Sunday, August 13, 2006

SoHo Security

Or, how I learned to live with the bomb.

The most recent proof that Homeland Security is keeping us safe is the D.O.T.'s recent refusal to allow the gift of planters partially sponsored by Bloomingdale's to be placed around SoHo. The planters, each one dedicated to a fallen 9/11 Fireman, were to have been placed around SoHo to beautify and lend some sense of foliage to our concrete arts Mecca . In spite of the love that the city professes to have for SoHo -- as Lady Bird Johnson once suggested -- we need to plant "a tree, a bush or a shrub to beautify".... SoHo.

However, as Joshua Simons of the Crosby Street Block Association has learned, the D.O.T. apparently considers the planters a "bomb threat."

Just exactly how a planter with the inscription of a dead fireman who gave his life for that tragic event could be considered fodder for yet another terrorist attack leaves one incredulous. The local chapter of Al Qaeda seems to be more interested in large targets rather than designer lofts with Bosch appliances.

Or, is there another explanation for denying SoHo the planters.

A simpler one may have leaked out of the lower rungs of the D.O.T. when it was learned that Commissioner Iris Weinshall, Chuck Schumer's wife, lives across from Prospect Park and doesn't like planters. She has a point. Planters really are not a good substitute for grass, trees and flowers.

But Iris, can you bring us some grass, trees and flowers? At over $1000 a foot, we can't even get weeds. We'd love some rolling meadows too! It's just that, well, can someone bring them to us - like, now? We'd be happy to give up our planters.

So, what has been passed along to us as a security protection smells suspiciously like a personal predilection on the part of a City Commissioner. It must be nice to be a Commissioner who gets to decide what all of the little people are permitted to have in their lives.

The heat has been turned up on the City over the Trump development at Spring and Varick Streets. The Trump people insist that the hotel/condo will be built - a 45 story residential tower in a manufacturing zone. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, GVSHP, insists that this is not a permitted use in a manufacturing zone and that this project perverts the use and variance system and defeats the zoning process. While a hotel is "as-of-right" in a manufacturing zone, residential use requires a variance. Thus, transient hotel use is permitted while long term residential use is not - unless a plan comes before the community and becomes subject to its comments, suggestions, modifications and approval process. What is as stake here is the foisting upon a downtown community of a huge mega-structure without review, comment or modification that would normally be subject to the carefully negotiated zoning structure. We have a huge new structure with a high density of tenants, perhaps families, and no social net to absorb them. Mr. Trump, you build buildings but do your planners have any interest in what becomes of the community or your new tenants once you have moved on? What about schools, what about the parking crisis, and, forgive us, but what about the silly concern about light and air?

The City has not yet issued permits to the Trump people, but they have not agreed to meet with Andrew Berman of GVSHP either. Our guess is that the bureaucrats are trying to figure out how much heat they will have to take if they give this project the green light without consulting with residents. Right now, Berman is putting their feet to the flames but they are dragging them nevertheless. If you object to this project, contact the City.

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