PCV director: The future of theater is on your smartphone

A woman rides the N train, along one of three routes where the site-specific plays are meant to be listened to on a smartphone. (Photo courtesy of Erin Mee)

By Sabina Mollot

A Peter Cooper Village resident who once directed a play designed to be downloaded as an app and listened to on the Staten Island ferry has recently released a series of plays that, like “Ferry Play,” is meant to be experienced on one’s smartphone.

The new production, “Subway Plays,” is a trilogy of plays that are intended to be listened to on the L, N and 7 trains. Though they can be played anytime, the audio performance should be accompanied by a specific route: either Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens for act one, or Brooklyn or Queens while headed to Manhattan. The site-specific plays, which are told in English, also include other languages such Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Russian and Colombian Spanish that would typically be heard along the route.

The plays come in the form of an app, which costs $2.99 and can be downloaded on an iPhone or Android.

Erin Mee said she first got the idea to do a downloadable play from a Canadian theater company that specialized in what was referred to as “pod plays.” She ultimately decided to refer to her own project as a “smartphone play,” since iPods have mostly gone out of use and she didn’t want people to get confused. Additionally, she stressed that this type of play is different from an old-time radio play or an audio tour one might hear in a museum. This is because it’s site-specific with the sights, sounds and smells of the environment factoring into the story and overall experience.

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Republican runs for Kavanagh’s old Assembly seat

Assembly candidate Bryan Cooper believes it’s unfair Republicans are blamed for the lack of affordable housing. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Cooper)

By Sabina Mollot

In New York City, it’s generally understood that whichever Democrat candidate is on the ballot in a general election is going to win, regardless of who the Republican or third party candidate is. And Bryan Cooper, the Republican hoping to fill the Assembly seat vacated by State Senator Brian Kavanagh, knows this.

Nevertheless, he is hoping three time’s the charm. This will, after all, be the third time he’s run for the 74th District Assembly seat. Cooper, now 51, ran against Kavanagh in 2008 and again in 2014. He also ran against then-City Council Member Rosie Mendez in 2009.

While both incumbents were easily re-elected, Cooper said he’s more hopeful this time since the special election on April 24 is an open one.

He’ll be on the ballot along with Democrat Harvey Epstein who last Monday got the nomination from the Democratic County Committee. That same evening, the Manhattan Republican Party announced it was supporting Cooper.

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 22

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Differing ideas about housing ‘reform’

To the editor:

My principal difficulty with Harvey Epstein’s “Living in NYC isn’t a privilege,” opinion, Town & Village, Feb. 1, is his omission of what has brought us an “unprecedented housing crisis.” Mr. Epstein took pains to lay bare the crux, but he did not get to its persistent cause. As we read his letter, it becomes apparent that while he understands the crisis, in the sense that he, like we, can describe it, he does not understand it as anything other than a crisis in housing. It is, in his words, “an alarming trend” whose remedy is “up for debate.” I do not know why Mr. Epstein sees the “unprecedented crisis” as a “trend,” and it bears badly for his future leadership and his constituency that he thinks the remedy is “up for grabs.”

To treat the plight of our most vulnerable, Mr. Epstein would provide them with “subsidies so that they can afford to stay in their rent-regulated housing.” He would require “all developers to set aside a percentage of all future development for affordable housing.” He would “repeal vacancy deregulation… reform the way in which landlords impose exorbitant rent increases based on MCIs,” and he would “end the vacancy bonus which allows landlords to increase rents a whopping 20 percent whenever a tenant [vacates] an apartment.” In the main, covering all of the issues, Mr. Epstein believes that, “It’s time we create new working class housing program that allows working class New Yorkers the ability to work and stay here.”

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First Ave./14th St. a seedy intersection, neighbors tell cops

Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer of the 13th Precinct (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The intersection at East 14th Street and First Avenue has recently become a hub for the homeless as well as unsavory characters who’ve been loitering, making neighborhood residents feel unsafe, a number of neighbors have been saying.

The intersection was one of the topics brought up to police at a meeting on Tuesday evening held by the 13th Precinct Community Council.

StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk told the precinct commanding officer, Steven Hellman, that management has gotten an uptick in calls about the area.

“We wanted to heighten awareness about First and 14th because there’s been an increase in vagrants,” Hayduk said.

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ST/PCV residents enjoy brief break from winter

On Tuesday, children enjoyed the first opportunity in months to play comfortably outside. In Peter Cooper Village, kids on scooters could be seen everywhere. (Pictured) Sisters Alice and Sophie Ghalem with their friends Aya and Sakura Donnelly ride outside Playground 2. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

As the weatherman predicted, the sun came out on Tuesday, bringing with it temperatures that went up to the 60s and even higher on Wednesday.

With the muggy morning a distant memory, on Tuesday afternoon families headed outside to local playgrounds. In Stuyvesant Town, rows of strollers could be seen double parked at the tower playground while at the ice rink the chiller worked overtime for unbundled up skaters. Tee-shirt wearing basketball players took over the First Avenue playground in Peter Cooper while kids, donning helmets, whizzed by on the paths on their scooters outside a packed Playground 2. Over by the fitness playground, neighbors Lisa Chin and Anne Fischbach, who sometimes utilize the equipment there, seemed more content on this tropical day to just relax on a bench.

“There were even more people before,” said Fischbach while gesturing to where a few men were training in a corner of the playground. As for her own plans that evening, Fischbach quipped, “I’m going to watch television at 8 and have dinner.”

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Police Watch: Man arrested for damaging cars, Car break-in on E. 28th

MAN CHARGED WITH DAMAGING CARS WITH PIPE IN KIPS BAY
Police arrested 26-year-old Damien Emory on Monday after he allegedly walked through traffic, hitting multiple vehicles — which all had drivers in them at the time — with a metal pipe.
Police said this caused damage to the cars. He was charged with alleged criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and weapons possession at the corner of East 24th Street and First Avenue at 4 p.m. None of the drivers sustained any injuries.

MAN ARRESTED FOR BREAKING INTO CAR ON EAST 28TH
Police arrested 28-year-old Gaber Algalal last Tuesday at 5 a.m. for allegedly using a metal object to try to break into a vehicle parked in front of 23 East 28th Street at 5:24 a.m.
Police said they witnessed this when they went to the scene to respond to a call about an unrelated incident and saw that there was damage to the driver’s side door and scratches on the driver’s side window. Algalal was charged with criminal mischief and possession of burglar’s tools.

MAN ARRESTED FOR ROBBERY IN DOMESTIC INCIDENT
Police arrested a 50-year-old man for robbery at the corner of Second Avenue and East 14th Street last Wednesday at 7:28 p.m. The victim told police that while she was driving with the suspect, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, they got into an argument over money. She said that the suspect became irate and kicked her in the hand, causing an injury. She told police that the man also forcibly took her credit cards and made four unauthorized purchases on one of the cards. When she and the suspect returned to their home, he allegedly damaged a lamp and threw other items all over the apartment before leaving. The victim then went to the precinct to report the incident and the suspect was stopped at Second Avenue and East 14th Street, where he was identified by the victim and arrested. Police said that he was also in possession of marijuana. The suspect was also charged with assault, criminal mischief and possession of a controlled substance. The name of the suspect is being withheld to protect the identity of the victim.

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Opinion: Some improvements in ST service

By Kenneth Chanko

Landlord stories superabound in our city. So do we really need another one?

Well, this particular tale might hit closer to home for T&V readers than most. As a Stuy Town resident for the past 31 years, having lived in a two-bedroom on Avenue C before moving to a three-bedroom on 20th Street — and having been born and raised through secondary school in Stuy Town and Peter Cooper, then raising my own two kids here (and a dog!) — I have a pretty expansive yet highly personal perspective on the succeeding iterations of Stuy Town management and how they’ve treated tenants throughout the decades.

After its Stuy Town experiment went belly-up, Tishman Speyer thankfully departed the premises. There followed too many years of receivership, which saw a further erosion of services and upkeep. A new landlord, Blackstone partnered with Ivanhoé Cambridge, purchased the development. Last month marked the two-year anniversary of the new management being fully in place, and that’s enough time to get a sense of what’s going on.

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Pair stole woman’s phone at 23rd Street subway station

Phone theft suspects

Cops are looking for a pair of thieves who snatched a woman’s iPhone X at the 23rd Street subway station.

On Friday, February 2 at 9:15 p.m., the 54-year-old female victim was walking along the R platform, looking at her phone, when the two men grabbed it from her before fleeing.

Both suspects are described as being black, about 20 years old, 5 ft. 7 ins. and 170 lbs. One was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, the other a black hooded jacket.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

All calls are strictly confidential.

Men stealing handbags from Flatiron Michael Kors

Suspects

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for two men they say have been swiping handbags from the Michael Kors store in Flatiron.

Police were able to get a fuzzy photo of two suspects, though it isn’t clear if they were involved in all recently reported incidents of theft at the store. Police are aware of eight thefts of handbags at the location at 133 Fifth Avenue since January 10.

On January 10, three handbags were taken. On January 13, another three bags were stolen. On January 16, two bags were stolen with another four, along with a keychain, stolen on January 20. On January 31, three handbags were stolen. On February 6, five Mercer bags, which range in price from $250-$500, were taken. Another three Mercers were stolen on February 10, which is the most recent known incident.

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Man gets beaten by group for his phone and headphones on East 28th Street

Robbery suspects

By Sabina Mollot

Police are looking for five people, possibly all teenagers, who assaulted a 19-year-old man for his headphones and cell phone on a street in NoMad.

The incident occurred on Monday, December 11, but police only released the information this week after an initial lead on a suspect didn’t pan out.

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Former Beth Israel Karpas Center will be demolished

311 First Avenue was included in last year’s sale of Gilman Hall to the CIM Group. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The building that used to house Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s Karpas Health Information Center has been sold and will soon be demolished.

The new owner filed an application to demolish the four-story property at 311 First Avenue and 18th Street, last October, and scaffolding now surrounds the property. There is not yet an application for new development although the razing of the building, which also has nine residential units, was said to be in preparation for an unspecified “plan.”

CIM Group, a Los Angeles-based real estate investment group and private equity firm, through an LLC called 305 First Avenue (NY), bought the property last March for $27.5 million from Mount Sinai, according to Acris records.

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Kitten rescued from postal truck engine is still under observation

Melanie, a kitten rescued from a truck parked in Gramercy (Photo by Marilyn Pascarelli)

By Sabina Mollot

Melanie, the mostly blind kitten rescued from the engine of a postal truck last month, is still waiting for her forever home.

Holly Staver, a founding member of rescue organization City Critters, noted that the adorable black and white longhair kitten came close to getting adopted by a Stuy Town resident who wound up not being able to take her for some reason.

Meanwhile, Staver said Melanie may need further observation and specialized veterinary care as her reactions to some cats and other stimuli “are a bit dramatic.” This isn’t due to her limited vision, which hasn’t been a problem as she seems to gets around without problems.

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Letters to the editor, Feb. 15

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Don’t deny ST girl her Boy Scout status

The following is an open letter from State Senator Brad Hoylman to Randall L. Stephenson, National President of Boy Scouts of America, asking that Sydney Ireland, a Stuy Town teenager and Boy Scout for 11 years, have her status as a Scout formally recognized by the BSA. In December, Town & Village reported on Ireland’s fight, alongside her family, to have female members’ contributions recognized. The BSA has said it would start allowing girls to be members, but not until 2019.

Dear Mr. Stephenson:

I write to you as an Eagle Scout (Troop 70, Lewisburg, WV) and New York State Senator on behalf of my constituent, Sydney Ireland. A lifelong Boy Scouts participant, Sydney successfully advocated for the official inclusion of girls in Boy Scouts of America programs this year. However, because your organization does not plan to implement the new membership policy for two years, Sydney, who is now 16, will age out before she can officially join a troop.

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Rivera focused on mom-and-pops and affordable housing at tech hub

Council Member Carlina Rivera outside her district office in the East Village (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Newly-elected City Council Member Carlina Rivera spoke with members of the community media in a round-table discussion this week, covering affordable housing, the plight of small businesses and the transit woes affecting District 2.

Rivera, who took over the seat from Rosie Mendez, who was term-limited after 12 years in office, previously worked with Mendez as her legislative director and is a long-time community activist working in the East Village and the Lower East Side.

One of the subjects she brought up was the new “tech hub” the city is planning on East 14th Street, and Rivera said she wants to make sure affordable housing is factored into the plan.

“In terms of the zoning, it’s going to be important to look at how we can incentivize affordable housing,” she said. “People are worried that this tech hub is going to be a purely commercial development and one of the most important things we need is affordable housing.”

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City is warehousing vacant lots intended for housing: Stringer

City Comptroller Scott Stringer is accusing the HPD of failing to meet its own target dates for taking actions on available properties.

By Sabina Mollot

On Monday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer blasted the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, saying that at the rate it’s been working to turn over 1,000 vacant city-owned lots into affordable housing, it’ll take 17 years to get them all breaking ground.

His announcement followed a report he issued in 2016 that showed the city was warehousing over 1,100 vacant lots.

Out of those properties, Stringer said nearly 90 percent (1,007) have remained undeveloped. HPD, he said, has transferred only 64 to developers and 54 others have been transferred to other city agencies for their use. Additionally, some properties have remained vacant for 50 years.

Stringer noted that while the city has intended to turn hundreds of these lots into affordable housing, it has failed to meet its own target dates for taking action on 80 percent of them. Stringer is calling for all of the city-owned lots to be used for over 50,000 units of permanent affordable housing and for HPD to create a “realistic” timetable to either make this happen or turn the properties over to other agencies or developers.

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