Lyric diner reopening

GPBA concerned over planned bar

Lyric diner (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Lyric diner (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The former Lyric Diner is planning to reopen soon — after a short stint as Taverna, a Greek restaurant.

“Lyric was there for a long time and Taverna wasn’t right for the neighborhood,” owner George Kalogerokas said of the diner’s return.

Meanwhile, though he’s going to be reopening a neighborhood favorite, one community group is concerned about the inclusion of a bar that wasn’t there when the diner was the original Lyric. When the owners converted the old diner into Taverna, they applied for a full liquor license and the State Liquor Authority granted it.

While the attorney for the owners and the owners themselves have emphasized that the physical bar will be primarily used as food counter when the spot reopens, owner George Kalogerokas admitted that if a customer wanted to buy a drink without ordering food, it wouldn’t be a problem. And this is a concern for Sean Brady and Arlene Harrison of the Gramercy Park Block Association. The GPBA has expressed concerns over the past few months that Third Avenue is becoming oversaturated with bars.

“The community has had its share of issues with bars, and even restaurants that sell alcohol which morphed into bars that also served food,” Brady said.

Community Board 6’s Business Activities and Street Affairs Committee chair Nicole Paikoff said that CB6 isn’t concerned about the way the owners plan to run the new Lyric because they said the bar would be used as a lunch counter. “If it turns out they are operating in a way that is not a diner, then of course we will address it, but it looks like this is going to be a diner again; the only difference is they have a liquor license, she said.

But Brady said the distinction isn’t that the restaurant has a liquor license now but is that it will have permission from the SLA to have a standup bar, where customers can buy a drink without ordering food. “Our view is that if they’re using it for people sitting down and eating, it’s fine,” he said. “But their license allows them to sell to people who are standing up and that’s the part they promised the community board they wouldn’t do.”

The restaurant’s two owners, Kalogerokas and Dimitrios Sarantopoulos, signed an affidavit this past January that said the community board would support a full liquor license if the owners agreed not to have a standup bar, but in their application to the SLA in April, the number next to how many standup bars would be located in the restaurant was one instead of zero.

“They said ‘we agree (not to have a standup bar)’ and they promised that to the community, then they turned right around and did exactly the thing they agreed not to do,” Brady said. “It’s either a deception or a mistake and it sounds like it was a planned deception.”

He added that if there was a mistake, he would be happy to write a letter to the SLA personally fixing the part of the application that includes a standup bar.

“Our hope is that it was a mistake,” he said. “That would be a win for the community because people loved Lyric and they would love to see it come back.”

In response to the GPBA’s concerns, Peter Marc Stern, the attorney for Lyric’s owners, said that the distinction for the community board and the SLA is slightly different when each refers to a standup bar. The agreement with the community board was concerning the kind of bars where customers stand and drink without ordering food, and he said that the owners are not intending to make Lyric into that kind of place at all.

“Nobody can just drift in there and have a drink standing up,” he said. “We’re not going to violate that stipulation. And who would want to go in there just to have a drink when everyone else is having pancakes?”

He explained that the standup bar mentioned in the SLA application is only referred to in that way to differentiate it from the service bar, which is only available to the wait staff, and customers will pay their tab not to the bartender like in a bar, but like they would normally at Lyric: at the register. He noted that the SLA even recently changed the application so the options are “customer bar” and “service” with no mention of a standup bar.

“We are not going into the bar business,” Stern added. “I don’t even think they’re anxious to serve liquor. They don’t expect to do a lot of business there and I expect they will just go back to beer and wine once the liquor license expires. We don’t want a bad feeling in the community.”

Lyric is located at the corner of Third Avenue and East 22nd Street.

 

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Dogs have their day at Canine Comedy Parade

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday afternoon, Gramercy Park West was transformed from the quiet, narrow street it normally is into to a bustling runway for the neighborhood’s pooch population.

Around 50 people showed up for the event, the annual Canine Comedy Parade run by the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates. Each year, dog owners are encouraged to bring their  furry friends in costume (or not) and for a $5 entry fee, have them march down a hydrant-lined red carpet to compete for prizes and certificates. It’s not a talent show or a competition that focuses on training or pedigrees. Dogs who get cold paws and shy away from strutting down the carpet will still get a certificate and treats. Really, it’s just an excuse for neighbors to get together, GNA members have said. One member, Jane Emory, recalled how when the event started, at least 15 years ago, it was an event for children. These days, the parade attracts mostly adult owners.

It isn’t the most popular of the GNA’s various events; that would be the annual art show at the National Arts Club, which this year drew over 400 people on opening night. But, noted GNA President Alan Krevis, “It’s the one everyone talks about.” Many new members often discover the GNA through the Canine Comedy Parade, whether they’re participating or just walking by in time to see one of the contestants win an award like “most likely to eat this certificate.”

According to Krevis, the award titles are usually made up by judges moments before being called out. This year, titles included “most likely to get blown away by a big gust of wind” and “most likely to work out at the same gym as my owner.” The latter went to a bulldog named Armando, owned by Marco Shur, and the former went to tiny pooch Princeton, owned by Ilana Weissberg.

This year, the event’s winner of the grand prize (a $50 gift certificate to Petco) was Alain, a rescue mini-poodle owned by Union Square resident Sarita Kellman. Alain, a male dog, may have been chosen for his being such a good sport after being decked out in an outfit made out of roses and having a judge repeatedly mispronounced his name as “Elaine.” It’s apparently pronounced “Ah-lon.”

Kellman, who made Alain’s outfit, said, “I design jewelry, so I figured why not design him a little costume? He’s lucky he’s a boy or he would have been even more dressed up.”

Kellman said Alain came from Paterson, New Jersey. She found him after looking at a site seeking owners for rescue dogs. She had intended to get a female toy poodle but when she saw the photo of the dog that would become hers, “It was love at first sight.” She added of the now 14-month-old, “He’s a wonderful dog. He’s mellow and he’s active, which is so unusual.”

Along with Alain, three other dogs won runner-up prizes of $25 gift certificates. One went to Ella, a maltese dressed up like a turtle and owned by Dorie Solomon. The other two, Clove and Sage, known as “The Spice Dogs,” and owned by Mary Parker, won a collective runner-up prize.

Parker, a longtime Gramercy Park resident, said she would like to see more events like the Canine Comedy Parade, and said there used to be more, but these days, there’s too much resistance to them. “There are too many wealthy people who don’t want to be with their neighbors,” she sniffed.

Along with the contest, the event also featured exhibitors from local dog-related businesses and organizations. This year’s exhibitors were Wiggly Pups dog daycare center, Animal Care & Control, Bideawee, Cauz for Pawz, Graceful Canine Dog Training, a dog caricature artist from Lorelei Arts and doggie knitwear company Hope’s Hand Knits.

Waterside celebrates 40th anniversary

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday night, hundreds gathered at Waterside Plaza for a celebration of the complex’s 40th anniversary that included a concert by the George G. Orchestra, dancing under the stars and a fireworks display over the East River.

Waterside owner Richard Ravitch, between schmoozing with tenants and local politicians, said he never could have imagined the evening’s landmark celebration when, close to 50 years ago, he was trying to convince city officials that the building of a four-tower complex east of the FDR Drive would be a good thing.

“Never in the world,” he said. But he kept pushing for the plans and eventually succeeded in getting federal legislation passed so that Waterside’s buildings could be constructed directly over the water.

“(Mayor) Lindsay was excited about this,” recalled Ravitch. For a while, he noted, Waterside also rented apartments to the FBI “so they could eavesdrop on North Korea.” These days, Waterside is home to 4,000 people, including 200 employees of the United Nations, and there are also two onsite private schools, United Nations International School and British International School of New York.

Over the years, Ravitch said the biggest challenge of running the property is staying on top of its upkeep.

“If you do this responsibly, you have to preserve the infrastructure, even if it means less money in your pocket.”

Ravitch lives uptown rather than at Waterside, explaining, “Every time I raise the rent, some tenants get… unhappy. So it’s never a good idea.” Tenants seemed receptive to the landlord on Thursday though, even greeting him with cheers when he addressed the crowd briefly to discuss the history of the complex and the land it was built on.

He noted the fact that Waterside, the first property to be built east of the FDR Drive, was designed by Lewis Davis, whose son Peter Davis is today the general manager of the property. When introducing him, Ravitch said, “When I was dabbling significantly in public service, I knew I’d have to find an extraordinary person who could raise tenants’ rents, but remain beloved by tenants. That person turned out to be the son of the genius who designed Waterside.”

Ravitch also had words of praise for Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal. Though he admitted she “gives me agita several times a year,” he also called her a tough leader for tenants.

He then went on to discuss how long before Waterside was even a concept, the area that now houses the four-tower complex was an important part of international history. In the 1940s, when the United States was trying to help the British with supplies, the ships they were delivered in, which could not return to the U.S. empty, used rubble from the ground in English city of Bristol as ballast. That rubble was then emptied in the area that now houses Waterside before the ships would take on more supplies. Waterside management was made aware of this bit of history a couple of years ago through the English Speaking Union and now has a plaque on the Plaza to commemorate it.

Also joining Ravitch to discuss the history were a couple of special guests, Edwina Sandys, the granddaughter of Winston Churchill, and Ava Roosevelt, the widow of William Roosevelt, David Roosevelt’s half-brother. Local politicians also appeared at the event, including Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Council Member (and borough president Democratic primary winner) Gale Brewer.

Along with the brief ceremony, the evening included complimentary hot dogs and burgers grilled outside on the Plaza, music, dancing as well as dance performances by the Syncopated City Dance Company, a video tribute to the complex and entertainment for kids.

Letters to the Editor, Sept. 26

If it wasn’t broke…

The following is an open letter addressed to ST/PCV management regarding the renovation of the bike rooms.

I’m sorry but the bike storage changes in 250/240/405 are really unacceptable if you consider them finished, and now my three year old daughter has gotten hurt because we have two adult bikes standing in our living room, as we have had for more than a month longer than your posted notice suggested we should expect to.

You’ve replaced rails that allowed dozens and dozens of bicycles to be locked easily at the frame with one floor rack that has room for about seven bikes to be locked near the floor. These floor racks make it more difficult to lock any part of the bike, even just the wheel, to anything, and as you probably know, bikes locked at points other than on the frame are far easier to steal. This non-replacement of the decent, old, and capacious railings has carried on for more than two months since CW representative Brian Moriarty said that tenants “would be able to store them under the same conditions that they were previously stored.”

If you believe that the old rails allowed for problems to arise in how passable the open spaces of the bike rooms are, I would point out several things:

1. I didn’t ask, but I never saw any building staff having any problems passing through the open areas of the bike room even while carting large items.

2. It’s very obvious that replacement rails could be installed in such a way that even full of bikes they take up about half the space the old rails did.

3. Any difficulty at all in passing through the open areas of the bike room was created by two things:  First, the landlord’s own elimination of about 80 percent of floor capacity and about 50 percent of bike storage capacity several years ago when the private storage units were introduced, and second, the landlord’s indifference to how many bikes were stored. And of course now, that last problem is even less of an excuse, since you now require all bikes to be registered. I’ll note that trekking bikes to the Oval (during only certain limited hours) to be registered so that they’re allowed to be stored in the bike rooms is no small ordeal for anyone, much less for my family of four who owns four bicycles.

Please immediately re-install in our bike room rails that allow dozens more bikes to be easily locked by the frame.

Thank you,
David Dartley, ST

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Rev. Tom Pike resigns as NAC president

By Maria Rocha-Buschel 

Rev. Tom Pike (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Rev. Tom Pike (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

After just a few months at the helm of the National Arts Club,  Reverend Tom Pike said he would be resigning as president, Town & Village has learned.

Pike, who was elected by the club’s Board of Governors as its president in May of this year, cited his need to focus more attention on prior, longstanding commitments. The former rector of Calvary-St. George’s Church took over the position from Dianne Bernhard, who was the president after O. Aldon James stepped down in 2011 amidst an internal financial controversy.

According to a brief statement from the National Arts Club, the club’s first vice president, Ira Goldberg, will assume the role of acting president until the board elects a new president, which is expected to happen this October.

UPDATE: Reverend Pike didn’t respond to a request for comment on his reasons for resigning, but long-time friend and associate Arlene Harrison said that he has commitments throughout the city and he would not be able to commit the amount of time and energy required in the position.

“It was totally unexpected from my point of view and I had no idea that he was thinking of stepping down,” Harrison, the president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, added. “After decades of lawsuits and difficulties at the National Arts Club, our community was so grateful that a man of peace, Tom, was going to go in there and be the president. That was one of the major reasons we did a membership drive to bring our community back to club. The community was distressed to learn that he is no longer able to be the president.”

Gramercy Neighborhood Associates holding ‘Taste of Gramercy’ event

Bedford Cheese will be one of the participating businesses at Taste of Gramercy. (Pictured) The store also participated in Tuesday's Harvest in the Square event in Union Square. Photo by Sabina Mollot

Bedford Cheese will be one of the participating businesses at Taste of Gramercy. (Pictured) The store also participated in Tuesday’s Harvest in the Square event in Union Square.
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

The Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, a group best known for its events such as the annual Canine Comedy Parade and historic preservation awards for beautifully maintained local buildings, will now also hold a food tasting festival.

In the tradition of other local food tasting festivals such as Harvest in the Square and Celebrate Flatiron Chefs, this event, Taste of Gramercy, will showcase dishes by chefs at restaurants in the Gramercy neighborhood. The first of what GNA is hoping will become an annual tradition, set for October 12, will also be a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization, which has a mission of historic preservation, collaborations with local schools and more recently, the promotion of local businesses.

Admittedly one of the group’s more ambitious projects to date, Taste of Gramercy was the idea of new GNA board member Mary Showstark.

Showstark, before joining the organization, had been to similar events such as Taste of Tribeca and then searched for something similar in her own neighborhood, only to find out there was none. After joining the GNA, she pitched the idea, later learning how much detail would have to go into planning it, such as the lengthy process of getting permits from the city.

“There are a lot of things to do, like tests for the Fire Department,” said Showstark.

GNA President Alan Krevis added that when he first heard the suggestion, he almost said no.

“I was a skeptic; I thought it was a lot for us to handle,” said Krevis.

However, the work has seemed to pay off due to the overwhelming interest from local eateries. So far there are around 25, including Gramercy Tavern, Barbounia, Wildwood BBQ, Paul & Jimmy’s, Pure Food & Wine, Ponty Bistro, City Crab, Big Daddy’s Diner and The Stand.

Other businesses such as Bedford Cheese, NYC Bike Share, Seamless, Nate’s Pharmacy, the Bowery Mission, Con Ed and Verizon FiOS have signed on as sponsors.

“It’s going to be fabulous,” said Krevis. “The response has been amazing.” So much though, he added, that some of the sponsors came by word of mouth after talking with other participating businesses. “It shows you the excitement of the merchants,” said Krevis.

Those who order tickets early (before October 10) will pay $30, a steep discount from the $50 admission fee the day of the event.

The day’s menu (though subject to change) will include such fare as an artisanal North African chicken dish from Ponty Bistro, cheese plates with cheeses that are especially ripe during the month of October from Bedford Cheese and meatballs, lasagna, and possibly a veal dish from Paul & Jimmy’s. Restaurant chef Greg Azzollini said he was happy to participate in an event that celebrates Gramercy.

Azzollini noted that when Paul & Jimmy’s opened in 1950, his grandfather worked there. Later his father did as well, and still works in the dining room.

“So we’re proud to be a part of the neighborhood for such a long time,” he said. “Aside from Pete’s Tavern, we’re the oldest establishment in Gramercy Park.”

The event will be held street-fair style, under the open sky with each exhibitor under a small tent and TOG will be held rain or shine.

Gramercy Neighborhood Associates board member Mary Showstark and Alan Krevis, president, in front of Irving Farm Coffee, a participating business in Taste of Gramercy Photo by Sabina Mollot

Gramercy Neighborhood Associates board member Mary Showstark and Alan Krevis, president, in front of Irving Farm Coffee, a participating business in Taste of Gramercy
Photo by Sabina Mollot

A portion of ticket sales will benefit local schools, including PS 40 and School of the Future. Any food that doesn’t get served will be donated to The Bowery Mission, an organization that helps the homeless.

The GNA has, in the past year, held a smaller tasting event, though it was in collaboration with one business, Bedford Cheese on Irving Place. The event was a hit though, attracting over 100 people.

Bedford marketing director Laura Archer said throughout the year the Gramercy location has been open (there’s an older shop in Brooklyn), locals have been extremely welcoming.

“The neighbors have really taken to it as a neighborhood shop,” said Archer. “So we’re really excited to be a part of Taste of Gramercy.”

For more information about GNA or to get tickets for Taste of Gramercy, visit gnaonline.org.

Spike in burglaries, assaults

Lieutenant Vincent Collins reported a 10 percent increase in burglaries. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Lieutenant Vincent Collins reported a 10 percent increase in burglaries.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

In the first 13th Precinct Community Council meeting after the summer break this past Tuesday, police reported that the precinct has seen recent increases in crime, specifically in grand larceny auto, burglaries and felony assaults.

Lieutenant Vincent Collins filled in for the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector David Ehrenberg, who was tied up with a duty throughout all of Manhattan.

Collins reported that there has been a 10 percent increase in burglaries this past month, although most of them are commercial burglaries committed by what police refer to as “office creepers,” who have been noted as a problem for the precinct in the past.

One resident who works on Fifth Avenue wanted to know about the kinds of buildings where these incidents are occurring, and Police Officer John Considine said that these thieves hit both doorman and non-doorman buildings, often posing as bike messengers or food delivery people.

He suggested that to stop it from becoming more of a problem, buildings should make it a practice not to let bike messengers or delivery people past the lobby to prevent them from wandering freely throughout the building and entering offices where they could potentially steal from employees’ desks. He added that doing so could also help spread the word among criminals, letting them know that certain buildings are more difficult to get into.

Although Collins said that there has been an increase in felony assaults, he noted that there have also been a number of arrests in those cases. “A lot of these have been assaults on officers and have been because of the hospitals that are in the neighborhood,” he added.

A resident and local business owner said that he’s encountered a number of people who seem mentally unstable who could potentially be involved in these assaults, and Collins suggested that anyone who encounters such a situation should call 911, or notify the precinct or 311 if the person is more of an ongoing problem for the area.

Other residents added that they’ve had problems with unruly homeless people in the past and seemed doubtful that the police had the authority to detain them for psychiatric evaluation. Linda Janneh from the District Attorney’s office said that in cases when people on the street are getting undressed, “releasing bodily fluids” or threatening to cause harm to themselves or others, they can be forced to go to Bellevue. If they are found to be in certifiable need of mental help, they will be kept in the hospital for at least six weeks.

Shana Wertheimer, the director of the Prince George Hotel on East 28th Street, was also

Shana Wertheimer, director of the Prince George Hotel on East 28th Street, discusses its housing of low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Shana Wertheimer, director of the Prince George Hotel on East 28th Street, discusses its housing of low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

at the meeting to speak about services available to the homeless population in the area. The Prince George is run by the organization Common Ground, which is a supportive housing provider for low-income New Yorkers and the formerly homeless.

Common Ground has apartments and temporary housing available throughout the state, including the original building in Times Square. Forty percent of the units in the Prince George are set aside for low-income residents and 60 percent are for the formerly homeless, and the case managers help residents with services such as medication monitoring, money management or with any issues they have, the goal being to provide a more economically-friendly alternative to the city’s shelter system for homeless people in the area.

The increases in grand larceny auto cases have been primarily in the theft of motorcycles, which has been reported in T&V’s Police Watch recently, including two in the past week. Collins noted that all of the incidents have happened late at night and they have beefed up specialized units in an attempt to deal with the problem.

“We’ve had a decrease in grand larcenies, which has historically been our nemesis,” he added.

It also wouldn’t have been a 13th Precinct Community Council meeting without a number of complaints about bikes. Considine said that the precinct has been up in enforcement for the past few months, to the disbelief of some of the residents at the meeting, who said that the number of rule-breakers they’ve seen on bikes has been increasing.

Considine admitted that the arrival of Citi Bike has added to the problem but noted that officers have been writing more summonses for cyclists who have been disobeying the traffic laws and riding on the sidewalks.

“It’s hard to enforce every time it happens and it’s not an easy problem to solve,” he admitted.

The next community council meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 15 at 6:30 p.m. and will include the presentation of Cop of the Month for both September and October.

T&V film critic to have his own film screened at Coney Island Festival

Seth Shire Photo by Sabina Mollot

Seth Shire
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

Stuyvesant Town resident Seth Shire, who pens the weekly film reviews for Town & Village, usually with a focus on independent films and documentaries, will have a documentary of his own shown at the upcoming Coney Island Film Festival.

“Mad Santa,” a shortie at eight and a half minutes, is a series of interviews and other footage taken of Scott Baker, a sideshow performer/theater actor and during the holiday season, Santa Claus at Bloomingdale’s.

Shire, who, when not seeing or writing about films, teaches sociology classes at CUNY’s Queens College, met Baker at the department store last year when he too was working there. He was teaching then too but worked during the Christmas season at Santaland as head elf. It was there that he learned, from Baker, that Bloomingdale’s was the right place to be Santa.

“Scott didn’t like Macy’s because it was like a factory with six Santas,” said Shire, also noting that the kids would get rushed there. “At Bloomingdale’s, they took their time with the kids,” said Shire. Though there was also a weekend Santa, Shire soon noticed that Baker took special care to bring the magic of the holiday to the kids, especially those getting older and more skeptical about whether to believe in Santa.

The title of the film, explained Shire, is that Baker “is an eccentric character. He’s not angry. He’s a performer.”

When not in character as Kris Kringle, Baker has been delighting audiences for years at Coney Island’s Sideshow by the Seashore with acts like light bulb eating and sticking a screwdriver up his nose.

When Shire asked him how he did his screwdriver trick, the response was, “It’s not a trick.” Apparently, Shire learned, “You do have a lot of empty space in the back of your nose.”

When filming Baker for “Mad Santa,” much of the time, Shire found that he didn’t have to ask questions or do anything, really, other than let his subject be himself. One particularly interesting moment, at Santaland, occurred when a European woman, in broken English, said, “I want my baby to go down on Santa.”

“She kept saying it,” said Shire who was later told about it by Baker. “I would just film anything that seemed interesting. I always had my camera with me.” Baker’s responses with those who wanted to take pictures with him earned him a loyal following though. “There’s a group of firemen that show up every year to take their picture with him,” said Shire.

Baker, meanwhile, told Town & Village, he considers himself a “showman,” rather than a carnie, since he has

The subject of "Mad Santa": Scott Baker in character Photo courtesy of Scott Baker

The subject of “Mad Santa”: Scott Baker in character
Photo courtesy of Scott Baker

never after all worked at a carnival. He began his sideshow work at Coney Island after organizers there invited him to do so in the mid-1990s when Baker was working at nightclubs throughout the city as a magician. For his sideshow routine, he has about 40 acts, including the light bulb eating. When doing this, he favors the clear, 25-watt variety. “I usually do 100-watt bulbs, but I’m on a diet,” he explained.

When it’s not sideshow season, Baker does some theater work. One job included a 12-year run in the Broadway show “Oh! Calcutta!” He also has worked in Vegas, sharing stages with bands like The Coasters and The Platters for his magic act. But for the past 12 years, when it’s holiday season, Baker has been Santa at Bloomingdale’s. He’s also been Santa at other stores and at private parties before that.

In some ways, the Santa routine is similar to the sideshow one, noted Baker, in that, “They’re both exhausting. You have to keep your stamina up or you lose character.” Both experiences though are about “magic and miracles and ideally spreading joy and happiness.”

Along with “Mad Santa,” Baker will be involved in two other films at this year’s Coney Island Festival. One, “Rehearsal,” focuses on him as he prepares for a magic act. Another, “Welcome to Madness,” is a horror movie he wrote and starred in.”

He’s actually a festival veteran, having been featured in a film called “Mr. Dangle,” shown at the first Coney Island Film Festival ever, just a week after 9/11.

“Mad Santa” is the first film to be directed by Shire since he studied film at New York University, and this is his first piece to be screened at any festival. Prior to his teaching work with CUNY, Shire worked for years in film post production, a job which required quite a bit of editing. Films he’s worked on include “Get Shorty” and Martin Scorsese’s “Casino.” He still does some post-production projects today and is currently involved with a film called “Wish You Well,” staring Ellen Burstyn, and which is based on the novel of the same name. Over the summer, he did reception at RZO, a firm that does accounting and financial management of artists’ tours. Clients there include the Rolling Stones and David Bowie.

“If you’re going to work for an accountant, it’s the most glamorous job you can have,” Shire joked, after having once picked up the phone to find himself talking to Mick Jagger. In his writing for this newspaper and for his classes, he also often interviews filmmakers and other performers. Recent interviewees for his classes were Stuy Town documentary maker Doug Block and Saturday Night Live alum Colin Quinn.

The Coney Island Film Festival is set to take place from September 20-22. The festival will feature many new films as well as the 1970s-era film “The Warriors,” about a gang in Brooklyn. “Mad Santa” is scheduled to be shown on Saturday, September 21 as part of the afternoon program that begins at 5 p.m. A Saturday screening pass, which includes all screenings that day except for “The Warriors,” is $15. Admission to that film, which is an event held as a fundraiser for Coney Island USA, is a donation of no less than $12. A Sunday screening pass is $10 and includes all screenings that day. Opening night party is $25. Full festival pass is $50 and includes opening night party and all screenings except “The Warriors.” Individual screenings are $7. The venue is Sideshow by the Seashore, 1208 Surf Avenue in Brooklyn. For more information, http://www.coneyislandfilmfestival.com.

A version of this article ran in Town & Village’s print edition on September 12.

 

 

Letters to the Editor, Sept. 19

Why Quinn, Thompson, Liu and Weiner lost

The following letter was originally published as a comment on the Town & Village Blog in response to the story, “Residents choose de Blasio,” T&V, Sept. 12.

The lesson from this primary election is that our politicians need to take care of their constituents, because if they take their base for granted they will pay the price. Also, any narcissism will be severely punished on Election Day.

Chris Quinn lost Greenwich Village and Chelsea by 15 points to de Blasio because she assumed her own district would vote for her, in spite of St. Vincent’s closing, her crush on Bloomberg and many other quality of life issues she neglected to address. In the end even the gay vote wasn’t there for her because she wasn’t there for them. She narcissistically assumed she could do whatever she pleased and her base would follow. They followed de Blasio instead.

Bill Thompson lost Harlem by 10 points and the total black vote citywide to de Blasio because he spent the last four years between elections actually acting a lot like Bloomberg; becoming an investment banker, summering in the Hamptons and eating at his favorite sushi restaurant on Irving Place. Even though his daughter lives in Stuy Town he could no longer connect with middle class people, and he just assumed his base would be there for him. It is telling that his biggest support was in the white portions of Staten Island, so maybe it’s time for him to change parties.

John Liu won the Asian vote in Elmhurst and Chinatown and everywhere else, because he paid attention to his base and was always there for them. Hopefully he will use his skills to broaden his appeal in the future, if so he will be the one to watch next time around.

Anthony Weiner proved that narcissism is not an endearing quality, and being a lying, perverted, unhinged narcissist is even less attractive. He was the biggest loser as he went from the early frontrunner to the punchline of a joke no one is laughing about anymore. He didn’t need an election as much as he needed a marriage counselor. Like many, I was willing to forgive and support him at first, but his atrocious handling of his personal affairs and his arrogant treatment of the press reminded me more of a Tea Party candidate than the progressive he used to be.

In the end Bill de Blasio was the only one who got it, on stop and frisk, on affordable housing, on our Bloomberg fatigue and on taxing the rich to fund our schools. Bloomberg thinks the solution to all our problems is more Russian billionaires, and that higher taxes will just scare them away. As if the rich have ever been scared away by the high price of living that they themselves helped create.

Are the rich really going to leave NYC and the multi-million dollar condo they just bought over a few thousand dollars in extra taxes? Where are they going to go, back to Russia? Or New Jersey? How’s the view of Central Park from over there?

Bill de Blasio won because he gives us hope for a fairer city, with his smart interracial family, and with his progressive agenda, which is why he won big on his opponent’s turf.

But he also won because of his stark contrast with another narcissist named Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg’s last gasp insult of accusing de Blasio of racism for using his son Dante in the best campaign ad in decades reminded us all why we are tired of the billionaire who thinks he knows better than everyone just because he has more money. Democracy isn’t about telling people what to do, it’s about honest representation of the people, listening and caring about them and imposing their will on society and not your own. That’s why de Blasio won this round and will be the next Mayor of NYC.

John Small, EMP

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Basements in PCV still closed

Garodnick asks for timetable,

CW says approvals from city take time

Generators outside Peter Cooper Village buildings during early stages of the cleanup/repair efforts in November  Photo by Sabina Mollot

Generators outside Peter Cooper Village buildings during early stages of the cleanup/repair efforts in November
Photo by Sabina Mollot

 By Sabina Mollot

Nearly eleven months after Hurricane Sandy, Council Member Dan Garodnick has called on CWCapital to finish the repairs in hard hit buildings in Peter Cooper — especially since they were supposed to have been completed this month.

This was a timeline given by management, and noted Garodnick in a letter to CWCapital Asset Management Vice President Andrew MacArthur, was last mentioned in an official property update to residents in August.

“It is now September, and as far as the residents can tell, none of those basements appear close to opening,” said Garodnick, in the letter, which is dated September 4.

He added that residents deserve at least an update with some sort of explanation since residents in 15 PCV buildings have had to do without bike storage or laundry rooms. (Those buildings have had temporary washers and dryers.) Residents have also been unable to access the basement to get in and out of their buildings. Meanwhile, instead, Garodnick said, the only updates residents do get are for things management wants to promote.

“The updates being sent out give information about more whimsical matters like last week’s photo contest — with no word about these basic services,” said Garodnick. Though he was the one to push CW to give residents a timetable for the completion of the work, Garodnick said he never expected that the September date wouldn’t be enough time. “This has taken far longer than anyone could have reasonably expected,” he told T&V, “and residents deserve an explanation and compensation.”

Following the loss of Sandy-related services in 15 Peter Cooper buildings and two Stuyvesant Town buildings, the Tenants Association filed an application for rent reductions with the state housing agency. However, there has still been no decision on that, the Tenants Association said this week, and in his letter, Garodnick called on CW not to wait for that claim to be resolved before paying up.

“We’re getting close to the one-year mark here,” he said.

Garodnick said that as of Tuesday he has not gotten a response from CW, but on Wednesday, after being asked for comment from T&V, Brian Moriarty, a spokesperson for CWCapital said that the delay is due to the slow process of getting city approval for the various aspects of the work.

“As we’ve said, rebuilding the 17 basements that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy is a complex project that, beyond the physical work and procurement of materials with long lead times, involves numerous agencies that must review and approve plans for every aspect of each basement’s infrastructure and careful scheduling and staging of contractors to ensure the work is completed as quickly and safely as possible with the minimum disruption for our residents,” Moriarty said.

“As such, it is not uncommon for construction projects of this scale to take a long time. Although some residents may not yet see physical work being done in their basement, we assure you that significant progress has been made in all basements. We are making every effort to finish this work as soon as possible, and expect it will be done later this fall.”

Moriarty said that as far as the rent rebates are concerned, the Tenants Association’s application, previously slammed by CW in a court document as “petty” and “mean-spirited,” was also helping to slow things down.

“We offered to sit down with the TA in January to negotiate exactly that,” said Moriarty. “However, they declined to meet and elected to file a diminution of services claim instead.  It is disappointing as many of the steps the TA has taken have actually prolonged our ability to get the required approvals.  It seems that this could have been more easily resolved.”

In response, Garodnick said, “Rather than get into a he said, she said about TA management negotiating, CW should just do the right thing and compensate tenants.”

Though we were unable to reach the Tenants Association by press time for the print edition, TA Chair Susan Steinberg and President John Marsh later responded to say that the application for a rent reduction doesn’t affect management’s ability to restore the laundry rooms. They added that filing the application strengthened their ability to negotiate.

Waterside turning 40

 

Waterside Plaza

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

Waterside Plaza, the four-tower complex on the East River owned by former Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, will celebrate its 40th birthday on Thursday, September 19.

A party will be held outside on the plaza with music, food and a video tribute, and according to management, “ a few surprises.” Originally, the event was scheduled for September 12, but was postponed due to the weather.

This week, Ravitch spoke to Town & Village about the years leading up to the property being built. At that time, he had a major challenge on his hands when presenting the idea of a development to be constructed directly on the water to the city and the public.

“Everything about it was revolutionary,” he said. “It was a social experiment. We were going to have families of various incomes. We didn’t know we’d have to get a law passed by Congress to make it doable (to build on the river).”

Additionally, he recalled, residents of nearby Peter Cooper Village were opposed to the idea, over concerns new buildings might block their own views of the river.

Waterside is situated east of the FDR Drive between 25th and 30th Streets. To build the complex, 2,000 concrete pilings were placed 80 feet into the bed of the river. Each tower ranges from 31 to 37 stories and all together, there are 1,470 apartments.

The designer of the buildings was Lewis Davis, whose son Peter, coincidentally, is now the property’s general manager. Along with closeup views of the river, Waterside has doormen, a gym with a pool, a landscaped plaza for the use of the public where summer concerts, movies and dance performances take place and a retail strip. Two private schools are also located onsite, British International School of New York and United Nations International School. Waterside was for many years in the Mitchell-Lama program. It expired in 2001 and today, some residents pay market rent while others, who lived there before 2001, live under a “settling agreement,” which gives them a rent increase of 4.25 percent every year.

The towers as well as a number of adjoining townhouses are home to 4,000 residents and Ravitch called it “a wonderful community” due to the award-winning architecture and the diversity of the tenant population. (Two hundred are United Nations employees and residents come from 62 different countries.)

“It’s a little further away from the subway than some people would prefer, but that’s the only reason everybody doesn’t clamor to be at Waterside,” said Ravitch.

To deal with the transportation issue, a few years ago, Waterside began offering free shuttle bus services to tenants to local subway stops.

While residents and management sometimes clash over issues, Ravitch said overall the tenants have been happy with the way the place is run and currently, their real only beef is with the city. This would be over plans to build a sanitation garage across from the pedestrian bridge from Waterside over the FDR Drive to First Avenue and 25th Street.

When asked for his take on the garage, Ravitch, who at one time headed the MTA, said, “I’ve spent so much of my life in public service… so if the city says they’re going to have a garage there, I can’t argue with it.” Instead, he said the city needs to take the residents into consideration when building it directly across from the property’s main entrance and exit.

“When you have 4,000 tenants and two schools directly involved, there should have been more consultation,” he said. He also said the city shouldn’t build in the parcels of the property located west and east of the garage site. “Those should be community uses.” In a related issue, Ravitch called on the city to make the pedestrian bridge, which is public property, handicapped accessible.

Janet Handal, who’s the president of the Waterside Tenants Association, also weighed in on the development’s landmark anniversary.

Recalling the effort that went into getting the place built, Handal, who moved there in 1974, said, “It shows you the finesse of Richard Ravitch in putting it all together and Lew Davis, too. The guy really wired this and it was not an easy thing to wire. It’s a great community, a beautiful place. It’s like a small town really.”

Residents choose de Blasio

De Blasio, Lhota, Mendez, Brewer top in primary

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and staffer Anna Pycior campaign for Gale Brewer outside Stuy Town on Tuesday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and staffer Anna Pycior campaign for Gale Brewer outside Stuy Town on Tuesday. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

After a long and contentious primary season and a race with more Democrats than can be counted on one hand, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio climbed to the top of the pack in the election on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, it was still unclear whether or not de Blasio, who at times during the campaign lagged in fourth place behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former City Comptroller Bill Thompson and former Congressman Anthony Weiner, would avoid a runoff with Thompson.

According to election results from the New York Times, de Blasio won all of the districts in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, as well as most of the surrounding districts except for some in the Flatiron area and Gramercy, which went to Quinn. The Republican primary was only slightly more split, with former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota winning all of the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village districts except two.

The race was too close to call between de Blasio and Thompson on Tuesday night. While various news sources put de Blasio slightly over the requisite 40 percent at around midnight, Thompson said that he would continue his campaign until all of the ballots were counted, which could take days. As of Wednesday morning, the Board of Elections said that de Blasio had 40.13 percent of the vote with Thompson at 26.16 percent.

Quinn, the longtime frontrunner, conceded on Tuesday night with only 15 percent of the vote and disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner ducked out early in the vote-tallying with less than five percent.

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Letters to the Editor, Sept. 12

Gale Brewer for borough president

Gale Brewer is a unique politician. As a volunteer, I have seen firsthand how she connects with people by her caring and sincere disposition. Gale is the real deal and will make seniors, disabled, working families proud to call her president.

She has initiated and helped pass the paid sick leave law in the Council. I see Gale on TV and how hard she works for all New Yorkers.

Gale has campaigned often in Stuy Town, standing on street corners at the food market and grocery store. She has pledged to fight hard for Stuy Town and rent regulation to keep this community affordable.

Her most recent endorsements are NY Times, Mike McKee of TenantsPAC, Assemblymen Brian Kavanagh and Dick Gottfried, Gloria Steinem, Liz Holtz, many unions, Sierra Club and many, many others.

Stuy Town is lucky to have such a seasoned candidate — 40 years in government, 12 years in the City Council and a president to be for all Manhattanites.
Sincerely,

Cissie Hawkes, ST

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Local events commemorating 9/11

Police officers hold a ceremony outside the 13th Precinct on September 11, 2012. Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

Police officers hold a ceremony outside the 13th Precinct on September 11, 2012.
Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

On Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, there will be a few commemorative events taking place locally.

Thirteenth Precinct Remembrance Ceremony

In keeping with tradition, police officers at the 13th Precinct will hold a brief ceremony in front of the stationhouse at 8:30 a.m. The precinct lost two officers on 9/11, Moira Smith and Robert Fazio, after they responded to the World Trade Center. There will be a moment of silence for them at 8:45 a.m. The stationhouse is located at 230 East 21st Street between Second and Third Avenues.

Interactive Art Installation at 14th Street Y

The 14th Street Y will be installing “Morning Sky,” a community art project by Illegal Art, on the sidewalk in front of the Y at 344 East 14th Street between First and Second Avenues. The project will begin at 9 a.m. and will continue until 110 6″ square canvases have been painted. Members, friends and passersby will be asked to paint the canvases with the color they believe to have been the sky on the morning of 9/11. Canvasses, paints and clothing cover will be provided.  The canvasses will be exhibited in the Y lobby gallery space for the month of October.

“9/11 Shifting Clouds Exhibition” at Bellevue Hospital

Bellevue Hospital Center will host an exhibition of artwork by people who lived, worked, went to school or participated in the cleanup in Lower Manhattan and now have health problems related to 9/11. The “9/11 Shifting Clouds” art exhibition will run from September 11-13 and September 16-18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bellevue Hospital, 462 First Avenue at 27th Street.

Residents unsure who to vote for

Undecided republican voters Aaron and Dorothy Wilkinson Photo by Sabina Mollot

Undecided republican voters Aaron and Dorothy Wilkinson
Photo by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

The primary for the mayoral election as well as other citywide positions is right around the corner, but in Peter Cooper Village (always an area with impressive voter turnout), residents are still saying they don’t know who they’ll be voting for.

A Town & Village reporter cornered people who were minding their own business, sitting out on the benches this week, to ask about who they think they’ll choose. In response, all those interviewed said they had no idea or were still on the fence about a couple of candidates. Most also seemed unimpressed by the current crop of candidates running for mayor.

One senior couple, Paul and Gerry Singer, said they’d been following news about the upcoming primary to some degree. However, due to their having just moved to PCV from Nassau County, were at this time ineligible to vote.

Still, Gerry said she was torn between current frontrunners Public Advocate Bill De Blasio and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“I like what they have to say,” she said. “Whether it’s true or not I won’t find out unfortunately until after one of them is elected.”

“It’s very hard to choose,” said Paul. The candidates “will say, ‘We’re going to stop stop-and-frisk, but they don’t say how. They make a lot of statements and they expect you to trust them upfront.”

Frances Jivekian, who worked in catering until retiring recently, said, “I’d vote for Bloomberg if he was running again.” That said, she was not a big fan of the bike lanes he instituted, blasting the one on First Avenue as dangerous. As for the current candidates, “I’m still undecided, but I will probably vote for Quinn,” said Jivekian. “She’s my favorite. I like the woman and I’m a democrat. I don’t like that other guy, that big guy,” she said in reference to the towering de Blasio.

Pal Brenda Satzman, who until recently worked in floral design, said she isn’t going to be voting. She normally doesn’t vote in mayoral or gubernatorial races anyway, “unless there’s a character I’m interested in. I know the issues are very important but who’s going to be listening to those issues?”

She, too, said she likes the current mayor but said none of the current candidates stands out for her.

Heidi Clever, who works in the fashion industry, said education is a deciding issue for her when voting. At this time, she’s torn between de Blasio and Quinn.

Quinn, who has recently proposed opening five new technology/science schools for girls, has, through the Council, expanded pre-K by 10,000 seats and made kindergarten mandatory.

De Blasio wants to create universal pre-k, create after school programs for middle schoolers and also supports the expansion of tech education.

“I’m not sure how they’re going to deliver though so I want to do more research and I haven’t had a chance to do that yet,” said Clever. “I have a son in school so school (is the issue) for me.”

Clever’s friend Jacqueline Farmer said she was also considering de Blasio or Quinn, and that she too has school aged kids, 10 and 18.

“So that’s big for me,” said Farmer, also a full-time student herself at CUNY Hunter, studying English and political science. Farmer said she likes that De Blasio wants to put more money into CUNY (financed by taking tax subsidies away from big companies). She also likes the candidate because of his interracial marriage and family. “I’m mixed and I think he would be understanding about minorities,” she said.

However, Farmer is also still leaning towards Quinn, because, “I’m a part-time feminist and I like that she’s a woman and she exposes her flaws. She doesn’t hide anything.”

Married couple Aaron and Dorothy Wilkinson said they were die-hard voters and voted whenever they could in a primary, being republicans. Both said they thought Bloomberg had done a good job but didn’t seem to have anything to say about the Republicans currently on the ballot.

“I’ll probably go for the one the Times endorsed, but I don’t remember his name,” Aaron, an engineer, admitted.

Dorothy, a retired teacher who taught at School “47”, agreed, saying she and Aaron always vote the same way. (For reference, the Times endorsed former MTA head Joe Lhota for the Republican side.)

Aaron also indicated he doesn’t care for de Blasio, due to his plan to fund pre-k seats by taxing the wealthy.

“He says he’s going to tax the rich, but he doesn’t define rich,” Aaron said, adding, “You betcha” when asked if he was concerned personally about a possible tax hike. (Reports have said this would mean New Yorkers earning over $500,000.)

Karl Guerie, a photographer who also does administrative work at the V.A. Medical Center, said, “I’m still debating.

“To be honest no one really stands out for me, so that’s why I’ll be waiting until the last minute to decide,” he said. “There’s nothing fresh, nothing new. There are different things they’re talking about but not enough to define the individuals. One person may be talking about stop-and-frisk. Someone else will say where they stand on housing. I believe it should be a complete package, but if that’s what you want, you may not end up voting at all. Sometimes it’s the lesser of the evils.”

Guerie added he will try to consider the city’s population at large when choosing. “When people say, ‘Who’s good for me?,’ it makes things difficult. I’d like to believe it’s bigger than me, the individual. Because what happens to all the people whose voices aren’t heard?”

Helen Sanders, a retiree and mom to former Assembly Member Steven Sanders, a Democrat who represented Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town for 28 years, said she too doesn’t know yet who she’ll be voting for.

“Right now no, I’m still deciding,” she said, adding that her son, now a lobbyist in Albany, doesn’t try to nudge her towards one candidate or another. But she said she will be voting. “Oh yes,” said Sanders. “I always vote.”