Letters, Week of June 20, 2013

Conservancy group was ‘clueless’

To The Editor:
Re “Jane and the death and life of an American park” (talking point, by Cathryn Swan, June 13):

Having attended the C.B. 2 Parks Committee meeting, I am flabbergasted that the founding members of the conservancy are so clueless. As Cathryn writes, they did not know the budget, which meant they had no idea how much they would have to fundraise, or what for. They had no draft bylaws and no draft mission statement.

They had no clear idea how to grow their board, although there was a vague idea that potential new members would be “anyone who was enthusiastic.”

These four ladies are clearly unprepared to run a nonprofit. But not to worry, they and the Parks Department told us. Their solution is to hire a Parks Department employee who will wear two hats: administrator of the park and executive director of the conservancy.

I think Cathryn missed that they answered “not yet” when asked, for the third time (after several prevarications), if Sarah Neilson would be paid a salary by the conservancy. This likely means that eventually she will.

You might want to look up the composition of the boards of existing park conservancies here in New York to get idea of what the board will most likely look like. You will see one or two community leaders, one or two local businesses, a smattering of nonprofit leaders and numerous officers of financial, real estate and development corporations. Elected officials serve ex-officio and community board members are not included.

At this point, these four founding members want to “just fundraise.” But looking at the history of the other conservancies, this is just the beginning and, in the end, the rest of us will lose what little say we have over what happens in this diamond of a park. I am totally disappointed that C.B. 2’s Parks Committee is willing to give Washington Square Park away to a conservancy.
Lora Tenenbaum

‘Edginess’ wouldn’t be conserved

To The Editor:
Re “Jane and the death and life of a great American park” (talking point, by Cathryn Swan, June 13):

I have no problem with a group of people raising funds for the park they love. The concern, as Cathryn Swan makes vividly clear, is twofold.

First, will the city cut back funding in proportion to any influx of private funds, rather than having those private funds add on to the public’s contribution?

And, second, will the conservancy, whether intentionally or not, begin taking control over decisions with regard to the park? The latter always happens, and Washington Square Park is too precious and “edgy” to allow N.Y.U., the conservancy or any other private entity to gain say over it.
Mitchel Cohen
Cohen is a member, Brooklyn Greens / Green Party

Village is turning into suburbia

To The Editor:
Re “Will a Democrat for mayor stand up for small stores?” (talking point, by Sharon Woolums, June 6):

I have recently moved back to the Village after having been away for about 20 years. The first thing I noticed was the extent of change concerning small, indigenous businesses. Twenty or 30 years ago there were almost no chain stores and the character of the Village — the sense of community and distinctiveness — was defined by the small businesses that gave it much of its charm.

Today we find chain stores on every corner and the Village is looking more and more like a typical suburban mall with apartments over the stores. If we want to preserve the identity of the Village and other neighborhoods throughout New York, we must do all we can to counter this trend.
Richard Weldon

It’s about saving our city

To The Editor:
Re “Will a Democrat for mayor stand up for small stores?” (talking point, by Sharon Woolums, June 6):

This goes to the heart of the matter. How many more Duane Reades and banks are going to pop up before our city is totally ruined?
Nicky Perry

N.Y.U.’s A/C solution is flawed

To The Editor:
Re “Carrots, sticks, air conditioning and N.Y.U.” (talking point, May 30):

Thanks to Mr. Tessler for a well-crafted talking point on the ongoing shell game played by New York University with both local politicians and the community over the toxic tsunami that is N.Y.U. 2031.

Tessler writes: “This ‘gift we pay for’ [a reference to Creative Steps] doesn’t even begin to mitigate the damage the N.Y.U. 2031 plan will do to Greenwich Village. But that’s O.K. — just turn on your air conditioner (whether it’s hot or not) and you won’t notice a thing… .”

The Villager may not have witnessed the negative reactions from tenants at N.Y.U.’s open-house presentations of an air conditioning-based, noise-mitigation system for Washington Square Village. To say that this plan is flawed is a ridiculous understatement.

For starters, air conditioning from dawn till dusk is not a possibility in the cooler months (November, December, January, February — at the least).

In addition, Washington Square Village residents, including those on fixed incomes, will be required to pay Con Edison out of their own pockets to defend against the noise; use of air conditioning significantly inflates the monthly charges, potentially more than doubling them.

So tenants are essentially being told that they must cover a huge additional expense and freeze their “assets” — not to mention the inconvenience of putting on and removing cumbersome air conditioner covers — for a masking of mind-numbing noise from this monstrous construction effort.

N.Y.U.’s noise mitigation plan is unlikely to work unless you’re a buff polar bear with megabucks to burn.
Sal Hirsch

At least someone is interested!

To The Editor:
Re “We tried to say something” (letter, by Renee Feinberg, June 6):

Recently, I wrote and asked, “Who wants to know” in this “see something say something world”?

The Nosuch Security Agency wants to know. Do you think they would respond to an emergency phone call about cars parked in bike lanes or someone comatose on the sidewalk?

What’s the N.S.A.’s 800 number, or do I just rely on Verizon to put me through?
Renee Feinberg

Seeing the forest for the trees

To The Editor:
Re “Garden hero — or partier amid the plants? Or both?” (news article, June 13):

Over and over again I see politics at large being played out in small spaces, like the Artists Alliance and now at Dias y Flores.

I can’t even have transparency in a community garden on the Lower East Side? This is appalling and disheartening.

It doesn’t sound like GreenThumb is handling this situation at all well, and it’s not their first bungle.

Every day I walk past the filthy, private club that is “Committee of Poor Peoples of the Lower East” community garden. They never welcome anyone into the garden. It’s a Latino men’s club. They never clean it. Garbage piles up on the fence and they just look at it from over the tops of their beer cans. The flame trees around it are covered with thorns and were hanging down over the sidewalk just 4½ feet above the ground, making people duck or get their eyes poked out.

I called GreenThumb and nothing happened. Six months later I called again and sent photos and finally they trimmed the bushes. Although it was an artless hatchet job, at least no one will get hurt and we can use the sidewalk again.

How can Dias Y Flores not be grateful to have someone like Jeff Wright in that garden? He keeps it diverse and makes it a space for the creative flavor of the L.E.S. How can the board not value that?

Thank you to The Villager for the article and I hope I’ll read more about this.
Linda Griggs

Jeff had a dream… Free the gardens!

To The Editor:
Re “Garden revokes his membership again, throws away the key” (news article, June 13):

Actually, I heard that the garden voted to have monthly parties. It’s just that Jeff made a mission of it and created some really fine celebrations that will be remembered. His goal — and I followed its development and know the intention — was to get more people in to enjoy the garden…a diverse crowd of all ages, races and persuasions. Dr. King would have appreciated that. And that was the spirit, especially, of the M.L.K. Day party. It’s unfortunate that Ms. Friesner passed by and remembered just this one line from a song and bent it to serve her dislike of Jeff.
Lori Ortiz

The ‘parties’ aren’t that wild

To The Editor:
Re “Garden hero — or partier amid the plants? Or both?” (news article, June 6):

This article was a very one-sided account of reality, in my opinion. These so called “parties” have been improperly characterized as being boisterous, loud and offensive to a residential neighborhood. In reality, these backyard barbecues, typically between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., with a few running as late as the ungodly hour of 8, have been attended by a small group of middle-aged artists and other middle-aged Lower East Siders. They resembled the one that the reporter attended on Memorial Day more than the ones that the reporter wrote about. These backyard cookouts have never actually been as large as claimed in the article, as most have been in the dozens, not in the hundreds, and never in the thousands. Hardly a loud “party” by any standards, of any community in America.

Opponents of these barbecues have greatly exaggerated the so-called “incidents,” none of which I was involved in, as falsely reported by The Villager.

Ron Kuby has never attended any of these events, to my knowledge, so his point of view is more based on what he has heard than what he has actually seen. Conversely, I have been a regular attendee, and insist that these backyard barbecues do not fall into the category that they have been pushed into by this lopsided article and its uninformed point of view.
Jerry Trudell

Yes, we can be Bike City

To The Editor:
Re “Bike-share sites could have been a win-win, but alas” (talking point, by David Gruber and Corey Johnson, May 23):

This was a thoughtful piece. Its points need to be addressed by the Department of Transportation, and will be no doubt.

Should human-powered transportation be able to become what it can be in this most suitably dense urban space, this can become Bike City, and should. The barrier is mostly in the volume of waste produced by the current, industrial-scale transportation system and the efforts of those who feed off of it, from the tabloids to the oil, insurance and banking interests, exerting their influence in innumerable ways. The strangulation of urban rail 80 years ago — with the help of more than 400 of GM’s and Esso’s secret holding companies — is hard evidence of the determination by these interests to prevent any serious competition to their poisonous, overpowered and out-of-scale creations.

The benefits that we may earn, through our embrace of human-scale transport — small, clean and safe, with a little exercise thrown in — here in a perfect place, as closely packed as New York City is, are real and important. The noise generated by those wed to the status quo and its mixed blessings will be loud and continuous. It will eventually yield to the music made by those listening to themselves and each other.
Steve Stollman

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3 Responses to Letters, Week of June 20, 2013

  1. Re: "Carrots, Sticks, Air Conditioning and N.Y.U.–Talking Points, Martin Tessler, May 30

    To allow the NYU 2031 Plan to go through, the community received nothing in return for twenty years of construction and destruction.

    The "new community space" for Creative Steps Preschool at somewhere below market rate (who decides what that will be?) versus the free space the preschool currently has is a step backwards.

    Using air conditioners year round to mitigate construction dust and noise is ridiculous. Truthfully, who can spin this with a straight face?

    Meanwhile, the NYU Board of Trustees and Chair Marty Lipton has been caught red-handed rewarding President Sexton and a handful of Law School "superstars" with millions of dollars of forgivable loans, overgenerous golden parachutes and Fire Island summer homes.

    NYU students and donors should ask themselves where their money is actually going.

  2. Your points are well taken. But to be precise, according to NYU, the hare-brained air conditioning solution is intended to address ONLY the noise. Handling pollutants, and fumes from NYU 2031 may be addressed in another round of open houses. Or maybe the university will leave residents to their own devices on that one. What color is YOUR parachute?

  3. This new WSP conservancy has a track record of making misleading statements designed to disenfranchise the public. They want their creation process to be “privatized”. Why should anyone believe that this core value will be any different when they start operating?

    1. ‘no mission statement’. This is a misrepresentation. You have to state your mission on a certificate of incorporation filing with NYS, which they did last October. you have to state your mission and also your main means of carrying out your mission on the IRS 990 filing to get nonprofit status.

    2. ‘We looked for a name besides Conservancy, but they were all taken’ (that is, we have no intention of being compared to a conservancy). Aside from this being, on its face, ludicrous, there is more. Why not stand up and correct the CB2 resolution where it demands that this Conservancy abide by a former agreement letter specifically targeted at Conservancies?

    3. arranging for about a year of private meetings with Parks department. This says the Conservancy puts themselves forward as the uniquely best solution to any issues the park may have, and that they assert to the public that there is not even a need to evaluate the issues more widely than between these 4 non-parks people, and the Parks department.

    4. scope creep. despite numerous claims by the conservancy volunteers of intending to carry out a very limited range of activities, when the CB resolution came forward, mysteriously it listed a range of activities, and then added the words ‘and the like’. The conservancy people did not protest this and ask that the wording be struck, in favor of some more restrictive scope definition. further, this wording somehow appeared between the CB Parks committee hearing, and the main CB meeting, in such a way that no one outside the drafters had any significant chance to react.

    5. willing participation in a process clearly designed to silence any public input. There was only a Parks committee meeting, and then 2 weeks later, the vote. That’s after a year of making arrangements in secret. The conservancy could have stood up and said “we are fully capable and interested in having a public review, where we feel confident that we can show not only that we should have this exclusive role, but that we can either show ourselves to be better than alternative people and plans, or willing to have the CB mingle solutions into a better group”. What the conservancy people did, was at a minimum ride along with a rigged process and keep their heads down.

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