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Pine Country

To the Editor:

I found your article on the Pine Bush [“Beyond the Karner Blue,” April 20] to be an important call in the ongoing struggle to preserve this important ecosystem. Being a resident of the Pine Hills neighborhood, I understand that my backyard was also once part of a larger Pine Bush, before the spawling fields of Washington Park, the State Office campus, and SUNY Albany were tamed by lawn mowers. Today, there are only a few backyard pines left standing among the apartments, as living reminders of my neighborhood’s namesake. On the map, Elberon Place meanders off the grid as a reminder of a stream that once followed it toward Lake Avenue.

The country in which I was born, Latvia, is densely covered in pines, so much so that many tourists visit it for the smell alone. Young survivors of Chernobyl stayed in Latvian resorts, too. Visiting the Pine Bush reminds me of this unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, on my trip between Pine Hills and Pine Bush, I must pass by the trimmed lawns of Harriman and SUNY, the landfill of Rapp Road, Crossgates, Wal-Mart, and the western end of Washington Avenue, which feels more like an airport runway than an avenue. Passing by all this super-size development makes the experience of visiting the Pine Bush even more special, knowing that it could all disappear if no further action is taken.

Sergey Kadinsky

Albany

In the Neighborhood

To the Editor:

After-dinner conversation on Easter turned to the article on Terra Nova by Chet Hardin [“Faith No Less,” April 13]. A number of the Troy residents and regulars who were gathered for Easter dinner were distressed by the paragraph referring to the Revolution Hall block of River Street as “rough” and the citing of the Salvation Army and a “strip club” as typical of the neighborhood.

It sounds to me as though Chet Hardin hasn’t spent any more time on River Street than he has in church (“It is my first church service in 19 years”). Thirteen years ago when Brown’s Taproom (from which Revolution Hall evolved) opened, the description might have been a little more accurate, but not really. Currently, the block north of the Green Island Bridge is one of the liveliest blocks in town. From Ryan’s Wake at the south end, past Jose Malone’s and Brown’s Taproom to the River Street Café (a well-established and well-respected restaurant which got a spontaneous rave from chef Ric Orlando during a recent cooking class), the block is full of great food and conviviality. Various other businesses fill out the block, and the Salvation Army office has been serving the neighborhood for longer than most of the other establishments. And in summer, the Farmers’ Market sets up on Saturdays in the parking lot next to the Marina. “Up-and-coming”—yes, “rough”—no.

The emphasis on the perceived grittiness of the neighborhood and the incongruity of holding church services in a bar may just have been for atmospheric effect but do a disservice to the reader by creating a false impression of a vibrant neighborhood. Revolution Hall (contiguous to Brown’s Taproom) is a performance space which has hosted a wide variety of local and national performers, as well as local charitable functions. So it’s not so improbable to rent it out on Sunday morning. If the church members feel more comfortable worshiping someplace they might also come to hear more secular music, that’s nice for them.

And, for the record, the so-called “strip club” is a block away on King Street, not on River Street. I hope the fact-checkers will be a little more attentive to detail in future.

Pamela Bentien Troy

Watch What You Read

To the Editor:

Lo-lee-ta is the way Nabokov begins the novel many critics have called the greatest love story of the 20th century. It might also be the best way for librarians to currently refer to this book, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, should they ever want to do so in e-mail. Like Miriam Axel-Lute [“Miss Manners Is Watching, Blindly,” Tech Life, April 6], I too, after a period of puzzlement, finally hit upon the weird fact that certain messages containing innocuous content simply were not being delivered. Apparently, my office was employing a filter that didn’t like the word Lolita¾presumably because of its frequent occurrence on porn sites. Lolita is a famously censored book, film, and movie remake, and there are legitimate reasons why librarians might want to talk about it.

A recent thread on a cataloging listserv concerned subject headings for the words Nigger and Fuck. There is “literary warrant” for these based on the books Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Harvard professor Randall Kennedy and The F-Word by Oxford English Dictionary editor Jesse Sheidlower. Messages were bouncing all over the place during this discussion because of overactive email applications unable to distinguish proper versus improper use of these terms. (Learning the meaning of the word context may be a better thing for them to apply themselves to.)

Another word some filters would gainsay is porn. Considering that porn filters in public libraries were a major topic of conversation among librarians during the past decade, thanks to a flurry of “child protection” legislation (Google turns up 19,500 hits on “porn filters” and “libraries”), this particular manifestation of “censorware” is even more regrettable. And highly ironic. In other words, you cannot debate the use of porn filters in libraries due to, uh, porn filters in libraries.

This type of word-based blocking has been pretty thoroughly discredited by now, despite a divided decision upholding the Children’s Internet Protection Act by the Supreme Court in United States v. American Library Association (2003). But as the Association flatly asserted almost 10 years ago, and has not wavered on since: “The use of filtering software by libraries to block access to constitutionally protected speech violates the Library Bill of Rights.”

Carol Reid

Albany

Correction

In Loose Ends (Jan. 19), we erroneously reported that Supreme Court had agreed to review the Tenth Circuit Court ruling that Albany County had based its Medicaid supplemental needs trust policy upon [“Breaking the Trust,” Jan. 5]. The Supreme Court in fact declined to review the ruling.

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters addressed to the editor. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length or clarity; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are anonymous, illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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