West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 15 | September 12 - 18, 2007

Letters to the editor

Horowitz had to be high

To The Editor:
Re “Washington Square’s ‘radical redesign’ was in ’69” (talking point, by Gil Horowitz, Sept. 5):

I write to correct the ludicrous history presented in last week’s talking point by Gill Horowitz. Yes, Jane Jacobs first referred to the square’s fountain itself as a theater-in-the-round (in 1961, not 1967), but she lauded Robert B. Nichols’s design, with its central amphitheater, as a magnificent improvement, calling it “one of the most remarkable things in America”; and she fought hard for it. She used her considerable influence with Mayor Robert Wagner, Jr., to transfer control of the design from the Parks Department to a team of local architects. Jane then argued forcefully for the team’s design in community board meetings, winning approval of it in 1967. The square we have is Jane Jacobs’s square and Parks’ proposal is an insult to her memory.

Nichols and the team respected the Olmstedian character of the square (established 1869-’70) by restricting their changes — mainly the amphitheater and music podium — to the area of the square’s former roadbed, leaving the fountain and the area outside of the roadbed virtually intact. They modeled the amphitheater on Vaux’s Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. (See Nichols’s letter in The Villager, June 1, 2005.) Horowitz has it exactly backward — it’s Nichols’s work that preserved the century-old layout of the square, and it’s Parks’ plan, with its formal plazas and promenades, that will ruin it.

Previously, Stanford White had indeed intentionally chosen the off-center arrangement of the arch and fountain when he sited the arch in consultation with Parks officials Samuel Parsons, Jr., and Calvert Vaux. This collaborative decision was discovered by the country’s foremost landscape preservationist, Charles A. Birnbaum, who studied the McKim, Mead and White plans and notes. Birnbaum opposes Parks’ plan to move the fountain, as does the city’s entire arts community (per the position of the Fine Arts Federation of New York, the city’s umbrella arts organization).

What was Horowitz smoking when piling abuse on Nichols’s work? Recently, in 2005, the prestigious Project for Public Spaces organization studied the square and credited Nichols’s design with creating “one of the best-known and best-loved locations in New York City” and “one of the great public spaces in the world.” The square only gets cleaned once a year when N.Y.U. spiffs it up for the university’s graduation, and the square’s shabby appearance results from Parks’ lack of repairs and general inattention.

Finally, contrary to Horowitz and those who have apparently bought his and Parks’ baloney, the Greenwich Village community overwhelmingly rejects Parks’ plan. Arthur Schwartz’s letter in the Aug. 8 Villager covers this point — and Arthur should know. And the 23 percent reduction in central plaza size in Parks’ plan is not Jonathan Greenberg’s and my invention, but comes from Parks’ own claim in their court filing.

Luther S. Harris
Harris is author of “Around Washington Square,” a definitive history of the neighborhood.


Sings different tune on square

To The Editor:
Re “Washington Square’s ‘radical redesign’ was in ’69” (talking point, by Gil Horowitz, Sept. 5):

I have been a resident of Greenwich Village for more than 45 years, having grown up here using and enjoying the park. I am a member of the 12th Street Block Association’s steering committee, work with the Washington Square Chamber Music Society and am generally involved in the affairs of the Village. As a singer and the daughter of a renowned cellist, I am particularly concerned with the availability and use of the park for the musicians.

I took my late mother to Washington Square Park daily. Occasionally, we walked up to Madison Square Park, but she found it bland and boring. The way things look, the Parks Department wants to do the same thing to our park. I speak to and for a great many senior citizens in the neighborhood, and they are livid at the proposed “redesign.” I have also spoken to my friends, neighbors and block association members, and have yet to find anyone who likes the proposed changes.

I remember the 1969 changes; they were not the reason for the loss of the big-name performers. History will bear out that a few things changed: Watergate, the “disco” age and the sudden fame of those particular performers. The park’s ’69 “redesign” had nothing to do with it. It is still a lively and dynamic space, full of people enjoying themselves and creating there. If the park is changed, we may never again have such creative people sharing our park, and we would be in danger of losing the tourists who come to see the park the way they have seen it in the movies — not to mention the possible loss of revenue to the city, if the movie industry finds the changes uninteresting.

I have watched the park deteriorate over the last few years due to lack of maintenance and simple neglect by the Parks Department, which wants the changes to occur. But to call the park a “slum” makes me wonder as to Mr. Horowitz’s motives.

It appears to me that Mr. Horowitz is speaking on behalf of the real estate developers who want the changes for their own greedy reasons. These people have already done enough harm to the quality of the Village. At least let’s stop them from ruining our park and ripping the heart out of our community.

Elizabeth Adam


Potholes in park paths

To The Editor:
Re “Washington Square’s ‘radical redesign’ was in ’69” (talking point, by Gil Horowitz, Sept. 5):

I always thought of The Villager as being not only a way to be informed about what was going on in our Greenwich Village but as an advocate for justice. It seems to me that you should be putting pressure on the city to get a street crew in to repair the potholes in the walkways to make it safe for the public to use the park while the City Council folks and the Parks Department and other parties battle out Washington Square Park’s redesign.

I do not understand what Mr. Horowitz’s point is in this four-column article or why you chose to publish it by highlighting: “Washington Square Park, once beautiful, is now a slum in the heart of the community.” Mr. Horowitz’s comments regarding the redesign of Washington Square Park are very confusing to me.

I know the redesign has been in the news for the past two years. However, something needs to be done to fix the uneven pothole pathways now so that it is safe to walk through the park with children in strollers, for people in wheelchairs and seniors with poor vision and canes. Please use your influence to advocate common sense to make the park safe now.

Gloria Gilbert


Got to keep it real

To The Editor:
As a 40-year resident of Greenwich Village, I have always loved the sense of small-town history we share. We are an alternate lifestyle to the big city that surrounds us. People of diverse backgrounds have come together to enjoy Washington Square Park and interact with each other.

The newly renovated parks in the West Village — Jackson Square and Abingdon Square — could be in any mall or city in the U.S.A. Yes, they are neat and clean; but they bear no relationship to the neighborhood.

Let’s fight to remain ourselves. Washington Square Park is the heart of the Village and not a campus for N.Y.U. or a feather in the cap for the Parks Department, which love to gentrify.

It’s the aesthetic and usage that’s about to be destroyed. How can we let that happen to our park?

Joan Kadushin


Heroes vs. cowardly thugs

To The Editor:
On Aug. 22, 2007, at 7 a.m., my wife, who has just recovered from a stroke and now walks with a cane, was brutally attacked and robed by a group of cowardly thugs while on her way to work. The attack took place off the corner of Greenwich and W. 10th Sts.

I thank our friends, neighbors and the blue knights of the Sixth Precinct for coming to her aid and the support they have given us. We thank the staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital for the great care she received.

Detectives Michael Banono and James Walsh from the Sixth Precinct, men that seem to never sleep, through relentless detective work, pursued and apprehened some of the “alleged attackers.” (Just being P.C. here.)

Just to give an idea of the viciousness of the attack, below is a link to a graphic video of my wife’s blood from the attack on Aug. 22, 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XozN82duCy0.

Glenn Berman


Stop stink over ‘Big Pink’

To The Editor:
Re “Bono, ‘Chupi’ and mysteries of Schnabel’s ‘hidden palace’” (news article, Sept. 5):

Are your editors Photoshopping the pictures of the Palazzo Chupi, a.k.a. the “Pink Building”? I walked over to take a look at it, and its color in real life seemed not much different from that of many of the old schoolhouses throughout the city, like P.S. 122 on E. Ninth St. Perhaps it’s a bit brighter than a schoolhouse, but it will dull with age.

The building adds a nice splash of color to the browns and grays of the area, and the eccentric, eclectic, retro style blends well with the mix of surrounding buildings.

The way your paper and Andrew Berman portrayed it, I was expecting some gaudy junk heap that would ruin our community. Instead, I found something totally harmless, and even quaint. The alarm is unwarranted.
 
Alan Jacobs


Have to act fast

To The Editor:
I am greatly concerned that the longer the Landmarks Preservation Commission waits to consider the Lower East Side Historic District proposal, the more at risk the L.E.S. will be from such projects like the following (presented by Curbed.com last week):

“Chinatown — Regarding the mysterious pillars going up at Canal and Eldridge, a commenter files this detailed report: ‘It will have a three-story commercial base (one floor of stores and two floors of medical offices), then a setback and a floor that will be occupied by a day care center, then an additional setback and twelve floors of apartments. There will also be a commercial parking garage in the cellar levels. The residential portion will be a tower, with floor plates of only about 2,000 square feet, whereas the ground floor will have a footprint of about 7,500 square feet, and there will be one or two apartments per floor. Architect: Peter Poon.’”

Confirmation of this plan can be found on the Department of Buildings Web site. It is horrifying to me that a 16-story building will go up in an area of four- and five-story tenement buildings. The large, old building at 86-100 Canal St. has been approved for demolition, so the work is beginning.

How many more developers will race to put up monstrosities before the L.E.S. proposal is considered?

Rima Finzi-Strauss



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