Photo: “So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ ” Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the film Network.
By Clio Chang
REPRINTED courtesy of Curbed
For two decades, the West Village’s hyperlocal WestView News was run by George Capsis, a former corporate executive and neighborhood fixture. The paper started as a block-association newsletter and mostly covered restaurant openings, new construction and developments, block-level local politics, and itself. (One headline from 2015: “My Arrest. It Wasn’t Fair and It Wasn’t Fun.”) But in December of last year, Capsis’s staff walked out on him. The defectors included longtime contributor Arthur Schwartz, who is also the male Democratic district leader for Greenwich Village and Capsis’s lawyer.
As the Village Sun first reported, the staff were upset over what they claimed was the growing influence of Capsis’s assistant and caretaker, Dusty Berke, over the direction of the paper—publishing what they described as “pieces by neofascists” and “conspiracy theorists.” (An opinion piece from September 2021—“Why Exposing the Truth About 9/11 is Still So Important”—was in fact written by a member of the truther organization Architects & Engineers for 9/11.) But the staff didn’t just quit—they created their own newspaper, which they named the New WestView News, then renamed the New Westview, and then re-renamed The Village View. Whereas the WestView News was “the voice of the West Village,” the New WestView News turned New Westview turned Village View billed itself as “the new voice of the West Village.” Everyone keeping up?
The paper’s history, the staff rebellion, and the war of words playing out across the two papers (and being meticulously covered by the Village Sun) has been dramatic. What follows is a brief rundown of the dueling papers and the assemblage of local personalities, world historic events, and A-list celebrities caught in the crossfire.
The first issue of the New Westview News looked, well, just like the old WestView News: They used similar fonts and layout, simply attaching the word “new” to Westview News. Schwartz accepted the similarities may be an issue, and promised that they would alter graphic design in the future. “The fonts will change,” he conceded to the Sun.
When the Village Sun asked Capsis to detail the conspiracy theories embraced by his assistant caretaker turned editor Dusty Berke, he replied, “All of them.” On this point, Schwartz and his fellow defectors agree. It’s why they say they left the paper. Berke, however, claims she is a “middle-of-the-road person” who simply believes that the World Trade Center was destroyed by a “controlled demolition” and keeps before-and-after scale models of the site in Capsis’s apartment on Charles Street. “How is it that it turned into a cloud of dust in seconds?” Berke asked the Village Sun.
Berke is not just interested in 9/11 conspiracies; she is also interested in 9/11 tributes. She owns a bus that houses ceramic tiles painted in memory of 9/11 that used to hang on a fence at Greenwich and Seventh Avenues. In January, the bus, which has been parked in Mulry Square for six years, became a locus of contention between the dueling papers after an issue of the Village View published a reader’s letter to the editor complaining about the bus’s presence, calling it an “eyesore.” Schwartz, for his part, told the Village Sun that the paper also published letters from friends of Berke’s defending her and criticizing the Village View, and that they were planning on publishing one in which Berke said she was “sent by God to set up the tile bus.”
The police ended up towing the bus, which they said had an expired registration and $5,000 in unpaid summonses. Berke was arrested protesting its removal. But she has kept a positive attitude, telling the Sun that she will get it back and put new chrome hubcaps on it.
During one of his many interviews with the Village Sun about the defections (he is mad about them), Capsis claimed that Sarah Jessica Parker, a West Village fixture, was a supporter of his paper and “outraged” over the new paper. In another interview, he claimed she would call any minute. (She did not call.) Instead, Parker posted a photo on her Instagram in support of the first issue of the New WestView News. She wrote: “@westviewnews (The New!)” Somewhat confusingly, she linked to WestView News (The Old!). Capsis later told the Sun that Parker was “misled.”
Because the whole staff of the WestView News departed, the December issue was delayed. One subscriber, who also happens to be Schwartz’s 100-year-old mother, called Capsis to inquire why the paper she paid for hadn’t arrived. Schwartz insisted to the Village Sun he did not get his mother to call.
Capsis was especially upset that the Village View even poached his distributor, Tim, whom the Sun describes as a “former merchant marine in his 70s.” (Tim has not commented.)
Capsis and Berke struggled to put together the WestView News without their staff. They tried to assemble the most recent issue by piecing together clippings on a table— as Berke told the Sun, “I can do everything but the computer.” But eventually, they prevailed. The newest issue includes two front-page pieces condemning Schwartz for “stealing” the paper and “attacking” Berke’s tile bus, as well as articles promoting the United Arab Emirates and 5G conspiracies. (Headlined: “Fast Track to New York 5G Microwaved City.”)
“We’ve been talking to two lawyers,” Capsis told the Sun. “Arthur doesn’t need a lawyer,” he pointed out. Schwartz—who is a lawyer, was once Capsis’s lawyer, and is now his own lawyer—told the Sun that he would be suing Capsis for defamation. “As for George’s statements that I engaged in ‘mail fraud’ and ‘false advertising’ and that these ‘crimes’ are cause for me to be disbarred, I will be filing a defamation suit shortly,” Schwartz said.
In sum, no one is happy except for maybe Schwartz’s mother, who we can only assume eventually received the December issue of the WestView News, as promised.