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There is no question that this brutal and senseless murder has shocked the people of this borough more than any crime in recent memory. It will not be easy to find jurors who have not heard a great deal about this case. Even those people who make a point of not paying attention to the news will be familiar with the story. It is also true that the killing of five innocent people has struck a collective nerve. We all feel a little more vulnerable. We all felt a pain for the families of the victims.
But it should also not be impossible to find 12 people ready and willing to impartially judge the facts in this case. This is not a small town. There are plenty of people living here who have no connection to Flushing. Unlike the shooting of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx, race and community anger should not be factors in the Wendy's trial. The attorney did request a jurisdiction with an economic and racial demographic like that of Queens. We can't imagine where that place is. In fact, the ethnic diversity of the borough should make it easier to create an acceptable jury pool.
In weighing the request for change of venue, the court must consider not only the rights of the defendants, but also the right of the community to engage in the judicial process. It is regrettable that video cameras are no longer permitted in New York courts. The people have the right to see this process unfold. Unless the attorneys for these two defendants can come up with a convincing and unforeseen argument, we urge the court to keep the trial here.
'A consumer fraud'
The thing that we like about City Councilwoman Julia Harrison is that one rarely, if ever, has to ask her, "What do you really think?" The Democratic Councilwoman from Flushing didn't hold back last week when asked to comment on a Court of Appeals decision that would allow the Port Authority to use funds generated from the Passenger Facility Charge to construct the controversial AirTrain.
Said Councilwoman Harrison, "I wasn't surprised at all by the decision. I certainly think the AirTrain is a fraud, a consumer fraud."
A consumer fraud? The AirTrain? In downtown Jamaica this train is being heralded as the key to an imminent economic revival. The Greater Jamaica Development Corp. is talking about building a major hotel here that will house the thousands of people who will arrive by subway and transfer to the futuristic monorail that will take them directly to the terminal of their choice. Is Harrison playing the role of the spoilsport or is the Port Authority pumping air up the Jamaican skirt?
While we would like to believe the propaganda put out by the Port Authority, we fear that the councilwoman has come closer to the truth. The Port Authority has moved swiftly in putting up the foundation for the monorail. And it now appears that opponents of the AirTrain - vmany civic groups in Queens - have struck out in their attempts to derail the train in the courts.
The only thing that could kill the AirTrain now is the hundreds of thousands of passengers who use Kennedy Airport on a regular basis. If they choose not to ride the train, if they are unwilling to carry luggage from a subway car to the monorail connection, the AirTrain will become one of the most costly mistakes in modern urban history.
We have yet to see a study that shows riders will use the AirTrain any more than they used the Train to the Plane. Eventually the consumer - the passengers who fly in and out of Kennedy - will be forced to subsidize the AirTrain, even if they arrive by taxi or limousine. Eventually the public will demand a one-seat ride that will connect passengers to Manhattan and to LaGuardia Airport.
Until then, the Airtrain will most likely be, as Harrison said, a consumer fraud of enormous dimension.
On Tuesday, vote
We have in the past used this space to urge our readers to go fishing on Election Day. More often than not, voting in Queens is an exercise in futility. Those who say, "Every vote counts," can't do math. But this coming Tuesday we take it all back.
This year, every vote really does count. The presidential race and the race for U.S. Senate in New York are hanging by a thread. In both races, the candidates offer the voter a clear choice in terms of issues, personality and character. There are even a few local races where your vote might count, although not many.
This is one of those rare times in Queens when it is really worth going to the polls.
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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