Volume 19 Issue 52 | May 11 -17, 2007

Letters to the editor

Stairs go with twins

To The Editor:
The reason why there were plans not to keep the staircase is not because of the falsehood of keeping it there, it is really because it gives a reminder of the original World Trade Center (editorial, April 6 – 12, “Saving the stairway would preserve falsehood”).  It is very possible that former Governor George E. Pataki did not just want the Twin Towers rebuilt, he did not want anything that gave a reminder of it, which includes more than just the survivors’ staircase. 

It is most likely the same reason why there was a plan to cut up the site rather than just keep the superblock.  Ever since Koenig’s Sphere was found in the rubble, it was placed in Battery Park rather than at the W.T.C. site and will probably not sit with the Freedom Tower at any point.  I say that the stairway should stay where it is, because if it is broken up, it will be very difficult to place back together when relocating it. 

Maybe there is something right about the official plan of not including that stairway since it cannot be with the Freedom Tower.

It should be with rebuilt Twin Towers and the Sphere. It was probably Pataki’s intention to erase any memories of the Twin Towers and anything that was part of the W.T.C. so that he could have the Freedom Tower along with the new plans to have a fresh new start.  It is only appropriate to keep the remnants of the original W.T.C. if we build back what Al Qaeda took away from us on 9/11.

Tal Barzilai
Pleasantville, N.Y.

To The Editor:
Bravo for your editorial, “Congestion pricing: A breath of fresh air” (April 27 – May 3) backing the innovative traffic-busting plan Mayor Bloomberg proposed in his Earth Day address.

The Downtown Express has consistently led all New York papers in forthrightly explaining why road-pricing is the key ingredient for combating hellish and costly traffic congestion. Your latest editorial was your best yet.

Downtown’s elected officials, particularly Assembly Speaker Silver and State Senator Duane, need to know that their constituents are counting on them to stand up for traffic sanity and our quality of life. My neighbors and I look forward to your continuing coverage of the political struggle to make the mayor’s plan a reality.

Charles Komanoff

Mayor & the memorial

To The Editor:
Re “Spitzer’s missteps are not confined to a stairway” (Talking Point by David Stanke, April 27 – May 3):

Just because David Stanke is not interested in how the names are listed at the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center does not mean Mayor Bloomberg “has resolved the issue” with the latest foolish governmental edict that yet again ignores all that the people have made clear they expect at the memorial. And what, by history, belongs there.

Listing the names the same, by name alone, does not make them all “equal” — it makes them all the same. It might treat all equally but none equitably; it cheats all of the meaning of their deaths and why they need to be commemorated in the first place.

Extreme fanatical Islam hates individualism; it is part of the reason they attacked America. So, in response, we commemorate 9/11 by rejecting all of the distinctions that pay tribute to the individuals murdered on 9/11. Brilliant.

 “Less is more,” the mayor said, regarding the memorial, “especially when you are trying to encourage people to think.” Not evidently, however, when you are trying to encourage them to contribute to building a 9/11 memorial at the W.T.C. site that does not acknowledge 9/11. The fundraising campaign for the memorial includes all that the memorial won’t. 

Michael Burke
Brother of F.D.N.Y. Capt. William F. Burke, Jr., Eng. Co. 21, who was killed Sept. 11, 2001.

To The Editor:
I am writing in response to Dave Stanke’s April 27 column, as well as to comments he has made previously about the World Trade Center. I completely agree with his characterization of the failure of leadership at the W.T.C. under Pataki and the lack of improvement so far under Spitzer. I disagree with Dave’s positive assessment of Bloomberg’s actions.

Bloomberg has taken the lead on memorial fundraising, which has included time away from his duties at City Hall to raise funds elsewhere (most infamously after the tragic fire that wiped out an entire family in the Bronx).

I find it ironic that the very same issue of Downtown Express included an editorial praising Bloomberg’s “congestion pricing” (April 27 – May 3, “Congestion pricing: A breath of fresh air”) even as he continues to push through an environmentally irresponsible plan at the W.T.C., one that calls for the reopening of the street grid to vehicular traffic and a memorial that would require an obscene amount of energy just to pump the water through the fountains.

Dave complains of the objections “special interests” make, but what he actually seems opposed to are those interests of special concern to 9/11 families; after all, the cultural plans he so ardently champions are also a special interest. I know that Dave, like many of us, has legitimate grievances with the families and the callousness they have often displayed in their actions toward the Downtown community, but that does not mean that all of their arguments are wrong.

This memorial robs the victims of the one thing that hasn’t already been stolen from them: their individual identities as human beings. Visitors will be unable to distinguish from this list whether a name given is that of a 27-year-old office worker from Jersey City, a 68-year-old military officer from Virginia or a 10-year-old embarking on a class trip.

I know Dave cares passionately for this community, but I believe that we deserve better than the plans he champions. Perhaps more than anything, we deserve a much better leader than Michael Bloomberg.

Rachel Snyder
Preservation, not destruction

To The Editor:
We would like to express our deepest appreciation for your article on “Little Syria” (news article, April 27 – May 3, “Tour guide looks to save remnants of ‘Little Syria’”). We live on the block that Joe Svehlak and the Rizeks are hoping to protect. Having resided at 109 Washington St. for over 23 years, we are more than aware of what remains of this charming neighborhood: not much.

This small enclave has been gutted twice over the years: once for the building of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and, then, for the construction of the World Trade Center. Now, we are suffering through a third redevelopment disaster. In the wake of 9/11, speculators have been snatching up every last vestige of land in order to build as profitably as possible with no consideration of aesthetics or quality of life. They need more hotels and condominiums for the rich. They want to build as high as money and mediocrity will allow.

Since 9/11, Little Syria has taken a huge hit: Three small tenements on Thames St. are no longer with us; the nine-story building at 4 Albany St., built in 1922, is now a hole in the ground; and two blocks south of us, a little terra cotta building on Trinity Place has been boarded up for good. Connected to our south wall is the Colonial-style building that, over the years, has served as a health clinic, a library, a classroom, and most recently, a Buddhist temple.

That structure is slated for destruction. Meanwhile, around the corner from us, an 18th-century Federalist building is also endangered.

Just two days ago, the parking deck next to us shut down for good. We have no love for that particular structure, but the prospect of enduring yet another demolition — possibly even a toxic one — in the shadow of ground zero sets our collective teeth on edge. How is it that the purveyors of Lower Manhattan can sell us the charm of living Downtown on the one hand while selling off all of our air rights with the other?

After 9/11, some of us stayed here to carry on. This neighborhood is our history and we hang on to what is left for dear life. We only wish there was a Jane Jacobs or Jacqueline Kennedy to help us. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has so much on its plate and so little power. Thank you, Mr. Svehlak, and Mr. & Mrs. Rizek, for at least trying. We pray to God for a miracle.

Esther Regelson and Jack Cadwallader

H.P.D. problems

To The Editor:
The April 20 - 26 article, “City’s red tape leads to eviction orders, I.P.N. tenants say,” is a very good summary of the case — not just in Tribeca, but throughout the city, as Ellen Davidson’s comments suggest.

Comprehensive as the story was, some amplification is possible. Section 8 enhanced vouchers, substantially different from the standard Section 8 vouchers, correct for a political error, which has resulted in conversion of publicly funded housing to privately owned and operated properties by real estate speculators. The correction allows people like me (I’ve lived in I.P.N. since 1976) to keep my home at only a slight premium.

Dan Zittel’s case is the norm, and he rightly ascribes this to Housing Preservation and Development’s inability — or unwillingness — to calculate complex cases. In part, the problem arises from circumstances at the federal level. Housing and Urban Development rules do not readily accommodate circumstances where one is employed “seasonally” or “occasionally;” the assumption is, the local housing authority should be smart enough to compensate. Zittel’s experience — and mine, and that of others I know at I.P.N. — is that H.P.D. staff are unwilling, or through deficient training (a week is clearly insufficient), unable to compensate.

Even if given more detailed information, H.P.D. will discount this, if the numbers do not match their original calculation. My 2006 rent certification based my portion of the rent on an income mistakenly calculated at nearly $15,000 more than I earn — attested to by my I.R.S. 1040 form. Consequently, instead of the 30 percent of income I should be paying, I pay nearly 45 percent.

H.P.D. staff indicated that not only would evidence showing an H.P.D. error not be accepted, but if I offered evidence of a decline in income I was told “well, you’ll just have to write HUD a letter.” This directly contradicted what another H.P.D. staff person told me. This clearly is not the “due process” claimed by Assistant Commissioner Zafiriadis in your article.

There is some reason to suspect there is another political agenda at work. At the federal level, HUD continues to push legislation, first proposed in 2005, to transform the enhanced-voucher to a give-‘em-more-time-to-move program, not to exceed one year. Also, Mayor Bloomberg is well into his second term, and he’s having a hard time with low-income housing.

The I.P.N. Tenants Association leadership is late into this business. Their principal interests and attention have been — and as your article suggests, remain — elsewhere. We are glad to have them aboard at last, in whatever limited way they are willing to help.

Donald Jenner

To The Editor:
Steve Seifer (Letters, May 4 – 10, Re “Uncivil exchange”) may be a sensitive fellow, but certainly not a logical one.  Two women in the supermarket disagreed with his opinion regarding privatization at Southbridge Towers (he’s against it), and he felt they were rude.  

He therefore deduced that shareholders at Southbridge who favor privatization, as a group, lack civility; in contrast to the presumed gentility of those he agrees with on the subject.  He further contends that privatization proponents at Southbridge somehow share some incomprehensible common ground with Middle East terrorists!

Without belaboring the stale and discredited anti-privatization “talking points” cited by Mr. Seifer — haven’t we heard all these canards before — I would merely suggest that he seriously consider opting out of any privatization plan he’s uncomfortable with (clearly a more secure status financially then remaining under Dept. of Housing and Community Renewal supervision), in light of his feelings on the subject.  But why deny or begrudge the majority of shareholders favoring privatization, clearly reflected in last week’s board of directors election, the opportunity of a lifetime to reap the numerous rewards of true home ownership?

Jesse Mandel

Friendly support

To The Editor:
Re “Autistic kids play ball Downtown” (news article, April 27 – May 3):

We were all deeply moved by your wonderful, colorful coverage of our new special needs Challenger program.  Readers should note that the program is possible only due to a generous grant from Madelyn Wils and the Friends of Lower Manhattan.

Mark Costello
President, Downtown Little League

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.

Downtown Express is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 229-1890 | Fax: (212) 229-2790 | Advertising: 646-452-2465 | © 2007 Community Media, LLC

Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.