AUDIENCE OPINIONS - Posted By Queens Buzz
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Speak Up To Protect Queens Library Funding
To the Editor:
The City’s Executive Budget has been released. It proposes a cut to Queens Library of $29.6 million, part of a proposed cut to libraries citywide of $100 million. If that proposal were to become reality, the impact on library service hours and the number of job layoffs are unthinkable. Our representatives in City Hall and the City Council value libraries. They have done demonstrated it in the past. Nevertheless, the proposed cut is enormous. Elected officials have limited revenue resources and tough choices to make.
It is up to the people of Queens to show the City Council and City Hall that library hours and library jobs are critical to this city. Libraries in Queens urgently need your help. Go to www.savequeenslibrary.org. You will be able to sign our electronic petition and send an email to your elected representatives. Or, stop in to any library and sign the paper petition or write a postcard. Speak up for Queens Library! Tens of millions of our neighbors use free library resources or attend free library programs. They enjoy quiet reading time, sharpen their skills for their next big job, use the computers, prepare for an important exam for work or school, find out more about a health condition or email a friend far away. To do that, libraries must remain open for service at least five days a week or more.
As we speak with our elected officials, we will also be talking about how critical a stable funding stream is for libraries in the future. We need to be able to better plan for the library services you need from year to year and be assured of being able to buy books for the shelves.
For now, I hope I can count on everyone to Speak Up for Queens Library. Go to www.savequeenslibrary.org on your computer or smartphone, or stop at the library and sign the petition. You need your library. Right now, your library needs you.
Thomas W. Galante, President and CEO, Queens Library
In the wake of Sandy, Jamaica Bay’s potential as a living aquatic laboratory looms large
Be Our Guest: Jamaica Bay offers a wealth of opportunities for the study of tidal trends, water quality and aquatic and marshland life
Monday, January 7, 2013
When our crew started shooting a documentary film on Jamaica Bay 18 months ago, we knew we had an important story on our hands.
For well over a century the bay had been dug up, filled in, dumped on and thoroughly exploited to the point of being written off by many as a toxic cesspool. These days, it is astonishing how few New Yorkers have ever heard of the bay, let alone know the first thing about its remarkable history or the enormous odds that advocates overcame to save it. Jamaica Bay has deserved its own close-up for a long time.
Since Sandy hit in October, however, it is clear that what was once an important regional story has become something much larger. That’s because the sheer number and complexity of long-term challenges Jamaica Bay now faces is unparalleled in the New York metropolitan region — and perhaps the country — making this the ultimate test of our nation’s resolve to address climate change.
Jamaica Bay experienced the power outages of Long Island, the coastal vulnerability of Staten Island and the infrastructure problems of Lower Manhattan, all around a small estuary that measures just 18,000 acres.
Some 500,000 people live in the Jamaica Bay watershed area, many of whom had their homes flooded well beyond Zone A. There are billions of dollars of vital infrastructure right on the water, including one power plant and four sewage treatment plants, one of which now needs serious repair. John F. Kennedy International Airport, on the bay’s northern shore, was shut for two days; if Sandy hit as a Category 2 storm, it could have been closed for much longer and inflicted widespread economic damage. The subway trestle across the bay has been closed for more than two months, and may not open for months more.
The fate of Jamaica Bay, where the water was rising at two inches per decade before Sandy, is an enormous question mark. But it is precisely because so many challenges exist in such a small area that Jamaica Bay can serve as an invaluable yardstick to gauge our progress and mettle.
Long-term planning is a good place to start. In the legislative session that starts in Albany this week, Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature must break a longstanding impasse and enact a climate action plan that prepares our state for a warming future. The New York State Public Service Commission must also require all electric and water utilities to create long-term plans that address the likelihood of more severe weather events.
Better intergovernmental coordination is also essential. No fewer than 25 city, state, federal and regional agencies currently share jurisdiction over the bay, creating a dense thicket of bureaucracy that has made progress painfully slow. Last July, Mayor Bloomberg and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed an agreement to jointly manage 10,000 acres of the bay; it could serve as the foundation for new partnership of governance.
Moreover, there is no better place to create a laboratory of ideas for climate resilience in an urban environment. Jamaica Bay’s ability to attenuate ocean waves and absorb stormwater has been nearly destroyed by human encroachment, as its salt marshes die off at the alarming rate of 47 acres per year. But recent restoration projects at Gerritsen Creek and Yellow Bar Hassock proved their value by protecting local communities from Sandy’s effects. The city, state and federal government must restore more sites like these, while also exploring the potential of innovative techniques such as three-dimensional oyster reefs to buffer waves and improve water quality. The Bloomberg administration and National Park Service are currently examining proposals to build a top-tier science research center at the bay that could light the way on these and other cutting-edge measures.
In the four centuries since European settlers arrived, Jamaica Bay has played so many different roles — a source of salt hay and oysters for a growing nation, the front line of coastal defense in two world wars, a place to dump garbage and, occasionally, unwanted bodies. Perhaps in this young century it will transform once again, this time into an example that will help cities around the world adapt to this uncertain and warming reality.
Dan Hendrick, VP External Affairs, NY League of Conservation Voters, author of Jamaica Bay [Arcadia Press 2006] & Producer Jamaica Bay Lives [a documentary film TBD 2013]
Questioning Proposed Banking Rules
November 15, 2012 / Flushing / Letters To The Editor
Our community and economy are at risk again, this time due to potential new banking rules that could affect the ability of banks to lend and communities to rebound. These proposed regulations, called “Basel III”, define how banks measure risks and their level of funds, or “capital” levels, that they would need in order to cover those risks. It works like your decision on savings: you can choose to save everything and not have any money to spend on goods and vacations. If all consumers did the same, then you can imagine the impact on the local communities. If all banks must set aside more capital, then they do not have that money available to lend in the community, resulting in reduced economic activity.
There are restrictions and costs related to regulatory requirements. These proposed rules are applied against many kinds of loans, including residential 1-4 Family mortgage loans, development and construction loans, business lines of credit and home equity lending. The rules ultimately have an effect on communities because it will be more difficult for the banks to lend to both consumers and businesses, and still to meet the regulatory capital levels. In addition, banks may need to increase the price for other products and services. In turn, borrowers who relied on those products and services would be deprived of affordable credit for homeownership or business activities.
The rules present key challenges and one such area is mortgage lending. At a time when the government lacks a long-term solution to housing finance, the proposed framework would impede mortgage lending that banks have offered successfully for decades. Basel III puts mortgage loans into two “Categories”, with the more favorable Category I defined very narrowly. In many cases, lenders offer substantially below-market interest rates to borrowers in exchange for the borrowers’ acceptance of future risk in rising interest rates; known as adjustable rate mortgage loans or “ARMS”. The proposal would make it much more difficult for many local banks to meet the new capital levels, causing them to decrease their ARMs lending, which again would reduce economic activity.
Category II is so tough that banks will have a very difficult time extending loans secured by home equity. The proposed rules on home equity lending are a double effect, because your first mortgage must be reassessed by banks using the new rules when you have a home equity loan. Banks must determine if it is possible to continue to offer home equity loans, absorb the related impact from the first mortgages, and still meet all of the regulatory requirements. These are only two examples. The rules run on for hundreds of pages, and so there are more examples that impact lending at current levels. Other government agencies are questioning whether Basel III is a good idea. On July 17, 2012, Peter T. King, U.S. Congressman from the third congressional district, and other members of the House Financial Services Committee raised their concerns in a letter to the regulators. They agreed that “Certain steps are necessary to restore confidence in our capital markets. However, we want to make sure any response to the financial crisis does not needlessly hamper economic recovery in our communities.” I support this level of questioning by the House Financial Services Committee. The Committee had heard from the community bankers, that their ability to lend and provide liquidity in the local markets would be curtailed. That is where our communities could be impacted.
The proposed rules are applied not just on new loans, but all loans, so there would be an immediate impact on the banks and our communities. They are retroactive, so, if banks made a decision to create a loan years ago under old regulations, this stricter set of rules must be applied against that loan as well.
The deadline set by the regulators was October, 22, to accept comments on the proposed rules. In light of the volume of comments received and the wide range of views expressed during the comment period, the regulatory agencies are holding hearings and have announced that they do not expect that any of the proposed rules would become effective on January 1, 2013.
John R. Buran, CEO and President, Flushing Bank
Advocates For Creation Of Newtown Pedestrian Plaza In Astoria
September 10, 2012 / Astoria / Letters To The Editor
The triangular intersection of Newtown Avenue and 30th Ave is one of the most dangerous for pedestrians in all of Queens. It's an expanse of asphalt that drivers speed through, using it a shortcut to Newtown Avenue, endangering pedestrians trying to cross this unnecessarily wide intersection that is otherwise dead space in the middle of a bustling shopping strip.
The NYCDOT has developed a proposal to convert this hazardous space into a plaza with benches and plantings to create a an attractive village square for Central Astoria. This proposal would also create public open space, something that central Astoria lacks.
Incredibly, several merchants in the area oppose the creation of the plaza because it would result in the loss of seven parking spaces. They seem to believe that the loss of parking spaces will drive away their customers, while ignoring the hundreds of potential new customers that would be attracted to the area by the plaza.
There is a counterproposal to reconfigure the intersection by extending the sidewalks and shortening the crosswalks. While this would be an improvement over the current situation, it represent a lost opportunity to create this plaza - and would cost taxpayers $375,000 MORE than constructing the plaza would cost.
Please voice your support for Newtown Plaza to Community Board 1 and to Councilmember Vallone.
Steve Scofield & The Friends of Newtown Plaza
Oppose Queens Library Funding Cuts Proposed In NYC Budget
May 19, 2012 / Astoria / Letters To The Editor
To the Editor:
Queens Library is facing unprecedented budgets cuts that will devastate
library service unless funding is restored. The proposed City budget
slashes our operating funds by nearly $20 million. If sustained, these
cuts would reduce the hours that Queens Libraries will be open to the
public with programs and services severely curtailed. All community
libraries could be closed on weekends with some libraries open only two
or three days a week. We must not let this happen!
More than 3 million people used Queens Library's computers last year.
You borrowed 23 million free books, DVDs, and music CDs. Thousands of
school children came in for homework help every day. Tens of thousands
used the library to search for a new or better job and thousands learned
to speak English. Half a million people attended free programs for
education and entertainment.
These services are invaluable, and in today's economic climate
libraries, are more important than ever. This is the worst possible time
to scale back on these critical programs and services. That is why we
must do everything we can to let our friends in government know how
important libraries are to the people of Queens and ask them for their
support in restoring Queens Library's budget.
The City Council and the Mayor will negotiate the final budget during
the next several weeks. Your voice right now in support of libraries can
make the difference.
Please contact your City elected officials and let them know you want
libraries to remain open.
Go to www.savequeenslibrary.org and sign the electronic petition. Better
yet: come in to any Queens Library and sign the Save the Library
petition. I know that by raising our voices together in support of the
life-enhancing role libraries play in every community, we can keep
library doors open for all.
Thomas W. Galante, Library Director, Queens Library
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