Volume 76, Number 18 | September 20 - 26, 2006

Letters to the editor

Hostage release conditions

To The Editor:
Re “FEVA hostage crisis” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Sept. 6):

James Romberger is certainly aware that I am holding hostage some art objects that are in total valued at approximately $25,000 to $30,000. GRIEVA is well aware that these “hostages” will be released to them when I have confirmation that:

1) All of my art world associates still owed money (from over a year ago) from Phil Hartman are paid in full.

2) The board of directors of FEVA — even the new director is unsure as to who is or is not on this so called “board” — will publicly address the Artist Advisory Board’s long list of “FEVA Community Grievances.”

3) The board’s most active and well-meaning member pays me the $1,000 wager he made to me, over a year ago, after assuring me he would have Greg Fuchs fired as an initial reparations act of FEVA’s much-needed office colonic.

As for Greg Fuchs, FEVA’s program director, saying I was responsible for the Capitale benefit, “which actually lost $90,000,” and calling on The Villager to “investigate” — please do the investigation! Yes, Phil and Greg somehow “lost” the $90,000 that my supportive associates and I found for them. Beginning with a $50,000 gift that nobody can find…. Please! Investigate! After the office “lost” that 50 grand, I should have walked, but made the mistake of trying to save Phil’s sorry ass…one of my biggest mistakes ever.

Live and learn.

Instead of walking away when I should have, I asked four friends to loan a total of $40,000 to bail out Phil so he could still have his dream event at Capitale. I delivered the art and rock stars and approximately $40 thousand worth of art donated for the auction.

I delivered and they “lost” it. So, if FauxVA’s an authentic 501c3, then this is an illegal practice worthy of an investigation by the attorney general not The Villager!

I sold most of the works at the auction or after to pay off most of the $40,000 debt that I had obtained for Phil to use when it was revealed that he and or Greg lost a $50,000 donation. (What I should have done was call the police!)

I was happy to rightfully return a great number of the unsold pieces to the artists once word spread quickly that FEVA had turned out to be a scam operation. Some of these artists asked that I return them to their studios and some asked that I donate the piece(s) to legitimate organizations’ benefits.

The work that I have in my possession — which includes the pieces that James sold to Phil — will be returned to their owner just as soon as all financial and ethical and reparations are made.

I greatly regret my involvements with these unsavory people and want to publicly apologize to all of my constituents in the art and patrons communities for my ill-advised introductions. I made a big mistake. Please forgive me, for I knew not whom I was dealing with.

And as for Fuchs telling Scoopy I was a “disgruntled” FEVA member… “Disgruntled”? No…more like furiously disgusted!
David Leslie

Squeaky wheel gets grease

To The Editor:
Re “Pedalers and politicians get pumped about Houston lanes” (news article, Sept. 6):

Why on earth did you run that huge story about bike lanes on Houston St. or any other street? Bicycle riders are less than half of 1 percent of the New York City work force and probably less than that of recreational travel. So why should the city spend many thousands of dollars for bike lanes in Manhattan and millions for a Hudson River bikeway — and have a special section of the city Transportation Department just for bicycle “problems” — when the city’s streets are paved so badly that pedestrians stumble when crossing major avenues and auto traffic is so bad as to make bus service in Midtown virtually useless? We expect shallow politicians to cave in to vocal minorities, but we also expect journalists to expose such obvious nonsense instead of reporting it as serious news.
Jefferson Chase
Chase is a member, TRIP-2-WORK+, a rider-controlled mass transit think tank

Risks in rezoning

To The Editor:
I am encouraged that The Villager is reporting on the rezoning of virtually the entire Community District 3 undertaken by the community board in concert with the Department of City Planning (“Boning up on zoning,” Scoopy’s Notebook, Sept. 13). A rezoning on this scale deserves wide, vigilant public attention. It is a crossroads for the East Village/Lower East Side, coming at a time when more and larger developers than we have ever before seen in the district are buying up large parcels to build luxury units that have already altered and will irreversibly alter the demographics, character and future of the neighborhood.

The discussion at the last Community Board 3 197a Task Force meeting was the healthiest, most detailed and responsible I have heard at any of these meetings — I’ve been to all but one in the last year. I believe it was the presence of an attentive, engaged public that made the difference. The public is a dangerous presence only when it is kept in the dark. An educated, participating public guarantees sound policy.

Yet, as of today, the community board has not posted the minutes of the last four task force meetings on its Web site — nothing since April.

The community board’s zoning plan is well intentioned, but there are several controversial and potentially dangerous items in the Department of City Planning’s proposal. The public deserves to be informed of the issues, educated on the proposals, and not kept somnolent with casual assurances. I hope we can all agree that the time to educate the public is now, not after the Department of City Planning produces its proposal in October. Belated appeals to the City Council, with a pro-developer speaker ruling over its Byzantine politics, will be vain.
Rob Hollander
Hollander is a member, L.E.S. Residents for Responsible Development

Nothing easy about I.Z.

To The Editor:
Re “Boning up on zoning” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Sept. 13):

Scoopy states that David McWater feels “everyone but [Rob] Hollander seems to be on the same page that inclusionary zoning, combined with capping height on new construction throughout the neighborhood, is the way to go.” I totally disagree. There are a lot of people in this community who are concerned about this issue. However, at this point there seems to be no information or answers to the many questions regarding the implementation of inclusionary zoning, or I.Z. How much affordable housing will be generated? Where will these buildings be constructed? What will be the height and bulk of these buildings? Will there be off-site zoning that could increase the floor-to-area ratio, or F.A.R.? What about the protection of tenants from landlord harassment? Evictions would create new development sites, and landlords would certainly take advantage of these possibilities for economic gain. Who exactly would be responsible for enforcing any anti-harassment provisions?

When luxury decontrol was written into the rent regulations in Albany, Governor Pataki promised tenants protection from landlord harassment. This turned out to be totally false. Since that time, many tenants have been fighting eviction in the courts because their landlords wanted to upgrade their buildings. Also, before any decision is made about I.Z., there should be an analysis of all “soft sites.”

If all the issues regarding I.Z. aren’t thoroughly explored, it will have a negative effect on our community — mainly that of secondary displacement. The majority of apartments in these new buildings will be luxury, and this will certainly have an effect on the real estate values in our neighborhoods. Also, the East Village and Lower East Side are low rise and low density; consequently, a large influx of market-rate tenants and large buildings will most certainly affect the character of our community. Although we have been told that I.Z. will be implemented here differently than it was in Williamsburg, we should still study the shortcomings of the Williamsburg plan.

This community welcomes contextual zoning and affordable housing. However, there must be an extensive comment period before the uniform land use review process (ULURP) is drafted, preferably after the holidays when more residents will be available to discuss this issue. Community planning is a thoughtful, time-consuming process and must not be rushed. Otherwise, the community we know and love could be irrevocably transformed, and not for the better.
Jean Standish
Standish is a member, Coalition to Save the East Village

Finally, winds of change

To The Editor:
Re “All new bar applications are bounced for 4 months” (news article, Sept. 13): 

The winds of positive change have blown strongly down the corridors in Albany and Manhattan. As I watch, before my very eyes, a state agency previously reviled reaffirms its original mission.

State Liquor Authority Chairman Boyle’s testimony is music to my ears. He gets it — even the “stealth bar” scam the E.V./L.E.S. has always had problems with. He understands what the problems are — and actually wants and is actively soliciting community input.

The most important thing we could do for the S.L.A. is to impress on Governor Pataki to put back the 28 beverage control investigators he removed from the S.L.A.’s FY ’07 budget and ask the governor to increase funding for More B.C.I.’s. This will help the S.L.A. and help us, as they will be able to investigate, process and hear more cases.

It’s both heartening and sad. Heartening because I could see and feel this coming over the past year, more so after the wholesalers scandal. Sad because three women — two in Manhattan and one in Queens — had to die for all the politicians to wake up. That it takes a murder to wake up lawmakers is the real crime.
 Marcia H. Lemmon

Bootleggers, artists’ bane

To The Editor:
Re “S.I.A.C.U. is sacked after flap over letter backing artist zones” (news article, Sept. 13):

S.I.A.C.U. was formed to help “individual fine artists who display their own artwork in public” find ways to cooperatively gain benefits, such as low-cost healthcare, inexpensive storage, low-rent gallery space and cheaper travel to other arts areas in the world, and to provide living space for visiting artists. By defining ourselves as a group of original artists, it was also a way to gain more political impact. S.I.A.C.U. represented fine artists only, and by doing so allowed for more focused attention on artists’ issues, such as massive sidewalk vending of bootleg art.

As president of A.R.T.I.S.T., Bob Lederman has continually stated that bootlegging and illegal vending is not an important issue on the streets of New York City. Yet, this huge, illegal, megamillion-dollar industry is by far the number one vending issue on the streets. Bootleggers illegally reproduce and distribute copyrighted artwork just as they knock off Tommy Hilfiger clothes and high-fashion handbags. It is a totally unregulated industry that thrives outside of the reach of the law — and it is grossly anti-artist. To deny this is simply not credible. Yet, Bob Lederman and his group A.R.T.I.S.T. deny this fact at every opportunity.

The most negative aspect of illegal vending is that the droves of bootleggers and illegal vendors take up the sidewalk spaces that should be for artists, veterans and legal vendors. The ensuing overcrowding and struggle for space incenses neighbors and businesses while it denies the rights of legal vendors, artists and veterans. The final blow is that it sets up a rip-off scam for unsuspecting consumers who spend their hard-earned money on junk. This sidewalk swindle cheapens the entire street scene, draining it dry and making it a sad joke instead of the great renaissance it could be.

Mr. Lederman has stated in your paper that bootlegging is more prevalent in “galleries than it is on the streets.” This disconnect with reality is not only dangerous for artists, it is outright advocacy for bootlegging. To stand side by side with Mr. Lederman is to stand side by side with the illegal vending industry and it breaks my heart to see good artists duped into doing so.

Finally, it should be noted that I have never said that protest is inappropriate. When all else fails, protest is a noble and effective tool. I have done so since I was a child on issues such as the environment, war, farm worker’s rights and civil rights. However, I have said that protest alone — and then going home — is not enough. I have challenged my artist friends to exhaust all other avenues in the political process so that they can be truly effective in advocating their issues.
Lawrence White

Church is a jewel

To The Editor:
Re “Lady of Vilnius and ‘Pretzels’ and ‘Provolone’ may lose home” (news article, Aug. 23):

This church should be under the protection of New York Landmarks Conservancy as a fitting monument to Lithuanian immigrants and as a jewel to the city. It should not be the sole possession of the cardinal and his financial advisors to strike it rich by selling other people’s property. 
Saulius Simoliunas

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