The Voice of the West Village
VOLUME 7, NUMBER 7
The Right Care In the Right Place A doctor’s family tragedy teaches the importance of proper emergency treatment. By George Capsis Dr. David Kaufman sent me an article from the June 16 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that riveted my attention. The article, “The Waits That Matter,” written by John Maa, M.D., documents the admission to the emergency room and the subsequent death of a 69-year-old woman with an irregular heartbeat called Atrial Fibrillation — so common that
medical staffers glibly call it Afib. Why it grabbed my attention is my wife, Maggie, who is 85, has Atrial Fibrillation, and people with it are three times more likely to visit an emergency room and four times more likely to be admitted to a hospital — and have at least a 5% yearly risk of having a stroke. The 69-year-old patient that Dr. Maa writes about had only one hour to wait in the West Coast emergency room. She was lucky. New York, with its several hos-
The Rudin Plan — Not a Done Deal Turning the St. Vincent’s campus into luxury condos and an urgent care center is not only wrong...it’s against the law. By Yetta Kurland Even people as rich and powerful as Bill Rudin should have to obey the law. But the replacement of a not-for-profit entity, like St. Vincent’s Hospital, with a for-profit condominium complex, which is what the Rudin Plan proposes, would violate Sections 510 and 511 of the New York State Not-for-Profit Corporations Law, as well as 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. In specific, when a for-profit entity, which is owned by private individuals, wants to acquire a not-for-profit entity, which is owned by the public, the forprofit entity must continue the underlying charitable mission of that non-profit — the running of a hospital in this case. The buyer, the Rudins, must also show that the sale is fair and reasonable consideration to the public, and that this value is not just financial — they must take into consider-
ation the loss our community felt with the taking of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Further, our Bankruptcy Court must follow New York State Law in transferring assets. St. Vincent’s would like to use the fact that it is in bankruptcy to avoid the requirements of the procedural rules of the Not-For-Profit Corporations Law. But in 2005, the United States Congress amended the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to make clear that, when it comes to the sale of property, a not-for-profit entity cannot evade state oversight by hiding under the protections of the Bankruptcy Code. The Rudins will argue that turning an eight-building hospital campus into luxury condominiums and a stand-alone urgent care center in part of one of the buildings is “fair and reasonable.” But leading case law, specifically, Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital v. Spitzer, 715 N.Y.S.2d, continued on page 3
pital closings, now ranks 44th in admitting time along with Mississippi — Iowa is number 1. And with the closing of St. Vincent’s ER, the waits at nearby ERs are even greater, reflecting the 30% increase in patient volume. The West Coast emergency department staff decided to give her blood thinners to prevent a clot and planned to perform electrical cardioversion; that is, use an electrical signal to get the heartbeat back in sync, if an echocardiogram proved she did not have a blood clot. Because no bed was available, the patient spent a sleepless, agitated night on a narrow stretcher in the noisy brightly lit corridor and was wheeled upstairs the next day shortly before noon. I should point
out again that since St. Vincent’s closed, it is commonplace to wait 12-36 hours in the ER for a bed. When the cardiologist finally saw her — now Friday afternoon — it was too late (we assume the technicians had gone home) to do the echocardiogram to confirm the absence of a blood clot, and, therefore, he continued the blood thinners. He would do the tests on Monday. The next day, the patient had a stroke caused by a massive blood clot, which broke loose and extended to the brain. She was rushed to surgery to extract the clot — the surgeon tore the carotid artery, and because of the thinners blood flooded the brain cavity. Her life was all but over continued on page 3
Pier 40 Farmers Market Opens
After two years of WestView campaigning, a farmers market opens in July in front of Pier 40 at West Houston Street. Now we need a hospital. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
They Are Asking Us to Bet Our Lives See page 4
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2 WestView News July 2011
WestView News Published by WestView, Inc. by and for the residents of the West Village.
Publisher Executive Editor George Capsis Chief Financial Officer Peter White Copy Editor Bonnie Rosenstock Designer Yodit Tesfaye Walker Picture Editors Maggie Berkvist Events Editor/Designer Stephanie Phelan Cartoonists & Illustrators Dick Sebastian, Lee Lorenz
Contributors Barry Benepe Maggie Berkvist Christian Botta James Lincoln Collier Jim Fouratt George Goss Douglas Gowland Mark M. Green Dr. David L. Kaufman Yetta Kurland Charles Lockwood Keith Michael David A. Porat Barbara Riddle-Dvorak Armanda Squadrille Henry J. Stern
Distribution Manager George Goss
Photographer Maggie Berkvist
We endeavor to publish all letters received including those we disagree with. The opinions put forth by contributors to WestView do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or editor. WestView welcomes your correspondence, comments, and corrections: email@example.com www.westviewnews.org
Correspondence, Commentary, Corrections
Life and Limb Dear Editor:
It is always gratifying to see The Gardens of St Luke’s referred to favorably, particularly in your paper. Over the years, Maggie Berkvist has provided great coverage – including the article in June 2009, entitled “A Garden is a Lovesome Thing.” The Gardens are an important element of our mission to serve the West Village community. They are treasured as a peaceful oasis by local residents and praised by travelers across the globe. In fact, Tiffany’s recently cited our gardens as one of the most romantic destinations within New York City. We are committed to maintaining a welcome place of respite and sanctuary. As stewards of their heritage and continued evolution, we take very seriously any advice regarding their preservation, and every decision concerning their care is taken with considerable deliberation. So it was disappointing to read in the June 2011 issue an article published by a neighbor and friend of The Gardens questioning our decision to replace a dying Crabapple tree that has become a safety issue for visitors and a potential liability for the Church. We understand that everyone has great affection for the Crabapple that has stood at the center of the Barrow Street Garden for decades. For more than ten years, we have worked with horticultural professionals to extend the lifespan of the tree through research, preventive pruning and other efforts. Unfortunately, these measures are necessarily limited when a tree is in such an advanced state of decline. The Crabapple has suffered from disease and infestations (including a colony of ants). A close look at the trunk and limbs reveals rings of woodpecker holes everywhere, which not only give an indication that insects are present but also weaken the tree by girdling it. We have had to remove many limbs in recent years. In spite of this, we have had several limbs fall in bad weather conditions. Starting with the summer of 2005, St. Luke’s has made The Gardens more accessible to the community as part of our mission and community outreach. We welcome all visitors – but with increased
public use of the gardens, we have a heightened obligation to be vigilant about the safety of all visitors. Our plans this fall for the Barrow Street Garden will maintain the intimacy and beauty which we all cherish and mitigate potential safety issues. We will be re-leveling the bluestone walkways throughout. The Crabapple will be replaced with a Yellowwood tree. The conceptual rendering of the reconfigured seating area around the tree may have raised more questions than needed. Many of the existing plantings at the center of the garden will remain as part of the plan. In recent years, The Gardens of St. Luke’s have benefited from many improvements, including new benches, the Gene Morin Contemplation Corner and new plantings, ranging from colorful blossoms for every season to several new trees. These improvements have been made possible through gifts from friends, neighbors and visitors designated for the purpose of maintaining or improving the beauty of The Gardens. St. Luke’s is very thankful for the generosity of donors for all of our outreach programs. We recognize that individual giving is a very personal decision, and we are blessed that so many individuals provide the support that we need to sustain our mission of community service. When individuals make gifts for a specific use or purpose, we have an obligation to honor their wishes and the spirit of their giving. Funds designated for the benefit of The Gardens cannot be applied to other purposes, though we welcome gifts to any Outreach Program. We are responsible stewards of the gifts given for the Gardens and will always act accordingly in the interest of our benefactors and their considered wishes. St. Luke’s invests in our neighborhood through the Gardens, tutoring elementary-age children, providing a hot meal for people living with HIV/AIDS and a safe space for LGBT youth. In all these efforts we seek neighborhood support in providing solutions to some of the challenges of city life. For nearly two centuries, The Church of St. Luke in the Fields has offered a balm to those most pressed by urban life: a safe
haven from yellow fever, education for the children of dockworkers, dignity for those rejected by families and society. We remain committed to serving the diverse needs of the Greenwich Village community now through our present programs and for many years to come. Sincerely, John Donnelly Manager of Development and Communications
Closet Tales Dear Editor:
With regard to Chris Sherman’s article (“Getting My Husband Out of the Closet,” June issue): I thought my apartment was fairly soundproof (old building!), but you must have been listening — or hiding somewhere in my apartment. My husband and I laughed so hard that we had tears rolling down our faces! You did a perfect job, and now my husband is finally assured that I am not the only woman who has more things than her husband, and some things with tags still on! I’m sort of at a loss because I’m semi-retired, but I keep on buying shirts for him to make up for it. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! Judith Hanau West 12th Street
More Alike Than Not Dear Editor:
I just finished reading Barbara Riddle’s extraordinary piece about her work with international students. As a person who has traveled widely in the Middle East and was fortunate to be invited to the wedding of a member of the Saudi royal family, I must tell you that I was deeply moved by her writing — so thoughtful, so honest, so true. We have known each other for a bit more than 30 years, and I have never been so moved by her work. I am proud to be her friend. Love, LucyAnn Geiselman, Ph.D.
Corrections An article in the June issue of WestView erroneously stated that former mayors John Lindsay and David Dinkins at one time lived at 2 Fifth Avenue. Both had apartments at 215 East 68th Street, which is also owned by the Rudin Management Company.
An article in the June issue by Daniel Ian Smith, “The Real Value of Your Home,” included a photograph for which the credit was omitted. The photograph was taken by Barbara Birmingham of BLBphoto.com.
July 2011 WestView News 3
To Whom It May Concern: Excerpts from petitions delivered to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on June 8. June 3, Ron Tunning, NH “St. Vincent’s has been a vital ingredient in the city’s healthcare network for generations, serving one of the city’s most vibrant, diverse neighborhoods. I recall the essential role that St. Vincent’s played during the height of the AIDS crisis, as well as on 9/11. Although I’m no longer a resident of NYC, I care deeply about the city and its people.”
tal properties; instead, there appears to be a sweetheart deal made with the Rudin Organization. How is that possible?”
May 13, Rose Marie Manger, Esq., NJ “It is outrageous that St. Vincent’s closed. It was an important hospital that served the community well. The New York State Attorney General should undertake a thorough investigation on how some $25 million was spent paying people in charge. How can St. Vincent’s representatives be paid $8 million to secure a $7 million loan? Also, it is my understanding that there has been no competitive bidding for the hospi-
June 7, Sandra Paci, NY “The residents of Downtown Manhattan need a full-service hospital on this site. The Coleman Building is not even 30 years old. There is no need to tear it down, except of course to maximize profits for the developers. The $100 million that would be used to set up the stand-alone ER should be used to update and reopen the Coleman Building as the full-service hospital the community needs. This is just another real estate
continued from page 1 in minutes. For the next two days, the patient was on life support, which the family asked to keep her on until they could make funeral arrangements. And now the shocker: The patient that Dr. Maa writes about was his mother. He then offers, “Ironically, I am an academic surgeon and founder of a surgical training program dedicated to improving the availability and quality of emergency surgical care.” Dr. Maa goes on to explain that he was in another city while his mother was in the hospital and despite his phone calls (you
May 15, Tony Ciuffini, NY “The administration and Board of Trustees failed the community and employees of St. Vincent’s big time. There should be an investigation of the misappropriation of funds and possible criminal charges”
can imagine their urgency and frequency), he “was unable to persuade the staff of my mother’s hospital to expedite her care.” Dr. Maa asks himself if his mother’s death could have been avoided. He focuses on crowded emergency rooms and quotes several authorities, like the U.S. Government Accountability Office, that stockpiling patients in ED (emergency department) exam rooms and corridors “for extended periods has become so commonplace that it is accepted as the norm, particularly in large urban hospitals.” But even crowded real emergency rooms are critically needed. In the very same issue of NEJM, “The ER, 50 Years On,” written
boondoggle — the neighborhood needs a hospital, not more luxury condos.” June 2, Elliott Johnson, NY “A city the size of New York, without the proper services to care for and support its population and visitors, is a sterile and unsafe city indeed. To add condominiums to this neighborhood would be adding insult to an already injured infrastructure. A hospital not only provides a much-needed service to this neighborhood and beyond, but it also strengthens the economic backbone of this community. It is time to realign our priorities for New York City.”
“At the time of the bankruptcy, there was a significant amount of money in restricted accounts to be used for research and specific patient care projects. Despite claims submitted to the court, most of us have not heard about the status of these monies. It is highly inappropriate, if not unlawful and unethical, to pay lawyer and consultant fees in the millions of dollars before releasing money for research and patient care. Why is the bankruptcy court addressing the claims of fellow lawyers but not those of the physician/patient advocates? Any support to right this wrong would be appreciated.”
May 11, Patricia Walker, NY
June 1, David Monberg, NY “I work in this area and have many friends and clients near St. Vincent’s. This sale is illegal and should be blocked. It is bad for New York, bad for medicine and bad for people’s lives.” continued on page 4
by Arthur L. Kellermann, M.D., M.P.H., and Ricardo Martinez, M.D., they cite the National Center for Health Statistics: “Less than 8% of emergency department visits in 2007 were classified as ‘nonurgent.’ ” Twice that number — over 16% — required ‘immediate’ or ‘emergent’ care, implying that the patient had a life-threatening or dangerous condition,” observe the doctors. This would mean that 16% of all West Villagers showing up at the walk-in walkout North Shore-LIJ clinic proposed two years from now for the Maritime Union hiring hall might, like Dr. Maa’s mother, have a condition that, if not properly treated, could mean death in hours or even
minutes. Delay is fundamentally built into the system of care at the NS-LIJ facility. To quote Dr. Maa, “The Shakespearean warning ‘Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends,’ is an apt precept for the treatment of emergency and urgent conditions….” “Patients [should] get the right care at the right time in the right place,” state Drs. Kellermann and Martinez. May I suggest that any person — your mother, your father, your partner, yourself — experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke or other medical catastrophe, would not be in the right place at the right time as they enter the NS-LIJ imitation “emergency room.”
June 4, Alexandra March, NY “What are you even thinking? If there is another disaster, all of those people are screwed!”
No Deal, Rudin
efforts to get special variances to “upzone” continued from page 1 the property, meaning to replace the curmakes clear that it is not. Also, under the rent buildings with substantially larger law, the party who must make that finding, buildings. However, the Rudins are trybesides the court, is the Attorney General ing to use the “hardship” approvals, given of New York State, Eric Schneiderman. He by the Landmark and Preservation Commission (LPC) to St. Vincent’s to build a has not done so as of this writing. Also, one might theoretically make the larger hospital, to now build larger luxury argument that the creation and sale of resi- condominium units. Such approvals are dential condominiums promote the pur- not transferable like this. They cannot be poses of a hospital, though it is difficult to transferred from one entity to another for see who would believe such nonsense. Here different purposes. To let the Rudins know the communiagain, the Attorney General must make ty wants nothing less than a hospital, the that finding, and he has not done so. public was invited to the City Planning The Coalition for a New Village HospiCommission Hearing at Spector Hall, 22 tal has not heard back from the Attorney Reade Street, on Tuesday, June 28. I urge General, although we recently reminded everyone to go to www.demandahospital. him of his duty under the law in a letter that blogspot.com and sign the Coalition’s petibore over 7,500 signatures. Until he does tion to Amanda Burden, Chair of the City respond, we consider the proposed sale of Planning Commission, to let her know the St. Vincent’s campus to be illegal. that the Rudins cannot move forward on Another big problem for the Rudin’s their efforts to develop — until and unless plan — again assuming they have to follow the same rules and laws as the rest of they get their own approvals from LPC for us — is that they are moving forward on the current plan.
NO MORE CONDOS!: Jane Korczynski gathered signatures for a petition to be presented to Amanda Burden, Chair of the City Planning Commission, at their meeting on June 28. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
4 WestView News July 2011
They Are Asking Us to Bet Our Lives The proposed North Shore-LIJ clinic is a medical fraud.
By David L. Kaufman, M.D. Hey, stop a minute and picture this: You are a 46- (or 36- or 76-) year-old man (or woman) rushing off to work, walking fast down Greenwich Avenue toward the subway, with a full briefcase. You start to have indigestion, heartburn and feel a little sweaty. It’s 2013, so you head over to the brand new, gleaming NS-LIJ freestanding “emergency room.” The waiting room is not too crowded (your lucky day), and you get brought back to a cubicle 20 minutes after arriving. You marvel at the latest technology that surrounds you, all the shiny equipment, beeping machines and flashing computer screens. You are happy to see the dozens and dozens of highly trained staff, just as NS-LIJ promised. But mostly, you are worried because your stomach really hurts and now you feel some nausea. After you undress, the medical assistant comes over and takes your vital signs and then the nurse asks you some questions. Luckily, all this only takes another 20 minutes, and then the Board Certified Emergency Department physician arrives. She takes a quick history, listens to your heart and lungs, feels your abdomen and orders an electrocardiogram and some
blood work. Twenty-five minutes later, you notice a lot of activity all around you. An IV is placed in your arm, you are given some medicine, and as you are placed on another stretcher, the doctor informs you that you are having a heart attack. She calmly explains that you have been “stabilized” and now will be “rapidly transferred” to the nearest hospital in order to receive the required standard of care treatment — an angiogram with probable balloon and stenting. Gratefully, you heave a sigh of relief. Only 65 minutes to get the diagnosis and now you can be whizzed across town, and if you are lucky will be in the next emergency department in 15 minutes, where, alerted by the crackerjack NS-LIJ staff, it only takes another 20 minutes to get you into the cardiac cath lab. Wow. Only 100 minutes from the doors of NS-LIJ to the balloon table. Great care? Lifesaving care? NO WAY. Read on. There are two key standards of care that have been developed by cardiologists and emergency departments in an effort to decrease mortality (death) and morbidity (disease) from heart attacks. The first is called “Door to Balloon” (DTB) and refers to the maximum time it should take from entry to ER (door) to start of angiogram (balloon). This should be 90 minutes or less.
The second standard used for facilities, such as the NS-LIJ Comprehensive Care Center, which cannot actually treat a heart attack, is “Door in-Door out” (DIDO), and refers to the maximum time it should take from admission to discharge for transfer to a hospital that can provide the proper standard of care treatments. This should be 30 minutes or less. Our patient (you) did it in 65 minutes (DIDO) and 100 minutes (DTB). Not too bad you think. But wait. A study, just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association ( JAMA), collected data on 14,821 patients and reported on their DIDO times and mortality. For those patients lucky enough to meet the standard and be transferred within 30 minutes, the mortality was 2.7%. For patients with DIDO times over 30 minutes, the mortality more than doubled to 5.9%. The study did not examine morbidity, so no conclusions regarding increased heart disease from increased dead muscle can be made. But if twice as many people die from this delay in receiving proper highquality care, then it is likely that more dead muscle will create more cardiac cripples. NS-LIJ, the NYS Department of Health, Bloomberg and Cuomo appar-
What Makes a Hospital Successful DOH discovers closing hospital does not make the survivors prosper. By George Capsis Hours before we closed the July issue, Dr. David Kaufman, co-head of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, the organization advocating for the return of a hospital to the West Village, sent me an interesting Crain’s article from June 28. It reported that Stephen Berger, the man who headed the commission to weed out the failing
continued from page 3
June 7, Gloria Korecki, NY “Once again, the Power of a big Corporation — not in public interest.” June 7, Pauline Olsen, CT “A full-service hospital is desperately needed for the people in this area.” June 6, Robert Pinter, NY “Dear Attorney General Schneiderman: Please block this illegal sale. Further, investigate fully the administration of St.
and underutilized New York hospitals — in the hope that the remaining might gain financial strength — was, once again, recruited to look into five still-failing Brooklyn hospitals. The newly appointed state Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, has asked Berger to make specific recommendations “that will lead to a high-quality financially secure and sustainable hospital system that can Vincent’s going back at least five years, the Rudin Corporation and all transactions between them. Restore a full-service hospital in the Village!!” June 2, Joy Romanski, NY “Replacing a hospital with yet more luxury condos is unconscionable.” May 11, Robert Adelman, NY “The Village community needs a hospital and ER, not a “band-aid”-type clinic for bruises and cuts. There are already two such clinics in our area.”
meet the needs of all patients.” But the fear is that Berger is really charged with closing a few more Brooklyn hospitals. (In checking Berger’s résumé, I discovered that from 1990-1993, he was the executive vice president of GE Capital Corporation — the principal creditor of St. Vincent’s.) What got me about the article was the fact that they closed hospitals so the remaining would get more patients and, hopefully, become financially viable. But as we see in Brooklyn, that has not happened. In appointing Berger, Shah cautioned, “Many have witnessed a drop or leveling off in patient volume, revenue growth, and capital investment has been curtailed, with debt capacity limited by existing financial weakness and debt load.” What this translates to is that the business of dispensing healthcare to the middle class, and less than middle class, is not a profitable one in this country and perhaps not in any, and that is why it is mostly paid for by the government. I called Berger’s office, Odyssey Investment Partners (where he is the chairman)
ently have no problems with data like this. They are quite comfortable with the lack of a hospital and full- service emergency room for the one million residents, commuters and tourists of the Lower West Side. Perhaps they expect that when you experience chest pain or stroke symptoms (1.9 million neurons are lost each minute a stroke is untreated), you will hop into a cab up to one of the 3,900 beds on the Upper East Side. Or perhaps they simply don’t care. Let me be crystal clear about something. The JAMA study was what we call a “Retrospective” observational study. It looks backwards into the past to see what happened. Most doctors and scientists believe “Prospective” studies that collect data on events as they occur are much more accurate and useful. It would appear that our elected and appointed officials, the Rudin organization, and the health executives of NS-LIJ are fully prepared to launch a Prospective Study on our community, examining the impact of no legitimate standard of care services on one million lives. Think about all this the next time you have heartburn. We will all be guinea pigs. This is a healthcare travesty, a moral outrage — and must be stopped.
to ask about his review of St. Vincent’s, but he was recovering from oral surgery and asked that we call next week. Too late for the July issue, but we will follow-up for August. How then do the few successful hospitals make money? In a recent article by Dr. John Maa in the New England Journal of Medicine, he states that the Government Accountability Office has noted, “[M]any hospital administrators tolerate ED [emergency department] crowding and even divert inbound ambulances rather than postpone or cancel elective admissions.” Last night, I viewed a very well-done TV commercial for New York-Presbyterian in which a women who fell six stories was revived by that hospital — it is the same hospital that expensively ran the Koch commercials, “No, you will go home.” Memorial Sloan- Kettering also promotes itself, as “The best cancer care anywhere.” All the hospitals are advertising, even in WestView. A “good” hospital is one that attracts “good” doctors — and, in turn, gets a reputation as a good hospital. When this community gets back its hospital, The West Village Hospital, it will serve one of the smartest and most articulate communities in the city — in the country. It will be a “good” hospital.
July 2011 WestView News 5
On Self-Destruction A talented politician implodes, a mayoral election looms and, once again, we learn about human weakness. By Henry J. Stern Recently, we watched Congressman Anthony Weiner’s four-minute swan song, in which he showed the skills he had honed over 20 years as a public official. The Council Center for Seniors in Sheepshead Bay was crowded with over 100 reporters and 40 TV cameras, a larger media scrum than he had ever assembled while he was politically alive. It made more than one viewer wistful for what Weiner might have been able to do for New York if he had had his head screwed on right. Unfortunately, beneath his “YAVIS” exterior (Young, Attractive, Verbal, Intelligent and Successful) there lay a nest of aggression and insecurity so deep that the Congressman propelled himself into a prolonged and repeated pattern of personal behavior, which is completely inconsistent with acting as a tribune of the people in a democracy. Who can say what any of us have in our minds? Mostly, we wisely keep our thoughts to ourselves, particularly if they are socially or politically unacceptable. For an elected official to engage in reckless conversations with numerous strangers, while identifying himself to them as a Member of Congress, a substantial part of his mind must have wanted to be discovered and for the charade to end. When he inadvertently pressed “reply to all” and set off the firestorm which devoured his career, he was possibly, at one level or another, opting out of a lifestyle which, to say the least, papered over a conflicted brain. Although he was no genius, Weiner was a smart, diligent and basically moderate politician. He had the potential to be the outer borough middle-class successor to the Manhattan Aristoi. He had difficulties with his staff, but that is not unusual when intense, demanding and self-important public officials employ decent, honorable people at modest wages who are unprepared to calibrate their lives to their boss’s ambitions. That is putting it in a kindly way, but this is not the time to jump on a man who has recently departed a life that he may find more precious than his own. Weiner first ran for Mayor in 2005, and adroitly dropped out, leaving the thankless
task of taking on Mayor Bloomberg to Fernando Ferrer. He was considered a likely candidate in 2009, but deferred to Comptroller Bill Thompson after the Mayor and City Council extended term limits. One line I recall being bruited about in those days, less than three years ago, is that Mayor Bloomberg was reportedly willing to spend $100 million on his campaign, of which $20 million could be spent on “oppo research,” digging up dirt on his rivals. That was far more than would have been needed to discover Congressman Weiner’s indiscretions, so the rest of the $20 mil could have been spent on enough media to ensure that all New Yorkers could consider the fruits of the negative research. Probably the Mayor didn’t threaten to do that, just as Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake.” But if enough people say you said it, or think you said it, or think it reflects your views, it can lead to a oneway ride on a tumbrel. The teachable moment that emerges from this personal tragedy and public farce is that, with many people who we think of as leaders, emotion can overpower reason, and people can and do perform incredibly self-destructive acts. When one such person gains access to a weapon of mass destruction, our civilization will be at stake. We should do our best to minimize that possibility. Anthony Weiner’s self-destructive behavior was not a threat to world peace. It was a ticking time bomb, but he and those who love him, are the only victims. Nonetheless, it should be a wake-up call for those seeking an honest, rational, perceptive and moderate candidate to run for Mayor of the City of New York in 2013, which is not as far off as people may believe. Those interested should be judged on their character and achievements rather than their promises, intrigues, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. The same principle that forbids discrimination on those bases should also forbid favoritism on the basis of what is called “identity politics.” The amount of money that each man or woman has already collected from those who hope to benefit by their election should not overwhelm merit as the basis for choice between candidates.
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6 WestView News July 2011
Rudin Starts the Approval Process Application goes before the City Planning Commission. By George Capsis On Tuesday, June 28, I biked down to 22 Reade Street to attend a session of the City Planning Commission. They were finally to receive the new application of the Rudin Management Company to tear down and eviscerate the 11 buildings of St. Vincent's to build 450 luxury condominiums. The hearing room was packed to overflowing, and as it turned out, with West Villagers, who vehemently and vocally wanted their hospital back. The architect for North Shore Hospital reviewed the refurbishing of the old Maritime Union hiring hall, which would not do damage to its landmark status (in my opinion, this is a landmark that would benefit from a direct meteorite hit). He talked about the entry dock for arriving ambulances, but since there will not be a full- service hospital that can treat a heart attack, the city will not send 911 ambulances to this walk-in walk-out clinic.
If you are unlucky enough to walk in with a heart attack, you will have to wait to be seen — and then wait again for an ambulance, doubling your risk of death before treatment. Senator Tom Duane had a statement read, which had this felicitous pronouncement: “As I believe we would all agree, nothing less than a full-service, acute-care hospital providing high-quality care to all patients, regardless of ability to pay, is a true replacement for St. Vincent’s Hospital.” He then followed it with the same "but" all our politicians share — if we can’t get a real hospital, we will take the next best thing — the NS-LIJ clinic. Not one of our politicians have said, "No hospital, no condos." Attorney Yetta Kurland read out the legal considerations that guide the approval process. When she declared, "provide for the health of the community," there were cheers.
The comments of Iris Vander Pluym before the City Planning Commission were typical: Thank you for hearing me. According to Dr. David Kaufman, a physician at St. Vincent’s for 30 years, who is now at Beth Israel: •A t St. Vincent’s in 2009, 13,572 emergency room patients needed and received immediate hospitalization. • F or people in my neighborhood who needed emergency services in the last year, it generally took 20 to 60 minutes to get to an emergency room. • It is not unusual for Dr. Kaufman’s emergency room patients at Beth Israel, who need immediate hospitalization, to wait on stretchers in hallways for 24 hours or more for a hospital bed. •O nce patients arrive at the ER, they experience on average a five-hour wait for medical attention. This Planning Commission is the agency charged with the conduct of planning relating to the orderly growth and development of the city, including adequate and appropriate resources for, among other things, the health and welfare of its population. Given the facts regarding emergency care leading to hospitalization, and waits for beds, the Rudin/North Shore-LIJ project absolutely does not include "adequate resources" for "the health and welfare" of New York City’s population. This is unconscionable. Our community needs a hospital. As taxpayers and citizens, it is a reasonable demand, and we demand it.
WWW.URBANZEN.COM NEW YORK
TEN PERCENT OF SALES WILL BENEFIT THE URBAN ZEN FOUNDATION, A PUBLIC CHARITY DEDICATED TO PROMOTING WELL-BEING, EMPOWERING CHILDREN AND PRESERVING CULTURES.
July 2011 WestView News 7
Shopping With Your Feet Street fairs are about music, dancing and neighbors buying from neighbors. The shopping history of New York starts with the retail giants. Saks. Macy’s. Target. No Walmart...ends with the street fairs of New York. Dollars are spent where our feet take us and our wallet says yes. Saks...a little pricey. Macy’s...better. Target...good deal. Walmart...that low? Streets of New York...sold. Street fairs in the West Village are flourishing because people spend money. Bleecker Street transformed into a mall, with brand names establishing “footprints,” or presence, pushing out the “mom and pop” stores, but these “empty fashion stores” have $50,000 monthly rents and $200,000 break-even points. Profits may be obtained at other locations and endeavors. Expensive for a “We are in the West Village” cachet. The shoppers were not impressed with the atmosphere. The Perry Street Sale was packed with good deals and shoppers. The Jane Street Sale, wall-to-wall shoppers. “Big Daddy of Street Sales”...Bedford/Commerce/ Christopher...offered music and dancing to make the shoppers warm and fuzzy about
QUINTESSENTIAL WEST VILLAGE LIVING
“WARM AND FUZZY”: Douglas Gowland likes the ambience of street fairs. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
buying from neighbors. Money changes hands and that is the game in retail. How effective? Ralph Lauren saw the crowds at the Perry Street Sale and closed his two stores on Bleecker Street. Others will follow. — Doug the Neighbor Douglas Gowland is the author of “Wade,” a humorous novel about the West Village.
Learning and Sharing Yoga’s Lessons
327 West 11th street • $865,000 Come visit this beautifully renovated one bedroom on a quiet tree-lined street. Built in 1899, this apartment features many pre-war details including exposed brick, high ceilings, arched windows and immaculate wood floors. The open kitchen incorporates stainless Fisher&Paykel and Bertazzoni appliances and the BREATHE: Yoga teacher Erin Wilson of Integral Yoga Institute. Photo by George Goss.
By George Goss The Integral Yoga Institute at 227 West 13th Street has long been a sanctuary of peace in the West Village. For myself and many others who spend way too many hours staring into cyberspace, the gentle yoga techniques taught at the center can help realign the body and soothe the eyes and the mind. Now, the Institute is extending its message to public school students in New York City as part of its “Yoga at School” program. Recently, I participated in a class at James Baldwin School in Chelsea taught by Erin Wilson, who also offers work-
shops in non-violent communication. The program’s stated mission is to share with the students “how to manage stress, create peace in their lives and radiate that peace into the lives of others through breathing practices, stretching, relaxation techniques and meditation.” Judging from what I saw and experienced, it is beginning to make some progress. Erin firmly believes, not without reason, that her students can transform society. It is her hope that yoga is not viewed as “some Eastern thing that is far out and for hippies, but a practice that can teach life skills that can have a positive impact on their community.”
windowed bathroom has wonderful mosaic tile walls and floors. Only two-flights up in a pet friendly building, this well-run co-op is financially sound and permits co-purchasing and gifting or parents buying for children. With a great coffee shop next door, the Spotted Pig around the corner and the Hudson River a short block away, this is quintessential West Village living. Web# 1343097. David Rogers 917.428.5577 | firstname.lastname@example.org
©2011. An independently owned and operated member of the Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc. is a service mark of Prudential Insurance Company of America. Equal Housing Opportunity. All material presented herein is intended for information purposes only. While this information is believed to be correct, it is represented subject to errors, omissions, changes or withdrawal without notice. All property information, including, but not limited to square footage, room count, number of bedrooms and the school district in property listings are deemed reliable, but should be verified by your own attorney, architect or zoning expert.
8 WestView News July 2011
China: A Great Awakening Parks and transportation are leaps ahead. Just don’t drink the water. By Barry Benepe Air China flight CA 982 took off from Kennedy Airport with my wife, Judith, and me aboard for a direct flight to Beijing on time at 4:50 p.m on April 14. The shortest flight path at an altitude of almost seven miles took us not west, but north, in an arc passing over the frozen snow-covered white rippled mountain landscape north of the Bering Sea. As we moved away from the approaching shadow behind us at a speed close to that of the turning globe, we never left the light of the sun during the entire 13 hours aloft. Once in China, we proceeded to unveil a great awakening, chiefly in our experience of parks, highways and the famed Maglev railroad system. This was not an exotic experience. We felt embraced by the Chinese people and their cities, from romantic Western-style dancing to Chinese music on a public plaza in Shanghai. From a stranger I received a thumbs-up response to my Obama T-shirt made by a friend, even though Richard Nixon receives credit for opening trade with China, despite the fact that he initially opposed even recognizing its government. Public parks, formerly private temple or palace sites, charge admission and are
thronged with thousands of visitors. Perhaps the most beautiful is the Summer Palace in Beijing, built in 1751 by the Emperor Gian Lang. This is one of the newer retreats where historic sites measure their age in centuries. It is a world-class attraction; people come for the sheer beauty of the place, where an enormous lake was scooped out of the ground, the excavated soil used to create an island surmounted by a palace retreat. The several mile lakeside path was crowded with walkers. The Chinese people treasure their parks with an adoring grace, flying kites, reading poetry, playing acoustic stringed instruments, playing foot badminton with a truly bird-like bird, playing cards and endless walking. One of our visits took us to the 600-year-old Lingering Garden in Suzhou, named for its intention to have the visitor stay or linger. Parks in China bear an intimate relationship with architecture. The closest in New York City is the intricate Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, designed by Jacob Wrey Mould and Calvert Vaux. Walkways are continuously swept with traditional twig brooms by devoted park workers, who even scrape chewing gum off the pavement. In preparation for the Winter Olympics, highways leading into Shanghai were
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BIKING: Landscaped urban bikeway, Hangzhou. Photo by Judith Spektor.
planted with millions of trees, as many as 40,000/mile, even screening filling stations. The trees are grown in government nurseries and are still being planted by workers lugging ball and burlap trees on their shoulders to shade parking areas. Miles and miles of continuous curbside bike lanes are separated from vehicular traffic by raised islands, often landscaped. Most bikers are on non-polluting quiet electric scooters, some mounted by parents with children, without helmets, moving faster than the cars alongside. Perhaps the crowning technical achievement in transportation in China is the Maglev train, which looks like a space ship
as it glides smoothly and quietly over a single track via magnetic elevation at speeds up to 268 miles/hour. The train takes only three and a half minutes to reach maximum speed, at which time it has to immediately slow down for its destination at the Pudong International Airport. Despite this extraordinary achievement, the Chinese cannot drink their own ground water, which is polluted with E. coli bacteria. The 2 p.m. return trip arrived by clock time an hour later at Kennedy, after a 13hour flight, again in continuous daylight as we rolled eastward toward the sun. We never had to reset our watches during the entire trip.
July 2011 WestView News 9
Then & Now
RIDING THE RAILS: For over 80 years, the “West Side cowboys” rode ahead of the trains on “Death Avenue,” earning the city’s affection and respect for their yeoman service.
DOUBLE VISION: A visitor records today’s view over Tenth Avenue, including the poster of photographer Joel Sternfeld’s image of the Line’s pastoral phase.
AT LAST THE LINE RAN OVERHEAD: The view north to 25th Street on its route shuttling freight between Spring and West 30th Streets. Historic images courtesy the High Line, photographers unknown.
ALL IN THE MIX: On the walkway of the newly opened High Line Part Two, grass and greenery soften the industrial landscape of glitzy modern structures now towering over the factory buildings from an earlier age. 2011 photos by Maggie Berkvist.
THE HIGH LINE: ‘Death Avenue’ Gets a Whole New Life By Maggie Berkvist IT WAS KNOWN AS “DEATH AVENUE.” Starting in 1849, the New York Central Railroad’s horse-drawn railroad cars transported goods down the center of Eleventh Avenue, south from West Side rail yards at 30th Street, sharing the space, with road transportation and civilians. By 1851, the accident rate was already so alarming that, as a safety measure, “West Side cowboys” were recruited to ride in front of the trains, waving red flags to warn of their approach. Nevertheless, when steam engines replaced horses in 1867, the speed and accident rate —along with the outcry protesting the line — increased, continuing on for many decades. On April 8, 1910,
The Times reported on a crowded “AntiDeath Avenue Mass Meeting” to “protest against the continuance of the New York Central tracks in Eleventh Avenue,” the latest installment of the fight that had already been “waged for so many years” — and which one speaker correctly predicted would take years more. In 1911, the headline read, “Debate Bills to End Death Avenue Ills,” and in 1918, “Defeat In Senate for West Side Bill.” In 1924 came “Craig Offers Plan to End Death Avenue.” City Controller [sic] Craig “proposes to reduce the hazard to life and limb by putting the New York Central Railroad tracks underground.” A step in the right direction certainly, but it took until December 1929 before “West Side Plan Wins Approval,” and the birth
of the elevated rail line. “The project called for construction of a double track viaduct north from Spring Street to Thirtieth Street.” Mayor Jimmy Walker assisted at the “loosening of the first spikes” on January 1, 1930; on June 29, 1934, came the headline “Mayor Dedicates West Side Project.” Except that by this time the mayor was Fiorello La Guardia, who “said ‘Amen!’ to a toast ‘Death to Death Avenue’!” It had taken 80 years to kill Death Avenue. Ironically, its replacement lasted only half as long. As trucks became the transport of choice, rail traffic dwindled. By 1963, the southernmost stretch was demolished, and in 1980 — after a final shipment of frozen turkeys — the line was taken out of service.
Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, the abandoned tracks became the source of new battles. Property owners lobbied for the line to be demolished, and a local railroad enthusiast challenged the demolition effort and tried to get a rail service re-established, while behind the scenes intrepid photographers began sneaking up to the abandoned tracks to document the beauty of nature’s takeover. Then, in 1999, came the Friends of the High Line, who set to work to launch the old line’s next era; within ten years the city’s newest attraction was born. On June 8, 2009, the High Line’s first stretch, from Gansevoort to West 20th Street opened, to be followed just last month by Part Two, the extension to West 30th Street. Death Avenue truly laid to rest at last.
10 WestView News July 2011
Festivals: Where Cinema’s Future Lives Jim Fouratt’s Reel Deal
cinematography with painterly framing elevates “Weekend” from Richard Linklater ordinariness to a Bertolucci sensuality.
Over a hundred large and small film festivals lasting from one to 10 days take place in NYC each year. You cannot find a better way to stay on top of what is on the cutting edge, or to discover topics thought too difficult for the multiplex, too risky or too experimental or just plain too dangerous. Festivals are where the future of cinema lives — the place to be if you care about how movies reflect and impact life.
HIT SO HARD: THE LIFE & NEAR DEATH STORY OF PATTY SCHEMEL — P. David Ebersole, director/co-writer, USA 2011
NewFest, NYC’s LGBT Film Festival, celebrating its 23rd year, is my July Festival pick (July 21-28). WE WERE HERE — David Weissman and Bill Weber, co-directors, USA 2011
A necessary look back at how San Francisco coped with the devastation of AIDS. Watching should be a healing, cathartic experience for anyone who is or knows someone who is living with HIV or has died of AIDS. It was for me. Five people relive the time of the “Gay Plague,” telling what happened to them and how it changed their lives. Most people who live through any kind of overwhelming Holocaust survive by repressing memory. It is just too painful. “We Were Here” demonstrates how art
A necessary look back: "We Were Here."
can heal. Weissman and Weber seek out the truth tellers, allowing their authentic storytelling to release the communal loss. A beautiful film that touches on the universality of loss, grief, repression and release. Here it’s AIDS, but it could be 9/11, war or overdose. It is the living who have the responsibility of carrying history forward. And like life itself, the filmmakers even find moments of humor in the darkness of tragedy.
SC West View 7-11_SC_West_View_7-11 6/20/11 11:49 AM Page 1
“THIS PLACE ROCKS! EVERYTHING YOU NEED AND THEN SOME.” — Arben S.
WEEKEND — Andrew Haigh, director, UK 2011
This SXSW (South By Southwest, Austin, Texas) Film Festival audience awardwinner should do for queer cinema what Lady Gaga has done for pop music. Everyone is welcome to identify. “Weekend” is a delicately crafted tale of an “art-fag” (the post-modern I-know-everythingand-reject-anything that came before Edie Sedgwick or Foucault), who at a local gay bar meets “Mr. Hunk” (a lifeguard at the local community swimming pool bar we learn later). Mr. Hunk turns out to also have a brain and engages him in after-sex conversations that makes their bodies, people and a weekend tryst a possible relationship. “Weekend” is completely contemporary and so much about the difference between a hook-up and a relationship that sexual orientation falls aside in the need to communicate in an authentic way in this age of social media distancing. The gorgeous art film
Patty Schemel, age 17, moved to Seattle with her brother and immediately fell into the city’s vibrant punk rock scene and joined an all-girl band as a drummer. Soon both Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love came knocking wanting her to drum in their respective bands. Patty picked Hole, recorded and traveled the world. She fell into the sinkhole of drinking to excess and picking up speed, heroin or anything on the table. She lost everything. She found herself homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. With insightful sensitivity and unsentimental eyes, director P. David Ebersole allows “Hit So Hard” to tell the whole story in its fabulous and ugly reality: the world of rock celebrity, the domestic lives behind the stage lights (including never-before-seen home movies of Kurt, Courtney, their baby daughter, Frances Bean, and Patty.) We see the near-death of Schemel. It hits hard, just like Patty Schemel’s own drumming. We see what happens when all the stage lights are turned off, the dressing room locks changed and no one picks up the phone. Her friends, some of whom are post-punk rock royalty, speak frankly on camera. Ms. Love presents a side of compassion that rarely emerges in her public persona. newfest.org, for schedule, trailers, venues, ticket prices and other information. Jim Fouratt lives in the West Village, has written about popular culture for over 30 years and is both a community organizer and cultural instigator.
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July 2011 WestView News 11
New York Gets it Right Marriage Equality Bill is Close in Spirit to Gay Rights Bill Introduced 40 Years Ago. By Henry J. Stern When I was first elected to the City Council in 1973, I signed on as a co-sponsor of what was called the “gay rights bill,” which had been introduced in 1971 but had not even received the courtesy of a hearing by a Council committee. The bill would have prohibited discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation because of sexual orientation. Its opponents at the time said that passing this bill would lead to gay marriage. We responded that this was simply a civil rights bill and had nothing to do with gay marriage, which at the time was inconceivable. Mayor Koch led the way to equality by issuing executive orders in January 1978, the first month he was in office, which prohibited the city and its agencies from discriminating in any way against gays and lesbians. But for the prohibition to apply to the much larger private sector, legislation was necessary that required City Council approval. Despite pleas from the mayor, Council Majority Leader Thomas J. Cuite refused to allow the gay rights bill to come to the Council floor. He made his opposition, based on his intense religious belief, very clear. He is said to have gone as far as reaching the father of Councilman Thomas J. Manton of Queens (19322006) to implore his son not to support the bill. Manton, a former police officer and a future congressman from Queens and Democratic county leader, yielded to his father’s request. Manton was just one councilmember, but an influential one throughout his long career. The Roman Catholic Church was more politically powerful a generation ago than it is today in New York. Under the leadership of Francis Cardinal Spellman (18891967), the church wielded enormous influence in political circles. Spellman had publicly quarreled in 1956 with Eleanor Roosevelt over a movie, “Baby Doll,” starring Carroll Baker, which he called “sinful.” The fact that some clerics engaged in homosexual acts only seemed to intensify the church’s opposition to any legislation in this area. In 1985, Cuite retired. He was succeeded by Councilman Peter F. Vallone of Queens. As part of the negotiations over the leadership, in which Mayor Koch took part, Vallone promised to allow the gay rights bill to come to the Council floor for a vote, although he was personally opposed to it. He kept his word and on March 21, 1986, 15 years after it was introduced, it was approved by the City Council, 21 to 14, and subsequently signed by Mayor Koch. A federal non-discrimination bill was
first introduced in the House of Representatives in 1974 by Congresswoman Bella Abzug and Koch, who served nine years in Congress before he was elected mayor in 1977. The progressive community blog the Daily Kos reports that the anti-discrimination bill was once again introduced by Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts in March 2011. Its prospects remain dim in the national legislature.
Importance of the Event The enormous satisfaction the gay community has demonstrated in the last two days is based on the end of what they regarded as the final legal impediment imposed by New York State to full citizenship. They called the cause “Marriage Equality.” The bill was supported by many in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, who have no intentions or immediate prospects of marriage, but want the same rights that straight people take for granted. There are ten nations that allow samesex marriage, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. They are Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden. Denmark and other countries, including France, are not included because they allow same-sex partnerships but not marriages. It was a surprise to see the full list; it contains countries on every continent, except Asia and Australia. The passage of this bill will not end discrimination and violence against gays. In some places homosexuality is still a crime, punishable by death by stoning. Nor would gay marriage necessarily win popular referenda today in most states. It is ironic that in a California vote, gay marriage won in white communities but was defeated by black and Latino voters. Not all minorities are supportive of other minorities. But ethnicity and victimization should not be a basis for people to make decisions on what many, on each side, consider an issue of faith, morals and civil rights. I support marriage equality, in part because I know people who love each other and should be allowed to make a commitment to each other and assume the protections and burdens of marriage. In principle, capacity to reproduce should not be a requirement for couples — many people choose not to have children or are unable to do so. With 300 million Americans and millions more seeking to enter this country, there is no risk of running out of people if gays are allowed to marry. Also, sexual preference is known to be ingrained; it is rarely a matter of voluntary choice. There was a time, until 1967
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: On Hudson Street, after Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade, this was one woman’s personal message. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
and the Loving v. Virginia case, that states could prohibit marriage between people of different races. Today, a child of such a marriage is President of the United States. Who can say that some time in the future, a President will have been born to and reared by a gay or lesbian couple? Finally, it is somewhat gratifying to see New York State resume its historic role as a place of legislative initiative on social issues. Credit goes to Governor Cuomo and
the state legislative leadership in both parties. We hope that the success in securing marriage equality will lead to further accomplishments in Albany. As you know, we have frequently been disappointed, but this year we do appear to have a functioning, intelligent and mature governor. It can make an enormous difference if our leaders work together and stay on track. They have shown the capacity to do so. Now we look to them for performance.
“GET US TO THE CHURCH ON TIME”: Thank you, Governor Cuomo. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
12 WestView News July 2011
Pebbles in a Jar The closing of a neighborhood café highlights the importance of our day-to-day relationships. By Armanda Squadrilli Sometimes there is something that is such an intrinsic part of one’s life that you think it will always be there. And then it is gone. I once read a story about a professor who conducted an experiment. He pulled out a big glass jar and a bag of large stones. He placed the stones one by one in the jar and asked, “Is the jar full?” The students replied, “Why, yes!” Then he pulled out another bag, this one with medium-size stones, and placed them in the jar. As they fell through and settled around the large stones, he asked the same question, but this time the reply was less emphatic. Next, he pulled out a bag of pebbles, and again put them in the jar — they filled up more of the space. Next was a bag of sand, and then finally, he poured in water till it reached the top. Now the jar was full. The professor’s point was that the larger stones are the important things in life, and if we don’t attend to them first, but rather fill the jar with pebbles and sand, all the large stones won’t fit. But living in the West Village, we have a lot of pebbles to put in our jar of life:
The day-to-day relationships we have with each other, with people we see every day, perhaps whose last name we don’t even know — these relationships fill in the gaps around the big things and are just as important to the fabric of life. For years, early every morning, I went to the Bread & Pastry Café, at the corner of Bleecker and Christopher, for iced coffee during the first walk of the day with my dogs. I would tap on the glass and Chila would make my iced hazelnut, light ice, extra light, two Equals, one sugar. I’d open the door and stand inside for a minute chatting, my dogs peering at me from the other side of the door as I held their leashes. There was Umberto, with his crossword, and Ronnie having coffee. We exchanged pleasantries. But at the center of these interactions, invariably, was Herb, sitting at the corner table reading the newspaper. He always looked up and made some comment to me: Why wasn’t I wearing socks when it was 25 degrees outside? Where was the other dog? Where was my girlfriend? Did I ever sell the B&B? I got so used to seeing him that the day was off-center if he wasn’t there. And even when my partner went to
Open E-Mail to Scott Stringer Silence — the fail safe political ploy. By George Capsis As a newspaper publisher, I get a stream of press releases from our politicians documenting the positive things they are doing. I got one from our borough president, Scott Stringer, about how he came out to restore our threatened library budget, and I wrote him the following e-mail: Keeping libraries open is one of those motherhood causes that politicians easily turn out for, but providing medical services (complex and seemingly unsolvable) is a “no comment” item. Caught between rising costs and the fixed payments of medical insurance and Medicare, nearly all hospitals are losing money (some faster than others), but according to a June 16 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) by Drs. Arthur L. Kellermann and Ricardo Martinez, entitled “The ER, 50 Years On,” “Hospital-based emergency care is the only treatment which Americans have a legal right, regardless of their ability to pay.” We know that for the lowest rungs of the financial ladder the emergency room is the primary — and only — source of medical help. But according to the National Center for Health Statistics (as
cited in the above article), “less than 8% of emergency department visits…were classified as ‘nonurgent’…implying that the patient had a life-threatening or dangerous condition.” On Wednesday night, I sat with growing anger and listened to members of Community Board 2 — many of whom you, Scott, appointed — vie in showing off their prowess in using bureaucratic terms to comply with Rudin’s plan to turn Coleman on Seventh Avenue, and the adjacent Link Building, where St. Vincent’s emergency room entrance was located, into condominiums. The article continues, “Modern ERs offer competing views of the future…[one] where a trip to the ER is a perilous journey filled with lengthy waits, harried staff, nonexistent privacy, and the prospect that any patient may fall victim to medical error.” If you allow the Coleman and Link buildings to be turned into condominiums, you will share in the deaths of those West Villagers, who will have to be driven in traffic to crowded and remote emergency rooms. Yes, get up in front of the cameras and ask for more library service, but get up and say people are more important than profits.
APPRECIATE THE PEBBLES: Though the pastry shop has gone, the other friendly neighborhood regulars are still there on Bleecker between Christopher and West Tenth Streets. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
get us coffee, he would inquire about her kids or how things were going. A few weeks ago, the store ran out of hazelnut coffee. I was puzzled when they didn’t reorder but didn’t think anything of it. I was stunned a few days later to find the door boarded up. I felt a deep loss, not just of my routine, but also of the people who had become such a regular part of my life. There have been many closings of long-standing West Village local stores, replaced by a new wave of businesses. This latest one had a profound effect on me. On the one-and-a-half-block walk from 350 Bleecker to Christopher, I would have
many such encounters — the folks opening the Apothecary; the staff at Manatus; Helen Ann at Your Neighborhood Office; Minnie at Grand Cleaners. We know each other by name. We greet each other every morning. Now that I don’t have to go that way, I make a point to do so anyway. These pebbles, I don’t want to lose. Armanda Squadrilli is SVP and Associate Broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman real estate. She is a 19-year resident of the West Village and writes on a variety of topics, including dog rescue, motorcycles, her family and local West Village life.
which of these will not reduce your electricity use? b. focusing light where it’s needed instead of lighting a whole room c. removing lamp shades
ceiling fans can improve energy efficiency…
d. keeping bulbs and ﬁxtures clean
a. in the summer b. in the winter c. in both summer and winter answer: c
an efficient way to keep your home cool in the summer is to... a. close shades or drapes to keep out the sun’s heat b. leave your a/c on all the time so it doesn’t have to cool a warm house
what is the recommended setting for your a/c thermostat? a. 80° b. 78° c. 72° d. 60°
c. leave windows open for a breeze, even when it’s hot out
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14 WestView News July 2011
Cousin Fran and the French “The Brownstone Bible” —New York Times
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Snails, post cards and unmentionables. By James Lincoln Collier I had been in France for a couple of weeks on assignment, and when I got back Cousin Fran wanted to know all about it. We had lunch at the Soup Spoon — I live with the forlorn hope that they will have reduced the proportion of Valvoline in the house dressing to manageable levels. Fran was off and running before we sat down. “I never trusted the French,” she said. “They eat snails.” “I didn’t see anyone eating snails. Kidneys, maybe, but not snails.” “That’s just what I said,” she said, scooping up a forkful of shrimp salad. “How can you trust anyone who eats snails?” “I don’t see where that follows, Fran.” “Of course it follows,” she said. “Why can’t they eat things like fried chicken or tuna noodle casserole, like normal people?” “Snails are normal to them. It’s a matter of different lifestyles. Eating tuna noodle casserole would be hard on the ordinary French person’s self-image.” “That’s what’s wrong with them. They don’t know what’s normal. They eat frogs’ legs, too. Do you call that normal?” “I didn’t see anyone eating frogs’ legs,
either.” “That’s you all over,” Fran said. “You never notice anything. You wouldn’t notice if the Eiffel Tower fell on you. Look at the kind of dances they do, kicking their legs around and flipping their skirts up so you can see their little dinguses.” “I think you’re talking about the can-can, Fran. That goes back to Grampa’s time.” “Not according to this movie I saw on TV. With Gene Kelly.” “Gene Kelly? You must be thinking of ‘An American in Paris.’ I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but as I remember it was pretty harmless.” “You call that harmless? What if some child saw it, with their dinguses showing?” I took a long draw on my martini. “Fran, you’re exaggerating. I didn’t see any dinguses, if I take your meaning. Even at that age I would have noticed. It’s the kind of thing that makes your average twelve-yearold boy lean forward in his seat.” “You’re getting just as bad as the French talking about things like that,” she said. “You spend too much time over there. I don’t get what you see in them.” “A lot of people think that the French have an interesting culture. Monet, Baude-
July 2011 WestView News 15
James Lincoln Collier
laire, Debussy.” She eyed me suspiciously, her fork poised over her shrimp salad. “Speak English. You don’t impress anyone by speaking French.” “I wasn’t speaking French, Fran,” I said. “Those are the names of people. Monet was a painter. A lot of people consider him to be one of the great Impressionist masters.” Once again, she eyed me suspiciously. “I
suppose he was painting pictures of their little dinguses.” “To the contrary, Fran. One of Monet’s most famous paintings was of a church. Rouen Cathedral.” “That’s just like the French, letting some guy like that paint a church. They should have made him stick to dinguses where he belonged.” “I wouldn’t have said that the French were any worse in that respect than anyone else.” Fran waved her fork at me, splashing bits of shrimp salad into the air. “I suppose you’ve never heard of French post cards.” “Most of the French post cards I’ve seen show Notre Dame Cathedral or the Eiffel Tower. Or museums like the Louvre. I didn’t see any post cards of dinguses.” “Of course not,” she said. “They wouldn’t put stuff like that out front. They keep them under the counter. You have to ask for them.” I had recourse to my martini. “Let’s get off the French. What about Uncle Clifford? How’s he done while I was gone?” “He’s worse than you are. You never should have sent him that post card from Paris. Now he’s made up his mind to go. He says he was there once with a couple of his army buddies. You wouldn’t believe what they did.” “Dinguses?”
She looked around the room and then lowered her voice. “We can’t talk about it in a public place. Not in a restaurant where people are eating, anyway.” “Fran, they were young guys who’d been cooped up on an army base. You can’t blame them for feeling a little frisky.” “You seem to be able to find an excuse for everything. You got Uncle Clifford all stirred up with your post card.” “For God’s sake, Fran, it was a picture of people on bicycles crossing the Pont St. Michel.” “It didn’t matter to Uncle Clifford what it was. He’s been calling up travel agents.” “Let him,” I said. “Maybe it’ll take his mind off the Jack Daniels for awhile.” “Are you ever wrong about that,” she said. “He says that in France the cafés are open twenty-four/seven. He’s got a picture of this French café stuck up on his bedroom wall where he can see it last thing at night and first thing in the morning. A whole bunch of people sitting around a café in their undershirts drinking wine. I don’t know where he got it.” “It sounds like Renoir’s ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party.’ It’s a very popular painting, Fran.” “It’s worse than the post cards. There’s a dog sitting on the table. Right on the table. I don’t care if they’re having lunch, you can
tell what they’re thinking about.” “Dinguses again, I suppose.” She chose to ignore that. “The men in the picture are wearing straw hats. Uncle Clifford wants one.” This seemed a good subject to move on to. “I don’t know where you’d get a straw boater like that anymore. As I remember, Uncle Clifford’s father wore straw boaters sometimes. The rule then was that you started wearing your boater on Memorial Day and stopped after Labor Day.” “Well, you better believe that I’ve made it clear to Uncle Clifford that he can buy all the straw hats he wants, but he’s not going to Paris and hang around with people like the ones in that picture. Ten of them sitting around in their undershirts with five empty bottles of wine on the table. Who do you think is going to pick up the check for that little hoo-haw? You can bet on it, they’ll try to stick Uncle Clifford with the bill.” “Knowing Uncle Clifford, he’d be glad to pay it.” “Over my dead body,” she said. “It’s about time that Uncle Clifford started thinking about somebody beside himself for a change.” “It’s his money, Fran,” I said. “You can’t entail it so it goes down the line.” I paused. “The way they can in France.”
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July 2011 WestView News 17
Ode to the House Sparrow Our commonest bird brings life to the streets.
By Keith Michael July is the birders’ doldrums. Millie, my Pembroke Welsh Corgi, just thinks it’s hot. “Come on, Milton, let’s go out.” (Slow sideways roll. Soulful glare.) “Millicent, here we go.” (Stylish downward dog stretch. Ear scratch.) “Milburn, how about a walk?” (Lady-like yawn. Well-tempered bow deigning to wear her collar. Frisky shake.) Such choreography! Late afternoon. Out the door, we migrate to the shady side of the street. Mostly quiet on the West Village front. Somehow, though, the House Sparrows never falter, no matter what the weather. I think they wrote that (unofficial) postal pledge: “Neither rain, nor snow.” There’s a rollicky chase through the Willow Oaks across the street. What are these skirmishes about? A Carmen-like tantrum, “Stay away from my man!” A turf-war, “Get off my branch!” A food fight, “MY cheeze doodle!” Whatever it is, there’s an exclamation point at the end! Millie strains the leash — always on the lookout for a chicken bone lurking at the corner. “ALL DONE.” Millie, let’s focus on the Sparrows. Ungenerous birders refer sotto voce (or not
so sotto voce) to Sparrows as “trash birds.” Others just consider them pests. I like them. I like their cacophonous spunk. I even think that they’re handsome. The Casanova males pose with their tidy black bibs, gray caps, neat wing bars, white formal collars and flashy black eyes. The females are hardly only the “little brown job” write-offs of the bird listers. A catalog of browns and grays, the effect is like a pointillist miniature held by a shaky hand. What were the everyday birds on this block before European House Sparrows and European Starlings took over — brought to New York by various 19th-century romantic schemes? (Millie, could you do that research for me?) The House Sparrow is dwindling in its native Europe, but here they’re doing just fine. North America is like a continent-wide endangered species refuge. So humid. Someone’s throwing a rambunctious Sparrow party in a shaded puddle left over from the thunderstorm last night, and right across the street in the grueling sun there’s an equally boisterous dust party — like a pool party without the water. The revelers are taking turns diving
in, surf or turf splashing, then shaking off on the curb. Entertaining. There’s a pipsqueak Jimmy Durante doing his best “Inka dinka doo, a dinka dee, a dinka doo” dance to woo his damsel with the light brown feathers. Bowing. Metronomically chirping. Head thrown back with a toreador’s flourish. Wings lowered half-mast flashing their white heraldry. Cheeks fluffed. A little Irish clogging. Strutting, spinning, vibrating. Oh, she’s fluttering away. But soft, she’s back for a palpitating beak-lock — up in the air with the greatest of ease. She’s apparently a consenting adult. Millie, let them have their privacy. Wow, that was fast! Millie, cover your eyes, this next part of the walk is PG-13. I’m afraid I’ll never again cross the intersection of Hudson and Perry Streets without recalling the date of May 25 this spring — fateful for six anonymous Sparrow families. That morning, the traffic light poles were historically restored with the new classy black casings. But when the decorative finials plugged the open ends of the supporting T-bars, six burgeoning Sparrow families were sealed inside! Oh noooo. When I asked the crew that morning if they would stop, they said,
House Sparrow: European imports are doing just fine.
“Just doing our job.” When I called 311: “That’s out of our jurisdiction, sir.” For two days (two days!), the parents flailed at the pipe ends trying to get to their kids! Futile. Free as a bird? Hmm. Millie, the sidewalk’s hot, let’s eye cheerier things. Where are their new homesteads? It’s like “Where’s Waldo?” A head just peaked from under the scroll of that cornice. A scout flew behind that door jamb — and through that tiny hole in the brick. Indeed, their second or third broods of the summer are under way. Sparrows are resilient. And there’s a clutch of tumbleweed chicks on the sidewalk, nearly grown. They look so light, like dandelion puffs that you could blow on and they would float away. It’s getting darker. Distant rumbling. We’ve barely gotten around the block. Wind blustering. “Millie, let’s run home before the rain! RACE?”
18 WestView News July 2011
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Middle class rent subsidies keep college grads in Brooklyn. By George Capsis
regulated apartments, sent me this…
Some months ago, what with e-mail, electronic banking and the financial black hole of generous retirement benefits, our tiny post office branch on Hudson near Charles was slated to close. All of our politicians came out to pose for a mass photo (like a P.S. 41 graduation), demanding it stay open. Fortunately, it had a long lease, which would have cost too much money to get out of, so it stayed. Now we have budget cuts and the libraries have to curb hours — again, the politicians are ready to turn out for the cameras. But wait. After 68 years, the rent laws are coming to an end, and I get an e-mail from Chris Quinn, who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment, saying not only is she for the continuance of rent regulations but she also does not believe that after an apartment gets to $2,000 it should not be decontrolled — nor should the builders of Mitchell-Lama buildings that got tax abatement in return for charging low rents be allowed to, after 20 years, raise them to market levels. Well, sure we have over a million rent-regulated apartments in New York. No politicians could get elected if they said they believe in a market economy. But maybe if we put those million apartments on the market — and just maybe rents would even out and even go down a bit — new kids coming into the city could live in the West Village. A widowed brownstone owner, still with a few rent-
Hi George, Just amused myself by going on the Internet to search “rent stabilization” and found lovely stuff under Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), a section called “housing research.” For example, they talk about a “rent subsidy” calculated by what unregulated rents would have been in the absence of rent stabilization. “Only in the Manhattan Core [that’s where we live] was there a substantial positive subsidy from stabilization in all three neighborhoods — lower Manhattan, Mid Manhattan and the Upper East Side/West Sides. These subsidies ranged from roughly 30 to 50% of median stabilized rents, amounting to as much as $615 per month. “Only in the Manhattan Core would there be a substantial increase in rent if stabilized units were deregulated…Notably with 324,749 stabilized units, Manhattan has the largest share of rent regulated housing…the beneficiaries of the largest rent subsidies in the Manhattan Core constitute a distinct demographic that is younger, whiter and more affluent than the typical rent stabilized tenant. For instance, 30.4% of stabilized renters in Manhattan are white compared to 18.9% of all renters, with a median income of $82,798 in the Manhattan Core….” $82,798!! So much for politicos’ posturing that they’re defending the poor and downtrodden by supporting rent laws.
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July 2011 WestView News 19
Icons of Greenwich Village Brownstones line our most beautiful blocks, each one unique and timeless. By Charles Lockwood Nineteenth-century townhouses — popularly known as “brownstones”—are an icons of Greenwich Village and the building blocks for most of its streets. What would Greenwich Village be without the grand red brick and marble row houses along Washington Square North, the small 1820s and 1830s frame-and-brick houses on the narrow streets between Sixth Avenue and Hudson Street, or the charming houses on quiet streets north of Christopher Street and west of Hudson Street? Brownstones, likewise, line the most beautiful blocks in Manhattan from Greenwich Village to Harlem and beyond, and they are the prevailing housing stock in Brooklyn’s most coveted neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope. Why are Greenwich Village’s—and the rest of our city’s—brownstones so beloved and so fiercely protected by the city-designated Historic Districts? First, these three- and four-story dwellings are New York’s authentic (not manufactured) history, and our direct physical link to past New Yorkers who once called these townhouses their home. The parlors where today’s New Yorkers watch TV or surf the Internet, are the same rooms where earlier residents chatted with their morning callers and read newspaper accounts of the California Gold Rush, Civil War battles and Pearl Harbor. Second, New York’s townhouses form blocks that are the architectural equals of the world’s great streets. In Greenwich Village, the 14 well-preserved Italianate-style row houses at Nos. 3-16 St. Luke’s Place (1852-1853) form an extraordinary architectural ensemble that rivals many streets in England’s famed city of Bath. Nearly all of these 150-year-old four-story red brick houses still have the impressive stoops and cast-iron railings, richly ornamented Italianate style doorways and heavy Italianate cornices which delighted their original owners, and today’s owners, too. Third, while townhouses can be impressive—think Washington Square North— they are never intimidating. Instead, these three- and four-story dwellings create incredibly appealing, human-scaled streets and neighborhoods for today’s New Yorkers. Walk down Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan and you often feel like an anonymous human ant, overwhelmed by 30- and 40-story buildings and buffeted by traffic noise and sirens. On the other hand, stroll down the tree-lined Greenwich Village blocks off Lower Fifth Avenue, and you’ve entered a quieter, slower-paced, richly textured human world. Finally, New York’s “brownstones”— which acquired this nickname in the
TAKE YOUR PICK: The Federal-style townhouse at 131 Charles Street has two entrances. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
mid-nineteenth century when they were invariably constructed with facades of a dark brown New Jersey or Connecticut freestone—have captured the public imagination for well over a century. Henry James and Edith Wharton novels are filled with descriptions of late nineteenth-century townhouses. In James’ “Washington Square” (1880), the house and its location are as much characters in the novel as are the people. More recently, hardly an episode of “Sex and the City” went by without Carrie Bradshaw and her girlfriends walking down a street of brownstones, or sitting on a stoop for some of their more intimate conversations. The brownstone in this series, as we all know, stands at 66 Perry Street, although Carrie supposedly lived on the Upper East Side. Greenwich Village has always cherished its brownstones. While New Yorkers criticized brownstones as hopefully out-of-style and out-of-date in much of the twentieth century, many Greenwich Village residents sought out these houses where they could enjoy plenty of space and not live in a cookie-cutter post-war apartment building or tract house. By the 1960s, real estate development threatened Greenwich Village. Local residents rose up to save the Jeffer-
BEAUTIFULLY PRESERVED: Italianate-style row houses on St. Luke’s Place. Photo courtesy of Charles Lockwood.
son Market Courthouse from demolition and to keep cars out of Washington Square Park. In 1969, thanks to strong lobbying by local residents, New York City designated Greenwich Village as a Historic District, thereby protecting its historic buildings and distinctive charm. Today, Greenwich Village has entered another era, a distinctly affluent one. More and more new buyers are convert-
ing brownstones back into single-family homes. The survival of Greenwich Village’s and our city’s brownstones is both a testament to their practical floor plans, solid construction and adaptability to different people, eras and lifestyles, and a reflection of the city’s own strength and resiliency. Thus, they are truly the cultural icons of Greenwich Village and this great metropolis.
Charles Lockwood is the author of seven books on American architecture and cities, including “Manhattan Moves Uptown,” “Suddenly San Francisco,” “Dream Palaces,” “Hollywood at Home” and “The Estates of Beverly Hills.” He has written about architecture and cities for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Urban Land Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He advises brownstone owners on the historic accurate restoration of row house facades and interiors. (For more information, visit www. charleslockwood.com.)
20 WestView News July 2011
Sex, Sinclair Lewis and Saudi Arabian Students Despite our superficial differences, we are more alike than not. By Barbara Riddle
often rushes to judgment based on country of origin or religious beliefs. Actually, I see no difference: their futures will be my future. Ultimately, we are all in this together. One group discussion during a conversation class still haunts me. The topic I assigned was “I am afraid of….” Students were to talk first to their partners, and then to the group. All was going well, with students laughingly talking about being afraid of snakes, spiders, bridges — and even pretty girls from different cultures! Then, suddenly, the tone changed. M. spoke harshly: “Gays! I don’t like gays! It is unnatural. Allah doesn’t want this!” (I am calling my student M. to honor his privacy and in recognition of the many M.’s I encountered: Mohammed, Mamoud, Meshal, Meshari, M. and his fellow Saudis are being sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia, which gives generous grants to students to learn English as part of a career track that will lead to degrees in business, medicine and engi-
In my previous column, I described how I had recently returned to the West Village after a short stint of teaching English as a Second Language in Florida on the campus of a small private college. The students were from all around the world — Brazil, Japan, Chile, France, Egypt and Turkey — but as it happens, this winter, predominantly young men from Saudi Arabia. My impressions were many and varied, and I’d like to share them in the interest of promoting a better understanding between East and West. My experience was limited and personal, and I do not pretend to be able to draw any large conclusions from my experience. I offer my thoughts as the beginning of what will be my personal ongoing attempt to connect with and understand young people from very different cultures. Many of these students touched my heart deeply, and I found myself concerned about their futures in a world that
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neering. They may study for a month, or for 12 months, leaving behind family and everything familiar, for six hours a day of grammar, conversation and writing in a new alphabet, in a new world, playing by new rules. In general, M. is economically privileged and may spend weekends driving to Miami in his sports car with friends, going to clubs and staying up too late. Often, however, M. has had very limited exposure to people from other cultures and is very naïve. His first trip outside of Saudi Arabia may be to Florida.) I took a deep breath. Homophobia is common in young men from all cultures, but these students were not used to Western-style critical thinking and debating. How should I respond? Isn’t it said that we attack in others what we most fear in ourselves? As a teacher, I could not take this line of argument with a young Arabic student. So I started slowly and presented what I said was most admirable to me about America: our President’s emphasis on the need for our citizens to show tolerance for diversity, respect for lifestyle choices that don’t hurt others, etc. Then I came on more strongly. I said biologists believe that gender preference is not actually a choice, but something that is genetically determined by chromosomal and hormonal make-up in an individual. Therefore, to discriminate against homosexuality is wrong, like any other unfair discrimination based on skin color or other ethnic characteristics. One premed student said I was incorrect and he could prove it. As a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Brandeis, I welcomed his challenge and offered to let him do his end-of-term presentation on the biology of gender. Another student (Frenchspeaking, from Switzerland, whose grandparents had migrated there from Spain) became angry. “If I had a gay son, I would kill him!” I gulped. I said I sincerely hoped he would not do that. The class discussion continued. Again, Allah was invoked by one devout student. I mentioned that in America there were Christians who also believed that their God disapproved of gay people, and that this caused suffering for many. Quietly, I said that some Americans did not believe in either Allah or a Christian god, and certainly did not agree that any religion should be used to justify making any group of humans feel less equal than any other. I calmly said that I personally was an atheist, who nevertheless believed that everyone should have the freedom to worship as they chose, but not the freedom
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL?: My father, Robert H. Riddle, as a young naval officer (1944).
to discriminate against homosexuals on any basis whatsoever. This was not merely an American dilemma — all over the world, gay people are afraid to come out in public in many cultures for fear of being punished or killed — and wasn’t right. At least, I argued, we in America know it is our legal right to protest such discrimination, and I personally had no fear of being punished for being outspoken on this subject. I mentioned the terrible effects of bullying in some American high schools. The class soaked up my words, with some of the young women from Spain, Chile and Brazil vigorously nodding agreement with me. I don’t believe these students had ever been part of such a discussion before. As the students began to leave at the end of the class, I asked them not to take my word for anything, but to keep an open mind, to be willing to change their opinions about everything that life would present to them. “Just keep an open mind,” I repeated. “You are still young.” After the class, I was shaking. I passed one student in the corridor and stopped, knowing he was one of the particularly shy and thoughtful young men from Saudi Arabia that I had come to know and care about. I asked him how he felt about the discussion. He said quietly, “That was good. Many people in my country are afraid to talk about this. Thank you.” At the end of the term, the tall, macho student from Switzerland approached me and asked if he could keep in touch by email, since he was returning home the next day. He told me I was his favorite teacher. I later learned he was having problems at home; his parents had divorced and he wasn’t getting along with his new stepmother. I believe he sensed that I was aware that he had been testing me with his violently homophobic
July 2011 WestView News 21
www.westviewnews.org remarks, and that he felt that I had given him room to grow and change. It was a delicate tightrope act I had to walk, maintaining my point of view without condemning another’s outright. Time will tell if I had any effect, but I believe I did. * * * In writing my memoir, excerpted here on a monthly basis in WestView (“Sex and Sinclair Lewis: Tales From A Greenwich Village Girlhood”) about growing up in the Village in the 1950’s, I slowly came to the startling conclusion that my own father was most likely a closeted gay man, who simply could not come forward in that time and place. The texture and attitudes of this time period are documented in detail in a brilliant nonfiction book by James McCourt called “Queer Street” (W.W. Norton, 2003), which I discovered not long ago. This study only confirmed what I had suspected for years about the source of my father’s depression and general alienation.
My father committed suicide in 1963, finally unable any longer to maintain a double life in an America that was far more hostile to gays than our now admittedly still imperfect nation. He was a “suicide,” not a suicide bomber. But the results of both acts are the same: Death. Silence. The end of dialogue. There is no second act for a corpse. My personal experiences have led me to hope that our relations with the young men and women of the Middle East will bloom in this fragile Arab Spring; that they will want to live fully, under leaders of their choice, and no longer see any usefulness in dying as martyrs to improve the lives of their countrymen. My exposure to these young people from Saudi Arabia has only reinforced my sense that we are more alike than we are different, but that we can and should be able to live with our differences. In turn, I fervently hope we in America will continue the unfinished task of living up to our professed ideals: honoring the desires of all people, in this country and outside it, to live in dignity, prosperity and peace.
Barbara Riddle is a regular contributor to WestView. Her memoir, “Sex and Sinclair Lewis: Tales From A Greenwich Village Girlhood,” has been excerpted in these pages and can be read in the WestView Archives. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Brandeis and is the author of the novel “The Girl Pretending to Read Rilke.” You can read her blogs at www.poodlesontheroof.blogspot.com/ and www.barbarariddle.blogspot.com/ (poetry). Write to her at poodlesontheroof@ gmail.com.
V I L L AG E W E S T D E S I G N
Interior Architecture Interior Architecture
An editorial note
WestView becomes WestView News Yesterday at the City Planning Commission meeting, when I introduced myself as the publisher of WestView, there were cheers (sweet sound). It is hard to believe that we are into our eighth year. We are told that for a newspaper to survive it has to be "local," even "hyper-local." We are that — serving the West Village from Houston to 14th Streets and then to 5th Avenue. But a paper needs to be more than local. It has to have a cause and that cause is, of course, getting back a first-class hospital. We are fighting two multi-billion-dollar corpo-
rations that are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in a fraudulent PR campaign to lie to the community — to our politicians and to the press. We, of course, will not give up... We have been calling ourselves, "The New Voice of the West Village." But yesterday somebody shouted out, "You never sold out." So as of this month I think we can say that we are “The Voice of the West Village.” Do you agree? George
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A scientist is a skeptical searcher for truth. I’m one of them, and therefore, find it very difficult to accept the kinds of “nonsense” to be found on websites of people like John M. Carroll (http://www.johnmcarrollhealer.com/index.html) with claims of special powers of healing that arise from spiritual forces beyond the understanding of science. I learned about John Carroll from Loren Day. He and I had worked together in a scientific collaboration about the structure of certain kinds of viruses. Loren waited until he knew me for quite some time and until my respect for him as a scientist had grown to a high level before he told me about John Carroll. I’m sure Loren thought I would think he was some kind of nut. I had known, shortly after I met Loren, about his recovery from a deadly disease and how he found a way to treat that disease using his knowledge of biochemistry and connections he had to leaders in the medical community. When Loren finally did tell me about John Carroll’s role in his recovery, I was incredulous and would have turned my back on such nonsense as spiritual healers with psychokinetic powers — moving people with the power of the mind — oh, come on. But I couldn’t turn my back on Loren after having worked with him and having seen what a fine scientist he is. So I just nodded my head in that maybe way, called on all the acceptance I could gather up, even reaching back to my alternative life style days of the ’60s and ’70s, and said, “Well Loren...” and tried to change the subject back to our scientific collaboration. However, my wife, who is skeptical in ways not familiar to scientific investigation, heard about John Carroll from Loren and his wife one evening a short time later at a dinner at our home in New York. My wife is fascinating to me for many reasons, one of which is that she holds views that I find unbelievable while at the same time being a person who is hard not to believe. It was hardly a surprise to me when she announced that she was going to Kingston, New York, to see John Carroll and no more a surprise when she returned even more convinced of his healing powers. It is true that some medical problem she was seeing a doctor about seemed to be relieved. I just said “great” and went on with my skeptical view without making a big deal about it. But of course, my wife, being convinced of the healer’s powers, could not contain herself from spreading the word, causing me to simply act resigned as various friends looked to me for confirmation or resigned, of her claims. But then things got serious. A friend, Jay, whom I’ve known for many years, had in recent times been suffering from problems
HEALER: John Carroll.
that greatly restricted his ability to turn his head about. Medical doctors had ascribed his affliction as something which is very difficult to cure. “You have to live with it,” they told him. When my wife told Jay about John Carroll as someone to see about his condition, I put my two cents in with a suggestion to see a massage therapist I hold in high regard. Well, Jay followed the two pieces of advice, the healer and the massage therapist, and when I last saw him he turned his head to look at me. “Wow!” I said, “Great massage therapist.” “Maybe,” Jay said, as he shook his head from side to side, “it was not the massage therapist.” Jay told me that his wife, who had been suffering from some other kinds of medical problems and who had not seen the massage therapist but only John Carroll, was feeling a great deal better. So what’s going on? In The New York Times back in 2007, there was a frontpage article discussing the closing of a laboratory at Princeton University, which had been in operation for 28 years. The head of the laboratory was a distinguished former dean of the engineering school at Princeton. The laboratory, PEAR, for Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory, claims to have gathered positive evidence about extrasensory perception and telekinesis. Professor Robert G. Jahn decided that he was old enough at 76 to retire from the task and close the laboratory. I guess he realized that whatever he did was simply not enough to cause the paradigm shift necessary to accept his work and ideas. According to Thomas Kuhn, who wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolution,” and fathered, defined and popularized the concept of “paradigm shift,” scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather is a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions,” and in those revolutions, “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” Is work like John Carroll’s and the PEAR laboratory’s the opening shot of a scientific revolution, that is, a paradigm shift, or simply nonsense?
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Wizard Seeks Apprentice (Greenwich Village) Date: 2011-06-13, 1:42PM EDT Reply to: email@example.com [Errors when replying to ads]
New York-based multimedia producer/writer is interviewing for a personal assistant who wants to ultimately do the same. Good phone chops, intelligence, inventiveness and a general knowledge of the industry are necessities. Tasks span the gamut from running errands to dealing with bold-face names. A sense of humor is mandatory, and a sense of style is appreciated. This position is open to anyone who has good computer skills, is willing to work long hours and wants to take over the world. This is a paying position.
24 WestView News July 2011
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Summer Means Rosé Highly versatile with food, this is a fun, social wine.
By Christian Botta Although wine drinkers will naturally reach for something cold and refreshing when temperatures start to soar, I’m still a little surprised, although pleasantly, that New Yorkers have begun to embrace rosé wines as of late. Even though some, who still have their heads in the sand, may think of rosé as a sweet, inexpensive wine, their numbers are obviously thinning as evidenced by the loads of rosé at local wine stores and on the wine lists of better restaurants. Just recently rosé became a trendy item on the club circuit, with the pricey Domaines Ott leading the charge. But rosé’s fifteen minutes of fame seems to have extended into a potentially more permanent spot in New York City’s bar and restaurant scene. The French have long drunk rosé in vast quantities during the summer, and one of the reasons for this may be that it is highly versatile with food. I witnessed this firsthand when I went to a BYOB with some friends at Noodletown in Chinatown a few years ago. Chinese food has always stumped me to an extent with regards to pairing. I came armed with a bottle of Pernot Bourgogne Blanc that went very well with some Singapore Mai Fun, a spicy dish with noodles and shrimp. But while my friends were slugging the delicious white Burgundy, I noticed that the dry California rosé that they brought with them went extremely well with both the Singapore Mai Fun and the roast duck dish that we shared. When I see a wine out-pointing one of my favorites, I definitely take notice. More recently, when I stayed over at a friend’s hideaway in the Poconos, I got to see how well rosé paired with a variety of foods. Several different rosés worked well with a variety of dishes, including homemade pizza, salads, smoked salmon, cheeses and other tasty fare. Mind you, this was all consumed on an outdoor deck by a beautiful lake — and setting does matter — but in this case I have to say the wines were delicious and complementary to the food. If you don’t know anything about rosé, all you need to do is ask your trusted wine merchant for a recommendation. But I will give you a few tips. First of all, most rosé is meant to be drunk young. The current vintage is 2010, so be wary of anything older than 2009. Most wine regions make rosé wines, although some are much more famous. Provence, in the south of France produces excellent rosé, as does Tavel and Anjou. Some feel that Provence makes the best rosé, as evidenced by the marketing of a popular brand, MIP. Even the acronymchallenged such as I can figure out what this means: “Made in Provence.” But you can find excellent rosé from many regions, made with local grapes otherwise used for red wines. For example,
Rosé: The perfect summer wine.
Tuscan rosé is made with Sangiovese. An interesting rosé that I tried recently was made in Bordeaux with Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine, La Grange Clinet Rosé 2010, was very dry with a slightly darkertoned personality than most rosés I have tried. More typical and more quaffable was the Mas De La Source Reserve Rosé 2010, from the Languedoc-Roussillon. Dry, but with a hint of sweetness, there is good strawberry fruit and a hint of bubblegum on the palate. The nose reflects the palate, and the texture is light but with good flesh. Good balance is complemented by a persistent aftertaste. It’s made from 100 percent Cinsault. For something with more complexity and elegance, and at a higher price tag, Chateau Miraval in the Côtes de Provence appellation in the south of France produces the cheekily named “Pink Floyd” rosé. The wine gets its name from a recording studio once housed in the chateau where part of “The Wall” was recorded. But the wine itself is the attraction. Made from Cinsault and Grenache, the 2010 has excellent concentration that’s framed by a refined texture and a long finish. The subtle fruit flavors would complement your best efforts in the kitchen, such as broiled salmon or roast chicken. The wine is also certified biodynamic. Of course, rosé makes a perfect aperitif and is just fine by itself. And it’s a fun, social wine. It also has various medicinal properties, or so I’ve heard. In fact, it’s said that on the day after a big party, a glass of rosé can be just the thing to get ready for the next one. Talk about the perfect summer wine!
July 2011 WestView News 25
Grazing Through the West Village Small plates for big appetites. By David A. Porat Restaurants that are about little plates and sharing seem to be here to stay, driven by grazing diners and a passion for food, as well as a sense of adventure along with smaller price points. Two new examples are Buvette and Empellón, which are a few blocks from one another in the heart of the West Village. Both are a new twist from restaurant veterans with accomplished careers. Both seem to hit the mark and have become popular quickly. A savvy New York eater suggested that the way to go to Little Owl, the extremely esteemed and impossible-to-get-areservation restaurant in the West Village, was to put your name on the “list” early in the evening, then go for drinks and small plates at Buvette, and in an hour or so you could be eating down Grove Street. That was my plan on a recent rainy night when I joined a few friends at Buvette and ordered a bottle of wine and started grazing. We were seated at the large communal table up the stairs in the back. Many small plates and a few phone calls later, we ate up and down the menu — Buvette was happily our main course. Chef Jody Williams has had an impressive career cooking Italian, more recently at Morandi, but Buvette is modest and French. Open from morning till evening, it is very satisfying in many ways. Our dinner of many little plates included such highlights as Lentils cooked with black kale and shallots and Oxtail Marmalade, sweet and savory braised oxtail on toasts. Plates range from about $7 to $10 and can add up, but they make for a fun dining experience. We had Tarte Tartine, a caramelized apple tart, for dessert, which did suffer a bit from being made earlier. It is a hard dessert in a res-
MODEST AND FRENCH: Buvette on Grove Street.
taurant, but when it is right, it is great. Chef Alex Stupak’s career has also meandered from Chicago to New York, more recently at WD-50 doing desserts. After some time recharging and researching in Mexico, Empellón was conceived and born. Taking Mexican food seriously does not happen easily in this city, but that is what is keeping the corner of West Fourth and Tenth Street very busy these days. On a recent Tuesday night, it was hard to get a table. But we got one by offering to not stay too long. The restaurant is not small and has a pleasant contemporary look about it. The menu lists many smaller plates (with limited entrées) from $10 to into the $20 range. A Soft Shell Taco, a
SERIOUS MEXICAN: Empellón on West Fourth Street.
special, was particularly pleasing, and is one of many variations that include lamb, tongue and sweetbreads. Seafood includes a delicate Peeky Toe Crab Salad dressed with a cream cheese salsa. Other small plates include Queso Fundido, a melted jack cheese casserole of sorts. We had a Red and Green Chorizo variation, which I did not quite get, but it got me — my stomach had a difficult time. Desserts were carefully crafted by Stupak’s wife, Lauren Resler. They were beautifully plated and inspired by dolce de leche and Mexican Chocolate, but more Continental in delivery. Casual and easy, both restaurants offer somewhat gentle pricing. Yet they are all about the food, which is prepared thought-
fully, carefully and successfully. Buvette, 42 Grove Street, between Bedford & Bleecker. Telephone: 212-255-3560. www.ILoveBuvette.com. Empellón, 230 West Fourth Street at West 10th Street. Telephone: 212-367-0999. www.Empellon.com. David A. Porat is the owner of Chelsea Market Baskets, importer and purveyor of Specialty Foods and Gifts. Telephone: 212-7271111, or visit www.ChelseaMarketBaskets. com/blog/
Lots of Fun and Food By David A. Porat Our neighborhood has changed so much in the 14 years that I have been in the Chelsea Market. Yesterday, as I started my walk home to the Upper West Side, strolling north on the High Line, I was curious to see Section Two, which begins at 20th Street. I am happy to report that it makes for a bit more of a rigorous walk to 30th Street and visually has a very different look from Section One, which opened in 2009. The walk is generally narrower and kind of meanders through new and old architecture, with urban views that are both very different and very New York. The design of
the walkway is attractive, understated and allows you to enjoy the buildings that surround it. Similar to the more southern section of the High Line, it is well landscaped. I went up to 30th Street and descended into what is being called The Lot, an area that was very much alive with music, lots of people, beer on tap, a playground and an interesting selection of trendy food trucks. The Lot on Tap, as it is called, is partly organized by Collichio & Sons, with a wellcurated list of beers and wine along with a growing collection of food trucks. Adjacent to it is the Rainbow City, presented by AOL, an animated playground of inflated amusements. Now there is lots of life on 30th.
BENEATH THE HIGH LINE: Rainbow City, a playground with inflated amusements. All photos by Maggie Berkvist.
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The complete offering terms are in an offering plan available from the sponsor. File no. CD 06-0582. Sponsor: 122 Greenwich Owner LLC. 885 Third Avenue, Suite 2700, New York, NY 10022. All dimesions are approximate and subject to normal construction variances and tolerances. Square footage exceeds the usable floor area. Sponsor reserves the right to make changes in accordance with the terms of the offering plan. Rendering by Eric Schuldenfrei. Photography by Paúl Rivera, archphoto.