Volume 20, Number 46 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MARCH 28 - APRIL 3, 2008

Letters to the Editor

Stranded Maidens

To The Editor:
Your article about the Small Firm Assistance Program (news article, March 14 -20, “In what turns out to be his last hurrah, Spitzer offers business help”) was misleading. It made one think that all small businesses in Lower Manhattan are being helped, but that is not true. Maiden Lane is not included in the grant program, even though the small businesses there went through construction hell for all of 2006 and the first half of 2007. Curiously, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. chose July 1, 2007 as the first date for eligible businesses — just after construction was finally finished on Maiden Lane.

When we called L.M.D.C. to complain, we were told by Andrew Carty that Maiden Lane was excluded because the businesses there “had survived.” Nobody from the L.M.D.C. or the virtually useless Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center contacted us or any of the other stores near us on Maiden Lane to find out whether we needed assistance or not. All the business owners we know are still upset about problems caused by the construction, and all are equally offended by the grant snub — most are still trying to dig out of the hole the construction put us in. The only organization that spoke with us and tried to fight on our behalf was the Downtown Alliance. They are truly interested in helping small businesses down here, and we hate to think what would happen if they were not around. Please set the record straight in any future articles, as I am sure you will be writing about construction fiascoes and their affect on small businesses Downtown for a long time.
J.C. Chmiel
Co-owner of Klatch cafe


Driving fees

To The Editor:
Re “Gerson’s a definite maybe on traffic pricing” (news article, March 14 - 20):

I was quite surprised to read that Councilmember Gerson had not fully committed to congestion pricing. However, after having met with Alan and several Soho community leaders last week, I understand Alan’s reservations. He is actually striving hard to gain concessions from the Bloomberg administration to benefit his constituents in ways that congestion pricing doesn’t.

Although congestion pricing on a macro level is a forward-thinking plan that addresses 75 years of wrongheaded social planning that favors the automobile at the expense of communities and the environment, as it stands, upon closer examination, congestion pricing will do virtually nothing to improve the lives of Downtown residents.

Save for a few major thoroughfares, traffic flows relatively well on Downtown streets. It is the Midtown business community that stands to benefit the most.

I now see Bloomberg’s initiative as just another ploy to help business at the expense of the middle class, be it outer-borough commuters or Manhattan residents. The tipping point for me is the removal of the 18 percent parking tax exemption that will cost Manhattan families $1,000 per year.

In the long term, projected revenue growth of an additional $400 million annually from congestion pricing will allow the M.T.A. to finance long-term capital projects, but the question remains, will it improve the quality of life in Lower Manhattan?

Will congestion pricing make rush hour travel on the R or Q more tolerable? No.

Will congestion pricing eliminate the horrible traffic congestion on Canal St. created by the great environmental crime, the Verrazano Bridge toll structure, inflicted on Lower Manhattan by a long line of Democrats from Cuomo to Schumer to Clinton for 22 years now and running? No.

Will congestion pricing guarantee the completion of the Second Ave. subway in this century? No.

Will congestion pricing reduce traffic in Soho and Lower Manhattan on weekends when our streets are paralyzed? No.

Will congestion pricing increase the number of dirty diesel express buses running daily through Lower Manhattan? Yes.

As a dedicated environmental activist committed to greater principles, I find it impossible to support congestion pricing as proposed.

If Bloomberg sincerely wants to improve the city’s air quality, he could have the N.Y.P.D. strictly enforce idling laws, require all fleet vehicles, such as UPS and FedEX, to run on hybrid engines, and create a safe and dedicated network of bicycle lanes throughout the city.
Carl Rosenstein


To The Editor:
Re “Leadership lacking Downtown on traffic,” your March 14 - 20 editorial criticizing our elected officials, particularly Councilman Alan Gerson, for failing to support congestion pricing:

We instead applaud their courage in withholding support for a deeply flawed plan that delivers little benefit for Lower Manhattan.  The mayor’s recent “surge” — a meaningless 20 percent reduction in government permit placards — is a last ditch effort to push congestion pricing over the top.

The long awaited Department of Transportation permit placard study was “quietly” released two Friday’s ago, with scant time for the community to analyze the 400+ page document before the congestion pricing vote. Why did Mayor Bloomberg state in January that there were only 70,000 permits in use, when a separate study, two weeks ago disclosed that there are 142,000 legal placards?  This does not even include counterfeit placards! 

Lost city revenues as a result of illegal placard abuse already total at least $300 million in missing parking meter revenue. Congestion pricing will net New York City $354 million in federal dollars. This is only 0.6 percent of the city’s $59 billion budget. Exactly how much of this will go to mass transit? 

Why, when we are choking from the Canal St. traffic, are Holland Tunnel commuters being allowed a credit? Queens and Brooklyn drivers will pay for the privilege of driving in their own city as they cross bridges into Manhattan. The plan ends Manhattan residents’ exemption from the 18.6 percent tax on long term parkers, which was originally intended to ease residents’ financial burden for having to pay for off street parking where they live.

Do you live in a mixed-use neighborhood? Do you live on cobble-stoned streets? Do you enjoy sleeping until 7:00 a.m.? That may be a luxury you’ll soon give up under congestion pricing when small trucks that service this city will be banging down your street by 6 a.m. trying to beat the congestion fee.

Most of us — unable to pay the excess fee — will eventually disappear from our streets while government permit/luxury limousine holders will have no trouble parking anywhere in the congestion zone. We support clean air, traffic reduction and plans that are fair and effective. The present congestion-pricing plan is not.
Jeanie Chin
Civic Center Residents Coalition


Kudos

To The Editor:
I have been anxiously awaiting new issues of the Downtown Express, especially after reading in the March 14 - 20 issue on page 19 the Downtown Notebook on finding a church (“Back in the pew again: Finding a church that fits”) and in reading a letter from Aviva Zuckoff about finding library shelves for collected books (“Don’t look gift books in the spine”).

Your articles are informative, interesting and well written, and I applaud the work you are doing along with sensitivity in the topics discussed.
Richard Irwin


Pier 40

To The Editor:
I’ve followed the saga of Pier 40 for several years and continue to be baffled by City Hall’s silence and lack of leadership to embrace a community-supported, neighborhood-beneficial and waterfront-appropriate plan for its future.

It is past time that our city and state leadership stopped pitting its citizens against each other and proposed unacceptable commercialization and led the way for the public good. Marc Ameruso (Letters, Feb. 29 – March 6, “Trust & Pier 40”) seems to have enumerated all the right reasoning in support of a plan for kids to play, Villagers to congregate and all New Yorkers to enjoy the vistas and tranquility of the Hudson River — yes, we are not Las Vegas.

The Village and Lower Manhattan does not need another entertainment venue — the Meat Market, Chelsea Market, and the High Line are enough. Need more excitement? Go to Times Square. Need money to renovate the pier? Look to the rumored sweetheart contracts with Chelsea Piers, the heliport, and all the other waterfront necessary for revenue-producing activities from the Battery north.

Can the Hudson River Park Trust quell speculation and provide a full accounting of its requirements for and compliance with its legally mandated financial obligations? And let’s not forget its public benefit waterfront purpose.
Norman Rosenfeld


DeLury epilogue

To The Editor:
Well, voter apathy wins once again at Southbridge Towers (news article, March 14 - 20, “Southbridge votes to take the park and the money”). Just barely one third of the residents found it in their hearts to even vote on the issue. Yes, as I was quoted by Julie Shapiro, I might have sounded not too displeased by the results of the vote on the referendum that allowed Southbridge Towers’ board of directors to sell a parcel of land and a new park to the city for approximately $6 million. And yes, “I was adamantly against it,” and I did state “in retrospect, it’s not such a bad thing,” but I still think that this whole project is being just a little too sugar coated for me. At least the residents made the decision and I applaud S.B.T.’s board for that. Hopefully, they will use the monies to improve the quality of life at S.B.T. as promised.

As any one of us who lives around the proposed new park would attest that the present on-going construction on the DeLury Triangle is a major headache.  Even the fleet of foot would agree with me that crossing Gold St. or Fulton St. is likened to running an obstacle course because there are no curb cuts on the corners of Fulton and Gold Sts. Traffic flowing west on Fulton St. onto Gold St. miraculously hasn’t resulted in any pedestrian injuries yet. Maybe it would be wise to add speed bumps or a blinking yellow caution sign. 

I predict that N.Y.C., in its infinite wisdom, has bitten off much more than it would ever want to chew, and we, the surrounding residents, can look forward to years and years of some of the same construction, noise and inconvenience for years to come. 

In closing, it would be a nice gesture by N.Y.C. to consider dedicating the proposed fountain in the new park in memory of those residents of S.B.T. and the surrounding area, as well as the four firefighters from Engine Company 6 on Fulton St., who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.  After all, most, if not all of the massive reconstruction and revitalization presently going on in Lower Manhattan is part of the city’s rebuilding process after 9/11.
 Joe Morrone


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 news@DowntownExpress.com or can be mailed to 145 Sixth Ave., N.Y., N.Y. 10013.



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