More anger over city plans for one-way streets and an Arabic middle school

The Brooklyn Paper
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To the editor,

The proposal to convert Sixth and Seventh avenues to one way, has made me furious (“7th Avenue Express,” March 17).

My anger, though, is not directed at the Department of Transportation or Bruce Ratner, but instead at my fellow Park Slopers. Had the Slope mobilized in 2004, when Atlantic Yards was in its infancy, we might never have been at this point.

How clearly I remember the reaction to those passing out brochures against Atlantic Yards at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2004. The comments I heard, consistently, were “It’s so far away from here”; “It’ll be great for our neighborho­od,” and “We don’t live in that part of the Slope.” Instead, the response in those critical first few months was anemic at best — “negligence” and “apathy” are more apt terms.

Now that traffic pattern changes are coming for the arena — as we all knew they would — people are getting off their arses and starting to notice that Atlantic Yards is going to destroy our quality of life. Did it need to take three years to figure that out?

Shame on Park Slope — a place full of smart, vocal and active citizens — for letting it get this far.

Rob Underwood, Park Slope

• • •

To the editor,

Greater Downtown Brooklyn’s traffic problems are much broader than Seventh, Sixth and Fourth avenues and were already evident in the 1960s. In part they are due to the failure of Robert Moses and others to anticipate that the automobile would be in such wide use, especially on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and its entrance and exit ramps.

Greater Downtown Brooklyn’s major traffic congestion is also a result of Manhattan-centric government’s failure to understand and take the leadership in expanding and upgrading our borough’s public transportation system. We now see what decades of neglect can do.

The current traffic debacle is a result of the failure of Daniel Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for development, and Amanda Burden, commissioner of City Planning, to understand even the most basic, tried-and-true planning principles about development and traffic and about development and schools and other services. It is also about political corruption.

The current Department of Transportation traffic “solution” is similar to treating cancer with an aspirin. Indeed, it gives the appearance of an act of revenge by Viceroy Bloomberg of the Colonial Office in Manhattan for actively disagreeing with him on the superiority of his friend’s mega-dense, super-high rise housing project at Atlantic Yards.

Bloomberg should resign and run for president and take Doctoroff and Burden with him.

Robert Ohlerking, Park Slope

• • •

To the editor,

As a 23-year resident of Park Slope, I vehemently oppose the proposed traffic-pattern changes proposed for the neighborhood.

The proposed changes will put children at risk, as well as harm the merchants of the area. It should have been a given that Ratner’s extravaganza would alter the neighborhood as well as increase the crime rate of the area.

The politicians who supported Atlantic Yards should be ashamed that they will contribute to the harmful alteration of the lifestyle of the people of Park Slope.

George E. Kowalczyk, Park Slope

Dance for Brooklyn

To the editor:

The Brooklyn Paper claims that the arrival of Danspace Project to the BAM Cultural District signals the “Manhattani­zation” of Brooklyn (“Manhattan dancers in Brooklyn? Fuhgedabou­dit!” March 2).

To the contrary, this will create new opportunities for Brooklyn arts groups and the local community.

While Danspace will operate the new cultural facility, the space will serve the community in many ways. First, it will provide much-needed performance and rehearsal space for dance groups throughout the five boroughs. Danspace will consult local dance groups in developing the space and rental rates.

It is worth noting that Danspace has strong and longstanding relationships with many local groups, including Urban Bush Woman (for whom Danspace Executive Director Laurie Uprichard once worked) and 651 Arts (with whom Danspace is co-producing a show this month).

Joe Chan, DUMBO

Editor’s note: The writer is president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. It should be noted, however, that The Brooklyn Paper did not claim anything in the article Chan cites, but merely reported that some Brooklyn leaders objected to a Manhattan-based group getting control of a prime piece of the BAM Cultural District.

Beat the ticket

To the editor,

I commend Matthew Lysiak for writing his recent column (“(Law)break­ing news: Columnist arrested!” March 10) without employing the term “fascist police state.”

He must have used a great deal of restraint to do avoid a vitriolic tirade (also, I’m sure he didn’t want to peeve the sentencing judge). Who knew that the NYPD arrests people for littering? I always figured that this was a crime so petty that at most they would simply issue a ticket. The police department’s actions would make Singapore proud.

I suppose Matthew should be thankful he wasn’t caned.

Nelson Ricardo, Dyker Heights

Gersh not a true Co-oper

To the editor,

Gersh Kuntzman recently insisted that an overly authoritative Park Slope Food Co-op squad leader wasted his excellent check-out skills by denying him a workslot at the checkout station, giving this plum job instead to a “regular” on the squad (“The area of my expertise,” The Brooklyn Angle, March 17).

Kuntzman was, by his own admission, doing a make-up shift, which meant that he had missed his regular shift. It is only polite and correct that those doing make-ups ask the squad leader what jobs need coverage, not instead race to a post and start working. Indeed, the regulars are people who show up when they are assigned to show up; they deserve the first choice.

Post Script: my work slot is recording the attendance of makeups, so Kuntzman actually added to my workload by missing his regular slot.

Susan J. Behrens, Carroll Gardens

He belatedly bemoans Barclays

To the editor,

Your coverage of Barclays Bank’s link to slavery was inane (“Blood Money,” Jan. 20). Barclays should have said from the outset that nearly every large British company profited from slavery. That is obviously a very relevant point which any corporation needs to make when paying $400 million for naming rights. Certainly Barclays would be better off if they donated this money to former slaves, right?

I guess what you mean to say is that any entity which has not fought aggressively for the rights of the under-represented is reprehensible and should be blocked from any legitimate business activities? This would surely eliminate quite a few large American companies from their “charitable” endeavors.

Maybe you should get off your self-righteous high horse and understand New York is a major business center in which people are willing to invest.

Bob Schmidt, London

Editor’s note: We do not own a horse, high or otherwise.

Holy cow over Paper’s ‘Holy War’ headline

To the editor,

It’s sad to see that an “Arabic school” is in the works locally (“Holy War,” March 17). The school is disturbing, wrong, and really tragic.

There’s no better way to atomize our culture than to allow each little group to never have the need to enter the larger society, learn its values, language, etc.

Then again, I understand that most of my neighbors here in Park Slope are politically left of center, the realm where that lie called multi-culturalism gets its legitimacy.

So, horrified parents, perhaps you are now sleeping in the bed that you have helped make.

Steven Rosenberg, Park Slope

Class size matters

To the editor,

We are told by politicians and educators that smaller class size is important. Yet everything they do is to increase class size, not decrease.

Housing the Khalil Gibran Academy at PS 282 is an example of this. The 81 sixth graders could be handled with a little bit of discomfort and disruptions. This is not the long-term problem; the yearly increase is the problem.

In September, 2008 comes another 81 sixth graders in addition to the 81 now-seventh graders. By then, all the extra space at PS 282 is used up with the seventh graders, so where do they put the new sixth-grade classes? And another 81 kids will enroll in September, 2009.

So that’s how you’d go from 81 kids to 243 extra kids. And PS 282 will now have to give space for them.

And then, when the Gibran Academy is supposed to move out in September 2010, do you think the Board of Education will give back those classrooms? No way. They created “new” space in PS 282, so they will clearly put another new school in the same space.

Stop it now, or all the hard work that the principal has done will down the drain. We can look forward to very little gym time for the kids, no music class, no science lab, and no computer lab. Instead, we’ll have eighth graders picking on pre-K students. Those kids will not care because they’re from a different school. Their attitude will be “I go to Gibran Academy. I’m somebody special. I can do whatever I want to them. These are just little kids.”

If there is extra space in PS 282, then let us use it. We can have our own sixth graders, kids that will have been in the school from pre-K and that we know and discipline if they get out of line. This is not a falling school that needs a wake-up call to change its habits. This is a school that is improving. And should be getting more funding because it is improving.

Virginia Feitoza, Park Slope

Stop being activists

To the editor,

PS 282’s parents aren’t “Park Slope parents,” as most of them come from other parts of the borough and beyond. The school is 59 percent black and 39 percent Latino, and only 5 percent white.

Your article was really one-sided, only focusing on the outrage and sometimes irrational fears of opponents, while making no effort to look at the other side of the story (surprise).

You have a duty as a newspaper to print accurate and balanced information that will help explain both sides of an issue so readers can use their own intellect to draw their own conclusions. Otherwise, you’re just an activist who happens to have access to a printing press, not a journalist.

Name withheld, Park Slope

Learn from past

To the editor,

“Separate is not equal.” Have we forgotten these words so soon?

I am outraged at the proposal to put an Arabic-language and culture middle school into PS 282. This ill-advised, divisive proposal violates the principle behind public school education by bestowing unwarranted favoritism on one culture and religion.

It will slow down not only the integration of Arabs and Muslims into mainstream American society but also the academic progress of middle school students of Arabic descent with regard to the English language. It violates our belief in religious pluralism and equality, and promotes the repugnant idea that certain cultures must be emphasized separately from the rest of our educational programs.

The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Norway have learned, to their sorrow, that granting special favors and exemptions to Muslims (or any religion) enhances the notion of separatism and superiority, and gives credence to those Muslims who believe, mistakenly, that Western culture and religion are corrupting influences. The catering of these countries to the strident demands from Muslim immigrants has allowed the latter to indulge some of their worst customs, including wife-beating, depriving women of full civil liberties, and genital mutilation of their daughters.

The United States has so far been free of these problems because immigrants, for the most part, enthusiastically and willingly immerse themselves in our culture, economy and educational system, with no expectation of special favors. This has meant equal education for their children, quicker assimilation, and the rapid learning of English as the most important requisite for advancement.

This middle school proposal should be discarded immediately and permanently, as should other school programs that cater to minority groups such as gays. The fastest way to promote tolerance of diversity is to integrate such studies into the regular curriculum rather than catering to Political Correctness and Identity Politics.

If Arab parents want the best for their children, they should be supporting integration, not separatism.

The African-American community learned this long ago when it announced that “Separate is not equal.” Now the Arabs and Muslims need to do the same.

If they choose not to, then they are free to establish their own private schools and not expect favors from the overburdened public school system that is accountable to New Yorkers of all cultures and religions.

Lorna Salzman, Brooklyn Heights

Apology is necessary

To the editor,

I am writing to demand that The Brooklyn Paper apologize for its deeply irresponsible coverage of the Department of Education’s proposal to locate the Kahlil Gibran Academy in the school building that houses PS 282, and that you remove the article dealing with this issue from your Web site.

Your article unfairly characterizes a legitimate dispute about where the Kahlil Gibran school should be housed into an ethnic or religious conflict.

The specific proposal to locate Kahlil Gibran together with PS 282 raises a host of concerns, just like other situations where two schools are housed within a single building. It is entirely appropriate for current PS 282 parents to express these concerns. PS 282 parents, just like supporters of the Kahlil Gibran school, want the best for both groups of students.

Worst of all, I fear that your suggestion that religion or ethnicity is at issue in the PS 282 disagreement gives credence to a reprehensible bigotry that, regrettably, does exist. Responsible Brooklynites must not and do not abide such bigotry. Your article was a cheap attempt to sensationalize a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed with good faith and good will. You owe your readership an apology.

David Yassky,

Brooklyn Heights

The writer is a City Councilman

Poor taste, foolish

To the editor,

Your story on the Department of Education’s desire to insert an Arabic-language middle school into PS 282 is marred by the scandalous headline, “Holy War.”

Regardless of how one feels about the idea of the proposed middle school, framing the issue in this way is incendiary. This is not poor taste; it is irresponsible and foolish.

Leonard Benardo, Carroll Gardens

• • •

To the editor,

Had The Paper sought to inform rather than inflame, it would have discovered the academy is but one of several schools with cultural themes or a concentration on one foreign language. The school will use a non-screened enrollment policy and serve students from diverse backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity or religious belief.

Had you sought other sources of information besides an Internet hate site, it would have learned the academy grew from an alliance with the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, Educators for Social Responsibility, and the Lutheran Medical Center.

The principal, Debbie Almontaser, has been a passionate advocate of alternate conflict resolution in the school system and has championed interfaith understanding, post–9-11.

Had The Paper interviewed Almontaser in addition to angry parents and detractors, it would have learned that none of the resources available to existing students would be lost. Rather, current students will have another middle school choice and gain additional educational enrichment through potential collaboration between the two schools.

The article’s title itself — “Holy War” — feeds upon harmful stereotyped fears linking all Arabs to radical Islamic fundamentalism. In contrast to the title’s import, there are Arab Jews and Muslims, Christians, atheists, and agnostics.

Community papers play an increasingly vital role in presenting accurate information of local concern. The Brooklyn Paper violated that trust by presenting an imbalanced appeal to ignorance and bias.

Kevin James, Kensington

Editor’s note: Almontaser did not return repeated calls.

Stand up for West

To the editor,

After spending my life here, few things surprise me about the hard-left pathology of New York City government.

On the other hand, I must say that taking taxpayer funds to create an Arabic-speaking public school to disseminate Arab culture and, invariably, Islam, is something that I thought only the bizarrely “progressive” city administration of London would have the gall to do.

Let’s temporarily set aside the First Amendment and its ban on government propagating one faith. Obviously, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Levy (two Jews of very progressive bent) care naught of this “antiquated” document and prefer a more “new world” approach.

For over five years, real-estate profiteers, hard-left radicals and a feckless city administration have fought amongst themselves to turn a proposed World Trade Center monument to those murdered by fanatical Muslim religious bigots into a statement on the depravity of Western Civilization. The empty space in Lower Manhattan is a visual tribute to this infighting at the expense of the sane and caring citizens of New York City.

At the same time, these same left-wing Western-hating commercial and political interests lick their lips at political construction projects like what will undoubtedly morph into a publicly funded Brooklyn madrasa.

The Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci was correct when he said that the way to destroy Western values and democracy was to undermine their institutions themselves. It’s interesting to see that people named Bloomberg and Levy are making this blueprint a reality in New York City.

It almost makes me ashamed to be Jewish.

Michael G. Leventhal, Park Slope

Updated 4:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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