Monday, November 14, 1994
Police Academy Threatened Again
This is truly incredible - The Bronx is offering to sacrifice $197 Millions worth of sorely needed capital projects and infrastructure maintenance work to build an unnecessary Police Academy. On April 12 I faxed to Mayor Giuliani a letter of protest, which you will find below, slightly paraphrased. The facts are all there.
It is importanth that we all - individuals, political clubs, civic organizations, churches and schools - write to the Mayor and our Councilpersons Antonio Pagan and Andrew Eristoff (City Hall NY 10007 for all three)
Let them know that the wasting money on a new Police Academy is not only The Bronx's business -it affects all taxpayers citywide. Further, note that The Bronx is not giving up on its $197 M of projects - they are merely postponing the necessary work to Fiscal 1998. What a "savings!"
Now, my letter:
It's like deja vu all over again. Fifty people from The Bronx demonstrated on March 28th in front of City Hall to have the $260 Million budget for the Bronx Police Academy restored, rather than having the City spend $60 Million on refururbishing the PA on East 20th Street. To quote the Mayor's response: "People arguing for this have to get real. The city simply cannot afford it." Nothing daunted, Bronx BP Ferrar said that is was an affront for Mayor Giuliani to cry poverty when the capital spending for police grew 25% Nearly 70% of the academy cost would go to minority-owned firms (I'm quoting Newsday, with thanks.)
And as of April 11, BP Ferrer wants to give up $197,000,000 in various capital program funds, including the rehabilitation of the 40th Pct.,to get his Police Palace project back on! This cries out to high heaven.
I want to be above personal stuff, but let's analyse this. First, the needs of the city, the police. Capital budget for the police is needed to keep the infrastructure together. The police stations are falling apart, for Pete's sake. We don't need a new Academy, we need maintenance! Of the $260,000,000 originally projected (not budgeted) funds for the Police Academy funds $60,000,000 will adequately upgrade the existing structure on East 20th Street.
The Bronx does not need another government building that people drive to from other parts of the city, it needs industry that will produce a payroll locally - not just for maintenace staff but for actual workers. To build an unnecessary structure to give work for "70% minority-owned contractors" is a flagrant misuse of city-wide taxpayers' funds. The minority contractors should bid in the badly hurting areas of infrastructure maintenance, they do not have be given "made work." It's a shameless and flagrant ploy for public money, to be given to contractors. Just like that hospital in Brooklyn.
Now, to the needs of the Bronx. I am an old Bronx boy, from corner Burnside and Ryer Aves. My heart literally hurts when I travel on the El train (my Olds needs a lot of repairs at the Bronx dealership), and look at the litter-strewn lots, the abandoned cars and the tinned-over windows of my beautiful Bronx, the borough of greenery, and parks, and nice life!
This is what needs restoring, the South Bronx devastation. The developed areas with water, electric lines, sewage and gas already in place, waiting for reidences, for businesses that would give jobs to my Bronx people!
Now to the site of the proposed Police Academy. It is 10 or so acres, near Hostos Community college, a highschool and the Melrose Commons. The site need not be used for a an 8AM to 3PM school, where the kids bring brown bags of sandwiches and drive home just about when the local muggers get out of bed to go about their business. This could be a commercial site with a payroll for The Bronx, maybe a Walmart or Kmart on the ground floor, a food galleria and specialty stores upstairs, a garage building adjacent. It is near subway and would give New Yorkers of all boroughs sorely needed access to non-upscale quality shopping, something that we have not had for a long time, since the real estate values made life impossible for low-priced department stores (Stearns, Alexanders, Ohrbachs, to name a few).
Where are the Bronx development people? Why can't they sell a 10 acre lot of prime real estate, with built in electric, water and sewage, telephone and subway transportation facilities to an industry? With parking, police protection, a surrounding area of people eager for work and capable of doing well? Are the academy recruits the best The Bronx can accomodate? Sure, they'll make a Chinese restaurant and a pizza parlor florish, but that's all. Is that the what the the Bronx revival is all about?
Wally Dobelis is chairman of the Committee to Save the Police Academy and co-President of the Stuyvesant Parl neighborhood Association.
This overage ex-Bronx boy is feeling sick. What has this city come to?
And why am I inflicting there remarks about the Bronx to the Stuy Town audience? I guess because there is this nagging issue about public morality. We get the government that we deserve. If we are greedy and self-centered, that is what we will get. I want to go back to the nice clean selfless thoughtful post-WWII America, to the Mennonite church in Delta, Ohio, where everybody put some money in the collect for the Holocaust refugees, and to Columbus, Georgia, where fraternity kids come to the nursing home as part of their weekly public service. I don't know how we will ever get back there but we must try.
At this point I want to interject some personal opinions about the general morality of politicians. The guy who ordinarily takes a bus instead of a taxi to save real money, that is personal funds, undergoes a wonderful transformation upon entering politics. First financial non-reality he becomes exposed to is "campaign contributions," that can be spent on other unrealities - consultants' fees, various personal expenses and media expenses. When elected, he learns of "deficit financing," a wonderful invention of the post-WWII era, which enables him to engage in groupthink and personal guilt suppression, when he votes away our kids' financial futures under the labels of "national interest" and "global considerations," if the office is national. This is as effective as a shrink telling you " it was not your fault." Now he is halfway to being a statesman and can fearlessly dispose of milions of borrowed money that will never come due and will always be pushed forward. Porkbarrel for him is an accepted reality and has no shame attached to it; in fact, it can be bragged about in front of the constituency. What is immoral in private life acquires the mantle of morality under the great heading of "public service." The statesman can repay campaign debts, create crises and make up bold programs that will carry his name into history as a great social reformer without having to think out the details. The objective is to gain popular support for labels and win votes, following the credo of Vince Lombardi. Public good becomes subjectively defined.
A local officeholder may acquire a similar mentality. There is this public trough, supplied by all five boroughs, and every politico dives in, with a lot of grievances to justify the action. The Bronx has a lot of justifiable grievances. Congressman Rangel has brought home a project for Harlem, and the Bronx congresspeople did not have the seniority to get similar consideration. Therefore it's back to the public trough, to get the Academy.