Volume 17 • Issue 5 | June 25 - July 1, 2004

Letters to the editor

Rockets and Park Row

To The Editor:
As a co-plaintiff on the Park Row lawsuit negotiation meetings, I was present with almost a dozen others when Deputy Inspector Colgan used the rocket launcher defense as the reason for littering Park Row with private commuter vehicles illegally (news article, June 18 –24, “Some Chinatown residents charge N.Y.P.D. racism – New Park Row suit filed on environmental grounds”).

The very fact that he would now label such a rationale as “ridiculous” should give readers an idea of who and what we have had to deal with in the N.Y.P.D. security boondoggle.

During the negotiations with the N.Y.P.D., Colgan also stated that “under the police union contract, the police are entitled to park their cars near their precinct.”  We have since learned that this provision in the contract is a myth.

There are numerous other “Colganisms” that we have been collecting over the last two years.

For now, I would also like to address a statement made by the city’s attorney, Janet Siegel, in last week’s article.  If, as Ms. Siegel claims in court papers, the plaintiffs in the Park Row lawsuit are wholly ignoring the threat to public safety if Park Row is to re-open, then the city is wholly ignoring the threat to public safety by keeping the Brooklyn Bridge open, by keeping Worth St. in front of the U.S. Courthouse and 26 Federal Plaza open, by keeping Broadway in front of City Hall and the numerous high level government buildings open, by keeping the streets around the Empire State Building open, the F.D.R. Drive that runs underneath the U.N. open.  The list of targets and the threat to public safety is near endless in our treasure rich city.  In fact, if you accept Ms. Siegel’s premise, by keeping the N.Y.C. transit system in operation, the city is putting millions of commuters at risk and perhaps should be held liable for any terrorist attacks that are not prevented by shutting down the city.  And Mayor Bloomberg must be a fool for being so vocal about re-opening the Statue of Liberty to visitors.

Better to keep this treasure closed in order to protect the public.

No, we do not wholly ignore the risk of an open Park Row.  In fact, in our lawsuit, we are pointing out that the city is sacrificing public safety in closing Park Row and so many streets around police headquarters.  The risk to public safety is not from bombs but from lack of adequate emergency service access. And if you want to talk about risk of the terrorism type, then what of the risk to residents from the security barriers that the N.Y.P.D. has very intentionally placed directly under our windows and an incredible 450 feet from headquarters to secure more parking spaces for commuter law enforcement commuter vehicles?

We hope that the courts will see through the N.Y.P.D.’s very obvious use of security to secure more land and parking for their headquarters.  It is difficult to respect those who have abused their authority and the public’s trust by putting their own self-serving needs ahead of the needs of the general public.

Jeanie Chin
Chatham Towers resident

C.B.1 funds

To The Editor:
Re “Wils wins reelection as C.B. 1 debates funding issues” (news article, June 18 –24):

Finally, the local media is shedding light on street fair permits. Originally, street fairs matched up legitimate not-for-profit groups (501 C3) to share in the profits of street fair promoters. The local block association would solicit a profit-making street fair promoter, who would apply for a permit with the non-profit as the “sponsor.” Nine years ago, the former community board chair realized that since the community board recommended approval (or disapproval) of street fair applications, she could apply for a street fair permit with the community board as the “sponsor” and deposit the street fair promoter’s check into the community board’s budget. With around $12,000-$16,000 more in the budget each year, the community board’s paid staff could increase their salaries.

However, the community board staff are city employees; and the community board is not a not-for-profit organization. But unlike teachers, or firefighters, etc., the community board recommends approvals for street fair permits. This practice has continued over my objections for nine years. But now after $100,000 has been deposited in the community board’s budget from the street fair promoter, people are questioning this funding scheme. Remember it is the 50 appointed volunteers from our neighborhood that make up our community board and not the paid city staffers. They are there to help us with administrative and clerical work and should be paid from the city’s budget like other city agencies.

After 9/11, so many streets were closed for security or construction reasons it became a hardship to have so many street fairs. Up to 7 of them each summer are conducted just to raise the salary of a few city staffers. The street fair money did not go to hire consultants or buy trees or benches.

Originally only the inner elite of the board knew of this practice, and they approved all applications for the full board. Two months ago, despite the actions of the executive committee and the inner circle, the full board decided to vote on the approval for all street fair permits.

The board prides itself on the level of scrutiny that it gives to other projects, so I feel confident that since the full board will be voting on all street fair applications; things will change. I will leave the ethical issues up to the Conflict of Interest Board to decide what should be done, but it is absurd to complain about street congestion while the community board closes streets to increase salaries.

Remember no city employee can take more than a nominal gift from a business regularly doing business with his agency, so why can a community board take money from a street fair promoter who regularly comes by for recommendations to approve their permits?

Rick Landman

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