Letters to the Editor

S.L.A. on district manager’s ‘diss’

To The Editor:

Re “Liquor lashing” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Dec. 16):

Community Board 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer’s depiction of the State Liquor Authority as unresponsive in Scoopy’s Notebook is unwarranted in light of the facts. S.L.A. Chairman Dennis Rosen and agency staff spend a great deal of time working with community boards, community groups and elected officials, and responding specifically to Ms. Stetzer’s inquiries. 

Agency records indicate that Ms. Stetzer made 12 requests for information, of which three were FOIL [Freedom of Information Law], since Chairman Rosen’s confirmation. The agency responded to 11 of these requests within 48 hours.  The remaining request could not be responded to immediately because the information was under S.L.A. board review. The information was, however, sent to Ms. Stetzer shortly after the board made its decision. Additionally, Chairman Rosen has attended every community board meeting to which he has been invited and has affirmatively reached out to many elected officials and community groups.  

The S.L.A. relies on our community partners, and the inaccurate depiction of the agency as ambivalent to community concerns jeopardizes the collaborative relationship that the new administration has been working to nurture. A synopsis of the S.L.A.’s recent outreach, in New York City alone, clearly demonstrates the agency’s responsiveness during Mr. Rosen’s tenure. 

On Oct. 13, Chairman Rosen and S.L.A. executive staff met with state Senator Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Rosie Mendez and members of Manhattan Community Boards 1, 2 and 3 and Brooklyn Community Boards 1, 2 and 6.

On Dec. 8, Chairman Rosen and senior staff met with state Senator Liz Krueger and members from Manhattan Community Boards 5, 6 and 8. Also attending were Assemblymembers Jonathan Bing, Richard Gottfried and Brian Kavanagh, as well as Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s chief of staff. 

On the same day, Chairman Rosen and staff met with the office of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and members from all 14 community boards in Queens. This session, similar to the others, focused on S.L.A. updates and served as a forum for community boards to share their concerns and initiated an ongoing dialogue. 

On Feb. 4, Chairman Rosen will be joining Senator Squadron and various Manhattan community boards for the senator’s Quality of Life Town Hall Meeting. Chairman Rosen also has meetings planned for February with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and representatives from all 12 Manhattan community boards, as well as with Senator Velmanette Montgomery and all 18 Brooklyn community boards. 

As the Villager correctly notes, the new S.L.A. is committed to streamlining the agency and eliminating the backlog of pending applications.  Chairman Rosen believes this undertaking must go hand in hand with working with community boards so that the agency makes informed licensing decisions and takes decisive enforcement actions to ensure the health and safety of the public. 

Trina Mead

Mead is chief executive officer, New York State Liquor Authority

Climber can still turn back

To The Editor:

Re “Senior’s hip to climb Everest, after getting hip replacement” (news article, Dec. 23):

Yes, I admire 64-year-old Donald Healy’s determination, energy and success in climbing peaks like Denali and Kilimanjaro! I’m not sure, though, that he fully appreciates distinctions which make Mt. Everest a more dangerous climb. It’s not just the greater altitude, thinner air and trickier routes. The weather on Everest changes unpredictably, turning this particular climb into a game of Russian roulette. 

Other reported dangers stem from  the unlikelihood of giving or receiving help under Everest’s dire conditions (i.e. when help is most needed!) and traffic jams that have forced climbers to wait while the clock ticks on their oxygen. I’m sure Healy knows Mt. Everest is littered with the bodies of climbers, including guides, who set out in the prime of health, and that still others have come away permanently disabled and disfigured. 

I hope Healy also knows that there is no shame in backing away from this pursuit. 

Franne Rosenthal

Artists aren’t the problem

To The Editor:

Re “Nature is its own art” (letter, by Sharon Woolums, Dec. 23):

I share Sharon Woolums’s appreciation of nature and her sentiment that New York City parks should be places of calm. Unfortunately, the Parks Department has a different viewpoint. It is the Parks Department, not street artists, that is at the forefront of commercializing New York City parks. One has only to experience the parks at the holiday season to see what their real “vision” is for our newly privatized public parks.

Thousands of park vending concessions selling T- shirts, souvenirs and junk food are auctioned off to the highest bidder. One corporation is chosen to own all the vending concessions in each park; the “vendors” operating these profitable stands are minimum-wage employees. Huge “Holiday Markets” take over entire parks for a month at a time so that hundreds of non-First Amendment-protected vendors — who would otherwise be considered by the New York Police Department to be illegally vending — can sell a variety of items available in nearby stores.

Corporations rent out entire parks to launch new product lines, to hold fashion shows or to host private parties for the city’s wealthiest residents. There are even bars and fast-food restaurants in some New York City parks. For 30 days at a time, 24 hours a day, Christmas tree vendors set up gigantic, block-long displays on Parks property with the department’s full approval — with displays that are literally 100 times the legal size of an artist’s display.

Unlike other New York City parks, the High Line was conceived to benefit the local real estate and commercial interests of the Meatpacking and Chelsea districts, not the general public. It was designed to attract wealthy residents and tourists to the area’s more than 200 art galleries, as well as its newly constructed luxury hotels, designer stores and expensive restaurants.

Much of the wood used in its construction is from endangered species cut from ancient, primary forests, including the Amazon. Since the park’s opening, the Parks Department has had vending concessions up there — as well as a three-day, pop-up Target Store right under the High Line at Gansevoort St. And, according to both the Parks commissioner and the Friends of the High Line, they plan more vending concessions for this park.

Despite all that, should the artistic speech of First Amendment-protected street artists have a place in our parks, or are parks just for contemplating nature? Here’s what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on free speech in parks:

“Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens.” (Hague v C.I.O., 1939.)

Robert Lederman

Lederman is president, ARTIST (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics)

Park is a refuge from it all

To The Editor:

Re “Nature is its own art” (letter, by Sharon Woolums, Dec. 23):

Sharon Woolums verbalizes so well what many of us have been thinking during the back-and-forth issue of selling art on the High Line. While I am in favor of amendment rights, and artists being free to sell their artwork, I do agree that we need some places in this busy, hustling city where we can be free from all this commercialization around us.

The High Line has been a place to get away from the busy, hectic streets below. It would be a shame to lose that and see the High Line become just one more crowded, commercial, selling venue.

Linda Lusskin

Who goes next? Balto?

To The Editor:

Re “Nature is its own art” (letter, by Sharon Woolums, Dec. 23):

I read Sharon Woolums’s letter concerning art in the parks with some astonishment. I understand where Ms. Woolums is coming from, but I wonder if she has any idea where she is headed.

If we accept Ms. Woolums’s thesis that art in the parks is a form of disruptive clutter detracting from our enjoyment of nature, then surely we must respond by removing José de Creeft’s fabulous “Alice in Wonderland” bronze sculpture from Central Park. This spectacular, inspiring, but totally distracting piece would be a number one offender. The park’s statue of Balto, the heroic canine, would be a close second. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to place these magnificent sculptures next to a highway entrance or in a shopping mall atrium where they would not clash with the trees.

I also understand where Ms. Woolums is coming from as far as commercialization of the parks — but why pick on artists? Fine artists have been a big part of the revitalization of the parks for decades. Yet, at the same time, we are not able to name the small park on Broome St. and West Broadway in honor of Bob Bolles, the sculptor who popularized the area with his large, playful, metal pieces in the 1950s and ’60s.

The problem is not too much art in New York City, Ms. Woolums; the problem is that there is not enough of it. Therefore, it would be far more helpful if a sensitive, trained collage artist, such as Ms. Woolums, would advocate for fine artists instead of lumping us in with the clutter.

Lawrence White

More on Bullet Space show

To The Editor:

Commenting on Lincoln Anderson’s piece “Art squat reviews its history, finds more in backyard” in The Villager’s Dec. 16 issue, Lincoln should have credited the backyard excavation installation as being a collaboration project with Austin Shull. He also forgot to mention that Austin Shull is directing the video documentation.

I realize journalists have to simplify to concentrate and focus their story. But it is important to give this artist his full credit, as he worked so hard on this archaeological dig.

Regarding the police visit after a complaint of a suspicious dig in the backyard: The police realized right away we weren’t involved in a criminal deed and stayed for an hour, enjoying and commenting on the artifacts. They also enjoyed seeing for the first time Bimbo Rivas’s “Loisaida” poem; the younger officers were educated about the famous poet and how Avenue C was named after his famous poem.

There was also the fascination of the young officers seeing for the first time photos of the 1988 Tompkins Square riots, the tank on E. 13th St. and the evictions of 1996. 

It was a beautiful, absurd interaction with police officers, young and old, 21 years after the Tompkins Square Park riots.

Thank you, Lincoln, for an enlightening article.

Andrew Castrucci

Castrucci is co-founder, Bullet Space

Alphie’s writing hits home

To The Editor:

Re “Silent night and Frank won’t be calling this year” (notebook, by Alphie McCourt, Dec. 23):

Alphie McCourt reminds me of what good writing really is — personal, vulnerable sometimes, ringing with truth. I loved this line: “It would take me many years to realize that the ideal, or the idealized Christmas, is all too often framed in someone else’s window.”

Thanks, Alphie.

Marta Szabo 

Don’t stop, Alphie!

To The Editor:

Re “Silent night and Frank won’t be calling this year” (notebook, by Alphie McCourt, Dec. 23):

Alphie McCourt is a wonderful writer himself. He writes with the same ease as Brendan Behan. And I hope he keeps on writing for us. 

Pat Fenton

Beyond parody

To The Editor:

Re “Musical Mezuzah Gate, or The Orrin Hatchberg Story” (talking point, Daniel Meltzer, Dec. 23):

Thanks, Daniel Meltzer, for a wonderful piece! I actually heard the terrible song sent to me by someone who is pitifully naive. It is truly the dumbest knockoff song of the dumbest song in the Yiddish repertoire (“Dreidl, Dreidl, Dreidl”) ever written and it is beyond the possibility of parody.

Lucille Krasne 

Let’s go to the videotape!

To The Editor:

Re “Musical Mezuzah Gate, or The Orrin Hatchberg Story” (talking point, Daniel Meltzer, Dec. 23):

If you really want a laugh, here it is. He even pulls out his mezuzah. Obviously, some of Hatch’s best friends are Jewish. Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XND3Naa6N5o 

Fran Stern 

Mormon mishegoss 

To The Editor:

Re “Musical Mezuzah Gate, or The Orrin Hatchberg Story” (talking point, Daniel Meltzer, Dec. 23):

Senator Hatch is not a friend of the progressive Jews, that is for sure. Don’t the Mormons have something going on about Jewish victims of the Holocaust? The Mormon Church and many of its adherents helped fund the anti-marriage Prop 8 in California. They do not believe in “liberty and justice” for all — especially not gays. Used to be not blacks either, but the civil rights movment changed that. Maybe someday they will recognize gay people, too.

Ann Fonfa 

Meltzer connections

To The Editor:

Re “Musical Mezuzah Gate, or The Orrin Hatchberg Story” (talking point, Daniel Meltzer, Dec. 23):

I am so proud to be related to Daniel even though neither one of us wears a mezuzah around our neck! Great article, Daniel, and do you know that my husband, Bernie, was born where the Mormons began — Palmyra, N.Y.? Another connection for Orrin Hatch.

Harriet Maddy

Koch’s ‘Avatar’ aversion

To The Editor:

Re Ed Koch’s review of “Avatar” in “Koch on Film” (Dec. 23):

I found this review to be sad and out of touch. Mr. Koch should read Manohla Dargis’s review in The New York Times: “A New Eden, Both Cosmic And Cinematic.”

T. Blum

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