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Digging into Central Park’s Past


Education: New School on the Block

Page 8

August 4, 2011

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By Ashley Welch The Department of Transportation dismantled and hauled away the pedestrian bridge at East 78th Street over the weekend as the agency moves ahead with its plan to replace the passageway that connects the FDR Drive to the East Side esplanade. The bridge, along with a portion of the water- Workers are already constructing a new bridge where the front from East 76th to old one once stood. 79th streets, has been closed since October 2010. People look- until the replacement bridge opens. ing to access the esplanade have been According to DOT officials, the replaceredirected to East 71st or East 81st ment is needed for a number of reasons. streets. Construction associated with The old bridge was not in compliance the the removal of the bridge also forced Americans with Disabilities Act and was the closing of the FDR for a period of not wide enough to accommodate bike time over the weekend. riders and walkers side-by-side. Though the DOT had originally planned The passenger bridge just a few on finishing the $13 million project this blocks away on East 81st Street is also summer, its end date is now unknown. in desperate need of a facelift, which it According to Montgomery Dean, spokes- should hopefully also be getting soon. person for the DOT, the new bridge will be In December, the New York City installed by the fall and will “reopen to the Department of Design and Construction public as soon as possible.” Pedestrian presented a plan to replace the decaying and bicycle detours will remain in effect bridge to the Transportation Committee

of Community Board 8. According to Craig Chin of the DDC, the project is in the final design stages.

“We expect the project to be bid in the spring of 2012 and construction could then begin in the fall of 2012,” he said.


try argue that these new permits would detract from their business and harm existing medallion holders. Kellner’s bill, the Access for All Taxi and Livery Plan (A4ATL), would reduce the number of outer borough livery permits and change them to 6,000 medallions, requiring 1,200 of them to be awarded to fully accessible vehicles. It would also require all 1,500 new yellow taxi medallions to go to fully accessible vehicles. The new bill has the backing of many taxi and livery cab industry associations. Kellner said the reduction from 30,000 outer borough permits, which he called a potential “oversaturation,” to 6,000 medallions is a “a very good number to start with” and that the city could authorize another medallion sale in the future if needed. He hopes that the governor will ask the Legislature to adopt this new plan when they are back in session instead of signing the current bill into law. “If this plan can unite the taxi and livery industry, hopefully it can unite the Legislature and the governor,” said Kellner. —Megan Finnegan





Assembly Member Micah Kellner, who has been pushing to increase handicapped accessibility in the city’s taxi fleet, is pressing Governor Andrew Cuomo to approve an agreement with several taxi and livery associations that would increase the number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles while vastly reducing the proposed number of new livery permits to be made available. “It’s hard enough to get the yellow taxi industry to agree amongst themselves,” said Kellner. “They’re embracing something they’ve never done before, which is comprehensive accessibility.” The governor is currently considering a bill passed by the state legislature, the Livery Street Hail bill (A8496), that has been vehemently opposed by the taxi and livery industries and championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The bill would allow for 30,000 new outer borough street hail permits to be sold to allow cars to pick up passengers who flag cars on the streets of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx and Northern Manhattan. Lobbyists for the taxi indus-

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photo essay

From the East Side to Long Island

A faster way to get to the Hamptons? The MTA is currently busy building the $8 billion East Side Access tunnel that will connect Grand Central to the Long Island Rail Road. When completed in 2016, residents will be able to head to LI via Grand Central rather than having to travel Penn Station first. The move is expected to ease congestion and travel times for people coming to and from the city. Our Town was recently given special access to the tunnels that are being bored in the bedrock under Grand Central. (Photos by Andrew schwArtz)

Tracks exit a circular tunnel for the larger cavern room.

Sandhogs take a momentary break.

O u r To w n NY. c o m

A nearly finished escalator tunnel. (Inset) A machine excavates a escalator tunnel that will lead down to platforms and trains.

A worker and his machine reflected in a pool of water underground.

A worker surveys the underground tunnel.

A u g u st 4 , 2 0 1 1






Roberta Flack’s Manhattan Love Song By Daniel Fabiani She’s been hailed as one of the leading songstresses of her time, but for the past 35 years she’s also been singing a soulful love song to the neighborhood that she’s called home. Roberta Flack, the diva behind such hits as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” was honored at the “Bright Lights! Shining Stars!” gala hosted by the New York Dance Alliance Foundation on Aug. 1. At the ceremony, which took place at the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University, she was honored with the organization’s first Ambassador of the Arts award. The singer recently took some time out from recording her new album, a Beatles cover record, to discuss the award, her career and life on the Upper West Side with us. At the event last Monday night, a starstudded lineup of Broadway actors took part in song and dance performances. Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical In the Heights reunited, as did Smokey Joe’s Café actors Brenda Braxton, Felicia Finley, Ramona Keller and Deb Lyons. The NYDAF also awarded $50,000 worth of scholarships to promising young dancers. “I’m more than honored to be chosen for this award at this time in my career,” Flack said. “The arts are all intermingled and I’ve worked with many dance companies for my songs, so this is a true honor.” A resident since 1975, the singer said that one of her favorite things about the Upper West Side is getting out and taking walks through its different neighborhoods. She said that every day on the West Side presents an opportunity for new things to see. She also likes all of the different restaurants that have come into the community over the years. One

of her favorite places to shop is the Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center, near where she lives. “The Upper West Side is a unique town filled with so many boutiques, delis, shopping and great people. You learn to love the town, no matter what,” Flack said. “One of my favorite places to eat is Blossom Vegetarian Restaurant, and when I shop for clothes I go to a women’s boutique called Really Great Things.” The singer is known for her unparalleled ability to tell a story through music and for not confining herself to one musical genre—Flack has sung pop, soul, jazz, folk and more. She rose to superstardom with hits in the late ’60s and ’70s such as “Killing Me Softly with His Song” (brought back to fame by The Fugees in the ’90s), “The Closer I Get to You,” “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” and “Set the Night to Music.” On the day we talked with her, Flack was mourning songwriter Gene McDaniels, who had died the day before. He had written many songs, including “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” one of her biggest hits. “I can’t believe it,” Flack said. “The music world lost a great writer. He will be deeply missed.” Born in Asheville, N.C., and raised in Arlington, Va., Flack’s earliest musical influences were at the local AME Zion Church when she was a young girl, but she soon found she was more attuned to the local Baptist church instead, where she was known for sneaking in to hear the sermons because the music caught her ear. It was raunchy, spontaneous and full of the life Flack wanted to sing. She began taking piano lessons at age 9 and started listening to a wide range of popular music, which influenced her to become a singer. She hasn’t slowed down since. The singer has recorded 25 albums of

live, studio and compilation releases. Her next effort is a cover album of Beatles hits entitled Let it be Roberta, scheduled to be finished by the end of the year. A small tour will follow. “I love to sing Beatles songs,” Flack said, singing one of their tunes. “I think Paul and John are geniuses.” In addition to her music, Flack is

also passionate about education. Earlier this year, she helped open the Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx. The school offers a free after-school music program to kids, which she said is a jewel that she wants more people to know about. “We need support for these young, talented kids,” she said.

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Digging into Central Park’s Past

York, the City University from CCNY and CUNY and dig of New York, Fordham co-director. University and New York “We’ve looked at this comUniversity. munity as more than workTwo sites were excaing-class because there were vated over the past eight professionals living here as weeks, with the final day well as rag pickers, which is of the dig taking place July interesting because you aren’t 28. The first site that was always able to live where you uncovered was the home of want to live so you have to William G. Wilson, a porter live among your folks,” said and sexton who had a wife Cynthia Copeland, public hisand eight children and lived torian at NYU and co-director there from 1850 until being of the excavation. “What I evicted for the creation of think was most important was the park in 1856. The other people was that people lived was part of a square where and worked together in a colthe people of Seneca Village Undergraduates excavate part of Seneca Village at an archeologi- lective vein.” cal dig in Central Park on July 27. had socialized. Items from the site, includItems discovered in the ing material stored in 250 excavation of Wilson’s house included find the areas that had been the least Ziploc bags, will be taken to Barnard a stoneware beer bottle, roasting pan, disturbed over the years, permission College where they will be cleaned and teakettle, marbles, a toothbrush handle to dig in the park was granted by the catalogued to learn more about the peocarved from bone, a child’s shoe, ceram- parks department and the Central Park ple who once lived here. ic shards, glass and nails, among other Conservancy. “This community was more middleitems. “I was interested in an archeological class than others in the area because they The project started in the 1990s when dig to uncover information about the had their own houses. They were also data was collected on the area. After African-American experience in New free up here from the everyday presence soil coring and ground penetrating to York,” said Diana Wall, an archeologist of racism,” Wall said. andrew schwartz

By Allen Houston The past and present came together in Central Park last week. While sunbathers lounged on a nearby hill and dog walkers traipsed into the undergrowth to find a remote spot to play fetch, a group of archeologists, public historians and college students excavated the remains of an African-American village that dominated the area from the 1820s until its destruction to make way for the building of the park in the mid-1850s. Seneca Village was once home to a population of more than 260, predominately freed blacks, and included three churches as well as a village school. Its boundaries stretched from 81st to 89th streets and 7th and 8th avenues in Central Park. “We think Seneca Village is really important because it underlines the fact that there were African-Americans here throughout New York City history,” said Nan Rothschild, an archeologist from Barnard College and Columbia University, who co-directed the dig. The dig was a collaboration between Barnard College, the City College of New

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By Megan Finnegan Last week, the New York City Economic Development Corporation released a much-hyped request for proposals from engineering schools to build a brand-new applied science campus in the city, and Roosevelt Island is lobbying hard to be selected as the host. The city has offered three city-owned locations for schools to consider: Goldwater Hospital on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, part of Governors Island and part of the Brooklyn Navy Yards. It will also consider a privately developed spot. Local officials, including City Council Member Jessica Lappin, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Assembly Member Micah Kellner and State Sen. Jose Serrano, have formed a coalition to campaign for Roosevelt Island as an ideal choice for the institutions now working on their proposals. “We want Roosevelt Island to become

“We want Roosevelt Island to become the next Silicon Valley,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin.

the next Silicon Valley,” said Lappin. “We have always had ideas of expanding Roosevelt Island and have looked at plans for the creation of new condos, conferences centers and other resources for the city.” Leslie Torres, president and CEO of the state’s Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, said that a new engineering school would benefit all residents of the island just by bringing in an influx of people to the area. The isolation factor of the island could be an argument for the selection of one of the competing sites, but Torres thinks that Roosevelt still wins out. “We really have a wonderful community, great transportation and a vibrant area,” Torres said. “We’re a three-minute tram or subway ride from Manhattan. It’s very accessible.” Governor’s Island, by contrast, is currently accessible to the public by ferry only, though it’s a quick trip from downtown, another desirable location.

“Governor’s Island, although lovely—there’s nothing there,” Torres said in defense of her own turf. “They don’t have a Starbucks, let’s put it that way.” She’s hoping that the existing infrastructure on Roosevelt Island—including a single Starbucks—will entice bidders. “There is a lot of housing on the island, with the potential to build more,” said Lappin. “There are also many retail companies on the island. These advantages just don’t exist in the other locations.” “Most universities are located in small towns, and that’s what Roosevelt Island essentially is—a small town in New York City,” said Kellner, though he’s hoping to jack up the residency stats of the river hamlet. “Between 2000 and 2011, 7.6 million jobs were created in the high-tech sector and it’s supposed to grow by 17 percent by 2018. There’s a good shot that lots of those jobs could be created in New York City. Local residents are very, very excited and have already created a committee for its construction.” One of the reasons residents are so keen on the new facility is that Goldwater Hospital is slated to close by 2014, leaving an empty building and fewer local jobs. “For a community that has been deeply concerned about losing a major employer and a major source of revenue for local businesses, this school is very good news,” said Maloney in an email. “The school itself will bring hundreds of jobs onto Roosevelt Island and create a ripple, or multiplier effect on local businesses.” The city is accepting proposals until October and is supposed to make a decision by December. Cornell, Stamford, Carnegie Mellon and 24 other schools have all expressed official interest in submitting. While some say that the plan shuns existing engineering schools in the city, the mayor’s office insists that current New York City-based schools are welcome to apply as well. Torres is not worried that a new institution would put a strain on the island’s resources and space, since it would be taking over the hospital site. “We think the idea of bringing a worldclass institution to this island can only be a good thing,” she said. N EW S YO U LIV E B Y

O u r T o w n N Y. c o m

August 4




New School on the Block

By Maria Riley This September, Bill Swan and Maria Conti, Manhattan parents who have endured the preschool admissions process, are bringing The Goddard School to the Upper West Side. Swan, along with Goddard Systems CEO Joseph Schumacher, recently chatted with us and shared insights into what sets these schools apart from the rest.

which is nearly identical across the country. Outside of that core there is a lot of opportunity for flexibility and creativity for the franchisee.

Curriculum Vitae Swan: I’m a clinical psychologist, Ph.D. I did work as an associate dean, but the most immediate, direct, relevant experience is that I ran my own consult-

Why Goddard? Bill Swan: One of the aspects of the Goddard model that attracted us was the involvement of the owner. The Goddard model is that the owners are present on a daily basis. The education director is therefore freed up to be in the classroom with the teachers, monitoring, coaching, making sure the model is followed and dealing with special issues with children. Her devotion is specifically and 100 percent to the educational aspect of the program, and not caught in the administration aspects. That’s unique to The Goddard School. Joseph Schumacher: We want to present a high quality childcare alternative owned by members of the community. We think that gives us the benefit of having a locally-owned school operated by a member of the community but with all the advantages of a large corporation such as we are. What we have is a very solid core

ing business for over 20 years. I have the entrepreneurial background, business management background and awareness of the educational world. Maria [Conti] has an MBA and a master’s in counseling. We each had been moving in separate spheres, but this enterprise is going to bring us together. We both love children; we have our own child, a 7-year-old daughter. We both went through the preschool process ourselves not long ago.

New School in the City Swan: The impetus for opening up a preschool started with touring our child through a number of them in Manhattan. There is a relentlessness of that process. As we went through the process—there are a number of fine, wonderful, strong schools out there, but I did notice that some didn’t seem to care that much about the parents’ schedule or special circumstances or even bother to have the basic customer service skills that you would think would be present in a business. Joseph Schumacher: Our quality assurance is the foundation of what we do—health, safety and security. Once we have those standards, there is great opportunity for creativity and flexibility by the individual franchisee. Things like…what we call enrichment pro-

The Big Jump Back

In an economic downturn, many people consider returning to school By Steve Schwartz Making the decision to return to school after several years off can be a difficult one, requiring a significant devotion of effort, time and money. But now that many people may be facing staffing cuts and layoffs, it’s a more popular decision than ever. The benefits of returning to school are numerous. By going back to school now, you may enjoy the results of your efforts to a greater extent. In your past educational endeavors you may have been at a different place in your life, and you may not have found school to be as easy or fulfilling as it could be now. Professional development workshops and trainings are regularly offered on weekends, providing the opportunity to gain additional skills in computer science, the financial sector or any other field. Becoming licensed in your field of



• Augus t 4, 2011

expertise and passing a licensing exam can be a valuable way to boost your job prospects whether you are out of work or simply seeking to further your career by exploring other possibilities. How can you pursue continuing education while guaranteeing that you will be able to balance your current home and work responsibilities? The solution is relatively simple: In order to maintain the results of your efforts at home and at work, simply choose a course schedule that does not conflict with your other responsibilities. Most continuing education programs have course offerings that will fit in with your work schedule, and simple time management techniques and planning will allow you to fulfill any preexisting commitments. What can you hope to gain by pursuing continuing education opportunities? You can obtain a master’s degree; finish a

baccalaureate degree; study English as a second language to improve your speaking, reading and writing ability; or simply take courses in a particular area of interest for personal enrichment. Classes are available during the day and evening at a variety of universities around the five boroughs to accommodate virtually any schedule. Another benefit of taking classes at a university is that doing so will generally allow you to take advantage of that university’s resources, including library facilities, student center, computer labs, writing tutors, student programming and career advisor and management resources. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs for graduate degree and certificate-granting programs. This means that, upon completion of your degree or certificate, your

grams, which are programs in addition to the standard curriculum—yoga, sign language, second language, fitness and things of that nature. Swan: The 4 and 5-year-olds have smart boards, reminiscent of CSI, where they move things around on the glass in front of them. The children can draw on them, touch what they drew, move it to another part of the screen, and combine it with what another child did. It’s a fabulous opportunity to engage children in something interesting and have them work together on a project. School Philosophy Schumacher: Our program is based on [Jean] Piaget and it’s contextual learning, playful learning. Our students are so very different and we really embrace all the differences. A typical Goddard student is a child that’s interested in learning and having fun. The Goddard teacher has a base education, a love of teaching and real intellectual curiosity. All the lesson plans are teacher-prepared and that provides a lot of flexibility in the event, for instance, you’re doing a lesson plan about spiders and there’s a thunderstorm outside that catches the kids’ attention. You’re not locked in to staying with spiders. Kids learn best in what their most interested in at the time.

employer might partially or completely reimburse you for any costs associated with the program. Another factor that may lessen the cost of continuing education is the fact that the IRS will allow you to deduct up to several thousand dollars of your tuition costs each year. In addition, employees with undergraduate and graduate degrees and those who have certificates in their career field tend to receive higher salaries. It is never too late for you to go back to school to earn your first degree or an additional one. Not only will doing so increase your career prospects in the short term, but it can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. For more information about free and low-cost continuing education programs and offerings in your neighborhood, contact your local high school, college, adult education center or community center. Steve Schwartz is a professional college admissions counselor and tutor for SAT, Regents and Advanced Placement exams. N EW S YO U LIV E B Y


Maloney: Army Corps Must Study Waste Station Impact By Megan Finnegan When the city council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg approved the 2012 capital budget last month, many opponents of the East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station thought the battle had been lost. Now, Yorkville area residents and elected officials who have spoken vehemently against the construction of the new waste transfer station may see another avenue of protest opened up to them. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents the East Side of Manhattan and areas of Queens in Congress, has been opposed to the project from the start, as have all other local elected officials, from city council to the state legislature. She requested that the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), which grants certain federal permits to the city, re-open its comment period to address the city’s proposed mitigation plan detailing how it will offset any potential environmental damage as a result of constructing the new waste station. “The marine transfer station is located in the fast-moving Hellgate section of the East River, a place that is notoriously difficult to navigate. It is also situated

between Manhattan and Mill Rock, in an area where the channel is somewhat narrowed,” said Maloney, detailing some of the concerns she and other officials will raise with the ACE. “If the marine transfer station flooded, it would sweep garbage,

“If the marine transfer station flooded, it would sweep garbage, toxins and bacteria into the East River and onto the shore, potentially harming fish and wildlife,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney said. toxins and bacteria into the East River and onto the shore, potentially harming fish and wildlife.” As per its normal review procedure, the ACE will accept public comments in writing on the city’s mitigation plan through August 25. While the corps will accept and review any comments it receives, it only considers those comments germane to the actual construction

and environmental changes of the transfer station. “Corps jurisdiction is over construction of structures and does not extend to the operation of any permitted structures,” said Naomi Handell, the ACE project manager for the transfer station’s permit review process. She explained that the corps’ jurisdiction extends to ensuring that the city’s plan will comply with the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which takes into account how the new structure could impact navigation of the river, as well as the Clean Water Act, in relation to the discharge of any materials into the river. “The land-based issues relating to traffic, odor and impact on the local community are not issues evaluated by the Army Corps,” said Maloney. But, she said, “They should be concerned with flooding at this location, impact on maritime traffic, shadowing on the East River, impact on fish habitats and other issues relating to the shoreline and the waterways.” Handell emphasized that the corps has no agenda or investment in the fate of the new transfer station. “We work with applicants to ensure

that their proposed work complies with existing regulations and statutes. At this time we are reviewing the mitigation plan; however, our final review will encompass the entire project,” said Handell. If the ACE deems the city’s mitigation plan inadequate, the city will be allowed to adjust and resubmit their plan. While environmental advocates, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have applauded the decision to construct the new transfer station, citing environmental justice issues, opponents say the location is inappropriate for their densely populated neighborhood. Maloney denies that extending the comment period is an end-run to indefinitely delay the transfer station. “There are legally mandated analyses that have not yet been completed, so this is neither a re-hearing nor a stall tactic,” she said. “This is a very serious project that will have an enormous impact on the residents of this community and on the adjacent waterway, and we should not be cutting corners in a rush to approve a project that will have such negative and lasting ramifications.”

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Mayor at the Movies

Nim a Keeper, Horrible Bosses, Simply Awful By Ed Koch

Project Nim (+)

This is a fascinating documentary about a family with seven children raising a chimp in the 1970s. Dr. Herbert Terrace, associated with Columbia University, called on Stephanie LaFarge to mother a baby chimp named Nim on the fifth day of its life. Stephanie, a sort of flower child in attitude, was delighted to do so. The project was a scientific experiment to hopefully teach sign language to the chimp, enabling it to communicate with humans. It worked. The chimp was also taught to stand on and use a toilet bowl. Before the experiment was over several women, some experts in the field of animal science, joined the project. During that time Nim did what wild animals do by instinct—he bit his handlers. He inflicted severe damage, e.g. 37 stitches to an arm, and tore out another’s cheek, hospitalizing a woman for three months. All lived and continued to treat this animal as a human

baby and later as a young child. As a young child, Nim was five times stronger than an adult human male. He also had sexual feelings and sought to use a pet cat for such purpose. The cat could not sign, so we don’t know what it thought. At the age of 5, when Nim was too large and dangerous to keep in a home, he was returned to the lab and placed in a cage. The doctor at the lab, who had a German accent and assigned the animals for HIV and other testing, reminded me of Dr. Mengele at Auschwitz saying, “You to the right and you to the left.” Nim, who lived for 26 years, was visited by those who had raised him during his first five years of life. His first human mother foolishly got into the cage with him and was almost killed. Speculation was that Nim was angry with her for having deserted him. The humans involved in the film stand before cameras and talk as though they were on a couch speaking with their psychiatrist. It is eerie but overall the picture is fascinating and worth seeing. When I was young, my mother told me

never to fool around with a wild animal, because they can sometimes kill. During my mayoralty, I went with 25 or so businessmen to Madison Square Garden to celebrate its 100th anniversary. As entertainment, Gunther Gebel-Williams, with his long flowing blond hair, performed with his white Bengali tiger. When the tiger jumped onto a piano, one guest yelled, “The mayor should pet the tiger.” I responded, “No.” The guest rejoined, “Is the mayor a coward?” I responded, “No, the mayor is not a coward and the mayor is not a schmuck.” That’s Yiddish for fool.

Horrible Bosses (–)

The title is a misnomer. I would refer to it as “Horrible Movie.” The picture has a marvelous cast and story, but the script disintegrates early on. Apparently a decision was made that if the language was sufficiently blue or worse, and the slapstick aspects were expanded to the maximum, the picture would attract a large audience. It has. The Friday night I saw the film, it was sold out. Three guys have huge problems with their employers. Nick (Jason Bateman) works for Dave (Kevin Spacey), who exploits his employees. He gets Nick to

work from sunrise to sunset by holding out the promise of promoting him to vice president while never expecting to keep that dangling commitment. Dale (Charlie Day) is a dental assistant whose employer, Dr. Harris (Jennifer Aniston), constantly wants to have sex with him. Because he is engaged to be married to Stacy (Lindsay Sloane), he rejects her advances. The third distressed employee is Kurt (Jason Sudeikis). When his beloved employer, Jack (Donald Sutherland), dies of a heart attack, the firm is left to Jack’s vicious son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), who turns on Kurt and makes his life miserable. The plot contains twists and turns with the three seeking to hire an assassin, Dean (Jamie Foxx). The zany antics reminded me of the Three Stooges who were popular long ago, but not with me. Nick, Dale and Kurt engage in similar bickering and slapping of one another. The film is simply terrible. That such respectable actors would lend themselves to this a movie is surprising. We should all be saddened by the obvious reduction in taste and sensibility of the current generation of moviegoers.


Coffee for Everyone

Give your cup of joe the same scrutiny as a fine wine When I opened up my current issue of Wine Spectator, a feature article I was completely unprepared to see in my monthly wine rag intrigued me. Buried among the reviews of new releases from Carneros and Burgundy and lists of the top wine destination restaurants in America was a feature article on something that had nothing to do with wine— a full-page, Penniless Epicure-length article on Ethiopian coffee and why the writer (Mark Pendergrast) thought the beans from this part of the world were better than those from anywhere else. I had never delved into the world of high-end coffee. It was intriguing. It seemed, as I read, that it had much in common with fine wine production. Single producers, harvesting by hand, small-batch production…all of this was sounding very familiar. Then I tried to find some of the coffees he talked about. Not only are they extremely difficult to track down, but when you do find them, they are all available by mail order only. There are some sources in Manhattan for



• Augus t 4, 2011

Fair Trade and smaller producer coffees, but there is no consistency. One small shop’s Jamaican Blue can be great while another’s is bland and weak. I am by no means persuading anyone to abandon their corner mom-and-pop coffee shop! The world needs more small neighborhood retailers. What became my focus, however, as I thought about my

By Josh Perilo coffee search in the terms of this column, was, “Is there a way to get better-thanaverage coffee from a retailer that has many locations?” So to continue my theme from last week, I will be staying away from wine once again as I try to find some unique brews that are available in more than one location. My first home-brewed cup of cof-

fee came from the evil empire itself, Starbucks. When I perused their “premium” coffee selection, I was confronted by a decent number of choices. Ultimately, I went with one of their “bold” blends, the Komodo Dragon. This coffee is blended from beans harvested from all over Asia’s coffee-growing regions. The tasting notes on the packaging told me to expect syrupy cedar notes and a spicy finish. After brewing a strong pot at home, I can say that it isn’t bad coffee but I would hardly put it in the bold category. While it had some very mild cedar notes to it, it wasn’t intense and spicy the way I had hoped it would be. This was a drinkable pot, but certainly nothing special. The next place I tried was Oren’s Daily Roast. This outfit has been around for 25 years and has many locations all over Manhattan. Their coffee of the day when I visited was one of their site-specific blends, Guatemala Antigua. This was one of the smoothest, darkest, richest coffees I’ve had in a long time. Notes of cocoa,

caramel, burnt sugar and even dried fruit on the finish made it delicious and complex all the way through. The last coffee I tried was at the hub for New York’s hipster-iest java, Mud. While there’s only one brick and mortar store, the ubiquitous bright orange Mud Truck can be found in several different locations around the city at any given day of the week. The Mud experience has as much to do with East Village rock club bravado as it does with coffee; it took me a full five minutes to find the actual coffee on their website. I tried their classic MudTruck Blend, which is billed as their standard cup of joe. This was the darkest and earthiest cup of coffee I tried in the experiment. It didn’t taste so much like cherries and cocoa as they had advertised as much as it did…well, mud. This coffee was a bit much for me, but if you like your brew super-full bodied, this is your place. So if you’re ready to give your morning cup the same scrutiny that you do your bottle of Bordeaux at dinner, try one of the surprising blends from one of Manhattan’s chain coffee shops. You may find more variety than you bargained for! Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshperilo. N EW S YO U LIV E B Y

new york family

Build a Gorilla

At the Bronx Zoo’s Summer Zoofari, life-sized LEGO animals aim to teach and inspire By Chandni Rathod A visit to the Bronx Zoo usually entails animal attractions, lessons about the natural world and, if you’re lucky, a ride on the bug carousel. A single trip to the zoo can help turn your child into a mini-veterinarian, a young science teacher or an animal enthusiast. This summer, prepare to add LEGO engineer to the list. From July through the end of September, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo and LEGO have teamed up to create The Great Summer Zoofari: A LEGO Wildlife Expedition, where Master Builders will expertly shape LEGO pieces into intricate, life-sized lions, tigers and bears. In an effort to help visitors learn more about the zoo and the WCS’s global field work, the series of LEGOinspired sculptures will inhabit the park all summer alongside the real-life animals. You’ll find Kihansi spray toads near the Reptile House Lawn; Chilean flamingos by the Pheasant Aviary; and the zoo’s own LEGO-made King Kong at the Congo Gorilla Forest. “Children love animals and they love LEGOS. The combination of the two is sure to make a lasting impression on our guests,” said Max Pulsinelli, WCS assistant director of communications. “The Great Summer Zoofari : A LEGO Wildlife Expedition was developed to use the popularity of animals and LEGOs together to further connect our visitors to wild nature and help tell the story of the Earth’s endangered wildlife in an entertaining way,” he explains. “We focused on species that are both exhibited at the zoo and benefit from WCS’s field conservation work around the globe.” Upon entering the park, Zoofari ad-

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venturers will receive a “Passport” to guide them through the new exhibit, packed with interesting factoids. Along the way, kids can stop to get their Passport stamped while learning how they can help make a difference in protecting the wildlife. Little zoo goers can also assist LEGO Master Builders as they continue to construct the various animal-themed sculptures, like penguins and giraffes. Ultimate-

Hot Tip of The Week

Shel Silverstein Tribute in Central Park This Saturday evening, enjoy readings, songs and interpretive performances of Shel Silverstein’s work from musicians, professional entertainers and special celebrity guests. Little ones who love Silverstein’s

O u r To w n NY. c o m

classic books, like The Giving Tree, and his delightful poetry will enjoy this special tribute. The event takes place at 7 p.m. at East 72nd Street. For more information, visit

ly, the Master Builders will oversee the building of a giant LEGO Mystery Mural in the Dancing Crane Pavilion, which will reveal an animal scene when complete. Looking for more family fun? The park will also be featuring Wildlife Theater shows, crafts and activities in collaboration with the Museum for African Art, which re-opens on Museum Mile in September, as well as conservation learning stations. The Bank of America Explorer Zone will host educational displays to teach visitors why field scientists track animals in the wild with camera traps and how gorilla conservationists determine habitat areas that need safeguarding. At a kid-friendly lunch tray station, tots can try their hand at preparing meals for gorillas, tigers and bears.

For a hands-on approach, plan a Zoofari day via the Bronx Zoo’s Interactive Trip Planner. Kids can chart their own adventure to visit much-loved animals by following a colorful drawing of the zoo’s online map. After making their selections, the map cleverly configures the fastest routes to your children’s chosen exhibits. Safari goers can edit and reroute their personal guide until it’s adventureready. While expanding your knowledge of local and global wildlife and conservation, you just might find yourself going home with the next Jane Goodall. The Great Summer Zoofari: A LEGO Wildlife Expedition is presented by Disney Vacation Club and sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about the Bronx Zoo and The Great Summer Zoofari, visit A u g u st 4 , 2 0 1 1 •



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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, Rob Gault, Mike Suscavage direCtOr OF events & Marketing Joanna Virello Marketing COOrdinatOr Stephanie Musso Marketing assistant Jessica Christopher exeCutive assistant OF saLes Jennie Valenti

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PrOduCtiOn Manager Mark T. Stinson editOriaL LayOut and design Monica Tang advertising design Ed Johnson assistant PrOduCtiOn Manager Jessica Balaschak OUR TOWN is published weekly Copyright © 2011 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 is a division of Manhattan Media, LLC, publisher of West Side Spirit, New York Press, Chelsea Clinton News, The Westsider, City Hall, The Capitol,The Blackboard Awards, New York Family, and Avenue magazine.

The Governor’s Next Big Push Cuomo should get in front of the medical marijuana debate By Alan S. Chartock I’ve met an awful lot of people who say that they smoke marijuana. They laugh when I tell them that I never have. Nevertheless, a lot of people smoke or have tried it and have created an underground economy, sort of a prohibition do-over, that has helped criminals in our country maintain their elevated style of life. With these illegal distribution networks come a loss of taxes on the product as well as guns, gang fights and public corruption of one kind or another. In fact, you can’t have corrupt cops and public officials without drugs like marijuana. As Willy Sutton once put it, “That’s where the money is.” We all know it—you’d have to be in la-la land not to get the way it works. Of course there are those who appropriately point out that marijuana use will get people high, impair their driving and cause accidents. That’s true. But in a society where a far worse drug, alcohol, does far more damage, we allow the sale and subsequent taxation of the more dangerous one and send people to jail for the other. There are people who will tell you that their pain and suffering from illness, sometimes terminal, is alleviated by smoking marijuana. There are studies suggesting this is a fact and so in some parts of the country, like California, it is legal to use marijuana like other any medicine to help those who need it. Naturally, there are some entrepreneur-

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the same with the use of alcohol. By allowing the use of marijuana, we can spot those with problems and refer them to experts who might be able to help them. For his part, Cuomo has announced he is opposed to medical marijuana, and his words made more than a few ripples when he said he was reconsidering his position. That’s good; he should. His risk, and he knows it, is that people running for the presidency will eventually be asked whether they’ve ever smoked pot. God forbid! If they are for the fair-minded use of marijuana, they will be portrayed as permissive nuts, cartoons will show them smoking weed and hallucinating. Cuomo has shown guts on things like marriage equality. He has appropriately led, not followed. If he senses a sea change in public reaction to marijuana, he’ll be tempted to get out in front. That’s why he sent up smoke signals to the public when he said he was reconsidering his opinion on medical marijuana but was still opposed. This is called “running it up the flag pole and seeing who salutes.” Hey, we’re going to get medical marijuana. The only question is whether this governor will have the cojones to do what is right. Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.


To the Editor: I credit Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for trying to get public and charter schools to share limited space (“Learning 40 to Co-exist,” July 28). However, public schools are aware of the unequal 2 allocation of scarce resources that the charters benefit from. When the parents and administration at Tingle Mines P.S. 9 in Brooklyn spent Politics for Humor two years rebuilding the school’s library with the help of $450,000 in grants, only to see Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School be given 6 hours, 45 minutes to P.S. 9’s 4 P.4

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ial Americans who extend the concept of medical marijuana to its pure recreational use—again, like alcohol. These folks have an expansive view of who needs medical marijuana, and are not averse to making a buck by selling the stuff. Obviously, there will be a lot of doctors shopping to find willing prescribers, just the same as folks who seek out more dangerous narcotic drugs that are manufactured by drug companies. Into all of this comes the dynamic young governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who is very, very good and pragmatic at judging what the public wants. On this one, however, he has a problem. He has positioned himself, as has the president, to the right of center to pick up centrist swing voters. But the polls are changing. Americans are becoming much more tolerant of the use of medical marijuana. It’s hard for most folks to imagine making a criminal out of a dying cancer patient who experiences some relief from the drug. Of course, most right-wing libertarians are all for marijuana legalization under the mantle of keeping government off their backs. Nevertheless, our history in this country has been to promote the concept of “reefer madness.” Marijuana, we are told, is a gateway drug: First you smoke weed, then you graduate to other drugs. In some cases that is accurate—but it can be

hours, 30 minutes to use the library, one can understand why co-location may not be welcomed. A state judge recently voted against the teachers union and the NAACP by closing 22 failing schools while granting permission to 15 charter schools to share space with public schools. Some elementary schools may have wanted to expand to K-8 to increase the supply of middle school seats. There are seat shortages for current and future students throughout the five boroughs. The DOE has commitments for $9 billion over the next four years to renovate schools and create 30,000 seats Seniors: Where to beat the heat July 28, 2011

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in 56 buildings. Because of Race to the Top funds, Albany last year increased the charter school cap from 200 to 460. By more than doubling their number, I foresee charter schools gaining an unequal proportion of these additional seats. Both public and charter schools can provide parents with a choice for a quality education for their children. But in a period of scarce resources, careful examination needs to take place to see how colocating a charter school will affect the public school. Perhaps when students have equal time in libraries and elementary schools are able to expand into middle school, Bill de Blasio will recognize a peaceful educational coexistence. Daniel M. WolkenfelD East 82nd strEEt Letters have been edited for clarity, style and brevity. N EW S YO U LIV E B Y

Dewing Things BeTTer

Harking Back to Bygone Virtues Cultural change can come if enough of us work for it By Bette Dewing “The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.” Hubert Humphrey’s wisdom repeatedly appears here, because, as Dr. Samuel Johnson discovered, “We need as much to be reminded as informed!” Being informed, of course, comes first—as for the “helping hands of neighbors,” I just learned that The Hallmark Channel is rerunning the award-winning, autobiographical The Waltons in August. Yup, back-to-back episodes of the life of this Depression-era family air weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Unfortunately, it’s up against the “news” that we’re thankful many still watch (even if reading The Daily News, The New York Times and this weekly are much more essential), though surely there’d be less bad news if The Waltons and not Jersey Shore and Lady Gaga influenced our customs and views. The Waltons’ creator, Earl Hamner, 87, recently explained how he “wants to throw things at the TV set” for its “gra-

tuitous violence and celebration of perversity” that also infiltrates movies and music. So write about it, Earl! Speak out about it, and when the Library of Virginia gives you a Lifetime Achievement award later this fall, protesting cultural toxins could be your greatest achievement! Notice that, in the Big Apple, those helping hands often come in the form of building staff members, like Nelson Burgos, the maintenance supervisor at 420 East 80th Street. On July’s hottest day, he and his assistant Robert checked on age 70-plus tenants who lived alone, asking “Are you okay? Is there anything we can do for you?” My tenant source replied, “No, but it sure helps to know you care!” Amen! Apartment house staffers are the first line of defense against crime and other emergencies, but above all they provide daily social interaction, which is helpful to all but especially to those too much

alone. And the media, which so determines public concerns, often forget the latter, even in heat waves and blizzards. Critically needed are stories and photos of commonplace but unaddressed suffering such as the one in Pulitzer-deserving Manny Fernandez’s Aug. 2, 2006, New York Times story, “Checking Up on Those Trapped at Home,” vividly illustrated by Ozier Muhammed’s photo of a heatdepleted 86-year-old retired nurse who couldn’t afford to run her air conditioner. This is the coverage elders need: to show elderhood reality, which needs infinitely more attention. Reportedly 300,000 of New York’s almost 1 million 65-plus population live alone. Many are 85-plus. But any elder news and photos shown are of exceptionally vigorous and socially involved old people. Ignored is the natural need for vital connections between family genera-

tions. Accepted is age apartheid in general. It’s no wonder whoever opened my letter to the mayor sent a “thank you for your condolences” form letter in return with no acknowledgement of this paper’s editorial and my column strongly commending this son’s daily calls to his mother. That’s something all adult offspring should emulate, we said—such interaction could even help reduce Medicare costs. City Hall promised to “follow up” on how to get these essential-to-societalhealth messages to the mayor. Again, there’s so much cultural resistance to more than peripheral ties between adult offspring and their parents, especially between sons and their mothers—forget mothers-in-law. So support the mayor’s good sonship and The Waltons’ extended family and neighbor interdependence. Contact for the Fernandez story and Muhammad photo, for Charlotte Bloomberg’s good son tribute and to email about Nelson Burgos’ concern for his elder tenants. Attention must be paid! It can be done if enough of us try!

new york gal

The Jury’s Still Out

Dante’s Purgatory and court duty have a lot in common By Lorraine Duffy Merkl I was being sent to prison. At least that’s how it felt when the summons for jury duty showed up in my mailbox. FYI: It’s mandatory, like paying taxes. Failure to appear, aka FTA, can result in civil or criminal penalties—and then there’s something about a $1,000 fine. In addition, anyone who skips out on their civic duty is automatically assigned a new date for future service. And so I reported to 100 Centre Street promptly at 8:45 a.m. The court clerk, like a social director on a cruise ship, went over the activities of the day. He opened his monologue with a rousing “Good morning, jurors!” a la Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam. When he didn’t get a big enough welcome in return he said it again, with the annoyance of a gramO u r To w n NY. c o m

mar school teacher who expects the class’s enthusiasm to match his own. We all replied in unison—this time with feeling—so we could move on… to the film. It begins in medieval times, depicting how, if you were accused of wrongdoing, you would be taken into the woods and burned or drowned by villagers. “Is this fair and impartial justice?” asks the announcer. Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer then walk us through a segment called “Your Turn,” which shows citizens just like us talking about how much they don’t want to serve. Many heads in the room nodded in agreement. A judge then made an appearance to give us a “You Make the Call” pep talk. The court clerk returned and smirked as he announced, “It’s gonna be a long day.” A few jurors acted out over their “incarceration”; however, most of us took

our service in stride. Florescent lighting notwithstanding, the accommodations weren’t bad—they’ve got Wi-Fi now, as well as a vending machine that stocks Fritos and Raisinettes. The morning went by quickly, as we were brought before a judge on a criminal trial for jury selection. I was excused from what would have been a four-month trial. Then I sat around for the rest of the afternoon. The juror’s lounge had a study hall quality to it; my peers were working, reading, texting or doing what they do via computer. I did some writing, read a novel and checked my email, and while I ate lunch I caught up on a missed episode of the “The Good Wife” on the Internet. It was sort of business as usual, but instead of doing all this from the comfort of my Raymour and Flanigan sectional I was in a functionally furnished courthouse. On day two, our call time was 10:30

a.m. Again I worked, caught up on calls, (in the hallway, since there are no cell phones allowed in the jury room), got my to-do list squared away and read more of my book. We were granted a two-hour lunch, so I ventured nearby to Century 21, the discount designer clothing store that people swear by but I never frequent because it is nowhere near my life. At 3 p.m., the court clerk got back on his mic to perform five minutes of Catch a Rising Star-worthy schtick: “How we doin’ this afternoon? Everyone enjoy their lunch? Remember, there’s no food or drink allowed in the jury room” (so no waitress to remember to tip). And on that, we were dismissed. As we left, he handed us our proof of service certificates, reminding us that our $40 per diem would be mailed from Albany in six to eight weeks, and bid us adieu with a wink and a smile and a “See ya in six years.” I’m almost looking forward to it. Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel Fat Chick, from The Vineyard Press, is available at and A u g u st 4 , 2 0 1 1



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August 4, 2011


Our Town August 4, 2011  

The August 4, 2011 issue of Our Town. Founded more than three decades ago, Our Town serves the East Side of Manhattan from Turtle Bay to Car...

Our Town August 4, 2011  

The August 4, 2011 issue of Our Town. Founded more than three decades ago, Our Town serves the East Side of Manhattan from Turtle Bay to Car...