Volume 74, Number 53 | May 11 - 17 , 2005

Letters to the editor

Businesses are community, too

To The Editor:

As I read your coverage of the race for chairperson of Community Board 2, as well as some other recent articles about C.B. 2, I am discouraged to see you continue to characterize battles between “the community” and “business owners” as if they are separate and distinct entities that are at odds with each other.

The Villager should know, as a business and a member of the Chamber of Commerce itself, that businesses are one constituency that comprises this wonderful community. Our businesses are the places where we eat our meals, buy our groceries, do our dry cleaning and get our shoes fixed. They are the people who clean the sidewalks, donate to local nonprofit organizations and support community improvement projects. And they are the people who cut our children’s hair, brighten our days with fresh flowers and tailor our clothes just right for that special occasion.

To top it all off, this neighborhood is especially lucky to have so many business owners who not only make a living here but also make their homes and raise their families right here in the community.

Let’s not create false divisions between “community” and “business.”

Bob Zuckerman
Zuckerman is executive director, Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce

17 stories is still a ‘blockbuster’

To The Editor:

Re “Charles St. developer says he won’t go for the max” (news article, May 4):

The development being contemplated for the warehouse at 150-160 Charles St./303 W. 10th St. is exactly why the city needs to act now on the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s proposal for landmarking and downzoning the Far West Village and Greenwich Village waterfront.

Whether 17 stories or over 30, virtually any development utilizing the full bulk allowed under the existing zoning for this site will be a blockbuster of the worst sort, completely overwhelming the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Under plans G.V.S.H.P. and scores of community groups and neighbors have been fighting for, the site would be part of a historic district that includes all of the unprotected historic buildings of the Far West Village and Greenwich Village waterfront, and the zoning would be brought down to ensure that any new development was limited to a height and scale appropriate to the neighborhood and similar to what is there now.

The time is now for the city to act, and for the developer to honor the strongly held wishes of this community. Scores of residents will be joining a march to save the Far West Village this Sat., May 14, at 12:30 p.m., meeting at West and W. 12th Sts., the site of Related’s planned super-sized development at the Superior Ink site, and marching down to the site of the warehouse at Charles and W. 10th Sts. For more information or to help, go to www.gvshp.org/SuperiorInkScans.htm, or call 212-475-9585 ext. 38.

Andrew Berman
Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Glick’s position is indefensible

To The Editor:

I write in response to Deborah Glick’s letter (“Glick finds park fence offensive,” May 4) regarding the fence that is included in the design for the restoration and renovation of Washington Sq. Park. While in general I am an admirer of Ms. Glick, I think her concerns that the fence will “detract from the park’s connectedness to its urban setting” and will make the park feel “exclusive” are way off base. As she herself notes, the park is the centerpiece of a historic neighborhood. The fence will help restore the historic character of the park, and it will certainly not be high enough to make the park feel walled-off or private. Indeed, it will not be high enough to actually keep out anyone who is determined to get in after it is closed, but it will make it easier to enforce closing hours, which will be a benefit to the entire surrounding neighborhood.

The design for the fence is beautiful and deliberately based on the fence designs of the majestic row houses along Washington Sq. N. as well as the fence around the park itself in historic photographs dating from the 1850s.

Far from “separat[ing] the park from the surrounding community,” I believe the new fence will quickly come to feel as though it had been there all along, as indeed it might have been had the historic fence been maintained. I, for one, am thrilled that the planned restoration and renovation might actually take place, fence and all, and I look forward to using the park with even greater pleasure along with my fellow Villagers after it is completed.

Katherine W. Schoonover
Schoonover is a trustee, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Poe House, park, preservation

To The Editor:

First, I’d like to thank Rachael Cornetta for her letter lamenting the destruction of the Poe House (“Beloved bug eaten by monster,” April 27). For those of us who fought so long and hard to save that historic building, it’s nice to know that others miss it as much as we do.

I’d also like to comment on Aubrey Lees’s letter regarding George Vellonakis’s plans for Washington Sq. Park (“No N.Y.U. park conspiracy,” May 4). Just as Aubrey says, the plans — fence and all — were revealed a couple of years ago at a community meeting held to discuss ways the park could be upgraded and refurbished. I was one of the attendees at that meeting and I well remember seeing the drawings. Much has been said lately about New York University’s influence on the current renovation plans. While I’d be the first person to suspect any hint of N.Y.U. intrigue in matters concerning the park, I feel sure that for once (and this may be the one and only “once”), this isn’t the case.

Certainly, residents are concerned about the park, but let’s not lose sight of more important issues in all this infighting about who gets what and what goes where. After all, if something is done to the park the community doesn’t like, it can always be changed. Fences can be taken down, and trees, foliage and benches can be moved. The park itself lies within the Greenwich Village Landmark Historic District — it is not going to be irrevocably destroyed.

That’s not the case with our unprotected historic buildings — once they’re gone, they’re gone. And not only are they gone, but they’re likely to be replaced with big, ugly, out-of-scale monstrosities. We still have two big chunks of the Village that are not landmarked — the Hudson River waterfront and the area south of Washington Sq. What does it matter if we have the park but not the Village as we know and love it? Let’s put aside the differences and put our energies behind the efforts to protect these precious areas, so that we will — to quote a famous writer from the neighborhood — nevermore have to mourn the loss of an historic building like the Poe House.

Marilyn Stults
Stults was a member of the former Save Poe/Save Judson Coalition

Hoping for Avenue A fair

To The Editor:

Re “Mayor’s Office rejects HOWL! Avenue A street fair” (news article, May 4):

We were not aware that Mildred Duran, who has always been a great friend of the Federation of East Village Artists, had made a final decision on the street fair. As the city’s biggest indigenous street fair, with all-local vendors, all-local artists and all-local craftspeople, we’d love to be able to use Avenue A for our celebration of the East Village. This year we were planning on collaborating with the Boys’ Club, and also bringing back the Japanese Cultural Festival that for nine years thrived in the neighborhood.

We’re still hoping the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit will reconsider and recognize the significant support that HOWL! has from the community: from the Police Department to the community board to the local residents. It’s time that the city alters its attitude and differentiates generic sox-and-sausage street fairs from those that preserve and promote a neighborhood’s unique cultural identity.

Phil Hartman
Hartman is founder and executive director, Federation of East Village Artists and the HOWL! festival

Mekas and Marchand

To The Editor:

Re “A lifetime of cutting-edge filmmaking” (arts article, March 20):

An item on the Internet was brought to my attention in which there is a brief mention of a film in progress by Virginie Marchand, “Opera Epileptique Buto.” I would like to correct a couple of mistakes that appear in the item, and give you more information about the film and the filmmaker, Virginie Marchand.

First, the Internet item credits the film to me; Virginie Marchand is credited as the “principal dancer.” It also refers to The Villager as the source of that information. I want to make here a very essential correction. It’s Virginie Marchand who is the conceiver and the director of the film. I am only one of the camermen. Another correction: Miss Marchand is not the “principal” dancer: she is the sole dancer in the film. She is the film. The film is really conceived around her very personal, her own variation of buto dance that she had developed in Paris. Her interest in buto may be connected unconsciously to her growing up as a child in Japan. During the last few months, she came here to edit her first feature, “The Sun” (temporary title), which she shot a summer ago in Brooklyn, and to prepare for release of her five earlier shorter films, which will open at Anthology Film Archives in November under the title “Faith.” During this time, I was fortunate to become her camerman for “Opera Epileptique Buto” (temporary title; other possible title is “Karaoke Epileptique Buto”). We have shot so far some 20 hours of film. Filming will continue through the rest of the year in New York, Venice, Japan and possibly India. The reference to epilepsy in the title is not a poetic invention: Miss Marchand is epileptic.

This is not time yet to talk in more detail about the film. All I can tell you is that I have seen and filmed a lot of dance before. And I have seen Martha Graham. But I have seldom seen such intensity. It has been a revelation and a re-learning for me about what dance can rally be when it really happens, when it’s really real.

The Internet item also mentions the key buto dancer of Japan, Kazuo Ohno. But the name on the Internet is misspelled. The correct name is Kazuo Ohno. And he is not 90. He is 100 this year and he is still dancing. Peter Sempel, from Hamburg, made a feature film on him in 1991, “Just Visiting This Planet.”

I was prompted to write this little note on Virginie Marchand and her buto film from pain and embarrassment to see that my name, because of my notoriousness (not fame), became a cause to take away the credit of real authorship from a very original new filmmaker, the most original new filmmaker that I have seen coming into cinema since whom? Since Harmony Korine. But please do not mix these two, Virginie Marchand and Harmony Korine. I admire them both. But they are as different from each other as the sun and the moon. But they are both there.

P.S., “I Killed Myself All Night Long, Jonas Please Lend Me a Bicycle To Become Famous,” a film by Virginie Marchand and Jonas Mekas, will premiere at the Bicycle Film Festival, Fri., May 13, at Anthology Film Archives.

Jonas Mekas

Critical of Critical Mass

To The Editor:

Re “Critical Mass tries new tactics, but not the police” (news article, May 4):

I am tired; tired of the helicopters; tired of the sirens; tired of law-breaking bicyclists disrupting my neighborhood and wasting precious police resources every month. Whatever sympathy I had for their cause has long since vanished.

Paul K. Piccone
Keeps politics private

To The Editor:

Re “C.B. 2 race is knockdown, drag-out, bar/political fight” (news article, April 27):

As he fished the stormy seas of community board politics for a reason why I was not reappointed to Community Board 2, Lincoln Anderson incorrectly reported that I am supporting Gifford Miller for mayor.

Ten years ago, I joined with others from Downtown United Soccer Club and Greenwich Village Little League to found P3, the Pier Park & Playground Association, a nonprofit group seeking to enhance opportunities for children to play sports. Our main goal was to build the fields at Pier 40. P3 does not get involved in electoral politics, so as its spokesperson, I have also refrained from taking sides. My only involvement in electoral politics is in the privacy of the voting booth, and except at home I do not even discuss which levers I pull.

Not taking sides, however, does not mean we do not appreciate the support we have had from all our local elected officials. P3 has had many important friends in pursuing our goals, but we have had none better than Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. With Councilmember Christine Quinn, she funded the reconstruction of J.J. Walker Park, and later Brad Sussman from her office worked hard to persuade the Parks Department to correct a drainage problem there. Fields provided an annual grant to support P3 programs at Pier 40, and she was an unwavering supporter of the Pier 40 fields project. Her support has been critical to our every success.

Eight years ago, my involvement in parks and waterfront issues landed me a seat on Community Board 2. I have enjoyed the opportunity to participate with this group of 50 volunteers, the official voice of our community in city government. I was reappointed to the board three times by Virginia Fields. Her decision to appoint someone else to my seat this year has no bearing on her fine record in support of youth sports and parks or on the strength of our continuing friendship. We hope and trust we will have her support for worthy projects as we continue to press for improved opportunities for children to play sports.

I am personally disappointed that I was not reappointed because I enjoyed my work on the board, and I am very appreciative that the board passed a resolution supporting the work I have done and that Christine Quinn has submitted me as one of her allotted recommendations for appointment. I hope to be back soon.

Tobi Bergman

Koch doesn’t translate

To The Editor:

Re “The Interpreter” (Koch on Film, May 4):

So Ed Koch is now a film critic?


Although there’s certainly ample room for disagreement about any film, Koch’s unrelenting negativity borders on the perverse. Among professional critics, those largely unimpressed with the film could point to a host of redeeming qualities. It’s as if Koch was determined to ignore all of them. In fact, one can’t help the feeling that a more personal animus informed Koch’s perfunctory review.

James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert: now those are bona fide film critics (who, incidentally, loved “The Interpreter”). Why waste your time with Koch when you can get their reviews in syndication instead?

Deborah Diamond-Kim

Will still talk on porn

To The Editor:

Re “City wins round in court on closing holes in porn law” (news article, April 20):

It has come to my attention that members of the Greenwich Village Block Associations think that I told reporter Al Amateau of The Villager that I am currently chairperson of the G.V.B.A. Porn Task Force. In fact, I said, as clearly as I could, that I “had been” chairperson, but no longer am.

Al Amateu got the essence of what I said correct, but did not correctly pick up my nuanced use of the past perfect. It’s understandable, as Al was at a meeting at which I announced my chairpersonship, and perhaps Kate Seely-Kirk, who hooked us up, is not aware of my resignation.

I am still extremely interested in the progress of the litigation, and the possibility of enhancing the law once the litigation is finally determined. As one who has surveyed most local porn shops, and understands the law, and remains an officer of my block association, I claim the right and the expertise to speak on the issue. And will continue to do so.

Alan J. Jacobs

License is a restraint

To The Editor:

Re “Free speech is O.K., if it’s free” (letter, by Steve Strauss, May 4):

It’s a shame so few people, be they artists, business improvement district managers, elected officials, judges or reporters understand the real nature of free speech. The First Amendment protects the sale of art, not just its display. That’s why over the past decade A.R.T.I.S.T. won every lawsuit we brought about the sale of art on public streets and in New York City parks. Similarly, in matters of free speech, a license or a permit or a requirement to register with the government before being allowed to sell your art is considered a prior restraint on freedom of speech. Seven different state and federal courts have ruled that New York City street artists need no license or permit, yet New York City officials keep trying to satisfy the unconstitutional demands of real estate interests large (The Times Sq. BID) and small (the Soho Alliance) to restrict the free speech rights of artists. Intro. 621 is blatantly in violation of legal precedents on free speech. The Times Sq BID consultant, Mr. Strauss, is also wrong about Intro. 621 presenting no threat to noncommercial speech. Intro. 621 eliminates the written-matter exemption so completely that, if it were to pass, even the free distribution of a leaflet would require a license.

Intro. 621 grossly violates both the U.S. and the New York State Constitution, which has even more protection for free speech than the U.S. Constitution.

Article I Section 8 New York State Constitution S 8. Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; and no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.

What part of “...no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech...” are the longtime opponents of street artists’ rights so completely unable to comprehend?

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

Court protects artists

To The Editor:

Re “Free speech is O.K., if it’s free” (letter, by Steve Strauss, May 4):

Mr. Strauss’s letter displays a very convenient ignorance of the courts’ rulings on First Amendment “selling” in public spaces and the need for an artist to get a license or permit to do so. This incredible lack of knowledge of the law by those in positions of authority, such as Mr. Strauss, has actually made the problems with overcrowding on the city sidewalks much worse.

I have pasted the crucial passage in verbatim quote from the Bery decision below for Mr. Strauss and others to research.

“Displaying art on the street has a different expressive purpose than gallery or museum shows; it reaches people who might not choose to go into a gallery or museum or who might feel excluded or alienated from these forums.

“The public display and sale of artwork is a form of communication between the artist and the public not possible in the enclosed, separated spaces of galleries and museums.... The City further argues that appellants are free to display their artwork publicly without a license, they simply cannot sell it. These arguments must fail. The sale of protected materials is also protected.” United States Court of Appeals for The Second Circuit Nos. 1620, 1621, 1782 August Term 1995

If Mr. Strauss would like to find out what he is talking about, the entire court’s decision is available at: http://www.openair.org/alerts/artist/ny2cir.html.

One quick reading of the court’s ruling will immediately show that selling of art in public is a form of protected expressive communication between the artist and the public and therefore requires no permit or license.

If Mr. Strauss would simply familiarize himself with the law instead of stating it as he wishes it was, we might be able to finally resolve some of the issues before us. However, the letters from Mr. Strauss and Ann Soboloff in your last issue indicate that knowledge of the facts is just not a priority for either of them. Getting rid of public artists is.

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

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