Revelers outside an East Village bar at last year’s SantaCon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)
By Sabina Mollot
Last week, a coalition of local elected officials led by State Senator Brad Hoylman were able to get the mysterious organizers of SantaCon to agree to a few policy changes to help turn the annual pub crawl from naughty to nice.
This has included the organizers providing the event’s route to local precincts ahead of time and promising to have “elves” on the sidewalks to help keep the roaming crowd of Santas, Mrs. Clauses and other Christmas characters under control on their way from one bar to the next.
Now, said Hoylman, the organizers have also agreed to meet with the politicians face to face following the event to review how things turned out. This, he noted is progress, considering that previously, the organizers had only spoken with the pols over the phone or through email with only first names provided.
SantaCon, which has grown in recent years due to social media, will take place this year on December 14. Hoylman said either he or someone from his office will be “observing” the event, which according to a report in the Daily News, will start at Tompkins Square Park, head to the Lower East Side and end up in Brooklyn.
As Town & Village has reported, officers from the 13th Precinct have previously said they are preparing for the event, due to crowds last year that were larger than expected.Critics, including local precincts and community boards, have complained that the event has become a nuisance due to crowding outside bars and rowdy, drunken behavior that’s included public puking and urinating.
Last week, a rep for the event, who would only identify him or herself as “Santa,” told Town & Village organizers have been trying to be cooperative and were in agreement with Hoylman about bad behavior among participants not being acceptable.
Other politicians in the coalition include State Senators Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron, Assembly Members Brian Kavanagh, Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried and Council Members Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin.
Police Academy building on East 20th Street (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Neighborhood residents are renewing the push to have the Police Academy building on East 20th Street converted into a school. Community Board 6 passed a resolution in 2008 from the Youth and Education Committee proposing the change and board members are again urging the city to revisit the issue because the academy will be leaving the space soon.
The 2008 resolution noted that the building, located at 235 East 20th Street, would be ideal for a school because it already contains classroom space, an auditorium and a gymnasium and there is a need in the neighborhood for more public school seats.
The board’s Land Use and Waterfront committee discussed the possible conversion in a meeting last Wednesday evening, bringing the issue up again because the police academy is expected to move to Queens by the end of next year, vacating the space on East 20th Street.
Residents at the meeting said they wanted to discuss the possibility of a public school not only because the city needs the seats for students but also to prevent the land from being sold to private developers for luxury high-rises.
“(The NYPD) needs to transfer the property to the Department of Education,” CB6 Vice Chair Ellen Imbimbo said. “So many properties have been sold out from under us with little or no notice with no opportunity to recast the transaction.”
A neighborhood resident suggested that a Department of Education official tour the facility to assess the feasibility of such a project and most at the meeting agreed that action needed to be taken because the DOE has not yet commented on whether or not the building could become a public school.
The committee will be drafting a letter to send to the DOE but the issue will not be reviewed by Community Board 6 again until the next full board meeting in January.
“It would make a wonderful high school or intermediate school,” resident Jim Collins said of the facility. “Yes, it’s beat up, but the cost of cleaning this space up is relatively de minimis compared to building a new school.”
Some of the toys from a previous Town & Village toy drive
With the holiday season here, Town & Village is asking readers and community residents to help spread cheer by participating in our annual Christmas and Hanukkah toy drive. An ongoing tradition for this newspaper for decades, the drive delivers gifts to children at one of our local hospitals.
This year, donations will be accepted for young patients undergoing treatment at Beth Israel Medical Center as well as the children of patients of various in and outpatient clinic programs.
According to Bonnie Robbins, head of the medical center’s outpatient clinic for families, the gifts from drives have made a world of a difference to the children the hospital serves, as in many cases, their families would not be able to provide them with any presents for the holidays.
Gifts appropriate for children of all ages are welcome as well as teens. Due to hospital policy, the donated items must be new. Used toys, even gently used, can’t be accepted for health reasons. If interested in donating, unwrapped gifts may be brought to any of the following drop-off centers:
• Stuyvesant Town Community Center, 449 East 14th Street*
• M&T Bank at 397 First Avenue near 23rd Street
• Waterside Management Office, 30 Waterside Plaza
• Waterside Swim & Health Club, 35 Waterside Plaza
• The Town & Village office at 20 West 22nd Street, 14th floor
The deadline to submit toys is Thursday, December 19.
* Please note that the Stuyvesant Town Community Center is also being used as drop-off points for a separate toy drive being organized to benefit Toys for Toys. T&V’s Drive will have its own box for donations. Additionally, the center may be closed on Tuesday, December 17 and Wednesday, December 18 for renovation work. Additionally, a previously announced dropoff point, the Oval Concierge booth in front of Peter Cooper Village, won’t be available for dropoffs.
This letter was originally published on the Town & Village Blog as a response to “The Soapbox” column by Richard Luksin, “My visit to Stuyvesant Town,” T&V, Dec. 5.
I have been critical of the many changes that have occurred since MetLife went from a mutual insurance company to a for-profit corporation. Then, CEO Robert Benmosche quickly converted ST/PCV into “high end” apartment complexes. The “greatest generation” is quickly being overrun by the “greedy generation” to match the now materialistic nation that has been wrought.
MetLife sold ST and PCV to Tishman Speyer for $5.4B. They defaulted and sold off to CWCapital. Many widows of the “greatest generation” in their 80s had been manipulated out of their 60-year-old apartments by devious and false allegations. Too scared (and old) to challenge — they moved out. So the very members of families who fought in World War II were usurped by the new generation who only fought for more money.
The Rent Stabilization Law (with significant input from monies given to the “pols”) allowed any vacated apartment to go into “free market” status. So, a $2,000 apartment (with minor additions and renovations) could now be rented for over $5,000.
Pity the poor landlord(s)! Each month and now online, management includes a “bonus” of $500 to anyone who recommends someone and they sign a lease. (The new tenant also gets $500.) What a scam. Luxury sans a doorman or large staff that few need. Get with it, guys! This means that there is a dearth of people seeking these neo-luxury suites.
Then there is the conundrum of global climate change… Sandy! Since we are near the East River, waters overflowed to First Avenue. As bizarre weather patterns evolve with speed, if ST/PCV may well end up (as Tony Soprano might have said) “sleeping with the fishes,” these two giant real estate properties will be worth zip! (Not to mention all of Manhattan — remember it’s an island!) And, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.
All of the changes here are designed for the always changing CEOs and shareholders to make more money. All are already wealthy, but want more and more A study was done which compared “happiness and fulfillment” between those New Yorkers who were making $150K and those “super wealthy.” And the results: once you made $150K there was no increment in having a good life.
The greedmongers of Wall Street, the banks, real estate, and… are just playing a game with our lives. It’s a sort of obsessional compulsive disorder (OCD) — except it is destroying our economy, country and people — into an Ayn Rand-ish hell!
I have lived here for 38 years and remember fondly and sadly (the late) General Manager Bill Potter who, when I had had a life threatening illness, said, “Don’t worry about the rent, until you get better.” Those were the good old days which are now gone. Now, methinks that the neo-management would want me to die so they could get more money for my apartment — seriously!
Thank you, Mr. Richard Luksin, for not forgetting!
Chris Poe, who was elected president of the National Arts Club in October, said the club will be expanding its public programming and has just opened a rental artists’ studio space. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
With a tumultuous, litigation-filled year almost behind them, the administrators at the National Arts Club are looking forward to a new start — one in which the focus is back on the arts.
Last week, the club’s new president, advertising executive Chris Poe, told Town & Village about plans for the place, which include the launch of its artist-in-residence program, holding even more exhibits and earning income through the rental of new, onsite artist studio spaces.
Poe, who was elected by the club’s board of governors on October 17, stepped up into the position after the surprising decision by its previous president, the Rev. Tom Pike, to resign in September.
One of NAC’s 21 board members himself, Poe said the election results were not a surprise since he’d been asked previously by other members if he would be willing to fill the volunteer role if chosen, and said he would. Then at the time of the election during a board of governors meeting, he was asked to leave the room for a bit. “Which is why,” he said, “I had an idea.” Poe said he isn’t aware of anyone else having vied for the position.
Poe, who’s been a member of the club since 2006, said he got more active with various committees in 2011. As for his new title for the next year, he called it “an awesome responsibility. It’s something I’m very proud of.”
He also considers himself fortunate, having been elected after the club ended a more than two-year-long battle with another former president, O. Aldon James. In July, James agreed to a settlement that paid the club $950,000, following an investigation by the attorney general into allegations that James used the nonprofit club’s funds as his own personal piggy bank and mismanaged apartments and other rental spaces in the club building.
Had the litigation still been ongoing, Poe admitted he wasn’t sure he’d have been willing to become the president, since he lives in midtown rather than at the club building, and his day job as head of advertising and brand management at the Pennsylvania-based firm Hartford Funds means he can only be at the club in the mornings and evenings.
But with the flurry of back and forth lawsuits behind the NAC, Poe said the 14-hour days past presidents have had to commit to are no longer necessary. Instead, he’s been focused on communicating with the various committee leaders and the club’s general manager, John Eramo, when he’s there and doing so via email and phone when he’s not.
“The president is now about being a good quarterback,” said Poe, adding that generally the topic of conversation members are most interested in is that of the club’s future.
“We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us to take the club to that next level,” he said. “The first (priority) is the mission of the club, which is in the charter, to be a place where the public can access education about the arts and the second (priority) is member expectations.”
Those expectations, he added, include increasing the value of membership through more programming and longterm planning, “not just for the season but the years to come, where we’re going to take the club.”
So far, the programming has already increased with the club now running a few exhibits at any given time, with some turning over as frequently as every two weeks. Though some spaces in the club, like the bar and dining room are members only, the five gallery spaces are open to the public as are certain events like author readings held by the literary committee and events held by the film committee. Art-wise, Poe said the club tries to embrace modern forms of art as well as the type of art its become known for showcasing, from the mid-20th century.
Currently on display at the club is “Six by Nine,” a group exhibit of works that have the dimensions of six by nine feet; a calligraphy exhibit, a silverpoint exhibit and on December 16, the NAC will open “The Triumph of Winter,” a selection of works from the permanent archives. (See Town & Village’s Around & About listings for details.)
In fulfilling another expectation of members, which is more transparency and access to the board, there are also now more events geared towards the club’s general members meeting the decision makers behind the scenes.
Poe said he and the other board members have come to think about the Gramercy Park institution as a place that’s being groomed for the next generation of members. At this time there are around 2,200 members and younger members get a break on dues. Dues last went up last year and are now $1,075 for local residents, $750 for non-locals, $700 for those under 28 and $825 for those between 28-35. Additionally, dual memberships are available at a minimal extra cost.
Younger members, said Poe, have been joining after discovering the club through recent exhibits, and tend to be followers of the artists.
As a result of this, not to mention the recent settlement with James, financially, the club’s in good shape, said Poe. That said, how the NAC’s income is spent these days is scrutinized carefully by its audit committee, which was a requirement of the attorney general.
This income now includes rent from a studio at the club that has been open since September. The studio, which faces Gramercy Park and “has excellent light,” said Poe, is rented out to three artists who pay $300 each and get to use it whenever they like, with storage space for their supplies.
Soon, the studio will also be used by the first artist to be part of the National Arts Club’s artist-in-residency program. The first artist will be announced this week at Art Basel Miami, a massive art industry event, and the NAC’s program is being sponsored by FLATT magazine.
As for the club’s other rental spaces, the 42 apartments of various size (studio to duplex), only club members are allowed to rent them, and all rents are market rate, also a requirement of the A.G. Rental spaces have recently been renovated, including 13 that are used on a short-term basis by non-local members. At this time, said Poe, the club has a 90 percent occupancy rate of the transient rooms.
Though Poe is aware some members have asked for affordable housing for artists, “the reality,” he said, “is we need to make money. The rental property has got to be a revenue generator for us.”
After all, the maintaining of a Gramercy Park brownstone built in 1840 isn’t cheap. The last time it was fully renovated was in 1870, though there are some repairs planned and the building is in the midst of being inspected.
When not on the club property or at work, Poe said he can often be found at museums or at the ballet. He also loves to cook. “I do traditional American with a French twist.” Other times, he and his longtime partner, stylist David Zyla, can be found walking around the city.
“We’re wanderers,” said Poe. “We’re always looking for the next food movement. The television just isn’t on in our house. We’re both in love with our city.”
Poe, who’s been in a New Yorkers for the past 30 years, grew up in numerous areas along the northeast U.S. His family moved often and he ended up coming to New York City “as fast as I possibly could. That’s where my passion for the National Arts Club comes from,” he said. “In itself it’s such a part of what makes New York great.”
Town & Village is proud to present “The Soapbox,” a column featuring a different voice from the neighborhood each week (space providing). All are welcome to submit columns on the topic of the author’s choice, preferably not longer than 800 words, to email@example.com or Town & Village, editor, 20 W. 22nd St., 14th floor, New York, NY, 10010.
This column was submitted by Stuyvesant Town native and current resident of Minneapolis Richard Luksin.
It has taken me a while to write this because it was so painful. Where to start?
On 8/22/13, on the way to my summer camp’s 50th reunion, I managed to briefly visit my beloved Stuyvesant Town for the first time since 1995 and I still loved it. In 1995, it still looked and felt as it used to. Now it looks and feels very different.
As I meandered purposefully to see my old apartments, playgrounds, the Oval, the fountain, the most striking feature was that no one was smiling! Everyone looked drained of life. Sad. Mad. Anxious. Busy. Troubled. Exhausted. Even the dogs looked exhausted (and out of place). Not one person looked happy except me — I couldn’t stop smiling in the presence of far too much security, a lot of construction, the blight of the fences. Also the whizzing by of so many carts and other vehicles (the only vehicles we saw in Stuy Town when I was growing up were snow plows in winter and trucks in the spring to collect the prunings of the trees.)
All this did not make for a friendly atmosphere. It looked like Superstorm Sandy had hit ST about a week ago and they were in the process of cleaning up the devastation that it had left behind. Even the playgrounds looked less fun and more regimented. There was even a security guard posted at the entrance to Playground 10, not allowing anyone in to use its beautifully tended field. God knows why.
Still, it was glorious to be back in Stuy Town again and I would still rather live there than any place on earth, but it’s not what it was and that’s not just nostalgia talking. I must be correct because no one looked happy. No one had a bounce in their step and a lot of the natural warmth of the Stuyvesant Town community seems to have been lost. Stuyvesant Town itself seemed to be in pain. I’m not just an oldie longing for the good old days. My friend who was with me said ST felt nothing like I’d often described to him. Even he could sense the paranoia; it was palpable. It felt like Sandy hit and never left.
Satire but true political commentary by former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
Dateline Washington D.C. April 15, 2014…
President Obama announces that his administration working with the Center for Disease Control has found a cure and vaccine for the common cold!
The immediate response from Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is that the cure does not go nearly far enough. “Do you know how many other diseases this President has ignored? He should be ashamed of himself,” House Speaker John Boehner added. “This President continues to preside over a nation that spends too much and taxes too much. On this the day that we file income taxes, where is the tax cut in the President’s announcement?” Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin proclaimed, “What a travesty that this failed President is wasting the time of the American people instead of working 24/7 to stop the onset of the common cold by keeping illegal immigrants out of the country who spread germs and sickness.” And finally Rush Limbaugh declared on his talk radio program, “Let them try to give me or one of my family members a cold shot, the only shots that are protected by the Constitution are those in the second amendment, which come a from a gun.”
Revelers outside an East Village bar at last year’s SantaCon (Photo by Allegra Kogan)
By Sabina Mollot
State Senator Brad Hoylman, who has recently called on the mysterious figures behind the ever-growing bar crawl SantaCon to start policing its crowds, said this week he was able to get the group to agree to some of his suggestions on achieving this.
Though the conversation he had with the group was over the phone with individuals who would only identify themselves by first name, Hoylman said it was a positive talk since the group said it would take some concrete steps to keep the event under control.
“We’re reserving our judgment,” said Hoylman on Wednesday, in reference to himself and a coalition of other local politicians who also want to see the mass gathering become less of a disturbance to the neighborhoods it visits.
Last Tuesday, the group penned a letter to urge the anonymous organizers to work with police and community boards on curbing the crowding and rowdy behavior seen at SantaCon events in recent years. SantaCon, an annual event, encourages participants to dress like Santa or other Christmas-themed, and even Hanukkah-themed characters, as they head down a route announced only shortly before the crawl via social media, and hit various pubs along the way. As it’s grown, however, the event has been widely criticized by residents of neighborhoods that are included, due to the crowded sidewalks and the obvious intoxication of participants.
Last December, a Town & Village intern covering the event reported having to dodge male and female Santas yelling, fighting and even puking as they stood waiting to get into various bars or sitting on bus stop benches in the East Village and Union Square. After getting a few photos, the intern, Allegra Kogan, and a friend got into a cab and, before they could exit at Union Square, had the door flung open by more drunken Santas who tried to force their way in.
“Even the cab driver, probably used to New York City antics, looked shocked,” Kogan said.
This year’s SantaCon is set for December 14, with the route so far unannounced.
In their letter, the pols said the route ought be made public in advance to give the NYPD and local businesses time to plan.
“While SantaCon is an open event, the organization still bears ultimate responsibility for its participants,” the letter from the coalition of politicians read. “Every organization must ensure that it is not encouraging lawbreaking, which in this instance includes public consumption of alcohol, public intoxication, public urination, as well as disorderly and overly aggressive behavior.”
Along with Hoylman, others to sign the letter were State Senators Liz Krueger and Daniel Squadron, Assembly Members Brian Kavanagh, Richard Gottfried and Deborah Glick and Council Members Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin.
Hoylman also noted that in a previous attempt he made to reach out via letter to SantaCon in October, organizers did respond, but it was “in a very cursory manner.”
He added, earlier this week prior to the Tuesday conversation, “They said they were looking at some options to police themselves and work with the NYPD, but it wasn’t sufficient.”
However, after the conversation, Hoylman said volunteers for the group said they would be willing to work with local community boards, precincts and elected officials and let the precincts know the route of the event ahead of time. There will also be volunteers to help maintain crowd control on the sidewalk “as well as weed out the bad actors, or rather the bad Santas,” said Hoylman.
Part of the event’s problem, he was told, was that anyone can participate simply by donning a Santa suit. “So there’s this flash mob mentality.
“At this point we’re reserving our judgment to see whether they follow through on their promises,” he said. “The challenge will be whether they can actually control the people who participate.”
As for the organizers’ decision to withhold their full identities, Hoylman said, “It was the best we could do at this point, so I remain skeptical. Given that they’re a loosely affiliated group of people who want to remain unnamed, we all need to be watchful.”
Prior to the phone call with Hoylman, when asked for comment on the elected officials’ concerns, a spokesperson for SantaCon, who would only identify himself as “Santa” to T&V via email, insisted that the organizers have been trying to be cooperative.
“Once again, SantaCon organizers are in agreement with much of what Senator Hoylman’s office has stated,” the email said.
“We want to return the event to one that values the creative and charitable aspects of SantaCon over the consumption and over-crowding it is known for.
“This year we are reaching out to community boards, police precincts, Parks Departments and governmental agencies to coordinate our event. We plan to remain in contact with them in order to mitigate the negative effects SantaCon may cause on any community it passes though.”
On the event’s website, organizers note that the real purpose of the event is not boozing, but raising money for charity. Last year’s event raised over $45,000 for Toys for Tots and collected 10,000 lbs. of canned food for the Food Bank of New York City. This year, participants are being asked to contribute $10, which will be distributed to several charities.
On the site, “Santa” added that, “Santa agrees that there is no excuse for inappropriate behavior. Public drunkenness, urination or rude behavior is not only prohibited by the stated rules of the event, but actively discouraged by the crowds of Santas themselves, who are for the most part, responsible, creative community-minded New Yorkers.”
Warshaw Hardware owner Ed Warshaw (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Earlier in the year, the owner of Gramercy’s Warshaw hardware shop found himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit by the former president of the National Arts Club, which was also filed against the club.
In the suit, O. Aldon James accused business owner Ed Warshaw of breaking into apartments he controlled, so the club could clear out the spaces, which were hoarded, after he stepped down as president amidst allegations of misusing the club’s money and real estate. At the time, James said he lost no less than $10 million worth of personal property, including items that would have helped defend him in his legal battle with the club, as a result of the cleanup.
However, that lawsuit has since been settled, Warshaw shared this week. A deal was actually reached in July, when Warshaw was away, in which James would agree to the suit in exchange for a settlement to Warshaw of $10.
“I’m still waiting for my ten dollars,” noted Warshaw, although he admitted he doesn’t care about the money. After the suit was filed, Warshaw denied any wrongdoing, saying that although he had done locksmithing work for the club, he didn’t have anything to do with the entering of any James-controlled spaces.
“It just hurt my feelings,” he said this week, “for him to include me in his shenanigans. I’ve known the guy for so long.”
The settlement was actually part of a larger settlement James reached with Attorney General Eric
Former National Arts Club President O. Aldon James (Photo courtesy of National Arts Club)
Schneiderman in July, in which he was made to pay $950,000 to the club. In exchange a number of lawsuits between him, his twin brother John and friend Steven Leitner against the club and vise versa, all ended, according to Roland Riopelle, the club’s attorney.
Over the phone this week, Riopelle explained, “It ended when that settlement went down in July.”
Since then, he said the National Arts Club has been “thriving,” and that he wishes James success in “whatever endeavor he has moved onto.”
The lawsuit was also against the club for what James called a “malicious” attempt by the administration that replaced him to throw him, John and Leitner out of their apartments at the club building on Gramercy Park South.
He said the club’s then Vice President John Morisano had Warshaw break into his apartment and change the locks to a space leased to John James to store artwork. Other items O. Aldon James said were locked up and later destroyed included 25 years worth of day planners and important financial records like credit card receipts, billing slips and some benefactor data.
However, those charges were denied by Riopelle. Riopelle told T&V at the time the only things tossed during the cleanup were items that were “obviously junk” and not paperwork. He also defended Warshaw, confirming the business owner’s story that he hadn’t been involved in the locksmithing work.
“This is like the Japanese horror movie version of litigation,” Riopelle told this paper. “It’s like Godzilla’s tail wiping out the hardware store while battling with the National Arts Club.”
When asked for comment, Barry Felder, the attorney representing James in the case said, “There was a global settlement and Warshaw was included in the global settlement.”
Prior to the settlement, Warshaw said he actually ran into the club’s former longtime leader nearby the club building on East 20th Street. Warshaw attempted to talk to him, but said James got flustered in response. “He kept saying, ‘I wasn’t the guy. I wasn’t the guy.’”