Editorial: A stunning victory

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg has won the victory that eluded Koch, Dinkins and even Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg will control the city’s public school system. A noble experiment in community-based control that went horribly wrong is about to come to an end.

The new arrangement will give the mayor virtual control over the public schools, although the central Board of Education will continue to exist. The mayor will appoint the new chancellor and seven members of the 13-member board.

Each borough president will appoint one member who must have a child in the public school system and cannot be a city employee. This alone will gave parents a greater voice in running the schools.

The change has been a long time coming. The people of New York believe that the mayor should be accountable for the quality of public education. Clearly the system created 30 years ago has not been working.

From now on the chancellor, like the commissioners, will serve at the pleasure of the mayor. This has worked well at city agencies and, in particular, at the NYPD where the police commissioner closely reflects the values of the city’s chief executive. The late Ben Ward of Whitestone, who died this week, was a reflection of the Koch administration just as Bernard Kerik was a reflection of the Giuliani administration.

From now on the buck will stop on Mike Bloomberg’s desk.

This should be particularly good news for Queens, which has the most overcrowded public schools in the city. In the past, school funding was divided by board members whose first allegiance was to the borough president who appointed them. You were not likely to hear the member from the Bronx say Queens should get more money because its overcrowding was more severe.

In a year the community school boards will also be disbanded, although it remains unclear what will replace them. At best the boards were inefficient and unresponsive to the concerns of parents. At worst they became corrupt patronage mills.

As the mayor knows well, much in this system needs to be changed. We hope he will include the following among his priorities:

· Every student needs a desk in a real classroom; get rid of the trailers.

· Teachers and students must feel safe.

· Teachers deserve better pay.

· Spend more on teaching and less on administration.

· Music and art are part of a well-rounded education, not frills.

· Give parents and teachers a greater voice in the education process.

Editorial: No parking allowed

Columnist Jimmy Breslin once wrote that if the women’s liberation movement really wanted power, its members would fight for seats on local zoning boards. The wisdom of his words was proven again last week when a committee from Community Board 8 threw a monkey wrench into St. John's University's plans to build a new parking garage.

Despite the building of new dorms, St. John’s remains primarily a commuter college. The Fresh Meadows locals have made it clear that they do not appreciate the students and teachers parking on neighborhood streets. But the community appears equally opposed to building a five-story 477-vehicle parking lot at the corner of the service road of the Grand Central Parkway and 168th Street and to the merging of three existing university garages at the corner of Union Turnpike and 170th Street into one 227-vehicle facility with rooftop parking.

Fortunately for St. John’s, the committee can only recommend. The Board of Standards and Appeals will make the final decision. Hopefully, this board will do more than just say no.

Editorial: Worth preserving

When people think about southeast Queens, their thoughts rarely if ever turn to natural beauty. Some only know this area as the home of Kennedy Airpor. But few New Yorkers have discovered the 9,100 acres of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. This remains one of Queens’ best-kept secrets.

During a recent tour of the wetlands, state Assemblyman Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) noted that the refuge is home to more than 325 species of birds. He regretted that few residents of New York take advantage of the peace, calm and beauty offered by the refuge.

Preserving the refuge is an ongoing battle. Those who appreciate its value must constantly battle against developers who see the area as prime real estate and polluters who think nothing of dumping tons of trash alongside the wetland roads.

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is worth fighting for. Government officials should do whatever is necessary to ensure that Jamaica Bay will continue to be a refuge for beleaguered city dwellers for generations yet to come.

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