Letters


Manhattanville Project

I receive Harvard magazine as well as yours and long have felt grumpy that Harvard’s good, thick magazine outdoes Columbia. Then I read your Summer issue with first-rate articles by David J. Craig, Jed Perl, E. B. Solomont, Wm. Theodore de Bary, Lawrence Hoffman, and Samuel McCracken.

Craig’s article (“Smart Growth”) is wonderful, but, in my opinion, what the University is proposing to do between 129th and 133rd Streets is terrible. Do not build so high! And find a way to relocate the 140 residential units within the University’s development area — at the same rental rates they now carry — if you want all that glass to remain ungraffitied and unbroken.

Harvard magazine is still thicker (and more verbose?), but not better than yours.

David Berger ’50CC
Madison, WI


Congratulations on an excellent Summer issue. I found the many and varied articles interesting and informative, especially the article on Manhattanville. It’s the first time, to my knowledge, that Columbia has published a detailed description for alumni of what it plans to do with the space. I found this article informative, and it gave me a better understanding of this challenging and potentially very rewarding enterprise. Well done!

Lee J. Dunn, Jr. ’66CC
Boston, MA


I am all for developing the Manhattanville campus, but why with such retrograde architecture? Renzo Piano’s glass boxes would have been cutting edge back when Ferris Booth Hall was being designed, but by the 1970s, they were already an outdated cliché.

Glass boxes are not pedestrian friendly. Many commercial districts have design guidelines requiring that store windows be separated by piers, because a continuous sheet of glass looks sterile and does not appeal to pedestrians.

Glass boxes are not environmentally sound. Even with the latest high-tech materials, glass buildings use more energy for heating and cooling than do buildings with solid walls.

Glass boxes obviously are not in keeping with the existing architecture of the neighborhood. They ignore their context to project a slick image.

Charles Siegel ’67CC
Berkeley, CA


I was dismayed to read yet another unapologetically one-sided article in support of Columbia’s “all or nothing” expansion into Manhattanville.

Columbia’s argument that the expansion proposal, as it currently stands, would improve the “University’s historically strained relationship with Harlem” is debatable. A chief failure of the article is the lack of attention paid to the substantial opposition, both on campus and in the community, to Columbia’s current plans. In the fall of 2005, more than 70 students and residents from Columbia and Manhattanville, respectively, voiced their concerns about displacement and gentrification at a public Environmental Impact Statement hearing held by the city (“CU Expansion Foes Go on Record,” Columbia Spectator, November 16, 2005).

Further, the Manhattanville community, as represented by Community Board 9, has worked to compose its own guidelines for development, known as the 197-a plan, for the last 10 years. The 197-a plan allows for development while also protecting existing businesses and residents from removal. The article does not once discuss the 197-a plan. This is an unfortunate omission, as more than 50 Columbia faculty members have signed a letter in support of it. Members of the Harlem Tenants’ Council and Community Board 9, with the support of the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, have also held widely attended, yearly protests on Columbia’s campus to spread awareness about the 197-a plan.

The relationship between Columbia and its neighbors is unlikely to improve until the University community engages in a serious and open dialogue.

Julia Nagle ’06CC
Pittsburgh, PA
Member of the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, 2004–06

David J. Craig replies:
Our summary of the neighborhood’s concerns did in fact stem from the 197-a plan, although the article didn’t refer to it by name.


It was interesting that David J. Craig’s article brought up the events of 1968; reading his lopsidedly investor-targeted article, it would appear that little has changed. Craig described the West Harlem area as being skipped by “the burst of economic investment that affected many parts of Harlem,” only later pointing out that Columbia itself “owns more than half the properties in the proposed expansion zone.” Are we to assume that his cartoonish depiction of the neighborhood’s side streets as “eerily” quiet refers only to yardage with property Columbia is not yet responsible for? And will the local residents relocated to “similar or better apartments” be given similarly priced space atop the envisioned 12- to 25-story buildings “offering expansive views of the Hudson”? If Columbia’s concern for “the larger public good” involves the continued expansion of incoming student class sizes for greater profits at the expense of education quality — as much a reason as any that “classes are packed” — we should be a bit more wary about more rushes for “ripe,” “big-time” potential. The article reads less as an update on Columbia’s interests in the community than as an advertisement for potential investors looking for a conscience-free ride.

John Wriggle ’95CC
Portland, OR


Heat for Global Warming

B
eth Kwon’s article on Columbians and climate change (“Diet for a Warm Planet,” Summer 2006) declares that “the scientific community has reached a consensus that the Earth is heating up in large part because of humans.”

Not true at all. The actual satellite microwave temperature record from the lower troposphere, where global warming ought to be most pronounced, shows a trend on the order of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit per century, and by far the greatest part of that increase comes from natural processes, not human activity.

Could we have less Hansen worship and more data checking, please?

John McClaughry ’60SEAS
Concord, VT


Beth Kwon replies:
We consulted James Hansen, who cites a study of satellite temperature data that was published in April by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which reveals errors in the previous analyses of the satellite data. “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere, Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences,” by Dr. Tom Karl, includes scientists who previously claimed the data showed little or no warming. “The corrected data,” Hansen notes, “are in agreement with surface measurements in global temperature change. The rate of surface warming in the past 30 years is 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit per decade — which, if maintained, will make the Earth warmer in the next 50 years than it has been in the past million years. A key mechanism is an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, gases that are increasing because of human made emissions. Humans now control global climate, for better or worse.”


Human hubris has brought about marvelous inventions, cures to diseases, and magnificent cosmological proofs that we shouldn’t be able to do. Perhaps this same hubris will eventually allow us planetary climate control. But thinking that reducing emissions will save the planet is human hubris.

Obviously, no one will argue that burning fossil fuels is helpful. But neither is it harmful that “19 of the hottest years on record have occurred since 1980.” That is like watching only the bottom of the ninth inning and then declaring the entire box score and the winner. Except, of course, this ball game has lasted billions of years.

At its very best, trimming emissions is doing no different than what many accuse the “evil capitalists” of: Putting it off for tomorrow. The planet will change drastically, an ice age will occur, and this will happen whether we are green or not.

Mike Moussourakis ’99SEAS, ’01GSAS
Staten Island, NY


As Lee Bollinger points out, Columbia’s development plans in Manhattanville present challenges and opportunities. But these go beyond the opportunity of “merging physically with the surrounding community . . . in Harlem” and overcoming the perception that Columbia is “up on a hill.” In Manhattanville, Columbia has an opportunity to build a state-of-the-art campus that conserves natural resources and has a positive environmental impact using some of the innovative ideas presented in “Diet for a Warm Planet,” appearing in the same issue.

In this article, Cynthia Rosenzweig, a Columbia research scientist, describes her work with the Earth Institute’s Urban Design Lab on green rooftops as one example of how ecological infrastructure can respond to the “challenges and opportunities” presented by climate change. This kind of development is closer to “smart growth” than what Bollinger describes.

The juxtaposition of these two articles highlights the continued divide between theory and practice at Columbia. Manhattanville presents a great opportunity for Columbia to draw on research done by its own faculty to build a 21st-century campus unlike any other — one that is aesthetically beautiful, has a positive impact on the development of the surrounding urban community, and conserves environmental resources for the benefit of future generations of Columbians. Such a campus would showcase Columbia’s commitment to leading by example in the field of sustainable development.

Lily Parshall ’01CC, ’06GSAS
Millbrook, NY


I am glad to see articles on global warming in your magazine. Having read Jeremy Rifkin’s The European Dream and other books, I was aware that the environmental issue is only starting to evolve in the US. As a graduate of Columbia, I am proud to see that the University is taking a leading role in the study of global warming.

To regard green roofs as something revolutionary, however, is off the mark. I would like to invite Cynthia Rosenzweig and her team to visit Switzerland, where, for decades, flat roofs have by law to be constructed as green roofs. Most new roofs, even tilted and vaulted, are green.

After reading your article, I realized that Columbia alumni are a worldwide community, and we have to increase the international exchange of our regional experiences.

Philippe Wälle ’99APP
Liestal, Switzerland


Head of the Classics

I was very surprised to read that there is even a debate about whether classics are still relevant in our market-driven, global society (“Classics à la mode,” by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Summer 2006). The question is posed as binary — either they’re in or they’re out, replaced by more practical topics (according to Lee Kuan Yew).

This is simply not the case. The classics come first, to form the basis of a well-rounded, Renaissance individual ready to adapt to the needs of our fast-changing world. The practical skills come later, and are learned primarily through action (internships, jobs, volunteer experiences, etc.). Having earned an MBA from a highly ranked business school, I can assure you that these skills that Yew mentions are more experiential than academic.

Therefore, high schools and universities should focus exclusively on the classics and not concern themselves with providing these tactical, on-the-job skills that any student, well versed in the lessons of the classics, will be able to pick up quickly. How many Oxford and Cambridge English literature grads have excelled in “the city”? Success in our modern day has a lot more to do with human nature than S-curves.

Christine Schiller Grable ’92GS
London, England


Graphic Novel

P
aul Hond’s article about Ariel Schrag’s work (“An Ariel View,” Summer 2006) has inspired me to look for her titles in our public library. They are probably located in the “comic-book art” section, but I feel that this genre might more accurately be described as “illustrative literature.” In addition to other works of this genre cited in the article, I would add the magnificent trilogy by Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis I, II, and Embroideries.

By the way, I was fascinated by the adventures of Rachel DeWoskin in the cover story last year, which moved me to read her book, Foreign Babes in Beijing.

Ivan Leigh ’55CC
West Chester, PA


The Deal of the Art

Leon Wieseltier’s discussion with Jed Perl on his recent book New Art City interested me keenly (“Still Life with Critic,” Summer 2006). Addressing the question of “how to put . . . unjustly neglected [artists] . . . into a story of midcentury American art that was more inclusive,” their incisive conversation did not fulfill my eagerness to read about criteria that would distinguish significant art “regarded as being off somewhere to the side” from work unworthy of serious consideration.

I, too, benefited from the teaching of Meyer Schapiro, in his course on impressionism, and I gained awareness of how the revolutionary and deeply resisted art-making of the impressionists created lasting value a century earlier than the focus of Jed Perl’s book.

To inspire the present, I have a suggestion: Reconvene Perl with a pillar of the market that defines contemporary art, one who promotes art making that transcends dependence on devices of ironic, graphic, or metaphoric cleverness, and connects to the discipline of artistic tradition. I like to think that such discussion would lie close to engaging the substance we all seek in our current context of culture and politics, as well as in art.

George B. Terrien ’63CC, ’66APP
Rockland, ME


Summer Reading

Returning to New York City at the end of the summer, I found Columbia magazine in my stack of mail and began reading it with pleasure and interest — and a bit of melancholy. Passing my PhD qualifying exams in German in 1969 was my last academic hurrah. Reading the magazine brings back what I’ve been missing, so thank you for continuing to send it to an impoverished alumna.

Marianne Landre Goldscheider ’74GSAS
New York, NY


I may have gone to Columbia, but I don’t want to be an unwitting subscriber to a neoconservative magazine. 

If I had wanted to read Leon Wieseltier’s interview with Jed Perl about his book New Art City, I’d have gone to The New Republic. If I had wanted to read a fawning article on Norman Podhoretz, I’d have picked up an issue of Commentary. If I had wanted to be enlightened by Claudia Rosett on the UN, I’d have visited the Web site of Foundation for Democracy.

David Maitra ’82CC
Warren, NJ


Last Call at the West End

M
arcus Tonti’s College Walk piece on the closing of the West End (“Taps for the Beats?,” Summer 2006) brought back memories from the early ’60s. In that era, graduate history students assembled each Monday evening under the tutelage of the supererudite Peter Gay for the study of “historiography.”

There were a number of us who would retire to the West End following class on any Monday when our intellectually demanding professor had switched to French or German at critical moments in his discourse. He, assuming that any graduate student at Columbia must be fluent in several languages, made a point of doing this; ergo, we drank most Monday nights.

Beer and the general ambience of the West End became the lingua franca for clarification of thought.

H. Peter Pudner ’64GSAS
Richmond, VA


Your article on the West End brought back memories of happy times there, particularly on the evening of Tuesday, November 9, 1965, the night of the Great Northeast Blackout.

I was in the Business Library when the lights went out at 5:27 p.m. Everyone whistled and cheered, and when it became clear that the lights were not coming on anytime soon, I found my way to Broadway, where passing traffic provided the only lighting. Students sitting on the sidewalk sang “We Shall Overcome,” and I hoped they would.

Back at my dorm on West 114th Street, my friends gathered around a candle listening to the news on a portable radio. On learning that most of the Northeast and parts of Canada were blacked out, we decided to go out for a beer. I was new to the city and felt that the West End was a seedy place at the best of times, but this was not one of those times.

It was full of students enjoying a really festive atmosphere. It was not like a crisis at all, yet outside people were trapped in subways and elevators or stranded miles from their homes. Draft beer being unavailable, we drank increasingly warm bottled beer by candlelight and had hamburgers cooked on gas. When the national brands ran out, we began a journey of discovery through the local beers of Pennsylvania, many not seen before or enjoyed since. We found our way home in the dark at about midnight, probably a little the worse for wear, but having experienced a remarkable evening. My friends told me later that power was restored at 5:22 a.m.

I visited the West End often over my remaining year and a half at Columbia, but the events of that night could not be replicated, and never were.

Anthony E. Bracy ’67BUS
Melbourne, Australia


Oxford Sampler

Maybe I’ve misread it, but I can’t find any mention of John Berryman among Columbia poets in your review of The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Summer 2006). Can this be? He may be the best!

John T. Owens ’44CC
Cambridge, MA

John Berryman ’36CC was indeed included in the anthology but unintentionally excluded from the magazine’s list of Columbia poets.


Rosenfield and SPH

I read with interest in the news section (Summer 2006) that Allan Rosenfield was stepping down from the deanship of Mailman School of Public Health because of ill health. Subsequently, I saw him on The Charlie Rose Show discussing his condition, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), and his long and outstanding service in universal public-health problems and as an educator.

My schooling at the School of Public Health (1959–63) preceded Rosenfield’s term, but I was very moved by his dedication and service, and I recalled the teacher who had the most impact on my later career, Professor John W. Fertig, chair of the biostatistics department (1940–75).

Joseph Dresner ’59PH
Ann Arbor, MI


You identify Allan Rosenfield, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health, as ’59CC, but I think this is an error. He does not appear in my yearbook, and an online biography credits Harvard with his undergraduate education.

Norman Gelfand ’59CC, ’65GSAS
Chicago, IL

Allan Rosenfield graduated in 1959 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, not from Columbia College.


Knotty Reaction

Your article about Brian Greene (“String Is the Thing,” Spring 2006) is misleading. It has long been known that physics is possible only in dimension 3+1. My book Our Almost Impossible Universe: Why the Laws of Nature Make the Existence of Humans Extraordinarily Unlikely (2006) has a proof that is quite simple and demonstrates that string theory is impossible.

Ronald Mirman ’60GSAS
New York, NY


What an inspiring piece on Brian Greene. It seems no coincidence that while a Rhodes Scholar in physics, Greene also studied acting so passionately. His unique talent, like that of many of our great educators/scholars, seems to be in performing vividly the drama of asking great questions. He shows us through metaphor, visuals, and music what is so fascinating about the world’s complexity, while making such learning accessible. May all of us find such spirit in our teaching and scholarship.

Roben Torosyan ’00GSAS
Assistant Director
Center for Academic Excellence
Fairfield University
Fairfield, CT


Map Flap

“King of Maps” (Spring 2006) credits John Tauranac as chief designer of the 1979 MTA subway map. Though Tauranac served as the chair of a map committee involved in the design process, it was I who received the contract to create the map. My contract continued with the MTA, and I am responsible for the current subway map that now appears in all stations and subway cars, as well as in fold-up versions. You can see my design credit in the map’s key panel.

I have been a map designer for many years, successfully depicting complex information for riders on bus and rail systems and for airline passengers who have to make quick decisions as they dash through airports.

I have been creating maps of historical battles for the U.S. Department of the Army for 20 years, have designed illustrative diagrams in all three New York–area airports, and am currently involved in making maps and diagrams depicting crime and accident scenes for courtroom presentations.

I resent that my time and energy have been diverted from my work these past 25 years while I seek credit for my role in the design of the MTA map.

Michael E. Hertz
Michael Hertz Associates
New York, NY


Your article gave John Tauranac far more credit than he deserves for his role in the design of the present New York City subway map. The existing map was designed by Michael Hertz, who worked with a map committee set up by Fred Wilkinson of the Transit Authority, who chaired this committee when it was established in 1976 to create a map to replace the 1972 Vignelli map.

The map committee largely came into being after Stephen Dobrow, a well-known public-transit advocate, and I informed Wilkinson that our field test of the Vignelli map essentially demonstrated it could not effectively navigate people through the complex New York City subway system (“Spatial Orientation in a Subway System,” Environment and Behavior, 1976). It is doubtful that a three-year-old map would have been reevaluated if Dobrow and I had not questioned its effectiveness. The present map, by contrast, has largely remained conceptually unchanged for 27 years.

When Wilkinson stepped down as chair of the committee, well into its deliberations, Tauranac replaced him and was helpful in resolving differences over map details. All members of the committee contributed to its design, but it was Hertz who translated our ideas into graphic realities. My role on the committee involved advocating for design features that reflected the findings of my study, testing out an interim version on the riding public, and analyzing responses to a questionnaire after a second interim version was displayed to the public. As a psychologist, I argued that a geographic map would make the system less threatening to riders in the 1970s if they could connect the subway stations below to the city above, and I urged that tourist attractions be identified on the map to attract people to use the subway to visit these sites.

Arline L. Bronzaft ’66GSAS
New York, NY


John Tauranac replies:
O
f course Michael Hertz and his staff at Michael Hertz Associates, especially Nobu Siraisi, were critical to the completion of the job, as were Arline Bronzaft and all the members of the committee. Without their collective input and help the product would not have been half as good as it was.


Fallen Angel?

I
lived in Bridgeport, Conn., until 1927 in a Slovak neighborhood. It’s true that Louis Kossuth was a gifted speaker — intelligent, handsome, with a commanding appearance, and the leading voice for Hungary to free herself from Austria (“Look Homeward, Angel,” by Paul Hond, Spring 2006.)

Kossuth, however, was born a Slovak, and unfortunately for the Slovaks, he disowned his heritage and became the leading Magyar in the Hungarian Kingdom, in a land populated by subjects who were treated as second-class citizens. Among them were the Slovaks, who bore the brunt of Budapest’s Magyarization program.

In a session of the Hungarian Diet, in Poznanie (Bratislava) in the 1840s, Ludovit Stur, a Slovak leader, appealed to that body to “raise the general welfare of the lower classes,” to which Kossuth replied, “to suffer, that is the fate of the people.”

The Magyars in Cleveland on July 28, 1902, were granted permission by the city to erect a memorial statue of Kossuth on a public square in the center of the city. The Slovaks were furious that this so-called champion of liberty and freedom would be so honored. Joined by the Czechs, Croatians, Slovenians, Serbs, Romanians, Russians, and Poles, the protestors included Slovak and Czech Catholic priests, Slovak Evangelist Lutheran pastors, Romanian Greek Catholic priests, and Romanian Orthodox priests. Never has there been such a united front against the tyranny of the Magyars before World War I. The permit given to the Magyars and their cohorts the Magyarones and Hungarian Jews for the erecting of Kossuth’s statue was rejected. That place of honor was formally held by the American hero Oliver Hazard Perry of the Battle of Lake Erie fame.

Jan Pankuch, in his History of the Slovaks of Cleveland, wrote of the Magyars in America, “They were always used to ruling the Slovaks and doing whatever they pleased with them. . . . It was proven that they only have this power in the old country. In the free country of the United States they proved mortal against the united Slavic people.”

Edward A. Tuleya ’57GSAS

Millersville, PA


The Wages of War II

A letter from James E. O’Brien in the  Summer issue (“Wages of War”) disagrees with Joseph Stiglitz’s study on the cost of the Iraq War, which you covered in the Spring issue. More significant to me is O’Brien’s belief in President Bush’s estimates that “if we had not already killed or captured terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, there would have been additional attacks similar to that of September 11.”

The speculations about the economy in the rest of the sentence are of as little value as the portion quoted, since no facts substantiating those statements are revealed. It is significant that news reports of suspected terrorists brought to court by the Bush administration have questioned whether or not these persons had any involvement with terrorist organizations at all.

Arthur M. Pierson ’58SW
Poughkeepsie, NY


James O’Brien argues with Joseph Stiglitz, who, he says, wrote that the war on terrorism is unnecessary. Stiglitz replies that he merely pointed out the war will cost 10 times as much as the Bush administration had projected. This implies that if projections had been analyzed in advance, there would have been no war, since the benefits would not have warranted the cost.

I agree and disagree in part with both. If Iraq really had nuclear weapons, it could have destroyed New York and Washington, D.C., with a truck-delivered nuclear bomb. But Iraq didn’t have nuclear weapons, so it was the wrong opponent. Iran and North Korea, both led by irrational haters of us, have stated explicitly and believably that they have or will soon have nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration, in effect, pressured the intelligence community to find  the desired evidence so the war on Iraq could start.

Stiglitz is right to the extent that the costs should have been analyzed and monitored. But he is wrong to emphasize this failure of the Bush administration. The incomparably greater failure was to choose Iraq as the target. Now that we have destroyed so much treasure and lost public support abroad as well as at home, how can we get Iran and North Korea to give up nuclear weapons?

O’Brien is right that the possession of nuclear weapons by irresponsible countries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Pakistan is intolerable.

Albert Z. K. Sanders ’41SEAS
East Hampton, NY


New Test Raises Questions

I
n your news piece “New Down syndrome test is safe, spots trouble early” (Spring 2006), one reads that some observers fear the early-screening process will lead to more abortions. Implicitly confirming these fears, the director of the screening program says that the program gives more time to “make decisions about pregnancy” (read: possibly decide to abort the child). I pray that the new test will be undertaken, not to “make decisions about pregnancy,” but to better prepare to welcome every child after delivery, every child (whether or not with Down syndrome) being a precious gift whose life and dignity must be respected. Other alumni and I also continue to hope that we’ll soon read in Columbia or other Columbia-sponsored publications of initiatives protecting and promoting all human life from conception to natural death.

Maurizio Ragazzi ’85LAW
Washington, DC