2018-04-25 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

A Dose of Doo-Wop

To The Editor:

While strolling through Central Park near Bethesda Fountain last Sunday, I was drawn to the strains of songs of the ‘50s being performed by a group of gentlemen who call themselves Cover Story. Their music, affectionately referred to as “doo wop,” revived many fond memories, uplifted my spirits and made me smile. It even stirred my patriotic pride because those sounds could not have been created anywhere else on the planet. Sadly there are some who are of the opinion that the “classic songs of the ‘50s” represent an era of repression and segregation.

I was a student at the High School of Music and Art in the late ‘50s. Each morning as I entered the auditorium to wait for classes to begin, I could hear the strains of doo-wop in every corner. It was here that the “new sounds” were created and experimented with by students both black and white. One of my classmates wrote several hits for Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and had a successful career of his own. It was during that era that the musical creativity of many blacks was recognized, rewarded and provided myriad opportunities for both blacks and whites. The doo-wop sounds couldn’t be categorized or easily identified as “black” or “white.” It was poetry celebrating the joys of love and life accompanied by lyrical melodies and sung by harmonious voices full of hope and aspirations. By contrast, the pop culture of today features rap music, an oxymoron by any standards, which almost exclusively celebrates the “black” experience and is often full of expressions of hate and depictions of violence, not to mention dirty words. If anything can be said about the music of the ‘50s, it is that it did not oppress but offered freedom of expression, created opportunities, and most importantly, uplifted and celebrated the simple joys of life that bind us together as human beings.

If author William Congreve’s proclamation that “music has charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak” is correct, then it would behoove us all to attend more doowop concerts. I, for one, will be strolling near Bethesda Fountain more often.

Ed Konecnik
Flushing

Barbara Bush

To The Editor:

Former First Lady Barbara Bush has just passed away at age 92 and leaves many of us quite saddened. She was a wife and mother to two presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. But she was more than that in her lifetime, for she cared about the many in need of compassion. Barbara Bush tried to get others to volunteer at homeless shelters and Head Start projects and promoted AIDS awareness. As First Lady she promoted reading by starting the Barbara Bush Foundation for Literacy. And finally she was an advocate for the American family, as well as many more accomplishments, and for that she will be dearly missed. Let me at this time offer my heartfelt prayers to her family, friends and all who loved her dearly. America mourns a truly great lady, whom we will never forget.

Frederick R. Bedell, Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

MTA Reno’s Reduced

To The Editor:

There is even more to “MTA Reveals Astoria Blvd Station Overhaul” (Liz Goff, April 18). The Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently announced that the New York City Transit $936 million for the subway station renovation program will be reduced. Turns out, due to unforeseen site conditions, there is only sufficient funding to complete work at 19 of 32 stations originally scheduled for work under the MTA $32 billion 2015 – 2019 Five Year Capital Plan. According to a previous 2016 NYC Citizens Budget Commission report, it would have taken 51 years or until 2067 for all 471 NYC Transit Subway Stations to reach a state of good repair. Work on the 13 stations previously scheduled will have to be postponed until the next MTA 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan. This increases the backlog of badly needed subway station rehabilitation. The result could be that even the 2067 forecasted date for bringing all 471 subway stations up to a good state of repair may not be met.

It was very disappointing that MTA Chair Joe Lhota said that “he was aware of the increased costs last year, which resulted in the reduction for the number of stations to be repaired, but he chose not to mention this until a few weeks ago.” (Wall Street Journal, “MTA Comes Up Short on Subway Repairs” by Paul Berger, April 4). He (Lhota) went on to say “I just didn’t think it was relevant to the debate between MTA and Mayor Bill de Blasio in how these $936 million should be spent” for almost one year.

So much for open, honest transparency in management of the MTA’s $32 billion 2014 – 2019 Five Year Capital Plan. This damages the MTA’s credibility with transit riders, taxpayers, transit advocacy groups, MTA board members and elected officials. It also doesn’t help make the case for more financial assistance from City Hall, Albany and Washington. How detailed, accurate and up to date is the information provided to City Hall, Albany and the Federal Transit Administration for ongoing capital projects and programs? The MTA has to submit quarterly financial and milestone progress reports for projects and programs funded under $12 billion worth of active Federal Transit Administration grants. Everyone will now have to ask MTA leadership additional questions on a more frequent basis. Are there other MTA capital projects and programs which are also suffering budget increases or cost overruns which have resulted in a reduction from the original promised scope of work? What is the status for change orders to existing projects whose work is already underway? Have they been reviewed and approved as fair, reasonable and justified? Is there existing contingency funding within the project budget to cover these costs? Is work on projects being performed by in-house staff (known as force account) proceeding on time and within budget for the fully planned scope of work? Has any employee overtime been required? If so, is there existing contingency funding within the project budget to cover these costs? Has all of this information been made public on a timely basis and shared with all interested parties? It is one of the oldest tricks in the book for MTA project managers to keep within the assigned project budget by reducing the scope of work. No one within the MTA likes to ask for more money to support completion of any project they are assigned to manage. It is easier to complete a project within budget by just reducing the scope of work which was originally promised.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Consult Congress

To The Editor:

I am certainly appalled that Trump did not consult or notify Congress about the planned Syrian air strikes. This is against the Constitution with its system of checks and balances.

I applaud the closing of Starbucks for sensitivity training sessions. This bias must end towards people who are perceived as different, due to race, disability, etc. Minds and hearts must be opened.

I am glad that public housing will be searched for lead. In addition I am glad that they are being sued for not giving heat to their residents during the coldest weather during this winter. Safe, warm, healthy housing is not a privilege but a right, since food, clothing, and shelter are the most wonderful basic rights we all have as human beings.

That explosion of the jet plane was a tragedy and I commend the female pilot for landing the plane safely. At one time women were not allowed to fly planes.

I am glad that a scholarship program will be launched at Saint Francis Prep.

We must honor Jackie Robinson since he was a famous leader in the civil rights movement by breaking the color line in baseball and proving that race is no deterrent to performance. He won World Series and Pennants.

Barbra Bush was a warm person who cared for her family and for others. She was a great financial contributor to the Hadley School for the Blind located in Winnetka, Illinois, a correspondence course school that serves over 20,000 students worldwide. I was their student of the year in 1999. She promoted volunteerism and made a difference in the world. She will long be remembered. May her memory be for a blessing.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

All Bigotry Related

To The Editor:

As we approached the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, we noted with alarm the rising tide of racism, anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions, and anti- Semitism worldwide. This terrible growth of exclusionary and bigoted policies, actions, and attitudes is contextualized by Donald Trump and his like-minded leaders in Russia, Poland and Hungary. It is further fueled by movements and leaders from the National Front in France, similar movements throughout Europe, the so-called “alt-right” in the US, and lower level anti-Semitic leaders, such as Louis Farrakhan.

This growth of hate can and must be defeated. The starting point is the understanding that racism, anti-immigrant prejudices, and anti-Semitism are all fruits of the same poisonous tree. Across-the-board unity of opposition to all is the only path to defeating each. Within the Jewish community this means that any capitulation to or support of overt rhetoric, dog-whistling, or policies that promote hate, either by Trump or any other leader or organization propagating bigotry, discrimination, or related forms of fascism, regardless of the issue and rationale, is a contribution to the growth of anti- Semitism.

In the progressive movement, this means that anti-Semitism needs to be opposed and denounced just as strongly as racism and anti-immigrant acts. We are dismayed and disappointed that some of our allies are not sufficiently forthright in denouncing anti-Semitism. Such hesitancy will only serve to weaken the overall movement. Unity against all hateful acts and statements is the only path to progress. This is the path that The Workmen’s Circle will continue to pursue.

Within the Jewish community, in order to successfully defeat this growth of anti- Semitism, our responsibility is to both denounce all forms of hate recognizing the inseparable links that unite all hate speech and purveyors of hate; and not to accommodate in any way those that directly promote or give comfort to those who promote hate, regardless of what other issues they might be considered like-minded.

For our friends and allies in the broad progressive movement there needs to be a vigilant commitment to denounce and fight anti-Semitism and to see that opposition to anti-Semitism as a vital and necessary part of the overall fight for justice and equality.

Peter Pepper, President
Ann Toback, Executive Director
The Workmen’s Circle

Tree Hazards

To The Editor:

As the summer season approaches and more and more people fill the sidewalks and parks of our city, are the thousands of trees which line those streets and are in those parks safe to walk under? The Parks Department is responsible for the maintenance and inspection of all street and park trees; in Queens alone, there are over 248,000 trees. With so many trees just in one borough, the job of maintaining and inspecting them is nothing less than herculean. While the Forestry Division in each borough works very hard to do this job, certainly many more professional arborists, pruners, climbers and tree inspectors should and must be hired. The Department of Parks should request state and federal assistance in order to get this massive task completed.

With early predictions by University of Colorado meteorologists of yet another very active Atlantic hurricane season, this should be another impetus for the Department of Parks to really get moving on this. Trees add beauty and peace to the landscape and supply us with oxygen, while taking in carbon dioxide. Their leafy canopies give us cool shade on hot summer days, and their roots also hold soil in place and prevent erosion, especially on hillsides. They give off brilliant displays of color in autumn. Their maintenance, which includes pruning and feeding (must be done) on a regular basis in order to be kept healthy, and those trees which are weak, dead or dying must be removed to prevent possible injury, death or damage. New Yorkers should be able to walk down tree-lined streets and city parks without the fear of a tree or a limb falling on them. Also, when homeowners or business owners are requesting that a tree in front of their property be removed because they feel it is a hazard, those trees should be taken down without question. Tree inspectors must take into account the concerns of these people while also inspecting and evaluating the tree. A written report signed by the tree inspector should be given to the homeowner or business owner explaining how the inspection was done and why he or she deems it necessary or unnecessary to have the tree removed.

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

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