Volume 76, Number 13 | August 16 - 22, 2006

Letters to the editor

We will not be fooled

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. lashes out at preservationist over dorm flap” (news article, Aug. 9):

In my experience over the past 29 months while trying to landmark the old P.S. 64, former CHARAS/El Bohio, fighting to stop the destruction of St. Brigid’s Church by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and working to change the zoning in the East Village and Lower East Side so outsized buildings — beyond the context of the streetscape and harmful to our community — will no longer be built here, I have found Andrew Berman and, by association, the Greenwich Society for Historic Preservation, to be true heroes of our community. Andrew lives a life guided by a love of our community. If it’s bad, he says it’s bad. If it smells, he says it smells. No one is more guided by the principals of Jane Jacobs than Andrew. When the forces of inconsiderate and harmful development start attacking those who spend their lives doing good for our community, we must answer that we are not naïve, we will not be fooled and we know who speaks the truth. Andrew Berman does.
Michael Rosen


Consider dorm’s impact

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. lashes out at preservationist over dorm flap” (news article, Aug. 9):

Your paper has been very informative regarding the issues involved with much, if not all, of the East Village, and I just wanted to voice my opinion on the N.Y.U. dormitory.

I am a lifelong resident of E. 11th St. between Third and Fourth Aves. for the last 47 years. I beg to differ with N.Y.U., but there wasn’t any formal notice to me personally or my neighbors via our postal system about their intentions to build anything, let alone the tallest building in the East Village. The first I ever heard about it was through the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which had a community meeting on the matter a few weeks ago, and posted fliers on our building’s door regarding the matter. Having to exit my apartment building, possibly for the rest of my life, and have my senses assaulted by a 26-story slab of brick and windows, might have warranted a 39-cent stamp from the university to inform me directly, rather than filtering their information through other sources. I would think that being a half-block away from their proposed building would make me an “immediate” neighbor, no?

I understand that N.Y.U. thinks that they should have the right to build that high — being that there are already buildings about that tall on Fourth Ave. and one going up on Third Ave. — without ever revealing that their sweetheart deal to buy the post office’s air rights allowed their project to become more massive. Although in their eyes legal, it was a sweetheart deal indeed and foul smelling at its heart.

Personally, I have a family history with St. Ann’s Church. Having had my confirmation, been an altar boy and buried many family members out of that church, it is so ironic that it almost seems fitting that a slab of brick and windows, which will resemble a tombstone, will be built on that site. Might they be opposed to having my dead relatives’ names inscribed on the side of it? It could read: “In memory of [my cousin] Jackie Curtis, [my grandmother] Slugger Ann, etc....”

With the onslaught of territorial acquisition by N.Y.U., I am surrounded by visually assaulting buildings that resemble big blocks of Lego and glass. I beg that N.Y.U. stop further destruction and consider what impact this project will have on this community for many years to come. Overtaxing the local resources, such as businesses, further weakening local energy resources, turning the streets into Party Town U.S.A., diminishing the investment values of surrounding apartment owners and creating an architectural visual assault are only a few of the many negative impacts. It looks like N.Y.U. is more of a real estate developer first and a learning institution second. After all, they’re not letting their students stay there out of the kindness of their hearts just because they want them closer to campus.
N.Y.U. has the legal right, according to the powers that be, to build this dorm. But why not try to compromise with a shorter building, maybe only half its size? It would be a neighborly thing to do.
And as far as retaliating against Andrew Berman for speaking out against their proposals, Andrew has done nothing wrong except fight for the decent preservation of our beautiful community and care for the people of Greenwich Village. That should be no crime in a good man’s life. His work is much appreciated by his supporters and those who understand what greed and politics can do to human life.
  Joe Preston


N.Y.U. is running scared

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. lashes out at preservationist over dorm flap” (news article, Aug. 9):

N.Y.U.’s personal attack on Andrew Berman is totally unwarranted. Besides Elizabeth Langwith, head of the St. Ann’s Committee, no one has worked harder in attempting to stop the N.Y.U. monstrosity from being built than Andrew.

While it is true that N.Y.U. representatives have from time to time discussed various things with him and the St. Ann’s Committee, N.Y.U. did so reluctantly. Instead of openly announcing their plans beforehand though community outreach, they had to be pressured to attend various community meetings held over the past several months. Now that the spotlight is on N.Y.U.’s nefarious tactics, they are running scared; hence their attack on Andrew.
Edward Mamet


We are the community

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

I wanted to respond to a comment made by David Kramer in The Villager’s article on the N.Y.U. megadorm on E. 12th St. Kramer stated that the community is represented by a few people who are entirely antagonistic to the project. In reality, the vast majority — 99 percent! — of residents in the area are opposed to the continued and aggressive encroachment of N.Y.U. into the area and specifically to the height and scale of this particular dormitory. The St Ann’s Committee consists of residents from many buildings in the area, and I also have hundreds of signed letters from community members who are appalled at N.Y.U.’s actions and their callous disregard for the East Village.

N.Y.U. is now claiming the plans that appeared in the article are not final. While this may be good news — since the building in the plans looks pretty awful — and we welcome the opportunity to provide input on the finer points of the 26-story monolith, such as brick color and landscaping, this doesn’t change the fact that N.Y.U. backed away from its commitment to have a meaningful dialogue on the substantive issues affecting the community, specifically height and scale. N.Y.U. still hasn’t explained why they moved forward without communicating back to the community and simply started construction a full six months earlier than they had originally said!

Most disheartening is N.Y.U.’s continued and unchecked aggressive overdevelopment in the East Village and the implicit endorsement by city officials who refuse to rezone the area and eliminate “community facility” bonuses that give N.Y.U. even more latitude to destroy our neighborhood. This has to stop!

Thanks for your continued coverage of this very important issue.
Elizabeth Langwith
Langwith is co-chairperson, the St. Ann’s Committee


Good faith is betrayed

To The Editor:
It was ironic to read a statement on N.Y.U.’s Web site by their spokesman, John Beckham, attacking alleged false statements by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and its executive director, Andrew Berman. If any institution has a track record of engaging in disinformation, it is N.Y.U. This is particularly true in the case of N.Y.U.’s megadorm under construction on E. 12th St.

After calling on Mr. Berman to retract his “false assertions,” N.Y.U. produces scant evidence and goes on to repeat its own false statements. In the case of the one misstatement Mr. Berman did make by overstating the building height, he quickly disseminated a correction to the public. But the fact remains the community is not any happier about a 242-foot-tall dorm than it was about one approaching 300 feet tall.

More to the point, the community is deeply unhappy to find that meetings with N.Y.U. representatives resulted in no meaningful changes in their plans to build this dorm, which is sure to be yet another architectural eyesore, the tallest building in the East Village at that. Although N.Y.U., on July 10, gave five days notice that construction would begin, as required by the New York City Department of Buildings, the community residents were surprised because they were under the impression that N.Y.U. was still talking to them about possible modifications to their plans. Residents who had been party to meetings with N.Y.U. learned via N.Y.U.’s Web site that N.Y.U. would not be making any of the proposed modifications because they would cost an additional $13 million, and that N.Y.U. concluded that any changes they could make would only reduce the building height by 10 feet. So, if Mr. Berman is incorrect in stating that the community’s proposals were ignored, what proof does N.Y.U. have that they engaged in a serious consideration of alternatives for development of the site?

Once again, good faith community negotiations with N.Y.U. have resulted in minimal changes to their plans. And once again, N.Y.U.’s credibility reaches a new low. Since N.Y.U. appears unwilling to work in good faith with membership-based organizations like G.V.S.H.P. that truly represent residents of Greenwich Village, the East Village and the Lower East Side, it would seem that government should more effectively exercise its power to regulate land use through zoning to prevent N.Y.U. from turning the Third and Fourth Ave. corridors into dormitory row. The City Planning Commission urgently needs to extend contextual zoning to this very vulnerable piece of our urban fabric. 
Steve Herrick
Herrick is executive director, Cooper Square Committee


Good through 2012

To The Editor:
I generally am supportive of the reportage done by Albert Amateau and the rest of your staff regarding local issues affecting the waterfront. I am writing this letter to ask that you correct something that was omitted from Mr. Amateau’s article “Local politicians, activists, boards are not on board with barging plan” (July 26), which has to do with the city’s new 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan passed by the City Council on July 19, which includes a provision for a transfer station for recyclables on the Gansevoort Peninsula — the jewel of the Hudson River Park.

Mr. Amateau is correct when he refers to my remarks that the settlement of our lawsuit in October 2005 did not preclude transfer stations at Gansevoort and W. 59th Sts., but I would like to add the following clarification.

Our settlement agreement with the city of New York permits only present Sanitation activities to remain on the Gansevoort Peninsula until 2012. It is our position that the city cannot use the Gansevoort Peninsula in any other way until after the 2012 vacate date. In other words, even if the State Legislature allows another use at Gansevoort before 2012, the Friends of Hudson River Park would bring an action under their settlement agreement, which provides, contractually, that no other use can be there until 2012.

Finally, Mr. Amateau is correct when he says that the Friends would probably go to court to make sure the transfer stations are dropped, but we must add the other phrase, “or any other use before 2012.”

I hope this clarifies Friends’ position on the Gansevoort Peninsula.
Daniel Alterman
Alterman was the attorney on the Friends of Hudson River Park’s lawsuit to vacate the Department of Sanitation trucks from Gansevoort Peninsula


So long, Joe

To The Editor:
It rankles me to hear Joe Lieberman say that this country needs bipartisanship at this time. Is that the bipartisanship that allows the Republicans to smear honorable men such as Max Cleland, John Kerry and John Murtha? Is it the bipartisanship that has Lieberman supporting the failed policies of an inept and corrupt administration that I believe stole two elections for the presidency; that has placed us in the quagmire that is Iraq; that has allowed corrupt contractors to bilk the U.S. of billions of dollars; that has failed the people of New Orleans when Katrina hit; that has a failed energy policy; that has refused to properly fund stem cell research; and that has interfered in the private affairs of its citizens, as in the Terri Schiavo case?

We Democrats will no longer stand by while our elected Democrats allow this ship of state to falter and sink because of some bizarre and false sense of bipartisanship. 

Goodbye, Joe. You certainly were no Democrat, and have proven it by choosing to run as an independent.
Gary A. Tomei


No confusion here

To The Editor:
Re “The picture changes as street artists retract letter” (news article, Aug. 9):

Larry White and his lawyer Eugene Nathanson have predictably claimed that artists who withdrew their names from their letter requesting that a New York City version of the San Francisco artist permit/lottery system be passed into law by the New York City Council are “confused.”

Let’s try to clear up any confusion.

When you hire a lawyer to write a carefully drafted official letter to New York City officials containing 12 glowing references to San Francisco’s Street Artist Ordinance, and cite references to it as a “model street artist ordinance,” those who read the letter are not confused when they say you want an artist permit.

When Soho Alliance landlords send their stooges to trick artists into voluntarily giving up their constitutional rights, and those artists awaken to what happened and withdraw their names from the aforementioned letter, they are not confused. They have been unstooged.

When a lawyer advocates in favor of an artist permit system reversing a decade of legal precedents granting New York City street artists full First Amendment freedom, fully equal protection with written-matter vendors, no licenses or permits and allowing them to sell on any street in New York City, he cannot then claim he was trying to “open up streets to artists.”

Which streets would those be, exactly?

Is “First Amendment lawyer” Nathanson aware that between 1996 and 2003 seven federal and New York State courts declared an artist permit system modeled on the San Francisco artist permit to be a violation of New York State law, the New York State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution? Did his legal research overlook that this same San Francisco-style artist permit as applied to New York City parks was permanently overturned in New York in 2001 in Lederman et al v. Giuliani/Bach et al v. City of New York?

When puppets and proxies of the business improvement districts keep trying over and over again to implement their plan for severely restricting artists’ rights, we are not confused to say they are enemies of art who are only pretending to help artists so as to get even more landlord welfare and undeserved tax breaks.

In 1995, the Soho Alliance and the four largest BID’s filed an amicus brief in Lederman/Bery et al v. City of New York, claiming that visual art was unworthy of First Amendment protection. After 13 years of struggle, these same wealthy landlords are still trying to trick artists into submiting to the San Francisco street artist permit, a system in which the artist has no rights other than those granted by the permit.

Since 2001, Larry White and his political patron, Councilmember Alan Gerson, have been trying to stooge artists into voluntarily submitting to a repressive system of certification panels, lotteries for free speech, artist permits and restricted art zones.

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


Runaway Boxcar

To The Editor:
Re “Boxcar rebellion has Avenue B on the defensive” (news article, July 26):

Via Community Board 3, we tried to negotiate with Boxcar lounge’s management in terms of an earlier curfew and limited seating for the bar’s backyard. They refused. C.B. 3 issued an ultimatum: become a 12-seat outdoor restaurant (as they originally promised) and close earlier or the community board would issue a resolution recommending the State Liquor Authority revoke the license for the outdoor space. The bar refused to compromise, hence the resolution.

Thirty-two neighbors in surrounding buildings complained to C.B. 3 about Boxcar, a fact stunningly omitted from the article. We did, in fact, meet with the bar’s owners to discuss the problem. They came to my home at 10 p.m. The bar’s backyard was emptied at 9:50 p.m.

“Noise?” they asked. “What noise?” They stared solemnly as my toddler performed tumbling tricks for them on her bed, 7 feet away from the bar’s backyard. They realized our complaints were valid.

While still a candidate, Councilmember Rosie Mendez went on record at C.B. 3’s general meeting last summer as fiercely opposing Boxcar’s backyard. Her current support for the bar is a surprising turnaround.

“I’ve been in noisy bars,” she said in The Villager article last month. “[Boxcar] was, I thought, within reasonable limits.” I welcome Ms. Mendez to visit my home without the bar’s knowledge when the backyard is full.

The Department of Environmental Protection issues violations for loud music; the New York Police Department for loud voices. The Police Department took a noise meter reading in my home registering over 45 decibels but would not issue a violation.  

Councilmember Mendez commented: “If a violation has not been issued, certainly, they’re in compliance.” This is a fallacious argument, particularly if you are a bar-noise victim.

Boxcar lied on their S.L.A. application. If an S.L.A. applicant can lie, inspire the aforementioned community board resolution and receive no reprimand, what reason do potential S.L.A. applicants have to be truthful?  

Our family has owned our co-op for 20 years. We can hear Boxcar patrons in every room in our co-op with windows closed and noise machines on. (Even “nerds” are loud when intoxicated). Our three school-age children cannot sleep.  
Liz Glass


E-mail letters, not longer than 400 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 145 Sixth Ave., ground floor, NY, NY 10013. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel.

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