Midtown Businessman Scores a Win in Attempt to Get NYPD to Obey Its Own Parking Rules

Categories: NYPD

Andy Hort
Flyer placed by the NYPD on illegally parked vehicles near the Midtown South precinct
Update, 4:31 p.m. — Score one for the little guy! After complaining to the Voice about the NYPD's sometimes illegal and otherwise dubious parking practices on his Eighth Avenue block, Andy Hort around 1 p.m. today received a visit from a detective and two lieutenants from the Midtown South Precinct. According to Hort, the officers said they were aware of, and shared, his concerns. There had indeed been a great deal of unauthorized parking on the block, they admitted.

They also assured him that they'd be cracking down, and within an hour, Hort says, dozens of cars on the block had been plastered with a stern warning from the precinct. Hort was pleased with the quick reaction. "They said all the right things," Hort tells the Voice. "They said it was wrong...and if they follow through, I'm satisfied."

Original story is below.

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Film Podcast: In Defense of Furious 7

Categories: Film and TV

Furious 7 and While We're Young are two very different movies — one's all synchronized driving and explosions, the other's all sorta-depressed New Yorkers who don't drive — but both receive generally positive reviews from Alan Scherstuhl and Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice, and Amy Nicholson of LA Weekly, who again get together via the magic of the internet for the Voice Film Club podcast.

Amy also recommends White God, a movie that stars about 150 dogs who start a revolution on the streets of Budapest, while Alan suggests Lambert & Stamp, a documentary about the early managers of English rock band the Who.

Send all Vin Diesel impressions and impassioned defenses of Generation X's Ben Stiller to filmpod@villagevoice.com.

[Subscribe to the Voice Film Club podcast on iTunes]

Death on the Edge

Illustration by Brian Stauffer
Early in the morning of August 4, 2013, Steven Sotloff walked across the border from southern Turkey into Syria. He passed through three security checkpoints, then a no man's land between the two countries, on a road surrounded by olive groves, yellow flowers, and leftover mines. Sotloff, a stocky, bearded 30-year-old journalist and Miami native, was headed to Aleppo, some 40 miles south, to cover the two-year-old civil war. He expected to be back in a few days.

The trip would be his last to Syria. He was thinking of returning home soon and maybe applying to graduate school.

Around 10 a.m., he met his fixer and translator, Yosef Abobaker, just inside the border. Abobaker arrived in a yellow Nissan microbus with his brother and two cousins, who would serve as security guards. The journalist took a seat on the middle bench and the Nissan drove off, but after only ten minutes, the vehicle stopped. Three black luxury station wagons were parked along the narrow highway. As the microbus approached, roughly twenty men, clutching Kalashnikovs and wearing black turbans around their faces, exited the cars and lined up across the road.

"When I saw them," Abobaker recalls, "I took my handgun — I'm thinking to shoot. But if I shoot, they will kill everybody."

The men yanked open the Nissan's doors and pulled out the occupants. "Who are you?" Abobaker yelled in Arabic. "What do you want?"

"Us kut!" one man yelled back. "Shut up! Don't talk!"

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Meet the 18-Year-Old New Yorker Who Wants to Be the FDNY's First Female Muslim Firefighter

Categories: FDNY

Irene Chidinma Nwoye, Village Voice
Ahlam Ahmed

Ahlam Ahmed is determined to become a New York City firefighter. The petite eighteen-year-old of Yemeni descent stands five feet tall, weighs just 105 pounds, and is well aware of the physical challenges inherent to the job. But she is resolute.

In a dining room at the FDNY Academy on Randalls Island, Ahmed is the only observant Muslim in a group of about 60 women. They range from military veterans and teenage members of the department's Explorer program to college athletes and hopefuls who have already taken the department's most recent firefighter exam. They're all here to participate in the FDNY's first-ever Women's History Month Female Outreach Event, created to help inspire more women to join the department.

"I want to see what the FDNY has to offer," Ahmed says matter-of-factly. She is dressed in jeans and a red sweater. A white scarf artfully conceals her neck, ears, and hair.

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East Village Church Brings Gun Violence Against Children Into Focus for Holy Week

Categories: East Village, Guns

Photo by Lara Zarum/Village Voice
Reverend Winnie Varghese leans over a bamboo cross in the yard of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, adjusting a T-shirt that hangs off the cross along with roughly 40 others, the clothes flapping in the cold wind. "Most people walk in and figure it out right away," she says.

Each of the t-shirts has the name, age, and story of a child younger than 12 who was killed or injured by gunfire in the United States since last Easter. The crosses went up in the front yard of the church, which sits at the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 10th Street, yesterday, Palm Sunday. They will remain in the yard for the duration of Holy Week, which lasts until Easter, this coming Sunday.

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Fifteen Books You Need to Read in 2015

Categories: Books

Reading is an all-seasons activity, but there's nothing better than cracking open a new book at the start of spring — when the choice of reading locales expands greatly. Soon, instead of holing up in your apartment, you can tackle nature and culture in one go — be it on a park bench, a rooftop patio, or a blanket on the grass, you can't beat reading in the sun. Here are fifteen upcoming titles you won't want to miss as the mercury (hopefully) begins its steady upward climb:

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Two Bodies Found in Rubble of East Village Building Explosion

Photo by C.S. Muncy for the Village Voice
The rubble at East 7th Street and Second Avenue in the East Village
Authorities found two bodies on Sunday in the rubble of a building in the East Village, after an explosion caused by an apparent gas leak destroyed it and its neighboring buildings.

Two people were unaccounted for after the explosion: Moises Ismael Locon, 27, an employee at Sushi Park restaurant, and Nicholas Figueroa, 23, a customer who had just paid the tab, according to his bank record. One body was found twenty feet from the front door and the other body twenty feet behind it, FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro told reporters Sunday.

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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 WhatsYourPrice.com. 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.
Update, 4/7/15: Two Village Voice staffers received our IDNYC cards over the weekend — just ten days after we applied. Huzzah!

Read the original story below:

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.

Watch all our videos at video.villagevoice.com

[Feedback: news@villagevoice.com]

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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