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Free to follow their conscience

Dear editor,

In response to the letters of K. Reynolds and T.X. Casey, I am submitting the following rebuttal.

The topics of abortion and religion remain emotional ones as evidenced by the December 17 letters from Mr. K. Reynolds and Mr. T.X. Casey. The fact is the Catholic Church is a male dominated organization. There are no female priests; there are no visible females in the hierarchy of the church or in policy making positions. Females do not have equal rights or equal opportunities within the church. This tradition is the Catholic Church’s and lay members’ choice. It is disturbing that this organization attempts to regulate the rights of allow omen through legislation that is based on their specific religious doctrines, thusly affecting the rights even of those who are not of their faith.

For now, women are free to follow their conscience or religious beliefs on abortion as it applies to their own lives. If religious groups were free to lobby and to intimidate elected officials with religious punitive sanctions if they do not pass legislation based on the beliefs of that particular religious group, this would have dire consequences for many of our rights. If we permit one religious group to do this, then all similar groups should also be allowed.

Alwin H. Warfel

Owen Dolen Park design improvements

(The following letter was sent to James P. Stuckey, president of the NYC Public Design Commission re: Owen Dolen Park).

Dear Mr. Stuckey,

At the December 14, 2009 meeting of the Commission, the design for Owen Dolen Park in Westchester Square was presented. Several of the Commissioner’s had expressed concern over the design, which featured the removal of the spire atop the addition building to the Owen Dolen Recreation Center.

Bronx Community Board 10 was presented with the new designs for the park and recreation center, which feature the removal of the spire. This design was approved unanimously at the Board’s public meeting, held on November 19, 2009. This design represented the culmination of efforts on the part of community organizations, such as the Westchester Square Merchants Association and the Westchester Zerega Improvement Association. The Board approved this design because it represented a grass roots model of organic growth for both the park and the community. The Board approved the plan, absent the spire structure, for the following reasons:

The park’s structures consist of a 1930’s era building housing a recreation center and offices. Attached to the main building is an addition that was built in the mid to late seventies. The original building is an Italian Renaissance inspired structure with Palladium windows, while the addition is reminiscent of the post modern design form, featuring a spire rising from its roof line. Clearly, neither structure complements the other, in that they represent such radically different architectural styles. One building does not naturally flow into the other. Inasmuch as the spire does not complement the original building, it was removed from the park’s design.

In planning for the park’s renovation, the aforementioned community organizations would like the spire removed because they envision the flat roof portion of the addition building, to be used as a stage for performances or holiday displays. The addition building is settled in a sculpted and recessed area. Access to its interior is accomplished through the original structure. Access to the roof is easily accessible from stairs leading from Westchester Square.

One of the goals in redesigning the park was to remove impediments to the sight line.

This resulted in the removal of some foliage and the spire in the design. The removal of these impediments, it was felt, would not only improve the appearance of the park, but also contribute to its safety.

In summation, Bronx Community Board 10 would like to reiterate its support of the plan presented to the Commission on December 14, 2009, and further hopes that the Commission will approve it.

Thank you for your attention and consideration in this matter.

Virginia M. Gallagher, Chair

Parks and Recreation Committee

DC needs help

(The following letter was sent to Congressman Jose E. Serrano)

Dear Congressman Serrano,

I urge you to support the reauthorization of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). As you know, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, signed by President Barack Obama in March, will cancel the OSP unless it is reauthorized by Congress. Mayor Fenty, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the District of Columbia City Council fully support the OSP. The OSP is similar to the federal Pell grants available to college students attending private colleges and universities. Equity, not ideology, should prevail in this instance. Based on the OSP’s success in helping low-income parents and their children with expanded options for the education of their child, I strongly recommend reauthorizing and expanding the program.

Since its creation as the first federally funded, school voucher program in the United States, the OSP has helped more than 3,300 children from families with an average annual income of $23,000. Four studies from Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas found that parents are very satisfied with the program, are more involved in their children’s education, and have improved communication with their child. The report also found that participating children have an improved attitude toward learning, increased self esteem and enthusiasm towards school. An additional study from the Institute for Education Science at the U.S. Department of Education found that parents were very satisfied with the program, students enrolled in OSP achieved higher reading test scores than those without a scholarship, and OSP students attend schools that are more integrated and have smaller class sizes. The findings of these studies prove that it would be detrimental to the academic progress of the DC school children to deny funding of OSP.

As a supporter of charter schools and school choice, I believe that parents should have the right to choose the school their child attends; i.e., public, charter or private. In the Assembly, I sponsor legislation (A.3259) that would establish the students with disabilities school choice act. The bill, which is similar to the OSP, would allow parents the widest possible array of choices in selecting a school that best meets their child’s special needs. Similar to the goals of the OSP, my bill adheres to the belief that all education sectors (public schools, public charter schools, and nonpublic schools) can offer quality education experiences to economically disadvantaged students with limited access to excellent institutions.

After reviewing the encouraging progress the OSP is having on economically disadvantaged children in the District of Columbia, I strongly urge you to reauthorize and expand this vital program.

Assemblyman Michael Benjamin

A question of whose constitution

Dear editor,

Lucy P. Loiselle claims that “As a person of faith,” she felt compelled to respond to a recent letter of mine. She didn’t specify what faith she follows, but I feel compelled to respond to her nonetheless.

She falsely claims that when Assemblyman Benedetto and Senator Klein voted recently for same-sex marriage, they were voting for “constitutional” rights. Like she didn’t specify her faith, she didn’t specify what constitution. I’ve read the US Constitution, and there’s nothing that even remotely sanctions same-sex marriage. I haven’t read New York State’s constitution, but I’m sure the same applies. I’m sure too that James Madison and the rest of our Founding Fathers wouldn’t be thrilled when people claim rights in the Constitution that aren’t there.

She accuses same-sex-marriage opponents of misguidedness, unkindness and ignorance and that they don’t hear or read “the word of the Lord.” What “Lord” is she talking about?! If it’s Christ, there’s nothing in the Gospels, like there’s nothing in the US or New York constitutions, remotely sanctioning homosexual marriage. Like she creates legal rights that aren’t there, she tries to create Gospel

And when emotion gets in the way of facts, mistakes arise. She ended her letter by mistaking has-been comedian Robert Klein for Senator Jeffrey Klein, and claimed Mr. Klein is of the Christian faith when he’s not.

Ken Reynolds

MTA chair invited to feel the pain

(The following letter was sent to Jay H. Walder, chairman and CEO of the MTA re: Bx14 bus route).

Dear Mr. Walder,

It was quite disturbing to hear the proposed cut backs in transit service which was outlined last week in response to funding shortfalls to the current MTA budget.

In particular, I am very concerned about the proposed elimination of Bronx bus route #14 which services the Spencer Estate and Country Club communities which I represent. The people in this area would be cut off from neighborhood commercial districts, subway lines, express bus links with Manhattan and all necessities of daily life. To the senior citizens, students and anyone without a car this move would be catastrophic.

I fully realize the magnitude of the situation that the MTA is in and understand that much of the blame lies with lack of proper funding streams to maintain and operate the system properly. However, the residents of Spencer Estate and Country Club need and deserve a link to the outside world. I urge you to rethink and be creative in planning service cutbacks so that these communities are not forgotten.

Lastly, I invite you to come to the Bronx so that I can personally show you the areas that will be affected by elimination of the #14 route and meet some of my constituents who rely on it.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Michael R. Benedetto

Member of Assembly

A courageous legislator

Dear editor,

Concerning Senator Klein’s yes vote on the issue of same-sex marriage, a letter writer (12/10/09) commended Senator Diaz’ stand against as admirable. The letter writer is entitled to his assessment.

May I offer an alternative courageous individual: Senator William Baroni, a Republican and Roman Catholic state senator from New Jersey.

As a member of that state’s Senate, he is quoted (NY Times, 12/10/09) as intending to vote in favor of a similar bill because he considers it a matter of civil rights: “I have never voted for discrimination, and I’m not about to start now.” His stand in defense of the controversial bill is indeed “quite admirable.”

Michael Greco

O’Grady is real life George Bailey

Dear editor,

I’m writing this letter to thank you once again for all of the support that you give to the Throggs Neck and surrounding communities in the Bronx.

As I write this note on Christmas Eve, I have an American Christmas Classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” on TV. I must tell you that Joe O’Grady is a real life George Bailey who’s generosity, compassion, love and fantastic sense of humor has touched many lives with everybody he has encountered in his 38 years of life. He is the true definition as a friend and I’m sure that all who read this will agree with my sentiments.

The blood drive will once again prove the O’Grady’s unselfishness for people in need which, will enrich their lives as the O’Grady family has enriched the lives of many, many people. We are the lucky ones to know such a wonderful family.

A huge thanks goes out the Bronx Times once again for the countless support that you have given us, and it is a “Wonderful Life” and “Wonderful Time of Year” to reach out to those in need.

Danny “Harry” Boyle

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