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A SPLASH OF GOOD NEWS Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area is Back in the Business of Fun

Photo by William Alatriste, NYC Council

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, left, and Fulton Houses Tenants Association President Miguel Acevedo introduced the target demographic to a revitalized Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area.

see page 6 The first toddler to play in the park’s sprinkler area for younger children.

The park’s “oyster shell” sandbox.


A climbing area and slide.

Photos by Michael Rock

VOLUME 10, ISSUE 33 | AUGUST 16 - 22, 2018

HOP Admits Corporations Buy Parade Placement BY DUNCAN OSBORNE The organization that produces New York City’s annual Pride Parade and related events said that its contracts with parade sponsors allow those companies to purchase a place in the parade, but do not guarantee that their contingents would be included in the three-hour live broadcast of the parade on local broadcast TV. “I can tell you that there are some multiple-year agreements that include float participation or vehicle participation,â€? said Maryanne Roberto Fine, a co-chair of Heritage of Pride (HOP), during an August 13 town meeting held at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “There have been contracts that will give a range, but nothing that would specifically say you will be on the broadcast‌ There are contractual obligations to placement.â€? While community groups and nonprofits comprise most of the contingents in the Pride Parade, which commemorates the 1969 Stonewall riots that mark the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, forprofit companies dominate the event

Photos by Donna Aceto

Eugene Fedorko, who marched as early as 1970 and 1971 in New York’s Pride Parade, said the event’s current “focus� is an insult to the movement’s original activists.

because they use large floats and can field more marchers. Complaints about those companies are longstanding, but in 2017 and particularly in 2018, activists with deep roots in the LGBTQ and other movements began

to more aggressively press HOP to limit the corporate presence in the march among other demands. While activists have long suspected that sponsors can purchase a spot in the parade, inevitably toward the


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front, this was the fi rst confi rmation of that from HOP. It offends activists because the companies are effectively buying a status that they never


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Paul Groncki, the chair of the 100 W. 16th St. Block Association, said that the parade’s rerouting through Chelsea in 2018 drew widespread neighborhood complaint.

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Attacks on the Free Press are Attacks on American Values The necessity of a trusted free press to the health of American democracy has been undisputed since the founding of our republic — until now. In recent weeks, the journalists of our free press have been slandered as “Enemies of the People” — not by a foreign power or fringe group, but by the President of the United States, the nation’s highest officer sworn to protect the Constitution enshrining the First Amendment rights those journalists exercise daily for the benefit of us all. But President Trump’s casual use of this Stalinist epithet is only the most egregious example of a years-long campaign to destroy public trust in the news media and erode the ability of the Fourth Estate to hold our government and politicians accountable. From denouncing factual reporting as “fake news” to the proliferation of websites pushing propaganda, conspiracy theories, and outright lies as legitimate reporting, the role of America’s free

press is under attack — and with it, our nation’s founding values. Without a free press that is justly trusted as a source of impartial truth, politicians and special interests have unchecked rein to lie, dissemble, and manipulate reality with impunity. Without journalists who are free to question public officials and demand information on government actions, the institutions which are supposed to protect and serve us cannot be trusted to do either. Without political leaders who respect the value of our free press to the American way of life, the world’s first constitutional democracy fails in its historic role as a beacon of freedom to all of humanity. Trump is by no means alone, however, in the systematic attack on the role of the free press. On Aug. 12, Mayor Bill de Blasio had a New York Post reporter hauled away by police after he asked the mayor for comment on the paper’s recent story on the many meetings he and his top aides

have had with lobbyists — meetings which de Blasio had pledged as a candidate to disclose on a monthly basis, but only recently began revealing after four years in office, and only because of relentless pressure from the news media. The work our reporters do in the neighborhoods we cover is as important as reporters taking leaders to task in City Hall and Washington, DC. We attend Community Board meetings and emerge with articles that address local concerns. We shine a light on bad landlords. We celebrate the opening of a new business and mourn the loss of a longtime neighborhood merchant due to astronomical rent increases. We press city agencies and elected officials for on-the-record comments, and hold them accountable. We spend years chronicling the creation of a new park or residential development. All the while, our paramount concern is to find the facts and report them as such. When we make

a mistake, we acknowledge it. Editors and reporters across the country are standing together this week to denounce the attacks demonizing our profession and seeking to sabotage our ability to hold the people in power accountable for their actions. And we ask you, the readers we work for, to stand with us. Defending our free press from attacks by politicians and special interests should be a cause that rises above party, ideology, race, or any of the other fault lines along which some are seeking to divide our country. It goes to the heart of what America stands for, and is vital to the survival of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. As women’s rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”

Jennifer Goodstein President and Publisher, Community News Group, NYC Community Media

Lincoln Anderson Editor, The Villager

Bill Egbert Editor, Downtown Express Deputy Editor, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier

Anthony Rotunno Deputy Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier

Les Goodstein CEO, Community News Group, NYC Community Media

Vince DiMiceli Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier, Caribbean Life

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Laura Guerriero Publisher, Bronx Times

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Scott Stiffler Editor, Chelsea Now

August 16, 2018


Bedbugs, Systemic Neglect Get Under Skin of Chelsea

Photo by Scott Stiffler

Tenants stand united outside of 225 W. 23rd St., where woes are shared by those living in the connected building at 220 W. 24th St.

BY WINNIE McCROY The renovated courtyard connecting the buildings is lovely, say residents of 225 W. 23rd and 220 W. 24th Sts. — though the surveillance equipment installed there makes them so uneasy, they hold tenant meetings off-premises. The 24-hour concierge in the remodeled lobby is nice, say some — but it would be nicer if they actually helped elderly and disabled tenants muscle open the heavy doors. They’re glad the laundry room was finally renovated — but wonder if it warranted the four-month gas outage. Now, tenants are curious as to whether their own apartments — riddled with cockroaches and bedbugs, faulty appliances, and crumbling water pipes creating pockets of black mold — will ever get the repairs they’ve requested. “They inherited a bad thing, but they’ve really refused to own up to their responsibilities, from the moment they took over the building over a year ago,” said tenant Laurence Frommer. “All the


August 16, 2018

things I need done for my apartment have dragged on for almost a year. Now we’re in court over it,” he said, noting the situation is so extreme, “I don’t consider my apartment habitable, and I constantly have to stay elsewhere.” This is the struggle that the tenants are dealing with under the Swedish investment firm Akelius Residential Property. To be fair, the building is more than 100 years old, with a host of problems passed on to what is the third new management company in four years. But tenants say Akelius focuses on cosmetic improvements to public areas, and stalls on doing repairs for rent-stabilized tenants in an effort to force them out, renovate vacant units, and charge market-rate prices to new tenants. It’s a claim made several times before against Akelius, as they have expanded their holdings from Sweden to Toronto, Berlin, and Brooklyn, (where they now own about 20 properties). Back in July 2015, The Toronto Star reported on

a settlement made to tenants at four Akelius Canada properties owing to a litany of neglected maintenance issues. By October 2015, a Gothamist article reported similar allegations made just across the bridge in Crown Heights, where tenants were allegedly forced to wait months for Akelius to fix leaks in bathrooms and kitchens, broken appliances, black mold, and other issues. Akelius has a reputation for buying apartments in areas poised for an upswing, doing basic renovations, and raising rents to attract tenants with deeper pockets. According to their website, they focus on “residential properties in attractive cities with strong growth and potential of upgrading” and “buys, upgrades, and manages” them. The impetus behind their concept is reportedly “Better Living,” with the idea that they will “upgrade residential units to First Class, corresponding to a quality level with newly constructed co-operative apartments. Akelius only upgrades vacant apartments.”

But tenants at these two connected buildings (between Seventh and Eighth Aves.) contend that these “upgrades” of Kährs herringbone parquet floors are being laid over water-damaged crumbling floorboards, and that the highend German appliances are electric, to sidestep the frequent gas outages plaguing longtime tenants. They’re also concerned that the company keeps cancelling out official requests to fix the serious problems in their apartments — so concerned, that of the many tenants Chelsea Now interviewed, only a few were willing to go on record. Kunal Chothani, head of Akelius’ NYC office, said, “As an organization, we take any issues our residents have with the building seriously and look to have them resolved in a timely manner,” adding that while some of the issues tenants told Chelsea Now about do not match with their records, they would further investigate these things. One 20-year resident of the building, who would only comment anonymously, NYC Community Media

Tenants; Management Counters with Claim of Sabotage countered that claim. “It does smell of harassment for most tenants. I received a notice that I didn’t sign my renewal lease, but I never received one. Instead they sent me a cover letter saying, ‘You never sent your lease back to us.’ I know the previous management company used to do this kind of thing to cover themselves. They’re pretending they sent the new lease and we didn’t sign it, to make it seem like it’s our fault.” And tenants aren’t just going to sit around waiting until it’s too late. They’ve reached out to their elected officials to help them keep their rent-regulated homes — because at this point, they figure about half the units have been renovated to market-rate rents. “The tenants are concerned about all the construction going on, fearful they will not have their leases renewed, and they have concerns about air quality,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “Unfortunately, it looks like it meets all the hallmarks of a pattern of ‘eviction by construction.’ ” Echoed Frommer, “It’s a classic example up them buying up the last rent-stabilized buildings in Chelsea and trying Photo courtesy of a tenant

TENANTS continued on p. 12

A crumbling bathroom floor lintel left dangerous nails exposed.

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Photos by Michael Rock

Foreground, L to R: Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Madelyn Wils, CEO and President of the Hudson River Park Trust, cut the ribbon to Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area. Older children went for their fist splash in a sprinkler area designated for their age group.


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Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area is Open Again BY MICHAEL ROCK Despite forecasts predicting a foggy and depressing Tuesday morning, it turned out to be a beautiful day to go to the playground. Many Chelsea residents welcomed that prospect, and happily congregated in Hudson River Park, on 11th Ave. between W. 23rd and 24th Sts. There, they joined local, state, and national representatives to celebrate the grand re-opening and ribbon-cutting of the revamped Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area. The original playground opened in 2000. Though popular with neighborhood children, its condition had sharply deteriorated by 2016 — a typical timeframe for such spaces to wear out.

“We had lots of drainage issues, play equipment was damaged, the children had given the park more love than it could handle,” Madelyn Wils, CEO and President of the Hudson River Park Trust, told Chelsea Now. Assemblymember Richard Gottfried agreed. “The original playground was very exciting and innovative,” he noted during his remarks at the August 14 ceremony. “It got worn out, and there were some design concerns, and it became clear we needed to do a new one, and now we have a second exciting playground,” he said, as he beamed not only over the play area’s completion WATERSIDE PARK continued on p. 7 NYC Community Media

WATERSIDE PARK continued from p. 6

and opening, but also over the birth of his second granddaughter only hours earlier. Wils also made it very clear that she was hardly alone in working on the project. “In the words of Hillary Clinton, ‘It takes a village to get anything done,’ and this playground is no exception,” she proclaimed. Wils further explained that the first person she contacted regarding the project was New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (whose District 3 area of coverage includes Chelsea). She then discussed fundraising opportunities for the project with Connie Fishman, the Executive Director of the Hudson River Park Friends, who asserted that the project was the Hudson River Park Friends’ “first really big capital campaign.” From there, Wils consulted with neighborhood leaders to determine what they wanted out of the project. In September 2017, construction commenced. The 17,000-square-foot play area’s centerpiece is an immense, multi-colored wooden pipefish — a species indigenous to the estuary portion of the adjacent Hudson River. Greg Wasserman, a Hudson River Park Friends Board Member and co-chair of the Chelsea Waterside Play Area Capital Campaign,

asserted that the pipefish almost never came to be, as it went over their original budget. However, the project ultimately raised it further to $3.4 million, so that they could include the pipefish instead of proposed fire hydrants as an alternative. There is also a sandbox featuring giant oyster shells. MONSTRUM, a Danish playground designer, created both features in what is their debut project in the Eastern portion of the United States. The playground also has some features of historical significance, including limestone cattle busts taken from a demolished Meatpacking District slaughterhouse, re-worked to spray water. There are also seating blocks made from the granite of Pier 54’s old arch, where the survivors of the Titanic arrived on dry land via the Carpathia, and two water areas. One of the water areas is designed for toddlers between the ages of two and five, while the other is for older kids aged six to 13. Milla Glick, a ten-year-old resident of Chelsea, was thrilled to be one of the first children to enjoy the new facilities. “I used to play with my friends at my house, now I can play with them here,” she said, in an exclusive quote. “More kids enjoy the new park, because there’s Photo by Michael Rock

WATERSIDE PARK continued on p. 10

Children and parents alike enjoyed the new Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area.

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August 16, 2018

Photo by Donna Aceto

Maryanne Roberto Fine, a co-chair of HOP, seen on the left with Sue Doster, the group’s director of strategic planning, acknowledged that some agreements with corporate sponsors guarantee coveted early spots in the lengthy line of march. PLACEMENT continued from p. 2

worked for and have not earned. That the companies are privileged misrepresents the broader community, activists said. “The issues that our community is working on are not being represented in the best way in this march,” said Cathy Marino-Thomas, a longtime LGBTQ activist, at the town hall. “We have a media opportunity for three hours every year now, thank you very much, but nothing that this community is working on is represented in those three hours.” While some in the community see the corporate floats as evidence of the community’s success and improved status in the US, Eugene Fedorko, who was in the 1970 and 1971 marches, objected to the current nature of the parade and how it misrepresents of the community’s history. “I cannot believe the focus of the parade has been taken from the heroism of the early activists and their political points,” he said. “Corporations were nowhere to be found in 1970 and ’71… Now they are acting as though they threw the fi rst brick on Christopher Street in 1969… It’s a huge insult to the early activists and the current activists.” In 2018, activists organized as the Reclaim Pride Coalition and, like 2017, demanded a resistance contingent in the parade, which they won. They opposed the required use of wristbands to identify marchers, a practice fi rst employed this year that will not be repeated in 2019. They objected to the new route, which

began in Chelsea, headed south on Seventh Ave., east on Christopher and Eighth Sts., and then north on Fifth Ave. to end at 29th St. It is unknown if that route will be used in 2019, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Chelsea residents were unhappy with the parade being staged in their neighborhood. “This has to be done differently next year,” Paul Groncki, the chair of the 100 W. 16th St. Block Association, said at the town hall. “The impact on Chelsea residents was immense. I had complaints from almost every block in the neighborhood.” The new route was supposed to shorten the parade’s run time. In 2017, the parade, which always begins at noon, ended at 9:38 p.m. This year it ended at 9:14 p.m. The parades in 2016 and 2015 were each about eight hours long. In 2010, the NYPD, which issues parade permits, issued an edict requiring that all parades last no more than five hours. The Pride Parade, which is among the four largest public events in the city, has not been close to five hours long in years. While activists this year were initially focused on demands related to the 2018 parade, they were aware early on that they would also need to tackle 2019, given the significance of the Stonewall anniversary. A concern at the town hall was that HOP may have already signed agreements that require HOP to put sponsors at the front of the parade. “Stop selling places in the parade,” activist Emmaia Gelman said. “That’s disgusting.” NYC Community Media

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Photo by Michael Rock

Some of the park’s slides. WATERSIDE PARK continued from p. 7

more things to do for older kids as well,” she said. Congressmember Jerrold Nadler expressed similar sentiments, calling the park “a big boost for morale. Chelsea has wanted a park for a long time,” he told Chelsea Now. “There was a vision for a long time, and now there’s a place for children to come and play under wholesome conditions.” Johnson agreed. “For many of us... parks are places for respite,” he said. “Without green space, our city would be a lot less welcoming.” State Senator Brad Hoylman was especially enthusiastic about the new area, telling this publication that it is “a complete reimagination of the old playground,” and praised the decadeslong efforts of community advocates to develop Hudson River Park. “My two daughters look forward to using it today,” he said. As neighborhood children and their caretakers enjoyed the new play area, those behind the project seem optimistic about its future. “I predict by tomorrow, this will be the most widely-used playground in Hudson River Park,” Fishman asserted. Still, as the Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area has opened on a highly successful note, it should serve as a major draw to the much larger Hudson River Park, which has not yet been completed. “We’re only halfway done with this park. With the support of the committee, I’m sure we’ll get the whole thing done,” said Lowell Kern, co-chair of Community Board 4’s Waterfront, Parks & Environment Committee.


August 16, 2018

Photo by Michael Rock

The playground’s pipefish centerpiece.

Photo by Michael Rock

Statuary from a bygone Meatpacking District slaughterhouse has been reworked as an element of the playground.

Photo by William Alatriste, NYC Council

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tests out his second slide of the summer, having taken a similar ride at the July 31 reopening of Mathews-Palmer Playground in Hell’s Kitchen. NYC Community Media

NYC Community Media

August 16, 2018


TENANTS continued from p. 5

to get us out. I’ve been here for almost 25 years, and this is my home. I am president of Save Chelsea, a neighborhood organization dedicated to keeping the mix of affordable housing preserved. I’m not going to be cowed that easily, and they know that. Quite frankly, I believe the only reason I’ve gotten any repairs done is because I cc every public official on my emails to them.”

BUGS AND VERMIN Apart from being crushed by a falling air conditioner, most New Yorkers’ number one fear is getting an infestation of bedbugs — more so than even cockroaches or rodents. So when it happened in the 220 W. 24th St. side of this building, tenants were devastated. “Two of my immediate neighbors had serious infestations,” said longtime rentstabilized tenant Barbara Dillon. “It was a major inconvenience last October, when we were told pretty much every apartment on this side was infested and had to be fumigated. The company was very dismissive to one of my neighbors, who had a serious reaction to the bedbug bites, and had to be hospitalized when his skin broke out and became septic. This kind of thing produces a lot of anxiety; you’re even afraid to visit friends, for fear you’ll carry these vermin to their houses on your clothing.” Dillon, who is disabled, had to pack up her closets, take the paintings off the walls, and empty her pantry for an application of what she said ended up being toxic chemicals. After her pulmonologist told her she couldn’t be near such fumes, the rental company gave Dillon another apartment on the 23rd St. side for a month, one that she said “had no water in the bathroom, and no gas.” When the exterminator strongly suggested tenants wash and heat dry all clothing, Dillon had to drag her entire wardrobe to the basement of the other building, because there was no gas or laundry on her side. One longtime tenant said that Akelius is taking rent-stabilized apartments that were infested by bedbugs and turning them into market-rate units, without disclosing the bedbug infestation to new tenants. “A lot of the new tenants are just moving out. The turnover is amazing,” he said. “They are now asking for three months’ security deposit on a $3,000 lease, to get you into a building with mold and bedbugs. The new apartments look good, but it’s all just like putting lipstick on a pig.”


August 16, 2018

Photo courtesy of a tenant

Bedbugs infested this tenant’s home, riddling his legs with their trademark three-bite pattern — causing a reaction so severe, the man required hospitalization.

Akelius contends that they “caught a resident planting bed bugs in the lobby near the elevator on camera in July. Since then, we’ve [sic] our attorney has sent him a letter, he has stopped planting bed bugs since.” Asked to provide Chelsea Now with the video and letter, Akelius said they could not, because that information “is private to the resident.” Still, market-rate tenant Heidi Piper said that despite being given a rider with her May 2018 lease indicating there were no bedbugs in the building, several

months after moving in, her apartment was infested with bedbugs. Akelius rep Chothani said that there was a canine bedbug inspection in June, which resulted in four apartments testing positive for bedbugs, all of which they said have been treated. Additionally, they say they treated all trash chutes, basement, and common areas at that time. “Seasonally, we do a canine inspection,” said Chothani. But “the building has had a history of bedbugs since before we acquired it in August 2017.”

Akelius noted that there are pest control treatments completed bi-weekly at the property; residents must sign up for treatments with the doorman or Service Center. A representative for NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office (whose District 3 area of coverage includes Chelsea) said they’d connected tenants with Housing Conservation Coordinators (HCC) to help with legal issues surrounding the matter. They say tenants just want to have a good working relationship with the management, NYC Community Media

to get neglected repairs taken care of and for them to address larger maintenance concerns. In one tenant’s case, HCC is pursuing litigation to compel Akelius to address maintenance problems.

UNSAFE CONDITIONS Longtime tenants like Frommer have registered their complaints with Akelius and requested the problems be fixed, but many say management cancels their official online requests without resolving the problem. For Frommer, one issue is brown water and sewage backing up into tubs and sinks. Veteran David Fox, a tenant here since 1978, also has issues with water damage and vermin. Many issues with cracked pipes were not addressed until the resulting leak affected the unit below. In 2015, after a series of minor strokes, Fox asked his part-time caretaker, Crystal Agriopoulos, to begin handling his affairs. When it became clear he’d have permanent mobility problems, she started advocating for him with both the Veterans Administration (VA) and building management. In 2016, Fox signed her as a co-tenant on his lease. Agriopolous said evidence of mice and roach infestation was overwhelming, with many unplugged holes in the kitchen. The sagging ceiling left paint chips and black dust in the kitchen and the bathroom, where tiles were loose and the entire wall was ripe with black mold that did not respond to bleaching. Her request for fresh caulking or repointed tiles were deemed by management to be ‘cosmetic’ — but Agriopoulos said cosmetic fixes are the least of her concern. She said that while many of the onsite staff and property managers are kind and hardworking people, she believes they are pressured by management to cut corners, ignoring repairs that could result in damages to the building far exceeding the cost of the original repair. Still, she put in requests: for the big hole in the floor to be repaired, to prevent mice and roaches from scurrying in. For the stripped water taps to be repaired, since Fox can’t discern between hot and cold due to his diabetic nerve damage. For the loose floorboard to be repaired after the toilet flooded at 3 a.m., leaving wood damage and exposed nails that could seriously injure Fox, who has trouble walking. She asked for the broken sink leg to be fixed, so that it doesn’t collapse whenever Fox steadies his hand on it as he exits the tub, as it has in the past, cleaving NYC Community Media

Photo courtesy of a tenant

Repairmen are supposed to keep the plastic screen closed to mitigate against asbestos and lead paint dust, but they don’t always do so (as seen here on March 30, 2018).

off a big chunk of the sink that is now covered in tape. Management told her she’d need to keep waiting, as there was a backlog of requests. “It’s not days or weeks, but months of waiting,” said Agriopoulos. “I went to check my account to figure out the timeline, and found a lot of my complaints were deleted from the list or changed, but there is still evidence that I’ve put in requests to fix the exposed heat pipe, the paint chips falling in the kitchen, the

bathroom lintel coming up and exposing splinters and nails.” Agriopolous said right after a representative from HCC had a meeting with management and showed them pictures of the problems, they came in to do “a flurry of repairs,” finally fixing the floor, doing it “for the wrong reason, but at least it’s not a safety issue.” But, Agriopolous noted, “They said they didn’t know about it, when they said, ‘You’ve got to tell us.’ It was a real

lie. They did know, because I told them about the problems face to face and on email. They sneak around with the maintenance requests and then say that I never told them about it. Why are they even allowed to edit my maintenance requests? If you’re telling me there’s a waiting list and I can’t get dangerous problems fixed in my house, it needs to be posted somewhere that tenants can TENANTS continued on p. 16 August 16, 2018


Hold the Testosterone Regular white bros squabble over games, snacks, and power

Photo by Joan Marcus

Stephen Payne, Josh Charles, Armie Hammer, and Paul Schneider in Young Jean Lee’s “Straight White Men,” directed by Anna D. Shapiro, at the Helen Hayes through Sept. 9.

BY DAVID KENNERLEY “Straight White Men,” the latest offering from Second Stage Theater, was not created by straight white men. The playwright is Young Jean Lee, in her Broadway debut, and Anna D. Shapiro (“August: Osage County”) is at the helm. Which is a clue that this quirky comic drama is not just about these types, lately maligned as villains in American culture, but also about society’s perception of them. To emphasize that the piece is not controlled by straight white men, Lee has devised offbeat “persons in charge” — Kate Bornstein, the illustrious performance artist who identifies as nonbinary, and Ty Defoe, a member of the


August 16, 2018

Oneida and Ojibwe nations who identifies as Two-Spirit. These hosts serve up a wry pre-show speech about gender identity and “finding understanding for straight white men.” They preside over the proceedings like wise, gentle spirits. The privileged men in question are three handsome brothers in their early 40s and their elderly father, reuniting for Christmas in Dad’s comfy house somewhere in the Midwest. Drew, the youngest, is a teacher and popular author of socially aware novels. Jake, recently divorced with two kids, is a successful BMW-driving banker. The eldest, Matt, was a promising Harvard grad with multiple degrees

but has lost his way. He’s moved back with his dad, working a temp clerical job, and performs housekeeping duties their mom did up until she died a few years earlier. He claims he is content. According to this play, straight white men regress to puffed-up brats when left to their own devices without women. They devour Nintendo. They gorge on snacks. They crack raunchy jokes. They fight over, well, everything. They perform rap nursery rhymes. They dance like they’re in a boy band. They turn into screeching monsters like “Pterodactyl Man.” They call each other names like “dickhead” and “shit-baby.” But as portrayed by Armie Hammer

(Drew), Josh Charles (Jake), and Paul Schneider (Matt), their antics are suffused with charm and affection. If they weren’t likable on some level, the play would utterly fall flat. All three actors, known for their television and film work (remember how the foxy Hammer caused a commotion for his turn in “Call Me By Your Name?”), are newcomers to Broadway and command the stage with finesse. Their no-nonsense father (Stephen Payne, who, after plenty of backstage drama, is the third actor to fill the role) did his best to follow the rules and provide for his wife and kids. STRAIGHT WHITE continued on p. 15 NYC Community Media


Tracking the Trends of Tomorrow: Today!

Photo by Joan Marcus

L to R: Kate Bornstein and Ty Defoe are the “persons in charge” in “Straight White Men.” STRAIGHT WHITE continued from p. 14

Not that all straight white men are without feelings. When Matt suddenly breaks down in tears in the middle of their Chinese takeout dinner, the tone shifts and Drew overreacts. On the one hand he offers help, insisting Matt see a therapist. On the other, he berates his bro for showing weakness and settling for a life of mediocrity. Jake admits to being a pig, a common trait in straight white men. “I give my friends shit for acting gay,” he says. “I joke about which interns I want to fuck. Every single VP at my company is white… all I do is reinforce a system that keeps us on top.” Apparently, it is okay for straight white men to exhibit homoerotic behavior, as long as it’s just an act. Their roughhousing requires them to twist each other’s nipples and hump each other and karate-chop each other’s junk. They recall a game played with their buddies called “Gay Chicken,” where they dared to do stuff like put their balls on each other faces. And worse. With all the fighting and dancing and physical comedy, Shapiro needed to bring in a choreographer, Faye Driscoll. With her help, the actors make the moves seems effortless and entertaining. The twitchy, genre-busting drama asks if all straight white men must have naked ambition and a laserfocused career to succeed or if, like Matt, simply feeling useful is enough. Jake answers that question. “It’s a world of pigs, and Matt is not a pig. But if you’re not a pig, you’re fucked!” Through Sept. 9 at Second Stage’s Hayes Theater (240 W. 44th St., btw. Broadway & Eighth Aves). Tues.Thurs. at 7pm; Fri.-Sat. at 8pm; Wed., Sat. at 2pm; Sun. at 3pm. 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets ($69-$149), visit NYC Community Media

BY LENORE SKENAZY Trends are something I wouldn’t say I’m great at predicting. Years ago, when I was passing the Empire State Building, two tourists asked me if I’d take their picture. “Sure,” I said. They proceeded to hand me a phone. “What the heck?” said I. “Oh, you can take pictures with a phone now,” they told me. Turns out they were shills for a tech company — Sony, maybe, or Samsung — and their job was to introduce the public to the idea that phones could double as cameras, and wasn’t that cool? I proceeded to write a column: “Just what we need, camera phones. Why not a bra that’s also a toaster? Shoes that dispense glue? How about a hat that can drive?” So maybe I’m not always ahead of the curve, but I’ve been reading up on other trends recently, and these things are truly on their way… I think. Running in the dark: Not running at night, when at least there’s a moon, but running on a track in pitch-blackness. I don’t quite get how people survive this “sport,” much less why they want to do it in the first place. But the Japanese footwear company Asics has debuted a “blackout track” that ostensibly helps people concentrate — sorry, no, it helps them “be more mindful” as they say today. And I’d be pretty mindful, too, if I was worried that my next step could slam me smack into the idiot in front of me who is stupid enough to be jogging in the dark. Male makeup: Men in China are supposedly getting into cosmetics. Sales of guy goop are rising by double digits, according to Jing Daily, a Chinese report on luxury goods that quotes

one 22-year-old who said he dabs on concealer and some “brightening products” every day — but would never tell his dad about his habit. China owes the popularity of this trend in part to celebrity men willing to be the face of the new face, including the singer-actor Luhan, who is considered the Chinese Justin Bieber. The slang for attractive young men with cosmetically flawless skin is “little fresh meat” — which is almost as easy on the ears as the guys apparently are on the eyes, don’t you think? Mayonnaise ice cream: I’m not sure if this is a real trend, or just something so gross that everyone is talking about it. Either way, mushy, smushy Hellmann’s ice cream is the creation of Ice, a Scottish creamery with a somewhat unfortunate name that bills itself as an “artisanal” shop. (Speaking of trends, is there anything that hasn’t been artisanal-ized yet?) Anyway, Ice’s owner said the mayo-cream is a “full on hit of fat, followed with an eggy, milky aftertaste.” Hard to resist with a description like that, right? But here we are, talking about it, so I digress. Hearing aids that are also not hearing aids: These sound (ha!) great. The tech company Ericsson predicts we might end up wearing earphones all day

long — in part to listen to our devices, but also to be picky about what else we hear. Future, programmable earphones might allow us to only hear Person X in a room, and no other voices. Or they might let us muffle the sounds of our spouse’s snoring. And there’s always the hope that they will simultaneously translate for us, which would be amazing. Except if the foreigner is saying, “Where iz zee mayonnaise ice cream?” Pokémon meets Hilfiger: Designer Tommy Hilfiger’s new Xplore jeans come with so-called smart chips embedded in them. Somehow between the chips and an app on your phone, you can rack up points just by wearing your Xplore duds to certain places the brand is presumably partnering with. It’s like Pokémon Go, but you’re the Pokémon. (Or the app. Or the sap.) And as you get rewards, Tommy gets the reward of “figer-ing” out where you are, and how often you wear his clothes. Edible coffee cups: We’re talking cup-shaped “Cupffee” wafers that withstand heat and liquid, and still taste good when you’re done sipping. This idea is so obvious, I am kicking myself. (Or maybe that’s the guy jogging beside me in the dark.) Fun laundromats: This one’s local! The super-hip Celsious laundromat in — where else? — Williamsburg features tables, chairs, a coffee bar, and even a free cup of organic detergent (not to be mistaken for the coffee). Why we have been subjected to otherwise dreary, soul-sapping laundromats for so long is a great question. Why we need a camera in a phone is not. Lenore Skenazy is the president of Let Grow, and the founder of FreeRange Kids.

Extra! Extra! Local News Read all about it!

August 16, 2018


TENANTS continued from p. 13

have access to it. They need accountability.” Akelius said that they have reviewed their Work Order history since January 2018 and have only one resident that has informed them of a mold issue, which they said has been resolved. For 71-year-old Dillon, the issue is accessibility. Dillon has leased her apartment since 1987, and legally sublet it when she moved to Tokyo five years ago. But when she became ill with a brain tumor, she had to return to the States for treatment. She now walks with a cane, which makes living here a burden. Even back when Atlas Capital Group managed the building, she said she was forced to pay a friend in construction to install shower grab bars for her, despite the fact that the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires them in private bathrooms used primarily by seniors or handicapped people. Dillon pointed out numerous issues she believes are ADA violations. “The lobby was remodeled to appeal to a ‘different’ class of tenant, and the new doors they installed are unopenable; they are too heavy for me or anyone with a disability,” Dillon said. “This came up at their first meet and greet, when we talked to an engineer in their employ who said it would be corrected. It never was. And there’s no way to signal the doorman’s desk, because it faces away from the double doors. I don’t know why they can’t install a buzzer. Sometimes I have to stand outside and wait for another tenant to come and open the door for me.” Akelius rep Chothani said that they “did not hear of any issues accessing the buildings from any of our disabled residents until two days ago.” They said the doors were installed prior to their acquisition of the property, and noted that there “will soon be automatic door openers and a door camera installed, just in case the doorperson is assisting another resident.” Frommer confirmed Dillon’s account of the initial meet and greet, adding that his hackles went up at the time when management insisted they would talk to people about their issues individually, despite that many tenants had the exact same complaints. “From the very first second they were trying to obfuscate and as far as I’m concerned, that is their modus operandi,” Frommer said. Another accessibility issue is the frequent elevator outages. Dillon is lucky enough to live only on the second floor, so she can struggle with the stairwell if necessary — but her wheelchair-bound neighbor up on the sixth floor isn’t so


August 16, 2018

Photo courtesy of a tenant

The lobby has been remodeled, but the 24-hour concierge is often not there to help disabled tenants with the heavy doors.

lucky. Dillon said that neighbor recently filed a complaint with the Equal Access Units of the NYC Human Rights Commission over accessibility, adding, “Again today the elevator shut down for whatever spurious reason.” But Akelius contends that residents are given a 72-hour notice any time there is an elevator shutdown, which they have had to do several times for testing and surveys required by the Department of Buildings. “Elevators are original to the building, and are scheduled to be replaced this year,” countered Chothani. “As we always do, we will make accommodations for disabled residents.” Dillon also had concerns about the effects of ongoing construction and remodeling in the building. “The apartment next door has been remodeled twice in the last four years, and the company doesn’t keep the dust shields closed, so there’s always a choking cloud of dust in the corridors,” she said. “The issue was brought up with the

super many times, and he always comes up and addresses it. But five minutes later, the shield is open. This company obviously does not comply with the rules. As my neighbor says, ‘It’s lipstick on a pig.’ ” The poor air quality around those vacant apartments under renovation is a huge concern to residents. Tenants say because the building is so old, the construction most certainly exposes them to asbestos and lead paint dust. Akelius covers these units with plastic sheeting, but tenants contend the sheeting is often just draped over the stairwell, leaving toxic dust to swirl around the hallway. “Whenever they do construction, we are concerned about air quality,” said a tenant anonymously. “The management has said they do mediation for asbestos and lead paint dust, but no air quality test has been done to my knowledge, and they were not responsive to doing it. Tenants have complained there is a change in the air, that their health has

been affected. But people don’t want to speak out because they have not received their renewal leases.” Another tenant complained about the installation of video and audio recording equipment outside the building and in the remodeled courtyard, wondering why the on-site doormen don’t have access to the video feed, but rather some offsite management office, saying, “Even if something did happen while the doorman was inside, they would never see it.” That tenant believes management is primarily using the cameras to determine whether anyone’s operating an Airbnb, or in some other way not using their apartment as their “primary residence,” so they can force that tenant to move out. Dillon said this is currently happening to a neighbor who left her apartment five months ago to care for an ailing parent. Another neighbor, she said, is paranoid that management is using the courtyard cameras to surveil their tenant meetings, which they now hold in another location. Said Frommer, “They’re playing hardball to try and prove that this is not your primary residence, and it’s deplorable behavior.” Akelius is leveling such charges against Greg Schlotthauer, a musician who has lived in the building for 24 years. He said that he spent three months last year working on a cruise ship, during which time he sublet his apartment — but when he gave management permission to check his home for bedbugs, he said that they allowed a private investigator to enter his home and see whether he was living there. The investigator found a letter left for his subletters, explaining how to take out the compost and turn the TV on — and that letter was confiscated from his apartment, then brought before a judge as evidence. Now Schlotthauer is involved in a court case to prove that his home for the last quarter century is actually his. He understands that he should have asked management for permission to sublet while he was gone (although he contends that other tenants just bribe the concierge to look the other way), but provided the company with all of his financial information just to prove he doesn’t have any other primary residence. “Boy, they are not going to make anything easy for anyone who has an affordable apartment here,” Schlotthauer said. “It’s economic discrimination: monitoring low-income apartments while anyone in the $3,000 apartments can do whatever they want.” TENANTS continued on p. 19 NYC Community Media

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Photo courtesy of a tenant

Crumbling drywall lets mice and roaches into the apartment. TENANTS continued from p. 16

RENT ABATEMENT According to several tenants, a gas leak caused a shutoff three times in the past four years. Most recently, they say, the gas was shut off at 225 W. 23rd St. in late July 2017 and not restored until the end of November 2017. Tenants called New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to inspect the building, and asked for a rent decrease based on the lack of service. DHCR acknowledged the request in October 2017, but didn’t inspect until January 2018 — long after the problem was resolved. “The problem was with DHCR not responding,” said one tenant anonymously. “Whatever administrative problems you had doesn’t change the fact that we didn’t have gas.” And elected officials appear to agree with them. On Wed., Aug. 8, Senator Hoylman’s office received confirmation that DHCR would revisit their administrative decision to deny rent abatement for that fourmonth period. Hoylman said tenants appealed the decision because they felt they were entitled to compensation under the law. “It’s a very frustrating situation at 225 West 23rd Street. For starters, NYC Community Media

these tenants didn’t have cooking gas for four months, and were denied a rent abatement,” Hoylman said. “We’re working with them to try and get rent abatement, because by the time [DHCR] came out in January, the cooking gas was already restored. But that administrative foot-dragging is not the fault of the tenants.” DHCR said that if tenants wanted to file a complaint about reduced services or overcharges, they can contact DHCR’s Office of Rent Administration at 718-739-6400. Hoylman also noted his office had a conversation with management on Aug. 9 to try and get them to resolve problems like the heavy front doors that differently-abled people cannot open, air quality around construction, and other issues. “We are trying to open a direct dialogue with them, but we are prepared to use other means, like working with Speaker [Corey] Johnson and Assemblymember [Richard] Gottfried’s office to try and get tenants what they are paying for: habitable, accessible apartments,” Hoylman noted. “This is a highprofile building and I’m hopeful that we’ll get a response from management agreeing to fix these issues — and if not, we’ll help tenants get some legal representation and pursue it from that standpoint.”

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