Volume 75, Number 5 | June 22- 28, 2005

Letters to the editor

Let’s move on at Union Sq.

To The Editor:
In response to Eadie Shanker and Carol Greitzer’s letters regarding the redesign of Union Sq.’s north end (“Union Sq. process still distasteful,” Shanker, June 8, and “Who cooked up pavilion changes?” Greitzer, June 8), Gail Fox, co-chairperson of Union Sq. Community Coalition, and I applaud their ability to devote themselves to the single issue that they so passionately care about, which is eliminating the concession in the pavilion (and increasing play space). Eadie’s choosing to create her own group to address this issue in the manner in which she felt was most effective is to be commended.

However, U.S.C.C. is not a one-issue organization. Gail and I, as volunteers, must devote our time wisely so that we can address the other important issues affecting the square, such as increasing pedestrian safety, traffic calming and controlling the out-of-control vendor situation on the southwest plaza.

Whom the Parks Department chooses to thank in The Villager article is certainly not in our control. However, Gail and I have consistently maintained, much to the disagreement of many of our members, that it is easier to change the plan by working with Parks and the Union Sq. Partnership, than against them. So now that the playspace has been increased dramatically, which was the original impetus for the plan, I would hope that most of us, including Eadie and Carol, who have been working so hard to improve Union Sq., will be very pleased. Let’s agree to agree this time and get on with getting the shovel in the ground for the new playground.

Susan Kramer
Kramer is co-chairperson, Union Sq. Community Coalition

The case for uppercasing E. E.

To The Editor:
Will someone inform Tyler Pray, who edited The Villager Community Handbook 2005, that E. E. Cummings always used capital letters when spelling his name.

The Villager’s letters to the editor recently featured a signed letter Cummings once sent to me, along with composer David Diamond’s quote that the Cummings family is furious when anyone lowercases his name. The latest edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia stopped making the mistake, possibly because of my complaint.
Pray on Pages 6 and 55 repeats the error, making one hope the handbook has been checked for factual errors.

Warren Allen Smith

No to ‘grassification’ and mold

To The Editor:
Dissent is rising against the Washington Sq. Park redesign being foisted on all Villagers, the dreadful plans for moving the fountain, the building of a fence and the ultimate “grassification.” I’ve seen Gramercy Park destroyed, cleared and prissed up; it’s been ruined. Villagers are ever and always “on the barricades.” We must remain vigilant. We cannot let this happen. We need to hang tough.

Not only is our Village green under attack, so too is another jewel. Our signature building, the 1874 Venetian gothic Jefferson Market Courthouse Library remains enshrouded with a scaffolding which has skirted the entire building for more than two winters. I’m told the city has not budgeted funds for repair and has no plans to do so. Aside from the dreadful appearance the sidewalk shed gives the building, it is actually harming this architectural treasure. The inherent message of neglect has encouraged vandalism and use as an outdoor toilet. With the addition of trapped moisture from snow and rain there is damage being done to the exterior of the building. Indoors the problems have become quite noticeable with a detectable odor of urine and mold. Imagine a mold infestation taking hold, the unimaginable costs to a building full of paper.

I find it ironic and horrible that the city wants to spend millions of dollars on a renovation of Washington Sq. Park that no one seems to want, while the symbol of Greenwich Village, the gothic treasure that is the Jefferson Market Courthouse Library sits and rots.

Margot Gayle saved the building years ago by saving the clock. The bell, too, was brought to life. Now we must save the building one more time. Demand action on the things we really want.

Cynthia Crane Story
Crane Story is president, Mulry Angle/W. 11th St. Block Association

Brando was wet, not crying

To The Editor:
A friend of mine from New York sent me Jerry Tallmer’s article on Marlon Brando (“Marlon Brando and the birth of American acting,” reflections, July 7, 2004). I was in the “Truckline Café” that Mr. Tallmer writes about. I was 26, Marlon 23.

The actress who told Mr. Tallmer about Marlon’s entrance (weeping) was incorrect. It was in Act III, after he has carried his wife into the Pacific area, and drowned her. He comes back in, soaking wet and physically and emotionally bereft.

In Baltimore, during previews, he broke a large table from fury. He used to stand backstage before that entrance, and the head prop man would empty buckets of water over him.

My scene was with Karl Malden. It was an episodic play, and all the characters did not necessarily interact with others.

Harold Clurman directed. He used to work with Marlon when others went to lunch. I used to stand in the back of the theater and watch. He had Marlon all the way upstage, saying: “I love you,” over and over, getting it OUT. I went up to Marlon one day at rehearsal and said: “Don’t mind when the director gives you notes, I think you’re really very good.” Oh, naivete!

Irene Dailey
Dailey, a highly regarded acting teacher, had a distinguished career on stage and in film from the 1940s into the 1980s, notably as the mother in Frank D. Gilroy’s Tony-winning “The Subject Was Roses.”

Crowded school is Dickensian

To The Editor:
Re “Soho student rampage” (police blotter, June 15):

For nearly 30 years I have maintained my Soho studio just up the street from Chelsea Vocational High School. In that period of time I have witnessed and experienced many incidents with the students from the school. Some were positive, many were not.

However, when one considers the conditions inside the school, it is not surprising this sort of thing occurs — it is surprising that it does not occur more often.

I invite anyone to please contact the principal of Chelsea Vocational, and make an appointment to walk through the building while class in session. Anyone who takes the time to do so will be shocked to see the dismal and totally out-of-date conditions in which these students are forced to try to shape their future. The building is not only an insult to the kids who go there, it is a disgrace to the city. It seems to me that if Charles Dickens were alive and writing — he would be doing his research at Chelsea Vocational High School.

One huge problem is that the school has no cafeteria or gathering place where the kids can hang out or exercise under supervision. Their gym is little more than four walls and two hoops. Without the appropriate gathering space, the kids are forced out of the confines of the school and directly into the flow of the neighborhood traffic, where they wander unchaperoned and uncontrolled. This is a failure in design of the school much more than it is a failure in the makeup of the kids.

If nothing is done to modify the school and provide these kids with a supervised space to eat and hang out, they will simply keep running the streets of Soho where mischief will continue to be a form of recreation.

It seems to me that the only way to improve the situation at Chelsea Vocational is to improve the school itself. If we will give the kids a break and provide them respectful learning conditions, we will give the local Soho neighborhood a much-needed break at the same time.

Lawrence White

Shades of Prohibition

To The Editor:
Regarding Allen Bortnick’s letter (“The war on drinks,” June) in response to my letter of May 18, all I can say is this is just what I’m talking about. Blame the bars for all the evil in the world. Mr. Bortnick, have you ever heard of Carrie Nation, the axe-wielding activist who used to go around attacking bars with axes? Her actions brought about Prohibition, which ushered in an era of speakeasies, bootleg gin and, of course, organized crime. When I hear people like you it makes me shudder. In addition to your fanatical ranting you twist my words. A well-run bar can add vitality and a safe haven to the community. They can serve as a gathering place for the community just as they have since the inception of the idea of a tavern. It gives locals a place to unwind and relax.  It can allow local artists and musicians an outlet for their art.

My own experience in helping to control the drug dealing on the street is not my solution to the drug problem as Mr. Bortnick so glibly states. It is however a fact that since Raven has opened on the corner of E. 12th St. and Avenue A in 1998, the incidence of dealing on that corner has sharply declined. Don’t believe me? Ask the officers of the Ninth Precinct (http://www.ninthprecinctcouncil.org/). And while you’re at it, you can ask the members of the 12th St. Block Association. Ask these people what they would rather have on their corner, a bodega that sold drugs or an honest business run by community-minded people.

Here’s the quote that really scares me: “No amount of toys and goodies can change the evil effects that alcohol has on people.” This is precisely the rhetoric that Ms. Nation would spew against the “demon alcohol.” To paint with such a broad brush does nothing to get at the truth. You can go ahead and blame all the ills of society on alcohol and I expect you, Mr. Bortnick, will not be happy until you see every bar on your street shuttered. We, in the hospitality industry will fight tooth and nail before we see a return to the days of Prohibition. As for the toys and goodies — every year our toy drive brings in more donations and every donation we get means a happier Christmas for some underprivileged child. I’m sorry, Mr. Bortnick, if this doesn’t fit in with your worldview of bars being the source of evil.

At last week’s bar owners meeting of the Ninth Police Precinct, Commanding Officer James McCarthy ran down a list of bars for whom he has received complaints over the past year. In a precinct with over 500 bars, only 13 bars were named. Not exactly an overwhelming amount of renegade bars. And most of the complaints cited noise coming from patrons forced outside because of the smoking ban, something I’m sure Mr. Bortnick applauds.

Substituting one addiction for another, eh? Get a clue, Mr. Bortnick. I’m not denying that alcoholism is a problem. I’m not saying drunks don’t get loud. But to say that every patron who enters every bar is an alcoholic and a raging drunk is the talk of a fanatic with no real concept of reality. And in this age of the nanny state, that kind of talk really scares me. What’s that I hear? The sound of axes being sharpened? Never underestimate the fanatic.

Harold Kramer
Kramer is co-owner, Raven Bar

Bicyclists are run amok

To The Editor:
We are all for the safety and benefits of biking but what about the safety of pedestrians when trying to cross streets and on sidewalks?! What about the liability when delivery people are the worst offenders?
Ron and Sue Elvena

Don’t forget Dorothy Day

To The Editor:
Re: “Housing of the holy: Church to be luxury residences” (news article, March 30):

Not to put too fine a point on it, but, in fact, Peter Maurin was not “the founder” of the Catholic Worker, but its co-founder, with Dorothy Day. Indeed, Maurin was not even on hand on the day this monthly journal of opinion came out, May Day 1933, because he and Dorothy disagreed on what to call the paper. Maurin wanted it to be called the Catholic Radical. Obviously, Dorothy got her way, she usually did.

The last time I was in St. Ann’s was for the memorial Mass for Marjorie Crowe Hughes a few years ago. She was a writer and was for many years part of the Catholic Worker. The Mass, sung in Latin, was beautiful.

John Stanley

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