Volume 22, Number 02 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 22 - 28, 2009

Letters to the Editor

More seats needed

To The Editor:
Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott’s Talking Point column (May 15 – 21, “Most kindergarteners will get their first choice Downtown”) proposes that the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Education are making sure that “school construction is keeping pace with demand” Downtown. While we are delighted with the Tweed space, the two new schools and their principals, we feel obliged to sound a note of caution.

Downtown continues to grow rapidly. The children born Downtown in 2003, plus those who moved into new apartments, resulted in enough 2008 kindergarteners to use up almost the entire intake capacity of the two new schools and the existing Downtown elementary schools combined. But since 2003, the number of births Downtown has increased by 46%, and over 13,000 additional apartments have been completed or are underway. To accommodate this growth, Downtown needs nearly 1,000 more elementary school seats in just the next few years. A new middle school is also needed in short order, as demand will soon far exceed the additional middle school seats in the two new schools. Capacity plans must also allow all Downtown elementaries to offer pre-K, which some of them have had to cancel or delay.

The planning process for these additional new schools needs to begin now if they are to open in time to prevent severe overcrowding. The new schools must not suffer from the uneven support and broken promises that plagued Downtown school expansion recently, such as the city’s 2006 decision to halt funding for both the P.S. 234 Annex and the Beekman (now Spruce Street) schools, which delayed Spruce Street’s opening (news article by Ronda Kaysen, March 3 – 9, 2006, “Beekman school was always in doubt, Klein says”). The hastily arranged overcrowding solutions that we have seen Downtown will not work for providing 1,000 more school seats.

We are pleased that, in the last two weeks, Chancellor Klein and Deputy Mayor Walcott have communicated with parents in the Village and Downtown through the local press (The Villager, May 6 – 12, Talking Point by Joel Klein, “A new equity and transparency in school admissions”), and we look forward to working with them closely. But time is short, and unless new schools are planned and built soon, Downtown will see huge wait lists, high class sizes, and an uncertain future for our children.
Eric Greenleaf
Chairperson, P.S. 234 P.T.A. Overcrowding Committee

Motorists run over

To The Editor:
Re “Traffic changes are driving them crazy in L.E.S. and Chinatown” (news article, May 8 -14):

I had the misfortune to attend the May 4 forum on traffic and parking at P.S. 137.

Albert Amateau accurately reported what occurred, but omitted the fact that City Councilmember Alan Gerson permitted the first, second and fourth speakers from the audience to collectively consume some 60 minutes of time, instead of the three-minute-per-speaker time limit Gerson had repeatedly announced beforehand.

These speakers self-righteously and hypocritically denounced bike lanes and bicyclists while ignoring their own motoring habits, which pollute the air I breathe. If they are so concerned with lack of space and congestion, let them refrain from driving their polluting cars.

I will concede that their criticisms may have some merit, but a more balanced perspective is needed.
Michael Gottlieb 

Tower power

To The Editor:
Re “‘Fed up’ with W.T.C. delays, Silver says build 3rd tower now” (news article, May 15 - 21):

Speaker Sheldon Silver has again demonstrated the kind of leadership we have come to expect from him by pointing the way to the best solution to the current impasse between the Port Authority and Silverstein Properties at the World Trade Center site.  While it is reasonable under the current economic circumstances to delay the construction of one of the three Silverstein commercial towers on Church St. until private funding is once again available, it is important that Towers 2 and 4, at the northeast and southeast corners of the site, move forward with full funding and on a schedule that will assure their completion within the next five years.  Otherwise, we are accepting failure on a massive scale.

The Port Authority’s reluctance to commit substantial resources to a speculative office building is understandable and reasonable as a general proposition, except for the fact that this office building Tower 2 is such an integral part of the master plan for the W.T.C. site.  Certainly there was nothing more speculative at the time than the original “Twin Towers” yet they turned out to be excellent long-term investments.  I am confident that there are one or more financing alternatives available, with appropriate levels of risk and reward for each of the Port Authority and Silverstein Properties, that will allow both Towers 2 and 4 to proceed.  The parties need to get together with their best financial advisors, lay all their cards on the table, and figure out a way to “get the deal done” rather than continuing to point fingers at each other for the lack of progress.  It may well be necessary for some public funds to be committed to Tower 2, but there may be ways to structure such an investment that the Port Authority can live with.  Similarly, it may be appropriate for Silverstein Properties to contribute more of its own capital to the project as Speaker Silver has suggested.  If the political will is there, a solution can be found.

Finally, I take issue with the assertion of Joe Daniels that we can depend on tourists, rather than the workers in the office buildings, to drive economic activity at the site.  That is a recipe for lots of fast food outlets and T-shirt and souvenir shops, not the kind of quality retail that most local residents and workers want to see at the site.  It was that combination of office workers, local residents, and transit riders that made retail at the site such an economic success story prior to 9/11, and that should continue to be our model for the future.
Bill Love
Member of Community Board 1 and its World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee

Bus lessons

To The Editor:
While it is gratifying to see that the Dept. of Transportation has come up with a seemingly satisfactory alternative (news article, May 15 – 21, “Downtown buses are moving to Chelsea”) to the horrendous plan put forth last month, I think we can all take this experience to heart.  The way in which D.O.T. presented this plan to the community should be a cautionary tale for all of us that we need to be ever-vigilant, lest we see our quality of life erode further than it has already.  And the community’s reaction should serve as an inspiration.

Our committee was truly shocked when D.O.T. came to our April meeting and we were told that they planned to relocate almost two dozen tour buses along West St., and to implement it in less than two weeks time — something they had known internally for months and not shared with us in the community.  Within 24 hours, outrage spread throughout Downtown and thousands of residents called, faxed and emailed City Hall to express their horror.  Our very effective community board chairperson, Julie Menin, came through for us by making sure that City Hall knew the consequences of this ill-planned action.

In the end, the plan died an ignominious death, as it should have, and we need to ensure that it doesn’t rear its ugly head again.  However, we must hold D.O.T.’s (and the other city agencies’) feet to the fire (and we will) to see that in the future we get adequate notice of major changes in the community that affect thousands of residents.

Our future in the neighborhood depends on it.
Peter Braus
Chairperson, Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee

NYCHA dogs residents

To The Editor:
Re “Boston terriers in, but pit bulls out at NYCHA” (news article, May 8 - 14):

This is not effective policy making and NYCHA gets away with it all the time. They have targeted all types of behavior without getting to the root causes of the social and economic problems affecting public-housing residents. 

Crime, poverty and disenfranchisement are rampant in the Housing Authority’s developments, and all the agency does is set more and more regulations that don’t solve anything and create a greater need by displacing rather than aiding. The Housing Authority wants to be a landlord when it’s convenient and a city agency when it benefits its public image. When will it come to be that this “city agency” will be held accountable to what it claims it does? 

I grew up in public housing my whole life and I went on to become a happy, healthy individual, and it was against extreme odds. Not because public housing was horrible but because the community I lived in didn’t have enough social and economic opportunity to survive. All my friends and family around me were, and still are, fighting just to survive and in need of a helping hand. 

We need to tackle policies that target us and our pets as vicious and aggressive. Tenants are organizing around this issue and need all the help they can get. Make sure you sign the online petition going around (http://www.PetitionOnline.com/NYCHAPPE/petition.html).

The A.S.P.C.A. is against this new pet policy and they are the animal experts in New York City. They have told this to NYCHA but have been ignored and the public has been lied to about grandfathering registered dogs. Many of the dogs got denied registration or the owners’ paperwork was not accepted. NYCHA lied and we must demand an inclusive and effective policy.
Angel R. Seda

“Most kindergarteners will get their first choice Downtown” (Talking Point by Dep. Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, posted May 15):

The DOE has not sited ANY of the downtown schools nor any of the 3 temporary sites being used now due to a total lack of planning. PS 234, the PS 234 Annex, the Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center temporary space, PS 89, PS 276, The Spruce St. School and now Tweed have all been sited by downtown parents, CB1 members, Council Member Alan Gerson and Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was pivotal in securing our children neighborhood schools. We would be in the same shape as the UES, the Village and Harlem are now (and countless other neighborhoods) if it was not for the commitment of our public officials and hardworking community activists. The work is not over yet either — the new schools will not accommodate all of the incoming students that you see in strollers now and we need a middle school.

Tina Schiller







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