Volume 22, Number 27 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 13 - 19, 2009
Liberty for New York?
New Yorkers who value freedom, civil rights advocates, gays and lesbians got some good news Tuesday night: gays may not have to sit on the back of the bus too much longer, at least in terms of same sex marriage. The Democratically-controlled State Senate finally committed to bringing the marriage equality bill to a vote before the end of the year. If it passes, the bill will become law since the Assembly has passed this measure twice already.
Gov. David Paterson deserves enormous credit for not letting the Democratic Senate leaders dawdle too much longer by insisting they commit to a vote. Since a full debate is likely to take only a few hours, we would have strongly preferred a schedule commitment within a week, but the difference between one or seven weeks will not matter much in the long run. Our bigger concern is that with wide disagreement on how to close an ever-increasing state budget deficit, and given the Senate’s year of stalemate, futility and a domestic violence conviction of a gay marriage-supporting senator, the promise could be broken. An unresolved budget deficit will be an easy excuse to delay the vote yet again.
(Incidentally, as we and others have pointed out before, legalizing gay marriage would help the budget situation as it would serve as a modest, short-term economic stimulus to the many communities throughout the state with beautiful wedding venues.)
The prospects for passage appear promising, although no one knows for sure. Even a defeated bill would at least put everyone on record. We think it would ultimately doom many of the opponents since polls continue to show strong support for marriage rights among the young.
The real reason to pass this is to give equal rights (at least under state law) to consenting adult couples who love each other. It’s to let the thousands of children growing up with gay parents know that New York no longer thinks their dads and moms are second class. It’s to help the next Edie Windsor. She recently lost her partner in life and now owes nearly a million dollars in inheritance taxes because government ignores the commitment she made to her loved one, Thea Spirer.
How many more weeks and years will these injusticies be sanctioned by the government?
Make bike lanes safe
Last Thursday’s horrific accident that saw Shami Chaikin, a 78-year-old actress, left in critical condition after being partially run over by a Parks Department garbage truck never should have happened. Chaikin was riding her motorized scooter in the protected Hudson St. bicycle lane.
The Parks workers were collecting garbage and conveniently used the specially protected bike lane. Yet the law is clear: Bike lanes are off limits to motor vehicles, including city vehicles. Municipal employees must be trained to learn they cannot drive in bike lanes.
With bike lanes and biking booming, the city must do more to ensure safety in the lanes. At a minimum, a low curb or barrier with reflectors should be installed along all lanes’ traffic-side edges to make it clear that cars must keep out. We need to look to other cities, like Amsterdam, to learn how to make our bicycle infrastructure safer.
Again, no cyclist or motorized-scooter rider should ever be struck by a vehicle in a bike lane, or ever have to encounter one blocking the lane — except in an emergency, such as a critical street repair or fire.