Volume 22, Number 24 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 23-29, 2009
Letters to the Editor
Wrong on Bloomberg
To The Editor:
I’m glad Downtown Express gave attention to parents’ reservations about Bloomberg’s performance as N.Y.C. school czar in your endorsement last week (“Re-elect Bloomberg” editorial, Oct. 16 - 22), but I couldn’t find the part where you explain how it is you conclude he is on “the right track” on education.
National assessments released this week show New York’s growth in student performance in math to be flat; the reading scores have not yet been released, but the last round for 2005-2007 were also flat -- this in spite of Bloomberg’s constantly touted claims for measurable improvement in student achievement. According to the feds, there is also no improvement in the achievement gap between racial groups. Bloomberg lies, and he fails. Where he’s very successful is in P.R., particularly when it comes to editorial boards.
I am glad you think that parents have a “stronger voice” under the new law. I would be grateful if you could tell us how. I have studied the law closely and I find no meaningful avenue for public participation in Bloomberg’s D.O.E.
The question is not whether we’re better off with the current system than the previous one: that’s a red herring. The question is whether the current system is what we want for our kids. We are a great, vibrant, diverse, dynamic city. We deserve an education system that matches our vision and our potential — that treats our kids like the stars they are. We don’t have to hand our schools over to some sour number cruncher to make our decisions for us, especially when it turns out that his claims for competence and managerial know-how are not much more than snake oil. We deserve a functioning democratic system of school governance, neither an autocracy nor a shambles.
To The Editor:
Re “Only some school issues are for parents, Bloomberg says” and “Re-elect Bloomberg” (news article and editorial, Oct. 16 - 22):
Mike Bloomberg’s comments in the recent Downtown Express interview were disturbing. Stating that in this country, “We have a democracy, not a republic,” he meant that once our representatives are in office they make unilateral and authoritative decisions for us. Mike went on to say that Central Park, or anything of importance, would not have been built with public involvement.
Contrary to the mayor’s statement, the seminal book about Central Park, “The Park and the People,” attests that the location, design and realization of the park was made possible only through years of fierce public debate, lobbying, petition signing, warring editorials in local newspapers and, most important, advocacy. Central Park has been called the most democratic space in the country; this is because of early and continuing public involvement.
As a local newspaper, your endorsement of the mayor was even more disturbing given his intransigent position on crucial neighborhood issues, including foisting a consolidated, three-district Department of Sanitation facility and salt pile on us. Aristotle warned that both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people and disarm them.
Jane Jacobs, who redefined urban planning concepts, said, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when they are created by everybody.” Hudson Square is a vital and engaged community, created from a grassroots, invasion-succession movement to re-inhabit fallow industrial land. The movement left New York City government in a dilemma, playing planning catch-up, because others had taken the initiative in shaping Lower Manhattan. How ironic that we are now told we should be left out of a critical planning process that will determine our future, when we have so integrally shaped our community and have a better, greener and financially more responsible plan in Hudson Rise.
Apparently, Downtown Express in good conscience is convinced, as Mike is himself, that there is only one person to get us through these tough times. Camus pegged your position when he said, “The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.”
To The Editor:
Re “ Friedlander, 95, councilmember who fought for the less powerful, dies” (obituary, Oct. 16 - 22):
Just for the record: Shelly Silver won the vote for City Council years ago, and Floyd Feldman challenged it and won, resulting in Friendlander becoming the councilmember.
Years later, when Floyd and I started GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side), Silver was extremely helpful to us while Friedlander was not.
During her years in the Council, she was very often at odds with the community. However, when she was no longer in office, she was a very vocal advocate for the community. Her presence at meetings about drug problems on E. 10th St., during last year’s battle to save Met Food from N.Y.U. and on other issues made a difference.
Too bad she was not that effective while she was in office. I will miss her.
To The Editor:
I appreciate your well-crafted obituary of my mother, Miriam Friedlander. So many voices heard and passions expressed. You captured much of her essence and her basic philosophy: “Reach out to all the people, let them know the issues and help them to change things for the better.”
Her fire burned bright right up until the end.
I also was struck by the graciousness of most of her former opponents.
To The Editor:
I hope Miriam Friedlander knew just how much she impacted the lives of so many New Yorkers. Those people who share their lives with companion animals owe a great debt of gratitude to Miriam Friedlander. Only through her determination, perseverance and sense of humanity, was legislation passed in 1983 to expand the rights of tenants to keep pets without fear of eviction. As a result of her efforts, the lives of thousands of animals were also saved.
As counsel for the ASPCA in the early 1980s, I had the privilege of working with Councilmember Friedlander on this legislation. Her genuine concern for others and her unyielding energy to fight for what she believed in was such an inspiration. Sadly, the New York City Council has failed to pass legislation to ensure that the protections afforded to people and pets in the 1983 law remain in effect.
Despite substantial documentation about the human/animal bond and the health benefits, both physical and psychological, that animals provide to many people, the Council has also not passed a bill (Intro 751) to allow seniors to keep pets. What a nice tribute to Miriam Friedlander it would be for the Council to finally pass humane legislation to further protect people and their companion animals.
To The Editor:
Re “Would condos or London Eye float on Pier 40?” (news article, Oct. 2-8):
The Hudson River Park Trust’s decision to change Pier 40’s planning process is exactly what’s needed. The Trust deserves credit for this bold action.
A list of planning requirements is needed before attempting any complex planning project. Here’s a start:
1. Provide pubic safety by avoiding traffic hazards.
2. Use comprehensive planning that makes the best use of the remarkable structure, site, district and beyond.
3. Fulfill federal requirements that provide Pier 40 funding.
4. Strive for an environmentally positive plan with solar energy and a useful green park.
5. Concentrate on expanding appropriate and creative funding options to restructure and reactivate the pier. With direct connections to elected officials who appointed the Trust’s board of directors, far-reaching options could be available, without saturating Pier 40 with commercial uses.
Bill Hine and Robert W. Smith
Save the Piers members
To The Editor:
Re “A gamble or a sure thing? Southbridge considers privatization” (news article, Oct. 9 – 15):
Wake up! Just like the billions that have been lost to greed, in the past year, the same is happening with the privatization of Mitchell-Lama co-ops. The greed of “privatizers” have skewed the common sense that many people once had, by using their well-planned rhetoric with promises of a utopia, money trees, a lifetime of security.
Yes, the few that can sell or sublet, and move to their second home will profit. What about the majority who are not that fortunate? The elderly were told about reverse mortgages, which will provide them “money for life.” The fact is that there are presently none available for co-ops, and the ones that are available for homeowners have been considered very risky, akin to the subprime mortgage mess. Show me a senior co-operator who is enjoying a lifetime of security, from a reverse mortgage along, with the low Mitchell-Lama maintenance, and I’ll show you a bribed liar. We were told by a board member that there are other ways to access equity. There are none where a loan doesn’t have to be repaid during the lifetime of the borrower.
Many articles, when posted on the bulletin boards of Southbridge Towers, are repeatedly torn down. Why can’t the uninformed or misinformed get the real facts? Our privatizer-dominated board and its henchmen are of the opinion: “Let the people know what we want them to know.”
When will the average co-operator see that co-op reverse mortgages and the flip tax are nonsense? They will have been taken for a ride, killed the goose that laid the golden egg, and will have to pay for it. It’s too bad that logical and informed people will go down with them.
Disagree to agree
To The Editor:
Re “D.I.D. defense” (Letter by Adam Silvera, Oct. 16 – 22):
Adam Silvera, an officer of the Downtown Independent Democrats, predictably takes issue with my recent letter in your Oct. 2 – 8 issue that used election statistics to conclusively demonstrate the absurdity of claims by D.I.D. President Sean Sweeney that D.I.D. was responsible for the recent defeat of Councilmember Alan Gerson in his reelection bid. The bottom line was that Mr. Gleason ran significantly worse this year with D.I.D. support (finishing a distant fourth in a field of five candidates) than he did in the earlier race without D.I.D. support. In addition, I called attention to the neighborhood breakdown of the 2009 voting totals published in Downtown Express which revealed that (a) D.I.D.’s candidate was weakest in Chinatown, where winner Margaret Chin ran strongest relative to Mr. Gerson and (b) of the ten neighborhoods shown, the only neighborhood in which the D.I.D. candidate topped Mr. Gerson was in Soho, and that involved a relatively small number of votes.
Mr. Silvera offers nothing in rebuttal other than platitudes about lies and statistics. He makes much of the fact that I misstated the year of the earlier election as 2005 when it was, in fact, 2003, but that is a trivial criticism and does not change the numbers in the analysis that I presented. His silence on the specific evidence I presented speaks volumes. The one new piece of evidence he offers in support of D.I.D.’s effectiveness in Council races is an anecdotal quote from a campaign manager flushed with victory at a 2001 post-election party, unsupported by any data.
Amazingly, Mr. Silvera then starts to backpedal and effectively concedes the argument to me with his statement that “a political club’s true strength is not determined in races embracing large geographical areas.. . .”
Mr. Silvera argues that a political club should be judged on how well it does in district leader elections. I daresay that most readers of Downtown Express know very little about district leaders, as evidenced by the fact that only a very small percentage of the electorate voted for those positions in the two local elections to which Mr. Silvera refers. A district leader is an unpaid position with a political party and is not a public official. So if Mr. Silvera wants to claim that his small club of activists is influential in the outcome of elections for minor Democratic party positions within a limited geographical area and in which very few people vote, I would not dispute that point if it makes him feel better. It’s the equivalent of saying that you are a big frog in an extremely small pond! However, the purpose of my original letter was to establish what Mr. Silvera now seems to be conceding – that a small political club like D.I.D. cannot “deliver” enough votes based on its endorsement to meaningfully impact the outcome of significant elections for public office such as the City Council.