Two People Still Missing After East Village Building Explosion

Photo by C.S. Muncy for the Village Voice
The corner of 2nd Avenue and East 7th Street on Friday afternoon.

Two people are still unaccounted for after Thursday's building explosion in the East Village, according to numerous reports. They are Moises Ismael Locon, 27, an employee at Sushi Park restaurant, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23, a customer who had just paid the tab before the explosion, which authorities think was caused by a gas leak.

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'They Had Done Their Homework': Meet Victor Kovner, Attorney for The Jinx Filmmakers

Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office
Sometimes life imitates art. Other times art intimidates life. That seemed to be the case with the HBO documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which, over the course of a decade, tracked the shady past of the New York City real estate scion, in particular the trail of deaths that seemed to follow him. The final episode of The Jinx contained a shocking revelation: Durst, after an on-camera interview with filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, wandered into a hotel bathroom still wearing his microphone and made what sounded like a full confession. The shock was compounded by real-life events. The day before the finale was set to air, the FBI arrested Durst in New Orleans for the murder of Susan Berman, a friend of his who was killed in Los Angeles in 2000.

In a media landscape transfixed by artfully told true-crime stories (The Jinx comes on the heels of NPR's wildly popular Serial podcast), the show's presentation of its case against Durst — not to mention the timing of Durst's arrest — raised a host of questions regarding the lines between entertainment and jurisprudence, chain of custody, and the legal responsibilities of documentary journalists. The Jinx navigated this thicket with the help of Victor A. Kovner, a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine with a long history of providing pre-print or pre-broadcast review to media outlets (including, from the mid-1960s until the mid-2000s, the Village Voice).

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Awful March Madness-Themed 'Study' Ranks Columbia Coeds Among the Nation's Hottest

Courtesy of WhatsYourPrice
The March Hotness Bracket
OK, so Columbia didn't qualify for the men's NCAA basketball tournament. They didn't join their fellow Ivy Leaguers at Harvard — nor their fellow New Yorkers at Manhattan College and St. John's University — in the Big Dance. But who cares about a silly basketball tournament when there are sexy coeds at your school to be bought online for hundreds of dollars?

Despite this blow to its otherwise formidable athletics department, Columbia can still claim victory in the form of a coveted (?) No. 8 spot on the "March Hotness" Sweet 16 bracket created by the ethically ambiguous date-auction site The Harvard Crimson and Princeton Tigers may have crushed the Lions on the court, but Columbia triumphed where it really counts: babes.

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MTA App Contest Winner a Reminder That the Subway Is Pretty Tough on the Disabled

Categories: Subways

Credit: Andrew Glass
An app designed to help people using wheelchairs navigate the subway reminds us of an old problem.
In November last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced its App Quest 3.0 contest, challenging developers to make use of the agency's copious data stream to create tools that would help make commuting just a bit easier.

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I Got an IDNYC Card in 20 Minutes, and So Can You

A sample of the New York City ID card.
In the days following the launch of Mayor Bill de Blasio's IDNYC initiative — the most expansive municipal identification program in the country — New Yorkers flocked to enrollment centers like pigeons gobbling up breadcrumbs.

And admittedly, the crumbs aren't half bad: The IDNYC card entitles residents of New York City to free one-year memberships (for the 2015 calendar year) at cultural institutions like the Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Public Theater, MoMA P.S.1, the New York City Ballet, and more. You can use the card at the New York, Queens, and Brooklyn public library systems. And most importantly, the card can be used as proof of identification, no matter your immigration status. They'll even waive the proof-of-residency requirement for victims of domestic abuse and the homeless.

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See These Ten Wonderfully Strange Public Artworks Before They're Gone

NYC Parks
You've touched it, sat on it, squinted at it from across the street. The abundance of public art is one of New York City's best features, and when the snow melts and the air warms, there's nothing better than walking by that weird, bulbous sculpture you pass on your way to work every day and actually noticing it. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's Art in the Parks program puts artwork of all stripes in parks across the boroughs. Here's a roundup of the most wonderfully strange art installations that are coming down this spring and summer. Catch them before they disappear!

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Harlem's Only Black LGBT Church Searches for a Home

Rivers of Living Water has become a place of refuge for African-American LGBT Christians, but it's a church without a home.

The Harlem church declares itself "radically inclusive and open and affirming" of the LGBT community, and the majority of its congregation, along with its entire ministry, is LGBT. And unlike the few other Harlem churches that open their doors to gay members, Rivers of Living Water performs same-sex marriage ceremonies.

But embracing the LGBT community has come with a cost: Senior pastor Vanessa Brown says that because black religious organizations largely still condemn homosexuality, she has had trouble finding a proper space for her congregation to worship.

"I find myself, when trying to do business deals around space with other churches, that I don't tell them what kind of church this is — for fear that they are going to pull back of the deal," Brown says, adding that she sometimes sends people on her behalf to search for space.

As of today, Rivers of Living Water is holding its services in the basement of the United Methodist Church (263 West 86th Street) on the Upper West Side.

Pastor Brown says she would like to move back to Harlem, but looking for a space there has become a long and arduous process.

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Nearly a Year After His Death, Counterculture Radio Legend Steve Post Still Brings the Laughs

Courtesy Laura Rosenberg
Steve Post
Those familiar with the late FM-radio legend Steve Post likely remember one of the early masters of free-form radio, notorious for his acerbic wit and spontaneous on-air personality. When he died last summer at age 70 after a long battle with lung cancer, he was eulogized as a curmudgeon "who mischievously mocked himself, his employers, his sponsors, and the conventions of broadcasting."

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Five NYC Parks to Visit Before They're Underwater

Categories: The Planet

Illustration by Daniel Fishel
New York is a city that likes to forget it's surrounded by water. Each spring, as the sidewalks thaw and we re-emerge, blinking, into the natural world, there are plenty of opportunities to rediscover the city's ample waterfront: New York City's 520 miles of shoreline (almost half as much as Hawaii!) features dozens of public parks, offering everything from the sports facilities and re-created salt marsh of Brooklyn Bridge Park to the beaches and hiking trails of Pelham Bay Park, allowing you to take in the rivers, estuaries, and ocean that prompted the Dutch to put New Amsterdam here in the first place (and the Lenni-Lenape to put Lenapehoking here before them).

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This Year's Yankees-Mets Face-Off Caps a Long, Weird History

Danny Hellman
Since baseball inaugurated interleague play in 1997, the Yankees and Mets have dueled 98 times during the regular season, with the Bronx Bombers holding a 56-42 edge. This season offers an added bonus: two additional games resulting from the teams' divisions being matched in interleague play in 2015, leading to the earliest-ever face-off between the clubs, from April 24 to 26 in the Bronx.

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Brooklyn Jeopardy! Contestant Seizes Opportunity to Invite Alex Trebek to Her DJ Night

Jill Locascio was cruising during her run on Jeopardy!, which aired Monday. With $5,000 after the first round, she was in the lead — and it was one the academic librarian kept after the second round, too, boasting $13,400 in winnings by that point. She was crushing categories on French composers and (naturally, it would seem; the color black dominates her wardrobe) coolly fielding an item about goths.

But the next question posed was her downfall.

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The NYPD's Twitter Guru (No Longer) Has a Protected Twitter Account

Categories: NYPD

Tumin's Twitter avatar
Update, 3/24/15, 11:36 a.m. Zach Tumin has once again made his account public after an ill-conceived message about police shootings of mentally ill suspects that got some backlash in the Twitterverse. The NYPD's social-media master hid his account from the public for about six days, but then got back on the Twitter bandwagon with a tweet about women veterans. The original post is below.

Zach Tumin, the NYPD's social-media guru, has apparently un-socialized his own media after putting his electronic foot in his digital mouth on Monday.

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On Radio Show, Bratton Says Privacy Advocates Should 'Get a Life'

Categories: NYPD

Screenshot via YouTube
Bill Bratton is apparently not interested in the privacy concerns of sniveling civil libertarians.
Commissioner Bill Bratton has some advice for people in the city who might have misgivings about the NYPD's seemingly inexorable march toward a panoptic surveillance state: Quit bellyaching, you hippies.

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HOLY CRAP! The MTA Reprogrammed MetroCard Machines to Zero Out After 11 Rides!

Categories: $$$, MTA, Subways

Village Voice photoillustration
Don't be fooled by those tempting round numbers! Go for the odd one!
Update, 3/23/15, 8:15 p.m.
Fare hikes suck. But see what the MTA went and did? You have to look closely, and you have to know what you're looking for. But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority appears to have reprogrammed its MetroCard machines yesterday, deviating from its default settings, which steer purchasers to buy in round numbers that leave them with worthless remainders when the ride-buying is done.

See that $27.25 button there? The one with the (Village Voice–supplied) big green arrow pointed at it? That's the magic number — assuming you're refilling a MetroCard with a zero balance. PUSH THAT BUTTON! MAGIC THINGS HAPPEN!

Trust us: That's your button. Why doesn't the MTA tell you that's the button to push if you want to make everything come out even? We don't know. But we'll call them and ask.

Original story follows:

This Sunday, March 22, the well-meaning folks at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority are poised to louse up New Yorkers' lives by raising bus and subway fares to $2.75 per ride, up from the current $2.50.

For those of us who like to consider ourselves frugal, marginally adept at avoiding being gamed by the system, and socially conscious, the fare hike triggers a two-level reaction.

The first stage of grief: The new fare structure is — like just about everything else in life — unfair to poor riders!

The second stage of grief: I finally got used to putting $19.05 on my MetroCard to keep the MTA from ripping me off with its default purchase options, and what the hell am I supposed to do now that the fare has gone up a quarter and the discount is 11 percent?

Guess what, fellow straphanger: The MTA actually has you covered! Late today the transit agency announced in a press release that it has unveiled a new MetroCard Calculator, "a handy tool that will assist customers with planning a new card purchase or refilling a full fare Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard."

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East Village Residents Ponder a Changing Neighborhood After a Homeless Woman's Death

Courtesy Catholic Worker's Maryhouse.
Donna Harris at Christmas, 2014
The memorial service for Donna Harris was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Catholic Worker's Maryhouse in the East Village. But the service itself did not start until after 7:30 as organizers acknowledged the slow-to-arrive crowd. "You have to give them time to come," said Felton Davis, who works at Maryhouse. Indeed, the group soon swelled from five to nearly fifty people, most of whom knew Harris only in passing.

If you live near Tompkins Square Park, chances are you knew her, too. Harris, who had been homeless for at least the last decade, was known for her bright blue nail polish and unabashed commentary to passersby: "She didn't want people's pity," attendee Amanda Daloisio said, laughing. "And she was not meek and mild."

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Here Are 25 Lovely Things to Do This Spring in New York

Photo Credit: gigi_nyc via Compfight cc
Those are flowers.
We're all guilty of trying to will spring to get here already, but when the season finally begins in earnest we'll already be daydreaming about trips to the beach in July. Between figuring out which jacket to wear (the light one? the lightest one? no jacket at all?), make room for these interesting events happening this spring in New York — some are familiar traditions, while others will happen for the first time in 2015. All are worthy reasons to leave your apartment — and bring the light jacket and an umbrella. It's still spring, after all.

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Judge Rules Eric Garner Transcripts Will Not Be Made Public

Categories: Eric Garner, NYPD

Several groups in December sought the release of grand jury documents in the Eric Garner case.
A Staten Island judge ruled today that records from the Eric Garner grand jury investigation will not be made public after all.

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NYCLU Claims Major Victory in Case Against Police Cellphone Spying

Categories: Courts, NYPD

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Stingray devices can track mobile phones directly, and their secrets are jealously guarded by law enforcement.
A judge in upstate New York has dealt a significant blow to the secrecy surrounding one of the creepiest tools currently in use by cops across the country.

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Irish Queers Call NYC's St. Patrick's Day Parade Diversity Attempt a 'Publicity Stunt'

Zach Roberts for the Village Voice
Out@NBCUniversal members at the St. Patrick's Day Parade
As New York City held its 254th St. Patrick's Day Parade Tuesday, with Irish Americans and members of the Irish diaspora celebrating amid a flurry of green, members of an LGBTQ group officially marched in the parade for the first time, but not everyone was happy.

"It was basically a publicity stunt to deal with the gay problem," says Gaby Cryan, a third-generation Irish American and member of the Irish Queers, a group that's long protested the parade's exclusionary policy.

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Read 'Escape From New York,' From Ellen Willis's Award-Winning Anthology

University of Minnesota Press
Ellen Willis
On March 12, the National Book Critics Circle awarded the late Ellen Willis the top prize in its criticism category for The Essential Ellen Willis, a collection of over 40 years' worth of Willis's writing. Willis, who served as the first-ever pop critic for the New Yorker in the early Sixties, died of lung cancer at the age of 64 in 2006. She began writing for the Village Voice in the early Seventies, and became a staff writer here in 1979, where she remained as a writer and senior editor for the next decade.

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