By Bob Harris
More than a score of people gathered outside City Councilman James Gennaro's (D-Fresh Meadows) office on Union Turnpike recently to denounce religious hate incidents in Queens.
The latest have been attacks on Sikhs. In one incident, a Sikh boy was punched in the face, and in another, a girl had her hair cut by a schoolmate. Also, a swastika was drawn on the rear door of a sedan parked in Fresh Meadows and on the Yeshiva Gedolah school in Glendale. Last May, a statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, the first Filipino Catholic martyr, was chopped off at the ankles and stolen from a spiritual center in Jamaica Hill.
Acting under the philosophy that one act of religious intolerance is one too many, Queens' Sikh, Jewish and Catholic community members gathered in solidarity to oppose hate crimes.
In the Glendale incident, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), state Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill) and City Councilman Anthony Como (R-Middle Village) put up money for a reward to catch the vandals.
Queens is a fine place to live, with people of all nationalities, races and religions living side by side in harmony. Gatherings of concerned people are needed to unite us and make our quality of life better. We need neighbors to watch our homes to alert us if there is a fire or burglar trying to break in or some vandal doing something hateful.
In June, an 18-year-old Sikh student was punched in the face when another student tried to remove his turban. He spoke in front of Gennaro's office and one could still see the red mark on his face near his eye. The Sikh community has been protesting these acts of racial hatred. It wants protection and the attackers punished.
Cantor Moti Fuchs of the Hillcrest Jewish Center spoke against bigotry and hate crimes. His comment was that his mother, a Holocaust survivor, told him, “When you see a small incident of bigotry, it is never small and is only the beginning of something big, so yell out.”
There were even a few Holocaust survivors from the Hillcrest Jewish Center at this gathering. The Rev. Oscar Aquino, the San Lorenzo Ruiz Center spiritual director, said, “We are united with all of you and will continue to work with all of you.”
Legislators in attendance were state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows). Also present were Sundeep “Sonny” Singh, the Sikh Coalition community organizer, and Harpreet Singh Toor, the Sikh Educational Foundation president, who emphasized that “the Sikh community is a peace-loving community.”
Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates spiritual leader, said, “We are blessed to live in one of the few democracies of the world where all human beings are respected as children of God, and we strongly protest all attempts to ferment hatred between people.”
GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: The marketplace often does what legislators do not do. We have been blessed with a robust economy and standard of living, yet economists and conservationists have wanted the federal government to do things to conserve and make the economy better.
For years, people have been urging Congress to increase the gasoline tax a little to fund alternate energy sources and means of travel. The marketplace decided that the price of fuel should rise and now we have high prices and are not getting extra tax money from fuel sales.
For years, people have complained that SUVs, which are not fuel-efficient, should be classified as trucks and made more fuel-efficient. With high gasoline prices, people are not buying SUVs.
The federal government did not want to mandate efficient engines partly because auto makers wanted to sell the profitable gas-guzzlers. People now want hybrid cars, but only some are made, often by foreign countries. The marketplace is deciding that smaller hybrid cars with good gas mileage should be made.
For years, people have complained about the number of flights that take off and land at the same time from our two airports. Airlines insisted on sending out planes at the same time as rival airlines and did not care that the planes were often half-full.
Now, the price of fuel is causing airlines to cut down on flights to save gasoline and people are worrying about losing their jobs.
It is too bad that our legislators and government officials listen to lobbyists and companies that want to make money, no matter the public cost.