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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 6, No. 16,  Dec. 23, 2019   

""The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
      -  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  
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MASTHEAD PHOTO:'The Sorceress' is playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage through Dec. 29, 2019.  (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)

Terese Loeb Kreuzer, editor

Some of the people I know have told me that they are slogging through the waning days of 2019, exhausted and sad. Almost every day of this past year has brought images of suffering - millions of refugees fleeing war and other violence, families torn apart, children in cages, massacres perpetrated by civilians with military-grade guns, floods, fires, polluted air and water, greed, corruption, criminality. I could add to this list but I won't. You undoubtedly can do that yourself.

Around 2 a.m. on Dec. 21, 2019 - the winter solstice, I sat at my desk thinking about this. That day and the next, Dec. 22, would be the shortest days of the year in the northern hemisphere. In New York City, there would be 14 hours and 51 minutes of darkness. On Dec. 21, the sun would rise at 7:16 a.m. and set at 4:31 p.m. in Manhattan. That was not conjecture. I knew that would happen.

As I sat there in front of my computer, I was thinking of what I had experienced 12 years ago when I visited the Svalbard Archipelago, which is around 600 miles south of the North Pole. I was there in June, when there are 24 hours of daylight. From my hotel room in Longyearbyen, I watched children playing under the midnight sun. But when darkness comes to Svalbard, the sun doesn't rise for months at a time. The frosty air is crowned with stars. I was told that polar bears lurk in the snow drifts that line the streets.

Each year, the first glimmer of sunlight occurs on March 8. It strikes the steps of Longyearbyen's church, reputed to be the most northern church in the world. When the sun reappears above the horizon after the long polar night, residents celebrate for a week.

Until then, in the unremitting darkness, everyone huddles and waits for the sun as I was doing too, the night of the solstice.

I take comfort in this. Minute by minute, the days are longer now. Partial and total darkness are transient. Someday we, or our descendants, will be able to look back on this time and know that it didn't last.

Terese Loeb Kreuzer
(Photos of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2007)

A sign on the edge of Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, warns of polar bear danger. Visitors are advised not to leave the settlement without a rifle that they know how to use.  

A June midnight in Longyearbyen. Between April 19 and Aug. 23, the sun never sets. 

The church in Longyearbyen. It is reputed to be the most northern church in the world. When the sun reappears above the horizon on March 8 after the long polar night, it first strikes the steps of the church. Residents celebrate with a weeklong festival.

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 Jazmin Gorsline in "The Sorceress," a production of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene now playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City.
(Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)

On a stage of modest size at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene is currently performing a Yiddish operetta called "The Sorceress" that is so inventive that it looks like it was created by witchcraft. A high-spirited party that opens the show is the least of it. Over the next 80 minutes, among other things, an open-air market appears, a boat laden with people sails across the sea, the captive heroine of the story ends up in a Turkish opium den with a juggler, dancers and prostituted women and a building burns down.
Apprentice witches and Bobe Yakhne, their teacher in all things evil.
The title character of the musical is a wicked sorceress, so of course the props include a large crystal ball and a cauldron emitting steam. The cook pot is under the supervision of three apprentice witches who dance wildly as they shriek and cackle. Their work in life is to torment anyone who crosses their path.

"The Sorceress" by Avrom Goldfaden dates from 1878 and was the first Yiddish musical to be produced in the United States. In August 1882, 14-year-old Boris Thomashefsky, later to be known as a renowned actor, produced "The Sorceress" at Turn Hall on East 4th Street, where the LaMama Theatre stands today. The Eastern European Jewish community of the Lower East Side lapped it up, laying the foundation for what came to be known a few decades later as the Yiddish Rialto. Night after night, theaters along Second Avenue were filled to capacity with audiences eager to see the great Yiddish actors in the best loved, and also the newest, Yiddish plays.
The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, now in its 105th season and the longest continually producing Yiddish theater company in the world, has launched what it calls its Global Restoration Initiative to identify and present the Yiddish theater's essential operettas, musicals and plays. For the last several years, members of NYTF have been scouring archives and libraries around the world, searching for librettos, scores and orchestrations. The musical material has been digitized, note by note, and the librettos transliterated and translated for use by contemporary artists and scholars. The work is then being adapted for today's audiences.
Mikhl Yashinsky as Bobe Yakhne, the sorceress.
"The Sorceress" is the first fully restored work of this initiative. It is a story of deliberate evil and human-devised suffering cloaked as a fairy tale with many of the usual stock characters: an innocent, young woman whose beloved mother suddenly dies; a wicked witch and an equally wicked stepmother who connive to kidnap the maiden; a loving but naive and docile father; a prince, here depicted as the young woman's fiancé, who travels the world looking for his beloved, and so on.But behind the fairy tale is gut-wrenching reality. The operetta, written during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, depicts family separation, libelous accusations, false imprisonment, human trafficking and forced servitude as tools of oppression. And for post-Holocaust audiences, the story presages much of what happened during World War II when Hitler and other Nazis persecuted Jews and attempted to exterminate them.
Josh Kohane as Mirele's fiancé and Rachel Botchan as the maiden's conniving stepmother.
The NYTF's production of "The Sorceress" is a brilliantly executed tour de force. In the 19-member cast, Jazmin Gorsline as the maiden Mirele distinguishes herself with her crystalline singing. Mikhl Yashinsky is fearsome as the hulking witch, Bobe Yakhne, and Rachel Botchan as Basye is the conniving stepmother from hell. Steve Sterner provides comic relief as the unscrupulous peddler Hotsmakh. But top honors have to go to director Motl Didner, music director Zalmen Mlotek, choreographer Merete Muenter, scenic designer Dara Wishingrad, costume designer Izzy Fields and a host of other behind-the-scenes talents who turned "The Sorceress" from an old chestnut into a luminous gem of color, action and ultimately of the message that in the long run, evil doesn't triumph or as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

"The Sorceress," in Yiddish with English and Russian super-titles, will be playing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage through Dec. 29, 2019. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

(Photos: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)

Bits & Bytes

The South Street Seaport Museum reports that its 1885 schooner Pioneer is now in the Scarano Boat Building yard in Albany, New York. Pioneer left Manhattan on Dec. 17 alongside a scow pushed by tug Frances. She arrived in Albany around 24 hours later. Building on the baseline of reconstruction done by Gladding-Hearn in the late 1960s, Pioneer will undergo further restoration this winter. She will be sandblasted and her hull framing and shell plating will be repaired. Her masts will be removed and inspected and her engine will be replaced with a cleaner, more reliable "tier-3" diesel engine, supplied by John Deere. This engine will power Pioneer for the next decade and more. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
"Brooklynites drowning in helicopter noise since Uber Copter, Blade launch," New York Post, 12/7/19. "An influx of on-demand chopper services like Uber Copter and Blade offering airportgoers an alternative to Manhattan gridlock for as little as $95 are flooding the skies over brownstone Brooklyn and lower Manhattan - and assaulting residents' eardrums," the New York Post reports. "Park Slope residents say the Thanksgiving-week heli traffic has drowned their peaceful neighborhood in a roar so loud it made windows rattle, dogs growl and outdoor conversations inaudible. Jerry, a resident of Lincoln Place who declined to provide his last name, said that on Nov. 15 he recorded 30 helicopters flying over his home between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m." For the complete article, click here.
"Artists Space Re-emerges as an Enduring Downtown Alternative," New York Times, 12/12/19. "In the mid-1970s, the pioneering art historian and activist Douglas Crimp identified a new tendency in the work of young artists like Sherrie Levine and Robert Longo: They were turning away from the abstract and conceptual work then in vogue, and appropriating images from movies and advertising to distort the aims of mass media," The New York Times recalls. "Mr. Crimp, who died this year at 74, brought these artists together in a landmark show called 'Pictures' at a small alternative gallery called Artists Space - which endures as a turning point in art history, and a classic of downtown New York. Downtown has changed beyond recognition, its cold-water lofts overtaken by shoe boutiques and tourist-trap restaurants. But Artists Space, now 47 years old, remains a noncommercial site of experimentation. ... The institution has had to play cat-and-mouse with New York's landlords, and to stay afloat it has roved among half a dozen locations in SoHo and TriBeCa. In 2016, a penthouse construction project pushed Artists Space out of its last home on Greene Street. Now it arrives, after three years in temporary digs and with a sweet 20-year-lease ... in a cast-iron building at 11 Cortlandt Alley, just off Canal Street, where artists can have the run of a high-ceilinged ground floor and perform in a spacious basement." For the complete article, click here
"Completion Expected Next Year For 125 Greenwich Street, In Financial District," New York YIMBY, 12/18/19. "Work is almost entirely complete on the reflective curtain wall of 125 Greenwich Street," one of the tallest projects under construction in New York City, according to New York YIMBY. "The only sections awaiting façade work are the podium and the portion where the exterior hoist is still mounted. Designed by Rafael Vinoly and developed by Bizzi & Partners and Vector Group, the slender 88-story residential skyscraper stands 912 feet tall over the Financial District. The 273 residential units are being marketed by Douglas Elliman, while the interiors are designed by March & White." For the complete article, click here.


Downtown bulletin board
At Bowne & Co. Stationers, 207-211 Water St. in the South Street Seaport, find unusual gifts, holiday decorations, journals, art supplies and cards and stationary printed on Bowne's historic presses. Bowne & Co. will be open on Dec. 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed on Dec. 25. The South Street Seaport Museum's galleries at 12 Fulton St. and The Ships at South Street Seaport Museum will be closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Annual diaper drive: Borough of Manhattan President Gale Brewer has announced the fourth annual diaper drive. She explains, "For many low-income parents, getting diapers for their children is a struggle. Day care centers often require parents to supply diapers when they drop off their kids, so if the parents don't have diapers to bring every day, they can't work." In collaboration with the Food Bank for New York City and the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Brewer and her staff are collecting diapers that will be distributed via emergency food pantries. If you want to help, bring new, sealed boxes of diapers in sizes 3 to 6 either to Brewer's office at 1 Centre St. (19th floor) or to her storefront office at 431 W. 125th St. Amazon customers can order from the Food Bank's Amazon Wishlist for delivery straight to the Food Bank's warehouse. To access that Wish List, click here.

Poets House holiday hours: Poets House at 10 River Terrace in Battery Park City will be closed from Monday, Dec. 23 through Wednesday, Dec. 25 and again from Sunday, Dec. 29 through Wednesday, Jan. 1 in observance of the Christmas/New Year holiday. The final days to see the art show now at Poets House entitled "Gay New York: Walt Whitman to the Present" will be Dec. 26, 27 and 28. Art News recently called the show one of the Top 10 Art Shows of the Year. For more information about Poets House, click here.

United States Census 2020 is hiring: The 2020 U.S. Census will require a massive effort to document everyone in the country. The U.S. government is hiring census workers with a promise of "great pay, flexible hours, weekly pay and paid training." The jobs include census taker, recruiting assistant, office clerk, and supervisory staff. Applications can be made online at For more information, call 855-JOB-2020.

Ferry schedules: On Monday, Nov. 4, the winter schedules for NYC Ferry routes went into effect. These routes serve the Lower East Side, South Brooklyn, Rockaway, the East River, Astoria and Soundview, with connecting buses in the Rockaways and midtown Manhattan. A new, early departure has been added to the Soundview route. Ferries to and from Pier 11 at Wall Street and Governors Island ran on weekends through Oct. 27 but have now been discontinued until spring. As of May 20, NYC Ferry's Astoria route began serving the Brooklyn Navy Yard. For more information, click here.

Most of the Downtown Post NYC bulletin board listings are now on the Downtown Post NYC website. To see the bulletin board listings, click here.

calendar CALENDAR
Spotlight: Battery Park City's winter calendar 

A mask shop in Venice. In January, February and March, the Battery Park City Authority will be presenting a series of family workshops, three of which will deal with mask-making in different cultures. On Feb. 22, the workshop entitled "Masquerade: Venetian Carnival" will explore the colorful masks and theatrics of the Commedia dell'Arte after which workshop participants will make their own masks. (Photo: © 2007 Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

What's your pleasure? Art? Music? Dance? Films? Nature programs? Fitness? The Battery Park City Authority has something on its winter calendar for almost everyone. Between January and April 2020, the BPCA will be producing around 900 programs for the public, most of them free.  
Among the highlights, look for the Friday night film series of art house classics starting on Jan. 10 with "Putney Swope," a 1969 comedy about a black advertising executive that satirizes the advertising world, the portrayal of race in Hollywood films and a few other targets. The Friday night films (accompanied by free popcorn and followed by a discussion) will be shown at 6 River Terrace starting at 6 p.m.
Tuesday Talks will return this winter starting on Jan. 14 when BPC resident Paul Rieckhoff will host an informal conversation focused on local issues that may end up in the national spotlight. Rieckhoff is a veteran of the Iraq war and a writer, activist and advocate for veteran's rights. Tuesday Talks will be held at 6 River Terrace. Rieckhoff's talk will start at 7 p.m.
A series of family workshops will explore mask-making in various cultures starting on Jan. 25 with masks typical of Bulgarian  Surva - a Balkan festival in which thousands of people join in a grand parade of costumes and folkloric games to scare away evil spirits and to wish a prosperous new year for all. Workshop participants will make their own Surva-inspired masks and then take part in a parade led by Young Bulgarian Voices of New York. The art projects are designed for children aged 4 and up and start at 11 a.m. The concert and parade will begin at 11:45 a.m., both at 6 River Terrace.
The annual Battery Park City art exhibition is a much-anticipated event on the winter calendar. This year, the opening reception will take place on Jan. 26 starting at 1 p.m. The exhibition is held at 75 Battery Place and will be on view weekdays through March 27.
Consult the winter calendar for the full list of events and programs that include a variety of classes for adults and children. The calendar is available on the Battery Park City Authority's website. In addition, hard copies will soon be mailed to people on the BPCA's mailing list. To get a copy, go to and sign up or call (212) 267-9700. 
- Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Battery Park City event and class calendar:
Throughout the year, the Battery Park City Authority sponsors events and classes for children and adults. For the winter calendar, which runs through April 2020, click here.
For more calendar listings, go to the Downtown Post NYC website. Click here.


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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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