Editorial: City takes Fort Totten

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Though it may be a little early to celebrate, our hat...

At long last Fort Totten will soon be owned by the city After five years of wrangling and negotiating, this historic property will be handed over to its rightful owners — the people of New York City.

Though it may be a little early to celebrate, our hat goes off to all who helped make this possible, especially Borough President Claire Shulman and the Fort Totten Redevelopment Authority.

This has not been a painless process. From the moment that the Defense Department announced that it was considering closing the Army base at Fort Totten, many parties began lining up for their chance to get a piece of the property. Developers envisioned exclusive waterfront property that could bring the city millions of dollars in revenues. Others said the property should be preserved as parkland for public use. Still others noted that this fort has tremendous historical value.

Given the competing interests, we believe that the city and federal governments have arrived at a plan that will be best serve the people of New York. The historic elements of the fort will be preserved and the rest of the property will be dedicated to public use for ball fields and the like.

There have been some angry moments and bitter exchanges, but overall the transition of Fort Totten has been quite an accomplishment.

Undocumented workers

Suffolk County recently abandoned plans to build a shelter for day laborers waiting for temporary work. At first officials wanted only to provide a safe, comfortable place where these men (we don’t believe there are any women among them) could wait to be hired by contractors looking for temporary workers. Some residents became enraged that tax dollars were to be spent on a group made up largely of people who had entered this country illegally.

The plans for shelter were quickly abandoned.

To date, we have heard of no such proposal for the day laborers of Flushing. Each day these men, many coming from Mexico and Central America, wait for work on Northern Boulevard or near the parking lot for St. Michael's Church. We assume that, as is the case in Long Island, many, if not most, of these workers have entered the country illegally. Part of the reason that they must settle for day labor is the lack of documentation needed to get an on-the-books job.

No doubt the anti-immigrant forces in Queens see these men as a threat. They believe that immigrants, even those who have come here legally, are taking jobs away from people who were born in America.

We see things a little differently. Although we recognize that America must control its borders, we confess that we are moved by the Mexican and other immigrants who wait for hours in the hot sun in the hope of getting hired for the day. In most cases, they are working not only for themselves — often they live in the most humble conditions so they can send nearly everything to families living in impoverished conditions

We would like to see a safe area created in Flushing where these workers could wait comfortably and safely for the chance to work. We are a nation and a city that have been blessed with great prosperity. We can afford to show this level of compassion. If these men have violated immigration law, that is an issue for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. We note that since the Koch administration there has been an executive order that forbade city workers to deny services to illegal aliens or to bring these people to the attention of the INS.

This probably is wishful thinking. The city is not about to build a facility for the laborers. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that the people of Queens, most of whose ancestors came here on a boat, will extend some kindness to these workers.

Any man or woman who is willing to work for the welfare of his or her family deserves at least that.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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