How Can New York Stop the City's Worst Landlords?

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Photos by Jena Cumbo
90 Elizabeth Street, one of many NYC apartments with rent-controlled tenants.
When the trouble came to 90 Elizabeth Street, it arrived quietly, in a flurry of white papers. They blanketed the mailboxes and the front doors of many of the tenants in the modest Chinatown apartment building, a forbidding snowdrift of eggshell, piled with angry black type. When 43-year-old Betty Eng got home one spring afternoon last year, she found one waiting for her, too. It was a lawsuit, filed by her new landlords against her, her younger brother, her father, and her mother. Eng's mother, who is in her eighties, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and had recently moved into a nursing home. Eng's father had been dead since 2010.

The suit said that the Engs, who had lived in their apartment since 1970, a year before Betty's birth, weren't actually living there full-time, and thus were not legally entitled to the rent-stabilized unit. It warned that an eviction proceeding would be initiated against them. The suit also alleged that the Engs hadn't been paying the rent. But Betty had been paying, she says, sending the checks through certified mail. Each month, Marolda Properties refused to accept them. They piled up, uncashed.

"They were refusing them," Eng says. "The envelopes would just come back."

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How a '50s-Era New York Knife Law Has Landed Thousands in Jail

Categories: Longform

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Click for a larger version. Photo courtesy of snyderstreasures.com
The original gravity knife was used by German Luftwaffe paratroopers in World War II.
In retrospect, Richard Neal knows he should have just gone home.

It was already nearly 4 a.m. on a sticky June night in 2008, and the LaGuardia Houses on the Lower East Side were crawling with cops. It was the kind of situation Neal normally prefers to avoid. Where police are, he'd rather not be.

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How Some Illegal Taxi Drivers Are Fighting Back Against the Green Cab Program

Categories: Longform

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All illustrations by Greg Houston
It was a busy night, two days before Christmas, and the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant were packed with shoppers. So Emmanuel* was out later than usual. He had just picked up one last fare from his corner in Bed-Stuy, which was usually a safe zone, but moments later he was pulled over by a Ford Econoline van. Emmanuel knew the model. It was what New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission officers used when they did undercover sweeps for illegal cab drivers.

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'I Was Choked by the NYPD': New York's Chokehold Problem Isn't Going Away

Categories: Longform, NYPD

As far as Angel Martinez was concerned, the police officer at the front desk that night wasn't much more than an inconvenience. Sure, he'd refused to take Martinez's complaint. He was even a little rude about it. But for Martinez, after a night in Queens central booking, with his face battered and welts blooming all over his body, that officer was an afterthought.

Martinez was more concerned about the other two cops. The ones he says kicked his ass for no good reason. The ones who'd approached him and started patting him down without a word of explanation. The ones who slammed his face into a parked car, then onto the sidewalk, when he objected. The ones who ruined the new plaid button-down he'd bought for a job interview earlier that day — torn it to shreds.

Those officers, Martinez has alleged in a complaint with the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), punched him in the ribs, handcuffed him — and punched him one more time, for good measure. They were the ones he was concerned with. Especially Officer Frank Calafiore — who Martinez says kept an arm wrapped around his throat almost from the moment the encounter began.

He still isn't exactly sure of the legal definition, but it sure felt like a chokehold.

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Alt-Cabaret Provocateur Bridget Everett Is the Most Exciting Performer in New York City

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All photos by C.S. Muncy for the Village Voice.
Everett describes her rapport with Joe's Pub audiences as "fucking 200 people, and we're going to have coffee in the morning!"
"Hit the track!" Bridget Everett growls as she lowers herself to the lip of the Joe's Pub stage, lifting the hem of her flowing silver gown to flash the sold-out crowd in time to the slinky r&b beat.

"Short one, long one, doesn't matter/Just suck on that bean, watch it get fatter/You've had a bad day, you're feeling like shit/You want to beat something up? Beat up this clit/Here's the combination to my lovely lady locker/She'll pop in your mouth like Orville Redenbacher."

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Against Football Author Steve Almond Blasts the NFL and Its Hypocritical Media Machine

Categories: Longform

ESPN bloviator Colin Cowherd has a blind spot when it comes to the violence in football.
SSG Dale Sweetnam/US Army
ESPN bloviator Colin Cowherd has a blind spot when it comes to the violence in football.
The dog days of summer aren't much fun in the land of sports talk radio. The only major league in play is baseball, with the pennant races still two months off. Amid these doldrums, the Ray Rice story hit the airwaves last month like a gale.

In late July, word leaked that the National Football League was going to mete out its punishment to the Baltimore Ravens' star running back, who was alleged to have assaulted his fiancée in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February. Surveillance footage, leaked online, captured Rice attempting to remove the insensate body of the woman -- whom he subsequently wed -- from the elevator. To this task, he brought all the empathy of a hog butcher tugging at a carcass.

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The Outsider: Zephyr Teachout Will Never Be Governor, So Why is Andrew Cuomo Worried?

Categories: Longform

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Caleb Ferguson

It was a strange July morning in Lower Manhattan, and getting stranger by the minute. On the Brooklyn Bridge, sometime during the night, someone had swapped all the American flags for bleached white ones. As police and reporters swarmed the bridge, less than a mile away, in front of the 150-year-old Tweed Courthouse, two political candidates who agreed on nothing at all had just announced a surprise joint press conference. The announcement, emailed to reporters minutes before the event, said only that Zephyr Teachout, the left-wing law professor challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo in the upcoming Democratic primary, would make a joint appearance with Rob Astorino, the starched, suited, Roman Catholic radio host and career politician running on the Republican ticket. It was an irresistibly odd matchup. The reporters not covering the white flag mystery showed up and waited on the expanse of concrete in front of the courthouse. And waited. And waited. A podium bearing a sign with the words "Clean Up Albany" stood empty. The candidates showed no sign of appearing. Perennial long-shot candidate and comedian Randy Credico arrived, fuming at not having been invited to participate. Dressed in a bunched-up blazer and a yellow tie, sweat streaming freely from his head, he cornered Liz Pitt, Teachout's finance director. "Nice to get a call from you guys!" he cried. Pitt smiled politely. Credico advanced. "You dissed me twice," he warned. "Credico has a mean streak in him that's hard to come out, but I think you got it."

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The Tragedy of Louis Scarcella

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Alan Zale
Louis Scarcella, right, leading David Ranta out of the 90th Precinct in August 1990. Ranta was convicted in May 1991 despite no physical evidence connecting him to the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi.
Another day, another murder, another suspect refusing to talk. The precinct caught maybe half a dozen homicides a week. This was 1993, and this was north Brooklyn. For every case solved there were plenty more cold ones on the books. But the young precinct detective was skilled and lucky on this one. He had good street sources and he had a lead within hours of the shooting. It led to an arrest.

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Are High Rents Pricing Manhattan's High-End Restaurants Out of the Market?

Categories: Longform

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Courtesy Union Square Cafe
Here's how Danny Meyer found the storefront on East 16th Street in the mid '80s when he opened Union Square Cafe.
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 February, 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.

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Trolling Hell: Is the Satanic Temple a Prank, the Start of a New Religious Movement -- or Both?

Categories: Longform

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The most controversial new work of art in the United States is a sculpture that resides in an undisclosed warehouse location in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Hardly anyone knows where it is, and few have actually seen it. The people who commissioned the piece have warned the artist not to publicly identify himself.

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