Volume 79, Number 5 | July 8 - 14, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Pete Gleason’s poison pen

To The Editor:
All the rhetoric and prose regarding Alan Gerson’s City Council attendance comes from Pete Gleason and his mentor and poison-pen pal, Sean Sweeney, who, remarkably, as president of Downtown Independent Democrats, is neither a registered voter nor a U.S. citizen. 

The barrage of viral e-mails is neither accurate nor truthful, and is a smokescreen to cover up more significant absences in Pete Gleason’s credentials as a candidate. 

Reports regarding Alan Gerson’s Council attendance are based on a statistical sleight of hand. Councilman Gerson was either at his committee meetings or representing the Downtown community at meetings with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation or other Downtown entities and officials. Mayor Bloomberg even calls him “a workhorse, not a show horse.” The councilman’s record of achievement speaks for itself.

Upon his election in 2001, and immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, Alan was appointed to chair the Council’s  Select Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment prior to his inauguration as councilman. This assignment was in no small part due to Alan’s long involvement and in-depth knowledge of Lower Manhattan.

From the inception of the Select Committee, Councilmember Gerson has worked diligently to provide assistance for large and small business recovery. He has convened and worked with Lower Manhattan groups to identify special needs, and lobbied with the Economic Development Corporation, the Empire Sate Development Corporation and the L.M.D.C. to expand program coverage. He pressed for changes in eligibility and expansion of boundaries with the Small Firm Attraction and Retention Program and the Business Recovery Grant and secured unprecedented funding from city, state and federal sources for his district.

As for Mr. Gleason, his Web site is noticeably lacking in legislative involvement or membership in civic organizations actively and regularly engaged in the multiplicity of issues in this district.

You will notice common threads in the sparse public record of Mr. Gleason’s life and experience: None of his jobs or career choices last for very long; he has not managed a major office, regular personnel or a significant budget; he has been absent from Manhattan and certainly from City Council District 1 for most of his life.

He was born in the Bronx sometime in the 1960s and moved to Westchester in 1967. Prior to moving to North Moore St. in Tribeca in 2000 he lived on the Upper East Side for 10 years. Admittedly, he did serve as a police officer and firefighter on the Lower East Side.

Councilman Gerson has lived in, worked in and served our district all his life, a significant portion of it as an appointed volunteer. He daily convenes, attends and mediates countless meetings before, between and after City Council meetings. There isn’t one of us who lacks his phone numbers, his attention, his counsel.
Zella Jones

Bowery b’hoys and g’hals

To The Editor:
Re “BAN plans to keep the building boom on Bowery at bay” (news article, June 24):

In a recent letter to the City Planning Commission, historian Luc Sante called the Bowery “one of the great American streets, as charged with historical significance as Beale Street in Memphis or Basin Street in New Orleans.”

If more widely known, the Bowery’s historical significance would surely broaden calls to preserve it.

The Bowery was originally an Indian footpath. The Dutch made it the connection between Peter Stuyvesant’s farm (called Bouwerie) and New Amsterdam.

Later, as convergence point for Chinatown, Little Italy, Noho, the East Village and the Lower East Side, it was the major thoroughfare for waves of immigrants.

It was the city’s first entertainment district, where P.T. Barnum, Yiddish theater, the cancan, minstrel shows and the vaudeville hook were all introduced.

More recently, punk rock was born here.

In the 1800s, the cocky, flamboyant Bowery b’hoys and g’hals influenced fashion as well as American idiom, introducing terms like “chum,” “pal,” “kick the bucket” and “going on a bender.” Walt Whitman embraced their colorful slang in his poetry.

Those who have lived, worked on or been inspired by the Bowery area include songwriter Stephen Foster; actors Edwin Booth and Edwin Forrest; writers Stephen Crane, William Burroughs and Kate Millett; poets Diane DiPrima, Amiri Baraka and John Giorno; Hare Krishna founder Swami Prabhupada; painters James Rosenquist, Fernand Leger, Roy Lichtenstein and Mark Rothko; photographers Weegee, Robert Frank and Nan Goldin; filmmaker Martin Scorsese; and musicians Thelonious Monk, Patti Smith and The Ramones. It was also on the Bowery that Mae West told Cary Grant to “Come up and see me some time.” 

Known for bars and flophouses in the latter 20th century, the Bowery was chronicled in the 1955 documentary classic “On the Bowery,” and immortalized by Weegee with his photographs inside the Sammy’s on the Bowery nightclub. Since 1879, The Bowery Mission has been providing food, shelter, employment help and rehabilitation for thousands of the city’s down and out.

The area has also been well served by the beautiful Liz Christy Garden, the city’s oldest community garden. Up until very recently the area was enriched by the Bouwerie Lane Theatre, Amato Opera and CBGB. All are now closed and only the Bowery Poetry Club carries the torch of the Bowery’s long, distinguished performing-arts history.   

The Bowery’s recent building boom threatens its low-rise historic character, its multicultural diversity, its artist community and its thriving lighting, jewelry and restaurant-supply districts. Also threatened is Lower Manhattan’s last living and working ethnic community: Chinatown. Such overdevelpment completely contradicts what has made the area so attractive and economically viable. As preservationist/restauranteur Keith McNally (Balthazar, Minetta Tavern) wrote recently in another letter to the City Planning Commission:

“Allowing skyscrapers to populate the Bowery’s east side will not only generate an eyesore of ridiculous incongruence but also displace the very type of businesses and residents that constitute the Bowery’s main allure. Development in any neighborhood may be inevitable, but in as noted and distinctive an area as the Bowery, it is desirable only as long as it preserves the neighborhood’s character while enhancing its value.”

It is thus in the city’s economic best interest to extend the low-rise protective zoning found on the Bowery’s west side to its endangered east side.  

It is hoped that both the City Planning Commission and the City Council will join Councilman Alan Gerson in supporting the East Bowery Preservation Plan. 
David Mulkins
Mulkins is a co-founder, Bowery Alliance of Neighbors (BAN)
More than tiles at risk

To The Editor:
I was grateful to see your coverage of the meeting with NYC Transit (“Anxiety over 9/11 tiles is fanned by Transit plan,” July 1). But, at the risk of seeming unfeeling about the tiles — which I treasure and pass daily — what about the huge loss to Villagers of open space and sky? One more intrusion on our status as a historic, protected, unique district, eating away at the fabric of who and what and where we are — N.Y.U., Washington Square Park, St. Vincent’s. What will be left when the dust clears?

The last we heard, there were three possible locations for the M.T.A. to put the fans, at least one of which was below ground. Must we forever bow to expediency and money? What about the three current, dreadful architectural proposals by the M.T.A. for Mulry Square, a corner with all the streets coming together, that is one of the most open and visible areas in the city?

I am discouraged and depressed. Whatever they put there is forever and the space lost, forever as well. And while I’m at it, whatever happened to the 2007 promise that work would be done on Jefferson Market Library in 2009?

Cynthia Crane 
Crane is chairperson, Mulry Angle/W. 11th St. Block Association

Unity in cultural diversity

To The Editor:
Re “Dominic effect” (Scoopy’s Notebook, July 1):

Dear Scoopy, what big ears you have!

What me worry? Quite the contrary, I believe Dominic Pisciotta to be an exceptional community board chairperson, who will continue to recognize and support the continued success of the Arts Task Force’s effort to retain and support arts and culture produced in our district. I do not believe there will be repercussions from the contested board elections, in which four candidates had participated in the Arts Task Force, and may have voted for each other out of mutual respect, but not everyone, since two ran against each other for the same position.

Indeed, I spotted Scoopy at ABC No Rio cultural arts center, celebrating a $1.65 million capital award to rebuild from City Councilmember Alan Gerson and Borough President Scott Stringer. Chairperson Pisciotta and C.B. 3 unanimously supported ABC No Rio as our top arts capital priority, and also supported our latest effort to join in with Community Boards 1, 2, 4 and 5 to retain the arts and reverse the decline in venues, for which Scott Stringer and Alan Gerson’s cultural director, Paul Nagle, have also provided instrumental support. That is the “Dominic effect,” unity in cultural diversity. 

In closing, the Scoopy column reported the opposite of my sentiment. The confusion is no doubt in my poor attempt to explain that in some other boards, that have a more recent history of factionalism, repercussions out of personality can prevail over the district’s needs. But that is not the present situation of C.B. 3; we come together to protect and support our historic traditions of cultural diversity and innovation. The column’s latest report detracts from our sentiment of unity of diversity.

Paul Bartlett

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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