Letters to the Editor

N.Y.U.’s ‘curious arguments’

To The Editor:

Re “There is a lot at stake: Why N.Y.U. must build here” (talking point, by John Beckman, Oct. 28); and “See ya later C6-1; New rezonings O.K.’d for East and West” (news article, Oct. 28):

Thank you to The Villager for your coverage of the successful effort by community groups to get rid of the inappropriate C6-1 zoning districts in the East Village and Far West Village. The coincidence of timing with New York University’s talking point in favor of its massive and massively unpopular 20-year expansion plan, “NYU 2031,” caught my eye, however. In the midst of John Beckman’s curious arguments about how N.Y.U’s proposal is actually good for the Village, he neglected to mention that the university’s plan is based on a rezoning of nine blocks to almost exactly the same zoning district we just abolished from the Village’s East and West sides. (N.Y.U. is seeking a change to a C6-2 zone for these blocks, which is almost identical to the C6-1 zone just removed except that it actual allows a greater density of some kinds of development.)

The flaws in Mr. Beckman’s arguments are too numerous to list here, but let me speak to just a few of the biggest ones. As is typical, Mr. Beckman seeks to paint the opposition to N.Y.U.’s plans as limited to one individual (me) or one group (the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation). While I am proud of G.V.S.H.P.’s vocal leadership on this issue, the reality is that at several public hearings on N.Y.U.’s plan held during the last six months, hundreds and hundreds of individuals have testified against the plan, while not a single individual has spoken in favor of it. The Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031, a coalition of more than 30 community groups (of which G.V.S.H.P. is a founding member) has spoken equally forcefully against the plan. And the plan directly contradicts almost every recommendation of the Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development, a group which N.Y.U. met with for almost four years before releasing this plan — a dialogue which the university claims helped shape its final product.

N.Y.U. has been trying to assert that its massive expansion plan will somehow follow in the teachings of Jane Jacobs. I don’t think anyone can or should claim to speak for someone who is no longer among us to defend his or her viewpoint. But I can say that Jane Jacobs was quite strong in her writing in warning about the expansionist tendencies of institutions like N.Y.U. and their destructive impact. And while Jane Jacobs was clearly not a huge fan of the “tower in the park” design motif, I am skeptical that N.Y.U.’s plan to change it to a “tower in the tower in the tower” arrangement would have been much more to her liking.

Finally, Mr. Beckman claims that it is unrealistic to ask N.Y.U. to consider other locations for its expansion plans, like the Financial District, where it would be welcome and contextual, likening it to asking someone to put their kitchen in another neighborhood. But nothing could be further from the truth. As Mr. Beckman knows, the 10-minute subway ride or half-hour walk from the Financial District to the Village is absolutely typical of the commuting times from one end of campus to another at colleges across the country; it certainly was at my own small New England liberal arts college, which was about one-twentieth the size of N.Y.U.

The recent community-friendly rezonings in the East Village and Far West Village were a triumph of common sense and good planning over greed. Let’s hope the N.Y.U. expansion plan is reviewed with the same logic.

Andrew Berman

Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

The elephant in the column

To The Editor:

Re “There is a lot at stake: Why N.Y.U. must build here” (talking point, by John Beckman, Oct. 28):

John Beckman’s defense of New York University’s proposal to build on its properties near Washington Square would be more persuasive if the plan did not include a 400-foot hotel tower and privatization of treasured public open space. N.Y.U. is not simply seeking to build on its own property: it’s proposal is to annex city-owned land and to replace residential zoning that reflects the history and life of our neighborhood with commercial zoning typical of Midtown commercial districts. N.Y.U. can find a way to thrive without doing harm to the special neighborhood on which its success is built

Tobi Bergman

Killing the golden goose

To The Editor:

Re “There is a lot at stake: Why N.Y.U. must build here” (talking point, by John Beckman, Oct. 28):

For those unitiated in the New York University “party line” of John Beckman’s defense of “why N.Y.U. must build here,” it should be mentioned that Andrew Berman and his organization, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, are not the only opponents of N.Y.U.’s inward-looking 2031 expansion plans. CAAN (Community Action Alliance on NYU 2031) has been in formation since the disbanding of Borough President Stringer’s N.Y.U. Task Force back in May, and presently comprises more than 30 varied community groups and block associations that have coalesced to oppose NYU 2031.

Key to this opposition is the failure of N.Y.U. to take into account the “fragile ecosystem” that the broader Greenwich Village neighborhood represents, in the words of none other than university President John Sexton. It is this very ecosystem — a.k.a. unique neighborhood — that N.Y.U. touts in its student recruitment literature, and which it is systematically dismantling in single building-by-building fashion, only to be accelerated by 2031’s massive expansion plans. If “killing the goose that laid the golden egg” needs a real life example, look no further. 

Mr. Beckman’s statement that there is no use of “eminent domain” fails to note that the southern superblock, on which N.Y.U. wants to build its 400-foot tower, was indeed acquired from the city back in the 1960’s through eminent domain and at a write-down in land cost via the federal urban renewal program.

Martin Tessler

‘Beckman is disingenuous’

To The Editor:

Re “There is a lot at stake: Why N.Y.U. must build here” (talking point, by John Beckman, Oct. 28):

Mr. Beckman is being disingenuous. N.Y.U.’s needs are not the only needs to be addressed. Surely the community’s needs — for light, air and more participatory green space — are as valid as N.Y.U.’s need to compete with Harvard and Yale.

Although Mr. Beckman tenders the playing card of the very necessary school, that is only a chip in his game to shove an unwanted development (a hotel?) in the face of the community.

To egregiously say that St. Vincent’s Hospital failed because the community opposed its expansion is meretricious at best. St. Vincent’s failed not because of a faulty plan to build a tower, but because St. Vincent’s was bankrupt. One must beware of false comparisons; it is good to remember that bankruptcy occasionally follows grandiose attempts at overdevelopment.

As hundreds of people have stated in testimony at the various community board meetings I’ve attended, members of the community representing various constituencies do not want to see this monstrous development on the part of N.Y.U. It would behoove N.Y.U. to listen to what so many of us are saying.

Rhoma Mostel

Attack Berman, attack us

To The Editor:

Re “There is a lot at stake: Why N.Y.U. must build here” (talking point, by John Beckman, Oct. 28):

V.P. Beckman’s column has many flaws. Saying that Andrew Berman’s arguments are “misguided” and “willfully misleading” is not only a glaring attack on Mr. Berman’s credibility, but also an attack on the ingelligence of those of us who oppose N.Y.U.’s plans. We are thinking people. Many of us were educated at N.Y.U., many of us retired from N.Y.U., and many of us have participated in the community for many years. We come to our decisions based on critical thinking and comparative research.

N.Y.U.’s decisions are misguided, one-sided and based on a model of colonial expansionism.

Judith Chazen Walsh

‘Interesting, odd, strange’

To The Editor:

Re “There is a lot at stake: Why N.Y.U. must build here” (talking point, by John Beckman, Oct. 28):

Interesting that Mr. Beckman insists that a 40-story hotel is key to New York University’s academic growth. The Greenwich Village community’s residents insist it is not feasible to crowd another oversized building on Bleecker St.

Odd that Mr. Beckman thinks that demanding the community give the university green spaces that have been used as parks by the community for more than 30 years does not constitute eminent domain.

Strange that these parks, which have been created by the residents and maintained by the community, are now needed to build in an area that is already maxed-out by the largest buildings in the area.

N.Y.U. proposes to take our parks and replace them with a mega-hotel, not academic space. Build your hotel somewhere else. Better yet, visitors can go to Trump — within walking distance — a prime example of why we don’t need a hotel on Bleecker St.

Sara Jones

Jones is chairperson, LaGuardia Corner Community Gardens

There’s no Hudson Square

To The Editor:

Re “Saluting the flags” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Oct. 28):

“Hudson Square” doesn’t exist. It is a construct of Trinity Real Estate. The Hudson Square Connection, in fact, is the BID created by Trinity to foist this brand name.

That is why the new Sheraton hotel that opened a couple of years ago in the heart of so-called Hudson Square calls itself the Sheraton SoHo Village.

Other examples abound of both businesses and residents eschewing this phony brand name. Gee, even the park across from The Villager’s office is called Soho Square by the New York City Parks Department.

Others call this neighborhood Greenwich Village or the South Village or the West Side. But who calls it Hudson Square? No one but Trinity.

Bettina Goldstein

Keep hospital hope alive

To The Editor:

Re “C.B. 2 chairperson forcefully answers hospital haranguers” (news article, Oct. 28):

I do not know why you are discouraging input from those fighting for a new hospital when this does not represent the opinions of the majority of residents. If you recall, I called you sometime in April to tell you that the hospital was closing on April 30. You called Michael Fagan, a representative of the hospital, who told you that this was misinformation and that the hospital was not closing. Then he called you a few hours later to confirm that the hospital was indeed closing on that date. You ran a front-page story on this.

I have metastatic cancer and do not expect to live to see a new hospital. But I would like to see the whole truth told and not behind closed doors.

You obviously have some grievance against Yetta Kurland, but she has been the one who has kept this issue alive. The fact that the date and place of the meeting originally planned for Congressmember Nadler’s Office was changed, with the excuse that his office was not large enough to accommodate the public, and then the public was not informed is outrageous.

Have you ever needed emergency critical care? Both my husband and my son had their lives saved by the critical-care team at St. Vincent’s. I am a patient at what was the St. Vincent’s Cancer Center, now run by Beth Israel. My healthcare has been affected because so many of the doctors left the neighborhood and are spread out at other hospitals.

Instead of criticizing those who are trying to get a new hospital, you would do a greater service to the community St. Vincent’s served so well by exposing the scandalous and concealed facts that led to the last-minute notice of the hospital’s closing and who was responsible. Or are you, for some reason, obliged to protect the public from the truth?

Myrna Posner

Ferguson keeps it real

To The Editor:

Re “Rebel with a constant cause: Memories of Michael Shenker” (news article, Oct. 28):

This piece in The Villager is an honest appraisal of Michael! Sarah Ferguson truthfully told of her experience with Michael. If somebody else felt differently, then they need to express that in some other way than slamming her piece. They need to respect Sarah’s view of him instead of damning her for her honesty. They are putting Michael on a pedestal as if he was a saint. He was a flawed and wonderful human being and Sarah’s piece honestly and lovingly showed that. She does better homage to him by telling the truth, rather than writing grandiose fluff.

I love Michael Shenker a lot. All parts of him. Thank you, Sarah, for keeping it real.

Barbara R. Lee

Ed was good as Gold

To The Editor:

Re “Ed Gold, C.B. 2 elder statesman, dies at age 84” (obituary, Sept. 16):

I had the pleasure of serving on Community Board 2 with Ed in the 1990’s and much of the 2000’s. I liked Ed a lot. And I admired his character. He was principled. He did the right thing; he made the right choice even when that meant going against his allies. But no one ever held Ed’s opposition on a point or an issue against him (not for long, anyway) because it was never pesonal. And if he said you were right, his one “aye” was good for four or five more among the membership because his integrity was respected. He articulated clearly and succinctly, and his arguments, pro or con, almost always made bang-on good sense. Thanks, Ed.

Jim Smith

Remembering Bob Nichols

To The Editor:

Re “Robert Nichols, 91, led Wash. Sq. ’69 renovation” (obituary, Oct. 21):

As a close friend of Bob Nichols and Grace Paley, I would like to add that Bob is survived by his stepdaughter Nora Paley and Nora’s children, Zamir and Sienna Paley, who were all cherished members of Bob’s family.

Bob was a free spirit, a proud political leftist, a dedicated writer of poetry, short stories and essays, and a strong believer in local political action. He was also a loyal and generous friend, with an irresistible — often zany — sense of humor.

Sonya Friedman

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