Volume 78, Number 52 | June 3 - 9, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Letters to the Editor

Square’s benches of shame

To The Editor:
Re “Fountain flowing, flowers blooming, restored square bursts back to life” (news article, May 20):

Last Tuesday evening, as I took my dog out for a walk, I was surprised to see the core portion of Washington Square Park open again. The park looks enchanted — that people are allowed to remain on the grass makes it doubly so. Yet my heart grew heavy when I noticed that all around me, almost every bench was comprised of rainforest wood, logged from the Amazon.

Despite the twin catastrophes of climate change and tropical deforestation, New York City agencies use rainforest wood for tens of thousands of benches, 12.5 miles of boardwalks, subway track ties, the South Street Seaport, the Brooklyn Bridge promenade and the docks of the Staten Island Ferry. In fact, New York City is the largest consumer of tropical hardwood in North America.

It’s too late to prevent the tragedy that occurred in Washington Square Park. But, right now, city agencies are proposing projects — including three new marine-transfer stations and renovations of Hudson River Park and the Staten Island Ferry docks — that call for tens of thousands of board feet of rainforest wood, logged from the Amazon and the largely intact rainforests of Guyana.

Our city can do better. We can institute a smart, responsible procurement policy that protects pristine rainforests — and that doesn’t fund the criminal syndicates, forced labor and land theft associated with much of this logging.

To learn more about alternative building materials and how we can stop New York City’s addiction to tropical hardwoods, please visit Rainforests of New York: rfny.org.

Tim Doody


Park is boring and generic

To The Editor:
Re “Fountain flowing, flowers blooming, restored square bursts back to life” (news article, May 20):

After the initial euphoria of just having the park opened and reveling in the perfect spring day, I reflected on where the $13 million went, and now realize what disturbs me.

I miss the sunken fountain, so beautifully set apart from the street. Now the fountain is an extension of the street, instead of the beginning of something completely different. You felt drawn down — invited into the fountain. Now it’s more like the fountain is an object you are supposed to look at instead of being drawn into, to experience.

The redesigned park looks like something imposed on the Village, boring and uneventful: flattened out. The fountain area, bland and generic, instead of exciting and unique, looks more like a corporate plaza than a park. The huge walkway with the gigantic planters in the middle looks like an outdoor mall in Wisconsin. And that poor tree around the fountain, died of a heartache.

Now linear — before idiosyncratic; there was an off-centeredness that was deliberate. It represented people who live in the Village who march to a different drummer.

Our park embodied democracy, now transformed undemocratically. This brand-spanking-new park is one architect’s vision to satisfy the minority.

I’ve heard many an adjective for the lamps: “faux retro Victorian,” “a cheap imitation of something that was bad to begin with.” The landscaping is prissy, organized patches of vegetation not unlike that found in the gardening section of any Home Depot.

But it all goes so well with N.Y.U.’s Kimmel Center. The park now looks like another N.Y.U. project, with the two telltale plaques on either side of the “Tisch! Fountain.” I can’t bring myself to say that. Too bad the fountain hadn’t been auctioned off to the highest bidder. It seems a $2.5 million advertisement for perpetuity is just dirt cheap.

Wouldn’t advise sitting on those black granite seats around the fountain for more than half a minute in the summer sun. Ouch! The most important seating in the park is hot as hell; in the winter, cold as ice, not exactly people friendly! This replaced our three-tiered seating beloved by musicians and their audiences.

The walls that surrounded the theater in the round created an acoustical field for the music; sound bounced back out, radiating from behind. Now there is nothing to deflect the music, it all gets meshed together with the competing sound of gushing water.

With the stroke of an architect’s pen, the park was forever stripped of its bohemian character, wiping away decades of history. We hope this sacrifice of comfort and possible clamoring for a conservancy (the privatization of our public park) will not kill the spontaneous creativity that happened naturally here, once upon a time. We hope that glorious time will not die like the tree in the circle.

Sharon Woolums 


Oh, so now you like it

To The Editor:
Re “A park is reborn” (editorial, May 20):

“Fantastic.” The design that was shown in the plan is almost the same as the one you say is now “fantastic.” Shame on you for poor civic leadership. There wasn’t a moment during the design phase when you did not discourage the supporters and encourage all dissenters. Isn’t it easy to climb aboard the wagon now. 

Elizabeth Ely 


Veggies edgy about photo

To The Editor:
Re “Goth and gluten in the mix at the Veggie Pride Parade” (photo, May 20):

Thank you for the captioned photo in The Villager showing the Veggie Pride Parade.  We greatly appreciate the exposure.

I’m a little perplexed, however, why there was mention of the Greenmarket. We are not affiliated with them, and, of course, the Greenmarket regularly features vendors that sell chicken, cheese, fish, lamb, lobster and eggs. We don’t see meat of any kind (organic or not) as being “green,” by any stretch.

Regarding the photo, one person in our parade wore a goth getup (old Halloween costume?) and you decided to run it. We naturally have little control over how people dress for our parade. Perhaps next time you can publish an image that tells people what we’re actually about, namely, bringing an end to factory farming; more consciousness about the connection between livestock — i.e. meat — and global warming; and veggie options in the public schools.

In any case, thank you for covering our event.

Pamela Rice
Rice is organizer, Veggie Pride Parade


Standing up to cyclists

To The Editor:
Re “Sidewalk ‘road warrior’” (Scoopy’s Notebook, May 20): 

Sean Sweeney is my hero. I admire him for standing up to one of the many bicyclists who think they can illegally ride on the sidewalk as well as ignore every traffic law when they ride in the street. Bravo, Sean!

Paul Piccone


Sweeney’s dilemma

To The Editor:
Re “Sidewalk ‘road warrior’” (Scoopy’s Notebook, May 20):

I was very distressed to see the photo of Sean Sweeney with the black eye as a result of being punched by a cyclist he confronted. If the cyclist was “barreling down the sidewalk toward him...at a rapid rate,” it’s obvious the cyclist was in the wrong. And striking someone physically, except in self-defense, is also wrong.

What puzzles me is that Mr. Sweeney, as Scoopy notes, is “a vocal critic of the Grand St. bike lane.” Seems to me that  bike lanes encourage cyclists to avoid riding on the sidewalks. Bike lanes also, verified by statistics, reduce cycling fatalities.

I believe it’s in the interest of both cyclists and pedestrians to have bike lanes.

Michael Gottlieb


Look! It’s Soho-Man!

To The Editor:
“Scoopy’s Notebook” in your May 20 issue (“Sidewalk ‘road warrior’”) led with a literally unbelievable piece, saying that Sean Sweeney confronted “a young cyclist...barreling down the sidewalk toward him,” and “the two came face to face, with the rider still racing at a rapid rate. Sweeney abruptly grabbed the bike’s handlebars,” and following that, the cyclist gave him a black eye.

Since Sweeney clearly possesses superhuman speed, strength and agility, in order to do what you describe, clearly the cyclist could never have punched him, unless Sweeney deliberately allowed him to.

Perhaps Superman Sweeney wanted to create some anti-bicyclist propaganda, to fit your agenda?

Or maybe you’re just lying, and the cyclist was going slowly, which is the only way someone could grab the handlebars and stop the bike instantaneously.

“Rapid” means “fast.” No way an ordinary human can grab the handlebars of a speeding bicycle and bring it to a dead stop. Obviously, the bicyclist was going slowly. To pretend he was speeding — and thus endangering pedestrians — you ran a patently false story. Yes, obviously, Sweeney got punched — he grabbed a stranger, which is highly aggressive. The stranger proactively defended himself. He gave a verbal warning, which allowed the aggressor, Sweeney, a chance to back off, which he declined.

Bottom line, attacking bicyclists isn’t justified.

Sean could have yelled at him, for example.

Steve Freed



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