Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Peace Is Blooming In Brooklyn This Saturday

Apr 25, 2012

For the eighth time, Brooklyn For Peace is holding its annual Peace Fair this Saturday, April 28th. It's an event you shouldn't miss. An opportunity to mingle with like-minded folks: activists in the peace and justice movements and non-activists ... just plain people who share a vision of a different world, one without endless wars that divert money and lives from more productive and human activities here and around our world.

The theme this year is Ending War, Promoting Peace. It sounds simple but is actually profound. If we examine the current state of affairs in our country, we might very well conclude that war, indeed, is one of  the main obstacles to building a more humane society, one free of the violence, hate and injustice that is so pervasive. Our Congress, awash in corporate cash, refuses to pass any legislation that would free us from the economic depression that assaults our people - none! Not an iota of bills to provide jobs, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, save our deteriorating schools, rescue our environment from impending doom. But billions for war? More money for the Pentagon and the war contractors? Where do I sign? How fast can I vote? That is the modus operandi of the psychophants and parasites who are collectively known as Congress. To be sure, there are some good people among our elected representatives. Here in Brooklyn, four of our six Representatives voted recently to oppose the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA - aka the annual Pentagon budget). Kudos to them for standing up when it counts! They are part of a consistently progressive and anti-war contingent of Congress Members that hovers around 90 or so members. But that's 90 out of 435!

In the Senate, the number of consistent anti-war members can be counted on one hand. Both of our New York Senators voted for the NDAA. When queried by a recent Brooklyn For Peace delegation to Senator Charles Schumer's office, his aide replied that the Senator voted for the bill because "he supports the troops." What hackneyed and twisted logic! This third-most powerful Senator who, if he had stood on principle and opposed continued funding for the wars, would have certainly made a genuine contribution to supporting the troops by bring them home quickly -- safe and alive. His action, giving courage to other Senators, would have hastened the end of the war in Afghanistan, now in its 12th year.

Instead, Schumer voted for that disastrous bill which authorized the spending of still another $662 billion on the wars and to feed the bloated Pentagon and the filthy war contractors that feed at its trough. Schumer voted as he has always voted - in favor of giving the military industrial complex everything it wants and then some! This while his constituents face increasing layoffs and foreclosures, cuts to vital services and as a phony rationale to fighting the defecit, increasingly vicious attacks on programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. And that he calls "supporting the troops."

One more piece makes the picture of Schumer's perfidy complete. The 2012 NDAA also contained an extremely dangerous and frightening attack on our civil liberties and constitutional freedoms. For the first time in history, it codified in U.S. law, the right of the President to detain, without charges or trial, any person suspected of being a terrorist or who is suspected of "associating" with terrorists. The wording is so vague and broad that many feel it could be even used to detain, indefinitely, American citizens on our own soil! Thus did it garner fierce opposition from many well known defenders of democracy: the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Center for Constitutional Rights. The New York Times also attacked the detention provision vigorously in an editorial of December 15, 2011:
"The bill has so many other objectionable aspects that we can’t go into them all. Among the worst: It leaves open the possibility of subjecting American citizens to military detention and trial by a military court. It will make it impossible to shut the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. And it includes an unneeded expansion of the authorization for the use of military force in Afghanistan to include indefinite detention of anyone suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda or an amorphous group of “associated forces” that could cover just about anyone arrested anywhere in the world."
It should be noted, to his credit, that Schumer opposed the inclusion of the detention provision in the NDAA. He even supported the Udall amendment to strip the bill of that section. But when the amendment failed, Schumer turned around and voted for the bill even though it contained that heinous anti-democratic measure. Pitiful.

A BFP'er delivers the message.Which brings me back to the Peace Fair at Brooklyn  College this Saturday. Without groups like Brooklyn For Peace, few would know these facts that are so important to our democracy (or what's left of it). The media, controlled as it is, is no source of information when a Senator Schumer, who has the facade of a staunch liberal, supports, over and over, the misdirected spending priorities of Congress: favoring war over human needs. Brooklyn For Peace members work mightily, in their communities, to inform their neighbors on the issues of war and peace. They act to keep pressure on Congress to demand that they move the money from war to our communities.  And their ongoing goal is to help build a strong movement of all those who have a different vision for our country - uniting those who are part of the peace movement and those who are in our communities, suffering from, and beginning to fight back against, the GOP/Right-wing's drive to turn our people into paupers by cutting to the bone the most elemental of services.

If you want to be part of this historic movement that is being born and is growing daily, I urge you to support, join and work with Brooklyn For Peace and like-minded organizations as we begin to build that movement that can reclaim our country for the 99 percent!

See you at the Peace Fair this Saturday, April 28, 2012, Brooklyn College Student Center (East 27th Street and Campus Road N) [map]

More information on the Peace Fair here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Yorkers To Bloomberg -
Let The Billionaires, Banks And Pentagon Pay!

May 13, 2011

There was an earthquake in Manhattan yesterday. But this one was brought on, not by Mother Nature, but by tens of thousands of men and women who marched to protest Mayor Bloomberg's budget cuts and to demand that the wealthy - the fat cats of Wall Street and the banks - be made to pay for the crisis they created. 

To shouts of "Tax the rich!" and "Let the banks pay!," they filled the canyons of the financial district where their shouts became a mighty roar, capable, I thought, of making the powerful tremble in their corporate offices at the thought of what might come to be if more and more people start to see the injustices of our economy that concentrates more and more wealth in the top five percent of our population while cutting services for the rest of us.

As the diverse crowd, representative of the multi-racial, multi-national working class of our city, passed by, a man standing next to me on the sidewalk, sighed with deep emotion and said to me "these are the real Americans." It was an observation that summarized, in just a few words, that there was a different version of reality on display - a reality that our corporate media never permits us to see: the diversity, the beauty, the depth and the potential power of "real Americans."

Wisconsin began a new chapter in American history and if yesterday was a sign of things to come, it's that this, indeed, is what democracy looks like and, as they shouted in the streets of Manhattan on May 12th, "the people, united, can never be defeated."

Peace groups (including my own Brooklyn For Peace) marched along with organizations from a wide array of communities: labor, of course, but also student, community, housing, and civil rights groups. Black, white, Latino and Asian, old and young ... all marching together in a spirit of determination and unity that stirred our hearts. This was a very moving experiene for anyone who has hoped and worked for peace and progressive change in our country.

Demands were made for a fair system of taxation and for ending the wars and cutting the bloated Pentagon budget - both of these would free up more than enough money to solve the fiscal crisis, end the cutbacks and put us on the road to actually expanding services for the majority of our people who, following Cuomo and Bloomberg's solutions, are being left out in the cold without shelter or sustenance.

May 12th has stirred a new optimism - that a new day and a new way is ahead if we can keep this movement going and growing. That's the job that lies ahead. Let's get going! 

A slide show of my photos is below or click the image and go to my photo site. 

- Matt

Friday, March 18, 2011

Seniors Tell Bloomberg and Cuomo - "Hands Off Our Centers!"

Mar 18, 2011

Hundreds of senior citizens crowded the steps of New York City Hall today. Cries of "save our centers" rang out over and over again as speaker after speaker protested plans by Governor Cuomo and Republicans in the state legislature to enact savage cuts that would close dozens of centers throughout our city. The cuts are part of Cuomo's budget to reduce the deficit on the backs of New York's working families while sparing his wealthy backers from any increase in their taxes. And he shamelessly calls that "shared sacrifice!"

The solution to the crisis is twofold -- one lies in a return to fair taxation, meaning the wealthy will pay their fair share of revenue. From Eisenhower onwards, the super rich have been paying less and less of the tax burden in this country. In the 1950's, hard as it is to believe, the very wealthiest Americans paid taxes at 91% of their income. Today it stands at a paltry 35%, a shocking decrease that explains why the disparity between the super-rich and the rest of us is the greatest it's ever been: the top 400 wealthiest Americans own more assets (have more wealth) than the bottom 150 million Americans combined! Take a look here to see how higher tax rates would lead to a better America for all our citizens.

The other part of the solution lies in curbing the bloated Pentagon budget and putting an end to the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - the wars alone have cost us over a trillion dollars since 2001! And the military budget consumes close to a trillion dollars per year -- year in and year out. Those misdirected priorities produce a terribly lopsided budget, one that neglects education, health, infrastructure, environment, mass transit -  that is, the well-being of our country and its people while it doles out larger and larger expenditures for endless wars and bigger and more destructive weapons. To see what that money could be used for in NY City for example, take a look here.

A huge crowd at City Hall today. Hey, Bloomberg and Cuomo --  Don't mess with the seniors!

Wisconsin was the opening shot in a coordinated war on Americans by the corporations and their servants in Congress and the state houses. As Democrat Cuomo has demonstrated, this war is being carried out by the extremists in the GOP but is not necessarily exclusive to them. Hand in hand with draconian cutbacks to social services is an unprecedented attack on trade unions that, if successful, would take us back to the 1920's when employers ruled over the work place - long hours, horrible and dangerous working conditions, child labor were the order of the day. This is the 100th anniversary of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist fire - a tragedy that led the way to better conditions and yes, unions, for many American workers - unions that fought and won decent  and fair treatment and better conditions for working people. It was the unions that won the quality of life that today we refer to as the "great American dream" -- the 8 hour day, weekends, paid vacations, health benefits, pensions, seniority and so on. And it was the union movement that was the vessel that raised the standard of living of all Americans, union and non-union, as a result of struggles on behalf of their own members.

Elected officials, (l-r) Senator Velmenette Montgomery, Congressmember Yvette Clarke and Senator Eric Adams, standing up for senior citizens.

Council Member Tish James - "Let Wall Street, who brought on this crisis, pay their share to solve it."

That dream is what's at stake today in Wisconsin and in many states throughout our land. Whether it's unions fighting for their very existence in Wisconsin or senior citizens struggling to keep their centers open in New York - the fight is the same: a struggle for a decent America that takes care of its people...all of it's people, not just the top one per cent.  It's a good fight and one worth fighting for. Else we won't recognize this country a few years from now. As Michael Moore said recently, now's the time to get up off your couch and stand and be counted. If not now, then when?

- Matt

P.S. You can take action. Here's how:
The senior centers are asking concerned people to call Gov. Cuomo's office 516-474-8390 and tell him that you want him to stop the Title 20 cuts to the senior centers.
To see all of today's pictures, just CLICK HERE.
or enjoy a slide show right below.....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In Sheepshead Bay - Standing Up For Democracy And Justice.

Dozens of decent Brooklyn residents stood on Voorhies Avenue on a cold and blustery Sunday morning in front of a construction site. Across the street, hatred was being preached. We were there to defend traditional American values that were under attack - notions of democracy, justice, freedom to worship -- all were being dragged in the mud and it didn't take much to imagine that if people were silent then those values, which were being so seriously threatened today, could be gone tomorrow.

Sheepshead Bay, like many neighborhoods, is changing - becoming more diverse as new families move in; families looking for a good place in which to live and love and bring up their kids and simply go about the business of life. Included in that changing demographic are new Muslim families - perhaps 200 families in the area by some estimates. And so, like many others, they want, and need, a place to worship. Brooklyn has always been known as the Borough of Churches and Sheepshead Bay, like all Brooklyn neighborhoods, has its fair share of churches and synagogues. But it also needs a place for people of the Muslim faith to gather, pray and simply belong.  Sadly,  for some in this neighborhood it's quite okay for Christians and Jews to have their houses of worship but not acceptable for Muslim families to have theirs where they can come together and pray. Under the guise of preventing heavy traffic and other technical reasons, an unsavory and ugly movement has been growing in this part of Brooklyn. But it's not only there - similar protests have been festering in other parts of the city - Staten Island and downtown Manhattan - where right-wing forces have been inciting hatred and division to score points and whip up fear and bigotry.

Good people defending against hatred and intolerance.

It's tragic -- facing severe cuts to services with massive layoffs of teachers and exponential growth of class sizes you'd think there would be massive, united opposition to this attack on all of Sheepshead Bay's families. Instead, the opposition is diluted and weakened as anger is diverted with appeals to racism, fear and hate. Nobody wins except those at the top who can then cut away  with impunity. What a waste!

A father and son against whom, among others, a campaign of hate and lies are being spread.

A fight back has begun as people are saying no to this fear mongering and out-and-out racism. The wise words of the German Protestant minister, Pastor Martin Niemöller, should resound in the hearts and minds of any and all Americans who cherish our democracy and who believe in equal opportunity and justice for all. Niemöller, originally a supporter of  Hitler but later a fierce opponent, was imprisoned and sent  to a concentration camp. He later deeply regretted not having spoken out early on in opposition to the poisonous hate of the Nazis. His statement is a clarion call against the dangers of political apathy in times of great moral crisis. Certainly, we are living in just such a time. We must not be silent.

Divide and conquer - these people should be protesting school cuts that affect them and their neighbors.
First They came... - Pastor Martin Niemöller
First they came for the communists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

To see all my photos from this civil rights protest --

• Go here for a Gallery.

• Go here for a Slide Show 

- Matt
Mar 15, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

The New York Times published the results of a poll showing large majorities of Americans supporting collective bargaining for public worker unions. They are also opposed to cutting the benefits and wages of government employees, feeling that the amount of salary public workers receive is “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

In these times of total corporate control of our media and the constant bashing of public workers as the root cause of our economic difficulties, this poll was astonishing. The truth shall be known and the American people are seeing through the lies.

The poll said -- "Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

"Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees."

Solidarity with Wisconsin public workers - NY City Hall, February 26, 2011. Click photo to see the rest of my photos.

As the cries of the workers in Wisconsin and throughout our country ring out: "This is what democracy looks like," I nod my head in complete support, admiration and agreement. Democracy is not about merely winning at the polls especially when victory comes through corporate-funded campaigns, trickery, outright lies and demagogic pandering. It   is about public servants doing their sworn duty to support the well-being and the values of the overwhelming majority of our people. The GOP shills who were elected last year on the back of the Supreme Court decision declaring corporations to be "persons" are doing the bidding of the Kochs, the banks and the corporations. That is emphatically not democracy but it's opposite: taking us down the road to corporate despotism. This trend must be stopped - in the ballot box but also in the streets and capitol rotundas of our state and federal governments.

This is our American moment - our uprising. Unions, love 'em or hate 'em (and I love 'em) are the last organized obstacle capable of standing up to corporate control of our government. That is why the business class is so intent on crushing them. It's time to take back our government of, by and for the people. (and the corporations, the Supreme Court notwithstanding, are not people). Tomorrow might be too late.

Mar 1, 2011

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MoveOn Rallies To Fight Corporate Corruption Of Our Politics.

Aug 10, 2010

A new campaign has been launched by the popular and powerful, progressive group, Simultaneous rallies across the country had its counterpart right here in Brooklyn where a group of some 50 residents crowded into the small triangle that sits in the middle of Flatbush Avenue at the intersection of Atlantic and Fourth Avenues, across from the Atlantic Terminal shopping mall. wants to Fight Washington Corruption
The campaign aims to return our government to "the other 98% of us" - that is the majority of the American people who have been left out in the cold while corporate cash saturates the Congress and lobbyists representing the banks, the oil companies and the war profiteers call the shots on what legislation gets passed.

Shawn Walsh of Brooklyn MoveOn
Shawn Walsh, MoveOn's Brooklyn coordinator, welcomed the ralliers and laid out the three main points of her organization's new campaign:
  •  To reverse or override the recent Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court which reversed long-standing rules barring Corporations from influencing elections. Citizens United allows unrestricted corporate cash to be spent on behalf of candidates who would support the corporation's agenda.
  • To shine a light on lobbying activities in Congress so the public can know what they're up to and can know which Congress members have met with lobbyists of various corporations. They also demand legislation shutting the revolving door between Congress and corporate offices by mandating a 5-year waiting period between those employment positions.
  • To make elections fairer by leveling the playing field -- grass roots candidates need public financing so that they compete equally with corporate-backed office-seekers with lots of money for media and publicity.
    NYC Public Advocate blasted Target for tainting the Minnesota election
    Speakers included NYC Public Advocate, Bill DeBlasio, who pounded Target for taking advantage of the Supreme Court decision allowing unrestricted corporate money to be used to influence elections. Target stores is, shamefully, the first corporation to put the decision to work by donating $150,000 to the extremist Republican candidate for governor of Minnesota. That candidate, a supporter of the Arizona law that allows police there to terrorize citizens and non-citizens on the suspicion that they might be undocumented aliens, is also viciously anti-gay and anti-labor. DeBlasio demanded a pledge from Target to withdraw from financing such campaigns and to reject future participation on the basis of Citizens United. If not, then consumers and stockholders, he said, must be informed of their perfidious activities so that pressure can be brought to bear on their bottom line.

    Council Member Tish James - a champion against local corruption.

    City Council member, Letitia "Tish" James, a champion in the local fight against corporate corruption of politics, spoke next. It was ironic that the rally was held directly across from the Ratner-owned shopping mall and the construction site where Ratner is to build his new stadium complex despite massive opposition from the communites affected.

    James had led the opposition to that corrupt  land grab, standing with the community. In an impassioned speech she urged the crowd to hearken back to the glorious struggles of the American civil rights movement and the fight for woman's voting rights as models for the battle to reclaim democracy that is now confronts our country .
    Me: "What's more corrupt than a trillion dollar war while people are losing jobs and homes?"
    I spoke next, representing Brooklyn For Peace, claiming war as the biggest corrupting force of all. I spoke of the no-bid war contracts given to Vice President Cheney's Halliburton Corporation which he previously headed before his election as an example of the sickening corruption infecting Washington.

    The spending of a trillion dollars on the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while Americans lose jobs and homes and cities decay with terrible cutbacks to services shows the insidious virus that has infected our government -- a government beholden to the demands of the corporate elite in their drive for ever-larger profits at the expense of the rest of us.

    I applauded MoveOn's initiative because I believe it's clear that we can't end these wars and war spending nor can we make progressive change as long as this corruption is allowed to fester in the halls of Congress.

    I quoted Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who was frustrated, back in April, by bank lobbyists who persuaded the Senate to cripple a bankruptcy reform bill that would have come to the aid of Americans struggling to hold on to their homes. In his anger at their subterfuge, Durbin said:
    "and the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." (i.e. the banks own the Senate)"
    What a striking admission - the banks own the Senate! But it's so true and therein lies the battle ahead - to loosen the grip of corporations on what is supposed to be the "People's Congress." If Citizens United is allowed to stand and the cesspool of corporate cash continues to inundate Congress then our democracy is doomed and we will live in a land where Corporations will do whatever they please - they'll continue to beat down labor, exploit immigrants, wage endless (and profitable) wars and drill for oil in the Gulf and gas in our soil, polluting our precious water and poisoning our planet. That's not a future I want for my children and their children.

    Susan Metz - "separate your lives from corporate influence."
    The final speaker, Susan Metz, a life-long teacher, called on people to live outside of corporate control by supporting food co-ops, using alternative media and pursuing independent political action that could be used as a lever against the corporate-dominated parties.

    We're at a crossroads now - the fight ahead is crystal clear -we must take back our government so that it is truly works for the other 98% of us!

    To see ALL my photos of today's rally, just CLICK HERE.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    How Many Times?? -- A Tragedy Waiting To Happen

    Jun 11, 2010

    Lying in bed this afternoon around 5pm (something we retired people like to do - it's called a nap), I was jarred by the terrible sound of cars colliding on the street outside. This has become a somewhat usual occurrence on Underhill Avenue. The sound always fills me with dread - I live directly across from the playground, a neighborhood mecca filled with kids and parents. My first thought was to hope that nobody was hurt who might have been an innocent bystander: a child and parent crossing the street, a neighbor out walking their dog. Then, of course, I worried about the drivers and passengers, hoping they too were spared injury. But the sound was so loud and so terrible, I thought for sure, someone had to be hurt.

    We were lucky. This time. This was the second horrible collision at the intersection of Prospect Place and Underhill Avenue in the space of a year. Same thing last time - two cars, one on Underhill, one on Prospect, meet in the middle of the intersection and smash into each other. One had to be running the light, a not uncommon sight in our city today. What utter foolishness and stupidity. But also malicious, because a car driven that way, fast and without care to the people on our streets, becomes a dangerous weapon; a weapon that can maim or kill.

    The last time this happend, in May of 2009, I wrote:
    "Driving to make the light without regard for safety of people on foot on our streets will, sooner or later, result in catastrophe. It is a fact that the leading edge of death of young children in New York is not disease but being struck by a car. his time nobody was seriously injured. Next time?? NOW IS THE TIME TO GET SPEEDING CARS AND RECKLESS DRIVERS OFF OUR STREETS."

    This time we must take action. A petition must be written and distributed to all our neighbors demanding from our elected officials and the Department of Transportation that action be taken to insure that traffic is calmed on Underhill Avenue, particularly near our school and playground. Either by use of traffic humps, 4-way stop signs, re-timing of lights, increased signage or other methods that the DOT has and uses in its inventory, we must get this dangerous condition under control.

    We should not wait to take action until after one of our children or neighbors is maimed or killed. The time for action is now!

    - Matt

    Click Here to see all of these crash photos.

    Thursday, May 06, 2010

    Three Days In April and May --
    Americans Begin To Fight Back!

    May 6, 2010

    These are exciting days.

    Exciting because the potential for pushing our country forward toward the change that we need and want is within reach. But corporate America - the banks, Wall Street and the oil companies - stand in the doorway, the enemies of any progress. Not content with record profits and tax-payer funded bailouts, these great patriots want it all and at any cost: massive unemployment, the loss of people's homes and security, increasing poverty and hunger, oil spills that despoil entire regions - none of that means anything to them as long as their bottom line continues its upward trajectory.

    Exciting days - filled with promise but only if "we the people" can mobilize and organize ourselves to be the agent of change that is our potential. It is the strength of our numbers, united in demanding change, that scares the living daylights out of those who control our destinies (and our government)now.

    It has become clear that the election of November 2008, as exciting and as promising as it was, has not fulfilled the expectations of the millions who turned out and, with their votes, demanded a change in the direction and priorities of our government. Only by organizing those Obama voters to continue to push and push hard, can we make good on the promise of change. As the sage said - "The people shall lead and the leaders will follow." Change will not be handed to us but will only come if we demand it and organize millions to make those demands irrefutable.

    Three actions recently point to exciting new developments that move us in the direction of building that new force for change.

    On April 29th the AFL-CIO brought thousands to Wall Street to demand pay back from the crew that wrecked our economy and threw eight million people out of their jobs. This was inspiring and, in case you haven't been paying attention, new! Perhaps you missed reading about it in the NY Times - Well, that's because because it wasn't covered in the "newspaper of record" at all! Here was the NYC working class on parade - angry and militant - something we haven't seen in decades and something we need much, much more of: a fighting union movement for progressive change! Strange, isn't it? Three hundred tea party nut jobs standing on a street corner gets front page coverage but 15,000 trade unionists demanding that Wall Street criminals go to jail instead of bonuses - that's ignored. Newspaper of record - yeah, right!

    Richard Trumka, President of the labor federation, blasted the banks for their criminal activities and demanded that their profits be taxed to provide good jobs for those who have suffered from their reckless actions. "Good jobs now! Good jobs now!" echoed throughout the crowd as thousands took up the call.

    A call for fairness and justice: Hold the banks accountable!
    >>> Click any photo to see it larger

    A new, bolder labor movement - just what the doctor ordered.

    Just two days later on May Day, the international workers' day inspired by the 1886 Chicago Haymarket strike demanding an eight-hour day (something we sadly need to fight for again), thousands again gathered in lower Manhattan to demand human rights for immigrants and all of labor. May Day in recent years has seen millions demonstrating across our country in search of justice and fairness for immigrants who have come here seeking a better life. Sponsored by a broad coalition of labor and immigrants' organizations, speakers railed against the recently-passed law in Arizona that would use police-state tactics as a racist club to imtimidate immigrants by allowing the cops to stop anyone they might believe to be here without documents. Talk about racial profiling! Arizona, it should be remembered, was also the last state to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday so it came as no surprise that such a law would raise its ugly head in that state first.

    Calls for boycott of that heavily tourist-dependent state and demands that the Federal government intervene in Arizona have been heard all across our country because the law flies in the face of traditional American notions of fairness and justice.

    What the shameful Arizona law will do: rip families apart!

    Brooklyn was well-represented at the May Day march.

    Just the other day, on May 2nd, New Yorkers marched again. This time, they were joined by over 2,000 Japanese peace activists, including survivors of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Thousands paraded through Times Square in a lively and colorful demonstration that called for worldwide nuclear disarmament. The marchers wanted a world that was not threatened by the stockpiles of these horrible weapons that threaten the very existence of our world and that rob humanity of resources that could be used to solve intractable problems of poverty and hunger around the globe.

    The march, which was the culmination of a weekend conference at Riverside church that attracted thousands to discuss the urgent threat of nuclear weapons, coincided with the United Nations disarmament conference. The U.N. was the destination of marchers and at its conclusion there was a fantastic peace and music festival in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the U.N. headquarters.

    A large and spirited Brooklyn For Peace contingent was part of the outpouring for an end to the nuclear threat.

    The Japanese peace activist added a colorful and dramatic component to this No Nukes peace march.

    The Japanese peace activists added a colorful and creative component to the march with wonderful banners, capes and costumes that all called for peace and an end to the nuclear threat. American and Japanese marchers mingled and chatted, getting to know each other better - what a wonderful and memorable demonstration for worldwide peace!

    You can see the rest of my photos from all three actions by going here: CLICK HERE

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    DOT Creates Car Mayhem On Little Old Park Place

    Mar 18, 2010

    I'm a bicyclist and the very last person you know who would criticize the DOT for restricting car traffic. Kudos to them for all the new bike lanes in our city and other traffic-calming schemes designed to make our streets quieter, safer and more breathable and to get people out of their cars and into mass transit or onto their bikes or feet!

    However! Bruce Ratner recently broke ground for his mega-development and stadium at the Atlantic train yards. Not only is this ill-begotten land-grab-of-a-scheme stinking to high heaven from corruption and public/private malfeasance, it's also creating havoc on our quiet, residential streets due to collusion, I believe, between the billionaire developer and the city to make things go smoothly ... not for you and me but for Ratner and his stadium.

    If you live in Prospect Heights, you may have noticed a huge uptick in traffic on little old Park Place, a narrow, residential eastbound-only street. But you may not know the reason. Here's why. If one drives south on Flatbush Avenue - i.e. from the Manhattan Bridge heading toward Prospect Park, there are very few opportunities to turn left (eastbound). Yet, large amounts of people live in our neighborhoods to the east of Flatbush Avenue: in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights and beyond.

    Click the map for a larger view.

    If you live in those neighborhoods and want to go east from Flatbush Avenue, once you pass Lafayette Avenue, you cannot turn left for almost a full mile, until you reach Park Place! That's because --
    • There's no left on Hanson Place - it was closed permanently a while ago.

    • There's no left on Atlantic Avenue.

    • There's no left on Fifth Avenue or Pacific Street - closed permanently.

    • There's no left on Dean Street - ever! (until last week one could at least make a left after 7 pm and all day Sundays).

    • There's no left on St. Marks Avenue.
    This traffic nightmare was "designed" by the folks at DOT and it has transformed Park Place from a relatively quiet and traffic-free street into a major eastbound thoroughfare. Long lines of traffic between Flatbush Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue are common - cars very often take several red light cycles to finally pass through the intersection at Vanderbilt. Then much of that traffic proceeds up the next eastbound block of Park Place and, frustrated with their long wait on the previous block, many now tear up the street in order to "make" the green light on Underhill Avenue. This has created, noise, congestion, fumes from waiting lines of cars and dangerous speeding by frustrated drivers.

    The new sign at Flatbush and Dean - this used to read "no left turn except after 7 pm and all day Sunday." Now it's No Left Turn --- Ever!
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    Fifth Avenue eastbound from Flatbush - now permnently closed. Privatized for Ratner's stadium.
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    I'm compelled to ask - is this the professional planning of traffic engineers who ought to be concerned about reducing traffic and making streets safe for residents and pedestrians? Or is it, more likely, an order from up on high to do what has to be done to keep traffic flowing smoothly for the soon-to-be traffic-attracting stadium a few blocks north? It seems to be the latter. The result of this preposterous design is an assault on the residents of Park Place and environs.

    No left on 6th Avenue - southbound on Flatbush. The result is that if you want to go east into Prospect Heights or Crown Heights, there's only one way to go and that's up tiny, narrow, residential Park Place. How could this be?
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    We must demand, from our elected officials and the Department of Transportation, that a better plan be implemented and the current design abandoned. Calls should be made to Community Board No. 8 (Ms. Michelle George, Manager) at (718) 467-5574 or Tish James (our Council Member) at (718) 260-9191 or the Mayor's office at 311.

    Call now and call often until this travesty is un-done.