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Fixing One of Downtown’s Most

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THE CITY ADDRESS Speaker Christine Quinn talks jobs, homeless and housing in State of the City address (P6) AGORAFABULOUS! Sara Benincasa’s transformation from agoraphobe to comedian (P12) FAMILY CORNER The story behind J&R Jr. (P14)

DOT shows plan to turn Delancey from dangerous highway to neighborhood street. (P8)


DOWNTOWN SOCIAL Blondie’s Debby Harry lights up Downtown (P3)

downtown social

Heralding Fashion Week with Debbie Harry


hile Fashion Week may be coming to a close, we ought to recoxgnize the related events that thrilled the city the week before—specifically the pre-Fashion Week party hosted by Soho club W.i.P., which featured a performance from the legendary Debbie Harry of Blondie. The night began with Nick Zinner, guitarist for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and honorary DJ for the evening, whose set got veronica hoglund everyone in the room moving. Harry made it on stage a bit after midnight and performed a total of two songs, neither of which were her own, leaving before her adoring audience felt they had heard enough. Disappointing? Yes, not to mention confusing—but we savored the remainder of the evening just the same.

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� N E I G H BO R H O O D C HAT TE R LOWER MANHATTAN J&R JR. STORE OPENS Alliance for Downtown New York President Elizabeth Berger joined J&R Co-CEOs Joe and Rachelle Friedman and their son, J&R Executive Vice President Jason Friedman, to celebrate the launch of the new J&R Jr. store this Monday, Feb. 13. The new location, conceived of by Jason Friedman, is a 15,000-square-foot space catering to children up to 9 years old, with hundreds of items including GPS-equipped strollers, car seats and kid-friendly laptops and iPads. “Lower Manhattan is one of the world’s best-known business addresses an international tourism destination and family central,” said Berger. “For over 40 years, J&R has been one-stop shopping for the latest and best in consumer and electronic goods. With J&R Jr., J&R’s new baby and child emporium, workers, visitors and residents will have another great reason to shop in Lower Manhattan.” The new store goes hand in hand with a recent Downtown Alliance survey that demonstrated Lower Manhattan’s burgeoning population growth and transformation into a thriving, mixed-used neighborhood. Residents have continued to put down roots, and the survey found that 87 percent of residents believed that the quality of life in the area was a key reason for living in the area, with nearly half of residents owning their own apartments.

(For our feature story on Jason Friedman and J&R Jr., turn to page 14.) GREENWICH VILLAGE CELEBRATING 95 Edith O’Hara, who founded the 13th Street Repertory Company in 1972, celebrated her 95th birthday Feb. 15. To honor the theater icon, who still serves as its artistic director, friends, family and fans gathered on Sunday, Feb. 12 to celebrate her storied career. She has overseen hundreds of productions. Over the course of her career, O’Hara has been honored with awards by the City Council and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. O’Hara first became interested in theater while attending a one-room school in Idaho, where she saw the 5th grade present a play. Her theater produces the longest running Off-Broadway play, Line, by Israel Horovitz. CITYWIDE WELCOMING BENEFIT CORPORATIONS Fourteen businesses have joined with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Sen. Daniel Squadron in making New York the seventh state to allow public benefit corporations. The new legislation, signed in December, allows for a double bottom line of profit and social responsibility. Unlike traditional corporations, which are run by their boards and directors exclusively for the maximization of profit, public benefit corporations allows





From left to right: Susan Marenoff-Zausner, President of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, Julie Menin, Chair, Community Board 1, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Catherine McVay-Hughes, Vice Chair of CB 1, George Fertitta, CEO, NYC & Company, Jason Friedman and Rachelle Friedman at the opening of J&R Jr. on Feb. 13. Photo BY JAson ChiUsAno, AlliAnCE FoR Downtown nEw YoRk.

business leaders to pursue the public interest while still turning a profit. “Starting today, benefit corporations will bring new businesses into our market and unlock billions in investments, all while promoting a new socially minded approach to entrepreneurship,” said Squadron. STRONGER DRIVING LAWS State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh recently announced new legislation to strengthen Hayley and Diego’s Law, introduced after the tragic deaths of Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, when they were struck by a van in Chinatown

in 2009. The law, which is aimed at reckless and careless drivers, offers stiff penalties for drivers whose actions result in pedestrian death or injury. Under the current law, drivers on their first offense can have their license revoked or suspended, be fined or face jail time and face a misdemeanor charge if they commit a second offense. However, the new legislation seeks to end the stipulation that an officer must be present at the time of the accident to issue the violation. Now, officers would be able to charge drivers if they have reasonable suspicion that the violation was committed by the driver. —Compiled by Andrew riCe

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Quinn’s State of the City Address Speaker addresses jobs, affordable housing and education in speech | By Megan Bungeroth

In a sweeping and ambitious State of the City speech on Thursday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn zeroed in on jobs, housing and education, promising new programs and city and state cooperation to pass laws that will enable them. “We need to tap into the power of our communities,” Quinn said in her speech. “We need to restore the promise that everyone can succeed in New York, no matter how humble their origins, with a bit of help and hard work.” Emphasizing the need for the city to support immigrants, Quinn highlighted a group of women in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, who started a successful worker-owned cooperative offering cleaning services, with help from a community organization. She echoed Mayor Michael Bloomberg

in her push for more tech jobs in the city, announcing the launch of a software language certificate program at CUNY aimed at helping New Yorkers fill the programming jobs that come with tech companies. She also named the fashion and design industries as key to creating and keeping jobs. She hailed Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, going on now at Lincoln Center, and announced a similar plan for a design week. “We have more designers than any city in the United States, with nearly 40,000 New Yorkers working in everything from graphics to movie sets, architecture to interior decorating,” she said. In her focus on creating opportunities in low-income areas, Quinn singled out one particular growing company, Kickstarter, and said that the City Council would be partnering with the Lower East Side start-up to help highlight projects needing funding in different neighborhoods. Kickstarter offers an online fundraising platform for anyone to invest in a project; investors get rewards for contributing money at different levels and each project must reach a

set goal in order to get the money it has raised. Quinn name checked a group in Brownsville that raised $25,000 to start an urban farm on an abandoned lot, offering vegetable harvesting and chicken-naming privileges as rewards, and another group looking for $10,000 to open a restaurant in Clinton Hill. “As we look to help people get back into the workforce, the most infuriating stories we hear are from people who have been turned down for a job just because they’ve been unemployed for too long,” she said, vowing to make that practice illegal and ban what she called unemployment discrimination. Quinn also introduced a pilot program to help middle-income families afford child care; Upper East Side Council Member Jessica Lappin and State Sen. Daniel Squadron have been working on it at the city and state levels, she said. The program would have the city pay upfront the cost of child care and allow families to pay back the money over time with a low-cost loan. She also advocated for more city aid for homeless families. “We need to prioritize

homeless New Yorkers for New York City Housing Authority apartments and Section 8 vouchers so we can get even more families into long-term, stable housing,” Quinn said. “This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. The average cost of a rental subsidy for a family of four: $800 a month. To house that same family in a shelter: $2,500 a month.” Targeting bad landlords, Quinn thanked Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer for her bill that would give Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) more power to “crack down” on them when they don’t make repairs. She also called the city out on its own bad landlord tendencies in managing NYCHA developments. In her focus on education, Quinn named Houston, San Francisco and Cincinnati as cities that have redesigned their education systems to great benefit, doing away with unnecessary levels of bureaucracy. She pushed for more funding for CUNY and the creation of a new honors college, as well as working with the state to make kindergarten mandatory; it currently is not.

Community to University: Don’t Overwhelm Our Neighborhoods! | By alan krawitz

In so many ways, New York University has been a good neighbor and an integral, if not vital, part of the Downtown community. But, when it comes to the venerable school’s ambitious, super-sized building plans, dubbed NYU 2031, which would add four new buildings covering several million square feet within the Washington Square core, many longtime residents of the Village are beginning to see the school in a less-than-neighborly light. “We love the school, hate the plan,” said Brad Hoylman, chairman of Community Board 2, who attended Saturday’s rally at Judson Church, where hundreds turned out to protest NYU’s massive building plans. Holding signs with slogans that read, “Flowers, not towers,” and “Condemned by NYU: Gardens going, going, gone,” a crowd of nearly 500 that included village residents, community activists and politicians expressed their disapproval of the scale and scope of NYU’s 20-year building plan that would effectively remake the face of Greenwich Village and the surrounding area. “NYU’s position is to change the area zoning from its current residential/institutional character to one that emulates the center of Manhattan,” said Janet Hayes, a Republican district leader who attended the rally and lives on LaGuardia Place, near a Morton Williams Supermarket that is the site of a proposed school. “The 20-year plan allows for a highrise, 40-story, block-long building and large


commercial tenancies.” Hayes added that many villagers see the NYU plan as self-serving, as opposed to the neighborhoods’ aspirations to preserve the character of the area. She also pointed out that the school had received—and declined— numerous offers to expand in Lower Manhattan below Canal Street. Assembly Member Deborah Glick said that the plan in its current form would “severely alter” the low-rise character and quality of the Village. “In addition,” Glick said, “the four new towers would cast shadows where there were previously none.” Hoylman called the rally at Judson Church a “call to action” as the board nears its Thursday, Feb. 23 deadline to consider a resolution on this issue and then send it on to the Department of City Planning on March 11. “Our recommendation, while advisory,” said Hoylman, “packs a punch.” The NYU 2031 Plan is only a month into the lengthy, 7-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure that involves approvals and recommendations from the Community Board, the borough president, Department of City Planning, City Council and the mayor. While many in the community are already calling for the NYU plan to be scaled back, Hoylman says that the plan is too concentrated in a very small, dense area and will ultimately bring thousands of new residents, students and faculty members to an already overpopulated and vulnerable neighborhood that includes seniors and rent-stabilized residents.


New York State Assemblymember Deborah Glick on the steps of Judson Church. Photo coURtEsY oF AssEmBlY mEmBER DEBoRAh Glick.

“At the moment, there is really no flexibility on NYU’s part,” he said. In response to the rally, NYU spokesman John Beckman issued the following statement: “As NYU continues to move through the city’s mandated public review process, we look forward to continuing our discussions with all stakeholders involved.” Older residents have talked to me that the NYU 2031 plan resonates with Occupy Wall Street. Here we do not have a large financial institution but a financially well-endowed institution where elite interests and political dealings have likely trumped the people’s voice,” Jeanne Wilcke, president of the Downtown Independent Democrats.

Sean Sweeney, a member of CB2 and the SoHo Alliance, sees the NYU plan as having even more far-reaching effects. “Although many say that this NYU plan will affect the Village only, in fact it will severely impact Soho, Noho and Tribeca much more than most of the Village, since the plans for construction are focused on Houston Street and the two blocks north of that [Bleecker and West 3rd streets],” Sweeney said. “As a result, we would expect to get the ill effects of construction in Soho as well as hordes of students from the dorms proposed just across the street from our community… Think more beer pong bars and fewer fine dining establishments.”

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F E B R UARY 1 6 , 2 0 1 2 | ot d owntown. c o m

Correcting Delancey | By Marissa Maier


Photos CoURtEsY oF thE DEPARtmEnt oF tRAnsPoRtAtion



fter a water main broke on Delancey Street early Tuesday morning, Feb. 14, the thoroughfare was an unfamiliar sight. Aside from the pools of brown-tinged water that collected on the road—and were at one point reportedly 3 feet high—the street, largely closed off to traffic, was vacant of cars with the exception of some Fire Department and other emergency vehicles. Delancey Street, the main thoroughfare in the Lower East Side and the feeder onto and off the Williamsburg Bridge, is known for its congested traffic, especially during rush hour. The cacophony of horns and frustrated shouting isn’t an unfamiliar soundtrack for a walk down this street at these peak times. And some would argue that pedestrians fare even worse, with long crosswalks—some as long as165 feet— paired with short traffic signals. After a handful of fatalities over the past year—most recently Dashane Santana, a 12-year-old who attended nearby CASTLE Middle School—along with numerous vehicle and pedestrian accidents, the Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a proposal Wednesday, Feb. 8, to make Delancey Street safer. Introduced by Community Board 3’s Transportation and Committee Chairman David Crane, Josh Benson of the DOT presented a slideshow of the proposed changes to a group of local residents, representatives of elected officials and CB3 members. “It is rare to see a government agency move so quickly,” said State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who spoke to the group at the end of meeting. “We know what a crisis Delancey is…this change taking months and not years is a big deal,” he added. According to the DOT’s research, there have been a total of nine fatalities and over 700 vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian injuries from 2006-2010 on Delancey Street from the Bowery to Clinton Street. The presentation showed many pedestrian accidents were caused by turning vehicles not yielding to pedestrians, as well as long crosswalks and pedestrians not having enough time to cross. With its access to the Williamsburg Bridge, Benson also pointed out that Delancey in many ways can seem like a highway to drivers, and the job of the DOT is to transform the thoroughfare into something perceived as

DOT looks to turn the Lower east side’s main thoroughfare from highway to neighborhood road

a neighborhood street. While the DOT has already implemented many safety measures on the thoroughfare—like creating safety islands and bicycle lanes and installing countdown clocks—more is needed and seems to be addressed in the new plan. The multilayered plan includes shortening the crosswalks, clarifying lanes of travel for drivers, altering signal timing and enhancing the bridge entrance, measures that can be quickly implemented without requiring structural changes to the road. In mockups of what the updated intersections might look like, Benson showed painted, extended sidewalks with planters clearly demarcating where the sidewalk ends. This, Benson noted, would help shorten the distance pedestrians must travel to cross the street. Of the 19 crosswalks being looked at, Benson said 14 will be shortened. He highlighted the Clinton Street intersection, which will decrease by 49 feet from its current 165 feet. Currently, the outer lanes of traffic are very wide, though not wide enough for parked cars and moving lanes of traffic, but better aligned road markings should clarify this issue. Left turns have also been cause for concern, and the plan includes eliminating three additional left turns—almost nine intersections already have left turn bans. Benson noted that the DOT also plans to open Clinton Street to vehicles to gain access to the bridge. While many praised the plan, which the DOT hopes to enact in June, some suggested measures be implemented now to make the street safer. April Lewis, with the group Manhattan Together, brought up the question of why the light times couldn’t be tweaked significantly now to give people sufficient time to cross. Benson pointed out that much longer lights could exacerbate traffic congestion, since a longer light at one intersection will create a shorter signal length at another crosswalk. He noted this plan could impact the flow of traffic and possibly lead to unsafe conditions for pedestrians. He did note, however, that the DOT is looking into lengthening the lights by a few seconds. Others worried that allowing access onto the bridge from Clinton Street would also worsen traffic issues on the Delancey. Another attendee suggested creating signage showing people that they can cross at Pitt Street, a safer crosswalk, since most of the vehicular traffic has already gone onto the Williamsburg Bridge. At the meeting, Crane noted that the committee didn’t need to make any decisions about the plan that evening. The committee discussed it further at a Wednesday, Feb. 15, meeting and are likely to vote on the plan next month.

� SEE Denzel Goes Rogue ‘Safe House’ chases fake politics


the ludicrous District 9. Co-producer Washington merely exploits the political potential of both his own stardom and the audience’s depraved taste for violence. Safe House employs relentless gunplay and killing while smugly decrying torture tactics; it also takes a high body count of black African citizens (and whites, too) while playing out an Obama-era version of The Defiant Ones, Stanley Kramer’s landmark 1958 film in which Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis played black and white escaped convicts handcuffed together and running toward freedom in the racist American South. When Frost tells Weston, “We take advantage of people’s desire to believe, to trust,” that could be Washington explaining his career path as a craven “post-racial” Hollywood icon. Forget brotherhood—the only frisson in the men’s relationship is ass kicking; no ideological discussion, simply the black/white spectacle for the cheap illusion of substance. District 9’s allegory depended on naïveté, but Safe House depends on cynicism. It’s really a loathsome distortion of genre expectations, mixing poorly edited chases with fake politics. At times Weston plays Super Honky

Safe House, an espionage chase film set in South Africa, is rotten enough to be a sequel to District 9, where South African racial issues were treated to a dumb sci-fi alien allegory. Here, the alien is Denzel Washington, who first appears walking down a Johannesburg street in a Malcolm X beard and fedora. But due to the film’s coincidental, District 9-style absurdity, that Malcolm X guise is a quasipolitical ruse: Washington is playing Tobin Frost, an infamous double agent who has gone rogue, selling Mossad and MI6 secrets and dodging the CIA, who list him as a “traitor” and “murderer.” When the CIA waterboards Frost and its Safe House is breached, rookie agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) takes custody and attempts to bring him in chased by lethally powered anonymous assassins. Their catand-mouse game through the obstacle course of Jo-burg shantytowns, beaches and a soccer stadium rouses both men’s skepticism about government security (and panders to our own). Yet, Safe House gives as little serious thought to actual politics or race relations as

Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds in Safe House.

Patriot to Frost, to whom Washington gives the full, appalling panoply of arrogant black stereotypes: Frost is slyly calculating, knowingly cynical, ruthlessly violent. This is the first time Washington has worked in South Africa since the 1987 Cry Freedom, when his career took off playing the martyred activist Steve Biko. This is his antiBiko, playing against his goody two-shoes biopic roles. Having grown up during the Blaxploitation era and seen the stud heroics of Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Bernie Casey and Ron O’Neal, Washington’s film career peaked when hip-hop did, and he took hip-hop’s Reagan-era hustling to heart. Not just striving for success, Washington, like Frost, has gone rogue seeking a thug niche. But his insistence



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on proud, contemptuous characters is as much a trap as being limited to butlers and buffoons. It’s just hustling, not artistry. Director Daniel Espinosa gives Safe House the same jagged, shallow intensity as the house style Washington has developed with Tony Scott, but he never achieves expressive action tropes like in the marvelous Colombiana or thrilling Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Instead, Safe House chases after fake significance, turning Weston’s denouement into the same liberal media exposé of the U.S. government. Safe House might have been clever fun—not just cynical—had Denzel traded that Malcolm X getup for a Matt Damon mask. Follow Armond White on Twitter @3xchair.

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FREE Occupy the Poetry Project [2/17]

St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, 131 E. 10th St. (at 2nd Ave.),; 10 p.m. Poetry is that which is lost in translation, and the protestors of Occupy Wall Street are those who will not be forgotten. Join the Poetry Project as they celebrate the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street protests. This poetry reading will be modeled after the Friday evening poetry events that took place at Zuccotti Park during the OWS protests.

FREE From High Line to Low Line: Building



Lost in the Trees Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, 126 Crosby St. (betw. Prince & E. Houston Sts.),; 8 p.m., $15. Listen to the melodic piano tunes of this North Carolina duo. The band draws musical inspiration for their second album, A Church that Fits Our Needs, from the pain of grieving; Ari Pickner, the band’s singer/songwriter, lost his mother as his debut album became increasingly successful.

The Souljazz Orchestra The Studio at Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St. (betw. 3rd & 4th Aves.),; 8 p.m., $13.19+. The Souljazz Orchestra will be performing at The Studio at Webster Hall, joined by Zongo Junction and DJ Cloak Dagger. The intimate location beneath this famous music venue features a recording studio and outstanding acoustics, all the better to hear Souljazz Orchestra drawing on the rough and raw grooves of the ’60s and ’70s with a fusion of jazz, Afro and Latin sounds.

The Anna Copa Cabanna Show: LOVE IN SPACE Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. (at Astor Pl.),; 11:30 p.m., $15. Starring Anna Copa Cobanna and her lounge/ punk band the MG5, this homage to ’70s and ’80s variety shows, drawing inspiration from the likes of the Lynda Carter specials and the Pee Wee Herman Show, has received outstanding reviews.

Mardi Gras Ball Hiro Ballroom, 88 9th Ave. (betw. 16th & 17th Sts.), hiroballroom; 7 p.m., $50. New Orleans-based trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and his band, the Barbecue Swingers, bring their signature charisma to the stage in celebration of Mardi Gras. The show features opening act Bonerama, who are known for playing funky originals as well as ripping covers of the likes of Jimi Hendrix. This musical buffet is the highlight of the second night of a New Orleans-style musical celebration.


Michael Film Forum, 209 W. Houston St. (betw. 6th & 7th Aves.); 8 p.m., $12.50. Experience this chilling debut by Marcus Schleinzer, the casting director of Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. The film is about a timid insurance agent who is holding a 10-year-old boy captive in his basement. Taking place over a five-month period, Michael is an exploration of the depths to which a person will go to hide their darkest secret.



Mates of State (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. (betw. Sullivan & Thompson Sts.),; 6:30 p.m., $15. Mates of State brings dual vocal harmonies and minimalist pop appeal to the stage of (Le) Poisson Rouge this Friday. In the midst of heavy touring and recording sessions, this married duet continues to thrive with their ethereal melodies and provocative lyrical ability. Mates of State have been an influence on many other acts and recently appeared on Late Show with David Letterman performing the infectious “Palomino.”



Submissions can be sent to

The War Room 92Y Tribeca, 200 Hudson St. (betw. Desbrosses & Vestry Sts.),; 7 p.m., $12. The 1993 Academy Award-nominated documentary about the inaugural Clinton campaign trail follows the daily life of George Stephanopoulos, Clinton’s communications director, and James Carville, who was his lead strategist during the 1992 democratic primary. Afterward, join the film’s directors and Amy Goodman, host of radio show Democracy Now!.

an Underground Park Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard St. (betw. Delancey & Broome Sts.),; 6:30 p.m. The High Line designers take community members inside their vision of a “Low Line” park in the Lower East Side. The discussion will explore the abandoned trolley terminal below Delancey Street that will serve as the home of the park and the potential it has to become a cutting-edge subterranean green space using fiber optic technology to channel in light.


Visit for the latest updates on local events.

The Ugly One Soho Rep, 36 Walker St. (betw. Church St. & Broadway),; 7:30 p.m., $0.99. Come experience one of Downtown’s best-kept secrets: 99¢ Sundays at Soho Rep. The play, The Ugly One, is a smart social satire presented by German playwright Marius von Mayenberg that focuses on a talented German engineer who is denied the opportunity to present his invention at a conference because of his hideous face.

Mischief & Mayhem (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St. (betw. Sullivan & Thompson Sts.),; 7:30, $18. With truly resonant instrumental combinations, Jenny Scheinman and her band, Mischief & Mayhem, are continuing evidence of the power of music without words. Mischief & Mayhem, whose sound is a blend of power rock hooks and haunting violin combinations, host a release party for their debut, self-titled album at (Le) Poisson Rouge. The Forgotten Space Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave. (at 2nd St.),; $9. This 2010 film essay is a cry for awareness as directors Noël Burch and Allan Sekula explore the effects globalization has on our oceans. The film has been selected to play at the Venice Film Festival and has received worldwide acclaim.


Antifolk Festival Sidewalk Café, 94 Ave. A (betw. E. 6th & 7th Sts.),, 6:20 p.m. Groove to the sounds of artists like Larkin Grimm, who will headline at the Antifolk Festival, as nearly 50 songwriters and other performers who comprise an underground network of artists perform at the Sidewalk Café Feb. 22–26.

Evan Laurence Presents Standards and Parodies! Ella Lounge, 9 Ave. A (betw. E. 1st & 2nd Sts.),; 9 p.m., $10. Join the band of misfits who will take over the Ella Lounge. Discover new local acts with backgrounds in stand-up comedy, burlesque and music. Laurence’s vamped-up monthly variety show promises to entertain with a catalog of special guest performers including David Slone, Angry Bob and Tiny D.


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� SE E Old Money and Young Dreams Downtown performers move uptown to Feinstein’s at The Regency | By penny gRay Petula Clark went “Downtown” and The Jeffersons moved on up, but there’s always cause for some commotion when modern cabaret stars boldly cross Manhattan’s equator, as they will in this month’s Downtown Series at Feinstein’s at The Regency. Nightlife promoter Daniel Nardicio has joined forces with Jen Gapay of Thirsty Girl Productions to curate a performance series of their favorite downtown divas, who are being exported uptown to the posh Feinstein’s Feb. 19, 28 and 29. This ambitious series, which marks the producers’ third major collaboration since last year’s Glamour Ball and I…Amanda Lepore in Concert, launched Feb. 13 with a Mardi Gras celebration starring New Orleans jazz singer Ingrid Lucia, her traditional New Orleans Jazz Band and New Orleansbred drag queen Bianca Del Rio. Future performers include cabaret chanteuses Angela Di Carlo, Bridget Everett, Natalie Joy

Johnson, Amber Martin and Molly Pope, plus flamboyant musical comic Cole Escola, of Logo’s Jeffery & Cole Casserole notoriety. “I have a huge love for all of the cabaret artists who work Downtown, so I thought, ‘Why not bring them to one of my favorite venues?’ It’s also great for Feinstein’s, because what doesn’t grow stagnates. And let’s face it: Barbara Cook’s on her last leg!” said Nardicio, the man behind some of New York’s most scandalous gay-themed events. “Sometimes, us downtowners like to feel a little fancy, and I think the uptowners like to feel hip sometimes, too,” added Gapay, producer of the New York Burlesque Festival and the original founder of Coney Island’s Siren Music Fest. “These acts may be a little crazier than a normal Feinstein’s show, but we’re hoping that audiences welcome the change.” Although the duo hope to bring a new audience to Feinstein’s, the series is as much about exposing the performers to new fans as it is about exposing uptown crowds to Downtown talent. “I wanted to find great performers who could benefit from a wider audience,” Nardicio said. “When I realized how many of these performers hadn’t yet played one of New York

She’s Grrrrrreat! Sara Benincasa’s memoir Agorafabulous! will forever change the taste of cereal | By MaRk peikeRT Judging from her hilariously dark new memoir Agorafabulous!: Dispatches from My Bedroom, Sara Benincasa will always win the “Who has it worse?” game. Spent a week during college in your apartment, unable to get dressed or leave? Benincasa could barely leave her bed and took to pissing in cereal bowls rather than dealing with unfriendly bathrooms. Think you’ve got a great “Kids say the darndest things!” story from that year you spent teaching? Benincasa’s time molding young minds involved Viagra and an adolescent erection. Seriously. We caught up with Benincasa over the phone about having enough confidence to write a memoir, the joys of medication and why she’d love a good heckler during her book tour. Our Town Downtown: Because you’re cool, I want to ask: Did you ever have any reticence about writing a memoir when the


publishing world is so glutted with them? Sara Benincasa: I think you either have to have a really original voice or you have to have a story that is insane and has never been told before—or you have to have both. I would hope I have the combination. What sold it overall, in addition to having a pretty likable, accessible voice, was a story that involved me pissing in bowls. My advice is if you can work defecation into your story in any way, people will love it. There’s got to be some kind of a hook, and in my case, agoraphobia and the ways in which I acted out was the hook. It was very strange and specific and weird, and not something that strikes a whole lot of people, although it’s far more common than most folks would think. I tried really hard not to seem self-pitying in the book, but rather to seem kind of amused by my own struggle— not to undermine anyone else’s pain, but to try to find the humor in the really dark shit. And you’ve been telling these stories in your stand-up act for a while, right? I have two different acts. I have the one I do in the comedy club, and that tends to be lighter stuff, sex and relationships and jobs I’ve had. And then, when I’m outside of the club setting, I’ll tell longer-form stories and


City’s best cabaret venues, I saw the perfect opportunity to introduce them to a whole different audience and also get some of the younger Downtown kids up to this amazing venue to check it out. I imagine that the mixture of old money and young dreams will create a great alchemy.” The producers embrace the challenges associated not only with taking performers out of their downtown habitat but also with spicing up Feinstein’s more conservative programming. Ponders Nardicio, “What happens to a wild performer like Bridget Everett when she can’t show her underwear? Will she become a diamond under the pressure? I told all of the performers, ‘I don’t want to change you, but I want to focus on your voice. Be wild, be provocative, but no genitalia, please.’” “I’m excited to have my singing be the focus for a night,” beamed Everett, arguably the most outrageous performer of the lineup, who shares her Feb. 19 engagement with powerhouse vocalist Amber Martin. “I’m going to keep it low and loose. It’s hard to say how much of my usual show I’ll bring, but with some wine, dim lights and new friends, who knows?” Feinstein’s is also associated with expentake more risks with stuff that might not be funny but is sad. If I were at Gotham Comedy Club, that would not be the appropriate place to tell these pissing in bowls and suicidal stories. And if I were doing a one-person show at, say, UCB, I would incorporate some of the darker material. At what point did you decide to make the leap from the stage to writing a book? My intent was always to use the live show to write a book proposal, because writing is so lonely sometimes. I had a job at Sirius XM radio and I would use all my vacation time to go to theaters around the country, and I would have a list of bullet points of stories I wanted to tell and I would experiment with different ways of telling them—through that I was able to put together a book proposal. I started in spring 2009 with the show and we sold the proposal in spring 2010 and we got a final version of the book ready to go in October or November of 2011. And now it’s being published in February 2012! I found during the course of writing it I


sive ticket prices; however, the producers have significantly lowered admission for the series, which includes a two-drink minimum. “We had to make it a little cheaper so all our friends would still come,” Gapay said. As for a more casual dress code? “I like to say, ‘More Sharon Stone, less Sharon Gless,’” Nardicio laughed. “It is still Feinstein’s, after all.” The Downtown Series at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency. Feb. 19, 28 & 29; 540 Park Ave. (at E. 61st St.), 212-339-4095, gained a real sense of confidence, but also a sense of overconfidence. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve traveled all over the place telling these stories and I’ve been holding down a job and doing all these things a stable adult does. And maybe I don’t need meds or therapy anymore.’ So I weaned myself off them and it worked really well for four months. And then there was a trigger. I was in a relationship and he went to another continent, basically, and then having to finish and turn in this thing triggered a really deep depression. And finishing up this project meant that I couldn’t distract myself from these huge problems in my life that I hadn’t dealt with. Now I’m back on the medication. Tastes like freedom! You’re touring with the book, too, right? I am doing a nine-city tour—if you count Manhattan and Brooklyn as two. Which I will do. At each place I’ll have one other comedian there to do some comedy and I’ll do a combination of stand-up and stuff from the book. I was sure you were going to say the other comedian would be there to heckle you. I would love that, if someone screamed during a really sad part, “You suck!” I’m Sicilian and I’m from New Jersey. I love a fight! Meet Sara Benincasa at Housing Works Bookstore Café (126 Crosby St.), Thursday, 7 p.m., Feb. 16, with an open bar from 7–8 p.m. Do not heckle her.

❯ EAT Mardi Gras for a Cause Gumbo cook-off at Jimmy’s No. 43 has a higher purpose than just collecting beads

| BY REGAN HOFMANN Jimmy Carbone does not care about Mardi Gras. He cares about a lot of things, but the excuse to get drunk, get naked and collect shiny plastic baubles is not one of them. He does care a great deal about gumbo— “After Katrina, I spent six months working on a good, dark roux; cooking it every day for six months to get it right. That’s when we had our first gumbo event,” he said—and he cares about helping farmers, food producers and other advocates for local, sustainable food systems. That’s why his restaurant, Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 E. 7th St., at 2nd Ave.,, is hosting their N’Orleans Style Gumbo CookOff to benefit Chefs for the Marcellus this Sunday, Feb. 19, from 1-3 p.m. By night, Carbone is a beer aficionado. He founded the Good Beer Seal to help identify other bars in New York City that take the same care in sourcing and serving craft brews as he does at Jimmy’s No. 43; to qualify, bars must be independently owned, serve 80 percent craft beers and be active

members of the community. By day, he runs Food Karma Projects, the umbrella under which he organizes foodcentric fundraisers, bringing together other likeminded chefs, restaurateurs and passionate amateurs to support a variety of causes, from the New Amsterdam Market to Slow Food NYC, Food Systems Network NYC and New Orleans reconstruction efforts. “We’ve had a chowder cook-off, we do cassoulet, we have a duck-off coming up next month,” Carbone listed. “It’s a unique way to support groups we believe in.” From using his restaurant’s empty back room—“it’s such a clean way to fundraise,” he explained, “since it’s essentially wasted space during the day, we just turn over the entire place and the entry fee can go directly to the organization”—his charity efforts have spread around the city all the way down to Governors Island. The environmental concern on the tip of most New Yorkers’ tongues right now is fracking, the gas extraction process that decimates ecosystems by polluting groundwater with a potent chemical cocktail. Chefs for the Marcellus, the beneficiary of this Sunday’s event, is an organization of New York food professionals actively advocating against fracking in the Marcellus Shale, a region that encom-

Danielle Seidita, events manager of Jimmy’s No. 43, with debris of another successful cook-off. PHOTO COURTESY OF JIMMY’S NO 43

passes the southern tier of New York State. Not surprisingly, Carbone is an active member. “It’s an issue that affects a number of the farms we buy from,” he said. “And Ommegang [Brewery]—their neighbor has a large farm that she just sold to an energy company. If the state allows fracking up there, they told me they’re going to have to leave New York.” The cook-off will bring together a number of gumbo connoisseurs, including chefs from The Green Table and Goat Town other food professionals and cook-off circuit regulars. For $20, attendees can eat as much as they can manage, comparing classic renditions and innovations on the Cajun staple to crown the gumbo king (or queen) of New York City. And to round out the spicy weekend, Jimmy’s No. 43 will also be hosting a hot sauce


Carriage houses in the Village were once as common as town houses and walk-up apartment buildings are today. Few carriage houses have stood the test of time, but there is one noted exception on West 4th Street. Given the predilection New Yorkers have for real estate, it should come as no surprise that a recent presentation by architects Anne Fairfax and Richard Sammons on how they restored the West 4th Street carriage house, where they live today, was standing room only. Over a decade ago, in 2000, the couple was married and living in the roughly 300-square-foot second floor of a town house. One day, while Sammons was out of the country on business, a friend who worked in real estate convinced Fairfax to look at a home near Washington Street.

Hot Sauce for Ohio Farm Relief, Feb. 18, 1-3 p.m; $10. N’Orleans Style Gumbo Cook-Off, Feb. 19, 1-3 p.m; $20. For more information, visit

Interiors and exteriors of the carriage house on West 4th Street. PHOTOS COURTESY

A Lesson in Restoration

The case of the West 4th Street carriage house

tasting on Saturday. Ten small-batch, locally produced hot sauces will be available to try, with GuS sodas and some of the restaurant’s brunch favorites to soothe the burn. That event benefits Rootstown Ohio Farm, whose livelihood was threatened when its crops were decimated in a freak hailstorm. As for Mardi Gras itself? Jimmy’s No. 43 will hold its regular Tuesday night event, a guided tasting of session beers. But if you ask real nice, you might be able to wrangle yourself a bowl of Carbone’s gumbo—if you just didn’t get enough on Sunday.

What Fairfax found was 183-5 West 4th St., a carriage house and adjacent studio in a terrible state of disrepair. When she arrived, Fairfax was sure the listing was a prank. But the estate of Armand Hammer, the American business tycoon, was eager to sell the property, as a deal had recently fallen through. When Sammons returned home, the couple looked at the property together. The state in which Sammons and Fairfax found the house on their initial inspection reads like a 19th-century novel. The walls were riddled with holes, as if someone had been searching for hidden valuables. The home was laid out in an odd wedge shape, making a renovation tricky, and several personal belongings had been left behind. The good news was that the two buildings, the carriage house on the right and the studio on the left, were already linked, connected by a door and walkway. The “carriage house,” which Fairfax theorizes may not have been


a carriage house at all, since the front entrance has a set of stairs, and horses, as she noted, are not in the practice of walking up stairs to their stables, was a two-story building, while the studio was a single, one-story room. Both homes were equipped with kitchens, a fireplace and an outdoor area. Whereas others might have run in the other direction, Fairfax and Sammons decided to tackle this architectural conundrum. In the studio, the pair kept the kitchen but added a bedroom. For the carriage house, they brought in T&L Contractors, who worked on the space for a little over nine months, creating a new dining room, living room and second-floor guest suite. After a slightly lengthy gestation period, the couple’s little piece of architectural heaven was complete, giving them a new perspective on the renovation process. Sammons remarked, “Now I knew how my clients have felt all this time.” FE B R UARY 16, 2012 | OTDOWNTOWN.COM




New Baby The famous 40-year-old family-run business opens a megastore for parents this month—meet J&R Jr. | BY ELISABETH FRANKEL REED

I Micole Friedman, 4, at her family’s newest store J&R JR.



t’s a brisk day in early January at J&R Jr. and Jason Friedman is showing his wife and kids what has kept him so busy for the past six months. The space isn’t quite finished, shelves are only partially stocked and luggage still lingers in the performance area, but a gaggle of happy children tinkering with a wooden train set hinted at how it felt on Feb. 13 when the ribbon was cut and the landmark store’s newest department officially opened. Originally a part-time venture selling records out of a Downtown Manhattan basement, J&R was founded in 1971 by Joe and Rachelle Friedman using the money they had received as wedding gifts. They combined Joe’s interest in electronics and Rachelle’s interest in music—not to mention their first initials—to create the famous Manhattan music and electronics megastore. Since then, the business has grown to cover everything from guitars and home theaters to housewares. It’s also a cultural destination, with intimate performances inside and free concerts every summer outside in City Hall Park, just across the street from their block-long hub. Growing up in such a musical environment led Jason, the Friedmans’ son to develop a strong interest in music himself. “I grew up being the lucky kid to get to meet all these rock stars,” he recalled. Some of the many legends that have passed

through the store include Michael Jackson, Harry Connick Jr., Tony Bennett and Beyoncé. During the dot-com boom, Friedman decided to build a website for his parents’ store. “Everybody was saying, ‘You have to get your business online,’ but nobody really knew what that meant,” he recalled. Today, makes up more than half of the company’s business. In August 2001, Friedman left the city to attend business school at the University of Southern California, just weeks before Sept. 11. Because J&R is only a few blocks from ground zero, the events of that tragic day hit the company hard. He made the quick decision to come home and help restart the family business. J&R was able to reopen after only a sixweek shutdown. And for Friedman, his return to New York City held more than rebuilding a company. “Luckily, I met Danielle, my wife, within two weeks of moving back,” he shared. Ten years later, they have a 4-year-old daughter, Micole, and a 1-year-old son, Oliver. Although his focus is now on family, he still loves gadgets. And after spending many hours browsing websites and visiting baby megastores, he realized just how much cool stuff for kids was out there. “I just wanted to be a part of it and thought I could put my spin on it,” he explained. After checking with friends and doing some further research, he learned that while consumers were not spending much money on themselves due to concerns about the economy, they were happy to spend money

on their children. Between his enthusiasm and the clear commercial reasons for catering to parents, it was practically a no-brainer to expand the family business. The recently opened J&R Jr. offers parents—particularly new and expectant moms and dads—the same mix of excellent products and expert service that J&R has always given tech enthusiasts. This includes the standard fare of gadgets and electronics like baby monitors and humidifiers as well as products like clothing, strollers, high chairs, car seats, safety accessories, some furniture and learning toys and games. Major brands that you can find in the store are phil&teds, Quinny, 4moms, EduShape, Alex, Melissa & Doug, LeapFrog, Skip Hop, Faber-Castell, B. toys and many more. But the store won’t sell just anything. Friedman intends to hand-select only the best offerings for kids ages 0-9. He is particularly impressed with how advanced strollers have become in recent years. In order to demonstrate these improvements, there will be a stroller test course shaped like a lollypop at J&R Jr. that will have a variety of terrains, including gravel and grass, so parents can test-drive on a range of surfaces and around obstacles. Friedman’s vision for J&R Jr. includes more than just cool gear and educational toys and games. “[The Financial District] is the fastest growing residential community in the city…but there really is no community center [or] kid’s hang-out hub,” he said. The store will be able to serve that


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function with an event space that will host interactive classes, workshops and panels. This event/performance area is located at the top of the escalator and will be available to host private parties, prenatal classes and school admissions seminars, as well as public events. It will include professional sound and lighting equipment for concerts, which will be streamed online. Fans of Rockin’ with Andy and Little Maestros will be pleased to know that the perennial New York City kids’ favorites have already agreed to do classes. In addition to serving families who live in the neighborhood, J&R Jr. is the perfect place for families to meet up for a class and a quick bite in the kid-friendly café after parents leave the office. Families from further away won’t be left out either; they are adding a free parking garage, removing the biggest hassle of going Downtown. Looking ahead, Friedman would love to have his children eventually join the company sphere. “If they want to come here, I would absolutely welcome them and, of course, I want this to stay a family business,” he said. But whether the next generation chooses

Jason Friedman with his wife, Danielle, and kids, Micole and Oliver. PHOTOs BY AndREw scHwARTz

to take an active role or not, the range of products offered by J&R will continue to grow. “We’re just adapting to the needs of consumers,” Friedman explained, pointing out some of the many changes that have occurred over J&R’s 40-year history, from new offerings in electronics, stereos and TVs to more domestic goods like housewares and J&R Jr. No one knows what the next 40 years will bring, but J&R plans to be there, providing savvy New Yorkers with “the gadgets of the decade.”


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NOtICE OF PUBLIC HEARINg The New York City Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing on Wednesday February 29, 2012 at 2:00 P.M., at 55 Water St., 9th Floor Room 945, on the following petitions for revocable consent, all in the Borough of Manhattan: #1 95-97 Horatio LLC -to construct, maintain and use an entrance detail on the south sidewalk of Gansevoort St., between West and Washington Sts. #2 Anne Christensen- to continue to maintain and use an entrance stoop on the south sidewalk of E 7th St. between Ave. D and Ave. C. #3 The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey-to maintain and use bollards on the north sidewalk of 40th St., north and south sidewalk of 41st St., on the south sidewalk of 42nd St. between Eighth and Ninth Ave., on the west sidewalk of Eighth Ave., and on the east sidewalk of Ninth Ave. between 40th and 42nd Sts. #4 Ray Mortenson and Jean Wardle-to continue to maintain and use a stoop and a fenced-in area on the north sidewalk of Charles St., west of W 4th St. Interested parties can obtain copies of proposed agreements or request sign-language interpreters (with at least seven days prior notice) at 55 Water St., 9th Fl. SW New York, NY 10041, or by calling (212) 839-6550. NOtICE IS HEREBy gIVEN, PURSUANt tO LAW, that the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs will hold a Public Hearing on 2/29/2012 at 2:00 p.m. at 66 John Street, 11th floor, on a petition from Trumlin Rest. Corp. to continue to, maintain, and operate an unenclosed sidewalk cafe at 1556 Second Avenue in the Borough of Manhattan for a term of two years. Requests for copies of the proposed revocable consent agreement may be addressed to: Department Of Consumer Affairs, Attn: Foil Officer, 42 Broadway, New York, NY 10004

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� TALK I N G U P D OWNTOWN Manhattan Media


exeCUTive eDiTOR Allen Houston eDiTOR Marissa Maier sPeCiaL seCTiONs eDiTOR Josh Rogers MaNagiNg eDiTOR Mark Peikert FeaTUReD CONTRiBUTORs Whitney Casser, Penny Gray, Tom Hall, Regan Hofmann, Mary Morris, Robby Ritacco, Lillian Rizzo, Paulette Safdieh CONTRiBUTiNg PHOTOgRaPHeRs George Denison, Veronica Hoglund, Wyatt Kostygan, Andrew Schwartz iNTeRNs Andrew Rice, Patricia Voulgaris

adVertiSinG PUBLisHeR Gerry Gavin DiReCTOR OF NeW BUsiNess DeveLOPMeNT Dan Newman assOCiaTe PUBLisHeRs Seth L. Miller, Ceil Ainsworth aDveRTisiNg MaNageR Marty Strongin sPeCiaL PROjeCTs DiReCTOR Jim Katocin seNiOR aCCOUNT exeCUTives Verne Vergara, Mike Suscavage DiReCTOR OF eveNTs & MaRkeTiNg Joanna Virello exeCUTive assisTaNT OF saLes Jennie Valenti

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PRODUCTiON & CReaTive DiReCTOR Ed Johnson eDiTORiaL DesigNeR Sahar Vahidi aDveRTisiNg DesigN Quran Corley OUR TOWN DOWNTOWN is published weekly Copyright © 2012 Manhattan Media, LLC 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor New York, N.Y. 10016 Editorial (212) 284-9734 Fax (212) 268-2935 Advertising (212) 284-9715 General (212) 268-8600 E-mail: Website: OUR TOWN DOWNTOWN is a division of Manhattan Media, LLC, publisher of West Side Spirit, Chelsea Clinton News, The Westsider, City Hall, The Capitol, The Blackboard Awards, New York Family, and Avenue magazine. To subscribe for 1 year, please send $75 to OUR TOWN DOWNTOWN, 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10016 Recognized for excellence by the New York Press Association

Joan Firestone

ExEcutivE DirEctor of thE Moth

| By penny gray


oan Firestone, executive director of The Moth, shares the importance of telling stories Downtown…and how the experience just might connect you to everybody, everywhere.

How did life at The Moth begin for you? I’m the last one in. A year and a half ago, the executive director stepped down and I was asked by a board member if I would be interim director while they looked for a permanent replacement. I’ve never done anything without sinking my teeth into it! What work are you doing today for The Moth? Today, I’m actually in Portland to celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Moth. There were 2,700 people at the event in Portland tonight, sharing stories. The impact that The Moth has on people is astounding; it creates an authentic dialogue between storytellers and audiences. How did The Moth come about? The novelist George Davis Greene would get together with friends on a porch in Georgia, and then when he was up in New York, they’d do the same thing in a small Manhattan apartment—friends would just get together to tell true stories about themselves. It’s called “The Moth” because so many moths would come to the well-lit porch when they were telling stories. And now, audiences flock like moths to the light. These are true stories that resonate personally and universally. Why storytelling? Isn’t that outdated in the age of technology? Storytelling is as old as time; it can never go out of fashion! The Moth came about because George was interested in reminding people to listen to one another. Over time, The Moth staff has figured out how to help storytellers craft and shape their stories so that it’s easier for audiences to hear and receive them. Shaping a true story so that there’s a narrative arc and an ending allows storytellers to expose vulnerability, be it through humor or pathos. In any case, it makes the stories immediately available to other people. What makes New York City a good headquarters for The Moth? Well, we aren’t New York City-centric,


photo courtesy of the moth

PResiDeNT/CeO Tom Allon gROUP PUBLisHeR Alex Schweitzer CFO/COO Joanne Harras DiReCTOR OF iNTeRaCTive MaRkeTiNg aND DigiTaL sTRaTegy Jay Gissen


but many of our storytellers are part of the New York City literary world. The diversity of New York City fuels us and, in turn, makes us acceptable. We are more and more a part of the fabric of New York City life. People are either at the mainstage show or at an open mic slam or listening to one of our free podcasts. There are a lot of interested people. You can always spot a Moth event because of the lines down the street. We never have enough seats.

in the smallest and largest senses of the word.

How do you see The Moth shaping Downtown? The Moth is a lively part of the Downtown scene. When we did our first show at Cooper Union, we were terrified that we wouldn’t fill the house, but we sold out. I think The Moth appeals to people Downtown who want to be involved in something affordable and intriguing in which everybody gets a chance. Our Downtown slam at the Housing Works Bookstore Café is a great example of this spirit: There was a snowstorm two years ago and most of New York City shut down. We had a slam planned for the evening and considered canceling it. The place was packed! At our core, we’re here to build community

What do you love most about your job? I’m a process person, so I love the excitement of process. To watch a storyteller sit with a director and to see the two of them take a story, respect the integrity of that story and then search for how it could be immediately available to others—it’s a joy I really can’t describe to you. There’s also such a magnetic ambiance at Moth events and with the Moth staff. But even more than all that, when I see a kid come alive, a kid who has been downcast and outcast, and see her tell her story and through that create relationships with her peers and her community, I know she’s had a gift. I love being a part of that gift.

What’s the most difficult aspect of your job? Probably managing our ambitions and dealing with growth carefully. We’re in a wonderful situation in that people want us to branch out all over the world. But we need to be sure that we manage delivering what we deliver well and never lose our standards. There are no compromises at The Moth.

8 million stories

What Rachel Khona learned from Pamela Anderson


’ve always found Pamela Anderson a creature of strange fascination. No, it’s not because I am a lesbian or because I have a large plastic boob fetish, much as my childhood Barbie collection might dictate otherwise. It’s not even because she was married to Tommy Lee, on whom I have an undying crush despite his STD-wielding ways and copious use of the word “dude.” Rather, I have always found her intriguing for her everlasting appeal to the masses. In a world where there are a bazillion gorgeous bottle-blonde big-boobed babes, what makes her so different? How is it that in the past 20 years, since that fateful day she first appeared in that red swimsuit, she has become more famous, made more money and lasted longer in the public eye than her peers? Was she in on some secret the other women weren’t privy to? Surely if I could harness this secret, it would be the answer to world domination—or at least career success. If I could figure out what made her different, perhaps I could use that to set myself apart from the legions of other similar writers. Then, one day, I watched an episode of “VIP” and I realized: She’s in on it. She’s in on the joke. Her character on the show is seemingly a caricature of herself; an airhead blonde with a predilection for acrylic stripper heels and excessively tight spandex clothing who somehow stumbled into the PI business. The

show was pure genius. She had effectively harnessed people’s perceptions of her into a marketable persona that could now effectively be used to promote her and, of course, make more money. It was marketing at its finest. She wasn’t really that ditzy; she just played a character. I was positive the secret to any future career success lay in studying Pamela’s business acumen. So when I had the opportunity to meet this beacon of capitalism, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to see for myself if she was actually secretly a genius when the cameras stopped rolling and no one was looking. As luck would have it, a friend of mine, Natasha, was friends with Pamela’s latest boy toy. When he was in town with her in tow, he invited Natasha out for a drink and Natasha, of course, invited me. We agreed to meet up with them for a drink…or 12. We made our way to the hotel bar and waved hello. Pamela and her voluminous, extensionlaced hair promptly got up and hugged me, her massive silicone boobs squashing into me like two massive water balloons. “It’s so nice to meet you. Do you want something to drink?” “Sure, I’d love a glass of champagne,” I said. She promptly hopped up and fetched me a glass of champagne. When she came back, she set the champagne down and immediate-

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ly swiveled toward Boy Toy. She began fluffing her hair and rubbing his leg. “So I was like, ‘We have to help these people. They don’t have any clean water.’ I had this idea to bring them these filters…” Boy Toy was interrupted by Pamela licking his ear. As he gathered himself and continued his epic tale, I gave Natasha a sideways glance and kicked her under the table. What on earth is Pamela doing? I mean don’t get me wrong, Boy Toy was cute, but licking his ear in the middle of a conversation hardly seemed like the sort of activity people conduct in polite company. “And that’s where I met Pamela,” Boy Toy continued. “She was there helping out earthquake victims too.” She nodded. “Clean water is so important.” She bit her fingernail and gave me sexy eyes. “It’s so amazing that you guys are doing this,” I responded. “I actually volunteer a lot with Amnesty International, and it’s…” Pamela turned and started talking to her friend. I guess she didn’t want to hear my story. It wasn’t as though I expected her to suddenly delve into the intricacies of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I definitely expected her to drop the dumb blonde act. Pamela spent the entire night touching herself, fondling Boy Toy, fluffing her hair, pouting, swiveling, biting her lip and pos-

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ing—even as one of her sets of false eyelashes began to dangle off the corner of her left eye. I was confused. Who exactly was she putting on this show for? Surely it couldn’t be my friend and I; we were a) straight and b) friends with her boyfriend. What need would she have to put on a show for us? I knew it was time to leave when we made it up to the hotel room and the show still wouldn’t stop. As Boy Toy extolled Pamela’s virtues, she began pawing herself so raucously that I actually caught a glimpse of her nipple. And then it dawned on me, like enlightenment dawned on the Buddha. It wasn’t an act. She wasn’t a marketing genius and she probably doesn’t even know what capitalism is. Pamela was just being herself. That was her secret. Pamela Anderson is a ditzy, horny, blonde with zero filters or any concept of public decency. She really enjoys being naked, screwing and generally behaving like a nymphette. And while there have been many other big-boobed Playmates before her, none of them have had quite the personality of Pamela, and the world has rewarded her handsomely for it. The secret to success? Be yourself. To think I spent countless sums of money on therapy and self-help books, only to learn that Pamela had the secret the whole time. Now, if I could only get all the money back. Rachel Khona has written for Cosmopolitan, Inked, AskMen, and Vaga, where she is a contributing editor. For more, visit

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SATURDAY, MAR 10, 2012 Downtown Grace Church School 86 4th Ave 12PM - 3PM SUNDAY, MAR 31, 2012 Upper East Side St. Jean Baptiste School 173 E. 75th St. 12PM - 3PM

Renee Flax, the director of camper placement of the ACA NY & NJ, will be on hand to answer parents’ questions and help guide them in their search for the right camp!

SATURDAY, MAR 11, 2012 Park Slope Union Temple 17 Eastern Pkwy 12PM - 3PM SATURDAY, APR 1, 2012 Upper West Side Congregation Rodeph Sholom 7 W. 83rd St. 12PM - 3PM

Pre-register for a chance to win NJ Nets Tickets! New York Family magazine and the American Camp Association, NY & NJ are teaming up for their final fairs! Meet dozens of different camp directors from local DAY CAMPS and SLEEPAWAY CAMPS from across the region. Great for children ages 3 to 17! pre-register at: For more info on summer camps:


O U R TOW N : D OW N TOWN | F E B R UA RY 1 6 , 2 0 1 2

Our Town Downtown February 16, 2012  

The February 16, 2012 issue of Our Town Downtown. Our Town Downtown (OTDownTown) is a newspaper for 25 to 40-year-old New Yorkers living, wo...

Our Town Downtown February 16, 2012  

The February 16, 2012 issue of Our Town Downtown. Our Town Downtown (OTDownTown) is a newspaper for 25 to 40-year-old New Yorkers living, wo...