Volume 78 - Number 42 / March 25 -31, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Chico, the pool and the sharks

To The Editor:
I knew Chico since he was 10 years old. I would see him when I went to the Dry Dock swimming pool on E. 10th St. between Avenues C and D. We also went there for our “bains de minuit” late-night swims when we still could sneak in. Among us was Liz Diamond, a locally very well-known jazz singer.

Then in 1981 I met Keith Haring. At that time, he was a very sweet boy just out in the big city, and before he got involved with people in my building who were into drugs. Of course, I didn’t know his name, and in Paris when they asked me if I knew him, I said no.

With time, he became obnoxious, especially after his contract with Swatch watches. The people Haring was hanging out with wanted to destroy Chico. Why?

I was so happy when Chico started out. To me, he was the heart of the community, which he poured out on the wall. Our neighborhood Rousseau Le Douanier.

It was also the time of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I met his father in 1977. Jean-Michel was always nice to me, and when he was on his skateboard, he would stop to stay hello to me — much to the ire of the people in my building, who wanted not only to get rid of me, but to destroy him. He was saved by a gallery owner — one of the few nice ones, a very nice Italian lady.

Chico wasn’t that lucky. There was this woman. She is now in a very high position in Holland in the art-teaching field. She declared his art “awful.” I don’t know if she was in cahoots with my building people, who also thought of themselves as artists and were very bitter and tried everything just to destroy. Poor Chico, who has so much soul!

When, through your paper, I heard that Chico was leaving, I went to his after-party that you mentioned. I was so upset that I forgot to bring along the two books I wanted to give him. In one, which was printed in England, his art is mentioned. I forgot my cane, too. I tried to tell him on the phone about the books, but he never called back. He probably was too busy.

Ginette Schenk

Trans Alt’s transgressions

To The Editor:
Re “All the world is watching New York City’s streets” (Progress Report article, by Paul Steely White and Wiley Norvell, March 18):

Let’s get something straight here. Transportation Alternatives has done some good work regarding parking placard abuse in Chinatown and is to be respected for that. However, the goal of Transportation Alternatives for livable streets seems to be at any cost, no matter which neighborhood may be negatively affected, especially economically.

Trans Alt fully supports the redesign of Chatham Square, a design which will choke business in Chinatown for years and sends a message to the world that a main artery south of Chinatown, Park Row, will forever be closed. The fact that this artery has been closed since 9/11 has caused major economic problems, and this has been documented over and over again. Yet, Trans Alt favors this $50 million, four-to-five-year construction project in this recession/depression that surely spells doom for many longtime Chinatown businesses.

In addition, Trans Alt jumped on the bandwagon, as did Scott Stringer and Daniel Squadron, and used the accident on East Broadway to promote vehicular/pedestrian safety issues. In fact, East Broadway, which is basically a truck loading zone, is routinely flooded with illegally parked government-sector commuter vehicles every working day. Trans Alt ignored this fact and turned its eyes away. If the van driver in the tragedy had a place to park on the curb on that fateful day, this event surely would have had a different ending.

Where was Trans Alt when it came to placards on East Broadway, and where are they now? Like the Department of Transportation and Mayor’s Office, Trans Alt has its agenda, which has nothing to do with preserving local communities, and will ram through any project, regardless of how many local businesses come to their demise.

Geoff Lee

The anti-everythings

To The Editor:
Re “Park has come a long way, but we’re not done yet” (Progress Report article, by Noreen Doyle, March 18):

Who in New York City “looks at you in disbelief that many people once fought hard against the premise of Hudson River Park”? Certainly not anyone who’s lived here for more than a few years. This city has an amazing reserve of people who protest change of any sort.

Currently, we have organized opposition against Jean Nouvel’s proposed office tower in Midtown because it is too tall for the neighborhood. We have people who oppose the removal of asphalt heaps from Washington Square Park because they’ve been there for decades. We have people who don’t think St. Vincent’s Hospital belongs in Greenwich Village — and I’m not talking about people who simply wish the proposed new tower were smaller and more attractive.

I vividly remember people who were angry that the Hudson River Park would displace sex workers and make the area more attractive for families, arguing that the former were “real” New York and the latter were horribly suburban.

Alan Miles

Skateboarders a bit scary

To The Editor:
Re “BID is building momentum and is delivering results” (Progress Report article, by Jennifer Falk, March 18):

Can someone control the teenage skateboarders on the southeast side of the park? It’s not too much fun to walk by and hope that you are not going to be slammed into by 13-to-15-year-olds skating recklessly down the steps onto the sidewalk.

Jim Carroll

It’s the spirit that counts

To The Editor:
Re “New St. Brigid’s must be more than a ‘vanilla box’” (talking point, by Roland Legiardi-Laura, March 18):

I was one of those who helped at the concerts to save St. Brigid’s, and I was so proud to do so. One thing, though. In calling for a more well-thought-out restoration of St. Brigid’s, Legiardi-Laura writes: “New York’s own St. John the Divine seems as much about the nature of epic project architecture as it is about creating a home for the spirit.”

Unfortunately, at this point, St. John the Divine is only about architecture and not at all about creating a home for the spirit — and I don’t want to see St. Brigid’s fall into the same trap.

Hilda Whitby

Shrinking building

To The Editor:
Re “New School building will be smaller, and is barely an idea” (news article, March 18):

Thanks for front-paging the story on The New School’s building and writing such a thorough article. Bravo!

And should your readers think that there were only officials there from both sides, you might want to let them know that two mere mortal residents also attended the Feb. 27 (my birthday!) meeting, as well as pushed for it. Bob Myrstad and I attended the meeting on behalf of Village Residents Alliance to represent the interests of the residents who will be affected by this project. Anyone who wants to contact us should go to villageresidentsalliance.wordpress.com.

Also slightly underrepresented was the role that Rosie Mendez and her chief of staff, Lisa Kaplan, played in gathering all the powers that be and arranging the meeting with The New School. It never would’ve happened without their persistence.

Susan Kramer

Squatters caused riots

To The Editor:
Re “Pagan instigated riot” (letter, by Paul DeRienzo, Marchy 18):

Paul DeRienzo blames Antonio Pagan for the riot in Tompkins Square Park.

I blame Mr. DeRienzo and the squatters who fought for the right of the homeless to sleep in a public park — and at the same time fought against the development of low-income housing in a not-as-public garden.

The squatters’ so-called demonstrations to protect the homeless, with their aggressive methodology, antagonized both the community and the police.

And we certainly can’t ignore the terrible police overreaction.

So, many of those who called Antonio a gentrifier did not understand that he was standing up for his neighborhood and stating that a poor community was entitled to the safety and quality of life and city services that any other “better” neighborhood received.

I did not always agree with Antonio, but I certainly appreciated his desire for a better community for us all.

Susan Leelike

McGrath always listened

To The Editor:
Re “Rosemary McGrath, 79, leader in C.B. 2 and G.O.P.” (obituary, March 11):

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Rosemary McGrath. When I spoke before Community Board 2 I was always happy to see her in attendance as I knew she would listen to everyone who spoke and stand up for what she believed was right. I always found her to be very kind and thoughtful. The community has lost a valuable asset. She was truly an original.

Lynn Pacifico

Again, masses fail us

To The Editor:
Re “Dave Smith, 90, Penn South leader, co-op housing advocate” (obituary, March 18):

The obituary on Dave Smith indicates Penn South remains a nonprofit co-op — a fact that was “his proudest achievement.”

Alas, the temptations were too great at other former nonprofit co-ops, where co-operators voted to go on the market in order to become rich men and rich women.

This would support the idea of hardened materialism in the consciousness of the masses as the primary driving force for the loss of affordable housing in New York City.

The ideals of a small number of men and women cannot stand up against the hardened materialism of the masses of our fellow citizens. The tidal wave of greed sweeps away everything in its path.

Michael Gottlieb

Building cheap on Bowery

To The Editor:
Peter Fine, the producer of the Broadway musicals “RENT” and “In The Heights” and owner of Skidmore House, is widely recognized as a philanthropist and exemplary citizen. However, there’s another side to Mr. Fine. He’s the developer of a luxury residential building that is being constructed on the Bowery at Fourth St. His workers receive very low wages with no medical benefits, no insurance, no benefits at all. Their work is dangerous and they have worked through the bitter cold of this past winter.

When skilled workers, such as carpenters and iron workers, are forced to work for wages far below the prevailing union rates, it presents a grave threat to union standards and weakens the labor union movement in this country. Mr. Fine is taking advantage of the dire state of our economy by pitting workers against each other for low-paying jobs. Erecting this luxury building “on the cheap” increases the risk of accidents, not only to the workers, but to the people who live in this area.

For many years, the East Side has traditionally been a strong working-class community. It would be a shame if the people in this neighborhood do not speak up for the workers and help them in every way possible.

I implore everyone to call our elected officials and urge them to use their influence to bring about negotiations between Peter Fine and the workers.

Trudy Freeman

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