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

Bertot a Booster for Progressive Candidates, Public Housing

GOOD FOR BOO, WEST 22ND STREET

BY SAM BLEIBERG The current political cycle in New York has seen well-funded incumbent campaigns crumble against progressive challengers who mobilize supporters online and in the field. Few better represent this zeitgeist than Louis “Lou” Bertot — and he’s not new to the party. Bertot has worked as an organizer in official and volunteer roles for over 50 years. He’s now helping lead the charge for progressive candidates on the West Side and beyond, all while prioritizBERTOT continued on p. 4

Trump Admin. Moves to Trample Transgender Rights ANDY HUMM The Trump administration has opened up its broadest assault on transgender people yet, moving to adopt a legal definition of gender as never-changing and determined at birth by external genitalia. Led by the Department of Health and Human Services, where antitransgender activist Roger Severino heads the Office of Civil Rights, the goal is to get the Departments of Justice, Education, and Labor to join in imposing the new definition through regulations that will have a better chance of being upheld now that Brett Kavanaugh has solidified a 5-4 right wing majority on the US Supreme Court. PROTEST continued on p. 6

Photo by Tequila Minsky

Few things frighten intrepid photographer/reporter Tequila Minksy, who didn’t run from her responsibility to document strangegoings on in West Chelsea. “Ghosts a-plenty, spiders, and cobwebs,” Minsky wrote. “These inhabitants on 22nd St. near Ninth Ave. are clearly in the spirit of the holiday.”

AFTER YEARS OF BLIGHT, AFFORDABLE HOUSING ON HORIZON AT SEVENTH AVE. SITE BY WINNIE McCROY After decades of promises, New York City is about to make good on a move to renovate a strip of dilapidated buildings on W. 22nd St. Hope is now in sight for the properties at 201–207 Seventh Ave. to become 29 units of affordable housing, with its original tenants offered home ownership. “All the people who lived there before — the five long-term tenants, with the last one set to move out this month — are all guaranteed an affordable co-op” when the renovations are finally complete, said Joe Restuccia, co-

VOLUME 10, ISSUE 43 | OCTOBER 25 – 31, 2018

chair of the Community Board 4 (CB4) Housing, Health & Human Services committee. City ownership of the buildings began in 1978. Over the years, however, they shifted from one program to another. Now, they are part of a Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) program called the Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program (ANCP), helping renters form co-ops to manage and maintain the properties. They will eventually be able to buy their apartment for $2,500 under the Tenant Interim Lease (TIL) program.

All families will have the opportunity to return, whether they rent or buy. Longtime resident Keyla Espinal and her family have been waiting decades for this renovation to happen. She said tenants made an agreement with the city “many moons ago, when I was a kid” to manage the buildings, and once they were renovated, to be permitted to purchase the apartment at a discounted rate (back then, only $250; now, $2,500). “On paper it’s an amazing price,” Espinal said, “but keep in HOUSING continued on p. 2 CHELSEANOW.COM


Four-Building Seventh HOUSING continued from p. 1

mind that for decades, we have put a lot of sweat and tears into managing and running the building.” Over the years, as administrations changed and officials at city agencies turned over, it was difficult to keep the project moving. So Espinal and other tenants formed the Alliance for Progress Tenants Association, working with elected officials to get the renovation project off the ground. “Since taking office, getting this project jumpstarted has been one of my top priorities. I’m extremely happy that HPD and AAFE [Asian Americans for Equality] are moving forward with the redevelopment of these properties, which have languished for far too long,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a former chair of CB4 whose area of coverage includes the Seventh Ave. properties. Recently, the city helped Espinal relocate to an apartment on 37th St. that is still within Johnson’s district. She and her family will stay in this area during the three years of planned renovations, “readjusting to a new neighborhood, and extra blocks [of walking] to the kids school, because we are committed to making the sacrifice so this project can finish.” “I was actually born in these buildings, and I can say that we as a family are excited about finally coming home to fully renovated apartments,” Espinal said. “These buildings are definitely in very bad shape, and have been getting worse as the years have gone by. So we are excited that the process is moving

along. It has been a long time coming but we’re ready to take it to the next level and not be the eyesore in the community any longer.” Once the four buildings become one large coop, the structure or composition of the board may change, but Espinal is dedicated to remaining a part of the board, to keep their new home beautiful. Her family is one of five original renters who will move back into 1, 2, or 3 bedroom units, depending on the “family composition” taken when the relocation happened. The development company tapped to oversee the project, AAFE, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of Asian Americans and those in need. They have confirmed that there will be 29 residential units, and 3,900 square feet of commercial real estate on the ground floor, where the A&A Deli stood until it closed this summer. The construction financing for the project will most likely close in the middle of next year, and the construction timeline is about three years, after which the original residents will return. “AAFE is looking forward to welcoming five families back to their homes at 201-207 Seventh Avenue, and creating a new affordable co-op in the Chelsea neighborhood,” said Thomas Yu, co-executive director of AAFE. “After many years of diligent advocacy efforts led by the community, this corner will finally come alive with new ground floor neighborhood retail, as well as new affordable housing. We are excited to be working with tenants, Community Board 4, and the Councilmember to bring this project

Photo by Scott Stiffler

The A&A Deli had a month-to-month lease, and was told to vacate over the summer.

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Ave. Strip to Become 29 Affordable Units

Photo by Scott Stiffler

This dilapidated strip of buildings at Seventh Ave. and W. 22nd St. will be converted into 29 units of affordable housing.

to fruition. We were proud to have successfully completed the first project under the city’s Affordable Housing Cooperative Program [AHCP] at 244 Elizabeth Street, and are anticipating another great partnership in Chelsea.” Architectural renderings for this project are not yet available. And somewhere along the line, the city discovered that various structural problems prevented the original facade of the building from being preserved. So they settled on demolition and new construction in a style that “connects to the neighborhood around it,” said Restuccia. “It’s an intricate process. They bring you something they think you want, and we say, ‘No, we don’t want fake Art Deco,’ and then they bring you something else,” he explained. “But architect Amie Gross listened hard and was sensitive to our concerns, and we will arrive at a good-looking building.” Restuccia said that rather than the original four buildings, the end result will be a single 12-story building with a 125-foot setback, like other buildings on the block. “We will keep the character of the area,” Restuccia vowed. “It is not going to be some glass tower. There will be no panels or any of that crap. And we are really pushing for there to be two and three [bedroom units], because children exist in this city.” But don’t call the U-Haul quite yet. Those in the know say that a rumored City Media LLC

administrative “mayoral zoning override” never panned out, and a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) will be necessary. A demolition timeline will not be available until both the ULURP and financing are complete. “While a financing agreement is still being negotiated, HPD looks forward to transforming these long-vacant buildings into much-needed affordable housing,” said HPD’s Juliet Pierre-Antoine, who added that she expects it to be financed through their ANCP program in 2019. Local community groups seem pleased by AAFE’s willingness to show up at CB4 meetings and present their plans, listen to input from the community, and come back with revisions. And after decades of living with this blighted block, they don’t even much mind waiting for the ULURP process. “We hoped from the get-go that we could get by the ULURP process, but after 35 years of waiting, what’s another six months or so?” said Sally Greenspan, of the preservation group Save Chelsea. “We know it has to happen. But after so many years, I don’t know what more they’re going to learn. I think everybody will feel somewhat comforted when the actual process starts. When we see the buildings coming down and the work beginning, we’ll know it’s really happening.” Greenspan said the community has worked diligently on this effort for

years, depriving the neighborhood of vital units of affordable housing while allowing the block to become “any

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eyesore, like a blighted slum to walk by, attracting rats and becoming a fire hazard.” “I can’t say how excited we all are not to have to walk by the wreck for much longer,” Greenspan said. “I’m surprised it hasn’t caught on fire, because it looks like if you push it, it might fall down. And who knows, maybe they can make up for lost time somewhere else. The need is so great!” Speaker Johnson’s office confirmed that the final tenant is currently looking at relocation units, after which they will do borings into the ground for samples looking at possible contamination, and to ensure structural stability for the project. “Working with the current and former residents of the buildings and Community Board 4, I believe we’ve crafted an affordable housing project that we can all be proud of,” Johnson said. “This project will add over 20 new units of permanently affordable housing and will provide a healthy mix of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units to meet the needs of families who are in desperate need of affordable housing.”

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Old-School Organizer Helps Lead the Charge for New Blood in Politics BERTOT continued from p. 1

ing the needs of Chelsea’s public housing residents. “I want people out there to see that they’re not the only ones going through problems,” he says. “There are others living here, and we’re finding solutions.” Known for delivering results for the community, Bertot holds significant sway with NYCHA residents in Chelsea. A prominent New York City politician has referred to him as “the mayor of Elliott-Chelsea Houses,” but he scoffs at the title. How did he get here? Decades of organizing for union and political campaigns have earned Bertot the reputation of a man who can turn out votes. What is he planning next? He believes transparency in political finance is the most important issue in politics today. Bertot grew up in Harlem and attended George Washington High School. His father immigrated to the US from Cuba and relied on his handiness for work. “If you needed anything fixed, you needed Tony el Cubano,” Bertot said. His mother moved to New York City from Puerto Rico. Despite never having to worry about citizenship himself, Bertot feels tied to the current fight for immigration rights. “I could under-

Photo by Sam Bleiberg

Louis Bertot first moved into public housing in Chelsea in the ’70s and has consistently advocated for facility improvements from local elected officials.

stand why people have apprehensions around being undocumented,” he said. “I always felt like I was set aside differently. It wasn’t hard for folks to tell you because they would speak to you differently in the streets.”

After failing the physical exam to enter military service (“Even though I could hit a ball 600 feet”), Bertot started work in the Garment District in 1963. He spent the next 16 years working in a shop receiving orders. He

avoided run-ins with the mob by taking regimented notes on every shipment. During this era, he made the move to Chelsea. “I’m looking out the window of a warehouse at Seventh Avenue, and I see this crowd. I didn’t even know there was a Ninth, 10th, 11th Avenue. That wasn’t even on my radar. I wanted to go see what was going on,” he recalled. “I come to 26th Street and Ninth Avenue. This is not just a little rally. This is a demonstration. I asked a local resident, and they tell me a kid got killed by a car. The community was up in arms. That strung up this community to the point where they were up in rebellion and were out in the streets. I heard later that they actually put a brick wall in the street to stop traffic. Out of that came to be what I understand to be, maybe I’m wrong, but the first school crossing guard in the neighborhood.” That fighting spirit attracted Bertot to the area. Shortly after witnessing the scene, he filed a request with his union to transfer to public housing in Chelsea. “That’s what made me first want to live in this community. Because the people were standing up for their rights. Six months later I was here.” During his time working in the shops,

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Bertot distinguished himself with his ability to rally groups. He twice turned down positions as an organizer because of the poor pay and long hours. “One of my vice presidents at the union was running for a delegate for the national convention. He wanted me to get signatures. I had never done it in my life. I must have got 250 signatures just like that. He was astounded.” Eventually the prospect of better job security lured him to a full-time role as a union organizer. He was enthusiastic about the mission, despite the long hours and dangerous situations. Bertot believes that participation in the union not only fostered politically engaged citizens, but produced effective organizers and political candidates as well, pointing to Marisol Alcantara as an example. Bertot anticipates that the breakdowns US organized labor will lead to political pushback in the coming years. “This is the second phase of America we’re getting into, where the liberals couldn’t push the liberal agenda any further. Because of all the losses labor has suffered and all the jobs that have been lost, now you have push back. I hope so. A lot of these young people have suffered greatly and seen their families suffer. I think the labor movement has a chance.”

Photo by Sam Bleiberg

Bertot most recently canvassed for Robert Jackson alongside Speaker Corey Johnson in the Democratic primary this September.

After retiring from the union, Bertot began volunteering as an organizer for political campaigns. He was driven to use the collective voting power of NYCHA residents to secure facilities improvements from local politicians. He gained the attention of political organizer Kate Linker during his work on Jerry Nadler and Barak Obama’s campaigns in 2012. She connected Bertot with the president of Community Board 4 at the time, Corey Johnson, currently the City Council Speaker. Bertot subse-

quently gained an audience with several residents before the Community Board to make much-needed improvements to W. 27th St., across from the senior NYCHA building. That initial encounter led Bertot to volunteer for Johnson’s successful campaign for City Council. He says Johnson’s hands-on approach with both dealing with local issues and campaigning impressed him. “I like the way he approached the situation. He and I went door to door. Not only with me, but

with other individuals,” Bertot said. He also praised the role Johnson has played in uplifting the LGBTQ community. Most recently, Bertot was active campaigning for Robert Jackson in his primary against incumbent Alcantara. While canvassing in the senior building of Elliott-Chelsea, Bertot lamented to residents that Alcantara’s staffers rarely appeared at the property. These days, Bertot is focused on a political issue that he thinks may upset even star progressive politicians: finance transparency. “I’ve put it out there in black and white what I think a viable candidate should be: You have to declare your taxes. I think that’s where we’re heading, and if we’re not, why?” he says. “I don’t know why any voter votes for a candidate without knowing more about them. Not just the highest office. The lowest, the one that affects me locally.” Finally, Bertot has little patience for unengaged citizens who don’t take the initiative to vote. Asked what he would say to those who don’t pay attention to politics, his answer was short and clear. “Look at your streets. Look at your sidewalks. I can’t think of anything else besides that to convince someone to vote.”

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Trump Ramps Up War on Transgender Identity; Hundreds Protest in NYC PROTEST continued from p. 1

The new definition is designed to deny health and social services to transgender people and to allow legal discrimination against LGBTQ people in general. The New York Times broke the story on the morning of Sun., Oct. 21, after obtaining a copy of an internal HHS memo. Response from the LGBTQ activist community was swift and sharp across the nation. In New York City, hundreds of people huddled in the cold in Washington Square to condemn the move and vow resistance. Chase Strangio, a transgender attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that as extreme as this new attack is, “It is the continuation of a system that has always been in place.” He added, “Efforts to erase us will not be successful. We exist because we’re here.” Strangio emphasized that laws that protect transgender people “have not changed” — from state and local antidiscrimination laws to a growing body of federal case law that holds that such discrimination is forbidden under Title XII provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbidding sex discrimination and related sex discrimination provisions of other federal statutes. That is precisely what the Trump administration wants stopped. And the Supreme Court has held off hearing appeals of lower court decisions affirming that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination is illegal sex discrimination until Kavanaugh was in place. Tatenda Ngwaru, an intersex activist from Zimbabwe, said, “This is an attack on our realities.” Tony-winning actor Sara Ramirez said, “If today is a wake-up call for you, then where have you been?” Referring to the president, actor, writer, and activist Indya Moore said, “We must fight narcissism with community.” The Times story says that representatives of civil rights groups have been meeting with administration officials for more than a year endeavoring to tone down its worst elements, including genetic testing of trans people as the final arbiter of their identity. But the reactionary officials in place in the Trump administration — catering to the religious right — are determined to get the Justice Department to approve the new definition of gender before the end of the year. Longtime gay activist Christopher Hennelly posted on Facebook, “This is

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Photos by Andy Humm

Hundreds of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers and their allies, including out gay State Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell, turned out at Washington Square Park on a chilly Sunday evening to protest Trump administration plans to define away transgender Americans.

Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union addressed the crowd.

frightening. We will end up having to create underground resources to care for our brothers and sisters.” He added, “Once they change this in regulation it means death for many. CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid) determines what gets covered under all health plans that it reimburses. Not getting hormones is equivalent to not getting insulin or high blood pressure medication.” Strangio distributed seven action items, online at out.com/newsopinion/2018/10/21/hell-no-memo-7action-items-protect-trans-and-gnc-people, in response to the HHS memo

calling on the community to focus on the Yes on 3 campaign in Massachusetts to defeat a referendum repeal of transgender rights on Nov. 6, getting the vote out for the midterms, contributing to trans-led groups and bailout funds, participating in the Notice and Comments Periods when the Trump administration announces the new regs that are then subject to public comment, and supporting trans and non-binary journalists. He also urged cisgender people to “educate yourself to make sure you’re challenging the notion that there is a binary and coherent notion of ‘biological sex.’ ” Veteran gay activist Jon Nalley, 59,

said he was in Washington Square Park because “we have to stick together when we are attacked. We’re still fighting for access to abortion and birth control. As a person with HIV, they’ll take away access to our drugs” if we don’t make a stand now. Cathy Marino Thomas of Gays Against Guns, told Gay City News, “Now that we’ve purged the IDC [the rogue Democratic caucus] from the State Senate, I expect GENDA [the long-stalled Gender Expression NonDiscrimination Act], and if we don’t get it I’ll be visiting a lot of state senators.” Maru Won Jin held an “End Cissexism” sign and said she was there for her transgender spouse. “I’m Zen Buddhist and we’re all connected,” she said. Transgender filmmaker and artist Tourmaline, 35, said, “We’re still here and they can’t erase us… We need to take care of each other and fight back.” Dylan Kapit, 24, said, “We’re going to show up and we’re going to vote.” In a written statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “To all trans and non-binary New Yorkers: we see you and we will fight this. Every human being has a right to define their own identity.” The mayor just signed legislation making it much easier to change your gender marker on your birth certificate with no medical certification required and, for the first time, choose a non-binary X designation. At a Monday morning press conference at the Human Rights Campaign offices in Washington, LGBTQ national groups were joined by other leading civil rights organizations in denouncing the administrat¬ion’s efforts. Sharon McGowan, the legal director and chief strategy office at Lambda Legal, said her group and others “knew this was coming,” noting not only Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move against protections for trans students in his second day on the job — the start of a host of maneuvers to undermine transgender rights in federal law — but also the appointment of Severino, who has a long and well-documented history of antagonism toward LGBTQ rights, to a high profile post that did not require Senate confirmation. As the press conference ended, the groups on hand, which also included the ACLU, Freedom for All Americans, PFLAG, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, began a march to the White House, led by the National Center for Transgender Equality, “to rally against the TrumpPence administra¬tion’s impending attack on the LGBTQ community.” City Media LLC


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October 25, 2018

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POLICE BLOTTER BY SCOTT STIFFLER

ASSAULT: Don’t Cross These Hotheads A cabbie is recovering from an assault after a dipsy (possibly tipsy?) duo with boundary issues gave him what-for. The male victim told police that around 2:05 a.m. on Fri., Oct. 19 he was driving his taxi, and honked his horn at two men who were crossing against the signal, at the northwest corner of 10th Ave. and W. 42nd St. One of the men stood in front of the cab, while the other forcibly removed the victim from his vehicle. Both perps punched the poor cabbie, then threw him to the ground — causing swelling to the left side of his head, and abrasions to his right knuckle, as well as both knees. The perps fled westbound on 10th Ave.

SUSPICIOUS FIRE: Where there’s smoke, there’s ‘Beef’ It was all but quiet on this western front. At around 5p.m. on Fri., Oct. 19, an employee of the Western Beef supermarket (431 W. 16 St., btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) smelled something fishy in an area far removed from that particular product. It was the paper goods aisle — and somebody had set

fire to the toilet paper. He did not see who set what was ultimately classified as a one-alarm fire. Video is available — but at the time of the report, police could not access the tell-tale tape.

PETIT LARCENY: Drugstore Dramas Crime is a dirty buisness, and the thieves invovled in these two incidents have yet to come clean and own up to their dastardly deeds. First, on Fri., Oct. 19 at around 3 p.m., the manager of a CVS at 81 Eighth Ave. (btw. W. 14th & 15th Sts.) observed a perp enter the store, place some items in a bag, and exit without paying — finding time somewhere along the line, according to police, to utter the threat, “I have a needle with AIDS on it.” The items stolen, totalling $137.27, were 6 packs of Huggies Diapers, 5 boxes of Tide, and 2 boxes of Gain (perhaps the thief did not know Huggies were disposable). In the second incident, at the Rite Aid on 282 Eighth Ave. (corner of W. 24th St.), employees reported that at around 7pm on Wed., Oct. 17, a perp placed $244.93 worth of items in a shopping bag and left the store — likley to prepare for an ill-gotten beauty treatment. The items in question were four jars of Olay Regenerist Micro-Scultping Cream Face Moisturizer, at $35 each, and three jars of Olay Cream, also at $35 each. Here’s hoping guilt gives the thief wrinkles.

Photos courtesy of the 10th Precinct

On Oct. 5, a legendary, well-respected, and loved Sergeant from the 10th Precinct, Sgt. Thomas McManus, retired. He completed over 29 years of service. “He’s an amazing boss and a great friend, who loved the job and the community,” read the tribute on the precint’s Twitter account “We will truly miss him!”

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2018 Š Intrepid Museum Foundation. All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under applicable law, this work may not be copied, published, disseminated, displayed, performed or played without permission of the copyright holder.

October 25, 2018

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

Photos by Sydney Pereira

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

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

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

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October 25, 2018

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 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 nowfamous foods, he acknowledged. Royal Grill Halal was one of five fi nalists 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’ 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.” City Media LLC


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Bike Lanes Being Rolled Out on 12th and 13th Sts. BY LINCOLN ANDERSON Just call them the “fast lanes.” The Department of Transportation (DOT) has started installing new bike lanes across 12th and 13th Sts. — nearly half a year ahead of the so-called “L-pocalypse” subway shutdown. In April, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to stop service on the L train between Bedford Ave. and 14th St./Eighth Ave. for 15 months. The crosstown protected bike lanes are part of the city’s “alternative service plan” for transportation in the L train’s absence. Other parts of the plan include adding four bus routes that will shuttle straphangers across the Williamsburg Bridge and to Downtown subway stops, a scheme to turn 14th St. into a “busway” from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and ferries connecting Williamsburg to Stuyvesant Town. During the L shutdown, the MTA plans to repair the line’s Canarsie Tunnel tubes under the East River, which were flooded with corrosive salt water during Hurricane Sandy. So far, some of the white striping for the new bike lanes — as well as for a wide buffer area outside of them — has been painted on some blocks. A small section of the 12th St. bike lane had been painted green as of the evening of Sat., Oct. 20. None of the flexible plastic bollards, which will separate the bike lanes from the buffer areas, have been installed yet. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles will be able to drive over these flexible posts, if needed, to access the curb. Earlier this month, Village attorney Arthur Schwartz failed in his efforts to get a court-mandated temporary restraining order (TRO), to stop the installation of the bike lanes, as well as to stop the disruptive work at the First Ave. L station, which is currently having entrances put in at Avenue A and readied to be the primary staging area for all the demolition and construction work on the tunnel. On Oct. 2, Scott Gastel, a Transportation spokesperson, said, “DOT is grateful for the judge’s decision [not to enforce a TRO]. We look forward to continuing to work with the MTA, local communities, stakeholders and officials to closely coordinate our efforts for next year’s 2019 [L train] closure.” Representing the ad hoc 14th St. Coalition — a broad-based group of Village and Chelsea residents — and other Downtowners, Schwartz is suing

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October 25, 2018

Photos by Lincoln Anderson

A cyclist was already using the new partially completed 13th St. bike lane on Thurs., Oct. 18.

The new crosstown bike lane on 12th St. angles in at certain points, following the narrowing width of the street.

in state court to stop the entire L shutdown project. His argument is that the plan has not undergone the proper environmental reviews under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Thanks to strong community opposition and Schwartz’s lawsuit, in late June, DOT decided to scrap its preferred option for a two-way protected bike lane on 13th St., in favor of one-way protected lanes on 12th and 13th Sts. Last Thursday night, block residents walking their dogs near 12th and Sixth Ave. were not happy about the new bike lane having recently been painted onto the street. One woman, who gave her name as Nancy, said she had “made a list” of all the vehicles that would be stopping in the buffer zone next to the bike lane, which would make it hard for other cars to pass by, especially since the street narrows — as could be seen by how the

bike lanes and buffer-zone lanes angled in toward the middle of the street a bit farther down the block. “Con Ed, Verizon, Time Warner/ Spectrum, UPS, FedEx, Fresh Direct, garbage trucks,” she said, adding, “and now you’ve got car services.” As she spoke, an app-hail cab drove up and parked in front of the building in the not-yet-protected bike lane and the fare unloaded his luggage from its trunk. Soon after, an ambulance from Northwell’s Lenox Health Greenwich Village came screaming by with lights flashing. Nancy said she has lived on the block 34 years, “and I have never seen a big problem like we’re going to have” with the protected bike lane. She said just thinking about the idea of the plastic bollards for the lane coming in was making her anxious. A neighbor of hers, Kevin, who has

had his apartment on the market, said he’s worried the bike lane would affect its value. “I’m legitimately concerned it’s going to knock 10 to 15 percent off my sale price,” he said. He said he has two young children who he sends to classes in ride-share cars and that now he’s worried about doing that with a bike lane right in front of his building. Meanwhile, Schwartz assured his lawsuit against the project is still ongoing. “We’re hiring a traffic study. Those lines are really crazy,” he said of the striping for the bike lanes and how they veer in and out, depending on the streets’ varying widths. On top of that, 12th and 13th Sts. and other surrounding side streets would be slammed by traffic under the “busway” plan, he warned. “Just wait till they close 14th St. to traffic,” he predicted. All that said, the new protected bike lanes would certainly be much safer for cyclists than the existing crosstown bike lanes on Ninth and 10th Sts. Those latter two lanes have no protection at all, and cyclists using them can easily be doored by parked cars or hit by moving car traffic swerving into the lanes or by cars pulling into or out of curbside parking spots. The Ninth and 10th St. bike lanes also are regularly obstructed by double-parked vehicles — sometimes in two or three spots per block — and, on top of that, there is also car traffic cutting across the lanes from garages. City Media LLC


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October 25, 2018

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Fall Dance Festivals Galore Garth Fagan, Balanchine, White Light among highlights

Photo by Gene Schiavone

The Miami City Ballet performs George Balanchine’s “Serenade,” as part of City Center’s Balanchine festival.

BY ELIZABETH ZIMMER American Dance Guild Performance Festival | Oct 25-28 | This venerable organization supports the dance community with an annual festival that honors the lifetime achievement of distinguished choreographers, living and dead. This year’s lineup includes celebrations of Jane Comfort and the late Eleo Pomare, and includes archival footage from Celia Ipiotis’s Eye on Dance program, as well as performances of works by Donald McKayle, Ara Fitzgerald, Tina Croll, Douglas Dunn, Cherylyn Lavagnino, and dozens more. At Ailey Citigroup Theater (405 W. 55th St., corner of Ninth Ave.). Info at americandanceguild.org. White Light Festival | Through Nov. 18 | This festival of arts events with

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October 25, 2018

a spiritual component continues with remarkable performer/choreographer Akram Khan offering his final solo performance piece, “XENOS,” combining classical Indian kathak with his unique contemporary dance style (Oct. 31-Nov. 1). Next, in the world premiere of “Framing Time,” Cesc Gelabert dances to Morton Feldman’s “Triadic Memories,” performed on piano by Pedja Muzijevic (Nov. 1 & 2). The final dance offering is “Blak Whyte Gray,” an award-winning East London performance work from Boy Blue, whose members include Michael “Mikey J” Asante and Kenrick “H2O” Sandy (Nov. 16-17). Various venues and times; info at whitelightfestival. org, 212-721-6500. Darrah Carr Dance | Oct. 26-27 |

The wonderful Irish dancer and her 20-year-old troupe collaborate with musical duo Dana Lyn and Kyle Sanna on “Dancing the Great Arc,” a celebration of the fiddler and guitarist’s second album that’s inspired by the need to protect our ecosystem and endangered species. Carr’s style fuses Irish step with contemporary modern dance styles; her dancers make percussive music themselves. At the Irish Arts Center (553 W. 51st St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Info at irishartscenter.org and 866-811-4111. Garth Fagan Dance | Oct. 30-Nov. 4 | This Rochester-based ensemble, directed by the award-winning choreographer of “The Lion King,” returns to the Joyce with two world premieres, one by Fagan himself celebrating the

life of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, and the other, by longtime company veteran Norwood Pennewell, called Distant Kin. Three different programs display 35 years of the troupe’s work. At The Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Ave., at W. 19th St.). Info at joyce.org and 212-242-0800. Balanchine: The City Center Years | Oct. 31-Nov. 4 | This fall marks the 70th anniversary of the official founding of the New York City Ballet, and the start of its 16-year residency as the company in residence at this beautiful Midtown hall. Eight companies from around the world perform George Balanchine’s choreography from the early years, accompanied by the New York City Ballet Orchestra: Look for ABT (American Ballet Theatre), the City Media LLC


Getting Old is for Great Stars Elaine May’s matriarch played with verve, class, powerful feeling BY ELIZABETH ZIMMER It’s been 57 years since Elaine May and her comedy partner, Mike Nichols, catapulted to stardom from the stage of Broadway’s John Golden Theatre. Since then, she’s become a showbiz legend: writing, directing, and starring in movies like “A New Leaf,” “The Heartbreak Kid,” “Ishtar,” and “The Birdcage,” while punching up the writing for dozens of others. Now, surrounded by powerhouse performers, May has returned to the Golden stage, in “The Waverly Gallery,” a 1999 play by Kenneth Lonergan. Young director Lila Neugebauer, who guides this revival, assembled an A-list cast that should buoy the production through its three-month run. The night I went, the audience jumped to its feet as the lights came down, celebrating May and her colleagues. Set in the late 1980s, the play tracks the decline of Gladys Green, the feisty, elegant woman played by May, as she succumbs to the ravages of Alzheimer’s. Once a lawyer, now the owner of a sleepy Greenwich Village art gallery, she lives alone in a nearby apartment, with her grandson Dan in the flat next door (Lucas Hedges, who carries the bulk of the narrative load). Uptown, her daughter Ellen (Joan Allen), a shrink, shares

© Brigitte Lacombe

Lucas Hedges and Elaine May in “The Waverly Gallery.”

a mid-century modern apartment with her second husband, Howard, played with affable humor by the remarkable actor/director David Cromer. They all talk at once, loudly, because Gladys is also losing her hearing. In the hubbub, Gladys tries to attend to the family dog, and seems to exist in a universe of emotion while all the others live mainly in their heads. Don, a clueless young painter from Massachusetts (Michael Cera), wanders

into the gallery carrying a bunch of pictures, and Gladys, who’s beginning to lose it, offers to represent him and to let him sleep in the back; he soon becomes part of the family. His paintings are actually terrific (they look like the work of Philip Pearlstein), but they rarely sell. May is luminous as Gladys, keeping up conversations even as she loses the thread and repeats herself. She treasures her independence, and resents the

aides hired to administer her medications. Ellen and Howard are exhausted, caught between the demands of their psychiatric practices and their fears for Gladys’ future. Dan finds her banging on his door at all hours, and he’s losing sleep. None of the options for her future care appeal to any of them. This all sounds grim, and it is — yet the gifted artists keep our spirits up. David Zinn’s several sets provide functional ’80s interiors, and Tal Yarden bridges scene shifts with video of the city’s street life. At 86 (and playing older!), Elaine May is still a beauty, shapely in Ann Roth’s costumes, constantly losing her keys. We know that her fate may be in all our futures, which keeps us glued to the action. Lonergan’s writing never flags, and the narrative device of the youngest family member addressing us directly includes us in the conversation. Whether you’ve revered May for decades or have never heard of her, you owe yourself a visit with this American matriarch and her clan. Through Jan. 27, Tues. through Sun. At the John Golden Theatre (252 W. 45th St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Visit thewaverlygalleryonbroadway. com for tickets ($48-$149), or call 212239-6200.

Joffrey Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet, Miami City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet. At New York City Center (131 W. 55th St., btw Sixth & Seventh Aves.). Info at nycitycenter.org and 212-581-1212. Dance Gallery Festival | Nov. 2-4 | This 12-year-old fest mentors emerging choreographers from New York, Texas, and further afield with two Hell’s Kitchen shows. On Sat. night, Cameron McKinney and Manuel Vignoulle are joined by Texans Victoria DeRenzo and Jared Doster and Joshua L. Peugh’s Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Sun.’s lineup includes New Yorker Vignoulle; Texans Ad Deum Dance Company and Joshua Manculich; and, from Taiwan, ChienYing Wang/OcampoWang Dance/ JueDai Contemporary Dance Theatre. At Ailey Citigroup Theater (405 W. 55th St., corner of Ninth Ave.). Info at dancegalleryfestival.com. City Media LLC

Photo by Erich Camping

Garth Fagan’s dancers performing “Mudan,” to music by Chinese composers: part of Program B, at the Joyce, Oct. 30-Nov. 4.

October 25, 2018

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Visibility is Always in Fashion Violet Chachki a formidable presence on stage, in Prada campaign BY JAKE WOLFE Prior to her NYC appearance next week, we got the chance to chat with influential fashion queen, Violet Chachki. Winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 7, Violet has parlayed her clout as a recognizable television personality to become a rising pop culture legend. With October in full swing and Halloween right around the corner, we asked Violet how she feels about the upcoming event, “Halloween Under the Big Top,” unfolding Oct. 31 at Lincoln Center. “I’m actually a circus performer,” she noted, “and it’s typical [for me] sometimes, to perform circus acts in a drag show. So I’m really excited to be at a real circus tent. Halloween is always a fun time for costumes and looks, and ‘Halloween circus’ is a great theme. People do, really, Courtesy Producer Entertainment Group go out.” With an acclaimed knack “Live unashamed” is Violet Chachki’s advice to young for putting on a phenomenal show, people expressing themselves, and finding their identi- the marriage of Halloween and ties, through fashion. burlesque should have us at the

edge of our seats, as Violet politely but firmly deferred when asked to reveal this year’s costume choice, or choices. Kameron Michaels will also be on the Oct. 31 bill, which they will share with insult comedy queen Bianca Del Rio. The two have worked together only a handful of times, but the juxtaposition of humor and glamour doesn’t have Violet on edge. She described Bianca as “amazing and super-talented; we always have a good time together,” leaving us excited to see how they will bring together their talents for this uniquely themed evening. In conjunction with Violet’s stage work, her presence on television and in fashion campaigns has sparked leveled interest amidst the queer community. Her recent work on a Prada campaign is pushing for global change where change is needed. “We’re in a time where consumers really get to dictate what the campaigns look like,” she said,

advocating urgency to brands that have yet to diversify their consumer market base. Fashion for centuries has been about telling a story and broadening contemporary beauty standards — but today, those ideals have drifted from creativity to a systemic formula of beauty. Prada, however, has brought back what it means to tell a story, not only with design, but also with its representatives. “For me, I think it’s been really long overdue that we’ve had more visibility for LGBTQIA+ people, in every industry — but the fashion industry really paved the way for beauty standards, and for artistic standards… so for me, it’s really amazing and powerful that I get to be a part of it,” she said, advocating inclusivity and representing it well. For Violet, such exposure promotes visibility for the queer/drag community, while displaying a level of confidence that other brands should take note of. VIOLET continued on p. 23

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Halloween has a ‘Big Top’ Queen in its Ring Bianca Del Rio untucks some ‘saucy’ circus memories

Courtesy of thebiancadelrio.com

Bianca Del Rio brings scary-good comedy skills to her role as ringmaster for “Halloween: Under the Big Top.�

BY SCOTT STIFFLER Once upon a time, when traveling spectacles blew into town offering trapeze acts, games of chance, and all manner of exotic marvels, children dreamed of running away and joining the circus. Now, the circus of old is a species as endangered as the trained animal acts whose presence inside sawdust-strewn tents has fallen out of vogue — and children of a certain sass and sensitivity, eyes glued to the screen, fi nd a new conduit for their dreams: a clown whose convention-flaunting fashion choices, oversized personality, and garish makeup makes them think, “I’m going to be a drag queen.� “Don’t do it, it’s a trap,� warned Bianca Del Rio, winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race� Season 6, and a razor-sharp insult comic, whose checkered past with the circus might well inform the cutting barbs

she’ll lob at audiences come Halloween night. That’s when Del Rio serves as ringmaster for “Halloween: Under the Big Top� — a Lincoln Center event that takes “a multitude of spooky and deadly circus acts� courtesy of the Big Apple Circus, and splices it with Del Rio’s charmingly caustic performance aesthetic. Add to all of this the talents of fellow “Drag Race� competitors Violet Chachki, who’ll be doing aerial work, and Kameron Michaels — “who’s going to act like a drag queen,� Del Rio deadpanned, adding, “We’re all friends. And the great thing is, they all know me and I know them. We’re aware of our own issues.� All told, then, “It should be a great, great night,� your ringmaster confidently speculated. “When you marry the circus and drag queens, it’s magic!� And if it’s not?

“They hired me,â€? she noted. “I said, ‘Yes, the money’s good.’ So I’m showing up.â€? As for what to expect, Del Rio said, of Halloween, “We all have high expectations. But I thought, ‘What a great thing to have.’ Everybody’s in a room, and there’s a circus theme‌ I mean, any time there’s an audience, I can deal with it.â€? And deal with it she can, whether there are four people in the house (as was often the case during those early years), throngs packing Lincoln Center, or, as this reporter witnessed, at Sept. 1’s Wigstock 2.HO — the reboot of stalwart NYC queen Lady Bunny’s festive drag gathering, which enjoyed an infamously raucous 19852001 run. There, on Pier 17, motormouthed Del Rio displayed her seasoned improv BIANCA continued on p. 20

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Just Do Art BY SCOTT STIFFLER Take one loaded phrase, task six artists with taking it on, and the results will range from politically charged to ecologically aware to totally trippy. Such is the case with the works on display at the upcoming Westbeth Gallery exhibition, “Conflict of Interest.” Provoking their audience to “question what is going on in the world right now and what kind of world are we leaving to future generations,” the aritsts provide insights and answers via their various disciplines, including painting, photography, digital manipulation and installation. The roster of big thinkers and definite doers is as follows: Welsh-born, coastalraised punk rocker, and sculpture tutor Illtyd Barrett; conservationist/ naturalist Mozart Dedeaux; Aidan “Let’s skip the nonsense of trying to navigate a narration of my life” Grant; Scotland-born New Yorker and painter Stephen Hall; Britishborn photographer Steve Joester; builder, filmmaker, and self-proclaimed “man about town”Robert Ross. Samantha Hall curates. You’re uinvited to the opening reception, 6-9pm on Sat., Nov. 3. The exhibition runs from Nov. 3-24, with viewing hours of 1-6pm, Wed.-Sun. At Westbeth Gallery (55 Bethune St., btw. Washington & West Sts.). For info, visit westbethorg. “Last night I was on my way home from a Halloween party,” wrote frequent arts contributor Trav S.D., in a recent social media post, “and was at the Mets Stadium [Citi Field] stop on the 7 train. I looked out the window and beheld an unexpected and wondrous sight: a circus tent!

Courtesy of the artist

Stephen Hall’s “Oh Say Can You See,” from the “Conflict of Interest” exhibition at Westbeth.

Photo by Arthur Cornelius

Trav S.D. (second from right), a frequent contributor to this publication’s arts section, shows he can do theatre, as well as write about it. See for yourself when you see “The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley.”

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October 25, 2018

Mexico’s Circo Hermanos Vazquez is in town and will be there until November 26, and then, after that, in the Bronx [Terminal Market, Harlem River North lot], through December 16. This looks very much like my cup of tea and is not far from my house so I’m bound to check it out.” Knowing a good story when we see the seeds of it, we vowed to secure tickets for Trav, whose review you’ll read in the coming weeks. Meantime, for tickets of your own, visit circovazquez.com, send an email to info@circovazquez. com, or call 877-829-7839. One wonders where Trav found

the time to socialize, what with his lead role in a Sun., Oct. 28, 6:45pm play we’ve got tickets to — the last performance, in fact, as it’s part of FringeNYC, the sprawling performance festival that’s been playing throughout the month of October. Shameless plug: Mr. S.D.’s starring role is in Untitled Theater Company No. 61’s “The Resistible Rise of JR Brinkley.” Written and directed by Edward Einhorn, it’s the tale of a 1920s con man who gets rich, has success as a star of modern media, and becomes a successful elected. A flimflammer in a position of political power? Bless these creative types and their outlandish ideas! Elsewhere during FringeNYC’s waning days, these shows caught our eye: Brooklyn’s own Kal Mansoor writes, performs, and produces “A Brief History of Colonization,” which has its final show at 5:15pm on Sat., Oct. 27. Rick Allen Wilson directs this tale of a British-Indian comedian who “attempts to make a Hollywood movie about India’s colonial past and is forced to revisit his own.” There are Fri.-Sun. shows, Oct. 26-28, for “Ants,” a wordless performance piece combining clowning, animation, dance, and more, in order to “conduct a dialogue with cultural icons and the world of ants.” For tickets to these shows and info on many, many more, visit fringenyc.org. City Media LLC


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BIANCA continued from p. 17

chops in a breathlessly paced, relentlessly cruel, nearly 20-minute set, during which she plucked a trio of volunteers from the crowd, then zinged them mercilessly while presiding over a lip synch dance-off contest “voted on” by the audience — but ultimately determined by Del Rio herself, heiress apparent to Don Rickles, with a dash of Joan Rivers, and, one suspects, Satan. From whence other than a sharp-tongued, fallen angel could her uncanny powers of observation and desecration spring forth? Perhaps some decades-old, pivotal event that unfolded under the big top? “Obviously I don’t hate clowns,” Del Rio asserted, somewhat defensively, “because I’ve become one… But the circus is a weird situation for me, because I went to the circus when I was a child,” she recalled, of a trip with her siblings, “and I was quite excited by this little flashlight thing that had all of these antennas hanging from it. And I wanted one very badly, and my mother said, ‘We’ll buy you one on the way out.’ ” Sadly, however, mom had a couple of drinks, fell, and was taken away in an ambulance. “I was very upset,” a surprisingly vulnerable Del Rio admitted. “Not because she was leaving, but because I didn’t get my little flashlight… So the circus has always pissed me off.” But then, just as quickly as a “Drag Race” challenge can turn sour when a queen takes

to the runway in footgear other than high heels, Del Rio put a happy coda on her tale of childhood trauma, by noting that, at age 35, a friend “fi nally gave me one of those flashlights, and I feel whole. It fi xed me [my problem with the circus].” Is that all it took, we wondered? “Well, yeah,” she asserted, “and also, I get quite excited by the smell of elephant s**t, because I’m friends with Lady Bunny. So it’s all come full circle. Full circle.” Speaking of circular patterns, check out our website in the coming weeks for more of our interview with Bianca Del Rio, including upcoming projects she can’t talk about now (“None of it’s porn…”), the lasting impact of her time on “Drag Race” (a “golden ticket”), and her advice to budding queens — including, “You have to be a joke. You’re a man in wig. You’re not curing cancer. My struggle? Who cares? Find what you do, and own it, and live it.” “Halloween: Under the Big Top” starts at 8pm on Wed., Oct. 31, at Lincoln Center. To get your ticket and see this profane performer land more punchlines than there are kernels in a tub of super-sized circus popcorn, visit vossevents.com/events/halloween-under-the-big-top. Tickets range from $49 to $159. VIP options include a private mingle with the queens and access to the private VIP tent. The Big Apple Circus plays Courtesy of Voss Events Kameron Michaels does some heavy lifting, as a special guest performer at Lincoln Center through Jan. 27. For more at the circus-themed Halloween show. info, visit bigapplecircus.com.

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The best way to be visible, says this Prada campaign participant, is to “take up space, to create thought-provoking work.” VIOLET continued from p. 16

Now that drag has representation among mainstream products and their far-reaching marketing campaigns, we hope to see development throughout the fashion community, on a global scale. Mindful of the attention surrounding the Prada campaign, we asked Violet what advice she has for young people expressing themselves, and finding their identities, through fashion. Exuding confidence that demands attention, her recommendation is to always “live unashamed. The best way to be visible,” she said, is to create a “huge body of work; really pushing, and really working hard… And sometimes, things get recognized a lot, like this Prada campaign, and sometimes things don’t. The best way to be visible is to take up space, to create thought-provoking work, and choose to be seen and get attention from it. I think that’s the best thing we can do.” Violet’s hustle has set her apart when it comes to creating an identity — and for her, life is a stage, one that can’t be lived authentically and successfully unless it’s done without regrets. Although still a compelling presence on stage, we wanted to know what Violet is thinking of, long-term. “I really love performing, still, but that definitely won’t be lasting too much longer. I really love creative directing and designing, art directing, styling… There’s more behind-the-scenes stuff, for sure,” she said, referencing her “really talented friends who I get to work with, who I love to help out, occasionally, when I can, with ideas or whatever. But yeah, sticking in the fashion world and pushing that further.” “Halloween: Under the Big Top” starts at 8pm on Wed., Oct. 31, at Lincoln Center. To get your ticket and see this ghoulishly fierce fashion icon in the flesh, visit vossevents.com/events/halloweenunder-the-big-top. Tickets range from $49 to $159. VIP options include a private mingle with the queens and access to the private VIP tent. City Media LLC

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