Volume 78 - Number 23 / NOVEMBER 5 - 11, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Haven’t yet begun to fight!

To The Editor:
Re “St. Vincent’s gets approval to demolish landmark site” (news article, Oct. 28):

On Tues., Oct. 28, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, by a vote of 6 to 4, approved the hardship application of St. Vincent’s Hospital, allowing it to raze the O’Toole Building, which has been acknowledged by the L.P.C. itself to be an architecturally significant building within the Greenwich Village Historic District.

This building was already landmarked when it was acquired by St Vincent’s in 1973. In the view of those authorities familiar with the Landmarks Law, it appears that the commissioners who voted in favor of St. Vincent’s failed to apply the proper statutory standards regarding the hardship application. As a result, this decision, if allowed to stand, will ultimately mean the destruction of the character the Village and effectively render the Landmarks Law moot.

The L.P.C. vote was supposed to be solely concerning the O’Toole Building, and pursuant to the statute, O’Toole can only be torn down if it can no longer be used for its present purposes. The building is now being used for physicians’ offices and can continue to be so used. Therefore, the application should have been rejected.

However, by mixing apples with oranges, those voting in favor of the application, in reaching their decision, relied on the hospital’s alleged financial problems; its professed difficulty in renovating the present, main hospital campus, located across from O’Toole; and the question of whether any alternative sites were available to St. Vincent’s. None of these considerations were relevant to the question before the commission, yet the decision turned on just those issues.

Consider then that St. Vincent’s had not even applied for a financial hardship, nor had it opened its books to the commission, which would have been necessary had it made such an application. Nor did St. Vincent’s establish, as a fact, that there are no alternative sites to which it can relocate.

The decision also appears to be fatally flawed in other ways. St. Vincent has always contended that the hospital has to be one, huge tower. However, prior to the Oct. 28 meeting, the L.P.C. had already decided that the proposed hospital building’s size was inappropriate for the Village. St. Vincent’s never reapplied for a certificate of appropriateness, so it would appear that the commission has granted the hospital the right to tear down a historic building in order to erect an edifice that the L.P.C. has already deemed inappropriate. This decision defies common sense.

We in Protect the Village Historic Distric will not stand idly by and let this decision go unchallenged. We will appeal this travesty of justice and make sure it is overturned.

Finally, let me be clear: I support St. Vincent’s need to modernize, but I see no inherent conflict between that need and the preservation of our beloved Village. The St. Vincent’s catchment area is now the West Side from the Battery to 59th St. There is no valid reason that the hospital remain here, in our limited communal area. Let St. Vincent’s, with the help of representatives from our city, state and federal authorities build, without constraints, present or future, outside the historic district where it can truly best serve the entire West Side community.
Gary A. Tomei
Tomei is a founding member, Protect the Village Historic District


Let’s fight, but next time

To The Editor:
Re “Protecting the right to vote in extraordinary times” (talking point, by Alan Jay Gerson, Oct. 28):

Councilmember Gerson and his co-sponsors did 

right when they tried to get a third-term referendum before the next election. Though I never liked term limits (“Stop me before I vote again!”) the current two-term limit was put in place by direct vote of the people and should be undone the same way. We are a republic, yes, but our expectations are democratic: We expect our will to be respected by the mayor and the other hired hands.

That said, I sympathize with Alan and other councilmembers who, having been beaten on the referendum proposal, voted aye on the third-term bill. If that’s the only way to loosen up the stifling, wasteful, two-term limit, so be it.

But one of these days, not before the next election, there will be a referendum on the newly legal third term. My advice to pro-third termers is to fight next time. Twice in the ’90s, the opponents of a two-term limit sat on their hands while Ron Lauder used his considerable personal resources to sell it. Next time, there must be a serious effort — that is, a well-financed, coordinated, aggressive effort — to convince New Yorkers that there is value in retaining experienced officeholders and even more value in reserving to ourselves, the voters, the right to say when it’s time for a politician to go. 
Jim Smith


Gerson done good

To The Editor:
I was very happy to hear that the Honorable Alan Gerson voted to extend term limits. I was not happy when they put term limits into effect years ago, and was glad to see Mayor Bloomberg sign the bill Monday. This does not mean the incumbents are shoo-ins: The voters can either re-elect them or vote for someone else.
 David Weinberger
Weinberger is Democratic district leader, 64th Assembly District, Part A


Term-limits horse sense

To The Editor:
Re “Again, let voters decide on limits” (editorial, Oct. 23):

I agree with everything you say in your recent editorial against extending term limits, except for a statement made at the hearing, which you reprinted. It said that the city values carriage horses more than taxpayers because there were nine hearings over a short time.

Indeed, the city actually does value the carriage-horse industry more than the average taxpayer. In 1989, a law was passed to keep the horses working in the Central Park area. A sunset clause was slipped in at the last minute, which meant the law expired in 1993. That is the reason why, in the next four years, there were many, many hearings.

The tiny carriage-horse industry is politically connected — they were then and they are now. And Christine Quinn is part of that establishment, which is why the current bill to ban horse-drawn carriages, sponsored by Tony Avella, has gone nowhere. Like the taxpayers, the city also does not care about the much-beleaguered and dispirited carriage horses.

The extent of damage the council has done to the democratic process is yet to be seen. But people will not forget. The process has been devalued for years to come. Why should we ever trust any of these “representatives” again? And why should we bother voting? They were all beneficiaries of term limits and knew the rules going into the game. They violated a very deep trust and it will never again be business as usual.
Elizabeth Forel
Forel is a member, Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages


Gerson is ‘convoluted’

To The Editor:
Re “Protecting the right to vote in extraordinary times” (talking point, by Alan Jay Gerson, Oct. 28):

Councilmember Gerson’s long-winded explanation of why he opposed extending term limits, then flipped and voted for the extension, is almost as convoluted and deceptive as his 16 proposed anti-street artist vending laws.

What I found especially interesting was this sentence: “The present combination of the credit crisis, the home foreclosure crisis, and Wall St. losses undeniably constitutes unprecedented circumstances.”

My question for the councilmember is: How is it that with all the unprecedented crises you mentioned — including 9/11 and its aftereffects — you have spent your entire seven years in public office trying to destroy the constitutional rights of New York City street artists? Why is that the obsessive focus of so much of your time?
Robert Lederman
Lederman is president, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)


More on POP forum

To The Editor:
On behalf of The Power of Peace (POP) Coalition, I would like to thank you for writing a front-page story about our event at City Hall on Oct. 27 (“Actors, activists ask students to help end cycle of violence,” by Casey Samulski). This coverage both validates our efforts and will stimulate more interest in the coalition.

Some important information was left out of the article: Angel Seda is a community organizer at GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side); Anthony Feliciano, Democratic district leader, was one of the speakers and is a founding member of the POP Coalition, but wasn’t mentioned in the article; more than 75 teenagers attended the event.

We look forward to continuing to work with The Villager to raise awareness about efforts to decrease violence in our community.
Miriam Fogelson
Fogelson is director of leadership programs, The Lower Eastside Girls Club

Pols all bow to N.Y.U.

To The Editor:
Re “Glad that Met gets lease” (letter, by Rosie Mendez, Tom Duane, Christine Quinn, Scott Stringer and Deborah Glick, Oct. 22):

Councilmember Mendez et al. stated in The Villager that New York University’s decision to renew Met Food supermarket’s lease is evidence of the university’s “commitment to supporting community sustainability.” Not so.

This renewal was at a rent that exceeds that of comparable N.Y.U. tenants, such as Trader Joe’s on E. 14th St.; and it emerged after eight months of protracted negotiations during which the community was held at bay and, indeed, subverted in its efforts to support Met Food by a few of the elected officials — under pressure by N.Y.U. — whose self-congratulatory letter you published.

The Met item was removed from discussion at several Community Board 3 committee meetings, and C.B. 3’s chairperson was not allowed to attend the “secret negotiations” between Met, N.Y.U. and elected officials. Direct community actions on behalf of Met were discouraged, as well. Why? Because, we were told, such pressure would put N.Y.U. on the defensive and could endanger the negotiations and, therefore, the lease renewal.

Whatever. A victory is a victory, however delayed. That Met will now remain in this neighborhood is, in fact, cause for celebration. It’s just not cause to bow and scrape in gratitude to our not-so-friendly neighborhood land baron or to gush about N.Y.U.’s “spirit of community collaboration.” That spirit was completely lacking throughout this sorry process, including among some now crowing about how “the university came through for us all.” If N.Y.U. had genuine community spirit, it would have offered a fair lease to Met within a month.
Susan Leelike and Marion Osmun


Banana Republic of Soho

To The Editor:
The same reckless consumerism and greed that has plunged the world into financial disaster is soon to evict The Paul Taylor Dance Company from the second-floor Soho space where it has been since 1987, and replace it with yet another Banana Republic.

According to The New York Times, the landlord is a Holocaust survivor who bought the seven-floor building in 1966 for about $435,000. The Paul Taylor Company now pays about $360,000 a year for its floor. There already is a Banana Republic on the ground floor, and presumably the other upper floors provide the landlord with a reasonable living. The landlord says he has his children to consider, and a partner who is very sick. The lure of getting market-rate rents of more than $100 a square foot evidently overcame his admiration for his tenant’s contribution to the city’s arts.
Diana Boernstein

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. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.

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