West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 20 | October 17 - 23, 2007

Letters to the editor

Pier 40 quip out of bounds

To The Editor:
Re “Parents group means business on Pier 40’s future” (news article, Oct. 3):

Connie Fishman’s dismissive view of parent/family distress at the possibility of losing the wonderful Pier 40 sports field complex — Rich Caccapollo was quoted as saying, “Connie [Fishman] always tells me that ‘You can’t say you can’t live without something that’s only been here 2 years,’” — reflects Fishman’s ignorance of important local history. The Pier 40 fields represent close to 20 years of dedicated parents fighting for safe and adequate sports fields for our community’s kids, years of intense hopes, efforts and plans that repeatedly fell through or met unbreachable resistance.

I speak from my family’s involvement with this earlier history, beginning in September 1987 when my then-first-grader son — now 26 — signed up for what was the Greenwich Village Soccer League. It was a small, shoestring, completely parent-based effort, with T-shirts and cotton gym shorts for uniforms. They practiced and played (two games simultaneously) on tiny J. J. Walker Field in its pre-rehab days — a packed, uneven, dirt surface with sparse tufts of grass that was shared by dog walkers and the homeless. The field was littered with broken glass and dog poop and soaked with dog urine.

My husband, François Haas, began coaching soccer that fall. In spring 1991 he formed the very first travel team — for age-10-and-under players — and they were allowed to use the field in East River Park at E. Sixth St. for home games. My husband joined the G.V.S.L. board, eventually becoming president. As G.V.S.L. grew beyond Greenwich Village, he renamed it Downtown United Soccer Club, got funding for proper uniforms, and designed a club patch. Finding larger fields to borrow for the growing travel team program and the older recreational teams was a constant and anxious struggle, at times down to the wire and potentially jeopardizing the program. Continued attempts for a permanent solution were fruitless. My son had long outgrown DUSC by the time J. J. Walker was transformed, and then some makeshift playing space was gained on the pier. And finally, 2 years ago, this expansive gem on Pier 40 officially opened.

So it’s far more than these 2 years, Connie Fishman! The Pier 40 playing fields were sorely needed and a great many years overdue. Don’t you dare try to take them away!

Sheila Sperber Haas

The nerve of Koch

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s calls on Koch to make calls for expansion” (news article, Oct. 3):

How dare Ed Koch speak for all Villagers! He has no right. I was born and raised in Greenwich Village and am so sick of buildings being built all around the neighborhood. St. Vincent’s is really pushing it, removing sunlight from all those people on the west side of 12th St. Ed Koch does not live there — so why should he care?

Take a look people. We are being pushed out and people with money are moving in! Wake up, Villagers!

Marianne Salerno

Early consultation lacking

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s calls on Koch to make calls for expansion” (news article, Oct. 3) and “As West Side grows, it’s time for new St. Vincent’s” (talking point, by Ed Koch, Oct. 10):

In recent weeks there have been several articles, letters to the editor and a talking point by His Honor Mayor Koch about the recently unveiled proposal for the modernization of St. Vincent’s Hospital through the construction of a brand-new facility on the west side of Seventh Ave. on the current O’Toole site. Hand in glove with this proposal is the sale of the hospital’s existing campus to the Rudin Organization for a large, but nevertheless-still-undisclosed sum of money to enable them to build a luxury condo development on the current St. Vincent’s site.

We all agree that it is essential that St. Vincent’s remain in the Village where it has served us well for more than 150 years, and we all agree that its current facility is in dire need of an upgrade and modernization. However, as longtime residents who have expressed legitimate concerns about how St. Vincent’s will go about accomplishing that, we reject the implication that we are opposed to any change, at any time, to any site in our beloved Greenwich Village.

As both a longtime board member of the owners corporation of The Cambridge, at W. 13th St. and Seventh Ave., and as our board’s representative to the Community Working Group established by St, Vincent’s to promote dialogue and input from the community, I have been involved in these discussions since their inception this past February. It is admirable that St. Vincent’s sought to involve the community early in the process; however, it has become abundantly clear that they spent many months talking up their plan and lining up support among the decision makers well before coming to the community for dialogue and well after they cut a deal to sell their entire campus to Rudin and build a mega-building on the O’Toole site.

Many of us expressed disappointment in not having had an opportunity to be engaged in those deliberations. And despite the hospital’s protestations to the contrary, many of us remain unconvinced that some or all of their existing buildings could not be retained or replaced so as to relieve the burden on the O’Toole site and allow for a building on that site much smaller in scale and contextual to the neighborhood.

Months ago, we were among the first to ask St. Vincent’s to see their plans, yet their officials adamantly insisted they would not be available until the Oct. 10 Community Working Group meeting. By the time of that meeting, it was readily apparent that we were among the last to see them. Following a pattern, it is now abundantly clear that, once again, they used this time to advance market the idea to local political and community leaders. They also used this time to prepare an expensive, color, glossy fundraising brochure and to line up Mayor Koch as the co-chairperson of Friends of the New St. Vincent’s.

His Honor not only came into our homes with his prerecorded message of support but, in addition, quoted in a Villager article and writing in a talking point, he was generally dismissive of our concerns for our neighborhood — portraying these concerns as negativism. We are no match for this public-relations juggernaut with the deep pockets and support of the Rudin Organization. Our expertise and financial resources are limited. We, therefore, are wholly dependant on the sincerity of St. Vincent’s desire for dialogue and upon the help and support of our local politicians in achieving a comprehensive solution that balances all of the competing needs.

We are all for a new St. Vincent’s. The issue is just how to accomplish that. The proposal for two mega-towers flanking Seventh Ave. — one for the new hospital and one for the residential development, each bigger than Coleman and each towering over any other building in the area — does not, contrary to how it was portrayed, address and accommodate the community’s expressed concerns.

We need to find a solution that balances St. Vincent’s dire need for the money Rudin promises to pay for their existing campus, the profit Rudin hopes to make to justify the enormous purchase price it will pay St. Vincent’s and the integrity of the Greenwich Village Historic District. The proposal, as presented, needs considerable work before we can welcome it to our community.

David R. Marcus
Marcus is a board member and treasurer, The Cambridge Owners Corp.

Inject affordable housing

To The Editor:
Re “As West Side grows, it’s time for new St. Vincent’s” (talking point, by Ed Koch, Oct. 10):

I, as well as ex-mayor Koch, welcome a “state of the art” hospital that St. Vincent’s plans for the west side of Seventh Ave., across from the existing hospital complex. The big question I have is why can’t St. Vincent’s forgo some of the selling of the existing building for luxury condos and build some affordable housing for the St. Vincent nursing and intern staff? These people cannot comfortably afford to live in the area; thus there is a shortage of nurses in New York City. At least let them use the $17 million from the Berger Commission for the Midtown center. At the more than $6,000 per day that St. Vincent’s charges for just room and board in the hospital, I can hardly feel sympathy for their financial condition. The only way this medical center can be losing money is through gross mismanagement. 
R. C. Yuknavech

Political boycott appreciated

To The Editor:
The Union Square Community Coalition has sent the following open letter of commendation and thanks to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senators Tom Duane and Liz Krueger and Assemblymembers Brian Kavanagh, Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried:

We applaud your recent decision not to attend the Union Square Partnership business improvement district’s Harvest in the Square event on Thurs., Sept. 20, the proceeds from which were specifically earmarked to support the misguided proposals by the BID and the Parks Department for the reconstruction of Union Square’s north end.

Your absence indicated your ongoing commitment to help prevent the ill-advised elements of the plan:

• The lowering of the park’s playgrounds to street level, not park level.

• The privatization and commercialization of the children’s pavilion by a concession for an interior restaurant, when the Union Square area is saturated with eating and drinking establishments of every kind.

• The construction of a new, separate, public restroom building in the park’s northeast corner — in lieu of using the existing toilets in the children’s pavilion — now slated to accommodate patrons of the proposed enclosed restaurant, not the public at large.

• The gentrification of the famous north plaza by the introduction of trees and an inappropriately designed pavement pattern that would severely impede future demonstrations, rallies and parades of political and social activism for which Union Square is justly celebrated and for which it was designated in 1997 a National Historic Landmark and listed in the National and New York State Historic Registers of Historic Places.

With your continued support, we will oppose these plans, and urge the immediate enlargement of the playgrounds at park level, for which nearly $2 million was allocated five years ago and remains hostage to the privatization proposal for the children’s pavilion, when the building could be restored for additional sorely needed play space and for other community activities.

Thank you for staying the course and declining to lend your name and presence to the opening of Harvest in the Square.

Jack Taylor
Taylor is secretary and a board of directors member, Union Square Community Coalition

Glory days in the park

To The Editor:
My husband and I married and moved to the Village in 1968. Since that time we have seen one major makeover of Washington Square Park and decades of deterioration. We watched as Madison Square Park and Union Square Park were revitalized. They are both beautiful and, after their transformations, are filled with neighborhood families and visitors.

The condition of the trees, paths, fountain, lighting and plazas in Washington Square Park has been disheartening. We were overjoyed to hear that our park would be renovated and brought back to its glory. The new plan is sensible, reasonable and really quite conservative. The dog runs and statues will remain, the playgrounds will be improved, the fountain will be restored and the plaza around it will remain. Over all, the changes are modest, and I am thrilled that there will be more lawns, more trees and more horticulture.

My grandchildren will have great places in which to play and I can once again sit quietly on either the grass or on shaded benches.

I am sorry that there has been so much dissent, but now is the time to rally behind the plan and encourage the city to move forward.

Elizabeth Fry

Trump hotel helps city

To The Editor:
I write to you as a person who over the course of my life lived in the Village and owned property there for about 60 years. My family also lived and owned property there since the early 1900s. I subscribe to your publication even though I no longer reside in New York City.

In your Oct. 3 issue, in Scoopy’s Notebook (“Letter please!”), you seem to be siding with the anti-progress nuts of the so-called Soho Alliance — a group of people with nothing to do, but who seek a public-relations fueled publicity trip.

On Varick St., for as many years as I can remember, there was a vacant lot. It was used as a parking lot, which brought the city very little revenue and a small handful of jobs.

Now Donald Trump is putting up a large hotel there. This will bring the city millions in real estate taxes. It has created jobs for construction workers. It will provide hundreds of permanent jobs — for maids, doormen and porters, handymen, concierges, staff, etc.

On Houston St. — a street where I owned property — for many years there were empty lots along the south side. Recently, on Greene, Wooster and Mercer Sts., these lots have been built on, bringing additional tax revenue to the city and adding quality apartments.

Sean Seani — or whatever his name — wants publicity. Trump is not a saint, he’s a real estate developer. But the West Village and the Varick St. area will be helped by this hotel. As industrial use in Lower Manhattan is being phased out, a transformation to different uses must be encouraged.

Joseph Marra

Put skids on Bowery change

To The Editor:
Re “As high-rises sprout, feeling down and out on Bowery” (news article, Sept. 26):

The Bowery’s unique and vibrant character has existed for a long time. There were gradual evolutions and wholesale removals in its history. Among the wholesale removals was an African burial ground which existed on the Bowery until the graves were forcibly exhumed to make room for white development.

We see much of the same ethos driving the current profit-fueled frenzy to build large here. As we have made way for high-rent buildings and a pallid version of contemporary, we have lost some of our most interesting institutions, sights and irreplaceable community members:

The last Bowery dancehall, Kate Millett, many S.R.O.s, a low skyline, CBGB, the chance for archeological discovery as the New Museum is built atop the African burial ground, etc.

City planning — the right of a city to plan itself — preserves what is working, husbands a community’s resources and then proposes what might be needed or wanted. It does not wait as a neighborhood is dismantled bit by bit. Promising to generate new housing as you eliminate the sustaining base of working, middle-class and poor neighbors isn’t planning — it’s destruction. People work long years at creating culture and constructing a web of caring and commitment between one another and their institutions.

There are no geographic boundaries on this issue. It is a citywide problem that needs a citywide solution. We are losing the inimitable Harlem and Chinatown and other communities. We can and do fold new neighbors into existing neighborhoods, but we do not agree to a whole-cloth renovation of our communities to suit profiteers.

An unfortunate quote from a museum official is telling: “Once the new building opens, it will change the complexion of the Lower East Side.” Some of this change to the complexion of our neighborhood is readily evident. It is not, however, something to be striven for, nor in the best interest of this city.

We do not have to settle for becoming a city determined by the habits of the financially privileged.

Kathleen Webster
Webster is co-chairperson, M’Finda Garden

Delancey’s dangerous, too

To The Editor:
“Woman, 28, is killed by truck while crossing W. Houston St.” (news article, Sept. 26):

I want to bring to the attention of City Councilmember Alan Gerson that Delancey St. also needs some drastic traffic light changes. It is also impossible to cross Delancey St. without ending up on the cement divider to wait for the next light. Another accident waiting to happen is at the traffic light on Pearl St. and Peck Slip. I challenge anyone to cross that street without the “Don’t Walk” sign appearing while midway across the street. Thank you, Councilmember Gerson, for all of your hard work and interest in our community.

Karen Pearl

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