Volume 79, Number 9 | August 5 - 11, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

C.B. 2 unfair on street fairs

To The Editor:
Re “S.V.A. gets stonewalled?” “Teflon Stonewall?” and “Can’t say no to Stonewall” (Scoopy’s Notebook, July 15, July 22 and July 29) and “A job well done” (editorial, July 15):

The ongoing saga in Scoopy’s Notebook about the street fair application for the Stonewall Veterans’ Association, and your editorial paean to the new, improved Community Board 2, has made intriguing reading. This week’s Villager brings news that Stonewall Veterans have at last had their application approved.

In The Villager’s July 15 issue, Scoopy quotes C.B. 2’s Street Activities Committee Chairperson Evan Lederman as saying, “A lot of these street fairs tend to be run by shell organizations, and one or two people pocket the money and split it with the promoter. ... We view this as a public inconvenience — you’re shutting down public streets to profit. It’s basically fraud.” The latest Scoopy, on July 29, quotes Lederman saying, “I think there’s an abundance of fraud and misuse of public streets.”

One would expect, then, to see “an abundance” of recommendations of denial of street fair permit applications from the committee. But board minutes prove otherwise.

In the five-month period from January 2009 to May 2009 (the latest minutes available on the C.B. 2 Web site), a total of 42 new and renewal street activity applications were approved or conditionally approved. Make that 43 since the Stonewall Veterans approval. Two applications from last February’s hearing were denied. One was a new application by Integral Yoga Institute and another was for a renewal of a one-block, one-day festival that has been going on without complaint for the past 14 years. The Integral Yoga application was denied, in part, due to the board’s belief that the festival would support the institute’s for-profit activities. The application of our club, the Women’s Democratic Club, was the only renewal application recommended for denial, as of the end of May. 

In the resolution passed by the board at its Feb. 19 meeting, the committee claims that our club does not have a connection to the community, although we were founded in the Village in 1993 and have made it our home base since then. The president and treasurer have both lived on W. 12th St. for well over a decade. In fact, our first street fair application was made at the suggestion of the late Reggie Fitzgerald, and he and the late Tony Dapolito walked us through the process and recommended our promoter, Clearview Festivals. Mr. Lederman asked for a list of members who live in the district, and I faxed this information to the committee within the week. This was apparently ignored. Contrary to what the resolution asserts, I described in detail the voter registration and campaign activities that we conduct at the festival. 

Most disturbingly, the resolution further states that “the representatives of the local community, including residents and local businesses, have questioned the legitimacy of this organization in the past.” Who are these representatives, and when is “in the past”? We have appeared at several committee hearings in past years and been approved for renewal, even in years when other festivals — San Gennaro, Mulberry Mall (both approved conditionally this year) and the Stonewall Veterans — were questioned as to their legitimacy, and subsequently approved. No such questions were raised about us at those hearings. In any case, off-the-record, anonymous questions about an organization’s legitimacy should not form the grounds of a board resolution. Perhaps the anonymous questioners of our legitimacy are past political opponents. It’s certainly true that some of those on the membership list I furnished the committee were associated with C.B. 2 in former days.

Scoopy’s July 15 column also notes, “The street fairs generally pull in about $8,000 to $10,000, which the organizers split with the promoters.” That may be so for groups with multi-block and/or multi-day fairs, but our festival has typically made us a little more than a tenth of that amount, and the city makes far more from the street activity fee than we do. No one pockets the money. It goes into the club’s bank account.

In years past we have been asked to appear before the committee on the same night as other political clubs in the area. This year we were the only political organization on the agenda. (This may have been because all the other political organizations were asking for multi-block approvals, while we were asking for our usual one block.) The committee actually asked for proof of our 501(c)(3) status, which does not apply to political organizations (since we advocate specific legislation and endorse political candidates).

So what has the committee accomplished? They have succeeded in giving outright or provisional approval to 43 of the 45 organizations that applied through May of this year, including groups whose controversies have been the cause of some very raucous committee hearings in past years. They have endorsed the kinds of multi-block and multi-day fairs that are always targets of community complaints. They have endorsed fairs for political organizations like Stonewall Democrats and GLID, whose roots in the district run no deeper than ours. 

Our one-day festival has always been held on Astor Place, a nonresidential block, late in October or early November, with no neighborhood complaints. We have worked closely with a conscientious and professional promoter, but we are in no sense a “shell” organization, and take exception to this and the allegation of fraud. Scoopy reports that committee member Carol Yankay (not present at the February committee hearing) sensibly backpedaled on Lederman’s allegations by saying that no one is accusing Williamson Henderson, leader of Stonewall Veterans, of pocketing the money. That leaves our event as the only alleged “fraud” by a “shell” organization.

If the city decides to go along with C.B. 2’s recommendation on our festival, street life and traffic flow will not improve. The promoter will not be forced out of business. Our organization, while missing this opportunity to register new voters and call attention to women’s issues, will survive without our festival. But we believe the board’s decision was made on the basis of incorrect information and erroneous assumptions, and singles us out unfairly, and this entire saga has not inspired confidence.

Patricia S. Rudden
Rudden is president, Women’s Democratic Club of New York City

So long, you Momofuku 

To The Editor:
Re “‘Hey, Momofuku, the pâté’s over!’ foie gras foes warn” (news article, July 29):

As a native New Yorker, I was horrified to learn of foie gras from the Animal Protection and Rescue League banner and will never step foot in Momofuku or any other restaurant that serves diseased liver from suffering ducks ever again. Thank you for having the courage and compassion to educate the masses about this unnecessary cruelty.

Lisa Shapiro

Cronkite in context

To The Editor:
Re “Beyond the media hype: Cronkite and the Vietnam War” (talking point, by Norman Solomon, July 29):

Personally, I was always against the Vietnam War, but to be fair, we’ve got put on some context here. Most Americans, certainly most middle-class, middle-age Americans of the 1960s, were for the war, believed the president and his cabinet and thought we were in something “winnable.” They were the generation who, when young, had fought World War II in a desperate struggle to save Western civilization, and we made it a success: thumpingly, resoundingly, crashbangingly. War could be good. 

It took a while for Cronkite and his generation to realize this was an utterly different kind of war and the folks we were up against in Vietnam had a legitimate case for wanting us out. It’s hard to escape one’s youth. Most of us never do. 

It is a credit to Cronkite and his coevals that they wrestled with their assumptions on so many great issues, not just Vietnam, and came to adjusted understandings that allowed the nation to evolve in a healthy way. Walter was a good man. R.I.P. 

Jim Smith

Lederman, our leader

To The Editor:
Re “Lederman’s legacy” (letter, by Lawrence White, July 29):

I have to respond to Mr. White’s scathing indictment of Robert Lederman. 

For the record, I am an original artist who has been showing and selling my work in Soho for almost 10 years. I am an enthusiastic member and supporter of A.R.T.I.S.T., the only organization that represents me and my interests. We get the truth from Robert Lederman. Sometimes it isn’t nice, but it’s always the truth. He has been at the forefront of this issue for more than 15 years, and he stays on top of it, keeping the rest of us informed. Through him, we are made aware of the underlying motives and political agendas of elected officials, BIDS and other interests. How else could we have known that Gerson’s proposals would have destroyed the fundamental right to show our work on the streets and in the parks? 

I know just about every artist who sets up on West Broadway at Spring St. and none ever supported Gerson’s proposals. We demonstrated at City Hall and spoke at public hearings against all of Gerson’s bills. Mr. White seems to think nobody is coming to Soho anymore. This comes as a shock to me, as today (Sat., July 25) I had pieces go to Spain, Italy and Ireland...as well as Chicago, Philadelphia and New Jersey. 

I suggest that if not for Mr. Lederman, none of us (original fine artists) would be spending our weekends on West Broadway at all. All of us, including the talented Mr. White, are indebted to him for blazing the trail that we follow. 

Ross Pilot

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