Volume 18 • Issue 12 | August 12 - 18, 2005

Letters to the editor

9/11 families and residents

To The Editor:
I thought it necessary to write in response to David Stanke’s commentary, “Freedom requires standing up to 9/11 family leaders” (Talking Point, Aug. 5 – 11). To begin with I think that you have an obligation to let your readers know that Mr. Stanke’s opinion has nothing to do with the Take Back the Memorial movement. One only has to read any of Stanke’s previous articles (all prior to Debra Burlingame’s Wall Street Journal editorial) to know that he has been a staunch supporter of anything that the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the Port Authority has put forward and seems to think that the 9/11 families concerns are nothing more than a nuisance. (See “Preserving the footprints hurts W.T.C. options,” Talking Point, Oct. 29 – Nov. 4, 2002 and “The excesses of the W.T.C. preservationists,” Talking Point, Dec. 17 – 23, 2004).

It is quite apparent that Mr. Stanke is no more objective than any of the family members that he criticizes. I have been closely involved with the 9/11 families, since 2001. I have made it a point to share all sides of every issue as I think that it is important all opinions are heard so that issues can be addresses accurately. While I agree that the family leaders should not profess to be experts in these matters, neither should Mr. Stanke just by the fact that he was appointed to the Memorial Center Advisory Committee.

Looking back over the last four years, if all of the family members just kept their mouths shut very little would have been accomplished. If not for the “Jersey Girls” and other family advocates we would have never had an independent commission into the attacks. If not for family input, the Victims Compensation Fund would never have worked and if you don’t believe me, you can just ask Ken Feinberg. Also if not for the Skyscraper Safety Campaign and other 9/11 family groups, the public would never have been made aware of the fact that the Port Authority continues to be exempt from N.Y.C. fire and building codes, that the radios used by the F.D.N.Y. were defective and basically inoperable on 9/11 and the families would never have gotten the phone transcripts from the calls made on 9/11 and the F.D.N.Y. dispatches.

The bottom line is that unfortunately the 9/11 families had to fight for just about everything. From day one they have been lied to and things have been done and decisions have been made with them purposely excluded. Elected officials were swearing that nothing would ever be built on the footprints while plans were already in work for the PATH transportation hub. It is no wonder that they feel they need to express their concerns in the press. It also appears that Mr. Stanke feels he must do so as well. It’s just a lot easier for him because you give him an open platform.

Here are a few facts for Mr. Stanke. You can play with numbers all you want, but the bottom line is that more exhibition space is being allocated to the International Freedom Center and the Drawing Center than is to the memorial. Also there are nearly 450 museums in Manhattan alone. Do you really see the need for the I.F.C. and the Drawing Center at ground zero? I do not see them pushing for one at the Pentagon or Shanksville. If you really think that they are necessary why don’t you put them right next door. While you and other members of the L.M.D.C. keep stating that you cannot find any other suitable location, 7 W.T.C. has only leased 20,000 of its 1.7 million square feet.

In closing, the last time I looked we still live in America and in America everyone has the right to voice their opinion. It appears to me that Mr. Stanke feels that only his should be heard. Talk about elitism.
Dennis McKeon

To The Editor:
David Stanke’s Talking Point piece is right on (Aug. 5 – 11, “Freedom requires standing up to 9/11 families”). As long as the media and our politicians continue to pander to the whines of the (now quite wealthy — the average settlement was a couple of million) victims’ families the site will be a battlefield.

This group has always had as its main objective the total domination of all actions surrounding the area — from demanding the whole 16 acres as a memorial to preserving the footprints down to bedrock.

While I, and anyone who lives Downtown surrounding the site, supports an appropriate, tasteful memorial; no one thinks it should overwhelm the site.

It is not a cemetery. Nobody is buried there. Each family member was given a symbolic urn with ashes from the site. (Probably with fewer ashes than wound up on my balcony after the towers collapsed.)

No one seems concerned that those of us who live here need our neighborhood back from the terrible disruption we have had, and continue to have, since 2001.

Early on, I attended community meetings and hearings concerned with rebuilding the ground zero area. At one meeting, a victim’s family member, who indicated she lived in Westchester, told an area resident that SHE should move if SHE did not like the suggestions of the family members for development of the site. After that, I stopped going to the meetings.

My conclusion: there must be on-site bus parking, especially for tour buses; the footprints, if they are preserved at all, cannot be preserved to bedrock; the Freedom Tower should be scrapped, and low height office buildings built, only as economic needs require. The idea of taxpayers, through various incentives (i.e. subsidies, low commercial rent taxes, etc.) to artificially induce building of unnecessary Downtown office space makes no sense.

John Ost

Art & freedom

To The Editor:
There is so much hatred and anger pouring over the top of Michael Burke’s letter to the editor you would think he was ready to get rid of every artist in Lower Manhattan, as if they were Al Qaeda (Letters, Aug. 5 – 11, “Cultural arrogance”). I feel that this is totally inappropriate, and it is also a huge mistake.

In my opinion Lower Manhattan has a reputation for neither narcissism, or shallowness. Indeed since I lived through the entire 9/11 experience in Lower Manhattan, I see the good folks of our area as heroes. Their willingness to sacrifice, pull together, and work for one other is an inspiration I will never forget.

Mr. Burke has obviously suffered a great loss. Many of us have. However trying to rate who has lost more, or who suffers greatest is a fool’s game, and I wish those involved would simply stop.

There is no doubt in my mind that the terrorists tried to steal our freedoms by their abominable act on 9/11, but now we are giving up these freedoms willingly, and that is just plain wrongheaded. I am certain that those who raced to the W.T.C. on 9/11 were simply trying to help. Their sacrifice is what makes them such wonderful Americans. However censoring free speech, or sanitizing free expression at ground zero in their name is an unworthy memorial, and an insult to those who protected America, whether at ground zero, or on foreign soil.

As a veteran of both the Vietnam era, and the attacks of 9/11, I can tell you from my experience that Americans risk their lives in these times of strife to protect our freedoms, not give them up. Freedom what it is all about.

That means Mr. Burke is free to speak his anger, and outrage, and we can listen, or not. However so is the artist free to express his, or her feelings in their own way, and Mr. Burke is free to listen, or not. That is the type of free America people risk their life for. I would hope that we never forget this fact as we remember those who died in freedom’s cause.

Lawrence White
Soho International Artists Co-op

Southbridge is a model

To The Editor:
I sharply disagree with Larry Gould’s letter claiming that Downtown needs density (Letters, July 29 – Aug. 4). He dislikes Southbridge Towers, which was built to keep middle income people in 1960s and 1970s New York under the Mitchell-Lama program that increased “affordable” housing in our town. S.B.T. replaced unused, ugly warehouses on a three-block area just west of Pearl St.

Mr. Gould, sounding like a real estate broker, claims that residential buildings “create economic activity at a much lower rate (per square foot) than commercial land use.” He then ridicules residents’ and workers’ search for light, air, open spaces and increased greenery by claiming densely built skyscrapers furnish more “green” than any garden, park, or farm. His use of “green” means money, greenbacks, and cash-growth in the hands of those who see non-luxury apartments as commodities rather than as people’s homes.

Because there was a humane purpose in affordable housing, Mr. Gould calls S.B.T.’s design “a discredited concept.” It is not. S.B.T. shows the nation that over 1,640 families can live successfully in affordable apartment housing despite all attempts to turn N.Y.C. into a town where only the very wealthy and the very poor dwell. His other fallacy is his claim that S.B.T.’s apartment windows face only the depths of the complex. Actually, over 850 apartment windows face Gold, Fulton, Pearl and Frankfort Sts.

That writer says he loves crowded density. Does he mean the 10-yard wide lot on Cliff St. in Lower Manhattan on which, a few years ago, a tall luxury apartment house was built? Many expensive apartments there never get any sunlight through their windows at all.

That writer’s rich friends cannot see the Associated Market at 77 Fulton St. because they seek high-cost gourmet grocery stores; however, many John St. luxury home residents repeatedly clean off the Associated Market’s shelves because on John St. too many of those dwellers are rent poor (paying more than half their monthly income for rent).

Crowding people together in density leads to slums. Mr. Gould should do some historic research on the Lower East Side.

Laurence Vide
Southbridge Towers resident since 1970

Planning pier spontaneity

To The Editor:
In Ellen Keohane’s “Tribeca’s Hudson Park construction to begin this fall” (news article, July 22 - 28), the designer working for Hudson River Park Trust comments: “There was always a desire to retain an informality and a spontaneity on Pier 25. We’re going to take that very seriously and apply ourselves to achieve that.”

Why destroy and then attempt to recreate “informality and a spontaneity?” Are we that bored?

Piers 25 and 26 are the hit of the neighborhood. They are perfect, or perfectly imperfect the way they are.

For the Hudson River Park Trust to even contemplate anything but a refurbishment is a huge error in judgment. Here, they take a much loved community center, get $70 million in funding that is earmarked for 9/11 recovery and rebuilding, close the community center for years, and then try to recreate the same type of community center with the $70 million.

But what is likely to occur is that the $70 million will disappear, and so will our Pier 25 and Pier 26 “informality and a spontaneity.”

My sympathy goes out to the designer who undertook this project who will have a nearly impossible time trying to recreate something that currently exists.

Even more, my sympathy goes out to my fellow residents who will lose this valued community center during the years of construction. It appears probable as well that my sympathy will extend once this long-term construction has concluded.

Tom Goodkind

Challenging the challengers

To The Editor:
It is outrageous that supporters of one Council candidate in District 2 are moving to remove the other minority and female candidates from the primary ballot (news article, July 29 – Aug. 4, “Candidates blast petition challenges”).  In one particular case, they have challenged a severely disabled minority candidate who has filed substantially more signatures than was required, and are very likely to succeed in preventing him from running.

A primary tenet that reformers and progressives have fought over the years has been the use of New York’s arcane election law for political purposes to eliminate opposition candidates.  No matter how this candidate’s supporters attempt to justify their actions, they cannot deny the corrosive effects on our system that their actions will inspire.  It is difficult enough for minority candidates without a political organization to qualify for the ballot, given the hurdles that one must go through to qualify.  This is doubly so when one is forced to spend precious funds and time tied up in litigation, fighting for the mere right to be a candidate.  How many candidates have been forced to drop out merely because they could not afford the cost of prolonged litigation?

Without making any judgment on the candidate they are “serving” though this outrageous litigation, perhaps we need to demand to know the positions on all candidates about the right to ballot access.
Marvin Wasserman

To The Editor:
Your editorial on petition challenges is right on the money — if we lived in a perfect world (Editorial, July 29 – Aug. 4, “Petition challenges are a part of politics”).

But we do not, and until that time, our petitioning rules are a lie and a disgrace.

Just the fact that Lord Bloomberg’s riches can hire people to gather signatures while Thomas Ognibene cannot, and Bloomberg can hire expensive lawyers to invalidate Ognibene’s signatures while underdog Ognibene cannot vice versa alone proves the system is corrupt and benefits rich candidates over less wealthy candidates.

Your conceit that the process shows “support” for some candidates and helps weed out the lesser ones is preposterous.

For instance, 90 percent of the people I asked to sign my petitions in 2001 and in 2005 said yes, because it’s not really an endorsement of said candidate; it merely shows that people think they should have more choices on the ballot.

The petition process is innately fraudulent because all it proves is that the candidate has, a) a lot of free time; b) he’s a party-machine hack with major connections; or c) he’s filthy rich.

Christopher X. Brodeur
Democrat for mayor

Unfair articles

To The Editor:
Given the fact that all the money we use is tainted in one way or another, I was appalled to read the smear job, filled with righteous outrage, against Margarita Lopez getting funding from Scientologists for a detoxification project (news article, Aug. 12 -18, "Margarita Lopez stays mum through Scientology flap".

What the New York Post reports about one of the most vigorous champions of the underdog, Margarita Lopez, tells us more about the Post than it does about the integrity our compassionate councilmember.

Shelly Estrin

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