Art Collector Buried After Three-Week Delay

Merton Simpson, the painter and influential collector of African art, was buried on Saturday in his hometown, Charleston, S.C., three weeks after his death at 84. The delay stemmed from bitter infighting among his family, friends and a court-appointed guardian.

Although Mr. Simpson left a vast collection of art that some have estimated to be worth millions, the family said it did not have the resources to pay for a proper burial. His eldest son, Merton Simpson Jr., sent an e-mail blast after his father’s death on March 9, asking for contributions to a burial fund and setting up a PayPal account to accept donations. He had accused Ann Pinciss Berman, a guardian who had been given control of his father’s affairs during the last year of his life, of refusing to authorize sufficient funding for a burial. Ms. Berman, who said that only $3,000 was available for funeral, credited the Artist’s Fellowship, a program run by the nonprofit South Carolina Arts Commission, with coming up with an emergency grant of about $7,200 to pay for a grave site and burial in a Catholic cemetery chosen by Merton Simpson Jr.

After an article appeared in The New York Times about the lack of money, Ms. Berman and Bernard Fielding, the president of Fielding Homes for Funerals in Charleston, where Mr. Simpson’s embalmed body was stored, both said they received numerous inquiries from people willing to donate.

‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Has a Strong Start

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” was a burly No. 1 at North American theaters over the Easter weekend, validating an unusual decision by Paramount Pictures to delay its release so that it could rework parts of the plot. “Retaliation,” which cost at least $130 million to make, took in about $41.2 million over the weekend, for a total since opening on Thursday of $51.7 million. Overseas, the movie — originally planned for release last summer — generated an additional $80.3 million in ticket sales.

“The Croods” (20th Century Fox) was second, selling about $26.5 million in tickets, for a two-week total of $88.6 million, according to, which compiles box-office data. Tyler Perry’s “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” (Lionsgate) finished in third place, with a sturdy $22.3 million. In fourth was “Olympus Has Fallen” (FilmDistrict), which produced sales of about $14 million, for a two-week total of $54.7 million. “Oz the Great and Powerful” (Disney) chugged away in fifth place, selling an estimated $11.6 million in tickets, for a four-week total of $198.3 million.

The weekend brought one major flop: “The Host” (Open Road), a producing effort by the “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer, took in just $11 million despite a lengthy promotional campaign; the movie cost about $40 million to make and received deadly reviews.

A Fighter for Civic Causes Brushes Off Her Gloves

Doris Diether, who was once involved in a campaign against Robert Moses, is now fighting with Babbo, the Italian restaurant that she shares a block with in the West Village.Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times Doris Diether, who was once involved in a campaign against Robert Moses, is now fighting with Babbo, the Italian restaurant that she shares a block with in the West Village.

It was 1959, and a painter and actress from Greenwich Village posted an “open letter to the people of New York” around Manhattan, warning that a plan by the formidable Robert Moses, then the city parks commissioner, jeopardized Shakespeare in the Park. Moses eventually dropped the plan. Atop the letter, which Doris Diether still keeps, appear the handwritten words “start of my civic career.”

Soon, Mrs. Diether joined Manhattan’s Community Board 2, a platform she used to become kind of a one-woman shame squad against crooked landlords, reckless renovators and haughty developers all over the city.

In the Village, she called Jane Jacobs to tip her off about preservation battles. She helped extract from Mayor Robert Wagner a promise that E. E. Cummings would not be evicted from his low-rent apartment on Patchin Place. She convinced a young lawyer named Ed Koch to represent six women who were facing illegal eviction and marched into a gentleman’s club with the women to confront the landlord, she said.

Mrs. Diether, still on the community board at age 84, has grown frail. But late in late February, for the first time in perhaps 10 years, she paid a visit to a meeting of the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city’s high court of zoning issues. Once again, her opponent was a powerhouse: the empire of the celebrity chef Mario Batali. Mrs. Diether did not have to look far for this battle. Mr. Batali’s ever-jammed restaurant Babbo sits directly across from her basement apartment on Waverly Place.

Mrs. Diether fought Babbo from its very arrival in 1998, when it opened at 110 Waverly in violation of historic district code at the site of the Coach House restaurant. (Coach House had closed five years before, and according to code, the property lost the right to operate a restaurant after two years lapsed.) In 2002, Babbo obtained a 10-year variance. The variance expired in December, and as Babbo moves to renew it during a grace period, Mrs. Diether is seizing the moment to try and block it.

Mrs. Diether is trying to block Babbo from having its special permit to operate renewed.Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times Mrs. Diether is trying to block Babbo from having its special permit to operate renewed.

“Chefs pay attention to detail,” Mrs. Diether said hoarsely on two weeks ago (she has been battling laryngitis for weeks). “You can say this chef was inattentive when he lied about when Coach House closed, but I think he was very, very attentive.”

Mrs. Diether has been lobbying her fellow community board members in advance of Babbo’s next date there April 10. She has also been helping her neighbor and friend Nuri Akgul, a retired oil businessman who lives next to Babbo in a collegiate gothic townhouse at 108 Waverly and has been its most ardent opponent.

Mr. Akgul, 57, has compiled a list of offenses that would score well on any 311 bingo card. It includes idling limousines; an increase of noisy commercial-grade air conditioners to eight from the Coach House’s two; the moving of a loud vent to right beside Mr. Akgul’s property after neighbors behind the restaurant complained; a smelly chemical that sprays onto Mr. Akgul’s property when Babbo’s vents are hosed down to dislodge grease; Babbo’s noise-exacerbating failure to break up empty wine bottles before throwing them out; and a breach in the wall of his 1826 home that he attributes to a beam Babbo installed to hold up all those air conditioners. “For starters,” quipped Mr. Akgul.

“The front of Babbo is Greenwich Village,” Mr. Akgul said recently at his home. “This,” he said, gesturing out his kitchen window, from which the restaurant building resembles a Rube Goldberg machine stitched together by lengths of duct tape and sound-damping blankets — “is the Potemkin village.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Batali did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for the firm representing Babbo in its application said in a statement, regarding Mr. Akgul, that the restaurant “has made many changes in its physical plant and its operations, at considerable expense, to address his concerns” and would “continue to work with him to find even better solutions.”

Mrs. Diether and her community board colleagues are expected to vote April 23 on whether to recommend Babbo’s variance be renewed, after which the matter goes to the appeals board for a final decision.

This is not Mrs. Diether’s last battle — she has amassed reams of documents on the Bowery and the old Domino sugar factory in Brooklyn — but it may be her most personal since the time the landlord of her rent-controlled apartment removed the town house’s roof in an attempt to force her out, she said. She won that fight, too.

At the appeals board meeting Feb. 26, Mrs. Diether, despite her long absence, was recognized by several people who worked at or served on the board. They said they had missed her and were glad to see her.

“It’s because I’m memorable,” Mrs. Diether explained.

Week in Pictures for March 29

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include the opening of amusement parks in Coney Island, a dodgeball marathon and the Bloomberg administration “bullpen” at City Hall.

This weekend on “The New York Times Close Up,” an inside look at the most compelling articles in the Sunday newspaper, Sam Roberts will speak with The Times’s Nate Silver, Lincoln Caplan, Constance Rosenblum, Michael M. Grynbaum and Michael Barbaro. Also, the authors Anthony Robins and Tony Hiss on Grand Central Terminal.

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

New Police Chief Confident He Can Handle Job

Philip Banks III, who has been appointed the chief of the New York Police Department, said he wants to establish positive ties between the police and the city. Robert Wright for The New York Times Philip Banks III, who has been appointed the chief of the New York Police Department, said he wants to establish positive ties between the police and the city.

The first question was simple: What made you want to become a police officer

The reply from Philip Banks III, the newly minted chief of the Police Department, was unexpected, if only for its own simplicity. “I don’t know. Not sure,” he said.

During a 30-minute interview at Police Headquarters on Friday, Chief Banks came off as a no-nonsense and self-assured leader.

“It’s a big seat. It’s a big chair,” Chief Banks said. “I’m 100 percent confident that I can handle the assignment.”

Over the next few days, the four-star chief will move his belongings from his street-level office inside the Community Affairs Bureau to his new office on the 13th Floor. Chief Banks, who will earn a $201,096 yearly salary, takes the helm as the force’s highest-ranking uniformed officer – top among roughly 34,500 peers – at a time when the Police Department has come under scrutiny for its aggressive use of the stop, question and frisk tactic.

As the father of three children – sons, 24 and 15, and a daughter, 20 – Chief Banks said he has talked to them about what to do if stopped by an officer.

“I tell them to always be very cautious about what you are doing out on a particular street, carry yourself like you were raised correctly,” he said. “They know specifically to listen to what the officer is telling them and to be very respectful.” None of his children have been stopped by the police, he added.

Chief Banks, 50, who lives in the St. Albans section of Queens, said a mutual respect between officers and residents is integral to fighting crime. In fact, when he served as a precinct commander in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, his officers were well aware of a “pet peeve”: failing to immediately address someone who had walked into the station house, he said.

“The one thing I’m most proud of is, when a person walked into a particular precinct, the amount of time and the amount of respect that they were shown,” Chief Banks said. “So we had a thing – everybody stop, and we are going to take five minutes to make sure that person feels as though they’re the most special person in the world.”

In his new role, Chief Banks said he would strive to empower people in the community and work with them to further reduce crime.

“You can’t be a crime fighter without being able to listen to people in the community,” he said.

AIDS Memorial Loses Plants and Gains Supporters

The New York City AIDS Memorial planned for Greenwich Village has emerged sleeker, lighter, more sculptural and a lot less verdant after months of scrutiny by city agencies.

The memorial would take the form of a steel canopy over the westernmost end of a new city park on the triangular block bounded by Seventh Avenue, Greenwich Avenue and West 12th Street, opposite the site of St. Vincent’s Hospital, which is being redeveloped. The construction of the memorial, which is being financed through a group called NYC AIDS Memorial, is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

The architects of the memorial are Studio a+i of Brooklyn. The structural engineers are Robert Silman Associates.

Though similar in many respects to the version of the memorial shown last summer, the revised plan that was made public on Wednesday differs in some important ways. Most obviously, it has lost all of the English ivy, Virginia creeper and honeysuckle that was to have covered it as if it were a garden trellis. This change was championed by Amanda M. Burden, the chairwoman of the City Planning Commission.

“Amanda really pushed us to think of the canopy as a sculptural element that would be beautiful no matter what happened to the plantings,” said Christopher Tepper, a founder with Paul Kelterborn of NYC AIDS Memorial. “In certain seasons, if it was too dry or too hot, she wanted to be sure that the underlying design was beautiful.”

Another leading advocate of the revision was the architect James Stewart Polshek, in his role as a member of the Public Design Commission. “The initial design was very heavy,” said Mr. Polshek, who lives two blocks from the future park and knows the site well. The elimination of the plants allowed the structural elements to become much lighter and thinner. “I was very pleased with their response,” Mr. Polshek said, adding that the commission approved the project unanimously.

A newly introduced dip in the middle of the canopy roof will open a much more generous view of the distinctive O’Toole Building of 1963, which was once threatened with demolition but is now being renovated as a medical complex, including a round-the-clock emergency room, by the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

The memorial and associated educational programs will cost about $4 million. The sponsors hope to raise $2.5 million from public sources and $1.5 million privately. On Wednesday, Scott M. Stringer, the borough president of Manhattan, pledged $1 million of city financing. On the private side of the ledger, the sponsors announced the receipt of $250,000 from the Arcus Foundation and $105,000 from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

New York already has a permanent, public AIDS Memorial, in Hudson River Park, at the foot of West 11th Street, but it is not as prominent as the one on West 12th Street promises to be.

In Relocating, a Bar Will Lose No Claim to Celluloid Fame

The Emerald Inn, an Irish pub on the Upper West Side, will move to a new location in the neighborhood.Karsten Moran for The New York Times The Emerald Inn, an Irish pub on the Upper West Side, will move to a new location in the neighborhood.

The Emerald Inn, the Upper West Side bar that was the setting for a scene in the movie “The Apartment,” is moving to the site of a bar that figured in another, much darker, movie, “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.”

The Emerald, as regulars call it, had announced its closing last month. Charlie Campbell, whose grandfather opened the bar during World War II, said the landlord had asked for double the current rent of $17,500 a month. Mr. Campbell said he could not afford that.

He said on Wednesday that he had gotten a deal to move to the ground-floor space at 250 West 72nd Street, between Broadway and West End Avenue, that was once occupied by a bar called W.M. Tweeds.

It was there, on New Year’s Day in 1973, that a schoolteacher who was a regular customer walked in for a drink and walked out with another customer. They went to her apartment, where he raped and killed her. The incident served as the basis for a novel by Judith Rossner that was published in 1975 and for a film that was released in 1977. It starred Diane Keaton and Richard Gere.

Tweeds — a play on the name of the Tammany Hall boss, William M. Tweed — closed after the murder and reopened as the All State Café. But the All State Café closed in 2007, itself a victim of a rent increase. Another bar, P.D. O’Hurley’s, took over the space last fall, promising moderately priced “comfort food and good drinks” and live music on Saturday nights, according to its Facebook page. It closed by mid-February.

Mr. Campbell said he would pay “relatively the same rent but have much more space” in the new location. “My plan is making it a sports bar,” he said. “I’m going to put TVs up in the back room.”

He said it would open on June 1. The Emerald on Columbus Avenue will close by April 30, he said.

The old Emerald was a longtime haunt for ABC News personalities — the network’s headquarters are a few blocks away — and was the backdrop for the Christmas Eve scene in “The Apartment.” Jack Lemmon, drowning his sorrows at the bar, was oblivious as Hope Holiday shot straw-paper wrappers at him. Finally she took the seat next to him and offered a deal: She would put some music in the jukebox if he would buy her a drink. The song was “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The drink was a rum Collins.

Although the Web site West Side Rag reported on Thursday night that the Emerald was moving, it was about an hour after Mr. Campbell had said his new landlord had yet to receive the $100,000 deposit that would clinch the deal.

Mr. Campbell said on Friday morning that the check still had not been delivered. When he was asked whether the deal was still on, he said, “I believe so, yes.”

Fast-Food Union Organizers Get Some Historical Perspective

Baxter Leach, center, and Alvin Turner, right, during a meeting of fast-food workers on Thursday in New York. Mr. Leach and Mr. Turner were sanitation workers who went on strike in 1968 in Memphis. They came to New York to encourage fast-food workers in their efforts to unionize.Tina Fineberg for The New York Times Baxter Leach, center, and Alvin Turner, right, during a meeting of fast-food workers on Thursday in New York. Mr. Leach and Mr. Turner were sanitation workers who went on strike in 1968 in Memphis. They came to New York to encourage fast-food workers in their efforts to unionize.

When Alvin Turner and Baxter Leach joined a strike in Memphis in 1968, they were two sanitation workers protesting the abuse of black employees and demanding higher wages and the recognition of their union. They recalled being beaten and assaulted with tear gas by the police during marches. But after more than 60 days, the strike ended with the city granting many of their demands.

More than four decades later, in November 2012, New York City’s fast-food workers started their own campaign to improve conditions, calling for the creation of a union and a wage of $15 an hour. Workplace experts called it the largest organized effort ever by fast-food workers. But after a one-day strike in which 200 employees walked out, little has changed for workers at the thousands of hamburger, sandwich and taco restaurants that fill the city.

Which is why Mr. Turner, 78, and Mr. Leach, 73, traveled to Manhattan this week to give a series of pep talks to fast-food servers facing an uphill unionization campaign. “The same fight that we fought in 1968, we are fighting today,” Mr. Turner said Thursday, during an appearance at City University of New York.

Mr. Turner made 65 cents an hour when he began working for the Memphis Sanitation Department in 1951, a pittance even for that era. He and Mr. Baxter worked as garbage collectors, running behind homes, dumping trash into large tubs and hoisting those tubs onto their heads.

They especially remember the maggots, they said. And the fact that the color of their skin restricted them from higher-paying jobs. “I had gotten tired of saying ‘yes,’” to abuse,” Mr. Turner said, “when I knew I should be saying ‘no.’”

During the strike, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Memphis to support the 1,300 striking workers. And, of course, it was in Memphis where he was assassinated.

Striking sanitation workers and their supporters are flanked by bayonet-wielding National Guard troops and armored vehicles during a march on City Hall in Memphis on March 29, 1968.Charlie Kelly/Associated Press Striking sanitation workers and their supporters are flanked by bayonet-wielding National Guard troops and armored vehicles during a march on City Hall in Memphis on March 29, 1968.

The strike ended less than two weeks later with the city agreeing to raise wages and recognize the union. Mr. Turner explained how this changed his life: “After the strike, one of those machines that they didn’t allow me to hardly look at” — it was called a sweeper — “I started operating it. This is how I could get my kids through school. And I put four kids through school.”

New York’s fast-food unionization campaign, called Fast Food Forward, is organized by New York Communities for Change, and has the support of several other organizations, including the Service Employees International Union. But organizers have struggled to convince food servers that improved conditions are possible.

While workers have plenty to lament — average wages hover just above $8 an hour, or $18,000 a year for a full-time employee — heavy worker turnover and a general apprehension of unions has made organizing a challenge.

Chad Tall, 20, a Taco Bell employee who wants to unionize, said the campaign is stuck in its awareness phase. “There isn’t a next step right now,” he said.

Mr. Tall, who lives in the Bronx, is his family’s primary wage earner. He makes $7.50 an hour and works about 30 hours a week. He dropped out of college because he could not afford to pay for courses. “I’m not trying to be a millionaire working at Taco Bell,” he said. “But I do want the basics. I don’t want to have to sacrifice breakfast to buy a Metro Card.”

On Mr. Tall’s block, nearly everyone he knows works in fast-food restaurants, he said. So do at least six of his friends. He joined the campaign because he does not want to continue a situation in which, he said, “we’re treated like workhorses and paid like slaves” and “the only babysitter you can afford is the crackhead on the corner.”

At CUNY, Mr. Leach and Mr. Turner sat in a circle with Mr. Tall and about a dozen other workers and clergy members. “For all of you to win anything, you’re going to have to stand up,” Mr. Turner said .

“If you don’t stand up, you’re going to stay with what you got,” he continued. “And if you do stand up, you’re opening the door for someone else.”

Who Are the Best Voices in the History of Metal

Ronnie James Dio it a performance in Oslo in 2009.SCANPIX/Reuters Ronnie James Dio it a performance in Oslo in 2009.

“Raining Blood” may not be “Harlem Shake,” but to Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins it might as well be. Slayer’s popular 1986 song is No. 4 on the list “Our Favorite Songs by the Best Metal Bands,” one of several indexes the authors compiled for “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists,” set for release this month by Abrams Image. The book features scores of compilations of bests (songs, drummers, bass tones), worsts (“10 Heavy Metal Fashion Faux Pas”) and the only-in-metal (“10 Illegible Black Metal Logos”).

(The authors spoke with The Times about the most embarrassing heavy-metal album covers.)

Mr. Jenkins said he and Mr. Abrams collaborated on the book for the same reason many fans get into the metal genre in the first place: to unleash fury.

“Metal fans are rabid and the love to debate,” said Mr. Jenkins, who co-authored a popular book of rap lists in 1999. “They love to argue and obsess about the music.”

One of the lists that’s sure to get metal fans hair in a twist is “20 of the Greatest Metal Voices.” Here’s who made the top ten:

1. Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Dio)
2. Rob Halford (Judas Priest)
3. Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)
4. Eric Adams (Manowar)
5. Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche)
6. King Diamond (Mercyful Fate, King Diamond)
7. Tom Araya (Slayer)
8. John Bush (Armored Saint/Anthrax)
9. James Hetfield (Metallica)
10. Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly)

Mr. Abrams said Mr. Dio was the unanimous choice for the top spot because the singer, who died in 2010, had a virtuosity that set him far apart from other top metal vocalists.

“If he needed to apply darkness, he could do it,” said Mr. Abrams. “If he needed to belt and go to a higher range, he could. He replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, and I’m not there was a taller task for a vocalist. He did it with ease and grace, and he may have improved on what Oz did in the first place.”

In a genre in which singers growl, howl, scream and otherwise create vocal mischief, defining a good metal singer can be a challenge. Who do you think has the best metal voice of all time Post your comments below.