Volume 79, Number 7 | July 22 - 28, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Time for Gerson to go

To The Editor:
“Pete Gleason’s poison pen” (letter, by Zella Jones, July 8):

A letter from a paid consultant of Alan Gerson touting Gerson’s record was clearly a conflict of interest and should be taken with a grain of salt.  Let’s see what Citizens Union, an independent, good-government group, has to report on Gerson.

First, Gerson’s attendance record:  Of 51 councilmembers, C.U. reports that Gerson ranks 45th in attendance — sixth from the bottom.  Councilmembers from Staten Island, the Bronx and Far Rockaway have better attendance records than Gerson, who can walk to work. 

Second, Gerson’s committee hearing record: Gerson chairs the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee, established to assist small businesses that were displaced by the 9/11 attacks. Gerson’s committee ranks at the absolute bottom of the list of “frequency of Council committee hearings held.” Further, Gerson accepts a $10,000 annual bonus for chairing the committee with the worst scheduling record in the Council!

In its “Yes Men and Pork” rankings, Citizens Union reports that Gerson comes in No. 2 in “yes” votes, obediently in lockstep with Council leadership. Usually members who vote yes are rewarded with extra funding for their district. Unfortunately, Gerson has failed to capitalize on his subservience: 47 of the 51 councilmembers currently receive more program funding than Gerson.

This poor showing is an indication of how Gerson is viewed by his Council peers. Although Gerson is the archetypal “yes man,” his constituents receive few benefits in exchange for his servility.

On term limits, although Gerson promised us he would never vote to extend term limits, he reneged and self-servingly capitulated to the mayor, defying the will of the voters.  

Gerson’s cynicism was compounded when he introduced legislation to bring term limits to the voters again in another referendum, knowing full well his bill would never pass the Council.   

In a sworn statement, Democratic District Leader Jean Grillo relates that during a telephone call with Gerson, he admitted that he knew his bill would fail and was never fully behind the referendum. Clearly, Gerson wanted to give voters the impression that he was acting democratically, when, in fact, he is a pawn of the mayor. Further, Downtown Express, The Villager’s sister paper, published reports that Gerson was offered a commissionership by the mayor in return for switching his vote!  

This deceit, his chronic absences and his lack of leadership are the reasons why his constituents have lost faith in Gerson. 
Sean Sweeney
Sweeney is president, Downtown Independent Democrats

Shocked by xenophobia 

To The Editor:
I am writing in response to one of the most offensive letters that I have ever read in The Villager: “Pete Gleason’s poison pen” (July 8), written by Zella Jones. Jones, according to New York State Board of Elections records, has received $2,000 for consultation services from the Alan Gerson for City Council campaign.

Jones writes a letter that contains an astonishingly bigoted piece of xenophobia against Sean Sweeney. She suggests that because Sean is not a U.S. citizen he is not fit to run the ever more successful and continually growing Downtown Independent Democrats club. Sean has over three decades of community involvement with many civic organizations. He has selflessly and tirelessly worked for the betterment of the citizens living Downtown, despite the shocking fact he himself is a non-citizen.

I assume Jones thinks that the 327 non-citizens, including 67 of my fellow countrymen killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, do not deserve their names to be inscribed on the World Trade Center memorial wall? Or perhaps I should resign from the executive board of D.I.D. and from the Tribeca Community Association because I am a resident alien and people should just forget the thousands of hours of work I did as a member of Community Board 1? Or perhaps she feels that another resident alien and Downtown activist, Thomas Paine, the firebrand of the Revolution, should have kept his nose out of American politics? 

This disgusting personal attack, the latest of a tiresome series by Gerson partisans, is simply a smokescreen to draw attention away from the councilmember’s failed record. Jones points out Gerson’s appointments to all these committees and boards and corporations. But what good does it do when he is constantly late, regularly cancels or simply fails to show up because of yet another case of the flu?

Pete Gleason’s exemplary record speaks for itself.  I urge your readers to visit www.pete2009.com and see for themselves. See him cleaning up the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Or risking his health volunteering on the pile at the W.T.C. in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Or representing 9/11 first-responders on health issues, pro bono. No amount of xenophobia from the Gerson camp can alter those facts.

Andrew J. Neale

Gerson’s ‘hatchet woman’
To The Editor:
Re “Pete Gleason’s poison pen” (letter, by Zella Jones, July 8):

The recent letter to the editor by Zella Jones, a paid consultant to Councilman Alan Gerson’s re-election campaign, is most puzzling. Ms. Jones’s attacks on Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance and president of Downtown Independent Democrats, are both xenophobic and unwarranted.

Never once in the 18 years that Sweeney has been a member of D.I.D. has his permanent-resident status ever been an issue. In fact, it was never an issue when Councilmember Gerson successfully sought Mr. Sweeney’s support for Council in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Indeed, when an opponent of Gerson in the 2001 race similarly attacked Sweeney’s status, Alan Gerson quickly condemned the xenophobia. Will Alan likewise condemn this incident or does he now accept immigrant-bashing?

Nor has Sweeney’s permanent residency been an issue to Congressmembers Nadler and Maloney, Assembly Speaker Silver, Borough President Stringer, state Senators Duane and Squadron, Councilmembers Quinn and Mendez and countless judicial candidates who have all sought his support. 

Suddenly, it is a problem for Zella Jones this year because Mr. Sweeney, along with the majority of D.I.D. voters, has supported Pete Gleason, Mr. Gerson’s chief opponent.  

Villager readers ought to be reminded that Sean Sweeney often helped Ms. Jones in Noho issues, especially co-sponsoring a town hall meeting at the Public Theater in 2004, where Gerson was invited and was notably a no-show, as he so often is. It was Sean Sweeney who urged Ms. Jones to enroll as a Democrat after she spent the majority of her voting years as an independent. No good deed goes unpunished.  

Finally, Council District 1 is home to many resident aliens and immigrants, ranging from Chinatown to Little Italy to Soho to the Lower East Side. Jones’s attacks on Sweeney show her insensitivity to immigrants and their willingness to give back to this great country and city. With friends like Zella Jones, does Alan Gerson need enemies?

Adam Silvera
Silvera is a Democratic district leader and member, Downtown Independent Democrats

Pols’ shameful glomming

To The Editor:
Re “Pols, protest, stuck string; Jacobs would have loved it” (news article, July 15):

I wonder if Jane Jacobs would have loved the fact that the very politicians who unveiled her street sign at Hudson and W. 11th Sts. refuse to publicly support an urgently needed rezoning of the Far West Village. Only two blocks away on Washington St., the current C6-1 zone allows out-of-scale buildings and offers large bonuses for dorm, hotel and office development. This week the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved plans that allow the demolition of a low-rise building to be replaced by a new seven-story hotel/row house development.

Jacobs would roll over in her grave to see these politicians posing for that photo yet playing coy with the community. Over the past 15 months, we’ve held two town hall meetings that demonstrate sustained, communitywide support for the rezoning. We have a petition with nearly 700 signatures. Community Board 2 responded and passed a unanimous resolution in support of rezoning. The Department of City Planning has finally agreed to a review of the area. 

Yet when we ask our elected representatives, and particularly City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, to come out and publicly support the rezoning, we get a letter that says they express “support for the area being thoroughly reviewed for such a rezoning.” That’s political double talk. That sends a clear signal to City Planning that they can review and not find rezoning necessary. That’s keeping your options open with developers who contribute to your campaigns.

That’s not how Jane Jacobs won her battles. She’s my hero. I wish our elected representatives would show even an ounce of courage and truly honor her memory.   

Geoffrey Knox

Jane and St. Vincent’s

To The Editor: 
Re “Pols, protest, stuck string; Jacobs would have loved it” (news article, July 15):

What irony! All those smiling officials at the Jane Jacobs Way dedication. Jane was all about saving the Village — yet most of these elected Village representatives are in support of the massive project that will have a negative impact on our historic district. 

Jane wasn’t known just for stopping roadways.  She first came to public attention with her successful effort to keep Robert Moses from bulldozing 14 blocks in the West Village for a Title I slum-clearance project. As one who worked with her on that and other causes, I am certain that Jane would have opposed the current Rudin-St. Vincent’s proposal. Surely, she would have supported an alternative, less intrusive design that would allow for a modernized hospital without setting a precedent deleterious to historic districts.  

Let it be noted that out of that Moses encounter, Jane founded the West Village Committee. The committee exists today, and is on record as a strong supporter of Protect the Village Historic District, the group that is leading the fight against the Rudin-St. Vincent’s project.

Carol Greitzer  

Recalls ’60s battles

To The Editor:
Re “Pols, protest, stuck string; Jacobs would have loved it” (news article, July 15):

Thank you for the coverage of the wonderful memorial to Jane reported in your last issue. Plainly put and now largely forgotten, the city planned ultimately to completely raze the 45 blocks from Hudson St. to the Hudson River and from 14th St. to Morton St.; they said it was a slum and ripe for urban renewal. Only St. Veronica’s and St. Luke’s churches would be left standing.  

Urban renewal was a federal program which supplied federal money to achieve both the flattening of the West Village and the rebuilding with multistory housing projects for the poor. However, the federal honcho who came and was walked about the neighborhood, our inventory of buildings in hand, declared that the neighborhood did not qualify for federal funds as clearly it was not a slum by any of the required standards.

Undismayed, the city decided they would achieve the destruction of our West Village using city money. To put it shortly, we had the entire neighborhood up in arms with a very sound lawsuit and evidence of collusion between the Felt Brothers and the Department of Buildings — heroically discovered by then-Congressman Ed Koch, a very young, very tall and rather shy, faithful friend. But the whole problem went away when, in the sixth week of his third term, Mayor Wagner instructed that the slum designation that had been adopted three years earlier be lifted. 

It was only then, as reported by Al Amateau, that Jane turned our attention to the Moses-mapped Cross-Manhattan Expressway that would have required the destruction of a three-street-wide swath of homes, businesses, etc. Father La Mountain, beloved priest and leader of that very Catholic area, said that he knew that the Lord would send help one day. To his enormous credit, Mayor Lindsay, after his first election as mayor, ordered the demapping of the destruction and thus saved the death of the Village.  

This is only a brief condensation of those horrifying years of the early ’60s, but I realized at the memorial for Jane no one knew the problem in this detail, as many of them probably had not even been born. 

Jane welded a very diverse population into a single will to defeat these two totally dishonest, expensive and unnecessary destructions in the city.

Jessie McNab

Verdict from the bench

To The Editor:
Re “New-style benches don’t sit well with park regular” (news article, July 8):

Where did all the investigative journalists go?  We knew this article was biased when Harry Bartle quoted Tony Hiss, a Village Alliance board of director! The Village Alliance was not only pro-redesign versus renovate from Day One, they even fundraised for the new park!

I sat on a new bench for half an hour and came home with something rare for me — a backache! Equally bad were the splinters on the back of my leg, which were impossible to remove. And don’t make the mistake of leaning on the armrest unless you don’t mind contorting your body in an unmercifully painful twist to the side. Nobody I know is happy with the brand-new rainforest benches, nor do they consider the silly little designer claws on the feet detail any consolation for the lack of comfort.

As for the objective professional opinion from product-design firm Inch Incorporated: Perhaps it’s true, when a design company can use only seven slats of wood versus nine and still charge the same amount or maybe more, that’s fantastic…for the manufacturer! The ergonomic “expert” should understand that sometimes more is more, especially when it comes to back support.  

Had Harry merely taken ruler to bench and measured, he would have discovered that the old seats had 4 inches more back support and 3 inches more seating support. Harry might have added interest to his piece had he checked the Parks Department line-item budget report for Washington Square Park to compare prices of seven slats versus nine-slat benches. Maybe they got a bargain, but park users feel cheated. Next time, Harry, do the math — and watch your back!

Sharon Woolums
Woolums is a public member, Community Board 2 Parks Committee

Upholds bench verdict

To The Editor:
Re “New-style benches don’t sit well with park regular” (news article, July 8):

Even though I’m not a native New Yorker, I basically brought myself up in the Village. The benches, though nice on the eyes, are horrible on the back.

Victor Cruz

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