Volume 74, Number 39 | February 2 - 8, 2005


Almond Joy’s got nuts, mounds don’t

To The Editor: 
Re “Washington Sq. redesign to go public; some think it’s too late” (news article, Jan. 19):
Almost two years ago, after hearing that the Parks Department intended to eliminate the mounds in Washington Sq. Park without proper notification and warning to the community, numerous parents and other Village residents organized, wrote letters and turned up at meetings of the Community Board 2 Parks Committee and the full board to protest.
We realize that the Parks Department has long been opposed to restoring the mounds, despite the fact that they are the only hills of any height for miles around, generations of Village children have taken their first running steps down their sides and countless families have enjoyed sledding down them, including just a few nights ago, when more than 30 families turned up in the evening after our first major snowfall of the season.
Two years ago, because of the strong community outcry, the Parks Committee and Community Board 2 both passed resolutions in support of retaining and restoring the mounds, and officials at the Parks Department, including both Bill Castro and Adrien Benepe, promised us that they would be saved. 
Alan Gerson, our city councilmember, donated $50,000 to the Parks Department to cover the restoration costs, and we raised $12,000 from community members in case the project went over budget. Though we asked for the restoration to begin immediately, Parks said it could not proceed until the plan to redesign the park was finished.
Now, almost two years later, we hear that the redesign plan for Washington Sq. Park is finally complete, and in it, the mounds are eliminated once again. In their place is reportedly another open lawn. An article in The Villager recounts how a Washington Sq. Park Task Force has been meeting in secret, with members who referred to neighborhood supporters of the mounds as the “crazies” who have to be kept out of the process.
As strong supporters of restoring the mounds, remembering the joy they brought our children and other children throughout the neighborhood, we do not think of ourselves as crazy. In any case, whether or not everyone appreciates the mounds, we would hope that all would decry a process in which the long-standing views of families and members of the community are repeatedly ignored, and promises made them by public officials are broken.

Leonie Haimson
Village resident, parent, executive director, Class Size Matters

Michael Oppenheimer
Village resident, parent, professor of geosciences and international affairs, Princeton University

Eliza Nichols
Village resident, parent, associate provost, New School University

Bob Kerrey
Village resident, parent, president, New School University 

Sarah Paley
Village resident, parent, writer

Richard Stewart
Village resident, parent, professor of law, New York University

Jane B. Stewart
Village resident, parent, director, International Environmental Legal Assistance Program, N.Y.U. School of Law

Kay Rogers
Member, Lower Manhattan Neighbors Organization for Parks and Playgrounds (LMNOP)

Don Rogers
Village resident, professor emeritus Long Island University

Megan Rutherford
Village resident, parent

Andrew Bartle AIA
Village resident, parent

Mariana Verkerk-Joseph
Village resident, parent

Carrie Feinstein
Village resident, parent

Mary Davidson
Village Resident, parent

Victoria Sando
Village resident, parent

Susanna Moraldi
Village resident, parent and P.S. 41 P.T.A. member

Mark Celentano
Village resident, parent

Vanessa Dine
Village resident

Andrea Weiss
Village resident, parent, attorney

Rachel Warden
Chelsea resident, parent, UNICEF communications officer

Ellen Fisher-Turk
Special education preschool teacher

Tamara Rowe, CSW
Village resident, parent

Don’t beautify away park users

To The Editor:
I love this paper, and every Thursday I sit right down to find out what’s happening dans mon quartier, discover the next battleground. Thank you for once again keeping Villagers right up to the minute on things we really care about — from Jon Vie’s sad departure to Annie Liebowitz, Julian Schnabel, N.Y.U. and the glorious relief of lovely photos of families sledding down the mounds in Washington Sq. Park. But then that turns out not to be good news; the mounds are doomed. Odd, because they are an extraordinarily unusual asset, despite a lack of maintenance. Since they are actually used, I find it hard to believe that they could be replaced by a LAWN. A “Please Keep Off the Grass” LAWN? Replacement of the Teen Plaza? Oops — more LAWNS.
I love George Vellonakis, personally and professionally, but perhaps in the redesign, the people who actually USE the park should be considered and existing uses preserved. The feeling of community and activity would be diminished by this loss of useful space. The delightful ring of musicians and their karaoke singalong would disappear from the ring around the fountain along with the massively appreciated performances around the fountain when it is “brought up to grade.” The busy chess tables with their tiers of eager spectators would be reduced to “improve sightlines.” Trees would likewise be reduced for the same sick reasons. Cut down trees? It’s hard enough to keep the trees we have alive. We have already lost several trees in the park to attrition, N.Y.U. construction and drainage of below-ground streams.
I am unable to participate in the meeting at 75 Morton St., which you thankfully announce, but I say to my neighbors, stand up for a park for all of us and not just one more viewing garden. I beg the powers that be to consider the uses that exist today within the park. Do not beautify out the human component. This is a local, neighborhood park, one we desperately need in the pitifully small amount of parkland granted to Greenwich Village.

Cynthia Crane Story
Crane Story is a member, Mulry Angle/West 11th Street Block Association

Restaurant before kids

To The Editor:
Re “Business commissioner gives pavilion restaurant good review” (news article, Jan. 19):
The deterioration of parkland across the city is a direct result of almost 40 years of slashed budgets for the Parks Department. Now, with city and other funding available, the north end of Union Sq. Park should be renovated to utilize every bit of parkland, including the pavilion, for our kids and for more free public space in our small and heavily utilized park. Neither this national historic landmark park, nor any other public parkland, should become a venue of cash-cow restaurants for the city at the expense of the children and the community.

Paula Schaeffer

Can’t stomach pitch

To The Editor:
My name is Bobby Lee and I live on E. 19th St. I go to Union Sq. Park often, usually, to the Greenmarket. I shop at Staples and eat at local restaurants.
This is a response to Lincoln Anderson’s article, in the Jan. 19 issue, “Business commissioner gives pavilion restaurant good review.”
Grasping at straws for a rationale to have a private restaurant in the park, Commissioner Walsh wants us to believe that having a restaurant there will solve nighttime safety problems: “...adding a full-time restaurant will add light, eyes and ears to the park.” With all due respect to the commissioner’s sales pitch, the restaurant is sure to become a lure for rats, and restaurant patrons and staff are unreliable lookouts for criminals. A better solution for deterring crime in the park is to provide adequate resources — 13th Precinct and Parks police. I am a member of the 13th Precinct Community Council and I personally have never heard of a crime problem at that location of the park. Also, better lighting will deter crime by illuminating the underlit area by the pavilion.
Just an added note: Is this area of the city so underserved by the restaurant community that we have to put a restaurant in a public park?

Bobby Lee

Seniors need housing

To The Editor:
Re “More affordable housing, and no stadium linkage” (editorial, Jan. 12):
Good editorial on “more affordable housing” in the Jan. 12 edition.
I would hope that you might begin to include the concept of “senior” affordable housing as part of your editorial positions.
There are so few options for seniors in our part of town and, with real estate costs increasing, the opportunity to build new units is impossible.
There is also a need to set aside or create special zoning to allow the development of senior housing.

Arthur Y. Webb
Webb is president and C.E.O., Village Care of New York 

Poster article revealing

To The Editor:
I wanted to thank The Villager for writing a fair and balanced article in the midst of huge campaign to discredit me and stop the article from running. “Dorm poster puzzle solved; just don’t say ‘CHARAS’ ” (news article, Jan. 26) was well written and balanced, but I believe there is still lingering confusion over the use of the name CHARAS.
I think this confusion can be easily lifted by simply posting the e-mail message that the article referred to:

“From: Charas El Bohio [mailto:savecharas@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 12:42 AM
To: Lincoln@thevillager.com
Subject: civil disobedience in the face of evil

Dearest Mr. Lincoln,,, if you want, and trust us, you DO WANT,? open
the attachment which has been posted all up
and down the street that the Beyer Blinder Belle architecture firm
has their office, that is East 11 Street in New York,
here, between University and Broadway - taped to every single lamp
post, taped to every single street sign, and glued
to the glass doors of their office lobby and windows of that lobby
— Beyer Blinder Belle is doing wrong, aren’t they,
Mr. Lincoln??, don’t you think so? isn’t it wrong to design the
plans to destroy a neighborhood, don’t you think so??
and we wanted you to know, because we trust you. If you get up early
this morning, go look at their building, the
address is on this flier, the attachment, take pictures, we trust
you, tell the truth. and let those Beyer Blinder Belle
people know, Mr. Lincoln, we’re just starting, the World will know
what happens here, the world will know.
You can reach us here, we’ll answer you, we trust you, Mr. Lincoln.”

The question as to why this message was sent out under the name of CHARAS/El Bohio, instead of the real authors has still not been answered, and if the authors were real activists, then, as their flier recommends of Beyer Blinder Belle, they would have taken personal responsibility for their actions, instead of using another organization’s name.
Similarly, If this message and poster had been sent to a newspaper under the name of a city councilmember or the chairperson of a community board, I believe they may have taken similar steps, and possibly legal action, in order to clear their names.
Adding insult to injury, it now appears that there are efforts underway to completely erase the name CHARAS/El Bohio because Chino Garcia, as well as myself and members of Corazon de CHARAS (Heart of CHARAS) have demanded publicly that the real authors stop using CHARAS/El Bohio’s name for their actions.
Lastly, contrary to the rantings of Clayton Patterson, there are no cardinal rules for activists, praise be, but taking responsibility for your own actions is a first step to becoming one.

Susan Howard

Uncaring masses

To The Editor:
Amanda Kludt’s article, “In Little Italy, high rents replace handshake deals” (news article, Jan. 19), puts a human face on the escalating commercial rents. This has been going on for decades and across the city. I recall a desperate storeowner on Grand St., near Jackson St., placed a pleading placard in his window stating: “My rent was $1,200. Now the landlord is demanding $6,000. Please help me. Contact Mayor Koch.” He vacated shortly afterwards.
The Villager and its readers may be interested to understand that the decisions and attitudes of the landlords and real estate leaders are, to a very large degree, determined by the consciousness of the masses. The hardened materialism (“whatever the market will bear”), greed, selfishness, callous indifference, cruelty, etc., are a mirror reflection of the values, attitudes and priorities of the masses.

Michael Gottlieb

A real snow job

To the Editor:
On the afternoon of Jan. 25 at Hudson and Jane Sts. not only was the crosswalk well cleared of snow, but a man, I believe an employee of Piccolo Angelo restaurant, was digging a trench so that melt water could drain into the sewer.
It’s a pity that more people in the neighborhood don’t follow this practice. At too many corners, even when sidewalks and streets are adequately cleared, crosswalks have at best a narrow slippery path that is impassable to wheelchairs, strollers and people unsure of their balance. Even when the path is wider, it often leads to an ankle-deep pool of dirty water that can’t flow to the blocked sewer.
If good neighborliness isn’t an adequate motivation, surely self-interest — fear of lawsuits, wanting a business to be accessible to people who live off the block — should persuade owners to clear crosswalks properly after a snowstorm.

Ginny Donnelly

Good article’s in fashion

To The Editor:
Re “Glimpses of a subtle fashion subversion in Iran” (world article, Jan. 19):
Thank you for running my article on Iranian women in the The Villager. I liked your selection of photos and the headline was very enticing. I have received a lot of wonderful feedback from the article, which just goes to show how popular the paper is in the community. Thanks again.

Christina Maile

More art, less angst

To The Editor:
As an artist, longtime resident of Soho and activist for the rights of fine artists, I plead with both City Councilmember Gerson, and Robert Lederman to work honestly toward resolution of the issue of fine artists who display their own artwork on W. Broadway in Soho.
For the past few years, I have spoken out in letters to the editor and at public meetings about a radical fringe I see on both sides that I feel is moving us toward a hardball conflict over this issue. One fringe group appears to be motivated to get rid of everyone who works in public, and the other fringe group appears to be motivated by getting involved in a “heroic” street battle with loud protests and multiple arrests that allows for really cool news coverage, and a follow-up civil damage suit that inevitably reaps huge financial rewards for one, or two, people only.
Neither of these scenarios suits the actual needs of the residents, artists, workers or businesses of Soho. A balanced sense of order and true equal protection under the law can be restored on W. Broadway without the invention of a whole new set of laws or more draconian restrictions on public space or public expression. In fact, we feel that it is really quite simple to achieve the goal of reduced numbers once artists are identified, illegal merchandise vending is controlled and copyright bootlegging is curbed. That is the plan we have presented to the city, but has been attacked from both sides on the fringe.
During the process of mediation set up by Mr. Gerson, our group provided a petition to Mr. Gerson’s mediators signed by the vast majority of businesses on W. Broadway, along with the signatures of several property owners and neighbors, that verified the overwhelming support our group’s proposal has. Lately, individual police officers and those who serve on the vending task force have stated they felt our proposal would work nicely for them as well.
However, we became alarmed when Mr. Gerson recently indicated to artists on W. Broadway that the only way to control the situation was to restrict the numbers of artists, or to place us on a pier outside of the area. It is blatantly unjust to restrict free speech, or to penalize the small group of legal people who use public space, because there is no enforcement against the hordes of illegal merchandise vendors and copyright bootleggers on W. Broadway.
For 27 years I have rented a second-floor Soho apartment that has vendors under the window seven days a week, year-round. I find it to be no problem at all. In fact these vendors were the inspiration I needed to head out onto W. Broadway 10 years ago with my own artwork to see how the public would respond. Now my work is regarded worldwide in museums and galleries and many high-quality shops, as well.
If the strip we of W. Broadway lovingly call “The Boulevard of the Arts” is denied to fine artists, then one of the most vital aspects of the ecology of art in the world today will be gone, and we will all be poorer for the loss.

Lawrence White

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