It seems as if The Wave started a minor firestorm by using the word “refugees” in its headline last week to describe the Mississippi family that has settled in Rockaway to renew their lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Some callers indicated that the Russell family cannot be refugees because they did not come from another nation, they are American citizens. Others claimed that the word has “racist” connotations because most of those impacted by the storm were black. William Safire addressed the issue in his “On Language” column in the Sunday New York Times last weekend. The Times used the word “Refugees” in one article, “Evacuees” in another and “Storm Victims” in still another. Safire points out that “refugee” is simply a person who seeks refuge and makes no distinction between seeking that refuge in a home nation or any other. Jesse Jackson says that to see them as refugees is to see them as “other than Americans.” He says the term is “inaccurate, unfair and racist.” The Associated Press uses “refugee,” as do most of the other large city newspapers. Seems to be a tempest in a teapot.
There are 2.99 million registered Democratic voters in New York City. Only 456,263, or 17.3 percent voted in the primary election held on September 13. That is in sharp contrast to the 2001 primary, where more than 31 percent of the registered Democratic voters showed up. By the way, Weiner got 49 percent of the vote in Staten Island and 37 percent in Queens in his losing bid for the mayoral nod. Weiner also did well in Breezy Point, Neponsit and Belle Harbor, garnering more than 80 percent of the vote in those three neighborhoods.
Sometimes the world needs a break from hard, uncomfortable news. One such break came last week. President George Bush was at the United Nations, sitting next to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the General Assembly’s exploration of ways to revitalize the organization. Bush wrote Rice a note, memorialized by Reuters photographer who used a long lens to shoot the missive. What did it say? Did it represent a change in our nation’s policy towards the United Nations? No. Rather, it said, “I think I need a bathroom break.”
It’s official as far as the city and Mayor Bloomberg are concerned. Coney Island gets the gold mine and Rockaway gets the shaft. Bloomberg announced last week that he was going to pump $50 million into Coney Island to “jumpstart the seaside amusement area into a year-round destination.” The mayor added, “We’re about to unlock Coney Island’s tremendous untapped potential.” The new money means that a total of $83 million in public funds will go to Coney Island. Meanwhile, the new Request For Proposals (RFP) for Arverne East, the eastern end of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area, has come out. It asks for “up to 1,500 mixed-income residential units and up to 600,000 square feet of commercial space.” Those 1,500 units must include 20 percent “affordable homes,” or 300 units. Coney Island gets millions, Rockaway gets more affordable housing. Seems like old times.
There are two cases kicking around the city’s Law Department and moving inextricably and slowly through the system. The first is a lawsuit by ex-Beach Channel High School Principal Barbara Pleener, who filed a suit alleging that the Department of Education wrongfully fired her from her job. The suit was filed on March 3 of this year. The city says that it responded with an answer to the complaint on May 1, but that it cannot comment on pending litigation. The other case, more recent, was filed by Davie Reilly, a local ex-police officer who is suing the city and NYPD Deputy Inspector Charles Talamo for false arrest. Talamo, then the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct, led a raid on the beach in Belle Harbor on July 4, 2004 in which Reilly was arrested for having an open can of beer on the beach. A spokesperson for the law department said that its Special Federal Litigation Division received the case on September 8 and they are in the process of evaluating the legal papers. It could be years before either of the cases is resolved unless the city settles, as it often does.
Bob Sarnoff’s “No Rooms Lobby,” a short film about a man who lives in a single room occupancy building, has been accepted by the 2005 Bare Bones Script-2-Screen independent Film Festival being held October 13 to 16 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sarnoff also serves as The Wave’s editorial cartoonist, and we want to congratulate him on this latest honor.
A telephone poll commissioned by NY1 and Newsday shows that about a third of the 1,303 New York City voters think that the public schools today are about the same as they were four years ago, before Mayor Bloomberg took over the public system. Thirty-four percent said that the schools were “about the same,” as opposed to 33 percent who thought they were better, 17 percent who thought that they were worse (probably all teachers, who know what really is going on in the schools) and 16 percent who reported that they were not sure.
The U.S. News & World Report’s annual “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook lists Queens College in Flushing as the ninth best “Top Public University – Master’s North.” According to a spokesperson for the school, “that category refers to institutions that provide a full range of undergraduate and master’s programs but offer few doctoral programs.”
The teacher’s union has blasted an arbitrator’s report that calls for the city’s teachers to sacrifice a long list of hard-won perks in return for an 11 percent pay raise over three years. There have been rumbles locally of a wildcat strike to show the mayor that the union means business, but Randi Weingarten, the UFT Presidents, seems to be taking a more conciliatory stance, saying that the report is a good start for negotiations. The arbitration report recommended wiping out seniority transfers, stripping a teacher’s right to grieve negative evaluations, returning them to cafeteria and hall duty, and forcing them to teach an increased load. The proposed raise would increase the starting teacher’s salary to $43,437 from the current $39,000. The recommendations of the three-person arbitration panel are not binding on either party.
President George Bush has quietly issued a proclamation that suspends the law that requires employers in the Hurricane-devastated areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to pay the local prevailing wage to construction workers on federally financed projects. While the President said that he suspended the law to save taxpayers money, it is clear that the effect of the proclamation will be to provide low wages to workers and windfall profits to developers. The prevailing wage for a truck driver in New Orleans is about nine dollars an hour and now developers will be able to pay half that to workers trying to bring the hurricane areas back to livable condition.