Letters to the Editor

Inaccurate Reporting

To The Editor:

I must take exception to the unattributed, inaccurate, and shoddily researched item, “No Place for Seniors to Sit,” that appeared in the “Undercover” section of the June 3rd Downtown Express. The Southbridge Towers Board of Directors authorized the construction of the fencing after a Southbridge resident was assaulted and robbed during a fight between students from Murry Bergtraum High School on May 5. The fence has served its intended purpose, which is to prevent large crowds of students, such as the group that assaulted our resident on May 5, from gathering in front of Burger King. Preventing crowd formation is our primary goal because while only a few students might be involved in an after-school altercation, the dynamics created by a large throng worsens the situation and escalates the violence. Police officers and Southbridge security guards who regularly patrol the area report that the fence has been extremely helpful in reducing the size of the student groups thus reducing the tension that is generated by these unruly crowds.

Most importantly, the “Undercover” piece was wholly inaccurate in stating that there was no place for seniors to sit at Southbridge. While this may have been the preferred sitting space of a few residents, most residents choose to sit in the beautiful inner courtyards that we have at Southbridge. It is true that some seating has been temporarily removed in front of 77 Fulton Street during construction of the Delury Square Park. However, seating in this area will be restored when the park is completed in the next month.  

If your reporter had actually done some research you could have produced a more balanced and accurate article. Instead, you relied on an anonymous source, to create an item for what you characterize as the “gossip” section of the newspaper. Fortunately, Southbridge residents have a board that communicates directly with them and do not have to rely on your newspaper to learn about how the board is working to prevent a recurrence of the dangerous crowd conditions that led to the May 5 incident.

Wally Dimson

President, Southbridge Towers Board of Directors

Keeping the facts straight

To the Editor:

Re: “Muddy resolution?” (Letter by Paul Hovitz, May 28 – June 3)

I take issue with the view expressed by my Community Board 1 colleague, Paul Hovitz, that the Board approved a mosque when it adopted a resolution regarding the proposed Cordoba House project near the World Trade Center site. Our resolution expressed support for the important public facilities that will be part of the community center portion of the project, and it specifically listed those facilities, including a 500-seat performing arts center and lecture hall, swimming pool, fitness gym, basketball court, exhibition space, art studios, library, culinary school, etc.   

The adopted resolution contains no mention of a mosque or worship facility, even though it is clear that such a worship facility will occupy one floor of the proposed 13-story structure. It would be inappropriate under the U.S. Constitution for the Board, as a quasi-governmental body, to state its approval or disapproval of a religious facility. To remove all doubt, the resolution stated, “Community Board 1 takes no position regarding the religious aspects of or any religious facilities associated with either the Cordoba Initiative or the Cordoba House Project.”        

Paul is correct in noting that the project does not require Community Board approval, but the same thing is true of the vast majority of projects that the Board chooses to review, since the Board’s role is almost exclusively advisory. Still, we frequently comment and issue resolutions on projects with proposed community amenities, and then we work with the entity developing the project to help shape those amenities in ways that are most beneficial to the community. That is what the Board elected to do here. The fact that we do not have to say “yea” or “nay” on the project as a whole gives the Board the flexibility to comment on those portions of the project where its views and its support are appropriate.   

Finally, Paul suggests that a less controversial location for the project should have been found out of “sensitivity to the families of the fallen.” A number of opponents of the project made similar statements during the public portion of the Community Board meeting last week. But none of those opponents showed any sensitivity to our peaceful Muslim neighbors, who lost members of their community on 9/11 as well, but who were reviled as terrorists and were screamed at and insulted in every conceivable way as they tried to speak by the numerous hooligans who were present at the meeting. No one apologized to them, and even those project opponents who spoke in more moderate tones implied that they were guilty of something. 

Law-abiding, peaceful Muslims in our community should not feel any personal guilt, or have anyone suggest they should, regarding the acts of terrorists who committed atrocities in the name of their religion, any more than I should have felt guilt as a Protestant growing up in the South regarding the terrorist acts of the KKK (Protestants who used religion to justify their acts in the name of protecting racial purity). A Muslim facility near the World Trade Center site should be no less welcome than one of any other religion.  

Bill Love