Volume 74, Number 32 | December 15 - 21, 2004

Letters to the editor

G.V.B.A. critical of cops on Mass

To The Editor:
The Greenwich Village Block Associations is a community-wide coalition of neighborhood organizations dedicated to preserving and improving the quality of life for residents of our historic neighborhood. At our last meeting we discussed Critical Mass, in part, because Union Sq. served as the gathering point for the November ride. The New York Police Department has legitimate concerns about the potential hazards posed by a massive group of cyclists making their way through city streets. Questions arose, however, concerning what well may be an overwhelming use of N.Y.P.D. resources.

Critical Mass has occurred all over the world for more than 10 years. The cyclists of Critical Mass are involved for a variety of reasons: some as a form of protest and some purely for recreation. Indeed, some riders that participated during the Republican National Convention were dismayed that what they expected to be a peaceful ride evolved into a protest. The G.V.B.A. is critical of cyclists who fail to obey the law, particularly those who ride on the sidewalks; we support N.Y.P.D. efforts to crackdown on unlawful conduct. We have, however, heard disturbing anecdotes about bystanders who have been subject to police interference. We also understand that on occasion police officers have overacted to minor infractions, confiscated bicycles and arrested riders, rather than issuing summons. It seems that the N.Y.P.D. is taking a confrontational stance towards an event that could be managed in a more cooperative spirit.

The G.V.B.A. understands that the efficient deployment of police resources is a sensitive and difficult challenge. Greenwich Village is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of liquor-licensed premises and we are encountering the severe problems that these establishments often create. Large numbers of tourists, some of them rowdy, visit our community. Residents complain that inadequate police resources are directed towards solving these problems. Indeed, the 6th Precinct has had the number of its officers reduced by more than a third over the past five years.

The G.V.B.A. hopes that the N.Y.P.D. will defuse the antagonism that has been fostered around Critical Mass and decrease the police effort required to supervise it without curtailing its spontaneity. We believe that our police officers could be better employed dealing more strenuously with other problems, including our own.

Marilyn Dorato
Dorato is secretary and presiding officer, Greenwich Village Block Associations

Notice a pattern? It’s cars!!!

To The Editor:
The Dec. 8 issue of The Villager is certainly instructive.

Your lead article (“Clinton at N.Y.U. says climate on emissions must be changed”) quotes Clinton et al. reiterating the obvious, that we must cease fouling our nest or die in it, and next to it another front-page item (“Parking in Soho is a no-go”) details the difficulties of parking a car in Soho. In the Police Blotter on Page 3, we learn of yet another pedestrian killed by an auto driver, who was not arrested. And on Page 13, we read of a preservationist who wants historical Astor Pl. to be preserved (“Preservationist on warpath over Astor Pl. demap plan”), with the apparent assumption that the only way to do this is to continue to allow cars to drive through it.

On Page 15 we read of our Soho neighbors that “the residents with cars need a place to park them,” and several of same are quoted as asserting that they “cannot afford” the cost of private parking. Excuse me. Are they convinced then, that they can afford to own cars?

Why do we so easily accept assertions that the subway must be paid for, at least partly, by the fares paid by those who use it, and yet assume that drivers are entitled to parking space, traffic lights, paved streets, etc., all paid for from the public coffers?

New York City is a rare treasure in the United States...a city where you can still get around without a car. But we are seriously beleaguered by those who would prefer to make another Los Angeles of it.

Katy Morgan

Free ride for drivers must end

To The Editor:
Re: “Parking in Soho is a no-go” (news article, Dec. 8):

Seventy-seven percent of Manhattan households (and 54 percent of those citywide) don’t own or lease a car. Imagine what parking (and driving) would be like if they did. In this way, these relatively few drivers are utterly dependent on non-drivers for the usefulness of their cars. Their thanks for the rest of us? Noise, air and space pollution; crosswalk bullying; and even death.

Now they have the chutzpah to complain there’s not enough free parking? Puh-leez. Drivers want convenience, but they don’t want to pay. And the rest of us sit on our hands and let them get away with it?

Steven O’Neill

Want parking? Try the suburbs

To The Editor:
There are few worse disappointments than public-spirited citizens advocating for their own narrow interest. And so the nascent campaign by Downtown activists and environmentalists for more free car parking (“Parking in Soho is a no-go,” news article, Dec. 8) is disappointing news indeed.

Your reporter (who did a terrific job, by the way) quoted one resident whining that parking has always been a headache. But a Web search using Verizon’s SuperPages finds 84 parking lots and garages in the five prime Soho/Village zip codes (10011 through 10014 plus 10003). To walk a few blocks to a parking lot is a headache?

Oh, how stupid of me, the fellow meant that free parking is a headache. And so it is. So is getting a free meal. Or scoring a couple of free movie passes. Or finding a 20 on the sidewalk.

Part of being a grownup is paying for what you use and not bellyaching about it. And part of being a community leader is standing for something more than yourself. More free parking Downtown will simply bring more cars, to everyone’s detriment.

You want free parking? Move to the suburbs.

Charles Komanoff

Puzzled by ‘Indian trail’ flap

To The Editor:
Re “Preservationist on warpath over Astor Pl. demap plan” (news article, Dec. 8):

Your fascinating story on the Indian trail that once wound its way through Lower Manhattan cutting through Astor Pl. exemplifies your unique coverage of Lower Manhattan. I am quite puzzled by the objections of preservationists and others to reclaim asphalt and increase public space. A practical compromise would be to re-create the Indian trail with flagging accompanied by a memorial plaque. Hopefully when the long-discussed proposal to renovate the tired Lt. Petrossino Park in Soho finally happens, the Department of Transportation will be equally generous and cede back two underutilized lanes of Lafayette St. to increase the park’s size.

Carl Rosenstein
Rosenstein is founder, Trees Not Trucks

Natives wouldn’t know Astor Pl.

To The Editor:
In the last few weeks, the city Department of Transportation has presented to neighborhood groups a tentative plan for the rehabilitation of the streets around Astor Pl. (“Preservationist on warpath over Astor Pl. demap plan,” news article, Dec. 8). Hopefully, residents and visitors to our neighborhood can look forward to a time when we are able to reclaim some disused space in our midst, and even see a greening-up of such a central plaza.

Some focus has been given to a historical detriment of the plan, given the Astor Pl. roadbed’s origin as a trading footpath used by the pre-settler residents of Manhattan. But today’s Astor Pl. would certainly be totally unrecognizable to a Native American, a Dutch farmer and anyone predating John Jacob Astor. In its present state, Astor Pl. is useless in conveying neighborhood history to today’s generations.

Consider, though, if the history of the trading route was integrated into the final plan for the new public space. I’d be excited to work toward a footpath, perhaps of brick or other paving stones, through our new park space, with some sort of interpretive exhibits enlightening its users of the history that begat this irregular cut through the buildings of the neighborhood.

I am very hopeful that D.O.T. will welcome this direct community input into a project that has the potential to convert this important intersection from its current nearly wall-to-wall asphalt to something that will be more inviting, more enjoyable and safer for residents and visitors alike. Furthermore, I hope we can take advantage of an opportunity to highlight the history of the area, where presently that history is buried under automobile lanes.

Ian Dutton

W.V.H. buyout was a red herring

To The Editor:
Re: Al Amateau’s reference to West Village Houses in his Dec. 1 news article “HUD gives Guild Houses tenants some reassurance”:

The statement that “the owner … agreed to allow tenants to buy the property at below market price” is misleading. The owners sold the property because the Tenants’ Association made the best offer and took an enormous political headache off the owners’ hands. There was no generosity on the owners’ part; Andrew Farkas is a businessman not a philanthropist.

The statement that the agreement “would keep housing costs affordable for all residents” is also incorrect. The red herring for West Village Houses’ co-op conversion plan was released on Nov. 23. It shows that an average tenant will need an income of $80,000 or more to be able to buy his or her apartment. This is because the average monthly maintenance and mortgage costs approach $2,000 per month. In many instances, the larger apartments will cost tenants $300,000 and will require over $4,000 in monthly charges. Renters face immediate increases of 53 percent to 87 percent and continued increases thereafter. There are many tenants who cannot afford to stay in West Village Houses. Their vacated apartments will be sold at market rates.

This is not affordable housing for all. Nor is it a preservation of affordable housing. It is a phasing out of affordable housing with protection only for those residents who earn enough to stay.
Will Creed

Give me carpets, not caviar

To The Editor:
For years, every time I felt depressed I would go into Central Carpet’s store at 14th St. and Eighth Ave. All those magnificent colors! All those intricate patterns! Walls and floors blazing with light and color even in the drabbest, coldest, grayest part of mid-winter…. Who could fail to be cheered and impressed? I even bought rugs, until I ran out of floor space.

But now this magic world is being dismantled. Balducci’s apparently made the storeowner a better offer. We already have a lot of food stores in the neighborhood. Did we need another? Alas, there’s only one other fairly similar carpet store, ABC. Central Carpet will be sorely missed.

Otis Kidwell Burger

Likes Jeff, but also pro-union

To The Editor:
I enclose a flier being handed out at Jefferson Market yesterday. The issue was first brought to my attention by your paper and since I am a regular customer of Jeff and also a lifelong believer in the right of labor to join unions, I hope you will pursue this further and ease my dilemma.

Are the other large markets in the Village unionized — Citarella, Food Emporium, etc?

Is it true that Jeff’s employees feel sympathetic to their employer, or are they simply frightened of the prospect of a diminishing store?

Does the Jeff’s owner really allow pro-union people to work for him, presumably trying to convert others? Why is he so anti-union when it means bucking the local clergy?

Most important, what are the wages and conditions of Jeff’s employees (probably hard to determine) in relation to those of a unionized store’s employees?

I will be most eager for some answers to these questions, as will, I imagine, most of your readership.

Meredith Mayer

Calling all carolers

To The Editor:
Many thanks for the splendid photos by Elisabeth Robert of the Christmas tree in Washington Sq., depicting our resplendent tree and happy carolers, that you ran in a recent issue. The Washington Square Association donates the tree, lights and songbooks as a holiday gift to the community, and invites everyone to our Christmas Eve caroling, which begins at 5 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 24. Help us celebrate the holidays and greet our neighbors.

Peggy Friedman
Friedman is a board member, Washington Square Association, Inc.

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