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Really New Yorkers. Really Inspiring. Really on Bumble.

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October 18 – 31, 2018 | Vol. 04 No. 21

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Really New Yorkers. Really Inspiring. Really on Bumble.

Find Them on Bumble THE MOST INSPIRING NEW YORKERS


W. 50s Housing Lottery Favors Locals 02

LGBTQ Resources Up in Schools 04

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COUNCILMEMBER POWERS’ OFFICE

East Side Councilmember Keith Powers.

Bill Aiding Child Caregiver Election Hopefuls Nears Vote BY SYDNEY PEREIRA A City Council bill aimed at boosting representation of women in office is expected to be voted on as early as the end of the month — at the Council’s next stated meeting on Oct. 31 — according to bill co-sponsor Keith Powers’ office. For anyone vying for an elected post in New York City in 2021 — when a large proportion of seats are up for grabs — the East Side councilmember said, the bill, which would allow candidates who are the primary caregiver of a child to use campaign funds to pay for childcare, is “one tool to help people ease the burden in terms of making the decision to run for office.” Powers and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn introduced the legislation in May. “I think one of the points of real consideration here is the fact that we’re going to have so many new people wanting to run for office,” Powers said. “We’re trying to not make that [childcare costs] a factor in terms of your decision.” At a June Council hearing, Cumbo voiced concern that the bill not become another hashtag, saying the “devil in the details is where this could just be a sound bite.” At that hearing, the city Campaign Finance Board CAREGIVER CANDIDATES continued on p. 5

October 18 – 31, 2018 | Vol. 04 No. 21

Photo by Sydney Pereira

Royal Grill Halal Food, at 44th St. and Sixth Ave., snagged top honors in September’s Vendy Awards.

UES ELECTEDS PRESS FOR MORE LOCAL PRE-K SEATS BY SYDNEY PEREIRA Upper East Side mom Debbie Semaya wasn’t happy about the trek from her neighborhood to a pre-school on E. 35th St. for her daughter, but, looking back, she said she was lucky compared to some parents. Other children in her neighborhood won pre-k seats in their zoned district, but as far away as Lower Manhattan — twice the schlep of a half hour bus ride to the River School on E. 35th. “It’s really a lottery,” said Semaya. “It’s not like, ‘Oh we live here.’” She added, “A lot of people do know [that] but they kind of think, ‘Oh, I’ll be the lucky one.’” Since the city’s rollout of universal pre-k, Upper East Side pols have been critical of how few seats there are in the area. A WNYC report in 2014 found that just 123 pre-k seats were located in Yorkville,

Lenox Hill, and Roosevelt Island, though some 2,118 four-year-olds lived in those neighborhoods. The issue, in part, is due to how School District 2 stretches from the Upper East Side through the southern tip of Manhattan. “That is obviously a problem,” said City Councilmember Ben Kallos, “if a seat in the Financial District is being counted toward a child in East Harlem.” Councilmember Keith Powers said the boundaries of school districts should probably be revisited. When your pre-k is three miles away, he said, “it creates false expectations for the school system when you have school seats available, but they’re so far for families.” Since last September, hundreds of seats have been PRE-K SEATS continued on p. 5

MANHATTANEXPRESSNEWS.NYC


On West 53rd, Affordable Housing

Photo by Winnie McCroy

L to R: Joe Restuccia with project managers Ryan Marcano and Allison Morris.

BY WINNIE McCROY After 14 years of negotiations and construction, the huge apartment building at 540 W. 53rd St. (btw. 10th & 11th Aves.) is preparing to open their affordable housing lottery. And this charming brick building offers units for a variety of household sizes and income levels from about $39,000 to $172,000 — from a single person to a household of four. And there’s more good news for locals: Community District 4 residents are given preference. “I want to emphasize that it’s not just for low-income people, but for everyone in the middle,” said Joe Restuccia, Executive Director of the Clinton Housing Development Company (CHDC) and member of Community Board 4 (CB4). “The most expensive three-bedroom will be $3,200. Where can you find a threebedroom for $3,200 in our neighborhood? And they will all be the same apartments with the same finishings, just at different income levels.” Said Jean Daniel Noland, Chair of the CB4 Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee, “This is a tremendous achievement by CHDC and a great boon for the neighborhood. It was a complex development to put together, not only because of the details of creating hundreds of affordable apartments for a range of incomes; but also because of the puzzle of relocating long-time neighborhood businesses and finding

space for community gardens.” The project began way back in 2004 when Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) was developing large high-rises from W. 51st to W. 53rd Sts., between 10th and 11th Aves. An oversight by the City to get legal possession of the existing LeNoble Lumber-occupied property derailed the entire project in the middle of the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) process. Clinton Housing worked with HPD and LeNoble Lumber to make an agreement to temporarily relocate the lumber company offsite from all the locations it had occupied since 1965, allowing the project to proceed. That city agreement gave LeNoble the right to come back to 25,000 square feet somewhere on the Urban Renewal Area. In 2014, the neighboring building owned by Taconic Investment Partners asked Clinton Housing to do a 38-story midblock tower, which they refused. Clinton Housing did agree to let Taconic purchase about $18 million in development rights, and sold another $8 million in inclusionary rights to Moinian Companies. Clinton Housing entered a joint venture with Cybert and LeNoble, receiving a $7.8 million purchase price from these iconic partners. LeNoble Lumber moved from its remaining locations so construction could begin. Clinton

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October 18, 2018

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Lottery Favors Locals Housing also received a City Capital subsidy of $7 million along with a nominal purchase price from the City for two dollars, to make the $61,000,000 development a reality. “When we buy buildings from the City of New York, we buy them for a dollar per lot, and there were two lots here, so it was two dollars,” Restuccia explained. “In exchange, we are keeping the housing there affordable for a very long time. It is unique here because instead of 30 years like most buildings get, we will have an 80-year affordability restriction.” “Buying it for nothing and being able to sell these development rights to the adjacent owner brought in the money so the development could be built, and allowed us to make this building work for a range of incomes,” said Restuccia. “That, combined with the equity from two long-term commercial partners — LeNoble and Cybert — means that we’re bringing a hell of a lot of money to this.”

GETTING COMMERCIAL TENANTS ON BOARD “We’ve built affordable housing, but the main issue is how to do it without screwing long-term commercial tenants,” Restuccia noted. “The toughest one to accommodate was this huge lumber company, which had six different locations. But Clinton Housing went to them and they agreed to vacate their premises and move offsite temporarily, and then come back when their permanent space was ready. It was a huge help because then everything could proceed, with LeNoble getting 2,500 square feet for their lumber business.” A year later, they made a similar deal with Cybert Tire (established in 1916), moving them from their old location — now the site of the Irish Arts Center — to a temporary location while their new garage was being built. It took Clinton Housing some time to put together their application for CB4, Noland recalled. At the time, Cybert Tire’s 11th Ave. location, which had been in city-ownership since its site was condemned by the City as part of the Clinton Urban Renewal Area (CURA) in 1969, was being considered as a possible site for the expansion of the Irish Arts Center. “Both the auto shop and the arts center were neighborhood assets. The City Media LLC

Photos by Winnie McCroy

As the beautiful brick building at 540 W. 53rd St. nears completion, the affordable housing lottery begins.

community didn’t want to lose Cybert, but it wanted a new Irish Arts Center,” Noland said. “In good old Hell’s Kitchen fashion, CHDC sat everybody down and worked out a solution. Cybert agreed to relocate to a brand new shop at 540 West 53rd Street so the Irish Arts Center could build a state-of-the-art facility on Eleventh Avenue. In addition, CHDC was able to carve out three new community gardens in the area.” For all intents and purposes, 540 W. 53rd St. will now be split into three discrete units: one for LeNoble Lumber, one for Cybert Tire, and one “unit” that comprises the 13-story, 102-unit affordable housing development. “These commercial tenants will help provide the subsidy needed for the affordable housing,” Restuccia said, adding, “Cybert Tire will even get a car elevator built right through the building. Instead of fighting and trying to evict people, you negotiate an agreement and you get a better outcome in the end.” This publication’s recent walkthrough of the property, now in its final months of construction, reveals that this money has been well-spent. The spacious apartments feature multiple closets, marble countertops, wood floors, and stainless steel appliances (microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator), and huge, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant bathrooms and hallways. They will also offer a penthouse level featuring laundry facilities, a fitness room, a children’s playroom and a rooftop terrace featuring a children’s splash pad and an observation deck with a skyline view overlooking the river. “What’s crazy is people don’t expect affordable housing to look this good,

but there’s no reason it can’t look this good and stay within the budget,” said Restuccia. “When people say ‘it’s too nice,’ that makes me nuts!” When Clinton Housing rejected Taconic’s original move for a glass tower, they instead sat down with the City Planning Commission (DCP) to look at a wide variety of brick options with a metal and glass setback on the top, so that it looks like two buildings that have been expanded over time, rather than something that is heavy and oppressive when viewed from the sidewalk. These setbacks also allowed for both individual and public terraces to be built.

The kitchens are complete with marble countertops and stainless steel appliances.

The facade required huge arches to accommodate garage entrances for LeNoble Lumber and Cybert Tire, and they had to blast deep into the bedrock to build the sub-basement space for these commercial tenants. Finally, they addressed the issue of open space. There was an existing community garden to the east and some extra space between the buildings, so Clinton Housing decided to double it in size with an adjoining inside space that residents can rent for special events. And just so tenants won’t have to negotiate their way into the building among HOUSING LOTTERY continued on p. 16

October 18, 2018

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City Schools Up Resources on LGBTQ Issues BY ANDY HUMM The New York City Department of Education is stepping up efforts to combat the isolation of LGBTQ youth and educate all students on queer issues, including lessons that integrate historic figures from the community such as the late Stonewall participant Marsha P. Johnson and authors like James Baldwin. The DOE has developed a “Toolkit for Educators” called “Understanding LGBTQ+ Identity” that features videos from WNET-TV’s “First Person” LGBTQ series, a teacher’s guide, an early grades guide, a GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) checklist, and a handout on “LGBTQ Supports in Schools” that aims to make students aware of the resources available to them and the policies meant to protect them from bullying and harassment. The DOE says it is committed to “develop supportive policies that affirm and validate LGBTQ students, families, and staff members.” The brochure also lists “key dates” throughout the school year dedicat-

Courtesy of PBS Learning Media

Part of the Department of Education’s new “Toolkit for Educators” about LGBTQ identity.

ed to such things a bisexual visibility, LGBTQ History Month (October), intersex awareness, transgender awareness, World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), a gender and sexuality alliance summit (Jan. 28), National Condom Day (Feb. 14), Harvey Milk Day (May 22), the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion (June 28), and more. It lists 20 com-

munity resources for LGBTQ youth and their families. Out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson of Chelsea credits his out colleague Queens’ Daniel Dromm for developing this initiative and securing the funding from the DOE when he served as Education Committee chair last year. (Dromm now chairs the

Finance Committee.) Dromm, who also chairs the Council’s LGBT Caucus, told Schneps Community News Group, “Having been a teacher during the battle over the Children of the Rainbow Curriculum, which was designed to teach tolerance of all of New York City’s diverse communities including gay and lesbian people, I am heartened by this progress. Seeing LGBT-positive programs in our New York City public schools shows just how far we have come over the last 27 years. Teaching LGBT history, learning about LGBT authors, and antibullying programming help all students succeed — not just LGBT students. Learning about LGBT history demonstrates to students how we as a society have advanced from the battle to adopt the Rainbow Curriculum to achieving marriage equality. I am proud of the work that the New York Department of Education is doing under Jared Fox, the LGBT community liaison, and will continue to partner with them to make our schools more welcoming and inclusive places.”

GMHC Honors Corey Johnson, the Late Joan Tisch

Photos by Donna Aceto

Council Speaker Corey Johnson was awarded the Larry Kramer Activism Award.

Actor Julianne Moore offered a tribute to the Time’s Up Movement.

BY DONNA ACETO At a gala dinner with 400 guests at the Plaza Hotel on Oct. 9, Gay Men’s Health Crisis raised more than $600,000 to support its programs and client services. The evening’s honorees

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included long-time trustee Joan H. Tisch (in memoriam), City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Phill Wilson, the president of the Black AIDS Institute, and Pride Media, publisher of OUT and The Advocate, and its CEO Nathan Coyle.

Larry Mass, a co-founder of GMHC, who in early 1981 wrote the first news stories about AIDS in the New York Native.

Broadway star Javier Muñoz (“Hamilton”) presented Speaker Johson with his award. City Media LLC


PRE-K SEATS continued from p. 1

added at Third Ave. and E. 95th St., as well as on E. 57th St. and E. 82nd St. Next fall, a fourth pre-k is expected to open on E. 76th St. with another 180 seats — bringing the total of new seats to more than 450 in two years. “Literally, we’ve been fighting for every single seat,” Kallos said, explaining he pressed Extell Development to add pre-k seats at its project at Third Ave. and 95th St. and has waged a campaign to retrofit commercial storefronts as pre-k centers. Last school year, 736 families on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island applied for just 550 pre-k spots in those neighborhoods. By next fall, the new facilities will bring the total number of seats to more than 900. But Kallos said that based on birth statistics and the more recent push for universal 3-k, he thinks the neighborhood needs another 5,000 school seats — lest families leave the city or have to opt for expensive private school alternatives. “I definitely commend the city in making a lot of positive steps forward,” said Semaya, whose daughter is now in kindergarten. “There’s no doubt that they listened,” but, she added, “we’ll see how it’s executed and how it plays out in the community next year once they have a lot of seats.” The city’s School Construction Authority is increasingly turning toward developers for pre-k space, CommercialOberver.com reports. “In the middle of Manhattan, it’s sometimes hard to stop new development from building up because there’s an as-of-right to build many buildings, and there’s a lot of interest in continuing to build around Manhattan,” Councilmember Powers explained to Manhattan Express. “One of the things that Councilmember Kallos and myself try to focus on

CAREGIVER CANDIDATES continued from p. 1

(CFB) executive director Amy Loprest said the child care costs should count toward a candidate’s spending cap of $190,000 each for the primary and general election and, further, only be allowed for child care funds during an election year. According to Powers’ office, details in the bill are still being finalized. Though the specifics of the legislation and its implementation are not yet set in stone, Matt Sollars, a spokesperson for the CFB, said the board is pleased the Council has shown a willingness to address its concerns. The CFB oversees one of the most comprehensive public financing programs in the nation, where money

Photo by Jeff Reed

Lorraine Grillo, then the president of the city’s School Construction Authority, Aneesha Jacko, director of Early Childhood Education for District 2 at the Department of Education, State Assemblymember Dan Quart, City Councilmembers Keith Powers and Ben Kallos, and State Senator Liz Krueger at the ribbon cutting of a new pre-K facility earlier this year.

is taking some of that burden out and when they do come to us with a project to say, ‘Can we help mitigate already existing problems there?’” Powers added, “You’re not going to be able to win the fight against all new development in Manhattan, but what you can do is to make sure you’re addressing existing needs like pre-k seats.” In addition to Extell’s lease to the School Construction Authority on Third Ave. and 95th St., the 144 seats that just opened on E. 57th St. and Second Ave. in a 65-story tower came from a deal made when Powers was chief of staff to former Assemblymember Jonathan Bing more than half a

dozen years ago. Kallos also presses developers for pre-k seats in new buildings. “When I meet with developers, my only request is, ‘Can you build school seats?,’” he said. “‘And if you are open [to that], do you need me to have the city pay you at market rate? Would you like additional height for those school seats?’ But I’m going to do whatever I can for those school seats.” Kallos was blunt, however, in saying what he does not do in his bargaining with developers. “While some of my colleagues may solicit contributions from real estate developers, I do not,” he said.

raised by candidates receives public matching dollars of up to six times the level of private donations. The measure comes at a critical point in the city’s political cycle, with 36 of 51 councilembers and all three of the citywide elected officials unable, under the term limit law, to seek reelection in 2021 — though Public Advocate Letitia James is likely to leave office early if, as expected, she wins election as state attorney general next month. Manhattan’s term-limited councilmembers include Speaker Corey Johnson as well as Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine, Margaret Chin, and Ydanis Rodriguez. Should a special election be needed to fill James’ vacany early next year, the Powers-Cumbo bill would not be implemented in time for that contest.

“We didn’t want to throw [the CFB] under the bus by putting it immediately into place right now, but we wanted to get it ready for ‘21 when the entire city government will basically be up for election,” Powers said. The bill was originally inspired by a Federal Election Commission decision in favor of Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley, who is challenging 25-year Republican incumbent Peter King in the second congressional district on Long Island. Shirley had previously worked from home while raising children. In early May, as the June 26 Democratic primary loomed closer, Shirley asked the FEC if she could apply campaign funds to pay for childcare services she wouldn’t otherwise have if she weren’t running for office. The FEC said yes, and Shirley won her primary. She faces King on Nov. 6.

PRESIDENT AND PUBLISHER Victoria Schneps-Yunis Manhattan Express, the newspaper for Midtown and the Upper East and Upper West Sides PUBLISHED BY

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In Deeply Blue New York, a Midterm Battle to Darken the Hue BY CHARLES BATTERSBY Republicans can point out that, under Trump, the economy has seen the longest bull market in history. Meanwhile, a “cultural bull market” of steady social progress has come to an end. With the executive branch in Republican hands for two to six more years, and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, there is a fierce fight to flip one or both chambers of Congress in the coming midterm elections. Liberals boast of a “Blue Wave,” while conservatives predict a “Blue Bloodbath.” However, of the 35 senatorial seats up for grabs this year, only nine are not currently controlled by Democrats — and Democrats must flip two of them to take control of the Senate. This makes the House of Representatives a more likely path to victory for Democrats. In New York City, a deeply blue city in a deeply blue state, political groups are hard at work trying to influence both the national and local levels. We spoke to some politicians, organizers, and activists about their fight to swing the country, or at least more of New York, to the left. The Swing Left organization (swingleft.org) is targeting 84 “Swing Districts” in the House of Representatives, with the goal of flipping 23 of them to the left, in this year’s election. We spoke to Jon Mallow, a Senior Adviser at Swing Left. He explained why he joined the group and took an active role. “I’m looking for ways to be engaged and hopeful,” he told us when we spoke to him at RuPaul’s DragCon — the massive summit of art, pop culture, and all things drag — whose NYC incarnation took place late last month at the Javits Center. “Swing Left did that for me, because it provides a very tangible goal: Take control of the House, in order to put a meaningful check the Republican agenda.” Mallow also moderated “Swing Left Presents: The Resistance,” a panel at DragCon. On it was, among others, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Marti Gould Cummings, the founding (and current) president of Hell’s Kitchen Democrats (hkdems. org). Gould Cummings is known as a drag performer on the Fusion TV show “Shade: Queens of NYC.” After the 2016 election, he founded the Hell’s Kitchens Democrats. He is a current board member of Community Board 9, and also serves on the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Nightlife. When we asked Gould Cummings if his work in drag is inherently political, he replied, “Drag is always political. Drag itself is a form of political

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October 18, 2018

Photo by Bob Krasner

The author (right) interviews Marti Gould Cummings (left) and Speaker Corey Johnson, following their “Resistance” panel at DragCon.

resistance. We live in a patriarchal, overly-masculinized society. So drag is a resistance to that. It is an ‘F-U’ to the patriarchy. It is showcasing the beauty of femininity, and women. Drag kings on the opposite end of that is a ‘f**k you’ to the patriarchy, because they are reclaiming what it means to be masculine. I think drag in all forms is resistance, and it’s been resistance since the beginning of Drag Time. We saw that with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, when they put themselves on the line for our rights in the ’60s.” About his new, more direct role in politics, Gould Cummings explained to us that Hell’s Kitchen Democrats “came to be when Trump was running for office and subsequently elected. Like many people, I was very angry and scared, and didn’t know what to do… I noticed that [The McManus Midtown Democratic Club], which has been around forever and ever and ever, wasn’t really active. They didn’t really have a site, and there was no way of finding out how to get involved. So I was like, ‘Well, I’m just going to start my own.’ ” Hell’s Kitchens Democrats began with a Facebook group and 15 people at the first meeting, but has grown substantially since. We asked Speaker Johnson,

whose council district includes Chelsea and the Hell’s Kitchen area, about this upstart group. He told us, “I think Hell’s Kitchen Democrats have had a huge influence. Hell’s Kitchen didn’t really have a functioning Democratic club for a very long time. Now the neighborhood has this vibrant, grassroots club that has already enacted change and invigorated a lot of people. Hell’s Kitchen has new district leaders that represent what the neighborhood is now. County committee seats that have been empty for decades have now been filled. These are real changes that might not be on the front page of the New York Times, but they definitely will have an impact on the neighborhood and our democracy as a whole.” While these are subtle shifts in the national red/blue divide, Gould Cummings points out that even blue states can have internal political struggles. “We think, ‘We live in New York City, and New York State, we’re very progressive, everybody’s Democrat.’ But there is a congressperson in Staten Island who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, who’s Republican.” Aside from the city’s often silent Republican minority, much of New York State has a significant Republican presence. While Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

is leading her Republican opponent by up to 30 points in some polls, that still implies one third of New York’s 20 million people are leaning right. This often affects state politics outside New York City. Both Gould Cummings and Johnson cited the Independent Democratic Conference in the NY State Senate, who voted along Republican lines. “People think that New York is such a blue state,” Johnson said, “but our state government has really been controlled for years now by these fake Democrats who caucus with Republicans. Most of them lost in their primaries to very blue Democrats, which is a huge win for New York. If we take back the state Senate as I predict we will in November, we are going to see a lot of positive changes all over New York.” New York’s gubernatorial and senatorial elections pit Democrat incumbents against Republican candidates who are underdogs, to say the least, according to polls — and Johnson doesn’t see a “red shift” happening in the gubernatorial race. “I do not see a [Marc] Molinaro win. He has no message that people are responding to and the Republican Party right now is the party of Trump. New Yorkers don’t want Trump or one of his enablers.” City Media LLC


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VillageCare is Taking a High-Tech Path

Courtesy of VillageCare

A VillageCareMAX Care Manager working with a member on a tablet utilizing data and analytics to ensure that he is receiving the highest quality of care.

BY JAMES HARNEY As the healthcare world keeps marching into the millennium, VillageCare is poised to march with it. VillageCare touts itself as “a community-based, not-for-profit organization serving people with chronic care needs, as well as seniors and individuals in need of continuing care and rehabilitation services,� with a mission “to promote healing, better health and well-being to the fullest extent possible.� Begun in 1977 as a project by Greenwich Village community volunteers to rescue and reorganize a for-profit nursing home slated to be shut down, VillageCare originated as a residential health-

care facility for seniors. In the 1980s and 1990s, the facility took on the added task of responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that ravaged the Village community. In the new century, VillageCare offers managed acute and longterm care services for individuals living with chronic diseases, and in 2017 alone served 25,000 members. Going forward, says its Chief Information Officer, the organization plans to become even more data-driven. “VillageCare is making significant investments in both people and technology in order to harness and use data for the benefit of our members in the achievement of better health outcomes,� said Stuart Myer.

Now in its 41st year, VillageCare runs programs that include VillageCare Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, and community-based services that include an Adult Day Health Care Program, Community Care Management, VillageCare at 46 & Ten, and a Medicaid Assisted Living Program. The organization’s managed long-term care plans include VillageCareMAX Managed Long-Term Care Plan (MLTC); VillageCareMAX Full Advantage FIDA Plan; VillageCareMAX Medicare Total Advantage (HMOPOS, SNP); and VillageCareMAX Medicare Health Advantage (HMO-POS, SNP). VillageCare president and chief

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Manhattan Health & Wellness

executive officer Emma DeVito said the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 40th anniversary last year â&#x20AC;&#x153;served as an important reminder to us of our accomplishments, while empowering us to forge ahead toward future opportunities in addressing the continuing needs of those we serve.â&#x20AC;? She explained that the organization is â&#x20AC;&#x153;creating a culture where staff, our professional partners, clients â&#x20AC;&#x201D; patients and their caregivers have prompt access to diverse and accurate data in order to make better decisions about care.â&#x20AC;? Such a culture, DeVito said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;will help ensure that our clientsâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;patients and health plan members receive the most appropriate healthcare and related services through the most efficient means possible.â&#x20AC;? VillageCare plans to invest in additional technology and staff â&#x20AC;&#x201D; including a director of data architecture who â&#x20AC;&#x153;will be responsible for supporting the planning, oversight and implementation of VillageCareâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s data and reporting strategy,â&#x20AC;? the CEO added, noting that using advanced analytics will â&#x20AC;&#x153;customize individual care plans that offer a more comprehensive and more effective approach to delivering care,â&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;help to detect any inappropriate treatments.â&#x20AC;? Looking forward, DeVito said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We will continue to provide the best possible patient and member experience, while helping to deliver to highest quality of care to all individuals we serve.â&#x20AC;?

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Understanding Aortic Stenosis When Maryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s father, 80-year-old Conrad, a typically vibrant and active person, began to experience a marked decrease in energy, he didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t think anything of it until Mary pointed out his shortness of breath. â&#x20AC;&#x153;One day, my dad picked up the phone and I heard him breathing really hard on the other end,â&#x20AC;? said Mary. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I asked him what was wrong, and my dad said he was just out of breath these days. I knew something wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t right.â&#x20AC;? Conrad thought his symptoms were the normal signs of aging, but he soon discovered they were actually caused by a problem with one of the valves in his heart. In your golden years, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve probably come to expect that your hair will turn gray and that you may lose a step or two in your tango. But feeling extremely tired or short of breath may signal a deeper, underlying problem. Aortic stenosis may be the culprit.

Up to 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from this progressive disease where the aortic valve in the heart narrows. This can be caused by a variety of reasons, including the buildup of calcium in the heart valve, a birth defect, rheumatic fever, or radiation therapy. Approximately 250,000 people suffer from the most severe form of aortic stenosis. Aortic stenosis symptoms are often mistaken for signs of â&#x20AC;&#x153;normalâ&#x20AC;? aging and may cause you to experience the following: â&#x20AC;˘ Chest pain or tightness. â&#x20AC;˘ Fatigue. â&#x20AC;˘ Shortness of breath. â&#x20AC;˘ Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting. â&#x20AC;˘ Heart palpitations. â&#x20AC;˘ Swollen ankles and feet. â&#x20AC;˘ Difficulty walking short distances or exercising. â&#x20AC;˘ Sensations of a rapid fluttering heartbeat.

â&#x20AC;˘ The need to sleep sitting upright instead of lying flat in bed. â&#x20AC;˘ Unable or unfit to engage in physical activities that you used to enjoy. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away as they may be signs of a serious health issue. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association guidelines recommend treatment quickly once a person is diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis. Once people begin experiencing symptoms, studies indicate that up to 50 percent of those with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis will not survive more than an average of two years. These are indeed sobering statistics. Fortunately there are treatment options available for aortic stenosis, which may help to extend and improve your quality of life. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms.

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October 18, 2018

9


On Stage and Off, La MaMa Knows How to Break Ground BY TRAV S.D. There’s never a dull moment at La MaMa, the seminal Off-Off-Broadway theatre company founded by the late Ellen Stewart in 1961. We profi led them in this space last year, but much has happened since that time. In June, the company was given a special Regional Theatre Tony Award for over a half-century of excellence, which was accepted by artistic director Mia Yoo. In September, a special groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the official start of renovations on their landmark 1873 building at 74 E. Fourth St. (btw. Bowery & Second Ave.), attended by local dignitaries including NYC Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. Said Yoo of the three-part, $50 million capital plan, “These renovations are about the future of La MaMa, the future of our artistic community, and our neighborhood. The future of our city and the necessity of spaces like La MaMa in the world of the future where there is creativity and experimentation, diverse perspectives, inclusivity and access, and pushing the limits of human potential — all of this is essential.” On October 25, La MaMa honors Tony Award-winning playwright Lisa Kron at their annual gala, with guest performances by Taylor Mac, Erin Markey, Gunnar Montana, and Olympia Dukakis. Next on the horizon is the 2018 edition of the biannual La MaMa Puppet Festival — touted as their biggest yet — running Nov. 1-25. The director and curator of the festival since the beginning has been Denise Greber, a Downtown actress who has been with La MaMa since 1999. “I started working with Ellen [Stewart] on a puppet series in 2004,”Greber noted. “Ellen always loved puppetry. It’s always been at least 20 percent of the programming at La MaMa. It was a small series at fi rst. But it’s continued to grow.” This year’s festival features 11 separate events, some of them full-length puppet works, some bills of shorter pieces or excerpts, and one afternoon panel program. “Each show runs 55-65 minutes, and we try to schedule two to three in an evening so you can come at seven o’clock, have some cocktails, see a couple of very diverse puppet shows, and then be back home by 10:30.” A very special offering this year

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October 18, 2018

Photo by Klaus Kühn

A marionette work from Germany, “Wunderkammer: Cabinet of Curiosities” (Nov. 1-3) is part of La MaMa’s Puppet Festival.

Photo courtesy of the La MaMa Archives

The late Ellen Stewart with Andrei Serban, who will be the topic of Sept. 29’s Coffeehouse Chronicles series.

will be a crossover event between two ongoing La MaMa programs: the Puppet Festival, and Coffeehouse Chronicles, the theatre’s long-running panel series, curated by Michal Gamily, that explores Off-Off Broadway theatre history, usually by paying tribute to notable artists or other arts professionals. On Nov. 10, the invited guest will be Ralph Lee of the Mettawee River Theatre Company, whose credits in NYC stretch back over half a century, ranging from co-founding the annual Village Halloween Parade to large scale pageants at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to designing the famous “Land Shark” from the

fi rst season of “Saturday Night Live.” Said Gerber, “I’ve long wanted to have the opportunity to incorporate puppetry into Coffeehouse Chronicles. I thought Ralph’s long years of community service through his mask work and puppetry deserved to be celebrated and honored.” Aside from this event, however, most of this year’s work showcases females as lead artists. “We made a special effort this year to highlight the perspectives of women,” Greber noted. “That’s not always the case in the puppetry world.” Offerings include “Wunderkammer: Cabinet of Curiosities” (Nov. 1-3), a marionette work from Germany; “Blind” (Nov. 8-11), a collaboration between Duda Paiva and Black Hole Theatre that incorporates Yoruba ritual to tell a true story of illness and healing; “Everything Starts from a Dot” (Nov. 8-10), a work by Sachiyo Takahashi and Nekaa Lab that magnifies minuscule moving shapes and projects them through a live video feed; “Food for the Gods” (Nov. 15-18), a multimedia work by Nehprii Amenii which talks about the killings of African

American men; and a family-oriented work called “Don Quixote Takes New York” (Nov. 10-11), co-directed by Greber herself and Federico Restrepo. And there’s more. “With each festival we tend to add at least one more feature,” Greber said. “This year we’ve added a new program called ‘Jump Start,’ where we present a weekend of sections from late stage works-inprogress.” The Jump Start programs will be Nov. 23-25, each one containing four works of about 20 minutes in length. Another multi-work evening is the Puppet Slam (Nov. 5), curated by Jane Catherine Shaw. At this event, 10-13 artists present self-contained works (not excerpts) of three to seven minutes. These tend to be geared toward mature audiences, i.e., not suitable for young children. As with La MaMa itself, the general trend of the Puppet Festival is in the direction of growth. “We’re still small by comparison to many international puppet festivals,” Greber said. “But we’re getting bigger.” For more information, visit lamama.org. City Media LLC


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11


Our Perspective

Amazon Needs to Improve Much More Than Just Wages By Stuart Appelbaum, President Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW mazon generated some positive headlines for itself recently by announcing a wage hike to $15 per hour for all of its hourly employees. There are many questions, however, about changes to the company’s bonus and stock grant programs that accompanied the wage hikes that have many employees fearing they’ll actually lose money. And, the problems faced by Amazon workers go far beyond the issue of wages, with workers dealing with numerous hardships and hazards on the job each and every day. Amazon warehouse workers face outrageous work quotas and cruel working conditions that have left many with illnesses and injuries. Contracted workers, such as those making “last mile” deliveries, have described inhumane working conditions and demands. These couriers say they cannot take bathroom breaks and often feel compelled to drive dangerously to satisfy the stringent demands of Amazon. In the United Kingdom alone, there have been 600 ambulance calls to the online retailer’s warehouses in the past three years, and, according to a study by the GMB union, roughly 80 percent of workers experience pain on the job. The pressure is so high at Amazon’s warehouses in Germany that workers say, both physically and psychologically, they are getting sick. In fact, the very day these raises were announced, German Amazon workers in six of the country’s “fulfillment centers” were striking for the right to have a union contract. This simple demand, to have a real say in working conditions and the security of a collective agreement, is not just being denied to employees in Germany. None of Amazon’s roughly 600,000 employees around the world have a comprehensive labor agreement. For years, workers have held strikes and other workplace actions in Spain, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom; yet Amazon has aggressively squashed workers’ efforts to gain a union contract anywhere. In the U.S., at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, employees are forced to watch a vicious and misleading anti-union training video, which was leaked just before the wage increases were announced. The world’s largest internet retail company, owned by the richest man in the world, should be able to do more than just pay a decent hourly wage. Amazon can afford to improve working conditions and protect workers’ health and safety. And, Amazon can afford to listen to employees’ concerns and work with them to make their jobs – and their lives – better. Instead, Amazon has gone to great lengths to do the exact opposite. Amazon proclaimed itself “a leader” when it announced the wage increases, but a true leader in raising worker standards doesn’t actively try to silence workers or deny their right to join unions and negotiate collectively. Jeff Bezos must now do more than listen; he must actively change the culture of Amazon from one that exploits its workers to one that treats them fairly and humanely. It will take much more than just wage increases to make Amazon a truly decent employer.

A

Photo by Paul Groncki

TILTING AT CONSTRUCTION SITES With this artfully framed piece of work, dedicated West 16th Street denizen Paul Groncki — who’s involved in a slew of neighborhood improvement groups and projects — can add “contributing photographer” to his list of credits. “Thought you might enjoy this photo of Don Quixote vanquishing a [Chelsea Hotel] construction site mess,” he wrote. We thoroughly enjoyed it — and hope you do as well.

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HOUSING LOTTERY continued from p. 3

cars and trucks unloading, Clinton Housing has built an entryway through this bucolic community garden. This mission is in line with New York City’s original mandate for this parcel of land, mapped within the former CURA in August 1969, which focused on providing for a range of income bands in housing that exhibited good design in terms of privacy, light, air, and open space. “These goals have been the focus of community and CB4 efforts in the neighborhood for five decades,” Noland said. “CHDC and its partners’ development on West 53rd Street is an outward symbol of the community’s aspirations and its achievement of the CURA goals. And, it must be added, visible proof that an affordable housing development can be extremely handsome and appropriately contextual with the neighborhood architectural fabric.” Photo by Winnie McCroy

MOST INCOME LEVELS WELCOMED

Cybert Tire bides time in a temporary location until their new garage — complete with a car elevator — is ready.

It will come as welcome news that these amenities are available to a wide array of income levels. Restuccia said this was the first city-sponsored building in a long time with no breaks or

gaps in Area Median Income (AMI). For example, most 80/20 affordable units are available for either very low income families, or high-earning market rate renters. So if you are making more

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October 18, 2018

than $38 to $62K per year, you won’t be able to afford either. In other “affordable” housing lotteries, the AMI is either 50, 60, 80, or 100 percent, leaving what are called a

multiple “donut holes” in the middle, where people make too much to qualify for the low-income units, but not enough for the moderate or marketrate units.

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Designers have created expansive garage bays for LeNoble Lumber and Cybert Tire.

Photos by Winnie McCroy

These huge archways will serve as commercial entrances for the businesses.

“Imagine going through the entire housing lottery process, only to be knocked because you make $500 to $1,000 too much,” said Restuccia. “It happens all the time. So we strived for this one to have a broad range of incomes, to make sure that everyone who applied would at least be eligible.” Restuccia said nearly everyone within the stated income ranges will be eligible. They will start the application process on Dec. 7, and will do interviews for all units from Jan. through May 2019. Said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, “I am thrilled to see years of hard work coming to fruition with over 100 new units of affordable housing in Hell’s Kitchen. This process was rooted in community involvement and this project will provide a healthy mix of income bands that will benefit a wide variety of New Yorkers. This project is a model for how affordable housing should be built that is within the context of the neighborhood and represents the priorities of the local community.” Restuccia noted that they are expecting tens of thousands of applications, but people who live in Community District 4, from 14th to 59th Sts. between Sixth Ave. and the Hudson River will be given a 50 percent preference. This is a city-wide process, and all you have to do is press a button to begin the process. “We do lots of projects and sometimes what you see is not what you get, but this project exceeded my expectations because it is so well done,” Restuccia said. “We started in 2004 and finished getting approval in 2014, closed the project in 2015 and are finishing construction in 2018. It was such a complicated thing, including $3 million in additional costs for the basement rock removal, because we needed such a huge cellar for LeNoble Lumber and Cybert Tires. But sometimes when things cost a little more, they are worth it.” For more information and to apply, visit 540w53. com. City Media LLC

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Approaching the Peek Geek Point Expanding New York Comic Con grapples with growing pains BY CHARLES BATTERSBY It was just a few hours into the first day at New York Comic Con (NYCC; Oct. 4-7). A cheerful PR woman at a booth told me that Thursday at this year’s con was a little more crowded than usual. “But it’s not like Saturday,” she added, with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, “Nothing is like Saturday.” Two days later, NYCC was bursting with so many fans that the Javits Center couldn’t hold them all. As the domain of the Con expands culturally beyond print comic books and their traditional fans, this annual event has also expanded physically, sending waves of nerds all over Manhattan’s West Side. For the last few years, NYCC has staged some panels and screenings at Madison Square Garden, and the nearby Hammerstein Ballroom. This year, there were two new satellite venues — most notably, Pier 94, where a dedicated Anime Fest was held in conjunction with Anime Expo, a long-running, Los Angeles-based event. This Anime Fest comes less than a year after rival convention “Anime NYC” was held at the Javits. Alas, the attempt to corner the New York anime con market got off to a rocky start for NYCC and Anime Fest. Pier 94 is 16 blocks north of the Javits, and it required a separate ticket from NYCC (discounted tickets were available for people who went to both). Although a shuttle bus was making trips between the two locations, many attendees were unaware of this, and even those who knew there was a bus were uncertain where to find it. We hoofed it up 12th Ave. between the two venues on Saturday, and met many anime fans walking down from Pier 94. We stopped to speak to a cosplayer who goes by the handle Firefrost Cosplay. She complained that the walk was “a bit of a drag, especially in cosplay,” and pointed out that other satellite venues like Madison Square Garden are conveniently next to the subways. Aside from Pier 94, there were panels and signings at “The Studios,” a

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October 18, 2018

Photo by Carlos A Smith

Meetups are organized ahead of the Con, so cosplayers plan their daily outfits.

Photo by Charles Battersby

Conservative protesters mocked attendees, unaware of the inflatable penis behind them.

warehouse located a couple of blocks away from the Javits Center, on W. 39th St. Smaller and less glamorous than the other satellite venues, it also had some rough moments: We arrived at a panel that was already under-

way, and were told that the elevator attendant was unavailable and that we would have to walk up three flights of stairs. A spokesperson from ReedPOP later assured us that, if we had needed the elevator for medical reasons, we

would have had access to it. (This was small comfort to able-bodied latecomers, who hiked up the stairs throughout the weekend.) With all this walking and stairclimbing, NYCC attendees will need to be in better shape in the years to come. Luckily, there were several panels dedicated to fitness and wellness. Some were specifically to help cosplayers get a heroic physique — but the creators of Yoga Quest were targeting a broader audience, and trying to make yoga less intimidating for newcomers. They held classes at both the Javits Center and Pier 94 throughout the weekend, and incorporated narrative references to nerdy franchises like “Doctor Who” and Pokemon. As NYCC works to refute the “nonathletic nerd” stereotype, it’s also getting away from the “straight white man” stereotype. A more ethnically diverse generation is reading comics now, as are more women. This year’s “Black Panther” movie, a female in the lead role for the recently launched new season of “Doctor Who,” and the upcoming female “Captain Marvel” movie (March 2019) are all signs that City Media LLC


creators have been preparing content for this new audience. LGBTQ content is also quite common in panels at the Con, but new to NYCC this year is a “Queer Lounge.” During the fi rst two days, it was run by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and Saturday it was run by The Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher St., Greenwich Village). Alas, it was closed on Sunday, which happens to be Kids’ Day. We spoke with Stacy Lentz, co-owner of The Stonewall Inn, about this new feature at the Con. “This is the fi rst time we’ve done anything at Comic Con — ever,” she explained. “It’s really growing. It’s one of the most diverse groups of people that you can gather in New York City, so we wanted to be a part of it.” In fact, the comics industry has become so known for its progressive values that this year it was protested by conservative Christians from the Key of David Christian Center, who opposed the LGBT content, feminist views, and non-Christian religions. Ironically, they set up their protest near a booth for the irreverent cartoon “Rick and Morty” and a giant inflatable penis monster from the booth was flapping around behind the oblivious protesters throughout their rally.

The Fantasy Food Truck, by Fandom. com, has been present at NYCC for five years. Their food is based on fictional products in geek media. Because they give out free food on the convention floor, it’s a hot spot for Con attendees and a good insight into how the Con is going. We spoke to Nikki Flynn, head of PR at Fandom. “Every single year, I’ve witnessed more and more people coming to Comic Con,” she told us. Even though the truck brought more food this year than last, they still ran out of tickets within 20 minutes each day. Other hot ticket booths like a “South Park” escape room and a playable demo of the upcoming “Resident Evil” game also filled up early each day. This informally corroborates the convention organizer’s official number of attendees, which continues to grow each year. This year it was 250,000 tickets sold (although some were to individuals who bought multiple tickets to different days and venues), as well as $100 million brought to the local economy. However, it also raises a question: How long can this growth continue before NYCC hits “peak geek” — and fans aren’t willing to pay $20 to walk up 12th Ave. on a rainy Thursday afternoon for a Sailor Moon meetup?

Photo by Carlos A Smith

Legion of Super-Heroes cosplayers show off their Legion Flight Rings.

Photo by Charles Battersby

The desolate venue for the off-site Anime Fest.

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Just Do Art BY SCOTT STIFFLER

Photo courtesy of Chabad of the North Peninsula

October 25 at NYU Skirball Center: Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss delivers a message of hope, marking 80 years since Kristallnacht.

BENEFIT CONCERT REMOTE THEATER PROJECT’S

October 26, 7:30 pm

St. John’s in the Village, 224 Waverly Place Tickets: $25 Featuring performances by Hannah Reimann, Nick Farago & Pablo Aslan remotetheaterproject.com stjvny.org/arts-at-st-johns-autumn-winter-2018 22

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Keenly aware of history and ever-mindful of the need to address contemporary acts of hate and anti-Semitism, New York Hebrew, a Chelsea-based afterschool Jewish education destination, is marking 80 years since Kristallnacht with a message of hope, delivered by Eva Schloss — a Holocaust survivor, and Anne Frank’s stepsister. Schloss will recall her childhood friendship with Frank, tell her story of survival, and talk about the sources of strength she drew upon to rebuild her life and become an internationally respected humanitarian. This talk is suitable for people of all ages and faiths. Patrons for the event include The Avenues World School, Friends Seminary, and Leman Manhattan Preparatory School. Copies of “Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale” (by Schloss) will be available for purchase at the event. Thurs., Oct. 25, 7:30pm at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place). Doors open at 7pm; VIP reception at 6pm. For more info, visit kristallnacht80. org. New York Hebrew info can be found at nyhebrew.org. A little bird (an elephant named Horton, actually) told us he heard that you only have a few more days to take the train, grab a cab, or hop on pop — whatever it takes — to arrive at Pop International Galleries (195 Bowery). That’s where the witty, whimsical, timelessly trippy work of Dr. Seuss is on vivid display, in “The Art of Dr. Seuss Collection – 20th Anniversary Celebration.” Featuring estate-authorized limited editions both known and unknown to the public (available for acquisition), the exhibition spans decades’ worth of the author/ illustrators’ work, from the pages of his children’s books to images he crafted for his own personal pleasure. “Perhaps the wackiest and most wonderful elements of the collection,” Horton (aka the gallery’s press

TM & © 2018 Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. All images, all rights reserved

Green eggs and art: Pop International Galleries’ Seussically spectacular exhibition closes Sunday.

release) noted, “are Dr. Seuss’ threedimensional ‘Unorthodox Taxidermy’ sculptures with names like ‘The Carbonic Walrus,’ ‘The Two-Horned Drouberhannis,’ and the ‘Goo-GooEyed Tasmanian Wolghast,’ to name a few.” Free. Through Sun., Oct. 21. Visit popinternational.com. Earlier this week, their Oct. 17 “Women in Power” event served as a prelude to the main event: The Chelsea Film Festival, whose sixth annual edition is set to unspool Oct. 18-21, at AMC Loews 34th Street. See chelseafi lm.org for the entire schedule. Here a title we’re watching for — and, schedule permitting — will be watching in its entirety on the big screen, having seen an enticing sneak preview: Moody, melancholy, daringly duplicitous, contemplative, and, at times, deeply unselttling, Naghmeh Shirkhan’s feature fi lm “Maki” has its US premiere at 9pm on Oct. 19. Set in a city New Yorkers will be all too familiar with, it’s a “modern love story” whose plot twist puts its coming-of-age character in the crosshairs of competing agendas (and the requisite secrets that come with troubled, but true, love). City Media LLC


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Street Vendor at 44th & Sixth Rated City’s Best

Photos by Sydney Pereira

City Media LLC

MD Alam, who with his wife Hira owns Royal Grill Halal Food.

Royal Grill Halal Food is located at 44th and Sixth.

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA A popular Midtown halal truck has won the Vendy Cup in the city’s annual street food competition. The grand champion in the annual Vendy Awards, Royal Grill Halal Food, was announced on Governors Island on Sept. 22. Royal Grill’s owners attributed their win to their family recipes and homemade sauces, which draw customers in day after day, year after year. “The people love it,” said MD Alam, the eatery’s co-owner with his wife, Hira. “That is the way I grew the business.” Twenty years ago, the Alams moved to New York from Bangladesh. While MD spent two years at a community college studying computer science, Hira Alam worked with her brother at a nearby food truck. MD later worked as a restaurant manager. The restaurant’s business, he said, grew rapidly under his watch. “I thought, ‘Why should I be building someone else’s business when I could be building my own?’” Alam said. In 2005, the couple opened Royal Grill Halal Food at 44th St. and Sixth Ave. Day-by-day, they worked up to a consistent 200 customers a day. Today, they have hundreds more customers a day, a third of whom are regulars, Alam estimated. The Alams and their 13-year-old daughter live in Flushing. Specialities such as chicken tikka masala and biryani, as well as homemade white sauce, hot sauce, and green sauce are what draw in daily customers, Alam said. His white

rights, and funds from the awards go toward Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project, which has been fighting a limit on street vending permits since the 1980s. The Project boasts 1,800 active members, many immigrants and people of color, and fights what it says is an ongoing quality of life crackdown on street vendors motivated by the “urging of powerful business groups.” The other Midtown eatery, Jiannetto’s, was founded by Joe Jiannetto in 1998. Jiannetto hails from Staten Island, where he learned the tricks of the trade in the borough’s many pizzerias, according to a release from the Street Vendor Project. “It is a business for me, [but] it’s also a hobby that I love,” Jiannetto said in a Vendy Awards video. “The secret to success is loving what you do.”

The sauce MD Alam was taught to make by his mother-in-law is the final touch on the best street food in town.

sauce, he emphasized, is made with plain yogurt and a blend of spices — no mayonnaise. His mother-in-law is where the specialty recipes originated, Alam said. She taught him how to cook his now-famous foods, he acknowledged. Royal Grill Halal was one of five finalists for the Vendy Cup, prevailing over a Colombian arepa truck, El Saboroso De Aracataca, in Jackson Heights, a Greek food cart, Franky’s Souvlaki, in Astoria, Long Island City’s Burmese Bites, which snagged the People’s Choice Award, the other big prize at Govenors Island, and another Midtown eatery, Jiannetto’s Pizza and Catering, at 47th St. between Park and Madison Aves. “It’s a really, really hard competition,” Alam said. The Vendy Awards are a part of a larger push to fight for vendors’

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