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July 19, 2018 • $1.00 Volume 88 • Number 28

Verrazano study verifies: 2-way toll would slash traffic BY SYDNEY PEREIR A

A

report commissioned by the Hudson Square Connection has revealed what Downtowners have long known: A two-way toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge would drastically reduce traffic congestion in Lower Manhattan.

Sam Schwartz Engineering’s report, headed by the transit expert known as “Gridlock Sam,” revealed that up to 137 vehicles per hour could be removed from westbound Canal, Watts and Houston Sts. with a two-way bridge toll. “This is really some lowTOLL continued on p. 4

Soho group is still preaching, quietly, the principles of Eli BY GABE HERMAN

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he nonprofit Aesthetic Realism Foundation has had its home in Soho for decades, promoting its artbased ideas about finding happiness, through the resolving of opposites, that come from its founder, the late poet and art critic Eli Siegel.

The group has always been small, with estimates never going above a few hundred members and recently hovering around 100 mostly older locals. Some neighbors describe the group as harmless and are happy to let them be. But some former members have AESTHETIC continued on p. 22

PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER

Bodypainting Day saw people bare their all for ar t in Washington Square Park. See Page 14.

Fear L shutdown will be ‘Nightmare on Kenmare’ BY SYDNEY PEREIR A

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he Department of Transportation presented some fine-tuned details of the L train shutdown plan to Community Boards 2 and 3 last week. Complaints about the project’s accompanying mitigation plan that have been raised for months from

Dershowitz on Don impeach....p. 2

community groups from the Lower East Side to the West Village were raised yet again — but this time, D.O.T. was ready with more specifics on a few key parts of the plan. Regarding one particular street corner, D.O.T. presented two options for Board 2 to consider for Kenmare St. — where, under the plan, two of the four

new bus routes in Manhattan will transport 17 percent of displaced L train riders. Soho and Little Italy residents are concerned about a tight turn from Kenmare St. onto Cleveland Place. An unavoidable reality is that Delancey St. — a six-lane crosstown corridor — LTRAIN continued on p. 9

Johnson saves day for Barrow St. seniors......... p. 6 Bruce Davis, Filomena Vitrano, Alan Whelan...p. 10 www.TheVillager.com


Dershowitz dishes on not impeaching Trump BY MARY REINHOLZ

A

lan Dershowitz, famed criminal defense lawyer and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, has been taking heat from fellow liberals for criticizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and defending the civil liberties of right-wing Republican President Donald Trump, the subject of Dershowitz’s latest book, “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.” But last Wednesday evening, the lifelong Democrat and contrarian who is nearly 80 and best known for representing notorious clients like O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow over five decades of courtroom combats, received a warm welcome on the fourth floor of Barnes & Noble at Union Square. There he was interviewed by Josh Barro, a senior editor of Business Insider. Both men made light of Dershowitz’s reported travails from his alleged “McCarthyite” critics on Martha’s Vineyard, his vacation home. Barro asked the prolific author if he had left the island “under cover of darkness” to attend the event. In response, Dershowitz, who has an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, whipped out a mock “Martha’s Vineyard edition” of his 146-page treatise in a brown wrapper and cracked that his publisher, Hot Books, an imprint of SkyHorse, created it “so people can read it on the beach like they used to read pornography.” He later told this reporter he would have written “the identical book” had Hillary Clinton, his choice for the Oval Office, become president and been investigated for “destroying her e-mails” and obstructing justice. “The argument, essentially, is that before anyone can be impeached, according to the Constitution, you have to have an actual crime — whether it be treason or bribery or [high] crimes and misdemeanors,” he said. “You can’t impeach a president just because you don’t like his policies.” It’s a narrowly interpreted view of a president’s rights that he admits has been rejected by other academics. A crowd of about 200 people, some of them apparent conservatives, applauded Dershowitz’s comments at regular intervals, particularly when he attacked the venerable American Civil Liberties Union for allegedly abandoning its “neutral” position on civil liberties and becoming a purported “hard left” vehicle to oppose the Trump administration. “I was on the board of the A.C.L.U. when [Richard] Nixon was a target [for impeachment],” he said. “I was in favor of prosecuting the S.O.B., but they wouldn’t let the special prosecutor do anything. Today, the A.C.L.U. has made $130 million in contributions as a result of Trump being elected. They’ve abandoned civil liberties in favor of supporting certain left-wing and ideological [ideas]. They have abandoned free speech on campus. The A.C.L.U. has lost its way,” Dershowitz thundered to sustained applause, noting that one reason he wrote his book, roughly his 37th, was “because the A.C.L.U. has failed in its mission.” One of his major complaints, which he described in April on Fox News, was the A.C.L.U.’s “deafening silence” in the wake of federal agents raiding the office, home and hotel room of Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal lawyer, in apparent violation of lawyer-client confidentiality. David Cole, legal director of the national A.C.L.U., did not respond to requests for an interview, but he told Politico in May that he thought Dershowitz was “wildly overreacting.” He wrote on the A.C.L.U. Web site, “The A.C.L.U. is the nation’s premier defender of privacy. But we also believe in the rule of law as an essential foundation for civil liberties and civil rights. And perhaps the first principle of the rule of law is that no one — not even the president, let alone his lawyer — is above the

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July 19, 2018

Alan Dershowitz in his Twitter photo.

law.” Chad Marlow, an East Village activist who is an A.C.L.U. advocacy and policy counsel, contended that Dershowitz’s world view “has clearly been evolving over the years. Where he is today with respect to civil rights is not in the same place that he was 25 years ago,” he said. “I think his support for Trump and criticism of others is more of a reflection of the changes in his mind than of any changes in the mind of others.”

‘You don’t need a Mueller to [convict] Russians.’ Alan Dershowitz

However, prominent civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, who directed the New York Civil Liberties Union from 1985 to 2000, told this reporter it’s the A.C.L.U. that has changed dramatically in the Trump era, and said he agreed in part with Dershowitz on the Cohen matter. “I would agree with Alan that the A.C.L.U. should have been critical of the way [the government] confiscated Michael Cohen’s cell phone,” he said. Siegel, who grew up a block from Dershowitz’s family in Brooklyn, said that the privately run group has come out with guidelines to determine the impact of free speech cases in marginal communities “and how it could denigrate certain groups and impede equality. They have a list of criteria,” he explained. “The idea that you now have to take into consideration whether speech will affect marginal communities gives the impression that they are backtracking on aggressive advocacy of free speech for all.”

On Monday, The Villager e-mailed Dershowitz and asked about Trump’s siding in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has denied Russian involvement in the U.S. elections of 2016, in contrast to the findings of American intelligence agencies. I wondered how he responded to a tweet by former C.I.A. boss John Brennan, who said Trump’s performance at the press conference “rises to & exceeds the threshold of high crimes & misdemeanors. It was nothing short of treasonous.” Dershowitz did not address Brennan’s allegations, but stated in reply: “The intel reports and evidence plainly show Russian efforts to influence the election. That’s why I wanted an independent nonpartisan expert commission to investigate this issue. The issue should be factual not political.” Dershowitz’s criticism of Robert Mueller’s office has disturbed friends like radical left-wing defense lawyer Ron Kuby, who told me in an e-mail: “I desperately wish that his fierce intelligence and big heart were being used to fight for those who are suffering terribly under Trump instead of constructing legal arguments against Mueller and articulating them on FOX for a tribal audience.” During a phone conversation, Dershowitz said that while Kuby “has a point,” he has conveyed his views on immigration” to Trump. He added, “I’m not a supporter of Trump. I opposed his [migrant family] separation policy. I opposed him on Charlottesville. I’m opposed to his gun policy. The only thing I’ve agreed with him on was his moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. I’ve met him three times. He asked me for his advice on the Middle East because I know [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu.” As for Mueller, Dershowitz said he wouldn’t call his Russia probe a “witch hunt” as Trump does. But he believes that the federal office of a special counsel can be “dangerous,” allowing prosecutors to “squeeze” defendants, like Michael Cohen, with threats against relatives in exchange for cooperation. He also doesn’t believe Mueller is “necessary” for a Russian investigation. “You don’t need a Mueller to [convict] Russians. Any U.S. attorney could do this. I don’t see a reason. He’s not going to be able to get those guys to return to Disneyland,” Dershowitz said sardonically, referring to the indictments last Friday of 12 Russian military intelligence officers charged with hacking into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign office. At the time of our conversation, Dershowitz was in Martha’s Vineyard preparing for a forum by the island’s League of Women Voters where he was to speak and explain his views to a “lot of people.” He denied enjoying the controversy his opinions have ignited, explaining he “doesn’t like what it’s done to my family.” His wife, he said, has friends on the Vineyard. He was first targeted, he said, by a “hard-left group” opposed to his pro-Israel views, which “told people not to engage with me. My family wished I would be quiet — one nephew, in particular,” he said. “But I love the dialogue. I may be wrong but I’ve opened up a debate about how there first has to be an actual crime for a [president] to be impeached.” Does this public intellectual think that Trump can be defeated if he survives an impeachment effort and runs for re-election in 2020? Dershowitz said he thinks it’s possible. “The reason he got elected was because the election had the lowest turnout,” he said. “If the Democrats run a reasonable campaign, I don’t think he has the capacity for getting 50 percent” of the vote. “[Democratic] turnout is key, particularly over 60 percent. I don’t see how he wins with that. For him, it’s about winning.” TheVillager.com


S.B.J.S.A. PARLEY: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office will be meeting with members of the group Take Back NYC on July 23 to talk about the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. We’re told one topic will be whether a special panel will be convened to look at and try to resolve any legality issues surrounding the long-stymied S.B.J.S.A. — before the expected hearing on the bill, which is reportedly set for September, or sometime in the “early fall.� Columbia professor David Eisenbach, who is a leading member of Friends of S.B.J.S.A., may or may not play a role in that process, but he will definitely be at the meeting. On the other hand, members of the Small Business Congress and the Coalition to Save NYC Small Businesses will not be there. It’s basically a case of “playing the inside game versus playing the outside game,� as Eisenbach sees it. The latter two groups (which are basically the same bunch of longtime business activists, we think), by coming out early on and charging that Johnson has “rigged� it so that the S.B.J.S.A. will either fail to pass, or only be approved in a watered-down version, are basically on the outs with Johnson, Eisenbach said. MACPHERSON IS FREE: After doing jailtime for being one of the masterminds of a $50 million Hamptons mortgage-fraud ring, Soho activist Don MacPherson has been a free man and back at home “since Christmas,� according to a neighbor. MacPherson was sentenced in early 2012 to four to 12 years behind bars. “He’s on probation,� our source said. Queried if he planned to revive the Soho Journal, the magazine he ran before going into the slammer, MacPherson reportedly told the neighbor, “No, that’s over.� BOYS CLUB BUILDING: Word recently got out that the Boys Club of New York plans to sell its Harriman Clubhouse building at E. 10th St. and Avenue A. The organization intends to keep operating at the Alphabet City spot through June 2019, after which it hopes to rent space in the neighborhood to continue its programming for local youth. Stephen Tosh, the club’s C.E.O., in a letter to alumni, noted that the neighborhood has “changed dramatically� since the building was opened in TheVillager.com

The triplets who are the subject of the new documentar y movie “Three Identical Strangers� opened a steakhouse in Soho in 1988 and had early success with it. The fascinating flick is showing at the Angelika on W. Houston St.

1876, and that the sale’s proceeds will help the organization start new programs in places like Brownsville, East New York and / or the South Bronx. As for what will happen with the East Village H.Q., local realtor Bob Perl told us it’s likely to be a residential conversion, and that no developer would tear it down. That’s because the site is currently “overbuilt,� in that the building was constructed prior to the city’s first Zoning Resolution, in 1916, which set standards for how much square footage can be massed on a site. If the structure were razed, what could be rebuilt might be as much as 50 percent smaller, Perl offered. As for how it will be spruced up, he said, the facade will be redone and “blow out some windows,� meaning put in more windows.

TRIPLETS’ SOHO TANGET: There is a Downtown angle to the engrossing new documentary “Three Identical Strangers,� about Long Island triplets who were adopted out to different sets of parents at age 6 months as part of a secret psychological experiment. The men had a restaurant in Soho from 1988 to 2000, aptly named Triplet’s Old New York Steakhouse, at Grand and Sullivan Sts. That block has since been razed by Trinity Real Estate and is currently home to Gitano, a sprawling open-air bar that some have likened to “Meatpacking South...with palm trees.� At any rate, Downtown angle or not, the movie is a very interesting look at nature versus nurture, and a chilling story of triplets (and twins) ripped apart in the name of science. CLARIFICATION: Last week’s print version of The Villager’s article on the Hudson River bikeway said it wasn’t immediately clear if the “S� in the bike path at 14th St. would eventually be

straightened out. It will be, according to a spokesperson for the Hudson River Park Trust, who added that the bend in the path is currently due to work on a “connector� project that is widening the park’s esplanade between Gansevoort Peninsula and 14th St. Also, on why the new security bollards are being spaced at a tighter width than

the temporary barriers they are replacing, a Trust source said the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Unit “have been informing state D.O.T.’s consideration of the 48-inch spacing.�

          

        

        

             

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July 19, 2018

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July 19, 2018

TOLL continued from p. 1

hanging fruit and really a pretty quick and relatively easy fix,” said Ellen Baer, president of the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District. These corridors are where vehicles head westbound toward the Holland Tunnel. With Staten Island-bound traffic on the Verrazano being tolled — but not Manhattanbound traffic — Schwartz estimates that 70 percent of westbound trips to New Jersey take the route through Manhattan instead of the I-278 route through Staten Island. “Until you actually look at the numbers, you always question where perception ends and reality begins,” Baer said. “Now we know.” The engineering firm studied several scenarios of congestion reduction on westbound Canal, Watts and Houston Sts., including a two-way toll on the bridge; two different congestion-pricing plans known as MoveNY and Fix NYC; and a two-way toll and congestion-pricing plan combined. MoveNY is a congestion-pricing plan developed by Schwartz along with a coalition of various stakeholders. Fix NYC is a proposal by a task force of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s built upon the earlier, grassroots MoveNY plan. A two-way toll and MoveNY combination would reduce up to 337 vehicles per hour along the three critical streets — the greatest volume reduction of all the scenarios. The length of the lines of cars backed up on the streets would be cut by up to 1,100 feet between westbound Canal, Watts and Houston Sts. with the two-way toll. But the combo of two-way bridge tolling and MoveNY would shorten the lines of traffic by up to 2,700 feet between the three streets. “On a day now where you might see a queue start at [3:30 or 4 o’clock], and then you have queueing nonstop until about 6:30 or so on a typical weekday — that window is going to shorten,” said Jeff Smithline, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Sam Schwartz Engineering. The study comes as no surprise to the Downtown community. Lora Tenenbaum, a longtime Soho resident and former Community Board 2 member, remembers the day the one-way toll was implemented in 1986. “The day the one-way toll was put into effect, traffic was so backed up, cars were literally driving on the sidewalk because nobody wanted to pay a double toll,” Tenebaum said. Since then, she’s been fighting alongside other community activists to restore the two-way toll. The lack of a dual-direction bridge toll may have mitigated backups at the Staten Island toll plaza, but the change also created a free route to New Jersey across Manhattan’s East River bridges, through Downtown and on through the Holland Tunnel. After the toll change, traffic swamped the neighborhood. Preliminary studies shortly after the twoway toll was scrapped in 1986 revealed added congestion on Canal St. and an increase of 4,000 vehicles per day through the Holland Tunnel, The New York Times reported at the time. Traffic also worsened on the Brooklyn

VILLAGER FILE PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY

Holland Tunnel-bound traffic backed up — as is so often the case — on Watts St. in Soho, one of the three streets sur veyed in the new study.

side of the Verrazano while decreasing on the Staten Island side, the Times reported more than 32 years ago. “It’s been horrendous,” said Shirley Secunda, chairperson of C.B. 2’s Transportation Committee. “I mean, we’ve been complaining for years.” Councilmembers Margaret Chin, who represents Lower Manhattan, and Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, are calling on the federal government to reinstate the two-way toll, as well. In late June, the two announced a resolution requesting that Congress pass and the president sign legislation to allow two-way tolling on the bridge. Their resolution says the “inefficient routes cost the M.T.A. much-needed toll revenue that could be used to support the region’s mass transit system and has been blamed for exacerbating congestion problems in areas such as Canal St. in Lower Manhattan.” Back in 2010, hopes were high when Robert Gottheim, Congressmember Jerry Nadler’s district director, said Nadler was aiming to integrate the two-way toll change into a federal transportation bill. C.B. 2 voted in support of a “speedy return” to the two-way toll. But the change never happened. “We have never stopped bugging Jerry Nadler’s office about this,” Secunda said. “I do think he keeps trying, but it’s a problem.” Nadler, who represents Manhattan’s West Side and parts of South Brooklyn, supports rebalancing the toll. But the delay has been partly due to concern over traffic backups at the bridge’s tolling plazas in Staten Island — the original reason former Congressmember Guy Molinari called for the one-way toll more than three decades ago. However, last summer, cashless, electronic tolling went live. Vehicles no longer have to stop at tolling plazas, reducing possible traffic backup. As Chin and Brannan added in their recent resolution, “Those concerns are largely moot.” “This is the only bridge in the United States where a federal government tells a local agency how to collect money,” Gottheim said. “With current, modern electronic tolling, it’s no longer an issue. We talked to our counterpart in Staten Island — Dan Donovan — and he has been open to it.”

With Republicans controlling Congress, Gottheim added, Donovan’s role in making the change is key. Gottheim explained that a stand-alone bill could repeal the one-way toll and restore control to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to reinstate a twoway toll. “My logic is pretty simple on the two-way toll: If it relieves congestion for Staten Island and South Brooklyn, I’ll support it,” Donovan said in a statement. “If it makes traffic worse, I won’t.” Donovan requested that the M.T.A. complete a study on the matter, particularly analyzing whether a two-way toll would discourage drivers from New Jersey from entering the city through Staten Island, encourage drivers from Long Island and Brooklyn to enter New Jersey through Staten Island instead of Manhattan, and how it would impact M.T.A. revenue and Staten Island / South Brooklyn traffic. “I’m waiting on the results of the traffic analysis the M.T.A. began last year at my request,” Donovan added. “Once I see the numbers, I’ll make a decision.” The planned L train shutdown is only expected to further exacerbate longtime traffic concerns in Lower Manhattan. The shutdown, slated to begin April 2019 and last 15 months along the L line between Bedford and Eighth Aves., will also bring four new bus routes through Soho, Little Italy and the Lower East Side. The traffic relief that restoring the twoway Verrazano toll would bring is needed now more than ever, said Pete Davies, a Soho activist and member of the Broadway Residents Coalition. “When put into context of the upcoming L train shutdown — described by the Department of Transporation and M.T.A. as a transportation situation ‘without precedent’ and the ‘biggest logistical challenge’ that has ever been undertaken,” Davies said, “it is mind-boggling that our elected representatives at all levels — federal state and city — aren’t doing whatever is necessary to ease the traffic burden on Lower Manhattan and nearby areas.” TheVillager.com


PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER

The fountain of youth A young man perched pensively on the Washington Square Park Fountain amid last Friday’s heat. TheVillager.com

July 19, 2018

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PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY

Seniors in the Greenwich House day program at Barrow St. rejoiced as Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced they will be able to say at the building.

Johnson tells Barrow seniors center is safe BY TEQUIL A MINSK Y

T

he apprehension level of the seniors was as high as the temperatures during the recent days of blazing heat. The leaked rumor of the beloved Judith White Senior Center closing, emergency meetings and last week’s demonstration of seniors in midday heat at City Hall added to their anxiety. This Tuesday, many displayed their signs pleading to keep their center open as they stood outside the Barrow St. entrance to Greenwich House, where the senior day center is located on the fourth floor. They were about to attend an update meeting with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also the City Council representative for this location. Johnson, as well as Councilmember Margaret Chin — whose district includes one of the other three Greenwich House senior centers — and Greenwich House Executive Director Roy Leavitt and other staff members, along with Elena Sorisi, a legislative aide from state Senator Brad Hoylman’s office also attended the meeting. Johnson addressed the packed lunchroom at the Judith White Center. He spoke of the importance of community for seniors and how this center serves its members in this way. “We were able to find the money,” he said, as he announced that the 27 Barrow St. senior center, the Judith White Center, would not move. “New buildings are going up all the time,” he said. To sustained applause he continued, “What seniors of the Village deserve is their senior center.” Johnson explained that the Council has discretion-

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July 19, 2018

Speaker Corey Johnson, left, with Councilmember Margaret Chin, said the Council had “found the money” to allow the seniors to keep their program at Barrow St.

Joy and relief mixed as the word came down that the seniors would not have to leave their beloved center.

ary funds reserved for seniors, and that he earmarked $180,000 for Greenwich House annually, so the organization can rent off-site office space. Greenwich House’s executive offices will move from their current location, but the group now has additional funds to rent space. Smiles of relief and joy filled the room. Particularly for the cadre — and there were many — involved with signmaking, demonstrating and circulating petitions, there was a feeling of having won a hard-fought victory. Chin — who chairs the Council’s Committee on Aging — thanked Johnson for supporting senior programming. “Last year, we were able to get the city, the mayor to get more funding,” she said. “He put in $10 million of perma-

nent funding for senior centers. So this senior center will get more money for the center and staff. We can’t let the center close. No way!” she shouted. She asked those present, “Let us know what else you need!” Chin also revealed, on personal note, that she just got her senior MetroCard. Johnson asked for a show of hands for those who went to City Hall, acknowledging the importance of that effort. “At a time when it’s hard to look at the news every day, here’s something we should feel good about,” he said. “Enjoy the Judith White Senior Center. It’s not going anywhere.” After the meeting concluded, with a round of accolades and thank-yous, the center’s members swarmed Johnson. TheVillager.com


POLICE B L O T T E R Electrocuted A maintenance worker died Monday morning July 16 after accidentally touching a live wire inside 36 Grove St., near Bleecker St., police said. The New York Post reported the 40-year-old man touched the wrong wire and was electrocuted. A police spokesperson said the victim was doing work inside an “electric box” at the building, which is a “construction site.” The victim was taken to Lenox Health Greenwich Village, at 12th St. and Seventh Ave., where he was pronounced dead. Police did not release the victim’s name.

Drugsbnb On Wed., July 11 around 6 p.m., a 32-year-old man returned from vacation to his apartment at 133 W. 13th St. to find the locks changed and a stranger inside, according to police. A responding officer eventually entered the apartment and confirmed that a person was in there unlawfully. Upon further investigation, the trespasser had taken down a wall that separated the apartment from the one next door, and he was unlawfully using both apartments. A large quantity of controlled substances was seen in plain view in both places, police said, along with drug paraphernalia used for drug manufacturing

and packaging. Police said they arrested Sean Kane, 32, the same day for felony burglary.

Slugger mugger At midnight on Thurs., July 12, on the sidewalk at W. Fourth St. and Sixth Ave., a man, 54, was walking toward the subway station when he was approached by a would-be mugger demanding money, police said. When the man refused, the thug punched him in the face, causing substantial pain to his left cheek. “You’re lucky I don’t choke you to death,” the assailant threatened him, before walking away. The victim refused medical attention. The same day, Keith Furman, 48, was arrested for attempted felony robbery.

to the Village’s Sixth precinct. The demand note was also retrieved as evidence, along with a small quantity of alleged crack cocaine and $727 of the original stolen $850. John Sidney, 46, was arrested for felony bank robbery.

Houston ouch’in’ A woman, 22, who tried to stop a dispute on the sidewalk in front of 108 W. Houston St. on Sat., July 14, around 3 a.m., got punched in the face by a man, causing pain and swelling to her jaw, according to police. Video footage was obtained from the Blue Haven Bar, and Todd Thurman, 37, was arrested for misdemeanor assault.

Mad dad Nab bank robber A man walked into the Chase Bank at 340 Sixth Ave., at W. Fourth St., on Sat., July 14, around 11:30 a.m., and passed a note to the teller demanding cash, police said. The teller complied and gave him $850 in cash. The robber then fled in a yellow cab. After an investigation, police arrested him in front of 590 Gates Ave., a residential building in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Video evidence was retrieved and passed

On Tuesday, police arrested a man who brandished a knife at another straphanger aboard a northbound E train at W. Fourth St. on Sun., June 24, around 3:30 p.m. According to the New York Post, a 45-yearold man complained to a man with a toddler in stroller after seeing him allegedly hit the child, and an argument started. “The suspect went ballistic, repeatedly telling his critic to ‘Suck my d—k!’” the Post said. When the train arrived at the station,

the man — who police believe is the child’s dad — kept the doors open, and while displaying the blade, challenged the other man to step out onto the platform and fight him. Before letting the train doors close, he spit at the other man. Police said Edgar Rodriguez, 23, of Roosevelt Island, was arrested for two counts of endangering a child’s welfare, plus menacing and criminal possession of a weapon.

Dead man ID’d A man who was found in Chinatown on Sun., July 8, and later pronounced dead has been identified. The victim was found around 3:50 p.m. unconscious and unresponsive with trauma near 64 Henry St. E.M.S. medics transported him to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased. According to police, on Sat., July 14, the man’s sister positively ID’d him as Kevin Wang, age 60. Police did not say if the man lived in Lower Manhattan and no address was given. There does not appear to be any criminality, according to a police spokesperson.

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July 19, 2018

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PHOTOS BY MILO HESS

Like, totally Bugging out on Governors Island The NYC Volkswagen Traffic Jam motored onto the usually car-free Governors Island on Sun., July 8. There were classic Beetles a.k.a. “Bugs,” mostly from the ’70s, but some dating all the way back to the late ’50s. There were also V W buses and the lower-slung, spor tylooking Karmann Ghias.

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July 19, 2018

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Kenmare nightmare among L shutdown worries LTRAIN continued from p. 1

turns into Kenmare. “That is a very challenging corridor to deal with,” Aaron Sugiura, D.O.T. director of transit policy and planning, said at Board 3’s July 10 Transportation Committee meeting. “It’s one of the terrible gifts that our forefathers left us with — dumping Delancey St. out into a street that’s 40-feet wide. We have to deal with that.” Kenmare St. currently runs two-way with two travel lanes, plus two lanes that are used for travel or parking. To add a bus lane, D.O.T. is proposing two possible options. One would include two traffic lanes — with one lane going in each direction — and one bus lane, plus a parking or loading lane on the north side. The second option would scrap eastbound traffic entirely, maintaining a lane for travel or parking on the street’s south side. A separate change would restrict left turns from Lafayette St. onto Kenmare, and add pedestrian space at Petrosino Square, in response to voiced concerns that traffic turning from Lafayette onto Kenmare often veers into the westbound lane to make the sharp turn more easily. However, the second option and the Petrosino Square proposal, “would be a disaster,” according to Georgette Fleischer. “How can our fire engines get where they need to go?” said Fleischer, president of the Friends of Lt. Petrosino Square. “Closing it off is not a solution.” More than five years ago, a fire at 41 Spring St. killed one person, burning her beyond recognition. Fleischer said blocking eastbound traffic on Kenmare St. would make it harder for first responders to access the narrow streets in that neck of the neighborhood. Already, she sees firefighters turn left down Lafayette St. going in the wrong direction against traffic from the Ladder 20 firehouse at 253 Lafayette St. “It’s already a crisis point in terms of emergency vehicles getting where they need to go,” Fleischer said, adding the neighborhood was traumatized after the 2013 fatal arson incident at 41 Spring. One-third of vehicles on Kenmare St. are going to or coming from the Holland Tunnel, with a majority of the traffic heading westbound, according to D.O.T. The department predicts HOV3 (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. — another part of the L shutdown mitigation plan — would cut traffic by 75 percent on Kenmare St. Small business owners are also concerned the added traffic on Kenmare would make it more difficult to get deliveries and negatively impact them. At least two people proposed bus routes that would avoid Kenmare St. altogether, including Michele Varian, founder of the

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COURTESY NYC D.O.T.

To better accommodate a plan to increase bus routes during the planned L train shutdown, the Depar tment of Transpor tation is proposing two options for Kenmare St. One scenario would preser ve two-way traffic on the street, while the other would make the street westbound only.

Downtown Independent Business Alliance. Stores on all the streets that intersect Kenmare St. will have difficulty receiving deliveries, she said. Meanwhile, the added bus traffic and the droves of commuters, Varian and other small business owners fear, will deter people from coming into their businesses. “It will also become a pedestrian deterrent,” Varian said by e-mail, “in that the wall of buses and people unloading and waiting for buses, it will be difficult to cross and navigate.” Some people at the two community board meetings asked D.O.T. and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for HOV-3 implementation at all the East River bridges — even 24 hours a day rather than the current 17-hour scheme that is planned. But D.O.T. representatives argued that would extend the traffic impacts into Long Island and Westchester — increasing the “stakeholder reach” for an already unprecedented and massive undertaking. “To be honest, I was taken aback when they said there were too many stakeholders,” said Kate Birmingham, a Stuyvesant Town resident and community activist. “We should be looking at what’s best for New York City as a whole.” The planned HOV-3 hours of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the Williamsburg Bridge were better than she expected. However, she and others, particularly on the Lower East Side, want to see the HOV3 enforcement around-the-clock, seven days a week. “Whatever we can do to break that habit is a good thing for everyone,” Bir-

mingham stressed. “Not just for me, not just for some stakeholders, but for everyone.” Meanwhile, the planned 14th St. “busway” between Third and Eighth Aves. during the hours of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. would still allow local access along the crosstown corridor. The city explained that for-hire vehicles and commercial trucks would be allowed to turn onto the busway, but then would have to turn off the crosstown artery onto the next immediate avenue. Enforcement would be done through bus-lane cameras and police. According to D.O.T.’s analysis, the majority of pickups and drop-offs occur on the avenues. The local-access policy is a response to extensive feedback from the public, notably the 14th St. Coalition, which is suing the M.T.A. and D.O.T. over the mitigation plan. The coalition raised concerns about preserving local access to 14th St. for deliveries, for-hire vehicles and personal vehicles for residents with private garages. Requests for more electric buses — or at least compressed natural-gas buses — was another top concern at the Board 2 and 3 Transportation Committee meetings. However, the critical issue is a lack of depot space and infrastructure, according to an M.T.A. representative at the meetings. In short, electric buses take hours to charge, which would take the vehicles out of circulation for bus routes that need the maximum amount of capacity during the L train shutdown. Buses are far more efficient than cars

since they each hold 60 to 70 people. And the M.T.A. reiterated that the buses would meet 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. Nevertheless, the community’s fears about how air quality and, as a result, their health would be impacted during the 15-month L shutdown remain. Also under the plan, various spots in Manhattan would see expanded pedestrian space — including at Union Square, University Place, and Sixth Ave. and 14th St. With changing usage along 14th St., D.O.T. predicts pedestrians will increase by 139 percent — more than doubling the amount of foot traffic, nearing pedestrian volumes seen in Midtown at 34th and 42nd Sts. at Sixth Ave. Along the 14th St. corridor, pedestrian volume at Union Square and Eighth Ave. would increase by 53 and 76 percent, respectively, under the plan, D.O.T. predicts. The shutdown is slated to begin next April for 15 months. New street markings are expected to be in place by this coming November. In the meantime, community organizations are staying vigilant as the shutdown nears in the coming months, many calling this a crisis moment for the neighborhood. “This is an emergency for Downtown Manhattan,” Pete Davies, a longtime Soho community activist, told Board 2’s July 12 Transportation Committee meeting. “Fifteen months will be the death of a small business that is heavily impacted,” he warned about the Kenmare St. bus loops. “We need resources to deal with this.”

July 19, 2018

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Bruce Davis, founder, face of 1-800-LAWYERS OBITUARIES BY GABE HERMAN

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ruce Davis, the founder of the 1-800-LAWYERS line for locals to get legal help, and the face of its commercials for years, who was also a longtime Village resident, died recently in his Village home, on W. 10th St., at age 71. The path for Davis to strike it rich with 1-800-LAWYERS began in the late 1970s when he had just graduated from law school and a Harvard grad friend of his brother’s had secured 212-HARVARD. It occurred to Davis to acquire 212-LAWYERS. The number turned out to be for a pay phone at JFK Airport, but he was able to get it from the phone company. Davis, a personal injury lawyer, then began his late-night ads in search of clients. “I made that my business phone right away,” he told the East Hampton Star in 2004. “From that moment I haven’t had a bad week in 25 years.” Eventually, Davis got the bigger idea to get the 1-800-LAWYERS number, which was more challenging because it was owned by a South Dakota phone company that asked for excessive fees.

Davis sued and got the number. Davis would eventually give up practicing law and focus on leasing 1-800-LAWYERS to local law firms nationwide. A 2012 blog post by Bruce Davis Enterprises Inc., noted that, “The individual firms then use the number to bring in injured parties to help win their case… . Each firm that 1-800-LAWYERS is leased to is limited to the agreed area where the calls are redirected from. This is to keep other firms from taking cases away from each other.” While in South Dakota, Davis met his future wife, Pamala. They married in 1993 and had three children together. In recent years they were involved in ongoing divorce proceedings, which included Pamala charging last year that she had been tricked into a bad postnuptial agreement, according to the Daily News. That issue was settled and the divorce has been waiting for a judge’s final approval, a lawyer for Pamala told the Daily News. Davis was close with his younger brother, Jonathan, and mother, Yvette, and all three lived near each other in Greenwich Village for many years, according to neighbor LindaAnn LoSchiavo. “They were always very family-oriented,” she said. “They saw each other a lot.” According to LoSchiavo, Bruce’s mother lived in Brooklyn and visited her sons often before Bruce moved her to the Village. The sons would arrange for a

Bruce Davis in one of his commercials for 1-800-L AW YERS.

friend to drive her back to Brooklyn, and LoSchiavo fondly remembered talking with Yvette while she waited in the lobby for her ride. “A lovely, affectionate, supportive mother,” LoSchiavo said. LoSchiavo recalled Davis and his family being very fond of animals of all kinds. “Bruce really loved and doted on animals,” she said. “At various times, Bruce owned a toy poodle, an English Mastiff, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, a potbellied pig and cats.” Davis often hosted nightly gatherings with friends at local favorite spots in the Village, according to LoSchiavo, who

said that for a time it was at Marylou’s, a now-closed Italian restaurant on W. Ninth St. that often hosted celebrities and was a former speakeasy. After the closing of Marylou’s, the regular spot became French Roast, a 24-hour French restaurant on Sixth Ave. and W. 11 St., also since closed. Bruce Davis moved his mother nearby in the Village after making his fortune from 1-800-LAWYERS, said LoSchiavo. “Not many sons strike it rich and immediately relocate their mother to fancy digs across the street,” she said. “I think it says a lot about him.”

Alan Whelan, 79, bar owner, rugby team founder

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lan Whelan, a Dublin-born man who founded the Village Lions Rugby Football Club out of his Red Lion Pub in Greenwich Village, has died at the age of 79. He had battled cancer for 10 years. Surviving Whelan, who lived in Manhasset, N.Y., are his wife Fran and son Sean. “All of the Lions are heartbroken to learn of our founder’s passing,” said Quin Works, the Village Lions president. “Alan Whelan was the heart and soul of the Village Lions from the day he launched the club three decades ago until his death.” Born in 1939, Whelan had excelled at one of Ireland’s major rugby universities, St. Mary’s College, playing flanker, and joined the Shirley Wanderers after moving to London. The club owned an old airplane hangar, and held uproarious post-match parties in the mammoth space. Whelan loved hosting the visiting team, as rugby traditions go, for food, drink, socializing and song after the match. He joined the New York Rugby Club when he arrived in the U.S. When Whelan’s playing days wound down, he helped coach the New York University Medical School team, whose players often hung

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July 19, 2018

After selling his Village bars, Alan Whelan became less involved with rugby and turned to his other passion, fishing.

out at the Red Lion, at Bleecker and Thompson Sts. He had also launched the St. Francis College rugby club in Brooklyn in 1971, and the St. John’s University squad in Queens a year later. Whelan created the Village Lions in 1989, much of the team made up of bartenders and bouncers at the Red Lion and his nearby music joint, the Lion’s Den, on Sullivan St., which closed in 2007. “The prerequisites to working at the Red Lion was, you had to play rugby, regardless of whether you had a cooking

diploma or not,” Whelan said. “If you wanted a job in the kitchen, you had to play rugby.” The Village Lions won the Metropolitan New York Division III title in 1990, and developed a reputation for offering the best post-match food-and-drink spread in New York, at one of Whelan’s Downtown pubs. The Lions again won their league championship in 1991, and earned a spot in New York’s Division II. Whelan’s Lions would not be stopped. They romped through Division II in 1992 with a 7-1 record, and were promoted to Division I in 1993. Whelan emerged as a central figure in the city’s rugby scene. “There Alan was, this madman down in the Village,” said Ed Hagerty, former editor in chief of Rugby Magazine. “And I say that in the most reverential terms. Alan thought, ‘Here’s this neat thing.’ He wanted people to experience it, and they flocked to it.” Tougher times followed for the club, and Whelan was less of a presence around the Lions. He sold his bars and was mostly at home on Long Island, where he partook in his other passion, fishing. These days, the Lions have a team in New York’s second and third divisions,

and a thriving women’s club, as well. Both the men and women field seven-aside teams in the summer. In a nod to their founder’s hosting skills, the Lions host two tournaments. Thousands of players worldwide, from some 46 countries, fondly recall their time playing with the Village Lions. The Lions were always close to Whelan’s heart, and club members remain thankful to him for starting it all. Said Village Lions president Works, “We’ll think of Alan whenever the Lions are together, and we’ll play hard, and host with similar ardor, to forever honor Alan Whelan’s indomitable spirit.” Reflecting on the Village Lions Rugby Club, Whelan mentioned how the players, in the club’s earliest days, were a frequent target for more established rugby clubs looking to absorb the Lions into their fold. “They’d come to me and say, Why don’t you throw your lot in with us, we have Division I status, you have a lot of bodies, a lot of young guys,” Whelan said. “I basically told them all, We’re not joining anybody, we’re not changing our colors, we’re not changing our name. We are the Lions. We’re gonna stay the Lions and we’re gonna die the Lions.” TheVillager.com


Filomena Vitrano, 96, the owner of The Bagel BY GABE HERMAN

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ilomena Vitrano, owner of the beloved Village restaurant The Bagel, at 170 W. Fourth St., for 34 years before its closing in 2003, and a lifelong Village resident, died on July 11 at 96 years old. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Anthony’s Church, at 155 Sullivan St., on Sat., July 21, at 10 a.m. Filomena was a lifelong Village resident, born on Thompson St. and then living on Prince St. for her last 75 years, according to son Peter. She was active in the community, working the polls during elections for 25 years for the Board of Elections, and volunteering at the nearby senior center at Our Lady of Pompeii Church, at Carmine and Bleecker Sts. Every weekday after working at The Bagel, she would head over to the nearby church to serve food to seniors, “who were younger than her,” Peter noted. Peter recalled that it was never made into a big deal when a celebrity came into the eatery. There were no photos taken to be put on the wall, for example. “It was a very friendly place,” he said. “Everybody knew everybody. Most of the people that came in there were all artists in one field or another.” Some of the famous faces included John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker. Ellen Barkin worked there for two years, “who we hired right off the street,” recalled Peter, before she made it as an actor. “Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel used to be there all the time,” he added. The Bagel, established in 1957, can even be considered part of film history, as De Niro would go there while he was gaining weight for his part in “Raging Bull.” “He was eating like three orders of pancakes and eggs, he was trying to fatten up,” Peter said. Before owning The Bagel for more than three decades, Filomena was the manager at the location’s previous incarnation as a delicatessen, according to Peter, which the actors still came to. “My mother has stories of Steve McQueen,” he said. “He used to run up a tab and pay at the end of the week.”

VILLAGER FILE PHOTO BY ELISABETH ROBERT

Filomena Vitrano in a 2003 ar ticle in The Villager on The Bagel’s closing.

“It was really a very ‘in’ place,” said Peter, who managed The Bagel and ran all of its daily operations during its final 10 years. “It was great energy.” He noted that the shop’s full name was The Bagel Restaurant. “It wasn’t that we had all kinds of bagels,” he noted. “It’s just that you got a bagel with everything you ordered,” including all types of omelettes, eggs, pancakes, French toast and more. It was a small shop, with a charcoal grill by the window and long weekend lines of eager customers. Once they got in, people wouldn’t spend a long time in The Bagel

because of its high demand. “When people were eating, they knew to get up quick, because they know how it is to wait,” Peter remembered. “She was a very easy person,” he said. “Usually other people would start conversations. She had a lot of charisma around people, people liked her… . I used to come up to the apartment and there’d be an actress sitting on the couch.” Filomena was quick to help and praise others. “Peter does everything here,” she told The Villager in a 2003 article by Albert Amateau on The Bagel’s closing. “He’s a perfectionist. If anyone is responsible for our reputation, it’s Peter.” In the same Villager article, Filomena was proud of helping her employees to find new jobs. “Nick Spadafora — he’s been here 25 years — he has a new job too,” she said. At its closing, a waitress named Liz had worked there for three years, “but it seems like I’ve always been here,” she told The Villager at the time. “I told Peter I wanted to be here when I’m 65 and I’m kind of mad that it won’t happen.” Filomena received a Village Award in 1993 from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation for The Bagel’s longevity. The shop would eventually close 10 years later when its lease was not renewed by the building owner, who also owns the next-door Tio Pepe Spanish restaurant. Filomena is survived by another son, Robert — a third son died at age 58 of lung cancer — and three grandchildren. In her retirement years after The Bagel’s closing, Filomena remained at her place on Prince St. near the corner of Thompson St.

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July 19, 2018

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Subscribe to The Villager

Lycra-clad speed freaks

Cuomo only wants votes

To The Editor: Re “A wheel mess: C.B. 2 says widen park path” (news article, July 12): Men in Lycra biking clothing need to be informed the bike path is not there for their use exclusively, which is how they ride. They can’t quite get that it is not a racetrack made for them exclusively. I haven’t biked the path in a couple of years because they made it a bit scary. If you’re not going as fast as them, you’re just a pain in their ass, and they let you know it — just like the loop in Central Park. Maybe the city should create a separate path for them: How about on Governors Island where they can bike their fannies off and not bother the rest of us?

To The Editor: Re “Pulse park memorial highlights ‘inner light’” (news article, July 5): Good reporting. Curious when the metal barriers will be removed. This park is nothing more than a vote-grab by Cuomo for his reelection campaign, and when he runs for POTUS in 2020.

Diane Wildowsky

Just a lot of double-talk

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

We cover “The Cube”!

To The Editor: Re “C’mon, Gjonaj, don’t lie” (letter, by Marni Halasa, July 12): Don’t expect any real help from Mark Gjonaj, the new chairperson of the City Council’s Small Business Committee, who owns his own real estate firm and received huge amounts of real estate campaign contributions. He is on record being opposed to the Small Business Jobs Survival Act or any legislation regulating landlords. That is exactly why he is chairperson of the Small Business Committee. Gjonaj is perfect for big real estate to distract the public away from landlords demanding sky-high rents and forcing long-established businesses to close. It’s all just double-talk and disingenuous claims of wanting to help small businesses. Steve Barrison Barrison is co-chairperson, Coalition To Save NYC Small Businesses

SOUND OFF!

Michael Petrelis Editor’s note: The metal fences around the memorial were removed last week.

Freelancers fighting back To The Editor: Re “Law helps freelancers collect from deadbeats” (talking point, by Mary Reinholz, July 4): Because of space limitations, this writer didn’t mention all the unfair and arbitrary things that can happen to freelancers, like bosses suddenly terminating longtime freelance contributors without a word of explanation. “They don’t have to give an explanation,” claimed a New York University journalism professor who has been a freelancer for 40 years and claims he’s had the experience of editors who just stop assigning work more times than he can count. These people seem to think freelancers have no rights at all. My article on the Freelance Isn’t Free Act suggests that dated notion may be on its way out. Mary Reinholz 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.

Write a letter to the editor news@thevillager.com

EVAN FORSCH

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July 19, 2018

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Shoeless soccer: A cautionary World Cup tale RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY

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hy didn’t the American men’s soccer team make it to the World Cup finals...or even the semifinals? Simple: Because kids in America grow up playing soccer in shoes. Oh, that’s not the whole answer, of course. But after literally decades of coaching youth soccer, Carlo Celli and Nathan Richardson (language professors by day) had a revelation. It came on a morning when they were about to put some talented 9-year-old boys through the usual drills. But that day a couple of the boys happened to bring along their kid sisters. Another one had a friend with him who hadn’t played soccer before. The coaches’ plans went out the window. Instead, they threw up their hands and told the kids, O.K., just play. They thought it would be a wasted session. Instead, it was Edison flipping a switch. The kids did “just play.” And in amazement, the coaches watched them becoming more creative in their moves than ever before. They were concentrating better. They were energized and excited. And when the hour was up, they didn’t want to leave.

It was the difference between practicing musical scales and jamming with friends. That morning changed everything, as the coaches write in their new book, “Shoeless Soccer: Fixing the System and Winning the World Cup.” After a few of these free-form sessions, “We no longer needed to set up goals or even pick teams,” they write. “The kids arrived, organized themselves, and started to play and create their own games. A couple of parents stood to the side, in case we were needed, which rarely occurred.” Celli realized that he should never spend “another minute lecturing the kids about strategies or running drills. As coach, I should let the kids play.” His goal was not just to see kids have more fun. He’s a coach, after all. He

believes in the game, not just messing around. But through fun, the kids were getting the lessons he couldn’t teach them formally. “As the kids were left alone, the quality of play actually increased,” the coaches explain. I spoke to Celli from his summer home in Italy last week. He grew up bouncing between there and the States. “When it comes down to it, I’m still that kid playing soccer in the street with my friends,” he said. “That’s where I really learned all I know about the game.” Playing on asphalt or a patch of scrabbly grass far from any parent or coach is how most of the world’s kids start playing soccer. But in America, Celli has seen the rise of what he calls the soccer-industrial complex. At age 3 or 4 or 5, kids are already in a league. As they grow older, the distances grow, too. “The amount of travel kids do to play in sports is insane,” Celli said. “The kids are spending more time in the car than playing the game, and that’s just wrong.” What they’re actually learning, he said, is how to sit in the car. In many American youth soccer leagues, he said, the price tag can reach $700 for a season. There are the uniforms to buy. The shin guards. The trophies. The team photos. The membership fees. And then there are the shoes, which Celli and Richardson have come to distrust. “Pele learned to play barefoot. His

name was ‘The Shoeless One,’ ” said Celli. Not that he really expects kids to ditch their sneakers and cleats, but when you are barefoot and kick the ball with your toe, you don’t keep doing that for long, because it hurts. It’s basically stubbing your toe. Instead, you instinctively learn to kick the ball correctly. But the less-is-more approach teaches kids skills that they can take off the field, too, like leadership, and self-control. “If you have a referee, it kind of makes people think, ‘The game will be controlled. I don’t really have to behave myself,’ ” Celli noted. When the kids have to decide among themselves whether someone fouled, they become the adults. Organized soccer is also strictly stratified by age, which makes no sense. “When you’re a kid, you naturally admire someone who’s two years older than you,” he noted. “The adults are like aliens.” In a gaggle of neighborhood friends, the younger kids copy the older ones. It’s a lot easier to try to keep up with a friend than to concentrate on a lesson. Even in Italy, Celli fears the old, freeform, spontaneous street soccer is disappearing. “I went back to my elementary school and we saw all these after-school programs for kids,” he said. They’re run by adults. The kids are wearing shoes. Watch out, Italy. When America goes shoeless, we’re coming for the Cup. Skenazy is president, Let Grow, and founder, Free-Range Kids

Tenants’ battle, Bella, Koch, ‘Klute’ and convicts FLASHBACK BY GABE HERMAN

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he July 15, 1971, issue of The Villager featured an article on a block party and paint-in at the corner of Hudson and West 10th Sts. to protest a landlord accused of not providing repairs to several nearby buildings. More than 100 people attended the weekend party, including 40 families who were on a rent strike since the previous December in those buildings. Activities included magicians, a folk singer and painting the first floor yellow and green at the five buildings under protest. Two large signs were hung on a building reading, “Tenant Strike” and “People before Profits.” Gillian Horgan, a resident of one of the buildings and chairperson of the tenants association, said, “We had the block party not only to celebrate, but to enlist community support for our strike, and to help organize other buildings in the area.” Another article was about Congressmember Bella Abzug, “Battling Bella,” and her busy speaking schedule, as she called for more daycare facilities, announced funds for a new federal building, and told the National Women’s Political Caucus in D.C. that TheVillager.com

women should reject “tokenism” and require equal representation at all levels of government. The Page 1 photo (above) showed Abzug from the rear, wearing one of her trademark big hats, while passionately

leaning forward as she spoke — but didn’t show her face; the caption asked readers if they could possibly guess who it might be. Also, work was set to begin on mosaic artwork in Washington Square Park at the Teenage Plaza; an exprostitute called for prostitution to be decriminalized and said the problem of addiction among prostitutes needed to be addressed; two new members were appointed to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, created in 1965; and then-Congressmember Ed Koch announced that women inmates at Rikers Island would have access to college courses. Villagers’ concern about female inmates’ welfare had been heightened after the closure the previous month of the Women’s House of Detention at Greenwich and Sixth Aves. The issue included ads for Monte’s, the trattoria still going strong at 97 MacDougal St., a showing of the recently released “Klute” at one of the local Cinema5 / Rugoff Theatres, and several ads for Nat Simon’s Penguin, a steakhouse at 21 W. Ninth St., with a picture of a smiling woman and reading, “The first lady of the second most charming restaurant in the whole world. Bring Nat Simon this picture of his wife and he’ll probably send wine to your table. He’s crazy about her.” July 19, 2018

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PHOTOS BY BOB KRASNER

The bodypainted par ticipants paraded in all their color ful glor y through the Village, later touring around in a double-decker, open-top bus.

Talk about a body of work! Baring all for art BY BOB KR ASNER

F

ifty artists, 60 models, 300 containers of paint, God knows how many photographers, and no clothes in Washington Square Park — it must be the NYC Bodypainting Day! It was the event’s fifth year, but only the second occupying the park, after previously being held Uptown. Models came in every variety — ages,

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shapes, sizes and gender. The only constant was the oft-repeated sentiment that they were proud to be a canvas for some beautiful art. Artist Andy Golub, who organizes the whole shebang, couldn’t be happier about the day. “I stood under the arch,” he said, “surrounded by naked people singing ‘Imagine’ and I thought, I don’t know how life can get much better.”

TheVillager.com


Photo by Jonathan Smith

L to R: Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson and Shake Baker. “Tevye Served Raw” is at the Playroom Theater through Aug. 14.

From hilarious comedy to the depths of tragedy ‘Tevye’ serves suitably ‘raw’ homage to the greatest of Yiddish writers BY TRAV S.D. In the middle of this year of grim golden anniversaries of assassinations, and riots and strife, it’s well to remember some positive things that were happening in 1968. For example, that year the original Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof” was two-thirds of the way through its record-setting, six-year run. Based on the Yiddish “Tevye the Dairyman” stories of Sholem Aleichem (Solomon Rabinovich, 1859-1916), “Fiddler” was not just an award-winning box office hit — it was a groundbreaking cultural event, the first mainstream pop cultural depiction of Eastern European Jewry as it existed before World War II. It seems strange to imagine a time (and so recent a time) when theatrical producers actually worried that “Fiddler on the Roof” might be “too Jewish” for mainstream audiences. For some contemporary producers, apparently, it’s not Jewish enough! The National Yiddish TheVillager.com

Theatre Folksbiene is presently showing an all-Yiddish version of the musical, translated from the English version by Shagra Friedman, and playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage through Sept. 2. And the Congress for Jewish Culture is currently presenting a production called “Tevye Served Raw” at the Playroom Theater through Aug. 14. “Tevye Served Raw” is the artistic brainchild of a trio: the husband-wife acting team of Allen Lewis Rickman and Yelena Shmulenson (best known as the Yiddish-speaking couple in the prologue to the Coen Brothers’ 2009 film “A Serious Man”) and Shane Baker, who styles himself “the best-loved Episcopalian on the Yiddish stage today.” All three act in the production, which consists of adaptations of Aleichem’s stories by Rickman and Baker, as well as some scenes from Aleichem’s own theatrical dramatization of the Tevye stories. Some portions of the show feature

spoken English translation, others make use of supertitles. Rickman directed the show, which, in contrast with the current Folksbiene production, is a showcase for Aleichem’s original Yiddish voice. “[The Public Theater’s] Joseph Papp called Yiddish the perfect language for the theatre,” Rickman said. “Our use of the word ‘raw’ in the title means ‘unprocessed.’ This is the organic, macrobiotic, sustainable version,” he joked. “Everyone in this production is a genuine Yiddish speaker. Yiddish is unbelievably expressive and musical and only someone who really speaks it can tap into that.” Though Baker is a gentile who hails from Kansas, Rickman singled him out for specific praise, saying, “Shane may be the most fluent Yiddish speaker I’ve ever heard. He speaks the most gorgeous, idiomatic Yiddish.” Rickman’s father was a native Yiddish speaker from Poland; Schulenson was born in Belarus and grew up in Ukraine.

The current production grew out of Baker’s appearances at Aleichem’s yahrzeit, annual bereavement ceremonies honoring the deceased in the Jewish tradition. Aleichem’s will requested readings of his stories at this ceremony each year. Baker had been brought in to interpret the tales several years in a row, and a theatre piece grew out of that experience, with a view to presenting something by 2016, the 100th anniversary of Aleichem’s death. Versions of the show have been presented in Australia, Canada, Israel, and Ukraine. The pieces range from hilarious comedy to the depths of tragedy — or, as the ads promise, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll krechtz.” One special gem, called “A Stepmother’s Trash-Talk,” depicts the process by which Aleichem became a writer: He created an alphabet book based on his stepmother’s curses. Other TEVYE continued on p. 17 July 19, 2018

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Music married to film: The iconic scores of Nino Rota Lincoln Center outdoor concert celebrates Rota, Coppola, Fellini BY GERALD BUSBY Italian composer Nino Rota’s most haunting and iconic film scores are being presented in concert, July 27 in Damrosch Park, as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival. “Hal Willner’s Amarcord Nino Rota” — a reference to music producer Willner’s 1981 tribute album, “Amarcord Nino Rota (I Remember Nino Rota)” — will feature music written for Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and “Juliet of the Spirits,” as well as Coppola’s “Godfather” fi lms. These classics are unimaginable without Rota’s music. Setting moving pictures to music is like setting poetry to music, and Rota’s fi lm scores for Fellini and Coppola are perfect examples. It vivifies the images on screen, while simultaneously creating a context within which the viewer perceives meaning. Nino Rota’s film music, provided it’s clearly amplified, loses none of its effectiveness when heard in the open air, as it will be in the Damrosch Park Bandshell. Rota’s music creates its own emotional environment. In his Norton Lectures at Harvard, Leonard Bernstein said that the next note a composer writes in a musical phrase should be both inevitable and a surprise. Effective musical phrases are a reminder that perception itself is a creative act that transcends emotional reactivity. Rota demonstrates this vividly in his scores for the “Godfather” films, using just four pitches in a seven-note phrase to personify loss, suffering, and vengeance. An origin of this raw emotional music is, I think, Muslim calls to prayer that emanate from the voices of muezzins in minarets. This unrestrained singing from the gut, produced instinctively by tension in the throat and larynx, is like no other human utterance — it’s a primal

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Courtesy of Lincoln Center

“Hal Willner’s Amarcord Nino Rota” is musical tribute to the Italian composer, known for his work with Fellini and Coppola.

scream that emerges from the viscera with twisted emotional drama. Rota also draws heavily on circus music. Especially in his scores for Fellini, there’s a bouncing, playful, primal energy that propels the action forward. It also reminds us that we’re just characters acting out our individual soap operas for others to mock or admire. Rota sets this mood perfectly in “Juliet of the Spirits” with an oom-pah, oom-pah bass line, moving at a steady walking pace. This familiar tuba figure alternates

between “do” and “sol.” The instrumentation is simple: melodeon, trumpet, trombone, tuba, and percussion. Rota’s textures make use of musical clichés — phrases that everyone recognizes, but, as Leonard Bernstein said, even though you think you’ve heard it before, it still surprises you. The music suddenly takes off, double time, as if announcing a new circus act that is clamoring for attention as it enters the center ring. Calliope-like textures cascade chromatically down the scales, highlighted by the tinkling bell-like

sounds of the xylophone. It’s breathless, almost frenetic, and it never fails to reach a climax at exactly the right time. The rhythms, though faster, are still in two. You’re never out of step dancing to a duple rhythm. As I write this, I’m listening to Rota’s film music for “Juliet of the Spirits.” Cues are built on a binary form: sequence and cadence, which gives them a defi nite sense of designation and completion. This isn’t equivocal music at all — it’s very specific with reference to the images it’s

ornamenting. It incites an immediacy, a lively presence, that is irresistible. Rota’s cues are “theme” music, in the formidable tradition of Hollywood films, where the theme is often a song that becomes as famous as the movie. An example of this is David Raskin’s “Laura,” composed for the 1944 fi lm of the same name, directed by Otto Preminger. Raskin freely quotes, within his original film score, from Ravel’s “Daphne and Chloé Suite No. NINO ROTA continued on p. 17 TheVillager.com


Photos by Jonathan Smith

L to R: Shane Baker, Allen Lewis Rickman and Yelena Shmulenson. TEVYE continued from p. 15

sections, with titles like “Strange Jews on a Train” and “The Yiddish Sisyphus,” remind us why Sholem Aleichem was known as “the Jewish Mark Twain.” But never far away are harsh realities. “Aleichem and the people who wrote ‘Fiddler’ were writing for two entirely different audiences,” Rickman said. “The outlook of the shtetl is not the same as the outlook of a Long Island housewife. So Aleichem’s original stories got whitewashed when they made the musical. The ugliness and the horror of the pogroms got covered up. In real life, interfaith marriages were outlawed in Russia. A Jew would have to convert to

NINO ROTA continued from p. 16

2.” Ravel’s music is the inspiration for “Laura.” It’s unforgettable. Rota’s score for Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” is married to the fi lm. Once the film enters your consciousness, you can’t hear the music without imagining the film, and vice versa. The same is true for Rota’s music for “The Godfather” — the quintessential expression of intense yearning. The ways the creative energies of Coppola’s film and Rota’s music intermingle isn’t TheVillager.com

Christianity. You weren’t allowed to convert to Judaism.” So tears flow between belly laughs in this faithful homage to the greatest of Yiddish writers. And, while it’s not a musical, there is one lovely song, a lullaby sung by Schulenson, with lyrics by Aleichem. With very little imagination one can picture this bare-bones, but highly skilled production, touring on the back of a wagon from village to village across the Pale of Settlement. It’s not possible to be more authentic. Sun., Mon. and Tues. at 7pm, through Aug. 14, at the Playroom Theater (151 W. 46th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.). For tickets ($38), visit TevyeServedRaw. com or call 800-838-3006.

easily understood or explained, but they’re felt as keenly as the most intimate, thrilling sex. Fri., July 27, 7:30pm at Damrosch Park (62nd St., btw. Amsterdam & Columbus Aves.). Free. Seating is first come, first served, and gates open one hour prior to the performance.This event is part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors, a festival offering of worldclass music, dance, film, and more from July 24 to Aug. 12. For the full schedule, visit lincolncenter.org/outof-doors.

Allen Lewis Rickman.

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

TNC’s Street Theater Co.

Shame! or the Doomsday Machine book and Lyrics by Crystal Field Music By Joseph Vernon Banks

all performances are FREE! FREE! FREE! Opens Sat. August 4th Right here on 10th Street July 19, 2018

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To Advertise Here Call: 646-452-2490 TheVillager.com

July 19, 2018

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NOTICE OF FORMATION OF AUDUBON PHARMACY, LLC Arts. of Org. filed with Secy. of State of NY (SSNY) on 5/24/18. Office location: NY County. SSNY designated as agent of LLC upon whom process against it may be served. SSNY shall mail process to: c/o Promesa Enterprises Ltd., 300 E. 175th St., Bronx, NY 10457. Purpose: any lawful activity. Vil: 06/14 - 07/19/2018 NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that an on-premise license, #TBA has been applied for by Counter & Bodega Inc d/b/a Counter & Bodega to sell beer, wine and liquor at retail in an on premises establishment. For on premises consumption under the ABC law at 266 West 23rd Street New York NY 10011. Vil: 07/19 - 07/26/2018 NOTICE OF FORMATION OF ABD CAPITAL HOLDINGS LLC Arts. of Org. filed with Secy. of State of NY (SSNY) on 6/25/18. Office location: NY County. SSNY designated as agent of LLC upon whom process against it may be served. SSNY shall mail process to: 235 Park Avenue South, NY, NY 10003. Purpose: any lawful activity. Vil: 07/05 - 08/09/2018 NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that a Liquor License, serial number 1311935, for beer, wine, and cider has been applied for by the undersigned to permit the sale of beer, wine, and cider at retail in a restaurant under the Alcoholic Beverages Control Law at TB Cantina LLC located at 500 8 th Avenue, New York, NY 10018 on premise consumption. TB CANTINA LLC. Vil: 07/19 - 07/26/2018 NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that a beer and wine license, #TBD, has been applied for by PAG 72nd Street Inc dba TBD, to sell beer, wine and cider at retail, in a restaurant establishment, under the ABC law, for on-premises consumption at 130 West 72nd Street, New York, NY, 10023. Vil: 07/19 - 07/26/2018 TheVillager.com

PHOTO BY GABE HERMAN

You can really get wrapped up in picking the per fectly flavored dough for your wrap at Wolfnights.

Hot new wraps & cool cookie dough EATS BY GABE HERMAN

A

gourmet wrap shop called Wolfnights had its grand opening on 235 Bleecker St. near Carmine St. last month. This is its second location after its popular original spot at 99 Rivington St. on the Lower East Side. If you can get past the term “gourmet wrap,” and the slick logo of an angry wolf that looks like it belongs on a hockey expansion team’s jersey, and the wolf-themed menu names, the food is actually quite good and offers unique flavor combinations with generous portions. Each wrap is made to order in the shop with fresh ingredients that include different flavored doughs, such as fig dough, date & pumpkin seed dough, and chestnut-andchili dough. I felt a bit silly ordering a “Teen Wolf” wrap, but it was worth it for the falafel wrap in fig dough that includes pickles and sunflower seeds. The “Brothers Grimm” is grilled chicken in chestnut-and-chili dough and includes raisins, pickled shitake mushrooms and plantain chips. My taste buds were perplexed and delighted at the same time. The small shop has a few tables but is also

good for takeout, and it’s worth noting that they don’t accept cash. The wraps can also be ordered instead as salads, and you can add a fried egg or lamb bacon in your wrap for a slight fee, though I was not adventurous enough to try those. The wraps pack enough of a flavor punch as they are, but if you just must have some lamb bacon, then by all means, heed your inner wolf. Stores come and go on Bleecker St. all the time, but Wolfnights seems to be fairly crowded so far and its longevity remains to be seen. It deserves a good run, if not for the slick wolf packaging then for the tasty wraps themselves. If you haven’t gotten the memo about how unhealthy sugar is, or like me, you just can’t help yourself, a recent dessert addition to Bleecker St. is the modestly named World’s Best Cookie Dough, which opened three months ago between Thompson and Sullivan Sts. This is the second cookie dough-themed shop in the area, so apparently it’s becoming a movement? Even after a year and a half, the first one — DO, Cookie Dough Confections, on LaGuardia Place — still has big crowds and the occasional inexplicable line up the block as tourists wait to taste what they have presumably read about in guides to the Village. World’s Best Cookie Dough on Bleecker has no such lines or fanfare, with only the

occasional customers inside when I have walked by. But their cookie dough tasted just as good to me. Perhaps my dough palette is not as refined as it should be, but still it made me quite happy, and helped me overcome my doubts about participating in any popular dessert craze. Apparently, the cold, hard truth is that sometimes trendy foods are actually quite delicious. The shop is rather bare-bones in its decoration, though it’s bright and colorful in the way you’d expect a cookie dough shop to be. The highlight in the store is the long lineup of cookie dough flavors, including chocolate brownie, red velvet, cookies and cream, and many more. They also offer cookie dough milkshakes. If partaking in an Instagram-friendly dessert trend makes you uncomfortable, just two doors down the block is Li-Lac Chocolates, which has been a Village staple at various locations for generations and opened a store at 162 Bleecker St. three years ago. Founded in 1923, Li-Lac makes oldfashioned delicious chocolate treats while allowing you to still feel you’re keeping your respectability as a true local. Some of my favorites are the marzipan rolls and PB & J bars, and you can’t go wrong with a basic chocolate kiddie pop. They also offer many novelty chocolate items, so it’s a good place to finally splurge on that King Kong-shaped block of chocolate you’ve always wanted. July 19, 2018

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Aesthetic Realism is still preaching, a bit more AESTHETIC continued from p. 1

accused Aesthetic Realism of being a cult in such ways as idealizing founder Siegel and his ideas; insistence on full devotion from members, which includes keeping a distance from outside family and friends; belief that they are being persecuted by the outside world, including the media; and a shunning of those who leave the group. Aesthetic Realism has not faced much controversy or attention in recent years, as some of their official views and policies have changed, particularly related to an early claim by the group that it could change gay people into being heterosexual through its teachings. The organization still holds regular classes, public seminars and performances open to the public that use its teachings to explore the value in art and how people can find happiness through the reconciling of opposites. A.R. was founded in 1941 by Siegel, who achieved some mainstream literary recognition, including for his “Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana” being selected the 1925 National Prize poem and receiving praise of the poem from William Carlos Williams. A.R.’s purpose, according to its Web site, “is to meet the urgent need for people throughout America and the world to see each other and reality fairly. The means to that fairness is Aesthetic Realism.” While some of the group’s language can be hard to decipher, it says that every person has an inner conflict between liking the world and having contempt for it. Finding happiness involves the putting together of opposites, which is often seen in art. One of Siegel’s principles is that, “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” A vocal critic of A.R., former member Michael Bluejay created a Web site accusing A.R. of being a cult and claiming that the group had negative emotional effects on members. He told The Villager that the teachings of A.R. are not so crazy or extreme, and people are free to believe what they want, but, in his view, it is how A.R. runs its organization that harms its members. “They hurt people, break up families,” Bluejay said. “As with a lot of cults, once you get in, your first job is to recruit your friends and family, and if you can’t recruit them, then they’re not your friends and family anymore.” Siegel committed suicide in 1978, but A.R.’s Soho presence and activities have continued, which include consultations that are its version of counseling. A.R. held a public seminar in early July, for example, titled, “How Much Feeling? — The Mix-up in Men About Coldness & Warmth.” In its building at 141 Greene St., which includes an art gallery, a full audience of about 70

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A photo from Michael Bluejay’s Web site shows him at age 12 with his aunt, who is still an Aesthetic Realism member, according to Bluejay. He wrote on his site that, in the photo, they are both wearing “ Victim of the Press” buttons, which Aesthetic Realism members donned when they felt they were not being covered fairly by The New York Times.

portraits. On the wall amid one of the collections was a statement from artists Dorothy and Chaim Koppelman, which read in part, “We learned from Eli Siegel, who was himself magnificently fair to things and to people, to ask: What do things deserve? The desire to know things, to value an object truly, to give it one’s attention, is the opponent of contempt, the ‘addition of self through the lessening of something else.’ Studying an object is, as Eli Siegel said, ‘a stepping stone to liking the world’ — and to liking yourself at the same time.” According to the statement, Dorothy and Chaim were born in 1920. Dorothy is still alive and Chaim died in 2009. Carl Rosenstein, director of the Puffin Room art gallery in Soho from the mid-1990s to 2010, said he knew the Koppelmans through community activism and exhibiting their artwork in his shows.

‘They hurt people, break up families.’ Michael Bluejay

Another picture of former Aesthetic Realism member Michael Bluejay with members of the Soho-based group when he was 12 years old. “Here’s a photo of my aunt, a friend, me and another friend, ever y last one of us dutifully wearing our ‘Victim of the Press’ buttons,” he wrote on his Web site.

faced the stage area where a woman moderated a presentation by three men of papers they had prepared related to men and emotional health. All of the presenters read off of their papers the entire time, in a gently saccharine, oldfashioned singsong tone. The three presenters gave examples from history and their personal lives of men not having emotional health. Each man ended his 30-minute presentation by summing up how Aesthetic Realism can help people find such health, and the audience gave enthusiastic, long applause after each presenter. There was only time for two audience questions at the end, both of which sought clarification on points made and were not challenging. A former member, who wished to remain anonymous from

fear of retaliation, told The Villager that this was consistent with the group’s practice of only wanting affirming or neutral questions at any A.R. event. At classes, for example, students were told to have questions ready in case someone became too challenging, in which case another person could quickly be called on, according to this former member. There were promotions for future A.R. events, including a July production of a 1950 lecture by Siegel called “Was She Romantic or Acquisitive? The Beautiful Toughness of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.” Artwork lined the walls at the public seminar space, including illustrations, photographs and sculptures. It looked like art that could have been at any Soho gallery, depicting still objects and

“They were very decent, incredibly intelligent,” he said. “They were just real people, great artists.” He noted that they never proselytized around him. Rosenstein said he didn’t know much about Aesthetic Realism but that he only had positive views of those he came across who were involved in the group. “Whatever gets you through the night. They’ve never caused a nuisance,” he said. “Everybody’s entitled to their own freedom of expression and personal belief... . They’re not harming anybody. They never bothered me. The only people I knew were really great, really good human beings.” Another local neighbor, Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, who has lived on the same block as A.R. on Greene St. for 35 years, was also fine with the organization. “They’re very nice people,” he said. “I have no problem with them.” Sweeney remembered being invited once to an art exhibit and discussion by AESTHETIC continued on p. 23 TheVillager.com


quietly, the principles of founder Siegel in Soho AESTHETIC continued from p. 22

the group, and politely excusing himself after a little while, feeling that it just wasn’t for him. “All I can say is they’ve been very good neighbors,” Sweeney said. “They’re friendly, they keep their property in good condition, they don’t have loud parties or do anything that would cause the neighbors to get aggravated.” Former member Bluejay, who largely wrote his anti-A.R. Web site in the 2000s, told The Villager that neighbors may not know what goes on inside the group. Aesthetic Realism has received less media attention in recent years, Bluejay said, with one reason being that Siegel died 40 years ago. “Eli Siegel could not be ignored, he was brilliant,” he said. “Most cult leaders are.” Bluejay was a member of A.R. until age 12, throughout much of the 1970s. He was born into a participating family, though he said he never really bought into A.R. Bluejay said another reason for A.R. getting less media attention recently was its policy adjustment since the 1990s on trying to change gay people after receiving a lot of negative attention for it. Aesthetic Realism’s Web site does not have any mention of this issue or the criticism it faced about it. Ron Schmidt, a former A.R. member from 1987 to ’89, wrote a piece on Bluejay’s Web site about his experience with the group’s program to change gay people. He wrote of being from a rural area with devoutly Catholic parents, and doing two in-person consultations with A.R. and about 30 more over the phone. “I can’t say everything about my experience with A.R. was bad,” Schmidt wrote. “However I learned early on that if I didn’t express gratitude for A.R. and E.S. [Eli Siegel] often I would be in trouble.” Schmidt wrote of not being told how long it might take for him to change, how many others had changed, “nor for that matter that people who had changed had recanted.” He would be rejected from the group. “My consultants eventually told me I couldn’t study anymore,” he wrote. “They said I wasn’t trying hard enough and I was thwarting their efforts. They were very rude when they did this and I was devastated.” Schmidt was unable to conclude in his piece whether Aesthetic Realism is a cult, and added, “What I can say is that I don’t think A.R. or Eli Siegel had any real insight into the subject of homosexuality. Since they no longer teach the ‘Change from Homosexuality’ I have no real beef with A.R. today and I believe in ‘live and let live.’” He also thanked Bluejay “because I feel better knowing I TheVillager.com

PHOTO BY GABE HERMAN

The Aesthetic Realism Foundation building, on Greene St. just south of W. Houston St.

am not the only one who had misgivings about A.R.” Bluejay wrote on his site about A.R. trying to get media coverage of its gaychanging program in the 1970s and ’80s, but when the press didn’t show interest, A.R. felt that it was being boycotted and held vigils outside of The New York Times building, which Bluejay participated in. Members also wore “Victims of the Press” buttons to signify the perceived media slights, according to Bluejay. Bluejay noted that A.R. now promotes its ability to change people from being racist, which is a less controversial subject. At the seminar at its Greene St. headquarters earlier this month, there was literature on display about how A.R. can solve racism, which it said is caused by contempt. When an Aesthetic Realism consultant caught wind that The Villager was working on an article about the organization, an e-mail was sent to the newspaper strongly requesting that no article be written; the e-mail said this was reiterating a recent past request from a leading A.R. member to The Villager that no article about the organization be written. There have been fewer articles written about A.R. recently, which Bluejay chalked up to the group not having changed in recent years, rather just “recycling” the same material. Plus, he said, “They’re just increasingly irrelevant.” In a similar vein, a 2013 article on VICE.com related to the organization was headlined, “I Joined NYC’s Most Boring Cult.”

A Web site was created by Friends of Aesthetic Realism, called “Countering the Lies,” to respond to critics, including former members like Bluejay, who is also attacked personally on the site’s main page. There are links to this site on the official Aesthetic Realism Web site.

‘They’re not harming anybody.’ Carl Rosenstein

Potential retaliation is why a former member — who is quoted earlier in this article — wished to remain anonymous, both on Bluejay’s site and in speaking with The Villager. On Bluejay’s site, the person contributed a detailed piece about negative experiences with A.R., including how much criticism there was within the organization of members from those at the top, and how some members would shun others who left

the group. But the individual wanted to emphasize to The Villager that there were some good people there, as well. “There are some really nice people that are in it, people that really are wellintentioned,” the former member said. “I just hope the article won’t make it sound like anybody who’s involved in Aesthetic Realism is a terrible person, a total idiot.” It is those at the top of A.R., this person said, who can be very critical and contemptuous of students and other members, along with outsiders. Both the anonymous former member and Bluejay felt there was hypocrisy around A.R.’s notion of “contempt,” because its values say that contempt for the world is bad, but it treated many within and without the group harshly. They said the leaders have adopted less-harsh policies over time to avoid media criticism, such as starting to let members visit family and take vacations. The former member said that the problem was with “the people who are running it, basically, and have an iron grip on people’s lives.” The anonymous erstwhile member was so glad to have finally left the group, especially after many years of involvement, noting that it can be hard for people to admit they were wrong about something. “I was so convinced for a long, long time that Aesthetic Realism really was the thing that was going to save the world,” the former member said, “and I felt like I had an obligation to stick with it no matter how miserable I was personally.” The onetime member described being shunned after leaving, by those still in A.R. — though after some time, more warmth was shown. The person theorized that this was a way to avoid outside criticism of the organization’s policies toward outsiders. “I think there’s basically nothing wrong and a lot good with the basic tenets of Aesthetic Realism, the principles,” the former member said. “It’s just the way that they’re carried out.” Asked about criticisms of the organization by former members, the Aesthetic Realism Foundation sent The Villager a statement that began, “Aesthetic Realism is education, cultural and wide.” It went on to note a core principle from Eli Siegel about beauty and opposites, mentioned earlier in this article, and the group’s offering of classes in various fields of art, anthropology and education, along with theater productions and exhibitions at its art gallery. The statement continued, “Aesthetic Realism is a philosophy showing what no other has: that the questions of self are answered in the technique of art. People have benefited immensely from this beautiful education. Yet it has been lied about maliciously by certain individuals. People who want to know about Aesthetic Realism should visit our Web site.” July 19, 2018

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July 19, 2018

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July 19, 2018

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July 19, 2018

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