Volume 76, Number 49 | May 2 -8, 2007

Letters to the editor

Really bothered by Bob

To The Editor:
Re “Politics of the park” (letter, by Bob O’Sullivan, April 25):

Who is this Bob O’Sullivan?

My Manhattan white pages list no Bob or Robert, and just one R O’Sullivan on W. 30th St. True, he could be unlisted or otherwise undocumented, but the tenor of his messages suggests what they call on the Internet an “echo troll.” That is, a person writing under a false name, to stir up trouble, promote a hidden agenda, dispense slander or otherwise indulge a yen for intrigue.

Given his effort to move the Washington Square Park “project forward as fast as possible,” my first guess would be he’s shilling for New York University — to increase space for its commencements and so forth. But given the quality of his “argument,” from dubious to inane, I figure N.Y.U. would do better than that.

He declares that the plan has “maybe 60 percent of what I would like to see in the newly renovated park.” Ignoring Parks Department hanky panky, lies, deceit and destruction of traditional function, he demands we “move the project ahead as fast as possible.” Why? Because, he says, the park is in such “terrible physical condition.”

Oh. I think of a much ruder word than “baloney.” I pass through that park several times a week. Not only an experienced renovator of real estate, a careful observer of local facilities, veteran of the last park renovation (planned by the community) and a sharp-eyed wearer of excellent new eyeglasses, I ask: What “terrible conditions”? There’s no wall to collapse, chimney or parapet to fall down. The only actual risk visible might be to owners of nearby property wishing to sell before the dirt and disruption of renovation spoil the idyll.

Check out Barrow St. west of Hudson — its higgledy-piggledy cobblestones give the walker a workout guaranteed to strengthen the hips of the most osteoporotic. Nobody is screaming about urgent repairs to these busy streets and sidewalks.

My guess, anyway, is that most park users would prefer that aging continue than, for instance, see the fountain moved to line up with the arch, lose 23 percent of the plaza space, uproot trees and level the plaza, among other misbegotten plans, especially after being bamboozled and stonewalled by Parks.

Most mind-boggling of all, however, O’Sullivan says that if “Parks’ renovation is unacceptable to the community after it is completed, I will work with community groups [et al.] to raise the necessary money to immediately rebuild the park in a way that will be more acceptable to the community.”

Oh! After we’ve endured, say, three years of renovation, and at least 10 years of tergiversation, going through the entire argument again, we have another three years of re-renovation — moving the fountain back, re-lowering the plaza, and so on. Brilliant! It makes Robert Moses’ plan to run a highway through the park look benign. If O’Sullivan put up a bond for the entire cost of the re-redo with an added million dollars to ease community suffering, is there a 3-year-old alive who would take that deal?

In sum, to say O’Sullivan’s argument is bizarre is like calling a Humvee a Tinkertoy. When he attacks Jonathan Greenberg or Alan Gerson, it’s like bestowing a medal. Surely The Villager has better use for the space.

Judy Seigel

Editor’s note: F.Y.I.: Bob O’Sullivan is not an “echo troll.” He is a former board member of the Washington Square Association, having resigned four years ago. He also led the Washington Square Park Council for eight years, but left that group, too.

Rankled by rant

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

I resent the time I’m spending — as well as The Villager’s good ink and effort this is taking up — to respond to Bob O’Sullivan’s rant against Jonathan Greenberg and his and so many others’ tireless and valiant efforts to preserve Washington Square Park from the prospective ravages of the Parks Department’s proposed renovation. The arguments of both sides have been so exhaustively vetted (see Stacy Kaufman’s excellent letter, “Keep fighting, Greenberg!” in the same issue) as to render further review superfluous. However, I found Mr. O’Sullivan’s diatribe so offensively ad hominem as to demand a brief reply.

Many of us “blowhards” are long-term Village residents and activists who have been using Washington Square Park for years, for lifetimes — some of us for more than 50 years! We have found the Parks Department’s present plan a conservational disaster, as well as politically repugnant. And Jonathan, to his credit, has been one of those — along with Sharon Woolums and Ron Podolsky — who provided initial leadership against this ill-conceived plan, which is backed by an extremely powerful, well-financed establishment. They were, on the Washington Square conflict, the first to “speak truth to power,” and Sharon and Ron continue their ongoing and vigorous pursuit of environmental issues.

The Bob O’Sullivans makes me a little wary, especially in these Bush-ite times, for they speak with the confident arrogance of the ignorant.

Jim Brennan

Park plan needs full review

To The Editor:
Re “Board 2 demands Wash. Sq. design presentation, or else” (news article, April 25):

It is very good news that the full board of Community Board 2 voted overwhelmingly in support of the Parks Committee’s resolution — to require the Parks Department to present, in full, the plan for the redesign of Washington Square Park.

Parks should be careful to correct the (to be kind) inexactitudes they have foisted on the public in past presentations. For example, the fountain was not sunk in the 1968-’70 design for the park by Robert Nichols and others, so it does not need to be raised now, at enormous cost. Simply, the ground between the arch and the fountain plaza — which had been occupied by a road linking the uptown and downtown streets in the park, all of which had been demapped — was raised upward in a very gentle slope. I noticed this last summer at the commemoration for Jane Jacobs. I was standing at the back of the crowd but could see everything going on at the front.

Last week, I called Bob Nichols and he confirmed they did not raise the fountain — they merely articulated the existing space with a low containing wall, as at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and in homage to Olmstead. The implications of Parks’ deception over this matter is not the only one Mr. Vellonakis, the renovation’s designer, has set before the unsuspecting citizenry, presumably with the approval and encouragement of the Parks commissioner. The six sitting areas around the eastern side of the park will be closed and grassed over — to make the park greener! — while a new 8,000-square-foot playground for older children will occupy the existing large lawn to the south of the Garibaldi statue, making the park a whole lot less green.

To get us ready for this loss, since last summer, the lawn has been completely denuded of any blade of grass.

The existing stage will be demolished and another stage more or less in the same position is to be built. Some kind of large aboveground tank somewhere near the comfort station will be erected for a backflow for the new fountain waterworks. And there is more, more. The committee that receives the new presentation, if indeed Parks agrees to give one, must have all the time they need to ask questions.

ECO initiated the question of full disclosure with our July 2005 lawsuit and we continue with another lawsuit filed this March, demanding that a full environmental impact statement be prepared and published by Parks, as required by state and city environmental laws for a project this size — well over 10 acres — and complexity. Parks admits it is a Type 1 project. The fact that within the present fence the park is only 9.75 acres is irrelevant. Parks has revealed to the city Department of Environmental Conservation that the “project” requires disruptive and reorganizational work right up to the edge of the sidewalk and the curb at the street’s edge — a minimum of 10.25 acres.

Jessie McNab
McNab is a member, Emergency Coalition Organization to Save Washington Square Park (ECO)

Bring back the big boats

To The Editor:
I believe that the Hudson River Park Trust thus far has ignored Pier 40’s primary historic function: to dock ships. This pier is unique in New York Harbor. It allows ships to parallel park to the shoreline, a major advantage with this tidal river. In this fashion it can also accept ships that are too long for finger piers. I believe that Manhattan is much more desirable for ocean departure and arrival than Red Hook in Brooklyn. Manhattan provides reception in a more central location accessible to taxis, mass transit and a higher concentration of services, restaurants and residents, some of whom will be able to walk to the pier to depart or see others departing or arriving. Those debarking will be entering a welcoming community.

I personally experienced this great advantage arriving in Quebec City aboard the QE2 on its last trip there, where the ship pulled alongside a beautiful, popular park on the edge of that historic city. Please don’t lose sight of the use of the waterfront for waterfront-related activities, especially such basic ones as going to sea.

Barry Benepe

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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