Volume 76, Number 19 | September 27 - October 3, 2006

Letters to the editor

Sexton, show your face!

To The Editor:

It is time for President John Sexton of New York University to show his face in the East Village. His public relations staff absorbed the community’s outrage at last week’s Community Board 3 Housing Subcommittee meeting, but word does not seem to be getting through. We have legitimate concerns with the huge new dormitory he is constructing on E. 12th St., and are furious about the manner in which the university has behaved during the negotiation process.

Sexton has publicly proclaimed his intention to behave differently than his predecessors, to be open, to listen, to respect the scale of the Village, and produce a campus master plan. Yet in developing this new 700-bed dorm, those promises were repeatedly broken. The N.Y.U. trustees should be ashamed of the lies told in their name. The university made a show of a few meetings with neighborhood groups, but not a single change to the design. The modest suggestions made (build the base out to the street wall, take a few floors off) were ignored. The university’s claim that this would add $13.5 million to the cost is not remotely credible.

Alicia Hurley said at last week’s C.B. 3 meeting that the developer would have built 26 stories on the site in any event. Is it unreasonable to hold a great university to a higher standard than a businessman? Even the Toll Brothers project on Third Ave. is only 21 stories. Yet N.Y.U. is erecting a huge tower on an open plaza, midblock on a residential street. It will be twice as tall as their Third Ave. dorms and loom over the East Village. And the drawings filed with the Department of Buildings are God-awful — like cheap public housing from another era. The concrete floor slabs are exposed, and aluminum window units with A.C. grilles alternate with patches of brick. There is no architecture at all. N.Y.U. has a responsibility at a minimum to build well.

Sexton must stop hiding behind staff and feel the heat. The concentration of N.Y.U. students in our midst has an enormous impact. They overburden our few parks, support chain stores over local shops, drink and carouse and disrupt our sleep. We would like him to hear that. Let’s start that dialogue. Let’s see that master plan. Let’s have N.Y.U. build some green space and affordable housing. And let’s stop construction of this ill-conceived project.

Leo J. Blackman


Ignore the muckrakers

To The Editor:

The item in Scoopy’s Notebook called “Arty Bucks,” which appeared in the Aug. 30 issue and quotes Community Board 2 “muckrakers” and “skeptical board members,” has hurt and outraged Arthur Strickler’s friends, family and his longtime partner, David Spegal.

It is my understanding that all city jobs require a current beneficiary in the event of the death of an employee. Most city jobs use a formula to calculate the reimbursement that is sent to the beneficiary for any unused sick and vacation time. Any monies due are calculated by the city based on the existing records and are sent to the beneficiary on file.

I think that in quoting the “muckrakers” and “skeptical board members” you have violated the intended confidentiality of this process and deeply hurt Arthur Strickler’s surviving partner, David, as well as his friends and family.

The usual justification for printing this kind of malicious gossip is that “we are clearing the air” or “discrediting the gossip.” We have heard all of this before but by repeating this to your readers you bring the gossip to a larger group than the “muckrakers” could ever hope to by word of mouth.

These gossipers and spreaders of misinformation really need to be ignored by all of us, as they keep our board from functioning as a whole on important issues that concern the greater community. By spreading innuendo and gossip, there is an inference that there has been some undercover or covert action going on. It never has to be proven, just repeated. By insinuation it becomes suspect and then fact.

This kind of reporting doesn’t belong in our neighborhood newspaper. The Villager does not have to participate in this low “gossipy level” of innuendo by mysterious sources. It is a newspaper that helped to effect change and improvement in our neighborhood and it did this very well. I have a slew of back issues that attest to your successes and show what the written word can accomplish. Primarily The Villager gave voice to our neighborhood’s issues, not malicious gossip.

Those of us who are “left over” from a time when Greenwich Village stood for artistic freedom, gay liberation, racial tolerance and “the road less traveled” are appalled. The Villager should take the higher road and use Scoopy’s column for better purposes than furthering gossip.

David Spegal deserves an apology, and let our friend and former district manager of Community Board 2 rest in peace, at last.

Carol Yankay
Yankay is a member of Community Board 2


‘Shlomo’ low blow vs. Cohen

To The Editor:
Re “Chan says blogs can’t spin her off bench” (news article, Sept. 20):
Lincoln Anderson quoted me completely out of context when he attributed me with saying “David Cohen is no Shlomo Hagler.”

What I responded to was a question about who campaigned the hardest, and some of the differences between both campaigns. What Anderson fails to report is that I said the same of Margaret Chan, also a very hard worker. I have worked for campaigns for over 14 years now and have never seen a candidate work as hard as Hagler. He earned every single vote he got. That was my only point.

Throughout our primary battle, David Cohen proved to me to be an intelligent, hard-working, polite and considerate person. He is a very talented individual with great skills, and he is going places. I never “chose” not to work for David. I discussed the campaign with him and his wife, and failed to pursue it due to fundraising obligations I had at the time with the New York Women’s Bar Association. I can only guess David saw my lack of responsiveness as a lack of willingness and went with another campaign manager.

Ms. Chan approached me several months later. By that time, David had hired someone. I liked Ms. Chan and what she stood for a lot, and took the position.

I think Margaret and David are both very qualified individuals, and by every indication of the results, the voters agreed.

Michael Oliva
Oliva is campaign manager for Margaret Chan for District 2 Civil Court


Staying wasn’t an option

To The Editor:

Re “New principal is driven to ‘make the world better’ ” (news article, Sept. 13):

As the former principal of St. Patrick’s Elementary School, I am taking this opportunity to correct the impression that I retired last May after more than 30 years as principal. Unfortunately, it was an unplanned retirement that was thrust upon me. I gave 29 years as a teacher and nine years as principal. My school year ended in June not May. I feel this correction needed to be understood.

Maureen Burgio


Taxis hog the streets

To The Editor:

Re “Bicycle lanes are a great start, but add barriers” (editorial, Sept. 20):

I applaud and support the creation of more bike lanes in Lower Manhattan, but the fact is that it will reduce the space reserved for cars and thus create more traffic congestion. Having worked here for some time now, I think much of the congestion is due to the proliferation of taxis, most of which are taking one person at a time to or from work, between meetings in buildings other than their own, or even to and from lunch.

With so many subways and buses and so many restaurants, there is really no need for anyone who can walk and is at all skilled at managing time to do any of these. Further, since energy conservation and independence remain hot-button issues, to say nothing of staying in shape, the increased use of both bicycles and mass transit would definitely be welcome.

It is no less than utterly selfish to insist on individual chauffeuring, whether at morning rush, evening rush or in between. At the very least, let me suggest that if you must take a taxi, take someone else with you, if only to split the recently increased fare.

J. Andrew Smith


Apartment soon available?

To The Editor:

I have lived at 1 Union Square South since the day it opened seven years ago. I have watched as the area “transformed” from a pleasant place to live to the overcrowded, oppressive area it now is. Walking on 14th St. between Fifth and Third Aves., I feel like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The grocery stores are so crowded I now am forced to order from Fresh Direct. I stay in my apartment all day long to avoid having to go out into the flood of humanity that now overtakes our area. 

My question is how can I become active in fighting all this “progress”?  Is there a city office I can picket? A neighborhood association I can join?
Any help you can give me before I am forced out of my home would be appreciated.
  
Rick Christman


Lessons in tardiness

To The Editor:

I like State Senator Tom Duane’s idea of having his class design a state budget (“School politics prove popular in state senator’s class,” Back to School, Sept. 6).

To make the experience more realistic, he should allow them to hand in the assignment several months past the due date.

Roger Cost


Artists should be paranoid

To The Editor:

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

I want to thank The Villager for its in-depth coverage over 13 years of the issue of street artists’ rights. What often appears to simply be a matter of vending law is in reality a struggle for free speech on public property, the outcome of which will permanently affect the freedoms of every New Yorker.

One point in the most recent article needs clarification, however. I’m quoted as saying that “original artists-only zones infringe on the rights of other vendors.” The most significant reason A.R.T.I.S.T. opposes this plan is that art zones infringe on the rights of original artists themselves.

Under the rulings in the A.R.T.I.S.T. lawsuits, we won full First Amendment protection, exactly the same that a newspaper publisher or public speaker has. Unlike the prohibitions involved in creating an “art zone,” First Amendment-protected speakers are not limited to an artist ghetto. All public property in New York City is our forum. We have no approval process to submit to. No government official nor any artist appointee gets to give or deny us permission to speak. There are no limitations on which art mediums we can express ourselves in nor on the subjects we may choose to explore. Most important, unlike the drastic penalties for violating the rules under an art zone system, we can be given a summons, but we can never be denied access to the public forum.

In his latest attack on those who won him his rights, Larry White melodramatically describes my leadership of the street artist movement as “taking artists down a dark road of confrontation and useless hatred.” Then, he goes on to describe his own friends and former S.I.A.C.U. members as being “paranoid” for protesting against efforts to eliminate them from West Broadway.

White would prefer street artists to remain silent and hopeful as they patiently wait for a government grant, free housing and whatever other incentives are offered in exchange for surrendering our full constitutional rights. For A.R.T.I.S.T. members, our rights are the source for fulfilling an artist’s economic needs. We ask nothing from city officials other than for them to stop trying to harm us.

Protest is in and of itself the most protected form of free speech. As street artists, it will remain our handiest tool in this ongoing struggle.

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


E-mail letters, not longer than 350 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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