Volume 73, Number 54 | May 12 - 18, 2004

Letters to the Editor

Who’s stepping up for Hudson Park?

To The Editor:
Re “Trust fund could get more flush with Hillary and Chuck’s support.”

Without question, it’s good news that the Hudson River Park Trust, supported by Friends of Hudson River Park and other park advocates, is making a full-court press to secure the needed $200 million so that Tribeca, Chelsea and other parts of the West Side can enjoy the same fantastic new park that West Villagers now enjoy. More distressing, however, is the difficulty we have had in obtaining solid commitments from our elected officials. With the park’s initial funding set to run out next year, only the City Council and Speaker Gifford Miller have so far come forward with a tangible funding proposal that would help get this park built, and even that depends on the outcome of budget negotiations now underway at City Hall.

Several recent proposals for redeveloping other parcels of land on the West Side have envisioned a finished Hudson River Park as part of the presentation. But no one has come forward with a concrete plan that would dedicate the $200 million needed to finish the park.

All of us on the West Side need to continue our efforts to hold our elected officials to fulfilling the commitment to reclaiming the Hudson River waterfront for the people of New York. Garbage truck depots and crumbling bulkheads are not appropriate recreational facilities for a great city in the 21st century.

Albert K. Butzel
Butzel is president, Friends of Hudson River Park

Westway was wrong way to go

To The Editor:
Re “I’ll take Westway over 9A any day” (letter, by Bruce Haxthausen, April 5):

Since Mr. Haxthausen did not live in this community at the time Westway was proposed, he may not know the full scope of what was involved in the proposal. This billion-dollar boondoggle would have landfilled the Hudson River and placed high-rises a block into the river. If not for the long and dedicated fight of Marcy Benstock and other community activists, Mr. Haxthausen’s trip to the park would be even more taxing since he’d live several blocks further from the water’s edge.

Deborah Glick
Glick is assemblymember for the 66th District

N.Y.U. still hasn’t earned our trust

To The Editor:
Re: “Let’s work with, not fight, N.Y.U.” (letter, by Michael Mirisola, April 28)

There is not one community group in Greenwich Village, Noho or Soho that does not want to work with New York University. Unfortunately, N.Y.U. has not made a good-faith effort to acknowledge the issues that concern our neighborhoods.

At the Town Hall meeting on March 30, President Sexton showed nothing but contempt for anyone who tried to truly engage him in a meaningful discussion regarding N.Y.U.’s development in Greenwich Village and Noho. He was particularly dismissive to Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Zella Jones, director of the Noho Neighborhood Association, who only wanted to engage Sexton in a discussion regarding N.Y.U.’s use of zoning bonuses in its development plans.

President Sexton asked that the community present to him well-developed suggestions of community preferences for the Morton Williams site, although N.Y.U. will not be bound by any of these suggestions. The community would be happy to make suggestions to President Sexton if only he would provide the community with a framework to start from and thus some remote assurance that these suggestions will merit even a second glance. All he has made clear so far is that he won’t consider any substantial reductions from the maximum legally allowable height and bulk, which is twice as great for N.Y.U. as for anyone else, due to their “community facility” bonus; and that we can look to the N.Y.U. Law School as a model of what N.Y.U. would like to do at the Morton Williams site — cold comfort to many of us. In order for N.Y.U. and the community to work together, N.Y.U. needs to share its master plan with the community, outlining its priority building needs over the next 10 years, including possible sites, building sizes and uses.

If N.Y.U. is serious about engaging in a real and productive dialogue, they might start with addressing the superblock landmarking proposal. For an institution that has been widely criticized for its unattractive buildings that loom over Washington Sq. Park (the law school, Kimmel, Bobst) it would be wise for N.Y.U. to embrace the preservation of the Pei buildings and Picasso statue as part of a rare N.Y.U. development project that actually works in its surroundings.

Ariel Cannon
Cannon is a resident of 505 LaGuardia Pl.

It’s graffiti, not hat, that matters

To The Editor:
The title of your article “Noho vendor’s graffiti-caps are art, judge says” (news article, May 5) could be a bit misleading to those who do not fully understand the actual rules. In reality the judge said that the painting “on” the hats was artwork; the hats themselves are purely incidental. In other words — freedom of expression is Constitutional right, hats are not. The medium is not the message. This is a crucial distinction.

In the earlier court case that defines artists’ rights, the judge made it clear in his decision that the forms of artwork that qualify for these expressive rights are “Painting, Sculpture, Photography and Printmaking.” The judge did not limit the medium on which these art styles may appear. In 1995 I personally experienced a similar decision concerning my silkscreen-printed shirts. The decision in my case stated that just because my artwork was printed on cloth with arm and neck holes it did not make it any less of an expressive statement. I was allowed to continue to display my hand-screened shirts.

The positive aspect of these decisions is that they allow working artists an ability to express themselves freely in public without fear of harassment due to the items on which they represent their art. The negative aspect would be if a flood of people used the confusion over this issue as a smokescreen to validate an open-air flea market while once again hiding behind artists’ rights.

Therefore it certainly is to the city’s and the artists’ great advantage for the authorities to keep this distinction of true artistic expression firmly in mind as the law is enforced in the public areas of our city.

Lawrence White

Some tips on handling squirrels

To The Editor:
Re: “Squirrels: Destroying my plants and quality of life” (notebook, by Wilson, April 28).

My sympathies to Wilson in her losing battle with squirrels. The little bastards are relentless. They really are just rats with bushy tails.

But — sorry, Wilson — I love them. I’ve been feeding them on my fire escape for years. In fact, I’ve spent a fortune on them, knowing that maybe 70 percent of the nuts I’ve given them have wound up not in their stomachs but buried throughout the neighborhood in flowerpots, tree pits, doormats, air-conditioning units and once in someone’s pillowcase near an open bedside window.

Contrary to popular opinion, however, the answer is not to stop feeding them. They’re just not that easily put off, as Wilson — an unfeeder of squirrels — knows. No, the trick is to manage them. Put out plants they don’t like (hint: houseplants, petunias, geraniums, woody shrubs). Drill chopsticks under the soil so the plants can’t be easily uprooted by the squirrels’ burying process. Put up birdfeeders that are too flimsy for the squirrels to invade but are still accessible for birds. Or just feed them stuff that doesn’t trigger their burying instincts: nuts with their shells cracked open, dried corn, sunflower seeds, etc. Seems to work.

Yeah, yeah, I know these techniques don’t mitigate the fact that to some I aid and abet the enemy every day. Spare me all the remarks you might have about their destructive, supposedly disease-ridden habits. Believe me, I’ve heard them all. If I drop dead from rabies tomorrow, so be it. The squirrels will still be there. And somebody else will no doubt take my place in their care. I just thought I’d pass on some tips on how to survive their reckless disregard of human concerns.

Marion Osmun

Lopez is part of the problem

To The Editor:
Re “Towering dorm is proposed on the former CHARAS site” (news article, April 14):

I am amazed but not surprised at the statements made by City Councilmember Margarita Lopez regarding the proposed 23-story dormitory that is slated for the former Public School 64. The former occupants, CHARAS/El Bohio, had the option of purchasing this building directly from the city at negotiated sale, but instead wanted the building to be given to them for $1. In 1998, the building was then offered at a public auction when it was purchased by Gregg Singer for $3.15 million.

The building is considered a community facility, which has a use deed restriction. This allows for a dormitory to be constructed without a zoning variance or special permit. In other words, what Mr. Singer is proposing to do is within his rights and within the law. But what isn’t within the law is to threaten institutions of higher learning because they do not serve Lopez’s political agenda.

From the time CHARAS/El Bohio was legally evicted, Singer has made every attempt to lease space to the nonprofit community, while Lopez has spent her time warning nonprofits that want or need her support not to consider leasing any space from Singer. If Lopez had used her office to bring about a resolution to this dispute, rather than exacerbating it the way she does everything else, perhaps we would not be looking at the prospects of a dormitory being built east of Third Ave.

Roberto Caballero
Caballero is president, Lower East Side Political Action Committee

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