ€™s coveted rent-controlled apartment after she died, according to Halberg. â€œIf you care for a certain amount of
time for someone as a caregiver, and you have a chance to remain in the MURDER Continued on page 18
ATTENTION: Commercial Property Owners, Commercial Tenants and Residents of Lower Manhattan
2018 ANNUAL MEETING April 24 , 2018 at 4 P.M. LMHQ, 150 Broadway, 20th Floor (Picture IDs are necessary to enter building)
The meeting is open to the public and all registered members are eligible to vote. 120 Broadway, Suite 3340 New York, NY 10271 (212) 566-6700 www.DowntownNY.com
Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
CRASH WITHDRAWAL Cops are hunting a man suspected of beating and robbing a woman inside the lobby of a Worth Street bank on Jan. 27. The victim was pulling cash out of a teller machine at the bank between Church Street and Broadway at 7:10 pm, when the suspect grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground, before grabbing $80 and two credit cards. Cops have released surveillance images of the suspect, and are asking the public for assistance in tracking down the alleged thief. Anyone with a tip can call (800) 577-8477, visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or text 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
VICTIMLESS CRIME A strange man — without use of threats, or violence — requested a delivery guy hand over his Motorola Package scanner on Beaver Street on Mar. 15, and the worker dutifully obliged, before turning around and filing a police report. The “victim” told police he was between Marketfield and Broad streets at 4:30 am, when a “dark-skinned” man walked up and said, “let me get that,” and the delivery guy handed over his scanner. The worker quickly sped away in his truck, telling police he feared for his safety, but later admitting the guy never actually threatened him, cops said.
SHOPPING FREE A thief nabbed more than $3,400 worth of clothes from a Vesey Street fashion outlet on Mar. 12. An employee told police that the crook waltzed into the store near West Street at around 4:20 pm, and grabbed various leather goods, some sneakers, and a T-shirt before fleeing.
LOCKED DOWN Cops arrested a cyclist for allegedly beating a man with a bike lock on Varick Street on Mar. 18. The victim told police he was embroiled in a dispute with the biker over a traffic-related incident between W. Houston and King streets at 8 pm, when the cyclist allegedly grabbed his lock and bashed him twice over the head.
FELL OFF A TRUCK A thief ransacked a delivery truck DowntownExpress.com
Cops are hunting this man suspected of robbing a woman inside a Worth Street bank on Jan. 27.
loaded with designer garments on Hudson Street on Mar. 12, making off with around $10,000 worth of high-end goods. The victim told police he parked his truck between Dominick and Broome streets at 1:15 pm, and returned later to find the lock on his rear door damaged, and the one on his passenger-side door completely busted. Checking inside, the victim realized the thief had made off with a small boutique’s worth of ritzy duds, cops said.
TWO-WHEELED THIEF A thief stole a man’s nearly $3,400 bike he left on Hudson Street on Feb. 14. The victim told police he parked his bike between 129 Hudson at 4:15 pm, and returned 10 minutes later to find his pricey ride stolen.
BAG MAN Some crook snatched a woman’s bag when she wasn’t looking inside a Spring Street nightclub on Feb. 25. The victim told police she was partying it up inside the watering hole between 205 spring street at 4 am, and had left her bag unattended for five minutes before she realized the purse, along with her iPhone and wallet, were stolen.
DEVILS STOLE PRADA Two shoplifters made off with $6,500 worth of posh gear at a Prada outlet on Broadway on Mar. 5. An employee told police the two female thieves waltzed into he fashion retailer between 575 Broadway at 5:05 pm, nabbing two pricey items before hightailing it. — Colin Mixson Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
America’s ﬁrst synagogue Historians push to co-name street after the Mill Street Synagogue BY COLIN MIXSON It’s a schlep down memory lane! Downtown history buffs are looking for community support to co-name a portion of South William Street after the first synagogue in the United States, which — despite popular myth — was not built in Rhode Island, but right here in Lower Manhattan. “This site is the origin of all synagogues in North America,” said James Kaplan, president of the Lower Manhattan Historical Association. “This site was the first — and for most of its existence, only — synagogue in New York City, and it was as the only synagogue in the United States.” Kaplan is referring to the Mill Street Synagogue, a temple built in 1730 to serve the Spanish and Portuguese members of Congregation Shearith Israel at what is now 26 South William St. between Broad Street and Mill Lane. The Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, is widely believed the country’s first, but that temple was built in 1763 — more than 30 years after the
Downtown synagogue — and is merely the oldest standing temple in America. And Congregation Shearith Israel dates back even further, being founded in Lower Manhattan in 1654 — 76 years before they built the temple of Mill Street. Since it was the country’s original Jewish house of worship, for the country’s oldest Jewish congregation, Kaplan contends that all other denominations of the ancient religion in America owe their existence to the little-known temple. “They all stem in a sense from the original congregation, which was Shearith Israel, before they broke up in the 1820s into various different groups,” Kaplan said. The congregants of Shearith Israel, in addition to being true-blue New Yorkers, were also hardcore patriots, according to Kaplan, who described the Downtown Jews as fervent revolutionaries. “They thought they’d get a better deal under the patriots,” said Kaplan. “They believed in American democracy, and were believers in religious freedom.”
When the British invaded and occupied Manhattan following the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776, the congregation’s leader, Gershom Mendes Seixas, known by some as the “Patriot Rabbi,” found himself unwilling to abide his Tory overlords, and instead led his people to the promised land of Philadelphia, where he built a congregation in exile as the Revolutionary War raged on. When Washington finally drove the English off Manhattan on Evacuation Day in 1783, Seixas and his people returned to Downtown, and the Mill Street temple endured until sometime around 1820, when the building was demolished and the congregation headed up town to a spot in the Village. To honor Downtown’s place in Jewish history, the Lower Manhattan Historical Association, in partnership with the Sons of the Revolution, the American Sephardic Federation, and the Temple of Universal Judaism, have asked members of Community Board 1 to support a request for signage on a lamppost outside the Dubliner restau-
Rev. Gershom Mendes Seixas was the first native-born Jewish religious leader in the United States.
rant co-naming South William Street as Mill Street Synagogue/Gershom Mendes Seixas Way. The CB1’s Licensing and Permits Committee endorsed the proposal on March 14, and the full board is expected to vote on it at its March 27. If the measure passes, it will go to City Council, and Kaplan hopes the vote will be in time to host an official unveiling on May 14, the date when President Truman announced recognition of the State of Israel 70 years ago.
JOIN US FOR
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
Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
Lost & found Wedding band goes missing in snow, Downtown neighbors help find it “They started to help me, Karen, BY COLIN MIXSON the boy, and the dog,” said Maria Puig Talk about ringing in the spring. An unfortunate Battery Park City Pérez, who moved to Battery Park City resident lost her wedding ring in a snow eight months ago from Spain. “I was drift during Wednesday’s whiteout, and very, very happy when we found it.” Pérez was playfeared her precious ing in the snow bling would be with her child on lost forever in the Rector Place near unseasonal storm, the Esplanade just which struck a day before 1 pm, when, after the Spring after the wedding Equinox. band slipped from But the desperher finger, she ate local found salheard the “clink” vation in the form of her ring hitting of another woman, the pavement, she a young boy, and said. his dog, Fred, who Having heard all came to her aid, Community News Group / Colin Mixson and together they Battery Park City resident Maria the band’s metallic sifted through the Pérez shows off her wedding ring, ping, the woman snow to recover her which she lost in the snow, but assumed her jewpriceless jewelry recovered with the help of a few elry would be easfrom the blizzard’s kind-hearted neighbors following a ily found, but after frantic 45-minute search. a few minutes of icy clutches.
Community News Group / Colin Mixson
Karen McDermott, left, along with a young boy and his dog pitched in to help neighbor Maria Pérez after she lost her wedding ring in a snow drift in the midst of Wednesday’s storm.
searching, her worry grew apace with the falling snow covering the sidewalk, which had already put more than fourinches on the ground, and continued falling steadily over her lost ring. Fellow Rector Place resident Karen McDormett, meanwhile, was passing by when she stopped to admire local
pooch Fred — a lady dog, despite her name — who was adorably attempting to catch the falling snow in her mouth. McDormett was merrily filming Fred’s canine antics with her phone when she realized Pérez’s plight and immediately RING Continued on page 18
Elder Law, Estate Planning, Guardianships, Trusts & Estates
Gifting and Estate Planning 2018 April 10 at 10:00 am Sheen Center for Thought & Culture 18 Bleeker St., 2nd Floor
Wills vs. Trusts April 26 at 10:00 am BelCham 1177 Avenue of the Americas
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Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
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Trauma can bring growth, as well as disorder PUBLISHER
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Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
BY LENORE SKENAZY “I always thought if I lost a child, I wouldn’t be able to stop screaming,” Liz Alderman, a Westchester mom of three, told journalist Mark Miller. But then one of her children, Peter, age 25, was killed in the 9-11 terror attacks — he was on the 106th floor of the North Tower — and she found out what really happens. At least to her. “The reality is, you can keep screaming — your throat closes up. You give yourself a headache. You have two choices — either you kill yourself literally or figuratively, by crawling into bed and never getting out, or you put one foot in front of the other.” Keep doing that and you can end up someplace completely new. And meaningful. It is this surprising journey that Miller illuminates in his new book, “Jolt: Stories of Trauma and Transformation.” Time and again he finds people who suffered not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — but it’s sort of good-witch twin: PostTraumatic Growth, or “PTG.” PTG is not a Pollyanna-ish way of looking at misery. People who grow in new and important ways after trauma suffer, too. It’s not that the pain gets replaced by meaning. It’s that along with the pain there is meaning, often great meaning, and some comfort in it. For Alderman and her husband, Steve, it was stumbling toward a way to make Peter’s life, and death, have a positive impact on the world, the way Peter had. Eventually the couple co-founded the Peter C. Alderman Foundation, which provides short-term therapy to others impacted by trauma, even halfway around the world, in Africa, Cambodia, and Haiti. People who have lived through war, natural disasters, and
sometimes the murder of their families in front of their eyes get the help they need to get back to functioning. Returning to “normal life” after a trauma is what we deem resilience. But Miller’s book is about something else: coming back from trauma with such an expanded sense of empathy and purpose that simply going to back to everyday existence is not enough. What happens is this: “We walk around with a self-constructed sense of our world,” Miller writes. This includes who we are, what matters to us, and how we expect to spend our time. But when a trauma hits, it can “blow these self-constructed worldviews to pieces.” Priorities get questioned. For instance, one man Miller interviewed, New York Times writer Andrew Revkin, suffered a stroke that temporarily paralyzed his right hand. When he got better, his old hobby — making music — didn’t seem like it could wait anymore. After all, the ability to play guitar and mandolin had just almost been taken from him. So since his stroke, he has released an album and now plays gigs around the city. The mother of child murdered by a serial killer found an even less-predictable purpose. A self-described “country bumpkin with a high-school education,” Marietta Jaeger has devoted much of her life since the crime to fighting for an end to the death penalty. This drive was born after she had a revelation of faith to forgive the killer. Clearly, no one can tell where trauma
may lead. But the idea that it could lead someplace good is not a new one. In religion, the path from pain to enlightenment is a common one. In mythology, it is called “the hero’s journey, in which heroes achieve great good as a result of great suffering,” Miller writes. You can see this journey again and again in the Bible, and on the screen. “These heroic struggles resonate deeply in American culture,” writes Miller, “especially when there is a happy ending (think Star Wars!).” So why do we associate post-traumatic existence only with disorder and never-ending pain? My guess is it’s because as much as we love the hero’s journey, we have been taught a much grimmer narrative about real-life trauma: That no one ever recovers. Even to suggest that they might is considered insensitive to people still struggling. That’s why Miller takes pains to explain that not everyone “grows” or should be expected to. He is very sensitive to ongoing sorrow, and doesn’t want to exacerbate anyone’s misery by suggesting that the “best” trauma victims march forth with a huge and wonderful new purpose. Not at all. No one says trauma victims must grow. And no one knows who will and who won’t. All we know is that trauma is part of the human condition. No one gets through life without something (or, sigh, many things) shaking them to the core and forcing a reckoning. The potential for growth has been “hiding in plain sight,” says Miller. It’s time for hope to come out of the shadows. Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of “Has the World Gone Skenazy?”
Posted To CB1 COMPILES LIST OF 5,213 RENT-REGULATED APARTMENTS IN LOWER MANHATTAN (MARCH 15) Thank you so much Tom for this very, very valuable work. Two important steps need to follow: 1) obtaining more rent-stabilized buildings Downtown and 2) making rent stabilization PERMANENT. I live in a rentstabilized loft and it’s brutal going every two years to Albany hoping and praying the Loft Law will be renewed. Let’s keep the pressure on our
elected officials to do both. Jean Grillo Would it be less brutal to pay free market rent like many of your neighbors pay? Fred
METAL DETECTORS PLACED AT ENTRANCES OF TRINITY CHURCH AND ST. PAUL’S CHAPEL (MARCH 8) It must be done for security reasons. Helen Murphy
If they are true believers, then why are magnetometers needed? God surely will provide! Just from the photograph in the story, one may contemplate there will lines waiting to get in during cold, hot, and inclement weather. Visitors will be entering during and after the start of prayers and masses and concerts. Lovely. Will the masses of hungry be screened also for the free lunches, which they eat in the courtyard? Publilius POSTED Continued on page 9
POSTED Continued from page 8
And whatâ€™s the non-specific threat? Why last year did ugly concrete blocks appear surrounding the front of St. Patrickâ€™s Cathedral on 5th Ave? What are they protecting against? The threat that dares not speak its name. Harry They are tired of tourists. anonymous coward
OP-ED: EMPATHY, BUT NOT SUPPORT, FOR FOES OF DUANE STREET MINI-PARK (FEB. 26) This Op-Ed misses the point. The most valuable resource in Manhattan is space. Before taking more public space for a private businessman, the threshold question is what are the impacts? Losing a parking space, or two, is an issue for other local businesses. The writer is correct â€” on any day, especially weekends, the space in front
of the shop is â€œteemingâ€? with strollers, dogs, small children, scooters, bicycles, and small clusters of friends. They block the sidewalk, force pedestrians into the street, and as a result create a safety hazard and inconvenience. This type of issue isnâ€™t unique â€” clubs generate noise, and smokers hanging out in front of bars create aesthetic and health issues. Whether we all want Tribeca to have a â€œcivilizingâ€? piece of Paris on Duane St., whether we find the corral attractive, and whether â€œvirtue signalingâ€? and
â€œplacard abuseâ€? are issues is a deeper conversation. Whether or not the loss of one parking space is the â€œtipping pointâ€? can also be debated endlessly. For now, if Laughing Man could make an effort to keep its patrons from clogging the sidewalk so the dozens of us who walk to the other shops, markets, and parks can do so unimpeded, they would have a more convincing argument that their further profit wonâ€™t come at the neighborhoodâ€™s expense. W M - Coffee Lover
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Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
DOWNTOWN EXPRESS 2018 PROGRESS REPORT
What’s on deck for the Seaport Wave of 2018 openings marks banner year for nabe BY JANEL BL ADOW This is the year the Seaport’s ship will come in. The new international fashion retailer and a redesigned restaurant/bar that have already opened in 2018 are sure signs that the once-dowdy South Street Seaport area is well into its rebranding as “The Seaport District,” a chic destination for well-heeled shoppers and diners. Scotch & Soda, an Amsterdam-based clothing company, opened this month at the corner of Fulton and Front streets. Founded in the 1980s, the Euro-fashion giant features upmarket, trendy clothes and accessories for men and women. Further up Front Street, and now headed into its third incarnation, the restaurant formerly known as Nelson Blue and Kiwi Cuba, at 233 Front St. and Peck Slip, reopens this week as a sports bar, Vintage61. Owners say the new concept is “sports bistro” and a gathering spot for all — non-sports fans and non-wine drinkers too. Coming in April is Pier 17’s first tenant — ESPN. The sports-TV network takes over 19,000 square feet on the third floor of the sea-green glass structure’s east end, with views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines. ESPN executives call it “a state-of-the-art content factory.” Shows will broadcast from the pier. The area’s first gourmet fast-food vegan shop will open in early summer. Under the direction of executive chef Chloe Coscarelli, By Choe, will be a 25,000-squarefoot eatery along Front Street at John Street. Fans of their meatless burgers, fries and sweets will no longer have to trek uptown to Greenwich Village or Chelsea to get their fix. And Big Gay Ice Cream fans take note. They’ll be returning to the neighborhood at 11 Fulton Street in May. Construction is full throttle on Mr C Seaport, a 66-room boutique hotel at 33 Peck Slip, formerly the Seaport Best Western. Expected to open in early summer, it’s owned by the Cipriani brothers, with Howard Hughes Corp. as a limited partner. It’s the Ciprianis first East Coast hotel, a companion to their Left Coast baby, Mr. C Beverly Hills. This summer, Pier 17 will also open its massive 1.5acre rooftop event space, where Live Nation just signed on to produce concerts. It includes two patios and a performance space designed for fashion shows, movie screenings, and concerts that can accommodate up to 4,000 people. Parts are covered by a transparent latticework canopy by German artist Achim Menges. By the end of summer, expect another chic European
Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
clothier — Milan-based 10 Corso Como opens its first U.S. shop in the Fulton Marketplace. The 13,000-square foot store is designed by American artist Kris Ruhs. “As a European, I am very excited to see 10 Corso Como come to the place where New York City was born,” said Carla Sozzani, founder and former fashion editor. “I am looking forward to creating an extraordinary destination in such a unique neighborhood where the interests of the community are a focus for growth.” In the fall, Jean-Georges Vongerichten will be the first celebrity chef to open in one of the six “pier village” dining-and-drinking spots on Pier 17 when he unveils his 10,000-square-foot restaurant. The glasswalled boxes are on two stories, first floor and mezzanine, with views of the corridors so visitors can see the Brooklyn Bridge and East River. Coming later in the year is a new Momofuku by David Chang. The TV super chef takes over one of the massive glass-box restaurants in Pier 17 to dish up his edgy Korean-inspired cuisine. The latest celebrity chef to take on one of the restaurant spaces is Andrew Carmellini, who leased an 11,000-square-foot, two-story spot last month. Expected to open early next year, this eatery will join his other Manhattan hot spots: The Dutch, Locanda Verde, and Lafayette. A McNally-Jackson bookstore and cafe is expected to open before Christmas on Fulton Street’s
Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will open a new restaurant at Pier 17 this fall to whet foodies’ appetites for the massive food hall he’s opening in the Tin Building next year.
Schermerhorn Row. It will be the third independent, New York-based shop owned and operated by Sarah McNally, a former book editor. And though details are still scant, Fellow Barber, an apothecary-barber shop currently in Soho and Greenwich and East Villages, is slated to start slathering and grooming this fall. Work recently began on the historic Tin Building on South Street. The structure is being dismantled and rebuilt 33 feet to the east to give it more distance from the FDR Drive trestle. When finished some time in 2019, Vogerichten is expected to open a 53,000-squarefoot seafood market and food hall. Since 2013, Howard Hughes Corp. has spent $785 million to redevelop the Seaport neighborhood. This will be the year that many of its plans will finally pull into port.
Live Nation just signed on to program events for Pier 17’s rooftop concert venue.
DOWNTOWN EXPRESS 2018 PROGRESS REPORT
A WORLD OF PIER IMAGINATION Design firm pitches futuristic eco-towers for Manhattan tip
BY COLIN MIXSON Call them Downtown dreamers. An international design firm has crafted plans for the residential supertowers of tomorrow — complete with vertical farms, flying robo-taxi docks, and talking restaurants — and they’ve pegged Pier 2 off The Battery as the ideal site of their visionary development. Humphreys and Partners Architects’ pair of high-tech high-rises may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but the combination of Downtown’s explosive growth, affluence, and high-tech industries — coupled with the city’s crumbling infrastructure — make Pier 2 a natural fit for the company’s forwardthinking homes, according to the firm’s Vice President of Design. “Manhattan encompasses all the issues that we’re dealing with — extremely high construction cost, not enough parking, high population, high density, services about to collapse — that kind of thing,” said Walter Hughes. “There’s a lot of new stuff happening Downtown too.” The Dallas-Based design firm presented plans for its high-concept multifamily residential towers at the 2018 International Builder’s Show in Orlando in January, where Hughes showed off renderings depicting two, neon-lit towers, joined by sky bridges, and hugged by outdoor gardens and bulging glass terraces overlooking the harbor. The building’s look is undeniably scifi, but it’s the towers’ whiz-bang amenities that make the development truly future-proof. The entire complex is designed for 100-percent sustainability, with just about everything in the buildings either absorbing solar and kinetic energy, or storing it. The structure would be constructed with photo-voltaic roofs and windows, walkways that absorb the energy of footsteps, walls that double as batteries, and integrated smart systems that let residents manage household consumption from their living room couch. And these will quite literally be green buildings — the outside walls will be wrapped in vertical gardens sown DowntownExpress.com
Humphreys & Partners Architects
(Above) Humphreys and Partners Architects’ highly speculative proposal for a high-tech, eco-friendly development for the tip of Manhattan would include vertical farms, photovoltaic windows, talking restaurants, and a host of other whiz-bang features.
with food crops and carbon-capturing vegetation. Such cutting-edge sustainability features may seem futuristic for a stateside structure, but additions like these are becoming commonplace in new European buildings, where developers have left American builders in the dust, according to Hughes. “It’s no question, sustainability is completely accepted in Europe,” he said. “Everything they’re building is net zero. In the U.S., our mindset is at least 15 years behind.” To save time and money, the building would be built in modular pieces off-site — a process that takes about a third the time, is 50-percent more energy-efficient, and would cause significantly fewer quality-of-life issues to Downtown residents, who have long suffered the constant racket of non-stop construction. Solar windows, smart appliances, and modular construction are all offthe-shelf technologies in use today, but some of Humphreys and Partners’ other
plans for Pier 2 are a bit more off the wall. The complex would be serviced by a Hyperloop train, a high-tech subway replacement currently in development by Elon Musk — of electric-car and space-rocket fame — which aims to use magnets to propel passenger pods at speeds of around 600 mph through airless tubes to avoid that age-old impediment to velocity: friction. Other transit options would include autonomous-car parks that promise to recharge electric vehicles within 30 minutes, and self-driving busses, which Hughes insists will be commonplace within a decade. But it may be a little longer before another of Pier 2’s transportation amenities becomes practical — helipads for robotic, flying taxis. Even the lifts will be straight out of Star Trek, and like the turbolifts that ferried crewmen around the starship Enterprise, the elevator cars would travel both vertically and horizontally, allowing for swift lateral movement across the two towers.
And as with many current techno-trends focused on cutting out the middleman —emphasis on man — the future buildings will also accommodate residents’ desire to avoid the rest of humanity, with features that allow easy airborne and ground-based drone deliveries, along with a talking restaurant that doesn’t require any human contact — like Seamless IRL. The Pier 2 concept complex will almost certainly never be built, Hughes conceded, but he insists that buildings like it will become more and more common in the coming years. And while the pie-in-the-sky proposal is mostly a way for the firm to show off its design chops, it’s also a way for the visionaries there to sharpen their teeth and prepare for the residential demands of tomorrow, he said. “We’re always looking at what’s coming, what’s next, what are the issues we’ll have to deal with five-to-10 years from now, and we start preparing ourselves and answer those questions before they’re here,” said Hughes. Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
Hunting for Easter eggs in the tale of Trump’s relentless rebirth BY MAX BURBANK To those of you who read my column on the regular (thanks, all six of you, sincerely), it may come as something of a shock that in addition to being an incisive writer of scathing satire, I am also Sunday school teacher. Admittedly, it’s an odd fit, as my writing demonstrates a dark turn of mind, and in addition I think I may have mentioned more than once, I’m a Jew. Thankfully it’s a Unitarian Universalist church, so officially they don’t care. Our church is lousy with Jews, pagans, and atheists — and I’m fairly certain Clifford is a satanist, and he’s on the Social Outreach Committee. In addition, as I often remind my students, Jews invented Christianity, so it is, as they say, “all good.” If it worries you that I am allowed to mold the minds of small children (and it worries me), you might be comforted to know I’m not very good at it. At least not lately. Partly it’s because I find even the smallest amount of preparation degrading, but mostly I think it’s where we are in the curriculum as juxtaposed with where we are in the history of the United States. The entire situation is depressing, but it did allow me to use the word “juxtaposed.” I take small comforts where I can, and advise you to do the same. Generally in March, my class is discussing the coming of spring and rituals of renewal in various religious traditions. Trees lose their leaves, plants wither and die, the sun hides beneath the horizon — but eventually, spring comes. The sun returns; The Phoenix rises from its ashes; Sun Gods (and sons of God) of all cultures are sacrificed and then reborn. We’re edging toward Easter in our classroom, but many UUs find too heavy an emphasis on our Christian roots tends to bring on the vapors, so we couch things. It’s important the children learn that every fun thing we do is lifted from some earlier, more colorful religious practice. One of these days I suppose it’s bound to dawn on us this practice smacks of cultural appropriation. We’ll feel vaguely uncomfortable, an emotional state that always makes us feel closer to the divine. Win, win. The irony is not lost on me that I’m writing the first draft of this article, the theme of which is ostensibly the metaphorical coming of spring, during the third massive nor’easter this
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been breathing like bitterly frigid air for over a year now. You know what I’m talking about. America is tossed before a howling political blizzard of stupidity. It’s impossible to focus on which piece of lowestcommon-denominator, proto-fascist garbage hurtling toward us at hurricane force speed is the one I should write my next column about, or if the one I didn’t see directly behind it is far more massive and poten-
year. Soon I’ll need to choose between torturing my two ridiculous little dogs by walking them in an ice storm like I’m Sir-Ernest-God-Damn-HenryShackleton forcing his woebegone sled dogs toward the South Pole, or just letting them happily crap in the house. Does either option sound very rebirthful to you? You might recall the term “pathetic fallacy” from your high school English class — a personification attributing human emotion to inanimate forces of nature, such as hugeass, bomb-cyclone, ball-buster, icebastard storms hell-bent on freezing me solid and then smashing me to pieces the way you dip a dead fish in liquid nitrogen and hurl it against the wall of your ex’s apartment (something I most certainly have never done). These storms serve to reinforce the general feeling of dread I’ve
Illustration by Max Burbank
tially lethal. Is it Stormy (You see? Pathetic fallacies everywhere!) Daniels I should be writing about? Is a porn star suing the sitting president of the United States of America to release her from a non-disclosure agreement that in and of itself is almost certainly a $130,000 violation of campaign finance law column-worthy? If she wins the right to speak freely about how Trump cheated with her on his third wife who was at home caring for their newborn son, will that hold the national attention span from my deadline to press time? No! Because trade wars are good and easy to win! I’d write about it, but while you were blowing your morning coffee out your nose over that one, our sun-dried Clementine-
in-Chief announced (without consulting any of his staff) he’ll meet with Kim Jong-un! Two megalomaniacal, narcissistic, world-leading toddler-men who don’t share a language locked in a room having a nuclear button-measuring contest! What could go wrong?! And if I’m going to write about that, I’ll need to do a quick rewrite, because shortly after announcing the meeting, Trump decided we’d be going into it without a Secretary of State! We can celebrate come Veterans Day with a giant North Korean-style military parade, unless we’ve already used up all those soldiers and ordinance on, you know, a WORLD WAR! That should be this column right there, but suppose Trump draws national attention away by committing some brand new unpredictable, vindictive, childish act of obstruction of justice, like firing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe less than 24 hours before he was due to retire with a full pension and OH MY GOD THAT LITERALLY HAPPENED WHILE I WAS WRITING THIS SENTENCE! What’s next? What act of lunacy happened between when I turned this column in and when it went to print? Something will have — something so nuts it will push all that other crap right off the new cycle! And that’s when it hit me: Trump is the Anti-Easter. Every awful iteration of Trump dies, its significance paled to invisibility as a new, dramatically worse version of Trump is reborn. Every massive blizzard we survive is forgotten as a larger storm engulfs us. Our president is a perpetually reborn Sun God of a sort — a dark sun; a black light shedding headache-inducing, ultraviolet illumination across a flocked, blackvelvet-poster-type dystopia. Do you suppose if I teach that lesson in Sunday school, I’ll at last get fired? Maybe. But they didn’t fire me when my Christmas pageant featured a Trump/Caesar pushing his census as the groundwork for the “biggest, most beautiful tax reform any Caesar in Roman history ever passed, something the fake news media won’t tell you.” Maybe instead, I’ll tell the kids to be wary of metaphors in general and always weigh them against stark reality. Even at Easter, if a rabbit leaves something small and round on your lawn, don’t eat it. That’s not candy. DowntownExpress.com
Cole’s ‘Buddy’ Comedy Burns Forever Bright Iconic character fronts Scott Thompson’s creative renaissance BY SCOTT STIFFLER That chatty, witty, ascot-wearing flamer perched on a stool at your friendly neighborhood gay bar has seen and done it all, since his arrival via the first generation of video camera confessors — and if he came onto the scene a few decades too early for YouTube personality status, hindsight has made his bygone takes on everything from social acceptance (“Respectability is for five-star hotels, not people.”) to vice (“Moderation — within reason.”) seem less the products of another era than contemporary declarations of forward-thinking pride and defiance. So show him some love when he comes to NYC April 1-3 for two shows and a book signing. After 30+ years, Charles Butterick “Buddy” Cole is still a source of highly quotable comedic monologues, delivered with a polarizing lisp (“Such a fuss over a few extra S’s!”) and the lubricating power of an omnipresent cocktail. “The truth is,” said Scott Thompson, Canadian-born writer/comedian and openly gay inhibitor of the uncompromisingly out Buddy, “a lot of people thought I was making fun of ‘that kind’ of a character, and they were offended by it. Other people thought that I was ‘sticking it to the fags,’ and they loved it for that. Almost no one thought that I was an actual gay man doing this character.” Although the “Acknowledgments” section of Buddy’s recently rereleased autobiography cites the character’s “humble beginnings in Paul’s basement,” that’s not technically accurate. “He lived in the basement,” Thompson clarified, of longtime friend and creative partner Paul Bellini. “So when someone lives in a basement, you still call it ‘the basement.’ Paul got a video camera in the mid-1980s, one of the first video cameras, and so we would go to his place and record stuff. And one day, he had his whole room painted blue, and all the paintings were blue, so I just started saying, ‘This is my blue phase.’ And I started talking like Buddy Cole, and I stared pretending that I was a vampire… so the DowntownExpress.com
Photo by Bruce Smith
Still flinging stingers after all these years: Buddy Cole’s look, and attitude, remains intact. See for yourself April 1 and 3 at Joe’s Pub.
original idea for Buddy Cole was that he was a 1,000-year-old gay vampire who’d lived through everything.” Death, however, would assert itself when it came to crafting Buddy. “It was the first time I’d ever done that kind of voice, or that kind of character. And I was really just imitating a guy that I’d met,” Thompson said, of that pivotal recording session in Bellini’s basement. “I had this affair with this guy, and I had really fallen for him. He was quite effeminate. I had never
really fallen for a really effeminate guy before. Not that I was butch.” They knew each other only briefly, Thompson noted. “He was a very powerful guy; not the nicest person on earth, but very, um, a very fascinating person… I remember, very clearly, it was like the second time we were together — he had a fever and he was very ill; and then, I guess, in many ways, it was probably the virus, you know, manifesting. But that was a long time ago. We didn’t know exactly what
was going on. And then he died very quickly. So that was the beginning of it. It was sort of an homage to him.” From that flash point, Buddy was further developed through more video sessions. “We would spend all day with Paul Bellini’s camera,” Thompson recalled. “We’d smoke pot and we’d go to places and we’d improvise… We’d all have this little ongoing story that we were doing for the camera. Everybody kind of had an alter ego. These were mostly gay men. And we would improvise for hours and hours, making these little movies. And I had never really done that,” Thompson said, of the on-camera creative process. “I found it interesting, because I was always afraid that if I started talking like that [Buddy], I would never be able to stop… I was still ashamed. I didn’t want to appear ‘gay.’ I think most of my life has been, you know, in many ways, an attempt to appear straight. And Buddy Cole was going, ‘I can’t pass!’ And he became a real voice for me, because in those days, you couldn’t really… You know, I’d probably be a stand-up comedian today if I was young.” (He’s actually done so lately, to critical acclaim.) “But back in those days, you could not [if you were gay], not if you were a male.” Ensemble work proved a freeing vehicle for Thompson, who was soon an out and visible artist (exceedingly rare for the time) creating a variety of characters — most notably, Buddy, for whom an early monologue was crafted with the help of Thompson’s thenroommate, Mark McKinney. Along with castmates Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald, their “The Kids in the Hall” sketch comedy show earned a loyal (and still intense) following during its 1989 to 1995 run in various incarnations on CBS, HBO, Comedy Central, and Canada’s CBC. Grounded in the familiar worlds of work, family, and relationship dynamics, mundane premises were injected with uniquely eccentric twists (those waiting in a long line, for example, BUDDY COLE continued on p. 14 Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
BUDDY COLE continued from p. 13
would welcome the appearance of a flying pig, purpose-driven to entertain — until he hit a power line and was baked to a crisp, thus becoming their meal). Very little of the material reflected current events — a conscious move that has kept their 1990s output accessible. Occasionally, however, Canadian attitudes on everything from flag burning to clean streets would assert themselves, leaving stateside audiences mildly perplexed. (Buddy once declared, “When I’m overseas and people mistake me for an American? I’m as outraged as when I’m mistaken for a straight.”) “That was a group ethic,” Thompson said, of the decision to exist largely apart from the specifics of their era. “We decided very early on we would try to make our stuff universal. We rarely referenced celebrities, things that were happening in the ‘real world.’ Because I think, maybe subconsciously, we knew that human nature doesn’t really change — and that’s sort of what we were thinking about, satirizing human nature… and I think it’s really worked for us, because our stuff, now, it doesn’t seem dated… Buddy Cole was one of the few things in the show that would occasionally reference the outside world.” And boy, did he. At the time, the particular way Thompson conducted himself as an out entertainer — let alone one playing a character who gleefully exposed the mainstream to the quirks and excesses of gay culture — was both progressive and subversive. In sketches that took him away from his signature gay bar environment, Buddy coached a lesbian softball team, leered at scantily clad muscle boys, orchestrated an affair between the Queen of England and his adopted son, Castor (a talking beaver!), and dressed down fellow desert island castaway Oscar Wilde (a foppish Dave Foley, whose appearance earned the classic Buddy burn, “Do something about your hair. It’s threatening to become more interesting than you.”). One very of-its-time Buddy monologue took thenpopular stand-up comics Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay to task for their hateful, homophobic material. Elsewhere on the contemporary TV landscape, Fox network’s “In Living Color” was garnering laughs with every quip from the flamboyant hosts of its “Men on…” segment — and on “SNL,” Dana Carvey was playing “Lyle, the Effeminate Heterosexual,” a walking punchline whose lisp and swish were the anomalies of an otherwise solid guy’s guy. “They got all the attention and they got all the applause,” Thompson noted, “but they were straight men mocking gay men.” He gives credit where it’s due, though: “I thought they [“Men on…”] were hilarious. But they were coming at it from an outsider point of view. Buddy Cole comes from an insider point of view. They are very different spaces.” Widespread accolades from the gay community as well as name recognition by the wider culture eluded Buddy, and that still stings. Thompson acknowledges having been the recipient of kind words from “real people” on the street, and is aware Buddy monologues were fi xtures on the video screens of gay bars across America — “…and that made me feel very, very good… But in terms of attention from the media
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Tour poster image courtesy of the artist
Buddy Cole’s upcoming tour features monologue work from 1995 to the present.
or the gay powers that be? Zero.” Asked what he attributes that to, Thompson shot back: “I think, self-loathing; an inability for gay men to accept the way they truly are.” From porn to promiscuity, “Buddy Cole was spilling secrets that should have been kept secret… a lot of gay men are just in complete denial about the way they appear. They really want to pretend that we’re all straight-acting and that you can’t tell us apart. But it’s not true. Most gay men ‘read’ gay — and that’s the truth, that’s my experience… and it would always, inevitably, it would be a guy that was quite effeminate, telling me he was offended. And I’d go, ‘Have you ever heard your voice on a tape recorder?’ ” Neither a victim of his time nor beholden to others, NYC is the first stop on a national tour for the eternally outspoken Buddy, whose “Après le Déluge: The Buddy Cole Monologues” plays Joe’s Pub April 1 and 3. Referencing the tour’s name, Thompson noted, “It’s ‘After the Flood,’ and I guess the ‘Flood’ is referring to the ‘The Kids in the Hall.’ So it’s monologues Buddy has done since [1995, when “Kids” went off the air, to the present]. They’re all monologues people aren’t familiar with… I’m always writing for him; and the world around Buddy changes drastically, but Buddy doesn’t budge an inch. His look doesn’t change. He doesn’t really change, no. He doesn’t need to change. He was ‘woke’ 30 years ago.” That’s not to say Buddy and his creator don’t move with the times. Both have established themselves on various social media platforms, and, Thompson noted, “If Paul [Bellini] and I were young today, I think we’d probably have a YouTube channel.” But the unvarnished truth that was, and remains, Buddy’s bread and butter plays very differently in today’s electronic ether than it once did on the TV screen. “People are so thin-skinned today,” Thompson said, sounding more disappointed than weary. “It makes me nervous in many ways, because you’re always
thinking, “Is this going to be the tweet that brings me down?’ ” No matter what the audience reaction is while performing live, Thomson said, “I don’t care. I am in control. But online, you have a person with 25 followers who can bring someone down because they are outraged. That’s why I have a Buddy Cole [Twitter] presence, because he doesn’t give a shit.” When we spoke with Thompson on an otherwise unremarkable Ides of March, he was “working on a new piece for the encore of the shows at Joe’s Pub. It’s on the #MeToo movement.” As for his other NYC appearance, Thompson said he was “trying to get a couple of porn stars to accompany Buddy” for an April 2 date at The Stonewall Inn, where he’ll perform a monologue and sign copies of the rerelease (with new material) of his backstory-andbeyond, TV-unfriendly, 1998 tell-all memoir. “Buddy Babylon: The Autobiography of Buddy Cole” was cowritten with Bellini, who not only went on to write for “The Kids in the Hall,” but figures into another upcoming project. With a non-“Kids” place in the pop culture pantheon secured by appearances as an out gay men on episodes of “The Simpsons” (three) and “The Larry Sanders Show” (35), Thompson called the Buddy tour and what lies beyond part of his “creative renaissance.” In addition to a stand-up comedy album coming out next month (called “Not a Fan”), a documentary will be released later this year featuring Mouth Congress, the band formed by Thompson and Bellini in the early ’80s (with overlap at the same time as the “Kids”). Thompson is also optimistic his screenplay will be brought into production. “It’s based on reality,” he noted. “It’s an autobiographical movie. It’s a comedy…funny, but not ‘just funny.’ I’d call it more of a ‘Stand by Me.’ I’ve been trying to get it made for a long, long time. But I fi nally found a great producer that understands it, and I think we’re very close to getting it made. I want to direct it. That’s my goal.” Asked for details on the autobiographical aspect, Thompson said, “When I was a kid, I was in a shooting [1975, Centennial Secondary School in Ontario, Canada]. It’s something that’s haunted me forever.” A related solo performance co-written with Bellini (“The Lowest Show on Earth”), scheduled for a Sept. 2001 premiere in NYC, was cancelled after 9/11. “It never got seen,” he said, “but one of the main themes in that show was the high school shooting… basically, about my relationship with violence.” Thompson has begun to address that subject matter again, most recently in his stand-up comedy. Calling March 14’s nationwide student walkout in the wake of the Parkland, FL shooting “extraordinary,” Thompson expressed hope that he, and others, could share their personal experiences and continue the conversation. “I think now,” he noted, “we’re at a time when people will listen.” On Twitter, Scott Thompson can be found via @ ScottThompson_ and @mrbuddycole. The Mon., April 2 book event is free and open to the public; 7-10pm at The Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St., btw. Seventh Ave. South & Waverly Pl.). Buddy Cole’s tour kicks off at 9:30pm on Sun., April 1 and Tues., April 3 at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St., btw. Astor Pl. & E. Fourth St.). For tickets ($20), visit joespub.publictheater.org. Mouth Congress music can be found at mouthcongress.band.camp.com. DowntownExpress.com
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 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 DowntownExpress.com
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.”
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 productions, 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 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 LYDON continued on p. 17 Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
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.
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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 nic-
est 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 collaboraDowntownExpress.com
tors include the late Keith Haring, 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 comingof-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 surprisingly, 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 production 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
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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 the Village since the 1960s, is also one DowntownExpress.com
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.
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.
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.
think for a moment you’re Little Red Riding Hood passing her Grandma’s rose-strewn cottage. A step inside will tell you, no, it’s a cozy little start-up club called Ferns that features jazz-blues duos and trios most nights of the week. I can’t imagine a better place to unwind when you’re on your own, with that special someone, or hanging with a gang of pals (166 First Ave., btw. E. 10th &
11th Sts.; fernsnyc.com).
A NEW, FUNKY, FUN EAST VILLAGE BISTRO Strolling down First Ave. a few doors above E. 10th St., you may
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?” Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
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offered to help. McDormett become the defacto “director” of the operation, according to Pérez, while Fred’s master — a boy about 12 years old, who declined to be photographed or named, for fear his parents would be mad — provided counsel, and proposed the ladies grab a bucket and fill it with snow to later melt, hopefully revealing the ring. “It was his idea to get the bucket and let the snow melt,” said McDormett. “He’s a smart kid. I didn’t think of that.” Fred, while affectionate, neglected to put her keen canine senses to good use, and generally busied herself in the pursuit of chomping falling snowflakes. The dog and her boy stuck around for a while, but eventually trotted off into the storm, before the ring was found. This reporter, who stumbled upon the scene amid some routine weather reporting, also pitched in for a while, but eventually had to give up the search and head back to the newsroom to make his deadlines. McDormett and Pérez continued searching, raking through the snow and filling buckets with the heavy powder, but the pair finally decided to run an experiment. Pérez used her
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apartment after that person passes,” Halberg said. But even friends of Ivins who were initially skeptical of her close relationship with the younger man were eventually won over by Leyva, who Halberg says proved his faithfulness time and time again. “Everybody questions when some young man gets involved with a senior, and you wonder what that’s all about,
WTC HEALTH Continued from page 2
staff — despite a recent act of Congress extending the program under NIOSH leadership for 75 years — none of OMB’s documents describe how that process would work, or what would be
Community News Group / Colin Mixson
Fred, who is actually a lady, was on hand for the frantic search, but was too bust trying to bite snowflakes to be much help.
remaining engagement ring to test the physics of the fall, and they discovered that the band bounced much farther than they had expected, according to Pérez. “We made a trial and I took my other ring, let it fall, and Karen realized it jumped a lot,” Pérez explained. “So we looked further than we were doing.” And, not long after expanding their search, the ring was found just a few feet away. “They helped me a lot,” said Pérez. “Without her help, and the boy, I couldn’t have found it.”
Community News Group / Colin Mixson
Snow wo man Keira Conig celebrated her day off from Kindergarten with mom Ashley Choate at a park near Brookfield Place in Battery Park City. Here she is atop the “tower” she built. When asked why she built it, she replied simply, “so I can stand on it.”
but we became very trusting,” said Halberg. “He just seemed to take tremendously good care of Ronnie.” But a change came over Leyva about a year ago, when he began taking a new medication for depression, according to Iannacone, and Ivins’s roommate became withdrawn, spending an inordinate amount of time sleeping. “He was always sleeping,” said Iannacone. “That wasn’t like him. He was sleeping all the time.” Halberg and Marotta, agreed, with
both women saying the medication made Leyva act “like a zombie.” And while Ronnie was known as a friendly, outgoing woman, she was also known to snap at her live-in helper, who would usually just shrug off her insults, Halberg said. “If once and a while she was a little sharp with him — because senior citizens can be sharp — I’d say to him, ‘why don’t you say something to her,’ and he’d shrug and say, ‘that’s Ronnie,’” Halberg recalled. “I never saw him lash
out, or act violent.” But Iannacone claims Leyva stopped taking his medication a few days before his sudden act of violence, which he suspected may have been incited by Ivins’s casual rudeness causing the unmedicated Leyva to snap. “She was nice, but living with her could be difficult,” Iannacone said. “And when she was difficult, she was a different person.” Leyva’s lawyer did not return calls for comment.
done to mitigate the resulting loss of expertise, according to the letter. “They also fail to address how OMB would propose changing the operation of WTCHP without adversely impacting the delivery of health services to 9/11 responders and survivors and without
taking an unnecessary emotional toll on this already vulnerable population, a goal we are certain is shared by Congress and the administration,” the letter read. Sen. Chuck Schumer joined the health care program’s original sponsors in Congress, and 9/11-victim advo-
cates including former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who condemned President Trump’s politicking as a deadly force. “Haven’t these people endured enough?” Stewart asked. “If 9/11 cancer doesn’t kill them, I am pretty sure your politics will.”
For more news & events happening now visit www.DowntownExpress.com 18
Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell
Mar 22 - Apr 4, 2018
phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.
Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per-
haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.
Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and
chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at
a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.
Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.
March 23, 2018