Volume 78 - Number 28 / December 10 - 16, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Letters to the editor

Getting it right for seniors

To The Editor:

Izzy Orloff is a 68-year-old lung cancer survivor living in senior housing on Manhattan’s West Side. Izzy has no kitchen in his apartment. Almost every day Izzy makes his way downstairs to the in-house senior center for a warm meal — eating on average 38 meals a month there. According to Izzy, if his senior center were to close down or move farther away from that simple walk downstairs, it would be devastating for him.

Izzy’s situation is emblematic of how many seniors rely so heavily on their local senior centers for basic necessities that so many of us take for granted. In these difficult economic times, our city’s senior population is struggling even more to make ends meet and put food on their tables.

More often than we would like to believe, senior citizens are struggling to live from one Social Security check to the next. One out of every three seniors already falls below the poverty line, and one-third of all seniors interviewed in a recent study reported not knowing where their next meal would come from. Food pantries and senior centers have seen a significant increase in seniors seeking food. Right now, more than ever, our seniors need the core services, like meals, that neighborhood senior centers provide.

But these senior centers on which our aging population relies so heavily are being threatened. Not by the economic crisis, but by the city’s ill-timed modernization plan. This plan, if implemented, will radically change the way senior services are offered throughout the five boroughs.

We in the City Council are acutely aware of the need for budget cuts and ways to increase revenue in the midst of an economic crisis. We agree that the city needs to make changes to senior centers and senior services. There is nothing wrong with the concept of modernization — in fact, it is exciting. After all, as baby boomers age, those in the city over the age of 60 will swell by 46 percent by 2030, another 300,000 people. Older adults will constitute 20 percent of the city’s total population.

But the new senior center plan is not the answer. The administration’s plan is to open 15 to 30 new supersized senior centers, pulling funding away from existing neighborhood senior centers, eliminating the meals and supporting services these current centers provide directly within their communities. In fact, up to 85 neighborhood senior centers could be shut down.

Although we believe that the plan for comprehensive wellness centers is fundamentally a good one, new centers should not and cannot come at the expense of smaller neighborhood facilities that provide a home away from home.

Any policy change pegged as an expansion of services for city seniors should not involve the closing of these vital community-based centers. As a city, we owe our parents and grandparents the opportunity to grow old in New York with both dignity and independence. Until the economic climate is one in which we can maintain current core services and create new and expanded centers at the same time, the prudent thing to do is pull back the new plan and not further threaten our network of local senior centers.

Christine C. Quinn, City Council speaker
Maria del Carmen Arroyo and James Vacca, city councilmembers

The last of the bohemians

To The Editor:
Re “The Last Bohemian: Rosetta Reitz, our earth mother” (notebook, by Edward Field, Nov. 26):

As a friend, co-feminist, co-Reichian, co-orgone box owner, co-Miles Davis-era jazz lover and neighbor of Rosetta Reitz, I found the notebook column by Edward Field, “The Last Bohemian,” most moving and exciting. Fields’s piece was a literal gem and celebration of the mid-20th century that contained such excitement, such chills and thrills, such wonderful jazz, genuine danger, not just “stock market plunge” miseries but a desire for living a life that seemed to be a search for social justice, new ideas and new ways of expressing all of that and more!

Rosetta was working at the Village Voice when we first met. The Voice was then located at Sheridan Square, and Norman Mailer, part of the Voice, was running for — was it mayor, governor, president?

I was living on Avenue B and 10th St., then truly a problem neighborhood, but also an exciting and interesting place to live. Rosetta found me an apartment in Chelsea — and we were neighbors for almost 20 years. 

But Edward, I would like to add to your “The Last Bohemian” that we are more than just historic; we are the conscience, the remembrance of an idealism. It’s out there. If you listen and look, you can hear and see the birthing and upheaval of something maybe as exciting as — though different — from the days of “bohemia”…San Remo…Minetta Tavern…when Bill Steig, New Yorker cartoonist, Reichian and author of “Listen, Little Man!” a pro-Reich book, were just some of the places and people we all knew. But look, listen; something’s out there that we should rejoice in seeing, hearing and be a part of!

Once more, loved your tribute to Rosetta and to a time and place. But I wanted to say, as a fellow bohemian, we are not just history…we are inspiration, as well. 

Gloria Sukenick

High time for a change

To The Editor:
Re “Pot smokers’ defender now puts city on defensive” (news article, Nov. 26):

Thank you, Casey Samulski, for covering this seemingly unimportant subject — New York City police who racially target their drug busts. Why aren’t they on Wall St., where a swift stroll through the street can get you high? White privilege, that’s why. Randy Credico is one of the few people informed enough to understand the hypocrisy and fiscal irresponsibility of the penal system. It’s time to end the draconian Rockefeller drug laws and to engage the police in activities that serve democracy.

Karen Lewis

Vendors are tax cheats

To The Editor:
Re “Vendors aren’t the problem” (letter, by Robert Lederman, Nov. 26):

Mr. Lederman, the self-appointed leader of a group of the illegal vendors, wrote you and made a series of misleading arguments against illegal-vending enforcement.

One of the almost-comical statements he made is that there wouldn’t be any illegal vendor problem if Soho didn’t have any trees. I think all New Yorkers can agree that we shouldn’t cut down all the trees to allow the most street vending possible.

He also argued that there shouldn’t be any trash cans on the street because they similarly interfere with vending. Obviously, that wouldn’t work.

Finally, Lederman stated that dangerous curb drop-offs create more of a danger to people on the street than the vendors. Although I don’t agree that this is true, I do think the sidewalks should be properly maintained. Perhaps if all of the illegal vendors actually properly paid taxes on their sales, the city would be able to make these repairs.

Tim Clark

Don’t broad-brush vendors

To The Editor:
Re “Vendors don’t buy Gerson’s arguments on new bills” (news article, Nov. 19):

During the City Council hearing on vendors, Councilperson John Liu stated that vending in New York City is “a monstrosity, a hodgepodge, out of control.” The problem is that Mr. Liu and other members of his committee seem to be laying the blame at the feet of vendors and not with the authorities who enforce the regulations.

For many years, fine artists, licensed vendors and military veterans have pleaded with the City Council and others in government to take action against the huge number of illegal vendors and bootleggers who clog the sidewalks and occupy space that should be used by legal vendors. The bad news is that facets of the new rules as proposed in the City Council add additional layers of restrictions for legal vendors that will actually cause the legal group to lose more ground to illegal vendors. This is unacceptable.

It is imperative that Mr. Liu and the others on the council’s Consumer Affairs Committee make a distinction between legal vendors and illegal vendors, and then act accordingly. The problem is that Mr. Liu and others say that they are confused about who is a legal vendor and who is not and that is why they need the new rules. However, the truth is that I have personally witnessed schoolchildren who were able to make the distinction — with a high degree of accuracy — on West Broadway after a half-hour of instruction. Surely, authorities and city officials could do the same.

Lawrence White

Bike lanes save lives

To The Editor:
Re “The new Grand bike lane isn’t, Little Italy merchants complain” (news article, Nov. 19):

Bike lanes save lives. I happen to have been a bike messenger for the last 10 years. I’ve had two accidents on streets that didn’t have bike lanes at the time. When I bike down Ninth Ave. from 31st St. to 14th St., where the bike lane has an elevated concrete divider or plastic pegs, I feel safe as can be. And yes, I do use the lane and often stop for lights.

The new Grand St. bike lane is great.

Let’s face it: The cars and trucks have had the streets 24/7 for too long! I work and I do pay taxes. We cyclists have rights, too!

Eugene Carrington

N.Y.U. principle worked!

To The Editor:
Re “Glad that Met gets lease” (letter, by Rosie Mendez et al., Oct. 22) and “Well met” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Oct. 22):

I’ve attended meetings for the past two years as a member of the Borough President’s N.Y.U. Task Force, so was relieved to read that the university had come to terms with Met Food. One of the primary concerns raised by community members on the task force was the impact of New York University’s expansion on local businesses, and particularly the displacement of mom-and-pop stores in the East Village. The university ultimately agreed to a series of principles, including an effort to retain nonchain stores in its properties, where possible. This is the first occasion this principle has been tested, and N.Y.U. came through. Thanks to the elected officials who helped bring the two parties to the table, and the two parties for spending the time to find a solution.

Leo J. Blackman

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