Volume 75, Number 16 | September 07 - 13, 2005

Letters to the editor

Community planning and bars

To The Editor:
Re “Candidates’ last call on bars” (letter, by concerned East Villagers, Aug. 24):

This letter is in response to my neighbors’ request for my position regarding zoning limits for bars. Noise is the number one quality of life complaint in our city and in many parts of our district. Throughout the campaign I have heard from residents that noise from clubs and bars, and related noise, such as horn honking, is a serious quality of life problem.

Liquor license applications, which are approved by a state process, require community notification. However, the mission of the State Liquor Authority does not take into account the needs of residents in large cities and the S.L.A. does not consider community comments and needs when granting licenses. Members of our community are understandably angry and frustrated because people making decisions are not accountable to us or to our local elected officials.

I don’t believe there is one simple answer — no one size fits all — for New York City that will fit all neighborhoods. A cornerstone of my policies has always been to start with community-based planning. Residents of a community know their needs best. There are many residential areas in the district that cannot support anywhere near the number of bars currently existing on their blocks. I will advocate in the City Council for community plans that allow communities to decide on zoning regulations that serve their neighborhoods. This is the only way to encourage economic development that will provide needed jobs, protect the quality of life of communities, and allow for balanced sustainable development. The City Charter currently mandates that City Planning work with communities to implement this, but does not provide funding or assistance. I will advocate for funding and procedures that will put teeth into providing for real community decision-making.

There is city legislation pending that will allow for better enforcement of noise regulations and will better provide for peace and quiet for residents. This legislation may be passed by the end of the year. If not, I pledge to work in the City Council for speedy passage of this legislation that will allow city agencies to make clubs and bars accountable when the S.L.A. refuses to do so.

Next year, I will work along with my neighbors to elect a governor who shares our Democratic values, and who will appoint S.L.A. members who are responsive to community needs and quality of life.

These are a few of the many issues that face our neighborhood that, as city councilmember, I will focus on, respecting the diverse interests of the people that make up our community.

Lastly, I would like to also address concerns that I have accepted campaign contributions from David McWater, who owns bars in the neighborhood. Contributions from David and a few of his friends constitute seven out of 900 individual contributions to my campaign. David has lived in the community since the ’90s — and, in fact, lived on my block and has been my friend for many years. He has contributed to my campaign, and he was also the major contributor for East River Environmental Coalition — our organization to fight the Con Edison expansion at 14th St. We would not have been able to organize and have mailings and newsletters without him. He has been a supporter of the Girls Club, Good Old Lower East Side and many other community organizations. He is also currently working to save and landmark old P.S. 64 and he is a Little League coach. He is responsible, as board chairperson of Community Board 3, for starting a zoning task force to allow us to change our zoning and take back the neighborhood for the residents and local businesses. I will stand by my acceptance of his support because I know it comes from a friend who cares about our neighborhood.

Rosie Mendez
Mendez is Democratic district leader for the 74th Assembly District, Part A, and a District 2 City Council candidate

Off-duty police and bars

To The Editor:
Re “Candidates’ last call on bars” (letter, by concerned East Villagers, Aug. 24):

The Aug. 24 issue of The Villager featured a well-articulated letter asking City Council candidates (and presumably more neighborhood residents) to speak out on “the bar issue.” As a 16-year neighborhood resident and an owner of an Avenue A bar, I would like to put my two cents in.

Beating up on the “bad bars” sounds like a simple thing to support, but who decides? It is true that there are many more bars and restaurants in this area now than anyone would have dreamed of when I first moved here in 1989. It is also true that some bar/restaurant managers do not consider their residential neighbors’ quality of life. And it is true that they should be accountable for it. I live on a part of Orchard St. that has several bars on it, and I agree that sometimes the noise is far more disruptive than it needs to be. But the blanket antibar/restaurant sentiment implicit in the aforementioned letter is, in some ways, a continuation of the bar/restaurant witch hunt that haunted Community Board 3 in the early and mid-’90s. I recall one board member calling one female bar owner “a rapist,” and another community member viciously attacking Benny’s Burritos for having one chair too many in their sidewalk cafe. Unfortunately, there are still some who stage enormous protests about bars that are nowhere near where they live, and do not affect their quality of life at all.

The point is that there are good and bad neighbors on both sides of this issue. So, in addition to taking the aforementioned letter seriously (which I believe they should), I would encourage the City Council candidates, community board members, block association members, precinct commanders et al. to remember that there are also many bar/restaurant owners who work hard to be good neighbors and there are thousands of neighborhood residents who enjoy the bustling nightlife offered in the East Village and Lower East Side.

Instead of fighting against each other, though, there is something we can accomplish together. Since the bar smoking ban has been enacted, it is virtually impossible for bar security to stop noisy street scenes without escalating tensions. Bar security is forbidden by law to move anyone physically unless that person gets physical first. It should be noted that talking, at any volume, does not qualify under the law as “getting physical.” So, bar security is virtually powerless in this matter. There has been a proposal before the City Council since before the Bloomberg administration took office that would allow bars and restaurants to pay for off-duty police officers to patrol outside of busy bars/restaurants. Police officers can do what bar security is legally forbidden to do, and furthermore, far fewer patrons will confront a police officer.

Some don’t support this measure, fearing it would undoubtedly lead to corruption, ignoring the fact that the proposal is set up in a way where the payments go to a central place, and dispatchers insure that the same officer would not repeatedly be at the same establishment. It should be noted that several other U.S. cities have had success with this type of plan. My 10-plus years of experience in this business informs me that this is the only effective way to significantly reduce the street noise.

I love this neighborhood just as much as the people who might want me to go out of business. But I, along with many other bar owners I know, want to work with residents, politicians and enforcement agencies so we can all co-exist peacefully. You know, like a community!
Mike Stuto
Stuto is owner, Hi Fi Bar

Shelly, help us on bars!

To The Editor:
Re “Candidates’ last call on bars” (letter, by concerned East Villagers, Aug. 24):

I read this letter with great interest. It seems as if The Villager focuses on this important issue every once in a while and then, poof — your attention span ends and you go elsewhere. This issue is the “dirty little secret” of the Lower East Side and the so-called “elected officials” who have repeatedly overlooked it and brushed off constituent complaints for far too long.

Because of the way the State Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Law is written, focusing on city elected officials is barking up the wrong tree. Sure, they can write an angry letter to the State Liquor Authority, but that can and often does wind up in the 30-year file.

We must fight to change the ABC Law at state level in Albany. Why hasn’t the state’s “most powerful Democrat,” Shelly Silver, done more in this area — as in introduce and insure that legislation that will positively change the ABC Law as it impacts communities is accomplished at the State Legislature?

The time for committees, task forces, town hall meetings, hearings, studies, etc., is long past gone. We all know that the current oversaturation of bars and clubs is bad for our community. The ABC Law as written is not working for anyone except liquor license lawyers and their clients and the New York State Treasury, which earns millions in revenues via the S.L.A.

Shelly, are you listening? We need you to introduce legislation, real, meaningful legislation. Push the legislation, lobby for your community; see that legislation is passed and insure that Governor Pataki signs it. I’m sure that the other people who “represent” us in Albany will be happy to support you, as will the people you represent.

What we residents need to do is to lobby for these changes in the same way that the New York Nightlife Association has lobbied against the smoking ban. And keep lobbying until we get a law passed that will stop this insanity.

Marcia H. Lemmon

Ani is what Bob ain’t

To The Editor:
I was not surprised by Ronda Kaysen’s article “The times they are a-changin’: Dylan goes Starbucks” (Aug. 31) since the implication that Dylan had no direction home was always blowing in the wind.

An early indication of Dylan’s freewheeling nature was revealed in D.A. Pennebaker’s film “Don’t Look Back” (1967), which was filmed during Dylan’s spring 1965 tour of England.

A significant scene in the movie occurred when the then 23-year-old Bob Dylan responded in a hostile manner to a Time magazine reporter’s inquiry about the significance of his lyrics with respect to his being a “spokesperson” for the burgeoning youth/antiwar culture. Dylan rather sardonically replied that his lyrics meant (can be interpreted as) anything you want them to — implying that he just wrote lyrics that rhymed.

If one is searching for an anti-corporate singer, Ani DiFranco comes to mind. Ms. DiFranco, rather than going corporate with the mega-giant Sony/Columbia Records, chose to form her own recording company, Righteous Babe Records.

Yes there are still lessons not too old to be learned for the weary.

Right on, sister!

Arnold Korotkin

A critical look at View

To The Editor:
“Trying to shed some light on Village View finances” (news article, Aug. 17):

It is quite interesting that Ceres Shulman, president of the board at Village View, continues to defend “the way Cooper Square Management has been running the complex.” Ms. Shulman and the building manager state that the “bill had been paid, albeit a few days late.” However, the truth of the matter is that Cooper Square Management had been behind in the Con Edison payments by several months. That is why Con Edison sent a “turn-off of service notice” to the shareholders. In addition, in her letter to The Villager (“Village View snafu,” July 27) Ms. Shulman states that Con Edison made “an inexcusable error,” when in fact Cooper Square Management sent a letter to all the tenants taking responsibility for the nonpayment.

In addition, Ms. Shulman states that Village View paid “Con Edison roughly $1 million” since January 2005 — a six-month period. The financial statements for fiscal year 2003-2004 state that Village View paid Con Edison $939,442 for the entire 12-month period. Ms. Shulman stating that $1 million was paid for a six-month period is highly unlikely and probably overstated. Although fuel costs have gone up, it is hard to believe that the Con Edison bill would increase 200 percent from last year.

As president of the board, Ms. Shulman should be much more knowledgeable of exactly what Cooper Square Management is doing and be on top of the situation. Nonpayment of the Con Edison bill for several months is inexcusable. Cooper Square Management should be held accountable for their actions by the board on behalf of the shareholders and not excused.

It seems that neither Cooper Square Management nor the Village View board can handle Village View finances. The board should disclose all Con Edison account information to the shareholders so they can monitor bill payments to assure that this situation will not happen again.

Furthermore, when Ceres Shulman states that, “How and why the utility made such an inexcusable error is a cause to wonder. Perhaps it is because Village View is home to senior residents, some of whom were scared by the utility’s threat,” she implies that Con Edison is treating our seniors like second-class citizens and is out to scare them. These questions need to be asked of Ms Shulman: What would Con Edison gain from this action? Is Con Edison in the business of scaring senior citizens?

How ridiculous it was to blame Con Edison! Ms. Shulman must immediately apologize to the dedicated workers at Con Edison and to us, the shareholders!

This fiasco is just one of many examples of how Ms. Shulman/the board and Cooper Square Management run things at Village View. This is enough proof that it is time for a major change in how Village View is managed. It is time that we replace Ms. Shulman and the board and send Cooper Square Management away someplace to mismanage another housing complex.

We, the shareholders at Village View, deserve better then this!

Oleh Pich

Quinn is doing the job

To The Editor:
Re “Developments on big projects build some hope maybe for some” and “Quinn says concretely that her vote can’t be bought” (news articles, Aug. 24):

After reading your articles about development issues in the Far West Village and contributions made by the developers, I hope your readers will keep things in perspective.

Although the City Planning Commission’s proposal for the Far West Village has been generally praised, they and the Landmarks Preservation Commission both failed to protect the interests of Westbeth. One call from Mayor Bloomberg would have given us the protections we sought. Thousands of our neighbors also called on the mayor to landmark the Far West Village. If one person deserves credit for failing to act, it is Mayor Bloomberg. I urge the residents of the Far West Village to remember his failure when we go to the polls on Nov. 8.

This brings me to the article about contributions given to Councilmember Christine Quinn by developers working on projects in the Far West Village and the suggestion that those contributions influenced her decisions concerning the Far West Village. My experience says nothing could be further from the truth. Once the mayor failed to act, and the proposals were presented, Christine Quinn and her staff have been relentless in getting us meetings with Planning and The Related Companies, the potential developer of the Superior Ink site. Although we, and all of our neighbors, would still prefer that the Superior Ink site be landmarked — Mayor Bloomberg, there is still time to save this site! — Quinn’s efforts have already improved the proposed development at that site.

Besides the development issue, Councilmember Quinn has spearheaded the effort to extend the tax abatement for Westbeth, an issue vital for Westbeth’s survival. She has taken the issue of a small but growing crime problem around our complex to the Sixth Precinct to get us more police protection.

For the record, I contributed $100 to her campaign. Does this suggest I am trying to buy influence? No. I am trying to help keep an excellent councilmember in office.

George Cominskie
Cominskie is president, Westbeth Artists Residents Council

Officers were lifesavers

To The Editor:
New York Police Department officers Monica Cruz and Christina Aigotti of the Sixth Precinct are to be praised for the good care they gave while rescuing me.

On Saturday afternoon riding into Washington Square Park, the tire tread of one of my midwheel tires separated from the rim, rendering my wheelchair unusable.

Shortly after a passerby called 911 for me, Police Officers Cruz and Aigotti pulled up. They assisted me out of my power wheelchair, then tried to fix the tire, unsuccessfully. When they were unable to hail an accessible cab, they called for a police van to take my disabled power wheelchair home. The three officers were able to load my chair into the van, which followed the squad car to my apartment building. Police Officers Cruz and Aigotti helped me all the way to my apartment, then returned with my wheelchair.

Police Officers Cruz and Aigotti, along with the third officer, made an extremely stressful situation go smoothly for me.

I thank them so very much.

Margie Rubin
Rubin is a member, Disabled in Action

Can’t forgive or forget

To The Editor:
Re “Wife blasts Vincent critic” (letter, by Lisa Ramaci, Aug. 31):

I have no doubt that Steven Vincent was a big fan of Andrew Jackson. Jackson was both a slave owner and trader who believed that only rich white property owners who stole their land from North American Indians had any rights. He was infamous for ignoring a Supreme Court decision and forcing the Cherokee Nation off their lands in Georgia and North Carolina. This was called the Trail of Tears. I’m sure Vincent would have supported this use of American military force, like he did the war in Iraq. Although he probably would have criticized Jackson for making the Cherokee walk to Oklahoma.

You may ask why many people in the neighborhood have no sympathy for Vincent. When police brutally evicted hundreds of squatters on 13th St., arrested hundreds of homeless in Tompkins Square Park, beat up hundreds during the Tompkins Square riot in 1988 and under Antonio Pagan’s direction stole CHARAS, Vincent applauded. These are all examples of people fighting to do something for themselves and not asking the government to do it for them. Vincent was more than happy to use government force to destroy the lives of poor people who tried to change the Lower East Side without government.

Someone should ask Antonio Pagan if he’s proud of the large-scale development and bar proliferation that was started under his administration.

As for Vincent, what goes around comes around.

John Penley

No secrets about eco

To The Editor:
Contrary to Scoopy’s Aug. 23 notebook (“Secret society”), the Emergency Coalition to Save Washington Square Park (ECO) is not secretive. Our community-based organization is fully registered and, furthermore, it is a matter of public record that we have filed an Article 78 proceeding at the State Supreme Court. Our lawsuit, a public document, can be assessed on two Web sites (see below).

The plaintiffs in our lawsuit consist not only of ECO but various individuals and organizations, such as the Village Independent Democrats; Robert Nichols, lead architect of the 1970 Washington Square Park renovation; Luther Harris, historian and author of “Around Washington Square,” and others. ECO invites all to read the lawsuit, which alerted the Parks Department to undertake a full environmental impact study. The E.I.S. will evaluate the park’s open space in relation to park use. ECO is calling on the Parks Department to have a public scoping session to determine what the E.I.S. will evaluate.

Dedicated and knowledgeable Villagers from varied walks of life, men and women, who care about the park and volunteer countless hours for this cause, comprise ECO. Individual names are not important, as ECO’s focus is on the issues rather than personalities. Besides those attending meetings, many work with the focus group to meet the needs of all residents who feel the park is being usurped by an unnecessary and ill-conceived $16 million redesign plan that would change the character and usage of the park and put the park out of service for years, demolishing much of the existing park to replace it with elements not wanted by the vast majority; this by a minority who are upset that when they stand at the fountain they cannot look straight through the arch up Fifth Ave.

Moreover, the Tisch Trust, a heretofore secret (uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act Law request), has entered into a funding agreement with the city of New York to move the Washington Square fountain on condition that the fountain be named after that family trust.

Those who worry about the potential defacement of the newly renovated arch with graffiti should show an equal revulsion for the defacement of a refurbished fountain by highly inappropriate signage in the guise of a donor’s plaque. We are not even sure the generous and philanthropic Tisch family were informed that the moving of the fountain was involved, as the word “restore” was used in the document, not “realign” or “relocate.”

As for the item “Stern words” in the same Scoopy’s column, the former Parks commissioner, Henry Stern, indicated his at-present apparent indifference to our preservation efforts. We invite Henry Stern to preserve and defend the historic beauty and public enjoyment of Washington Square Park that has served our community for nearly two centuries.

It takes a Village to save our park from bulldozers and bullheaded bureaucrats. Dedicated to openness and transparency, if you find that ECO echoes your concerns and you wish to know how you can help and get more information, log on to the Web sites: savewashingtonsquarepark.org and www.preservewashingtonsquarepark.com or e-mail us at saveoursquarenow@ aol.com.

Sharon Woolums

Gold glosses over Gaza

To The Editor:
Re “It’s all relative: Thinking of my cousins during the Gaza pullout” (notebook, Aug. 31):

I am a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge and received a Bronze Star for combat against S.S. troops in Belgium. I’d like to comment on Ed Gold’s article on his cousins in Israel and the so-called disengagement from Gaza.

Ed quotes his cousin Yehuda as expressing hope that it will all be over “with as little damage to both sides” and in time the aggravation “will calm down and normal life and peace will return.” He glosses over the fact that the settlements in Gaza were in occupied territory, that Palestinian homes were demolished, that settlers have shot and killed Palestinians trying to recover their land and homes and that Israeli Defense Forces effectively still control the perimeter, blocking access to Palestinian jobs and hospitals and in effect creating a Bantustan similar to that of apartheid South Africa.

Many people, particularly those who otherwise consider themselves liberal or progressive, justify the oppressive and racist daily policies against Palestinians, all in the name of the Nazi Holocaust. We must call for a complete end to the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and support the right of return of over 1 million Palestinians thrown off of their land and in the diaspora.

Dave Silver

Mayor’s war on bicyclists

To The Editor:
Re “At anniversary of Critical Mass crackdown, 48 arrests” (news article, Aug. 31):

The arrest of Critical Mass riders is yet another big lie by Mayor Bloomberg, according to his own statements. He promised us that he would only arrest cyclists who broke traffic laws, but everyone they arrested was charged with “disorderly conduct,” which, last time I checked, has nothing to do with traffic laws. And besides, they don’t arrest drivers who run red lights, so that alone proves he was lying! And Bloomberg has no incentive to tell the truth because he simply settles all the lawsuits using millions of our tax dollars, just as he did with all his false R.N.C. arrests! The man is crazy and I don’t know why the media lets him get away with it. Everyone I know wants to move out of New York City! Bloomberg doesn’t care about obeying law or saving taxpayers money.

Margaret Dodger

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