“What gets our attention gets us,” warned latter-day prophet and theologian Willis Elliott, who was once head of the New York Theological Seminary. And James Patsaricas’ June 30 Daily News letter to editor warns that non-stop media attention of Michael Jackson’s sudden death shows that “we’re heading in the way of the fallen empires of Rome and Great Britain.” He worried that the critical issues like the Albany crisis are all but blacked out.
This worries a lot of us, especially those who read this paper, which thankfully front-paged its “Albany Out of Order” piece. Still too few readers “go public” as Pasaricas did; if your letter is not published, don’t give up—editors at least know “it’s an issue.” Send editors any message for legislators, too, remembering the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “first commandment” for change: “Everyone must make everything their business!”
Clergy need to change what they preach about. Many a column of mine has been foisted upon Madison Avenue Presbyterian clergy especially. And how overjoyed I was when the late Dr. David H. C. Read, (“one of America’s 10 top preachers,” said Time magazine) once quoted an excerpt from the pulpit:
“Bette Dewing, a member of this congregation, wrote recently in her column called ‘For a Gentle City’ published in Our Town, these thought provoking words: ‘If half the attention were directed to how to get along with family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues as has been given to how to get along in business and in bed, families and friendships would be alive, well and even faithful. And as a result so would our neighborhoods our cities and the country.’”
My quote needed a polish, but, hey, it’s the thought that counts, is it not? And Read’s never-need-polishing-words often give strength for the ever more uphill battles: “Bette wages a valiant war against dehumanizing forces in our city—all that takes the holy out of humanity.” (Earlier, he explained that “holy” is derived from the word “whole.”)
And so let’s keep waging those wars against dehumanizing forces that are sometimes legal. I confess my railing has been more about saving endangered affordable eateries than the places people can least afford to lose: their homes. However, in trying to learn more about “the community” behind the “hot dog stand” that’s losing its longtime home at Carl Schurz Park’s 84th Street entrance, I called East 79th Street Neighborhood Association president, Betty Cooper Wallerstein. I also learned about the elder wheelchair-bound woman who is pleading the case to save about 27 rent-regulated and rent-controlled homes at 85 East End Ave. from becoming Brearley school classrooms.
Yes, Brearley may have a legal right to take over these homes, and if so, the tenants must be helped to get their stories really “out there,” on how losing a dearly loved home (and neighborhood too), is often second only to losing a dearly loved person. And where does one go? Maybe then this prestigious girls’ school will be persuaded to use the nearby vacant buildings instead. This would also set a compelling “community-first” example for their students, not to mention other places of learning.
If not, get out the placards—give all-out support! Saving homes is everyone’s business!
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