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Healthy Manhattan: Infertility Myths July 14, 2011

Super Block Association Tackles West Side issues

P.6 Sinatra Fan has World on a String

P.12 Mommy Rocker Returns with New Album



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July 14, 2011




meeting Calendar Monday, July 18 • Community Board 7 Parks & Environment Committee meeting, 7 p.m., Community Board office, 250 W. 87th St. Wednesday, July 20 • Community District Education Council 3 Annual Business and Calendar meetings, 4 p.m., M.S. 54, 104 W.108th St. Thursday, July 21 • Community Board 7 Youth, Education & Libraries Committee meeting, 6:30 p.m., Community Board office, 250 W. 87th St.

Community Education Council District 3: 212678-2782, Community Board 7 Parks & Environment Committee: 212-362-4008,

Member Linda Rosenthal joined Borough President Scott Stringer and representatives of the Upper West Side community at the intersection of West 71st Street, Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue to demand that the Department of Transportation take action to make it safer for pedestrians. Local leaders have been calling for safety improvements at the intersection for over a year now. “I was told [the DOT] has to study it. They keep studying it as if they need more proof that it’s dangerous,” said Rosenthal, citing the 34 crashes near the spot in the past few years, and the numerous calls her office receives from constituents complaining about the confusing confluence of three major streets. Rosenthal said that the DOT has already approved changes to the intersection, like curb extensions and repainting the crosswalks, and that the community is just waiting for them to be implemented. “We were there as a not-so-gentle reminder,” Rosenthal said. “The next time we come out here we don’t want it to be because a person has died and we have to have a press conference about that.” —Megan Finnegan

andrew schwartz

This schedule is current as of Tuesday, July 12. For more information, including full agendas, please contact the community boards directly.

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July 14, 2011




Super Block Association Tackles West Side Issues

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By Megan Finnegan A neighborhood like the Upper West Side has no dearth of community groups, but a handful of residents have noticed one thing that’s missing: a super block association. While they don’t have any formal title yet, the small group has begun meeting to fulfill its still amorphous mission of uniting the block associations of the Upper West Side. “We really felt there was a need to link up with other groups that are doing what we are doing, for the purpose of sharing information, strengthening our organization and building community,” said one of the group’s founders, Dee Rieber, a real estate agent and president of the West 75th Street Block Association, which covers the street from Central Park to the Hudson. On a recent Saturday morning over breakfast at French Roast, she conferred with three of her cohorts about how to spring their fledgling group into action. Dee was joined by her husband Dan Rieber, who works for a local non-profit, Carl Bevelhymer, a journalist from Hell’s Kitchen and member of the West 55th Street Block Association, and Melissa Elstein, a non-practicing attorney cur-

Dan Rieber, Dee Rieber and Melissa Elstein on Columbus Avenue. rently teaching yoga and ballet who’s active in the West 80s Neighborhood Association. “A lot of people feel like each block has its own little view and its own little issue,” said Bevelhymer. “But we discovered, before we came together, we would meet people from other blocks, and they’d say, ‘We’re having a lot of trouble with vandalism,’ or ‘We’re having a lot of trouble with graffiti, what should we do about it?’” He said that what they’ve


been surprised to find is that people living near Times Square have similar concerns to those living in the West 90s. “It’s not about the individual issues that each block association deals with,” said Dan Rieber. “It’s about the commonality that we all share, and how do we interface with one another to address our issues and get support?” The goal of bringing the various groups together is largely about “problem solving without feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel every time,” said Edelstein. At a June 15 gathering of block association leaders, “somebody mentioned something about trucks idling. Somebody said, “Oh we resolved that issue, call so-and-so, so I reported that to the person in my block association with the complaint, and I wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t gathered.” “No comprehensive list of community groups and block associations existed. No list that was up to date, had all the contact info, websites,” said Bevelhymer. They set out collecting information to fill in the gaps. So far, they’ve compiled an updated list of over 80 community groups, from 34th Street to 116th Street between Fifth Avenue and the Hudson River. Dee Rieber

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emphasizes that the list—along with the group’s mission—is still evolving. The group has put out a survey to community leaders and has a few dozen responses coming in. They plan to circulate it more widely before drawing conclusions, but so far the top three priorities are addressing traffic issues (including air quality, safety and noise), beautification and greening of public spaces, and business nuisances like garbage and crowds. At a more basic level, the group hopes to help current organizations function better, like providing tools for building a social media presence or starting a block association from scratch. “We’re trying to help people figure out, how do you mobilize around an issue, how do you fundraise around an issue,” Bevelhymer said. For now, the group is continuing to gauge residents’ concerns and is planning a fall symposium, with an emphasis on finding what already works and sharing that information. “The final goal here of this group is to help organizations do what they do in a more effective, efficient way,” said Dee Rieber.

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Mike and Andy’s Report Cards Local pols, pundits and plain folks grade the Mayor and Governor. Who will go to the head of the class? Who will need to serve detention? By Megan Finnegan but nothing you’d be proud to stick on the fridge. Cuomo, on the other hand, maintains a solid A average and generally positive comments. Riding high on a successful legislative session and benefiting from a yet-to-be-determined political reputation, while Bloomberg appears mired in the muck of a third term, the governor earned accolades from almost everyone West Side Spirit interviewed, on and off the record. “I give the governor an A,” said Assembly Member Micah Kellner. “After Governor Spitzer and Governor Paterson, I think a lot of folks wanted to renew their belief that state government could work again, and Governor Cuomo showed that by not only coming up with innovative



he report card. It’s the perennially dreaded marker of achievement—or failure—that one hopes to escape after graduation, but West Side Spirit decided it was about time to grade our thirdterm mayor and first-term governor. We talked to politicians, journalists, advisors, community leaders and regular folks in the neighborhood and asked them to confer grades on the executive leaders of their city and state, and the answers came back unsurprisingly consistent—Cuomo good, Bloomberg not so good. While Bloomberg’s grades ranged from a single A at the most generous to a few C-minuses, his average hovers in the high C range—average, passable,

ideas but really delivering. Even if an idea was not his own, he said, “We’ll make it work.’” “He restored respect for the legislature and for Albany generally, as an idea, and that’s not insignificant,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, giving the governor an A. “This is the first time in four governors we’ve had anything like this. The last one we had was the governor named Cuomo.” “His legislative session is unpar-

alleled in its ability to turn a decade of seeming Albany dysfunction into what is wildly seen as the most productive season in recent memory,” said Scott Levenson, president of The Advance Group, a consulting firm that has worked on Eliot Spitzer’s gubernatorial campaign and Cuomo’s campaign for attorney general. “Coupled with gay marriage and continued national speculation, he enters next year with momentum unmatched.”

Regular Joes Grade the Mayor and Gov.


West Side Spirit spent some time recently on the corner of East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue, asking everyday New Yorkers to grade Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo on their time in office thus far. Here are some of their reactions.

Bill Knight Bloomberg – D – He’s just very corrupt. All of the big city projects, he puts his friends in charge of. Cuomo – B – He’s very straight up and tells it like it is. He’s trying to chase all the corruption out of Albany.

Rameshar Sukhiya Bloomberg – A – He’s been in office a long time and is a very smart man. Even though things have been bad, I think he’s taken care of the city well. My wife and I like him a lot. No grade for Cuomo.

Frank Hernandez Bloomberg – F – He’s just not with the people and can’t relate to everyday issues. He’s a businessman and has too much money. He only supports the big companies and not your average New Yorkers. Cuomo – D – He doesn’t seem like he can negotiate with anyone. You either do what he wants you to do or he cuts your head off.

Tony McCoy Bloomberg – B – Even though the city is in bad shape financially and we’re in a deficit, he’s trying to be strict with the money. He has discipline and isn’t spending money frivolously. He’s obviously not in this position for money because he already has money. Cuomo – C – I never liked his father. I just don’t like him.

Some people we spoke to did not wish to have their names printed, but shared strong opinions about the mayor and governor nonetheless. A Manhattan schoolteacher gave Mayor Bloomberg an F and told us she despised him. “He destroyed the education system in New York City,” she said. An actress on her way to work gave Governor Cuomo an A but


July 14, 2011

said if he votes for fracking, she would drop the grade to an F. She also called Mayor Bloomberg “aloof and disconnected from the people he represents,” giving him a C. Finally, Vincent, who did not want to use his last name, gave Bloomberg an F because he said he should have never run for a third term. “He had no legal grounds to do so,” he said. Have your own opinion about Mayor Bloomberg or Governor Cuomo? Send them to ahouston@ and they might be printed in a future edition of the paper.


replace her bumped Bloomberg’s grade up a few notches, to a solid C (her main objections are over the administration’s slowness to eradicate PCBs in public schools). “Dennis Walcott was a marked improvement,” Rosenthal said. “He moved up a few steps from the back of the class that he’d been in from appointing her. [But] his threats to fire teach-

“After Governor Spitzer and Governor Patterson, I think a lot of folks wanted to renew their belief that state government could work again, and Governor Cuomo showed that by not only coming up with innovative ideas but really delivering. Even if an idea was not his own, he said, ‘We’ll make it work,’” Assembly Member Micah Kellner said.

We st Si d e S p i r it . c o m

ers, his attempts to negotiate around the UFT—I didn’t like him threatening to lay off 4,000 teachers.” Fellow Assembly Member Micah Kellner agreed. “He continues to play the boy who cried wolf when it comes to layoffs,” he said of Bloomberg, to whom he gave a C-minus. “The only reason I give him credit at all was that we dragged him kicking and screaming to create more accessible taxis,” which came after the initial “Taxi of Tomorrow” design was criticized for ignoring the needs of handicapped passengers. Kellner also vehemently denied that Bloomberg deserves credit for the one thing that others hold up as his saving grace—championing the passage of gay marriage. “We would have had gay marriage six years ago in this state had it not been for one person, Michael Bloomberg,” said Kellner, referring to the city’s legal challenge of a judge’s ruling in 2005 that the city could not legally deny same-sex couples marriage licenses. At Bloomberg’s behest, even though he said he supported same-sex marriage, the city fought to overturn the decision. “The mayor had the choice to appeal that decision or not. He did the political thing at that time and worked to have the decision overturned,” said Kellner. “It was city tax dollars used to deny the resi-

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Michael Powell, who writes about government and politics for the New York Times, gave Cuomo a split grade: “A as a pol, B-minus as a wonk. The ever-controlling new governor played his first six months with near perfect political pitch. He rolled and intimidated those he wanted to roll and intimidate, and he played to the right (the property tax cap), the googoos (ethics reform) and liberals with gay marriage.” Doug Muzio, a political scientist, gave Cuomo an A-minus and said that he has had a “very impressive first semester. He led without being a demagogue or a bully.” Still, he pointed out that credit goes also to the legislature, of course. “The bulk of the significant legislative work was largely accomplished in the classic Albany three-menin-the-room-mega-log-roll, where everything is connected to everything,” Muzio said. “It’s the joy of the honeymoon,” said City Council Member Gale Brewer. “He gets an A-plus for the passage of marriage equality, a 90 for deal making, 90 for PR and 90 for making it look easy. But he also gets a 75 for not adequately strengthening rent regulations, and a B for partial ethics reform and the ongoing redistricting discussion.” Overall, that still averages out to an A-minus in Brewer’s book. Even with such high grades, Muzio said that there are “too many unknowns for a straight A. What will be the unintended consequences of, for instance, a 2-percent property tax cap? Medicaid and education aid cuts? Will the legislature gut ethics oversight? What about redistricting, et cetera? We’ll see.” While Cuomo earned high marks for mostly similar reasons—across the board, he was commended for leading a productive legislative session, passing gay marriage and ethics reform and, more intangibly but nonetheless importantly, being viewed as a strong leader—critics and defenders of Bloomberg landed on some of the same points and some varying ones. Several people pointed to the Cathie Black debacle to justify different grades. Levenson, who gave Bloomberg a D, lambasted the mayor’s “tone deafness on education, as seen in the handling of Cathie Black.” Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal also pointed to “that huge stumble with instating Cathie Black,” but said that his recovery in appointing Dennis Walcott to Caring for a loved one?


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dents of New York City their civil rights and their ability to get married.” Kellner scoffed at “the idea that the history is going to get rewritten and the mayor is going to be some sort of champion” of gay marriage. Bob Morgan, president of the Metropolitan Republican Club, gave the mayor an even-handed B-minus. “He is honest and works hard and has consolidated the gains in crime and quality of life that we first saw under Mayor Giuliani,” Morgan said. “On the other hand, the mayor sometimes gets too involved in ‘nanny state’ issues, like the trans-fat bans and outdoor smoking regulations.” George Arzt, president of his eponymous communications and consulting firm, noted that the mayor needs to focus on securing his reputation with big-picture initiatives. “Third-term woe is taking its toll,” Arzt said, explaining his B-minus grade. “There is a need to get some legacy projects completed in the next two-plus years.” to receive your daily dose of West Side news and be entered to win FREE theater tickets!



July 14, 2011

We asked pols, pundits and people on the streets to grade the Mayor and the Governor on their recent job performance. We then compiled those scores and averaged them. Bloomberg scored a 78.5, which translates to a C+. Cuomo’s came in at 92, which is an A-.

shape of the city compared to the state, the city is in much better shape,” Sheinkopf said. “The city continues to function well on a dayto-day basis. Quality of life and crime remain fairly static. People are safe, the government functions—that’s what a mayor’s supposed to do.” Many cited a bad case of third-termitis affecting the mayor’s score. Michael Powell gave Bloomberg a B-minus. “He was warned, over and over again, that third terms are the witching hour for pols, in which they make fatal turns toward mediocrity. And his reaction to the blizzard— what, me worry?—almost did him in before the third term started,” said Powell. “He’s still smart, and he’s still got some fine commissioners, at HPD and HDC, and of course at DOT, with Sadik-Khan, the scourge of drivers. But he’s got to pick up his game and decide why he’s sitting there for the next three years.” “What we’re having is thirdterm fatigue, and that is certainly not a reason to downgrade someone—because you’re tired of them,” Sheinkopf said. “That’s why 2013 was invented.” As speculation heats up and serious mayoral candidates get in line for that future election, Bloomberg’s legacy may already be written as some people see it. But the governor, even amid spectacularly premature presidential bid buzz, has a long way to go before anyone can predict what his legacy will ultimately be. “Governor Cuomo gets an incomplete,” said Bob Morgan. “He is clearly a better leader than his two predecessors. However, there is so much more to be done in making New York an economically viable state with a business climate that attracts employers and jobs that it is too early to give the governor a definitive grade.”

“Bloomberg was warned, over and over again, that third terms are the witching hour for pols, in which they make fatal turns toward mediocrity. And his reaction to the blizzard—what, me worry?—almost did him in before the third term started,” said Michael Powell, New York Times columnist.

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Grading the Mayor and Governor

The mayor has recently come under fire for pushing what some see as a legacy project, the construction of a new marine waste transfer station on East 96th Street near Asphalt Green; many Upper East Side residents have criticized the mayor for dumping on their neighborhood in what they say is a push to get something big accomplished in his final term. But then again, some say that the mayor is doing just fine. Hank Sheinkopf gave Bloomberg his sole A. “If we look at the relative financial


Science. Scandal. Intrigue. Bertolt Brecht’s

Life of Galileo Directed by Ian Crawford, FCLC ’06 Presented by the Fordham Alumni Theatre Company Veronica Lally Kehoe Studio Theatre 114 W. 60th Street New York, NY 10023 Brecht’s classic—updated for a modern audience. What is an individual’s responsibility to society? Integrating original music, puppetry and a talented 9-person ensemble, Life of Galileo presents a complex look at the man who sparked the Scientific Revolution and took on the Catholic Church. Opens Thursday, July 14, at 8 p.m. Seating is limited. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online via Smarttix or by phone at (212) 868-4444. For more information and a complete list of performance dates, visit


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He’s Got the World on a String An Upper West Sider turns his love of Sinatra into a one-man show By Mark Peikert Twenty years have passed since West Side Spirit last interviewed Cary Hoffman. At the time, he and his wife owned and operated the Stand-UP NY Comedy Club. He’s since sold the club, but he’s back in the news with his one-man show My Sinatra, an off-shoot of his acclaimed 2009 PBS special in which he performs classic Frank Sinatra songs in a dead-on impersonation of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Just check out the videos on “It started in my bedroom, like most people’s fascination with music,” Hoffman said about his love for Sinatra. “I was a teenager and my step-father had died and my real father died when I was 6 or 7 years old, and I started to get more and more attracted to Frank Sinatra. My uncles played for Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, everyone. And my mother and I moved into my uncle’s house, and for some reason the idea of singing like him became a compulsion. It would have stopped right there if I couldn’t have done it. But my uncles told me I did it.” Hoffman tried his hand at singing

in clubs before focusing his energies instead on songwriting and his comedy club, until a chance performance at a club, where a PBS producer happened to catch his Sinatra impersonation. That led to the special, which led to more bookings, which eventually led to the show’s current incarnation as My Sinatra. “After the PBS special, an agent started to book me all around the world to do the concert version of the special,” Hoffman remembered. “And the more I did that version, the more I started to add stories about me and I started to merge the two. And I went to L.A., and with another writer there, I rewrote it as a oneman play about my obsession and how it got started and how it played out.” That version enjoyed a successful yearand-a-half run at The Triad Theatre, and now the Upper West Sider—who also serves as a producer for TNT’s Men of a Certain Age—performs My Sinatra four times a week at The Midtown Theater, celebrating his love of Sinatra with like-minded audiences. Using 20 classic Sinatra songs as the soundtrack to his life, Hoffman

Cary Hoffman. recounts his obsession with being someone other than who he was, a phenomenon all too familiar for most people. As to why Sinatra has endured for so long while most of his contemporaries have fallen out of fashion, Hoffman’s been asked the question so often he has a concise and lucid answer prepared. “Sinatra was one of the few singers, like Elvis, to transcend music. He ultimately became an idea about personal freedom,” Hoffman said. “You can smoke and drink as much as you want, and at the same

time, you can be the coolest. And being cool is very important to guys in America, and this is, whether it was true or not, the stereotype of the coolest guy who ever lived. It also helped that people like Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart and Bono say that Sinatra’s the coolest guy.” Some of that cool was bound to rub off on Hoffman after so many years of association, and he’s become something of an Upper West Side celebrity thanks to his tenure as an Upper West Sider (he first moved there in 1982) and his 18-month run at The Triad. “My local coffee shop, when I call them up for my egg white omelets, the guy knows my voice and says, ‘Hello Mr. Sinatra!’” Hoffman said with a laugh. When he’s not ring-a-ding-dinging it in Midtown, Hoffman can be found at his usual neighborhood haunts like Zabars and the Manhattan Diner, usually listening to the thousands of songs that Sinatra recorded over the course of his career. The Chairman of the Board may have died in 1998, but his legacy—and the adoration of fans like Hoffman and his audiences—lives on and on.

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BY LISA ELAINE HELD When couples dealing with infertility first meet with Helen Adrienne, they often start with a simple question. “Is this our fault?” Rather than answering, Dr.

July 14, 2011

Adrienne, a social worker who leads stress reduction groups at NYU Fertility Center and the author of On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility, asks them to consider their own question, “Why did you ask me that?” Most likely, the answer is that they’ve heard that stress prevents conception. The woman has probably been told that she’s doing too much and to “just relax,” so that her in vitro fertilization treatments will work and the baby will come. The trouble is, it may not. No matter how many hours she spends with her feet up. “When you talk about IVF, the level of stress [of the patient] has no impact on whether or not the treatment will be successful,” said Dr. Alan Copperman, the director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at RMA of New York and the vice-chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. As evidence, Dr. Copperman cited a largescale review of research on the topic, published in the British Medical Journal this past February. The meta-analysis examined data from 14 studies with more than 3,500 participating women, and concluded that emotional distress was not related to the likelihood of pregnancy. Despite this review, many people still blame infertility on stress. Dr. Georgia Witkin, a clinical psychologist at RMA of New York and an assistant professor and director of the Stress Research Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center,

explained that this usually comes from the fact that the couple and their well-meaning family and friends are searching for explanations to regain their sense of control. “It makes you feel like you can do something about it,” she said. “You say, ‘I can get this under control, it’s just stress.’” Dr. Witkin also said that since highpowered, business-oriented women tend to wait longer to have children, people might attribute childbearing issues to their intensely busy lives rather than to the most likely reason for their infertility: age. The real issue to consider is that while stress may not cause infertility, to say that infertility causes stress is a serious understatement. One widely cited study published by researchers at Harvard Medical School in 1993 showed that the psychological symptoms associated with infertility are similar to those associated with other serious medical conditions, such as cancer and cardiac rehabilitation. “It’s a bio, psycho, social and spiritual crisis,” said Adrienne. “I’m sure you can imagine that when it’s a crisis of that proportion, there’s nothing that’s untouched.” Psychologically, the turmoil associated with a lack of control over the outcome of a situation can be incredibly hard to bear, and in most cases, there’s no definite endpoint to the turmoil. The hormones involved with IVF affect the woman’s emotions, and the couple’s relationship is tested by a series of difficult decisions and a process that can easily unravel a healthy sex life. Socially, the couple may feel isolated, resentful and unable to relate to friends and family with new babies and their own judgments about the process the couple is undertaking. In her individual and group sessions with women and couples, Adrienne seeks to shift the focus from self-blame and guilt to address all of the possible issues they may be confronting. In the end, coping with the stress of the process may not influence the results, but it will certainly create a healthy, happier couple. “I want them to feel like they’re in control,” Adrienne said, “not of being fertile, but of how they navigate through the journey, whether it’s to pregnancy, adoption or child-free living.”

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The Ins and Outs of IVF Doctors say the success rate is now 90 percent BY DR. CYNTHIA PAULIS Let’s face it, babies are in the news. In fact, they are everywhere. Just walk down the streets of Manhattan and you will see the strollers that are as large as trailers coming at you with two, sometimes three children on wheels. But what happens when you are the one who can’t get pregnant? What lengths will you go to and how much will you spend to have a family? Why is it some people can get pregnant on the first try, and others spend years trying to get pregnant? Is infertility on the rise? Infertility affects million of couples in the U.S., with female infertility factors about one third of the time, male infertility factors about one-third the time and the rest a combination of unknown factors for both sexes. Dr. Victor R. Klein, director of patient safety and risk reduction, specializing in high risk pregnancies at Long Island Jewish–Health System, in Manhasset, said, “When I started practice 20 years ago, 10 percent of the women had infertility issues, and I feel it is the same number [still]. The difference is people have the technology available and they are availing themselves of the technology, so those who couldn’t become pregnant years ago are now becoming pregnant.” The second thing he noted was that many women who had delayed child bearing due to careers are getting pregnant in their late thirties and forties. “The vast majority do well,” he said. “I had a woman who was 54 come to me and wanted children because she was retired and was financially stable. She gave birth to twins.” He also noted that people are more open now with communication. “Twentyfive years ago people didn’t talk about infertility and now people are talking about it. Similar to people who had breast cancer 30 years ago and used to hide it from people, like it was a problem, that it was their fault or they should be embarrassed about it. Of course you shouldn’t be. It’s a disease where you can’t get pregnant and you go for help.” Dr. Klein said many insurance companies have changed, and now cover infertility treatments. The first in vitro fertilization was performed in 1979, but infertility clinics really didn’t start to rise until the 1990s. Now many people have infertility insurance, but there are usually caps. Most people are covered for evaluation and three cycles of in vitro before the insurance ends. Dr. Klein said about 90 percent of the time, women who

try to get pregnant on their own are successful within a year, and women undergoing IVF have the same success rate. There are many reasons why women are infertile. Sometimes the issue is an ovulation problem, which accounts for 25 percent of the cases where there is a flaw in the regulation of reproductive hormones. Another issue can be damage to the fallopian tubes, which would prevent sperm from getting to the egg. This can be caused by diseases such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. A previous ectopic pregnancy or previous surgery in the abdomen or pelvis can cause problems. Another contributing cause of infertility is endometriosis, when tissue that normally grows in the uterus implants and grows in other locations. Other problems can be fibroids or tumors, common in women in their thirties, which can impair fertility by blocking the fallopian tubes or disrupting implantation. Some things put you at higher risk of infertility, such as age. Women over the age of 30 can have fewer and poorer quality eggs. Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, along with damaging fallopian tubes. Heavy drinking is associated with increased risk of endometriosis and ovulation disorders. Being significantly over- or underweight can inhibit normal ovulation. A history of sexually transmitted diseases will cause damage to fallopian tubes. Alisa, a pediatric physical therapist who did not want her last name published, spent five years and $50,000 in multiple attempts to get pregnant. First she used oral meds to get pregnant, and then tried artificial insemination, which resulted in two miscarriages. She then had diagnostic surgery, which revealed a problem with the uterus. After corrective surgery, an additional two IVFs failed. Frustrated, Alisa started looking into adoption and found a helpful website,, where she met other women facing similar problems and realized she was not alone. “I asked myself the question, which was more important, having a baby or being a mom,” she said. “Being a mom was paramount.” She started the adoption process and suddenly Alisa found herself pregnant without any help at all. “The stars just aligned,” she said. She now has a 5-year-old daughter. “Being a mom is the most incredible journey, watching her grow and develop. She makes me a better person.” N ew s YO U Li V e B Y

A Choice in Care Photos by Andrew Schwartz

Dr. Christina Weltz

Dr. Weltz discusses surgical options with a patient.

By Linnea Covington The two main reasons Dr. Christina Weltz focused her medical training on breast cancer proved basic—she liked that the disease is, for the most part, treatable, and, she enjoys working with others to help patients. “I pursued this area of study because it’s extremely rewarding; I felt I could really make a difference, and it’s very collaborative,” said Dr. Weltz, assistant professor of surgery and surgical oncology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Quite often the surgical treatment alone is curative and it’s great to get that kind of result.” With the recent opening of the Dubin Breast Center of The Tisch Cancer Institute at The Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Weltz’s satisfaction with her work has increased. Now, not only does the multi-faceted building improve her ability to collaborate more with doctors in other departments, but, she likes the fact that the ambiance also helps patients relax and cope with their illness better. One cause for this is the newfound capacity to see a patient and then, based on how the exam fares, bring the patient to talk to a radiologist, oncologist, surgeon, and even a therapist—all on the same day. Dr. Weltz, who specializes in surgical oncology, explained that now if a patient comes in with imaging studies that need follow up, she can literally walk with the patient to the radiology department so the additional imaging can be done without the patient getting lost in the hassle of scheduling and forms. “It’s a huge benefit,” she said. “It’s such a stressful time when someone is faced with or diagnosed with breast cancer and whatever steps we can take to make it easier on the patient makes a bad situation so much better.” Chrisitna Weltz earned her medical degree from the

University of Pennsylvania and completed her residency at Duke University Medical Center. She said that she loves working at Mount Sinai and though she is married with two young boys, her colleagues seem like family. In turn, the camaraderie she shares with co-workers benefits patients by helping her meet their needs quickly and seamlessly.

At the Dubin Breast Center, the emphasis is on caring for the whole person rather than just the disease. A frequent circumstance Dr. Weltz deals with is whether a patient will be better served with a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. With a lumpectomy, radiation is administrated to the area and only the tumor is removed rather then the entire breast. Dr. Weltz said that this is the most common method and the best treatment for breast cancer when it’s in one spot and can be removed surgically. With a mastectomy, the entire breast is eradicated because either the cancer is in multiple places, or, the patient has a high risk for developing new cancer cells. Dr. Weltz said this practice was the go-to procedure 20 years ago, but after decades of research, it’s done much less frequently, sometimes as a preventative measure. Dr. Weltz said that because the Dubin Breast Center is so well-organized, women have easy access to their

physicians and surgeons, so they receive a great deal of help deciding which treatment is right for them. Last year, 207,090 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer. About one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. Most cases happen to women over the age of 60, though doctors recommend they get their first mammogram at age 40. The majority of women with breast cancer are cured, much better odds compared to lung and colon cancer. “The most important thing to remember is that most breast cancers are curable,” Dr. Weltz said. “Things have come a really long way in a small amount of time so a diagnosis of breast cancer does not have to be devastating.” And now, with the opening of the new Dubin Breast Center, women can be assured of fast and easy access to a full range of comprehensive and compassionate breast care services. “There is an attempt to treat the whole person, not just the cancer,” she said. “We made it as un-hospital like as possible so it wouldn’t have an institutional feel.” Working along side Chief Breast Surgeon, Dr. Elisa Port, Dr. Weltz has helped develop the Dubin Breast Center into a place where a woman, and even the small percentage of men diagnosed with breast cancer, can feel as relaxed as possible. The physical building is adorned with light colored wood, beautiful photos, flowers, and lots of places where people can sit comfortably and even use the internet. And, even though the new facility is beautiful, open and friendly, Dr. Weltz said the best benefit is the great care that the center delivers, customized to the individual needs of each person.

For more information on Dr. Weltz and the Dubin Breast Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, go to

July 14, 2011



Turning Patients into Parents

The desire to have a baby is one of life’s most important and exciting decisions. Here at the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine we help make that dream a reality for thousands of couples every year. For anyone hoping to have a baby, infertility can be a difficult challenge. To be successful, it is essential that every couple choose the best available medical care to meet their individual needs. All of the most advanced treatment options to help you have a baby are available here at CRM. In addition, we offer confidential counseling for individuals, couples and groups. We care for your mind, body and spirit. Our expertise and vast resources enable us to provide to you the most effective and latest procedures and technologies available in infertility treatment today. We are proud to be affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College, world-renowned for its commitment to the

highest academic and scientific standards in patient care and biomedical research. Our success rates are among the highest in the world. At CRM, we have been helping women get pregnant for over two decades. Many of the procedures that are now routine around the world – IVF, donor egg, ICSI, TESE, PGD – were either wholly or partly developed by our doctors. We have trained many of the world’s leading fertility researchers and physicians. And at CRM we work hard every day to make our procedures less invasive and more successful for you. Choosing the best center for your treatment is an important and challenging decision. With unmatched experience, compassion and skill, we are ready to help make your dream of a baby come true. If you or someone you know is of child-bearing years and has been recently diagnosed with cancer, please call us at (646) 962-5450.

T h e R o n a l d O. P e r e l m a n a n d C l a u d i a C o h e n





o f We i l l C o r n e l l M e d i c a l C o l l e g e



July 14, 2011


Trying to have a baby? At the Center for Reproductive Medicine, Dr. Zev Rosenwaks and his outstanding team of physicians offer couples the most advanced and effective treatments for infertility. We have offices throughout the New York City area and accept United Healthcare and Oxford Health plans for most fertility treatments. For more than two decades we have made your desire to build a family our main priority. If you or someone you know is experiencing infertility, contact us at (646) 962-CRMI or visit us on the web at

We can help. T h e R o n a l d O. P e r e l m a n a n d C l a u d i a C o h e n





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July 14, 2011

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When Men Are Infertile Causes, treatments and risks for male infertility By Dr. Cynthia Paulis Imagine spending your twenties playing the field and being careful not to get anyone pregnant. Now you meet the girl of your dreams, marry and want to start a family at 35, but you can’t—and the problem is not with your wife, it’s you. That’s what happened to Mike. “I was surprised and unsure of what it meant,” said Mike, an attorney who spoke on the condition that his last name not be revealed. He and his wife Susan (not her real name) had been trying to have a child for a year, and they had assumed Susan was the one with the fertility issues. She had two rounds of in vitro fertilization, which were unsuccessful. Finally they looked at Mike. He had a chromosomal abnormality, which caused low motility of his sperm. Male infertility is not as easy to recognize as female infertility. For a male to get his partner pregnant, he must produce healthy sperm that can reach, penetrate and fertilize the egg, but several other factors are involved. The sperm must be healthy, which requires functioning testicles, and there must be enough hormones to maintain sperm production. The sperm has to be carried into the semen and there needs to be enough sperm in the semen to increase the odds of fertilization. The sperm must be shaped correctly and be able to move for penetration of the egg. If one of these factors is off, fertilization won’t take place. There are often medical causes that interfere with fertility issues. Infections such as sexually transmitted diseases can interfere with sperm production, as can inflamed testicles from mumps or prostatitis. A varicocele, which is a swelling of the veins that drain the testicle, can prevent cooling of the testicle and lead to low sperm count. Retrograde ejaculation, where the semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of the tip of the penis, is another problem. Other sperm problems can be caused by diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spinal injuries and certain medications such as Flomax, Hytrin and Uroxatral. Tumors, undescended testicle, hormone imbalances and chromosomal defects can also create sperm issues. There are also environmental issues, such as heat, toxins and chemicals that will reduce sperm count. Frequent use of sauna or hot tubs will lower sperm count, along with sitting for prolonged periods or wearing tight clothing. Prolonged bicycling can overheat the testicles and also put pressure on the area behind the testicles, causing erectile dysfunction. Other causes of male infertility are

drugs such as anabolic steroids, cocaine and marijuana, which can reduce the number and quality of the sperm. Heavy drinking and tobacco smoking have also affected sperm. Vitamin deficiencies in C, selenium, zinc and folate have also been implicated, as well as being overand underweight. Sometimes the use of lubricants such as Astroglide or K-Y jelly has been known to reduce sperm movement. Just as women have a decline in fertility over the age of 35, men have the same issues.

Sometimes the use of lubricants such as Astroglide or K-Y jelly has been known to reduce sperm movement. Just as women have a decline in fertility over the age of 35, men have the same issues. In Mike’s case, he had testicular surgery where semen was extracted and then injected into the egg, which produced a daughter. When he first saw her he was “speechless.” Mike and Susan wanted another child, so three years later they went through the process again, and he learned they were having twins. “I was in shock and disbelief,” he said. “You know it’s always possible, but when it happens you can’t fully comprehend it.” He said the first couple of years of parenting were rough, but “it’s a game changer once they start communicating with you.” Mike put the “jaw-dropping” costs at $120,000, factoring in labs, medicine, IVF and trips to the city from Long Island. Mike’s advice to couples going through infertility issues is to know when you want to stop. It is now five years since he went through the process. “When it’s happening, you don’t know, and if not, then you make the decision to adopt or not.” When asked what’s the best part of being a parent, Mike said, “Father’s Day. It’s the best holiday of the year. Your kids look up to you, they come as a clean canvas and it’s up to you to fill it up. They come with their handmade cards and genuine emotion, so pure, so simple. It’s priceless.” N ew s YO U Li V e B Y

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• I am less judgmental of myself and others. • My anxiety diminished and life’s challenges are smoother. • Situations that used to frighten, anger or baffle me are no longer insurmountable. • My personal empowerment has grown.” I obtained my Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University and coauthored the book “Making Contact: The Therapist’s Guide to Conducting a Successful First Interview.” Call me today at 212-581-9466.

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Healthy Manhattan

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Path to Stress Relief Begins with the Foot Reflexology proponents say it also relieves problems with other areas of the body By AlAn KrAwitz Reflexology is a centuries-old alternative health therapy that says there are “reflexive” areas on the feet and hands that correspond to specific organs, glands and other parts of the body. For example, it is believed that the tips of the toes reflect the head; the heart and chest are located around the ball of the

foot; the liver, pancreas and kidney are in the arch of the foot and the lower back and intestines are near the heel. This concept of “zone therapy” was introduced in the U.S. around 1909, and is generally credited to Dr. William H. Fitzgerald, an ear, nose and throat doctor from Connecticut. Eunice Ingram, an American physiotherapist, went on to further develop

this zone theory during the 1930s into what is now commonly known as reflexology. Practitioners say that by applying pressure to these reflex areas, a variety of health benefits can be realized in the corresponding organs. Reported benefits of the therapy include increased relaxation, pain and stress reduction, lowered blood pressure, improved blood flow to brain, kidneys

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July 14, 2011

and intestines, and relief from cancer-care symptoms such as vomiting, pain and nausea, which can result from chemotherapy. Scientific explanations as to why some believe the therapy is effective include that the applied pressure may send signals that serve to balance the nervous system and/or release chemicals such as endorphins that can reduce pain and stress. Laura Norman, likely one of the city’s best-known and successful practitioners, has been preaching the gospel of reflexology since she discovered its positive effects in 1970 while working with disabled children. She also wrote a best-selling book, Feet First: A Guide to Foot Reflexology, that sold nearly a half-million copies. Through her website at lauranorman. com, residents can sign up for reflexology sessions at offices in Manhattan, Florida or New England, take courses to become a Certified Reflexologist and purchase a variety of health and wellness products. Alison Cossette, spa director for The Spa at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, says that many clients come in for foot massages and relief of athletic injuries to the foot such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. “Many of our customers come to us with running-related injuries to the foot, and reflexology treatment can provide a great deal of relief and stress reduction in that area,” Cossette said. Cossette reiterated that reflexology holds to the theory of reflex areas on the feet that correspond to a “map” of the body. She also pointed out that none of the spa’s practitioners make any specific medical claims with regard to curing illnesses or diseases. Lisa Cohn, founder of 10-year-old Park Avenue Nutrition & Spa (parkavenutrition. com), is an expert in medical nutritional therapy, as well as being a registered dietician. “People interested in reflexology therapy are mainly looking for stress reduction and relief,” Cohn says. But she said that still other clients have reported the therapy’s positive effect on various health issues, such as digestive problems, back problems, headaches and especially foot pain and running-related foot conditions. Cohn also noted that reflexology is a type of alternative therapy where people see a progressive response, rather than an immediate and drastic difference. “It also depends on the practitioner and how comfortable they make the customer feel,” she said. N ew s YO U Li V e B Y


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July 14, 2011




Aliens, Oil and Parental Conflicts at Midtown Theatre Fest

By Ashley Welch to react. You may think something is the The annual Midtown International funniest line in the world and people are Theatre Festival is celebrating its 12th silent, or you could have what you think season this summer, from July 11–31. is a throwaway line and people find it According to producer John hysterical. Chatterton, the festival offers a diverse selection, with 23 plays and 12 musicals. Does that make you anxious? “It’s big enough to offer something for Sure. Absolutely. It’s exhilarating and everyone and small enough that we can nerve-racking at the same time. But it ensure a standard of comes with being writer. taste,” he said. West Side Spirit How do you think people recently spoke with will respond to a sci-fi three festival playwrights play? to ask them about their If you ask people if they like inspiration, their writing sci-fi, they’ll often say no. But and production processthen if you ask if they like es and what it’s like to Lost or Inception, they’ll say watch their work come yes. That’s sci-fi. It’s a very alive on stage. broad and all-encompassing Gary Morgenstein. * * * genre. There aren’t that many Gary Morgenstein is a playwright and sci-fi play plays out there and I’m not novelist as well as self-proclaimed sci- sure why. ence fiction geek; he is also the director * * * of communications at the Syfy Channel. A high school English His play, Mad Mel and the Marradians, teacher from Long Island, a sci-fi political comedy, tells the story of Joseph Beck has been ancient aliens who threaten the survival writing for a long time. He of planet Earth. started out as a journalist in the 1980s, writing Why did you make the jump from for trade and consumer writing novels to writing plays? magazines and newspaGary Morgenstein: Writing novels is a pers before he began writvery solitary process and can get lonely. I ing plays and novels. His love how collaborative theater is and the latest work, FUEL, which Joseph Beck. uncertainty of it all. You’re dealing with he describes as a satirilive human beings. The audience reacts cal presidential fantasy about the driving differently every night. force behind our economy, premieres this summer at the Festival. Your last play was a family drama. How was writing a comedy different? What is your writing process like? Comedy is probably the hardest genre of Joseph Beck: Most of the writing I do all. You’re writing with so much cadence in my everyday life. I think about things and rhythm for specific characters, but and write them on napkins or a piece of in theater there are actors—real human paper. When I have enough to come up beings—and that’s a challenge. You also with scenes, that’s when I sit down at a never know how the audience is going computer and start to write. Then when

something really starts to take shape, I close the door to my office and no one can find me. How is this play different than your other plays? Every day more information about oil comes out and I can make a new joke. I’m constantly making revisions to the script before I have to give the actors the final version.

Lia Bakhturidze Sirelson.

What is it like watching the play come to life? That is the best. We have six weeks of rehearsals and the whole time you’re tearing your hair out with so many doubts. It’s not easy, but I really care about it. What do you hope the audience reaction will be? I hope they fall out of their seats laughing. It’s almost like a longer Comedy Central or Saturday Night Live skit. There’s no intermission. Just buckle your seatbelts and let’s go. * * * Lia Bakhturidze Sirelson is a Georgian playwright who came to the United States in 1998. She worked for 25 years in Georgian theater as an actress, scriptwriter, director and stage designer, and founded the Georgian Theater of New York in 2008. Her latest play Sarke, which means the mirror, is about the generational differences between a mother who wants to provide for her child and a daughter who wishes to follow her heart. The play is performed in Georgian with an English translation. What’s the meaning behind the title?

Lia Bakhturidze Sirelson: Every day we look into mirrors and see our reflection, but we are often afraid to look beyond the surface—to see what’s really happening on the inside. This play is about trying to find out who we really are as human beings.

The play is performed in Georgian with an English translation. What were the challenges involved? I think the play does a good job of mixing humor and drama together. But sometimes you cannot translate humor. We are working very hard to include subtitles because we want Americans to understand the play, as well. Do you find any differences between Georgian theater and American theater? I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world, and in any country, you will find many differences and similarities in theater. It is very interesting to me to see how actors express themselves, how they bring up emotions and how they talk, move and cry in different cultures. What do you hope people take away from seeing this play? I hope every person will go home with a good feeling inside. The story presents people going through problems, but at the end they all realize they need to love each other and have hope. So I hope that every person who sees the show will want to love and respect each other more. For a complete list of shows, visit

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Booze-Free Summer Drinks

as the main aromatic. This is nothing like the Rieme sparkling lemonade, however. The flavor is uncannily like Campari and has an intriguing… well, bitterness to it. Only very slightly sweet, this aperitif would make any non-drinker fit in at a cocktail party with ease. Serve it over ice with a wedge of lime. Now, for those of you who just have to get a soda fix, I will not turn you away to the hordes of Mountain Dew Code Reds and Pepsi Maxima out there. There is good soda pop, made the old-fashioned way. One company that makes a line of sodas to rival any drug store soda fountain is Good Health. Their black cherry soda is outstanding. You can actually tell the fruit that the soda is supposed to taste like and it has, dare I say it, a somewhat dry finish for a soft drink. Pour this over some vanilla ice cream and you’ll be beating them away with a two-by-four. So give the booze-free sippers a chance this summer. You may find a little something that’s safe for work, but still good enough for the weekend.

Delicious beverages that make it worth abstaining


ou know, us teetotalers like to have a tasty beverage every now and then, too!” This was hollered at me by one of the regulars as he came into the restaurant, waving a copy of the West Side Spirit in my face. “Oh,” I reeled back, slightly shocked, “you’ve found my name in print.” “I have, and I think you should share with those of us who don’t drink some of your considerable knowledge.” I thought about it for a moment. There have been times when I’ve taken a break from drinking and I had to admit that it was always infuriating when I ordered in a restaurant. The choices for those who don’t partake tend to be either boring or childish. For the next week, I abstained from alcohol. I was going to force myself to find interesting and delicious drinks that weren’t as dull as coffee or tea, but had more to offer than a cup of refined sugar per serving and a laundry list of chemical additives. After the first couple of days, I found

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the first bright light in what would turn out to be a wide array of non-alcoholic shining stars. It was a product that I had passed by hundreds of times in countless grocery stores since I moved to New York City. It was French Lemonade. We’ve all seen it, passed it by and thought the same thing: that does not look like lemonade. That’s because lemonade in France (and other European countries) has little to do with the sweetand-sour cloudy drink we serve in the states. Traditional French “clear lemonade” started as a combination of water that was either still or sparkling and lemon oil. As it developed, sugar was added and it became more typical to find the sparkling version. Even By Josh Perilo though this is a sweetened drink, there is far less sugar in this fizzy beverage than there is in any typical soda. The easiest brand to find is Lorina, and their clear sparkling lemonade is the industry standard. It is also exactly what I was hoping it would be: crisp, fresh, lem-

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Pita bread can be as innocuous as Wonder Bread or, if you have it at the only Druze restaurant in New York City, it becomes something else entirely. The homemade whole-wheat pita at Gazala’s is stretchy, thin and could be mistaken for a napkin if you drop a folded sheet of it in your lap. However, you won’t if you order the Labneh cheese and z’atar wrap ($6). The pita and spiced cheese, less chalky and thinner than goat cheese, is folded into a neat rectangle of simple goodness. seeds. I had one with Labneh cheese and With the opening of her second res- spinach, accompanied by small dishes of taurant—an elegant, airy space that seats red cabbage, white cabbage with corn 120 compared to the cramped Hell’s and humus. The only thing that marred Kitchen flagship—Gazala my meal? Finding out that the Halabi became our ambassame menu in the grim Hell’s sador of Druze cuisine. Kitchen Gazala’s lists prices 380 Columbus Ave. almost $2 lower per item— The Druze, members of a (near 78th St.)* religious offshoot of Islam, for now. *Gazala Place is also located on are dispersed among sev212-873-8880 705 9th Ave. (near W. 49th St.) eral Mideastern countries. You’ll find influences of each in —Nancy J. Brandwein Gazala’s menu—from Turkish bourekas to salads from Halabi’s native Israel. The Got a snack attack to share? bourekas ($12.50/platter) look like giant Contact bagels, but they are made of the flakiest phyllo and studded with black sesame DANIEL S. BURNSTEIN

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ony and not too sweet. Also, the ingredients list is short, which is always a good sign. Lorina has a lengthy list of other flavors that they offer in their lemonade line, but my favorite non-lemon French lemonade flavor comes from Rieme, another producer that is easy to find in most supermarket chains. Their blood orange sparkling lemonade is insanely delicious. With only four ingredients on the list, it is sweet and orange-y, but maintains a tiny bite on the finish that reminds you this isn’t Sunkist Soda. I found myself next drawn to a strange, bright red concoction in a tiny clear bottle. It advertised itself as a bitters, which confused me because most bitters are alcohol based. This is a misnomer, as there is no hard and fast rule that bitters must have an alcohol base. It is simply a drink made by infusing a liquid with aromatics. This particular bitters, San Pelligrino Sanbitter, uses blood orange




Holy Moey! Mommy Rocker Takes City by Storm taught 240 classes. A recent Friday’s “Beach Party” class emphasized words using the letter “b,” such as beach, blue and boogie. Mothers and caretakers bounced babies on their laps to the music while toddlers shimmied around Moey. “The key to being a successful children’s song writer is being interactive,” Levis said. Equinox Gym, the Parks Foundation and P.S. 158, among many others, use the music curriculum that Moey developed. In 2008, Levis staged an interactive Off-Broadway production called Moey Live: P is for Party! “I believe in kinesthetic learning,” Levis said. “The more that children participate in the learning with their whole bodies, the more they retain.” Pompoms, noisemakers and puppets from Oriental Trading make her parties even more interactive. “I catch myself singing her songs all the time,” Evelyn Smaldon, whose children have attended Moey’s classes for years, said. “[Levis’] energy and personality brings everyone in.” Another parent, Elisabeth Reed, also attested to Levis’ personal appeal. “She is passionate about what she does, and you can see that it draws the kids in,” Reed said.

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By Lisa Chen Learning is a party for some kids on the Upper East Side, thanks to Moey, the mommy rocker. Moey, an Upper East Side resident, and her musical group Moey’s Music Party, sing catchy tunes teaching children about topics from phonics to brushing their teeth. The group formed in 2005 and is popular for the interactive classes that they offer. Her newest DVD and CD for children, Happily Ever Moey!: A Fairy Tale Lark in Central Park, was released July 12 to a rave review from the School Library Journal, and has already received a Parents’ Choice Award. Moey’s Music Party, comprised of Moey, aka Melissa Levis, and a team of 14, most of whom have backgrounds in music and education, teaches classes and performs at birthday parties in the city. This summer, Moey’s Music Party is teaching a semester of classes at Central Park’s Cedar Hill. Each class is themed and introduces letters, songs and stories by incorporating traditional songs and fairy tales with Levis’ own props, movements and tunes. In 2010, Moey’s Music Party performed at 65 concerts and birthday parties and

Moey, aka Melissa Levis, is one of the top children’s performers in the city. Her album Happily Ever Moey!: A Fairy Tale Lark in Central Park, was released July 12. Levis’ love of performing stems from a childhood filled with music and theater— growing up in Manchester, Vt., watching Free to Be…You and Me and listening to cast albums of Grease, Annie and A

Chorus Line. Her aunt, the Tony Awardwinning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, gave Levis her first signature feather boa. After attending Brown University, where she wrote musicals in her spare time, and earning her MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU, Levis wrote and starred in an Off-Broadway production in 2001 called The Joys of Sex. Following the birth of her son Monty, Levis returned to Vermont and volunteered by singing and playing songs at a local daycare center. Soon, she couldn’t walk into the local Friendly’s without being swarmed by children who recognized her as Moey. Levis, who visited New York as a child to see Broadway shows and the Rockettes, has always loved New York. She calls the Upper East Side her “hub,” and her new DVD “a valentine to New York.” The DVD opens and closes with shots of Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland statue, one of Levis’ favorite landmarks as a child. In Moey, songstress Levis combines her childhood dream of performing in New York with her role as a mother and her own vibrant personality. “Moey combines the best parts of Melissa,” Levis said. “She’s my inner child.”

Giving Young Opera Stars a Chance to Shine By Lisa Chen Professional opera is fiercely competitive, but one organization is giving Young Opera singers the skills that they need to succeed. The Martina Arroyo Foundation’s Prelude to Performance helps budding opera singers learn how to navigate the cutthroat waters of the opera world. On July 14–17, Upper East Siders will have a chance to see these young singers at work in alternating performances of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La Rondine at the Hunter College’s Kaye Playhouse. The internationally renowned soprano Martina Arroyo, who fell in love with opera while attending Hunter College, founded the Prelude to Performance program. “Things worked well for me, but always with the help of someone else. I don’t know of anybody who did it alone, no matter what their talent,” Arroyo said. “As a young opera singer, you know that only a small percentage walk through the door to success. That’s the way the profession is.” The program has grown steadily in the We st Si d e S p i r it . c o m

Metropolitan Opera in August, prizes the program’s diversity. “Everyone is at different levels—some are still undergraduates, whereas others are working,” Green said. “With all of these experience levels combined, everyone can learn something from someone.” Arriving on the first day of the program with their roles memorized, participants undergo a Ben Vereen and members of Prelude to Performance. rigorous six-week study that includes four hours of classes course of its seven seasons—from acquir- taught by professionals and four hours of ing an orchestra to enlisting more instruc- rehearsal every weekday. In addition, the tors to inhabiting new spaces. This year, program has offered several master classin addition to holding the program at es from Stephanie Blythe, Cori Ellison the Kaye Playhouse, the foundation was and Ken Benson. able to offer the program tuition-free. Maestro Robert Lyall, general and Over 400 applicants applied to this sum- artistic director of the New Orleans mer’s Prelude to Performance program, Opera, artistic director of Michigan’s a record—only 35 were chosen, ranging Opera Grand Rapids, and conductor of in age from 20–35, with varying back- the foundation’s Don Giovanni, calls grounds and levels of experience. Prelude to Performance “a crash course Ryan Speedo Green, a second- in becoming a fine artist.” year bass-baritone in the program “Here we surround emerging artists who will start the Lindemann Young with professionals in lots of different Artist Development Program at the aspects of performance—language skills,

theatrical skills, role interpretation, stage combat, stage techniques,” Lyall said. “Then the artists are put in a complete production, usually in a larger role than they’re used to. Their efforts are reinforced at every level by classes and teachers. At the end, the participants bring all that they’ve learned to the stage.” Pre-professional preparation is the main goal of the Prelude to Performance program—“getting ready to play with the big boys,” as world-class baritone and program administrative director Mark Rucker puts it. After being coached by such seasoned instructors, participants have a better sense of where they stand professionally. “It takes more than just a good voice to succeed,” Rucker said. “By the time these artists leave, they know exactly what they’re singing and doing, and they know exactly what it means for their characters—and that heightened sense of awareness is the level of understanding that they need to succeed.” For ticket information, contact the Kaye Playhouse at 212-722-4448. For more information about the Martina Arroyo Foundation, visit

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PrOduCtiOn Manager Mark T. Stinson editOriaL LayOut and design Monica Tang advertising design Ed Johnson assistant PrOduCtiOn Manager Jessica Balaschak WEST SIDE SpIRIT 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: West side sPirit is a division of Manhattan Media, LLC, publisher of Our town, New York Press, 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 WEST SIDE SpIRIT, 79 Madison Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10016 Recognized for excellence by the

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When Bronx State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., the vocal loser in the historic Marriage Equality battle, criticizes you, you know you must be doing something right. That is the case with the recent nonstory in the New York Post about Queens Congressman Joe Crowley’s decision to have his wife and three young children live with him in Washington, D.C, rather than his home district. “Having them where I am during the workweek allows me to be there to tuck them in at night and help with home-

work,” Crowley told the Post, which seems to be trying to turn a virtue into a vice here. An elected leader doing his job in Congress by representing his district well during the day, and then going home to be with his wife and kids at night is a problem? What planet is Diaz and the Post living on? Isn’t this the newspaper that feasted on another Queens-Brooklyn Congressman’s sexting infidelities? Isn’t Diaz the same self-righteous man who claims to want to protect the institution of marriage?

We say “three cheers” for Rep. Crowley for getting his priorities straight and pointing the way not just for all politicians but, moreover, all working fathers. Being home to help with homework and tucking your kids in is job number one, whether you are a congressman or a businessman or a waiter. Don’t attack Rep. Joe Crowley. He should instead be named “Father of the Year,” especially in a profession where the men have not exhibited much familyminded behavior in recent years.

We are pleased that Mayor Bloomberg and his Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky have finally solved the outer borough taxi problem. Kudos to them and the state legislature for supporting them. Now, can we please try to figure out how to solve the perennial problem of Manhattan residents and workers who find it near impossible to hail a cab from 4:30

to 6:30 each afternoon and early evening? We’ve all experienced it. You’re off to an important meeting on the other side of town and mass transit isn’t a viable option. So you press your luck and stand out on the street with your hand up trying to get a cab. is that a light i see in the distance on top of that cab? you think to yourself. Darn, it’s off duty. And there’s another. And another.

And so it goes. And you’re late and stressed out after a half hour as you resignedly succumb to an exorbitant $30 black car ride. Why does it have to be this way? Can’t shift changes be staggered during the course of the day? Of course they can. Commissioner Yassky, Mayor Bloomberg, are you listening?

Yellow Fever in Manhattan


Let Cuomo Finish Job

fied Democrats to run with president Obama next year. New York State needs Governor Cuomo, who, if he continues on his present meteoric track, will be much better positioned to succeed president Obama in five years.

To the Editor: Andrew Cuomo just got here (“The Son Also Rises,” June 30), and you want to send him off on the campaign trail before he has RobeRta PlineR completed even half of his first term as Upper West side governor? Yes, as you say, he’s a political star on a meteoric rise, but in Albany, not necessarily Sacramento and everywhere in between those two capitols. More to the point, Governor Cuomo is showing himself to be the best governor we’ve had since his own father was Upper West Side Weathers Budget Storm To the Editor: governor, but even the I am a history son cannot repair years teacher at the and years of dysfuncSweet Life of Mr. Chocolate Beacon School and tional state government I will be teaching a in one term, let alone New York City histhe one year you want to Single Girl’s Guide to City Men tory class to seniors let him have for massive this fall on the hisstate government reform. tory of the West 60s If he leaves Albany in the Forty restaurants. Twenty wineries. One night. and San Juan Hill. near future to run with I am particularly president Obama, then interested in havinstead of being a terrific Number One man in New York State, he ing my students interview people who will be the guy who didn’t finish even lived in the neighborhood before Robert one term as governor just to be someone Moses’ “urban renewal” and the construction of Lincoln Center and the Fordham else’s Number Two man. There are lots of other highly quali- campus, or people who spent a lot of

July 14, 2011

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time in the neighborhood as students at Haaren HS, power Memorial or the parish school at St. paul the Apostle. The neighborhood has filled and emptied several times over the past century as African Americans, Irish Americans, Caribbean immigrants, puerto Rican migrants and others have come (and gone), and there are a lot of questions that my students and I have about what the neighborhood was like and how it has changed. My students are genuinely interested in hearing and collecting the stories of the neighborhood; they will also be writing research papers and hopefully putting together some kind of museum-styled “show” for the rest of the school and the public. Any help that your newspaper might provide would be welcome. I know that the West side spirit and Our town are much-relied-on sources of local news, and it seems the best way to try and put my request out to the greatest number of people. Kevin Jacobs History teacHer, tHe Beacon scHool 917-880-2030 Letters have been edited for clarity, style and brevity. N ew s YO U Li V e B Y


“On Your Left” In praise of bike path protocol By Jeanne Martinet When I first heard someone yelling “On your left!” behind me on the Hudson River bike path, I admit it startled me. I thought, “Uh, oh—what’s on my left? A falling branch? A rampaging Canadian Goose?” Now, years later, I know without thinking to immediately veer to the right (if I am not already all the way over, in which case I just maintain my line) upon hearing this familiar warning call, in order to let the passing bike go by. Some cyclists prefer “coming up on your left” or “passing on your left,” as there is the occasional person who will get confused and move left, into the path of the approaching cyclist, upon hearing “on the left.” Many bikes are equipped with warning bells, but especially in places like New York (where there are shared or crowded bike paths), “On your left” has become a useful and universally recognized part of cycle-to-cycle communication. While this warning is not always necessary (often there is plenty of room to

pass the cyclist in front of you), “On your left” is a common-sense self-regulatory practice that helps keep people safe. It’s not a perfect system. Plenty of people still ride too fast, pass recklessly or wait until they are one foot from the head of the person in front of them and yell the warning too loudly. Sometimes unaware pedestrians (walking three abreast) will look at the “On your left”ing cyclist as if he were crazy, as if they have no understanding what he could possibly be about. Whenever I use the “On your left” alert, I like to say “thank you” as I pass (unless the biker or pedestrian I’m passing is doing something incredibly stupid, in which case I may forgo the thank you). The other day while riding, I suddenly thought to myself, “This ‘on your left’ business is really pretty darned efficient. What if this particular piece of bike path

etiquette could be used in other areas of urban life?” For instance, on the city sidewalks at rush hour. Just imagine: You are in Times Square, behind hordes of rubber-necking tourists, trying to get through. (“On your left!”) Or on the subway, when no one will get out of the way of the doors. (“On your left!”) On the bus, when folks won’t move back—even though there is plenty of room in the rear of the bus. (“On your left!”) What about in the grocery store, when the aisle is blocked with a diagonally-parked cart? (“On your left!”) It might come in very handy in the aisles of the theater at intermission, when you have only 15 minutes and you know the ladies room will be packed. (“On your left!”) Trouble getting a turn at the crowded ladies room hand dryers? (“On your left!”) And how about at a cocktail party, when that annoying glut of people is standing there chatting, blocking access to the food, and you are dying for a cheese and cracker? (“On your left! Thank you!”) After all, “On your left” is nicer— not to mention more specific—than “MOVE!” and yet so much more forceful

than “excuse me?” (Half the time when you say “Excuse me” you may as well be a mourning dove cooing in the background, for all the good it does.) “On your left” indicates an inevitability about your coming through. It’s confident, powerful. And you are not just asking someone to get out of your way but offering direction about which way they need to move. In actuality of course, this would be the end of civilized behavior. “On your left” is palatable on the bike path because it is a mid-game warning, like calling “fore” when golfing. What is acceptable at bike speed is not acceptable on foot. Obviously if we stopped asking each other permission and merely jumped ahead of others when we felt like it, we would slide quickly into social anarchy. Soon it would be “Coming through!” and “Out of my way, bozo!” Still, it is tempting. The next time I am sitting in a cab, stuck in traffic, I might just have to try leaning out of the window and yelling “On your left!” to see what happens. Jeanne Martinet, aka Miss Mingle, is the author of seven books on social interaction. Read her blog at MissMingle. com.

Moore ThoughTs

Will the E.R.A. Come Back from the Dead? We thought we could achieve equal rights without it. We were probably wrong. By Christopher Moore Nearly able to marry my same-sex partner legally, thanks to New York State, I’m feeling generous. So generous that I was thinking maybe it’s time to grant more rights to another high-profile, deserving group: the women of the United States of America. Think about it. Signs of sexism still reign supreme. For instance, and perhaps most importantly in recession-weary times, women are still not paid equally to men. In our postmodern, post-feminist age, it’s sometimes considered cranky and old-fashioned to notice this, let alone suggest that government action should be taken to prevent the widespread inequity. The Supreme Court’s recent Wal-Mart decision showed the Roberts Court considers women, as a group, too big to succeed, and thus destined to fail. At least that was the case when female Wal-Mart employees tried to come together in what sure sounded like a sensible class-action suit. You would think that New York State, or at least New York City, would be in the business of pushing the Equal Rights We st Si d e S p i r it . c o m

Amendment, a campaign that began in Congress back in 1923. You would be wrong. Think about it: when was the last time anybody mentioned passage of the E.R.A. to you, in or outside of this relatively progressive city? Why is the E.R.A. so boring to so many? Why do so many American women take to Facebook to demand “Justice for Caylee” when they would never think of taking to the streets to demand justice for themselves? After all, this amendment used to be pretty mainstream. The Republican Party backed the E.R.A. in its party platforms from 1940 through 1980, only changing its mind during the Reagan age. The amendment passed Congress in 1972, going on to secure support in 35 of the needed 38 states. Time ran out. Passion cooled. It’s hard to get a Constitutional amendment passed, thank goodness, but this is one is simple and smart. At least one person remains in the fight: the East Side’s own Rep. Carolyn Maloney. She began introducing the amendment soon after arriving in Congress in January 1993. Last May she introduced it again, endorsed by fellow

Manhattan-based Rep. Jerry Nadler, a cosponsor. Maloney sounds like a woman on a mission. “I have introduced this in each Congress since I arrived because the rights of women deserve to be constitutional,” Maloney said in an emailed statement earlier this month. “Laws can be repealed. Judicial attitudes can shift. We continue to see demonstrable cases of systemic gender discrimination—even in this day and age when women have come so far. Establishing the clear unambiguous language of the Equal Rights Amendment into the U.S. Constitution would have a real impact on our national consciousness.” About that language… it’s originally from suffragette Alice Paul, who authored the E.R.A. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” the amendment says. And that’s just about all it says. The rest is about Congressional power to enforce this idea and when it would take effect. Not so complicated, is it? But in the 1970s Americas worried themselves silly about

unisex restrooms and whether men and women would be in combat together. There were probably also some serious fears of gay marriage. That’s what’s weird. In the details, America has headed towards becoming an equal rights culture, even without the E.R.A. We told ourselves we could move forward without amending the Constitution and we largely did, but the nation would be stronger and the legal system more Scalia-proof if we stopped, went back and righted a wrong. Let’s put on paper (and our digital screens!) the notion that women and men must be treated equally under the law. It’s not boring. It’s basic. There is a way of reading American history as the ongoing extension of rights to more and more people, becoming more inclusive and culturally richer as time passes. Passing the E.R.A., albeit belatedly, would make that kind of history. Christopher Moore is a former editor of Our Town and the West Side Spirit. He’s on Twitter—@ccmnyc—and available by email at

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July 14, 2011


West Side Spirit July 14, 2011  

The July 14, 2011 issue of West Side Spirit. The West Side Spirit, published weekly, is chock full of information—from hard news to human in...