Volume 20, Number 44 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 16 - 22, 2011
Letters to the editor
Keep the stairs
To the Editor:
I recently had the privilege of attending a reception in honor of Kenneth Feinberg. Mr. Feinberg was the Special Master, September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He spoke movingly of some of the victim’s survivors he met with as Master of the Fund. The stories were, of course, heartbreaking.
My husband and I have lived at Gateway Plaza since 1982 and as Mr. Feinberg was speaking I was taken back to that horrible day. For those of us who lived and or worked in Battery Park City and were lucky not to have lost family members or friends it was still a harrowing experience.
People who moved into the neighborhood or started working here afterwards have no idea of how this neighborhood was affected or the emotional nightmare we went through. There were many months following September 11th when this area was an armed camp, with the U. S. military and the National Guard patrolling. Access to the neighborhood was restricted. There was a tremendous clean up operation to clear out the debris resulting from the towers coming down. Emergency electric lines were installed. Most of the stores on South End Avenue were closed for a long period of time. People who lived in the Gateway Plaza complex were not allowed back into their apartments for up to 3 ½ months as the buildings were repaired and cleaned.
The Winter Garden and the attendant staircase was severely damaged but was rebuilt and reopened the following September, with President Bush attending the reopening ceremony.
I have spoken to many people the past several weeks about saving the stairs and there is definitely a dichotomy between the people who went through 9/11 here and the people who did not. Most of the people who came in afterwards have no idea about the emotional value of the stairs and one cannot fault them. You cannot appreciate the value of something if you do not know its history.
In retrospect, there should have been a plaque in the Winter Garden describing what happened on 9/11 and how it was rebuilt afterwards.
Keeping the stairs will not bring back those people who were murdered, it will not make healthy those people who were injured and maimed, it will not grant a longer life to those who breathed in the toxic fumes, it will not remove the pain from those who lost loved ones and friends. However, keeping the stairs is of symbolic value-we can rebound, we can continue, we will not let those who mean us harm to change us.
The stairs are a sign of renewal and possibility.
Marilyn R. Masaryk
Heed ‘Tale of the Trees’
To The Editor:
Re “Soho residents strike back, slam business district plan” (news article, Feb. 16):
The BID (business improvement district) has moved to capture Broadway from Houston St. to Canal St. by creating a separate governing body of real estate barons to “improve” the lives of Soho residents. This conquest will also be dangerous for residents living in and out of the Broadway corridor.
A beautiful grove of trees lived in neighborhood harmony until a woodsman came with promises: “Give me one small tree and I will give you a clean and secure forest.” “No!” said the grandfather tree. “We are content in our grove.”
“Give me only a very little one,” the woodsman said, pointing to a sapling. The grove looked at the little sapling and thought, “What harm can it be? Let the woodsman take her. She is not part of our grove.” And the woodsman pulled the small tree from the earth and took it to his woodshed and made a handle for his ax. The next day, he returned and cut down the grandfather tree. Soon he had cut down all the old neighborhood grove.
Ben Franklin, at the signing the Declaration of Independence, warned us: “We must all hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Call the Soho Alliance, at 212-353-8466, or call us at the 491 Co-op: Sally Lindsay, 212-431-3265, or Jim Hatch, 212-966-3231.
James V. Hatch
Community and SPURA
To The Editor:
Re “SPURA design will try to ‘maximize light and air’ ” (news article, March 9):
Thanks for your ongoing reporting on the crucial issue of SPURA. It should have been reported, though, that the Economic Development Corporation official, when pressed at the meeting, stated that the city issued a request for proposals to only a few select firms, from which Beyer Blinder Belle was ultimately chosen — without input from either Community Board 3 or the community. Not an auspicious approach to engendering trust — or doesn’t government care to “maximize light and air” in the (lightning-fast) process marching toward development?
If this is how E.D.C. approaches hiring an urban design consultant we have every reason to believe C.B. 3 and the community will be locked out of ULURP — our last, best chance to exercise control over our community’s land — SPURA. C.B. 3 and the community have fought hard in countless meetings (on a tight timeline dictated by the city) over myriad aspects of developing this valuable, long-vacant, historically wounded land precisely because too much is at stake for the Lower East Side! And yet, government waltzes in, unilaterally making a decision and taking action without notice, consultation or concern for the community it’s mandated to serve.
SPURA is vacant only because 1,852 families were evicted in 1967 — a wholly vibrant community obliterated, a neighborhood forever scarred and haunted. If ever a compelling reason for a thoroughly open, transparent, creative approach — reaching out to all, bar none, to allow reasonable, unhurried space and time for the unfettered flow and exchange of ideas so as to build the very best development, to do our utmost to somehow ameliorate history’s grievous wrongs — SPURA is it! Wake up people! No justice, no peace!
Adrienne M.Z. Chevrestt
The ‘wellness center’ alternative
To The Editor:
Over the summer of 2010, I attended a Community Board 2 meeting on the use of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital building. Practically every person who stood before the microphone — most of them residents age 55 or older — expressed a genuine need for a primary-care community hospital at the site.
I, however, believe the former hospital building at Seventh and Greenwich Aves. would best serve the Greenwich Village community if it were turned into a center of wellness instead of sickness or disease. This is what concerned neighborhood residents should demand:
First, a group of city leaders, perhaps with my participation, should apply for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds to buy the building out of bankruptcy and relieve its creditors of the former hospital’s debts.
Next, 10 floors of the building should be converted to office-type space for “business and commerce arts education”-oriented classes and workshops, similar to those offered by The Learning Annex.
Two primary floors should be converted to an emergency first-aid care facility for Village residents, restaurant workers, etc. An entirely new, full-service, state-of-the-art hospital should be built on property south of Seventh Ave., ideally donated by the Trinity Real Estate group — property that was bequeathed by the British royal family centuries ago. The new hospital would create a new tax base and enable the rehiring of St. Vincent’s 3,500 terminated hospital workers.
Returning to the former St. Vincent’s site, an outdoor cafe would be constructed and managed along the southern portico, with an open-air bar on the area’s east wall, with fabulous chandeliers suspended from the ceiling. There would be a TKTS sales booth along the Seventh Ave. side — where the emergency room waiting area used to be.
A “star”-shaped sculpture would be put on the corner outcrop over the portico steps facing Seventh Ave. South — thus, appearing to create a visual tie to the lights further up Broadway.
This “new” former St. Vincent’s facility would create 3,500-plus jobs and would be a positive, new, economically strong Village landmark.
Once this is done, we can all be satisfied knowing that — with a bit of common sense and decision-making — good things can happen in good communities, and that this particular locale in the Village will maintain its status as a great institution within a greater New York City.