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Tow and arrest, cease and desist: WestView News saga gets wilder

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Since The Village Sun’s last episode of “As the WestView News Turns” — Greenwich Village’s favorite hyperlocal news drama — at the end of last month, a lot has happened.

The new breakaway paper led by Democratic District Leader Arthur Schwartz and Kim Plosia, WestView News’s former editor (though Schwartz calls it “basically a workers commune”) has now gone through at least two name changes. It launched its inaugural print issue in December as New WestView News. For the January issue, however, the name was tweaked to New Westview. Moving forward, though, according to Schwartz, the paper will be known as Village View — at least for now, that is — notably still hanging on to the “View” from WestView.

WestView News publishing new issue

Meanwhile, WestView News, which is owned by its founder, George Capsis, 95, has not managed to publish a new print monthly edition since November. (Schwartz’s 100-year-old mother, a subscriber, called Capsis to complain about not receiving her paper.) However, new editor Dusty Berke said the newspaper will be sent to the printer on Thursday and be distributed on Friday.

Berke, who admits she is not computer savvy, initially had all of the articles printed out and formatted and clipped into a black ring binder. They are using a remote design company to do the page layout. They also have ads. In addition, they are working with a major New York City newspaper distributor to get the paper out there. Schwartz’s team, to Capsis’s outrage, managed to snag his longtime distributor, a local man in his 70s who hauls around with the papers in a shopping cart.

Tiles bus towed; Berke handcuffed

In related news, the 9/11 Tiles for America Memorial Bus owned by Berke, which for the past six years has been parked at Mulry Square, at Seventh Avenue South and Greenwich Avenue, was towed by police on Tuesday. Berke — who became WestView News’s editor in November — was arrested while trying to prevent the vehicle from being taken away. She was held at the 6th Precinct for about eight hours before finally submitting to being fingerprinted and having her mugshot taken.

Coincidentally, the New Westview for January included a letter to the editor complaining about Berke’s bus by a local reader, who called it an “eyesore,” followed by copies of e-mails from him to Tracy Jackson from Assemblymember Deborah Glick’s office and Glick herself inquiring about what was going on with the vehicle.

The 9/11 Tiles for America Memorial Bus was towed away on Tuesday. (Photo by The Village Sun)

Schwartz charges that, in good weather, Berke used the bus like an Airbnb, letting people sleep in it. But Berke denies that. She told The Village Sun three people “have a key” to the bus and that one woman used the vehicle a few times a week while creating art on her laptop inside of it, while also keeping an eye on the thing. Berke recently gave this reporter a tour of the bus and, while there was carpeting on its floor, there were no beds or futons or other obvious signs that anyone might have been living there.

Berke got involved with the 9/11 tiles when Hurricane Irene was about to sweep into town back in August 2011. The tiles had been created at a nearby store, Our Name Is Mud, after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The small glazed squares had been left hanging on a chain-link fence ringing a Metropolitan Transportation Authority parking lot on the corner, and Berke feared they would be blown off and damaged by the storm. Many of the tiles are currently stored on shelves inside of the bus.

Speaking a couple of weeks ago after New Westview published its anti-tiles bus letters page, Berke predicted of the police, “At the end of the day, I don’t think they would tow the tiles.”

Cease-and-desist letter

Meanwhile, on the legal side, an attorney retained by Capsis, Allan M. Pollack, from the firm Warshaw Burstein, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz, Plosia and Liza Whiting on Dec. 29. Whiting was the traffic manager at WestView News, a role she is now doing at the new breakaway paper.

“By this letter, the Company demands that each of you immediately cease and desist from continuing to use the name New Westview News and its design template which you have misappropriated from the Company and are using to publish your newspaper,” the letter states, in part.

The letter further charges that, after Schwartz was unable to get control of WestView News, there was a plot under which “the parties conspired to destroy the newspaper.”

“In furtherance of this conspiracy,” the letter continues, “the parties have among other things, called your newspaper New Westview News in order to create confusion in the marketplace and benefit from the name recognition of Westview News, which has existed for the past 21 years [and] copied Westview News’s design template.

“Forming a 501c3 nonprofit to publish New Westview News,” the letter adds, “is a transparent attempt to disclaim ownership and avoid personal liability for your unlawful conduct.”

The letter concludes by warning that, unless the issue is settled, litigation will commence and that Schwartz, Plosia and Whiting will be held personally liable. There has already been one meeting, on Jan. 11, which Schwartz said went well.

Berke: There’s no ‘agreement’

Berke, for her part, claimed that during the first settlement meeting, Schwartz conceded that an “agreement” he allegedly had with Capsis — under which Schwartz would receive a 1 percent ownership stake in the paper in return for buying $30,000 in ads over a three-year period — is not valid. Under the alleged agreement, if Capsis were to become “incompetent,” or had dementia or was in a coma, Schwartz would take control of the paper.

But Schwartz denied he made any such a concession.

“We had a meeting to discuss settlement of our differences,” he said. “The discussion was confidential. I haven’t agreed to anything. We are to have further discussions.

“I have never tried to ‘take over’ Westview News. I have never asserted any right to influence its content or circulation,” he said. “The only one who keeps talking about it is Dusty — or George when Dusty urges him.”

In short, Schwartz said, he does not want WestView News despite Berke’s fixation on proving the agreement is invalid.

“It’s hers already,” he said. “She can have it.”

Schwartz: Dusty has already taken over

“[The breakaway newspaper] was not an effort to ‘take over’ George’s paper,” he stated. “It was started by former production staff and contributors to what had become Dusty’s newspaper. Dusty Berke has already taken over. Her stewardship caused the entire production team and a dozen regular contributors to quit and work together collectively to produce a new paper. She couldn’t get out a December or January issue, but they are trying for February. I want nothing to do with Dusty or her paper and, at this point, inheriting her paper is not something I have a desire to do.

“Anyone who looks at the October and November Westview News knows that Dusty has abandoned the role that the paper served for so many years,” he continued. “And without the dozen regular contributors, and with Dusty’s desire to publish QAnon conspiracy material, and articles by Lyndon LaRouche’s chief of staff — who Dusty told me was ‘brilliant’ — it is unlikely that her paper ever will. She has some ad contracts, so she may have money to go into production,” he granted.

Dusty Berke pointed to a hole where No. 7 World Trade Center formerly stood on the “after” model of a before-and-after-9/11 set of scale models of the World Trade Center site. (Photo by The Village Sun)

“The new paper has shown itself to be capable of serving the role that Westview News served,” Schwartz declared. “The reaction to our first two issues has been fantastic. We are increasing circulation by 25 percent in February to 9,000.

“Anyone who calls the wonderful paper we have produced an effort to force George to let me have his paper, also believes that the World Trade Center was blown up by the C.I.A., and that the planes were holograms. That is Dusty’s biggest conspiracy tale; she has even built a scale model in George’s apartment so she can explain her theory.”

Schwartz said that, in addition, to the new paper’s name changes, its overall design continues to evolve.

Berke’s purchase plan

Meanwhile, Berke said she wants to buy WestView News for a price of $100,000, then put the paper in a trust to serve the community. She explained that she has never taken a commission from the ads she sold for WestView over the past six years — which has built up credit that she would use to buy the paper.

“I only took the first commission, $1,700,” she said. “The rest of the commissions are like a running tab. I built up way more than enough to buy the paper.”

She’s also been living in the building rent-free.

It’s been known for years that Schwartz and Berke were each vying for ownership of the paper.

Family wants her out

In addition, Schwartz recently told The Village Sun that Capsis’s family wants Berke out of the building, which is valued at more than $7 million. Capsis’s grandson and granddaughter live upstairs.

“It has been confirmed that George’s family has asked Dusty to leave 69 Charles St., and that Adult Protective Services has been notified by friends of George’s,” Schwartz said. “This could very well result in appointment of a guardian.”

Berke lives with Capsis in his Charles Street brownstone and basically provides a 24-hour presence for him, though adamantly rejects the label “caretaker.”

Berke shrugged off the A.P.S. story — saying agency representatives visited not once but twice. She said one A.P.S. agent who visited flat-out told her Capsis does not have dementia. At the same time, Berke admitted that the family does want her out.

Capsis: I want Dusty to be here

The Village Sun asked Capsis two weeks ago if he still wants Berke around.

“I want Dusty to be here,” he said.

“They hired a little old Greek lady to help me out,” he said of his family. “I didn’t agree to the little old Greek lady. I only found out about it yesterday.”

Asked if he wants Berke or the Greek woman to help him, he said, “I want Dusty.”

“I’m here because I’m here, and I stayed past the expiration date,” Berke asserted. “I just know everything. I’m his institutional memory.”

She offered that the family might be worried she will try to keep living there indefinitely as “a squatter.”

Meanwhile, Capsis, who is half-Greek (his mother was German), recently made the front page of the National Herald — slogan “the paper of record for the Greek Diaspora community” — in an article that was firmly in his camp headlined, “Stealing News: George Capsis Fights for WestView News.” The paper reportedly is currently teeing up a follow-up piece.

“Yeah, how about that?” Capsis mused. “I’m sure I could make The New York Times. But all I want is Arthur to go away.”

Who is Dusty Berke?

As for whether Berke is a conspiracy theorist and which conspiracies she believes in, Capsis just shrugged, “All of them.”

“She watches Channel 44,” he said, referring to a channel that trafficks in conspiracy theories. Also, while Berke previously told The Village Sun she is a “California Democrat,” Capsis claimed she’s a Republican.

But Berke said that’s false, stating, “I am a normal, middle-of-the-road person. George always says I’m a Republican.”

Berke grew up in the Los Angeles area, the daughter of a police officer, and had a successful career in antiquing and interior design for celebrity clients like Vanna White and George Hamilton before marrying, moving to New York and settling on Charles Street. After she divorced, WestView News was doing an article on her 9/11 Tiles Memorial and she promptly moved into Capsis’s brownstone.

New Westview — which has since changed its name again, this time to Village View — devoted about two-thirds of its letters page in its January print issue to the subject of Dusty Berke’s 9/11 tiles bus. The bus was subsequently towed away by police. (Photo by The Village Sun)

While she says she is vaccinated, she is strongly opposed to getting additional booster shots, feeling the extra jabs lead to blood clotting and other serious health problems. In that vein, Berke said she decided not to run vaccine ads from the city’s Department of Health in WestView, feeling it would be “bad karma.”

“I’m fully vaccinated,” she said. “But I saw too many people who had vaccines get sick.”

In fact, when Capsis got COVID, Berke gav him with Argyrol, a mild silver protein used to treat viral eye infections in infants, as well as gonorrhea.

She keeps her cell phone in a metal-lined bag so it can’t be detected. One of her biggest issues — as Schwartz noted — is No. 7 World Trade Center, which she asserts was brought down by a “controlled demolition.” She keeps small, before-and-after scale models of the Trade Center site in Capsis’s house.

“How is it that it turned into a cloud of dust in seconds?” Berke asked of 7 W.T.C. “Geoge is one day going to go down in history as the only one with balls to write about it.”

Capsis: Paper as ‘political tool’ 

As for Schwartz, Capsis acknowledged, “He loves to write.” However, there is clearly no love lost from him for Schwartz.

“If I could get my hands on Arthur, I would strangle him,” he said. “He wanted the paper because it was a terrific political tool. He would take out ads, write articles. This was a cheap, rotten thing by a crook.”

The nonagenarian publisher recently was lamenting the loss of WestView News’s popular bird columnist to Schwartz’s paper, calling it “a terrible thing.”

Meanwhile, he said he regrets the absence of Plosia, whom he praised as “competent.” He and Berke both repeatedly stressed that Capsis did not fire her, that she quit. But Plosia counters that she was axed. It’s a big point of contention.

“I wouldn’t mind being reconnected with my old staff,” Capsis said. “I don’t have any quarrels with them.”

Berke: They’re using me as cover

“This is about Arthur stealing George’s paper,” Berke said. “They did something very bad and now they’re using me as cover. They keep saying I want to turn it into a QAnon paper. I have no intent in doing that. I want to do art, beauty, culture. I do believe if there’s some big issue, we should do something on it.”

Speaking a couple of weeks ago, she said, “The paper is ready. We’ve put it together and torn it apart several times. This is not about proving we can put out a paper. George has to fire a hollow-point bullet. We have it at 58 pages — but I am going to say it’s a 48-page paper. It’s really great content.”

Included in the content will be a front-page piece by Capsis sounding off on the breakaway paper flap, as well as a column by Diane Sare, a Lyndon LaRouche disciple, and apparently something by Kambiz Shekdar, who created an eyebrow-raising, cartoony back-page ad for the June WestView News showing actor Will Smith slapping Dr. Anthony Fauci. A few last-minute articles were added about the alleged health threat posed by 5G towers in the Village and, naturally, Berke’s bus being towed and her arrest.

Berke is proud of the last issue of WestView News that she managed to put out, back in November.

“It’s a great paper,” she said, shrugging, “So it missed a couple of captions.”

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