Volume 76, Number 47 | April 18 - 24, 2007

Letters to the editor

Rap and Imus’s real hos

To The Editor:

In its April 11 editorial about Imus, The Villager wonders, “How these words even found their way into his head, we’ll never know.” Actually, any teenager, or even preteen will know: It’s hip-hop and it’s everywhere.

Those are hip-hop’s “normal” terms of speech about women, most usually black women, of course, but it puts white and black women who deplore and detest it in a difficult position: To date, protests by both groups have been futile. There may also be some reluctance of black women to fight black men, who, after generations as Stepin Fetchit, are now stars and kingpins — especially since they’re more likely to be humiliated in the fight than successful.

Still, the news on Friday the 13th that Imus had been fired, while reaction continues to build, may mark a step forward.

As for the why of Imus’s blunder, today it’s axiomatic that “culture” and “style,” which used to arrive top down, from the rich to the masses, come from “the street.” Like the kid with his preppy blond hair teased into a pathetic imitation of dreadlocks I found applying graffiti to a mailbox on Bedford St. one night: He admitted attending a prestigious East Coast prep school, but insisted that marking on the mailbox was his own idea and he did it “for fun.”

Imus may be old enough to be that kid’s grandfather, but he still thinks it’s “fun” and “cool” to call women “hos.” He was making a joke, being “humorous,” he explained. Why anyone not among the criminally insane would find that remark humorous is a question not yet answered, although it’s clear that many do.

An even more serious point, not sufficiently stressed in all this palaver, is about the powerful, important, “successful” politicians, writers and journalists et al., who, knowing Imus’s propensities full well, still lent him their presence for their own purposes, becoming the source of much of his power. We can’t necessarily blame Imus for being a moron, but we can blame his enablers, who are the real “hos.”

As for the culture Imus finds so cool and funny that he imitates it, any 6-year-old can access it on YouTube. Click on “Ludacris P Poppin.” (The “P” stands for a part of the female genitalia, and the video is a contest about shaking said genitalia.) Yes, on YouTube, in a culture that won’t let 6-year-olds see “Star Wars” because of the “violence” and in which a university refuses to let college women produce “The Vagina Monologues,” a huge sum is offered to the very same Ludacris.

Yes, St. John’s University denied permission to a student group to perform “The Vagina Monologues” for Valentine’s Day, but engaged Ludacris for its April 21 Queens campus spring concert, presumably for his usual $85,000 fee. However, the April 12 Queens Times-Ledger reports that last week the university cancelled even the “sanitized for radio” version of Ludacris — due, we dare assume, to the Imus uproar.

Meanwhile, search “Ludacris” or any other rapper and “ho” on the Internet — and a million stories will pop up, although, for at least a while, the genre may be somewhat sanitized. Thanks to Imus.

Judy Seigel

You can have Kucinich

To The Editor:
Re “Media’s anti-Kucinich spin” (letter, by Claire McGee, April 11):

Having been directly subjected to “Do Nothing Denny” for the past 10-plus years as a resident of northeast Ohio, I can vouch that his 40-year political history paints him as a total joke.

Thirty years ago, the ex-boy wonder mayor was able in less than one year to lead Cleveland into becoming the first major city in the U.S.A. since the 1930s Depression to default. Unfortunately, he survived a recall election by 200 votes.

More recently, in his past 10-plus years as the congressional representative for northeast Ohio, just one bill he sponsored has become federal law — allowing a Ukrainian organization to rebroadcast television programs. Outstanding work for the locals.

Kucinich was and continues to be a big-mouthed clown who accomplishes nothing. He “represents” northeast Ohio — to our shame.
Dennis J. Kampe

Just give us the facts

To The Editor:
Re “Stop the silly lawsuits” (letter, by Bob O’Sullivan, April 11) and “Keep fighting, Greenberg!” (letter, by Stacy Kaufman, April 11):

As a psychology professor, I find motivation fascinating. I taught a semester-long course titled “Human Motivation.” But as district leader, I need facts.

Two dueling letters in the April 11 Villager discussed motivation and Washington Square Park. One claims that Jonathan Greenberg fights the redesign of the park because he wants to be on the City Council; the other says that New York University wants a flat central plaza to fit more chairs at graduation. I doubt both, but my doubts are irrelevant.

We need facts, not speculation.

The city Parks Department has not yet told the community the specifics of the initial bid documents for Washington Square Park’s renovation, nor how those documents were revised when the first responses were prohibitively expensive. Community Board 2, in a unanimous resolution in November 2006, asked Parks to give us “accurate, written, up-to-date” plans. That request was repeated many times, but the Parks Department did not appear — on the advice of their lawyers, because an appeal was pending. 

Now that the city won their appeal, C.B. 2’s Parks and Waterfront Committee resolved that Parks present plans by May 9, 2007. If not, C.B. 2 approval will be withdrawn. This resolution will be voted on by the full board on April 19.

Most people would agree with the first letter that the current park is in “terrible physical condition” and with the second letter that the park must “retain its historic and user-friendly condition.” I wonder why our park has been allowed to deteriorate, or why “user-friendly” is crucial. But stop. No more speculation.

I hope the Parks Department will tell us the facts.

Keen Berger
Berger is female Democratic district leader for the 66th Assembly District, Part A, and member, Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee

Hey, Bob — not running

To The Editor:
Re “Stop the silly lawsuits” (letter, by Bob O’Sullivan, April 11):

Bob O’Sullivan’s letter provides insight into the thinking and tactics of that increasingly rare Villager: one who still supports the immensely unpopular radical redesign, unnecessary closing and fencing in of Washington Square Park.

Bob has no tolerance of anyone who lobbies for something different than what the Parks Department has — from on high and with no consultation, survey or study — chosen to “give” us. According to Bob, community activism should bethe art of pleasing the powerful as they do what they, in their munificence, choose with our tax dollars and public space. As a strategy for advancing his brand of community involvement, O’Sullivan borrows a page from Karl Rove’s playbook: When the facts are stacked against him, he chooses to ignore the message and insult the messengers.

Without one word responding to my March 21 talking point’s documentation of the deception that the Parks Department used to gain approval for its radical redesign, he accuses me of being “divisive” in “pursuit of publicity.” He asserts that I am “attacking New York University,” in my desire to run for City Council. Had he bothered to actually read our legal filings or court rulings, he would have found that we never mention N.Y.U. The “attack N.Y.U.” lie comes right after he disparages Councilmember Alan Gerson’s “painful and incompetent” tenure.

While I continue to oppose many of Alan’s positions regarding the park redesign, I know of nobody who has devoted himself so selflessly to public service to our community, and I find O’Sullivan’s allegation of Alan’s incompetenceinaccurate and obnoxious.

Community Board 2 is another of O’Sullivan’s targets. C.B. 2 representatives and “numerous Democratic clubs” are characterized as “blowhards of the Village political establishment” for trying to stand up for preserving the park so many of us love, and daring to question the three-year construction job and radical transformation that is about to happen. In the world according to O’Sullivan, the struggle for C.B. 2 to insist on reviewing Parks’ full plans before the bulldozers start becomes objectionable grandstanding.

The full C.B. 2 board will vote on Thursday evening, April 19, whether torescind its earlier approval if Parks continues to refuse to submit its final plans for review. O’Sullivan would have everyone shut up and rubber-stamp whatever the Parks Department thinks is best for us.

All in all, I find that O’Sullivan’s nasty letter represents the desperateflailing of a dwindling but powerful minority. He stands with the WashingtonSquare Park Association and at most a few dozen Villagers in supporting animmensely unpopular radical redesign that has been bulldozed through ourcommunity on a road of distortions, lies and withheld information.

Meanwhile, Judson Church recently joined the growing ranks of institutions and officials opposing this plan and the Parks Department’s manipulation of the public process to get it passed. Village Independent Democrats has long been against it, the Greenwich Village Block Associations opposes it, surveys show that some 98 percent of park users are against it, as are the editorial pages of The New York Times, the New York Post, The Villager and the Washington Square News. Even the Washington Square Park Council, of which O’Sullivan was once president, refuses to support the plan.

The only true statement O’Sullivan makes is that most Villagers want thepark “renovated as soon as possible.” Certainly, we all want it repaired and improved; but “as soon as possible” means repairing, not radically redesigning. The unpopular redesign plan would close at least half the park for two to three years, possibly much more, and transform its very spirit. Repairs could start next week if Parks would only listen to our community and drop its insistence that it be their radical redesign or nothing.

O’Sullivan reveals his real feelings at the end of his letter when hecomplains that it took 40 years to change the park’s existing design. Bob O’Sullivan, like the members of the Washington Square Park Association whom I have heard speak, finds the current open assembly and impromptu performances in the park a misuse of this great public space, instead of aunique asset that characterizes the open spirit of Greenwich Village. Hencethe park needs a radical redesign so it can be fenced, manicured and admired from Fifth Ave. terraces, while the people who visit it are forced to adapt to a place inhospitable to “hanging out.”

In closing, Mr. O’Sullivan, let me clearly state that I am not running forCity Council.

Nor, however, am I running from anyone. Not Parks Commissioner AdrianBenepe, nor our billionaire, privatization-mad mayor, nor the fact-reversingfiction-writing Appellate judges intent upon inventing a revisionist coverfor their political fix. Nor, Bob, from the slimy innuendos of a tiny,powerful minority. There are many more Villagers who feel as I do about thepark than there are elitists like Bob O’Sullivan who hate the way the parkis and want it transformed into something else — and they’re not runningeither.

Jonathan Greenberg
Greenberg is coordinator, Open Washington Square Park Coalition

N.Y.U. is so predictable

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. support for new historic district goes south” (news article, April 11):

Is it any surprise that New York University is saying that they support the designation, while their actions say otherwise? I do not suppose that a South Village Historic District is in their best interest. How would they be able to continue tearing down buildings, putting up poorly designed structures and thereby altering our neighborhood if a landmark district existed?

Silvia Beam
Beam is a member, Van Dam Street Block Association and South Village Historic District Designation Advisory Board

Little Britain vs. Starbucks

To The Editor:
Re “Rule Britannia! English merchants push for new district” (news article, March 21) and “Little Britain? Balderdash!” (letter, by Miriam Sarzin, March 28):

Bully for Little Britain!

Miriam Sarzin recalls living above a block of family-owned shops, which is precisely what “Little Britain” conjures. It’s not “Little Barnes & Noble” or “Little Starbucks,” but a fascinating destination point that can only stimulate worldwide visits to the whole area. It is a good fit, and would look even better on a tourist map.

And how lovely that so many multiethnic neighbors have organized around the idea. How perceptive that city officials think it an idea that “should have happened by now.” 

“Little Britain” seems to stave off the invasive doom of gentrification and chain stores, and give a nod to a vital independent presence in the Village.

While I agree that not much can lessen the eternal confusion between Greenwich Ave. and Greenwich St., one is bound to wander into Meyers of Keswick, Tea & Sympathy, Showroom 64 or Soho House to ask proper directions…. Cheers to the whole idea!

Daniel Neiden


The April 4 obituary of Dr. Hartvig Dahl erroneously said his mother died when he was 6. In fact, she lived to the age of 95. Survivors in addition to his wife, Virginia Teller, are a son, Christopher, of Seattle and a sister, Carol Kempf, of Minneapolis.

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