Attack vs. Protest

Dear Editor,
In response to Larry Penner’s “Two kinds of riots” dispatch on July 22, does Mr. Penner deny that the January 6th violent attack on our elected leaders, Vice President Michael Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the Capitol police who courageously tried to defend them, although outnumbered against a violent armed organized mob needs a laser-focused investigation?
Comparing the attack on Congress, which was in the process of certifying the presidential election results certified by state officials, to the demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd in May of last year is not valid. It is a ploy to deflect attention from what happened on January 6.
Mr. Penner is engaging in “whataboutism.” He wishes to change the subject, conflating the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the January 6th Capitol riot. This is a tired repetition of a weak line of counterattack.
If democracy survives, it will be because we have nothing to fear when it comes to uncovering the facts about the January 6th riots.
Janet James

Plane nonsense

Dear Editor,
Has anyone but myself noticed loud airplane noise? Suddenly, Forest Hills has become an annex to LaGuardia Airport.
Planes pass over 68th Avenue loud and low very frequently, which never used to be an issue. The noise is as annoying as can be.
I was just interested if anyone else is bothered by the noise.
Jackie (Last Name Withheld Upon Request)
Forest Hills

LIRR issues

Dear Editor,
Besides the noise from work at the Bayside LIRR rail yard (“Another push to shut down work at Bayside Yard” – July 28), there are also ongoing problems at the Bayside Long Island Rail Road Station that impact several thousand dally riders.
I give the LIRR full credit for installation of new concrete ties and ballasts. This will insure a safer and more comfortable ride. They have also recently completed repairs to sections of the westbound platform edge.
However, there is still other significant outstanding maintenance and repair work to be done.
The original wooden support beams for various sections of the canopy have deteriorated. Pigeons have moved into the rotting bottom section of the westbound canopy stairs roof.
Other portions of the canopy roof are also in need of repair. The metal structure supporting the overpass connecting the east and westbound platforms has begun accumulating rust.
There is also a hole in one of the eastbound staircases.
Why does the LIRR allow these issues to grow even worse? When will the necessary repairs to these structural deficiencies be dealt with and completed?
Larry Penner
Great Neck

Our Infrastructure Should Go Back to the Future

America’s infrastructure is taking a beating — and not just from wear and tear. It’s hard to find an article about U.S. roads, bridges, or transmission lines that doesn’t describe them as “crumbling.”
It’s not that the original projects were poorly built. On the contrary, twentieth century U.S. infrastructure includes a long list of iconic marvels. These projects were imaginative, technologically bold, and transformative.
But concrete and steel wear out. While “crumbling” is perhaps rhetorical overkill, much of our twentieth century infrastructure is aging and struggling to meet current needs.
To that end, the president has challenged Americans to “build back better.” But what does “better” mean in the context of our bridges, roads, ports, and other infrastructure elements?
Today’s political momentum behind infrastructure has been absent for decades. It would be unfortunate if we lost this opportunity by reverting to the traditional thinking on what constitutes infrastructure. A transformative strategy must include an aggressive use of technology in the design, construction, and operation of new projects.
By integrating the digital and physical worlds, it’s possible to develop solutions that have no historical precedent. Digital construction, in the form of smart machines and site management tools, has already demonstrated potential. It can achieve project cost reductions of up to 25 percent, by improving productivity and reducing waste.
Meanwhile, the availability of cost-effective sensors coupled with reliable wireless connectivity, cloud-enabled access to data bases, and AI capabilities provide a platform for improvements in operating costs, project life, and user benefits.
While much of these technologies are still nascent, early developments are already in play across the country. Santa Clara County uses sensors and cloud-based calculations to adjust traffic lights on major roads, accounting for car volume as well as bicycles and pedestrians.
Early tests of a similar system in Pittsburgh found that it cut travel times by a quarter and idling by almost a third.
Smart water systems, such as the one being implemented in Louisville, Kentucky, detect leaks and hasten repairs. Real-time monitoring of dams and bridges provides status updates that allow the prioritization of maintenance and the avoidance of catastrophic failure.
Examples such as these are proliferating. So, any infrastructure legislation that doesn’t anticipate a continuing flow of innovation and provide appropriate incentives will fail.
Properly anticipating the trends that will challenge our future infrastructure is equally crucial. As a recent report from the Brookings Institution stated, our country “cannot simply react as the pace of digitalization accelerates.”
Constructing new versions of old infrastructure, however sensational it was for its era, will be insufficient to meet these challenges. Technology will future-proof our systems by enabling them to better adapt to changing conditions, and thereby extending their effective life.
The challenge of future-proofing our infrastructure will require imagination and vision from Republicans and Democrats. Some aspirational elements should be easy to agree on — namely, the need to build smart infrastructure.
By getting that strategy right, Congress will be making a wise investment — whatever the monetary amount. And the infrastructure we build today will sustain us long into the future.

Steve Berglund is the executive chairman of the Board of Directors at Sunnyvale-based Trimble Inc.

If it’s your choice, then face the consequences

One of the most upsetting aspects of the coronavirus pandemic (aside from the millions of deaths globally) has been the politicization of public health, especially in the United States.
Facilitated in part by the unclear and theatrical messaging of former President Donald Trump, a large number of Americans have eschewed masks since the pandemic’s start because they perceive a piece of fabric over their mouth and nose as an encroachment on their civil liberties.
Many conservative pundits have preached about the tyranny of the mask, urging their audiences to exercise their freedom of speech and conscientiously object the most basic of health precautions.
Once vaccines were produced and readily available, the story played out much the same. “Exercise free speech!” the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers chant. “Public health is a choice, not an obligation!” they cheer.
Yet if people are able to choose against protecting their health and the health of others, then they should be ready to face the consequences.
In addition to still being at risk of contracting and dying from COVID, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers should be prepared to face additional obstacles as the rest of the country gets its act together and tries to return to some sort of normal life.
Although Mayor Bill de Blasio encourages people to wear masks even if vaccinated, he should not re-institute a mask mandate for the entire population. Instead, future messaging about masks and vaccines should be specifically targeted at those who ignore them.
“If you are not vaccinated, you must still wear a mask,” the headlines should read.
New York City is doing a good job at tackling the pandemic. If we want to cross the finish line though, we must not bend to the will of a selfish minority of the population. Instead, government officials should be prepared to play hardball with the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers.
Make it known that they are the problem and make it clear that the city can continue on its path to recovery with or without them.

Live music returns to Forest Hills Stadium

Live music returned to Forest Hills Stadium for the first time since 2019, giving thousands of concert-goers in Queens a reason to celebrate and a brief return to normal.
The historic outdoor venue officially reopened on Friday, July 23, as Brandi Carlile took the stage before 8,000 fans, kicking off the stadium’s summer concert series on a high note.
The 14,000-seat capacity venue, located at the West Side Tennis Club, will soon be hosting additional live performances, after a season of concerts were lost due to the pandemic.
As part of New York City’s “Homecoming Week,” the stadium will also host a free concert on Friday, August 20, as announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.
Mario DiPreta, CEO of the West Side Tennis Club (WSTC), says the reopening of the unique venue comes at a time when fans need it most. After hosting a successful first live show back, DiPreta recalled what it was like to welcome live music fans back for the first time in over a year.
“It was amazing to make sure that we could actually do a concert again and get back to some sort of normalcy,” said DiPreta. “The energy was amazing, the crowd was singing to the music. It’s one of the most amazing venues and unique too, there’s not one like it in the world.”
Built in 1923, the outdoor concert venue sits on 13 acres owned by the private tennis club, which played host to the US Open until 1977. It’s where Arthur Ashe became the first African-American to win a Grand Slam tournament in 1968, and it’s where Billie Jean King played while she campaigned for equal prize money and opportunities for women in tennis.
The stadium also hosted legendary musical acts in the 1960’s and 1970’s, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Simon and Garfunkel. In 1968, The Beatles were flown into the stadium by helicopter before performing in front of a sold-out crowd.
“It’s where legends walked the grounds, from tennis to music,” DiPretta added.
But following the US Open’s departure to Flushing Meadows in 1978, the structure began to decay and deteriorate, eventually leading to a denial of landmark status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2011.
WSTC even weigned the option of having the stadium replaced with luxury condominiums, before voting the idea down. The stadium was in need of rehabilitation if it was ever going to host live concerts again.
That’s when promoter Mike Lubo made a cold call to the WSTC pro shop, seeking an alternative site for a band to play a gig. Lubo, who grew up on Long Island, was aware of the legendary performances and artists who took the stage at Forest Hills Stadium decades ago.
“In one of the great turn of events, the stadium was not landmarked, which enabled us to come in and do the stuff we did,” said Lubo, now the lead promoter for the venue. “The day after the first phone call, I came out here with a structural engineer.”
Lubo recalls the engineer describing the site as “feeling like a warzone”, and Lubo likened the place to, “a dumping ground for three decades.”
But a commitment was made by Lubo and his team to keep the “bones” of the stadium — built upon first-generation U.S. Steel and poured concrete — and to focus on leading the venue into the 21st century.
After holding their inaugural concert in 2013 with Mumford & Sons, gradual improvements were made to the site’s amenities and safety, including new seats, new aisles and a new world-class stage.
“Our happiest moment was when we finally put real bathrooms out here,” said Lubo.
Now there is a commitment to upgrade the stadium following each concert season. From just one single show in 2013, to well over a dozen just a few years later, the revival of a historic venue is well under way.
But that was all put on pause last March. Live entertainment came to a halt, along with the venue’s expected 2020 concert season. It would be another 16 months before fans flocked to Forest Hills Stadium once again.
“We were probably the first major industry to fully shut down,” said Lubo. “It’s been a long run of scheduling and rescheduling. Our first priority is that the bands, the crew and the fans are safe.”
When COVID-related restrictions were lifted for New Yorkers in June, it allowed for the venue to host live shows once again. Under current guidelines, shows do not require proof of vaccination. Tickets for shows are available at
Lubo said it was an emotional return for some when the stadium hosted fans again for the first time in over a year.
“Music and communal gathering is such a big part of what it means to be human,” said Lubo. “I think people really have been missing that in their life.”

Fri. Aug 20, “Homecoming Week” free concert series
Sat. Aug. 21, Wilco & Sleater Kinney, Nnamdi
Sat. Aug. 28, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid
Thu. Sep. 9, King Crimson, The Zappa Band
Fri. Sep. 10, My Morning Jacket, Brittany Howard
Sat. Sep. 11, My Morning Jacket, Brittany Howard
Sat. Oct. 2, The Neighbourhood

Richards launches ‘Queens Shop Small’ program

Borough President Donovan Richards will be visiting a local small business every month as part of a new initiative to promote shopping locally.

“I want to keep supporting small businesses in underserved communities because a lot of times the aid that comes doesn’t always assist them,” said Richards.

For his first visit, Richards stopped by The Nourish Spot in Jamaica. Dawn Kelly opened The Nourish Spot in 2017, promoting healthy living with her smoothies, wraps, and salads.

“I would like his help in making sure that we could get more needed service for some of the people in the community that are down and out on their luck,” Kelly said of Richards. “There are quite a few people who need help with homelessness, mental issues, and drug addiction.

“There’s things happening around Queens like Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium that we would like to be a part of,” she added. “We want their help to be a part of that.”

Soon after taking office, Richards worked with the city and New York Mets to create the Queens Small Business Grant program to support businesses in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19. Over $14 million in no-strings-attached grant funding was distributed among 757 approved entities, 613 of which were minority owned.

During Richards’ visit, Kelly’s was busy filling online orders.

“Business is wonderful because during the pandemic every doctor and medical professional was telling people to eat a more balanced, healthy diet,” said Kelly. “We were doing okay at first, but we got a boom of business in 2020 and had to keep up with the demand.”

Before leaving, Richards presented Kelly with a citation recognizing and Kelly for her work supporting the local community, from hiring local young people to opening the shop as a true community space.

“Our small businesses are the livelihood of Queens,” said Richards. “Where can you get a taste of the world besides Queens?” To learn more visit

Midwives at Elmhurst rally for fair contract

Dozens of health care workers and their supporters took to the picket line outside Elmhurst Hospital last week to demand a fair union contract for the seven full-time midwives who work at the facility.
“We happily worked through the pandemic with all of the positive moms and babies,” said Keeley McNamara, who has been a midwife at Elmhurst Hospital for the past 10 years. “We changed our schedules, we rearranged everything in our lives and some of us got COVID, yet we continue to work without a contract.
“We are only asking for parity with other HHC hospitals so that we can hire and retain good midwives and continue to serve the community we love,” she added.
Midwives at Elmhurst Hospital Center, who are health care professionals trained to assist women in childbirth, are part of the Mount Sinai Health System.
The group unanimously decided to join the New York State Nurses Association two-and-a-half years ago, but they say the hospital network has refused to negotiate a fair contract, leaving them overworked and underpaid.
“This community was the epicenter of the epicenter of the pandemic,” said Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, one of several elected officials who attended the rally last Wednesday to support the cause. “We opened our windows and banged our pots and pans to thank our essential workers, yet our midwives were working overtime with lesser pay literally saving lives every day. They are our heroes and ‘she-roes’ and we demand equity.”
Jonathan Forgash, co-founder of Queens Together, an organization that provided meals to Elmhurst Hospital staff and its midwives since early April 2020, said he joined the picket line because he knows firsthand about the sacrifices that were made by the midwives during the pandemic.
“Keeley lives in the same apartment building as me and my family,” he said. “When the midwives were switched from maternity to COVID patient care, we saw her come home to her family exhausted every night.
“We heard stories about their work and care for those sick and dying,” Forgash continued. “We heard stories about insufficient PPE or none at all. I knew we needed to show them some love, that people were grateful for their personal sacrifice and care.”
Elmhurst Hospital’s chief midwife Margaret Re, who has been working for the facility for more than 20 years, said she contracted COVID at the hospital during the pandemic but returned to work as soon as she was able.
She admits the hours are grueling, but said she does what she does for the community she is committed to serving.
“Why is it so difficult?” asked Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz. “Mount Sinai should be at the table in good faith listening to the needs of folks who, quite frankly, are serving a community that is making [Mount Sinai’s] pockets pretty rich.
Yet they don’t want to talk about giving this amazing team of midwives their just due,” she added. “We are not asking for much. We are simply asking that they get the dignity, the respect, and the money they deserve.”

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