Volume 21, Number 46 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 27 - April 2, 2009
Letters to the Editor
To The Editor:
Re “Let us sell wine near the grapes” (Talking Point, March 13 - 19):
Christina Minardi, Whole Foods Northeast regional president, presented the Whole Foods view of the current proposal to allow wine sales in grocery stores. As an independent wine-only retailer who lives and works in Tribeca, I would like the opportunity to present my thoughts.
Ms. Minardi discusses the increasing importance of buying locally grown products. When “shopping locally,” who owns the business you’re buying from is as important as what you’re buying. A civic economics study found that as much as 68 cents of every dollar spent stays within a community when consumers purchase goods from local business. Purchases from chain stores retain only about 43 cents.
Not all New York wineries see this proposal as a boon for the industry. Over 75 wineries currently oppose the plan, including some of the most recognizable names.
Ms. Minardi suggested that Washington wine production has outpaced New York because Washington allows wine sales in grocery stores sales. By this logic, Florida and Texas should be top wine producers. More likely, it’s due to the tremendous accolades Washington wines have received.
It would be nice to think the motivating factors behind this proposal are consumer choice and convenience. If that were the case, the proposal would allow existing independent wine stores to hold multiple licenses (currently we can only hold one, and that doesn’t appear to be changing). It would allow independent wine stores to sell groceries (we currently can’t even sell a wine bag). But it doesn’t do any of these things.
What it does do is change the rules overnight. Chain stores will suddenly be allowed to add a wine department in any outlet where they pay a franchise fee.
What it also does, if the projections are correct, is generate $160 million in the first two years for the state budget. In subsequent years, this shrinks to $3 million. But what Ms. Minardi doesn’t mention is the economic impact of existing stores shutting down. The Last Store on Main Street, a coalition of small retailers, estimates that 1,000 existing wine shops will close their doors resulting in a loss of over 4,000 existing jobs.
For several years, I managed the national business for a number of wine brands so I understand that independent wine stores can co-exist with large, corporate grocery chains, as is the case in California, Florida and Texas. But this is the result of licensing laws that have been in place since the repeal of Prohibition over 75 years ago.
The New York proposal doesn’t allow existing retailers 75 years to renegotiate our leases, reconsider our location, or adjust our business models to ensure we have a shot at competing with the chains. It doesn’t give us 10 years, or even 6 months. It flips the switch and shifts the balance from local to corporate overnight.
This sort of change should not be shoved into a budget proposal as a quick one-time fix. That’s why I encourage Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Senator Daniel Squadron to remove this proposal from the budget and give it the studied attention it deserves.
Owner, Frankly Wines
To The Editor:
Re “Private pitfalls” (letter to the editor by Larry Vide, March 13 - 19):
I appreciate Mr. Vide’s letter. He addressed some points I agree with and others that are exaggerated. Mr. Vide failed to address Mitchell-Lama complexes that successfully transformed and are doing very well with privatization. As for outside costs such as water, gas and electricity I agree with Mr. Vide. It will be an additional cost compared to the way it is now, included in the monthly maintenance bill. These utilities are a big contribution to past and upcoming maintenance increases at Southbridge. Quite a few residents at Southbridge do not conserve utilities. They leave lights and air conditioners on all day, even when not home. Some residents leave their terrace Christmas lights on all year. With privatization and individual apartment metering, utilities used conservatively will not be a big individual expense. Even if Southbridge doesn’t go private I believe in individual metering.
To The Editor:
In his letter to Downtown Express, Wally Dimson claims that those of us who oppose privatization at Southbridge “spread fear and confusion” (Letters, March 20 – 26, “Facts & fear”).
Actually, what fills Mr. Dimson with fear and confuses his followers is that we have consistently told truths that he and they don’t want to hear.
Here are more truths that will cause their consternation: The economic disaster of the last year has caused a downturn in the demand for and prices paid for Manhattan co-ops. So if we privatize, our apartments are likely to bring in less money than anticipated, which means that the flip tax would be less than anticipated.
Even before the economy deteriorated, the flip tax could never have done all that has been claimed for it:
1. Make up for the huge increase in real estate taxes -- and
2. Pay for the $32 million we would have to borrow to pay for the real property transfer tax, and
3. Pay for all the capital improvements that will become necessary in future years, and
4. Be there in its entirety to subsidize Southbridge when the flip tax drops to only 2% -- the second and subsequent times that an apartment is sold.
Every shortfall in flip taxes produced would have to be made up by maintenance increases. Privatization would be a financial disaster for all those people who want to live here for the rest of their lives.
These are some of the truths that scare Wally Dimson and other privatizers, a number of whom have second homes that they plan to move to. They don’t have to worry -- after they leave -- about what will happen to Southbridge and its people. But we do.
To The Editor:
I am using this paper to send a fan letter to Larry Vide, commending him for his bravery under fire. I’ve known Larry for many years, like most of the shareholders at Southbridge Towers. He is a man of many talents, who has given them in service to S.B.T., yet he is derided for his stand against privatization very openly. But who hasn’t been? I want to pause here to clarify that I’m not referring to the debatable issues, pro and con about privatization, but of the sad condition that has turned our wonderful development into an armed camp.
When I first moved to S.B.T. 32 years ago, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I bragged to my friends, about the ideal ecumenical atmosphere and how all of us celebrated Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa and any joyful occasion, together. No one knew or cared about each other’s religion or background. We were as one people in the holiday spirit, as believers feel that God has intended.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to last. It took one controversial issue, to turn neighbor against neighbor, even brother against brother. The warm, giving people who had loved and respected their neighbors, now started to avoid them, for fear that an argument might ensue. I attended many meetings and gatherings where people changed their seats, because, because the one next to them did not agree with their view on privatization.
Shakespeare once said “Man proud man dare to commit such crimes before Heaven as to make the angels weep!”
In closing, I would like to say, that through this turmoil and unrest, our president of S.B.T., Wally Dimson, a man of integrity, has been a peacemaker. Yet despite his many efforts to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion, the cold war continues. When it finally ends, regardless of which side you were on, there will be no winners. Everyone involved has paid a great price, for their Pyrrhic victory.
Helen G. Perrone
To The Editor:
Re “Silver puts mayor’s Governors Isle idea on hold” (news article, March 20 – 26):
Great article on Governors Island. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. has no vision, evidenced by it spending $500,000 on a ferry which needed millions of dollars for repair (UnderCover, Jan. 30 – Feb. 5, “Titanic II”). I think Mayor Bloomberg is tired of government employees getting input from the public, then creating plans and then shelving the plans. I was involved with the federal and grassroots efforts of the island before the city/state became involved. Mayor Bloomberg is a man of action and wants to see Governors Island develop.
To The Editor:
Re “Mayor: River park’s green should go to Governors Island” (news article, Feb. 20 - 26):
I am a member of the board of directors of Downtown Little League, a father, and a longtime resident of Battery Park City. Governors Island has been a wonderful, emerging resource for a park-starved Lower Manhattan and beyond. Specifically, the six acres of sports fields in the south park area of the Island have been home to numerous Downtown Little League baseball games over the past three seasons. Our kids and their families travel to the island with lawn chairs and picnic lunches for an afternoon of baseball on the island. With the use of the Governors Island baseball fields, our league can hold numerous games during the season that our kids would otherwise not play.
Given the exciting plans for Governors Island, our families are deeply concerned about the budgetary gaps now facing the island. We understand that money is tight. But we ask that all elected, continue to support this critical and unique resource.
To The Editor:
Re “Gun possession sentence” (police blotter, Feb.27 - March 5):
I was shocked to read this article. It is crazy to think that there was someone in my neighborhood, just one block from my apartment, toting around military firearms and several hundred rounds of ammunition. I spent the whole week walking around paranoid, waiting to here shots from some homicidal maniac, which is just what the Downtown Express wanted.
After discussing the incident with my wife, she asked how Chuang was caught by the police. I did some research of my own and it turns out his girlfriend, a call girl at a local escort service, tipped the police and a sting operation was set up at the New York Downtown Hospital. While it is shocking that the weapons made it into Downtown at all, it is much less menacing to know that the police arranged the event and there was no imminent danger to the community. I find it irresponsible that the Downtown Express left out this fact. The story, while true, left out information and created the insinuation that a potential mass murderer was on the loose. This reduced the article to fear mongering.
Keep on printing
To The Editor:
Every day we hear about the troubled newspaper industry. They are losing advertisers and readers. They are cutting staffs. Papers in existence for over 100 years are folding.
The loss of every single newspaper is one more nail in the coffin of civilization
We are being told that 21st century progress means putting the news on the Internet. We are seeing the projected word on a monitor as opposed to the printed word on a page. Gutenberg and Mergenthaler are turning over in their graves by all of this so-called progress. Will there ever be room on the screen for rebuttal? Or will we have biased news and even censorship, those things democracy has been opposed to? Local papers can fill the void and keep us informed. Here in Lower Manhattan, we can look to our local weekly, the Downtown Express, for this needed and important service. I sincerely hope you will not fall in line with this kind of 21st century “progress.” We want progress that won’t become retrogression, that is, the kind of backward thinking that says if you don’t have a computer you will be living in the Middle Ages.
Remember this! The loss of a newspaper is another nail in the coffin of civilization.