By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Okay. There are a lot of loose ends and hopefully I can bring
closure to some so that next week I can move onto some different subjects. But cheeeech,
some of this stuff just doesnt go away.
Take Ann Jawin . . . please!
The crusading head of the maybe homeless Queens Womens Center
you know this story if youve been paying attention to the news has her
energies, priorities and realities misplaced.
Last week we explained that the lease the Womens Center had
signed for their Fort Totten building clearly stated that they would vacate the premises
in time for the land transfer from the Federal Government to the City so that the
designated parcel, which included their building, could become a Fire Department training
To turn this situation into an issue of discrimination against women
disgraces the womens rights movement everywhere. Yes, there are real issues women
here and abroad have that merit the attention of the press and everyone else but
one of them is not whether Ann Jawins comfort, irrationality and posturing merit
anything whatsoever. The people of this City and borough have patiently waited to own the
precious land of Fort Totten, Ann has attempted to interfere with the transfer. Shame on
But perhaps the shame goes further and deeper.
The Womens Center was invited to apply for a building on the
Parks Department side of the Fort where the other not-for-profit organizations are
comfortably housed. Ann said no.
Borough President Helen Marshall offered more space at Borough Hall to
house the Women Center. Ann said not good enough.
Then several women contacted me challenging the Fort Totten location of
the Center as an outrage. They werent outraged because of the interference with the
Forts transfer to the City. They werent concerned that the lease made it
crystal clear the premises should be vacated. They were outraged that Fort Totten is just
not accessible to many of the women who require the services of the Center.
Sure upper middle class Bayside women enjoyed the water view vistas the
Fort afforded them. They enjoyed the comfy cozy house the Center lived in. They likely
relished the safety of the Fort environment. But who are they serving?
Upper-middle class Bayside women with cars?
No, the Center is supposed to serve women of need throughout the
borough. They provide career counseling, employment training, mentoring, computer classes,
and a variety of other necessary services for women.
Many of those women dont have an automobile to take them to the
Forts bucolic corner of northeast Queens.
Subway? Dont be ridiculous this is Bayside, Queens . . .
the only thing underground are sewers, drugs and partner swapping.
L.I.R.R., then a bus? Or some convoluted chain of buses, then a trek?
Fort Totten was made to be reached by Jeep or Humvee, not public
transportation basically, you cant get there without a car. If you want a
location that the neediest women in Queens can reach, you look for a place where the
subway and several bus lines converge . . . like Borough Hall.
Who needs the services of the Queens Womens Center?
Folks, many of whom dont have cars.
The Womens Center should be relocated.
ART? OR WHAT THE HEY? Civic Virtue, the statue on Queens Boulevard, outside of Queens
Borough Hall, depicts a man stepping on women.
And while theyre at it, someone should check out what makes
There is something very wrong with the whole picture.
Now, Im not afraid to go after the Queens Womens Center.
Just because someone says its a womens issue, doesnt make it right.
Political correctness has blurred our thinking.
I wasnt afraid to defend Queen Catherine of Braganza and her ugly
statue from those who wanted her head because of her familys involvement in slave
Ill stand up and defend slave owning Thomas Jefferson and his
right to hang in City Hall or that "old white man" as Brooklyn Beep Marty
Markowitz called George Washington and his right to hang in Brooklyn Borough Hall. Gee, I
even will defend an artists right to show his work when it is disrespectful to Jesus
or Mary or even Rudy.
Political correctness is destroying our freedoms. Our creative
freedoms, our expressive freedoms, our constitutional freedoms are limited daily by the
thought police who want to dictate what is correct.
Bullshit! (or is Bull@$!* politically correct?)
I am a liberal my old friend lefty Congressman Gary Ackerman
just called me that this morning Im a liberal secure in my beliefs, feeling
and commitment for the neediest of our society that I need not yield to those who try to
dictate what I must say be in sync with "the movement." I am a liberal very
secure in the belief that teaching our children how to think and not what to think is the
role of education and society.
I am a liberal secure enough in his beliefs to use the word
"liberal" and not hide behind a more currently "politically correct"
I am for equal rights yeah, even for women (thats humor
for those that dont know) but I need not back any cause just because some
loon labels it as a "womens cause."
You wont find me marching just because something is painted as
pro black, Latino, Jewish, Muslim, youth, pet, education, American, apple pie or
I am a writer secure with my words and thoughts that I can evaluate and
I am an individual with the strongest belief that people of goodwill
everywhere can evaluate a situation and make a good decision.
The government should not tell artists what Christ or Mary or Rudy look
like. If people find art disrespectful, they need not go look.
I challenge those who would revise history because some of our founding
fathers engaged in customs of their day that are inhumane, vile and repulsive to us today
it doesnt make them unworthy of recognition of their historic contributions.
I received a letter chastising me for resurrecting the Catherine of
Braganza controversy. Im not really in favor of the statue. If you had shown me in
the beginning, I would have voted no just on ugliness. However, I wasnt asked.
Now, Im accused of "a divisive and sinister idea." I am
accused of being insensitive to "the deeply felt concerns of Black citizens."
Sorry, the issue is not black or white. For eight years, the borough
went ahead committed to a project and the people of Portugal without any outcry from the
black community. Then one day a couple of black activists found a convenient way to get
attention and press. They were effective and stopped the statue. I really dont care.
Feel free to take any side of this debate you want, but youre not making me budge by
suggesting Im insensitive to an entire race of people.
The writer of the letter, Betty Dopson has every right to disagree with
me, but I dont think she can claim to speak for every "Black citizen."
Deep in my heart, I probably agree with her position, however her personal attacks
scattered throughout her letter move the argument out of the intellectual realm and into
the street. This is not a fight between Schenkler and Dopson. Im not invested enough
in it to do much more than write a column. I am invested in standing up to anyone who
chooses to play the race card because you dont march to the tune of their drummer or
say the words they want to hear.
Im not afraid to mock those that wanted to change white
firefighters to black and Latino heroes. But that doesnt make me any less a
proponent of paying tribute to all the heroes of Sept. 11 . . . of all races.
I remember while interviewing candidates for City Council this summer,
we had this lively group from the 31st district the seat ultimately won by James
"Slick" Sanders" including James Blake. Blake was a bright,
enchanting character who reinforced his name with a bit of poetry Blake rhyming
with Flake. He also seemed to be the most militant of the group of six assembled.
Well, during the discussion a reference was made to some individual
who, to establish he was one of ours, I noted was a "Queens boy." I use that
expression to describe one who grew up in Queens. Im a Queens boy. I didnt
change my words because the person we were speaking of was black. Blake tried to correct
me; he said something like, "you cant call him a boy, its politically
incorrect." In a sentence I dissed political correctness. I didnt diss the
person we spoke of I really cant remember who it was. And I didnt diss
Mr. Blake. As a matter of fact, we endorsed him.
We endorsed him because he came across as a most compassionate,
involved community leader. Hes entitled to try to peddle his political correctness .
. . hed be better off encouraging open thought. The youngsters he touches should
learn how to think, not what to think. But I enjoyed our exchange. Hope he writes or calls
I didnt sit down at the computer to defend myself. Anyone who
knows me knows Im not politically correct I challenge and play on the edge to
encourage open and free thought with the belief that it will result in ethically and
morally correct choices.
Each of us should hear the arguments and make our choices. And when
there are those that disagree with us, ideas and not accusations should be exchanged.
Political correctness numbs free thought and compassion.
It was a pleasure to celebrate their engagement with Betsy
Seidman and Nick Garaufis.
Nick was at our wedding some thousand years ago and Lil and I were glad
to be among the well-wishers for our newest Federal judge and his bride-to-be.
Garaufis, who now sits on the Federal Bench in Brooklyn (the Eastern
District), has served most recently as chief counsel to the Federal Aviation
Administration. Prior to that he was Counsel to Queens Beep Claire Shulman and at one time
general counsel to the Queens Tribune.
Weve just recently met Betsy but are thrilled to welcome her into
the Trib family.
Welcome back we hear that old friend Steve Phillips is
returning to Queens.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com