Volume 20, Number 42 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | FEB. 29 - MARCH 6, 2008
Letters to the Editor

Murry’s a ‘dumping ground’

To The Editor:
Re “Expel Bergtraum?” (UnderCover, Feb. 8 –14):

Murry Bergtraum High School has had an excellent relationship with the surrounding community for many years and continues to do so with the exception of complaints about students “hanging out” in the general area of the Seaport.

Very often these groups of students come from several different schools. However, since Schools Chancellor Klein started his school restructuring program, the city’s large, academic schools, like Bergtraum, have become dumping grounds for students whose needs are not being addressed by the Department of Education.

The large high schools, including Bergtraum, are dangerously overcrowded, not allowed to screen incoming students, and unable to force dangerous students to transfer.

The community board would be well advised to consider whether or not mayoral control of the schools should be reauthorized, and should understand that the chancellor’s jihad against large schools is the problem — not the solution.

If, and when, the Department of Education decides to close down Bergtraum and replace the school with several smaller schools, the community can expect the situation to get worse, as it has in neighborhoods where large schools have been broken up. The real solution is in significantly reducing class sizes, thereby solving the over-crowding issue, and providing the school with the supports necessary to address the needs of these students.
John Elfrank-Dana and David Gordon
The writers are respectively Murry Bergtraum’s United Federation of Teachers chapter leader and School Leadership Team chairperson.


Independence from Stuy

To The Editor: 
Regarding the article in last week’s Downtown Express entitled, “I.P.N. tenants work to file 1,300 documents in rent suit” by Julie Shapiro (news article, Feb. 22 – 28), we would like to make a minor correction:

The decision in the Stuyvesant Town case, which is being appealed, is consistent with the Division of Housing Community Renewal’s longstanding position that buildings which are subject to rent stabilization solely because of the receipt of a J-51 tax benefit are exempt from luxury decontrol. Unlike I.P.N., Stuyvesant Town is a pre-1974 development, which has been rent stabilized for years under the Emergency Tenant Protection Act. Accordingly, since its rent stabilized status isn’t due solely to a J-51, Judge Lowe concluded it was not exempt from luxury decontrol.

The same week, a Housing Court judge decided another case differently, ruling that while a J-51 tax abatement is in effect, an E.T.P.A. stabilized apartment is not subject to luxury decontrol. 

However the issue is resolved on appeal, the decision will not effect I.P.N. which should be rent stabilized solely because of the owners’ receipt, without giving notice to tenants as required, of a J-51 tax abatement since 1998.
Diane Lapson
President of the Independence Plaza North Tenants Association on behalf of the association’s executive board.


Trust & Pier 40

To The Editor:
Glaringly missing from Hudson River Park Trust Chairperson Diana Taylor’s letter last week calling for “balance” in deciding the future of Pier 40 was any weighing of the needs of the thousands of Manhattan residents who stroll, jog, skate and bike daily on the Hudson River bike path (Letter to The Editor, Feb. 22 –28, “Trust: Pier’s future is now”).

The bike path’s safety record is already stained by the killing of two bicyclists by heedless drivers. Adding Cirque du Soleil and the other “regional” attractions that Ms. Taylor seeks will necessitate hundreds if not thousands of crossing motor vehicles, many of them in evening hours when the bike path gets maximum use. “Regional,” that is, car-dependent, is code for disaster.

The Hudson River bike path is Manhattan’s lone artery where children and other vulnerable travelers can move under their own power without risking their necks. If the board of the Hudson River Trust can’t prioritize to keeping it safe, then they’re in the wrong business.
Charles Komanoff


To The Editor:
Re “Gay youth group backs idea for 24-hour center on Pier 40” (news story, Feb. 22 – 28):

Trust spokesperson Chris Martin was mistaken when he said, “Whether the [L.G.B.T.] drop-in center would be part of any one of the development plans will be up to the individual developer or developers” of Pier 40.

That decision, and any other decision regarding the disposition and programming of public park space, should ultimately be up to both the Hudson River Park Trust and the neighboring community served by such use — not private developers.
Julie Nadel
Hudson River Park Trust board member, chairperson of Community Board 1’s Waterfront Committee

To The Editor:
Diana Taylor’s letter addressing the issue of much needed repairs and revamping Pier 40 states that losing at “our second attempt to engage the private-sector interest” “most likely dooms the process to failure.” She seems convinced that “we won’t be able to fulfill the vision of creating one of the greatest amenities...since Central Park” if we don’t give into the private-sector plan. All of us residents know she is referring to a Related Companies’ proposal, of a huge, out-of-character, entertainment complex, generating lots of money for them and lots of stress on the neighborhood. It is simply incongruous for her to believe this is compatible with ball fields and the waterside park that currently exists. Our nobly conceived Central Park would not be in existence today if our forefathers had practiced that kind of logic. 

There is a sore lack of vision in Ms. Taylor’s letter. Ms. Taylor would exhibit true leadership and vision in recognizing the conservancy approach the community is urging.  The Pier 40 Partnership has a well documented, conservancy based plan in her hands. We, the community, are waiting for her to play ball.
Vivian Weisner


To The Editor:
There are items that need to be addressed in Trust Chairperson  Diana Taylor’s Feb 22nd letter to the editor.

Ms. Taylor wrote: “Any reuse of Pier 40 must fund restoring the pier to sound physical condition, while generating enough revenue to pay  for approximately 40 percent of the entire park’s annual maintenance budget.”

Why is Pier 40 being required to bear the enormous financial burden of carrying its own infrastructure costs?  Where has this been written or documented, and when did the Hudson River Park Trust board vote to implement this policy?

This policy would be deviating from the norm, since other segments of Hudson River Park have received public money for construction or reconstruction.  

Additionally, what percentage revenue is expected from each of the “development nodes” in the park, of which Pier 40 is one.  

Chairperson Taylor’s announcement of this 40 percent was a surprise to many of us in the community who have been involved with Pier 40 for years.  How did this 40 percent number come about, when was it decided, and by whom? 

Currently, having no public money for Pier 40 should not automatically mean private developers must take over, especially when proposals with design plans and uses that are completely unacceptable to the people of the community, such as the Related’s ‘Vegas  on the Hudson’ and CampGroup’s “pay for play” plans.

In another matter, with regards to the efforts of the L.G.B.T. group, Fierce, to have a community center on Pier 40, Trust spokesperson Chris Martin asserts: “Whether the drop in center would be part of any one of the development plans will be up to the individual developer or developers.” 

Whether or not an L.G.B.T. community center is a good location at Pier 40 may not be the issue for this discussion right now. 

However, since when do private developers decide on public policy and community issues and needs? 

The Hudson River Park Trust is accountable to the people of Greenwich Village, the Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, and the people of New York, not private developers, and decisions such as this one should not be made by developers but by the people designated to protect and promote the public interest.
Marc Ameruso
Chairperson, Hudson River Park Trust Advisory Council and member, Community Board 1


Congestion taxes

To The Editor:
“Charging an additional fee for vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th St.” fails to reduce congestion and any funding generated would be through a most regressive tax on working and middle class New Yorkers (Talking Point by Andrew Berman, Feb 22 – 28, “Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of a good traffic plan”). While Mr. Berman notes the free pass for those who use the Hudson but not East River crossings, which makes this tax scheme “inequitable,” readers need to know that this means the congestion tax delivers the wealthiest a free ride; working stiffs still get to pay. This tax scheme merits nothing more than a simple thumbs down by our city councilmembers and, if our members fail us, by the state Legislature.

It is not just that the “current congestion pricing plan has some serious holes in it,” but these flaws make certain that New York will just be mired in another tax while everyday folks get nothing but empty promises. Lower Manhattan’s traffic issues result more to a proliferation of street closings from construction, out of town buses, parking permit and placard abuse, and truckers avoiding the hefty Verrazano Narrows Bridge tolls. The congestion tax scheme addresses none of these items and New Yorkers have nothing but promises on the tens of thousands of parking permits that take up parking and through lanes throughout Downtown neighborhoods.

Just because those behind the congestion tax scheme say they’ll fix all ills provides no reason to roll over under the big business special interests that clearly fund the many groups arrayed behind the congestion tax.

Only one community board — chaired by a wannabe city councilmember who works for the chief big business lobbyist behind the tax scheme — supports this scheme. Seven boards expressed opposition and many more continue to seek information as they must find the tax scheme unpersuasive.

Readers who seek more information, including effective measures to address congestion that also qualify for the federal funding and revenue that would generate significant funding and include those wealthy folks the commission plans leaves out, should go to KeepNYCFree.com.
Corey Bearak
Policy advisor, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free


No PEP talk

To The Editor:
I was delighted to read that PEP officer Martin Hightower has been arrested for mowing down birds with his cart in Battery Park (UnderCover, Feb. 22 – 28, “PEP Low”).  However I was disgusted to also learn that he “may be fired” if these charges are true. May be fired?  He should be jailed for killing these animals, if the charges stick.
I remember quite well officer Hightower’s reign of terror in Washington Square Park two years ago. I was even quoted in a front page Villager article. The officer was a ticketing machine. He tried single handedly to ruin people’s enjoyment of the park by ticketing dog walkers, bike riders and street performers. 

If the allegations are true, I hope Hightower gets canned from his job and winds up behind bars. This guy should not be allowed to work in any park in N.Y.C. or anywhere else.
Cliff Tekel



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