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YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN

LONG-SUFFERING TENANTS DIG FOR FACTS ABOUT EXCAVATION WORK, PLANNED CONSTRUCTION Latest Problems are Pages Pulled from the ‘Bad Landlord’s Playbook’

Image by Bjarke Ingels Group

The Spiral will feature a spiraling band of greenery from hanging gardens and cascading atria.

Supertall ‘Spiral’ Set to Sprout BY RANIA RICHARDSON A nautilus shell. A chameleon’s tail. A cyclone. All spirals. Soon a new skyscraper in Midtown West, “The Spiral,” will join Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as an architectural landmark in New York City, inspired by the shape that is a continuous winding and widening curve around a central axis. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), The Spiral will rise to just over 1,000 feet, qualifying it as a “super-

Photo by Scott Stiffler

SPIRAL continued on p. 3

Tenants fear that the end of their long ordeal to fully restore their utilities is only the beginning of additional construction that will upend their lives.

WHERE ARTISTS MANIFEST THEIR DREAMS

see page 15

BY WINNIE McCROY For the past 28 months, tenants at 311 W. 21st St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) have dealt with the inconvenience of not having cooking gas. Now, just as Con Edison is preparing to install meters and restore the connection at long last, the New York City Management Corporation has informed tenants that once the gas is back on, basement construction will begin. The property manager contends that they’re just restoring a few old

© CHELSEA NOW 2018 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

apartments. But tenants wonder if it’s just the latest chapter in a pattern of “eviction by harassment” techniques they’ve seen happen all too often in neighboring buildings. “They say they’re in the final stages of getting the gas back on — and we are grateful for that — but back in November they said it was just going to be another three months, so you never know,” said tenant Kelly Maurer. Once tenants saw permits indicating that basement construction would begin,

they wondered, “Are we being lied to again?” NYC Management, Maurer noted, “said they’re going to excavate the cellar of our building, which is over 100 years old, and put two new apartments in. They’re also going to demolish six apartments and do extensive work on the stairwells, so we’re thinking, ‘How are we to live through this?’ And a box on the latest construction permit says that the stability of TENANTS continued on p. 4

VOLUME 10, ISSUE 31 | AUGUST 2 - 8, 2018


Ambulance Station Under the High Line Will Move to W. 29th St. BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC An ambulance station that has been located under the High Line for nearly seven years has fi nally found a permanent home. Emergency Medical Services station number 7 will relocate from W. 23rd St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) to a development at 601 W. 29th St. (at 11th Ave.) as part of a deal that involved many players. “This is truly a win-win for the community,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose District 3 area of coverage includes Chelsea, said in an emailed statement. The unenclosed facility was placed under the High Line in November 2011 as a temporary solution to help provide the West Side with medical services after the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in 2010. At that time, the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) — whose auspices the station is under — “were scrambling to fi nd a location,” Christine Berthet, then the chair of Community Board 4 (CB4) and a current member, told Chelsea Now in 2015.

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Community Board 4 has long advocated for the unenclosed EMS station under the High Line on W. 23rd St. to be relocated.

The open ambulance station caused quality of life concerns for some nearby residents, including at London Terrace, as there was noise from the sirens and fumes from the trucks. The community board advocated for years for a new location for the

facility, supporting its move to W. 29th St., part of a development site. The site, known as block 675, encompasses W. 29th and W. 30th Sts. (btw. 11th & 12th Aves.), and includes a “Mobil gas station, a center of operations for the artist Jeff

Koons, a two-story [city’s Department of Sanitation] office/worker’s lounge, and a Port Authority easement,” according to a May report from the city’s Department of City Planning (DCP). Douglaston Development, a real estate development company, eyed the site for a tower, and ultimately purchased air rights — along with Lalezarian Properties, who will develop 606 W. 30th St. — from the Hudson River Park Trust for $52 million, Crain’s reported in June when City Council approved the sale and rezoning. Douglaston paid $37 million for the rights, according to Senior Vice President of Land Use and Public Policy Tom Corsillo, with the public relations fi rm Marino, which represents Douglaston. (CB4 had asked for a review of the air rights’ price. The DCP did not respond to a question whether a review had taken place.) Douglaston’s project will include up to 990 residential units, of which up to 248 will be affordable, Corsillo AMBULANCE STATION continued on p. 8

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August 2, 2018

NYC Community Media


Images by Neoscape

On outdoor terraces, greenery will cascade down and around The Spiral.

The Spiral’s double height terraces (inside and out) will include year-round foliage.

Spiral-Inspired Tower Will Rise in Hudson Yards District SPIRAL continued from p. 1

tall.” The 65-story building is now under construction between 34th and 35th Sts., west of 10th Ave. Development is estimated at $3.2 billion. The tower’s characteristic element will be a spiraling band of greenery on double height terraces that ascend and wrap around a glass facade and feature hanging gardens and vegetation on the floor level. Landscaping is designed to evolve through the seasons and be uniformly maintained, including during wintertime. In a promotional video, Danish-born architect Bjarke Ingels relayed his inspiration: “We find spirals all over the universe, from the construction of galaxies to the threads of human DNA, but it’s the spiral’s immaculate geometry and suggestion of the infinite that has mesmerized us in all cultures across time and place.” New York’s classic stepped setback skyscrapers influenced Ingels, as well. According to BIG Partner Kai-Uwe Bergmann in an email statement to Chelsea Now, “The Spiral has a unique position in that it sits at the end of the High Line and the juncture of the Hudson Yards site that Related and Oxford properties have spent over a decade in developing, but it also anchors the new Michael Van Valkenburgh-designed public park that tethers this new neighborhood with the 7 subway line extension and the rest of the city.” The 2005 rezoning that created the Hudson Yards Special District (roughly W. 30th to 41st Sts., from Eighth to 11th Aves.) included a plan for Hudson Park & Boulevard, four acres of tree-lined open space that bisects the 10th to 11th Ave. blocks from W. 33rd to 39th Sts. Properties adjacent to it, including The Spiral, at 66 Hudson Blvd., will open NYC Community Media

onto the park. Like the 7 subway line extension, the park was originally conceived in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics. The failed proposal was repurposed by his administration to devise the Hudson Yards area, which is virtually a city within a city. Without the green beltway, the area could feel like a dense concentration of glass and steel skyscrapers, an unmitigated concrete jungle. Wunderkind Ingels founded BIG in 2005 and was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine in 2016. The company defines its signature style as a “pragmatic utopian architecture.” Bergmann noted, “We consider New York City our home. Bjarke moved to DUMBO in Brooklyn several years ago, followed by the office. We have several projects under construction... which really allows us to reshape and contribute to the city we call home.” Major projects in New York include the nearby Via 57 West apartment tower. the XI towers by the High Line, and Two World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Also, from Montgomery St. to E. 25th St., BIG is working on the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) Project that aims to strengthen the urban coastline against floods and rising sea levels, and increase the public’s access to the waterfront. In 2016, real estate developer Tishman Speyer unveiled the concept for The Spiral. They had bought the Hudson Yards District property and its surroundings in 2014, and a year later, paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to two tenants who would not vacate an apartment in a four-story tenement on 10th Ave. near W. 34th St. Pfizer recently inked a 20-year lease to become the anchor tenant of the 2.85

million-square-foot office tower. Global headquarters for the pharmaceutical giant will relocate from E. 42nd St., to occupy 15 or so floors of the supertall upon completion in 2022, in what the realtor bills as “the world’s most connected and collaborative office environment.” Surrounding the areas of Hudson Yards District construction, low-rise structures dot the streets. Midblock, on the south side of 10th Ave. across from

the Spiral, stand two older, five-story buildings housing small businesses, the kind that bring personality to a neighborhood. Family-owned Veteran’s Chair Caning & Repair, and Downtown Tire Shop, once mainstay trades for Midtown West, now appear incongruous and could be in peril among the luxury high-rises. In this era of rampant development, the drama of the city continues to unfold on our streets and across the skyline.

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Rent-Regulated Chelsea Tenants Fear TENANTS continued from p. 1

the building will be in question during construction. So we’re scared to death.” But when Chelsea Now spoke to the property manager at NYC Management Corp. on Fri., July 27, he assured that there would be no structural issues with construction. “We are not excavating anything,” said the property manager, who declined to give his name. “These are legal apartments that the previous owner kept as storage, but that were initially built in there. And there will be no excavation; we will be getting all 17 apartments in this building up and running again. We had a big meeting at [City Council Speaker and District 3 rep] Corey Johnson’s office where we explained everything.” To say that elected officials had advocated for them is an understatement, said tenants, who were quick to note that their elected officials, including Johnson and State Senator Brad Hoylman, had been fighting tirelessly on their behalf. Hoylman’s office has introduced two pieces of legislation in the past year to help tenants: S8810, which requiresthe NYC DOB to confirm that units are vacant before they authorize construction, and S8573, which makes it a felony to submit a building application falsely claiming that no tenants are living in an occupied property. Hoylman hopes that tough legislation can save others from a similar fate. “Life at 311 W. 21st Street has been a living nightmare. Tenants have withstood extensive landlord and construction harassment, and prolonged periods of time without gas and hot water,” Hoylman told Chelsea Now. “I’m outraged by the severity of the situation, and my office has met with affected tenants to address the matter. Our office has confirmed that HCR [The Division of Homes and Community Renewal] had no prior knowledge of NYC Management’s excavation plans.” “We have also confirmed, with verification from HCR and DOB, that NYC Management continually submitted false permits,” Hoylman noted. “This flagrant disregard for the law will not stand. We have asked DOB to revoke the falsified permits immediately and will continue to work with tenants to ensure they are able to remain in their homes safely.” Speaker Johnson’s office told Chelsea

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August 2, 2018

Photo by Kelly Maurer

A June 14, 2018 memo from NYC Management to the tenants of 311 W. 21st St. states there will be excavation work in the basement — despite assurances otherwise made to Chelsea Now on July 27.

Now that they had also spoken with Con Edison, who had held a field inspection at the property on Tuesday, July 24, and that the building passed “with the condition that the DOB’s [NYC Department of Buildings’] gas authorization be amended.” Once Con Edison has the necessary changes in hand, they should be able to schedule the gas turn-on. They also discussed construction plans with the property managers, who “said at our meeting with the tenants that they are adding two units in the cellar…. as the certificate of occupancy for the building originally had two units in the cellar,” which the Schedule A for that building confirms. Notwithstanding, a June 14 memo from NYC Management about the exact nature of the work to be done in the cellar indicates that, “Two apartments (1BR/1BA) are being created in the cellar. The work will involve excavation of the cellar to capture ceiling

height.” The DOB’s permit for construction indicates that the construction will threaten the structural integrity of the building. But the property manager says that it is “standard for [the DOB] to say that; any basement apartments getting work permits will say it on there, it’s standard. But there will be no digging and no structural issues. We are just making apartments.” A spokesperson from the DOB confirmed that it would be common for an applicant to indicate on a permit that the proposed work could affect the structural stability of the building, as would be required to be indicated on even small jobs like creating new doorways or replacing window lintels. They also noted that the architect had submitted a Tenant Protection Plan with the application, which indicated that no structural work was being done that would endanger occupants or affect major structural ele-

ments of the building. Still, based on tenants’ concerns, including the proposed “excavation” outlined in the management’s memo but dismissed by the property manager, the DOB has agreed to conduct an audit of the project to ensure that it fully complies with the NYC Construction Codes and Zoning Resolution, and that the work will in no way endanger the tenants’ safety. The audit will include an inspection of the building to determine the presence of apartments in the basement. It will prevent the permit from being issued until the conclusion of DOB’s investigation. Chelsea Now reported on the situation at 311 W. 21st St. in April 2017 (“Knowledgeable Tenants Challenge Lack of Utilities, Shady Landlord Tactics”). At that point, tenants were struggling to get cooking gas reconnected after a February 2016 gas leak forced Con Edison to cut service. The building’s former owner, Sidney Rubell, had secured permits from the DOB on May 23, 2016 to fi x the gas. But that August, he sold the property to New York City Management Corporation. The original gas contractor withdrew from the project in December 2016, and the order was rescinded in March 2017, after the owners hired a new contractor to supersede the original permit holder. Since then, says the property manager, they have been working diligently to get the gas restored. But what residents see is that the end of their long ordeal to fully restore their utilities is only the beginning of additional construction that will upend their lives. And they’re worried that if they take NYC Management’s advice and relocate during construction, they will never be allowed to return.

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE Chelsea Now spoke with a halfdozen tenants from the property on Wed., July 25, all of whom expressed concerns that the planned construction was part of a “bad landlord’s playbook” pattern of harassment they’d witnessed in neighboring properties, as outlined by the July 16 New York Times article, “Kushners Sought to Oust RentRegulated Tenants, Suit Says.” “We feel a little cornered and threatened, like they are trying to push us out of our homes,” said Dani Balarezo. NYC Community Media


Pattern of Harassment Will Continue “We feel this is a new tactic they’re using to destabilize the building to get us out, and once we’re out, we’ll never get back in. At this point, it’s been going on for two and a half years, and before this company, Sidney Rubell was doing it. From the news out there about the ‘eviction machines,’ we feel that we’re just part of that game.” Tenant Sam Moore echoed these concerns, saying, “It seems like a concerted effort on the part of NYC Management. We’re all aware that developers use a series of techniques to get people out of rent-stabilized apartments and this ‘relocation’ scam is apparently the latest trick.” And tenant Steven Zivkovic — a resident in this building since he was seven years old — said that he’s been fighting to stay in his home ever since NYC Management took over. “They’ve been trying to decide whether I belong in that apartment since they bought the building. They haven’t cashed a rent check of mine for over 20 months, but I just keep sending them via registered mail,” Zivkovic

Photo by Scott Stiffler

TENANTS continued on p. 10

Could basement construction destabilize the structural integrity of the building? Seen here on July 26, a recently installed lock denies tenant access to the basement.

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NYC Community Media

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Photo by William Alatriste, NYC Council

Elected and city officials, children, and community members from block associations and Community Board 4 celebrated the official opening of Mathews-Palmer Playground.

Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

The playground’s adventure equipment includes a slide, a mini-climbing wall, and bells to ring.

Much-Improved Mathews-Palmer BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC The spiffy silver caboose rocked back and forth as children’s cries of joy could be heard. The railroad car was a nod to Mathews-Palmer Playground’s past, fittingly, as on Tues., July 31, its present began — the playground was officially reopened. It has been a long track to the opening of the renovated $2.5 million playground, which has been years in the making and took the community, block associations, Community Board 4, elected officials, and the city’s

Parks Department working together to make happen. “What a good day,� City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, at the afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony. Johnson sketched out a history of the playground — located on W. 45th St. between Ninth and 10th Aves. — that the city acquired in 1936. Its name honors two women: May Mathews, a longtime social worker at the Hartley House, and Alexandra Palmer, a longtime Hell’s Kitchen resident and advocate for the park, according to Johnson and the Parks

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Department’s website. In 2012, Christine Quinn — the then-speaker of the City Council who represented Hell’s Kitchen — allocated $1.8 million for the reconstruction. The community, Johnson said, contributed ideas to the park’s future. Chana Widawski, a member of Hell’s Kitchen Commons and the West 45th/46th Street Block Association, helped organize a “Design Your Park� day so the community could provide input and make suggestions. Several Hell’s Kitchen block associations have worked toward the restoration of the playground. The project went through the design phase from March 2013 to July 2016, then through the procurement phase until February 2017, and construction from April 2017 to April 2018, according to the Parks Department website. (The Parks Department did not respond to this publication’s questions by press time.) In 2016, Johnson said he allocated an additional $700,000 “to get us over the fi nish line and to fi nally start construction.� “It is always a cause for celebration in our city when a new park opens and it bares repeating that for a city to be successful, it needs to provide its residents with open space, with greenery,� he said. “I’m so grateful to the residents of Hell’s Kitchen who made it their mission to ensure that they have a playground and a place for the community to enjoy for years to come.� The renovated playground has

adventure equipment that includes a mini-climbing wall, slide, and bells to chime, fitness equipment, a handball court, a ping pong table, spray shower, the aforementioned caboose, a spot where children can drum, and swings, including a few for those with disabilities. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said the playground would soon have a basketball court, and the department addressed the water supply and drainage system that had been an issue in the park. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said, “This is what New York City does best. We are very short of open space but when the Parks Department puts their mind to it with amazing architects and amazing construction and the community — from the block associations, the community board, all the elected officials, this is what you get.� The community’s effort and advocacy was also praised by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried and State Senator Brad Hoylman, who thanked his fellow elected officials and the community for all their work “in making this such a splendid respite.� Gottfried said decades ago, the community rescued the playground from rampant gang violence, then from drug dealers and prostitutes, as well as protecting their neighborhood from developers. “This community, which has achieved so much, has helped to bring the city along to recreate the MathewsPalmer Playground,� he said. “This is NYC Community Media


Photo by William Alatriste, NYC Council

Speaker Corey Johnson found time to have fun at the newly renovated playground’s official opening, where he announced an additional $10,000 to support community programming for the playground and to hire a playground associate for the coming year.

Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

The spray shower at the newly reconstructed playground.

Playground Officially Reopens a great day for Hell’s Kitchen.” Amid the buoyant mood, there was a sense of loss — Allison Tupper, a longtime advocate for the park and the restoration of its mural by Arnold Belkin (called “Against Domestic Colonialism”) had died. A photo of Tupper was displayed near the podi-

um, and she was mentioned by many speakers, including Lowell Kern, cochairperson of Community Board 4’s Waterfront, Parks & Environment Committee. “I know Allison is here with us today,” Kern said. Steve Fanto of the West 45th/46th

Street Block Association, said, “I’m here to speak about Allison for a moment. You heard her name mentioned a few times but nowhere near as many as she deserved.” Fanto said she was a modest and private person. “However modest, she’d have

kicked me or nudged me if I didn’t say one more thing, make sure you mention that mural and let’s take care of that in the near future,” he said. Residents and block associations have worked for years to recreate the mural. PLAYGROUND continued on p. 9

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August 2, 2018

Photo by Scott Stiffler

The ambulance station will be located at 601 W. 29th St., which is slated to become a residential tower. AMBULANCE STATION continued from p. 2

said in an email. The tower is slated to “rise 695 feet to the mechanical roof,” and also will include 15,000 square feet for retail, New York YIMBY reported. The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) station is slated to be around 18,500 square feet “of enclosed area for cleaning and restocking ambulances, as well as office and locker space for employees,” and “would be located in a one-story wing with a mezzanine along West 29th Street at the western end of the development site,” according to the DCP report. Corsillo said the residential building is expected to be complete in 2022, but did not respond to a follow-up question if that included the ambulance station. CB4 Chairperson Burt Lazarin said the board, along with Johnson, helped identify and negotiate for the station’s permanent home at 601 W. 29th St. “This was the result of the community, an elected representative, a private developer, and the city working together to resolve a longstanding issue,” Lazarin said in an emailed statement. Inge Ivchenko, president of the London Terrace Tenants Association, said it was mixed when it came to noise complaints from residents. “The ones right on 23rd Street — a lot more of them were bothered by the noise,” she said in a phone interview. “The apartments that are on the opposite side… facing the courtyard, they didn’t hear anything from 23rd St.” There were complaints about the

fumes from the ambulances, said Ivchenko, who is also co-chairperson of CB4’s Arts, Culture, Education, and Street Life Committee. Johnson said that important facilities like the ambulance stations “perform an indispensable service, but every effort must be made to ensure they are properly [sited].” Finding a new station was a big challenge, he noted. “Working [with] FDNY EMS, Community Board 4 and other stakeholders, we were able to identify a new location that will meet the needs of our fi rst responders with much less disruption to the community,” Johnson said. Jacqueline S. Gold, a spokesperson for DCAS, said, “This administration has been committed to fi nding a new location for this EMS station and are happy to partner with FDNY to develop one that will better serve the growing needs of the Chelsea community.” When asked why fi nding a new location took so long, Gold said that with increased development around the High Line and Hudson Yards, fi nding a site large enough for the station was difficult. The city, which leases the space for the current location on W. 23rd St., will give that up once the station moves and has no future plans for that site, Gold said in an email. The FDNY did not respond to requests for comment. The DCP provided reports on the development site, but did not respond to questions. Ivchenko, of London Terrace, said, “I think people will be happy that the station is moving and it will help to keep things quieter.” NYC Community Media


Steve Fanto of the West 45th/46th Street Block Association honored Allison Tupper.

Longtime Hell’s Kitchen resident Allison Tupper, who worked for years to renovate the park and recreate the mural, was remembered at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

PLAYGROUND continued from p. 7

Denise Penizzotto, the muralist who is working with the block associations, said that they are ready to paint. “What’s holding us up right now is we need the wall repaired,” she told this publication after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Afterwards, food and refreshments were served, a band called the Unintended Consequences played and some danced, merriment abounded, bells clanged, children giggled and families enjoyed the park. When asked about what they thought about the new park, John Vennema and Katherine Croke, who was holding her three-week-old baby, said, “Thank goodness.”

Photos by Dusica Sue Malesevic

Residents and block associations are still determined to recreate Arnold Belkin’s mural, called “Against Domestic Colonialism.”

Extra! Extra! Local News Read all about it!

NYC Community Media

August 2, 2018

9


Photos by Alison L. Moore

Tenants believe squatters are responsible for this July 25 photo of deli products (from nearby Ideal Marketplace) in the refrigerator of apartment 3E.

Holes in the floor (cevered by cardboard) and mouse droppings, in apartment 3E.

Apartment 3W, like 3E (where squatters are suspected), is unlocked. TENANTS continued from p. 5

said. “I have had all the city agencies from DOB to the NYPD telling me this is harassment.” Zivkovic said that he went to DOB’s headquarters at 280 Broadway to file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act; foia.gov) request so he could take a look at the contractor’s plans himself, to determine whether the planned construction efforts would compromise the structural integrity of the building. “Being that I’m in the construction business, I asked the company to have the plans delivered to me, but that never happened,” Zivkovic said. “And we didn’t meet with their contractor, although we asked to. Speaking of good faith efforts: there are none.” Tenants are also concerned about other issues surrounding construction. Alison Moore was concerned about the many renovated units the management company had left unlocked, and the evidence of squatters she’d found.

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August 2, 2018

“Kelly and I went floor to floor looking at these open apartments, and found that unit 3E is unlocked and the fridge is on, and full of recent deli packages dated July 18,” Moore said, adding, “We have evidence that these unoccupied units are being left open.” Zivkovic said that he himself had caught a squatter in the empty apartments across from him, and told the man he needed to leave. By the time Zivkovic returned from work, the man was gone. Moore, who lives on the top floor, also expressed concern about the planned stairwell renovation, wondering how she’d get up to her apartment. The fire escape was out of the question, as Moore said, “it’s all rusty and probably wouldn’t even hold our weight if we had to use it to escape.” Tenant Mutsuko Oikawa also expressed concern about the asbestos reported to be on the roof of the buildTENANTS continued on p. 19 NYC Community Media


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A Platform for Artists to Manifest Their Dreams The Living Gallery Outpost celebrates a year of commitment, passion BY PUMA PERL Last August, I was encouraged by a friend to attend the grand opening of The Living Gallery Outpost. People spilled out of the 250-square-foot space, shared food and songs on the bench outside, and gathered around the hand-created artwork (by building owner Antonio Echeverri) that surrounded a tree. Everywhere there was color and a sense of camaraderie, reflecting a foundation of friendship, community, and love — with a shot of serendipity. The BYO Art (Bring Your Own Art) exhibition demonstrated the commitment to providing space for experienced and emerging artists to share, devoid of competition or hierarchy. The space, at 246 E. Fourth St. (btw. Aves. B & C), is the second location of The Living Gallery, founded in Bushwick six years ago by visual and performance artist Nyssa Frank. She had initially been looking for a studio. “I had always wanted a multifaceted space,” Frank explained. “Growing up, I didn’t realize that you could be an artist and a teacher, for example. I always thought it was one or the other.” Her sensibility, from the start, was to involve the community, and “bring positive energy while taking gentrification into perspective.” To that end, she worked actively with the community, which is how she met and befriended Alexandria Hodgkins, a youth and arts specialist who was volunteering some of her time at Arts in Bushwick. At that gallery, Hodgkins also met Lower East Side native Joseph Meloy, an artist and muralist who later became her husband. The two were walking through Soho one day last June and spotted a hand-written sign for an “East Village storefront.” They followed up, called Frank, and the Outpost was born, co-founded by the three. Community events during the past year have included BYO Art, potlucks, monthly open mics, classes, and an artist residency program. Many neighborhood residents, attracted to the spirit of inclusiveness, have become involved. Frank noted that she “hated galleries as a child when my mother, who is an artist, used to take me. There was so much elite pretension, the second OUTPOST continued on p. 17 NYC Community Media

Photo by Bob Krasner

L to R, The Living Gallery Outpost’s co-founders Alexandria Hodgkins, Nyssa Frank, and Joseph Meloy at the opening day party. On the bench behind them, Gina Healy and Angello Olivieri make music.

Courtesy of the artist

Actor and musician Luigi Scorcia’s “Decayed Sunset” — from “The Artist Behind the Lens,” a Dec. 2017 show featuring photographers known for their expertise in other areas. August 2, 2018

15


Miracles Made From Simple Materials TNC’s design team deserves props for the look of ‘SHAME!’ BY TRAV S.D. We say it every year, but this time may be truer than in the past: We need Theater for the New City’s annual street theater production more than ever. In its 42 years of existence, this annual topical production — written and directed by TNC’s co-founder and artistic director, Crystal Field — has had much to sound off about: Reaganism, nukes, the excesses of capitalism, the evils of racism, and several wars. But nothing to compare to the present, when everything evil seems to be happening all at once, and a crucial midterm election is just three months away. This year’s edition, “SHAME! Or The Doomsday Machine,” will talk about all of that and more as it tours New York City streets, parks, and playgrounds in all five boroughs from Aug. 4 through Sept. 16. Longtime fans of this free, large-cast, small-budget annual production will be glad to see many familiar faces amongst the cast and crew. Unlike most American workplaces, turnover at TNC and its street theater is low, the surest possible indication that the job is a labor of love. But some might say the biggest star of all in this show is not a human being, but a machine. That’s the scenic device affectionately dubbed “the cranky,” which provides the backdrops for every street theater production. The hand-cranked contraption (more formally known as a “running screen” or a “scrolling backdrop”) is very old school theater technology that allows 10 (9’ x 12’) painted backdrops to be positioned on the same piece of scrolled canvas, which can be changed quickly and efficiently during the production. According to TNC production manager (and cast member) Mark Marcante, the cranky takes four crew people to operate: two to crank it, and two to support it at the bottom. It comes apart and breaks down for travel, and needs to be clipped in the middle to prevent sagging. Scenic painter Mary Blanchard has been the principal designer for going on three decades. She points out that the use of moving panorama technology goes back at least to the early 19th century. Theatrical tradition informs every aspect of the street theater production, as each show embraces such diverse disciplines and styles as commedia dell’arte, puppetry, agitprop, vaudeville, mask, and the great American musical. Prop designer Lytza Colon, who’s been with the show for 10 years, demonstrates what

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August 2, 2018

Photo by Jonathan Slaff

From “Access Upheaval,” TNC’s 2002 Street Theater production: Everybody’s a puppet of a higher power, and the president of Worldcon Corporation is no exception. Hand puppet by Zen Mansley.

Photo by Trav S.D.

Photo by Trav S.D.

Prop designer Lytza Colon creates a piano for TNC’s 2018 Street Theater production.

Preparing for 2018’s Street Theater production, scenic designer Mary Blanchard paints a cranky backdrop with a scene of immigrants at the Statue of Liberty.

makes designing for the street theater special when she shows me a judge’s gavel she is working on for a courtroom scene. It is a clown’s gavel, made of foam,

and easily five times larger than a naturalistic prop would be. “The street theater is epic realism,” Marcante said, channeling Bertolt Brecht,

a major influence on Field. “Everything has got to be larger than life,” he noted, STREET THEATER continued on p. 17 NYC Community Media


platforms, experimenting with original forms, and merging medias. Healy is a singer/performer who, with her partner Angello Olivieri, provided some of the music at the gallery opening. She also has a background in dance and costume design, but had never curated a show. Her idea was to provide a venue for friends who she considered great photographers, but who were known for their expertise in other areas. She called the show “The Artist Behind the Lens.” “I likened this experience to creating a set of costumes,” Healy said, “and I chose photos that I liked, hoping to make some money for everyone.”

Included were musicians Luigi Scorcia, Greg Holt, as well as this writer. Scorcia, who is also an actor, goes as far back as Max’s Kansas City with his band Luigi and the Wise Guys, and traveled the world as the late Johnny Thunders’ bassist. He remains active on the music scene, and while his friends are familiar with his photography skills, he had never shown in a gallery. “Being in the show brought back memories of how it was in the late ’70s and early ’80s, going to little pop-up shows and seeing my friends’ work. It was how we hung, huddled, and met new people, and learned what was happening since there

was no Internet or Time Out New York. The lovely curator Gina Healy hung two pieces of my work… nice to have your art bought, and to have memories of ‘Da Alphabet Jungle’ as it was.” Holt, whose current band is “Fiddler and the Crossroads,” was formerly the fiddle player for the Tampa Bay Lightning and, in 2016, was inducted into the International Blues Hall of Fame. He’s also attracted many admirers of his photographs and his use of color. “I really enjoyed displaying my artwork,” he said. “It’s a nice, clean space that was big enough for all six of us, plus a lot of local street traffic added to the charm (and sales!).” On Sun., Aug. 12, 1-6pm, the first annual Living Arts Festival will mark The Living Gallery Outpost’s first anniversary. Festivities include a BYO Art show at the gallery and an open mic, live performances, bands, face painting, and workshops at the Sixth St. and Ave. B Community Garden. More details available at facebook.com/ events/271201630301694. As co-founder Alexandria Hodgkins wrote in the press release, “We’ve had a year to experiment and see what people respond to. We definitely want to offer more opportunities for artists to show, develop their careers, and network in our space.” As per Nyssa Frank, “It’s been such an honor to house our gallery in a beautiful building, where the community has been so welcoming! This first year has exceeded my dreams on every level. I can’t wait for more!” The Living Gallery Outpost is located at 246 E. Fourth St. (btw. Aves. B & C). Visit thelivinggalleryoutpost.com and facebook.com/thelivinggalleryoutpost.

an Egyptian style sedan chair from a recent Charles Busch production, for example, is being repurposed for the current show. But playwright Field works strictly from her imagination, which means that much of the time, new elements need to be fabricated from scratch, and on a tight budget. Miracles are made from simple materials. A wormhole in space in a fantasy sequence is devised from black fabric and garbage bags, for example. But such is the spirit of play that in the whirl and excitement of performance those materials will be transformed into a phenomenon of deep space physics. And physics is the touchstone for this year’s show. Street theater veteran Michael David Gordon plays a high school physics teacher whose students hit him with difficult political questions like, “What’s your relative speed to prison if you are an American criminal or a

Guatemalan immigrant?” Like many a street theater hero before him, the professor goes on a journey of discovery, taking the audience with him. Among the show’s most telling didactic elements is a sequence in which a certain evil TV reality show host (Alex Bartenieff) is transformed into an African American, a woman, and a Middle Eastern immigrant and a welfare recipient, in hopes that he can learn a little empathy. And there is also a nod to Therese Patricia Okoumou, the activist who performed that eye-catching protest at the Statue of Liberty this past Independence Day. In a third scene, the ghost of Albert Einstein appears, and quotes from a famous letter he wrote to his daughter, in which he said that the most important energy force in the world is love. “The street theater is very important this year,” Marcante said, noting, “We’ve got this bully, this narcissist, turning the

country into a Fascist state, separating children from their parents. It’s important that we get people out to vote in the midterms, to change this path we’re on.” Marcante, who is celebrating his 34th year with the street theater, is a veteran fighter who has lost none of his enthusiasm for the fight. He and the whole company will be giving their all to inspire us all over the city with performances through Sept. 16. Free and open to the public. Manhattan performances, all shows 2pm, include Sat., Aug. 4 at TNC (E. 10th St. at 1st Ave.); Sat., Aug. 11 at Tompkins Square Park (E. 7th St. & Ave. A); Sun., Aug. 12 at the Central Park Bandshell (72nd St. crosswalk); Sat., Sept. 8, at Washington Square Park; and Sun., Sept. 16 at St. Marks Church (E. 10th St. at 2nd Ave.). For the full schedule, visit theaterforthenewcity.net or call 212-254-1109.

OUTPOST continued from p. 15

you walked in you were judged. We want people to feel comfortable. There is no hierarchy. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist for four days or 40 years.” The key criteria are passion and commitment to the work. “We provide a platform for emerging artists through exhibitions, screenings, readings, performance and more,” Frank added. “We are also always open to new ideas.” Not all of the artists are new to exhibiting. On my recent visit, the walls were covered with the black and white acrylic work of mat eis, a neighborhood inhabitant who was a semi-finalist for a residency. “I was walking by and saw this space, and inquired. I had never shared this body of work with anyone. I’d wanted to create a story of who I was ,but against a backdrop that felt empty and without context,” he explained, while making lemonade for visitors. “The subject of all of my pieces is the potential interplay between physical matter of different types. A shampoo bottle that tells the future… a flower that breathes like an organ. My work is part imagination and part observation of the diverse matter that sits unnoticed and waits patiently to be rattled into its own mystical clairvoyant existence.” Words and letters float through the paintings. In one piece, the word “help” is repeated and appears to release the letter “e” as if it could not be contained; above that, water drops fall freely from behind a faucet, which has the words “keep moving” on the spigot. Last December, East Villager Gina Healy went three for three in keeping with the vision of mounting new

STREET THEATER continued from p. 16

with Colon adding, “Plus, people have got to see it from the back [of the audience]!” It’s quite rare for Off-Off Broadway companies to achieve anything like the scale Theater for the New City puts into its street theater shows: A cast of 28, a crew of 10, and five live musicians (led by “SHAME!” composer Joseph Vernon Banks at the keyboard) are the hands-on company, in addition to a director (Field) with three assistants, and a design and production team of about a dozen. But making life easier in this daunting task is the fact that TNC has its own scene shop, and storage for hundreds of costumes and props. For a show like “SHAME!,” team members like Marcante and Colon (and costumier Susan Henley) have the luxury of pulling ready-made items from the vaults. Some of it is quite fabulous; NYC Community Media

Image courtesy of the artist

An untitled work (acrylic paint on black paper, 20 x 20) by mat eis. “My process behind the work,” the artist said, “is very much about building a language.”

August 2, 2018

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THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER

PUBLISHER Jennifer Goodstein EDITOR Scott Stiffler ART DIRECTOR John Napoli

Photo by Alison L. Moore

Apartment 5E, unlocked and (officially) unoccupied.

TENANTS continued from p. 10

ing. Although rooftop construction wasn’t listed on the permit, Oikawa said, “It’s a very serious matter, and because the management company kept lying about other stuff, we can’t trust them and we don’t know what to do.” The property manager for NYC Management sounded exasperated at the tenants’ concerns, pointing to the multiple meetings they’d had and the good faith efforts he’d made. “We purchased the building when it was without gas for a year and a half, and we’ve been waiting for Con Ed’s install meter date,” he said. “They know we are doing stuff whereas the previous owner did not fix stuff, that ever since we came on board we’re trying to get things to run properly. All we’re doing is try-

ing to clean up the mess that Sidney Rubell left.” Said Moore, “If they had been honest about things all along, we would be happy to see them get the building in a good condition, but they are not trustworthy. Now there is no reason to trust them at all, because now we feel threatened. At this point, we won’t leave on principle, because we don’t like seeing people like this get away with their bullying.”

WHY DO THEY STAY? Well-meaning friends ask Maurer all the time, “Why don’t you just leave?” But in addition to the principle of the thing, it’s not as easy as all that. “For us, this is our home,” Maurer said. “This is our house, and we don’t want to leave. It’s a great concern for everybody, but even more for Jordan

and myself because we have a child. Our daughter attends a District 2 school — one of the best in the state of New York. That’s worth fighting for.” Tenant Sam Moore furthered this, saying, “We’ve been here since the ’90s, and the building was never a prize, but it’s valuable to have stabilized units for us that are firmly middle class. It’s critical, and this effort on the part of developers to attenuate rentstabilized housing through attrition has to be addressed.” “By virtue of the fact that we’re not paying what are market rates in Chelsea isn’t reason enough to get people out of these stabilized units,” Moore said. “We may frustrate developers, they may feel a great deal of animosity or see us as deadbeats, but the fact is, we have every right to be here.”

Extra! Extra! Local News Read all about it!

CONTRIBUTORS Lincoln Anderson Sam Bleiberg Stephanie Buhmann Dusica Sue Malesevic Winnie McCroy Christian Miles Colin Mixson Mark Nimar Duncan Osborne Sydney Pereira Puma Perl Rania Richardson Paul Schindler ADVERTISING Amanda Tarley PH: 718-260-8340 Email: atarley@cnglocal.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Gayle Greenberg Elizabeth Polly Jim Steele Julio Tumbaco

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