Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 24, 2005

Failure of city plazas has long been clear

"Is this place successful?" James Howard Kunstler wondered about the architectural design of Hopkins Plaza. "There's nothing on the edge to activate it, just blank walls. What amazes me though, is the dumbness of the original planning" ("Charm offensive," Nov. 20).

As an out-of-town visitor, Mr. Kunstler is a latecomer in discovering that neither Hopkins Plaza nor the nearby Charles Plaza works. Baltimoreans have known that for years. Endless public forums have been held to figure out ways to reinvent them and turn them into places that generate urban excitement, the way Bryant Park does in New York City.

Against this backdrop, it is instructive to remember that when those plazas were in the planning stages, they got the enthusiastic blessing from none other than Jane Jacobs, the patron saint of livable cities.

She wrote in Architectural Forum (reprinted in The Evening Sun, June 10, 1958) that the public plazas freed Charles Center of the "necessity of finding a developer large enough to take on buildings enough, with designs repetitive enough so that he can throw in the open spaces too. The design blends Charles Center into the area that lies outside it. This means that the Center will be less a `project' than an integral, continuous part of downtown."

Considering the forbidding, walled-in reality of the plazas that created an urban dead zone, one can only conclude that no critic is perfect.

Antero Pietila

Baltimore

The writer is a former reporter and editorial writer for The Sun.

Curtis Bay is alive, and gaining vitality

Laura Vozzella's column "It's Habitat but will it be inhabited" (Nov. 16) not only inaccurately portrayed Habitat for Humanity's home-ownership program, it also ignored all the hard work of the residents of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay.

For the past five years, the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition and the churches, community associations and organizations in the neighborhood have been working to revitalize these communities.

In the past three years the coalition has acquired and rehabilitated 10 vacant properties and undertaken the restoration of the historic Polish Home Hall.

In 2006, we are planning to build eight new townhouses and establish an urban nature center on the Patapsco River.

Recently the Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn unveiled a new mural on the Brooklyn bridge and the Community of Curtis Bay Association has sponsored murals on Curtis Avenue.

The block depicted in The Sun's article is one of the worst in the neighborhood.

Such blocks are blighted because of activities such as predatory lending and illegal flipping and the actions of absentee landlords.

Through our strategic neighborhood action plan, the coalition is working to address these abandoned properties.

We welcome the assistance of Arundel Habitat for Humanity and look forward to these streets becoming strong again.

Carol K. Eshelman

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition Inc.

Ocean City project only adds to pork

Although The Sun's editorial "Shoring up the shoreline" (Nov. 21) congratulates Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes for obtaining $4.9 million to replenish the Ocean City shoreline, all they really did was bring home the pork.

It may be reasonable for Ocean City or the state to spend taxpayers' money on such a project, but there is no reason that the federal government should be involved in a project that will only benefit Maryland residents.

While some voters may celebrate when their senators bring home their "fair share" of the pork, we would all be better off if such pork were eliminated from federal budget bills altogether.

Scott Soffen

Ellicott City

Let GM executives share the sacrifice

General Motors has announced the dismissal of more than 30,000 employees and the closing of plants to restore financial stability at this American business icon ("GM struggles for comeback," Nov. 22).

To help in the process and set an example, GM's executives and board should also announce a cut in their own salaries and perks.

Such action would demonstrate empathy for the affected employees and show that they, too, are willing to sacrifice for the good of the corporation.

Richard L. Lelonek

Baltimore

Pay for health care instead of lobbyists

When I read The Sun's article on Wal-Mart hiring additional lobbyists to fight Maryland's proposed Fair Share Health Care Act, I was stunned ("Wal-Mart hires more lobbyists to help topple benefits bill," Nov. 18).

Why isn't the world's largest retailer doing what Maryland's other major employers do - putting at least 8 percent of its payroll into health care? The state shouldn't have to force Wal-Mart to be responsible.

Yet Wal-Mart apparently would rather put thousands, possibly millions, of dollars, into the pockets of a few talented lobbyists than spend money to take appropriate care of its many loyal employees.

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