Volume 76, Number 14 | August 23 - 29, 2006

Letters to the editor

Dorm you, N.Y.U.!

To The Editor: 
Re “Conceding nothing, N.Y.U. starts building megadorm” (news article, Aug. 2) and “N.Y.U. lashes out at preservationist over dorm flap” (news article, Aug. 9):

In a sad and desperate attempt to turn around increasing anger over their plans to impose a monstrous megadorm on the Village, New York University is now spinning blatant lies and vicious personal attacks, adding further insult to this community to which they have already broken so many promises.

Let’s make sure that the facts in this case are clear:

N.Y.U. has filed plans for and begun construction of the tallest building in the East Village, a 700-bed dorm. This was done without informing any of us or our groups about any decisions that had been made about the size, height or configuration of the building, though we had been promised by N.Y.U. that we would be informed of such decisions. In fact, inquiries to N.Y.U. about the status of such decisions in recent weeks were refused a response. The largest residential building adjacent to the dorm site is 111 Fourth Ave.; the St. Ann’s Committee is a community group representing neighbors from more than a half-dozen buildings surrounding the dorm site; the Union Square Community Coalition represents residents from throughout the Union Square area and the blocks to the south, which include the dorm site; and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is the largest membership organization in Greenwich Village and the East Village. We have all attempted to engage N.Y.U. in a constructive dialogue about this project, to no avail.

Plans filed for the dorm show it reaches a height of 261 feet, without including the water tower housing above. The 242-foot height to which N.Y.U. refers is the height of the roof of the building’s top occupiable floor, above which the building will rise another approximately 20 feet for parapet and mechanical housing. This is substantially higher than the approximately 230 feet N.Y.U. had told us months ago was the height they were considering reaching — a height they were told by us, the community board and every elected official representing the area was too high and needed to be reduced.

None of us received any information from N.Y.U. about final plans for the building; the only information any of us received was from Hudson Companies, which provided the legally required five-day notification to 111 Fourth Ave. that construction would be commencing next door, with absolutely no details about the project’s scope. All information we received was from our retrieving N.Y.U.’s dorm plans that were filed with the Department of Buildings. Those plans showed that after N.Y.U. had promised to consider input from us, the community board, other community groups and elected officials, they had not made a single change to the plan any of us had suggested.

In fact, as required by law, N.Y.U. can now only build the monstrous megadorm shown in the plans approved by the Department of Buildings and published in The Villager, unless they submit new plans or amend those plans. N.Y.U.’s assertion that this is not the “actual design” of the building refers to the fact that the color of the exterior brick has not yet been chosen.

Finally, N.Y.U. admits that construction of this dorm is part of a conscious decision on their part to move facilities from the Financial District to the Village. This in spite of the fact that a coalition of eight neighborhood groups and Community Boards 2 and 3 both urged N.Y.U. to do exactly the opposite, to find locations outside of the oversaturated Village and surrounding area for new facilities, a request N.Y.U. has refused.

The E. 12th St. dorm will be the tallest building N.Y.U. has built in the Village in 40 years, adding 700 dorm beds to an area already entirely oversaturated with similar facilities. Four years after new N.Y.U. President John Sexton promised to respect the Village’s “fragile ecosystem” and to work with the community on long-range planning issues, N.Y.U. has shown it has as little respect for the truth as it does for the landscape of our neighborhood.
 Andrew Berman, Tony McAndrew, Elizabeth Langwith and Leo Blackman
Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation; McAndrew is a resident, 111 Fourth Ave.; Langwith is co-chairperson, St. Ann’s Committee; Blackman is a member, Union Square Community Coalition

No parking in park

To The Editor:
Re “Trust gets ready to float another R.F.P. for Pier 40” (news article, Aug. 9):

The huge structure that presently covers Pier 40 is an eyesore that should be removed. The pier itself should be retained and should continue to be used as a sports field. This will mean less parking space in the area, but local car owners could be compensated by a scheme that gives them priority for on-street parking.

If the structure is to continue as a parking space, then the parking business should be run on strictly commercial lines. The pier should not, as it now apparently does, offer the cheapest parking in Manhattan. There is no reason to subsidize car owners in Manhattan, least of all in a prosperous area like the Village.
Frank H. Stewart 

The madmen among us

To The Editor:
Re “Thinking about Berry Berenson, who wore barefoot” (notebook, by Jerry Tallmer, Sept. 7, 2005):

With the recent news of terrorists once again plotting to harm the innocent in airplanes, I find myself searching the ’Net for news of 9/11. I don’t live in New York, D.C., or Pennsylvania, but it still feels so close and, unfortunately, fresh. I found Jerry Tallmer’s story about Ms. Berenson. While she was one of many, the stories seem similar. Kind people, loving people, funny people, loved by family and friends, taken in such a horrific way by brutal people. His story made me cry and I understand his anger. It is a feeling that makes me feel powerless. It is difficult, even almost five years later, to understand hatred that drives madmen to kill. Mr. Tallmer’s story expresses, in a way that I cannot, the feelings of loss we all suffered as Americans.
Laura Siple

Missing notes on OPUS

To The Editor:
Re “Neighbors in discord with 13th St. music club” (news article, Aug. 9):

As the spokesperson for OPUS NY, which is featured in your article, I wanted to make these points, which were never accurately addressed in the piece:

First off, we are calling our new venue a performance gallery — which will encompass performance art, paintings, photographs, music, poetry, book readings and comedy — not a performance venue, as incorrectly stated in the article.

We are already in the early stages of scheduling events with renowned artist Mark Kostabi and celebrity author Mark Bego.

While we can certainly appreciate what certain neighborhood principals are saying, all we’d like to ask is for them to give us the opportunity to show them what we want to present to the neighborhood. The comments featured in the piece are truly heartfelt and appreciated. However, we feel what we are bringing to the neighborhood is exciting.

Change is always hard to accept, especially for our longtime residents, but we promise this change will be for the good.

Our debut event, which will also serve as our opening in September, will be for the St. Jude’s charity, www.stjude.org. We’re honored to have their support on this debut evening. This is the charity started by comedian Danny Thomas and now run by his daughter Marlo Thomas.

It’s stated in the article that E.U. and OPUS NY are the same type of establishments. E.U. is a full bar/restaurant that has nothing to do with art or performances.

While we realize a more sensational article makes for a better read, let us get the facts correct.

No good comes from a confrontational exercise. Change is never easy or welcome. But change is a natural course, and in this instance we want to do it with the blessing of our neighbors.
 David Salidor

Festival favoritism

To The Editor:
I would like to bring attention to a disgraceful act of favoritism that occurred on Aug. 1 at the Washington Square Music Festival, which is sponsored by the Washington Square Park Council. These concerts are usually held outside, where there is plenty of seating in the park: chairs in front of the stage, plus bleachers and ample lawn space, as well as the benches and walls along the outlying areas of the performance space. These concerts are popular and well attended. They are also free.

Yet the concert scheduled for the evening of Aug. 1 was inexplicably moved to the Judson Church across the street. This church is obviously a much smaller venue and seating was greatly limited, so seating preference was naturally given to those who had made donations to subsidize the festival. Eager concertgoers were told to wait in line as donors streamed past them into the auditorium to take their “reserved” seats, which took up roughly 50 percent of the available space. Dozens of people were turned away at the door.

What is troubling is not that donors got seating priority, but that the concert was billed as free and open to the community. In fact, it seemed to be open predominantly to paying guests, as their private concert, although there was a modicum of free seats.

There are many fine Manhattan concert halls and arts organizations that charge admission. For the Washington Square Music Festival, which is funded heavily by the public, to go that way, so be it. But to advertise a concert as free, when preference is clearly given to those who pay, is disingenuous. It violated the credo of the Washington Square Park Council and disappointed people who came to enjoy an evening of good music.
Nathaniel Norman

Left out ‘P’ word

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

First Amendment lawyer Eugene Nathanson acuses Lederman’s group of being somewhat confused about what Nathanson’s letter asks for. Mr Nathanson’s letter asked the City Council to enact into law something similar to the street artist ordinances in San Francisco, Santa Fe or New Orleans. In the article, Nathanson fails to mention that all these cities require permits for artists. Mr. Nathanson also fails to mention that all the areas that he claims he wants to open for original artists are already open to them. Maybe Mr. Nathanson should read over his letter again and do more research on the three systems he advocated for SIACU, and then tell me who is confused.
Mitchell Balmuth
Balmuth was a defendant in New York State v. Balmuth (which ruled artists don’t need a permit to vend in the city’s parks) and is a member, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics)

Zone defense

To The Editor:
Re “No confusion here” (letter, by Robert Lederman, Aug. 16):

Robert Lederman has made a career out of confusing artists and using them as a smoke screen to advocate for his real contingent — illegal vendors and art bootleggers. The facts are that whenever artists strike out on their own to use their First Amendment rights to speak their own minds this “First Amendment advocate” attacks them, insults them and lies about their motives. His letter to the editor, “No confusion here,” is a perfect example.

Attorney Eugene Nathanson states in his 2005 letter to the New York City Council that the San Francisco art-zone system is to be seen as a “template not a model.” The fact is that San Francisco took a good idea and screwed it up.

Their application of this idea is way too restrictive for a true First Amendment art zone and that is clear. However just because they did it wrong does not mean that New York City cannot do it right.

The idea we were promoting at the time would have allowed artists to display in art zones, including the full length of West Broadway in Soho, at the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, Central Park, Harlem and the southern tip of Manhattan, as well as areas in Brooklyn and Queens. In our model, these art zones would be safe areas in which artists could display their own original work, and legitimate First Amendment vendors could legally sell artwork for which they held the copyright. Artists would not be restricted to showing only in these areas, but here they would not be confused with the legion of illegal vendors that sell stolen and bootleg art all over the city.

Mr. Lederman continually refers to “permits” as a way to spread fear of any plan that would allow artists to distinguish themselves from the horde of bootleggers and illegal vendors. However, I have stood strongly against permits of any sort, and continue to do so to this day. The system I have advocated (and have mentioned many times in my letters to this newspaper) requires only the artist’s signature on the artwork or other proof of copyright, his or her driver’s license — or passport ID — and tax ID (every artist must carry one while selling in public). Mr. Lederman knows this is where I stand and it is one thing that puts fear into his heart. He is fully aware that if this plan were to be put into place, his group of bootleggers and illegal art marketers would soon be out of business, and artists would be truly free to express themselves in public throughout New York City.

Mr. Lederman is not confused. He confuses others. That is his job and he works overtime to make sure artists remain under his control and that illegal vending flourishes at their expense.
Lawrence White

Clear out junk vendors

To The Editor:
Re “Officer clarifies artist comments” (news article, Aug 16):

We need to distinguish between artist vendors and junk vendors. Our police are unable to do so, harassing artists and ignoring illegal junk vendors who make our sidewalks impassable, dangerous and disgusting.

I have been a resident for 26 years. Soho was founded and created as an artists’ neighborhood, for the most part. The artist vendors have always been welcome. They exhibit on a wide sidewalk, West Broadway, leaving room for their work, browsers and pedestrians. The junk sellers (finger puppets, cheap jewelry, jeans, T-shirts, headbands, etc.) clog much narrower Prince and Spring Sts. The police need to leave the artists alone and go after the junk sellers.

Frankly, at this point, after years of complaints, letters, phone calls, meetings, e-mails — to hell with all parties: vendors, police, politicians, supporters, critics, etc. — and just give us back our sidewalks and neighborhood!
 Bonnie Lynn

75 feet is sacred

To The Editor:
Re “Seminary critics slam unholy alliance with developer” (news article, Aug. 9):

My suggestion that General Theological Seminary might retain Sherrill Hall rather than replace it was meant to focus attention on the lack of necessity for a building that would exceed the zoning limit of 75 feet.

A review of documentation supplied by the seminary shows that it currently has sufficient space for student and faculty housing and faculty and administrative offices — perhaps more than it needs. The seminary does not need to build to meet its needs. The major factor spurring the proposal for a too-tall building appears to be the profit potential for the developer, the Brodsky Organization.

The cost of repairing Sherrill Hall, according to seminary officials, would be about $2 million. Given the seminary’s ability to raise funds for current renovations, surely this amount should not be an insurmountable hurdle.

By keeping Sherrill Hall, students and faculty — and neighbors — would not be disturbed by a lengthy demolition and construction project. And the dean could keep his seven-bedroom home, rather than being downsized to a five-bedroom apartment. However, I am not averse to a new building that fits within the 75-foot zoning limit.
Hilda Regier

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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