E.P.A. tests

To The Editor:

Elizabeth O’Brien is to be commended for her valuable reporting of the government’s poor response to the environmental health impacts of the World Trade Center catastrophe (“E.P.A. releases some lead results,” news article, Nov. 4–10). However, some of the facts in her report on the results of Environmental Protection Agency’s wipe tests for lead and other non-asbestos contaminants in Lower Manhattan need to be further emphasized, and others corrected.

First, a correction: the use of the words “scoured” and “scrubbed” are grossly inaccurate to describe the methods used by E.P.A. cleaning crews. Aside from HEPA vacuuming, the most stringent cleaning consisted of wet wiping surfaces with disposable “Swiffers” by workers whose styles ranged from lackadaisical to somewhat energetic. (In at least one quadrant, the cleaners used dirty, dark-colored terry cloth rags.) That was the extent of the cleaning — no scouring.

As the reporter indicates, the E.P.A. itself set up the current situation, where it cannot “extrapolate” from the test data in order to tell us anything about the extent of lead, or other, contamination in Lower Manhattan as a whole. Its insistence on testing only 250 of the approximately 30,000 apartments in Lower Manhattan was, from the beginning, clearly doomed to not yield comprehensive information and to be an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. E.P.A. responded to activists’ criticisms by saying that if the extremely limited testing showed that high levels of contaminants were present, much more extensive testing would then be done. Well, we shall see.

What is clear at this point is that elevated lead results in such a high percentage (13.5) of samples tested indicates that a great number of the thousands of apartments that were neither cleaned nor tested are likely to contain unacceptable levels of lead and/or other contaminants.

Patricia Dillon

Independence Plaza North Tenants Association

Let there be bridge lights

To The Editor:

Re: Your story about the lights on top of the Brooklyn Bridge (photograph, Nov. 11–17, 2003): We who live across the street from the bridge, on Pearl and Frankfort Sts., have been calling the mayor’s great number 311 for a year now to get the lights under the bridge to be put on. I guess they are waiting for someone to get mugged or killed before they do something about it.

George “Cats” Marmo

Rebuild the retail

To The Editor:

As he does so often, David Stanke has hit the nail squarely on the head in his recent column (Talking Point, Nov. 11-17, “The W.T.C. superblock worked well for retail”) that discusses the virtues of the former World Trade Center’s indoor shopping concourse and the misguided insistence of Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff that such indoor shopping opportunities be minimized or eliminated in the redevelopment of the W.T.C. site. In fact, Stanke’s piece so cogently lays out the case for indoor, weather-protected shopping at the W.T.C. site that I believe it should be required reading for every member of the L.M.D.C. and for every planner, architect, political leader and other individual who is in any way involved with the redevelopment of the W.T.C. site and the revitalization of Lower Manhattan.

Stanke, like the rest of us who actually reside in close proximity to the W.T.C. site and unlike those so-called experts who live elsewhere and who mindlessly repeat the “street level” mantra ad nauseam, recognizes what a jewel we had in that indoor concourse pre-9/11. My most personal and lasting memories of the W.T.C. site will not be of the Twin Towers themselves — whose size dwarfed their surroundings — but will be of that wonderfully convenient and utilitarian indoor concourse that I visited or passed through almost every day of the eight years that I lived in Battery Park City prior to 9/11. Whether it was a quick shopping trip from my neighborhood or simply navigating the site on my way to subways or the stores on Church St. and beyond, my ability to easily access and use that space was a major reason that I never felt in any way “isolated” from the rest of the City as friends assured me I would be when I first moved to Battery Park City.

Many long-time local residents have listened in frustration as the deputy mayor has argued that indoor, weather-protected shopping at the W.T.C. site will “suck the life out of” street level retail in the area. There is no basis for this assertion. It was not true before 9/11, as demonstrated by the commercial success of Century 21 and other nearby stores that front on the street, and there is no reason to expect it to be true if the site is redeveloped with attractive and convenient indoor retail shops and stores. It is unfortunate that Westfield America, which could have done much to facilitate a positive retail outcome, felt it necessary to withdraw because of the direction in which the planning was headed.

Instead, I fear that the giant sucking sound that the deputy mayor seems to be hearing is millions of dollars in retail sales and profits permanently exiting Lower Manhattan for other locales that provide a more pleasant and convenient shopping experience for pedestrians on a year-round basis, as the W.T.C. concourse did.

It is possible to have our cake and eat it too. We can have a wonderful combination of street level retail and convenient indoor, weather-protected retail (such as exists, for example, at Grand Central Terminal) if people will heed Stanke’s words and recognize the value of the latter as well as the former. That value was illustrated in the marketplace in the form of the tremendous retail commercial success of the W.T.C. indoor concourse before 9/11. For years, people expressed strong approval of that concourse as a retail destination by voting with their dollars, and Doctoroff, as a former investment banker, should be more sensitive than most to the message of the market.

In sum, let’s turn Lower Manhattan into a prime regional shopping destination that draws shoppers from outside the local area. The way to do this is by developing an unbeatable cluster of retail shops and stores, some of which are accessible from the street and others of which are part of an indoor concourse that is directly linked to public transportation and protected from inclement weather.

Bill Love

School reunion

To The Editor:

Re “Grads reunite in Chinatown” (news article, Nov. 11-17): I wish to express my warmest thanks to Downtown Express and Ms. Mintz who interviewed me and my fellow alumni. Her touching article brought back many wonderful memories.

Richard Young, M.D.

P.S. 23, Class of ‘61

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