Although it is shocking to read about 11-year-old girls working as prostitutes on the streets of New York City in Loinaz's article "From the Cradle to the Street" [July 23], it is important to not sensationalize the facts. Loinaz interviewed only four young sex workers. From Our Streets With Dignity (FROST'D), a nonprofit organization that provides health and social services to New York City's street-based sex workers, talked with over 2000 workers in the past year. Their data shows an average client age of 35 and the number of clients under age 20 to be minuscule. While child prostitution is real and is shocking, the prevalent realities of hunger, poverty, and homelessness in New York City are equally horrific.
Kirsten L. Aspengren
Sex Workers and Advocates for Rights and Decriminalization (SACRD)
As a member of PONY (Prostitutes of New York) and SACRD, I would like to know how Loinaz researched this article. Is the Brooklyn district attorney's office really the best source of information as to why girls become sex workers? The inaccuracy of the statement "working as a prostitute by stripping" tells me that Loinaz did not talk to sex worker rights advocates and does not have a clear overall picture of the sex industry.
That the interviewer represents four subjects as being typical is shocking, but more shocking and tragic is that, besides Covenant House, there are no shelters or drop-in centers where young people can go in New York City. Loinaz refers to Safe Space as "a nonprofit that works with street kids" but, unfortunately, does not make it clear that there is nowhere for these kids to go.
Isn't it significant that the young people have already fled group homes and foster homes? Street youth may be able to access short-term shelter, but not nonjudgmental support. Nonjudgmental support is what they need in order to determine their own futures, rather than make choices based on what outside adults (at Girls Educational and Mentoring Services or Covenant House) will approve of. Why isn't this profound lack of services and lack of respect for our city's youth the scandal? Because it wouldn't make a sexy enough cover story.
Alexis Loinaz replies: "From the Cradle to the Street" was the product of nine months of research, interviews, and field reporting. The piece presented the facts as they were gathered and clearly stated that no full treatment facility for prostitutes existed in New York City. While the author spoke with FROST'D, which did confirm an older client base, four other organizationsas well as two district attorney's offices, several police officers, and the girls themselvestogether presented substantial evidence that prostitutes were getting younger. I also repeatedly tried to contact PONY; no one returned phone calls.
In the article "Buying Trouble" [July 30], Erik Baard states that "preferred-customer cards" are being used to determine a shopper's "terror quotient." But to do so assumes that the customer's identification is documented adequately. I currently hold at least two (perhaps three) such cards from my local grocery, having applied for additional cards when I forgot to bring the existing cards to the shop. I could easily have obtained the new cards under a false name, since the grocer's did not require any proof of my identity when it accepted the application and issued my new cards. I may be ignorant of the ways of law enforcement, but it seems to me that even when you can trust the information in such a potentially flawed database, all you can find out is who buys pizza and beer.
In his informative article "Tracking the Invisible Man" [July 23], David Taylor overlooked some of Ellison's significant steps through New York. Two of these steps are noted by Ellison in the introduction to the 1972 edition of Invisible Man. There he explains that his theme, which first occurred to him in a barn in Waitsfield, Vermont, in 1945, continued to haunt him "in a converted 141st Street stable, in a one-room ground floor apartment on St. Nicholas Avenue and, most unexpectedly, in a suite otherwise occupied by jewelers located on the eighth floor of Number 608 Fifth Avenue." Taylor also fails to mention that Ellison wrote the bulk of the novel while residing at 749 St. Nicholas Avenue, as reported by Andrew S. Dolkart and Gretchen S. Sorin in Touring Historic Harlem.
Professor of African American History
College of New Rochelle Harlem
I found Sharon Lerner's article "Hormonal Outrage" [July 23] one-sided and frustrating. Lerner fails to mention that in the Women's Health Initiative study completed by the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of breast cancer in women on hormone replacement therapy was an additional 8 out of 10,000a number deemed statistically insignificant by the researchers. Nor does she mention that treated women who do get breast cancer have a higher survival rate than their drug-free counterparts. She also does not recognize the therapy's positive effects on women's cognition and sexual function or its reduction of the risks for colon cancer and osteoporosis.
The treatment may not be the best option for every menopausal patient, but that does not mean that it is not a viable option for many women who suffer from the negative effects of menopause. If Lerner is going to make a statement regarding health, she should present the readers with all of the facts, so that they can make educated decisions about their health care.
Sharon Lerner replies: You're righthormone therapy does offer some benefits. Women with serious symptoms can still feel reasonably safe taking the drugs if they stay on them for a short time. My point was to note the financial incentive companies have to promote hormones, not just to treat severe symptoms, but to prevent heart disease in all aging women. As the activists I wrote about have been arguing for years, exaggerating the benefits to boost sales is an outrage.
Like Lerner, I am outraged that the vast amount of money the drug companies raise through public funding is used to ram products at us when their internal research has obviously indicated an ambiguous or dangerous result from their application. This news on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also makes me wonder why my doctor was not questioning "unproven claims" and noticing common, negative results in his patients? I am a breast cancer survivor of three years, and my cancer was hormone sensitive. I had been on HRT for 10 years.
Re Alisa Solomon's article "Protecting the Homeland" [July 30]: I know it is fashionable to be a humanitarian and support open borders for immigrants. It is also very popular to assume that anyone who wants to slow immigration into the United States is uncompassionate. But even if the United States took in 80 million immigrants a year we would not put a dent in the growth in population and poverty of the world. In the long run we would do much greater harm to the world in general because we produce a third of the world's pollution. By 2050 America's population will reach one-half billion, 95 percent of this growth due to mass immigration. At this rate, what future are we leaving to our children?
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Alisa Solomon's article is the kind of mushy thinking that will make John Ashcroft's job easier. On 9-11, nine of the 19 hijackers were stopped at airport security for additional screening, and it is safe to assume that the fact that they were young Arab males was a major factor. A profile that produces a 50 percent hit rate is a good one.
Also, Solomon cites Jose Padilla as a counter-example because he is not an Arab. But he is, like Richard Reed, a prison convert to Islam with ties to the Middle East. Because Solomon leaves out this salient fact, she gives the impression that we're as likely to be terrorized by Latinos as Arabs. Those responsible for most past terrorist attacks against the U.S. have been Arabs and Muslims. The INS, FBI, and CIA should act accordingly.
SHOT HEARD NOWHERE
What was the point of John Pastier's whining about Barry Bonds's home run at Yankee Stadium ["Blast-Off in the Bronx," July 30]? While I agree that the Yankee organization probably refuses to give an impressive-sounding number for visiting players' blasts, their general recalcitrance on the whole topic is wise. The whole "science" of it is just guesswork. No stadium has advanced mapping capability for these hits; they just assign a number based on where the ball lands and its rough trajectory. The margin of error is huge. As for having greater enthusiasm for home runs by Yankee players, isn't that part of what the "home" in home run is for?
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Re the column Uni Watch [villagevoice.com, July 16] by Paul Lukas: The nameplates? You're worried about the nameplates [arced strip of fabric sewn onto the back of the uniform with the player's name on it]? How about the fact that the team names on the front of the uniforms are unreadable. The uniforms look like the team owners got them at a clearance sale at Kmart.
But the most unprofessional trend of all is players wearing overly long pants that spill down over their shoes. They look like a bunch of Little Leaguers wearing hand-me-downs from their big brothers!
I read with interest Kyle Gann's obituary of composer Ralph Shapey [July 16]. Shapey was my violin teacher, visiting weekly our home in Sunnyside, Queens, in the early 1950s. I was seven years old. I remember Shapey as a friendly, intense man in his early thirties, clean-shaven then, hair starting to recede. By the time I was 10, he'd moved on to more important things than trying to coax beautiful music from the bow of a less-than-inspired student.
Later we received word of his music's radio debut. We knew Shapey was something of an enfant terrible then, and though we didn't expect to really like his music, much less understand it, we were all rooting for him. My mother was the only one in the family who heard the broadcast that day. When I got home, I asked her how she liked Shapey's music.
"Well," she said, "it wasn't exactly something you walk away humming."
I like to think Shapey would have taken no offense to so honest and innocent a review.
Marc B. Fried
Gardiner, New York
José Germosén made an error regarding Moby in his July 23 Fly Life column ["Got to Be Startin' Somethin'"]. Germosén states that, on July 10, Moby splashed a drink in the face of a girl at the Black & White. If memory serves me correctly, he was performing in Minnesota that night.
Harrison, New Jersey
HOLD THE VOTE
Regarding Eric Alterman's letter [Letters, July 23], which expressed concern that my take on the political aspect of abortion rights in Jennifer's Block's article ["Emergency Landing," July 9] was "a bit flippantand potentially dangerous": I do not think that political organizing is less important than hosting.
However, as activists, it is harder (and much more rare) to do something personallike have strangers in your home for a night while they go through a highly intimate and often wrenching experiencethan it is to sign a petition or vote. It certainly matters who is on the Supreme Court, but hosting raised my consciousness about access to abortion in profound ways that a mailing from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League never could.
In a city of 8 million, many of whom are pro-choice (at least in rhetoric), Haven Coalition has about 15 volunteers. I think it's pretty clear that there is a shortage of that kind of organizing for abortion rights.
In Scott Seward's review of El-P's Fantastic Damage [July 16], Company Flow's album was incorrectly cited. It's called Little Johnny From the Hospital.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter