Letters to the Editor

Helping small businesses


To The Editor:

You often hear elected officials say that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. But, unfortunately, we haven’t always backed up that statement with a real commitment to supporting our small businesses. 

New York City’s 220,000 small businesses account for 50 percent of all private-sector employment. And in tough financial times, when so many boom industries have gone bust, we’ll need to depend even more on these businesses to fuel growth and employment. 

The City Council has spoken to business owners around the city, and asked them: “What can we do to help you?” We’ve taken some of their answers, and folded them into a three-pronged economic development plan we’re calling, “Open for Business.” 

First, we’ll make it easier for new businesses to start up.   

Opening a business can require more than a dozen permits from a variety of city agencies. To cut down on the paperwork, we’ll create a single, combined application that folks can file on the Web. And since all the permitting fees can add up, we’ll waive the costs for the next 12 months to encourage new businesses to open. 

Another obstacle for new businesses is the many inspections the city requires. Since each agency visits separately, a business could remain shuttered for weeks or months, just waiting for that one last inspection. So we’re working with the Bloomberg administration to coordinate inspections, and have every possible agency come on the same day. 

The second part of our plan is to support businesses that already exist, by keeping more local dollars in our local economy. 

Whenever the city buys a product or procures a service, we’re required by state law to take the lowest bid — even if that means sending taxpayer dollars across the country. We’ll work to change that law, so we can use a qualified local company, particularly one that’s woman or minority owned.  We might spend a little more on the front end, but we’ll support local jobs and ultimately create additional revenue. 

And finally, we’ll take steps to keep government out of the way of small business growth. 

For example, we’ll establish a temporary amnesty for businesses with outstanding violations. If a small business comes forward during this time and demonstrates that they’ve corrected the underlying problem, we’ll waive their late fees and develop a payment plan. We’ll make sure fines aren’t dragging these businesses down, and get millions of dollars flowing into city coffers.

With these three common-sense proposals — help businesses open, get them more business and stay out of the way — we’ll help get New Yorkers working, and keep small businesses the engine of our economic growth. 

Chris Quinn

Quinn is speaker, New York City Council, and councilmember, Third District

Umm, make that ‘scofflaw’

To The Editor

Re “It’s time to ‘take back’ old P.S. 64, activists cry,” (news article, March 11):

Thank you for the coverage of the rally to save the old P.S. 64/CHARAS on Mon., March 9. For clarity’s sake, I would like it to be noted that I stated in my remarks that New York City had acted to preserve the building as an individual landmark under the Landmarks Law and how its continued neglect was in direct violation of that law, therefore making the parties responsible for the neglect scofflaws or violators; in point of fact, the enforcement agents of the L.P.C. are called “violations officers.” I did not mean to imply any illegal or criminal activity on the part of the owners other than in that sense.

The Historic Districts Council was also not aware of specifics of the L.P.C.’s recent enforcement activities with regard to the old P.S. 64. Knowing its deterioration had been of deep community concern for a number of years, we presumed that warning letters had been issued at the very least. While disappointed that the city has not taken stronger action thus far, H.D.C. is pleased to learn from the article that a recent structural inspection has been done at the L.P.C.’s request, and that, unless weatherproofing for the building is secured, more robust measures, such as fines, are being actively contemplated. We applaud this move and urge the L.P.C. and the city to act to remedy this situation as soon as possible, and to help bring this landmark building back to life.

 Simeon Bankoff

Bankoff is executive director, Historic Districts Council

Converted on St. Vincent’s 


To The Editor:

Re “Landmarks gives hospital tower clean bill of health” (news article, March 11): 

We wish to thank The Villager for its fair, thorough and equitable coverage of the St. Vincent’s Hospital proposals. We were originally strongly opposed to the initial proposals. Thanks to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Community Board 2, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, state Senator Tom Duane, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Borough President Scott Stringer, state Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and, we hope, our efforts as well, the proposals were significantly modified to meet many community concerns.

As an important part of the total package, a new public school facility for our community’s children has been arranged by the Rudin family, with financial backstopping by Rudin, to provide additional desperately needed classroom space. The hospital building has been modified several times, to reduce height and bulk to the extent possible; and the proposal on the hospital’s east campus for new residential housing to be built by the Rudin family now saves the four key historic buildings, which will be repurposed for housing, as part of the overall proposed complex. The proposed housing complex will finance a considerable portion of the costs to construct the new 21st-century St. Vincent’s Hospital. 

We believe the litigation to block the actions of the Landmarks Preservation Commission is not in the best interests of Greenwich Village and the surrounding communities, and we do not believe the litigants will prevail. Through community pressure and negotiations, we feel we have achieved the best balance possible to protect both the historic district and the historic mission of the Sisters of Charity to maintain a viable St. Vincent’s Hospital in our community.

We will support the east campus proposals as may be modified by the L.P.C., a commission for which we have great respect and appreciation. We believe the litigants are more driven by a “not in my backyard” mentality than by clearly thought-through concerns for the Greenwich Village community, which clearly needs a viable 21st-century St. Vincent’s Hospital. We respect the rights of the litigants to view things differently. 

Gil Horowitz

Horowitz is president, Washington Square-Lower Fifth Ave. Community Association, Inc.

What have I done? A lot


To The Editor:

Re “Scoopy shockers” (letter, by Howard Hemsley, March 4):

I would like to thank Mr. Howard Hemsley for his recent letter and this opportunity to address some of his concerns.

In response to his query, my service and dedication to the district dates back to 1981. 

I spent three years as a police officer on the Lower East Side in the 1980s as a member of the Manhattan South Task Force. This unit removed hundreds of guns and millions of dollars in drugs off the street, making the area livable again.

I next spent 10 years as a firefighter on the Lower East Side during the squatter epidemic. My firehouse worked closely with local elected officials in ensuring both the public safety and the due-process rights of the squatters.

In addition, for 20 years, I served in the U.S. Coast Guard assigned to protecting New York Harbor, and 15 of those years serving on Governors Island.  As a matter of fact, I was the last operational watch-stander for the captain of the port before the island was closed. I was proud to have received the Humanitarian Service Award while a member of this fine organization.

More recently, as an attorney, a considerable amount of my practice consists of pro-bono work.  For example, I represented an out-of-state first responder to the World Trade Center, who suffers from exposure-related thyroid tumors. He initially contacted Councilmember Gerson’s office and was ignored. Subsequently, he saw me on national television discussing the ill effects of World Trade Center exposure, contacted me, and I was successful in obtaining the necessary medical treatment he sought. Additionally, I have spent hundreds of hours uncovering asbestos contamination in our public schools. 

In contrast, as Mr. Hemsley notes, Gerson, in addressing a request for assistance by a constituent fighting an eviction proceeding, merely writes a letter to the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. The tenant was evicted. Thank you, Mr. Hemsley for making the case that new leadership is needed in the City Council. I think the district needs more from a councilmember than a form letter to a housing organization. Making matters worse, according to Gotham Gazette, Gerson has one of the most abysmal attendance records in the City Council.

In contrast, my accomplishments are devoid of such documentary posturing, but rather rest on their positive outcome. It is this results-oriented agenda that I will bring to the City Council.

  Pete Gleason

Other sides of Tatum


To The Editor:

Re “Wilbert Tatum, 76, publisher, longtime East Villager” (obituary, March 11):

Bill Tatum was also a supporter of BASTA! and played an important role in our fight to humanize the conditions at the Third St. Men’s Shelter. My favorite memory of him is as Santa Claus distributing presents to neighborhood kids in the shelter yard as part of Lights of Hope holiday celebration. May he rest in peace.

 Howard Hemsley

Pagan instigated riot


To The Editor:

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

Antonio Pagan was a brilliant man, but also a petty and personally vindictive one who did not embody the values of the majority of residents of the Lower East Side. He was an advocate for landlords and big business and a close associate of Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Mr. Pagan’s decisions closed community gardens and community centers and evicted residents, while driving up rents in what is still fundamentally a poor and struggling neighborhood. He was also directly involved in instigating a police riot in Tompkins Square Park on Aug. 6, 1988, that caused hundreds of injuries to local residents. That riot happened because Mr. Pagan and others made secret decisions about the rights of homeless people living in the park, while conspiring with police officials behind the back of the community.

Mr. Pagan will not be missed as a political leader in our neighborhood, but most feel sorrow that a young man should be cut down in his prime. My condolences to his family — but all the poor people who suffered because of Mr. Pagan’s desire to have, as he once said, “my piece of the rock,” deserve condolence as well.

Paul DeRienzo

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.