Letters to the Editor

Vendor bill still in the works

To The Editor:

Re Letters “Gerson hawks his vendors bill but artists paint a grim picture” (Letters, April 18 – 24, “Vendors bill”):

Please be assured that our proposed vending legislation will in no way create any extra fees or charges for vendors, nor will it decrease the number of legal vendors. Our goal is to make enforcement against illegal vendors easier and more direct and to create a mechanism for mitigating congestion of vendors where sidewalk access and mobility has become a serious issue.

It is amazing how many letters your page has printed about a proposal yet to be completed, let alone released. It is a shame that in our efforts to solicit input from residents, vendors, and all concerned with this issue that erroneous reports have cropped up about a plan, which has yet to be drafted. Councilmember Gerson is a First Amendment scholar with a proven record of support for free speech and the arts. Any plan we release will be consistent with the councilmember’s long-standing commitment to the First Amendment.

Peter Z. Pastor

Director of legislation, Councilmember Alan Gerson

Stick with existing law

To The Editor:

This is in response to Timothy Clark’s letter about Gerson’s proposal (Letters, April 18 – 24).

I am also a Soho resident, and a member of A.R.T.I.S.T.

Firstly, visual artists are not illegal vendors. Through federal court cases over the last several years, we now fall under the same First Amendment protection previously allocated only to vendors of written matter (books and/or periodicals).

One key concept that Mr. Clark fails to realize is that the part of the sidewalk we set up on is public space and therefore should not be considered “valuable real estate for which they pay nothing.” Booksellers that originally enjoyed First Amendment protection also are not charged for the public places they occupy on sidewalks and in parks.

I agree that our neighborhood should not have to tolerate a wall of illegal, unlicensed general vendors. Those are the vendors at the core of the congestion problem. We are not illegal vendors, and for us, Gerson’s proposal is definitely a legal issue.

Gerson can’t remove our First Amendment status, and that is exactly what the new proposed legislation is all about. The existing laws allow police to fine, arrest, and remove illegal vendors — there is no ambiguity regarding unlicensed vendors in the existing law. There is not a single word in the new Gerson proposal that would help artists, as Mr. Clark proposes.

Ned Otter

W.T.C. art folly

To The Editor:

Re “Art Center is ‘forgotten stepchild,’ critics charge” (news article, April 18 – 24):

So, let me get this straight: The “National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center” foundation, during their fundraising for a memorial and museum to commemorate the terrorist attacks upon America, was supposed to, at the same time, ask all Americans to also contribute toward building a “performing arts center” for the benefit of Downtown New York?

Yeah, that would have worked. How about New Yorkers contribute toward building a new NASCAR track in Raleigh, N.C.?

Now, Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1, who sat on the 13-member jury that dictated a memorial concept to America, should imagine this: what if America, when being asked to donate toward the building of the jury’s memorial, was told that it must remake the site so that it does not acknowledge the attacks?

All that the American people — who should be building a performing arts center at ground zero, which, no doubt, will include art that will mock 90% of the values of those asked to build the thing — embraced as commemorating 9/11 was flat out rejected as hopelessly gauche (the iconic façade remnant the rest of America gazes at in awe? The jury called it the “potato chip.” America gazes at the facade and sees 9/11; the jury saw junk food).

All of that hopelessly literal (can you imagine?) stuff — the façade, the Sphere; how (sigh) obvious (the flag! An American flag! What are these people thinking? Haven’t they ever been to Maya Lin’s Vietnam War memorial?) — was replaced with a vast, esoteric work of art that speaks to the jury’s cherished values of narcissism and ambiguity.

The W.T.C. site is not another urban renewal project.

 Michael Burke

Center credit

To The Editor:

I want to thank the Downtown Express and Julie Shapiro for her coverage on the opening of Manhattan Youth’s Downtown Community Center (news article, April 18 – 24, “Thousands flock for a taste of the soon-to-open rec center”).  Julie gives me more than my fair share of credit for this project.  I have to say that Manhattan Youth’s dedicated staff, community members , the community planning board , our honorees, ribbon cutters, and finally my board of directors made it happen.  Without all of them I would be lost.

Finally any people stop me and ask me about what programs will take place and when they will open.  May I suggest, readers click onto www.Manhattanyouth.org and sign up for our email blasts? They should also stay tuned to the Downtown Express.

Bob Townley

Executive director, Manhattan Youth