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March 8, 2004

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No Finer Place
The far West Village is, in fact, a cohesive neighborhood that is deeply concerned about encroaching high-rise development [Down by the Riverside,” by Deborah Schoeneman, February 9]. Ensuring that the neighborhood character is preserved is a prominent concern of many residents. There are many who would like the entire waterfront landmarked and who believe that high-rise development is antithetical to the area. The recent designation of the meatpacking district as a historic area by the Landmarks Preservation Commission is but a step in the effort of many Villagers to maintain the character of the place where we live. Homeowners like me, while pleased with the steady increase in property values, are opposed to developers running rampant to cater to the rich and famous.
—Alan G. Straus, Manhattan

Movin’ On Down
As a longtime West Village resident, I don’t mind a few well-designed buildings along the Hudson riverfront. It’s the hyperprivileged people who populate them who are the problem. These newcomers tend to disdain what this area has traditionally represented. “Typical Upper East Side buyers moving downtown for something hipper, cooler . . . ?” Jane Jacobs must be beside herself.
—Katherine Dieckmann, Manhattan

Riverside Keepers
Deborah Schoeneman forgot to mention all of us who have lived for years in this neighborhood—growing up, raising families, and growing old. We are who the West Village represents: artists, writers, police, teachers, etc. We live in middle-income housing that is slowly disappearing because this area happens to be the designer address of the month. The true West Village people will be here, keeping watch over our beloved neighborhood long after the trust-fund babies have moved on.
—Judith Witt, Manhattan

Code of Ethics
Developers have clearly realized that surrogate celebrity is a powerful marketing tool. Attaching a name-brand architect to the most ordinary, even unfinished structure can significantly improve bottom-line profitability. For $6 million to $14 million, you can get a raw Richard Meier loft requiring another $1 million or more to make it habitable. At Greenwich Street, one might have expected more for $2,000 per square foot than Winka Dubbeldam’s gimcrack folded-glass façade. Already the pretentious posturing of this entirely silly structure is tiresome, and its dubiousness will become more obvious once the sloping panes are unpleasantly encrusted with bird droppings. As for Morton Square, the lumpen parking-lot-inspired slab designed by Costas Kondylis, only the charitable-minded could think this is architecture. When one considers the Dakota or the Ansonia, it becomes clear how far standards and expectations have fallen. It also becomes clear how gullible the current breed of buyers actually is. But a modicum of design sensibility and respect for the context of the West Village would be appreciated by the rest of us.
—Brian Connolly, Manhattan

Pier Review
A bandoned and neglected, the Hudson River waterfront was better known for its tow pounds and chain-link fences than for its scenic vistas. Today, thanks to the new park in Greenwich Village, those urban eyesores have been replaced with verdant piers and esplanades, gardens, and recreational facilities. Whether or not you agree with the construction frenzy that is under way—and there is good reason to be ambivalent—it demonstrates that parks, especially the Hudson River Park, can be powerful economic engines. I can’t imagine Richard Meier, or any other architect and developer, designing a glass tower that would overlook a tow pound. Indeed, it’s only where the park has been completed that new buildings have risen. Let’s give credit where credit is due.
—Ross Graham, Co-chair, Friends of Hudson River Park, Manhattan

Stripped Bare
Bob Guccione is a libidinous genius without a lick of common sense [“The Porn King in Winter,” by Anthony Haden-Guest, February 9]. He had the acumen to realize there were millions of buyers for a magazine racier than Playboy, but not the common sense to listen to knowledgeable, caring people when they tried to explain why his empire was going down the toilet. Perhaps his pushing the envelope of nudity as far as he did was responsible for others going even further, but that claim to fame can’t save his mansion or world-class art collection.
—Patrick J. Leslie, Owensville, MO.

Pent-up Frustration
The infamous pubic-hair pioneer Bob Guccione—with his bimbos, art collection, and lavish lifestyle—serves to remind us all that America’s increasing tolerance for pornography has resulted in vicious attacks on our mothers, daughters, and sisters. Publications like Penthouse fuel the fires of sexual predators. We pay a terrible price for Guccione’s fame and celebrity.
—Andy Kartunen, Riviera Beach, Fla.

Mail Enhancement
Boy, aren’t you proud to show a sleaze like Bob Guccione and his whores? Alongside his production-line babes, he can pretend to be macho. But unless he had his plastic surgeon give him a spare to go with that remanufactured face, he can only do one at a time. It couldn’t be better!
—Anna Mitchell, Gainesboro, Tenn.

Crossfire
Patrolmen’s benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch expressed outrage over police commissioner Ray Kelly’s statement that the shooting of Timothy Stansbury by police officer Richard Neri was unjustified [“Cityside: Good Cop,” by Craig Horowitz, February 9]. Since when is the police commissioner supposed to be in lockstep with the head of the police officers’ union? 
—Michael J. Gorman, Whitestone

Psst . . .
At every step (or so it seemed) in his piece on the Martha Stewart trial [“This Media Life: Which Martha?” February 9], Michael Wolff’s description (and his first-person account) included a parenthetical statement (almost as though he was attempting to convince himself that his insight was actually valid), and his rambling tone nearly put me to sleep (or at least in a sleepy state). Ultimately, he told us who Martha really is (and thus who he is). (I hope the trial ends soon so he can rest his digression.)
—Marty Galasso, Manhattan

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