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NEWS: CB8 shoots down PAGE 8 Sloan-Kettering March 22, 2012

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CAR WASH WORKERS TARGET UES owner

DIABETES AND HEARING LOSS Local audiologist group Audio Help Associates of Manhattan is offering free hearing screenings March 21-27 at their Upper East Side location, 186 E. 76th St. Hearing loss is about twice as common in adults with diabetes as in those who do not have the disease, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Doctors conducting the screenings will also be available to explain the connection between diabetes and hearing loss. To make an appointment, call 212774-1971 and refer to code ADA SCREEN.

LAPPIN WANTS COMMUNITY BOARDS ONLINE

Some Fine Tuning

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A high school student recieves some free instruction from Classical guitarist Ben Verdery, chair of the guitar department at the Yale School of Music, during the 92nd Street Y’s High School Guitar Day on March 18. The free day of guitar instruction for New York City teens of all playing levels, included workshops on Beginner Afro-Cuban; Hawaiian Slack Key; Classical Guitar; and Solo Flamenco Guitar Art and Technique. Visit our website at www. ourtownny.com for more photos from Guitar Day.

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City Council Member Jessica Lappin introduced legislation last week that would require community board meetings to be broadcast live on the web. The bill would also mandate that recordings be archived and made available to the public within five days of meeting dates. Community Board 6, which covers Turtle Bay, Murray Hill, Kips Bay and Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, may be launching a pilot program later this year, and Lappin hopes that other boards will soon follow suit. “New Yorkers are always on the go, and with technology, we can bring community board meetings to them,” Lappin said in a statement. “With live webcasting, we can connect New Yorkers and make government more accessible and transparent.”

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Last Friday, a group of car wash workers rallied at LMC Car Wash on East 109th Street to protest what they claim is its mistreatment of workers and to campaign for better working conditions. The car wash is one of about 20 in New York City operated by Lage Management Company; owner John Lage was ordered to pay over $3 million in back wages to workers in 2009 after the U.S. Department of Labor found that he had violated labor laws. Now, workers claim that conditions at Lage’s car washes are still unfair, that workers sometimes don’t make minimum wage and often work unpaid overtime.

Sharing Titanic History

On the 100th anniversay of the sinking of the Titanic, greatgrandson of Isidor and Ida Straus, Paul Kurzman, speaks with students at P.S. 198 the Isidor and Ida Straus School about the history of his family. The Strauses were founders and owners of the Macy’s department store. (INSET) Kurzman shared with students a locket recovered from Isidor Straus’ body. of the park’s East Meadow. The last of seven major lawns to be restored by the Conservancy, the 6-acre stretch of East Meadow was revamped over the course of a year and reopened to the public in September 2011. Drainage was improved and paths reconstructed and an automatic irrigation system was installed on the landscape. “With this project, the Central Park Conservancy has once again proven their determination to invest in this exceptional scenic landmark, which the Upper East Side is lucky to call our backyard,” said Matthew Coody, a Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts associate. The East Meadow will reopen to the public for passive recreation, following its fall/winter closure, in April.

the program’s aims is to connect people to other forms of public transit in areas where subways and buses aren’t accessible. Representatives from Community Board 8, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Members Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lappin and Assembly Members Micah Kellner and Dan Quart will be at the session to hear community ideas and feedback about where to place BikeShare stations and how the program should be implemented. There will be two sessions Monday, March 26, at 6 and 7 p.m. at The Lighthouse, 111 E. 59th St., BV Hall, on the second floor. For information prior to the sessions, contact Josh Orzeck at jorzeck@dot. nyc.gov or call 212-839-6218.

CENTRAL PARK HELP PLAN BIKESHARE FREE MAMMOGRAMS GETS HISTORIC The Department of Transportation is Assembly Member Micah Kellner is NOD holding a community planning session to coordinating with Project Renewal to proLast week, the preservation advocacy group Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts presented the Central Park Conservancy with its Distinctive Achievement Award for the restoration

get input from local residents on how to develop the BikeShare program for the Upper East Side. The program, which will be funded by sponsorships and user fees, will place bike rental stations around the city, allowing members to rent bikes 24 hours a day and return them to docking points at any station. One of

vide free mammograms for the community Friday, April 20. Screenings will be conducted by appointment from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, 331 E. 70th St. Call Kellner’s office at 212-860-4906 to schedule an appointment in advance; all are eligible for the free service. N EW S YO U LIV E B Y


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

March 22, 2012

OUR TOWN

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CORNELL-TECHNION’S HI-TECH CAMPUS Please join Council Member Jessica Lappin, Cornell University President David J. Skorton, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Assembly Member Micah Kellner, and others for a presentation and discussion on the applied sciences and engineering school that is coming to Roosevelt Island.

Thursday, April 5th at 6:30 p.m. Manhattan Park Community Center 8 River Road, Roosevelt Island For information contact Council Member Lappin’s office at (212) 980-1808 or (212) 788-6865.

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By Sean Creamer

Spread ’Em Cops aren’t the only ones who will tell you to place your hands on a car—criminals will tell you to do so if they want to make off with your stuff and keep from being seen. On Monday, March 19, near First Avenue and 74th Street at 9 p.m., a man was pushed against a car by some crooks who demanded he empty the contents of his pockets, which happened to be the ever-valuable iPhone 4s with a case and a set of headphones. Two men have been arrested for the crime.

Dancing in the Dark Going out to a nightclub on a Saturday night is usually an act that can be characterized by dancing and drinking. Unfortunately for one woman on the Upper East Side, the last part of this equation was complicated by robbery. The victim was walking home at about 5 a.m. on Sunday when a thief ran up to her from behind and snatched her purse. She lost credit and bank cards, a wallet, cell phone and a Louis Vuitton bag. So far, there have been no arrests.

Phone Lover Fights It’s no surprise that iPhones have become the newest target for street thieves. Despite the multitude of GPS trackers and apps that work to prevent phones from being stolen, they are still a hot item on the street. On Friday night on Second Avenue, a woman was talking on her phone, oblivious to the group of men that were meandering her way. One of the lowbrow crooks tried to take her phone by punching her in the face and running, but the victim would have none of it. After being hit hard, the woman employed a vice-like grip to retain her phone. The perp, seeing that this woman was taking his punches with ease, decid-

ed that he and his friends should split before their own phones were stolen. So far, no arrests have been made.

Beer Can Battles Bar fights are never a fun occurrence. The atmosphere of the night is destroyed, people yell and scream and someone always ends up with a bloody nose—or worse. One Upper East Side man was stricken with just a scenario—as well as a beer can to the face—last Saturday night. After drinking at a pub on Second Avenue, the victim got into an altercation with a young man and was beaned in the face. The attacker tried to flee the scene but was later apprehended. He is being charged with assault.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Mama always said: If you do not have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. A man who was shopping at a chain store in the Upper East Side learned this lesson the hard way. On Saturday, March 17, the man enraged the female clerk behind the counter by “being disrespectful.” The argument ended with her smashing a glass bottle upon his skull. Realizing that a felonious assault was probably not the best way to teach someone to respect women, she fled her place of business and has not been seen since.

Midnight Snacking Locking your door is a safe way to keep intruders out of a place of business, but having a lock will not do much if the door is made of glass and there is no video surveillance in place. On Tuesday March 13, an employee of a restaurant on First Avenue went into work to open up for the day only to find that a midnight visitor had already opened the door for him. The burglar made his way into the restaurant and proceeded to make off with several knives and a laptop. So far, there have been no arrests in the case. N EW S YO U LIV E B Y


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

March 22, 2012

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feature

Scamming Seniors

How sharks in the water are targeting older Upper East Siders By Megan Bungeroth

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ney in charge of legal services at Jewish Association Serving the Aging, said seniors who have their lives, finances and wits about them can still get taken by these types of scams. “I’ve had people who have lost their entire savings and whatnot, and they were professional people. I had someone who had worked at the Federal Reserve and got taken by a mortgage scam. It was terribly embarrassing to her; she was brilliant with finances,” said Dougherty. “You have to understand that it’s a crime. They really

said she needed $38,000 to get her harassing landlord off her back, he willingly loaned it to her, then allowed her to move in when she lost her apartment anyway. Within months, this former friend became a threatening roommate who refused to pay back the loan and routinely threatened to kill her victim. “Over 30 percent of elder abuse cases are perpetrated by family members and friends,” said City Council Member Jessica Lappin, who chairs the Council Committee on Aging. “It’s important for people to know that there are support services out there for them. If they are being exploited, they should feel comfortable about speaking up.” The scams that target older people are often complex and well-oiled. Mortgage scams or deed thefts, in which people trick seniors who are homeowners into signing away their savings or their property, are common. Donna Dougherty, the attor-

are looking to give you false information and mislead you; it has nothing to do with intelligence.” While those crimes usually require a personal connection to the victim, some criminals chose their targets at random, anonymously. “There are scams going on when a [person pretending to be a] grandchild who lost a wallet calls and needs a ticket home,” said Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy at CSC. “They’re preying on people’s fears that they’re alone. Some people might not have their full cognitive abilities, so they just prey on these older folks to get whatever it is they want to get. That’s a common one, when they call from another place.” Police reports confirm the trend. Officer Ross Dichter, crime analyst for the Upper West Side’s 20th Precinct, said that identity theft and online scams are some of the fastest growing crimes, and he routinely comes

illustration by ThomasJames

ew York is a city with a booming elderly population—there are over 3.4 million people over the age of 65 living here. With that aging population come the predators who single out older victims for their nefarious swindles. In an age of small-time Internet scams and big-time Ponzi schemes, everyone is a potential victim of financial crimes, but the elderly are particularly at risk and are often targeted by would-be criminals. Take, for example, the case of an 82-yearold widow living on the Upper East Side. The elderly victim was robbed of $53,000 over a period of several months as 30-year-old Sylvester McCoy stole checks from her home and forged her signature many times over. Or think of the example, perhaps made worse by the victim-perpetrator relationship, of Peter Wilde, who abused the power of attorney he exercised over his aging parents to steal over $1 million from the couple. Or the case of Carolyn Turner, a home aide to an 81-year-old woman living on the Upper West Side, who stole over $25,000 from her employer. Turner swiped the victim’s debit cards and forged checks without her permission in order to make credit card and car payments not only for herself but for her adult children as well. These are just a few of the cases that have been prosecuted in the past year, and those only show the crimes that are reported and solved, an outcome not always feasible for elderly victims. “What is common for all these and for so many elder abuse cases is they take place based on existing relationships, whether it’s a home health aide, a family member or someone trusted and known to the senior— that’s the vulnerability that the defendant takes advantage of,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance in an interview. The Elder Abuse unit in the DA’s office specifically investigates and prosecutes cases of financial fraud and other types of elder abuse. They take on roughly 650 cases each year and work to prevent crimes; Vance has spoken at senior centers around the city, hoping to give seniors the tools they need to recognize suspicious situations and the confidence to report crimes when they happen. “There is just an enhanced vulnerability when you get older,” Vance said. “There is a reluctance to either know what’s going on or, even if you know what’s going on, to have the courage to report it because it might be

people who are in fact taking care of you.” Sometimes, the person is not a family member but someone an older person has come to trust. The Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSC), an umbrella group that represents New York City’s senior centers, has collected stories of elder abuse in which city services have been able to intervene and help. One case involved an 80-year-old man living on the Upper West Side who met a 46-year-old woman at a ballroom dancing class and befriended her. When his friend

across reports targeting elderly victims. “Someone approaches an older person on the street, they say, ‘Hey I found this envelope with $50,000 in it, go get me $5,000 and we’ll split this between the two of us, no one has to know,’” Dichter explained, describing a scheme he said happens all the time. The victim goes to the bank, takes out thousands of dollars in cash and hands it over. The swindler gives up their “share” and quickly disappears, leaving the elderly person with an envelope stuffed with tissue paper and out five grand. Another common scam is through Craigslist, when a scammer answers an ad posted by an older person advertising a service like babysitting. The swindler corresponds and agrees to pay the person in advance, then sends a check for far too much money. The scammer then claims it was a mistake and asks the person to mail back the difference in cash; meanwhile, the check bounces and they become unreachable. Some schemes that target elderly victims aren’t necessarily criminal but fall into the category of consumer fraud. Council Member Gale Brewer said that her older constituents are bombarded by mailings soliciting information from them and that they often get confused about what is legitimate and what’s not. She has also heard of scams that collect low monthly payments in exchange for supposed ownership of land or property, which turns out to be for nothing—send in $10 a month and get a piece of land in Florida, for instance—that operate just this side of legally through complicated fine print disclaimers. “They can make $80 million a week off of these scams. They’re not small operations,” Brewer said. “They have the best attorneys in the U.S. and they usually stay just above the law. They only prey on the elderly. You can’t quite believe that people would actually do these things but they do.” Advocates say there are ways for seniors to protect themselves and for loved ones to be on the lookout for signs of financial exploitation. The DA’s office has worked to educate major banks to be aware of unusual transactions in their older clients’ accounts, and anyone helping an elderly relative should be alert for changes in spending or strange bills being delivered. Dougherty cautions that anyone who tries to isolate elderly people and not allow them to seek outside advice should not be trusted. “Seniors, like everybody else, need to be vigilant without necessarily being fearful,” Vance said. “Being vigilant may be something as simple as checking your credit card statement, checking your bank statements. When someone calls you on the phone and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” N EW S YO U LIV E B Y


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March 22, 2012

OUR TOWN

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news

CB8 Shoots Down Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center By Megan Bungeroth Last week, representatives for Memorial Sloan-Kettering (MSK) made a final plea to Community Board 8 asking for their blessing on a variance request for their planned new cancer center on the Upper East Side. But much to the delight of many in attendance at the meeting, the board voted not to approve the request, creating a bumpier road to ultimate approval from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for the hospital. MSK purchased the lot on the corner of York Avenue and East 61st Street in 2008 and is now hoping to build a 15-story outpatient cancer surgery center there. They could build as-of-right without seeking any special exemptions in zoning, but the hospital says that the current regulations cannot possibly accommodate the specific needs of a surgery center. They are seeking variances to create a curb cut for a patient drop-off and pick-up area, as well as to build fewer, wider stories to accommodate surgical needs. “This is really about building typology,” said Shelly Friedman, the land use attorney representing MSK, comparing the proposal to existing hospitals in the

area, like Cornell. Although MSK is technically claiming a hardship to the BSA in order to get the approval, something opponents have mocked as absurd for such a large institution with the money to begin new construction, Friedman insisted that it’s just about what type of construction is feasible on the site. While the zoning allows them to build several stories below grade, Friedman said that the site is in a hurricane inundation zone and that ConEdison would not place its equipment at any underground level, which is why they are looking to make each story larger to make up for the lost square footage. It would also cost an additional $12 million, MSK estimates, to build down into the type of soil there. “If it was $5 million or $50 million, we would be asking you for the same variances,” Friedman said. Attorney Chris Wright, who represents the co-op building at 440 E. 62nd St. that is next door to the proposed site, provided rebuttals for almost all of Friedman’s points, accusing MSK of changing its story and failing the “good faith test” of being willing to sit down with the com-

The proposed Sloan-Kettering building. munity board to consider alternate plans. Residents of the building have vehemently opposed the plans, which will block much of the air and light from their lot line and regular windows. Friedman said that the reason MSK wouldn’t negotiate is that there isn’t really room to compromise; they have stated that they need a certain square footage on each floor for operating space and that even if the narrower as-of-right building would allow for slightly more light and air to flow to 440 E. 62nd St., the hospital couldn’t work within those zoning

restrictions. Cabot Marks, the president of the coop board, also delivered an impassioned plea to the community board to reject the plans, pointing to giant slides showing a 3-year-old girl playing happily in front of a window that will eventually be blocked by the hospital building. “I’ve not heard one proposal, one statement, one inch of concession or thought about what would improve our community or make this a little more palatable,” said Marks. Many board members were swayed not only by the plight of the building but by the ways the hospital will potentially impact the entire neighborhood. “I can’t give the hospital what it wants right now because they haven’t been a good neighbor,” said board member Debbie Teitelbaum. The board voted 14 in favor of approving the variances, 25 against and one abstention as residents of 440 E. 62nd St. erupted into cheers. The hospital will go before the BSA on March 27 without the community board’s approval and with a cadre of opponents sure to come protest the variances again.

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O UR TOW N

March 22, 2012

N EW S YO U LIV E B Y


news

Pedestrians: Consider Safety This Time on 81st Street Bridge By Sean Creamer The dilapidated footbridge passing over the FDR Drive from East 81st Street to Carl Schurz Park has seen better days. Crumbling supports, steep stairs and discolored cement characterize this footpath built in the 1940s. The bridge is currently under close scrutiny by local Community Board 8 and the Department of Designs and Construction as the entities work toward an estimated $10 million overhaul of the bridge. The current design calls for a twoblock-long ramp, 10 feet wide, which would replace the eroded stairs currently connecting the walk along the water. Another facet of the project is the addi-

Street bridge that ask bikers to walk their bikes when crossing the compacted path. While the Community Board struggles with freewheeling bikers on the 78th Street bridge, they want to make sure the 81st Street bridge doesn’t have the same problems. “The 81st Street bridge is a barrierfree space,” said Chin. “This means that the bridge is open to use by dog walkers, pedestrians and cyclists.” Chuck Warren, the co-chair of the CB8

transportation committee, said that the design phase of the 81st Street bridge has been going on for several years. The first design was released in 2008 and the Board did not approve it because it was clunky and “stuck out in an ugly way.” The Board has yet to take a stance on the current design released by the Department of Construction and Design, according to Nicholas Viest, CB8 chairman. Warren feels there should be signs

posted to raise awareness for bikers that the bridge is shared, telling them to exercise caution when using it. “The park and bridge should be open to cyclists just so long as they follow the rules and respect pedestrians,” said Jim, a resident of the Upper East Side who declined to give his last name. “If they drive up here at a slower pace, I would have no problems with them.” The bridge is currently expected to take 18 months to complete.

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The East 81st bridge is going to be rebuilt. tion of accessible ramps to replace the stairs on 81st Street that bar access to the promenade to mothers with baby carriages and those in wheelchairs, according to Craig Chin, public information officer of the Department of Design and Construction, which is responsible for the 81st Street bridge. The design is raising eyebrows among some Upper East Siders who are worried that the reconstructed bridge will have similar issues to the 78th Street bridge just a few blocks south. The recently rebuilt bridge on 78th Street is shared by cyclists and pedestrians, and that has created safety issues, according to some locals. “Some people fly through here and have no respect for anyone else,” said Michael Thompson, a writer who lives on the Upper East Side. “If I was a mother with a baby carriage, I would feel in danger.” Community Board 8 has since passed a resolution to post signs on the 78th O u r To w n NY. c o m 

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O U R TO W N

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news

FRIENDS Honors 29 Years of East Side Preservation Efforts Staff Report Honoring those seeking to restore, renovate and protect the historic qualities of the Upper East Side is the full-time job of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. The nonprofit celebrated its 29th annual meeting and awards ceremony Mar. 14 at 6 p.m. at the New York School of Interior Design. See Our Town next week for a special insert honoring the work of FRIENDS as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

(Above) City Council Member Dan Garodnick with awardees Charles Biada, National Academy Museum & School, and Jane Stageberg, Bade Stageberg Cox Architecture.

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(Above) Hermes Mallea, FRIENDS board member and host for the evening.

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The World at Her Feet Annabella Gonzalez celebrates 35th anniversary By Adam Rathe Despite being best known for her feet, Annabella Gonzalez first came to New York City on a Greyhound bus. The Mexican-born founder of Annabella Gonzalez Dance Theater, which is celebrating its 35th year with a weekend-long program March 16 and 17 at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, came to New York one summer ostensibly to study theater, but left—returning to the University of Minnesota to finish a degree in art history—with a new creative obsession. “I was taking classes at HB Studios and one of the theater classes was called Movement for Actors,” she said. “When I came out of that class, I knew that I was in the wrong school. I knew that what I wanted was dance.” After completing her undergraduate degree, Gonzalez moved to New York to work on a master’s degree in art history at Columbia and continued to study dance on the side. Eventually, having a taste for the international, Gonzalez moved to Europe. “I danced with a modern dance company in Geneva—it was very interesting,” she explained.

arts aged to cobble together a team that worked for her until 1977, when she was able to gain nonprofit status for the group and began auditioning dancers and working on fundraising. “Our first series, in 1977, was really the beginning of solid work. And then we performed a great deal in schools and

After nine years in Europe, Gonzalez moved back to New York determined to form her very own dance company, dancing as well as choreographing. “I’ve always wanted to choreograph more than dance,” she said. “Dancing, for me technically, is a big challenge. But I hear Mozart, who is my god, and I thought, do what you love. Do what comes easily rather than auditioning all over the place.” Starting a brand-new company, however, was not a simple task. “It was really difficult,” Gonzalez said with a sigh. “I had a couple of friends in a ballet class—most of my dancers Annabella Gonzalez Dance started its 35th season have strong ballet training— on March 16. and in these classes I would do whatever I could to ask these other danc- senior centers and libraries—everywhere. ers to work for nothing at first. I started We also tour nationally and we have been out wherever I could, in crummy little stu- performing in Mexico for four years now.” dios that I could afford. There were dozSince that initial performance, ens of those studios. I also worked out of Gonzalez and her troupe, who are based my apartment, which has a mini-studio.” out of her Upper East Side home, have Gonzalez’s tactics worked. She man- stayed active in New York, performing

everywhere from Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival to Carnegie Hall and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Gonzalez says that developing relationships with her dancers has been the most rewarding part of her job. “I’ve gotten some into teaching dance in public schools, one because of her presentation, [one who] joined Cirque du Soleil. Another subsequently moved upstate and started a new company. Another named his only daughter in my honor! Looking back, the human contact has been the most rewarding.” To celebrate those relationships, the program Gonzalez is offering in celebration of her company’s anniversary is fittingly unique, including a Gonzalezchoreographed piece for six dancers called Pastoral Latino, a solo piece called Days of Sunshine by guest artist Mazine Steinman, a revival of Gonzalez’ Adam and Eve-themed piece, The Fall? and more. It’s a program that the choreographer hopes encourages participation from longtime fans as well as new ones. “I’m discouraged to see people staying home instead of attending live music and dance,” she said. “It’s a challenge to attract young people and get them to enjoy live dance. That’s really something I want to get involved with and overcome.”

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Dining

When in Roma

Pizza Roma, on Bleecker Street, manages to stand out from the crowd pizza for its healthfulness?—but it is a genuine alternative to the others on the block. There is that room, which eschews the traditional pizzeria design tropes of dark wood, arched brick doorways as if to trompe l’oeil you into thinking you’re eating under the aqueducts and a roaring furnace of an oven in a prominent corner that manages to heat the place to inferno-like levels just to prove they’re not secretly microwaving your pie. Pizza Roma, in making the bold choice to not hit you over the head with its Italianness, actually feels Italian. Rickety wooden chairs and small tables fill the dining room, whose one red brick wall is covered with slightly goofy art, and spiky-branched floral arrangements and miniature topiaries dot the perimeter. French doors open onto a cinderblock terrace in the back, so common to West Village properties and also, fortuitously, reminiscent of a side-street cafe in Rome. It’s not fancy, it’s not designed to within an inch of its life, it’s just clean, airy and charmingly ramshackle—very Italian.

Then there’s the pizza. Healthy or not, the crust is a thrill for those looking for a break from the tyranny of the Neapolitan charred thin crust that has gripped this city. That 96-hour method produces a

photo courtesy of pizza roma

By Regan Hofmann To open another pizzeria on Bleecker Street, home to institutions like John’s, serious newcomers like Keste and enough NYU student-targeting Famous Original Rays to start an army, seems like utter lunacy. Open in Battery Park City, on the Lower East Side, in Sheridan Square, you want to tell these delusional owners. Pretty much anywhere else, save perhaps the three square blocks of Little Italy itself, would be more amenable to your charms. But Pizza Roma (259 Bleecker St., betw. Cornelia & Jones Sts., pizzaromanewyork. com) wouldn’t be swayed. In a whitewashed storefront that looks more like it ought to be selling slightly twee lingerie than pizza, they have staked their claim. And while it may baffle some window shoppers, they have perfected a crust, the owners say, that uses less yeast but is allowed to rise over 96 hours, making it a “healthier alternative” to traditional pizza. About that I have my doubts—there’s still plenty of olive oil involved, and really, who besides lingerie models chooses

The pizza at taglio at Pizza Roma. base layer that’s much breadier, with a light, airy interior; more focaccia-like than any pizza crust you’ve seen in a long time. Toppings also skew different, and the simpler the better; slices of potato and rosemary spikes were a rich, earthy compliment to the yeasty chew of the crust, while a pizza of the day of whole green olives and deliciously wrinkled

roasted cherry tomatoes added the occasional pop of intense flavor, still allowing the crust to shine through. Less successful are those that fall back into standard pizza territories; anything with a marinara base, which tasted tomato paste-y and one-dimensional, is better left alone. It’s also provided in square slices, cut to order off long planks that are displayed proudly in a glass case that runs the length of the entranceway. This is what’s known as pizza al taglio, pizza by the cut, in the Roman style. It’s not a new innovation—Pie by the Pound, in the East Village, has been pushing an Americanized, more-is-more version of the technique for years—but the execution, and that crust, makes it stand out. It also, apparently, makes it conducive to franchising opportunities; a Pizza Roma counter has just opened up in Whole Foods’ Bowery location. Though I still worry for the sanity of Pizza Roma’s owners, who decided their first New York City location (the first Pizza Roma is in Barcelona, though the owners are Italians) should be in the city’s pizza ground zero, they may well have bucked the odds and done the impossible: built an original pizzeria on Bleecker Street.

Spring 2012

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Dining

Booze Up Your Food

wine with a certain food, so, too, would you use that wine to add a complimentary flavor to your dish. While I do think pouring a bottle of wine into a pot of “stuff” is a technique that is a little overused, there is a culinary component here that is important. It’s the same idea you want to think about when you are pairing a wine to drink with a meal that you are cooking. Take braised brisket, for example. If you are serving a cut of brisket, which has a good deal of fat to it (and is certainly not a light piece of meat), you would drink a heavy, tannic red wine to match that flavor profile. The same holds true for the kind of wine you would pick to cook it in. The wine will help break down the meat with its natural acidity, making it more tender, but the meat will also absorb the flavor notes of the vino. The end result will not only be tender and juicy, but well balanced as well. So before you pour that week-old, halfempty bottle down the drain, peruse that cookbook you got as a Christmas present three years ago. You just might surprise yourself with what you concoct!

Spice up your meals with an age-old tradition It seems like every time you turn on a cooking show, the host is making something you would never even think about attempting on an ordinary weeknight. It usually involves an inordinate amount of chopping, grating or whisking. There’s usually a thermometer of some kind involved. And at some point, a healthy amount of booze is poured into the dish. While we were watching one of these celebrity chefs emptying half a bottle of wine into a pan recently, my wife turned to me and said “I hate wine in my food. It just makes it taste boozy.” “Only if they do it wrong,” I said. “Nope,” She retorted, “I just don’t like alcohol in my food.” “Oh, I thought you liked my chicken stew.” Natali sat up straight and stared at me as though she had just been told that I had kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. “You put wine in the stew?”

“I sure do.” We eventually worked out our issue that night, but we did discuss the idea of alcohol in food for some time afterwards. There are many practical reasons one might use wine in food, actually. To understand why you might want to up the alcoholic content of your evening entrée, let’s look at it from a scientific point of view. Alcohol is a natural preservative. Back in the day, By Josh Perilo before everyone had a Frigidaire in their kitchen, baked goods were made and consumed within a day or two of being made, especially delicate baked goods like cakes and pies. For a special occasion like Christmas, when a lot of the food had to be made beforehand, families looked for ways to preserve these sweets so they would last until they were needed. In the United Kingdom, the tradition of dousing a pudding (or cake) in alcohol was invented to keep

the sweet stuff from drying out or rotting. This became a tradition in the Southern United States, as well, with the traditional spicy bourbon cakes. Now, the flavor has become synonymous with the holidays, but it started out of necessity. Alcohol burns at a high temperature. Different levels of heat add different types of flavor to a myriad of foods. The idea of searing a piece of beef over high heat to create a crust, then finishing the cooking over low heat to keep the inside from drying out illustrates this. But what if all you need is a mere couple of seconds of ultra-high heat toward the end of the cooking process to add a little extra caramelization to the dish? Add a little alcohol and set it on fire! An alcohol like brandy burns at over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It can take just a handful of seconds of ultra-hot, high-alcohol flame to turn a couple of slowly simmering bananas and sugar into decadent bananas Foster. Just as you might match a certain

Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshperilo.

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new york family

The Green Guru

How organic living expert and NYC mom Alexandra Zissu keeps her loft clean, cozy and eco-friendly By Paula Balzer

E

co expert and author Alexandra Zissu’s West Village loft that she shares with her 6-year-old daughter Aili and her partner Olli Chanoff lets off a cozy air amidst its über-green ambitions. The walls are painted in soothing, muted shades, a mix of vintage and modern furniture is perfectly arranged for engaging adult conversation and piles of welcom-

ing books are always within reach. But rather than pointing out the collection of retro prints and eclectic furnishings that she’s gathered from her childhood home, Zissu is most excited about the perfect amaryllis that’s in full bloom on her dinner table. “Can you believe I planted that?” she

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March 22, 2012

kitchen, most notably her glass container collection. An entire cabinet filled with jars of all shapes and sizes provides an attractive and safe alternative for storing food. “Look…no plastic!” Zissu exclaimed. Aili goes to school with a stainless steel Japanese lunch box while her mom chooses to cook in enamel pans—never nonstick. “A good alternative is a cast iron pan. They cost about $25 and last forever.” While committing to a green lifestyle may sound overwhelming, especially to a busy parent, there are some simple steps you can immediately take to improve conditions in your home. “Take off your shoes!” insisted Zissu. “It’s the public health equivalent of washing your hands. We all walk around in NYC and we know what we’re stepping on, and then we see our kids crawling around on the floor [at home]. You wouldn’t let your kids crawl around the street. Right there you minimize your exposure to pesticides, auto exhaust and even dog poop.” To make shoe removal easier for her own guests, Zissu has placed a charming bench with storage right next to her entryway. When helping clients, she starts by finding the easy fixes. “It might not be easy to throw out your mattress, [so] change what’s already there…Look underneath your kitchen sink. What are you willing to give up? Take everything out and switch it with green products. Just doing this can result in a drastic reduction in inner air pollution.” With an apartment that’s as pure as can be, Zissu now looks forward to cultivating a green thumb. “I would like to grow things. To experience that full circle…watching something grow from seed to corn.” Alexandra glances back at her amaryllis. “There’s something magical about growing things with a kid.” Andrew Schwartz

Olli Chanoff, Aili and Alexandra Zissu.

said. “It was just a bulb with a tiny bit of green sticking out of the top.” The flower is a vibrant poppy red and is, unquestionably, a cheerful touch on a cold winter day inside this green guru’s abode. Without a doubt, Zissu has forever been a nature-minded Manhattanite. “I had always eaten super organically because I was raised eating whole foods,” she said. “I joined a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] in the late 1990s and turned very organic, learning a little bit more about the way food was raised.” But it wasn’t until she started considering pregnancy that Zissu really jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon. “I was talking to a friend who was also thinking about getting pregnant,” she recalled. “I started researching everything from paint to nail polish to cleaning products, which can affect growing children.” As Zissu dove deep into the world of eco-conscious parenting, she reacted like most moms-to-be. “I started freaking out. It’s a house of horrors. What am I sitting on? What kind of foam is in here? Is it offgassing? What am I breathing? You get in the shower... there’s bleach residue getting up in your feet. The nail polish you’ve loved for years has hormone destructors! It’s going to do something unbelievably horrible!” she remembered with humor. After methodically going through each aspect of her home and work life in an effort to make things greener, Zissu started to become fluent in the organic and natural lifestyle. Her next step, naturally, was writing The Complete Organic Pregnancy with Deirdre Dolan, the friend with whom she had shared that initial conversation. And that was the beginning of her career. Six years and three more books later, Zissu fully embodies the environmentally responsible way of living and writes about it regularly on her blog at

alexandrazissu.com. One of her biggest must-dos? Shared meals at the family table and purchasing food locally. “We spend Saturday afternoon at the farmer’s market at Abingdon Square. We can get apples, bread, fish, meat, eggs—everything. Then we usually head home for a farmer’s market lunch.” Back at the apartment, Zissu describes her living space as a “wholesome urban home setting.” While the loft is a good example of conscious design choices, like the sleek yet rustic dinner table, Zissu feels strongly that “it’s more about what’s green.” The layout of the family’s living space is a testament to her commitment to clean and responsible living. The first floor features a central lounging area, including an antique table paired with new hardwood chairs. The office furniture is hand-me-downs—solid wood and classic in design—while Aili sleeps on her mother’s childhood bed frame, topped with a new organic mattress, of course. Toys are neatly stacked in non-plastic bins and rugs are made from natural fibers without backing. But Zissu is especially proud of her

For more tips on green living, read “Home, Green Home” at newyorkfamily. com. N EW S YO U LIV E B Y


FIlm

Class Clowns and Cop Clowns ‘Jump Street’ reboot is junk By Armond White “You shot him in the dick! I’ve never seen that!” Channing Tatum exclaims as Jenks, a rookie cop partnered with the doughy, uncool Schmidt (Jonah Hill) in 21 Jump Street. The duo have not outgrown their adolescent rivalry or immature sense of amusement that began in high school. Seven years later (after a police academy training session ridiculously scored to The Clash’s version of Junior Murvin’s reggae classic “Police and Thieves”), they’re sent back to high school as undercover cops. Less audience representatives than pandering role models, they want moviegoers to laugh at class clowns and cop clowns. This nonsense comes from rebooting the 1980s TV series 21 Jump Street, minus the cop-drama gravitas. Ironically, it exhibits the lowbrow humor currently found on both network and cable TV shows—forms geared to the juvenile taste of 12-year-old boys, the gullible demographic desperately sought after by advertisers. Adults now embrace their inner brat as a sign of cool, longing for the irresponsibility of childishness. They accept TV mediocrity and smuttiness in movies like Knocked Up, The Hangover and Bridesmaids. The downward spiral continues with 21 Jump Street. Refashioning TV junk as if it were enriched our cultural heritage, Hollywood diminishes it. As that misappropriated reggae song demonstrates, any possibility that pop culture can address socially, morally, politically important experience is denied. 21 Jump Street’s idiocy is personified in Tatum’s tall-drink-ofretardation, Hill’s rotund schmuck (a role he should have outgrown after David Gordon Green’s The Sitter) and later in a cameo by Johnny Depp, star of the original TV series, who is only fooling himself if he thinks this meta-comic turn is equivalent to Marlon Brando spoofing Don Vito Corleone in The Freshman. Consider: Brando seized the opportunity to comment upon The Godfather’s cultural phenomenon that proved less conscientious than he had hoped when signing on to its gangster-movie allegory for corporate greed. (Could even Brando’s genius have intuited that The Godfather would inspire a new cultural standard of O u r To w n NY. c o m 

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thievery and ruthlessness that even politicians such as The Sopranos fans Bill and Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama would eventually endorse?) Tatum, Hill and Depp are less conscientious stars; they simply overlook the consequences when trash ignores the crisis of police brutality—a problem producer Stephen J. Cannell had addressed in his exploitative TV mogul way by giving cop drama a hip-hop spin. Now the spin is out of control. 21 Jump Street is aggressively stupid farce. Its directing team, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, can’t cohere the tone of a single scene, jumping from teen sap to grossout humor almost schizophrenically. The relentless hodge-podge resembles a LMFAO music video—without the delirium that gives LMFAO their party-animal style. Frequent video game intertitles steal from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; dance scenes, stunt scenes and explosions are mistimed, while the overly violent shootouts imitate Pineapple Express. This mess of dishonest intentions and cultural decline epitomizes the lack of sincerity and imagination now passing for entertainment. 21 Jump Street has gotten better reviews than Jack and Jill, probably because it has nothing to do with real experience; because it substitutes narrative development with explosions and uses dick jokes for the repressed tensions of male bonding, as in Tatum’s homoerotic puzzlement when Schmidt befriends a narc played by Dave Franco. Perhaps the lowest point is Jenks and Schmidt’s singsong trivialization of the Miranda rights advisory; it’s insulting to current urban sensitivities and reveals Hollywood’s ongoing juvenile comedy phase to be mindlessly offensive. 21 Jump Street is so obtuse it’s as if the social satire of Hot Fuzz never happened.

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arts

A Deluxe Act Gallagher connects the dots at MoMA prints entitled DeLuxe, 60 prints that combine just about every printing technique on earth along with collage, 3-D objects and hand-painting. It is a massive and stunning work and a benchmark in Gallagher’s artistic development. Given some amount of free rein to wander through MoMA’s collections and make the visual and conceptual connections that most interested her, Gallagher has created a startlingly beautiful and profound exhibition. The heart of the curators’ magic is an ability to exhibit links between disparate works, either visual, thematic or temperamental. The connections that the curators make are delightful, allowing the viewer the joy of seeing and understanding those visual connections. For example, one wall of the show is hung with an unusually sensitive, large Keith Haring woodcut. Next to that is a

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By Melissa Stern Museum exhibitions curated by artists are always an interesting journey into the artist’s brain. Sometimes we find out things we really didn’t want to know, like a hidden passion for paintings of big-eyed children or a love of the color beige. Sometimes, however, we get to peer deeply into the artist’s mind and actually connect the dots of how what interests them relates to their work. Printin’, a new show in the print galleries at MoMA, is such an exhibition. It is showing concurrently with the major but unwieldy exhibition Print/Out, and trust me, you can skip the big show in favor of this superbly well-chosen, flowing and evocative collection of work. In this case, N ORDER - Email Art smaller is better. rth Printin’ is co-curated by Sarah Suzuki, Media an associate curator at the museum, and the artist Ellen Gallagher. The exhibition h St. pivots around Gallagher’s seminal suite of

Ellen Gallagher, DeLuxe, 2004–05. painted Kachina made by an anonymous Hopi Indian, then the wall bounces up into a very unusual Paul Klee piece of pigmented paste on paper and cloth. Below that is a wonderful abstract print by Canadian artist Akesuk Tudlik. The visual themes dance across this wall in a giddy flash of discovery. You get it. You are able to see what Gallagher sees and presumably loves in these pieces. A 1921 photograph of the black vaudevillian Bert Williams dressed incongru-

ously in both tuxedo and chicken suit hangs above a print by Otto Dix entitled “American Riding Act,” which depicts horse-borne men in elaborate feathered headdresses shooting at something beyond the picture plane. The connections are both funny and chilling. As opposed to the conceptually dense and overly hip showcase exhibition Print/ Out, Suzuki and Gallagher have mounted a show that is intellectually accessible, artistically illuminating and a sheer joy to visit. Printin’ Through May 14, The Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St., 212-708-9400, www. moma.org. This article first appeared in the March 7 issue of CityArts. For more from New York’s Review of Culture, visit www.cityartsnyc.com.

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arts

Tribute to Dynamism The ageless sculptures of John Chamberlain By Jim Long John Chamberlain’s sculptures of crushed automobile metal are as immediately iconic as Hokusai’s wave. Careful to explain that the material he used was not found but chosen, Chamberlain conceived sculpture as groups of semichaotic modules that could be coaxed to fit, and the result seemed the most natural thing for sculpture to be: uncon-

David Heald/Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

wall reliefs with free-standing objects. “Calliope” (1954) is an early work borrowing its sculptural vocabulary from David Smith. Nearby, we see “Shortstop” (1958), a breakthrough assemblage of rusty fenders. Chamberlain developed the fit by repeatedly running over them until they resembled a baseball mitt. This convergence of instinctive choice of material and random act would inform his work for the following decades. The hydraulic baler soon became C h a m b e r l a i n ’s tool of choice, although a sledgehammer was employed for finesse work. In the work of the early 1960s he was able to bring an organic and voluminous lightness to the steel, contradictPainted and chromiuming its actual weight. The works pulse with elusive convolutions, as do the titles. “Miss Lucy Pink” (1962) sports an eye and floppy ear. In minimalism’s moment, Chamberlain collapsed grid, line and plane all at once. After a seven-year filmmaking break from sculpture in the ’60s, he returned with unique versions of figuration and brittle vegetal forms. During the five years before his recent untimely death, however, he began working again with automotive metal, carefully chosen “vintage” colors from the ’40s and ’50s. These bring back scale and volume to some of his most monumental work, completing the multifaceted self-portrait of this profound artist.

Catch The Wave Not The Traffic

John Chamberlain, Dolores James, 1962, plated steel. trived, casual masterworks. Like de Kooning, whose work he admired, Chamberlain’s subject matter was most often girls, jazz and cars. He found a way to sculpt color, and the “dynamic obsolescence” of Detroit’s industry insured he would have an unending supply of extremely sophisticated material. (At GM, Harley Earl and a staff of 75 developed color intentionally to create deluxe objects; economically and socially seductive.) It was no accident the sculptor admired the painting of de Kooning: the Dutch painter was choosing his “American” palette from the advertising of the day. Chamberlain’s Guggenheim retrospective begins with the amazing “Doomsday Flotilla” (1982), a sevenpart, floor-hugging hellish armada of skeletal lengths of black chassis parts fitted out with cream colored sails and chrome engines. It’s a blast of Dantesque radical imagination. On the back wall hangs the relief “Essex” (1960). Works on the ramp spiral upward in roughly chronological order, mixing O u r To w n NY. c o m 

John Chamberlain: Choices Through May 13, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 5th Ave., 212-423-3500, www.guggenheim.org/new-york. This article first appeared in the March 7 issue of CityArts. For more from New York’s Review of Culture, visit www. cityartsnyc.com.

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capital Connections President/CEO

Tom Allon tallon@manhattanmedia.com CFO/COO Joanne Harras jharras@manhattanmedia.com group PUBLISHER Alex Schweitzer aschweitzer@manhattanmedia.com Director of Interactive Marketing and Digital Strategy Jay Gissen jgissen@manhattanmedia.com

editorial

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OUR TOWN is published weekly Copyright © 2012 Manhattan Media, LLC 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor New York, N.Y. 10016 Editorial (212) 284-9734 Fax (212) 268-2935 Advertising (212) 284-9715 General (212) 268-8600 E-mail: editorial@manhattanmedia.com Website: OurTownNY.com OUR TOWN is a division of Manhattan Media, LLC, publisher of West Side Spirit, Our Town Downtown, Chelsea Clinton News, The Westsider, City Hall, The Capitol, The Blackboard Awards, New York Family and Avenue magazine. To subscribe for 1 year, please send $75 to our town, 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10016 Recognized for excellence by the

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OUR TOW N

Even a saint wouldn’t survive today’s 24-hour news cycle By Alan Chartock Why would anyone in their right mind run for political office? The way I figure it, you have got to be nuts to want to be a congressman, state legislator or mayor in this tabloidridden, 24-hour, “gotcha” news environment. Let’s face it: The hypocrisy of the people going after our politicians is extraordinary. It seems to me that even a saint couldn’t make it. Just ask yourself, “Is there anything I may have done at any point in my life that I wouldn’t want to

word was out: “Stand clear, we don’t get involved in people’s personal lives.” Then everything changed. Make a mistake now and you might as well be sitting on a bundle of dynamite. It’s particularly extraordinary that, even with all of this scrutiny, there are politicians who do things that are so stupid they should have their heads examined. Some of them sell their offices to the highest bidder. Some have work done on their homes by contractors in return for favors from the office holder. Some put no-show people on their payIt’s particularly extraordinary rolls. Some do absolutely noththat, even with all of this scrutiny, ing wrong but are screwed to the wall by a press that doesn’t there are politicians who do things mind destroying a good human that are so stupid they should have being. their heads examined. It is those who actually do break the rules that I hold in contempt. There is a great deal see blown out of proportion?” Did you of power in these offices. One contract smoke pot? Did you have premarital sex can mean millions of dollars to a busiwith a woman or man who may have ness supplicant. The politicians who turned out to be a bit of a stalker? Did break the rules are masters of rationala bunch of frat brothers talk you into ization—they believe that they are so visiting a house of ill repute? Did your important that the money they can bring wife, husband or children ever do some- in is owed to them by a public that should thing you wouldn’t want to read about in be grateful. a newspaper? Have you hired someone They ask how they can be expected to clean your house who may not have to live on the paltry salary that they been a citizen? are paid. They have to raise hundreds In the old days, a Roosevelt or an of thousands—sometimes millions— Eisenhower or a Kennedy could find of dollars to even run for an office some solace with a love interest and the that pays a small fraction of what they

March 22, 2012

have raised. If there are any among us who haven’t read Faust, The Devil and Daniel Webster or Damn Yankees, I suggest you do so to understand how these unfortunate but greedy souls tick. Sooner or later, they have to pay the piper. We’ve seen all kinds of schemes. Some of these people set up not-for-profit organizations and install their families and friends as officers. Some get jobs for their children and then guarantee them government business. I suspect they do stupid things because they have always gotten away with them. When they finally get caught for seriously going over the line, they are amazed. It is illegal to enter into a contract, verbal or written, that says, “If you do this for me, I will deliver because of my government position.” You mean to tell me they don’t know that eventually, someone will throw them under the bus to a district attorney to get off the hook? We all see them hauled away in handcuffs, yet others go ahead and do the same thing, as if they are immune. It is a pinball game. Sooner or later, you either lose or you bang the machine so hard it goes “tilt.” Like I said, you’d have to be out of your mind to play that game. Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.

Tweet Speak @katyroseox To go to the #CentralPark Zoo after class or not? #ThatIsTheQuestion Oh, life’s predicaments. @AuntChristineNY A little consideration re: leash rules in #CentralPark, please. And where are PEP officers when U need one? @SoundofArt Bumped into a bunch of squares on the

Member

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No Room for Mistakes

Upper East Side #art #nyc #sculpture #streetart #abstract #uppereasts

dump doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood.

@reneefishman My outcome: get to grandparents’ apt. on the E. side of 5th Ave. My challenge: get across the St. Patricks’ Day parade. #fb

@andyBaise Had a flight voucher, so I’m going w/a friend to do research about the Upper East Side of NYC, should be fun! #nerdyfun

@JessLappin Spoke out at City Council hearing yesterday against 91st St. MTS. A

@ahmedley Avoiding green drunk people. (@ Carl Schurz Park w/12 others)

N EW S YO U LIV E B Y


MOORE THOUGHTS

The Ups and Downs of the Elevator Life Those confined spaces remain central to our urban lives—and our fears By Christopher Moore I hate to write about it. I even hate to think about it. But the question comes to me, usually after the door shuts. I wait for the movement. I look up, seeking the little illuminated sign to tell me where I am and where I’m going. There’s a tiny, ugly pause. After the little surge starts, I’m grateful, especially when I’ve quickly and unpleasantly confronted the question, if only in my own mind: What happens when my elevator luck runs out? I ponder the matter anxiously when I’m alone in an elevator. Or when I’m reading a newspaper or watching a TV news report, like the ones last week about how the average number of elevator inspections done by the city’s Department of Buildings has decreased dramatically during the past four years. That particular tidbit came after the awful death last December in Midtown of Suzanne Hart, a

41-year-old who died while trying to board an elevator. News is when the everyday turns horrific. I’ve spent enough time in a newsroom to know that much. What happened in the Hart case could have happened to any of us. Such accidents also hit home because elevators remain such a part of our urban culture and common experience. Responding to last week’s report, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued one of his ever-present press releases. This one wasn’t bad. He recommended carving the Department of Buildings into two parts: the Department of Buildings, which would deal with development, and a new Office of Inspections to handle the inspections. Whether a bureaucratic shift is needed or not, it’s clear New Yorkers need their elevators to be tested and as secure as possible. In my building, the elevators are a relatively social experience. In those con-

fined spaces, I’ve had better, albeit brief, conversations with strangers than I used to have with some of my best friends in New Jersey. Maybe it’s knowing that the chat will be short. We get right to the point. When somebody asks how things are going, the answers tend to be shockingly and refreshingly real. We’ve talked about the weather in there, yes, but we’ve also covered the pain of unemployment, the challenges of teaching college students who went to bad high schools, presidential primaries and the ongoing balancing act of a decent romantic relationship. Sometimes I wonder, does this happen in other buildings? Granted, even in our building, elevator passengers have an annoying habit of wanting to stop at other floors. Still, having those people around keeps me from worrying about when the good elevators might go bad. My basic understanding of science is pathetic enough for me to consider the elevator’s operation to be, basically, magic. So I go through much of my

time on the elevator wondering exactly when things will go wrong. Sure, I go through life that way, too. When it comes to the elevator, though, I tend not to tell anyone. The questions running through my mind seem so clearly nuts. Like…Should I have my cell phone with me every time I get on the elevator? If this thing stops, how long will it be before I get out of here? Should I have used the restroom before I got on? Would it be worse to be stuck here alone or with that crazy lady with the red hair I have never liked? I’m crazy, but not alone. Last week, I read exactly what to do when an elevator is plummeting. The piece must have been in the Science Times section of the New York Times, since it’s the answer to a question I never would have asked— Science Times specializes in such cases. The bottom-line advice this time was: lie down, as flat as possible, with your back on the floor. This strikes me as unrealistic. In a plummeting elevator, I’m going to be fairly busy screaming. Christopher Moore is a writer living in Manhattan. He’s available by email at ccmnj@aol.com and is on Twitter (@cmoorenyc).

citiquette

The Last-Minute Invite Is it healthy spontaneity or social laziness? By Jeanne Martinet It can be a wonderful thing—that phone call that comes like a wish fulfilled when you don’t have plans, you don’t feel like working and you are deep in the doldrums. Suddenly, there is a friend’s voice saying, “I have tickets to a show tonight, are you by any chance free?” And voilà! Your evening is transformed into something enjoyable and unforeseen. Last-minute invites—especially when they involve theatrical performances— are often things to be greatly appreciated. However, if you have a friend who only calls you at the last minute, you may not appreciate it so much. (“In about 45 minutes, I’m going to see this movie I’ve been wanting to see; want to go with me?” or “I’m sitting at this bar not far from you, why don’t you come out and join me?”) The people who are guilty of this kind of invite may call themselves free spirits, but is it really devilmay-care behavior or just devilish? Sometimes, the last-minute invite is really what it sounds like, from someone to whom you are a last-minute O u r To w n NY. c o m 

consideration. Now, I want to be clear: I know many people who live and die by the relaxed, never-know-what-I-am-going-to-be-doingtomorrow social credo. There are also those rather enviable people I meet who are members of a small but solid “crew” of friends, so that they don’t have to bother to make plans; their social life, while it may be a bit predictable, just happens automatically—albeit with the same six or eight people. However, I think most New Yorkers over a certain age (30) and under a certain age (75) are busy enough that keeping a calendar is essential; indeed, most people I know are booked up at least several weeks in advance. They are juggling social lives with work commitments and family commitments, so if you really want to see them, you usually have to make plans with them way beforehand. But there can be good reasons for a lastminute invitation. It can mean you simply

did not anticipate you were going to have this particular hour or two of leisure time. It can mean you just got tickets to something unexpectedly. It can mean that someone else cancelled you at the last minute. Obviously, there is a difference between a last-minute invitation to a movie and one to the opera. If a friend is going to take me to the Met because someone just dropped 10th row center orchestra tickets into his lap, he can call me as late as he wants and I’ll be delighted. But it doesn’t really matter what the last-minute invite is for, as long as it is not this friend’s standard MO and as long as it is proffered the right way. Always preface the last-minute invite with: “I’m sorry, I know it’s last minute.” If you have an extra ticket to something, it is always gratis for the other person. If the person is not available, you must say something like, “Oh, I figured you might not be free at the last minute. Let’s make another plan right now for when you are available.” This says to the person, “I’m not just trying to fill my evening, I do really care about seeing you.” Once in a while, you’ll come across a person who feels entitled and expects everyone to be at their beck and call.

This person will call at the last minute to get together and, if you are not free, is extremely annoyed. This attitude obviously adds injury to insult. There are also rare instances when someone may invite you at the last minute because they feel obligated for some reason; they want to get credit for inviting you but they don’t really want you to come and are actually hoping you won’t be free. (Beware the party invitation that arrives the morning of the day of the party.) Of course, habitual last-minute social planning can be a corollary of intimacy. With your best friends, there is never any problem with a spur-of-the-moment plan, because if you are NOT free at the last minute, it’s no big deal; you will see the person again soon enough. I know I tend to be a “Martinet” about matters of social protocol; I do insist that we need to behave with as much courtesy to each other as we can. But when all is said and done, I would not want a life without the possibility of a last-minute invite. It’s nice to know that your day can change in the blink of an iPhone. Jeanne Martinet, aka Miss Mingle, is the author of seven books on social interaction. Read her blog at MissMingle.com. March 22, 2012

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