By The Times-Ledger
Both gatherings were called to honor the lives of decent men whose lives were cut short by senseless acts of violence. Thomas Johnson, only 17 years old, was shot in the eye when he confronted another young man who allegedly had stolen his cousin's cell phone. Johnson was played football for Christ the King High School. He was being recruited by a number of universities and his future looked golden. That this life was lost because of a cell phone is beyond tragic.
The man arrested and charged with the murder is only 19. If he is convicted, he will likely spend the next 25 years of his life in a state prison. This, too, is beyond tragic.
In the years since Dr. King was slain, minorities in New York City and throughout the country have made tremendous strides. For the first time in the history of this nation, an African-American will serve as secretary of state, a position of power recognized throughout the world. But despite the many gains, we believe that Dr. King would be incredibly saddened and dismayed by the violence that remains a part of life in many minority communities.
Dr. King would have been shocked by the growth of violent gangs, such as the Crips, Bloods and Latin Kings. He would have been shocked that so many young people have easy access to guns and that some would be willing to kill for something so valueless as a cell phone.
Nonviolence was critical part of Dr, King's dream of a world free from bigotry and prejudice. Families have won little if they must live in fear that their children will be gunned down by some hothead looking for a bubble jacket, a gold chain or a cell phone.
Nearly 40 years after his death, Dr. King's dream is still that. Just a dream.
Keep Bowne open
Perhaps there is something in the water in the small Flushing neighborhood known as Cedar Grove. How else might one explain an 11-page petition allegedly signed by 650 residents demanding that the city close down John Bowne High School?
This incredible demand is presented at a time when virtually every public school in Queens is operating beyond capacity. The Cedar Grove residents are up in arms over the misbehavior of some of the John Bowne students. The key word here is “some.'
Walter Kowsh, president of the Cedar Grove Civic Homeowners Association, claims that the students fight, engage in lewd sexual conduct, and urinate on the lawns. He wants the city to build a new high school, perhaps on the site of the old Flushing Airport in College Point. In turn, he would like to see John Bowne converted into a grade school.
Fortunately the Board of Education and the Borough President's Office have no intention of closing down John Bowne High School. It would be unthinkable to close any public school in Queens. The borough is in desperate need of more classroom space. And it needs the new space yesterday.
Furthermore, it strikes us that Kowsh and Co. are blaming the entire student body for the misconduct of a few. Although there have been serious acts of violence and inexcusable behavior, the fact remains that most of the kids who show up every morning at John Bowne are not troublemakers. They are children hoping to build a future on the foundation of a public high school education. They are your sons and daughters, and now Mr. Kowsh has decided that they are not welcome in his part of Flushing.
There are other more acceptable solutions for this problem. The homeowners association should work with the NYPD and school security to identify the street corners and other areas where the recurring problems are most serious. The school and the police have a responsibility to see that the students do not destroy property or create a quality-of-life problem. The police should patrol a broader perimeter around the school, especially at the beginning and close of the day. Students who find it impossible to behave when school is out should be moved to more restrictive schools.
There is much that could and should be done. But under no circumstances should this school be closed.
Term Limit questions
One year from now, every city council member representing the Borough of Queens will be forced to retire under the term limits law. In most cases, a staffer or a relative will fill their seats. The handful of councilmen and women from other boroughs still in their first term will suddenly become the senior members.
Is this not a recipe for disaster? We question whether the voters considered the possibility of a council in which virtually every member would spend the first six months learning the ropes. We understand the desire to throw out the bums who win re-election over and over while doing nothing. But next January we will also be throwing out some very dedicated public servants – Mike Abel and Sheldon Leffler come to mind.
The City Council is considering an 11th hour reprieve that would rescind the term limits law. If they find the courage to do this, the burden will shift back to the voters to decide whether or not a councilwoman or councilman should continue serving their district for another four years. That is how democracy is supposed to work.