Volume 74, Number 13 | July 28 - August 03 , 2004

Letters to the editor

U.N. should monitor U.S. elections

To The Editor:
The greatest thing about our great country is our democratic elections. No matter how much we earn, where we live or what color our skin is, we each get one vote. When that right is taken away, America ceases to be America.

Four years ago, thousands of Floridians saw their rights vanish when they were deleted from voter registration rolls. What is worse, this disservice was done overwhelmingly to citizens who are already underserved — minorities and the poor.

Just recently, we learned from a study by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund that Asian Americans right here in New York City report widespread obstacles to voting, including “rude” and “hostile” poll workers, improper requests for identification, a lack of interpreters and, in some instances, a failure to translate ballots as required by law.

In the 21st century, the fact that we are still talking about disenfranchisement is a disgrace to the Constitution. We should not stand for another election in which Americans — patriotic, taxpaying, law-abiding Americans — are stripped of their rights. In April of this year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report detailing how reforms that were supposed to have taken place have not, warning that the same problems that existed in 2000 may be repeated this year.

Past problems already make the voting process unfair, but current plans for electronic voting will just compound these difficulties. If Republican leaders in Congress are serious about upholding voting rights, we would have passed the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 introduced by Congressman Rush Holt (D-N.J.), which would create a verifiable, hard-copy, paper record of electronic votes so that our system is airtight. But they have let that legislation languish, and I fear that the integrity of our electoral system may be languishing along with it.

If our government is not equipped or prepared to protect every American voter, then we ought to seek outside help rather than sitting and watching thousands more Americans lose their rights in November. That is why I have joined an effort in Congress to have the United Nations observe this year’s presidential election. Recently, I joined a group of legislators led by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asking him to send election observers from the U.N.’s Electoral Assistance Division to monitor the election on Nov. 2.

As we wrote to Annan: “Florida violated the right to vote as it is enshrined in several international instruments that the U.S. has either agreed to, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 21), or ratified, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (article 25) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (article 5).”

Some right-wing critics, who do not want minorities and low-income Americans voting in the first place, say that we are not patriotic. I say that guaranteeing every American — particularly the most underserved — the right to vote by any means necessary is the most patriotic thing you can do.

Carolyn Maloney
Maloney, a Democrat, represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Lower East Side and Chinatown

Brando’s moist-eye method

To The Editor:
Re “Marlon Brando and the birth of American acting” (Reflections, by Jerry Tallmer, July 7):

Crying on cue is not impossible. It is a technique Stella Adler taught Brando and all of us who went to her acting school. There’s a way of manipulating your tear ducts and at the same time bringing up a sense of memory that helps with the tears — a death in the family, a lost puppy, anything. All it requires is focus.

John Stanley

Stonewall feud rages on, and on

To The Editor:
Re “Setting record straight on gay riot” (letter, by Jerry Hoose, July 21).

It’s curious that after 35 years, Jerry Hoose has finally resurrected himself with a personal attack on me. Let me offer my sincere condolences that “Jerry” allowed himself to be interviewed for David Carter’s dubious book. And my deepest regrets to the “author,” who has succeeded in pitting one veteran of the Stonewall Rebellion against another. How sad that within the gay movement, some of its worst enemies have been other gays.

“Passionate” Jerry Hoose keeps referring to the Stonewall Rebellion as a “riot.” This word was tacked on to those tumultuous nights and early morning hours by the straight homophobic media specifically to discredit us. Was the Boston Tea Party a riot or was it a rebellion? There was no looting, pillaging or burning flames at the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. The police were not beaten up; we were! By using the word “riot,” Mr. Hoose discredits his own actions and the rest of the veterans.

As for myself, I am innocent of “building myths” regarding my participation in the Stonewall Rebellion. Quite the contrary, I have always stated that I was part of the crowd of hundreds as an observant but frightened teenager who did not want to get arrested. Does this make me less relevant because I was not throwing pennies or empty bottles? Or that Hoose does not remember me at the Stonewall Inn? Do I remember Mr. Hoose? I certainly do, but let’s not go there.

I am proud to say that for the 20th anniversary of the Rebellion, I wrote the first major account of the Rebellion using my memory, my diaries (I’ve been keeping them since 1965) and newspapers from the time.

True, the Gay Liberation Front had many heroes and villains, but as a group it finally imploded with many of the men denigrating the women, rampant drug use and strong Marxist leanings that created major cracks in its already weakened foundation.

Now, as far as Carter’s “in-depth interviews” to which Hoose alludes, the Stonewall Veterans Association, myself included, chose not to deal with Carter. If you are interested in learning more, join us at one of our meetings at the Community Center, the last Saturday of each month.

The Stonewall Veterans Association has been honored and its members have been keynote speakers at New York City Hall, St. John the Divine, Carnegie Hall, Harvey Milk High School, the St. Louis Gay Pride Day, the Cologne German Gay Pride Parade, the Philadelphia Gay Pride Day and at New York City Police Headquarters, etc., etc., etc. I have left out many, many others. The S.V.A. leads the Gay Pride Parades each year in the historic blue 1969 Cadillac convertible “Stonewall Car,” the very vehicle that was impounded by the police on the first night of the Rebellion, and was recently reunited with the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion cops and so reported in the New York Times.

Jeremiah Jay Newton
Newton is president emeritus, Stonewall Veterans Association

Who’s authoring fest decisions?

To The Editor:
The decision of the full board of Community Board 2, voting against Ann Binkley’s proposal to use Washington Sq. Park and surrounding streets for the New York Is Book Country festival this year, was in response to the protests to this proposal by area residents and the full Village community.

Bill Castro, Parks Manhattan borough commissioner, was quoted as saying afterwards that he would make the decision, but that he would try to change the minds of C.B. 2 — effectively announcing that C.B. 2’s decision was not definitive, just advisory.

Now we learn from David Ellis’s article (“Book festival won’t have sales in square,” July 14) that Arthur Strickler, who stood up at the June 17 C.B. 2 meeting and pronounced “this is the stupidest idea I have heard in a long time,” apparently had his mind changed.

As a community board official, he certainly did not consult with the community about this negotiation, but apparently went ahead with accepting an agreement from Ann Binkley that essentially leaves her plans in place.

The Washington Place Block Association, which represents tenants from both 14 Washington Pl. and 15 Washington Pl. (together, a group of 263 residential apartments), is in agreement with the Greenwich Village Block Associations’ views on the disturbance an event of this size would bring to our neighborhood. In the past year, we have had a total of 24 street fairs in our area that have caused tremendous inconvenience to our residents. Aside from these surprise events, we already have the legendary Village Art Exhibit for two weekends a year, several Fifth Ave. parades, many park protests and events, dozens of N.Y.U. student and other events that close our streets, the N.Y.U. graduation in the park and the vulgar party the night before that disrupts our lives and closes down our neighborhood. We have legitimate reasons to protest this threat to our quality of life.

The best way to settle this situation is for Ann Binkley to go back to her wide Fifth Ave. streets for the traditional annual book fair that has been successful for the past 25 years. We are a Village neighborhood that won’t be duped into an agreement that does not include our input and ignore our concerns.

Mary Johnson
Washington Place Block Association15 Washington Place
Street Noise Committee Members

Board 2’s problem with art

To The Editor:
Re “Vanishing Committees” (Scoopy’s Notebook, July 7):

I am afraid that the reason the Community Board 2 Art Committee is defunct is not for lack of participatory interest by board members, as Mr. Smith is quoted as saying.

It is because of politics, and everyone on the board knows it — even if they won’t say so.

When Brad Hoylman was recently passed over as Art Committee chairperson some members of the committee quit in disgust. Keep in mind that not everyone on the committee was a big Brad Hoylman fan, either. Some certainly are, but others of us had actually worked against him when he ran for City Council. I personally was not on the same page with him sometimes, yet he is a bright man, unafraid of debate, who had spent years on our committee and in our eyes had rightfully earned the chairperson position.

We were all ready to work with Brad. In a democracy you must learn to work with those you disagree with. In stark comparison, the new chairperson who was appointed in lieu of Mr. Hoylman placed gag orders on committee members and simply fired those she disagreed with. Up until that low point we were a damned effective committee capable of kicking up a well-founded ruckus when the arts were involved. We proved it time and again. Perhaps that willingness to speak out was the real issue.

The abolition of this vital and active committee has to be one of the most alarming turns of events in the recent history of our local art scene. Some of the most influential members of Community Board 2 have again heaped shame upon themselves by this act of democratic elimination. The absurd erasure of this very active and vibrant committee of artists who actually represented the voice of the Downtown art scene is yet another example of the high level of misunderstanding, intolerance and outright bias by some of the most powerful members of Community Board 2. As a result of their actions we have gone from the arts capital of the world to the anti-art capital of the world. To call this counterproductive to our collective community interests is a huge understatement.

I think it is time for all of us to ask, what is gained by this war on artists? It is also time to ask ourselves if we are willing to do without free expression so that a few people can exercise their psychological issues by beating up on artists? Finally, it is time to ask ourselves if we are ever going to do the right thing, or do we simply want the conflict to go on forever? When those questions are answered we will finally able to say we licked this problem.

Until then, you better hope that you do not have an issue of art that needs to be addressed in the Village or Soho. There is nobody here in the arts capital of the world to help you out. Keep moving.

Lawrence White

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