Letters to the Editor

Former newsman on Pagan


To The Editor:

Re “A complex legacy: Friends and foes reflect on Pagan” (news article, Feb. 11):

Just read your analysis/obituary for Antonio Pagan and wanted to tell you I thought it was a very good piece. I covered him in City Hall and he was a very complex figure. Irascible, funny, sneaky, disingenuous, very smart, tenacious, informed, hardworking, willing to exploit and be exploited by Giuliani.

I remember when the anarchists/Yippies/squatters/whatever had these fliers all around calling for the disruption of the inauguration of the “fascist gangster” Antonio Pagan.

To this day, I cannot tell you if I was a fan of his. You wrote a complex encomium to a complex man. Good work. 


Bob Liff

We all cared, and all lost


To The Editor:

Re “A complex legacy: Friends and foes reflect on Pagan” (news article, Feb. 11):

Well, I didn’t think you could do it, but it is a fair and balanced article. It won’t satisfy the haters, but then nothing will. But it should be recognized that all of us, on both sides, deeply cared for our neighborhood and were willing to fight for it. And all of us have lost.

Howard Hemsley

Pagan made park safe


To The Editor: 

Re “A complex legacy: Friends and foes reflect on Pagan” (news article, Feb. 11):

When I was a new mother on the Lower East Side I thanked Antonio Pagan for making Tompkins Square Park a place where I could bring my babies. One of my daughter’s first Spanish expressions was “Basta, Mommy!” Maybe all his ideas were not mainstream, but diversity of opinion is important in all communities. I was sorry to read about his decline and I hope he is at peace.

Emily Armstrong

Cookie’s just tip of iceberg


To The Editor:

Re “Panthers vow to shut down ‘Negro Head’ cookie baker” (news article, Feb. 4):

Racism has real impact on people’s lives; it kills, it hurts, it spoils our world. If you’ve ever seen the face or been the face of someone who gets targeted that way, you know. You know you don’t want it anywhere near you or the people you love or hope to love.

Good for the Black Panthers for standing against it. Good for the neighborhood for acknowledging those cookies as sheer racism and for not patronizing a business that would profit from it. No excuse avoids our responsibility for the racism we carry. But belittling the guy who wears his overtly, begs the question. It may feel easier for those of us who are white to point at this individual, distancing ourselves from his version of racism, harder to face our own.

You don’t grow up in this culture and not absorb its lessons. Whether you are the one “privileged” by racism or the one who is dealt the blunt force of it, you get the message.

Racism isn’t caused by “stupidity,” though it makes us act stupidly. It is caused and kept in motion by unaware or deliberate misinformation, enormous hurt and institutionalized policies. No one escapes its effects.

It is essential that racism be interrupted, but raining down condemnation on any one person who carries it masquerades as respite from its poisonous effect on every one of us. Really, the place to start cleaning house is in our own minds.


K Webster

Wake up and smell the cookies


To The Editor:

Re “The Secret Service grills baker; Cookie protest remains chippy, but he says he already apologized” (news article, Feb. 11):

That 90-year-old black woman is the perfect metaphor for the America that Kefalinos craves — one where you can grossly disrespect black people, and they still think you’re a nice guy because you let them sit down every now and then.

But the poetic justice of this situation is that it is Kefalinos’s very own racist disposition that’s going to create his personal, and very agonizing, hell. Because the world as he would have it is rapidly changing, and every time he sees President Obama’s beautifully intelligent face, it’s going to be like a dagger through his heart.

And I have a very strong feeling that by the time Obama is done, the American people are going to love him so much they’re going to want to elect Michelle just to keep them in town.

Eric L. Wattree

Agents intimidated baker


To The Editor:

Re “The Secret Service grills baker; Cookie protest remains chippy, but he says he already apologized” (news article, Feb. 11):

I hope I am not the only one appalled by the level of intimidation that is implied when Secret Service agents are reported as having interviewed the maker of those controversial Obama cookies.

There was a time when liberals were concerned about the frightening growth of what they called the imperial presidency. Did that worry disappear on Jan. 20?


Thomas McGonigle

Gold gets it right


To The Editor:

Re “So much rides on Israeli prime minister election” (talking point, by Ed Gold, Feb. 4):

I often write letters that are critical. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate The Villager and to thank you for publishing Mr. Gold’s elucidating column.

Israeli right-wing ambitions have dragged Israel, the U.S. and so many in the Middle East through a hell of all kinds these past 60 years.

It is little comfort that so many understand the issues so well, but it is a comfort nonetheless.

Wanting peace and justice, but more, resolving it, will take a humanity miracle.


Frank Merritt

Not in Strouse’s name!


To The Editor:

Re “Evelyn Strouse, 92, fiesty doyenne of Union Square” (obituary, Feb. 4):

Thank you for Al Amateau’s lovely obituary of Evelyn Strouse.

I worked closely with Evelyn at the Union Square Community Coalition up until her retirement. Anyone who was on U.S.C.C. at that time knew very well where Evelyn stood on the controversy over the redesign of Union Square’s north end. It was a nonissue: She accepted having a cafe as part of the overall design, and then went on to use her formidible energies on other important issues surrounding the square, such as zoning, pedestrian safety, low-income housing and other quality-of-life concerns.

Evelyn would be ashamed to know what U.S.C.C. has become after all the years of good work she put toward building it into a well-respected organization. It is now a group with only a single cause — to rid the park of a cafe — and has not done anything positive in the years since Gail Fox and I resigned as co-chairpersons. They haven’t had one children’s carnival, one forum on a topic other than the cafe — no contributions at all that I can see toward the betterment of our community. They have ruined U.S.C.C.’s good name, and insulted Evelyn’s work. Evelyn asked that I carry on running U.S.C.C. as she thought about retiring. I am now also ashamed of the present U.S.C.C., of which I am not currently a member.

If not for Evelyn, there likely would not be a new playground taking shape in Union Square Park’s north end. She was one of the few who listened to my plea to improve the playground at Union Square. At U.S.C.C. she hired the first landscape architect to draw up plans for a new playground, which got the ball rolling to improve the entire north end. I think the city owes her a debt of gratitude and should name the playground after her: Evelyn’s Playground.

Susan Kramer

Evelyn was a-maze-ing

To The Editor:

Re “Evelyn Strouse, 92, fiesty doyenne of Union Square” (obituary, Feb. 4):

Evelyn Strouse has my eternal gratitude for helping introduce “Our Labyrinth” to Union Square, where my three paintings on the north end were from 1999 to 2008. I dedicate my dream to realize a New York City pavement labyrinth to her visionary spirit.

Diana Carulli

Grateful for Penley’s work


To The Editor:

Re “Quiet buyout” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Feb. 4):

The tenants of 47 E. Third St. have always had the greatest respect and admiration for John Penley and the courageous way he has been fighting the rapid gentrification of the Lower East Side. It is unfortunate that incorrect statements about us and him made it into Scoopy’s Notebook.

We have been grateful for his support in our fight against the mass evictions and our landlord’s plan to allegedly turn a 15-family tenement into a mansion for three. The decision to settle was not easy, and we would have much rather stayed in our homes, but the financial circumstances left us no choice. Financially, we were no match for a landlord who seems to thrive on litigation and who, along with his family, has litigated many other tenants besides us out of their homes in the many other tenements the Yatrakises/Economakises own.

Hopefully, some day the corrupt politics of money will come to an end, and the greed heads who brought us the foreclosures, the evictions and the layoffs will no longer be running the show. Hopefully, Albany will not continue to write laws paid for and according to Big Real Estate. The John Penleys are desperately needed to help bring about this change.


Ursula Kinzel

Kinzel is president, 47 E. Third St. Tenants Association

High-rise high anxiety


To The Editor:

Re “Variance by the High Line is a meaty issue at C.B. 2” and “The High Line factor” (news article and editorial, Feb. 4): 

As a subscriber, I want to thank you for the detailed article and illustration and editorial on the Romanoffs’ application for variances in connection with a very large project on 13th St. in the Meat Market district, just a few blocks west of my residence at Horatio St. and Eighth Ave. 

One point: You seem to buy in to the applicants’ suggestion that the project involves only a 12-story building. You repeat this point in the article and the editorial. But the article notes that the building would be 215 feet tall. That seems to me more like a 20-story building. (I count 14 or 15 stories on the architect’s rendering itself.) And that’s the problem: Another gigantic tower sticking up out of a low-rise area and visible from nearby neighborhoods detracts tremendously from the ambience of these historical areas, which will become like holes in the donut with the proliferation of inappropriate high-rise structures surrounding them.

I suggest the Meatpacking District Initiative’s apparent approval of the proposal reflects their business interests and not the interests of the residents of the neighborhood.

Given what’s happened on Greenwich Ave. opposite the building in which I live, where the One Jackson Square project is nearing completion, I would take the illustrations of the building in the Meat Market controversy with a grain of salt. The One Jackson Square building was presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the public in a model that showed it as light and airy, as did early advertising. Alas, the reality is different: Its multitude of windows are of a very dark glass and their frames and the cladding on the concrete slab floors/ceilings are all black, making it a very ominous and depressing, oversized and out-of-place structure (oversized after all the developer’s requests for variances were miraculously granted).


Richard Mathews 

Editor’s note: In the latest design rendering, the building, though indeed 215 feet tall, actually appears to be 13 stories, with another story on top of that housing mechanical systems. The building apparently has very high ceilings combined with, on the rooftop, tall mechanicals and a tall rooftop parapet wall.

Poe-palooza is ongoing


To The Editor:

Re “Poe birthday party pooper” (letter, by Marilyn Stults, Jan. 28):

The 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth is certainly reason to celebrate. Why only remember Poe on his bicentennial? As the volunteer community director of the Poe Room at New York University, I work hard to bring the university and community together in honor of the life, times and works of Edgar Allan Poe. I do extensive outreach to promote these events with the ideas and suggestions of community members.

We’ve been able to produce free events with lovely receptions where the community can chat and share their interest in Poe. Past events have included book signings, performances, scholarly lectures and creative interpretations of Poe’s pieces. During our most recent event in November, community members and N.Y.U. students interpreted Poe’s works and read his poetry to a packed lecture hall. The event was followed by a reception, where audience members and participants were able to experience the Poe Room, which houses artifacts and a comprehensive, illustrated timeline of his life. Suggestions and new ideas on how to celebrate Poe are always welcome!

I am thankful to the activists who fought to have Poe’s memory honored at N.Y.U., including the first community director of the Poe Room, my friend and neighbor Adrienne Goldberg, whose artwork is featured in the Poe Room.

Please look for an ad in The Villager with details about our spring 2009 Poe 200th birthday gathering. We hope readers of The Villager who cherish the works of Edgar Allan Poe will join us for our ongoing celebration of Poe’s life and times.

Lois Rakoff

Rakoff is community director, the Poe Room at New York University

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. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.