Letters to the Editor
$1 Million For Community
To The Editor:
I invite the community to participate in a unique experiment in public participation in the city budget. This year, I am allocating $1 million in capital funds for the community to decide how to spend based on local priority needs. The people of the 23rd City Council District in Eastern Queens will meet, discuss neighborhood needs, propose projects, and ultimately vote on how a portion of their tax dollars are spent. Local projects will be on a ballot, and the highest vote getters will be funded with up to $1 million in capital funds.
All of this is happening because I am one of eight City Councilmembers, including three in Queens, who have joined a pilot program called Participatory Budgeting (PB). Here is how PB will open the budgeting process to public engagement over the coming months. In September, there will be several Neighborhood Assemblies at which participants will learn about the city budget, discuss local needs, and brainstorm project ideas. Those who are interested in taking an active role in PB will volunteer to be budget delegates. Delegates will go through an orientation and then meet from November to February to transform the community’s initial project ideas into full proposals. From February to March, the delegates will participate in a series of project presentations, at which they will share detailed proposals with the community and receive feedback. By April, eligible projects will be on a ballot and district residents will vote on the projects they want to see funded. The projects that receive the most votes, up to $1 million, will be in the budget that the city council passes in June.
Last year, funded projects in other areas of the city included technology upgrades for schools, delivery vans for Meals on Wheels, improvements to a local playground, and the renovation of a public library. PB will give community members a say. If you want to participate, please attend one of the Neighborhood Assemblies in September, and feel free to contact my office to learn more.
Mark S. Weprin
To The Editor:
A letter to the local editor says we should abolish Social Security, that they/we are all freeloaders.
We all pay into the Social Security fund established by FDR’s 1935 New Deal. Some are too young or too old or too sick to work and pay taxes. The disabled get early Social Security. The unemployed get checks so maybe they won’t lose everything. A deceased worker’s spouse and children get Social Security to pay for rent, clothes and necessities. They get food stamps to supplement food. They get Medicaid and/or Medicare if they get sick.
Without Social Security we’d be homeless, hungry and wandering the streets in rags without even one pill to cut in half.
Our “rich” letter writing neighbor should remember that these are tough times. Worldwide economic depression looms. In the last Depression, some millionaires lost everything and jumped from Wall Street rooftops. No matter how much wealth and health you have, it can be gone in the morning. Your bank account, home, job, business and health could all be gone. Without Social Security we would have nothing.
Times are tough and there may have to be cuts. But why abolish Social Security? How about equal cuts to every agency’s budget? Need to raise taxes? Raise everyone’s by the same percentage.
And how come some millionaires pay a lower tax rate than our small business owners and working-class neighbors? How about a sliding tax scale? And will the rich who would abolish Social Security be singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” as they fight in the streets for scraps to eat?
Edward J. McKenna
To The Editor:
The news of the tragic shooting at a Colorado movie theater showing the latest Batman movie is indeed an absolute horror.
Innocent people coming out to see a movie are now dead and injured -12 people died, with nearly 50 other people seriously injured. The deranged maniac who committed this heinous crime must be punished to the severest extent of the law. He should be given the death penalty. How could he deserve anything less for what he did? It seems that there is a callous disregard for human life, and total loss of moral values in this country.
Our society seems to be coming apart at the seams, and that certainly is not a very good thing at all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the dead and injured as well as for the dead and injured. Justice must be swift and severe for this 24-year-old man who committed this awful crime.
Soda Ban Alternatives
To The Editor:
I hate to admit it, since I do not normally agree with your indefatigable pen pal, Larry Penner (Queens Gazette, “Giant Soda Ban Blunder”, July 18) but I agree that the ban on Slurpees of a certain size is indeed problematical. As with banning smoking in parks, such well-meaning legislation may go too far in limiting private behavior in public places. Obesity and diabetes have an increasingly widespread impact on New Yorkers and require a serious response, however.
Corporations that produce cheap addictive sugary drinks need to be confronted, since they have the advertising savvy and dollars to create and drive demand. Mr. Penner seems to suggest we the people just “say no” but unfortunately, it’s not so easy or simple. A massive public education campaign is clearly needed—and yes, perhaps a sugar tax, as well. Let the Tea Party dump this harmful junk overboard!
I would point out one small contradiction in Mr Penner’s argument. Like a number of “conservative” politicians, Mr. Penner claims that small businesses will be crushed by Bloomberg’s restrictions on super-sized drinks; but in the next paragraph declares that customers will just purchase two small drinks instead—creating at least the same amount if not more business. Indeed, I think this is the most likely outcome. So no harm really done?
However, I do suggest libertarians like Mr. Penner instead consider other problems of encroaching state power; how civil liberties are being challenged, with restrictions not just on the size of our Snapple. These include the current Bloomberg administration’s over-emphasis on stop and frisk and the overly casual use of surveillance. Basically, these politicized policies represent a quota system for cops and a form of “security theater” for the rest of us.
It is easy to say “I have nothing to hide” but do you really know how many cameras are watching you around town? You take away another’s rights and you will all too quickly find that your own have disappeared as well, perhaps forever. Is that 64-ounce styrofoam cup half empty—or half full? Only NYPD knows for sure.
P. A. Carroll
LIRR: Going Forward
To The Editor:
“The Trains Stopped Running Here 50 Years Ago” (Queens Gazette, Gregory Bresiger, June, July) was worth the fare. His four-part series was an excellent trip down memory lane. Allow me to add part five on what it will take to go forward. Restoration of service along the old Long Island Rail Road Rockaway Beach branch line corridor, also known as the White Pot Junction Line that was abandoned in the 1950s has been periodically discussed over time. This route started off as a spur from the LIRR mainline east of Woodside at Rego Park running to Ozone Park connecting to the “A” line subway near Aqueduct Racetrack. If restored, it could also provide a connection to the proposed Genting Americas Convention Center at the same location. There are local community divisions along this route, between those wanting to convert this corridor to a permanent park with hiking trails versus restoration of LIRR service.
Any expansion of LIRR service between Penn Station to Jamaica or restoration of the old Rockaway Beach branch has other issues to contend with. There is little room to run additional trains into or out of Penn Station during either A.M. or P.M. rush hours. Three of four tunnels running inbound-A.M. and outbound-P.M. rush hours have very tight spacing between trains. One tunnel is shared by the LIRR, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak for reverse train movements with equally tight spacing during rush hours.
Estimated costs for this type of proposed project would be based upon planning feasibility studies and/or environmental documents with little design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any actual construction costs. Is anyone aware of any planning feasibility studies or environmental documents recently completed to support this proposed project? This work would have to be refined as the project progressed beyond the planning and environmental phases into real and final design efforts. Value engineering, which is a process used to reduce costs, would be used during the final design phase. Unfortunately, history has shown that estimated costs for construction usually trend upwards as projects mature toward 100 percent final design. Progression of final design refines the detailed scope of work necessary to support construction. The anticipated final potential cost for this project will never be known until completion. Costs will be further refined by award of construction contracts followed by any unforeseen site conditions and change orders to the base contracts during the course of construction.
History has told us that construction of most major new transportation system expansion projects or restoration of service on any abandoned corridor such as this can take years or even decades between the time of all the feasibility studies, environmental reviews, planning, design, engineering, real estate acquisition, permits, procurements, construction, budgeting, identifying and securing funding to pay for all of the above.
It is difficult for anyone at this point to really predict when we will see a shovel in the ground for this new proposal, followed years later by beneficial use of the project supporting opening day revenue service or the final price tag to taxpayers.
Perhaps the Queens Gazette can sponsor a contest for readers to guess the date service starts and final cost to taxpayers for the project? The winners could receive a free ticket to ride the first train into Manhattan. Don’t be surprised if it takes decades, up to another 50 years, to restore what was undone by generations long ago.
Be Forever Vigilant
To The Editor:
James Holmes allegedly killed 12 and injured 58 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado where the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, was being screened. This brings much sadness to our nation again. Our heartfelt prayers go out to these families who lost loved ones and to those who were injured in this senseless massacre. This was an egregious and nefarious act that was perpetrated by an individual who is the personification of pure evil.
A movie theater is supposed to be a place that should be safe. I guess no more. We are becoming a nation under siege by those who have no regard for innocent lives. Evil is what evil does. It looks like more will have to be done to protect us, like at airports where scanners are used and pat-downs are performed on our persons, not to mention more cameras being used. It is really sad that we have come to this.
My question is, how do we stop the mentally unbalanced from obtaining guns? I think with all the safeguards we install evil will still exist. We must be forever vigilant in observing our surroundings. Again, remember that if we see something we must say something. Remember this too: Evil thrives when good people do nothing.
Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village, NY