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The Paperr of o f Record R ec e c or o rd r d for f o r Greenwich fo Grr ee G een nw w iicc h Village, Vii llll a V ag ge e,, East Ea ass t Village, Viiilllll a V ag ge e,, Lower Lo ow w er e East Eas Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown Soh So ho o , Un o, U n ion i o n Sq io S qu ua a rre e, C Ch h iin na attow to ow w n and an a n d Noho, Noh No ho o , Since Sii n S ncc e 1933 19 1 933

May 3, 2018 • $1.00 Volume 88 • Number 18

One over-Arching question in ‘living statue’ bust: Why? BY SYDNEY PEREIR A

W

ashington Square Park is no stranger to performers. But an artist who has become a fixture in the park — as a “living statue” on its famed Arch — was arrested this month in the middle of his first performance of the season.

Johan Figueroa González, 31, has performed as a “living statue” in the park for the past two summers. Last year, he began doing his act exclusively on the 19th-century Arch. But despite his growing recognition and dozens of turns on that historic perch, Figueroa González STATUE continued on p. 8

Mayor pitches empty stores tax; But with Albany, is it in the bag? BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

A

s empty storefronts continue to mar swaths of the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s floating of a possible penalty for landlords who leave properties vacant for long periods of time has been greeted by local politicians and advocates as an encouraging

sign. “I’m heartened by City Hall’s attention to the issue and the mayor’s personal interest,” state Senator Brad Hoylman said last week. On March 30, de Blasio told WNYC, “I am very interested…in fighting for a vacancy VACANCIES continued on p. 5

PHOTO BY MILO HESS

On Tuesday, May Day, about 200 protesters gathered at Union Square and color fully marched to Washington Square. Although May Day traditionally focuses on workers’ rights, in recent years, immigrants’ rights have dominated the demonstrations.

Club Cumming shows spark drama at C.B. 3 BY SYDNEY PEREIR A

L

ast September, the gay bar formerly known as Eastern Bloc was transformed into Club Cumming. The new bar — whose name comes from Scottish actor Alan Cumming’s notorious post-show dressing-room parties — reinvigorated what had been a longtime favorite East Village nightspot. Along with Cumming’s new co-ownership came live music

‘Brokaw hit on #MeToo’ ......... p. 15

and shows. But just months into the location’s rebirth, the State Liquor Authority slapped a violation on the place for not having the proper license to host live performances. “We were completely unaware of this,” said Benjamin Maisani, one of Club Cummings’s co-owners, who operated the previous bar Eastern Bloc for 14 years. “This is not something that really comes up very often. … It’s a very sort of technical and rather obscure

aspect of zoning regulations.” The seemingly minimal glitch recently sparked an intense debate at Community Board 3 on whether the bar, at 505 E. Sixth St., should be allowed to modify its liquor license to allow live performances. Atlhough the community board’s recomendation is advisory only and the S.L.A. ultimately has the final say, the board voted against the bar’s application last Tues., April CUMMING continued on p. 6

Bowery tenants demand ‘right of return’...........p. 4 Robot mural painter hits a wall on L.E.S. ........ p. 12 www.TheVillager.com


S.B.J.S.A. HEARING: We hear from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office that the Council will finally hold a hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act “in a couple of months — soon.� Villager writer Sharon Woolums, who has been a specialist on the S.B.J.S.A. issue, is urging that the City Council resolve — at least to its own satisfaction — the always-vague accusations by the powers that be that the bill is “not legal.� It would not make sense to hold a hearing and then spend the whole time debating the bill’s legality. Excellent point! RAVI REPORT: Embattled immigrant-rights activist Ravi Ragbir has to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on May 11, but he doesn’t expect to be deported then. The New Sanctuary Coalition leader noted he still has two legal cases going. One of them, seek-

PHOTO FROM TEQUILA MINSKY

An annual pro-Israel rave of sor ts in Washington Square Park, saw New York University students dancing and wrapping themselves in Israeli flags. Protesters came out and flew Palestinian flags. An antiIsrael activist ripped a microphone out of the hand of a woman who was singing, and someone set a fire. (See this week’s Police Blotter.) Topping it off, these guys from Upstate, the Neturei Kar ta Jews United Against Zionism, also showed up to decr y the existence of Israel. Ultra-Or thodox, they don’t think a Jewish state should exist until the Messiah’s return, and that Jews should “accept their faith in exile and act as moral and spiritual paragons.�

ing to overturn his original conviction from nearly decades ago for wire fraud, is due back in court on May 4, and they don’t expect a decision that day, Ragbir told us. The other one, a First Amendment case, charging that he and other immigrant leaders are being targeted for deportation by ICE because they are speaking out publicly, has not even been

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‘RASHOMON’ REDUX: Yet another riddle has emerged in the “Rashomon� involving Tom Connor’s removal from the Community Board 2 State Liquor Authority Committee. Lois Rakoff, who is a member of the committee, refused to comment on the actual meeting at which

SCOOPY’S continued on p. 3

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scheduled for a hearing yet.

Connor claims Bob Ely, the committee’s chairperson, “harassed� him after Connor asked to revisit a previous committee decision on the members’ club Zero Bond. (Again, The Villager felt an audiotape of their exchange didn’t show any harassment, though perhaps a slightly raised voice on Ely’s part. A video clip also did not show anything particularly extreme to have transpired.) Rakoff did say she thinks the committee is well run, but she added a new twist when she said of Connor’s claim that he collapsed from anxiety while walking home after the meeting: “I told him to go one way on the sidewalk, and he went the other way. It was slushy that night.� Rakoff said she, Dr. Shirley Smith and Connor always walk home together after meetings. ... As for Connor, he said he still hasn’t been put back on the committee. Terri Cude, the board’s chairperson, said it’s important first that they “clear the air� and have a meeting. She has invited Connor to meet with her, Ely and Carter Booth, Ely’s co-chairperson on the S.L.A. Committee. Connor is refusing to meet (though Cude said he initially agreed to, then declined) because he wants an ally there with him, like Smith — not surprisingly, he didn’t mention Rakoff! — otherwise, he said, it would be “three against one.� But Cude told us he has nothing to worry about. “I’m neutral,� she said. She also said that C.B. 2 definitely has more than two gay men. Connor stressed he meant he was the only gay guy

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Visit our booth at the free

Bike Expo May 4 and 5 at Pier 12 in Brooklyn.

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2

May 3, 2018

TheVillager.com


Scoopy’s Notebook SCOOPY’S continued from p. 2

on the S.L.A. Committee, not the whole board, when he said something along those lines to The Villager a few weeks ago. For the record, Rakoff told us she really liked The Villager’s article on the whole Connor / Ely / Cude affair, “C.B. 2 alcohol problem: Committee in ‘bar brawl,’” a few weeks ago — and, in fact, keeps rereading it! Kathy Slawinski, a good friend of Connor, said, “He liked 80 percent of it.” However, it doesn’t sound like Cude liked it very much. She objected to the article’s saying Connor was “booted” off of the committee. He was merely reassigned to another one that he was even better suited for, she explained. Oh well, can’t please ’em all!

FALSE ALARM: A self-described “politically astute activist” called to tell us he was investigating suing over the fact that Manhattan’s community boards held votes throughout the month of April, yet Borough President Gale Brewer missed the April 1 deadline to make reappointments and new appointments. In other words, half of the board members were in limbo, not having been reappointed. (Board members serve two-year terms, with half the members of each 50-member board up for reappointment each year.) “I will demand that all actions for the month of April be null and void,” he declared.

C.B. 2 Chairperson Cude told us the appointments, indeed, are “supposed to be April 1, but the borough president said they would be May 1. We’re waiting...patiently.” However, right as we were going to press, the “astute activist” told us that, under the Public Officers Law, the community board members “are good until replaced” — or until reappointed, we would assume, though perhaps he would like to replace most of them!

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WHAT’S COOKING: Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson recently got a visit from Anthony Bourdain, the globe-trotting celebrity chef and TV show host. It apparently may have been for a segment he is doing on the neighborhood. “He wanted to look at photos in my archives,” Patterson told us. “He grew up in the city...hanging out at CBGB, drinking on the Lower East Side. You know.” WHOA: Silver Spurs, a mainstay in the Village for 40 years, closed on LaGuardia Place at the end of March. Eater reporter that business was down, and that two years ago, it stopped staying open 24 hours. We’re sure former City Councilmember Alan Gerson is taking it hard since this was one of his go-to spots. Another longstanding Silver Spurs location, at Broadway and Ninth St., closed at Broadway and Ninth St., five years ago.

Call 718-260-2516 email pbeatrice@cnglocal.com

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Register now at Northwell.edu/orthoseminar2 or call (855) 544-1250.

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May 3, 2018

3


Bowery tenants demand return date Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Editorials, First Place, 2017 Best Column, First Place, 2017 Best Obituaries, First Place, 2017 News Story, First Place, 2015 Editorial Pages, First Place, 2015 Editorials, First Place, 2014 News Story, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011

PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN EDITOR IN CHIEF LINCOLN ANDERSON ARTS EDITOR SCOTT STIFFLER REPORTER SYDNEY PEREIRA CONTRIBUTORS IRA BLUTREICH TINA BENITEZ-EVES SARAH FERGUSON BOB KRASNER TEQUILA MINSKY CLAYTON PATTERSON SHARON WOOLUMS MARY REINHOLZ GRAPHIC DESIGNER MARCOS RAMOS ADVERTISING AMANDA TARLEY (P): 718-260-8340 (E): ATARLEY@CNGLOCAL.COM ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES GAYLE GREENBURG JIM STEELE JULIO TUMBACO ELIZABETH POLLY CIRCULATION SALES MNGR. MARVIN ROCK

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The Villager (USPS 578930) ISSN 0042-6202 Copyright © 2018 by the NYC Community Media LLC is published weekly by NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201. 52 times a year. Business and Editorial Offices: One Metrotech North, 10th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201. Accounting and Circulation Offices: NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201. Call 718-260-2500 to subscribe. Periodicals postage prices is paid at New York, N.Y. Postmaster: Send address changes to The Villager, One Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201 Annual subscription by mail in Manhattan and Brooklyn $29 ($35 elsewhere). Single copy price at office and newsstands is $1. The entire contents of newspaper, including advertising, are copyrighted and no part may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher - © 2018 NYC Community Media LLC. PUBLISHER’S LIABILITY FOR ERROR

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May 3, 2018

BY BILL WEINBERG

T

he displaced tenants of 85 Bowery and their supporters rallied outside the Broadway offices of the city’s Department of Buildings in Lower Manhattan last Thursday, demanding their right of return. The multigenerational rally of mostly ethnic Chinese tenants — tots to senior citizens — angrily pressed for authorities to set a date by when they must be allowed to return home. Francisca Benitez, of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, who served as the rally’s informal emcee, led chants of “Chinatown is not for sale! Lower East Side is not for sale!” and “Department of Buildings, shame on you!” “D.O.B. actively worked with the landlord to push tenants out,” Benitez said. “The agency has not even assigned a deadline for the tenants to return. The landlord is in effect using D.O.B. to get the tenants out. This is not acceptable.” The tenants were initially rousted from their apartments on Jan. 18, on grounds that the building’s interior staircase was in urgent need of repair. Return dates set by D.O.B. were repeatedly postponed — the latest postponement on grounds that asbestos abatement was required. At present, there appears to be no date set by which the tenants must be allowed to return to their apartments. Rally organizers said this violates the law, pointing to Local Law 150 of the city code, passed almost exactly a year before the 85 Bowery tenants were removed. In the bitterest time of the winter, in mid-February, eight of the tenants held a five-day hunger strike outside the Gold St. offices of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, demanding that H.P.D. take over the renovation work at 85 Bowery. The tenants’ ire was further enflamed April 11, when the landlord’s workers, having gained entry to the apartments to put tenants’ belongings into storage ahead of abatement work, instead reportedly tossed them into a curbside dumpster. Tenants said they were able to recover some of their property, but much was lost. Another favored chant called out the landlord by name: “Shame, shame, Joseph Betesh!” Displaced tenant Shou Ji, holding her preschool daughter by one hand, spoke passionately in Mandarin, her words translated by a bilingual activist form the group Youth Against Displacement. “We were making complaints about the staircase since 2016, and he did nothing,” she declared. “H.P.D., D.O.B. and the landlord are all working together to evict the 85 Bowery tenants. Today is April 26 — that’s over 100 days, and the tenants are still forced to live in hell. The landlord has not shown responsibility for his tenants. We demand D.O.B. give us a time to go home!” Longtime Chinatown neighborhood

PHOTO BY BILL WEINBERG

Displaced tenant Shou Ji, with her preschool daughter, said that, after 100 days already, D.O.B. must give them a return date.

activist Don Lee also spoke at the rally. He told The Villager that he has been organizing concrete support for the tenants. He arranged private buses to bring them back and forth to the neighborhood for school and work after the city initially placed them in a hotel in distant East New York, Brooklyn. They have since been relocated to the more upscale Wyndham Garden Chinatown hotel, at the corner of Bowery and Hester St., on the same block as 85 Bowery. But Lee said they are still in untenable circumstances. “The landlord says he will compensate the tenants for their lost property,” Lee said. “But how do you compensate for the time that the kids haven’t had with a quiet place to do their homework, elderly couples with no kitchen? Bring the tenants home!” Pointing out that landlord Betesh is the owner of the Dr. Jay’s streetwear retail chain, Lee rhetorically asked, “If he’s smart enough to run his businesses, why isn’t he smart enough to get this straightened out? “The city should take over construction and file criminal charges against the landlord,” Lee added. “Justice delayed is justice denied. Arrest him now!” The Lower East Side Workers Center, a project of the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, and one of the rally’s co-organizers, points to possible ulterior motives in the tenants’ displacement.

According to their research, Betesh purchased 85 Bowery as part of an 11-building package for $62 million in 2013. Nine of these buildings have since been converted into luxury condos. Only Nos. 85 and 83 Bowery remain tenements. Last year, tenants at 85 Bowery sued over outstanding repairs in their building. Last year, tenants also filed complaints with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, charging Betesh was illegally trying to evict them — despite the fact that they were rent-stabilized. Betesh countered that the building, for various reasons, should no longer be rent-regulated. D.H.C.R.’s December ruling for the tenants could have given the landlord incentive to seek their removal by other means. At the rally’s end, tenants tried to enter the D.O.B. building to deliver a letter demanding a deadline for their return to 85 Bowery. Initially, uniformed police from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services guarding the building told them that the offices were all closed, and refused to let them pass. Tension mounted as the crowd began chanting, “Open the doors and let us in!” One activist taunted: “We paid for those doors! Open them now!” Finally, the D-CAS cops relented, and let a small group of tenants enter to deliver their letter. According to the Buildings Department, a judge who heard a legal dispute between the tenants and Betesh ordered a city inspection of the building, which took place Jan. 18. Structural issues with the main stairway were deemed a “significant life-safety hazard” by D.O.B., which issued a full-vacate order for the place. Betesh’s company has claimed the tenants had been illegally subdividing their apartments, contributing to 85 Bowery’s structural problems. Asked whether a deadline would be set for the tenants’ return, a Buildings spokesperson said: “D.O.B. and our fellow agencies are pushing an aggressive plan to complete repairs at 85 Bowery as quickly as possible — and this work done by the landlord is well underway. We remain committed to holding the landlord responsible to provide a safe place to live for his tenants.” In a statement, a spokesperson for Bowery 8385 LLC, said: “We are committed to moving families of 85 Bowery back safely into their homes as quickly as possible. Our team is working diligently each day to make the building safe for habitation. We understand this is an extremely difficult time for families of 85 Bowery and that is why we are providing quality hotel accommodations in Chinatown, for the duration of repairs, so families are able to remain in the local community while our work continues.” TheVillager.com


Mayor pitches vacancy tax for empty stores VACANCIES continued from p. 1

fee or vacancy tax which would penalize landlords who leave their storefronts vacant for long periods of time in neighborhoods because they are looking for some top-dollar rent but they blight neighborhoods by doing it… .” He added, “That’s something we could get done through Albany.” Instituting a vacancy tax would fall under the state Legislature’s purview. “We’re engaged with City Hall on pursuing legislation, but it’s early in our process,” Hoylman said. He said a bill could be ready by the legislative session’s end in June. Wheththe measure could pass is another matter. Republicans control the state Senate since Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, caucuses with Republicans. The Mayor’s Office said there is no update on his proposal for a vacancy tax, and did not respond to questions regarding details or a timeframe. “One of the major challenges we’re still working through is how to thread the needle and do something that will actually result in people leasing storefronts they otherwise may not. If we don’t do that successfully, it’s just a tax without purpose,” said mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein. Assemblymember Richard Gottfried supports the idea.

PHOTO BY THE VILLAGER

Along sections of Christopher St. in the Village, empty storefronts line the streets side by side.

“A vacancy tax or fee imposed on landlords with vacant storefronts would discourage landlords from evicting commercial tenants just because they hope they can get a much higher rent,” Gottfried said. “What we really need, especially to help small businesses, is a commercial rent-protection system.” Last year, Hoylman released a report, “Bleaker on Bleecker: A Snapshot of High-Rent Blight in Greenwich Village and Chelsea,” looking at vacancies on “selected streets...major commercial corridors in the East Village, Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village, the West Village and Chelsea.” The four

streets’ total vacancy rate was 9.76 percent, the report found. “Our constituents want to know why storefronts are vacant,” he said. Amazon and online shopping are eating into brick-and-mortar retail. From 2006 to 2016, “average retail asking rents rose from $108 per square foot annually to $156 in Manhattan,” according to a December City Council report, “Planning for Retail Diversity: Supporting NYC’s Neighborhood Businesses.” “For many neighborhood retailers and restaurants coming off 10-year leases, this is a shocking increase that

is in some cases impossible to absorb,” the reports states. “The empty storefronts not only cause blight and a loss of character, they also reflect the loss of basic neighborhood staples, like laundromats, supermarkets and other essentials,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “I am determined to achieve solutions from government after many years of inaction of inertia,” he said. “I’m also hopeful that Albany, with a Democratic majority in the state Senate, will enact a vacancy tax on empty storefronts. The future of our neighborhoods — and our city — depends on it.” The Council report, issued under Johnson’s predecessor, Melissa MarkViverito, made several recommendations, including requiring “landlords to register with [the Department of Small Business Services] after a storefront has been vacant for 90 days and report on the status every 90 days thereafter.” Goldstein, from the Mayor’s Office, said the office is “still reviewing” the Council’s study. Last year, Borough President Gale Brewer’s office surveyed Broadway’s length, finding 188 retail vacancies. “I’m very encouraged the mayor is open to a tax on storefronts vacant for months,” she said. “This is a tactic used in other cities, and we should be looking at it.”

B U S I N E S S , B R O O K LY N S T Y L E – A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Accessible Dispatch Article – May 2018 5 Facts You Should Know About the Accessible Dispatch Program The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC)’s Accessible Dispatch program is making it easier than ever to connect with wheelchair accessible taxis in all five boroughs. Here are five facts you’ll want to know about the program, which helps individuals with disabilities access the city like never before. 1. The TLC first launched the Accessible Dispatch program in 2012 with 233 accessible cabs in Manhattan. There are now more than 2,000 green and yellow wheelchair accessible vehicles taking trips across New York City. 2. Service animals are permitted in all TLC-licensed vehicles. You never have to pay extra for a service animal, or for accessible service in a TLC-licensed vehicle. 3. Our dispatch team includes New Yorkers with

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disabilities, and all of our dispatchers are here to help you! If you need a ride, call 646-599-9999, 311, or 711 for NY Relay; visit www.accessibledispatch.com; or download the app: Accessible Dispatch NYC. 4. The Accessible Dispatch NYC app is available on both iOS and Android devices. The app is a great way to book a trip – you can select the right vehicle for you, contact our dispatchers through the app, and even track your taxi when it’s on the way to your pickup. 5. We offer trips in all five boroughs! Book your trip today!

You can learn more about the Accessible Dispatch program at www. a c c e s sibl e di sp at c h .c om , and we always welcome your feedback! Call us at 646-599-9999 or email us at accessibledispatch@mtminc.net to ask questions or give us feedback about your trip. May 3, 2018

5


Club Cumming shows spark drama at C.B. 3 CUMMING continued from p. 1

24. In an attempt to negotiate a solution, the board set out stipulations to the bar owners, including scrapping the ability to post an online schedule of shows or to have a cover charge. The owners rejected the stipulations. “It would be a huge burden on the business and how we conduct our business,” Maisani said. The owners are expecting the S.L.A.’s decision on the application for a license alteration in the coming weeks. The 74-person bar has long been a fixture in the East Village. The new iteration as Club Cumming has made it a unique place. Its “Mondays in the Club With Lance,” a spin-off of the Broadway musical “Sundays in the Park With George,” is drawing in a whole host of Broadway lovers. Lance Horne, an Emmy Award-winning composer, plays the piano each Sunday with his co-host, Hunter Canning, an actor and photographer. It’s a more impromptu-style show, and bargoers never know who might show up to sing. Performers range from “Avenue Q” puppeteer Ben Durocher and Lauren Elder, a 2009 cast member of the Tony-Award winning revival of “Hair,” to Alan Cumming himself. Elder brings her mother, Ruth Elder, to the bar every time she visits New York. “It has boosted my confidence in a way that no place else has in years,” she said of the club. Her mother added that Club Cumming is such a joyful place that she practically plans her trips to New York around going there. Though the community of the club is still alive, performances have halted for now. “It’s a very emotional pause,” Horne said. What was once “Mondays in the Club with Lance” have become a party without a piano and around a projector, watching performances of iconic Broadway performers. Horne, originally from Wyoming, said he waited his whole life to move to New York to meet people who love performance the way he does. He found that, and he wants to continue sharing that with them. The community board’s S.L.A. Committee meeting was jam-packed in early April, largely by those in support of the club as a live-performance niche in the Village. The committee approved the liquor-license alteration, but only on the condition that the club not have scheduled performances or events with cover fees. But the owners rejected those stipulations. Last Tuesday, the C.B. 3 full board voted on the matter, recommending denial of Club Cumming’s alteration. Five board members voted in favor of the bar’s altering its license. A handful voiced their support for the business, yet

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May 3, 2018

PHOTOS BY HUNTER CANNING

Scenes from Club C Cumming i before b f per formances there were stopped earlier this year.

ultimately sided with the board’s resolution against the application. “We like the place,” David Crane, chairperson of C.B. 3’s Transportation, Public Safety and Environment Committee, told the meeting just before the vote last Tuesday. “From what we can tell, there’s no problems with it,” he said. “But the Department of Buildings has told us that it is zoned so that they can’t have scheduled performances and cover charges. “We really can’t judge it here,” he added. “But it is painful for me, but I will vote ‘Yes’ on the motion as written.” Crane was referring to what became the critical justification for voting against the club’s alteration. Susan Stetzer, the district manager of C.B. 3, said at the S.L.A. Committee meeting earlier that month that D.O.B. issued a statement to her explaining that the club was in Use Group 6 — a specific zoning group that does not allow scheduled performances, ticketed sales or events with cover fees, according to Stetzer’s statement in the

meeting minutes. But a D.O.B. spokesperson told The Villager otherwise. Because the building was constructed before 1938, it does not have what is known as a “certificate of occupancy” — which is what sparked the whole debate after a 311 complaint was lodged over the club lacking a valid “C of O.” The building also has a so-called nonconforming commercial use, specifically, a commercial use in what is technically a residential zone — in this case, a bar on a residential sidestreet. However, because the building is pre-1938, it does not need a certificate of occupancy, according to D.O.B. Additionally, the “nonconforming commercial use” is allowed because of the building’s age, according to a D.O.B. spokesperson. A 311 complaint about “no C of O” led D.O.B. to send an inspector to check out the address on Dec. 22, 2017. The department found no violation that day. A spokesperson added that the department has no jurisdiction over issues re-

lated to live-performance ticketing. However, despite D.O.B.’s finding of nothing amiss, the S.L.A. issued a violation at the end of February. That, in turn, sent Club Cumming to the community board for approval of a liquorlicense modifcation. “I’ve been doing this in the same manner for businesses for 14 years, always in the same manner,” Stetzer said, referring to a statement she received from D.O.B. on the zoning regulations for that particular site. “It’s not a question of sometimes we’ll support the law if we’ll agree with it, and sometimes we won’t.” She added that if others had differing information from a different lawyer outside D.O.B., she hoped they would share it with the board office. Stetzer acknowledged that sometimes different parties or agencies come to different conclusions. “This is a question of following the zoning,” she said, “and if there are discrepancies in findings, we should be very transparent and try to get to the bottom of it.” Stetzer, Crane and Alysha LewisColeman, the chairperson of C.B. 3, did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Club Cumming received overwhelming support at both the C.B. 3 committee and full board meeting, in contrast to the few complaints it has received over the course of several months. Amber Martin, a neighbor and regular of the bar, testified at last Tuesday’s board member, identifying herself as an East Villager who has lived around the corner from it for 11 years. “We believe that Club Cumming is an asset to our community, on so many levels,” Martin told the meeting. “If anything, I feel safer as a single woman living alone in the East Village with this venue doing what they’re doing.” Another performer, Amy Ackerman, began singing at the club on Mondays back in February, just weeks before the live performances went on hiatus. She was hesitant at first — but eventually summoned up the nerve to sing “Moments in the Woods” from “Into the Woods.” “This place has been game-changing for me,” she said. Ackerman has long loved theater but realized her body often does not conform to what theater professionals demand. There was no judgment, and an instant community formed at the club, she said. The club, for her, is a place of solace. Most so-called gay bars can often feel like a space for “cisgender gay men,” she added. Club Cumming as a queer space doesn’t feel exclusionary in that way for her — plus, she can sing there. “In Club Cumming,” she said, “I can take up all the space that I take up — and it’s totally celebrated.” TheVillager.com


POLICE B L O T T E R Le Souk robbery Two men were robbed at a Village hookah bar and restaurant on Thurs., April 26, at 4 a.m., police said. The suspect walked into Le Souk, at 510 LaGuardia Place, and told one of the victims to remove his jewelry or else he would shoot him. When the victim responded, â&#x20AC;&#x153;You donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have no gun,â&#x20AC;? the suspect pressed a hard object against him. In fear for his life, the victim took off his three necklaces, a ring and a watch, totaling $76,000. Another man was also robbed of a ring. William Roberts, 35, was busted for felony robbery.

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Random attack Mike swipe During an Israel event at Washington Square Park, a guy ripped a womanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s microphone right out of her hand. The incident occurred Fri., April 27, at 2:50 p.m. According to police, the woman was singing a song and the suspect grabbed her microphone. He cut her thumb and scratched her hand in the process. The 20-year-old victim was so frightened that she blacked out, police said. The suspect was protesting the event. Mohammaed Hojaij, 20, was arrested for felony robbery.

An 84-year-old man was sitting on a bench in front of 124 East Broadway on Tues., April 24, at 10:20 a.m. when he was approached by a stranger who began to punch him with his fist, cutting his face. The attacker then fled in an unknown direction. The victim was transported to an area hospital. The suspect is described as black, roughly 38 to 42 years old, around 5-feet10-inches tall and 175 pounds, with short, dark hair, and last seen wearing dark-colored clothing. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Police Departmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Crime Stoppers Hotline. (See item above.)

Stalking arrest

A photo of the alleged suspect in a random attack on East Broadway.

A woman told police she had been stalked at her workplace by a man since Mon., Jan. 1, at 7 a.m. According to police, the suspect came into 70 Greenwich Ave. on that date, and kept returning even though he was told to stop. The suspect handed her a letter saying, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I like you.â&#x20AC;? Another letter was sent on April 2 containing pictures and a puzzle that the suspect wanted the victim to figure out. Daniel Newell,45 was arrested April 29 for misdemeanor stalking.

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Liquor picker Theft registers Police said that on Fri., March 30, around 4:15 a.m., a woman forced her way into a restaurant at 54 E. 13th St. through the basement door. Once inside, she took the cash register, containing about $300. She is described as a Hispanic woman in her 20s. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Departmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TheVillager.com

Police said a man robbed a liquor store at 19 Little W. 12th St. on Sun., April 22, at 6 a.m. An employee said when he opened the store, he realized that boxes downstairs were in a disarray. Another worker said while checking surveillance video, he saw that an unknown person had entered the location and taken two bottles of liquor, with a total value of $89. Michael Bangali, 51, was arrested April 23 for felony burglary.

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7


Over-Arching question in ‘statue’ arrest: Why? STATUE continued from p. 1

was arrested on Fri., April 13. The police held him for 30 hours behind bars before re releasing him, Figueroa González said. Police charged ed tal him with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental nadministration and criminal trespass, all misdemeanors. He was arraigned on Mon., April 16, on two of esthose charges — disorderly conduct and criminal treson pass — and received an adjournment in contemplation he of dismissal, or A.C.D. If he is not arrested again in the next six months, the charges will be dismissed. The arrest, which angered onlookers watching his performance, has now caused the artist to reconsider how he interacts with the park. Working as h a “living statue” on the Arch no longer seems worth the risk, in his view. id “I don’t want to test them,” Figueroa González said. “They are the people who have power. I’m just a street performer.” For now, he plans to use the Arch in some way in his future performances, even as early as next Wednesday, but it will involve climbing onto the Arch. The unaswered question, however, is why the police would arrest Figueroa González in the first place, after his previously having performed openly on the Arch for months without incident. Figueroa González himself counts 70 previous performances on the Arch. Nobody called 911 to complain about Figueroa González that afternoon, according to the New York Police Department’s office of public information. In fact, Figueroa González said that officers have seen him on the Arch before, and that some had even taken photographs and video of him. At around 5:30 p.m. on April 13, officers “observed an individual atop of a park structure.” “He was not in possession of any permits and did not have permission or authority to demonstrate / climb on any park property or structure,” according to the N.Y.P.D. “He was asked multiple times to come down off [the] structure and refused. He was subsequently arrested.” Police officials said that Figueroa González did not have a proper permit to perform. But according to the Parks Department’s rules, performers like Figueroa González don’t typically require a permit unless there are more than 20 attendees. Judgement about the location, attendance, frequency and marketing help to determine if a performer requires a special-event permit, a Parks Department spokesperson said. Several performers have been performing in the park without a permit for years, often drawing large crowds. These include the likes of tumbling twins Tic ’n’ Tac and the “Crazy Piano Guy” Colin Huggins. Figueroa González was specifically charged with climbing on a structure not intended for climbing purposes, or in a way that could damage the structure, as detailed in the Parks rules Section 1-04. The artist, who stands 4 feet 11 inches and weighs 83 pounds, said he does not see how he could possibly be harming the monument. “The landmark arch is made of fragile marble and such is susceptible to damage through physical interaction,” said a Parks Department spokesperson. “People are encouraged to look at — not touch — the arch, to ensure its preservation and structural integrity.” Asked for comment on Figueroa González’s arrest, the Washington Square Park Conservancy issued the following statement: “The Washington Square Park Conservancy does not handle permits in Washington Square Park. All performance permits go through the New York City Parks Department. Our mission from our creation has been to strive to keep the park clean, safe and beautful.

8

May 3, 2018

PHOTO BY SYDNEY PEREIRA

Johan Figueroa González, the “living statue” of Washington Square Park, returned to the park this week. But he was not in his usual costume, and he did not climb up on the Arch to per form. He said he may per form in the park next Wednesday — but not on the Arch.

PHOTO BY SHARON WOOLUMS

Johan Figueroa-González on the Washington Square Park arch on a rare day of beautiful spring weather on Fri., April 13. Police later arrested him that day for refusing to get down off the arch immediately after being ordered to do so.

It is our hope that by doing so, the park will continue to be a haven for artis artistic expression in all forms.” That Friday afternoo afternoon was the artist’s first time back in the park after spen spending the winter in Puerto Rico, where he continued performing in San Juan. After months of previously using the Arch as his stage, he was shocked at his sud sudden arrest. On that day, he had been performing on tthe Arch for nearly three hours — earning around $1 $150 in contributions from parkgoers. “I ffelt that I lost dignity,” he said of th the arrest. “It’s shameful.” But before that day, his clout in the park was growing. Steve McCurry, who captured the famous photograph of the greeneye eyed Afghan girl who graced the cover of National Geographic, took the photo of Figueroa González’s first time on the edges of the Arch, garnering tens of thousands of Instagram likes. The performer’s day with McCurry was his first time using the Arch — transitioning from the portable mini-Greek pedestal he formerly used to the mere inches-wide ledges he clings to on the arch. He recalled thinking: “Can I do it? Sounds impossible, but it’s Washington Square Park. It’s New York. Why not? And I did it.” A glowing profile in The New York Times last November seemed to have solidified his place on the the Arch. That Figueroa González was arrested this season was seen as a tragedy by artists’ advocates, as The Villager’s Sharon Woolums wrote in a talking point two weeks ago. Why months would go by before police arrested him is still puzzling. Longtime artists advocate Robert Lederman, has a guess, based on historical precedent. The president of Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics a.k.a. A.R.T.I.S.T., Lederman has sued the city multiple times alleging First Amendment violations againt visual artists selling their works in the city’s public parks and on its sidewalks. In a case that was in federal court seven years ago, however, he argued that art vendors and street performers were hardly treated the same — with artists facing more extensive rules restricting where they can sell their work. Just as his case was in court, dozens of summonses were issued to longtime performers in Washington Square Park, totaling tens of thousands of dollars. Lederman alleges that the summonses were related to his case since the city hoped to prove that rules were enforced consistently and equally against performers and art vendors. A new lawsuit filed by Lederman is scheduled for a preliminary conference on May 17. He believes this latest arrest could be the first of another crackdown on artists as the weather warms — similar to what occurred back in 2011. “Based on past performance,” Lederman said, “this is how they operate.” But even now, one can only speculate why police decied to arrest Figueroa González at this point in time. Figueroa González guessed maybe it was related to increased security after someone spray-painted black graffiti in large letters — “F--- U” and “I DONT NEED YOU” — on parts of the base of the Arch sometime prior to his return. “It raises a political question, which is why are you doing this? Everybody loved this guy,” said Ron Kuby, the longtime civil rights and criminal defense lawyer. “Nobody complained. No damage was done. Wonderful art was performed. People were amazed at the beauty of his performance. Why did you decide to arrest him?” “If this is how New York treats its artists,” Kuby said, “it doesn’t deserve to have any.” TheVillager.com


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9


The story of Chino and CHARAS; Activist very in Chelsea, and as a young gang member with a social conscience and activist bent, and how he and a group of young Puerto Ricans took over the abandoned E. Ninth St. school, and resurrected it as a hub of community empowerment, only to see it eventually sold away from them under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Garcia, 71, was born in Rio Pedras, Puerto Rico, near San Juan, the second youngest of five children. He and his family came to New York City in 1951 when he was 5, settling in Chelsea. He grew up right next to the Empire Diner, at 22nd St. and Tenth Ave. “Chelsea at the time was a very strong Puerto Rican neighborhood,” he said, “and a very strong dockworker neighborhood. Before the containers, you had ships all the way from Downtown, where the World Trade Center was, to 59th St. “My father was a waiter and my mother was a seamstress. Mostly, a lot of women in my family, they were all garment workers.” He attended P.S. 11, on W. 21st St., for elementary school.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

B

ack in October, Mayor de Blasio made a stunning announcement at a Lower East Side town hall, when he said the city was “interested in reacquiring” the old P.S. 64. “Decisions made a long time ago were a mistake,” he declared. “To place that building in the hands of a private owner was a failed mistake. So I’m announcing tonight, the city’s interest in reacquiring that building. We are ready to right the wrongs of the past and will work with Councilmember [Rosie] Mendez and her successor to get that done.” A month later, de Blasio went on to win re-election easily in a historically low-turnout race — with only 14 percent of registered voters supporting him; while Carlina Rivera was elected to succeed Mendez, who was term-limited in the City Council. Meanwhile, in January, clearly in reaction to de Blasio’s announcement, Gregg Singer and his associates sued. Singer bought the former school building, at E. Ninth St. near Avenue B, in 1998 for $3.2 million. Scheme after scheme of his to redevelop the property — ranging from a full demolition and adding a high-rise tower to a partial demolition to, finally, a restoration of the existing building — have been repeatedly blocked. The most crushing blow for him came in 2006 when the city, under Mayor Mike Bloomberg, landmarked the building right underneath Singer.

‘Pattern of obstruction’ His lawsuit charges “a pattern of obstruction” against the mayor and others to block Singer and Co. from redeveloping the property. The defendants include the city, the Department of Buildings, de Blasio, Mendez, Rivera, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Andrew Berman, its executive director, hedge-funder / East Village Community Coalition activist Aaron Sosnick and “John and Jane Doe 1 — 100, whose identities are unknown at present.” Due to the lawsuit, the defendants have been advised not to talk to the media, according to both Rivera and John Blasco, the councilmember’s community outreach director. Blasco recently said there had been no updates about the old P.S. 64, nor have there been any follow-up meetings with the de Blasio administration regarding the building. A few weeks after the mayor’s announcement, The Villager sat down for an interview with Carlos “Chino” Garcia, the executive director of CHARAS, at The Bean, at Third Ave. and Stuyvesant St., in the former St. Mark’s Bookshop space. CHARAS operated a community and cultural center in the old P.S. 64 for 23 years, until being evicted by Singer in 2001.

Move to Lower East Side PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

Carlos “Chino” Garcia at a celebrator y rally at Cit y Hall last November after the mayor announced that the city was interested in reacquiring the old P.S. 64 on E. Ninth St. from developer Gregg Singer. Garcia’s first name is the “C” in the acronym CHAR A S, the communit y and cultural group that formerly occupied the building.

more than two decades, it’s not exactly clear what role — if any — it might have it moving forward, in the case that the city actually is somehow able to wrest it away from Singer, who has said he does not want to sell.

‘It’s sad to see that building empty.’

Young gang leader

Chino Garcia

Massive eviction force On the morning of the eviction, a veritable army of about 200 police, all in riot helmets and wielding black batons, were lined up in formation along E. Ninth outside the place, ready to quash any resistance. Inside, protesters, seated in a circle on the ground, had handcuffed their arms to each other inside PVC tubes; it took a while for cops to saw the tubes open without injuring the activists, before arresting them. For his part, Garcia walked out of the building peacefully, and, standing on a stoop across the street, stoically watched the eviction unfold. Garcia and CHARAS are not named as defendants in Singer’s lawsuit. Although CHARAS ran the old school building for

10

May 3, 2018

In 1958, Garcia’s family moved to the Baruch Houses public housing on the Lower East Side. Perez, his former CHARAS co-leader, had moved there three years earlier. “Armando and me, we knew each other since 1958,” Garcia recalled. He also had cousins living just south of the Williamsburg Bridge in tenements on Willets St. who he used to hang out with. Garcia attended junior high school at the building currently home to P.S. 188, The Island School, at E. Houston near Avenue D, coincidentally, the same school where de Blasio announced that the city was interested in getting back the old P.S. 64. He was keen on architecture, but because he couldn’t find a local high school offering a course in it, Garcia instead attended a vocational high school in Brooklyn, where he studied drafting. “I never became an architect,” he reflected, “but I got involved in urban planning.”

Returning the building to the community would most likely involve eminent domain, in which the owner would have to be paid fair-market value, which could be as much as $40 million or more. The city would also be required to show a clear plan for the building’s future use to regain possession of it.

Path to activism During a wide-ranging two-hour interview, Garcia talked about his longtime partner in leading CHARAS — the late Armando Perez — his own roots growing up

A young Garcia also joined the Assassins, a gang whose members mostly hailed from Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. He was a leader in the gang; Perez was also a member, but not a leader of it. Garcia said he generally discouraged the gang from wearing their “colors” — their jackets with the gang’s name on them — around too much. “Only at parties, not in public,” he said. Asked why he decided to be in the gang in the first place, he said, “We joined to protect ourselves as a race from other groups. That was the purpose. … But then, little by little, criminal activity took over. It was typical gang stuff, drugs. At that time, the ’50s and ’60s, heroin became the used drug.” Garcia noted that, back then, heroin “buried a lot of people.” “People like Armando and I didn’t join to become criminals,” he said of the gang. He and Perez instead wanted to form it as a “social movement.” “So the gang split in the ’60s,” Garcia recalled. GARCIA continued on p. 11 TheVillager.com


hopeful for the return of old P.S. 64 building The money for that was allocated under Mayor David Dinkins but it took a few years, until Giuliani’s tenure, to implement the repairs. Similarly, former Councilmember Margarita Lopez allocated funds for elevators and bathroom repairs on the fourth and fifth floors, but it took two to three years “to process,” Garcia recalled.

GARCIA continued from p. 10

The Real Great Society In 1965, when he was 18, he and a group of Latino friends formed the Real Great Society, a riff on President Lyndon Johnson’s concept of creating the Great Society. “Around 1969, we decided to get a more Latin name,” he said. CHARAS was an acronym of its founding members’ first names: Chino, Humberto, Angelo, Roy, Anthony and Salvador. “These were the people at the meeting,” he said. “Everyone liked the name because it was easier to say than the Real Great Society. “We become more politically minded,” he recalled of their new group’s early years. “We became housing advocates. We created the first Adopt-a-Building, and CHARAS did the first sweat-equity building.”

Giuliani vs. CHARAS “But by that time, we were fighting to save the building,” he said. “Giuliani wanted to get rid of us. They evicted us three days before Bloomberg [became mayor].” As for why Giuliani was so hostile to CHARAS, some have speculated it was because they were political foes of former East Village Councilmember Antonio Pagan, who went on to land a commissioner post in Giuliani’s administration. CHARAS’s Perez was elected a Democratic district leader out of the CoDA (Coalition for a District Alternative) political organization, which was the mortal enemy of Pagan’s Democratic club. However, Garcia said of Giuliani, “We never were against him. We were against policies that he had. Our jjob is to protect the working class. Conservative politicians are never friendly to progressives.”

Rehabbing a building Regarding the latter, as Garcia tells it, in 1972, CHARAS convinced Mayor John Lindsay’s administration to let them rehab a building at 519 E. 11th St. Other renovations in the neighborhood had been done cheaply and shoddily, he said. “One thing good about Lindsay and his people, they listened — because they were looking for a solution to the housing problem,” Garcia recalled. “We knew sweat equity could work because groups like Habitat for Humanity were doing it with small homes in rural areas.” Under sweat equity, people could repair buildings with their own labor, then get ownership of them in return.

PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

Beth Sopkow, at the November Cit y Hall rally, is among the many CHAR A S suppor ters who were arrested for protesting against the building being sold.

“I went to some of those meetings, and a lot of people said, ‘That doesn’t matter.’ … History does matter.”

Solar pioneers In a novel approach, they tried to incorporate solar power for hot water in the E. 11th St. project. “In 1965, hardly anyone was talking about that,” Garcia noted. “A young guy came to us and described solar energy. He got us thinking about the possibility.” In the end, the alternative-energy idea didn’t quite pan out, though it was the effort that counted, in his view. “But it doesn’t matter — you got to start,” Garcia said. “Back then, there weren’t a lot of Latinos involved in solar energy and green power. Hopefully, in another 50 or 100 years, it will become the main source of energy in the world.”

City closes buildings Then, at the end of the Lindsay administration, P.S. 64 was closed “for budget reasons,” Garcia recalled. Similarly, P.S. 122, at First Ave. and E. Ninth St., was also closed, and in 1980 became Performance Space 122 and later Performance Space New York. And P.S. 160, at Suffolk and Rivington Sts., was shuttered, and later became the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center. “They closed around 10 buildings on the Lower East Side,” Garcia recalled, “mostly school buildings and a couple of hospitals. “I started being concerned about landmarks,” he said of this period. “I used to go to the South St. Seaport landmark meetings. If they didn’t landmark that [area], all those buildings were going to be knocked down. At one time, when I was kid, all of South St. was like that. They only left three blocks. TheVillager.com

Getting the old P.S. 64 Meanwhile, the old P.S. 64, now closed, was hurting. “It was being vandalized,” Garcia said, “stripped of every metal. The building was empty and vandalized. Then, the people started using it for drug use. Then, groups like CHARAS started going into the building and cleaning it without permission.” Under Mayor Ed Koch, the city leased the building to CHARAS under the Adopt-a-Building program. “I think it was a dollar a year,” Garcia said. And so, they occupied the old school from 1978 to 2001. They dubbed it CHARAS / El Bohio — El Bohio meaning “the hut” in Taino, Puerto Rico’s indigenous language. They transformed the place into artists’ studios and rehearsal rooms for drama and dance groups — including the likes of Reverend Billy and his choir — and leased space to groups like Recycle-a-Bike. For a while, it hosted a movie series. (Singer has always charged, however, that, under their lease, CHARAS actually did not have the right to lease space to anyone.)

Infrastructure challenges For the first 10 years, CHARAS had use of the whole building. But the Department of General Services became concerned about fire safety on the fourth and fifth floors because of low water pressure, and so those areas became off limits. “The city kept their word and they put in lighting and sprinklers on those floors in the last two years,” Garcia recalled.

Let in Latin Kings Others think the building was sold because CHARAS, at one point, let young members of the Latin Kings gang come inside after police had been hassling them in Tompkins Square Park. At CHARAS, the Latin Kings led workshops at which their members filled out job applications. But Randy Mastro, a deputy mayor under Giuliani, wasn’t buying it and reportedly was the point person pushing for CHARAS’s ouster. “We’re down with every gang in New York because we come from that,” Garcia explained, unapologetically, when asked about letting the Latin Kings into El Bohio. “We tried to get them to change. They’re all part of the neighborhood. You got to talk to them. You got to work with them, negotiate. Whatever was happening between them and the police, we became the mediator.”

El Bohio is auctioned The city made two efforts to auction the building, but each time was stopped due to legal arguments. In 1998, CHARAS supporters made a last-ditch effort to disrupt the building’s sale by releasing live crickets during the auction at One Police Plaza. Per the plan, women hopped up on chairs and started shrieking in mock panic. Ultimately, a team of summer interns were brought in to sweep up the lethargic bugs, who were already half-dead after having been smuggled through the metal detectors in sealed manila envelopes. The auction recommenced, and the old school was finally sold. Watching from the back of the auditorium, Ed Vega, Clemente Soto Velez’s director, said his group’s cultural center wasn’t being auctioned because — as opposed to CHARAS — they knew how to get along with City Hall. After CHARAS was evicted a few years later, the group became more low profile. “We have places in East Harlem, New Jersey, Brooklyn,” Garcia said. “Mostly, people went to other agencies and groups. We stopped a lot of our fundraising.” GARCIA continued on p. 12 May 3, 2018

11


Mural robot hits a wall in try on Clinton St. BY BOB KR ASNER

Y

ou would think that the biggest obstacle to getting an outdoor mural painted would be bad weather. But when the artwork is set to be executed by a robot from Estonia and the chief technician ends up in jail, things get complicated. It all started when Estonian inventor Mihkel Joala received a request from his daughter to paint a unicorn on her wall. Not being an artist, he found a solution in technology. By combining a Wii controller and a car engine valve, he created a way for anyone to spray-paint a preexisting image “with pinpoint accuracy.” The handheld “spray-printer” then got more ambitious, as it evolved into a machine that could paint an image on the side of a building in a matter of hours. Having been tested in Europe, the contraption was sent to New York City to demonstrate its abilities. Enter the artist Shaul Ryan Lifschitz, who had images ready to go of Ray Charles and Billie Holiday, but needed a wall to put them on. A call to landlord Bob Perl solved that problem. Perl, the president of Howl Arts Inc., had the perfect spot, an open wall on his five-story building at 40 Clinton St. “I’m all for public artwork,” he said. “It adds flavor to the neighborhood and it’s loved by everyone.”

Mats Eek with the mural-painting machine’s controller, mounted on the wall, center, and its spray mechanism, dangling from the roof by a wire, right.

So far, so good. But the Saturdaymorning scheduled start time came and went, due to technical difficulties. Then Heikki Tilk, the robot operator, found himself without the thing he needed the most — the chief technician. Mats Eek had gone across the street to get something to eat, with his small pocketknife clipped inside his pocket. Just as he was about to order, someone grabbed his arms and yelled, “You’re coming with us!” Eek understandably panicked. He man-

aged to twist awayy and run, only to be caught by a second undercover police officer. Despite the

fact that he was not initially informed that these men were officers, and the knife was no more than 2 inches long, he was taken away and charged with having a concealed weapon and resisting arrest. (The New York Police Department was reached for comment, but would only provide the most basic details of the arrest.) The bad news was that it was determined that the prototype they were using, a two-part gizmo that fits into two medium-size suitcases and is one of only four that exist, needed a part that would not be immediately available. So Tilk and Eek packed up and went back to Estonia, promising that they would be back in June to try it again with an even more sophisticated version of the machine. The good news is, the arrest case against Eek was thrown out of court. g For more inm formation, formatio visit w w w.s pra y printer.com/ printer.c

PHOTOS BY BOB KRASNER

Heikki Tilk, the mural-painting robot operator, held its remote control, left while Mats Eek, the chief technician, held the spray-paint mechanism, without paint cans loaded into it, in front of the wall at 40 Clinton St. The control mechanism is shown mounted on the wall. The painting mechanism is suspended from the roof by wires, which are used to control its direction.

AFTER 30 YEARS

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Photograph by Layla Kovacevic

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May 3, 2018

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PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

The old P.S. 64, former home of the CHAR A S / El Bohio Cultural and Community Center — seen in a photo from a few years ago — has sat vacant for nearly 20 years while owned by developer Gregg Singer. Completed in 1906, the historic “H”-st yle building was designed by legendar y schools architect / administrator Charles B.J. Snyder.

Chino and CHARAS GARCIA continued from p. 11

Involved with art

Death of Armando Perez

After the interview had ended, Garcia wanted to show off the work of artist Juan Carlos Pinto — some mosaic murals that had been commissioned for the outside of The Bean. Garcia works with Pinto nowadays, helping him with his mural projects. Speaking of artists, Yip Harburg, who wrote the lyrics for all the songs in “The Wizard of Oz,” including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” is one of the most famous alumni of P.S. 64.

And, tragically, Garcia’s partner Perez was killed in 1999, one year after the building’s auction, after having vowed he would die before seeing it sold. Perez, 51, who had distributed fliers inside his wife’s Queens building condemning drug dealing inside of it, was beaten to death by thugs in front of the place early one morning. While Garcia was executive director of CHARAS, Perez was its artistic director and chairperson of its board. “One of my best friends,” Garcia said of Perez. “I grew up in a neighborhood where you have a lot of friends. And then you have special friends.” Throughout the years, both he and Perez had jobs other than just running CHARAS. Perez was an ambulance driver, although was on disability after injuring his back. Garcia, whose family has always been involved in construction, worked in that field and others, as well. “I’ve been everything you can think of,” he said, “Hertz rent-a-car, taxi driver, a lot of construction, truck driver. I was always working construction on the side.”

Glad to have Rivera Garcia is happy to see Carlina Rivera as the district’s new city councilmember. “I know her since she was young,” he said. “She’s always been active. She’s a neighborhood kid. It’s really good to have a neighborhood kid as our politician. She’s very clear. She’s very aware of what’s going on locally, and she’s concerned. One thing about CoDA, they’ve been very successful so far about bringing up three neighborhood women — Margarita, Rosie and Carlina — and they’ve all been dynamite.” TheVillager.com

What the future holds As for a possible role for himself and CHARAS in the old P.S. 64, assuming the city ever manages to get the old school back, Garcia is just humbly hoping, first and foremost, that it is returned to a good community use. Speaking to The Villager back in October after the mayor’s announcement, he said de Blasio had assigned several assistants to sit down with CHARAS and “start working out details.” “The mayor would not make an announcement without a plan,” Garcia said, assuredly, speaking then. “It’s sad to see that building empty. It’s a resource that the community could really use — especially given that everything in Lower Manhattan is so expensive. Most of the artists that used to be on the Lower East Side, they went to Brooklyn…to New Jersey.” Again, however, there reportedly have been no meetings with the city, so far, about any strategy on regaining possession of the building, or what might be done with it if that ever does happen. Yet, speaking in October, when the excitement around the mayor’s statement was still fresh, Garcia was nothing short of optimistic. “I feel very strongly something good’s going to happen with that building,” he said. May 3, 2018

13


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Prove us wrong, Johnson!

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To The Editor: Re “New push for S.B.J.S.A.” (news article, April 26): The Small Business Congress did not participate in last week’s press conference because, based upon the actions of the new City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, we feel the rigging of our bill is continuing, with the likely outcome resulting in changes to the bill. This will water it down to become worthless to protect small business owners when their leases expire. The new speaker’s public acknowledgments of the crisis faced by mom-and-pop businesses and his pledge to hold a public hearing on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, to find a solution to end the crisis, is a welcome change from former Speakers Quinn and Mark-Viverito doing nothing during their tenure other than to serve the Real Estate Board of New York. Regrettably, for our suffering business owners, when it came time for the new speaker to back up his progressive rhetoric with real actions, he acted exactly like Quinn and Mark-Viverito by serving up a REBNY agenda to keep the status quo. Actions speak louder than words, especially politicians’ words. S.B.C. founder Sung Soo Kim, in a talking point in The Villager prior to Johnson winning the speakership, made it clear: “The litmus test for the new speaker on his leadership qualities, progressive values, respect for democracy and commitment to save our small businesses and New Yorkers’ jobs is easy to identify. Very simply, the litmus test will be who the speaker selects as the new chairperson of the [City Council’s] Small Business Committee, as well as its members.” Who did Johnson pick as the new committee chairperson? He appointed a real estate company owner who is on record opposing any regulation of landlords — even residential landlords — and who was heavily funded by big real estate in his election. The second action by Johnson that made it clear the rigging would continue was Johnson’s office refusing to meet with Kim to discuss the best lawmaker to be the bill’s prime sponsor. Even though Kim had written the S.B.J.S.A. and all seven changes to it, and selected seven past prime sponsors to champion it, Johnson refused to allow Kim or the S.B.C. to have any say on the new sponsor.

IRA BLUTREICH

Johnson’s choice for who would carry the bill was Councilmember Ydanis Rodriquez, who twice before, in 2012 and again in 2014, had tried unsuccessfully, with the support of the speaker’s office, to be a coprime sponsor. Both times Rodriguez was rejected by S.B.C. for privately speaking against the bill and telling merchant organizers not to fight for its passage. In short, we feel Speaker Johnson has no intention of stopping the rigging against this bill, and so S.B.C. will not participate in this fake democracy taking place at City Hall. We feel the S.B.J.S.A. is in danger of being changed into a REBNY Trojan horse proposal. If we are wrong, and the rigging is stopped, allowing the bill to be passed unchanged, then we will be the first ones to acknowledge this, and champion Johnson to be the next mayor of New York City. Let’s hope the most vetted bill possibly in all of New York City’s history gets swift passage as written. Steven Barrison Barrison is spokesperson, Small Business Congress

S.B.J.S.A. vote will happen To The Editor: Re “New push for S.B.J.S.A.” (news article, April 26): Friends of S.B.J.S.A. was proud to stand with our citywide coalition partners, the Hispanic and Women’s Chambers of Commerce and City Council sponsors, including prime sponsor Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez. After Corey Johnson’s promised public hearing, we are confident that we will have the necessary votes on the Small Business Committee to bring the bill to the floor. We urge all New Yorkers to take a minute and contact your city councilmember to urge him or her to sign up as a sponsor and pass an S.B.J.S.A. that guarantees a right to a 10-year lease renewal to commercial tenants in good standing; legally binding arbitration to establish a rent increase reasonable for both landlord and tenant; and inclusion of all commercial tenants not just storefront retail tenants. David Eisenbach Eisenbach is a member, Friends of S.B.J.S.A.

LETTERS continued on p. 16

Bill Cosby’s pleas fall on blind eyes! 14

May 3, 2018

TheVillager.com


Brokaw hit on #MeToo when I was a young reporter

TALKING POINT BY MARY REINHOLZ

A

recent e-mail from the Newswomen’s Club of New York reminded me that I had been confirmed to attend an April 5 panel discussion called “#MeToo for Journalists: Where have we come from and where are we going?” at The New York Times’ skyscraper, that glassy and classy 52-story edifice at Eighth Ave. and 40th St. The Times seemed the right place for such a gathering: The Newspaper of Record was soon to be awarded three Pulitzer Prizes on April 16, one for public service that it shared with The New Yorker for documenting stories of sexual harassment from multiple women who claimed they were abused by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The coverage galvanized the #MeToo movement. On a personal level, the movement ignited vivid memories for this aging freelance scribe. I recalled getting hit on by several powerful men in the news business during my 1960s young adulthood, among them NBC heavyweight Tom Brokaw, then anchor of the late-night KNBC affiliate in Los Angeles. He’s now 78, an NBC special correspondent accused last week by two younger women of sexual misconduct when he was the famous anchor of NBC Nightly News in the 1990s. He has strongly denied the charges. For the record, Brokaw made a pass at me 50 years ago in my rented hillside house not long after he had obtained, on my request, the arrest record of a fraudulent advertiser for the now-defunct Los Angeles Free Press, granddaddy of the Southern California alternative press. The Los Angeles Police Department had refused to provide the left-wing weekly with this information for an article I was assigned by managing editor Ted Zatlyn. He asked me to investigate the advertiser as a service to the Freep’s readers. I asked Brokaw to contact the L.A.P.D. and get the report. We had met earlier at press conferences when I was a staff reporter for a small suburban daily. We both wrote for West, The Los Angeles Times magazine. Brokaw recited the dirt he got from the L.A.P.D. to me on the phone. After my story was published, I called him to say thank you and somehow it came to pass that we decided to meet at my Laurel Canyon cottage on a weekend afternoon. I clearly recall his driving a motor scooter and sitting next to me on my mother’s sofa in the living room. We talked and then, abruptly, he was embracing me and giving me a French kiss. I pulled away, reminding him that he was married and a tryst was out of the question. He said, “Yes, it would be unfair to Meredith,” meaning his wife. I don’t recall much else about the episode, and shrugged it off as progressive women of my generation were wont to do. After all, we were overthrowing the sedate 1950s and its dictates that good girls should never engage in premarital sex. I had been married but wasn’t interested in Brokaw as a sex partner and the situation made me uncomfortable. Even so, I liked him and wanted to stay friendly. I even called him a couple of times for one reason or another in Los Angeles and once in the early 1970s after I relocated to New York. By then he had been tapped as NBC’s White House correspondent. He was polite, and gave me the telephone number of a government agency I wanted to contact. I never saw him again. TheVillager.com

The writer says when she was a repor ter in Los Angeles, Tom Brokaw — after helping her get a police repor t she needed for a stor y — suddenly made an unwanted sexual advance.

That didn’t bother or surprise me much. I wouldn’t be writing this account if it wasn’t for the #MeToo movement and Brokaw’s disparaging remarks about Linda Vester, a former NBC News reporter and war correspondent who accused him of groping and kissing her on two occasions and arriving at her hotel uninvited. Brokaw denounced the reports of her allegations, contending he had been “perp walked” across the pages of both Daily Variety and the Washington Post on April 26.

We talked and then, abruptly, he was embracing and French kissing me.

He also claimed in an unsubstantiated NBC statement that Vester was motivated by a “grudge” against the network and had no “distinctive” career achievements. Brokaw’s other accuser, a former NBC production assistant, was anonymous. Why would the two women lie? Money does not appear to be Vester’s motivation. She reportedly has said she doesn’t want to file a lawsuit and only wants to

Mar y Reinholz in New York on a date around 1975.

shed light on the sexist work culture at NBC News. I believe her story is credible. I also believe that the dozens of female NBC employees, past and present, were telling the truth as they know it when they announced their backing of Brokaw in a letter last Friday, calling him a man of “tremendous decency and integrity.” However, on Monday, the New York Post’s Page Six reported that female staffers at NBC News — particularly, lower-level staffers — say they were “pressured” to sign the letter, and felt there would be “repercussions” if they didn’t. Names of heavy hitters at NBC backing Brokaw include Rachel Maddow, Maria Shriver, Andrea Mitchell and Mika Brzezinski. Meanwhile, this writer remains interested in covering controversial subjects, which is why I attended the aforementioned #MeToo program at The New York Times’ Midtown building. The event was co-hosted by the august Newswomen’s Club of New York, whose members once included Eleanor Roosevelt. Panelists were Jessica Bennett, the first gender editor at the Times and author of “Feminist Fight Club, A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace”; Koa Beck, editor in chief of Jezebel, and Meredith Mandell, a vice president of the club and lead legal producer at MSNBC. The club had rented a conference room on the 15th floor of the Times tower, where immense windows provided spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. There were two no-cash bars on either side of the room and a table that held complimentary copies of Bennett’s paperback. I surveyed the scene, which soon swelled to about 100 people, including a smattering of men. From afar, Jennifer Cunningham, the president of the Newswomen’s Club and an award-winning alum of the New York Daily News, welcomed all. Mandell, the moderator, who was dressed in a red suit like it was Christmas, yelled: “O.K., we’re at the BROKAW continued on p. 16 May 3, 2018

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Brokaw hit on #MeToo when I was a young reporter BROKAW continued from p. 15

New York Times!” Within 15 minutes, I joined two other older women and bolted out of the Vatican of Newsdom, barely able to hear panelist Bennett recite how the Harvey Weinstein saga broke. But at least I had picked up a copy of her “Feminist Fight Club.” Yes, the struggle would continue with a new generation of women journalists looking to report the news without fear or favor. Walking toward the elevators, I became aware that the floors were unusually clean and shiny. “They wax [the floors] every day,” said a security guard, a grizzled veteran of The New York Times, who rode down with me to the ground floor. He acknowledged things were livelier at The Times’ old headquarters before the paper moved into the new building in 2007. Indeed, it was at that hallowed building on W. 43rd St. where I met an elegant nowdeceased Timesman at the Sunday magazine who assigned me a story on a runaway kids in the East Village in 1971. He later suggested getting it on when I was living at the bohemian Chelsea Hotel, noting it “wouldn’t hurt” my career. He apologized later. I’m too old now for such experiences, but the beat goes on, and so, strangely, do I despite my hearing loss and the vicissitudes of growing old. “It’s so quiet here, like a funeral home,” I joked. “Why don’t you set off a firecracker?” The security guard smiled. “I can’t do that anymore,” he said. The night was clear and cold. I headed for my Downtown rent-stabilized apartment on foot, mingling with ordinary people who were laughing, cursing, eating pizza slices and rushing to catch cabs. It felt good.

PHOTO BY DON STRACHAN

Mar y Reinholz in 1969-70 in a photo taken by her then-boyfriend Don Strachan not far from the Laurel Canyon cottage in West Holly wood Hills that she shared with him. Strachan was an editor for the Los Angeles Free Press, and wrote an antiwar column called “Shaft the Draft.”

The writer today, in the clothes she wore to a recent discussion about women journalists and the #MeToo movement hosted by the Newswomens’ Club. Some aspects of the movement irk her, such as the idea of dressing all in black — so she consciously chose to wear a color ful ensemble.

Letters to The Editor LETTERS continued from p. 14

R.G.B. needs Harvey To The Editor: Re “Epstein romps” (Scoopy’s Notebook, April 26): I write because I did not vote for Harvey Epstein. And your readers shouldn’t have, either. By all accounts, Mr. Epstein did a spectacular job representing us on the Rent Guidelines Board. He was one of nine players, a pitcher who threw nohitters every time he got the ball. Now, he’ll be one of 150 players, with an even smaller percent of them trying to advance our cause. No star pitcher would leave baseball to play football on special teams. We have displaced Mr. Epstein and, with history as precedent, placed him in an ineffectual environment despite his talents. The Manhattan County

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Democratic Party has to be more foresighted. One hundred years ago, my grandfather, who became the Democratic Assembly leader, fought for the same home rule that Mr. Epstein will be fighting for. Not only that, he’s my fourth assemblymember in fewer than 19 years. So, how good is that job these days? Billy Sternberg E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager. com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published. TheVillager.com


Six new studios, endless possibilities for Gibney Broadway facility expands commitment to dance, community

Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

On stage, L to R: Dancers Tamrin Goldberg, Thomas Tyger Moore, Calleja Smiley and Emily Tellier at a Hands are for Holding assembly at PS81 in Ridgewood, Queens.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC Enthusiasm pulsed in the air as the fifth graders remained in rapt attention of the dancers onstage. “If you hear my voice, give me a clap,” Thomas Tyger Moore instructed. “If you hear my voice, give me three claps. If you hear my voice, give me six claps.” The students followed suit, and in the hush that followed, two of the dancers — Calleja Smiley and Emily Tellier — showed how to stand up while being back to back. It was then the students’ turn. They bounded onstage and tried to do the same, to mixed results and giggles. The recent morning assembly at PS81 in Ridgewood, Queens was part of a program called Hands are for Holding, which uses dance to spur conversations among middle and high school students throughout the city about healthy and unhealthy relationships, bullying, technology, and social media. “The kids are very receptive to what they see,” Tellier said afterwards, noting that most kids “love to dance, and so using dance that way to communicate this kind of message, I think, is the best point about this. We’re not just talking at them, they’re actually seeing the differences between healthy and unhealthy.” In between the dances and demonstrating gestures that signal healthy relationships, such as respect, trust and support, someone from the nonprofit TheVillager.com

Day One, or from the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence facilitates a conversation around what the students saw, Tellier explained. Hands are for Holding is one branch of a larger organization now known as Gibney, which focuses on social justice work, community, and its beating heart: dance (visit gibneydance.org for more information). At the center of the organization is Gina Gibney, who founded her eponymous dance company in 1991, and when she last spoke with NYC Community Media in fall 2014, had recently taken on the space at 280 Broadway — in addition to running 890 Broadway. Now, Gibney Dance recently rebranded as Gibney, expanded its studio space, and has become a presenter of dance. “People come here and I overhear their conversations on the phones, they say, ‘I’m at Gibney,’” she said in a recent interview at 280 Broadway. She added, “We feel that we have grown incrementally, but we’re kind of approaching being an institution now, and so we want to have a name that feels a little bit more — rolls off the tongue, simple.” Gibney reiterated the deep commitment to dance, despite the removal of the word. “At the same time, think of how many organizations you’ve heard of that are — fill in the blank — dance,” she said. “We think we needed to have a name

Photo by Scott Shaw

It took about 18 months to renovate the space into studios.

that really in some way just captured the concept that we are an institution, we do many, many things. Part of what we do is have a resident dance company but we have grown… beyond that.” That growth has been literal as well. Six new studios — 10,000 square feet of space — recently opened at 280 Broadway. “First and foremost, dance artists just need space,” Gibney explained. “There is a crisis of space, and we had, before having those six studios, we had 17 studios that were literally full morning to night and we’re turning people away.” Of the 17 studios before the expansion, she said many of them were not large, and those are needed to serve sizable groups of dancers. Initially, when Gibney signed the lease at 280 Broadway, there was a subtenant in the back. “The original space here was 26,000 square feet, our space at 890 is about 16,000 square feet and this was another 10. So at the time, I just thought are you kidding, you know, more risk, more responsibility, more rent,” she said with a laugh. Then she started to realize the back space was ideal. “The original space was complicated. There are a few spaces where there are pillars right in the middle of rooms,” she said. “The columns back there just cooperated beautifully, they just lined up, literally, as if… the space was meant

to be used as a dance studio.” It took about 18 months for the renovation. “We want that back wing to feel like a residency space. So we’re working on mechanisms that would allow us to either rent it to people in blocks of time, or to partner with other organizations to provide residency space, or to use some of our own funding,” she explained. One of the residencies — called Dance in Process — is aimed at midcareer artists. “It’s very generous funding. It gives the artist complete access, 24/7, to the space for three weeks,” Gibney said, noting the funding came from the [Andrew W.] Mellon Foundation. “It gives them a really generous fee. It gives them a resource menu. It gives them a budget for artistic advisors, or rehearsal assistants, or some resource connected to their creative process.” And because Dance in Process was started before the organization was a presenter, artists are under no obligation to create a work to present. When Gibney took the space at 280 Broadway, she recalled, “We had converted studio C into a white box theater, and the downstairs into a lab, so we now had three performance spaces, and were a somewhat reluctant presenter.” She added, “I was concerned about GIBNEY continued on p. 19 May 3, 2018

17


Souls for saving or claiming Strong ensemble means smooth sailing for ‘Seafarer’

Photo by Carol Rosegg

L to R: Matthew Broderick, Michael Mellamphy, Andy Murray, Tim Ruddy and Colin McPhillamy in “The Seafarer.”

BY SCOTT STIFFLER The chance of a Christmas miracle for the motley crew of problem drinkers and eager gamblers wallowing in vice as that holy holiday approaches is about as slim as the branches on the tiny, artificial tree relegated to a corner of the oddly constructed home where “The Seafarer” unfolds. But like a winning hand when the chips are down, miracles have been known to happen — and not always to the most saintly among us. Wearing a scowl so deeply embedded it could pass for a birthmark, James “Sharky” Harkin spends the play’s opening moments (and a good deal of the following ones) picking up after the boozy indiscretions of his recently blinded older brother, Richard, who barks orders and hurls insults from a ragged armchair he occupies as if it were a throne. Having arrived back in this downscale coastal settlement north of Dublin City after the latest in a series of employment opportunities gone awry, dutiful caretaker Sharky — two days sober and starting to show it — attends to his domestic chores with the air of a man gunning for penance, rather than

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May 3, 2018

one victimized by the uneasy dynamics of sibling cohabitation. “The hypocrite’s voice haunts his own den,” Richard shoots back, after a scolding from Sharky. Skilled at rubbing salt in wounds to gets what he wants, life under the same roof as Richard is “a choppy ride,” according to Colin McPhillamy, who balances the character’s bellicose nature with surplus charisma and just enough vulnerability to keep him from being abandoned by family, friends, and the audience. Paired with Andy Murray’s intense and restrained performance as Sharky, the brothers are reason enough to merit a trip to the Irish Repertory Theatre — but the pot is sweetened when old, equally dysfunctional friends Ivan (Michael Mellamphy) and Nicky (Tim Ruddy) show up for the annual Christmas Eve poker game, with new acquaintance Mr. Lockhart (Matthew Broderick) in tow, who raises the stakes by revealing himself to Sharky as a sinister collector of old debts. “It’s actually an allegorical, redemptive tale couched in the costume of these extraordinarily sort of lowlife, vulgarian alcoholics,” McPhillamy said during

a recent interview with this publication. Looking past the play’s verbal abuse, physical altercations, mortal sins, and so very, very many uses of the F-word, McPhillamy rightly declared the supernatural-tinged 2008 work by Conor McPherson to be, when all is said and done, “just beautiful. The message is that there can be mystery, magic, redemption, grace, all these good things, in any context.” That’s not to say, however, that one should expect to exit on a note of unfettered optimism. “The Seafarer,” like previous Irish Rep productions of McPherson’s work (“The Weir” and “Shining City”), never grants its characters satisfaction without strings attached. Ciarán O’Reilly directs with his usual knack for presenting to viewers the playwright’s dense language and signature cadence as swoon-worthy rather than demanding, further buoyed by O’Reilly’s ability to bring simmering emotions to the surface at just the right moment. And that’s a necessary skill, as a series of revelations change our perception of karma, damnation, and self-destruction. “This is a play,” McPhillamy noted,

“that has a range of experiences. It’s really quite funny, but it’s got an element that is profoundly alarming. Whether you’re a person of faith or have a metaphysical view of life, the play confronts us with a universal truth, which is that we will all die — and none of us, or at least no one in my acquaintance, has any definite information about what happens then… In our culture, so much focus is on the idea that death is optional, and that life can be extended indefinitely with a reverse mortgage and the right kind of medication... It’s kind of refreshing to have a breath of truth, and that’s something the play brings.” Of the man who plays Sharky, McPhillamy said, “He’s immensely dedicated to the craft, meticulous in his work, whereas I’m more of a splash it around guy, a bit untidy in my approach… It worked out very well for the stage relationship. He’s doing all of these things for me: making toast, cleaning up, always on the go — and I’m sitting there,” McPhillamy chuckled, “being waited on.” SEAFARER continued on p. 19 TheVillager.com


the fact that we are acrossâ&#x20AC;Ś the street from City Hall,â&#x20AC;? she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just very exciting to me to be a civic player. To be able to provide space to the Progressive Caucus, or to a specific group, or to the community board.â&#x20AC;? Gibney said it has been more challenging â&#x20AC;&#x153;to sort out what is the relationship between our actual programming and the Lower Manhattan com-

munity.â&#x20AC;? To that end, she said the organization is partnering with the nonprofit Theatre Development Fund â&#x20AC;&#x153;where weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re focusing on our own resident company and doing audience development from the neighborhood with that.â&#x20AC;? From May 3-5, the Gibney Dance Company will perform two pieces: Amy Millerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Valenceâ&#x20AC;? and Bryan Ariasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;

â&#x20AC;&#x153;One Thousand Million Seconds.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;For many years, the company was a vehicle for Gina Gibneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work,â&#x20AC;? Miller, the senior company director, explained by phone. â&#x20AC;&#x153;For the past three years weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve started the initiative where we invited guest choreographers.â&#x20AC;? Miller said she is â&#x20AC;&#x153;resetting an older workâ&#x20AC;? with â&#x20AC;&#x153;Valence,â&#x20AC;? a piece with a lot â&#x20AC;&#x153;fierce, virtuosic momentsâ&#x20AC;? she created in 2009. Somehow, she recalled, she came across a laminated cheat sheet for chemistry, saw valence and its definition, and was inspired to create the dance. Company co-director Nigel Campbell said by phone, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a wonderfully mixed program.â&#x20AC;? Ariasâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; piece is a new commission, and Campbell called it a â&#x20AC;&#x153;study on memories and moments.â&#x20AC;? Gibney Dance Company has five fulltime dancers, known as â&#x20AC;&#x153;artistic associates,â&#x20AC;? which Miller is explained is a model based on three ideas â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the dancer as an artist, activist, and advocate. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gina has created something so special here,â&#x20AC;? Campbell said. For more information about Gibney Dance Companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s May 3-5 performances, go to gibneydance.org/event/ gibney-dance-company-amy-millerbryan-arias/2018-05-03.

which is where I spent my first years [as an actor].â&#x20AC;? That city also played a part in helping him nail Richardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s accent, McPhillamy recalled, referencing Londonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;large Irish population. So I was very familiar with the Irish sound, if you like.â&#x20AC;? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all the more impressive, given the actorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Aussie roots. (Londonborn to Australian parents and now an American citizen, he no longer has to talk his way past customs by hoping they recognize him from â&#x20AC;&#x153;Law & Order: Criminal Intent.â&#x20AC;?) Asked how he spends his down time after the play, McPhillamy â&#x20AC;&#x201D; who once lived in the Village â&#x20AC;&#x201D; said he knows the Chelsea area around the Irish Rep well, and noted itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not an uncommon practice to â&#x20AC;&#x153;after the show, go and have a drink with a friend at Champignon [200 Seventh Ave., btw. W. 21st & 22nd Sts.], or Restivo [209 Seventh Ave., at W. 22nd St.]. And I get spicy Korean seafood soup sometimes at Essen [699 Sixth Ave., btw. W. 22nd & 23rd Sts.].â&#x20AC;? But he wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be a presence in the neighborhood for long. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Seafarerâ&#x20AC;? closes on May 24, at which point McPhillamy will shift his focus to co-directing, with wife and Irish Rep veteran Patricia Connolly, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Importance of Being Earnestâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Long Dayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Journey

Into Nightâ&#x20AC;? at the Bagaduce Theatre in Brooksville, Maine. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s as far northeast as you can go without getting to Canada,â&#x20AC;? he noted. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The only thing Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m hesitant about is the size of the mosquitos, which are Special Forces-trained.â&#x20AC;? After that, heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll join the company of â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Ferryman,â&#x20AC;? coming to Broadway in the fall. Assessing this, his first time working with the Irish Rep, McPhillamy said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m very happy with the gig. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a management and a company that does it right. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a culture of friendliness and respect that extends to every levelâ&#x20AC;Ś

Every now and again, you come across something and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just pitch-perfect. This has really been a delight, this whole experience.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Seafarerâ&#x20AC;? plays at the Irish Repertory Theatre (132 W. 22nd St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.) through May 24. Wed. and Sat., 3pm & 8pm; Thurs., 7pm; Fri., 8pm; Sun., 3pm. Additional performance on Tues., May 22 at 7pm. Runtime: 2 hours, 20 minutes, including one intermission. For tickets ($50-$70), visit irishrep.org or call 212-727-2737 or visit irishrep.org. For Colin McPhillamyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s blog, visit mcphillamy.com.

GIBNEY continued from p. 17

the idea of becoming a presenter because presenting is as much about who is not on the stage as it is aboutâ&#x20AC;Ś who is in that square of space for that amount of time. Those dynamics at the time seemed somewhat at odds with the character of our organization, or our kind of ethos as a community-minded organization.â&#x20AC;? Gibney said they developed separate tracks for the organization â&#x20AC;&#x201D; social justice work, training, digital technology, the resident dance company, and presenting. Ben Pryor â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the founder of the festival American Realness â&#x20AC;&#x201D; is the in-house curator for Gibney. Class offerings have also increased, and many are down in partnership with Movement Research, and some intensives in partnership with the Joyce, she said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We are essentially trying to, in a very sort of thoughtful way, expand offerings around a framework that we have, but in ways that we think are needed by the [dance] community,â&#x20AC;? she said. The larger community of Lower Manhattan is also welcome at 280 Broadway, where Community Board 1 has held meetings, as well as other groups. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I continue to be really energized by

SEAFARER continued from p. 18

There was, McPhillamy said, from the beginning, â&#x20AC;&#x153;a highly creative atmosphereâ&#x20AC;? created by Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Reilly, first and foremost by â&#x20AC;&#x153;casting the play very well. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all very different in terms of the energy and quality that each of us supplies, and so of course as you begin to explore what the relationships are, so much is created in rehearsal... CiarĂĄn gives you a supportive space where you can experiment.â&#x20AC;? As for Matthew Broderick, McPhillamy called his interpretation of the Mr. Lockhart character â&#x20AC;&#x153;an object lesson in modesty and generosity. I believe he is, kind of, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;underactingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; everybody off the stage [laughs], and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a very smart and clever approachâ&#x20AC;Ś To get inside the character in this way, that isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t completely obvious, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tremendously interesting.â&#x20AC;? Regular visitors to the Irish Rep know of what McPhillamy speaks, having seen Broderick excel with his similarly noncomedic and layered turn in 2016â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Shining City,â&#x20AC;? as a grieving widower haunted by visions. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s very exciting,â&#x20AC;? McPhillamy said of the diverse cast, â&#x20AC;&#x153;when actors at different levels in the profession mix it up. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something that happens in London, TheVillager.com

Photos by Scott Shaw

Gina Gibney founded her eponymous dance company in 1991.

Dancers Nigel Campbell, the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s co-director, and Zui Gomez.

Theater for the New City â&#x20AC;˘ 155 1st Avenue at E. 10th St. Reservations & Info (212) 254-1109 For more info, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net

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