By Errol Louis
The Plummer Plunge
After all the hoopla over renaming Gates Avenue for Sonny Carson, here’s where we stand. As of this writing, City Council staff member Viola Plummer – who shouted insults at Councilman Leroy Comrie during the city’s council debate on the issue and later told reporters she might “assassinate his ass” – has been suspended without pay for at least six weeks, and maybe forever.
Plummer’s boss, Councilman Charles Barron, says he may go to court to undo the suspension, which was ordered by Council Speaker Christine Quinn after consultation with the council’s lawyers.
I can’t help but think the scorching summer sun has been getting to some of these politicians. While all this energy and hot air was being wasted on the purely symbolic issue of what to name four blocks in Bed-Stuy, Mayor Bloomberg and the rest of the council were fighting over how to carve up the city’s $4 billion surplus. I imagine they were happy to watch black leaders fight it out, wasting time while the money was being divided up and sent to other communities.
That’s the difference between our politicians and theirs. They fight over billions, while we fight over bull.
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A group of allegedly liberal politicians on the West Side of Manhattan are, once again, bargaining away the health and very lives of children in Harlem, the South Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.
Right now, Manhattan generates 40% of the city’s garbage. Nearly every last scrap of it – all the rotting food, dirty diapers, restaurant waste and nonrecyclable office trash – gets trucked outside the borough to other neighborhoods for sorting, packing and shipping to landfills.
This results in heavy concentrations of diesel-truck traffic, rodent infestations and smog in a handful of neighborhoods like the South Bronx – which, not surprisingly, have sky-high levels of asthma.
For years, a coalition of dedicated community activists in the Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance has pushed for a fair-share policy in which each borough handles its own waste.
Their years of protests, lawsuits and persuasion led to a 20-year waste plan, shepherded through the City Council and the state Department of Environmental Conservation by the Bloomberg Administration. The plan shifts the city back to using waterfront transfer stations and curbs the practice of exporting Manhattan’s garbage to other boroughs.
One part of the approach calls for the reopening of an unused marine transfer station on the Gansevoort Peninsula near the Meatpacking District for recycling only – the cleanest kind of trash, like glass, metal and paper.
But because the facility would take up a sliver – less than one acre – of the 550-acre Hudson River Park, the state Legislature has to amend the law that created the park.
That’s where Assembly members Deborah Glick, Richard Gottfried and Linda Rosenthal have dug their heels in, lobbying their colleagues to vote against the transfer station before the legislative session ends this week.
The trio has trotted out the dishonest “We need more study” excuse to derail the plan. They claim that another site, Pier 76 at 36th St. – now used as a city tow pound – would work just as well.
That’s garbage. According to City Hall, which studied the issue exhaustively, upgrading the Gansevoort station would cost $60 to $80 million, while the price of converting Pier 76 would run from $300 to $500 million. Glick and her allies surely know this.
They also know we’ve been down this road before. The old Hudson Bus Depot on 16th St. was closed years ago to make way for this same waterfront park – and one result was the expansion of an MTA bus depot on 100th St. in asthma-plagued Harlem.
Sadly, Glick and her let-them-eat-pollution colleagues are being backed by a contingent of black and Latino pols, notably Harlem Assemblyman Denny Farrell, who doubles as the Democratic boss of Manhattan. Farrell made an impassioned pitch to his colleagues in the black and Puerto Rican Caucus to kill the Gansevoort station plan.
It worked. The Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus refused to take a stand on the issue, much to its shame. That is a wakeup call to those who care about residents of low-income neighborhoods: The Albany politicians, white and black, are going to sell us out unless we fight back.
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Meeks Makes a Move
A bill called the Financial Services Diversity Initiative, sponsored by Queens Congressman Greg Meeks, is making its way through Congress. The bill, if passed, will encourage financial institutions to promote workforce diversity, including placing talented youth in internships, summer jobs and full-time positions within the industry and partnering with inner-city high schools and girls high schools to establish financial literacy programs and provide mentoring.
The bill would also push for more recruitment at women’s colleges and colleges that serve minority groups; and encourage the placement of employment ads in media outlets oriented to people of color.
“In New York City, financial services is the number one industry. Based on the recent census data, New York City is considered a majority minority city,” says Meeks. “It is compelling that the majority population is extremely and severely underrepresented in the city’s major industry.”
Kudos to the congressman for keeping his “eye on the prize.”