Volume 19 • Issue 7 | July 7-13, 2006

Letters to the Editor

Deaths greatly exaggerated

To The Editor:
Thank you for your article about cycling in New York City (news article, June 23-29, “Bike boom: Cyclists take Manhattan”).  As an avid cyclist, I’m so happy that others are taking notice of such a fantastic alternative to getting around in the city.  I do have to take issue with one statistic quoted in your article — “there are about 3,000 bicycle fatalities a year, he said” — if that were the case, it’d probably be safer to ride a bike in Baghdad with a 10-foot American flag waving from the rear fender.  Please check your facts before scaring any more people with the potential horrors of metropolitan bike riding. It’s not exactly safe, but it’s also not suicide either.
Andy Kris

Editor’s Note: We misreported the number of cycling deaths cited by Transportation Alternatives in the above-mentioned article. There are about 20 cycling deaths a year in New York City and about 3,000 injuries and fatalities.
Tower’s power limits

To The Editor:
I would like to shed some light on the role of the community board in seeking to influence the outcome of new development here in Lower Manhattan. Your article regarding the New York Law School site (news article, June 30 - July 6, “Tribeca tower riles residents”) does not clearly indicate why this particular development will be more difficult than others to change or influence. Community boards play a formal role in land use decisions, but only if the development requires a change or modification to the existing zoning regulations. In such cases, developers must seek approval from the community board and the City Council, which enables us to have a much better chance to force design changes or to incorporate needed community facilities into the project. All indications are that the proposed development on the New York Law School site at Leonard and Church will be an “as-of-right” development, meaning they will not require any special approvals or need to go through the community board to construct their building. In my over 20 years with the community board, we have never been able to prevent such as-of-right buildings from being built or been able to modify them. The one time we did achieve a new school in an as-of-right building, the soon to be built 75-story Forest City Ratner tower on Beekman St., was greatly assisted by several factors. First, the site they are building on had been a city-controlled urban renewal site until recently, which is subject to community board review. And second, and most important, Pace University decided at the last minute to pull out of the project, which created a vacancy the developer urgently wanted to fill so we were able to slide our school project into that vacated space. The bottom line is that while I am sure the community board shares residents’ concerns about the potential height of this new building and will work closely with local residents to try to lower the height, it will be far from an easy battle.
Paul Goldstein
District manager, Community Board 1

To The Editor:
I read the article by Ronda Kaysen entitled “Tribeca tower riles residents.” One point stuck out like a sore thumb. Madelyn Wils’ comment that the reason the Beekman site is 75 stories and was not fought is because she and the elected officials got a school at that location.  Let’s state the facts a little more clearly. The original height of the building was 55 stories tall. I know I and others at Southbridge Towers as well as residents of the building that abuts this property voiced our opposition to the 55 story structure. When I raised this issue at a Community Board 1 meeting the response I received from Wils was that it is an “as-of-right” project and nothing could be done. That was until Wils negotiated an additional 20 stories for the building. What she should have negotiated was a school to be part of the original size building. Normally, when you fight a large as-of-right building being planned for a community you wind up with the original size. However, Madelyn negotiated this hideous addition to our community.  

I want to be extremely clear, I support the need for new schools in Lower Manhattan especially the east side of the district. But I believed then and I believe now that the Beekman site was the worst site to place an elementary school. The location that most of us wanted for a school was 250 Water Street. It was large enough to safely admit and dismiss the children and to give the children a place to play. Beekman Street is a very narrow street and once parents begin to double park there to pick up their children it will be just one more street closed off in our community adding to the traffic congestion.
 John A. Fratta
Community Board 1 member and Southbridge Towers resident

I led C.B.1 reform

To The Editor:
Re “What a race” (UnderCover, June 16 – 22):

UnderCover has had its head under the covers way too long, characterizing my past campaigns as “unsuccessful.”

How soon they forget the crossroads Community Board 1 was at only a year ago, with dictatorial leadership, code of conduct punishments on the horizon, secret meetings and a small clique of board members controlling everything and excluding most of the other board members. The fact that we now have leadership that includes all board members, the fact that now there is no antiquated code of conduct — you know UnderCover, free speech, First Amendment, all that good stuff — the fact now, as UnderCover points out, that 11 candidates ran for office — by far the most we have ever had — the fact now that we were able to have a civil debate of the issues — all these facts came to be, and can be directly attributed to my past campaigns, because I publicly exposed the tyranny that was happening during those years.

It took some time for change, but only I had the courage to speak out publicly to bring about that change, while others could unfortunately only speak out privately for fear of retribution. This is the atmosphere community board members were subjected to. If UnderCover came out from underneath those so-called covers they would see the big picture.

Community Board 1 is now reaping the rewards of my past “campaigns.”

Umm...the last time I checked, that was called democracy in action.

On June 20, 2006 there was a changing of the guard. A clean sweep for inclusion.

The tough, long fight was worth the wait.

“Unsuccessful —” I think not!
 Marc Ameruso
Assistant secretary, Community Board 1

Diesel deception?

To The Editor:
Re “B.S.A. again voices concerns about 60 Hudson diesel” (news article, June 9 – 15):

The second hearing on 60 Hudson St. held by the Board of Standards and Appeals (which you covered with your usual thoroughness) had one quality that generally went unnoticed – rampant obfuscation by the Buildings Department.

This obfuscation escaped notice because it turned on certain phrases that sound as if they mean the same thing but don’t.

During the hearing, the diesel tanks that were illegally installed at 60 Hudson St. and later blessed with a waiver from the Department of Buildings were referred to as “above-ground tanks.” But “above-ground” is not a useful term in this situation. What D.O.B. did not mention was that all the tanks inside of 60 Hudson St. are above-ground tanks, including the tanks in the basement. Below-ground tanks are buried tanks, surrounded by at least two feet of tamped earth. There are one or two buried tanks underneath 60 Hudson, but they are not at issue.

The tanks that are at issue are “tanks above the lowest floor.” This is the language of the building code, which says “fuel oil storage tanks having a capacity of 275 gallons or less may be installed inside of buildings above the lowest story . . . The number of such oil storage tanks shall be limited to one per story.” The Buildings Department waiver permits 60 Hudson to have more than one tank per story, or floor, on six floors above the lowest floor.

There are 12 tanks on the first floor of 60 Hudson St. that were not included in the waiver. Buildings’ own consultant says the basement is the lowest floor, which means the tanks on the first floor are above the lowest floor. It seems clear to me that 11 of those 12 tanks are against code. If so, there is a lot more diesel fuel stored against code at 60 Hudson St. than D.O.B. cares to admit.

Those at the hearing may have thought they were listening to an intelligent discussion of the location of fuel tanks, but on D.O.B.’s part, it was all obfuscation.
Deborah Allen


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