2009-03-27 / Letters

'It's Time For A Change [In Far Rockaway]'

Dear Editor,

In light of the recent stock exchange scandal, I conducted an Internet search for information on Bernard Madoff and I was as thoroughly disappointed as I was equally shocked to learn that he graduated from Far Rockaway High School. I believe that Far Rockaway gets enough of a bad rap, through unwarranted local gossip and uneven media representation, as it is; let's just add to that pile the fact that the largest stock and security fraud ever committed by a single American, graduated from our very own Far Rockaway H.S.!

Perhaps those of you who unfairly assume that demographics and racial/ cultural implications have "ruined" the Rockaway peninsula should take into account these facts: Madoff, a Caucasian man, grew up in Far Rockaway in the 1940s and '50s long before it was socially cut off from Belle Harbor due to the "high crime rates," which have often been associated with the rise in population of working-class, minority families throughout the various Far Rockaway neighborhoods. Further, Madoff's shameful actions in committing such a scandalous crime have affected the entire nation, have exhausted the financial security of thousands of his company's investors and have produced far more economic and social repercussions than even the most "violent" crimes ever committed by minorities on the streets of Far Rockaway.

Equal representation for Far Rockaway and its citizens is long overdue. At the very least, adjustments need to be made in the balance and presentation of news reports, as these headlines do not solely reach the eyes and ears of those living on the Rockaway peninsula, but rather beckon to all of NYC a negative, "criminal" stigma of an entire community that is rich with culture, alive with good-natured people and has many above-average elementary schools that go unrecognized. The actions of the small percentage of "criminal" citizens in Far Rockaway should not diminish those of the majority of residents who are active participants in our society and don't deserve to be unwilling agents in representing a "bad" neighborhood which they have no part in creating; labeling "Far Rockaway" on the whole as "criminal," instead of stigmatizing the smaller number of individuals who actually commit the crimes, severely hinders the social mobility of minorities and undemocratically removes the differentiated opportunity structures available to young people in Far Rockaway, which are otherwise dispensable to the youth in Belle Harbor. Punitive, racist notions such as these only further reinforce the unjust message that citizens who are granted the definition of "lower-class" and "minority" should automatically inherit the label "criminal," thus denying them access to adequate capital allocation and appropriate social policy representation. (Let it be said that building luxurious two-family homes directly across the street from public housing units only further propagates the long-standing racial tensions on the Rockaway peninsula and should serve as a beacon which highlights the disparities of those living "downtown!")

As Obama so charismatically states, "It's time for change!"

ANGELA BERNSTEIN

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