Volume 77, Number 3 - January 2 - 8, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

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Letters to the Editor

Dorms as ‘community’? Ha!

To The Editor:
Re “Avella and Quinn clash over community facilities” (news article, Dec. 19):

Talk about chutzpah! No wonder The Villager runs the headline in boldface: “N.Y.U. says dorms are ‘communities’ and merit bonus.” Translation: Under current zoning law, the bonus for “community use” can be massaged to permit a building to nearly double its bulk.

As a longtime resident and small homeowner in this community, coping daily with escalating regulation — and never a single “bonus,” in fact, quite the
contrary — I feel called upon to note that a den of thieves is also a “community,” and so is an anthill, among infinite other possibilities. Do we really need King Solomon or the Supreme Court to tell us that “community use” in zoning law refers to “the” community, meaning the general community or citizenry, not a passing cluster of students?

N.Y.U. students, for instance, adorable as they may be, have little if any connection to the broader “community” beyond using so much of its precious space. They come from all over the country and the world — which is why they need dorms. They live more or less in the “community of N.Y.U.” for a few years and then depart. Some may, of course, elect to stay and join the larger “community,” where they might well learn to regret the dilution of city fabric wrought by such zoning bonuses. But by then, of course, what’s lost is gone forever.

Other pretexts for added bulk, like calling a doctor’s office “community use,” are similarly fake. Unless they’re doctors for charity, such professionals can
afford to pay local rents, no special bonus earned or necessary.

I note in passing, that N.Y.U., as well as my own alma mater, The Cooper Union, used to be commuter schools. Sometime around the 1980s they decided to grow their status to “world class” by spreading a wider net. Whether the education they offer is thus improved may be arguable; but whether their ambitions should be permitted to degrade their host communities is not. Especially in a low-rise, low-density neighborhood like the Village, that extra bulk would not only pervert the law, it would permanently harm the community — the very community, I might add, that has enticed the children of my friends to apply there.

Happily, Tony Avella, chairperson of the City Council Zoning Committee, and local City Councilmember Alan Gerson are among those who seem to “get it,” as, of course, does Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. (Not to forget, among others, Lorraine Bourie, who walks the area in a series of T-shirts lamenting the loss of our “nice Village” to N.Y.U.)

The Villager article also mentions that Tony Avella plans to run for mayor. So far, unless he’s caught drowning puppies, he’s got my vote. (If he could manage to drown the “community” of squirrels that dig up my Village backyard faster than I can plant it, I’d vote for him twice.)
Judy Seigel

A 9/11 vision of pigeons

To The Editor:
Re “Feeding-ban bill has pigeons on a wing and a prayer” (news article, Dec. 5):

During the cruelty, chaos and despair of that awful morning, I rode Downtown through the East Side on my bike.

There was a man who was feeding the birds. They were perching on his arms and eating out of his hands. I had never seen anything like that. It was like sunshine coming through the smoky air. It was totally at odds with the unfolding disaster. Though surrounded by death, there was joyous life fluttering to this man, Michael’s, hands.

Thank you, Michael, for your kindness.
Ruth Kuzub

Dogs and hua mei — no way

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

In 1993, The New York Times interviewed one of the founders of the Hua Mei Bird Club, Mr. Yee, who explained that dogs and loud sounds are not compatible with hua mei birds. Recently, in a kind of Mad magazine moment, Matt Townsend of The Villager wrote on the same subject, quoting a Mr. Wai Lee (who is not a bird owner) stating that the “birds actually like the noise.” For the record, as spokespersons for the garden and the hua mei birds, they still do not like dogs and their loud noise.

Back in 1993, we learned that the Roosevelt Community Coalition — which is now the enclosed M’Funga Garden — agreed to the confiscation of the recessed children’s playground for a dog run near the Forsyth Garden. This was for the pleasure of yuppies moving into the neighborhood. The Forsyth Garden Conservancy placed tables in the park, and with the help of community children, began to gather signatures against the dog run. Chinese community organizations also lent their support. We gathered 900 signatures in a few weeks.

When we heard this past November that yet another dog run was being proposed at the playground near Forsyth Garden, we advised a local storeowner about starting a petition. He smiled and produced a stack of signatures. There were 800 this time, but it only took a week.
Anna Magenta and Tommy Chen
Magenta is president, Forsyth Garden Conservancy; Chen is spokesperson, Hua Mei Bird Club

Don’t blame the architect

To The Editor:
Re “The pits: No Apple bathroom” (letter, by J.T. Basker, Dec. 19):

“The architect proposes the client disposes.”

Ms. Basker’s ire is misplaced.

The architect would as soon omit an entrance door as eliminate toilets. For sure, there are toilets at the Apple Store for employees. The decision to omit public facilities at this store was a decision not by the architect, but by management.
Stanley R. Rosenberg

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 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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