Of all the charity pleas, the Brooklyn Public Library is our neighborhood’s number one.
Throughout each and every year, your mail is just as full of pleas and pleas, as my letter box, so many are familiar. Many have grown to become annual letters of solicitation. Some come from local charities, hospitals, perennial causes, and even foreign countries. Many are repeat offenders; others vital.
Through the years, I’ve learned the hard way, that our own city, in its once-perennial failure of “funds,” took the easy way out — rolling down the doors, opening their gates late, and shortening the hours of our Public Libraries across Brooklyn. The borough budget was sunk, but the savings STUNK!
Do you remember the explosion of crime that flooded Brooklyn? I do — the hard way! At my store on Mermaid Avenue, we started our defense by ordering a multi-fold gate to protect our display windows from glass-breaking gangs!
Kids used to sit at our local library, for homework help, for killing idle time, for assignments, and simply for pleasures!
Many libraries invited authors who spoke about how they got started and reading books and newspapers of interests. Since library doors were closed by our city Council and our mayor in a budgetary dilemma, our “kids” found other interests, like cracking the same store windows over and over, or breaking the new accordion, or the new roll-downer gates.
The same store windows were splattered, the stores penetrated, and then I had bought new car alarms, as the kids cracked Caddy grills to steal our tires, our hubcaps, even our grills — if not, our cars!
I remember, and you can’t really forget that middle-of-night volcanic sound of car alarms. Some of us couldn’t be sure, “Is that our car or their’s?” and the wife would awake and say, “Put something on and check it!” In that era, the driver would find two or three tires removed, and his Chevy sitting on a milk-box.
We had a Mercury, and their hub-caps were leading the Rogues Gallery in thefts, and the same “crime corporation” also pulled off our exterior rear-view mirrors! Milk-boxes became a style of the ’70s and ’80s. Wherever we drove, even at parking meters, cars sat with nude wheels on the road, with tires and nuts missing in action. Some with brazen overtime meter violations!
I can’t say “those were the days,” — but it was the cruel world that I personally portrayed in that era.
My columns then very often cried out for help, and admittedly, I very often pinned the tail of the vicious crime epidemic on our mayor, Ed Koch.
At Brooklyn Law School, I introduced myself to one of his deputies, who then admitted that he knew me from the weekly columns I wrote for the Brooklyn Graphic.
He was not the same deputy who leased Shea Stadium to a flea-market operator. We went to Shea Stadium, armed with a camera crew, and we questioned prices of the shirts and jeans — and the fact that sales tax was not charged.
“Taxes?” the venders questioned. “We ain’t got no stinkin’ taxes!”
Then came the rebuttal, very clearly portrayed: “All over New York, shoppers are burdened with a very high 8.5 percent tax, but here our city leases the city-owned football and baseball stadium to bona fide big league teams who even charge taxes for admission — but on Sundays when the Jets are away, the city leases its stadium to flea-operators who outlaw the tax. Wide-open evasion!”
The very next day that deputy mayor “retired from office”. Shea became off-limits to fleas, and we can not duly portray without some guilt, what happened soon after when our Community Board 13 came together, I was told by two downtown detectives, “Lou, we gotta tell you that we were asked to tell you, you should not come to the meeting tonight. We been asked to see you.”
Suddenly it became clear. Mayor Ed Koch was running for a record-breaking fourth term! And he thought that Lou Powsner, who had 74 criminals arrested by that time, might open his big mouth at some point.
As a longtime member of our Community Board and an original voter for Ed Koch, I made sure I was at that meeting, and I was very pleased to see foot cops in our street corners, facing the two stores where two tragic murders happened.
In the solemnity of that meeting, I got up to advise Big Ed that if he wants a fourth term, give the MTA a refund of the $1-a-year that they pay to rent a city public school in the crime-stained area where kid-fights erupted regularly. That November, Big Ed Koch was retired by his once-popular majority.
This is Lou Powsner.