Volume 16 • Issue 20 | October 14 - 20, 2003


Helping out on air

To The Editor:
Re (Talking Point, “Overreacting to Whitman’s deceit on air quality,” by Charles Komanoff, Oct. 7 – 13, 2003):

Thanks for your laudatory comments.  But I think I just did what most every New Yorker tried to do at the time: help us all to cope with a bad situation the best way we knew how.  In my case, by providing my air pollution health effects expertise to any who wanted to listen.  I am thankful to have had that to offer.

Dr. George D. Thurston
Associate professor of environmental medicine, N.Y.U. School of Medicine

No overreaction at Stuy

To The Editor:
Charles Komanoff latches onto a minor technical controversy over post-9/11 air sampling at Stuyvesant High School to justify his assertion that indoor environmental quality in Downtown schools rapidly returned to normal (Talking Point, “Overreacting to Whitman’s deceit on air quality,” Oct. 7 – 13, 2003). Unfortunately, Mr. Komanoff misses the forest for the trees.

Yes, the manufacturer of the equipment used by the Department of Education to measure fine particulate matter (a respiratory health hazard) at Stuyvesant confirms that levels recorded could have been anywhere from 100 percent to 300 percent of particulate levels recorded elsewhere by the Environmental Protection Agency using different instruments. However, any lapse in accuracy, according to the equipment manufacturer, was likely caused by the presence of combustion byproducts from ground zero fires — a health concern for our children either way.

Yes, the weather cleaned outdoor air in most places after ground zero fires were extinguished. However, the siting of the waste transfer station only yards from Stuyvesant increased the potential for contamination at the school. Thus, on the 2 occasions that E.P.A. measured outdoor levels of isocyanates and tetrachloroethane at Stuyvesant it found levels exceeding health-based benchmarks.

Outdoor contaminants that find their way indoors can remain for extended periods of time. Although asbestos was removed from Stuyvesant before it reopened on October 9, 2001, additional asbestos was found in the school almost a year later. In spring of 2002, levels of lead dust significantly above E.P.A. benchmarks were found in classrooms and throughout the mechanical ventilation system. The school was closed all summer for an extensive lead removal project.

Stuyvesant parents did not “overreact.” We are proud that our Parents’ Association was able to work with D.O.E. to conduct comprehensive indoor testing and to implement appropriate cleanups when test results indicated preventable health risks to the school community.

Paul L. Edwards
Stuyvesant parent

Al Qaeda’s wishes

To The Editor:
Re “Bin Laden’s footprints” and “Rebuild the towers” (Letters, Oct. 7 –13,2003):

The most evil man on earth said we (as in our society) would finish his work for him by retreating to caves and under rocks. And so we will...expect construction of bin Laden Square to begin in August ‘04. Perhaps New York City should just deed the World Trade Center land over to him as well and be done with it. Why not? He’s already got the footprints sealed up, thanks to the demands of the victims’ families, of which most of them are still emotionally frozen. No commerce or retail space where the towers once stood. Most of us have heard the term, “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it?”  But, then these people just don’t get it. If the people of the great city of New York allow Daniel Libeskind’s architectural atrocity to become a reality, then that is exactly what the people of New York City deserves.

Jadira Carmona
Los Angeles, Ca.

Good Plimpton tribute

To The Editor:
Re “George Plimpton, in memoriam” (The Penny Post, Sept. 30 –Oct. 6, 2003):

I enjoyed reading Andrei Codrescu’s nice tribute to George Plimpton.   As a sometime writer, the notion of getting such attention from a writer of Plimpton’s stature is extraordinary.  I once knew a man who had tea with a world famous writer simply because he asked to meet her.  For those of us who usually do not have that kind of access or courage, it was nonetheless good to hear Mr. Plimpton’s unique voice in the various programs of Ken Burns.  As a member of a performing arts organization in Lower Manhattan I also understand the challenge of getting people to come Downtown with or without the promise of whiskey.

Jerry Osterberg
Down Town Glee Club president


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