Your May 12 stories about local council members reacting to the mayor’s proposed budget are very interesting: While all of them profess their desire to help the middle class, none of them talks about cutting spending.
It would seem to me that if we didn’t pay our municipal workers such munificent health benefits, mostly paid for by the taxpayers, and give such wonderful pensions, also paid for by the taxpayers, we would have a great deal of money to support our firehouses and our library system and other areas that the mayor is proposing cuts to.
When legislators talk about “wasteful spending,” they might consider pensions, salaries and benefits to the municipal employees who are able to retire at an early age as one area to save money and really help their constituents.
Kenneth L. Brown
Save Engine 306 I
In an effort to close its current budget gap, last week the Bloomberg administration announced that it is planning to close the Fire Department’s Engine 306 in Bayside. This firehouse serves the Bayside and Bay Terrace area and is vital to the safety of our community. In addition, the safety repercussions of closing Engine 306 go beyond Bayside and Bay Terrace. If Engine 306 is closed, emergency responders will have to be called in from other areas. This will take assets away from areas such as Flushing, Whitestone, Douglaston and Little Neck and put those areas at additional risk as well. When a fire emergency occurs every minute counts. Closing Engine 306 will put property and lives in northeast Queens at undue risk.
I applaud our local elected officials as they have aggressively fought against the closing of Engine 306. State Sen. Tony Avella, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein and Councilman Dan Halloran have moved quickly in a bipartisan manner to fight this travesty. They clearly recognize that our safety is of the utmost importance.
The fact that Bloomberg is proposing to close a budget gap by risking the property and lives of the residents of northeast Queens is just one example of the administration’s misguided ideology. While I understand that the city, state and federal governments are each in financial crisis, it seems that the first places the mayor seeks to cut are our schools and our emergency services (police, fire and EMS). Those should always be the last place we cut.
On a national level, our tax dollars continue to build schools, police stations and firehouses in Iraq and Afghanistan while we are closing schools and firehouses here in New York City. It is time that our mayor and our federal government get their priorities straight and ensure that our communities have good schools and our citizens can go to bed at night knowing that they are safe and, in the event of an emergency, a responder is only moments away.
Steven Anthony Behar
Save Engine 306 II
On Sunday, May 22, I attended a rally protesting Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to close 20 firehouses throughout New York City. The demonstration took place outside Engine 306 in Bayside. Engine 306 is one of the 20 houses the Bloomberg administration deems unnecessary to protect the members of our community.
At the rally several elected officials, members of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and community leaders spoke out against the proposed closing. Speakers included Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, State Sen. Tony Avella, UFOA President Al Hagan and Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece. I want to personally thank the speakers for their dedication and support on this issue. However, preventing the closure of Engine 306 and the other 19 firehouses will require increased pressure from local residents and strong representation from elected officials at the city level.
There is no denying that the city is facing financial difficulties, but most New Yorkers would consider the safety of residents the highest priority. Unfortunately, the Bloomberg administration is more concerned with balancing the budget than protecting the most vulnerable. Generally, senior citizens and children are those most affected by dangerous fires.
Personally, I am not willing to balance the budget on the backs of those who have served our community for the longest or those who are too young to understand the repercussions of a mayor who is out of touch with the residents he is supposed to serve.
One of the best ways to reach out to city elected officials is a phone banking operation targeting council members’ district offices. I will be spearheading a phone banking effort in the first week of June. Hopefully, the mayor will receive the message loud and clear: We will lie down in front of our fire trucks before we will allow the city to compromise our safety. If the Mayor does not heed our call the first time, we will continue until he does.
The power of democracy rests with numbers. Together let’s show the mayor where the masses he is supposed to represent stand on this issue.
If you are interested in receiving more information on the phone banking operation, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your time.
Member, Community Board 11
Hike retail wages now
On Saturday May 21, I attended a Town Hall meeting at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Corona with hundreds of others to demand that the owner of the highly profitable Queens Center Mall, the Macerich Company, give back to the community by transforming the publicly subsidized mall from a poverty wage center into a responsible development for workers of Queens.
Among those participating in the event were elected officials: state Sen. Jose Peralta, Assembly members Francisco Moya and Jeffrion Aubrey, and City Council Members Julissa Ferreras and Daniel Dromm. The meeting was hosted by Make the Road New York, Queens Congregations United for Action, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and the Retail Action Project.
In exchange for the more than $100 million in tax breaks Macerich receives, a growing coalition is pushing to hold the mall owner accountable to the public by requiring retailers to pay a living wage with benefits, respect workers’ rights to organize a union without threats or intimidation and provide space for community services.
The owners of the mall receive tens of millions of dollars in subsidies from our tax dollars and what does the community receive in return? Absolutely nothing.
It is past time for retail workers to receive a living wage and be able to unionize without being threatened by their employers. Many people who work at the mall barely make the minimum wage. As everyone knows, it’s not possible to live on such a low salary here in Queens, much less support a family.
When we talk about economic development in our community, we should be talking about jobs that provide economic stability, jobs that can support a family and not part-time jobs with poverty wages and no benefits.
A living wage bill in the City Council would require businesses that receive tax breaks or city subsidies to pay their workers a living wage of $11.50 an hour without benefits or $10 an hour with benefits.
Contact your City Council member and tell them to pass it. It is a moral imperative that if someone works full-time they should be able to support their family and feed their children. Thank you.
David M. Quintana
Pet owners beware
I’m writing this letter to show that no one is perfect, that serious mistakes can be made, but that the ASPCA mobile van unit took care of the matter quickly and courteously, and that other pet owners be aware of similar situations.
Puss Puss was adopted several months ago from a nice animal shelter in Rego Park and seemed the perfect pet, until she began to howl loudly and crouch on the floor with her backside up. This would continue for a few days, stop, then start again. The shelter had told me that she was a very vocal cat, so I let it go. Suddenly, the howling became incessant so that even the neighbors complained.
Puss Puss was adopted with a certificate from the ASPCA indicating when she was spayed. The surgical scar and “tattoo” that the ASPCA puts on the pet’s abdomen were visible. But looking at YouTube, I saw female cats in heat with the same symptoms that Puss Puss exhibited; and it suddenly occurred to me that she may never have been fixed.
The shelter arranged for the ASPCA mobile van to examine Puss Puss. They said she had the surgical scar from spaying and would need exploratory surgery, but they couldn’t do it on that particular van. I was real angry and reached the main office of the ASPCA mobile van unit; and, when they couldn’t offer quick help, I said some nasty things about their quality of service and hung up.
They called me back, asking me not to hang up and said they would handle the matter as quickly as possible.
On a rainy, windy March morning, a private pet taxi arranged by the ASPCA took both Puss Puss and me into Manhattan to a specially equipped mobile van for exploratory surgery by one of their vets. Remnants of reproductive organs were found in Puss Puss.
Even though the weather was bad with heavy rain and wind and umbrellas turning inside out, the people waiting for their dogs and cats to be fixed and returning hours later were all pleasant even though there was no shelter. (Maybe people in Manhattan have more patience than we in Queens have.)
The medical report states that the entire uterus and right ovary were intact and part of the left ovary remained. Puss Puss had never been spayed. My brave cat was returned to me with the surgeon’s report that she would no longer be on the prowl.
I want to thank the staff at the ASPCA mobile van unit for their excellent care and saving the life of my pet and caring for her. My sweet cat is comfortable and no longer howling, and, if she could talk would say “Thank you” in meow language.