Dear Readers of WestView News,
I received three letters from our treasured readers regarding the poem “Code Blue.” I apologize to our community for offending and frightening some of you by publishing this poem. I am sorry to say that the poem slipped through the cracks three times, and was placed in the paper because it was the right length to fill empty space on the page. It wasn’t read carefully when we first received it, and it somehow missed the editing process that would have ensured a careful reading. The paper is produced by volunteers and the Art Director was under tremendous stress in her personal life—and the pressures of getting the paper to the printer—and didn’t read the poem before placing it. I can see how this poem seemed disturbing and out of sync with the sentiment of our times. Indeed, even a betrayal of your trust, because you don’t expect to find this type of material in the paper. I offer sincere apologies and regrets. Thank you to those who wrote to me.
—George Capsis, Publisher
Not only is Code Blue a very bad poem, but it is racist. If WestView is concerned about this community paper surviving—and attracting more advertisers—it would be a good idea not to use material that offends this liberal community. I sincerely doubt that your advertisers that I patronize—like LifeThyme and Sea Grape—would want to be associated with this sort of racist rant. Nor would any potential buyers. Big mistake to run this. It’s vile.
As I’m sure you’ve heard from others, this poem is incredibly racist and offensive. I usually look forward to reading the neighborhood news in WestView, but to see something so out of tune with our times and the spirit of our neighborhood is actually more than a bit frightening. Please, I hope this was a mistake, and it won’t happen again. If it reflects the editorial judgment of the paper, then I don’t know what to say other than you have completely failed to understand the community you are trying to reach. —Christine Kinser
At this time, when the country, White and Black, has coalesced around the movement “Black Lives Matter,” with Blacks and Whites marching together, I am dismayed that your poetry editor saw fit to publish Ms. Dreyfus’s poem, “Code Blue.” I never witnessed so many blatantly racist references! Did you even read it? The allusions to Black people are all over the thing… I call it a “thing” because it’s hardly a poem—it is a rant. References to Africa abound, as do references to American Black men. Do you agree with this horrible condemnation, one that blames Blacks only for the recent chaos? If you do, then shame on WestView News!
Remembering a Neighbor
I have been a West Village resident for more than 20 years and have been a fan of your newspaper until your June issue. On the second page of said issue, there was a small article entitled “Suicide at 45 Christopher Street.” I am shocked by the lack of compassion that was shown in this article to a beloved West Village resident.
First of all, the fact that the person who “reported” the incident to you seemed only concerned with having to “get it cleaned up” was appalling. Second, the fact that you sent a photographer to the scene tells me that you were just looking for a sensational photo, rather than truly trying to find out why our neighbor took her own life.
Third, the information your photographer received “from a friend who lived nearby” was incorrect on many points: the death was not reported to the police by a neighbor but rather by her bereaved husband immediately upon seeing his poor wife’s body below their window; she did not have the coronavirus, but she did experience the fear, anxiety and isolation that so many have felt during this quarantine; and to say that she had “mental problems”—an absolutely offensive description of someone’s mental-heath struggles—completely trivializes and dismisses the fact that the last three months of dealing with this virus could easily have a negative—and even be fatal—effect on some people.
This was a woman who was very loved by family and friends, as well as many Village neighbors and shopkeepers. Everyone she knew was shocked when they heard of her suicide, because it was truly unexpected. She was a talented artist and teacher; she was a sage mentor to her many students and friends; she was a loving and supportive wife, aunt, sister and friend; and she loved the West Village and supported its people and businesses wholeheartedly. So to see such a vibrant member of this community have their death—which was a direct result of the stress and depression so many have experienced during this virus—reduced to being about someone pissed-off over cleaning up the mess is heartbreaking. I guess I expected more humanity from you and from WestView.
Hudson River Waterfront
To the Editors of WestView,
Brian Pape’s Then and Now description of the changes in the Hudson River Waterfront reveal a dynamic history in which travel played a major role. Initially, horses and wagons moved east and west between ships and warehouses. Then the north-south rail line connected these with cross river freight traffic, terminating at the St. John’s Park Depot built at Laight Street by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1868. Brian points out Death Avenue where a horse mounted “cowboy” warned pedestrians and wagons out of the way of approaching trains moving at 6 mph. The elevated tracks, now known as the High Line, were built in 1934 by the New York Central Railroad to reach the St. John’s Rail Freight Depot as opposed to the St. John Truck Terminal on West Houston Street. Construction of the rail depot destroyed one of the city’s most beautiful parks, St. John’s Park, and destroyed 20 trees and the front porch of the elegant church that stood there until 1918. After building Grand Central Terminal, he abandoned St. John’s Park. The last owner of the railroad was Peter Obletz, a West Village resident who bought it from CSX Railroad for a dollar. With Congressman Jerry Nadler’s support he hoped to restore rail freight, but the industries that would use it were long gone.
Meanwhile, traffic to and from the piers conflicted with increasing traffic along the waterfront. Manhattan Borough President, Julius Miller, built the elevated highway to relieve this congestion. In my fifty years in the West Village it was always known as the Miller Highway. The elevated highway destroyed the West Washington Market where farmers sold produce brought across the river from New Jersey on car floats and rail lighters. The market was replaced by the Manhattan Refrigeration Company. The waterfront was losing its function as a seaport and began attracting residents who treasured the views of the harbor and Jersey headlands which were diminished by the highway’s appearance and noise. One day a loaded truck fell through the roadbed which became a favored bikeway for months before it was torn down and the Battery Park City Corporation took over the waterfront for residential and office development south of Chambers Street. In subsequent years, the Hudson River Park Trust was created to create and manage a public park from Chambers to 59th Street where only a few passenger ships still berth occasionally.
I thought that these additional facts might interest your readers and enrich the excellent account written by Brian.
Reading Robert Heide’s wonderful article about his friendship and work with Andy Warhol brought back a memory long buried:
I sat next to Baby Jane Holzer at a Park Avenue stock brokerage in the early 1970s. I was a trading assistant and Ms. Holzer was helping the brilliant young owner of the firm to develop his business in New York. I was going through a rough patch, love-life in shambles, career? What career???? I cried all day and finally they had to let me go because my crying was disturbing Ms. Holzer!
Happy now for years and years, Liz Ryan