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!


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