NEW YORK TIMES
January 11, 1988
TO THE EDITOR
It Takes Single-Minded Zeal to Protect New York's Landmarks
I have been a member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission since 1979. In ''Preserving Balance on Landmarks'' (editorial, Dec. 26), I am accused of ''zealotry'' and of being a ''single-minded'' commissioner. I am. Moreover, I think being single-minded and zealous about preservation is a fundamental qualification for the position.
We want our police commissioner to be zealous about fighting crime, do we not? Our Board of Education to be single-minded about teaching our young? Our building commissioner to be zealous about safety in construction? Can we not then agree that a Landmarks Preservation Commissioner should be single-minded and zealous about protecting our city's landmarks?
But you consider this reason for replacement. You call for ''balance'' on the commission. But that has often meant government that in the name of balance is quick to compromise principle; that in its desire to be reasonable fails to enforce the law; government eager to abandon the high road for the chance to strike deals, like the one at Columbus Circle, now declared illegal by the courts.
Furthermore, I question whether concern for balance is what really motivates you. Could it be Bryant Park? Eleven months ago, the Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to oppose plans to destroy part of Bryant Park, a New York City scenic landmark, plans that would block the view of the western facade of the Public Library, a landmark structure, in order to build a pair of luxury restaurants. Five days later you called for replacement of all the members of the commission.
Last Dec. 15, the Landmarks Commission again voted to issue a report in favor of preservation and against a revised plan for restaurants in the park. Again, you called for replacement of commissioners, specifically another member and myself.
Can it be simple coincidence that we are two of the most consistently outspoken critics of the restaurant scheme? Is it also a coincidence that each of the editorials calling for the replacement of commissioners has followed efforts of the Landmarks Commission to save Bryant Park and preserve the architectural integrity of the library?
For myself, the real issue is the politicizing of the Landmarks Commission. Over the long run, our city's treasures will not be saved by officials who are willing to ''balance'' their responsibilities under the law. There is no compromise with the wrecker's ball. I think all New Yorkers know that long-term preservation requires a steadfast ethic of vigilance. It requires sustained, single-minded zeal in defense of New York's cultural, historical and esthetic heritage. ANTHONY MAX TUNG Staten Island, Dec. 29, 1987.