2005-09-16 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

Nobody asked me, but …

...The “Life” Magazine that comes with the Sunday papers did a two-page spread on small-town tributes to 9/11 from around the nation. There were fourteen memorials featured and 12 of them included a piece of “twisted metal” from the World Trade Center. I really like our new Tribute Park, but I still have to maintain that it would have been even better if it included a piece from the destroyed Broad Channel Fire Department ambulance, which was flattened when the first tower came down. Every memorial should remind people of the event that it memorializes and that twisted metal is what I believe is necessary for any remembrance of the terrorist attack on us all. Pastoral just doesn’t cut it this time around.

...OK, so we have an endorsement of Freddy Ferrer by the Reverend Al Sharpton and that is supposed to throw the election to the former Bronx Borough President. People have such short memories. Sharpton is a racial arsonist, a perjurer, a racist and he doesn’t even live in New York City. Don’t people remember Tawana Brawley (Sharpton has never issued any regrets over that incident), the Harlem fire that killed some people after Sharpton called the store’s white owner an “interloper,” the Korean Boycott, The “Rockaway Five,” and all the other lies that Sharpton perpetrated in order to push his own brand of racial politics? What, you say, those were all in the distant past and Sharpton has become a statesman? Let’s hear him apologize and admit that he was lying in each of those cases, and then I’ll believe that he’s reformed

...There is no doubt that gunplay is up all over New York City. The Ocean Bay Houses have been particularly hard hit with a plethora of shootings over past months. In the Queens South command, which includes Rockaway, gun incidents are up 16 percent. Without exception, all of the local victims of the shootings have been black and the majority of shooters have been black as well. I have to wonder why, under those conditions, we have heard nothing from out local black politicians decrying the situation and vowing to do something about it. Only one politician has spoken out against the gun violence prevalent in his community, and that is City Councilman James Sanders, who held a meeting to address the problem about a year ago. Since then, he has been quiet. Where is Ed Williams and the NAACP, who is quick to point out problems when he believes the bureaucracy is wronging his community? Where is Congressman Greg Meeks, who seems more interested in trade with Central America than with his constituents who live under the constant threat of gun violence? Where is Assemblywoman Michele Titus, who sits in the State Assembly, the group that actually makes our criminal laws? Where is State Senator Malcolm Smith? Our state legislators constantly fight against bills that would strengthen the criminal justice system because of their perceived negative impact on their constituents who carry guns. Why not take care of the good people, both black and white, who need protection from the predators? I’m waiting to hear from you, James, Michelle, Greg, Ed and the rest of the black leaders who seem not to notice that they have a deadly problem on their hands.

...I have been a United Federation of Teachers (UFT) member since 1965, more than 40 years. I started when Al Shanker was the president, and I was a chapter chairman for many years at a variety of schools. The UFT is a labor union, and as such, should be worried about only one thing – the welfare of its members. It is only recently, when new leadership made the union into a social welfare agency that it lost its way and lost favor with its members. Does the union that represents steel workers worry about making better steel? Does the police union worry about cutting crime? Does the nurse’s union worry about better health care? The leaders of those unions would answer “no” to all of those questions. Those unions are concerned with salary, benefits, working conditions and fairness for their members. That is what the UFT should be worried about as well, not bringing parents into the educational process, creating charter schools and joining the DOE in school improvement projects (unless they benefit union members). Teachers need the union to do its job, especially now that the system is being run by people who have no idea what they are talking about (look at the recent ban on using crayons in kindergarten classes in this region). It is time for the union to go back to its roots and become a labor union once again, not an apologist for the Department of Education.

...The New York Times did an long-form article on John Baxter and his Beach 116 Street Hotel that was entitled, “Be It Ever So Humble. O.K., It’s Shabby.” The article, by staffer Corey Kilgannon, made Baxter into a latter-day Robin Hood, housing people who otherwise would have no options but his “shabby,” “$130-a-week” hotel. In fact, Baxter has become the major impediment in revitalizing the major shopping street in the west end of the peninsula. A number of developers have been trying to put together packages that would include the Lawrence Hotel (closed by the city, but once a notorious welfare hotel), Baxter’s, the Rockaway Beach Hotel, the Seaport and the Sandbar. That would provide a half-block stretch with access to the water for stores, restaurants and condos on the upper floors. Most of those properties are available, or would be if the price is right. Except for Baxter, who has vowed publicly that he would not sell at any price. Do the people who rent Baxter’s no-nonsense apartments deserve a place to live? Of course they do. Should that be on the premier shopping street in the neighborhood, where the area is already impacted by the Park Inn Hotel and other run-down facilities? Probably not. I’m not saying that Baxter should sell out his tenants, but at least he should recognize the fact that his facility does not add to a positive ambiance in the community.

...The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently issued a report that took the New York City Police Department to task for its handling of demonstrators at last summer’s Republican National Convention. The report calls for an independent manager who would tell the NYPD experts how to do it the ACLU’s way. I understand that Michael Brown has lost some face at FEMA and would be perfect for the job. That’s what the ACLU wants – somebody who knows nothing about keeping order but will cave in when others want disorder to prove a political point. If Hurricane Katrina has taught us anything it is that you have to put professionals in jobs that affect people’s lives. Now, if only the DOE would understand.

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