Volume 73, Number 33 | December 17 - 23, 2003

Letters to the Editor

Siege mentality on W. 14th St.

To The Editor:
Councilmember Simcha Felder’s wish to erode the proposed Gansevoort Market Historic District (“Council subcommittee, property owners challenge Market district,” news article, Dec. 3) is little surprise to those of us living directly north of the Village.

First, the councilmember’s extreme conviction that property rights should not be qualified by any considerations is a policy increasingly dominating the W. 14th St. corridor and southern Chelsea. Our newspapers, especially the New York Times, focus on the Gansevoort plan in terms of visual appearances. But very little is published about the enormous taxation on the local infrastructure and municipal services that such development requires.

Who pays for those? Certainly not the developers that Councilmember Felder champions.

For example, since the passage in 1999 of the New Chelsea Plan, the community north of the middle of W. 14th St. has been besieged with problems from commercial intrusions into the residential backyards. Buildings are expanded up to the property lines, removing light and air circulation. Police staffing has been cut radically while bars and clubs proliferate in excess of state guidelines. Bars so rowdy as to have had murders are using backyards illegally and then yelling anti-Semitic slurs against residents who want to be able to go to sleep before 4 a.m. Huge air conditioning and venting units are springing up all over, turning the residential neighborhood into what sounds like a busy airport runway.

Homelessness has increased radically. Next to residential buildings in southern Chelsea, Con Ed positions large tractor-trailers with diesel-burning generators due to overdevelopment and undercapacity. Our increasingly busy sidewalks are made increasingly unnavigable. Local sewers overflow from overcapacity. The rat problem is totally out of control. The Dept. of Sanitation is increasingly less able to pick up trash adequately.

While uncontrolled development has been strongly promoted in this area, the Transit Authority has actually decreased access, staffing and service with the rehabilitation of the 14th St./Eighth subway station, begun in 1993. And a decade later, the T.A. has still not completed the interminable station rehabilitation to provide reliable elevator service or reinstall commercial venders needed to help its funding and enhance safety.

There is a second reason why resistance to the districting plan is no surprise.

This past summer, while lamenting how the new 311 system leaves local community boards so much less to do now, our community boards quietly dismembered the highly productive and greatly successful Joint Committee on W. 14th St. of Community Boards 2 and 4. And as a result the W. 14th St. corridor and the Gansevoort plan are now deprived of one of their strongest united defenses, without any public notice and without any community say in the matter.

Historically, the W. 14th Street corridor has been Balkanized into three police precincts, two community boards, two Assembly districts, etc. Without united leadership, this chaotic nexus is easy prey to any effort that knows how to divide and conquer.

But about seven years ago, under then-Chairpersons Alan Gerson and Pam Frederick, Community Boards 2 and 4 convened a Joint Committee to work together to monitor the unresolved problems of the W. 14th St. corridor. That Joint Committee quickly became one of the busiest, most productive and most popular of community board committees.

In the spring of this year, the Joint Committee was delighted to receive assurances from City Planning to work with the Joint Committee to revisit the New Chelsea Plan as applied specifically to W. 14th St. City Planning candidly acknowledged that its 1999 plan might have increased development potential there too greatly, meriting modification.

But by the summer, the Joint Committee was quietly dismembered, and with it was lost any progress on revisiting the questioned zoning. Is there really any serious surprise that this all happened so soon before the City Council would consider some real estate objections to the Meat Market plan?

And if we are surprised by all this, just wait until the impact and the bills arrive for the new West Side stadium in our re-divided community, currently receiving so little attention!

Stanley Bulbach
Bulbach is a member, 200 Block W. 15th St. Block Association

Caption didn’t sit well with him

To The Editor:
Re “La Plaza Cultural is renamed for Armando Perez” (news article, Nov. 4):

I own an art gallery in Wheeler, Ore., and I just read your Nov. 4 edition. On page 24, you had a photo of a heart-shaped willow chair. That chair was built and donated to the La Plaza Cultural by “Willow” Bill Goulardt of Wheeler, Ore. “Willow” Bill traveled to New York at his own expense to present a gift of love to the plaza in remembrance of the Sept. 11 victims. It is customary to include the artist’s name whenever photographing an artist’s work. “Willow” Bill is a totally unselfish man who travels the Western U.S. to instruct K-12 children in hands-on classes to build willow reindeer. While in New York he gave two performances at the La Plaza Cultural of his one-man play, “How the Willows Helped Lewis & Clark.” A mention of this generous man’s work would have been the right thing to do.

Garry Gitzen

Bikers saddled with floating anger

To The Editor:
Re The letter by Paul Piccone (“Hudson Park cyclist had it coming,” Dec. 3 issue):

Alas, the “selfish, me-first attitude” that Mr. Piccone implies applies to all bicycle riders could also aptly describe many pedestrians, motorists et al.

Perhaps it even includes angry, bitter people who vent their hate by writing letters.

Michael Gottlieb

Prisoners ready to return to society

To The Editor:
This letter is in response to an article in your Oct. 8 paper entitled, “Boudin and a kid from Brooklyn; striking parallels” (talking point), by Keith Crandell.

I found this article to be extremely interesting and particularly insightful, especially to someone unaware of just how widespread the practice of denying parole to community-ready prisoners has become.

Though Ms. Boudin clearly demonstrated through her remorse and rehabilitative efforts that she was deserving of a second chance by being released, there are many others like Mr. Davis who are equally deserving of a second chance.

Though there is a striking parallel with Ms. Boudin and Mr. Davis, this parallel is much larger than society is aware of.

Mr. Davis and I are both members of the Otisville Long Termer’s Committee, a group of 20 prisoners whose combined years of incarceration total 354 years with 45 parole denials, totaling an additional 86 years beyond our eligible release dates. We are grandfathers, fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, uncles, teacher’s aides, religious leaders, community service workers, construction workers, program facilitators and legal clerks. We have amassed high school equivalency diplomas, associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Our mission is to obtain fair criminal justice policies and initiatives, while also addressing the blatant abuses of the New York State Division of Parole.

Like Mr. Davis, we are individuals who have spent decades imprisoned within some of New York State’s most crime-riddled and violent prisons, but we continue to pursue positive goals, academically, therapeutically, vocationally, voluntarily and spiritually.

Yet unlike Ms. Boudin, we have not been afforded the opportunity of being released and becoming productive members of society.

Perhaps members of the public who have read the article will concern themselves with the injustices taking place in prisons across the state and feel compelled to involve themselves in addressing these inequalities.

We too share the same sentiment as Mr. Crandell in his closing remark, “we are not throwaways.”

Are we not equally deserving of a second chance?

Dalton Diaz
Diaz is an inmate at Otisville Correctional Facility in Otisville, NY

Match son keeps fire burning

To The Editor:
Re “Matches fire a Washington Sq. artist’s creativity,” news article, Nov. 5):

Greetings from England, U.K.! I have by chance linked to the great story by Ashley Winchester about the “Matchstick Man” of Washington Sq. I am delighted to have discovered that James Gallman’s “matchstickology” has fired up the imagination of residents and visitors in New York.

The story certainly “struck a chord” with me. It was my late father who coined the word “matchstickology” for his art. He imagined and created an unbelievable matchstick collection in the 1930s while serving as a deckhand on a tramp steamer owned by a company that was part of Standard Oil of New Jersey, whose name changed to Exxon in 1971.

I have been preserving and publicizing my father’s work since he passed away in 1993.

I was invited to participate as keeper and historian of the instrument collection with superstar Glen Campbell in a segment of the new “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” series aired on T.B.S. Glen was seen performing with and praising my father’s 1937 matchstick acoustic guitar, made from 25,000 used wooden matchsticks.

Through the Internet, I also was amazed to discover that an American author who wrote a book about P.T. Barnum included a chapter about my father and his matchstick instruments.

The very latest news is of two more Web sites that have put up the story with a different twist. The first one is a brand new site dedicated to recycled art, which includes a section on “Jack Hall’s Matches.”

The other story chronicles my father’s Merchant Navy days that began in 1924 and describes the inhospitable conditions he was working under to create these masterpieces. “The Matchstick Man” Web pages are online at: http://www.m-navydays.com/newpages/Jackhall.htm.

Of all the publicity the collection has acquired since my father passed away, the accolade that has given me the greatest sense of pride and satisfaction is the recognition of his unique achievements in the book of Guinness World Records, 2003 edition. The abbreviated text says, “10 playable musical instruments made entirely from (106,000) used wooden matchsticks.”

Tony Hall
Hall is keeper and historian, The Jack Hall Matchstick Instrument Collection


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