West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 3 | June 20 - 26, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Not part of bike battle

To The Editor: 
Re “Bike blitz on E. 6th: Police cut locks and arrest two” (news article, June 6):

I have attended Ninth Precinct Community Council meetings for 20 years; I go to support and protect my neighbors but also to support the police. It is therefore ironic that the Police Department has chosen to lay the blame for their intemperate use of force against bike owners on 10th and Stuyvesant Sts., on someone who has for decades worked tirelessly to repair the breach that had long existed between the Ninth Precinct and this community. I have given hundreds of hours, not only at council meetings, but speaking to new recruits regarding respect, not to mention the 15 consecutive Monday evenings I spent attending the Citizens’ Police Academy, where I had hoped to find the genesis of “them and us.” Out on the street the evening of May 30, I saw years of progress swept away as neighbors were threatened with arrest for talking back when, without notice, bikes were being confiscated. 

Weeks before that night, the commanding officer of the Ninth Precinct had announced at a council meeting that there was an initiative to make bike riders more aware of safety and laws and that part of that process was informing them that it was illegal to attach bikes to street furniture. To that end and as a way of identifying abandoned bikes, notices would be attached to bikes giving owners two weeks to move them or the bikes would be removed. I believed it was a precinctwide process and verbally welcomed it, first, as a way to finally rid the block of abandoned bikes and, second, to get the bikes off of the Abe Lebewohl Triangle fence and the tree guards, so that long-planned repairs and painting could take place. That is what the Police Department is calling a “complaint.” Suffice to say that the police put no fliers on the bikes. 

Of course, now I realize that I had unwittingly wandered onto the battlefield where the police and the bike movement are engaged in a form of public relations combat. I will now very consciously and deliberately remove myself from that battlefield. 

Marilyn Appleberg
Appleberg is president, 10th and Stuyvesant Sts. Block Association

Shouldn’t head committee

To The Editor:
That Brad Hoylman plans to name Tobi Bergman as Community Board 2 Parks Committee chairperson this Thursday (“Hoylman’s home free,” Scoopy’s Notebook, May 30) should be of concern to Villagers who want to see our community board free of conflicts of interest, as well as to those of us who want to see a community-responsive renovation of our beloved Washington Square Park.

Brad told The Villager that he is “focusing on running a board that is responsive to the needs of the community.” Yet one would be hard pressed to find a member of C.B. 2 with a greater conflict of interest in Parks Department matters than Tobi Bergman. Tobi is, and has been for most of the past decade, president of P3, a nonprofit organization that runs youth sports programs on Pier 40.

Tobi draws a significant salary from P3. At the same time, P3’s revenues come from its management of sports programs that take place on public sports fields controlled by the Hudson River Park Trust. The Trust is managed by board members appointed by the state and city, including New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.

From February 2005 to April 2005, the short period that Community Board 2 and the public were able to review — though never take possession of — the Washington Square Park plans, C.B. 2’s Parks Committee mishandled the review process.

There is a reasonable likelihood that the next phase of the Washington Square Park debate will end up in front of C.B. 2’s Parks Committee. Tobi has already made clear his bias regarding Washington Square Park. In April 2005, right before the first critical C.B. 2 vote supporting the Parks Department plan, Tobi appeared before the full board to vouch for the plan. He told the board that his experience with the Parks Department had taught him that Washington Square Park could never be repaired and improved using the $7 million in existing funds. Tobi argued that the park needed to be completely redesigned, per the Parks Department’s plan. “Trust me,” he told the board. “If we miss this opportunity, we will lose the park we love.”

I am not writing to disparage the dedicated work that Tobi Bergman has done for youth sports leagues in our community. But whether he has an improper conflict of interest, or an indirect relationship with the Parks Department through its votes at the Hudson River Park Trust, Villagers should still be concerned.

Jonathan Greenberg
Greenberg is coordinator, Open Washington Square Park Coalition, which has filed two lawsuits against the Washington Square renovation project.

Pink tower is ‘amazing’

To The Editor:
Re “Not so pretty in pink: Wraps come off Schnabel tower” (news article, June 13):

You folks should stop relying exclusively on Andrew Berman for opinions on preservation issues. Hang around on the corner of Washington and W. 11th Sts. for a few hours: The overwhelming response is awe, amazement and delight. I, for one, have heard only positive comments. For example, on Saturday, I received this unsolicited e-mail from someone who lives immediately next door:

“I think the building looks pretty good. Amazing — what a relief it is to see some detail, asymmetry, even if ersatz, a product of organic thinking, rather than digital robotism.”Neil Selkirk

Gansevoort is easy way out

To The Editor:
Re “Mayor, Quinn say Village must get transfer station” (news article, June 6) and “Outer-borough residents say Glick doesn’t play fair” (news article, June 13):

Mayor Bloomberg, in his proposal of using Gansevoort Peninsula as a site for a Sanitation transfer station, has failed to give a valid reason why this use could not be sited elsewhere. No, not in an outer borough and no, not in a community of color. Everyone agrees that Manhattan must do its fair share if New York City is not going to be buried under a pile of garbage.

Alternative sites have been proposed for study on both Piers 57 and 76, which are along the West Side, and there is no evidence that any credible study has been made which would cancel out either of these sites. There is also the concept of using rail freight with a rail transfer station at the Hudson Yards. These proposals have been urged, not only by the New York State elected officials from Greenwich Village but from both Chelsea and the Upper West Side.

Contrary to some of the arguments made by the supporters of the transfer station, this is not a matter of NIMBY (not in my backyard). The Gansevoort Peninsula was always intended to be a park and not one with a large Sanitation facility in its middle. There are issues of traffic, noise and pollution. Ignored are the pedestrians and bicyclists who pass by the peninsula every day at all hours and who would have to interact with large Sanitation trucks.

Ignored also is the fact that the Hudson River Park is not a private park for the residents of Greenwich Village but a public park used by people of all colors and economic classes from all over New York City, as well as the world. It is listed in most tourist guides as a wonderful place to visit. Would a Sanitation facility be placed in Central Park or Prospect Park?

The attacks that have been hurled at our local elected officials, particularly at Assemblymember Deborah Glick, are reprehensible. At no time did anyone suggest that the proposed facility be placed in a low-income or working-class community. The history of New York City in placing odious uses in these neighborhoods is infamous. However, that does not justify New York City’s refusal to investigate alternative sites in Manhattan.

The Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront & Great Port has joined with Community Boards 1, 2 and 4, Assemblymembers Glick, Richard Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal, State Senator Tom Duane and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, as well as many environmental and community groups, in seeking viable alternatives to the Gansevoort Peninsula. We call upon the Bloomberg administration to join with us instead of taking the easy way out.
Carol Feinman
Feinman is president, Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront & Great Port

A safe refuge for kids

To The Editor:
My strong desire in writing this letter is to make clear our family’s intense disapproval of The Related Companies’ Pier 40 redevelopment plans.

These proposals would ruin the feeling of a “small town” sports field. I grew up in the suburbs, so I was lucky to have many beautiful and well-kept playing fields for organized sports. The beauty of having Pier 40 is that it is not surrounded by blaring car horns, sirens, tourists, commercial sales or fear that your child will be taken.

Our son has played at Pier 40 since he was 4 years old and is currently 9 and plays in the Greenwich Village Little League Junior Minors Division. At Pier 40, there is a strong sense of community and a genuine love of youth sports. We often stay after the games to play baseball with our kids on the rooftop field. We have never been charged money or kicked off the field if no one is using it.

This time playing sports with our children creates bonding and friendships. We want a healthy environment for our children. My son is constantly exposed to the insanity of our city. There are many places he can go to see a play, a movie, play video or arcade games and buy toys. The last thing we want is to come to our practices or games on Saturday and Sunday and be exposed to any of that. We want families we know, a quiet place and beautiful “green” space to play sports.

We don’t want either of the two proposals that The Related Companies has developed. Please hear our plea to keep our pier a simple, beautiful field for families to gather and kids to play sports.

Krystn Wagenberg
Wagenberg is president, C.O.O. and executive producer, Mad River Post, Inc.

St. Vincent’s can go

To The Editor:
Re “Critics have 2nd opinion on hospital’s building plan” (news article, May 30):

There are two sides to the story of the new hospital plan. On one side: St. Vincent’s/Rudin Management Company. On the other side: everyone else.

There is no one in the Village who believes a 21-story building is appropriate or necessary in our neighborhood. Yes, I live directly across the street, at 175 W. 13th. St., and I will have my sunlight blocked and my eardrums filled with the sounds of sirens and traffic.

But I think all residents of the Village, perhaps even all the city, would agree that if such a hospital is to be built, it should be built anywhere but in a landmarked district of Federal-style houses from the 19th century. After all, what is the point of landmarking a location if it can be bought by the highest bidder? Why bother with zoning laws if they are written by and for developers, rather than for the benefit of city residents?

Look at the dozens of new buildings going up in Chelsea and on the West Side. Any one of these locations would be better suited to a hospital skyscraper than a small neighborhood of four-story houses. St. Vincent’s needs to expand, fine. Let them find a proper place to do so.

Mitch Coodley

Property values talking

To The Editor:
Re “Critics have 2nd opinion on hospital’s building plan” (news article, May 30):

Something is amiss here. As I glance around our fair city’s skyline, now pierced with crane after crane, I know that these cranes will be followed by giant buildings. And these giant buildings will for the most part be adding billions of dollars to already very deep pockets.

So, growth is good? So says our mayor and his various departments. If you’re in New York, you can’t build out, you must build up, we are told.

I, like many other city dwellers who fight for affordable housing and livable density, am not in love with these giant sky-piercers. But what I want to know is why all that community energy is spent making mincemeat of those developments that give something back to the community — like the new buildings proposed by St. Vincent’s Hospital and the General Theological Seminary. Why not put some of that energy into demanding that regulations and zoning serve the community, not just the billionaires?

Having just emerged from a five-day stay at St. Vincent’s, I must concur with their statement that the present facility has seen far better days. As I understand it, they have just emerged from bankruptcy. Funds are needed to build a fully equipped facility that can better serve the community.

So, while I am sympathetic to those who decry the disappearing river view, sunsets and blue-sky views, I am not so sympathetic to those who mount these battles with an eye to property values as their primary concern and with barely a thought of the needs of the community at large.

So, folks, let’s fight the good fight — get the changes to our laws, zoning and planning tools, that benefit most of us, not just the wealthiest among us.
Gloria Sukenick

Vesuvio pace is glacial

To The Editor:
Why has it taken so long to complete the renovation of Vesuvio Playground — named after the famous bakery of community leader Tony Dapolito — on Spring between Thompson and Sullivan Sts.? The renovation began more than a year ago and has continued at a turtle’s pace.

The playground was shut down all last summer, depriving hundreds of neighborhood kids of a place to swim, and has kept many more kids from the playground equipment. It is now an eyesore and has unleashed thousands of rats through the neighborhood. The pace of work has picked up a tiny bit recently but it’s hard to imagine that the playground and pool will be ready for the traditional July 4 opening of the city’s outdoor pools. Whole skyscrapers are built in less time.

The design also is a disaster. Before, there was a separate basketball court, always busy, and three handball/tennis courts. Now, they have been merged into one, which will deprive at least one set of athletes of a favorite game and maybe lead to disputes over who rules the court. 

The irony is that, had Tony been alive, he would have moved heaven and earth to get this project done on a timely basis so that the children and neighborhood he loved would not be victims of mishandling of a simple project like this by the city or contractor. 

I write as a Sullivan St. resident of 30 years. My two children had wonderful times in the playground and pool, and we all are saddened that other kids can’t have the same opportunity they had. Hopefully, our attention will galvanize the city to finish this job right away.

Bill Abrams

Editor’s note: Vesuvio Playground’s handball and basketball courts reopened for use last week. A Parks Department spokesperson said the entire playground and new in-ground children’s pool should be open, ahead of schedule, by June 29, to coincide with the citywide opening of outdoor pools. A grand opening ceremony will follow at some point this summer.

Wang is not Chinese

To The Editor:
Re “Wang strikes out in Chinatown, where baseball is just ‘too slow’” (news article, June 6):

Chien-Ming Wang is not Chinese. He is Taiwanese. Taiwan and China are two different countries.

Baseball is the most popular sport in Taiwan and everyone in Taiwan recognizes Wang as a national hero. On the other hand, only very few Chinese people understand the rules of baseball, let alone love the game. It is no surprise at all that people in Chinatown are not particularly crazy about baseball and Wang. The reason is simple, because they are not Taiwanese.

Pey-Jiuan Doong

Column gave closure

To The Editor:
Re “Finding peace in Keith’s final journey to Valhalla” (Notebook, by Annie Shaver-Crandell, May 23):

I was mesmerized by Annie Shaver-Crandell’s column on the memorial service for her late husband at New York Medical College in Valhalla. My brother, Matthew, started the program a number of years ago. When he is not Dr. Pravetz at N.Y.M.C., he is Father Matthew, a Franciscan friar at Holy Cross Church (Iglesia de Santa Cruz) in the Bronx. 

Thirty years ago, I took anatomy as a new medical student, the only American, at the renowned University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. At my dissection table, there were three other medical students besides me, and the only data we had on our cadaver was written on a 3-x-5 index card: “26 y/o - ca lung.”

I had an incredible desire to know more about my first patient. That wish never came to fruition. However, in some twisted way, Shaver-Crandell’s writing helped to place closure on an issue that has always been in the back of my mind. Behind every cadaver is a human being, and a legacy. Reading Shaver-Crandell’s article has brought that home to me for once and for all.

Michael Pravetz

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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