Volume 74, Number 27 | November 03 - 09, 2004



Letters to the editor

Expediter: 66 Morton St. ‘shocking’

To The Editor:
In regard to the talking point in the Oct. 27 issue of The Villager, “Beyond Journalism: A community gumshoe on Morton St.,” by Judith Seigel:

I have been a New York City Building Code consultant for 22 years. The answers by Jennifer Givner, from the Department of Buildings, to the complaints about the illegal occupancy of 66 Morton St. are shocking and troubling to me and signs that the Buildings Department reacts with favoritism to certain projects over others. Having a spa in the premises would have required a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals, as it is classified under the Zoning Resolution as a physical cultural establishment. All physical culture establishments require special permits from the B.S.A. no matter where they are in the city.

Much of my work involves obtaining approvals from the Department of Buildings for temporary events like fashion shows and exhibitions, and I can tell you that if the use is contrary to the zoning, I am shown the door when I apply for the permit at the Buildings Department.

Is it possible that high-profile “income-producing” events are getting preferential treatment over the welfare of tax-paying, law-abiding citizens?

Looks that way to me!

Furthermore, what do I tell my clients who spend the time and money trying to conform to all the laws and do things legally who are confronted with obstacle after obstacle or told their project is impossible, only to see that someone more high profile has accomplished the same thing seemingly without issue?

Lisa G Westheimer
Westheimer is vice president, The Manhattan Expedition Inc.


N.Y.U. expansion must stop, now!

To The Editor:
Ed Gold once again provides an incisive article on New York University’s endless and strained relationship with the Greenwich Village Community (“The townsfolk rebel against omnipotent N.Y.U., again,” talking point, Oct. 20):

N.Y.U.’s perpetual pursuit of expansion seems to be the driving force in this never-ending battle. There are many arguments that prove bigger is not better. This is particularly true for landlocked urban universities. A university of 70,000 students and faculty is no small potatoes in the world of higher academe. Building on what they have by strengthening their centers of academic excellence, within the confines of their already vast complex of real estate, would be a worthy pursuit. There are numerous fine and highly regarded universities at a fraction of N.Y.U.’s size.

If N.Y.U. has made a strategic decision to expand, as evidenced by their $2.5 billion expansion fund, let N.Y.U. follow Columbia’s lead (which they seem so intent on doing at all cost) and create a new satellite campus elsewhere. Columbia is now planning their next major expansion north and west of their main campus — on largely underdeveloped real estate with minor disruption to their residential neighbors.

I’m baffled that this town-and-gown battle has to continue through the reign of three presidents. We enjoy sharing our community with N.Y.U.; we just say enough is enough.

Norman Rosenfeld, FAIA, FACHA


Loss of Louie was devastating

To The Editor:
Re “Elias ‘Louie’ Vassilakis, 55, of Joe Jr.’s,” (obituary, Nov. 20):

This item from The Villager just made me sadder than anything that’s happened down here since 9/11.

Alan J. Jacobs


Checking out new check policy

To The Editor:
Recent federal changes permitting banks to dispose of cancelled checks as long as copies are available to customers is one of several new regulations to which consumers will have to adjust. The most crucial change is one that relates to the speed with which banks can electronically clear checks on behalf of banks and other institutions.

Many people write checks even before their own paycheck clears with the understanding that there is a period of time during which the checks they’ve written are not yet processed. Unfortunately, the use of this “float” is now very risky. The superintendent of banks for New York State, Diana Taylor, is warning consumers that they could be charged fees for bounced checks, because the checks you write may be cleared in a matter of hours rather than days. However, it is dismaying to learn that the checks you deposit will still be unavailable to you for three to five days.

It is a mystery to me that there hasn’t been more information on this change, since the potential financial repercussions for people are so dramatic. There are the exorbitant bank fees for bounced checks, and to add insult to injury, there is the possibility of damage to the credit ratings for individuals.

One would hope that the banks would be more aggressive in clarifying this new policy and process and that the governor would use his own visibility to raise the public’s awareness of this serious consumer issue.

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


Union Sq. N. plan lacks support

To The Editor:
Re The Oct. 27 front-page article by Albert Amateau, “Mayor pledges $8 million for Union Sq. N. renovation”:

The mayor is misinformed about community support for the local business improvement district’s plan to renovate the north end of Union Sq. Park. Co-chairpersons of the Union Square Community Coalition pictured in your article and praised by the mayor and BID as leaders of an organization that supports the plan, in fact, do not represent U.S.C.C. views. Members attending the organization’s annual meeting on Oct. 20, in a show of hands, indicated that U.S.C.C. members resoundingly reject the local BID’s costly, proposed plan to turn the pavilion and plaza into a year-round private restaurant and its other troublesome issues. Such active community organizations as the W. 15th St. Association and the Flatiron Alliance, when apprised of the plan, have publicly opposed it. Almost 300 New Yorkers, after learning about the plan, have signed a petition opposing it. Were she here today, Evelyn Strouse, founder of the U.S.C.C., would, most certainly, oppose trading precious free public park space for our children and the community for a fancy restaurant.

Eadie Shanker


Protests design for protest space

To The Editor:
In “Mayor pledges $8 million for Union Sq. N. renovation” (news article, Oct. 27), the landscape architect hired by the Union Square Partnership told The Villager that “a newly paved [north] plaza would serve Union Sq.’s political protest tradition.”

As a longtime member of the Union Square Community Coalition, 25 years old next year, I take strong exception to this greatly simplified characterization of the Partnership’s plan. Mere repaving pales before the far more intrusive proposal to install a “planted perimeter” of trees incorporating bleacher-like “shaded public seating” where the north plaza and 17th St. meet.

This would so encumber this vast historic space for free speech and public assembly that it would be virtually useless for the mass demonstrations, rallies, marches, parades and gatherings of political and social activists of many causes that have taken place there over many decades.

In this era of imperiled civil liberties, you couldn’t ask for a better way to suppress them.

Jack Taylor


Eli taught importance of flu shots

To The Editor:
The shame of America is that our most vulnerable citizens, our seniors, have to stand in hours-long lines all over the country — even some in wheelchairs or with oxygen tanks — to get what should be their right, a flu shot.

I saw a 77-year-old man stand in line for more than four hours on a damp, cold morning to get his. By the time he got to the door he could barely lift his legs. The only reason that a product so necessary to the health of every citizen isn’t being made here is because drug companies here can’t make a profit.

Our government should be making flu vaccines and providing them to all Americans free, because it is their right. This is just one example of how our economy, the profit system, is based on contempt, which Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, defined as the “addition to self through the lessening of something else.”

He also showed that this contempt will not end until people ask and answer this question: “What does a person deserve by being a person?” Among other things, a person deserves a timely flu shot; for many, it is a matter of life or death.

Faith Stern

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