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

The alliance strikes back: Says Times article was full of errors

By Ed Gold

A top officer of the Village Alliance charged last Thursday that The New York Times had printed a story about the business improvement district that was “not up to high school newspaper standards.”

Douglas Gross, the alliance’s vice president and general counsel, made his charge during the BID’s annual meeting, held at the Juan Carlos Center on Washington Sq. S., criticizing a Times article that decried allegedly poor conditions on Eighth St.

The Times article, which ran on May 1 in the Real Estate section, was headed: “Where Have All the Shoe Stores Gone?” and had suggested heavy Eighth St. store closings and ineffectual efforts by the alliance, which covers Eighth St., the Central Village area and part of St. Mark’s Pl.

Gross told the audience he had sent a critique of the May 1 article to the Times ombudsman but had not yet gotten a response.

Among the “irrefutable journalistic errors in the piece,” Gross cited:

• In indicating the sidewalks were too narrow, the article failed to mention the sidewalk widening three years ago, the replacement of standard parking meters with muni-meters and the planting of 60 trees.

• The claim that “landlords say they are making progress reinventing the block on their own,” implying that Norman Buchbinder was such a landlord, was misleading. In fact, Gross noted, Buchbinder was a founder of the BID and remains a strong supporter.

• On the issue of “empty stores,” the article claimed 12 had been closed between Fifth and Sixth Aves., while Gross said his count showed only eight. Honi Klein, the alliance’s executive director, then told the meeting that there were 12 vacancies in the entire BID area from St. Mark’s to Sixth Ave. out of 300 locations, representing an “acceptable 4 percent vacancy rate.”

• The article discussed the BID’s expansion proposal as requiring “final approval” from the Division of Business Assistance when, in fact, it must pass muster before the Department of City Planning and be approved by the City Council.

The BID’s expansion plan, to go up Sixth Ave. to 12th St., up University Pl. to 13th St., and up Broadway to 10th St., had been approved in April by Community Board 2, overturning rejection of the plan by C.B. 2’s Business Committee. The community board’s approval is advisory only.

Also, at the alliance annual meeting, there was a critical discussion of a continuing motorcycle problem between Fifth and Sixth Aves. The audience was told that as many as 50 or 60 motorcycles park in the roadbed, often creating excessive noise, some engaged in “exhibitionist behavior,” and not all having proper licenses, according to Lieutenant Michael Casey of the Sixth Precinct.

Councilmember Alan Gerson, also at the meeting, said patrolling the area was “very labor intensive,” and that he planned to contact “top brass at the Police Department” to insure the best possible surveillance at the site. He said pending legislation before the City Council could strengthen the noise code and codify rules concerning exhibitionist driving.

Klein, in her report at the meeting, noted a “pedestrian survey” had given the BID high marks for maintaining a safe environment. The survey also listed some favorable responses to shopping experiences, such as “eclectic, trendy, funky and diverse.”

An additional sign of economic health in the Eighth St. area, Klein contended, was the recent sale of a small one-bedroom apartment for $425,000.

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