Volume 21, Number 43 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 6 - 12, 2009

Letters to the Editor

C.B. 3 message control

To The Editor:
Re “City helpful on Chatham Square” (Letter by Dominic Pisciotta, Feb. 27 – March 6):

Dominic Pisciotta, chair of Community Board 3, should be less concerned about whether or not their traffic engineer, Brian Ketcham, made “unauthorized statements” and more concerned about what Brian is saying: “Ketcham said when the final plan was released last November, his initial assessment was it would improve an unsafe intersection, but as he has gathered more information, it’s clear to him that it will be a traffic nightmare…” (news article, Feb. 13 – 19, “Council pokes holes in Chatham Sq. plan”). This mirrors my initial and subsequent reactions to the plan.  At first blush, the plan has some benefits, but on close examination, there are some very serious problems.  But one only sees the problems if one looks closely.  To Brian’s credit, he is the only professional traffic engineer who has been willing to look closely at the plan and identify problems — problems with the plan and with the process that the city has taken.

I served on C.B. 3’s Chatham Square Task Force to try to raise awareness of those problems -- in the hopes of convincing the city to abandon this plan in favor of a more sensible alternative.  But I have to say that this was a challenging exercise.  For example, as a result of invoking some arcane “open meetings” rule, task force members were not given each other’s contact information.  I did not even know what the exact membership of the task force was. Through it all, I got the strong sense that C.B. 3 was trying to control the tone and direction of the task force and its message (just as they are trying to control what their traffic engineer is “authorized” to say).  The board chair and the district manager need to be reminded that we need a community board that serves as an advocate for the community — not one that serves as a public relations arm of the city and the D.O.T.  The city has shown that it can take care of its own agenda.  The community needs all the help it can get.
Danny Chen
Chatham Green board member

Thanks, Brian

To The Editor:
It was painful to read Community Board 3 Chair Dominic Pisciotta’s criticism of Brian Ketcham, our board’s Chatham Square traffic engineer, for speaking honestly about his efforts eliciting information in a timely manner from the D.O.T. (Letters, Feb. 27 – March 5).  Given the tight deadline that the Chinatown and surrounding community was given to examine the proposed “final” Chatham Square plan — while also under fire from a few members of our own community board eager to Rambo through the city’s plan — Brian’s timely comments in the Downtown Express pressured the D.O.T. to release requested information.

Neither time deadlines nor the budget’s size deterred Brian and Carolyn Konheim from rising to the challenge. They worked tirelessly — seeking/analyzing/testing traffic data/models, demanding pedestrian safety information from the D.O.T., writing reports to help the community understand the implications of the Chatham Square redesign as well as tying together the effects of the multiple reconstructions, including that of the Brooklyn Bridge reconstruction on the Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn community for the next 4 years.  As the traffic engineer who designed the pedestrian friendly entryway to the Brooklyn Bridge some years ago, Brian is very familiar with the entire Civic Center area.  He also ran tests for the Chinatown community’s alternative proposal for Chatham Square, determining that it was superior to the D.O.T’s.

If not for Brian Ketcham’s and Carolyn Konheim’s expertise, professionalism, dedication and courage to question and challenge the D.O.T.’s Chatham Square plan, our community would have met the city’s bulldozers and multiple reconstructions armed with just our common sense that narrowing a major artery like the Bowery to two traffic lanes is not a smart idea.  If anything, Brian and Carolyn deserve our admiration and deepest gratitude for advocating on our behalf and giving 300%, when it would have been easier to rubber stamp our destruction as some have been too willing to do.
Jeanie Chin
“Unauthorized speaker” and member of Chatham Square Task Force

Drivers kill

To The Editor:
It’s a tossup as to which was more offensive in Reed Malloy’s letter (“Blame peds, not cars,” Feb. 20 - 26) — his woeful ignorance of the epidemiology of pedestrian deaths in our community, or his insensitivity to the memory of Marilyn Feng, the young woman who was run over on West St. last month.

The landmark “Killed By Automobile” report, for which I was lead author, stands as the sole statistical analysis of New York City pedestrian fatalities. We reviewed close to 1,000 such cases over a four-year period and found that, in the vast majority, the victim would not have been struck if the driver had adhered to applicable traffic laws. Our report was published a decade ago but that finding still stands.

It almost certainly applies to the Feng tragedy. Reports that the driver’s blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit by over 50 percent (news article, Feb. 13 – 19, “Young woman killed crossing West St.”) make it highly likely that the vehicle was being driven over the 35 m.p.h. speed limit, which would have contributed to the crash and compounded its severity.

The N.Y.P.D. could probably settle the speed issue, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly insists on keeping accident investigations under tight wraps — part of his stunning indifference toward dangerous driving. Red-light cameras on West St. could have decided whether the driver ran the light, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver continues to coddle the Upstate legislator who for years has blocked legislation to let the city install them.

Blaming pedestrians for their own demise isn’t just heartless, it lets killer-driver enablers like Kelly and Silver off the hook. The driver who killed Marilyn Feng had plenty of help, and now Malloy, perhaps unwittingly, has given him more.
Charles Komanoff

Island appeal

To The Editor:
Re “Mayor: River park’s green should go to Governors Island” (news article, Feb. 20-26):

As budget discussions in Albany enter a final phase, it is a source of concern to myself and many other Downtown residents that the fate of our most unique park, Governors Island, hangs in the balance. Right now, for want of a mere $7 million in promised funding from Albany, the island will be closed for the coming summer season.

Last year, Governors Island hosted over 120,000 visitors, including almost 20,000 from our neighborhood. These included families and singles, youth leagues and history buffs, bikers and birdwatchers. We explored the island, enjoyed concerts, played mini-golf on a fantastical course created by artists, and ventured into Victorian houses filled with art installations. For many, it is the only source of summer retreat. We cannot afford to lose our cherished oasis.
Elizabeth Lamere
Co-director, Financial District Parents Association

To The Editor:
The last few years have been good to Governors Island. Readers who remember the island as the ghost town of the 1990s, would be amazed to see the transformation. Last year, six acres of Little League diamonds, soccer and football fields, concerts and art installations, historic tours, car-free biking, among many other free and unique amenities, drew almost 120,000 visitors. With a 2.2-mile promenade, a new public high school, and 8-acre waterfront picnic grounds scheduled to open soon, visits were expected to approach a quarter-million in 2009. The efforts of visionaries like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have begun to bear amazing fruit.

For these reasons, fans of Governors Island — all 120,000 of us — were stunned in December when early Albany austerity budgets contained no support for island operation. None. Without funds, the island will effectively close, the free public ferries will end, and the dream of a great park will be delayed yet again.

How much would it take to keep our biggest park alive? Island advocates have requested a measly $7 million in state funding, to be matched by City Hall. The mayor’s money is ready to go. All that is needed is action by Governor Paterson.

In a park-starved Lower Manhattan, Governors Island has been a success story. We cannot lose the access that we have and all momentum for the future. This is why Speaker Silver, Community Board 1, and the leadership of three youth sports leagues have urged the governor to make this comparatively small investment in our future.
Mark Costello
Director of Downtown Little League, member of Community Board 1




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