2009-01-09 / Letters

Toxic Generation

Dear Editor,

Thanks to Joan Mettler for a good and needed letter (Wave, 12-26-08) regarding the "toxic" waste site in Rockaway Park. Now I'd like to add my fifty cents (I used to add my two cents, but that was before inflation and the devaluation of the dollar!).

History buffs and seniors all know that from at least the time of the Civil War (and in a few spots until approximately the first World War), our homes and businesses depended on gaslight. The illuminating gas was not the natural gas we know today, but was a gas produced in numerous "gas works" throughout the city, by baking coal at high temperatures. The resulting vapors were collected, purified, and piped wherever light was needed. In those careless days before the Sundance Channel, the leftover residue and ash were just dumped wherever there was room. Of course, during that same wild era, folks were burning coal, wood, kerosene, trash, and hospital waste. That was how cooking, heating, and sanitation got done, everyday. How the human race did not become extinct during these extremely poisonous years remains a mystery. Amazingly, however, most people not only lived, but gave birth to future generations. We're here, aren't we? All nine million of us in greater New York City.

During approximately a half century of living, I have observed something that's been so consistently true that I would like to share it: people who are bored and/ or attentionstarved have a way of finding each other and exercising their special gift: creating mountains out of ant hills, and fanning tiny sparks into raging fires; fires that usually get out of control. The media, naturally, loves these folks and has a talent for finding them, wherever they may be.

Does this combined work of the bored, attention-starved, and the media serve any purpose? It sure does! These artificial dramas are exactly what most of the rest of us are looking for; a perfect distraction from the real, painful, ugly problems that we don't want to deal with. (Ouch!)

The leftovers from Rockaway's gaslight days have been lying around for over a century, not really bothering anyone. If left alone, it is likely another century could pass, and nobody would be the wiser about this parcel of land. However (you knew this was coming) there are numerous toxic, indeed deadly, problems all around us here on the peninsula which, if not solved or managed, will cost many lives, and severely impact the quality of life and safety of all Rockaway citizens.

Do I have to mention the growth spurt in murders? The incredible increase in gang and drug activity? The failing public schools? Riots on the beaches? How about the thousands who live on the eastern two thirds of the peninsula, at or below the poverty level, warehoused in dangerous projects or in firetrap, slumlord dominated buildings?

The real challenges we face could begin to change for the better in the brand spanking new year that lies ahead of us.

Or, we can go back to the usual Rockaway soap operas; the awful toxic waste; the YMCA; the public thrashing of notable neighbors who fall from grace; the agony of the infighting at your favorite local co-op or condo tower, etc., etc.

True change, petty drama, or even total inaction - everyone chooses, and all choices count. A happy and healthy 2009 to everyone.

WILLIAM FOREST

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