Volume 18 • Issue 27 | November 18 - 24, 2005

Letters to the editor

Don’t damn the Yankee

To The Editor:
Because we know there is a great deal of interest in preserving waterfront history, the North River Historic Ship Society has sought to help save and restore some of the unique old ships that once sailed American waters.

One of these is the historic ferry Yankee, brought to the West Side in 1990 and restored for over 14 years at Pier 25. Yankee is a 1907 former Ellis Island ferry, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The ship is in need of a new docking space so that the Hudson River Park Trust can rebuild Piers 25 and 26 (News article, Nov. 4 – 10, “Yankee may go down the river”) .

As advocates for historic ships in New York Harbor, we think that the staff at the Trust would be doing the right thing to offer Yankee interim space within the park, as has been done for the other tenants at Piers 25 and 26. As much as soccer fields and kayaking and grassy lawns on piers are components of Hudson River Park, so too should be historic ships — they are a real and tangible link to New York’s maritime past and provide a much needed addition to the waterfront park experience. Over five years ago, Hudson River Park designated three “Historic Ship Piers” — Piers 25, 54 and 97. Perhaps one of the remaining two piers would work, or another location within the park?

While we realize the current Yankee owners may have caused problems for themselves with the Trust staff, we also think that opening up historic ships for educational purposes, cultural programming and tours to the public is a good thing, and we believe Yankee can continue to contribute to that end. Further, we know that the option of onboard shipkeepers, responsible for the 24-hour safety of historic vessels, are a plus, since they add to the overall security of ships and the surrounding area. Remember, historic ships are not like buildings that you just lock up at night.

The Trust has been supportive in the past of historic ships, both by giving historic steamship Lilac a berth and by allowing Pier 63 Maritime to remain in the park. But hearing all the concerns expressed in the Lower Manhattan community about the sanitization of the waterfront as a result of new park construction, eliminating Yankee looks like one more step in that direction. Is that what the public wants?

Captain John Doswell, Captain Eric Fischer, Captain Huntley Gill, Betsy Haggerty, Captain Pamela Hepburn, Captain John Krevey, Julie Nadel and David Sharps
North River Historic Ship Society’s board of directors

Deutsche plan concerns

To The Editor:
Re “More heat than light from Deutsche meeting demonstrators” (Talking Point by David Stanke, Nov. 11 – 17):

I, too, was upset about the disruption of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. meeting to discuss the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building.  I came to get information, too. But I didn’t want just my own private concerns answered, I wanted to hear everyone’s concerns publicly and to get a response. That is why an open mic was crucial. That is why simply dragging oneself to Community Board 1 meetings is not enough, even for a C.B. 1 public member like myself.  That is why C.B. 1 (to its credit) eventually withdrew its support of L.M.D.C.’s decision to let individuals take “questions to experts directly at small tables....to get information quickly and discreetly without standing in front of a crowd.”  This was billed as a public meeting. That meant, to me at least, hearing the public, i.e. everyone, you and those with tape over their mouths. Yes, it could get messy, and, yes, as you note, “there is no way to control a public meeting.” That’s the exact point and L.M.D.C. should have responded by opening up mics for public comment, avoiding all the drama that ensued.

By the way, I did stroll over to the Office of Emergency Management table in my role as co-director of the TribecaSoho Community Emergency Response team. I expected some exact detail about how regular residents would be warned if any dangerous contamination is released. You noted in your piece that “there is a strong program to monitor air quality conditions for construction workers and at monitoring sites” but nobody seems to know how these warnings get to residents.  Since my CERT team is training on this issue, I wanted to know what method O.E.M. would use. Well, I was told, there is no method. They intend to call 911 and leave things up to the police and firemen — wasting precious time and manpower. I learned there are no sirens, no “runners,” not even a grid overlay of residents closest to the site, no anything that would help in getting  an alarm out to individual citizens living close by.

You note, “to be clear, contamination to the public can be harmful.” You say you do not believe the risks from contamination “is substantial.”  You may be right. What I, and my CERT team, and your neighbors, and many, many good citizens worry about is that there is no plan in place in case you are wrong.
Jean Bergantini Grillo

Mayoral advice and critique

To The Editor:
Bravo for your consecutive editorials chiding Mayor Bloomberg for suppressing anti-war and other political protest in N.Y.C. (Editorial, Oct. 28 – Nov. 3, “Bloomberg for mayor”) and urging him to invest his political capital in a strong road-pricing plan to reduce motor vehicle traffic (Editorial, Nov. 11 – 17, “If you’ve got it, spend it, Mr. Mayor). No other paper bothered to make the first point during the mayoral campaign, and you’re the first to make the second. Keep it up!

Charles Komanoff

Elderly displacement is unlikely

To The Editor:
Re “Southbridge’s elderly” (Letter by Geraldine Lipschutz, Nov. 11 – 17):

I respect you and your age and I understand your concerns about Soutbridge Towers, but, the study hasn’t happened yet and why would you think that you’d be displaced?  If the study proves worthwhile and we do go on the path to privatization, you would probably have the option to opt out, remain in your apartment and could have your maintenance frozen so you could continue to stay.  If that is the case, the only one that would benefit would be Southbridge, the place you love and call home.

Fred Waltzer

Bars are no improvement

To The Editor:
Re “Neighbors sing different tunes to Pianos” (news article, Oct. 28 – Nov. 3):

I wanted to add my own few comments about Ellen Keohane’s article about Pianos, the nightclub.

As a longtime resident of the Lower East Side (who also happens to be a musician who plays in bars occasionally, and is not anti-bar) I wanted to point out that if a neighborhood has crime, the solution to solving that problem and reducing crime should not be to flood a neighborhood with crowds of drunk people keeping all the residents awake till 4 and 5 a.m.

To solve one problem, it makes no sense to create another problem. So I take real issue with the people who justify what is going on by saying bars are making the area safer. No one can say what is going on is an “improvement” to the neighborhood — unless because maybe the person interviewed is someone who only moved here in the last two years because of the bars.

Also, I would offer that those people are new to the neighborhood: anyone walking around here now, seeing the “police surveillance signs” in the windows and vestibules of places (which warn that the dealers and thiefs are being filmed by hidden cameras that had to be installed) knows that there is still plenty of crime and drug activity going on now inside of these bars. It is just much more of a white-collar crowd doing the drugs, and they have more places than ever to score them. Let’s just call a spade a spade. I myself have seen more crime down here in the last three years — including witnessing a man bleed to death on my block moments after being stabbed, and getting held up at gunpoint on Avenue A recently — than I did in the first 11 years. Say what you want about the “old drug days” of the Lower East Side — but things are not better now.

There is one bottom line and one unavoidable truth for people who live on the Lower East Side: what is going on now, no matter how you look at it, is not an improvement from the problems of the past. In order for people to seriously call the bar proliferation that is going on an improvement, they would have to be able to declare that our quality of life has improved. It has not. Being kept awake against your wishes till 4 a.m. is not an improvement. Watching three of your friends move out of the neighborhood in just a few years, despite their love for their homes, is not an improvement. Having local shops where you used to get supplies shut down just for a third, fourth, fifth bar to open on your block is not an improvement. Watching the neighborhood become less and less diverse culturally and ethnically is not an improvement. And watching neighborhood valued cultural hubs like Nada close down to be replaced by generic drinking holes is not an improvement.

This is not an issue of being anti-bar. It is an issue of simply too many bars in one place, and not enough being done to control the crowds. Anyone can walk by Pianos from midnight onwards most days of the week and see that the crowds are not being dispersed. Not much is being done. They are all just being allowed to hang out there indefinitely, as loudly as they want.

I am not anti-bar; on occasion, as a musician, I have to play gigs in bars, though I am currently, by choice, not gigging on streets like Ludlow where I have been really pretty turned off to see how my friends and neighbors are treated by the S.L.A.’s indiscriminate practice of handing out unlimited numbers of liquor licenses in this once-unique neighborhood. And that dude in the article, who said it was easier to get a cab? One has never had a shortage of cabs only a block away on Houston St. — where many cab drivers go for lunch at the places on the east side of that street — or two over, on Allen St., where tons of cab drivers park to go to the local prayer center. I don’t think we should all be the victim of the S.L.A.’s reckless policies just so that dude can get a cab on his doorstep. If he were a true Lower East Sider, he wouldn’t tolerate seeing the neighborhood’s poor and low-income, longtime residents being abused just to have such a ridiculous, yuppy convenience.

Rebecca Moore

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