Letters to the Editor

Queens Beep Backs Locomotive Upgrades

Editor’s note: The following letter was initially sent to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and forwarded to the Times Newsweekly for publication. Dear Speaker Silver:

I am writing in support of a request that has already been made in a letter co-signed by 43 members of the Assembly, including all the members from the Queens delegation, that the appropriation of $17 million be made available to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for the purposes of upgrading 10 diesel engines of freight locomotives owned and leased out by the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) for the purposes of hauling waste throughout the New York City area.

This investment would also complement Assembly bill A.3640, cosponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, which would require public authorities to adopt energy conservation standards.

As you know, New York City has, in recent years, begun to increase the use of rail and decrease the use of trucks to transport solid waste as part of its overall effort to clean up the environment. I was-and still am- fully supportive of this change, which was done specifically to reduce diesel truck traffic on our roads and highways. The Borough of Queens, of course, has a very high volume of traffic using its roads and arterial highways on a daily basis, so my constituents benefit from a reduction in truck traffic.

Unfortunately, however, this change has resulted in an unintended by-product: the use of obsolete diesel engines, which travel through local rail yards, often idling and/or switching engines in them and threatening the health and quality of life of Queens residents in the affected communities. The noxious presence and odor of burnt diesel fuel, as well as the noise, resulting from the diesel locomotives’ operations in the rail yards has increased exponentially in recent years.

While the people of Queens and throughout the New York City area have benefited in many ways by the increased use of rail to transfer waste, don’t we also owe it to our constituents to try to mitigate some of the negative impacts?

Again, I urge you and your colleagues in the Assembly to appropriate the necessary funds to enable the MTA and LIRR to upgrade the diesel freight locomotives that serve our area. Such an investment would substantially lower the amount of harmful pollutants from diesel fumes in Queens (as well as in Brooklyn and Long Island) and would undoubtedly help improve the health and quality of life of the residents in the affected neighborhoods.

Also, this investment would be consistent with and further implement both the state’s and the city’s policies to clean up the environment and conserve energy.

Helen M. Marshall
Queens Borough President

Time To Boost City’s Public School System

Dear Editor:

In today’s global economy, workers increasingly require a college education for successful careers. But, sadly, New York City’s public schools are not equipping our youth to succeed in college.

The situation is worse than you think.

When my office researched the question of how New Yorkers were doing in terms of college degrees, we were shocked by what we found: Four out of five New York City public high-school students don’t graduate from college with any kind of degree. Moreover, New York is only in the middle of the pack of American cities in terms of the educational attainment of its population, lagging Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Minneapolis.

So we devised a plan to put New York at the top of the pack. Our goal is to raise the proportion of New Yorkers with college degrees to 60 percent by the year 2025, from about 42 percent Citywide now. If you think that 42 percent sounds low, the problem is even more serious in your borough than it is elsewhere in the City. In Queens, only about 31 percent of the population has attained either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

So what’s our plan?

Our “Beyond High School NYC” initiative has published research, proposed educational reforms, and identified strategic investments in public education designed to boost the number of New Yorkers with post-secondary degrees.

Our key report, “The Power of Guidance,” proposed to more than double the number of school counselors. That would reduce the counselor to-student ratio to 1:100, from an average of 1:259 today.

We also propose using early-intervention systems to help students stay on-track for college, by expanding collaborative programs with colleges and college students and investing more in summer programs that help college-bound high-school graduates matriculate.

New York City must create a college going culture in our public schools and give students the support they need. By investing in the handson efforts we’ve outlined, we can ensure that more students enroll in the right college and have the tools they need to graduate.

We can find the money. By diverting funds from what is now spent on wasteful high-tech contracts, we can invest more in college counseling and support, so city schools could get more bang for their buck in terms of increasing college enrollment and graduation.

Failing to properly invest in public education deprives the next generation of a chance for prosperous and fulfilling lives-and it weakens New York City’s ability to compete in the global economy.

It’s time we reverse our city’s education gap and make sure every public high-school graduate has a shot at succeeding in college.

City Comptroller John Liu

Letters from readers are invited and should be sent by regular mail to Times Newsweekly, P.O. Box 860299, Ridgewood, N.Y. 11386- 0299 or by e-mail to info@times newsweekly.com. All letters must be accompanied by the writer’s full name and address, which will be withheld upon request. Anonymous letters will not be considered for publication. All letters are subject to editing. The opinions expressed in each letter are not necessarily those of the Times Newsweekly or its staff.

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