Volume 78 / Number 4 - June 25 - July 1, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since
1933

Letters to the editor

Rosie’s wrong on pavilion

To The Editor:
Re “Washington’s and Robeson’s spirits haunt pavilion plan” (news article, June 11):

In the letter that Rosie Mendez distributed and read, amid boos, to those gathered at the Save Union Square 2008 rally on June 5, she cites her reasons for reversing her earlier opposition to the restaurant plan for the park’s pavilion.

The letter’s main points in defense of Mendez’s unpopular decision is that she feared the $1.9 million — allocated by former Councilmember Margarita Lopez in 2002 for the playground’s renovation — would disappear if not used within a certain timeframe, and Mendez was concerned about any further delay in providing the much-needed playground. So Mendez accepted the privatized restaurant plan for the pavilion.

Rosie professed concern about children’s need for the playground, but she has remained silent since 2006, even as the playground became a pawn, held hostage to the business improvement district and Parks Department’s scheme to delay its construction until ongoing issues regarding the use of the pavilion were settled. Rosie failed to fight against that linkage. Only as a result of the current legal action brought by the Union Square Community Coalition was that yoke removed.

Solomon’s injunction requires the city, the Parks Department and the BID to proceed only with the construction of the playground and the renovation of the square. She will rule on the contentious issues regarding the use of the pavilion. A legal resolution of those issues will no longer allow the Parks Department and the BID to deprive our children of their new playground. Its construction is scheduled for completion in about a year.

Perhaps Rosie can still reverse her wrongheaded decision and redeem herself. We would we feel good about voting for a city councilmember who, however belatedly, fights for her constituents’ needs — one who would join the ongoing campaign and litigation to do the right thing finally to help ensure public use for every part of Union Square Park, including its lovely children’s pavilion.
Enid Stubin

Winning the air war

To The Editor:
As readers may know, after a long, frustrating battle, Battery Park City residents and Friends of Hudson River Park have suceeded in greatly limiting the public nuisance of continual tourist flights over our beautiful and supposedly peaceful esplanades and parks. The Federal Aviation Administration did nothing to stop these illegal flights. 

These profiteering, low-flying, noisy and extremely dangerous choppers are now gradually to be legally limited in number and required to fly only over the middle of the Hudson River. We write to publicly thank the attorneys for this landmark improvement to Downtown’s quality of life. Everyone is now asked to help with the enforcement. Neighbors may visit BPC_Forum on yahoogroups and helifreeNYC.org or saveweststreet webpages for further information and the legal specifics.

We have our esplanades and parks back!
Alice Oviatt-Lawrence

Lives are at stake

To The Editor:
I have attended a number of community meetings in recent months where vigorous debate around the new St. Vincent’s Hospital proposal has occurred. Much discussion has focused on the height of the hospital building and the impact of the Rudin residential building plan on the neighborhood. While there does seem to be a consensus that a new hospital is needed, the site is in debate. It has been suggested by some that the best solution is simply locating this tall hospital out of our neighborhood, perhaps in the west Chelsea rail yards.

My family has resided in central Greenwich Village for nearly 35 years and, as a physician, I have worked at St. Vincent’s Hospital since 1974. Recently, my wife was transported by ambulance to the St. Vincent’s Emergency Department, and our son required inpatient care at a Philadelphia trauma hospital following an accident. Fortunately, in both cases, the transport distance was short.

As a Villager who relies on St. Vincent’s Hospital, I must express my safety concerns. Moving our hospital more than a mile away from our neighborhood exposes us to the consequences of ambulance transport delays. For a number of clinical situations (such as trauma, stroke and heart attack), effective surgical and medical therapies are time dependent. In these situations, both ambulance response and transport times directly impact victim survival. Hence, unduly long transport time will result in excess mortality and disability. 

St. Vincent’s has excellent paramedic teams and has pioneered coronary-ambulance use, but its ability to save lives will be limited due to the adverse effect of distance and travel time in city traffic. Although my wife and I love what remains of our quaint Greenwich Village, we do not believe that our lives or those of our neighbors should be needlessly lost because of aesthetic concerns. 
F. Russell Kellogg, M.D.

DAG dashes earlier efforts

To The Editor:
The Armando Perez Community Center, or A.P.C.C., was created following a series of town hall meetings held between 2003 and 2005. A.P.C.C. was charged with creating a plan and proposal for community use of the former CHARAS/El Bohio Cultural and Community Center, the former P.S. 64.

A.P.C.C. created four committees: Structure, Mission and Goals, Landmarks and Legal. The committees met over the course of three years and established a mission and goals for the organization, a landmarking campaign and legal strategies.

Once the mission and goals were established, A.P.C.C. created and distributed a questionnaire to the community at large, incorporated as a 501(c)(3), wrote a draft proposal and held a community forum to begin to get feedback from the larger Lower East Side community.

Development Advisory Group 64, or DAG 64, seeks to ignore the entire community process and begin again, with a small, select group of Coalition for a District Alternative members and allies. This handpicked group has created and distributed a second questionnaire to a select group of corporations and organizations, in order to solicit responses for development and use of CHARAS/El Bohio.

Their model, to sell off and privatize large portions of CHARAS at market rate in order to provide space for community use, is failed, as we have seen with other projects based on the same model, such as Avalon Christie’s unaffordable community space and Christodora House’s unused community space. Their model should be based on CHARAS, and allow for many small organizations to be housed at low cost while providing low-cost and free community space.

I object to the creation of DAG 64, and the exclusive nature of the group. There has been no transparency or public participation in DAG 64’s decision-making process, whatsoever.

The Armando Perez Community Center’s mission and goals, which came out of a full and public community process, must be honored by DAG 64, and cannot continue to be ignored because some members disagreed with the outcome.

The participants in DAG 64’s survey are mainly corporations and larger organizations — few of whom are in need of additional space or ever used CHARAS/El Bohio — including Cabrini Hospital, Henry Street Settlement, University Settlement, Grand Street Settlement, Educational Alliance, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Chinese American Planning Council, charter schools, Asian Americans for Equality, East Village Community Coalition, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Historic Districts Council, NENA, Lower East Side Family Union, Community Board 3, International Center for the Disabled, etc.

Only two of the groups interviewed were ever actually housed in CHARAS, although the eviction of the community center resulted in the displacement of numerous arts, theater, activist and educational groups and organizations. There were few, if any, small arts or activists group programs that are actually in need of space that were interviewed by Pratt for the DAG 64 survey, and only two Latino organizations were interviewed.

DAG 64 must honor the public process that created the A.P.C.C., and build on the spirit and memory of CHARAS/El Bohio and Armando Perez.

Since the sale of CHARAS/El Bohio in June 1998, the Lower East Side community of its supporters has protested and halted interest in the building by many of the same entities DAG 64 is now considering for tenancy or ownership.

CHARAS/El Bohio must be restored to full community use in compliance with the mission and goals established by the L.E.S. community at large.
Susan Howard
Howard is a former organizer, Save Charas Committee, and is a member, Armando Perez Coordinating Committee
Real Soho’s remnant

To The Editor:
Having lived and worked in the Soho/Noho area for the past 35 years, I can say with virtual certainty that Robert Lederman and the street artists have done more (perhaps, unintentionally) to retain Soho’s “art scene feel,” than have all of the vocal detractors, civic groups and quasi-business improvement districts (Soho Alliance) combined. The galleries have mostly moved en masse to Chelsea, having been replaced by the most chichi of boutiques. The unrenovated lofts that once belonged to Soho’s longtime artist-residents — complete with dirty walls and a pulsing creative energy that could literally be felt in the streets below — now have been transformed into lavish, multimillion-dollar urban villas sold and rented to Hollywood’s acting elite.

I have witnessed Soho’s transformation during the last two or three decades, from an art neighborhood/art village that introduced so much new art and art trends into the most stylish strip mall in America.

If not for the street artists still there now, the closest one might come to an art installation would be in a window display in a boutique window.

I think the local residents and businesses that oppose the street artists need to get a grip and realize that complaining about street artists in Soho is like moving to the forest — and then ranting and raving that there are too many damn trees.
Yisroal Boaz Ginsberg

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