JANUARY 2021 INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM
Photo montage by Monica White
the red hook
SENIOR CENTER CRUCIAL DURING COVID, PAGE 2
Five Years Hence (David Bowie remixed and remembered)
hen my first sister told me that her adolescent son had discovered David Bowie, something powerful struck me. My nephew, I realized, had joined the legion of outsiders. He had recognized (on some level) that the world was a complicated place, that in the inescapable realms of majority rule, you usually don’t get to choose to be on the winning team, and that often times the winning team isn’t even one you’d want to join. Watch any vintage news feature on Bowie fans— they’re not hard to find, the media has long loved teen freak shows—and you’ll see a parade of young people celebrating their outcast status. For many, most, (all?) of us, insecurity comes with the territory of adolescence, and there are different ways of dealing with it, from bullying on the one end to seeking remote solace on the other. For me at my nephew’s age, as for so many, David Bowie offered solace. He represented the possibility of realizing potential. His music was sex and drugs and rock and roll to be sure—and seemingly any sex and any drugs would do—but it wasn’t just that. It was about, seemingly literally, reaching for the stars. What went hand in hand with reaching for the stars was Bowie’s preaching to the perverted.
by Kurt Gottschalk Bowie fans were outsiders. It didn’t matter if it was sexual preference, gender identification, addiction, skepticism or just feeling smarter than the other kids in class, Bowie fans fell and fall outside the norm. He spoke to kids who felt like they didn’t fit in. He was, as he suggested on his career-defining The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, their leper messiah. Bookending that album are songs that proclaim “Your face, your race, the way that you talk / I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk” and “Just turn on with me, and you’re not alone / Gimme your hands, ‘cause you’re wonderful.” The “you” was both collective and singular. It was a direct invitation to the anointed listener. When Bowie embraced mainstream success in the ‘80s, it was with more than a decade of loving the alienated behind him. I heard what may have been the first public announcement of Bowie’s death, up late listening to BBC radio news in the early hours of January 11, 2016. Among my first thoughts were to text my sister so that she could break it to her son, then 15, before he heard it on the news the next morning. I did so, then poured another drink and put on Bowie’s Blacktar, the album I’d had on rotation in the two days since its release, and thought of my
own early days discovering the work and worlds of David Bowie.
u u u Lodger was the first Bowie album I bought, foisted upon me by a record store clerk whom I held in idolized reverence, at around the same age my nephew was when he discovered David Bowie. It’s also the first album (of three, so far) that producer/ bassist Visconti has remixed since Bowie’s death. It was initially included in the 2017 A New Career in a New Town, the third in a series of career retrospective series box sets, part of a steady stream of new product in his wake; this month sees the release of a 7” single with never before released Bowie covers of Bob Dylan and John Lennon, limited for some reason to 8,147 copies. I had avoided the box sets and it was the new Visconti mix that pushed me over the edge, dropping something over $100 for a copy of my own. While I relished in the packaging and the perks designed to materialize and thus monetize nostalgia, I was not a fan of the new mix. It was too pushy, I thought, too amped up. It didn’t have the sound of that paper-
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Closed senior center stays vital by Nathan Weiser
he Red Hook Neighborhood Senior Center, next to the Miccio Center on West 9th Street, has been closed since last March. While the building has been closed, the Center has been far from idle. Director Maria Sanchez has been overseeing lots of activities for the seniors during the pandemic. Sanchez and her staff of four speak to the seniors everyday to check up on them to make sure they are okay. She has one caseworker in addition to her staff and they take turns to make sure everyone is called. “The majority of them are lonely,” Sanchez said. They are anxious for the Senior Center to open again.” Many seniors are homebound, so Sanchez has organized getting them assistance with food deliveries.
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An issue that comes up is the food that is delivered. They might complain about not liking the food or getting too much food at their home. The director says this is more of a city issue, and that they can always freeze what they don’t want and eat it later. She thinks it is not that much of an issue as long as they are getting the food.
“Overall, thank God they are healthy and they are okay,” Sanchez said. “And they are doing well.” “I am an engagement officer as well, so I set them up and make sure they get their food from the city,” Sanchez added. “If they need any other food resources, I deal with the Miccio Community Center, RHI or Redemption Church because they distribute food and those who are homebound get deliveries straight to their door.” Sanchez and her staff lead virtual sessions over Zoom on how to be healthy and nutritious during the pandemic. She has a certified nutritionist who gives them guidance. The seniors get advice on meals they can prepare, healthy shakes they can make and how to take control of their nutrition intake. Health wise, they advise them on how to take care of themselves, sleep the right amount and control their anxiety. “For health management, it was how to drink water, a lot of them do not drink enough water,” Sanchez said. “How to control their diet, and how to body wise take care of yourself.” She will often have specialists or experts get on the Zoom to speak to them. Mental and physical health is key, especially during Covid, and
she has tried to maintain their health throughout the whole pandemic. There are a wide range of physical activities that they do with the seniors to keep them active. Sanchez leads some of the activities and there are also some licensed instructors in specific areas that come in and teach as well. “These instructors have been involved before Covid and have a rapport with the seniors,” Sanchez said. “These are not new people. They know who they are and what is happening.” Sanchez will show the seniors via Zoom how to improve their balance and do exercises with a chair. Other activities include using a water bottle as a weight for exercise (if they don’t have a dumbbell), jumping jacks, situps, tai chi, and yoga. They also do arts and crafts, painting, and recently leading up to Christmas they made ornaments and built gingerbread houses. Sanchez makes sure to keep them busy. The senior center director’s mother is involved with the Red Hook Senior Center, so she has been participating in these activities during the pandemic as well.
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Page 2 Red Hook Star-Revue
Joe wraps up the year
2021, What Took You So Long?
ooking back a year ago, most Brooklynites continued to be astonished by Trump’s megalomaniacal corruption. Yet we were grateful the country had avoided a grave crisis because everyone knew our golf-happy President could never manage one. If we could just make it to November and elect “any functioning adult” we told ourselves, everything would be OK. And then it all hit the fan. The year began quietly enough. January and February were snow free in the Big Apple…Our economy was booming…Brad Pitt won an Academy Award for playing a character, he said, “who looked for the best in people – expected the worst but looked for the best.” Once Upon A Time in Hollywood rewrote history to have Pitt repel the barbarians of 1969. If only his character had come to life in November 2016 to save us again…As if it were even possible, politics became more heated with televised impeachment proceedings and Presidential primaries...But more and more we heard about China dragging people sick with a new virus into quarantine tents or something. In March we learned a lot more about that new virus, COVID. No big deal the President assured us time and again while privately freaking out to Bob Woodward that we were probably all doomed. By St. Patrick’s Day, people here were getting sick. No parades or bar crawls. No Broadway, no BAM, no movies, no restaurants, no haircuts, no schools, no travel, no nothing. In April a lot of Brooklynites started dying of COVID. My wife and I were lucky. For us it was like having the flu, although with lingering symptoms like persistent night sweats. But for Susan Ingram, a dear friend of my wife for the past 50 years, it was much worse. A very fit working attorney, Susan progressed from a cough to death in a week. As my wife started drafting Susan’s obituary notice for the Times, we thought that maybe we could donate convalescent
SENIOR CENTER (continued from page 2)
The seniors can pick and choose the activities that they want to participate in. Many do participate but some do not as well. Technology can be an obstacle dayto-day so Sanchez goes the extra mile in this area as well and teaches them the basics by giving them classes on how to work their phones and iPads. “They have children that don’t help them, which is the sad part,” Sanchez said. “It is our responsibility as a staff to teach them how to do these things.” However, she keeps it simple so that they will be able to get into the Zoom sessions. She has her own Zoom account and makes the meetings not
Red Hook Star-Revue
by Joe Enright
plasma. Susan would have done the same if our fortunes were reversed. I tested positive for antibodies but unaccountably my wife tested negative twice, so it was all up to me. Gulp. I began donating at the New York Blood Center in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, thinking of a scene in Midnight Cowboy when Joe Buck gave blood to make a few bucks. Maybe if they renamed this joint “The Ratso Rizzo Memorial Blood Center” they’d get more customers from film buffs. These donations aren’t for those antibody cocktails the rich and famous brag about getting. No, this plasma provides intravenous drips in New York COVID wards for patients who weren’t able to call ahead and reserve a room. They say it’s beneficial. After every donation, they check your antibody levels and if they’re still good, they ask you to donate again. And I do. Eight months after recovery, I still have strong antibodies, even with an infection I was able to weather at home. Frankly, I think my consumption of single malt Scotch has a lot to do with this – my wife doesn’t drink Scotch. In May, more concerned with a second term than public health, the President scoffed that nerds could wear masks if they wanted, but not him. When a lot of people lost their jobs, the President blamed it on shutdowns caused by mask-wearing pussy Democrat governors as Trump shifted blame from his egomaniacal focus on reelection to local leaders’ reluctance to overwhelm hospitals. His supporters agreed: better to triple the death rate than close bars and wear a mask. My son and his girlfriend lost their jobs too. While they stayed up all night in their Astoria apartment trying to log on to the New York State web site to apply for unemployment benefits, I stayed up all night in Flatbush trying to get through to supermarket web sites that would deliver. Meanwhile, nurses and doctors struggled with the emotional pain password protected, so they don’t have to input a password or anything else, they just have to click on the Zoom link. Sanchez makes it as smooth as possible so it’s not difficult to get into the Zoom activities. The Red Hook Senior Center’s director has found that she has been busier during the pandemic in her efforts to get all of the needs accounted for than she was before Covid changed everything.
of caring for so many who had to die alone while worrying about bringing the sickness home. On my block we all went out to bang pots and pans at 7:00PM to show our support as passing UPS, FedEx and Amazon drivers honked their horns while we dodged mini-bike delivery guys. People stood on food lines, testing lines and all sorts of lines, six feet apart…Buses were fare-free for months…Many businesses and restaurants closed for good, Fairway became Food Bazaar, Century 21 went bankrupt, but liquor stores thrived. A lot of kids skipped virtual school while a lot of their parents logged in to their jobs dressed in underwear, skipping Manhattan offices and the subways. Many fled the City, yet with less cars on the road, rush hour traffic still sucked. Many Brooklynites marched for racial justice. Some of them wanted to defund the police. Veteran cops cursed those police clowns in Minneapolis and wished it were late 2001 again when all New Yorkers pulled together. People who needed help didn’t get any, resulting in a lot of overdoses, suicides, and assaults on the street and in the subways. A lot of young people got shot. By late Spring fireworks and guns were so loud and plentiful, it was difficult to tell whether the Revolution had started or just more people were getting shot. By Summer my son and his girlfriend had found new jobs and New York/ New Jersey/New England were being hailed for reducing new infection rates to the lowest in the country, thanks to their governors’ leadership. Dining outdoors was the new thing as some blocks started to resemble Paris. In the Fall infections started to creep up again and the Haredi in Borough Park, which already had an estimated 43% infection rate, doubling the rest of the borough, rebelled against renewed City and State restrictions. (By the way when I donate, I see a lot of Orthodox doing the same.) Other Hook businesses and organizations who give needed assistance in various ways. Nate’s Pharmacy (376 Van Brunt Street) will deliver any medicine that they need right to their home. This is important since many seniors haven’t really been able to leave home during the pandemic. Sanchez deals with Nate’s Pharmacy because other pharmacies were not able to deliver the medication.
“I work more at home than I did when I was in the office,” Sanchez said. “I cross my t’s and dot my i’s. It is difficult working from home. I have to use all of my resources and make sure everything is taken care of.”
The Red Hook Neighborhood Senior Center gets assistance from the Red Hook Justice Center in various ways and Sanchez’s contact there is Ross Joy. He is a program manager in the housing resource center at the Justice Center.
Sanchez has contacts at various Red
“The Justice Center is renewing all of
signs of pandemic weariness started to spring up as schools closed, opened and closed and cold weather chased us all indoors once again. Mail-in and early voting was an unexpected success as the election workers overcame some initial miscues to effectively handle an overwhelming turnout. And despite it all, some neighborhoods who voted for Trump in 2016 did it again, although seeing him getting cheated out of another four years must have been especially galling. One of my lasting memories of 2020 will forever be hearing the commotion out on the street on Saturday November 7th around 11:30AM. “Why is somebody blasting that Elton John oldie, Philadelphia Freedom? Why are people dancing and car horns honking?” “Oh! Thank you, Pennsylvania, thank you, Philadelphia, and thank you, Jesus!” Thanksgiving was tough. Christmas was even tougher. Susan was always here for dinner, often with her son, Scott, mingling with my crazy family. But then, nobody was here for dinner this year…Now, at year’s end, with Trump’s press coverage starting to dwindle, more Brooklynites are finding it easier to get to sleep. Although many of us still need a shot of booze to calm down before slowly drifting off, thinking of our vaccine shot. And a return to normalcy.
the NYCHA leases for the seniors,” Sanchez said. Anything housing related, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) related, or medicare/medicaid related, they will assist the seniors in what they need.” The seniors have Joy’s phone number, so they will be able to schedule an appointment to get assistance with what their needs are as they come up in the above areas. It is not known yet when the physical space might be able to open again like it was before Covid-19. During this time there have been many activities for the seniors but its not like how it was previously.
January 2021, Page 3
Lions Club continues Red Hook tradition
n December 19,the Red Hook Lions Club held their 10th holiday toy giveaway at the Miccio Community Center. This one was not like any that they have had before. Andrea McKnight, who is the head of the Lions Club in Red Hook along with her husband, organized this 28th edition of the holiday giveaway. Covid-19 changed this year’s event very much. Regulations made it so that only five kids and their parents could come inside of the Miccio at a time. Three different groups of kids came, which meant a total of 15 kids received gifts. In a normal year, there are many more kids, lots of food would be provided for the families and there would be activities for the kids. However, the Lions Club made do with the protocols that are in place. “Safety this year is relevant to the Lion’s model in serving the community,” said Mrs. McKnight. The kids and their parents who came to the toy drive found out about the event through McKnight’s flyer that she put on Facebook. IKEA has been involved with the toy giveaway for the past three years. Costco is another business that donates toys. IKEA had signs in the store alerting
by Nathan Weiser
customers about the Lions Club toy drive. Customers and staff bought toys or books in the store and donated them in donation bins located within the store. “We are proud to have the opportunity to work with the Red Hook Lions this year,” said Lynette D’Angelo, Deputy New York Market Manager. “At IKEA, we believe children are the most important people in the world and that every child has the right to play.” Each kid had the opportunity to take chips and a Capri Sun along with one or two gifts. Choices included a lamp, many different stuffed animals, a Ninja turtle coloring book for boys, a paint box “strawberry shortcake” for girls, “Hey Flavors” children’s first cook book, a speaker, a blanket, a USB charger for older kids and other toys and books. Robert Berrios played Santa Claus, and each kid had the opportunity to take a picture him after selecting their snack and gifts. According to Lorna Montalvo, of IKEA, the international store wants to play their part in creating a better life for the people and communities touched by their business. A new addition this year was that TaskRabbit Taskers were delivering the toys for the first time. Montalvo
That's Andrea McKnight in the middle Santa hat. (photo by Weiser)
reached out to IKEA about getting involved with the toy drive in the end of October since they knew this was happening and IKEA gladly accepted their inquiry. Taskrabbit Taskers are people who will do many different tasks for people like deliveries, shopping or waiting on line, and on December 19 they came over with a van and helped transport all of the gifts to the Miccio. Montalvo thought having Taskrabbit involved was of great assistance and took away the burden of carrying everything
from IKEA to the Miccio. Lions Clubs have chapters all around the world and LIONS stands for Liberty, Intelligence, Our, Nation’s, Safety. They are first responders, according to McKnight. They provide courage and a unique sense of empowerment to their communities and to the world. They have over 1.4 million members around the world. Their global causes include diabetes, vision, hunger, environment and childhood cancer.
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Page 4 Red Hook Star-Revue
Dyker Heights Post Ofﬁce Ofﬁcially Renamed After Mother Cabrini
by Erin DeGregorio
he United States Postal Service (USPS), local delegates, and community leaders venerated Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini by renaming the Dyker Heights Post Office in her honor. The virtual press conference took place on the anniversary of her death, Dec. 22, 2020. Mother Cabrini and her seven Sisters arrived in New York in 1889, helping Italian immigrants who were struggling with poverty in Lower Manhattan. During her lifetime, she established 67 schools, orphanages, and hospitals around the world. Mother Cabrini was the first American citizen to be canonized a saint in 1946, and was named the patron saint of immigrants in 1950. “We believe Mother Cabrini embodies the spirit of the postal service in so many ways,” said USPS Strategic Communications Specialist Amy Gibbs. “She served the public with equal opportunity. She did not discriminate, was resourceful, and proud — much like our organization today.” Legislation to designate the building as the “Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini Post Office Building” was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 3, 2020. Representative Max Rose first introduced the bipartisan legislation in the United States House of Representatives on Oct. 22, 2019.
Consolation prize This action was taken following the controversial results of the She Built NYC public arts campaign, launched by Former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and First Lady Chirlane McCray in 2018. The campaign was initiated to honor women through the installation of monuments that recognize and celebrate their historic impacts on and contributions to New York City, after research showed that only five out of the City’s 150 statues of historic figures depict women. More than 2,000 nominations for over 320 women were collected — with Mother Cabrini receiving 219 votes. Though the saint garnered the most votes, she was not announced as one of the four women who would have monuments built across the City. State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Diocese of Brooklyn later announced that they would each build a statue in Mother Cabrini’s honor. The New York State-funded statue was unveiled in Battery Park on Oct. 12, 2020. “From looking out for the poor to helping immigrant families, Mother Cabrini exemplified the values that make New York City the greatest city in the world,” said outgoing Congressman Rose “Renaming the Dyker Heights Post Office in her honor is another part of ensuring her legacy and memory forever lives on. I was proud to work with my colleagues across New York to make this happen.”
Red Hook Star-Revue
The post office operates on 13th Avenue in Dyker Heights — an area that saw a lot of Italian immigration beginning in the 1940s. “When you rename something or you create a statue, you’re putting something out there for people to question. Someone who walks by and says, ‘Oh it’s the Mother Cabrini Post Office,’ at some point has to turn around and say, ‘Well, why?’” John L. Heyer II, pastoral associate at Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen Parish, said last year when the Red Hook Star-Revue first reported the proposal. “In that ‘why’ is the real reason you do it. So that people learn about how a woman — who was by herself as an immigrant and didn’t know the language — became a citizen, helped others on that path, and helped those who were poor and ill, just like herself.”
Hometown heros recognized Post offices are renamed after nationally recognized individuals, hometown heroes, and those who have made an impact on the local community. More than 85 facilities in New York State have been renamed since 1986, including at least 25 located throughout New York City. For instance, there is the Shirley Chisholm Post Office in Bedford–Stuyvesant and the Jeanne and Jules Manford Post Office in Jackson Heights, Queens. Shirley Chisholm was a “powerhouse in politics,” according to USPS Triboro District Manager Eric Henry, as she was the first African American woman to serve in Congress. In the 1970s, Jeanne and Jules Manford founded the country’s first support group for parents of lesbian and gay children.
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“Now, Mother Cabrini — a hero to immigrants — joins those who have made an impact so large in the history books that we are dedicating a post office to her,” Henry said. Monsignor Thomas Caserta, pastor of the Shrine Church of St. Bernadette, also spoke about Mother Cabrini’s legacy. “This honor given to the first American citizen to be canonized as a saint reminds us all to do what we can to step out of our own comfort zones and recognize the dignity and worth of every person regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious tradition,” he said. “Mother Cabrini’s example is needed now more than ever, I think, as we all live through a dark and challenging time.” The press conference was a precursor to an official plaque unveiling ceremony that will take place in 2021. The Dyker Heights Post Office, which houses 55 employees, delivers nearly 35,000 letters and packages every day across its 21 delivery routes.
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January 2021, Page 5
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4 - 11 p Page 6 Red Hook Star-Revue
Red Hook ballfields in no danger of reopening soon
n the beginning of December, the NYC Parks Department along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), held a virtual meeting to update the community on the new timeline for the Red Hook Ballfields and answer questions. According to Parks, the last update was in June, and a lot has changed as far as construction and the budget due to Covid. The timelines have been pushed back for the various phases due to the shutdowns. Daniel Gaughan, who is the on scene coordinator from the EPA, went through some of the history of the site and why EPA got involved. The whole complex except for Field 9 and the track has been closed due to led contamination and there are four phases that will modernize and fix the fields. In the late 1920s and the 1930s, there was a led facility located near where ball field seven is in the back of the complex not far from where IKEA is now. There was a lot of led, dust, fumes and waste that was released into the air and soil. Led stays in the soil when it comes in contact with it. He said that led can be especially an issue for children since they put a lot of things in their mouth and that is how it can transfer to them. People can also be exposed to led contaminated soil accidentally. “In 2014, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation referred the site to the EPA (along with 40 other smelter sites in the state, and this is one of the bigger ones,” Gaughan said. They found that the top six inches of ballfields 5-8 were highly contaminated. That was why they could not stay open.
Red Hook Star-Revue
by Nathan Weiser Anything above 400 parts per million is concerning for the EPA. For ball fields 5-8, the top six inches was 2,200, which is an average number throughout the ball field and below that it it goes down to almost 4,000, which is almost 10 times the limit. “It is under formal EPA oversight,” Gaughan said. “We have an order signed with parks to do this work. Specifically 5-8 we have built up high levels in the surface. We have built signs around the facility to let people know why it is being closed.” They will maintain a cover over the fields to keep any wind blown dust from escaping the site, and there will also be at least a 12 inch cover of clean material wit soil, fill and turf to cover the site. If anything goes wrong, DEC will provide oversight in the future. In the process of beginning fields 5-8 construction, there is demarcation layer of contaminated soil that was left at the site. There will also be clean fill and a drainage layer. They had to take down a number of trees, but they kept what they could. Davey Ives, who is the chief of staff for Brooklyn Parks and Recreation, then went over the updated timeline of the fields. The first phase, which includes fields 5-8, is slated to be finished in the spring of 2021. A good amount of construction was done before the pandemic. In the previous update it was said that it would be done fall of 2021, but Covid impacted the anticipated completion. Phase two, which is ball field nine and soccer field 2 across from the Red Hook Recreation Center, is slated to be finished in the summer of 2021. A question was asked if little league will be realistic for spring of 2021 and
Ives said summer of 2021 is more realistic. They will try to get everyone back on the fields as soon as possible with respect to issuing permits. It is unknown as of know when the construction will be completed for phase three, but it is anticipated to be finished at some point in 2022. Phase three, which is the most extensive phase, includes soccer field 3 (inside of the track) and ball fields 1-4 (soccer fields 4 and 5 in fall season). “This project was ready to begin in the spring but do to some constraints with budgeting purposes during Covid the project was put on pause,” Ives said. “We are hoping we can restart this project. However, it’s probably not likely this year for phase three.” Phase four, which includes soccer fields 1 (synthetic turf ) and 6, is still in the design phase. They hope to wrap up the design of phase four early in 2022, and they expect this phase to be completed sometime in 2023. “After the design is finished, it will go to the community board,” Ives said. “Then we have to go through the procurement process before construction.” Terry Naranjo, who is the director of landscape architecture for the Brooklyn team at Parks, went over some public safety measures. They do dust monitoring by watering down the area to make sure the dust does not rise up. Trucks are sprayed down before they leave the site in the decontamination area. So far in phase one, there has been work on the curbs and sidewalk, top soil placement and grading of the protective cap that will serve as the foundation. The fields have synthetic turf and there has been construction
of the curbs. By the completion of the phase, the synthetic turf area will have new backstops, perimeter fencing and new dugouts. A lot of big trees will provide shade and there will be accessible ramps and concrete steps leading up to the fields. For phase two, they have chipped off the top soil and left it for disposal, pruned the trees and done electrical utility work. They will be doing more utility work in addition to drainage infrastructure. Like in phase one, the field will be suitable for everyone since people can either walk up the steps or take an accessible ramp to field 9. Regarding phase three, before Covid, they were in the final stages of procurement inquiry to enter into construction but now they don’t know when they might be able to move forward. More specifics on phase three are that it will feature a brand new running track around the synthetic turf field, which can be used for soccer, rugby and football. There will be new sports field lighting for night usage, an adult fitness area and a picnic area. Around the perimeter of the fields in phase three there will be game tables and lots of bleachers to view the action. Adult fitness can include pull up bars, dip bars and will be essentially a 2021 version of the fitness area in Bush Clinton Park. They can customize it for different ages with various stations for the people at the track or ball field next to it. Phase four is bisected in the middle by Bay Street and is still n the design
(continued on next page) January 2021, Page 7
COVID makes it even harder to be homeless by Brian Abate
inter is always a difficult time for homeless people in New York City, but the coronavirus pandemic has created new problems that make it even more challenging to survive the winter. I had the opportunity to talk to a military veteran and former hip-hop dancer, who recently became homeless, about his trials and tribulations. He asked to remain anonymous, so we will call him Ron. He works in a Red Hook direct mail company, but his hours have been cut since the pandemic since business (until recently) dropped almost to zero. He made enough money to pay for a room in Bed Stuy ($600 a month), but what Ron thought was a permanent situation ended suddenly when the actual resident of that room was released from prison and told him to leave. Ron has been homeless before and knew about spending time between work traveling in warm subway cars, but because the subways are closed at night for cleaning, he had to resort to sleeping in a friend’s car, including during the December snowstorm. While it gives him some shelter, it gets very cold and is far from an ideal situation. He talked about what a typical
day can be like, while homeless and the additional challenges covid has caused. While he has been able to get food, staying warm during the winter has been difficult, especially at night. “Usually the easiest way to stay out of the cold at night would be taking the subway and getting some rest,” he said. “Now because of coronavirus the subways are closed from 1-5 am. The stations are closed too, so they kick everyone out.” “You have to ask yourself how people who are homeless are living,” he said. “Let’s say you have a cellphone…you have to figure out how to spend the time in your day. If you need a job, you can go to Starbucks or McDonalds and fill out your applications on your phone. Now all of those places are closed. If it’s possible you can spend some time with friends and family but it’s tough. You’ve got to seek refuge and the nights are tough, especially with the storm.” The homeless have been hurt by covid more than most and the pandemic has made it especially difficult to get through days. For many, shelters aren’t a safe option because the coronavirus could easily spread in them. “Most don’t think about it but people
have to understand that one day that could be you,” he said. “It’s easy to be evicted. If a working person is at a point where they work just to pay rent, there is no security. You can’t miss a beat or you’ll end up in the street. You have to get through it though. There’s an art to survival and you have to keep learning.” “There are a lot of problems, especially with this COVID-19 situation but there are still a lot of options for food,” he said. “There are places to go to get food for free. Bread & Life is on Lexington Ave., CHiPS, which is on 4th Ave., and Neighbors Together, on Fulton St.” Each place works differently but they all provide free food for those who need it. “My experiences at all of them have been alright,” he said. “Most open in the morning so you could end up waiting a while if you don’t get there early. Some of them have pre-made bags of food and you can leave anything you don’t want there. Other places, it’s more like a grocery store and you can pick out what you need. Sometimes they’ll have extra food left over and everyone can get some more, but since the pandemic there have been longer lines.” Despite the higher demand for food
PARKS (continued from page 7)
phase. “We were hoping to wrap up this design by the end of the year but we may have to push it back into spring of 2021,” Naranjo said. “We are trying to wrap up some coordination issues. We are currently waiting for feedback from DEC on environmental clean up work that is happening on the site adjacent to field one but we are hoping to resolve that and et in procurement as soon as possible.”
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There will be new synthetic turf for soccer fields 1 and 6 as well as adult fitness next to soccer field 6 on Court Street. There will also be new accessible entrances and a completely revamped seating area along Bay Street next to Soccer Field 1. There will be an area for food trucks to line up next to Soccer Field 1 with nearby tables for people to gather during a break from the action. There was a question about why synthetic turf is being used instead of grass and the answer is that it requires much less maintenance than grass does.
An arts and play space for children with disabilities and their families. Now offering free online play-based programming for the whole family! extremekidsandcrew.org | 347-410-6050
Page 8 Red Hook Star-Revue
“Us at the Parks Department, we are able to do a lot more with synthetic turf,” Ives said. “We are able to play on the fields right after it rains. I am sure a lot of the leagues will attest to that. With the unknowns that are in the soils, synthetic turf is a more engineered solution.”
Working and homeless in Red Hook
among the homeless during this time, he said there are plenty of places giving out food for those who need it in New York City. “There’s no reason for people in New York City to be hungry because there are more than enough places to eat for free. I found out about all of these places just from word of mouth or walking by and seeing the lines, then asking what everyone was waiting for.” The story has a bit of a happy ending for now, but only because a friend of a friend was able to get him a small room in a Williamsburg hotel through the Department of Homeless Services. It’s probable though that being an ex-marine is what greased the wheels of that network.
There was a question about rubber black pellets being harmful in the turf and the answer to that was they do not use black rubber pellets anymore since the technology is improved. “We used a sand coated silicon and a new type of fiber between it that is cooler and designed to shed heat,” Ives said. “In every single synthetic turf design we put in a mister so there are opportunities to cool down the field.” A design consultant from TRC discussed the results of the air monitoring after a question was asked. The results for phases one and two have showed that there have been few exceedances of the community air monitoring program criteria. He added that the contractor has done a good job suppressing dust throughout the construction project. There was a question from Melissa Del Valle Ortiz, who is the community & housing coordinator congresswoman Velazquez’s office, about accessibility and how various ages with disabilities will be addressed in the construction. Naranjo said accessibility has been one of the primary drivers of how they look at access throughout the four phases. The ramps provide companion seating next to the benches and they have an accessibility coordinator that makes that it is something they are incorporating at the beginning of the design.
Vaccine skeptics abound in Europe
by Dario Pio Muccilli, Star-Revue overseas correspondent
ince the beginning of December, leading physicians throughout all the hospitals and retirement houses in Europe have convened meetings to plan the upcoming COVID vaccination campaign, which started in Europe on December 27.
The first vaccine allowed to be inoculated is Pfizer, but on January 6th also Moderna will be allowed by the European Medicines Agency as the FDA did on December 18th. Governments throughout the old continent decided to get the vaccine available first to health care workers for a few different reasons. First of all, these workers have been the most affected by the Covid drama, andsecondly their trust towards the vaccine is necessary to persuade the remaining citizens of the importance of getting vaccinated, as no law imposes it mandatorily. Up to now, not many countries experience a great distrust in northern Europe, where polls reveal how in the UK vaccine acceptance is 79%, while Germany is 69%. But, as often happens in the old continent, southern Europe’s situation is a little bit different. France has to face a 46% skepticism, the highest rate of any country surveyed, but many other nations haven’t statistics about vaccine acceptance nationwide. One of these is Italy, where, even if national polls are not available, data about retirement home workers’ acceptance from each region reveal how large skepticism is among those whom the government expected to be eager vaccine recipients, as private hospices have been the most hitten facilities by the virus. Brescia in Lombardy, near Milan, has seen 2.982 Covid fatalities since March, most of them in retirement homes, whose 80% of workers today, nonetheless, has refused to get vaccinated, prompting an immediate reaction of Brescia’s Health Safety Agency Chief Claudio Sileo: “Few people
Red Hook Star-Revue
agreed with vaccination, but I do not understand why”. This low acceptance is commonplace through all the penninsula. In Piedmont, the nearest region to France, only 3 out of 10 hospice workers would like to get vaccinated, and no current data is available about National Health System’s workers, where, according to people familiar with the matter, the distrust is not so different. According to Sara, a nurse in Turin’s Health City hospital, this result should have to be expected. “We’ve experienced a huge lack of information since the vaccine’s development was announced. We barely know how it was possible to reduce the usual years of testing in a few months. This goes against all we’ve studied to work here, that is why I won’t get vaccinated till more info will be provided about the vaccine’s development, side effects and the duration of the immunization.” Those doubts are increased by a widespread suspicion towards the government’s health policy, due to many well publicized health scandals that occurred in the last decades. Widespread bribery amidst politicians, head physicians, entrepreneurs in a dark corrupt circle was unveiled in 1993 by Italian judges, and has continued to exist till today. This distrust is experienced in every working place. “When the head physician told us to get the vaccine, everyone asked himself if he will assume it or if he was promoting it only because he was obliged to do so”, continues Sara, whose colleagues agree with her view that the vaccine may not be safe. On the other side the public opinion is even more fragmented between those who, like nurses, do not accept the vaccine and others who believe it is the only way to escape the pandemic. But this division sometimes is stronger. “If a nurse cannot get vaccinated, I don’t want to be touched by him” is a sentence ever more heard,
while there are those who believes a mandatory vaccine is the only solution that could guarantee a total immunity. “That would be a dictatorship”, says Sara, “But clearly it will happen soon”. “I do not know if this is true or not ‘’ replies Sante, a nurse in a private retirement house, “but when the pandemic was making thousands of fatalities everyone wished for the vaccine, and now that we own it everyone disagrees. It sounds hypocritical. I want to get it because it is the only weapon we have. This is a war, we need a mandatory vaccine if people do not take it voluntarily”. In spite of these beliefs, government officials state that no mandatory vaccine will be imposed, but that a pervasive media campaign is needed, as even a 25% distrust would undermine the vaccine’s efficacy. Official sources state that there should be no worry about the vaccine’s fast development, as all the experimentation phases have been respected, even if accelerated. Nevertheless the skepticism does not decrease, as few politicians decided to get vaccinated in public like Biden, Harris or Pence, and when one of them, Campania’s governor, Vincenzo De Luca did so, he was criticized for being too publicity conscious and to have taken the place of a needier person. In this atmosphere, it looks like even the political class does not believe much in the vaccine, unless it is a good photo opportunity. Every politician is way more focused on giving an opinion, rather than checking facts to assure people that they’re not going to die because of the vaccine. Italy, as well as the entire world, need clearer information and rationality as regards the vaccine, because what is happening in my country reveals how a paternalistic state does not work well.
Saying “Do it, it is for your safety” is not a good strategy because people start to feel like kids, but they’re not so. Even health issues should be treated democratically, making people aware of everything concerning their safety, as this is the only way to spread trust. In Italy it is not happening, and so an Orwellian propaganda is taking place, with the state not understanding that this is not the best way to persuade the nation, as it would lead to a nationwide rebellion against the vaccine, with a health anarchy where everyone decides to do or not the vaccine deprecating the others. This would lead to a more strict regime like China's, where strangely, the vaccine acceptance is 88.6%. The natural alternative is only one: spreading awareness, which is the best shape of democracy
"When the pandemic was killing thousands, everyone wished for the vaccine, and now that we own it everyone disagrees."
January 2021, Page 9
Page 10 Red Hook Star-Revue
The future is Black, female, and Latina— interesting takes from 2020’s exit polls by Roderick Thomas 2020...trash but still ironic The irony of 2020 also being synonymous with perfect vision is hard to miss, as last year was definitely illuminating – racial injustice, health care disparities, government unpreparedness, and the loss of several cultural icons. Then there was the presidential election, centered amidst an ongoing pandemic. The election spilled into 2021 as Georgia Senate runoffs took place between Reverend Warnock (D) and incumbent Loeffler (R), as well as incumbent Senator Perdue (R) and Ossoff (D). Moving further into 2021, what lessons can be learned from last year? Here are some interesting takes from the 2020 presidential election exit polls. A young voter does not mean a liberal voter When it comes to voting and age, the narrative has typically been that younger voters tend to be more liberal than conservative. However, 2020’s exit polls tell a different story. The idea that younger voters are more liberal is only true for mainly young Democrats of color, especially Black and Latino voters. The majority of young white voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for the Republican ticket, by 53 percent. The youth vote is sort of a misnomer, it appears ‘youth unity’ ends with politics, or when the Drake song stops playing. Conversely, young Black voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted most similarly to the oldest Black demographics in the country, 65 and older. Both younger and older Black voters voted about 90 percent and more for the Democratic ticket. One theory for why young voters of color voted so similarly to their baby boomer counterparts, is a similar civil rights climate of their respective generations.
Black millennials have money on their minds By comparison, Black millennials (born 1981-1996) and younger Black Gen Xers (born 1965 -1980) were actually the least reliable Black generational cohorts for Democrats, Black millennials especially. Democrats won 77 percent of Black millennials and 82 percent of Black Gen X votes. Some reasons for why Trump was able to garner sizable votes from young voters of color could be his economic prom-
Red Hook Star-Revue
ises and his wealth centered rhetoric, as millennials and Gen X are still in their prime earning years.
nos (mainly Hispanic Americans) as a whole.
Also, both groups have experienced more economic hardships than baby boomers. Additionally, millennials are the media generation and are largely influenced by social media. Donald Trump’s celebrity and social media dominance may influence the ideologies of some millenials more easily than other generations.
Arguably, no group is as divided on their political affiliations as white Americans. White Americans are almost evenly split in their support for either the Democratic or Republican party. As a voting block, they are the least reliable for Democrats and the most reliable for Republicans, especially white men between the ages of 30 and 60 plus. Interestingly, poll results suggest that white Americans are making up less of the youth population in America. One reason could be that white Americans over the last few decades have had fewer children than people of color.
Men of color Despite the heightened racial tensions and push for civil rights, the Trump ticket was able to win a significant chunk of Black and Latino male votes. About one in every five Black men voted for Donald Trump, mostly Black men between their late 20s and early 40s. Similarly, Latino men gave 36 percent of their votes to the Republican ticket. Trump’s irreverent machismo and wealthy image could be additional reasons for MAGA support among a significant minority of Black and Latino male voters. If this trend continues, the Democratic party may have a problem winning the 2024 election.
Let’s talk about sex According to 2020 exit polls, women of color tend to vote more than their male counterparts. Black women and Latinas make up double the percentage of Black and Latino male voters, respectively. However, polls suggest that white women make up the minority half of white voters, 48 percent white women to 52 percent white men. Black women delivered a whopping 91 percent of their votes to Biden, compared to 79 percent of Black men, while Latinas voted for Biden by a majority 70 percent. In comparison to 2016, Donald Trump increased his support among white women, jumping from 52 percent to 55 percent. Among white men, the Republican party held onto its lion share of male voters, with 61 percent of the white male vote.
Latinos are not a monolith While the majority of Latinos vote for the Democratic party, the Latino ethnic category is an incredibly diverse voting group, with very divergent voting interests. Puerto Rican Americans for instance, the second-largest Hispanic group in America, vote more Democrat than Cubans. To add, many Latino ethnic groups don’t have the same stake in the ‘build the wall’ campaign, which mainly targets the largest Hispanic/Latino ethnic group in the U.S, Mexicans. Some critics of Biden’s Latino outreach suggest doing more targeted campaigning to specific Spanish speaking groups, and not only campaigning to Lati-
White America divided
The future is Black, female, and Latina Republicans do seem to be gaining traction with aspirational wealth and anti-government rhetoric, with voters of color. It seems racial inequality is a slightly more important issue among the youngest and oldest voters of color, Gen Z and baby boomers. However, women of color, who make up a majority of the voting youth population, are resistant to conservative and Republican views. The future is looking increasingly young, brown, and female.
Roderick Thomas is an NYC based writer, filmmaker, and Host of Hippie By Accident Podcast. (Instagram: @Hippiebyaccident, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Site: roderickthomas.
"Donald Trump’s celebrity and social media dominance may influence the ideologies of some millenials more easily than other generations."
January 2021, Page 11
Learning about the Maya in a Guatemalan Bistro
ager to learn more about Mayan culture and history, my friend Eddie Deleon arranged a meeting with his friend Joel, a practicing Maya from Guatemala, at Ix Restaurant in Crown Heights. As I entered, I was stopped at the door. A waitress checked my temperature with a laser gun. I considered this a symbolic act. I had to be initiated at the threshold to enter the world of the Maya. We sat at the table in front of a mural which depicts a jaguar in a rainbow-colored tropical forest background with a Mayan temple looming in the background.
by Mike Fiorito
assault on Mayan religion, the Europeans labeled it witchcraft. Under such enormous pressure, no wonder that many Guatemalans have internalized this point of view as well. “Despite this, Mayan cosmology and ideas have persisted in subtle ways. For instance, there are many fusions of Mayan language with Catholicism. For example, instead of saying In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we say Corazon del Cielo (Uk’ux kaj), Corazon del Tierra (Uk’ux ulew), Corazon de Agua (Uk’ux ya’), e’ Corazon del Aire
Eddie was there to help translate. While Joel’s English was rather good, my Spanish is not so great. There were plenty of times we needed help to understand each other. Although Eddie is Guatemalan, he is considered a mestizo, that is, mixed. He has some Indigenous blood and some European blood. Eddie said that his family has suppressed their Indigenous history and culture, as having Indigenous blood was looked down upon. Joel’s mission in life is to encourage Guatemalans, like Eddie, to learn more about their Mayan roots and embrace their Indigenous history.
The soup came almost immediately. It was made with carrot tops and pieces of corn, spiced with cilantro. I squeezed a slice of lime into the soup, which made it taste spectacular. With the warmth of food, we commenced a sometimes-three-way conversation. “I realize there are at least twenty-two Mayan languages, each with their own literature and history. Which Mayan language do you speak?” I asked. “Kaqchiquel,” said Joel. “Does everyone in your town speak Kaqchiquel?” “Everyone can speak it.” “Do people use Kaqchiquel in everyday conversations?” “No, not really. It’s mainly used in ceremonies, weddings, and special events. Spanish is the main language.” “Why do you think people don’t speak Kaqchiquel as a primary language?” “Since the time of the Spaniards and into the wave of Protestant Missionaries that followed, invaders have tried to convince our people that the Mayan language and culture was inferior. This oppression was further enforced by gunpowder and instruments of torture. The invaders established a dominance over all forms of public expression. In the highlands, when the Europeans realized that textile designs carried complex messages, they even banned the wearing of Mayan clothing. Hundreds of hieroglyphic books were burned by missionaries. To consolidate their wholesale
Page 12 Red Hook Star-Revue
Mythological stories of corn are connected to the meticulous astronomical observations which guided the planting cycles of corn. Mayan farmers used their knowledge of the sky to plan the agricultural cycle of corn, and to plan for the best times to conduct offerings and ceremonies. By observing the natural cycles that link Earth and sky over thousands of years, the Maya have constructed a cyclical worldview of the universe in which all things are interconnected. To be Maya is to recognize the interconnected cycle of days and seasons; this is further reflected in the Mayan calendar. The circle of life, as represented in Mayan ceremonies, connects bean spirals with dance circles, and even galaxies. In Indigenous ways, the past, present, and future coexist. I explained that I’ve seen some of the documentaries showing the unjust history of Guatemala. Films like 500 Years, Mayan Renaissance and When the Mountains Tremble powerfully portray the genocide committed on the Indigenous people of Guatemala, showing the United States’ complicity. Dr. Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj, an international spokeswoman for Indigenous communities in Central America, is featured in 500 Years for her role as an activist and expert witness in war crime trials.
Joel’s work extends on the activism of trailblazers like Rigoberta Menchú. A bold and courageous leader, Rigoberta Menchú won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples. As I scanned the restaurant, noticing the beautiful works of art hanging on its walls, Eddie pointed to chicken soup on the menu. I nodded affirmatively.
also grateful. Their hearts were filled with compassion for all creation. Consequently, the Maya say we are Men of Corn,” said Joel.
“Have you been able to create a Mayan community in the United States?” I asked. (Uk’ux xq’aq’ij), adapting it to the four elements in Mayan cosmology.” “Do you say this in church?” “No, this is something we say in our ceremonies and privately.” “Why is corn important in Indigenous culture?” “In the Popol Vuh, the Mayan story of creation, it is said that we are made out of corn,” said Joel. In the Popol Vuh, the eight Elders, four females, four males, created human beings. But it took a few tries. First the Elders made humans out of mud, but these beings were ugly and ill-formed. And they could not talk and could barely walk. They certainly could not sing or dance. These beings were so crumbly and clumsy, they just melted away in the rain. Then the Elders tried again to make people who would offer respect and praise. They carved man from wood and woman from the pith of a reed. These beings were beautiful. And they could sing and dance. But after a time, the Elders realized that these beings made of wood did not know how to express thanks or gratitude. To rid the world of these beings, the Elders sent a great flood and earthquakes. Now even the trees and fish were grieved by the beings made of wood. All of Creation then rose together to destroy these people made of wood. It is said that some clever wooden people escaped the flood and became the monkeys we have today. “Finally, the elders made human beings out of corn. These beings could sing and dance and were
“In Fairview, NJ, there are many people from San Martin, my hometown. They call my neighborhood Little Guatemala. I am part of an organization called Colectivo Florecerás Guatemala. Among other things, this organization shows solidarity with injustices going on back home in Guatemala. I have been arranging small community events to raise awareness of political events in Guatemala and educate people on Mayan culture and history. For instance, I learned that Ch’umikaj Nicho, a Mayan singer, was in the United States to speak at the United Nations. I reached out to her and invited her to one of our events to sing. She came and sang. It was spectacular.” We continued talking for a while, eating Plantain Mole for dessert, which was delicious. This dessert was created over four centuries ago in Guatemalan kitchens. Some years ago, the Guatemalan government declared this dish, along with three others, a “cultural heritage” of Guatemala. Listening to Joel’s story was inspiring. I admire his sense of purpose and commitment to sharing his Mayan culture and history with the world. In that short amount of time I learned so much. I’m hoping that, in my little way, I can pass on the important message that Joel has made his life’s ministry to convey. Ix Restaurant: 43 Lincoln Rd, Brooklyn, NY 11225 (347) 533-6920 Eddie Deleon: https://www.instagram.com/ nychapin/?hl=en Mike Fiorito www.fallingfromtrees.info
Hi-end audio is a surprise best seller as COVID keeps people home by Micah B. Rubin
atan worshipers, naked hoarders and a loaded handgun might sound like a workplace hazard. But for Red Hook’s Adam Wexler, these are just a few of the quirky characters encountered in the course of a day’s work. Wexler’s business is sound and simplification. He is the founder of Stereo Buyers, High End Audio Auctions and Resolution Audio Video NYC. Since opening more than 10-years ago, Wexler has sold more than 30,000 pieces of stereo equipment. Everything from receivers, amplifiers and turntables to speakers of all shapes and sizes. Stereo Buyers buys and sells high fidelity audio and video equipment within a 90-mile radius of New York City, Boulder, CO and the San Francisco Bay area. On one buying trip, Wexler’s team was packing up a hoarder’s equipment while surrounded by security cameras. The gear’s owner, a morbidly obese man, was watching the feed and directing Wexler’s crew from the next room while lying naked in bed.
Once purchased, the gear is tested, cleaned and sold on eBay through Wexler’s High End Audio Auctions. Wexler’s third company, Resolution Audio Video designs, sells and installs custom smart homes and hi-fi stereo systems throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. “We like to call ourselves the brownstone townhouse specialists,” Wexler says. “Most of our clientele live very fast-paced, complicated lives and the things that we do make their lives more convenient and enjoyable,” the 42-year old says. Especially when it comes to fabulous sounding music. Hi-fi audio is all about personal taste and preference. Some equipment sounds good to some and bad to others. “If you don’t hear a difference between the $200 cable and the $500 cable, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t hear it, don’t get it,” Wexler says. That honesty is part of his recipe for success. Red Hook is another. Wexler’s first Red Hook office was a closet in his friend’s woodshop (a step up from the storage unit
he had previously been using). He outgrew that space and found a proper office in the same waterfront building near Food Bazaar. He’s been there since 2012. Hurricane Sandy tore the office doors open, unleashing a six-foot torrent of water that destroyed everything. At the time, he did not have flood insurance. “It’s hard to dig yourself out of complete destruction and continue business as usual,” Wexler says. Community support got him back on his feet and he was able to salvage and sell a few pieces. Since then, business has grown – including during the pandemic - and Wexler recently landed multiple large projects, many focusing on hi-fi audio systems and improving home networks (to host 80-person Zoom calls). He’s also added more office space for equipment storage and his three full-time and two part-time employees. While growing up in New Jersey, music was the heartbeat of the Wexler family home. Saturday mornings didn’t start until his Dad and switched on the family hi-fi. Wexler took the plunge into audiophile audio equipment while attending Ithaca College. He wanted – but could not afford - such a pricy purchase so he approached the local stereo store with an offer: let me sell your used gear on this new website called eBay and keep a commission. They agreed. A hi-fi system was eventually purchased and Wexler’s audiophile trajectory was set. After college, Wexler moved to New York City and continued to sell used equipment while working full-time at stereo stores including Manhattan’s Innovative Audio. Potential buyers would audition speakers or cables and other equipment and Wexler would spend hours setting up and resetting stereo configurations. “Fifty to seventy-five percent of it is just entertaining people for free. They want to come and listen to speakers, ask a million questions and then disappear,” he says. After seven-years, it was time to move on. But not before his future father-in-law Alan stopped in to try out some speakers. He didn’t purchase anything, but a few weeks later Wexler got a call from Alan’s daughter asking to come by and audition the
Adam Wexler in his Red Hook office (photo by M. Rubin)
same setup. They got to chatting, lots of laughing, phone numbers were exchanged and a stereo was purchased. Within a year, the couple were engaged. They still have that now hand-me down stereo. One of many in their Park Slope home. While his companies sell a wide range of hi-fi equipment, Wexler’s personal taste leans towards vacuum tubes, turntables and a passion for experiencing – not just listening to - live music. “I can’t go see Jimi Hendrix anymore but can get as close as possible to seeing or hearing him in my [own] room. I can try and you know, I do. It’s like time travel,” he says. It’s that quest for visceral, evocative sound Wexler probes clients about when setting up their audiophile sound systems: “What’s getting your foot tapping? What’s getting your head shaking? What’s getting your blood boiling? What’s stirring up the emotions inside of you? That’s ultimately how you should make your decision.” http://www.resolutionavnyc.com/
Pu-239, an unexpected gem
canning the menu button on the remote is like panning for gold. Rarely is any found. But sometimes a nugget appears. H.B.O. movies on demand P. U. 239 is not a gold nugget. It is the Hope Diamond.
The story of a father and husband whose life is shattered. Through no fault of his own. He knows he is doomed. His wife senses it too. Their moments together are devastating to watch. But he follows the path he must. And a small-time hood, hustling the streets of Moscow with his 2 cronies. The cronies are brutal; causing great harm to man, woman, child, or animal, who may cross their path. And our small-time hood, with a heart of gold, tries to help these victims Disaster after disaster he is always trying. Soon the disasters begin happening to him. He soldiers on like
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by Gene Bray our doomed father. They meet. And bond. And as they both are being destroyed mentally and physically, we see they are on the same path. Like a story about Macbeth bonding with Richard the third. And the dialogue is Shakespearean. Even better because I don’t understand most of Shakespeare. But this is simple. And it touches the heart. With knowledge. And sorrow. And humor thank God . But seeing the actors hits us deeper. They pierce our heart. Is this acting? Didn’t seem like it to me. Our small-time hood; placing himself in grave danger meeting with sociopathic top mobsters. Sociopathic as Caligula. Risking all on a crazy scheme he doesn’t even understand. But our hood tries again and again. Even defying one in a battle he knows he cannot win. And as the final curtain is drawn amidst all this
sorrow, appears the funniest thing I have ever seen on film. Tragically funny of course. Irreverent humor. Oscar Isaac is our small time hood. I have never loved an actor the way I loved him in this. Everything he does is slowly building to a crescendo. The deep pain escalates. Physical and emotional. Same with the husband and father. I loved him too. How could anyone deal with what he was facing ? But their emotional pain hits them even harder. Heartbreaking. It’s like watching a train loaded with toxic chemicals wreck in super slow motion. But instead of train cars, these are people. People we love. And all done to poetry. Simple to understand poetry. May we be this heroic should fate deal us these hands. I was thinking of my favorite quote watching this. “Success is not measured by what
you accomplish, but by the opposition you’ve encountered. And the courage with which you have maintained the struggle, against overwhelming odds. “ Orison Swett Marden
January 2021, Page 13
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Page 14 Red Hook Star-Revue
Clockwise from top left: Birkenau (2014) by Gerhard Richter; View through Héctor Zamora’s Lattice Detour (2020); View through Héctor Zamora’s Lattice Detour (2020); Héctor Zamora’s Lattice Detour (2020) seen in full in window reflection; Exhibition view of “Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera”; Antonio Canova’s Perseus wiith the Head of Medusa (1804-6); Mirror, Blood Red (1991) by Gerhard Richter; The Met Fifth Avenue’s iconic façade. (35mm black and white film photographs by Piotr Pillardy 35mm color photographs
by Joan Ronstadt (developed & scanned at Exposure Therapy in Brooklyn)
The Met in the time of the virus F by Piotr Pillardy
or the first time since February, during a year that has felt somehow infinite and compressed, I was able to visit a museum in person (a sentence that exists only in 2020). Going to the Met felt like a breath of fresh air after the long absence of this important and routine part of my life. In some ways, it felt normal, a facsimile of the “before times.” In others, it was a continued reminder of the ongoing pandemic, with exhibitions closed due to lack of ability to safely distance and the omnipresent masks.
As part of the new safety precautions, the museum has capped attendance at 25% and required masks worn inside at all times. This resulted in a long line out the door with dots on the ground to ensure proper distancing. However, the line moved pretty quickly and wasn’t too much of a hassle. It seems that if you buy a ticket online, you can bypass the line. I opted to reserve an hour long time slot to visit but this was not checked at the museum. It’s worth noting that certain special exhibitions sell out quickly due to the capacity restrictions, so it’s worth getting the tickets online ahead of time. A lesson learned as I was unfortunately not able to see the show “About Time: Fashion and Duration” because of this (which runs through February 7, 2021). So I would recommend getting tickets ahead of time if this or any other special exhibitions are your primary reason for visiting. After checking in, I leisurely strolled through the halls of one of my favorite museums, thrilled to be reunited with old friends. It was great perusing the European and American painting collections and getting to see one of my favorite Monet paintings, Garden at Sainte-Addresse (1867), along with the great collection of works by El Greco, and the many abstract works from artists including Jackson Pollock, in the “Epic Abstraction” portion of the permanent collection. Upon entering the Robert Lehman Collection, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a small Gerhard Richter exhibition. The exhibition, featuring 4 paintings from the artist’s Birkenau series along with an earlier sculptural work, had served as the basis of the Richter solo exhibition at the
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former Met Breuer, which closed a few days after opening due to the pandemic. The show was not rescheduled and now, even the Met Breuer itself is a thing of the past. The Frick Collection will temporarily be taking over the space as that museum undergoes an extensive renovation, where it will be through 2023.
The artist’s series, exploring issues of history, memory, and identity, draw its inspiration from four secretly-taken photographs from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps. Created in Richter’s signature abstract style, the painting creates a meditative moment with the viewer, allowing one to consider the underlying subject matter in the absence of representation. Richter had actually embarked on a yearlong attempt to render the photographic figures from the photographs, but ended up gradually obscuring them through numerous layers of paint squeegeed to produce his well-known style. These themes are further present in the earlier work included at the beginning of the small exhibition, Mirror, Blood Red (1991), a work that confronts the viewer and allows for a brief moment of reflection prior to consuming the context behind the exhibition. Another highlight of the visit was the, always wonderful, yearly Roof Garden commission (in its eighth year) that presents a site-specific work framed by sweeping views of Manhattan’s East and West sides. This year Héctor Zamora’s Lattice Detour (2020) was the pick, a curved sculptural terracotta brick form. The work’s strength lies in its ability to frame and contextualize numerous interactions between visitors in the space, iconic views, and light itself. Being both solid and permeable, the sculpture bifurcates the physical space while allowing for interactions. In many ways, the piece reminded me of the Dan Graham’s Hedge TwoWay Mirror Walkabout installation from the 2014 commission, which allowed for similar moments of interaction with the space and those inhabiting. In our current COVID reality, the barrier acts as both an artistic device while helping physically separate one from other visitors in both a tangible and intangible way.
Zamora, whose work typically engages with public spaces, chose the Met’s Roof Garden because it is the museum’s only public open space. The artist had the audience in mind when fabricating the piece to allow for interaction with the views. The terracotta bricks used for the piece also have significance. The materials subvert expectation through being presented in a curvilinear form, in contrast to the stark rigidity typically associated with bricks, themes explored throughout his oeuvre including Material Inconstancy (2012) and Uma Boa Ordem (2019). The allusions to labor in the piece are also important since bricklayers created it by hand, as well as symbolically signifying the divide between the United States and Mexico. On a more aspirational note, the work’s lattice structure allows the viewer to see the light on the other side and can serve as an example of seeing past these divisions in the world to explore other points of view. Zamora’s piece is only up until December 7th, so see it while you still can!
Another highlight of the temporary exhibitions were the two photography shows, including Photography’s Last Century (which closed on November 30th) and Pictures, Revisited (which runs through May 9, 2021). The former was a powerful survey of 20th century photography, with works from artists including Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, and Cindy Sherman. The latter explored contemporary photography and the interactions between the medium and appropriation. The works here manipulate elements of pop culture to subvert, decontextualize, and provide commentary on these famed images burned into our collective conscience. With all of these great exhibitions and many more in the pipeline, it’s a great time to pay the Met a visit. With vaccines on the horizon, there is hope that how we interact with artistic institutions too will return to normal in the not so distant future. However, even being able to visit The Met again under these conditions was a delight.
January 2021, Page 15
Graubard with the story behind the story (continued from the back page) Fidler, one of the few regular leaders who seemed to understand NKD’s concerns and attempt to address them. Moreover, it sometimes seemed that the primary purpose of the Seddio regime was to use the Party Leadership to bolster the courthouse standing of his Law Chair, Frank Carone. During the Seddio tenure, Carone’s firm, Abrams Fensterman, which, was also Seddio’s once and future home, became Brooklyn’s largest and most powerful, and it was not unusual for a judge hearing an Abrams motion, with Seddio’s firm as co-counsel, to be greeted in the front row by Seddio, Carone and Anthony Genovesi, Jr, while a fourth lawyer actually argued the case. This maneuver, charmingly referred to by judges as “the full Court press,” probably existed mostly to impress unwary clients, but was not lost on its audience. Ironically, despite such antics, it was usually the organization, during Seddio’s tenure, that was the guardian of at least minimal standards in the courthouse, as it was the ragtag band of consultants running candidates against the organization who generally ran the least qualified judicial candidates, something which even many of Seddio’s most vociferous critics often conceded. At any rate, Seddio’s personal financial travails, resulting in a series of cases and/ or judgments against him in other states, were probably responsible for his departure, allowing him to return to Abrams Fensterman, the firm he quit to avoid it from being subjected to the law’s provisions banning the firms of Party Leaders from practicing in lucrative areas of the law like land use, a part of the firm’s practice which had grown with Carone’s ascendancy. It should be noted that during Seddio’s travails, NKD and other Seddio adversaries, like Assemblyman Walter Mosley, widely believed to be seeking the Party leadership, were publicly and probably unfairly trying to connect Seddio’s financial problems to the Party’s empty coffers in a way which implied corruption, rather than inattention. Before he left, Seddio made sure to engineer his successor, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte. A key part of the deal alleged to have been put into place was that Carone would remain as Party Law Chair, even though he personally does little election law work, ensuring the perception that Abrams was still Brooklyn’s go-to law firm. In retrospect, it was clear that this move was months in the making. Rodneyse’s co-leader and cousin,
Josue Pierre, had been running hard for State Senate against Kevin Parker, gathering much support from both the left and traditional reformers, when the plug was suddenly pulled from the race. Something was clearly up. The Coalition to put in Rodneyse was broad. While some of the old-line reformers preferred Mosley, Bichotte had the strong and loud support of local allies 44th AD Reformer Doug Schneider, and his co-leader, the more regular, but dying to be perceived as Reform, Lori Knipel, who had previously joined Rodneyse and the ultra-Orthodox community in supporting the election of Farah Louis in a special election for Jumaane Williams old seat on the City Council against Williams’ candidate. At the beginning of her term, everyone tried to put the best face on Rodneyse’s victory. After all, Bichotte was the Brooklyn’s Democracy’s first female leader, and first of Haitian origin, with a pretty progressive legislative record. Simultaneous with Bichotte’s victory came a move to repeal one of the Seddio’s biggest NKDinspired reforms, twice-yearly, rather than bi-annual county committee meetings. In a Daily News Op-Ed, NKD President Marianna Alexander laid the blame for this entirely on Seddio, absolving Bichotte of the blame entirely (probably delighting Seddio, who earned himself a chit), although, in private, she acknowledged that this couldn’t have happen without Bichotte’s agreement. But, Alexander stressed, it was important to use the opportunity of the change in leadership presented to build bridges. The bridge collapsed soon enough for the stupidest of reasons: personal pettiness. I got my first hint when a regular Assemblymember called me because he said Bichotte told him he had to remove some people she didn’t like as County Committee members, or County wouldn’t bind his petitions. A conflict involving a Congressional candidate carried on his sheets forced me to delay giving an answer, and master-diplomat Jeff Feldman, then still in place as Party Executive Director, resolved the issue. Still, this just low-level meddling was something unprecedented in anyone’s experience. Then, things got even sillier. Sometime between the time petitions started circulating and the time they were filed, the people circulating the 42nd Assembly District petition, Rodneyse Bichotte and Josue Pierre, apparently had a falling out with two members of their slates for Delegates and Alternate Delegates to the Judicial
Nominating Convention (Christine Das and John Wasserman, the President and Immediate Past President of Brooklyn’s Young Democrats) and decided, probably at the last minute, to drop them from the slate even though the petitions from their club had their names on every single one of them. I say last minute, because instead of printing up a new coversheet, as would be the practice of the normally fastidious Jeff Feldman, Feldman’s deputy (as he was then) Jonathan Harkavy (whose signature appears on the cover sheet in place of Feldman’s), or someone else (hopefully before Harkavy signed it, rather than afterwards), simply whited out the names and addresses of Das and Wasserman (some of their name and address info is partially visible), leaving blank spaces on the cover sheet. That anyone involved would care enough to go through this trouble, given the utter meaninglessness of the one-day party position involved, shows a level of spite which is almost of legendary proportions. Someone who would go to the trouble of making this happen clearly wanted a message delivered to the world: “fuck with me, and there is nothing I won’t do, no matter how petty or insignificant, to fuck with you.” Somewhere (where I won’t say), Vito was tipping his hat. The Party was suddenly acting in other ways which seemed to undermine years of trust built about its operations and their norms. The complicated series of maneuvers involving the sacking of the petitions of NKD-allied reformer Nick Rizzo (a client), ostensibly a County candidate, became clear when an attorney from Abrams Fensterman suddenly interjected himself into a Skype court hearing on Rizzo’s case, even though he was ostensibly not representing anyone. I will refrain from disclosing any further details, suffice it to say I know things I’d rather not say. Something had changed. Jeff Feldman, already dying to retire, was now bemoaning the new order to close friends, who, this being politics, only shared their observations with a few dozen close associates. The moderate reformers, most of them unenthusiastic about Bichotte to begin with, were, by this point, alarmed. And, then came the primary. The young, hip, left elements, emboldened by the victory of Julia Salazar in 2018, were further buoyed when the Presidential primary was combined with the legislative one, and Bernie voters never disposed to voting in local elections were now a
steroid boost to the likes of Marcella Mitaynes, Phara Souffrant and Emily Gallagher. NKD affiliated district leaders were also elected in several Assembly Districts. The old-line reformers, already moved left by their fears of being displaced from their positions, to the point where some were already in the process of Finlandization, were now in full tilt. It would have been tough to make them stick, as most of them had, to a County Leader most of them had liked, most of the time. But truth be told, the new County Leader was one most of them actively disliked; possibly more than NKD did. And, even those old-line reformers who probably still liked Bichotte were now too afraid of their left flank to admit it. Former Seddio reform allies like Josh Skaller had abandoned ship, while former County stalwarts like Maritza Davilla and Lori Knipel were now joined to NKD in a shotgun wedding. And this was important. Power in Brooklyn Democratic politics had always emanated from the Party’s state committee people, who were de facto district leaders and constituted the parties’ executive committee. But, technically, the Party rules were controlled by the County Committee, who were members elected from every local election district around the County. Usually, the rules which empowered the District Leaders were enacted in scripted County Committee meetings. In recent years, those meeting had become heated and disruptive, but the Party regulars had enough proxies from their districts to ultimately carry the day. But they no longer did. NKD, energized by its successful “Rep Your Block” campaign, had expanded its county committee footprint, while many regular clubs, caught by surprise by the early end to petitioning necessitated by the pandemic, had very poor performance. Many Assembly districts controlled by regular clubs had filed few, if any, County Committee Members. County, realizing it might not be able to control the next meeting, and the rules emanating from it, started enacting rule changes. Some were foolhardy. It enacted a rule allowing District Leaders to cast the votes for County Committee members from their District, unless the members notified the Party otherwise. But, this change mostly inured to the benefit of old-line reformers no longer in County’s camp.
(continued on next page)
"It sometimes seemed that the primary purpose of the Seddio regime was to use the Party Leadership to bolster the courthouse standing of his Law Chair, Frank Carone." Page 16 Red Hook Star-Revue
GRAUBARD (continued from page 16)
Other rule changes though, were not in the Executive’s Committee’s power to enact. They tried to postpone any County Committee meeting until after the pandemic, allowing the Executive committee to legally organize the Party in its place. This was a violation of State Law. Abrams Fensterman’s prime legal argument for doing so was that the intersection of the Election Law and the Governor’s pandemic Executive orders, made such a meeting impossible, even though Queens and the Bronx managed to have one. Their argument about the combined effects of the law and the orders was familiar—I had made it myself in an election law case against the County Organization in the spring, only to have Abrams Fensterman argue successfully in the Appellate Division that an Executive Order could only override a law, if that law was specifically named in the Executive Order. I gave my copy of the Abrams brief from the spring to the NKD lawyer, who proceeded to stuff it down Abrams’s throat. There was now to be a County Committee meeting. Abrams and County, to the extent they are different entities, also made other preposterous arguments. They said a Zoom meeting would make participation by the disabled more difficult, even though County was previously prone to have its meeting in location virtually inaccessible to mass transit. They cited difficulties which might be encountered by the hard of hearing and foreign language speakers, even
though County had never provided sign interpreters or any language translations during their meetings before. Then County desperately tried to allow leaders to fill their vacancies and seat new members before the meeting, rather than to elect them at the meeting and seat them afterwards. It was a naked grab for power which blatantly violated the election law. The devil in some of the details was even worse, as one regular told me that Rodneyse tried to stick over 100 of her own people into his district’s committee. And then, they tried to wrap the power grab in the pink ribbon of gender non-binary rights. Once again, the courts shot them down. By the time the meeting, which turned into a 13-hour shit-show, NKD had the support of a whole raft of allies, to enact their rule changes and their slate of officers. Some of these allies would normally not have embraced every one of the rules changes, or that particular slate of officers, but either because of furiously mounting disgust at the existing order, or simple expedience, NKD had a working majority. But whether by accident or design, County could not or would not master the voting procedures and it took until after midnight for the Party to acknowledge the truth that their previously announced narrow victory was really a narrow defeat. The NKD rule changes were enacted. Then, exhausted, NKD finally agreed to adjourn. But, the adjournment already signaled a new pitfall, as Lori Knipel deserted NKD on the initial adjournment vote, which NKD opposed, and instead abstained. Over the next week, intrigues abound-
BOWIE (continued from page 1)
the enhanced audio. Like the two albums Visconti has since remixed (known as Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World, although oddly enough both have been released under multiple titles), his Lodger is bright, detailed and faithful. But at the time, I didn’t want Visconti getting in between Bowie and me. The box set was released 20 months after Bowie’s death. I had been reassured to learn that Bowie and Visconti discussed the remix, and that Bowie had heard and approved of some of it, during his work-filled final months. But when it got to my ears, it felt as if someone were trying to rewrite my memory. This was not the way Lodger sounds, and I am not 14 years old playing it at ridiculous volumes in my parents’ house. In truth, Lodger isn’t one of Bowie’s strongest albums. A concept album without a storyline, the record is a series of scenes of transients, stories of detachment, migration and unsatisfying occupations. Bowie’s alienation had grown adult. The title even suggests as much. And in fact, none of the albums Visconti has reworked thus far are among Bowie’s very best. But I’ll always hold Lodger close to my heart, not just as my first Bowie record but among my first grown-up albums.
u u u The two other records Visconti has remade and remodeled—1969’s David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) and 1970’s The Man Who Sold the World (now released under its intended title, Metrobolist)—also fall just short of Bowie’s Top 5. To these longlistening ears, those would be Station to Station, Low, “Heroes,” Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
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ed. The Exec Committee chose a new Chair for the meeting, lame duck Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright, rumored to be seeking a vacant judicial seat. Asked by NKD allies to back a move to install Josh Skaller at the meeting instead of Wright, Knipel demurred. Further intrigues emerged to have the Party change the rules so that the County Committee would choose the Party Leader instead of the executive committee, the practice in most counties outside the City. Strangely, this idea emanated not from the radicals, but rather from the most establishment- oriented members of the anti-County coalition (as well as a few county allies eagerly waiting to jump ship), and strangely, it was shot down by the leadership of NKD, who were uncomfortable going for the whole ball of wax without a “broader-based” (read: “less white”) coalition. And when the meeting reconvened, Wright cut off the sound of every speaker trying to bring up the issue of the meeting’s presiding officer, and anything else she declared to be non-germane. A new parliamentarian was installed who declared every rule change previously passed as void. Then, the voting began and NKD and its allies no longer had the votes. As what was happening over the course of the 14-hour massacre slowly became clear, NKD allies apparently went ballistic while conversing over the meeting’s chat function, and Wright and the parliamentarian started naming names and making police reports. Eventually, NKD virtually walked out of the virtual meeting.
and Blackstar—all but the first of which Visconti had a hand in the making. But of course personal preference is nothing more than personal preference, and with Bowie, it can be very personal. But good Bowie easily bests many artists’ bests. (Station to Station, for the record, got a worthy touch-up by co-producer Harry Maslin in 2010.) Visconti’s Space Oddity (released in 2019) restores the original cover art but retains the title that was tacked on to capitalize on the recent moon landing. It had originally, and rather oddly, been released as his second eponymous album in a row, following the quaint, cabaret pop of his debut. The new issue adds the track “Conversation Piece” but drops the brief “Don’t Sit Down.” It is, in other words, more hodgepodge than definitive, saved by Visctonti’s sound salvation. The cleaner reverb on the acoustic guitar intro of (what remains) the title track make the crisp guitar break later so much more distinctive. The clarity throughout, especially in the bass (and Visconti, of course, is a bassist, although here on flute) and in the reediness of the electric organ in “Memory of a Free Festival,” are a revelation. The Man Who Sold the World always suggested an early Pink Floyd influence to me—indeed, “All the Madmen” could be as much for that band’s troubled co-founder Syd Barrett as for Bowie’s own schizophrenic half brother. It is also one of Visconti’s favorite Bowie albums, as he notes in the liner notes to the Five Years (1969–1973) box set. “It is dark and foreboding,” he says, “heavy, no love songs, nothing really cute about it.” The punch Visconti adds to the mix for the reissue (released in November, 2020, as Metrobolist) brings out that darkness: it now sounds closer to early Sabbath than tired Zeppelin. With the added oomph, it may be his most rocking—certainly more so than the comparatively flat Orwellian montage Stones
“The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” was defeated by “The Gang Which Refuses To Do So.” Back to the Courthouse we go. Wright promised that a full summary of the votes would be released, but as of this writing, it has not been. Some in the NKD coalition doubt the validity of the vote count, but the more likely scenario is that one or more of NKD’s more establishment allies jumped ship. All eyes are being directed at Knipel, who had twice shown herself to be a reluctant ally. This may be unfair, but if people are coming to an unfair conclusion, it is because County refuses to share the data with them which might prove otherwise. Meanwhile, Wright, a perfectly decent Assembly member with an impressive CV, has, if she does seek a judgeship, likely brought herself a primary challenge. In the past, NKD and DSA have studiously ignored judgeships, such that a candidate backed by many individual NKD leaders last year lost a race in an NKD stronghold to a candidate backed primarily by folks who all lost their positions to NKD candidates. I suspect though, that this year, NKD, whose allies have shown formidable strength in the affected judicial district, may be loaded for bear. But, in reality, this is a lot of sound and fury signifying very little; the party’s over; what we have here is a dead shark. Kurt Vonnegut once defined a “granfalloon” as “a proud and meaningless association of human beings.” But, it is unfair to call the Brooklyn Dems a “granfalloon,” because that would imply that they are “proud,” and the evidence for such a proposition is entirely to the contrary.
homage Diamond Dogs, which falls with more thuds than any record of his before the go-go 80’s. The Metrobolist mix accentuates the heavy trio at the album’s core: Visconti on bass with Mick “Woody” Woodmansy on drums and someone who would become one of Bowie’s most important collaborators, Mick Ronson, on guitar. With Visconti swapped out for Trevor Bolden, that band would soon transform into the Spiders From Mars as Bowie morphed into Ziggy Stardust. As with Space Oddity, it’s not quite a restoration to anything in particular. The original cartoon cover used here was not Bowie’s choice at the time (alternate covers were used for the original U.K. and U.S. releases). The running order remains the same, although a sequence purportedly proposed by Bowie and discussed on fan sites makes more sense (set your playlist to: 9, 6, 5, 7, 8, 3, 1, 2, 4 to hear that one). The new mix, however, again justifies the haphazard presentation.
u u u No one can rewrite your memories, of course, at least not yet. A new mix of a beloved record is just an invitation to listen anew. In truth, I didn’t A/B the Visconti mixes against previous releases. I just went by memory. And I’ve (literally) bought in, the records given added value by my desire not to have wasted money buying something I already have several copies of. I instead accept an old experience as new again, something to be appreciated, relived, reloved. Memories fade, but albums are forever. Editors Note: If this article has piqued your interest, check out David Bowie: The Last Five Years, available to watch on HBO television.
January 2021, Page 17
Jazz by Grella
New Years Revolutions
by George Grella
s I type this shortly after Christmas, I’m already listening to 2021. And man it sounds good.
I try not to be a person who depends on hope, and that negative capability is one of the things that helped keep me (mostly) rational and above water through 2020. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst? More like, expect the worst and work with what is, not what you wish would be. That we now have a coronavirus vaccine hasn’t changed my outlook, because Mitch McConnell is still in the Senate and the centrist/liberal wing of the professional class still tells us that we can’t have nice things, because only people who already have money deserve money. That’s the American way, and a new president is unlikely to change that. But I do admit I hope 2021 will be better, and I’m being daring enough to even expect it to be so, though that’s still going to require patience. It looks like places like the Metropolitan Opera made a wise call when they cancelled their entire 2020-21 seasons with the anticipation of both a vaccine arriving and the propagation of same through the population hitting a meaningful percentage, so that the 2021-2022 season can begin sometime in the late summer or early fall of this year. The vaccine is good news, the possibility of a future is good news, but it still means that we have to wait another five or six months, at least, before we can go to an indoor concert, sit in a club, have a drink at the bar while a band plays on the stage. I have faith that jazz can hang in there until then. As sad as it was to see that the Jazz Standard was closing their doors on East 27th Street, I’m amazed that this was the only jazz club to truly shutter in 2020, I did expect many more to go under. Can they last for another six months? (It’s important to note that the Jazz Standard is not necessarily lost to time, just that they couldn’t keep paying the rent on their current space, and their announcement had some shaded optimism that they’d be able to reopen someplace else.) Jazz is a resilient music, an art form born of a people who had to be more resilient than everyone else, just to survive, who had to keep looking past the
horizon while dealing with the here and now. And if the recordings I’ve heard that will be coming out in early 2021 are an indication, and I’m sure they are, jazz, at least in musical terms, is going to be as strong as ever in the new year. I’m not just talking about the typical solid jazz album, a modern post-bop compendium of new tunes and arrangements of standards, the kind of thing that’s the musical equivalent of a good Major League baseball player—not a star but the kind of guy you want on the team who will help you win. I’m talking about music that is very much 2020-21, building on the past to make music that engages with the present moments and their future ramifications. Here’s some recordings I’m excited about, ones that have grabbed my attention and that feel like will be in my ears throughout the year: Nicki & Patrick Adams, Lynx (Sunnyside). Brothers Nicki (piano) and Patrick (trumpet) make their duo debut with this album. There’s the cliché of familial communication laid over this, but what I �ind fascinating about this album is how it seems like the two brothers are speaking different languages, yet making it work. Through a very hip set of tunes (including Miles Davis’ “E.S.P.,” Herbie Hancock’s “Absolute Proof,” and Nick Drake’s “Things Behind the Sun,” Patrick plays some throwback trumpet against Nicki’s modernist pianism. Patrick’s phrases are on a different foot, right out of classic swing era styles, while Nicki plays aggressive, straight eighth-notes, intense against Patrick’s mellower demeanor. How it works is a mystery, yet work it does. This is a compelling album.
the Caribbean, and there’s as much grunge and even metal in the concept as anything else. Consistently surprising and imaginative, soulful and expressive, this is a refreshing update on free jazz.
Michael Wimberly, Afrofuturism (Temple Mountain). The promotional materials on this one tell me that percussionist Wimberly’s album is “Pop, West African.” To which, I can only quote Joe Biden in response to my esteemed colleague, “come on, man.” The opening riff is a quote from “You Know, You Know,” from the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s 1971 debut, The Inner Mounting Flame. Fusion has been an integral part of jazz for 50 years, and Afrofuturism is a fusion of jazz-rock and hip-hop, with R&B and other elements, and that’s jazz, baby, and Afrofuturism. And it’s also fantastic. This album is ultra-stylish and smart, it works on the head and the hips, and is packed with with superb taste and musicality. I don’t think I’ll hear a bettermade album this year. The music lives as long as the musicians do. As long as they can pay the rent, somehow, and put dinner on the table, in some way, this art of the here and now and the past and the future is going to keep thriving even when times are hard. That jazz is even less economically viable than classical music yet is so much more relevant to the times and to daily experience makes it the most valuable, and admirable, art music we have. Enjoy the records, there’s more good ones to come.
Francisco Mela, MPT Trio, Vol. 1 (577). Drummer Mela leads this group, with tenor saxophonist Hery Paz and guitarist Juanma Trujillo, and together they produce a style of jazz that is heard so infrequently that it might as well be something entirely new: free latin jazz. That’s not even a fair way to put it—there’s a ton of group interplay and freedom in this music, and Paz very much comes out of the post-Ayler/Sanders school, but this is not rif�ing off of merengue or clave material. The latin �lavor seems more from the Southwest than
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STAR REVUE January 2021
Books by Quinn Unsolved Mysteries Review of Invisible Ink by Patrick Modiano, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti Review by Michael Quinn
hat constitutes a life is not only our experiences, but our feelings about them. Especially as we grow older, our memories play a role here, too. We lean into some, and are unexpectedly overcome by others, triggered by a smell, the name of a long-lost love, or a forgotten song whose refrain suddenly springs to our lips. The Nobel Prize-winning French writer Patrick Modiano has written volumes on this subject. His slender, enigmatic novels often involve a missing woman and a man in search of her. The clues the man amasses don’t much help him with his pursuit, yet they seem to lead him into some deeper understanding of himself, if only by his recognition that they mean something to him, although it’s often hard for him to say what, or why. Are you intrigued or exasperated by this? That reaction will be a good indicator for what you’ll make of Modiano’s latest novel, Invisible Ink, beautifully translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti. All of the familiar Modiano elements are here: the man in pursuit, the missing woman, Paris in the 1960s. But there seems to be a new urgency, as well as bafflement about what it all means (if anything) that I can only guess reflects Modiano’s own grappling with mortality (he’s 75). The story centers around Jean Eyben, a young man with literary ambitions. On a whim, he takes a job at a shabby detective agency, work that “clashed with my natural shyness.” Given few facts and an illegible photograph, Jean’s first (and only) assignment concerns a missing person, a young woman named Noëlle Lebebvre. The case bears no fruit, but thirty years later, despite having abandoned that line of work, Jean can’t stop thinking about random moments associated with it. He decides to write down the facts as he remembers them, and that’s what constitutes the novel. At first, Jean sets down a rather straightforward account. He remembers scoping out a café in Noëlle’s old neighborhood. There he meets Gérard Mourade, an aspiring actor, who knew Noëlle, and might have had designs on her husband.
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Husband? Jean wonders. That wasn’t on the cheat sheet. Jean pretends to be an old friend of Noëlle’s, and convinces Gérard to join his search. They head to Noëlle’s apartment (Gérard has a key), and while Gérard interrogates the neighbors, Jean finds a datebook with Noëlle’s handwriting, which he steals. Many of the entries are empty, but years later, he continues to pour over them, as if he’ll uncover some new information. “‘If I had known…’” begins one abandoned entry. Jean becomes infatuated with the vanished Noëlle, drawn to the “vagueness and uncertainty” surrounding her. Her absence becomes mixed up with the passage of time and the passing of his youth. “I felt like an amnesiac who has been handed a very detailed route that he has to follow in a place that was once familiar. The name of a village alone might suddenly call up his entire past,” Jean writes. Fragments of memory seem to be invested with more detail and meaning the farther Jean moves away from them in time. Reflecting on that first conversation with Gérard decades earlier, Jean seems to locate himself in the memory, gradually becoming aware that there were “the shouts of children coming home from the school next door— children who by now would be middle-aged.” It “belonged to an eternal present,” Jean reflects. The people remain strangers; the moments, fleeting. Yet they constitute the whole of the novel, and the recovered memories seem precious, and potent with meaning. By setting them down, Jean seems to be uncovering some mystery central to himself: “It’s as if all this was already written in invisible ink.” Like a metaphysical detective novel, Invisible Ink is concerned with memory, time, forgetting, and remembering. Modiano is all about mood. There is no one more masterful at evoking vintage Paris, as if uncorking a bottle right under your nose that triggers the sensory picture of it: rainy days and uneven sidewalks, the sounds of mopeds, a cup being set in its saucer, flat leather shoes striking the pavement. His writing conveys a tremendous depth, and mystery. It demonstrates an obsession with the past, without eulogizing it—it conveys only the constant surprise of it slipping through our fingers. “And sometimes, on waking, or very late at night, the memory of a sentence returns from the past, but you don’t know who whispered it,” Jean writes, yet who is this “you” of whom he speaks? It’s the character Jean writing, yet it’s somehow Modiano I hear. And it’s like he’s addressing the two parts of ourselves: the one to whom things happen, and the one who observes them happening—our first and perhaps only lifelong companion. Modiano’s genius is connected to the way he suggests this deeper meaning of things in a way that forces readers to contend with the subject ourselves. In the book’s final chapters, a different character
The author Patrick Modiano
takes over the narration. It’s a jarring tonal shift, like a piece of music suddenly played in a new key by a different instrument. Life, Modiano seems to say, is full of these twists. Drawn to mysteries, he demonstrates a constitutional aversion to open-and-shut cases. “I’m afraid that once you have all the answers, your life closes in on you like a trap, with the clank of the keys in a prison cell. Wouldn’t it be better to leave empty lots around you, into which you can escape?” By pressing these kinds of existential questions into our psyches, Invisible Ink leaves its indelible mark.
“I felt like an amnesiac who has been handed a very detailed route that he has to follow in a place that was once familiar."
January 2021, Page 19
Holding up the building POLITICS BY HOWARD GRAUBARD
t is generally believed that Henry Kissinger, a man Republicans were happy to refer to as “Doctor,” even though he lacked any sort of medical degree, was responsible for the quote “Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” It’s such a great line, better even than his more famous “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac,” that one can almost forgive his being a war criminal. Anyway, the quote seems prescient in describing the latest goings on at the Kings County Democratic Committee, even though the only Academy the Kings County Dems belong to is that of the overrated. At this point, what’s left of the Party is a shell of its former self, divided and at war, nearly bankrupt, and rumored to be abandoning its office at 26 Court to take refuge inside of the suite of a law firm, Abrams Fensterman, which both cynics and some thoughtful observers consider the Party, such as it is, to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of. What’s left of the Party these days is little more than a shell existing more as a function of law than as a functional body, with little influence left behind its role in selecting Supreme Court Judges, Board of Elections personal, and its role in nominating candidates in certain special elections.
When legendary Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito was asked how much power he had, he used to respond “how much do you think I have?” These days, most people believe that the Brooklyn Democratic Leader has no power at all, and if one doesn’t believe in fairies, then Tinkerbelle won’t fly. And yet, with the County Organization a near irrelevancy as three longtime Assemblymembers lost their primaries to socialists, the battles to control this hollow shell has turned into endless litigation (full disclosure: I have been a not-infrequent legal advisor to the attorney for the rebel New Kings Democrats) and 12 hour-plus battles of endurance. The roots of this war are a totally different understanding of the purpose of the Party. What exactly is the function of a Party organization? The traditional view is that the Party has several functions. First, it allegedly tries to win general elections. I say “allegedly,” because for many decades in Brooklyn, it often seemed that a lot of local Democratic leaders regarded general election days as a vacation period. Moreover, they seemed to regard certain turf as belonging to the GOP, and some even considered it bad form and bad business to challenge them in their turf— after all, if we didn’t have a Republican Senator, who would carry our local bills in the Republican Senate?
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THE PARTY’S OVER By contrast, the Party has been far more aggressive in taking sides in internal party races, though this is not unique to Brooklyn. Party organizations throughout the country have always taken official roles in endorsing candidates for Party nominations. This is what parties do, and party organizations, which consist of the duly elected local leadership of the party, certainly have an argument that they
"What’s left of the Party is a shell of its former self, divided and at war, nearly bankrupt, and rumored to be abandoning its office at 26 Court to take refuge inside of the suite of a law firm, Abrams Fensterman." have a right to do this. Those who disagreed were often inconsistent—some of the same people who had been complaining that the Party failed to recruit strong candidates against former State Senator Marty Golden, were heard complaining loudly when the Party actually did so. Perhaps most notably, party organizations serve as middlemen, lining up votes by elected officials, especially, but not exclusively, during leadership battles, and lining up jobs for supporters. The latter role has diminished. The rise of the Civil Service and public employee unions and the coming New Deal and Great Society, as portrayed in the novel, “The Last Hurrah,” by Edwin O’Connor, has largely eliminated the clubhouse as the place people go for subsistence charity, free legal services and entry level employ-
ment. In NYC, changes in local laws have further diminished the power of the “machine,” which today has far less sway, even in its last stronghold, the courthouses. In all these functions, the role of the County Leader was a lot like that of Paul Sorvino in “Goodfellas.” When the organization was in a non-war setting, local crews were allowed a great deal of autonomy, paid the boss his tribute and came to him to settle disputes. An effective leader kept the peace and divided up the pieces and was usually allowed a second helping for his troubles. In opposition to this view, but, in reality, not so much, was the traditional “Reform” movement. They wanted a less transactional and more transparent party, and they were generally more liberal, but ultimately, they were looking more to cleanse the party’s structure than to change its concept. Most notably, the old-line reformers were looking for the Party to leave elected officials to do the work of governance, and not to be subject to the dictates of the Party organization. In recent years, though, a new “reform” movement has grown up in Brooklyn and elsewhere, which seems more intent on remodeling the party as a grass roots driven from the precinct level organization. Much of this movement is driven by left ideology, and many of its adherents openly seek to use the Party organization to corral its elected official into supporting what it deems to be “progressive” policy. Or, in other words, to subject the electeds to the dictates of the Party organization. In Brooklyn, the primary group embracing this view is known as New Kings Democrats (NKD). Now, NKD is not the only group on Brooklyn’s Democratic left, and it is arguably less significant in winning elections than the local Democratic Socialist of America (DSA), which whose membership it has a large overlap, but DSA, largely, and not without evidence, disdains the Party organization as irrelevant to its concerns, while NKD places changing the Party organization as its central concern. NKD originally arose inspired in part by campaigns like Howard Dean’s, Barak Obama’s and Bernie Sanders (whose most vociferous backers are likely to vilify Dean and Obama). But mostly, NKD rose in response to a dictatorial County Leader named Vito Lopez. By the time of his fall, in his grab to hold all power and brook no dissent, Lopez was studiously trying to leave no corner of the County without an enemy, but no rival to him emerged. But Vito’s advantage was also his problem, everyone feared him, but no one loved him—and the minute anything emerged which wiped away
the fear, he had no friends left. The minute the Lopez sex harassment scandal emerged, the terminal cynics who backed him were rushing to the microphone so fast to call for his removal that the Reformers who been doing so for years nearly got crushed in the stampede. Which left us with Frank Seddio. Seddio preferred being loved than feared, and could not understand why he was neither. Vito used to stand in the way of meaningless reform proposals out of pure spite. Frank figured out how to adopt such proposals and adapt them as his own. A significant number of reform proposals made during his tenure were adopted, albeit some times in altered from. Seddio’s problem with the young reformers was that he heard their words but often missed the underlying music. When it came to the young reformers, Frank was, in many ways, tone deaf. When NKD’s Brandon West said he wanted a real election for party positions, Frank answered “how many slots do you want?” Instead of saying “we Democrats believe in the right things, so it’s important that government jobs go to those who share our beliefs and will implement our policies,” Frank said “What’s wrong with patronage?” Sadly, he did not seem to be able to convey that those two sentences essentially meant the same thing in actual practice. And yet, Seddio was mostly backed in his leadership by the longtime reformers who had actually achieved elected office and wanted to accomplish actual goals. He was also seemingly the first Brooklyn Leader in most of our lifetimes to actively seek to beat the Republicans in turf which others have ceded to them without a fight. But there were some real substantive issues with Frank’s leadership. His conduct during the process to fill Dan Squadron’s Senate vacancy, which was to prevent the individual members of Brooklyn’s County Committee from having any vote in the process, and to connive with Manhattan Leader Keith Wright to give the seat to a candidate who’d gotten 28% of the vote at the Manhattan meeting, was seen as indefensible, largely because it was. Seddio’s indifference, if that is what it was, to the manner in which his underlings obtained proxies for his last County Committee organizational meeting allowed the process to go from hardball to foul ball and resulted in a meeting doomed from the start to be a zoo. His efforts to modernize the Party’s tech savviness were mixed, and it sometimes seemed as if Frank’s iPhone had a rotary dial. Seddio’s problems with NKD intensified with the death of District Leader Lew
(continued on page 16) January 2021