18 June 2013


AS an Inwood resident myself, I was happy to see the transformation of Dyckman Street west of Broadway, long overdue. Nice (although food could be better) restaurants popped up along the stretch across from the park, with a cool club scene right around the corner from my apartment. That, along with the dive bar on the corner and the diner still there, made for a perfect local match and alternative (or supplement) for going downtown or to Brooklyn to party. But I knew the day would come that the anticipated crowd would come, and bring their bullshit, and make it a chic ghetto. Well, that day came last year this month when the marina (where I enjoyed biking and checking out the Hudson and the Palisades from water level) re-opened as the new beachfront lounger La Marina. I knew when I took friends down there last summer and saw the crowds grow and become ever-so unruly and boisterous. And now the New York Times has something to say about it, as thus:

A Place to Be Seen (and Heard) in Upper Manhattan

Caleb Ferguson for The New York Times
On Saturday night at La Marina in Upper Manhattan, dancing on the beach starts early and can last late into the night. Large crowds come to party in the sand and to listen to D.J’.s and live bands.

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With the lights of the George Washington Bridge painting the Hudson River and a half-moon hanging over the Palisades, La Marina felt like the place to be last Saturday night. At the year-old restaurant in Fort Washington Park, at the end of Dyckman Street in Upper Manhattan, two D.J.’s, working opposite ends of the property, cranked up the volume. Patrons ordered bottles of liquor, starting at $130 for rum and rising to $12,000 for a methuselah of Champagne, equal to five bottles, to secure a table on the terrace. Dancers let loose on the “beach,” a sand-covered strip flanked with four-poster beds draped in flowing white fabric.

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Caleb Ferguson for The New York Times
One group of friends held sparklers while drinking and dancing to light up the scene.
Caleb Ferguson for The New York Times
La Marina, a restaurant, bar and lounge in Upper Manhattan, features tables along the Hudson River with scenic views.
“The vibe is getting turned up,” Marc De Jesus, 27, a La Marina regular from the Bronx, said with a wide grin.
But that vibe has become a bit too much for many in the Inwood neighborhood, a residential area that has developed a lively night life in recent years. They complain that La Marina, a concession on city parkland initially billed as a restaurant-lounge, has evolved into a raucous outdoor nightclub, attracting the likes of Jay-Z and Leonardo DiCaprio. They say the hot spot snarls traffic for blocks, even backing cars up on the Henry Hudson Parkway; creates noise pollution; and regularly violates the terms of its license with the city’s parks department.
“The crowds are the worst part,” said Terrie Walters, 52, who lives a few blocks away. “People will drive there even if they live six blocks away. You want to pull up to the valet and be seen getting out of your S.U.V. It’s brought an element to the neighborhood that does not fit, and there’s gridlock beyond gridlock, with people fighting and cursing and cutting each other off.”
Residents had high hopes when La Marina opened, given its sublime perch on the Hudson and its enticing beach-resort architecture. The restaurant replaced a junk-filled marina that closed after the operator was charged with selling drugs, and that also drew complaints about noise and traffic. In response to the current criticism, one of the owners, Jerald Tenenbaum, said in a statement: “La Marina is no longer a drug den or a magnet for all varieties of crime, which it undeniably was eight years ago. It has brought a large degree of pride to the neighborhood.”
Angry residents have circulated a polished online presentation, put together anonymously, that lays bare the alleged violations of La Marina’s license agreement with the parks department, with photographs, Instagram messages and D.J. promotions as evidence. One D.J.’s tweet boasted of drawing 3,600 people to La Marina, while another’s claimed 6,000. The official capacity, according to the parks department, is 1,500.
In some cases, the complaints are out of date. The presentation notes that La Marina is supposed to be open only seasonally, but the parks department has amended its license, allowing it to operate year-round. Similarly, it can now stay open until 1 a.m. seven days a week; originally it was to close at 12:30 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 11 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays. As for music, the city originally said that La Marina could amplify music only with prior approval, and never past 10 p.m. It has since softened that restriction, allowing amplification without special permission, but still only until 10.
On Saturday, however, the two D.J.s, one supplemented by two live drummers, played until 1 a.m., the music emanating from a series of high-powered speakers on elevated poles. Neighborhood residents said it was a common practice.
Even some New Jersey residents have complained in online forums that they are bothered by the noise. And while La Marina is separated from nearby apartment buildings by the Henry Hudson Parkway, as well as train tracks and parkland, some Inwood residents say they cannot escape the thump-thump of the bass. “La Marina has driven me and my wife insane, and we plan to move out of the neighborhood completely because of it,” said John Graziano, a playground designer.
For the city, the restaurant’s popularity has proved awkward. On the one hand, La Marina is already one of the parks department’s most successful concessions, yielding about $250,000 last year for the city’s general fund — and that was when it was open only part of the year.
But the noise and cars are a problem, the department acknowledges, although, it said, La Marina has worked to resolve the traffic problem. “The facility is experiencing growing pains as it tries to manage its remarkable success,” the department said in a statement. “Parks is in constant communication with the concessionaire, and we still have some work to do, balancing the facility’s practices with the needs of the neighborhood.”
On Saturday night, a pair of gleaming red Ferraris were prominently parked by the entrance, like high-priced lawn ornaments; one license plate read “CABAYO,” a version of the Spanish word for horse, while the other advised: “PLAYHRD.” Groups of women took self-portraits with their camera phones, and everywhere people were smoking hookahs.
Alcohol is supposed to be served to seated customers only, but hundreds of people were milling around indoors and out, drinks in hand. La Marina charges a cover for access to certain areas, like the beach, and also sells tickets to certain D.J.-led shows and live events, an apparent breach of its agreement with parks.
The owners of La Marina have lodged their own complaints, saying opponents’ strategies have not stopped with the anonymous presentation. “One of their more effective tactics is the misuse of New York City oversight bodies,” said Mr. Tenenbaum, who owns the establishment with Josh Rosen among others, charging that critics have made false reports about under-age drinking, drugs, violence and even food poisoning.

23 April 2013

22 April 2013

Marijuana Legalization: Demanding Freedom to Toke at the Liberty Bell

At 4:20 p.m. on April 20 a cloud ascended on Independence Mall. (Philly420 Columnist Chris Goldstein in red ball cap at right)
Rae Bronze / PhillyNORML
At 4:20 p.m. on April 20 a cloud ascended on Independence Mall. (Philly420 Columnist Chris Goldstein in red ball cap at right)
Story Highlights
  • More than 750,000 Americans are arrested each year for simply possessing a small amount of cannabis.
  • The crowd swelled to almost 400 people as the clock counted down.
  • At the stroke of 4:20 everyone cheered and instantly puffs of smoke appeared above the crowd.
At 4:20 p.m. on April 20 a cloud ascended on Independence Mall. (Philly420 Columnist Chris Goldstein in red ball cap at right)GALLERY: Hundreds of marijuana smokers gather at Liberty Bell to celebrate '420'
The sun was shining at Independence Mall at 4:20 p.m. on Saturday 4/20 as hundreds of cannabis consumers lit joints to protest marijuana prohibition.

Local cannabis advocacy group PhillyNORML and comedy crew The Panic Hour have been growing the monthly public demonstrations  (and sweet smelling cloud) in front of the Liberty Bell since December 2012. But this time Philadelphia joined hundreds of similar events around the world showing that 420 (once a stoner code-word) has officially gone mainstream.
More than 750,000 Americans are arrested each year for simply possessing a small amount of cannabis – about 20,000 each from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. This is more arrests more than for other drugs combined and all violent crimes.

While the atmosphere was one of celebration – there was a strong, core message. Some of the speakers hit on those points:

  • Vanessa Waltz, cancer survivor and board member of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey: “If you truly believe in freedom, don’t just come out of the marijuana closet, run out screaming and bring your friends along for the ride! Let your voice be heard! And don’t stop until we are all free. You might be surprised at how many people will listen to you. For the first time in our lives, the majority of Americans want marijuana legalized. According to the latest polls, 52 percent of Americans support legalization.”
  • Libertarian blogger and TV host Adam Kokesh: “This gross violation of your rights as a human being we call the ‘drug war’ is about to be over!”
  • Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion: “Would your mothers, your bothers, your sisters, your cousins send someone to jail for a marijuana charge? [crowd says “NO”] You know the whole jury nullification thing isn’t new it’s been around for a long time…I mean we’re in Pennsylvania, named after William Penn. William Penn became famous, in fact, for taking a case to trial in England arguing that the law was wrong…not him.”

From the News Desk
Speakers also included 

Les Stark from Pennsylvania Hempland Security

Mike Whiter from PA Veterans for Medical Marijuana

Ojay from the Philly HipHop Collective

Vanessa Maria Graber from Really Rad Radio, yours truly from Philly420 along with emcees Ellie Paisley, NA Poe and Steve Miller-Miller from The Panic Hour.

The crowd swelled to almost 400 people as the clock counted down. Many heldsigns calling for legalization. 

Others in the group held aloft their pre-rolled joints and blunts (it is Philly; so blunts are kind of a necessity).

At the stroke of 4:20 everyone cheered, the Philly HipHop Collective spun up some beats and instantly puffs of smoke began to appear above the crowd.  These grew and coalesced into a roiling cloud of exhaled marijuana that was harmlessly carried across the lawn to from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell past Ben Franklin’s resting place then over to the Constitution Center.

Although there are more than 3,000 marijuana possession arrests in Philadelphia last year there were no arrests or citations at the rally. There was no (visible) presence of the city police and National Park Service rangers kept a distance, tolerating the protest activity.

PhillyNORML is planning their annual South Street Cannabis March on May 11th and back with The Panic Hour at the Liberty Bell on May 25th for “Smoke Down Prohibition V.”

Philly’s Hemp History

Before modern cannabis prohibition, Pennsylvania was a key producer of industrial hemp for almost 300 years.

Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were avid pipe smokers who exchanged recipes for herbal blends. Both men were also meticulous farmers who grew hemp for fiber. And both also specifically cultivated small patches of “India Hemp” (not to be confused with Indian hemp) that is actually cannabis sativa, a plant always grown only for effect, not fiber. There are some tantalizing clues but no definitive proof that the founders puffed ganja. Still, Jefferson and Washington spent a fair amount of time smoking their pipes (whatever was in them) all around town.

It was 1972 when a former PA governor, Raymond Shafer (a staunch Republican) tried to convince President Richard Nixon to completely end the criminal prohibition of marijuana by the federal government.
Shafer was a constitutional scholar who led a commission of legislators and experts studying whether cannabis belonged in the Controlled Substances Act. Their conclusion was that pot did not belong in the CSA and that Americans should be able to use it for medication, recreation and spiritual enlightenment. Pennsylvania’s currently active legislation to create a state medical marijuana program (HB1181/SB770) is named in Shafer’s honor.

The monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” protests at Independence Mall take place on an area designated as “The People’s Plaza” by the National Park Service. A granite monument there is engraved with the text of the First Amendment …which, in case you haven’t seen it in a while reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The growing national support in polls, legislative action at the state and federal level along with increasing visible public protests are the tangible result of these lofty ideas applied to legalizing marijuana and hemp.

Illegal since 1937, it is long past the time to change this policy. At last, in 2013 we are starting to see the inertia clearly shift from defending cannabis prohibition to ending it. 

Contact Chris Goldstein at chris@freedomisgreen.com

13 April 2013

This Story Will Leave Your Mouth Hanging Open (Or Wet)

Cops: Homeless couple rapes teens with dildos

Charged in the attacks are Brittany Morris and Lakief Bivins.

Charged in the attacks are Brittany Morris and Lakief Bivins.
POSTED: March 22, 2013
TWO TEEN GIRLS told Upper Darby police Tuesday that they both were raped last month by a homeless couple after drinking and smoking pot with them at an abandoned house.
Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said the 16-year-old friends, accompanied to the police station by their mothers, told police that one of them had gotten a call from a man she knew as "Leon" who asked if she wanted to hang out on Feb. 2.
Police later identified "Leon" as Lakief Bivins, 27, a homeless man who also goes by the name "Woo," Chitwood said.
The teen who knows Bivins brought her girlfriend with her to an abandoned house on Lamport Road near Long Lane, where Bivins was squatting with his girlfriend, Brittany Morris, 21, police said. There, the four drank fruity alcoholic drinks, smoked pot and played a card game called "strip- poker pitty patty," Chitwood said.
Later, the couple threw both girls on a bed and as Bivins raped one, Morris raped the other with a strap-on dildo, Chitwood said. The couple then switched, police said.
The couple let the girls leave after the teens sobered up, Chitwood said.
When police went to the house Tuesday, they found Bivins and Morris inside and arrested both for the alleged attacks. Police also found a bag of sex toys with several strap-on dildos, including one that had a condom on it, Chitwood said.
"It certainly is bizarre," he said, "and the fact that it's young kids who are involved, it's a sad commentary."

" @FarFarrAway
Blog: Philly.com/DailyDelco

12 April 2013

Beautiful City, Lacking Brotherly Love

Philadelphia skyline taken from the High Rise Towers on the University of Pennsylvania's campus. It's a beautiful view which brings back images of my good ol' days at Penn. Yes, I was a Penny!

I really enjoyed my days and nights in Philly back in the early 80s - house music, new wave clubs on South Street (the original hip version of the late 70s-early 80s), Fairmount Park, Wanamakers, The Gallery (before it turned into a cesspool), and so much more. The view today is much more impressive, and Penn (which had already expanded into its own city within a city back then) has grown even more. Like most cities it had its good and bad, but was mostly a fun place - and probably the coolest big city outside of New York on the East Coast. No South Beach, Inner Harbor was just built, no Adams-Morgan, no Atlanta Underground, and Boston was still kinda un-hip then. Philly was the other destination place to be. And it had a great nightlife and relatively safe streets. Yeah they had gangs and you could get mugged, but you faced worse in New York or DC.

How the tables have turned. DC is becoming less chocolate and more vanilla, with white folks venturing more and more into NE (which still has an incredible murder rate), and you can ride the subways in NY 24/7 with no incident, no drugs or graffiti (remembering the days of the old painted-up subway cars and the infamous 13th car - the last subway car where you could buy, sell and engage in drugs with no police daring to challenge you). Back in the day the homeless in NY would attack you. Now they're your friend or a comedy act.

In contrast, Philadelphia has become a place where even sitting out on your back patio during a pleasant afternoon is a dangerous endeavor. Street gangs aren't even the issue - just silly kids, crazy adults, or people at their mental wits end, can come out of nowhere with weapons made for war or police and just shoot you up indiscriminately. It's not just the numbers; it's the senselessness of it all that blows people's minds. And needlessly snuffs out lives. More children and even seasoned adults are being taken out, not as combatants but as bystanders. And the perps? Our children. They are killing us. And their reason? When you find out, let me know.

Stop the violence. There's nothing to be gained from it.

To the rest of us: do your part. Help build our economy again. It's tough out there to be sure, but we gotta teach these kids it's better to earn $100 a week in honest work than to live the illusion of Tony Montana and live a short life like he did, not being able to see your kids grow up (or even have kids) or ever see your family again. There's no conflict going on out there that's worth it. Peace and love together, people!

02 March 2013

A Message on Taking Risks and Winning: Go for It

Go for it

(from "Yellow on Black - Asian African Love" blog)
The situations where you're most likely to make mistakes are also situations in which you have the greatest opportunities to make progress. When there's something on the line, there's something to be gained. Don't seek to make mistakes, but don't seek to avoid them either. Seek instead to put yourself in circumstances that challenge you to grow.

When there's the possibility of making a bad impression, there's also the possibility to make a great impression. Success comes from being able to accept the risk of failure. When you ask for something, there's a good chance that you'll be turned down. But if you never ask, there's a rock solid certainty that you won't get what you seek. By asking often enough and sincerely enough, you'll get the answer you're after. By listening to enough people tell you no, you'll find someone who tells you yes. Make the effort, put yourself on the line, and go for it.

Though the road can be bumpy at times, the way to get there is to get going.

-- Ralph Marston Ins

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