Volume 74, Number 26 | Octuber 27 - November 03 , 2004



Letters to the editor

Glick: Stadium rush is off sides

To The Editor:
Despite community opposition, the mayor and governor continue their attempts to quickly get a shovel in the ground for the West Side stadium. Their assertion that this rushed timeline is due to the approaching expiration date of the refinancing program upon which the Javits expansion relies is disingenuous, as Congress has recently extended the deadline to Dec. 31, 2005. The real reason for this rush is the mayor and governor’s inordinate commitment to bringing the Olympics to New York City. They hope to have the stadium underway before the International Olympic Committee chooses the 2012 host on July 6, 2005.

The mayor and governor will continue their pressure to build this stadium despite what is best for the city. The public will in defeating this ill-advised plan must continue as well.

Deborah J. Glick
Glick is assemblymember for the 66th Distric

Co-op Village’s ideals shattered

To The Editor:
Re “Penn South co-ops focus on election closer to home” (news article, Oct. 13):

I hope the residents of Penn South learn the bitter lesson we residents of Co-op Village (4,800 apartments along Grand St. on the Lower East Side) learned about the consequences of privatization.

We privatized (reconstituted) some five or six years ago. The last vestiges of co-operation, community and sharing were destroyed. In its place we have cold, market-place schemes, real estate sharks, corruption and graft.

The ideals and hopes that built this co-op as a nonprofit, limited-equity housing community have been totally shattered.
Michael Gottlieb

Art vendor rules not enforced

To The Editor:
As we enter the end of 2004 and approach the holiday season, it is worth it to reflect upon the progress (or lack thereof) that has been made in dealing with the situation involving vendors and artists who work in the public areas of our neighborhood.

Some of you may recall Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra appearing before the City Council and comparing this situation to a multi-layered onion, each layer with its own interests. There was also a hearing before the City Council to determine whether a permit system should be in place for artists who display art in and around the city parks. In addition, there have been community meetings, mediation sessions and other endless opportunities to discuss and deal with this issue. Yet what are the results? Sadly, I must report that there are very few results, if any, to speak of.

This continuing malaise is a source of great frustration for the citizens, businesses, property owners, police and artists of Soho. None of us wants there to be continued chaos on the streets, yet chaos seems to be on the agenda.

For the past several years, Commissioner Dykstra and others in positions of authority has promised new rules to clarify the situation and to help law enforcement deal with this issue. Yet to this day, none has been offered and the rules in place are not being enforced. The current rules I refer to include those against sellers of illegal merchandise, art bootleggers, wholesale jewelers and huge permanent “planter” blockades that obstruct everything, including fire hydrants. If these illegal elements were edited out of the scenario, a wonderfully attractive art scene would evolve. However, as it stands now, many highly talented, and exciting new artists have been driven away by the hostility of the illegal vendors, the bootleggers, the few outrageously hostile neighbors and an inefficient enforcement system that allows the chaos to perpetuate.

I invite you all to take a stroll down W. Broadway on a nice Saturday afternoon to see if you can tell the difference between an actual artist, an illegal vendor and a bootlegger. I will wager that a short 15-minute briefing beforehand would provide enough information that you would have a grasp of the simple rules in place now to enforce them with a high degree of efficiency. Yet due to lack of focused enforcement, the street is jammed by those who do not belong there and therefore the bona fide art scene continues to deteriorate instead of improve.

The truth is — in spite of the contentions of the commissioner — there is just no mystery to this “onion” if you know how to chop it up and use it properly. What I mean to say is that there are rules on the books right now that if applied would take a great deal of pressure off of the situation and would preclude the necessity to come up with a bunch of new rules that won’t be enforced either.

For instance, a rule in place right now states that if an art dealer who markets work not of his own making sets up a display on the sidewalk, he or she must be able to produce receipts to prove that they purchased and are selling that artwork legally within the confines of copyright law. This is also true of booksellers. It is illegal to copy books, scripts or manuscripts and then sell these copies to the public. However, the actual author of the book and the actual creator of a piece of art can easily prove that they are within copyright law by the name on the artwork, their own driver’s license (or passport, etc.) and their state tax ID. In addition, licensed vendors can be easily identified by the D.C.A. badge they must wear at all times while selling in public. These badges have a magnetic strip on the back that holds the data on the vendor. With this resource — and such easy methods of artist ID — one must wonder, what the heck is going on here? Why is this so hard to control the situation when the solution is so obviously at hand?

The court was very clear in its decision granting fine artists First Amendment rights. The judge stated that the forms of art that qualify for protection under the First Amendment are photography, painting, printmaking and sculpture. Jewelry and other crafts are currently not covered, and require a D.C.A. license to sell in public. Those are the facts — pure, and simple. There is no ambiguity whatsoever on this point of law or of regulation.

Therefore all we need is a focused educational process to enlighten officials as to the true nature of these current rules and a training program to ensure police are fully aware of them as well. At the same time we must design a strict enforcement process to ensure that the three blocks of W. Broadway between Broome and Houston Sts. (where fine artists traditionally display their artwork) is a safe zone for artists where their rights are respected and their artwork is protected. This is not only a positive for the artist, it also protects the consumer from becoming a victim of fraud by purchasing bootleg art, and provides a peaceful, positive environment for the community.

It is also imperative that all illegal permanent sidewalk obstructions be removed, and that any further obstructions get permits from the Department of Transportation before they are placed on the sidewalk. Democracy is not a free-for-all. One group does not have a right to flaunt the law that others must obey. Yet the people who place these huge blocking boxes up and down W. Broadway at whim are given every advantage by our officials in spite of the law against this practice. People do not come from all over the world to watch trees die slowly in huge boxes on the sidewalk. However they do come to see artists.

Lawrence White
White is a member, Soho International Artists Cooperative

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