Friday, February 29, 2008

Village Voice - Will Christine Quinn Stand Up to Commissioner Kelly? by Nat Hentoff

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In her State of the City speech on February 12, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn—an undeclared but highly likely contender as our next mayor—warned the incumbent, Michael Bloomberg, that she wouldn't stand for his proposed cuts in school funds, "because we cannot sacrifice educational quality in the face of fiscal responsibility." But she didn't say a word about what her likely main opponent in the next election, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, is doing to destroy the quality of life for students in those schools, with the NYPD's School Safety Agents and regular police rampaging through corridors and classrooms, handcuffs at the ready.

Kelly will be hard for Quinn to beat: Maurice Carroll, the director of the Quinnipiac University Poll and a Kelly booster, reports in "Ray of Hope" (Daily News, October 14) that the police commissioner "is the star of the Bloomberg team every time [I ask] New Yorkers to rate their officials."

Unless she ends her chronic silence about how the Kelly gang is teaching students to fear the NYPD, Quinn may find it hard to counter the commissioner's image as Bloomberg's "star."

And Quinn certainly knows what's going on. When the New York Civil Liberties Union's executive director, Donna Lieberman, testified before the City Council last October 10, she quoted from a letter that Kelly wrote to Robert Jackson, head of the council's committee on education: "There are more than 5,000 School Safety Agents [with the power to arrest] in the schools. There are approximately 200 armed police officers in the schools."

And the NYCLU has also noted, in its determined effort to bring these official vigilantes under control, that "this massive presence would make the NYPD's school safety division the fifth largest police force in the country—larger than [those of] Washington D.C., Detroit, Boston, or Las Vegas."

Back in October, Lieberman told the City Council and Speaker Quinn that ever since the NYPD had taken over control of school safety in 1998, the "police officers and SSAs brought into the schools the thuggishness and aggressiveness of the street corner. In this respect, the police presence in the schools . . . undermined the very sense of security and the safe learning environment that they were brought into the schools to protect."

And in this world-renowned center of democracy in action, the great city of New York, there is, the NYCLU emphasizes, "no effective mechanism to hold School Safety Agents accountable for this misconduct" (emphasis added)—to say nothing of the uniformed police.

"Misconduct"? The NYCLU is being too kind. In this largely segregated school system, as I've documented in previous columns, the brunt of this criminal police behavior falls mainly on what used to be called "minorities."

The NYCLU hasn't just been leading the efforts to expose this shame of New York City; it has also proposed the Student Safety Act, a piece of legislation designed to compel Mayor Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, and the star himself, Police Commissioner Kelly, not only to ensure school safety but to stay on the right side of the law themselves.

Last month, in addition to the NYCLU, a coalition of organizations—including Advocates for Children, the Correctional Association, Teachers United, the Urban Youth Collaborative, and the Children's Defense Fund–New York—all urged the City Council to enact the law.

This same City Council hearing also dealt with an issue directly related to the overpolicing of our schools: a student-suspension rate that has increased by 76 percent from 2000 to 2005 (the most recent year for statistics). In a later column, I'll delve further into the consequences of these extensive suspensions, which involve more students here in those five years than the entire student population of New Haven or Camden, New Jersey.

As Lieberman testified, students who have been suspended are three times more likely to drop out of school, which also makes them more likely to be pulled into the school-to-prison pipeline. Years ago, reporting inside a high-security juvenile prison, I found that the overwhelming percentage of inmates had been school dropouts.

As for the Student Safety Act, it gives students the right to file complaints against School Safety Agents (who are hired and "trained" by the NYPD) with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. These complaints can be made for "excessive use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy, or use of offensive language."

Moreover, this legislation encourages prosecution by the state of those SSAs who retaliate against students for filing complaints against them.

The act also requires that the NYPD and the Department of Education report to the City Council four times a year about the number of criminal-incident reports (including handcuffing, arrests, etc.) by the SSAs in each school. The act also mandates reports "on the race/ethnicity, age, sex and special education status of students involved in any of these incidents—and against whom any police action is taken." And more specifically: "The type of police action taken in each incident (arrest or summons)—and the class of each crime (felony, misdemeanor or violation)."

The Department of Education, which has scandalously and wholly abdicated its responsibility for school safety to Commissioner Kelly, will have to report four times a year to the City Council on "the number, length and cause of every suspension in the city." Until now, the DOE hasn't had to provide specific information on which students are barred from school and why. Now, the DOE will also have to report four times a year on "the race/ethnicity, age, sex and special education status of all students who are suspended, expelled, or removed from a classroom by a teacher."

Which means that if this legislation is actually introduced in the City Council—are you listening, Speaker Quinn?—there may finally be transparency regarding what the NYPD and its School Safety Agents are doing in this city's schools.

The next step should be to hold the mayor, the police commissioner, and the schools chancellor specifically accountable for their nonfeasance in making this legislation so necessary. That would provide the students in this proud city with a valuable lesson: that no one—however high in status—is above the law.

A Town Hall Meeting - Is Impeachment Necessary to Protect the Constitution..? Guests Bruce Fein, Elizabeth Holtzman & Scott Horton - Sunday March 9th

Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
New York, NY

My Testimony at the UFT Speak Out - “Let's Make it Better” concerning School Governance and Mayoral Control

edWritten Testimony of David M. Quintana – District 27 Parent

February 28, 2008

UFT Queens Speak-out
97-77 Queens Boulevard - 5th Floor
Rego Park, NY 11374

Let's Make it Better” concerning School Governance and Mayoral Control

I'd like to start off by thanking Diane Ganz for facilitating this speak out and to the UFT for giving me the opportunity to voice my serious concerns with the present school governance system on behalf of our children, students and the parents of Queens...

I am David M. Quintana, parent and former District 27 Representative to the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council (CPAC) and present member of Community Board 10 Education Committee (Press disclaimer: these are my personal views, not those of Community Board 10)...

I am the prideful parent of two daughters and a proud product of the NYC Public Education system in District 27 – a graduate of PS 60, MS 210 & John Adams High School and the former Co-President of the MS210 Parents Association in Ozone Park...

  • I believe that the development of a whole child requires the reinstitution of the Arts, Music, Physical Education (Gym), Student Governments and the teaching of basic American Civics – so students can learn how a basic democracy works so they can make intelligent political decisions in their own and their families self interest as adults and concerned citizens...

  • I call for the Elimination of the NYPD presence in our schools, which I feel creates a prison-like atmosphere in our schools...

  • I feel that we should Put Educators back into Tweed Courthouse and not corporate “media spin doctors” who misinform the citizenry about the problems in our schools..

  • I feel the six year experiment with Mayoral control of the NYC Department of Education has not achieved improved student performance...

  • Mayoral control has eliminated the public election of community oversight bodies which violates the basic human rights of our communities and parents to participate in their children’s education...

  • Mayoral control has resulted in educational leaders being replaced by lawyers and corporate consultants as policy makers and decision makers, causing widespread demoralization within the system...

  • Mayoral control has resulted in costly no-bid contracts...

  • Mayoral control has ignored the basic human rights of our children and had a major negative impact on an entire generation of student's elementary school experience; all of which has been driven by...

    • high stakes testing and constant test preparation...

    • limiting the scope and depth of a comprehensive curriculum...

    • lack of fulfilling special education mandates... and;

    • constant upheaval causing high anxiety...

  • I believe that City Council members should have authority to monitor schools within their districts...and;

  • I demand that our New York City elected officials and our Queens contingency of New York State legislators respond to this educational catastrophe and malfeasance by eliminating Mayoral control and remodeling the school system based on a human rights framework with a governance plan which incorporates local autonomy, school based decision making, parent and community involvement with strict oversight by independent bodies and the City Council...

Once again I'd like to thank the UFT for this opportunity to speak out...

David M. Quintana

Concerns Grow But the Grass Doesn't by Anne Schwartz - Gotham Gazette

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In 1999, my son played on his first soccer team, a band of unruly five-year-olds called the Red Strikers who lost every game that spring. But I remember far less about the team than I do about the field they played on at Brooklyn's Parade Grounds. Hard use and neglect had left it as bumpy as a dirt road, with large bald spots that became puddles when it rained. My son invariably came home covered with either mud or dust.

So it seemed a small miracle when, a few years later, many of the Parade Ground's fields became some of the first in the city to be renovated with synthetic turf. The surface, made with green plastic "blades" packed with rubber crumbs made of shredded used tires, was beautifully smooth, cushioned and well-marked. It was durable and dried quickly after a rain, offering a lot more playing time to all the local teams clamoring for fields.

But some things bothered me. My son's cleats and uniform now shed little rubber pellets instead of dirt. Was there anything toxic in the bits of shredded tire that spread all over our apartment? The fields turned out to be brutally hot in summer, and the coaches at soccer camp warned the kids to bring extra water so they could withstand the heat. And then there was the loss of yet another connection to nature for urban children.

These concerns, as well as evidence that synthetic turf contributes to the urban "heat island" effect and storm-water runoff problems, have led elected officials and environmental groups to call for a time-out in the use of synthetic turf.

Today, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and three environmental and parks advocacy organizations are releasing a letter to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. It calls on the parks department to stop installing synthetic turf immediately and to a make schedule for replacing existing turf fields, which disintegrate within a decade. The letter also demands that the health department complete a review of the literature on the health effects of synthetic turf before the startof the spring sports season and calls for testing actual turf installed in the parks for contaminants.

On the state level, Assemblymember Steve Englebright has introduced legislation that would put a six-month moratorium on the purchase and installation of synthetic turf statewide until health and environmental agencies conduct a more rigorous study of the crumb rubber.

The Trouble with Grass

Grass athletic fields require frequent mowing, watering, spraying for weeds, and litter clean-ups, and need to be reseeded every five years. At a time when the demand for playing space has exploded, the city's budget for park maintenance and staff remains tight, and the parks department has not been able keep up with the maintenance of many of its more than 600 baseball, football and soccer fields. The advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks' annual report card on the conditions in 200 neighborhood parks consistently has found poor conditions in the city's athletic fields.

Grass fields must be rested on a regular basis and closed when wet. The Central Park Conservancy keeps its baseball diamonds verdant by shutting them all winter and resting them on a rotating basis throughout the rest of the year. This creates an impossible choice between preserving fields and providing enough playing time for the city's growing number of school teams and sports leagues. With childhood obesity increasing at an alarming rate, the need for places where children can run and play has become more important than ever. Groups already fight over the use of fields, as is evident from the furor over a plan that would have given private schools preferential use of new public playing fields on Randall's Island.

The New York City parks department has embraced synthetic turf as a low-maintenance, cost-effective way to meet the city's growing need for playing fields that can stand up to heavy, year-round use. Since 1998, the department has installed synthetic turf on 77 fields (60 of them replacing existing natural fields), and it has contracted to convert 25 asphalt space to turf over the next few years, making New York the largest municipal buyer of synthetic turf in the country.

Although the synthetic turf fields are more expensive to install than natural ones, the parks department says they are cost-effective when their life span and maintenance costs are factored in. A natural field costs an average of $152,739 a year, versus a maximum of $105,000 a year for synthetic turf, according to figures recently provided by department spokesman Philip Abramson. A new grass field with drainage, irrigation, rich soil and a special blend of grass seed costs $690,000, with an expected five-year life span; yearly equipment, staffing and other maintenance comes to $14,739. A synthetic turf field costs $600,000 to $1 million to install but has an expected ten-year life, plus $5,000 in annual maintenance costs.

Critics question these cost assumptions, however. It is not yet clear how long the synthetic turf will last, noted Christian DiPalermo, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, which began noting the condition of synthetic turf fields as a separate feature in its 2006 parks report card. Also, the parks department's numbers do not include disposal costs, which could be higher than expected if it turns out that contaminants in the rubber crumbs require that they be handled as hazardous waste.

The parks department also highlights synthetic turf's positive environmental impact: It doesn't require watering, pesticides, fertilizers or mowing. However, according to New Yorkers for Parks' 2006 report, "The New Turf Wars," the parks department may be overstating these benefits. It notes that although grass needs to be watered to stay healthy, "synthetic turf also performs better when watered." (In any case, few of the city's athletic fields have irrigation systems.) The parks department also makes minimal use of pesticides and herbicides on natural grass, according to the report.

Although the city has said that synthetic turf will be used primarily as a substitute for asphalt, most of the existing synthetic turf fields replaced natural fields. "However, in most cases, when synthetic turf replaces grass, it's because the grass is actually gone, having been worn away from overuse," said Abramson in an e-mail. "Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem is an example of a grass field that became a dust bowl, causing such severe asthma concerns in the community that local elected officials asked us to shut it down. Now, with the installation of a synthetic turf field, it is a wonderful asset for the residents in that area."

What's in That Turf, Anyway?

Nearly all of the synthetic turf installed in New York City is made of plastic strands woven into a porous backing and filled in with a thick layer of pulverized rubber for cushioning. Most of the safety concerns focus on the rubber crumbs. A surprisingly large quantity is used: The average soccer field contains enough of the crumbs to make up 27,000 tires.

The parks department maintains that the particles are inert and do not release any chemicals when inhaled or swallowed. The New York City health department, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have all "essentially stated that these fields pose an unlikely health risk to the public and that there is no reason to stop installing these fields," Abramson said.

But a recent study conducted by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, which found that toxic chemicals could vaporize or leach from the crumb rubber, recommended further research on the safety of the materials.

In the study, commissioned by Environment and Human Health, Inc., a Connecticut nonprofit, researchers heated the rubber particles to 131 degrees Fahrenheit, about as hot as they would get in sunlight when the air is 88 degrees. The crumbs released four volatile organic chemicals known to irritate the skin, eyes and lungs. One of the chemicals is a recognized carcinogen suspected to have adverse effects on the endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous and immune systems. Two dozen other chemicals were detected at lower levels.

When the researchers exposed the granules to water, they released zinc, cadmium and lead, raising the possibility that these potentially harmful metals could migrate from synthetic fields into the soil and groundwater.

Creating 'Hot Spots'

Other concerns focus on the impact of synthetic turf on the urban landscape. Artificial turf offers none of the natural advantages of grass or even dirt - cooling the air, absorbing and filtering rainwater and offering foraging spots for migrating birds.

Unlike grass fields, which cool the surrounding air by reflecting sunlight and evaporating water, artificial fields absorb and reradiate the sun's heat. Synthetic turf fields are some of the hottest places in the city, said Dr. Stuart Gaffin, associate research scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University, who discovered this from NASA satellite maps when doing research on the urban heat island effect.

Over the last two summers, researchers visited the hot spots identified in the maps and measured just how hot the city's synthetic turf fields can get: as high as 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Synthetic turf is hotter than asphalt, said Gaffin.

This could have a particularly negative impact on temperatures in communities where a significant amount of natural surface is replaced by synthetic turf. One such example is the area around the new Yankee Stadium. The stadium occupies the site of Macombs Dam Park, a 20-acre rectangle that formerly contained well-worn soccer and baseball fields and a running track and was bordered by hundreds of mature trees. To replace some of that park's facilities, the city will build an artificial turf soccer field and track on top of a parking garage.

Another consideration is the impact of artificial turf on the city's combined sewage overflows. In most of the city's sewer system, storm runoff combines with household sewage. During huge downpours, sewage treatment plants cannot handle the added rainwater, and untreated waste overflows into the harbor and rivers. Grass and dirt soak up rain, but synthetic turf fields, which are designed to drain quickly, very efficiently funnel rainwater into the sewage system.

Replacing natural fields with synthetic turf runs counter to the city's goal of increasing natural areas and permeable surfaces as a way to reduce stormwater runoff. This strategy is part of Mayor Bloomberg's sustainability blueprint, and likely to be included in the stormwater management plan the city is required to adopt by the end of the year.

"If New York is serious about becoming a greener, more livable city by employing reasonable, cost-effective and environmentally sound stormwater management techniques, then the installation of artificial turf fields needs to be significantly curbed, if not halted altogether, " Craig Michaels, an investigator with the environmental group Riverkeeper said in testimony at a December hearing before the City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation.

Another Alternative?

The Trust for Public Land, which has used crumb rubber-based turf at the 18 public school playgrounds it has transformed into community parks, has said it will switch to a different type of turf for future projects, the Daily News reported.

The parks department, however, has not suspended its use of synthetic turf with rubber infill, said Abramson, and opposes the proposed legislation to establish a moratorium on its use. However, he added, "As the technology advances, we are exploring alternative options, including carpet-style turf."

Given the realities of continued heavy demand for sports fields and limited funding for maintenance, synthetic fields seem here to stay. But advocates say the city needs to look more carefully at the full costs and the health and environmental effects, use synthetic turf where it is needed, such as on soccer fields that get the most wear and tear, and develop better maintenance strategies for grass baseball fields. They also call on the city to formally mitigate the installation of synthetic turf by creating new green space nearby.

"We live in a particular urban environment, and climate changes are going to make things worse," said Gaffin. "The last thing we need is to exacerbate it with our own urban planning decisions."

Anne Schwartz, in charge of the parks topic page since its inception in 1999, is a journalist who specializes in environmental issues.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sources: Gallagher Offered Plea Deal On Sex Assault Charge - NY1

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Sources say a Queens City Councilman accused of sexual assault has been offered a plea deal that would keep him out of prison, but force him to resign from office.

NY1 learned Thursday that Dennis Gallagher is considering a deal under which he will plea guilty to a misdemeanor charge. He would not have to register with a sex offender registry.

Gallagher was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in his Middle Village district office last summer. He has maintained his innocence.

Last month, a judge threw the indictment out due to prosecutor misconduct. She did leave the door open for future charges.

The two sides are scheduled to return to court later this month.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Race Man by Sean Wilentz - The New Republic

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After several weeks of swooning, news reports are finally being filed about the gap between Senator Barack Obama's promises of a pure, soul-cleansing "new" politics and the calculated, deeply dishonest conduct of his actually-existing campaign. But it remains to be seen whether the latest ploy by the Obama camp--over allegations about the circulation of a photograph of Obama in ceremonial Somali dress--will be exposed by the press as the manipulative illusion that it is.

Most of the recent correctives have concerned outrageously deceptive advertisements approved and released by Obama's campaign. First, in Iowa, the Obama camp aired radio ads patterned on the notorious "Harry and Louise" Republican propaganda from 1993, charging falsely that Senator Hillary Clinton's health care proposal would "force those who cannot afford health insurance to buy it, punishing those who won't fall in line." In subsequent primary and caucus campaigns, the Obama campaign sent out millions of mailers, also featuring the "Harry and Louise" motif, falsely claiming that Clinton favored "punishing families who can't afford health care in the first place." A few bloggers and columnists, notably Paul Krugman in The New York Times, described the ads as distorting, but the national press corps mainly ignored them--until Clinton herself, seeing the fraudulent mailers reappear in Ohio over the past weekend, publicly denounced them.

The Obama mass mailings also attempt to appeal to Ohio's labor vote by claiming that Clinton believed that the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, was a "'boon' to our economy." More falsehood: In fact, Clinton had not said that; Newsday originally applied the word "boon" and has now noted the Obama campaign's distortion. In this campaign, Clinton has called for a moratorium on all trade agreements until they are made consistent with labor and environmental standards--and account for the effect on jobs in the United States. Obama makes a big deal about how Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. But he fails to mention that, within the councils of her husband's administration, Hillary Clinton was a skeptic of free trade agreements, and as a senator and candidate she has said that NAFTA contained flaws that need to be rectified. Ignoring all that, the Obama flyer features an alarming photograph of closed plant gates, having no connection to any action of Senator Clinton's, as well as the dubious quotation about her from Newsday in 2006. Newsday has criticized "Obama's use of the quotation" as "misleading ... an example of the kind of slim reeds campaigns use to try and win an office." Obama, without retracting the mailing (and while playing to protectionist sentiment in the party) said only that he would have his staff look into the matter--long after the ad has done its dirty work.

Misleading propaganda is hardly new in American politics --although the adoption of techniques reminiscent of past Republican and special-interest hit jobs, right down to a retread of the fictional couple, seems strangely at odds with a campaign that proclaims it will redeem the country from precisely these sorts of divisive and manipulative tactics. As insidious as these tactics are, though, the Obama campaign's most effective gambits have been far more egregious and dangerous than the hypocritical deployment of deceptive and disingenuous attack ads. To a large degree, the campaign's strategists turned the primary and caucus race to their advantage when they deliberately, falsely, and successfully portrayed Clinton and her campaign as unscrupulous race-baiters--a campaign-within-the-campaign in which the worked-up flap over the Somali costume photograph is but the latest episode. While promoting Obama as a "post-racial" figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics.

More than any other maneuver, this one has brought Clinton into disrepute with important portions of the Democratic Party. A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card" were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so. Rather the Obama campaign and its supporters, well-prepared to play the "race-baiter card" before the primaries began, launched it with a vengeance when Obama ran into dire straits after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada--and thereby created a campaign myth that has turned into an incontrovertible truth among political pundits, reporters, and various Obama supporters. This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.


Readers of Philip Roth's award-winning novel, The Human Stain, will be familiar with the race-baiter card and its uses, but so will anyone who has been exposed to the everyday tensions that can arise from the volatile mixture of race and politics. In Roth's novel, a college professor loses his job and his reputation after he asks one of his classes whether two African American students who have regularly been absent are "spooks." The context of the professor's remarks make it clear that he used the term to mean "ghosts" or "specters" and intended no racial disparagement--but that makes not the slightest difference, as his enemies on the faculty fan the argument that he is a blatant and incorrigible race-baiter who can no longer be trusted to teach young minds. An innocent remark becomes a hateful one when pulled through the prism of ideology, ill will, and emotional exploitation. One day, Roth's professor (who, ironically, turns out to be a black man passing as white) is a respected, even revered member of the faculty; then the race baiter card gets played, and his career is suddenly destroyed.

Even before the first caucus met in Iowa, the Obama campaign was ready to play a similar game. In mid-December 2007, one of the Clinton campaign's co-chairs in New Hampshire, Bill Shaheen, remarked entirely on his own on how the Republicans might make mischievous and damaging political use of Obama's admitted use of marijuana and cocaine during his youth. The observation was not especially astute: Since George W. Bush, both the electorate and the press have seemed to be forgiving of a candidate's youthful substance abuse, so long as says he has reformed himself. Nor had the Clinton campaign prompted Shaheen to make his comment. But it was not a harebrained remark, given how the Republicans had once tried to exploit the cocaine addiction of Bill Clinton's brother, Roger, and even manufactured lurid falsehoods about Clinton himself as the member of a cocaine smuggling ring during his years as governor in Arkansas. And it was not in the least a racist comment, as cocaine abuse has afflicted Americans of all colors as well as classes. Indeed, there have been persistent rumors that Bush abused cocaine as well as alcohol during his younger days--charges he addressed in the 2000 campaign by saying that when "he was young and foolish" he had done "foolish" things.

None of the reports at the time about Shaheen's miscue (and the Clinton campaign's decision to relieve him of his ceremonial duties) mentioned anything about racial overtones. Yet the Obama campaign kept stirring things up. After being questioned for ten minutes about the drug allegation on cable television--and repeatedly denying that the national campaign had anything to do with it--Clinton campaign pollster Mark Penn mentioned the word "cocaine" (which was difficult to avoid in the context of the repeated questioning about drugs). "I think we've made clear that the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising, and I think that's been made clear," he said. Obama's campaign aides (as well as John Edwards's) immediately leapt on Penn and chastised him as an inflammatory demagogue for using the word that Obama himself referred to in his memoir as "blow." Since then, Obama's strategists and supporters in the press have whipped the story into a full racialist subtext, as if Shaheen and Penn were the executors of a well-plotted Clinton master plan to turn Obama into a stereotypical black street hoodlum--or, in the words of the fervently pro-Obama and anti-Clinton columnist Frank Rich of the New York Times, "ghettoized as a cocaine user."

The racial innuendo seemed to fade when Obama won his remarkable victory in the Iowa caucuses. With the polling data on the upcoming New Hampshire primary auguring a large Obama triumph, it looked as if the candidate's own appeal might sweep away everything before it. But at the last minute (as sometimes happens in statewide primaries), there was a sudden movement among the voters, this time toward Clinton. Many ascribed it to an appearance by Clinton in a Portsmouth coffee shop on the eve of the vote, where, with emotion, she spoke from the heart about why she is running for president. Others said that misogyny directed at Clinton on the campaign trail as well as on cable television and the Internet turned off women voters. The uprising was certainly sudden: As late as 6 p.m. on primary day, Clinton staff members with whom I spoke were saying that they would consider a loss by ten percentage points or less as a kind of moral victory. But instead, Clinton won outright, amazing her own delighted supporters and galling the Obama campaign.

That evening, the Democratic campaign became truly tangled up in racial politics--directly and forcefully introduced by the pro-Obama forces. In order to explain away the shocking loss, Obama backers vigorously spread the claim that the so-called Bradley Effect had kicked in. First used to account for the surprising defeat of Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley in the California gubernatorial race in 1982, the Bradley Effect supposedly takes hold when white voters tell opinion pollsters that they plan to vote for a black candidate but instead, driven by racial fears, pull the lever for a white candidate. Senior Clinton campaign officials later told me that reporters contacted them saying that the Obama camp was pushing them very hard to spin Clinton's victory as the latest Bradley Effect result. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, a cheerleading advocate for Obama, went on television to suggest the Bradley Effect explained the New Hampshire outcome, then backed off--only then to write a column, "Echoes of Tom Bradley," in which he claimed he could not be sure but that, nevertheless, "embarrassed pollsters and pundits had better be vigilant for signs that the Bradley effect, unseen in recent years, has crept back."

In fact, the Bradley Effect claims were utterly bogus, as anyone with an elementary command of voting results could tell. If the "effect" has actually occurred, Obama's final voting figures would have been substantially lower than his figures in the pre-election polls, as racially motivated voters turned away. Later, Bill Schneider, the respected analyst on CNN, several times went through the data on air to demonstrate conclusively that there was no such Bradley Effect in New Hampshire. But even on primary night, it was clear that Obama's total--36.4%--was virtually identical to what the polls over the previous three weeks had predicted he would receive. Clinton won because late-deciding voters--and especially college-educated women in their twenties--broke for her by a huge majority. Yet the echoes of charges about the Bradley Effect--which blamed Obama's loss on white racism and mendacity--lingered among Obama's supporters.

The very next morning, Obama's national co-chair, Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., a congressional supporter from Chicago, played the race card more directly by appearing on MSNBC to claim in a well-prepared statement that Clinton's emotional moment on the campaign trail was actually a measure of her deeply ingrained racism and callousness about the suffering poor. "But those tears also have to be analyzed," Jackson said, "they have to be looked at very, very carefully in light of Katrina, in light of other things that Mrs. Clinton did not cry for, particularly as we head to South Carolina where 45 percent of African-Americans will participate in the Democratic contest ... we saw tears in response to her appearance, so that her appearance brought her to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina, not other issues." And so the Obama campaign headed south with race and racism very much on its mind--and on its lips.


By the time Clinton and Obama (along with Edwards) debated in South Carolina, it was clear that nerves had been rubbed raw. Obama's supporters, including New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, had been making much of a lame, off-color but obviously preposterous joke that Martin Luther King's close friend and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young had made back in December about Bill Clinton having slept with more black women than Obama. Supposedly, Young's tasteless quip--"I'm just clowning," he said, sounding embarrassed--was as part of some sort of concerted Clinton campaign. Likewise, also in December, former Senator Bob Kerrey's misinformed defense of Obama, in an interview on CNN, for having attended a secular madrassa in Indonesia (he did not) became twisted by the pro-Obama camp, including Herbert once again, into some sort of sneak attack orchestrated by cynical, race-baiting Clintonites. Kerrey is a Clinton supporter, but is notoriously unscripted. Once again, the Clinton campaign had to apologize. But the Obama campaign began ratcheting up the racial politics in earnest during the run-up to the South Carolina contest.

It has never been satisfactorily explained why the pro-Clinton camp would want to racialize the primary and caucus campaign. The argument has been made that Hillary Clinton wanted to attract whites and Hispanics in the primaries and make the case that a black candidate would be unelectable in the general election. But given the actual history of the campaign, that argument makes no sense. Until late in 2007, Hillary Clinton enjoyed the backing of a substantial majority of black voters--as much as 24 percentage points over Obama according to one poll in October--as well as strong support from Hispanics and traditional working-class white Democrats. It appeared, for a time, as if she might well be able to recreate, both in the primaries and the general election, the cross-class and cross-racial alliances that had eluded Democrats for much of the previous forty years. Playing the race card against Obama could only cost her black votes, as well as offend liberal whites who normally turn out in disproportionally large numbers for Democratic caucuses and primaries. Indeed, indulging in racial politics would be a sure-fire way for the Clinton campaign to shatter its own coalition. On the other hand, especially in South Carolina where black voters made up nearly half of the Democratic turnout, and especially following the shocking disappointment in New Hampshire, playing the race card--or, more precisely, the race-baiting card--made eminent sense for the Obama campaign. Doing so would help Obama secure huge black majorities (in states such as Missouri and Virginia as well as in South Carolina and the deep South) and enlarge his activist white base in the university communities and among affluent liberals. And that is precisely what happened.

First came the Martin Luther King-Lyndon B. Johnson controversy. Responding to early questions that he was only offering vague words of hope instead of policy substance, Obama had given a speech in New Hampshire referring to Martin Luther King, Jr. "standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial" during his "I have a dream" speech. (This rhetorical formulation was reminiscent of a campaign speech delivered in 2006 by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, another client of David Axelrod, Obama's message and media guru; in a later speech, Obama would repeat Patrick's rhetoric word for word.) When asked about it, Clinton replied that while, indeed, King had courageously inspired and led the civil rights movement, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law. "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," she said, adding that "it took a president to get it done." The statement was, historically, non-controversial; the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, among others, later said that Clinton "was absolutely right." The political implication was plainly that Clinton was claiming to have more of the experience and skills required of a president than Obama did--not that King should be denigrated. But the Obama campaign and its supporters chose to pounce on the remark as the latest example of the Clinton campaign's race baiting. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, a black congressman--neutral in the race, but pressured by the Obama campaign arousing his constituency--felt compelled to repeat the charge that Clinton had disparaged King, and told the New York Times that "we have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics." Several of the Times's op-ed columnists, including Bob Herbert and Maureen Dowd as well as Rich, rushed to amplify how Hillary was playing dirty, as did the newspaper's editorial page, which disgracefully twisted her remarks into an implication that "a black man needed the help of a white man to effect change."

Clinton complained that her opponent's backers were deliberately distorting her remarks; and Obama smoothly tried to appear above the fray, as if he knew that the race-baiting charge was untrue and didn't want to level it directly, but didn't exactly want to discourage the idea either. "Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn't make the statement," Obama said in a conference call with reporters. "I haven't remarked on it. And she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King's role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that. But the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous."

Meanwhile, below the radar, the Obama campaign pushed the race-baiting angle hard, rehearsing and sometimes inventing instances of alleged Clintonian racial insensitivity. A memo prepared by the South Carolina campaign and circulated to supporters rehashed the King-Johnson matter, while it also spliced together statements of Bill Clinton's to make it seem as if he had given a speech that "implied Hillary Clinton is stronger than Nelson Mandela." (The case, with its snippets and ellipses, was absurd on its face.) The memo also claimed, in a charge soon widely repeated, that he had demeaned Obama as "a kid" because he had called Obama's account of his opposition to the war in Iraq a fanciful "fairy tale."And a few reporters, while pushing the Obama campaign's line that black voters had credible concerns about the Clintons' remarks, had begun to notice that the Obama campaign was doing its utmost to fuel the racial flames. "There's no question that there's politics here at work too," said Jonathan Martin of Politico. "It helps [Obama's] campaign to... push these issues into the fore in a place like South Carolina."

When asked about the race-baiting charges, Obama campaign spokeswoman Candice Tolliver roiled the waters: "Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this really an isolated situation or is there something bigger behind all of this?" Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., the Obama co-chair, as before, was more direct and inflammatory, claiming that the "cynics" of the Clinton campaign had "resorted to distasteful and condescending language that appeals to our fears rather than our hopes. I sincerely hope that they'll turn away from such reactionary, disparaging rhetoric." The race-baiting card was now fully in play.

Among those dismayed by Obama's tactics and his supporters' was Bill Moyers. In a special segment on his weekly PBS broadcast in mid-January, Moyers, who as a young man had been an aide to President Johnson, demolished the charge that Clinton had warped history in order to race-bait Obama. "There was nothing in [Clinton's] quote about race," he observed. "It was an historical fact, an affirmation of the obvious." Moyers rehashed what every reputable historian knows about how King and Johnson effectively divided the labor, between King the agitator and Johnson the president, in order to secure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Moyers said was happy to see that, by the time he went on the air, the furor appeared to be dying down and that everyone seemed to be returning to their senses and apologizing--"except," he pointedly noted, "the New York Times." But this upbeat part of his assessment proved overly optimistic.


By the time the Obama campaign backed off from agitating the King-Johnson pseudo-scandal, it had already trained its sights on Bill Clinton--by far the most popular U.S. president among African Americans over the past quarter-century. Not only were Bill and Hillary supposedly ganging up on Obama in South Carolina--"I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes," Obama complained during the South Carolina debate--the former president was supposedly off on a race-baiting tear of his own. Yet, once again, the charges were either distortions or outright inventions.

The Obama campaign's "fairy tale" gambit was particularly transparent. Commenting on Obama's explanation of why he is more against the war in Iraq than Hillary Clinton, and disturbed by the news media's failure to report Obama's actual voting record on Iraq in the Senate, the former president referred to what had become the conventional wisdom as a "fairy tale" concocted by Obama and his supporters. Time to play the race-baiter card! One of Obama's most prominent backers, the mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, stretched Clinton's remarks and implied that he had called Obama's entire candidacy a fairy tale. (The mayor later coyly told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she had not intended to criticize Clinton: "Surely you don't mean he's the only one who can use the phrase 'fairy tale,'" Franklin said, in a tone that the reporter described as "mock indignation.") Appearing on CNN, one of its pundits, Donna Brazile, hurled the wild charge that Clinton had likened Obama to a child. "And I will tell you," she concluded, "as an African American I find his words and his tone to be very depressing." With those kinds of remarks--"as an African American"--the race card and the race-baiter card both came back into play. Although Brazile is formally not part of Obama's campaign, her comments made their way to the South Carolina memo, offered as evidence that Clinton's comment was racially insensitive.

On January 26, Obama won a major victory in South Carolina by gaining the overwhelming majority of the black vote and a much smaller percentage of the white vote, for a grand total of 55 percent. Although the turnout, of course, was much larger for the 2008 primaries than for any previous primary or caucus, Obama had assembled a victorious coalition analogous to that built by Jesse Jackson in the 1984 and 1988 South Carolina caucuses. (Bill Clinton won the 1992 state primary with 69 percent of the vote, far outstripping either Jackson's or Obama's percentages.)

When asked by a reporter on primary day why it would take two Clintons to beat Obama, the former president, in good humor, laughed and said that he would not take the bait:

Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice in '84 and '88 and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama's run a good campaign. He's run a good campaign everywhere. He's a good candidate with a good organization.

According to Obama and his supporters, here was yet another example of subtle race-baiting. Clinton had made no mention of race. But by likening Jackson's victories and Obama's impending victory and by praising Obama as a good candidate not simply in South Carolina but everywhere, Clinton was trying to turn Obama into the "black" candidate and racialize the campaign. Or so the pro-Obama camp charged.

Clinton's sly trick, supposedly, was to mention Jackson and no other Democrat who had previously prevailed in South Carolina--thereby demeaning Obama's almost certain victory as a "black" thing. But the fact remains that Clinton, who watches internal polls closely and is an astute observer, knew whereof he spoke: when the returns were counted, Obama's and Jackson's percentages of the overall vote and the key to their victories--a heavy majority among blacks--truly were comparable. The only other Democrats Clinton could have mentioned would have been himself (who won more than two-thirds of the vote in 1992, far more than either Jackson or Obama) and John Edwards (who won only 45 percent in 2004, far less than either Jackson or Obama). Given the differences, given that by mentioning himself, Clinton could have easily been criticized for being self-congratulatory, and given that Edwards had not yet dropped out of the 2008 race, the omissions were not at all surprising. By mentioning Jackson alone, the former president was being accurate--and, perhaps, both modest and polite. But Obama's supporters willfully hammered him as a cagey race-baiter.

Not everyone agreed with the race-baiting charge--including Jesse Jackson himself. Jackson noted proudly to Essence magazine that he had, indeed, won in 1984 and 1988, and, even though he had endorsed Obama, criticized the Obama campaign, saying, "again, I think it's some more gotcha politics."

Hillary Clinton's unexpected popular victory in Nevada and her crushing Super Tuesday wins in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and California seemed, according to media reports, to have been offset by Obama's more numerous victories in much smaller states that Democrats are highly unlikely to win in a general election. His string of victories in caucuses and primaries over the next four weeks gave the Obama campaign undeniable momentum. But Obama and his strategists kept the race and race-baiter cards near the top of their campaign deck--and the news media continued to report on the contest (or decline to report Obama's role as instigator) as if they had fallen in line.

The New York Times, for example, opened its front page on February 15th to report an utterly inaccurate and possibly wishful story that Representative John Lewis of Georgia--a genuine hero of the civil rights movement, a courageous voice for integration, and a stalwart Clinton supporter--had announced that he had decided that, in his role as superdelegate, he would vote for Obama. Lewis quickly called the story false, although he added that he was wrestling with his conscience over whether to switch. Meanwhile, the press generally ignored a report, confirmed by all involved, that Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., had warned one of Clinton's unshakable black supporters, Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, that he'd better line up behind Obama. Jackson, once again playing the role of the Obama campaign's "race man" enforcer, posed a leading question: "Do you want to go down in history as the one to prevent a black from winning the White House?" Black congressmen were threatened to fall or line or face primary challenges. "So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position," Jackson said. Yet for the Obama-inspired press corps, it was the Clintons who were playing the race card. "The question now is how much more racial friction the Clinton campaign will gin up," wrote Frank Rich, Obama's vehement advocate in the New York Times.

The Obama campaign has yet to reach bottom in its race-baiter accusations. On February 25, Hillary Clinton planned to deliver a major foreign policy address, an area in which Obama's broad expertise is relatively weak. Clinton was also riding high in the Ohio polls, despite the Obama campaign's false charges about her health plan and support for NAFTA. That same day, the notoriously right-wing, scandal-mongering Drudge Report website ran a photograph of Obama dressed in the traditional clothing of a Somali elder during a tour of Africa, attached to an assertion, without evidence, that the Clinton campaign was "circulating" the picture. The story was silly on its face--there are plenty of photographs of Hillary Clinton and virtually every other major American elected official dressed in the traditional garb of other countries, and Obama's was no different. The alleged "circulation" amounted, on close reading, to what Drudge's dispatch said was an e-mail from one unnamed Clinton "staffer" to another idly wondering what the coverage might have been if the picture had been of Clinton. Possible e-mail chatter about an inoffensive picture as spun by the Drudge Report would not normally be deemed newsworthy, even in these degraded times.

Except by Obama and his campaign, who jumped on the insinuating circumstances as a kind of vindication. The Drudge posting included reaction from the pinnacle of Obama's campaign team. "It's exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world," said Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe, who also described the non-story as "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election" and "part of a disturbing pattern." Although he never explicitly spelled out the contours of this pattern, he was clearly alluding to race baiting. Later in the day, Obama himself jumped in, repeating the nasty, slippery charge that the Clinton campaign "was trying to circulate this [picture] as a negative" and calling it a political trick of the sort "you start seeing at the end of campaigns."

Although finally skewered, for the first time, on "Saturday Night Live" over the past weekend for its pro-Obama tilt, the press corps once again fell for this latest throw of the race-baiter card, turning the Drudge rumor into its number one story, obscuring Clinton's major national security address. In doing so, the media has confirmed what has been the true pattern in the race for the Democratic nomination--the most outrageous deployment of racial politics since the Willie Horton ad campaign in 1988 and the most insidious since Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, praising states' rights.

It may strike some as ironic that the racializing should be coming from a black candidate's campaign and its supporters. But this is an American presidential campaign--and there is a long history of candidates who are willing to inflame the most deadly passions in our national life in order to get elected. Sadly, it is what Barack Obama and his campaign gurus have been doing for months--with the aid of their media helpers on the news and op-ed pages and on cable television, mocked by "SNL" as in the tank for Obama. They promise to continue until they win the nomination, by any means necessary.

Sean Wilentz is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (Norton).

Democrats One Seat Away from Control of State Senate by Jennifer 8 Lee - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog

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In a major victory for Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his party, a Democratic assemblyman won a stunning upset in a State Senate election on Tuesday in a district that has been in Republican hands for a century, Trymaine Lee reports.

The win reduces the Republicans’ majority to one seat and will intensify pressure on the majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, as he tries to maintain his party’s grip on the Senate, which it has controlled for more than 40 years.

Unofficial results showed that the Democrat, Darrel J. Aubertine, a dairy farmer, won 52 to 48 against the Republican, William A. Barclay, a lawyer and an assemblyman whose father once held the Senate seat and who had been favored to win. The special election was called after Senator James W. Wright, a Republican, announced his retirement from a the 48th district Senate seat, which covers Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence Counties,

The New York Post adds that a Spitzer-backed plan is in place to woo some Republican senators to the Democratic side before the November elections in an effort to take control of the Senate.

The New York Sun adds that the election may put Mr. Bruno’s standing as majority leader in jeopardy by raising concerns among his colleagues, some of whom have long wanted his job, about his ability to carry the Republicans past the November elections.

Some felt that the fierce, media-intense campaign unfairly characterized as an icy backwoods backwater. But Bob Gorman, the managing editor of The Watertown Daily, pointed out that the district has been home to three secretaries of state, the creator of the Dewey Decimal System, the founder of the Woolworth’s stores and the actors Kirk Douglas and Viggo Mortensen.

Mayoral Control of Schools Could Be Expanded Upstate by Elizabeth Green - The New York Sun

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As various local interest groups and lawmakers push for eliminating or scaling back mayoral control of the New York City schools, Governor Spitzer's office is considering exporting it to other state school systems.

A proposal by Mr. Spitzer to grant three upstate mayors more authority over their school boards failed to pass the Legislature last year, but the governor's top education aide, Manuel Rivera, said the issue could be revived next year.

There may be no legislation on the table this year, but that "doesn't mean that this could not emerge as an important governance issue and legislative matter next year," Mr. Rivera said yesterday.

He said the administration would act only if communities show interest in moving to mayoral control, citing evidence from other cities that mayoral control works best when it enjoys broad support.

One upstate mayor, Gerald Jennings of Albany, said gaining more control of school systems is a popular subject among New York mayors. "There's a lot of mayoral discussion about it," Mr. Jennings said. "A lot of us are frustrated, because we're losing our kids."

Mr. Jennings, a former teacher and administrator, said Albany's schools need drastic change and leadership that school boards cannot deliver.

Mayors already control two of New York's big city school districts, New York City and Yonkers. The three others in the so-called Big 5 that are upstate — Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo — are run by elected school boards with no input from the mayors.

Mr. Rivera said the administration will watch the cities for signs of interest next year.

Mayoral control of schools, which has been introduced in cities stretching across about 40 states, can take on different forms. Eliminating a city's school board and allowing a superintendent or chancellor to run the schools is the New York City model. Mr. Spitzer's proposal last year followed Yonkers's model — preserving the school board but letting the mayor appoint some of its members.

Representatives of school boards and superintendents lined up against the proposal last year, and several groups said they would likely oppose governance changes in the future, too.

Representatives of the groups said that adding mayoral appointees to school boards would hurt democracy, as the school boards are now directly elected by the public. They also said there is no evidence it would improve education.

"We do not want to see it expanded beyond where it already is," the director of communications and research at the New York State School Boards Association, David Albert, said. "There really is no strong research out there to suggest that mayoral control improves student achievement."

The deputy director at the Conference of Big 5 School Districts, Jennifer Pyle, said the issue is a nonstarter upstate because none of the three mayors there have indicated they want to take more control. While in the past, superintendents, school boards, and mayors have clashed on education, she said the climate in the three upstate big cities is now cooperative.

"The relationships are working well as they are now," Ms. Pyle said. "We just don't see any need for it at this time."

The state Legislature granted Mayor Bloomberg control of New York City's schools shortly after he was elected to office in 2002. The law is set to sunset in July 2009, and though the city's business community is a strong supporter of maintaining it, many lawmakers and interest groups have been concocting plans to weaken the mayor's power.

Mr. Albert and Ms. Pyle each said their opposition to mayoral control upstate should not be taken as a criticism of New York City's governance structure. They said the system in New York City is an exception because school board members were designated by appointment, not direct election.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Going Green in Queens '08 - A Free Environmental, Educational & Networking Event - Saturday March 8th...

Going Green in Queens '08
Saturday, March 8th
10:00am – 2:00pm

New York Hall of Science at Flushing Meadow Park
47-01 111 Street
Queens, NY 11368

* Free parking available or free shuttle bus service provided from 111th

Jimmy Kimmels Response to Girlfriend Sarah Silverman Video...and her video, too...

When we're together, there's this feelin' inside
It's like a million butterflies flutter in my behind
I love the dimple in your chin, I see diamonds in your eyes
When I'm fuckin' you Ben Affleck I feel like I can fly
And our fucking won't be stopped no matter how hard they try

here are all of the people in the video

Sarah's Video...

Sarah Silverman sings "I'm F*cking Matt Damon" on Jimmy Kimmel Live 1-31-08

on the bed
on the floor
on a towel by the door
in a tub
in the car
up against the mini bar

Ridgewood Times - Community Board 9 Meeting - Ozone Industries Clean Up Plan & Ridgewood Reservoir Presentation by Ralph Mancini

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The abbreviated Tuesday, Feb. 12 Community Board 9 meeting, held at the Fairfield Pavilion in Richmond Hill, featured a public hearing focusing on the proposed cleanup of the former Ozone Industries site located in Ozone Park.

Senior Project Manger David G. Austin from ENSR, a worldwide provider of comprehensive health and safety management services, appeared at the conference alongside Ted Coyle of End Zone Inc. (the successor company to Ozone Industries) to present a summary of environmental studies performed by an ENSR project team to examine soil and groundwater contamination at the former aircraft manufacturing location.

Senior Project Manager David G. Austin of ENSR illustrates a diagram of an upcoming cleanup plan along property formerly occupied by Ozone Industries in Ozone Park

Ozone Industries, in operation from 1948 to 1996, reportedly used a chemical solvent trichloroethene (TCE) to degrease their parts in the eight storage bays they occupied beneath the the abandoned elevated Long Island Railroad between 99th and 100th streets to the west and east and 101th and 103rd avenues to the north and south.

In 1996, it was discovered that contaminated groundwater had migrated southward at about 35 feet below surface level.

With the approval of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health, ENSR began collecting soil and groundwater samples underneath and adjacent to the site in 2004.

“Throughout that period, there have been some reports issued,” said Austin. “From those reports, we’ve revised and fine tuned our work plans. We’re now at the end of our assessment process and we’re now drafting reports which will include results of all our assessment work and will also include what kind of remedy or cleanup we think is necessary for the site.”

Those reports, he continued, have been deposited in a document repository in the Central Library Branch of the Queens Public Library in Jamaica.

Monthly progress reports and fact sheets are reportedly being mailed to local residents and community leaders.

When asked by Board 9 Chairperson Andrea Crawford what the intended future use of the location would be, Austin replied that he’s only involved in the cleanup of the site and will leave the property in its present condition.

Top and bottom photos show areas formerly occupied by Ozone Industries from 1948 to 1996. ENSR, a Massachusetts-based health and safety services company, will be entrusted with the cleanup of this site, consisting of the removal of contaminated soil and groundwater. (photos: J. Naughton)

Board 9’s Sherman Kane inquired about the duration of the cleanup to which Austin responded that the type of technology utilized in the undertaking will determine that.

A specific start date will reportedly be given in an upcoming report which will be released in the late Spring or early Summer months, according to the ENSR spokesperson.

Crawford Updates Board

Although the Board failed to reach a quorum preventing it from conducting the regular order of business, Crawford did issue a brief update on efforts being made to prepare a study on the movement to transform the defunct Long Island Rail Road branch into a greenway bicycle path.

The Board, she said, has been in contact with architects from the City University of New York who are reportedly preparing materials for an upcoming study.

The proposed greenway would consist of three-and-a-half miles of abandoned tracks running from Rego Park to Ozone Park.

Crawford also referenced six recent text amendment recommendations recently made by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects that the Board believes would “give free reign to developers to maximize property dimensions while depriving the community of free and unencumbered areas,” as stated during Community Board 9’s December meeting.

The chairperson told those in attendance that she found the AIA’s text amendment suggestions to be “damaging on a number of levels.”

She added that if the amendments are approved by the Department of City Planning, it wouldn’t set a great precedent by having a lobby group push legislation that affects the entire city.

Pol Reps Address Legislation

Michael Johnson from State Sen. Serphin Maltese’s office was on hand to bring community members up to speed on the recently-passed Lawn Litter Bill aimed at preventing store and restaurant owners from flooding people’s doorsteps with circulars and menus by handing out fines.

The bill is reportedly being reviewed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has a 90-day window to determine which city agency will be chosen to enforce the ruling.

Also appearing was Diane Barrett, Assemblyman Rory Lancman’s chief of staff, who told Board members that the legislator is working on the Oasis Bill, which would give community boards input on mental facilities moving into their districts.

Activist on Ridgewood Reservoir (See Previous Related Blog Posting)

South Queens activist David M. Quintana gave a presentation regarding the ongoing plans for the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Quintana opened with a history of the site, dating back to the mid-1850s, when the reservoir was used as a primary source of water for the city of Brooklyn.

Current plans on the part of the Parks Department to redesign the 50-acre site adjacent to Highland Park on the Brooklyn/Queens border were brought into focus.

Two of the plans being mulled would reportedly turn one of the reservoir’s basins into a recreational park.

South Queens activist David M. Quintana asks for Board 9’s support in preserving the greenery within the Ridgewood Reservoir.

Quintana stated that he opposed this idea, indicating that it would entail the demolition of 30 acres in order to install an artificial-turf field.

As an alternative, the Ozone Park resident and Community Board 10 member suggested the addition of walkways and bicycle paths.

Crawford invited Quintana to revisit Community Board 9 and issue a formal presentation.

In a list of desired outcomes for the Ridgewood Reservoir and Highland Park prepared by the Ridgewood Reservoir Education and Preservation Project, submitted by Quintana to the Times Newsweekly, the following objectives are highlighted:

• To preserve and enhance the ecosystems within all three basins.

• To create an environmental learning and research center for the use of area schools, colleges and the general public.

• To develop a long-term management plan to remove and mitigate damaging invasive plant life and improve wild life habitat.

• To create a museum or learning center.

• To encourage active recreation at the reservoir.

• To restore all lampposts, fences, stairways, railings and walkways.

• To provide seating, viewing areas and necessary amenities for passive recreation.

• To create two over-the-road walkways.

• To coordinate and integrate all facilities at Highland Park and the Ridgewood Reservoir.

• To ensure the coordinated, well-funded administration and maintenance of the entire area.

Community Board 9 regularly meets on the second Tuesday of the month. The location of the next meeting will be announced at a later time.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tina Fey - Weekend Update

Women's News with Tina Fey talks about Hillary Clinton

Click to watch video...

h/t Crooks and Liars for transcript...Tina Fey comes back to the Weekend Update anchor desk to speak to women’s issues, including the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

FEY: And finally, the most important Women’s News item there is, we have our first serious female presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton. And yet, women have come so far as feminists, that they don’t feel obligated to vote for a candidate just because she’s a woman. Women today feel perfectly free to make whatever choice Oprah tells them to. Which raises the question, why are people abandoning Hillary for Obama? Some say that they’re put off by the fact that Hillary can’t control her husband, and that we would end up with co-presidents. ‘Cause that would be terrible, having two intelligent, qualified people working together to solve problems. Ugh. Why would you let Starsky talk to Hutch? I wanna watch that show, Starsky. You know, what is it, America? What is it, are you weirded out that they’re married? ‘Cause I can promise you that they are having exactly as much sex with each other as George Bush and Jeb Bush are.

Then there is the physical scrutiny of her physical appearance. Rush Limbaugh, the Jeff Conaway of right wing radio, said that he doesn’t think America is ready to watch their president quote “turn into an old lady in front of them.” Really? They didn’t seem to mind when Ronald Reagan did that. Maybe what bothers me the most is that people say that Hillary is a bitch. Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is. And so am I and so is this one.

POEHLER: Yeah, deal with it.

FEY: Know what? Bitches get stuff done.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hillary Still Fighting - Obama Campaign Using Rovian Tactics...


Time and time again, you hear one thing in speeches and then you see a campaign that has the worst kind of tactics, reminiscent of the same sort of Republican attacks on Democrats. Well, I am here to say, that it is not only wrong, it is undermining core Democratic principles. Since when do Democrats attack one another on Universal Health Care? I thought we were trying to realize Harry Truman’s dream. I thought this campaign finally gave us an opportunity to put together a coalition to achieve Universal Health Care. That’s what Senator Edwards and I fought for and talked about throughout the campaign. Just because Senator Obama chose not to present a Universal Health Care plan does not give him the right to attack me because I did. So, let’s have a real campaign. Enough with the speeches, and the big rallies, then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove’s playbook. This is wrong. And every Democrat should be outraged, because this is the kind of attack that not only undermines core Democratic values, but gives aid and comfort to very special interests and their allies in the Republican party, who are against doing what we want to do for America. Shame on you, Barack Obama. It’s time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That’s what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio, let’s have a debate over tactics and your behavior in this campaign.

(h/t to Crooks and Liars)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Lemon Zest" by Jonathan Rosen - NY Times & "The Life of the Skies" by Jonathan Rosen - Los Angeles Times Book Review by Richard Eder

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OUT-OF-TOWNER The parks, and the city around them, may be made by men and women, but the wildlife that flashes through is no less real.

ON a cold morning late last month, I took a subway to Union Square Park to see a bird I had never seen. The bird, a Scott’s oriole, had been noted intermittently behind the statue of Mohandas Gandhi since December, though it took birders several weeks to figure out that it was not in fact an orchard oriole — which would have been unusual enough for winter in Manhattan. Scott’s oriole is a bird of the Southwest and has never been recorded in New York. It should be no farther east than Texas, which is why, despite my sluggardly winter ways, I decided it was worth a trip down from the Upper West Side, where I live.

Alongside my excitement, I felt a qualm of embarrassment as I exited the busy subway with my binoculars. It was like taking a taxi to hunt big game: “Let me off near the wildebeest, driver.” In Central Park, I can at least conjure the illusion of wildness if I focus on the trees. But when your marker is a metal statue of a man in a loincloth, standing on what is essentially a traffic island, you cannot pretend you are in the middle of nature.

Then again, that’s the point of bird-watching. “Nature” isn’t necessarily elsewhere. It is the person holding the binoculars, as much as the bird in the tree, and it is the intersection of these two creatures, with technology bringing us closer than we have ever been to the very thing technology has driven from our midst. And, anyway, there are still wild elements in the center of a city. The morning I arrived, the bird had made itself scarce, perhaps because a red-tailed hawk, a Cooper’s hawk and a kestrel were all patrolling the park.

I was not the only birder there. Everyone had read the same birding e-mail messages I had, and we were all staking out the southwest corner of the park, scanning the same stunted holly trees and viburnum.

Oranges and banana slices had been scattered on the ground, like votive offerings. The first report I read of the bird had it eating a kaiser roll. Several people had been there for hours, and two men showed me pictures of the bird that they had taken on their digital cameras that very day. They were hoping for a last look and braving the cold in the knowledge that by noon, sunlight would again fall on the building-shadowed corner of the park and entice the lemon-yellow, black-headed bird back into view.

Vagrant though the bird was, it seemed to me that there was also a rightness to its having landed in Union Square. This was not simply because of the statue of Gandhi, suggesting the need for simplicity and putting me to shame in his cotton dhoti and sandals as I shivered in my down jacket. My feelings also had to do with the park itself, named originally for the union of Broadway (then called Bloomingdale Road) and the Bowery.

Bird-watching is all about the coming together of disparate things, not merely earth and sky but the union of technology and a hunger for the wild world. “Imaginary gardens with real toads” is how Marianne Moore described poetry. Birding in city parks evokes much the same sensation. The parks, and the cities around them, may be human-made, but the wildlife that flashes through is no less real.

On the building across from where I stood, high up on the brick wall, there was a metal box that from time to time emitted the cry of a peregrine falcon. It was just a recording, but it roused the pigeons on the windowsills into a sort of lazy panic, getting them to rise and fly a few circles in the air before resettling. Even real peregrine falcons have a hint of the artificial about them, having been brought back from the brink by falconers expert in the ways of an ancient art that involved borrowing a bird from the wild and then turning it loose again.

Like the greenmarket in Union Square that brings apples and vegetables from outside the city, the token bird in the park is a reminder of an older way of life we are still intimately connected to and vitally in need of.

And like birders with their binoculars, we are not necessarily doomed by our modernity to exclusion from wildness. Bird-watching was born in cities — combining technology, urban institutions of higher learning, an awareness of the vanishing wild places of the earth and a desire to welcome what is left of the wild back into our world.

The name Union Square accumulated layers of later meaning, from the great rally held there in 1861 for the Union troops, and the Labor Day marches that took place later that century. In its own way, Scott’s oriole belongs with Union Square’s famous 19th-century monuments, most especially the 1868 statue of Abraham Lincoln.

THE bird was named by Darius Nash Couch, a Union general who was also a naturalist. (There were a lot of army men in the 19th century who used their postings as a way to record bird life.) Couch named the bird in honor of Gen. Winfield Scott, who was known as “Old fuss and feathers,” though I feel sure that is not the reason he got a bird named after him; one of the great soldiers in American history, Scott began his career with the War of 1812 and ended it with the Civil War.

The bird is a monument to 19th-century ornithology, but it had defied its label and was doing what creatures with wings do: flying out of range and surprising us with life. It is never enough to know the name of a bird when you are birding. It is the mysterious unknowable animal that lives alongside the named and classified creature that draws us out to look.

By noon on that cold January day, about 20 birders had gathered, craning with increasing urgency into the bushes as the little patch of grass behind Gandhi grew brighter. And suddenly the bird was there. Someone pointed, and then we all saw it. It came down to the ground and, without ceremony, pecked at a piece of banana.

Jonathan Rosen is the editorial director of Nextbook. His book about bird-watching, “The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature,” is being published this month by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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'The Life of the Skies' by Jonathan Rosen

A meditation on birds and the history of American bird-watching as it bears on our relationships with nature.
By Richard Eder
February 17, 2008
The Life of the Skies

Jonathan Rosen

Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 326 pp., $24

In the mid-1990s, Jonathan Rosen took a bird-watching trip to New York's Jamaica Bay. Across the water, ibises and egrets and snow geese flew against the Manhattan skyline, their silhouettes flickering past the World Trade Center. This was a "poetic juxtaposition of the permanent towers and the evanescent birds," he reflected, a pirouettish thought that changed a few years later into the chill irony of prophecy reversed.

The birds are still here, and in all manner of variety. Rosen walks out regularly through Central Park from his nearby apartment to watch them. In cities, he notes, they are "the only remaining wild animals in abundance that carry on in spite of human development." They are what we have of nature.

That is only the start of "The Life of the Skies," a book of exuberant range, of insight and far sight, of trapezes swung for and caught, and now and then a trapeze too far. There are a great many birds in it, avidly watched, but to think of it as about bird-watching is to think of prayer as about steeples.

Rosen's is a restless mind with a lyrical and exploring bent. An essayist, novelist and former culture editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, he works on the principle that if you reach a long way and often, your grasp score will be pretty good. His reaches and grasps make connections of all kinds, most especially between the rival poles of science and religion.

These were seriously and playfully displayed in "The Talmud and the Internet," where Rosen argued that a particular kind of thinking -- in webs -- is common to both Jewish theology and digital computing. In his new book, still touching at length on science and faith, he strives to connect -- or find a middle ground between -- the human need to master nature and to be mastered by it. We are torn between the desire to be free to build, cut down, expand and develop "and the desire to live among free things that can survive only if we are less free."

Our technological encroachments threaten birds in so many places -- the rain forests, the wetlands -- yet to be human we need them to stand for what remains free of us. In contrast to our incessant articulation, birds simply are. ("What a grand shivaree / of nightingales singing / not one voice / belongs to me," wrote the Spanish poet Jorge Guillén.) They are both Rosen's subject and the glass through which a wider subject is seen. He writes about birds of all kinds; he quotes poets, Darwinists and anti-Darwinists on birds; he goes to Israel to watch them.

Rosen also makes two trips to the South to accompany ornithologists seeking the possibly extinct ivory-billed woodpecker, which the marsh dwellers sometimes call the "Lord God bird" -- brilliantly scarlet, black and white, 20 inches long. They fail to spot it, but he puts the search in the context of a more universal need. His father has been stricken with dementia; the quest is a protest against the dying light -- the world's as well. "I did not want the bird to be erased from biological consciousness," he writes, "and extinction is a form of zoological memory loss."

Following Rosen's darting connections -- occasionally they can seem like disconnections -- is something of a bird watch itself. A flash of brilliant color, a disappearing hop, a reappearance two bushes away. He is a writer of intuitive flights, a counter-dogmatist and, with his mystical faith in nature, particularly counter to the environmental purists. The draining of Huleh Lake in Israel was a serious injury to the wildlife, yet the reclaimed land, an Israeli naturalist tells him, was essential to the imperiled young state in the 1950s. DDT is a scourge, but so too is malaria. Henry David Thoreau evoked a purity of solitude and self-reliance in the woods, yet he would sometimes go home to have supper with his mother.

Furthermore, Rosen writes, Thoreau's scorn for the materialist striving of farmers and tradesmen was a paradox. They were closer than he was to his revered birds, which, like them, spend their time fetching food, building nests and -- the avian equivalent of lawsuits over fences -- flapping and squawking to defend them.

We too are part of nature, he insists, and his "we" encompasses the full range of human needs and aspirations: health, security, comfort, pleasure. It is a balance he seeks, while, quite winningly, he can make balance feel like civil war.

An old carol has God placing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden "to dress and keep it well." For Rosen, to dress and keep our planet well means dressing and keeping ourselves well. And also, and perhaps more passionately and vividly, the other way around.

Richard Eder, a former Times book critic, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1987.