Letters, Week of Nov. 15, 2012

Knickerbocker’s nightmare

To The Editor:
Thousands of Knickerbocker Village residents in Chinatown are still without electricity, heat, hot water, Internet and other vital services. This complex is not public housing. Angry residents charge that the buildings’ owners and managers have been negligent in their response to Hurricane Sandy, and also callous and indifferent to suffering residents.

Especially insulting is the pandering and condescending way in which management and owners treat the Chinese-speaking tenants.

One dismayed tenant said, the day after Sandy, a couple of guys wearing sweatpants arrived with a van and a few small pumps. They worked for a few hours in one area, then disconnected the pump and went to another spot. It was a joke! It was obvious management wanted to save money. As of today, there is still only one functioning pump. The slow pump-out allowed sea water to cause further damage to the building’s electrical and mechanical systems.

Garbage was piled up in front of buildings up until a few days ago. Management made no effort to communicate with residents until more than a week after the storm. Confused security guards had no information from owners or management to give anxious residents. Volunteers with badly needed supplies were turned away the first few days and told to vacate the premises. One management official was overheard telling tenants that they should be grateful for the money spent on folding tables for a “warming room” set up more than a week after the hurricane.

Another resident claimed that Vincent Callagy, Knickerbocker’s general manager, called the police because a tenant was taking photos of the devastation. James Simmons, vice president of the building’s shadowy group of owners, has not been seen. Residents want an inquiry into the business practices of the owners. High-powered lawyers in expensive suits have been seen entering and leaving the building management’s office.

Residents are also frustrated with management’s inability and indifference toward using e-mails or texts to communicate information to residents, staff and relief agencies. FEMA and other aid organizations have stepped in to fill the lack of communication by the owners. The owners and management have not given tenants an idea of when power will be restored. Instead, they say, “We are all in this together,” “It’s an old building” and “It was a big storm.”

These excuses aren’t sufficient for suffering families and elderly people who feel the owners had ample time to instruct management to make basic, intelligent preparations. But they didn’t want to spend the money.
Thomas Versella

Trees? What about us?

To The Editor:
In today’s New York Times, I can read about storm damage to trees in Queens, the fate of a Cuban restaurant on the Upper West Side and dog bordellos in Brazil.

But I can learn nothing about the availability of emergency medical care in Manhattan! Not a word about where I should go for emergency care if I were to need it, what hospitals are available to Manhattan residents below 42nd St. Where does a seriously ill person in Tribeca, Greenwich Village or the Lower East Side ask a cab to take them?

What are the waiting times in the open emergency rooms? This is lifesaving information that needs to be told to the public!

I can walk into the 14th St. station of the Seventh Ave. subway and learn the waiting time for the next Uptown No. 3 train, but the press and the city don’t see fit to tell me where to go for the quickest emergency medical care!
Elizabeth Ryan

Editor’s note: According to the Mayor’s Press Office, as of this week, hospitals in New York City that were still closed due to Superstorm Sandy included N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center and Bellevue in Manhattan, plus Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn. New York Downtown Hospital was reopening in stages. In addition, the Veterans Affairs Hospital on E. 23rd St. also remained closed. All other hospitals in New York City are open, including Beth Israel, on E. 17th St., and Gouverneur, at 227 Madison St. Bellevue will be offering some services in several weeks, but will take a while to fully reopen, according to the spokesperson.

Labyrinth outlasted Sandy

To The Editor:
Re “Waterfront parks got whacked” (news brief, Oct. 8):

It was wonderful to find your mention of East River Park and the labyrinth in the latest Villager. I am amazed that the trees surrounding the labyrinth weren’t uprooted the way so many others nearby were. The labyrinth appears untouched, well maintained, and is a clear space that’s walkable/danceable in the “dance oval.”

To be able to access the labyrinth without obstruction in a surrounding area that clearly suffered much from Sandy, is restorative.

Thanks to your dramatic photo and words, I hope people will visit the East River Reflections Labyrinth.
Diana Carulli

C.B. 3 vote ‘grossly unfair’

To The Editor:
Sorry for the delay in responding to “Clash, confusion at C.B. 3 liquor license vote” (news article, Oct. 25). I was out of my house for 12 days due to the storm. (Many people fared far worse, and I will do all I can to help this community recover.)

The vote against granting a planned Latin restaurant a full liquor license (a one-vote loss) was grossly unfair for several reasons. First, at the board’s S.L.A. Committee meeting, the restaurant owners had agreed to several stipulations that were being voted on at the full-board meeting. Then, out of the blue, an unfriendly amendment was introduced to change the agreement between the committee and the owners. Due to the confusion, board members were not able to express their opinion on the original agreement before it was voted on, and some members who voted against the restaurant might have changed their minds. Several people told me after the full-board meeting that they were sorry they had voted against the restaurant getting a full liquor license.

It is troubling that members of the community board, who think they know parliamentary procedure, don’t. It is also troubling that those same members who should be supporting a new chairperson at difficult meetings are not, and are making her job harder.

Just as troubling, in my opinion, is that some board members and some committee chairpersons are allowing groups of people who come to the board with single-item agendas to take over and change the way the board operates.

It is true that we have many liquor licenses, and it is more true that there are some bars who do not make sure that their patrons behave. It is funny that if a drunk person leaves a bar in a car and has an accident, it is the bar’s responsibility. However, it isn’t the bar’s responsibility if drunk patrons leave the bar, get sick all over the street, and scream and yell as they are leaving, ad nauseam. Maybe it should be.

However, it is very unfair to refuse to grant a full liquor license to a legitimate restaurant because of bars that cause problems. That particular restaurant that was denied the full license will be a welcome addition to this neighborhood. It is a cultural thing to offer certain types of alcohol with Latin food. Are we now showing our lack of understanding of various cultures? It’s shameful, in my opinion.

In addition, those who come before the S.L.A. Committee and the full board to rant and rave about the bad bars, should learn the legal avenues to take. They must make complaints against the bad bars. They must join the precinct community councils, meet the officers, work with the police, etc. However, to stop good, legitimate restaurants from getting liquor licenses because of bad bars is grossly unfair.

When I first became a member of C.B. 3 30 years ago, someone said to me that it is unfair to punish an entire community because of what the bad element does. If that happened a lot, we would have very few amenities here.
 Anne K. Johnson
Johnson is a member, Community Board 3

Souk/BAMRA free T’Day

To The Editor
For those who find themselves without companionship this Thanksgiving, Le Souk and BAMRA welcome them to the third annual traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner at Le Souk, at 510 LaGuardia Place, just south of Bleecker St. The Thurs., Nov. 22, dinner is complimentary. There will be two seatings, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. To R.S.V.P. call 212-777-5454 by Nov. 21. To volunteer to help serve, e-mail the Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association at bamranyc@yahoo.com .
Maureen Remacle

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One Response to Letters, Week of Nov. 15, 2012

  1. To: Anne K. Johnson, who writes: "However, it isn’t the bar’s responsibility if drunk patrons leave the bar, get sick all over the street, and scream and yell as they are leaving, ad nauseam. Maybe it should be."

    Actually, Ms. Johnson, it IS the bar's responsibility how their patrons behave AFTER they leave the premise. In fact, in 1996, NYS Senator Catherine Abate introduced the "Rowdy Bar Law" that made license holders responsible for rowdy behavior beyond their doors. Failure to control rowdy patrons can result in non-renewal of their license.

    Furthermore, despite your assertions, the 500-foot Law does not leave the onus of responsibility on the neighbors and community board to prove that an applicant is worthy of a liquor license.

    Indeed, the 1993 500-foot Law clearly states that it is the applicants – not a beleaguered community – who must prove that "the public interest is served" when they apply for yet another license in an area saturated with liquor licenses. If an applicant cannot prove that: no license, according to our laws.

    Finally, a restaurant does not need a liquor license to survive. Countless eating establishments do very well without a liquor license: Chinese, vegetarian, South Asian, BYOB, cafes and bistros, or restaurants near schools and churches, to name just a few. It may be a convenience to an applicant's clients; however, lets be honest. Without a liquor license, most of these trendy restaurants downtown would not survive because of the high rent their landlords are asking.

    The landlords pushed out legitimate community-oriented businesses to grab up the high rents that licensed premises can pay. By permitting more licensed premises, you are depriving your community of neighborhood necessities, like grocery stores, dry cleaners, pharmacists, art galleries, book stores, etc – business that thrived and were abundant downtown, and now are sparse, being displaced – to our detriment – by greedy landlords and restaurateurs suckered into paying exorbitant rents.

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