Volume 74, Number 34 | December 29 - January 04, 2004



Letters to the editor

N.Y.U. has changed — Yeah, right

To The Editor:
Re “N.Y.U’s life sciences building: A new town-gown era?” (talking point, By Martin Tessler, Dec. 1):

I am all for constructive feedback, and letting New York University, or anyone else, know the positive sides of the choices they make. But let’s not be naive. Assuming at this point that N.Y.U.’s recently announced plans for placing their new science center in existing buildings on Waverly Pl. signals a new community-friendly approach is a little like assuming that after picking up some nuts and berries along the way to Little Red Riding Hood’s house, the Big Bad Wolf has gone vegetarian.

Let’s be realistic — the amount of space N.Y.U. has said they will use for the science center on Waverly Pl. seems to be much less than the size of what they have indicated they think they can build at the Morton Williams supermarket site. Combine that with the fact that putting a science center building just feet from the windows of hundreds of residents (many of whom are N.Y.U. employees) in the two housing complexes surrounding that site probably spells lawsuits and at the very least bad P.R., and it seems clear that N.Y.U. decided that the supermarket site could better be exploited for something bigger, and less likely to set off alarm bells for containing uses some might perceive as hazardous to nearby residents.

As for their choice to use an existing building, we all know how expensive real estate is in the Village, and re-using an existing building is much cheaper than building a new one. So N.Y.U. decided to take some building it already had, add a few floors on top, and make that their new science center. Is this the first time N.Y.U. has taken over or re-used an existing building in the Village? Of course not. Just because they are not destroying it, I think it is jumping to conclusions to assume this reflects a new approach; in fact, it looks like this time, it is just what’s cheapest and easiest and fits their agenda best. And as far as community consultation, the buildings are already built — what major decisions about the project has N.Y.U. really left open to discuss with the community? Have we become so inured to N.Y.U.’s destruction of our neighborhood that when they simply choose not to completely destroy a building without even telling us their plans, that we feel compelled to heap praise, no matter how undeserved, upon them?

I don’t mind patting someone on the back for good work, and I would rather say something nice than bad about anyone, even an institution as frequently callous as N.Y.U. But we still don’t know what N.Y.U.’s plan is for the supermarket site. N.Y.U. still refuses to endorse landmarking of the I.M. Pei-designed Silver Towers complex and superblock, in spite of widespread support for it (though now there are hints that they might choose to accept landmarking, to look like the good guys, if the supermarket site is left out). We still don’t have the planner N.Y.U. has been promising to the community for nearly two years to discuss their long-term development plans, and we still haven’t seen N.Y.U. engage the community in a meaningful way about the parameters of any new project they have moved forward upon.

Without a doubt, N.Y.U. will be back soon with another, less palatable development plan for our neighborhood that may result in a real town-gown struggle. Rather than giving them increased political capital now for that battle — basically for doing nothing — let’s be realistic. N.Y.U. has still not shown to have shaken itself of its voracious appetite for inappropriate development without any community input when it suits their needs. And pretending otherwise isn’t going to make it any easier next time when we do have to fight them.

Dan Whitford


Art movement was only a scene

To The Editor:
Re “Kostabi gets dissed at door, as ’80s art wars reignite” (news article, Dec. 22):

If he is so unimportant why mention him by name over 10 times in the otherwise pathetically scribed piece on the “East Village Scene”?

This wasn’t or isn’t a movement — this was a scene at best. Baird Jones got it right with “Mark Kostabi and the East Village Scene.”

As the article states: “Cameron is currently immersed in a scandal of his own involving a $1 million lawsuit lodged against him and the New Museum by his former love interest, Oliver Kamm, owner of Chelsea 5B Gallery. The suit alleges that Cameron, in an attempt to defame Kamm, penned slanderous letters to Kamm’s lawyers, clients and colleagues about the gallery owner on New Museum letterhead, as first reported in the New York Post.”

Maybe after this, Kamm will get a well-deserved $10 million.

Ron Simtrund


Resident-only parking is answer

To The Editor:
Those who commented on residents’ need for free parking are targeting the wrong people. Many New Yorkers play by the rules and pay amply for the use of city streets. This includes state and city sales taxes on the vehicles and their repair and fuel, the New York City auto-use tax and resident income taxes. About 30 percent of our neighbors, however, illegally avoid these costs by registering their vehicles throughout the U.S. Many of these folks, according to the New York City Department of Finance, claim residency in other states to avoid New York income taxes. If we instituted New York City resident-only parking, we would collect millions of dollars rightfully due us. The restriction should apply only to alternate-side spaces, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Mon.-Fri. It would therefore not impact restaurants, theaters and weekend shoppers. Many cities, among them San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia and Hoboken, have such rules. Revenue enhancement and the reduction of weekday traffic, plus fairness, would result if New York City did the same.

Harry Malakoff


Sickened by surplus of pork

To The Editor:
“Representatives bring home the bacon for Downtown” by Albert Amateau (news article, Dec. 1) missed the real price tag of these so called tasty treats. Republicans who really believe in free enterprise, balanced budgets and a reduction in the size of government at all levels — local, state and federal — have been concerned over the past four years about the spending habits of Congress. President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have failed to control both spending and deficits. Bush has failed to veto any of the pork-laden spending bills sent to him by Congress. Both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have given up balancing the budget. Except for Senator John McCain and a few others, everyone else believes the best way to grease the wheels of reelection is to load up on billions in pork barrel projects. Democrats and Republicans have morphed into one Washington inside-the-Beltway party dedicated to staying in power regardless of the cost to taxpayers. Their philosophy is to increase spending above the rate of inflation. Liberals won’t say no to social welfare programs. Conservatives love any defense spending. Both support corporate welfare subsidies. They are leaving the next generation an inheritance of government debt in the trillions of dollars.

It appears that Republicans are more concerned about how to stay in the majority than balancing the budget. How ironic that after winning the Cold War against the Evil Empire of Communism, it may be mismanagement of our economy that defeats us in the end. Congress needs to start working to solve our problems today!

Larry Penner


Cops cause Critical Mass mess

To The Editor:
Re “Police and bikers take stand in Critical Mass case” (news article, Dec. 15):

Apparently all the news media have missed the point that it’s likely that all the route diversions on Oct. 29 can be pinned on the cops and not the riders. The police press release on Saturday morning Oct. 30 blamed the cyclists for every evil in the city because they failed to stick to the police-mandated route. The failure to follow the routing was the key to the city position — and the city conceded they screwed the cyclists on this, and lied to the public — how can anything else the city said be trusted?

Steven M. O’Neill


Sutton gymnastics get bounced

To The Editor:
Recently, one of the greats in my industry that has been exemplary in paving the way for many, went down over an unfounded claim that a lazy judge, eager to get on with her holidays ruled unjustly on. The ramifications will affect hundreds of families and reverberate for years to come.

Sutton Gymnastics, founded in 1977, single-handedly kept the sport of gymnastics alive in New York City for many years. As the fitness industry boomed all around them, they were steadfast in their mission of providing the Olympic sport of artistic gymnastics for New Yorkers — a tall order in a city dominated by economics and low ceilings.

Over the years they have not only created championship teams but have also won awards for community service. While our city’s children struggle with an outlet for physicality, Sutton Gym developed grants to finance programs for underprivileged inner-city youth, creating champions when discovering potential while nurturing teamwork and discipline through sport. In a time when our country is facing an epidemic of obesity, they have a long-standing record of providing unique physicality classes for thousands of New York residents of all ages, instilling healthier lifestyles and self-confidence through exercise. They graciously offered their well-equipped gym for rehearsals to numerous struggling arts organizations who were desperate for space. My acrobatic performance company, AntiGravity, was one of those lucky recipients.

After losing their space to the dot.com boom, they searched for over a year to relocate, finally settling on a new home in Chelsea, where they renovated to create a stunning gym. A neighbor in their building (listed in their lease as a photography studio) is actually a sound studio that claims to be affected by their noise. Despite numerous expensive adjustments to accommodate (including soundproofing as well as eventually forfeiting their team and adult classes which caused “vibrations”), the lawsuit that the neighbor filed was unrelenting. Their neighbor decided to blame everyone around them for lost revenue in ludicrous lawsuits. The judge (without a jury) made a ruling that caught everyone off guard, closing down Sutton gymnastics and dragging the entire building into unnecessary litigation.

Gymnastics is the single most-watched sport of the summer Olympic Games. If the mayor of New York and Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff are serious about their Olympic bid, I’d like to see them step up to the plate and intervene. The NYC2012’s Sports and Education Committee claims to be set up to “support community-based sports programs that expose youths from all backgrounds to Olympic sports.” If our leaders don’t take a stand on Sutton Gymnastics then they are using the pretense of sport to build a stadium without really stepping up to the plate for the greater cause of athletics.

Those of us who have signed a petition on behalf of Bill Hladik, Joanne Sotres and Marian Aronson of Sutton Gymnastics have been influenced by their generosity.

Christopher Harrison
Harrison is president, AntiGravity Inc.

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