We are deeply saddened by two departures from this life, one “wrongful” and one “natural,” but premature. Fifty-year-old Stuart Gruskin was struck down by a wrong-way-riding cyclist while walking to work near West 43rd Street last summer. It might not have happened if the City Council had immediately passed Jessica Lappin’s intro 624, which would make commercial bike-using businesses more liable for their riders’ law-breaking cycling habits. Instead, it was stalled for two years in the Transportation Committee, headed by Council Member John Liu. Even now, a top elected official’s aide told me, “The Council doesn’t think commercial bikes are a real problem, so we need a big turnout to pass this bill.”
Gruskin’s widow and his father and mother were part of what was a disappointing turnout who had to wait more than three hours to testify in the oppressively over-lit and over-cooled Council Chambers. Why was it third on the docket?
The Council may reject this bill, one among several passed over the years to overcome the “two-wheeled anarchy” reign of commercial cyclists. But widow Nancy Gruskin is thankfully suing the restaurant—the only reason this so wrongful death got media coverage, but only from the Daily News and the New York Post. Bless this widow too for starting a foundation related to the prevention of other such wrongful deaths. This incident also leaves 12-year-old twins without their father.
Also giving testimony at City Hall were Marilyn Dorato and Jack Brown, key members of the sorely needed new Coalition Against Rogue Riders (CARR). Community Board 8 member Jonathon Horn and several others were unable to wait to testify. But surely the “absentee multitudes,” who for decades have regularly protested this ubiquitous illegal threat at civic meetings, will still give support to both the Lappin bill and the CARR endeavor.
It was standing room only at Brick Church last week for the funeral of Cliff Maloney, husband of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Again, it was a sudden dying, of natural causes, but much too soon. It made big news because this vigorous 71-year-old beloved husband, father, son and brother died in his sleep after summiting one of the highest Himalayan mountains. Had he died at home, we’d not have known as much about him, or thought about this very good marriage in a time when only bad ones get coverage. We’d not have known he was often the primary parent of Christina and Virginia while his wife was doing the people’s business, first as a City Councilwoman and then as a U.S. Congresswoman. And how we need such nurturing men. He was also a success in business, some of it philanthropic, an expert mountain climber and athlete, and he managed to achieve the often-elusive well-balanced life.
“Sudden departures” are especially hard to bear. We hope Congresswoman Maloney will somehow channel her sorrow into giving more attention to male vulnerability in general—their lower life expectancy, their failure to have regular checkups and even more, their inability to talk about physical and emotional problems. Above all, challenge the ever-more flawed macho-type cultural idols relentlessly pushed by the custom- and view-shaping media, entertainment and arts.
Should spectator sports be the number one universal religion? Brick Church was packed with as many males as females for Cliff Maloney’s funeral, unlike the usual church attendance ratio of—at best—one male to five females. Should not attention be paid?
Stuart Gruskin and Cliff Maloney are the husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and friends, truly ethical role models who are needed as never before. Because, quite disastrously, these characteristics are becoming more and more counter cultural. They need our all-out support and protection. So do all the laws that ensure public safety and health.
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