Volume 17 • Issue 17 | SEPTEMBER 17 - 23, 2004


Zoned middle school

To The Editor:
Re: “Gerson, city sign Downtown school deal” (news article, Sept. 10 – 16):

The new East Side K-8, like all others now being used or planned in New York City, appears to be a community school, where children stay in the same school from kindergarten through the 8th grade. For the Community Board 1 area, the building of this new school will solve many of the schooling needs of those on our East Side, but it still leaves parents from Tribeca and Battery Park City with no nearby zoned middle school.

The first priority of many parents with elementary school children living in Battery Park City and Tribeca is to have a nearby zoned middle school. This has been a priority for nearly two decades. Yet it appears to go without the concern of our officials as noted in your front page story.

Over the past 16 years, I’ve seen many Downtown families leave our area when their children finish fifth grade, due to a lack of a nearby zoned middle school. Our parents and children deserve better. We should at least get the attention most other areas of New York are getting.

It’s not asking for a lot. According to The New York Times (Metropolitan Desk, March 3, 2004), up to two-thirds of the city’s 218 middle schools are planned to be overhauled to become community zoned K-8s. So why are we being ignored?

In November of 2003; nearly every parent from Battery Park City whose child attends P.S. 89 wrote letters to Peter Heaney, Jr., our regional superintendent, asking him to zone I.S.89 as our local middle school. Even after repeated requests from C.B. 1 leaders, our superintendent shamefully refused to even acknowledge the letters.

Councilman Gerson, who has done a terrific job in insuring a school for the East Side children and relieving P.S. 234 overcrowding, could continue his great effort by turning his attention to the parents and children of Battery Park City and Tribeca.

With the new East Side K-8, East Side parents finally have a community they can live with. And this will greatly relieve P.S. 234’s overcrowding problem. What is missing, though, is concern for those parents of Battery Park City and Tribeca.

The omission of our needs shows negligence and needs immediate remedy.

Mr. Heaney, answer our letters.

Thomas S. Goodkind
Parent of a student at P.S. 89, Battery Park City

Christian leader call
Editor’s Note: In last week’s issue we published a letter from a sixth grade student at Kentucky Christian School who asked our readers what the most important personal trait in a presidential candidate is. She said truthfulness was most important and that she also wanted the president to be a Christian. Several readers responded:

Dear Ellie:
It was wonderful to read your letter. I wish all the children in our country were as interested and concerned about the president as you are. In fact, I wish all the people
who are eligible to vote would be as concerned and exercise that great privilege.

You have chosen a most important trait — truthfulness, but I think the most important trait for the leader of any group or country is an understanding of history. We ought to have learned from our earlier mistakes, but we can’t if we don’t know what they are.

I want our leader to be a good man or woman, Christian or otherwise. It is not necessary for Americans to be Christians. In fact, our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom. Our most precious document is the Constitution of the United States and freedom of religion is stated very clearly in our Bill of Rights. Wonderful things have been done in the name of any and all religions: hospitals have been founded, tithing has taken care of our less fortunate neighbors, etc. But terrible things have also been done in the name of religion from the Crusades to 9/ll. On Sep. 11, 2001, I had to run for my life because of religious fanaticism. And all religions are capable of such extremism, which is why the founders of our great nation pointedly ignored organized religion.

In our wonderful country, it does not matter if you are a Protestant or a Catholic, a Jew or a Buddhist, a Sunni or a Shiite Muslim. If you are a citizen, you can vote. If you were born in this country, you can be president.

Long before you were born and when I was even younger than you are now, we were engaged in a terrible war. Every family in this country had someone in the service. Even the children collected scrap metal for the war effort. All rubber had to go to the war effort, so we walked everywhere. And there were almost no new toys being made. I had one doll. All the factories made guns and tanks and airplanes. There was no bubble gum!
We won that war and were so relieved that we added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. But those words weren’t there originally. They weren’t needed to make George Washington a good person and a great president, or Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt. By the time you are old enough to become president of the United States of America, you should have learned right from wrong and how to be a strong, honest and brave leader whatever your religion and even if you have none at all.

I hope this letter is useful to your project and I hope you have many, many nice days and years.


Betty Heller

To The Editor:
Thank you for giving me some way to make 9/11 meaningful. I feel better after sending the following letter to Mr. Ward’s sixth grade class:

Dear Sixth Grade Class of Mr. Ward:
Today is September 11th, and living within 1,000 feet of the World Trade Center site, I was wondering what could I do to make our world safer? I decided that answering your letter about wanting a Christian president would be a good start. I would like to focus on the un-American concept of religious zealousness and why America is great because of its tolerance and diversity.

Choosing a President who is honest is quite commendable, but what is wrong with all us non-Christian Americans? There are many very honest and good Americans who are not Christian, just as there are many Christians who promote discrimination, hatred, war, poverty, hypocrisy as well as dishonesty.

Did you learn how America was created by people fleeing the intolerant Christian zealots of Europe? How the early colonists needed the knowledge of the native pagans for food and sustenance? Jews started coming to our country in the 1600’s and fought in every war from the Revolutionary War to Iraq, as well as contributed people from the likes of Steven Spielberg to Albert Einstein. Did your world history class teach about the Crusades and Inquisition, where once again Christian zealots forced their views on others and then tortured or killed them?

My Jewish family came to America in 1939. In 1938 my father was sent to Dachau, a concentration camp, by Christian Germans who taught religious intolerance. After being permitted to come to America, he joined the US Army and fought for our country’s freedom. The majority of his family died in Europe just for being Jewish. I pray that our country will never stoop to such intolerance and that is why your letter makes me quite nervous.

I agree with you that honesty is a good trait for our presidents, but I would suggest other traits such as intelligence and fairness are more important than wanting the president to be Christian for proselytizing purposes. I would hope if the President was honest, intelligent and fair that those traits would be spread regardless if the president was a Christian, Jew, Hindu or atheist. Just being a Christian doesn’t guarantee good leadership and it runs contrary to our American Constitution and culture.

I personally follow many of the teachings of a great Jewish revolutionary rabbi called Jesus. He asked us to question the fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, and not to jump into wars too quickly, and to help the poor and love the outcasts and take care of this world. Maybe he was a Democrat after all?

Rick Landman

Dear Ellie:
I read your Letter to The Editor in the Sept. 10-16, 2004 issue of the Downtown Express after returning from a commemorative concert honoring the victims of 9/11. I was in that debacle and can only tell you that every creed and color helped each other to survive that day. Three years later and three streets away, my heart still aches for those who perished.

But to your fundamental question, Ellie…truth? Absolutely! Anyone in any political capacity must be truthful to the people they represent. That is truly a personal trait that everyone values from their mother to the president. The only objection I have to your requirements for a president is that he/she be Christian. I am a lapsed Catholic, yet I follow the Ten Commandments and try to help my fellow man when I can. Does that knock me out of the box? There are also many deceptive individuals who call themselves “Christians” and capitalize on people’s weaknesses. My 37-year-old son is a Christian. He is honest and a good person, but he was honest and good before he became a Christian.

My feeling is that there are many fine people in the world, who essentially follow the path to goodness. They are called: Buddhists, Jews, Taoists, Brahmins, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Catholics, ad infinitum. To only believe in the goodness of one religious sect is truly creating an isolating, injurious situation for you to live by.

On Sept. 11th, 2001, my life was saved by people of the following religious persuasions: Jews, Russian Orthodox, Methodist and Christian. Need I say anything further on the subject of religious autonomy? Good luck to you, Ellie, and the fact that you’re thinking shows how much you will achieve in your lifetime.

Lucille Abato

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