Asylum Insanity: Welcome to the Land of the Free.

Categories: Longform

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Illustration by Brian Stauffer
Hussein Mohamed took a hard road to America. Born into a minority clan in a nation rife with ethnic conflict, the boyish 24-year-old with gangly limbs and intense brown eyes describes fleeing his village in Somalia in 2012 after gunmen threatened to kill him. Mohamed says he was forced to quit his jobs as an English teacher and taxi driver and escape to neighboring Kenya. After making his way to South Africa, he forked over his life savings to human smugglers, who shipped him across the Atlantic to Brazil and guided him north through the jungles of South and Central America into Mexico.

When he finally arrived at a border crossing in Brownsville, Texas, this past summer, Mohamed thought he'd safely reached the end of a harrowing 10-month journey. He had no inkling of the ordeal awaiting him on the other side of the Rio Grande.

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The Poetry Issue: Free Verse -- A New York Miscellany

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Christophe Gowans
Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously drew a line: "prose -- words in their best order; poetry -- the best words in their best order." Granted, Coleridge was a poet, not to mention a stoner of the first order, and therefore probably had a tendency to be defensive about things.

He was right, though. Had he not found life in death (to borrow a phrase) 180 years ago, dude would have been a force to be reckoned with on Twitter.

(Note to selves: Follow poets on Twitter.)

This being April -- National Poetry Month, for those who keep score -- the Voice thought it'd be cruel to ask Billy Collins to suggest a handful of New York poets we might reach out to for a collection of poems to share with readers. Collins, a New Yorker himself, and a former U.S. Poet Laureate, graciously obliged.

As did the poets, who, in response to our request for previously unpublished poems "about New York City, spring, or, frankly, anything you like," supplied, to our great delight, all manner of beast.

And so we present to you the following pages. In a generation hectored for its declining readership, in an age in which pieces of writing that take longer than five minutes to read have their own hashtag, we're pausing, ever so briefly, to honor the #shortform.

(140 characters: 100,000 chin-strokers may share a #longform story on social media. What % of that readership invests the time to digest even a single poem?)

Thanks to Billy Collins and all the poets who shared their work for this issue. Before we leave you to their work, we invite you also to listen to it for yourself, via our own Dial-A-Poem apparatus.

Yes. Yes, we did: We further imposed on our poets to record themselves reading their work. You can hear them humor us by calling 347-618-6376 and following the prompts. You know: "Press 7 for Philip Levine."

Really! Press 7 for Philip Levine! 
 Go ahead -- do it!


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Jonathan Fleming Released by Brooklyn D.A. 24 Years After Wrongful Conviction

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Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson
Derrick Hamilton, Shabaka Shakur, David Ranta, Derrick Deacon, Anthony Yarbough, Sharrif Wilson, Sundhe Moses, Kevin Smith, Eric Glisson, Cathy Watkins, Devon Ayers, Michael Cosme, Carlos Perez, Jabar Collins, William Lopez, et al.

Today we add Jonathan Fleming to the list: people released from prison within the last four years after a wrongful conviction during the Tough on Crime era of the '80s and '90s.

As Pro Publica first reported, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is dismissing charges against Fleming, who has spent the past 24 years in prison on a murder conviction.

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10 Things to Do for Less Than $10 in NYC This Week

Categories: Events

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© 2014 James Franco, courtesy Pace Gallery

That right there, pictured above, is James Franco doing his best to channel Cindy Sherman's famous "Untitled Film Stills" series for his latest art contribution, fittingly titled "Film Stills." His opening reception is on Thursday, among many (many) other events going on. So go ahead and double-book every day this week. You're a New Yorker: Complain about your busy social life, but keep up.

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Hit Hard by Sandy, Coney Island Museum Will Re-Open May 26

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Image via Coney Island USA
After being closed for a year and a half due to Hurricane Sandy-related renovations, the world-famous, sideshow-hosting, awesome-stuff-having Coney Island Museum will re-open May 26, just in time for Memorial Day. We're so excited we may show up dressed as a topless mermaid.

Coney Island was hit especially hard by Sandy; in April of last year, the area's unofficial mayor, Dick Zigun, who runs the museum and heads Coney Island USA, the non-profit behind it, told the Daily News the museum had suffered "major damage" to the museum, its props and inventory.

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That Smoky Air from the Wharton Forest Fire is as Unhealthy as It Looks

Categories: Environmental

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Google Maps
By now you've probably heard: that smoky smell you may have encountered in the city today is from New Jersey. Specifically, from a brush fire in Wharton State Forest.

Of course you may not have noticed the scent at all. New York City is a cauldron of weird and strong and ever-changing smells, and our nostrils gave up caring within three to four months of moving here.

But this smell is at least mildly more unhealthy than the rest of the vile fumes we inhale on a daily basis. At 11:45 a.m. the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality warning for the city.

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Watch 5,000 New Yorkers Join a Massive Pillow Fight

Categories: Video

Watch this video of the latest pillow fight in New York City, part of International Pillow Fight Day, a nine-year tradition. "We've been denied permits every year that we've applied," says organizer Kevin Bracken, who clarifies that the idea got started in Toronto, but was moved to New York City. "A lot of people like to say 'only in New York,' that's not true anymore, but only in New York can you get 5,000 people to a giant pillow fight." On Saturday in Washington Square Park, the pillow puns and feathers were flying -- and people in costume were easy targets.

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The FDNY and the NYPD's Annual Charity Hockey Game Turned Into A Giant Brawl

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Screenshot via Instagram user the1andonly_dj
This time yesterday, Police Commissioner William Bratton was filed with boyish excitement over the New York Police Department's annual charity hockey match with the FDNY at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island:

He hasn't sent out a follow-up tweet celebrating the NYPD's 8-5 victory, probably because everyone is busy talking about the enormous, bench-clearing brawl that broke out between the two teams in the second half.

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Columbia Student Jiwon Lee Still Missing After Almost One Week

Categories: Missing Persons

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Facebook.com/JiwonLeeMissingPerson
Twenty-nine-year-old Jiwon Lee, a standout student in her final year at Columbia University's College of Dental Medicine, disappeared on Tuesday. She was last seen leaving her Upper West Side apartment; according to her family, Lee's phone registered a signal from Washington Heights before going dark.

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Rightbloggers Defend Mozilla CEO Eich -- Not For Free Speech, But Against Gays

tomt200.jpgLast week, under pressure from employees and board members who did not approve of his 2008 donation to promote California's anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8, Brendan Eich, the new CEO of software company Mozilla, left the post and the company.

We hate to see anyone lose his job but, as we reflect whenever a CEO, cabinet secretary, or other high-ranking rich person is forced from office, Eich is much less likely to suffer and much more likely to find new employment than most of us would be if we were canned.

As it turned out, he is also much more likely to be wept over by rightbloggers -- who are not normally too bothered when someone gets fired (it's creative destruction!), but who made an exception for Eich because he was, in their view, a martyr to the "gaystapo."

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10 Things to Do for Less Than $10 in NYC This Weekend

Categories: Events

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Araceli Cruz
Work by Jacky Tsai, Gambling Skull (Queen of Diamonds), 2014
There's a ton to see this week, so keep your eyes on the prize. The Affordable Art Fair is underway, and for a couple hours tonight, you can get in for free! Also, Columbia University hosts a special one-day exhibition on Andy Warhol's iconic "15 Minutes" Polaroids. Other weekend highlights include Brooklyn Poets reading series in DUMBO, Gemini & Scorpio's Swing House party, and Pillow Fight Day! Happy swinging!

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Men Convicted of Hollywood-Style $200k Pay-O-Matic Robbery Receive 32-Year Sentence

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United States Attorney 's Office, Eastern District of New York
A still from the security camera footage of the February 2012 robbery.
In August, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Akeem Monsalvatge, Edward Byam, and Derrick Dunkley of robbing two Pay-O-Matic cash checking outlets in Queens. The second robbery, on Valentine's Day 2012, made headlines because the culprits wore masks that were so realistic that the employees in the cash check didn't realize they were masks.

On Friday the men stood before a judge for sentencing. Two dozen family members and friends watched from the benches in the back of the courtroom. There were tears and shaking heads and blown kisses. There was much sadness and little hope. The crimes the men were convicted for carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 32 years in prison and the only question at this hearing was whether the men would get more than that.

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Five Injured After MTA Bus Crashes Into Washington Heights Pizzeria

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Image via NY Scanner
An out-of-service northbound M5 MTA bus crashed into a pizza parlor in Washington Heights this morning, injuring at least five people, including the bus driver. The accident occurred around 7:45 a.m. at Broadway and 154th Street; the photo you see above was taken by the NY Scanner Twitter account after the FDNY arrived on the scene.

You might also notice a very battered-looking minivan in front of the bus. ABC News reports that witnesses saw the minivan try to cut the bus off, leading to the crash. Never try to cut off a bus, guys.

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NYPD Shuts Down Foamposite Sneaker Release Because of Big Crowd

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Supreme New York
Supreme x Nike Air Foamposite One sneakers, released Thursday April 3 at 11 a.m., retail for $250. They sold out by 11:05 a.m. April 3, but you can cop a pair on eBay for $900.

That sort of appreciation rate explains why a crowd of sneakerheads and sneaker investors and the kind-hearted girlfriends/boyfriends of sneakerheads packed the sidewalk in front of Supreme New York in SoHo on Wednesday afternoon. By Wednesday night, the crowd had spilled into Lafayette Street. Most of these folks were too late. The line had started forming on Monday, when Supreme announced the release date.

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Celebrity-Stuffed PETA Video Denounces Carriage Horse Industry, Urges de Blasio To Ban It Already

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Screenshot via PETA
The battle over carriage horses in the city is dragging on and on, with no end in sight, and, as yet, no bill introduced in the City Council that would actually ban the industry and replace it with the classic cars favored by animal rights group NYCLASS. While Bill de Blasio famously promised "an immediate ban" on carriage horses during his campaign, the mayoral reality hasn't been quite so neat; a recent Newsday story found that 19 city council members are undecided on the merits of a ban, versus 15 who support it and eight who oppose it.

Neither side definitely has the 26-vote majority they'd need for victory, and in the meantime, everyone is ramping up their publicity. First there was Liam Neeson's big visit to the Clinton Park stables, where he called carriage driving "a beautiful industry." And yesterday, PETA released a new video wherein millions of celebrities denounce the carriage horse industry as cruel and inhumane. If you were waiting to hear what Dave Navarro's eyebrows think about horses before you made up your mind, wait no more.

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Please Don't Leave Us, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen

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Image via SirPatStew
Oh no. Nononono. Say it isn't so. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen have finished their double dose of Broadway, starring in back-to-back productions of No Man's Land and Waiting for Godot. And that means they're leaving us. Leaving us. Why would they do such a thing? And what can we do to stop it? Fair warning: we will consider kidnapping.

The Stewart/McKellen dream team closed their last Godot/No Man's Land performance on March 30. (Our critic was only sorta impressed with the show, noting "neither piece offers a particularly incisive interpretation of the script." However, she added, Stewart and McKellan's joy in performing "infects the audience like a virus of sheer jubilation.")

But the fun isn't quite over: to celebrate their time on Broadway together, the two men released a series of insanely wonderful photos on Twitter of themselves doing touristy things: a stroll down Coney Island's boardwalk, posing next to the Wall Street bull's, er, hindquarters, standing hand-in-hand in front of the Stonewall Inn, and, as you can see above, bro-ing out with their arms around each other in front of our old building on Cooper Square.

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Tenants Still Waiting for Judge to Approve NYCHA Mold Removal Settlement

Categories: Housing

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Wikimedia Commons
Cooper Park Houses in Brooklyn
In December, the New York City Housing Authority and lawyers representing its tenants reached a settlement intended to cut down the absurdly long wait time for basic repairs. One of the provisions required housing officials to respond to mold complaints within 15 days. Everybody agreed this was good news and we media folks wrote a little something about it. Then many of us moved on.

Three and half months later, after all, the agreement is still on, and the absurdly long wait time will eventually shorten. But the settlement is not yet official. A judge still has to approve it. The legal process is trudging along.

For tenants like Kima Lewis, an agreement between lawyers and city officials doesn't mean much as long as the mold remains on her wall.


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Podcast: Scarlett Johansson Impresses in Under the Skin and Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Categories: Film and TV

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Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin.
On this week's Voice Film Club podcast, it's all about Scarlett Johansson, who has two movies coming out this week at opposite ends of the commercial spectrum: Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin and Anthony and Joe Russo's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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Attention Upscale Homeless! Urban Outfitters' Space Ninety 8 to Open in Williamsburg on Friday

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Tessa Stuart
Space Ninety 8
Last year, when news emerged that Urban Outfitters would be opening up on North 6th Street in Williamsburg -- a stone's throw from a planned Whole Foods and Anthropologie (both on Bedford), and next door to a new American Apparel -- an informal poll yielded consensus: neighbors were unenthusiastic. Some even swore they would never shop there.

But everyone bemoans gentrification; resisting it, when you're passing that $39 crop top every day on your way home from work, is another matter entirely. Just ask Spike Lee.

Will those negative Neds and Nancys be able to withstand the siren song of a macramé watermelon holder? Find out on Friday, when the multi-level Urban Outfitters, "Space Ninety 8," opens in Williamsburg.

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Tamara Tunie & Hamish Linklater to Host the 2014 Village Voice OBIE Awards

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Tamara Tunie and Hamish Linklater: Your 2014 OBIE Awards hosts!
Two stars of the stage, small and big screens will co-host the 2014 Village Voice OBIE Awards on May 19 at Webster Hall (125 East 11th Street) in the East Village. Tamara Tunie, perhaps best known as the lead in the Public Theater's Troilus and Cressida (among more credits listed below) and Hamish Linklater, an Obie winner who is currently starring in the CBS comedy The Crazy Ones, will preside over the annual theater awards.

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