January 4, 2023

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CITY TO RESTORE PAIR OF DOWNTOWN BUILDINGS PAGE 3 A HOLIDAY EVICTION PAGE 4 COMMUNITY RECOVERY FUND GRANTS APPROVED PAGE 5 JUSTICE PREVAILS PAGE 7 BEWARE OF THE HOLIDAY ICK! PAGE 10 A Year in Review 2022 A Collection of Memorable Moments from the Past Twelve Months PAGE 8 FREE / J anua R y 4, 2023 / V olum E X l III, n umb ER 19 / Our 50th Year Online @ ITHACA.COM
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Restore NY Grants Provide $1.5 million for Downtown Housing Project

By Matt Dougherty

The initiative, otherwise known as “Restore NY” provides cities and towns with financial assistance to aid in the revitalization of commercial and residential properties. Through the program, New York State is seeking to eliminate “blighted structures” as a way to encourage “community development and neighborhood growth.”

On December 20, it was announced that the city would be receiving the grant to assist in the revitalization of the pair of historic buildings at 115-121 and 123 South Cayuga Street. The buildings were constructed in 1898 and 1916. As a result of their historic status they must be renovated without damaging their historic character.

lans to convert two mostly vacant buildings Downtown next to City Hall into new housing units are moving forward after the City of Ithaca announced that it received a $1.5 million grant from New York State as part of the Restore New York Communities Initiative.The City of Ithaca will be receiving the grant to assist in the revitalization of a pair of historic buildings near City Hall. (Photo By: Google Maps)

The buildings have been home to vacant office space for years and renovation plans for the buildings suggest that they will be converted to have an estimated 16 new apartments on the upper floors. Renovations will also include installation of an elevator; window, canopy, and facade; and conversion to electric heating and cooling. Additionally, the current ground-level retail space

Ithaca Households Spend 8.4% More than National Average on Common Household Bills

By Matt Dougherty

loans, utilities, car insurance, cable and internet, health insurance, mobile phone, security systems and life insurance.

he cost of living is constantly rising and according to a recent report by Doxo, an online third party bill paying company, the average household in Ithaca spends roughly $2,170 a month for the ten most common household bills. This report covered the ten most common household bills: mortgage, rent, carSome of the most common household bills in Ithaca are paid to New York State Electric & Gas, Tolls by Mail NY, Pay By Plate (MA), Casella Waste, and Five Star Bank (NY).

The national average for monthly cost of the most common household bills is

will be renovated to make space for a new Restaurant.

While the $1.5 Million is a sum of money that is welcomed by City Hall, it is not the full amount that was requested by the Common Council in the fall. For example, during a Planning and Economic Development meeting on September 21, the city requested a $2 Million grant to pay for part of the $9 Million project.

$2,003 so the average household in Ithaca is spending 8.4% more than the national average. However, at $2,170 it is still lower than the New York State average of $2,361.

On a nationwide scale, Ithaca ranks 1,551 out of 4,276 when it comes to average monthly household bill costs. On a statewide scale, Ithaca ranks 169 out of 245.

According to the report, the average household bill costs for surrounding areas are considerably lower than Ithaca. For example, households in Horseheads spend $1,664 a month, households in Cortland spend $1,595 a month, and households in Endicott spend $1,561 a month.

Free Holiday Tree Drop-off at the Recycling and Solid Waste Center

Holiday trees can be dropped at the Recycling and Solid Waste Center (RSWC) from December 27, 2022, through January 31, 2023, at no cost. No permit is required. The RSWC is located at 160 Commercial Ave in Ithaca, New York, and is open Monday through Saturday from 7:00am-3:30pm. All decorations, lights,

and any objects must be removed from trees prior to drop off. Synthetic trees will not be accepted.

Please stop at the Scale House upon arrival at the RSWC to get a Holiday Tree Recycling Ticket. Hand this ticket to the attendant on duty at the Yard Waste Area before unloading a tree.

Trees that are dropped off will be transported to Cayuga Compost for recycling. Happy Holidays.

Contact: Tompkins County Recycling & Materials Management www.recycletompkins.org 607-273-6632

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IN UIRING PHOTOGR PHER Q A

An Eviction Before the Holidays

On December 19, just six days before Christmas Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland County sent the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department to evict the residents of 417 S. Aurora Street.

Ithaca residents Kathy Majors and Jim Lukasavage have called the property on the slopes of South Hill their home for years. Kathy was married to the property’s previous owner, Richard Majors Sr. When Richard Sr. died in 2009 ownership was transferred to his adult children Doi and Richard Jr.

Kathy made an agreement with Doi and Richard Jr. in 2009 that allowed them to stay on the property as long as they made monthly payments to Doi and her brother. However, Doi recently told the Ithaca Times that she hasn’t received a payment from Kathy for over a decade.

Since nobody was making payments on the property, it was foreclosed on in June 2021 by the City of Ithaca and sold to Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland County in August of the same year. The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity has been attempting to evict the residents since August, but the Ithaca Tenants Union has been able to delay the eviction for the last four months after arguing

in court that the foreclosure process was improperly conducted.

The Executive Director for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, SHannon MacCarrick has said that “foreclosure notices were properly sent by the City of Ithaca” but the Tenants Union has said that “the necessary notifications were not sent to the correct addresses.”

This month’s long battle came to an abrupt end when Habitat for Humanity sent the sheriff to evict the property’s residents while they were away from the site. According to a tweet from the Ithaca Tenants Union, “Kathy was on a walk when the Sheriffs changed the locks. When Kathy returned home, not knowing what happened, Habitat for Humanity’s Executive Director, Shannon Maccarrick, had her arrested for trespassing.”

As the residents were being evicted, weather reports were warning individuals to shelter in place as winter storm Elliot approached with blizzard-like conditions and temperatures as cold as eight degrees Fahrenheit.

Over the last number of weeks, the Ithaca Tenants Union helped organize a GoFundMe to support Kathy that has raised about $8,722. The Tenants Union is not an incorporated organization with a bank account, so the funds raised went entirely to Kathy and her family.

Even though more than $8K was raised to support Kathy, Ithaca Tenants Union member Genevieve Rand told The Ithaca Times, “They can’t just take the money and get a new apartment because it’s really hard to find an affordable apartment in Ithaca.”

Rand continued saying that it’s even more difficult to access new housing if you already have a previous eviction on record, if you have trouble speaking English, or are disabled.

Even though the GoFundMe campaign pushed by the Tenants Union has been able to raise the equivalent of a few months worth of rent for Kathy and her family, it is nearly impossible for them to access housing because voucher programs are difficult to qualify for and landlords have a tendency not to rent to individuals who have an eviction on record and lack consistent employment.

According to a report by the Nolo Legal Encyclopedia, landlords can reject prospective tenants for almost any reason “as long as they don’t discriminate.” For example, a landlord can reject a rental application if the applicant has poor credit history, insufficient income, a criminal conviction, or a prior eviction lawsuit — even one that you won.

As a result of the city’s housing policy the Ithaca Tenants Union has said, “Kathy and her family are safe, but it may be months before they are able to find a new home.”

4 T he I T haca T I mes / J anuary 4–10, 2023 N ewsline
“My
“Coming back from Boston to visit Ithaca.” –
“An
year.” – Eric A. “Fresh starts!” – Rosemary M. “More time outside.” – Kate M.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2023?
son’s wedding.”
David K.
Marty A.
election-less
The house at 417 South Aurora Street sits vacant six days before Christmas after the property’s residents were evicted by Habitat for Humanity and the Tompkins County Sheriffs Department on December 19, 2022. (Photo By: Randall Frank)

County Approves Grant Funding to Address Lasting Pandemic Impact

The Tompkins County Legislature has approved more than $6 million in one time grant funds to community organizations as part of the Community Recovery Fund program. Projects being funded through the program are aligned with the program’s priorities of addressing the immediate and continuing impacts of COVID-19. The grants were approved by a 12-1 vote, with Legislator Randy Brown (R-Newfield) as the only opposition.

The grant process began in September 2022 and considered more than $32 million in funding requests from over 200 local organizations. A committee of the Tompkins County Legislature reviewed grant applications and prepared a resolution for the full body, which passed on December 20.

In total, $6,535,344 was given to 54 organizations. A full list of recipients can be found on the Tompkins County website under the Community Recovery Fund section.

One final project is yet to be fully approved, the Legislature must review the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) results upon their completion for Second Wind Cottages prior to voting to approve the project that would total $510,000.

If approved, the project would expand the organization’s existing Newfield site with the intent to construct 25 temporary campsite shelters connected to municipal water and electricity with a shared service facility for bathrooms, showers, and laundry.

Even though final approval for the project is pending, the resolution to remove funding for Second Wind that was proposed by Legislator Randy Brown failed on a 5-8 vote. According to Brown, the Newfield Town Board has concerns with the idea of expanding services in the area. Brown’s motion failed but Legislators Sigler (R-Lansing), Dawson (D-Lansing), Shurtleff (R-Groton), and Lane (DDryden) voted in favor of Brown’s resolution to remove the funding.

According to Legislator Sigler, “it just doesn’t make sense” to have this housing located away from the City of Ithaca where there is a density of services. In response, Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Ithaca) spoke about the problem of homelessness being

one that is County-wide and that he feels it is the responsibility of the Legislature to take an incremental approach including this proposed project.

According to Legislator Mezey, “These are people, and an opportunity for people to have shelter and structure and some programming. Maybe taking a few people from Downtown Ithaca and moving them to Newfield … will be transformative for them.”

Regarding the debate around Second Wind expanding services in Newfield, Legislator Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) said, “We need housing in this community, period … there is room for this project … we have to put people in places that support them and help them on to a better life.”

Chairwoman of the Tompkins County Legislature Shawna Black stated, “I was in awe of the ideas and projects that came forward in the applications for this program. While I’m sorry that we will not be able to fund every applicant, I believe that the outcomes that we’ll see from the recipient projects will exceed our expectations.”

Black continued saying, “While our community has shown remarkable resilience throughout the pandemic, it’s clear that support is needed to aid in recovery – this program is making investments to help us achieve that.”

Legislator Dan Klein, who chaired the Community Recovery Grant committee of the Legislature said, “This grant fund will invest significant resources in the

areas of childcare and education, health and mental health care, housing and addressing homelessness, and workforce development, all of which will make a big impact on our community’s resilience and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Klein continued saying that he wanted to thank his colleagues on the Legislature for contributing to this process.

“We had a transparent and thorough review of applicants and made what I believe to be solid recommendations for funding. It’s very difficult to say no to organizations doing good work, but I want to thank everyone who applied – this was an important process for your Legislature to go through, helping us to further understand ongoing community needs ripe for investment,” said Klein.

The grants are being made from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds distributed to Tompkins County as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic relief and recovery efforts.

A total of $19.8 million was distributed to Tompkins County and has been designated for infrastructure investments, Language Access programming, Reimagining Public Safety initiatives, direct community investments, and growing the County’s organizational capacity.

In November, Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black detailed the County’s use of ARPA funds as part of a National Association of Counties panel discussion, which can be viewed online.

UPS DOWNS&

Ups

The yearly national average price of gas in 2023 is forecast to drop nearly 50 cents per gallon from that of 2022 to $3.49, according to a 2023 Fuel Outlook released by GasBuddy.

Downs

On December 28, 2022 at about 5:45 pm, Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to Milton Meadows Apartments on Robins Way in the Town of Lansing for a reported shooting incident. Upon arrival deputies located a male victim who had suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. The victim was transported to a trauma center for treatment and later released.

HEARD SEEN&

Heard

Gunnar Madison, Senior Program Director at the YMCA of Ithaca and Tompkins County, has been named to the YMCA of the USA’s “30 Under 30” list of accomplished YMCA leaders out of hundreds of nominations from across the country.

Seen

On December 25 around 6:15 p.m. the Ithaca Police Department responded to a burglary in process on the 300 block of West Seneca Street. Officers entered the residence and were able to hear a suspect inside. The suspect attempted to flee out a window but observed a Police Officer and went back into the residence where she was subsequently located and taken into custody without incident.

IF YOU CARE TO RESPOND to something in this column, or suggest your own praise or blame, write news@ithacatimes. com, with a subject head “U&D.”

J anuary 4–10, 2023 / T he I T haca T I mes 5 N ewsline
QUESTION OF THE WEEK What is your New Year’s Resolution? 5.9% Read More Books. 23.5% Exercise Regularly. 70.6% Stress Less. N ext W eek ’s Q uestio N : Who’s ready for Spring? Visit ithaca.com to submit your response.
Tompkins County Legislature approves Community Recovery Fund Grants to assist local organizations in their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo Provided)

Former Long-time Ithaca Times Staffer Passes

When a new advertising sales rep joined the staff at the Ithaca Times in the late 1990s, it was by no means unusual that he came from another town. What was unusual was that Tom Olson seemed to come from another time.

Prior to his long stint as the Ithaca Times’ grind-it-out sales rep, Tom worked the media market in the Syracuse area. He showed up looking sharp in his sport coats and shiny shoes, his briefcase was well-organized, and his trench coats and hats made him look like he stepped out of a 1960s Central Casting call.

Tom knew that sales is a numbers game, and he was never one to wait for the phone to ring. He made the calls, he canvassed for new advertisers, he diligently filled out his call sheets and sales reports. He did his homework, he did the networking events, and he was often at the office long after everyone else had gone home.

Local advertising sales professional Bill White (Northview Marketing), had this to say about Tom: “I admired his old school approach in the way he dressed. He had class and character and took the game seriously. I’m sure that went a long way with his advertisers. With him goes some of a lost art - that of showing up with a handshake and a smile in that khaki sport coat and hat.”

Tom was also an accomplished blues guitarist, and he loved to busk on the Commons, at the Farmers Market and at various music festivals around the region. Again, Tom was a throwback, and the Delta Blues he coaxed out of his soulful slide guitar – coupled with his authentic vocal renditions - brought much joy to aficionados of the art form.

In 1999, I won a trip for two at a

Chamber of Commerce event, and I invited Tom to join me. He had always dreamed of visiting San Francisco, and I’ll never forget what a pilgrimage it was for him to busk at Haight-Ashbury, the Center of the Hippie Universe. Being aligned with the spirit of the 1960s put Tom squarely in his comfort zone, and while he seemed utterly content to play on that street corner for hours on end, I knew that if I didn’t bring him back, the Publisher would never forgive me. Tom relished his role of breathing life into his beloved field of print media, and we are all blessed to have worked with him.

The Talk at

LETTER

TO THE EDITOR

Shame on Cornell

Cornell should be ashamed of refusing to support TCAT’s underwriter funding increase. For years Cornell has refused to increase its contributions to the city in lieu of taxes based in part on the claim that they “give” by supporting TCAT! The double-speak is just disgraceful. If Cornell has any true commitment to sustainability and to the community that hosts their sprawling tax-exempt operations, they should not hesitate to pay their fair share of TCAT’s budget. TCAT is in danger of shrinking to the point that it is no longer a viable transportation option for many people who rely on it. I suspect many residents of this community share my disgust in Cornell’s imperious attitude toward us.

If TCAT Ran Efficiently…

Pre Pandemic I would see empty buses continuously on the weekends to Dryden & other places. If TCAT was run efficiently, these routes would have been cut, saving money and alleviating a driver shortage. You can not have subsidized busing rolling empty buses!

WalkerNY

The fact remains that good policing comes from ethical training by established police education units, and people with no background in law

enforcement will never be subject matter experts in designing a good community policing program. They may have valuable or not so valuable input but the grand design comes from best practices by communities where they have been successful. We already have knowledge of where this has worked and yet egos arise here and elsewhere resulting in a ‘I’ll just do it myself’ attitude, instead of adapting an already successful program, like Oregon’s Cahoots community policing program.

Response to City Proposal to Lower Speed Limits

Lower speeds means less throughput and more traffic. I heard it is a very difficult legal process to get speed limits lowered below 30mph. If they actually do this then I will avoid the low speed roads whenever possible. We already have too many slow drivers here; foreign students who’ve never driven much especially in snow, parents of students visiting, and people high on cannabis. I can’t wait to get out of this crazy town once my kids are grown.

2stabbings and not a single call to ban knives. Maybe you should defund the police completely and just post “Knife Free Zone” signs. Hey, if it stops just one stabbing ......

Sad news but 2 stabbings a year ain’t that bad, folks. These cops harassed me more than twice this year. Let’s change the police culture. We don’t need cops that complain at the city council meetings every month. We need a chief that meets in private with the mayor. Not these knuckleheads.

6 T he I T haca T I mes / J anuary 4–10, 2023 APPRECIATION
Tom Olson, long time Ithaca Time advertising representative was known for a ready smile, his hard work for his clients and his love of slide guitar.

Justice Prevails

Jack Reacher was a difficult man to describe. A drifter with a primal sense of justice? A modern knight-errant, not looking for trouble, but righting wrongs when they intruded in his existence? He’d been in Ithaca for two weeks, rather long for him but just long enough to learn where things were in the best grocery store in town. Earlier that day though, he was stunned to find that everything had been rearranged, apparently at random. It was a bewildering and disorienting turn of events, and it was small consolation that the resulting gridlock in the aisles meant that he was not alone in a now fruitless quest for basic staple grocery items. He was particularly haunted by the spectre of a distraught local newspaper columnist pushing an empty cart and clutching a crumpled list in his hand.

And so it was, that at 2:27 AM the very next morning Reacher found himself at the Weg mans compound at 1500 Brooks Avenue in Rochester. It had taken a full day of hitch-hiking to get there, but his outrage, if anything, had increased during the ride. Careful to avoid the 24/7 activity of the adjacent distribution center, he had maneuvered himself along the bushes lining the parking lot to the corporate headquarters side of the massive building. Security at corporate HQ, though impressive even by modern standards, was mere child’s play to a man of Reacher’s skills. Fourteen years as an investigator in the U.S. Army’s military police corps had given him both knowledge and an analytical frame of mind. Security cameras mis-directed, locks picked and motion sensors nimbly avoided, it took him less than four minutes to get from the outside to slipping quietly and undetected into the inner office of the Big

Cheese himself – Danny Wegman. Still, he knew that time was short. Someone would quickly figure out that something was amiss, and he’d have to act fast. By his own calculations he had at most two minutes to accomplish his goal. There was no time to waste.

He went immediately to the large desk in the center of the room, picked up a stapler and brought it to the window sill, secreting it behind a potted Madagascar dragon tree.

“Move the cereal aisle, will ya? Have fun stapling, Mr. Chairman,” he muttered.

A paper clip dispenser was next, relocated to the highest of four wall-mounted bookshelves.

“That’s for moving the paper products to where the beer used to be.”

The ensuing minute was a busy one, as scissors, a pad of post-it notes, a paper weight, a staple remover, a stress ball and a World’s Best Boss coffee mug were all tucked into new and random homes around the office. He was two numbers into re-programming the speed dial entries on the desk phone when he heard the creak of distant elevator doors opening.

With an agility astonishing in a man his size, he was out the door and invisible in the shadows of the corridor, just as the night security guard rounded the corner at the far end of the hall. He had done all he could.

Reacher was on his way out of the state on a Greyhound bus by daybreak, impelled by an impulse he himself would have been hard put to explain to his next destination, San Francisco, California - by sheer coincidence the corporate headquarters of Twitter, Inc...

ITHACA NOTES Against Loneliness

Befitting a college town, maybe, McGraw House in Ithaca is a residence for seniors that could be mistaken for a college dorm.

The attractive, modern-looking facility, opened in 1971, has 40 one-bedroom and 65 studio apartments. Each unit has its own bathroom, of course (the dorm comparison, no matter how laudatory, is thankfully limited) and kitchen. There is a dining room for prepared meals. The main floor has a spacious lounge. There’s a room with exercise equipment and space for other activities. There’s a laundry. There are gardens, including one on the roof with benches and fine views.

There are staffers for administration, security and maintenance, but not medical services. It’s not an assisted living facility.

Still, the facility fulfills a function that might be considered health-related, in providing company and community for its residents, thus combating loneliness.

Loneliness is increasingly recognized as a widespread social problem and health concern. As a risk factor for death, it is statistically comparable to smoking. Loneliness is correlated with increases in obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, substance use disorder, and suicidal thoughts.

In 2018 in the United Kingdom, a Commission on Loneliness led to the establishment of a bureau popularly known as the Ministry of Loneliness. In the U.S., Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called loneliness an “epidemic,” and in 2020 published a book called “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.”

Burgeoning factors in loneliness are myriad and, generally, not mysterious: a mobile society with far-flung families and, most drastically, elders on their own; the expansion of suburban and exurban living, with limited contact among neighbors, lengthy and disengaging commutes to jobs in locations far from home, and isolating private car trips required for all errands and activities outside the home; and time spent interacting with the internet rather than with other people directly, with online social media increasingly supplanting in-person social contact.

Research shows that around 4 million people in the U.S. commute to work 90 minutes or more each way. A Harvard political scientist specializing in such issues estimates that each 10 minute span of commuting leads to 10 percent fewer social interactions.

Isolation in the suburbs and exurbs is a particularly hard problem for elderly residents, but a potential threat for anyone, regardless of age.

A few years ago I submitted an application to McGraw House for my father, then in his 80s. For over 45 years he had been living in suburban New Jersey, after 41 years in Brooklyn. He was in relatively good health but fairly housebound by weakness in his breathing and balance. He was able to go out to shop about once a week, but that’s all. Not only were the logistics perilous, in terms of his food and other needs, but the people on his suburban street don’t know one another and rarely interact, so his contact with others was minimal.

At the beginning of the application process I was discussing my father’s situation with a relative. She is half his age but is retired, and where he was suburban, she is exurban.

I expressed to her my concern for my father’s well-being, not just physical but emotional.

“He’s a gregarious guy,” I said. “But the only person he talks to face-to-face in the course of a week is the supermarket cashier.”

“So?” she said. “What do you think I do?” Maybe misery loves company, but I didn’t want that company only - or at all - to be his.

Kurt Vonnegut, a son of Cornell (or stepson: he did not graduate) was a prolific writer and sagacious social critic. Years before issues of loneliness and social isolation became so entrenched and established, especially regarding the internet (Vonnegut died in 2007), he identified them with characteristic insight and aplomb, and offered a personal solution, or at least positive response, with customary simplicity and humor.

One day (Vonnegut writes), he told his wife he was going out to buy an envelope.

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SURROUNDED BY REALITY
Continued on Page 11

2022: A YEAR IN REVIEW

A look back at some of Ithaca’s biggest stories over the past 12 months.

That’s right, folks. We’ve made it through another year. Another year of political turmoil, another year of health scares (tripledemic anyone?) and another year of weather that somehow manages to be too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry at all times.

But it was also the most normal year we’ve had in a while. The streets were livelier, the parties were bigger and the hugs were tighter. While the threat of sickness hasn’t gone away, COVID vaccines have made people more comfortable with getting together, and entering the third year of a pandemic has given people more confidence in how to stay safe when doing so.

So, we find ourselves at the start of a new year once again. How lucky are we to get another chance to get it right? Reflect on your 2022, make your resolutions, create your vision boards and get ready to give it another go. And hey, at least Betty White didn’t die this year.

MAYOR SVANTE MYRICK RESIGNS

One of the biggest stories of the year came at the first Common Council meeting of 2022. Instead of giving his usual State of the City address, then-Mayor Svante Myrick tearfully announced he’d be stepping down from his position the following month. He added that then-Alderperson Laura Lewis would take over as acting mayor, and Alderperson Ducson Nguyen would be the alternate acting mayor.

Myrick left office in February as the city’s longest serving mayor, having spent

10 years in office. He left to become the executive director at People for the American Way, a “progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideas of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all.” He has since been promoted to president.

TENANTS’ RIGHTS

There was a lot of focus on legislation to protect tenants in 2022. No cause eviction continued to be a regular topic of discussion after legislation was introduced to the Planning and Economic Development Committee at the end of 2021.

The intent of the legislation was to guarantee a tenant’s right to be offered a lease renewal unless the landlord had good cause not to, in which case the landlord would have to take the tenant to eviction court

for a formal process. Good causes included things like failure to pay rent, violation of a reasonable obligation to their tenancy, use of the unit for illegal purposes, etc. However, concern over whether local municipalities actually had the jurisdiction to pass such a legislation is ultimately what killed the legislation.

However, an amendment to the city code regarding lease renewals did pass. This bill added a requirement that a reference must be made to the tenant’s right to accept or decline a waiver regarding the minimum waiting period to offer and sign a lease renewal. Previously, landlords could reference a city code number that would not be understood by most tenants. Additionally, the bill extended the minimum waiting period was increased from 60 days to 120 days to give tenants a better opportunity to assess their living situation before re-committing for another year.

MUSIC, THEATER AND FESTIVALS – OH MY!

After two summers of limited or no performances to enjoy, the summer of 2022 welcomed back live entertainment in a big way. Theaters including The Hangar, Kitchen Theatre, The Rev and Cortland Repertory had full schedules of musicals, plays and workshops.

Additionally, the festival slate pretty much returned to normal. Ithaca Festival, Mayfest, GrassRoots, Porchfest and Apple Harvest Festival were in full swing.

There were also Cornell Classical Concerts, Opera Ithaca shows and more gallery nights than you can imagine. It was good to see Ithaca able to get back to its artistic roots.

UNION TOWN

In classic Ithaca fashion, all three Starbucks in town voted to unionize in the spring, making it the first city in the country to have all its locations unionize. However, the celebrations were short lived as two months later Starbucks announced it was closing its Collegetown location. Employees, customers, community members and Common Council members alike expressed disbelief that the store wasn’t profitable and pointed to corporate union busting as the cause. A Starbucks spokesperson claimed there were attendance and staffing issues and said at the time they “open and close stores as a regular part of operations.”

Unsurprisingly, the alleged union busting did not go over well. Collegetown employees protested and promised they would continue fighting for the store. Later in the year, Common Council called on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate

8 T he I T haca T I mes / J anuary 4–10, 2023

the coffee chain’s “anti-union attacks on its own workers.”

The effort of the city and Starbucks union members did not go unnoticed, as the National Labor Relations Board did issue a complaint against Starbucks, noting it found merit in the employees’ claim that the store closure “was meant to dissuade workers from organizing.” The board added that Starbucks’ actions were illegal and that the company was ordered to reopen its Collegetown store.

As of now the store remains closed, but who knows what will happen in 2023.

REIMAGINING PUBLIC SAFETY HAS ITS UPS AND DOWNS

The Reimagining Public Safety initiative had an interesting year, to say the least. But let’s start with the positives.

The Community Justice Center (CJC) welcomed its first-ever director, with Monalita Smiley taking the helm. Her role is responsible for implementing the joint Reimagining Public Safety plans passed by the city and county back in 2021. Smiley joined the CJC with more than 20 years of leadership experience in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Most recently, she was the director of youth outreach at The Learning Web.

tiative announced its new name. Admittedly, the working group went with a safe choice — Department of Community Safety. (Yes, there were in fact votes for Safety McSafeFace.) The Department of Community Safety is proposed to be divided into the division of police and division of community solutions. The community solutions officers would be the unarmed unit, while the police would be the — you guessed it — police unit.

Reimagining Public Safety has sailed along pretty smoothly at the county level. However, things were a little more contentious in the city.

In the spring, Alderperson Cynthia Brock filed a formal complaint with the county’s ethics board asking them to look into the actions of Myrick during the Reimagining Public Safety process. Her primary complaints included: promise of payment to the task force co-leads without council approval; soliciting funds from outside sources to go toward task force members; the acceptance of Center for Policing Equity’s services pro bono without any assessment into qualifications or motives and without going through council; his overlapping times as both the mayor and a paid employee of his current organization.

The county ethics board agreed to investigate, and Acting Mayor Lewis said the city would also hire outside counsel to do an internal investigation. So far, we only know the results of the internal investigation. The report is long and thorough but can be summed up this way: no ethical violations were committed by City of Ithaca officials, but there were a slew of transparency issues and poor judgment from city government throughout the process. So…make of that what you will. The results from the county investigation are not yet available.

The investigations have certainly exposed cracks in City Hall and has created, at times, a contentious atmosphere in Common Council meetings. Most unfortunate of all, though, is the damper it has put on the Reimagining Public Safety process.

County Acting Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister. Indeed, the districts were heavily gerrymandered to favor Democrats, with Tompkins County in a strongly Democratic district with Cortland and Syracuse. A court-appointed special master was then tasked with redrawing the state’s Senate and Congressional districts. Ultimately, the entire process took so long the primary election was pushed off by nearly two months.

The City of Ithaca and Tompkins County also went through local redistricting processes. They both got it right the first time. Just saying.

STAFFING SHAKE-UPS

There was a lot of turnover at City Hall in 2022, as the city saw the resignations or retirement of several prominent employees. Of course, Myrick resigned in January, making way for a new mayor. But that was just the start.

Longtime Planning Director JoAnn Cornish retired after 13 years leading the Planning Department. From the redesign of the Commons to the controversial decision to bring big box stores to the southwest end, Cornish was a big-time player in nearly all of Ithaca’s major developments since she started working for the city in the ‘90s. Lisa Nicholas took over Cornish’s role.

Chief of Staff Faith Vavra resigned in the fall after about a year with the city. Her reasoning was that once Lewis was elected mayor officially, she should have the freedom to choose her own chief of staff. Lewis was elected in November to finish out the final year of Myrick’s term and she has hired former Alderperson Deb Mohlenhoff to replace Vavra in 2023.

At about the same time, Director of Sustainability Luis Aguirre-Torres also resigned. His resignation seemed to come from a more troubling place. Since his resignation he has been vocal about the resistance he faced inside City Hall, and even said he experienced microaggressions from some employees. He has since spoken out against both Lewis and City Attorney Ari Lavine. Aguirre-Torres was leading the charged on the Green New Deal and had begun a program to electrify all buildings in the city. He has not yet been replaced.

The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office also made some strides by implementing unarmed responders. Two sheriff’s clerks were hired in June to provide an opportunity for unarmed responses within the sheriff’s law enforcement. It also frees up deputies to respond to emergency calls, complete investigations and build community relationships. The clerks handle calls relating to car vs. deer, traffic issues/complaints, property complaints, vacant property check requests, fraud/telephone scams, larceny/ thefts and noise complaints. The clerk positions are strictly administrative, and the employees do not respond in the field.

A major milestone was hit when the city side of the Reimagining Public Safety ini-

REDISTRICTING (OVER AND OVER AND OVER)

In case you forgot, 2022 was the year Tompkins County was part of three different Congressional and State Senate districts. What a feat. The state’s redistricting process was anything but smooth. First, the independent/bipartisan committee couldn’t agree on maps, so two different ones were presented. The Democratic State Legislature of course supported the one made by the Democrats on the committee. (Honestly, who didn’t see this happening?)

Republicans then accused the Democrats of gerrymandering the districts, which were ruled unconstitutional by Steuben

POLICE CHIEF CONUNDRUM

When former police chief Dennis Nayor retired in the spring of 2021, Deputy Chief John Joly took over as Acting Police Chief, a position he has held ever since. After mentioning it here and there, a search for a new police chief finally got underway in earnest over the summer in 2022. The final three contestants, who answered public questions at a community forum, were Joly, retired Ithaca police lieutenant Scott Garin, and Binghamton Police Department captain Chris Bracco.

What happened next was…not great.

Lewis added a resolution to the December Common Council meeting to recommend Joly be appointed police chief permanently. This in itself was a little puzzling, as Common Council has been adamant over the past two years that change was needed at the highest levels in the police department. That was not necessarily a reflection

J anuary 4–10, 2023 / T he I T haca T I mes 9
Continued on Page 12

Health Tips for RSV, Flu and Covid-19

Beware of the ick! According to a report by MVP Healthcare, a not-for-profit organization that provides care for more than 700,000 members across New York and Vermont, cases of RSV, Flu and the all too well known COVID-19 have increased as a result of holiday travel.

As these illnesses are increasing, supply chain shortages are resulting in pharmacies limiting the sale of children's pain and fever medicine according to a recent report by Bloomberg. According to the report, the nation's two largest pharmacy chains — CVS and Walgreens — “are limiting purchases of children’s pain-relief medicines amid constrained supplies and high demand.”

CVS is restricting their pharmacy customers to just two products for in-store and online purchases, while Walgreens is limiting online orders to just six products without setting a limit for in-store purchases.

FLU TIPS

How can you tell if it’s a cold, flu, or COVID? That seems to be a go to question in the pandemic era. Thankfully, Dr. Navarette has some recommendations to help narrow down the diagnosis to whatever illness ailes you.

According to Dr. Navarette, RSV, the flu and COVID-19 have very similar symptoms, which can make it challenging to determine which you’re infected with. However, “losing the sense of taste or smell is unique to COVID-19, and typi-

cally a wheezing cough is associated with RSV,” said Dr. Navarette.

Dr. Navarette continued saying, “The best and most effective way to tell the difference is to get tested for each virus. If you have questions or concerns, call your primary care physician or health plan for additional guidance.”

RSV TIPS

The Respiratory Syncytial Virus infection (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that causes mild cold-like symptoms but can be severe for infants and the elderly. In the United States, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than one year old.

If you or someone you know thinks they have contracted RSV, the Medical Director at MVP Health Care, Dr. Kristen Navarette has said to look out for common symptoms that include “runny nose, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, fever and a decrease in appetite.”

Dr. Navarette continued saying that “In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties.”

According to Dr. Navarette, there is no specific treatment for RSV infection, but most infections go away on their own in a week or two.

“Until the RSV infection resolves, you can relieve symptoms at home by making sure to get plenty of rest, drink enough fluids and manage fever and pain with over the counter fever reducers and pain

Reported cases of RSV, Flu, and COVID-19 have increased as a result of holiday travel. (Photo Provided)

ment will depend on symptoms, age, and general health, but it may include IV fluids and supporting their breathing using oxygen and suctioning of mucus.

Additionally, If you have contact with infants or young children, you should take extra precautions to keep them healthy, including washing hands often, avoiding close contact with sick people, and covering coughs and sneezes.

If you have symptoms, stay home from work, school, and public areas to help protect others from catching your illness.

According to Dr. Navarette, “Symptoms usually appear in stages and can appear within four to six days and should resolve within seven to 10 days.”

She continued saying that if symptoms are worsening or “new symptoms continue to appear such as not drinking

10 T he I T haca T I mes / J anuary 4–10, 2023 Personal Health
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Franco’s Teammate You Might Not Know

When Pittsburgh Steelers icon Franco Harris passed on last week, the football world took notice. Harris was a member of four Super Bowl-winning teams, he was made immortal by the “Immaculate Reception,” and he was on the Penn State's most revered alums.

Local football fans might be aware that one of Harris's Penn State teammates also passed on last week, and while Gary Deuel was not as recognizable on a national scale, he was a big deal a few miles down the road.

“Deuelie” was a three-sport star at Owego Free Academy (class of '67), and I recall how excited my dad and his gang of former OFA players were when going to watch Gary play. I tagged along, and while I was just entering Junior High School when Deuel was a senior, I could see why everyone was so excited. Whenever Deuel got his hands on the ball, the excitement level of the crowd paralleled the sense of dread experienced by the opposing defense. Deuelie was smooth, he was fast and he ran around and through defenders. He had that elite running back ability to make opponents miss, and when it was announced that he would play for the brash young Joe Paterno in State College, the town was proud.

Gary would be a three-year letterman at Penn State, but he learned – like many small-town superstars – that when one plays in the same backfield with guys like Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell, one's carries are likely to be limited. He scored his share of touchdowns, made his share of highlight films, and took his Business degree out into the world. That Business

ITHACA NOTES

He’d done the same thing earlier that week.

She asked, “Why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet?”

He continues: “And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope.

degree would ultimately be underutilized, as Gary followed his high school coach, Dick Wheaton, to SUNY Cortland (where Wheaton was an assistant coach) to pursue a Master's in Physical Education. Gary fell in love with the head football coach's daughter, married Shelly Robinson, and had three children. He would go on to coach at Greene and Chenango Valley, retiring a few years ago and enjoying his induction into numerous Halls of Fame.

Bill Bryant – a standout athlete at OFA and the retired Ithaca City School District Athletic Director – has very clear memories of Deuel's time at OFA. Bill told me, “My brother, Tom, played on the same varsity team with Gary and they were best friends.” (Tom would follow Gary to Penn State.) Bill - who played at Ithaca College and very nearly made an NFL roster- continued, “I remember watching Gary play – he was a tremendous athlete, he was 'Mr. Everything' in three sports. More importantly, he was a man of integrity who had a great career as an educator and a coach. Without question, Gary inspired me immensely, and he and my brother were my biggest influences.” Bryant smiled when he added, “Despite the fact that Gary had such a great football career, it stated in his obituary that his favorite moments involved coaching his sons in Pee Wee football.”

● ● ●

And now, from Bill Bryant to Jane Bryant, Bill's wife. I would like to congratulate Jane on her retirement from the Ithaca City School District after a long and very dedicated career. The Athletic Department will be hard-pressed to fill the void that will be created by Jane's retirement, and

“I meet a lot of people … a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, I don’t know.

“The moral of the story is, we’re here on earth to f[ool] around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that.”

As another farsighted writer, E.M. Forster, wrote in a different context and era (in “Howards End,” in 1910), but enduringly: “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon … Live in fragments no longer.”

hundreds of students will be forever grateful for her guidance and support.

● ● ●

I'm really looking forward to watching Cornell's men's hoops team this season. The Big Red put together a very solid 10-3 non-conference record (the third most non-league wins in program history) before the break, despite losing four of five starters. The team's three losses came to some very legitimate programs, as Cornell lost by a single bucket to Boston College and Miami, and gave Syracuse all it could handle for much of the game.

Head Coach Brian Earl is really coming into his own, having been named the Ivy League Coach of the Year last season, and the Big Red will look to senior captain Greg Dolan for leadership and on-court

production. Eyes will also be on Sophomore Nazir Williams, who is second on the team in scoring with12.7 points per game, and has reached double figures 12 times in 13 games. The Big Red's first home game will be on Friday, January 6th at 7 pm.

J anuary 4–10, 2023 / T he I T haca T I mes 11
continued
Sports
from page 7
Jack Ham, Gary Deuel and Franco Harris at a Penn State reunion.

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2022: A YEAR IN REVIEW

of Joly specifically, but of the culture of the police department over decades.

Members of Common Council subsequently put out an open letter, asserting in no uncertain terms that they would not support Joly’s appointment. When it became clear she didn’t have the support of the majority of Common Council, Lewis revoked her recommendation prior to the meeting, rather than just letting the vote fail on the floor. Needless to say, Joly and the rest of the police department did not appreciate the public humiliation of the acting police chief.

The search for a chief is now supposed to start from scratch, so we’ll see how it goes.

COMMON COUNCIL VS. UNIONS VS. CITY ATTORNEY VS. MAYOR

During a lengthy public comment period at a November Common Council meeting, members of the public sector labor unions, including members from the Department of Public Works, Ithaca Police Department and Ithaca Fire Department, made their displeasure with wages and contract negotiations very clear.

City employees said worker benefits have been eroding over time while the negotiation process has created morale problems. There have been issues recruiting and retaining employees, which union members attribute be underpaid and overworked. It was clear that the workers did not feel respected and took particular issue with the city’s negotiating staff. Lavine, the city’s attorney, was pointed to by several workers as a major barrier to the city and its labor unions.

Lavine did not appreciate the accusations from city employees, maintaining that negotiations follow the goals set by the mayor’s office. He also went on nearly 15-minute tirade at a following meeting,

calling the previous meeting a mob attack on him, a surprising move for the usually quiet and reserved attorney. He also expressed his anger with Common Council and the mayor for what he saw as supporting the attacks against him.

Ultimately, Lavine recommended the city hire outside counsel to finalize contracts with its unions in 2023. Council approved $60,000 in December to go toward bringing a new attorney to the bargaining table. Union reps reiterated that they think the city should prioritize re-building relationships with employees through direct negotiations, ditching the lawyers all together.

So yeah. The last two months at Council have been awkward and messy.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Here are a few more stories worth a quick mention:

• Affordable housing remains elusive in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Nobody knows how to fix it.

• Shawna Black was elected the new chair of the Tompkins County Legislature for 2022.

• The city is exploring options for helping the houseless population in the Jungle. One of these ideas includes building permanent encampments on city land. Keep an eye out as this evolves.

• Legendary Cornell lacrosse coach Richie Moran passed away in 2022, leaving behind one heck of a legacy.

• GIAC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022! Half a century of community service is nothing to sneeze at.

• TCAT struggled with low staffing, parts shortages and mechanic shortages throughout the year, leading to reduced schedules.

• The first marijuana retail shop in Ithaca received a license in November. We don’t know much more about it at this point, but we’ll keep you updated.

• Ithaca College beat Cortland to win the Cortaca Jug at Yankee Stadium. Pretty cool!

12 T he I T haca T I mes / J anuary 4–10, 2023
continued from page 9
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Another Year In The Middle Of The Back Row

The Best Films of 2022

SUI GENERIS

My favorite film of 2022 was Daniels’ “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; it’s impossible to categorize. In a year where everyone is doing multiverses, this constantly shifting saga of an Asian woman (Michelle Yeoh) struggling to catch up on her taxes showed how to do it. We careen from antic comedy to aching tenderness; one minute is pure Hollywood glamour, and the next, everyone has sausage fingers. In addition to Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis gives the most astonishing and surprising performance in an astonishing and surprising classic.

ACTION

David Leitch’s “Bullet Train” is my kind of travelogue - an action projectile. Assassin Brad Pitt boards the title transport to pull off a simple snatch-and-run suitcase job. It’s 126 minutes of crazed killers with their own agendas -Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry and Zazie Beetz, among others - incalculable complications, comedy colliding

with blackly bloody violence, and an escaped poisonous snake, just to keep everyone on their toes.

ANIMATION

Richard Linklater’s “Apollo 10 ½ A Space Age Childhood”, made in the rotoscoped animation style of “Waking Life” (2001), is a sweet slice of American optimism, part look back at life in 1969 Houston in the shadow of the space program, and part kid’s astronaut fantasy. The stock NASA footage, newsreel material and scenes from Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) get the animated treatment. This feels like Linklater’s take on Woody Allen’s “Radio Days”.

a year of action, animation and adventure, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is an instant and surprising classic that defies categorization.

sive Talent”, in which Cage plays a pathetic, insecure version of “Nicolas Cage” for a quick payday at Pedro Pascal’s weekend birthday party. As great as Cage is here, the movie wouldn’t work without Pascal’s performance as the ultimate Nicolas Cage fan.

DOCUMENTARY

Like all the best Pixar films, Angus MacLane’s “Toy Story” spin-off “Lightyear” is a pleasure to watch, and appreciate all the nods to analog era science fiction. You can tell that the animators loved “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) as kids; there’s a wonderful sequence in which Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) tracks relationships and families growing by leaping farther and farther forward in time, something I’ve never seen in any other sci-fi movie.

Produced over the course of three decades – one set took three years to build – Phil Tippett’s stop-motion masterpiece “Mad God” plays like a Ray Harryhausen tour of hell, or Hieronymus Bosch directing a particularly gnarly episode of “Robot Chicken”. Live-action actors like director Alex Cox feel like they’re being moved one frame at a time.

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is just flat-out adorable, the tale of a sentient shod shell (Jenny Slate) yearning to connect with the rest of the world and re-connect with her family. I can’t imagine how this film’s deceptively simple stop-motion animation was accomplished.

Based on a Japanese manga series, Shogo Sugitani’s antic anime feature “Pompo the Cinephile” depicts a world where movies are made by children. In anime, the hero uses weapons and martial arts to solve conflicts, but Gene, our nervous kid editor hero, uses editing software and a mouse to work his magic.

COMEDY

The more you know about Nicolas Cage’s filmography, the more you’ll dig Tom Gormican’s “The Unbearable Weight of Mas-

Starring Mel Brooks and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lisa Hurwitz’s “The Automat” tells a big American story: the Horn & Hardart restaurant chain that ruled the East coast for most of the 20th century. “Don’t tell my mother this, but I liked the ham and cheese sandwich there,” says Brooks.

I’ll watch Elvis Mitchell’s “Is That Black Enough For You?” again to compile a list of the 150+ films that Mitchell places in cinematic and cultural history, from the early cinematic equivalent of the Negro baseball leagues to the 1970’s “blaxploitation” wave that included Melvin Van Peebles’ “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” (1971) and Jack Hill’s “Foxy Brown” (1974), and more thoughtful fare like Martin Ritt’s “Sounder” (1972) and Joseph Manduke’s “Cornbread, Earl and Me” (1975).

Luca Ree’s “Django & Django” is a fascinating and informative doc about Italian filmmaker Sergio Corbucci, director of “Django” (1966), a critical inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” (2012).

DRAMA

Maria Schrader’s “She Said” dramatizes the chain of events that led to two New York Times reporters played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan breaking the story about Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein’s sexual crimes. Mulligan and Kazan feel like real reporters; by the time Mulligan finds herself being followed by an anonymous SUV, I was reminded of journalism classics like “All the President’s Men” (1976), “Spotlight” (2015) and “The Post” (2017).

& Entertainment

J anuary 4–10, 2023 / T he I T haca T I mes 13
Arts
Continued on Page 15
In Melvin Van Peebles’ “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” in Elvis Mitchell’s sweeping documentary “Is That Black Enough For You” which chronicles the transition from stereotype to creative control of black cinema.

The Worst Movies Of 2022

Rob Zombie’s “The Munsters” explains what never needed explaining: how the Munsters got from Transylvania to the USA, living at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Zombie is a comedic zero, slathering Zeuss’ irritating “comedy” score over every frame. When Grandpa (Daniel Roebuck) watches “Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1953) on TV, you’d rather watch Abbott and Costello. Who wouldn’t?

In Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters’ dismally gory “Evil Dead” rip-off “Studio 666”, the band decides to record their next record in a haunted house. No Foo can act, not even in a guilty pleasure way like The Ramones. Lou Costello perfected these moves in 1940.

I’m a huge fan of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (2017) and “Us” (2019), so it pains me to report that Peele’s alien landing epic “Nope” didn’t land with me. (Aside from 1956’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, alien invasion movies aren’t my bag, baby.) And seriously, what was up with the psycho sitcom chimp?

Stop this “Jurassic World Dominion”, I want to get off. There’s no meat left on these dinosaur carcasses. Once upon a time, Colin Trevorrow made the sweet, romantic “Safety Not Guaranteed” (2012), and now he’s spent nearly a decade propping up Spielberg’s 90’s theme park ride. Trouble is, he’s not Spielberg, so he shouldn’t be making Spielberg’s leftovers.

Every time I think Roland Emmerich couldn’t possibly make a goofier film, why,

he goes and makes “Moonfall”, in which the moon is the bad guy. “Moonfall” stars Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson as the world’s greatest astronauts, and Michael Peña as an obnoxious tycoon: three talented actors reduced to looking at tennis balls on sticks. Emmerich makes dopey disaster films hell-bent on burying, shredding and blowing up every American landmark. At the end, you may wonder why he hates the Chrysler building so much.

Talk about “Neeson Fatigue”: in Mark Williams’ by-the-numbers thriller “Blacklight”, Liam Neeson plays another government spook with a particular set of skills, but he’s lacking the one skill that would make us care about the 700th variation of “Taken”. The third act action set piece in the bad guy’s house might have been exciting if we had any sense of geography.

Ruben Fleischer’s “Uncharted” wants to be an Indiana Jones movie so badly, but it’s not even as good as “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008), and it never honors its own huge action set-pieces. Tom Holland plays an orphan thief who partners up with Mark Wahlberg to find Magellan’s gold fortune. Wahlberg is miscast here. He makes a convincing cop, soldier or porn star, but whenever he has to talk history and facts, he’s a sharp-dressed man reading cue cards.

In David Blue Garcia’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, hipsters travel to a ghostly Texas town to buy up cheap real estate, and end up killing Leatherface’s mama (Alice Krige of “Star Trek: First Contact”, sadly slumming here.). It’s every bit as gory as Tobe Hooper’s 1974 classic wasn’t, showing

off every nasty thing that a chainsaw can do to a human body. Guess what? It’s not as effective as Hooper’s film. Garcia’s movie pays lip service to millennials, Confederate flags and school shootings – anything to make this stuff “relevant”. It isn’t.

As a superhero movie, a vampire movie and a horror movie, Daniel Espinosa’s “Spiderman” spin-off “Morbius” is a triple fail. It really sucks. All the Marvel Morbius adventures I read as a kid were better than this movie, and the ten-year-old me could have suggested more apt casting for the title character than Jared Leto. (Basically, anyone else.) “Morbius” suffers from committee think and aimless reshooting; it even fudges its origin story. Vampire movies are all about genre rules, and this movie won’t play fairly. What is Morbius? What can he do? No one who created this movie has a clue.

Sam Raimi’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a manic mess.

I disagreed totally with the event that sets the plot in motion, and despite the many cool, outrageous sequences that Raimi and the MCU team have come up with, I never lost my reservations about the story, meaning I never bought Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) as the big bad, not for a second.

Did anyone working on the new “Firestarter” have any actual interest in Stephen King’s terrific 1980 sci-fi-conspiracy theory thriller novel? To say that Keith Thomas’ awful remake is “based” on the King novel is like saying the characters share the same names. We’re presented with a potentially rich, detailed world and story, yet the creative watchword seems to have been “Let’s get this over with.”

Like Mark Lester’s mediocre 1984 version starring Drew Barrymore, a whole lot of King’s story never gets tackled again. The final shot is a total “Huh?” moment.

14 T he I T haca T I mes / J anuary 4–10, 2023 Movies
What could go wrong? The gang returns to Jurassic Park with disastrous results. Could someone please yell “cut” to Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels? This Munsters prequel on their coming to America is scary-bad.

EPISODIC

The first two seasons of Amazon Prime’s “The Boys” are proof that there’s more than one way to skin a superhero show. In an alternate universe where superheroes are real and make merchandising deals and produce top-grossing movies and TV shows, cast and crew are doing things that Marvel and DC wouldn’t dream of doing. (I inhaled Season 2 in a day.)

Judd Apatow’s two-part HBO Max doc “George Carlin’s American Dream” was a revelation for this George Carlin fan. I especially appreciated part one, a treasure trove of TV clips from Carlin’s 60s “straight” career.

I knew a lot about the production of “The Godfather” (1972), but I learned more watching the Paramount + limited series “The Offer”. The series manages to evoke Francis Coppola’s 50-year-old mob epic without actually recreating a single scene; anchoring one of the best ensemble casts I’ve ever seen is Matthew Goode, uncanny as charismatic fallen studio head Robert Evans.

An audaciously adult TV spin-off from “The Suicide Squad”, the first season of James Gunn’s “Peacemaker” centers around John Cena’s hilarious yet oddly touching vigilante killer, Christopher Smith/Peacemaker, forced to work with Amanda Waller’s crew investigating parasitic butterfly-like aliens. This one’s not for kids.

FOREIGN

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Bigbug” is a sexy, funny French episode of “The Jetsons”. An antic, stylish black comedy about artificial intelligence run amuck, “Bigbug” gathers a houseful of bourgeoise twits in a futuristic home that goes technologically haywire. The production design, sets, costumes and special effects feel like a 1950’s sci-fi comedy. Throw in a lascivious suitor, an arrogant ex-husband, a daffy neighbor and a cloned dog, then let the machines and the air conditioning fail. Voila!

Joachim Trier’s romantic comedy “The Worst Person in the World” feels like the perfect fusion of Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman; told in twelve chapters with a prologue and epilogue, Julie (Renate Reinsve), a young woman is torn between a successful graphic novelist (Anders Danielsen Lie) and a sexy barista (Herbert Nordrum). it feels like a Norwegian “Annie Hall” with sweet, acerbic

scenes between lovers and friends, albeit one that can include a Bergman-esque narrator and some good old-fashioned magical realism.

HORROR

In a banner year for the genre, the prize for most diabolical plot goes to Zack Cregger’s “Barbarian”. I’ve seen hundreds of movies spun from seven basic stories, but I couldn’t get ahead of this movie to figure it out, nor can I remember the last time I felt so scared and tense in a movie theater. Notice that I haven’t said anything about the plot? Less said, the better.

Adapted and expanded from Joe Hill’s short story, Scott Derrickson’s “The Black Phone” is so emotionally rich that calling it a horror film feels reductive. Mason Thames plays a kid suffering from abuse at home and bullying at school who gets abducted by a serial killer called “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke doing creepy mask work and voice acting). Kudos to Derrickson for scoring a third-act section of the film to Pink Floyd’s “On the Run”.

Aided immeasurably by practical puppets and animatronics, Hanna Bergholm’s “Hatching” is a frosty Finnish fable about a young girl in the shadow of a domineering mother. The girl finds an egg in the woods and nurses it from a hideous

bird-creature into something much more dangerous.

I saw lots horror films about an isolated and frightened woman dealing with malevolent male forces (“Men”, “The Night House”), but Chloe Okuno’s “Watcher” was the stand-out. Maika Monroe (“It Follows”) stars as a young woman whose husband takes a job in Bucharest; she’s left on her own and becomes increasingly unnerved by a man who stares at her from the building across the street. Anchored by Monroe’s vulnerable performance, “Watcher” establishes its own rules and stays true to them.

Just like that, director Ti West and star Mia Goth have cooked up two-thirds of a cracking trilogy. In “X”, a group of filmmakers and performers travel to a remote Texas farmhouse circa 1979 to make a porno film. Things don’t go well for the film’s star (Goth) or the crew. Then in “Pearl”, Goth stars in a prequel set in 1917 as an ambitious and disturbed young woman desperate for stardom, an escape route from her stifling home life. The result is a 50s Technicolor nightmare.

SCIENCE FICTION

Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling” feels like a great unmade “Twilight Zone” episode, a warning shot about those who would make America great again by moving us backward instead of forward.

Florence Pugh and Harry Styles live with several other couples in a 50’s-style gated community. Everything is provided by their benefactor, the mysterious Frank (Chris Pine), provided that everyone stays put and stays loyal to Frank. Pugh disobeys the rules. Is Wilde’s perplexing film horror, science fiction or social comment? When it gets going, it feels like all three.

J anuary 4–10, 2023 / T he I T haca T I mes 15
2023 residencies for
apply by Jan. 15 THE BEST FILMS OF 2022 continued from page 13
Saltonstall
New York State artists and writers
“She Said” joins the pantheon of great journalism movies as it portrays the hunt for justice for the victims of Harvey Weinstein.