Editorial: For whom the bridge tolls

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There has to be a better way of balancing the city’s budget than by adding tollbooths on the crowded bridges crossing the East River. Collecting tolls at either or both sides of the Queensboro Bridge would be a nuisance for drivers and a disaster for residents living near this bridge in Long Island City and Manhattan’s East Side.

If tollbooths are added to the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, southbound traffic on the BQE will be backed up through Queens all the way to the Grand Central Parkway. We doubt that Albany will ever give its approval to this plan.

Furthermore, we hope that the city will consider the impact that following through on this proposal would have on business and on quality of life. Cars and trucks would jam the local roads leading to the bridge. With bridge delays each day that will easily be more than 30 minutes during rush hour, cars and trucks in bumper-to-bumper traffic will fill the neighborhoods near the bridge with harmful exhaust fumes.

The mayor was right when he steadfastly refused to consider increasing taxes to cover a budget deficit that could reach $5 billion next year. He argued that higher taxes would drive businesses out of New York and slow economic growth. He should reject the idea of collecting tolls for the same reason.

It may be that someday in the distant future, the city will conclude that there are too many cars trying to squeeze into Manhattan. The time may come when all nonessential traffic is banned. Reducing traffic in Manhattan is a worthy goal but building tollbooths on bridges that are already overcrowded is not the way to achieve that goal.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. That’s true. But the mayor should stay the course he has set and make certain that no plan to increase revenues does more harm to the economy than good. The tollbooths are a very bad idea

Editorial: Defending the boards

At a city council hearing last week, the woman who presides over the borough with the most overcrowded, most rundown schools in the city adamantly opposed the elimination of local school boards in favor of control by the mayor.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall argued that the current system gives parents a voice in the public school system. Oh, really? We wonder how many parents with children in the public school system in Queens know or believe they have a voice? If the current system is working, why are so many schools a disaster? And we wonder if the people elected to these boards really believe that they can have an impact on the entrenched bureaucracy at 100 Livingston St.?

Marshall and the council members who support her, including Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), should not stand in the way of long overdue reform of the city’s public education system. We support a plan that would put the schools directly under the control of the mayor. If there were a problem with the schools, the citizens of New York City would know exactly whose feet should be held to the fire.

This does not mean that there would be no role to play for community-based advisory boards. These boards could be made up of one or two parent representatives from each school in a district. The PTA at each school could elect these parent representatives. This would be far superior to the current, highly political and arcane system of electing local school board members. The advisers would have direct access to the commissioner of education and his/her representative in Queens.

But ultimately parents would know that the buck stops on the desk of the mayor.

Editorial: Say no to Huang

It is alarming, to say the least, to learn that notorious developer Thomas Huang is looking to buy the Klein family farm in Fresh Meadows. It was Huang who purchased the RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing. Huang allowed this beloved building to deteriorate into one of the biggest eyesores in all of Queens. In Flushing, Huang is Public Enemy No. 1.

Huang knew that the lobby of this grand old theater was landmarked when he purchased the building, but that didn’t stop him from attempting to destroy the interior. Eventually Huang was convicted of spilling hundreds of gallons of fuel oil in the basement of the building and was sentenced to five years’ probation.

If Huang succeeds in buying the historic Klein farm, there is no reason to believe that he will not create another disaster in Queens. Until July last year the 2.2-acre Klein estate was the borough’s last family owned working farm. The community was hoping that a deal could be worked out to preserve the large red Klein family farmhouse.

In 1974, the zoning for the property was amended, making the estate a community-preservation district. This means that no more than 20 percent of the property can be developed and the City Council must approve any building plans.

What Klein expects to do with this property remains unclear. But what is clear is that Huang cannot be trusted. He is a convicted felon who for more than a decade has done damage to the quality of life on Northern Boulevard.

The Klein family has every right to sell this property. They have been good neighbors and now it is time to move on. Hopefully, they will find a buyer that will give them a fair price for their property while respecting the friends and neighbors that the Kleins leave behind.

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