NYPress.com - New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more » West Side Spirit 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 Crime Victims Center Faces Severe Budget Crisis http://nypress.com/crime-victims-center-faces-severe-budget-crisis-2/ http://nypress.com/crime-victims-center-faces-severe-budget-crisis-2/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:05:57 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73948 Event-20110331-CVTCAwards-Logo-ListingCenter for victims of violent crime could lose vital programs

An organization that serves New Yorkers in crisis is facing a crisis of its own, which could affect hundreds of crime victims in the city.

The Crime Victims Treatment Center (CVTC) of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital serves survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, and has recently expanded its programming to serve all victims of violent crime. The staff and volunteers – currently 177 people participate in the volunteer advocate program – provide crucial services, from helping rape victims navigate the system from the emergency room to dealing with the police, to offering counseling and support groups for survivors of severe childhood sexual abuse, domestic partner violence, and domestic and international trafficking.

All of these services are free of charge to clients, and the CVTC’s operating costs are covered through a combination of state and federal funding, grants and private and institutional donors. But earlier this year, when re-applying for funding from New York state – a process that only happens every 10 years – the CVTC staff was dismayed to discover that a revenue source they’ve counted on for the past decade won’t be renewed. Due to technical changes in the application process, and increased need elsewhere in the state, the funds were allocated instead to 26 new victim treatment programs upstate.

CVTC executive director Susan Xenarios said that while she understands that other cities and rural areas of the state need similar programs, she and her staff were still taken by complete surprise when denied the funding – about $350,000 annually, or 46 percent of their public funding.

“We were devastated, obviously, because our program is 37 years old. We were the first rape crisis program that was established in New York City,” Xenarios said.

She noted the superior ratings they’ve received from state agencies, and the fact that the program has taken on additional clients since St. Vincent’s closed in 2010.

“I didn’t get any clear reason why we did not get what we needed to get, other than there’s a strong effort on the governor’s platform — this is an election year — to reallocate funds upstate,” she said.

Now the CVTC staff are reaching out to local legislators, private donors and institutions to try and make up the sudden financial gap for this year. If they don’t, it could mean cutting four or five staff employees from a staff of about 12, and eliminating services for Spanish- and Mandarin-speaking clients, as well as putting programs like the teen survivors group, the only male sexual assault survivor group in the city, and free therapy offerings in jeopardy.

“It’s everything. It doesn’t feel like people understand the implications of that,” said Christopher Bromson, assistant director at CVTC and the program’s volunteer coordinator. “It would mean about 600 victims of violent crime won’t get services.”

Staff members at CVTC take on many overlapping responsibilities, so the loss of each person would mean multiple programs will suffer, Xenarios explained.

“We’re not a huge program, we’re not compartmentalized. Everybody does a lot of everything so every loss is going to impact on something else,” she said.

CVTC also faces uncertainty at a time when colleges are bearing national scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault cases, and several New York City schools have turned to CVTC as a resource for their students as well as for training college staff.

Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, who represents the district the CVTC serves and has helped allocate state funds for rape crisis counseling centers throughout the state, said that the center “does transformative and lifesaving work in both the areas of preventive services and education and treatment of survivors of sexual assault.” She said that she’s working with the Cuomo administration to find additional funding sources for CVTC.

Bromson and Xenarios said that they’re turning their attention to finding private funding and applying for grants to stay fully operational. They may face challenges, however, that other non-profits don’t have to contend with in a campaign for private money. Where some organizations might tell the success stories of people they’ve helped to attract donors, for example, CVTC is bound by strict confidentiality of its clients. And for some, discussing sexual violence is a difficult or uncomfortable topic, making it harder to strike up cocktail party chatter about supporting the cause.

Catherine Chapman, a Certified Fund Raising Executive who works through her company Fullanthropy to create philanthropic partnerships, said that domestic and sexual violence advocacy groups need to connect with passionate donors who don’t shy away from often-controversial topics.

“Organizations like RAINN and The Joyful Heart Foundation have raised significant funding, created successful partnerships and media campaigns, and engaged celebrities,” Chapman said.”What works in these cases is being authentic, telling the story of the victims with the details and demonstrating how, with the organization’s help, they become victors instead of victims..”

Bromson agrees that the work CVTC does can and should be seen as positive.

“We heal people and we give people their lives back after they’ve been so devastated by violent crime,” Bromson said. “It’s difficult, but it’s happy. People get better.”

To learn more about CVTC’s free and confidential services, visit cvtcnyc.org.


Broadway Unlocked Benefit
CVTC utility photoSupport CVTC by attending their upcoming benefit, a night of music, stories of healing and a worldwide support network.
Broadway Unlocked: the #giveback concert
Monday, November 3
The Greene Space NYC
44 Charlton St. between Varick St. & 6th Ave.
7:30 p.m., $100 general admission; $225 VIP
With performances from Kirstin Maldonado (Pentatonix), Barrett Wilbert Weed (Found, Heathers), Kate Wetherhead (Submissions Only) and more.
Tickets at eventbrite.com

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Driver of cab that struck and killed Cooper Stock arrested http://nypress.com/driver-of-cab-that-struck-and-killed-cooper-stock-arrested/ http://nypress.com/driver-of-cab-that-struck-and-killed-cooper-stock-arrested/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 04:29:50 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73939 Koffi Komlani charged with ‘failure to exercise due care’ from January tragedy

The driver of the taxi cab that struck and killed nine-year-old Cooper Stock in January has been arrested – 10 months after the accident that galvanized the city around traffic-safety concerns.

The West Side Spirit has learned that the cabbie was arrested on Oct. 7 for the incident and charged with “failure to exercise due care,” according to 24th Precinct Commander Marlon Larin and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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The intersection near where Cooper Stock was killed after being struck by a cab in January.

Stock and his father were in the crosswalk at West End Avenue and 97th Street on Jan. 10 when cabbie Koffi Komlani, making a left-hand turn onto West End Avenue, struck both of them, killing the boy.

Komlani, who remained on the scene, was issued a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian. The ticket carries with it a $300 fine and the addition of three points on a driver’s license.

Many New Yorkers in the days and weeks following the tragedy voiced their opinion that more should be done to punish irresponsible drivers, who they feel are often free to go without any major consequences after injuring or killing a pedestrian.

However, Larin said the subsequent investigation took time and authorities needed to establish whether charges could be brought against Komlani, who is 53.

“The misconception is once the accident is done, it’s case closed. That’s not true. The highway collision investigations squad, those guys, they’re the ones who come out, they’re the ones who take the measurements, they’re the ones who check the car for mechanical defects,” said Larin. “They have to confer with the District Attorney because if the DA’s office feels they can’t prove that, then there is no arrest.”

Larin said the DA’s office brought the charges, and is confident in their case, “because of the way [Komlani] travelled, the rate of speed and the way he took the turn.”

Larin said rain was a factor that night as well. He also mentioned Komlani was taken into custody Oct. 7 at 10:30 a.m.

The Manhattan DA’s Office confirmed to the West Side Spirit that Komlani was arrested for the Jan. 10 incident and charged with one count of failure to exercise due care causing serious physical injury.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan DA’s office said Komlani has since been released on his own recognizance and that the judge at his arraignment revoked his driver’s license while the case is pending. The spokesperson noted that failure to exercise due care is a traffic infraction.

“The maximum is 15 days jail and a $750 fine with a license suspension, and the minimum is no penalty,” said the DA’s spokesperson. “In the end, it’ll be up to the judge.”

Komlani is scheduled to be in court Dec. 4, according to the Manhattan DA’s office.

In May, Cooper Stock’s parents told Yahoo News they were informed in a meeting at the Manhattan DA’s office that the office could not pursue any additional charges against Komlani because it wasn’t provided for under the law.

“They told me there is nothing in the law right now that specifies that he can be charged with any crime,” Lerner told Yahoo News in May, describing the meeting.

The Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment further.

Komlani could not be reached for comment.

The tragedy resulted in the passage of “Cooper’s Law” by Upper West Side Council Member Helen Rosenthal. The law amends the city’s administrative code to allow for a cabbie’s taxi license to be revoked if an investigation finds the driver failed to yield to a pedestrian.

New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission pulls a driver’s license only after they’ve racked up six points on their license. Komlani’s failure to yield summons added three points onto his license.

Rosenthal could not be reached for comment by press time.

Bhairaivi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said the union was unaware Komlani had been arrested and that he has not reached out to them.

“We hope he will be tried fairly by the law, not scapegoated in the court of public opinion,” said Desai. “It’s hard to imagine the arrest of this working man was not politically motivated.”

Komlani’s mother-in-law, Idy Williams, told the New York Daily News in January that Komlani was depressed after the accident.

“He’s not driving. He’s not talking at all. He’s not eating. He’s really, really down,” she told the paper. “It’s an accident. It’s not like he’s done it on purpose.”

Williams could not be reached for comment on this latest development. Cooper’s parents, Dana Lerner and Dr. Richard Stock, did not return a request for comment by press time.

According to the New York Post, Komlani lives in Harriman, NY, a village about an hour and 20 minutes north of Manhattan. It’s unclear what police department took him into custody.

Cooper Stock was the first of three pedestrians to be killed on the Upper West Side in January. Alexander Shear, 73, was killed the same night as Stock at Broadway and 96th Street. On Jan. 19, Samantha Lee, 26, was killed at the same intersection as Shear.

So far in New York this year there have been 101 pedestrian fatalities, with 20 in Manhattan, according to data compiled by WNYC.

In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched an ambitious plan called Vision Zero that’s designed to increase traffic safety for pedestrians in New York. Among dozens of initiatives contained in the plan is the decrease of the citywide speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25, which will go into effect Nov. 7.

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Housing Authority Residents Endure Deplorable Conditions http://nypress.com/housing-authority-residents-endure-deplorable-conditions/ http://nypress.com/housing-authority-residents-endure-deplorable-conditions/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 01:01:41 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73917 Douglass Houses condit_fmtNYCHA residents decry dangerous conditions that they say have been ignored for years

Public housing residents on the Upper West Side are claiming an epidemic of dangerous conditions at two buildings in the Douglass Houses complex in the vicinity of West 103rd Street and Manhattan Avenue.

At 74 West 103rd Street, significant water damage is visible in three apartments visited by the West Side Spirit. Residents say the building’s roof is in very bad shape and has been leaking for the past two years.

Jennifer Sinclair, 27, has a unit on the fourth floor of the 30-unit building but hasn’t stayed there since 2012 due to the steadily deteriorating conditions.

“They refuse to move us and we’re still paying rent,” said Sinclair, who pays $400/month for her unit at 74 West 103rd Street while also paying $400/month to live across town with friends. “We’re paying double.”

Sinclair said she moved into the unit with her mother in 2010 and was forced to move out in 2012 due to water damage. The floor in her living room is sagging badly and a wall separating the bathroom and living room has all but disintegrated.

Across the hall lives Connie Taylor, 61, who due to scoliosis and arthritis hasn’t been out of her apartment in over a year. Whenever it rains, she said, her apartment floods.

“So far, they haven’t done anything,” said Taylor of the housing authority. She estimates she first contacted NYCHA last winter, and since then has taken to keeping a platoon of buckets in the hallway to catch drips whenever it rains.

“When it rains outside it rains in here,” said Carmen Quinones, a neighborhood activist who’s pushing the New York City Housing Authority to address the conditions.

On the fifth floor, resident Michael Olivencia first started having water leak into his apartment in 2010. His three neighbors on the floor all left because water inundated their apartments, he said.

“You can’t fix this apartment without fixing the roof,” said Olivencia. “They said this building is too old and too fragile to fix.”

The ceiling in his bathroom has a significant amount of mold to the point where Quinones and others who toured his apartment fear such exposure will lead to health problems.

At 51-53 Manhattan Avenue, residents say a bedbug infestation has reached crisis proportions and that they need to be relocated.

“I’d have left by now if I had the money,” said Tiffany Smith, who moved into the building in 2008. “The conditions have been like that since day one.”

Smith said she’s been back and forth with NCYHA over repairs but nothing ever seems to get done.

“It feels like the same routine, why do I constantly have to keep going there?” said Smith. “They refuse to move me. I feel like I’m held hostage, I don’t want to be in that building.”

Smith has a five-month old boy with eczema and an eight-year-old boy with asthma, and believes conditions in her unit contribute to her children’s health problems. Every night they get eaten by bed bugs, she said. Quinones said she doesn’t go into Smith’s apartment without taking protective measures like placing plastic bags over her shoes.

“I have clothes in bags because of the bedbugs,” said Smith. “I haven’t unpacked anything in six years. I’ve been on the waiting list for a paint job for four years.”

Quinones said between the two properties, she’s collected 18 complaint forms and given them to Public Advocate Letitia James’ office as well as Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell’s office.

Douglass Houses condi_fmt1A spokesperson for NYCHA said that they’re aware of the problems in the two buildings, but can’t do much due to a lack of funds.

“Some issues are related to the roof, which is major capital work,” said a spokesperson about 74 West 103rd Street. “We’re looking to get funding there but our funding continues to shrink so I can’t say we have money available for that.”

A formal statement later came in from NYCHA via email.

“NYCHA recognizes that there is a certain level of frustration from residents as it moves forward with making repairs to improve their quality of life and we are making progress in spite of our ever shrinking funding,” said the housing authority in a statement. “Under new leadership, NYCHA has been seeking solutions and working diligently to both reduce the backlog of work orders and cut down on wait times for repairs, as evidenced by the continually updated data available on the NYCHA metrics section of our website, a commitment to greater transparency.”

The housing authority also said they’re moving forward with already-scheduled work at 74 West 103rd Street, which includes some repairs to the roof and the affected apartments.

In the meantime, there isn’t much residents can do but try to get by and agitate for change. Quinones said she thinks these conditions are common in much of the Douglass Houses due to their age and lack of upkeep.

“Nobody is looking out for these people,” said Quinones, who’s lived in the neighborhood for over 40 years and was a former Democratic district leader. “It’s happening in all of the Douglass Houses.”

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Book Culture looks To The Future http://nypress.com/book-culture-looks-to-the-future/ http://nypress.com/book-culture-looks-to-the-future/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 00:57:30 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73914 Book Culture_SP_fmtWhat’s next for the independent bookstore

Book Culture has had quite the summer. With wage disputes and union votes, a thick line was drawn between the store’s owners and workers. As fall begins, the line has thinned and the bookstore is aiming to resurface bigger and better.

In late June five employees were let go on the basis of participating in votes to join forces with the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union. Owner Chris Doeblin defended his actions saying that four of the workers were managers and therefore were not allowed to participate in a union election. Other employees counteracted his claim saying that the designation of manager was purely a title and was not actually accompanied with managerial privileges.

Soon after the employees were removed, the RWDSU requested a boycott. Sales began to decrease at the Morningside Heights 112th Street store. Columbia University students and staff who regularly frequented the bookstore for class necessities slowly withdrew their business, and even picketed outside the storefront.

Nearly two weeks later, Doeblin and co-owner Annie Hendrick released an email to their staff announcing the reinstatement of the four previously fired managers. Staff later discovered that the fifth employee, Casey McNamara, who was fired for eavesdropping on Doeblin, accepted a severance package.

Phil Andrews, director of RWDSU’s retail organizing project, helped to settle the dispute and accepted Doeblin’s request for compromise. The union agreed to retract their complaint against Doeblin with the National Labor Relations Board and in exchange Doeblin rehired the employees. A contract between the company and the union, that was recently finalized, was also drawn up.

The three-year contract, which settled last Wednesday, guarantees a wage increase from $9.50 to $10.25 for Book Culture employees, allotted raises, affordable healthcare and representation with the RWDSU.

The contract also takes into account Doeblin’s plans for a third Book Culture location, slated for the former antique store Olde Good Things at 450 Columbus Avenue, with an opportunity for the employees that will be hired there to request union representation as well.

In order to afford the steep $35,000 monthly rent of the new Book Culture site, Doeblin emptied out his retirement funds. Doeblin told Al Jazeera America that he had no back-up plan if this West 82nd St. store fails. However he remains confident in his decision to carry on and strengthen the small business scene.

Doeblin also dismissed any chance of the union disputes affecting Book Culture’s outcome, “It has been several months and I think it has long since been water under the bridge,” said Doeblin. “I don’t think it is having any effect now.”

Doeblin remarked that the past coverage could actually help in boosting Book Culture’s presence. More people are learning of the struggles of the bookstore and are more inclined to take their business to Doeblin.

“To many, we are worth congratulating and supporting for being able to keep books part of this neighborhood and this city and to aspire to open a new store,” Doeblin commented. “I think those that would denigrate us are relatively few.”

Doeblin said that Book Culture is trying its best in the face of big business. “We are planning to run our business as well as we can so that we can create as many good jobs as we can and sell as many books into our city as we can. Over half the independent bookstores in this country have closed since Amazon opened. They have just 14 employees for every $10 million in revenue. We have less than half that much revenue and we have over 30 employees. Every chance we get we’re going to pay more to our employees.”

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The Actor, in the Church, with the Fundraising Basket http://nypress.com/the-actor-in-the-church-with-the-fundraising-basket/ http://nypress.com/the-actor-in-the-church-with-the-fundraising-basket/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 00:19:19 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73908 City Arts_Clue fundrai_fmt

If You Go

Performances are Oct 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., dinner starts at 7 p.m. and the play starts at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at www.4thu.org.

Food and basic drinks provided; wine will be sold. BYOB also acceptable.

A landmarked church on Central Park West is hosting a dinner-theater production of “Clue” to raise money for a new roof

A man recently knocked on the newly refurbished, ornate wooden doors at the 4th Universalist Society church on Central Park West, and was met by a small huddle which included a maid in a skimpy French outfit, a man gripping tightly to a candlestick and a lot of suspicious looks.

“Good evening. Have any of you given any thought to the Kingdom of Heaven?” the man ventured.

“Go away,” another said. “Our lives are already in danger.”

This was the first full run-through of a new production of “Clue,” based on the ubiquitous board game and 1980s cult-classic film. It is a full dinner-theater production that runs for two weekends in mid-October and kicks off the 4th Universalist’s campaign to raise a million dollars to repair its roof.

This is the congregation’s biggest fundraising campaign since the 1980s, when the 19th-century building was saved through an outpouring of community support. Now, 30 years later, the roof is in need or repair, and they’re borrowing a slice of the 1980s to kick it off.

The congregation has recently staged the Vagina Monologues and the Laramie Project, two challenging plays that match the church’s ethos of serving as a “beacon of liberal religion on the Upper West Side.”

“We are the only church that hosts the ‘Vagina Monologues,’” said one of Clue’s co-directors, Erin Bigelow, who is also a member of the church. “So whenever anyone says I can’t believe we are doing that in a church, I say it’s not that kind of church.”

So even though a play with multiple bludgeonings, strangulations and knifings might not be well received at other churches — no matter how close to Halloween it opens — Bigelow chose the play because she wanted to do something a bit lighter.

And because the movie is popular, a number of professional actors and working comedians volunteered to take part in a rehearsal process that stretched over several months.

Peter Coleman, 29, the actor who plays the character Mr. Wadsworth, is one such dedicated fan and working actor, who says he has performed in 40 states. He rented the movie from Blockbuster over and over again as a kid and now shows it to friends if he learns they haven’t seen it.

So when Coleman found out from an actress that he had missed the auditions, he was forlorn. “I told her if some great tragedy should befall your Wadsworth, you let me know,” Coleman said, who later dropped and broke a cocktail glass when he found out the good news that the part was indeed open. “Well he didn’t die or anything, he just had to drop out.”

Before the show, the audience will eat dinner that has been donated by local restaurants, served by waiters who will later play cops, and then, just as the sky becomes totally dark, an actress will enter the gothic hall and the death and mystery will begin. Stage lights and sometimes just flashlights will point the audience toward different areas of the church where the action is happening.

“No one will be able to watch the entire show facing forward,” Bigelow said. “And the cast is also going to play with the audience a little as they move around in the space, especially when they are searching for bodies and guns.”

“There may be a moment where I turn to someone and say, ‘Do you think this even possible?’ Or ‘I’m just exhausted, are you?” said Lorie Barber, who is playing Mrs. White, a character who murders all her husbands.

In addition to nostalgia for the original, the play may benefit from the recent surge of popularity in police procedurals and murder mysteries, such as CSI and Law and Order. “Clue” both makes fun of and depends on the suspense of its modern counterparts on Netflix, according to Bigelow.

Not the case in depictions of murder-mystery from just thirty years ago. “People are just falling over and there is absolutely no care for fingerprints and DNA and all the things we care about when there is a murder today,” Bigelow said.

The production also benefits from active and eager parishioners. “I asked for 38 dozen brownies to be baked because dessert will be brownie a la mode,” Bigelow said. “Everyone is so excited to showcase their own brownie recipe.”

The Fourth Universalist Society’s building on 76th Street and Central Park West is unique among Unitarian Universalists, according to Rev. Susan Milnor: typically their sect uses simple New England meeting houses favored by the puritan sects they grew out of.

“We’ve had people say it must’ve been a cathedral: it wasn’t,” said Sheila Powers, the head administrator at the church, who added that membership has included Lou Gherig, P.T. Barnum and, one of its biggest supporters, Andrew Carnegie. “It was built in 1895 by Universalists and this is what they wanted at the time.”

Although the church space is often rented out for TV productions, Fashion Week and frequent weddings, it’s not enough to cover the big, long-term capital expenses of the historically landmarked space.

“Even though the church is huge and gorgeous, we only have 115 members and these members come from all over New York,” Bigelow said. “That’s one of the things I love about the community: we’re from all different socioeconomic backgrounds.”

A recent sermon used a Sikh poem and a story of Christian redemption to explain the meaning of the Jewish High Holidays. “We have everyone from atheists to agnostics, to people who have some belief in the theist philosophy,” said Powers. “It’s an absolutely complete, all-encompassing, accepting belief system.”

But the inclusiveness of the church also meant that Bigelow had to alter the original script to eliminate some jokes.

“We understand how the jokes were written as funny in 1985, but they are no longer funny in 2014,” said Bigelow. “This caused a little bit of controversy in the cast, but you know what, we win. It’s not that kind of church but it does have to be all-inclusive.”

“So when people ask, ‘Did you change the ending?’ Kind of, a little bit,” said Erica Ruff, who is co-directing with Bigelow.

Although the villain of the church’s struggles may not be as exciting as the villain of the play, the directors were quick to call out the culprit.

“It’s father time, with no money, in the roof,” Ruff said.

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Ask a Broker: Poor Door to Mordor? No, a Gateway to Heaven! http://nypress.com/ask-a-broker-poor-door-to-mordor-no-a-gateway-to-heaven-2/ http://nypress.com/ask-a-broker-poor-door-to-mordor-no-a-gateway-to-heaven-2/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 00:10:15 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73901 http://nypress.com/ask-a-broker-poor-door-to-mordor-no-a-gateway-to-heaven-2/feed/ 0 Op-Ed: How West Side Little League Shaped Our Life http://nypress.com/op-ed-how-west-side-little-league-shaped-our-life/ http://nypress.com/op-ed-how-west-side-little-league-shaped-our-life/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 23:47:33 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73896 West Side Little Leagu_fmtAn Upper West Side mom remembers the impact that baseball had on her and her son

Saturday morning. Central Park. The West Side-Harlem Senior Baseball League. My 14-year-old son, John, is pitching. Everywhere I look are kids and parents I’ve known for years. The racial mix is impressive, and spirits are high.

The West Side Little League was always a major part of my life, as well as my son’s. John began playing as a seven-year-old on the field at 72nd Street and Riverside Drive. At that age, the kids didn’t pitch, the dads did. A few years later, between the ages of 10 and 13, the action moved uptown, to the four ballfields between 103rd and 108th Streets in Riverside Park. On those fields, I watched at least a hundred games. The kids were so serious. And on the backs of their shirts were the names of their neighborhood sponsors: Morris Brothers, West Side Camera and Schatzie’s (the butcher on Amsterdam Avenue). The parents were usually just off the field watching through a metal fence. At one particular game, I was chatting with another player’s mom, when suddenly, there were yells and cheers. I looked up. A dad of another player, standing on the other side of me, leaned over and announced with a grin, “A brilliant catch and a major out was just made by none other than your John.” I was so thankful he’d told me, since John always teased me about gabbing instead of watching diligently.

John played sports all year, soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter, but baseball was his first love. As a pre-teen he usually played infield — shortstop or first base. He learned valuable lessons: how to lose without tears or bitterness; how to win without arrogance; how to control your mouth and temper when the call goes against you (he watched his best friend get thrown out of a game for cursing at the umpire); and most challenging, he learned how to be an individual in a team sport. He experienced the difference between hitting a home run and having your team lose. And conversely, having your team win but knowing you could have played better. He learned all of this from his coaches — the parents of other kids. He would have balked if his dad or I lectured him. But the lessons he learned through playing stayed with him for the rest of his life.

His dad and I, divorced since John was four, were both involved. When John was ten, his dad was one of the coaches. Through his teenage years, I got more involved. The 13-year-olds played on a field in Morningside Park. This was 1991. A group of moms would arrive early with plastic garbage bags to comb through the field picking up used needles and empty crack vials. The League paid to use home plate umpires and I volunteered to hire and schedule them in for games. I’ll never forget the two lovely people I met. One, a woman who umpired for many NYC leagues. Her attitude was as professional as they come. The other was a graduate student at Columbia. Between them, I had the whole season covered. I also learned something important about the game that year. I had not grown up as a baseball fan and so, I was learning as I went along. That season, when John was 13, he pitched. After watching a few games, and watching diligently, I suddenly realized the importance of the pitcher and why they made so much money.

The last few years before John aged out of the League, he played on the fields in Central Park. The boys weren’t boys anymore; they were young men. By that time John was playing for his high school team as well.

He went on to win the scholar/athlete award as a senior. His college application process was all about baseball. At every college he applied to, the coaches were in touch with him. He wound up playing for a small Division 3 college. But he wasn’t done with West Side Little League yet. The summer after his freshman year, he played in the American Legion College Baseball League. The games were at Marine Field, in Brooklyn, a very long ride in a van from the West Side. It was a reunion for him and for me. Many of the boys from his years in Little League played that summer, and parents I hadn’t seen in over a year showed up at the games.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the West Side Little League shaped my life and John’s. For me, it became a road through which I could and still do talk with my son about what he’s passionate about. For him, well, it shaped his life. He chose to fulfill his high school community service requirement by coaching a 10-year-old girls basketball team, also on the West Side. After college he volunteered to coach for a young boys baseball league in D.C. Eventually, he left his first career in the legal profession and is currently working in the field of sports and education.

The baseball fields on the West Side may not look like the fields in smaller suburban towns, but for John and myself, they were definitely our Field of Dreams.

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LETTERS: Weighing In On The Bikes vs. Pedestrians Debate http://nypress.com/letters-weighing-in-on-the-bikes-vs-pedestrians-debate/ http://nypress.com/letters-weighing-in-on-the-bikes-vs-pedestrians-debate/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 20:07:17 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73874 Kimberly Kinchen and Kim Burgas created bike train, a safer way to travel the city.

Kimberly Kinchen and Kim Burgas created bike train, a safer way to travel the city.

Last week, we ran an editorial from editor-in-chief Kyle Pope arguing that cyclists bear the onus of responsibility for safety on the streets and in the parks. Readers weigh in below, with some dissent, and some ideas for improving safety overall.

Blame the Cars, Not the Bikes

A comment from the web on our editorial “Go Ahead – Blame the Bicycles,” October 9, 2014.

“You seem to be dumping an inordinate amount of blame on those of us who ride bikes. The reality is that some cyclists are jerks. And others are not. Some pedestrians seem determined to be hit by cyclists while others exercise caution. Question: what do ‘sleek designer tights’ have to do with public safety? Would you prefer that bicyclists NOT wear helmets? Another question: how do you know when a ‘steel vehicle’ is going well above the speed limit? (It’s extremely difficult for a bicycle to travel well above the speed limit. I gather you have a bike. I encourage you to try it.)

It is frustrating and sickeningly tragic that a cyclist was riding so recklessly that he caused that woman to die in Central Park. Yet you feel comfortable putting all the blame for all of the congestion in Central Park (or perhaps everywhere in New York City) on people who ride bikes? Are pedestrians who cross the roadways against the light or outside of cross-walks free from blame? How is it that the driver of a car can run people over, kill them, and be allowed to go completely free of punishment? People are run over by cars all the time in this city.

It is what it is. This city was not designed for a population of this size. But it seems it’s here to stay. And so is my bike.” Westside Guy

More Regulation for All in the Park

A letter to the editor:

Seen on yesterday’s run: a racing cyclist hits an elderly pedestrian attempting to cross West Drive in the cross walk near Delacorte Theatre; both go flying, both get up, both apparently okay, if shaken up.

Seen on today’s run: a racing cyclist actually stops to berate a mom who is pushing baby in a stroller in the cross walk near the Ramble. “Don’t be a fool, wait for the light” he shouts; mom ignores him and pushes ahead. Moments later I watch the same cyclist run a red light.

Here are a few ideas (we runners cannot witness scenes like this without processing angry ideas, etc. for the duration of the run):

  1. The traffic lights in Central Park were installed to regulate cars, not bicycles. Bicyclists should not have to pay attention to them; cars should.
  2. The moment any pedestrian sets a single toe inside any cross walk, he or she has absolute right of way over any bicycle who MUST come to a complete stop until there are no pedestrians in the walk. Obviously this will suck for racing cyclists and likely cause them to abandon the park entirely, which would be okay. Dedicated safe hours for racers could be set, as has been done for owners who want to walk dogs off the leash.Also, we would need more cross walks, along with signs mid-road that say yielding to pedestrians in a cross walk is a State/City law (you see these signs on the Main Streets of many small town across the country). Police on bikes and scooters will need to patrol the cross walks and enforce the law, first-time violators would have their bikes impounded, face stiff fines, etc. My guess is once we had more cross walks, with signs, and fewer/no racers, 99 percent of the problem would likely be solved.
  3. In cases where pedestrians, runners or anyone else on foot tries to cross a park road without using a cross walk, the person on foot still has right of way, but accidents that occur outside the cross walk would be treated simply as accidents.

I suggest we start a movement to get the Park and the police to establish this (or another) common sense usage hierarchy on the roads in Central Park. Actually it would be pretty simple to establish; a little harder to enforce because it would mean cops actually getting out of their vehicles. But I’m certain order can be brought out of the chaos you so rightly describe.

Peter Jurew

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Changing with the seasons at the Cloisters http://nypress.com/changing-with-the-seasons-at-the-cloisters/ http://nypress.com/changing-with-the-seasons-at-the-cloisters/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:58:29 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73867 View of the Cuxa Cloister From the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa (San Miguel de Cuixà), near 				Perpignan, France, ca. 1130–40 				Marble 				The Cloisters Collection, 1925 				Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

View of the Cuxa Cloister

From the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa (San Miguel de Cuixà), near

Perpignan, France, ca. 1130–40

Marble

The Cloisters Collection, 1925

Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Autumn at the Met’s ever-evolving northern outpost

Nothing escapes the march of history, not even The Cloisters, New York’s beloved, magical oasis of art and nature. Though time seems to stand still at the Upper Manhattan branch of the Metropolitan Museum, The Cloisters is very much in the moment. This is particularly clear as the seasons change.

Barbara Drake Boehm, one of the curators at the Cloisters, realizes that many New Yorkers have visited the galleries, and may be familiar with the collection, but, she says, “It’s always changing. It changes with the weather, it changes with the plantings in the gardens, it changes with our special exhibitions.”

Fall is the perfect time to spend a day exploring the art and the season at the Cloisters. As the sun slides lower in the sky, the slanting light shines differently through the stained glass windows, spilling pools of jewel tones across the cool stone floors in the Early Gothic Hall. It’s a collaboration between nature and art. When the museum was designed, the entire collection of stained glass, save one, was situated to receive natural light.

Not only the seasons change. The collection does, too. There are new things to see, and some of them tie in with the outdoor cloister gardens. “We have the blessing of making really important acquisitions in the field of medieval art,” Dr. Boehm said. One of her favorite new works is the 15th century Falcon’s Bath tapestry. In rich reds and blues, with fantastic details, it depicts noblemen and ladies in front of a blooming rose arbor, stirring the water, tempting a falcon into its bath. They’re seated on a bench of turf, and when one of the garden’s fountains was removed for conservation, the new horticulturalist, Caleb Leech, built a reproduction of the turf bench to fill the space temporarily. There are lots of moments at the Cloisters where the art seems to come to life. That’s just one.

Leech is also busy planting boxwoods, so that when a special exhibition on boxwood sculpture opens in the future, there will be living shrubs to tie in with the works on display. The hops in the garden are just for show, but when the recent Oktoberfest presented through the Spectrum group at the Met was held, there was artisanal beer on hand. Ripe apples on their espaliers outside recall the red fruits in the Cloisters’ magnificent Unicorn tapestries, and also yield a surprising side story. The Cloisters, it turns out, has woodchucks. Boehm laughingly described them as “fat and lazy” from munching so many of the garden’s ripe apples.

The experience of wildlife can also be found in one of the stained glass roundels in the downstairs gallery. There’s an image of gathering quails into a net that offers a fascinating view of how people in the middle ages made things work. In this painting on glass, the fellow herding the unsuspecting birds is hiding behind a wooden plank with a cow painted on it, and two little peepholes drilled out. Either quails are shortsighted, or they had a very talented cow painter in that town.

While there are many special presentations and lectures, tours and concerts at the Cloisters, some of the greatest moments are so subtle they might escape notice. In the Gothic Chapel, a knight’s stone sarcophagus is being lovingly cleaned with little more than cotton swabs by conservator Lucretia Kargère. In the past year, the transformation has traveled from the neck to halfway down the chest, which works out to about an inch a month. The knight is “gradually losing his blackened patina and turning back to a golden tone,” Boehm said, adding, “It’s really exciting to see him emerge.”

Visitors who return often and pay attention, find that the pages of the precious illuminated manuscripts are turned seasonally. At the moment, The Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, one of the most famous and beautiful medieval manuscripts in the world, is turned to a page depicting St. Jerome, whose feast day was September 30th.

The pages will be turned again in December. Till then, there’s still a chance to see the light-hearted illumination. After that, another masterpiece will be on view in its place, proving there’s always something new to see.

“Something can be ancient, but it can work for us,” Boehm said, “something that you have a sense of reverence about, but you can also laugh about. It’s quite a varied experience.

If you only come once every 30 years, you might love the Cloisters, but you might experience something entirely different next time. We want people to know that.”

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Sixth Borough: The Noah’s Ark of U-Hauls http://nypress.com/sixth-borough-the-noahs-ark-of-u-hauls-2/ http://nypress.com/sixth-borough-the-noahs-ark-of-u-hauls-2/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:56:21 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73903 6th borough_fmtWe’re moving. Not far – 10 miles. We’re leaving our quaintly dilapidated cottage on the 48-acre farm that we co-own, for a place of our own: a sturdy, handsome log cabin on 6.6 acres that back up to a mountain. Our mountain hideaway, we’ve started calling it, even though it’s not yet officially ours.

The house itself is a major upgrade from anywhere either of us has ever lived in our grown-up lives. Ah, the slovenly East Village tenement I was living in with two roommates when Joe and I met, the cozy little bedbug-infested apartment on the Lower East Side that was our first joint residence, the monstrously oversized suburban 1970s period piece, and finally, the farm.

The farm was the first place we’d actually thought of as home. It was a major coup to secure a residence on this heavenly swath of real estate directly across the street from one of the best disc golf courses in the world. Leaving the farm is bittersweet. The sweet part is that our new place has oak floors and vaulted ceilings, two bathtubs (our current place has zero bathtubs, which makes bathing a child so challenging that we only do it at friends’ houses), a front porch and a back deck, and a mountain full of maples waiting to be tapped.

The bitter part? With one-seventh the farm’s acreage, the mountain hideaway can only house a fraction of all the farm animals we’ve acquired over the past few years. Our current roster includes 14 pigs, eight goats, four cows, one Guinea hen, and about 280 chickens – 30 laying hens and 250 four-month-old pullets.

We have some major cuts to make. As I go about my daily chores now, I’m sizing up each species, calculating space requirements versus return on investment (eggs, meat, milk), contemplating the qualities that make an animal a good candidate for living in closer quarters. The pigs get docked a point for eating the duck. We know it was the pigs because Joe spotted one of them with a beak in its mouth. But of course, all that logical stuff gets trumped by fondness.

Nothing says instant-family like witnessing a birth. That’s why my first-round pick is our dairy goat, Rebeca, and her doeling, Saturn, who was born on the farm this spring. Skittish she may be, but Rebeca has turned out to be a capable mother, and she even lets us milk her sometimes before she kicks over the bowl. Bonus: she appears to be pregnant again, so we’ll probably be welcoming two more kids to the family next spring.

Then there are the chickens. Every homestead needs laying hens, but how many? We went wild this summer, thinking we’d launch a sideline business selling eggs. Now that we’ve raised 250 chicks into good-looking “chickagers” it’s almost time to reap the rewards in the form of 150 eggs a day – but just before that happens we’re going to have to get rid of most of them. We’ve been giving a few away to friends and will probably sell some (email me if you’re interested), and in the meantime, we’re looking at creative ways to max out the space at the mountain hideaway.

The above ground pool, for instance. At first, we’d asked the seller to get rid of it; we’d rather have the space for the garden. Then I woke up one morning and said: Hold it. A strategy was taking shape in my mind. Drill holes along the bottom of the pool. Hose it down with water and vinegar to get rid of chemical residue. Fill it a few feet with leaves, compost, manure, Becca Tucker - The Six_fmtwhatever, along with some red wigglers that specialize in speeding up the decomposition process. Seed it with some fast-growing, cool weather crop (my winter rye seeds just arrived in the mail). Keep it partway covered with the tarp, and cover the other part with poultry netting, to keep the chickens in and predators out. Voila: an additional chicken coop and run. I don’t know how many birds will fit comfortably in there, but if we can take along 20 more of our crewmembers, that’s a feat worth the sweat.

I have a feeling the pool idea is a good one, too, because I Googled it and nothing came up. My most outlandish ideas to date have always turned out to be disappointingly well-documented on homesteading or permaculture or backyard chicken forums. No one else has tried to turn a pool into a chicken coop? Bring it on.

Becca Tucker is a former Manhattanite now living on a farm upstate and writing about the rural life.

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