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The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown

December 25, 2014 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 29

Behind the ban: Why Governor Cuomo nixed fracking in N.Y. State BY SARAH FERGUSON


hristmas came early for the fracktivist c ro w d . G o v e r n o r Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last week that he would ban high-volume hydrofracking across New York State was a game-changing position that surprised even

the most ardent opponents of this controversial process for extracting natural gas. “We were stunned,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, which was one of the first groups in New York to raise the alarm about the dangers of fracking.

Tenants worry landlord didn’t get all the lead out of 2 L.E.S. buildings BY ZACH WILLIAMS


ity councilmembers and housing activists joined tenants on Dec. 10 to call on landlord Samy Mahfar and the city to better mitigate high levels of lead in two Lower East Side residential buildings. Testing done at the two buildings in April — 102

Norfolk St. and 210 Rivington St. — indicated lead levels at least five times above federal guidelines. While Mahfar said levels have since decreased to safe readings, his critics say that he must use a contractor certified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for future renovation work, LEAD, continued on p. 7


FRACK BAN, continued on p. 4

Michelle Myles doing the outline of a customer’s tattoo at Daredevil Tattoo.

Female tattoo artists are really making their mark BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC


ichelle Myles is one of the original gangstas of tattooing in the Lower East Side. Myles and her business partner, Brad Fink, opened Daredevil Tattoo in 1997 on Ludlow St. A year and a half ago, they moved the business to 141 Division St. Myles’s story of how she got into tattooing starts back when the art was still illegal in New York City. From 1961 until 1997, tattooing was ver-

boten and underground. In 1989, Myles had moved from Ferguson, Missouri, to attend Parsons to study art. She had gotten her first tattoo during high school. “I went into this shop. I really liked the black panthers on the wall but I only had $25, so I got a little black cat tattoo,” she told The Villager, during an interview at her shop in Chinatown. “I just kept getting tattooed whenever I had a chance and a few bucks.” Her interest grew and she

eventually started doing tattoos herself in 1991. Two years later, she moved to Ludlow St., which was then a very different neighborhood. “The first place that I had was across from the old Daredevil, an apartment I rented as a studio,” she recalled. “But that was when tattooing was illegal, so there was no sign out front or anything. It was funny when I moved down there; everybody told me, ‘Don’t TATTOOS, continued on p. 20

Trying to get funds on track for 6 Soho fur vendors in bleach 8 Editorial: Time to focus on 12 Special Effects 19 | May 14, 2014


membership, they both paid all charges for food, drink and services that they or their friends “ordered, consumed and/or used.” COIB concluded, “The Board is aware of no evidence that Respondent’s conduct in accepting the gratuity from Soho House was corrupt, or was undertaken with a corrupt intent, or resulted in an unwarranted advantage to Soho House.” In the end, COIB fined Hamilton $10,660 — including the 10 years’ membership, plus a $2,500 fine — which Hamilton agreed to pay. Hamilton, who is currently spending time in Florida, did get back to us, but she declined to comment for publication. A recipe for noise: Eight A/C units atop the four-story building housing Babbo restaurant.

doing, Gruber is keeping mum. “The B&B Hospitality Group has no comment on this matter,” Gruber told the Daily News.

Akgul, who lives next to Mario Batali’s Babbo on Waverly Place, recently filed a $10 million lawsuit over noise and odors from the super-chef’s restaurant. Akgul told us that while Batali did succeed in getting a second variance for a 10-year extension for Babbo — which is located in a dubiously grandfathered commercial space — during that process Akgul discovered that the place doesn’t have proper permits for a slew of air-conditioning units on its rooftop. “There used to be two A/C units in the back,” Akgul said. “They removed them and put eight units on the fourth-floor rooftop — two of them are compressors and one is on 24 hours a day. They sit on beams and vibrate through the [shared] ‘party wall,’ which is my building’s wall.” Opponents, including Akgul and Doris Diether — the Village’s iconic “zoning maven,” who lives across the street — had caught Batali illegally using the place’s top floors for commercial purposes when they are supposed to be residential. Due to their complaints, which were backed up by Community Board 2, Babbo stopped using these floors — which now sit vacant. We called Babbo recently to ask about the lawsuit. After we briefly held through a stirring snippet of Italian opera, a woman who handles reservations answered and said, “The restaurant has no comment with regards to that.” “Could we talk to a spokesperson?” we asked. “This is what everyone has been told [to say],” she answered. Meanwhile, it turns out David Gruber, former C.B. 2 chairperson, is in fact a spokesman for Batali and his partner Joseph Bastianich, who also is a defendant in Akgul’s suit. But just like the reservation person said everyone is



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December 25, 2014

TALLMER MEMORIAL, TAKE TWO: The memorial for Jerry Tallmer at Theater for the New City on Mon., Feb. 23, will not be open to the public, as incorrectly reported last week, but will be by invitation only, according to his widow, Frances Monica Tallmer.




*V O T E D **



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UMM...WHAT DID GROUCHO SAY? Former Community Board 2 Chairperson Jo Hamilton was wrong to have accepted a free 10-year membership to the swanky Soho House club, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board recently ruled. Hamilton served on C.B. 2 from April 1999 to June 2014, except for a one-year hiatus from March 2005 to April 2006. The private-membership club opened in the Meatpacking District in 2003. Hamilton said that during her time on C.B. 2, as the COIB disposition states, Soho House came before the community board five times on State Liquor Authority licensing-related issues. “I never asked for or sought a membership in Soho House,” she told the conflicts board. “People employed by Soho House are personal friends of mine, and they offered me the complimentary membership, which I accepted, in 2003.” Hamilton told COIB that the club annually renewed her complimentary membership until 2013. “I understood their offer to be predicated on personal friendship, not my status as a member of C.B. 2. I now understand from information provided to me by [COIB], that Soho House provided me with complimentary membership for reasons related to my position on C.B. 2.” (For the record, according to the City Charter, “No public servant shall...accept or receive any gratuity from any person whose interests may be affected by the public servant’s official action.”) The annual rate for a founding member of Soho House in 2003 was $816, so Hamilton would have been charged that rate. As a result, she got a free ride to the tune of $8,160. Hamilton told the board that her husband, William Hamilton, was a founding member of the club and did pay full membership dues. She also averred that, during their decade-long



TO BARGE OR NOT TO BARGE? A lot of people think Pier55, the planned $130 million 2.7-acre “entertainment pier” off W. 13th St., will be great. Of course, its construction will be about 87 percent funded by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, who will then pay for all of the pier’s ongoing maintenance, operation and programming for the next 20 years. But what about Gansevoort Peninsula just a block to the south? Will there ever really be a marine waste-transfer station there for recyclable waste? That was Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s plan, and as far as we can tell, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to carry through on it. Either way, the peninsula’s garbage trucks will be relocated to the newly built multidistrict Department of Sanitation garage at Spring and Washington Sts. And the word is that, starting in early 2015, the peninsula will then be cleared, and remediated of any toxic residues from its years of previous use as a municipal waste incinerator (a.k.a. the Gansevoort Destructor). But to allow the waste-transfer station, the state and city will both first have to sign a memorandum of understanding (M.O.U.) to agree to pay a reported $50 million to the Hudson River Park Trust as compensation for “alienating” part of the peninsula from park use to allow the trash-barging operation. However, the state reportedly wants the city to pay the full amount since the trash-transfer station is a city project. And another question does spring to mind: Imagine, say, Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy or Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” being performed on the future Pier55 as, a block downriver, bottles and cans loudly clank, clatter and crash as a garbage truck dumps them into a barge with its engines roaring and snorting, ready to make the trip to the new recycling plant in Sunset Park. It doesn’t exactly sound conducive to a world-class entertainment pier — but what do we know?

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‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ Thousands protest An estimated 30,000 people participated in Saturday’s massive demonstration against police killings of unarmed black men and, in particular, the lack of an indictment in the death of Eric Garner.


December 25, 2014


Fracktivists gush after Cuomo bans shale drilling Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN













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FRACK BAN, continued from p. 1

“Some people cried. I sort of screamed happy curse words,” said Adams, recalling the jubilant reaction in his office as he and his co-workers watched Cuomo and his commissioners lay out their rationale for a ban during a year-end cabinet meeting that was broadcast live. “We had four press releases ready to go that day, depending on the outcome, and none of them predicted that,” added Adams, who had longtime frack foe Debra Winger on speakerphone when the decision came down.  Adams credited the myriad grassroots activists in New York who hammered on Cuomo for the last eight years to renounce fracking, even when mainstream environmental groups said a ban would never happen. Many are now saying New York has set a benchmark for the rest of the country to follow, and potentially roll back fracking initiatives elsewhere.  “With the gas industry — losing is not in their playbook — and we just beat them,” Adams said. “So it shows it’s not a lost cause.” Cuomo’s decision to impose an outright ban of H.V.H.F. is all the more striking given the recent moves by states like Maryland and Illinois to allow fracking to proceed. In fact, most people were expecting Cuomo to allow some limited trial of fracking in the Southern Tier, along the border of Pennsylvania, where some town boards have said they want the drilling. That was the plan floated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation back in 2012. With Upstate polls still fairly split on the issue (though trending more negative of late), most figured Cuomo would play King Solomon and try to “split the baby.”  Instead, Cuomo decided to ban fracking across the state, deferring to the recommendations of Howard Zucker, the acting Department of Health commissioner, and Joseph Martens, the D.E.C. commissioner, who together concluded that the drilling technique’s overall

Things are looking up for Andrew Cuomo and New York State, in the view of anti-fracking activists, after the governor last week decided to ban hydrofracking.

risks outweighed its economic benefits. Yet, while Zucker said he felt it would be “reckless” to proceed, he conceded that his department’s analysis — based on a two-year review of existing health and environmental studies — was still inclusive, largely because comprehensive, “longitudinal” studies of the impact of H.V.H.F. on people’s health, water and the environment have yet to be completed.  “The science isn’t there,” Zucker said. “But the cumulative concerns, based on the data and information I’ve read… give me reason to pause.”  No doubt there’s reason for New York to act with an abundance of caution. As D.E.C. Commissioner Martens noted, “New York is a very water-rich state.” Upstate rivers, reservoirs and aqueducts provide drinking water to more than 17 million people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Other states don’t have such high concentrations of people living downstream.  But what also tipped the balance was the declining economic viability of fracking in New York. Martens said his department crunched the numbers and found that at least 63 percent of the


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December 25, 2014

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Marcellus Shale would be off-limits to drilling because of restrictions around drinking water sources, as well as state parks and historical areas. Martens also cited the growing list of towns that have enacted bans and moratoria on fracking. It turns out the so-called “Dryden Decision” (upheld by the Appellate Court in July), which confirmed the right of towns to pass zoning laws barring fracking under the state’s “home rule” provision, is more of a deal breaker than many thought.  Not only can towns vote to ban gas drilling, but those towns that did want gas drilling would have had to revise their zoning rules in order for it to proceed in their areas. As a result, gas companies were facing a hodgepodge of local restrictions across the state that would have been a headache for the industry and state regulators alike. “It would have been fought town to town, pitting neighbor against neighbor,” said Adams. And then there is the plunging price of oil, which has sent the nation’s shale market reeling. Given falling gas and oil prices, it’s unlikely banks would finance much drilling in New York right now anyway — especially when there’s plenty of less-regulated shale plays in Pennsylvania and beyond. (Indeed, some proponents of drilling say in some ways it makes sense for Cuomo to leave the gas “banked” in the ground, until prices go up again. ) Cuomo of course must have done calculating of his own based on the polls, which show Democrats overwhelming opposed to fracking.  “The people who are for fracking don’t like Cuomo anyway,” noted Adams. “So it was sort of a no-brainer for the governor. There was nowhere near the economic benefit first promised, and if he approved it, he risked a massive backlash from his base.” Now, instead of a big protest rally that anti-fracking groups had been planning to hold in Albany on Jan. 7 to demand “Not One Well!” Catskill Mountainkeeper and scores of other environmental groups and activists will be gathering to do a victory dance on the steps of the capitol that day.  They also plan to launch a campaign to accelerate the transition to renewable energy across New York State. “We can convert dairy farms in the Southern Tier to solar energy farms to help power New York City,” said Adams of Catskill Mountainkeeper, which just received a $1.87 million grant to promote solar energy through bulk buying of solar equipment. Members of the Joint Landowners Coalition, a network of property owners who support gas drilling, are holding their own rally in Binghamton, N.Y., on Jan. 5 to denounce the ban and Governor Cuomo for “depriving people of their mineral rights.”


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December 25, 2014


M.T.A. seeks feds’ help for First Ave. L upgrade BY ZACH WILLIAMS


he newest talk of constructing an additional exit at First Ave. for the L train asks Uncle Sam to pick up the bill. Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials say that federal dollars would go a long way toward securing the $300 million necessary for the agency’s plan to overhaul the 10.3-mile subway line — as part of which, new exits and entrances would be installed on Avenue A as part of the First Ave. stop. Several years of further review by the Federal Transit Administration are necessary, however, before a final decision on the M.T.A.’s request, which was announced on Dec. 12. Sixty percent of the roughly 31,000 weekday riders who enter or exit the First Ave. station would use the proposed new entrances at Avenue A, according to the M.T.A. Plans also call for the installation of elevators at the 90-year-old station in order to make it compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Adding new exits at the First Ave. station and the Bedford Ave. stop in Brooklyn is one part of an overall plan to update the L line, which has experienced a 98 percent surge in

Straphangers exiting the cramped L train station at 14th St. and First Ave.

ridership since 1998, and a 27 percent increase since 2007, according to the M.T.A. Another proposed improvement would boost train service by two trains per hour, a 10 percent increase over the present frequency of service. “We have to increase capacity on the Canarsie Line and improve cus-

tomer flow at stations to meet this increasing demand, and securing federal funding for a project of this magnitude will go a long way to-

exits there both for the safety and convenience of subway riders was the primary motivation behind that effort, a Hoylman spokesperson told The Villager in March. In a Dec. 22 e-mail, a Hoylman representative praised the M.T.A.’s request for federal funding. “This badly needed funding will help support new street-level entrances that will make it easier for straphangers to enter and exit the station, and ultimately reduce potentially dangerous platform crowding,” said Peter Ajemian. City Councilmember Rosie Mendez is also behind the proposed plan, according to her spokesperson, John Blasco, who noted an additional potential benefit. “Bringing an entrance to Avenue A would help a lot with traffic on First Ave.,” he said in a telephone interview. If eventually approved, the project would be the first improvement to the L line under the plan, which would take several years to complete once funding is acquired, according to the M.T.A. Repairs to the Canarsie tube, through which the L train runs from Manhattan to Brooklyn, are also necessary due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. Fifty millions dollars in funding for L train improvements were included in the M.T.A.’s 2010-2014 capital plan, with additional funding included in the agency’s proposed 2015-2019 plan, according to the M.T.A. The newly announced request for federal dollars will be made through the F.T.A.’s Core Capacity program. Eligible projects must propose expansions in capacity of at least 10 percent to key transportation corridors that are either already overcapacity or will be within five years, according to the F.T.A.

Several years of review by the Federal Transit Administration are necessary.

ward achieving that goal,” Carmen Bianco, New York City Transit president, said in a statement. A previous effort led by state Senator Brad Hoylman was unsuccessful in convincing Extell Development to bankroll new exits on Avenue A while it developed an adjacent lot. Raising awareness around the cause of new entrances/

SOUND OFF! Write a letter to the editor 6

December 25, 2014

Tenants, politicians demand assurances on lead LEAD, continued from p. 1


as well as implement a lead mitigation plan in all of his New York City properties. Renovation work began slightly more than a year ago at 102 Norfolk. Amid the noise and water shutoffs, tenant Seth Wandersman — speaking at the Dec. 10 press conference outside 210 Rivington St. — said he did not initially consider the possibility that the dust covering common areas in the building might be poisoning him. It took a Freedom of Information Act request and plenty of 311 calls before he and other tenants could find out just how much lead they were being exposed to, he said. “I suddenly realized that these problems weren’t temporary but could stay with the residents for the rest of our lives,” Wandersman said. As he spoke to reporters, a man videoing the proceedings caught the eye of Councilmember Rosie Mendez. He said he was working on behalf of the landlord. A brief standoff ensued as Mendez, attempting to block his view, positioned herself between the landlord’s representative and the tenants. The videoing, she said, was just another indication of bad faith from Mahfar, who, according to the Cooper Square Committee, once employed Michel Pimienta, a “tenant-relocation specialist” who was previously investigated by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Tenants expressed their concerns about being exposed to extremely high levels of lead, as they were joined by Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, at right.

Pimienta paid a fine and gave up his relocation business in October following the investigation, the Daily News reported. But if Mahfar does not mend his ways, as well, pressure will increase, Councilmember Margaret Chin stated. “This has to stop,” she warned. “We are calling on Samy Mahfar to do the right thing or else the city agencies are going to go after you.” The city meanwhile needs to do more to enforce laws already on the books that target buildings built before 1960 as likely in need of lead mitigation, according to Chin, who added that more coordination is necessary among the Department of

Councilmember Rosie Mendez blocked a representative of landlord Sammy Mahfer from videoing tenants at the press conference.

Buildings, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Reached by telephone, Mahfar said subsequent testing by a private company indicated that lead levels at the two buildings were within legal limits. During renovation work, adequate effort was made to limit dangerous lead exposure, he said.

“We have reports showing that there is no exaggerated levels of lead,” he said on Dec. 16. He offered to provide a copy of these tests to The Villager, but none were received by press time. During the interview, he could not recall the name of the company that conducted the tests nor the date they were performed. According to the E.P.A., lead exposure can affect any organ in the human body, stunting cognitive growth in children and decreasing kidney function in adults. Despite a 1978 federal ban on its use, lead-based paint remains one of the most common causes of lead poisoning, according to the agency’s Web site. Roughly 69 percent of homes built between 1940 and 1959 contain leadbased paint, with the number rising to 87 percent for older residential buildings, according to the E.P.A. Web site. Issues in the Lower East Side are only part of the overall problem across Manhattan, Borough President Gale Brewer said in a statement. “I’ve been fighting landlords like Samy Mahfar all over Manhattan,” she said, “ those who refuse to use safe procedures, who harass rent-regulated tenants, and only erractically correct H.P.D. violations.”

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December 25, 2014




Break away, break window A grab from a surveillance video of alleged Avenue D shooting suspect.

About midway through Saturday’s mostly peaceful Millions March NYC, members of a breakaway contingent of about 100 protesters wearing masks attacked a police car parked on Madison Ave. between E. 28th and 29th Sts. that reportedly had two traffic agents inside. A rear side window was smashed and trash was left heaped on the back of the car. There were no injuries and no arrests.

on arrival. In the “interests” section of Perkins’s Facebook page only two things are listed: “My niece Leela” and “Being a great uncle.” After reports of Perkins’s death, locals wondered if the playground’s two tire swings would now be removed.

Fatal fire

Shooting suspect Police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating a suspect wanted in connection with a late-night shooting on Fri., Dec. 12, in front of 60 Avenue D. According to police, around 11:20 p.m. that evening, a 19-year-old male was involved in a verbal dispute with the suspect in front of the location, when the suspect brandished a firearm and shot twice, striking the victim in the chest and neck. E.M.S. transported the injured man to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, last seen wearing a dark, hooded sweatshirt and dark jeans. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the Crime Stoppers hotline, at 1-800577-TIPS (8477), or to submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site,, or by texting their them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.


December 25, 2014

Aleim Perkins.

Tire swing tragedy On Mon., Dec. 15, around 3:50 p.m., police responded to a 911 call of a man unconscious in the Tompkins Square Park playground. According to police, the man, Aleim Perkins, 39, of Harlem, had taken his niece to play in the playground, where for some reason he “began swinging the tire swing very violently, very strongly.” The tire hit Perkins and he was knocked unconscious — it wasn’t clear if he struck his head on the ground. Emergency medics gave Perkins C.P.R. at the scene but he was unresponsive. He was taken to Beth Israel hospital where he was pronounced dead

Evelyn Dahab, 33, a writer and former bar owner, was found dead in her bed by firefighters responding to a blaze in her E. First St. apartment at 3 a.m. on Wed., Dec. 10. According to the Daily News, Dahab attended Barnard College, wrote a novel called “Incapacitated” and at one point co-owned Lucey’s Lounge, a bar on Third Ave. in Gowanus, Brooklyn. An overloaded power strip sparked the fire — which was confined to her unit in the five-story walk-up — according to Fire Department officials.

Soho plunge On the evening of Fri., Dec. 12, an unidentified woman apparently leapt to her death from the 11th floor of 110 Greene St. in Soho. According to a source who requested anonymity, the woman was in town visiting a relative. POLICE BLOTTER, continued on p.9


POLICE BLOTTER, continued from p. 8

Fur vendors gone wild Three fur vendors were arrested in Soho on Saturday after they threw bleach on anti-fur activists. The attack — during which at least four individuals were hit with the liquid, including a small child — came during one of the ongoing protests against the “fur stall” — a sidewalk location where furs are sold — at Broadway and Spring Sts. According to the AntiVivisection Coalition, two of the men involved in the attack had gone up to the rooftop of the six-story building above the protest and then poured gallons of bleach onto the crowds below, “hitting two babies, a police officer and even covering their own fur coats with the noxious substance.” Fifteen anti-animal-cruelty activists had gathered at the spot to continue their weekly demonstration at the fur stall, which holds up to 100 fur pieces, the majority of which are new fur from minks, rabbits, foxes, seals, raccoons and chinchillas, the activists say. The activists railed through a megaphone about the animals’ suffering, held large images of animals exploited in the fur industry, and on a laptop showed video footage of the fur industry’s cruelty.  Police reportedly had been at the scene for a few minutes before the attack and were part of the crowd hit by the bleach. The officers commenced a search of the building and arrested the two fur vendors, who were reportedly caught red-handed with their bleach bottles and buckets still in hand. A third fur vendor was also arrested for his part in the attack. The remaining fur vendors were ordered to shut down their stall and leave the area. 

Furs for the “fur stall” at Broadway and Spring St. The furs are displayed on the S.U.V. as well as a table on the sidewalk.

A police spokesperson confirmed that three men were arrested for “acting in concert” to throw a mixture of bleach and ammonia: David Haber, 53, of Cortland, N.Y.; and Luis Justino, 40, and Lawrence Andrews, 35, both of the Bronx. They were all charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. A video of the incident is posted at http://bit. ly/13SWb6o , at the end of which one of the activists shouts through the bullhorn, “I’d like to make a shout-out to those who tried to silence the animals. You lose! The animals have spoken today!”

and tied up. The pair falsely believed there was a safe with cash in the basement. They displayed black firearms and threatened to kill him. In the end, they took his wallet containing $800 and, initially, his phone — but then left the phone, before fleeing. The victim was uninjured. It was not immediately clear whether he was a building resident or employee. There have been no arrests and an investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, 800577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site,, or texting to 274637 (CRIMES), then entering TIP577.

Health club clash Police say they arrested a 41-year-old man on Dec. 9, more than a month after he allegedly assaulted a co-worker. According to police, the perpetrator argued with a 20-year-old man at the New York Health and Racquet Club, at 24 E. 13th St., on Wed., Nov. 5. The heated dispute then turned violent when the former swung a pair of scissors at the victim. Having failed in his slashing attempt, the perpetrator grabbed a trash can and struck the victim on his left arm, which resulted in the victim to get stitches. Eric Hunter, 41, was charged with felony assault.

Soho gunpoint robbery According to police, on Wed., Dec. 17, at about 8:10 p.m., two men armed with guns robbed an unidentified man inside 166 Mercer St. in Soho, which is reportedly a doorman building. A police spokesperson said the two suspects, who were dressed as utility workers, took the victim to the basement, where he was punched in the head

Zach Williams and Lincoln Anderson

‘Keep fighting,’ jail-bound attorney urges MoRUS crowd BY LINCOLN ANDERSON



he Museum of Reclaimed Space last Friday celebrated two years of occupying its space in the storefront of C-Squat. In a surprise appearance, East Village radical attorney Stanley Cohen showed up and gave a brief talk at MoRUS, at Avenue C at E. 10th St. After pleading guilty in April, Cohen last month was sentenced to 18 months in jail for tax obstruction. Cohen represented the East Village squatters when they fought eviction in the 1980s. Among his more recent high-profile clients, he has represented Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-inlaw, and Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas leader. “I have lived on Avenue D since 1988,” Cohen told the audience of about 50, “and unfortunately that is going to end in a few weeks.” Cohen said the squatter movement and the culture of resistance — which the museum embodies and champions — is about being real. “Besides saying ‘f--- you,’ besides saying, ‘We don’t need your rules and regulations’ — it’s built on getting beyond the bulls---,” he explained. “It’s built on getting beyond the rules that they set and

Radical attorney Cohen drank in the atmosphere at MoRUS’s second anniversary party.

that they say we have to obey or we go to jail.” The squatter ethos, he said, “morphed into the Black Bloc [a radical anarchist protest faction], into Occupy. The ones throwing themselves in front of the beast in Ferguson are the same ones throwing themselves in front of shoppers at Macy’s.” The nature of the East Village and Lower East

Side is to continually foster and renew this revolutionary spirit, he said. “I walk my dog in this neighborhood,” he said. “I talk to Emma Goldman. The newspaper The Masses was printed in this neighborhood. The Draft Riots were in Tompkins Square Park. Tent City...Tompkins Square Park. There’s something wonderful in this neighborhood — progressive, C-Squat...everything. “There is no stronger, more committed community than Loisaida, than the Lower East Side community.” As for the charges that are sending him away, he said, “To those who believe it’s for taxes, I’ll sell you a bridge and Israel is about Judaism. I think I’ve about had it with this sty, and I’m moving overseas,” he said of the U.S., in general. To those who say the East Village is over, Cohen retorted, “This f------ neighborhood has been passing on for years. [The loss of] CBGB, etc., who the mayor is — it doesn’t matter.” In a cyclical way, newcomers who are drawn to the East Village will forever revitalize it, he said. “There’s a little kid out there, in Chicago or California,” he said. “In 10 or 12 years, they’ll be here. “Keep fighting,” he concluded, “and I just want to say, ‘Up the rebels.’ ” December 25, 2014


SantaCon: It takes all kinds

SantaCon, known today as the boozy bro fest that no one wants in their neighborhood, began years ago in San Francisco as a nonalcoholic, playful, performance art-like happening. This year, the soused Santas and elves were particularly prevalent in Midtown. In Times Square, they included at least one Homer Simpson, a kid who definitely looked a little young to drink, and a golden-faced solar spirit — who was also spotted at September’s People’s Climate Change March — who bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain arts liaison to former City Councilmember Alan Gerson.

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Youth are on the march against police brutality BY ZACH WILLIAMS



growing national movement against police brutality and institutionalized racism showed no signs of waning in the days following a demonstration that brought tens of thousands of people through the streets of Manhattan on Dec. 13. Longtime activists say they have seen nothing like the daily protests led by young people, which have inspired an increasing number of New Yorkers to participate ever since a grand jury announced on Dec. 3 that a New York Police Department officer would not face criminal charges for placing a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner, an unarmed black man from Staten Island. Just eight days before, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, decided the same for the police officer who killed teenager Michael Brown. In response, activists continue to agitate for police reforms across the country. But few places have seen protest activity as densely concentrated as that in Manhattan. Self-identified protesters, demonstrators and activists have marched through the Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and elsewhere. They have lain down in symbolic death in Times Square, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, Columbus Circle, Grand Central Station and elsewhere. Crowds with arms up in surrender entered Macy’s at Herald Square chanting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and the Disney Store near Times Square. Protesters have blocked traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel, on the West Side Highway and other thoroughfares. Honking erupts in response, often in solidarity. It’s no coincidence that a great amount of such activity occurs in Midtown, according to state Senator Brad Hoylman — who took part in last Saturday’s Millions March NYC. The confluence of tourism, culture and media at the crossroads of the world makes Times Square particularly attractive for political activity, he said. “It’s a good place to get attention, and these demonstrators are smart and they want their voices heard,” he added. In years past, various protests have called for people to shut down business in the city, but those efforts fell short. This new outburst of dissent, however, continues to show longevity, according to seasoned activists. “Many of us have been in the struggle for many, many years and we have never seen anything like it,” said Toni Arenstein, a Chelsea

Protesters and police face off on the West Side Highway.

resident and member of Peoples Power Assemblies ( on W. 24 St. There are also concrete demands. They demand that the officers involved in the fatal arrest effort of Eric Garner receive punishment both through the department and a federal indictment. They want the federal Department of Justice and Philip Eure, the New York Police Department’s inspector general, to further investigate the department’s use of force against minorities. In addition, they say, Governor Andrew Cuomo should back the appointment of a state special prosecutor to investigate further. And “broken windows” — the law enforcement philosophy that espouses punishing small offenses to prevent violent crime — should end, according to the demands published on The organization behind the Web site — a coalition of activist groups — goes by the moniker #ThisStopsToday. The name is also used as a hashtag on Twitter, added within a tweet as an indication of a topic. Other popular hashtags utilized by the activists in recent weeks include #EricGarner, #ICantBreathe and #Ferguson. Coupled with the right meeting spot, activists can quickly rally or read the latest developments by searching the social media platform for such hashtags. The marches and die-ins have continued every day since Dec. 3.

The activists also continue to organize, both face to face and in cyberspace. About 75 of them packed the Chelsea office of Peoples Power Assemblies on Dec. 6 and Dec. 10 to discuss how the movement should evolve. “This is one of the centers in the city for organizing these protests, but we are not the only center,” said Larry Holmes, a P.P.A. organizer at the Dec. 6 meeting. “Some are not even using centers. Some are just going on social media.” They also discussed demands, as well as a request from #ThisStopsToday for individual organizations to plan events throughout the 11 days of action occurring from Dec. 10 to Dec. 21 in order to spread resources evenly. The length of time in the effort references the number of times that Garner said, “I can’t breathe,” before he died on July 17. In forums such as these, they hash out the details of as small as who can carry signs to the next event and as large as the movement’s overall goals. Experience spreads along with suggestions to deploy more activists on roller skates or bicycles as scouts during future actions. But divisions have arisen as well, particularly when it comes to the involvement of white people within the movement at what some activists say is the expense of people of color who should lead the way. Most activists insist on nonviolence while some have done other-

wise, most notably on the Brooklyn Bridge on Dec. 13 when two police officers were beaten by a small group of marchers. And actions continue to pop up in unexpected places. Basketball players for the Brooklyn Nets, as well as Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, donned black shirts reading “I Can’t Breathe” before a game on Dec. 9 as protesters rallied outside the Barclays Center on Flatbush Ave. Just hours before, city councilmembers staged their own die-in on the City Hall steps. “Our country finds itself confronted with the tragic results of deep-rooted bias and inequality,” said Corey Johnson, one of about two dozen councilmembers involved in that die-in. “We are in desperate need of change, and unfortunately, New York City is no exception.” Meanwhile, as of press time, the tweets continue with four more days of planned actions in the 11day effort. With their social media savvy and a cause appealing to their ideals, young people have a unique opportunity, according to Emma Morgan-Bennett, a student organizer at Bard High School Early College on E. Houston St. “We are energetic and young and can march for as long as we want,” she said. “Also, the most important fact is that if we don’t get off our butts and change things, this is the America we are going to have to live with.” December 25, 2014


Like after 9/11 and Sandy, it’s time for unity EDITORIAL


t was encouraging to see Mayor de Blasio lead a moment of silence on Tuesday for slain Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The patrol partners’ horrifying execution on Saturday in Bed-Stuy by a deranged gunman sent a shockwave through the city — and the nation — one which continues to reverberate. As the leader of the city, it is up to the mayor to be strong at this moment and send the message that he is not an advocate, but a leader. He is right to call for a timeout from the protests that have been roiling the city and snarling traffic. Frankly, the protesters’ message has been conveyed at this point. Yes, the verdict in the Eric Garner case was stunning, particularly given the video showing Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo putting Garner in a chokehold. But the story continues, as the New York Post and the American Civil Liberties Union, among

others, push to bring all the grand jury proceedings to light. And the federal investigation is ongoing. “There’s a lot of pain right now,” de Blasio said on Tuesday. “We have to work our way through that pain. We have to keep working to bring police and community closer together. We have to work for that more perfect union. We have to put the divisions of the past behind us. They were left to all of us in this generation, and we have to overcome them. “We need to protect and respect our police just as our police protect and respect our communities,” the mayor said. “We can strike that balance. We must.” Those were the right words for the mayor to say, and they needed to be said. At the same time, Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association police union needs to tone down his rhetoric. Everyone on all sides must stop piling on. In short, it’s time for the city to come together. We came together after the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands and leveled the World Trade Center. We

did it after Superstorm Sandy, too. Now once again is the time for all of us as one common people — one city — to overcome a deep problem we are facing. If there is any rally or march at this point, it should have one theme only: peace and unity. Enough of the endless marches, of blocking traffic. And enough of the pro-police rallies with people wearing T-shirts saying, “I can breathe” (in a twisted take on Garner’s last words). The Internet — while showing us what happened to Garner — is also allowing protesters to keep their actions going...and going, plus inflaming passions and emboldening sick individuals, as we saw with the two officers’ shooter, who bragged online about what he was about to do. On the other hand, body cameras for police officers will provide more video evidence that can be used to help protect both cops and those whom they are arresting. More information is always helpful. In addition to embracing peace and unity, people need to start working on these thorny issues

more constructively. Just marching around and playing cat-and-mouse with police will not achieve any long-term results. We saw that with Occupy Wall Street, which started out encouragingly by calling our attention to the country’s growing income inequality, but then simply devolved into protesters marching around and clashing with cops. Again, if you want to change the system, you’ve got to enact systematic reforms. Think: “Big picture.” Sadly, in the current climate, while uniformed police officers were arresting a youth on East Broadway for alleged assault last Friday, they were joined by a plainclothes cop who took some quick punches at the suspect while he was being cuffed. It was all caught on video. That kind of police violence is precisely part of the problem. After the two officers’ murder on Saturday, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, we felt, put it best: “In the face of such senseless violence, we should calm down the rhetoric and work together to find a way to create a safer and more peaceful city.” Amen.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Stores will love ‘bag tax’ To The Editor: Re “Mendez is not sold on Chin’s 10-cent ‘tax’ on single-use bags” (news article, Nov. 27): When I shop at Fairway, the packer routinely puts dairy and meat in separate bags. When I spend $10 at Morton Williams, they spread my groceries among three packages, double-bagged. We don’t subsidize other products that continue to harm the environment. Yet by allowing stores to charge a 10-cent-per-bag fee, we give supermarkets an incentive to use more plastic bags!

Bring back paper and ban these bags entirely. Encourage bag suppliers to come up with biodegradable bags for dog walkers. Most dog owners buy plastic bags to pick up after their pets. Why isn’t a biodegradable solution available? Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

Just cut to the Chase To The Editor: Re “Swift as N.Y.C. ambassador is not wel-


come on the L.E.S.” (talking point, by Clayton Patterson, Nov. 27): Regarding Clayton’s scathing condemnation of the city’s choice for spokesperson, I agree. What an insulting travesty. What happened? Did Derek Jeter turn down the job? Since we’re living in a commercial world where “hipsters” congregate at Starbucks and where obnoxious revelers pack the bars to watch professional sports — where Macy’s is happy to fly corporate balloons like the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Aflac duck — why not a completely capitalistic spokesperson for New York like the Geico gecko? Why not make Ronald McDonald the mascot for New York? He’s more representative than Taylor Swift. If we want a spokesperson who matters — who might actually speak to the needs of New Yorkers — I vote for Anonymous. Jeff Wright E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.

Are they the new Siskel and Ebert? 12

December 25, 2014

Oscar Brand: He’s still playing in the AM band BY PAUL DERIENZO


ast weekend, WNYC broadcaster Oscar Brand celebrated his 69th continuous year on the air with a special edition of his radio program, “Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival.” The program featured tapes from past broadcasts, showcasing his vast archive of musical guests. Over the years, Brand provided an outlet to many musicians who might never have been heard and many who became famous. Highlights include Arlo Guthrie’s first performance of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Bob Dylan’s first radio interview in New York, Harry Chapin singing an acoustic “Cat’s in the Cradle,” Greenwich Village folksinger Tom Paxton, Austrian-American actor / songwriter Theo Bikel and Brand singing “This Land is Your Land,” as well as appearances by Woody Guthrie, Dave Van Ronk and many other voices that influenced generations of singer songwriters. Brand was in 1920 born to a Jewish family in Winnipeg, Canada, moving to New York where he attended

Wreathy rider Spotted near Chrystie St. on the Lower ing some holiday spirit on her rounds.


chiatric patients. In December 1945, Brand walked into WNYC and asked if he could do a program of holiday songs. They agreed and when the show was over the program director said, “So can you come back next week.” Brand has been coming back every week for seven decades. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it’s the longest-running radio show with the same host. Oscar Brand’s deep interest as Oscar Brand strumming the guitar and singing on air at a curator of folk WNYC circa 1940s. music and his humorous and homBrooklyn College. He ran a psycholoey style created a deep bond with his gy unit in the U.S. Army during World guests, bringing them back to appearWar II and edited a newsletter for psyances at anniversary programs held at The Cooper Union even after they achieved successful careers. The stars, say family members, would come “out of respect and because the audience had been with them since the beginning.” Brand’s shows are usually grouped around themes. On Mother’s Day the show highlighted both “good mothers” songs and, for fun, some “bad mothers” songs. Brand’s sense of humor has never shied away from the controversial. He took an interest in a genre of folk called “bawdy songs” that showed folk music as fiercely creative and free-spirited and not always serious. Songs rediscovered through Brand’s inquisitive search into folk traditions had such “inspirational” titles as “God Bless the Bastard King,” and “I Don’t Want to Join the Navy.” His style was free-spirited, too, and he would sometimes take a new album that arrived in the mail and play it with full credit to the artist. On weekends he would hang out in Washington Square Park with his portable tape recorder interviewing and recording the street musicians before running home to edit the tape and put it on the air. Every Thanksgiving, Brand plays the recordings made in his living room, a three-day party of music and fun, where listeners shared the laughter, while jamming together and trading songs. Brand’s Thanksgiving shows featured folk luminaries Jean Ritchie, the Kentucky-born dulcimer East Side, a scooter rider was spreadchampion who played Carnegie Hall and is known as “The Mother of Folk,”

bluegrass creator Bill Monroe, innovative banjo picker Roger Sprung and Smithsonian folk music curator and Village folkie Ralph Rinzler, among many others. Brand is a lifelong civil rights advocate, and he played together with diverse and often controversial voices, such as Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie. According to a family story, Fiorello LaGuardia, New York City’s colorful and temperamental mayor, once called Brand into his office to reprimand him for being “too political” and remind him that WNYC was funded by the city. Brand, who never received a penny, reminded the mayor that he didn’t get paid to do the show. Mimicking LaGuardia’s high-pitched voice, Brand recalled how the mayor then dismissed him by saying, “Oh, O.K., carry on.” Brand’s association with outspoken songwriters did eventually get him into trouble with the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, which called his show a “pipeline of communism.” His refusal to cooperate with the witch-hunters earned him a mention in the 1950 premiere issue of the ultra right-wing newsletter Red Channels, getting Brand himself blacklisted for a while. Among the politically charged performers from Brand’s studio were Judy Collins, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Emmylou Harris. In 1995 the past was left behind when Brand was awarded the prestigious Peabody Award, the broadcast industry equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. His role as a presenter of controversial artists won him praise by the Peabody judges as the “courageous Mr. Brand.” Outside of radio, Oscar Brand has had an illustrious career scripting numerous performances spanning genres from ballet to TV programs and work on 75 documentaries. He scripted many iconic commercials, from pancake syrup to automobiles, and wrote the music and lyrics for Broadway shows “A Joyful Noise” with John Raitt, and “The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N” with Hal Linden and Tom Bosley. He has recorded 90 albums of music and written songs for Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, the Smothers Brothers and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The New York Times called him “one of America’s best.” Oscar Brand turns 95 this February. You can catch his live show every Saturday night on WNYC 880AM at 10 p.m. DeRienzo is host of “Let Them Talk,” a live TV talk show on MNN’s Lifestyle channel every Tuesday at 8 p.m. December 25, 2014


Baruch Bearcats claw their way to a fast start SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN


asketball is extremely popular in Manhattan with the public and private high schools and on the pro level with the Knicks in action during the fall, winter and spring months. In the summer, there are the W. Fourth St. and Rucker outdoor leagues in the Village and Harlem, respectively. But as of this writing, the Knicks, for one, can’t provide wining action on the court, and the way they are currently competing, it’ll be hard for them to qualify for the playoffs. Still, spectators are hoping to find the best brand of hoop action in their area. The best of the crop could even come from Division III competition. At press time, the Baruch College Bearcats have captured six of seven overall games, and are 3-0 in the CUNY Athletic Conference. The conference includes nine NCAA Division III colleges, including John Jay, Hunter and other CUNY schools in Manhattan. And there’s no finer gym to catch some exciting action than Baruch’s court on Lexington Ave. at E. 24th St. Action resumes on Tues., Jan. 6, after the Christmas-New Year’s break when the John Jay Bloodhounds visit the Bearcats’ lair, known as the ARC Arena, for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. Some of the Baruch players have certainly impressed and deserve to be

The Baruch College men’s basketball team.

looked at. The scoring and rebounding of senior Granville Gittens and freshman Chimaechi Ekekeugbor, both forwards, and the playmaking of junior Ed Roscigno are leading the offense for Baruch, who as a team have the potential to go far once again in the standings. Some of the spectators who came out last Friday night to watch Baruch win a 62-49 thriller over York College of Queens really wanted to see one player who has the ability to score points in double figures. They were

somewhat disappointed that the Cardinals’ Omar St. John didn’t start, as he sat on the bench for the first half for disciplinary reasons stemming from a previous game. He entered the game at the start of the second half. Who would ever think that a member of a team that won a state championship would further his basketball skills at a Division III college? But Bryler Paige, a 6-foot freshman guard, did and is now at Baruch after an illustrious high school career at Christ The King in Queens. Paige has the background, plays an

all-around basketball game for Baruch, and can certainly set up the plays from his position. He felt that Baruch was best suited for him to continue his education and athletics at the same time. In order to attend Baruch, he had to give up football, since Baruch does not field a gridiron squad. His high school coach, Joe Arbitello, and Baruch’s coach, John Alesi, know each other, thus making Paige’s transition from high school to college much easier. Alesi carries a roster of 16 players, including four seniors.

Mayor of Ludlow spread her love all over L.E.S. PET SET BY JODI PERL-ODELL


hen Sadie Grace Perl walked down Ludlow St., people couldn’t help but feel happy. Maybe it was the sashay in her walk or the never-ending grin plastered across her furry face, but she made friends everywhere she went while she was living in the Lower East Side. Local 138, Ludlow Blunt, Kapri Cleaners 2, Cake Shop, Living Room and Pianos all had one thing in common: They called her the Mayor of Ludlow. I got Sadie 11 years ago, when I was in my 20s. She saw me through so many big transitions, and she led my team of supporters through graduate degrees, careers, job changes, finding the love of our life, Betsey Odell, and getting married. But it wasn’t just


December 25, 2014

You had to love Sadie — it was inevitable.

with us. Sadie would lock eyes with everyone and smile. And when she did, you were a gonner. No matter how many times my wife and I warned people that Sadie would, inevitably, mess up their nice clothes

they would say, “It’s O.K.,” and laugh in delight as she shed all over them. She knew people in the neighborhood better than we did. She would drag, haul and pull us from one side of the street to the other and immediately ingratiate herself to strangers — now friends. And that’s what it meant to be responsible for Sadie: We had to follow love everywhere. She had a zest for life that many of us crave. Sadly, cancer took her. It was aggressive and quick and left us in shock. The staff at St. Mark’s Veterinary Hospital, who cared for her all her life, were there at the end. We shared stories of when she energetically ate so much sand at the beach that she had to have her stomach pumped twice — but she didn’t mind a bit. Sadie just curled her lip and trotted away satisfied she’d gotten away with something…again. She had the same smirk on her face when she found a way to steal socks from the top drawer of a 5-foot tall dresser, or

when she would duck down when we walked in, so we couldn’t see her lying on the forbidden couch. She wanted to love and take care of everything she met. And in the end when we were crying over her, the vet’s face dripping in tears, Sadie was at once upset and concerned, trying to lick our tears away. Junot Diaz wrote, “The half life of love is forever.” He must have known someone like her. Sadie was a riot, smart and even sporadically graceful. She will truly be missed by many. I will miss when she would sneak a kiss in the morning, and would never leave the bedside when one of us was sick, her hilarious doggie snow angels, and mostly her big heart, which taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Thank you all for loving her as much as she loved you. Farewell our sweet Mayor of Ludlow. Please share your stories and pictures at

Behind the bar, to serve and preserve Extraordinary photos ensure the city’s forgotten won’t disappear


hances are the Terminal Bar wasn’t what Frank Sinatra had in mind when he famously sang, “It’s quarter to three, there’s no one in the place except you and me.” Nah, the Terminal Bar was a dump, a real dive and a hell of a watering hole that some called “the roughest bar in town.” Murray Goldman, the bar’s owner since 1956, thought that was

media hype — but Martin Scorsese did use it in “Taxi Driver.” Located across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal on the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 41st Street, the bar was where an endless, diverse stream of customers would wander in for a drink and chat it up with the bartender and a rogues gallery of regulars. Shelly Nadelman got to know a lot of them during the ten years he




Terminal Bar, as viewed from Port Authority in 1981.

spent there as a bartender, from 1972 until its closing. When Goldman (his father-in-law) offered him a bartender’s job to help feed Nadelman’s growing family, he started working the day shift. But he didn’t just serve his customers drinks. He also took their picture — thousands of them. Using his 35mm camera, he shot black and white portraits of the regulars, the locals, the pimps, prostitutes, office workers, commuters, bus

drivers, gay men, drag queens, and adventure-seeking tourists. This let him satisfy his passion for photography while still tending bar. Nadelman’s son, Stefan, says, “My father looked at all new customers as potential portraits. When they walked in he would size them up, imagining them as sixteen-by-twenty-inch TERMINAL BAR, continued on p. 16 December 25, 2014


Photos from a decade at ‘New York’s most notorious watering hole’ TERMINAL BAR A PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD OF NEW YORK’S MOST NOTORIOUS WATERING HOLE BY SHELDON & STEFAN NADELMAN Princeton Architectural Press


TERMINAL BAR, continued from p. 15

Sheldon “Shelly” Nadelman doing his “chemistry thing” (taking 86 proof Gordon’s Gin and replacing it with a clear, cheaper 86 proof ). “Nobody ever knew the difference,” says Nadelman, who admits to duplicating the trick with Scotch, cognac and Rye whisky. This self-portrait was taken in 1973.

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Candy, in 1981, was one of many subjects captured on and around the garbage can that came into view after a newsstand outside the front door was taken away. “So here was this new venue for me,” recalls Shelly Nadelman. “I used a telephoto lens and stood in the same spot behind the bar to shoot the entire series.”

are no pretty pictures here, no glamour shots. The first few pages set the stage with location shots: the exterior of the bar, the pedestrian traffic, the Port Authority terminal across the street. The rest of the book is filled with headshots and group portraits of customers organized by categories such as “The Regulars,” “Old-Timers,” “The New Wave,” ”One-Shot Opportunities” and “The Place to Be.” Other sections include “Family,” “Bartenders,” “Porters” and “Con-


cast of New York characters that he served, even remembering their favorite drink. “The Terminal Bar” went on to win the 2003 Sundance Jury Prize in the short film category, among other honors. Stefan says, “There were several publishers who approached me after the film hit the festival circuit, but these discussions inevitably fizzled out. So the book idea was filed away once again. Over the past decade, I released some more short Terminal Bar films on my YouTube channel that complemented the original.” These attracted more attention to the original documentary, and in 2013 Stefan got a book offer. He says, “I think the past 12 years helped age the photos a bit more, and that extra distance from the 70s gives the collection more historic value.” As photography books go, this one may be as unique as its subject. There

Kim (left) at the concession counter during its Korean food phase (1973). Rented out by bar owner Murray Goldman, the space offered Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Italian cuisine over the years.


prints, and if they met all the necessary criteria, he’d ask if he could take their picture.” He’d develop the roll of film in his darkroom and then make 8x10 inch prints. He hung some on the bar’s walls to promote his work and once in a while, a customer would buy one for five bucks. Over the years, he took more than 2,600 images that documented a period of New York’s visual and cultural history that has vanished (only 22 were self-portraits). After the bar shut down on January 8, 1982, the Times Square area underwent major changes — sanitized and Disneyfied and corporatized. In fact, the headquarters of the New York Times now occupies the block where the Terminal Bar once was. When Murray Goldman decided to close the business because of rising rent and decreasing business, his son-in-law went home to New Jersey. His photo archive from the bar would go unseen for 20 years until Stefan began to sort and scan the negatives. He had long recognized their historic significance and featured many of the images in his first film, “The Terminal Bar” — a 22-minute documentary about the bar’s customers. The elder Nadelman plays a key role, recalling details about the



Hardcover | 176 pp. | 8x9 in. | $35

Murray Goldman (seen here, circa 1978) bought the Terminal Bar in 1956 and worked the day shift until it closed in Jan. of 1982. Shelly Nadelman remembers him as “a sympathetic soul, and he loaned so much money and received so many bounced checks in return, you could paper the walls of the bar with them. He drank Johnnie Walker Red on the rocks.”

cession Workers.” Some of Nadelman’s recollections about his customers are used as captions. Of the “New Wave” gay men and trans people who began to frequent Terminal Bar after the Stonewall riots, Nadelman recalls his 19731978 photos of one customer who “used to come in on Saturdays, and the more he drank, the more lipstick he put on. Every time he came in he had another hairdo. I bought one of his Pentax cameras from him: fifty TERMINAL BAR, continued on p. 19

Burton’s weird, but not unwelcome, change of pace ‘Big Eyes’ comes close to something great FILM


Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski Directed by Tim Burton Runtime: 106 minutes Opening Wide on Dec. 25 Visit



his biopic has the strange distinction of being both one of the most and least Tim Burton-y movies Tim Burton has ever made. Signs of the goth-king auteur’s favorite themes and visual motifs abound from the opening sequence, depicting thousands of art posters being printed — a sight immediately reminiscent of the Rube Goldberg wonders of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and the turning gears of mass production central to his adaptations of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Sweeney Todd.” The kitschy, 1950s aesthetic found in movies like “Edward Scissorhands” and “Mars Attacks” are evoked heavily here through the set design and costuming. And, most important of all, the film focuses on a misunderstood, alienated outsider artist — a staple of essentially every Burton film ever. But “Big Eyes” also represents a very distinct departure for the director. Known primarily for his big-budget spectacles, this is a far more restrained affair, finding the director working with the lowest budget of his career and focusing on more grounded human drama. Collaborating with screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (the scribes responsible for Burton’s masterful “Ed

(Con) Artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) sits down to perform, as his artist wife (Amy Adams, left) and a friend (Krysten Ritter) look on.

Wood”), “Big Eyes” dramatizes the lives of Walter and Margaret Keane, the married couple responsible for unleashing the genuinely strange, maudlin paintings of large eyed-children referenced in the title. The stranger-than-fiction true story follows the personal journey of introverted Margaret (Amy Adams), the artist behind the pictures, as her charismatic, wheeler-dealer husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) takes credit for her work, building an unlikely art empire in the process. As Walter’s ego balloons, Margaret begins to regret her decisions, and learns to assert herself — culminating in an outrageous courtroom paint-off between the two. Though the story is more realistic and the tone lighter than his usual fare, “Big Eyes” is unmistakably a Burton picture. The whole thing seems to be the director’s skewed take on Sirkian melodrama (complete with rich, Technicolor-esque cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel) — which is a weird, but not unwelcome change of pace for the director. It’s incredibly satisfying to see his gothic, German-expressionistic tendencies

clash up against the candy colored world of the movie — such as when a guilt-ridden Margaret begins to hallucinate her signature, saucer-sized eyes on supermarket patrons. It’s a genuinely exciting and disturbing sequence, and one of the director’s most visually and emotionally striking scenes in recent years. Burton’s oddball vision is supported by talented collaborators. Alexander and Karaszewki’s script moves along at a good pace, deftly shifting between (and mixing) quirky comedy and domestic drama. Waltz puts his grinning, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing persona to good use, turning in perhaps his most over-the-top comedic performance to date, while still being able to transform into a hulking Noseferatu-like figure of domestic abuse. Best of all is Adams, who gives Margaret a quiet dignity, revealing her slowly building regret, anger and fear primarily through her expressive face and, yes, eyes.

“Big Eyes” comes close enough to being something great that it’s frustrating that it doesn’t capitalize on its incredible potential. At some points it seems as if Burton and his collaborators didn’t have enough faith in the source material or their audience. Intrusive voice-over narration articulates plot points and, worse, describes characters’ feelings rather than allowing the performances to speak for themselves. Danny Elfman’s score similarly does a little too much hand holding, aggressively telling the audience what to feel and precisely when to feel it. And a Lana Del Rey song employed during the middle of the film is comically out of place, dabbling in the kind of plot synopsis lyricism more fitting for a sitcom theme song. Most disappointing is the movie’s refusal to explore its characters and the complicated social issues it touches upon more fully. While Waltz and Adams turn in excellent performances, the screenplay only hints at their deeper motivations, and lacks a nuance on par with the acting. Though the film gets credit for raising interesting questions about the nature of art and its relationship to commerce, as well as the struggles of women in society and the art world, it deals with these ideas in a surface level way. Still, “Big Eyes” is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination — in fact it’s really quite good — light, stylish and fun. It’s certainly Burton’s best, most fully realized project in years, and strikes of an old pro trying something new and challenging himself. While “Big Eyes” might not be a late career masterpiece, it’s an enjoyable crowd pleaser, and a quiet return to form from one of cinema’s most distinctive directors.



December 25, 2014


Just Do Art on New Year’s Day



Celebrate New Year’s like they did in the days of old, at Merchant’s House Museum.

There’s no admission to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe New Year’s Day Extravaganza, but your voluntary donation of a used paperback will help Books Through Bars.

calendar. Facebook: Twitter: @merchantshouse. Regular Hours: Thurs.– Mon., 12–5 p.m. Admission: $10 ($5 for students/ seniors, free for under 12).




New Year’s Day used to be about more than recovering from the night before. The real party happened on Jan. 1, and had nothing to do with football games or floats made out of roses. In an 1844 diary


December 25, 2014


Founded in 1966 by the late Paul Blackburn — when displaced Lower East Side coffeehouse poets were welcomed into the St. Marks Church artist/ activist fold — The Poetry Project’s mission to “promote, foster and inspire the reading and writing of contemporary poetry” endures. This annual New Year’s Day event brings together dozens of writers, musicians, dancers and artists for a 12-hour celebration of expression. $20 gets the general public in the door, and helps sustain the Project’s present state of “rude health,” as does the purchase of donated food, beverages, books and tons of terrific raffle prizes (including booty from Anthology Film Archives, BAM and the Strand Bookstore). Visit for a list of the Marathon’s 140+ participants — and if you can’t make the Jan. 1 celebration, check out the Project’s Mon., Wed. and Fri. night reading series, as well as its 2-3 weekly writing workshops. Thurs., Jan. 1 from 2 a.m.–2 p.m. At The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church (131 E. 10th St. at Second Ave.). Seating on a first-come, first-served basis. Food and refreshments available. Wheelchair accessible (with assistance, by calling 212-674-0910 in advance). Tickets are $20 general, $15 for students, seniors, and Poetry Project members. Purchase at the door, or in advance at

Poet Anne Waldman and musicians Daniel Carter and Thurston Moore, at the 2011 edition of The Poetry Project’s annual New Year’s Day Marathon Reading.

entry, former New York City mayor Philip Hone likened it to “a general carnival” where “Broadway, from one end to the other, was alive with private carriages, omnibuses, cabs, and curricles, and lines of pedestrians fringed the carriageways.” That custom of starting the year by traveling to visit friends is alive and doing very well, at this “Come Calling” event — which fills the lovingly preserved Tredwell family residence with the sights, sounds and customs of an old-fashioned 19th century New Year’s celebration. Tours of the house run throughout the afternoon, refreshments are served and a raffle drawing takes place at 4:30 p.m. Through Jan. 5, Merchant’s House Museum remains decked in festive splendor — part of their “Christmas Comes to Old New York” exhibit. Scenes of holiday preparation are recreated, linking many of our modern holiday traditions (handmade ornaments, poinsettias, evergreens) to the mid-19th century. “Come Calling” happens from 2–5 p.m. on Thurs., Jan. 1. At Merchant’s House Museum (29 E. Fourth St., btw. Lafayette & Bowery). $20 ($10 for members). Reservations required. Call 212-777-1089 or visit


From 2 p.m. to midnight, over 160 performers will perform at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, marking the 21st year of this New Year’s Day extravaganza. Arrive with your own material, and claim one of the open mike slots (interspersed throughout the day). There’s no admission fee, but the organizers encourage you to bring a book. Used paperbacks will be given to Books Through Bars, which distributes donated books to incarcerated people (more info to be found at for more info). On Jan. 2, Nuyorican’s first “Friday Night Slam” of the year is hosted by Mahogany L. Browne ($13; line forms outside 1 hour before 10 p.m. admission). On Jan. 3, multi-award-winning jazz vocalist Laurie Dapice and Marylyne Myrthal are among the featured artists in “Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz Jam” (doors open at 9:30 p.m.; $15 admission). The Spoken Word & Poetry Extravaganza, a free event, happens on Thurs., Jan. 1, from 2 p.m. to midnight. At Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 E. Third St., btw. Aves. B & C). For more info, call 212-780-9386 or visit

No pause for ‘Effects’

Contemporary Performance fest burns bright for three nights THE SPECIAL EFFECTS FESTIVAL January 8–10 At The Wild Project 195 E. Third Street (btw. Aves. A & B) Tickets: $15 Reservations: 212-352-3101 or visit More info at

—Scott Stiffler



urated by Caden Manson and Jemma Nelson, the Special Effects festival is a brick and mortar articulation of their online Contemporary Performance Network — a forum where artists, presenters, scholars and festival organizers can meet, share work and collaborate. This three-day event at the Wild Project gathers its talent from artists dedicated to traversing, merging and/or reaching beyond the fields of experimental theatre, dance, video art, visual art, music composition and performance art.

The Jan. 8 opening night party, curated by Heather Litteer, features “performative interviews” of female legends from the Downtown arts scene. Later that same night, then again on Jan. 9, Adrienne Truscott (of the Wau Wau Sisters burlesque duo) performs her Edinburgh Fringe award-winning solo show. A mix of stand-up, video, nudity and a little whimsical dance, “Asking For It” has Truscott confronting taboos surrounding rape — including the requisite somber attitude that surrounds its discussion in polite circles. On Jan. 9, Ben Gansky (of the Brooklyn performance space Cloud City) curates “Gray Spaces” — an evening of new and in-progress “marginal zone” performance work existing in the zone between black box theatre and white room art museum mentalities. There’s more Brooklyn-to-East Village crossover on Jan. 9, when composer/vocalist/choreographer Colin Self’s “Vocal Test” explores vocality, corporeality and familial systems as a site for energetic transformation. Jan. 10, “group” is research clinic Institute for New Feeling’s 90-minute, immersive live music and video experience that requires cardiovascular, breathing and physical contact exercises from audience members.

Adrienne Truscott is “Asking For It.” Her solo comedy about the rules and rhetoric of rape plays Jan. 8 & 9.

Portrait of a bar and a bygone era TERMINAL BAR, continued from p. 16


dollars and a telephoto lens. He was also a beer drinker.” The eight photographs of Larry, a “Regular,” were taken over a seven-year period and end with Larry wearing a gold chain. Clearly, Larry enjoyed having his picture taken. In “The Place to Be” are portraits of couples, friends, and guys just hanging out at the bar after work. The photograph of the “Merry Christmas” banner over the bar and Joe the porter taking a break gives the place a sense of community…but we know there were few silent nights at the Terminal. Shelly Nadelman has clearly captured the essence of the Terminal Bar — its tawdriness, sleaziness and, most of all, the faces and idiosyncrasies of the people who posed for him.

people are gonna disappear…” And yet during the Terminal Bar’s existence, from 1956 to 1982, some of the city’s forgotten people found a home of sorts, a temporary refuge from the streets and the chance to get their picture taken. They won’t disappear. Shelly Nadelman and his son Stefan made sure of that.

Jersey, bartending, with some of the regulars (1980).

His pictures are 30 to 40 years old and you wonder where these people are now. But then Nadelman’s observa-

tion in his son’s film comes to mind: “The street’s gonna get you, the street’s gonna eat them alive, all these

Norman Borden is a New York-based writer and photographer. The author of more than 100 reviews for and a member of Soho Photo Gallery and ASMP, his image “Williamsburg” was chosen by juror Jennifer Blessing, Curator of Photography at the Guggenheim, for inclusion in the upcoming 2014 competition issue of The Photo Review. Seventy of his contemporary photographs are in “Synagogues of New York’s Lower East Side,” which Fordham University Press just reissued as a trade paperback. Visit December 25, 2014


From underground days to today, female tattoo TATTOOS, continued from p. 1


December 25, 2014


move to Ludlow. It’s the worst heroin block in the whole city.’ So I moved there and I tattooed all the drug dealers and never had problems.” Back then, Myles explained, the tattooing scene was much more intimate. “You at least knew of everybody else who was tattooing in town,” she said. “It was a much more closed sort of thing. It was more about a couple individual artists that didn’t have shops.” Since tattooing was still underground then, it was difficult to learn how to do it, explained Clayton Patterson in a phone interview. In 1986, Patterson and Ari Roussimoff took over what was a tattooand-body art society and formed the Tattoo Society of New York. The club provided a sense of protection and community, Patterson said. He explained that it was a Department of Health offense if anyone was caught doing ink, and the city could shut an artist’s operation down at any time. Meetings — which Myles attended — were held at famed Downtown haunts like the Pyramid Club and CBGB. “It was a very exciting time in New York,” Patterson said. In 1997, the tattoo ban was finally lifted. Yet, many tattooers were not happy about legalization. “A lot of them were really opposed to legalization because when tattooing was illegal and underground, it was a hidden economy,” Patterson said. “A lot of people like that sort of outlaw lifestyle.” Myles said when she first heard tattooing would be legalized, she thought it was a calamity. “Now, I love my shop and it all worked out,” she said. “But at the time, it was the worst thing possible because I wasn’t prepared for it.” Myles had moved to the second floor above the music venue Pianos at 158 Ludlow St., and had just spent money to renovate the loft — she was living in the back and was tattooing in the front. “And then I was walking down the street and I saw Clayton Patterson and he was like, ‘Did you hear, they’re going to legalize tattooing?’ And I was like, ‘Noooo,’ ” she said with a laugh. “It wasn’t really the sort of place you would want a legal shop because it was old-school L.E.S., where you threw the keys out the window when somebody yelled up.

Some examples of Michelle Myles’s work, which features a traditional American style.

“Everyone was just afraid it would open the floodgates — everyone would open a shop in New York,” she said. “And that’s basically what happened.” Myles and Fink had gone to high school together and when tattooing became legal, she called him up. About a week later, they signed the lease on Daredevil. “But at the time we just had the very front of the shop,” she said. “It was teeny tiny space and we renovated it.” Together, they eventually expanded the shop. About 10 years ago, they brought Fun City Tattoo on St. Mark’s Place. (Fink is a well-known tattoo artist in his own right and also owns a shop in St. Louis.) “At first, at 174 Ludlow St., we had a 10-year lease, then a fiveyear lease, and then the landlords started giving us two years at a time,” Myles said. The two-year leases were hard, she explained, because the shop would need repairs — for example, the floor would be falling apart — but she didn’t feel she could invest in making the fixes. Then, as the development boom was starting, the landlords wanted to raise her rent. She couldn’t open her front door cause there were construction trucks outside her place every day. “You couldn’t even drive down

Ludlow for all the construction,” she recalled. “It was a mess — the whole block — and, really, 50 percent rent increase for that.” Still, Myles doesn’t blame her former landlords for recognizing the value of the retail space and wanting to make the most they could. “That just makes everything around it more expensive,” she said. “You know, we got priced out.” She sold Fun City last year and put everything into the new space on Division St. in Chinatown. With help from her husband, a contractor, the new shop opened in July 2013. She picked the spot because there was an option to buy, a process she is in the midst of completing. “I love this neighborhood down here now, it reminds me of Ludlow 10 years ago,” she said. “It still has character, there’s still weird storefronts. Chinatown is kind of awesome just ’cause it is so crazy down here. We’re really enjoying the neighborhood. “I wish I had known when I moved to Ludlow that someday everything would be gone, ’cause I feel like I would have savored it more, and so I feel the same way this time around,” she said. “Wow, O.K., I really got to enjoy the quirkiness of the neighborhood ’cause eventually it always changes.”

Also, the way business is done now is harder, she said. “It used to be you could come down to the Lower East Side and shake hands with your landlord and strike a deal on a place,” she said. “Give him a couple bucks deposit. Now, just to open a storefront you’re going to get raked over the coals — credit check, you have to give them your blood.” Before moving into the Division St. space, the landlord asked for a six-month deposit, plus Myles had to pay to build out the shop. “It’s insane,” she said. “It’s really hard for, I think, normal people to do business when you are trying to rent a space and you’re competing with Subway. That’s really unfortunate. It used to be you’d see all these weird mystery storefronts down here that were rented by complete derelicts. It’s a little harder to be a derelict these days and be in business.” Similarities can be drawn between how the Lower East Side itself and the tattoo world have both changed, said Patterson. The L.E.S. today is more corporate, and tattooing, which is definitely mainstream now, could be headed in that direction, as well, he said. Patterson, who has known Myles for a long time, said she is a major player in the city’s tattoo scene. TATTOOS, continued on p. 21

artists have been making their mark in the city TATTOOS, continued from p. 20

“She’s now front row,” he said. Myles said that the Web has transformed everything about the ancient body art. “I can’t believe how the Internet’s changed tattooing,” she said. “I can’t believe how it’s changed doing business. There’s just tons and tons of really great artists. It’s tough to stand out from the crowd.” Myles described her style as versatile, but she enjoys traditional American tattooing, which has a limited color palette and features many designs that are iconic, simplified and very stylized. Vintage circus art adorns the walls of Daredevil. Myles enthusiastically showed The Villager the contents of the shop’s huge glass cases, which house tattoo memorabilia that Fink has been collecting for 20 years. Myles has been researching early tattoo artists in New York City, such as Martin Hildebrandt, Samuel O’Reilly and Charlie Wagner. “Modern tattooing was born a few blocks away from where we are right now,” she said. “We’re really excited to bring that to life and have a place in New York City that pays tribute to that history.” Myles also mentioned Nora Hildebrandt, who some have identified as Martin Hildebrandt’s daughter. Nora Hildebrandt was extensively tattooed, a rarity in the late 1800s. Myles said that when she first started out, the tattooing scene was predominantly male. “I think, at first, people kind of don’t take you seriously,” she recalled. “I specifically remember somebody once saying, ‘Oh, you tattoo, too. That’s cute.’ But in the long run, it’s what set you apart. At first, it might be a drawback, but in the end, it’s what makes you stand out. Although, these days there are so many girls in tattooing, it’s not like it used to be.” Linda Wulkan, a tattoo artist at Whatever Tattoo, at 17 St. Mark’s Place, called Myles “a female icon in New York City.” After living in Brooklyn, Wulkan now resides in Chinatown, above Daredevil. She started tattooing 11 years ago, and said that today there seem to be more female artists and less of an issue with it. She didn’t intend to become a tattoo artist, Wulkan told The Villager at the St. Mark’s shop, explaining it as a “happy accident.” She was born in New York, and

Linda Wulkan at work on a customer’s tattoo on St. Mark’s Place.

A full-back tattoo by Linda Wulkan.

spent some time Upstate before her family uprooted and moved to Israel, where she has spent most of her life. Wulkan has been steeped in art her whole life. She first studied sculpture and got her bachelor ’s in fine arts and art history. She was doing conceptual installations back then, she said, which really didn’t pay the bills. She then studied cinema and went back to school again for illustration and graphic design. When she got laid off working as

a graphic designer for an Israeli newspaper, she had a tattoo-artist friend who let her work at the shop doing what is called “flash,” or drawings. “There was a lot of freedom to it,” she said of tattooing. “I didn’t give up on it. I was pretty much there every day I was off.” She decided to move back to New York City about 13 years ago. She then began working at a tattoo shop, which no longer exists, in Brooklyn. Wulkan did ink there for a couple of years, but felt she had outgrown the shop’s style — mostly a lot of names, praying hands and Jesus heads — and wanted something more challenging. She found another job in the West Village and kept at her craft. It’s a trade in which experience goes a long way, she said. She eventually got the gig at Whatever Tattoo on St. Mark’s and has stayed there for about seven years. “I wasn’t really that excited about tattooing at first,” she admitted. “I thought it was just another medium.” But then she went to her first

tattoo convention and saw the work of James Kern and got excited, thinking that if people wanted that, she could do it. She described her style as illustrative, which is not considered a conventional tattoo style. She is focused on color and detail, which is also exhibited in her drawings that line one wall of Whatever Tattoo. “I always want to build up some contrast in the artwork,” she explained. For a while, she was the only female tattoo artist at the St. Mark’s shop but another woman has recently joined the ranks. “There’s definitely more female artists working — more and more,” she said. Tattooing has changed for both good and bad, said Wulkan, who doodled while talking. Its omnipresence in the media — starting with the reality show “Inked” and all its various spinoffs — has changed everything, she said. For example, it seemed like “sleeves” — fully tattooing one’s arm — was a trend, she explained. A sleeve “doesn’t happen overnight,” she said, but some clients don’t understand the time commitment involved. Since she wants to do top work that will last for people, she tries to give advice to clients and persuade them to go the better route. “There is a lot of customer service that goes into this and there’s a bit of psychology,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to give them the best tattoo you can and for them to be happy with it.” In her own case, the first tattoo she was going to get was supposed to be an abstract sea snail. But when she spoke with the artist, he convinced her to go back to the drawing board for a more simple design. One of Wulkan’s favorite stories is about an older French couple who came in with their son, who was in a wheelchair. The parents told Wulkan that their son really wanted to get a tattoo in New York City. They maneuvered the wheelchair into the shop and agreed on a traditional, Sailor Jerry-inspired tattoo — a heart with a dagger. “Even though he was shaking,” Wulkan recalled, “we found a relatively simple design and it come out great and he was super-stoked. It’s a good feeling when you can do something like that for someone.” Visit and for more information

December 25, 2014



December 25, 2014

A lifelong love of tattooing fuels her artistry INTERVIEW BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC


mma Griffiths was a part of New York’s Downtown tattoo scene when the art form was illegal. Now based in Brooklyn, she spoke to The Villager via e-mail about what spurred her to become a tattooer, what the scene was like when it was underground and what legalization has wrought. The Villager: Tell me a bit about your background. Where did you grow up in the United Kingdom? Why did you decide to move to New York?


Emma Griffiths: I grew up in South Wales and south England, and attended Maidstone College of Art and Liverpool College of Art. I came to New York City on a whim in 1990 and have stayed pretty much since then. I lived in Fort Greene initially and then moved to the East Village in 1991. V: Why did you start tattooing? Were you always interested in it? My grandfather and his twin brother, who died in World War II, both had a lot of tattoos that they had done in Burma. My grandfather said the “Tatti Wallah” would come to the camp and set up and tattoo the soldiers. My father was also military, he was in the Royal Navy and he had [tattoos of] two pinups by Pinky Yun done in Hong Kong. So I was always around tattoos and didn’t really think anything of them; they were just part of my granchi [her A lion “sleeve” by Emma grandfather] and Griffiths. my dad. I first started registering tattoos when I moved to Maidstone and my boyfriend at the time was getting these super-old-school tattoos done in the Rochester/Chatham area that got giant cookie scabs on them as they healed. Never forgot it. Also, there was one guy in my town who was a skinhead pikey with swallows on his hands, spider webs up his neck and a dotted line with “cut here” on his throat. So all of this spurred my interest. V: What was the East Village underground tattooing scene like? Tattooing in the East Village in the early ’90s was amazing and something I will honestly cherish till the day I die. Back then it was illegal, it was hidden. Tattooers to me were mythical, magical, scary people who you had to search out and get the bottle up to go into their shop. I remember one time seeing Filip and Titine Leu [famous tattoo artists] walking up Second St. between A and First Avenues sometime in

Tattoos run in Emma Griffiths’s family.

One of Griffiths’s creations.

the early ’90s, probably on their way to Jonathan Shaw’s shop. And I remember standing dumbstruck/starstruck and watching them walk to the corner and go out of view. I always say, if they had walked up into the clouds I would not have been surprised. I just felt so in awe. Tattoo-wise, it was all word of mouth pretty much and you knew of every tattooer in New York. Clayton Patterson had started the Tattoo Society, which met approximately once a month — that was incredible. Many of the local tattooers came to that and we all showed our work and hung out. The established tattooers would come, and my friends and I just starting out would be too scared to look at them let alone talk to them — just a good dose of fear and respect. V: What did you feel when tattooing was legalized in 1997?  As for the legalization of tattooing in New York, it was inevitable I guess. It has its good and bad. I’d say mostly bad. It’s complicated and the changes in tattooing tie into the changes in N.Y.C. Both have gentrified and been  usurped by the middle classes. When it did legalize, the big change was that everybody opened street shops, including me. And tattooing started to become a more visible business. It has slowly become less of a secret, revered craft to a showy, promoted business venture for people to make money.

and started running it as a street shop. It was all pretty much custom, but we were open to the public. Between 1998 and 2008, the whole neighborhood gentrified so badly. And I just didn’t want to live and work with that kind of thinking around me. So I moved the shop to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, six years ago. I am in a beautiful commercial building, no signs in the windows again, although that may change. By appointment and it’s just nice and chill and I have great clients.

V: What were the challenges and pleasures of owning your own shop? Why did you close in 2008? Why did you move to Brooklyn? I opened my shop in 1998 on Rivington St. between Clinton and Suffolk. I had it 10 years and initially ran it as a private studio. It had the old bodega (drug front and number-running) awning with the Rivington Mini Market sign for a good few years. I liked that whole hidden secret thing. Then I put signs up

V: How would you describe your style? How I would describe my style is a hard one because I learned to tattoo in the ’90s and the prevailing attitude then was that you should be able to do any tattoo that walks in the door, so versatility was premium. Because of that, I actually learned to do and love to do many styles/types of tattooing from color to black and gray, super-traditional, realistic, bold, floral, animals, portraits, etc. Sometimes I think it’s a problem and I think, “Oh, I should specialize” as that is the prevailing attitude now. But I know I would get bored and I actually love the variety of styles of imagery that gets brought to me. It can be daunting, because you can have a customer wanting a rose and you have so many choices of how to do it, starting simply with color or black and gray, bold or fine line, realistic or stylized. And I do like to do it all really; there is so much to learn. I will say, though, that it is very important for me that the tattoo is well executed technically and that it is respecting the parameters of the craft and the aging process. I want my tattoos to age nicely and that also dictates my style with tattooing to a large degree. So saying all of that, I like very clear, linear, often highly rendered imagery, with lots of contrasts and with tones, color and texture. And bold, I like bold. Visit for more information December 25, 2014


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EAST VILLAGER, DEC. 25, 2014  


EAST VILLAGER, DEC. 25, 2014