Volume 79, Number 18 | Oct 7 - 13, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Letters to the Editor

Ol’ Jeff is in a sorry state

To The Editor:
I am a senior citizen and native New Yorker, born on the East Side (before it was called Upper East Side).

I have lived in Greenwich Village, the West Village, for 21.5 years.

My questions and concerns are about the landmark Jefferson Market Library and garden. I want to know why on earth the building is a sort of prisoner with a scaffolding that is never being utilized, is very awkward and rather unsafe to walk through. The scaffolding has been up for about five years, with no activity, nor justified need or use for it. Why don’t they take it down?

I now also am quite annoyed with people for not maintaining the clock on the tower of this building that now is 1.5 hours wrong!

And it has been incorrect for more than a month, is quite inconvenient and very annoying! 

No one seems to know or care about any of this. Why not?

It is a terrible injustice to everybody, tenants, residents, the entire neighborhood, plus visitors from other areas, other countries. And even filmmakers can’t utilize this building, fairly obviously.

Why is this going on? Why doesn’t anybody do anything about this? It is very uncomfortable, and very unfair.

Please do something about this.

Life is too short and this isn’t acceptable.

Joanna Roos


Pier’s perks for schools

To The Editor:
Re “Looking at Pier 40 with a fresh eye, group seeks uses” (news article, Sept. 30):

Village parents were dismayed to learn that the School Construction Authority appears to be reconsidering its support for public school space on Pier 40. 

Apparently the S.C.A. thinks there are more attractive deals available on land: Parents would love to know where those are. At the moment there are no signs of new school development anywhere in overcrowded Manhattan, even as current leases expire. 

The mayor and chancellor are so worried about the health of public school students that they have outlawed bake sales. But what about the fact that New York City students come nowhere near state-mandated standards for physical education: Hardly any of our schools have adequate space for physical activity.  

Pier 40 is a rare opportunity for our kids to go to school surrounded by open air and sunlight. While we’re thinking creatively: How about a collaborative venture with the Museum of the City of New York, in which students study the history and geography of the Hudson River; or the American Museum of Natural History, in which students use an on-site lab to study river ecology? Such resources could be made available to students from around the city.  

Why should our kids be the last to benefit from our precious spaces? And why would the Hudson River Park Trust build state-of-the-art playgrounds and gorgeous gardens and fields in a place that our officials think is too dangerous for kids to go? 

Real concern for kids’ safety might begin with slowing down the traffic lights on the highway, rather than declining (selectively) to develop the park for kids’ benefit.

Ann Kjellberg
Kjellberg is a member, Public School Parent Advocacy Committee


Trust is on the right track

To The Editor:
Re “Looking at Pier 40 with a fresh eye, group seeks uses” (news article, Sept. 30):

The Hudson River Park Trust’s decision to change Pier 40’s planning process is exactly what’s needed. The Trust deserves credit for this bold action.

A list of planning requirements is needed before attempting any complex planning project. Here’s a start:

1.  Provide pubic safety by avoiding traffic hazards.

2.  Use comprehensive planning that makes the best use of the remarkable structure, site, district and beyond.

3. Fulfill federal requirements that provide Pier 40 funding.

4. Strive for an environmentally positive plan with solar energy and a useful green park.

5. Concentrate on expanding appropriate and creative funding options to restructure and reactivate the pier. With direct connections to elected officials who appointed the Trust’s board of directors, far-reaching options could be available, without saturating Pier 40 with commercial uses.

Bill Hine and Robert W. Smith
Hine and Smith are members, Save the Piers 


Setting the record straight

To The Editor:
Re “‘Mass eviction’ tour” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Sept. 30) and “Bill says owners can take 1 unit, not whole building” (news article, Sept. 16):

It is so good to know that Catherine Economakis is so excited about showing the exact spot where her washer and dryer will find a new home. It must feel wonderful to be so oblivious and unconcerned. Their P.R. tour of the “mansion-to-be” is surely revealing.

Several neighbors had observed that the Economakises had moved out, but now are back again. In the end, it does not really matter if they move in or out and in and out again. What matters is that they succeeded in their mass-eviction efforts. A family with a disabled son, a tenant dying of AIDS and a family expecting their second child were among those to lose their homes. But, hey, they have a whole apartment now for the washing machine and space in abundance to entertain their “Big Fat Greek Wedding” family. They have a “dream kitchen” with a stainless-steel refrigerator — a family of three used to occupy that space.

And right next door to them, the kind-hearted people of the Catholic Worker take care of homeless people.

As the former president of the 47 E. Third St. Tenants’ Association, I also would like to respond to the Economakis interview in the Sept. 16  issue of The Villager, and clarify a few of the misrepresentations Alistair Economakis has been repeating. It seems Economakis used this interview as a P.R. opportunity to present his mass-eviction endeavors in a favorable light while maligning the tenants, supported by some nasty comments by one of his lawyers.

For example, Economakis claims: “This [47 E. Third St.] is the only building that my wife and I own. We work at a real-estate management company, but this is the only building that we owned.”

The Economakis/Yatrakis family owns and/or co-owns close to 50 buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The building at 47 E. Third St. is not the only building they own. The Economakises work for the Brooklyn-based real estate company that is owned and operated by the Yatrakis/Economakis family (according to bankruptcy records).

Economakis claims that he and his wife were the sole owners of the LLC that preceded their individual ownership of 47 E. Third St. Court records, however, indicate that Anastasia Thanopoulos, nee Yatrakis, Catherine Economakis’s sister, also was a member of that LLC, meaning she had an ownership interest in No. 47. This contradicts Alistair’s statement that he and his wife were the sole owners of the LLC prior to the transfer of the building to themselves as individual owners, which paved the way and enabled them to start the owner- occupancy mass-eviction proceedings.

Catherine Economakis also owns 131 Pacific St. together with her mother, Kathryn Yatrakis, the place where they lived before and where they intend to move back to should the dust get too much at No. 47. Never mind that the tenants were choking on dust when the Economakises renovated six apartments for their own use, and did very little about it at the time. Together with her sister, Anastasia, Catherine Economakis also owns a farm in New Jersey. However, the Economakises like to portray themselves as those poor little landlords who only own this one building.

In addition, Economakis’s “vowing” that he would turn the 15-apartment tenement building into a one-family home and live there contradicts his wife’s statement under oath in the disclosure statement in bankruptcy proceedings for 47 E. Third St. that preceded their eviction proceedings: Catherine Economakis states that apartments will become vacant, that they will be renovated and that they will re-rent the apartments at “a significantly greater rent.”

As for other living options for the Economakises: 

Skyline Realty LLC II (http://www.skylinerealtynyc.com/), a full-service real estate company, located at their Brooklyn-based office at 138 Atlantic Ave., advertises beautiful brownstones and condos. It is hard to understand why they bought a 15-unit tenement and started mass evictions, instead of just buying one of those nice brownstones if they needed a place to live.

Furthermore, Economakis claims that “For five years, they [the tenants] refused to meet.” In fact, representatives of the tenants’ association met with the Economakises on several occasions. 

Another misleading statement by Economakis: “If I got three apartments back, I can connect my space,” referring to his separate duplex and triplex. In fact, he needed only one of the three apartments to connect his duplex on the upper floors with the four-apartment triplex.

It remains to be seen if there will be a mansion and if they will live there “happily ever after.” And as per Jeffrey Turkel, Economakis’s lawyer, stating, “He’s under no obligation to live there now — he could leave tomorrow.” He sure could.

Ursula Kinzel


Biking’s better in Europe

To The Editor:
Re “Put the brakes on rogue bicycle riding” (talking point, by Jack Brown, Sept. 9) and “Remembering Junior, the ‘Mayor of Tompkins Square,’ 1939-2009” (news article, Sept. 23):

With great interest I’ve been following the discussion about “Put the brakes on rogue bicycle riding,” a much-appreciated piece.

At 77 I am no longer elderly — I am old. My father, of Dutch background, rode his bicycle until he died. In wartime Prague he took pains to borrow a bicycle to teach me to ride at a young age. In postwar Germany — we lived outside Munich — a bicycle was a treasure. My boyfriend “organized” a bicycle for me (got it on the black market), and we rode hundreds of miles. Later when I spent a lot of time in East Hampton, I bought for $20 a Spitfire coaster bike, and felt myself the envy of people in their Rolls Royces.

But now, an old woman in New York City — I am terrorized by bikes coming from all directions at speeds I never achieved on my bikes. In the European countries I still visit, bikes are registered, must obey traffic rules, must have a bell, must have lights. And in Amsterdam, Paris and other cities, bikes are for the taking; you ride — obeying rules! — where you need to go. On a sturdy coaster bike (my East Hampton connection died, I also lost my bike) I would still enjoy riding.

Traffic desperately needs to be calmed. In many European cities there are highly effective speed bumps. Traffic rules are strictly enforced. Cities are a pleasure for old pedestrians and the many tourists.

In my personal circle a dozen people have been seriously injured by cars and bicycles. I walk with the greatest fear and trepidation — including in Central Park.

I love New York. I’ve lived here more than 50 years. I would love to grow even older.

With great sadness I heard of Junior’s death at Stage Restaurant on Second Ave. (a wonderful, at-the-counter place, next to “Stomp”). He used to come there regularly — as I do — for a filling cup of borscht. The waitress had seen us talk.

I was one of the regulars when he was still holding court on the park bench, later visited with him in Chinatown and Washington Square Park. I read about the memorial but alas was out of town. Thanks for Sarah Ferguson’s excellent reporting — filling me in on much I did not know.

Marianne Landre Goldscheider


Save the circus elephants

To The Editor: 
On Sept. 13, I met with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

I asked why she had virtually blocked all of the humane animal legislation in the Council, specifically Intro 389, which would ban wild-animal performances in New York City.

I went into detail about the abuses suffered by circus animals, and reminded her that Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus was currently awaiting a federal judge’s decision for multiple violations of the Endangered Species Act and abuse of their Asian elephants. 

Quinn acknowledged that although circus animals may be mistreated, that she couldn’t imagine a circus without elephants. I explained that suffering in the name of entertainment is not something that should be tolerated, and tradition should be no excuse for inhumane treatment. She disagreed, and said that recent PETA undercover videos of Ringling Bros. elephants being abused by their handlers “weren’t that bad.” She said she “thought the abuse would be worse.”

Many more educated and informed people know now that abuse in the name of entertainment is not acceptable. Animal-free performances, like Cirque du Soleil, provide just as enjoyable, if not more exciting experiences than the “traditional” animal circuses. 

Let us remember that “tradition” should not be an excuse for continuing inhumane or abusive treatment.  Bullfighting and cockfighting may be considered “tradition” in some cultures, but that doesn’t mean that they are not inhumane, or cause undo suffering.

Please e-mail Speaker Quinn’s assistant, Ms. Linehan, and ask her to meet with us regarding Intro 389: mlinehan@council.nyc.gov .
 
John G. Hynes
Hynes is a a veterinarian in the West Village and the Staten Island representative of the New York League of Humane Voters


P.S. 11 feels the squeeze

To The Editor: 
Re “New school year — renewed call for Morton middle school” (news article, Sept. 30):

I am a very concerned parent of one of the P.S. 11 protesters pictured in your photo in The Villager’s latest issue.

Due to an added kindergarten class and fast-growing number of families in our zone, P.S. 11’s enrollment skyrocketed to 575 children (up from 506 last year). The Department of Education promised, in a letter to parents dated May 2009, that our upstairs neighbor, the Clinton Middle School, would be moved by fall 2010. Our children already lost their music room, their P.T.A.-run and -funded library and sorely needed cluster spaces — and there is just no space left. 

So many parents have worked hard to find spaces to bring to D.O.E. for years: 75 Morton St., 10 E. 15th St., 26 Broadway, P.S. 33. They need to make good on their written promise to us, and find a home for Clinton immediately.

Please continue your coverage on this very important issue.

Kristin Sewell


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