Volume 20, Number 29 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Nov. 30 - Dec. 6, 2007

"Support businesses and organizations that support Downtown Express" TRIBECA SMILES

Letters To The Editor

Adios, C.B. 1

To The Editor:
Re “Good Riddance, C.B. 1” (UnderCover, Nov. 23 - 29):

Last week’s UnderCover was correct in that I will not be seeking another term on our community board (I am not quitting anything). And yes, I am hoping my action will shine a light on our lack of both diversity and district-wide, proactive comprehensive planning in the face of so much development. The UnderCover reporter pieced together several unrelated quips to make up a gossip piece while she was discussing construction noise with me last week. But the gist of the gossip was how I felt.

Unlike other community boards, Community Board 1 has no board-wide Land-Use or Zoning Committee; no Committee for Social Services or Seniors, or for any group except for our youth. A very small group of board members can dominate the discussion so we do not really debate land use issues in a board-wide, comprehensive, pro-active manner.

As the chair of the newly created Planning & Community Infrastructure Committee I can now publicly say how restricted our mandated scope really was. Our board chair demanded that all important land-use items be under the jurisdiction of the geographical committees, and we were severely limited in our scope.

While I never quit the board before (as the UnderCover piece falsely stated) I didn’t seek a reappointment once before; it was after 13 years of no contested elections for our board chair. I found that I could expose our election practices, lack of term limits, and illegal practice of how our board’s street fairs were processed by leaving the board. After that board chair was involuntarily removed from the board, I did reapply and thought that the next board chair would be a reformer. Instead, I had to fight her to change the street fair process, and fight to kill her new “Code of Conduct” which was contrary to the charter and was seen as a way to chill debate and remove dissident members. I give Julie Menin, our current board chair, credit for cleaning up these issues, and wish her well in her future endeavors. I only wish that she would have supported the development of a real Land-Use Committee to build up the board’s expertise in the subject.

For the record, the UnderCover piece was also incorrect in stating that I ever concealed my sexuality on an application to apply to the board. To the contrary, I refused to remove that I belonged to gay groups, and thus was appointed only as a public member in the 1970s to C.B. 2. Yes, at that time there were no openly gay members on any community board, and I do hope that the borough president will not only appoint some new board members from the L.G.B.T. community, but also review our board’s committee structure. As a land use law professor and a certified planner for 30 years, I feel that I must try to improve on this planning charade.

So after spending thousands of hours trying to reform C.B. 1 and volunteering legal and planning advice to our community, I am tired of being attacked by a small vociferous group of people and need a rest. I hope that with additional reforms our board processes can be more effective and comprehensive and democratic in fighting all of the over-development in our area. Maybe I will seek to reapply in the future when things are different.
Rick Landman

School thanks

To The Editor:
Re “Spitzer, mayor back new school” (news article, Nov. 16 – 22):

Creating positive change is a team effort. I would like to thank all the people who made the Site 2B school a reality. I thank all the parents who played a major role in the push for a new school. Without parent activism the school, which will be the first green public school in N.Y.C., would not be possible.

I would especially like to thank Liz Pappas for helping organize our yearly trips to Albany. Each spring a group of parents travel to our state capital to lobby for improvements for our public school students. Last spring we met with Assemblyman Sheldon Silver and Governor Spitzer’s senior policy adviser on education, Manny Rivera. After our meeting in Albany Mr. Rivera visited P.S. 89 and Battery Park City to learn more about our need for more school space.

P.S. 89 parents also worked with Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer on the school overcrowding issue. President Stringer has been a strong advocate for quality public education. After hearing our concerns about school overcrowding, he formed a task force with parents, educators, elected officials, and Community Board 1 to push for a new neighborhood school.

I would also like to acknowledge reporter Skye H. McFarlane for her journalistic excellence. Skye’s coverage in the Downtown Express of education issues was outstanding.  Through her intelligent and accurate coverage, Skye advanced the public’s understanding of the school overcrowding issue Downtown. Her work is journalism at its best: Focusing the spotlight on what matters most.
Dennis Gault
P.S. 89 P.T.A. co-president and member of Community Board 1

Bird lover?

To The Editor:
I am writing to express my concern over the Nov. 9 - 15 story, “Bird lover fundraises for parrot research project” (news article).  I am concerned about this story on a couple of points — the first being that Nancy Chambers wants to raise money to fund an Alex the parrot like project.  Alex only lived to be half of what he could have been and thus the question needs to be asked, are such experiments detrimental to a parrot’s life? 

Moreover, Nancy Chambers is referred to as a bird lover, but no one who would breed parrots or any birds for that matter is a true bird lover.  She may have an interest in birds, but only those who would really love birds would know that it is in the best interest for them to live their lives in natural habitats.  Furthermore, there are already many birds that need adoption and there is no reason to be breeding more. These birds may be the result of people buying parrots without realizing the commitment they are.   

She says, “People don’t realize how time consuming and expensive it is to raise birds.”  Her words alone should exemplify that there are few people who could properly care for a bird and if she really cared, she should have worked towards getting those birds in need of adoption to those people.  Instead she was selfish and bred more.
Victoria Booth

M.T.A. books

To The Editor:
Re “M.T.A. fare hike can take a hike for now” (Editorial, Nov. 9 - 15):

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority definitely needs more transparency, and there should be a public audit of its books.  One tidbit that was not covered in your excellent editorial is the fact that the agency is giving free orange E-ZPasses to approximately 24,000 people, allowing them access to the M.T.A.’s nine bridges and tunnels.  That is 3.3 million trips.  And just who is feeding at the public trough?  Nearly 1,000 retired bridge and tunnel workers have lifetime passes, former board members have 52, and present board members have 34.  Former M.T.A. chairperson Peter Kalikow has eight and M.T.A. chairman Dale Hemmer has two.  To his credit, M.T.A. C.E.O. Elliot Sander does not have a free pass.  This giveaway is outrageous considering the M.T.A.’s so-called shortfall.  Remember when the M.T.A. changed its logo from the two-toned “M” to a blue circle depicting the M.T.A. initials in perspective?   This little whim cost the agency $3 million.  Another M.T.A. boondoggle was the sale of the Atlantic Yards.  The M.T.A. sold the Atlantic Yards to Forest City Ratner for $114 million less than it was worth, rejecting a higher bid for the property. 

How many other egregious expenditures are part of the M.T.A. budget?  Obviously the M.T.A. suffers from gross mismanagement, at the expense of the commuters, and is in desperate need of reform. 
Jean Standish

Field of thanks

To The Editor:
Like all parents living Downtown, we were delighted and excited to hear of plans to build a new state-of-the-art sports field on the East Side (news article, Nov. 16 – 22, “$2 million for new playing field Downtown”).

Thanks to the amazing work of Speaker Sheldon Silver and Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin, the field is a homerun for our community.   The partnership behind the grant paired the Parks Department and its overstock of under-funded public spaces, with the financial might and wisdom of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, together with the hands-on programming knowledge of grassroots groups like the South Bridge Parent and Youth Association and Downtown Little League, among many others.  The East Side location is especially welcome due to the comparative lack of open spaces in that area.  When the park is completed, community groups like ours will fill it with happy kids and adults engaged in active recreation. On behalf of the hundreds of families from all over Downtown, we would like to extend our boundless gratitude to Speaker Silver and C.B. 1 Chairperson Menin for their vision and their leadership.  They brought the field — we’ll bring the kids.
Ann DeFalco, Mariama James, Mark Costello and Elizabeth Lamere
The first two signers are with the South Bridge Parent and Youth Association, Inc., and the latter two are with the Downtown Little League.

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