Volume 81, Number 13ß | August 25 -31, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the Editor

Malcolm’s thinking had evolved

To The Editor:
Re “Chelsea woman led battle to end beach segregation in 1960” (news article, Aug. 11):

With all due respect to Velma Murphy Hill, I must take issue with her assessment of Malcolm X.

There is no question that the actions of African-Americans confronting mobs of racists is heroic, and I consider Ms. Hill’s actions heroic.

However, she is basing her opinions of Malcolm X on where he was politically at the time she met him.

I had the honor and privilege of knowing Malcolm X and his wonderful wife, Dr. Betty Shabazz, beginning a few months before Malcolm’s brutal assassination. By then his thinking had evolved, and he was no longer a nationalist, nor did he harbor beliefs that women belonged at home, and not on picket lines or anywhere else that protests were taking place.

I am a woman and not an African-American. Trust me when I say that Malcolm treated me with utmost respect, and even complimented me on the work I was doing at the time. I attended his meetings of the O.A.A.U. (Organization of Afro-American Unity), and was welcomed as an equal.

It is my opinion that Malcom X’s realization that we all had to join together, regardless of race, culture or whatever you want to call it, so that we could effectively fight against racism, poverty, etc., was what made the powers that be seek to kill him.
Anne K. Johnson

Thanks for a terrific issue

To The Editor:
“Today I am not a Villager” (notebook, Aug. 4, by Jenny Klion) tore my heart out. And Jenny Klion could have been speaking for me. Born in the Village and recently wrenched away from it, there is much that I miss. Your writers are always the best!

In that same week’s issue you covered N.Y.U. (and its miserable plans), the story of the Hess triangle, the Mars Bar closing and the need for a real E.R. and hospital, all forever of interest to me. I read it all: obits, Scoopy’s, letters. I’ll always be a Villager.

P.S.: Thank you, too, for your annual Community Handbook. Stephen Wolf’s “20 Greatest Downtown Movies” was just what I needed.

So thank you for filling the hole in my heart with wonderful writing and imagination.
Cynthia Crane Story

Keeping it real

To The Editor:
Re “L.E.S. hip hop history stars in Baruch brothers’ new film” (news article, Aug. 18):

Can’t wait to see this and can’t wait to give them my money. And thanks, The Villager, for covering real news and real art!
Shawn Chittle

Pining for Freed, Friedlander

To The Editor:
Re “Soho BID battle rages on as B’way sweeping stops” (news article, Aug. 4); and “BID plan for Soho’s Broadway corridor is now better” (talking point, by Margaret Chin, July 21):

All of Margaret Chin’s pandering to the changes in the Soho BID proposal belies the fact that the BID, no matter what the name, is unwanted by community residents, small businesses and property owners. The BID will be a permanent, undemocratic institution in Soho controlled by a few powerful real estate conglomerates and community outsiders who want to determine the future of Broadway and Soho.

Let’s not be fooled: Once established, the BID will adapt to the political agenda of corporate property owners and will have money and influence to dominate without risk of being disbanded.

There have been no attempts by Margaret Chin to work with the entire community to solve issues on Broadway outside of the BID proposal. A good leader could find other solutions that fairly involved everyone who has a stake in the community. In the past, Soho was represented by powerful women. Former Councilmembers Miriam Friedlander and Kathryn Freed worked with the Soho community and stood with the residents and small businesses when threatened by the interests of large corporations and developers. Apparently, Margaret Chin has sold us out.
Susan Fortgang

BID’s distortion campaign

To The Editor:
Re “BID group charges much opposition is from outside district” (news article, Aug. 11):

I live on Mercer St. and am on the board of a co-op that has three buildings on Broadway and two on Mercer St. We unanimously oppose the BID. The idea that opposition is from outside the area is a ridiculous distortion. Underline the “at this time” in the following quote from your article: “no intention at this time to expand the BID further into Soho.”

So of course we welcome the help of Sean Sweeney and our neighbors in opposing this unasked-for and unwelcome quasi-governmental intrusion into our neighborhood.

In the end, the BID is all about attracting more tourists to a neighborhood that is already flooded with visitors and cannot absorb any more. It is being forced on us by self-interested politicians, real estate developers and others.
Michael Lerner

United front against BIDs

To The Editor:
Camille Billops, an artist, and I bought our loft home at Broadway and Broome St. in 1973. The New York State Board of Regents approved us as an “educational institution” in 1975 when we founded a research library in African-American Cultural Archives. We have since published 29 volumes of Artist and Influence, a journal of minority art histories. Now we are threatened with losing our autonomy and perhaps our property.

We are now fighting the Soho Business Improvement District for our lives. Chinatown NO BID has now joined with Soho NO BID in a legal unit: The Property Taxpayers Association Corporation. Togeth-er, we will turn back “taxation without representation,” as our forefathers and -mothers did when they declared independence from the wealthy BIDders of 1776.
James V. Hatch
Hatch is a professor emeritus, CUNY

Skewed Chinatown data

To The Editor:
Re “Back Chinatown B.I.D.” (editorial, July 21):

Chinatown Business Improvement District proponents deliberately skewed their data when they touted that 97 percent of the ballots were in favor of it. However, they were referring only to the returned ballots. Of the 2,300 surveys that were sent out, only 550 responded; so that means 1,750 either did not respond or never received the survey. No one knows how many mailings were returned undelivered. The numbers strongly suggest that there was insufficient and unacceptable outreach.

Community Boards 1, 2 and 3 were persuaded to vote in favor of the Chinatown BID based on the 97 percent quote, when in fact only 23 percent (534 out of 2,300) responded favorably. Even those responses are highly questionable, because the respondents did not need to show proof of identity, nor their deeds for any property. When more ballots were needed in June 2010, the Chinatown BID targeted the nonprofit organizations (exempt from any assessment fee), private residential owners (paying a $1 fee), and doctors’ offices (paying a $200 fee) because those groups would bear no or minimal financial burden for the BID. Of course, it’s easy to vote yes when it’s someone else’s hard-earned money that will be spent.

Clearly, 550 is a low number of unverified and mixed respondents in such a densely populated community and cannot be deemed sufficient to claim the required strong community support for a Chinatown BID.

On the other hand, verified owners of 562 properties filed their objections with the City Clerk within the short 30-day limitation — the most verified objections ever against any New York City BID!

Having full knowledge of the inequities in standards, as well as the high number of objections, Councilmember Margaret Chin should be ashamed that she is aggressively advocating for the Chinatown BID and trying to steamroll it through. Chinatown is still recovering from 9/11’s aftereffects, the closure of Park Row and the removal of community-available parking. Now it is weathering the economy’s current downturn. Chin has failed to grasp the potentially devastating impact of the BID assessment fees upon the small property owners and businesses. Chinatown cannot afford a BID!
Susan Parent

BID response was good

To The Editor:
Re “BID process is unfair” (letter, by Zella Jones, Aug. 18).  

Once again, we are forced to correct the misinformation from opponents to the proposed business improvement district for Soho’s Broadway. This is a short reply to one issue — building a consensus of support. Learn more at www.sohobid.org .

Of the 280 tax lots in the BID service area — Broadway between Houston and Canal Sts. — 146 are residential condominium units, which pay just $1 per year in BID fees. Knowing that the creation of a BID for Soho’s Broadway will cost them just $1 per year for beneficial services, many of these residential condo owners don’t take the time to complete the detailed BID questionnaire that is required by the New York City Department of Small Business Services during the BID formation process.

However, the property owners of 124 of the total 280 tax lots did fill out the questionnaire. That 44 percent response rate is better than the turnout in most New York elections. And 80 percent of those who responded support the BID. That’s 99 Broadway property owners, representing 65 percent of the total assessed value of all property in the BID service area.
And the owners of those 99 properties will pay 68 percent of the BID’s total budget of $550,000. Each residential co-operative property will pay that same $1 per year, equal to that of residential condo owners.  

The owners who took the time to vote, and most of whom will be paying the largest part of the BID budget, support the BID by a ratio of 4 to 1.
Barbara J. Cohen
Cohen is a consultant for the Soho Broadway Business Improvement District steering committee

The watermelon rebuttal

To The Editor:
Re “Close Indian Point” (editorial, Aug. 4):

Why not? The last major earthquake to hit Indian Point struck 200 million years ago. Could another big earthquake strike tomorrow? Why not?

You could be struck dead as you walk down Broadway by a watermelon that falls out of an airplane. “Death From Falling Watermelons” is the subtitle of a book I wrote. Could it happen? Why not?

Indian Point supplies 35 percent of the fuel used by Con Edison. That’s about one-third of the electricity we New Yorkers use. Close Indian Point now? Would you like to be without electric power for one-third of a day — 8 hours?

Replacing Indian Point with solar cells and windmills is a charming fantasy, now! It would cost billions of dollars — out of our pockets.

Maybe in 10 years. Maybe.

The U.S.A. is sliding downhill because of global changes, aided by the imbecility of Democratic and Republican politicians.

Our neighbors are out of work and hungry.

Let’s put aside fantasies about closing Indian Point now.

Let us focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the American infrastructure.

For real jobs, fairness and equality, Join the American Good-Luck Party.
Cy A. Adler

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 515 Canal St., Suite 1C, NY, NY 10013. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.

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