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Battle Lines Drawn at Willets Point

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The demonstration last week against a mobile classroom sponsored by LaGuardia Community College speaks volumes about the organizations opposing the Willets Point redevelopment. CUNY on Wheels pulled into Willets Point to offer retraining for free to workers who might lose their jobs if the renovation gets City Council approval.

It was met by a noisy and organized group of demonstrators who claimed to be workers opposed to the plan. We doubt that. The protestors carried professionally printed placards opposing the mayor's plan. They blasted car horns, shouted through bull horns and belittled CUNY workers who had come to offer help to people who may lose their jobs if the companies they work for relocate.

The signs they carried and the slogans they shouted did not appear to be the handiwork of people who spent their lives repairing cars and stacking used car parts. The signs demanded "Justice for Willets Point" and in Spanish accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg of picking on the city's poorest.

Even if they believed the Willets Point plan is bad for the poor and middle class, what sense does it make to focus their wrath on CUNY, which was trying to extend a helping hand?

Julio Sandoval, who claims to own a business in Willets Point, said: "In reality, I don't need to go to school. I've already gone to school for many years. I need to work. I need to provide for my family."

Good for you, but there are 1,700 people who work in Willets Point, many of them unskilled, who could benefit from training. Why stand in their way?

Sandra Watson, the LaGuardia Dean of Workforce Development, told Sandoval: "If you don't want the training, if you don't need the training, that's fine, you don't need to take it. ... We're taking this on a case-by-case basis. That is a disservice that is an insult to an educational institution that is working hard to help people move forward."

We agree. The actions of the mob that calls itself the Willets Point Defense Committee were insulting to a school that has done a great deal for Queens' poorest. LaGuardia was trying to do good, but was dissed by people who appear to be using Willets Point to advance a larger agenda.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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