Letters to the Editor

AAFE’s ‘post-racial rhetoric’


To The Editor:

Re “AAFE: Why it’s wrong to call rezoning plan racist” (talking point, by Chris Kui, Aug. 6):

No one likes to be called a racist, but some actions do have negative racial consequences. The East Village/Lower East Side rezoning proposal would preserve certain areas north of E. Houston St. (70 percent white residents) but upzone several blocks south of E. Houston St. (84 percent Asian, Latino and black residents). By carving up the Lower East Side, this massive rezoning change would create new development pressures on Chinatown, forcing low-income Asian and Latino tenants and small businesses to relocate.

The belated proposal by Asian Americans for Equality’s Kui for a separate Chinatown rezoning is too little and too late. Like an old-style political boss, Kui says he won’t complain about the E.V./L.E.S. rezoning, so long as East Village and Lower East Side groups don’t interfere with AAFE’s own designs on Chinatown. But if the E.V./L.E.S. rezoning plan is enacted, Asian and Latino tenants and small businesses will face even greater obstacles to slowing down the process of gentrification and the conversion of buildings from commercial to residential use.

The real question is why the City Planning Commission has ignored the most vulnerable Asian and Latino populations in Chinatown and the Lower East Side and focused its attention on the more affluent white populations north of E. Houston St. Kui may invoke post-racial rhetoric to make his political allies feel better, but the negative racial impacts of the “separate and unequal” East Village/Lower East Side rezoning plan simply cannot be ignored.

Margaret Fung

Fung is executive director, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

The buck stops with…?

To The Editor: 

Re “Square deal demands are dog-run room and a stage” (news article, Aug. 27):

Once again, blame is misplaced for the disaster at Washington Square Park. Peggy Friedman, director of the Washington Square Music Festival, is quoted as saying the Parks Department has “the final word” on the changes. On a matter of such historical importance for the Village, is that so? Who does the Parks commissioner work for?

Vahe A. Tiryakian

Surely should save shul

To The Editor: 

Re “The developers have detached, but shul debate keeps on going” (news article, Aug. 20):

The East Village Community Coalition, lead organizer of the Aug. 14 press conference, wishes all parties to play a positive role, to eliminate confusion and find a way to preserve the important community structure of Adas Yisroel Anshe Meseritz synagogue, at 415 E. Sixth St., as a vibrant shul.

How people choose to transliterate Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Poland — as Meseritz, Meserich, Meseritch or Mezritch — is irrelevant to the preservation of this historic synagogue. More important, The Villager’s characterization of the synagogue as “crumbling” is neither helpful nor accurate. E.V.C.C. does not doubt the synagogue’s need for repair and restoration, or doubt the financial burdens of the Meseritz congregation. However, there is no evidence — such as Department of Buildings filings — that this building is in danger of collapse or that it presents any other threat to safety. Indeed, disenfranchised congregants dispute the need to demolish the structure. 

Meseritz Synagogue clearly deserves designation as a New York City landmark, which E.V.C.C. has requested in collaboration with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Dr. Gerard Wolfe, credited with “rediscovery” of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, has called Mezeritz Synagogue “a jewel…an irreplaceable asset to its congregation, New York and the world. Its demolition,” Wolfe said, “would be an irretrievable, unforgivable loss.” E.V.C.C. agrees with Dr. Wolfe.

Some members of the Meseritz Synagogue, through civil and religious courts, are questioning whether its board has the authority to sell the synagogue, as it has attempted to do. Others have asked, in regard to preserving the building, “What about all those immigrants who sacrificed everything so that their townsfolk could have a shul? Who speaks for them?”

Answering this vital question is paramount to the preservation of the Lower East Side’s unparalleled immigrant history. Landmark designation, the cooperation of historic-preservation and other community groups, the efforts of neighbors and the courage of Meseritz Synagogue’s congregation must speak for a rejuvenation desired by all. 

E.V.C.C. recognizes the extraordinary dedication of Rabbi Ackerman and all those keeping Meseritz Synagogue as an operating shul. It will require work, wisdom and cooperation, but resources are certainly available to restore a building of this importance, to honor and assist those who have stewarded it, and to aid in assuring a vital future for the shul.

In this moment of opportunity, as one developer planning to demolish this historic synagogue turns away, we respectfully ask all stakeholders to engage in a constructive dialogue to achieve a wise and vibrant outcome for now and the future. 

 Kate Spaulding

Spaulding is managing director, East Village Community Coalition

Knowing right from rant

To The Editor:

Don’t you think it overdue that you stop printing over and over the petty rantings of the same individuals of divisiveness? You and we readers know who they are.

How about you put a call out to the churches, coalitions and small businesses that actively relate to the basic needs of our community, and list the “food/clothing/shelter” offerings — run by committed and unified folks.

Shine a light on that, Villager! People are hungry, and hungry to help each other.

Gail Wilcox

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 145 Sixth Ave., ground floor, NY, NY 10013. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel.