Volume 77 / Number 40 - March 5 - 11, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the editor

Hoylman ‘misunderstands’

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s: Let’s not do the time warp again!” (talking point, Feb. 27, by Brad Hoylman):

Mr. Hoylman’s talking point criticizing community groups seeking changes to the current Rudin/St. Vincent’s plan is premised upon a basic misunderstanding of how the landmarks approval process works. 

Determinations about which buildings can or can’t be demolished, and what new buildings can or cannot be built in their place, are made at the same time, as part of a single application and approval process. Thus, the suggestion that community groups like the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation or other members of the public should refrain from commenting upon what would or wouldn’t be appropriate development on these sites would leave us severely handicapped as we fight to preserve the character of our neighborhood.

It is incontrovertible that some of St. Vincent’s buildings, especially those which are particularly new or unrelated to the context or character of the historic district, are not going to be protected from demolition by the Landmarks Preservation Commission — that’s simply the way the landmarks law works. To suggest otherwise is to bury one’s head in the sand, and risk losing the opportunity to affect what is one of the most profound changes proposed in our neighborhood in more than a generation.
Melissa Baldock
Baldock is director of preservation and research, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Talking point missed point

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s: Let’s not do the time warp again!” (talking point, Feb. 27, by Brad Hoylman):

Brad Hoylman’s talking point misses the point. The St. Vincent’s modernization issue will not be decided in a Harvard Law School contract law class, where I’m sure Brad got an A. 

Those who object to the St. Vincent’s-Rudin proposal are not talking past the point if considered in the context of reality politics. The Landmarks Preservation Commission willl surely, consciously or unconsciously, be considering the broader arguments of quality healthcare in determining the appropriateness of demolishing each building.

Even if L.P.C. initially rejects demolition, then as night follows day, St. Vincent’s and the politically very well-connected Rudins will surely make a second hardship application; St. Vincent’s would raise the issues of the multitude of alleged public benefits from its plan and the economic needs to maintain its mission.

Those now involved with community alternative plans, including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Protect the Village Historic District, are realistically planning ahead. Perhaps their proposals need some modification. However, they are not talking past the point. In the real world, they are “on point.”

Gil Horowitz
Horowitz is president, Washington Square-Lower Fifth Ave. Block Association

Countering St. Vincent’s P.R.

To The Editor:
As the umbrella group for the block associations of Greenwich Village, the Greenwich Village Block Associations finds it necessary to clarify its position regarding the current St. Vincent’s Hospital/Rudin Organization proposal for the building of a new hospital and a large residential development.

The community has made a substantial good-faith effort to support St. Vincent’s Hospital, so much so, that it has allowed itself to be pushed farther along in the discussion than is appropriate at this juncture. Indeed, the community has a responsibility to evaluate St. Vincent’s existing campus buildings and discuss which, if any, contribute to the Greenwich Village Historic District and warrant preservation, not demolition.

St. Vincent’s is conducting an extensive public-relations campaign that ignores the necessity of this discussion and encourages the myth that there is community opposition to improving the hospital. G.V.B.A. supports the concept of an up-to-date medical facility and does not oppose the size of the “new” St. Vincent’s. We oppose its proposed configuration and the unprecedented magnitude of the project, as it includes the massive Rudin residential complex.

We understand, however, that St. Vincent’s is drumming up support outside the historic district among people who have an interest in access to the latest medical treatment, but little comprehension or concern about the drastic impact this development would have upon the integrity of Greenwich Village. Unless interested parties appreciate the preservation issues involved, their support is uninformed and nonproductive.

Last fall, as a result of a St. Vincent’s/Rudin presentation, The New York Sun wrote a misinformed, mean-spirited editorial mischaracterizing the nature and intent of the hospital’s neighbors and ignoring relevant aspects of the issue. St. Vincent’s consented to write a rebuttal. If it did so, the response was not printed in The Sun or publicly circulated. Although St. Vincent’s admitted no responsibility for the editorial, an unfortunate pattern of evasion and misdirection is emerging.

St. Vincent’s appears to be garnering support by simplifying the discussion, obfuscating complex issues and drawing upon sentiment engendered by its own history in Greenwich Village without reciprocal regard for the Greenwich Village Historic District. Unlike St. Vincent’s, the Greenwich Village Historic District cannot move elsewhere.

Since St. Vincent’s is soliciting support for a new hospital in communities that it may serve, but that may not be sensitive to the restrictions that St. Vincent’s should respect if it reconstitutes itself below 14th St., the hospital may inadvertently be building a case and a constituency for its relocation.

Marilyn Dorato
Dorato is executive director, Greenwich Village Block Associations

Putting park in wrong hands

To The Editor:
Re “Gay youth back Pier 40 plan offering 24-hr. center” (news article, Feb. 20): 

It is deeply concerning to hear the Hudson River Park Trust’s response to putting an L.G.B.T. center at Pier 40. Chris Martin, H.R.P.T.’s spokesperson, offers up the park authority’s reasoning that “whether the drop-in center would be part of any one of the development plans will be up to the individual developer or developers.”

What is significant about H.R.P.T.’s response is that the needs of the community are being made dependant upon the whims of a private developer. This assumes that the responsibility to provide for the public good is inevitably dependent on how much revenue can be generated using private commercial use and whether or not that private entity wants to include those uses. Hello, democracy, are you there?

The bigger point, however, is that L.G.B.T. youth need a community center, parents and children have identified the need for a school, Little Leaguers are fighting to keep their fields, dog owners need their dog runs and the community as a whole wants an open space that honors the character of the West Village.

These spaces and uses are not up for debate and they should not be left up to a developer who has no connection to this community. H.R.P.T. needs to redefine its position as both a public and private entity and reconsider its accountability to the community in which it is located. Come March, H.R.P.T.’s board needs to close the current request for proposals process and open up opportunities to explore how these community-friendly uses can be incorporated in the concept put forth by the Pier 40 Partnership.

Glo Ross
Ross is lead organizer, FIERCE!

Consider path impact

To The Editor:
Re “Taylor: We can’t start again” (letter, by Diana Taylor, Feb. 20):

Glaringly missing from Hudson River Park Trust Chairperson Diana Taylor’s letter calling for “balance” in deciding the future of Pier 40 was any weighing of the needs of the thousands of Manhattan residents who daily stroll, jog, skate and bike on the Hudson River bike path.

The bike path’s safety record is already stained by the killing of two bicyclists by heedless drivers. Adding Cirque du Soleil and the other “regional” attractions that Ms. Taylor seeks will necessitate hundreds if not thousands of crossing motor vehicles, many of them in evening hours when the bike path gets maximum use. “Regional,” that is, car-dependent, is code for disaster.

The Hudson River bike path is Manhattan’s lone artery where children and other vulnerable travelers can move under their own power without risking their necks. If the board of the Hudson River Trust can’t commit to keeping it safe, then they’re in the wrong busines

Charles Komanoff

Don’t pass on pier plan

To The Editor:
Re “Taylor: We can’t start again” (letter, by Diana Taylor, Feb. 20):

The Pier 40 Partnership and — more important — the extensive community of Downtown residents it represents are very aware of the concrete issues at stake in the future of Pier 40 and Hudson River Park.

Indeed, the Partnership commissioned a professional study from HR&A Advisors to assess the pier’s long-term structural and financial needs. Their proposal adopted the most conservative of the assessment’s estimates. Their plan provides a sophisticated approach to the pier’s funding needs that will neither put pressure on the city’s finances nor disrupt the use of the pier’s much-needed green space. The Partnership has demonstrated their willingness to work with cultural and educational groups to collaboratively maximize the pier’s potential. 

Furthermore, since the Partnership is a nonprofit organization, all income generated by its plan would return to the Hudson River Park Trust, rather than to a private corporation’s coffers. 

Great cities require a mix of commercial and recreational space, not a confusion. The Partnership believes that turning Pier 40 into a commercial, for-profit zone would not create “an attraction worthy of this location.” A mall on the Hudson will detract from the area’s ability to charm tourists, as well as residents. 

This opinion is not only the Partnership’s; it represents a unanimous opinion of elected officials and citizens of New York who have clearly spoken out against Related’s plan and its demand for an unlawful, 49-year lease. 

The Partnership calls on Ms. Taylor to fulfill her leadership role, and to constructively solve the question of Pier 40 — and the Hudson River Park —using the conservancy approach. Our aim is to sustain and develop the gorgeous park along the Hudson of which she and the Trust are so rightly proud. 

Bob Russo
Russo is president, Downtown United Soccer Club and Gotham Girls FC

Taylor has to play ball

To The Editor:
Re “Taylor: We can’t start again” (letter, by Diana Taylor, Feb. 20):

Diana Taylor’s letter addressing the issue of much-needed repairs and revamping of Pier 40 states that losing at “our second attempt to engage the private-sector interest…most likely dooms the process to failure.” She seems convinced, as she puts it, that the Hudson River Park Trust “won’t be able to fulfill the vision of creating one of the greatest amenities...since Central Park,” if we don’t give into the private-sector plan. 

All of us residents know she is referring to The Related Companies proposal — a huge, out-of-character, entertainment complex, generating lots of money for them and lots of stress on the neighborhood. It is simply incongruous for Taylor to believe this is compatible with ball fields and the waterside park that currently exists. Our nobly conceived Central Park would not be in existence today if our forefathers had practiced that kind of logic. 

There is a sore lack of vision in Ms. Taylor’s letter. Ms. Taylor would exhibit true leadership and vision in recognizing the conservancy approach the community is urging. The Pier 40 Partnership has a well-documented, conservancy-based plan in her hands. We, the community, are waiting for her to play ball.

Vivian Weisner

Euros in as jobs go out

To The Editor:
Re “The sign that launched 1,000 business news stories” (news article, Feb. 20):

Mr. Chu is partially right about Billy seeking publicity. However, that’s not why I photographed the “Euros Only” sign or, before that, Michael Vick’s jersey being used as a doormat (“Coyote sold; Vick’s a dog,” news brief, Aug. 29, 2007). It was to use these photos to make a point.

The Vick photo was about people in power abusing animals. And the euro photo is about trying to get people to think about the serious economic crisis we are facing. This simple photo helps point out the weakening dollar. The dollar’s value is going down, yet we are becoming a county that imports many of the goods and services that used to be American-made. Hmm, money worth less…and everything is imported — interesting.

We are spending billions of dollars building a border fence to keep out Mexicans who are doing the kinds of jobs that are traditionally done by the uneducated and new immigrants.

It is not the holes in the borders that the Mexicans are sneaking through that worries me. It is all those wide-open exit doors out of the country that I want to see our political leaders talk about. That outpouring of good, traditional, family-values, paying jobs that Americans should be filling. Not just the outsourcing of tens of thousands of assembly-line jobs or clothing manufacturing or pharmaceutical manufacturing, but I include my local bank clerk, who happens to be in India, or my X-ray being read in India.

What about the whole economy built around these lost jobs? For example, inspectors of manufactured goods. We have gone through many trials and tribulations to develop safety regulations and standards of inspections for all of our local products and production. China does not have our system of protection — yet they are producing our medicines and even the bloody dog food. I mean, really, even dog food.

We are spending billions on a war that was started with a lie — a war with a country that was not a national threat. We leave the real threat and killer hiding in a cave somewhere. And the price of oil has tripled.

Yes, at first the “Euros Only” photo may seem like a goof, but it is not. Like I wrote The Villager, nudging the newspaper to print that photo, saying it was a statement about the economy — people will get it. And yes they did get it. This idea went, through the international news, around the world several times. In fact, reporters are still showing up covering this story. Glad to be of assistance to The Villager — and I do very few things as a goof.

Clayton Patterson

Only memories are left

To The Editor:
I’d like to commend Gene Borio on his letter “The Village — or N.Y.U.-ville?” and Sara Jones on her letter “Nip N.Y.U. growth,” both in The Villager’s Feb. 20 issue.

I, too, recall Miteras fondly. Let’s not forget Emilio’s Garden, McBell’s and Four & Twenty Pies, which followed Howard Johnson’s on the Avenue of the Americas.

Also Pam Pam on Greenwich Ave. and Mr. Waffles on W. Eighth St. These last were not lost due to New York University expansion — I just thought I’d see who remembered them.

Do I remember the ivy-covered building on W. Third St.? I could see it from my window. The new ivy growth glowed emerald in the sunlight. Can you imagine what will become of our beautiful Village if N.Y.U. continues its sweep?

Their new accord with the community is like Godzilla in a Little Bo Peep costume.

Joanne Milazzo

M.T.A. ‘hides in shadows’

To The Editor:
On Thurs., Feb. 28, the Metropolitan Transit Authority held a presentation at The New School auditorium and virtually no one came. The M.T.A. did not publicize this meeting, obviously, in the hope that it would be largely overlooked by the public — and it was.

The evening was dedicated to the M.T.A.’s presentation of its highly questionable project, which has been quietly lurking in the background. The project entails building an aboveground subway emergency ventilation plant in the landmarked West Village Historic District. Unfortunately, this same area also contains the proposed new St. Vincent’s Hospital and Rudin luxury condo tower-and-brownstone projects.

As proposed, these three projects would be built at the same time, further subjecting this landmarked district and people who live in it to an unconscionable amount of noise, dirt and traffic jams. Vibrations from the M.T.A. project would also endanger the old homes within this area.

The M.T.A. must come out of the shadows, hold truly open and well-publicized meetings, and give the community the opportunity to be a part of this process. At Thursday’s meeting, representatives from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Community Board 2 raised many excellent questions. The M.T.A. needs to answer each and every one of them.

Arlene Martin

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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