Jefferson Market Spider, Neither Itsy Nor Bitsy, to Climb Again

Not every spider hibernates. But the giant creature that dwells at the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village, appearing once a year to climb the clock tower during the Village Halloween Parade, went into hiding after 2009, when scaffolding covered the library as part of a renovation project.

Building Blocks

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On Wednesday, now that the renovation is all but complete, she is to reappear as the parade passes by — weather permitting. (And, yes, said Basil Twist, the puppeteer who has been giving life to the spider since 1995, “We just know she is a she.”)

Mr. Twist and his colleagues have used the hiatus as an opportunity to create an entirely new spider. Built of carved Styrofoam on an aluminum frame, then wrapped in reflective tape, the spider puppet is 14 feet across. Each of its hinged, movable legs is six feet long. The cephalothorax and abdomen together are five feet long. But it weighs only 30 pounds. Light weight is an absolute necessity since Mr. Twist and his associates will be manipulating it for three hours while the parade passes below.

“The spider comes out the minute that the parade reaches that spot — and not before,” said Jeanne Fleming, the artistic director and producing director of the event. “It is a great moment in the parade. Everyone looks up, and suddenly there it is. A blessing on the entire event.”

The spider appears to climb and descend the tower. This year, there will be the additional spectacle of tentacles pouring forth from the upper windows of the clock tower and flailing wildly above the spider.

Let it be noted that the much beloved library branch on the Avenue of the Americas at West 10th Street — built in the 1870s as a municipal courthouse — is wild enough without spiders and tentacles. It is an eyepopping example of spiky, eccentric, colorful Victorian Gothic architecture.

The library also happens to be where the spider dwells quietly 364 days of the year, high up in the clock tower, far from public view; presumably catching and eating the occasional two- or three-foot carved Styrofoam insect. “I love the idea that it lives up here all year round,” said Frank Collerius, the manager of the Jefferson Market Library, a branch in the New York Public Library system.

The renovation was designed by Superstructures Engineers and Architects of Manhattan. The contractor was Nicholson & Galloway, of Glen Head, N.Y.

Jefferson Market has played host to one big spider or another since the mid-1970s, when Ralph Lee, a mask designer, began an informal and spontaneous Halloween celebration centered around a procession of giant puppets. As the parade grew larger, rowdier, less neighborly and more commercial, Mr. Lee stepped away and Ms. Fleming stepped in. She has run the event since 1985. After a number of spider-free years, Mr. Twist revived the custom in 1995.

Though the spider is probably the least ambitious of the theatrical productions in which he is involved, it clearly has a claim on him. “I will still operate the spider for the most part myself,” Mr. Twist said, “but I always have helpers who want the fun of working her — for a little while, of course.”

He nicknamed the creature “Whitey.” Ms. Fleming calls it “Ananse,” after a trickster in West African storytelling who assumes a spider’s form.

The 1995 spider is no longer in New York. It was taken to St. Louis, said Barbara Busackino, the producing director at Mr. Twist’s Tandem Otter Productions. Why there? “It appears on my mother’s rooftop every year,” Ms. Busackino explained.

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Man Is Arrested in Killing of Woman and Baby in the Bronx

Police on Saturday arrested a 21-year-old man and charged him with murdering a woman and her 1-month-old daughter and then setting their Bronx apartment on fire last week.

Firefighters responding to a blaze at the apartment on Thursday night discovered the body of the woman, identified as Luisa Rodriguez, 32, under a mattress with multiple stab wounds. The body of her daughter, Angela, was found nearby.

Police identified the suspect as Eligidio Lind of 42 East 129th Street in Harlem. He has been charged with two counts of murder, two counts of manslaughter and two counts of arson. Police said they believed Mr. Lind was the boyfriend of Ms. Rodriguez, and that he was Angela’s father.

Neighbors said that Ms. Rodriguez’s boyfriend had moved out months ago, but came by frequently. The two would often argue, neighbors said, and as recently as last week, he was heard screaming at her.


Follow Michael Schwirtz on Twitter @mschwirtz.

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An Alert Officer Foiled a Bank Heist, Police Say

Suspicious behavior outside of a bank branch on the Upper West Side, a glimpse of an odd-looking gold-colored card used to withdraw money from an automated teller machine and a stealthy pursuit led to the arrests of two Canadian men on Friday night who, the police said, were carrying about 250 fraudulent A.T.M. cards and more than $50,000 in cash.

The unusual case began unfolding about 9:45 p.m. on Friday when Officer Juan Rodriguez, who was finishing a meal break, saw two men wearing backpacks standing outside a Chase Manhattan branch on Broadway and West 90th Street.

Something about the way the two were standing and gazing into the bank lobby aroused Officer Rodriguez’s suspicions. The men glanced at him as he approached, but he did not break stride, walking instead to an unmarked car.

“I made a point not to raise them up,” Officer Rodriguez said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “They were casing.”

He started the car’s engine and drove off. But the departure was a ruse. Officer Rodriguez drove around the block and seconds later he was back in front of the Chase branch, parked in a new spot that gave him a clear view into the bank’s A.T.M. lobby.

As he watched, one of the men used a gold-colored card without any obvious markings to withdraw money from a machine, he said.

The unusual card, which Officer Rodriguez said resembled a hotel card key, convinced him that the men were doing something wrong. He watched as they left the Chase bank, then followed them as they walked south.

“I ghosted them all the way to 86th and Broadway,” he said.

There, the men entered a Citibank branch. Officer Rodriguez called for backup and soon he was joined by Sgt. Kelvin Perez and Police Officer Sokratis Toumanidis. The men entered the A.T.M. lobby where, once again, Officer Rodriguez said, the strange gold cards were deployed.

Officer Rodriguez lowered the volume on his radio, quietly approached one of the two and watched over his shoulder as he withdrew a stack of bills. Then, Officer Rodriguez said, the man turned and walked right into him.

“I need you to come with me,” Officer Rodriguez said he told the man.

At the same time, the other officers took the second man into custody.

Police officials said that when the officers searched the two men they found 257 plastic cards, some without markings, others emblazoned with Visa or MasterCard logos, which were intended to unlawfully withdraw money from A.T.M.s. In addition, the officials said, the two were carrying nearly $56,000 in knapsacks and in their pockets.

The men, identified by the police as Gnanapandithan Sivaruban, 28, and Pathmasenan Ragavan, 24, both from Ontario, were charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and scheme to defraud.

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F.B.I. Names New Leader of Its New York Office

F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III on Friday named a new assistant director to oversee the bureau’s New York office, the largest of its 56 field offices with about 1,100 agents conducting investigations in the five boroughs and eight surrounding counties.

The new assistant director, George Venizelos, an agent since 1991, currently leads the F.B.I. office in Philadelphia. Before that post, he served in New York for seven years, and was the acting head of the New York office for six months during 2010, when he oversaw the investigation into the attempted car bombing of Times Square by Faisal Shahzad.

As an agent and a supervisor, Mr. Venizelos, according to a news release announcing his appointment, has been involved in cases focused on white collar crime, drugs, Russian organized crime and terrorism. He managed the bureau’s drug program in New York during his tenure here and was the assistant special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism Division, overseeing domestic terrorism investigations, including threats to the city and surrounding areas.

Mr. Venizelos said he would take over the New York office sometime in December.

He grew up in Edgewater, N.J., earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Fordham University, and, before joining the F.B.I., was a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and worked as an accountant at KPMG Peat Marwick.

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Week in Pictures for Oct. 26

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include the shooting of a Nassau County police officer, a wedding at Bear Stearns and a debate over chickens in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

This weekend on “The New York Times Close Up,” an inside look at the most compelling articles in Sunday’s Times, Sam Roberts will speak with Richard L. Berke, Michael Powell, Corey Kilgannon and Eleanor Randolph of The Times. Also appearing is Pete Hamill. Tune in at 10 p.m. Saturday or 10 a.m. Sunday on NY1 News.

A sampling from the City Room blog is featured daily in the main print news section of The Times. You may also browse through reader comments, read current New York headlines, like New York Metro | The New York Times on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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A Mother’s Diary of Intimate Moments Becomes a Public Memorial

The busy young lives of Leo and Lucia Krim, as documented by their mother, Marina, on her dotingly detailed blog, seemed lifted from someone’s imagined idyllic New York childhood. Here was a photograph of Leo, 2, standing in his sneakers on a park bench on the High Line. Here was one of Lucia, 6, conked out on the couch, her eyes composedly closed and her small hands pressed against her lips.

But after the events of Thursday afternoon when Ms. Krim returned to her apartment on the Upper West Side and found her children dead in a bathtub, their nanny unconscious on the bathroom floor and holding a bloody knife, the online diary, in which she had been chronicling her family’s life, turned into something different, something darker.

What had once been a quiet celebration of ordinary moments and a parent’s glimpsed details had now become a kind of public memorial, a document containing proof of an almost unimaginable loss.

“Leo speaks in the most adorable way possible,” Ms. Krim wrote on Thursday at 2:33 p.m., only hours before she came back to her building on West 75th Street and made her staggering discovery. “Firstly, he speaks super clearly, so you can understand every word he is saying. And he does things like, “(I) want a fresh bagel” and “Dito (what he calls himself) wants cold milk.”

To read these words and to see the images with them is to feel oneself intruding on another family’s most intimate personal moments — weekend field trips, bedroom playtime, snack hour at a hot-dog stand — and, of course, to experience the awkward mix of shame and fascination that such intrusion brings. The blog, littlemisslucia.livejournal.com, was taken down on Thursday night, in part, one imagines, for privacy reasons, but perhaps as well because it was quickly overwhelmed by hundreds of messages from strangers expressing their condolences and grief to Ms. Krim; her husband, Kevin; and their third child, Nessie.

“Thoughts and Prayers to your family and to the two sweet angels in heaven…” someone wrote.

“It’s with deep sadness that I discover this horrific news,” wrote someone else. “May you receive all the support from your family and friends to cope with this uncopable loss.”

Ms. Krim’s blog is not the first to have uncomfortably emerged into the public eye after — or rather, because of — a public tragedy. Earlier this year, a blog by Karilyn Bales, the wife of Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers while serving with the Army, was discovered in the midst of her husband’s case. In the blog, simply titled, “The Bales Family,” Ms. Bales described the private joys and disappointments of her family life: the call she got from her husband while she was giving birth to their first daughter; Sgt. Bales’ professional frustration at not getting promoted to sergeant first class.

Elisa Camahort Page, the co-founder of Blogher, a network for women bloggers, said that Ms. Krim would most likely find it difficult to return to her blog at first, but that the journal may eventually comfort her by offering what she called “a Document of Before.”

“Everything is going to be measured as either before or after,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “I can’t imagine when it won’t be incredibly painful to look at, but hopefully it will possible to reach a place of being thankful that there’s a record with pictures and stories and memories.”

The pictures and stories on Ms. Krim’s blog now near bear the weight of a new and terrible meaning.

Above a photo of Lucia punching numbers into the keyboard of a pay phone on the street, Ms. Krim wrote: “…every phone booth on Broadway…She stopped to make a call. Fun times!!”

Above another of her children and her husband at a farm upstate: “”We went out to Ghent a few weeks ago, to pick some eggs…Mmmmmmmmmmm!”

She even wrote about her nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, 50, who remained in the hospital on Friday with an apparently self-inflicted slash wound to her throat, as an investigation slowly moved forward.

“We spent the past 9 days in the Dominican Republic,” Ms. Krim wrote. “We spent half the time at our nanny, Josie’s sisters home in Santiago. We met Josie’s amazing familia!!! And the Dominican Republic is a wonderful country!! More pics to come!!”

Then there was this about her son:
“One of the best parts of my day is after I drop both girls off at school and have 3 precious hours with little Lito all to myself. Ok, I’m near getting cheesy I adore this boy so much!!”

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Transit Closings Possible as Hurricane Sandy Approaches

Updated, 3:07 p.m. | The possibility of at least a modified transit shutdown in New York next week in the face of Hurricane Sandy loomed large on Friday, with winds expected to be above the range that would prompt the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to halt service.

The National Weather Service is predicting sustained winds of 40 to 50 miles an hour starting late Monday with gusts possibly in the 70s. The transportation authority’s hurricane plan “calls for an orderly shutdown of service before the arrival of sustained winds of 39 mph or higher.”

The authority has not yet decided if it will suspend some or all service, but said that “ample notice” would be provided once a decision was reached.

“Our first priority is always safety, and the M.T.A. is taking no chances with the safety of our customers, our employees and our equipment,” said the agency’s chairman, Joseph J. Lhota. “We are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. Whatever happens, we’ll be ready.”

The authority undertook an unprecedented shutdown of the subway system in August 2011, in advance of Tropical Storm Irene.

The present storm’s path across the Northeast is far from certain, but wherever the storm makes landfall, the weather service said, the New York metro area will very likely see at least 4 inches of rain and tropical storm-force winds, meaning above 39 miles an hour.

The storm is currently predicted to make landfall somewhere around Delaware, but if it turns north, the New York area could see 10 inches of rain, weather service meteorologists said on a call to reporters. A northward turn could also mean heavy river flooding instead of the flash floods that are currently expected.

Forecasters are expecting Hurricane Sandy’s path of damage to be much wider than Irene’s was last year. And wherever the storm ends up meeting the coast, the tidal surges will be bigger than Irene’s.

“Somebody is going to get a significant surge event out of this system, but it’s just too soon to say who that’s going to be,” said James Franklin, the branch chief for the National Hurricane Center. “We’ll be seeing numbers higher than Irene for somebody.”

Forecasters stressed that this far in advance, the error range for tracking the storm is about 200 miles. In the New York region, Mr. Franklin said, “This far out all I can tell you is that tropical storm force winds can be expected.”

In New York, officials were busy making preparations.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg urged New Yorkers to stay out of city parks starting on Sunday, and to stock up on basic supplies. “This is a large, unpredictable storm, so be prepared for possible outages,” he said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

The Buildings Department ordered all outdoor work at construction sites to halt at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The transportation authority has already cancelled most of its scheduled weekend construction projects except for on the 7 and J lines, where the work will be done on Saturday only.

The authority said an incident command center would be activated at 8 a.m. on Sunday. The center will include “customer advocates” — a position created after a review of the agency’s operations during Tropical Storm Irene — who will “ensure that all decisions made during the event will reflect a focus on customers,” according to the authority.

Contingency plans include the removal of trains from flood-prone outdoor yards and the placing of sandbags and tarps over subway grates vulnerable to flooding. In recent years, the authority said, many station entrances and grates in low-lying areas have been modified to be raised above street level.

On the Long Island Rail Road, extra crews could be dispatched to remove crossing gates before the storm if necessary, in a bid to protect the gates from high winds and help facilitate a quicker recovery after the storm. Service must be suspended if the gates are removed.

Teams were also inspecting the authority’s bridges and tunnels, clearing them of debris. If sustained winds reach 50 miles per hour or more, in wet or dry conditions, the authority said that certain vehicles would be barred from using its crossings, including motorcycles, tractor trailers, trucks with open backs, and vehicles carrying plate glass.

If the winds exceed 60 miles per hour, the authority said it could close one or more bridges to all traffic.


Track Sandy’s path as it moves up the coast and stay tuned to City Room for ongoing coverage. For real-time storm updates, follow @NYTMetro, @AndyLocal and @MichaelPaulson on Twitter.

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Memories of Talent Lost

Dear Diary:

An elderly homeless woman on the B train on an October night, cane in one hand, change cup in the other, told us her story as she held herself up against one of the seats near the door.

She was once a pianist, a promising Juilliard student at the time Itzhak Perlman was there in the 1950s. She fondly remembered passing Richard Rodgers in the hallways. As she spoke, it was clear she was mentally and physically exhausted, and she admitted that she wasn’t sure how much life she still had in her. Although she didn’t elaborate on what had gone wrong, something obviously had.

“If you don’t use your talents, you lose them,” she lamented, more to herself than to the few subway riders who took notice.

Her regret at having squandered her abilities struck me so poignantly and so deeply that I felt compelled to say something. As I slipped some money into her cup her weary eyes raised and brightened as if I had just brought her roses at Carnegie Hall. She took my hand, held it tightly for a moment, and genuinely thanked me.

“Be well. Be safe,” I said, and ascended from the Rockefeller Center station a little more grateful, a little more motivated, and convinced more than ever that every life offers a lesson in living.


Read all recent entries and our updated submissions guidelines. Reach us via e-mail: [email protected] or telephone: (212) 556-1333. Follow @NYTMetro on Twitter using the hashtag #MetDiary.

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