Our letters column returns — with a doozy from the boss’s dad!

To the editor,

I just read your editorial about Assemblyman Vito Lopez (“Vito’s latest scandal,” Dec. 23). If I didn’t know the editor personally, I would think he was a flaming member of the Tea Party.

Maybe he has changed his politics and has seen the light and gone conservative. I can only hope.

Ron Kuntzman,
Rye Brook, N.Y.

The writer is the editor’s father.

Review review

To the editor,

In your year-end round-up, I was amused to read a fanciful tale involving me on the final night of Freddy’s Bar and Backroom (“2010: The Year In Review,” Dec. 30).

I was less amused to recognize that your newspaper has not covered some important Atlantic Yards news, notably Forest City Ratner’s effort to raise $249 million from immigrant investors seeking green cards.

Brooklynites should care that Borough President Markowitz, in a video message taped for potential investors in China, claimed that “Brooklyn is 1,000 percent behind Atlantic Yards.” Brooklynites should care that tax money already committed to city and state agencies is apparently being used to help calculate the jobs “created” by such investors. Brooklynites should care that the spirit, if not the letter, of a federal immigration program is being violated.

Norman Oder, Park Slope

Wheel shame

To the editor,

It’s a shame that Leslie Lewis, president of the 84th Precinct Community Council, resorted to lying about bikes in his anti-bike screed (“Crackdown will save lives,” online op-ed, Jan. 14).

He claimed, “About 90 percent of the bicyclists killed in this city died, in part, because they were not following the rules of the road. They were either on roads without bike lanes…”

In reality, it is not — and has never been — against the law to ride on a street without a bike lane. Any implication to the contrary is nonsensical. It would make it illegal to ride a bike for nearly any trip around the city, because our bike lane grid is hardly comprehensive.

The study that Lewis seems to be citing, the Department of Health’s “Bicyclist Fatalities and Serious Injuries in New York City, 1996-2005,” finds nothing of the sort.

According to that study, only 42 percent of bicycle fatalities involved wrongdoing only by the bicyclist involved. To more than double that statistic is completely irresponsible on Lewis’s part. The real safety problem is not with bikes, but with motor vehicles which kill hundreds of times more city residents than do bicyclists.

Mike Epstein, Fort Greene

• • •

To the editor,

It is unconscionable that Leslie Lewis would blame cyclists for their own deaths. There’s really no contest between 2,000 pounds of steel and a human being on a bike.

Let’s not forget that just four percent of the nearly 76,000 crashes on city streets in 2009 involved a bicycle. Aspiring artist Jasmine Herron, 23, was a fatal victim of one of those crashes.

Jasmine was riding her bike last fall when she was thrown into the path of a moving bus on Atlantic Avenue. She was killed after a woman driving with a suspended license opened her car door into Herron’s path without looking.

Two-thirds of the people killed in crashes on city streets die because of distracted drivers, speeding and other routine traffic violations. If our goal is to make New Yorkers safer, and reduce the loss of life and limb, then our police department must focus on the behaviors that repeatedly cause the most harm: driver inattention, speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Paul Steely White,
Park Slope

DOE dunce cap

To the editor,

I’m a PS 9 parent, fighting against the Department of Education’s proposal for changes in District 13.

The Department of Education has decided to relocate the Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School (a middle school) into our building at 80 Underhill Ave. while it phases out the existing MS 571. This means that three schools will share the building for three years. This plan will severely harm the learning environment for PS 9’s elementary school students, and guarantees that our school cannot grow to serve the needs of our growing neighborhood.

This situation reflects a larger trend of schools facing problems when the agency shoehorns charter schools into their buildings. Its building-use proposal irresponsibly restricts PS 9 access to the library, cafeteria, gym and schoolyard. The proposed schedule cuts the school’s hours in the gym by 48 percent each week, allocating just under 10 hours for PS 9’s 29 classes. To comply with state physical education requirements, PS 9 will have to hold more gym classes in the auditorium, where students must (dangerously) run laps through the aisles. Some adaptive physical education classes are also forced to take place in inappropriate spaces, such as on the auditorium stage!

The plan also eliminates time for cleaning the cafeteria between lunch shifts, and requires half of PS 9’s students to eat lunch at 10:30 am — less than two hours after they arrive! As one pre-K teacher explained to me, her most productive hours with the students are before lunch because after lunch, young students have trouble sitting still.

As for the new Book Hive library that our school community worked so hard to create, the agency gives our classes only four-and-a-half hours of access a week. With a quarter as many students, Brooklyn East Collegiate will get two-thirds more time than PS 9!

The Department of Education’s plan also ignores the community’s growing needs for students in pre-K through fifth grade. Last year, 237 families applied for 54 seats in pre-kindergarten, a five-fold rise in requests from just four years ago. The past two Septembers, PS 9 added a kindergarten class to meet demand. The Census Bureau found that the number of children under 5 rose 35 percent from 2000 to 2007 throughout brownstone Brooklyn, including much of PS 9’s district. Yet, the agency proposal caps our enrollment at 650 students for at least the next three years. It also reduces the capacity of our fifth grade, and requires that we turn away out-of-zone families who select our school, contradicting the chancellor’s “children first” philosophy which celebrates parental school choice.

As a rare barrier-free school with accessible playground facilities, PS 9 serves students with special needs and provides a fertile environment for many groups of learners. Principal Sandra D’Avilar wants to expand on these successes by adding pre-K and special-needs classes, and launching a dual-language program. The new charter middle school’s admission lottery doesn’t guarantee seats for District 13 students, and the school’s narrow focus and rigid philosophy is not inclusive enough to serve the broad needs of our growing community.

On Jan. 24 (at 6 pm), a joint public hearing about the proposal will be held at our school and many PS 9 parents will be there to speak out against the plan. Principal D’Avilar will present her proposals for the school at that time.Michelle French,

Prospect Heights

Go Walmart!

To the editor,

Walmart may never come to New York City until local elected officials, including Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and many of her colleagues, get on board (“Walmart PR blitz,” Jan. 14).

Virtually all public opinion polls reveal that New Yorkers would like the opportunity to shop at Walmart. The retail, wholesale department store and other unions who oppose it make campaign donations, endorsements, run phone banks and provide volunteers to many of the same elected officials who oppose it. To avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, they should have to return those campaign contributions.

Perhaps, your next editorial can expose the dishonorable role of councilmembers who oppose the creation of jobs, good prices and tax revenues that would be created by Walmart. Walmart may actually pay higher salaries and offer more benefits than some of their competitors, such as Target, K-Mart, Costco and B.J.’s, which are already here.

Several hundred thousand New Yorkers work off the books, full and part-time, with no benefits or insurance. Many existing retailers pay minimum wage with no benefits. Public officials, who oppose Walmart, never talk about these abuses.

It is time to allow Walmart the opportunity to compete in the city marketplace. “Politically correct” patrons don’t need to shop there, but they should give everyone else a choice.Larry Penner,

Great Neck, L.I.

Pedal licenses

To the editor,

I am not a bicyclist myself, but a bicycle advocate. I never thought about a license plate, nor noticed the absence of plates, not owning a bicycle myself in New York City (“Sloper wants plates on Bikes,” Jan. 21).

However, I rode a bicycle while growing up in Worcester, M.A., during the 1950s, and a license plate was required then to ride on city streets. The first thing you did when given a bicycle was to register it, obtain a plate and attach it to the bike’s rear fender.

As I have watched bicycles passing by, my subconscious mind knew that something was amiss. Thanks to your article, I now know what.

It would not have occurred to me otherwise that bicycles do have a license plate here. Such an obvious requirement!

Ray Howell, Carroll Gardens

Wind energy

To the editor,

Thank you for your article on truly natural gas production (“Turn flatulence into fuel!” Jan. 21).

I hope that this project will serve as an inspiration for nationwide production of clean fuel for heating and transportation.

If this project could be adapted to utilize the waste from hog and poultry producers, then we could really keep our waterways clean.

Ed Temple, Park Slope

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