Volume 76, Number 43 | March 21 - 27, 2007

Letters to the editor

Trump hotel is for real

To The Editor:
Recently, questions have been raised regarding the transient nature of The Trump Soho Hotel. We are submitting this letter with the hopes of ending any misconceptions. The Trump Soho Hotel Condominium is a hotel. Its concept, design and future operations all reflect transient usage by owners and guests, and will be consistent with other luxury Manhattan hotels. The major difference between Trump Soho and those other hotels is that units will be owned by individuals rather than a corporation, a form of ownership common throughout the United States.

During all aspects of the development process, we have taken measures to ensure public awareness of the limitations on long-term occupancy:

• Trump Soho’s Web site and advertisement material include disclosures stating Trump Soho is for transient occupancy only and not for residential use;

• Trump Soho attorneys issued “cease and desist” letters to those who issued or posted online erroneous information about Trump Soho;

• Protocols have been established for educating and monitoring sales and marketing teams’ written and spoken characterization of Trump Soho; and

• We have requested that individuals report unauthorized advertising or promotional activities, and have provided an e-mail address to send such reports.

While such efforts have been made, certain instances have been brought to our attention in which the use of certain language could have potentially led readers to misconstrue the transient nature of the project. In each instance, we have worked to rectify those situations.

Our hotel will comply with all applicable provisions of the New York City Zoning Resolution. We have agreed with the city to restrict individual usage of units, and to require that while not occupied by its owner, such units will be made available for non-owner transient use.

We at Trump Soho are looking forward to being a responsible neighbor, and look forward to enhancing the community’s economy by providing approximately 600 construction jobs and approximately 600 permanent jobs.

We hope this clarifies any uncertainty about Trump Soho.

Julius R. Schwarz
Schwarz is spokesperson for Bayrock/Sapir Organization, LLC.

Velazquez bill ‘misguided’

To The Editor:
Thank you for reporting on the bills to enable Puerto Ricans to determine their status preference (“Velazquez tries to solve Puerto Rico’s status limbo,” news article, March 14). A few points, however, require clarification:

First, Puerto Rico is not “a commonwealth.” It’s an unincorporated territory. “Commonwealth” is a word in the name of our territorial government, as it is a word in the name of four U.S. states and another territory. It is not the name of a status in the way that “state,” “territory” and “nation” are.

Second, our current status is not “less attached than a state.” It is, in fact, more attached, since the U.S. government can govern matters in Puerto Rico it cannot govern in the States.

Third, the article was right that there “are three broad possibilities for Puerto Rico’s future: statehood, independence or the status quo.” But there is actually a fourth, and my friend Representative Velazquez’s misguided bill excludes it and proposes an impossible fifth. The fourth is nationhood in free association with the U.S. that either nation can end.

Representative Velazquez’s bill proposes that there be an unprecedented “new…commonwealth status” under which Puerto Rico would no longer be a territory but also not be a state or a nation. President Bush’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, the Clinton administration and the Congress’s constitutional advisors have all said that this proposal is an impossibility.

The specific “commonwealth” proposal of the local political minority that requested Representative Velazquez to sponsor the bill makes it clear why: Puerto Rico would be permanently bound to the U.S. but able to nullify most federal laws and court jurisdiction. It would also be able to enter into trade and international agreements and organizations that states cannot. The U.S. would be permanently bound to granting the commonwealth an additional subsidy and to continue to grant all current assistance to Puerto Ricans, free entry to any goods shipped from the islands and citizenship. It would also have to replace repealed tax exemptions for pharmaceutical and other U.S. companies that locate in Puerto Rico instead of the States.

Fourth, Velazquez’s bill is opposed by leaders of a majority of Puerto Ricans — including almost two-thirds of each house of our Legislature and including my pro-statehood New Progressive Party, the Independence Party and the free association faction of the Popular Democratic Party (which is not affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party).

By contrast, a majority of Puerto Rico’s elected officials support Representative Serrano’s Puerto Rico Democracy Act, co-sponsored by nearly 100 colleagues, including Puerto Rico’s congressional delegate, the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee of Jurisdiction and the majority leader and minority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Fifth, Puerto Rico’s debt is excessive but it is not “a major obstacle to statehood.” It would become the debt of the Puerto Rican state, not the federal government, just as New York’s debt is its own.

Sixth, 50 to 59 percent of Puerto Ricans do not receive food stamps. Some federal nutrition assistance is given to about 45 percent of our families.

Finally, all Puerto Ricans are eligible for Social Security because we pay full Social Security taxes, and we receive partial Medicare benefits in spite of paying full Medicare taxes.

Kenneth D. McClintock
McClintock is president of the Senate of Puerto Rico and a Democratic National committeeman.

Related can keep Pier 40 afloat

To The Editor:
Board members of biz kids n.y., inc., just had a most informative meeting with The Related Companies. Since it was reported that Hudson River Park Trust had issued a request for proposals for the redevelopment of Pier 40, we’ve been searching the news for any information about Pier 40, and after reading the article about Related’s bid in The Villager, I set up the appointment. The Trust had asked that all pier tenants operating on a monthly permit fill out a form requesting that bidders on the pier’s development take notice of our presence.

Related’s proposal includes dressing rooms and laundry facilities for the sports teams! Playing fields will be regulation size and separated by approximately 25 feet of space, allowing for safer games. These areas will be enclosed to protect us from those flying soccer balls that hit so many of us in the head. Parking, the pier’s main revenue generator, will be increased, and traffic flow onto the pier regulated. There will be a farmers market, a pedestrian walkway over the West Side Highway and improved lighting under the St. John’s Building.

But the most important issue would be Related’s investment in the structural integrity of the pier shed, pier and piles. The Trust will not fund any continuing maintenance of the structural integrity of Pier 40. We tenants occupy the space in a quickly deteriorating, “as is” condition. We have no potable water on the south side. There are leaks and cracks and rebar rusting all over our pier. We have buckets in the ceiling, and the cooling and ventilation systems creak away only thanks to the help of our steadfast engineer, who must feel like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike.

Biz kids n.y., inc., has been on Pier 40 since January 2001. From my experience on the pier and from my research into our possible future, the bid by Related Companies stands out as fiscally responsible, innovative, inclusive and an opportunity for all of us to have sports, the arts and education in one beautiful, well-maintained environment. The Tribeca Film Festival could stay in New York and the world-class Cirque du Soliel could become part of our neighborhood.

I live across the street in the West Village Apartments, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to see a farmers market in the plan. I’m sure the parents of my students will be happy to be able to have a meal at a restaurant while their children are in class.

We will all have to make adjustments and concessions in any development process, but gentrification in such a community-friendly manner may be the best deterrent to the undesirable elements we currently contend with — and it sure beats the prison barge!

Keep yourselves tuned to The Villager for notice of the Community Board 2 meeting at which the proposals for Pier 40 will be presented, and we will be able to wisely determine the merit of both.

Peggy Lewis
Lewis is founder and director, biz kids n.y., inc.

Jidrool with a view

To The Editor:
Re “Super-luxe hotel is being erected on Cooper Square” (news article, March 7):

Is Gregory Peck (no relation) a complete jidrool (Italian putdown) when he says, “There’s not a lot that’s really tall around it,” about his 23-story hotel?

Wait five years, Greg. N.Y.U., Cooper Union, Trump and who knows who else will have those quaint low-rise buildings bulldozed and replaced by gleaming spires as ugly as yours. That’ll be your spectacular view.

Joanne Milazzo

A victory to savor

To The Editor:
Re “Vegans are sickened as favorite shop at risk” (news article, Feb. 14):

Thank you so much for the excellent coverage in The Villager of the Whole Earth Bakery and Kitchen and the Feb. 3 rally. You’ll be happy to know that it helped. On March 13, Whole Earth Bakery and Kitchen, which has been fighting eviction for months, announced that it has received a three-month lease extension.

We’re thrilled that Whole Earth Bakery has been granted this reprieve by Friedman Management. At the same time, it’s our hope that the will of the community will be respected and the bakery will be given a lengthy new lease at the end of June.

John Phillips
Phillips is executive director, League of Humane Voters of New York City.

N.Y.U. ‘owns’ the park

To The Editor:
N.Y.U. owns Washington Square Park, and neither the mayor nor the Parks Department would be doing any renovations if N.Y.U. didn’t want them made. I’d aim at N.Y.U. if you want to save the park — and it should be saved.

It would be awful if the park changed in any way!

Barbara Lobasso

Gould giveback? A joke!

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. finding little cooperation on co-generation” (news article, March 7):

I find it laughable that Gould Plaza is a “giveback” to the community from N.Y.U. It is so filled with N.Y.U. students on nice days that there’s certainly no room there for the community. The so-called “giveback community space” on the corner of Sullivan and W. Third Sts. is designed as a front garden to their building there, and certainly is not particularly welcoming to the area’s population. A few benches, a wall to sit on. Gee.

And now, of course, the co-generation Plan C puts the capper on Gould Plaza; no one will be able to pretend it’s public space after that plan, if that plan is implemented.

N.Y.U. won’t be happy till they push all the residents of Noho out of the picture entirely. They simply need to stop expanding, or expand in the Bronx, where they started. Do they plan to grow until they take over all of Greenwich Village?

Also, on the cyclists: Many of the sidewalk bikes are ridden by deliverymen from Chinese restaurants. They often insist on riding on the sidewalk. They should have their restaurants clearly marked on the bike so they can be reported to police.

Terese Napolitano

We’ll always have Paris

To The Editor:
Re “Hard to make any progress if vendors block the way” (Progress Report, by Sean Sweeney, Feb. 28):

In response to the sour note sounded by Sean Sweeney about Soho’s street artists and vendors, I take you back to a more relaxed and pleasant time, Montmartre in the ’60s where street art flourished, with this YouTube video, music by the great Jacques Brel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWZQolixrsc.

Paintings could hang from trees there and nobody would dream of throwing water on an artist for posting his paintings on a blank wall. When we were young weren’t we taught by our mothers to share? Didn’t we all have some kind of religious education to teach us the same thing? What happened to Selma, the water thrower?

Why would Sean Sweeney begrudge however much money a vendor made in a day?

How many times do we have to remind those who demonize vendors that they are clean, honest, hard-working small businesses?

Countless photographers and journalists from lands as far away as Japan are glad we’re there. They talk to us and have us as subjects for their photos and interviews. Vendors give directions, recommend restaurants, locate stores, make change, provide band-aids and answer tourists’ questions all day long. I think of the small child that came up to my table and said, “A man is following me. Can I stand here with you?”

What if no one had been there for her?

In so many ways, vendors and street artists do the city good each and every day. I look forward to Sean Sweeney and the Soho Alliance developing a more balanced and rational attitude to an essential part of life in the city that belongs to us, too.

Thelma Blitz

Not sold on photo choice

To The Editor:
Re “Hard to make any progress if vendors block the way” (Progress Report, by Sean Sweeney, Feb. 28):

Using Clayton Patterson’s photo in the context of Sweeney’s fact-free column was an unusual editorial choice from one of the only New York media sources that fairly covers street vending.

That photo was no more characteristic of vendors than would be a picture of an Iraqi vendor shooting at U.S. troops. Nor did it have anything even remotely to do with Sweeney’s article. Not even Sweeney is alleging that vendors are assaulting pedestrians.

Reverend Billy’s entire thing is to cause maximum chaos, not to mention that he specializes in violating private property and erasing the line between lawful protest on public property and tresspassing. To imply that a vendor was the disruptive one in that situation is reversing the facts.

Robert Lederman

Billy freaked out vendor

To The Editor:
Re “Hard to make any progress if vendors block the way” (Progress Report, by Sean Sweeney, Feb. 28):

Reverend Billy did a protest last summer against the Soho Victoria’s Secret. Like all of Reverend Billy’s protests, this turned into a large spontaneous drama, with lots of excitement, action, crowds, chaos and hints of anarchy. In the turmoil, a vendor threatened Reverend Billy.

The angry man, a military veteran, who happened to be having issues with his drunk girlfriend, was reacting to suddenly being surrounded, placed in the middle of a surprising and unexpected explosion of strange and unusual-looking people making lots of noise, running around with paper chainsaws and such. It freaked the poor guy out.

My photo had nothing to do with street vendors. That photo was used out of context and not with my permission.

Clayton Patterson

Don’t broad-brush us

To The Editor:
There are a few misstatements of fact in Sean Sweeney’s article “Hard to make any progress if vendors block the way” (Progress Report, Feb. 28).

Although Spring and Prince Sts. were closed to all legal vending on weekends (and remain that way to this day), illegal vending has never stopped on those streets. Their spots were immediately taken up by vendors without licenses and bootleggers selling “copyright theft” art or illegal goods. This was as frustrating to those vendors and artists trying to make a living by working within the system, as it was to neighbors trying to stroll by on the sidewalks.

Most gallery owners will tell you one main reason they left Soho was because the rents simply became unmanageable. New businesses, such as Coach luggage, Anne Klein, Bloomingdale’s and a rotating number of small businesses owned by outsiders, took over these spaces, and now they too are having difficulty navigating the horribly expensive waters of Soho. A tiny shop on W. Broadway can rent for as much as $30,000 a month or more.

Mr. Sweeney mentions a very successful artist who makes thousands of dollars a week selling his own work in Soho. Wow! This is great news, particularly with the economy we’re currently facing. In fact, most artists who display their work are struggling and barely making it. However, their primary goal is to have their work seen and their statement heard.

This problem should not be used as a hammer to punish legal vendors and artists who provide a service to Soho. Instead, enforcement must be focused, ongoing and coordinated against illegal vending and bootlegging in order to succeed.

Lawrence White

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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