Volume 73, Number 46 | March 17 -23, 2004



Letters to the Editor

Pei’s towers need their space

To The Editor:
I appreciate The Villager’s coverage of the effort to landmark the I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers complex and auxiliary structures and landscaping (“Superblock, and supermarket, proposed for landmark status,” news article, March 10). However, the emphasis of the article on the supermarket and surrounding grounds, and some of the statements quoted in the article, may have been misleading to the reader.

  First and foremost, the proposal emanates from the desire to recognize, and ensure the preservation of, the Pei towers and the plaza, sculpture and outdoor furniture, all clearly created as integral parts of the design. Pei’s influence, especially at this early stage of his career, on some of the most important architectural currents of the last 40 years, is quite apparent in this bold design. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is obviously a monument not only of postwar modern architecture, but of the evolution of contemporary architecture in the late 20th and into the 21st century. The driving force behind this nomination to the Landmarks Preservation Commission was these important attributes, and not an attempt to control the future of the supermarket site, or to preserve a dog run or community garden use, which landmarking does not regulate; to be clear, these are very important issues, but simply not ones which can be addressed by landmarking.

  However, what is also clear about this design is that the relationship between the towers and the open space, and the buildings to one another, is key to the design’s rationale and success. To those who would doubt that open space can and should be recognized as an integral part of a design in a landmark designation, look no further than such modern icons as the Seagram’s Building, Lever House, the CBS Building and Rockefeller Center. All include open space as part of their New York City landmark designations.

  Regarding the supermarket building, nobody is arguing that it is of any individual distinction. However, much as some low-rise “no-style” buildings in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and other historic districts, are included in designations as non-contributing buildings — not to preserve them per se, but to ensure that the sites maintain the appropriate relationship to their surroundings — so have we suggested that the supermarket and Coles gym be included as part of a designation for the Silver Towers complex as non-contributing buildings. Preservation ought to be considered holistically, and it seems clear that the design for this complex was based on the notion of these three towers standing free within the superblock, defining a central plaza punctuated by the Picasso sculpture, and surrounded by open space and low, horizontal, deferential buildings.

  I find it disappointing that N.Y.U.’s statements about the proposal are so dismissive of what is clearly the desire of hundreds of the buildings’ residents, local elected officials and some of the city’s most prominent preservationists to recognize and preserve this complex. (The article neglected to mention support from the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter and the Modern Architecture Working Group, as well as the numerous awards and accolades the design has received over the years from sources as diverse as architectural critic Robert Stern and Fortune Magazine.) N.Y.U. claims to want to support preservation in Greenwich Village, to work with their neighbors on development issues and to have their contributions to the community over the years noted. Here they have a chance to get all three at once — all they have to do is show a willingness to allow one of their more highly considered building projects in the Village to be recognized and preserved. Why they might fear this is difficult to understand.

  Let’s hope this is not another opportunity squandered by the university.
 
Andrew Berman
Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Save Gansevoort Market


Proudly backing superblock plan

To The Editor:
I want to take this opportunity to clarify some information contained in “Superblock, and supermarket, proposed for landmark status” (news article, March 10).

The residents of 505 LaGuardia Pl. overwhelming support the nomination of the University Village/Silver Towers superblock and have submitted 115 letters of support to the New York City Landmarks Commission, not the 100 reported. In our letters to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the residents of 505 LaGuardia Pl. and its board cited our pride as residents of an award-winning and beautiful modern complex of great distinction by one of the world’s foremost architects as our reason for supporting landmark designation. When it is all too common for owners to object to landmark designation of their property and the supposed “burden” it applies, I am proud of our forward-thinking co-operative residents who wholeheartedly endorsed this proposal. This element of the story was overlooked in the article. Additionally, the article failed to mention the support letter of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, our new and most-welcome neighbor on LaGuardia Pl.

Regarding the inclusion of surrounding green open spaces in the landmarking nomination: the Towers being surrounded by open spaces, which define a central plaza, is clearly an integral part of the original design, and one which we believe should be maintained. We also would very much like to see the Time Landscape, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, the Mercer-Houston Dog Run and adjacent pocket and children’s parks remain on these open spaces (which, it should be noted, cover a tiny amount of land, but are precious to those who use them). However, we know that landmarking doesn’t preserve dog runs or gardens, and we are also working with our elected officials and the appropriate city agencies to do what needs to be done to preserve these precious uses on our block. However, to imply that we are seeking to landmark these uses as such is inaccurate. We are only seeking to landmark that which can be regulated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission — in this case, the element of open space serving as counterpoint to the three towers, which we believe is part of what makes the design work so well.

In the same way, the unobtrusive nature of the non-contributing Coles and supermarket buildings allows Pei’s towers and Picasso’s “Portrait of Sylvette” to remain the main focal elements of the design. We feel it is necessary to look at the superblock in its entirety, not as disconnected parts.

Carin Cardone
Cardone is chairperson, Landmarks Committee 505 LaGuardia Pl. Board of Directors


Fighting development for decades

To The Editor:
Re “Oh, now we’re getting concerned” (letter, by Barry Weiser, Feb. 10):

In a letter to The Villager, Barry Weiser implies that those now leading the latest fight against overdevelopment in the Far West Village spent the last 15 years ignoring the problem. I can’t speak for anyone else but the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront & Great Port has been aggressively pushing land-use protection for the Far West Village since our inception, nearly 20 years ago. Under the leadership of Ben Green, Verna Small and the late Terry Miller, we led the fight for the creation of a waterfront historic district in the ’80s and the ’90s, and fought against zoning variances for developers.

Most important, we recognized, from the beginning, the effect the Hudson River Park would have on the adjacent neighborhood. As far back as 1993, we called the Hudson River Park “a real estate deal, as well as a park,” and while we favored a riverfront esplanade, we predicted that without zoning and historic district protection, the Far West Village would become, well, exactly what it’s become.

This is not to say we were alone. Assemblymember Deborah Glick, for example, fought with us every step of the way, risking the ire of developers all over the city. The West Village Committee has also been with us from the beginning, and The Greenwich Village Community Task Force, formed in 1998, began a new initiative for a historic district along the waterfront, called the Maritime Mile, which has kept the issue alive. More recently, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation completed an impressive and successful battle to landmark the Gansevoort Market.

Yes, maybe everyone wasn’t on the same page from the beginning, but we are now. That’s the important thing. We’re still fighting against powerful developers who see astronomical profits where we see a viable neighborhood and an irreplaceable part of the city’s past. The only chance we have is to speak loudly and with one voice.

On Sun., April 18, the Federation is cosponsoring a mass rally in the Far West Village. It’s vitally important that we have a huge turnout.

Stuart Waldman
Waldman is co-chairperson, the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront & Great Port


Keller was a workingmen’s bar

To The Editor:
Re: “Gottlieb gets in on river rush” (news article, Feb. 25):

In the third-from-the-last paragraph, Michael Bordonaro describes the Keller Bar as “sleazy;” then he’s quoted as saying, possibly wrinkling his nose in distaste, “I don’t know what kind of people stayed upstairs….” I never lived upstairs, but I spent a certain amount of time in the bar when the Norwegian Line ships docked nearby, across West St., and I didn’t find it sleazy.

I knew a few people who lived “upstairs” and one of them was Daniel O’Neil, “Dapper Dan” O’Neil; I knew him for decades. And we’re fellow patients at the V.A. Hospital on 23rd St. I haven’t seen Dapper for a while; he was driven out of the Keller and had to take refuge somewhere.

As I say, when the Norwegian Line ships were in, there were seamen in there — as well as neighborhood longshoremen. West St. was lined with bars. Only place to go between “shape-ups.” It, they, were normal taverns for workingmen. True, it wasn’t the Stork Club, but workingmen found convivium there.

Twenty-one-year-old youths shouldn’t be encouraged to sneer at the deliberately deprived-oppressed-work-saturated class — who are quickly driven out of the bars and, indeed, their homes when they become inconvenient; driven out of the city, their neighborhoods and forced into diaspora — as were the crofters driven from the glens of Caithness when the lords of the land replaced them with sheep.

The past 50 years here in the Village, west of Hudson St., has been a stark lesson of the class struggle and who’s who and who gets to live where and who’s told to be on his way when the exploitation gears want refitting — in the pitiless Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie.

John Stanley


Problems persist on Christopher

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

First of all, I want to know where Ms. Sklarz lives, because if she doesn’t live on Christopher St., she has no basis for saying that Chad Marlow’s description of our West Village neighborhood is false. He really does live in on Christopher St. He had been approached by several residents about our neighborhood and wanted to express these concerns to the Sixth Precinct and Community Board 2.

  It is a fact that most of the bars, lounges and restaurants are located in the area of Seventh Ave. and Bleecker St., but people don’t just stay in the bars, lounges and restaurants. Sometimes the patrons from these establishments and others on Christopher St. like to continue the party, and they seek more isolated areas of the Village, such as the pier, W. Tenth St. and Weehawken St., just off Christopher. Sometimes the people aren’t patrons, but people Ms. Sklarz referred to as “outsiders,” who come to the Village to do whatever they want. We welcome visitors to our neighborhood, but they are not welcome when drugs and prostitution are involved and when they harass other people. Some of us have been harassed walking home from the subway. Some of us have been harassed walking our dogs. Some of us look out our window and see hustlers, dealers and groups on the street corner, sometimes staying all night into the morning. Some of us have seen people having sex in their cars and dealing drugs right outside our windows. I cannot forget when a group of people were trying to climb up my fire escape, at which I called the police. When the police arrived they found the group had packets of drugs in their possession.

  The police have listened to us when we’ve voiced our concerns at C.B. 2 meetings, but more needs to be done. I know Dave Poster and am aware of his dedication and hard work. Yes, the streets are monitored by Dave and his patrol, but we need more police presence in our area. Yes, the Port Authority sits in front of the PATH. Yes, the PEP officers and Hudson River Park are welcome additions. Yes, the real estate values have skyrocketed. Yes, Two Potato is gone. But that doesn’t get rid of the drugs, the prostitution, the all-night street gatherings. Are the hustlers and dealers really going to be hanging out doing their illegal activity within sight of the Port Authority or the PEP’s?

Warmer weather is just around the corner and so are the drugs, prostitution and the all-night street gatherings.

Yes, Village life is better compared to years past, but do not dismiss the drug problems and other problems that exist now around Christopher St. just because it’s not rampant as it was back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’90s.
 
Maria Barret


Rescue insured Afflack’s safety

To The Editor:
Re “The happy goose of Gansevoort” (letter, by Barbara Chacour, March 10):

  All those concerned about the fate of the “happy goose of Gansevoort” mentioned in last week’s Villager, may put their minds at ease. “Goosey,” “Lily” or “Afflack,” as the goose was named by various admirers, is now safely living in Farm Sanctuary’s beautiful Upstate shelter near Watkins Glen, NY. There he has a big pond for swimming, a warm barn to take the chill off those single-digit nights, veterinary care and the companionship of other domestic geese like himself. His name has now become “Affy.”

  For over a year and a half, Affy’s striking white figure on Gansevoort Peninsula delighted passersby, inspiring some neighbors to bring daily offerings to supplement those provided by the caring sanitation workers. Affy seemed content, but his life on Gansevoort was precarious.

  Domestic geese like Affy do not do well on their own in the wild, despite what many people believe. Affy’s injured wing must not have healed properly, since he was unable to fly up from the river to his shelter, but was forced to make the treacherous climb up a rocky embankment to his food dishes, even over ice. Rats had discovered this food source, and frequently stole half his food. When he finally reached the safety of Farm Sanctuary, he was severely underweight, had more than one injury, and showed high levels of cocciadia, a parasite that would have eventually killed him. January’s bitter cold turned the river to ice in the area near Affy’s home, making it nearly impossible for him to reach his shelter or feeding spot.

  Two incredibly brave volunteers tried numerous times, before, finally, taking their lives in their hands, they went out on the ice and rescued the goose. Thanks to their determination and the dedication of numerous caring people, including the workers at the District 2 Department of Sanitation garage, Affy is now comfortably set for life. He is finding his place in the flock and now has two special goose friends, Big Mama and Shawnee.

  Affy has been named Farm Sanctuary’s Animal of the Month. To read more about him, log onto http://www.farmsanctuary.org/adopt/rescue_affy.htm. While there, you can explore the rest of Farm Sanctuary’s Web site (www.farmsanctuary.org) and learn what you can do to save animals like Affy from the abuses of factory farming.
 
Carol Moon, M.Ed.
Moon is the humane educator at Farm Sanctuary


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