Letters are wonderful things

By Bette Dewing

First, a little letter-to-the-editor history. My first letter to this paper led to covering local events like 19th Pct. community council meetings. Eventually, with a big assist from then publisher’s wife and Our Town editor Arlene Kayatt, a column was granted. Wow! That letter, which, incidentally, urged New Yorkers to cover fenced tree pits with Christmas tree branches, surely did change my life. And before getting on with molto kudos for three recent letter writers, let me say how inordinately grateful I am for the privilege, and for subsequent publishers and editors letting me cntinue to sound off. And I couldn’t be more grateful for you dear readers, especially those who thankfully respond. Ah. response, such a general human need — the constructive kind of course. And these communication skills need to be learned and used from pre-K on.

O-o-o-p-s, just a bit of a sidetrack from a salute to three recent letters to the editor, published in the issue dated Dec. 27 — Jan. 2. They deserve to be reprinted and sent to every legislator, with a “Now see and learn this, this is what makes a safe and livable city.” I almost said “you blockheads.” But that’s the gist of Ian Alterman, Sandy Jaffe and Michael Kearney’s letters’ — total vision. And yes, they relate to two of my most basic concerns — more like crusades — which I find a great many New Yorkers share, but most, regrettably, don’t go public about.

Here’s social activst Ian Alterman’s epic response to the news piece, An End to E Bike Ban in Sight? “This has to be the most insane, bone-headed and dangerous proposal in years.” He goes on about how the city council law now banning e-bikes was not nearly strong or inclusive enough. And I add, all these years since Ian had me speak to the 23rd Pct community council about this growing city-wide danger, that his concern also applies to the habitual traffic law-breaking of regular cyclists.

And do relish Ian’s 2019 epic conclusion: “...this proposal should die on the vine, and any official who supports it will be complicit in the injuries and possible deaths almost certain to occur if it is passed.” And don’t forget the harmful stress engendered by near-misses, and being always on alert for their silent, lawbreaking habits. Keep saying it, Ian.

Michael Keaney’s safe travel vision urges walkers using north and south avenues to walk so the traffic is coming toward you. That way, you face the cars as they turn into the side streets you are crossing. Indeed. whenever possible avoid crossing where they can turn into you. Failure to yield is the crime most deadly to pedestrians. Keep reminding us, Michael.

And the third letter, from Sandy Jaffe, ruefully laments the killing off of the iconic Lord & Taylor department store, including its human-scale, humane architecture. It’s another people gathering place lost — along with neighborhood stores that meet everyday needs. Sandy’s concern is also for the enormous pile of Amazon merchandise in her lobby. And think of all the additional delivery trucks on these high-density streets, potentiially dangerous traffic, congesting and air polluting.

Surely, this is a city crisis unaddressed, incredibly enough, by elected officials’ lengthy newsletters, or in the mayor’s recent state of the city address.

What to do!? Well we must say something, do something. For starters, repeatedly call elected officials whose numbers are found in this paper’s Useful Contacts column. Write letters to editors, of course, and keep trying, even if they’re not printed. At least they are noted by the editors.

And you with computers, do send these three letters around -get them on “social media” - go viral, whatever. And help those without computers share. Heartfelt thanks again Ian, Sandy and Michael for helping to make it a total vision 2019 city. It can be done if enough of us try!