Volume 74, Number 52 | May 04 - 10 , 2005

Letters to the editor

Glick finds park fence offensive

To The Editor:
I am disappointed that the recently passed Community Board 2 resolution regarding the renovation of Washington Sq. Park allows for a fence around the park. Although the resolution asked the Parks Department to limit the height of the fence, it was clear from the numerous public hearings held about this issue that the majority of community members feel that a fence is not necessary.

A fence would detract from the park’s connectedness to its urban setting and change the feel and appearance of the space. It is likely that an exclusive feel will result in this park, which serves as the unofficial front yard and backyard for many Villagers. Washington Sq. Park’s location and its connectedness to the historic neighborhood surrounding it are central to the park’s appeal and one of the reasons that community interest in this park’s renovation has been so intense. It would be unfortunate to see a fence separate the park from the surrounding community, regardless of how attractively designed the fence may be.

Fortunately, members of the community will have the opportunity to express their concerns about the renovation plans at the May 10 hearing of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to be held at 1 Centre St., ninth floor, at 9:30 a.m. I am hopeful that many people will attend to ensure that our beloved park is renovated in a manner that closely mirrors the desires of the community and keeps Washington Sq. Park open and distinctive. It is becoming increasingly clear that the public nature of our public parks is being eroded by private investments and private contributions. While private support for our parks should be applauded, it should not be rewarded with undue influence over design and operation of our parks or trump the interests of the community at large.

Deborah J. Glick
Glick is assemblymember for the 66th District

Angered at designer’s dogma

To The Editor:
I was appalled to read George Vellonakis’s defamatory claim in the article written by Divya Watal (“He has designs on the square, and is showing them,” April 20) that a fence is needed around Washington Sq. Park, because, Vellonakis claims, that “In the summer, the park’s landscapes are destroyed at 2 a.m. and it’s the dog owners who do it....” I am one of the dog owners who regularly walk their dogs in Washington Sq. Park and I take great offense at this truly outrageous assertion.

Stacy Kaufman

No N.Y.U. park conspiracy

To The Editor:
Regarding the talking point “Park plans haven’t been squared away with community” in The Villager’s April 13 issue, I write to set the record straight with respect to New York University’s participation in the plan to renovate Washington Sq. Park.

I co-chair the Community Board 2 Task Force on Washington Sq. Park with Michael Haberman, who is the director of community relations and government affairs for N.Y.U. Over the past several years, the task force held numerous meetings with various community groups and elected officials; it was our hope to generate not only financial support, but community support as well, in order to fix up Washington Sq. Park, which has long suffered from neglect.

As one who has been directly involved with N.Y.U. from the beginning of this project, N.Y.U.’s commitment and involvement has been transparent and aboveboard at all times. In fact, George Vellonakis of the New York City Parks Department originated the park design and not N.Y.U.! Additionally, the current overall design is very similar to the plan that was originally shown to us at a public community forum held at Judson Church, several years ago.

Furthermore, since N.Y.U. surrounds the park, it has an immediate interest in it; I’m surprised that some people are criticizing the fact that N.Y.U. has made a $1 million contribution to the renovation. Since it has an institutional interest in Washington Sq. Park, it’s logical and appropriate for N.Y.U. to make a significant financial commitment and, in fact, the real question that we should be asking is why isn’t the university giving more money? In the future, I’m sure that it will. For that matter, to the extent that we’re able to, we all should be making financial contributions to the renovation plan; it’s a public park and it belongs to all of us.

There has been no conspiracy by N.Y.U. to influence the design of the park nor any scheme to “buy the park.” If there were, I would be the first to say so, having previously opposed it on issues such as building the Kimmel Center (ugh!) and fighting to preserve the Poe House during the construction of the new law school building. This is one of those delightful occasions where N.Y.U. is working with the community to improve and better our wonderful, historic Greenwich Village park.

Aubrey Lees

Critic worked well with N.Y.U.

To The Editor:
Re “Good luck, Bob, you’ll need it” (letter, By Martin Tessler, April 20):

We were surprised to see Marty Tessler underestimate the effectiveness of his tenure as the chairperson of Community Board 2’s Institutions Committee. In fact, we thought it was a very productive relationship. Just a few examples:

After he raised concerns about the impact of our Grad Alley event on local residents, we restructured the event, resulting in a community board resolution praising New York University’s efforts to minimize the impact of the event on the residents. When some other problems continued to surface, Grad Alley was moved off of the residential street to a location that should have a very minimal impact on residents.

When circumstances required Saturday work during the construction of the Kimmel Center, Marty worked out a compromise that allowed work on Saturdays but required that it start later in the morning and that only certain types of quieter work be done on Saturdays. This enabled N.Y.U. to move ahead with the project while minimizing the impact on residents.

When we announced plans for a new life-science facility on Waverly Pl., we reached out to Marty to alert him of the coming announcement. Although the project is “as of right,” we were happy to accommodate his request that we meet with his committee and community residents before design of the building begins so that community input can be heard. In a letter to N.Y.U. President John Sexton after the meeting, Marty wrote that he was “encouraged by the meeting.” He expressed his appreciation for the meeting in the very earliest stages of planning and said, “Significantly, this was the first time in the community board’s history in dealing with an N.Y.U. building project that we were not presented with a fait accompli regarding finalized building plans and design.” Indeed, The Villager commended N.Y.U. for reusing existing space for this new science facility, saying it is “welcome news.”

We wish Marty well and hope as he reflects on his tenure he will realize how effective he was. We also welcome Bob Rinaolo as chairperson of the committee and hope to have a productive working relationship with him as well.

Michael Haberman
Haberman is director, New York University department of government and community relations

She can’t dismiss N.Y.U. dis

To The Editor:
Re “And then there were two” (Scoopy’s Notebook, April 6):

I was astonished to read in the Scoopy’s column recently that Bob Rinaolo thinks Martin Tessler’s job on the Institutions Committee was only a “once in a while” situation where the Institutions Committee only met sporadically when a “situation” arose. But I was shocked to read that he felt there would be no problem with dealing with New York University because they have a system in place, namely the community and government relations department — Mike Haberman.

For four years, residents in the area of Greene St., Washington Pl., Waverly Pl. and Mercer St. have been trying to get N.Y.U. to at least listen to our complaints about many issues including Grad Alley, New York Is Book Country, emissions from the Brown Building, early morning street noise from N.Y.U. commercial tenants, N.Y.U. private carter garbage pickups, N.Y.U. construction, N.Y.U. commercial dumpster placement and retrieval under residents’ windows, the genome science building project, installation of loud machinery and air vents that are causing unbearable noise to tenants, frequent fire alarms and arrival of fire trucks at the Brown Building at all hours and on and on. Mr. Haberman not only refuses to talk to the representatives of the area block association or to the Institutions Committee, but flatly refused to attend the most recent airing of these quality of life issues at a meeting hosted by Councilmember Alan Gerson. His arrogance and bullheadedness are legend.

Martin Tessler has fought tooth and nail for the community, he has been a tremendous advocate for our rights and quality of life. It was because of Marty that the resolution was proposed and passed by the community board to urge Councilmember Gerson to take up our cause and arrange a public meeting to discuss the community complaints with N.Y.U. The meeting was cancelled once because of weather and then delayed because of conflicts of schedules and finally Gerson and Tessler faced the gathered attendees, a crowd of more than 60 residents, and explained that “N.Y.U. refused to come to the table.” Shame on N.Y.U.! We were all embarrassed for the slight to the councilmember, but deeply indebted to Martin Tessler for all his efforts on our behalf. We knew it would be his last community board effort to resolve residents’ complaints with N.Y.U. Everyone at the meeting was heard and Alan Gerson promised to make our area a model for his “livability offensive.”

We know there are solutions to the problems faced by residents in this area. There is really just no system in place at N.Y.U. for discussion and resolution. We hope Bob Rinalo confers with Marty Tessler before assuming these duties. We hope he will be as dedicated in his new endeavor as he has been on the Business Committee, and as effective as our advocate as was Marty Tessler.

Mary Johnson
Johnson is a member, Washington Pl. Block Association
Street Noise Committee

Free speech is O.K., if it’s free

To The Editor:
Re “Street artists and vendors aren’t sold on new bill” (news article, April 20):

In your very thorough report on the Intro. 621 hearing last month one thing that remains unclear, and was not made clear at the hearing, is that First Amendment activities are regulated only when the individual seeks to sell things. Under Intro. 621 there is no change in the regulation of First Amendment activities not associated with commercial activity.
Steve Strauss
Strauss is a consultant to the Times Square Alliance

Soho needs new vendor rules

To The Editor:
Since the devastating Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, our Police Department has done a wonderful job on protecting our security. But we in Soho now need additional police to support the new suggestions of City Councilmember Philip Reed, who wisely is launching the limiting of the street artists and vendors of our city.

The vendors have gotten a free ride to abuse our sidewalks with congestion, especially in Soho on Saturdays, particularly on W. Broadway and the narrow streets crossing W. Broadway, such as Prince, Spring and Broome Sts. The small, legitimate businesses are therefore greatly suffering, fighting them for the same space.

There is no limiting of First Amendment rights, since vendors selling their paintings, books, newspapers, DVD’s and food can continue selling, provided they attain legal licenses limiting them to three to one block.

The actual amounts of each category of vendors, whether they be fine artists or jewelry or clothes vendors, are to be determined upon further discussions, as is fingerprinting.

What a wonderful Spring Break!

Ann Soboloff

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