Volume 74, Number 41 | February 16 - 22, 2005

Letters to the editor


To The Editor:
Re “Koch broke critics’ cardinal rule” (letter, by Joan Scholvin, Jan. 19):
Bravo to Joan Scholvin! I almost told you to cancel my subscription on the same basis. Ed Koch is a lousy critic and doesn’t have the professional background in the first place. Furthermore, I wish he would do us Democrats a favor and get behind that big G.O.P. elephant, where he can really get a scoop on all the lies that drop for us to avoid.
Please get some deserving film critic with valid credentials for the job.

Bill Thompson


Koch keeps giving away ending

To The Editor:
Re “Consider a ‘spoiler warning’ ” (letter, by Kathleen Kucka, Feb. 9) and “Koch broke critics’ cardinal rule” (letter, by Joan Scholvin, Jan. 19):
The response of Ed Koch to Kathleen Kucka’s letter (as well as to the original letter) demonstrates his bullheadedness and his inability to accept constructive criticism. He not only gave the ending away in his review, he gave it away again in his response! And on top of that, he denied that he did it in the first place!
I’ve been reading The Villager for the last 25 years. I deliberately avoid reading his reviews. Choose someone who has professional credentials as a critic. Let Ed Koch find a more suitable way to insult people who don’t agree with him. How many of your readers really care about what Ed Koch thinks of a movie?
You might take a poll. (P.S., I hope he won’t accuse me of anti-Semitism. I happen to be Jewish.)

Sheila Browning


Put people before dogs in park

To The Editor:
Re “Dog owners growl, mounds mom erupt at park forum” (news article, Feb. 9):
The issue of the renovation/refurbishment of Washington Sq. is bound to be a contentious one. Your recent article on the public presentation of the proposals made very clear that the park is cherished by many different groups, all of whom are passionate in their needs.
However, I feel the dog owners who are up in arms about the proposal to move the dog runs to the perimeter are misguided. Fears of dogs being spooked by traffic or being deprived of sun are, in my opinion, laughable. If a dog in the city is spooked by cars while in the dog run, then maybe those poor dogs shouldn’t be brought to the park (since they would presumably be terrified crossing streets, where they are much closer to these cars, to get there in the first place). In short, a true N.Y.C. dog should be able to handle it. Maybe some high-strung dogs can’t, but what would be the loss if they weren’t there anyway?
As for shade, that best belongs to the people first. As a dog owner myself, I can tell you that my dog Jada is happy just being outside — in fact, she seems to be happiest on cold, winter days. Dog owners tend to attribute more suffering to their pets than really exists. Owners can just put on another sweater (or put another one on their Chihuahua).
Washington Sq. is finite and no faction will be totally happy with any restructuring of space. But in the grand scheme of things, moving the dog run from one area to another is minor. Dogs are second-class citizens. I love my own but I put people first. If you want to deny people and kids sunshine and give it to dogs, then you have a priority problem.
 
Randy Schultz


Park squares and Olympic rings

To The Editor:
I’m so happy I can now find The Villager on my corner. It’s wonderful to get real information about the neighborhood. Of course, all the info is not so good. Some of it is downright depressing. I wonder if others have seen common threads that run through the Union Sq. privatization, Washington Sq. reconstruction and the Olympics bid.
Union Sq.: It’s interesting that those who feel at home in a gated community are able to impose their will on the rest of us. The most disturbing thing about the whole business is the mayor’s astounding pronouncement that this city does not have money to pay for playgrounds anymore. I assume he must mean that any public amenity above the low-grade level of the typical neighborhood park must now be privately funded. And all the well-coiffed heads cluck in assent.
Fast forward to the Olympics: The big selling point is that even though the Olympics will undoubtedly bankrupt us, it will at least leave our city with housing, infrastructure and a “green necklace” of new parks. Being observant of the world around us, we should grasp that these green spaces will need to be maintained by business profits and charity, using Union Sq. as the model of neo-civic progress.
Washington Sq.: What does it say about New Yorkers that we cannot afford to keep a famous park in tiptop shape for 30 measly years, but can afford to reconstruct it at immense cost so it can fall into ruin again? Do anyone but wealthy contractors, wealthy donors and managers of public debt benefit from such a shameful racket?
In terms of Union Sq., Washington Sq. and the Olympics, I am not optimistic for a bogus future as spun by investment bankers, real estate developers and other kinds of billionaires. They can’t afford anything, unless it’s for themselves. If only they had designed Union Sq. so the restaurant patrons had to enter and leave through the proposed ditch, rather than make the kids play in it, it might have fooled more people. Nope, the jig’s up, and I’m very heartened that right-on people like Deborah Glick and Jack Taylor have the awareness and moxie to say so. Thanks to you, too, Villager. I’ll look forward to picking you up on my corner, at least until the corner is occupied by another outdoor restaurant. Remember when we didn’t have to walk single file down public sidewalks, folks? I guess we just can’t afford all that non-revenue-generating sidewalk space anymore.

Kim Mulcahy


Brodeur just wants fair coverage

To The Editor:
Re “Mayoral hopeful advocates ‘no lies,’ 3-legged tables” (news article, Feb. 2):
Thank you for being one of the only honest media outlets in town that noted the announcement of my candidacy for mayor on the steps of City Hall.
But there were a few big errors I want to correct.
You wrote that my many calls criticizing the Giuliani administration were “often harassing,” which is the exact opposite of the truth: not only were none of my calls “harassing,” the jury of six random taxpayers acquitted me in mere minutes and later told the media that they thought I should run for office and that N.Y.C. needs more people like me, who are willing to fight back against corrupt government.
The comparison of me to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela isn’t entirely fair: those men committed acts of civil disobedience; they deliberately broke laws they knew were wrong. I think that’s too easy. My technique is to obey the law, and get our crooked government to arrest me in order to showcase their criminal attitudes toward free speech and expose their breaking the law.
My recent arrest by Lord Bloomberg is a perfect illustration of my lawfulness: last year, Mike paid me $35,000 to settle a lawsuit against Giuliani’s false arrests, which were the same fake charges Mike just arrested me on! No wonder not even Bloomie’s supporters ever use the word “intelligent” to describe him.
I have never once “slandered” Tax-Hike Mike or Freddy Ferrer. Slandering is what Bloomie and Freddy do. My every criticism of them has been painfully true, from the fact that both refuse to make it a crime for themselves or their staffs to lie or deceive taxpayers, to a thousand other outrageous offenses against the people they swore to serve.
It’s a minor complaint, but the reporter refers to Frank Morano as a “supporter” of mine, yet he’s on the executive board of the Independence Party of Staten Island — they asked me to run on their ballot last year for Congress against the atrocious Vito Fossella but I was too busy — that’s why he introduced me at City Hall. He wants me to take on Bloomberg in an Independence Party primary — but the $250,000 our wealthy mayor just gave them might prevent this democratic idea from happening.
Your article says that I was kept out of “many” debates in 2001, when I was running on the Green Party ballot, but, in fact, I was barred from hundreds, and only allowed in about three, solely because I — and all the other third party candidates — weren’t Republicrats.
Tellingly, audiences cheered me at all the debates I was allowed into, because Ferrer, Mark Green and the rest offered no solutions to 99 percent of the problems taxpayers face.
It’s why I’m running as a Democrat this time. I have a hunch that most taxpayers agree with me that we need a mayor who will fight to kill the M.T.A. instead of protecting its endless crimes.
But all in all, the piece was very good, and all I ask from the media is to give equal coverage to all the candidates and let the voters choose which one is their favorite. No one has to like me to agree that media censorship is despicable. And censoring the dialogue about our city’s problems isn’t helping improve our city, is it?
The Villager is one of the only papers in N.Y.C. that cares more about helping people than about reporting where Paris Hilton had lunch, and so I hope you will cover this election substantively, asking tough questions of all the candidates, regardless of their bank accounts or support by the political party machines. Meanwhile, NY 1 will instead cover what ties Al D’Amato is wearing.

Christopher X. Brodeur


LREI thinks, and helps, globally

To The Editor:
Some Villagers may have noticed a large jar sitting next to the cash registers in local stores and restaurants. The attached flier solicits donations to aid victims of the tsunami tragedy. The fine print explains that the jar has been placed there by students from the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School.
LREI is proud of its tradition of civic endeavor and community service going back to the days of its founder, Elisabeth Irwin, who was a pioneer of the settlement house movement and a psychologist and social worker before she found her life’s work in education. Community involvement and service learning continue to be a central component of the school’s values and programs today.
One example of this tradition among our older students is the High School Community Service Roundtable/Student Action for Children, a unique community service program dedicated to helping New York City’s children, their families and their communities through both direct action and grants of financial assistance. The Community Service Roundtable seeks to address social conditions that rob children of their childhood, interfere with their transition to adulthood and prevent them from fulfilling their potential for productive, satisfying and socially useful lives. Over the past two years, Student Action for Children has distributed grants totaling more than $20,000 dollars to literacy, leadership, cultural and arts education for children from disadvantaged communities throughout New York City.
Recent events have forced students to adopt a broader, global perspective. When students returned from winter break last month it was clear they were hugely affected by the images on TV of destruction and desolation caused by the tsunami in South Asia. The Community Service Roundtable immediately scheduled a series of meetings to plan an organized response to the crisis. First and foremost in their minds were the children, including tens of thousands of orphans, living in conditions of severe hardship, lacking water, food, clothing and medicine and facing almost certain outbreaks of disease.
A school-wide Emergency Response Committee was formed to coordinate fundraising efforts. A call went out for clothing, household supplies, medicine, toys and educational materials. Parents responded generously. By mid-January, students sorted, packed and shipped 80 large bags and cartons of desperately needed relief supplies to agencies on the ground in Sri Lanka and Sumatra. Cash donations were solicited as well and to date students have raised thousands of dollars for various relief organizations. So far, the response from storeowners to our donation jars has been very encouraging and we hope people from the community will take the time to join in the effort these students are making to help children halfway around the world in their time of greatest need.
Most recently, LREI students, working with Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS, students organized and hosted a Benefit Concert for UNICEF to aid survivors in Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and other areas hardest hit by the tsunami. Under the leadership of high school students Alison Wiggins and Javier Picayo, the concert featured student performers along with Broadway stars from such shows as “Rent,” “Hairspray,” “Dreamgirls” and many more. A representative from UNICEF who recently returned from the region eloquently told the audience of visiting with an Indonesian school teacher, her school completely destroyed, sitting with her surviving students amid the devastation — and of how elated they were when a truck from UNICEF arrived delivering school supplies and equipment. She was presented with a check for nearly $13,000 dollars. It was an extraordinary event entirely conceived and organized by the students themselves.
We’re extremely proud of our students and we encourage members of the Greenwich Village community to support their efforts. Progressive education provides students with the space and the encouragement to think for themselves, to take initiative, to learn from experience and to develop self-awareness in the context of awareness and appreciation of and empathy for others. Community is the core of our social studies curriculum and the recent tragedy in Asia reaffirms the truism that in our time community is both local and global. The essence of “service learning” as an educational concept combines social conscience, compassion and action on behalf of others with meaningful learning about the issues involved in all their individual, social, political and scientific dimensions. The tsunami has been a tragic but unavoidable “teachable moment” for such service learning on an epic scale. Concern, compassion and an abiding sense of connection to others along with the capacity for intelligent action on their behalf is a core value of the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School values in our community.

Nicholas O’Han
O’Han is director of education, Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School


Gerson’s cloudy view on artists

To The Editor:
Re “Street artists fear Gerson may paint them into a corner” (news article, Feb. 9):
How sadly myopic of Mr. Gerson. It’s always a depressing moment in life when someone you have believed in and supported as a champion of quality, meaning, substance and value in your community suddenly becomes another shallow and cowardly slave to mediocrity by shamelessly pandering to whatever constituency might be less than understanding of a commitment to neighborhood culture and quality of life.
As a resident of the aforementioned community (I live two blocks away on Sullivan St.) I know the importance and value of the street artist community on W. Broadway. One of the great joys of living here is to go out on the weekends and see the wonderful contributions of these people to our neighborhood culture. The artists mentioned (Jill Stasium, Larry White and many other not mentioned in the article) are important figures in the character and identity of our neighborhood and are viewed with pride by the great majority of residents and businesses. Besides expressing the cultural values and forward-looking spirit of this area, they are known to be a significant contributing factor to the success of the neighborhood economy from galleries to stores and restaurants.
How short-sighted and cowardly of Mr. Gerson to be swayed by an extreme minority of whining individuals when this should be an opportunity for a leader of substance and character to take a stand on behalf of his supporters concerning a matter of civic pride. Shame on him.
I am a former Gerson supporter who has been forced to reconsider.

Doug Lunn


White sees the light, finally

To The Editor
Re: “More art, less angst” (letter, by Larry White, Feb. 2):
Larry White is a slow learner. It took him more than four years to understand the history that every other street artist in Soho already knew: Councilmember Alan Gerson is a puppet of the Soho Alliance, the landlord-advocacy group that initiated the city’s street artist arrest policy in 1993 and that has never ceased trying to eliminate us from Soho. Larry shouldn’t have been disappointed when Gerson revealed his plan to impose permits and relocate artists to an empty lot. In 2001, I explained to Larry that if he supported Gerson for City Council this would be the exact outcome. All this time Gerson was cynically using Larry as a front to create the illusion of an imaginary group of street artists that supported Gerson’s plan to limit the rights A.R.T.I.S.T. had won in the course of 10 years of legal and political struggle.
The question now is, will it take another four years for Larry to understand the street artist movement he was never a part of? We already won full First Amendment protection, meaning there is nothing any elected official can add to our rights.
The so-called “vending problems” on W. Broadway are being highly exaggerated by those with a selfishly motivated agenda. The downside of full freedom of speech is that it’s not an art show. Any First Amendment-protected speaker can set up on public property. There are no reserved spots. There are no qualifications artists must meet before showing their work. There are no numerical limits. There is no residency or seniority advantage that gives a “longtime resident of Soho” like Larry White more right to a vending spot than a Brooklyn resident has. We need no one’s permission.
If storeowners, landlords and police officials like us, that’s wonderful, but our rights are not in any way dependant on their approval. Nor are our rights a matter of consensus among street artists. It’s not up to artists to decide who can or cannot show their work on the street or how many artists can come to W. Broadway or what kind of ID they need. Likewise, it is not up to artists to decide what other types of vendors can work in Soho anymore than political groups get to decide who else can protest on the street.
Larry’s knowingly false assertion in his letter that only I have received compensation for the street artist lawsuits is typical of the disinformation he provides to artists and city officials alike. As other artist-plaintiffs have repeatedly made clear to Larry, every N.Y.C. street artist that added their name to the A.R.T.I.S.T. lawsuits — or that filed their own independent lawsuit — and who asked for compensation got compensated for their false arrests, illegal confiscations and unjustified summonses. More than 50 artists received damages directly in proportion to the number of arrests or summonses they had.
It’s great to see Larry White finally coming clean about Alan Gerson’s misguided efforts to restrict street artists. I welcome him to take the next step and work with, instead of against, the group that won him his rights.

Robert Lederman
Lederman is president of A.R.T.I.S.T.
(Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)

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