Queens Gazette

Letters to the Editor

NYS Dems V. Gun Violence

To The Editor::

In the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and communities across the country on a regular basis, I am pleased the State Senate has taken the lead in passing the nation’s most signif­icant gun safety reforms. Just last week, we suc­cessfully passed a series of common-sense measures to make New Yorkers safer from the scourge of gun violence.

The bills we passed build on our Senate Ma­jority’s track record of keeping dangerous weapons out of our state by strengthening the “Red Flag” law, mandating microstamping for new guns, requiring purchasers of semiautomatic weapons to be 21 years old, and requiring law en­forcement agencies to share information about firearms used in crimes. I am pleased to say these measures have already been signed into law by Governor Hochul.

I was reminded of the importance of these measures while meeting with Lori Alhadeff, mom to a Parkland shooting victim, when she visited Albany last week. I have met with parents and families of the victims of these senseless shootings too many times – from those affected by high pro­file mass killings like Parkland to Queens neigh­bors whose families have been impacted by gun violence. They are a constant reminder of the per­sonal toll this crisis takes.

The tragedy of mass shootings is entirely pre­ventable. The federal government has not taken meaningful action to combat gun violence, but our New York State Senate is filling the void by strengthening our laws. I am proud we are taking serious steps to tackle this critical issue. We must keep our communities safe and prevent guns from taking more lives.

Senator Michael Gianaris
NYS Senate Deputy Majority Leader

The Incarcerated

A copy of the following letter was received at the offices of the Queens Gazette:
June 3, 2022
Dear Commissioner Annucci,

As the Chairs of the New York State Assembly Committee on Correction and the New York State Senate Crime Victims, Crime & Correction Com­mittee, we are contacting you regarding multiple reports our offices have received of an alarming situation within the Wende Hub relating to Direc­tive #4991. As you are undoubtedly aware, there have been many reservations regarding the imple­mentation and execution of this directive and its similarities to Directive #4911A – which was also found to place restrictions on packages brought or delivered to incarcerated individuals. We were as­sured by Commissioner Annucci that any per­ceived correlation between Directive #4991 and #4911A was misplaced, however, we have re­ceived numerous comparable complaints.

We would like to take the time in this letter to highlight a few of our concerns…

•The unjust financial burden the families of in­carcerated individuals incur to follow through with this directive.

•The ability to ensure that vendors are properly stocked with stable foods (e.g., pouches) to supply to all the incarcerated individuals’ families.

•The ability to ensure that vendors will keep prices/costs reasonable.

•The impact of this directive on the ability of individuals to obtain a healthy amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.

•The inherent discrimination against small and local business owners.

•The division of a single order into multiple packages as informed to us by a family member (Attica Correctional Facility).

•The vendor directive’s ability to not create un­just hardships upon individuals with specialized diets (e.g., kosher, halal, lactose-intolerant, dia­betic) and/or religious articles.

We must ensure that DOCCS does not take steps that cause an unjust financial burden on the families of incarcerated individuals or incarcerated individuals themselves. Directive #4991 will have this impact. The wages of incarcerated individuals have not increased and thus would not be able to match the potential rising costs of products from vendors. Furthermore, we received correspon­dence from an incarcerated individual’s family from Attica Correctional Facility who did a trial run with Walmart’s website. They faced multiple complications obtaining fresh fruits, vegetables, stable items (e.g. tuna pouches) which were un­available; and when items are ready to ship, the shipper decided to ship the items in multiple sep­arate packages despite it being a single order. Therefore, even if families make a single food order, that order may be shipped in multiple pack­ages. This conflicts with the rule of the directive which limits the amount of food packages that an incarcerated individual may receive. This is of no fault on the families of the incarcerated individuals and they have no control over the number of pack­ages a shipper may decide to send.

We understand this new directive comes out of the recently convened Prison Violence Task Force. However, the implementation of this direc­tive is likely to increase violence within NYS cor­rectional facilities. We do not accept the conclusion that family packages are the source of contraband, nor the cause of overdoses or vio­lence. In fact, it is predictable that limiting afford­able access to fresh and healthy food to incarcerated individuals will lead to increased vi­olence.

Considering the concerns brought forth by the impacted families, we demand that the conclu­sions made by the Prison Violence Task Force are explained and justified.

This directive harmfully impacts the families of incarcerated individuals. As Chairs we are ask­ing that these concerns be addressed immediately, and a full report of your research composed by your Prison Violence Task Force be provided to both of our offices.

Thank you and yours truly,

David I. Weprin, Member of Assembly, 24th As­sembly District, NYS Assembly Correction Com­mittee Chair
Julia Salazar, Senator, 18th Senate District, NYS Senate Crime Victims, Crime & Correction Com­mittee Chair

A Moment Of Oneness

To The Editor:

As June 2022 begins, we are standing in a moment of historic remembrance of when the world was transfixed on the murder of George Floyd by a police officer named Derek Chauvin. Perhaps what brought this event into crystal clear view was the stillness and singularity of experience created by a global pandemic. The first days of June 2020; just two years ago, brought millions of people to a new awareness about the world we live in and the conditions that had long been masked by denial and privilege. It served to galvanize a budding effort to raise the bar in our response to injustice; inequality and the racial divide. The lessons that remain and the path of that momentous fledgling effort are what I intend to examine here in the hope of keeping the focus on a unified vision of our shared future.

Although the moment was fleeting, standing together with those who are oppressed or persecuted to establish solidarity and right action is always a worthwhile endeavor; one that I believe should not be forgotten or derailed by divisive rhetoric, political gamesmanship or the media spin cycle of news reporting. Emerging from the moment of solemn stillness, there were multiple moments of explosive action and change. The positive, life affirming actions and distressing dramatic effects of backlash may need to be sorted out to get the truest picture of the unfolding of events since the summer of 2020.

Since 2020, we have seen some dramatic developments that were sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Last week, while watching a segment of Metro Focus, I was reminded of the plywood that business owners used to board up their stores out of fear of rioting. The program featured the book “Fresh Plywood NYC” by Kurt Boone who photographed the plywood works of art that emerged throughout New York City. Some agitators looked to incite riots by coming to the city and leaving items that could be used to damage stores. Despite that, most demonstrations were peaceful and the plywood became visual sounding boards for a call to action, along with a recognition of others who had died under similar circumstances such as Breonna Taylor. CBS news reported back in September of 2020 that “police in the US killed 164 Black people in the first eight months of 2020.” In May of 2021, Newsweek published an article containing a full list of “at least 229 Black people” killed by police since George Floyd’s murder. There are also lists of the number of “unarmed African Americans” killed by police. Even if we are not familiar with these statistics or the names of the victims, we may be familiar with the trial and acquittal verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse who was 17 years old when he left his home in Illinois on August 25, 2020 going to Kenosha, Wisconsin “as part of an organized civilian effort to stifle unrest following an incident in which a Black man was shot by police.” Video footage shows him walking down the street armed with a rifle that he subsequently used to shoot and kill two people during exchanges with them at the demonstration. In retrospect, this might be viewed as a prelude to the January 6, 2021 events that transpired at the United States Capital, as well as evidence of the climate that emerged. There is nothing benign about a body count of the dead. It summons us to look at this continuing reaction and the need for an approach that minimizes the polarizing, defensive posture assumed among all affected by these events. Our view of policing, race, inequality and injustice needs to move us forward not backward; yet, we seem to have become seduced by divisive rhetoric and historic differences that stifle effective problem solving that creates safety and security for all.

It is significant to note the list of other developments that we seem to paying attention to, including: marijuana legalization; the efforts to roll back Roe vs. Wade; voting rights challenges and voter suppression efforts; mass shootings and gun violence; an increase in hate crimes; Black Lives Matter; the role of policing; social work, suicide, and mental health; homelessness; crime and bail reform. Each of these has a counterpart and the problem solving conversation needs to engage us in forging plans that address how we can be proactive and less reactive. The cause and effect dynamic in each of these issues requires a deeper dive into our discussion.

The longer that we stay poised in opposing camps throwing stones at each other, the longer we will suffer for our resistance to having that discussion. I had a saying that I used with my children, and even with my staff over the years, urging them to “attack the problem, not each other.” Case in point, the problem with policing has a root cause and lives are lost and ruined on both sides of the police brutality equation when we don’t work collaboratively to confront the challenges and concerns. In an effort to discourage and divert us from unified, collective action, meaningful issues are being overshadowed by a focus on such things as partisan politics and gas prices while people continue to die. Police brutality, gun violence and the ruptured systems that perpetuate disparities in everything from health care to affordable housing remain part of a feeder system for more of the same. The distorted lens for looking at problems seems to show that positive progress for one issue or group detracts from another issue or group, so we continue to make trade-offs that do not succeed in better solutions, only new arguments.

Even in the midst of the shocking events that have transpired since the summer of 2020, I am urging us not to fall victim to the negative thrust that launches from a platform of hatred and disunity.   Shortly after the George Floyd murder, my granddaughter reached out to me to share a video featuring Emmanuel Acho, author of the book by the same name. The clip that I watched included Chip and Joanna Gaines from the hugely popular “Fixer Upper” show and the Magnolia Network. When Chip Gaines chose to participate, he and his wife Joanna decided to bring all of their five children because they felt that it was important for them to be engaged in this type of exchange of ideas and interaction. I was so proud of my granddaughter for sharing this and proud, too, of the Gaines family for embarking on a path toward a heightened awareness, especially because they are from Waco, Texas; and we usually attribute other things to folks in that region of our country. This broadcast served to give me hope about our future as Americans.

We have been under the yoke of successive episodes of past and present oppression that stunts the growth of possibilities for a healthy, happy, safe future for ourselves and future generations. I am seeing other things that indicate positive change and inclusion such as references to the historic land rights of indigenous people; school curriculum reform, and art treasures being returned to countries of origin.

In addition, although some may regard it as insignificant, the celebration of Juneteenth, originated in Galveston, Texas in 1865, has been acknowledged as a federal holiday in the United States and on June 19th it will be a celebration commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Some positive changes have started in approaches to community policing; recognizing how damaging the hostile stand-off among the police, community groups and reformers results in making things worse. There seems to be a growing effort to recognize that the absence of solution-focused strategies and good faith acknowledgement of the existence of “good cops” is damaging to all of us, especially when we need to call on the police for help, or when attrition and suicide take many out of the work. Citizens and police both have a problem with the firearms that are being used in shootings and criminal activity.

I heard a radio news report about some legislation that will change the legal age for gun possession from 18 to 21, but I must admit that I don’t think that will create any significant level of safety. Legislators need to hear from the families of those who have lost loved ones and then re-work the laws to match that reality. Guns are eroding our collective sense of safety and security because there is no safe haven; not the inner city or the suburban enclaves.

Let’s not be fooled into allowing divisive tactics to detract from our shared desire to improve all of these basic conditions of our daily lives. Instead of fighting with problems and each other, let’s unite for positive change; not letting those with malicious intent drive a wedge to pry us away from attention to what really matters. Let’s unite for safe communities. Let’s unite for fair elections. Let’s unite for an end to gun violence. Let’s unite for equality of opportunity for all and an end to privilege that thwarts access to better lives and better choices. Let’s unite to establish a woman’s right to make decisions about her health and her body. Let’s unite to address the COVID pandemic; the opioid epidemic and AIDS with reasonable measures of protection and prevention to limit the spread. Let’s unite for solutions to homelessness and community displacement due to gentrification and overdevelopment. Let’s unite to mobilize efforts to address mental health in our families and communities.

We need to go forth with humility and courage with an eye toward learning that allows us to understand the problems as well as work on the solutions. In the words of Emmanuel Acho, “You cannot fix a problem you do not know you have.”

Dr. Sharon M. Cadiz
To read the full letter, visit Qgazette.com

Father’s Day: Remembering My Father

Father’s Day is upon us and many of us are remembering our fathers both living and de­ceased. As such I am remembering my father who passed away on Easter Sunday in April 1973, at age 83. He was a good man who cared and did for others with acts of kindness. My fa­ther’s name was Frederick R. Bedell Sr. My fa­ther was married to his first wife named Gertrude in 1908 and had one child named Marion. After 35 years his wife passed away. He did not know that love would enter his life again. Yet it did, during WWII, when he met my mother, named Teresa, in 1944, and they married at the end of the war. At his age he never thought he would have a child again, but did at age 59, when I was born. And icing on the cake, I was born on Au­gust 1st, his birthday. At 14 years old my mother died. My father was then 72 years old and said he would do the best he could raising me alone. He saw to it I finished school and went to church every Sunday. He made me breakfast and dinner every day and saw to it that I cleaned the house where we lived in Queens Village. Above all he taught me to show kindness to others even if oth­ers did not return those acts of kindness. He also taught me to respect others, including those of different races, nationalities, and religions. I will as such always miss my father and he will for­ever be in my heart, especially on Father’s Day. Now this Father’s Day, please remember your fathers and if living, tell them how much you love them. And to all fathers, have a happy and a most blessed Father’s Day.

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.

What Is A Father?

A father is many things and assumes many roles. A father gives guidance. A father is a leader. A father is a companion. A father gives advice to his children, as well as comfort. A fa­ther is always there as support for his children, in good times, as well as not so good times. A fa­ther is a role model. A father stands up for his children. A father is a healer. While all of these things are so true, most of all a father is a pre­cious gift from God. To all fathers, Happy Fa­ther’s Day, and may God bless you!

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

Runaway Inflation

To The Editor:

It is strange that in these times of inflation that the Mayor and City Council reached a record $101 billion budget deal. So much money and where is it going to? NYC prices rose 50% in May and gasoline rose as well. Something has to be done about this situation, it is urgent.

It is appalling that a prominent Woodside restaurant stole $100 million in taxes. Appalling indeed.

I am dismayed that teamsters are going to strike or have a work slowdown causing short­ages in food deliveries. Our city is plagued with so many problems. I am also dismayed that the MTA bus drivers are afraid of being attacked and want partitions in their buses and many workers are calling in sick and that is causing a problem with lots of bus delays. Our city is full of fear.

I am glad that mayoral control of our schools has been extended. Our schools belong to NYC with special needs, special children, and educa­tional needs for each borough and NYS has dif­ferent children and different districts.

I am glad that Carolyn Maloney headed the Greek Independence Day Parade; she is in charge of Hellenic issues. She is wonderful and would make a great governor, vice president, etc.

It is awful that there were threats on the life of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh; that is an act of terrorism. Domestic terrorism is among us rearing its ugly head and yes all of the mass shootings are not made by mere teenagers who are socially disadvantaged, but by radicalized terrorists who learn this online. This online rad­icalization must be stopped, it does not violate our right to free speech.

We must raise our flag with pride, respect it, salute it; we used to have the Pledge of Allegiance years ago when we were in school. Now this is hardly said. Our flag is the symbol of a nation under God with equality and brotherhood; do­mestic terrorism and hatred must end.

I loved the mayor’s speech to Congress and the little girl who was terrorized by that mass shooting. We must have the picture of that child in our mind when gun control is passed.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

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