Volume 73, Number 38 | January 21 - 27, 2004

Letters to the Editor

Reduce rhetoric on Seward sites

To The Editor:
I am writing in response to Steve Herrick’s letter to the editor describing his reactions to the November Community Board 3 meeting and advocating for a Seward Park task force (“Create a Seward Park task force,” Dec. 10).

While letters to the editor may have mischaracterized the proposed development plan as calling for “public housing,” the meeting itself, however, was in fact racially charged. It was racially charged because one of the speakers called the opponents of low-income housing “racist Jews.” That blatantly anti-Semitic remark was not condemned. Further, when a group of individuals clambered up to the stage, unfurling a public housing banner, in an act clearly inappropriate at any community board meeting, but surely so in one so tense, there was no request made that they exit the stage. I have no doubt that if a group of co-operators from the Grand St. co-ops would’ve unfurled their own “Co-ops Are Good” banner, then there would’ve been an immediate request for them to leave the stage.

Regarding the substance of the issue, as to whether this site should be designated for any low-income units, keep in mind two facts:

• Community Board 3 has the second-highest number of subsidized/low-income residential units of any community board area in the city of New York. Where is the rationale in maintaining a balanced, integrated neighborhood by developing more low-income units?

• Of the approximately 2,000 residential units that were removed by the city of New York over four decades ago from the Seward Park Urban Renewal site, nearly 1,400 units have been replaced — all low-income units.

Yet, virtually no jobs or commercial establishments have been restored of the hundreds that were there 40 years ago. And in this jobless recovery, with New York City unemployment one-third higher than the national average, is there any development that is more desperately needed than substantial economic development? While it would require some creativity as to commercial development above the first two floors (which would presumably be retail) we should let the R.F.P. process proceed unfettered by ideological constraints.

Unfortunately, the community board has not only passed a resolution that pays lip service at best to commercial/economic development, but has in fact passed contradictory resolutions; one resolution calls for a majority of the square footage on the site to be built as low/moderate-income housing, and the other for the creation of a task force to deliberate on what should be built on the site. What purpose is there for a task force to convene, deliberate and discuss, when there has already been a predetermined outcome, namely a specific magnitude of low housing?

What is most important is that as this debate unfolds, we cease tarring opponents on either side with accusations of ill will, and racism, and recognize that there are quite legitimate public policy considerations, to favor — and yes, oppose — additional low-income units on the remaining portion of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.

Joel Kaplan
Kaplan is a member, Community Board 3

Blinded by the light from PEP’s

To The Editor:
Re “Trust assailed on finances, closed process” (news article, Dec. 24):

I was shocked to hear that the Hudson River Park Trust pays the city $1.5 million for its Park Enforcement Patrol officers, since the only time I needed help, PEP officers were nowhere to be found. Instead, they make their presence known in consistently unpleasant ways. For instance, they sit in their cars outside their office with the car running and the headlights on — anyone walking must walk straight into bright lights (unlike other parks, this one is straight and thin — no way to get away from glaring lights but to walk in the bicycle lane.) In the summer the PEP cars sit at the top of the park with lights glaring. Even when one is sitting on a bench facing the water, the lights are still oppressive — like being in a prison yard.

I was told it was O.K. to walk in the opposite direction when I asked that a PEP car turn its lights off or at least down. On a December evening, I saw an officer fast asleep with a book open on his lap, in his car with his lights on. My tapping on his window did not wake him.

I can’t be the only one who is bothered by having to walk into bright lights when out for a stroll in my neighborhood park. Isn’t it possible to soften the lights or tilt them down slightly so that they don’t glare directly into eyes? If the patrol cars want to be seen, isn’t there a less obtrusive way?

One day in August, five middle-aged women mistakenly attempted to have a quiet prayer circle on a blanket in the park. A PEP officer asked if “I was sure” when I told him that we were not drinking alcohol. (I am not used to being spoken to in that way — as if I were a wayward teenager.) The women in our group were appalled when less than five minuets later another PEP officer questioned us again, in the same hard, nasty manner. This park is not a place for prayer, since PEP officers obviously think this must be a ruse for breaking the law.

What is happening at the leadership level to have PEP officers dealing with the public time and again in such a horrible way? The Trust would do better to hire its own security and provide training so that they can effectively deal with the public in a courteous, professional manner. The park looks pretty but its experience is purposely intimidating and unpleasant at best, as it feels as if we are in police state.

Lynn Pacifico

Why doesn’t Codrescu vanish?

To The Editor:
Re “The disappearance of beggars, and a vanishing art” (notebook, by Andrei Codrescu, Jan. 7):

Somehow, I feel left out in this phase of “gift”-giving espoused by Andrei Codrescu. This fluttering of dollar bills to gutter punks in New Orleans and his $30 dollar-a-week habit when visiting New York leaves me wanting for some of this largesse. We have to hook up.

If “Andy” has so much money, why doesn’t he throw it my way? Let me warn him. My step-grandfather opened his big fat Italian mouth at a poker game back in 1921 about being how rich he was (which he wasn’t of course.) Two days later he got a message from the Black Hand: “If you got so much money, give some of it to us.” I wish my grandmother (who should have been a nominee for sainthood) kept the note. He paid up and shut up soon after the event.

So I beg of you Andrei, not for your $30 dollar-a-week contribution for myself, but for others who are close by me and needy, like my family and friends, and also for all my friends in the Greenwich Village community. All I ask of you, Andy “Deep Pockets,” either give me a lump-sum payment for a 12-week stay or take your colorful beggar, panhandling miscreants to another section of this world, preferably off this island.

Somehow ruffle-skirted gypsies breast-feeding, swaddle-clothed street urchin offspring aren’t what Lower Manhattan Development Corp. New York really needs today to spark its economy. Nor $1 gutter punks.

Andy, I am so sorry for being so selfish, but as soon as you give me your money I will buy you a personal T-shirt. It will read: “Welcome to New York. Now Go Home.”

Lou Scrima

The Village is simply where it’s at

To The Editor:
Recently an old friend of mine from Los Angeles, where I grew up, came to visit me.

“Why don’t you come back to L.A.?” he asked.

Answer: Because my family and I like the Village.

“Why?” he queried.

Answer: Because we enjoy living near colleges and cultural societies that frequently offer lectures, plays, ballets, concerts and arts exhibits, as well as the use of fine libraries.

Despite some crowded and noisy streets, we get a charge out of the many unique shops, bars, and restaurants that abound. And we also enjoy relaxing in Washington Sq. Park and the beautiful Hudson River Pier 45

And nearby there is an active and progressive political club to which I belong and several neighborhood organizations dedicated to our community.

And last, when I want a whiff of fresh ocean air, I hop on a fast subway to Brighton Beach, and while I’m there I enjoy a bowl of hot Russian cabbage borsch at a restaurant table next to the boardwalk.

My friend’s response: “Can you help me find an apartment?”

Happy New Year.

Herman Gerson

Benepe could learn a few things

To The Editor:
Re: “Ass and you may not receive” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Dec. 14):

I find it ironic that Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe would suggest giving the book “How To Win Friends and Influence People” to C.B. 2 Parks chairperson Aubrey Lees after she told the Parks Department to “get off of their fat asses” and reinstall the Bob Bolles sculptures into the small park at Broome St. and W. Broadway. After all, it was Mr. Benepe who alienated an entire community three years ago when he said the park was full of trash, and homeless (a bold-faced lie), and then removed the historic sculptures the day after the community board voted to maintain the space as an open park for people, art and native plants.

He even went so far as to name the space “Sunflower Park,” which has zero to do with the amazing history of art in our neighborhood, and means nothing to any of us. This is hardly the behavior of a man who is expert at winning friends or influencing people. Even now, after we have recently discovered a wonderful Bolles piece in great shape, which was created in the park, and is fully funded, Mr. Benepe can not see the wisdom of working with our community instead of against us.

I suggest the following to Mr. Benepe: Read “Man’s Place in the Universe” by John Muir — a true naturalist with a universal message; then watch several “Sesame Street” programs back to back.

This may help Mr. Benepe understand how to work with others in a less hostile manner. If may also help him learn that the community, particularly artists, are not his enemy, and that if we work together we will get a lot more accomplished than if he treats us as a nuisance.

We have every right to participate fully in the process of deciding how public areas of our community will be used. As a matter of fact, our rights are equal to those of the mega-corporations that move into our neighborhood, pay the Parks Department huge sums of money to privatize the parks and have it their own way. Maybe after reading John Muir, Mr. Benepe will finally agree, but I am not holding my breath.

Lawrence White

Since ’97 case, S.L.A.’s improved

To The Editor:
Re “Anybody wanna sue the S.L.A.?” (news article, Jan. 7):

I share the dismay of residents of the Flatiron District who have been frustrated by adverse rulings of the State Liquor Authority. But the experience over the past six years of dozens of community groups fighting liquor license applications in Tribeca, Soho and Greenwich Village has met with markedly different results. These groups, predominately in Community Boards 1 and 2, have been able to beat back license applications in more than 25 cases since 1997.

These groups were well organized and retained legal counsel as well as architectural, traffic and acoustical experts. It is unfortunate that ordinary citizens must spend their own money to convince a government agency to do the right thing, but that is how the system currently works. It is necessary to mount an aggressive campaign, including gaining the support of the local community board. Community board support and participation in the hearing process is crucial because the law names the local community board as the body with which the S.L.A. must consult in cases where there is an oversaturation of licenses in a particular locale.

It is true that before 1996, the S.L.A. ignored amendments to the law that required the agency to consider quality-of-life issues before granting new licenses. In my experience, that changed in 1997 when the Soho community took the S.L.A. to court after the agency granted a liquor license to a discotheque with a capacity of several hundred patrons. Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam of New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of the community and annulled the license.

As far the Lower Manhattan communities are concerned, that decision proved to be a turning point for neighborhood associations struggling against the deleterious effects of noisy and rowdy late-night bars, clubs and discotheques. In our experience, when the community mounts a serious, well-organized and concerted effort to fight the license, the S.L.A. has taken a hard look at the quality-of-life factors set forth in the ABC Law.

Barry Mallin
Mallin is an attorney-at-law

Rezoning will mean less parking

To The Editor:
This is what the residents of Soho and Noho are about to find themselves repeating over and over: Just recently, the city approved a bill that enables developers to build on the last 16 or 17 parking lots located in our area. And, there is no stipulation that the developers must provide parking for their tenants or the retail customers who drive to shop at our specialty stores and eat in our wonderful restaurants. Doesn’t anyone who lives, works or owns a business in this area care that this action has taken place? Or, is it that everyone was caught up with the holiday season and they were unaware of this change in the law? Being able to build on all the parking lots, without providing for alternative parking solutions, will most definitely impact negatively on the vibrant life of our communities.

Ronnie Wolf


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