The good thing about cancer is that it lends itself so readily to exploitation by politicians in need of a crusade. Take, for example, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velasquez, whose gerrymandered district runs a tortured path through Brooklyn and Queens. Velasquez has filed a civil rights suit in federal court charging that the people of western Queens and Greenpoint ,Brooklyn are getting cancer from the waste transfer sites placed there by the city.
The congresswoman claims that cancer rates are well above average in her district, although the only statistics she can produce do not refer to Queens, but only to Greenpoint. And even then there is no evidence that the transfer stations are responsible for higher rates of some forms of cancer
We suspect that filing the federal complaint was nothing more than a campaign gimmick. Nobody wants a waste transfer station in his backyard and a politician cannot go wrong by loudly demanding that the garbage be shipped somewhere else. If Velasquez wants the stations closed, she must come up with a better plan for handling the thousands of tons of garbage collected each day in Queens and Brooklyn. It is not enough to wave the NIMBY banner behind a smokescreen of bogus litigation.
At the moment, the city has few options. In a little more than a year from now, the city is mandated by law to close the world's largest landfill at Fresh Kills in Staten Island. To accomplish this, the city plans to ship most of its garbage to landfills in other states. Each borough has its own transfer stations where garbage will be loaded onto barges. It is logical that the city would choose industrial locations on the banks of the East River for the transfer stations. It is also natural that the communities closest to these stations will feel resentful.
Perhaps someday scientists will come up with a cost-effective way of recycling nearly all of the city's garbage. After all, the cash-starved communities that welcome New York's garbage now will not do so forever. Velasquez would do better to champion legislation that would fund research into more efficient recycling of urban garbage. Instead she is wasting her time creating a cult of victimization among her constituents. This may benefit the congresswoman on Election Day. It will benefit no one else.
The Asian Americans who revitalized downtown Flushing have yet to flex their political muscle in Queens. But as an article in last week's Times/Ledger explains, the Asian Americans of Queens are about to become a force to be reckoned with.
This community already has the economic resources necessary to become a powerful factor in Queens politics. And if a voter registration effort succeeds, the Asian Americans will soon play a major role in local elections. A community that has long been taken for granted is about to roar.
Studies show that last year 64 percent of the Asian Americans registered to vote in New York state actually voted. That's a phenomenally high percentage. But until now, Queens
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