5 August 2004


Differing points of view

Police officers at the First Precinct have been fielding angry phone calls about provocative posters in the windows of a luxury penthouse across the street from Ground Zero.

"No More War," reads the message in the first bank of windows on top of the 11-story condo on Liberty St.

The second bank of windows is graced by '60s-era peace signs.

The third bank carries the message: "No More Lies."

I'm told that a cop heard one neighborhood denizen grousing, "If they don't take 'em down, I'll go up there and take 'em down myself."

In an E-mail to owners of the palatial apartments at 114 Liberty St., the management company advised:

"Apparently, in the last few days the complaints and calls have increased (since the terror alert). ... Please, whoever hung the signs, remove them."

But hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons - who owns the two-story, 11,000-square-foot penthouse - has no intention of taking them down.

"The basic idea in this country is that citizens have freedom of speech, and the freedom that citizens enjoy should be protected," Simmons told me yesterday about the signs, which were created and installed by lefty activist/artist Glenn E. Friedman, a longtime Simmons pal.

"If there's a security issue, the police should be going after the people making the threats, not the people hanging the signs."

Condo board president Dave Stanke said he supports Simmons' message, but still must abide by the rules and regulations. While lawyers discuss their options, Stanke is considering putting the windows to a vote.

The 10-unit luxury building was severely damaged in the collapse of the World Trade Center. It has been uninhabitable - and undergoing expensive repair work - since 9/11, but owners now have access to the condos. Before the terrorist attacks, Sean (P. Diddy) Combs had agreed to buy Simmons' apartment for $5 million - an agreement rendered moot by the devastation.

"It has obviously been a very emotional time," Stanke said. "But people should be able to move back into their apartments by this Sept. 11."