Volume 74, Number 40 | February 9 - 15, 2005

Letters to the eiditor

Koch reviews miss the mark

To The Editor:
I cannot let pass an opportunity to comment on Koch on Film, especially in view of the two films he reviewed in the Jan. 26 issue. His critiques always leave much to be desired, but in these cases he was way off the mark. His reviews border on the inane — and I can do without his warnings or comments about not wasting my valuable time on the films. What did waste my time was the few minutes I spent reading his reviews.
Miriam Cohen

Consider a ‘spoiler warning’

To The Editor:
In the recent letter from a moviegoer outraged that Villager film reviewer Ed Koch gave away the end of “Million Dollar Baby” in his review of the film, and Mr. Koch’s dismissive response to the letter, we learned nothing from Mr. Koch on why he felt he had to reveal the ending of the movie in his review. I, for one, do not want to be informed when I read a movie review of key plot surprises. It destroys for me the experience of being surprised. I would be interested in hearing Mr. Koch’s reasons for giving the plot away to readers who might not have seen the movie, and if he would consider “spoiler warnings” (informing readers that a key plot point was about to be revealed) in future reviews.
Kathleen Kucka

ED KOCH RESPONDS: I do not believe that I gave the plot surprise away in my review of “Million Dollar Baby.” The surprise ending is the response of the Eastwood character to the request of Hillary Swank’s character that he assist her in her desire to die. I wrote in my review, “During her last bout, she suffers a severe spinal injury. As a result, she is on a ventilator and asks Frankie to help her die.”
I did not reveal his response. I thought that raising the dilemma was permissible. Reasonable people can disagree.
It is not easy to write reviews or any other article of substance, but I do my best.

Whose square is it? Everyone’s

To The Editor:
Groundhog Day in 2005 at the Community Board 2 meeting on Washington Sq.’s renovation witnessed two groups hogging the floor: dog owners who must have used the pages of “Robert’s Rules of Order” to pick up their pets’ droppings and parents exhibiting rude behavior they wouldn’t want their children to copy. And a smaller group was there playing park-design experts. Some were polite, but what an embarrassing mess for those of us who came to learn and think the square belongs to us all.

We’re damn lucky to have a wonderful designer in architect George Vellonakis and a superb manager in Bill Castro, who were valiantly trying, over the clamor, to hear everyone’s concerns. They, Vellonakis and Castro, are professionals, who I’m paying for with my taxes, and I resent their being drowned out by loudmouths.

Don’t these people even know that their boorish behavior is counterproductive to addressing their legitimate concerns? Aubrey Lees was right to close the meeting during an endless tirade that caused many to put on their coats.

Whose square is it? No, it’s not Washington Dog Park, or Washington Child Park, or Washington Self-Professed Expert Park; it’s Washington Sq. Park for everyone. I know. I’ve lived right here for 30 years, have written the book on Washington Sq. and I’ve found that its importance lies far beyond its immediate community.

I was recently visited by 9-year-old Lalka Rieger, whose kitchen-table model of the Washington Sq. Arch won acclaim in her Ridgwood, N.J., school history project. Those who are inspired like her and millions of other visitors help our city, and we all deserve a square that shines as best that its size permits. So, let’s leave its design to the pros, who genuinely listen, in a forum without rancor.

Luther S. Harris
Harris is author of “Around Washington Square.” His forthcoming book is “Fifth Avenue: The Real Story.”

BAMRA board in a bad state

To The Editor:
Re “As the BAMRA turns” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Dec. 22):
I send you this letter to separate the facts from lies and rumors.

Since becoming resident co-chairperson six months ago, Lois Rakoff has driven Bleecker Area Merchants and Residents’ Association from a cordial, respected organization into a very contentious state. Rakoff’s accusations and charges against me are false. The financial situation that I am being blamed for was of Rakoff’s own making, designed to usurp my authority as treasurer and deny me the tools and information necessary to perform my job.

I remain the lawful treasurer of BAMRA. The board overstepped its authority by attempting to remove me as treasurer. BAMRA is set up to be run by its membership, not its executive board. Membership makes a decision that the board (or a committee) then implements. BAMRA boards are strictly advisory and administrative. Rakoff is trying to remove me and my oversight of BAMRA’s money in an attempt to control the money and how it is spent.

Contrary to Rakoff’s statement “we wanted to contribute to charitable causes,” BAMRA is not a philanthropic organization. Our purpose is to improve the quality of life and beautify the neighborhood.

Aside from causing problems that didn’t exist, making false charges and inflamatory statements, what has Rakoff accomplished in the last six months?

Is her officiousness a deflection for her inability to work with others of differing opinions within the organization and the community?

The board ignored my invitation to a mediation session to resolve our differences.

Rakoff and this board continue to perform a disservice to BAMRA and the community it serves. To restore integrity, we need immediate removal of the entire board to remove the contentiousness within the board and relationships between membership, vendors and the community.

Margaret Collins
Collins is treasurer, Bleecker Area Merchants and Residents’ Association

‘Sleuthin’ ’ Howard did right

To The Editor:
Re “Dorm poster puzzle solved; just don’t say ‘CHARAS’ ” (news article, Jan. 26):

As our community moves closer to winning back our beloved community center, the old P.S. 64 building on E. Ninth St., which once housed CHARAS/El Bohio, it is most imperative that we do as Community Board 3 Chairperson McWater urges: remember who it is we are fighting, namely, the usurper Greg Singer and his conspirators.

By the same token, however, it is inevitable that our ideas for reestablishing some form of a new, better “CHARAS” will conflict, and, indeed, we must strive to embrace conflict when it exposes exactly what needs to be known for us to effect real community solidarity.

Susan Howard didn’t go the police with her tape of the act of bombastic free speech, she showed it to The Villager.

As a community member looking forward to rebuilding our stolen center, I’m grateful for Howard’s “sleuthing” and I’d like to know why members of E.V.C.C. can’t sign their own names when they go putting up fliers. Does E.V.C.C. want to give Singer a reason to get Mr. Garcia back in court?

Though not an apology, it’s good to hear Mr. Rosen has respect for Chino Garcia and Alfredo Irizarry. He should extend some to Susan Howard as well. Without her organizing the opposition to Singer over these difficult years, we would have a lot more work to do.

Stop the Dorm! Landmark and build our new center!

Matt Metzgar

U.S.C.C. flouts bylaws

To The Editor:
Re “Union Sq. board members clash over pavilion plan” (news article, Jan. 19):

As a member of the Union Square Community Coalition, I have observed, firsthand, the dysfunctional governance of the U.S.C.C. It seems to me, the major problem is that the co-chairpersons do not adhere to the organization’s bylaws. If they did, they would understand the limits of their powers and their obligation to represent their members energetically and honestly. Their personal preference should never supersede the majority mandates of their members and of the majority opinion of the board of directors. The infighting on the board and within the membership on the controversial issue of the local business improvement district’s plan to establish a private, exclusive, restaurant in Union Sq. Park has triggered the conflict. Had the co-chairpersons recognized the majority vote of the board of directors and of their members on the issue, and acted vigorously to implement that mandate, rather than their own preferences, the organization would not now be torn by conflict.

In violation of their bylaws, the U.S.C.C. chairpersons have tried to force the resignation of Jack Taylor, a respected preservationist and hard-working member of the board who is outspoken in his opposition to the BID’s plan. Only the members can do so by a two-thirds vote, after proper notice is given before a membership meeting at which the reasons for the request for Mr. Taylor’s resignation are explained. They have not yet scheduled such a meeting. If they do, it is likely that members would find their reasons frivolous and unwarranted.

Instead, they have, shamefully, leaked to the press their request for his resignation. Are they aware that their own behavior might be examined by members and that their clinging to their own preferences would be viewed by the members as more serious than their complaints about Mr. Taylor? If they cannot bring themselves to abide by the decision of their members, they should have the grace to admit it and resign. An unfortunate outcome of such poor leadership is board member Leo Blackman’s resignation — a voice of reason, fairness and decency on the board and a great loss for U.S.C.C. He resigned in protest against the unwarranted treatment of Mr. Taylor and in disgust at the way in which the organization is now being run.

Good leaders of organizations pay close attention to their bylaws. Invoking them is not nit-picking. They are the foundation of an organization’s functioning, binding leaders and members, ensuring order, outlining powers of its leaders, their legal responsibilities and their obligation to fairly represent the views of the majority of members.

The characterization by Aubrey Lees, the board’s legal consultant, of Mr. Taylor as “obstructionist” and “not so collegial” is hilarious! If anyone on the board fits that description, it is Ms. Lees herself. On occasion, she has told a fellow member of the board to “shut up!” So much for collegiality. At a recent board meeting, she took over the chair, was rude, in the extreme, to members who tried to speak, going so far as to cut them off, usually in a derisive way before they finished their statements.

Yet, U.S.C.C.’s chairpersons are to be commended for the hard work they do and the endless hours they devote working as advocates for the park. If their sterling instincts to do good things for the community were combined with their commitment to observe their responsibilities to their members, the U.S.C.C. could not be better served. Compliance with U.S.C.C. bylaws might be a good start.
Eadie Shanker

Invokes Jacobs’s caveat

To The Editor:
Pretend this is Jane Jacobs reacting to your ambiguous editorial “Conflict du jour: The Union Sq. pavilion restaurant” in the Feb. 2 issue.

You acknowledge the legitimacy of the opposition to the Parks Department’s proposals for the north end of Union Sq., saying at the same time that you “want to hear more alternate ideas from the opponents.”

Ms. Jacobs, the savior of Greenwich Village and Washington Sq. in the 1960s, might write this letter as follows: “Never tell government what you want. As soon as you do, you will then be considered a participating citizen in the planning process, thereby satisfying a requirement which allows their project to be built. You will have helped to plan the very project you set out to stop.”

Jane Jacobs, now 88 years old and living in Canada, made those observations on a rare visit back to New York City last May. They are as germane to Union Sq. in 2005 as they were to Greenwich Village and Washington Sq. 44 years ago.

The ordinary citizen, not a professional planner, knows what he or she doesn’t want when he or she sees it. It is up to the professional planner to acknowledge the public’s reactions with “alternate ideas” that recognize them.
So far, there’s little sign that the planners commissioned by the Union Sq. Partnership and encouraged by the Parks Department have understood what the public doesn’t want for the north end of Union Sq.

Thank you, Jane Jacobs!

Jack Taylor
Taylor is a member, Union Sq. Community Coalition board of directors

Fine article on tragedy

To The Editor:
Re “Actress’s murder sends chill through a hipster playground,” by Amanda Kludt (news article, Feb. 2): That was a very fine piece of journalism.

I attended the memorial service for the victim, Nicole duFresne, held at 172 Norfolk St. this past Thursday. I did not know her personally, but the human pain and tragedy motivated me to attend and pray for her soul. My heartfelt condolences go out to her family, friends and fiancé, who have suffered such a cruel loss.

I want The Villager and its readers to know that something good can come out of this terrible tragedy. That is the understanding that beyond the huge human pain and suffering is the impersonal operation of a fundamental spiritual law — the law of attraction. That is our society attracts violence and cruelty. Our society’s cruelties are a magnet.

Re Your color pictures spread on Pages 12 and 13 (“ ‘Idiots’ trash Tompkins Sq.” and “A day in the life of a hawk,” photo essays, Feb. 2) that was quite a contrast! Surprisingly, the squirrels are not afraid of the hawks. I always thought that hawks devour squirrels.
Thanks to The Villager for a bit of nature.

Michael Gottlieb

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