Volume 74, Number 31 | December 08 - 14, 2004

Letters to the editor

Sticker shock: Stop the madness

To The Editor:
For many years one locksmith in particular has been vandalizing and defacing my landmark buildings and almost every other building in New York, including federal, state and municipal buildings, hospitals, churches, apartment buildings, private residences, brownstones, etc. The situation with this particular locksmith is not just confined to the West Village, where I own and maintain several properties, and find it impossible to keep them free of these defacing locksmith decals, which when removed, leave an adhesive residue that is difficult if not impossible to remove without paint-damaging chemicals. I have seen these locksmith stickers pasted on beautiful doors and entranceways in Chelsea, the Upper East Side, Park Ave., embassies and doctors’ offices and other residential and commercial places all over Manhattan.

In 2003, all of the block associations in the Village joined together and had the City Council enact an amendment to make the improper placement of these stickers illegal and provided criminal penalties and fines of $500 per sticker.

After the passage of this amended local law, I contacted Councilmember Christine Quinn’s office, Manhattan District 2 Sanitation Enforcement and have called 311 on many occasions since April 2004. The only result has been that this locksmith has targeted my buildings in retaliation, and has affixed hundreds of stickers to my properties at the property fences, entranceways, gates, keyholes, etc.

Thanks to Quinn and other City Councilmembers, we now have an ordinance on the books to deal with this problem. However, no one seems willing to enforce the law. It seems to me that if this particular locksmith, who has caused thousands and thousands of dollars in damage to our Village landmarks and other buildings, were to receive several $500 fines and penalties, he would soon get the message to cease and desist with his outrageous activities at our expense.

I have spoken to the postmaster at the Patchin Pl. post office, who advises me that defacing federal property is a federal criminal offense; yet no one seems willing to step forward and enforce rules of common decency and behavior. Perhaps the locksmith is making contributions to the right people in city government? There must be some reason why these ordinances are not being enforced when so many people are being inconvenienced and complaining.

Michael A. Matlock Jr.

PATH entrance needed for safety

To The Editor:
Re “PATH plan for new Village entrance is still on track” (news article, Dec. 1):

I have been a resident of Greenwich Village for 37 years. I have relatives in New Jersey and I take the PATH frequently. I support the building of a second entrance to the Ninth St. PATH station for three reasons: safety, safety and safety. Every building or construction that holds people should have at least two opposite exits in case of fire, or else a calamity could block a single exit and otherwise trap the inhabitants.

The fact that such disasters are rare is not the point. When they do occur people can die, as has happened in recent years in London and Tokyo. A subway fire occurred just the other day in a subway tunnel north of the W. Fourth St. station. Fortunately, everyone was rescued.

There are already well over a dozen subway entrances in the Village and they do not destroy its historic character. There is no reason overall traffic should increase because of a second entrance. The stores on Christopher St. might even do some extra business from people exiting at that end of the station. I realize some jackhammering will be involved, but that’s how cities were built. In the wake of 9/11, safety is how they will be saved.

Charlie Walker

Why are clergy picking on the Jeff?

To The Editor:
Re “Clergy seeks talk on workers with Jefferson Market owner” (news article, Nov. 17):

I have read both both sides’ accounts of the grievance of Jose Luis Murillo, the ex-employee who is at the forefront of the union and church groups’ picket of the Jefferson Market, without being able to decide who is right. From an Oct. 18, 2004, New York Times article, I understand that the picket also involves larger issues of wages and health benefits. Since I like the store, but don’t usually cross picket lines, I want to ask two questions concerning these larger issues:

First, have the sponsors of the picket compared wages and benefits at the Jefferson Market with those at comparable stores in the neighborhood, such as Gourmet Garage, Citarella’s, Life Thyme, Whole Foods and Garden of Eden?

Second, even assuming that wages and benefits are worse at the Jeff (and, possibly, the other smaller stores) than at local representatives of grocery chains, such as the Food Emporium, Morton Williams, Gristede’s, and D’Agostino’s, do the sponsors of the picket care about the larger causes and implications of any such disparity? The absence of commercial rent-control laws in our city favors large stores and their economies of scale, but drives out smaller businesses, such as the Jeff, turning neighborhoods like Greenwich Village from villages to strip malls.

What does “quality of life” mean? In my opinion, the best definition balances the rights of workers to decent wages and benefits with the rights of residents to a livable environment.  

The Jefferson Market, like the picketers, deserves justice. May I suggest that the sponsors of the picket invite representatives of all locally represented food markets, super and small, to an open forum at which each store would be asked to respond to a uniform list of questions about wages and benefits? Such a forum might also allow the truth about Mr. Murillo’s grievance to emerge. If it turns out the Jefferson Market is out of line, I will honor the picket. But such a forum could also, conceivably, make the sponsors cancel the picket — or move it.

Ron Singer

Buildings disdains own regulations

To The Editor:
Your recent follow-up article in The Villager, “D.O.B. to E. Third St. dorm: Show lease in 30 days, or else” (news brief, Nov. 17), points out the disdain a city agency — the Department of Buildings — has for enforcing the existing zoning regulations.

Spokesperson Givner of D.O.B. in the above article in The Villager appears to be giving the developer of 81 E. Third St. complete leeway, in that, if I understand her statement correctly, all the developer must do is show any sign of a good-faith effort or progress in getting a tenant (i.e., a school). This will enable the developer to continue the extension of their permit; all during which time period the developer is rushing to complete the building — including weekends and holidays. Do I read that correctly? Any sign of good-faith effort?

Why is any consideration given at all to the developer when they have broken procedure for developing a dormitory as a community facility — can you say, “signed lease in advance?” — and when it appears that they are violating many zoning issues such as: unpermitted obstruction into the rear yard; insufficient “open space” calculation; additional F.A.R. spaces were not included in the F.A.R. calculation; inadequate “light and air” in living spaces; illegitimate, multiple new building permits, as well as illegal second means of egress? We base this on our review of plans recently submitted by developers counsel to Community Board 3.

Consideration by D.O.B. should be given instead to enforcing the existing zoning and protecting Manhattan residents at large and residents of the East Village in this particular case. Consideration should not be given to the developer, who is usurping the zoning and stands to benefit with a windfall profit due to the more that doubling of the size of the project. Previously, in The Villager’s previous article, “New outcry on community-facility towers on side streets” (news article, Oct. 20), Ms. Givner stated that a D.O.B. expert reviewed the building plans and everything indeed is regulation as to height and bulk?

We don’t think so. Someone needs to thoroughly check the above listed possible zoning violations. For instance, records show that the building owners had two new building applications filed at the same time, which we believe to be illegal. Perhaps what a D.O.B. expert reviewed was the application for the shorter, purely residential building and not the “half-dorm;” it’s simply unheard of that the earlier application would be the active one. The developer has used a “bait and switch” with the applications and D.O.B. appears to be hoodwinked into thinking that this project is legal. There are other major issues as well in addition to the misuse of community facilities.

Is the East Village community all bark and no bite?

Richard Kusack
Kusack is a member, Committee for Zoning Inaction

Mideast crisis at Columbia

To The Editor:
Re “Low marks for Columbia column” (letter, by Art Altman, Dec. 1):

Art Altman, in a Dec. 1 letter, seeks the removal of teachers at Columbia who have an anti-Israeli bias, and suggests I haven’t looked at enough material. I have checked Google at a chat site where most of the students seem to believe anti-Israel feeling has unfortunately been confused with anti-Semitism; and the New York Sun, which suggests in a very angry editorial that the Columbia “scandal” may call for federal intervention, and also criticizes Columbia for limiting its probe to classroom activity. I have seen documents from the university leaders indicating they will make a thorough evaluation of the issues. And I have read a well-rounded, balanced report in the Jewish Week, hardly a mouthpiece for Muslim professors in Middle East studies. Jewish Week found that most of the students in the Middle East studies program who were interviewed defended the teaching as “well within the boundaries of academic give-and-take.”

Professor Joseph Massad, who readily admits he thinks Israel is a racist state, seems to be the main culprit, but an Israeli student, reflecting the view of several others, called him “approachable, stimulating, challenging.”

I don’t defend the Massad position and, in fact, probably disagree with most of it. But I do defend his right to present his view, as long as his students can do the same.

Ed Gold

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