Volume 73, Number 52 | April 28 - May 4, 2004

Letters to the Editor

Team effort beat zoning threat

To The Editor:
Re “City reverses its ruling on Market tower” (April 21):

The victory in getting the city to reverse itself and not allow the 450-ft.tall residential high-rise as as-of-right development at 848 Washington St., or in any manufacturing zone, was the result of the tremendously hard work of many, many people working together to stop this grossly inappropriate development and the flood of other inappropriate development this ruling would have allowed as well. In addition to the literally thousands of people who heeded our call to write the mayor and turn out for meetings and demonstrations against this harmful and dangerous ruling, I would especially like to thank:

Councilmember Christine Quinn; State Senator Tom Duane; Assemblymember Deborah Glick; Congressmember Jerrold Nadler; Jo Hamilton; Florent Morellet; David Rabin; Michelle Dell; Elaine Young and VARROOMM; Local 342 of the UFCW; the New York Industrial Retention Network; the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation; the Municipal Art Society; the Greenwich Village Community Task Force and the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and Great Port; the New York Hotel and Trades Council; Neighbors Against Garbage; the Greenpoint Manufacturing Development Corporation; the East Williamsburg Industrial Development Corporation; Councilmember David Yassky; Councilmember Alan Gerson; David Reck and Community Boards 2, 3, 4 and 5 (Manhattan), 2 (Brooklyn) and 4 (Queens); the Historic Districts Council; and Bob Wilkins and the owners and workers of the meatpacking businesses of Gansevoort Market. Each made invaluable contributions to this effort.

The wonderful lesson of this victory is that with strong support and participation from residents and businesses and elected officials and with a strong coalition, we can affect city policy and protect our neighborhoods. We are fighting right now to similarly protect the rest of the Far West Village. This victory was a significant boon to those efforts, not only stopping this plan but hindering other potential developments in the Far West Village and other light-manufacturing zones like Noho. However, we must still secure landmark protections to preserve our historic buildings and zoning changes to preserve the scale and character of our neighborhood. Please join us to work to make this a reality — go to www.gvshp.org and click on “Protecting the Far West Village,” or call 212-475-9585 to find out how you can help.

Andrew Berman
Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society
for Historic Preservation and Save Gansevoort Market

Just following bidding process

To The Editor:
Regarding the article in the April 14, 2004, Villager entitled “Caring Community may take over the Greenwich House senior center,” I would like to clarify a quote attributed me, namely: “We’ve been requested by the Department for the Aging to compete for funding for the program because our specialty is running senior centers.”

In reality, The Caring Community, along with Greenwich House and other possible bidders, is essentially following a process whereby qualified agencies bid on D.F.T.A. contracts that come up for renewal after a five-year period. This was the case for the Greenwich House Senior Center, and is standard for D.F.T.A. programs.

Lester J. Bates
Bates is executive director, The Caring Community

Let’s work with, not fight, N.Y.U.

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U. keeps avoiding issues” (letter, by Andrew Berman, April 14):

A few years ago, I was interviewed by a reporter for this paper and asked what I thought of Michael Haberman being brought on as the director of government and community relations for New York University. Having lived my entire life in proximity to Washington Sq., I simply said that “I hope he can get them to listen to us.”

Recently, I attended the Town Hall meeting hosted by the university and came away encouraged to see that for the first time in memory, N.Y.U. was not only listening, but actually willing to enter into a dialogue with this community. Therefore, I was distressed to see the letter from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which accused the university of refusing to “engage a serious proposal,” “acknowledge the community’s consternation” or “to deal with the real issue.” Frankly, this is not the impression that I left the meeting with. On the contrary, I was impressed that President Sexton not only invited us in to hear our concerns, but showed a willingness to continue the discussion in other community forums.

Surely, we did not expect President Sexton to enter into open negotiations at that meeting or completely acquiesce.

Let’s be honest. This community has waged some successful fights and blocked many ill-conceived development projects, but not against N.Y.U. The fact that the university is willing to enter into a discussion on a project that they may build “as of right” and before they have begun the design is a very encouraging sign. When he was president of the law school, John Sexton showed that he was willing to listen to the community’s concerns and compromised on the new law building. We would have wanted more, but it was more than we ever got before.

Sometimes it seems that beating up on N.Y.U. has become an acceptable pastime in this community. We tend to forget just how much the university students and personnel give back in time, effort and money. A few weeks ago, we read in The Villager about Michael Haberman’s efforts to restore the Washington Sq. Arch. Then there was the story featuring Michael’s work on behalf of the Greenwich Village Music Festival. It is clear that all of us have an interest in preserving the qualities of this community that make it special. Let’s work together.

Michael Mirisola

Free speech at core of apple flap

To The Editor:
In my previous letters to the editor concerning the nature of art in our area I have asked, “Where are our leaders?” In your article “Member banished from board over ‘Karan apple’ flap” (April 21) we finally heard from a leader, Jim Smith, the chairperson of Community Board 2. The only problem is that his letter is full of inaccuracies and false charges leveled against me personally. In addition, it should be noted that his letter was written and his charges made without Smith ever once speaking to me or confronting me with the charges. This is not the sort of leadership we need.

Mr. Smith states that I asked for the public to be removed from the C.B. 2 Art Committee meeting. This is not only 100 percent incorrect, it is a personal attack on my character. The truth is that I objected to the fact that our committee chairperson, Harriet Fields, allows the public (people we had never even seen before) to vote with committee members, and overrule us on important issues such as the C.B.2 art gallery, the Karan sculpture and even our committee rules. I also strongly objected to the gag order Ms. Fields placed upon committee members that forbade us from discussing the very community issues that come before us. That may have been the accepted procedure in Saddam’s Iraq, but it just does not wash in a constitutional democracy. The First Amendment still holds fast in America, even if it is under assault at C.B. 2.

Ms. Fields insisted committee members vote on the Karan apple that very night, in spite of the fact that we had not heard from Karan’s people, the Waterfront Committee (they have jurisdiction), or the parks people. We had not even visited the site to see if the size and dimension of the piece were appropriate. Frankly, this situation was nothing more than two or three people attempting to deny an entire community of the right to enjoy art in public. When it became clear I was not going for it, they simply fired me and kicked me out of the meeting. Democracy? Hardly.

As far as I am concerned, the esthetic arguments that Fields and her pals put forth against the Karan sculpture were inappropriate, biased and just did not hold water. One person’s masterpiece is another person’s piece of junk. All artists are aware of this. Therefore to deny the installation of this piece of art just because Harriet and a couple of her pals think it sucks is just plain wrong. If we were to decide issues of art in this manner, very little culture would remain.

With all of this in mind, I again call out for leadership to step forward and grab the reins of this out-of-control committee. Of course, when I refer to leadership I mean the kind that leads, not the kind that misrepresents events and makes false charges against a person in a public letter just to help their personal friend get rid of public art.

Any real leaders out there ?

Lawrence White

Amen, for some peace

To The Editor:
I am sorry that so few people seem to know that, in these times of tension, there is a great source of peace here in the Village. I refer to the weekly Evening Prayer and Communion services at our beautiful Church of the Ascension, at Fifth Ave. and 10th St., Mondays through Fridays at 6 p.m. They provide a little over half an hour of quietness and beauty.

Nobody dresses up. People come as they are — from work, or wherever they live. And no one passes a collection plate. Lessons and prayers are also read. I think that if more Villagers knew about this, they would come, and enjoy it.

Arthur Anderson

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