Letters, Week of April 26, 2012

So now we’re compromising?

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. scales back its superblocks plan 17 percent” (news article, April 12):

I think that it’s fair to say that there’s a great deal of dissatisfaction with the Stringer compromise among large numbers in the community. As you are well aware, Community Board 2 just last month unanimously passed a resolution rejecting the entire 2031 plan, and even accepting the N.Y.U. 17 percent estimate of the cuts in the superblocks, the worst features of the plan still remain.

Insofar as we on Washington Place are concerned, the compromise on N.Y.U.’s proposed zoning change to create a commercial overlay on the misnamed “loft blocks” can only be characterized as pathetic. The borough president’s sole concession to overwhelming negative sentiment in the affected area was to recommend that N.Y.U. not include in the rezoned streets any eating and drinking establishments “where 80% [sic!] of their projected revenue is derived from alcoholic beverages.” I cite the example of the proposed commercial overlay because it is a portion of the plan that tends to be overlooked in the understandable focus on the threatened destructive transformation of the superblocks.

Seeing the photo accompanying The Villager’s news article on the Stringer compromise, many of us were surprised and puzzled by the appearance of members of Community Board 2 and the co-chairpersons of Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U. 2031 (CAAN) next to the borough president and the president of N.Y.U. as the B.P. announced his recommendations. It seemed inexplicable and was deeply troubling that Board 2 members who had one month earlier voted to reject the entire 2031 proposal seemed to be supporting a compromise that was completely inadequate and fatally flawed. As to the CAAN co-chairpersons, they represented an organization that, to my knowledge, had never endorsed the principle of compromise. We understandably interpreted the appearance of these representatives as some form of endorsement of the compromise.

However, when questioned about their appearance in the photo, some community leaders explained that they had been called the previous evening by the B.P.’s office, briefed about the contents of the compromise, and invited to attend a press conference the next day, ostensibly to receive copies of Stringer’s report. They state that they had no knowledge that they would be standing with the B.P. and the N.Y.U. president at the conference. They also said that their presence should not be taken as support for the Stringer compromise.

The incident raised questions in the minds of some CAAN members regarding our position as an organization on compromise in general and, specifically, on the Stringer compromise. A letter was circulated among CAAN members asking support for a request to CAAN’s co-chairpersons to call a meeting as soon as possible to explore these issues and decide our position. We are awaiting the response of the co-chairpersons to this request.
Howard Negrin
Negrin is president, Washington Place Block Association, and a member, Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U. 2031 (CAAN)

Haven’t endorsed N.Y.U. plan

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. scales back its superblocks plan 17 percent” (news article, April 12):

Just to be clear, the Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U. 2031 co-chairpersons were not at the  conference to endorse any final solution or compromise, nor have we done so. We were there to receive the borough president’s full recommendations, to acknowledge the B.P.’s role over the past five years — starting with the Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development — and to see the details of N.Y.U.’s concessions thus far.

In addition, we wanted to clearly signal to Councilmember Chin that we are a united community and that she’ll need to take brave and significant steps to protect Greenwich Village from the overbearing N.Y.U. 2031 core expansion plan. As the borough president said at the conference, “This is a first step and we still have much work to do.”
Terri Cude
Cude is co-chairperson, Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U. 2031 (CAAN)

Who actually wants this?

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. scales back its superblocks plan 17 percent” (news article, April 12):

Not enough! They’re playing the “placate” game, where if they cut something humongous down a little bit, the politicos will say how wonderful it is that N.Y.U. listened to the community and scaled back. What a bunch of crap. It’s still too many buildings and people crammed in. Move it to the Financial District or Brooklyn. Who actually wants this?
Susan Kramer

Don’t pass on soccer idea

To The Editor:
Re “Solving Pier 40” (editorial, April 19):

The brutal and quietly relentless lobbying tactics of development should preclude any mention of high-end housing or hotel on this pier. Tax-free bonding would be a travesty; and find me a developer right now who would accept a straight-lease IDA and pay reasonable — or any — payments in lieu of taxes, knowing full well they can steal a hospital if they really want to. Pier 40 would end up a backyard to the development, much like the Standard Hotel and the High Line, at the very least. They simply do not care about this community, all the while preparing to cry “jobs.”

And who sells the bonds? A city agency or a connected, no-bid friend who gets a windfall? Most likely some enterprise that has shown criminal negligence in recent memory. Why do we need this politically and economically expensive middle step — a years-and-dollars-consuming middleman — when we have a full-fledged economic partner unbelievably consistent with present pier use ready to go, and already publicly committed to addressing our park and athletic needs? Why not sit the entire community down with Major League Soccer now and let us have a discussion directly with them while our elected officials — who generally do a great job but have been failing on the big-ticket items — wait for yet another study to be completed.

Let’s get moving in the meantime and find out if the community and MLS can find common cause. There is absolutely no reason we should sit back and be told we have to wait. How about The Villager sets it up? And do it at the pier, right out there on the field. No politicians, no board appointees, just the neighborhoods and MLS.  Pretty sure we can get a permit for three or four hours some night. Let’s talk.
Patrick Shields 

The case for rent regulation

To The Editor:
Re “Will conservative Supreme Court remove rent regs?” (news article, April 5):

To those critics who contend that “millionaires” are living in apartments protected by rent regulations, here is my response:

Rent protections enable housing for elders, the working poor — and increasingly what is left of the “middle class” — young adults, artists, newer service workers and longtime community activists, often in communities targeted by race, class, ethnicity or religion.

Rent protections stabilize communities, keep politicians honest — due to rent-regulated residents’ long memories — generate and support small businesses, and ensure a community that is an interesting quilt of perspectives and strengths. Manhattan, like the other boroughs, is filled with community members who want to live in the neighborhoods we helped create.

And we need more housing, not less, that is affordable to workers who are just starting out in careers as police, firefighters, nurses, sanitation workers and teachers. We want these vital workers close by their places of work.

Some landlords may now feel entitled to massive profits, but they never questioned their tenants’ rents when no one else would rent in their buildings.

The U.S. economy is roiling from the results of the wealthy’s legalized theft of the public’s money and the destruction of the economy for all but the very, very rich. People are being foreclosed upon as we speak. Do you really think removing more affordable housing stock is going to help with this housing epidemic — or help in any economic recovery?
K Webster

Spokesperson stumper

To The Editor:
Re “Event space is a ‘Javits Center’: Soho neighbors” (news article, April 19):

The article states: “But Ryan Fitzgibbon, D.O.B.’s press secretary, said that, contrary to residents’ accounts, the department hasn’t received any complaints about the space. ‘They may be up in arms, but we haven’t heard a word about it,’ she said.”

Really? The Department of Buildings press secretary should do some more research before giving out ridiculously false information to reporters.

This e-mail below is the first of at least a dozen complaints from Community Board 2 to D.O.B.’s community affairs coordinators, Donald Ranshte and Leah Donaldson, over the past 21 months, requesting inspections regarding 82Mercer for operating illegally without the proper certificate of occupancy:

Sent: Friday, July 22, 2011 1:20 PM

To: Donald Ranshte

Cc: Leah Donaldson; Mora@cb2manhattan.org

Subject: Request for Inspection: 82-84 Mercer Street

Donald/Leah:   Would it be possible to have a DOB inspector visit 82-84 Mercer Street tomorrow. This building is having a trade show (Major League Soccer Annual Conference) and, according to the application they submitted to SAPO [the Mayor’s Street Activity Permits Office], they expect 2000 people to attend. The residents of the block are furious because of a trade show that ended yesterday and our office has received a slew of complaints. Apparently, the building has no C of O, nor any permit for this type of activity. We believe this type of use (12a – trade exhibition less than 2500) is not a conforming use. Other complaints have mentioned attendees using the freight elevator, various fire hazards, overcrowding, and misuse of parking permits. I recognize that not all of these allegations fall under DOB’s jurisdiction, but if there is a violation of the Zoning Resolution, we need your help. I know it’s short notice, but SAPO just informed us of this event. Please let me know. Thanks.

I redacted the e-mail address of the person at C.B.2 who sent the message, out of privacy considerations.

Despite repeated direct requests by a fellow city agency, D.O.B. has consistently refused to do an inspection to determine whether 82Mercer is violating the city’s Zoning Resolution with its nonconforming use.
Sean Sweeney

‘Soho Javits’-BID connection

To The Editor:
Re “Event space is a ‘Javits Center’: Soho neighbors” (news article, April 19):

The article refers to “Vincent Fung, an 82Mercer partner.”

Everyone should be aware that Mr. Fung is a member of the Soho Business Improvement District Steering Committee, as seen on the Web site for that group: http://www.sohobid.org/bid-planning-team/ .

Many of those backing the BID continue to prove that they have little-to-no consideration for the neighborhood or the community, beyond what will line their pockets.

All the more reason to oppose the B.S. BID plan.
Pete Davies

Church’s wide appeal

To The Editor:
Re “Vilnius faithful praying for church’s resurrection” (news article, April 19):

Our Lady of Vilnius did not “share” the church with a Portuguese parish. Although the parish was founded by a Lithuanian priest for Lithuanian immigrants, something about it appealed to people of all ethnicities. The Portuguese families that surrounded the church were very much part of one small but diverse parish.

I remember sitting at a table of Portuguese neighbors at the last feast of Our Lady before the church was locked. They had placed their Fatima statue at the head of the table. They shared their homemade liqueur and good spirits and I felt like one of the family.

Carmine De Sapio’s family were active parishioners and generous donors.

When the church was threatened with closure, The Villager was the first newspaper to announce that the home of “Pretzels” and “Provolone” was in danger. The parish was an emblem of working-class New York in all its glory, begun by a longshoreman priest and ending with a fireman priest. Lithuanian parishioner Dalia Bulgaris hailed it as “a parish of oddballs.”

Although the church’s Lithuanian angle has been most visible and media friendly, its appeal goes way beyond that into the mystic.
Christina Nakraseive

Glick clicks with column

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. freshmen need a campus — on Governors Island” (talking point, by Deborah Glick, April 19):

This is the kind of creative problem solving that all our elected officials and administrators should be engaging in.
A.S. Evans

Counterpoints for Glick

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. freshmen need a campus — on Governors Island” (talking point, by Deborah Glick, April 1):

So as an assemblymember you’re going to talk to the mayor about opening up the Governors Island space to N.Y.U.? Also, just to be clear, Governors Island is not right in the middle of New York City.

I fully understand the need to preserve historic communities in New York City. But as a native New Yorker, I wouldn’t have wanted the city to preserve the historic drug and tawdry aspects of Times Square, Washington Square Park, 14th St. and other areas in the city that I would never have walked in past 9 p.m. at night!
Farah Hamilton

Steamed over wasteful A/C

To The Editor:
On April 16, the first very warm day of an early summer, as I walked up Fifth Ave. to buy my lunch, every other store I passed, on both sides of the street, had their doors wide open and their air conditioning blasting onto the sidewalks.

Several years ago, when Clyde Haberman of The New York Times made a case against stores that keep their front doors wide open with air conditioning blasting out onto the sidewalks, I was delighted.

In 2008, New York City passed a law to fine these businesses for this wasteful practice. It was only in 2010 that fines began to be imposed on stores that make a practice of this, but those fines, miniscule and rarely given, of $200 (for a second offense, $400) have not deterred merchants from repeatedly ignoring the law.  The legislation states that any business larger than 4,000 square feet or part of a chain with five or more stores in the city must keep doors closed when using an air-conditioning system. To describe this law as weak and ineffective is an understatement.

Since this law was passed, I have filed numerous complaints about stores on lower Fifth Ave., where I work, that are blasting their air conditioning onto the sidewalks, but to no avail. You can go to www.nyc.gov and search “Store door open while air conditioner running” to make a formal complaint. But the city and its law enforcement officers are, I suppose, too busy stopping and frisking young black American boys, giving tickets to bicyclists or to people who smoke in the parks, to bother issuing tickets to these offenders.

This practice is so offensive, given the waste of precious energy resources and the undue pressure it puts on our energy suppliers, like Con Edison, who struggle each summer to keep the electricity on for everyone living in the five boroughs. Not to mention the shortage of oil and gas that has led this country into wars in the Middle East, wars that not only take the lives of our soldiers but those of so many innocent people who most likely never experienced the luxuries of air conditioning; wars that deplete the finances of this nation to the point where public-assistance programs, education, infrastructure and job creation are suffering immensely. And now there are the proposals to hydro-fracture our delicate lands for natural gas to supplement our shortages. How arrogant and selfish these stores are to pump this cold air in your face as you walk by them, beckoning potential buyers to “Come in, enjoy the cool air, spend money.”

Last summer, when walking down Fifth Ave. with a friend who was visiting from France, she remarked at how “wasteful” Americans are. When I asked what she meant, she said that our misuse of energy, like air conditioning and heating, was disgraceful. I was sorry to have to agree with her.

So I would like to propose the following: Every time you pass a store with its doors open and the air conditioning running — close the door. I do this now as a matter of routine and it helps. Several times a store security guard has tried to stop me and I inform him or her of the law. They usually back off. A couple of them have agreed with me about how wasteful it is. But, more often than not, the next time I pass this store, the doors are open again. I don’t let this deter me. I just keep closing their door(s). If all concerned citizens take up this practice, it could have a tremendous effect. I propose that you do. And for heaven’s sake, don’t shop at these stores!
Dee Vitale Henle

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