As a student living in a dorm at Fashion Institute of Technology, I am outraged by the facts presented in Tom Robbins's article "High on the Hog" [April 10]. Must FIT president Joyce Brown waste school funds to improve her penthouse? I'm certain it was very livable before she moved in. With an annual income over $140,000, she could have spent some of her own money renovating it. Tuition keeps rising every year. FIT needs money to improve student housing, computer facilities, and campus facilities. How greedy can one person be?

Fatima Patel

I'm a former FIT student. I worked in the computer labs, and I know that FIT needs more advanced computer technology so that students will be able to compete in the real world. To me, the money spent by Dr. Brown on her penthouse is very offensive. This money should have been spent wisely on the students.

Renee Garrecano
Valley Stream, Long Island

As the parent of a FIT student, I was enraged by the information in the article on Dr. Joyce Brown. Under the school's new guidelines, my daughter has been unable to secure dormitory housing for more than two consecutive semesters—which means we must find affordable housing for her during her final year. Not an easy task! These outrageous expenditures on the president's penthouse space are appalling.

I.E. Jackson
Staatsburg, New York


Re Tom Robbins's article "High on the Hog": So that's what all the clankety-clank-clank was last August. We lowly dormitory residents were awakened, sometimes at 7 a.m., while Dr. Joyce Brown installed $8000 in kitchen appliances and such. Maybe Dr. Brown should come downstairs to visit us paupers who don't have such lavish things. She lives in the 18th-floor penthouse; I live on the 11th floor in the same FIT building.

Kakia Johnson


Tom Robbins's article has FIT up in arms. All I can say is: brilliant! Imagine what the school could have done with that money to help the working-class student body instead of putting it to use on things like the $20,000-plus spent on new wooden doors for the president's apartment.

It was also interesting how all of this week's issues of The Village Voice were missing from their on-campus racks. Hmm.

Matthew Cassel


Re Tom Robbins's article "High on the Hog": In June 1998, we put before newly appointed FIT president Dr. Joyce F. Brown a daunting task: improve the campus and facilities, increase the number of full-time faculty, extend student services, and develop curriculum.

It is board policy to require the president to live on campus full-time. In order for Dr. Brown to conduct business as a college president, and to assist her in meeting her mandate, the renovation was necessary and appropriate. FIT's Board of Trustees initiated this work and takes responsibility for it. The fact is, the apartment needed significant renovation—there was water damage from roof leakage, there were very few furnishings, and the space needed to be conducive to fundraising and college activities. That Robbins considers this investment in college property an extravagance is a matter of opinion.

As one of the nation's preeminent colleges for design and business, FIT is an important asset to the City of New York. Tens of thousands of our graduates are leaders in industries integral to the city's economic vitality. The college serves the $25 billion fashion industry, fuels the $20 billion toy industry, and prepares managers and executives in merchandising, advertising, public relations, and manufacturing.

FIT is a proud public institution that provides training to over 11,000 full- and part-time students, who come from all parts of New York City and New York State as well as from around the country and the world seeking our special brand of education. The Board of Trustees fully supports Dr. Brown and her talented students, faculty, and staff.

Edwin Goodman
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Fashion Institute of Technology


While I agree with the general thrust of Richard Goldstein's article about anti-gay prejudice in the criminal justice system ["Queer on Death Row," March 20], the piece contains one serious misinterpretation of language. Mr. Goldstein writes that Calvin Burdine's lawyer "had no problem calling the co-defendant in the case a 'tush hog.' " Clearly, Mr. Goldstein thinks that this is an anti-gay slur. It is nothing of the kind.  

Although "tush" is a common slang synonym for "ass," it has another, entirely different meaning. It is a synonym for "tusk," derived from an older English usage, which survives in the dialect in some parts of the American South. If you read the first chapter of Animal Farm you will see the word used by George Orwell in exactly this way, describing Old Major as a boar whose "tushes had never been cut."

Thus, in Southern dialect, a "tush hog" is a dumb and belligerent man—the sort who will start a fight for no rational reason. I suspect Burdine's lawyer may have used this language to describe his co-defendant in an effort to shift culpability for the murder away from his client and onto the other man by portraying him as unpredictably violent—not to slur him as homosexual. Mr. Goldstein needs to be reminded that New Yorkese isn't the only form of English spoken in the U.S.

Mark De Martini
Los Angeles, California


As a music journalist who participates in the Voice's Pazz & Jop poll, I was disgusted by Peter Noel's cover story on Sean Combs ["Vampire Playa," April 3]. It was bad enough that the cover art was in extremely poor taste, but the story itself was obviously entrusted to someone who only has a superficial grasp of hip-hop.

What was Noel's point? That Jamaal "Shyne" Barrow is a jerk because Combs made him one? Doesn't Barrow have a will of his own? Or was Noel's point the fact that people have left Combs's Bad Boy Records? I'm sure you could round up disgruntled artists from any number of labels who would claim they that left because they were mistreated, their labels didn't push their product enough, or they waited a long time to have their records released. That is an industry-wide "curse"—not one limited to Bad Boy.

Yes, Combs has been linked to some unfortunate circumstances and has done some stupid things. I think he would willingly admit that. But to paint a picture of him based on the accounts of mostly unnamed sources with no credibility (the "self-described rap historian" was especially ridiculous) and hearsay is tabloid journalism. I thought the Voice was better than that.

Andrea Duncan


Over the years, I have come to enjoy Peter Noel's articles tremendously. He rarely minces words and is not afraid of being confrontational on the issues. His eloquence in expressing the outrage of New York City blacks during last year's wave of police brutality jarred many of us out of the complacency and jaded depression of powerlessness.

I have missed this quality of reporting from Mr. Noel in the last few months. It is unfortunate that Mr. Noel is so fixated on Sean Combs that he cannot see that he is in danger of becoming like the celebrity-fixated fluff he so often shows up.

If, as I suspect, Mr. Noel is writing a book on this trial—I imagine with the many articles so far, he's almost there—a sabbatical may be in order.

Personally, I could not care less about Sean Combs, his trial, his relationship to Jennifer Lopez, or Jamaal Barrow's failure to differentiate between fantasy and reality. If I did, however, I would watch E! or Court TV, or read Page Six. Celebrity "news" is neither hard-hitting nor relevant. Mr. Noel's talents are wasted on this subject. I hope that with the resolution of the Combs trial, readers can look forward to Mr. Noel's return from Puffy-land.

Clay Williams


If the protest action at the Community Board 2 meeting mentioned in Chisun Lee's article "Broome Street Stakes Rise" [March 27] was too subtle to get the point across to the genteel Soho audience gathered at the Puffin Room, or to gallery owner Carl Rosenstein, here's a message loud and crude.

Rosenstein appreciates multiculturalism so long as it's packaged and presentable to Soho's discerning tastes, but crates of bok choy in his line of vision (or fish sauce, god forbid, on his pristine gallery floors) are apparently an affront to his quality of life.

As Chinatown and other communities of color, such as Harlem, Bed-Stuy, and the South Bronx, become prime targets for gentrification and are turned into upscale hubs for the wealthy, landlord harassment and evictions of people of color are increasingly common. Chinatown, including Broome Street, was built by Asian immigrants out of nothing but hard labor under the harshest racist attacks. Chinatown stands firmly in support of the wholesale merchants on Broome Street, who provide an indispensable service to the community, and is opposed to opportunists who stand to profit through displacement of communities of color and disguise their racist agendas under the banner of "quality of life" and civic activism.  

Hyun Lee, Program Director
Chinatown Justice Project of CAAAV:
Organizing Asian Communities


Chisun Lee's article "Broome Street Stakes Rise" was the first balanced report about the SoHo Alliance's six-year crusade to rid Broome Street of Asian merchants. Broome Street's Asian wholesalers, including Carl Rosenstein's neighbor World Farm, are legitimate businesses with all the proper licenses required to operate as wholesale produce distributors. The SoHo Alliance's allegations about World Farm's noncompliance with court orders and zoning laws are mere pretexts for another agenda—the forcing out of hardworking Asian business owners who supply us with fruits and vegetables.

In addition, the SoHo Alliance's policing of World Farm for the past six years amounts to nothing less than a campaign of harassment. Since 1997, I have been bringing Asian programs and audiences to Carl Rosenstein's Puffin Room gallery. Thus, it is a sad day for me when its owner, who allegedly has progressive politics, seeks to ruin Asian merchants as part of a racist campaign of neighborhood "cleansing" and gentrification.

As for Rosenstein's insistence on noting his marriage to a Japanese woman as a defense against charges of racism, it's best to let that statement speak for itself.

Ngo Than Nhan, Member
Board of Directors
The Brecht Forum


I'd like to commend Camelia Fard for the courage and faith presented in her article on temporary marriages in Iran ["Unveiled Threats," April 3]. Exposing such taboos is necessary for a better future for our country. Not only is what she wrote absolutely true, it is only a bit of the problem when it comes to prostitution in Iran. By putting Fard in prison, the officials of the Ministry of Intelligence gave her as clear a warning as any mafia gives to someone who seeks to denounce them: Shut up!

Amin Naraghi
Paris, France


Thank you for J.A. Lobbia's "primer" on the Rent Guidelines Board ["The ABCs of the RGB," April 3]. While understandably reflecting the Voice's zeitgeist, the article was largely an objective, informative, accurate piece of reporting.

While I don't expect tenants and landlords to be any happier with the decisions by the board, Lobbia's piece will at least help them understand why the board does as it does. (The picture often is no prettier behind the scenes than it is when the board is in the public eye.)

The article did contain one glaring error: The photo caption stated [in part]: "The Times calls RGB chair Ed Hochman a nail-biter. His mother calls him a disgrace." My mother never called me a "disgrace." When a friend mentioned that once a year (i.e., the day the RGB announces the rent adjustments) I become "the most hated man in New York," she said, "That's disgraceful."

In fact, my mother assures me that she loves me very much.

Edward S. Hochman, Chairman
New York City Rent Guidelines Board

J.A. Lobbia replies: The comment to which Hochman refers came from a May 16, 2000, article in The New York Times, which quoted him as saying that his mother "tells me that I'm a burlesque, a disgrace, and if I had any sense, I'd resign." Hochman says the Times, and subsequently the Voice, misquoted him. I declined his offers to phone his mother to verify her affections.

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