Saturday, November 25, 1995


Israel - ome facts

In view of our interest in Israel and its relationships with the Arab neighbors, it may help to note some facts that have impact on the potential of peace.

The country is the size of New Jersey, 7,800 sq. mi., without the territories gained in the 6-day war in 1967, a third more (10,700 sq. mi.) with them. Stretching 260 miles North to South, Israel proper is a bit more than 10 miles wide over a 40 mile stretch between Jaffa and Haifa, North of Jerusalem, in the Valley of Sharan. The 1967 march to the West Bank of Jordan River widened Israel to about 50 miles, 60+ at Beersheba. Ten miles further South is Dimona, the heavily guarded atomic installation, at which point the country becomes a triangle, tapering to a point at Elat, Israel's port on the Red Sea.

Of the rapidly growing population of over 5.5 million some 1.3 million are Arabs. They have 10 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, and Druses, who make up 20% of the Moslems, serve in the army. Of the Jews, 800,000 are Orthodox.

Many Arabs are rich, and their children study in the Israeli universities, where they make up 10 percent of the student body. The low number is due to Arab reluctance to let women enter universities, not unlike that of the Orthodox Jews.
Under law, Arabs may not have more than one wife. Moslem women are controlled, and girls with short skirts are deemed prostitutes.
Orthodox women also wear long sleeves and skirts. To swim, they go to special women's beaches, or have women's days at the regular beaches.

Military service is obligatory for Jews, as soon as they reach the age of 18 - 3 years for men, 2 for women. Men continue to serve in the reserves 30 days a year until age 50 (it was 65 until recently), women until age 26 or marriage. The reservists may often be put under the command of a 20-year old woman, member of the regular army. The stories about women soldiers being exploited by the men may be based on individual incidents, but in general there is equality, except that women do not do battle duty.

The only Jews who do not serve are the Neture Karta sect, about 20,000 religious who are wards of the state, since the men spend all their time in the yeshiva. They are not part of the assasin conspirators against the peace effort. This conspiracy comes from the settlements in the occupied territories. Claimed to number some 200, there are actually about 50. The counting depends on whether adjacent clusters of houses are considered separately or together. Likewise, the number of settlers is given as 100,000 by the government and 180,000 by the settlers. Again, this depends on whether one includes occupants of vacation homes.

Housing in Israel proper is expensive, and property in the settlement areas was acquired cheaply, sometimes under pressure. The houses are beautiful - driving from Jerusalem to Hebron, the hillside settlements along the road look like pure white castles in the clouds. Many of the settlers are Americans who claimed the right of Aliya, or return.

Thursday, November 23, 1995


Stuyvesant Square Historic District's 20th Anniversary

A neighborhood can stay well only if its people actively promote its survival. This was recognized early by some Stuyvesant Square Park area residents who saw that the government agencies engaged in maintaining the historic park - Parks Department and Police Department - have limited means and initiative, and need be supplemented by residents' active partivipation, with both money and lobbying for assistance. The Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association was formed in 1968 by residents of the 15th St - 23rd st area, its natural constituency. Among the founders were John Tomany, Jim and Rusty Moore, Charles West and Merryl Stoller. Their objective was to form a membership organization that would raise funds to restore the park and keep it flourishing, through tree and flower plantings, using membership dues and donations. The membership dues have since been supplemented by the proceeds of the SPNA Street Fair, which is usually held in June. Consequently, the Association has been able to keep the plantings going, and to contribute annual grants to the area improvement projects, such as homeless programs, 14th Street Local Development Corporation, and other neighborhood initiatives.

But there the small membership-generated funds were never enough to keep the park from falling apart, and to save the oldest free standing cast-iron fence in New York City from the danger of collapse. To step back in history - the Park was given to the City in 1836 by Peter G. Stuyvesant, great-great-grandson and namesake of Old Silver Nails, the last Dutch governor-general of New Amsterdam. PGS was turning the 120 acre Governor's bouverie (farm) into a residential suburb of orderly rectangular blocks. He felt that the citizens deserved a park, in fact two parks, straddling 2nd Avenue-to-be. The City concurred but let the park site go to seed, with squatters building shanties and pigpens. Eventually Hamilton Fish, Peter's nephew and the future Senator and U.S. Secretary of State, sued the city and forced the installation of a fine fence in 1846, as well as construction of fountains and landscaping in 1851.

By 1977 the fence was deteriorating rapidly and an SPNA coalition, led by Jeanne Tregre, started a campaign for restoration. The Park area was part of the Stuyvesant Square Historic District, designated as such by the Landmarks Preservation Commisssion on September 23, 1975, exactly 20 years ago, through the efforts of neighborhood preservationists, including the late Joe Roberto, AIA, and Rex Wassermann, then the Department of Parks landscape architect for Stuyvesant Park. He died early in November 1995. The coalition, joined by Rosalee Isaley (president of SPNA for 12 years, until 1993) was successful, and raised Parks Department and other funds, approximately $1 Million, for restoration of the West Park's fence, which was removed and shipped to a foundry where the missing memebers were recast. Construction wagons surrounded the closed West park for two years while the sidewalks - all but the 2nd Avenue side - were replaced with historically correct new bluestone, and the plumbing, lights and convenience facilities were redone. Finally, in 1983 the fence came back, and the West Park reopened.

Not so the East Park, for which SPNA shares custodial activities with Beth Israel Hospital, pa rticularly its fence. Parks Department has fallen on bad times and has no funds for the full repair, estimated at $1.4 Million, taking into account both sidewalks facing 2nd Avenue. An effort was made to get the initial $1 Million from ISTEA, the Federal Department of Transportation fund for intermodal?? ransportation relief projects, since we do straddle 2nd Avenue, which has been continuously under repair. That looked promising, but then the Fed grant authorities decided that this is not a transportation improvement project. However, miraculously, early in 1995 there was an initiative on part of City Councilman Antonio Pagan, resulting in the earmarking of major City funds, $400,000, for the restoration. Given that now the project looked real, Borough President Ruth Messenger was able to find $600,000 more, and Parks Commissioner Henry Stern felt that he could scrape up an additional $200,000. We were almost home, but then the bottom fell out - the Pagan money had to be diverted to other areas, and the other grantors could not go it alone.

The East Park continues to suffer. Some eight trees donated by Beth Israel director xx are in need of replacement. THe Antonin Dvorak bust, donated by Lincoln Center, is in the studio of the restorer, while monies continue to be solicited from neighborhood residents, to pay for the installation and fund the endowment required by Parks Department for maintenance of donated statues. But these monies are minor, compared to the funds needed for the restoration of the fence.
Several preservationists have pitched in to help with their support for the fence - notably Margot Gayle of the Society For The Preservation of Cast-Iron Architecture, Fanny Eberhard of Historic Districts Council. Neighborhood residents must pitch in. SPNA should like to have one or more volunteers that can give limited time to the fund-raising effort. To those among us who might think this an immense effort - not so, you will be calling on government, on foundations, not individuals. If you feel that the city has better things to do with its money besides restoring a stable-looking cast-iron fence, it is important to remember that neglect is the root cause of the collapse of neighborhoods. Union Square was the cesspool of the area, until the rebuilding of the park and increased policing in the early 1990s brought it back to life. Neglect of the Dyckman Mansion and its area, in Harlem, impedes the recovery of that city section.

Wednesday, November 22, 1995


Swapping Tales with Gene Dorfman incomplete)

Swapping Tales with Gene Dorfman
The information technology industry is truly a wonderful thing. Without it a community newspaper - or any newspaper - would be in trouble. Now a reporter can type a story directly into a computer, and it gets formatted into newspaper columns, without a need for a typesetter, proofreader or copy editor (a mixed blessing, these latter two, but they do reduce costs). There is another computer, a scanner, that reads a ragged-edge manuscript and converts it into justified (that is smooth-edge) newspaper columns, ready for paste up. It can also take a

Eugene Dorfman, FSA, a resident of 2nd Ave and 21st St for 35 years, is moving to a nursing home in Boca Raton, FL on January 26th. Gene was a community activist for a number of years, as a volunteer worker in Congressman Bill Green's office and as a teacher of English as a second language through the auspices of the English-Speaking Union. A math graduate of Williams College (1936), member of the US Army during WWII and an actuary with a local life insurance company for many years, he had a life-long interest in philosophy, and corresponded with Sir Karl Popper, the British thinker. He was also a collector of the books of Henry Miller, and brought them in from France during the years when the explicit autor could not be published in his native country. On several occasions the US Customs confiscated his cargo, but Gene persevered.

Swapping tales refers to Gene's vacations in the South of France, in the Provence, and in Toulouse, where he visited the hometite of Fermat, the margermatician whose theorem seemingly has is in the way of being solved. He vacationed in the sunbathers' island, Isle de Levant, in the Isles de Hyeres, South of Toulon, where French and British nudists congregated. The scenery of the Hyeres Islands was appealing, and when my wife, an avid reader of George Simenon's Inspector Maigret series, read his Arche de Noe novel, with its descriptions of the countryside on the Isle de Porquerolles, in the Hyeres , we decided to look into it.

We called the French Tourist office, which expressed wonderment at this farfetcherd inquiry and eventually sent some mimeographed pages in French, describing the island. Surprisingly, there was an Arche de Noe hotel there.

That was enough for us. Next year we vacationed in Kandersteg, Switzerland, and took a train from Domodossola on the border, through Genoa and the lovely Italian Riviera countryside, to Nice. The Nice beach is rocky, and the sunshine people had to take the little local train to Juan les Pines or Cab d'Antibes for beach life . we did that for two days, and took the local bus to Touluse, to see the French Riviera on the run. Cannes was rainy, and we took a lunch brak in , Brigitte Bardot country. The bus was on the quayside, near a huge yacht that had an ekeectrified sign in two languages "Entree Forbidden." Not intimidated, wew ent to a cafe and ordered local fish soup. The waiter told us to take local red wine with it. "Fish ?" we questioned, to which he gave us the local equivqlent of "Trust me." We did, and the heavy Provence red balanced the stew completely.

Moving right along we now came to to Le Levandou, a saeport stop. I jumped out to ask whether they had a ferry to Porquerolle, to be told that the summer ferry schedule had stopped at the end of August. Back to the bus. Nothing daunted, (to be cont)

Sunday, November 12, 1995


Guardian Landscape by Wally Dobelis


There are some of us who may remember the midcentury Guardian Life Insurance Company o America as a company of 400-odd people, tightly packed in the 18 floors of 50 Union Square, on Fourth Avenue, with the Executive Flooor on the Mezzanine - that was Mr. McClain's office - and Johnny Breeze the old Marine guarding the sanctity of the environment. We office boys learned everybody's name in a week. We cashed our paychecks in the Chemical Corn Exchange Bank, and the lunches on the Mezzanine Floor were free. Vinnie the elevator man took bets on horses, and trusted you once, maybe twice. (That was in direct disregard of the September 25th, 1907 memo from the office of the President of the Germania Life Insurance Company written in capital letters, to wit: ANY ONE IN THE EMPLOY OF THIS COMPANY FOUND PLAYING THE RACES WILL BE DISMISSED INSTANTER. AND ANY ONE SUSPECTED OF DOING SO WILL BE LIABLE TO RIGOROUS MEASURES. Signed by Cornelius Doremus, President.What a righteous name!)

Every department had Christmas parties, but the Supply Dept on 18th floor had the one to close the day with. Dr. Bender's parties served pink ladies, which were concocted by Dr. Lambkin, who also did the urinanalyses. The "specimens" arrived from the Medical Examiners' offices by mail in little ampules, wrapped with the identification slip. We once got a hold of a properly addressed slip, with the P.O. cancellation but no name, filled the tube with beer and wrote the insured's name as I. P. Standing. The slip came back from Dr Lambkin's lab with the contents identified as a trace of barley and hops. He was a good sport and his drinks were great. By the way, no one was allowed to use Dr. Bender's bathroom, unless invited; if you did not know the rules and he saw you, your manager got a call and would tell you, sort of shamefacedly and making light of it.

The big event was to be invited to the SWS Ageny Christmas party downtown, with plenty to drink and eat. Tiny Arthur C. Warshaw with the deep cutting voice would take some of us youngsters to a side room and would tell this story of the Creation. That was about the way he, Jerry Schnur and the tall deceptively slow-talking Dick Spaulder took over the sleepy Leyendecker-Schnur agency and built it up to a broker-oriented powerhouse. They attributed some of the success to taking taxis rather than the subway during the great Depression, and thus seeing several more brokers a day. I always thought that the real secret was the their cashier, the motherly Miss Donovan who knew how to get underwriting action, by getting all of her cases reviewed once a day on the telephone by the suspense section. You had to be sharp to handle SWS.

Then came the 1960s, Fourth Ave acquired a center median and plantings and we became 201 Park Avenue South. Jerry Parker and Health came in in 1954, and Bob Wilcox brought in Group in 1957, all under the guidance of James A (no period) McClain, whose benevolent eyes look at all visitors from the entrance of the Annex Building, designed by the great Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (but why did he put a row of clotheshangers in the basement as well as on populated floors? Ah well...) In the old building, the beautiful balcony overlooking the 4th Avenue lobby diappeared, and mosaic walls took the place of the marble, much to the disgust of the architectural preservationists who created the Landmarks Commission after the magnificent Penn Station of McKim Mead and White was permitted to be torn down. Our 1911 D'Oensch and Yost building was landmarked, both interior (the lunchroom, originally the Collection Department, where policyholders came to pay premiums, is a great example of a beautiful public space) and exterior (we have the largest copper mansard roof in the city). The free sandwich lunches became subsidized hot meals. The floors freed up by the exodus to the Annex acquired publishing tenants. E.P.Dutton had their exhibit of the original A.A.Milne's Winnie the Poo and Tigger dolls in the showcase, and we had occasional elevator sightings of trench-coated Mickey Spillane, their author of such hardboiled detective fiction as "I, The Jury." Mickey played the part, a wide brim hat down on his eyes.Another tenant, T.Y.Crowell, had such authors as John Kenneth Galbraith, whose head nearly touched the elevator roof when I saw him on the elevator with his editor. A "Good morning, Ambassador," got us into a three-floor conversation. Another author, the poet Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg's significant other, only stared dourly at his open-toed sandals as he rode on the elevator.

In 1965 Max's Kansas City opened up next door, in the location of the old Southern Restaurant, and that brought scads of artists into the area, of which another time. Also, Andy Warhol's Factories (there were two locations) across the Union Square made this a prime pop and op art environment. Guardianites were tolerated in Max's because it was our turf, and we laid claim to it at 4:30 P.M., when any self-respecting Max's denizen would have barely rolled out of bed. We were gone long before the real night-time revelries began.

The Guardian kept growing, and we picked up rental space at 105 Madison Ave.
In 1982 the company had enough of New York's high taxes, low educational levels of startup employees, and decided to direct the expansion outwards. We were getting to be a group major medical insurance power, needing many claim approvers and underwriters, and had to look for a low-cost, trainable employee environment. Three areas of the country seemed right, and we started with Bethlehem, PA, or more properly Allentown, where the demise of heavy steel industry had left a lot of white collar avalability, and the good schools offered more for the future expansion. From a rented space in 1982 we moved into a industrial development area, building a 3-story escalator office in 1984, designed by King xxx of and adding a mirror-image wing in 1988. The computer center moved there, out of New York, along with certain life and health (now disability) operations, and Group kept growimg. In 1992 we added a warehouse building, some 800 feet away, to house supplies (I remember getting out of the way of a warehouse fork-lift bearing down at what seemed 35 M.P.H.), and the offsite storage of computer files.

In 1985??? we decided to expand th the Midwest, and rented space in Appleton, Wi, a beautiful lake community, with many paper mills and some insurance companies, notably Lutheran Brotherhood. Eventually we built a 3-story (same designer), for xxx employees. It is heavily group major medical oriented operation, as is the next expansion, 1988???, in Spokane, WA.

Spokane was a mining town. I remember the parts of the town set in the middle of a mining pit, the modern buildings in the Civic Center, and also the young gal who jumped out of her spanking new pickup truck in a shopping center, to announce to a friend "How'd you like that! My husband gave it to me on my 16th birthday!" It's the West, you New York slickers, get with it. The Spokane building is 3 stories, with xx employees. This is the first one that ruled no-smoking, and I would see lots of people on the back porch.

As of 10/95, in the Guardian interoffice telephone book there are 4500 numbers. Also 100 ?? officers, country wide. Long gone are the days when you could pick up the phone in NY and dial three digits and get anyone. When you dialed GOD, you got Dan Lyons. I told this secret to my then manager, who looked at me, picked up the phone and dialed up, then hung up and stared, sort of white faced. I think he was worried. Today he might be more worried, because the phones - at least those of the secretaries - show the dialer's name and extension, so when someone says "yes, Wally," you know where you are. The kid in DP who used to make dirty interoffice calls in the 1960s until found out and fired would have a hard time today.

As to offices, we have two floors in the building past former Max's (now a Korean grocery), 215 PAS, the former Burroughs Adding Machine headquarters. This building, our size, was offered to us for about $7 million way back, as was the needle-domed Chrysler Building in the '40s ("the parachutist's nightmare").Who's to say whether we should have bought them? We also lease two floors at 233 PAS, above Canastel's, a trendy restaurant. And a huge floor housing all of group's administrative offices, at 225 PAS, one block over. On a rainy day Guardianites have to carry umbrellas as they scurry between offices, particularly because yet another group office on corner 18th and 5th Ave, above Daffy's department store, handles compliance.

The most senior male long-term employees still coming in every day are Hugh Howell, age 70, who started in 1940. I'm next, age 66, started in 1950, then Ed Kane, our legal beagle, of the same age group. Thereafter, another break. I will not speak of the ladies, who have their own privacy concerns, except o mention one - Vickie Farella, who started in 1943, is retiring at 68.I bring this up because of the changes in the world. Unfortunately the next generations will not be able to experience the same continuity. My son's college placement people caution the grads to expect three career changes - that's profession, folks - and eight job changes. The opportunity to build up pensions dwindles. It's almost like back to the 1950s when my uncle got fired by Con Edison after 19 1/2 years of service, to avoid giving him a pension. ERISA cured that, at least for our generation. I can also look back to the kids who jumped jobs - particularly one auditor who left after 8 1/2 years, with no pension credits. We have to make sure our kids understand this. The world has changed, but the Guardian ship sails on. Fair weather, gang!

Farella 1943- 68
Howell 40 - 70

Friday, November 10, 1995


rosset to Levy

Iam Curious yellow was not much of a movie, and the book, with stills from the picture, not nuch of an opus. Yet, when it opened in art houses, it had the biggest grosses, and the lines went around the block. Today it would barely rate as R, but in 196x things were different.

The novelty was such that the PO dept saw fit to sue the pub Barney Rossett, and the case went to the SCt, with a Mex standoff of 4-4, bec just Douglas abstained, since he had recently received an honorarium from Rosset's Evergreen Press for an article.

This would have been the end of it, but then the PO discovered that Arnold Levy (longtime neighb at 2nd Av and 19th St) owner of World Wide Boooks was selling remaindered copies for S1 via the US mails. It was aloss leader, the books cost him 80c but the PO sent cops to pick Arnold up at his residence 19thSt and 2nd Av, and jailed him, with 15 indictments.

Arnold had the help of Al Gerber, Phil lawyer lond specializung in 1st Am cases, and the whole thing was dismissed in the Bridgeport Federal Court 2nd Circuit) by Judge xx Feldman (who was once a cand for the S Ct bench Bush/Clint?

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