Letters to The Editor, Week of Sept. 5, 2019

Letters to The Editor, Week of Jan. 3, 2018

Who can claim Jane?

To The Editor:

Re “On 14th St., we continue the fight of Jane Jacobs” (op-ed, by Arthur Schwartz, Aug. 26):

The notion that author and former Village resident Jane Jacobs would have opposed the city’s bus-and bike-centric plan for the 14th St. corridor is absurd. She believed cars were terribly destructive. In her seminal work “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” she argued for “attrition of automobiles” and “making conditions less convenient for cars.”

Jacobs understood that New York works only as well as its transit system works. So it’s hard to imagine her objecting to a plan that would improve transportation options at the cost of making conditions more difficult for some drivers.

David Gurin


A larger agenda

To The Editor:

Re “On 14th St., we continue the fight of Jane Jacobs” (op-ed, by Arthur Schwartz, Aug. 26):

Well, 14th St. remains open to cars and the sky hasn’t fallen. The M.T.A. changed the L-train work schedule, making the street closure unnecessary.

But the Department of Transportation and Transportation Alternatives were not having that. They continue to rant on about the necessity of closing the street to cars. I was on 14th St. several times in the past month and did not notice any additional traffic problems or congestion. The 14th St. Select Bus Service was running fine in both directions, in its lanes. That bus, I am told, runs very well now, despite the skewered rating it got as the slowest bus in Manhattan. I am sure TransAlt had something to do with that, and also the survey was done before SBS and the bus lanes were put into effect.

And, by the way, once one main thoroughfare is closed to cars, the group would than want it done on other streets and that is their real goal.

Richard Hecht


Leave lawyer alone

To The Editor:

Re “What would Jane do on 14th St. busway?” (editorial, Aug. 29):

Demonstrating in front of lawyer Schwarz’s house is fine, although he said he didn’t care to have his address publicized.

Picketing in front of homes occurs. During the Vietnam War, we picketed in front of draft board members’ residences, with “Know Your Neighbor” fliers. Objecting to one State Supreme Court justice’s anti-tenant ruling, picketers at the judge’s home were restrained as to hours, in order not to disturb people’s sleep. Likewise with more recent Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

Upper West Side Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell took a busload of tenant demonstrators to picket at a landlord’s palatial home in Westchester. And so it goes.

However, leave the legal technician alone —everyone is entitled to have a lawyer.

Alan Flacks


Whose side would she be on? Jane Jacobs, the preservationist and planning guru, speaking at Village Community School on a book tour in 2004.


Anti-‘auto erosion’

To The Editor:

Re “What would Jane do on 14th St. busway?” (editorial, Aug. 29):

You admit you’re not clear on where Jane Jacobs stood on cars. I think the following, from Jacobss The Death and Life of Great American Cities,makes it quite clear:

“Erosion of cities by automobiles…proceeds as a kind of nibbling, small nibbles at first, but eventually hefty bites… . A street is widened here, another is straightened there, a wide avenue is converted to one-way flow…more land goes into parking… . No one step in this process is, in itself, crucial. But cumulatively the effect is enormous… . City character is blurred until every place becomes more like every other place, all adding up to No place.”

Shirley Secunda


Pick your battles

To The Editor:

Re “ ‘Let them eat pastries’ or ‘Let them protest’?” (news article, Aug. 22):

Although I am a civil liberties lawyer who has worked with Norman Siegel on cases, he and I do have some fundamental disagreements. 

The First Amendment prohibits the government from interfering with free-speech rights. Norman and his former colleagues at the American Civil Liberties Union have represented neo-Nazis and Klan members who were seeking to overcome governmental interference. 

I interned at the New York Civil Liberties Union and learned, early, that resources were scarce, and that progressive lawyers have to pick their battles. 

I would never represent the Klan or a Nazi. There are plenty of super-conservative law foundations that can take on their fight, and I picketed the A.C.L.U. when they represented Nazis wishing to march through a Jewish community in Skokie, Illinois, back around 1977. I got fired from my first legal services job for doing that, but I would do it again.

Perhaps more to the point, the First Amendment has nothing to do with the political or moral propriety of trying to intimidate a lawyer in a community fight by posting his address in the e-mail mailboxes of 100,000 or more people, and then picketing his home where he lives with a spouse and minor children. To me that is anti-democratic. And the attempt to intimidate a lawyer to abandon clients smacks of a fascistic approach to politics. 

Klansman could be fascists and also have First Amendment rights, which is why they got to march in 2017 in Charlottesville with torches lit, and why any right-minded person called them out. 

I was was general counsel to ACORN, probably the largest activist group ever to exist in the U.S. Its community organizers organized many a picket, probably even some at the homes of businessmen whose policies were destroying poor communities, although more often outside their banks and corporate headquarters.

I do not think that is comparable to picketing the home of a lawyer in a legitimate environmental case and trying to intimidate him into dropping his clients. 

Norman may have enjoyed it, I didn’t. Although I was polite to the picketers, and even engaged with a group of them for an hour after the screaming ended.

Arthur Schwartz


Democracy supporter

To The Editor:

Re “Hong Kong-democracy and Beijing backers face off” (news article, Aug. 22):

My sympathies are with the Hong Kong protesters but the anti-Fujianese comments posted on the online version of the article are ugly and disturbing.

This is excellent reportage, Villager. Wish I had been there. So did Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung fly in just for this demonstration?

Bill Weinberg


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