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Editorial: Peace at Martin’s Field

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It appears that Bayside activist Mandingo Tshaka has won what may well be the most important battle of his life. For years Mr. Tshaka has been fighting to restore what he believes is the final resting place of his ancestors.

Hundreds of poor New Yorkers were buried in a pauper's cemetery in Flushing called Martin's Field. Sometime during the Depression the city turned the field into a playground. Mr. Tshaka is certain that his ancestors, who included blacks and Native Americans, are among the people buried in that playground and he passionately wanted this site to be treated with respect.

Although they were sympathetic, the families who lived near Martin's Field did not want the playground converted to a cemetery. Angry words and court battles did not bring the controversy closer to a solution. Then last week Flushing Councilman John Liu announced that Mr. Tshaka had agreed on a compromise in which the park would be converted to a memorial with a small playground. The Parks Department will ensure that the property is well cared for.

We admire Mr. Tshaka for the devotion he has shown to this cause. And we congratulate the Flushing community that understood his anger and was willing to work toward a compromise that everyone can be happy with.

Editorial: Where is Pataki?

It appears at the writing of this editorial that Gov. Pataki has decided to take the easy road in the ongoing budget crisis. It is expected that the governor will veto at least part of the budget compromise agreed to by Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature. Pataki knows that the Assembly and Senate will override his veto giving Mayor Bloomberg the money he needs to avoid the "doomsday scenario."

It has been rumored that the veto and override are part of plan reached by Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. The increase in the city sales tax and the surcharge on earners making more than $100,000 isn't likely to hurt Bruno in his home district. At the same time, the governor gets cover allowing him to stand as an anti-tax conservative doing battle with the tax-and-spend liberals.

To the governor, we say, "Show us the money!" If the plan coming from the Legislature is not acceptable, then what would the governor do to save the greatest city in the world from fiscal disaster? Bear in mind that if the city goes down the economic tubes, the state will go with it. Therefore it is not kindness or charity that the city is looking for; it is partnership, a sense of shared responsibility. After 9/11 the governor and Washington said they would stand behind the city as it tries to rebuild. The rebuilding is just beginning and it is very expensive.

We are sympathetic with the millions of New Yorkers who are already feeling the pinch from higher property taxes and transit fares. But they should not be misled by the pundits who say that the crisis can be solved by cutting the fat in city government. Yes, we'd like to see the municipal unions make some concessions. And yes we'd like to see a more efficient government. But the truth is that the doomsday budget would force drastic and unacceptable cuts in services. Already the city is cutting back on teacher aides, trash pick ups and library hours. Queens may even lose its zoo. Many city services are mandated by law and much of the remaining budget goes toward servicing debt.

We would have preferred to see the commuter tax reinstated but that won't happen. Under the circumstances, the compromise budget appears reasonable. If Gov. Pataki has a better idea, we'd like to see it.

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