Battlin' For Bella

Richard Goldstein ["Life After Duane," February 16] wrote that I am "up in arms" because City Council candidate Christopher Lynn claimed allegiance to my late mother, Bella Abzug, in a campaign brochure touting his values. Mr. Goldstein suggested that my pique was a product of my support for Aubrey Lees, an opponent of Lynn's in the special election in Council District 3.

Since mother's passing almost one year ago, Aubrey Lees did not invoke her name to boost her campaign. There are only two people I am aware of who have tried to publicly misuse my mother's legacy to enhance their public images. They are Christopher Lynn and Ed Koch, who endorsed Lynn in this election. I have publicly taken both to task for their lack of manners and integrity. Although both claim to have been my mother's allies and working partners on progressive issues, both have actually been diametrically opposed to everything she stood for, with the exception of her support of gay rights. Moreover, even on that issue, both are far more tepid in their support for gay rights than my mother was. They were afraid of and intimidated by mother, because she opposed what they stood for and often won.

My mother was a woman who achieved enormous national and international successes in the advancement of women's rights and human rights. We will not allow anyone to distort or diminish her legacy.

Liz J. Abzug

Taking Liberties

I write in response to Richard Goldstein's "Life After Duane," in which, while reporting on Christine Quinn's role on the Mayor's Task Force on Police/Community Relations, he asserts that the New York Civil Liberties Union's Norman Siegel "spearheaded a minority report that demanded an independent investigator for brutality complaints," and that "he chose not to share it with Quinn." The use of the word "spearheaded" is an interesting one for rendering invisible the two other dissenters (both racial minorities) on the task force, Margaret Fung and myself. Goldstein's suggestion is that Siegel marshaled, if not wrote, the minority report when, in fact, it was a collaborative effort.

As the civil liberties segment of the task force (Siegel is the NYCLU's executive director and Fung and I are board members), the three of us found our views quite at variance with those of the majority, although we helped to inform and contributed substantially to the majority's report, in addition to preparing our own dissenting report.

Curiously, Mr. Goldstein quotes a "source close to the task force" (not Siegel) as saying, "They [the dissenters] were afraid that if they showed it [our minority report] to [Quinn], she would take it right to Giuliani." I don't know who (since Goldstein did not talk to me) knew the motivations of the dissenters. However, your readers should know that I, for one, did not fear Quinn taking it "right to Giuliani." By the time we were preparing our dissent, Quinn was clearly identified with the majority on the task force, who refused to make findings about police practices or draw conclusions about Mayor Giuliani's deception of New Yorkers, which involved his organizing a task force he didn't regularly meet with, fund, or respect, and which he fired in the middle of our task.

Michael Meyers
Executive Director
New York Civil Liberties Union

Richard Goldstein replies: Meyers did not return my phone calls until well after my deadline had passed, so I was unable to interview him. Fung did not return my calls at all. Therefore, there was nothing to contradict the widely held belief that Norman Siegel, who emerged as the spokesperson for the minority report, did, in fact, "spearhead" it.

Rent Guidelines

J.A. Lobbia, in her Towers & Tenements column headlined "Rent in the 21st Century" [February 23], implies that the City Council's only alternatives when rent laws expire next year are to retain them as they exist or to extract more crippling concessions from tenants on top of those imposed from 1993 to 1997. However, the real question is whether the council will exercise its considerable powers to strengthen existing rent and eviction protections.

The 1971 "Urstadt Law" prohibits New York City from enacting any broader rent regulations than provided by the state legislature, but it does not prevent the City Council from using its power to protect the health and safety of residents, which it can do this year and next by taking steps in two areas: eviction protection and code enforcement.

Regarding the former, evictions are expected to exceed 30,000 families when 1998 numbers are released, because of the twin effects of speeding up Housing Court and denying needy families' requests for emergency rent grants under what City Hall has called "the cutting edge of welfare reform." Providing legal representation to all low-income families will prevent tens of thousands of evictions.  

As to code enforcement, there are currently 3 million recorded housing code violations, yet city attorneys bring only a few hundred enforcement cases each year. The number of housing inspectors for the whole city is under 300, compared to almost 700 in the 1980s. The council leadership has not agreed to even hold a hearing on Intro. 205, a proposal with wide support (including a majority of councilmembers), which would help thousands of children avoid the tragedy of lead poisoning without requiring exorbitant expense to owners.

Our organization is working with tenants throughout the city to get their representatives to support these initiatives. While we certainly demand that councilmembers vote to renew the rent laws with no further crippling amendments, that is not enough.

Kenny Schaeffer
Vice Chair
Metropolitan Council on Housing

Gay Pride

Michael Musto was, as usual, right on in his Teletubbies commentary ["Purple Passion," February 23]. It's so disappointing that whenever some well-known bigot serves up a great chance for someone to make a gay-positive statement (like saying, "Yeah, Tinky Winky does seem a bit sissyish. Oh, well, so what? Is that so WRONG?!?"), almost everyone takes the bait and gets all defensive, indirectly agreeing that, yeah, it is pretty awful to be suspected of being queer— even if you're an alien stuffed creature (or whatever those 'tubbies are!).

Thanks, Mike!

Kevin Horsted
Washington, D.C.

Reverend Teletubby

Michael Musto is kind in assuming that the Teletubbies audience is Reverend Jerry Falwell's "intellectual peer group." [February 23]

Let's face it, Jerry Falwell can find the evil in a Dunkin' Donut with nothing more than the size of the hole and the color of the sprinkles to support his argument!

Falwell falls into the category of individuals who believe that masturbation causes blindness and that Pepsi and Pop Rocks can kill!

Eventually, his revelations will become so absurd that even his staunchest supporters will question his blind zeal in the search for sin in America.

Stacey R. Warren

Neigh, Trebay

Having been A New York carriage horse driver and owner for the past 12 years, I found Guy Trebay's article about my industry ["Hack Work: The Not-So-Quaint Lives of New York's Carriage Horses," January 26] disturbing and downright ridiculous.

Trebay lists four agencies that govern the industry, and then says it is underregulated. I would like to know a business that is regulated by more agencies and on such a regular basis. If our school system had the same amount of supervision, it wouldn't be in as bad a shape as it is!

As for the "raw harness chafings," or "girth galls," Trebay mentioned, this condition occurs in the wintertime when horses have much heavier coats, and despite the appearance, is not harmful to the horses.

There are many European cities that have successful carriage trades: Dublin, Galway, Vienna, and Barcelona, to name just a few.

The accidental electrocution of the carriage horse Jackie, described in Trebay's article, was a tragedy that could not have been avoided, and that could have happened to anybody.

Stephen Malone

Resting In Peace

If James Bradley, in preparing his article "West Village, R.I.P." [February 16], had interviewed anyone who has lived on West 11th Street for more than a year, he'd know better than to wax poetic about the demolition of the two-story garage at 359 West 11th Street.

This garage housed a paper-recycling facility whose trucks belched exhaust, set off car alarms, blew their air horns, and rattled the windows of homes along our decidedly nonindustrial street in the wee hours of the morning. I am all for mixed use in our neighborhood as long as it doesn't involve air and noise pollution.

Nonresidential neighbors should respect those of us who have to sleep next to their workplaces. And journalists shouldn't romanticize the demise of establishments that don't.

Joanna Oltman
West Village

James Bradley replies: I did not romanticize the paper plant; my point was that a two-story building was demolished to make way for a nine-story one, and that such development does not bode well for the West Village's character and ecology.


Reading Nat Hentoff's columns defending the women allegedly dumped by Bill Clinton, I thought I'd puke.

Hentoff is so protective of these women, all over the age of 21 at the time of their alleged assignations with Clinton. Yet when it comes to abortion— a legal medical procedure that can save the physical and mental well-being of females (some as young as 12 and 13)— Hentoff says no way, and is quite willing to relegate us to the back-alley butchers.  

If Mr. Hentoff is so concerned with the rights of those women mistreated by Clinton, why isn't he as concerned for their right to safe abortion, so that they, too, can live and get on with their lives? Or does his concern for these women stop at the entrance to the butcher's back alley?

Marcella L. Tobias

Nat Hentoff replies: I am sure the president would have helped secure an abortion for those women— even though the developing human beings at issue are just like you and me.

Cunning Critique

I write to praise Michael Feingold's recent review of Death of a Salesman ["Durable Goods," February 23]. Too often the average American theatergoer confuses screaming and crying with brilliant acting. Feingold seems to be the only reviewer of this play to see past the icons of the character, the play, and the playwright.

Leslie Bramm

Queer Quill

Amy Taubin's review of Shakespeare in Love ["Very Bard Things," December 15] neglected to mention the theory that Shakespeare was gay. In fact, it has been suggested that he wrote many of his sonnets, particularly the one he pens for Viola in the film, for young boys, not young girls. I expected The Village Voice to deal with this issue when all the rest of the media ignored it. What gives?

Mary J. Perpich
Brookings, South Dakota

Viral Reactions

Mark Schoofs's "The AIDS Race: Can New Drugs Keep Up With the Wily Virus?" [February 16] captured in a properly nuanced manner the complex set of feelings that scientists and activists are experiencing as a result of data on HIV treatments. The article was well written, engaging, and accurate. I wish I had written it.

Dave Scondras
Search for a Cure Boston, Massachusetts

Money Matters

Kudos to Toni Schlesinger for her portrait of sanitation worker and personal trainer Vinny Rienzo [Money, February 16]. After months of columns on yuppie artists, it was refreshing to read about an everyday working-class New Yorker. Keep up the diversity!

Daniel Jones

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