Letters to the Editor

The Battles of Gramercy

To The Editor:

Re “Don’t fence me out” (Scoopy’s Notebook, April 14):

I cannot thank you adequately in print for your spontaneous coverage of my “fencing” experience. You caught through word and photo the idea of the Boston Tea Party analogy. It was so outrageous — locked gates on Gramercy Park Trust property! — that a response was not a luxury.

I would point out two enlightening points to make the story objective and fair:

First, to say that “The Club has had a contentious relationship with the trustees for years and even filed a lawsuit against them” implies strongly that the National Arts Club has acted in a contrarian spirit and “gone over the line” with open court hearings. This implication could not be more inaccurate.

The 1994 club lawsuit joined by several other lot owners was in response to the arborcide — a case supported by then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.

The 2001 lawsuit against the trustees was in response to the violation of civil rights law involving New York City public high school children, the New York City Board of Education (Ninfa Segarra) and the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. The case was settled out of court. The federal judge said the children on a class trip who visited the park were minimally treated to a rude and discourteous reception.

The case I make is that the club was always acting in response to trustee actions that could never be ignored. When the club sues the park, the park’s legal fees are covered by the trustees — whose money comes from lot owners, like the club.

Second, the club has never had a contentious relationship with the trustees when there has been wise management and fiduciary responsibility.

Mrs. Herbert Gibson, longtime chairperson of Gramercy Park, was on the club’s board. In the recent past, there were only club members on the trust. And when Mrs. Gibson died in 1994, she left more funds to the N.A.C. than any other entity on the park. The club was her highest priority.

Thank you for printing this letter, and for The Villager’s involvement in the 2001 Gramercy civil rights story. Not coincidentally, yours was the first press coverage we received (from Al Amateau). Whenever there is important local news, The Villager is first out of the starting gate.

Aldon James

James is president, The National Arts Club

Press conference, not protest

To The Editor:

Re “Small models raise big fears for many at N.Y.U.’s display” (news article, April 21):

I would like to offer some clarification regarding the event held prior to New York University’s open house on April 14, which was described in this article as a protest attended by about 90 people.

The event was actually organized as a press conference by nearly a dozen community groups and held prior to the start of the open house. Most of those groups were members of the Community Task Force on N.Y.U. Development convened by Borough President Stringer, which has been meeting with N.Y.U. for more than three years regarding this plan, and has provided N.Y.U. with feedback and direction regarding its future expansion plans.

While different groups have different concerns and priorities regarding N.Y.U.’s 2031 plan — whether it be preservation of open space, oversaturation of facilities, construction on the superblocks or new N.Y.U. facilities scattered throughout the neighborhood — we all sought to highlight several key overarching issues. The 2031 plan clearly and broadly diverges from the task force’s recommendations in several fundamental ways; most especially, N.Y.U.’s plan proposes to double the university’s rate of spatial growth in our community during the next two decades by adding 3 million square feet of space to the neighborhood. The plan also fails to utilize the many opportunities that exist for N.Y.U. to explore other satellite or remote locations to accommodate its growth — if it feels it must continue to grow — rather than continue to oversaturate our neighborhoods.

Finally, we all wanted to make clear the point that much of what N.Y.U. is planning for the “core” — the blocks around Washington Square Park — requires lifting or changing current zoning restrictions or getting landmark approvals, and those can’t happen without a public review, hearing and approval process, including votes by elected and appointed officials.

Therefore, we want to encourage all interested and affected parties to become involved in this process and make sure their concerns are heard and taken into account. Those review processes will take many months or more, and thus it’s important for members of the public not to assume that any of these plans are a fait accompli. Rather, we, the public, can and must play a vital role in shaping the plans’ final outcome.

Andrew Berman

Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Berman vs. ‘King Kong’

To The Editor: 

Re “Fighting to keep projects at bay amid landmark gains” (Progress Report article, April 14):

Bouquets to scholarly, articulate activist Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, for his remarkable persistence in policing New York University, “the 800-pound gorilla of development threats in the neighborhood.” Picture King Kong playing with a wrecking ball.

The university’s absurdly grandiose and impracticable plan to expand within, and thereby virtually expunge, Greenwich Village is the vision of its president, John E. Sexton, who apparently views “N.Y.U. 2031” as his personal legacy. Obvious solutions like taking over the Deutsche Bank building and other available real estate evidently lack the requisite high-profile panache of squeezing 3 million more square feet of construction into the “core” campus.

If the current proposed goals, as unveiled at N.Y.U.’s April 14 open house, are met, by 2031 N.Y.U. undergrads studying urban planning will be examining the “cause of death” of the Village: the vaulting ambitions of their own future alma mater.

 Susan M. Silver

Fine artists find a voice

To The Editor:

I am greatly encouraged by what I see as a new independence by some street artists who spoke out during the Parks Department hearing on April 23 concerning new vending restrictions.

Several of these creative people displayed an acute awareness of the enormous problem of art bootlegging and copyright theft on the streets of New York City. Some of them proposed innovative solutions to reduce the problem, including the creation of “art zones” where only fine artists displaying their own artwork would be allowed.

If “art zones” were established in areas such as Harlem, MoMA, the Met, West Broadway in Soho, the World Trade Center, Central Park and so on, it would end the hideously long street battle that has only helped those who have profited from the inevitable lawsuits.

New York City would be well served, since illegal vending in these areas would be almost nonexistent; and it would be helpful to art patrons since they would know they were viewing and purchasing true artwork, not illegal copies. Most important, artists would be free to display their artwork in peace and safety without fear of assault, arrest or copyright theft.

Art zones would also rule out limiting expression by the forced issuance of permits or the establishment of restrictive lotteries, since the creative group of fine artists is infinitely smaller than the army of illegal vendors, and much easier to protect. Fine artists could easily identify themselves “on scene” with their signature on the artwork, their tax ID and their driver’s license or passport.

Lawrence White

Keep arts in the parks 

To The Editor:

I’m for artists in the parks. As a tour guide, I point people to Union Square Park and Washington Square Park as places to buy and support New York City art — real New York City art. If I’m doing a Village walking tour, I show how University Place connects the two parks, or I point out Broadway for those who want to visit the famous street. Foot traffic leads to spending.

As long as the art doesn’t block safety or cause violence, then let the arts bloom in the parks, a traditional place of gathering and exchanging ideas and communication. We have a need for the arts in New York City; this supports it, just as selling produce from local farmers meets other important needs. 

I’ve also seen the parks taken over or restricted for events and marketing promotions, and private tents pitched in them for fancy fundraisers. There is a proposal to put giant, white, unsightly bubbles over Central Park’s tennis courts.  Those things are much worse than artists in parks. 

Let’s shut down the repeat street fairs that usually have nothing to do with the streets and neighborhoods they block and inconvenience. Legitimate, local fairs should have their streets. My sense is that the city makes money from all these encumbrances. On the other hand, the artists aren’t forking over the bucks, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be much.

New York was much more interesting when artists could more easily afford to be here. Save the mom-and-pop artists. Keep art in the parks!

Jared Goldstein

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.