Volume 76, Number 15 | August 30 -September 5, 2006

Letters to the editor

Heroes who saved V.A.

To The Editor:
Re “V.A. Hospital to remain open, keep current services” (news article, Aug. 16):

As a veteran who fought to save the Manhattan and Brooklyn V.A. hospitals, I believe that while Mayor Bloomberg and other officials pat themselves on the back for saving the V.A. hospitals, the truth is that there are other individuals who need to be thanked also.

There is one current elected official that stood above and beyond all elected officials. That person was Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. From the very beginning she and her staff stood tall and fought the V.A. tooth and nail for the hospitals to remain open.

Another individual who deserves true thanks is former City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez. It was she, along with Congresswoman Maloney, who started reaching out to veterans to get the fight started. It was Ms. Lopez who held hearings at City Hall, created billboards and confronted the mayor about becoming more vocal about saving the hospitals, as well as created the Veterans CARE Task Force.

Also to be thanked are: Gilda Ventresca-Ecroyd and Karen Acker of N.Y.U., who were instrumental in creating a Web site about saving the Manhattan V.A. Hospital, getting postcards made up that were handed out to thousands of veterans and nonveterans to mail to the V.A. secretary, as well as obtaining a float for last year’s Veterans Day Parade concerning saving the hospitals.

Lastly, the following veterans and individuals must be thanked for their past three years of “real” groundwork on saving the V.A. hospitals: Peter Bronson, Jerry Alperstein, John Rowan, Ed Daniels, Henry Burke, Dave Cline, Lee Covino, Mari DePedro, Ralph DiToro, Anne Emerman, Mike Gold, Larry Epstein, Jay Johnson, George McAnanama, Denny Meyer, Ricky Singh, Carol Davidson, Pat Toro, Helene Van Clief, Stephen Konyha, Phil Caruana and T.W.U. 100 and Will Weder.
Joseph A. Bello

Unseemly deanery

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

Thank you for your article concerning the General Theological Seminary’s contract with the Brodsky Organization to destroy the Chelsea Historic District. 

Some particularly newsworthy facts might be added to your fine story about the General Theological Seminary. The Reverend Ward Ewing and his wife are slated to get a new, palatial, 4,500-square-foot, five-bedroom residence for just the two of them — they have no children living with them.  

At the last meeting, it was noted that many of the millionaires living in townhouses along 20th and 21st Sts. between Ninth and 10th Aves. do not have that much room. It should also be noted that the dean already has a very large, fine, modern, stone, deanery townhouse on the seminary Close facing 20th St.

Additionally, all the faculty members are each planned to get new three-bedroom, 1,450-square-foot residences, regardless of whether they have children or not. 

The dean and faculty are also to get free on-campus private parking as part of the Brodsky deal.

While the student housing is in line with national standards, the proposed deanery and faculty residences are way above the norm for faculty housing. 

Is the hard-fought Chelsea Historic District designation to be partially plundered to provide ultraluxurious housing for the men of the cloth at the General Theological Seminary?

I urge the Landmarks Preservation Commission and all those in positions of power to stop the seminary’s wasteful, needless plan.
 Thomas Michael Fair

Don’t ghettoize artists

To The Editor:
Re “Zone defense” (letter, by Larry White, Aug. 23):

In evaluating any statement made by Larry White on the issue of street artists, one has to understand that he has an agenda which is 180 degrees opposite from that of being either a First Amendment advocate or a street artist advocate.

For the last 13 years, the group A.R.T.I.S.T. and I have successfully resisted all efforts to create a restrictive artist permit in New York City. As a willing stooge of the Soho Alliance and of Councilmember Gerson, White’s assigned role is always to try to discredit the group A.R.T.I.S.T. or myself, toward the goal of helping the alliance impose the exact same artist permit that exists in San Francisco.

A.R.T.I.S.T. has more than 1,000 members. White’s group, S.I.A.C.U., formally had five members. It now has only one, Larry White. Under White’s “leadership,” S.I.A.C.U. performed just one function: hiring a lawyer in 2005 to write a letter to New York City officials asking them to impose a permit on artists. Their three-page letter had 12 separate glowing references to the San Francisco artist permit, and, contrary to White’s false claims, specifically described it as a model street artist ordinance. White’s closest friends have since all withdrawn their names from this deceptive letter and quit S.I.A.C.U. in disgust.

White’s knowingly false claims that I lead a contingent of “illegal vendors and art bootleggers” are part and parcel of his desperate attempts to discredit me. Copyright infringement is no more prevalent on the street than in galleries.

The so-called “art zones” White promotes might sound artist friendly to those with no understanding of the First Amendment or the rulings in our lawsuits, but for those who do understand, they are a code for taking away artists’ constitutional rights. Today, we have the right to sell art on any street, at any time, without needing anyone’s permission or approval. Our rights are identical to those of a newspaper publisher, book vendor or protester. Why would anyone who actually cared about artists want to destroy their full First Amendment rights by creating an artist ghetto zone where we would need a government permit in order to express our unique form of free speech?
Robert Lederman
Lederman is president, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)

Artists and apple pie

To The Editor:
I think the big issue here is whether art is a right or a privilege. If you’re a food vendor, you have certain health issues for which you must be accountable. If you’re selling merchandise that is not your own creation, you have certain licensing responsibilities to the original creators of your products. On the other hand, if you’re a painter and an original artist, you should be free — by the First Amendment freedoms of personal expression, but also by the ongoing American commitment to an unregulated free-market economy where your Darwinian economic validity is judged by your ability — to survive and prosper in the freely competitive marketplace. This is the quality that defines American free-market capitalism and makes our country great as an example for the rest of the world.

The greatness of America lies not just in the culture of the common man but also in the freedoms and acceptance of the “uncommon” among us whether we agree with them or not. The street artists of Soho represent the best of this spirit of American tolerance and individuality. Let’s support them as an expression of patriotism and a celebration of our country’s greatness in these troubled times.
Roger Houston

Vandals on rampage

To The Editor:
One would be horrified to find a major monument or a national treasure destroyed by vandals in a deliberate attempt at the destruction of valuable, historical and irreplaceable property. Certainly, one would wonder how this could happen or why this was allowed to be done.

Sadly, this has just happened to St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, a token of the faith of Irish immigrants, who, with their meager wages from whatever jobs they were allowed to have in 19th-century America, and the sweat of their already overworked bodies, built this church as a tribute to the God they believed had led them to the new land.

St. Brigid’s is a national treasure that was almost destroyed. Its fate is still to be decided.
Edith Melvin Hardwick

A sin to raze church

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

The Catholic Church is nothing but a huge property holder that doesn’t pay taxes. Why does it remind me of N.Y.U.?

The Vatican has over the centuries burned thousands of people at the stake, not to mention deleted entire sections of the Bible, now lost, for their own purposes. The church is against women’s right to choose abortion and also gay rights.

We should use our own minds and hearts, not have them made up by a religious figurehead thousands of miles away. We could have saved St. Brigid’s!
John Heliker

Park is a mess

To The Editor:
If you haven’t seen Washington Square Park lately, you’d be very surprised and disappointed. Over the past month, it has become incredibly filthy and overgrown with weeds. The park benches have turned into beds, and the drug dealers are multiplying. I understand that the drug problem is like the rat problem — you can’t get rid of them, you just have to control them. What upsets me is that the dealers are becoming more openly aggressive with their sales tactics. I have lived here for nine years, and frankly, I don’t feel safe in Washington Square Park at night, and that’s a real shame. Even if I did feel safe, at the moment, it is disgusting. Just because the parties involved can’t come to an agreement, doesn’t mean that the park shouldn’t be cleaned and made safe.
Mike Shaieb

From the Fringe

To The Editor:
Thank you for the nice article in your Aug. 9 issue titled “N.Y. Fringe Fest celebrates 10 years.” Your support is most appreciated. The whole article jazzed us up about coming to the Fringe.

A small correction, though. In the article about “Puppet Government,” the author’s name is Steve Barney. There was a typographical error citing his name as “Barnes.”  
Paula Gilbert

A zoning imperative

To The Editor:
It is vitally important that Third and Fourth Aves. be included in the proposed rezoning area. As Andrew Berman states in his talking point in the Aug. 16 Villager (“Third Ave. freeze out; Dorm zone must be downzoned”): “We are asking for reasonable steps in the right direction that would reduce or eliminate some of the gross imbalances of the current zoning.”

I strongly support rezoning to prevent inappropriate and out-of-scale development in this area. Including Third Ave. and blocks to the west is imperative and must be accomplished now!
Pat Brown

Rezone, rein in N.Y.U.

To the Editor:
I believe that the city must include the Third and Fourth Ave. corridors in the currently planned East Village rezoning, from which they are currently excluded. Leaving these blocks out gives N.Y.U. a free hand to continue to overdevelop exactly the area they have earmarked for much of their ongoing and overwhelming growth. Developments like the one planned by N.Y.U. destroy the character of our neighborhood and are completely inappropriate in their size and scale.
Deirdre Dempsey-Rush

Bikers in danger

To The Editor:
Re “With deaths and clampdowns, cyclists feel deflated” (news article, Aug. 16):

After reading this article, I felt both frightened and discouraged. The number of deaths per year does not indicate the true picture. How many cyclists, pedestrians, motorists and passengers are injured per year?

The Department of Transportation spokesperson did not address the need for a bicycle path going east to west. In order to access the bike paths along the East River and Hudson River, one must cycle in traffic. If the massive congestion was reduced and east-west bike paths opened, it would sharply reduce injuries and deaths and air pollution and noise pollution.

Something as basic and clear as the need to check for vehicles before opening the door of a car or truck is lacking. Double-parking in clearly marked bike lanes is widespread. Police enforcement would help — but the absence of care and concern is the real problem.
Michael Gottlieb

Easy rider, not

To The Editor:
Thanks for your article “With deaths and clampdown, cyclists feel deflated” (Aug. 16):

I know this article was about safety, but there’s another thing making cyclists feel deflated and that’s the maddening problem of bike theft.

I have had two bikes stolen this year! Both were locked with very secure locks and chains. But nothing stops the bike thieves. There is absolutely nothing done in this town to crack down on bike theft. It’s gotten to the point where you can’t afford to own a bike here anymore. I mean, how many bikes can one be expected to buy in one season? Use your bike to run errands — and it’ll be gone within 20 minutes of locking it up.

It’s such an outrage. If you call the cops, they do everything in their power to dissuade you from reporting the crime. And they’ll certainly not bother to investigate. It would be so easy for them to set up some sting operations to catch these thieves and let them know that bike theft is on their radar and won’t be tolerated — yet, they can’t be bothered.  
Jonathan Cousar

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