Volume 73, Number 42 | February 18 - 24, 2004

Letters to the Editor

The battle for the waterfront

To The Editor:
  Thank you for The Villager’s coverage of the ever-increasing development pressure facing the Far West Village and Greenwich Village waterfront (“Cry me a river: Waterfront development continues,” Feb. 11).

  There is indeed a great danger that without swift action by the city, nearly all the historic buildings and the scale of this area may be lost forever. And while the city did recently designate part of Gansevoort Market a historic district, a long-overdue and welcome action, there is still much more that needs to be done. The Landmarks Preservation Commission must work with the community to identify the remaining architecturally and historically significant buildings in the Far West Village, and make sure they are preserved. The City Planning Commission must work with the community and the City Council to change the zoning in this area to ensure that any new development is appropriate in its scale to what is around it. The current lack of both measures is resulting in the destruction of a historic area that many of us came to because of its scale and intimate feeling, now rapidly disappearing.

  The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation is committed to seeing these measures enacted — we have been urging the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the City Planning Commission to take up both issues, and a campaign to push for their adoption is our major priority for this year. If you are interested in joining this effort, please come to the Town Hall Meeting we are convening on Wed., March 10 at 7 p.m. at 75 Morton St. with the Greenwich Village Community Task Force, the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port and Community Board 2. We will have a battle plan for pushing forward this agenda and information on how you can get involved. For more information and a flyer you can post, go to www.gvshp.org.

  In the meantime, please also join us in fighting the 450-ft.-tall residential high-rise planned for the Meat Market. The city’s decision to reinterpret the zoning code to allow this project can still be reversed. If we don’t stop it, the consequences could be dire — it would allow as-of-right high-rise residential development not just here, but for the first time in any of our “manufacturing zones,” which includes broad swaths of the Far West Village, including the recently purchased Superior Ink site. We have flooded the mayor’s office with letters about this, but we need more help. For a sample letter and info, please go to http://www.gvshp.org/ganshi-risehelp.htm on our Web site.
Andrew Berman
Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Two Potato story was half baked

To The Editor:
Re “From potatoes to pizza: Complaint-plagued bar is no more” and “Rents going up, small businesses being forced out” (news articles, Jan. 28):

Good promotional piece for the pizzeria in potentia at Christopher and Greenwich. Will The Villager get some good ad space out of it, or what? What the Village needs now more than anything else is another pizza parlor. This promotional piece was built chiefly on appeal to bigotry.

There were drugs and noise, both of them more intensely, before Two Potato inhabited the shell of the old Ballybay pub, which before that was called The Cathedral, and was patronized, like its opposite number across the street, now a porn parlor, which was called Al & Dan’s, by local longshoremen. (When we still had ships and piers.) And more violence, too.

Two Potato was the victim of a long, carefully managed campaign of defamation, slander and cooperative police harassment; not only was Two Potato a gay bar but it was an interracial one in which blacks and whites got along, communicated. That’s intolerable to bigots. You see, the local landlord interests’ intent is to accelerate the bourgeoisification/gentrification of the neighborhood. Cops and cop cars were stationed outside Two Potato and they’d shine searchlights directly into the windows of Two Potato. I’ve been in there while it took place. This was a Gestapo tactic!

Two Potato was never the “bane of residents’ existence.” The bane of our existence — I’ve lived here since ’54 — is the noise of diesel trucks and buses and landlords’ greed for ever higher rent on both residential and commercial space.

So. The “new guys” were married at Our Lady of Pompei! Now there’s a recommendation for a pizza parlor on Christopher St.! I just hope the pope, the cardinal and the squatter of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. don’t find out about it.

Re “Rents going up…”: In the fall and winter of 1954-’55 I was dishwasher at La Palette, on the east side of Bleecker, between 10th and Charles — long gone, of course. The rent for this commercial space was $60 a month — and we had a regular customer by the name of Mrs. Patterson, a lady of a certain age (and independent means) who traveled to then-communist Yugoslavia. She brought back interesting jewelry. One evening she brought into the restaurant — eight or 10 tables, I think I recall — a good-looking young man whom she introduced as Richard White, and we were told he was setting up as jeweler on Christopher, nearby. And, indeed, he did. And he’s still there.

But not for long. It seems his rent’s going to $5,000 and he’s retiring. By my reckoning, he’s the oldest shop on the block under the same proprietorship. McNulty’s was there before but they changed proprietorship a score or so years ago.

John Stanley

Jodie’s dogs are missing momma

To The Editor:
I used to know Jodie Lane. “Hello children,” I would call out to her dogs. They were like children. How they must miss her.

Ginette Schenck

Skewers Sklarz on Christopher St.

To The Editor:
Re “Hanging Chad on Christopher St.” (letter, by Melissa Sklarz, Feb. 11):

I can tell Melissa Sklarz that the prostitutes are still on Greenwich St., even on cold, snowy nights, flashing their wares to those who drive by.

I can also tell Ms. Sklarz that she should talk to residents of my building, just off Christopher, who have been harassed and assaulted by those “loud, noisy young people” whose cause she has continually championed.

Was it a crime for a 12-year-old in my building to have a bottle thrown through his bedroom window while he slept? Was it a crime for residents of my building to be threatened with bodily harm by these “young people”? Is it a crime to sell drugs and prostitute yourself?

In a word, Yes.

The death of Sakia Gunn was a tragedy, but fighting racism or prejudice doesn’t conflict with fighting criminal activity, as Ms. Sklarz seems to think.

I can also tell Ms. Sklarz that she lost all credibility when, in 2001, she resorted to calling Villagers “homophobic racists” in the Village Voice. She did so because we were vigorously working to put an end to the outdoor bordello/drug market activity going on all night on our streets.

I will tell Melissa Sklarz that what we will do to make our neighborhood better is to continue to fight to put an end to ceaseless noise, prostitution and drug dealing. It has been six months now since I’ve walked out my door to be confronted by couples engaging in sexual activity in front of my building, and, although Ms. Sklarz may not agree, I find that better.

Susan Burklund

Balance on Christopher St.

To The Editor:
I write in response to last week’s letter entitled “Hanging Chad on Christopher St.” (by Melissa Sklarz). When I moved to Christopher St. six months ago, I sent around a letter to the residents of my building and reached out to residents of the surrounding area to ask if there was anything I could do to help them out in my capacity as a Community Board 2 representative.

I expected the replies to be focused on things like the poorly draining sewer on the corner of Christopher and Washington Sts. Instead, the overwhelming response I received came almost exclusively from frustrated residents who felt that they had been denied the right to the basic enjoyment of their homes and streets.

This concern was voiced by persons of all ages, races, sexual orientations and genders. Some were parents, some were in long-term relationships and some were single. Some were new to the community, while others had lived here for over two decades. In short, they were by no means (as they are often portrayed) a monolithic bloc of property-value obsessed, recent arrivals to the West Village who enjoy their neighborhood but generally dislike their neighbors and their neighborhood’s visitors.

In her letter, Melissa suggests that those who, like myself and my neighbors, are struggling to find ways to improve the quality of life of those who live in the Christopher St. area are engaging in some sort of uninformed, quixotic undertaking. However, a closer analysis of Melissa’s letter proves that not to be the case. For example, Melissa writes that “neighborhood complaints dropped from 8,112 in 2002 to 7,382 in 2003, a nine percent drop.” But the residents of my community could tell Melissa that after years of police inaction, they just don’t complain to the police with the frequency they once did.

Melissa suggests that we should listen to the “police and the mayor [who] could tell us that crime in New York is at record lows.” But as my original letter points out, that analysis is based only upon the most serious crimes, like rape and murder, and not all those that have a deleterious impact upon a neighborhood’s quality of life.

Melissa also states that my neighbor “Dave Poster and his patrol can tell me that the hated Two Potato is gone forever.” But scores of my neighbors have explained to me how it took years of effort to remove that infamous bar from the community. In fact, they tell me that even once C.B. 2 came to their aid, Councilmember Christine Quinn jumped into the melee to try to save the bar against the wishes of her own constituents.

Melissa’s letter seems to suggest that everyone in the city knows the true conditions of the Christopher St. area except those who live there. Moreover, her letter suggests that the residents of Christopher St. and the surrounding area should refrain from voicing their opinion regarding their neighborhood’s condition. I must respectfully disagree with her point of view.

Melissa’s letter is reflective of a debate that has gone on in the Christopher St. area (not just on Christopher St., which Melissa’s letter focuses on) for years between, on the one hand, those who believe that Christopher St. area residents’ quality of life can only be improved by transforming the neighborhood into another Upper East Side (God forbid!) and, on the other hand, those who believe that any attempt to improve the quality of life in the Christopher St. area is motivated by either greed, homophobia or racism. I believe, and an overwhelming majority of my neighbors believe, that there is a middle ground. We believe the Christopher St. area can be both one of the most accepting, welcoming and tolerant communities in the metropolitan area, while at the same time being a clean, peaceful, safe and enjoyable place for those who reside there. Admittedly, achieving this sort of balance will take a great deal of effort and understanding, as well as constant vigilance to make sure that this balance, once achieved, is maintained. But then again, nothing truly worthwhile ever comes easily.

Soon after I sent my letter to my neighbors asking how I might help out as a member of C.B. 2, a young family in my building told me about how they were walking with their children early one Sunday morning when they stumbled across two people having intercourse in full view on the corner of W. 11th and Washington Sts. Is it unreasonable to ask for a little bit better from one’s community?

Chad Marlow
Marlow is a member, Community Board 2

Kerry admits war crimes

To The Editor:
One person cannot be both a war hero and a war criminal. John Kerry is not a war hero, since he, himself, has admitted that he committed war crimes. On “Meet the Press” on May 6, 2001, Tim Russert played John Kerry an audiotape from April 18, 1971, where Kerry was asked whether he committed war crimes in Vietnam. Kerry’s response, on the 1971 tape, was:

“I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare, all of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions. . .”

Therefore, having admitted to committing war crimes, it is disingenuous for Kerry to now claim the mantle of “hero.” It is even more disingenuous for the media to keep perpetuating the “hero” myth.

Jonathan M. Stein

At last, another buhund!

To The Editor:
Re “New ‘it dog’ Crash is a splash in Village” (news article, Feb. 11):

It’s good to know that, with the arrival of Mr. Crash, there is another Norwegian buhund gracing the West Village. I’ve been living here quietly (O.K., maybe not always quietly) with Victoria Crane for the past eight years hoping that one day, New Yorkers would discover buhunds as loyal, intelligent and gorgeous companions — perfect for city living and weekends in the country.

After The Villager’s fine story, I’m looking forward to seeing more of my unique breed around town. (Did I mention how good-looking we are?)

Oona Elka Crane


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