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Path of Lease Resistance

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay closed his Fifth Avenue restaurant Mesa Grill last year, laying to rest a landmark that, when it fired up its burners in 1991, was the only destination restaurant in an area dominated by garment factories.

In Februrary, Keith McNally shuttered Pastis, a Meatpacking District institution, amid rumors that the building it inhabited was slated for renovation. He initially maintained he would reopen there, but now says he will have to relocate.

Wylie Dufresne will close wd~50 before the year is out, removing an internationally famed bastion of molecular gastronomy from the Lower East Side block it helped colonize.

Read the full story in this week’s Village Voice.

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Inside the Crumbling Graffiti Mecca 5 Pointz

Nicole Gagne doesn’t remember the fall itself, or any of the month that followed. She spent almost all of it in a hospital bed, pumped full of a painkiller that had the happy side effect of causing temporary amnesia.

So she doesn’t remember the concrete staircase dissolving under the weight of her step. She doesn’t remember dropping three and a half floors, or landing on her side, wedged between two piles of wooden pallets. And she doesn’t remember being buried under the spall and rebar that fell more slowly than she did.

Gagne had complained to the building’s super about the pallets the day before. That she remembers. They had been sitting in that corner of the otherwise bare cement courtyard for weeks, maybe even months. Too long, in any case. The super asked the pallets’ owners, proprietors of a T-shirt manufacturing business on the first floor, to remove them an hour before Gagne fell. They didn’t, and it is probably the only reason she is still alive.

She doesn’t remember the fire department arriving on the scene, or the firefighters setting up airbags to lift the rubble off of her one piece at a time. She doesn’t remember clawing at the breathing tube that was inserted into her throat, pulling it out and damaging her vocal cords.

Debra Hampton does remember. All of it. Hampton, Gagne’s friend, rented a space across the hall from her inside Crane Street Studios, the artists’ workplaces that used to occupy five floors of the drafty, dilapidated former Neptune Water Meter factory complex that most people know as 5 Pointz: Long Island City’s world-famous graffiti temple.

Read the full story in this week’s Village Voice: “Inside 5 Pointz.”

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The 53 Worst Politicians in America

King George III was “a Tyrant… unfit to be the ruler of a free people,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence exactly 238 years ago this week.
Tommy had it right.

Ever since then, Americans have been calling out their leaders. “Tyrant” was just the start. We’ve moved on to crook (Nixon), liar (Clinton), and moron (Dubya).

Whether or not you agree with the peanut gallery, there’s no denying that such written assaults on public honchos are as American as baseball, apple pie, and the iPhone.

So on this Independence Day, those closest to American politics — 50 writers and editors of the alternative press from across the land — have combined their collective genius. They’ve named 53 of the nation’s worst elected leaders from 23 of the largest states and the District of Columbia, then separated them into five categories:




Visit our news blog Runnin’ Scared for our selections for worst elected leaders in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

And there’s more than just the usual stodgy Washington losers. Try Colorado sheriff Terry Maketa, who allegedly had sex with not one, not two, but three underlings and then lied about it. Or check out Idaho Senate GOP leader John McGee, who stole and crashed an SUV, admitted to drinking too much, and went to jail. Upon returning to the statehouse, he was accused of groping a female staffer.

Want a little old-school corruption? Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, who will soon be up for re-election, founded a health-care empire that was whacked with the largest Medicare fraud fine in U.S. history: $1.7 billion for stealing from the feds. There’s also Washington, D.C. council member Michael Brown, who once accepted $200,000 to stay out of an election and was later indicted after grabbing at a cash-stuffed duffel bag offered by an undercover FBI agent.

Of course, there are big names here too. South Carolina’s “Luv Guv” Terry Sanford made the list. So did Texas’ Green Eggs and Ham filibusterer Ted Cruz and Minnesota loon Michele Bachmann. We even snuck wannabe pol Donald Trump snuck in a side door.

So before you head out for the fireworks or swig some American brew, consider this hall of shame.

Read the full story in this week’s Village Voice: “America’s Worst Politicians

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Addition by Filtration

This was not, Dong-Ping Wong insisted for the millionth time, a prank phone call. No, please don’t hang up. He just wanted to talk about how to clean pool water.

But the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene official on the other end of the line still wasn’t entirely convinced. No, she hadn’t read Wong’s email, but she didn’t need to; she’d spent the past 45 minutes listening to this man, who claimed to be an architect, talk about building a pool in the East River. And filling it with . . . river water?

“Does your mother know what you’re doing?” the woman asked him. Wong was used to this.

“OK,” he said, “let’s assume I’m a crazy person. Just give me one last thing. Indulge a crazy person. Have you seen the video I sent you?”

She hadn’t.

He told her he’d wait.

She pressed play. Phone to his ear, Wong could hear his own voice in the background: “We’re here because we want to build a floating pool.”

“You do look crazy,” she said finally. And, at least in terms of the video, maybe he did: disheveled black hair, tie-dye-spattered T-shirt, round grandfather glasses. Beside him on a couch, staring into the camera, were two similarly scruffy men, also wearing T-shirts. All three were hunched toward the camera, elbows on their knees. This was a business pitch?

Wong said nothing. A minute went by.

“Oh,” the woman said.

Another minute. Wong heard her clear her throat as the video faded out.

“You know, I’m a bit of an artist myself,” she said. “I understand when people try to do creative things.

“You do look crazy,” she added. And then she told him what he needed to know.

The woman from the health department
was more right than Wong let on. From the beginning, he’d known the floating pool idea was crazy.

Read the full story in this week’s Village Voice.

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Policeman Is a Slow-Burning Marvel

Arriving in theaters more than two years after being named the best undistributed film of 2011 by the Village Voice, Nadav Lapid’s Policeman deftly examines the physical and spiritual fallout of ideology turning into action.

Yaron (Yiftach Klein) is the leader of an elite counter-terrorist squad in Israel, as well as husband to a wife whose pregnancy he doesn’t want to jinx by discussing too openly; as they’re often wont to, these two aspects of his life prove impossible to compartmentalize.

To say that the ensuing drama moves at a snail’s pace runs the risk of offending any slugs who might be reading, but the incremental changes Yaron and his cohorts undergo are something of a slow-burning marvel to behold. Lapid is so unconcerned with crafting a conventional crime drama that merely titling his film Policeman reads as a minor subversion, a way of defining the narrative in relation to a genre it hardly fits into.

This distinct approach also makes the propulsive incidents, when they do arise, all the more gripping. Near the end, a mundane wedding photo shoot abruptly turns into a hostage situation; the scene feels dire as soon as it’s begun.

Lapid avoids bluster even here, framing the climactic raid as something more elegiac than triumphant — a no-other-choice response to be met with misty eyes rather than shouts of victory.

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The Prisoner’s Daughter

Amanda Rosario remembered a big gray room, and she remembered the smell of it. She hated the smell of it. She was on her mom’s lap, she remembered, and her dad sat across from them. Her mom wore dark jeans and her dad had a thin face. That’s all she remembered of the last time she saw him. She was three at the time.

She was six when she figured out that the big gray room was inside a prison and that her dad was in prison. There was no single moment of enlightenment. She learned the information gradually, in pieces she had to put together. She was a perceptive child, headstrong and curious. When adults gathered in the living room or kitchen, she eavesdropped behind a wall. They often talked about her dad, and when they did their voices were sad. They talked about visiting him. She sometimes heard them mention the word “prison.”

Read the full story in this week’s Village Voice.

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Michael Che: Comedic Climbing

“Why do you have to be so dirty?” a voice called from the darkness. “The show’s called Cartoon Violence, but it’s not about cartoons. There should’ve been a warning!”

Michael Che paused. He was onstage in August 2013 during his second show at Scotland’s annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s true, few would mistake Che for a clean comic. (Earlier he’d confessed to the audience what he loves most about Brits: “They say ‘cunt’ a lot. I don’t know how saying it got such a bad rap; it’s literally my favorite thing on the planet.”) Yet within industry circles, he’s a far cry from the world of shock comedy, where perfunctory filth often supplants punch lines of consequence.

He tried his best to answer the question posed by the heckler, a white-haired woman. “My favorite cartoon is Tom and Jerry, because it’s violent,” he explained. “But kids are watching it, so it’s, like, ridiculous. You ever been slapped in the face with a rake? It’s hard! It’s like . . . I’m talking about some serious shit, but what I’m saying sounds ridiculous coming out of my mouth.”

“Can you tell me one clean joke?” she pressed.

Che paused again. He looked at the floor, pushed back the bill of his navy baseball cap to rub his head. An idea took hold.

Read the full story in this week’s Village Voice.

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Top Gunned

It was Jason Tugman’s first day of work. Almost a decade later, he still remembers the screams.

A former circus fire-eater, he’d taken a job as a lighting technician for The Oprah Winfrey Show after burning off a chunk of his tongue. The pay was $32 an hour and he didn’t want to screw it up. But as Tugman carefully hung black curtains in Studio B, directly behind the orange set where Oprah taped, those screams wouldn’t stop. The crowd sounded as if it might tear the building down.

“I could just hear the audience going absolutely apeshit,” Tugman says. “Just the absolute losing of minds.” He glanced at a monitor that transmitted a silent live feed. Tom Cruise was on a couch.

You can probably picture it in your head: Cruise, dressed in head-to-toe black, looming over a cowering Oprah as he jumps like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Cruise bouncing on that couch is one of the touchstones of the last decade, the punch line every time someone writes about his career.

There’s just one catch: It never happened.

 

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The Great Healthcare Heist

In this week’s Village Voice, Chris Parker investigates how the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — was sabotaged from the start, by all involved: Democrats, Republicans and Big Medicine.

Read the “Great Healthcare Heist” here.

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The Headless Horse Ban

Bill de Blasio started his mayorship with a promise to ban horse drawn carriages “immediately,” vowing that he’d end the Central Park tradition his first week in office.

At a pre-inauguration press conference, he promised, “We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriges no longer a part of the landscape in New York City. They are not humane… it’s over.”

But four months later, that promise is falling apart. The carriage industry has launched an intense public relations campaign against the ban, one that seems to be working. The New York Times, the Daily News and the Post have all come out against the ban, and a recent poll showed weakening public support for the idea. A number of City Council members no longer seem sure they’ll vote for the ban, even one who sponsored a similar ban bill last session.

As the fight drags on, it’s getting nastier and weirder. Animal rights group NYCLASS, the main organization behind the ban, has thrown all of their time and money into an unrealistic, wildly expensive plan to replace the carriages with electric-powered vintage replica cars, an idea that virtually no one else supports.

On the other side, the carriage industry is getting support from an increasingly odd group of people, including Liam Neeson and a shadowy, Missouri-based lobbying group who advocate for the rights of animal owners to do whatever they want with their animals, and thinks it should be legal in the U.S. to slaughter horses for food.

Read the full story in this week’s Village Voice.