NYPress.com - New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more » Dwell OTDT http://nypress.com New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:05:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Who Can Best Manage a Big City? http://nypress.com/who-can-best-manage-a-big-city/ http://nypress.com/who-can-best-manage-a-big-city/#comments Wed, 19 Jun 2013 18:29:27 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=64306 Management style will play major factor in mayor’s race

New York has had its share of crises in the past decade – 9/11, the Wall Street financial crisis and then, of course, Superstorm Sandy.

Who leads the city during times of crisis – and relative calm – is important. And their ability and experience as a manager and leader is paramount.
When we pick the next mayor this fall, it’s important to focus on management skills and style.
Rudy Giuliani hired deputies and staff who were hard-charging, fiercely loyal and who were as determined as their boss to prove that New York was indeed a governable place.
Mike Bloomberg, who is much less a micromanager than Giuliani was, hired great people, and his strong leadership skills from building Bloomberg LP into a booming financial information company were proof that he could lead a city of eight million residents and a $42 billion budget.
And now we come to this year’s ever-growing crop of mayoral contenders: the good, the bad and the potentially ugly.
Let’s start with the leading Democratic contenders, none of whom have any impressive private sector management experience nor the hard-charging management style of a candidate like Giuliani.
Bill Thompson had a fairly strong run as Comptroller and has recently worked in the private sector. To many, however, his mild manner gives them pause. But in the current crop of candidates, his nuanced positions and lack of personal drama is a refreshing antidote to the reality show swirling around him.
Christine Quinn has a very mixed record as a leader. On the debit side of the ledger is the slush fund scandal and the term limits power grab. She also seems to have the personality of a vice president or deputy mayor, almost always following rather than leading (as evidenced by her relationship with Mayor Bloomberg).
To Quinn’s credit, however, she has managed an unruly legislative body for eight years, is not thought of as a pushover (except to her patron in City Hall) and has taken some unpopular stands (like supporting the East Side Marine Transfer Station).
Anthony Weiner has a pretty dubious reputation as a manager. A recent New York Times piece about him pointed out his revolving door staff and his confusing management style.
Bill de Blasio and John Liu have held citywide offices just long enough to leapfrog to a mayoral run and nothing in either of their resumes gives one confidence that their management skills can handle being the chief executive of a large metropolis. Liu, for example, couldn’t even run a clean fundraising campaign.
On the GOP side, management skills are much more evident. John Catsimatidis is a self-made billionaire (hey, does that sound familiar?) and has run a large chain of companies from supermarkets to oil refineries to aviation enterprises.
Joe Lhota, besides a stint as Giuliani’s deputy mayor, has been successful on Wall Street and as an executive at Madison Square Garden. But, like Quinn, he has to convince people he’s more than a VP type.
Who do you want making the tough decisions that lie ahead on public safety, education, labor contracts and infrastructure rebuilding – the pandering career politician or someone who has a firm backbone as a manager?
Tom Allon, the president of City and State, NY, is a former Liberal Party-backed candidate for Mayor.

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Property Workers of NYC Show Off Their Artistic Chops http://nypress.com/property-workers-of-nyc-show-off-their-artistic-chops/ http://nypress.com/property-workers-of-nyc-show-off-their-artistic-chops/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 08:29:16 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=49668 Text By Adel Manoukian • Photos by Jonathan Springer
Members of 32BJ SEIU, the largest national union for property workers, and their families had the opportunity to showcase their artistic talents this past Friday evening at the sixth annual 32BJ Free Art Show in the union’s building on 18th Street.

These artists, with full-time jobs as doormen, janitors and building service workers, hail from faraway places like South America and Europe but live and work in New York City and Northern New Jersey.
“We wanted to find out what motivates them,” said Lenore Friedlaender, who founded the art committee that organized the event and chose the showcase’s theme of “Interpretation Through Our Eyes.”

“Our workers should be able to express themselves how they see fit, whether politically or emotionally, through this medium. This show celebrates their talent,” she said.

“The show also brings the community closer, as this year’s entries have been the greatest to date—about 76 workers submitted photography, ceramics, oil paintings and pencil drawings. It is also expanding, the artists have presented their work at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and the Labor Museum in New Jersey this year already,” Friedlaender continued.

“I graduated from the School of Visual Arts hoping for a career in the arts,” said Julius Gaston Sr., a full-time porter for three buildings in Queens who made opening remarks at the ceremony. “But I have to provide for my family. As much as I love art, I don’t want to be a starving artist. Many here feel the same, so this is why this show is so important. We just love art.”

All the art, including Gaston’s two oil paintings and a pencil drawing, will be on display through the summer.

JonathanSpringer_TAB3437 JonathanSpringer_TAB3449 JonathanSpringer_TAB3458 JonathanSpringer_TAB3455

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Summer, When a Young Man’s Fancy Turns to Thoughts of…Spice? http://nypress.com/summer-when-a-young-mans-fancy-turns-to-thoughts-of-spice/ http://nypress.com/summer-when-a-young-mans-fancy-turns-to-thoughts-of-spice/#comments Wed, 30 May 2012 20:38:38 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=47094 I don’t know if you noticed, but it got real hot real fast last week, catapulting the city from genuine springtime directly into the gaping maw of summertime.

It’s a well-worn trope that when the going gets hot, the hot eat spicy foods. It’s well-worn, sure, but if you’re like 98 percent of the Western world, it’s also totally unthinkable. Spicy foods are hot, right? And when you yourself are hot (a totally flawed linguistic leap of logic—we’ll get to that), the best way to counteract it is with cold things, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. The primary problem is with that word, “hot.” Spicy foods aren’t actually warmer than others, they simply make you sweat, for a complex set of chemical reasons that have to do with pain receptors and neural trickery.
In the Western cultural repertory of foods, there is no indigenous source of serious spice, so we never evolved a language for dealing with it. The first time someone brought Christopher Columbus a jalapeño, he popped it whole, started sweating like a fiend and determined that witches had made him “hot,” and it stuck.* (*This scenario may not be historically accurate.)

Chile peppers have helped people in warmer climes survive summers since air conditioning was a palm frond fan and ice in your drink was a dream. Now that global warming is evening the score and energy costs have us thinking twice about letting the climate control run nonstop for the next three months, it’s a good time to revisit their techniques and, as a wise man once said, give spice a chance.

Thai food may be the second most bastardized food in this city, trailing only behind Chinese in white-guy-ification. Think of all the ketchupy Pad Thai you’ve been suckered into; the sickly sweet Tom Kha Gai that tastes more of Hawaiian Tropic than tropical climes. Thankfully Thai, like Chinese, is experiencing a revival that is placing an emphasis on regional differences—and like Chinese, you finally no longer have to go out to Queens to find chefs doing their thing.

At Zabb Elee (75 2nd Ave., betw. 4th & 5th Sts., zabbelee.com), the chefs specialize in the notoriously chile-laden cuisine of Isaan, the northeastern region of the country. Some dishes, like Som Tum Thai, green papaya salad, are recognizable in name, but their execution is miles beyond that of your corner takeout. Others, like Gang Som, a sour, coconut milk-less curry, and Khai Jiaw Kratiem Dong, omelet with pickled garlic, are full of flavors you’ve never experienced.

When you order, you will be asked about your spice level preference—be prepared to be assertive when asking for full strength, as every meal there sees at least one bro trying to impress his pals who ends up gasping for water and white rice. It’s a balanced heat, though; the kind that was designed to get you sweating happily through the summer night.
Miracle of miracles, there is now a surfeit of seriously spicy Sichuan restaurants in New York City. One of the best, and the most reliably spice-happy, is Szechuan Gourmet (21 W. 39th St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves., szechuan-gourmet.com).

Sichuan food uses fierce dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorn, which will numb you faster than a dentist’s novocaine, to achieve ma la, the signature spicy and numbing taste. The combination of the two means you’re never suffering for the sake of it.

For a real summertime treat, get the double whammy of heat and cool with cold dishes like ox tongue and tripe doused in ma la-heavy chile oil, ground peanuts and cilantro, and the spicy cucumber salad, which is like taking a Katz’s deli half-sour and lighting it on fire in your mouth. You’ll leave flushed and tingling, with a buzzing mouth that makes even drinking water a sensory delight.

Not enough? Take the phaal challenge at Brick Lane Curry House (235 E. 53rd St., betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves., or 308 E. 6th St., betw. 1st & 2nd Aves., bricklanecurryhouse.com). A true bro dare for the guys at Zabb Elee who managed to make it through and want their photos in a Hall (sorry, P’hall) of Fame. By all reports a British invention, the so-called “spiciest curry on earth” uses 10 or more ground chiles per serving.

Finish it, and you get a certificate of honor and a free beer, while your companions cool off the old-fashioned way, with top-notch curries like Nilgiri Korma, a brightly green South Indian specialty. At least the beer is a guaranteed cooler.

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8 Million Stories: Kelly Mullins Learns What Good Neighbors Are Made Of http://nypress.com/kelly-mullins-learns-what-good-neighbors-are-made-of/ http://nypress.com/kelly-mullins-learns-what-good-neighbors-are-made-of/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 21:04:49 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=46734 By Kelly Mullins

As a 20-year-old college student from a Boston suburb, I knew I had hit the jackpot, living alone for the summer in a recently renovated Upper West Side apartment that had just been purchased by a friend’s parents. For them, it was an opportune investment in the bad housing market. For me, it was a sweet deal with a one-year lease that aligned perfectly with my final semesters of school.

The two-bedroom condo was nestled right near the park on the first floor of a brownstone. In contrast to the cigarette and mildew musk that had wafted through my previous downtown abode, it had that squeaky-clean aroma of a new home. The sun gleamed through the big windows and reflected off of the shiny hardwood floors. I felt precariously mature with my private laundry, dishwasher and wrap-around patio.

Everyone else residing in the building was an owner. I could sense their disapproval of this undeserving undergrad intruding on the premises in their chastising stares and standoffish hellos in the foyer. It all covered up their trepidation, however, that I would turn their sedate uptown adult home into a frat house.

My friends had, in fact, been begging me to throw a party. As the oldest of three girls in an Irish Catholic family (always the example-setter, never the rule-breaker) I wasn’t about to chance pissing off my new neighbors.

My bleeding heart got the best of me, though—I couldn’t take the puppy eyes from my peers every time we packed into a Bushwick studio or stood in some ridiculous line outside a trendy club in the Meatpacking District. Finally, I bought some beer and created a Facebook event: “Let’s Get Trashed in My Gigantic Apartment, Wooo!”

By 11 o’clock, it was looking like a casual soiree. As we discussed it-bags and blowouts (most of the attendees were friends I had made at a fashion internship) the doorbell rang—a girl’s boyfriend from Hoboken was apparently bringing along a few buddies.

Opening my door was like emptying out a clown car of bros, all of whom looked like they had significant experience navigating a beer pong table. My party went from civilized fête to all-out rager.

The uninvited Jersey Shore extras took over my laptop and turned up the house music. Most of us migrated out to the patio, so I left the front door unlocked in case more guests arrived.

Back inside, the new floor was brown with dirt from people traipsing back and forth, and the granite countertop littered with empty shot glasses and beer cans. There was also a strange man standing in the middle of my kitchen. He was tall, about 45, and sported glasses, gym shorts and a very aggravated scowl.

He pointed his finger at me. “Do you live here?” I nodded and he ushered me into the living room to talk.

“I’m the landlord. I’m responsible for all of this. Do you know how much noise you’re making?” he asked as he waved his arms up and down.

I had never been introduced to any sort of landlord. I began apologizing profusely for my irresponsibility. No matter how much I groveled through my drunken haze, his questions and threats continued to pour out.

“What is your name?” I was so nervous I didn’t think to ask his.

“Where are the other tenants?” He seemed to suspect I was hiding them somewhere. “They’re home in Boston for the summer.” I answered.

“Do you want to be evicted?” Oh god no, where would I live? Brooklyn?

“I’ve received noise complaints from all of the other neighbors.”

“Sir, it will never, ever happen again, I’m not usually like this. I beg you!”

“I’m going to call the cops if this doesn’t stop in five minutes. We’re telling your parents about this tomorrow.” He slammed the door in my face. I had never had a conversation with someone so enraged and unforgiving.

I frantically told everyone they had to leave. A frat boy tried to console me, but this wasn’t Phi Kappa Delta. This was the Taj Mahal of New York City apartments—at least for a kid in her twenties. I wasn’t going to let it go that easily for some laid-back-affair-turned ripper with a bunch of strangers.

The next morning I sterilized everything, waiting in suspense for Mr. Landlord to come and hand me my eviction notice. He didn’t show up. I expected him to come by the next day, and the day after that. I never saw or heard from him again.

When my two roommates came back at the end of August, I told them what had happened. We concluded that it made no sense for the building to have a landlord; everyone living there was an owner. I probably should have put that together much earlier and saved my naïve self a lot of anxiety, but fear had hindered my ability to think rationally.

I described the man to them and their eyes widened. He sounded like the guy from the apartment down the hall. They had an awkward exchange the day before, where it was made apparent that he didn’t approve of the twentysomethings living 10 feet away from his perfect Pottery Barn split-level. After some strategic Google searching, we confirmed that it was our guy.

Two days later, the building manager called to warn us of a certain man living next door with a drinking problem. If he ever threatened us, we were to lock our doors and call the police right away. Evidently, there had been other incidents.

A week after that, we were having trouble with the hot water. The doorbell rang. Standing in the hallway was the landlord imposter. I froze. Was he finally here to finish what he had started? It immediately became clear that he didn’t remember our previous interaction—either that or he was trying to brush it off like nothing had ever happened. All cheery grins, he asked, “Do you happen to be having problems with your hot water, too?”

Swallowing my pride, I nodded and smiled back.

Still living in the same apartment almost an entire year later, the neighbor and I have only crossed paths on a handful of occasions. Every time we do, however, I can’t help but wonder which of us was more wasted that night.

Kelly Mullins is a writer and recent graduate of Parsons the New School for Design. She still lives on the Upper West Side but has yet to throw another party. Follow Kelly on Twitter @kellmullins or read more of her work at kellmullins.com.

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NYU Expansion Hearing Brings Public Concerns to Light http://nypress.com/nyu-expansion-hearing-brings-public-concerns-to-light/ http://nypress.com/nyu-expansion-hearing-brings-public-concerns-to-light/#comments Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:56:27 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=44837 by Mike Vidafar

Borough President’s Compromise Not Enough to Sway Public Opinion

On Wed. afternoon (4/25), the City Planning Commission (CPC) held a public hearing at the Museum of the American Indian to hear both concerns and support over the NYU Sexton Plan – a project that would radically expand the NYU campus over a 20 year period.

CPC members heard the raised, and sometimes distressed voices of community members who were against the plan, as the standing room only “crowd” gave raucous applause to members speaking out against the expansion, and provided a chorus of hisses and even outraged shouts to those advocating it.

Members of NYU Faculty weighed in on both sides of the coin. Mary Schmidt Campbell, Dean of the Tisch School of the Arts, advocated on behalf of the plan, citing a lack of performance space and the need to remain competitive as universities around the country put additional pressure on the already taxed School of the Arts.

“We’ve achieved at the highest level and contributed to the creative economy of downtownNew Yorkin spite of the fact that Tisch’s Institute for Performing Arts has, for years, struggled with inadequate, obsolete, sometimes dangerous, and cramped facilities…Our existing facilities are at a crisis point. In order to continue to thrive, we’ve embarked on an ambitious plan to design the world’s finest performing arts training center as part of the 2031 plan.”

Other faculty members were not so supportive of the expansion, which makes The Tisch School seem more like an outlier when compared to many other departments and faculty at the university. However, less than one third of NYU faculty have chosen to publicly align themselves.

Despite concerns over anonymity, a senior faculty member, who was introduced improperly,  spoke out against the Sexton Plan,  urging the CPC to say “N-O” until they “K-N-O-W” more.

The CPC's Public Hearing on the NYU Expansion (Sexton Plan) drew the full attention of the maximum capacity auditorium at the Museum of the American Indian.

“The NYU leadership would have you believe that the university can’t fulfill its educational mission and be a global leader without anEmpire State Building’s worth of square footage squeezed into a few blocks. But the NYU team pushing this plan does not speak for its faculty; for we, too, are the university.”

“As of today, 20 academic departments and programs, including the Department of Economics (which might know something about something) have passed resolutions against this plan overwhelmingly.”

More than anything, however, the public hearing revealed a poor dissemination of information. Many attendees representing NYU and its expansion plan seemed unable to adequately describe different phases of the plan when pressed by the commission, and there was also an apparent disconnect between those who spoke on behalf of the  Sexton plan  sans “Stringer’s Compromise” and those who spoke exclusively of it – which NYU President Sexton agreed to on Apr. 11.

Speaking on behalf of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation (GVSHP), lawyer Randy Mastro urged the CPC to consider the usage of space, and the impact it will have on Greenwich Village.

“This commission is being asked to approve over 2.2 million gross square feet of construction over the next nineteen years that will fundamentally change the character of one of our city’s most beloved neighborhoods – Greenwich Village…yet hundreds of thousands of square feet of this project are not for academic purposes,”

“As a result of this construction, this neighborhood will have to accommodate up to 2,000 new residents, and find itself flooded with more than 10,000 new people visiting the area every day. It will substantially reduce the amount of open space available for community use in an area already lacking such open space.”

Members of the Public Hearing show their opposition to the Sexton Plan

While nearly all of the community members present at the hearing were opposed to the Sexton plan, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s Director of Land Use, Brian Cook, spoke on behalf of Stringer, bringing to light many of the Borough President’s amendments – some of them for the first time to the CPC.

“The office [of the Borough President] has maintained a philosophy of seeking ways to strike a balance to ensure that development, when it is occurring, does not overrun or take away things and hurt the community in ways that we can prevent,”

And as he outlined the Borough President’s amendments, Cook commented on the President’s decision to dissuade NYU from building “below-grade” below street level) around parks was perhaps the most popular opposing point made at the hearing.

“The clear direction we heard from the community was taking the below-grade of those parks [Northern Mercer St. Park, Western Mercer St. Park] and tearing out the old trees and what existed, even if they were eventually replaced was an unacceptable line.”


However, when pressed by the City Planning Commission  and the community for information regarding the concessions NYU was unwilling to make at President Stringer’s urging, Mr. Cook declined to comment.

Members of the City Planning Commission, including Chairperson Amanda Burden

As it stands, the City Planning Commission has, at the present time, many more questions than it does answers. In light of the tremendous public opposition to the project, as well as the points raised by several community speakers, it does not appear likely that the CPC will approve the Sexton Plan without at least first requesting a full disclosure and review of Stringer’s Compromise.

“It’s  important that the commission to hear the modifications that the borough president recommended,” said City Planning Commission Chair Amanda M. Burden.


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Living at its Greenest http://nypress.com/living-at-its-greenest/ http://nypress.com/living-at-its-greenest/#comments Thu, 26 Apr 2012 19:14:15 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=45182 The Citizen, Chelsea

This spacious, architecturally stunning building on West 23rd Street meets all LEED energy efficiency qualifications, making it one of the greenest residential buildings in Manhattan. The triple-layered windows let natural light in and keep noise pollution out. Walls are specially formatted for soundproofing and have an extra layer of drywall for quiet serenity. The building boasts low-flow toilets for water efficiency and multiple secure bike storage spots. Should you need public transportation, The Citizen is located within blocks of major subway lines. The neighborhood is lively and buzzing with young families, providing playmates for your little ones and the perfect culture boost.

Agent: Shelley O’Keefe, The Corcoran Group, 212-839-0124


Emerald Green, Midtown West 

Centrally located at 320 W. 38th St., Emerald Green offers eco-minded living with style, functionality and spectacular views from all angles. This pair of 24-story towers, encompassing a total of 568 apartments, is Glenwood’s very first LEED-certified rental building. Living up to its name, Emerald Green has been designed according to ecological guidelines with features like sustainable bamboo wood flooring, VOC-free interior finishes and water-efficient plumbing. Other green features include a parking garage complete with electric car charging stations. With families in mind, Emerald Green also has a hand-painted children’s playroom and a screening room with theater-style seating. The neighborhood offers a wide variety of shopping, food and fun—and boasts plenty of parks and schools.

Agent: Glenwood, 212-695-3838


The Helena, Midtown West

With its Gold status, The Helena on West 57th Street is the first voluntary LEED-certified residential building in the city. The building’s green features include recycled materials that produce less waste output, a blackwater system and extensive solar paneling. While at least 50 percent of The Helena’s purchased energy is wind-generated, it also offers glass walls to maximize sunlight and reduce electrical needs. Additionally, the spacious apartments sport amazing views and tons of room for the little ones to run and grow. The Helena comes with valet and cleaning services, a fitness room and a children’s playroom. Plus, the building is pet-friendly, so Fido can make himself right at home.

Agent: James Manning, Durst Fetner Residential, 212-262-6500


New York by Gehry, Financial District

This much-admired building (towering at 76 stories!) is located at 8 Spruce St. and boasts a ton of amazing amenities such as a fitness center, 50-foot swimming pool and indoor secure bike storage. Eco-minded touches include the installation of Energy Star appliances and use of low-emitting paints, coatings and sealants as well as regionally manufactured and recycled materials. The New York by Gehry has truly unique views and the neighborhood is family-friendly and hip to boot. To top it off, the building is pet-friendly and boasts a tweens’ den, children’s playroom and screening room with Gehry-designed amphitheatre seating.

Agent: Citi Habitats Marketing Group, 212-877-2220



By Elizabeth Raymond


For more tips on real estate and design for families, sign up for our weekly newsletter at newyorkfamily.com.

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Scamming Seniors: How sharks in the water are targeting older Upper East & West Siders http://nypress.com/scamming-seniors-how-sharks-in-the-water-are-targeting-older-upper-west-siders/ http://nypress.com/scamming-seniors-how-sharks-in-the-water-are-targeting-older-upper-west-siders/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 21:53:02 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=14204

New York is a city with a booming elderly population—there are over 3.4 million people over the age of 65 living here. With that aging population come the predators who single out older victims for their nefarious swindles. In an age of small-time Internet scams and big-time Ponzi schemes, everyone is a potential victim of financial crimes, but the elderly are particularly at risk and are often targeted by would-be criminals.

Take, for example, the case of an 82-year-old widow living on the Upper East Side. The elderly victim was robbed of $53,000 over a period of several months as 30-year-old Sylvester McCoy stole checks from her home and forged her signature many times over.

Or think of the example, perhaps made worse by the victim-perpetrator relationship, of Peter Wilde, who abused the power of attorney he exercised over his aging parents to steal over $1 million from the couple. Or the case of Carolyn Turner, a home aide to an 81-year-old woman living on the Upper West Side, who stole over $25,000 from her employer. Turner swiped the victim’s debit cards and forged checks without her permission in order to make credit card and car payments not only for herself but for her adult children as well.

These are just a few of the cases that have been prosecuted in the past year, and those only show the crimes that are reported and solved, an outcome not always feasible for elderly victims. “What is common for all these and for so many elder abuse cases is they take place based on existing relationships, whether it’s a home health aide, a family member or someone trusted and known to the senior—that’s the vulnerability that the defendant takes advantage of,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance in an interview.
The Elder Abuse unit in the DA’s office specifically investigates and prosecutes cases of financial fraud and other types of elder abuse. They take on roughly 650 cases each year and work to prevent crimes; Vance has spoken at senior centers around the city, hoping to give seniors the tools they need to recognize suspicious situations and the confidence to report crimes when they happen.

“There is just an enhanced vulnerability when you get older,” Vance said. “There is a reluctance to either know what’s going on or, even if you know what’s going on, to have the courage to report it because it might be people who are in fact taking care of you.”

Sometimes, the person is not a family member but someone an older person has come to trust. The Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSC), an umbrella group that represents New York City’s senior centers, has collected stories of elder abuse in which city services have been able to intervene and help.

One case involved an 80-year-old man living on the Upper West Side who met a 46-year-old woman at a ballroom dancing class and befriended her. When his friend said she needed $38,000 to get her harassing landlord off her back, he willingly loaned it to her, then allowed her to move in when she lost her apartment anyway. Within months, this former friend became a threatening roommate who refused to pay back the loan and routinely threatened to kill her victim.

“Over 30 percent of elder abuse cases are perpetrated by family members and friends,” said City Council Member Jessica Lappin, who chairs the Council Committee on Aging. “It’s important for people to know that there are support services out there for them. If they are being exploited, they should feel comfortable about speaking up.”

The scams that target older people are often complex and well-oiled. Mortgage scams or deed thefts, in which people trick seniors who are homeowners into signing away their savings or their property, are common. Donna Dougherty, the attorney in charge of legal services at Jewish Association Serving the Aging, said seniors who have their lives, finances and wits about them can still get taken by these types of scams.

“I’ve had people who have lost their entire savings and whatnot, and they were professional people. I had someone who had worked at the Federal Reserve and got taken by a mortgage scam. It was terribly embarrassing to her; she was brilliant with finances,” said Dougherty. “You have to understand that it’s a crime. They really are looking to give you false information and mislead you; it has nothing to do with intelligence.”

While those crimes usually require a personal connection to the victim, some criminals chose their targets at random, anonymously.

“There are scams going on when a [person pretending to be a] grandchild who lost a wallet calls and needs a ticket home,” said Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy at CSC. “They’re preying on people’s fears that they’re alone. Some people might not have their full cognitive abilities, so they just prey on these older folks to get whatever it is they want to get. That’s a common one, when they call from another place.”

Police reports confirm the trend. Officer Ross Dichter, crime analyst for the Upper West Side’s 20th Precinct, said that identity theft and online scams are some of the fastest growing crimes, and he routinely comes across reports targeting elderly victims.

“Someone approaches an older person on the street, they say, ‘Hey I found this envelope with $50,000 in it, go get me $5,000 and we’ll split this between the two of us, no one has to know,’” Dichter explained, describing a scheme he said happens all the time. The victim goes to the bank, takes out thousands of dollars in cash and hands it over. The swindler gives up their “share” and quickly disappears, leaving the elderly person with an envelope stuffed with tissue paper and out five grand.

Another common scam is through Craigslist, when a scammer answers an ad posted by an older person advertising a service like babysitting. The swindler corresponds and agrees to pay the person in advance, then sends a check for far too much money. The scammer then claims it was a mistake and asks the person to mail back the difference in cash; meanwhile, the check bounces and they become unreachable.

Some schemes that target elderly victims aren’t necessarily criminal but fall into the category of consumer fraud. Council Member Gale Brewer said that her older constituents are bombarded by mailings soliciting information from them and that they often get confused about what is legitimate and what’s not. She has also heard of scams that collect low monthly payments in exchange for supposed ownership of land or property, which turns out to be for nothing—send in $10 a month and get a piece of land in Florida, for instance—that operate just this side of legally through complicated fine print disclaimers.

“They can make $80 million a week off of these scams. They’re not small operations,” Brewer said. “They have the best attorneys in the U.S. and they usually stay just above the law. They only prey on the elderly. You can’t quite believe that people would actually do these things but they do.”

Advocates say there are ways for seniors to protect themselves and for loved ones to be on the lookout for signs of financial exploitation. The DA’s office has worked to educate major banks to be aware of unusual transactions in their older clients’ accounts, and anyone helping an elderly relative should be alert for changes in spending or strange bills being delivered. Dougherty cautions that anyone who tries to isolate elderly people and not allow them to seek outside advice should not be trusted.

“Seniors, like everybody else, need to be vigilant without necessarily being fearful,” Vance said. “Being vigilant may be something as simple as checking your credit card statement, checking your bank statements. When someone calls you on the phone and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”


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Keyholes: Inside the literary leaning abode of writer Sue Shapiro http://nypress.com/keyholes-inside-the-literary-leaning-abode-of-writer-sue-shapiro/ http://nypress.com/keyholes-inside-the-literary-leaning-abode-of-writer-sue-shapiro/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2012 17:35:08 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=14140

When you’re the author of over nine books and an NYU/New School Journalism professor, and your husband is a successful television and film writer, your profession is bound to rub off on your home. Such is the case for Greenwich Village-based writer Sue Shapiro and her husband, Charles Rubin. Their fifth-floor apartment, located off Broadway a mere stone’s throw from their respective campuses—Rubin also teaches, at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts—is a dazzling collection of books and hallmarks from their careers.

The arrangement of their abode, which was fashioned from two units purchased in the 1990s, is a perfect compromise for the couple who have distinct preferences when it comes to working. As Shapiro leads a tour through her home, she notes that her open living room—a space that could easily contain most New Yorkers’ entire apartments—often serves as a literary salon for her many classes and workshops and as a reception space.

It was here that she recently hosted a book party for her newest work, Unhooked: How to Quit Anything (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012), which she penned with her former therapist, Dr. Frederick Woolverton.

While Shapiro enjoys the company, Rubin prefers the solitude of one of his two writing rooms, one of which the couple has dubbed “the murder room,” since it houses Rubin’s vast collection of mystery literature.

The bookcases in the living room are decidedly Shapiro’s realm and include everything from offbeat sculptures and trinkets to a collection of her work, like the whimsical, cupcake-inspired cover of the Italian version of her book Five Men Who Broke My Heart, which is currently being adapted into a film. The walls, however, are Rubin’s terrain and are lined with framed comics from publications he once worked for.

“I’m a neat freak; he has his collections,” Shapiro said of their respective living styles.

The couple, however, seem to share an affinity for black, as evidenced in their kitchen and bathroom, where the shower features black marble tiles. And one thing the couple can agree on is that their apartment, at around 2,500 square feet, was a sound purchase as the abode would now fetch in the seven figures if put on the market.

Shapiro and Rubin, though, have no plans to sell any time soon. “This is the fantasy…the dream home and office,” she said.


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Final St. Vincent’s Hospital Rezoning Hearing Draws Hundreds http://nypress.com/final-st-vincents-hospital-rezoning-hearing-draws-hundreds/ http://nypress.com/final-st-vincents-hospital-rezoning-hearing-draws-hundreds/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2012 19:24:31 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=14027

While hundreds of community members waited outside, a City Council subcommittee deliberated on the St. Vincent’s development project. Photo by Janice Chung.

Opponents, supporters of project testify as developers seeks upzoning previously reserved for hospital

By Alan Krawitz

Several hundred residents and community activists packed a City Council subcommittee hearing last Tuesday, March 6 in a final attempt to make their feelings known about Rudin Management Company’s plan to redevelop the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site in Greenwich Village into a residential complex and park that will also include a new health center and an elementary school.

Though nearly 100 people waited several hours in the cold outside 250 Broadway, 75 ultimately managed to testify before the City Council’s Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, chaired by Council Member Mark Weprin.

With 200 public meetings, including 70 public hearings, behind it, one of the key issues surrounding the redevelopment of the now-abandoned St. Vincent’s Hospital, which closed in 2010 in an avalanche of nearly $1 billion in debt, is the granting of special zoning rights to a private, for-profit developer that were formerly made available to the hospital in light of its overarching public benefit.

“Special zoning considerations granted for a facility that served such a necessary public service as a hospital should never be passed along for a development that provides no such similar public service, as would essentially be done in this case,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, told the subcommittee.

Berman urged the Council to vote no on the proposed rezoning application, saying it could have dire consequences for future development in Greenwich Village and the city.

Speaking on the development’s benefits, Bill Rudin, CEO of Rudin Management, said that more than 1,200 new construction jobs and 400 other permanent jobs would be created.

In addition, he said, millions of dollars in new tax revenue would be generated for the city and state as a result of the project’s 450-unit condo complex, 16,500-square-foot public park, 563-seat elementary school and North Shore-LIJ-operated health center with an emergency department.

When asked by Weprin why a full-service hospital was not included in the project, Rudin responded that a full-service hospital would have been too complicated to build and gain all the necessary Department of Health (DOH) approvals.

“What we’re trying to create is a new hybrid medical facility,” said Jeff Kraut, a representative of North Shore-LIJ. Kraut maintained that the care center with emergency department would be able to provide the “same services as most community hospitals.”

Kraut added that 90 percent of all emergency room patients are treated and immediately released.

But former St. Vincent’s doctor David Kaufman was skeptical of the proposed emergency care center. He doubted the new facility would be able to treat the more than 61,000 patients that St. Vincent’s ER treated only a year before its close.

“It’s an emergency care center on steroids. That’s what Rudin is offering,” he said during his testimony. Kaufman asked the Council to reject the proposal until a new hospital is built.

Yetta Kurland, a member of the Coalition for a New Village Hospital, said, “Public health laws should have stopped this tragedy.” She said she was not condemning the developer, but did ask for additional floors to be built onto the care center.

The project also has its share of supporters, who were equally vocal. Among them were scores of union construction and other trades workers who attended the hearing to show their support for the project.

“St. Vincent’s served the city valiantly for years,” said Cora Kahn, a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, who referred to the hospital’s service going back to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911, the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s and, most recently, treating the victims of 9/11.

“The Rudin plan will bring the area some much-needed jobs…the company has a long history of public concern,” she said to some boos from the audience.

Local resident Mary Margaret Amato was also in favor, saying that the area surrounding the hospital has become derelict. “We will once again have access to a 24/7 emergency care center. I urge the Council to approve this plan.”

Another issue of concern for residents and politicians alike is the lack of an affordable housing component to the project. Rudin explained to Council Member Diana Reyna that as a result of downsizing the project from its original plan, mainly due to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, “an affordable component to the project wasn’t feasible.”

As part of their joint testimony, aides to Assembly Member Deborah Glick and State Sen. Tom Duane urged that the project include affordable housing. They stated that Rudin condos’ sale prices range from $1.4 million to $12.9 million, “out of reach, economically, for all but very high net worth individuals who far exceed the area’s median income,” said one aide.

Both representatives called it “unacceptable for the applicant to avoid these essential components of affordable housing, especially in such a lucrative market.”

The subcommittee did not vote following the meeting, although they are expected to vote shortly, followed by the Land Use Committee and then the full City Council.

A spokesperson for the Council said that the city’s ULURP review process mandates that all voting on the project be completed by March 28.

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Outdoor Stunner http://nypress.com/outdoor-stunner/ http://nypress.com/outdoor-stunner/#comments Fri, 02 Mar 2012 17:23:25 +0000 http://src=nypress.comom/?p=3339 Getting space—and light—in Greenwich Village

122 Greenwich St., otherwise known as One Jackson Square, stands out from the other buildings on the block. In a neighborhood with brick high rises and squat mixed-use town houses, 122 has a winding façade and floor-to-ceiling windows, creating a striking appearance. And tucked into this stunning building is an expansive duplex for rent—at a reduced price, too, from $19,500 per month to $18,500.

Mitchell Cashwell, a senior associate salesperson with Citi Habitats, has been with the listing since he first sold Penthouse C to its current owners, who then placed it on the market for rent. This spacious abode boasts two bedrooms, two baths, three fireplaces and 20-foot ceilings, but its real draw is the southern view and adjoining terrace.

It is this unparalleled light-filled home and outdoor space that leads Cashwell to believe it is a one-of-a-kind listing. The apartment has already caught the attention of a few A-list celebrities and financiers, he admitted.

Aside from the enviable windows and size of the apartment, its location is also a selling point. Located in Greenwich Village within walking distance of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, leasees will have the benefit of great shops, clubs and restaurants. The building also comes with some upscale amenities like 24-hour concierge, valet parking, a spa treatment center and a landscaped garden.

“People love the unit,” Cashwell said. “When they see it, they want to buy it. I have to tell them, it’s not for sale, it’s for rent. If you want to live here, you’ll have to rent it.”

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