Volume 21, Number 10 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | July 18 - 24, 2008

Letters to the Editor

Seaport plan’s pros and cons

To The Editor:
Re “Some like Seaport plan’s tower, others say build a school” (news article, July 11 - 17):

Besides an outdoor plaza and a community center, exactly what will the proposed “tower” give to our community?  Will there be a supermarket that is desperately needed?  Will there be schools — pre-school through high school — that we are desperate for?  Will there be parking for visitors to our one and only local hospital?  Building another high-rise condo on our waterfront is one thing, but building it and saying that it is a “contribution to our community” is another. 
Karen Pearl


To The Editor:
Re “Some like Seaport plan’s tower, others say build a school” (news article, July 11 –17): 

I would like to echo my partner Adam Hirsch’s comments at the Southbridge Towers community meeting.  Not only am I a longtime Downtown resident, but I have made my career in bringing performing arts and culture to Lower Manhattan with the award-winning Tribeca Playhouse. Now I am helping convert the @ Seaport! venue — donated by General Growth properties — into a legitimate, year-round performing arts venue, serving the local residents and businesses of downtown.

 While I certainly have no qualms about C.B. 1 seeking further concessions from G.G.P.’s proposed development, I want to reiterate that the @ Seaport! venue is a clear example of G.G.P.’s commitment to and support of the local community. 

 The article raised comparisons between the West Side amenities and the proposal for the East Side.  I believe this is comparing apples and oranges.  The West Side development of both Battery Park City and the original World Trade Center was urban planning at its most pervasive.  It is unfair to expect a single developer to replicate such an all-encompassing urban master-plan.  G.G.P. should be applauded for their commitment to the community and, yes, be encouraged to do more.  But people need to be realistic when making comparisons to the West Side.
Jeff Cohen


Don’t blame community

To The Editor:
A recent article implies that the concerns of the local community were to blame for the delays in the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building, located at 130 Liberty St. (news article, July 4 – 10, “L.M.D.C. head blames C.B. 1 for some Deutsche delays”). As the Congressman who represents that area, I can unequivocally say that nothing could be further from the truth.

While there are many reasons for the time consuming demolition, the community is not to blame for delays. Here are just two examples that demonstrate this. First, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the building’s owner, hired John Galt to conduct the demolition, despite concerns raised in C.B. 1 resolutions and the fact that they had never handled a demolition projection of this scale or unique nature. We know that John Galt ignored key safety guidelines for the demolition, perhaps contributing to the tragic fire that happened there last year. Second, the demolition is guided by entirely appropriate and legally mandated environmental safety rules, rules that the L.M.D.C. attempted to dismantle. Nothing should be done to harm the safety of local residents or the demolition workers – and that goal should be shared by all the parties involved.

It is indisputable that C.B. 1 has shown strong leadership in trying to ensure that residents and workers are protected and that the demolition moves forward expeditiously. I know that we can all agree that this demolition must happen safely and swiftly, and that these two goals are not mutually exclusive and can be achieved. We should stop playing the blame game, and instead focus on how we can achieve that goal.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler


To The Editor:
We were dismayed to learn that Avi Schick had “blasted” Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin at the June 26 Lower Manhattan Development Corp. board meeting, blaming the community board — and the community it represents — for delays in the 130 Liberty St. demolition necessitated by the decoupling of decontamination work from the work of structurally dismantling the building (news article, July 4 – 10, “L.M.D.C. head blames C.B. 1 for some Deutsche delays”).

Schick’s comments, implying that the new plan was adopted solely to please the community, and therefore the community is somehow at fault for the altered timeline, were then unfortunately amplified in a number of the local dailies.

When the plan was approved, L.M.D.C. released a statement celebrating it as the result of a productive collaboration among “partners in state and federal government,” who agreed that “safety must be the primary concern.”

The new plan was adopted because there was full consensus between the regulatory agencies, the L.M.D.C. — and yes, the community — that decoupling was one of the necessary changes in approach that would provide sufficient protections for the workers on the job; residents, students and workers in the vicinity; and first responders who would be called to the building in the event of an emergency.

The community’s concerns about this project are longstanding, reasonable and legitimate. How predictable that we see yet another attempt to lay the project’s problems at the feet of the community when they were brought about by insurance delays, institutional and regulatory failures of every kind and the hiring of incompetent contractors.

Schick should publicly renounce his “blame the community” message.
Kimberly Flynn and Rob Spencer
The writers are members of the WTC Community-Labor Coalition


Gerson & vendors

To The Editor:
Re “Artists and residents aren’t sold on vending bill” (news article, July 11 - 17):

Perhaps we have had enough of “déjà vu all over again” and again.  The vendor issues in our community have been around a very long time. If we accept the same old positions and repeat the same old blame then we’ll end up with the same old mess we have lived with for many years.

Councilmember Alan Gerson regularly meets with local community leaders to discuss issues and review pending legislation.  The vendors have, of course, been extensively discussed.  Alan asked for our advice on this bill and he sure got it. 

Having served as president of the First Precinct Community Council, I am very aware of how unreasonable blaming the police is.  They find themselves caught in the middle of demands for enforcement and a multitude of laws that are complex and contradict each other.  The situation on Prince and Spring Sts. provides an excellent example.  The people who know the issue know that the local law banning vending there is completely unenforceable because state law and case law that allows veteran vendors has opened these streets to all vendors.  The police cannot enforce one law while ignoring another.  They have been regularly beaten up on this issue and would like a clear set of rules.

Of course all Americans strongly support our First Amendment rights, however, that does not mean that no rules apply to artists and that local residents and businesses have no rights.  The legality of enacting reasonable rules on First Amendment rights has long been established.  Soho is an arts-oriented community and the basic concept of artists selling art on the streets is a good one, but the reality is a long distance from the concept.  Much of what is sold has nothing to do with art.  Copyright / trademark infringement is all too common.  Vendors pack the streets even to the point of having fist fights over public sidewalk space they feel they own.  The current system doesn’t even work well for artists.

Alan deserves a lot of credit for standing up and doing the right thing on an important issue when he knew up front that he would get severely dumped on.  The same old same old isn’t working.  This isn’t a perfect plan.  Given the level of polarization, there isn’t going to be a perfect plan.  It’s time to try something else and that’s what the new vendor bill is all about.
David B. Reck


To The Editor:
There is a point at which even his most loyal supporters must question Councilmember Gerson’s motives on the vending issue. Is he trying to improve the problem of illegal vending or is he really just auditioning for a 2009 job with N.Y.U. or the Downtown Alliance business improvement district by positioning himself as N.Y.C.’s most anti-vendor, most anti-street artist
official?

He absurdly claims his latest proposed law will be “clearer” than the existing 60 pages of vending restrictions that already apply to all venders including street artists. If anything, the exact opposite is true. His proposed law will make vending enforcement by the N.Y.P.D. virtually impossible and lead to a slew of new lawsuits by artists over the law’s numerous violations of the U.S., and New York State
constitutions.

Lotteries for the right of free speech; forcing the N.Y.P.D. to act as art curators who arbitrarily determine what is or is not art; losing one’s free speech rights as a penalty for getting a summons; reducing the number of legal vending spaces by more than half while increasing the number of licensed vendors; tasking the N.Y.P.D. with somehow determining
the copyright of every work of art offered for sale…it’s as if Gerson took all the dumbest ideas he ever heard on vending and combined them into one big ugly package.

The one issue on which ever one agrees — that intelligent police enforcement of the existing laws is what’s actually needed — is not even addressed.

Gerson’s latest vending proposal would dramatically increase illegal vending throughout N.Y.C. as artists and other legal vendors get tired of being targeted and choose to join the city’s 10,000 or so illegal vendors who need not bother concerning themselves with all of the
troublesome rules and restrictions.

When it comes to the vending issue, Alan Gerson is N.Y.C.’s least effective, least informed, and now, least respected elected official.
Robert Lederman

Mass-terful editorial

To The Editor:
Your recent editorial “Mass-eviction ruling is sparking mass fear” (July 11 - 17) is spot on. The fear is justified, and there has been anecdotal evidence suggesting that landlords are taking a cue from the ruling and increasing mass evictions.

I’d like to point out, however, that 47 E. Third St. is 11,600 square feet, not 9,000, and that there are nine remaining tenants, not six. Even the vaunted Court of Appeals, in its June 3 ruling, made a major factual error. The first paragraph states that six of the 15 apartments in the building are rent-stabilized. All 15 are in fact rent-stabilized, and are registered as such with the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
David Pultz
David Pultz is a member, 47 E. Third St. Tenants Association




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