Thursday, May 17, 2007

Westbeth Artists News May, 2007 - SORTING THROUGH THE RHETORIC


Salvador Peter Tomas, Edith Stephen, Directors


WOW - in addition to menus under our door, there has been an invasion of scary diatribes designed to provoke Westbeth residents into knee-jerk reactions urging them to send the letters provided to the Westbeth Board of Directors!

One might ask, why are we being frightened/and or intimidated? Why the pressure? What’s behind this? What has changed? Is it possible to have a balanced view of the issues?

The major issue is a petition to have George Cominskie, Vicki Blankenship and Jack Dowling elected to the Board of Directors. NOW they want to be on the Board they sued in a bogus complaint to the Attorney General, costing us $250,000! This would mean that the only representatives of residents of Westbeth would be WARC. The letters complain that there has been a lack of communication between the board and the residents for 3 years (ignored are the letters, flyers, meetings etc. that have provided a dialog with the Board. Board member & resident Sue Binet spoke for the Board at the Annual Residents Meeting, providing much important information.)

Let’s look at the “communication” record of the suggested WARC candidates.
• George Cominskie had knowledge of the building of the new apartment on Bethune Street and did not let the residents know so they could be part of the negotiating process to make the project less disturbing for residents. Instead, he maneuvered himself ahead on the in-house-moves list, and procured an apartment in the A section, overlooking the river, safe from the disturbance of the construction. He never told residents that he voted for the Recycling Plant to be placed in the Hudson River Park at Gainsvoort Street. Why should we trust that George would be a reliable “communicator” in the future?
• Vicki Blankenship, WARC Legal Chair, was employed in the office of the former Carl Stein, President of the Board of Directors, ignoring the obvious conflict of interest when Stein asked her to keep the minutes of the Board meetings. Her communication with Stein often did not work in the tenant’s interest. She was instrumental in keeping TUC management at Westbeth, despite their corruption and ineptness at taking care of Westbeth’s physical plant and finances. Why should residents believe she would communicate to residents about problems, when she never did in the past?
• Jack Dowling, hard-working Gallery Director, also has major communication problems. He has been known to shout at artists in the gallery & make arbitrary decisions alienating many artists in Westbeth. He forbids some from serving food at openings; others can. He refuses to get a digital projector for the Gallery, which many artists have requested, that could be
used for multi-media exhibits, standard in all galleries today. He doesn’t listen to the artists, so why should we think he would listen to the other residents?

Now we are told that dire things are in store for Westbeth unless the Board elects the WARC slate to represent the tenants on the Board. We have three competent reps now: Sue Binet, Barbara Prete, Merble Regan.

We all realize that the tax abatement will end in 2009 and we have been reassured many times that the Board is working to extend it. Why wouldn’t they? Why can’t we trust our resident members of the Board to vote for this? It is a non-issue, used as a scare tactic.

The ending of the HUD mortgage in 2011 is an important issue and there is no reason to believe that the current resident or non-resident members would undermine Westbeth’s future. They both have the information and desire to preserve Westbeth to make intelligent decisions regarding refinancing if necessary for Westbeth’s survival.

Many of us may worry about these issues that Modesto raised in her recent letter, but many do not trust WARC to be our spokesman. Tenants on the Board of Directors should represent all tenants, not just one faction who has broad arbitrary power.

Does WARC really serve the tenants’ interests or their own? Do they really represent residents?
• Despite WARC receiving large grants for programs, they doubled the fees charged residents for use of our “community room” now a $50 ‘donation’ yet have no public disclosure of their schedule or finances.
• $5000 was used by WARC to buy a digital camera for Chris Maile to document events. Based on the embarrassingly poor quality of her video at the Annual Meeting, this is money down the drain, and certainly much more than what should be needed.
• WARC does not disclose to residents what they will do with their grants. Why are they now “the great communicators”?

Let’s all work together to preserve Westbeth without using power politics against each other!


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Westbeth Artists News March 2007 - What's With Closing the Admissions to Westbeth?


Many residents are wondering about this new deadline to close off admissions to Westbeth.
Is it realistic reading of the signs of the times, or paranoia, to worry that this may have something to do with the real estate barracudas who swim around buildings in this neighborhood looking for new prey for development?

Is this some sort of plot by the old co-oper’s to eventually gain control of Westbeth and turn it into a self-serving co-op that they can sell for profit and retire to Florida or Ibiza?

Does the Board of Directors have some hidden agenda?

Asking various people from the power structure at Westbeth, the same reason was given for the most part.

A member of the Residents Council wasn’t disturbed about this move, and said it was just cleaning the list up. Yes, she admitted, there should have been some explanation given to residents and maybe it was done badly. The Residents Council so far has not made any effort to inform the tenants regarding the details of this “housekeeping” move.

A tenant member of the Board of Directors also saw this move as a type of cleaning-up activity, since so many people have been on the list for so long and their lives and situations have changed. The list would open up “eventually” in the future, she said, with no firm date yet in place.

The office however, told people last week who have been on the waiting list a long time, that they have already been removed if they haven’t been calling yearly to confirm they are still interested in living in Westbeth.
If this is so, why do we need the cleanup since people are already being removed?

Why are artists who have been on the waiting list for years now told they are no longer on the list?

Does this have something to do with the loss of files in the basement due to the floods, fires and mismanagement of TUC who left Westbeth’s records in disarray. Is Westbeth afraid of being sued by irate artists who have been on the list for years, but whose records are now lost?

Since the building will change its status after the HUD mortgage is paid off in a few years, does the power
structure not want to have people on a waiting list in case they want to change the nature of Westbeth?

Rather than closing the admissions process, a more honest solution would be to send certified letters to all on the list, and determine if they want to be there or not. This alone, would no doubt open up many spaces on the list. This is a much fairer way to deal with it than to deny young artists a chance to apply to Westbeth. How many more things can we deprive our youth of? Clean air, clean water, polar bears and a chance to live in Westbeth?

Garbage Under Westbeth Windows?




While we all believe in the importance of recycling, there are clear red flags to be considered in the location of any type of recycling center, even only for transport. To be concerned about the potential health hazards is not to be a “limousine liberal” as George Cominski, President of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council suggested at the “information meeting” last week, but rather to be an informed, intelligent and aware citizen. If the garbage sites & air pollution in the South Bronx make people sick, why is it “liberal” to be willing to accept the same hazards in our neighborhood park? Do we paint our apartments with lead paint in solidarity? Is it not more important to preserve the quality of life of all New Yorkers, including ourselves? Our “liberal guilt” should not be used as a tool against our own health, and the health of the birds, fish and aquatic life of the River.

There is an extensive amount of research available on the Internet documenting the many problems associated with recycling. Recycling must be done with much attention to the location since there are a wide variety of hazardous substances involved, even just for transport.

Our Hudson River Park not only serves humans, but is an important site for aquatic life and migratory birds. While the children in the playground close to the recycling center cannot jump on the garbage, the migratory birds will pass directly over it, can land on it to snack, and will be in danger from the many toxic materials that can severely affect them.

The EPA provides several warnings regarding recycling. Certain types of HHW (Household Hazardous Waste) have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems and present hazards to children and pets. NYC Recycling trucks pick up enormous quantities of HHW in recycling trash, particularly those areas that do not yet have collection programs, or clear instructions on proper disposal. There are many risks of products exploding, igniting, leaking, mixing with other chemicals, or posing other hazards on the way to a disposal facility and awaiting transport. Even empty containers of HHW can pose hazards because of the residual chemicals that might remain in them.

A large component of recycled materials are discarded electronics.
Discarded electronics contain hazardous materials. If disposed improperly, they pose a potential threat to human health and the environment. E-Waste accounts for 40 percent of the lead and 75 percent of the heavy metals found in landfills. Although safe when used, once electronics are recycled, to be discarded in a landfill, the acidic conditions provide an environment in which lead and other heavy metals may leak out. If the landfill's liner fails, the groundwater supply may become contaminated; our river can become highly toxic again.

Discarded electronics contain some of the most toxic substances in modern life.

These toxins could be released by accident, by storms, by floods, by fires, by terrorist attack!

1. Lead accumulates in the environment and has high acute and chronic toxic effects on plants, animals and microorganisms.
2. Lead is known to cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, blood system and kidneys in humans.
3. Effects on the endocrine system have been observed, and serious negative effects on children's brain development are well documented.
4. Lead existing in landfilled products has the potential to leach and contaminate drinking water supplies.
5. Lead is found in soldering of printed circuit boards and other electronic components.
6. Lead is also found in glass panels in computer monitors
1. Cadmium compounds are classified as toxic with a possible risk of irreversible effects on human health.
2. Cadmium and cadmium compounds accumulate in the human body, in particular in the kidneys.
3. Cadmium shows a danger of cumulative effects in the environment due to its acute and chronic toxicity.
4. It is found in certain components such as SMD chip resistors, infrared detectors and semiconductors.
5. Cadmium is lso found in older models of cathode ray tubes (glass panels in computer monitors) and in plastics as a stabilizer.
1. Mercury has been shown to accumulate in living organisms and concentrate through the food chain, particularly in fish.
2. Negative effects on brain functioning and development have been attributed to mercury.
3. Mercury is found in:
a. Thermostats
b. Position censors
c. Relays and switches
d. Discharge lamps
e. Batteries
f. Printed wiring board
Hexavalent Chromium
Chromium can cause strong allergic reactions, even in small concentrations.
It is found in untreated and galvanized steel plates.

PVC(Polyvinyl Chloride Plastics)
The production and burning of PVC products generates dioxins and furans, which contribute to air pollution and respiratory ailments.
PVC is found in cabling and computer housing

Brominated Flame Retardants
Research has concluded that exposure to these chemicals in early life could induce neurotoxic effects similar to those caused by other toxic substances such as some pesticides.
Exposure to Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs) are believed to cause an increased risk of cancer of the digestive and lymph systems.
PBBs are found in:
1. Printed circuit boards
2. Components such as connectors, plastic covers and cables
3. Plastic covers of TV sets
The US EPA notes that magnesium materials currently stored in flammable containers placed in recycling, and exposed to weather conditions are a serious fire and potential explosion hazard. Thousands of pounds of scrap magnesium materials are found in recycling.
There are also low-level radioactive materials present in recycling collections.
These are substances that in small quantities pose a low threat; however in large concentrated amounts, in the middle of a public park, next to a delicate Hudson River ecosystem, next to a children’s park, next to a dense neighborhood with schools, shopping, condos, apartments, townhouses, etc. this recycling center poses a health and safety hazard that the citizens of Greenwich Village & Westbeth should continue to resist, despite the WARC’s vote to support it.
Remember, George W. and the government said the air in downtown Manhattan was safe after 9/11.
Westbeth’s George C. and the WARC say the recycling center is safe.
Will we have to wait for years after the recycling center is built to note the increase in asthma, cancer, and related health problems? Or, after some disaster, be vulnerable to dangerous materials burning, floating or blowing?
I think we have learned our lesson this time.