Volume 18 • Issue 10 | July 29 - August 4, 2005

Letters to the editor

Downtown needs density

To The Editor:
This is to respectfully disagree with the Talking Point by Geraldine Lipschutz (July 22 – 28, “Searching for daylight between development plans”). The increasing residential development in the Financial District is exciting but troubling, and if Southbridge Towers is the model for this development, the district will economically collapse.

Prior to 9/11, the scattered residential conversions were just a way for the market to soak up obsolete office space, which was dragging down the commercial real estate market. After 9/11, the district got serious about mixed use, as residential conversions and new construction were fueled by Liberty Bonds. As a result, the Financial District is a more exciting and convenient place to live.

Unfortunately, there is an underlying problem with this extensive residential use, which is that residences create economic activity at a much lower rate (per square foot) than commercial land use.

In our district, with small blocks, the only way to create extreme density is to go high. Unless new residences are of extreme densities, the economic infrastructure will be underutilized and Downtown will wither and feel like a ghost town.

Although most homebuyers appreciate sun, air and open space, there is a proven niche market for living in the gray canyons of Downtown. Density creates excitement and increases the value of real estate. Although it seems counterintuitive that the dense, gray canyons are more “green” than light, air and open space, the fact is that the resulting proximity minimizes transportation needs and optimally utilizes resources, which is more “green” than any park, garden or farm.

Southbridge Towers itself is an odd place in the context of the Financial District. The urban design at Southbridge reflects a discredited concept, although it is far from the worst example. Southbridge turns inward; it turns its back to the streets it faces. The street grid is gone, replaced by a superblock and privatized pathways. (The destroyed street grid at Southbridge is documented in the current exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York by Danny Lyon.)

One of the worst examples of the “tower in the park” superblock design — the World Trade Center — in its last days tried to turn a better face toward the street, by carving out space for the old Borders Book Store and hosting a farmers market. Southbridge needs a better public face to replace the below-grade Burger King and the setback supermarket. The proposed new construction has the potential to do this and to bring new life to the north side of Fulton St.

The contrast of the design of Southbridge, compared to the remainder of the Financial District, results in a strange detachment between the two parts of the same neighborhood. Before Jubilee Market opened one block south, people would stand at the corner of Fulton and Gold, in sight of the Southbridge Associated market, and say they wished there was a market in the neighborhood. Somehow, Southbridge hides in plain sight.

Larry Gould
Financial District resident since 1983

Unkind to Republicans

To The Editor:
I had to chuckle at Jane Flanagan’s “Longing a return to my kind of America” (Talking Point, July 8 –14). Clearly, this society needs to return to a more polite way of life and, further, we should begin cloning her son’s teacher, Ms. Prescott, immediately. I, too, am very nostalgic for those long-ago, “Leave-it-to-Beaver” days when people being nice to each other was the rule, not the exception. I have felt my own indignation rise up many times over the years as countless ignorant louts walked through held-open doors or plopped into given-up subway seats without so much as a nod of acknowledgement, let alone a smile or audible thank you. Ms. Flanagan raises an issue that certainly hits home...my home: our two-year old is being raised to address his elders as “sir” or “ma’am” and our daily routines with him abound with exaggerated “pleases” and “thanks-yous” for just the reasons she details.

As for the nut-case televangelists...we’re in complete agreement there, too: I also am utterly disgusted by their notion that my gay buddies or my female friends who terminated a pregnancy were responsible for terrorists flying jetliners into the World Trade Center. But to imply that Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell actually has any material influence on this administration — and by extension all Republicans — is sheer (and typical) liberal hysteria that only serves to push the pendulum further in the other direction. Those incendiary religious crackpots make convenient (and justifiable) targets for Democrats, but I can assure you that none of the Republicans I know sees either of them as credible thought leaders.

The other thing that made me laugh was that any recently arrived immigrant reading her piece might conclude that only Democrats are well-meaning, reassuring, and polite and that Republicans are kind only “for show” or, in her example, for political gain. I hope this is not what she teaches her son. To provide Democrats-only examples of goodness in government is only slightly less outrageous than, say, comparing Gitmo to a gulag.

Presumably Ms. Flanagan is as nostalgic for Bill Clinton as I might be for Ronald Reagan, but wasn’t Mr. Clinton and his administration (e.g., James Carville) pretty nasty, too? Would Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, Juanita Broddick???, or Kathleen Willey long to be treated again to Mr. Clinton’s brand of kindness? One couldn’t possibly have watched George Bush after Sept. 11th and not been moved by the openness of his emotions. Neither of them are perfect men, but her juxtaposition is nothing if not unfair.

As a Red voter awash in the sea of Blue that is Tribeca, I’m both amused and stunned by the slant of her words, intentional or not. Does she really think, as her article infers, that only Democrats can change the course of civility in this country? And by what she said and also by what she did not say, isn’t that just another way of blaming the Bush administration (and again, by extension, all Republicans) for the deterioration of kindness? I certainly hope that is not what she meant. Good manners ought to transcend politics.

Regardless of the subtext of her well-intended message, I want to assure her that I (and someday my son) will continue to offer her a seat on the bus, hold open the door for her, help her lift something heavy, and thank her when she does something for us. My boy will grow up in a house that votes Republican (unless today’s Democrats can produce another F.D.R. or Harry Truman), but he will also grow up in a house where he is taught to treat all people with respect; to reserve his judgments until his experiences allow him to make them himself.

I, too, want to return to the kind of genteel America that we grew up with — in a place where people greet each other pleasantly, neighbors don’t lock their doors, and almost everyone can be counted on to commit random acts of goodness....sort of like all those places that still exist in all those small towns out there in all those (gasp!) Red states.

Michael Micciche


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