Volume 75, Number 14 | August 24 - 30, 2005

Letters to the editor

Candidates’ last call on bars

To The Editors:
Among the several important City Council election issues, a new one has emerged in the fray: the proliferation of bars in our neighborhood. All the candidates have spoken out on it, some have even promised to refuse campaign donations from bars, and now the allegation that a candidate has accepted money from a bar owner has become the fresh dirt that candidates fling at one another (“Shots are traded, but not counted, in East Village political bar brawl,” news article, July 6). The bar issue has arrived.

And not without reason. Bars have transformed this residential neighborhood dramatically. Small businesses that served local residents have been forced out of their storefronts unable to meet high commercial rents that landlords know bars can afford. And since new bars often attract their clientele from outside the neighborhood, there is no local market cap on their number or viability. New bars attract nonlocal patrons, those patrons attract more outsiders and more new bars pop up side by side on the avenues to meet the boundless demand as the entire neighborhood becomes a scene — a lively scene, but also noisy, congested, sometimes rowdy and generally alien to our community.

Neighborhoods thrive on responsible development and bars are a useful part of that development. But the Lower East Side bar scene has gotten out of hand. It is forcing on us an unbalanced, nonlocal and precarious economic base that compromises the quality of life for residents and depreciates the business value of current bars. Our neighborhood — residents and businesses and bar owners alike — needs a cap on the number of bars per block.

Currently the State Liquor Authority awards liquor licenses to bars in New York City without regard for local economic diversity or residential quality of life. These local concerns should lie within the purview of local governance, not an unaccountable state authority. To return local concerns to local governance, we ask every City Council candidate to take a clear stand — in writing, in these pages — on developing new City Council zoning laws to restrict the proliferation of bars in the Lower East Side, promote economic diversity and preserve the quality of residential life.

The bar problem may not seem as deep an issue as affordable housing or quality education, but it is an issue that affects residents personally and immediately, the kind of issue that brings residents to the voting booth.

Our neighborhood, long prized for its diversity of peoples, cultures and arts, has faced many challenges over the years: rampant poverty, homelessness, violence and drugs have been replaced with rampant gentrification, displacement of long-term residents and businesses and now a bar scene out of control. Isn’t it time we took in hand the future of our neighborhood? City Council candidates, where do you stand on zoning limits for new bars in the Lower East Side?

Alyssa Adams, 11th St. Block Association; Mark Alhadeff, Oceans-7 Development Corporation, 11th St. Block Association; Kyle Baker and Elizabeth Glass, parents of three, L.E.S. residents next to a backyard bar; Lauren Barnes, 9th St. A-1 Block Association; Sherry Bender, P.T., resident next to a bar with a C.B. 3-disapproved license; Deb Brindis, 11th St. Block Association; Ed Cahill, L.E.S. resident of 23 years, 11th St. Block Association; Eve Cusson, board of directors member, Village East Towers Inc., Ninth Precinct Community Council member, concerned neighborhood resident of 36 years; Stephen De Piero, 9th St. A-1 Block Association; Eric Ferrara, East Village Community Media, Inc.; Eden Fromberg, OB/GYN, L.E.S. resident, bedroom overlooking a backyard bar; Rob Hollander, Ph.D., 11th St. Block Association, L.E.S. Residents for Responsible Development (LESRRD); Susan Howard, Norfolk St. Block Association; Rev. Marian Hutchins and Rev. Perry Hutchins, The Father’s Heart Church; Rafael Jaquez, 11th St. Block Association; Sarah Johnson, 9th St. A-1 Block Association; Bill Klayer, 9th St. A-1 Block Association; James Kloiber, Eldridge St. Block Association; Jackson Krall, 9th Street A-1 Block Association; Kate Kubert, 9th St. A-1 Block Association; Jonathan Leonard, 11th St. Block Association; Matt and Ellen Marello, E. 11th St. residents; Rev. Eleni Marudis; Jane McNichol, 11th St. Block Association, board member 534 E. 11th St. H.D.F.C.; Eve E. Monroe, 11th St. lawyer and resident; Rebecca Moore, L.O.C.O. (Ludlow-Orchard Community Organization); Daniel Nauke, artist, 11th St. 1st-A Block Association; Alice O’Malley, founding member, Ludlow Block Association; Jerry Orter, chairperson, E. Fifth St. Block Association; Kenny Petricig, 11th St. ABC Block Association; Hugh Sinclair, parent, 11th St. Block Association; David Straube, Eldridge St. Block Association; Steve Taras, 11th St. Block Association; Matt Townsend, Orchard St. resident; Rev. Carol Vedral, executive director, The Father’s Heart Ministries; Rev. Charles Vedral, senior pastor, The Father’s Heart Church, president/C.E.O., The Father’s Heart Ministries; Patrick Walsh, founder, Lower East Side Residents Coalition; Kevin Walter, Essex St. resident; Laura Ward, artistic director, Octavia Cup Dance Theatre, L.E.S. resident; Judith Zaborowski, coordinator, 9th St. A-1 Block Association, resident 33 years.

Finally, focusing on billboards

To The Editor:
Re “Duane and Stringer call for buildings to shed ads” (news article, Aug. 17):

I wanted to express my great appreciation to Assemblymember Scott Stringer and State Senator Tom Duane for taking on the issue of illegal scaffoldings and billboards.  A few months ago, in my capacity as a member of Community Board 2, I brought up the problem of a troublesome scaffolding/billboard on the northwest corner of Hudson and Christopher Sts. at a full board meeting and was told to call 311. If this is the best action I can take as a member of a community board, I can only imagine the frustration of my fellow New Yorkers must feel. Despite calling the mayor’s highly suspect, catchall complaint line several times, nothing was done. I suspect now that the efforts of Mr. Stringer and Mr. Duane are focused on the removal of these illegal scaffoldings, we might finally get something accomplished.
Chad Marlow
Marlow is executive principal advocate of the Public Advocacy Group 

Moving fast on movie theater

To The Editor:
Re “Coming soon to the Market...then again, maybe not” (news article, Aug. 17):

An important issue not mentioned in the article regarding the potential future fate of 837-843 Washington St. is that this building lies within the Gansevoort Market Historic District, and was considered an integral and contributing part of the district’s historic fabric when designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2003. Such designation ensures that any plans to alter the existing building must go through a full review process at the Landmarks Preservation Commission, with the law requiring that maintenance of the historic fabric and character of the building and district be of paramount concern. The law also gives the public the right to weigh in on any proposed plans, and to raise with L.P.C. any concerns they have.

I have no doubt the public would fully exercise this right regarding any plans for major new developments in the historic district.

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

More to Con Ed explosion

To The Editor:
Re “Con Edison explosion scorches apartment building” (news article, July 10):

I live down the street from the site of the big Con Ed transformer fire at 199 E. Third St. I think you need to go back and see what’s happening now, because your story made it seem that folks were able to get back in the building and normal life would resume for most of the tenants and stores. It certainly doesn’t look that way. I would like to know who’s taking responsibility for the hardships inflicted by the explosion.

I love your paper because it’s the best way to follow our local news. So, I would and I believe others also would like a follow-up on this story. Thanks for all your fine reporting.

Pat De Angelis

On different sides of wars

To The Editor:
“ ‘Soldier with a pen’ comes home to the Village a last time” (news article, Aug. 17):

As an honorably discharged veteran of the Vietnam era, I take exception to calling Steven Vincent a soldier. He was not a soldier. He was a rightwing political agitator. In the L.E.S., he was a cheerleader for Antonio Pagan and his pro-real estate yuppie developer platform, which will eventually drive us all out of the neighborhood.

He promoted “legal” drug-dealer bar owners while supporting the government’s stupid drug war, which has incarcerated thousands of people of color in this neighborhood. For many many years, the L.E.S. was legendary for its culture of resistance to the rich and powerful who control this country. Steven Vincent, Antonio Pagan and their real estate developer friends have done what the government was never able to do — destroy this proud culture forever.

As for Iraq, Steven Vincent did not volunteer for the armed forces to fight for George Bush and big oil. Instead, he went to Iraq to become a cheerleader for Bush. Vincent was “the ugly American” who was too stupid to realize that imposing American culture by force on Third World countries does not work.

John Penley

Back to the drawing board

To The Editor:
I call upon Community Board 2 to immediately begin reconsideration of its hasty and uninformed decision to approve the Washington Square Park renovation plan.

As an investigative financial journalist who has analyzed major New York City real estate issues for magazines like Forbes and New York, I have been dismayed by the disingenuous process with which the Community Board 2 Parks Committee and full board “assessed” this radical redesign of the most important public space in Lower Manhattan.

Former C.B. 2 Parks Committee Chairperson Aubrey Lees had been on a secretive task force with N.Y.U. Director of Government Relations Michael Haberman before they “released” the Parks Department plan to what amounted to nothing less than a rubber stamp process. I attended every public hearing on this subject. The C.B. 2 committee and board listened indignantly to mostly critical public comments then informed the community what the Parks Department and Lees (along with N.Y.U.’s Habermen) had already decided to do. Although minor tweaks have been made, the core elements of the plan that will most affect our community were never even explored or debated by the board.

Instead, Parks and their redesign plan advocate Lees withheld from the public critical information that should have been fully explored before approving this plan.

For example, how will a reliance on public funds impact our cherished park? The $16 million price tag for the redesign will create a reliance upon private funding for the first time in the park’s history and the back-door privatization and conservancy that comes with this. We now know, through a freedom of information act request, that the fountain renaming information was withheld. Yet we know nothing about the prospect of renaming the arch (“Trump Arch”?), or what form of governance a conservancy will insist upon, or whether the park will be closed for fundraising film shoots, etc.

And what would the cost of simply repairing the existing park and adding an older kids’ playground and repairing the existing dog run be? C.B. 2 and the Parks Committee assiduously avoided this topic, deliberately focusing instead on tweaks and complaints about “The Plan,” as though the plan has been a foregone conclusion all along. Yet, the simple opinion that a vast majority of those polled feel is that we would rather repair the park with existing funds and leave it open than close it for a radical, unwanted redesign.

Instead, we have been held hostage to a hugely unpopular plan that few of us want and most of us dread.

Luckily, there is a new chairperson at C.B. 2, and an experienced new chairperson of the C.B. 2 Parks Committee. It’s time to remove the rubber stamp and take back this process from those who have hijacked the future of the park.

Jonathan Greenberg
Greenberg is coordinator, The Open Community Washington Square Park Coalition

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