Volume 75, Number 12 | August 10 - 16, 2005

Letters to the editor


Dude! Skater tickets outrageous

To The Editor:
Re “Skateboarder flips out over fines — $1,100! — in undercover bust” (news article, July 27):

I have been a skateboarder for about eight or nine years. I’ve had my fair share of tickets for skating and have gotten away from my fair share as well. I’ve taken flack from people, police and security and I have hassled them as well. It’s a never-ending struggle. What has happened to our society when it is not as important to stop the “happy heroin head” kids from panhandling all around Union Square? They pose an absolute danger to everybody who walks around there. Being disguised as “poor souls,” these kids come mostly from affluent families. Yet the Parks police do nothing about them. This is a high-traffic area where people of all different walks of life converge and mix in the “melting pot” that is the city.

How is it that undercover officers take the initiative to bust a 13-year-old kid skating in a public park? Not only did they scare the poor kid, they confiscated one of the only things he probably holds dear. Skateboarding take discipline, dedication and a pure love of that piece of wood under your feet. It’s a way of life to some and a sport to others. This kid wasn’t robbing people with his board. He wasn’t doing drugs with his board. He wasn’t causing danger to anyone with his board. He was just partaking in the joy of skateboarding. You take the good and you take the bad but this is beyond that point. To scare him by intimidation is wrong. I see four, if not more, of these so called “undercover officers” in the photo. Four, if not more, fully grown men imposing their will on a helpless 13-year-old boy.

The officers confiscated this boy’s board. They stripped him of his dignity and they threatened to handcuff him. To a 13-year-old boy, the thought of being put in jail with hardened criminals, drug addicts and just generally bad people is the worst feeling in the world. What could have been going through the officer’s mind when he did this? To instill fear in this boy’s heart for just being a kid and doing what he loves? And then to top all of this off, the Parks officer says he will give the board to his son. This is a gross misuse of his authority. He was implying theft of not only the board from this kid but of city evidence. This must be reported to the correct authorities. Who does this “toy cop” think he is? He will bust one kid for skating but he’ll turn around and hand his son an “instrument to break the law”? What kind of double standard are we teaching our children these days?

This is just some thoughts from one skater, irate over the misuse and misallocation of security, authority and general well-being of this great city I’ve called home for the past 28 years. I hope you follow through with this story.
 
Jack D. Fruchtman


What nincomPEP’s!

To The Editor:
Re “Skateboarder flips out over fines — $1,100! — in undercover bust” (news article, July 27):

Great use of resources! Parks department and PEP officers ought to be really proud of themselves!

I think they should be fined and their badges confiscated.

Mark Calder


Reporter not ready for revolution

To The Editor:
“Puerto Rican punk rockers ricanstruct the revolution” (news article, July 27):

It was with great appreciation that I began to read Ronda Kaysen’s article on the Ricanstruction anarchist collective. I am familiar with the collective and it is invariably good to see others take note of their work. This appreciation was soon clouded by missteps and errors that I found throughout Ms. Kaysen’s piece.

This cloud cover begins in the article’s opening line. It is here that Kaysen laments that “The anarchists can’t keep a schedule.” She goes on to justify this sentence by noting that the Ricanstruction benefit for St. Brigid’s was first delayed and then cancelled and that the showing of collective member Vagabond’s film “Machetero” began an hour later than scheduled. While Kaysen does note that the benefit performance was delayed and then postponed due to inclement weather, a circumstance clearly beyond anyone’s control, it is puzzling that she has made the choice to include this. Is she perhaps intent on pushing an agenda of anarchism as a culture of slack? That a ragtag group of anarchists who lack the ability to run on schedule have no hope in hell in organizing any collective act, and certainly not a revolution?

What would be the case if Ms. Kaysen had been assigned to cover, oh, let’s just use as an example, a day of workshops organized by and for single working-class mothers to educate and inform about resources available to them. And let’s just say that one or two workshops were late in getting started. Would Ms. Kaysen have then opened her article with, “Single, working-class mothers can’t keep a schedule”? Would her editors have allowed the article to go to print as such? Why, or, why not?

I am also offended at most and dismayed at the least by Ms. Kaysen’s writing there was “not an anarchist in sight.” It is doubtful that the St. Brigid’s audience, had the event not been cancelled, might have found itself limited to anarchists. If Ms. Kaysen had made an attempt at even the most perfunctory of research, she would know that the work of Ricanstruction is wide and far reaching with a scale that measures beyond anarchist thought to impact a panorama of social justice activists and artists.

It is disappointing to see that Ms. Kaysen dismisses “Machetero” in one short sentence as “a preachy agit-prop music video.” If it is the case that this writer is not capable of at least a minimum of film critique ability, why in the world is The Villager trotting her off on assignments that she has no qualification for? And, of all comments offered on “Machetero,” why has she chosen to use one so negative? Surely, some positive comment must have come from the audience of 300. Further, I find it dangerously irresponsible to list the clandestine activities of the nationalist Macheteros without providing at least a brief summary regarding the limited choices left for the group to make.

While I am not privy to the actual interview with Vagabond or Not4Prophet, I am left to wonder if some of its language, particularly the “T” word — terrorist — is used here without complete context in an effort to sensationalize rather that to inform. If this is the case, it is of course most unfortunate that this article has slanted as it has without the benefit of worthy analysis. Perhaps if Ms. Kaysen were to be as diligent in getting to the heart of what is newsworthy as she has been here in reporting such trivial minutia as the physique, dietary habits, facial attributes and personal hair-style choices of Not4Prophet and Vagabond, The Villager may soon find that it has a journalist of real substance in its midst.

Marlena Gangi


More cool, less clatter, at night

To The Editor:
Re: “We love the nightlife” (letter, by Andrew Fox, July 27)

Nightlife can be fun. We are delighted to call many fine nightlife establishments and their responsible operators our good neighbors. Then there are the other nightlife venues. Like ill-natured children, they blare noise around themselves to attract attention, because they don’t have the “real goods” to attract a substantial clientele without screaming. They are not welcome in our neighborhood, because they are bad commercial neighbors. They operate like bullies. Who wants to live next to a bully?

Andrew Fox adds his billboards to the bully mix, which his company, Clubplanet.com, is increasingly peppering around our neighborhood. He wants to add more. He claims the billboards are really there to support the nightlife industry and the Greenwich Village community. Oh, come on. They are supporting his company. Clearly this is public-relations speak and spin control to make the growing eyesore of billboards “digestible.” Billboards, like loud nightclubs, are not what make Greenwich Village great. They are visual clatter, adding to the din that detracts from a nightlife scene that celebrates what tourists come to the Village for in the first place — an art and music scene that is the epitome of cool.

Sharon Sullivan
Sullivan is president, Central Village Block Association 


Department dissembles

To The Editor:
Re “Out-of-school slots first thought lost are restored” (news article, July 27):

I need to let you know you have gotten the out-of-school slots story completely wrong.

There has been no return of the lost seats.

As it stands now, the Chinese American Planning Council is closing four after-school centers and cutting back slots in two others for a total of 450 slots lost.

While the Department of Youth and Community Development may have made some type of promise at the meeting, they really didn’t promise to restore anything. Ask the Chinese American Planning Council. There is no change in funding for them come Sept. 1.

If you listened carefully to what was said at the meeting, here’s what D.Y.C.D. really said: They will restore 250 seats in Lower Manhattan, not in Chinatown.

I urge you to ask D.Y.C.D. specific questions: Will the Chinese American Planning Council be able to reopen those four centers? Will they have all 450 slots restored? Where will those children receive after-school activities? You will find the answers to be: No, No and Who knows?

Thank you for addressing the issue. I just wish you got the story right. This is a terrible disservice to the community.

Richard Relkin
Relkin is director of public relations, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators


Profile did Cooper proud

To The Editor:
Re “Cooper graduate follows where his art leads him” (news article, June 13):

It was wonderful seeing a Cooper student featured in The Villager, and Cooper featured in the headline. Despite my enormous pride in my alma mater, I must admit that all students at The Curtis Institute of Music also receive full-tuition scholarships. A Google search reveals that Berea College does this as well, and I think there’s a military school that does, or used to, also.

By the way, like The Villager (and The New York Times), The Cooper Union should always be referred to with the “The,” or else as just Cooper (despite some of its own publications). This comes from the fact that it’s original name was The Union. Its full name is actually The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

My father also went to Cooper, and I suspect one of my two children will, as well. As you point out, it is harder to get into than Harvard, and the alumni support (percentage-wise) is up there, as well. The end-of-year student exhibition was just spectacular this year, and I’m sure everyone is aware of the important events that take place in The Great Hall. I’ve had my music performed there four times, I think. Cooper was the first college in the U.S. to have two Tau Beta Pi laureates, and I’m one of them.

Barry Drogin


Save V.A. from Bush

To The Editor:
I am an outpatient of the V.A. hospital at 423 E. 23 St. and have been for decades; served in the E.T.O., 1941-’45. I know they’re cutting back services so they can say the hospital is underutilized. If they don’t offer services for those who served, why should anyone go that that big building? They’re getting ready to dump us. N.Y.U.’s College of Dentistry has installed their library in the second floor. Send in a reporter; ask how many patients thay have today and how many they had 20 years ago. You’ll find it’s a quarter of the number. I’m over there every week. I see all the young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans standing in front of me or behind me in lines to the several clinics. They are determined to close it up. Some of us collected signatures all last summer to try to keep it open and City Councilmember Margarita Lopez was with us 100 percent, and we’re grateful. It’s the only V.A. hospital in Manhattan.

Bush demands that Congress pass a budget that cuts back on U.S.A. war veterans’ benefits! How dare he! He’s a disgrace to the human race. He has given fulsome tax breaks to his pals and playmates, the war profiteers, who are at the same time the oppressor/exploiters of the entire deliberately deprived class here in the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. He and his are actively working on the dismantling of the New Deal, what’s left of it, after Bill Clinton declared the End of Welfare as We Know It, to the cheers of the reactionaries! I thought I’d digested that by this time but I haven’t.

John Stanely


Chinatown democracy

To The Editor:
After 150 years of painful struggle, the beginning steps of Asian-American mainstreaming are finally moving forward. Just a few months ago, there were two significant events happening in Chinatown: Democratic mayoral candidates’ debate and a joint press conference by the governor and mayor. It is amazingly puzzling that the two events occurred only 24 days apart. Without the Democratic debate, would the Republican press conference ever have been held in Chinatown? Apparently, the dynamics of competitive democracy is exceptionally productive during the election year.

The full presence of the four candidates: former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Congressman Anthony Weiner, with 450 audience members packing the auditorium of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association was quite a phenomenal event in Asian-American history. The debate was monitored by Sandra Endo, political reporter of New York 1 news television, with the full 90 minutes recorded. And the debate was sponsored by C.C.B.A., established 105 years ago, and Chinese American Voters Federation, established a year ago and composed of 83 community groups.

With Chinatown’s diversity, it’s a daunting task to achieve any consensus among immigrants from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia with their differences in custom, dialects, religion, etc. The precipitating factor is the tragic disaster of Sept. 11, 2001. Only 10 blocks away, it has caused a devastating impact on Chinatown in terms of transportation, business, job loss, respiratory disease, etc. The community has not yet fully recovered even after 3 1/2 years, with estimated losses at $450 million. Finally, Chinatown received $32 million of the last $800 million funding of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (initially funded with $21 billion), announced in the press conference given jointly by Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg in Chinatown.

Since the 9/11 disaster, the Chinatown community has been becoming more vocal and participatory, such as in massive protests against the M.T.A.’s closing of the Grand St. D train station — which reopened in two years instead of four — protests against most Chinatown parking spaces being occupied by government workers, calls for traffic and pedestrian safety improvements, affordable housing and an art performance center, and the restoration of small businesses, restaurants, garment factories, etc.

In the past year, there have been several small blessings in Chinatown, such as Speaker Miller’s approval of $250,00 for building a Chinatown arch with estimated cost at $1.5 million; Councilman Gerson’s obtaining $150,000 for a feasibility study of an art performance center with a cost of $60 million; Mayor Bloomberg’s approving $2 million for a hepatitis B project; and the partial reopening of Park Row, closed since 9/11 for the security of Police Headquarters.

Hopefully, Asian-American community democracy will continue to flourish through dialoguing, participation, voting, volunteering and healing.

Edward Ma
Ma is a member of Community Board 2


Myopia of ‘art experts’

To The Editor:
Re “Plaint doesn’t wash” (letter, by Lawrence White, July 20):

Larry White’s latest attack on street artists’ rights is typical of the myopic ideas promoted by his Gerson-sponsored front group, the Soho International Artists’ Cooperative. Promoting permits, licenses and new restrictions on artists; arbitrarily limiting the definition of art; and labeling other artists as “not an artist” is what Larry does in between calls for a new police crackdown on all vendors.

Recently, his five-member group had an attorney submit a letter to the City Council asking for a permit system like the one in San Francisco to be imposed on all New York City street artists. You can read their letter at our Web site, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nycstreetartists/.

Larry wants his group to be appointed by Councilmember Gerson and Parks Commissioner Benepe as the “experts” who will decide who is or is not a sufficiently “qualified” artist permitted to sell on the street.

When Larry selectively quotes from “Bery et al v City of New York/Lederman et al v City of New York” his motivation is neither to help artists with their vending problems nor to seriously address the complex issue of what is art. It’s simply about eliminating competition for his art sales.

As a photographer, Larry should know that his own medium, photography, was not considered “art” for many decades and is still banned from many outdoor art shows, galleries and competitions. In today’s art world, digital works, performance art and new mediums of all types are used by real artists to express their ideas and opinions. The New York Times recently had an article on an artist who left a faucet running in a gallery for one year as a “work of art.”

In the example at hand, if an artist carved a bar of soap into a sculpture or imprinted it with a political message or used it as part of a religious ritual or in a political parody, such “soap objects” would be considered sculptural art under the Federal Court rulings won by the A.R.T.IS.T. group. They’d also be considered copyright-protected by the Library of Congress. They might even make their way into the collection of an art museum and hang next to one of Larry’s photos.

The same federal ruling Larry quotes stated:

“The City apparently looks upon visual art as mere ‘merchandise’ lacking in communicative concepts or ideas. Both the [lower] court and the City demonstrate an unduly restricted view of the First Amendment and of visual art itself. Such myopic vision not only overlooks case law central to First Amendment jurisprudence but fundamentally misperceives the essence of visual communication and artistic expression.”

For the record, I do not personally find soap to be a form of art. Fortunately for New York City’s artists, I am not trying to place myself in the position of being the authority who gets to decide who is or is not qualified to be an artist. Unlike Larry White — who stridently opposed every lawsuit, protest and legal action brought by the group that won him his rights — I believe artists need no one’s approval or permission to be “qualified” as an artist. Not mine, not the mayor’s and most definitely not Larry White’s.

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



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