2018-05-16 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

Include Independents

To The Editor:

As the coordinator of the Queens Independence Club, I testified on Wednesday night at a public hearing of the Mayor’s appointed New York City Charter Revision Commission encouraging the Commission to put an amendment to the vote for nonpartisan municipal elections in New York City.

Every American believes in our founding principle of “no taxation without representation,” and we need to enforce that principle today. The NYC Charter Revision Commission could create a proposal for nonpartisan municipal elections to be voted on by the people of New York City, asking whether everyone should be allowed to vote in the first round of voting, regardless of whether they are registered in a party or not.

Political parties should have the right to organize, and as private associations, they should be able to decide how their nominees are chosen. However, they shouldn’t have it both ways. If they function as private associations, then our collective tax dollars should not fund their private activities. Taxpayer funds should be used to benefit all our citizens and should fund an election process that benefits and includes all voters.

We cannot justify funding a primary system in which the taxpayers fund Democratic and Republican party primaries in New York City at a moment when there are over 1 million independents in the city—over 300,000 more than Republican registrants.

The Charter Revision Commission has been charged by the Mayor to “include an examination of New York City’s campaign finance system, enhancing voter participation, and improving the electoral process.” Surely that needs to embrace making sure independent voters have full voting rights.

Nancy Hanks

Honoring Rabbi Pearl

Dear Friend,

You are among the many people whose lives have been touched by Rabbi Jonathan Pearl, by his kindness and spirit, his eloquent and passionate devotion to Judaism and the Jewish people, his unstinting involvement in the wider community, and his dedication to inspiring everyone to achieve their best, and to making the world a better place.

We wanted to let you know that, with great pride and joy, the Astoria Center of Israel (ACI) is honoring Rabbi Pearl on the occasion of his 10th year anniversary as our Rabbi—for his gifted rabbinic leadership at ACI, in the Jewish world at large, and in the broader Astoria community.

ACI will be publishing a journal honoring Rabbi Pearl and his family—his wife Judith, and their children Ayelet, Eitan, and Noam. We are paying tribute to Rabbi Pearl’s inspiring and devoted leadership, as well as the tireless and creative dedication of the whole Pearl family, who have ushered in the current rejuvenation and revival of our beloved synagogue!

We invite you to join in sharing your thoughts about Rabbi Pearl, through placing an ad in the journal which will be helping to support the synagogue, an esteemed and historic institution in Astoria, which has been revitalized under his leadership, and which now serves so many in a multi-generational and welcoming community.

All all ad donations are tax-deductible. You may visit our website www.astoriacenter.org for information on that and to see a more descriptive letter about the honorees.

Please also join us at ACI on Friday evening, June 22, at 7:30 pm, when we will honor and celebrate the Pearls at services, and thank them for the many wonderful ways in which they have served our congregation and touched our lives. You will receive a copy of the journal, and there will be a festive Kiddush/collation following the service, where you will have a chance to greet the Pearls.

We thank you very much for paying tribute to this most special man and Rabbi, and to his extraordinary family. Please feel free to be in touch if you have any questions.

Astoria Center of Israel

Memorial Day Reminder

To The Editor:

As we are approaching Memorial Day, many things come to mind. First of all, let’s remember all those who gave their lives to protect our nation. That includes all those conflicts since the Revolution. Let us also salute all of our brave men and women who are serving today, to preserve those freedoms we all hold most dear. Secondly, what comes to mind is this war against terrorism, something that has changed our nation since the attack on 9/11. I find myself thinking about what it means to be an American. The answer seems crystal clear, and that is to live in a nation that allows us our personal freedom and the ability to speak our minds. We may not have the best system, but it still is the best in the world. This freedom comes with a price, like former President John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

We also have a duty to inspire our youth to be more involved in our communities and to get out to vote. We have many issues facing our nation like Medicare, Social Security, the national debt, war, terrorism, homelessness, AIDs, global warming and the list goes on. We as Americans must stand up and dedicate ourselves to make this a greater nation. So go out Memorial Day and take part by attending parades in our communities, and cheering and waving the American flag for our brave men and women serving in the military and in our neighborhoods, as police officers, firefighters and EMS workers. I also ask all who can, to fly the American flag in front of homes and businesses. And if you know a veteran, give them a call and thank them for a job well done. And may God bless America on Memorial Day.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

Parking Town Hall

To The Editor:

Citizenship and civic involvement is about more than complaining or blaming, it is about addressing issues with clarity and fairness for lasting solutions. So it is with the parking crisis that accompanies the ever-growing population explosion in the Long Island City/Astoria area. Confronting the reality of traffic congestion and the mounting frustration among area residents means that we come together with municipal government and elected officials to craft sound measures to relieve the problem.

I am writing to urge that there be a town hall meeting for Long Island City/Astoria, just like the one taking place in Sunnyside/Woodside where “an alliance of leading local organizations deeply concerned about the Department of Transportation proposed removal of parking” has produced a forum for open discussion and review of possible solutions.

We are in the midst of a growing parking crisis. Much like the concern that native people have for “water rights,” we in our communities are being threatened by the absence of “parking rights” that accompany the other basic necessities of our quality of life. The extensive development of our communities points to the fact that the population density translates into parking scarcity. This is an infrastructure issue in disguise, and any delay in responding will leave residents and shop owners with a grave disadvantage as they conduct the business of their daily lives. Let’s be proactive and build mutually satisfactory solutions that we launch by calling for a town hall on parking.

Dr. Sharon Cadiz

Bus Is Best

To The Editor:

NYC Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen believes that the Federal Transit Administration New Starts program should help fund the Brooklyn Queens Waterfront Streetcar project because it is a “cool urban project”—this hardly justifies financial assistance. In 2015, The Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) released a study claiming it could be built for $1.7 billion. In 2016, the NYC Economic Development Corporation announced a new price tag of $2.5 billion. In 2018, the estimated cost is $2.8 billion. How many more billions might it cost upon completion? It takes more than a simple planning feasibility study to turn it into a viable capital transportation improvement project. There have been no environmental documents or preliminary design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any basic estimates for the $2.8 billion construction costs of the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Streetcar Connector. What is the cost and funding source above $2.8 billion base line price tag to pay for two new bridges over the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek as part of project scope? It would not be ethical for Project Director Jessica Schumer to “lobby” her father Senator Charles Schumer for federal funding.

The Federal Transit Administration New Starts program would be the logical source for any potential financial assistance from Washington. NYC would have to begin a formal dialogue with FTA for permission to enter the New Starts Program. This initial process easily averages one to two years. The initial approval for the proposal to enter the “project development” phase would represent only the first step. The Brooklyn Queens Connector project would still face myriad hurdles. Completion of this work includes the Federal Transit Administration issuing an environmental finding, along with reaching agreements with NYC DOT and NYC Economic Development Corporation concerning proposed project budget, source of local matching funding, scope and milestones. Even if this process started tomorrow, this averages several years and would not be completed until 2020 or later.

This is followed by the project being given permission by the Federal Transit Administration to advance to the next stage known as “final engineering.” Progression of final design and engineering from 30 percent to 100 percent averages several more years, perhaps completed by 2022. This could include review and approval by various permitting or regulatory agencies, utilities along with financial, user, operations and maintenance groups. Both NYCDOT and NYCEDC have no prior experience in design, engineering, construction or operations of a street car system. They would probably have to convince the MTA to take over management of the project going forward, including future operations.

Successful completion of the New Starts process results in the federal government’s entering into a Full Funding Grant Agreement. This third step can average several more years, possibly being completed by 2024. It is also subject to congressional recommendation and presidential approval for inclusion of funding within future Federal Transit Administration budgets to finance the Full Funding Grant Agreement. Assume that the procurement processes for advertising and award of contracts for construction along the right of way and building a maintenance and operations facility as well as the purchase of vehicles are all awarded in 2025. It could easily take four more years to complete all three tasks. As a result, you would not be boarding the first Brooklyn Queens Street Car until 2029! This would be five years later than Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most recent optimistic revised recovery schedule date of completion by 2024! The odds of this project going forward are the same as winning a $100 million Lotto.

The best bet is introduction of NYC Transit Limited Stop bus service along the same corridor. It is financially more realistic and could begin service in less than two years.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

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