The Voice of the West Village
VOLUME 8, NUMBER 2
Your Life My Profit Rudin Wins Major Condo Plan Victory By George Capsis
Hours before West View’s press time the Times ran an article announcing the winner of the design competition for an AIDS memorial for the 1700- square-foot triangle in front of St. Vincent’s 15 stories Coleman building now a garage oxygen tank storage room and a hidden loading platform for deceased patients.. It is a simple an elegant solution – a stand of closely planted birch trees reflected on three sides by mirrored walls. What I found surprising was that in the very few months this design competition idea was put forward it drew 457 entries from 26 states and 32 countries and attracted as judges some boldfaced names like Whoopi Goldberg yet in the more than a year since St. Vincent nailed plywood over their Emergency Room door not one politician, not one West Village celebrity has come forward to say converting a 450 bed twenty-year-old hospital into luxury condominiums is nuts.
Why? I ask myself has not one “name” come forward – why has the Times not interviewed Dr. Kaufman who after 30 years at St. Vincent’s has witnessed many instances when the emergency room has meant the difference between life and death. On black Monday January 23rd when the New York City Planning Commission raced to approve the Rudin plan to convert the 11 hospital buildings into 450 luxury condominiums Commissioner Amanda Burden praised Rudin for working with the community “The Rudin West Village proposal represents a step in incorporating the former St. Vincent’s campus into the fabric of the West Village” The detachment from the facts was further illustrated by Commissioner Angela Battaglia who in voicing her support asked Rudin to continue to include affordable housing when Rudin’s people at the CB 2 hearing came out flat that there was no affordable housing in their plans. continued on page 4
By Andrew Berman, Executive Director Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
TO BE DEMOLISHED: Outside the blue fence now surrounding the Seventh Avenue entrance to St. Vincent's Coleman Building, demonstrators urged that people continue to fight the Rudin plan, January 27, 2012. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
On January 23rd, the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve a proposal by Rudin Management Company Inc. to rezone the shuttered St. Vincent’s Hospital East Campus to allow condo development of that site. This follows a recommendation by Borough President Scott Stringer in November to approve the rezoning, with minor modifications. The Rudin rezoning plan, if approved, will result in St. Vincent’s entire East Campus being converted to residential use. Four of the buildings—Spellman, Smith, Raskob and Nurse’s Residence—will be converted to condos, while another four— Coleman, Link, Cronin and Reiss—will be demolished to make way for a 200-plusfoot-tall luxury condo high-rise on Seventh Avenue, two mid-rise residential continued on page 9
NYC: The Greatest Grid, or the Greatest Mistake? By Barry Benepe
CELEBRATING A BICENTENNIAL: Map of the property belonging to Clement Clarke Moore at Chelsea, 1835. Collection of the New York Historical Society.
One of the great current exhibitions in the city is of the city. It is taking place at the Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. The museum has become a vital place to experience exciting exhibits on relevant themes connected to our urban history. One of the most outstanding, “The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011,” explores the impacts of the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan, whose bicentennial is being celebrated in this exhibit, on the people and natural terrain of New York.
Secret Poet Contest Winners! — See page 13
This plan was the beginning of the great wipeout of almost all of the new city’s rural character and history north of First Street on the East Side and Eighth Street on the West Side all the way up to 155th Street. This was not the first grid. Even New Amsterdam was laid out in a modified grid in the 17th century. All of present day Lower Manhattan was laid out in a series of arbitrarily canted grids. This was, however, the first grid laid out for the balance of Manhattan and for the bank balances of its property owners, including Astor, Bleecker, Moore, Stuyvesant, and other major continued on page 7
2 WestView News February 2012
Correspondence, Commentary, Corrections
Published by WestView, Inc. by and for the residents of the West Village Publisher Executive Editor George Capsis Chief Financial Officer Peter White Designer Yodit Tesfaye Walker Picture Editor Maggie Berkvist Events Editor/Designer Stephanie Phelan Cartoonist & Illustrator Lee Lorenz Managing Editor Gini Kopecky Wallace Production Managers Julie Berger Matthew Closter Contributors Debra Alfarone Tom Allon Ruby Baresch Barry Benepe Andrew Berman Andrew Collier Jim Collier DuanDuan John Early Art Gatti Irwin Glusker Mark M. Green Frank Thurston Green Tim Jambeck Dr.David L. Kaufman Bob Klein Robert Lascaro Keith Michael Michael D. Miniciello Donny Moss Alison Nelson Barbara Riddle Carl Rosenstein Film/Media Editor Jim Fouratt Boldface Names Editor Bobb Goldsteinn Photographer Maggie Berkvist Distribution Managers Tim Jambeck Steve Schoepke We endeavor to publish all letters received, including those with which we disagree. 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
A Nurse-Patient Praises St. Vincent’s
I am a registered nurse licensed to practice in the State of New York. In 2008 my health faltered and I was hospitalized in St. Vincent’s. Being a nurse I could judge that the standard of care given to me was truly remarkable in the excellent delivery of the science of medicine and nursing, and the best in compassionate care, just as Mother Elizabeth Seton would have given it. That is why the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital is a real tragedy for New Yorkers. The trustees should have aligned themselves with the Archdiocese of New York instead of the Archdiocese of Brooklyn/ Queens. The former has more clout. The finances of the hospital could have been worked out without the hospital closing its doors forever. I was in the auditorium when a gentleman from an outside consulting firm broke the news to staffers that the hospital was closing for good. Where were the Trustees at that meeting? Only two nuns were present to be the shock absorbers. Where was the President of St. Vincent’s? He had an office on the ground floor in the Coleman building. But he was nowhere to be seen. And so far we have not received any official statement from Mayor Bloomberg about the closing of our beloved hospital. It will go down as one of the worst things in New York history. I have nothing but admiration for all the people who are keeping up the fight to prevent the razing of the hospital. Where are the Catholics who should be standing up to preserve the history of the hospital? I am a cradle Catholic—born and raised Catholic and a practicing Catholic—but I am wondering why the Catholics are not making their collective voices heard in this fight. If New Yorkers will tolerate razing a hospital to build condos, then we are the worse for it. Please, we all need to put our resources together to prevent the hospital from being bulldozed. Yours truly, Cecilia K. Gullas, R.N.
Rhoda’s Right, Keep Up the Fight!
Just read the letters to the editor of the January edition and read your comment to Rhoda. [“Keep Fighting!”] I just want to add my voice: Thank you for keeping us informed about St. Vincent’s. What could possibly impact our neighborhood more than this monstrosity and the loss of a real
hospital? No other paper has done this. I can’t believe that it isn’t obvious to everyone, especially the mayor, that a hospital is necessary for all of downtown Manhattan, not just the West Village!! I have lived in this neighborhood since 1965 and have always counted on that hospital being there in emergencies. Your continued headlines on this project make it must reading. We must also let it be known to as many people as possible that Chris Quinn and Scott Stringer sold us down the river on this one. I will never vote for either one again. We need to support people who are on our side. Keep up the good fight!! Sincerely, Barbara Jaffe West Village
Toward a New Village Hospital
Babe Ruth once said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Vincent Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” Despite the tremendous efforts by those who stand to benefit from the collapse of St. Vincent’s telling us we cannot have a hospital and we should stop trying, we’re getting there! In fact, we now have the promise of a two-bed hospital. That means two things. First, we have won in our efforts to get a hospital, and second, there’s still lots more work to be done. Because of the work of the community, the Rudin Condo Machine has been forced to admit that the Lower West Side needs a real hospital, to replace St. Vincent’s, to care for the people who live and work here. The Rudins, who will be building residential condos at the St. Vincent’s site, have
offered to help create a hospital, but it would only have two beds. Two. We’ve got to do better than that. We accept the Rudins’ admission (at last) that we need a hospital in our community. Now we’ve got to talk realistically about the number of beds. But we’re optimistic. We’re almost there. With the help of the people of our community, we have moved on the hospital replacement front, from zero (the Rudins’ first offer), to an urban care center, whatever that is, to a hospital-less emergency room, illegal under New York State law, to an emergency room with a two-bed backup hospital. Now we need dozens of hospital beds to care for the people who will come to the New Village Hospital emergency room and can’t be sent home right away with a band-aid and an aspirin. We need a real hospital, and you, dear neighbors, can help. On Thursday, February 9, we will have a day of action at the City Council. We will meet at 10 a.m. on City Hall steps and then fan out to all the Members of the City Council in their City Hall offices. Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx and Staten Island will soon have the same problem that we have here on the Lower West Side of Manhattan unless the City Council takes action now. They have to say NO to condo development until the hospital problem is resolved—to the satisfaction of the Lower West Side residents. Hospital planners must take local residents—all over the city—into the conversation on hospital location. That will be the theme of the day. Thursday, February 9 at 10 a.m., City Hall Steps. I’ll see you there! In solidarity, Yetta Kurland
Correction Last month, WestView described a 16-page Villager supplement as a collaboration between Editor Lincoln Anderson and the P.R. firm retained by Bill Rudin, SKDKnickerbocker. The supplement, “Progress Report,” was not a collaboration but Anderson’s own selection of contributors. In fact, there has been a parting between Rudin and The Villager’s publisher, John Sutter. Anderson informs WestView that Rudin Executive Vice President John J. Gilbert, III, in pressing for editorial coverage, referred to the “nice ads” he had given The Villager, which incensed Sutter, who later told the staff that his paper could not be bought by a few Rudin ads. WestView regrets the error.
Want to comment on an issue you’ve read in this month’s WestView? Go to www.westviewnews.org and give us your feedback.
February 2012 WestView News 3
BRIEFLY NOTED Watch This Space
ing financial corruption to go unchecked during her tenure as City Council Speaker. And the ripples spread out from there. Freelander’s blog post was reposted on The Dallas Morning News website, and the ad was also reprinted and written about on nyc-mayor-2013.blogspot.com —G.K. Wallace
If You’re a Walker in “The Village”... At 18 Greenwich Avenue, on the former site of the Village Party Store (destroyed by fire in February 2010 and now resurrected at 13 East 8th Street) Carlos Suarez and chef Cedric Tovar, of Bobo’s at 181 West 10th Street, will be opening a new restaurant come spring: Rosemary’s, featuring Italian cuisine. In the meantime, don’t miss this arresting image by French muralist, JR. See more of his work at jr-art.net. —Photo and text by Maggie Berkvist
Losing Lives that St. Vincent's Could Have Saved
Amor & Psyche: A Blistering Performance I recently had the good fortune to attend the Opera Feroce’s performance of “Amor & Psyche,” a brilliant pasticcio opera staged in the gorgeous Tiffany interior of Christ Church Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, designed by Richard Upjohn. This production mixed elements of vaudeville, opera seria, slapstick and tableau vivant, making a witty parody of Baroque music. The three voices were extraordinary. Countertenor Alan Dornak sang Venus with a powerful, stirring voice. Hayden De Witt sang a teasing Cupid pursued by Venus, while Beth Anne Hatton gave a strong interpretation of his jealous and controlling mother, Psyche. The staging and lighting provided a dramatic setting for this extraordinary performance. The three human voices were supported by Vita Wallace on an early 18th-century violin, Sarah Biber on a 19th-century baroque cello and Kelly Savage on a 20th-century harpsichord. The acoustics of the church provided an exciting resonance to the entire performance. The good fortune for WestView readers is that this exciting performance will be repeated at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 19 in the June Havoc Theatre at the Abingdon Theatre Company at 312 West 36th Street. Tickets are $25 at the door, $20 in advance. Call 212-868-2055 or go to abingdontheatre.org. This is a performance not to be missed. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. —Barry Benepe
WestView Ad Makes National Media The strongly worded ad Mayoral candidate and WestView contributor Tom Allon placed on the back cover of the January issue has made media ripples. David Freedlander reprinted and called attention to it in his January 4 PolitickerNY blog for the New York Observer, repeating Allon’s charge that Christine Quinn let St. Vincent’s close “in order to reap real estate donations” and quoting the rest of the text pretty much verbatim. Freedlander noted that the ad represents a shift in Allon’s politics from being an early supporter of Bloomberg’s policies to being a harsher Bloomberg-Quinn critic and more populist candidate who slept out in Zuccotti Park with OWS protestors last October and wrote about it in the New York Daily News. Freedlander also mentions the Op Ed piece Allon published in the New York Post last December accusing Quinn of allow-
course; the air just suddenly combusts. It’s a lot like a ghost coming through a wall. Explosive performances from the whole cast leave you wanting to hug their extremely sorry selves. “Where’s My Money?” presented by Animus Theatre Company (inaugural production) and featuring Rory Hammond, Jonathan Judge-Russo, Amy Northup, Jeff Todesco and Carrie Walsh will be performed at the Cherry Lane Theatre from January 28 through February 12. —Frank Thurston Green
Here’s a compact paperback to take with you as you wander. A picture book for adults, “Images of America GREENWICH VILLAGE” by Anita Dickhuth (Arcadia, $21.99) is filled with illustrations of past and present landmark spots and personalities, with brief descriptive captions. After the Introduction and a first chapter on Early History, there are sections on Houses, Schools, Churches and Hospitals, followed by chapters on other aspects of the neighborhood’s claim to fame, including Entertainment and Street Life. The book is available from such local stores as Three Lives & Company (West 10th and Waverly) and Garber’s Hardware (Greenwich Street between West 10th and Charles). —Maggie Berkvist
Dr. David Kaufman relays this tragic story as evidence of what the future holds for all who experience a health crisis on the Lower West Side of Manhattan now that St. Vincent’s is gone and our politicians want to put condos in its place: Richard J. Sheirer, who, as director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, sent 9/11 victims to St. Vincent’s Hospital, felt sharp chest pains as he drove to work on Thursday, January 12. He pulled over at 14th Street and Tenth Avenue and called 911. When the ambulance arrived, Sheirer was taken on the 1.5-mile trip at the height of morning rush hour across town to Beth Israel Emergency Room at 16th Street and First Avenue. Evidently, it was too late. Mr. Sheirer died. He was 65 years old. WestView has also been informed that another man collapsed on the sidewalk on West 12th Street near the Rudin Luxury Complex sales office on Monday evening, January 16, near enough to where people were holding a candlelight vigil at St. Vincent’s in honor of Martin Luther King for them to spot him lying unconscious on the sidewalk and call 911. The man, thought to be in his 30s, was also taken by ambulance to Beth Israel. His identity, how long the trip took, and what his condition was on arrival and is now are unknown.
Moving On Up
Shanley Play at Cherry Lane “Inside of a marriage that’s in trouble it’s like being inside of a hurricane,” said playwright-screenwriter-director John Patrick Shanley, the stupefyingly illustrious Bronx native who has won an Oscar, a Pulitzer and a Tony, among other things. “Even if it’s just two people sitting at a table having coffee, the subtext becomes a whirling mass of energy.” Shanley’s play “Where’s My Money?” now at the Cherry Lane Theatre, follows several couples whose lungs have only breathed the air in the eye of a hurricane. “If you haven’t experienced one of these situations you might find it ridiculous, and if you’re looking from outside those relationships, they are ridiculous,” said Alex Correia, who directs the play. These relationships are darkly, darkly funny when you remember that these people are behaving like lunatics, and terrifying when you feel the gravity of their lunatic planets. And then there are the ghosts. As Jonathan Judge-Russo, who plays Henry, explained, the supernatural in the play “changes it from a slow dance we do to avoid our s**t to like, here it is! like, in your house, strangling you...you can’t go anywhere to avoid it, you can’t go to a coffee shop.” In a play about overawing problems in relationships, the supernatural is a touch of the hyper-real, of how people are almost literally haunted by their pasts. Issues in screwed up relationships don’t get hashed out in reasonable dis-
In case you’ve been wondering what’s going on at 607 Hudson Street, on the block occupied until recently by the old Village Nursing Home, it is being seriously upgraded. No longer a facility for 200 senior citizens, it is being converted by Flank, a Chelsea-based design and development company, into ten luxury condominium apartments with varying configurations in spaces ranging from 3,200 to 9,600 square feet—but, so far, no prices are being quoted. It will be called The Abingdon, and first sales are scheduled for late spring of this year, with a projected completion date of late 2012 or early 2013. (And the seniors? Their facilities have been upgraded too; they have a brand new home at the VillageCare Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at 214 West Houston Street.) —Maggie Berkvist
4 WestView News January 2012
“You Don’t Need a Hospital” By George Capsis I was late—very late—in cabbing over to the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott on January 11 to catch some of the Crain’s breakfast conference on the financial Gotterdammerung of Brooklyn’s hospitals. As I approached the conference’s doors the Crain’s young lady chastised me on my tardiness and—bang—the room was filled to capacity, packed with 600 coat-and-tie members of the business end of the hospital business, and hospitals are indeed a very big business. New York State spends $52 billion a year on Medicaid payments to hospitals and other health services, and it was this growing and seemingly uncontrollable cost that got the State Department of Health to do a study starting in 2005 to find out what was going wrong and how, if possible, to correct it. Heading the group that did that study— and hence its name, “The Berger Commission”—was and still is the 72-year-old, Lower East Side born Stephen Berger, graduate of Brandeis and former holder of a series of state jobs including Commissioner of Social Services in 1975 and executive director of the New York State Emergency Financial Control Board in 1976-1977, when he supervised the city’s budget during the financial crisis of 75-77 (and must have met Bill Rudin’s poppa, Lew, who got his fellow real estate billionaires to prepay their taxes to save the city). He even was the executive director of the Port Authority from 1985 to 1990. Right now, if you want to talk to his very nice secretary (he does not come to the
recommendations and then adding a “but” that was quickly flattened by Berger—no, this was a Stephen Berger show and he was loving it. The hospitals that go bankrupt and cost the state and feds the most are those serving the poor and uninsured, and that spells Brooklyn. Berger contends that health services are “provider driven”—a doctor has no hesitation to request another test since the hospital charges the insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid for it. Berger wants to make the hospital business attractive to private investors, but according to panelist Pamela Brier of Maimonides, rich hospitals “refuse to take poor and uninsured patients,” so how do you compete with them for investor dollars? The hospital closures that have happened may save the state some money, but they have increased emergency room waiting time to an average of five hours. “O.K.,” I said to myself. “You were late, so now you have to go up to the dais and confront and interview Berger.” I waited while Channel 1 interviewed him. (Channel 1 is our only really local TV station—and it does a good job.) An admirer asked a question to which I only heard Berger’s response: “I have a job and my partners want me to do some work once and a while.” And then it was my turn. “Mr. Berger, my name is George Capsis, and this is my newspaper, and for three months I have been trying to get you on the phone.” “I have a job and my partners want me to
do some work once in a while.” And then it was my turn again. “For a year and a half we have been campaigning for a hospital to replace St. Vincent’s.” He looked at me fiercely and blurted out quickly: “You don’t need a hospital, you don’t need a hospital.” And then something like: “If you didn’t give Rudin such a hard time you would have a hospital.” And I thought back to before the first bankruptcy proceeding, when permission had to be and was obtained from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to demolish the O’Toole building and build a new hospital designed by the I.M. Pei firm, and I heard myself saying: “You don’t know what you are talking about” and repeating it as he walked away. “You don’t know what you are talking about.” As I lingered, recovering, at the exit door, a man spoke to me, and I realized he had been standing next to me during my encounter with Berger. He had worked for Mt. Sinai but now worked with a hospital construction firm, so I asked him about Rudin’s claim that Coleman could not be a hospital today because the ceilings are too low. He smiled. “There are lots of hospitals out there with much lower ceilings.” And, finally, as I emerged from the hotel I watched Berger get into a limousine as a passenger who was getting in the front seat stood and looked at me with an “I know you” smile. I could have sworn it was one of the NSLIJ suits.
Vincent’s Hospital into 450 luxury condos. “They all said yes,” John Thompson, who was present, wrote to WestView afterward. “Most talked about how Rudin was integrating the St. Vincent’s buildings back in to the community. This is a joke. Making luxury condos with the cheapest brushed aside the needs and concerns of starting at $1.5 million is not integrating. Greenwich Village residents and the entire It is inviting outside millionaires in who Lower West Side on Monday, January 23, may not live here full time and outside of and voted unanimously to approve Rudin paying taxes may not contribute to the loManagement’s application to convert our cal economy.” cherished, now closed and abandoned St. Many members of the commission also
“gave thanks about the AIDS memorial park,” Thompson wrote. “But this is just a gimmick. These people know that to get what they want (money and power) they need to throw a crumb to the populace which acts as a diversion.” Gerrie Nussdorf wouldn’t call the fake, two-bed, so-called urgent care center that Rudin has tossed to the community a “crumb,” exactly. She calls it a band-aid. “There’s a change in health care where these freestanding clinics are somehow continued on page 6
But Rudin has anticipated the need for her support and invited her to appear as guest of honor at his father’s business development organization to make a campaign speech for mayor and then got most of his family to send her maximum allowable campaign fund checks (she gave him a kiss before she spoke).
paid intern in my requests that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio speak up for those who may die in traffic to give Bill Rudin his biggest deal- his biggest profit - the project that his name will be attached to for the rest of his life Bill Rudin and Chris Quinn believe your life is a fair trade.
phone, at least not for WestView News), you call Odyssey Investment Partners, which he co-started, and which specializes in, among other things, “leveraged acquisitions.” The aim of the Berger report was to make health care less expensive to the state by closing what it perceived as marginal hospitals and eliminating “excess beds and redundant services.” To help hospitals make the hard calls the report mandated, the state dipped into $1 billion in special state funds and $1.5 billion in Federal funds. (The state money was made available through the Health Efficiency & Affordability Law, which abbreviates into the most salubrious acronym in human history—HEAL.) You wonder why some of this money couldn’t have saved St. Vincent’s. Instead the Berger report killed St. V’s ideas for keeping its downtown and midtown hospitals alive, ruling that the midtown hospital (formerly St. Clare’s) be closed: “The State should not sustain an unneeded hospital campus in order to shore up another hospital in a system.” Some months back Cuomo called Berger back into service to take a look at the quickly failing Brooklyn hospitals—hence the Crain’s meeting. (Crain’s talked about nurses and hospital workers picketing the meeting at the sure prospect of losing jobs.) Squinting at the dais a hundred feet away I thought I saw the slight and balding Mr. Berger, and then he spoke with commanding conviction and I knew it was he—in fact, all the questions were directed to him. One hospital administrator began his question by alluding to Berger’s several
NYC Planning Commission approves Rudin St. Vincent's Condo Plan By G. K. Wallace It happened in a flash. In a move that took only minutes according to those present, the politically appointed members of the New York City Planning Commission
continued from page 1 Next the Rudin plan will go before the City Council in March and the most important voice will be that of Speaker Chris Quinn in whose political domain the Rudin project falls.
The opposition is - over and over again called “die hards” people who will not accept the inevitable fact that the political power in New York are the dozen or so real estate families that literally own New York. Our politician’s have accepted it and I have not been able to get beyond the non
February 2012 WestView News 5
Now or Never to Stop NYU Expansion Plan Proposal poses major threat to Greenwich Village and city
DWARFING THE EXISTING BUILDINGS: Some of NYU's proposed new developments, which require city approvals to be built.
By Andrew Berman Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation At the beginning of 2012, NYU filed its application for a series of city approvals to allow its massive, 20-year expansion plan to go forward. The plan was more than five years in the making, during which time NYU met with community groups (including GVSHP) under the guise of seeking feedback. The plan NYU has now filed, however, nevertheless flies in the face of nearly every recommendation made by the community through that supposedly consultative process. If this current plan is approved, NYU will shoehorn 2.5 million square feet of construction—the equivalent of the Empire State Building—into the blocks south of Washington Square Park. NYU is seeking to build hundreds of new dorm rooms, classroom space, faculty housing and a hotel. The plan will have an enormous impact not only upon the immediate area but on the entire Village and surrounding neighborhoods as well. And it would set dangerous precedents that could allow similar overbuilding throughout the city in areas where it was never intended. To understand the extent of the potential impact, one has to look at what NYU is actually requesting. The University is seeking a series of zoning changes that would greatly reduce the amount of open space it will be required to provide as offset for the enormous buildings that currently exist in the former urban renewal superblocks now occupied by Washington Square Village and Silver Towers and the even bigger buildings NYU wants to construct in the remaining open space. Some architecture critics are fans of these mid-century modern, tower-in-the-park complexes designed by S.J. Kessler and I. M. Pei respectively. (Both have been ruled eligible for the State and National Register of Historic Places, and the Silver Towers
complex has also been landmarked by New York City.) Some find the designs out of place and lacking. Whatever one’s opinion, the clear rationale for both complexes was that these very large buildings (among the largest anywhere in the Village) would be offset by generous open space. This was not only a design philosophy but was required by the city’s zoning rules and the urban renewal terms for the site, which were crafted to ensure that the public got open space in perpetuity in return for these very large structures. But now NYU is asking for the rules to be changed.
Natural Health and Beauty
What’s at stake
The University doesn’t only want to vastly reduce the amount of open space it must provide. It also wants residential zoning changed to commercial zoning to allow construction of a 300-foot tall hotel, and it wants urban renewal deed restrictions that prohibit construction on the site of the supermarket at Bleecker Street and LaGuardia Place to be lifted. NYU also wants several pieces of public land along Bleecker, Mercer and West 3rd Streets and LaGuardia Place given over to it directly or to be granted “easements” to them so it can build under them and close them for private use for years at a time. What will result if these requests and rule changes are granted? NYU will build four enormous new buildings over the next 20 years—larger and taller than the existing Silver Towers and Washington Square Village—adding millions of square feet of construction to their presence in the Village. “Towers in the park” would become towers on top of towers on top of towers, much more similar to midtown Manhattan than to the Village as it currently exists. As most New Yorkers know, NYU’s growing presence in the Village over the last several decades has had an enormous impact not just on the neighborhood in the continued on page 8
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6 WestView News October 2011
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taken as being equal to hospitals,” she told Elise Knutsen of The New York Observer. But they’re not. They’re good for non-serious problems, Nussdorf said. “But for serious things people need to be transported to a hospital.” Barbara Ruether, a 35-year veteran of St. Vincent’s Department of Community Medicine, and Jayne Hertko, whose life was saved at St. Vincent’s and who has been involved in the fight to restore a hospital to the Lower West Side for almost two years, expressed astonishment at how artfully Rudin has misrepresented his contributions to a school at the Foundling Hospital building as another community give-back, when in fact that contribution has been basically nil. As for Planning Commission Director Amanda Burden’s comments during the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it meeting about how reassured she is by Rudin Management’s commitment to working with the community—please. “I’m telling you the commission did not tell the truth today,” opponent Timothy Lunceford, told The Observer. “Bill Rudin has not told the truth any time he’s presented to the board about working with the community.” End result: “This community is now left without a hospital and trauma center,” Barbara Ruether wrote to WestView. “Ambulance time to take patients in traffic to the well-bedded East Side of Manhattan determines life and death and disability. Imagine what that means if you are the heart patient, the stroke victim, the asthmatic child in respiratory arrest or, God forbid, a patient in sepsis, where minutes count.... “No, Rudin lies, and our corrupt officials have aided and abetted him and no one is accountable because the dead can’t speak.” Josh Robin of New York 1, whose coverage of local issues WestView much admires, was present at the Planning Commission meeting to document this pivotal vote, Rudin’s pleasure in the outcome and the dismay of community activists and residents who have fought and are still fighting to stop the Rudin plan. Here, drawn from New York 1’s January 23 video and print coverage, WestView presents snapshots of some of the key people who were present and a taste of what they had to say:
Bill Rudin, CEO, Rudin Management Company, Inc.: “Obviously we’re very happy and very pleased, and it reaffirms the plan that we put forward several months ago that addressed a lot of the issues that were raised by the community.”
Amanda Burden, Chair, New York City Planning Commission: “Given the past efforts of the applicant on this proposal, I am confident that they will continue to work with the community in the future.”
Andrew Berman, Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation: “The site was rezoned over 30 years ago to allow the hospital buildings to be built at a larger-than-usual size... Rudin today was basically saying ‘Give us those same special privileges so that we can build extra large luxury condo buildings.’” All images from NY1 newscast of January 23, 2012.
Jayne Hertko, activist, whose life was saved at St. Vincent’s: “I had no blood pressure, all of my organs were failing, and basically within moments I was having one spinal tap after another, I was surrounded by specialists. This is what it means to be a trauma center.”
Christine Quinn, New York City Council Speaker: No statement. NY1 notes: “Records indicate four members of the Rudin family have given her the maximum amount for her yet undeclared bid for Mayor.”
February 2012 WestView News 7
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landowners. The grid allowed for auctions of scattered properties on mapped streets without any geographic priorities. Few parks or other public facilities were provided. No allowances were made for terrain, shoreline, streams, wetlands, rock outcrops, woodlands, fields or other natural features. It was a street system drawn by a computer running a program in sleep mode. The Commissioners’ Plan was laid out in the field by civil engineer, John Randel, Jr., who wrote in his report to the Commissioners, “From the crossing place I followed a well-beaten path leading from the city to the then Village of Greenwich, passing over open and partly fenced lots and fields....” The commissioners, including Simeon De Witt, Gouverneur Morris and John Rutherford, were enamored of the rational clarity of the grid, with its enormous development potential of more than 150,000 building lots if the irregular terrain was filled, cut and smoothed out. This is the same clarity that was admired by the French planner and architect, Le Corbusier, discussed in “Walking in Paris: Streets that Work” (November WestView). A copy of Le Corbusier’s “Quand Les Cathedrales Etaient Blanches: Voyages Au Pays Du Timides” (“When the Cathedrals Were White: Voyage to the Land of the Timid”), published in 1937, is on display in the exhibit, along with a 1935 copy of American Architect in which he is quoted in an article entitled “La Ville Radieuse” as complaining that American skyscrapers were too small. “Height is a thing beautiful in itself,” he exulted, proposing that blocks be aggregated into larger units with lower buildings cleared at the bases of skyscrapers. Coincidentally, Florent Morellet complained at his show, “Come Hell or High Water,” at the Christopher Henry Gallery
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(December WestView), that Paris was passing into obscurity because of its failure to build tall buildings. The high point of The Greatest Grid show is the display of John Randel’s original drawings: water color and ink depictions of then still existing farm lanes, fences, walls, ponds, streams, wetlands, hills and buildings that bring to mind the exquisitely painted murals in the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photographs show the depredations visited on farmers whose homes were left isolated on inaccessible steep hills by the deep excavations for the street grid. Livelihoods and history were destroyed by an action so extreme as to make the Lower Manhattan Expressway once proposed by Robert Moses a comparatively inconspicuous change to the urban fabric. The plan was criticized by such luminaries as Edgar Allen Poe who complained that “these magnificent places are doomed. The spirit of improvement has withered them with its acrid breath.” Frederick Law Olmsted, who, with Calvert Vaux, designed Central and Prospect Parks, which respected land forms, as antidotes to the grid, reacted similarly, saying that the grid had all the creativity of “the chance occurrence of a mason’s sieve near the map of the ground to be laid out.” Jane Jacobs, whose name exhibition curator Hilary Ballon invokes as a supporter of the grid, in fact was also critical, writing in “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”
that she understood why European visitors often remark that “the ugliness of our cities is owing to our gridiron street systems.” She added that “if such a street goes on and on into the distance . . . dribbling into endless amorphous repetitions of itself and finally petering into the utter anonymity of distances, we are also getting a visual announcement that clearly says endlessness.” What could have been the alternative? Certainly not the axial stars of Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s Washington, D.C., as other critics proposed. A thoughtful plan would have required real vision and hard work and would have looked at the varied and prominent physical features shaping the island: its hills, valleys, water courses and, most especially, its shoreline. City planners could have incorporated these features into the city’s streets and park system, which they in fact did in the building of such parks as Riverside, Central, Morningside, St. Nicholas, Colonial, Mount Morris, Highbridge, Inwood Hill, Fort Washington and Fort Tryon Parks. However, these were largely steep hillside remnants, unsuitable for buildings and equally unsuitable for recreation. We have to look to other cities for creative, beautiful alternatives to the mindless grid. London has Admiralty Arch and the magnificent Regent and Portland Streets, created by John Nash, with their edges defined by the facades and roof lines of his architecture: Pall Mall; Marble Arch; Trafalgar Square. There is Bath, with its Royal Crescent and
many small squares; Edinburgh, with its bi-level West Bow and New Town; Barcelona, Spain, and Savannah, Georgia, with their extraordinary squares; the Piazza del Campo in Siena; the Piazza Navona in Rome; and, most rewarding of all, the center of Paris, built on the fabric of a medieval city (November WestView), where narrow streets curve and bend, providing mystery, welcome surprises and new experiences along the way. Our own Greenwich Village, fortunately spared by the Commissioners in 1811, contains these qualities. Broadway, the longest street in Manhattan, slices through the grid at an angle to the north and south, providing a series of triangular parks, called “squares” strung out like beads on a necklace, following a former Indian trail and the historic Bloomingdale Road. The tail end of The Greatest Grid exhibition provides a large number of alternative visions of what Manhattan might have become. One in particular responded to the basic terrain of the island. This was Barton Robb’s “Apple Hamlet.” There is much to see in this and other shows at the Museum of the City of New York, requiring repeat visits. The Greatest Grid will run through April 15.
“The Greatest Grid” Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street Through April 15 212-534-1672/ mcny.org
8 WestView News February 2012
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immediate vicinity of its facilities but for blocks around. More and more blocks around Washington Square, Third Avenue, Union Square, University Place and Lower Fifth Avenue feel almost entirely given over to NYU, and the presence of a growing number of NYU students can be felt in both the West and East Villages and on the Lower East Side, where the rental market and nightlife scene have been tremendously impacted by this ever-expanding presence. But allowing NYU to move ahead with this expansion plan won’t simply lead to “more of the same” in and around the Village—more out-of-scale buildings, a further tipping of neighborhood character towards a single large institution, more crowds, more students and a larger transient population. If the City Council and City Planning Commission grant NYU’s requests, they will be opening the door to approving similar giveaways of public land and allowing other urban renewal superblocks—land where construction of extra-tall towers was permitted with the understanding that they would always be offset by generous amounts of open space—to be turned into massive development sites with huge towers shoehorned between other huge towers. Superblocks with similar restrictions can be found throughout the East Village, Lower East Side, Chinatown, Chelsea, Tribeca and virtually every other neighborhood in Manhattan. For all these reasons, it’s critical that NYU’s plans not be approved and that the University consider alternative sites for its expansion. One alternative GVSHP has long urged NYU to consider is the Financial District. There, NYU’s planned development would be contextual and welcome and would add needed elements to a growing neighborhood rather than oversaturate and overwhelm an established neighborhood as it would in the Village and surrounding area. What you can do
The public review and approval process for NYU’s proposal will take approximately seven months, providing ample time for people who oppose the plan to make their feelings known and work to defeat it. Here’s how the process works. Community Board No. 2 has already held multiple public hearings on the proposal and will hold a final vote some time in February. It’s essential that members of the community get the Board to completely reject the plan. Then,
OUT OF SCALE: The proposed Mercer Street Building towers almost 100 feet over the northern blocks of the Washington Square Village apartments.
Borough President Scott Stringer has 30 days to decide his vote, and it is essential that the public also persuade the Borough President to vote to reject the plan in is entirety. Both these votes are advisory; they can’t prevent the plan from being approved. But they will have a significant impact on how other officials evaluate the plan and set the tone for the votes to follow. Next, the City Planning Commission will hold hearings and vote on the plan. Without its approval, the plan cannot move forward. The Commission consists of 13 members: seven appointed by the Mayor, one by each of the five borough presidents and one by the Public Advocate. All of these officials must hear from opponents of the plan about why approving it would be misguided and dangerous and why it should be rejected. The final step in the process, if the plan makes it this far, is the City Council vote; without the Council’s approval, the plan fails. The Council is supposed to consider the concerns of the effected community in this land use approval process and traditionally defers to the Council member representing that community—in this case, District 1 Council member, Margaret Chin. However, on land use issues of citywide significance such as the NYU application, the full
A Long Way from House Calls By George Capsis More than 50 years ago I was helping to move massive six-inch blue stone slabs in my garden when pop—my intestines slipped through my flabby muscle wall. I had a painful hernia. We had had all three babies at Mt. Sinai Hospital, so we asked the baby doctor for a hernia surgeon and soon I
was in a cab on my way to my first operation. (They called it that then, not a “procedure.”) Not one but two young surgeons were assigned to my case and they visited me before the event and showed me my X-ray. They came to see me after the event, and I was in the hospital for a day and a half before I went home in a cab. Flash forward 50 years. I felt my intestine pushing through my stomach wall just as before. I called my nice
Council, led by Speaker Christine Quinn, will likely exert a strong influence on the final decision. Thus, Council member Chin and Speaker Quinn will have a huge say—and possibly the final word—on whether the NYU plan is approved or defeated. So it is especially important that they hear from those who oppose the plan now, loudly, clearly, repeatedly and in large numbers to make sure they understand that we need them to reject the NYU plan. If you are among the many New Yorkers who oppose the plan, contact these elected and appointed officials now and urge them to reject it: • Go to gvshp.org/nyultr for pre-addressed letters you can send to these public officials urging them to reject the plan. • Go to gvshp.org/nyuphone for phone numbers to call to urge these officials to reject the plan. This seven-month approval process for a 20-year expansion plan that will change the character of our neighborhoods forever has just begun. If the decision-makers responsible for voting for or against it don’t hear from us now, we will lose our chance to have a say in the future of our communities. And, quite possibly, we will lose much of what we love and hold dear about them. Don’t let this happen. Go to gvshp.org/nyu to learn more. young doctor, who scheduled a procedure. I had the name of the surgeon, but I would only meet him at the event. I took a cab to Phillips Ambulatory Care Center, run by Beth Israel at 15th Street and Park Avenue South, and walked into a room with a table on which I was to lie but that held none of the familiar operating room gear. They put me out and before I knew it I was awake and they helped me to a chair to get over the anesthetic. An hour later I took a cab home If you want to know what is happening to the practice of medicine, I think this explains it.
February 2012 WestView News 9
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buildings (one on 11th Street and one on 12th Street) and a row of new townhouses on 11th Street. The Planning Commission’s swift unanimous vote to approve the rezoning application sends it to the City Council, which must hold public hearings and vote upon the proposed zoning changes within 60 days of the Planning Commission’s vote. These hearings were not yet scheduled as WestView went to press, but readers can check www.gvshp.org for updates. The proposed rezoning cannot happen, and Rudin’s proposed St. Vincent luxury condo development cannot move ahead, unless the rezoning is approved by the City Council. The St. Vincent’s campus site lies in City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s district, and thus the Council will likely follow her lead in deciding whether or not to approve this application. GVSHP continues to oppose the rezoning application. This site was rezoned in
1979 to allow the construction of larger than normally allowable buildings for the purpose of constructing a hospital, which provides a public service. The Rudin rezoning application is asking, in essence, that the additional bulk and extra zoning considerations granted to St. Vincent’s now be given to Rudin Management to allow it to construct larger than currently (or normally) allowable private, for-profit, market-rate condos in the Greenwich Village Historic District. We believe that allowing construction of these buildings is not only bad planning and a bad principle, but is also inappropriate in terms of size and scale and the loss of historic buildings for this site. We also believe that approving this rezoning, or “upzoning,” application sets a terrible precedent that could pave the way for the special privileges afforded institutions serving a public purpose, of which there are many in our neighborhood, to be exploited by private developers. GVSHP will continue to push for the rezoning of the site to allow for luxury condo development to be rejected.
There She Lies, Mates..... The wreck of the passenger liner Costa Concordia
By Tim Jambeck, U.S. Merchant Marine Officer, retired That this vessel went up on the rocks at all took some human intervention. She had state-of-the art everything on her navigation bridge. Advanced GPS system, which interfaced with her 10- and 3-cm radars, via the main Gyro. Alarms galore: shallow water alarm, which must have been temporarily disabled; an alarm to indicate that she was off her preprogrammed route between waypoints (points along a route when a ship alters course), again conveniently disabled. When a vessel of this magnitude carrying a precious cargo goes 4 miles off course in a show of “honoring crew relatives” who lived on a nearby island, then thoughtless bravado, also known as criminal negligence, is at play. Captain Francesco Schettino by custom, common sense and admiralty law was required to be on the bridge when steaming so close to land (at night). But according to all reports, he was entertaining himself down below, enjoying the attention of passengers in the dining areas. So up on the rocks she went, a poorly designed ship (shallow draft and top heavy) probably just barely legal in her designed stability. The owners should take as great a part of the blame as Captain Schettino for having almost no trained seaman aboard, but rather waiters and other domestic types acting as seaman when required. And from all accounts they were generally inept at lifeboat operations and assisting evacuation—no
doubt more skilled at getting waiter tips. Anyone who has sailed with professional seamen and a professional captain can’t help be disgusted by this travesty. I’ve sailed on almost every type of vessel as Navigation Officer and Chief Mate, most notably as Nav Officer on the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Ocean Wizard—1,200 feet long and 268,000 tons, with a draft (depth below the waterline) of 65 feet when fully loaded. We carried 2.5 million barrels of crude from Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia or Mina Al Ahmadi, Kuwait. Generally, our destination was Korea (22 days at 13.5 knots) and our route required transit of the Singapore Straits, which is a tight, 50km channel with 17 waypoints, and trust me: the master was on the bridge during these heavily trafficked and often harrowing transits. We never had a grounding, but we were boarded by pirates twice, causing some harm to crew. I made many long voyages on this ship, and the atmosphere was always strictly business. Thus, safe transits and no careless accidents. Now, off the island of Giglio, Italy, a huge, unstable ship, 4 miles off course in poorly charted coastwise waters, alarms disabled, with a preposterous but no doubt glamorously appointed Captain (hubris, anyone?) has come to tragedy, an ugly sideways hulk on the rocks. Once the dead have been taken away and the fuel removed, maybe she can be towed to deep sea and allowed to go to Davy Jones’ locker or run up on the shipwrecking beaches in Bangladesh and turned into scrap.
REZONING SETS A TERRIBLE PRECEDENT: This fence was thrown up around the former Seventh Avenue entrance to St. Vincent's immediately after the NYC Department of Buildings issued a permit for Rudin Management to begin demolition on January 8, 2012. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
If you want to make your feelings known about the proposal, you have just a short period of time to contact City Council
Speaker Quinn. Go to www.gvshp.org/ stvincltr for contact information and sample letters you can send.
Want to comment on an issue you’ve read about in this month’s WestView? Go to www.westviewnews.org and give us your feedback.
10 WestView News February 2012
Why Quinn Must Go By Donny Moss
Activist and documentary filmmaker Donny Moss recently sent WestView a copy of a newsletter he wrote and disseminated documenting the reasons he’s campaigning to “Vote Christine Quinn Out of Public Office.” As Moss explained in a follow-up email, “I am not involved with any campaign [and am not] working for another candidate. I live in Quinn’s district and feel an obligation to speak out about her record.” This article is adapted from his newsletter, “Christine Quinn: Learn the Facts 2012.” In 2011, New Yorkers working on the campaign to educate the public about Christine Quinn’s record had a busy year, with more than 20 protests at her public appearances and 2013 campaign fundraisers. Before the 2009 City Council election, many people in her district told us they were planning to vote for Quinn. Once they looked at her record, however, many were just as dismayed as we were. These voters who paid closer attention are part of the reason Quinn struggled to win re-election in her own district. We believe that our campaign made a difference, and we intend to have a more profound impact in the 2013 election for Mayor. In the meantime, Quinn continues to give people new reasons to join the movement against her: Human Rights
On December 2, the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center released its 2011 NYC Council report card, which grades Council members on their “record in promoting the human rights of New Yorkers” during the previous 12 months. Christine Quinn received a D+, the second to lowest score. To quote the report: “[B]oth the political power of the Speaker and the reticence of the Council Members to challenge it are inhibiting the advancement of human rights in New York City. The power of the Speaker has delayed hearings, stalled votes and restricted the passage of legislation.” Example: As Michael Powell wrote in the October 10, 2011 New York Times, “A year ago [City Council] members tried to push through a living wage in the Bronx and to mandate a few sick days for workers. [Christine Quinn] ensured each effort ended up baled, tied and set by the BQE for early sanitation pickup.”
“tHis pLaCe is epiC!” — Ashley S.
Abuse of City Funds
The Speaker position concentrates an extraordinary amount of power in the hands on one person. As Speaker for the past five years, Quinn has abused that power to advance her political career at the expense of the democratic process and the public she alleges to serve. Among the most powerful weapons in Quinn’s arsenal are the discretion-
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ary funds—tens of millions of dollars that Quinn doles out to reward campaign donors and loyal Council members and withholds from Council members who challenge her agenda. As Jason Farago wrote in a December 15 editorial in The Guardian, “Quinn is not only the most powerful legislator in the city; she’s pretty much the only legislator in the city, and from her perch she has nearly unilateral control over lawmaking. She decides what comes to the floor... and her caucus votes for it, or she makes them pay.” Example: In March, Quinn strong-armed Council members to vote to rename the Queensboro Bridge in honor of former Mayor Ed Koch. Months later, in December, Koch endorsed Quinn for Mayor—two years before the election. A poll found that a majority of voters (64 percent) opposed renaming the bridge after Koch, and Council member Peter Vallone Jr., of Astoria, spoke out against it. Quinn responded by cutting Vallone’s discretionary funds by $600,000. To put this political stunt in historical context, the Triboro Bridge wasn’t renamed after Robert F. Kennedy until 40 years after his assassination. Term Limits
On October 4, Clyde Haberman of The New York Times observed in a piece entitled “Like Putin, Like Bloomberg” that Russia’s Prime Minister “was more scrupulous about observing the niceties of term limits than were New York’s political leaders: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his Medvedev equivalent, Christine C. Quinn....” With the help of “complaisant council members,” Haberman wrote, Bloomberg and Quinn “simply changed the law to reward themselves with third terms.” After the 2008 slush fund fiasco destroyed her chances of becoming Mayor in 2009, Quinn needed four more years to improve her image. But her role in overturning term limits has only further damaged her reputation. Real Estate Ties
As Kate Taylor reported in the January 5 New York Times, Quinn has already raised more than $4.9 million in campaign contributions. The vast majority of donors who have made the maximum legal contribution of $4,950 to Quinn’s campaign are real estate executives, as are many of the campaign bundlers who have raised more than $20,000. In return, Quinn advocates tirelessly for real estate developers at the expense of her constituents. As WestView readers know, Bill Rudin is planning to build 450 luxury condos on the site of St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Quinn’s district. True to form, Quinn has publicly stated on several occasions that the Lower West Side needs a full service hospital while helping pave the way for Rudin to erect his condos. As of July 2011, seven members of
February 2012 WestView News 11
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PAVING THE WAY FOR RUDIN: Demonstrator with succinct message at October 2011 protest outside St. Vincent's Hospital. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
the Rudin family had contributed a total of more than $30,000 to Quinn’s campaign, which may help explain why Quinn not only refused to advocate for tapping into millions of dollars in available reserve funds that might have helped save St. Vincent’s, but also refused to support a community effort to keep the St. Vincent’s site zoned for community use. Animal Welfare
In its 2009 City Council scorecard, the NY League of Humane Voters concluded that the “biggest obstacle to more humane laws in NYC is the inexplicable opposition to animal welfare legislation by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn,” who has “attacked virtually every effort in the Council to make life better for animals, despite claiming in letters to concerned citizens that she cares about animal welfare and even ‘supports animal rights.’” Not only has Quinn killed every substantive animal protection bill introduced into the Council, but she has also fast-tracked several meaningless bills that make her look like she’s helping animals when, in reality, she’s only helping herself politically. Example: A majority of New Yorkers support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. Quinn does not, and she has killed legislative efforts to take the carriage horses off the streets. But in an effort to make herself look as though she cares about the welfare of the horses, Quinn fasttracked a bill in 2010 that was filled with fake reforms such as banning carriages operators from working below 34th Street, where they don’t work anyway, or between the hours of 3:00 and 7:00 a.m., when no customers are out. The purpose of the bill was to grant carriage operators a rate hike, but Quinn only touted the fake reforms in the press, giving the impression that she’s an advocate for animals when she has been just the opposite. In 2011, at least seven carriage horses collapsed, tripped, spooked and died in midtown. In January 2011, Quinn fast-tracked another bill that makes it illegal for New Yorkers to chain their dogs outside for more than three hours. Quinn admitted that the bill is unenforceable, but she held a press conference promoting this meaningless bill, again giving New Yorkers the impression that she cares about animal welfare. In September 2011, Quinn fast-tracked another bill that erased a law requiring a city-funded animal shelter in every borough. She did this as a favor to Bloomberg
so the City could dodge a lawsuit demanding that it fulfill this obligation. (Shelters are desperately needed in The Bronx and Queens.) Rather than being honest about the purpose of the bill, Quinn added language to it mandating increased resources for existing shelters, thereby making a step backward for animals look like a step forward. Quinn’s Campaign
How much of Quinn’s campaign is being funded by NYC taxpayers? In the last election, it was a fair amount. In an article in the August 20, 2009 Village Voice, Elizabeth Dwoskin reported that 31 of Quinn’s “more than 90 volunteers” were in fact paid staffers, though Quinn’s spokesperson claimed they were doing the work on their own time. Quinn has a vast amount of taxpayer-funded city resources at her disposal for her campaign, including a chauffeured SUV. She has the support of Mayor Bloomberg, his paid consultant Ed Koch, the Democratic Establishment and the LGBT community. She has a bully pulpit as Speaker and has the Mayor inviting her to speak at high profile events. But perhaps that’s not a bad thing, because the more potential supporters are exposed to her, the more chances they have to see how much there is about her candidacy not to like. On our side, we have the truth about Quinn’s record; a public that is becoming more informed about her; several other viable candidates for Mayor; and the will to fight to restore ethics, fairness, democracy and humanity to NYC government. See you in the streets.
For more information, see Donny Moss’ documentary “Christine Quinn: Behind the Smile” on YouTube.
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12 WestView News February 2012
Misadventures in Poetry
I Heart Hip-Hop By Art Gatti
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Return to the Lord, your God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. So often the question is: What are you giving up for Lent? Perhaps this year the question is: What are you taking up for Lent? In the name of self-care and inner growth, What are you adding to your daily life?
Wednesday, February 22—Ash Wednesday 8 AM, 12 noon, and 6 PM—Solemn Mass w/ Imposition of Ashes Sundays: 11 AM—Traditional Mass 12:30 PM—Bible Study 6PM—Jazz Mass
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I’d guess that many readers have declared at one time or another a dislike for Rap music. Introduced to us decades ago as “gangsta” music—grungy, angry and full of obscenities—it was music that espoused the shooting of cops, the use of hard drugs and the disrespect of women. The new subgenre, Hip-Hop, is an offspring of Rap, using R&B and “beatboxing,” or vocal percussion. But pure Rap—that staccato poetry—is at the heart of Hip-Hop. Surely, the initial shock of Rap caused multitudes to reject it outright when its vitriol first appeared on the scene. But over the years Rap has evolved, and what’s most important to fans and detractors alike is that its content has evolved and “grown up.” The references to cop-killing and demeaning women that we righteously protested in Rap songs of the past are on the decline in Rap lyrics, and the heart of true poetry—love—is emerging. In my deepest heart, I believe that poetry can’t succeed without love. The poet must see something in the subject matter worth loving. Call it redeeming social value, if you will. Poetry without that essence? Dry. Grim. Non-elevating. Polemical. (Even angry poetry can be good when it decries something in the name of what might be, showing love for what might be.) What has been emerging in Rap music more recently is a street humanism that swells its raw poetry with true insight and important meaning. Many lyrics these days show love for the people toward whom the music is directed, a true sense of caring—they can even be preachy. (See the first example, below.) No longer just the angry, “Screw ’em all” ramblings we cringed at in the earlier days. A form evolving into its fullest potential. But the great thing about Rap is how it has rejuvenated the love of language that’s the basis of all good poetry. Rap has become poetry’s lifeline, reflecting and choreographing our world of sensory bombardment. For some, there still exist all those cultural barriers—we just can’t condone a form that seems so low-class. But consider this: If there’s an historical parallel to the emergence of Rap in our time, it’s probably the emergence of the Elizabethan poets—especially Shakespeare—in the 16th century. English was considered a second-class language at that time. The educated classes read, wrote and often conversed in Latin or Greek. The Elizabethans tried to establish an English poetry that would replace these dead languages and their complex poetic forms. Thus was developed the iambic pentameter that was key to Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. The courtly poets of Queen Elizabeth’s
day were concerned about the patronage of the royal house of England, and their work showed it. Mythical, courtly, elegiac. Nothing common about it. However, the Bard of Avon—while also hoping to impress the nobility—found his best audience among the common man. The “groundlings— poor folk without the funds to sit in the galleries—stood loyally, performance after performance, as the famous plays evolved before them. They were also represented in Shakespeare’s plays. They were workers—gravediggers and the like—and their take on the follies of their “betters” formed the great comedic heart of Shakespeare’s work. The groundlings “got” the simple meter in which Shakespeare wrote, and they laughed raucously at the foibles of the rich as Shakespeare depicted them—those same frowning audience members upstairs in the good seats. The Bard was not loved by the upper classes for being in touch with the raw lives of the commoners. Today, Rap songwriters are getting the same bad…rap. If there is a single good example of how exquisite the form can be, it’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” written by Coolio, Doug Rasheed, Larry Sanders and Stevie Wonder and performed by Coolio and L.V. The song decries the Gangsta lifestyle while at the same time fatalistically accepting it—an existential cry. A taste of the lyrics: I’m the kinda G the little homies wanna be like On my knees in the night, sayin’ prayers in the street light You can watch a fine performance of this song on YouTube by searching for: “Coolio Featuring L.V. – Gangsta’s Paradise.” The video includes clips from Michelle Pfeiffer’s 1995 film “Dangerous Minds” and weaves heavenly choral music into the rhythms. I promise you’ll be moved, if not love it. Another rapper named Young MC performs a song called “Bust a Move” that he wrote with Matt Dike and Mike Ross, which is also worth watching on YouTube. The term means dance, man, dance—and if the song doesn’t get you up and dancing, well, there’s not much hope for you. The message is pedestrian—just a guy trying to find a girl. Lots of Rap and Hip-Hop is like that. But what stands out is how the writers use language as meter and how that language itself glows with life. Here’s a taste: You’re on a mission and you’re wishin’ Someone could cure your lonely condition Some while ago, I edited a novel set in the turn of the last century that contained an anonymous poem that begins:
February 2012 WestView News 13
www.westviewnews.org Once a company of beavers, in their engineering fury, took a notion that their mission was to dam the big Missouri. Under consecrated leaders they assembled in convention for the instant prosecution of their notable intention. They were able hardwood biters, they were noble timber topplers. They beavered down the willows and felled the heavy poplars. They laid them on the riffle. They were very, very clever.
They were brilliant—but the river paid them no regard whatever. The poem is a fable, a story with animals in it—as distant from Rap as an art form can be. But it has a rhythm that is entirely adaptable to a Rap song. So, with the help of UrbanDictionary.com, I changed a few words, did a few other minor tweaks and came up with this: (Rhythmic scratching record sound…) Once a posse of ol’ beavers in, like, engineerin’ fury
“We Need a Hospital!” Secret Poety Contest Winners Last month, we invited readers to express themselves and support the fight for a new Village hospital by writing a Secret Message Poem using the 15 letters in this sentence: “We Need a Hospital!” Here are our four favorite entries:
Let us live healthy, secure in knowing a hospital is there. —Shazo Bakt, West Village
Where have they gone? Elsewhere.
Whatever next? I ask Emergency room gone No logic or reason Even now it makes me cross. Everyone: stay healthy! Deflect disease! And broken bones! Have no accidents Or only if you’re on the east Side of town Perhaps I’m daft but I want St. V’s To have my back. Am I asking too much? LOL to keep from screaming ... —Ruby Baresh Where?
Where do we go for: Electrocardiograms on the spot? Needles full of life-giving fluids in an instant? Emergency care? EMTs that give a damn? Doctors who know us and care for us? Or even Ambulances that can carry us to the care we need in five minutes? Help of every sort. Operating rooms for critical cases. Stitches for the minor bumps. Prescriptions to be filled down the block to Interrupt our imminent demise, to Tear us from death’s jaws, Aid us in our times of most need, and to basically
You Had to Ask?
Nobody stopped them? Everybody tried Except the ones who should have, Delinquent in their duties— And paid to look away. How could this happen? Oh, Don’t be So naïve Please! It’s the real estate, Stupid! There are words of wisdom that we All should Learn—Follow the money, and see where it leads. —Maggie B. For an Unknown Casualty
Who was he? End of the day Nobody knows— Even those who were there. The Emergency Room at Beth Israel maybe? Do they answer such enquiries? Anyone follow up on his fate? How many people, One by one, are Simply Perishing In The Absence of St. Vincent’s? Louder, everybody—We need a hospital! —Robin Macbean
got to trippin’ that their mission was to dam the wide Missouri. Under very righteous leaders they all chilled out in convention, they were sprung up on the big plan that the other brothers mentioned. They were skeezer hardwood biters, they were slammin’ timber topplers ’cause they beavered down the willow trees and laid out all the poplars They laid down the riff—like a pattern,
like a plan, like a man with a plan—but the river it just ran. Think about it. A few words changed here, a few words changed there. Same message, same energy, different song for a different time. The point is, poetry has been waiting for Hip-Hop to revive it. (Word.)
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14 WestView News February 2012
By James Lincoln Collier The Obamas were having dinner in the White House: sparkling silver, gleaming napery, the pleasant clink of glassware and forks on plates. It was, for once, a family dinner, with no senators from Georgia or Mississippi telling Sambo jokes, no French diplomats sneering at the tuna-noodle casserole and canned peas. Present were the President’s wife, Michelle, his two daughters and his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson. The President spoke. “Listen, Michelle, this is the second time this week we’ve had pork chops. I never liked pork chops back to when I was a kid in Hawaii. Out there pork chops were considered poor folks food.” “The chef figures we’re black, we must like pork chops,” Michelle said. “Well, tell him no matter what color I am, I don’t like pork chops. The next thing you know he’ll be serving us barbecued ribs and collard greens.” “Collard greens are good for you,” Michelle said. “They’re full of minerals.” “I don’t care what they’re full of. If I need more minerals I can eat some Congressperson’s heart. They’re mostly made of stone.” “Barack,” Mrs. Robinson said. “The children.” The President gave his mother-in-law a look. “It’s about time they learned some of these things. I spend all day trying to persuade some bomb-thrower from Afghanistan who’s still sore about the Suez Canal not to bomb London, and then I come home to some honky chef deciding I ought to eat soul food. I’m President of the United States, for Chrissake. How about a little Boeuf en Daube or Supreme de Volaille? His mother-in-law raised her eyes from the casserole to look at the President. “If any of your old pals back in Chicago discovered you were eating stuff like Boeuf en
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Daube instead of steak and hash browns they’d run you out of town. You’d better stick to pork chops. It makes the honkies think you know your place.” “I do know my place. It’s in the Oval Office, which half of those honkies have never heard of because they can’t read well enough to get through the New York Post, a not insurmountable task.” “Barack,” Michelle said, “if you want to be re-elected you’d better lay off the press.” “The New York Post wouldn’t support me if I were Jesus Christ incarnate. The only blacks they like are seven feet tall and can sink a jumper from center court.” “Barack,” Mrs. Robinson said, “you’ve got to learn to be more patient with the reporters. They can’t help being who they are.” “Mom,” said Michelle, “let Barack handle it. He’s been dealing with newspaper people for forty years.” The President’s mother-in-law sniffed. “I don’t see any reporters falling all over themselves to get exclusive interviews. I should think he’d want some advice.” “If Barack needs advice, I’ll give it to him,” Michelle Obama said. “Mom,” the President said, “you have to ignore some of these things. It’s like what Bush said when he was caught lying about Iraq—it’s just politics. You’re right, though—I have to learn to be more patient. Half of those reporters are sore because they aren’t Philip Roth, and the other half are sore because they still have to write the wedding notes instead of a weekly column for The New York Times.” He looked around the table. “I don’t want to talk about the press. We’re having a nice dinner. Let’s try to have a civilized conversation. What did you kids do in school today?” “We’re reading ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ It’s about—” “I know what it’s about. The honkies win again. What else have you been reading?” “‘Huckleberry Finn.’ Our teacher says it’s a very famous book.” President Obama scowled. “Where the hell did they get this teacher from? The Ku Klux Klan? Next it’ll be ‘Uncle Remus.’” “Don’t be unfair, Barack. She’s only doing her job. I’ve met her. She’s very nice. She’s from Mississippi.” “I might have known. A cracker.” “Actually, Barack,” Michelle said, “she’s black.” “She’s black and she’s making the kids read ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’? You must be kidding.” “Barack, I thought we were going to be race neutral.” “I’m trying to be race neutral, but every time I try to stay away from racial politics some honky like Newt Gingrich says I’m a Socialist.” “He isn’t being racist, Barack. That’s just his way.” “Some way,” the President said, pushing aside the asparagus with his fork. “Even
Romney said he was zany.” “He wouldn’t be the first zany president we’ve had. What about Bush the Second? He won two terms. Americans like zany presidents. Clinton was pretty zany, if you ask me.” The President’s mother-in-law tapped her fork on her plate. “Barack, don’t you think you’re getting a littler paranoid about this? Everybody isn’t out to get you.” “Name one.” the President said. There was a brief silence. Michelle Obama looked at her daughters. “Girls, you haven’t eaten your asparagus. You can’t just eat the pork chops. You need some vegetables.” “Daddy isn’t eating his asparagus.” The President’s mouth formed a grim line. “Girls, do what your mother says.” “How come you don’t have to do what she says?” “I’m President of the United States. I don’t have to do what anyone says.” “What about Senator Gingrich?” “Him least of all,” the President said. “Our teacher said he made you cut taxes for the rich. She said it served you right, what business is it of yours how much money anyone makes? She says it’s a free country, why should millionaires pay more taxes than anyone else? What did they do wrong?” “They should pay more taxes because they have more money, most of which is of questionable provenance, to put it politely.” “Our teacher says anyone has a right to make as much money as they want. That’s the American way.” The President turned to his wife. “Get these kids another teacher. See if you can find a Communist. That shouldn’t be hard. According to the Tea Party half the teachers in America are Communists.” He
looked around. “Let’s get off this. What’s for dessert?” Mrs. Robinson once again rapped on her plate with her fork. “Barack, you haven’t finished your asparagus.” “Jesus,” the President said. “I have to make some phone calls. Hu Jintao wants to jack up taxes on imports from America again. I’d like to tell him that if they can’t make a car where the wheels don’t fall off after six thousand miles, that isn’t General Motors’ fault, but the State Department would raise hell with me. Where’s the butler?” The butler came out of the kitchen. “Yes, sir?” “What’s for dessert?” “Rice pudding, sir.” “Rice pudding?” the President said, his voice rising. “I’m President of the United States and I have to eat rice pudding for dessert?” The butler looked at Michelle Obama. She said, “You’ve been putting on weight, Barack. I told the chef to cut back on the sweet desserts.” “Jesus,” the President said again. He looked at the butler. “Send a nice piece of apple pie to the Oval Office.” He gestured at the asparagus. “You can take my plate.” The butler didn’t move. “You haven’t finished your asparagus, sir.” The President rose from his chair. “My God,” he said. “What do you think would happen to somebody who told Hu Jintao he had to finish his asparagus? Five minutes later he’d be on his way to a coal mine in Tibet.” The President flung his napkin onto the table. “When I get him on the phone I’m going to ask him what his secret is.” He looked at the butler. “I want a piece of apple pie in my office in two minutes.” He paused. “With ice cream.” He paused again. “Two scoops.” Then he stalked away.
Illustration by Robert Lascaro.
Dinner with the Obamas
February 2012 WestView News 15
Then & Now
The City’s Narrowest House By Dana Schulz, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation A popular attraction in the West Village has long been the building unofficially dubbed “Narrowest House In New York City” at 75½ Bedford Street. This slender edifice stands on what was once the court and carriage-way between numbers 77 and 75 Bedford Street. Coincidentally, number 77 is the equally popular Isaacs-Hendricks House. Built in 1799, this is the oldest house in Greenwich Village. Number 75 was built in 1836. Number 75 ½ Bedford Street was built in 1873 for Horatio Gomez on the 9½-footwide court. On the interior it shrinks to 8 feet wide (and at its narrowest is 2 feet wide) and encompasses 990 square feet. The stepped Dutch gable roof and industrial casement windows date from a renovation that took place in the 1920s. Around
this time, in 1923-24, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived in the house, along with her husband Eugen Jan Boissevain. Millay is often said to have written “A Few Figs from Thistles”—the poem containing the oft-quoted line, “My candle burns at both ends”—while living at 75½ Bedford. She didn’t, actually. She wrote it later, but the poem has long been associated with, and some speculate was inspired by, living in this house. Margaret Mead, Cary Grant and John Barrymore are all said to have lived here during the early 20th century as well. The house is also reported to have served as a cobbler’s shop early in its life and then as a candle factory in 1880. The house has no side walls of its own and is 33 feet long, according to a 1964 New York Times article, which noted that the interior had 3 bedrooms and 5 gas-burning fireplaces at that time. A 1993 Times article chronicled an architect’s efforts to purchase the home and noted that by then the inte-
THE SLENDER EDIFICE: A photo of 75½ Bedford Street in 1948, left, and as it looks today. Courtesy the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Nat Kaufman Collection, left.
rior of the house, which had been on the market since 1983, was a mess and covered in graffiti. Number 75½ Bedford Street made headlines again in May 2011, when it went on the market for $4.3 million (after selling for $2.175 million in 2010, before it was renovated). Also of interest is its sur-
prisingly spacious backyard, which it shares with its neighbors at 75 and 77 Bedford. Curbed.com notes that 75½ Bedford has a side entrance to the garden, which allows residents to enter their home while avoiding the tourists in front of it, and that each floor has its own balcony, which doubles as a fire escape.
He will be shackled to an economy seat on Air Force One with one carry-on item only and jettisoned over a remote atoll in the Solomon Islands to become a footnote in history. Somewhere between Millard Fillmore and Gerald Ford. “If we all turn out with a rebel shout the South shall rise again.” And why not? Jesus did. For many in the South, it looks like a Marines invasion could seem heaven sent. It’s not so far-fetched. According to Republican Arkansas Congressman Loy Mauch, the Confederate flag is “a symbol of Jesus Christ.” Mauch is also a member of The League of the South, a group that is endeavoring to form an independent Southern nation. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled it a neo-Confederate hate group “that advocates for a second Southern secession and a society dominated by ‘European Americans.’” It is just the tip of the iceberg of Southern, redneck, pathological hatred that has stained this continent for almost 400 years. Elsewhere, Michelle Bachman signed a Christian conservative pledge to uphold marriage and family that claimed AfricanAmerican children were more likely to grow up in two-parent families during the era of slavery than under Barack Obama. In Arkansas, the legislature, in a 71-16 vote, passed a bill in 2011 that allows pub-
lic schools to teach the Bible as history. In Georgia, the governor has suggested that prisoners on probation be sent to work as low-wage farm laborers, essentially a return to indentured servitude. The rebel flag still flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State House. Brain-locked Rick Perry believes that Texas is the “Prophet State” and has threatened secession. Enough already. I say let the South secede. Good riddance. Kiss off. Hasta nunca, baby. It’s our only chance to restore the Republic to a new age of reason. Rewriting history, the world would be a better place today if the Union had had the sense in 1865 to grant secession conditionally to the South. First, the freed slaves would have been granted generous financial compensation for all of the suffering inflicted upon them and their ancestors. Then they could have freely migrated north or west. Without their cheap labor and our Yankee tax dollars since then, today’s heirs to the Confederacy would be lording over their own third-world dystopia, one big FEMA trailer camp, something like Mexico but with much worse food. Mexico would be building the fence. Desperate white-trash migrants looking for field work, crossing the border into Chihuahua continued on page 16
The Angry Buddhist
Let the South Secede
By Carl Rosenstein A division of Marines will invade North Carolina on February 7 during the thick of the presidential primary season. I kid you not. As on D-Day, the invasion will fall during the full moon when tides are favorable. This has nothing to do with the Mayan calendar. Semper Fi. Apparently, having run out of oil-producing third-world countries to overrun, the Pentagon has targeted the Tar Heel State. Depending on one’s latitude, North Carolina will either be occupied or liberated. The invasion is part of a massive, two-week, Marine-Navy-Coalition Forces amphibious exercise called Bold Alligator 2012, intended to “revitalize” and “update” the Marine Corps’ “core competency” in amphibious warfare and start “the process of shaping the post-Afghan US military.” This is an ominous and unprecedented event. It has the flavor of a Burt Lancaster-Robert Ryan conspiracy thriller. Ostensibly, the Marine Corps is worried about budget cuts. In an age of drone warfare, storming the beach in amphibious landing craft as on Iwo Jima or Grenada has become strategically obsolete. I wonder, though: is this more than just made-forTV propaganda? The post Reconstruction Posse Comi-
tatus Act of 1878 prohibits the military from acting in a law-enforcement capacity. A specific directive from Congress is required. In these treacherous times, it is not completely conspiracy-theory paranoia to imagine a military coup d’etat in this country. The American Century is past. We live in a security state. The Republic is far-gone, atrophied, with democracy now little more than a tribal myth. Watching the Republican “debates” is astonishing. You have to study and rehearse to be that stupid, and I’m talking about the media moderators. Military takeovers are not uncommon in dysfunctional societies. See Paraguay, North Korea or Egypt. We already experienced a political coup d’etat in 2000 when Gore won the election with a popular vote majority of 540,000 and the Republicandominated Supreme Court halted a recount in totally corrupt Florida, awarding the presidency and electoral vote to Boy George. This mock invasion scenario deserves a Hollywood treatment. After Cape Hatteras is taken, could the 2nd Marine Division veer north, burn D.C., retrace Lee’s march to Gettysburg and declare the South an independent nation once again? Who would stop them? Who could? If so, President Obama will go as he served, meekly.
16 WestView News February 2012
Science from Away: Black Holes By Mark M. Green (sciencefromaway.com) The idea that objects exist in the universe which cannot be seen but which greatly influence objects around them was proposed long before the 20th century. But this idea had to wait for credibility until after 1915, when Einstein completed his theory of general relativity, which connected gravity to a warp in spacetime, a concept difficult for many to understand including myself. But numerous experiments have demonstrated that it is correct—most notably, the first demonstration in 1919 that light from a star does not reach the earth in a straight line if it has to pass by the sun’s gravitational force. The path of the light is distorted, or warped, by the sun’s gravity just as a ball rolling downhill follows the contours in the earth it is rolling over. Now let’s turn to something called escape velocity. To get away from the earth’s gravitational field, objects have to accelerate to a speed of about 25,000 miles per hour. The escape velocity needed to overcome the gravitational field of any body depends on that body’s mass (how much matter it contains) and density (how much space that mass occupies). For example, escaping from the moon’s gravity requires reaching only about one-fifth of the speed necessary to escape from the earth’s gravity, a fact that had to be well understood by rocket scientists if the astronauts who landed on the moon were to lift off and come back. Might there be an object in space whose mass is contained in a sufficiently small space that the escape velocity needed to leave its gravitational field would exceed 186,000 miles per second, the approximate speed of light in a vacuum? Such an object would not release any light, regardless of whether the light came from it, as with a light bulb, or came to it, like the light reflected from a mirror or the moon. We think of light as that which we see. But “light” is part of something much larger. In scientific terms, light is electromagnetic radiation, and there is a spectrum of this radiation. We see only a very tiny part of that spectrum in the colors we perceive— the visible region of the spectrum. We feel other parts of the spectrum as heat—the infrared region. Some of us tan our skin or synthesize vitamin D through exposure to
continued from page 15 by night, would be hunted for nickels and shot down like pariah dogs, their carcasses left to the buzzards and the bleached bones strung as necklaces and sold to tourists in the Mayan Yucatan. Illegal rebs would sneak across the heavily fortified Mason-Dixon Line to be hired at subhu-
the ultra-violet part of the spectrum. Dentists use X-rays, another part of the spectrum, to detect cavities, while we receive radio and television signals and talk on our cell phones using still other parts of the spectrum. The fixed speed of light applies to the whole spectrum. An object with such a strong gravitational force that no part of the electromagnetic spectrum can escape it is called a black hole. Now that we’ve connected gravity with light, let’s turn to the life span of stars, including our star, the sun, which gives off light across much of the spectrum. Stars are formed from the “dust” of the universe, which tends to gather in “clouds” containing hydrogen. These clouds can become increasingly dense because the mass of the cloud creates a gravitational force, causing it to pull in more stellar dust, which increases the density further, which then pulls in more dust, and so on. This increasing density is the origin of a star. Energetic processes among these atoms become hotter and hotter as they come closer until nuclear fusion occurs—the source of the explosive power of the hydrogen bomb. During this fusion, which turns hydrogen into helium, some of the mass is converted to energy in accordance with another of Einstein’s
insights: E=mc2, where c is the speed of light. This means that a very small change in mass leads to a very large production of energy, the very energy which is emitted from the sun as the electromagnetic radiation the earth receives. This nuclear process goes on and on as long as there are nuclei of hydrogen atoms to feed it. Eventually, the sun will consume all the nuclei available for this fusion, and the process will first slow and then stop. The sun will die. We are about half way there now, but don’t be concerned. We, on earth, have many billions of years to go. Stars are massive, with enormous gravitational fields—large enough for our sun to keep the earth and all the other planets in our solar system in their orbits. The gravitational force is also acting to decrease the volume of the sun—to increase its density by making it take up less space. But this force is counteracted by the force of the energy produced from the nuclear fusion taking place—sort of like heating the air in a balloon. But cool that air enough and the balloon will grow smaller and eventually collapse. That’s the fate of a burned-out star. What form the collapsed star takes depends on its mass. Our star, the sun, is a bit too small to form a black hole. Its eventual
collapsed state probably will be something else—what astronomers call a black dwarf. But other stars, especially those formed near the origin of the universe, the time of the Big Bang, are more than large enough to collapse into black holes, which, with their enormous gravity, will increase in their power to consume whatever is around until they run out of mass that is near enough. Anything that comes within a certain distance (called the event horizon) from the center of the black hole will be swallowed up. There are huge numbers of black holes in the universe, ranging in size from ten times to one million times the mass of our sun, with a large proportion of the galaxies in the universe each containing many black holes. There are estimated to be more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe, each with as many as 100 billion stars or more, many with the potential to become black holes! We discover black holes by their effect on their surroundings. The concentrated mass of a black hole, with its huge gravitational force, affects the motions of large parts of whole galaxies, motion that would not be possible to understand if this invisible force were not present. (Think of the footprints appearing in the snow toward the end of the 1933 film “The Invisible Man,” adapted from H.G. Wells’s 1897 science-fiction novel.) This attractive gravitational force also pulls toward the black hole the same kind of stellar dust that stars are made of. This material swirls about the black hole, moving more and more quickly as it approaches the point of no return, like water going down a drain. This accelerating swirling process releases enormous amounts of energy in the form of quasars, sources of such powerful electromagnetic radiation that they give the impression of being “spotlights” in the universe, radiating with an intensity in the range of one trillion times—yes, one trillion—the luminosity of our sun. The light from some of the most distant quasars has taken almost 30 billion light years to reach us—30 billion years traveling at the speed of light. What we are seeing, in other words, occurred a very long time ago, near the origin of the universe, with the number of quasars now being detected giving scientists an idea of the dimensions of the universe we are part of and how ancient the black holes can be.
man wages to clean our houses and mow our lawns, and Jesus would provide them with health care. Without the South, JFK would not have been assassinated, Martin Luther King would have been his Secretary of State, Viet Nam a tourist destination and the North would resemble Canada with universal health care. But destiny has decided
otherwise. The South is an atavistic and savage clan, and we are fatefully bound to it like Siamese twins till death, a slow and painful murder-suicide it seems. To be honest, the demagogic ideology of the South has already prevailed. The class war has already been fought. The corporate plutocracy controls most of the wealth and all of the meaningful political deci-
sions. Occupy Wall Street encampments around the nation were the last paroxysm of dissent and were duly crushed by the State, ostensibly because of the stench of urine. The reek of hate, hypocrisy and corruption are far worse, and you can’t simply hose that down. OMMMMMMMM Angry Buddhist says, “If befriend donkey, expect to be kicked.”
A HUGE GRAVITATIONAL FORCE: Simulated view of a black hole in front of the Large Magellanic Cloud by Alain Riazuelo, from the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris.
February 2012 WestView News 17
The Bird that Wasn’t There By Keith Michael
Yesterday upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there He wasn’t there again today I wish, I wish he’d go away... —“Antigonish,” William Hughes Mearns I’m struggling into my sweater, half-hitching my scarf, heaving on my leather coat (its patina has evolved over two decades from stylish, to worn, to stylishly worn), plopping on a flappy-eared hat. My corgi, Millie, looks up. “Yes, Millie, of course you’re going out too, but you’re already dressed.” Clip. On goes her leash. And, for me, on, finally, go the gloves. Out. To the winter wonderland. Winter birding in the West Village, while cataloging the birds that are there, is frequently a connect-the-dots reverie on the birds that aren’t. Nearly every step, tree branch and cornice remind me of a bird that I saw there once but isn’t there now. And, of course, I’m always hoping for that new bird that might appear just around the next corner. All of those past and future birds fluttering through my head are worthy of Hitchcock—quite a conjuring trick. Crunching the snow on the cobblestones of Perry Street whisks me to another snowcovered morning, admiring Millie’s redbrick glow in the sunrise. Whoosh-wham. A mere leash-length in front of me, at the Greenwich Street corner, a hawk picked out a panicked Mourning Dove, then settled calmly to enjoy breakfast on a branch outside Braeburn (earlier Caribe, then Voyage and now Left Bank—more neighborhood pentimento). A Cooper’s Hawk. A first winter youngster. But already stunning. (I was stunned.) Just last month, in the midst of a morning nor’easter, another Cooper’s surveying Perry Street caught my peripatetic eye. Raptors, from the Latin “to seize and carry away,” seem an unlikely match for the gentle enclaves of the West Village, yet some make their homes here, and others are just winter transients. Something tasty, or smelly, beckons Millie to catty-corner back across Greenwich Street. This offers a good view of the backyard treetops behind Greenwich Village Auto and Body Repair, a frequent winter perch for a Redtailed Hawk. I’ve seen a robust auburntailed adult swaying on a branch up there as well as a browner-tailed white-rumped kid. Both looked equally impressive (I was impressed) silhouetted against the sky. And when one plummeted down into the atrium of my building pursuing a pigeon, a neighbor who came face to face with the literally hawk-eyed stranger on her windowsill told me that LARGE was an understatement. Millie freezes, looking up in her amusing (for a herding dog) bird-dog pointing pose. A resilient clutch of oak leaves chatter on a branch while, just above, a plastic bag caught in an updraft circles ominously. A
For the love of all things Apple EVERY STEP REMINDS ME: Winter regulars, the Brant Geese stop for a snack. Photo by Walter H. Laufer.
formation of pigeons loop-the-loop beyond that. My gaze stalls on the finial at the top of a water tower, tricking me once again with its hunkered-down-hawk-imitating outline. And further skyward are a handful of gulls scribbling against the clouds. Layers upon layers. My mind wanders to another winter’s Bleecker Street chase after the surprising kek-kek-kek of an alarmed Sharp-shinned Hawk. I remember dashing (thrilling Millie) after a glimpse on Charles, a zigzag at Perry, and then losing the square-tailed tourist as it veered east at 11th Street. That was the only time I’ve seen a Sharpy in the neighborhood. But seeing one once means that every time I’m out, there’s the possibility that I might see its flap-flap-flap-glide again. Heading west has me reanimating Kestrel sightings. Several pairs have nested in the West Village in the past several years, and though I’ve never seen one in winter, there could be one. On a sunny day, a male—with its gaudy orange and blue finery—perched on a balcony makes my day. I’ve tried to turn many a pigeon, with its sharply angled wings, into a Kestrel stooping for lunch. Occasionally the alchemy does work, though the exact recipe is elusive. Still, every roof line demands scrutiny. Hudson River Park beckons. We have the light. Millie loves this, and having a jogger and a bicycle to chase makes it even better. The usual scruffling White-throated Sparrows are tsk-ing around the bushes. A Cardinal plinks from a tree. Out over the River, a small flight of Brant Geese careens south, probably for a snack on the Pier 45 lawn. Winter regulars. A caterwauling gull. Oh. Up there. A Peregrine Falcon is in rollercoaster chase. A real raptor this time—not just one in my head. There’s a Peregrine pair that can often be found on the ledges of the yellowish building at West and 16th Streets, but they’re not strangers to hunting over these blocks. I’m hypnotized. Up. Up. Out of sight. Just a few seconds. But those seconds are now part of my Village birding lore. Scanning the Hudson, I say, “Millie, maybe there’s a Bald Eagle riding an ice floe?” Right now, it’s one more glamorous bird that’s not there.
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18 WestView News February 2012
PS 3 Hosts 33rd Annual Antiquarian Book Fair By Bob Klein with Alison Nelson I distinctly remember the smell, musty and vibrant, as I found myself escaping the brutal cold of a February Friday night 20 years ago by browsing tables and stacks of books lined up neatly throughout the auditorium of PS 3 on Hudson Street. I was a new arrival to the neighborhood, a single guy on my way to a friend’s house, when I got lucky and stumbled upon the annual Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair. I remember the people, a mash up of young and old, discussing books and authors and publishers, providing me with proof that the romantic literary image I had of the West Village was indeed true. I was hooked immediately and bought what became one of my prized possessions: a vintage poster advertising an anti-Vietnam War rally that took place in NYC in 1965, with Allen Ginsberg and the Fugs performing. I later gave it away as a wedding present to a good friend. Today I am a parent of two children who attend PS 3, and I still love the fair so much that I’ve now taken over running it. I can name every one-of-a-kind book or print I have found at the fair over the years. Among them: a first edition of Mark Twain’s “Saint Joan of Arc,” published in
1919 with illustrations by Howard Pyle, now displayed on my mantelpiece; a beautiful reproduction of a Rockwell Kent etching of Moby Dick, reprinted to celebrate the Folio Society’s 2011 commemorative edition of Melville’s masterpiece; and a gorgeous, vintage botanical print of the bulb and flower of “Corona Imperialis,” framed and hanging in my kitchen. I was sorely tempted by a signed photograph of Muhammad Ali last year, but I resisted and then regretted not buying it for weeks! For 33 years now, Villagers, bibliophiles, casual book collectors, very serious book collectors and lucky passersby like me have visited the annual GVABF. A three-day extravaganza featuring up to 60 of the East Coast’s best book dealers (and some from beyond), the Fair offers people the opportunity to peruse rare and vintage books spanning four centuries, including signed and rare first editions; children’s series and illustrated books; modern first editions; art, photography and design books; maps and prints; political flyers and other unusual paper ephemera; comics, autographs and more. The fair takes place in the school’s huge auditorium just past the recently refurbished foyer as you enter the school through three sets of bright blue double
33rd Annual Greenwich Village Antiquarian
r i a F ook
Feb. 24th 6-9 p.m. $12 Feb. 25th 12-6 p.m. $7 Feb. 26th 12-5 p.m. $5 (all tickets good for entire fair)
HISTORY YOU CAN TOUCH... INCREDIBLE BOOKS!
Vintage Prints, Posters and Ephemera. Rare maps. Rare photographs. Rare Vinyl. Celebrity Autographs and Signed Photos. Dozens of dealers! PS #3 490 Hudson St. bet. Christopher and Grove
IMMEDIATELY HOOKED: Howard Pyle's frontispiece from one of the author's treasures, a first edition of Mark Twain's "Saint Joan of Arc."
doors. Children’s murals adorn the walls, yet children are mostly absent from the crowd. This is stuff for grown-ups. The vendors’ booths blend together to make an enormous, eccentric, homemade library, where Mark Twain meets Denis Johnson for drinks to discuss what William Blake might have thought about Patti Smith. The fair’s beginnings are a mystery. No one knows who started it, but it has always been held in February, when the school is closed for winter break, and it has always served as a fundraiser for the school’s arts, music, gardening and science programs, which are not funded by the NYC Department of Education and which are an integral part of the school’s curriculum, helping students become engaged learners, independent thinkers and active citizens in their community, much like the West Village community itself. The vendors pay a flat fee for booth space and arrive carrying only their books. PS 3 provides tables, lighting, chairs and, hopefully, large crowds. Vendors keep all proceeds from their sales, and the school keeps the proceeds from booth fees and ticket sales. The exhibitors take a gamble each time they come: a $625 booth fee, plus the cost of hotel accommodations and other travel expenses can add up to an investment of more than $1,000 to attend the fair. But still they come—many, year after year. Vendors are peripatetic folks who travel the country, and many say GVABF is their favorite antiquarian book fair of the year. Perhaps it’s the complimentary welcome dinner and two breakfasts the school’s parents provide, but I think it also has to do with the stunning location—one of the most picturesque areas of the village, with its long history as a home for artists and writers. The fair is planned, sponsored and run completely by parent-volunteers. It’s a tough week to get volunteers in a school famous for parental involvement. Many families are away on vacation. So the fair often relies on the heroic efforts of a few stalwarts. Sanpanino cafe relocates each
year from right next door into the school’s cafeteria to sell food, and PS 3 now has its own booth at the fair, selling books donated by parents to people who attend from all over New York City, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. With all that has changed since my introduction to the fair, it is comforting to know that it is still cherished in an age where Kindles and iPads rule. Young, new vendors join the fair each year, and, like oil painting or crochet, it still holds appeal for members of the new generation. Perhaps that’s because, like Greenwich Village, this select group of exhibitors and their collections are composed of interesting, colorful characters and rare gems. The first time I volunteered to help run the fair in 2009, I was there on Friday evening when the doors opened. It wasn’t exactly like a Who concert, but there was definitely a crowd and some pushing and shoving for a better place in line. One thing I learned: don’t get between a book collector and a rare first edition, no matter how un-buff his or her appearance. The number of vendors exhibiting at the fair appears to be down slightly this year— from 59 to 40 at last count—perhaps due to the bad economy. It has also become easier to locate rare books on the Internet, of course. But nothing beats the live show. “It’s a spectacular event,” says PS 3 principal Lisa Siegman. “Our school is transformed into a book lover’s wonderland. The range of books, photos and prints on display is quite stunning. It is history you can touch.” Stop by Jeffrey Bergman’s booth ( Jeffrey Bergman Books) and learn why similar-looking first editions can have wildly different values. Maybe Rob Warren, of Rob Warren Books, will tell you about the time he sold a copy of “Naked Lunch” for $500,000. Ask Bruce Gventer, of B&S Gventer Books and Ephemera, exactly what “ephemera” means. Or ask David Johnson, of Pryor Johnson Booksellers, Inc., to tell you about his work on the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission. Do you own a rare book you’d like to have appraised? Bring it along. Just be sure to mention it to the staff at the door. Warning: coats and large bags must be checked before you enter the auditorium, at the request of vendors who are understandably concerned about theft. It’s a headache for everyone, requiring five volunteers to handle coat-checking during rush periods. But it’s for a good cause.
33rd Annual Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair PS 3, 490 Hudson Street (between Christopher and Grove) Friday through Sunday, February 24 -26 Fri: 6-9 p.m. Sat: 12-6 p.m. Sun: 12-5 p.m. $12 Fri or Fri-Sun; $7 Sat; $5 Sun gvabf.org/ 917-374-5244
February 2012 WestView News 19
Poignant Reflections from a Civil Rights Pioneer To The Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement By Charlayne Hunter-Gault New York Times /Flash Point, January 2012 Reading Level: Ages 12-18
By Barbara Riddle There was much to reflect on as I finished reading awardwinning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s “To the Mountaintop,” her account for a new generation of “postracial” young Americans of her role as a brave, 19-yearold young woman integrating the all-white University of Georgia on January 9, 1961. (I turned 17 on that very day, a nervous college freshman studying for a chemistry test. Only years later did I learn what was really going on in America then; but I did make it to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech at the unforgettable March on Washington in August 1963.)
BREAKING THE COLOR BARRIER: After finally managing to register at the University of Georgia in January 1961, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and her fellow student, Hampton Holmes, are driven through a sullen crowd of white students. AP Images, from "To The Mountaintop."
Hunter-Gault begins her book with a description of her delight in attending the 2009 inauguration of our first black president, Barack Obama, and gracefully segues back into the convoluted history of racism in America and her good fortune in having been a beautiful and gifted honor student from an educated “race-conscious” family. As the best of the best, she was chosen by civil rights leaders along with fellow student Hamilton Holmes to break the color barrier at U. Georgia, the oldest public university in America (founded in 1785). Without regard for her own safety, she unhesitatingly agreed to put herself on the front lines and braved mobs of brick-throwing white protestors. Highly condensed, this short volume is expressly tailored for readers aged 12 to 18 and details the success of her efforts and those of her many colleagues and mentors, such as the Rev. Dr. King, Vernon Jordan, James Farmer, John Lewis and Julian Bond. The bravery, discipline and determination of these iconic figures, along with untold others whose names and suffering will never be known, served to overcome segregation in education, housing and voting and paved the way for the historic presidency of Barack Obama, as he fully acknowledges. This brief account will surely send adults back to Hunter-Gault’s earlier book, “In My Place” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992)—a very wellreceived, more detailed memoir—while younger readers will find it exciting to go to the websites listed in the index of this shorter memoir to explore the many pieces of original source material on the Internet. As I sit here on January 15 (Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday), anticipating February 12 (Lincoln’s birthday) and the activities of Black History Month this February, I hope we will all reflect on the tough human qualities and decisions that have brought us this far in the fight for true equality in America. Will the protestors of Occupy Wall Street (whose general aims I support fully) have the discipline, organization and willpower to prevail in their struggle as well as Charlayne Hunter-Gault and her generation of black Americans succeeded in theirs? Can they muster continued on page 22
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How Do You Grade Inspiration? By Tom Allon Remember the third-grade teacher who sparked your interest in reading? Or the eighth-grade teacher who made American History come alive? If you’re my age (almost 50) or older, your teachers probably weren’t gearing their whole curriculum around making sure you scored well on some high-stakes exam. They were able to focus on trying to inspire you with a true love of learning rather than worry about “teaching to the test” to make themselves and their school look good. This is one of the fundamental problems with education reform today. So much energy is being wasted on debating the pros and cons of different metrics for evaluating “good” and “bad” teachers that we’re forgetting that the abilities to inspire students and instill an enduring love of learning are among the most valuable and difficult-to-measure traits teachers can possess. Don’t just take my word for it. Read education historian Diane Ravitch’s new book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice
are Undermining Education” (Basic Books, November 2011). Ravitch has a lot to say about what’s wrong with our current education system. One of the stories she tells that has most stayed with me is a poignant anecdote about an unconventional third-grade teacher who greatly inspired her but probably did not get a great evaluation from the school’s principal or greatly move the needle on student test scores. This teacher’s type of teaching was not easily quantifiable—and that is precisely the problem with the singleminded focus on finding some set of metrics with which to “grade” teachers. As many individuals and organizations concerned with the quality of public education in New York City, including the teachers union, have suggested, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on trying to attract and retain good teachers by doing more to support practitioners of this noble profession and paying great teachers more? We should be putting more energy and funding into developing programs for teacher-training and master-mentoring to try to staunch the flow of half of all new teachers in the city out continued on page 23
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20 WestView News February 2012
BoldFace Names©: Poisoned Choir Boys By Bobb Goldsteinn
Dear George, I don’t think I’m a good assignment editor when it comes to selecting topics for this column, and I’ll tell you why. Sometimes I’m O.K. when the stream is flowing and I can just step into it. But sometimes I can’t, like now. For February, I picked Andy Warhol when I suddenly realized that February marks the 25th anniversary of his death, and I have some personal observations from working with him that I thought you’d find of interest. Then that 20-foot-tall construction fence the color of male orderly blues went up around the Coleman Building at St. Vincent’s, and that pumped the air right out of my sails. (“Mame”!) Reality has finally hit me and I’m speechless: “Rudin’s going to start demolition!” Meanwhile, Giants hero Eli Manning heads to the Super Bowl more than half a million bucks richer in pocket because of a bizarre “spokesperson” agreement with St. Vincent’s that ended only at the doors to Bankruptcy Court. (Google “Eli Manning” and “St. Vincent’s Hospital.”) Why pick Manning as a spokesperson? Was he a patient? A relative of a patient? A neighbor? Marlo Thomas? Or just some big NY sports star that the hospital “heavyweights” wanted to pal around with? The clown parade of overpriced hospital “consultants” hired by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn—that’s right, the Village’s “own” St. Vincent’s had absentee management all this time—they must have loved Manning, considering that the gangly quarterback had few commitments to fulfill as “spokesperson” other than some photo ops, a couple benefit dinners and appearing at the opening of a new birthing center at St. Vincent’s in 2009 named after him and his wife, Abby. Now, help me out here, George. Usually, when an institution names a part of itself, like a chair, a wall or a wing after a human being—either living or dead— isn’t it usually in return for a considerable donation made by that person, or the executors of that person’s estate, to the institution in question? So how odd was it to name the birthing center for somebody who not only did not contribute money to the hospital, but, instead, took half a million dollars from it over a handful of years in return for what? That just shows how mismanaged this whole affair has been. But Eli’s deal was simply the tip of this deadly iceberg. The hospital first had to flush away its 200 million dollars in liquid assets before it could start digging its billion-dollar debt hole. (Doesn’t this story sound familiar?) The Good Fathers may have needed that same Bankruptcy Court to start the pro-
"FIGHTING FIRE WITH FINE PRINT!": Protesters at the "Ring Around St. Vincent's" demonstration, May 29, 2010. Photo by Maggie Berkvist.
cess to replenish the coffers that had been somewhat depleted by legal fees and financial settlements to former choir boys whose lives have been permanently dysfutured (sic) by the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. And the Church was doing it by getting out of the hospital business and selling its rich real estate in a fire sale to a prominent family with grand social aspirations from the Upper East Side. (They don’t really come more clueless, do they? “The Belles of St. Mary’s”!) Remember the good Mormon Doctor Richard F. Daines, the former NY State Commissioner of Health who didn’t stop the Fathers from closing St. Vincent’s, nor did he make them observe due diligence while violating Federal rules governing expenditures in the operation of a not-forprofit charity which, as it turns out, St. Vincent’s was? Another Elliot Spitzer appointee (remember Fred Armisen? I mean Governor Patterson?), Daines came to the State from his position as an executive with Continuum Health Partners, a consortium formed in 1997 that now manages St. Lukes, Roosevelt, New York Eye & Ear and Beth Israel, which sits just two blocks above the East Village and is the most obvious beneficiary of St. Vincent’s closing. In the City, the doctor lived on hospital(s)-adjacent Park Avenue with his Goldman Sachs executive wife, but in February of 2011, Daines and family were at their Duchess County home when Daines, aged 60, suffered a fatal heart attack, out in the barn, alone, disassembling Christmas decorations to put away for another year. When I heard this, of course I was struck
by the sad irony. With St. Vincent’s gone, West Villagers are also going to die of heart attacks by living too far away from any hospital that can promptly be reached by an ambulance stuck in 14th Street traffic, when merely minutes can mean unrecovery and death. And we must not forget to mention the name of the man with the famous New York legacy who chaired the St. Vincent’s board during all of this: Al Smith, the Fourth. Of Wall Street. “Survivors of the Titanic who required medical attention received it at St. Vincent’s.” (So, Al, when did you abandon ship?) Another thing that has trouble seeping in is the brazen and arrogant stand that all of our elected officials have taken on this matter: 100 percent of the “1%” sides with Rudin, in spite of the glaring examples of misappropriation of not-for-profit funds as demonstrated by the Good Fathers and their laughably over-paid secular executive hires, whose judgments proved so questionable as to possibly be actionable in a criminal court of law, a path that attorney Yetta Kurland tried to take, but the courts simply handed her her hat and then showed her the door. Then the politicians began to get in line. To a man (and Christine Quinn), they all supported the Rudin Management Company’s plans. The “company line” was formalized by SKDKnickerbocker, a national strategic communications firm started by former liberal operative Josh Isay, who sells advice to New York power brokers and who numbers among his clients the Rudins, Mayor Bloomberg, former Mayor Koch, Chris-
tine Quinn, Bruce Ratner, Scott Stringer and Governor Cuomo. They all have decided that we neither need nor can support a hospital, so the Tibetization (sic) of the West Village continues. God forbid that there should be another catastrophe on the Lower West Side, which will soon be growing denser now that the heirs of the creepy Bill Gottlieb, owners of over 100 long-held parcels of historic Village properties, seem to be getting close to actually selling some. Believe me, the one-, two- and three-story structures that Gottlieb owned will not remain as such, and our neighborhoods will be altered beyond recognition as the “West Village” becomes a destination-name less descriptive of where we live and more an historical oddity that will require explanations in future walking tours to visitors who have difficulty reconciling towering structures with words like “village” and “artists.” But I’m glad I have lived to see it when us artists did ply these paths. And how was our community’s response to all this? Truthfully? Flaccid, unimaginative and amateurish. Our self-appointed (and seemingly self-serving) leaders lacked know-how, deep legal expertise and organizational skills. Rallies were timid affairs confined to the St. Vincent’s sidewalk behind police barricades and well away from the traffic that should have been disrupted. Some neighbors carried homemade, basically illegible signs; there were few cameras, no event lighting and really poor—if any— public sound system. In fact, I was wondering whether some of the ineptly conceived protests were not actually being secretly paid for by Rudin to demonstrate to the public that there was little interest in the community (which he claims to be working with) to oppose his massive conversion plans. God, where was the audacity and anger of another ACT UP New York when we so desperately needed it? Where was the passion of civil disobedience and taking over the street and daring the media not to cover it? Where was The New York Times? Look, I am not here just to assuage my own feelings of incompetence by faulting others without taking some responsibility for this fatal failure of a prime necessity in our lives—but my space is up, so my confession will have to wait until another time, God willing. By the way, George, you may have noticed that this column deals with political theater, but how far can one stretch a label like “Theater Editor”? So, if I may, I’d like to retire the title that you heaped on my shoulders last summer while continuing the column as “BoldFace Names©” to see where that leads us. Of course, I will continue to write about “theater,” though not necessarily theater as confined to the stage. And yes, one can say I’m pulling a “Frank Rich.” Best, Bobb Goldsteinn.
February 2012 WestView News 21
Reel Deal: Movies That Matter—Report from Park City
A CONFRONTATIONAL DOCUMENTARY: "The Atomic States of America" explains the real dangers of atomic power.
By Jim Fouratt I write this column from the Sundance Film Festival. Robert Redford in his opening remarks made clear that the Festival and Sundance Institute remain committed to independent filmmaking and to directors who continue to buck all odds. Sundance, like the Tribeca and SXSW film festivals, has made documentaries a core part of its programming, and one of the most compelling reasons to attend these festivals is to view these documentary films that might never otherwise see the light of day, given the current state of theatrical distribution, or would be lost and forgotten without these festivals to create buzz. The other way for documentaries to gain exposure is to qualify for consideration for an Academy Award nomination. Previously, films had to have had a one-week commercial run in a theater in New York and Los Angeles to qualify, but now The Academy has changed its rules, and meeting the commercial-run requirement will not be enough. The film will also have to have been reviewed in The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times, making it even more difficult for independent doc makers who lack the visibility and clout of someone like radical millionaire Michael Moore to be considered. It will be interesting to watch this battle unfold over the course of the next year. But back to Sundance. Here are four documentary films I’ve seen so far that I would like readers to make note of. The first premieres on PBS on February 13. I will revisit the others when they run in NYC.
A MUST SEE: "Slavery by Another Name" explores a neglected chapter in American history on how slavery continued long after the end of the Civil War.
1. Slavery by Another Name, directed by Sam Pollard. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same title by Wall Street Journal reporter Douglas A. Blackmon, this documentary, premiering on PBS on February 13, is a must see if you care about American history and want to learn about how slavery in the form of forced labor continued in both the North and the South long after the Civil War. After Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson enacted a series of laws that allowed southern states to round up, arrest and imprison African Americans almost at whim and turn them into indentured slaves who were leased out for profit by state-run prison systems. The film’s exploration of this ugly and widespread practice—which coincided with the beginning of Jim Crow laws—teaches Americans one more history lesson that we have not been taught and will, I hope, shock you as it did me. 2. The Atomic States of America, directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. Hovering in the background of the fracking debate so well documented in Josh Fox’s 2010 Sundance Special Jury Prize awardwinning Gasland, is the reality of the resurcontinued on page 22
22 WestView News February 2012
rooted in the military. Watching this documentary should make parents and other relatives and friends very concerned about any young woman who says she wants to join the military. Your feedback is always welcome at email@example.com, or send a letter to editor@WestViewNews.org.
continued from page 21 gence of support for nuclear power plants. Obama has pledged billions of taxpayer dollars to build new reactors that, despite Japan’s Fukushima disaster, Congress and the President still seem hell-bent on constructing. This important and confrontational documentary tells the frightening story of problems, accidents and risks of disaster at nuclear plants that already exist across the U.S. and roots this almost mind-boggling information in the personal stories of people such as Kelly McMasters, whose memoir about growing up in the nuclear-reactor community of Shirley, Long Island was the basis for the film. “The Atomic States of America” makes it possible for viewers to understand the real dangers of atomic power and how to take action against them. 3. How To Survive A Plague, directed by David France. This is the first documentary to chronicle the role that ACT UP activists played in the fight against AIDS and the homophobia that surrounded it. While there is still a much larger story to be told, France has chosen to focus on a small group of mostly men who broke off from ACT UP’s Treatment and Data Committee and founded the Treatment Action Group (TAG), which focused on pushing for the development of new therapies. Iris Long,
Greenwich Village, Utah!
NOT A PRETTY PICTURE: "The Invisible War" reveals how deeply sexism is still rooted in the military.
PhD, taught the boys science, and Mark Harrington then wrote the AIDS Treatment Manual that changed everything. In his first film, France, a well know writer, skillfully tells the story of how this group took on the government and the pharmaceutical industry to fast-track drugs and helped bring protease inhibitors to market. It is a complex story, and France manages to avoid many of the potential pitfalls of
telling history that is so recent. I had a difficult time watching footage of so many people I worked with in ACT UP who have passed. Focusing on Bob Rafsky and Peter Staley to personalize the story was a smart choice. Rafsky, in many ways, was the public face of ACT UP until he died in February 1993. His confrontation with Bill Clinton in April 1992 is but one of the many unforgettable moments in the film. 4. The Invisible War, directed by Kirby Dick. The fearless Dick has once again taken the scab off a festering secret, just as he did in his earlier documentary Twist of Faith, about the Roman Catholic clergy’s sexual molestation of young people. In The Invisible War, he documents the reality of rape and sexual assault of women and men who join the military by their fellow soldiers and what happened to a group of women—all quite different—and one man who found the courage to go public. It is not a pretty picture—the military, in fact, punishes the victims—but it is a compelling revelation of how deeply sexism is still
continued from page 19 the same passion and commitment? I would welcome a piece of journalism by Hunter-Gault on how she perceives the next phase of politics in the United States. Can the remaining racial prejudice that still poisons our everyday life be eliminated? Seemingly, even the achievements of a brilliant, consensus-seeking black leader have not been enough to bring us over that second mountaintop. The next generation will have to take over! The young multitaskers of today might consider pausing to read Charlayne Hunter-Gault—and absorbing some of her courage. Note: I am pleased to disclose that WestView’s Maggie Berkvist was the photo
Park City Utah’s year-round population is approximately 7,600 people, but during Sundance it expands to 50,000— sort of like the Village on a hot summer night. But Villagers know how to navigate crowds no matter where they are, and during Sundance, many of them are here. I’ve run into enough high profile, creative Village folk on Park City streets and in theaters to fill Graydon Carter’s Waverly Inn any night of the week. Grand Jury Narrative Prize competitors Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On) and Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks) are here, as are documentary filmmakers Eugene Jarecki (The House I Live In) and David France (How to Survive A Plague). Marina Abromović is the subject of the documentary The Artist is Present. Directors Timothy Greenfeld-Sanders (About Face) and Rory Kennedy (Ethel), producer Marc Weiss (A Fierce Green Fire) and super-indie P.R. guru Susan Norget are in attendance, and of course Bank Street’s über-indie lord Harvey Weinstein and über-mentor/producer Ted Hope are present as well. Actors Stella Schnabel and Julie Delpy are here, and so is the young actor Chris Lenk from Keep the Lights On, who ran up to me at the Shorts Awards party (held in a bowling alley) and asked, “Do you have a little white dog that you walk on Perry Street?” I answered, “Yes, Mr. Butter,” and he said, “I see you all the time. I live on Perry Street.” And these are just the Villagers I’ve run into!
editor on “To The Mountaintop,” locating the many historic images that illustrate the book. She told me that during her research she found in the Mississippi State Archives an extensive collection of police mug shots of the student activists, black and white, who had been arrested during the civil rights demonstrations and was struck by how very young most of them were—and by how brave they had been. Young people, take note: the world needs your energy and your idealism.
Barbara Riddle is a Greenwich Village native, a regular WestView contributor and the author of the novel “The Girl Pretending to Read Rilke” (recommended at www. lablit.com). Write to her at poodlesontheroof@ gmail.com, or read her blog: www.poodlesontheroof.blogspot.com/.
February 2012 WestView News 23
Satire Corner: Nobody Asked Me, But... By John Early All right, all right, I know this is not a corner of the newspaper. Try thinking outside the box. “Nobody Asked Me, But...” was the title of an occasional article in The Hartford Courant written by a now-deceased friend, Bill Ryan. Like Andy Rooney, who died so soon after leaving “60 Minutes,” Ryan was a bit of a curmudgeon. Since there may be a vacuum left by the passing of these two gentlemen, I hereby declare myself tanned, rested and ready to fill in. My terms are simple: I will write columns on my choice of topics whenever I feel like it. Movies, for example. Why am I never asked or consulted about what movies I want to see? I have some good ideas. Let’s say Hollywood decides to make a movie about Vladimir Putin. Fine, but I would like some input in choosing the actors and scripts. For example, for one possible version, “Vladimir Putin: The KGB Years,” I want Johnny Depp to play the lead. Then, I would select Jennifer Aniston for the role of Comrade Wife, with Angelina Jolie as her double. That way, they could take turns working on the movie and share Brad Pitt. Everyone benefits. No one in the audience will notice who plays the wife, anyway, because all eyes will be on Johnny Depp. And since it is always possible that Jen and Angelina will engage in fisticuffs, a knife fight or gunplay over Brad, resulting in the hospitalization of either or both, Helena Bonham Carter could do stand-in duty, or play Vlad’s meat pie-baking love interest. Madonna, dressed as a little girl, could make a brief cameo as Putin’s mother, still a virgin after Vlad’s auspicious birth. Speaking of money. I know stars such as these don’t come cheap, so in the middle of production, we’ll start cutting costs. We’ll get robots from some science-oriented high school to play Mariya and Yekaterina, Vlad’s daughters. Then we’ll replace his Bulgarian shepherd, Buffy, and his black lab, Koni, with a more appropriate breed of dog. We’ll throw in a Russian Wolfhound to play Bolshoi, the Borzoi. (I guess we’ll have to get the dog one of those SAG cards but maybe not the robots.) Again, most people won’t care how we fill these roles because all eyes will be on Depp. For the rest of the cast, I would hire actors and actresses working as waiters and waitresses until they get their “big break.” Since most of them will have been unemployed since the night Lincoln was shot they would leap at the chance, and we could get them dirt-cheap. So we have the cast. Now for the story line. Yes, I said story line, LOL, ha ha ha. Lack of a good script never stopped Hollywood before, so why should it now? We’ll just get some youngsters from Hollywood High School out in L.A. to write it, or, if we film in NYC, some students
continued from page 19 of the profession within their first five years on the job. We should be focusing on improving school environments, upgrading facilities and swapping outmoded teaching tools for more high-tech equivalents so we can increase the odds of “catching” teachers being successful rather than always trying to figure out how to “weed out the bad ones.” Every profession has its share of bad apples, of course, teaching included—and we must also empower principals and assistant principals to deal constructively with those whose performances lag and be able to terminate those who can’t improve enough to be good teachers. In all this Sturm und Drang over “teacher accountability,” we are also leaving out the opinions of perhaps the two most important evaluators of teacher performance: students and their parents. I suggest we set up an evaluation system that also allows kids
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from Stuyvesant High School or NYU. We’ll pay them little or nothing and browbeat them relentlessly to get the script in last week. If that doesn’t work, we can put an ad in Variety and pick the best and least expensive apple in the basket. In the movie, Depp would portray Putin during the fun-loving years when he was torturing the opposition and loving it. I would get Colin Firth to play his archrival, the American President Ronald Reagan. Since Firth doesn’t usually play Americans, I’d have Geoffrey Rush, an Australian, teach him the accent. Rush could play the Secretary of State, or the president’s fancy wristwatch. Whatever. I grant you, Depp can shave his head and pout easily enough. But getting buff enough to look like Putin for that manly, bare-chested, horse-riding scene might take some doing if Depp’s appearance in “Rum Diary” tells us anything. If that’s expecting too much, I suggest renting an upper-body suit of the “six pack, looks just like muscles” variety. That way, Depp as Putin can continue, à la Rudolf Valentino, making women weak in the knees while manfully sitting astride Papa Ruski—a stallion, of course. Note to Johnny Depp: Don’t forget that you already took ideas from old Buster Keaton movies for your “Pirates of the Caribbean” character. This time, watch old Yul Brynner movies to get ideas about how to play Putin. Naturally, Brynner would have been a better choice to play the Eternal Prime Minister and President, but he is unfortunately dead. Suck it up, Johnny! “Yes, you can!”
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To hear more of John Early’s unsolicited opinions or share some of your own, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. and parents to grade teachers and that these critiques be factored into any assessment of teacher-performance. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo for making quality of education and teacher accountability front-and-center topics in their administrations. But the best way to improve both is to truly help teachers succeed and make the profession one that attracts the best and the brightest, as it already is in countries such as Japan and Finland that provide teachers with these crucial supports and incentives. We need to follow their lead, and we need to do it now. Our city can’t wait. Our kids can’t wait.
Tom Allon, the President of Manhattan Media and a Democratic and Liberal candidate for Mayor in 2013, was a teacher at Stuyvesant High School in the 1980s.
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24 WestView News January 2012
There’s More to Jazz than Bebop! By Andrew Collier
Coast jazz in the 1950s. “Post-modern” bebop from Miles Davis in the 1960s. Most of that is missing from the standard repertoire. It’s like Julliard graduates spending most of their time playing Bach—and only Bach. Surprisingly, this isn’t true only for New York. I just returned from a trip to Shanghai, where I heard a group of musicians (admittedly, mainly American) who banged out high quality bebop. There’s a club in Beijing called East Shore that rarely strays far from updated versions of bebop. European musicians often argue that they are much more open than Americans are to eclecticism in jazz. I confess I find that European jazz melds styles far too much for my ears. Maybe I’m a bopper after all. But maybe it’s time to open the jazz doors. Here are some jazz artists with upcoming West Village gigs who are doing that.
This month, WestView welcomes jazz musician and new contributor Andrew Collier, who will cover the jazz scene in the West Village, home of the greatest concentration of jazz clubs in the world. Each month, Collier will write about issues jazz fans care about and spotlight players, bands, clubs and upcoming West Village gigs. Why is New York jazz stuck in a time warp? Walk around most of the Village clubs on a Wednesday night and you are likely to hear the same tunes played in similar styles by the same lineup of instruments. These tunes include classic “standards” such as “On Green Dolphin Street,” “A Night in Tunisia” and “All the Things You Are.” And the style? Generally, bebop from the Charlie Parker era around 1952. Visit any of the smaller clubs—the Garage, Knickerbocker’s, Fat Cat, Arturo’s—and that’s mainly what you’ll hear. That’s not to say the quality isn’t good, even among the semi-pros. For the most part, they play these tunes with a refreshing passion and skill that far exceeds what most other cities in the world offer in the way of jazz. And jazz lovers will argue that there is a host of clubs playing other kinds of jazz in New York, which is true. As a long-time resident of the West Village, I know that clubs like the Village Vanguard, 55 Bar and Smalls in my neighborhood and Iridium and Smoke uptown present a lineup of top-quality and upcoming musi-
BEBOP IS IMPORTANT, BUT...: Drummer Andrew Collier thinks it's time to open the jazz doors.
cians who often venture further afield than the 1950s. And Brooklyn, where the rent is much cheaper, has some offbeat venues with unusual offerings. But even at these clubs, the standards in bebop form frequently make their appearance. For some reason, particularly among amateur and semi-amateur musicians, bebop has become the jazz “classical” music. Of course bebop is important, but what about all the other forms of jazz that came before and after? Dixieland in the 1920s. Swing a la Coleman Hawkins in the 1930s. West
Village Vanguard Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet February 28-March 4 Thirty years ago, Pat Metheny reinvented jazz guitar with a rock flavor while working under vibraphonist Gary Burton. That tradition of fusion-influenced jazz guitar, in a small group setting, has been picked up by others. Arguably the best current exemplar is Kurt Rosenwinkel, who, funnily enough, also was schooled early on by Gary Burton at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Rosenwinkel’s music is fiery and complex, with long, winding harmonic melodies and modal jams. For his Village Vanguard gig, he is backed by his touring band, including
Aaron Parks on piano, Eric Revis on bass and the young prodigy Justin Faulkner on drums (formerly also with trumpeter Terence Blanchard). Not to be missed. Shows: 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., $25 per set, one drink minimum. Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South at 11th Street, 212-2554037, villagevanguard.com. The Cornelia Street Café Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth Deluxe Friday, February 10 Bassist Chris Lightcap is central to the downtown New York jazz scene consisting of artful, intellectual composers with a backbone of improvisation. This younger group of jazz musicians is trying to reinvent the music with influences from classical compositions and the training that comes from knowledge of hard bop. Lightcap is playing with other top musicians, including Andy Milne on piano and the precise Gerald Cleaver on drums. And if you get there early enough to eat before hitting the cute performance space downstairs, the upstairs cafe serves excellent and well priced American food. Shows: 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m, $15 cover, $10 minimum. The Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia Street between West Fourth & Bleecker, 212-989-9319, corneliastreetcafe.com.
Andrew Collier is a longtime jazz fan and jazz drummer. He studied percussion at Oberlin College, including marimba and vibraphone, and has performed in clubs in New York and in Asia, where he lived for seven years. He grew up in Greenwich Village and now resides on Barrow Street. If you want to talk jazz with Andrew, email him at email@example.com.
Coming Home to The Vagabond Café By Matt Closter with Julie Berger
“Welcome to your living room” could be the unofficial motto of The Vagabond Café, a newly opened coffee shop on Cornelia Street that provides any freely roaming spirits a place to call their own. Co-owners Mike Morello and Aly Symmonds designed their dream café to serve as a communal space for Village-goers searching for a home away from home. Combining their passions for music, food and hospitality, Morello and Symmonds share their own talents with many a welcome passerby. The café is “always a home for people to come to if they need a place to perform, a place to get warm,” Morello told WestView during a recent visit. “If we could have created a place where we wanted to go, this would be it.” The Lite-Brite “Open” sign is the first of many trinkets that color the café’s interior and illuminate Morello’s and Symmonds’s personal touches. Morello pointed out that most of the scattered displays come from his own childhood possessions. Flowers sit in G.I. Joe thermoses, and board games and
sci-fi toys rest in a cupboard above the bar. Plush couches and chairs also dot the space, providing a welcome respite for wanderers. Symmonds attentively assembles paninis, folds crepes and mixes lattes from old family recipes. Morello lines up the musical acts for the weekly jazz ensembles, open mic nights and jam sessions, many of which are comprised of people he knows. Their personalities come through in their hospitality, but Morello and Symmonds also seek to showcase the talent and personalities that walk through their door. The Wednesday open mic night WestView recently stumbled upon featured musicians from near and far who blended their sounds. Jessica Latshaw, from Landenberg, PA, transfixed the audience with her ukulele ballads; Joel Zighel, owner of Jones Street Wine, a block away, strolled over after closing to jam on the in-house piano; and Alex Torovic, of Serbia, poured his guitar soul into hometown harmonies and then accompanied Morton Millen in the fusion of folk and blues. Klancie Keough, a true vagabond, sang with a guitar she bought on
her the last day of her week-long visit to New York, still hoping to catch her 10:00 flight the next morning back to Australia. Morello talked about how the confluence of music and art in the West Village makes it the perfect New York neighborhood for him and Symmonds to satisfy their musical impulses. As the night progressed Symmonds commanded the counter, preparing local and homemade fare. Cheese from Murray’s Cheese and meats from Ottomanelli Brothers enliven the sense of keeping the food “neighborhoodinal,” as Morello calls it. Morello believes the variety of paninis, crepes and lattes on the menu give customers “pretty much anything anyone would want,” as exemplified by the 30 different latte flavors they can choose from, including Peppermint Patty and Almond Joy. The beer selection also stays local, featuring Long Island and Coney Island beers, and the wine is switched “in and out” to keep the selection fresh. Morello is proud of the positive relationships Vagabond has established with
neighboring businesses. Rather than work in competition, the café and surrounding restaurants and music venues work cooperatively to build a sense of comfort, community and good listening throughout the area. When Morello and Symmonds decided to open a café, they zeroed in on the West Village because of these qualities. The area has “enough of the artsiness and class to make the perfect New York neighborhood,” Morello enthused. Morello and Symmonds make running their business look easy because all they have to do is to be themselves. And the vagabonds will come because they just want to be themselves, too. Everyone is at home here.
The Vagabond Café 7 Cornelia Street (between West Fourth & Bleecker) Tues-Thurs: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri-Sat: 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Sun: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org 212-242-6333 thevagabondcafe.com
February 2012 WestView News 25
West Village Original: Penny Jones By Michael D. Minichiello
This month’s West Village Original is Minneapolis-born Penny Jones, founder and creator of Penny Jones & Company Puppets. Since the 1970’s, the company has specialized in informal puppet shows for children as well as puppet ballets with live music for audiences of all ages. A West Village resident for decades—including the past two in Westbeth—Jones still performs regularly. For schedule information visit pennypuppets.org. When Penny Jones attended Antioch College in the 1950s, part of the requirement for students was participating in “co-op” jobs in which they experienced different careers. “I was sick of everything by my senior year and I really wanted something new and exotic,” she says. “So I applied to work as a puppeteer in a department store in Providence, Rhode Island. They agreed, but first sent me to New York for a two-day crash course in handling puppets at Suzari Marionettes. Then we went off to Providence and I did twenty shows a day, eight minutes a show.” It turned out to be a work experience that would determine her life’s passion. Jump to 1970, when Jones was by then working with a quality puppet company. She was also a mother with a young son and was taking him to various puppet shows. “They were terrible,” she says. “They were staffed with actors who behaved as if children’s theatre was beneath them. The scripts were poor, the characters stupid. I became very committed to the idea that when I had my own troop I was going to specialize in
Eros Dies Last The God of Love hangs in there to the end By Irwin Glusker The thing I hate most about this business of aging (aside from the wear and tear and the inevitable consequence of the process) is the tendency on the part of younger people to patronize, marginalize and trivialize their older fellow citizens. This is distilled in calling an older man Pops. I can’t think of a parallel for women; one doesn’t usually call an older woman Mom (or Moms), except if she is. It has taken me a long time to accept a seat on a bus (or, more rarely, on the subway) from a younger person, although the opportunities to work on reducing this resistance have been few. Not too long ago I boarded a crosstown bus on which all the seats were taken, with a few standees toward the rear. In scanning the bus for a seat, my eyes fixed on a beautiful girl seated midway back. All those old,
A NATURAL STORYTELLER: Penny Jones with "Sea Queen," one of the many puppets she has created.
shows for younger children. I’ve spent the rest of my life exploring different ways to reach younger children, to inspire and include them. The wonderful thing about children is they naturally participate. You almost have to hold them back, and if you invite them to be part of a show they just love it.” It wasn’t long before The Little Synagogue on East 20th Street invited her to do a puppet show. “I asked my puppetry class at The New School if they wanted to become a troupe, and they agreed,” she says. “We paid a percentage of the box office to cover the rent.” Jones proceeded to mount consecutive repertory seasons at The Little Synagogue, The Studio on West
11th Street and Greenwich House Music School and stage monthly performances at the Barnes & Noble children’s department at Fifth Avenue and 18th Street. During this period she created nine puppet shows, all designed specifically for younger children. “The production cost was mostly for labor since the materials were cheap and the theatrical effects simple,” she says. “And while we dealt with serious themes for some shows, it was all couched in language a three-year-old could relate to.” Why does Jones feel that puppetry suits her so well? “I’m a natural storyteller,” she says. “It comes without difficulty. I could have been a writer, I’m sure. I’m a very curious and adventurous person, as well. I like
nearly forgotten responses to a beautiful girl turned my sweep into a stare; my gaze lingered on this young lady a bit longer than necessary—longer, certainly, than was polite. Her response was a demure smile followed by rising from her seat and motioning me to it. I took the proffered seat, scrunching down to make myself as small as possible, hopefully invisible.
on the other side of the curtain. Suddenly the room was awash in light— the curtain was pushed to the wall, the blinds slanted to let in light, the odor of lilacs mixed with the smells of two old men dying. Standing beside Abe’s companion patient, looking down at her father solicitously, stood a statuesque, heavily made-up woman of about thirty. Her hair was black, her leather jacket was black, her eyes were outlined in black, her lipstick—slathered on—was a scalding red…an expressionist rendering of Angela Huston. My Uncle Abe raised his left hand and crooked his
Many years ago, when I was not yet an old man, I went to visit my favorite uncle, my Uncle Abe, in a hospital out in Brooklyn. He was my mother’s kid brother and had been a lovable, affable failure. His very bad marriage had stayed stitched together for the nurture of their one child, his beloved son, my cousin Bernie. Bernie, a year younger than I, was killed in World War II. Uncle Abe was now terminally ill and speaking was a labor for him. So I sat on a chair at his bedside and held his right hand, chunky, muscled, and calloused from his life of intermittent work as a leather cutter. Time was suspended in the aseptic gloom of that hospital room; all I could hear was the oddly contrapuntal breathing of my uncle and his roommate
to experiment with all kinds of different materials for my puppets. I also love making stuff. Doing a puppet show includes all the things that I love to do so it fits me to a ‘t.’ However, I never used to call myself an artist, and for years I had this room in my apartment but I never called it my studio. Then one day I finally said, ‘You know what? I am an artist and this is my studio!’” Nothing better illustrates the change to the West Village than Jones’ audience members themselves. “When I first came to Westbeth and did a puppet show here, there weren’t any children,” she says. “Now there’s this tidal wave of young kids in the neighborhood, and all over town actually. It’s a good time to do repertory puppet shows. All these children are a plus to me now in my career.” And while Jones could list “all the negative things” that she regrets have happened to this neighborhood over the years, it’s her memories of an earlier time that resonate. “When I first moved here what I loved about the Village was how pretty and charming the streets and buildings were,” she reminisces. “You would pass these wonderful little shops where people were doing their own thing. There were all kinds of curiosity shops. I was extremely happy, too, because I could wear whatever I wanted to wear and just blend in. I wore these kind of Greek sandals that were made by a shoemaker here and nobody looked twice. Everybody else was wearing them, too. The Village was like a family. It was my kind of place, all blissful and peaceful. It was a very lovely time, as if summer would never end.”
index finger to bring me within hearing. I put my ear down to his mouth. Taking a deep breath and working his parched lips over his almost-toothless gums, he whispered, “Puddy gull.” Pretty girl. My friend Joe tells of visiting his father, similarly aged, hospitalized, ill, and failing. After the crisp and comforting attentions of an attractive nurse, he followed her departure out the door of his room. He then turned his rheumy eyes to his son. “Ah, Joseph,” the old man said, “Eros dies last.” Yes, if he dies at all.
26 WestView News February 2012
All the News We Can Afford to Print By George Capsis
So a few Saturdays ago Maggie and I didn’t go to the country, and she called the The New York Times to cancel delivery and instructed me to buy a copy at the Sheridan Square newsstand, and I found myself asking the Southeast Asian newsstand attendant, “How much is the skinny Saturday New York Times?” He hesitated a nanosecond and then, “Two dollars and fifty cents” and pointed to a Times notice pasted on the window with the new price. “Two fifty,” I dramatically repeated. “I can remember when it was three cents”— and I held up three digits. And now as I write this I realize that the Times was three cents long before the newsstand attendant was born. Growing up during the Great Depression, I was the middle and only son that my German mother could call upon to run across the street at 105 Hamilton Place to Gus the Greek’s grocery store to get ten cents worth of heavy cream dipped from a metal can, poured into the creamer I brought from home and then neatly covered in wax paper and secured with a rubber band that my mother saved. The cream was whipped and topped a homemade apple pie. (A pint of ice cream was 25 cents.)
A one-pound loaf of unsliced Wonder Bread was 11 cents. And when Wonder had trouble selling that it put out an eight-ounce loaf for eight cents. (Wonder later introduced sliced bread—hence the expression “The greatest thing since sliced bread.”) Stuyvesant High School was only in session half a day during the war, and Mr. Mandelbaum, whom I met in the storefront headquarters of our local Civil Defense office (it was anticipated and hoped for moral galvanization purposes that the Germans would drop a few bombs on New York and I was a “messenger” in case communication lines were bombed out) asked if I wanted to work in his greeting card warehouse downtown. For lunch I went to the Automat under the Third Avenue El and got a large tencent fish cake with tomato sauce, a slice of Coconut cream pie for ten cents and a cup of coffee for five—lunch was 25 cents. Prices during the Depression did not go up but stayed the same year after year for years and years, so I got to know what things cost. A slice of pizza was ten cents, a quart of milk 11 cents, a pound of potatoes five, a warm loaf of caraway seed rye bread from the German bakery 25 cents, the subway five cents, a White Tower hamburger five
cents, the Daily News two cents, the Sunday New York Times ten cents. (The News raised its Sunday price to ten cents and I said, now nobody has an excuse to read the News on Sunday.) The Del-Mar Theatre in order to get the kids in offered two feature films, a western, a cliffhanger serial, several ancient cartoons, the news and a raffle. (I won my first and only raffle gift at the Del-Mar cheap baseball catcher’s glove that I never used.) You were in the movies for four hours and you came out in the sunlight and saw spots. Admission was 25 cents. The subway was a nickel and we had the IRT, the BMT and the IND—three separate companies—and you had to pay another nickel to transfer from one to the other. (There was a lighted window in the fare box with a big fat chipped glass convex lens over it that magnified the face of your nickel or slug should you be so courageous as to drop one in.) IND stood for “Independent” and indeed the IND line started as a private, profit-making corporation but went bankrupt. Now when I buy a two-pound loaf of multigrain bread from Gourmet Garage for near eight dollars I use my credit card. Yes, well, sure, inflation—salaries go up and prices go up. But I have the feeling and the media is reporting that we are liv-
ing in different times. Prices are going up faster and in crazy arbitrary ways. What used to be a ten-cent can of shoe polish is now nearly four dollars. Replacement razor blades, once a few dollars, are now nearly 20 dollars (the most shoplifted item—you have to get a clerk to unlock the rack). It would seem that the Times, Gillette, Kiwi and the CEOs of taxpayer-bailed-out banks have come to the conclusion that the way to continue to make profits and fatter and fatter salaries is to charge higher prices. And more people are being pushed out of the economy. I have the feeling that if you are in your forties or fifties and unemployed, your chances of getting back to work are less and less each month. When I was 12 I became the distributor for The New York Times at IS 70 near 125th Street, and I collected dimes and nickels and gave out a weekly news summary and current-events quiz that the Times produced to get kids into what they hoped would become a lifelong habit of reading the Times and “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” And now Bill Rudin pays a media manipulation firm more each month to deny what we print in WestView than it costs us to print and distribute the paper.
West Village Supermarkets—Where Do Your Dollars Buy More? By Debra Alfarone I don’t know about you, but there are just some price tags I find obscene. And, maybe not too surprisingly, the ones on the bottom of fancy shoes DON’T fit into this category. I think nothing of a $15 bottle of hairspray, or a $120 pair of boots, but a $6.99 box of cereal offends me. To me, this feeling makes no sense, yet makes all the sense in the world. In short: I don’t want to be ripped off. I’m cheap. I’ve already tried to get that brand of hairspray for less, and those leopard-print boots on sale, and it’s just not to be. But any fool knows that cereal can be had for under $3 if you just put forth a little effort. And so begins my quest to find the cheapest prices for the things we all need and use, from clothes to food to beauty products to kids stuff. Today, we’re talking food. You may not love leopard-print, but everyone eats. I buy the same things at the grocery store all the time. Maybe you do, too. Eggs, milk, that yummy Chobani Greek yogurt (pine-
• Western Beef, 431 West 16th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues • Food Emporium, 475 Sixth Avenue at the corner of 12th Street The List:
ON A QUEST: Debra Alfarone wants to find the cheapest prices for things we all need.
apple, please), fresh spinach.... I picked three stores in the Village area on Saturday, January 21 and started shopping. The Stores:
• D’Agostino, 790 Greenwich Street at the corner of Bethune
•S cott Paper Towels, Mega Roll ChooseA-Size (102 ct) • Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries (12 oz) • Eggs, 1 dozen large Grade A •O scar Meyer Oven Roasted Turkey Breast (9 oz) • Windex Antibacterial Multi-Surface Cleaner (26 oz) • Baby Spinach (5 oz) •C hobani Greek Yogurt (2% with Pineapple) • Tribe Hummus (8 oz) • Baby Carrots (1 lb bag) •C hock full o’ Nuts Coffee (New York Roast, Ground Regular, 10.5 oz) •B arilla Penne (Whole Grain Enriched, 13.25 oz) To many, this may seem like a pretty short list. But, one, I’m just shopping for me;
and, two, I had to leave a few things off the list, like bread and sweetener, because I couldn’t find exact comparisons. I bought some items at some places and jotted down prices at others. I felt a little sneaky but figured it’s all in the name of getting a deal. The box at right shows how prices compared. The big winner was (drumroll, please)... Western Beef. The entire list rung up at $30.47 before tax. It cost $40.92 at D’Agostino and $42.90 at Food Emporium. The biggest jaw-droppers were the price differences for the cereal and eggs. That Special K that cost $5.99 at both D’Ag and Food Emporium rung up at $3.99 at Western Beef. And the meat market’s eggs cost just 99 cents versus $3.49 and $3.99 at D’Ag and Food Emporium. If you’ve never shopped at Western Beef, know that you will find great prices that’ll make you do a double take, but you won’t find a huge selection. The store is anything but fancy. You may have to go to a D’Ag or another store for your specialty cheeses and organic salmon. And forget about su-
February 2012 WestView News 27
SnackBar: No Hungry Chef By DuanDuan The most embarrassing dinner I’ve ever made for myself: a layer of mayonnaise squashed between two slices of wonder. This wasn’t even a one-time lapse; I’m afraid I’m a repeat offender. I make no excuse for this poor alimentary behavior, but there are days where I walk in the door and I’m simply too hungry to cook. There are no leftovers in the fridge, and I can’t stand the prospect of waiting even 15 minutes to rustle up a dish from scratch. This is the low point where I’d eat anything from stale gummy bears to a spoonful of mustard. Hunger does funny things to a person. To atone for such unsavory lapses, I would occasionally treat myself to a homemade meal that takes a bit of extra effort and care. The quickest and one of the most satisfying meals to make is pasta from scratch. If I’m down in the pits when I’m gnawing on hard bear-shaped gummies, then I’m on top of the world when I’m sinking my teeth into freshly made semolina pasta (like someone else’s grandma used to make). Eggless semolina pasta has a great bouncy and hearty texture that can be achieved with three ingredients and a little elbow grease—no pasta machine necessary. The dough is made of semolina flour and water, seasoned with a pinch of salt. Knead it until it is smooth as a baby’s bottom so the saying goes. Another way to check if the gluten has developed properly (which is what gives the pastas and breads that bouncy resistance when you bite into them) is the windowpane
shi; Western Beef doesn’t have it. But for staples like eggs and packaged foods like yogurt and cereal, you can save a bundle. I saved $10 for my weekly shop. That’s a savings of $520 a year that I can use to buy, oh, I don’t know, let’s say shoes? Or an iPad 2? Or maybe an extra bottle every month of that fancy hairspray. Before you start running to Western Beef for everything, however, know this: Item Towels Cereal Eggs Turkey Windex Spinach Yogurt Hummus Carrots Coffee Penne Total
WB 1.99 3.99 0.99 4.39 3.89 2.99 1.25 2.99 1.50 4.99 1.50 30.47
D’Ag 2.39 5.99 3.49 4.99 4.59 3.99 1.50 2.99 2.59 1.85 1.85 40.92
FE 2.29 5.99 3.99 4.39 4.69 3.99 1.59 4.49 2.99 2.50 2.50 42.90
test: spread a piece of the dough with your fingers as thin as you can without breaking it. If the gluten is fully developed, you should be able to spread the dough into a thin membrane that is translucent when held up to the light. When you’ve worked out those arms and the dough passes the windowpane test, it’s time to shape it. Several pasta shapes can be made from the eggless semolina dough. The two I do most often are trofie (little twists) and orecchiette (little ears) because they’re fast to shape and require no special equipment. It does take practice to get the shape and rhythm down, but if you’re someone who is attempting pasta from scratch, the chances are you’ll find this fun. Check out any Italian nonna on YouTube to see how it is done, and stand ready to be impressed and amused. Pair your fresh pasta with a dollop of pesto or glaze it with a hearty ragu—from scratch of course! But no matter what sauce you use, this dinner will feel special. After all, why make anything from scratch? Some say it is more delicious than store-bought foods, but that really depends. Maybe it’s the labor you put into the food and the knowledge of the process that you take from it that makes cooking from scratch more satisfying. But, for me, it’s just more fun to dig your fingers into a smooth ball of dough than to open the tab on a cardboard box—unless I’m hungry that is. Then the desperate and indiscriminate animal takes over. If you have questions or comments, contact DuanDuan at Snackbar.Kitchen@gmail.com
D’Agostino and Food Emporium do offer loyalty programs that qualify you for cost-cutting deals and allow you to trade in points and get that same box of Special K for just $1.99. (Note, though, that D’Ag has recently changed its loyalty program. See this column’s first Reader Response,
PRACTICE YOUR Technique: And, soon, you'll be making beautiful pasta just like this. Photo by DuanDuan
Fresh Semolina Pasta Yield: 2 servings Time: about 40 minutes Ingredients 1½ cups semolina flour, and a bit more for dusting ¾ cup lukewarm water 1 teaspoon salt Directions: 1. Combine semolina, water and salt in a large bowl. 2. Knead until dough is smooth and gluten fully developed, about 15 minutes by hand. Use windowpane test to check if dough is ready: spread a piece of dough with fingers as thin as possible without breaking. When it’s ready, the dough can be spread into a thin membrane that’s translucent when held up to the light. 3. Roll the dough into ropes ½ inch in diameter. 4. Cut ropes into ½-inch segments. 5. Shape dough.
below.) Western Beef is a no-frills operation and doesn’t offer loyalty programs. And then there’s the NYC mantra: location, location, location. If you live near Sixth Avenue, are you really going to walk all the way past 9th Avenue to buy your food and truck it home? In keeping with its no-frills
For trofie: Put a ½-inch segment of dough at the base of palm. Hold it in place with other hand, using tip of index finger. With even pressure, slide hands in opposite directions to roll the pasta between your palm and fingers. One pass should do it. For orecchiette: Use butter knife to scrape the ½ inch segment of dough against a cutting board. The dough will bunch up against the edge of the knife. Use your thumb to push out the center of the dough and remove it from the knife. Tip: The best way to learn is to see it done. YouTube is a great educator. 6. Prepare a tray dusted with semolina to keep pasta from sticking. Place finished pasta on tray. 7. Prepare a pot of salted water. When water boils, drop in the pasta. The trofie takes about 2 minute to cook, while the orecchiette takes about 4 minutes. The only sure way to time it: taste constantly to monitor doneness! 8. Drain pasta and stir in sauce of choice. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.
policy, Western Beef doesn’t deliver, while both D’Agostino and Food Emporium do. You may be thinking, “Hey, you left out my favorite place. Where’s Westside Market and Gourmet Garage?” I got hungry.
Share Your Strategies
If you think something in your part of the Village costs too darn much or have a tip on where to get a good bargain or want to praise or complain about a store policy, speak up! Email WestViewGini@gmail.com, and type “Cheap Tricks” in the subject line. After reading this column before it went to press, WestView photo editor Maggie Berkvist emailed the following:
D’Ag Changes Point System Right now I’m outraged at D’Ag—yes, the same one. Until about three weeks ago the “points” deal on their Rotisserie chickens, of which I took frequent advantage, was that for 400 points they knocked the price down from $7.99 to $3.99. Now suddenly it’s changed entirely. For 3,000 points, they’ll give me one free! Need I say single senior citizens take months to accumulate 3,000 points? Then I noticed they were playing a similar game with the avocados—800 points! I asked the manager whether this edict came from on high. But of course! I suggest customers consult D’Ag’s jolly new “Pay with Points” poster currently on display near the exit for more examples of how little these points are worth now.
28 WestView News January 2012
World of Video—A Village Institution By Frank Thurston Green Netflix recently held a competition to create the best “collaborative filtering algorithm” to predict how much a customer would like a movie based on how much they liked other movies. There was a winner and now Netflix is ten percent better at predicting how much you’ll like a movie. There’s a low ceiling for improvement, though. One contestant bemoaned that “inherent variation” makes perfection impossible; people fudge numbers. Sean Gallagher brings that competition to mind. Gallagher is a manager at World of Video, where he’ll recommend a movie if you tell him what you’ve seen and what you thought of it. He’s kind of like a collaborative filtering algorithm, but he’s also alive. “It’s like what I do with my mom,” says Gallagher. “I try to figure out what people’s tastes are, and then I try to recommend something that I know is within that taste or maybe a liiiittle bit outside the area that lets them stretch a little bit.” “Sean knows everything,” said Linda Samuels, one of the store’s co-owners, her voice hushed and reverent. And then there’s Pete Coffey and Justin Paris and the rest of the crew—all distinctly human and dizzyingly knowledgeable about movies. Samuels and Debra Grappone and their partners opened World of Video in 1982
after they got tired of renting videos from a shop on MacDougal Street. That shop had a chaotic system of putting empty VHS boxes out on the shelves for customers to browse but keeping the actual tapes behind the counter. “You’d have to wave the boxes to ask if something was in,” says Grappone. It was loud and hectic and it was a stupid system, and the store charged a lot of late fees. Samuels summarizes their conversation: “This is ridiculous. Why don’t we open up our own video store?” The small store they opened on West 10th off Seventh Avenue later moved to a bigger space above the Village Vanguard and then to its current location in what used to be a Pottery Barn on Greenwich Avenue between Perry and Charles. World of Video gave up half of that space six years ago, partly because of market pressure but also because the switch from VHS to DVDs halved the space needed for stock. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the store was packed and happening, especially in bad weather. John Gaffney, who worked at World of Video until recently and who now teaches a course on “The Power of Film” at Lehman College, remembers one Sunday in “monsoon weather” when the store had “Sunset Boulevard” on TV “and when [Gloria Swanson] makes her glorious descent down the staircase and she stops everything and she says how great it is to be
back in movies and then says, ‘All right, I’m ready for my close-up’ and walks into the camera and the camera absorbs her and dissolves into a white fade out, the whole store applauded—a spontaneous celebration,” Gaffney recalls. “That was the quintessence of what it was like to work at the place.” World of Video rents. They invite familiarity; their customers become regulars. People, alarmingly, get to feel at home in the store. And they rent not waffle irons or new, plastic-smelling cars, but movies! Things that rile and excite and occasionally get banned! And they rent them to “Village people”! This stuff is bad for business; this stuff makes a community. When Hurricane Irene headed toward New York last August, the city shut down. Anticipatory terror stopped subway service and pasted innumerable tape crosses on windows and bought up all of the batteries at the grocery stores. Modern life broke down, which is to say that World of Video was flooded with crowds it hadn’t had since the 90s. That was partly because it’s nice to watch movies on rainy days, but also because it makes sense to stock up before a cataclysm—to physically procure entertainment in the same way people stocked
up on batteries and astonishing quantities of pickles. Netflix and Cable TV were suddenly abstract entities dependent on unfathomable infrastructures, things unseen and untouched. Hunkering down calls for a hunk of something—for a movie in a box in a hand. World of Video always has a movie on. It has a bench and a chaise longue and two stools and a chair and a whole tidy area in which to make oneself comfortable. This reporter felt comfortable lingering long after anyone was interested in talking to him. The bathroom is there for whomever needs it. The wall behind the register is a metastasizing collection of DVD boxes—sort of like the great, messy minds of the people who work in front of it. Their knowledge of film is almost exasperatingly sprawling: Did you know that Humphrey Bogart used to play “Tennis anyone?” characters, effeminate sidekicks, before making it big playing hard-boiled types? Did you know that an earlier version of “Inglorious Bastards” was made by a kind of Italian Ed Wood? During one recent visit, the store was redolent of garlicky chicken. Justin Paris, of late, is often strumming a ukulele. World of Video is pricelessly leisurely. “It’s a fun place,” says Samuels. “No stress, because it’s that kind of a business. You don’t have any deadlines. It’s just a video store, so relax.”
Take Care of Your Teeth! Poor dental health can cause other ills By Christine Chu, DDS, and Pankaj P. Singh, DDS, Arch Dental Associates
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O. OTTOMANELLI NEW YORK’S FAMILY MEAT MARKET
285 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014
The beginning of a new year is a good time to set personal health goals, and one of the best ways to protect and improve your health and happiness in 2012 and beyond is to make a resolution to take good care of your oral health. The health benefits of taking care of your teeth and gums are overwhelming. Studies show that people who take care of their teeth live an average of 6.3 years longer than those who lose their teeth. Most adults lose their teeth to gum disease, which research links to heart disease, diabetes, preterm births and numerous other health problems. The bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease can also cause infections and inflammation in other areas of your body. In other words, the health of your mouth is truly an indicator of your overall health, for better or for worse. This year make taking better care of your mouth and teeth a health priority. The brighter smile will give you confidence, and your body will thank you with taking this step to protect and promote your overall in health.
Christine Chu, DDS, is a dentist with an emphasis on cosmetic and restorative dentistry. She is a member of the American Dental
Association, the New York State Dental Society and the Nassau County Dental Society, and has published in the Journal of C o n te m p o rary Dental Practice. Pankaj P. Singh, DDS, Diplomate ICOI and ABOI, Fellow AAID, specializes in implants, sedation and dental sleep medicine. He is an attending and research scientist in the Department of Dental Medicine and Oral Surgery at NS/LIJ. He is the author of “Atlas of Oral Implantology 3rd ed.” (2009), an editor of Journal of Oral Implantology and a board examiner for the American Board of Oral Implantology.
February 2012 WestView News 29
Finding the Off Switch to Progress By George Capsis
AYZA One, 7th Avenue South at Carmine Street New York, NY 10014 Phone: (212) 365 - 2992 “As our customers will tell you, a romantic restaurant and wine bar would not be complete without chocolate.”
One of the good things about owning a newspaper is you can force your reminiscences on your readers. So recently I read in The New York Times that IBM Research has been able to create a computer bit, the basic binary unit of information storage, by magnetizing a cluster of 12 atoms—positive or negative—and is able to pack these clusters close together without disrupting their charge. This is the ultimate in miniaturization— down from a million atoms to 12 atoms per bit. You can’t go much further than this, and it will mean whole libraries of information will be contained on storage devices the size of a period. O.K., by a fluke I got a job in IBM corporate communications in 1956 at the very dawn of computers. I mean, this was before transistors, when computers had vacuum tubes. (I asked a 22-year-old computer geek if he knew what a vacuum tube was and he drew a blank.) Back then, instead of creating bits from atoms, little ferrite donuts were held in place between crossing wires in a frame looking like a tennis racket and were charged by current coming down and across the wires
to create these same binary numbers and characters. The IBM 705 Data Processing System took up the whole showroom at 590 Madison Avenue, and my first job was to put punch cards into a reader and new tapes into the tape consoles that stood six feet high. About this time the transistor was invented and I found in a surplus shop on Canal Street racks and racks of vacuum tube frames from our rival UNIVAC, and I thought, what a waste—just yesterday these were part of a multimillion-dollar machine and now they’re just junk. (Ah, I have five dead computer printers that I can’t bring myself to put out for the Tuesday garbage pickup). But electronic miniaturization has a long history. I can remember our first family radio—a dark wooden Queen Anne cabinet with dangling metal handles on the front doors that closed to hide the radio. The cabinet stood on curved legs some four feet high with gothic scroll work on the front, covering the textured speaker cloth, and had a lid that lifted to reveal a Victrola compartment with a little steel cup for new needles and a covered cup for used ones. (As I write this I realize some read-
ers will not know that you had to change the needles on the phonograph or it got squeaky.) When Gus the radio repairman came and pulled the monstrous cabinet from the wall to reveal racks of glowing giant vacuum tubes in back—mysterious science, I thought as a kid. But miniaturization and chips have their price. I bought the biggest radio Radio Shack had and it is only six inches by three and a half inches, but it is incrusted with buttons. All of these buttons are linked to a chip, so if you pick it up awkwardly, you press something wrong and then you have a devil of a job trying to figure out what you did because the miniature screen displays tiny cryptic icons impossible to decipher with aging eyes. I got a call from my neighbor Joan while my wife, Maggie, and I were in the country after I bought the radio saying that the radio had gone off by itself and she had to go into the apartment to shut it off since it was blasting the neighborhood. Right now, WNYC comes on at noon every day. When I get a chance I will try to find and decipher the miniaturized instruction sheet, but until then I just remove the batteries when we leave for the weekend.
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