West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 4 | June 27 - July 3, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Hospital’s home is here

To The Editor: 
Re “St. Vincent’s moving away is best cure, neighbors say” (news article, June 20):

I am very disappointed by the suggestion that St. Vincent’s Hospital should consider leaving the Village, a community we have faithfully served for over 150 years. 

I am a native of Greenwich Village — born and brought up in the neighborhood — so I am personally aware of its unique character and the ways it has changed over my lifetime. I joined the Sisters of Charity in 1950 and returned to living in the Village in 1966 when I resumed working at St. Vincent’s.   

When Mother Mary Jerome Ely, a fellow Sister of Charity, spearheaded St. Vincent’s establishment in the Village in April of 1856, she did so with the goal of raising the level of care we were able to deliver to the residents of Lower Manhattan.   

We are now faced with the question of how do we most safely, efficiently and effectively deliver the highest level of compassionate care to all our neighbors who need it? 

I believe the answer is to give the Village a state-of-the-art hospital that will not only care for all of our medical needs, but will also be a source of community pride for the entire Village, including our closest neighbors. 

A call to move this hospital — a very vibrant part of the rich history of the Village — is not the answer. 

Sister Miriam Kevin Phillips
Phillips is senior vice president for mission, St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan

St. Vincent’s hurts its cause

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s moving away is best cure, neighbors say” (news article, June 20):

As one who attended and commented at the Greenwich Village Block Associations’ June 13 forum on the proposed redevelopment of St. Vincent’s Hospital, I was surprised to read of “neighbors’ skepticism about the need for a modern hospital in the Village.” This was far from the tenor of the comments made. The main questions raised were:

1. Whether the current location was best suited to the hospital’s new needs and expanded service area.

2. Whether a state-of-the-art hospital could instead be built within the envelope of the current complex.

3. Why St. Vincent’s has packaged the need for new facilities with a high-density luxury residential development.

4. Whether it was appropriate for St Vincent’s to seek special zoning changes for sites it planned to sell rather than use.

5. Whether St. Vincent’s and their development partners at the Rudin Company could be trusted, given that both have past records of broken promises.

Everyone seemed very supportive of the need for the most up-to-date, cutting-edge facility and, frankly, frustrated that St. Vincent’s and their partner kept disrespectfully trying to frame the discussion as if addressing some phantom mob of pro-terrorist, anti-health Luddites invisible to the rest of us. (I am surprised The Villager saw these specters too. Perhaps you could name these people who oppose a modern hospital?)

The most remarkable aspect of the forum was the way in which St. Vincent’s management undermined their message. Villagers can be fairly described as sensitive about the World Trade Center attack, skeptical of the “War on Terror,” zealous about their historic district, conservative (even reactionary) in their architectural tastes and suspicious of development projects generally. The hospital decided to woo this audience with graphic reminders of 9/11, crude terrorist fear mongering, trivializing of density and aesthetic concerns, images of Frank Gehry buildings and fulsome praise of the very controversial Rudin Company. (They even cited that firm’s Two Fifth Ave., a building that still provokes angry tirades after more than 50 years.) 

Meanwhile, potentially persuasive selling points were only mentioned in passing. St. Vincent’s says the Village is their home, but apparently their neighbors are strangers to them.

Cormac Flynn

Thanks for saving my life

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s moving away is best cure, neighbors say” (news article, June 20):

Without St. Vincent’s, our centrally located Village hospital, I would not be writing this letter. About seven years ago, I awoke with severe chest pain, walked down five flights of stairs and hailed a cab. I did not know that I was having a heart attack or that by the time the cab traveled five short blocks to St. Vincent’s E.R., I would be in cardiac arrest — not breathing, no pulse, no heartbeat.

I am thankful every day for the doctors and nurses who worked so hard to save my life. I am thankful for St. Vincent’s on every Mother’s Day, at every graduation I have attended for my children, on all the birthdays and holidays I celebrate with my family and friends.

Because St. Vincent’s is a centrally located hospital, I arrived there quickly and survived with minimal damage to my heart. I hope that no one finds themselves in the situation that I faced, particularly the people who believe that St. Vincent’s should be moved to the outskirts of town.

I write on behalf of all the people whose lives have been saved, all the children who have been born there and all the people who benefit every day from the care and compassion received at St. Vincent’s Hospital, our neighborhood hospital, centrally located for all in need.

Liza Mirisola

Victory on park renovation

To The Editor:
“Most of all we would like to thank the board for its continued patience and passion for Washington Square Park,” wrote Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilmember Alan Gerson in their joint statement read to Community Board 2.

We thank them, too. They have gotten the Parks Department to agree to an open presentation of their plans for the phase one renovation. Victory! That’s why C.B. 2 overwhelmingly voted to rescind approval of their earlier plans.

Two years ago, community concerns led to the “the Gerson-Quinn agreement.” Parks ignored that, but now has agreed. There is one serious obstacle — timing. After Parks presents “diagrams and drawings,” we have only one week to comment.

A week is short; we have thousands of opinions. Parks could say we can’t agree, and ignore us.

We can avoid that. We can decide what we want for phase one (which includes only one playground — the tots’ one — and doesn’t include the dog runs). The following quotes are from the 2005 Gerson-Quinn agreement:

1. Do we want a fence? How high?

We want a welcoming and open park. The fence must “preserve the park’s sense of openness…. no higher than 4 feet.” No higher means it could be much lower!

2. What do we want for the plaza? 

The plaza makes the park a premier performance place, and allows thousands to gather. We want to keep that, but how? Gerson-Quinn says the plaza must be “at least 90 percent” of the current size. Parks planned to shrink it, to flatten it, and to move it. Is one of these three changes worse than the others?

3. Can they fix the bathrooms now?

Renovated, handicap-accessible bathrooms are urgent for A.D.A. and for all of us on C.B. 2, but Parks says “as soon as finances permit.”

4. What about walkways and seating? 

The agreement calls for walkways wide enough for “congregating, seating and standing informally” and more seats. Rumor is that Parks wants gates and narrow walkways, with fewer entrances. We need to make sure the new plan preserves “the informality of the park central to its charm and character.”

5. And the fountain? 

Gerson-Quinn says that the fountain should “remain essentially in its current form.” Plumbing needs fixing, but costs should not be “significantly greater than the initial understanding.” What do we want for seating, size, height of the spray?

Gerson said there would be no gates. The Gerson-Quinn agreement says all healthy trees would be salvaged, while new trees would replace any sick trees — and that half the park would stay open at any time during construction. Let’s make sure. Let’s get another victory.   Keen Berger 

Berger is a member, Washington Square Park Task Force and Community Board 2; and female Democratic district leader, 66th Assembly District, Part A.

Schnabel has last laugh

To The Editor:
Re “Venetian red or Pepto pink? Schnabel’s color clash” (news article, June 20):

As a resident of the same block as Mr. Schnabel’s “art palace,” I read your latest article debating the color of the tower with a great deal of amusement. While I applaud The Villager’s attempts to make light of the situation, the main point of this tower controversy is ignored: How did Schnabel break every building law in the books and somehow persuade the city to go along with this project? I don’t think any of our public servants have ever demanded an answer to this question.

The real issue here isn’t about color or size or architecture taste; it’s about the city refusing to punish a lawbreaker who was caught red-handed by dozens, if not hundreds, of residents.

I suspect that Schnabel is laughing, too — all the way to the bank.

Matty Apfel

Preservation, what a bore

To The Editor:
Re “Venetian red or Pepto pink? Schnabel’s color clash” (news article, June 20):

I look at Schnabel’s building every day outside my window and I love it. It’s fantastic. The problem with Andrew Berman and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is that they fight everything. These people would love the city to stay exactly the same, as some perfect fantasy they fool themselves into thinking it was. Static in every way, endlessly tedious, little brick-and-brownstone tenements. What a bore.

Ironically, folks like this would have fought all that development in its time, as well. Someday, Schnabel’s building will be a cherished landmark, like the equally fantastic Jefferson Market Courthouse and the fabulous Richard Meier buildings — not so fabulous in execution, but great design — and Berman and the G.V.S.H.P. will be forgotten.

If they want things to stay the same they should relocate to — oh, nowhere, because the only constant is change and New York City is all about that.

John Franco

Great St. Brigid’s report

To The Editor:
Re “Fighting Irish: Dillon and Quinn rally for St. Brigid’s, old P.S. 64” (news article, June 6):

Many thanks to The Villager for its very thorough coverage of both the rally and appeals hearing to save this historic church.

Your photo of Matt Dillon and the city councilwomen against the background of the church is telling. Also, your descriptive story really informs your readers of exactly what issues are at stake and how they are being dealt with in the courts. Worse yet, but clearly stated for all to see, is the attitude of the Archdiocese, whose heels are dug in and still insists on kicking history and culture to the curb. Thank you.
Sheila Houlihan

Better architects wanted

To The Editor:
Re “Venetian red or Pepto pink? Schnabel’s color clash” (news article, June 20):

Thanks for the article on the Schnabel building. Andrew Berman andpreservationists, in general, tend to have really conservative views about architectural design, which makes Schnabel’s obscene, hot-pink high-rise downright amusing. The 40-story, high-rise, as-many-as-you-please zoning for the Williamsburg waterfront is upsetting, and feels politically out of sync with Berman’s ability to stop all high-rise development in the Village. Nevertheless, I was happy to see that the preservationists are indeed activists for saving the industrial architecture of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

So far, the new high-rises in Williamsburg, with a few exceptions, are just big, ugly, postmodern monstrosities or slick, glass towers. How do we get Brooklyn developers to hire more innovative architects? This, for me, is the real question. If the community felt that developers cared about what they were building, it would change the terms of the debate. Is there a way to foster a stronger architectural culture for these new developments in Brooklyn, a shift to a more talented pool of emerging architects who deserve a chance to build? Let’s not forget that Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers were both in their early 30s when they won the competition to design and build the Pompidou Center in Paris.

Sarah Stanley

Drop the Pier 40 act

To The Editor:
I am very concerned that parents of the children who play ball at Pier 40 do not realize what poor condition our pier is in. Our pier needs serious structural maintenance and refurbishing. Walk along the walkways next to the field. The water coming down is caused by spalling. The water has seeped into the cracks and holes, rusting the rebar and seriously compromising the concrete.

In biz kids — a theater conservatory — we have installed netting across our ceiling to catch the falling concrete. This is a condition that cannot be patched. Water has a way of finding its own direction through concrete. I have a tarpaulin that catches water and funnels it to a bucket. I also have a main water pipe in my studio ceiling that is so incredibly rusted out we have several buckets in the ceiling and plastic wrapped around the pipe. However, that pipe is also beyond repair and needs replacement fairly soon. There is a crack in the hallway, so that every time it rains our hallways get washed! These are just a few of the physical problems in biz kids’ area of the pier.

This is not band-aid time. The Hudson River Park Trust has been using that approach and time is running out. Unfortunately, if something substantial is not done, we run the risk of losing the pier. This is expensive and the Hudson River Park Trust recognizes this. A developer like The Related Companies is the only one willing to spend the kind of money needed to keep Pier 40 a part of our lives. Related has also been open and responsive to making changes and adapting their plans to make them more community friendly.

Rather than trying to shoot Related out of the water, hadn’t we better look at why we need them and how best to achieve the goals of our community? Why don’t we take this time to communicate our needs and desires, so that we are able to achieve the best for our community? It is time to be totally realistic and recognize the need for informed action.
Peggy Lewis
Lewis is director, biz kids, inc.

Keep faith in park

To The Editor:
This letter is to reassure your Chelsea readers that all is well with the production schedule of the Chelsea segment of Hudson River Park. There have been many letters and articles in the press about a shortage of funds to finish the park and about disputes concerning major elements of the Tribeca and Greenwich Village segments of the park.

This is not the case in Chelsea where construction proceeds and deadlines are observed. Piers 62, 63 and 64 and the upland area between 22nd to 24th Sts. are being constructed. Pier 64 is on schedule to be completed in 2008. We hope that Piers 62 and 63 will be completed the following year. Although there is a $6 million shortfall of money due to the two-year delay in starting work on Pier 63 — because Basketball City overstayed its lease until the courts ruled that it had to leave — we feel confident that the money will be found and that the park will be completed.

Why do we feel confident about finishing the Chelsea segment of the park? We feel confident because members of Chelsea Waterside Park Association and members of Community Board 4 have been intimately involved in the financing, the design and the construction of the park. 

No one ever talks about the beauty of the park. The Chelsea Waterside Park, east of the highway, which was built several years ago with federal highway funds, is a sheer delight. Tom Balsley, the landscape architect, filled it with curves as a means of escaping from the New York City grid. Chelsea Cove, just west of Chelsea Waterside Park which we in C.W.P.A. refer to as Chelsea Waterside Park West, will be an example of an almost pastoral setting with a semicircle of trees from Piers 62 through 64 sheltering visitors from the noises of the city. The wasteland between 26th and 29th Sts. west of the highway is now a nature habitat filled with plants, trees, grasses and beautiful flowers. The promise that small creatures would rest there on their never-ending journeys, both north and south, has been fulfilled. 

We ask you to keep the faith. You saw a pathetic barren triangle turned into a 2-acre park with a great ball field, a children’s play area with exciting new play equipment and sculptures from Japan that squirt water out of their tops, and a dog play area with boulders to make it a more challenging space for dogs. New York City even closed 23rd St. from 11th Ave. to the highway to unify the disparate parts. Working closely with the Trust staff, we are confident that our dreams will be fulfilled, and soon. 

Robert Trentlyon
Trentlyon is vice president, Chelsea Waterside Park Association

Don’t toll Manhattanites

To The Editor:
I have been reading the information on Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing, and while I support it, I have one major issue with the program: What about people who own a car that is registered in Manhattan? 

I see this program as a penalty tax for anyone in my situation. As a Manhattan resident I should be exempt from these charges. 

I work outside the city. I leave for work after 6 a.m. and usually return to the city around 5 p.m. From what I read, I expect to be charged $8 when I leave the city and $8 when I return. This represents an added $16 a day, $80 a week, and $320 a month. There is already a premium to maintain a car in the city: expensive parking facilities, more expensive insurance costs, more expensive gasoline prices and ever-rising toll charges. I don’t feel that I should now be charged to enter and exit the borough in which I reside.

John R. Dean 

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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