Volume 77 / Number 41 - March 12 - 18, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the editor

St. Vincent’s: C.B. 2 is the forum

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

I would like to address some misperceptions that were in Brad Hoylman’s recent talking point in The Villager about the new St. Vincent’s Hospital. Hoylman accurately lays out some of the issues that both Community Board 2 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission must examine. However, he asserts that there is “widespread community opposition” to the plan, which just isn’t the case.

While many thoughtful and concerned individuals have come to the C.B. 2 meetings on the project and expressed their opposition to aspects of the project, so far, more than 1,800 people have joined Friends of the New St. Vincent’s and more than 1,000 letters and e-mails have been sent to C.B. 2 and our elected officials advocating for the new hospital. These individuals’ input and support should not be ignored.

Additionally, regarding a letter to the editor published in that same issue (“Post-article traumatic shock,” by Andrew Berman, Zack Winestine et al.), I disagree with the characterizations made by the individuals with whom St. Vincent’s met regarding a proposed alternative plan. At the suggestion of the elected officials and C.B. 2, we asked the plan’s proponents to come and present to St. Vincent’s their suggestions, since the plan had been publicly discussed but never shared with us. It was subsequently sent to us, and we met with the group to receive a fuller presentation.

Over the past year, to understand the numerous concerns, we have had dozens of meetings with stakeholders in this project, including elected officials, block associations, co-op boards, affordable-housing advocates, public school advocates, unions, social-service agencies, local businesses and tenant organizations. At this time, Board 2 is appropriately holding public hearings as part of the public review process. The community board is now the fitting focal point in the public process for the community to raise its concerns and for St. Vincent’s to reply, as St. Vincent’s did when it responded to the alternative plan.

One emerging trend from the public hearings to date has been both clear and heartening: Regardless of the position taken on the Landmarks application, support for a new, efficient and green St. Vincent’s Hospital has come from every quarter of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the larger community we serve. We look forward to continuing our work with Community Board 2 and hope that we can reach the ideal of a “community consensus” outlined by Brad Hoylman at the hearings on the project. 

Bernadette Kingham-Bez
Kingham-Bez is senior vice president, strategic planning and communications, St. Vincent’s Hospital

Florent: Hoylman speaks truth

To The Editor:
Congratulations to the leadership of Community Board 2 for focusing on the importance of process as the board debates the St. Vincent’s Hospitalproject (“St. Vincent’s: Let’s not do the time warp again!” talking point, by Brad Hoylman, Feb. 27).

I happen to know a thing or two about landmarking, having co-chaired the task force that advocated for the creation of the Gansevoort Market HistoricDistrict in 2003. Landmark designation offers protection of our historic resources — and the request to demolish nine structures is one that should notbe taken lightly.

I support the idea of evaluating the importance of each building as to its individual architectural, cultural or historic merit. The outcome of these decisions could mean that the applicants will have to significantly alter their proposals. It is only fair that the board and the community have the opportunity to weigh in specifically as to the height, bulk and detailing of the project as it moves through its application process at the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Florent Morellet

G.V.S.H.P. spins Hoylman’s words

To The Editor: 
Re “Hoylman ‘misunderstands’” (letter, by Melissa Baldock, March 5):

I respectfully reject Ms. Baldock’s contention that “Hoylman ‘misunderstands’” — and, by implication, that Community Board 2 also misunderstands — how the “landmarks approval process works” in regard to the proposal for the new St. Vincent’s Hospital/Rudin development.

First, the letter starts with the claim that Mr. Hoylman is “criticizing community groups seeking changes to the current Rudin/St. Vincent’s plan” — i.e. the Community Alternative Plan endorsed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, of which Baldock is director of preservation and research.

But nowhere does Hoylman criticize either the groups or their plan. He does accurately point out that the alternative plan accepts the demolition of the hospital’s O’Toole Building, and he suggests that the Landmarks Preservation Commission should carefully analyze “whether O’Toole contributes to the ‘special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value’ of the Greenwich Village Historic District.” This position is supported by many preservationists in the city, including DOCOMOMO and the Historic Districts Council, and by many people in our community.

Second, it is correctly asserted that L.P.C. considers demolition and replacement buildings at the same time. However, what was not said is that the commission has no obligation after a public hearing to come back to the community for a review of changes made to an application. Too often, both G.V.S.H.P. and Community Board 2 have been frustrated when projects are significantly altered at the commission level and there is no opportunity to comment. Typically, in projects of this size, L.P.C. does send the application back to the community board — but Mr. Hoylman is making the point that community input should be considered at every stage of the process.

In the case of the St. Vincent’s/Rudin proposal, the design and massing of the replacement buildings are clearly dependent on the demolition of nine buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District. Mr. Hoylman is encouraging L.P.C. to focus first on the appropriateness of the demolition at each site, knowing that the results of the commission’s decisions could alter the ultimate design of any new buildings; then the commission should send the project back to the community board for a careful review of changes to the current proposal. Simply put, this is at the core of the request for two hearings.

Further, I am surprised at the letter’s misstatement that Mr. Hoylman is asking that “members of the public refrain from commenting” on “what would or wouldn’t be appropriate development on these sites. …” I have read his talking point over and over, and cannot find this request. It is not a policy of Community Board 2 to tell people what they should say at any public hearing; indeed, it is a community board’s mandate to listen, not direct. C.B. 2 will be evaluating the appropriateness of the replacement buildings in its resolution to L.P.C., and other groups should do the same.

Finally, the letter writer claims that “it is incontrovertible that some of St. Vincent’s buildings…are not going to be protected from demolition. …” I do agree that it is likely that some of the buildings will not meet the standards for protection, but I would rather wait for L.P.C. to make its decision. We could be surprised at what structures the commission thinks are or are not important. This is not burying “one’s head in the sand.” It is being responsible, taking the process one step at a time.

While I have no problem with G.V.S.H.P. airing its opinions in the letters column of this newspaper, I do take exception to the mischaracterization of the content of Mr. Hoylman’s talking point, and the intentions of Community Board 2. The board does “understand the landmarks approval process. …” And given the unprecedented scale of this project and potential impact on our neighborhoods for generations to come, it is essential that everyone work together to present the strongest case possible to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. 

Jo Hamilton
Hamilton is first vice chairperson, Community Board 2

‘Time warp’ letter a horror show

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

I was quite surprised to read Brad Hoylman’s talking point criticizing more than a dozen community groups for putting forward a Community Alternative Plan to the objectionable current Rudin/St. Vincent’s proposal. As Mr. Hoylman well knows from discussions with a number of us, that plan was generated in response to consistent requests from several of our local elected officials asking community groups that objected to the Rudin/St. Vincent’s plan to give them feedback as to how the plan could be improved, while still allowing St. Vincent’s to build the new hospital it says it needs.

As Mr. Hoylman also knows, the Community Alternative Plan does not purport to represent any one of our positions on the question of appropriateness. That will be decided before the Landmarks Preservation Commission — yet his critique implies otherwise. The plan was shared with Mr. Hoylman weeks ago and he never in all that time chose to raise any of these issues with the community groups that have been working so hard to affect the outcome of this process. To the contrary, when St. Vincent’s dragged its feet in responding to the plan after weeks and weeks of promises, Mr. Holyman, only two weeks ago in his talking point, took credit for eliciting St. Vincent’s recent response — directing that it be addressed directly to him, instead of the broad coalition that first presented it to St. Vincent’s.

David R. Marcus

Science fiction (double feature)

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

Community Board 2 Chairperson Brad Hoylman oversimplifies an extremely complex situation in his inappropriate op-ed and distracts the uninformed reader from the “big picture” of the St. Vincent’s Hospital redevelopment plan for its campus in the Greenwich Village Historic District. Steering public focus away from the potentially devastating endgame of this precedent-setting proposal, and toward only the first component of a lengthy and complicated land-review process, is misleading and nonproductive. This is a pattern that has emerged as standard operating procedure in St. Vincent’s current aggressive — and, I suspect, expensive — public-relations campaign. I am surprised that Mr. Hoylman appears to subscribe to similar diversionary tactics. 

Still, if one accepts Mr. Hoylman’s argument, perhaps he should be reminded that another essential difference between 1978 and now is that St. Vincent’s Hospital no longer has the same relationship with the religious order upon whose charitable mission the institution was founded. Today, the hospital’s “social good” is eclipsed by the fact that the current, secular administration is desperately trying to bail out a failed multimillion-dollar business in partnership with a commercial developer and at the expense of the landmarked historic district in which St. Vincent’s is fortunate enough to own lucrative real estate. It is a plain fact of life — and death — that healthcare is first and foremost a business in 2008. It was less so in 1978. 

Mr. Hoylman’s “then and now” thesis is weak at best, and ultimately is manipulative and biased toward opening the door for St. Vincent’s Hospital and its development partner, the Rudin Organization, to receive carte blanche after the Landmarks Preservation Commission review is completed. Mr. Hoylman omits a crucial procedural point in his column: The Landmarks process requires that the proposed replacement buildings be judged for their appropriateness at the same time that demolition of any existing structures is considered.

After L.P.C. determines which buildings may be razed and what may be constructed in their place, it then becomes all about what Mr. Hoylman calls the “extremely compelling public-benefits case.” Sadly, at that point, it is too late for any community input regarding the appropriateness of what is built — creating a clear and open path for the proposed plan’s inappropriate skyscraper towers, overwhelming increased density and massive luxury housing in the Greenwich Village Historic District.

Maurice Zucker
Zucker is co-chairperson of and 175 W. 12th St.’s representative on the St. Vincent’s Hospital Community Working Group

C.B. 2 survey says…Huh?

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

I was confused by Community Board 2 Chairperson Brad Hoylman’s talking point, especially his criticism of community groups for “sacrificing”the O’Toole Building, and jumping the gun on issues still to be determined by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. This seemed ironic given that C.B. 2’s own online survey regarding the St. Vincent’s project doesn’t even provide the public the option of asking for the O’Toole Building to be saved. On the other hand, the board’s survey does give that option for the buildings the Community Alternative Plan — which Hoylman criticizes — advocates saving.

Furthermore, C.B. 2’s survey is full of questions about other issues, the addressing of which might “seem too hasty” — as Hoylman puts it — before the Landmarks Preservation Commission has made its determinations about demolition and preservation; yet, that’s exactly the sort of thing for which he criticized these hard-working community groups.

Is Mr. Hoylman really genuine in his criticisms? Or is he just trying to use this process to try to score cheap political points for himself?

Rima McCoy

Got riled by Gottlieb article

To The Editor:
Re “Gottlieb tenants rail about rent, rats, no repairs” (news article, March 5):

It is with great disappointment that I write to you regarding Albert Amateau’s article on William Gottlieb Management Co., LLC. Not only did the article suffer from a plainly biased tone and unbalanced reporting, but it also contained a number of factual inaccuracies.

First and foremost, Mr. Amateau’s statement that I am not actively involved in the family business is simply incorrect. For those who actually know me, this error is apparent, as is another that is repeated throughout the article: The name of my wife of almost 60 years, Mollie Bender, is spelled incorrectly.

I also take exception with the decision to quote some tenants’ complaints against William Gottlieb Management without attempting to put such complaints into context. We have a great number of residents in our buildings, and the tenants Mr. Amateau quotes in his article represent a very small percentage. Many of our tenants have been residents of our properties for many years, and we take pride in our good working relationships with them.

Mr. Amateau also writes about my daughter and grandson in this article. Sadly, it is not surprising that they are still shamefully distorting the truth to whoever will listen, even as they have pursued a meritless lawsuit against their own family for personal gain. They have alienated many members of our family for many years, and their behavior has been a great source of pain and sadness to Mollie and me. Indeed, one fact that Mr. Amateau fails to mention is that my grandson recently made an unsolicited settlement offer to us, demanding a personal payment of $50 million. I believe the offer speaks for itself and shows his true motivations.

I do not know the methods by which Mr. Amateau carries out his research for his articles or checks his facts, but it is surprising that The Villager’s editors do not enforce a higher journalistic standard at their highly regarded publication.

Irving Bender

Humbly, a Chumley’s guide

To The Editor:
Re “Another round as Chumley’s vows to reopen, again” (news article, Feb. 27):

I give tours for foodsofny.com, which includes Chumley’s in its itinerary, so I was proud to be quoted in Patrick Hedlund’s fine article on Chumley’s hopefully imminent reopening. 

But, while I do include personal reminiscences and stories I’ve heard from some of the older patrons — stories that, in some cases, go back over my 40 years’ familiarity with the restaurant — the scope of my knowledge far from qualifies me as a “Chumley’s historian,” as Mr. Hedlund identified me.

Steve Schlopak and Jim DiPaolo, Chumley’s owner and manager, respectively, are the true historians of the place (and are even the sources of some of the stories I tell). 

It would be the height of arrogance for me to assume their mantle, as flattering as the description may be, and I welcome the chance to set the record straight. 

Michael Karp

Lola opposition is distasteful

To The Editor:
Re “Lola’s can’t live without music; Soho license fight becoming broken record” (news article, Feb. 27):

I am quite pleased and proud of the complete coverage and balance of the reporting on Lola’s restaurant.

This is Soho in Manhattan. And not that one would or should find it more acceptable elsewhere, but the neighborhood and its locales should never seek to uphold the opinions of such a disgustingly biased and warped group of an insensitive few — based on the article — who would stoop so low as to “lie” by creating bogus names of petitioners and then not opposing live music in similar establishments in the same vicinity! It is an atrocity!

I hope the judge removes these false and blurred lenses and allows everyone to live and celebrate life in 2008 the way it should be lived — so that we are not reminded of unjust conditions that existed an entire lifetime before Soho was created!

Marie Deeble

Small group abuses Lola

To The Editor:
Re “Lola can’t live without music; Soho license fight becoming broken record” (news article, Feb. 27):

I found your well-written article on the liquor license ordeal of the Soho restaurant Lola to be quite distressing. While I have seen many instances where members of the community have legitimately opposed liquor licenses for establishments that have proven to be a public nuisance, the situation with Lola is just the reverse. Lola’s experience demonstrates how the liquor license process can be abused by a small group of litigious activists to cause serious harm to a perfectly fine business that could be a real asset to the local community.

I remember enjoying this restaurant at its former Chelsea location a number of years ago. After reading your article, I visited them for dinner at the Watts St. location for the first time. I found myself in a beautiful, upscale restaurant with an interesting and eclectic menu. It was quite clear that a lot of money, effort and care have gone into the development of this business. The meal I had was excellent, the service was attentive, and I had the opportunity to chat with the owners, as well.

Given the restrictions to which Lola has agreed, as described in your article, there is no reasonable basis not to allow this fine establishment to present live jazz, R & B and gospel artists, as it has done in the past. I hope that the State Liquor Authority will quickly move to correct its mistake and revoke the current ban on live music in the restaurant’s liquor license so that the business can achieve its full potential.

Bill Love

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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