West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 26 | November 28 - December 04 2007

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Turkey of a talking point

To The Editor:
Re “Washington Square Park renovation: Fiction vs. fact” (talking point, by Elizabeth Butson, Judy Paul, Maria Passannante Derr, Anne-Marie Sumner and Rocio Sanz, Nov. 21):

As a developmental psychologist inspired by Piaget and Vygotsky, and as a mother who heard her children argue about mushrooms and walnuts in the Thanksgiving stuffing, I know that people can honestly misperceive the truth. The talking point called “Fact and Fiction” about Washington Square Park is an example.

We made two versions of Thanksgiving stuffing. The distorted talking point is not so easily corrected.

Readers of The Villager know that most of the community opposes moving the fountain, surrounding the park with a 4-foot-high fence and shrinking the plaza, all of which are still in the Parks Department plans. It might help to remind readers that almost all of the 50 members of Community Board 2 voted last April to rescind approval of the plans for Washington Square Park. Three of the five dissenting votes that April were listed as authors of the talking point. Psychologists call getting stuck in an old perception “fixation.” It’s a very human characteristic; I hope no objective reader mistakes it for the truth.  

Keen Berger
Berger is a member, Community Board 2

Don’t wreck White’s vision

To The Editor:
Re “Washington Square Park renovation: Fiction vs. fact” (talking point, by Elizabeth Butson, Judy Paul, Maria Passannante Derr, Anne-Marie Sumner and Rocio Sanz, Nov. 21):

I am a great-granddaughter of Stanford White (the architect of the Washington Square Arch and Judson Memorial Church) and have been a New York City resident nearly 20 years. I have seen the proposed Washington Square redesign drawings and have heard and read extensively about what would be done to the park. I have talked to hundreds of people who live near and around the park. I have met only two people who are for the redesign, while the majority of people are vehemently against it.

It is apparent to me that the fountain was never intended to be in line with the arch. Originally, carriages and then later cars would run through the arch and circumvent the fountain; the fountain’s placement to the west of the arch allowed the traffic to move freely without having to make too much of a turn. However, Stanford White also wished the view through the arch to be of Judson Memorial Church with an open space in between. If there is a fountain in alignment with the arch, what will be seen from Fifth Ave. is a water spray in the middle of the view. The arch is certainly enough on its own and anything in front of it would complicate the view and distract the eye from focusing on either the arch, the fountain or the church.

I believe if Stanford White had thought that the fountain should have been changed or moved in any way, he would have done something about it at the time. That he didn’t speaks volumes.

I am curious how the Parks Department will handle any remains it finds. Washington Square is a potter’s field with approximately 25,000 of New York’s poorest buried beneath. The construction will certainly disturb these remains. There are freed slaves buried there, one of whom was one of New York’s first black landowners. Has there been any discussion about building a memorial to these people in the park, instead of glorifying only those who have the financial means to ensure that their family names will be immortalized? Maybe if the fountain is to be renamed it could be in honor of these people, today unknown, who certainly helped build our city.

I am astonished that Tompkins Square Park is being used as an example of how a park can be redesigned. Tompkins now looks like a prison for grass. It is inhospitable, completely out of place and character with its surroundings and history.

Washington Square Park is Greenwich Village’s heart. It inspires music, rallies, protests and performances. Many N.Y.U. students do their work there in the summer. Part of its spirit comes from its flowing, ambient design that allows for moving easily between areas. A formal design would interrupt this flow. A formal design would not inspire political protests or spontaneous dancing or performing. It would be lovely for N.Y.U.’s graduation, but I gather that many students would forgo the redesign to be able to use the park as it is, certainly for the next few years.

I understand a formal design would increase property values around the park. Is that really necessary at the expense of one of the last uniquely New York public places?

The park can be renovated, restored and rejuvenated without being redesigned at tremendous cost and in a way that would make it look like any park in any city. Let’s keep its character. Let us keep it the people’s park.

Wonderly White

Pier 40’s our bizness, too

To The Editor:
Re “Pier powwow” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Nov. 14):

I wonder if I am the only one who found it strange that the tenants of Pier 40 were officially “uninvited” to the meeting on Morton St. as being a group with “issues,” like the “dog run people.” We, that is, who have paid rent and helped create the environment that is obviously so attractive. We certainly should be considered as neighbors who will be greatly affected by the choices of what is to be included on the pier.

Peggy Lewis
Lewis is founder and director, biz kids n.y., inc.

Fires back for McKenna

To The Editor:
Re “C.B. 2 shoots down McKenna’s request for support” (news article, Nov. 14):

I am appalled by the stupidity that Community Board 2 showed by trying to deny the transfer of the liquor license of McKenna’s Pub. I have known Brian and his ongoing dedication to the community for over seven years. If only one in a thousand people that live in the Village gave as much dedication, time and money to improve the welfare of the Village as he has, the Village would be a far better place to live.

Yes, in the past there were incidents that occurred near or in the bar, but how can any establishment be blamed for what goes on beyond its control?

After those unfortunate incidents occurred, Brian saw that adjustments needed to be made to his restaurant and he made them. One in particular was the elimination of a pool table after he realized it was drawing a clientele that was neither beneficial to his business nor to the surrounding community as it was changing over the years. The smoking ban brought other conflicts that affected all bars in New York, not only McKenna’s. He tried to adjust to that ban by using the available space at hand and was crucified for trying to balance between customer and community. Unfortunately, it appears the loudmouths rule the board.

There seems to be a surplus of craggy old hags, both male and female, that have infiltrated Community Board 2, and the only change they want is to return to the “good old days” when Jane Jacobs walked the streets proclaiming a brave new world. She left the city and moved north. Perhaps three-quarters of C.B. 2 should do the same. Hopefully, their move would allow for some intelligent change in the community.

As a postscript, I’m glad to see that the State Liquor Authority had the intelligence to see beyond the petty crap that blocked the vision of C.B. 2 and saw fit to transfer the license. Thanks to the S.L.A., McKenna’s Pub is now open and doing a successful business across the street from its previous venue.

Lou Scrima

Digs in against dog run

To The Editor:
Re “Polo players, kids keep park from going to the dogs” (news article, Nov. 14):

While the nearby residents and users of Sara D. Roosevelt Park appear to have successfully defended their park from the encumbrance of a dog run, my neighbors and I are in the midst of a similar struggle in the West Village. Seravalli Playground is undergoing a redesign and local dog owners are hoping to take a portion of the playground for a dog run. Like the Lower East Side where S.D.R. Park is located, the West Village is starved for outdoor play space — ranking among the lowest districts citywide in ratio of playgrounds and parks per child under age 18.

As on the Lower East Side, we have formed a coalition to preserve the playground for existing users and activities and for the future enjoyment of our community. This group includes concerned parents, teenagers, adult basketball players, teachers, administrators and students from nearby schools who use the playground regularly. Even people who do not use the playground support these efforts. Residents and retailers on Horatio, Hudson and Gansevoort Sts. whose homes and businesses are across from the playground have come together because they do not want the sounds and smells of a dog run across the street.

Finding sufficient open areas for children, teenagers, adults and even dogs to play is never easy, especially in Manhattan. However, taking away people’s established and vital play space to create a dog run, and impacting residents’ quality of life, on the Lower East, in the West Village or anywhere, is not the answer.

Creative solutions to these issues exist and the best answer is rarely the easiest. If finding a site near Seravalli (or S.D.R. Park) for a dog run is necessary, let’s work together to pursue an alternate and appropriate location so the entire community can be satisfied.

Cas Stachelberg

The parrot predicament

To The Editor:
I am writing to express my concern over the Nov. 7 article “Bird lover fundraises for parrot research project.” I am concerned that Nancy Chambers wants to raise money to fund an Alex the parrot-like project. Alex only lived to be half of what he could have been and thus the question needs to be asked, are such experiments detrimental to a parrot’s life? 

Moreover, Nancy Chambers is referred to as a bird lover, but no one who would breed parrots or any birds for that matter is a true bird lover. She may have an interest in birds, but only those who really love birds would know that it is in the best interest for them to live their lives in natural habitats. 

Furthermore, there are already many birds that need adoption (http://www.fosterparrots.com) and there is no reason to be breeding more. These birds may be the result of people buying parrots without realizing the commitment they require. Chambers says, “People don’t realize how time consuming and expensive it is to raise birds.” Her words alone should make clear that there are few people who could properly care for a bird. And if Chambers really cared, she should have worked toward getting those birds in need of adoption to those people. Instead she was selfish and bred more.
Victoria Booth

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