downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 33 | December 15 - 21, 2006

Letters to the Editor

Dangerous defiance

To The Editor:
Re “Painful lessons learned for Iraqi war veteran” (news article, Dec. 1 – 7):

This was a very interesting and moving article. From speaking to returning veterans, reading other articles, etc., it seemed to be truthful.

However, there was one part that struck me as odd – Chris Bragg writes about Josh Middleton going on patrol with his friend Matty with no ammunition in their rifles, the reasoning being that they did not want to kill more people.

That is a wonderful concept -- except that they were in the midst of a war zone. What would they have done if they or their fellow comrades or civilians came under attack?  Did their bunkmates know what they were doing -- I suspect not.

This seemed to me to be such a bizarre act that I wonder if it is even true. If so, it put many people in danger and was incredibly stupid. It would have been better to have gone the conscientious objector route.
 
Marilyn R. Masaryk

 
Bike deaths

To The Editor:
I am a cyclist who rides the Hudson River greenway every day from my home in Washington Heights to work at the Borough of Manhattan Community College on Chambers St.

The bicycle path is my route of choice at all hours not only because it is the fastest and most convenient way to travel from my home to work, but also because it is a car-free safe space to ride where I do not have to worry about cars. I say that because I am hearing impaired. This makes city riding even more challenging for me. In fact, on my way to work recently, I was hit by a car that passed me illegally on my right while riding on the street.

This is the second time someone has been killed on the bike path, and each time I hear about these deaths I think that it could have been me (news article, Dec. 8 – 14, “Haven shatters, as 2nd cyclist is killed by driver”).  When a car goes onto the path, it is very easy for a cyclist to be hit, because from a distance, car lights are difficult to distinguish from bike lights, and the sound of the engine blends with the sound of the West Side Highway traffic.

Over the more than two years I have ridden the length of the path daily, I have been disturbed by the rising number of vehicles on the bike path. I have seen passenger cars, limousines, taxis and contractor vehicles, including those of the Police, Sanitation and Parks Departments. The metal posts that prevent cars from entering the bike path are often removed.

One night in June, I was riding up the bike path after dinner with my partner, and on our way home we saw the aftermath of an accident on the bike path. The victim was Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, who was also riding home after dinner with his partner when he was hit by a Police Dept. tow truck. 

The area around Chelsea Piers is a confusing mix of car, bus and taxi lanes that crisscross each other, but there are no signs directing drivers where to go. Several weeks ago I saw a taxi on the bike path near the north end of Chelsea Piers. He actually asked me how to get onto the highway. Fortunately, he was driving slowly and paying attention to cyclists. Had he been going fast or had been drunk, it would have been a lethal mix.

I am deeply saddened by the death of Eric Ng and hope this will bring about a complete ban on car use on the Hudson River greenway.

Philipp Rassmann 


Southbridge responses

To The Editor:
Re “Southbridge study” (Letter by Michael Wishner, Dec. 1 - 7):

Michael Wishner’s belief in reverse mortgages shows he has never tried to investigate them. I have asked banks like Citibank, Chase, Emigrant, etc., if they would provide reverse mortgages to any senior (62 years or older) cooperative apartment shareholders in private sector buildings.

Their replies have always been that they would provide reverse mortgages to persons owning their own one-family house or to those owning condominium apartments. None mentioned having reverse mortgages on regular private sector cooperative apartments even if the senior owning one was 62 years or older.

Michael, if you know of Manhattan banks that do so, send their names to Southbridge Rights lawyer, Jared Brown, or to me at the Southbridge Towers Adult & Senior Center.

Laurence Vide


To The Editor:
Who was it that wrote “There are lies, damn lies and statistics”? Sounds like a Mark Twain-ism, but I may be wrong about that.  What I’m not wrong about is the dollar signs our neighbors saw when they opened the feasibility study and learned the market value of their apartment. There are some hard realities that Southbridge Rights and the feasibility study gloss over.  

We are accused of attacking Stuart Saft, the author of our feasibility study, but we attacked the deficiencies and contradictions in his study.  As recently as 2005 he was quoted as saying flip taxes cannot be counted on as a predictable source of income for operating expenses, yet the statistics in the feasibility study are founded on the assumption that the flip tax will make up for the more than $8 million we will lose in our real estate tax abatement, therefore precluding the need for a maintenance increase.

Let’s assume that it’s acceptable to use flip taxes for operating expenses. We’ll probably be O.K. for the first year or two, but then what?  What happens if people decide to sublet their apartment instead of selling? Or if they want to have something to leave their heirs? Or if families want equity to send the kids to college? There will be no flip tax income from any of those apartments.  It is unlikely that enough income will be generated to cover the real estate tax bill —which will be reassessed annually. And even if there were enough to cover those taxes and other general operating expenses how will we pay for emergency repairs and capital improvements?  With maintenance increases.

Over the life of Southbridge Towers, maintenance has increased an average of 3.4% annually, lower than for rent stabilized apartments. 

East River Co-op (privatized 10 years ago) has continued to have low maintenance despite a few increases and doubling of garage fees, but they have been operating in the red for three years.  The conflict over how to get out of the red between the “old” cooperators and the “new” ones who paid market rate for their apartment has taken on the characteristics of class warfare.  At S.B.T. we are already suffering a loss of civility; is this the kind of animosity we want for our community?  

Roberta Singer


To The Editor:
Re Letter by Jesse Mandel (Dec. 1 – 7):

Regarding the flip or transfer tax, other Mitchell-Lama coops run by New York City have been reconstituted, and it was found that in no way did the flip taxes alleviate operating costs resulting from larger real estate taxes, new mortgage payments and such additions.

You want to dream that flip tax cash will solve all problems, so go on with that delusion. If you plan not to try to sell your place for many hundred thousands of dollars, then watch your maintenance fees rise yearly. The average increase on one-bedroom apartments hit with unabated real estate taxes may go as high as $395 to $595 per month added to your present monthly maintenance costs.

The feasibility report avoided estimating maintenance increases once we’re away from state protections.

Helen G. Perrone


To The Editor:
Re “Northern exposure” (Letter by Kathryn Keppler, Dec. 8 – 14):

If Ms. Keppler did not realize that Ms. Cooney was speaking in metaphors when she referenced the Midwest simply to make a point, then I would suggest that she probably also missed the point of the feasibility study and did not fully comprehend the bleak future Southbridge residents truly face if we remain in Mitchell-Lama.

Her reference to other co-ops is fraught with misinformation. All one has to do is go to www.sphc.net to see how Seward Park is slowly turning into a jewel of the Lower East Side, with amenities such as a 24-hour gym, planned rooftop gardens, covered bike racks, murals and artwork in the lobbies – and all at no additional cost to the cooperators. Four of my close relatives have lived there for over 35 years and they still remain in affordable housing with the maintenance of a 2-bedroom currently at $680 and there is certainly no unhappiness there.

In light of the fact that Southbridge’s maintenance has risen 40% in a four-year span, citing an 18% increase in another privatized co-op seems to make a weak point for staying in Mitchell-Lama. Statistics have shown that co-ops that have left government control have averaged a 5% turnover and that figure would keep Southbridge operating profitably.

As Southbridge approaches 40 years, our aging infrastructure demands the need for major capital improvements. A significant portion of the funds generated from flip taxes and market rate rents for our commercial tenants would be pumped back into the property, keeping maintenance affordable for everyone. 

If we were to believe the Concerned Cooperators Committee, we’re being asked to absorb higher and higher maintenance to save a low price for someone 10 or 20 years down the line and we’re not being equitable to those of us remaining behind.

I would urge each and every resident of Southbridge not to fall victim to the herd mentality. Decide for yourselves – read and re-read the study – there’s no fuzzy math here.  Show it to professionals if you do not understand it fully, but make an informed decision for yourselves and your families. 
 
Rosemarie Ferrara


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