Volume 76, Number 11 | August 2 - 8, 2006

Letters to the editor

Artists see through ‘lies’

To The Editor:
Re “Don’t broad-brush artists” (letter, by Lawrence White, July 26):

Larry White must think all street artists are illiterate. How else can you explain his blatant lies about supporting the imposition of an artist permit system in New York City?

When you get an attorney to write an official letter to the City Council asking for the same artist permit that is in effect in San Francisco to be put in place in New York City, and then file that letter with the City Council as a public document, you cannot then claim you do not support an artist permit. When the San Francisco artist permit rules you want imposed in New York City are more than 17 pages of mind-numbing regulations, you cannot claim all they require is for artists to show their driver’s license or tax ID. When you spend years telling First Precinct Officer Rick Lee that the street artists and vendors in Soho are out of control, are violent and are engaging in many illegal practices, you cannot then criticize Officer Lee for repeating those same absurd lies.

Larry is also lying about not being a leader. He most definitely is the leader of a five-member group of street artists who are stooges of Councilmember Alan Gerson. That group is called SIACU or Soho International Artists Cooperative Union. Gerson has promised them a $3.5 million grant to buy a building in Soho; $3.5 million buys a lot of stooging.

Larry is a political appointee of Gerson — the “vendor vigilante” and Soho Alliance puppet — to be an “alternative” street artist advocate whose entire role is to provide Gerson with a cover story. That cover story is that street artists desperately want a permit system imposed on them. Larry is the point man for Gerson’s efforts to destroy street artists’ rights, and he is doing an excellent job of carrying out his assignment.

Robert Lederman
Lederman is president, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)

Rights only for the rich

To The Editor:
Re “Street artists have a brush with police over rules,” (news article, July 19):

Congratulations to the vendors who intend to challenge the infernal “20-feet-from-a-doorway” law. They should be encouraged to take their suit even further and challenge the entire underpinnings of the vendor laws.
Does a government have the right to favor one man’s business over another’s in a free-enterprise democracy?

Should business owners who pay rent to a landlord or who own property have more rights than those who operate for free in a public space?

Everybody knows that government favoritism of the propertied and rich is what’s behind these persecutory laws, strongly weighted against the rights of the vendors who had no say in making them. Behind the sanctimonious mask of protecting public health and safety is merely an embarrassing example of the propertied giving the boot to the propertless, the “haves” wanting to take even more for themselves from the “have-nots.”

Does a government have the right to favor some forms of expression and exclude others equally valid? Another form of elitism.

Are only the vendors illegal?

What about the police who have been accepting a sales tax ID as a vendor’s license? Are they not fostering the very congestion they decry and inviting an ever-increasing number of others to cut the throats of the American vets who were promised, after military service, they could make their living on the sidewalk with a vendor’s license? This betrayal is worse than illegal; it’s a crime.

While vets have to compete for jewelry sales with unlicensed vendors from countries far and wide who set up multiple tables, while forms of expression other than painting, sculpture and photography are discriminated against, the vending laws appear to be based on the golden rule: that is, those with the gold make the rules.

Best of luck to those who hope to overturn them.

Thelma Blitz

Bag the subway bag stings

To The Editor:
Re “Soho woman protests police setup” (news article, July 19):

As you commute to work or ride to one of New York’s finest destinations, beware of any stranded bags. But do not worry about contacting the police, however; chances are, they are already watching.

In addition to the constant bag searches hassling straphangers during rush hour, there is a new program run by the city threatening our civil liberties. The program, called Lucky Bag, is an attempt to crack down on petty criminals roaming the city streets and the subway stations. By placing valuables in a discarded bag and arresting whoever attempts to walk away with it, this crackdown, according to critics, borders on pure illegality and entrapment. And while the bag checks were described as necessary in order to prevent a serious attack on our subway systems, a valid argument to some, the Lucky Bag sting seems to be a waste of valuable time, resources and personnel.

While some arrests might actually catch habitual thieves, it is all but impossible to clearly substantiate each person’s intent. Recently, a woman, who was arrested for walking off with one of these “lucky bags,” defended herself by saying she was planning on returning it to its rightful owner. A good Samaritan or hardened criminal? There are definitely two sides to every story.

Even with successful operations leading to the arrests of everyday larcenists, it is unlikely this approach can keep these delinquents off the streets for good. But in a time where trust in law enforcement is crucial, it is devastating to see an operation aimed toward everyday commuters and riders. The Police Department now must decide what is more valuable. And New Yorkers must now return to being disinterested in the well-being of their fellow straphangers…if they want to avoid being arrested.

Craig Stalzer

Oh, the hypocrisy

To The Editor:
Re “Mayor and Quinn on same track on rail yards” and “Local politicians, activists, boards are not on board with barging plan” (news articles, July 26):

Who is being more hypocritical here? Quinn for sticking it to the community she represents after making false promises of protecting neighborhoods in order to get elected? Or is it Duane and Gottfried who are pandering to the locals by opposing the transfer station, but at the same time championing the Javits expansion and the Bloomberg-Quinn attempt to bring in an additional 150,000 people and 15,000 vehicles to the West Side with the Hudson Yards and West Chelsea plans (twice as much as the stadium’s once-a-week 80,000)? Are things so boring in the State Senate that Duane finally realized his successor in the City Council is all about ambition and nothing else?

Or is it The Villager, for not pointing out these inconsistencies and accepting political press releases without any scrutiny?

John Fisher

Ethics and contractors

To The Editor:
A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt rallied the nation to successfully curb a corporate culture that had run amok and was trampling the rights of American citizens. Today we need a similar correction. Whether it’s the latest indictments at Enron, corporate polluters adding to global warning (have you seen Al Gore’s film yet?), the huge income gap between C.E.O.’s and the average worker, union busting, overseas corporate policy that generates hostility toward the U.S. or the inhumane number of hours people are working these days — leading to high stress, poor health and little time for family, friends or community — there’s much that needs to be fixed.

Philosopher Michael Lerner — whose Network of Spiritual Progressives drew over 1,000 people to a conference in Washington, D.C., in May — has an idea to encourage corporate responsibility that he calls ethical impact standards. Simply put, it would require a company that wants to do business with a municipality, such as New York City, to prove it doesn’t conflict with the public good. In other words, such things as how well a company treats its workers, its impact on the community, whether it commits crimes or even if its product benefits or hurts society would matter in determining if a company gets a city contract.

A form of ethical impact standards is already used in Europe, and ballot initiatives have begun to appear across the U.S. Councilmember Alan Gerson, showing the progressive spirit of a true Villager, displayed bold leadership when he unveiled a plan at the Open Center on May 21 that would allow New York City to be the first in the nation to implement ethical impact reform. Working with Gerson is a nonprofit called the Foundation for Ethics and Meaning (which is helping to nurture the legislation). Anyone else who wants to join us is welcome. We’d like to have a bill ready to introduce in the City Council by September.

In a few hours of petitioning for this bill on the streets of New York, I was able to collect 50 signatures without much arm-twisting. Lots of us have been appalled at the rising level of corporate irresponsibility for quite some time. Here at last is a sensible way to move forward toward a solution.

John Bredin

Benefit was beautiful

To The Editor:
Re “Concert for the sunken square raises the roof at St. Mark’s” (news brief, July 26):

Kudos to the Washington Square Preservation group for their event to benefit the park. Sharon Woolums, Mary Johnson, Jessie McNab and the entire committee put together a great program. Keir Dullea’s reading was terrific (and he’s as handsome as ever!). David Amram is still getting it done. Odetta was strong of voice and spirit; she is a treasure. My college-aged niece was visiting from out of town and I was glad she got to see a true Village “happening.”

Noreen T. Shipman 

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