Volume 79, Number 02 | June 17 - 23, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

High Line’s sweet side

To The Editor:
I am a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. For my entire life, lo these 83 years, I have lived in New York. After I retired, I started traveling around the world and began writing stories. In the last 18 years, I have visited six continents and more than 60 countries.

So here I was today, visiting New York’s great new park called the High Line. I had a marvelous time walking along the new, old railroad almost tracks. I met my friend Connie Jensen at the 16th St. entrance, which has the elevator. We had to wait for about 10 minutes because the place was so crowded. It was a wonderful experience because it is a park with a history.

And there is some history, too, as relates to we Weisbergers and the High Line. Our family came over from Austria-Hungry in the middle of the 19th century. There were nine Weisbergers; four boys and five girls, who all lived on Delancey St. One of my cousins, Anna Weisberger, needed to go to work after she had a baby boy.

Anna found a job in the old National Biscuit Company on 10th Ave. and 16th St. She and thousands of other ladies went to work each day packing cookies, which had just come on the market. They were called OREOs.

When she went to work on her first day, she was told that she could eat as many cookies as she wanted. She came home that first night and told the family how many cookies she ate. I remember after her first day, she never had another cookie. 

Wow! That must be fun, we all said.

Over the next 20 years, Anna had a secure, rather well-paying job, but she never considered eating OREO cookies as one of her benefits.

But, unfortunately, NBC found that it was not financially beneficial to remain in the New York area and they closed the plant.

For almost 40 years, the tracks leading up to the former plant lay barren, until some wealthy New Yorkers put together a program to turn transportation into beauty.

Recently, Connie invited me to see what is happening with the old railway sidings, that for all those years brought, flour, sugar and chocolate into the National Biscuit factory where my cousin, Anna, used to put those cookies into boxes for little kids to enjoy.

Gene Weisberger

Pier 40 déjà vu

To The Editor:
Re “With longer lease at Pier 40, would Related re-emerge?” (news article, June 10):

Having just read the articles on the continuing saga of Pier 40 in both The Villager and Downtown Express, I am disgusted that unlike Rip Van Winkle, who awoke after 20 years to find everything different, I am finding déjà vu all over again. The same obdurate contempt for the public interest expressed by Diane Taylor, chairperson of the Hudson River Park so-called Trust; her arrogant characterization of the community opposition as a “problem” and her dismissal of community consultation or consensus; Franz Leichter’s description of the formerly agreed-upon 30-year lease as “handcuffs”; and the same lack of forthright political support for The People’s Pier proposal that would increase the city’s educational and recreational facilities.

Does the cabal for the “Trust” really believe that we need more traffic on the Lower West Side, more upscale restaurants, more space for expensive entertainment like Cirque du Soleil (now nicely ensconced at Randall’s Island, easily reached by public transportation and with a huge parking lot) and more eyesore fakery like the second Yankee Stadium? Or should we just cynically “follow the money”?

Joan Gregg

The true cost of new park

To The Editor:
Alone, I return to Washington Square Park at the off-hour of 7 p.m. on a Friday. I’m curious to check in with myself again on my first impressions. 

Entering through the northwest gate (location of the famous Hanging Tree), where the old men played chess, I notice that those natural stone tables have been replaced by the same material that now makes up the slabs for seating around the fountain — charcoal synthetic? Instead of the seats that formerly accompanied the tables, now there are benches — silly-looking and nonfunctional. And with the widened path comes a grassy island in the middle that feels much like furniture clutter.  

The sensation one has entering now is of a mall, a flat promenade, with grass all around. Yet, Washington Square Park is not the Great Lawn in Central Park, in spite of what some would have you think. Jane Jacobs had this one right, too.

Washington Square Park is a park for the people, not flowering plants.  

The plaza “raised to grade” — to use the leveling language of the contractors — is not the same place. What’s so great about seeing the fountain from all angles? Before, you had the sense of a journey. As you entered the park, there was somewhere to go; the fountain plaza was a destination — that’s what made Washington Square unique among city parks, it had a center. Now, you feel exposed, there’s no place to hide — or is that the idea, I wonder, as one of the Parks Department personnel barrels down the path in a go-cart?  

The contrast between the new Washington Square and the old one is made tangible by a glance at the as-yet-untouched eastern side, which is like comparing a jungle to a manicured mall. The lush trees providing shade, the gently sloping paths, and the low, friendly pipe-rail fences you can park your butt on all look inviting. One feels drawn to this comfortable unrenovated area, as if to shelter. It won’t be long now before it too is gone, as plans to start the second phase of the reconstruction project won’t wait for summer to end. 

Only after the whole park has been “landscaped” will folks begin to understand just what has been lost. The statue of Garibaldi, in fighting mode, seems to be defending the region from attack, as he prepares to unsheathe his sword and do battle with the evildoers. He looks pissed. Who can blame him? This is his turf. You’re next, sucker, Parks seems to say. 

I wouldn’t mess with Gari, if I were Parks.  

Tonight the fountain is a flood. A grand total of three young people bravely perch on its perimeter. In the historic park you could sit on the fountain’s rim for hours reading a book. That’s been rendered impossible now. A stone plaque in front of the fountain as you enter from Fifth Ave. through the arch, gives credit, where credit is due:

The Restoration of the Fountain and Plaza
Was made possible by the families of
Lawrence A. Tisch and Preston R. Tisch

Translation: This radical redesign was brought to you courtesy N.Y.U.’s corporate donors.  

Being fully visible from the entrance, the park has lost its mystery, its aura made smaller by becoming part of the grid, an extension of Fifth Ave., whereas, before, it had been a gateway to Greenwich Village, somewhere to go.  

The basic question we need to ask is who is the park for? There is a tendency to see everything as a show, designed for the eyes only. What’s at stake is not just aesthetics — but what is the purpose of this park? When you think about what has been the essence of Washington Square Park — as a gathering place — you  begin to “see” the cost.

Kathryn Adisman
The square is looking good

To The Editor: 
I’m delighted to have Washington Square Park back, and I’ll take it quadrant by quadrant, however it’s done. The landscaping looks hardy and familiar. Removing that central statue makes sense. Opening the views so you can enjoy looking through to the lights of Sixth Ave. and Broadway feels so, well, frankly, Parisian. And it seems that my neighbors are enjoying it, as well. We’ve all been to the park.

The signs about passive grass and how dog waste ruins lawns are instructive and sensible. I hear the new stone benches, unfortunately, are prime targets for skateboarders, whose wheels can damage them. I didn’t see any damage. I saw a jazz band and an electric piano. Can’t imagine schlepping a piano to the park but what a lovely sound. No turtle races at night nor the jump-the-cans guys. Just a lovely evening with adult sights and sounds, groups of people talking and listening and the sounds of conversation. Maybe the local restaurants could take some hints about reasonable noise levels.

I wonder about the dog runs and the mounds and the spillover effect of too many dogs in small spaces and the vermin in the mounds. But the renovation seems to have found reasonable solutions to existing problems, and I trust it will, hopefully, do something about those mounds.

I couldn’t ask for more, and I look forward to  greeting each new quadrant as it returns renovated to the park.

Renee Feinberg

Oh man, what a bummer

To The Editor:
Re “It’s official: Park’s phase one is formally opened” (news article, June 3):

Makes me miss the ’60s even more. We had some swell times in that park when we gathered there — where the water now snorts and caterwauls — and danced our psychedelic dances and sang our groovy songs. I’m glad I kept the photographs.

J. Wishwood

Vilnius is our cathedral

To The Editor:
Re “Dolan celebrates ‘200 years of love’ at Old St. Pat’s” (news article, June 10):

I would very much like to talk to Archbishop Dolan about Our Lady of Vilnius. This church has played a very important role in my ongoing spiritual development, and I know that I am not alone. I speak for many of my fellow parishioners who are now attending other churches. They continue to attend Mass, but describe their new parish experience as “not the same” and somewhat lacking. Life goes on, but it is not the same, not as rich. 

Archbishop Dolan should know what Our Lady of Vilnius meant to us. There was something there that needs to be respected, treasured and propagated, not discarded and dismissed. 

The Archdiocese of New York needs to understand what we have lost and what we mourn, even as we pray and work for our church’s restoration. 

There is a flame here that needs to be nurtured, not extinguished. Even if the archdiocese wants to demolish Our Lady of Vilnius, they should still be very interested in this flame.

Christina Nakraseive

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