Volume 73, Number 48 | March 31 - April 6, 2004

Letters to the editor

X-ray eyesight is not needed to see through superblock plan

To The Editor:
Re “Superblock, and supermarket, proposed for landmark status” (news article, March 10):

Over the past two weeks, there has been a great deal of coverage about a proposal to landmark the “superblock” bounded by Houston, Bleecker and Mercer Sts. and LaGuardia Pl. However, if we are going to discuss this issue, it’s important that the proponents clarify a basic fact and their motivations.

In an article two weeks ago in The Villager, Councilmember Gerson “admitted” that the possible development of a building where the Morton Williams supermarket now stands was a major motivating factor for the landmarking proposal. Councilmember Gerson, as was stated in the article, lives at 505 LaGuardia Pl., on the superblock.

Last week, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, wrote to clarify what Councilmember Gerson — and others — said in the story. The landmarking initiative, he writes, is intended to preserve the I.M. Pei towers, the plaza, the sculpture and outdoor furniture and is “not an attempt to control the future of the supermarket site… which landmarking does not regulate.”

I take you back now to a letter Mr. Berman wrote to me in January, after I wrote to him about this landmarking proposal. In response, he wrote “the owners of that building (505 LaGuardia Pl.) requested I address the possibility of pursuing designation for their building and block, an initiative that they strongly support, as G.V.S.H.P. now does.” In a follow-up phone conversation, he reiterated that the landmarking request was initiated by the residents of 505 LaGuardia, not by his group.

So which is it? Councilmember Gerson, a resident of 505 LaGuardia Pl., the son of the former president (and still very active member) of the 505 LaGuardia Pl. Tenants Association, tells us that the supermarket site is an important part of this effort. Mr. Berman tells us that is not the reason for the landmarking proposal, although he also claims it wasn’t his idea. If it wasn’t his idea, how can he speak for the motivation behind the idea? It appears Mr. Berman is bobbing and weaving in his arguments to distract us from the main point — that this is a blatant attempt to misuse the landmarks law to circumvent the zoning.

People in this neighborhood should ask for some straight talk from the proponents of this idea. If they themselves don’t seem to know why they are making this proposal, the rest of us cannot be blamed for being skeptical of their true motives.

Michael Haberman
Haberman is N.Y.U. director of government
and community relations

Community news at its very finest

To The Editor:
Re “Jane Wood, tenant activist, dies at 96” (obituary, March 24):

What is a community weekly newspaper for? Well, one thing it is for is to bring us splendid reporting of important local news, as exemplified by Al Amateau’s rich, warm obituary of my dear friend Jane Wood. I go back with Jane to 1971, when I used to live in Chelsea; we had a tenants demonstration and Jane and I were arrested together along with dozens of other people. That was the start of my activism.

Jane’s years of unceasing struggle for her neighborhood deserved nothing less than the best — and Al gave what she deserved.

Keith Crandell

Waterfront goals were clear in ’70

To The Editor:
Re “Oh now we’re getting concerned” (letter, by Barry Weiser, March 10) and “Fighting development for decades” (letter, by Stuart Waldman, March 17):

Protesting against overdevelopment in the Far West Village should not be a matter of who came first. Whether this community spent “the last 15 years ignoring the problem” or whether land-use protection has been “aggressively pushed for the last 20 years” is not important.

We must now band together to oppose the rampant out-of-scale and overdevelopment of the Far West Village. The recent jointly sponsored community meeting at the Morton Development Center hopefully revealed to the city (and to developers) an energized, dedicated community with knowledgeable, competent leadership.

For the record, fundamental concerns began after W.W. II when it became clear that the historically commercial North River (Hudson River) waterfront and its upland were unsuitable for modern containerized cargo ship operations and the Village piers had lost their significance for passenger ships.

So it was not surprising when, in 1968, Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton offered each of his 12 community boards the wherewithal to engage professional assistance to study an area of major opportunity in their district, that Board 2 chose the waterfront and its immediate upland area. A Special Committee of C.B. 2 interviewed over 60 applicants that were eager to be community advocates in this historic land-planning effort. Some of the country’s most prominent architects applied for the job including, by the way, Richard Meier. The fledgling firm of Beyer, Blinder and Belle was selected. In 1970, after a year or so of frequent committee meetings, BBB issued their Stage 1 Report that included aims and goals that were unanimously approved by C.B. 2. This highly publicized report was also well regarded by the New York City City Planning Commission. Following are those aims and goals:

Revitalize the waterfront to play an increased role in the social, economic and cultural life of the community.

Maintain and extend the existing characteristics of Greenwich Village throughout the Waterfront Study area.

Preserve existing buildings.

Provide for new housing in the character and overall density of Greenwich Village.

Encourage the growth of small retail shops and diverse businesses.

Provide community recreation at the water’s edge and in the upland areas in relation to centers of pedestrian activity.

Provide for new community facilities to serve the new population in the area, as well as surrounding neighborhoods.

Develop circulation systems that separate local and through traffic.

Improve public transit service to all parts of the West Village.

Encourage continued employment by maintaining a diversity of industrial and commercial functions.

Enforce existing air and water pollution controls and create new environmental standards for the area.

A Stage 2 follow-on program was completed in 1974. Beyer, Blinder and Belle devised an imaginative zoning overlay concept for a Washington St. Special District to allow conversion of many abandoned or underused warehouses in manufacturing- and commercial-zoned areas for legal residential use. The city’s acceptance of this overlay is apparent in the present Tower Warehouse Building, Shephard Warehouse Building, Archives Building and many others. Density is achieved without high-rise.

Arthur P. Stoliar
Stoliar is a former chairperson of Community Board 2

Reader Services

Email our editor


The Villager is published by
Community Media LLC.

The Villager | 487 Greenwich St., Suite 6A | New York, NY 10013

Phone: 212.229.1890 | Fax: 212.229.2970
Email: news@thevillager.com

Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.