Volume 74, Number 47 | March 30 - April 05, 2005

Letters to the editor

Hits roof over defense of Rinaolo

To The Editor:
I’m a Cornelia St. resident of the Village since 1987, and this letter is about our neighborhood and Robert Rinaolo’s mistreatment of us while he was Business Committee chairperson of Community Board 2.

I was stunned to read in Scoopy’s Notebook in last week’s Villager that certain members of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce were suggesting there is a “witch hunt” against Rinaolo. Don’t insult our intelligence by calling real experience and public record “a witch hunt.” The facts of his actions speak for themselves.

Rinaolo owns The Garage restaurant on Seventh Ave. under the company name The Nut Club. In early February 2003, Rinaolo applies to Community Board 2 for an alteration of his liquor license to allow service at a proposed rooftop cafe. Whoa! He needs C.B. 2 approval to bolster his State Liquor Authority application. As head of the Business Committee, which first must pass on the application, he has a conflict of interest, even if he recuses himself. Nobody says anything, but the residents notice.

On Feb. 11, The Nut Club’s application is on the agenda of C.B. 2’s Business Committee meeting. As owner of the business, and leader of the C.B. 2 Business Committee, Rinaolo knew residents would be opposed to the application, since he was planning to run a rooftop cafe directly under our windows. Without prior notice, he postpones discussion of his application before his Business Committee to its March 11 meeting. All the local residents who turned out for the meeting to oppose the application are denied their voice and frustrated at the delay. That was the intent. To make us go away.

On March 11, The Nut Club’s application is again on the agenda. And once again, with no prior notice until we all get there, Rinaolo, through his attorney, requests postponement a second time. Residents are again frustrated at the delay and unable to oppose the application.

In preparation for the April 8 meeting, packets were delivered to the C.B. 2 offices addressed to each member of the C.B. 2 Business Committee for their review and consideration in making their decision on The Nut Club application.

On April 8, The Nut Club application is on the agenda for the third time, but this time neither Bob nor his attorney is present. Minutes before opening the meeting, the committee’s vice chairperson, Marc Newell, announced postponements of six business applications. None of these was The Nut Club. Residents waited until almost 9 p.m. Then Vice Chairperson Newell announced that Bob was not in attendance due to “medical reasons.” There would be no hearing on The Nut Club that night. Further, Newell and other members stated that no information packages had been received by any committee member. The packages had “disappeared.”

Shortly thereafter, C.B. 2 passed a resolution calling upon the State Liquor Authority “to not take any action on the alteration until prospective applicant, The Nut Club Ltd d/b/a Garage Cafe... has presented its plans before the Community Board (2).”

At the May 13 C.B. 2 Business Committee meeting, The Nut Club’s application is AGAIN on the agenda (fourth time), so residents AGAIN show up to oppose, albeit angry and frustrated by the tactics. Only at this meeting does Bob announce that his application had been withdrawn. He gave no reason.

By December 2004, the Robert Rinaolo conflict of interest story (business owner Nut Club/The Garage, rooftop liquor license applicant and ex-chairperson of the Business Committee of New York City’s Community Board 2) made front-page news in The Villager and became the topic of discussion at block associations and dinner tables throughout the Village.

Rinaolo has scorned the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board decision against him. He has behaved selfishly in public office and used his powers to treat residents — i.e. the community he represents — with disdain. He used sneaky sleazy tactics to con his community board peers and to wear out and toy with local residents’ humble efforts as they tried to look out for their neighborhood. That hurt our ability to trust — and that’s worse than any of these little deals that will come and go. How can such a man remain a respected member of the business community? How can he be considered qualified for any future C.B. 2 position, especially chairperson of the full board?

Instead of cheaply defending this guy, the Chamber of Commerce should be stepping up to support the community it claims it serves by kicking him out of their organization, and publicly censuring his actions. Residents didn’t do this. Rinaolo did, and residents are angry about it. When will somebody in the business community step up and show leadership? Who’s watching out to keep the next Rinaolo from abusing the system?

Leif Arntzen

CBGB is world’s rock mecca

To The Editor:
Re: “CBGB case lands in court, but rent rocks club’s future” (news article, March 23):

What is the Bowery Residents’ Committee trying to do, make rock lovers homeless? Ironically this is just what this “homeless organization” is about to do.

In the late ’70s through the early ’90s when my band, Beatniks From Mars, played in venues around New York City, CBGB was one club we could always count on for a good sound, serious bands to play with and a hip crowd to perform before.

I know for certain that this feeling is shard by every band on the planet. Everyone wants to play CBGB. It is Mecca. It is home.

While most places turn away new talent, CBGB rarely does. They are willing to take new artists seriously, and they thereby supplement an entire international culture phenomenon. We would not have the same heads on our shoulders without CBGB, and that is a fact.

If CBGB is run out of the Bowery it will be the passing of another important facet of New York City’s cultural wealth, but in this case it will be the passing of the crown jewel of rock culture itself. We should all be be aware that art historians will look back on us, and try to figure out how and why we could ever let this happen. There simply has to be a better way.

With this in mind, I strongly urge everyone involved to visit www.downtownvisions.com to research what New York City can do to appease landlords such as B.R.C. by adopting an “arts district” plan for Lower Manhattan. These plans have been very effective in other cities to rejuvenate older areas of town, and save historic cultural aspects as well. A plan such as this in Lower Manhattan could offer tax breaks and other incentives to help historically relevant cultural establishments such as CBGC compete in the open marketplace to keep their leases.

CBGB provides New York City with a hip artistic component that will be impossible to replace. I sincerely hope that B.R.C. and the city can work together to preserve this historic rock-and-roll music hall. CBGB is an example of the very thing that makes us New York City in the first place. If we lose CBGB we will all be much poorer for it.

Lawrence White
White is a member, Soho International Artists Cooperative

W. Ninth and the wild things

To The Editor:
I enjoyed LindaAnn Loschiavo’s article, “W. Ninth St. turns 180: Highlights from a history of socialites and social causes, stars and the bizarre “ (news article, March 23). I hope you will allow me to make a brief correction regarding Maurice Sendak (whose work is largely preserved here at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, where he also serves as a trustee). His book “Where the Wild Things Are” was published in 1963, not 1964, and its success in no way hastened Mr. Sendak’s departure from W. Ninth St.: he remained a resident there until 1970. There are several wonderful photographs of him, Marianne Moore and a host of other major literary figures that were taken during that era by a notable photographer who still resides on the block today, Nancy Crampton.

Derick Dreher, Ph.D
Dreher is director, Rosenbach Museum & Library

Designate, or it’s too late

To The Editor:
Re “How about us?” (Scoopy’s Notebook, March 16):

Two weeks ago, the Paterson Silks Building on 14th St. was partially demolished while the Landmarks Preservation Commission engaged in a continuing debate regarding its worth as a landmark. This same tragedy is being repeated in the Far West Village, where historic buildings are under immediate threat and L.P.C. is considering a historic district designation.

Already this year, we have lost the beautiful 1830 townhouse at 163 Charles St. to demolition. L.P.C. must act immediately to create a West Village/Waterfront Historic District before any more historic buildings are lost!

Zack Winestine
Winestine is co-director, Greenwich Village Community Task Force

Got to feel the rhythm

To The Editor:
Re “How about us?” (Scoopy’s Notebook, March 16):

Yes, it is appalling that a designated major, interesting, worth-respecting building on a major artery at the very entryway to the Village at Fifth Ave. and University Pl. should have been seized from the protection of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. It is also our loss. And I am glad that the commission includes in its concerns buildings that were designed for commercial uses, as well as the more usually expected residential buildings and the grand, such as banks.

The commission needs our support. Understaffed to deal with the increase of destruction, last-minute efforts cannot always be expected to succeed.

Isn’t this the time also to remind the commission that there are several properties that await landmark protection, for the benefit of the city’s long-term interest in preserving the rhythm of the urban landscape? I refer to those in the Far West Village, and landmarking the district below 14th St. between the West Side Highway and eastward to the ragged western edge of the existing Greenwich Village Historic District.

We need action now on these individual properties and as soon thereafter the landmarking of the Far West Village, so that the unified rhythm of this historic area can survive and the area continue to prosper, as landmarked districts always do. Good for the city, the visitors, the inhabitants and the property owners to have some certitude that they are not going to be crunched in a development war. Chairman Tierney, act now!

Jessie McNab

No draft explains apathy

To The Editor:
“Burning for peace in Chelsea” (news article, March 23) indicated a relatively small number of people protesting the war in Iraq.
Compared to the massive protests during the Vietnam War fiasco, these are very small numbers of protesters.

Can this be explained, at least in part, by the fact that the American losses — some 1,500 dead, thousands severely wounded physically and God knows how many soldiers returning with severe emotional wounds that will manifest in our society in a myriad number of ways — are sustained by an all-volunteer armed forces? Without a draft, only a tiny fraction of American society is directly affected. As long as it’s someone else’s son or daughter or husband or wife, it’s O.K. Having a professional, nonconscription armed forces may have advantages militarily and technologically. However, it means that the vast majority of society can disconnect and focus on personal pleasures and personal desire and ignore the quagmire, the morass and the casualties.
Similarly, there is the self-righteous refusal to acknowledge and deal with the enormous cruelties in our society. Cruelty comes in many forms and guises. Indifference is a form of cruelty.

Michael Gottlieb

What about the squirrels?

To The Editor:
I’m taking a chance here and adding yet another (as of yet unmentioned) concern to the Washington Sq. Park renovation debate.

I’m wondering, what concerns and precautions are being taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the squirrels, the true residents of the park? Although many disparage these “little clowns” as vermin, they are a great source of delight to many residents and tourists alike.

In phase one of park construction on the western side, it has been said that several maple trees will be removed. It so happens that these trees are home to dozens of squirrels. Will care be taken to humanely clear the trees of all inhabitants (including babies) prior to cutting them down? Will new squirrel boxes be placed in the surrounding area to ensure shelter for these sensitive creatures?

Let’s please remember that these animals’ lives are as valuable to the park’s revitalization as green spaces, mounds and dog runs.

Valerie White

Coming to terms

To The Editor:
Re “Anti- matters” (Scoopy’s Notebook, March 23):

While I appreciate your mention of my appearance at the City Council Parks Committee to speak against the unfunded radical redesign plan and unnecessary closure of much of Washington Sq. Park for a minimum of two years beginning this June, I take issue with your characterizing me as a “quick-fix advocate.”

Rather than a “quick-fix” plan, our preferred term is the “Rejuvenate, Don’t Excavate” plan. This alternative scenario, which our Coalition for An Open Washington Square Park is advocating, is actually the responsible and responsive plan for our beloved park. It uses the $6.8 million already available to address the park’s actual problems — repaving, bathroom renovation, dog run drainage — while also budgeting the repair of the fountain and expansion of two additional playground areas. All without requiring any significant closing of any area of the park. All without reliance on private funding or delays because of underfunded initiatives.

In sharp contrast, the Parks Department plan is to spend $16 million, far less than half of it on hand, to shove down our community’s throat a radical redesign that was developed in secret. It contains an unwanted fence, destroys the unique sunken plaza that is the heart of our unique town square, unnecessarily moves the dog runs to less hospitable areas, and creates a permanent reliance on private funding (i.e., N.Y.U.) by squandering millions of dollars excavating and transforming the layout of our park, to “improve sightlines.”

Ironically, this is the very park in which a hideous fence was put around our beautiful arch for 10 years for an underfunded renovation that could have been completed in two years if the funds were there. Nobody can answer how long it might take to complete the financing of this radical plan, or what happens to the construction zone that our park is slated to become in the interim, or even what control strings over our public space the park’s private funders might insist on.

It is the height of irresponsibility and irresponsiveness for elected and appointed city officials to support the groundbreaking of this huge project without the money to do it.

It is equally irresponsible to suggest that this plan has the support of our community. The more that we Villagers learn of this, the angrier we will become about this misguided, radical redesign of our precious park.

The only “quick fix” that I see happening here is the fix to bulldoze through this plan, despite community resistance, that the mayor and Parks commissioners are forcing upon us.

Jonathan Greenberg
Greenberg is coordinator, Coalition for an Open Washington Square Park

‘Minutiae’ are problems

To The Editor:
Re “Response from Fields’s office” (letter, March 9):

Some might be led to believe that the recent community board conflict exposé by The Villager was much ado about nothing or focusing on “administrative minutiae” as a representative for C. Virginia Fields protested.

The exposé speaks to the conflicts and arrogance that are rampant from our public servants citywide.
Robert Weitz

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