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May 24, 2004

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Manifest Destiny
Brooklyn residents now have the opportunity of a lifetime to reclaim a national sports team and gain a new world-class arena that will become the center of city life—the city of Brooklyn [“New Improved Brooklyn,” by Alexandra Lange, May 3]. We are only at the beginning of the process, and I’m confident that the voices of those most affected will be heard. People choose to live in Brooklyn because our quality of life is better. I was elected to improve that quality by ensuring that our growth is “smart,” utilizing public transportation and improving neighborhoods. I have fought all my adult life for Brooklyn not to stand second to any city—including Manhattan. There are many positive benefits of this project for Brooklyn, such as affordable housing, jobs, and cultural facilities. And by the way, for the more than 25 years I’ve been in public service, Brooklynites have been calling me by my first name—I insist on it.
—Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President

Once again, the imperial powers of Manhattan have decided what is best for the colonies—in this case, Brooklyn. They are offended when the folks of Brooklyn say they don’t want Brooklyn to be like Manhattan. They think we are ungrateful when we think there should be some good planning and that we should be a part of the process. They think we are rude when we say we do not want Manhattan’s noise, its litter, and crowds. They think we are uncivilized when we say they are overbuilding and that they don’t have a clue as to what Brooklyn is about. None of these so-called leaders will have to live with what they have wrought.
—Robert W. Ohlerking, Brooklyn

Five years ago, I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn for the skyline view. I feel an enormous sense of relief now when I walk home over the Brooklyn Bridge every day and the buildings and everything around me get smaller and smaller. Bruce Ratner’s plan and other proposed projects will just turn Brooklyn into another towering, generic city. I only hope Brooklyn residents will come together and stop this madness.
—Faye Nikolaidis, Brooklyn

It amazes me that a cover story discussing development, gentrification, and affordable housing never squarely addresses the single greatest issue facing all residents of this city: the housing shortage. Housing prices are totally out of control because only so many people can be squeezed into so little space. Yet affordable-housing advocates like City Councilwoman Letitia James want to build more townhouses when the market demands high-rises, not rowhouses. The construction of high-rises will bring much-needed space to the area, with the result that fewer mid-rise buildings will threaten historic architecture. And if gentrification is the sole cause of soaring prices, why does my stomach sink when I look at prices in Jackson Heights?
—Chris Segedy, Brooklyn

Trigg Quotient
Isadora Fox did a great job on the article about my friend [“The Perfect Margaret Trigg,” May 3]. It served its purpose as a cautionary tale for all those potentially vulnerable young women who dream of success on the small and/or big screens. For me, the article brought back the tragedy of a woman who bought into everything she hated and who ultimately could not support the strain of that contradiction. However, when I talked about the article with a friend, we agreed that anyone reading it who didn’t know Margaret might come away with only a vague idea of who she was. Yes, Margaret was certainly vain, self-obsessed, unstoppable. She also possessed a strong work ethic. Margaret’s professional credits are more impressive than the article indicated. In this age of too-frequent Lenny Bruce comparisons, she was a true original. Onstage, doing her act, she could be brilliantly improvisational, spontaneous, irreverent, angry, and more intellectual than she herself would have ever admitted. Margaret was wackily buoyant, as well as defiantly entertaining, and to the end, she never stopped fighting. She was determined to make it on her own terms. This is why so many of us were shocked when she died. She had fooled us, this girl who we thought didn’t give a damn about what anyone thought of her, this girl who was so smart and burning with ambition, this girl with her secret Achilles’ heel.
—Steve Bird, Manhattan

I salute Isadora Fox’s article. It was pointed and yet comprehensive on a terribly oblique and complicated subject: Margaret Trigg. But I feel a need to pull rank as Margaret’s final confidante, “best friend,” and the recipient of literally hours of railing prior to and during her final incarceration, and as the last one on the outside to have seen her alive, hours before her sudden death. After alienating everyone in the summer of 2003, Margaret needed to keep me around, so she cut through a lot of the faux dementia—although much of it was real and didn’t go away—and the affectations. Margaret didn’t care a whit whether she was still attractive to men, nor was she sculpting herself to perfection to somehow wheedle her way back into showbiz and achieve fame. Margaret had given up on fame. She was no fool, and she knew it was over for her. Margaret was all about fortune. Her need for perfection was about trying to get work. Margaret’s biggest fear was not that she wasn’t going to make it as an actress but rather that she would end up homeless, in debt, and without any means of getting out of it. As with most self-employed people, she had no medical insurance, and the “system” shut her out of Medicaid and welfare, as well as all other city-related help. In short, Margaret Trigg had nowhere to go but to become one of the characters she portrayed so prophetically: a bag lady who aspires to visit a subway-billboard dermatologist for laser surgery. Margaret claimed her face was her fortune, and I think the plastic surgery was a desperate attempt to get work in an industry that depends on beauty.
—Danielle Fenton, Manhattan

London Calling
“The New Cab Calculus” [by Peter Hyman, May 3] is a great guide to understanding how the taxi-fare hike will affect New Yorkers. However, it missed an opportunity to highlight an important issue: the need for more wheelchair-accessible cabs. Of the 12,187 cabs on the street, only 5 are wheelchair-accessible. Although the 900 new medallions to be issued over the next three years will include approximately 80 wheelchair-accessible cabs, this still means that by 2006 only 0.6 percent of cabs will be able to accommodate wheelchairs. This compared with other world-class cities like London, where all cabs are wheelchair-accessible. Our city, which sets so many trends, should strive to be a model for others in this respect.
—Ruth Brenner, President, New York City Chapter, National Multiple Sclerosis Society

As a Londoner, I would like to take issue with one point in Peter Hyman’s article: the high cost of taxi fares in Europe, especially London. It should be noted that to obtain a taxi driver’s license in London, a driver must first pass an intense test and memorize not only all the streets in London but the shortest and cheapest routes. When a New York driver, who hardly understood English and whose cab was filthy and smelled like an old jockstrap, asked me for directions and I complained, he spat in my face. London’s cabs are roomier, cleaner, and offer far better service. The extra charge is worth the peace of mind of knowing that you will arrive where you ask to be taken and not end up with your face covered with the driver’s phlegm.
—Spencer Doran, Tokyo, Japan

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