Volume 77 / Number 52 - May 28 - June 3, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

Letters to the Editor

Sixth and B loved tower

To The Editor:
Re “Youth frown as the Avenue B Toy Tower is taken down” (news article, May 21):

The Sixth Street and Avenue B Garden is very disappointed in the reporting regarding Eddie Boros’s Tower of Toys. For some unfathomable reason, The Villager has chosen to repeat bad reporting from The New York Times and spread the insinuation that the garden collectively hated the tower.

While a vocal few (six or seven out of a membership of 80 to 100 over the years) did indeed dislike the tower, the overwhelming majority supported Eddie and his tower through trying times over the years. When the garden temporarily lost its insurance because of the tower, we voted to stand behind the tower. In time, we were able to reinstate our insurance and Eddie was able to continue working on his tower. When the Department of Buildings fined Eddie $2,500 for not having a work permit or plans, it was garden members who went down to the city offices and got Eddie off the hook.

Eddie did an amazing number of good deeds for the garden, and the collective membership recognized his special contribution. That’s why when he reneged on his promise to keep the tower under three stories tall, nobody took him to task. Believe it, if the garden really hated the tower, it would never have been there in the first place.

Eddie Boros was a special person and the garden misses him. A couple of simple phone calls would have brought out this side of the story. Amazingly, the Times corrected itself with their article on Sun., May 11. It’s time The Villager, which is a much more respectable periodical, do the same.
William Hohauser
Hohauser is president, Sixth Street and Avenue B Garden

Onward vegan soldiers!

To The Editor:
Re “Veggie Pride Parade to sprout from meat mecca” (news article, May 14):

Although I was unable to attend the Veggie Pride Parade in Greenwich Village, I was with my fellow vegetarian New Yorkers in spirit. I’ve been vegan for 14 years and I’m especially proud to say that I — like every other vegetarian — save more than 100 animals from pain and suffering each year simply by not eating them. By eating a “green” diet, I’m doing my part to help stop global warming, pollution, the destruction of the rainforests and world hunger. I’ve also helped my own cause — switching to a vegan diet helped me beat breast cancer! I’m not one to be self-righteous, but when I think about all the positive aspects of a vegan lifestyle, I can’t help but swell with pride. I hope the event prompted others to think about going vegetarian.
Elaine Sloan

Active theaters must evolve

To The Editor:
Re “Provincetown project’s now about preservation” (editorial, May 14):

As an active user of the Provincetown Playhouse, I am pleased at the progress New York University is making with this project. I agree that it is important to honor and promote the rich history of the Playhouse. The great legacy of early theater work that occurred at the Provincetown Playhouse is worth celebrating. The university is making a great commitment to preserving that legacy.

We should remember that the Playhouse has always been a structure which evolved as the users of each period determined what was needed and could be afforded. By necessity, an active theater structure must change with the times. The theater arts today are much different than they were in the early part of the 20th century and have different physical needs.

It is my hope that a restoration of the Provincetown Playhouse could accomplish two goals. The first is to honor the rich history of the theater in some way. This will partly be accomplished by keeping the theater in its current location and preserving the space’s interior volume. Additionally, a better gallery and public space could be used to honor the artists who originally made the Playhouse famous. One option would be to include changing exhibits which reflect not only the theater’s early history but also the vast array of productions over the last decade.

The second goal is to design a new state-of-the-art theater which reflects the needs of modern theater production and experimentation. What better way to celebrate the history of the Players and all the other artists who made history at Provincetown than to re-create a new, dynamic theater space that could be a premier small theater in Greenwich Village. It is my belief that the theater artists we celebrate from the Provincetown Playhouse’s history would be delighted and supportive of the opportunity to create a new, great space. N.Y.U.’s commitment to this project is a tribute to the Playhouse’s history and demonstrates the university’s support for theater arts.
Randy Susevich
Susevich is technical director, Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, New York University

Editorial was a shocker

To The Editor:
Re “Provincetown project’s now about preservation” (editorial, May 14):

Your editorial in support of N.Y.U.’s plan to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse shocked me, not least because it was based on a misunderstanding of the Landmarks Law. There is no provision in that law for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make a finding that any building is “unfit for landmarking,” although the real estate industry has been trying for years to amend the law to do that. 

You are probably referring to a letter from Landmarks staff refusing to act to recommend the Provincetown for commission consideration as an individual landmark. Such staff comments are subject to reversal. 

I received a similar rebuff when I asked for review of a Weehawken Historic District some years ago, but eventually, Weehawken St. was designated. In fact, the Provincetown is part of a proposed South Village Historic District which is currently under review. Delaying demolition now could lead to the permanent protection for the Provincetown as part of a new historic district. 
Christabel Gough

A new ‘Apprentice’?

To The Editor:
Re “B.S.A. backs Trump Soho, setting stage for lawsuit” (news article, May 7):

This fight strikes me as eerily familiar to the opposition that the Soho Grand and Mercer hotels faced back in the mid-’90s. Sounds like the Donald has simply failed to come across with the proper “tribute” monies to the Soho Alliance as of yet, to quell their thirst for blood.

Perhaps if the Donald did, or if he were to, let’s say, offer Sean Sweeney a role as “The Apprentice,” this could all blow over and he might even find himself on the steering community of the Soho Alliance — just as the Mercer’s Andre Balazs did — rather than in court.
 Yisroal Boaz Ginsberg

Alas, t’was not Horatio

To The Editor:
Re “Meat Market plaza plan is not ‘breast’ idea, some say” (news article, May 14):

I was quoted in the article about the changes in the Gansevoort Plaza as the vice president of the Horatio Street Association. It is true that I am the vice president, but I was speaking as a resident and am not the spokesperson for the association. There are hundreds of residents on Horatio St. and hundreds of opinions. I could not possibly speak for them as one voice.
Marjorie Colt

Lost in translation

To The Editor:
Your May 14 article “Chinatown group brands East Side rezoning ‘racist’” exhibits several misleading aspects and improper omissions. I was present at the event in question. As an observer with no previous involvement with this issue, I read the article without bias and found some problems with your reporting.

The writer states that the protesters left the meeting “several minutes” after translators began. The reality is that the protesters stayed for at least 20 minutes of translation. “Several” is too vague and suggests a shorter time, as though the protesters were frivolous in their demand.

Your reporter fails to mention that the translators were not professionals, and had a great deal of difficulty translating the complicated text. My perception was that the protesters finally left out of frustration that the essential points of the proposal were not being communicated clearly.

Your reporter also failed to note a theme that was emphasized by numerous people who spoke — namely, the city’s insistence on including a provision that would allow conversion of ground-floor units from residential into commercial space, even if said space had not seen commercial use for decades or even a century. As I understood, the normal regulations imposed by the proposed zoning would protect against this sort of conversion, but the City Planning representatives indicated that it was specially included. Many residents voiced grave dissatisfaction with this.

Finally, your reporter failed to describe anything about Mr. McWater’s behavior in response to the protesters. McWater was shouting through the microphone at the protesters and almost immediately threatened to have the police eject them. In my opinion, he was aggressive and unnecessarily confrontational, and failed to engage the protesters’ concerns constructively. Yes, their behavior was disruptive, but their concerns were dismissed out of hand.

I am sorry to say that in reading your piece I detect a strong bias in favor of the zoning plan and an unbalanced sympathy for Mr. McWater.
Noel Bush

Disruptions didn’t help

To The Editor:
Re “Chinatown group brands East Side rezoning ‘racist’” (news article, May 14):

Two groups of people came to the Community Board 3 town hall meeting on rezoning: one to hear the detailed presentation of the plan by Arthur Huh of the Department of City Planning, the other to disrupt the meeting.

The second group succeeded, shouting down the board’s chairperson and the speakers, even after translation was provided. Those of us who wanted to become more informed regarding the details of the plan were out of luck.

I might also mention that a really excellent handout in English, Chinese and Spanish was provided. As a relatively new public member of the task force, I greatly admire the work that went into producing the handout, entitled “Quick Facts About Rezoning in Community Board 3.”

Rather than shouting the tired epithet of “racism,” those who wish to rezone Chinatown (and I do) should begin the hard work. They will surely have the full support of the task force.

I support approval of the Lower East Side rezoning plan by Community Board 3.
Linda C. Jones

Conflict charges absurd

To The Editor:
Re “Kramer’s ‘conflict’ exposed” (letter, by Jack Taylor, May 14):

The kids are victorious and Judge Solomon has ruled in their favor: Construction continues on the north end of Union Square! But the Union Square Community Coalition continues on its negative rampage. U.S.C.C. Secretary Jack Taylor’s letter accusing that I somehow hid my relationship with the Union Square Partnership borders on the libelous. Nothing could be further from the truth, in that I always strived to have and was proud of the good relationship I had with the Partnership. It was not a secret at all that I was on U.S.P.’s Residents Advisory Council and was in continual contact with the Partnership during the design phase of the north end of the park.

These U.S.C.C. board members think there’s something evil and nefarious about “business,” especially when it comes to the business improvement district arm of U.S.P. I totally disagree and think the BID and the Partnership have done a world of good for my neighborhood. We all knew the playgrounds were a mess and too small. U.S.P. put its money where its mouth was and hired planners to consult with the community and landscape architects to design a plan to improve the north end when no one else came forward. Without them, we’d still be waiting for the city to do that.

Then, in response to some people saying the BID was too business oriented, the Partnership created the Residents Advisory Council and asked me and several other neighborhood residents to join. I don’t see the conflict of interest in that at all. The residents see U.S.P. as a responsive agency that can either help us directly or advocate on our behalf, which is something that U.S.C.C. used to do. The Residents Advisory Council has walkabouts through the Union Square neighborhood and addresses issues that concern us, from homeless people congregating in certain areas, to making sure there’s adequate garbage collection. Is that so terrible that I would keep it a secret? Why?

Yes, of course, I will speak out in favor of some of the things the Partnership and I agree on, and anyone who knows me knows that I have worked hard to get this playground built and will fight any lawsuit that impedes it. And the current U.S.C.C. board has a lot of nerve taking credit for the increase in play space. It was already in the plan.

Jack Taylor and Geoffrey Croft are trying to drum up a false “conflict of interest” case because that’s the best they can do against me. If I wanted to throw mud, I could say a lot about Jack Taylor’s past behavior and very questionable judgement, but I’ll just say, he’s no gentleman.

I stand by my statement referring to the present U.S.C.C. as a one-issue organization, and its rebuttal in The Villager’s May 14 issue confirms exactly that. Here is the last, and perhaps most meaningful, paragraph of what was (inadvertantly?) left out from my original April 30 letter to the editor, which still holds true:

“I hate to think that U.S.C.C. turned into a group of curmudgeons and gadflies. Let them prove me wrong and, for a change, do something positive for the neighborhood like U.S.C.C. used to do: advocate for calming traffic, hold forums, support the arts in the park, provide seating (those French bistro chairs and round picnic tables are from the Fox/Kramer era) and most important, get that playground built as soon as possible. My son was a toddler when I started to petition for an improved and larger, unified playground. I became involved with U.S.C.C. for just that reason. My son is about to enter high school. Now that a shovel is finally in the ground, U.S.C.C. & Co. have halted it all. Exactly which children are they protesting on behalf of? My grandchildren?”

Thank goodness Judge Solomon has seen the wisdom in letting the work continue. What’s best for the interior of the pavilion building is still to be determined, but at least U.S.C.C. couldn’t delay the playground and north end work one more day. Yay!
Susan Kramer

Editor’s note: Any cuts made to Kramer’s previous lengthy letter (“U.S.C.C. unravels,” April 30) were for space limitations.

Fearsome five laws

To The Editor:
Councilmember Alan Gerson’s latest misstep into the issue of street vending reveals the extent to which he is out of touch with street artists, vendors, existing vending law and the First Amendment.

He recently submitted five restrictive new vending laws to the City Council. These include a vague new definition of First Amendment-protected art that will further confuse those doing vendor enforcement; an unfair requirement that vendors pass a written test; a new required distance from inanimate objects, like the hundreds of illegal street planters his Soho Alliance sponsors have installed on the streets; a restriction on displaying art against one’s own car, despite that being the mode of display that causes the very least sidewalk congestion; and a removal of the requirement that certain types of food vendors must attend a food-safety class and pass a written test on safe food-handling practices.

In other words, Councilmember Gerson wants to impose a requirement that vendors who sell socks or batteries must pass a test while eliminating the existing test requirement for many of the vendors who sell food and might potentially cause widespread illness by mishandling it.

None of his proposed bills addresses any legitimate problem with vending. None of these bills will in any way make the enforcement of vending laws any easier or clearer for the police or the vendors. The test requirement for general-merchandise vendors, most of whom are recent immigrants, is blatantly unfair if not racist. Gerson’s “redefinition” of art into two classes — art that has a primary utility versus art that has a secondary utility — makes no sense linguistically,
artistically, legally or culturally.

At some point, even the councilmember’s most avid supporters might ask what he has accomplished in seven years of diddling around on the vending issue at taxpayer expense. I urge the community and the City Council to completely reject these five proposed vending laws.
Robert Lederman
Lederman is president, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)

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