Controversy surrounding the city's right to issue tickets is nothing new. In the Dinkins era small business owners complained that the sanitation police were ticketing them for as little as one gum wrapper discarded on the sidewalk in front of their stores.
In the Giuliani era, the abuse continued in different forms. As many as six uniformed police officers were assigned every day to the intersection of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street to catch drivers making an illegal turn. Each day the police pulled over dozens of unsuspecting drivers, many of them from out of town, who not only had to pay a fine but also got points on their driving record that would impact what they pay for car insurance.
The ostensible reason for making the right turn illegal was the heavy pedestrian traffic at this intersection. But the sting did nothing to make the intersection safer since the officers waited far enough away from the intersection so as not to be seen. One traffic agent, paid far less than a police officer, could have kept most cars from turning by standing in the middle of the intersection. This works at intersections all over the city. But public safety was clearly not the reason for this exercise.
Now the spotlight is on the Bloomberg Administration with stories surfacing daily about absurd incidents such as the pregnant woman who got a ticket for sitting on the subway stairs or the nurse who got a ticket for double-parking while he performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking man. The presumption is that these tickets are the result of quotas and pressure on city agencies to use fines to close the budget gap.
Whether this is true or not, this would be a good time for the city to rethink the practice of issuing fines and tickets. This is a power that should not be taken lightly. Tickets should be issued to ensure public safety and to protect quality of life. Tickets should not become a new tax or an emergency source of revenue. The size fines should be directly linked to the need to change behavior, not to the size of the budget deficit. Agents should be encouraged to combine diligence with common sense. And officials should be told that ticket quotas invite abuse, even when they are labeled "performance goals."
The US Department of Justice has given its approval to plans to take a Ridgewood neighborhood and make it part of a Brooklyn city council district. No one denies that this was done to create a strongly Hispanic council district.
This ethnic gerrymandering was done at the expense of neighborhood unity. It was assumed that residents would rather be grouped by their ethnicity rather than by their geographical community. This is a perversion of democracy. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intended to give minorities fair representation in government. It was never intended to set a quota for minority representation.
Communities are bound by common needs such as the desire for good schools, safe streets and economic opportunity. These concerns transcend race and ethnicity. Communities want to be represented by political leaders who know their communities. Where does the gerrymander nonsense end? Do we really want to divide the city by race, religion and ethnicity? This is a step in the wrong direction. It would be far better to encourage assimilation, neighborhood unity and strength.
The voters who live in the southern part of Ridgewood who were represented by Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) will now be represented by Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg), whose district now lies exclusively in Brooklyn.
The residents of Ridgewood fear they will be lost in a district that is two-thirds Brooklyn. That seems like a reasonable fear.
Sometimes justice roars. Sometimes it whimpers. Last week it whimpered when a Queens judge sentenced a reputed mob associate and his wife to take part in sensitivity training and enroll in an anger management class after they pleaded guilty to beating up a Chinese-American woman in one of the fanciest restaurants in northeast Queens. Hey Mr. DeNiro, do you see a movie here?
Connie Coleman said she was enjoying a dinner at Caffe on the Green when George Fortunato and his wife Jacqueline began taunting her with anti-Asian slurs. Before the ordeal was over, Ms. Coleman was on the ground being pummeled by various persons seated at the Fortunato table, including, allegedly, the Fortunato's daughter and her new fiancé.
Mr. Fortunato and his wife pleaded guilty to assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor. The district attorney did not believe there was enough evidence to charge the Fortunatos with a hate crime. (This is why we have always regarded the hate crime legislation as a toothless tiger.)
While the thought of an alleged Gambino associate undergoing sensitivity training is amusing, there is nothing funny about what happened to Ms. Coleman.
The students of Martin Van Buren High School have their field of dreams. Thanks to the generosity of a group that calls itself Take the Field, the school has refurbished athletic fields as good as any in the city.
The fields will support football, baseball, track and other athletic activities. The project cost $2.8 million. Some may say that this money should have been spent to hire more teachers or create new classrooms and labs. Although such concern is understandable, even in tough times, we believe this money well spent. Athletic competition is part of the learning process. The skills and discipline that children learn playing sports will help them in every aspect of life.
In addition, athletic scholarships help hundreds of city students to get college scholarships. Congratulations to everyone involved in making the creation of these fields possible.
©2003 Community News Group
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