Over the line

The New Yorker’s front cover depicts Obama dressed as a Muslim and his wife Michelle an AK-47 toting terrorist. They are standing in the oval office in front of a portrait of Osama bin Laden and a burning American flag.
There are some from both parties who say the cartoon is tasteless - I disagree.
You have to remember what political cartoons are all about - they are an attempt to create a dialogue or a forum for discussion of what is on our minds about our political candidates.
You have to remember also we live in a free country and the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press is a right that should not be suppressed even if we disagree with what is being said.
Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

Editor’s Note: There is freedom of the press and then there is simply “over the line and tasteless!”

Kudos for Smoking Exclusive
The World Lung Foundation commends The Queens Courier for its work in uncovering the lack of merchant compliance with the New York State law requiring cashiers to ID customers who appear to be under the age of 25 (Smoke Screen: Merchants Blowing Job of Checking IDs, July 3, 2008).
The offending 40 percent of Queens stores - those that unquestioningly sold cigarettes to teens - are feeding into a sad reality: tobacco companies rely on making kids the next generation of life-long addicted customers. By neglecting to ID a person who looks underage, retailers are facilitating a health crisis that continues to burden New York and people around the world. They are also simply breaking the law.
Every day, between 80,000 and 100,000 young people around the world become addicted to tobacco, and if current trends continue, 250 million children who are alive today will die from tobacco-related diseases. In order to protect our young people from early tobacco-related deaths, we must insist that the laws regarding the sale of cigarettes are strictly enforced.
Additionally, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs rightly claims the heightened tax on tobacco will help place cigarettes out of the average teen’s budget. Research from the World Health Organization shows that raising tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to get people to reduce or quit smoking altogether.
Higher cigarette taxes and identification rules save lives. New York has the right policies in place and now it is just a matter of making sure they are taken seriously.
Peter Baldini
Executive Director of the World
Lung Foundation

Willets Point ULURP process
Community Board 7’s vote of 21 in favor and 15 against the Willets Point proposal, with six abstentions, together with the claimed unfairness visited upon those of the public attempting to speak against the proposal, does not in any meaningful way demonstrate a mandate to destroy over 225 viable businesses.
The next step in the process is Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. In my opinion it is a forgone conclusion Marshall, in deference to her fat cat real estate constituents, will support the proposal, and the little people be damned.
In the end, the decision will rest with the N.Y. City Council and possibly with the courts. As for the city council, its members should keep in mind that upscale shops serve no greater public service than the businesses currently there.
Should the city council be inclined to approve the proposal, it must not be done unless there exists in legally enforceable documents, in clear and unambiguous language, compliance with each and every condition imposed by Board 7.
That includes finding suitable locations for each business that does not want to leave the city and the financial requirements to be borne by the city. Proposed retraining of a paltry few hundred well-trained employees currently in Willets Point, with complete speculation as to what jobs in our current poor economy are available will not suffice.
The city must demonstrate exactly what jobs are available and where they are. It must be kept in mind the New York City Economic Development Corporation has little or no interest in the plight of small business. Its constituencies are the rich, and under no circumstances must their assurances be accepted on face value. It has no credibility and in the absence of legally binding agreements, and designated placement of the current businesses and their employees, the proposal must be rejected
Benjamin M. Haber

Rangel’s apartments
Congressmember Charlie Rangel’s use of four rent-stabilized apartments as reported in The New York Times is appalling and the fact that one of them is being used as an office makes it even more troubling. As a candidate for the New York City Council in next year’s Democratic Primary, this type of behavior creates distrust and cynicism about politicians that makes campaigning difficult for even the most ethical candidates. As President of Glen Oaks Village - a 10,000-resident co-op some of which are rent stabilized - I have an intricate knowledge of rent stabilization, which has been forged by working closely with the tenant leaders of our community and building bonds of trust and respect for each other. This relationship is unusual, given the typical adversarial sparring that generally exists between landlords and rent-stabilized tenants. The intent of rent stabilization is clear - to maintain affordable housing for families and seniors who have set down roots in communities that were threatened by co-op conversions, gentrification or escalating rental costs that would have made their homes unaffordable. There is a finite number of rent stabilized apartments, so every abuse of the rules means one less apartment for a family in need or senior threatened with displacement.
Rent stabilization limits the ability of a landlord to freely raise rents if it is being used as a primary residence - not as an office. Rangel’s claim that he has done nothing wrong, since he has “lived there” for many years is hard to swallow. In a city bursting at the seams in population with an insatiable appetite for affordable housing, his actions can only be described as being out of touch, or at worst, arrogant.
To deny families in need these rent-stabilized apartments so that someone earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year can have a low-rent apartment and office is an outrage that my fellow Democrats have been awfully silent about. It is essential that political leaders subscribe to a higher standard and not give a pass to fellow party members.
With the term limiting that all city council members face, it is more vital than ever that the new crop of candidates transcend party labels. This past year has already given us too many examples of “Do as I say, not as I do” politics. New York voters deserve better.
Bob Friedrich
Glen Oaks

Letters To The Editor
Email us your letters to editorial@ queenscourier.com for publication in The Queens Courier or send them to The Queens Courier, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, attention: Editorial Department. Please include name and contact information.

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