Volume 75, Number 28 | Nov. 30 - Dec. 06, 2005

Letters to the editor

N.Y.U. and its bad reputation

To The Editor:
New York University has recently announced plans to build a 26-story dormitory on 12th St. midblock between Third and Fourth Aves. This has caused concern in the neighborhood for a number of reasons. It would be, by far, the tallest building in the East Village. N.Y.U. has already erected huge residence halls south and east of Union Square, whose students have overtaken the park’s plaza. The university has a particularly bad and deserved reputation for out-of-scale, ill-conceived development, of mediocre design — as well as arrogance in dealing with the community. Longtime residents already smart from Cooper Union’s insensitivity and real estate greed, as evidenced by the hideous Gwathmey luxury high-rise on Astor Pl., and an office tower yet to come. Inappropriate development has permanently changed the Bowery corridor, and was enabled by community facilities bonuses loosely applied. Now a developer has purchased and torn down historic St. Ann’s Church (less the tower) and rectory, added air rights acquired (questionably) from the post office, and become partners with N.Y.U. We have reason to worry.

I attended a town hall meeting held by John Sexton when he became president of N.Y.U. He promised to respect the physical qualities of the Village (a major draw for his students), and improve the process by which the university communicates with its neighbors on development issues. St. Ann’s will be a good test of that pledge. Clearly, a midblock high-rise does not preserve what is unique about the area. It is possible to design a lower, bulkier contextual structure. N.Y.U. must finally learn how not to kill the very thing it purports to love.
Leo J. Blackman
Blackman is an architect  

It’s easy being green

To The Editor:
Re “Green roofs are growing in New York, but slowly” (news article, Nov. 16):

I have never heard of this paper before, but I am so happy to see more reporting on green infrastructure.

Regarding Daniel Wallace’s article on New York City’s green-roof scene, I would like to point out that Majora Carter (MacArthur fellow, 2005) and her organization, Sustainable South Bronx, put up a 3,000-square-foot green- and cool-roof demonstration project on top of their office in Hunt’s Point before the Silver Cup Studio green roof.

They are incorporating local component manufacturing into their business model to bring costs down, while addressing policy makers at the same time to further reduce individual property-owner expense.

While your article mentioned this greater initial cost of green roofs, it failed to note the dramatically increased longevity of the roof, along with the energy savings, that come with the investment.

The “cool roof” part of S.S.B.’s project is something that also deserves mention here because it costs about the same as a conventional roof, but consists of a highly reflective white acrylic that sits on top of the existing roof. It goes a long way to reduce urban heat-island effect and energy costs in the summer.

These technologies are simple, cost effective over the long term and they make our city better. Nobody should wait around for government to lead on this. For more information, call or visit www.ssbx.org.

James Chase

Where’s Silver on bars?

To The Editor: 
Re “Ludlow nightclub is not music to neighbors’ ears” (news article, Nov. 2):

In reading the article on and letters about Pianos and the fiasco regarding the “rubber-stamp” approval of their license by the State Liquor Authority, I think The Villager reporters need to dig deeper. There’s no public convenience and advantage to the granting of Pianos’ license. Why did the S.L.A. grant yet another on-premises license in an area where there were already at least 12 existing O.P. licenses within 500 feet? Why didn’t Community Board 3 staff testify against the issuance of a license at the 500-foot hearing and full board meeting?

Pianos did not have the support of the Ludlow Block Association and it never would have under any circumstances. Besides its location, one of its principals operated another premises on Orchard St. which left much to be desired. Ahem.

Regarding the larger issue of proliferation of liquor licenses, problems inherent in them and the intuitional intransigence of the S.L.A., I — and others — have been active in fighting this problem for at least 10 years and, despite a few very brief respites, the problem has only gotten worse. The Ludlow St. area was once the only part of C.B. 3 with a moratorium on new liquor licenses; now, because of the incredible need, moratoriums have been strengthened and expanded to many other areas of the board.

Bars and clubs have metastasized and spread to many vacant spaces that were never meant for public assembly and nighttime revelry; many familiar businesses that may have occupied the same space cannot pay increased rents and so they leave our community and we are that much poorer. One would think that during the past 10 years our elected officials would have passed legislation to get a handle on this problem. Before you laugh, some have introduced good bills — Tom Duane, Deborah Glick, Marty Connor, Scott Stringer and others. However, real change is being blocked by the Assembly speaker, Shelly Silver.

Shelly Silver has repeatedly blocked bills that are designed to help residents fight this problem. Using his power as Assembly speaker he blocks a vote in the Assembly and the bill dies. Silver does this for several reasons, most importantly because he takes campaign money from the liquor and beer industry. Silver is also a trial lawyer and besides making money that way, lawyers love the status quo and hate empowering consumers as in “us.”

Unfortunately, Silver is let off the hook too easily. He will stonewall, not answer inquiries and hope you will “go away.” And that’s what usually happens. Since there seems to be more who want to take up the fight now, you can’t let it “go away.” This is far more important than holding hands around the Lower East Side or levitating buildings. Keeping the pressure on those who are supposed to represent us — or getting someone else to do it is critical. Keep up the fight!

Marcia H. Lemmon

Seminary vs. serenity

To The Editor:
I’m a longtime resident of Chelsea. My first apartment was at 406 W. 22nd St. Now, I live in Penn South. I greatly miss the charm and warmth of living on 22nd St. I love walking around looking at the big chandeliers lit up in the parlors and second-story living rooms with high ceilings, ornate moldings, big beautiful fireplaces and spectacular artwork. The beautiful gardens in the front of the houses on 20th and 21st Sts. are so soothing and relaxing. It makes me stop and breathe in a city that is so overcrowded and overbuilt. I used to walk my dog around the seminary block and feel peace, serenity and such a grateful feeling that I am living in the heart of such a beautifully preserved historical area.

I am grateful to the renters and owners who painstaking invest in restoring their homes to their original condition. I am grateful to the concerned residents who worked so long and hard on the Chelsea 197-a plan. The plan was created to protect the historic district. I am against anything that violates the 7.5-story height limit. The loss of light, air and openness would greatly impact the historic area and open the avenue up for other developers. We do not want a noisy canyon in the middle of the historic district loaded with 24-hour yellow taxis. I hope that General Theological Seminary and its developer listen to the voices of the community and respect the work in historic preservation and conform to the contextual design we so greatly try to preserve.

Kernan Huttick

Fur? Furgeddaboudit!

To The Editor:
Re “Pitiful story of pet fur” (letter, by Victoria Booth, Nov. 23):

Again, I see the controversy over the fur issue being raised in the newspapers and in some demonstrations. My wife had a beautiful silver fox fur coat with leather trim a number of years ago, which brought her a lot of flak from many anti-fur enthusiasts. The problem about the situation was that the coat was entirely synthetic. No animal had been affected in any way by the exisitence of that coat.

I firmly believe that one has the right to wear what they’d like to wear under proper circumstances. In this day of high technological achievements, there is no need for real fur when synthetic furs and leathers — which are even better looking than the real thing — are available.

Gerard M. Petitte

Lawrence lived for his art

To The Editor:
Lawrence Willette, painter, died in New York City on Nov. 13, after a short struggle against intestinal cancer. He was 53 years old.

Many will remember Lawrence as the artist who displayed his paintings on the southwest corner of W. Broadway and Prince St. in Soho for well over a decade. His paintings were bold, graphic, colorful, brilliant and potent. At times they were also confrontational and rude. The same could be said about the artist.

Not many people know that Lawrence was half African-American. He certainly did not appear to be. His long blond hair and light complexion did not give a hint of his ethnicity. He rarely mentioned it, but the fact is, that it became a problem for him as a youngster. He told me that he took a lot of grief from those who thought he looked “too white,” and so he became defensive and overcompensated to the point of being abrasive.

The magnified sense of personal and ethnic isolation that Lawrence experienced ultimately led him to rely on his artistic voice to express his inner strength. Lawrence became passionately creative to the point that it overruled everything else in his life. This included sex — which is really saying something about Lawrence. He loved women and devoted much of his energy to the appreciation of their beauty. You can see this playful obsession displayed in much of his work.

However, if you really wanted to get into a deep, concentrated conversation with Lawrence Willette, you would talk about art, artists and the creative spirit. That is why I and many others loved him the way we did. We all admired his endless energy and his willingness to live for his art alone. It was hard to doubt Lawrence’s passion if you saw him standing on W. Broadway at 10 p.m. on a freezing night with his coat turned up to the wind, a cigarette in one hand, a cup of “bodega coffee” in the other, waiting for someone to stop and talk about his paintings. Lawrence was the first street artist to set up his paintings on W. Broadway in Soho, and for that alone he deserves every original public artist’s deepest gratitude. He lived for his art — and in the end he died an artist. That is his legacy, and I know he would be proud of it.

I salute Lawrence Willette and his unique spirit. I wish his family and his children well. I also salute all of the other artists who dare to live for their work, who speak with their own voices, who do not compromise and who live their dream. God bless the artists. Long live Lawrence Willette.

Lawrence White

Bike lanes just a start

To The Editor:
Re “Wheels are turning as 8th Ave. bike lane is planned” (news article, Nov. 23):

This proposed bicycle lane is a small step in the right direction of promoting safety for cyclists.

However, double-parked vehicles create a serious hazard for cyclists by forcing them to turn into oncoming traffic. And the Police Department needs to do more enforcement prohibiting double-parked vehicles.

Mayor Bloomberg recently announced he was opposed to imposing a tax on motorists entering the most congested streets of Manhattan. But he has offered no alternative plan to reduce traffic congestion. Safety for pedestrians and cyclists, improved air quality, reduction in blaring horns, etc., would be some of the benefits in reducing traffic congestion.

Mayor Bloomberg, what say you?

Michael Gottlieb

Give bikers a break

To The Editor:
Re “PEP’s must be peppier” (letter, by Stephen Levine, Nov. 23) concerning the misnamed Hudson River bicycle path:

The “powers that be went to great trouble and expense” to construct the West St. bike path, separated from the river and the rest of the park by a high berm and exposed to the noise and fumes of high-speed traffic. If the bike path had been placed within the park, riders would be less tempted to leave it.

Obviously, bike riders do not belong in the pedestrian area on weekends when the park is crowded. But on weekdays, when there are hardly any people around, bikers should be allowed to ride along the river and enjoy the park along with the joggers and ’bladers.

Ginny Donnelly

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