Volume 74, Number 42 | February 23 - March 01, 2005

Letters to the editor

Board 2 conflict hurts community

To The Editor:

Re “Why did a conflict ruling take years to have effect?” (talking point, Feb. 9):

A recent Villager talking point by Marilyn Dorato and Kathryn Donaldson of the Greenwich Village Block Associations points to the difficulty of getting Community Board 2 to act ethically in regard to a conflict of interest regarding a bar/restaurant owner, Bob Rinaolo. Mr. Rinaolo was head of the Business Committee, and in that capacity had the power to make vital decisions regarding the liquor license status of other bar owners, some of whom could be business competition with Mr. Rinalo.

On the new C.B. 2 Web site it is stated that C.B. 2 will act as an advocate for the citizens in the area it represents. Mr. Rinaolo could have offset the impression of a conflict if he had vigorously advocated for the community. However, those of us in the West Village, who are alarmed by the growing profusion of liquor licenses in our neighborhood and who have attended Business Committee meetings, got a different impression from Mr. Rinaolo. He would treat us as a nuisance. He said repeatedly that we can’t win against the State Liquor Authority and that licenses will be granted despite our objections.

If it is inevitable that we’re going to lose against the omnipotence of the S.L.A. then more than ever we need the community board to take a strong stance for the community’s perspective. Remember, C.B. 2 is there to be our advocate. And of course there is that much-referenced S.L.A. process termed the 500-ft. hearing. It is one of our best defenses against a density of liquor licenses. It has never been clear whether a 500-ft. hearing is automatic, or as the S.L.A. says, it is to be requested by the community board when the board writes its resolutions. It should be requested every time, especially in neighborhoods that are overwhelmed by too many liquor establishments.

If Mr. Rinaolo and C.B. 2 are to truly advocate for our neighborhoods, strong stands must be taken on our behalf. If this isn’t the agenda of C.B. 2 what is the agenda? Defending individuals who may have a conflict of interest? Then what is the point of having a community board at all?

Elaine Young

All C.B. 2 should be embarrassed

To The Editor:

Re “Why did a conflict ruling take years to have effect?” (talking point, Feb. 9):

Thank you to Marilyn Dorato and Kathryn Donaldson for their excellent talking point in The Villager that documents the dubious state of affairs at Community Board 2.

Regarding the conflict-of-interest issue, they ask, “Who knew what, when and why didn’t they act on it?” At least the who, what and when was answered in The Villager’s Scoopy’s column by C.B. 2 District Manager Arthur Strickler in the Jan. 5 issue.

It says, “...he [Mr. Strickler] was surprised that someone had been able to get access to the opinion, which he said the board received six months ago. ‘Who had the opinion?’ he said.

“I thought it was only three or four of us. I thought it was me and Bob [Rinaolo] and Jim [Smith, the board’s chairperson]’...”

This is a perfect example of the dismissive attitude and questionable leadership of the current board. Conflicts of Interest Board rulings are public documents. Why would Mr. Strickler question who had it? He should be embarrassed for continuing to conduct business as usual in light of it. And the entire board should be embarrassed that they allow their leadership to exercise such poor judgment.

As to the why? — one can only surmise. To me it seems that these people are more interested in advancing their personal agendas and protecting their power than in representing the interests of our neighborhood.
It is no wonder that so many feel that C.B. 2 does not care about the needs of the community.

Paul S. Rankin

I did not give away the ending

To The Editor:

This is a response to the letters of Bill Thompson and Sheila Browning (“Please take Koch ‘off’ film” and “Koch keeps giving away ending,” Feb. 16) accusing me of revealing the ending of “Million Dollar Baby.” If you have seen it, or plan to, you should know that I did not reveal the ending of the movie. I said the issue was assisted suicide. I did not tell how it was resolved.

  Both letters contained attacks on me based on my record as mayor and my political beliefs. This is not the place to respond in detail, but I want to assure you all that my political views have nothing to do with my movie reviews.
Edward I. Koch

Koch has the write stuff

To The Editor:
I love Ed Koch’s movie reviews! If you’re going to call yourself “The Villager” use one as a reviewer! What a refreshing, down to earth voice among the elitist, highfalutin examples the rest of the rags in this town use.... I say, keep him!
Kim Corcoran

Lynne Stewart, a traitor to U.S.

To The Editor:

Re “Lynne Stewart still combative after terror verdict” (news article, Feb. 16):

I sincerely hope we will have no more hand-wringing about the conviction on all counts of Lynne Stewart. She is a traitor to her country and should have been tried and punished as such. She is fortunate to have been convicted on lesser charges. Lynne Stewart is truly an ugly American.
Paul K. Piccone

Washington Sq.: Fact vs. fiction

To The Editor:
Re “Balancing interests in Washington Sq.’s renovation” (talking point, by Michael Haberman and Aubrey Lees, Feb. 9):

We are amused, but somewhat confused, by the recent talking point in The Villager regarding plans for the renovation of Washington Sq. Park. For one thing, until the design was unveiled at the Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting on Feb. 2, Ms. Lees and Mr. Haberman had carefully referred to the project as a “refurbishment.” Now with “the cat out of the bag,” they are suddenly calling it a “renovation,” which is exactly what the community has suspected was in the works all along.

Did we attend the same meeting? Statements in the talking point, such as, “…virtually everyone agreed that the fountain should be restored, centered with the Arch and raised to ground level” and others, like the one claiming that “the removal of paths met with general approval,” are nothing but fiction. In fact, after the design presentation, the many dog owners in attendance were given the floor and one by one they expressed disapproval with plans for the dog runs. The remaining time allowed concerned questions about playgrounds, the mounds, the proposed fencing that will enclose the park, etc. These were abruptly disrupted when Ms. Lees shut the meeting down.

Kudos to The Villager for putting the results of Jonathan Greenberg’s survey on the same page as the inaccurate characterization. How hard it is to understand that in a community board district with less recreation space than any other in the New York, residents do not want the only park in the Central Village turned into a viewing garden surrounded by a fence. The survey concludes that the majority of community members “…would rather simply repave the park and fix restrooms than fix what isn’t broken.”

We have urged Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Castro on a number of occasions to consider correcting drainage problems in the fountain area, to repave the park, provide new lighting and continue to add to the landscaping that has recently been done. Having heard the community speak, we support the retention of the very things that local residents have fought for over the years, including playgrounds and dog runs (in either their current locations or other areas of the park that are acceptable to those who use them).

What we object to is the closing of whole sections of the park for extended periods of time that will result in the alteration of the park’s entire landscape, and at great expense. Moreover, we believe it is imprudent to spend these funds when adequate funding for long-term maintenance is uncertain.

We urge people in the community who, unlike the dog run users, lack the advantage of a place to post meeting notices in a space they use daily, to follow this issue closely and carefully through Community Board 2 and the landmarks process. Without your participation, you may head for a walk in our historic park one of these days and discover you have been locked out and can only “enjoy” it by walking its perimeter.

Howard Negrin
Susan Goren
Negrin and Goren are members, Washington Pl. Block Association

Now’s the time to fix up park

To The Editor:

I am a vice president of The Washington Square Association. We were established in 1906 to benefit Washington Sq. Park. I personally wish to congratulate George Vellonakis for his plan for the renovation of the park. My only concern is that there be a permanent venue for the Washington Square Music Festival.

During the Koch administration I represented our association at hearings about a proposed park renovation. Then, as today, there were many vehement objectors. Money was available for the renovation; but, for one reason or another, the project was dropped. Nothing was done.

It takes a tremendous commitment of planning and energy to raise funds for a project like this. Delay can doom a project because the money is withdrawn.

I hope that those in the community who have a specific objection will find a way to compromise so that this worthwhile project can go forward.
John Hood 

BAMRA’s battling saddens her

To The Editor:

First, this letter is of my own accord. I am not representing any faction of Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association or “fronting” a letter for any other group or individual. Additionally, Ms. Margaret Collins does not know I am writing this letter. However, her letter to the editor of The Villager dated Feb. 9 (“BAMRA board in a bad state) compels me to send this piece.

Quite simply, I can assert, as can so many people in our community, that Ms. Collins, BAMRA treasurer and lifetime resident of the Village, is of outstanding moral character and has always exercised the highest professional standards. Likewise, Maurice Jorgens, former BAMRA secretary, who found it necessary to resign his post due to the false charges leveled against him and the unpleasant climate of the BAMRA board, is also above reproach. Third, Charles Wolf is due all expenses due him incurred during his tenure as BAMRA resident co-chairperson. Despite rumors to the contrary, none of these people has performed any wrongdoings. In fact, their only sins might have been how well they adhered to proper deportment, rules of governance, appropriate best and past practices. Any suggestions otherwise are without merit. It is the product of distorted “group think,” projection, paranoia and misinterpretation.

The many “Scoopy” stories and articles in recent months about “As the BAMRA turns” might prove amusing gossip or entertainment to those outside the BAMRA grid. The truth is, as intriguing as some of the stories might seem, they are about real people in our community. These real people have been perpetrated; they have been treated unfairly and they have suffered.

If one were to ask anyone within the BAMRA membership and they were to answer honestly, I do believe they would report that we ALL have suffered in this new administration. Where there was once an opportunity for fellowship and good works, there is now great strife. To attend a BAMRA meeting is more painful than chewing glass. Since I have ceased participating in BAMRA it is if I have awakened from a long, long bad dream. Feeling relieved and refreshed, it has been a total joy to participate in neighboring block associations and support the outstanding leadership of these respective groups. These include Dave Gruber of the Carmine St. Block Association; Kathryn Donaldson’s initiatives with the Bedford-Barrow group; Sid Baumgarten’s community-minded CERT team in Battery Park City; and the very inspiring Tsunami Project of Battery Park Cares, headed by Barry Wolf. As satisfying as these experiences have been, they don’t replace the wish for my own “family,” home and neighborhood to work with harmony.

My experience is the members of BAMRA are very decent, intelligent people committed to their community. It saddens me that the splits and rifts that have occurred have destroyed the trust so necessary to work in harmony for the good of the community. The way out of this trap is leadership that moves above personal ego or grandiosity and whether one “likes” another person.

In these current times in our world, one would wonder if the satisfaction of revenge and righteousness in a small block association doesn’t become at best another barren and Pyrrhic victory.

Carol Kroker

Assault and battery with sound

To The Editor:

Re “Neighbors are exhausted by noise coming from the Hotel Gansevoort” (news brief, Jan. 26):

I was grateful to learn that a violation had been issued against the Gansevoort Hotel because of the constant and excessive noise resulting from their ventilation system.

The amount of the possible fine was given as $210 to $525 by the Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson. I am skeptical that a fine in this amount would deter the management of the hotel.

Anyone walking on Hudson St. near the Seravalli Playground and on the streets on either side cannot help but be aware of the noise, and as the weather grows warmer and our windows are open, it will become an even greater affliction.

It is not a trivial offense. The roar is loud and a major assault on our right to live in peace.

It is our hope that the hearing scheduled for Feb. 23 at the Environmental Control Board at 66 John St. will compel the Gansevoort Hotel to correct this disturbance.

Effie Miller

Street artists have always won

To The Editor:

In response to Larry White’s Feb. 2 letter to The Villager (“More art, less angst”) about the members of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics) and their distrust of Councilmember Gerson:

We have been in a fight with the Soho Alliance going back to the early 1990s. Their attempt to eliminate us from the streets has met with the same results as our much-publicized fight with the city and the Parks Department under Giuliani. Kathryn Freed failed to remove us. Giuliani failed to remove us. And Gerson’s attempt will fail to! Robert Lederman, the president of A.R.T.I.S.T., knew what Kathryn Freed and the Soho Alliance were up to from the get-go. We won the fight by standing up to the powers that be and not just joining their little clique. We have been victorious in seven high courts that unanimously agreed that artists need permission from no one to show, display or sell our work on the streets or in the parks of New York City. The idea that we have to submit our work for approval to any art board or committee before our work is considered “Art” is antithetical to our creative nature and counter to any concept of freedom.

As far as White’s assertion that the lawsuits brought by the artists reaped “huge financial rewards for one, or two, people only” it is way off-base. Just ask the many who stood with us and you will get a much different picture. Instead of working with other “insiders,” I suggest Larry join the fight to maintain the freedoms we already have won, instead of trying to cozy up to the powers that have displayed their intent of eliminating us from the streets.

Jack Nesbitt
Nesbitt is a member, A.R.T.I.S.T.

A.R.T.I.S.T. and Gerson fail us

To The Editor:

Re Robert Lederman’s comments in his letter, “White sees the light, finally” (Feb. 16):

Robert Lederman seems to think that the entire vending problem is about me. It is not. It is not about any single individual, not even Robert Lederman (he will be sad to discover).The truth is that there are restrictions in place right now as to where and when any vendor can set up their sidewalk stand in New York City. On W. Broadway in Soho, only food vending, and by extension, First Amendment vendors/artists are allowed. Therefore painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking and literature are allowed, but no other item of general merchandise (including jewelry) is allowed at all. If this single, vital aspect of the law were enforced on W. Broadway, we would have far fewer illegal people using public space in Soho, and the problem would diminish considerably.

Mr. Lederman crosses the line when he states that “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.” This statement indicates that this is somehow my philosophy, and it is 100 percent false. That is our problem with Mr. Lederman. He constantly puts false words into the mouths of people he targets.

Finally, Mr. Lederman exhibits gleeful joy while he hammers me personally concerning my close relationship with Councilmember Gerson. Yet the truth is that Mr. Gerson, myself and the fellow members of his arts advisory committee have accomplished many positive things for artists, and arts groups, in Lower Manhattan.

However, on the other hand, Councilmember Gerson stated in his comments last week “that current regulations don’t work and that the Department of Consumer Affairs has effectively ceased enforcing them.” After considering this astonishing admission of non-enforcement (the first time any person in power has done so that I am aware of) it would seem to even the most casual observer that the problem is not bad regulations — it is the inability to perform. If this is the case, the finger of blame must be pointed directly at leadership for failure to inspire performance, and that leadership person would be Mr. Alan Gerson himself.

Soho needs real solutions for W. Broadway. The lack of focused enforcement has caused an almost total absence of equal protection under the law for public fine artists, and a sense of chaos for all of the residents in Soho. Leadership is the key to resolution, but with Mr. Lederman, and Mr. Gerson, in position, we could be in for a long haul.

Lawrence White
White is a member, Soho International Artists Co-op

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