Volume 77 / Number 43 | March 26 - April 1, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

On pins and needles

To The Editor:
I attended the M.T.A. public hearing on Feb. 28, sadly not well publicized, thus, not well attended. I have lived 30 years on Perry St., where every day the rumble and vibrations of the subway beneath the street affect all of us between Greenwich Ave. and Seventh Ave. in houses built in the 1840s.

I am, as a result, distressed that one of the three alternatives is to dig down two stories into the street bed, plan SB5. As per your reporting in your Feb. 20 issue (“Hearing on M.T.A. fan plant could see some venting,” news article), this alternative would require the underpinning of 12 buildings, one of which is mine. Just what is underpinning and how can it not affect these already fragile buildings?

If this work must be done, why not use the M.T.A.’s own space, P1? If they can dig two stories on Perry St., why not dig there and then cover it over, creating a mini-park? Or if a building must be included, could it not have a lesser footprint than, say, the Morton St. Path ventilation building and include park space?
Robb Lady

Moratorium on building

To The Editor:
In light (darkness seems more apt) of the disastrous crane crash on March 15, I urge Council Speaker Christine Quinn to call for a moratorium on new construction in the city. Isn’t it time to stop, take stock and formulate a building and development plan that would save lives, communities and quality of life?

Workers are dying at record rates in this current race to build as many buildings as fast as possible. The infrastructure and schools to support the new buildings and increased population density are not being created. Most of the new buildings are high-priced residences that do not provide affordable housing. 

And, as the new high-rises make more and more of New York resemble the canyons of Wall St. and Midtown, we are losing light and air.

Is this the city we want?

I say, enough! Are all our laws and safety regulations being obeyed?  Should the Ratners, Rudins and Trumps determine what kind of New York we live in? Before more harm is done and more lives are lost, we need a moratorium and democratic, citywide review.
 Merry Tucker

Time for Trust to pay up

To The Editor:
When there is property damage, it is generally followed by an obvious solution — the guilty party is required to pay.

If this concept were applied to Pier 40, there would be no need to have a developer dictate new legislation; spend years developing another environmental impact statement; run thousands of cars through a bikeway, jogging path and a corridor for pedestrians; place pieces of a state-city park on leftover portions of a huge entertainment complex; and spend more than a half billion dollars on this tourist attraction that could easily turn into another Pier 17 situation, to be demolished for the next big thing.

Governor Paterson can veto projects of the Hudson River Park Trust, the agency that is responsible for operating Pier 40, but has allowed the pier to deteriorate to the point of collapse. The agency would also be the logical and most appropriate source to fund repairs for Pier 40. By doing this through the Governor’s Office, a lawsuit and its complications could be avoided.
Bill Hine and Robert Smith
Hine and Smith are members, Save The Piers

Silence will sink Pier 40

To The Editor:
I’ve followed the saga of Pier 40 for several years and continue to be baffled by City Hall’s silence and lack of leadership to embrace a community-supported, neighborhood-beneficial and waterfront-appropriate plan for the pier’s future.

It is past time that our city and state leadership stopped pitting our citizens against each other and proposing unacceptable commercialization and, instead, lead the way for the public good. Marc Ameruso in his letter in The Villager’s March 19 issue (“Trust not inspiring trust”) seems to have enumerated all the right reasoning in support of a plan for kids to play, Villagers to congregate and all New Yorkers to enjoy the vistas and tranquility of the Hudson River; yes, we are not Las Vegas.

The Village and Lower Manhattan do not need another entertainment venue — the Meat Market, Chelsea Market and High Line are enough. Need more excitement? Go to Times Square. Need money to renovate the pier? Look to the rumored, sweetheart contracts with Chelsea Piers, the W. 30th St. Heliport and all the other waterfront-necessary, revenue-producing activities from the Battery north.

Can the Hudson River Park Trust quell speculation and provide a full accounting of its requirements for and compliance with its legally mandated financial obligations? And let’s not forget its public-benefit waterfront purpose. 
Norman Rosenfeld

Anti-congestion convert

To The Editor:
Re “What’s blocking Alan Gerson on backing congestion pricing?” (news article, March 12):

I was quite surprised to read in The Villager that Councilmember Gerson had not fully committed to congestion pricing. However, after having met with Alan and several Soho community leaders last week, I understand Alan’s reservations. He is actually striving hard to gain concessions from the Bloomberg administration to benefit his constituents in ways that congestion pricing doesn’t.

Although congestion pricing on a macro level is a forward-thinking plan that addresses 75 years of wrongheaded social planning that favors the automobile at the expense of communities and the environment, as it stands, upon closer examination, congestion pricing will do virtually nothing to improve the lives of Downtown residents.

Save for where a few major thoroughfares converge, such as at Bowery and Delancey St. or Sixth Ave. and 14th St., traffic flows relatively well on Downtown streets. In theory, it is the Midtown business community that stands to benefit the most, because delivery times will be reduced due to less traffic.

So, having carefully observed this Bloomberg administration for six years, with the mayor’s out-of-control, pro-development Department of Buildings, his Parks Department hellbent on privatizing public green spaces and his Police Department that callously ignores true community needs, I now see Bloomberg’s initiative as not really being altruistic, but just another ploy to help business at the expense of the middle class, be it outer-borough commuters or Manhattan residents. The tipping point for me is the removal of the 18 percent parking tax exemption that will cost Manhattan families $1,000 per year, nearly as much as those who are actually driving their cars into the city everyday from Canarsie.

In the long term, projected revenue growth of an additional $400 million annually from congestion pricing will allow the M.T.A. to finance long-term capital projects. But the question remains, will it improve the quality of life in Lower Manhattan?

Will congestion pricing increase subway service so one doesn’t have to wait 20 minutes for a No. 6 or A train on the weekends? No.

Will congestion pricing make rush hour travel on the R or Q more tolerable? No.

Will congestion pricing eliminate the horrible traffic congestion on Canal St. created by the great environmental crime, the Verrazano Bridge toll structure, inflicted on Lower Manhattan by a long line of Democrats from Cuomo to Schumer to Clinton for 22 years now and running? No.

Will congestion pricing eliminate privileged placard parking in Lower Manhattan? No.

Will congestion pricing guarantee the completion of the Second Ave. subway in this century? No.

Will congestion pricing reduce traffic in Soho and Lower Manhattan on weekends when our streets are paralyzed with shopaholics in S.U.V.’s? No.

Will congestion pricing increase the number of dirty diesel express buses running daily through Lower Manhattan. Yes.

As a dedicated environmental activist committed to greater principles, I find it impossible to support congestion pricing as proposed. Councilmember Gerson is serving his constituents wisely by withholding his support for congestion pricing in return for major concessions from Bloomberg and the Police Department.

If Bloomberg sincerely wants to improve the city’s air quality, he could throw his formidable weight behind changing the Verrazano Bridge toll, have the N.Y.P.D. strictly enforce idling laws, require all fleet vehicles, such as UPS and FedEX, to run on hybrid engines and create a safe and dedicated network of bicycle lanes throughout the city.
Carl Rosenstein
Rosenstein runs the Puffin Room gallery

Legacy of Triangle fire

To The Editor:
This week we commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 garment workers in 1911. We need to keep in mind that while much has been accomplished in the 97 years since this horrible tragedy, more can and needs to be done to defend the rights and safety of our laborers. As the guardian of New York City’s pension funds, I am inspired by organizations such as UNITE HERE to work toward ensuring that the companies in which we invest abide by fair labor practices.

I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of those brave victims. The tragedy that took place nearly a century ago has led to increased fire-safety awareness and new standards in building codes that to this day have saved tens of thousands of lives over the years. 
William C. Thompson, Jr.
Thompson is New York City comptroller

Not buying vendor rules

To The Editor:
It has come to my attention that Councilmember Alan Gerson is proposing some major changes to New York City’s vending laws. I have read them thoroughly.

I find them to be most distasteful, draconian and insulting. As an artist who has been displaying my work in Soho for more than eight years, I stand firmly against all of them, and I will work with all my energy and fervor to defeat Gerson’s proposals.

I am a longtime member and solid supporter of A.R.T.I.S.T (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics), the only legitimate organization representing artists such as myself. We have fought successfully for many years to maintain the First Amendment right to display our work on the public streets of New York, and I know of no artist who endorses any action by the City Council — or anyone else — that essentially surrenders that right.

I do not want any lottery system, permit system or sale of the sidewalk space to bidders, corporate or business interests. All of these foolish ideas violate the fundamental right I have — as affirmed by the U.S. federal courts numerous times — to display my work without interference of any of Gerson’s ill-conceived ideas.

If you want to get rid of “illegal vendors,” simply enforce the laws currently on the books. There is no need to make life more difficult for the rest of us.

I strongly urge Gerson to reconsider his proposals.
 Lee Ross

We need Met Food

To The Editor:
The Villager is once again performing an invaluable public service with its series of articles on New York University’s ambitious plans to expand its existing facilities by some 6 million square feet. The articles have looked at the potential impact of various proposals on affected neighborhoods and have publicized the university’s program of community outreach.

In a joint statement with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, N.Y.U. President John Sexton committed the university to support “community sustainability,” including the preservation of local retail businesses. An associate vice president for planning was quoted as promising “eclectic uses” for N.Y.U.’s ground-floor properties — “not all banks and pharmacies.”

Yet, members of the E. Sixth and Seventh Sts. Block Association are distressed to learn that the Met Foodmarket at 107-111 Second Ave. will be forced to close if its owners are unable to negotiate a satisfactory renewal of their lease with N.Y.U.

Met Food is the only supermarket in our area, serving shoppers from Third Ave. to First Ave., from 11th St. to Houston St. Its loss would be a severe blow to our community, especially the less mobile and the elderly, such as residents of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged building at Fifth St. and the Bowery. Many homebound shoppers are dependent on the store’s delivery service.

Met Food is not an absentee operation but a very hands-on, family business, the kind that is fast disappearing from our neighborhood.

We urge N.Y.U. to factor in these important community concerns in negotiations to extend Met Food’s lease. Doing so would gain the university well-deserved praise from area residents. Forcing Met Food out would only give ammunition to those who charge that N.Y.U. is determined to turn the East Village into one big college campus.

The next N.Y.U. outreach meeting is March 27 at 6:45 p.m. at the Barney Building, 34 Stuyvesant Pl., between Second and Third Aves., room 403. The Met Food situation will be among the issues discussed. Those wishing to attend should bring ID.
Robert F. Joyce

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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