Volume 74, Number 27 | November 10 - 16, 2004

Letters to the editor

Can’t stomach restaurant in park

To The Editor:
Re “Mayor pledges $8 million for Union Sq. N. renovation” (news article, Oct. 27):

It is extraordinary in this day and age of record rates of obesity, asthma and juvenile diabetes, that the city is supporting a plan that actually takes away thousands of square feet of potential playground space in Union Sq. Park to — of all things — accommodate a restaurant. And their reason? The city needs the revenue.

There are only two parks with playgrounds in Community Board 5, which are wholly inadequate for the amount of users. If properly designed, permanent play space in Union Sq. Park could be more than doubled. This is clearly marked on the architectural plans provided by the business improvement district and by supplemental measurements. The current design has also created safety issues that parents are very concerned about: It puts children in a pit, which is separated by the semi-circle concession terrace. This creates poor sightlines for adults watching their children.

The article reported that Councilmember Margarita Lopez “insisted that charges that the proposed design diminished children’s playground space were wrong.” Unfortunately for the many people who use the playground, not to mention her constituents, Ms. Lopez is misinformed. Basic math does not support her statements.

Despite the city and the BID’s spin at the press conference, the Union Square Partnership does not have the support of the community for their misguided plan. Just saying it doesn’t make it so. Over the last few months, I have attended four of the “countless public meetings with the stakeholders” that Ms. Shaw referred to, and besides people associated with the BID and the city officials trying to push it, I have not heard one person in favor of this plan. Not one. But I have heard many speak out publicly against it.

From Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx, to Robert Moses Playground in Manhattan, parks all over the city are under attack. Who is going to protect these public spaces when our elected officials are allowing them to be handed over for development?

If restaurant revenue from parkland is what the city is after, why not put a restaurant in the middle of Central Park’s Great Lawn? With 20 million annual visitors to the park and wonderful views, it would certainly generate far more revenue for the city. But we wouldn’t dream of that — nor should we. But unlike Union Sq. Park, Central Park has protectors who don’t have commercial designs on the publicly owned space. If only all parks could be Central.

That an inch is being sacrificed to accommodate a restaurant in a community with one of the city’ s highest concentration of restaurants and lowest amount of park space is absurd. Making public space inaccessible to the public, especially with the help of public tax dollars is not good public policy. The park is simply too small and the needs of children and families too great to accommodate this commercial plan. We have a wonderful opportunity to measurably improve the lives of thousands through appropriate park design. We must act responsibly. I urge city officials to reexamine their support of this bizarre plan.

We need park improvements not business improvements in Union Sq. Park.

Geoffrey Croft
Croft is president of NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit, citywide, nonpartisan watchdog group dedicated to improving public parks and expanding open space in New York City

Villager’s reporting was Critical

To The Editor:
Re “After court loss, police crack down on bike group” (news article, Nov. 3):

Thank you for the even-handed and closely observed reporting on the police presence at last Friday’s Critical Mass and after-party, both of which I attended. This was the only account I’ve seen to reconstruct in detail what happened on Houston St., and corresponds with my perception that the police acted excessively and in retaliation for the cyclists asserting their legal rights.

A couple of points of clarification: Though the police distributed fliers designating a route, Judge Pauley’s order did not require cyclists to follow it. Nor did all cyclists receive one — I didn’t. Still, cyclists at the front of the ride (where I was) tried to follow police instruction and to stay together. A few cyclists broke off around Park and 49th St., but no one followed them. The only time I saw people deliberately scatter was an hour later in Chelsea, where a police roadblock created a fear that riders were going to be trapped and arrested.

If threats to public safety are a concern to the city, it should act to reverse the climate of fear newly created by the police brass — and then, more seriously, do something about the everyday intimidation and violence by automobile.

Carol Wood

Bush won, so in your face!

To The Editor:
Thank goodness Bush won. This sends a clear message to the Islamo-fascists that we will not be threatened. It sends a message to George Soros that you cannot buy an election. It tells the Hollywood dilettantes that we do not care about their opinion. And, oh yes, we will not have to listen to a Botoxed phony and his obnoxious wife any longer.
Paul Piccone

Rats love East Side riverfront

To The Editor:
Re “City floats East River towers-and-park idea” (news article, Oct. 13):

When I read in your paper an article on the East River-towers plan by Lincoln Anderson I laughed to myself. Everyone arguing to build this or build that. We have had a pedestrian cycling path on the waterfront on Catherine St. and South St. for a few years. It’s beautiful! But we don’t go there at all — 1,600 apartments in Knickerbocker Village and Al Smith project — because it’s full of big rats. We try and sit in the park on Cherry St. and Catherine St. and there are dog stools, filthy garbage, rats and squirrels roaming around. I’ve lived here 48 years. We had not one squirrel years ago. Our courtyards are infested with them. We can’t leave our homes. Who can run when you’re a senior citizen? You have beautiful parks and walkways and what good are they if we have to sit with rats and squirrels that come toward you?

I’ve called the Health Department to no avail; so have my neighbors. If you take a walk in the neighborhood the stores have food all over the sidewalk. Take a look at Catherine St. and E. Broadway. I’m sure no inspectors ever go there. Look under the Manhattan Bridge near Henry and Market Sts., the new vegetable market and grocery. Outside are all fruit and vegetables; go at night and see the big rats roaming around.

Look under the Manhattan Bridge on Cherry St. between Market St. and Pike Slip. We have to walk under there with shopping wagons to go to PathMark. Mothers have to walk with their children and carriages under the bridge. There is filth, urine, broken glass all over and rats. I’ve called Sanitation who said they are not responsible and it’s the Port Authority’s responsibility. They say no — and it remains filthy. On the corner of Pike Slip and South St. the city piles up the snow salt four stories high under the bridge. It blows in our windows.

With the monies given to improve our neighborhoods, why don’t they make it a clean place to live and put some monies towards that first, before building more parks and apartments and towers?

So when I read about who wants towers, who wants parks, who wants restaurants with all the food and garbage in the streets and the city not doing anything to get rid of the rats and squirrels, does it make any sense? Good thing I’m 73 years old: I did my part and made many calls about my neighborhood. But no one does a thing.

No one mentions the rats and squirrels taking over what we already have, so why do we need more parks and grass for them to dig holes in? Thank God they have not invaded our homes yet, and thank God I’m too old to be here when they do. I feel sorry for the young mothers with children that we must live in this neighborhood.

Millie Mari

Morton P.I.: Thanks

To The Editor:
Re “Beyond Journalism: A community gumshoe on Morton St.” (talking point, Oct. 27):

I write to thank you for the promotion from neighborhood rabble rouser to “community gumshoe” — a truly inspired title (I may get a T-shirt) — also of course for the coverage, which will give us a real leg up in our campaign. We plan to present copies to relevant city agencies A.S.A.P. It turned out, by the way, that most neighbors had already seen the issue, receiving it at home themselves — so congratulations on that, too.

Judy Seigel

Psyched for more dog runs

To The Editor:
As a psychiatrist and dog owner living part of the year in the West Village, I am writing to say that dog runs are a very important component to the assurance of quality of life for the dogs, the owners and our neighborhood in general. While terrorism, education and other community issues should take priority in the scheme of things, it is a healthy thing that we work out better spaces for our canine citizens. My dog barks less when he is able to go to the run. This makes me, my wife and my neighbors happier than we are when he barks! The small dog run in Washington Sq. Park has demonstrated the importance and value of segregating the animals by size. I hope that our leaders will pay close attention to this issue and facilitate the creation of a small dog run at the Leroy St. location. Thanks to The Villager for covering this important topic.
William M. Glazer, M.D.
Glazer is associate clinical professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital; and president, Glazer Medical Solutions

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