Volume 78 - Number 45 / April 15 -21, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Cops blew cool at school

To The Editor:
First of all, let me stipulate this: Many — no, let’s say most — college students are knuckleheads and they do dumb things. They are kids. And while most thinking adults would probably agree with them that Bob Kerrey and Jim Murtha are proving to be heavy-handed, clumsy and, in general, a disaster for the venerable New School, I don’t know anyone who supports taking over a building, although this seems to have become an American tradition.

Notwithstanding that, I have to say that I have never seen such an overreaction by the N.Y.P.D. in my life.

There must have been more than 75 police vehicles out there and more than 200 police officers, many of them in flak vests. The N.Y.P.D.’s Intelligence Unit personnel were out there in their business suits and green ID lapel tags!

Good heavens, there was an unmarked police Intel helicopter circling the building and neighborhood; these guys are supposed to focus on terrorism — not a student protest.

I asked one of the Intel officers if the N.Y.P.D. wasn’t overdoing it — that these are 17- and 18-year-old kids doing their rites-of-passage thing. He said, “Well, they could have hidden weapons in there, you never know.”

This is absolutely crazy. In Europe this sort of college-kid protest thing occurs on nearly a daily basis. The local police send out a single squad car. The university officials sort it out.

And then it got serious. An hour or so into the “occupation,” I witnessed what amounted to a police riot.

I just want to say, I think this response by the N.Y.P.D. was unbelievably overblown and even childish. What the heck is going on with our N.Y.P.D. officials? Have these guys totally lost their sense of proportion?

I tried calling N.Y.P.D. spokesman Paul J. Browne to find out exactly which office in the police chain of command had authorized this massive police action, my intent being to write the head of that department a letter. I’m pretty well certain that the decision was not made at the precinct level. In any event, I couldn’t get past the guy answering Browne’s phone. But his response was pretty illustrative of the overly aggressive mentality surrounding this misbegotten adventure: “Who the hell are you? We don’t have to reveal that information to anyone.”

And that’s out of the N.Y.P.D.’s P.R. department!  

It also looks to me like someone’s head should be rolling over there at N.Y.P.D. Perhaps our local representatives can make some progress with Paul J. Browne’s office in determining the persons responsible for this melodrama.

Joseph Parenteau

The hills were alive 

To The Editor:
Re: “Landmarks delays vote on Phase 2 of park renovation” (news article, March 25) and “Nix mounds, keep alcove” (letter, by Anne-Marie Sumner, April 1):

With the help of four playgrounds in Washington Square Park in the early 1960’s, I raised two (not obese) children. When I was a member of the Washington Square Park Council in the late ’60’s, I was sad to lose the southeast playground for the older children.

As a Little Red and P.S. 41 class parent, I accompanied class trips to the three hills in the ’70’s. The hills came alive with laughter, and children climbed on the climbers. This is something I and others remember. There were thousands of signatures on L.M.N.O.P.’s petitions in favor of the Three Hills playground!

A grandmother of four, I haven’t found a neighborhood play space that my grandsons, 5 and 11, can both really enjoy. The elder participated in Three Hills play-ins, and enjoyed them, by going through or over the fence to run and sled on them. He and a lot of other Village children and adults were elated when, after more community board meetings than I or they care to remember and many meetings with parks, Mr. Vellonakis and the Parks Department approved and incorporated the Three Hills and a cable climber into the redesign of the southwest area of the park. This should make the area a viable play space. During L.M.N.O.P.’s 2003 meeting with Bill Castro and Alan Gerson, we were assured of the inclusion of the Three Hills and an older-children’s playground in Washington Square Park. Village children eagerly await them.

Anne-Marie Sumner, get off the mounds! They stay! That issue, after much debate and many votes, was resolved in favor of the children and their families.

P.S.: Alan Gerson and Tobi Bergman are right: Alcoves for seniors — with cell phones! Drug dealers beware!

Kay Rogers
Rogers is vice president of Lower Man-hattan Neighbors Organization for Parks and Playgrounds (L.M.N.O.P.)

City can’t get it right

To The Editor:
The reopening of Washington Square Park’s newly renovated areas is now at least six months overdue. Residents are treated to the tantalizing spaces — our spaces — which are obviously complete, and yet still not open to the public!

Why can’t the Parks Department keep a fence around the fountain area until it’s done and open the other spaces so we Villagers can enjoy some green space? It’s simply outrageous that the completed areas are not available to us now that the weather is turning fine. Yet another reason not to vote for Mayor Bloomberg next election.

Also, it’s difficult to understand why — with so many kindergartners callously closed out of public school in the fall — funds are being spent to repave streets like Minetta Lane and MacDougal St. when this was not a necessity. Take the money from the unnecessary repaving and put it into the schools — it’s a no-brainer. Change the rules, if necessary. The city cries it’s broke, yet it pursues unnecessary projects and ignores the necessities.

Terese Coe

Judge ‘punted’ on pavilion

To The Editor:
Re “Work on pavilion can get cooking; Lawsuit tossed” (news article, April 1):

Judge Solomon’s dismissal of the lawsuit filed last year by the Union Square Community Coalition is very narrowly drawn and flawed. She contends that the issue of alienation of public parkland for private use is not “ripe,” since the use of the pavilion won’t be determined until the Parks Department issues a request for proposals (R.F.P.). 

In fact, during the last five years, the Union Square business improvement district and the Parks Department have publicly proposed a series of plans that clearly indicate their intention of establishing a fancy restaurant in the pavilion — ignoring the need of the public and our children for every bit of the park’s very limited space.

It seems that the judge “punted” on the main issue of U.S.C.C.’s litigation, namely, alienation of parkland. She has provided a rotten fig leaf to cover the Parks Department’s real intention and for its pretense that an R.F.P. has not yet been issued on its determination of the pavilion’s use. They are not kidding anyone.

Worse yet, her decision allows the restaurant plan to proceed with the installation of kitchen infrastructure to fill the 1,900-square-foot hole already excavated in readiness for the plan, which calls for a 120-seat restaurant in the pavilion. What’s more, the Parks Department is prepared to spend millions of dollars in scarce public funds for a high-end restaurant in the pavilion, including an anonymous donor’s $7 million that is earmarked for its establishment.

Union Square Park is a mere 3.6 acres, and in the past few decades the surrounding area has seen an enormous increase of residents. The neighborhood’s families and children need every inch of the park.   

Space in Union Square Park is a terrible thing to waste for lattes, expensive meals and a nighttime bar in the pavilion. Instead, it would better serve the community to have that huge hole outfitted for public recreational uses.

This judge has dismissed U.S.C.C.’s litigation aimed at determining whether the proposed restaurant — at this location and under these circumstances — is a park purpose. This remains a compelling issue that warrants more legal attention.

Eadie Shanker
Shanker is a board member, Union Square Community Coalition, and coordinator, Save Union Square Park Campaign

Last supper with Pagan

To The Editor:
Re “Squatters caused riots” (letter, by Susan Leelike, March 25):

In response to Susan Leelike:

Antonio Pagan was brilliant, and privately he was the nicest person on earth.

But it is not true that he cared for our community and for grassroots artists like Chico and Mosaic Jim. Quite the contrary. The neighborhood is not “cleaned up.” Not at all! It’s full of out-of-towners who scream, vomit and throw cans and bottles all over the place — even on the beautiful flower beds on E. 12th St. between Avenue A and First Ave.!

Every Saturday morning, and especially on Sundays, I clean up before people go to church. There are visually impaired people; they could slip on a banana peel. Sometimes, I even find needles!

On E. 13th St., the sidewalks are lined with cages — and I mean cages! What a disgrace and eyesore. It is also dangerous when I walk my dog. I am squeezed against them when the revelers pass by, especially when they are drunk.

They bother me and the dog. Before, I was respected by everybody — even the drug dealers, who were ordinary street people, and not “high class,” like the ones in my building, who moved here when rents were too high for working-class people.

The last time I saw Antonio was at a party. I insulted him after I ate the best rice I ever ate, which he had cooked himself. I told him that, before, you had to look over your shoulder — now, you don’t know who your enemy is. You get up for a second and your laptop and bag are gone!

Later on, he didn’t look good anymore. I was angry that he let himself go.

Yes, I wish the neighborhood would be more human. As it was before. So as Antonio was privately. With artists like Chico, Mosaic Jim and Liz Diamond. But it is too late.

Ginette Schenck

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