Letters to the Editor
To The Editor:
Amidst all the budget doom and gloom, some good news: I met in Albany recently with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who informed me that more than 2,000 classroom seats in District 24 have been restored to the five-year schools capital plan.
Last year, the city’s plan budgeted new space for some 4,300 students in District 24; that number was cut by 2,100 in February. After we expressed deep concern with the cut, Schools Chancellor Walcott restored those 2,100 seats to the plan and added an additional 180. District 24, the city’s most overcrowded, is slated to get more new seats than any other school district.
The restoration of the seats cut in February, as well as the newly added 180 seats, will be subject to approval by the City Council during budget negotiations over the next few weeks.
It was heartening to see the chancellor’s understanding and appreciation of the scale of the school overcrowding problem in our community. His response to our concerns was most welcomed.
His visit to the Pioneer Academy in Corona was also encouraging. I had an opportunity to tour the school with the chancellor and meet with the principal, staff and local parents. I helped secure some of the $43 million spent to build the school, which, under the leadership of Principal Cecilia Jackson, has flourished.
The Pioneer Academy opened in 2009. It was built across the street from P.S. 19 to alleviate overcrowding there. As we know, P.S. 19 is the city’s most overcrowded school. The Pioneer Academy is itself filling up rapidly. It has the second longest kindergarten wait list in the city and will no longer be able to accommodate the fifth grade from its overcrowded neighbor, P.S. 16. As of September, the P.S. 16 fifth grade will be shuttled to P.S. 330, located more than a mile and a half away.
It’s all an unfortunate, but necessary game of musical chairs. We’re very grateful for Schools Chancellor Walcott’s recognition of the problem and his response, but there’s still a long, long way to go.
Indeed, there has to be a state of emergency declared to finally end nearly 30 years of school overcrowding and conditions, in some places, that you’d expect to see in [developing nations], not the greatest city in the world.
I will continue to work to ensure that available capital resources are focused on where they are needed most. And, clearly, they are needed most in this community.
State Senator Jose R. Peralta
N.E. Queens Is At Risk
To The Editor:
In an effort to close its current budget gap, last week the Bloomberg administration announced that it was planning to close the Fire Department’s Engine 306 in Bayside.
This firehouse serves the Bayside and Bay Terrace area and is vital to the safety of our community. In addition, the safety repercussions of closing Engine 306 go beyond Bayside and Bay Terrace. If Engine 306 is closed, emergency responders will have to be called in from other areas. This will take assets away from areas such as Flushing, Whitestone, Douglaston and Little Neck and put those areas at additional risk as well. When a fire emergency occurs every minute counts. Closing Engine 306 will put property and lives in Northeast Queens at undue risk.
I applaud our local elected officials as they have aggressively fought against the closing of Engine 306. State Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein and Councilmember Dan Halloran have worked together in a bipartisan manner to fight this travesty. They clearly recognize that our safety is of the utmost importance and they have moved quickly to stop this closure.
The fact that the Bloomberg administration is proposing to close a budget gap by putting the property and lives of the residents of Northeast Queens [in jeopardy] is just one example of the misguided ideology of the administration. While I understand that the city, state and federal governments are each in financial crisis, it seems that each time the city faces such a crisis, the first places the mayor seeks to cut are our schools and our emergency services (police, fire and EMS). Those areas should always be the last place we cut. In addition, on a national level, our tax dollars continue to build schools, police stations and firehouses in Iraq and Afghanistan while we are closing schools and firehouses here in New York City. It is time that our mayor and our federal government get their priorities straight and ensure that our communities have good schools and our citizens can go to bed at night knowing that they are safe and, in the event of an emergency, an emergency responder is only moments away.
Steven Anthony Behar
Loose Talk Aids Enemy
To The Editor:
As a former naval officer who served a tour of duty as an intelligence officer, I am astonished at the covert information released to the media by the U.S. government. The operation against [Osama] bin Laden is an example of this problem.
The media reported details of the military operation, including the designation of the units assigned to the task.
They received access to information on a dog involved in the operation, the name of the dog trainer and the location of the training base.
When President [Barack] Obama visited the troops to congratulate them, the names and faces of many individuals were plainly visible on TV.
The media reported we captured bin Laden’s computers, CD’s, and telephone numbers with information on numerous al Qaida terrorists and future plans of the terrorist group. [They] even received some access to bin Laden’s tapes.
One story reported the activities of the U.S. intelligence agencies and how they found bin Laden. They even reported on a CIA operation inside Pakistan.
And why didn’t we keep the death of bin Laden a secret while we mined the information we gathered and sought out al-Qaida terrorists?
Our loose talk and openness continues to aid the enemy.
Extra Special Day
To The Editor:
Memorial Day, [reminds me] of my husband [who was] interred in Calverton National Cemetery, along with so many others, and the good people of Quinn & Sons Funeral Home, who so generously make arrangements each memorial week, to see that the families get to visit their loved-ones.
Coach buses are brought in to transport us to and from [Calverton], with a wonderful lunch and beautiful flowers to lay by the graves.
This year’s service was especially poignant, when a beautiful poem was read and a community band played “God Bless America”, a contingent of military volunteers fired a volley and two trumpeters play[ed] “Taps”, the Deacon, who gave the sermon, along with those dedicated associates from Quinn, who [went] out of their way to make the day as pleasant as possible. [I give] my sincere thanks to one and all.
Yours in appreciation,
Mrs. E Forbes
To The Editor:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s announcement that he would suspend investments in the civil service retirement and disability funds as a means to forestall reaching our $14,294,000 legal limit on debt is disappointing.
How ironic that this takes place under President [Barack] Obama. Democrats claim they are friends of career federal, civil servants. This comes on top of federal employee two-year pay freeze that could go on for several more years.
What’s next? Suspension of automatic within grade step increases, cash awards and performance based merit pay bonuses?
Will this also include suspension of investments in the retirement funds for those who work in the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of government? President Obama and Congress should freeze overall spending by adopting 2008 spending levels in 2012 funding bills for all federal agencies. Any extension of the debt ceiling should be matched by corresponding real cuts in spending along with a return to “Pay As Your Go” financing.
The IRS should accelerate the collection of several hundred billion in uncollected back taxes owed by deadbeat individuals and corporations along with suspending billions in future tax refunds to those who continue failing to pay long overdue taxes or student loans.
Everyone needs to do their fair share in bringing the budget deficit under control.