Volume 21, Number 16 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Aug. 29 - Sept. 4, 2008

Letters to the Editor

Biker besieged

To The Editor:
I was very disconcerted by the article about the former West St. bike lane juxtaposed with the venomous anti-cyclist letter that was printed (news article, Aug. 8 – 14 “Bikers don’t walk a ½ mile in pedestrian’s shoes” and letter, “Pay to pedal”).

From the letter alone, I had the following nightmare: I was walking along the former West St. bike lane when a construction flagger demanded that I take off my shoes and walk barefoot. When I told the flagger that I would never make it to where I’m going under these circumstances, he replied, “don’t worry about it. We’ll be done with this construction in, oh, about...a year-and-a-half.”

If you substitute the above pedestrian scenario for bikes, you will hopefully better understand our plight. Our bike land has been taken from us, period. It is the safest way for cyclists to ride due north or south on these construction-laden streets. However, the only alternative the city offers is for us to dismount and walk — not a block, or even two, but a full half-mile.  

In this situation, everyone — cyclists and pedestrians alike — has had their safety compromised. Cyclists are not the Weapons Of Mass Destruction that some people perceive. We commute, exercise and deliver goods on a daily basis and are simply trying to get from Point A to Point B in a reasonable amount of time with the transportation of our choice. All we ask is for the city to give us a safer choice.
 Jack Cadwallader

Race & zoning

 To The Editor:
 No one likes to be called a racist, but some actions do have negative racial consequences. (Editorial, Aug. 15 – 21, “Rezoning isn’t racist and is on right track”). The East Village/Lower East Side rezoning proposal would preserve certain areas north of East Houston St. (70% white residents) but upzone several blocks south of East Houston (84% Asian, Latino and black residents). You acknowledge that gentrification is already a danger to low-income tenants in Chinatown, yet you ignore the added development pressures this rezoning proposal will place upon low-income working families and small businesses located outside the rezoned area.

The real question is why the City Planning Commission has ignored the most vulnerable Asian and Latino populations in Chinatown and the Lower East Side and focused its attention on the more affluent white populations north of East Houston St. Not surprisingly, the city’s draft environmental impact statement understates the potential development impacts and secondary displacement that would result from this rezoning, and totally fails to mention that Asians, Latinos, blacks and low-income residents will be the groups adversely affected by this plan. The racially discriminatory impacts of the East Village/Lower East Side rezoning plan simply cannot be ignored.

Finally, you suggest that “Chinatown needs its own rezoning.” Rather than criticize the plan’s opponents for waiting too long to voice their objections, you should ask why Asian Americans for Equality, a defender of the E.V./L.E.S. rezoning, waited three years to propose a separate rezoning for Chinatown. In order to “do what it takes to protect our communities and keep them livable,” diverse groups from all parts of Community District 3 have to reach a consensus so that no community is disadvantaged. That’s not the case with the current E.V./L.E.S. rezoning plan, and that’s why it should be rejected.
Margaret Fung
Executive director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

To The Editor:
Re “City Planning gets an earful of East Side zoning fight” (news article, Aug. 15 - 21):

Your article contains several errors. You write that Mr. McWater “advocated for the downzoning.” This plan is an upzoning. According to City Planning’s own $2 million study of the rezoning, the plan will bring 53.9 percent more development than current zoning would bring.

Rezoning proponents do not understand that height caps merely redistribute development across more buildings. Air-rights transfers, which preserve buildings, are effectively eliminated under this contextual plan, encouraging all buildings to rise uniformly to the new height allowance, hence, 53.9 percent more development under the rezoning.

Damaris Reyes’s claim that “60 percent of people who live in the zones are of color” is false. According to 2000 census figures, 48 percent of the rezoning area was white. Since 2000, market-rate residential development — most of it under 80 feet tall and hardly any of it community facility — has brought many more whites. Today, the majority is certainly white.

Also false: Mr. McWater’s claim that including the housing projects would raise the height cap. As he well knows, the Department of City Planning considers subareas for their caps: such as Seventy-five feet for East Village side streets, 80 for the avenues; a small area south of Tompkins Square Park even received its own floor to area ratio cap of 3.0.

The public is not being told the truth. Our community leaders should carefully read City Planning’s study of the upzoning. They will find, among other gems: The rezoning will bring, at most, 10 percent affordable housing. To get the desired 30 percent, the “I.Z.” (inclusionary zoning) would have to be 60 percent affordable, eliminating the incentive entirely.
Rob Hollander
Member, Lower East Side Residents for Responsible Development

Connor money

To The Editor:
 Your editorial “Time for a change: Squadron in the State Senate primary” (Aug. 22 – 28) could have gone even deeper.  Consider State Senator Connor’s offer earlier this summer to work full time and forgo any outside income from any second job if given a $50,000 per year increase to supplement his base pay.  Sen. Connor and colleagues, on a voluntary basis, applied for the job knowing the requirements and benefits.  There was no government draft for the position. 

 Sen. Connor has a very lucrative election law practice on the side. Each year he assists incumbent organization Democrats in keeping their challengers off the ballot to avoid primaries.  He is the poster child for insider clubhouse politics who long ago gave up any pretenses of being an Albany reformer.

  Don’t shed any tears for Sen. Connor and colleagues.  They are laughing at us all the way to the bank when cashing their paychecks at our expense.
Larry Penner





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