2017-09-27 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Gas Price Gouge Watch

A copy of this letter from US Senator Schumer to Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen was received at the offices of the Queens Gazette. Dear Acting Chairwoman Ohlhausen,

I write today to call your attention to national and New York gas prices on the heels of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and to thank your agency for the work it has done on this issue in the past.

Given the rocket-like rise of gas prices in the midst of these storms and the feather like fall in prices we could see, I am asking your agency to launch a “gouge watch.” Specifically, I hope you will inform the crude oil industry that the FTC is paying close attention to pricing and competitive practices within the oil and natural gas market, especially as prices may hover higher in the future than they should upon returning to normal conditions.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average price of gas in New York City is currently $2.95 and the average price of gas on Long Island is $2.84—a 13% increase from before the storms. I worry that the return to price stability is too slow going and that consumers could be taken advantage of at the pump.

During your five years in leadership at the FTC, you may have been involved with the June 20, 2011 Petroleum Industry and Practices and Pricing Investigation, File No. 111 0183. This investigation, concluded in 2012, resulted in progress and pressure on the oil industry that helped the quest to ensure fair competition for fuel customers. I am hopeful your agency will establish a similar gouge-watch-type effort as it relates to recent gas price increases and market conditions.

I remain available to discuss my push for a gouge watch and improved competition with you at any time, and I appreciate the work the Federal Trade Commission does each and every day to protect America’s consumers.

US Senator Charles Schumer

Burma Crisis

A copy of this letter was received at the offices of the Queens Gazette.

Dear Secretary Tillerson,

We are deeply concerned about the situation in Burma and urge you to take concrete action to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights abuses.

In late August, there was a coordinated attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on security posts in Burma’s Rakhine State. In response, the Burmese military began what it is calling “clearing operations.” For several days now, international leaders have called on Burma’s military to exercise restraint in these efforts given the military’s record of abuses.

However, interviews with refugees and displaced persons reveal that this restraint is not being employed when it comes to the Rohingya people, as well as the fact that the military and some other security forces are engaged in abuses. Multiple United Nations officials have expressed grave concern, with the High Commissioner for Human Rights calling the response a “brutal security operation” that is “clearly disproportionate.” A staggering 412,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh, and many others have been internally displaced. The lack of food and basic sustenance is a very serious and immediate concern.

These horrific events are taking place in a country that never completed its democratic transition. Indeed, the Burmese military and its leader Min Aung Hlaing operate outside the scope of civilian control and are accountable to no one.

In light of this urgent situation, we urge you, as a first step, to coordinate with Bangladeshi authorities to ensure they are adequately equipped to handle the massive migration. Further, the United States should work at the United Nations Security Council to develop a strong and meaningful international response, and immediately suspend all planned United States training programs with Burma’s military. It should not be business as usual with a military that not only refuses to submit to civilian rule, but also treats innocent civilians in this inhumane manner. We also urge consideration of all efforts that would save lives in the short term, including ways to provide security for those fleeing.

At the same time, we urge the administration to put its efforts behind many of the recommendations of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Rakhine Commission – including those advancing the provision of humanitarian aid, ensuring justice for victims, and making policy changes to ensure rule of law is applied fairly to all innocent individuals and families, including the Rohingya.

The severity of this situation demands significant action, and we urge your strong support.

Rep. Joseph Crowley
Rep. Steve Chabot
And 22 bipartisan members of Congress

Repeal Of DACA Ruthless

Dear Friend,

The potent anti-immigrant sentiment that has conquered the White House is taking its toll. The decision of President Trump to revoke DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is as ruthless and ferocious as it can get, especially since the president himself is the son of an immigrant. With the stroke of a pen, Trump has decided to punish young people for the actions and choices taken by their parents.

It is unreal that the president took this brutal decision after describing DREAMers as “terrific” young people. The order against DACA is nothing more than an action to appease political rhetoric, and killing the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people who would be moving this country forward.

If this did not suffice, repealing DACA will be economic suicide. According to the Center for American Progress, DREAMers will contribute $460.3 billion to the United States gross domestic product over the next 10 years. DACA not only protects people brought to our nation as children, but it also boosts our economy and provides jobs.

In response to this unwarranted political miscalculation, passing my DREAM Act legislation has become more crucial than ever. Under my proposal, undocumented immigrant college students will be allowed to enroll in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), a measure that will level the playing field for all college students.

We must ensure our DREAMers don’t live in fear, and it is my hope that Congress acts, and acts fast, to protect them and guarantee their wellbeing. According to published reports, President Trump, Senator Chuck Schumer and US Representative Nancy Pelosi reached an agreement that will provide a path to citizenship for the young people who came here as children. It seems President Trump is now open to help DREAMers. They deserve nothing less.

For more information, do not hesitate to call my office at 718-205-3881. Sincerely,

Jose Peralta
NYS Senate

Fight Climate Change

To The Editor:

Climate change is one of the single biggest threats to our environment, our public health and our economy. Pumping carbon and methane emissions into the atmosphere is accelerating climate change and is responsible for more extreme weather. New York State has spent billions of dollars over the past decade working to restore communities that have been devastated by severe flooding brought on by climate change.

I join the New York Public interest Research Group (NYPIRG) in calling on all state and local elected officials to say no to the oil and gas industry. Say no to the campaign contributions and personal gifts from corporate oil and gas giants, say no to permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure to be constructed in our state, and say no to climate change!

Our policy makers and representatives need to invest in a clean, green, renewable energy economy that is beneficial to everyone’s health, wellbeing and livelihood. I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for investigating ExxonMobil and other climate change igniters. Now, let’s see the rest of our representatives and policymakers stand up against climate change too.

Erika Ucho
Queensborough Community College

Astoria Pool ‘Corrections’

To The Editor:

As a born and raised Astorian, I grew up going to the Astoria pool since the early 1970s with fond memories. I still go to the pool today but with memories that are not so fond.

The past two years especially have been nothing but a horrific nightmare. The thing that ruins it the most is the way that the Parks Department staff, especially the woman’s locker room staff treats the patrons.

In the past two years I have been continuously harassed by the locker room staff and especially by one parks officer this year on a daily basis. I have made numerous complaints to the staff on site in charge at the pool and finally this year to the local officials – the offices of the mayor, Commissioner Silver’s at the Parks Department and Commissioner Lewandowski’s – with no meaningful responses.

Although they have toned it down a little bit towards the end of this summer from over the years, they still run the locker rooms like it is a state penitentiary as if they are correction officers and as if we are all inmates in a prison instead of patrons at a public pool for a day out of fun and recreation.

The entire staff is horrible! They are rude, demanding, very unfriendly, unprofessional, criminally harassing, and they are bullies to say the least.

The most disturbing thing that happened this summer was that someone brought a gun to the pool and it made it into the men’s locker room undetected. How many times has someone probably brought a gun or a weapon to the pool undetected because there is no metal detector and they do not check anyone’s bags anymore? This is very scary.

In the women’s locker room, they do not let you use the shower or the bathrooms half of the time. They close them early. They don’t give you enough time to get dressed. While walking the aisles to the dressing stalls they bark at you “let’s go, let’s go let’s go ladies! We want to go home, hurry up and get out!”

They lock women and children out of the locker room while they sit there and laugh before they let them back in. They get mad if you tell them there is no more toilet paper or soap or if the floor is slimy and fouled, which they refuse to have cleaned. The lifeguards block the ladders to the pool, dress and act inappropriately with children present; have attitudes and are very distracted at times.

The entire staff walks around with their cell phones on the deck and in the locker rooms! They have recorded me and taken pictures of me when making complaints.

There is no signage at the night swim and the aquatics staff and lifeguards don’t control the slow swimming lanes and this causes dangerous conditions.

There must be clear hierarchy. I am told there is nothing that can be done because no one will tell you who is in charge. The staff most definitely should be trained on how to act and treat patrons and absolutely be held responsible for their bullying and harassing actions, even fired immediately if necessary.

The Parks Department owes me a response, particularly regarding a certain Parks officer who harassed me on a daily basis for no reason this whole summer.

I feel very disheartened and powerless in how I have been treated. It should not be allowed and swept under the rug.

This is a great public resource that should be enjoyed by all and the community should be able to use it happily and healthily and treated respectfully by NYC Parks Department employees. We just want to swim.

Donna M. Van Blarcom
Richard Melnick

Improve Bus Service

To The Editor:

A proposal by Congressman Gregory Meeks, State Senator Leroy Comrie, State Assemblymembers Michaelle Solages, David Weprin and Clyde Vanel, along with NYC Councilman Barry Grodenchik to provide a intermodal transportation connection at Belmont Park, including park and ride with connections to the Long Island Rail Road or Express bus services to Manhattan is easier said than done. It will be several more years before the LIRR completes upgrading interlockings and signals adjacent to Jamaica Station. East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal will not be completed until 2023. New equipment to expand the current fleet needs to be delivered. Until all three are completed, there is no capacity to support any new services. Shea Stadium Park & Ride, serving potential customers from Northeast Queens two-fare zones, attracted few riders. Why would Belmont Park serving potential customers from Southeast Queens’ two-fare zones not suffer the same fate? MTA NYCT and MTA Bus have no current spare buses to provide new services. They would require several years to acquire new buses for fleet expansion. Who will provide the tens of millions in capital and operating assistance to pay for this?

Perhaps they are unaware of many other bus capital projects funded under the ongoing MTA Five Year $32 billion 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Plan. The MTA NYC Transit previously awarded contracts for $200 million to purchase and install a new bus radio system along with $150 million for purchase and installation of a new East New York Brooklyn Bus Command Center. Although both projects are already several years behind schedule (what else is new!), riders will eventually see benefits from completion of both the Bus Radio System and Command Bus Center. They will support operations of over 6,000 buses providing service in all five boroughs. Once in use, they will support proper dispatching and monitoring of service which assists in avoiding bus “bunching.”

Transit signal improvements affording buses priority movement on streets, saving riders time, involves the cooperation and financial support of NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Boarding of buses in both the front and back has other issues to contend with. While riders are encouraged to exit in the rear, many depart via both the front and back doors. Conflicts will arise between riders attempting to board via both front and back door versus those wanting to exit. How many times have you been delayed by riders who fumble around trying to find their Metro Card, attempt to use a Metro Card with insufficient fare or look for right amount of loose change, resulting in more delays before a bus can depart the stop?

MTA NYC Transit, as part of the $32 billion 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Plan are also in the process of spending $1 billion to purchase over 1,000 new buses. MTA Bus has programmed $300 million to buy over 400 new buses serving neighborhoods around NYC, including Queens.

Why not also invest in installation of bus holding lights at major bus to subway transfer locations? This would assist riders transferring from subway to bus when a train arrives several minutes after scheduled bus departures. Missing a bus by a minute or two during off peak hours (when buses operate with longer intervals) is frustrating to riders.

There are other projects and plans outlined in both the MTA 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Plan and MTA 2014-2034 Twenty Year Capital Needs Assessment Plan for even more investments to support both the NYC Transit and MTA bus systems. All of the above will benefit NYC Transit Bus and MTA Bus express and local riders.

In the end, quality and frequency of service is dependent upon secure revenue streams. We all have to contribute – be it at the fare box or tax revenues generated by different levels of government, redistributed back to the MTA.

TANSTAAFL or “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch,” or in this case, a free ride.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

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