Articles by

Gabrielle Alfiero

03/04/14 9:42am

Image (1)When we talk about rising rents, we frequently leer at newer, wealthier residents in a neighborhood while lamenting the price of a cup of coffee and wagging the gentrification finger. But some landlords and management companies bear just as much responsibility for housing costs as newcomers with expensive tastes in caffeine–especially when those property owners are dodging rent-stabilization laws designed to protect renters and preserve affordable housing stock in the city.

Rent-regulation guidelines, however byzantine, protect tenants and preserve neighborhoods, but they’re all too often misunderstood, flouted or ignored. It’s worth brushing up on at least the most basic rent-stabilization concepts before signing a lease and putting down that security deposit–or in order to check whether or not you’ve been paying too much on your current lease.

About one million rental units in New York City are rent stabilized–yes, one million. A state and city program established in 1969—when rents were rising dramatically in pre-war buildings—rent stabilization is designed to keep tenants in their apartments by giving them lease-renewal options and protecting them from sharp rent increases. Owners of rent-stabilized units cannot raise the rent by more than a small percentage at the end of a lease (currently, the increases determined by the Rent Guidelines Board are 4 percent for a one-year lease and 7.75 percent for a two-year lease). Rent regulation laws also protect tenants from eviction, though landlords can take over an apartment for their own use or for their family, but they’re required to give current tenants at least three months’ notice. And, it’s important to note, owners are under no obligation to raise the rent when drawing up a new lease–the increases are the maximum allowed by law, not a requirement.

Right now, certain Brooklyn neighborhoods are feeling the rent-stabilization squeeze more than others.
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02/27/14 8:00am

Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Neal in "Fruitvale Station." Photo: The Weinstein Company

Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Neal in “Fruitvale Station.” Photo: The Weinstein Company

As Mark Harris pointed out in a recent piece for Grantland, this year’s pool of Oscar-nominated films is about as deep as a puddle. Harris notes that only 12 films were nominated across the eight major categories, the fewest in 30 years, a fact all the more perplexing, considering that 2013 was touted as a great year for film.

Just because some gems of the silver screen didn’t get an Oscar nod doesn’t mean they’re not gold-statue (or at least movie night) worthy. We’ve shortlisted four films from 2013 that the Academy missed, but you shouldn’t.

Fruitvale Station

Writer-director Ryan Coogler’s first feature film tells the true story of Oscar Grant III, played by Michael B. Jordan, who is as endearing in this film as he was as Wallace in The Wire We meet the 22-year-old Grant on what we know will be the last day of his life, before he was detained and shot in the back by a BART police officer on his way home in the early hours of New Year’s Day in 2009. The film chronicles Grant’s last hours, and is filled with quiet, routine moments that bear the oversized weight of what’s to come. He tucks his daughter in to bed for what we know is the last time, and washes dishes with his mother while she convinces him to take the train from Oakland to San Francisco instead of driving. As people tend to be, Grant’s an imperfect guy: he served two stints in prison for selling drugs and loses his job for perpetual tardiness. As played by Jordan, he looks as though he’s constantly churning over life’s obstacles—paying rent, getting his job back—in his mind. With so many restrained scenes in the first half of the film, the chaos and confusion on the BART platform is all the more jarring, and the outcome more devastating.

Short Term 12

If the scenery-chewing, for-your-consideration overacting in some of this year’s Oscar-nominated films (ahem, August: Osage County) put you off your popcorn, Short Term 12, from director Destin Daniel Cretton, provides a subtle and poignant remedy. Effective for its brief and focused sketches of multiple characters, the film’s gaze ultimately settles on Grace (played with quiet intensity by Alison Brie Brie Larson), a counselor at a foster care facility for teenagers, some who’ve endured unimaginable abuse that we first assume and eventually confirm that Grace is all too familiar with herself. With little action, most of the film’s revelations come from the quiet dialogues between counselors and patients or Grace and her live-in boyfriend and fellow counselor, Mason (John Gallagher, Jr.). Short Term 12‘2 strength stems from our growing affinities for the characters, our anger at those who’ve hurt them, and a hope that they’ll one day be loved.
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11/26/13 8:14am

The career of Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, is the subject of the new documentary "The Punk Singer," which opens Friday at the IFC Center.

The career of Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, is the subject of the new documentary “The Punk Singer,” which opens Friday at the IFC Center and Nitehawk Cinema.

The Punk SingerSini Anderson’s first feature-length documentary, opens with an archival clip of Kathleen Hanna performing in Olympia, Wash in 1991. The film, which opens at the IFC Center and Nitehawk Cinema on Friday, Nov. 29–perfect to clear you palate after a day of turkey and couch time–follows Hanna’s career as a feminist musician and riot grrrl pioneer.

“Feminism is a verb,” Hanna said during a Q&A after a recent screening of the film at the DOC NYC festival. “It’s something you do. It’s not something you are.”

In the early nineties, Hanna was a young artist looking for a medium that would allow her to spread a message of female empowerment and solidarity, and she found her outlet in punk music, as the lead singer of the riot grrrl band Bikini Kill, which she formed with fellow students at Evergreen State College in Olympia. The group didn’t bring innate technical skills to the stage—bassist Kathi Wilcox had never played the instrument before—but the band was a vessel for feminist poetry and activism, propelled by its captivating lead singer.
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11/05/13 1:27pm

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The Men
Tuesday, Nov. 5
8pm
Tickets $12
Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N. 6 St.)

Brooklyn foursome the Men’s punk sound is about as classic as it gets. In just two years they’ve released three LPs full of classic post-hardcore guitar assault and cymbal heavy raucousness. Now the band’s supporting their latest effort, a 5-song EP, “Campfire Songs,” which includes a few stripped down songs from their last LP, “New Moon,” that, you guessed it, would be right at home around a bunch of burning longs. Sure, these tracks sound as demure as a sleeping kitten compared to the source material, but there’s no Kumbaya here.

The B-52s
Thursday, Nov. 7
8pm
Tickets $52
Brooklyn Bowl (61 Wythe Ave.)

You guys. The B-52s. At Brooklyn Bowl. The B-52s are still a great party band. Brooklyn Bowl is a great party venue. Singers Fred Schneider, Cate Pierson and Cindy Wilson still have it. Pierson and Wilson still have those crazy awesome bouffant hairdos. Tickets aren’t cheap to this show, but my guess is that this classic New Wave group with have the lanes a rockin’ tonight. Hurry up, and bring your juke box money.

Girl in a Coma
Friday, Nov. 8
8pm
Tickets $13 in advance/ $15 at the door
Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave.)

A brief primer on Girl in a Coma: this three-piece (all girl) band hails from San Antonio, is on Joan Jett’s label, Blackheart Records (two-thirds of the band wear Joan Jett-inspired haircuts), and cover both Selena and Patsy Cline in live sets. But quick observations aside, this band rocks, loudly and with a calculated abandon.

Diarrhea Planet
Saturday, Nov. 9
8pm
Tickets $10
Glasslands (289 Kent Ave.)

Sorry, that’s the band’s name. But for those quick to pre-judge based on titles alone (hey, I’m with you) this Nashville six-piece is more dynamic than what you might expect from a band with a word for excrement in the name, which serves as more of a distraction–and maybe a deterrent–than an apropos indicator. With four (FOUR!) guitarists, there’s always something shreddy going on, but the band’s more pop-punk with, dare I say, a dash of glam a la Kiss and the New York Dolls.

10/29/13 2:00pm
Irish troubadour Foy Vance plays Bowery Ballroom on Nov. 4.

Irish troubadour Foy Vance plays Bowery Ballroom on Nov. 4.


Holly Miranda
Tuesday, Oct. 29
8pm
Tickets $12
Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave.)

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Holly Miranda‘s 2010 LP The Magician’s Private Library was an aptly-titled debut. Produced by TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, the 10-song album could be a collection of daydreamed, cerebral jingles. There are moments of detached melancholy that recall the XX, but a smattering of horns on “Sweet Dreams” and “Joints” gives the album some lift. Check out her breadth of cover tracks–especially her version of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” for a hint of the power and smoky coolness of her live vocals.
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10/11/13 12:00pm
Nashville's Linda Ortega stops over in NYC for CMJ during her national tour in support of her new record, "Tin Star." Photo: Julie Moe.

Nashville’s Linda Ortega stops over in NYC for CMJ during her national tour in support of her new record, “Tin Star.” Photo: Julie Moe.

Linda Ortega plays at Subculture on Oct. 18 and Oct. 19 at 9pm.

The title track off country singer Lindi Ortega’s new record Tin Star finds her crooning about playing for “a few pennies” in her adopted hometown of Nashville, a city so rich with music that its easy for even talented musicians to barely busk by.

“Nashville is a difficult place to get a draw because there’s so much happening all the time,” Ortega says.

But after playing herself on an episode of last season’s ABC drama Nashville, the Toronto transplant turned Nashville fixture is selling herself a bit short.

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10/10/13 3:28pm
Brooklyn band Firehorse, fronted by Leah Siegel, plays two shows at this year's CMJ. Photo: Will O'Hare.

Brooklyn band Firehorse, fronted by Leah Siegel, play Oct. 16 and 17 at this year’s CMJ. Photo: Will O’Hare.

Firehorse play Bowery Electric on Oct. 16 at 11pm and Heath at the McKittrick Hotel on Oct. 17 at 9pm.

Leah Siegel doesn’t sit still. Even on a Skype chat, she shifted from lounging on her side, head propped on her palm to sitting upright, computer in lap with her feet tucked beneath her. It’s no surprise then that Siegel, singer, songwriter and creative force behind Brooklyn band Firehorse, has her hands in a few different projects.

The latest Firehorse release, Pills From Strangers, a seven-song “mini-LP” full of bouncy, syncopated electro-beats and Siegel’s deep, pensive vocals, came out in June, but she is already working on something new. Leisure Cruise, her collaboration with Broken Social Scene’s Dave Hodge, will release an album in 2014, with a full-sized tour to go with it.
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10/10/13 7:05am
Australian rock band The Delta Riggs are making their inaugural trip to the states for CMJ.

Australian rock band The Delta Riggs are making their inaugural trip to the states for CMJ. Photo: James Adams

The Delta Riggs play Pianos (158 Ludlow St.) on Oct. 15 at 4pm, Leftfield (87 Ludlow St.) on Oct. 16 at 8:30pm and The Delancey (168 Delancey St.) on Oct. 19 at 9:30 p.m.

“America,” the bass and organ-driven single off Australian band The Delta Riggs’ full-length debut album, Hex. Lover. Killer, catches lead singer Elliott Hammond singing about longing for America, which is something he knows about first hand.

“I was having a dream last night as I was falling asleep about San Francisco,” Hammond said over Skype recently. “I was walking through the streets and thinking, this is legit.”

Now, Hammond’s dreams are coming true.


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10/09/13 4:02pm
Dutch psych-pop artist and multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner plays Mercury Lounge and the Knitting Factory at this year's CMJ Music Marathon. Photo: Nick Helderman

Dutch psych-pop artist and multi-instrumentalist Jacco Gardner plays Mercury Lounge and the Knitting Factory at this year’s CMJ Music Marathon. Photo: Nick Helderman

Jacco Gardner plays Mercury Lounge (217 E Houston St.) at 8pm and The Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave.) at midnight on Oct. 16.

Jacco Gardner doesn’t look domineering. Rosy-cheeked and lightly freckled, the 25-year-old Dutch multi-instrumentalist hides his eyes behind a mop of sandy blonde hair. But don’t let the shy demeanor fool you. When he records his breed of 1960s-inspired, swirly baroque pop, Gardner doesn’t relinquish control easily.

“I really wanted to have full control of most of the creative process,” Gardner said. “The things that I hear in my head, I wanted to translate that as directly as possible, and for me the way to do that was by doing most of it myself.”

Gardner released his debut record, Cabinet of Curiosities, in February, which he recorded and produced in his home studio in Swaag, Netherlands. The record drips with kaleidoscopic melodies, dreamy, reverbed vocals and melancholy guitar, all blended together in lush arrangements reminiscent of Syd Barrett, John Cale and Nick Drake, particularly on the hazy ballad “One Eyed King.” He released his newest single, “The End of August,” a timely nod to the changing seasons, as a 7” late last month.
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10/02/13 2:21pm


Parquet Courts
Wednesday, October 2
8:30pm
Tickets $12
Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N. 6 St.)

Brooklyn’s own Parquet Courts put out a great debut album, “Light Out Gold,” in 2012, that mixed post-punk affection, tightly-packed percussion and sharp-tongued lyrics. Tonight they’re celebrating the release of a their new, five-song EP, “Tally All The Things That You Broke,” with a show at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
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