Volume 75, Number 34 | January 11 - 17, 200

Letters to the editor

Park renovation will be great

To The Editor:
Re “How’s the park doin’? Awful. It needs a renovation” (talking point, by Ed Koch, Dec. 28):

Mayor Koch’s view of the Washington Square Park renovation mirrors mine. Let us hope we can see the work for a beautiful Washington Square Park get started in 2006.

Washington Square Park first and foremost should be a beautiful park reflecting its historic character. It should not be a patchwork that reflects the wishes of every single group in the neighborhood. The Parks Department has the know-how and the reputation in designing attractive parks for the city.

Lining up the fountain with the arch is a matter of aesthetics. The fountain seen through the arch is a beautiful concept. This move makes even more sense when we realize that moving it will give the park more green space.

There should not be so much worry about a 4-foot fence. We are speaking of a good-looking fence that protects the plantings. If you walk around parks in the city you will see similar fences. The fence will not make the park “unfriendly.” The park will always be welcoming to the residents, visitors and students who have always loved it for what it stands for: its unique character. I am glad that the Art Commission by giving its opinion on the plan has helped bring closure to this longstanding debate.

Let us all work together to create and enjoy a beautiful park.
Elizabeth Butson
Butson is publisher emeritus of The Villager

Too much Rubin, Benepe, Koch

To The Editor:
Re “Wheelchair user may sue; wants to go amphibious in the fountain” (news article, Dec. 28):

As a media-experienced journalist and Villager reader, I am concerned by the unbalanced coverage of the controversy surrounding the Parks Departments insistence on radically redesigning, intsead of renovating, Washington Square Park.

First, you bury important information in an article about a less important lawsuit regarding handicapped access to the fountain. One would think that to have the most important disabled group in New York confirming reports that the Parks Department has been deceiving the community and our elected representatives about why they are destroying the park’s unique sunken center would be news when it happened, or at least a headlined story when it was reported a month later. But instead, the article’s photo, caption, headline and lead are about Margie Rubin’s one-person lawsuit, and only as a side note do you report that Carr Massi, president of Disabled in Action, wrote to the president of the Art Commission, stating that DIA objects to the Parks Department using handicapped accessibility as a justification for the renovation plan.

Where has your often comprehensive newspaper been on this story while the disinformation was flying fast and furious from Parks Department officials (paid for by our tax dollars!), such as Commissioner Benepe, Commissioner Castro and George Vellonakis all stating, during the past year, that the reason for filling in the sunken center was to bring it into “A.D.A. compliance?”

Perhaps you were busy conducting interviews with the commissioner of deception, uh, I mean Parks, Mr. Adrian Benepe. In the same issue that you bury this timely information about how A.D.A. compliance was a false rationale, you present an interview profile of Mr. Benepe himself, just in time for him to make his case to the Art Commission. And unlike the careful “opposing viewpoint” balance you give every time you quote one of the many of us who oppose this hugely unpopular plan, you allow Mr. Benepe to coast by without a countervailing comment or even a tough question, such as why is the department now on its fourth different rationale for why moving the fountain and changing the center is important?

Worthy of a tough question or two, but The Villager has no space for that. Instead, you published a third piece about the park: Ed Koch is weighing in, somehow having gotten hold of the Parks Department’s very same talking points. Worthy of an Op-Ed, it seems where our former mayor can promise us that the new design will “make us safer,” despite recent reports that the park itself has never been safer.
Jonathan Greenberg
Greenberg is coordinator of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition

Editor’s note: Margie Rubin pitched us the article about her concern about a handicapped-accessible ramp into the Washington Square fountain, so the reporter felt it was appropriate to focus on her. Plus she is a Village resident, and Carr Massi was out of town and unavailable for comment until our deadline day. As for the interview with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, it was intended to run in our Progress Report several weeks ago, but the reporter didn’t have time to write it until the Dec. 28 issue. As for Ed Koch’s talking point, he pitched it to us. We asked him as we were editing it if Benepe had asked him to write it — we noticed some similarities to Benepe’s comments — and Koch said he’d only called the Parks commissioner to fact-check. The Villager feels it has covered both sides of the debate fairly.

Stop Critical Mass crackdown

To The Editor:
Re “Minicams roll with bicycles, and probably undercovers” (news article, Jan. 4):

As city bikers for 30 years, my husband, Ted Story, and I are stunned, horrified and mystified by the fascistic attacks on peaceful, harmless bikers participating in an event, Critical Mass, that is celebrated in cities around the globe. What in the world do the powers that be and the police think they are doing? This is unacceptable behavior by those who run the city. Bloomberg got elected despite this unaddressed issue, but it cannot go on. I implore one and all to work for freedom in our city and an end to such militaristic, uncalled-for attacks by our police. Thank you for keeping the focus on this story. What would we do without this wonderful paper?
Cynthia Crane Story

Gives review thumbs down

To The Editor:
Re “Koch on Film (Dec. 28):

I’d almost forgotten — if not forgiven — former Mayor Koch’s support of George Bush in the last presidential election. But when he ventured to insult “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” I vowed revenge. This is a movie I considered one of the best of 2005’s films, with a story so absorbing, so powerful, so well produced, directed and acted that it deserves every award it’s likely to receive. Evidently, Mr. Koch must not have seen the entire film, otherwise he would not have confused the abducted border patrolman with the local sheriff — an essential plot element. Perhaps he was napping when the story unfolded. I don’t have anything against naps during a movie, especially if it’s boring and you are of a certain age — as I am. But this picture is anything but a snoozer. I often agree with Koch’s movie critiques, but this one is as wrongheaded as any pronouncement of his I’ve ever encountered — including his famous remarks in Esquire that probably cost him the governorship back in the day.
Gene Epstein

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