Letters to the Editor

Landmark disregard

To The Editor:

Julie Shapiro’s excellent article, “Safety & preservation alarms raised after building collapses” (news article, May 8 – 14), highlights our city’s ironic disregard for Tribeca’s architectural legacy. Tribeca today might not be the popular destination neighborhood it has become without the sense of place created by the area’s incredibly diverse mix of historic mid-1800’s commercial structures. Despite the protection theoretically afforded by designation of the Tribeca historic districts over a decade ago, these architectural gems today seem more at risk than out of danger.

The building collapse at 71 Reade St. underscores Andrew Berman’s comment that the city needs to do a better job of protecting landmarks. There is indeed a “terrible flaw in the system” when a building owner’s disregard of building violations (as well as ignoring visible cracks showing structural stress and destabilization) led to the collapse of historic structures. What is worse is that the city then sweeps in to demolish what remains rather than demand a full restoration.

In many cities — Paris, London, Prague, Vienna and countless others — such practices are unheard of. The inherent value and importance of any city’s architectural legacy, to both residents and visitors, is paramount. Structures damaged or harmed by renovations or redevelopment are faithfully preserved and restored, retaining a streetscape’s beauty or a neighborhood’s distinguishing features. Here in New York, the damage is quickly cleared away, leaving yet another gaping hole in the streetscape. That practice is wrong.

Such losses carry economic costs far beyond the obvious cultural toll. Each collapse, destabilization or demolition reduces the worth of adjacent properties, diminishes the area’s appeal for historic tourism and damages the character and sense of place that residents value. Revenue-providing film crews will be less drawn to a block with missing teeth.

New York City’s Buildings Department, perhaps adept at issuing violations but not enforcing them, has yet to work cooperatively with the Landmarks Preservation Commission on a long list of protective issues. As much as our theoretically tech-savvy mayor touts his business acumen, advances such as an integrated computer system have not seemed to facilitate communication between them. Perhaps that is by design.

Developers left to monitor their own work are clearly unable or unwilling to protect their own (or adjacent) historic structures. As new construction on top of, next to, around (or in place of) historic structures continues at a fever pitch, such losses will continue. Without immediate changes by the city, many other important historic structures are in danger. The mayor must direct the Buildings Department and Landmarks Commission to act decisively and quickly to protect our city’s architectural heritage. Time is not on their side.

Hal Bromm

Former president and current advisory board member of the Historic Districts Council, co-chairperson of the Committee to Expand Tribeca Historic Districts

Ballfield progress

To The Editor:

The steady erosion of the quality of life at the overcrowded and construction-beset ballfields are, as noted in Julie Shapiro’s fine front-page story, a challenge for the whole community (news article, May 8 –14, “It’s not safe at home, Little League says”).  In this connection, I wanted to note two very recent pieces of good news:

First, the Battery Park City Authority, after consultation with Downtown Little League, has begun to install additional fencing to make the fields a safer place.  We applaud the authority’s willingness to address the issue of field safety at that increasingly popular and densely packed parkland.

Second, Roseland Properties and Plaza Construction, operators of the jobsite along the ballfield’s eastern edge, recently announced a proposed construction schedule contemplating minimal weekday and weekend overlap with community users for the rest of the spring 2009 season, together with additional significant safety upgrades.  We thank both Roseland and Plaza for the seriousness they have thus far displayed on the issue of construction safety at the ballfields.

Mark Costello

Director, Downtown Little League

Intelligence failures

To The Editor:

Sunday, on “Face the Nation,” former Vice President Cheney said that under the Obama administration the nation, is less safe then it was when under the Bush administration. Once again he underscored how great his former administration really was in protecting this nation. He is quoted as saying “that intelligence operations under the Bush administration potentially saved hundreds of thousands of lives after 9/11.”  There were nearly 3,000 people murdered eight months into the Bush-Cheney presidency. Diligent Intelligence should not have started on Sept. 12, 2001 or after the invasion of Iraq.  Heightened warnings were coming in months before 9/11. Indicative of them was the August 6, 2001 presidential daily briefing titled “ Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within the United States.”   My only brother, Kenneth Zelman, was working in the North Tower on 9/11 and did not come home. To brag about what didn’t happen after 9/11 is disingenuous to our families.

Barry Zelman

Comments from online:

“With no place to move buses, city slows waterfront project” (news article, posted May 7:

I realize it would be an expensive proposition, but is it at all plausible to construct a jukebox-like storage facility just for buses? Tokyo has a number of above ground car versions, and I’ve heard of at least one underground jukebox. If earthquake-prone Tokyo can do this underground for cars, rock-solid Lower Manhattan ought to be able to do this for large buses. Granted, this would be a construction challenge, but the final product would have a very small footprint. I encourage consideration of such, as I’m sure this will be pursued & implemented elsewhere, in the not-too-distant future.


The answer is obvious to me. Stop looking at buses as the only people mover on the surface streets. Street cars — on rails — that loop through Lower Manhattan would move the people and not require parking. A lot less pollution too. Tour companies could have street rail cars integrated into a streetcar system. But if you insist on buses, think buses barges — and park the buses on the river. Still, I think the problem is that planners are focusing only on buses and not on other means of mass transport to accommodate moving millions of people. I never read news about a pedestrian plan for Lower Manhattan, it is not a very large tip of the island, walking is also means of transportation….


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.