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August 16, 2018 • $1.00 Volume 88 • Number 32
‘Tech’ reality check: Berman and Rivera in ‘Hub’ hullabaloo BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
ate Monday afternoon, Cit y C ouncilmember Carlina Rivera, as promised, released to the media her letter to the Department of City Planning, in which Rivera asks for “immediate action to protect the area south of Union Square.”
The letter, dated Mon., Aug. 13, and addressed to Planning’s director, Marisa Lago, however, does not go as far as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation had hoped in terms of zoning protections to accompany the City Council’s approval last week of the planned “Tech TECH continued on p. 4
No joke! Credico will testify in ‘Russiagate’ probe; Stone stews BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
sked how he views the prospect of being questioned before a grand jury as part of Robert Mueller’s “Russiagate” inquiry, Randy Credico, as he is apt to do, referenced a Hollywood movie. “I look at it like Frank Pentangeli in ‘The Godfather Part
II,’” the standup comic-turnedradio journalist told The Villager. Last Thursday, Martin Stolar, Credico’s attorney, received an e-mailed subpoena from the office of Special Counsel Mueller, saying that Credico is expected for questioning in federal disRUSSIAGATE continued on p. 10
PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
Two women did some nice relaxing acroyoga in Washington Square Park, and in turn gained a whole new perspective on things.
Rivington rally’s cry: Meet with us, Mayor BY SYDNEY PEREIR A
ommunity activists reignited the fight to save Rivington House last Thursday evening. Led by the Neighbors to Save Rivington House, dozens of activists chalked slogans on the sidewalk and hung ribbons with messages to support the
What the shell?! Pr. 40 find.....p. 2
return of the former nursing home and hospice for people with H.I.V. / AIDS. At the end of the event in the sweltering evening, activists surrounded the building with yellow caution tape that read “GENTRIFICATION IN PROGRESS.” “We don’t intend for this P.R. nightmare to ever go away until you reach some kind of
resolution with this community,” said K Webster, a Lower East Sider since the 1970s and member of Neighbors to Save Rivington House. “Our biggest goal is to have it returned en masse to the community.” Webster’s “you” was directed at Mayor Bill de Blasio. RIVINGTON continued on p. 6
Two Bridges ‘lost playground’ is tower site ..... p. 12 Preservationist pans Rivera ‘Tech Hub’ vote....p. 15 www.TheVillager.com
OY, WHAT AN OYSTER: Contractors repairing Pier 40’s corroded steel pilings recently made a surprising find when they spotted a mammoth oyster latched onto one of the W. Houston St. pier’s supports. They promptly brought it to the River Project, which is based on the pier. The specimen’s impressive specs: 1.3 pounds and nearly 9 inches long, making it reportedly one of the biggest oysters found in the Hudson River in many a year. Once upon a time, oysters abounded in the Hudson and were consumed like pizza slices for today’s New Yorkers. Basically, they were everyone’s favorite fast food back in the day. Sculptress scion Jean-Louis Bourgeois’s building on Weehawken St., for example, was once a popular oystereating establishment. But overfishing and pollution majorly decimated the molluscs, which are only now making a comeback in a cleaner river. “They were pouring cement” to protect a piling and didn’t want to cover the oyster, Melissa Rex, 25, the River Project’s director of education, told us regarding the contractors. As for where this behemoth bivalve is now, the nonprofit environmental group is, umm…clamming up about it. “It’s actually in a cage in the river. It’s accessible,” was all Rex would tell us. Basically, they’re worried about theft — or somebody just “doing something crazy.” “A lot of people thought the oyster has pearls,” she noted. “They’re commenting on our Facebook [page].” Though, she added, “I don’t know how serious people are about that.” On a technical note, she explained that oysters help the river’s habitat by eating plankton, allowing more sunlight to reach plants. As for the critter’s name, they’re calling it Big — no relation to “Sex and the City.” ... Meanwhile, coincidentally, Councilmember Carlina Rivera snapped a pic of Chris Noth, Big from “SATC,” last week as he was passing by a rally at Union Square to tout the city’s new Uber-control legislation. Rivera rode a CitiBike in the sweltering heat over to the event because, as she put it, “It’s the fastest way to get around.” MULLING MAYORAL RUN: An item in the New York Post last week said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, eight months into his term as speaker, is “sounding out Democratic insiders” about running for mayor in 2021. “Corey is clearing exploring it,” accord2
August 16, 2018
PHOTO COURTESY THE RIVER PROJECT
Some “Big” news at Pier 40. This shoe-sized oyster was recently found under the pier.
ing to a “prominent Democrat” quoted by the Post. However, Team Johnson is playing it close to the vest, at least to the media. “Corey loves being City Council speaker and that is where his focus is right now,” Jennifer Fermino, a spokesperson, told us.
CROMAN REALITY TV: We hear the cable TV show “American Greed” will be devoting an entire segment to Steve Croman. The notorious landlord was recently sprung from jail after serving eight months for tax and mortgage fraud. A source, who was not positive of the date, told us word is the show may air Sept. 17 on CSNBC. … In other tenant / landlord news comes the disturbing story that Craig Smith, Elise Stone and their family have been evicted from their E. Fifth St. apartment after a lengthy court battle over whether they had rentregulated status. Their former landlord, Raphael Toledano, went into bankruptcy and the new landlord is Madison Realty Capital. Smith and Stone are now being asked to pay Toledano / Madison’s legal fees of $250,000. The couple have started a petition to ask the landlord “to do the right thing” and waive the legal fees.
LOVIN’ IT: If the name signed on an Aug. 2 letter to the editor in The Villager — Mark Sebastian — about an obituary on The Bagel’s Filomena Vitrano caught your eye, and you were wondering… . Yes, that’s right! That’s the same
Mark Sebastian who famously wrote the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 smash hit song “Summer in the City.” He and his brother John Sebastian grew up in the Village and The Bagel was a favorite of theirs, and so was Filomena.
RAY OF HOPE — CHICKEN WINGS: He’s the undisputed iron man of Avenue A, but Ray Alvarez’s life isn’t getting any easier after the octogenarian egg-cream maestro’s landlord recently jacked up his rent again. As of July 1, Ray a.k.a. Asghar Ghahraman — who has been manning the overnight shift at his tiny froyo and hot-dog haven on E. Seventh St. for decades — is paying $300 more per month, or $5,500. He has a one-year lease. Luckily, he has expanded his menu lately, including chicken wings, chicken sandwiches and more, so hopefully that will help him pay the bills.
EPIC OPERATIC EVENT: It’s being billed as “The Mile-Long Opera: A Biography of 7 O’clock.” Friends of the High Line plans to put on an opera performed by 1,000 singers positioned all along the elevated park over five consecutive nights, from Oct. 3 to 7. The project is being composed by the Pulitzer-winning David Lang, who is known for his massive public-art performances, and will feature singers from across New York. FoHL describes it as a sweeping choral work that “will immerse audiences in the personal stories of hundreds of New
Yorkers about life in our rapidly changing city.” All performances will be free, but the park will close at 4 p.m. each day, and listeners will need to get tickets to attend the events. Three thousand tickets per performance will be made available in advance. Audience members will enter at the elevated park’s southern entrance, at Gansevoort St., and walk north to hear the choirs. Community Board 2 in June suggested that the audience enter from the north, where there is more room for queuing up, but were told it’s “too late” to change things now, though the Friends might consider it for the next event. There will be no city funding provided for the epic operatic endeavor, but it will be underwritten by private donations and Target Corporation will sponsor it. So, you wanna sing in this thing? Nonprofit cultural partners — including Abrons Arts Center and Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, among several others — will be recruiting choirs, holding open rehearsals and workshops and hosting events. Obviously — like it or not — you’re probably going to hear these aural extravaganzas if you’re anywhere nearby. Hopefully, it won’t be a “tragedy” to listen to, but just the opposite! (And we were wondering if anyone could hear us when we were singing while biking over the Manhattan Bridge the other night! … On that “note,” it looks like kitchen appliances are being installed in the Extell tower, but we haven’t seen any residents moving about in there yet.) TheVillager.com
It’s ‘movement vs. machine,’ Nixon tells Dems BY SYDNEY PEREIR A
ey Downtown Democratic political clubs have endorsed Cynthia Nixon for governor in the Sept. 13 primary. Last week, at an “organizing party” hosted by the Grand Street Democrats, Nixon urged local Dems to continue door knocking and phone banking. “We deserve to have a much more progressive state than we do now,” Nixon told the roomful of Dems crowded into Seward Park Cooperative’s community room on Thurs., Aug. 9. “I am tired of California getting all the glory. “We should be a laboratory for all of the things, as we have been for literally centuries,” she added. The Grand Street Democrats, Downtown Independent Democrats, Coalition for a District Alternative and the Village Independent Democrats are all behind Nixon in her run against Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been in office since 2011. “Nixon knows New York City — born and raised,” said Caroline Laskow, Democratic district leader for Assembly District 65, Part A. “This is the economic engine of the state. It’s the cultural center of the world, and we should be investing more in the city.” At last week’s meeting, District
PHOTO BY SYDNEY PEREIRA
With the Sept. 13 gubernatorial primar y election looming, C ynthia Nixon addressed three local Democratic clubs that are suppor ting her at an “organizing par ty” on Grand St. last week.
Leader Laskow added that the clubs’ endorsements are just the beginning of the work to elect Nixon. She urged attendees to canvass and reach out to neighbors to vote. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is this Sun., Aug. 19. D.I.D. endorsed Nixon back in June.
“The governor endorsement debate was lively and was a contest between ‘no-endorsement’ and Nixon,” Richard Corman, president of D.I.D., said by e-mail. “Nixon prevailed with the strength of the argument that she and her campaign were driving Cuomo to take progressive positions and actions
that he had not previously done, and, the argument went, this was something we wanted to acknowledge and support.” Corman added the seven years that Cuomo enabled the Independent Democratic Conference to stay intact was one factor in the club’s endorsement. The I.D.C. — which caucused seperately from other Democrats in the state Senate and allied itself with Senate Republicans — was criticized for holding back progressive policies at the state level. In response to Cuomo’s belated pressure, the I.D.C. dissolved in April. Nixon announced her run in late March and has since been credited with pushing Cuomo to the left on a myriad of issues, dubbed the “Cynthia Effect”. One of her leading messages during her campaign has been a promise to fi x the subway. “We can fi x the goddamn subway,” she told the group of local Dems. “The subway is the lifeblood of New York City, whether you live here, whether you work here, whether you visit here or whether you just understand that New York City is the economic engine of this state. And if we let the subway die, the city of New York dies along with it, and right now the subway is on NIXON continued on p. 16
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August 16, 2018
Berman, Rivera in ‘Hub’ hullabaloo Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Editorials, First Place, 2017 Best Column, First Place, 2017 Best Obituaries, First Place, 2017 News Story, First Place, 2015 Editorial Pages, First Place, 2015 Editorials, First Place, 2014 News Story, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011
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August 16, 2018
TECH continued from p. 1
Hub” project on E. 14th St. between Third and Fourth Aves. The society has been warning that the 21-story Tech Hub building will ratchet up development pressure in the surrounding area, turning it into part of so-called “Silicon Alley” and de facto “Midtown South,” as far as real estate interests are concerned. In her letter to Planning’s Lago, Rivera focuses on regulating the development of hotels in the area south of 14th St. between Third Ave. and University Place. Rivera’s letter cites what she calls the “outrageous example” of five tenement buildings on E. 11th St. between Third and Fourth Aves. having been demolished for the construction of a new 13-story, 300-room Moxy Hotel. “I strongly urge the administration to establish a new City Council Special Permit in the area south of Union Square from 3rd Avenue to University Place,” she writes. “This permit would require a site-specific review process to ensure that hotel development occurs only on appropriate sites that can accommodate the unique land use impacts of hotel development. “In the absence of such discretionary review, this area will continue to see the replacement of older buildings and vacant properties [by] hotel developments. “I look forward to your response and working together with the Department to address these pressing concerns.” The East Village councilmember gave remarks before last Wednesday’s Council vote O.K.’ing the required special permit for the Tech Hub. In them, she said the building itself — including a digital-skills training center — would be a boon for the community, and also hailed the city’s commitment to consider landmarking up to seven buildings on Broadway, plus putting in place new means to “regulate commercial development” (apparently referring to the hotel special-permit requirement). “I believe these protections for the neighborhood are the first in a string of victories that will allow us to develop sensible zoning for livable streets, establish landmarking of precious historical sites, and ensure [that] the small businesses we cherish prosper,” Rivera declared. G.V.S.H.P.’s zoning plan, however, went much farther. Specifically, it called for shorter, squatter buildings for any new construction projects along the Broadway and University Place corridors and strong incentives for including affordable housing in new projects. On Monday, Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. executive director, promptly issued a statement in response to Rivera’s letter to City Planning, slamming her proposal as little more than “flimsy measures” that would have “little effect.” “Councilmember Carlina Rivera’s plan released today is a pale shadow of the zoning protections she publicly promised would be necessary for her to approve the Tech Hub, and hardly qualifies as ‘zoning protections,’” Berman scoffed. “The requirement of a spe-
PHOTO BY THE VILLAGER
Councilmember Carlina Rivera explained her vote on the Tech Hub during an inter view with The Villager the day after the vote.
cial permit for hotels will have little to no effect on the development problems the Tech Hub will exacerbate. “First, any hotel can still be built with the approval of the City Council,” Berman noted. “Second, this really only applies to a portion of the affected area, since the zoning for about half the area already prohibits or restricts hotels. Third, hotels are only one of many forms of bad development this area is experiencing which this measure will not address, such as office buildings and high-rise condos.” Plus, Berman added, the councilmember’s proposal would do “nothing about affordable housing,” as opposed to the G.V.S.H.P.backed “community rezoning plan Rivera promised to hold out for.” “Finally,” the preservationist warned, “it will take months for this requirement to be adopted into law, while the added development pressure from the Tech Hub approval takes effect now. Thus, it is like firing a starting gun to developers, letting them know if they want to build a hotel in this area without going though the special permit process, they just need to get underway over the next several months before this measure takes effect. “Councilmember Rivera broke her promise to the community and voted for a commercial upzoning [specifically only for the Tech Hub project] which will increase development pressure on these neighborhoods without providing anything like the protections they need or she promised,” the G.V.S.H.P. director added. “Trying to pass off flimsy measures with little effect as the protections this community fought for won’t change that.” Despite Rivera’s saying a half-dozen or more buildings on Broadway might possibly wind up landmarked, the G.V.S.H.P. leader complained that Community Board 2, which covers the area west of the Bowery / Fourth
Ave., is not really getting much at all under the deal. Community Board 3, which represents the area to the east, supported the Tech Hub development plan. Asked her thoughts on the outcome, Terri Cude, the chairperson of C.B. 2, noted her board also backed the society’s communitysafeguarding scheme. “Since the Tech Hub project is not in C.B. 2, we did not weigh in on it and respected C.B.3 ’s position — which included a request for neighborhood protections,” Cude told The Villager. “C.B. 2 has long been advocating for the G.V.S.H.P.-recommended rezoning from Fourth to Fifth Aves., including Broadway and University Place, and [board members] have testified about that area and our concerns about how the Tech Hub’s anticipated effects will radiate into it. We will continue to work with Councilmember Rivera and other elected officials to seek landmarking and zoning protections for this important neighborhood.” Asked a follow-up question — if she had any comment specifically about the society’s sought-after protections not being legally linked to the Tech Hub’s final approval — Cude did not respond by press time. In an hour-long interview, mainly about the Tech Hub, last Thursday, the day after the full Council vote, Rivera told The Villager she was already moving ahead quickly with an effort to put “zoning protections” into place in the area bounded by Third Ave. and University Place on the east and west and 14th St. and Astor Place on the north and south. She clarified that this would be different than a “rezoning” or a “downzoning” per se. Rivera said the Mayor’s Office, from the outset, had been very clear that a rezoning — which is much more extensive and TECH continued on p. 7 TheVillager.com
A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM
In the land of the free, protect the free press
he 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 Web sites 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 that 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
Les Goodstein CEO, Community News Group, NYC Community Media Jennifer Goodstein Publisher, Community News Group, NYC Community Media Lincoln Anderson Editor-in-chief, The Villager and Villager Express
Aug. 12, Mayor de Blasio had a New York Post reporter hauled away by police after he asked the mayor for comment on the paper’s recent report 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, D.C. In fact, local newspapers tend to do a much higher percentage of “straight news” articles than national publications and media, which often do analysis and give their own perspective on the news. In short, whether it’s bringing to light the Hudson River Park Trust’s secretive push for air-rights transfer legislation, reporting on New York University’s expansion plans, sussing out our local politicians’ often-
Vince DiMiceli Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier, Caribbean Life Bill Egbert Editor, Downtown Express Deputy Editor, Bay Ridge Courier, Bay News, Mill-Marine Courier
hard-to-determine positions on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act or the need for zoning protections to accompany the “Tech Hub” on E. 14th St., or covering the story of whether the Trump Soho condo-hotel was, in fact, a tricky “Trojan horse” scheme to allow illegal residential use in Hudson Square, The Villager strives to get to the heart of the matter, to get past the spin and expose and report on the facts — that is, the pure REAL NEWS. But whether it be local or national, the media must be protected — and, honestly, should be valued and appreciated for what it contributes to our democracy. 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
Zachary Gewelb Editor, TimesLedger Newspapers Laura Guerriero Publisher, Bronx Times
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. Speaking of Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote from the Gettysburg Address, yes, it’s true he did crack down on newspapers because he feared the power of misleading reports to tear apart the Union during this country’s moment of greatest existential peril. But the current war on the media seems to have no endpoint in sight, and furthermore, the aspersions being cast on reporters and the media are extremely dangerous — both to journalists personally and to the health of our entire country, in general. 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.”
Paul Schindler Editor-in-chief, Gay News, Manhattan Express
Scott Stiffler Editor, Chelsea Now
Anthony Rotunno Deputy Editor, Brooklyn Paper, Park Slope Courier
August 16, 2018
Rivington House ralliers: ‘Meet with us, Mayor’; RIVINGTON continued from p. 1
Located in a former public school building, Rivington House first opened as an AIDS treatment facility in the early 1990s. It was among the first hospice centers for H.I.V. / AIDS patients in the country. Later, the nursing care center would house patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. But in 2015, the deed restriction that required the building to remain a nonprofit nursing home was quietly lifted by the Allure Group, as outlined in a 161page July 2016 report from the Department of Investigation. It was a scandal that rocked the Lower East Side neighborhood and has dogged the mayor ever since. The building’s original owners, VillageCare, sold it to the Allure Group in early 2015 for $28 million. Allure then paid the city $16 million to remove the restriction that kept the building as a nonprofit nursing home. This sort of payment — representing a percentage of the property’s value — is usually made to the city in order to lift a deed restriction. (However, in this case, the property’s value was greatly underestimated — and the payment was millions too low — given that the property would ultimately be slated for high-end residential development.) Neighbors had been under the impression Allure would at least keep the building as a for-profit nursing home. But within months, in February 2016, Allure sold it for $116 million to luxury developers Slate Property Group and China Vanke. The building has since been shuttered. Last summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to hold a meeting between the luxury condo developers and the community, but the meeting has yet to happen. Similarly, de Blasio has also failed to meet with community stakeholders and Councilmember Carlina Rivera about another local former school building, the old P.S. 64 (former CHARAS / El Bohio), that was sold to a private developer, albeit 20 years ago, but that activists want returned to a community use. In that case, the mayor announced while campaigning for re-election last year that the city was “interested in reacquiring” the building. A spokesperson for Slate Property Group, Evan Thies, said the Rivington House developers have met with community leaders, including Councilmember Margaret Chin, and will continue to do so. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the city should simply take the old school building away from the developer at this point. “The building should’ve been maintained as a nursing facility,” Stringer said, “and there was a terrible bait and switch and terrible dereliction of duty by city officials. “The city should proactively give this
August 16, 2018
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Melissa Aase, executive director of University Settlement, was par t of the human chain around the former Rivington House at last Wednesday’s rally.
facility back and get out from under what was basically a bait and switch in the first place,” Stringer said. “So we continue to come out here and protest, and it also shows that without [an] affordable housing plan that really speaks to issues of healthcare and also true affordability, then the city is going to continue to gentrify and become unaffordable for the very people who moved to the Lower East Side when no one wanted to live here and built this community.” During the height of the Rivington House scandal, Jim Capalino, a City Hall lobbyist hired by VillageCare to remove the deed restriction, told The Villager that just a fraction of the facility’s 219 beds were being used because of advances in AIDS treatment. (Capalino’s contract with VillageCare ended in late 2014, prior to the lifting of the deed restriction.) “You modify a facility — you don’t close it,” Stringer said. “The list is endless in terms of the needs of a community as it relates to healthcare. There’s a tremendous pressure on the healthcare system in this city.” “Look around — we have 60 homeless people a night sleeping in this park,” added Webster, referring to Sara D. Roosevelt Park across the street. “If you wanna be rich, that’s fine. But you can’t do it on the backs of the most vulnerable people.”
Community activists contended that shrinking full-time care facilities like Rivington House is wreaking havoc on families — who end up separated from each other since nursing homes are located in far-away neighborhoods where space is available. Sally Roldan, who works in special-needs services at University Settlement, spoke at the rally moments before she headed off on a twohour commute to the Bronx where her mother is living in a care facility. Richard Rosenberg lived at Rivington House from 2004 to 2014 before having to move Uptown to a nursing home in East Harlem near Central Park. He misses his time at Rivington House on the Lower East Side, recalling when musicians and improv groups would perform at the facility and his friendship with the nurses. “This neighborhood is still so much more vibrant and interesting,” Rosenberg said. “The building, the location — those [are] the things I’d love to see back, but the one thing we probably won’t get are the people. “It was the people that made this a pleasant experience,” he said. “Everybody was on a first-name basis. We felt like we lived here, and we belonged here, and this was our house.” Rosenberg said what Allure Group did is “disgusting,” and has “no justification — none whatsoever.”
In a March letter, Councilmember Chin and Borough President Gale Brewer requested that Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen direct the Department of Buildings not to grant any approvals for the building’s residential conversion. Chin and Brewer also urged the Mayor’s Office to schedule the long-promised public meeting between the developers and the community. “This is especially disheartening,” the two politicians wrote, “since we have yet to see a replacement-in-kind of nursing beds or the full allocation of the proceeds from the sale price to the community.” De Blasio has promised to create new supported affordable senior housing and nursing home beds nearby to compensate for the lost Rivington House beds. Initially, this project was to be at 30 Pike St., but the plan was changed earlier this year with the affordable units slated for 50 Norfolk St. and the nursing home beds to be at Gouverneur Hospital at 227 Madison St. Though the deed restriction has already been lifted, Chin and Brewer argued that the conversion from a healthcare facility to a residential building violates the 2008 Lower East Side rezoning. The rezoning allows for residential conversions, but cannot create new noncompliances. RIVINGTON continued on p. 7 TheVillager.com
Beloved L.E.S. building is left hanging in limbo RIVINGTON continued from p. 6
“We lack the confidence that the developer will comply with this rule,” they wrote. “In general, we believe the conversion rules unreasonably burden local infrastructure and day-to-day services, such as on-site garbage collection.” Rosemary Shields, a nutritionist at Rivington House from 2010 until Allure sold the property to Slate, lamented how the building was designed perfectly for a healthcare facility — though it’s unclear how much has already been gutted. “This could’ve been turned into so many really wonderful beds for homeless people or for people with dementia or just really people with chronic illnesses,” Shields said. “I mean, the place was perfectly set up.” The rooms, showers and sinks were all wheelchair accessible, for instance. A partial stop-work order still exists for the building, though permits for interior demolition on the second and third floors were issued by D.O.B. Shields added that the personalized care at Rivington House — with nurses there 24 /
7 — made a world of difference for patients. Having worked in a variety of facilities, she often depends on nurses who are there 24 hours a day to inform her of patients’ changing eating habits — particularly for patients who may not be able to communicate for themselves anymore. “I relied a lot on nurses to have nurses’ aides and different people tell me so-and-so stopped eating,” she said. Shields and others emphasized that a continuum of care in neighborhoods is key, where there are adequate facilities for people of all ages. “All of us have parents and all of us have bodies that break down every once in a while. So all of us are vulnerable and are going to need healthcare at some point,” said Melissa Aase, executive director of University Settlement. “We know that as people get older and need nursing care, they need to be near their loved ones. “It’s not planned to be affordable housing, so it doesn’t even serve that need,” she said of Slate’s intentions for the property. “This is a part of gentrification.”
People wrote their hopes and wishes for the former nursing home proper t y on ribbons that were tied to the railway of its ramp.
‘Tech Hub’ reality check TECH continued from p. 4
could even involve a change in allowable uses — was a “nonstarter.” She noted she would be releasing to the media her letter to Lago, which she duly did the following Monday. The councilmember said Berman basically was aware of all this, and that she disagrees with “the messaging” of G.V.S.H.P., feeling the society is mischaracterizing what she regards as a win. She added that negotiations with the Mayor’s Office on the Tech Hub, and her attempts to get further concessions, went “up to the last minute” before the Council vote on Wed., Aug. 8. Regarding the “string of victories” on neighborhood protection that Rivera vowed is to come, Berman was extremely skeptical. “Both Councilmember Rivera and Council Speaker Corey Johnson have told both me and other interested parties that the only ‘zoning protection’ they got is a commitment from the city to put in place a requirement for a special permit for hotels in this area,” he said, speaking last Friday. “This is cold comfort... .” The councilmember, however, is bullish on the Tech Hub project, specifically the digital-skills training center that it would include on three of its floors. DurTheVillager.com
ing the negotiations, she had pushed for the training center to be increased to four floors, but ultimately did not get it. Civic Hall, a group led by tech entrepreneur Andrew Rasiej, will be involved in running the training center, along with three other floors that will include collaborative work space, event space, incubator space, community rooms and classrooms. These six floors will act as one unit, with their own elevator banks, separate connecting stairs and architectural unity throughout, and will be operated by “workforce partners,” including Per Scholas, Mouse and City University of New York, in addition to Civic Hall. The building would also include five floors devoted to start-up tech companies with short-term leases, plus eight floors of traditional office space. Berman also said that he had been told about the hotel provision weeks before the Council’s vote, so, honestly, it was nothing new. “[This] is theater on the part of Rivera and the city,” he said, dismissively. “This rollout and spin is only meant to give the misimpression that there is more progress to be made, at the councilmember’s initiation.” A Rivera spokesperson did not respond by press time when asked about Berman’s accusation the rollout is just “theater.”
MESERITZ SYNAGOGUE invites you to the upcoming
High Holiday season Services will be led by renowned Lower East Side cantor Mendel Kaplan and Rabbi Kalman Nochlin. Please help us plan appropriately by contacting us before September 9th. Donations are welcome. Rosh Hashona is celebrated on the evening of September 9th. Services on September 10th & 11th start at 8:30am Yom Kippur (Kol Nidre) services begin on the evening of September 18th at 7:15pm Yom Kippur services on September 19th start at 8:30am
Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year.
415 E. 6th Street 212-505-5264 firstname.lastname@example.org Look for us on Facebook at Meseritz Synagogue
August 16, 2018
PHOTOS BY Q. SAKAMAKI
Jason Kessler, holding the flag, marching with other white supremacists to Lafayette Square during the Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C., on Sun., Aug. 12.
White flight: Neo-Nazis chased off by antifa
unday’s Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C., saw a couple dozen white supremacists briefly march, while protected by a heavy police security force. They were vastly outnumbered by thousands of counterprotesters, including so-called antifa (antifascists). Led by Jason Kessler, the alt-right contingent could not even finish their speakers program as they were drowned out by the counterprotesters’ jeers and chants. Kessler led last year’s fateful event in Charlottesville, at which alt-right and an-
tifa members violently clashed throughout, with an enraged neo-Nazi driving his car at counterprotesters and killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal. President Trump afterward shrugged that there was “blame on both sides” and some “very fine people” among the white supremacists. This time, police made sure to keep the two groups separated. Some said the alt-right’s lower turnout was due to some of its members being “doxed” last time, as in outed online as racists, causing them to lose their jobs.
Counterprotesters unloaded verbally on the alt-right members, but there weren’t violent physical clashes like last year.
A senior counterprotester didn’t mask his face — or his disdain for the neo-Nazis.
August 16, 2018
Black Lives Matter activists came ready to face off with the white supremacists. TheVillager.com
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No joke! Credico testifying in ‘Russiagate’ probe RUSSIAGATE continued from p. 1
trict court in Washington, D.C., on Fri., Sept. 7. As of now, Credico is not taking the Fifth. “I believe he plans to testify,” Stolar said. However, he added, Credico could always change his mind between now and then. “If you don’t, they put you in contempt [of court],” Credico said, noting that defying the order to testify could mean jail. Last November, Credico was subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee to give a deposition — basically, to answer questions in a room (as opposed to before the actual committee) that would provide a “road map” for when the committee did eventually question him. However, the next month, Credico pleaded the Fifth Amendment — the right to avoid self-incrimination — and the committee waived his requirement to come to D.C. The House Intelligence Committee ended its own “Russiagate” probe this past March, but the Mueller investigation, of course, to the vexation of President Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, continues on. Asked why Credico snubbed the House committee subpoena but is responding to Mueller’s, Stolar indicated the latter is far more serious. “This is a federal investigation and a horse of another color,” he said. As for Mueller’s target, or targets, in the grand-jury proceeding, Stolar said, “They have not indicated to me what the subject matter will be,” but added, “It’s a pretty good guess it’s Roger Stone and Julian Assange.” It has been widely reported that Stone — the longtime Republican operative and briefly a Trump campaign adviser in 2016 — last year told congressional probers that Credico was his “back channel” to WikiLeaks’ Assange. Stone remains in the crosshairs of the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election. In August 2016, the notorious G.O.P. lobbyist hinted that WikiLeaks would be publishing damaging e-mails from John Podesta — Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager — gloatingly tweeting, “It will soon [be] Podesta’s turn in the barrel.” Then, in October 2016, Stone showed possible advance knowledge of another e-mail “dump” that would harm the candidate, when he tweeted, “Wednesday Hillary Clinton is done #WikiLeaks.” Stolar assured that Mueller is not going after Credico. “I can tell you that Randy is not a target,” he said, adding, “They’re not looking for records. That’s not in the subpoena. It doesn’t say ‘duces tecum’ — which means, ‘bring it with you.’” As for records, however, in June, Credico told The Villager that he gave his computer and cell phone to a writer for a national publication, who may be doing an article on the whole affair. Attorney Stolar would not divulge whether or not he advised Credico not to take the Fifth in this latest case. If Credico were to plead the Fifth, it’s possible he could be granted immunity from self-incrimination were he to testify. “There is no immunity” in this instance, though, Stolar explained, since Credico has not taken the Fifth. “The best advice is to go in there and tell the truth.” Indeed, Stolar noted, Credico — even if he were hypothetically protected from self-incrimination — could still be convicted of perjury if he were to lie while under oath. Stolar won’t be allowed inside the grand jury room — but said he will be waiting outside. He said an assistant U.S. attorney general will be questioning Credico before the jury. There will be no live stream of the
August 16, 2018
Frenemies forever? Randy Credico and Roger Stone in a happier moment. The t wo also once appeared together at the former Yippie Cafe, at 9 Bleecker St., nine years ago when Credico was hosting a comedy night there; Stone came up onstage to give an impassioned speech against the harsh Rockefeller drug laws, an issue that the t wo initially bonded over.
proceedings, because, by their nature, grand juries are secret — to protect the privacy of individuals who are not ultimately indicted, Stolar noted. For his part, Credico, when reached for comment, said he was not interested in discussing his former “frenemy” Stone.
‘Randy is not a target.’ Martin Stolar
“I’m not going to talk about Roger Stone,” he stated. “I’m not going to be defined by Roger Stone anymore. I’ve got too rich of a background to be dragged down by this Roger Stone stuff.” Specifically, Credico said, he wants people to know about his history of activism, such as fighting to repeal the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. With pressure from the “Russiagate” probe mounting, two months ago Credico accused Stone of making e-mailed threats against him. Credico provided screenshots to The Villager of select, allegedly recent messages Stone sent him, such as, “[Wayne] Barrett rots in
hell and you shall soon join him. It’s over! You lose!” and “You are the last person I would have thought would help the Deep State f— Assange — wearing a f—ing wire. Everyone is [sic] says u are wearing a wire for Mueller” and “I am so ready. Let’s get it on csucker. Prepare to die.” In turn, Credico told The Villager back then, “I’m going to bury [Stone],” noting he had given his computer and phone — containing all the correspondence between the two — to the national writer. Stone, though, said the e-mails Credico sent The Villager were likely doctored and also taken out of context. Asked to comment for this article, and specifically if he thinks he is the target of the grand jury, Stone initially replied with a cryptic one-letter text: “w”. Later, though, asked if he thought Credico would testify truthfully, he did respond. “I have testified truthfully before the House Intelligence Committee that Randy Credico was the source who confirmed Assange’s June 2016 CNN interview, in which the WikiLeaks publisher said he had substantial information on Hillary Clinton,” Stone said in a text message. “As I testified, Credico told me this material would be released in October. I now realize that Credico’s source was a WikiLeaks lawyer and not Assange himself. “At no time, did Credico tell me what the source, content or scope of the WikiLeaks disclosures would be,” Stone wrote. “I would note that Mr. Credico has avoided testifying on these matters under oath. If he is compelled to testify, I would urge Mr. Credico to simply tell the truth. Any deviation from these facts as stated would be perjury, which I could easily prove and will.” In another text, Stone then added, “I have two credible witnesses to whom Randy admitted he told me RUSSIAGATE continued on p. 13 TheVillager.com
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August 16, 2018
Two Bridges tower site was to be a playground BY SYDNEY PEREIR A
he site where one of the new Two Bridges residential towers is slated to be built was expected to be a new public playground, according to city documents from more than a decade ago. The proposed open space was a part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s larger plan to make repairs at the city’s 101-year-old Water Tunnel No. 1 via Water Tunnel Shaft 21. Under the original plan, once the third water tunnel was completed (expected in the 2020s, according to The New York Times), the lot adjacent to Shaft 21 was going to be used as a maintenance and construction staging area for work on Water Tunnel No. 1. That plan was approved by the City Planning Commission, Community Board 3 and former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer — but was conditioned on the west side of the lot at 259 Clinton St. being made into a playground for the Two Bridges neighborhood. But the city never bought the land, and the playground was never built. A decade later, Starrett Development is proposing a 62-story tower on the same site. “It looks very shady because the community lost a playground,” said Trever Holland, a longtime Two Bridges Towers resident and member of Tenants United Fighting For Lower East Side a.k.a. TUFF-LES. D.E.P promised to build the playground, but then it “bailed” on that, he added. “Somehow that just got lost,” he said. “The community sort of never followed up on it. The area actually used to be a playground.” The former 20,000-square-foot playground was in disrepair in the 1990s. Playground equipment was damaged and the asphalt was crumbling, according to D.E.P.’s project proposal description. As a result, the lot’s owners — Land’s End Housing Company, which is currently part of Starrett Development — closed the park in 1997. Today, a chain-link fence still closes off the lot. As early as 2004, a design for a new open space above and around the water-shaft opening was being honored by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The once-graffiti-covered shed, with a “no floors in this building” sign as a warning to firefighters, was to be remade, entirely. Renderings of the beautification of the lot are still online on the Web page of the city’s Public Design Commission. Former Borough President Stringer, who is now the city comptroller, noted at the time: “The restoration of the site as a playground and open space will provide an important community benefit for the community district.” “The borough president recommends that even after playground construction is finished, D.E.P. ensures the playground be maintained so that it does not, once again, fall into disrepair,” Stringer’s 2008 recommendation said. Stringer approved the overall project. However, his office added that “careful attention should be paid to the terms of the acquisition for the property,” particularly since city-owned property is scarce and it could be an opportunity for developing the site in the public interest. City Planning, at the time, wrote that the Two Bridges area “has a critical need for usable, well-maintained, high-quality open space, and therefore, strongly urges that D.E.P., or any subsequent city agency or other entity responsible for the playground, assures maximum public access and maintains it at a high standard.” Back in 2007, during D.E.P.’s application process with City Planning, a lawyer for Starrett, Mark Levine,
August 16, 2018
Design renderings for the beautification of the lot — including a “superstructure” covering the water-shaft site — are still visible on the Web page of the Public Design Commission (formerly known as the Ar t Commission).
asked Board 3 to vote against the plan, according to minutes from a December 2007 C.B. 3 meeting. It is unclear why D.E.P. never purchased the property. “It’s a bait-and-switch by Starrett,” said Paula Segal, a senior staff attorney for the Community Development Center’s Equitable Neighborhoods Practice. “It’s pretty cynical for them to now turn around and propose this tower,” she added. Segal and others in the neighborhood say the land was ultimately not sold but rented to the city to allow D.E.P. to do its work on the water tunnel. Segal speculates the property owners may have asked too much for the site. “They must have demanded a price that was out of the city’s range, but then offered the rent location to the city to make the work on the water tunnel possible,” said Segal, who is also counsel to Chinatown activist group CAAAV, as well as Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), TUFF-LES and the Land’s End 1 Tenants Association. Spokespersons for Starrett and D.E.P. were both unable to explain why the city never bought the space — or confirm if the city ultimately rented it — by press time, saying it would take a little time to track down exactly what transpired more than a decade ago. A spokesperson for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (another city agency involved in the 2008 project) could not answer why D.E.P. didn’t purchase the site, since the role of D-CAS is to help agencies find property that meets their needs, and it would have ultimately been a D.E.P. decision on whether to buy it. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for City Planning referred questions by The Villager back to D.E.P. Fast-forward 10 years, Starrett’s 62-story residential tower at 259 Clinton St. is being proposed alongside three other new towers: an 80-story building at 247 Cherry St., by JDS Development Group, along with 62and 69-story towers at 260 South St., by a partnership of L+M Development Partners and CIM Group. It’s unclear if the unearthing of the long-forgotten
commitment to create the playground would have any impact on the Starrett project. The four skyscrapers are currently under review by the City Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing Oct. 17. Board 3 is holding a second public hearing on the towers next Tues., Aug. 14. Two Bridges — the area located in the angle between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges — has long been considered a corner of Manhattan lacking green space. The Two Bridges neighborhood and surrounding Lower East Side neighborhood has among the lowest number of street trees in Manhattan, according to a 2014 report by Columbia University graduate students. Street trees are a type of green infrastructure that can absorb storm water. A 2010 New Yorkers for Parks assessment of the Lower East Side found that the area had 1.2 acres of open space per 1,000 residents — half of the nonprofit’s proposed neighborhood standards of 2.5 acres per 1,000 residents. That report, however, also includes Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods up to 14th St., which include East River Park, Tompkins Square Park and numerous community gardens far north of the Two Bridges neighborhood. The four towers are all being treated as one application in a joint environmental-review process known as a Large-Scale Residential Development proposal. Under the proposal, as of now, the developers are jointly paying for $15 million worth of upgrades at three existing playgrounds: Coleman Playground, Captain Jacob Joseph Playground and Little Flower Playground. Since Cherry Clinton and Lillian D. Wald playgrounds are expected to be impacted by shadows cast by the new towers, the developers will pay $50,000 per year over the next 10 years for playground improvements. The open space at Rutgers Slip will also be enhanced. The only new open spaces that will be created will not be open to the public, including a private courtyard between 265 and 275 Cherry St. and new private open spaces at 247 Cherry St. and 259 Clinton St. Design renderings show these open spaces filled with plantings and seating. TheVillager.com
POLICE B L O T T E R Watery death
Harbor Unit police officers responded to a 911 call of a man in the East River near E. Houston St. on Tues., Aug. 14, at 1:25 p.m. They found him unconscious and unresponsive. Police scuba officers removed the man from the river and onto land by the F.D.R. Drive at E. Houston St. Responding E.M.S. medics pronounced him dead at the scene. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death. The investigation is ongoing.
Around 6 a.m. on Fri., Aug. 10, a police officer spotted a man holding a metal pipe while riding a bicycle on the public sidewalk in front of Bailey House, at 180 Christopher St., at West St., according to a police report. When queried about the pipe, the perpetrator responded, “It’s my protection.” The officer arrested the man, Michael Wiggins, 57, for felony possession of a weapon. Upon further investigation, it was found that the bike in Wiggins’s possession was stolen. The officer canvassed the area for the bike’s owner but a victim could not be determined. The bike was impounded and the officer left a photo of it with the building staff. Bailey House provides housing for individuals with H.I.V. / AIDS.
Bubble trouble Around 8:15 pm on Wed., July 4, a 61-year-old man standing at the northeast corner of Washington Square Park got into a verbal dispute with a younger male, who, according to the elder man’s statement in a police report, was “always in the park making bubbles.” The argument turned physical when the younger guy punched the complainant in the face, causing a small cut on the victim’s lip. The victim refused medical attention at the scene. Although police conducted a canvass of the area, the perpetrator was not found. More than a month later, on Aug. 6, Rolan Pacheco, 50, was arrested by detectives for misdemeanor assault in connection with the incident.
A striking stroll On Fri., Aug. 10, around 7:20 p.m., a man and a woman attacked a 55-yearold man on the southwest corner of West and Christopher Sts., police said. According to a police report, the victim had been walking along the Hudson River when the two perpetrators struck him about the head and body, injuring him. Khalid Herdigein, 42, and Ramel Blount, 29, were arrested for misdemeanor assault. A subsequent search
in connection with the arrest found the victim to be in possession of a gravity knife, which was collected for evidence.
Hot tacos Around 5 p.m. on Mon., Aug. 6, firefighters responded to a blaze that had been set inside the Taco Bell at 18 E. 14th St., between University Place and Fifth Ave. According to a police report, it was determined at the scene that someone intentionally set the fire, imperiling the lives of the fast-food chain’s patrons and employees. On Aug. 8, detectives tracked down Jamal Deese, 24, of Brooklyn, through surveillance footage and arrested him for felony reckless endangerment. Deese allegedly set multiple fires elsewhere in the Village and Midtown, including at a Five Guys burgers, at 56 W. 14th St., and a local Dunkin Donuts, as well as two apartment buildings, on W. 15th and 16th Sts. The Daily News reported the firebug is being linked to 16 small blazes, which he set in garbage cans.
Roving robber Police are linking a suspect to a string of bank and store robberies in Midtown, the Village and Chelsea stretching back to July.
In the first incident, on Sat., July 28, around 11:35 a.m., the suspect allegedly entered a store at 77 Seventh Ave. — either the Duane Reade or the Westside Market — approached an employee and demanded to see the safe. He removed $4,338 from the safe and fled on foot. Then, on Fri., Aug. 10, at about 4:10 p.m., the same guy reportedly entered a store at 600 Sixth Ave., at W. 18th St., simulated a weapon under his shirt and demanded cash from the register. He grabbed $60 and fled southbound on Sixth Ave. On Mon., Aug. 13, at 10:13 a.m., the robber targeted the Rite Aid at 501 Sixth Ave., between W. 12th and W. 13th Sts. “This is a robbery,” he told an employee. “Bring me to the manager’s room. I have a gun.” But he fled emptyhanded. The suspect is described as black, age 30 to 40, 5-feet-10-inches tall and 180 pounds, thin, and last seen wearing a blue baseball cap and gray shirt. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS, or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential.
Lucy Stone and Lincoln Anderson
No joke! Credico testifying in ‘Russiagate’ probe RUSSIAGATE continued from p. 10
Assange had devastating information on Hillary. My lawyers have sworn affidavits from both #fucked.” Asked to characterize these witnesses, Stone simply responded, “People he ran his mouth to.” At one point, Credico told this newspaper that, for any further questions about the grand jury proceeding, the person to talk to would be Margaret Ratner, the widow of famed radical attorney William Kunstler. “Margaret’s talking for me now,” he said. Former East Village activist John Penley has been following the whole convoluted story with interest. If Ratner instead of Stolar is now, in fact, representing Credico, he said, it could well pose problems for both Credico and Assange. That’s because, in Penley’s understanding, Assange has been represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, with which Ratner has been affiliated. Ratner worked as an attorney TheVillager.com
and education director with C.C.R. More recently, according to her bio on the Hrbek Law firm page, Ratner has advised WikiLeaks on grand jury subpoenas. Penley noted that Credico said he originally contacted Assange through a C.C.R. connection. Ratner did not respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee, which still has an active “Russiagate” probe going on, recently asked Assange to submit to questioning at a to-be-determined location, and he is reportedly considering doing so. The Ecuadorian embassy in London is said to be on the verge of evicting Assange, and British authorities would likely arrest him immediately thereafter on bond-jumping charges, Penley noted. Depending on whether Assange is extradited to the U.S., he could face questioning here or in England. Stolar said the U.S. surely has a “sealed indictment” that it would slap on Assange at the earliest possible moment. “If they are involved in the informa-
tion loop,” Penley said, referring to C.C.R., “Assange might have to get a new legal team.” A bigger issue, though, he said, is if Assange does wind up being questioned and tells a different version of events than Credico. But Stolar quashed such speculation. “I am still his lawyer,” he stated. “Margaret’s a longtime friend of Randy’s, and also one of his attorneys. Margaret can be his spokesperson. I’m his lawyer. As far as the government is concerned, I’m his lawyer. They sent me the subpoena.” Basically, Stolar said, in addition to him, a number of attorneys have also been advising Credico. Credico knows Ratner from formerly having lived in the Kunstlers’ Greenwich Village townhouse on Gay St. off and on for years, and also having headed the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. He wouldn’t divulge where he’s living right now, though. As for Credico’s relationship with Ratner “compromising” Assange’s legal representation, though, Stolar said, “I’ve
got nothing to say about that. I don’t even know if Assange has a legal team. It’s irrelevant anyway.” And if Credico and Assange were to tell conflicting stories while under oath? “So what?” Stolar retorted. “Don’t lose the focus here. This is all a f—ing sideshow. Trump is the focus here and his racist policies and anything that’ll knock that down… . But,” he shrugged, “that’s just my opinion.” As for WikiLeaks, the attorney said, “WikiLeaks doesn’t give a damn” who sends it information to publish. Also, he added, the U.S. has wanted to bring in Assange since well before the 2016 election. It was in 2010 that WikiLeaks published leaked military information supplied by Chelsea Manning, including the “Collateral Murder” Baghdad helicopter-shooting video, plus international diplomatic cables, among others. “What got him into trouble in the first place, it wasn’t Trump or Hillary,” Stolar said of the WikiLeaks founder. “It was about national security.” August 16, 2018
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Rivera betrayed us
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To The Editor: Re “A tale of two ‘Techs’” (news article, Aug. 9): As president of Friends of Petrosino Square, a neighborhood partner of the preservationist Historic Districts Council, and someone who started life in a walk-up tenement on the Lower East Side, in the Second Council District, I fi nd Carlina Rivera’s “yes” vote on the Union Square Tech Hub one of the most depressing episodes in Downtown history. As disheartening are Rivera’s self-justifications. First, her proclamation of a proleptic “string of victories” to come: Does Rivera have a crystal ball in which she can see the future? Tech education and workforce development for low-income women and communities of color is excellent. But Rivera uses illogic to cast the outcome as an either / or proposition when a leader with backbone would have gotten education and development, the $200,000-per-year sweetener (a teeny, tiny fraction of the developers’ enormous profits) and real, in-place preservation protections. A leader with integrity would have meant “no unless” when she said “no unless.” The rest of Rivera’s statements are vague. What “key landmarkings” is she referring to? Could we have concrete evidence? How could Rivera think the Downtown community would be appeased by “a commencement of establishing a protective zoning measure”? Talk of a “protective zoning measure” that is not yet established and, furthermore, not yet commenced does not inspire confidence. Does “ongoing dialogue on how to preserve the neighborhood” mean get-togethers with low-level mayoral staffers? Similarly, what specific “further resources and commitments” from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Mayor’s Office does Rivera refer to? Based on H.P.D.’s, L.P.C.’s and de Blasio’s track records on preservation, it sounds like plenty of nothing. Please, Ms. Rivera, after betraying the Downtown community for generations to come, don’t insult our intelligence. Georgette Fleischer
Should have been upfront
The City Council waited until Rosie Mendez was out of office to approve the Tech Hub. Rosie’s accomplishments will be her legacy. Everybody wanted the Tech Hub as a service to Council District 2 constituents, including the lowincome constituents. Carlina Rivera was in a difficult position. The mayor refuses to include neighborhood protections. It’s possible that the mayor has made promises to some people and cannot renege. It would have been diplomatic for Rivera to advise the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation that neighborhood protections were dead before the final vote. Anne Mitcheltree
Not down with that To The Editor: Re “‘Whose park? Our park!’ Rebel spirit rocks on at riots 30th anniversary” (picture story, Aug. 9): Thanks for the mention! Iconicide were born as a direct result of the ’88 police riots. The flag melters were transplant punks, who are proponents of gentrification alongside zombie hipsters. Vanity ploys like that are not in line with tradition. Chris Iconicide
Can’t be fenced out To The Editor: Re “‘Whose park? Our park!’ Rebel spirit rocks on at riots 30th anniversary” (picture story, Aug. 9): Excellent event. Glad to have been able to say a few words on stage about a piece of three-dimensional graffiti sculpture I did inspired by the 1988 riot and the conditions that led to it, as well as the aftermath of various New York City parks starting to be curfewed in the wake of Tompkins Square. As a New York City native, my mantra was always go anywhere at anytime despite police or criminal danger. I will still jump the stupid little gate on Avenue A and walk through to Avenue B at night if I feel like it, and you should, too. Linus Brant
To The Editor: Re “A tale of two ‘Techs’” (news article, Aug. 9): LETTERS continued on p. 22
August 16, 2018
No spin, just facts: Rivera’s ‘Tech Hub’ ﬂop
TALKING POINT BY ANDREW BERMAN
ast week the City Council, following the lead of local City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, approved Mayor de Blasio’s large commercial upzoning for a piece of cityowned land on 14th St. for construction of a 21-story “Tech Hub.” Even though Councilmember Rivera promised that she would not support such a deal without comprehensive zoning or landmark protections for the surrounding Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods, that’s exactly what happened. Now, unfortunately, the vote and the resulting development will increase the pressure on the surrounding neighborhood for more out-of-scale and out-of-character development, such as the 300-plus-foot-tall condos and office towers, and 300-plus-room hotels, proliferating now in the area between Union Square and Astor Place. There’s been a lot misinformation promulgated about the Council vote and what it means. Here are some of the common questions that have been raised, along with some cold hard facts: Didn’t the deal include the zoning protections people were asking for? Not even remotely. The “protections” included in the Tech Hub deal are a fraction of a fraction of what the community was fighting for, and what Councilmember Rivera committed in writing to condition her support upon — and that’s being generous. We, at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, called for comprehensive zoning protections for the University Place, Broadway and Third and Fourth Aves. corridors, with reasonable height limits for new development where none currently exist, prohibitions on large commercial developments — like hotels and office buildings — in predominantly residential areas, and the addition or reinforcement of incentives for including or preserving affordable housing as part of any new development. We got none of these. The only zoning measure we got was a commitment by the city to implement a requirement for special permits for new hotels in the area. Aside from not addressing the height or size of new developments in any way, this measure also would not affect uses like office buildings that are going up where they don’t belong, or prevent out-ofscale high-rise condos, or do anything about including or preserving affordable housing in new developments. The TheVillager.com
IMAGE COURTESY NYC E.D.C.
A design of the as-of-right version of the “Tech Hub,” left, and the one with the recently approved upzoning, right, which allows for a much larger building, 40 percent of which would be used for market-rate commercial and office space.
measure also doesn’t affect about half the affected area whatsoever, including the University Place corridor and the blocks east and west of it, because large hotels are already not allowed there, and therefore not the problem. And this measure might not actually even do anything about hotels anywhere; under this requirement they could still be built, just with the approval of the City Council and City Planning Commission. Hotels could even be built without their approval; it will take many months, if not more, before the new requirement goes into effect. So the announcement that such a measure will be implemented down the road is really just an advance call to developers, letting them know if they want to build a hotel in the area without having to secure a special permit, to just get started over the next several months. Meanwhile, the added development pressure from the approval of the giant new Tech Hub on 14th St. is now underway. But didn’t the deal include landmark protections, too? Not to any meaningful degree. As an alternative to the zoning protections we proposed, we asked that a large chunk of the historic buildings in the affected area — about 193 of them — be considered for historic district designation. Relatively speaking, this would be a small historic district (the neighboring Greenwich Village Historic District, by comparison, has more than 2,300 buildings), and includes some incredibly important works of architecture and buildings that were home to noteworthy innovators in
commerce and the arts. What the Tech Hub deal included was a promise to consider landmark designation of just seven of those buildings, or 3.6 percent of those we asked for. To make matters worse, while the identity of some of those buildings remains a secret, so far all indications are they are buildings that would never be endangered by potential development, because of their size or because they are now co-op or condo buildings, or both. And the commitment on the part of the city is only to consider them for landmark designation, not to actually landmark them. So we may get as much as 3.6 percent of what we were asking for, or as little as zero percent. Aren’t these deals always a compromise, and everyone gives on something? Not for the developers. Actually, the landmarking and zoning plans we and others requested were already compromises, and what we got was roughly 3 to 4 percent of them. The developers of the Tech Hub, on the other hand, got 100 percent of the commercial upzoning they requested, which will allow them to make a very handsome profit off of this incredibly valuable piece of city-owned land. No surprise: The developers are major donors to Mayor de Blasio, whose Economic Development Corporation joined them as co-applicants for this commercial upzoning. Wouldn’t we have just gotten a big glass office tower on the Tech Hub site if the City Council had voted against the rezoning? Not really. The rezoning that the developer asked for and got here allowed the construction of a
significantly larger commercial office building on this site than is currently allowed. In fact, the zoning for this site was designed to encourage a shorter, residential building. Plus, this is cityowned land — it’s not private land that a developer could just do whatever he or she wanted with. It would be scandalous for the mayor to have tried to give away this incredibly valuable piece of public land in the heart of Manhattan for a purpose other than one that serves the public. Wasn’t this deal necessary to get the good things the Tech Hub includes, like job training and support for startups? Absolutely not. The Tech Hub does include some very important and valuable programs and services for New Yorkers who have traditionally been left out of the “tech boom,” and for small businesses that could use help starting out. That’s why we were never opposed to the Tech Hub in and of itself — only to this particular plan and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood if protections for Greenwich Village and the East Village were not included. More than 40 percent of the floor area of the planned Tech Hub in this deal is for purely market-rate commercial office and retail space, i.e. nothing more than incredibly profitable moneymaking square footage for the developer. All of the “good stuff” from the Tech Hub — the job training, the skills development, the start-up space — could have easily fit into a much smaller building constructed on this site without the very large commercial upzoning just granted. That upzoning just allows the developer to add the very lucrative market-rate space, from which a killing will be made. In fact, an original version of the Tech Hub plan required no zoning change at all, and did not have the 10 floors of for-profit commercial and office space. So an appropriately sized Tech Hub with just the public benefits could have been built on this site without the large commercial upzoning that increases development pressure on the surrounding neighborhoods. Will the Tech Hub and its commercial upzoning really increase development pressure on the surrounding neighborhood? Yes, according to Councilmember Rivera herself, among others. When Rivera ran for City Council last year, she said about the planned Tech Hub: “Without the needed zoning protections for the neighborhood, [the Tech Hub] would lead to acceleration in out-of-scale development for the surrounding residential neighborhood.” And she’s not the only one. Multiple developers and many in the real estate press have cited the proposed Tech Hub as a reason for the sudden boom in commercial development, such as ofBERMAN continued on p. 22 August 16, 2018
‘Trump-l’oeil’ in Tribeca Nixon: Let’s ‘move’ it NIXON continued from p. 3
life support.” Nixon added that she will fight to end cash bail, legalize marijuana primarily on the basis of racial justice, and “turbocharge” a transition to 100 percent renewable energy. The former “Sex and the City” star criticized Cuomo for his lack of small-dollar contributions, saying just 0.1 percent of his donations have been small amounts. Last month, The New York Times reported that in the past six months, 1 percent of the $6 million Cuomo has raised came from donations $250 or less after efforts to bump up his small-dollar donations. “He has the corporations,” Nixon said. “He has the banks. He has the wealthiest individuals looking for even more of a tax break than they’ve received already. But what we have is the people. This is a people-powered campaign.” She referenced the groundbreaking primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th Congressional District. “You fight a machine with a movement,” Nixon said, “and that’s what we have.” A spokesperson for Cuomo’s campaign referred The Villager to the lengthy list of endorsements the governor has received, including from other Manhattan political clubs, such as the Stonewall Democratic Club, Lower East Side Democratic Club and Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, among others. A spokesperson for Cuomo’s campaign, did not respond to a request for comment by press time. The Grand Street Democrats
and Downtown Independent Democrats have also endorsed Jumaane Williams for lieutenant governor, Letitia James for New York State attorney general and Tom DiNapoli for re-election as State Comptroller. V.I.D. endorsed James and DiNapoli, too, but for lieutenant governor opted for incumbent Kathy Hochul. After V.I.D.’s endorsements back in May, Erik Coler, V.l.D.’s president, told The Villager back then that the club was supporting Nixon and Hochul partly because “it’s the year of the woman.” “The endorsements of Cynthia Nixon and Kathy Hochul mirrors what we’re seeing across the nation,” Coler told the paper. “It is the year of the woman. There is a great enthusiasm at V.I.D. for female candidates.” For Democratic State Committee — the body that plays a role in the state’s Democratic Party endorsements — the Grand Street Dems endorsed Jenny Lam Low and Chris Marte for the 65th Assembly District, and V.I.D. endorsed incumbents Ben Yee and Rachel Lavine for re-election in the 66th Assembly District. D.I.D. endorsed those four candidates as well. Grand Street Dems, V.I.D. and D.I.D. endorsed the incumbents in their districts for the state Legislature — Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Yuh-Line Niou and state Senators Brad Hoylman and Brian Kavanagh. The three clubs have also endorsed Shahabuddeen Ally and Ariel Chesler for Manhattan Civil Court and Robert Rosenthal for Civil Court District 2. Rosenthal is running in a primary for the bench against Wendy Li. D.I.D. also endorsed Frank Nervo for Civil Court District 1.
WHY PAY MORE? PHOTO BY MILO HESS
A young Trump is seen in the Philip Williams poster store on Chambers St. in Tribeca, with the reflection of the building facade from across the street giving him a mask. Of course, the scene only exists in the reflection, so it might be called a trompe-l’oeil. And who really cares if Trump calls that “fake news”?
August 16, 2018
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Photo by Rania Richardson
Schapiro’s “The Beauty of Summer” greets visitors upon entering “Surface/Depth.” A case of inspirational ephemera stands at the end of the room.
When Miriam Schapiro embraced the decorative Exhibition shines light on a pioneer and her progeny BY RANIA RICHARDSON “Surface/Depth: The Decorative After Miriam Schapiro,” currently on view at the Museum of Arts & Design (MAD), is dazzling in more ways than one. In the 1970s, Schapiro (1923-2015) was a key figure in the intersection of feminism and art. Originally recognized for her hard-edged abstract expressionism, she shifted into a new means of expression that elevated what had been known as woman’s work — efforts such as needlework and scrapbooking. She embraced the decorative, embellishing her canvases with cut paper, fabric, rickrack, glitter, and jewels. TheVillager.com
Combining painting with a variety of other materials, she called examples of her signature hybrid style “femmages” — a portmanteau of “femme” and “collages.” The exhibition’s curator, Elissa Auther, noted in a statement to this publication that, along with a circle of feminist artists, Schapiro engaged in “dignifying women’s traditions of creative practice, historically dismissed as artistically trivial for their connections to craft and the domestic sphere.” Schapiro’s work was an exciting development at the time when female artists faced psychological, social, and professional obstacles in the male-dominated
art world. In 1971, with Judy Chicago (best known for “The Dinner Party”), Schapiro founded the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a radical undertaking designed to address gender issues. In addition, she was a leader of the Pattern and Decoration Movement — so it comes as no surprise that her work in this area is stunning in color and composition. (American art had historically eschewed the decorative, although it was fundamental around the world; in Islamic art, for example.) Schapiro’s experiments with form yielded canvases shaped in female-cen-
tric constructions such as fans, homes, and hearts. “House” is a highlight of the exhibition. The simplest shape of a house is repeated like an infinity mirror. The black color hints at a darker side to domesticity, while the floral and sparkling additions speak to beauty and feminine life. Schapiro collected ephemera for use and inspiration, and there is a fascinating selection on display in a glass case: buttons, doilies, kerchiefs, pincushions, and the like. Among those items is a copy of the femmage manifesto, “Waste DECORATIVE continued on p. 18 August 16, 2018
Photo by Rania Richardson
“Untitled,” by Ruth Root, includes fabric that incorporates a 1970s photo of Miriam Schapiro with a bespectacled Judy Chicago. Photo by Rania Richardson
Josh Blackwell employs plastic bags and colored fibers to create sculptural “Neveruses” with embroidery and darning techniques.
Photo by Jenna Bascom, courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design
L to R: Schapiro’s transformation from a classic abstract expressionist (“Silver Windows”) to an artist who added craft material to her work (“Again Sixteen Windows” and “Lady Gengi’s Maze”).
DECORATIVE continued from p. 17
Not, Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled.” “Surface/Depth” presents work from Schapiro’s seminal years juxtaposed with nine contemporary artists who are continuing in her legacy, fulfilling MAD’s aim of being a creative hub that explores the processes and materials of artists across disciplines, as noted in the museum’s stated mission when it opened in Columbus Circle in 2008. “Like Schapiro, these artists set into relief our assumptions about what counts as mere visual incident and what is considered the ‘real’ meaning of a work of art. These artists continue and extend her investigation of the antagonistic relationship of craft to art and surface to depth, further demonstrating the value of the decorative as a critical, aesthetic tool that complicates these exclusionary
August 16, 2018
distinctions of value,” Auther wrote. The exhibition shines a light on the renewed relevance of Schapiro, especially as an unheralded pioneer whose work catalyzed a younger generation of artists. A diversity of makers in various stages of their careers are among the standouts: Filipino-American artist Jasmin Sian uses a utility knife to cut tiny, elaborative shapes into painted paper, in a laborintensive process that results in miniature filigree landscapes of gardens and zoo animals. Josh Blackwell recovers plastic bags and yarn to create intricate sculptures he calls “Neveruses,” that reference baskets and ceramics by using needlework techniques such as darning, weaving, crocheting, and knitting. Sanford Biggers decorates found quilts with cosmic and celestial imagery, and explores history and race through pattern.
Photo by Jenna Bascom, courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design
A tribute to the domestic arts, “House of Summer’s Night” shows one of Schapiro’s shaped canvases.
Ruth Root pairs fabric and paint to signify that the materials are equal in value. In “Untitled,” a piece she created for the exhibition, an irregular canvas abuts fabric of her own design that depicts household objects, art pieces, and people, including Schapiro with Chicago in their CalArts heyday. “Surface/Depth: The Decorative After
Miriam Schapiro,” is on view through Sept. 9 at the Museum of Arts & Design (2 Columbus Circle, btw. Broadway & Eighth Ave.). Hours: Tues., Wed., Fri., Sat. & Sun, 10am-6pm; Thurs., 10am9pm. Admisson: $16 general, $14 for seniors, $12 for students. Thurs., 6-9pm is pay-what-you-wish. For more info, call 212-299-7777 or visit madmuseum.org. TheVillager.com
Hold the testosterone Regular white bros squabble over games, snacks, and power BY DAVID KENNERLEY â€œStraight White Men,â€? 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 (â€œAugust: Osage Countyâ€?) 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 societyâ€™s perception of them. To emphasize that the piece is not controlled by straight white men, Lee has devised offbeat â€œpersons in chargeâ€? â€” Kate Bornstein, the illustrious performance artist who identifies as nonbinary, and Ty Defoe, a member of the Oneida and Ojibwe nations who identifies as Two-Spirit. These hosts serve up a wry pre-show speech about gender identity and â€œfinding understanding for straight white men.â€? 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 Dadâ€™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. Heâ€™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 theyâ€™re in a boy band. They turn into screeching monsters like â€œPterodactyl Man.â€? They call each other names like â€œdickheadâ€? and â€œshit-baby.â€? But as portrayed by Armie Hammer (Drew), Josh Charles (Jake), and Paul Schneider (Matt), their antics are suffused with charm and affection. If they werenâ€™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 TheVillager.com
Photo by Joan Marcus
Stephen Payne, Josh Charles, Armie Hammer, and Paul Schneider in Young Jean Leeâ€™s â€œStraight White Men,â€? directed by Anna D. Shapiro, at the Helen Hayes through Sept. 9.
caused a commotion for his turn in â€œCall Me By Your Name?â€?), 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. 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. â€œI give my friends shit for acting gay,â€? he says. â€œI joke about which interns I want to fuck. Every single VP at my company is whiteâ€Ś all I do is reinforce a system that keeps us on top.â€? Apparently, it is okay for straight white men to exhibit homoerotic behavior, as long as itâ€™s just an act. Their roughhousing requires them to twist each otherâ€™s nipples and hump each other and kara-
te-chop each otherâ€™s junk. They recall a game played with their buddies called â€œGay Chicken,â€? 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 laser-focused
career to succeed or if, like Matt, simply feeling useful is enough. Jake answers that question. â€œItâ€™s a world of pigs, and Matt is not a pig. But if youâ€™re not a pig, youâ€™re fucked!â€? Through Sept. 9 at Second Stageâ€™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 2ST.com.
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Just facts: Rivera’s ‘Tech Hub’ ﬂop BERMAN continued from p. 15
fice buildings and hotels, in this area in recent months — an area that saw almost no such similar development anytime over the last half-century. (Prior to the last year or so, new development in this area was almost exclusively either residential — mostly conversion of existing buildings to living spaces — or dorms, which a rezoning that G.V.S.H.P. and others secured in 2010 now helps prevent.) Isn’t this just the beginning of the process; can’t Councilmember Rivera continue to work toward getting more protections for the neighborhood? She can try, but having now given away her vote, it’s incredibly unlikely, and would likely come too late. For several years now, Mayor de Blasio has adamantly refused to consider zoning or landmark protections for this area — he has made that 100 percent clear. The only way we were going to get him to move was to make it a condition of him getting the approvals he needed from the City Council for the Tech Hub. Now that Councilmember Rivera has given her approval, all her leverage — and our community’s leverage — is gone. We will try, and we will do everything we can to ensure that Councilmember Rivera continues to try. But any knowledgeable observer of how this mayor works knows that the only way to get anything out of him is through horse-trading and dealmaking. And this deal is now done, and the surrounding neighborhood got little or nothing in return. Development pressure is moving through this area incredibly quickly, with a half-dozen developments underway or planned right now. Even in the unlikely event protections were secured in the several months or a few years down the road, they would likely be too late to impact the development juggernaut now underway. Isn’t what you were asking for —
comprehensive protections, put in place at the same time as the City Council vote approving the project — unrealistic as part of a deal to rezone a single site? No — it’s exactly what was done just two years earlier in the West Village. In 2016 we called for a historic district of about the same size as the one we asked for here, zoning protections covering the entire Greenwich Village waterfront, and a prohibition on out-of-place big-box stores and destination retail as part of any deal for a rezoning of the St. John’s Building site in the West Village. We also demanded that all those measures be put in place before the City Council gave its final approval to the rezoning, so that it would not be a “promise” that might or might not be kept, but a done deal. And that’s exactly what we got. And if you think such an outcome is too heavy a lift for a freshman city councilmember, that deal was put together by thenfreshman City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who also managed to make a whole array of other public benefits and funding part of the deal. Isn’t this really all the mayor’s fault? He definitely bears primary responsibility, but he could not have done it alone. There’s no denying the mayor set the terms of this game, as he has in so many cases — demanding a large upzoning that will benefit his benefactors in the real estate industry by claiming it is the only way to get some needed public good. (Usually, the public good is affordable housing, which was noticeably absent from this deal.) But the City Council, and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, did not have to play that game. In fact, the mayor could not have succeeded without their vote of approval. (It should be noted that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also approved of this deal — without the neighborhood protections.) It’s telling that both the mayor and the Real Estate Board of New York issued
Letters to The Editor LETTERS continued from p. 14
REBNY rules Council To The Editor: Re “On the S.B.J.S.A., this time, let’s get it right” (talking point, by Sharon Woolums, Aug. 9): I want to thank Sharon Woolums and The Villager for never giving up on your efforts to expose the deceit and “What’s in it for me, Jack!” behavior of our City Council, who’ve been called on for decades to save our dying small business-
August 16, 2018
es. Always they find a way to con this great city out of passing the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which, in one stroke, could protect sorely harassed, often frightened and, yes, frequently criminally extorted owners of our irreplaceable mom-and-pop stores. What grotesque place is this city going to become if thousands of these stores, giving us economic viability, neighborhood cohesion and our worldfamous individuality keep dying? When Ed Koch defeated the old Democratic machine years ago, he brought into power with him the “real estate billionaires”; the Real Estate Board of
press releases after the vote praising Councilmember Rivera for supporting this deal. Rivera could have instead stood firm and told the mayor, “When I make a promise, I keep it: The only way you’re getting my vote on the Tech Hub is if you also agree to the neighborhood protections.” If she had done that, we would have likely gotten those protections. But even if she kept her pledge, and the city didn’t budge, and she voted down the commercial upzoning for the Tech Hub site, all the good parts of the Tech Hub could have still been built on the site. Would the mayor have wanted to do so without the big payoff for his real estate benefactors? Probably not. But Rivera could have insisted that the mayor follow through and build the Tech Hub with just the job training, skills development and start-up space, and without the huge increase for high-end office and commercial space. We would have stood with her, as no doubt would have many others — just as we hoped and believed that Rivera, based upon her promises, would stand with us. Unfortunately, that did not happen. What did happen is some real estate developers got hold of a prime piece of public land in our neighborhood that they will make a huge profit off of, after donating generously to the mayor. Greenwich Village and the East Village got one of their first and only commercial spot upzonings in generations, which will vastly increase pressure for big new hotels, office buildings and condo high-rises in the area. And our only real chance to get significant zoning or landmark protections for the surrounding neighborhood to prevent it from being transformed into an extension of Midtown South and “Silicon Alley” was given away in exchange for measures so minimal and flimsy, they could easily have no effect on future development in the area whatsoever.
New York (REBNY) is their name, and narcissistic greed is their game. The endless money and power obsession of REBNY, through their influence on the City Council, is what’s making this disease worse and worse. Bennett Kremen E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager. com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published. TheVillager.com
Sexual healing for church’s roof and elevator BY BOB KR ASNER
icture this: The local church is having a fundraiser, spearheaded by a group of women who have great affection for their place of worship. If you have an image of traditional church ladies making cookies for the bake sale, fuggedaboudit. The sanctuary in question is the Judson Memorial Church, and the women organizers are led by Veronica Vera, a former porn actress who notably runs Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls, a cross-dressing academy. Vera, a self-described “sex-positive feminist activist,” said she considers Judson her “spiritual home.” Wanting to help out financially with the Washington Square South church’s pressing need for a new roof and elevator, she enlisted the help of a few friends: Annie Sprinkle, the performance artist, activist, filmmaker and former porn star; Beth Stephens, an interdisciplinary artist, activist and educator and filmmaker; Linda M. Montano, a performance artist; Barbara Carrellas, an author, sex educator, performance artist and certified sexologist; Veronica Hart, an actress, director and former porn star; and Betty Dodson, a sex educator, prosex feminist and author. A veritable Dream Team of vivaciousness, they came together for an event dubbed, fittingly, Pleasure Activist Sunday. The group drew a sizable crowd, who were eager to chat with these accomplished women, as well as check out the various vendors tables. Raffle tickets were sold; one gentleman looked somewhat surprised when he walked away with a deluxe dildo. Food and drink were consumed. And healing, massages and cuddles were offered while the silent auction quietly rang up sales. The auction consisted of, among other things, a variety of memorabilia, which included original XXX movie posters donated by Ashley West of TheRialtoReport.com, a Web site dedicated to the history of “the golden age of adult film.” HBO’s “The Deuce” contributed a promo poster for the show signed by all the principals, including James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal. HBO also handed over “the largest single cash donation” for the event, according to Vera. Vera, Hart and Sprinkle have all consulted on “The Deuce.” The event’s big-ticket item turned out to be an original oil painting on paper by Clover Vail, a Judson congregant. Veronica Hart came in from L.A. to support the project, not just because she is a good friend of Vera’s. “I’m the most religious of this group,” she explained. “And this embodies what a church should be — it embraces everyone.” TheVillager.com
PHOTOS BY BOB KRASNER
Having fun while raising cash for Judson Church at Pleasure Activist Sunday, seated, Linda M. Montano, left, and Veronica Vera, and standing, from left, Robin Leonardi, Annie Sprinkle, Beth Stephens, Barbara Carrellas, Jenna Jassen, BarbiKat and Veronica Har t.
Judson’s Reverend Donna Schaper spoke specifically of the church’s history of helping outsiders, and why it made perfect sense that the sale of sex toys and dirty magazines would pay for a new elevator. “We are a sex-positive congregation,” she explained. “And that puts us beyond liberal. This church set up a health clinic on wheels to help sex workers in the ’50s.” Partners Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens chose the event to premiere their new documentary film, “Water Makes Us Wet,” an “ecosexual” study of H2O that looks at the spiritual, sexual and practical nature of the liquid. “We wanted to show it here first,” said Sprinkle. “It’s much more special than a film festival.” The whole evening was a major success, according to Vera. “We made much more than we expected,” she said. “We’re still counting the money and the total is about $7,500.” Watching the volunteers at work and noting the contributions of various groups, Reverend Schaper said, “I am so moved by how much help Judson gets from the people who are considered outcasts. The way to be a good church is to side with the outsiders.” By the way, homemade cookies were served, courtesy of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. They came decorated with a variety of words and phrases, such as “Bite Me,” “Suck It,” “69” and a few more that are not printable in a family paper. Information on how to donate to the Judson Memorial Church’s $4 million renovation project is available at www. judson.org.
Annie Sprinkle with a silent-auction item, a poster for “The Deuce,” signed by the cast. The HBO show — whose title is a nickname for 42nd St. — is about the porn industr y in the 1970s. August 16, 2018
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