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Charter schools under pressure as always

The war against charter schools being waged by much of the education establishment and City Hall on multiple fronts continues unabated.Now it’s at the point where the state education commissioner can’t even publicly demonstrate support for ch…

Laurelton of old
Posted: February 04, 2016

Dear Editor:

(An open letter to Chronicle Contributor Ron Marzlock):

Your piece about the Texaco Twin Pond service station, brought back some very real memories of when I was a kid (“Fixing, fueling and selling cars,” I Have Often Walked, Jan. 28).

From approximately 1938 to 1942, when I was between 4 and 8, my parents lived right around the corner at 132-24 234 St., not too distant from Ralph Herman. My father was a steady customer at the Twin Pond gas station and I remember Ralph very clearly, a large man, to me, with a roundish, powerful face.

Laurelton in those years was like a small Midwestern town. Directly across Merrick Road from the gas station was a silver-sided diner where the Q5 bus stopped after leaving the Rosedale LIRR station. The diner itself was on land occupied by a working farm that lasted until the 1950s. And speaking of farms, my aunt and uncle had a small farm alongside Brookville Boulevard, north of Merrick, where they had a cornfield and coop full of chickens.

East of the gas station, just south of Merrick, were the Twin Ponds, the larger being parallel to the station. In summer we kids played there, trying to catch tadpoles. In winter, my mother took me there to ice skate on my double-bladed training skates. I was never a good skater!

I saw the Cross Island Parkway being built and played on the monkey bars in a small playground near the still existing firehouse on Brookville Boulevard, south of Merrick.

After Pearl Harbor, my parents sold the house on 234th Street because my father expected to be drafted, and we moved to the Regency Park apartments on Main Street near Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens Hills.

By the ’50s, my parents had bought a house in Forest Hills, but my aunt and uncle still lived in Laurelton. During visits there, my father still went to visit Ralph and buy gas. When the Herman Brothers were Rambler dealers, my father purchased a car from Ralph. He kept that car for many years.

Later, during the ’70s, I happened to be in the area and decided to drive over to the Twin Pond gas station. I asked for Ralph but was told that he had retired. That was my last contact. Over the years I have driven through the area on the Cross Island Parkway, remembering all that happened in Laurelton and Rosedale so many years ago.

Thanks for rekindling the memories.

David Rivkin
Jamaica

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Mets payroll hits $140M
Posted: February 04, 2016

Overlooked in the excitement over the signing of slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the top per-season salary in Mets history (he’ll earn $25 million this year) was that it pushed their 2016 payroll to roughly $140 million.

While that figure is roughly $50 million below that of the Yankees, and is a pittance compared to what the Los Angeles Dodgers now spend, it does finally remove the criticism that for a New York team the Mets have been behaving as if they were in Milwaukee or Cincinnati instead of the nation’s largest market.

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Cuomo’s tunnel vision
Posted: February 04, 2016

Dear Editor:

Gov. Cuomo’s announcement supporting a $5 million study to look at the feasibility of constructing a tunnel from Long Island to either the Bronx, Westchester or Connecticut is nothing new. It has been studied by various planning and transportation agencies for decades, but deemed unfeasible.

Property condemnation at either end could displace thousands of residents and businesses. By the time all the court cases would be resolved, it would take years and cost billions. Add the costs for construction of any tunnel and it would be billions more.

The estimated cost for the Gateway Tunnel, which would connect New Jersey with Penn Station, is $24 billion. Crossing Long Island Sound would be a far greater distance than crossing the Hudson River. Can you imagine the cost of this project!

Too many transportation studies championed by numerous elected officials are nothing more than placebos designed to placate demagogues, who are not regular users of the numerous public transportation alternatives that have been available for decades.

The real problem is finding money to make things happen. All too often funding for many studies would have been better spent on real capital and operating service improvements instead of just lining the pockets of consultants. How many studies end up on the shelf of planners just collecting dust? How many times do we end up with a series of press conferences and news releases designed to provide free publicity for elected officials to assist them in greasing the wheels of future elections? These same elected officials promise a bright future but leave riders holding an empty bag.

Larry Penner
Great Neck, LI
The writer is a retired transportation official who oversaw grant approvals.

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Strengthen Social Security
Posted: February 04, 2016

Dear Editor:

Right now in the midst of a politically charged election year, Washington lawmakers, presidential candidates and policy experts are grappling over the future of this program that some claim is in serious trouble. They have been talking about dramatic changes in current and future benefits, serious cuts and major reforms.

Supporters of this agenda don’t think twice about cutting our earned benefits to reduce the federal deficit, but they pitch a fit anytime someone questions tax loopholes for millionaires.

While Congress may hold the levers of power concerning Social Security, we’re the ones they listen to most. Congress will listen when large numbers of people stay informed and get involved to make a difference — that is why we must vote. And vote for the candidates who support a stronger Social Security. Thank you.

Frank Sforza
College Point

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Thursday 02/04/2016
Wounded donor project
Posted: February 04, 2016

Dear Editor:

A reliable source informed me that a respected charity group that raises funds to assist wounded vets has been somewhat dishonest with their donors. The Wounded Warrior Project raised over $300 million for their worthy cause. However, I was informed that only 60 percent goes to assist needy vets while 40 percent is earmarked for administration expenses.

They also stated that a WWP event for many, many staff members took place at a plush Colorado resort costing $3 million. Since Donald Trump is noted for caring for vets, I hope he will investigate this matter before giving any new donations.

Anthony G. Pilla
Forest Hills

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God save the Republic
Posted: February 04, 2016

Dear Editor:

For the love of God, for the sake of our children and grandchildren as American citizens, we cannot forget the dreams of our founding fathers and mothers in the “New World,” who fought and died for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America and for the courageous men and women serving in our armed forces today. God bless.

Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of our country. Since the Great Depression, our great nation remained the guiding light for the free world — until President Barack Hussein Obama tried to turn the United States of America into a socialist country, exciting liberals to move toward socialism and take away our inalienable rights. God forbid.

We, the people from Main Street, must unite to bring this great nation into the present century as those who have forged before us have brought us to these times as winners. We cannot permit those of the Muslim faith to impose their will upon the free world. Now is the time to elect a president who can lead us once again to be the greatest nation in civilized history.

Carl Zimmerman
Oakland Gardens
Editor’s note: The writer used the term “G-d” in his letter, which was changed to “God” in observance of Associated Press style rules.

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Prevailing wages for those building affordable housing
Updated: February 04, 2016 - 1:29 pm

New York City is undeniably experiencing an affordable housing crisis. To combat this problem, each year, the city provides hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and low-interest loans to developers building affordable housing.

The city has committed to working with developers to spend nearly $25 billion on Housing New York, a plan that will bring affordable housing to all five boroughs.

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Healthcare profiteers
Posted: February 04, 2016

Dear Editor:

Emergency, urgent words to Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Payment to the private super-profitable HMOs is a tax because we are forced to make those payments (or else Obama fines us). This is tax collection by a private party, into the private party’s pockets.

The five (and only five) right-wing Supreme Court justices who said in 2010 that it is now OK for government to act as the forcible cattle-driver of clients to the HMO profiteers — those five were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Aetna easily finds $37 billion with which to buy Humana, so lucrative is its business.

We will either make ability-to-pay contributions to our nonprofit, efficient Medicare, or we will place the extraction hand of voracious HMOs between us and all our doctors and hospitals.

Obama, the Clintons and Nancy Pelosi are privateers at any cost and are not Democrats. If you enjoy fattening private HMOs, Bernie Sanders is not your man.

Stephen Wohl
Rockaway Beach

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Queens Boulevard and Vision Zero: road to ruin
Updated: February 04, 2016 - 1:54 pm

Our elected and appointed officials were too busy patting each other on the back a couple weeks ago with the overflow of statistical data regarding the Version Zero programs to mention even one negative impact it has had on the communities and commuters it affected.

At best, they failed to realize its impact on the commuters (including bus riders) and the community. At worst, they knew of the problems and still plowed through with it while wasting millions of taxpayer’s dollars in the process.

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Thursday 01/28/2016
No to El Chapo
Posted: January 28, 2016

Dear Editor:

If we are reluctant to transfer the detainees currently imprisoned at Guantanamo into our federal maximum-security prison system, then why would anyone propose that we extradite and imprison Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman here? He is the alleged head of one of the world’s biggest, richest and most dangerous drug cartels with, believe or not, Mexican sympathizers and an established sophisticated network of criminal allies already here, as evidenced by his lucrative drug business in the U.S.

His base of operations is very close to our national border, and his imprisonment here could engender: (1) violent retaliations against our citizens, here and in Mexico; (2) a very costly security burden on the American taxpayer; and (3) a major national embarrassment if he escapes, similar to the three prisoners in California.

The human element is the weakest link in any security system, and El Chapo has the proven financial resources and muscle to find and compromise either correction officials, guards or their families. No wonder the Mexican government is now working furiously to expedite his extradition; then, he becomes our problem. If he is extradited here, we cannot be Pollyanna or naive with whom we are dealing.

Glenn Hayes
Kew Gardens

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Yes, Mets get back Ces
Posted: January 28, 2016

Mets fans finally exhaled when their team reached a three-year, $75 million contract with outfielder Yoenis Cespedes just before Snowstorm Jonas hit. Cespedes has the right, however, to opt out of it at the end of the 2016 season.

While the Mets are a stronger team with a healthy Cespedes, the Cuban slugger comes with his share of liabilities. He is very streaky as Mets fans discovered once the postseason began and his bat turned into a pumpkin. He also can be too nonchalant at times. If a catcher drops a third strike he will head back to the dugout instead of forcing a throw to first base. I was also troubled how he took his sweet time retrieving a ball that he booted in centerfield during Game 5 of the World Series.

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The slow snow cleanup
Updated: February 04, 2016 - 12:10 pm

So, Queens got treated as a second-class borough after last weekend’s colossal snowstorm. What else is new?

At least many of our elected officials let City Hall know it was doing a lousy job and got the administration to redeploy plows and other equipment to get on the ball here. Credit goes to the likes of Queens Councilmen Rory Lancman, Eric Ulrich and Jimmy Van Bramer, the majority leader, for letting Mayor de Blasio know in no uncertain terms that initial efforts to clean up the snow here failed tens of thousands of residents. Van Bramer even toured some of his district with de Blasio so the mayor could see the mess firsthand.

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Thanks, city workers
Posted: January 28, 2016

Dear Editor:

As the blizzard of 2016 was raging, our sanitation workers, along with the DOT workers, battled this awesome storm with every piece of equipment they had and won the battle!

They worked tirelessly and continuously around the clock to keep the main roads and arteries open, despite the heavy, blinding snow, which was falling at 2 to 3 inches per hour at the height of the storm. Also, our firefighters, police and EMT workers worked round the clock to ensure the safety of the people of our city while the storm was raging.

We owe all of these workers an immense debt of gratitude for all of their hard work, dedication and professionalism which was displayed during this massive storm, one that will go down in the record books as one of the heaviest to hit New York City.

John Amato
Fresh Meadows

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Albany’s attack on our rights
Updated: January 28, 2016 - 5:22 pm

In what’s being sold as an attempt to reform Albany, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics just passed an utterly unethical measure that amounts to a full frontal assault on the First Amendment. We urge the state Legislature to intervene immediately by passing a law overturning this unelected panel’s insidious attempt to restrict free speech and the press. Immediately.

JCOPE thinks any public relations consultant who speaks to a newspaper opinion writer must register as a lobbyist and report his or her contacts with the media. That’s a disgrace. The press is given as wide latitude as it is by the Constitution for good reason, and the men who wrote it would never, ever, ever have entertained the idea that in their new, free country any private citizens would have to report conversations with newspaper writers to the government. The move “is a reasonable regulation of speech,” JCOPE’s chairman said. The hell it is, you wannabe Soviet apparatchik.

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Transit, tolls and Tony
Posted: January 28, 2016

Dear Editor:

During his press conference announcing MTA modernization plans, Gov. Cuomo said: “How do we get this region to grow? The future is mass transit. How do we get people out of cars and into mass transit?” One way is by supporting MoveNY’s plan to put tolls on the East River bridges while slashing them on outer borough bridges. Cuomo called that “a non-starter” last year, but he said the same thing about Mayor de Blasio’s $15 an-hour minimum wage proposal before championing it as his own idea. Why can’t he change his mind again?

The same question applies to our Albany legislators like Sen. Tony Avella, who opposes MoveNY. What’s his alternative — a huge tax break for yacht and private plane owners that he and other Senate and Assembly members voted for? This benefits hedge fund hustlers in the Hamptons, not Queens constituents. One more example of Albany pandering to one-percenters. Another example is Sen. Avella’s refusal to return $40,000 in campaign contributions he got from Glenwood Management, those wonderful folks who bribed former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

How does the Senate Ethics Committee chairman justify keeping tainted money? Voters should call him Sen. “Phony” Avella and refuse to re-elect him.

Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

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No news is bad news
Posted: January 28, 2016

Dear Editor:

TV Al Jazeera America is folding. That it has lasted as long as it has is surprising considering our present political climate. It is like expecting “Third Reich Israel” to succeed in their country. What a dumb or at best, naive premise. It has been a good, unbiased news outlet where so very many are lacking, with perhaps the exception of BBC and perhaps a few others; certainly not Fox, MSNBC and such. It was begging to be scratched.

It is sad that we cannot receive “News” without it being tainted by “Views.”

Nicholas Zizelis
Bayside

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Guns and crazy Palin
Posted: January 28, 2016

Dear Editor:

Janice Wijnen says the Second Amendment is designed to give people the means to fight back against a “dictatorship” (like Obama’s) (“Of guns and killers,” Letters, Jan. 21). Equal weapons to fight the government? I have questions for Ms. Wijnen: To which NRA headquarters do I apply for my tank and surface-to-air missiles? And is my bazooka tax-deductible?

Here are a few facts for you, Janice. Sarah Palin’s son Track was arrested on charges that he hit his girlfriend while armed with an AR-15 rifle and was threatening to shoot himself. Did Palin rush to his side? Did she quickly put the “counseling wheels” in motion? Did she call her pastor to administer religious teachings? No, she was busy ruining Trump’s presidential aspirations, uh, I mean busy endorsing Trump.

It was very entertaining seeing her babble again; I really missed her. Without a doubt, her most entertaining line was, “Quit footin’ the bill for these other nations, who are oil-rich that we’re paying for some of their ‘squirmishes’ that have been goin’ on for c

enturies.” Squirmishes. Squirmishes? Really? Republicans wanted this imbecile to be one heartbeat away from the presidency!

And writer S.E. Cupp wants to know what happened to the “real Palin”? She’s right in front of you, S.E., ignoring her family (responsibilities) and pandering to extend her shriveling “relevancy” before she fades away into nonexistence. Palin defends her son by saying he suffers from PTSD and goes on to blame Obama: “Our veterans come back wondering if there is that respect for what it is that their fellow soldiers and airman and every other member of the military so sacrificially have given to this country, and that starts from the top. That comes from our own president. You deserve someone who will treat veterans better than illegal immigrants in America.”

Of course she neglects to mention that in 2014 a $24 billion bill to expand healthcare for veterans was rejected. Only two Republicans voted in favor of the legislation.

Robert LaRosa
Whitestone

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She’s a Palin the butt
Posted: January 28, 2016

Dear Editor:

Here is a merry-go-round that takes the cake! Sarah Palin, John’s McCain’s 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, gave new meaning to Ben Franklin’s well-known saying “Empty barrels make loud noises” when she endorsed Donald Trump for president. I wonder if she was aware that last summer “The Donald” said John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured by North Vietnam forces. “I like people that weren’t captured.”

After his defeat by Obama, McCain said, “Selecting Sarah was the most important decision I ever made.” His constant loyalty to her was admirable, even though her role as a GOP candidate was not very helpful to the senator. GOP Vice President Dick Cheney said it best, “Picking Palin as McCain’s running mate was a mistake.”

Isn’t it odd, she just endorsed a man who made a nasty remark about her war hero running mate?

Anthony G. Pilla
Forest Hills

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Everyone wins!
Posted: January 28, 2016

Dear Editor:

I believe I may have the answer to the Oscar racial diversity controversy.

In this age of political correctness we live in today, many parents of school-aged children who participate in school sports programs want their child to get a trophy in order that they don’t feel “left out” or “slighted” or not appreciated. No matter how well they did, no matter what they contributed to the team, everyone who participates should be given a trophy.

The same rule should apply to these childish actors who are crying that they didn’t get enough Oscars.

Give everyone a trophy.

Bill Viggiano
Williston Park, LI

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Thursday 01/21/2016
For select buses
Posted: January 21, 2016

Dear Editor:

I was pleased to read the DOT Commissioner’s article on SBS and see that the issues we face, as commuters of various modes of traffic along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards are taken seriously (“SBS is the transportation alternative Queens needs,” Opinion, Jan. 14, multiple editions). I travel from Rockaway to the Upper East Side of Manhattan on the Q52/53 bus and the A train almost daily, and I support the SBS plan.

The Q52/53 currently experiences delays because of double-parked cars, commercial vehicles making deliveries and the slow process of each rider boarding through one door to stop and pay their fare. The SBS proposal would move bus lanes away from the service road, allowing a better flow for local and through traffic. Riders will use sidewalk kiosks to buy tickets and will board more quickly using two doors instead of one.

Anyone who rides the Q52/53 bus year round knows that travel time is greatly reduced in summer when there is less traffic congestion. I believe that SBS could help make those travel times a year-round experience. The route connects Rockaway residents to several trains — the J, Z, R, F, E, and

7 — allowing access to many parts of NYC. Improving this route makes sense for Rockaway, and likely for all residents along the Woodhaven Cross-Bay Boulevard corridor.

While I’m happy that Commissioner Trottenberg is discussing the merits of SBS for our community, those of us who’ve been stuck in traffic would like to see some clearer commitments to implementation.

Alice Ostrowsky
Rockaway Park

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No bull, riding is big
Posted: January 21, 2016

The rodeo came to town last weekend as the Professional Bull Riders held their annual three-day competition at Madison Square Garden. Considering how hard it had been for country music to find a radio home here, I figured that at best a few thousand urban cowboys would come out to see who could survive eight seconds on the back of a bull with one hand raised in the air. Imagine my surprise as I saw there was hardly an empty seat in the house.

In retrospect, the good turnout should not have been so shocking. PBR has had a contract with the CBS Sports Network for years and it has long had blue-chip sponsors such as Ford, Wrangler, Lucas Oil, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and Jack Daniel’s.

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More City Council nonsense
Updated: January 28, 2016 - 11:44 am

After throwing out platitudes about good intentions and respect, City Councilman Dan Garodnick of Manhattan summed the situation up well on Wednesday, as reported by the Gotham Gazette: “[W]ith this bill we are interjecting local government into private enterprise in a way that we should not be doing. We are going too far.”

The issue is the city’s latest power grab, which Mayor de Blasio will sign into law soon, a bill preventing supermarkets that buy out a rival from firing anyone whatsoever for three months. That slacker who never shows up on time? He’s got tenure. The guy making $27 an hour to slice meat? The one who mouths off to customers? The store’s stuck with them too. Along with all the hard workers who’d be kept on regardless.

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Wills should quit now
Posted: January 21, 2016

Last Friday afternoon the gates were down on Councilman Ruben Wills’ Jamaica office when one of our editors stopped by hoping to discuss his legal problems. Staffers were there, but constituents weren’t welcome.

It’s time to pull the gates down on Wills’ career for good. He faces a 12-count indictment for allegedly stealing money from his own campaign as well as a state grant secured by one of his cronies, former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, who served prison time for corruption.

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