Volume 21, Number 12 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 1 - 7, 2008

Letters to the Editor

Unsafe for cyclists

To The Editor:
I was pleased to see several articles in Downtown Express that called attention to cycling in the area (July 18 - 24, editorial, “Greasing the wheels for better bike ways,” news article “City’s Grand bike plan,” photo caption, “Big wheels keep on rolling”). However, I would like to point out that Lower Manhattan has become one of the most dangerous neighborhoods to ride a bike.

More people are cycling than ever in the city. Many more would like to ride, but feel they are putting their lives on the line when they mount a two-wheeler. While the addition of unprotected bike lanes offer some incentive, the safest place for cyclists is the fully protected West side bike path, which reaches from the Battery to the George Washington Bridge. One critical break in this link reaches from Rector St. to Vesey St. and has been rendered useless by excessive construction on the highway.  The city’s solution to this problem is to require cyclists to dismount and walk 4 blocks in a narrowed lane shared by pedestrians. This situation is unacceptable. Under these circumstances, most cyclists would choose to ride through, yet pedestrians on the path feel threatened.

The answer to this problem is not mutually exclusive to bikes and pedestrians. If the city can give ample room on West St. to cars, they can give some room to alternative transportation and make the roads safer for the rest of us.

I also respectfully request that you correct the statistic in a letter from last week’s Downtown Express by Richard Nielsen which stated “... the fact is 85 percent of cyclist accidents are due to the fact of the biker being negligent. Of course that fact never gets mentioned. That 85 percent figure is from the N.Y.P.D.” (July 25 - 31, “Unsafe cycling”)

In fact these are truer statistics: Motorists usually are at fault. Drivers are at fault in almost 90 percent of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in New York. In over 90 percent of pedestrian fatalities, the driver is male. (RightOfWay.org, 1999) http://bicuniverse.info/transpo/ almanac-safety.html
Esther Regelson

To The Editor:
Re “Unsafe cycling” (Letters, July 25 - 31):

Traffic in Manhattan can be quite a headache, and these days drivers probably need a painkiller or two to deal with the traffic on the West Side Highway.  Road construction from Chambers St. south to the W.T.C. site has traffic backing up past Canal St.  I’m sure this has left more than a few drivers frustrated and angry.

Unfortunately, it seems that residents of Tribeca must now deal with these frustrated drivers and the tactics they employ to avoid the traffic.  The most obvious issue involves drivers who try to move through traffic by driving through red lights and jumping green lights, which makes trying to cross the West Side Highway quite an interesting experience.

A more ominous tactic comes from the heavy trucks that are finding Greenwich St. a fast alternative to the gridlocked highway and take full advantage of the open road to speed south.

But the creative driving award must go to those individuals lucky enough to have sirens and flashing lights installed in their cars.  It seems that these items allow cars to avoid the West Side Highway completely and instead permit them to drive down the Hudson River bike path.  Yes, in order to avoid mid-afternoon traffic on the West Side Highway yesterday, unmarked cars with their lights and sometimes sirens running were using the bike path to drive very quickly south.  I had to play dodge-car with not just one official vehicle but three cars and one traffic control vehicle driving down the bike path at speeds probably close to 40 miles an hour.  It seems not to matter that two people have been killed by vehicles on the same bike path in the last few years.  Nor does it matter that at 3:20 p.m., you are likely to find numerous children on the path.  It seems that “official vehicles” can drive just about anywhere in order to avoid traffic.  Are sidewalks next?

So if you are biking, walking or taking your kids for a stroll on the bike path around Pier 25, make sure you look over your shoulder.  Just before you jump into the bushes, you may catch a glimpse of a city employee putting your life in danger.
Peter Zdanowicz

To The Editor:
Re “Death on South St. (police blotter, July 25-31) and “Unsafe Cycling” (Ted Gottlieb, Letters, July 25 - 31):

I was outraged and appalled that the driver, charged with driving under the influence of drugs and recklessness, had been in two accidents in January and February of this year and had been cited for speeding and reckless driving in addition to being cited previously for talking on his cell phone while driving.

Apparently our society casually accepts deaths, carnage, mayhem on our streets without screening out motorists until they kill someone.

How much death and carnage will it take for our society to take traffic safety, gun control, alcohol and drug addiction, etc., seriously?

I am both a pedestrian and a bicyclist, and I agree with Gottlieb (no relation) that pedestrian safety should be a priority. However, the Hudson River bike path is adjacent to the immense noise and air pollution of the West Side Highway. Cyclists who are using pedal power, which avoids creating noise and air pollution, should not be forced into exposure to such pollution.

It seems to me that a workable compromise is for cyclists and pedestrians to share the Battery Park esplanade with cyclists riding in a responsible, courteous manner.
Michael Gottlieb

Italian tribute

To The Editor:
Re “Bank on Italian museum opening in Little Italy soon” (news article, July 18 - 24):

Your report that Mr. Joseph Scelsa will soon open the Italian-American Museum in New York City’s Little Italy reminds us of how much the Italian-American community has contributed to our city and nation and how much prejudice still remains to be dealt with. 

It was interesting that Mr. Scelsa appropriately is not too enthralled with the TV show “The Sopranos.”  The show may be well written, directed, and acted, but it still keeps a stereotype flourishing.  Is there another ethnic group in this country so identified unfairly with criminal activity?  Hollywood would never dare portray African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, etc. as a “family” of organized criminals, although criminal activity can be found in all manner of people and ethnicities.  If Hollywood did chose one of those groups, there would be riots in front of the studio, and all executives involved would be fired in a heartbeat.  Why then is this country so willing to point a finger at Italians? 

No wonder a 2000 Zogby International poll of over 1,200 teenagers between the ages of 13-18 found 78 percent believed Italian-Americans were either criminals or blue color workers.  No doubt they never heard of Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Alito; explorers Columbus, Vespucci and da Verranzano; Saints Francis Assisi and Thomas Aquinas; men of science Galileo, Marconi, and Fermi; artists da Vinci, Michelangelo, Giotto and Botticelli; politicians Giuliani, Cuomo, and D’Amato; athletes Marciano, Graziano, and DiMaggio; and a myriad of show business celebrities from Caruso, Scorsese, Frank Sinatra, etc.; Posthumous Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. John Basilone, and New York Fire Department Chief Peter Ganci, who died on 9/ll. 

One museum in Little Italy, a museum that no doubt will be a fitting tribute and testimony to tens of millions of Italians, can only do so much.  Unless people realize that every time they make an ethnic slur at Italians because its “cool,” someone is no doubt making similar slurs at their ethnic heritage.  Our American “melting pot” will see us blend together or burn up together.
John Brindisi

Vendor law

To The Editor:
Re “Gerson & vendors” (Letter by David B. Reck, July 18-24):

David Reck’s erroneous notions on vending law are typical of the “experts” Councilmember Alan Gerson gets his ideas on vending from. They simply do not understand N.Y.C. vending law. Contrary to Reck’s claims, the laws concerning the weekend time restrictions on Prince and Spring Sts. are not unenforceable by any means.

This is the actual law Reck mis-describes: When and if a disabled veteran vendor sets up (not a white license veteran vendor, but a yellow license disabled veteran vendor),
artists and other First Amendment protected vendors can also set up. Artists and vets both have to comply with all other vending laws while there. Other vendors cannot legally set up. Period. That means food, jewelry, craft, hat, and general merchandise vendors cannot legally sell there.

On a typical Saturday or Sunday, there are very few if any artists on either of those two streets. On most weekends there is not a single artist there. Blaming artists for congesting Prince and Spring on the weekend is utterly absurd nonsense and typical of the disinformation Gerson and his pals use as an excuse to target artists.

The biased and uninformed views of those Gerson consults with on vending have
been modeled into a Frankenstein like vending law that, if passed, will lead to many lawsuits, all of which the city will lose. If the community wants the vending situation to get far worse, then passing his proposal will surely do the job.
Robert Lederman
President of A.R.T.I.S.T.

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

It should be noted that when Robert Lederman, Sean Sweeney and Lawrence White all agree on an issue, there must be something to it. All of us agree that illegal vending and bootlegging is the main issue we face on the sidewalks of Soho. We also agree that enforcement is the key component to solving the problem and that for the most part enforcement on this issue has not been

what it could be, particularly concerning art bootlegging. A stroll down almost any avenue where artwork is sold in public will illustrate my point.

Ironically the one part of Councilperson Gerson’s bill that has been almost totally overlooked is the passage that deals with increased personnel for the vendor task force and more training on the issue of copyright. I applaud Mr. Gerson for this. This enforcement would include illegally copied artwork and illegally copied written matter such as manuscripts or screenplays. The vending task force has at times been very successful in enforcement against illegal vendors. I only wish that this enforcement facet of the Gerson bill had been the main thrust of his proposal. If it had been I can assure you that there would be a substantial diminishment of sidewalk vendor overcrowding and great deal of support from every corner of the community, including legal vendors.

I also applaud the component of Mr. Gerson’s bill that calls for the aggressive fostering of nonprofit organizations to help public artists qualify for low cost health care, housing/work space and financial grants. This is wonderful idea and again I wholeheartedly endorse it.

Unfortunately the bad parts of the Gerson bill are so bad that they render the good parts moot. If Mr. Gerson would just drop these overly punitive and controversial passages of his proposal — he would have an extremely potent document that I believe could be highly effective.

Sometimes a person can get caught up trying to be all things to all people and end up missing the point altogether. I hope that by the time this new vending bill is fully vetted in the City Council hearings, it will be pruned down to the essential, positive components that everyone, other than illegal vendors and bootleggers, will benefit from.
Lawrence White






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