Letters to the Editor

Beware academic sprawl

To The Editor:

Re “N.Y.U. buys Forbes Building; Watchdog barks his ‘concerns’” (news article, Jan. 13): 

How should Villagers react to the news that the Forbes Building has been acquired by New York University? With mixed feelings, I would say. Glad that the handsome 1925 Carrere and Hastings Shreve & Lamb structure — which was omitted from the Greenwich Village Historic District and never landmarked — is fortuitously covered by an easement that protects the facade and height of the building from changes. So the Village is not apt to be faced with future Poe House or Provincetown Playhouse situations. 

But with Parsons immediately to the north of Forbes, the entire west side of Fifth Ave. between 12th and 13th Sts. will be occupied by educational instiutions. And just across Fifth, Cardozo Law School occupies about half the block. Moving up the street, The New School takes up the entire east side of Fifth between 13th and 14th Sts., as well as part of the west side of the block. Further, there are additional New York University and New School buildings around the corner on both 12th and 13th Sts. — between Fifth and Sixth Aves.

Do I hear a suggestion that we rename Fifth Ave. between 12th and 14th Sts. University Place West? Just kidding! Nevertheless, just as some places are beset by urban sprawl, Greenwich Village is on the verge of being inundated by academic sprawl. While I’m sure we are all proud that these prestigious institutions have some Village presence, many of us are concerned that haphazard expansion can damage the character of what is essentially a residential neighborhood blessed with many splendid 19th-century buildings and other cultural, historic and architectural landmarks. 

So I believe Andrew Berman is right in asking that N.Y.U., in its future acquisitions, look toward establishing a satellite campus elsewhere. Even if no demolition is involved, we cannot afford further tipping of the balance between institutional and residential facilities. Perhaps the Borough President’s N.Y.U. Task Force should re-evaluate the situation in 2010. 

Coincidentally, the same issue of The Villager had a story about the possible New York City takeover of Governors Island (“Mayor wants Governors Island, and Silver says he can have it”). Whatever happened to the proposal that N.Y.U. utilize part of the area for such a satellite campus? 

Carol Greitzer

No more purple flags!

To The Editor: 

Re “N.Y.U. buys Forbes Building; Watchdog barks his ‘concerns’” (news article, Jan. 13): 

Let it be known that we residents of the Village are not necessarily pleased by New York University’s newest acquisition. What it means to us is that another property will be flying the N.Y.U. flag and flooding our streets with more people than we can possibly handle, and that more and more of our beloved Village will be taken over by this institution. We need less, not more, of N.Y.U.’s redevelopment of our once quaint and charming streets into those horrendously unattractive flag-flying sites.

Currently, just to walk on the east side of Washington Square Park requires stumbling through literally hundreds of students either changing classes or just dawdling along N.Y.U.’s perimeter. While for some this means more business from out-of-town students, for those of us who live here and love our community, it means more trash on the streets, more crowded walkways, more unthinking administrators from N.Y.U. proclaiming how good they are to our community while tearing down beloved landmarks — like the Provincetown Apartments complex, for example.

There should be no praise for N.Y.U.’s acquisitions. Rather, it’s time for all of us to “take back the Village.”

  Paul Rackow

Losing at ‘Village Monopoly’

To The Editor:

Re: “N.Y.U. buys Forbes Building; Watchdog barks his ‘concerns’” (news article, Jan. 13):

The sale of the Forbes Building to N.Y.U. does create a concern to residents of the Greenwich Village community. Buying an existing building may be preferable to new construction in the area. But there is a feeling that the central Village, north and south of Washington Square, is a Monopoly board with an ever-shrinking number of players. There are three large institutions with expansion plans: N.Y.U., St. Vincent’s and The New School.

The Villager diminishes this concern by putting doubtful quotes in its headline. But the concern is real: These institutions have large-scale needs that could be met elsewhere, and their expansionist plans threaten to swallow up this historic core of Manhattan and transform it into an institutional corridor.

Ellen Horan

Horan is vice chairperson, LaGuardia Community Garden

N.Y.U. growth threat

To The Editor:

Re: “N.Y.U. buys Forbes Building; Watchdog barks his ‘concerns’” (news article, Jan. 13):

Although the snarky headline to this article may give a different impression, in fact many of us agree with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Andrew Berman that N.Y.U.’s ceaseless expansion in our neighborhood is not O.K. if it simply buys up existing buildings rather than demolishing them. 

While it is clearly preferable for N.Y.U. to reuse existing buildings rather than tearing them down, the university’s perpetual growth within our neighborhood, whether through acquisition or demolition, still has profound consequences for the Village’s character. 

More and more of our neighborhood has been given over to this single institution already; too much, many would say. If we are to preserve the Village as a vibrant and diverse urban neighborhood, not merely as the de facto campus for a university, N.Y.U. must look outside of our neighborhood to accommodate its increasing growth needs. 

If 25 years down the road, much or all of the Village’s building stock has been taken over and occupied by N.Y.U., that would still mean the end of the Village as we know and love it today.

Marilyn Dorato

Editor’s note: In response to both this letter and the one above it, the article’s headline wasn’t intended to be “snarky,” nor did it use a “doubtful quote.” Berman is, in fact, a “watchdog” on N.Y.U. expansion, as most would agree. He did, in fact, state he had “serious concerns” about N.Y.U.’s acquisition of the Forbes Building; the headline put “concerns” in quotes to reflect that this was an actual statement — not to cast doubt on the legitimacy of those concerns. All that’s left then is the verb, “bark.” What does a watchdog do, metaphorically speaking? It growls, sniffs out a problem — or, to raise the alarm, it just might bark. Sometimes, it can even draw blood. Anyway, that was the intent.

Rall is lax on tax facts

To The Editor:

Re “The craziest tax; Unemployed just can’t get a break” (talking point, by Ted Rall, Jan. 13):

Ted Rall’s talking point on unemployment taxation is entertaining, but Mr. Rall needs to get his facts straight. Unemployment insurance benefits are not a double tax. Contrary to what Mr. Rall asserts, workers do not pay into the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The unemployment tax is by law borne entirely by employers, who pay what is known as a FUTA tax based on the size of their payroll and their experience rating with layoffs. Seasonal businesses are taxed at a higher rate than economically more stable firms. This financial obligation cannot legally be shifted onto employees and deducted from their wages. 

Barry H. Schwartzberg

‘Thousands of Rays’

To The Editor:

Re “Save our Ray” (editorial, Jan. 13):

There are no commercial rent controls and no residential rent controls in private co-ops. My residential rent has gone up some 300 percent in just the past 10 years.

A “$4,000 monthly rent” for a “tiny shop” — Ray’s situation — apparently is based on this value in our society: What the market will bear.

People on a meager fixed income — such as S.S.I. aid to the disabled — are being crushed and destroyed just as Ray Alvarez is. To meet my latest rent increase, I would have to pay some 75 percent of my income for rent!

There must be dozens, hundreds, thousands of Ray’s and Michael’s out there in New York City. Sure, The Villager is spotlighting Ray — but it’s a widespread problem.

This form of economic cruelty, greed and selfishness is only a mirror reflection of the cruelty, greed and selfishness in the consciousness of the masses of my fellow Americans, with very few exceptions. Yes, the executives make the final decisions, but it is the mass consciousness that determines, to a large extent, this cruelty. 

I hope we can save Ray and all the other Rays and Michaels out there. Maybe your editorial should be entitled: “Save ourselves.”

Michael Gottlieb 

Post is pushing Ford

To The Editor:

Re “Ford out of tune with New York” (letter, by Jean Candiotte, Jan. 13):

I thank The Villager for publishing this letter from a member of our community about an important election that will affect everyone. It’s very timely, too, since our own congressman, Jerrold Nadler, has blasted Ford’s anti-choice, anti-gay record. And since Harold Ford, Jr., seems to have his own in-house publication (The New York Post), it is up to community publications like The Villager to serve as an effective counterweight. 

Further, the Harold Ford, Jr., P.R. forces are in full swing. Note the hiring of Davidson Goldin as spokesperson. It is worth noting that when not flacking for Ford, Davidson Golding shills for big corporate, anti-tenant real estate companies (although, suffice to say, he hasn’t done a very good job thus far). 

Is this who Villagers want representing us in Washington? Message to fellow progressives: Keep speaking out!

Alex Simpson

Editor’s note: For the record, The Villager is not consciously serving as a “counterweight” to anyone’s coverage of this potential race.

Koch doesn’t get ‘Avatar’

To The Editor:

Re “Koch on Film” (“Avatar” review, Dec. 23):

Former Mayor Ed Koch’s head must be pretty darn low to the ground, because the entire artistic heft of “Avatar” seems to have flown right over him. The movie is incredibly rich on multiple levels — symbolic, allegorical and aesthetic among them.

I believe that director James Cameron’s intent with this film is not, contrary to Koch’s view, to “create a sense of guilt,” but to tell a great story. Like any great story deftly told and with a powerful, sustained visual punch to carry it along (think of Cameron’s earlier work, including “Aliens” and “Titanic”), it’s bound to elicit a range of emotional responses. But in “Avatar,” the message is complex and is less about guilt and more about an indictment of modern civilization and mechanized warfare.

As the action unfolds, with American industrial-military muscle moving in on the local tribes (the Na’vi) and their jungle home, there are not only references to our missteps in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to the greed of Brazilian land developers responsible for rainforest destruction.

A full appreciation of the director’s brilliance requires a very attentive viewing: We’re talking a blockbuster here, obviously, but not your typical Hollywood product. Observe how Jake Sully as a human evolves as his avatar becomes more involved with the Na’vi, and how the behavior of his human friends and colleagues changes accordingly. It reflects humans’ relationships not only with each other, but with other cultures and with nature itself.

“Avatar” ultimately raises more questions than it answers: It’s art.

Anthony Grant

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.