Letters to the Editor

Let Urstadt pay

To The Editor:

Re “Authority releases report on proposed condo deal” (news article, Dec. 12 – 18):

I suggest to Charles Urstadt that since he is so concerned about the loss of funds to N.Y.C., he should institute a ground rent program in the building he is currently living in, to “smooth over” the hard time for the city.

Clearly if you look at the numbers shown in the article, there is an extreme disparity in what Battery Park City pays into the coffers of N.Y.C. both in ground rent and “PILOT” (real estate taxes). I applaud Mr. Urstadt’s concern and caring — I also suggest he put his money where his mouth is.

Denis Timm

B.P.C. condo owner

C.B. 1 evades, Landmarks protects

To The Editor:

 Three cheers for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission for their analysis of General Growth Properties’ plan to revamp the Seaport (news article, Nov. 21 – 27, “Landmarks Commission slams Seaport project despite city support”).

 While Community Board 1 dropped its mantle as protector of landmarks and preserver of community history by narrowly approving the plan, the commission stood tall.

 It described the plan as inappropriate and criticized the modern, glossy design. You paraphrased Commissioner Margery Perlmutter as saying “the historic Seaport is a gritty jumble of small, low-scale construction with warm metal and stone,” while SHoP’s design, in her words, is “shopping mall-esque.” These are just some of the reported comments the commissioners made.  However it should be noted that no vote was taken on the proposal to move the landmarked Tin Building in order to erect a 500-foot tower on the waterfront.  This move is crucial to the plan to build a skyscraper.  This tower will have 78 residences, further straining the limited resources of this historic area.

 It is true that the chair of C.B. 1 said that the board will have a chance to vote on the skyscraper under the ULURP process.  But that is evading the issue.  If the board had voted down the plan to move the Tin Building, the ULURP would have become moot.

 Those of us who care about this historic and very special waterfront area must be careful and vigilant because the commission did not vote.

 The Economic Development Corporation has declared this project to be “of great importance to the community and the city.” Therefore we can expect the mayor’s office to go to work, even as General Growth Properties nears bankruptcy.

 Preservationists, conservationists…BEWARE!

 Joseph Lerner

Member of Community Board 1

Not secure

To The Editor:

Running streets through the World Trade Center site will actually open it up more to further terrorist attacks such as vehicle bombs (Letter, Dec. 12 – 18, “W.T.C. insecurity”).  For the past seven years, the people did not want streets even running through it at all, yet the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. decided on it anyway.  Another possible terrorist attack can be done in the garage that is being planned for tour buses.  There were even studies suggesting that if the Twin Towers were built without updated safety modifications that they would be safer than the Freedom Tower and the rest of what is planned.  Overall, the official plan just brings new issues of security.

Tal Barzilai

Pleasantville, N.Y.

Adding to island waste

To The Editor:

Re “Firefighter, preservationists are burning over island firehouse closing” (news article, Dec. 12 – 18)

 The never-ending insular political posturing with regard to the re-utilization of Governors Island is incredible and has been so for a dozen years. Why not cut the nonsense and get on with incorporating this island as a national symbol of 21st-century relevance into America’s National Heritage Triangle — a triad of uniquely iconic islands in New York Harbor as priceless reflections of American ideals and of great tourism value to the state and city? By embracing the Tolerance Park and its centerpiece — the Tolerance Monument as beacon to humanity — New Yorkers and all Americans can have something of meaning and substance for future generations (www.TolerancePark.org).

Must we waste, again, well over 100 million in tax dollars in the next decade through endless petty games and obstructions in the quest for the preservation and promotion of personal (political) power and control?

How many fire stations do we need in the Adirondacks — then how many on a deserted island policed by an army of federal and state guards? Really, is Lower Manhattan an easier terrorist target without a firehouse on Governors Island? And why transform the island into a meaningless extension of the Hudson River Park with a promenade that severs forever the island from a natural shoreline? Why exactly is more than $9 million allocated in New York State’s 2009 budget to a group of activists advocating such a permanent barrier? What better inviting and stimulating destination than our Tolerance Park project which calls for a naturally sloping water’s edge – all for the common good and in the public interest. Why not?

 Joep de Koning

President of Foundation for Historic New Amsterdam, which has proposed building Tolerance Park on Governors Island.


Memorial mistakes

To The Editor:

Re “Working to open the memorial as soon as we can” by Joe Daniels (Progress Report, Nov. 21 –27):

This memorial, which does not commemorate Sept. 11, 2001, will cost at least $1 billion. There has been no recent word on how much it will cost to maintain its approximately 4,000 feet of waterfalls and hundreds of trees. Previous estimates by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. were $50 million a month. It can reasonably be assumed that it will cost twice that; perhaps much more.

In two meetings I attended with the L.M.D.C., builder Frank Sciame, brought in by Gov. Pataki to restrain the project’s costs, described the waterfalls as “so loud as to be headache producing” and “impossible to stand near for any length of time.”

It will not be done by 09/11/11; the underground, out of sight museum, New York’s first and only such hidden museum, will not be done for years after that.

This memorial design was rejected by the public by nearly two to one; see www.imaginenyc.org. The public demanded the return of the authentic artifacts.

One anniversary, while standing on bedrock, architect Michael Arad told me that there can be no history returned to the site; that would be “didactic.” In other words, to acknowledge the attacks at the site they happened would be “moralizing.”

Make no mistake: it was the purpose of the memorial jury, led by Vartan Gregorian, James E. Young and Michael Van Valekenberg to eradicate that history from the place that it happened. That is why this memorial concept was dictated: To eliminate for all time, 9/11 from the national consciousness.

Future generations are to stand on that site and learn nothing of it. It will be as if it never happened.

Downtown residents should not support this memorial and museum design. The world comes to the W.T.C. for 9/11, not for trees and waterfalls. Not finding it, they will turn away and not come back. With the meltdown of Wall St., Downtown cannot afford that.

Every American, every decent, fair-minded human being everywhere has an equal stake in genuinely preserving 9/11. Still, I believe that history has determined that 9/11 family members bear a greater responsibility. So do Downtown residents. We share that. And you, more than anyone will be its guardians. It was your neighborhood. We cannot, must not let a handful dispose of 9/11 for their own small, selfish purposes. We can do better and we can do so by 09/11/11.

Michael Burke

Brother of F.D.N.Y. Capt. William F. Burke, Jr., killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and a member of the L.M.D.C.’s family advisory committee on the memorial and the museum

Move Police Plaza

To The Editor:

New York City and State must pitch the construction of a new N.Y.P.D. headquarters as part of the economic revitalization plan.

The Obama administration’s stated goal of massive funding of public works programs provides an excellent opportunity for New York City and New York State to address a continuing problem in Lower Manhattan: The presence of police headquarters in its present location.  In today’s world, no planner would have even considered putting N.Y.P.D.’s headquarters at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, on top of M.T.A. subway tracks, and next to several large roadways in Lower Manhattan.

Building a new police headquarters away from densely populated neighborhoods would be a win-win for everyone.  The N.Y.P.D. would get new, modern facilities that can be designed from the outset for security (the current headquarters was built in the early ’70s).  Lower Manhattan would be able to design proper roadways for vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.  The current headquarter campus, with a footprint of well over 15 acres in Lower Manhattan and now largely closed to the public, could be converted back to public spaces and its nearly 1,000 indoor garage spaces could be turned back into a municipal parking garage that would serve much of Lower Manhattan.  Police headquarters most likely has massive telecommunication facilities that could be used to serve a first-class CUNY or SUNY research facility.  Or it can be used as a data center for financial corporations or Internet companies like Amazon or Google — its facilities potentially used to promote electronic commerce with the growing economies of the Far East.  The possibilities are endless.  Our elected officials only need to seize the opportunity and cut through the Gordian Knot of security vs. vitality that we are currently confronted with.

Danny Chen

Board Member Chatham Green Cooperative, member Civic Center Residents Coalition

Stop Chatham plan

To The Editor:

Re “Defying the shouts, city says full speed on Chatham Square” (news article, Dec. 5 –11):

D.O.T. needs to step on the brakes! Before Luis Sanchez of the D.O.T. “shockingly” announced that the city was going to proceed with its summer 2009 schedule to start the Chatham Square reconstruction at this meeting, traffic expert Brian Ketcham and Councilman Alan Gerson had already stated that the city and D.O.T. had not done their homework with regard to pedestrian safety, and, that the Chatham Square proposal was, as Gerson said, “very much a work in progress.”

If the D.O.T. has true concerns regarding pedestrian safety in Chinatown, it would first address the notorious Canal St./Bowery traffic hotspot for accidents and fatalities, located just two blocks north of Chatham Square. The current design of Chatham Square has already proven itself to be better than the old design pre-1999, with far fewer accidents and fatalities than Canal St. So, in this time of recession, why fix Chatham Square for $50 million when it ain’t broke?

The proposed redesign of Chatham Square includes a huge bump out plaza at the end of the Bowery, physically blocking Park Row and cutting off fire engines and emergency vehicles from the quickest access route of the Bowery to Park Row and St. James Pl. to Downtown Hospital (the only full service hospital serving all of Lower Manhattan below 14th St.). At the meeting two weeks ago there were no D.O.T. models showing how the proposed narrowing of the Bowery to two lanes could accommodate large articulated buses making multiple turns and their potential effect on emergency response times.

The Chatham Square proposal does not adequately address the increased economic strains that years of construction would impose upon Chinatown businesses, nor does the plan adequately address real safety issues. Both the city and D.O.T. need to step on the brakes, go back to the drawing board, and let’s not dangerously block the (re)opening of Park Row.

Geoff Lee

Letters policy

Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any affiliation that relates directly to the letter’s subject matter. Letters should be less than 300 words. Downtown Express reserves the right to edit letters for space, clarity, civility or libel reasons. Letters should be e-mailed to news@DowntownExpress.com or can be mailed to 145 Sixth Ave., N.Y., N.Y. 10013.