Volume 19 Issue 34 | January 5 - 11, 2007

Letters to the Editor

What happened in Albany?

To The Editor:
Your Dec. 15 - 21 editorial, “Pataki’s Downtown legacy,” was informative, but his statewide legacy leaves much to be desired.

Consider his track record over the past 12 years.  Gov. Pataki’s lavish spending of taxpayer dollars to special interest groups to grease his 2002 reelection made the late liberal Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller roll over in his grave.  His record deficits, excessive spending and late budgets give taxpayers anguish.  

Spending in the adopted 2006 budget is more than twice the rate of inflation.  This budget contained almost $1 billion worth of legislative members pork barrel projects known as member items, along with a potential deficit in the billions.  Under Gov. Pataki’s tenure, with bipartisan support of the state Legislature (including both Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno), borrowing for quasi-government agencies has grown by billions of dollars.  Even worse, these public authorities are exempt from basic oversight by both the N.Y.S. comptroller and state Legislature.

New York is number two nationally among the 50 states with each resident responsible for $3,515 of the $50 billion total debt.  Under “TaxPaki,” state debt grew from $27 billion in 1995 to $50 billion today. 

On balance, Pataki was a net loss for New Yorkers.
Larry Penner
Great Neck, New York

Pier 40 follies

To The Editor:
Re “ Cirque, youth group, float Pier 40 plans” (news article, Dec. 29 - Jan. 4, 2007)

There may be no better example of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” than Pier 40, object of a multitude of schemes to make it much, much better than it is. But what is it, exactly, that needs to be improved? The huge center courtyard, so long an underused truck-parking facility, is now a green, well-lit athletic field where kids and young adults come from all over the city to play soccer and softball from morning to night. The nicely-run parking operation contributes, it’s said, $5 million annually to the city -- most of it, I’ll wager, from the vehicles owned by city people like me who don’t have much choice anymore about where to put their cars now that developers have done away with so many parking lots hereabouts and on-street parking has become unfeasible. It’s easy enough to say that cars don’t belong in Manhattan, but what are we car owners supposed to do on weekends when we need to get to our retreats far away from tourists and shoppers? Take a taxi? Hire a limo? Move to the suburbs? Forget it!

Gene Epstein

To The Editor:
Your Pier 40 article raises serious concerns.

Before developers submitted current proposals, the Hudson River Park Trust commissioned a study for uses on the pier, and presented it to the Waterfront Committee of Community Board 2. According to the Trust, this was because there was potential for the community to develop a park concept for the pier, rather than again having developers decide what the park should be.

In Sept. 1990, C.B. 2 passed a resolution to insure that open space of Pier 40 would be devoted to park use. An investigation considered sharing active recreational facilities with schools that are required to pay for using parks. This could expand such uses, which would be limited to school and working hours.

We now have two pier proposals, both with restricted potential for the park.

One would be an entertainment area. About 11 percent of the footprint would be ball fields. Vehicles arriving day and night for 2.7 million annual visitors would multiply conflicts with pedestrians and bikers, and have inadequate parking.

The second plan could take advantage of school use. But half of the existing roof would be covered with additional buildings, at least doubling the current height. This, after many in the community spent years advocating removal of all buildings from the pier deck. Quiet recreational space is limited. Time conflicts between paid and free public use of active recreational facilities suggest serious problems.

In keeping with the Trust’s intention, a community concept could devote the entire roof and courtyard to active/quiet recreation, plus year-round indoor options. Parking and other pier-supporting uses would also be inside.

This community concept would fulfill requirements of the project’s environmental impact statement, which include protection of historic resources. It states that the waterfront’s incredible maritime heritage is to be emphasized. This is something that C.B. 2 has consistently stressed. The heritage of well over 100 million Americans can be traced to immigrants who arrived along this waterfront corridor. Preservation requirements are critical to allow for federal funding of the park.

Bill Hine and Robert Smith
Save the Piers

Middle school needs

To The Editor:
We were so pleased to see the recent flurry of activity in Battery Park City with respect to the establishment of an expanded intermediate school that will truly belong to our neighborhood.

While nothing has been set in stone, recent community board and P.T.A. meetings have proven to many of us that our representatives mean business about this critical need and are not merely rendering us lip service.

It is imperative that these efforts continue without further delay or political interference. So many families either chose to remain in Lower Manhattan post 9/11, or actually moved here, as our family did, to be part of the resurgence of this spectacular oasis. Now that we are all hopefully on the same page, let’s lock in the commitment to providing the crucial intermediate structure(s) in B.P.C. now. It is a travesty that we have been losing so many of our promising sixth, seventh and eighth graders to far distant points of the city. B.P.C., as the largest growing neighborhood in N.Y.C., deserves it’s own quality schools where families can enjoy a continuity of life educationally that matches the other amenities we love here.
Steve Salitan

Gerson represents us

To The Editor:
In response to the recent article, “Hey Alan, you represent me and my neighbors” (Talking Point by David Stanke, Dec. 15 – 21), we, the chairs of the Southbridge Towers Parent and Youth Association, a support and advocacy group that represents the families of nominally 4,000 Southbridge residents and others of Lower Manhattan, would like to acknowledge and thank Councilmember Alan Gerson for his positive works and influence in our community.

We were startled, bothered and disturbed by Mr. Stanke’s commentary, as it described an Alan Gerson totally and completely contrary to the one that we are proud to call our district’s councilmember.

In collaboration with the community, Community Board 1 and other committed local officials, Councilmember Gerson secured and re-secured the P.S. 234 annex, persevered on the ballfields, called on the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and federal government for funding of post-9/11, health-related concerns, advocated for green and recreational space where there was none -- on the east side of Lower Manhattan.

Mr. Stanke’s opposition to free admission to the 9/11 museum was particularly disturbing because it seemed to imply that there is not a need for free or low cost services in Lower Manhattan which further implies that all residents of Lower Manhattan are wealthy.

Councilmember Gerson’s district spans from the public housing projects to the multiplex condominiums. Falling somewhere at the median as middle-income, Mitchell-Lama co-op owners, we can attest that from our perspective, Alan Gerson does an excellent job of covering the spectrum. Alan Gerson is a find that we will continue to fight to see is not lost.

Mariama James and Ann Marie DeFalco
Public members of C.B. 1’s Youth and Education Committee

Southbridge responses

To The Editor:
Are Geraldine Lipschutz and Barry L. Cohen (Letters, Dec. 22 – 28, “Southbridge windfall”) aware that Goldman Sachs is building its new Downtown headquarters utilizing government funding of at least $1.65 billion, and this incredibly wealthy company is eligible to receive many millions more in various tax exemptions and additional government benefits? These “incentives” were designed to spur development Downtown, as was the case when Southbridge Towers was developed in the late 1960s, a time when Downtown’s economic and social viability was considered questionable.

Goldman Sachs’s multimillionaires are not required to sacrifice one penny of their company’s many billions of dollars of equity in exchange for these government benefits, so I ask: Why bitterly begrudge Southbridge’s mostly middle-class and largely elderly long-time shareholders the many benefits of access to the equity in their own property, as the original Mitchell-Lama legislation deliberately permitted? Why the double standard?

Honest affordable housing advocates, this newspaper included, acknowledge that privatization at Southbridge is not a threat to anyone’s home.

The best information available, most notably cooperative and condominium expert Stuart Saft’s feasibility report -- not to mention Southbridge’s 30 percent maintenance rise since 2002 -- indicates that Southbridge is more likely to remain affordable as a private cooperative than under the Mitchell-Lama status quo, with its inherently onerous state restrictions.

In fact affordable housing is really not enough for Ms. Lipschutz and Mr. Cohen. Only Mitchell-Lama in perpetuity will satisfy them. And should shareholders need or want to access their equity -- to move to assisted living or a nursing home, if necessary; for a college loan; for any reason at all -- well, that’s greedy. It’s fine for Goldman Sachs tycoons to access their government-subsidized equity; Southbridge’s shareholders are undeserving of such a “windfall,” or so your correspondents would have the more gullible among us believe.

Jesse Mandel

To The Editor:
Re “Southbridge windfall” (Letter by Geraldine Lipschutz and Barry L. Cohen):

Let’s break this down: Geraldine states “Assuming anyone would want to buy these apartments in over-aged, affordable middle-income affordable apartments” in Southbridge buildings “that continue to need major repairs.” If we stay under Mitchell-Lama, these continuous major repairs will cause skyrocketing rent increases making Southbridge not that “affordable.” Going private opens the avenue to raise funds to make necessary improvements for Southbridge.

Geraldine states “middle income buildings.” A working couple making an average salary could not get into Southbridge due to the low income cutoff levels. As a matter of fact I would venture to say at least half the current residents of Southbridge  would not qualify for an apartment today due to their income levels.
Michael Wishner

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