Volume 76, Number 12 | August 9 - 15, 2006

Letters to the editor

What’s next for Wash. Sq.

To The Editor:
Re “Never say die” (Scoopy’s Notebook, July 26):

Thank you for your continuing coverage of our community’s efforts to save Washington Square Park. My only note about Scoopy’s Notebook two weeks ago is that I mentioned the dismissal of Mr. Podolsky’s lawsuit in response to your question about what happened to it, and at that time did not have the actual decision to answer why it had been dismissed. For the record, Mr. Podolsky’s lawsuit got the park issue in front of a judge and this provided a foundation for our group’s lawsuit to build on, helping deliver the “one-two legal punch” that has the Parks Department reeling at this moment. State Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman’s landmark ruling in Greenberg v. City of New York was an important victory for community boards in general and, specifically, in the war to save Washington Square Park from being radically redesigned, reprogrammed and transformed from the greatest public gathering space in New York into a manicured, garden-style, pedestrian pass-though park with an ornamental fountain at its center.

What we won, as a community, was the right to be told the truth by the Parks Department. The facts that the court found should be troubling to any of us who believe that our government agencies ought to be accountable to the public: the Parks Department misled the community board and Landmarks Commission, withheld pertinent information (like the deal to rename the fountain) and, after receiving approvals, changed critical elements of the plan.

Having promised us an improved performance and gathering space at the park’s center and gotten its plan approved, the Parks Department then changed the plan to reduce the central plaza by 33 percent and transform the fountain with a 45-foot water spray that would make it impossible to perform or wade in the fountain, or even to sit around it! Judge Goodman wrote, in her 19-page ruling, that “essential aspects of the Parks Department’s plans for the fountain and the fountain plaza . . . were not adequately revealed” to Community Board 2 or the Landmarks Commission.

The 19-page decision is very informative and can be found at www.openwsp.com.

The city subsequently announced that it would appeal the decision. Since appellate courts cannot reconsider facts found in a lower court, the city’s case would likely rely upon a basic argument that the city has the right to withhold information and deceive the community board and Landmarks Commission. Not exactly the kind of P.R. that Parks needs in its enormously unpopular effort to bulldoze its plan through our beloved park.

So our park may stay open for at least a few more seasons. What remains to be seen this time around is, having won the right to be told the truth, will our community have the right to a democratic choice over the future of our most important public space?

Can we repair what is there without closing any significant portion of the park, using the tax money we have, and preserve its current design and public control of the park? This is the option that 98 percent of the 500 park users we polled, as well as the Project for Public Spaces study, prefers. Or must we accept a radical redesign that fences out the open spirit of the park (the unwanted 4-foot fence), creates a reliance upon a private conservancy for funding (for the first time in the park’s 179-year history), closes much of the park for at least two to three years (possibly double that) and transforms the central plaza from the unique gathering space that is the heart of Greenwich Village to a lifeless pedestrian mall?

Can our community board be allowed to consider the option of repairing instead of redesigning and closing the park? Can they insist on seeing the data that Parks has withheld from the public and even Councilmember Alan Gerson, all this time, about the component costs of their plan and the engineering reports and cost assessment about what it would take to simply repair and improve the park?

Will our “public servants” allow us any real democratic choice over what happens with our tax dollars in our community?

Jonathan Greenberg
Greenberg is coordinator of the Open Washington Square Park Coalition and lead plaintiff in Greenberg v. City of New York


No end to N.Y.U. growth

To The Editor:
Re “Conceding nothing, N.Y.U. starts building megadorm” (news article, Aug. 2):

I’d like to thank you for your coverage of the issues that so deeply affect the fragile ecosystem of the Village. I have been a resident in Greenwich Village for more than eight years and a New Yorker for over 30 and have noticed the Village’s tremendous growth as of late.

Much to my displeasure, I have watched N.Y.U. snatch up virtually any available real estate in the Village to build hulking, pathetic symbols of architecture that detract from the unique and often beautiful Village skyline. Most notably, the dormitory they are in the process of erecting on E. 12th St. is one the most outrageously oversized and out-of-scale buildings ever proposed for our neighborhood — which is already oversaturated with students.

N.Y.U. has been nothing but untruthful about their intentions to “respect the Village’s fragile ecosystem.” They have proven time after time that they could care less about Village residents and instead have focused on their own selfish needs. These actions need to stop, and the mayor and members of City Hall need to recognize the negative effects N.Y.U. is having on those that call the Village home.

Scott Sumption


March of the megadorms

To The Editor:
Re “Conceding nothing, N.Y.U. starts building megadorm” (news article, Aug. 2):

N.Y.U., the East Village’s evil empire, expanded its march of megadestruction behind its Palladium megadorm on 13th St., and now on the grave of St. Ann’s Church, with the proposed tallest building ever in the East Village. N.Y.U. does not understand the word “no.” So much for higher learning.

I just got a call asking for a donation for Bobst Library, a horrifying example of N.Y.U. being out of touch in every way. N.Y.U. has not even organized a bulletin board with what they do offer to our community and our neediest community members. John Sexton and N.Y.U. are not listening and do not care when we tell them, “No more megadorms!”  Stop supersizing what is left of our historic neighborhood and start supersizing your contribution!
 
Suzannah B. Troy


Church’s acts belie words

To The Editor:
Re “Attempt to raze St. Brigid’s tests East Villagers’ faith” (news article, Aug. 2):

I’m sorry to say Lincoln Anderson’s coverage of the partial demolition of St. Brigid’s Church was excellent and fairly accurate — except that my name is spelled Sopko, not Sopkow.

How poor can the church be if it sees fit to destroy priceless artifacts like the stained-glass windows? I’d like to ask Mr. Zwilling what his real plans for the site are and why he’s so anxious to sweep St. Brigid’s under the proverbial rug.

Admittedly, selling the church’s windows to finance repair of the building’s eastern wall would be a little like the O. Henry story “The Gift of the Magi” (where Maggie cuts off her beautiful hair to buy her husband a watch fob, and he pawns his watch to buy her some combs) but at least the church and its windows would be preserved.

Beth Sopko


Sticks it to review

To The Editor:
Re Koch on Film, Aug. 2:

Your movie reviewer is up to his old syntactical high jinks again. In describing “Shadowboxer,” he writes: “Clayton is shown sodomizing a minion with a jagged pool stick who apparently had a sexual relationship with Clayton’s wife....” Some pool cue!
 
George Held


Youth soccer getting ugly

To The Editor:
First of all, allow me to express my appreciation to Judith Stiles for the sports article she wrote in The Villager on June 12 entitled “Youngsters are learning bad examples from the pros” for its accuracy and the spirit in which it was written. If I may, I would like to add a few ideas.

Today, with replay after replay on TV, we are now aware of the tricks and roughness the professionals use to complement their skills.

Hotheads have always existed and have always inspired the thugs who attend the games to see the rough and tough. Recently, FIFA has found the way to deal with such behavior. Players who cross the line are expelled from games (i.e., red carded) and receive suspensions afterwards, such as De Rossi, Rooney and Zidane in this World Cup. Still vivid in my mind is Schumacher’s foul on a French player in the ’90 World Cup in Italy that deserved at least a jail sentence but received no red or — if I recall correctly — yellow card.

Coach Miguel Brunengo of Gottschee is 100 percent right about how youngsters are now being coached. It has gotten worse because skills are being traded in for roughness, and young players are being instructed to take dives.

I don’t know whether Coach Brunengo will agree, but youngsters have no business slide-tackling. They have to first learn to play the game standing up. If they learn how to control the ball, pass it, dribble, by age 14, they will be sufficiently skilled to add the slide tackle to their repertoire. I recently became an assistant coach because my 7-year-old daughter is playing soccer. I played college soccer in the ’60s and early ’70s and this past spring I was shocked to see shrimps slide-tackling all over the field. I asked the ref why was this allowed and to my disbelief I heard not from the ref, but from a parent of the sliding shrimp: “Have you ever played? Do you own a TV set?” Well, the Zidane incident had not taken place yet. If it had, I would have been tempted to imitate! Aren’t we all tempted to imitate professionals!

Why not set rules in order to allow the youngsters to develop skillfully?

At the professional level, we now see, because of a rule change, that when a player is injured he or she has to leave the field. They return within 15.2 seconds in full health. Do you think that if they had to sit 15.2 minutes on the sideline to recuperate before coming in — because that’s what the rule said — they would fake injuries?

None of these kids will ever get to the World Cup if, instead of learning skills, he or she practices the “unart” of roughness and toughness beginning at age 7, with the parents on the sideline cheering them on to do just that, be rough and tough.

Joseph Scorcia


Tobacco kills more

To The Editor:
Re “Fatal heroin overdoses claim two lives in one week” (news article, July 26):

I’d like to ask: Why do heroin and other illegal-drug deaths often make the front page, while deaths caused by tobacco rarely get mentioned even in the obituary notices?

Our annual tobacco-versus-all-illegal-drugs-combined kill ratio is about 23.5 to 1 (400,000 versus 17,000).

And the vast majority of our 17,000 deaths from illegal drugs are because the drugs are illegal. Because certain (politically selected) drugs like heroin are illegal, they are of unknown quality, unknown purity and unknown potency — just like alcohol was when it was illegal.

Kirk Muse


Barges, not bourgeoisie!

To The Editor:
Re “Local politicians, activists, boards are not on board with barging plan” (news article, July 26):

It will be a good thing to barge recyclable trash from Gansevoort Peninsula. It would retain at least a vestige of the industrial waterfront that’s been removed. Otherwise, all that’s left will be a phalanx of luxury hi-rise condos imposing themselves like class-war victors on what was an entirely industrial waterfront of ships and piers and seamen and longshoremen who lived with their families a couple of blocks inland to Hudson St. What we have now is a total bourgeoisfication being imposed on us by developers and real estate vandals, throwing up their glass wall like vomit all along the river. Greenwich Village is more than a few blocks of 1838 townhouses and 1887 tenements that the preservationists go nuts preserving! They make no sense without the context of the working-class waterfront. How long will butchers remain in the Meat Market District? I suspect not very long, and then we’ll have a totally fake Village. There must be a living monument to the workers who built the prosperity of the city with their sweat and toil and pain.

John Stanley


Seminary has options

To The Editor:
Re “Within spirit of the law” (letter, by Reverend Ward B. Ewing, July 26):

It is true that several members of the community were invited to “working meetings” held at the General Theological Seminary, which is located in the Chelsea Historic District. The agenda was controlled by the seminary and dealt with its plans for construction of a replacement building for Sherrill Hall. No discussion ever occurred on how the 17-story structure, consisting primarily of luxury co-ops, would impact on the integrity of the Chelsea Historic District.

Save Chelsea Historic District, in conjunction with professionals, has recommended several ways that $15 million needed for renovation can be raised. High-end retail stores on the Ninth Ave. frontage of the new Sherrill Hall could provide a revenue stream that could be capitalized to provide the $15 million necessary. Developers willing to build luxury co-ops on the present tennis court and within the legal 75-foot height limit could also provide the $15 million needed. In addition, there is a developer who agreed to build a new Sherrill Hall for less than the $25 million that the present developer claims he needs and stay within the present height limit of 75 feet and make an adequate profit.

Finally, I am speaking for Save Chelsea Historic District, which we believe is the largest coalition of Chelsea groups ever assembled around one issue: preserving the integrity of the Chelsea Historic District and the 75-foot height limit. The coalition consists of Council of Chelsea Block Associations, Chelsea Coalition on Housing, Chelsea-Village Partnership, Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, Fulton Houses Tenant Association, London Terrace Tenants Association and 800 individuals who have signed our petitions and postcards. No, we do not talk for everyone who lives in the Chelsea Historic District, just the overwhelming majority who expressed an opinion.

Robert Trentlyon
Trentlyon is president, Save Chelsea Historic District



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