Volume 16 • Issue 36 | February 06 - 12, 2004



Letters to the Editor


Chasing vendors

To The Editor:
Re “Vendor law is close, Albany says”(news article, Jan. 30 - Feb. 5):

I doubt very much that it will ever be vendor free there. I lost my brother, Tom Sullivan, at the W.T.C. and cannot tell you how many agonizing hours I spent down there — chasing away the people that are selling graphic pictures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to walk around the site to get the Port Authority Police Department to come down and chase them. They come back, 15 minutes after you are there. It’s terrible - just terrible. I am coming to understand lately that you can’t fight City Hall and win...

Norene Sullivan


Disabled veteran vendors

To The Editor:
Re “Vendor law is close, Albany says” (news article, Jan. 30 – Feb. 5):

What Elizabeth O’Brien does not tell us is that the bill in Albany is a disabled veteran vending bill. The city and Albany want to hide the fact that this bill will regulate disabled veterans and most of the disabled veterans are against this bill. Every day in Iraq and Afghanistan our soldiers are being killed or maimed while the state of New York in its secret society called the State Legislature keeps the disabled veteran vendors out of the negotiations. Many of these vendors have been trying to speak with Assemblyman Sanders about the bill but are being denied meetings with the assemblyman. I thought after Vietnam we decided that we were going to treat our veterans better than that.

Mitchell Balmuth


Hub’s costs

To The Editor:
Re “W.T.C. train station unveiled” (news article, Jan. 23-29):

Lower Manhattan has probably more iconic urban architecture per acre than any other business district on the face of the earth. Trinity Church, the Woolworth Building, the New York Stock Exchange, the Brooklyn Bridge, Federal Hall are just the top few items on a very long list of iconic — and urbane — structures that conjure up the unique-in-all-the-world magic of Lower Manhattan.  Why do we need to spend $2 billion dollars for an enormous, anti-urban structure, the proposed Santiago Calatrava PATH terminal, that has no real function but to compete with all the wonderful architecture that already exists — or will eventually exist — around it?  Do we really have so little faith in our Lower Manhattan heritage that we believe it necessary to embrace a redevelopment that is increasingly shaping up to be nothing more than a trendy, over-planned, ersatz suburban office park?

And while Henry Stern certainly deserves “bravos” for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes — that the proposed station, despite its enormous cost ($2 billion), will do nothing whatsoever to actually improve transit in Lower Manhattan — I believe there are yet other urban experts (such as Jane Jacobs) who would even go a great deal further in their criticism.

They would point out that not only is this proposed terminal an enormous waste and diversion of precious public funds, talent and energy, but that it would also take up valuable land that could better be used to accommodate the planned density and diversity needed to make this area into a healthy, living urban district once more.  (For example, building nothing but a showpiece structural “pavilion” on this site increases the pressure to overbuild on other portions of the site — or, instead, to build off-site and thereby displace residents and businesses elsewhere in Lower Manhattan.)

But mostly, I think, someone like Jane Jacobs would point out the fallacy of the “thing” school of urban economic development and revitalization.  “Things” — fancy parks and the cutting-edge, designer architecture of the moment — are not what create true urban economic development and revitalization.  True economic development comes from people actually doing the creative work necessary to economically develop and provide new and better products and services.  Not only don’t the “grand things” help in this process, very often they actually get in the way of — impede, retard or stultify — true economic growth.  This is because true developmental work, by its very nature, is a process that requires the kind of unexceptional, secondhand workspaces that are so often displaced — directly or indirectly — by the desire to build the so-called “grand things” like the Calatrava terminal.  (Think of such previously proposed “grand things” as the South Village Urban Renewal Plan and the Lower Manhattan Expressway and how they would have killed off the unplanned reinvention and revitalization of the area we now know as Soho.)

So, do we want Lower Manhattan to continue as a handsome, functional and unique-in-all-the-world urban district — one that was spontaneously reinventing itself prior to 9/11 (as Soho and Tribeca, its neighbors to the north, had already done previously).  Or do we want to transform it into a discordant collection of individually flamboyant showpieces which thwart and disrupt healthy city street life and genuine urban redevelopment, rather than enhance them, and which create a kind of trendy architectural world’s fair-type environment that can be increasingly found just about anywhere on the globe?
 
Ben Hemric


Houston St. plan

To The Editor:
Re “Critics say Houston St. plan is for the cars” (news article, Jan. 23-29):

Thank you so much for your coverage of the Houston St. proposed reconstruction.

I frequently visit and shop in both Noho and Soho and have always been horrified at how pedestrians have been treated in that area. Fast cars, long waits at intersections and short times given to cross exemplify how people walking are almost always shortchanged by the desire to rush cars through an area.

Houston St. is already used as a shortcut by too many speeding cars and the redesign would only further contribute to the headache and danger involved in being there. The redesign should slow cars down and allow pedestrians, as positive contributors to the street fabric, life and economy of the surrounding neighborhoods, to have enough space and time to flow freely and safely across Houston St.

Annie Hart


Bar noise

To The Editor:
Thanks for Elizabeth O’Brien’s report in the Dec. 30 –Jan. 8 issue of Downtown Express entitled, “Mayor backs limits to noise from bars.”

As one who lives in a building that shakes until 4 a.m. each morning from a bar that refuses to moderate the level of their sound system, I am grateful for any attention you and your paper can bring to this problem.

My life and health has been deeply affected by the noise level produced by a bar with a sound system that is on from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Bass vibrations as described in your article, make it impossible to fall asleep before 4 a.m. (legal closing time at this time). The effect of the vibrations is like trying to nap in an airplane seat with a small child kicking the seat’s back throughout the flight.

Appeals by tenants of my building to the bar management, the building owners, and the city, have been largely ignored.

If the sound level of “party bars” and clubs, is so high that is causes seismic waves in a five-story building...what is it doing to the ears of its employees? The employees forced to work in a loud environment must be at risk for damaging their hearing permanently. If the decibel level of these bars were in another type of work place, the employees would be required to wear earplugs.

Since the mayor has already protected employee health by banning smoking indoors, shouldn’t ear-damaging noise also be a workplace health issue?

Patrice F. Georg
A Tribeca resident


Electrocution

To The Editor:
Jodie Lane died while walking her dogs on E. 11th St. She was electrocuted (news article, Jan. 23 –29, “Questions and horror over electrical death”). The explanation seems to be that salt had eaten through the insulation on wires buried under the street and the problem apparently exacerbated by the wet conditions and additions of salt due to the cold. Con Edison calls it a freak accident. This was not a freak accident. This was a frequent accident. “Hotspots” have created problems even before this one that killed Jodie Lane.

Con Edison does not seem to have done anything to eliminate the problem. Indeed, not only have they managed to not eliminate the problem but they’ve remained very quiet about it over the years. There has been no public campaign to alert citizens to this problem. These metal plates bear no warnings or caution signs. Why not?

This is neither the first winter New York has experienced nor is it the first time salt has been spread on city streets and sidewalks. Why hasn’t Con Edison changed the materials it uses to withstand the damage caused by salt? Why hasn’t Con Edison seen to it that cable boxes aren’t better protected? And since salt is the problem, why are we still using it? Surely there are other products that can be used? But even if we continue to use salt, shouldn’t we at least be using it more judiciously? Far too much of it gets spread over the city in winter, a fact to which car owners and dog walkers can attest.

We need an investigation but not by Con Edison. Con Edison apparently finds it easier and cheaper to say and do very little and then, when a problem occurs, settle out of court and out of the public eye. That solution is no longer acceptable. Unless Con Edison is made to change its materials and procedures Jodie Lane will have died a meaningless death, as death not by electrocution, but by a cost-effectiveness strategy.

Linda Pankewicz



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