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

Letters to the editor

Fields loses a supporter

The following letter from a Downtown resident was sent to C. Virginia Fields about her decision not to reappoint Madelyn Wils to Community Board 1:

Dear Borough President Fields:
Last fall, when I was invited to a fundraiser to support your candidacy for mayor of our great city, I was honored to be included. My interest in and enthusiasm about involvement in the community and learning about its governance was piqued, having worked in Lower Manhattan since mid 2000, survived the tragedy of 9/11, and in September of 2004 moved my residence to Battery Park City. This interest in the community was coupled with a strong sense of commitment to support women in government and in business.

I read with great interest your biography that listed all of your meaningful contributions to the Borough of Manhattan, and was greatly impressed by your involvement on the boards of so many civic and cultural organizations. It takes a truly unique individual to be able to balance all of these commitments without conflict and all of the other commitments that are part of life.

Madelyn Wils comes to mind as one of these truly unique individuals. It was with great shock and disappointment that I read of her removal as chairperson of Community Board 1, particularly for the reasons stated: “Wils’ presence on several high profile boards including the Hudson River Park Trust Foundation…may adversely impact on her ability to adequately and fully participate as a Community Board member.”

How could this be? Madelyn has served on Community Board 1, seemingly tirelessly since 2000, through the greatest tragedy and probably the most trying time our city and country has endured. How can one comment on her ability to adequately and fully participate when almost without exception, each meeting of Community Board 1 as documented in its minutes opens with the same phrase –“The Chairperson Madelyn Wils called the meeting to order.”

You were also quoted as saying: “..it has always been my policy to give new people an opportunity to distinguish themselves.”

This is commendable. Madelyn Wils has served Community Board 1 for five years, and as indicated in the Downtown Express article (April 8 – 14, “Wils removed from C.B. 1 as Fields moves against Downtown leader”), was re-elected by the board in June of 2004 and entering the last year of her term. Certainly, it would seem that opportunities for new people could have waited one more year out of appreciation and recognition for Madelyn’s significant contributions. What is the value of loyalty and commitment?

Madelyn Wils has been and continues to be a vital person to the Downtown community. Her extensive experience and outreach has been pivotal in garnering support for Community Board 1 and all of its initiatives. Her commitment and involvement in post 9/11 issues and the revitalization of Lower Manhattan has been a tremendous source of help and reassurance to those who suffered through the crisis and decided to stay. These matters are taken quite personally.

Although my voice is just one individual voice, I am aware that many other people share my concerns and dismay about your decision and what appears to be the surgical removal of a key leader and true advocate for Lower Manhattan and its residents. This is a tremendous loss to the Downtown community.
Gwen Bey
Wils supporter

To The Editor:
Our Downtown community has suffered a serious loss. Last year Community Board 1 elected Madelyn Wils to serve a two-year term as our chairperson. Sad to say for C.B. 1 it will not be possible for Madelyn to serve in that capacity as she has not been reappointed to the community board. All corners of our community feel the loss.

Madelyn put our community as her first priority from the beginning of her public service. This was never more evident than after our 9/11 tragedy. We were most fortunate to have her as our advocate on city, state, and national levels. Clearly this sentiment was echoed by our elected officials as well from both Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg, Councilmember Gerson, Assemblymember Glick to Speaker Silver and Governor Pataki who choose her to serve in roles of leadership in the service to and the rebuilding of our community. Madelyn always placed our community first no matter which of the many responsibilities she represented. She served us with honor, dignity and an energy that will be sorely missed.
Paul Hovitz

School harmony

To The Editor:
Thank you to Cheryl Moch for recognizing that the lower West Side deserves a zoned middle school (Letters, April 8 – 14, “School zoning“); however, some of her comments are inaccurate. The P.S. 89 P.T.A. has never advocated making P.S./I.S. 89 a zoned K-8 school. We have only supported local students having a guaranteed seat in a middle school located within close proximity to our neighborhood. Any campaigning calling for P.S./I.S. 89 to become a K-8 has been done by individual parents, and they never intended to offend anyone or create disharmony. They just can’t understand why their children would have to travel for an hour to get to middle school when there happens to be one located in the same building as their child’s elementary school. Until something is done about the lack of middle school seats down here, there will continue to be pressure on the only current facility.

Additionally, the P.S. 89 P.T.A. has made extensive outreach efforts to both P.S. 150 and P.S. 234 in the hopes of combining forces. Unfortunately, the overcrowding at P.S. 234 has been so severe, that their P.T.A. has been consumed with figuring out how to deal with that problem, and a zoned middle school has not been a priority — yet. At P.S. 150, one of the P.T.A. co-presidents informed us that since many of their students come from different areas throughout the district, a local zoned middle school was not something they would be interested in advocating for.

My sixth grade daughter is also inspired and challenged on a daily basis at I.S. 89, and we have both grown to truly appreciate this wonderful little school. But, it is true that the P.T.A. does not work there, and it’s not only because they fail to make a quorum at a P.T.A. meeting. On every level, there is an extreme lack of parental participation. Perhaps it is because parents find it difficult to be involved when they have to travel from different parts of the region to get the school. However, I hope that I.S. 89 parents will prove me wrong in the future.
Angela Benfield

Private hands for isle

To The Editor:
“Agency begins search for Governors Island ideas” (news article, April 1 - 7) was disappointing. The transfer of Governors Island two years ago from federal to state control for one dollar left taxpayers frowning. The federal General Services Administration estimated value of Governors Island was $500 million.  Had G.S.A. put this site up to public auction, private developers may have bid up to $1 billion or more.  These revenues could have been used toward reducing our multi-trillion dollar national debt or balancing our Federal FY 2005 budget deficit of over $400 billion.  Proceeds could have also been used to provide badly needed federal assistance to New York City and New York State.  Both Albany and City Hall face their own multi-billion dollar deficits and long-term debt. 

Between local bureaucratic rules and regulations, no consensus on what to do — combined with the lack of any dedicated city or state funding budget for specific improvements, New Yorkers will end up waiting until the end of this decade for any local municipal improvements to Governors Island.  It would have been a better deal to turn this site over to the private sector.   A private developer like Donald Trump would invest his own monies resulting in a significant number of construction jobs during conversion.  Creation of new businesses would have provided permanent employment opportunities which would be good news to some of the 6 percent of fellow New Yorkers currently out of work.  New tax revenue streams could be generated by both companies and employees.  While native Americans were robbed when they sold us Manhattan Island, we taxpayers are the real losers on this transaction today.
Larry Penner
Great Neck, New York 

Army brat island memories

To The Editor:
I read your article about Governors Island, New York (news article, April 1 – 7, “Agency begins search for Governors Island ideas”).

The pictures are beautiful. I have one complaint. You never mentioned that this island once was U.S. Army territory called Fort Jay, Governors Island. There is a Web site operating now run by the children who were born on Governors Island — the Army brats. They call Governors Island “Army Brat Life at its Best.”

Castle Williams, completed in 1811, is named in honor of Colonel Jonathan Williams, who at the time was the superintendent of West Point and chief engineer of the U.S. Army.

Governors Island was used by the U.S. Army from the Civil War until 1966. It had been under Army control for 172 years; on June 30, 1966, it was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard. This island has an extraordinary and interesting history.

As a member of an Army family, I visited Governors Island very often. It is absolutely gorgeous, and the last space left to enjoy nature. My family loved riding over on the ferry, walking around the golf course, and of course, the sight of Manhattan from Governors Island is absolutely spectacular! This wondrous place is for the people to enjoy.

Please don’t let Donald Trump or another developer in there to ruin the place.
Domenica G. Williams

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