Scorsese’s “The Irishman” closes the book of the Hollywood gangster genre.
By Ken Chanko
With everything else going on in the country right now it’s gratifying to report that 2019 turned out to be an unimpeachably good year for discerning movie-goers.
Before getting to this year’s remarkably robust ten-best list, it must be noted that 2019 saw the full impact of Netflix, for better and for worse. Quality mid-range films are getting squeezed between a rock — Hollywood’s reliance on Marvel-style formulaic franchise fare — and a hard place — the popularity of Netflix, which keeps folks increasingly on their sofas, in turn making studio execs even less willing to green-light more box-office risky (i.e., non-sequel superhero) films in the first place.
Then there was the dispute between the nation’s movie theater chains and officials at Netflix over Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” the year’s best film. On the one hand, the movie’s shortened window in theaters before Netflix streamed it bodes ill for those still wanting to see worthy films get vigorous distribution at their local theaters; on the other hand, Netflix, as opposed to studios like Paramount or Universal, was the only “distributor” willing to pony-up the $150 million Scorsese needed to make his classic mob epic in the first place.
So, there you have it. And here are my best films of the year:
At the opening reception of the court art show at NAC (left-right): Colleen McMahon, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Artists Elizabeth Williams, Aggie Kenny and Jane Rosenberg, and Federal Judge Loretta Preska (Photos by Jefferson Siegel)
Before the invention of photography, art predominated as the visual representation of record. Today, with the prevalence of cell phone cameras, one unique art medium is still the only way to visually record what transpires in federal courts. Since photography is prohibited in those courts, sketch artists are the public’s eyes to what takes place within the columned walls of Federal Courts.
An exhibition of courtroom illustrations from Manhattan’s Southern District Federal Court is currently on display at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park. Artwork by artists Jane Rosenberg, Elizabeth Williams and Aggie Kenny bring to life some of the most important trials of the last 40 years.
The exhibition is free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. until January 3 at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South (East 20th Street between Park Avenue South and Irving Place).
Howl-O-Ween will take place in Madison Square Park this Saturday.
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Halloween is still a week away but many local businesses and organizations are already getting in the holiday spirit with events this month. Town & Village has compiled a list of some of the free and/or unique events available in the neighborhood.
Annual Halloween Fall Festival in Stuy Town
StuyTown Property Services is hosting an annual Halloween Fall Festival on Saturday, October 26 from 2 to 5 p.m. on the Oval. This year will include multiple bounce houses for all ages and live music from Ramblin’ Dan’s Freewheelin’ Band. There will also be seasonal crafts, including mini pumpkin painting and scarecrow making, as well as a hay maze and hay rides around the Oval. Popcorn, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and complimentary lemonade and cookies will be available. The rain date for this event is on Sunday, October 27.
Mad. Sq. Dogs: Howl-O-Ween
UPDATE: This event will be held on Saturday, October 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. because of expected rain on Sunday.
The famous Tompkins Square Park dog parade and StuyTown’s costume Dog Days both occurred last weekend, but dog owners have one more chance for a festive Halloween night out in the neighborhood at Madison Square Park on Sunday, October 27 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for Howl-o-ween, a festive event for local dogs and their owners. Festivities include trick-or-treat giveaways, family portraits at the photobooth, hydration station and paws-on activities presented by local partners. The event will culminate with a costume paw-rade around the Oval Lawn.
Third Street Music School (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Gramercy resident Loretta Marion rediscovered choral singing after her husband died almost a decade ago but has found community in a group of older adults who perform with a non-profit with origins in Annapolis that has organized in New York for the last couple of years.
The organization, called Encore, provides adults age 55 and over with singing opportunities, and the New York chapter began its new season at a new, local location for its fall season earlier this month. Encore Rocks, a rock & roll chorus that covers hits from the 50s to the 80s, and Encore Chorale, which is a choral group singing arrangements from classical and Broadway, both have a new home at Third Street Music School Settlement on East 11th Street.
Marion, 80, has lived on Third Avenue between East 18th and 19th Streets since she got married in 1968 and before that, lived in a studio apartment on East 22nd Street at Second Avenue.
“I’ve been in this neighborhood for a long time,” she said. This year, she will be a volunteer chorale master for Encore Chorale.
Ajna Dance Company performed at Waterside Plaza in July.
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Although the official end of the season isn’t until the end of this month, the unofficial end of summer comes at the start of the school year, which begins for public school students this week. With another summer over, Town & Village takes a look back at some of the activities and events in the neighborhood that took place in the last few months in the sunshine and heatwaves.
After an announcement earlier this year that concerts at Stuyvesant Cove wouldn’t happen this summer due to a cut in funding, the park’s association got sponsorship for the series from New York City Ferry, operated by Hornblower. The funding was initially short because the application process for receiving discretionary funds from Councilmember Keith Powers had become too complicated and time-consuming for Stuyvesant Cove Park Association, an all-volunteer run organization.
This season opened with a performance from the NYPD Jazz Band on July 9 and the Haggard Kings brought country sounds to Stuyvesant Cove on July 15. Sean Mahony and the New York Swing Orchestra performed on July 17. Rutkowski Family and Friends performed in Stuyvesant Cove on July 24 after the original date was postponed due to rain. Harlem Renaissance Orchestra performed the final show of the season on July 30.
With the arrival of the Labor Day Weekend, superhero sequels and other big-budget formula fare recede on Hollywood’s release schedules, replaced by tempting scatterings of Oscar bait.
If you look at the Oscar nominees for Best Picture last year — or pretty much any year over recent decades — you’ll see that almost all the nominated films had release dates within the final four months of the calendar year.
This year looks to be no different. Most Oscar prognosticators believe that only one film released so far this year — Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” — has a real shot to be among the eight to ten Best Picture nominees.
Here’s my personal list of the ten films due out soon after Labor Day through the end of the year that I most want to see, based on the talent involved, word-of-mouth from film industry folks with whom I’m still in touch, and my own idiosyncratic gut instincts. Odds are half of these ten will be getting Academy Award attention when nominations are announced early next year.
Gramercy Neighborhood Associates President Alan Krevis (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
Let it not be said that residents of Gramercy and Stuyvesant Town don’t support the arts. The annual group art show organized by Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, which ran last week from Monday to Friday at Salmagundi Club, drew a crowd of around 350 people for the reception last Wednesday.
Organizers were able to tell the size of the crowd based on a sign-in sheet and the fact that since last year’s show was jam packed, the club this year had attendees wait in line to get in once the space was filled to capacity. At that point, the line ran the entire length of the club on Fifth Avenue and 12th Street.
GNA President Alan Krevis said this year there were about 90 works on display, contributed by nearly 70 artists, mostly from Gramercy, Stuyvesant Town and Waterside as well as students from the Chelsea Drawing & Painting Workshop. The art included paintings, collages, pastels, drawings and photos.
Event organizer Jo-Ann Polise cited endless paperwork as enemy number one to the concert series. (Pictured) A concert from a previous year at Stuyvesant Cove Park with Sean Mahony and the Swing Orchestra (Photo by Jo-Ann Polise)
By Sabina Mollot
Last month, Jo-Ann Polise, the main organizer of the annual summer concert series put on by the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association, announced via this newspaper that after several years the music had come to an end. The reason, she explained at the time, was that despite the grants awarded to the group by Council Member Keith Powers, the city’s process for actually getting the funds had become so onerous, it was too much for an all-volunteer outfit to bear.
However, Polise has since changed her tune, saying the concerts will return — at least this year. After that it may not be possible to hold waterfront concerts for the next couple of years due to the planned East Side Coastal Resiliency Project.
The reason for the park association’s change of heart was twofold. First, since the SCPA had made the announcement, Polise found that she couldn’t go anywhere — even grocery shopping — without someone telling her how much the free, riverside gigs would be missed.
“We got a lot of responses; people were saying, ‘we’re so sorry,’” Polise said. “There was a lot of un happiness in the community.”
One of the tour’s stops is St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, which appeared in “A Beautiful Mind” and “Two Week’s Notice.” (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
When Georgette Blau started leading tours based on locations in movies and television shows 20 years ago, the internet had some information floating around about filming locations, but it was often inaccurate. Now, blogs and Twitter accounts by the dozens share a constant stream of information about movie sets popping up in New York, but Blau, who organized her first tours using books on the topic, said that those hard sources are still more reliable.
“To this day, I’ve found that the books are more accurate,” she said. “There are so many books written about film locations.”
To celebrate the anniversary for the company, On Location Tours, Blau has organized a walking tour of the East Village to visit some of the many sites in the neighborhood that have been used in movies and TV shows throughout the years. The tour visits 35 locations from 50 different TV shows and movies, including a location in the new movie, “Late Night,” which isn’t out yet. The tour starts at the Puck Building on Lafayette and East Houston Street, heads north to East 11th Street and loops back down.
“Even if they haven’t seen the movie or show it’s in, it gets people excited when something was filmed here and then they look out for that show or movie to come out,” Blau said, noting that the company has also been working with studios and locations scouts to include behind-the-scenes info on the tours.
A mural on the 20th Street Loop depicts artist Frida Kahlo and performer Josephine Baker. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
In celebration of Pride Month, portraits of LGBTQ pioneers and celebrities have popped up in Stuyvesant Town, painted right onto outdoor staircases.
The larger than life faces in black and white, framed by rainbow backgrounds, include those of Freddie Mercury, Frida Kahlo, Josephine Baker and David Bowie, among others.
The artist is John Cuevas, a California resident who specializes in bright, colorful murals, and worked from Friday to late Saturday. Following a rain-soaked Sunday, some of the paint had peeled in spots, though those depicted in the murals remained recognizable.
On Monday morning, a few residents who were out and about near where the portraits were, around the loop roads, told Town & Village they were enjoying the art. The project was sponsored by Stuyvesant Town management and will remain on view through June.
Longtime resident Andy Ward, while out walking his dog Rexie on the 20th Street Loop, at first was concerned the art might be something promotional. But when told the promotion was for Pride Month, he changed his mind.
“I like good causes,” Ward said. While gesturing to the painting nearest to his feet, he added, “Who doesn’t like art? They didn’t have names at first but I could tell this one was Freddie Mercury.”
Also walking by that portrait at the time was Paul Sachs, who called the artwork “beautiful.”
He added, “It’s nice to see Stuy Town support Gay Pride Month, you know? I’m a native New Yorker, so I support everybody as long as they’re doing good.”
Near the community center, another staircase mural depicted David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust phase and the late astronaut Sally Ride.
A mural near the Stuyvesant Town community center depicts the late musician David Bowie and astronaut Sally Ride.
Of all the murals, Bowie’s seemed to have weathered Sunday night’s rainstorm the worst, with a large gash-like tear in his cheek due to the peeling paint.
Upon noticing this, Bowie fan Nancy Fischer said she hoped it could be restored.
“That didn’t last very long,” she observed, adding that she had enjoyed watching the artist at work, alongside a couple of neighbors who were seniors, a couple of days earlier.
“They were very receptive,” she recalled, which surprised her at the time. “Because a lot of people don’t like change.”
She added, “I would say that it is a very cool addition to the community. I just wish it could be more lasting.” Contemplating the portrait of Bowie again, Fischer said, “I’d still make out with him.”
Reached on the phone on Monday, Cuevas said the project came about after he was contacted by Stuy Town’s director of lifestyle services Robert Vasquez to do some outdoor art. It was Cuevas’ idea to do portraits and suggested possible subjects, all of whom got management’s approval.
A total of 10 portraits now appear on five different staircases. Along with the aforementioned names, others who were painted were mathematician and computing pioneer Alan Turing, stonewall activists and drag queens Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, novelist and activist James Baldwin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who some believe was a lesbian.
“I was stoked, because it was New York City Pride,” said Cuevas.
Another mural on the 20th Street Loop depicts singer Freddie Mercury and mathematician Alan Turing.
Since the portraits were intended to be temporary, they were wheatpasted onto the ground, with Cuevas noting that this technique has become synonymous with New York street art and has since spread to other cities and countries.
“It’s an amazing art form. What I really like is it’s non-toxic and removable,” he said.
While the wheatpasting process was somewhat new to Cuevas, he is no stranger to outdoor art. Immediately upon his return from Manhattan he got back to work on mural of a realistic-looking serpent emerging from a wall in La Quinta, California.
As for the Stuy Town art, Cuevas, who identifies as bisexual, said while he was working, he was overwhelmed with the amount of supportive feedback he got.
“Just the spirit of the community here, it was a lot of sharing,” said Cuevas. “Pride can be a difficult time for people who have a lifestyle that is not necessarily mainstream. I heard a lot of people’s stories about their brothers or themselves. It’s nice to feel that your community around you supports you.”
He recalled how residents he spoke with seemed surprised to learn that the owner had commissioned the Pride-themed project.
“I asked what had happened in the past, and they said, ‘Not this.’ I said, ‘That’s great.’ I look forward to doing more projects there.”
Stuyvesant Town General Manager Rick Hayduk told T&V the Pride project was “simply recognition of our concept of community and unity,” not unlike concerts on the Oval or the recently announced chips-and-salsa gatherings for neighbors.
“Pride Month was something we haven’t participated in and we felt it was time,” he said. Since Cuevas began work, Hayduk said the feedback has been unanimously positive. Even a resident who early on in the process called Hayduk to report what looked like someone making graffiti called back when Cuevas was finished to say it looked great.
As for the pieces of the portraits that have been torn away due to immediately being rained on, not to mention walked on, Hayduk said he was looking into seeing if Cuevas could return to touch them up. Especially since rainstorms aren’t exactly isolated incidents this time of year.
“It’s June in New York. We have 27 more days to go,” said Hayduk.
Cuevas, meanwhile, said he doesn’t mind the effect of the rain, having seen photos of the installation people tagged him in on social media. “There are sporadic drips of color that bathe the portraits,” he said. “The rainbow grime gives it new meaning.”
In related news, the first ever Stuyvesant Town Pride parade for residents and employees has been scheduled for Thursday, June 20. According to the property’s official website, the event will take place at 6 p.m. on First Avenue between 18th and 20th Streets and continue to the Oval for activities and performances.
Like the murals, Hayduk said it’s about building community. “One of our primary jobs is bringing people together,” he said.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect a change in time for the parade.
On Sunday afternoon, Stuyvesant Town residents gathered at the ice rink for a performance by the Ice Theatre of New York. Following the outdoor show, attendees of all ages headed out onto the ice for some skate time of their own. The (residents and guests only) ice rink will remain open for the season through March 3. Tuesdays are free admission days for residents though this doesn’t include skate rental.
Stuyvesant Town rock singer Garland Jeffreys (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Sabina Mollot
On Monday, October 22, Stuyvesant Town rock singer Garland Jeffreys will be performing a concert at a fundraiser for the 14th Street Y, where he, his wife Claire and daughter Savannah are longtime members.
It will be the first of a few local concerts coming up for the singer, following a recent tour through Europe to promote his last album, “14 Steps to Harlem.”
Now in the early writing stages for his next album, to be called, “Dash of Soul,” and fundraising for a documentary about his career, Jeffreys, 75, spoke with Town & Village to share tips for new and aspiring musicians.
“I’m always happy to talk to people who are starting out,” he said, adding that starting out means picking a musical direction to take.
“What kinds of songs do they want to write? Love songs, protest songs or a Dylan-esque area?” he asked. “They should work and work and work on the music and not take it for granted. I tell stories about different things, like race, like my childhood, my passions.”
In recent years, Jeffreys has been known to do many concerts in people’s homes, which he recommends doing as well as finding local venues like bars.
“If you’re starting out, anywhere is a good place to start,” said Jeffreys. “Just get your guitar and get your keyboard and get to practicing and that’s how your songwriting evolves.”
Dana Berger plays Crystal Tawney in the series’ sixth season.
By Sabina Mollot
“Orange is the New Black,” one of the most popular shows on Netflix, began streaming its sixth season on July 27. This season, which follows up after a prison riot, centers on a new maximum-security existence for those who were involved in the breakout as well as other newly-introduced inmates. Among the crew of new characters is the Jesus-loving, haiku-weaving Crystal Tawney, who is played by Dana Berger, a lifelong resident of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village.
Berger, who is already filming the next season, is in four episodes of the current one. For those who have yet to binge-watch it all, Berger spoke with Town & Village recently about her character, how she got the part and how a fictional show has opened America’s eyes to the very real consequences of incarceration.
Berger, who’d been getting roles in local and regional theater as well as acting in web-based comedy videos, got her first major TV part as a paramedic on the CBS series, “Elementary.” She was later asked to returned to the role only to see the character killed off.
While the scorching heat wave that baked the Big Apple for over a week has finally come to a close, the summer has still just begun. Fortunately, there are still opportunities to cool off without traveling far since the borough of Manhattan is not without the man-made oases of swimming pools. Read on for a few local options.
Waterside Health & Swim Club, 35 Waterside Plaza
The heated pool at Waterside Plaza is open to non-residents as well as residents through either a membership to the adjoining health club or a day pass. The gym, with its glass walls and high ceiling (and retractable roof), offers views of the East River and Brooklyn skyline.
A day pass is $20 for adults, $10 for children. Current membership is $655 for an adult or $66 a month, a family membership for 3-5 people is $1,425 for a year or $130 per month, and a full-time student membership is $545 for year or $55 for month. Memberships also include fitness classes and access to a sundeck. For more information, call 212-340-4224 or visit gowaterside.com/healthclub/indoor-pool.
Zoe Kessler, pictured at the First Avenue/14th Street intersection on a typical day earlier this spring, says she was inspired in part by the community and the city.
By Sabina Mollot
For this self-taught musician, the city is her muse.
The evidence is “These Streets,” an album of folk rock music released by Zoe Kessler, a recent Harvard graduate and lifelong Stuyvesant Town resident.
The album was a result of four years of experience learning to play guitar and write music, though she became even more focused on it after graduating last year. Kessler, now 23, never had any formal training in music, but taught herself to sing and play guitar in college. Not wanting to annoy her roommates, Kessler got her first audiences and her earliest practicing in at once when she’d play guitar at a courtyard not far from her dorm. Encouraged by the response, she soon moved on to playing her own music at a local Starbucks.
“I felt like it was a good place to play, because it was very low-key,” said Kessler. “The only people who were there for me were my friends, and if they weren’t, it was no offense. I was paid one latte per show. It was literally coffee house music.”