Volume 17, Number 47 | April 15 — 21, 2005

Letters to the editor

Wils supporters speak out

To The Editor: 
Re “Wils removed from C.B. 1 as Fields moves against Downtown leader” (UnderCover, April 8 – 14):

We find the cited reasons for the decision by Borough President C. Virginia Fields not to reappoint Madelyn Wils to Community Board 1 disingenuous.  If “ ‘it has always been [Fields’] policy to give new people an opportunity to distinguish themselves,’ ” it would seem that she would not reappoint any of the members of Community Board 1 who have served as long or longer than the current chair, which is clearly not the case.  Moreover, Ms. Wils had publicly stated her intention to step down as chair of C.B. 1 at the end of her current term, so new people would have had an opportunity to distinguish themselves in less than a year without this action on the part of the borough president.

It seems even more peculiar for someone who herself serves on several high-profile boards, including (according to Ms. Fields’ biography at http://www.cvfieldsmbp.org/Biography.htm) the National League of Cities, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the City of New York, el Museo del barrio and the Museum of Art and Design, to state that “Wils’ presence on several high profile boards including the Hudson River Park Trust Foundation, to which Fields appointed Wils, ‘may adversely impact on her ability to adequately and fully participate as a Community Board member.’ ”  Just as, we expect, Ms. Fields uses her membership on various boards to promote the Borough of Manhattan’s priorities, so has Ms. Wils worked unstintingly to promote C.B. 1’s agenda through her membership on the boards of various civic groups.  Whereas C.B. 1 essentially had to beg on the street under prior leadership, Ms. Wils presence and standing ensured not only that we had a seat at the table, but a powerful and persuasive voice in the room.

Due largely to Ms. Wils’ leadership and tireless advocacy for Downtown, we have rebuilt our lives and our neighborhoods since 9/11.  She has consistently placed the community’s interests first.  It is unfortunate that she is rewarded for such selfless service by being removed before she has the opportunity to finish the final year of the two-year term as chair to which the community board elected her.  While we do not always agree with her, it has been our privilege to serve with Ms. Wils on C.B. 1.  Her removal at this critical time is a poor decision made for the wrong reasons; it is certainly not in the best interests of C.B. 1 or the Downtown community.
  
Tim Lannan and Michael Connolly
Tribeca residents and members of Community Board 1
 
 
To The Editor:
Madelyn Wils’ departure as the chair of Community Board 1 is an occasion for all of us to recognize and applaud her role as one the true heroines and champions of Lower Manhattan.

Since Ms. Wils was elected chair of the Community Board in 2000, she has worked tirelessly, selflessly and successfully to improve the quality of life Downtown. Her ability after the September 11th attacks to unite, focus and inspire all of us in Lower Manhattan has been an essential component of our recovery.

In the days after the attacks, Madelyn organized Downtown residents and immediately started advocating for their needs. Leading the charge on issues ranging from access back into homes, to air quality monitoring, to planning the revitalization, Madelyn has always stayed focused on the things that have mattered the most to Downtown residents. Without her, there would be no Millennium High School in Lower Manhattan. She also played a pivotal role in assuring a new grade school will be built on the east side of the district.

Madelyn Wils has also been a staunch friend and ally of the Downtown business community. In fact, she is a principal reason that Lower Manhattan’s businesses, workers and residents are united in fighting for the revitalization of our neighborhood – sharing the same views on almost every complex challenge we face. I am proud that, over the years, we have been allies, partners – and friends.

Madelyn has served as Chair of Community Board 1 with the utmost distinction – indeed, she has been one of the most accomplished Community Board chairs I’ve ever seen in the city. Her departure from that post is a loss for the entire Lower Manhattan community.

Fortunately, however, she will continue to be an effective advocate for Downtown through her roles as a director of both the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Hudson River Park Trust. Most importantly, as one of our most respected leaders, her views, insights, objectivity and indefatigable energy will serve our community well for years to come.

I look forward to continuing to work with her closely to assure that Downtown becomes the first truly great urban center of the 21st century.

Carl Weisbrod
President of the Downtown Alliance and director of the L.M.D.C.


Open letter to Fields

The following in an open letter sent to C. Virginia Fields, Manhattan borough president regarding her to decision not to reappoint Madelyn Wils to Community Board 1.

Dear Ms. Fields:
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my third day as newly elected P.T.A. president of P.S. 234, I was standing in front of the school talking to my long time friend Madelyn Wils, who coincidently was recently elected to the chair of Community Board 1. We were discussing how our respective organizations could work together for the betterment of the elementary schools in C.B. 1.

While talking, we witnessed, along with many other Downtown residents, that first passenger jet fly overhead and crash into the north tower of the W.T.C.

From that moment on, and during the next two years that I was president, I had numerous occasions to work with Madelyn and C.B. 1. As you undoubtedly know, P.S. 234 was evacuated and our students, faculty and administration spent the next five months at St. Bernard’s School on West 13th St. P.S. 89 was not as lucky and had to travel across town to Avenue B and Houston St. However, the executive committees of both institutions worked closely together to deal with a host of environmental problems facing our schools, from trucks loaded down with asbestos and other hazardous materials driving past our buildings, to the noise, traffic and contamination caused by the location of a barge moored nearby as part of the clean-up effort, to the need to clean our school’s air filtration systems, which were clogged with W.T.C. dust. As part of our effort, we reached out to you and our other elected representatives for help and support.

The response of our public officials was overwhelming. Speaker Silver’s office was always available to meet with us and work on our behalf, and Sheldon Silver personally visited with our community in the days immediately after 9/11. Deborah Glick’s office was constantly in touch with us. In fact, one cold January morning when I arrived at St. Bernard’s, there was Deborah Glick talking to parents to assure them that they were not in the struggle alone and that she and her staff would be there for them. Alan Gerson bared his soul and gave his blood for our children. His tireless efforts will always be remembered. I can go on and on. Jerrold Nadler and his staff fighting for our children’s health and our community clean-up; Randi Weingarten of the U.F.T. visiting regularly to make sure we were getting enough educational support; Thomas Duane, and of course, the mayor’s office.

However, you, our borough president, were the only elected official who did not return our calls for help. Our community, and more importantly this city’s most precious possession, its children, needed help and you were not available to help them.

Now you have decided to be heard in our community. Not in support of our children or community, but to be destructive and divisive. Just when we are starting to get on our feet, just when we are getting our schools organized, just when we see development pressure reach its peak, you intercede by not reappointing Madelyn Wils, our elected representative to the city. I am not writing to defend Madelyn or to give her support because she doesn’t need either from me. But no matter what you think of her style of leadership, there is one indisputable fact. She is a most effective leader.

By your absence you demonstrated your lack of concern for our children and our community. But at least you stayed away. Regrettably you changed your ways to our detriment at this critical juncture.

George L. Olsen
Individually and not in my capacity as a member of Community Board 1

Editor’s Note: In June 2000, Madelyn Wils’ fellow members on Community Board 1 first elected her to be the board’s chairperson.


Art offends Dems too

To The Editor:
The front-page article “Elections Board axes Soho site over political art” (news article, April 8 - 14) reports that the Board of Elections eliminated the Puffin Room art gallery as a polling place because of a Republican official protested about politically charged “artwork” on display. To the contrary, when I voted, a Democratic election worker told me that many voters had protested and that she personally found the “artwork” offensive to the electoral process. I too was upset and filed a written protest with the Board of Elections. I am not a Republican.

The article also suggests that there are no alternative polling sites in or adjacent to the relevant election districts. Yet, there is a school about 100 yards from where I live.

The owner of the gallery claims a First Amendment right to display politically evocative posters in a polling place. He clearly knows even less about law than about being a good neighbor and citizen in a diverse society.

David Schoenbrod

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