Volume 17 • Issue 14 | August 27 - September 02, 2004

Seniors plan G.O.P. protest in B.P.C.

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Their bodies may have gotten frail, but their minds — and their opinions — remain strong.

On Aug. 31, a group of Battery Park City seniors will make their voices heard when they protest the Bush administration during the second day of the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. The seniors, residents of the Hallmark retirement home, are planning a demonstration outside their North End Ave. building that will be more sit-in than march.

Some protestors will be wheelchair-bound. Others will bring seats in case they are unable to stand during the entire event. All will be wearing white tee shirts that read, “Save Our Democracy, Vote for Kerry.”

“We want people to know that seniors are alive and voting,” said Pearl Crystal Scher, co-chairperson of the Concerned Citizens Political Action Committee, a group made up of Hallmark residents.

Vote they do. In the 2000 election, 66 percent of people aged 50 and over voted, compared with 48 percent of those under 50, according to the A.A.R.P.

Since its founding more than a year ago, members of the Concerned Citizens Political Action Committee have organized letter writing campaigns aimed at elected officials and have worked to educate their peers on issues of concern. On Aug. 23, the group hosted U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who talked and answered questions for more than an hour, Scher said.

After the idea for a protest took root several months ago, the action committee launched into detailed planning that drew on their thousands of years of combined experience, said Scher, who gave her age as “89 and a half.”

They figured out how to order custom tee shirts and called to city agencies to determine whether they would need a permit to protest on the sidewalk outside their building (the answer was no). Scher called reporters to publicize the event.

“Pearl is a dynamo,” said Rebecca Coven, 85, co-chairperson of the Concerned Citizens and herself no slouch in the demonstrating department, having honed her skills at P.T.A. protests in Washington, D.C., and Albany when her children were in school.

Both Coven and Scher taught in the New York City public school system, and Scher also served as principal of an Uptown elementary school. Scher discovered her love of politics at age 80, when she waged an unsuccessful campaign for county legislator in Westchester County. She later won two terms as a town councilperson before moving to Battery Park City four years ago.

Scher was careful to note that while her group supports Kerry, its stated goal is to protest legislation that harms seniors, not to defeat President Bush. Their concerns include access to prescription drugs, the environment, and civil liberties in the post-9/11 world, she added.

Scher, who is also a member of Community Board 1, said she looks forward to the chance to let people know about the Hallmark’s vibrant community of seniors.

Said Scher, “We’ve spent most of our lives trying to make the world a better place and we’d like you to know it.”

The Concerned Citizens protest will take place on Aug. 31 at 10 a.m. in front of 455 North End Ave.

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