2017-12-13 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Toy Scalpers

A copy of this letter was received at the
offices of the Queens Gazette.
December 3, 2017
Dear Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Shay (Retail
Industry Leaders):

I write today to express my serious concerns with the widespread use of bot technology on retail websites to deprive good-faith consumers of access to products in high demand. As we approach this holiday season, it is particularly important that consumers have fair access to popular products on the market. As such, I am calling on your associations to immediately investigate how these dishonest software programs are being used on your members’ sites and take all available steps to thwart computer systems from cheating America’s consumers.

As the demand for toys like Hatchimals and Nintendo’s NES gaming consoles have increased, so too have the surreptitious techniques bad actors have adopted to more effectively capture the retail market and capitalize off of consumer demand to artificially inflate prices. Specifically, hackers are now using software robots (“bots”) to purchase popular toys, gaming equipment, and even high-end collectible tennis shoes. Because of the sophistication of these automated tools, the hackers are able to learn about key retail sales, predict the product sales addresses, and purchase mass quantities of product as soon as the site goes live, before ordinary consumers even have a chance to begin a transaction. The hackers then upsell the products on third party platforms. In some cases, bot operators are using more than 10,000 IP addresses and 500 (different) credit cards in order to bypass retailer purchase limits. I am deeply concerned that the prevalence of these deceptive techniques creates an unfair environment for consumers who are unable to compete with the lightning speeds of computer robots.

As America’s most prominent and successful retail sales operations, your members are uniquely positioned to track this deceptive behavior and institute safeguards that could rein in their rampant use. Increased protections to prevent this type of behavior can create the type of consumer trust and confidence needed to ensure consumers are getting a fair deal for the types of products they buy on the market. Without a way to level the playing field, consumers will be left to compete with the robots or succumb to the outrageously high prices of third party sellers. No family should have to experience this, especially during the Christmas season.

I therefore ask you to share with my staff all of the steps your members are currently taking to confront this behavior, and how they plan to prevent bots from infiltrating their payment platforms in the future. Furthermore, I urge you to establish and put in place industry-wide best practice standards to ensure consumers are fully protected from sophisticated computer programs.

I know you share my commitment to protecting consumers, who are your customers and my constituents. I thank you for your time and look forward to working with you to strengthen consumer protections.

Charles Schumer
U.S. Senate

Who Are We To Judge?

To The Editor:

As this nonsense starts up again about Christopher Columbus being a bad guy, let Mayor de Blasio follow the rule, “Those without sin can throw the first stone.”

Well under that rule, we are all bad, as our ancestors did the same thing that that Christopher did. We did not discover North and South America, the Indians did and they built their homes and families here. They were here thousands of years before we sailed here from Europe. But we did not just visit, we conquered it, and took it, and killed most of the Indians, as in the 1400s might was right. All of us living in America are guilty of enjoying what Columbus and the other Europeans did, so who are we kidding?

It can also be asked, how did the Indians get their land? Well after the caveman era, the Indians started claiming land that was not owned by anyone. And then they formed nations and had wars with the other Indians and took their neighbors’ land, enslaved their prisoners, and small tribes became large tribes and controlled huge areas of land. Again mankind followed the simple rule of the time, and that was, “might makes right,” and if you can kill your next door neighbor you can have his land.

So who among us can throw the first stone at Christopher?

2017 thinking is not the same as 1400 thinking so we can’t judge people in history by our morals and rules of today.

John Procida

Select Bus Service

To The Editor:

There is more to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement concerning the initiation of Select Bus Service on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Blvds. Based upon previous delays, which total a year or more in progression of Woodhaven Select Bus Service, don’t be surprised if this doesn’t occur until 2020. Why didn’t NYCDOT take direct responsibility for progression of design and engineering rather than pass it along to another agency?

Today’s estimated cost of $231 million could increase based upon the outcome of final design and engineering on the project scope of work. Why would the Federal Transit Administration enter into a Full Funding Grant Agreement to guarantee the proposed $91 million federal share request toward a total project cost of $231 million until this task is completed?

The MTA has successfully used the New Starts program to obtain billions from Uncle Sam to fund both the LIRR East Side Access project and NYC Transit Second Avenue subway. The NYCDOT proposal to fund construction of the Woodhaven SBS will be directly competing against the MTA NYCT proposal to fund the second phase of Second Avenue subway ($6 billion), Gateway Tunnel (connecting New Jersey to Penn Station for $29 billion) and the list is too long for many others.

There are dozens of other potential New Starts projects being championed by many other Senators and Congress members. The requests far exceed any available New Starts funding. There will be few winners and many losers. Is Mayor de Blasio committed to proceed with the Woodhaven SBS project if federal assistance isn’t secured? He has pledged $295 million to support development and implementation of 13 new SBS/BRT systems. Will he reallocate funding from other SBS/BRT projects to support increased costs for Woodhaven Blvd. SBS? Are these dollars 100 percent city or is he counting on a combination of MTA, state and or federal resources?

Since Phase One is estimated to cost $20 million, NYCDOT may need $211 million or more in secure funding to be in place before proceeding with advertising and award of Phase Two construction contracts. This is necessary before the Woodhaven Blvd. SBS project can proceed into the full scope. How will NYCDOT scope of work and procurements be coordinated with the MTA NYC Transit and MTA Bus? How many procurements will be required for construction of exclusive BRT bus lanes, new bus stops with shelters, off-board fare collection system, customer information system, transit priority signal improvements, modifications to existing buses, potential purchase of new buses to support increased ridership, engineering construction management firms to assist in project oversight, and other project components? What are the estimated costs for each project component? This is what comprises the full cost. Who will manage each of the multiple procurements – NYCDOT, MTA or NYC Department of Design and Construction?

Turning design and engineering efforts over to another city agency calls into question whether NYCDOT continues to have the technical capacity (staff or consultants) to successfully implement this complex project along with 12 other ongoing SBS projects around NYC.

What is the detailed project budget, implementation schedule with multiple interim milestones for each activity and fully secure funding source(s) available to date to justify the estimated budget? The previous construction start date of 2019 for Phase Two is impossible if design and engineering will not be completed until the end of 2019. You need six months from start to finish for the procurement process to award contracts for construction, which would have to take place in 2020.

NYCDOT Commissioner Trottenberg’s previous commitment for completion of the total project may take until 2025 and can now slip to 2026.

Taxpayers, commuters, transit advocates, elected officials and media have to ask if potentially waiting nine more years until 2026 before boarding the full Woodhaven Blvd. SBS is worth the fare.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Give, Volunteer Always

To The Editor:

I am so elated that the Chanukah menorah will be kindled on December 12. That shows that our city is so diverse and we live in a wonderful nation where all religious festivals are respected and honored. I am also glad that the Howard Beach- Lindenwood area had Christmas festivities.

It was so interesting for the Gazette to print all of the history and trivia about Christmas facts. It is so wonderful I share it with the seniors I speak with as part of Telephone Reassurance Volunteering.

I am greatly in favor of supporting small businesses and Small Business Saturday. We must buy within our communities in small stores, and not always online. These people work hard for a living and are part of our community. Giving Tuesday should not only be once a year. We must give all of the time, and volunteer to help others who are in need. We should also give thanks to our veterans, first responders and thank God for all He has done for us.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

Adoptees’ Right To Know

To The Editor:

I would like to speak about the adoption issue. There are many children who have been adopted and as adults look for their biological parents. And some biological parents look for children because for one reason or another, they were forced to put their child up for adoption. I, myself, am one of the latter. I’m 68 years old and have been longing to make peace with my two sons, Tommy and Bobby, who were adopted in the ‘70s, while I served in the U.S. Navy. My wife had left us and I could not financially take care of our boys and had to place them in foster care. They were later adopted because I had no plan to properly provide for them and my ex-wife could not provide for them either. I believe any adoptive child, once they reach their 21st birthday, has the right to know who their biological parents are and the reasons they were forced to give them up. In the end we all need to know our past and try to make peace with our children before we leave this world. I would love to have the opportunity to tell my children that I am sorry and tell them my story, and about their biological family. Christmas is coming and of all things I would wish for, a reunion with my sons would be the greatest gift I could have and would be grateful to be granted – above all, to tell them that I love them.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

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