Volume 19 • Issue 15 | August 25 - 31, 2006

Letters to the editor

Art yes, junk no

To The Editor:
Re “Officer clarifies Soho artist comments” (Editor’s note, August 18 – 24):

We need to distinguish between artist vendors and junk vendors. Our police are unable to do so — harassing artists and ignoring illegal junk vendors, making our sidewalks impassable, dangerous and disgusting.

I have been a resident for 26 years; Soho was founded or created as an artists’ neighborhood for the most part. The artist vendors have always been welcome. They exhibit on a wide sidewalk, W. Broadway, leaving room for their work, browsers and pedestrians. The junk sellers (finger puppets, cheap jewelry, jeans, T-shirts, headbands, etc.) clog much narrower Prince and Spring Sts.

The police need to leave the artists alone and go after the junk sellers.

Frankly, at this point, after years of complaints, letters, phone calls, meetings, e-mails — [screw] all parties, vendors, police, politicians, supporters, critics, etc. and just give us back our sidewalks and neighborhood.
 Bonnie Lynn

Clear picture

To The Editor:
Re “The picture changes as street artists retract letter” (news article, Aug. 11 - 17):

Larry White and his lawyer Eugene Nathanson have predictably claimed that artists who withdrew their names from their letter requesting that a New York City version of the San Francisco artist permit/lottery system be passed into law by the New York City Council are “confused.”

Let’s try to clear up any confusion.

When you hire a lawyer to write a carefully drafted official letter to New York City officials containing 12 glowing references to San Francisco’s Street Artist Ordinance, and cite references to it as a model street artist ordinance, those who read the letter are not confused when they say you want an artist permit.

When Soho Alliance landlords send their stooges to trick artists into voluntarily giving up their constitutional rights, and those artists awaken to what happened and withdraw their names from the aforementioned letter, they are not confused. They have been unstooged.

When a lawyer advocates in favor of an artist permit system reversing a decade of legal precedents granting New York City street artists full First Amendment freedom, fully equal protection with written-matter vendors, no licenses or permits and allowing them to sell on any street in New York City, he cannot then claim he was trying to “open up streets to artists.”

Which streets would those be, exactly?

Is “First Amendment lawyer” Nathanson aware that between 1996 and 2003, seven federal and New York State courts declared an artist permit system modeled on the San Francisco artist permit to be a violation of New York State law, the New York State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution? Did his legal research overlook that this same San Francisco-style artist permit as applied to New York City parks was permanently overturned in New York in 2001 in Lederman et al v. Giuliani/Bach et al v. City of NY?

In 1995, the Soho Alliance and the four largest BID’s filed an amicus brief in Lederman/Bery et al v. City of NY, claiming that visual art was unworthy of First Amendment protection.

Since 2001, Larry White and his political patron, Councilmember Alan Gerson, have been trying to stooge artists into voluntarily submitting to a repressive system of certification panels, lotteries for free speech, artist permits and restricted art zones.
Robert Lederman
President of A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics)

Fulton vendors too

To The Editor:
The excess crowding on Fulton St. between William and Gold Sts. by vendors who use double tables and construction garbage left over 48 hours brings late-night rats and roaches. I have called 311, the Sanitation Dept. and the Downtown Alliance. I sent three letters to the mayor and no one ever got back to me. The south side of Fulton St. is in disgusting condition.

I am so frustrated. I think I will have to move to another city where people care about their city.
Phylis Salom

Tribeca towers 101

To The Editor:
In order to better understand the “looming tower” being planned next to the New York Law School site (news article, Aug. 4 – 10, “Tower looming as law school breaks library ground in Tribeca”), I thought a short history of our zoning districts may be useful.

In 1961, when the city’s latest zoning resolution was adopted, our community was basically divided in two districts. The “Civic Center” area (between Church St. and W. Broadway eastwards over to Federal Plaza) was zoned C6-4 with no height limits, and a floor-to-area ratio of 10 and permitted office, residential and school uses. The area to the west was in an M1-5 manufacturing district; also with no height limits, but with an F.A.R. of 5, and prohibited residential and school uses.

In 1979, New York Law School initiated an application to change the zoning on the western side of the block, thus permitting the school to expand on the parking lot site. The change was approved and a deed restriction was recorded limiting the height of the N.Y.L.S. buildings only. It did not limit the transfer of any surplus bulk to adjacent lots. I attended N.Y.L.S. in the 1980s and at that time, the subject corner lot on Church St. was not part of N.Y.L.S.

In the 1990s this block once again became the subject of community concern. The city intentionally left this area out of the Tribeca Historic District, and it was not included in the study area for the 1995 Tribeca rezoning.

Madelyn Wils was the chair of Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee at that time, and was quite aware that in order to encourage City Planning to initiate any zoning change, the committee insisted on keeping the N.Y.L.S. block in the C6-4 district. The Church St. area, with a Duane Street tower (that started our protests) and other tall buildings, was known as an area with problems.

The noncontextual C6-4 district (with no height limits) still exists in many areas of C.B. 1, especially in the far eastern section of Tribeca. These buildings are not in any historic district and developers will be able to construct new tall buildings as of right. New tall towers in any C6-4 zone should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially a former chair of the Tribeca Committee such as Ms. Wils.

Instead of working outside of the community board, it may be more helpful if the “community activists” combine their efforts to see if we can all work with our current Chair and the elected officials and the developer to minimize the impact of this huge noncontextual building. I also think that Community Board 1 should create a new C.B. 1-wide Land Use Committee to review other areas of our community that can use zoning changes.
Rick Landman
Rick Landman was a member of Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee in 1995 and is now the committee’s chairperson. He is a certified planner of the American Institute.

Letters policy
Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any affiliation that relates directly to the letter’s subject matter. Letters should be less than 300 words. Downtown Express reserves the right to edit letters for space, clarity, civility or libel reasons. Letters should be e-mailed to or can be mailed to 145 Sixth Ave., N.Y., N.Y. 10013.


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