Dog Bites

Tanking the Memories
When city crews started preparing to take out the venerable reflecting pool in Civic Center Plaza earlier this summer, the sight came as a surprise to the members of the city's Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, which meets nearby. The reflecting pool might not be one of the city's better-loved fixtures, but the plaza it occupied is an officially designated Historic District. As such, it can't be altered without the knowledge and approval of the Landmarks Board. That's what some preservation board members thought, at least.

They now stand corrected.
The Department of Public Works removed the pool with nary a nod to Landmarks.

How did that come to be? the Landmarks Board, via questioning from member Donna Leavit, wanted to know.

And here is how city Planning Director Gerald Green and city Zoning Administrator Robert Passmore replied in a July 22 memo that makes a classic display of bureaucratic double-talk.

Alteration of an official Historic District site does, the memo allows, require a "certificate of appropriateness," which would require the approval of Landmarks. But here's the catch: The certificate is needed only if the permit for the work is referred to the Planning Department by the Central Permit Bureau. But the Central Permit Bureau did not refer the reflecting pool permit, because the Department of Public Works did not ask for such referral. So no certificate of appropriateness was requested -- or, in the memo's version of logic, needed.

The permit was never referred for review because Public Works asked only for a plumbing and electrical permit, which is low-level and routine -- and requires no referral or outside review. Presto, chango, the pool's gone, its electricity cut off, its water pipes capped, its history ignored.

-- P.O.

Simile of the month honors go to Jamie Court, director of Consumers for Quality Care, a nonprofit health advocacy group, commenting in a press release on the revelation made by KRON-TV that only six of 30 members of the state's HMO task force actually belong to HMOs. "This is like cats reforming the eco-system for field mice," Court said. Dog Bites could almost hear the crunch, crunch of feline teeth on rodent tails.


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