Volume 75, Number 49 | April 26 - May 2 2006

Letters to the editor

Friedman cares about disabled

To The Editor:
In a recent Scoopy’s column (“Assembly rumblings,” April 5), Steven Kaufman complained that newly elected Assemblywoman Sylvia Friedman will have her district office on a corner of the west side of 14th St. and First Ave., which is technically outside her district. (The east side of First Ave. is the district boundary.)

For more than 20 years, Kaufman was chief of staff to former Assemblyman Steve Sanders. During this period, they maintained a district office which was not accessible to persons with disabilities. The 504 Democratic Club has a large membership in the district, and several had complained that because they could not meet Sanders in his district office, as others were able to do, they had to meet with him in a diner.

After the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Assembly promulgated a rule that all district offices must be wheelchair accessible. However, Sanders’s office was “grandfathered” in, and remained where it was. On one occasion, when Mr. Kaufman, representing Assemblyman Sanders, appeared before the 504 Democratic Club, he took personal responsibility, as chief of staff, for remaining in the inaccessible office. He stated that it was “impossible” to find an accessible one.

In contrast, Assemblywoman Friedman repeatedly vowed during her campaign that her district office would be wheelchair accessible. I wish Mr. Kaufman would give Assemblywoman Friedman credit for doing what she pledged to do and what he and Assemblyman Sanders were incapable of doing. Her new office is within walking distance of much of Stuyvesant Town, where Mr. Kaufman lives, and much of the Lower East Side. It is also a short bus ride from the other parts of the district.

Marvin Wasserman
Wasserman is president, 504 Democratic Club

Don’t alienate a voting bloc
To The Editor:
Re “Assembly rumblings” (Scoopy’s Notebook, April 5):

The sweetest, the most winning, most decent thing that Steve Kaufman could have done, if he has his eye toward capturing Sylvia Friedman’s new Assembly seat in September’s primary and then in the November elections, would have been to assist Assemblymember Friedman in locating a fully accessible office space as a welcoming place for her constituents with disability in the district. This space was particularly hard for her to find, as I understand it, because assemblymembers and state senators are limited by the allowance they get from the state to rent office spaces in their areas.

Keep in mind a few important facts: When Steven Sanders was an assemblymember for 25 years, his office space throughout his tenure was inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Mr. Kaufman, who was his chief of staff through most of that period, has explained to people that politicians do most of their constituent relations at nearby coffee shops or diners and that laws get formulated while at these diners, and that there was an accessible coffee shop nearby Assemblymember Sanders’s office for persons with disabilities to express their interests and concerns. But that explanation ignores two vital issues.

First, an assemblyperson with an inaccessible office cannot hire any person with a disability no matter how well qualified he or she may be. If Mr. Kaufman were to be the next assemblyperson, all résumés of persons with disabilities would automatically end up in the trash bin. Certainly, he would not be able to consider a person with a disability as his chief of staff.

Second, the power of his constituents with disabilities is no small matter. The First Ave. corridor between E. 14th and E. 34th Sts. has Beth Israel, N.Y.U. and Bellevue medical centers, as well as the Veterans Affairs hospital. A little further west, we can include Cabrini Medical Center. All around, that area is teeming with residents with disabilities who vote. I am not talking just about residents who live in Renwick Gardens on E. 29th St. but residents who live in ordinary apartments that they may rent or buy. This area that Assemblymember Friedman now represents may have the densest population of voters with disabilities in the city, except perhaps for Roosevelt Island.

To me, in a campaign, issues concerning the candidates’ and the incumbent’s positions, voting records, general character and possible specific questionable action are always fair game. But to impugn an incumbent’s qualification because she or he has the deepest and broadest understanding of the word “inclusion” — or because of his or her overcoming his or her physical limitations — means the opponent is declaring war, not just on the assemblyperson, but also on a very important and potentially talented population — a war that the opponent should not think is automatically winnable for his or her side.

I would suggest that, in the future, Mr. Kaufman should back off from maligning his neighbors all around him and stick to important issues facing everyone in his community.
Harry Wieder

Apple advocate’s sour grapes

To The Editor:
I must disagree with your editorial about the Manhattan community board appointments (“Stringer’s phase one gets an A1,” editorial, April 5). I ran for Manhattan borough president and finished second with over 40,000 votes, but it wasn’t good enough to get on a community board. Heck, I couldn’t even get an interview!

According to the Manhattan borough president office’s own statistics, 26 percent of applicants weren’t interviewed and, presumably, were automatically discarded like me. This is horrible!

I ran for office with two very important issues. First, I wanted to depoliticize the community boards. Second, I wanted to honor the African-American stable hand from New Orleans who first called us “the Big Apple” — something I’d been writing to the Manhattan borough president’s office about for 15 years.

I waited a month for the Manhattan borough president’s Web site to get revised, and then e-mailed about the Big Apple. Since Hurricane Katrina, I’d redoubled my efforts to honor the New Orleans stable hand who coined our city’s name in the 1920s. I dedicated Big Apple Corner at Broadway and W. 54th St. — where the “Big Apple” New York Morning Telegraph writer died in poverty in 1963 — but the street sign stands there unexplained. The black stable hand — whom the Morning Telegraph writer admitted was the source — was surely the father or grandfather of someone in New Orleans still living. There is a Manhattan borough historian in the Manhattan borough president’s office, and Scott Stringer absolutely knew what I’d been been pushing for for 15 years. No one in Stringer’s office responded to me.

On March 16, I got a home telephone message from the borough president’s office while I was at work. I returned home and heard it. No, I couldn’t cancel Friday’s work without notice, because I’m a New York City administrative law judge. On Friday morning, while I was at work, my wife got a home phone call and responded for me that I wasn’t interested.

I called back next week and was told that interviewing was over. So sorry! I said that I’d like someone to get back to me on the Big Apple, too. There’s still no response on that.

Why have a selection process at all? Why not have everyone start out as a public member? The people who show up regularly, the people who work on committees — those are the people who make it. You shouldn’t have to kiss the borough president’s ring for a damn interview date.

The process must be changed and it must truly be open to all. New York has lost a great public servant who wanted to serve.

Barry Popik
Popik edits The Big Apple, a Web site about the origins of New York City’s nickname; he was the 2005 Republican candidate for Manhattan borough president

Bummed out on Bowery

To The Editor:
A week ago, I was invited to an event at a bar/restaurant on the Bowery near Houston St. Having taken the bus one stop too far, walking back north I became frightened for my life as a New Yorker. Although I’ve been in Manhattan for over 25 years, I grew up in Queens. Accordingly, I’ve read opinions as to how major construction on Houston St. will turn it into a Queens Boulevard of death. Yet before major construction to Houston St. begins, I saw the walls closing in. The AvalonBay projects, one on the north side of Houston at Bowery and one on the south side, freaked me out. It is unfair to Queens Boulevard to suggest that Houston St. is headed in as bad a direction. Houston St. will not only be worse than Queens Boulevard; it will be worse looking. As I looked left and right, the Avalon projects created a metal and glass cavern between Bowery and Chrystie St. that, for whatever reason, brought to mind something out of “Robocop”!

Additionally, not every commercial enterprise on Queens Boulevard is a bar.

What these developers have done to a main New York intersection is vulgar. These buildings will undoubtedly turn into quasi-N.Y.U. dorms as well as housing for young transients whose parents subsidize them to do the “New York thing.”

As far as that area is concerned, I guess an old song says it best: “The Bowery, The Bowery. I’ll never go there anymore!”

Billy Sternberg

Exploiting Imette’s death

To The Editor:
Re “Gerson unveils nightlife security plan” (news article, April 12):

Paid detail is a conflict of interest. The New York Police Department opposes it and the New York Nightlife Association is lobbying for it for a reason. See FAQs on www.toomanybars.org for an explanation why.

If NYNA were interested in protecting the public from crime, noise, etc., they could hire security guards to patrol the streets for a fraction of the cost of off-duty police officers.

Paid detail would not have prevented Imette St. Guillen’s death; there is no proof she left The Falls alive.

Shame on Councilmembers Gerson, Yassky and Vallone and NYNA for using Ms. St. Guillen’s murder to pass legislation of great benefit to the industry responsible for her death.

Elizabeth Glass

Village or N.Y.U.-ville?

To The Editor:
New York University’s takeover of Greenwich Village and the Lower East

Side (East Village) is of grave concern to residents and businesses of the neighborhood. New York University has taken over many historic buildings, in addition to their large-scale development that is not in character with the neighborhood.

N.Y.U. says they want their students to be a part of the community at the same time the university is in the process of destroying it. The overdevelopment by N.Y.U. has shown other landlords the ways in which they too can get away with large-scale development under “creative zoning benefits,” thus forcing out long-term residents and businesses with new overdeveloped buildings at exploitive rents.

If N.Y.U. wants their students to be a part of the community, why do they have

a separate transportation system for them? That is just one indication of the type of worthless neighbor N.Y.U. has turned into.

The city must intervene and force N.Y.U. to seek space outside of Greenwich

Village and the Lower East Side if we are to save our communities and residents before we are just one big N.Y.U. campus.

Susan Leelike

And still no N.Y.U. plan

To The Editor:
Re “Planning czar bolts N.Y.U. for Bloomberg schools job” (news article, April 19):


With the departure of New York University’s person in charge of creating and publicizing their (supposed) long-term planning conversation with the community, we can only expect it to take another four years before we see anything. 

I’m curious about the circumstances of her departure — they couldn’t come to agreement on a plan or did they just want to postpone their promises even longer?

All this while N.Y.U. continues to plan a huge dorm on E. 12th St. and seeks to acquire other sites as well. If they can continue to put off their community responsibility, they can buy up all of the Village and where will that leave those of us who live there and love the (ever-diminishing) diversity of the area!

Cathy Pullis

Best chamber dinner yet

To The Editor:
Re “Haberman is the man at uplifting dinner dance” (photo story, April 19):

Thank you for your coverage of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce’s 10th annual dinner dance gala. It was our most successful event ever, which is a testament to the leadership that our member of the year, the chamber’s former chairman, Michael Haberman, provided to our organization for three years.

I would like to point out that, during the evening, we also presented our annual Humanitarian of the Year Award. This year, the award went to The Caring Community, an incredibly deserving organization that has been providing invaluable services to the senior community in Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan for over 30 years. The chamber was pleased to be able to make a $3,000 contribution to help fund some of their outstanding programs for our neighborhood’s senior citizens.

We also heard from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who represents the East Village, and is the ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee. Congresswoman Velazquez discussed her work on helping small businesses grow and thrive here in New York City.

Thank you again for covering the event.

Bob Zuckerman
Zuckerman is executive director, Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce

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