Volume 77 / Number 37 - Feb. 13 - 19, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Duane clarifies pier position

To The Editor:
Re “More than 1,000 pack pier rally against Related plan” (news article, Jan. 30):

I was surprised to read that there was a need to print any speculation about why I declined to sign the Pier 40 Working Group’s supplemental recommendation. As was reported in The Villager’s Jan. 23 issue (“Pier pressure builds as vote on Pier 40 proposals nears”), and as I publicly expressed at the Jan. 16 Pier 40 Working Group meeting and in my Jan. 24 written report to Community Board 2, I am generally supportive of the Working Group’s recommendations, but have some concerns about the Pier 40 Partnership’s ability to obtain and meet its obligations on the $206 million in New York City Industrial Development Agency financing it seeks.

I stated clearly in that article and echoed at the meeting that “I’m not supporting Related, it’s too big, it’s out of character,” and furthermore, “I don’t want to open up the [Hudson River] Park Act to give Related a 49-year lease,” which is beyond the 30 years allowed under that law, which created the park. Moreover, I joined Congressmember Nadler, State Senator Connor and state Assemblymembers Glick and Gottfried in sending a joint letter to H.R.P.T. Chairperson Diana Taylor in advance of the Jan. 31 H.R.P.T. board meeting, which is in the public realm, emphasizing our adamant opposition to opening the park act to permit such an extension. 

I also have not supported the CampGroup/Urban Dove proposal. While in concept, its use is more palatable, it still raises for me similar concerns regarding tax-free financing as the Partnership plan. 

As described in the Working Group document, the Pier 40 Partnership plan has much to recommend about it and is innovative and inspiring. However, should the Partnership not be able to obtain the substantial financing it requires — or make its debt service payments on any I.D.A. bonds issued — I cannot honestly say that I would be able to secure the funding necessary to restore the crumbling pier and support the venture, which itself must generate revenue to fund completion of the park. Nonetheless, as I said in the Jan. 23 Villager, “I am supportive of the Partnership, in concept” and “I hope they will be successful.” 

H.R.P.T. has now set a new deadline of Mar. 31 to make a decision on the proposals for Pier 40. I believe much can take place between now and then. As a legislator who represents most of the Hudson River Park, I believe we can find a way forward that balances the needs of the community with the revenue needs of the park, and I will continue to work with my colleagues, H.R.P.T. and the community to reach this end.

Tom Duane
Duane is state senator for the 29th District


Don’t read into omissions

To The Editor:
Re “More than 1,000 pack pier rally against Related plan” (news article, Jan. 30):

The fight for Pier 40 is a long-term one, and one in which community unity is paramount. Last week, you quoted my speech at the Pier 40 rally and added that my praise of Assemblymember Glick, State Senator Connor and Congressman Nadler was really a slap at Councilmember Quinn and State Senator Duane. In fact, that was not my point at all. As you subsequently reported last week, Senator Duane and Councilmember Quinn came on board in support of the Working Group recommendation and Community Board 2 resolution later in the week.

My point at the rally was a positive one. The elected officials who stand firmly with the community need to be appreciated when they do that. And as someone who has had differences with Deborah Glick in the past, I believe it important to say that over the last year, she has been a stalwart defender of our neighborhood’s parks — first at Gansevoort, then at Washington Square Park, then at City Hall Park and now at Pier 40. And she has undergone some nasty attacks in return for being so vigilant. We owe her a special thanks for her perseverance and for utilizing her growing influence in Albany on behalf of the well-being of all of us.

Arthur Schwartz
Schwartz is chairperson, Community Board 2 Waterfront Committee, and chairperson, Pier 40 Working Group of the Hudson River Park Advisory Council


Thinking outside the box

To The Editor:
Re “Trust can’t swing pier vote; Cirque du Soleil still afloat” and “Schools group gives Trust an ‘incomplete’ on Pier 40” (news articles, Feb. 6):

I certainly prefer the CampGroup and Partnership proposals. But here’s a deal:

]Related dumps the banquet hall and keeps the ball fields at grade level. The Department of Sanitation modifies its Spring St. garage project to incorporate the long-term parking from Pier 40, thus removing parking from the pier, and Related sells an appropriate property in the district as a sweet deal to the School Construction Authority. Twice a year, Cirque du Soleil holds performances at Pier 40 that the sports league families all attend for free.

Odder deals have been brokered: Battery Park City is pretty complex. But this will take the mayor. Hmm, do we know someone on the Hudson River Park Trust with a connection?

Barry Drogin


Wants to get into the act

To The Editor:
Re “Trust can’t swing pier vote; Cirque du Soleil still afloat” (news article, Feb. 6):

What theatrical irony that biz kids’ ad should be next to the article on Pier 40 — an article that begins with “preserve the pier as a safe space for young kids to play soccer and baseball.”

Yes, there is more to Pier 40 than just sports. In fact, biz kids has been at Pier 40 teaching acting, musical theater and film since 2001, and in the West Village since 1996. I have also been trying very hard to get the word out that the pier is not just the playing fields and that there are many issues that will need to be addressed.

Connie Fishman stated, “We do have areas where concrete has fallen. Luckily....just on cars.” The Hudson River Park Trust paid for the repair of one of our pianos after concrete smashed it. I have personally enclosed our ceiling in netting, despite assurances from H.R.P.T. that it was deemed “safe” by the engineers. The tenants who pay rent at Pier 40 have been designated a “special interest group...like the dog run people.”

I have invited all the groups proposing to redevelop the pier to come and see the kind of structural problems they will be faced with as they undertake the project. No one can afford to go into this project without the fullest understanding of what the general conditions are.

We at biz kids ny are here on Pier 40. We live and work in the community and offer an incredible training progam. Please, I encourage everyone to recognize that we, too, are part of the community and our young people are part of this community and we need to be recognized as a viable part of the community of Pier 40. Arts education is very important training for the well-rounded development of our young people.
 
Peggy Lewis


Big N.Y.U. growth issue

To The Editor:
Re “University makes pact to reduce its impact” and “N.Y.U. goes gonzo on its superblocks in new ideas” (news articles, Feb. 6):

New York University’s principles may prove mere nonbinding public relations. More encouraging are its plans to expand within the core campus: N.Y.U. has decided that angry faculty employees are easier to abuse and placate than angry Villagers. But the campus can accommodate at most only half the expansion.

N.Y.U.’s principles mention historical respect for Greenwich Village but, sadly, the East Village is not equally specified. And N.Y.U.’s promise to add ground-floor commercial uses, given N.Y.U. student spending habits, could transform our neighborhood into a luxury-and-chain shopping center.

Little discussed in the university’s planned 6 million square foot expansion is the additional 3 million square feet the university is currently renting — a third of its students live in leased dormitories. That’s half again the size of the planned expansion.

The role of leased space has been underplayed in N.Y.U.’s plan because it doesn’t represent an expansion of the student body itself. Nevertheless, it could involve an unplanned expansion of their construction. Loss of a lease is what pushed N.Y.U. to build on the St. Ann’s Church site, a decision it might have reconsidered in the light of community protest had N.Y.U. not been under the rental gun.

Many of the university’s leases do not come due until 2015 and conceivably all could be renewed. But if luxury rents continue to rise in New York City, there will be even more pressure on owners to opt out of dormitory use and into condo/hotel use. That will leave New York City with possibly another 3 million square feet of N.Y.U. new construction or new purchases to absorb in addition to the 3 million their campus can’t.

Rob Hollander
Hollander is a member, L.E.S. Residents for Responsible Development


N.Y.U. plans shocking

To The Editor:
The two articles you juxtaposed on your front page last week were staggering in their irony: “N.Y.U. goes gonzo on its superblocks” and, just below that, “University makes pact to reduce its impact.”

When I saw N.Y.U.’s plans for the South Village on Page 16, I nearly fainted. If that’s their idea of reducing their impact on this area, then I’m the Queen of Ob-la-doo. Where is the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission? Why haven’t they long since extended historic protection to the entire South Village? The hole in the doughnut — Greenwich Village — is becoming one more victim of development and institutional absorption.

High-rises, superblocks, super-big-box chain stores and banks everywhere. Will there be nothing left of the heart and soul of New York City?

Cynthia Crane
Crane is chairperson, Mulry Angle/W.11th Street Block Association


JASA voting problems

To The Editor: 
As a poll worker on Super Tuesday at the JASA Center on Fifth St. and Third Ave. at the table for Election District 47 - Assembly District 66, I regret a situation that might have caused some voters’ emergency paper ballots to remain uncounted.

When our voting machine broke down, the head supervisor at the center told us to have voters fill out paper ballots. When I insisted that voters should be required to sign the registration book with voter cards filled out, my colleagues yelled me down and the supervisor told us this was unnecessary. Voters subsequently filled out paper ballots that were put into the emergency ballot box with signed affidavit envelopes. These envelopes were later discarded. This meant that more than 40 votes were cast without voter identification. Later, when a professional representative from the Board of Elections came, she tried to help us correct the situation and move forward.

Although we were furnished with a Poll Workers Guide and had training, under immediate pressure, we relied on supervision that was clearly incorrect. Voters were promised that their votes would be counted, but I doubt if they were because there was no way for them to be matched with a signature.

As I share the deep concern every American voter has in this presidential election year, I write this letter in sincere concern for the accuracy of the process that we hold so dear. Although I am sure there was no “conspiracy,” I believe that it is incompetence that opens the wound where fraud can fester.
 
Griselda Steiner


Loss cuts to the bones

To The Editor:
What happened to Washington Square Park is a metaphor for what could happen anywhere.

The seed of democracy that our forefathers so carefully planted that has grown and flourished over time, is now being supplanted by greed and corruption, rigged by powerful special interests and lobbyists to benefit the few, with blatant disregard for the rest. If we do not address the root of the problem, we as a free people, not just our beloved trees, will be uprooted.

We could have taken our fight against the park renovation plan to the Supreme Court. But we didn’t have a chance once we were informed by the Parks Department that moving the fountain was nonnegotiable. The designer and the Parks commissioner, appointed by the mayor, repeatedly lied to us throughout about many aspects of this controversial plan. But two documentary films will tell the tale.

Now we learn saplings will replace our fine, mature trees that have been “removed,” species that can no longer be planted in the pollution of today. Our park has been diminished, and with it our belief that a majority’s wishes can bear fruit in the once fertile soil of democracy.
George Washington’s words atop the Washington Square Arch implore us to “Raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.” George would be turning over in his grave if he knew what has transpired here. Just as beneath, the 20,000 graves of our ancestors — buried there from 1775 to 1825 and now being churned up by gigantic earthmovers — may rise up to resurrect the standard that the dishonest seek to destroy.

Sharon Woolums
Woolums is a public member, Community Board 2 Parks Committee, and was point person on a lawsuit by the Emergency Coalition Organization to Save Washington Square Park (ECO) against the park renovation project


Hospital isn’t listening

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s gets operating; Plans are filed at Landmarks” (news article, Jan. 9):

I have lived in the Village since 1976 and am writing to convey my strong objections to St. Vincent’s present proposal to vastly redevelop and reconfigure its properties at Seventh Ave. and 12th St. I am also writing to convey my disappointment in the hospital’s complete failure to consider and address the many and valid concerns expressed by its neighbors. The recently filed plans are virtually identical to the original proposal which surfaced months ago and have not been modified an iota to take into account residents’ concerns.

I fully recognize and support the need for a state-of-the-art facility. I also recognize the value of the services that St. Vincent’s has provided to our community and to the city as a whole for many years.

But the current proposal is not driven by medical or community need so much as by money and profit. Simply put, St. Vincent’s has stated that it needs to squeeze every dollar from its sale of its current facility. That is not a valid reason to permit it to build a hospital which is the equivalent of a 35-story building, one that dwarfs the scale of every other building in the Village. It is even less reason to permit the Rudin Organization to receive the benefit of, and expand upon, St. Vincent’s past waivers of zoning and density restrictions on the basis of St. Vincent’s status as a medical facility.

St. Vincent’s is proposing to reduce the number of its beds by almost half, and to move part of its facilities out of the proposed new hospital. Nevertheless, the overall density of the entire proposal, both hospital and residential, is substantially greater than the present configuration. In addition, Rudin has refused to reveal its own projections about the scope of the profit it intends to make, or the basis upon which it insists that the behemoth “bookend” of luxury condos cannot be scaled down or modified to comport with the historic character of the neighborhood it seeks to join.

The historic value of the Village is an asset that belongs to us all. Please do not let St. Vincent’s sell it to the highest bidder.

Delia M. Guazzo


Who is Jacobs’s heir?
 
To The Editor:
David Halles’s Jan. 2 article in praise of the Municipal Arts Society’s current exhibit, “Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York,” neglects to mention current events: The exhibit is ironically timed with the destruction of the very features of Washington Square Park that Jacobs is credited with helping preserve. There was no better example of what Jacobs values about cities — in Halles’s words, “their ability to crowd people and activities into a joyous jumble” — than Washington Square Park, which worked, much to the chagrin of city officials.

That Halles should nominate Bloomberg’s Department of City Planning as heir apparent to Jacobs’s legacy seems unwarranted, if not absurd. His hypothetical example of a community board contravening city government does not reflect what took place in real life, where a city plan received board approval without community support and without full disclosure of what the plan entailed by the Mayor’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Call me Jane Jacobs, but this scenario does not bode well for the future of New York.
 
Kathryn Adisman



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