Letters to The Editor, Week of Aug. 9, 2018

Hard to stomach this

To The Editor:  

Da Marcella, until very recently at 142 W. Houston St., was a local restaurant with a relaxed environment and delicious food at very reasonable prices. It was an immediate success after it opened in 2014 — and we thought it would be here for a long time to come.

As recently reported by the New York Post, the sudden, unexpected demise was the result of a wheelchair-bound man who searches for restaurants that lack wheelchair access. He and his attorney tell the restaurant owner that they will sue the restaurant unless the owner pays them $25,000. This is extortion. And providing wheelchair access would reduce Da Marcella’s already minimal space by so much that making eough profit to remain in business would be impossible. So the owner, Max Leifer, closed the restaurant.

The man doing this, Jose Figueroa, and his attorney, Stuart Finkelstein, have filed 21 similar court cases since 2017. And who knows how many proprietors have chosen to pay them $25,000 to avoid the lawsuit.

Someone has to put this pair out of business!

Sheila Haas


Pols short on solutions

To The Editor:

Re “C.B. 2 focuses on filling in the empty storefronts” (news article, Aug. 2):

We needed this committee and forum.

We also need our politicians to really do something to help save organic small business in New York City. What’s happening in the Village and around the city is just unacceptable, and everyone has to push for efforts to save our small businesses — not “curated small business.”

Alison Greenberg


BIDs part of problem

To The Editor:

Re “C.B. 2 focuses on filling in the empty storefronts” (news article, Aug. 2):

Business improvement districts are the greatest failures in the city’s history. If BIDs did their jobs, the businesses would not be empty in the first place. BIDs are property-owner organizations whose boards are primarily landlords and banks and chains. All of them have benefited from the real estate speculation the past two decades and want to keep the status quo.

The BIDs’ record is a disgrace and, in any major city in the world, all of them would have been banned entirely for allowing small business owners to be destroyed by these same BIDs’ board members.

They are also anti-immigrant for allowing the mostly immigrant owners to be extorted for cash by unscrupulous landlords when their leases expire. Others are only given short-term leases — sometimes month to month or just one year. Walk down any main street in New York City and you will see the failure of BIDs.

How do they explain the courts evicting, on average, 490 businesses each month since BIDs began expanding in New York City? Or the estimated 1,000 small businesses closing each month?

And yet the BIDs can’t admit what every New Yorker knows: The rents are out of control and the one-sided lease-renewal process and greed are killing our businesses.

Only legislation giving rights to business owners can save our mom-and-pop stores — not fake studies or worthless Department of Small Business Services programs or more BIDs. Not one agency in the city has a business- or job-retention program! The BIDs are the problem, not the solution.

Steve Barrison
Barrison is executive vice president and spokesperson, Small Business Congress of New York City


Siegel as creative Villager

To The Editor:

Re “Soho group is still preaching, quietly, the principles of Eli” (news article, July 19):

I am confused by the purpose of this article. The name of the publication is The Villager, correct? Why on earth did Gabe Herman not write about Eli Siegel as a Villager?

Siegel was a renowned poet, literary critic, lecturer, philosopher and more, who made significant contributions to Village literary and cultural life. The New York Times once described Siegel as “hilariously funny” and “uncannily profound.”

Eli Siegel moved to Greenwich Village from Baltimore not long after his poem “Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana” won The Nation magazine’s prestigious Poetry Prize in 1925 (not “the National Prize,” as stated in the article), and later, Siegel was placed on a shortlist for the Pulitzer Prize for the same poem.

Siegel’s work was very popular with other Village artists. Henry Miller’s biography, “Henry Miller: A Life,” cites Siegel’s “Hot Afternoons” as being one of Miller’s favorite poems. In the 1930s, while living in the Village, Siegel wrote groundbreaking literary criticism for Scribner’s Magazine on such authors as Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot and Pearl S. Buck. Siegel was also the master of ceremonies of memorable poetry performances at the Village Vanguard, vividly described in Max Gordon’s book “Life at the Village Vanguard.”

In 1952, Eli Siegel gave a surprising lecture in the Village on Jane St. about William Carlos Williams’s poetry, attended by Williams, during which Siegel presented a bold interpretation of Williams’s body of work. Williams responded to Siegel with heartfelt gratitude, saying, “It’s as if everything I’ve done has been for you.”

In 1969, The New York Times review of Siegel’s book “Hail American Development,” featuring his poem “Local Stop, Sheridan Square,” was written by the noted critic Kenneth Rexroth, who stated: “Most of us who were there remember Eli Siegel as the sole survivor of the Golden Age of Greenwich Village… . I think it is about time Eli Siegel was moved up into the ranks of our acknowledged Leading Poets.”

In 1970, the Actors Playhouse in the Village presented “Hedda Gabler,” featuring a radical reinterpretation of the Ibsen classic by Eli Siegel. Time magazine ran a full-page, glowing review of the play, stating it was “…not only beautifully performed, but deeply and subtly thought through in terms that make it peculiarly relevant to the psychic and psychological states of the modern woman.”

In 2018, the good effect of Eli Siegel’s work lives on in the Village and beyond, in so many ways including through his philosophy, Aesthetic Realism.

I’m sorry that Gabe Herman is poorly informed about Village cultural history, causing him to deprive readers of so many important aspects of Eli Siegel’s life and contributions as a Villager.

I’m still confused — what was the purpose of this article?

Steven Montgomery

Editor’s note: The article’s focus was Aesthetic Realism as a movement and belief system, not a profile of its founder, Eli Siegel, or his artistic contributions. 


New heights

To The Editor:

Re “He’s hip to hopping” (Page One photo, by Bob Krasner, Aug. 2):

Maybe one of the best photos ever in The Villager.

Patrick Shields


E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to [email protected] or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 MetroTech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.

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