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Reader Feedback 4.16.03


They're not, 'Slaughter lackeys'

The members of the Urban Design Committee of the Rochester Chapter, American Institute of Architects, would like to set the record straight regarding its participation in the discussion of the use of the Sibley Center as a downtown transit center ("Street Fight," March 26). [The article quoted transit authority chair Bill Nojay's charge that Sibley Center, designed by the UDC, was "produced by a lackey" of Representative Louise Slaughter.]

                  Founded in 1999, the UDC is one of many such committees across the country. It is a group of volunteer design professionals and citizens that acts as a collaborative resource for the city of Rochester and surrounding towns and villages, offering design guidance and recommendations through participatory planning. It is strictly non-partisan, beholden to no group or individual.

                  The UDC's work is grounded on time-tested principles of urban design, reaffirmed by the AIA's "Livable Communities Initiative Resolution" adopted at the 2000 National Convention of the AIA, and the Charter of the New Urbanism adopted by the Congress for the New Urbanism.

                  The UDC has worked with many community groups over the past four years, helping to illustrate their visions for a better built environment and public realm. Through a process called the "Design Charrette," we have helped create design ideas for Artwalk on University Avenue, the Pittsford Village Comprehensive Plan, the Brooks-Genesee neighborhood, the St. Paul corridor, the East- Winton urban village, and the Commercial Street gateway in East Rochester.

                  Our most fruitful endeavor so far is the "Vision for Downtown" report, prepared in December 2000 from the results of the Rochester Downtown Design Charrette held in May of that year. We are hopeful our suggestions for the transit center will result in the better use of taxpayer money and a better transit system.

                  Rather than attempting to remove buses and their passengers from the street, the Sibley Station solution provides options for either indoor or outdoor waiting and reinforces the kind of bustling street activity one expects in a thriving city. We are told that RGRTA has $12 million on hand now for a downtown transit terminal, almost twice the projected cost of Sibley Station. If the design and construction process were to begin soon, the station could be operational by next spring.

                  Roger Brown, Rochester (Brown is an architect who chairs the Urban Design Committee, Rochester chapter, AIA)

Remembering Ryan

I'd like to add one more perspective and memory of Tom Ryan: He cared about the educational needs of this city's children.

                  During my time as a School Board member (1984 through 1996), the City had a Fiscal Independence Agreement with the School District. It recognized the fiscal and budgetary needs of the district and tried, through a formula, to bring order to how much revenue the City would give each year.

                  At the time, I didn't appreciate fully how supportive City Hall really was. The agreement clearly set out what we would get each year and allowed us to do multi-year projections.

                  In 1985, one year before the agreement was up for renegotiation, the board's finance committee, with much help from our finance director, spent hours on our version of what should be in the new agreement. When it was done, we proudly carried it over to City Hall.

                  I can still remember how nervous I was as we walked into the room. We made our presentation and waited through a "Ryanesque" pregnant pause. I don't remember his few words, but when they came, it was something like 'Thanks a lot, but no way; this is not going to happen.' We gathered up our papers and went back to the district to lick our wounds and plan a strategy.

                  One year later, I was president of the board. The phone rang; it was the mayor's secretary saying the mayor would like to come over. After a long, hard swallow, I said, "Sure. Do you know what it is about?" She didn't, and the short time it took for him to walk to my office was like a lifetime.

                  When he arrived, he was by himself: just Tom Ryan holding a small stack of papers. We closed my office door and sat down. With the briefest of explanations and a clear statement that there would be no negotiations, he handed me the papers and said this was how the new Fiscal Independence Agreement would read. That said, he got up, reached for his coat, and was gone.

                  I immediately called the finance director to my office, and we began to go through the document. Bottom line: We had gotten about three-quarters of what we had asked for. It was not what we wanted, but certainly fair. As I look back on those days, it is clear that "fair" is a good word for Tom Ryan. Gruff, a man of few words, but always fair.

                  He loved this city and, within his means, he did right by its children.

                  Rachel Hedding, Sherwood Avenue, Rochester

Porn's complexities

It was fitting that the "Rage Overload" episode of "This Modern World" was in the same issue as Porno 101, the story of porn at the University of Rochester (February 12). It is difficult to speak out against pornography --- not only because you seem like an uptight, pro-censorship, anti-sex reactionary, but also because part of you feels like one. I'm hoping that's why there were no comments from the Women's Studies department at the university.

                  Pornography is not just about sex between consenting adults. It's mostly made from the male-dominant perspective, depicting male sexual fantasies. The female viewer needs to be a good sport to enjoy it.

                  I have a hard time believing porn is totally innocuous. Even in a "Friends" episode, two young men were watching tons of porn, and when they stopped and re-entered the world of real women, they expressed shock that the female pizza deliverer didn't want to have sex with them. Neither did the woman at the dry cleaner's or the nurse at the doctor's office. Guess the women were just doing their jobs.

                  Some of the comments from UR personnel regarding parental feedback were insulting. Saying that they got a call from a "concerned Mommy" was belittling to the parents of young adults. I assume parents are treated more respectfully when the UR is trying to get them to write a big check.

                  Therese O'Connor, Cypress Street, Rochester

Finger Lakes peace activists

Please be advised that Peace Patriots support our troops. We have family and friends serving in Iraq, and family and friends who served in America's previous wars. We know well the pain and anguish of the message "We regret to inform you." We want this war to stop!

                  The ardent opponents of war certainly would not have cut veterans' services by more than $15 billion. Nor would we have disallowed our troops overtime pay after deployment to the battlefields of Iraq. Commander in Chief Bush and Congress did exactly that.

                  Vice President Cheney's Halliburton Corporation has billion-dollar contracts for the "reconstruction" of Iraq. Other inner-circle planners of war have equally lucrative contracts. They signed on before troops were sent to the war zones. While our military risk their lives, Shell and ExxonMobil have already erected their signs.

                  Since our military safeguard the paths of the profiteers, why not have them share the profits with the military? It would show that they actually "support the troops."

                  Why not require that every contractor awarded a job in Iraq construct affordable housing for the thousands of neglected veterans living on the streets across our nation?

                  Dr. Martin Luther King said that his spirit heard the voice of God speaking to America: "Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and nation shall not rise against nation." We, too, hear His voice.

                  We welcome you to join Finger Lakes for Peace, PO Box 762, Geneva 14456, as well as the terrorized children, mothers, and fathers in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and the globe as our Defense Department threatens.

                  We urge you to tune in to Hobart's WEOS 89.7 FM radio station for an alternative to corporate copycat imbedded news.

                  Melanie Crittenden, Newark

Writing to City

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

                  Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than once every three months.

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