Volume 20, Number 47 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | APRIL 4-10, 2008

Letters to the editor

W.T.C. traffic

To The Editor:
No matter the virtues of congestion pricing, we can all agree on the virtues of less traffic. In a recent editorial the Downtown Express endorsed the experiment of making Prince St. a pedestrian mall on Sundays (March 14 – 20, “A Princely idea”). Heck, there is a group out there that lauds the virtues of turning 42nd St. into a pedestrian mall.

Recent letters to the editor from Downtown residents that protested Bloomberg’s plan also endorsed the principles of less traffic. Their main complaints, as I read them, were that Bloomberg’s plan would not accomplish this while costing us all more.

My concern is the integrity of the World Trade Center site; the very idea of traffic idling where the Koenig Sphere stood or steps from where the innocents of 9/11 perished is obscene to me (the planners of the site were, of course, unfazed by that).

However, this has always perplexed me: why have Downtown residents calmly accepted the plan for the W.T.C. that drives Greenwich and Fulton Sts. through the site? Won’t that add traffic to the area? How are cabs, delivery trucks, and buses idling beneath resident’s windows a good thing? The health impact of 9/11 is a constant controversy and the Deutsche Bank building has been treated like a plutonium waste field. However, the long-range health affects of the added traffic that will be there forever and ever seem to have been ignored. And the inconsistency in Bloomberg’s stance (there’s a shocker) that demands congestion pricing to reduce traffic in Midtown while adding it to Downtown has also been ignored. Is less traffic a good thing or not? Are Downtown kids impervious to the health effect of auto emissions? It does not make sense to me.
 Michael Burke


Holey Seaport

To The Editor:
Some years ago the City of New York opted to relocate the Fulton Fish Market and work to redevelop and revitalize this community.

Builders have invested millions of dollars in new housing units and many residents have moved down to this area with hopes of seeing the revitalization commitment by the city become reality.

This area is a widely visited tourist spot in Lower Manhattan.

I write to share the continuing concerns that many tourists have expressed -- leaving our city with a negative experience.

 The road surface on South St. between Fulton St. and Peck Slip is in dire need of milling and repaving. There are literally 50 potholes on that strip with many spots where the surface has simply deteriorated.

After a downpour of rain, many of these holes filled with water, and passing trucks and taxis shower tourists with foul-smelling stagnant water. Many folks are dressed to enjoy dinner or to take a boat ride and have to leave because of being badly soiled with the dirty water.

 Many have made comments that they are troubled to see the streets down here in such bad conditions. On Peck Slip, we have a number of blocks that have cobblestone streets and many sections of them have come loose — causing a serious pedestrian trip hazard. I’ve witnessed many pedestrians tripping as a result.

 The N.Y.C. Dept. of Transportation and 311 have been contacted many times, sadly though, nothing has changed. In fact, it has only gotten worse.

We urge people to come and spend their money here and visit our city — they have responded. This community is struggling since September 11.

With the current conditions of the streets, many tourists will leave and not return, concluding that this is what the streets are like.

 The Dept. of Transportation has been extremely unresponsive and just made commitments and promises that it never kept.

 I urge Mayor Bloomberg to come take a ride down here in your suburban and see for himself what the conditions of the streets are.

  It’s been almost two years now and nothing has been done to correct this. Meanwhile, our community has been forced to deal with such unsafe and unsightly conditions.
Phil Fox


Vendors plan

To The Editor:
It has come to my attention that Councilmember Alan Gerson is proposing some major changes to New York City’s vending laws. I have read them thoroughly.

I find them to be most distasteful, draconian and insulting. As an artist who has been displaying my work in Soho for more than eight years, I stand firmly against all of them, and I will work with all my energy and fervor to defeat Gerson’s proposals.

I am a longtime member and solid supporter of Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics, the only legitimate organization representing artists such as myself. We have fought successfully for many years to maintain the First Amendment right to display our work on the public streets of New York, and I know of no artist who endorses any action by the City Council — or anyone else — that essentially surrenders that right.

I do not want any lottery system, permit system or sale of the sidewalk space to bidders, corporate or business interests. All of these foolish ideas violate the fundamental right I have — as affirmed by the U.S. federal courts numerous times — to display my work without interference of any of Gerson’s ill-conceived ideas.

If you want to get rid of “illegal vendors,” simply enforce the laws currently on the books. There is no need to make life more difficult for the rest of us.

I strongly urge Gerson to reconsider his proposals.
 Lee Ross

To The Editor:
I am aware that City Councilperson Alan Gerson is preparing a new vending bill that will have some serious ramifications for artists who display their
work in Soho and other public areas in New York City. My feeling is that some of his bill is outstanding and some of it is simply unworkable and very, very harmful.

The positive aspects include funds for training police and the vendor task force in how to recognize copyright theft and how to go about enforcement of the copyright laws. All of us have seen the endless displays of illegally copied artwork clogging up the sidewalks and forcing true artists to less-desirable areas. This is a quadruple negative: The artists’ creativity is ripped off, the neighborhoods are full of copyright thieves, the consumer is ripped off by purchasing phony artwork and artists cannot display their own real artwork because of overcrowding.

In the past, many artists, publishers, gallery owners and neighborhood activists have pleaded with Mr. Gerson and other members of the administration for relief and protection from this illegal industry. Yet, the fact is that we have seen no effect on the sidewalks of the city.

In addition, Mr. Gerson also seems to be looking for locations for craftspeople and jewelers to set up their displays. I applaud this effort. Too often talented people are shut out of the process because their work does not qualify for First Amendment protection and there are no licenses to sell as a legal vendor. As a result, the craft artists are often cited, fined and have their work confiscated. If there were areas in New York City where craftspeople could display their work without harassment, it would be a real positive for all involved.

However, the parts of Mr. Gerson’s unfinished proposal that would call for severe space restrictions and limited numbers of artists per block would kill the popular public-art scene in New York City, and I implore him not to advance this agenda. Instead, I encourage him to advocate that the existing laws are enforced and that illegal vending be the focus of his efforts. If this was done, we would see a flowering of the street-art scene instead of the chaos that artists, other First Amendment vendors and neighbors experience daily.

Artists, legal vendors and veterans deserve to have their rights protected, and the community deserves to have safe streets. By simply following the formula mentioned above, Mr. Gerson could do both and walk away from his term in office having accomplished what many thought was impossible.
Lawrence White


Political battle

To The Editor:
Recently in your UnderCover column you quoted the chairperson of Community Board 1, Ms. Julie Menin, “blasting me as having a complete and utter lack of integrity” (March 28 – April 3, “Political War Tribunal”). Unfortunately, Ms. Menin did not share with you any attributable facts to substantiate such a specious claim.  Perhaps, this venomous outburst was merely the mechanism to deflect scrutiny on the real issues we face Downtown.  Rather than name calling, perhaps Ms. Menin should be more candid surrounding her family’s involvement in the Trump Soho site. 

May I suggest, Ms. Menin, first examine the person in the mirror before she so flippantly casts aspersions on someone who has been a dedicated public servant in Lower Manhattan since 1981.
Pete Gleason



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