INSIDE: Parking placard abuse, p. 2 Storm surge barrier study, p. 6
VOLUME 31, NUMBER 16
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VOLUME 31, NUMBER 16
AUGUST 23 – SEPTEMBER 5, 2018
Picnic in the park
The 37th-annual Battery Dance Festival
Page 10 Photo by Milo Hess
The Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company performed the picnic-themed “Summertime Suite” at the Battery Dance Festival in Wagner Park on Aug. 16. For more pictures, see page 10.
Also in this issue:
Parking placard abuse Page 2
Storm surge barrier study Page 6
1 M E T R O T E C H • N YC 112 0 1 • C O P Y R I G H T © 2 0 18 N YC C O M M U N I T Y M E D I A , L L C
PLAC ATTACK! NYPD parking placard abuse rampant in norther Battery Park City, locals say
BY COLIN MIXSON They’re here to protect — and serve themselves to illegal parking. Police are using no-standing and truck-loading zones, along with other illegal spots in northern Battery Park City as their own personal parking lot, abusing city-issued placards to flout the law and create unnecessary hazards, residents claim. “They cover fire hydrants, they block entrances to sidewalks, they disregard basic safety concerns, and it’s completely overwhelming,” said Dave Grin, a Department of Transportation employee who lives in Battery Park City. Locals first noticed the parking-placard abuse soon after a joint federal, state, and local task force — dubbed the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force — moved into an office space at Brookfield Place in 2014, and the parking abuse on surrounding streets has gradually increased
over the past four-years, according to residents. A Downtown Express investigation on Aug. 20 found a no-standing zone stretching three blocks along River Terrace from Chambers Street to North End Avenue that was almost completely filled with placard-protected vehicles, including 30 cars featuring NYPD placards on their dashboards, which took up the lion’s share of the illegal spots. A handful of cars bearing FDNY and Department of Corrections placards — along with several livery cars waiting for passengers — filled most of the the remainder of the no-standing zone. Of the dozens of illegally parked cars, only one vehicle — lacking the benefit of an NYPD placard — was issued a $115 ticket for parking in the 24/7 no-standing zone. The reason the three-block nostanding zone on River Terrace exists is because emergency vehicles cannot
Photos by Colin Mixson
(Above) Battery Park City resident Dave Grin is fed up with police using their parking placards to illegally park in the neighborhood. But his dog, Romeo, doesn’t seem to mind. (Right) Thirty vehicles displaying NYPD parking placards were spotted filling a three-block no-standing zone on River Terrace, potentially blocking emergency vehicles from accessing the road, according to the DOT.
fit along the narrow roadway with cars parked on both sides, according to the chairwoman of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee, who said CB1 had requested the no-standing zone be abolished last year to free up
additional parking, but the Department of Transportation denied the request for safety reasons. “DOT has already told us the street PLACARDS Continued on page 12
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Prosecutors: Father of dead baby taunted childâ€™s mother after dumping the body
BY COLIN MIXSON The father of a baby found dead in the East River near the Brooklyn Bridge taunted the childâ€™s mother after fleeing the country earlier this month, sending her text messages from Thailand that hinted at the boyâ€™s grim fate, according to court documents. â€œYou will never see [our baby] again,â€? James Currie allegedly wrote to the mother of his dead child. Currie was arranged at Manhattan Criminal Court on a felony charge of concealment of a human corpse on Aug. 10, where Judge Suzanne Adams ordered he be held without bail. Tourists discovered 7-month-old Mason Saldana floating in the water near South Street on Aug. 5, and Currie â€” a former MTA worker â€” hopped on a flight to Bangkok, Thailand, where, on Aug. 8, he finally returned the motherâ€™s frantic texts.
â€œThe good news we [sic] will never see each other again,â€? Currie allegedly texted the victimâ€™s mother. â€œI am not in the USA.â€? But Currie never set foot outside of the airport, where he was detained by authorities, before being extradited back to New York City. The child was last seen alive on Aug. 4, when surveillance footage showed Currie â€” who shared custody of the child with the mother â€” carrying the infant into his home in Co-op city shortly after noon, according to police. Police believe the baby was dead by the time Currie left his home at 2 pm the following day, when he was spotted carrying what appeared to be the childâ€™s body in a bag strapped to his chest, which was covered by a blanket, cops said. Investigators were able to retrace Currieâ€™s movements that day using his
Associated Press / Mary Altaffer
James Currie was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of concealment of a human corpse on Aug. 10.
employee MetroCard, which pegged him entering a Downtown subway station located within a half-mile of where the babyâ€™s body was found at around 4 pm. The Medical Examinerâ€™s Office has not yet determined the childâ€™s cause
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Great barrier grief Army Corps of Engineers study set to evaluate five storm-barrier plans, but locals, experts pan process BY SYDNEY PEREIRA A public meeting with hardly any public notice. Five proposals with no details on environmental impact or economic feasibility. And a planning process that an insider has doubts can determine the best storm surge protection plan for the city. Nearly six years after Hurricane Sandy swamped Lower Manhattan in seven feet of water and killed two in the district, this is where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stands in its efforts to protect over 2,150 miles of New York and New Jersey shorelines from the next superstorm. The Corps isn’t expected to complete its New York/New Jersey Harbor & Tributaries study and submit a final recommendation to Congress until the summer of 2022. But by the Corps’ standards, even that pace is quicker than usual, according to the study’s project manager. “Believe it or not, the 2022 time period is actually somewhat accelerated,” said Bryce Wisemiller. Back in 2012, the Corps implemented so-called “SMART planning,” which expedites studies by narrowing the number of questions they seek to answer. “One feeling that engineers and scientists always have is that we want to get more data and answer every last question,” Wisemiller said. “And at some point, you never can. We’re trying to answer as many of the high-risk questions as we can in our studies, and acknowledge that there are some risks that we aren’t.” Members of Community Board 1 — which had passed a resolution months before Sandy requesting the Corps study storm surge barriers for New York Harbor — were irked that they weren’t informed of the Corps’ July 9 public scoping meeting until just a few days before. “It’s sort of ironic that you have a board that represents the community, and yet these groups don’t come to us,” said Alice Blank, chairwoman of the board’s resiliency subcommittee. “I’m sure we’re not the only ones, of course.”
August 23 – September 5, 2018
Army Corps of Engineers
(Above) One proposal is to protect all the waterfront around New York Harbor with a fi ve-mile storm-surge barrier between Sandy Hook in New Jersey and Breezy Point in Queens, with a smaller barrier at Throgs Neck in the Bronx. Right, Another proposal envisions a more piecemeal approach, with shoreline protection along various of the waterfront, which could mitigate fl ooding from both storm surges and sea-level rise.
But she conceded that coordinating all the different groups of stakeholders around such a vast project is a “herculean task,” and is just the beginning of a long process which they all agree has to be done right. “Everybody’s trying to figure out what’s the next step, and how do we get there as quickly as possible without cutting any corners,” she said. And Blank isn’t the only one concerned about cutting corners. In a last-minute meeting of the resiliency subcommittee in late July, a rep from the Corps explained the study for over an hour, and detailed his own concerns over applying the SMART planning process to such a huge project.
The Corps is operating with these rules that “never contemplated something of this scale,” Thomas Hodson, the chief of the Corps’ plan formulation branch, told CB 1. He expressed doubt about the ability of the expedited planning process to find the best alternative to protect the vast area from storm surge flooding. “SMART planning rushes to make a decision,” Hodson said. “Headquarters has decided to rearrange the trade-off in favor of using less time and less money to make a decision. Does that increase
the probability that you’ll make any wrong decision? Does that increase the probability that you will arrive at what’s called a Type 2 error?” he said, referring to a type of statistical error — sometimes called a “false negative” — which could lead the study to ignore significant risks with one or more of the five different proposals the Corps study is evaluating. The five options the Corps presented span a spectrum ranging from only offshore storm surge barriers to only protective shoreline measures, with mixed alternatives in between. On one end of the spectrum, the Corps is suggesting a five-mile regional storm-surge barrier across New York Harbor connecting Sandy Hook in New Jersey with Breezy Point in Queens, plus a much smaller barrier at Throgs Neck between Queens and the Bronx. Another proposal would have no offshore barriers, but rather implement shoreline protections targeting key points along the New York and New Jersey coasts and even up the Hudson River to Albany. Three alternatives in between feature different combinations of elements of those two plans. The offshore barrier plan, said Wisemiller, “would be a monumental engineering challenge” and could cost anywhere between $30 million and $50 billion dollars. It would also have lots of moving parts — requiring more than 100 gates to close the vital shipping corridor in the event of a major storm, he said. “Yes, you’re protecting the broad area, and you have that certainty,” Wisemiller said. “But then you also have the concern that all those gates have to work perfectly while that storm is approaching and there’s really no way to test those systems until there is a storm in place.” Wisemiller also pointed out that the shoreline-focused option — which he said would likely cost only “a few billion” dollars — would be much less susceptible to catastrophic failure than the all-or-nothing offshore barrier, which JUMPLINETK Continued on page 12
COFFEE BREAK Cops arrested a man for allegedly beating a deli guy, after he confronted the suspect over a cup of stolen coffee on Sixth Avenue on Aug. 18. The victim told police he spotted the suspect waltz out of his bodega between Charlton and Spring streets without paying for his $3 coffee at 1:45 pm, and that when he ran out to stop the guy, he started beating him with a shopping bag. The deli guy retreated back into his store to call 911, but the suspect followed him, and proceeded to steal not one, but two umbrellas worth a whopping $10, before fleeing, cops said. Police later nabbed the suspect following a brief search, charging him with felony robbery, cops said.
An employee told police there was nearly 10 grand inside the lock box at the eatery between Fulton and Ann streets at 8 pm that day, but that every cent had been cleaned out before it was checked again on Aug. 6. Multiple employees had access to the money box, which was not damaged during the heist, cops said.
BIKE BANDIT Some crook rode off with a man’s BMW motorcycle that he had parked on Beekman Street on Aug. 13. The victim told police that he left his $15,000 bike between Water and Front streets at 8 pm, and returned the following morning to find an empty spot where his ritzy Beamer had been.
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BODEGA BEATDOWN APPLE PICKING Thieves nabbed more than $41,000 worth of electronics from a Thompson Street office space on Aug. 17. Owners told police that the two crooks used an employee passcode to let themselves into the offices between Broome and Spring streets at 1:30 am, and proceeded to loot the place, moving from room to room stuffing a large suitcase with numerous high-end Apple laptops worth as much as $5,000 each, along with headphones, cameras, lenses, and other computer peripherals. During the heist, the thieves busted through a plastic barrier separating offices, and used additional passcodes to beat other combination locks inside the building, cops said.
CASH GRAB A thief nabbed nearly $10,000 from a strongbox inside a Broadway diner on Aug. 3.
Two ruffians left a deli guy with a broken nose after stealing $25 worth of food from his Varick Street mini-mart on Aug. 8. The victim told police he spotted the thieves waltzing out of the store between Charlton and Vandam streets with their ill-gotten groceries at 3:38 pm, and that when he tried to stop them, one of the delinquents socked him the face before fleeing across Vandam Street towards the East River.
BYE CYCLE A thief rode off with a woman’s $3,000 bike she had left chained up on Chambers Street on Aug. 9. The victim told police she locked up her bike between West and Greenwich streets at 7 am, and returned just over two hours later to find her ritzy blue VanMoof bike stolen.
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— Colin Mixson
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August 23 – September 5, 2018
E D ITO R IAL
Attacking the free press attacks American values PUBLISHER
Jennifer Goodstein EDITOR
Bill Egbert REPORTERS
Colin Mixon Sydney Pereira ARTS EDITOR
Scott Stiﬄer EXECUTIVE VP OF ADVERTISING
Amanda Tarley (P) 718 260 8340 (E) email@example.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES
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Milo Hess Tequila Minsky PUBLISHER EMERITUS
John W. Sutter
BY BILL EGBERT The necessity of a trusted free press to the health of American democracy has been undisputed since the founding of our republic — until now. In recent weeks, the journalists of our free press have been slandered as “Enemies of the People” — not by a foreign power or fringe group, but by the President of the United States, the nation’s highest officer sworn to protect the Constitution enshrining the First Amendment rights those journalists exercise daily for the benefit of us all. But President Trump’s casual use of this Stalinist epithet is only the most egregious example of a years-long campaign to destroy public trust in the news media and erode the ability of the Fourth Estate to hold our government and politicians accountable. From denouncing factual reporting as “fake news” to the proliferation of websites pushing propaganda, conspiracy theories, and outright lies as legitimate reporting, the role of America’s free press is under attack — and with it, our nation’s founding values. Without a free press that is justly trusted as a source of impartial truth, politicians and special interests have unchecked rein to lie, dissemble, and manipulate reality with impunity.
Without journalists who are free to question public officials and demand information on government actions, the institutions which are supposed to protect and serve us cannot be trusted to do either. Without political leaders who respect the value of our free press to the American way of life, the world’s first constitutional democracy fails in its historic role as a beacon of freedom to all of humanity. Trump is by no means alone, however, in the systematic attack on the role of the free press. On Aug. 12, Mayor de Blasio had a New York Post reporter hauled away by police after he asked the mayor for comment on the paper’s recent story on the many meetings he and his top aide have had with lobby-
ists — 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. Editors and reporters across the country are standing together this week to denounce the attacks demonizing our profession and seeking to sabotage our ability to hold the people in power accountable for their actions. And we ask you, the readers we work for, to stand with us. Defending our free press from attacks by politicians and special interests should be a cause that rises above party, ideology, race, or any of the other fault lines along which some are seeking to divide our country. It goes to the heart of what America stands for, and is vital to the survival of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. As women’s rights pioneer and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells wrote in 1892: “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”
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August 23 – September 5, 2018
BY LENORE SKENAZY Clay Routledge, author of the new book, “Supernatural: Death, Meaning, and the Power of the Invisible World,” was watching his university’s football team play a national championship on television. There were about 20 other friends in the room when a girl of 9 or 10 twirled in. She pointed out that just because their team was ahead didn’t mean they still couldn’t lose. At which point one of the men told the girl to leave and if she came back she would jinx the game. “Hey, take it easy!” “She’s just a kid!” “Don’t be a jerk!” Sorry — none of the adults said any of that. They just kept watching the television, as if this guy had not just said something both mean and, well, crazy. How could a girl twirling in or out of a room possibly affect the outcome of a football game? To believe that sort of cause-andeffect connection would be to believe
in the supernatural. And that turns out to be something all of us, even the most hardened atheists, do. Routledge studies why we believe what we believe, and in turn, how those beliefs affect us. Every day most of us do some little things without thinking about what spiritual reality they represent. We miss a train and think, “I wasn’t meant to catch that one.” We find a dollar and think, “Someone’s looking out for me!” We take an umbrella in case it rains — and also to prevent it from raining, because someone somewhere is paying attention to our accessories and deciding the weather accordingly. We act, in other words, as if there is a being, unseen and unknown, deeply concerned with the way our day (and
life) is going. This doesn’t mean we’re nuts. And in fact, it can be healthy to believe in something beyond the concrete, says Routledge. It’s even possible we are hardwired to believe in the supernatural, and always have been. A 100,000 year old archeological site showed signs of some sort of ritualistic burial, he writes, suggesting that a belief in the supernatural has been around a long time. But why? “A big area of my research is studying the underlying nature of the supernatural in the mind, especially issues related to fear, anxiety, and uncertainty,” said Routledge in a phone interview. “And our need to be part of something bigger than ourselves.” A child of missionaries, Routledge was born in West Africa and grew up with religion all around him. One thing SKENAZY Continued on page 9
O PI N I O N
Making the case for community justice BY ANA L. OLIVEIRA It’s time to put an end to the ongoing misery of the Rikers Island jails. Doing so will require wholesale justice reform and investments in community programs to divert people out of the system in the first place. It will also require establishing a smaller system of modern facilities in the boroughs that treat detained people with dignity and better prepare them to reenter society. This past week, the city released initial plans for an expanded jail adjacent to the criminal courthouse in downtown Manhattan, as well as plans for Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. The decision to close Rikers was spurred, in part, by a report from an independent group that was tasked with studying New York City’s justice system. I am a member of this group—sometimes called the Lippman Commission after its chair, former New York chief judge Jonathan Lippman—along with more than two dozen other New Yorkers from a wide range of backgrounds, including law enforcement, the judiciary, corrections, social services, and business. Several have themselves spent time behind bars at Rikers. We heard from prosecutors and public defenders, correction officers and union representatives, and health care providers and educators who work in city jails. We heard from those who have been incarcerated, who described awful living conditions and a culture of brutality. We heard about the unique challenges faced by women at Rikers, who are more likely to arrive in the system with underlying histories of trauma and abuse that are often exacerbated by the harshness of the jail environment.
SKENAZY Continued from page 8
religion does very well, he says, is provide some solace about death. Faced with mortality, many of us dearly hope or believe that death is just a portal to someplace else. Routledge quotes Larry King — yes, the CNN guy — saying, “If you didn’t die, there would be no religion.” But religion does more than just comfort those contemplating death, or whose loved ones have died. It actually makes us more able to deal with life. A 2010 USA Today and Gallup poll found that 83 percent of Americans believe DowntownExpress.com
We also took a hard look at the data about who is in city jails. Nearly 80 percent are awaiting trial, and the rest are sentenced to less than one year or alleged to have violated the conditions of their parole, such as missing an appointment or failing a drug test. The majority—75 percent—return directly to our neighborhoods when they exit jail. It did not take long for our commission to conclude, unanimously, that the Rikers jails should be closed. The outdated layout and poor condition of the jails themselves is a danger to correction officers and detained people alike. They lack well-designed spaces for programming to keep detained people busy when they are incarcerated—which is critical for safety—and for the care and services to help them succeed when they come home. Rikers is also physically and psychologically isolated. We heard again and again about the difficult, and sometimes harrowing, experiences of family who sought
to visit Rikers, often spending most of a day traveling to and from the jails for just a few minutes with a loved one. Yet these visits are key to maintaining the bonds that help detained people when they return home, especially mothers who are separated from their children. Because most of the people on Rikers are awaiting trial, they regularly must be bused to and from courthouses in each of the five boroughs. This process takes all day, even for court appearances that last only a few minutes. It causes case delays and costs more than $30 million each year. To address these deep-seated problems, our commission put forward a roadmap for a smaller and more effective justice system that would preserve safety while sending fewer people to jail. We called for reforms at every stage of the process. These include diverting people with mental health and substance abuse issues out of the justice system so they receive the care they
need, reforming the bail system so that your wealth doesn’t determine whether you go to jail, and prioritizing alternatives to incarceration. Also critical are gender-responsive interventions to dramatically reduce the number of women held in jail, who often have not benefitted from previous reforms to the same extent as men. Over the past year and a half, as initial changes have taken hold, the jail population has declined by more than 1,000 people—and the city remains safer than ever. Our commission also called for borough-based jails located next to the city’s criminal courthouses. These facilities can be much better-designed than the obsolete jails on Rikers, creating a more humane environment for correction officers and detained people. They can also provide benefits to the neighborhood—and the City’s proposal to build on the site directly south of the criminal courthouse would permit the return of a plot containing the current Manhattan Detention Center, which is to the north of the courthouse, to the community. Moving forward, the design of these facilities must take place with community involvement and address the concerns of those who live and work nearby. Together, we can create a community justice system worthy of our great city and – in the process – become a beacon of fairness and justice for the rest of the country. Ana L. Oliveira is president and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation and a member of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform
prayers get answered. That means most of us believe help is on the way, even if we don’t know how or when it will appear. A belief in a god also seems to make people more brave, for two reasons. First of all, it is an “anxiety buffer.” A deep, committed faith mitigates anxiety, as does the strong social network religion often offers. Plus, feeling like you are in the hands of a higher being can be as reassuring as growing up bathed in the love of a supportive parent. If you are sure that someone is always believing in you, you can go further out into the
world — do more, try more — because you know that that person, or god, will always be there when you need them. In short, religion is so powerful, so comforting, and so helpful in making sense of the world that it is hard to live without. And that may be why many of the folks who say they don’t believe in a god are really just rejecting a “brand” of god — organized religion. “The less traditionally religious people become more interested in other kinds of magical ideas,” says Routledge. These include conspiracy theories and paranormal activity. “The percentage
of people who believe in ghosts is much higher among people who don’t regularly attend church.” In our smorgasbord society, fewer and fewer people affiliate with an established religion. Instead, they mix and match: A little yoga, a little Oprah, a dollop of Kabalah. But scratch a little deeper and you’ll find a belief that the world somehow makes sense, even if we don’t understand the plan. So long as we keep pint-sized skeptics out of the TV room. Lenore Skenazy president of Let Grow, and founder of Free-Range Kids.
Photo by Colin Mixson
The city is considering retrofi tting the Marriage Bureau building at 80 Centre St. into a jail, as part of Mayor de Blasio’s plan to close Riker’s Island.
August 23 – September 5, 2018
Photos by Milo Hess
(Above and top right)) Danaka Dance performed Artistic Director Dana Katz’s latest contorting creation at the 37th annual Battery Dance Festival. (Below right) The Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company performed the whimsical “Summertime Suite.”
Dancing in the park The 37th-annual Battery Dance Festival unfolded in Battery Park City’s Wagner Park from Aug. 11 though Aug. 18, featuring performances by more than two dozen dance companies from around the world. It kicked off on Aug. 11 with a screening of the documentary “Moving Stories” following the Battery Dance Company to India, Romania, South Korea, and Iraq,
where the dancers worked with atrisk youth through the Dancing to Connect program. And all week, Battery Dance hosted free workshops at the company’s studio at 380 Broadway. Battery Dance created the annual outdoor festival in 1982 to promote engagement with the Downtown community where it has been based since its founding in 1976. SPOTLIGHT ON DOWNTOWN
Downtown Express: Downtown Connection Service Change Earlier this month, the Alliance temporarily suspended our Downtown Connection bus service to ﬁve stops adjacent to The Battery in an effort to discourage the misuse of the buses by aggressive ticket sellers who have been taking advantage of visitors in the neighborhood. This service change will be in effect until Labor Day, at which point we will reassess the situation. While we understand this may be an inconvenience to some riders, we hope that overall, it improves overcrowding and delays on the routes. And we have already seen an improvement on both of those fronts. While we recognize that there are good people out there selling tickets in a law-abiding and courteous manner, we’re acutely aware that there are many more are preying on unsuspecting tourists. At best, those sellers are misleading customers and at worst they’re engaging in outright illegal behavior. This issue has been build-
ing over the past several years and seems to have hit a crescendo during the tail end of this summer season. There are simply too many ticket sellers around the Battery and they are far too aggressive. While the NYPD is doing what it can to enforce current regulations, this seemed like a common sense temporary measure to improve the situation for the vast majority of our regular riders. The impacted stops are: Battery Park City Bound Buses:
August 23 – September 5, 2018
s¬ 3TATE¬ 3TREET¬ AND¬ "RIDGE¬ 3TREET s¬"ATTERY¬0LACE¬AND¬7ASHINGTON¬3TREET s¬ "ATTERY¬ 0LACE¬ AND¬ 7EST¬ 3TREET South Street Seaport Bound Buses:
s¬ "ATTERY¬ 0LACE¬ AND¬ 7EST¬ 3TREET s¬"ATTERY¬0LACE¬AND¬'REENWICH¬3TREET Rightly so, Lower Manhattan has become a mustsee destination for tourists coming to visit our great city.
And we have to do what we can to show it off to the world in its best light and ensure that all walking by the Battery, be they worker, resident or tourist, feel welcome and safe. We hope this helps achieve that. DowntownExpress.com
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PLACARDS Continued from page 2
is not wide enough for emergency vehicles with parking on both sides of the street,” said Tammy Meltzer. “That’s a fact. They need to behave better in the neighborhood.” NYPD placards, along with department-issued badges, were also seen displayed on the dashboards of vehicles parked in no-standing zones on North End Avenue, Murray and Warren streets, in addition to loading-and-unloading zones on Murray Street, where only one actual freight vehicle could be seen among a row of placard-protected cars. City law does allow parking placards holders to park in loading zones — but only if the vehicle is “essential to the performance of their organizational functions.” The law specifically states that placards do not allow parking in no-standing zones such as River Terrace, at fire hydrants, or areas where parking would create a hazard. And those cars spotted on Monday
BARRIER Continued from page 6
could leave the entire region unprotected if it malfunctioned. “I’m not advocating for one or the other, but the flip-side is that you have measures that are tailored for different areas that you have less area at risk if any one of the measures should fail for whatever reason,” he said. “Poor maintenance over time, whatever the conditions are.” Though the board didn’t endorse a specific proposal, it passed a resolution on July 31 condemning the SMART planning process, writing that the “expedited review process could have serious implications in terms of an inadequate review of all the critical variables that need to be evaluated for a study of this magnitude.” The board also asked that the Corps evaluate how each alternative would protect shorelines from continued sealevel rise, and requested better communication from the Corps going forward. The Corps has already extended the public comment period to Sept. 20, citing “interest generated by the public, at meetings and through their elected officials.” So CB1 has roughly another month to submit formal comment of the proposals being studied, but some board members said the lack of detail makes it difficult to offer informed input. “It’s really hard to comment on it because there’s not a lot of detail, and it’s hard to know how it’s being coordinated with the city,” said Laura Starr, a landscape architect whose firm Starr
August 23 – September 5, 2018
represent only a fraction of the total amount of placard-protected vehicles in northern Battery Park City, according to the chairman of CB1 and president of the 1st Precinct Community Council, who said that more than 100 such vehicles can be seen plaguing the area on any given day, many of which are likely personal vehicles used — like everybody else — for commuting to work rather than official business, which is what such placards are intended for. “There may be over 100 cars a day parked on the streets, and it leads me to believe that some of this is commuting,” said Anthony Notaro. Notaro said community members are sympathetic to the needs of law enforcement, and are more than happy accommodate city vehicles required for emergency police work or official business, but he said that police will have to stop the brazen placard abuse in Battery Park City, or else the community board will be forced to take further steps to curb the cops’ outlaw behavior.
Whitehouse helped develop the “Big U” waterfront protection plan, which would wrap Lower Manhattan in a 10-mile belt of berms and levies. Former CB1 chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes, a longtime advocate of an offshore surge barrier, said that protecting Downtown from flooding will require addressing storm surge in the harbor and sea level rise on the waterfront. “It’s a multi-pronged attack,” said Hughes, who is part of the Metropolitan NY-NJ Storm Surge Working Group, which supports the regional barrier plan. Hughes co-authored a report earlier this year with the working group’s chairman, Malcolm Bowman, and others arguing that an extensive regional barrier plan — with more barriers than the Corps’ single-barrier proposal — is the only approach that would equitably protect the region. The report cited how Sandy disproportionately impacted poor, immigrant and minority communities — which also had slower recoveries — particularly in the outer boroughs. “Only such a combined, layered regional storm surge and sea-level-rise barrier system will provide comprehensive protection for all of the region’s residents and communities, regardless of their economic or social status, for the next 100 years,” the paper concludes. But Riverkeeper, a 52-year-old environmental advocacy group dedicated to protecting the Hudson River, has serious doubts about the regional protec-
“We understand that there may have some needs, and I think the community is willing to sit down and come up with some accommodations, but commandeering an entire neighborhood is unacceptable,” Notary said. “It’s frustrating and we’re going to escalate this as high as we have to.” Community members are joined in
their fight against illegal placard parking by local elected officials, including assemblywomen Deborah Glick and YuhLine Niou, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, Borough President Gale Brewer, and Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who penned a letter to the Mayor’s Office dated June 28, which requested that a special unit Mayor de Blasio formed in 2017 to combat placard abuse be dispatched to northern Battery Park City. “With the onslaught of illegal parking, it has become imperative to tackle this problem with targeted enforcement,” read the letter, which described the situation in Battery Park City as a “crisis of illegal parking.” The Commanding Officer of the First Precinct, Captain Angel Figueroa, is working to address the parking situation in Battery Park City, according to NYPD spokeswoman Sergeant Jessica McRorie. McRorie did not comment regarding whether the NYPD’s placard task force had been dispatched to the area.
tion barrier option. For one, river advocates worry a barrier would choke the life out of the Hudson River — really an estuary where the river mixes with seawater — by restricting tidal flow and blocking fish migration, which could have cascading effects on North Atlantic fisheries, according to John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper’s patrol boat captain. “These barriers pose an existential threat for the Hudson,” Lipscomb said. Plus, the regional barrier alone does not address sea-level rise, nor does the Corps’ study itself. “The Corps was asked the wrong question,” Lipscomb added. “They were asked about storm risk and not sealevel-rise risk.” After the Corps’ years of work already, Lipscomb said: “It’s almost as though the train has headed down the track and we’re early on, and we know it’s on the track to the wrong destination and we cannot turn it around.” A West Villager at the early July scoping meeting worried the massive barrier was an “all eggs in one basket” approach. “I’m extremely concerned about this [barrier] over here, for example, where we’re going to put a ton of money — all eggs in one basket — and then if that thing doesn’t work, you’re exposed in all these other ways,” said Tom O’Keefe, a private tutor and climate activist. “In the meantime you cause a lot of other problems by making this massive intervention.” Meanwhile, much of Lower
Manhattan remains exposed to storm surges, and even medium-term protections by the city won’t be implemented until the 2019 storm season. The Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project’s Two Bridges portion recently had its fourth public meeting and is considered fully funded, but that’s less than one mile of Lower Manhattan’s coastline. The Big U plan, which would cover 10 miles of Manhattan waterfront, is largely unfunded. The study the Corps presented last month actually outlined six different alternatives, with the first one, called “Future Without Project Conditions,” assumes no action and serves as the baseline case for the study. But Hughes cited that as a warning, and urged the public to get more engaged with the process to assure that something actually gets done. “It’s really important that this is really seriously considered because it would be a shame that Alternative 1 — which is inaction — is what happens,” she said. You can see the study materials at: http://www.nan.usace.army.mil/ Missions/Civil-Works/Projects-in-NewYork/New-York-New-Jersey-HarborTributaries-Focus-Area-FeasibilityStudy/ Comments can be submitted via email at NYNJHarbor.TribStudy@ usace.army.mil or by mail to Nancy Brighton, Room 2151, US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, 26 Federal Plaza, New York, New York 10278.
Photo by Colin Mixson
Out of the dozens of cars parked in the three-block no-standing zone on River Terrace, the only car that had a ticket was the one that didn’t have an NYPD parking placard.
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August 23 – September 5, 2018
Geeking Out on Diversity and Inclusion Flame Con grows as it redeﬁnes LGBTQ culture
Photo by Charles Battersby
Audience and judge favorites from Saturday’s costume contest.
BY CHARLES BATTERSBY Last weekend, subway riders in New York might have noticed costumed nerds were flooding the city. International Cosplay Day took place in Central Park, Liberty City Anime Con at the New York Marriott Marquis, and, at the Sheraton Times Square, there was Flame Con. Billed as “The World’s Largest Queer Comic Con,” this was the event’s fourth year, and its third change of venue (previous installments took place in Brooklyn). Flame Con continues to grow in attendance DowntownExpress.com
and scope. At a quick glance, it looks like any other con: There are excited fans lined up to hear celebrities speak, a hall of vendors selling art and indie comics, and an abundance of cosplayers dressed up like their favorite characters. Upon a closer look, attendees will see some distinct details: Most of the people at Flame Con are wearing badges with their preferred gender pronouns (free stickers were placed on tables throughout the con, featuring the options He, She, They, and Ask
Me). All of the bathrooms are genderneutral. Rainbows and unicorns adorn nearly everyone, and none of the cosplayers are carrying replica firearms. The “No Firearms” policy is rare at cons. Phoenix Comic Fest enacted a similar policy last year after a man with real guns tried to enter that convention, and Flame Con’s policy was implemented two years ago, after the Pulse nightclub shooting. We spoke with Kevin Gilligan, the Lead for Experiences at Flame Con, about how this unusual policy affects the con. “We want Flame
Con to be a welcoming experience for all, and we don’t anyone to feel unsafe,” he told us. “In order to do that, we have challenged our cosplayers to either come up with cosplay that doesn’t require weaponry, or find clever alternatives.” “If your cosplay can’t be defined without a weapon,” Gilligan said, “then maybe you should re-look at your cosplay.” The attendees lived up to the challenge, sporting outfits that rivaled FLAME CON continued on p. 19 August 23 – September 5, 2018
Dream Weavers Lady Bunny, Neil Patrick Harris drag Wigstock into the ‘2.HO’ era
Photo by Jonathan Bayme
Photo by David Ayllon
Bosom Buddies: Lady Bunny and Neil Patrick Harris are among the busy brains behind the relaunch of Wigstock.
Bob the Drag Queen, winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 9, is on the bill for September 1’s rain-or-shine Wigstock.
BY SCOTT STIFFLER Hairstyles come and go, fake eyelashes eventually lose their grip, and even the fiercest foundation fades with time. But showbiz survivor Lady Bunny is digging her heels in and seeding the field for things to come — by bringing a “2.HO” relaunch of her iconic Wigstock gathering to South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 on Saturday, September 1. There, in a classy, 1.5acre rooftop venue standing in stark contrast to Wigstock’s gritty Tompkins Square Park roots, audiences will see a seven-hour, all-star lineup of veteran and contemporary drag talent serving an “outrageous and unapologetically entertainment-rich show” co-produced by, among others, none other than “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” alum Neil Patrick Harris. Word of Wigstock’s return spread on social media last week faster than a flame that’s just come into contact with
August 23 – September 5, 2018
Aqua Net — and, just as quickly, proud press whore Lady Bunny gave consent for this publication to fill a hole in her schedule via a Friday, August 17 phone interview at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. Coffee in hand, she spilled the tea on everything from Trump to makeup tutorials to manufactured rivalries, all before heading out to Fire Island for a solo gig (“Pig in a Wig”), then riding the last ferry home, so to speak. Now that’s the kind of work ethic befitting a self-professed “salty old kook” who’s been dishing up sass, ass, and songs to hungry audiences for over three decades. So give the gal her due, and get your tickets before they’re all scooped up — by teenage girls! NYC Community Media: Why bring Wigstock [1985-2001] back at this particular point? Lady Bunny: When Wigstock originally started, gay people were scared. People were dropping like flies from
AIDS. I was probably 22, and I wasn’t very politically involved. I was certainly no mastermind like Larry Kramer or any of the other people who formed ACT UP and fought so bravely. I couldn’t conceive of a die-in outside of a church. It just wasn’t in my DNA — but what I could do is be a clown and throw a party and make people who had not succumbed to AIDS enjoy themselves. I could bring everyone together and remind us that we are still alive and we can banish some of the darkness that AIDS brought, by having a silly celebration. And I think, in a similar way, I was very involved in slogging it out with my dearest friends during that very, very long primary leading up to the [2016 presidential] election. The election had, of course, what I feel to be the worst outcome, although I didn’t like either of the choices… and I think that we really are in a malaise. We’re stunned. And I won’t liken
Trump to AIDS, but let’s just say that we could use a party now, too. NYC Community Media: How has the culture changed in terms of embracing drag — and in its mainstreaming, what have we gained? Lady Bunny: We’ve gained a lot of people who are interested in drag. We’ve also gained lot of drag personalities from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” who are phenomenally talented, like Bianca Del Rio, Jinkx Monsoon, Latrice Royale, Bob the Drag Queen, and Willam — and it just so happens that they’re all performing at Wigstock. So, I mean, it put drag on the map in a big way. And I, as an associate of RuPaul’s, have been mentioned on the show, so I benefit from the mainstreaming… It’s great. Sometimes Ru will make a joke about me and people say, “Oh girl, he read you last night.” And I’m, like, WIGSTOCK continued on p. 17 DowntownExpress.com
WIGSTOCK continued from p. 16
“You can’t make a joke about somebody on a national TV show unless they’re somewhat known.” And if they don’t know, they can Google it… This is what I think is funny: People want to pit drag queens against each other. There was an article in the New York Times that mentioned RuPaul is not scheduled to perform at Wigstock this year, and that there was a bit of a rivalry between RuPaul and me. [The Times’ Aug. 15 article characterized RuPaul as gaining fame “by selling drag to a mainstream audience, while spreading a message of universal love and acceptance,” while pegging Lady Bunny as one who “remains countercultural and indie at heart,” concluding that section with, “Tellingly, RuPaul is not scheduled to perform at Wigstock.”] Honey, first of all, if there’s a rivalry, he’s clearly winning hands-down! But to say we have a rivalry? That [article] was the same day RuPaul launched his podcast [episode] with me… When you’re friends with someone since your early 20s, and roommates for, you know, a decade? That’s not a rivalry... And I mean, I do things with the “Drag Race” queens all the time. I did that “Werq the World” tour twice, affiliated with World of Wonder, the production company of “Drag Race.” Last year I played Cardiff, in Wales, twice. And I’ve never played there before. And I go on tours with these girls, because such a fever has been created around drag. So that’s what’s been gained. NYC Community Media: Has there been anything lost, because of the mainstreaming? Lady Bunny: Of course. We did an annual comedy show called “Queens of Comedy” at the Castro in San Francisco and the show was popular. We did it for several years and they would add an early show and ask us to keep our act clean because kids came to the early show — and for someone who cut their drag teeth in late night gay bars, I was always encouraged to do things that were filthy, outrageous, kooky. Definitely not tasteful. So that was a bit of a culture shock. And then I did one of those big “RuPaul’s Drag Race” queen roundup shows… And everyone in the front row were young women, like 15 and up. I said, “Wow, this is wild, the front rows of drag shows are women?” And they [the “Drag Race” queens] said, “Yeah, they’re the ones who buy the merchandise. They’re our biggest fans.” Now part of me misses hanging out with women, because I got my start in rock clubs like the DowntownExpress.com
Photo by Jovanni Jimenez Pedraza
More than a mere “look queen,” Bianca Del Rio gets Lady Bunny’s seal of approval for her aesthetics, as well as her ability to deliver a solid performance.
Pyramid and others in Atlanta that were extremely mixed, and then went on to work in clubs like Limelight and Palladium; mixed clubs. So I always enjoyed having girls around, and now it’s come full circle. During the Circuit years, girls did not mingle much with gays that much. It was hard beats and hard bodies, you know, maybe a few — can we still say “fag hag” and “fruit fly?” So that part, I actually like. However, these 15-year-old girls, they know zero gay subtext and they’re not going to possibly appreciate a joke about a yeast infection, which would send audiences in a gay bar into a tizzy. But any performer has to somewhat tailor their show to an audience, that’s just common sense. And I think one of the other things that’s been lost is the kind of drag that inspired me to do Wigstock, which is kind of quirky and offbeat — definitely not as polished. I’m seeing drag turn into a like status symbol kind of thing where, ooh, you have to have this quality of lace front wigs, and I’m like, “No, I don’t. I skip money on Botox on my forehead and I wear bangs that go right down to my eyebrows, which
I don’t even pluck.” ...Every queen is making these makeup tutorials, where they not only hold up every product after they apply it, but they smirk, as if to say, “He, he, he, “I can afford this product.” But for me, getting whatever I could get from a thrift shop that was made for a woman and fit me, it wasn’t about the polish. It was never about spending hours conceiving of a look. It was the spirit you brought that to the party, the dancing, the lip-synching, the singing… My crowd, my kind of queen, is less polished. Makeup is what you do before you get on the stage. If you spend five hours on your makeup and you’ve got nothing to do on the stage except look like your makeup is gorgeous? To me, that’s dull, because drag is performance-oriented. I’d rather see someone with [less than perfect] applied makeup and a cheap wig tear up a number. But for Wigstock, I didn’t book any who are what they are call “look queens” — I mean, Bianca Del Rio does both. Her makeup is incredible, her wigs she does herself, her costumes she makes herself, but she had an act before she went on “Drag Race.”
And I don’t typically tell queens what to perform at Wigstock. I mean, of course, I might say so-and-so is doing an extremely similar number — might you want to change that? Sometimes I will guide them or make suggestions, but sometimes their own suggestions are better than mine. There are some queens, like Lypsinka, who I would never dare to suggest anything to [laughs]. But what was the actual question [laughs]? Because there’s one other point that my coffee haze is trying to bubble through. NYC Community Media: No, I think you’ve covered it, admirably given the hour of the day this interview is taking place. Talk about your role in this relaunch. Lady Bunny: Apparently, executive producing. I’ll be emceeing and we’re [the co-producers] all working together and making decisions on everything from props to lighting to ticket sales to whatever. We had a location, which fell through. It was in Brooklyn. We all loved it, but we didn’t get it. But we actually found a better location, which is the exquisite Pier 17. It’s so nice, I’m afraid they may not let some of the performers in. Diana Ross and Gladys Knight will be performing there in the fall — and honey, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for Big Bad Bunn. NYC Community Media: How did co-producer Neil Patrick Harris get on board? Lady Bunny: We had originally discussed some sort of reality TV show, which was about the reviving of Wigstock and how it would culminate with a two-hour episode of the festival. That idea languished for quite awhile… We were trying to make it kind of a semi-scripted thing with silly ideas, like Neil didn’t really want to help me organize Wigstock, that he wanted to get into my panties. We worked on it, and it kind of morphed into, “Why don’t we just do a festival instead, and make a documentary?” And that’s what we’re doing. NYC Community Media: Do you see it becoming an ongoing thing? Lady Bunny: I’d like to see if I could plug Wigstock into existing festivals, like they have all over Europe, like Milkshake and Glastonbury. Maybe they can give us a stage to do our thing for a few hours. NYC Community Media: Parting thoughts? Lady Bunny: Wigstock is not just a concert, it’s a party. So throw on your drag rags, your wigs, whatever. A wig WIGSTOCK continued on p. 19 August 23 – September 5, 2018
August 23 â€“ September 5, 2018
FLAME CON continued from p. 15
what is seen at much larger cons. Another thing that separates cosplay at Flame Con from other cons is the “Come All” attitude in the contests. Many cons have strict application processes for people who want to be in their cosplay contests. Hopefuls have to apply months ahead of time, and even then only a small portion are worthy of walking the stage. Flame Con has a more welcoming attitude: A contest is held each day and anyone can join, even jumping into the line on the spur of the moment. We asked the judges what they were looking for in the winners. Flame Con’s cosplay co-chair, who goes by the name Tea Berry-Blue, told us they look for “Costumes that, to us, embody the spirit of Flame Con and the spirit of joy, diversity, and inclusion.” A guest judge this year, “Trungles,” explained that they want “Someone who’s really enthusiastic about their community and character, and who put a lot of dedication and love into their costume.” Although gay and straight geeks are enthusiastic about the same things, the LGBTQ community has taken a particular liking to the “Steven Universe” cartoons. It’s an adventure show with a sweet sensibility, and an exceptionally diverse cast. The cute animation is child-like, but it often addresses social themes that adults can appreciate as much as kids can. Trungles explained that “Steven Universe” is “a property that we can share with the younger members of our community. Some people latch onto this as a reclamation of a childhood where we can be open and embracing of our queerness, while also sharing it with the rest of our community. The show does a really good job of crossing those generational bridges.” We also spoke to a Flame Con attendee named Victor, who explained, “I knew ‘Steven Universe’ for the first time when I knew that Jinkx Monsoon, winner of ‘RuPaul’s
WIGSTOCK continued from p. 17
can really transform you into a party animal, and that’s who we want there. And I’m not going to sit and bitch about New York City “losing it” if I’m not trying to add something fun to it. So please join us. Wigstock takes place from 3-10pm, DowntownExpress.com
Photo by Scott Stiffler
Even the vendors were dressed up in costume, in this case to conceal the true identity of artist TigerLion Moikana.
Drag Race’ Season 5, was doing the voice of Emerald, I was gagging by the fact that a drag queen was participating in such a project. I was thinking, this is gonna be so controversial, because ‘Steven Universe’ looks like a toon for kids. So that’s how I got interested in the show. I really admire how LGBTQ culture is becoming part of the society, where we are just another person in it, not freaks anymore.” Among the other unique finds at Flame Con were a performance by an LGBTQ cheerleading team, a panel on using corsetry and breast binding for crossdressing cosplayers, and no less than three musical theater performances inspired by shows like “Star Trek” and “Firefly.” Flame Con explores LGBTQ identity from many angles. Among the panels this year was one moderated by writer Ali Abbas, which looked at how gay Muslims are depicted in TV and film. Muslim characters have recently appeared in projects like “X-Files,” “The Punisher,” “The Bold Type,” and “Person of Interest” — and many of these characters are gay or trans. In a light-hearted discussion, Abbas pointed out that some media depictions of Muslims and trans people were quite similar. He said both groups are “highly visible in the media and the news, but the
people who are representing us on television and in art, they’re not trans and they’re not brown.” Abbas cited how beards and hijabs are easy ways to make characters look Muslim, or how trans characters refer to their transition in dialogue — but that the portrayals are often inaccurate. “There’s a high visual demand for [trans and Muslim characters] now,” he told us, “but the people filling that demand don’t have a horse in the race. So they don’t have to care about how they’re representing these people.” When asked if one can be both a devout Muslim and gay, Abbas explained, “It’s very nuanced. I can only talk about by region. You have Lebanon, which has had free HIV healthcare since the ’80s. It’s still illegal to be gay on the books, but they have gay bar culture... It depends: Muslim by Muslim, region by region, country by country. The problem is convoluting it all so that they’re all just ‘brown.’ ” While interviewing Abbas, a cosplayer approached us and complimented Abbas on his rainbow sneakers. Deep discussions on global politics, theology, gender identity, and fabulous shoes. That’s Flame Con in a nutshell. The event has been confirmed to return in 2019. For more info, visit flamecon.org and geeksout.org.
rain or shine, at the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. For tickets ($95, $250 or $1,000), visit wigstock. nyc. Artist info at ladybunny.net. At press time, the talent lineup included Alaska, Alex Newell, Amanda Lepore, Barbara Tucker, Bianca Del Rio, Bob the Drag Queen, Candis Cayne, Charlene Incarnate, Darcelle XV,
Desmond is Amazing, Dina Martina, Heklina, Jackie Beat, Jada Valenciagia, Jinkx Monsoon, Joey Arias, Justin Vivian Bond, Kevin Aviance, Latrice Royale, Lina Bradford, Linda Simpson, Lypsinka, Murray Hill, Peaches Christ, Peppermint, Raven O, Sherry Vine, Unitard, Varla Jean Merman, and Willam. August 23 – September 5, 2018
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