Volume 76, Number 8 | July 12 - 18, 2006

Letters to the editor

Strong-armed at political clubs

To The Editor:
Re “Load o’ CoDA news” (Scoopy’s Notebook, June 21):

I read The Villager’s Scoopy’s Notebook item about the CoDA endorsement of Ken Diamondstone. Just to clarify the facts:

At the endorsement meeting on June 1, several CoDA members, including Steven Gradman, remember one of the co-chairpersons answering the question of what determines a winner. The answer: the winner must get 50 percent plus 1 vote. The vote count that night was 16 votes for Ken Diamondstone, 12 votes for Marty Connor, 2 abstentions and 1 present and not voting (submitted a blank ballot). There was also a very heated exchange between Michael Farrin, the co-chairperson (an obvious Connor supporter) and Frieda Bradlow, one of CoDA’s longtime members and a well-known progressive, during which Mr. Farrin physically grabbed the ballot for the Diamondstone/Connor race out of her hand and prevented her from casting her ballot. This was after Ms. Bradlow had spoken in favor of Mr. Diamondstone. Strangely, Bradlow was allowed to vote in all the other races.

Nevertheless, after the vote, Diamondstone was declared the winner.

Several days later, Mr. Farrin called the Diamondstone campaign office to tell them to send their “committee on vacancies” information to Astoria Graphics (a petition printer) so the Diamondstone information could be printed on CoDA’s petitions along with the other endorsed candidates.

A day or so later, Farrin called back the Diamondstone campaign office to say that suddenly some executive board members of CoDA “remembered” that a winner must receive 55 percent of the vote at CoDA to be endorsed. While Farrin stated that it was part of CoDA’s bylaws, several members contacted remember a discussion, but never any vote by its membership, to change its bylaws, nor have they seen this written in the bylaws.

The night of the endorsement meeting the total votes cast were actually 30 with one person present but not voting. That gave Diamondstone 53 percent of the vote (16 + 12 + 2 = 30, 16 ÷ 30 = 53 percent). If Bradlow had not been illegally deprived of her right to vote for Diamondstone, the results would have been 17 for Diamondstone, 12 for Connor, 2 abstentions and 1 present but not voting. That would have given Diamondstone the required 55 percent. Clearly, the hand of Connor squeezes tightly.

Yet, CoDA proceeded to contact its membership to schedule a new endorsement vote for this race only. After a two-and-a-half-hour heated discussion, they undid their prior endorsement for the reformer, Ken Diamondstone, and orchestrated no endorsement.

This is also not the first time Connor has used all the power of incumbency to strong-arm reputable clubs into doing disreputable deeds.

Earlier, in Brooklyn, the Independent Neighborhood Democrats faced similar strong-arm tactics as well. At I.N.D., Connor pulled quite a stunt by using the power of his surrogates to get this club to disenfranchise 90 new members (who had followed the club’s own rules by joining the club at least 60 days before the scheduled endorsement meeting) from exercising their right to vote.

Also, on May 11, Village Independent Democrats had an endorsement meeting scheduled which included the 25th State Senatorial District. Both Diamondstone and Connor were notified several weeks in advance to prepare for brief remarks to be given at that meeting. The chairperson of V.I.D.’s Campaign Committee personally confirmed that Connor was informed of the meeting on April 18 and agreed to attend. His staff reiterated his confirmation on several occasions thereafter. (V.I.D. has e-mails and phone records to confirm this). Yet, Connor complained that he had not been informed that there would be an endorsement vote, was at a disadvantage and therefore wanted the endorsement meeting cancelled.

The rationale given V.I.D. members not to endorse was that there is only one 25th State Senate election district in V.I.D.’s district. While this may be correct, the endorsement vote had been scheduled and was on the agenda for that evening. But jockeying by Connor to prevent the vote was finally effective.

These examples of using the power of incumbency to manipulate, strong-arm and rig local elections only support the contention that Connor has simply become the poster person for cynical antidemocratic backroom deal-making. This also greatly strengthens the case against re-electing.

Joe Kopitz
Kopitz is treasurer for Ken Diamondstone’s State Senate campaign and Diamondstone’s longtime partner

Seminary must obey the law

To The Editor:
The fight between the Chelsea community and General Theological Seminary and Brodsky, the developer, is about saving the Chelsea Historic District. We believe that the hard-fought battle to get this historic district will have been in vain if G.T.S. is permitted to pierce the 75-foot height limit which the Chelsea community has protected from other developers since it was zoned by City Planning. We are concerned both for the people who live in the district and for the historic houses that enrich Chelsea and all of New York City.

The community, represented by a coalition of Chelsea organizations, has not fought the seminary in it efforts to replace Sherrill Hall or to build another building on the tennis court in The Close. We have bent over backwards to accommodate them. We have insisted only that G.T.S. obey the law like the rest of us and stay within the 75-foot height limit.

There are ways for G.T.S. to raise the $15 million that it needs to renovate its buildings. It could build and sell co-op apartments on the tennis court instead of building another administrative structure on that site and it could rent high-quality stores in a new Sherrill Hall on the Ninth Ave. blockfront. We are not opposed to Brodsky building up to the 75-foot height limit for Sherrill Hall and selling co-ops to multimillionaires. He will still make a tidy profit.

Why has the seminary refused to talk to the community about what its plan would do to the Chelsea Historic District? Why has the seminary refused to show us its contract with Brodsky, but hides behind it every time we ask a question it does not want to answer?

Robert Trentlyon,
Trentlyon is president, Save Chelsea Historic District

Traffic safety is low priority

To The Editor:
Re Your editorial of July 5 (“Bicyclists should not have to ride in fear of their lives”):

I thank you. I have worked with the traffic safety officer at the Ninth Police Precinct to promote safety safety for cyclists, pedestrians, motorists et al.

Alas, our society casually accepts the carnage, deaths, injuries, maimings, etc. year after year. As a veteran cyclist and pedestrian, I have experienced numerous hazards and was severely traumatized in a “dooring” accident.

Your reference to “a Villager reporter was violently hit on the East River bikeway just north of the Manhattan Bridge by a Sanitation sweeper turning from South St. into its garage” reminds me of the time I went into that garage to report a Sanitation van driver recklessly speeding out of that garage through the bikeway to get onto South St. without checking on cyclists, joggers and pedestrians.

Our society gives very little priority to traffic safety in general. Of course, cyclists are very vulnerable. Literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of “doorings” (crashes into the door of a vehicle) occur annually. The vast majority are due to carelessness of people exiting from cars, but some may be caused by cyclists speeding, weaving in and out of traffic lanes, etc.

The bottom line — I use a helmet, elbow guards and wrist guards and I pray for God’s protection. Our society just does not care — with very few exceptions, like The Villager.

Michael Gottlieb

Send-off from U.S.C.C.

To The Editor:
Re “I quit” (Scoopy’s Notebook, June 7) and “Can’t preserve the union” (Scoopy’s Notebook, June 14):

The board of directors of the Union Square Community Coalition regrets the resignations of Susan Kramer and Gail Fox as our co-chairpersons. U.S.C.C. is a 26-year-old organization that was formed to protect public use of Union Square Park and to promote the best interests of the Union Square neighborhoods. Our new nine-member board is dedicated to civil and democratic discourse and encourages input from our members and their attendance at all of our meetings. We wish our former co-chairpersons well and thank them for their volunteer work.

Ernest L. Raab
Raab is vice chairperson of Union Square Community Coalition

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