Volume 80, Number 20 | October 14 - 20, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Photo by Jessy Dunn
Artist Seth Tobocman speaking at a memorial for Michael Shenker on Sunday.
Planted in their hearts:
About 200 people gathered in El Jardin Del Paraiso, on Fourth St. between Avenues C and D, Sunday afternoon for a memorial for longtime East Village squatter/activist Michael Shenker, who died Oct. 2 at age 54. Shenker co-founded the More Gardens Coalition. Speakers included Reverend Billy, who praised Shenker’s “funny fierceness that would infect us to do things. He was a director of our symphony of defense,” Billy said of Shenker, who was also a musician who composed a “Squatter Opera.” Cartoon artist Seth Tobocman said, “Mike Shenker is the greatest man I have ever known personally. I never got to march with Martin Luther King…but I got to work on the [squatter] Eviction Watch with Michael Shenker.” Tobocman’s 1999 graphic novel “War in the Neighborhood” stands as perhaps the best account of the East Village squatter movement. Eric Rossi added that Shenker was a large factor in why “all this housing is still here and all these gardens are still here, and all the fun we had all the time — you had to have fun doing it.” The event ended with a circle dance led by Donald Gallagher, a Radical Faerie and member of Reverend Billy’s choir. Friday night, friends remembered Shenker at 5C Cafe, where he used to perform. Burt Ekert, his piano teacher, played an elegant “Danny Boy,” as Shenker had reworked it. Art Cabrera remembered doing guerilla electrical hookups with Shenker on squatter buildings where Con Ed had cut the power. One memorable time, they parked a van over a manhole outside Umbrella House on Avenue C, then carried a piece of sheetrock back and forth between the van and squat to make it look like they were doing construction work, camouflaging the fact that they were working on the wiring in the manhole. Karl Rosenstein sang a blues for Shenker, and the artist Fly sang her catchy squatter anthem “Piss Bucket.” Calling him a “visionary,” Frank Morales said one memorial wouldn’t have been enough for Shenker, noting, “This is like New Orleans — we’ve got to do a whole week.” Brett Lebowitz of See Sqwat said Shenker’s electrical expertise was invaluable to them. “A lot of us didn’t know what we were doing,” he said. “He helped us a lot. See Sqwat misses him a lot.” On Sat., Oct. 16, there will be a march around the East Village in honor of Shenker. People will gather at 5 p.m. in the middle of Tompkins Square Park, and end the march at 7 p.m. at Maryhouse (The Catholic Worker), at 55 E. Third St., where another Shenker memorial will then be held.
Folk-music legend Pete Seeger, 92, will be performing at St. John’s Lutheran Church, at 81 Christopher St., on Sat., Oct. 23, at 4 p.m. The special appearance will benefit the church’s nonprofit Gardens of Forgiveness initiative and its peace project in Rwanda. Tickets, $35, can be bought at the door or reserved online at http://peteseegergof.eventbrite.com/ or by calling 212-242-5737.
In last week’s article about the Department of Sanitation’s planned Spring St. mega-garage, the $166 million cited as the city’s payment to UPS for the property was incorrect. The correct figure is $116 million.