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WEEK OF APRIL PRINCESS ZHAOJUN: A TIMELESS TALE ◄ P.12

4-10 2019

Also inside:

MENTAL HEALTH HOUSING AT RISK ▲ P.2 Former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern. Photo: swedennewyork, via flickr

ELEGY FOR AN EMERALD EMPEROR LIVES

‘DEVIANT FEMALE DINING’ ▲ P.7

The state has adopted a congestion pricing plan to raise revenue for the MTA and increase vehicle travel times in Manhattan. Photo: Steven Strasser

Remembering Henry J. Stern, who championed New York City’s green spaces in inimitable fashion BY MICHAEL GAROFALO

Henry J. Stern, the eccentric, ebullient, irreverent, irascible, irrepressible, unforgettable public servant who dedicated much of his four decades in city government to advancing New York’s parks system, died at his Upper East Side home March 28 at the age of 83. Stern, a Manhattan native, served as commissioner of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation from 1983 to 1990 under Mayor Ed Koch and again from 1994 to 2002 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “I will be the Commissioner for good times for people, plants and animals,” Stern told the New York Times in 1983 as he began his first stint leading the agency. “I will be a man for all species.”

KEY DETAILS UNCLEAR IN CONGESTION PLAN TRAFFIC State approves new fees on vehicles entering Manhattan to fund MTA; toll prices and possible exemptions to be determined by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority next year BY MICHAEL GAROFALO

CONTINUED ON PAGE 6

Manhattan drivers will soon face a new toll as part of a congestion pricing plan included in the state budget deal reached early the morning of March 31. But crucial pieces of the plan — including how much the toll will cost and who will be eligible for exemptions or relief — have yet to be determined. Under the plan approved by Albany lawmakers, vehicles entering a congestion zone encompassing all of

Manhattan south of 61st Street (with the exception of the West Side Highway and FDR Drive) will be subject to a new toll. The fee will be collected via an electronic system capable of enforcing variable toll rates depending on the day and time. Vehicles entering the congestion zone multiple times in a single day will only be charged once.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 5 Downtowner

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Crime Watch Voices NYC Now City Arts

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Restaurant Ratings Business Real Estate 15 Minutes

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WEEK OF APRIL

SPRING ARTS PREVIEW < CITYARTS, P.12

FOR HIM, SETTLING SMALL CLAIMS IS A BIG DEAL presided over Arbitration Man has three decades. for informal hearings about it He’s now blogging BY RICHARD KHAVKINE

is the common Arbitration Man their jurist. least folks’ hero. Or at Man has For 30 years, Arbitration court office of the civil few sat in a satellite Centre St. every building at 111 New Yorkers’ weeks and absorbed dry cleaning, burned lost accountings of fender benders, lousy paint jobs, and the like. And security deposits then he’s decided. Arbitration Man, About a year ago, so to not afwho requested anonymity started docuhe fect future proceedings, two dozen of what menting about compelling cases considers his most blog. in an eponymous about it because “I decided to write the stories but in a I was interested about it not from wanted to write from view but rather lawyer’s point of said Arbitration view,” of a lay point lawyer since 1961. Man, a practicing what’s at issue He first writes about post, renders and then, in a separatehow he arrived his decision, detailing blog the to Visitors at his conclusion. their opinions. often weigh in with get a rap going. I to “I really want whether they unreally want to know and why I did it,” I did derstood what don’t know how to he said. “Most people ... I’d like my cases the judge thinks. and also my trereflect my personalitythe law.” for mendous respect 80, went into indiMan, Arbitration suc in 1985, settling vidual practice

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MANHATTAN'S APARTMENT BOOM, > PROPERTY, P.20

2015

In Brief MORE HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESS

The effort to help small seems to businesses in the city be gathering steam. Two city councilmembers, Robert Margaret Chin and Cornegy, have introduced create legislation that wouldSmall a new “Office of the within Business Advocate” of Small the city’s Department Business Services. Chin The new post, which have up told us she’d like to would and running this year, for serve as an ombudsman city small businesses within them clear government, helping to get through the bureaucracy things done. Perhaps even more also importantly, the ombudsman and number will tally the type small business of complaints by taken in owners, the actions policy response, and somefor ways to recommendations If done well, begin to fix things. report would the ombudsman’s give us the first quantitative with taste of what’s wrong the city, an small businesses in towards important first step fixing the problem. of for deTo really make a difference, is a mere formality will have to the work process looking to complete their advocate are the chances course, velopers precinct, but rising rents, -- thanks to a find a way to tackle business’ is being done legally of after-hours projects quickly. their own hours,” which remain many While Chin “They pick out boom in the number throughout who lives on most vexing problem. said Mildred Angelo,of the Ruppert construction permits gauge what Buildings one said it’s too early tocould have the 19th floor in The Department of the city. number three years, the Houses on 92nd Street between role the advocate She Over the past on the is handing out a record work perThird avenues. permits, there, more information of Second and an ongoing all-hours number of after-hours bad thing. of after-hours work the city’s Dept. problem can’t be a said there’s with the mits granted by nearby where according to new data jumped 30 percent, This step, combinedBorough construction project noise Buildings has data provided in workers constantly make efforts by Manhattan to mediate BY DANIEL FITZSIMMONS according to DOB of Informacement from trucks. President Gale Brewer offer response to a Freedom classifies transferring they want. They knows the the rent renewal process, request. The city They 6 “They do whatever signs Every New Yorker clang, tion Act go as they please. work between some early, tangible small any construction on the weekend, can come and sound: the metal-on-metal or the piercing of progress. For many have no respect.” p.m. and 7 a.m., can’t come of these that the hollow boom, issuance reverse. owners, in business moving The increased beeps of a truck has generto a correspond and you as after-hours. soon enough. variances has led at the alarm clock The surge in permits

SLEEPS, THANKS TO THE CITY THAT NEVER UCTION A BOOM IN LATE-NIGHT CONSTR NEWS

A glance it: it’s the middle can hardly believe yet construction of the night, and carries on full-tilt. your local police or You can call 311

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for dollars in fees ated millions of and left some resithe city agency, that the application dents convinced

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MENTAL HEALTH HOUSING AT RISK ACTIVISM Protestors demand increased funding, say governor’s budget falls short BY BRIAN DEMO

Voices rang out through the bustling midtown traffic last Thursday as protestors chanted and carried signs in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office at 633 Third Avenue, between 40th and 41st Streets. The demonstration, a weekly event, was organized by Bring It Home, a coalition of community-based mental health housing providers, mental health advocates, faith leaders, and individuals and families dealing with mental health issues.

Protestors gather weekly in front of Governor Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office to demand more funding for mental health housing. Photo: Brian Demo Cuomo’s proposed 2019-2020 budget includes $10 million in additional funding for community-based mental health housing. Bring It Home says that’s not enough, and that 40,000 mental health housing units are at risk because of poor funding. “We’re doing a service to the government,” said Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordina-

tor at Community Access, which provides supportive housing and social services. “We’re helping people. We’re providing housing. We’re providing support. We can’t go $10,000 in the hole per apartment. We just don’t have the money. We’re non-profits.” Helen Lee, who carried a sign showing a pair of scissors cutting a $100

bill, said that she spent nine months in a homeless shelter until mental health housing services helped her get an apartment. She’s lived there for about 16 years, she said. “Now, they say it’s too expensive,” said Lee. “They have to move me someplace.” Another protestor, Roseanne Leone, born and raised in Brooklyn, said that

she was homeless, then placed into a “shared” living situation with about eight other people, where, worried about theft, she kept her belongings close. She later got a studio apartment through mental health housing services and feels more at ease. “My kids tell me I look younger,” she said. “I feel younger. I’m gainfully alive.”

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CRIME WATCH BY JERRY DANZIG F-WORD TRIGGERS VIOLENT ASSAULT

TRIPLE-TEAM PHONE SCAM

A 72-year-old man was attacked and knocked unconscious after an encounter with a stranger selling CDs on a northbound 4 train, police said. At 11:35 a.m, on Wednesday, Mar. 20,, as the train was entering the Bowling Green station, the victim reportedly told the CD peddler “I don’t have money. Get the f*ck out of my face!” According to police, the next thing the senior knew, he was waking up on the northbound platform of the station with a broken nose and a badly injured right eye socket. He was transported to Bellevue Hospital for treatment.

A man got stung at work in an elaborate phone scam. According to police, on Wednesday afternoon, Mar. 20, a 30-year-old man was working at 375 Hudson St. when he received a call from an unknown person claiming to be a U.S. Marshall, from the number 917-9111213. The caller told the man his Social Security number had been linked to a drug trafficking organization in El Paso, TX. The man was told that the situation needed to be resolved the same day or a warrant would be issued for his arrest. The caller told him he needed to send $27,000 in bitcoin to get a new Social Security number. A man claiming to be

one “James Pjiko” then joined the call, with caller ID showing the number of the NYPD 13th precinct. “Pjiko” claimed that he would clear up any issues. Later, a person claiming to be a “senior marshall” called the victim from 410-413-3755. Unfortunately, the victim complied with the three callers’ instructions and deposited $3,000 from an ATM on East Houston St. and another $5,000 from an ATM in Rochelle Park, NJ before he realized that he’d been scammed.

COPS SEEK TWO IN $12,000 BURGLARY A 34-year-old female employee of the Felix Restaurant at 340 West Broadway told police that, at 2 a.m. on Monday, Mar. 18, she received a phone call from a fellow employee informing her that the restaurant’s front door was open. When the woman arrived at the restaurant, the cash registers were smashed on the ground and a point-of-sale system behind the bar appeared to be in disarray. She then went upstairs and saw that the keypad on the safe had been removed. She opened the safe and found that $12,568 had been taken. Police said two men were wanted for the burglary.

MERCEDES GETAWAY On Saturday evening, Mar. 23, two women and a man entered the

Photo by Tony Webster, via Flickr

STATS FOR THE WEEK Reported crimes from the 1st precinct for the week ending Mar 24 Week to Date 2019 2018

% Change 2019

2018

% Change

Murder

0

0

n/a

1

1

0.0

Rape

0

0

n/a

3

6

-50.0

Robbery

1

3

-66.7

12

18

-33.3

Felony Assault

1

1

0.0

18

10

80.0

Burglary

6

1

500.0 30

10

200.0

Grand Larceny

18

12

50.0

201

228

-11.8

Grand Larceny Auto

1

0

n/a

4

1

300.0

Balenciaga store at 148 Mercer St., removed items from a display shelf near the door, exited without paying and fled the scene in a silver 2018 Mercedes Benz C30 with New York plates JBZ1331. Police searched the neighborhood but couldn’t find the suspects or the Mercedes. A store employee told police she had the contact phone number of one of the possible perpetrators. The items stolen included a white top-handle handbag valued at $2,290, an acid-pink top-handle bag priced at $1,790 and a pair of shoes worth $895, for a total stolen of $4,975.

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“No judgment to fit in or be the same…. As soon as I came to Oakwood I felt welcome. The seniors talk to the freshmen, and this sense of community creates an environment in which we are encouraged to push ourselves and try new things. I learned right away that Oakwood would give me the help and attention with my classes that other schools could not. Oakwood has challenged me and expanded my view of what is possible and I am becoming a more confident learner each day! .”

Year to Date

D’OH! Police remind delivery personnel never to leave the ignition key in a vehicle while making deliveries. At 5:15 a.m. on Friday, Mar. 22, a 61-year-old man was standing behind his 2018 Isuzu van at 140 Duane St. when an unknown person jumped into the vehicle and drove off without permission or authority. The van, bearing New Jersey plates XGC-G11, headed east on Duane St. before hitting a parked car.The Isuzu was later recovered at the corner of Howard St., where the unknown driver fled in an unknown direction.

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On a picturesque coed campus, infused with nature, Oakwood Friends School, guided by Quaker principles, prepares students for lives of achievement, accomplishment, compassion and conscience. Upper School Day & Boarding Programs (5 and 7-day) Middle School Day Program Middle and Upper Schools Open House Student-led campus tours and meetings with faculty and Head of School Sat & Sun April 27 and 28 at Noon Sat & Sun May 4 and 5 at Noon For more info or to join us, write or call: admissions@oakwoodfriends.org • (845) 462-4200 22 Spackenkill Road, Poughkeepsie, NY

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POLICE NYPD 7th Precinct

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CONGESTION CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Supporters of congestion pricing have long touted the policy as a means of funding repairs to the subway system and easing traffic on Manhattanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most crowded streets. Revenue from the new congestion tolling program, which will go into effect no earlier than December 31, 2020, will be dedicated to capital improvements for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Along with additional MTA funding generated by new taxes on internet sales and residential property sales exceeding $1 million, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the transit authority will be able to leverage up to $25 billion in bonds as a result of new revenue streams included in the budget.

that have limited mass transit options.â&#x20AC;? The Long Island Railroad and Metro-North commuter rail systems will each be allocated 10 percent of the remaining funds. Emergency vehicles and some vehicles transporting individuals with disabilities are speciďŹ cally exempted from the toll, and drivers who live within the congestion zone and have an annual income under $60,000 will be eligible to receive a credit reimbursing toll payments. Responsibility for setting the toll price and granting any further exemptions is assigned to the MTAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which will also administer and maintain the tolling system. (A panel convened by the governor recommended last year a peakhour congestion fee of $11.52 for passenger vehicles.)

Exemptions from the toll Of the new MTA capital funds generated by the congestion fee, 80 percent is earmarked for the New York City Transit Authority, â&#x20AC;&#x153;with priority given to the subway system, new signaling, new subway cars, track and car repair, accessibility, buses and bus system improvements and further investments in expanding transit availability to areas in the outer boroughs

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New traffic mobility review board The TBTA will receive nonbinding recommendations on toll amounts and possible credits, discounts and exemptions from a new six-member traffic mobility review board. Responsibility for appointing the traffic mobility review boardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s members is assigned to the MTA board (which is controlled

by the governor). The mayor can recommend one member for appointment; additionally, one member must reside in the Metro-North region and one member must reside in the Long Island Railroad region. The law requires this advisory board to submit pricing recommendations between Nov. 15, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020. The TBTAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s board will hold ultimate voting power on congestion toll prices and any possible relief. Also unclear is which crossings will be eligible for toll offsets. An earlier congestion pricing proposal put forth by the governor would have eliminated â&#x20AC;&#x153;double-tollingâ&#x20AC;? on drivers entering the congestion zone after using the East River tunnels, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels or the Henry Hudson Bridge at the northern tip of Manhattan. The new plan does not specify any crossings where tolls would be offset from the price of the full congestion charge; it instead leaves the matter to be settled by the TBTA. Rockland and Orange County legislators had threatened to withdraw support from the plan if it did not include toll offsets for drivers using the George Washington and Tappan Zee Bridges.

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ELEGY CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

STERN’S NOMS DE PARC Henry J. Stern, who called himself StarQuest, handed out nicknames like candy, including these.

The Parks Department added 1,600 acres under his stewardship, a total surpassed only by the master builder Robert Moses. Stern’s legacy includes the addition of 100,000 street trees to the city’s urban forest as well as the Greenstreets program, which continues to enliven grey, unused areas of the concrete jungle with verdant plantings.

Former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe: A-Train Straus News Senior Reporter Doug Feiden: Define Former Mets star Mike Piazza: MVP Boomer, Stern’s pet Golden Retriever: Wonder Dog Former Mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani: N/A (both refused to be nicknamed) lawsuit for $20 million that alleged racial discrimination in the department’s hiring under Stern’s leadership, a charge he always denied, and he was known to make impolitic racial remarks.

Public Servant and Public Showman Stern’s civic achievements are inseparable from the characteristic flourishes with which he carried out his work. A genius for publicity, he attracted constant press coverage of Parks initiatives with winning quips and a list of gimmicks and stunts too long for this article. He presided with comic reverence over a funeral to commemorate the death of a 151-year-old weeping beech tree, donned Neptune and astronaut outfits (among other costumes), and was trailed at public appearances by his Golden Retriever Boomer and a staffer equipped with a handheld counter during a bid to se-

Manhattan Born and Raised

Henry J. Stern, seated, with fellow Parks Commissioners (from left) Mitchell Silver, Veronica White, Adrian Benepe and Gordon Davis. Photo: NYC Parks cure the world record for “most petted dog.” His detractors may have rolled their eyes at these antics, but they brought attention and funding to Parks, helping to build the system we know

today. “There’s a very serious side to Henry and a very significant physical legacy that I think tends to be minimized because he was such an interesting character and did such interesting things,” Adrian Be-

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nepe, who worked under Stern at Parks for 14 years and succeeded him as commissioner, told Straus News. “There was a method to all Henry’s zaniness.” Stern coveted each tree and every inch of parkland he oversaw. He fought zealously to expand the city’s network of green space at every opportunity, often getting his way through sheer stubborn willfulness. He recognized the ecological value in undeveloped tracts of parkland, many of which he designated “forever wild.” And amid budget cuts he marshalled the power of private philanthropy to help fund and maintain parks and historic houses throughout the city, building upon the successful example of the 1980s renaissance brought about in part by the Central Park Conservancy. “He was a city kid through and through, but he loved nature in the kind of way only a true city kid can,” Benepe said. Stern often spent his weekends driving around the city, exploring and inspecting every corner of the Emerald Empire, as he called the city’s vast public parklands. Stern was also prone to controversy. The city settled a

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There was a method to all Henry’s zaniness.” Adrian Benepe, Stern’s successor as NYC parks commissioner

Henry Jordan Stern was raised in Inwood in an immigrant household and displayed academic brilliance from an early age, graduating from the Bronx High School of Science at 15. He went on to attend City College and graduated from Harvard Law School at age 22 in 1957. He entered New York City politics in the early 1960s and was a fixture in civic life for the next half century. Stern won election to the City Council as an at-large representative of Manhattan in 1973. During the city’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s, Stern, in partnership with his friend and Council colleague Robert F. Wagner, Jr. began selling neckties bearing the city seal out of the trunk of his car. Proceeds from the “Stern & Wagner” line supplemented the public coffers. A Penchant for Park Names As Parks commissioner, Stern conferred nicknames, or “noms de parc,” upon thousands of employees, reporters, celebrities and anyone else willing to play along. Stern drew his own moniker, StarQuest, from the German translation of his surname. Parks staffers — the Starlings, in Stern-speak — dutifully catalogued each new entry in an official volume. Janos Marton was an 18-yearold Parks intern during the summer of 2001 when an assignment brought him to a nondescript South Bronx basketball court known as the Field of Dreams. In his report, Marton proposed renaming the park after Big Pun, the then recently-deceased Bronx rapper depicted in a nearby mural. Marton found himself unexpectedly summoned to the commissioner’s office at the Arsenal in Central Park. The new name was a no-go due to objectionable lyrical content in Pun’s songs, Stern told him,

“But I appreciate your gumption and your efforts, and so I have bequeathed you the parks name Big Pun.” Like so many who crossed StarQuest’s path, Marton stayed in touch with Stern and came to call him a mentor. “In a city of 8 million, he was among the most unique people you could ever come across,” Marton, who now works on criminal justice reform at the American Civil Liberties Union, said. Stern’s fondness for appellations extended to the very parks he administered. The sliver of mid-block green space on the Upper West Side originally known, forgettably, as the 71st Street Plot became, thanks to Stern’s Latin embellishment, Septuagesimo Uno. When the Department of Transportation wanted to remove some trees in an unnamed East Side playground to make way for a widened entrance to the 59th Street Bridge, Stern renamed it 24 Sycamores Park — a defensive measure against anyone who would commit premeditated arborcide (another Sternism, popularized during his successful crusade to enact harsh penalties for unauthorized tree killing). You can’t get rid of any trees, his thinking went, if they’re counted in the name of the park.

A Pool for Henry It’s fitting that recent public efforts to rename a Parks facility in Stern’s honor have centered on an Upper East Side pool he frequented, given his devotion as commissioner to restoring Moses-era public pools, which he prized as free and democratic spaces. In 2016, Community Board 8 unanimously called on the city to rename the swimming pool in John Jay Park after Stern during his lifetime, an effort Benepe helped lead. The city never acted on the request. But with StarQuest now departed, it seems likely that before long New Yorkers will be able to enjoy a swim in the Henry J. Stern Pool.


APRIL 4-10,2019

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Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

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At the “What the History?! Deviant Female Dining” talk. Photo courtesy of the New-York Historical Society

‘DEVIANT FEMALE DINING’ SOCIETY How Chinese restaurants historically provided New York women with spaces of freedom and self-expression BY MIHIKA AGARWAL

Chinese restaurants, with their “Thank You” plastic bags and red and yellow storefronts, are so woven into the fabric of New York that we rarely stop and ponder the history of these spaces. How and when did they come about? Whom did they cater to? What did they mean for emerging conversations about gender, race and markets in the city? On March 28, New-York Historical Society fellow Heather Lee offered a trip down memory lane in a talk about the social history of Chinese restaurants in New York and how they once provided a space of freedom and possibility for women. This history dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century, a time when Chinese and white Americans kept separate, a time when the Chinese were powerless, not naturalized and could not vote. The trend became official in the spring of 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act, providing a 10year moratorium on Chinese labor immigration. “So if you couldn’t directly affect politics, what alternatives do you have?” asked Lee. “How do you influence people indirectly? In order to make friends with policemen, judges and lawyers, in order to change the circumstances of their survival in New York City. This where Chinese restaurants came into the picture.” The Chinese restaurants that sprang up on the Lower East Side in the 1890s initially

served as a site for political banquet dinners for men. The gorgeously illuminated lanterns and decor added to the sense of novelty, and soon the Chinese restaurant was exoticized as a must-have experience of cultural exchange. “Newspaper articles and photographers covered them,” said Lee. “These articles really drummed up interest in Chinese food. That’s how women first learned about them. [The articles] would talk about decor, the food, the customs. They would also be very didactic. How to drink tea — definitely not with sugar, definitely not with milk. How to hold chopsticks. White people in the city at the time had never seen them.” What started for women as a fantasy about silk fans and dainty teacups soon became a channel for rebellion and self-expression. Women were often barred from other restaurants, and Chinese restaurant owners capitalized on this opportunity and created ladies’ dining rooms. The atmosphere was free and easy. The staff were non-interfering — their oblivion to American culture led to a “you-do-you” attitude. And so the women capitalized in return, using the freedom to experiment with accepted norms of social behavior. Could they kiss and snuggle with their suitors in public without raising eyebrows? They would soon find out. Female luncheon parties were an opportunity for them to demonstrate to other women, not men, how worldly they were. Women would go in teams of two into a realm where they could rethink their sexuality. Some restaurants even had rules where men were not allowed to go up to women. Women had to go up to men and invite them over. It provided

women with a break from male company, where they could evaluate their husbands and suitors. The moderator of the talk, Dominique Jean Louis, a project historian at the New-York Historical Society asked, “Why do you think this culture of working out these social relationships happened in Chinese restaurants and not French cafes or German schnitzel parlors or any other kind of immigrant establishment?” “Other immigrant establishments would cater to their own immigrant populations,” said Lee. “So Italians would be going to Italian restaurants in the same period in which Chinese are welcoming people who are not Chinese into the restaurant. And part of what that meant was, if an Italian woman was at an Italian restaurant, first of all why isn’t she cooking at home? Secondly, she would be very carefully watched. She would be responsible for how she’s representing Italian women so her morality would be much more carefully policed than would it be at a Chinese restaurant. Chinese men would be like, “We don’t understand American culture, we don’t know what you’re doing, so go ahead and do your thing.” There were multiple narratives in Lee’s talk about the social history of Chinese restaurants: Chinese immigration patterns, racial discrimination in 19th-century New York, authenticity wars — is chop suey a Chinese or an American invention? But what stood out to me was how these sites provided a leveling ground and a connection between 19th-century women and today’s millennial feminists. More than a century has passed and there is still no better outlet than a lo mein date with our girlfriends for us to eat and discuss our feelings.

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Voices

Write to us: To share your thoughts and comments go to otdowntown.com and click on submit a letter to the editor.

HENRY STERN AND THE FOUR-LEGGED LIBERAL EAST SIDE OBSERVER BY ARLENE KAYATT

Remembering Henry — It’s hard to remember — or imagine — our town without Henry Stern. He was truly a New Yorker and a New York legend. Caring, compassionate, curmudgeonly. They didn’t/don’t come smarter or more savvy, no matter where you fit on the political spectrum. My memories of Henry go back to the early days of his career as a City Council member in the 1970s. It was in those same years that Our Town began publishing. Henry was a Councilman-at-Large for Manhattan, elected on the Liberal (capital L) line. Henry regularly stopped by the Our Town office to exchange politi-

cal commentary, espouse causes, or just plain gossip with Ed (the publisher) and Kalev Pehme (the editor). Kalev and Henry were generally allied, Ed not so much. My favorite memory of Henry from those years was on a Sunday morning when the paper was being readied to go to press. No computers in those days, just paste boards, reporters dropping off copy and artwork, a few staffers, locals dropping off classified ads. Air filled with some smoking and lots of loud talk. And of course, the paper’s resident cats and dogs. Pre-Boomer for Henry in those years. Mid-morning, Henry walked down the ramp from East 82nd Street, through the door, and paced quietly through the office, looking at everyone but not responding to call-outs from staff or

anyone else. Just a quiet and intense walk-and-look through. After about 15 minutes, I asked who or what he was looking for. “Is there a Sadie Socol here?” he asked. He said wanted to meet her and introduce himself because she had recently registered as a Liberal. OOOkay. Now the word was out, the cover blown. The paper was doing a story about “howanyone-could-register-to-vote,” including one Sadie Socol, the paper’s beloved brindle-colored mixed breed dog, who had registered as a Liberal. There were a lot of red Our Town faces. Henry’s face darkened, realizing that there was one less Liberal voter residing in Manhattan. Through the years Henry was always a beacon and the embodiment of a New York public servant. He will be missed.

Reader readback — Community Board 8’s communications committee co-chair David Rosenstein emailed about CB8’s website, which includes links to articles in other publications relevant to the board’s catchment area. He explains how the disappearance of local news coverage has hit the community boards particularly hard. Despite coverage by Our Town and other local media, he notes, residents still miss out on much information that’s relevant to the CB8 community. He also outlines the many issues and matters the CB8 website is bringing to the public under the leadership of CB8 chair Alida Camp. The list includes basically everything the board might have to deal with — development, zoning, transportation — with the exception of politics and crime. (Though the website does address pattern crimes or those that might inform the board’s work.) Over the past few months the

board’s district manager Will Brightbill has been posting boardrelated headlines and internet links on the website. The communication committee does most of the daily news searches and Brightbill adds items he identifies. The articles generally go up on the website Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to go to the general News Roundup page cb8m.com/ what’s-new/weekly-news-roundup/ where they can find CB8-centric articles. Included in the March 29th roundup were UES articles from the national/global section of the NY Times (How Do You Build a Giant Glass Box? Very Carefully), from the citywide real estate publication, The Real Deal (Naftali in Contract to Buy Large UES Development Site), and from hyperlocal Our Town (“Condo on Stilts” Paused). Always good to hear about good local news resources.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BAKERIES GONE? PUBLIC EYE BY JON FRIEDMAN

I used to love to go to Moishe’s, the bakery on Second Avenue and East 7th Street because I always felt welcome. The aroma of freshly baked chocolate cakes and pastries greeted me the second I stepped through the door. I used to love to go to Di Roberti’s bakery on First Avenue and East 11th Street. That array of dessert delicacies! I used to love to go to Jon Vie, a bakery on Sixth Avenue and 12th Street in the heart of the West Village because the food was terrific and, yes, I felt cool just by loitering in that neighborhood. Now, with the closing of Moishe’s a few weeks ago, they’re all gone, not to mention many of our other beloved eateries in the city. I know, I know. The perils of living in a glamorous city have existed forever. You want to call home “the city that never sleeps,” you have to suck it up when the odd Mom and Pop shop goes under. But I don’t have to like it.

Black and white cookie from Moishe’s Bake Shop. Photo: stu_spivak, via flickr Of course, there are newer, trendier baked-goods places: Levain Bakery on the UWS with lines down the block for

its super-rich cookies, Breads Bakery and their babkas. To say nothing of downtown spots like Balthazar Bak-

ery and Dominique Ansel (of Cronut fame). So it’s not just about the sweets. There is a far bigger story here than my having to schlep a few more blocks to buy a black and white cookie now. Once again, we need to ponder what kind of city we want to live in and brag about to tourists and strangers. Will New York go all the way and become a city that only the elite one percent can afford to live in? That wretched thought is utterly shameful. It means that we have turned our backs on the middle class and any class that doesn’t define itself by the size of someone’s investment account. The image of New Yorkers that plays the best around the world is that of a gritty success story, who has worked his or her way up through the ranks to reach the top. George Steinbrenner, the late, fabled New York Yankees owner, was never able to grasp the reality of New Yorkers: as long as you give it your all, that’s good enough. No, Steinbrenner incorrectly believed he had to apologize to the fans at the end of every baseball season when the Bronx Bombers had thoughtlessly

failed to win the World Series. Maybe in George’s dollars and cents world, that was the rule. Which is why it was said in the 1950s pinstripe city culture that rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for US Steel. And what does that have to do with the closing of Moishe’s? Well, in a word, everything. Moishe’s and its ilk closed because they could not afford the reality of a rich person’s New York, which is a sad reflection on what Paul Simon once dubbed “my little town.” Even the very rich should take pride in living in a town where a stroll through Central Park on a sunny afternoon in June should contain enough minor miracles to sustain you for the season. The pure delight of seeing little kids or bigger kids playing a heated game of softball can transfix anyone. And what’s more fun than laying on the grass and catching some rays while you read The Times? The only thing that could sweeten that picture is eating a big old chocolate chip cookie from a New York bakery. As we have seen, that is getting harder and harder to do.

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APRIL 4-10,2019

Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

TALKING FAITH AND CELEBRITY RELIGION The author of “Stars of David” sits for an interview as her book becomes a musical BY EMILY MASON

When Abigail Pogrebin first had the idea to interview Jewish celebrities about their spiritual lives for a book, her husband said what most people might have said: “Why would they talk to you about that?” Nevertheless, Pogrebin began reaching out, and by the time she had finished she had interviewed over 50 Jewish Alisters, ranging from Natalie Portman to Steven Spielberg to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For “Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk about Being Jewish,” published in 2007, Pogrebin asked what their Jewish heritage has meant to them and what role it played in their careers and lives. Now her collection of interviews is being transformed into a one-nightonly musical, set for April 8 at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on West 83rd Street. The show features a group of interviews from the book, each represented by a song to be sung by Jewish cantors, to add an extra touch of meaning. With her book taking on a new life, Pogrebin reflected on its creation, and how the public perception of the Jewish identity has changed over the years.

What inspired the book? It was probably my back door way of wrestling with my own Jewish identity, which wasn’t as formed then as it is now. I had just had my first child and was reckoning with what it means to raise a Jewish family, and what it means to be a Jew in America as an adult. I would look at public figures who were Jewish and I knew that somewhere, even if it’s not the first thing they talk about, it had to have affected them in how they were raised, in their values, what they had chosen to be or become and I wanted to understand how such a private thing fits into a public life.

How did you get in touch with your celebrity subjects? I started basically asking the celebrities I could get to. There were five at the start who I had some kind of personal connection with and it was a good enough five that it convinced others to trust me and to sit down for an interview. It ended

“Stars of David” author Abigail Pogrebin interviewed over 50 Jewish A-listers. Photo courtesy of Abigail Pogrebin up being a remarkably candid snapshot of Jewish identity from some of our highest achievers, admittedly a very particular subset of Jews in America. But telling, in terms of how the majority have been raised with Jewish identity and ritual, and the majority have let it go for the most part.

What do you mean by let it go? To each person, it absolutely was essential to who they were, but it wasn’t essential to what they did, or whether they prioritized observance. And that’s reflective of many Jews in this country who have not opted for an observant life. A theme among many of these interviews [was] that part of the recipe for success was American identity more than a religious one, and that in some sense a Jewish identity would be constraining or narrowing in some way. It was also obviously prejudice. Most of the people in my book were raised in a time where there wasn’t this general open embrace. There was an ideal, the American ideal, which was not necessarily religious.

What is the box these people are afraid of being put into? I think [it] depends on whether or not you’ve experienced anti-Semitism. A number of people in my book did, so there was a sense of knowing that there were tripwires to avoid in terms of perception, in terms of stereotypes. But the bigger takeaway for me was a sense that peoples’ Jewishness had informed their moxie, their sense of “nothing is going to get in my way.” We’ve had roadblocks before, we’ve had doubters before in our of cultural heritage, and we’ve defied the naysayers over and over again.

Is the Jewish community tight-knit? Did that help you access high-profile people? I’m not sure I could report

this book today. There are so many more tiers of handlers and gatekeepers that I think it would have been harder to get to these people. When people were asked if they would talk about their Jewish past, especially when they saw that Mike Wallace had already said yes, that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had said yes, there was a sense that, “Oh that’s a club I want to be in, or I’m proud to be in.” There was also a sense when I sat down with them that even though they were famous, they were family. Honestly, Steven Spielberg did feel like one of my cousins, and Beverly Sills felt like one of my aunts. I would also try to bring some rugelach when I showed up. And it’s not just about your knish and my knish, my matzah ball soup and your matzah ball soup. There’s an ineffable vocabulary and emotional current that was instantaneous and hard to describe, and it led to an intimacy in these conversations that I hadn’t expected.

There seems to be a theme of the American and Jewish identity wrestling with each other. How would you describe that conflict? I would answer that question differently now because of what’s happening with Israel. I think we’re in a place where Jewish identity feel trickier and more fraught. Not that people are divided about whether to call themselves Jewish and American, but I’ve never seen Israel’s existence be so openly questioned. And being in the position to defend a place that’s been so dear to me, and have that be linked in some way in a sense of anti-Semitism, feels like a new moment.

How did you feel when the musical was being created? The idea that we were approaching composers now to translate these stories was sensitive and ambivalent for me, because I felt a great responsibility in holding these stories. I had asked them to be in this book, I didn’t ask them to be in a musical. So the fact that composers like Sheldon Harnick and Duncan Sheik were chosen was a huge part of what got me over that hesitation. The idea that these stories were going to be cared for by such musical giants was a powerful kind of coda for this book. I never anticipated that it would have a theatrical life. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

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10

APRIL 4-10,2019

Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

MARBLE MUSIC presents

Discover the world around the corner. Find community events, gallery openings, book launches and much more: Go to nycnow.com

EDITOR’S PICK

April 4 - April 27 MRS. MURRAY’S MENAGERIE Ars Nova 511 West 54th St 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. $35 arsnovanyc.com 212-691-1555 The creators of a 1970s children’s television program have commissioned a focus group to probe the parents of the show’s target audience. Over stale coffee and donuts, a group of strangers navigates the murky waters of American belief and perception.

Sat 6 ◄ EXPLORING ART + TECHNOLOGY LABS — NATIVE ARCHITECTURE: SMART DESIGN!

Featuring the students of Paul Jacobs Elena Baquerizo, Daniel Ficarri, Jeremiah Mead, Alan Montgomery, Alexander Pattavina, Raphael Vogl, Phoon Yu, Eddie Zheng

Thursday, April 4 | 7:30pm Free and Open to All Event listings brought to you by Marble Collegiate Church. 1 West 29th Street / New York, New York 10001 212 686 2770 / MarbleChurch.org Download the Marble Church App on iPhone or Android

Thu 4

Fri 5

COMEDY CENTRAL VARIETY SHOWCASE

ASTRONOMY CLUB: IT’S IN THE STARS

The Magnet Theater 254 West 29th St 7:00 p.m. Free The Comedy Central Variety Showcase features sketch/ character performances from some of the most exciting comedians in NYC. magnettheater.com 212-244-8824

SubCulture 45 Bleecker St 10:00 p.m. $14 Have you ever had a moment or experience that felt like it was destined? In a show that will reveal the meaning behind it all, Astronomy Club will take these moments from audience stories and create a very funny, fully improvised hour of comedy. subculturenewyork.com 212-533-5470

National Museum of the American Indian 1 Bowling Green 1:00 p.m. Free with Registration With the green movement of today, how are architects informed by Native design approaches? Discover the innovative and sustainable design principles of the Pueblo house and Nunavut Iglu and gain a deeper understanding of Native technology in diverse environments. Design your own structure inspired by Native architecture, sustainable design, and your observations of the local environment. americanindian.si.edu 202-633-6644


APRIL 4-10,2019

11

Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

ACTIVITIES FOR THE FERTILE MIND

thoughtgallery.org NEW YORK CITY

HWBC & Science Friday Present “Ask A Spaceman” Live

MONDAY, APRIL 8TH, 7PM Housing Works | 126 Crosby St. | 212-966-0466 | housingworksbookstore.org Go interstellar with astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter, who leads a panel looking at life, death, and origins, as inspired by his book Your Place in the Universe: Understanding Our Big, Messy Existence ($6, includes free glass of wine or beer).

The Great Migration: Searching for Freedom, Finding Injustice

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10TH, 6PM NYU School of Law | 40 Washington Sq. So. | 212-998-6100 | brennancenter.org As part of the city-wide Carnegie Hall series Migrations: The Making of America, the Brennan Center hosts a panel on the legacy of the Great Migration. Experts will focus on changes at the turn of the 20th century, and its impact on the civil rights era through to today (free).

Just Announced | FX’s Fosse/Verdon Screening and Conversation

THURSDAY, APRIL 18TH, 7PM 92nd Street Y | 1395 Lexington Ave. | 212-415-5500 | 92y.org Explore the romantic and creative partnership between Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon in a viewing of a new episode of the upcoming FX limited series. Afterwards, hear from show stars including Sam Rockwell, Michelle Williams, and Lin-Manuel Miranda ($40).

For more information about lectures, readings and other intellectually stimulating events throughout NYC,

sign up for the weekly Thought Gallery newsletter at thoughtgallery.org.

NYC FEMINIST FILM WEEK 2019: PROGRAM 3: CAMPBELL X

WEST WING WRITERS

THE FRAGILE SPINE

Caveat 21 A Clinton St 6:30 p.m $12 A hilarious look at speeches, from actual speechwriters. SpeakEasy brings together former presidential speechwriters, current West Wing Writers speechwriters, and comedians who like speeches, to talk about the world’s greatest medium — oration. Guests will break down their favorite speeches, give behind-the-scenes looks at the drafting process, and even lead the audience in crafting their own big, keynote speech. caveat.nyc 212-228-2100

UCB Hell’s Kitchen 555 West 42nd St 10:30 p.m. $7 Watch the next generation of UCB stars as they perform the FRAGILE SPINE, an improv show that is the epitome of joy, support, silliness and drama. ucbtheatre.com 212-366-9176

Anthology Film Archives 32 Second Ave 7:30 p.m. Free A romantic comedy about LGBT life set on the multicultural streets of East London, “Stud Life” centers on the adventures of JJ, a Black lesbian, and her best friend Seb, a white gay man. Made in collaboration with various queer and POC London communities and including street slang and patois, Campbell X’s first feature proposes a daring Black queer aesthetic while evoking the early work of filmmakers like Cheryl Dunye and Spike Lee. anthologyfilmarchives.org 212-505-5181

Wed 10 ▲ TODDLER STORYTIME Hudson Park Library 66 Leroy St 11:15 a.m. Free Walking little ones and their parents/caregivers can enjoy interactive stories, action songs, fingerplays, and spend time with other toddlers in the neighborhood. Non-walkers are encouraged to join us in this Monday program. nypl.org 212-243-6876

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APRIL 4-10,2019

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PRINCESS ZHAOJUN: A TIMELESS TALE A breathtaking production tells the story of an iconic Chinese heroine from 36 B.C., a story about peace and the power of the individual that is still relevant today BY MARY GREGORY

The wedding dance alone was worth the trip. A row of richlycostumed, superbly choreographed women dancing as they wore candle-topped hats was dazzling. Their fluttering skirts seemed borne on air, while in reality, it’s the mastery of the China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater that carried “Princess Zhaojun” to artistic heights. The March 21-24 performances at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater were the debut of a new dance drama based on the life story of Wang Zhaojun, an iconic heroine of Chinese culture. Known as one of the “Four Beauties of ancient China,” Zhaojun is one of history’s

larger than life women, famed for her beauty first, but also for her acumen, bravery and selflessness. She’s a kind of Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and Eleanor Roosevelt rolled into one, dressed in imperial silk. Zhaojun’s story has been told by the Peking Opera, in more than 700 poems, in literature as far back as the second century and, more recently, on television and in movies. While Chinese audiences may not have needed help to follow a tale possibly as familiar to them as Romeo and Juliet, for others, monitors explained the story. The opening act presented a smoky graveyard scene. It was clear something was amiss. From there, we traveled to a fabulous court filled with elegantly dressed women folding clothes, meant to suggest Zhaojun’s tedium. The story goes that Han Emperor Yuan selected her as one of his 3,000 concubines in 36 B.C. An accomplished musician (her pipa, or Chinese lute, was frequently

“Princess Zhaojun” Photo: Courtesy China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater. on display) as well as an artist, Zhaojun wanted more from life. When emissaries of the Xiongnu peoples from the wild outer reaches of the empire

“Princess Zhaojun” Photo: Courtesy China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater.

started rumblings of dissent, the emperor offered a marriage to make peace. Zhaojun volunteered. Seeing her role as peacemaker and protector

of her people, she left the comfort of the court, traveled to the distant edge of civilization, and married Huhanye Chanyu, king of the Xiongnu, who won her heart with gestures of kindness and protection. The story offers chances for an enormous range of dancing, music, staging and costumes. In a particularly moving sequence, Zhaojun was seen being presented, like a precious doll, swathed in diaphanous orange robes that were delicately unwrapped. Battles were fought by warriors who tumbled and leapt with athletic vigor and grace. Whole troupes of ladies in waiting floated weightlessly on skittering feet, their upper bodies still, as they glided. Veils of color and smoke filled gorgeously painted backdrops as music that combined the plaintive voice of violins with thumping drums, chants and exotic sounds filled the air. With over 50 magnificently costumed dancers depicting the splendor of the imperial court, as well as warriors in the wilderness, weddings, death scenes, and a spectacular

ghost-dance in which Huhanye Chanyu returns from the dead to express his love for Zhaojun in her dreams, the visuals are breathtaking. The production gave the sense of stepping into a living classical Chinese painting, as it recounted a moving story without words. The troupe, part of the Chine Arts and Entertainment Group, is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China. Both the dance itself and the creativity of the production were outstanding. Zhaojun’s character filled the stage with energy and grace; her solos were extraordinary. It would be hard to imagine anyone leaving “Princess Zhaojun” without a lasting memory of the production and the woman it portrays. Though its timeliness couldn’t be more perfect, arriving during women’s history month, this heroine’s story, told with elegance and artistry, with its emphasis on peace, cooperation, the power of the individual, selflessness, shared responsibility and love, is a tale for our and every age.


APRIL 4-10,2019

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Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

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In his solo show, biracial comedian Bill Posley weighs in on the modern-day conversation about race from a unique perspective.

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APRIL 4-10,2019

Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

RESTAURANT INSPECTION RATINGS

Mazaar

137 Essex Street

Closed (94) Raw, cooked or prepared food is adulterated, contaminated, crosscontaminated, or not discarded in accordance with HACCP plan. Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Harmful, noxious gas or vapor detected. CO ~1 3 ppm. Hand washing facility not provided in or near food preparation area and toilet room. Hot and cold running water at adequate pressure to enable cleanliness of employees not provided at facility. Soap and an acceptable hand-drying device not provided. No facilities available to wash, rinse and sanitize utensils and/or equipment.

MAR 20 - 26, 2018 The following listings were collected from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s website and include the most recent inspection and grade reports listed. We have included every restaurant listed during this time within the zip codes of our neighborhoods. Some reports list numbers with their explanations; these are the number of violation points a restaurant has received. To see more information on restaurant grades, visit www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/services/restaurant-inspection.shtml. Hou Yi

97 2 Avenue

A

A-1 Pizza Shop

505 Grand Street

A

Cupcake Market

74 East 7 Street

A

99 Favor Taste

285 Grand Street

A

Tim Ho Wan

85 4 Avenue

Grade Pending (31) Hot food item not held at or above 140º F. Cold food item held above 41º F (smoked fish and reduced oxygen packaged foods above 38 ºF) except during necessary preparation. Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.

J J Noodle

19 Henry Street

Grade Pending (20) Hot food item not held at or above 140º F. Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.

French Diner

188 Orchard Street

A

Mr Taka Ramen

170 Allen Street

A

Zest Ramen

112 Eldridge Street

Grade Pending (27) Hot food item not held at or above 140º F. Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Sanitized equipment or utensil, including in-use food dispensing utensil, improperly used or stored. Wiping cloths soiled or not stored in sanitizing solution.

99¢ Fresh Pizza

71 2 Avenue

A

Taboonette

30 East 13 Street

A

Papaya Dog

239-11 1 Avenue

A

City Gourmet Cafe

238 East 14 Street

A

Sundaes And Cones

95 East 10 Street

A

Zest Sushi

249 Broome Street

A

Side Bar

120 East 15 Street

A

Izzies Cheesesteaks

47 Clinton Street

A

Frankie’s Kitchen

41 Cooper Square

A

Lucys

135 Avenue A

A

Pangea Restaurant

178 2 Avenue

A

Two Boots

42 Avenue A

Wichcraft

11 East 20 Street

A

Vanessa’s Dumpling

220 East 14 Street

A

Vapiano

113 University Place

Grade Pending (21) Cold food item held above 41º F (smoked fish and reduced oxygen packaged foods above 38 ºF) except during necessary preparation. Food Protection Certificate not held by supervisor of food operations.

Not Yet Graded (39) No facilities available to wash, rinse and sanitize utensils and/or equipment. Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.

Ace Bar

531 East 5 Street

A

The Grafton Public House

126 1 Avenue

A

Sweetgreen

8 East 18 Street

A

Minca Ramen Factory

536 East 5 Street

A

Tac N Roll

124 East 4 Street

A

Buenos Aires

513 East 6 Street

A

L’express

249 Park Avenue South

A

Ninth Street Espresso

341 East 10 Street

A

East Village Social

126 St Marks Place

Nix

72 University Place

A

Sugar Fish

33 East 20 Street

A

The Ainsworth

64 3 Avenue

Grade Pending (41) Hot food item not held at or above 140º F. Cold food item held above 41º F (smoked fish and reduced oxygen packaged foods above 38 ºF) except during necessary preparation. Raw, cooked or prepared food is adulterated, contaminated, cross-contaminated, or not discarded in accordance with HACCP plan. Filth flies or food/refuse/sewageassociated (FRSA) flies present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Filth flies include house flies, little house flies, blow flies, bottle flies and flesh flies. Food/refuse/sewage-associated flies include fruit flies, drain flies and Phorid flies. Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.

Grade Pending (54) Filth flies or food/refuse/sewage-associated (FRSA) flies present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Filth flies include house flies, little house flies, blow flies, bottle flies and flesh flies. Food/refuse/sewageassociated flies include fruit flies, drain flies and Phorid flies. Live animals other than fish in tank or service animal present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Hand washing facility not provided in or near food preparation area and toilet room. Hot and cold running water at adequate pressure to enable cleanliness of employees not provided at facility. Soap and an acceptable hand-drying device not provided. Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.

O! Nigiri! The Riceball Factory

94 Saint Marks Place

Grade Pending (5) Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.

Westville Bakery

33 Saint Marks Place

Not Yet Graded (25) Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Live animals other than fish in tank or service animal present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Personal cleanliness inadequate. Outer garment soiled with possible contaminant. Effective hair restraint not worn in an area where food is prepared.

Shi Miaodao

33 Saint Marks Place

A

K & S Ramen

283 Broome Street

Not Yet Graded (5) Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.

Ginger & Lemongrass Les

163 Rivington Street

A

Tribeca Tavern

247 West Broadway

A

Good Thanks Cafe

131 Orchard Street

A

Saturdays Surf Nyc

31 Crosby Street

A

88 Palace Restaurant

88 East Broadway

A

Bassanova Ramen

76 Mott St

A

Graffiti

130 Duane St

A

A

78 Leonard St

A

Kana Tapas Bar & Restaurant

324 Spring Street

Tetsu

Baby Grand

161 Lafayette Street

A


APRIL 4-10,2019

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Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

A PLAYWRIGHTâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S POWERFUL LATE START

NEIGHBORHOODâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S BEST To place an ad in this directory, Call Douglas at 212-868-0190 ext. 352.

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THEATER Written when he was 67, Ira Fuchsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; VILNA is a disturbing take on the killing pits of the Holocaust

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Ira Fuchs always knew he would be a playwright, but he didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t produce his first play until the age of 67. Howâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that for itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s never too late? The playwright worked as a computer technology entrepreneur for over 47 years, even writing several books for Microsoft, but was an English major in college. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It was the best thing I ever did,â&#x20AC;? said Fuchs. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It teaches you how to think.â&#x20AC;? His play VILNA, which hit one of the oldest Off-Broadway theaters at the Theater at St. Clements, is about the heroic tale of two boys who saved the lives of many. His two main characters, Sean Hudock, who plays Motke Zeidel, and Seamus Mulcahy, who plays Yudi Farber, were in the middle of practicing the scene when they formally meet at a summer camp at the age of eleven. Sean Hudockâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s character, Motke, throws a ball at Yudiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feet and this begins their life-long friendship. Fuchs, adorned in a playwrightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scarf, said he began to officially take his creative career to the next level in 2016 when he enrolled in a six-week course in Hollins Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s drama program in Virginia and took twelve credits over the course of a six-week summer semester. The Off-Broadway play, which shows for ďŹ ve weeks, is a rollercoaster of events. Fuchs says he got an assignment in a course called â&#x20AC;&#x153;First Draftsâ&#x20AC;? to write a play about an article in the newspapers. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s how VILNA was born. The article was about the discovery and corroboration of the Ponar killing pits outside of Nazi-occupied Vilna (now Vilnius in Lithuania), where Jews were ďŹ rst moved into a ghetto and then to the Ponar forest. Fuchs says 70,000 people were shot and then dumped into the pits in the forest. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It picked me.â&#x20AC;? Fuchs said of the subject. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t pick it. You think you have free-will sometimes and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not always

Â&#x203A;Â&#x2019;Â&#x2014;Â?ČąÂ&#x2019;Â&#x2014;ČąÂ&#x2DC;Â&#x203A;Čą Â&#x2013;Â&#x17D;Â&#x2014;Â?Â&#x2019;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2014;ČąÂ?Â&#x2018;Â&#x2019;Â&#x153;ČąÂ&#x160;Â? Â?Â&#x2DC;Â&#x203A;ČąÂ&#x160;ȹȹÂ&#x17D;Â&#x153;Â&#x153;Â&#x17D;Â&#x203A;Â?ǡ Â&#x203A;Â&#x2019;Â&#x;Â&#x160;Â?Â&#x17D;ČąÂ&#x160;Â&#x203A;Â?¢ȹÂ&#x2DC;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2013;Â&#x153;ČąČ&#x160;ČąÂ&#x17D;Â&#x2022;Â&#x2022;¢ȹÂ&#x160;Â&#x2014;Â&#x152;Â&#x2019;Â&#x2014;Â?ČąČ&#x160;ČąÂ&#x160;Â?Â&#x17D;Â&#x203A;Â&#x2019;Â&#x2014;Â? Ĺ&#x2122;Ĺ&#x2014;Ĺ&#x2013;ČąÂ&#x17D;Â&#x153;Â?ČąĹ&#x203A;Ĺ&#x2122;Â&#x203A;Â?ČąÂ?Â&#x203A;Â&#x17D;Â&#x17D;Â?ČąČ&#x160;ČąĹ&#x2DC;Ĺ&#x2014;Ĺ&#x2DC;ČŹĹ&#x2DC;Ĺ&#x153;Ĺ&#x203A;ČŹĹ&#x203A;Ĺ&#x203A;Ĺ&#x2013;Ĺ&#x2013;    ǯÂ?Â&#x17E;Â&#x203A;Â&#x201D;Â&#x17E;Â&#x160;ÂŁÂ&#x203A;Â&#x17D;Â&#x153;Â?Â&#x160;Â&#x17E;Â&#x203A;Â&#x160;Â&#x2014;Â?ÇŻÂ&#x152;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2013;Čą

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The cast onstage at the end of a performance. Photo: Michelle Naim the case. I could not walk away from that.â&#x20AC;? He said the city of Vilna captivated him: â&#x20AC;&#x153;There has never been any place in the history of the diaspora, before, or after, where you had that demographic density of Jews.â&#x20AC;? And when the Nazis forced the Jews into a ghetto, he said the people did not lose their humanity and dignity. â&#x20AC;&#x153;[There was] a symphony orchestra, two theaters, cabaret, schools, sporting events.â&#x20AC;? The bloodshed, emotional tumult, shooting and cold-blooded murders on the stage perfectly captured the horriďŹ c acts of the Nazis. There is a particularly disturbing scene when a Nazi officer brutally forces another Nazi, of lower rank than himself, to kiss his behind. In another gut-wrenching scene, three characters stand in the center of the stage and look deeply into the eyes of audience members. Each of them talks over the other, describing the killings they have witnessed in the forest. Fuchs was right when he said he wanted the play to feel like â&#x20AC;&#x153;an emotional sucker-punch.â&#x20AC;? Fuchs does not have any relatives who were survivors of the mass genocide of Jews, disabled peoples, gypsies and others, but he said he has met many survivors of the atrocity. Never having been to Poland, the death camps, or even Vilna, now home to approximately

2,000 Jews, he believes the best proxy to Holocaust education is the theater: â&#x20AC;&#x153;The immediacy, the in-your-face. The drama. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why I write plays.â&#x20AC;? He says heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not crazy about the idea of going there: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s virtually nothing there except for a cosmopolitan place and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;why do I want to go there.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; My Vilna is in my head.â&#x20AC;? Already abstracted and removed from the Holocaust for three generations, and pointing out that most young people have never met a survivor of the camps with a tattoo, Fuchs said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not a religious Jew, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not even observant, but it was the behavior of these people and way they maintained their humanity and their dignity, over the most continuous and arduous persecution and murder â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and how they transcended that â&#x20AC;&#x201D; is what makes me feel like a Jew.â&#x20AC;? Fuchs says he hopes this will be his last time producing a play on his own. He would like to write a comedy, but hopes that the play will get picked up. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I need to write something light and bright,â&#x20AC;? he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This is not that.â&#x20AC;? Currently, the play is filling about 70-80 seats per show and there is one Sunday showing which is sold out. The last performance is Sunday, April 14th. Tickets can be purchased through a link on the playâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s website: vilna-the-play.org or at the box office.

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APRIL 4-10,2019

A DOG AND A MAN WHO MAKE THE WORLD BETTER PETS Baker Shiner, a golden doodle, and Frank Shiner, the human Baker picked out for himself, are a couple of do-gooders BY MEREDITH KURZ

At a certain posh locale, I’ve spotted movie stars, TV chefs, media gurus and a former president. In New York City, such celebrities are treated like Louis Vuitton purses; enjoyed from afar, maybe side-eyed, never gushed over. But when Baker Shiner, a golden doodle, trotted into this same arena, he caused a sensation. People inched in, asking and receiving permission to pet, and the circle swelled. A family of tourists shyly asked Frank Shiner, Baker’s owner, for a picture with the dog. “Sure!” Frank said. Their expressions during the photo-shoot seemed to say, out of all their city experiences this was their highlight. There’s science happening when you go to the dogs. “Petting animals releases an automatic relaxation response,” a UCLA-Health website about therapy dogs explains. Pets promote serotonin and the ‘happy’ hormones, lower anxiety, help Alzheimer’s patients with memory recall, help people on the Autism spectrum respond, lower blood pressure and improve heart health.

Challenges and Triumphs While Baker’s accomplishments as a therapy dog are part breeding and part luck, Frank Shiner deserves all the credit for the duo’s success as volunteers. Everything Frank does he does with zeal. He had a growing and successful career in television and theater when he met his wife Suzanne in an acting class in 1982. They’ve been together ever since. “Suzanne is my spark plug,” Frank said. “We work as a team.” As their family started to grow, they looked at options to smooth over the roller-coaster income of two performers. Frank tried his hand at sales. “At first I was miserable in the corporate world,” he said. But Frank’s a spiritual kind of guy. He lifted this problem up, saying, “My wish is, if this is what You want of me, take away the desire for the other.” After that, with his contagious tenacity, Frank excelled in sales to the point where he started his own business in the healthcare sector. A catastrophe hit the Shiner’s when Suzanne was diagnosed with “triple negative breast cancer to all receptors,” which blocks off three typical treatment points. Suzanne also carried the BRCA 1 gene, a tumor suppressor, which, when shortened, leaves you vulnerable. “It was a punch in the gut,” Frank admitted. Suzanne had thirteen surgeries, many radical.

Frank and Baker Shiner spread joy wherever they go. Photo: Meredith Kurz In between hospital stays and chemo the Shiners seized family moments. One night they went to an open mic. Suzanne prodded Frank to go on stage. He refused. He wasn’t ready, hadn’t sung professionally for a long time. Suzanne slipped her wig back a bit and pointed to her bald head. “Do it for me,” she asked. “Yeah, she played the cancer card,” Frank laughs. After his first song, the audience begged for another, then another. This evolved into playing gigs with the band. Frank’s business now allowed him time to return to performing, on his terms. Meanwhile Suzanne made great strides toward wellness. In gratitude for Suzanne’s gradual return to health

and prosperity, the Shiner family decided to “dedicate the rest of our lives to doing for others.”

Baker Picks a Family One day, Frank’s daughter Lindsay said, “Let’s go look at golden doodles. We’ll just look.” “No, No, No,” Frank replied. But daughters have a way with dads. As the puppies had a rumpus with the family, one came over and sat in Frank’s lap. Game, set, perfect match. On his first day as a Shiner, Baker learned to sit and roll over. He was 11 weeks old. There’s a video for disbelievers. In a lifetime of dogs, I’ve only owned one who rolled over. You were then rewarded by a ‘squirt’ straight in

the air. We went through a lot of welcome mats. Frank brought Baker to work, where the dog became the most popular employee. When one of Frank’s coworkers suggested that he have Baker registered as a therapy dog, Frank signed up for the six week “Good Citizens” course at PETCO. Baker aced it. The ASPCA certification followed, which has since been replaced by the American Kennel Club Therapy Dog Program. Baker scored a cool 100 percent. Frank and Baker volunteer at several health care facilities. Most recently, Baker worked at Gilda’s Club, the “free comprehensive cancer program”, where the duo assisted in the bereavement group for children. After watching a child pet and hug Baker, a

counselor came over to Frank and whispered, “It’s been weeks since he would participate in anything, and look at him, he’s smiling ear to ear!” Frank Shiner is not only volunteering his and Baker’s time, all the profits from his own record label go to charity. A winner of two L.A. Music Critic Awards, Frank recently performed with Vanessa Williams at a fundraiser for the San Miguel Academy a tuitionfree middle school for boys from underserved families. If you’re interested in training your dog as a certified therapy dog, head over to the AKC site, www.akc.org for more details. Petco’s Pet Therapy program can be found here: PetcoPetTherapy. And Baker has a Facebook page, BakerShiner.


APRIL 4-10,2019

Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

Real Estate Sales

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APRIL 4-10,2019

Our Town|Downtowner otdowntown.com

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Dr. Jill Kalman, executive director of Lenox Hill Hospital (standing) and committee co-chairs Elizabeth Ashby (left) and Elaine Walsh heard from residents concerned about the massive project. Photo: Michelle Naim

NEIGHBORS QUESTION SIZE AND IMPACT OF HOSPITAL EXPANSION pital?â&#x20AC;? said one woman. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re here!â&#x20AC;?

COMMUNITY Representatives of Lenox Hill Hospital discussed their redevelopment plans at a meeting with Community Board 8 members and local residents BY MICHELLE NAIM

The Upper East Siders who turned out last Thursday for Community Board 8â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s zoning and development committee meeting spent the ďŹ rst part of the evening listening to presentations from the Manhattan District Attorneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s construction task force and the Waterfront Alliance. But when it was time to ask questions about those brieďŹ ngs, it quickly became apparent what people were most interested in. â&#x20AC;&#x153;What about Lenox Hill Hos-

A Hospital and Neighborhood Transformed She was referring to the hospitalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s massive redevelopment plan, ďŹ rst reported exclusively in Our Town in January by Douglas Feiden, in a page 1 story that outlined how the institution was exploring the sale of a portion of its frontage on Park Ave. for high-end residences to help underwrite the costs of the plan. The meeting was the publicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ďŹ rst opportunity to hear about the project directly from Lenox Hill representatives. There was a palpable sense of tension in the room. Community members were concerned about the size and impact of the development, which would transform the entire city block between Park and Lexington Avenues

and 76th and 77th Streets. Plans call for razing or stripping to the shell the entire existing hospital campus in phases as taller, modern structures rise up on site to replace them. When completed, which is expected to take 8 to 10 years and could end up costing as much as $3 billion, the hospital complex will occupy 1.32 million square feet, compared to 780,000 square feet today. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just too big for our neighborhood,â&#x20AC;? said Park Avenue resident Christina Wood. Another Park Avenue resident was worried about the height of the planned buildings, which include a 516-foot, 30-story hospital tower on Lexington and the 490-foot, 41-story residential tower on Park. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Once our neighborhood allows this to happen weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to lose light,â&#x20AC;? she said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to become a very depressing


APRIL 4-10,2019 place to live.” Tomas Rossant, the architect from Ennead Architects, hired to design the new hospital, acknowledged the large scale of the project, but said, “It’s big because the changes that are coming to healthcare in the near future cannot fit in your beloved hospital. We have to make it bigger.”

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Community Concerns Rossant was met with laughter when he showed a rendering of the Mother-Baby Hospital planned for the corner of Park and 77th Street and talked about keeping the project “in harmony with much of the aesthetics of Park Avenue.” As Rossant left the podium, one man in the audience shook his head and said “Terrible, terrible.” The cost of apartments in the new residential building was a concern among neighbors and community board members alike, as was the lack of an affordable housing plan. “I don’t think I could support something unless it had an affordable housing component to it,” said board member Tricia Shimamura. The Lenox Hill representatives in attendance included executive director Dr. Jill Kalman, and Joshua Strugatz, vice president of Manhattan redevelopment, who described the project as “a multi-billiondollar endeavor to build the state-of-the-art hospital.” Kalman mentioned the importance of upgrading patient rooms from double rooms to all singles. “Healthcare has changed. The intent is to bring the patient and their family and loved ones into the same space so that we can deliver patientcentric care ... relationshipcentric care.” She added that single rooms are also state-ofthe-art in terms of infection control. And she said the single rooms would allow for imaging and other types of special care without moving patients to another wing of the hospital. Many community members

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Downtowner Rebecka Hawkins-Beatty (standing), executive director of the New York Professional Nurses Union and an Upper East Side resident, was cautiously optimistic about the redevelopment plans. Photo: Michelle Naim

I don’t think I could support something unless it had an affordable housing component to it.” Community Board 8 member Tricia Shimamura expressed concern about the cost of care in the new Lenox Hill. “We want to make sure that this is still a hospital that cares for everyone and not just the wealthy or the elite,” said Rebecka Hawkins-Beatty, executive director of the New York Professional Nurses Union, who lives at 79th Street and York Avenue. But Strugatz said “The plan, and the way the reimbursement works, in the future Lenox as we proposed it, there is no additional charge. There is no out-of-pocket, there’s no added payment from insurance for a private room. That is the standard.” Speaking as an official of the union that represents the nurses and nurse practitioners who work at Lenox Hill Hospital , Hawkins-Beatty said “I think we still have a lot of concerns

A community member addresses (left to right) Lenox Hill Hospital project architect Tomas Rossant, project attorney Melanie Meyers, Lenox Hill Hospital executive director Dr. Jill Kalman and Community Board 8 committee co-chair Elizabeth Ashby. Photo: Michelle Naim

about where it’s going, but obviously our nurses are really excited about the possibility [of getting] a new facility that’s actually modernized.” She addded that the nurses are nevertheless cautious, wondering, for example, if the residential part of the project might get bigger while the hospital gets smaller. Strugatz clarified that the hospital would remain open during the time of reconstruction, and that it wants to maintain the number and quality of its employees during, and after, redevelopment — another concern for many of the community members present.

Subway Worries Strugatz also said that the hospital is working with the MTA to design improvements to the Lexington Avenue and 77th Street subway station, “Our focus right now is on ADA accessibility, as well as improving many of the conditions that exist ... including the particularly narrow stairwells and the sidewalk pedestrian experience,” he said. Board member Valerie Mason was met with applause and bravos from the crowd when she said “One of the things you really need to look at is what is this project ... going to do to the density and overcrowded nature of our entire Upper East Side.” She said she was “extremely disappointed in that quote-unquote expansion of the subway entrance.” She told the Lenox Hill team, “When you come back we need to see you thinking beyond that tiny entrance right there. I mean that is really disturbing to me ... I try to be open minded but ... this is not going to work right now for me because there’s just not enough accessibility here to public transportation. This is not going to do it.”

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First, obvious: let’s start wit condition h the city’s hom s inside thi disgrace. eless shelte rs are as A ser one mo ies of terrible (includinre horrible tha crimes, month g the killing n the last of ear lier this daugh a woman has higters in Statenand her two hlighted Island), living con the the ma ditions for shameful cities inrgins of one ofpeople at Blasio, the world. Ma the richest wh yor o has bee Bill de his app from theroach to homn halting in has final beginning elessness proble ly begun to of his term, from thim, but years ofaddress the others, s administra neglect, tion and will take But years to correct. recent none of that exc office grandstanding uses the appareof Gov. Andrew by the Cuomo, he can’tntly sees no iss who In the try to belittl ue on which attempt governor’s late the mayor. officials at a hit job, est sta compla then pro ined te Post, abomptly to the to the city, homele ut a gang New York alleged ss shelter, purape at a city VOL. 77 had tim event before blicizing the , ISSUE pol e 04 As it turto investigate ice even ned out, it. never hap the officials pened, infuriaincident media hitwho called it ting city a ” “po aim the mayor ed at em litical . More cha barrassin counter-c rges and g THfolElow the me harges Dicken antimeA , of cou ed. In Tditrse men, wosian livingR OionF, the con in New men D kidsIM s for Yor andEN Here’s k goe s on. in shelters CITY ARTS, leadershi hoping tha t som P.2any eday our as intere p in Alb 0 as it is in sted in helpinwill become back fro agains scoring pol g them t sit itical poi 17 fee m FDR Drour ive byting mayor. nts t 16 to out of and raise

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YOUR 15 MINUTES

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LISTENING TO THE CREATORS Ed Yim of the American Composers Orchestra wants to change the way people think about classical music BY MARK NIMAR

Many people regard classical music as elitist and stuffy: when the genre is even mentioned, images of German white men conducting boring dirges are brought to mind. The American Composers Orchestra, however, is out to change the way people think. Founded over 40 years ago, ACO is a nonprofit dedicated to programming contemporary American orchestral music written by composers as diverse and varied as the United States. Ed Yim, the company’s president, is a veteran of the classical music world: in addition to his two years at ACO, he has worked in artistic planning for the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York City Opera and served as the director of the Conductor/Instrumentalists division at IMG. Straus News spoke with Yim, a Hell’s Kitchen resident, about the company’s upcoming concert at Carnegie Hall on April 11. The orchestra will be presenting the New York premiere of “Where We Lost Our Shadows,” a multidisciplinary work that portrays the story of the European refugee crisis through film, orchestra and Qawwali, a traditional Pakistani genre of music. We had a lively conversation about ACO’s work with children in the Detroit public schools, the organization’s role

in politics, and what to expect if you’re a first-time concertgoer.

What are ACO’s guiding principles? Our guiding principles are to listen to the composers, to listen to the creator. It’s to figure out where they are going and follow them, not to make them fit into some cookie-cutter notion of what a classical composer is. More and more composers, especially younger composers, are wanting to give voice to some of the things that are bothering them in society today. It’s their way of contributing to the intellectual dialogue of our country and of our city. Issues around social justice, around equity, around diversity. I’m definitely noticing a trend of classical composers wanting to be a part of a larger dialogue and a larger community. We live in America in 2020 now. America doesn’t look the way it did in 1977 when ACO was born. There are so many gifted composers who happen to be women and who happen to be from underrepresented populations who have not been typically part of the concert music establishment. And to give those artists and those creative voices a platform and to amplify their voices is definitely a big part of what ACO is now.

On April 11, ACO will be presenting “Where We Lost Our Shadows” by Du Yun, and filmmaker Khaled Jarrar. How did this project come about? Du Yung and Khaled [Jarrar’s] piece embodies so many of the things that ACO wants

Filmmaker Khaled Jarrar and composer Du Yun, whose “Where We Lost our Shadows” will premiere at Carnegie Hall on April 11. Photo: Zhen QIN

to embody. She’s an immigrant composer from Shanghai who’s made the U.S. her home both for her work and for her life. She’s collaborating with a visual artist, so there’s a multimedia aspect to it, which I think is part of the evolution of orchestral music, and the piece takes as a starting point a major issue of our time, which is migration and refugees and the situation internationally. Now, they are not specifically commenting per se on the Syrian refugee crisis, but they are using it as a starting point to talk about the timeless story of migration and that people leave their homes because they want to seek opportunity. And I think that’s an issue that obviously is so important right now. It fits everything that we want ACO to be about.

One could say that ACO’s public commitment to diversity and inclusion is a political statement. What do you feel ACO’s role should be in the realm of politics? It depends on the composer. We follow the composer’s will and their vision. I think what we’re seeing is a lot of composers living in an environment where we all feel a little befuddled, and frustrated and powerless to affect what’s going on in our world. The purpose of ACO is not to be political. But if that’s what our composers that we support are wanting to delve into, then we listen to their voices and we follow them.

Out of everything you have done so far at ACO, what are you most proud of? There are so many moments. We were in Detroit [recently], reading works with the wonderful Detroit Symphony for emerging black American composers. And we spent a day going into Detroit public schools, which are mostly black, and extremely diverse. So we play [a piece] without telling the kids what they were hearing, and we said, “who do you think wrote that?” And some kids said, “Probably some white German guy.” Because their vision of a classical composer is like Beethoven, or Mozart or someone, right? And we were like, “No actually, the person who wrote that piece is here in this room and we want you

Ed Yim, president of the American Composers Orchestra. Photo: Catherine Leonard

to meet her.” And they were like, “Wait, her?” And nd then Dr. Marian Stephens stepped tepped forward, and they were e like, “This composer is not only ly a woman but she looks like me. She’s a black woman.” And d there was an “Aha” momentt with the kids who were like, “Oh, this world that at I thought was like elititist and didn’t have ve anything to do with th me actually includes es people like me.” That at was an amazing mo-ment for all of us.

Some audience members may never have been to a classical music concert before, and may be skeptical about spending their time and money at one of your concerts. How do you reach out to these sorts of audience memberss in non-traditional ways? ys? I would say coming g to one of our orchestral concerts can be challenging,, it can be often fun and it’s about discovery. So you don’t n’t have to come knowing something mething already. We really make ke an effort to include in the format rmat of our concerts a lot of ways to approach the work, to discuss the work, to have a chat at with the composer. Meet the e composer after the concert for or a drink. That’s the type of experience we like to put out there. here. I think it’s a very friendly experience. xperience. You can talk to our ur composers. You can ask them hem questions. You can ask them what h h their inspiration was. You can shake their hand. You can’t do that with Beethoven. If people get a charge out of being in touch with these really, gifted, talented, visionary artists, then as much as we can do to bring those artists in contact with the public, I think the more invested the public will be.

Other artistic mediums, such as film or television, have the power to challenge and move an audience. What makes the medium of music unique in serving these purposes? I think all art serves a purpose. It just depends on what any given person reacts to

most viscerally. For some people, it’s film. For some people, it’s theater. For some people, it’s dance. For me, I’ve dedicated my life to orchestral music, because I think the sight and sound of 75 musicians working in synchronicity to create this acoustic sound is kind of phenomenal. Not everyone gets off on that. And I get that. That’s ok. [But] that’s a sound that I love, and that I know a lot of people love, and that I think it has the potential to be loved by even more people. It will speak to a certain kind of person, and those are the people that we’re trying to reach.

Orchestras are by definition a community. The sight of a large group of people doing something with a singular purpose is really what orchestra is about. And I think it’s thrilling when it’s in action. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

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