Volume 76, Number 48 | April 25 - May1, 2007

Letters to the editor

Chef can’t stomach PAC plan

To The Editor:
I recently learned of the proposal to replace the community playing fields of Pier 40 with an enormous entertainment mega-complex with a permanent home for Cirque du Soleil, a 12-screen cinema, a giant banquet hall, restaurants, clubs and 40,0000 square feet of destination shopping (the PAC proposal). This is not what the Village needs. Such a proposal, if accepted by the Hudson River Park Trust, would forever alter the character of the Village and the waterfront. As a Village parent whose family lives, works and plays in Greenwich Village, I write to oppose this proposed transformation.

Pier 40 is a park. It is an oasis where thousands of children, including mine, play ball in a safe community environment. It provides a steady diet of exercise and community. The PAC proposal is a Las Vegas menu in a Village venue. Let’s be more considerate of what we put in our Village, our backyard. 

Mario Batali 

Politics of the park

To The Editor:
Re “Hey, Bob — not running” (letter, by Jonathan Greenberg, April 18):

I was very pleased to hear that Jonathan Greenberg is not running for City Council. In my letter to the editor of April 11, I not only seem to have angered Mr. Greenberg but also confused him. My letter was not in support of the Parks Department plan for the renovation of Washington Square Park. My letter directly attacked the language used by Mr. Greenberg in written statements he has made in this newspaper. He claimed that the Appellate Court of New York State’s decision on the Washington Square Park renovation was based on politics. He claimed it represented a “political fix.” This kind of rhetoric from someone claiming to represent the citizens of Greenwich Village in a lawsuit is irresponsible and outrageous. He owes an apology to the Appellate Court and all the judges of New York State. 

Mr. Greenberg is arguing the position of President Bush and U.S. Attorney General Gonzales by claiming we have no independent judiciary, just one manipulated by politicians. I strongly disagree. I think what President Bush and the U.S. attorney general have done in politicizing the judicial process is unprecedented and should be opposed by everyone. Mr. Greenberg seems to argue this is business as usual for the courts.

Concerning Washington Square Park, I am only interested in moving the project forward as fast as possible. The park is in terrible physical condition. I am not an architect. I don’t agree with the entire plan for renovating the park but I am willing to accept a plan that has maybe 60 percent of what I would like to see in the newly renovated park. 

If Mr. Greenberg has not been attacking New York University, I apologize. I thought I had previously read that he took the position that N.Y.U. was behind the Parks plan and he was working to bring the community together to stop N.Y.U. I must have been mistaken.

In terms of Councilmember Gerson, I stand by my position that he is completely ineffective as a city councilmember and is essentially incompetent. This has nothing to do with Mr. Gerson being a nice guy, which he is, or that he works very hard, which is also true; the problem is that Mr. Gerson is completely ineffective in his job of representing our district in the City Council. 

Community lawsuits are a direct result of the failure of political leadership. We would not be facing the lawsuits and protest against the redesign of Washington Square Park if Alan Gerson had offered proper political leadership.

I make the following personal and public commitment: If Parks’ renovation is unacceptable to the community after it is completed, I will work with community groups, Community Board 2, the City Council, the Mayor’s Office and private corporations to raise the necessary money to immediately rebuild the park in a way that will be more acceptable to the community. Right now, let’s move the project ahead as fast as possible.

If Mr. Greenberg wants to help Washington Square Park, here is one final idea. The playground needs sand. It has been depleted for the past three years. How about fighting the Parks Department for the benefit of the children and have them refill the sand area in the playground? This would be positive action with a specific beneficial outcome — not Mr. Greenberg’s usual approach. But if he tries it, he might find it more rewarding than ranting and raving about the evil being done by renovating the park.

Bob O’Sullivan

Cardinal showed his colors

To The Editor:
As a witness to the events leading up to the closing of Our Lady of Vilnius Church, I feel it is imperative that the public be made aware of a few things that have not yet been disclosed.

During a surprise visit to various Manhattan parishes in the summer of 2004, Cardinal Egan, accompanied by Bishop Sullivan and another cleric, visited Our Lady of Vilnius Church, and the first thing Cardinal Egan said to me was, “Where is the property line?” An ominous question! Thus showing his interest in material values and not spiritual values.

A despicable and shameful act of discourtesy was committed by Reverend Monsignor Thomas E. Gilleece, chancellor of the Archdiocese of New York, on Feb. 26, 2007, the same day Our Lady of Vilnius Church was closed. Joy McAleer, lay trustee and parish secretary, called Monsignor Gilleece to inform him that the rectory of the church should not be locked and secured — per the letter signed by him authorizing Absolute Security to do so — because it is where Father Eugene Sawicki resides.

Gilleece stated Sawicki does not live there. McAleer affirmed that the father has lived there for all of his 23 priestly years, whereupon Monsignor Gilleece abruptly and without notice hung up on the lady. She called back just seconds later and his secretary said he was at a meeting.

I was next to Joy, as were three other witnesses. A letter was forwarded to Cardinal Egan the next day and as of this writing there has been no response at all. No explanation, no apology, nothing. This is typical of all our communications with the archdiocese: a total un-Christian disdain for the people.

In sum, by his actions, the cardinal has deprived the parish residents and especially the commuters of having a church in a large area of the Lower West Side, stretching from Soho to Ground Zero.

The present-day Lithuanians and those immigrants following them are deprived of a social and cultural meeting place. And the Knights of Lithuania and Knickerbocker Council #221, Knights of Columbus, of which I have been a member for 17 years, have had their property seized and their meeting hall locked down.

Back in the summer of 2004, when the cardinal visited, I should have answered him by saying the property line of the Catholic Church extends well beyond the fence. It extends around the globe. It is universal, apostolic and holy, no matter how some of its present-day shepherds lead.
Joseph Pantuliano
Pantuliano is a lay trustee, Our Lady of Vilnius Church

Harassment from top

To The Editor:
Re “Art vendors say police get picture all wrong” (news article, March 28):

I’ve lived in New York City most of my life and personally been a target of New York Police Department vendor enforcement for 42 years. The one constant I’ve observed in all those years is that enforcement is always motivated by politics and money. The N.Y.P.D. does not write a parking ticket, let alone harassstreet artists, without someone with political influence or a great deal of money putting them up to it.

The Soho Alliance, Community Board 2, Councilmember Alan Gerson, the wealthy landlords of Soho and the galleries that call the police 50 times each weekend all claimed in the article that they have no problem with street artists. They all say they just cannot imagine why the First Precinct keeps sending 10 officers at a time to West Broadway with specific orders to harass artists selling their own original paintings, prints, photos and sculptures. Yet when I talk to these officers, they all state that specific complaints about artists are what they are responding to.

Blaming these police officers for the harassment is like blaming the lowest-ranking U.S. soldiers in Iraq for the Iraq invasion policy. Are we to believe that for two weekends uniformed police officers stood across from my art-vending stand guarding an art gallery for seven hours straight on their own initiative? Should we believe that 10 First Precinct officers walked the length of West Broadway ordering artists to take down art displays that are 1 inch too close to adoor, while ignoring 100-percent illegal vendors, because these officers had nothing better to do or because they are so ignorant of vending law?

Councilmember Gerson, Sean Sweeney and C.B. 2 officials keeppressuring these police officers to take action against legal vendors in Soho. Galleries, landlords, residents and storeowners who imagine they own all public property in Soho make hundreds of calls a month to the First Precinct and to the Mayor’s Office demanding action against street artists. Councilmember Gerson has spent six years “drafting” new regulations aimed at destroying street artists’ First Amendment rights. He may think he’s a “First Amendment expert” but his expertise seems to lie wholly in devising ways to subvert full First Amendment freedom.

If the reasonable residents of Soho don’t want to see a return to the “art wars” and daily protests that raged in the streets of Soho all through the 1990s, they should make their opinions known to those pulling the strings. The police are not getting the picture wrong. It’s the string-pullers who are.

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

Vendor mess is no game

To The Editor:
Re: “Art vendors say police get picture all wrong” (news article, March 28):

As president of one of the largest co-ops in Soho and a longtime resident of the neighborhood, I was deeply disturbed by the quote from Officer Konstantinidis, who said that enforcing the rules against illegal vendors in Soho is “only a game.” If a police officer like Konstantinidis believes enforcing the law is a problem, then he should clearly be removed from his position.

Although I do believe that some of the vendors are constitutionally protected, almost anyone who has walked around the neighborhood knows that probably 90 percent of the vending on Prince St., Spring St. and Broadway isn’t protected. On the corner of Wooster and Spring Sts. near my apartment, there are probably eight to 10 illegal vendors every weekend selling things like knockoff jeans and cheap earrings. None of these vendors is constitutionally protected. All it would take to stop almost all of this vending is for the police to actually get out of their cars for five minutes when they drive down Spring and Prince Sts. and Broadway.

Finally, as far as the vendors who call themselves “artists,” I think the city should be encouraged to investigate if any of these vendors are actually paying taxes to the city for their sales on weekends. I have never seen any of the “artists” produce receipts for their sales and I would be very curious to see if they are reporting their sales to both the state and city. The city could easily track down this information by comparing the names of artists quoted in recent Villager articles against tax records.

Tim Clark

Writer’s for the ’burbs

To The Editor:
Re “Billboards as free speech” (letter, by Larry Penner, April 4):

A letter writer denounced the good work of activists who are attempting to rein in the proliferation of illegal billboards in our community.

He erroneously invokes the First Amendment and Bill of Rights to rationalize illegal activities and his own twisted viewpoint, not realizing that the Supreme Court has ruled that commercial speech is not awarded the same protection as individuals’ free speech. Also, his ignorance of local zoning laws regulating billboards is patent.

Perhaps this is because the letter writer lives in Great Neck. Yes, that’s right! Great Neck, Long Island! Do you think this hypocrite has to look out at a giant billboard on his neighbor’s manicured lawn every morning?

This individual, whom I won’t give the satisfaction of naming, is a pathetic publicity seeker who seems to have nothing better to do with his life than to make a career of writing letters to every newspaper in town, constantly lecturing us from his suburban haven about what is wrong with New York City.

Surely The Villager is not so needy for letters that it will continue to waste good newsprint and precious trees on this silly suburbanite’s hobby.

P.J. Grill

Sacred principles upheld

To The Editor:
Re “Seminary puts out new plan, and is back in good graces” (news article, April 4):

Congratulations to the community activists who fought to preserve the principles of the Chelsea 197a Plan in the General Theological Seminary building foray and thanks to G.T.S. for deciding to build only seven stories on Ninth Ave.

Now I hope the community will work as hard to help G.T.S. find the $21 million it needs to repair the other buildings in The Close. It would seem particularly appropriate to come to G.T.S.’s aid in view of the efforts of Anglicans and conservative Episcopalians to break up the Church.

Ross Graham

Downpour was ominous

To The Editor:
As we near the 10-year anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, the rain two weekends ago should inspire more New Yorkers to take a stronger stance on pushing our government to address climate change. Although the 8 inches of rain may or may not be directly related to climate change, the lake-sized puddles and flooded roads provide a glimpse of what awaits us if we don’t.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change studies forecast water levels rising 7 to 23 inches within a century, and many others predict worse. New York City has an especially vulnerable coastline, and severe weather could flood our streets, homes and subway system.

The Byrd-Hagel Resolution of 1997 expressed the concern that addressing environmental problems would hurt our economy. Considering the impact 9/11 had on the money market, one can only imagine what the state of the economy would be if all of Wall St. and Lower Manhattan went underwater.

Jesse J. Sucher

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