Volume 75, Number 35 | January 18 - 24, 200

Letters to the editor

Parks ignores disabled’s needs

To The Editor:
Re “Square’s fountain to be moved; water jets will move musicians” (news article, Jan. 11):

In a January 2006 letter to another publication, AbleNews, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe touts New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation’s commitment to meeting or exceeding Americans With Disabilities Act recommendations. State Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s Dec. 28 four-year audit report on the Parks Department exposes Benepe’s claims as mere rhetoric. Years after the A.D.A. became effective in January 1992, Hevesi’s audit discovered Parks did not have an A.D.A. plan, timetable, compliance staff or grievance procedure, basic requirements. Hevesi also found that of 50 construction projects Parks embarked upon after the A.D.A. enactment, 29 had no accessibility elements or plans to address A.D.A. requirements.

Parks spent $28 million in a major renovation of City Hall Park in the Giuliani era. Wheelchair users experienced spasms rolling over the cobblestones and pedestrians twisted ankles in this park designed by landscape architect George Vellonakis. A smooth path was provided at the Park Row entrance, but not yet at the Broadway entrance, when Lopez and Disabled in Action activists appealed to Mayor Bloomberg. Additionally, a previously ignored but required ramp was finally installed to the plaza in front of the City Hall steps, the venue for press conferences and other public events.

Since the A.D.A.’s passage, if Parks projects had universal-access design, it most likely came about from persistent disability activist pressure, complaints to the Human Rights Commission or actions by city councilmembers.

Given its past disregard for A.D.A. law as noted in the Hevesi report, for Parks to use A.D.A. compliance as the primary rationale for the Washington Square Park renovation in its public presentations is dishonest. Throughout the past year’s approval process, Parks failed to consult disability groups until three weeks after it submitted its completed application, and two working days before the Art Commission hearing on Jan. 9.

Disabled Washington Square Park area residents and frequent park visitors believe there is no disability-related reason to relocate the park’s fountain and plaza. The sunken plaza in its current location has space for four to eight A.D.A.-compliant ramps.

Anne Emerman

Emerman was director of the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities from 1990-’94; senior policy advisor to the City Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services from 2002-’06; and a member of Community Board 6 for 16 years.

Ode on a fountain, but not urns

To The Editor,

Re “Square’s fountain to be moved; water jets will move musicians” (news article, Jan. 11): 

 Why can’t you leave it alone?
Why can’t you let the dogs roam and the guitars strum?
The people need their soothsayers and their knife throwers,
Philippe Petit on a string tied between two Olmsted elms
and Tic and Tac jumping over German tourists.
Lovers kiss under Village stars never noticing
if the fountain aligns with the arch,
oldsters and charlatans turning timers on the chess boards
never look up to complain they are off kilter,
babies in Fifth Avenue prams are content,
N.Y.U. preppies reading Baudelaire in French,
hustlers and minstrels never feel they are slipping off,
except at the finalists ball of the Art Commission where they all voted
for the ducks in a row, everything must line up,
symmetry is the ultimate bombastic vision of these gatekeepers,
these asphalt layers, these Queens of Hearts hurling
their disdain and telling us we are nothing but a house of cards.
March to the lock step of the Tisch/N.Y.U. ruler,
keep your dreams straight, postulates neat and parallel,
smash the curved paths that resemble wombs and sleeping cats,
replace them with hard-edged, linear roads of reason,
the park is no longer a constellation of points in the night sky,
you find the three stars that make up the park, then the arch,
Washington Square is now a starship built on alien axis symmetry.
Will we still be heard over the new nine water jets that will spray down on our voices?
Water pluming up with a torrent that will send strummers and toddlers from its ring,
A jet surge reminiscent of Mississippi when the police wanted to clear the streets,
silence the dissonant, the scraggly, the young misfits,
gone in leather and smoke, wash it clean and silence the lambs.

Lee Schwartz

Tarzan photos swing perception

To The Editor
Re “Tarzan, R.I.P.” (Picture story, by Bob Arihood, Jan. 11):

With all the negative press today about pit bulls, the article you ran on Tarzan was wonderful. The photos showing how sweet and friendly he was show that it’s not the breed, it’s the way the dogs are raised. Instead of breed-specific laws, we need to have responsible dog-owner laws, responsible people laws for those not watching their children, etc. I would like to say congratulations for such a good article. Well done.
Judy Schreiber

Schreiber is legislative liaison for the Bull Terrier Club of America and a member of the South Carolina Alliance for Responsible Dog Ownership

Matzo artist: I didn’t sell out

To The Editor:
I am writing to respond to the letter to the editor written by Suzanne Varni which appeared in the Jan. 4 issue (“Two sides of Matzo Files”).

First let me thank Suzanne Varni for alerting the readership of The Villager to my merit-based award of a free studio. Would that all artists received as many lines of copy when they have success.

Suzanne Varni seems to feel that because Artists Alliance Inc. awarded me a studio that I forfeited my right to come to any ethical decision about A.A.I.’s actions regarding The Matzo Files. Unfortunately, since those two parties are currently working toward a settlement of the intellectual property issues, I feel it would be inappropriate to discuss my personal views on the matter. I would like to say, though, that A.A.I. did not buy my loyalty with a free studio any more than George Bush bought my vote with a tax cut.

I would also like to take the opportunity to address any young artists reading this with a reminder to always reapply for grants, residencies, etc. As Susan Varni wrote, I applied in both 2004 and 2005 for the Rotating Studio. Susan Varni is on the administrative staff, which doesn’t change, but the panel that actually selects the winners changes every session. I used the exact same set of slides, statement and application when I reapplied for the A.A.I. Rotating Studio. I’m not kidding. The slides were still in the envelope in the desk drawer. The text was in a folder on my computer. I only changed the dates.

The A.A.I. Studio Program was a wonderful and productive experience for me; so let me thank all the people who volunteered on it from its conception to the building of the walls. Sadly, that would include many of the people on The Matzo Files Steering Committee and who are now involved in the legal dispute with A.A.I.

Linda Griggs

The Quinn revolution? Ha!

To The Editor:
“Quinn is new Council speaker; Mendez takes torch from Lopez” (news article, Jan. 4):

This article was interesting, but could have dug deeper. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has removed the veil of her Manhattan liberal independent reformer image to reveal that she is a seasoned Democratic Party machine leader. She follows in the fine tradition of her predecessors, former Council Speakers Gifford Miller and Peter Vallone and the late Tom Cuite of Brooklyn. She has already committed to overturn the voters’ wishes by considering legislation to repeal term limits.

Just watch on Jan. 18 when Speaker Quinn announces her appointments of various Council committee chairpersons. Councilmembers who are loyal to their respective county organizations (the ones that endorsed her candidacy for speaker) will be rewarded with salary increases known as lulus ranging from $4,000 to $28,000 to chair Council committees. The average salary for a New Yorker is $41,000 per year. Every councilmember has a base salary of $91,000 plus bonuses, for a part-time job.

Under Speaker Quinn’s reign, it will be the usual political quid pro quo with councilmembers. Vote as instructed by the speaker and members will continue to receive the perks of office. These include salary bonuses for chairing Council committees, extra cash for local district offices and staff, along with funding local neighborhood pork-barrel projects to grease the wheels of re-election.

The five county Democratic political bosses don’t care if you are liberal or conservative, gay or straight, man or woman — just play ball and you’re welcome to the smoke-filled clubhouse back rooms!

Larry Penner

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