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‘This is basically a workers commune’: Arthur Schwartz, New WestView News leader, says breakaway paper is totally legal

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Updated Dec. 12, 6 p.m.: While the historic, one-day union walkout strike at The New York Times this past Friday riveted the attention of many news readers, locally, in Greenwich Village attention has been even more focused on another media battle, albeit on a much smaller scale.

As first reported by this newspaper, earlier this month, a group of former staff and unpaid contributors of WestView News stunningly published a new breakaway newspaper, New WestView News.

The new newspaper’s first monthly print issue nearly exactly mirrors the design of the original, including the same front-page logo, in the same grayish-brown color and distinctive font — except with the word “New” inserted before it.

The defectors say they were driven away from WestView News after its publisher, George Capsis, 95, allowed his caretaker, Dusty Berke, to become the paper’s managing editor; and that they were disturbed by the paper’s recent tilt — which they attribute to Berke — toward conspiracy theories, such as about the 9/11 attack, for example, and a more conservative slant, out of sync with the Village’s liberal ethos.

The Village Sun met with Capsis at his Charles Street townhouse Friday to hear his side of the story, which he summed up as “a nightmare.” Subsequently, Arthur Schwartz, the senior editor of New WestView News, in a phone interview and in e-mails with The Village Sun, shared more details about the upstart paper, and explained why he thinks there is nothing legally wrong with what they have done so far.

Schwartz, who is the elected Democratic district leader for Greenwich Village, said the New WestView News is a nonprofit.

“I don’t own it,” he clarified. “It’s a collective group. … Nobody owns it, or is trying to make money off it, or is making money off it.”

As for the new tabloid-size paper’s strikingly similar design to the original WestView News, Schwartz said that won’t continue in subsequent printings of the new monthly.

“The graphic design will change a little, so it won’t confuse anybody,” he said. “The fonts will change.”

As for the paper’s name, though, Schwartz said he doesn’t feel it’s legally necessary to alter it. Adding to his certainty is the fact that he was, in fact, Capsis’s lawyer. Indeed, Capsis has noted how Schwartz actually represented him in suing the Village’s 6th Precinct 10 years ago after the WestView publisher — in a Bleecker Street bike lane dust-up — slapped a cop and then got punched in the face in return. But Schwartz was also the attorney for WestView News itself.

“I know he didn’t trademark [the name WestView] because I have been doing all of his legal work, personal and WestView and a foundation he started for 15 years — no fee,” Schwartz said. “He also never filed for copyright. He would have been denied.”

Schwartz claimed that “WestView” (or Westview) is a common name and that adding “News” to the end of it “doesn’t change things,” in terms of trademark or copyright law. He sent The Village Sun images he had found online of a half dozen or so other “Westview” logos from other business entities.

“You can’t copyright a name unless it’s unique,” he maintained. “To come up with a name that’s unique is pretty hard.”

However, he said, “Next month the title will likely change to New Westview, Voice of the Village and the Lower West Side. Published by a new nonprofit.”

Arthur Schwartz posed for a photo in City Hall Park in 2021 with then-mayoral candidate Maya Wiley, after Wiley was endorsed that day by Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Fellow progressive Democrat Schwartz, who was running for City Council, was there for an event with other candidates who, along with him, were recommended for election by Courage to Change, an AOC-affiliated PAC. (Courtesy Arthur Schwartz)

In addition, Schwartz clarified that he did not exercise a prior agreement from October 2013 that allowed him to take over ownership of WestView News under certain conditions. However, he claimed that agreement is, in fact, still valid.

Meanwhile, Capsis and Berke counter that Schwartz subsequently, in October 2020, signed a letter “voiding” that agreement. But Schwartz said he felt “pressured” to write that letter two years ago.

However, Capsis said that in 2020 Schwartz was in a political campaign — he was running versus Erik Bottcher and a crowded field for the District 3 City Council seat — and badly wanted to start writing for the paper again, so consented to sign the agreement-voiding letter. Apparently, Capsis had not been letting Schwartz run his columns in the paper, depriving him of the power of the press and a way to promote himself to the public.

Under the original agreement, which Schwartz sent to The Village Sun, Schwartz was required to buy “no less than $30,000 worth of ads in WestView over the next 36 months.” If he did so, Schwartz would then own 1 percent of the stock of WestView News, Inc. In addition, if Capsis (who owned the other 99 percent of the WestView News stock) became “mentally incapacitated” or was on life support, Schwartz would become acting president and publisher in WestView News, with all of Capsis’s shares in WestView transferred to Schwartz. In short, Schwartz would own the paper.

Schwartz told The Village Sun that he did, in fact, meet the original agreement’s conditions. Capsis says he did not.

“I have supplied George with the invoices for all of the ads I promised to take, and confirmed with [the] bookkeeper that they were all paid. I do not consider what I wrote in 2020 valid,” he said of the “shall be voided” letter. “George threatened me to get me to sign it, even though I had paid $45,000 for the 2013 deal.”

Schwartz declined to reveal the nature of the alleged threat.

“But I have not ‘taken over’ George’s corporation or paper, and not exercised my rights under our deal,” he continued. “I decided against doing that. I decided not to fight him for control of his corporation; he had pretty much destroyed it, and probably has all kinds of signed agreements to sell/give it to Dusty. The staff came to me, remember — and based on my analysis, we started a new entity called New Westview News, Inc, a nonprofit with no ‘owners.’

Attorney Arthur Schwartz attempted to hand copies of a temporary restraining order and contempt motion to police officers, who refused to accept them, at a protest to save East River Park from demolition for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project in December 2021. Schwartz then placed the papers on the ground in front of the officers, saying that constituted serving them. (Photo by © Jefferson Siegel)

‘This isn’t about any [prior] agreement with George,” he said. “When the staff came to me, they said, ‘We can’t take it anymore.’”

In addition, Schwartz said, “I didn’t want to get George declared incompetent. I felt it would take months to do litigation over who controls the paper. It wasn’t necessary. I felt WestView would collapse on its own without any staff. He can keep his corporation and his old paper. Starting a new corporation and a new paper was much easier.”

Furthermore, Schwartz raised the point: “There is a serious question here: Is a paper its owner or is it its staff?”

In that vein, Schwartz noted how this writer was formerly the editor of The Villager, “which everyone loved.” He then made a disparaging comment about the state of that paper today. The Village Sun, meanwhile, was founded three years ago.

“You chose a different name [The Village Sun]; we chose a more related name,” he said.

“George can keep control of his paper and publish what he wants,” Schwartz said. “The reception of New WestView has been fabulous. Most people say, ‘Thank God; WestView had gone off the deep end.’”

People clearly have been taking sides — and not just the staff and contributors, as seen in sometimes heated reader comments in The Village Sun. None other than Sarah Jessica Parker, the A-list Villager and “Sex and the City” star, has weighed in, too…seemingly for New WestView. In an Instagram post under her “SJP” handle five days ago, she wrote, in part, “This is the way I stay informed about my community in NYC. @westviewnews (The New!)” However, she linked to the Instagram page of WestView News — not the new paper.


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A post shared by SJP (@sarahjessicaparker)

Parker did not respond to an Instagram message asking her to clarify which paper she is behind.

However, the celeb’s “’gram” thumbs-up for “The New!” is yet another blow to the nonagenarian Capsis, who on Friday several times noted he was eagerly awaiting a phone call of support from her — though was only getting marketing robocalls.

Clearly concerned about Parker’s post, Capsis mentioned it right off the bat during the interview.

“She was misled,” he insisted. “She was misled.”

Similar to how it was handled at WestView News, contributing writers at New WestView News will not be paid, although the small core staff of four persons will be compensated, Schwartz said. Schwartz is a successful activist attorney, known for representing municipal labor unions. However, he said he hasn’t had to shell out money for the paper so far, since, as he put it, “significant contributions” have been flowing into the new paper.

“Maybe I laid out $40,” he shrugged.

According to Schwartz, Capsis paid $10 an hour to his staffers, who were considered “independent contractors.” But Schwartz said, since he supports the minimum wage, the New WestView staffers could eventually be paid more than $20 an hour, per a new, annually-increasing, minimum-wage bill pending in the New York State Legislature.

As for contributors, Schwartz said the new paper is being flooded with articles that people have sent in, and that already 34 people have said they want to write for the paper.

“Whatever gets in, gets in,” he said of the submissions.

George Capsis called the surprise bolting of his staff and contributors to start up the New WestView News “a nightmare.” (Photo by The Village Sun)

When The Village Sun interviewed him on Friday, Capsis was particularly upset that Brian Pape, WestView’s architecture editor, was not returning his calls, saying he feared he was “firmly in Arthur’s camp.”

“He’s already submitted something [for New WestView News],” Schwartz confirmed.

Schwartz said he has also asked Andrew Berman, executive director of Village Preservation, to contribute a monthly piece. He said Shannon McNamara, who podcasts under the handle “Fluently Forward,” will be writing about restaurants.

Capsis is especially livid that Schwartz and Co. have even poached his distributor, a former merchant marine in his 70s named Tim, who trundles the paper around on foot in a shopping cart to area stores and residential buildings, logging 41 miles per each monthly issue.

At this point, it’s not clear that any kind of reunification with Capsis is likely. A note to readers on the front page of the New West View News’s first issue, asked Capsis to reunite with the new newspaper — but without Berke: “We continue to respect George, who, we hope, will join his old staff once again, absent the distractions,” the note said, in part.

Asked if he still wants Capsis to rejoin them, Schwartz offered, “George can keep his paper. I’ll call him again.

“I [told him], ‘Everyone wants to work with you, even though you’re a pain in the ass to work with. No one wants to work with Dusty.'”

However, a furious Capsis has not given any sense he wants to team up with the breakaway bunch, sneering, in disbelief, on Friday, “They give me permission to come back to my paper.”

More to the point, Capsis and Berke have been meeting with attorneys to see what, if anything, can be done about the new newspaper with the same design and a version of the same name as WestView. Capsis said he has two attorneys on the case, one pro bono and one whom he has paid a $5,000 retainer.

While some would certainly call the WestView / New WestView drama a wild story, Schwartz said it’s really about empowering workers.

“It’s only wild because commie Arthur advised the workers to take control, and came up with a way to do it,” he said. “This is basically a workers commune — all I do is write stuff and help coordinate.”

He said next month’s January issue of New WestView News will probably be 24 pages, the same size as this month’s debut issue. WestView’s last published issue, in November, was 40 pages.

“I think we’re going to hold it at 24,” he said.

As of Dec. 11, WestView News had not published a December print issue.

In related news, in a sad loss, Maggie Berkvist, who was a longtime contributor to WestView News and who had made the jump along with the others to the New WestView News, died late Friday at around age 90.

A former photo editor at The New York Times who had continued in that role at WestView, she recently suffered a bad fall while walking in the Village and broke a hip. According to someone who was there, Berkvist was on her way to the Left Bank restaurant, which she referred to as her “local,” for her usual cocktail hour.

She reportedly was taken to Lenox Health Greenwich Village and, after getting X-rays, was transferred to the Bellevue Hospital trauma unit, where she had surgery a few days later.

“She was a brilliant photographer, whose photos were an important part of WestView and was part of the crew that left,” Schwartz said. “She was so happy about the new paper. She had photos in our first edition.”

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that, when she fell, Maggie Berkvist was scouting out a location for a party to celebrate the founding of the New WestView News.


  1. Barbara Ruether Barbara Ruether December 13, 2022

    First things first, as the story goes. It is the staff who declined to continue under Dusty Berke’s control. Qu’on is not what they are about. The staff wanted to be able to continue with their reporting of neighborhood news, period. Dusty insisted otherwise. But more to this story. How does one take over a newspaper, such as West View News? You kidnap the owner.
    It appears that 95-year-old Capsis has allowed Ms. Berke to take control of the paper, and holds George hostage for the nice appartement in exchange for George needing a caretaker.
    Think about how many stories we all know about such hostage-taking associated with wealthy individuals who have lost control and all falls in greedy other hands. This is not so unusual anymore, and indeed, is more common than you may think, if only all were really paying attention. Personally, I know of one in my building, and have friends who can tell stories about other elders they know who had no say in what the end story would be. Wealth does not create defense for many aged, for sure.

    • Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz December 14, 2022

      You provide no evidence for your claim that George Capsis, elderly founder and publisher of West View News, has been “taken hostage” by Dusty Berke and has lost control of his paper. What is clear is that Capsis’s lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, has acted on behalf of his mutinous staff and not Capsis. Here’s hoping this newspaper, which has run lavish coverage of Schwartz, will publish my comment.

  2. M. Markowitz M. Markowitz December 13, 2022

    *** Coup — er Commune — Happens ***

    Looking forward to reading the next Sun-shiny version, er installment, of…

    “Pass-the-Buck Rogers in the 21st Century.”

    Please forgive me if I have a hard time keeping up with, let alone seeing consistency amongst, the assortment of “WestView and the Multiverse” plot lines — each laid out in hyper-confident detail by the multi-hat-wearing Arthur Schwartz.

    Friend? Ex-friend? Faux-friend? Client-trasher? Advertiser? Contributor? Publisher? Attorney who didn’t safeguard his friend and client’s possible copyright rights and is now taking advantage of same?!? (Insert head-exploding emoji.) Serial rationalizer? Or most recently… after scrambling to reframe, reposition, revise and retreat, yet without a morsel of regret or remorse: Self-described Swami Scribe to the Contributor’s Commune.

    I kind of like that one the best. It has a very Ouest Village ring to it. Should have been the opener last weekend, IMHO.

    P.S. Dear Village Sun: Please interview the _advertisers_. That should be Swami-swamp-alicious.

  3. Pimienta Pimienta December 12, 2022

    If the ads in this stakeholder deal were paid with campaign dollars, does this mean that the City of New York owns 1% of the publication? Village Sun, what are the details on the campaign money?

  4. Stephen DiLauro Stephen DiLauro December 12, 2022

    I’ll take the Village Sun over either West View, thank you very much.
    No comment on the politics in either version, other than to say that accusations of “conspiracy theory” (a CIA-coined term) or bandying about “misinformation disinformation” is usually the result of group think in support of Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big Politics, Big Media and Big War.
    Happy Holidaze!

  5. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz December 12, 2022

    Whatever political sins were committed by contributors to WestView News, they do not justify the brazen highjacking by Schwartz and company of the paper’s basic name and design for use in a breakaway paper. This is theft of intellectual property for starters. It’s a saga that casts its aged founder/owner George Capsis as Lear, up against backstabbing ingrates.

    • Jeffrey Eric Jenkins Jeffrey Eric Jenkins December 12, 2022

      Lear is a good example. He does the unthinkable and “unmakes” his kingdom by splitting it among his heirs. A kingdom, under 17th-century law (when Shakespeare’s version was written), was indivisible by definition. Lear unleashes the forces of Nature (and chaos) by not hewing to the rules of civil society. (“Only God makes a king, only God can unmake him.”) When you unleash chaos, you may expect it in return.

  6. Penny Mintz Penny Mintz December 12, 2022

    WestView was no longer a gem of a newspaper. It had taken the same route that Fox News took back in the ’80s. I stopped watching Fox when it swung to the right, and I stopped reading WestView when it took to supporting radical-right candidates, giving space to Lyndon LaRouche conspiracy theories, and publishing four-page infomercials as news stories. They can do that, sure, but I won’t waste my limited time reading it. I applaud Arthur Schwartz and all of the writers and staff. Shouldn’t it say something to all of the critics that the entire staff left in mass? They love what WestView had been. Hopefully, they can continue to provide that beloved news outlet in the new paper.

    • Pimienta Pimienta December 12, 2022

      Freedom of speech still gives Capsis/Berker the right to publish, even if it is a right-wing dribble. Schwartz can’t just swoop in and take over the paper.

      I agree with others here; what a despicable act to a 95-year-old senior just in time for the holidays. 🤮

      It is one thing to poach the staff and vendors, but the other actions cause confusion to a readership nurtured by Capsis and render the original paper useless. Most likely, Capsis would own the masthead copyright.

      The defectors have no imagination to invent their own; they must steal from an older


  7. Liz Ryan Liz Ryan December 12, 2022

    We need Q-Anon Dusty publishing her lies like we need a hole in the head. FREE GEORGE FROM DUSTY CONROL!

    • Jeffrey Eric Jenkins Jeffrey Eric Jenkins December 12, 2022

      It is interesting that so many people are concerned about “loyalty” rather than publishing the truth.

  8. John Penley John Penley December 12, 2022

    The takeover people could not wait until after the holidays to do their coup ? Pretty cruel move as far a I can see.

  9. Cynthia Cynthia December 11, 2022

    What a despicable thing Arthur Schwartz has done to George Capsis, an elderly 95-year-old man who created and published the WestView News and all these years and put his heart and soul into it. What a horrible thing to do to George or anyone in the last chapter of his life. Schwartz stabbed George Capsis in the heart, and Schwartz has led a mutiny of all of George’s longtime staff to abandon him. I have dealt with Dusty many times over the years she has been most helpful. George can have whoever he wants around him, it’s his life and newspaper! The WestView News has been a gem of a paper that has helped so many people all these years and has given a voice to the true people of the community. Arthur Schwartz should be ashamed of himself.

  10. Julie Julie December 11, 2022

    I love WestView News, and Dusty Berke too. She is one of the most energetic and intellectually stimulating people I have ever met. The whole reason for this rupture is still a bit mysterious. It sounds like people are being very conservative and dismissive of anything slightly off message or not in tune with what they might believe. Makes me not very interested in reading the New WestView News. Very sorry to hear about Ms. Berkvist.

  11. David Lerner David Lerner December 11, 2022

    What a bunch of primadonnas! But it is nice to have a genuine local paper and I look forward to seeing what develops. The new one doesn’t seem to even have a web site, which seems pretty odd in this day and age (and has prevented me from reading it so far).

    • Kate Walter Kate Walter December 12, 2022

      uh.. The Village Sun is a genuine local paper.

  12. Mary Reinholz Mary Reinholz December 11, 2022

    Oh, pigeon dung! Now Arthur Schwartz, the so-called leader of a breakaway version of WestView News, is claiming that his hostile takeover of the paper founded by George Capsis 20 years ago has resulted in a sheet that he calls “basically a workers commune.” Does this grandiose guy think he’s Lenin? His attempt to picture the outright theft of a newspaper as a noble left-wing cause seems more like the effort of a shark trying to put on a bow tie.

    • Cynthia Chaffee Cynthia Chaffee December 11, 2022

      It is shameful what Arthur Schwartz has done by destroying the last 20 years of George Capsis’s work that he so lovingly poured his heart and soul into. Schwartz also destroyed George Capsis’s future of his paper, and ruined George’s fine reputation by dragging him through the mud.
      The last years of George’s life and his wonderful newspaper have been ruined by Arthur Schwartz’s character assassination of George’s life’s work.
      What type of person does this to a 95-year-old man? Your karma awaits you, Arthur Schwartz.

    • Cynthia Chaffee Cynthia Chaffee December 11, 2022

      I totally agree with you, Mary. Schwartz holds himself out as an activist and social justice person, but as we all can now see by his actions of destroying the life, livelihood, reputation and future of a 95-year-old man — Schwartz is a cold-hearted fraud.

    • Gary Tomei Gary Tomei January 2, 2023

      Mary, I absolutely agree. Arthur Schwartz, it would seem, is nothing but a vain, self-promoting huckster out to snatch our community newspaper and use it as his megaphone!

  13. Seth A. Seth A. December 11, 2022

    Other than any contractual issues, which I have no knowledge of, in general there is nothing wrong with someone starting a new competing newspaper and poaching writers from another newspaper. However, in this case they also stole the name WestView News. Schwartz seems
    to claim that because Capsis never filed for a trademark registration (copyright is mostly irrelevant to names of things), the name was therefore free for the taking. Not true, and as a lawyer, Schwartz knows or should know better. A trademark need not be registered to be protectable in court. Common-law trademarks are protected by federal law. Capsis likely has common-law trademark rights that are currently being infringed. And Schwartz seems to recognize this, saying that the “new” paper will be changing the fonts and layout, admitting that he’s doing this to avoid further confusion. Sarah Jessica Parker’s posting also illustrates that actual confusion has already occurred. With such a similar name and actual confusion going on, that is most of the proof needed for a trademark infringement case. If Schwartz’s group really wants to avoid confusion, they should pick a new name entirely.

    • ML ML December 18, 2022

      And there is Zero way Sarah Jessica Parker thought she was posting about this “New” paper as opposed to some version of the decades old one. She clearly thought she was supporting some version of what has always been there. Had I not stumbled on these Village Sun articles, I know I wouldn’t have known. It’s crazy to see that a politician is at the center of this, and that he’s taken advantage of legal nuances to do so. As I’ve posted elsewhere in the past day as I’ve come to know this story, if this doesn’t rise to “illegal” it’s certainly “immoral.” I’m not reading and donating to my hyperlocal community paper for the “journalism” — I never cared about the quality of writing. I cared about some passionate neighbors posting tidbits of interest to WV residents. I know nothing about the “business” behind the business, but whatever makes George happy and able to put out his paper of nearly 20 years for however long he can should have been respected.

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