2016-03-02 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Red Light Cameras

To The Editor:

I wish I knew why the judge on February 18, 2016 dismissed the charge against me that I “owned a car that went through a red light” eight-tenths of a second after it turned red on January 12, 2016. Was it because I said that my “view of the red light was obstructed by a trailer truck” shown in the picture at the newly installed red light camera location at 77th Street and Astoria Boulevard? Or was it because I said the following:

“Driving through a red light is a serious offense resulting in deaths. It is not comparable to a parking violation, and therefore should not be punishable as such when law enforcement cannot satisfy its burden of proof.

“You have not accused me, or anyone, of doing anything, yet you are requiring me to prove:

- Either that a red light violation did not occur using the evidence provided by you (which in this case supposedly occurred in eight-tenths of a second); or

- That I did not commit the violation.

“Not only is the burden of proof for a serious offense not on the accused to prove “not guilty,” but, since you have not accused me, or anyone, of doing anything, in this case I must prove myself “not guilty” of a serious offense that you have not accused me of committing.

“Also, you cannot enforce a law unless you accuse someone of violating that law. Since you have not accused anyone of driving through a red light, you cannot be enforcing the law against driving through a red light. You are merely attempting to generate revenue by attempting to shift the burden of proof for a serious violation to the defendant. You (not you personally judge, but the red light cameras) are perverting the law enforcement process.”

I was courteous and polite, and the judge did not seem to be offended.

Leonard Lanzone
Astoria

Scalia’s NYC Education

To The Editor:

Antonin Scalia, the late Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, had a brilliantly keen intellect and analytical mind, according to practically everyone, including those who vehemently disagreed with him. He argued that the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution was no interpretation at all, but rather a discovery and a realization of original intent. That’s the way the great Arturo Toscanini felt about the relationship between orchestra conductor and composer.

Scalia was a product of the New York City public school system. That’s where he acquired the knowledge and thinking skills that were the building blocks of his legacy. Although many of us are convinced that his decisions were often wrong, there’s no doubt that he was taught how to encapsulate his philosophy into the written and spoken word and defend it with historical references.

The training he got in that Queens elementary school was not along ideological lines. That’s true as well of another U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Ginsberg, who is also an alumnus of our public schools.

The list of men and women who have, in every area, made outstanding, even immortal contributions to the betterment of the world is long and studded with New York City public school alumni. Maybe it’s worth our calling to mind amidst the pall of pessimism that is too often recklessly cast on our public schools. For being supremely imperfect, they are no less supreme. They are the pride of our history and the hope of our history as it is being made.

Ron Isaac
Fresh Meadows

Ferry Alternative

To The Editor:

The real question is when – after many years of empty promises made by local elected officials to bring ferry service to Astoria. The New York City Department of Transportation manages the Staten Island Ferry system. You have to ask why City Hall assigned this project to NYCEDC rather than NYCDOT. It is NYCDOT not NYCEDC that has actual experience in running ferries and managing capital ferry improvements. The $55 million coming from the city’s operating budget will probably be used for both capital improvements and to subsidize the costs for private operators to provide these new ferry services. These dollars will be used to help keep the fares similar to what MTA New York City Transit charges for bus and subway commuters.

Who will be paying for millions of dollars in necessary capital improvements such as ferry landings, intermodal facilities including bus shelters to accommodate feeder bus routes and commuter parking for those driving to new ferry terminals. Traditionally NYCDOT not NYCEDC applies for grants to fund capital improvements from the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration. In many cases, NYCDOT in turn passes these funds through to NYCEDC as a grant sub recipient. NYCEDC, in turn, will hire a third party contractor for construction. NYCEDC does not have a good track record in the construction of ferry landings and major terminals. Consider that it took NYCEDC almost 10 years between planning, design and enginering followed by construction before the 34th Street East River Landings Manhattan ferry facility was completed. The same was true for both the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Street Manhattan and St. George Staten Island Ferry Terminals. All three projects were completed several years behind both the original base line budget and schedule. All had to deal with a signficant amount of expensive change orders during construction. Has NYCEDC already securred the necessaray funding, be it city, state or federal (including the obligation of any necessary USDOT FTA grants) along with a detailed project budget and schedule to justify completing all the new ferry landings promised by 2017 or 2018?

Our waterways are an underutilized natural asset which can offer significant transportation alternatives for thousands of New Yorkers. Most of our existing public transportation and roadways are already operating at or above capacity. New ferry services can be implemented far more quickly than construction of new subway, commuter rail or highways. These can take years or even decades until completion of environmental reviews, planning, design, engineering, real estate acquisition, permits, procurements and actual construction before reaching beneficial use. Completing all of the above along with finding funding for ferry boats, docks and parking with costs in the millions may be easier than finding the billions of dollars necessary for construction of new or extended subway, commuter rail or highways.

In April 1967, the old Jersey Central Rail Road ended ferry service between Liberty Street in Manhattan and Pavonia, New Jersey. Later that year, in November 1967, the old Erie Lackawana Rail Road suspended ferry service between Barclay Street in Manhattan and Hoboken, New Jersey. Fast forward to today. Thousands of daily commuters use ferries from Hoboken, New Jersey to the World Financial Center. There are also 66,000 daily patrons of the Staten Island Ferry System which connects St. George, Staten Island with the Whitehall Street, Manhattan Ferry Terminal. Unlike the other four boroughs, 500,000 Richmond County residents have no direct subway or commuter rail system linking them with the rest of NYC.

Thousands of ferry riders utilize the East River ferry connecting various waterfront neighborhoods from Queens and Brooklyn with stops in Manhattan including Long Island City, East 34th Street, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Wall Street and Governors Island. Why should Astoria and Rockaway residents continue without ferry service options?

Who would not want to enjoy the fresh air and breeze that only waterborne transportation can provide. Riding a ferry can be less stressful than being packed in a subway car like sardines in a can.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

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