West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 7 | July 18 - 24, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Ten square questions

To The Editor:  
Next week, the Parks Department will reveal to the public its revised plans for the redesign of Washington Square Park. Two years ago, during the three-month public community board review process for the redesign, Parks refused to leave a copy of the plans with the public or the community board. Parks officials have also refused to go on the record answering a single one of the questions below.

Is the object of this redesign plan to change the way people use the park and, if so, in what way?
If it could be established that an overwhelming proportion of Villagers and New Yorkers favored using existing capital funds to simply renovate and improve the park while preserving its current design, would Parks be willing to allocate our tax dollars for this purpose, make the repairs and keep the park open during the renovation process?

Since the park’s central plaza has for 40 years been the most popular gathering space in Greenwich Village, and one of the world’s most renowned impromptu performance and music jam spaces, why would you risk this current usage by dramatically changing its design?

How will the new design, which reduces the size of the central plaza by 23 percent, brings it to a street-level grade and transforms the fountain into an ornamental object inaccessible to the public, fully preserve and maintain the central plaza’s exceptional impromptu theater in the round?

Why is the renovation of the park restrooms, which surveys show is the single highest priority for park users, not included in the budget for either of the planned two phases of Washington Square’s redesign?

Will the newly designed walkways, split by planters and smaller than those there now, be able to accommodate the large number of people that pass through the park on busy weekends, and will we be able to stroll as freely in the walkway if we have baby strollers, are holding hands or have dogs on leashes? Has any independent study ever been done as to how this redesign will impact the movement of crowds and public safety in the park?

Given that more than 90 percent of Villagers prefer the park’s permanent fence to be no higher than its current 2-foot height to maintain its popular open feel, why does Parks insist on a fence twice that height?

Since the park redesign eliminates all six of the park’s quiet seating areas, does Parks feel that as many people will make use of the slightly expanded lawn as currently use the seating areas? Does Parks believe that people from the senior center across the street from the park will sit on the grass as they now sit in the quiet seating areas?

Has the Parks Department been “punishing” our community by not repairing the pavement, bathrooms or grass in Washington Square Park for the past two years, and does Parks believe the park is adequately maintained at this moment?

For 180 years, Washington Square Park has been publicly funded. Will this plan require the creation of a conservancy to fund the park after the renovation?
Jonathan Greenberg
Greenberg is lead plaintiff in Greenberg vs. City of New York and founder, Open Washington Square Park Coalition.

The Battle of Board 2

To The Editor:
In March 2007 a campaign was started to co-name the block on Greenwich Ave. between W. 12th and W. 13th St. “Little Britain.” Even though we collected 6,000 signatures in support, on July 10, a subcommittee of Community Board 2, the Greenwich Village community board, voted it down stating, “co-names cannot be done for commercial reasons” and “a lack of historical importance.”

The full board will vote on Little Britain on July 19.

Here are seven reasons why we believe Greenwich Ave. needs Little Britain.

1. To support small, local businesses by generating more customers, so that they can afford the fourfold increase in rents landlords are demanding.

2. To recognize a nationality that has been an integral part of the neighborhood for more than 100 years.

3. To support the small, local businesses that contribute to the character and diversity of the neighborhood that are being pushed out by uniform global brands.

4. To recognize the contribution Tea & Sympathy has made to the neighborhood in the 17 years it has been here — 90 letters of thanks received from neighborhood organizations over the last year.

5. To create a destination for Anglophiles among the 44 million people visiting New York each year, which will benefit every business on the block — which is why all these businesses have signed individual letters of support.

6. Because, to date, more than 6,000 people have voted for Little Britain in the Big Apple; one thousand of these signatures were collected in Tea & Sympathy and 57 percent of the total online signatures were New York City residents.

7. To increase the West Village’s share of New York’s $22.8 billion direct visitor spending each year, of which Great Britain is the top-producing nation.

In summary, while we respect C.B. 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee’s vote, we believe our cause is just and that the tongue-in-cheek campaign we created is no different in principle from all political or lobbying campaigns in the U.S., in that we raised funds from a likeminded corporation. To hold that against us is, we believe, unreasonable.

Please support our campaign at www.campaignforlittlebritain.com.
Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett

The revolution is over!

To The Editor:
New York City is now a global apple in the 21st century. Why can’t we act that way?
Americans pride ourselves on our country being a place of inclusiveness, drawing people from all over the world to visit and live here. A melting pot of generations of immigrant cultures and regional food is responsible for giving so many New York City neighborhoods their character and flavor.

I am shocked and disappointed that the few people on Community Board 2 have decided for all of us that some of those who come from faraway places to make New York City their home are not allowed to celebrate their heritage. These people have voted against co-naming a portion of Greenwich Ave. in the West Village “Little Britain.”

As a former West Village resident on Leroy St. and, more recently, Jane St., I have been a customer of Tea & Sympathy (one of the businesses advocating for the designation) for more than seven years. It is the sole reason I have to visit this small block, which often seemed like the Bermuda Triangle with its crisscrossed streets and lack of signs. A home away from home, I have always enjoyed visiting this establishment and have marveled at how dedicated the owners have been in serving their community, especially given the high costs of operating such businesses in such a high-rent market.

Why not acknowledge these businesses by allowing them their own designation as a round of thanks for their commitment to invest in our city and to recognize their contribution in making both tourists and neighbors feel at home? The appointed — not elected, mind you — members of C.B. 2 have nothing to lose by allowing this street designation. Not allowing it, however, is reverting to a sort of monarchy that doesn’t serve the 21st-century mentality of globalization.

Now, this decision rests in the hands of the full community board. There is still a chance to make things right.

Let’s go have some tea in “Little Britain”!
 Colleen M. Delaney
Delaney is a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy 

Turning the tables. Ouch!

To The Editor:
Villagers should be very careful before sitting at any of the round metal tables with four chairs attached on the pier at the foot of Christopher St. If one of the curved legs of these tables is not firmly bolted to the ground, the whole table can tip over and land on top of sitters as they hit the ground in the attached chairs. After this happened to me last week, I’m very careful to check that the leg bolt is in place before sitting down in one of these contraptions.
 Vahe A. Tiryakian

Attention must be paid

To The Editor:
As Villagers, our plates are very full with constant and massive assaults on our precious, historic neighborhood. We have been brutalized by N.Y.U., and I’m sure they’re not through. Parsons, New School, all of them are standing in line to suck up prime Village real estate.

For years, Villagers will have to confront the huge situation inherent in the evacuation and rebuilding of St. Vincent’s Hospital.

The M.T.A. is searching for a location for their emergency ventilation plant from nine alternatives, including 61 Greenwich Ave.; 192 Seventh Ave. S.; 76 Greenwich Ave.; and street-bed possibilities at Seventh Ave. S. at W. 11th St. or Perry St. Depending on whether above or below ground, almost every one of these choices could have a staggering impact on my block association’s area, and, paired with whatever goes on with St. Vincent’s, could be a knockout punch for the area. The M.T.A. says that if tunneling fails and underground is not an option, they will then need two plants.

The loss of cabarets and piano bars is another problem. We lost Helen’s Hideaway Room, a classy little supper club in Chelsea. Now, Rose’s Turn, previously called The Duplex, on Grove St., is closing. This building houses the city’s oldest continuous running cabaret. It was here Jan Wallman discovered Woody Allen, Joan Rivers and a roster of stars. This historic location is being converted to “much-needed offices.”

It gets worse. Village cabaret icon Jan Wallman is being dispossessed from the MacDougal St. apartment she has occupied for 50 years by — guess who? — N.Y.U. She was The Duplex back in the early days and later ran a boîte on Cornelia St. for years.

Meanwhile, Jefferson Market Library has been shrouded in scaffolding going on five years, decaying with no help in sight while we waste time, money and thought on a frivolous plan to move the fountain in Washington Square Park, N.Y.U.’s campus in all but legality.

To quote from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”: “Attention must be paid.”
Cynthia Crane
Crane is a member, Mulry Angle/W. 11th St. Block Association

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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