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September 29th, 2003

Letters

by SoHo Journal Staff

In “The State of SoHo,” in volume 5, number 2, D. Clark MacPherson writes, “What has not been more forcefully demanded of developers is parking space in hotel and larger residential plans. Somehow it seems to be an afterthought, that everyone will find a place for their vehicle, and that it is not their responsibility to plan for that.”I question MacPherson’s assumption that everyone in these hotel and apartment complexes has “their vehicle.” Manhattan in general, and SoHo in particular, is one of the easiest places in the US to live without a car. Maybe the developers have actually thought it out and decided that most of their residents will walk, bicycle or take subways, buses and taxis, and not have any need to own individual vehicles.
MacPherson’s way of thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more parking available, the more residents will own cars, and the more hotel guests will rent them. This in turn leads to more cars on the streets of SoHo, more pollution, and more car crashes. The trend of replacing unsightly and dangerous parking lots, garages and gas stations with shops, apartments and parks should be applauded.
Angus B. Grieve-Smith

Dear Mr. Grieve-Smith,
Thanks for your views on the parking problem.
You are correct about the need for fewer polluting vehicles in Manhattan, and SoHo in particular. Bicycles have it all over SUV’s. Denmark sets an enviable example.
Unfortunately, the developers’ reasons for not including space for parking has nothing to do with their visionary planning. They design for the least cost, highest return on investment.
However, that said, during the interim period (before we educate government about bicycles and reverse the Verrazano toll so we get less traffic), we must deal with the fact that there are 14-16 parking lots that will get developed and further reduce parking in SoHo and NoHo. Those cars will not just go away. And, they are primarily for workers who drive into Manhattan.
D. Clark MacPherson

My name is Vincent Barile. I am a manager of a restaraunt in Tribeca called Bubby’s. I also teach karate to afterschool program’s in both Little Red School House and Children’s Aid Society on Sullivan Street.
I have lived in the Tribeca Area since 1975. My family has lived on Sullivan, Macdougal, and Thompson Streets. Thompson Street is where I was “raised.” I spent many an hour on that block. I was surrounded by friends and family who go back a couple of generations. That is why it was so painful to read Abby Ehmann’s quote in her article “A Stroll down Thompson Street” (Volume 5 #2) stating “The neighborhood has changed considerably over the past few decades, from the gritty blocks epitomized by the gay-bashing scene in Torch Song Trilogy to shopping circuit for the ladies?ɂ”
It hurt so much to see a place that went from having some sort of cultural identity, a place that my family and their forefathers called home, a place that was overwhelming with love and sense of community transform to a place full of overpriced shops and unaffordable rents. And to hear that place that I grew up in summed up in one sentence as a haven for gaybashers is an outrage.
I cannot believe that this is the same magazine in the same issue that pays tribute to the late great Anthony Dapolito. He would shed a few tears if he knew his neighborhood of old was described in such a trite and hateful fashion.
Vincent Barile

Hi Vinny:
I didn’t say that anyone was a gaybasher, I only mentioned the scene in that movie where there was gaybashing. When I first moved to NYC. I met two women who lived above Milady’s. It was a SCARY neighborhood then. It was ’85 or 86. It has obviously changed a LOT over the years, from a regular local neighborhood years ago to a scary place, like almost ALL of NYC was during the 70s and early 80s, to what it is now, almost NOT a neighborhood but a place for snooty Europeans to spend too much money on boutique clothing. If you’ve been reading SoHo Journal, you might have read my reviews of Ken & Bob’s and Lupe’s. The company I worked for moved to Ave. of the Americas and Watt St. in, like, 1989, I think it was. Between the Spring St. subway and that building there was almost nothing. One ATM, only a few restaurants, etc. I used to hang out at Fanelli’s after work when it was old men and local artists.
Anyway, I’m writing back because I obviously do care. I never want my words to be misconstrued. I will admit to writing in a “trite” manner, which is more an attempt at being cute and pithy?ɂ.I apologize if it wound up making Thompson Street sound cute and pithy. I wasn’t writing a historical piece, I was writing a tourist/shopping/dining piece. You know, telling people what they’d find today strolling down Thompson St.
I’ve lived in the East Village for years and have watched with a mixture of horror and pleasant surprise as the junkies and such have been replaced by yuppies. It doesn’t feel like as much of a neighborhood anymore, but our property values are huge. A trade-off?ɂyes, and one that has good and bad points. Less character and color, more cash?ɂless space at the local bar and more obnoxious kids in khakis?ɂan age-old conundrum?ɂ
Again, the article was meant to be VERY today and not a historical piece. It was also written as a very POSITIVE piece, like, COME to Thompson Street. I do hope that’s what most people took away from it. And I apologize for any perceived slight against the neighborhood.
Abby Ehmann

Re: “Growing up in Soho” by Alexandra Schwimmer (vol. 5 no. 2) Like Alexandra Schwimmer, I am a so-called “SoHo kid,” one of a handful of children who grew up in the neighborhood in the 1980s. I recall being awed by the gritty polish of the cast-iron landscape, feeling wonderfully small amid forests of Grecian columns and sweeping, sun-dotted graffiti murals. SoHo always had a surreal quaintness to it, a post-modern anachronism caught somewhere between bohemia and urban renewal. I feel privileged for having experienced the community in its relatively pristine, pre-Starbucks(TM) state.
On my way home from school, I would look forward to seeing what masterpiece Rene, “The Best Artist,” had emblazoned upon the wall of some abandoned lot overnight. I’d play hopscotch in an abandoned alleyway my best girlfriend and I had colonized from the ghosts of the stolid old factories. I’d blast the oldies station off my fire escape just to see the smiles bloom on the faces of passers-by below. Before it was a hip place to live, SoHo was indeed a cool place to grow up.
Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but chafe at Ms. Schwimmer’s conjecture that SoHo has retained the charm it had before it was renovated, upzoned, and yuppified in its adolescence, which coincided with ours. Though she suggests the character of the neighborhood made our childhoods fundamentally different from a youth spent “Uptown with Central Park and a doorman,” I would say that SoHo today exudes all the snobbery and narcissism for which the Upper East Side upper crust have long been famous. Trend-mongers, I-Bankers, tourists and real estate developers are now flooding south of Houston to establish the commercial and residential center of the new elite-the bastion of Gen X’s nubile affluence. True, SoHo has “very few doormen,” but it also has very little of the free-spirited eclecticism that characterized its ascent in the twilight of New York’s countercultural efflorescence. It began as a playground for the artistic exploration of visionaries, evolved into a space where artists could settle down without compromising their ideals, and then ended up as a playpen for expanding markets and the clich?s of the nouveau riche.
Now, SoHo also has very few of the kids who grew up here, which might account for Ms. Schwimmer’s question, “Where are all the SoHo kids?” I know families who have moved to Brooklyn, dismayed by the downward spiral of gentrification, and I don’t know many SoHo kids who still feel much allegiance to the neighborhood. To me, West Broadway today feels as foreign as Madison Avenue, and even more overpriced. Throughout college, each return visit entailed the dreaded discovery of yet another fashionable new boutique; the opening of yet another sleek, vapid martini bar; the closing of yet another local mom and pop shop. Now, having just graduated, I am sad to say that I look forward to leaving this place, which has long since ceased to feel like a community to me. I suppose there is no point in trying to resist the new development; it is one of only a few huge, unstoppable transitions that have punctuated this generation of the city. But as an individual, I can only hope that I and other SoHo kids can hang onto the modest cool of old SoHo that inspired our youth and avoid the smug excess that has invaded it in our adulthood.
Keep on rocking.
Sincerely,
Michelle Chen

Dear SJ —
Riding the Hampton Jipmey.
Please tell your readers that the Hampton Jipmey (the only bus service from New York to the Hamptons) has joined a few of the other operators in New York City and the Hamptons-like Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Con Edison and all that ilk. I remember when the Jipmey was nothing but a trailer towing service for carting bicycles from one end of the East End to the other so you could get some excercise. They were capable of doing that right.
Now it’s a high-end trailer service that charges nearly $50 for a round trip in one of their numerous low-end, high pollution generating buses. That is, unless you’re lucky enough to get one of those low-tech school bus types they occasionally drop on you! It would be alright if the dispatchers had to pass an I.Q. test before they were given the responsibilty for arranging people’s lives but Suzanne apparently isn’t one of them. Our visitor spent the day at our house after coming out on the Jipmey but could not get home because the driver (now apparently from Homeland Security) and his assistant could not find her name on his pad. And, of course since the Sheriff’s Office has cars contantly patrolling the bus stop looking for terrorists at Gabreski Airport where the Jipmey stops, one shouldn’t argue with the driver.
So where do you go with no competition for bus service on a summer night in the Hamptons? Car service anyone? Right! All the way back to New York.
And the owner, tres sympathetic (NOT!) Jeff Lynch, did not see the logic of his offering to pay the cost of a private car in place of the non-existent seat on the Jipmey. He thought the car service was charging too much. He thought a later bus with transfers in another town that would get her home after midnight was just fine. Nice not having any competition, isn’t it? The world is your oyster, replete with fake pearls.
D. Grady
Westhampton

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