A Bit Of Magic
Bringing The World To Queens & Vice Versa
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
It’s a strange week. There are a lot
of reasons. Not sure I’ll get to cover many of them — so stay tuned to
This was election week. This past
Tuesday the people of Queens went to the polls and voted to elect a
Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, six members of Congress, seven
State Senators and 18 Assembly members. They also voted on one Charter
Revision proposal which – like always – was confusing.
The strange part about it all is that
this is a political column — at least it often is — and there is
really very little, if anything, to say about the election. We knew every
result before Tuesday’s vote and basically have said it all already:
Incumbents always win — sure there are
some exceptions, but not here in New York City and not recently.
The money factor in elections is absurd
— election reform is needed to level the playing field.
The Republican Party is not competitive
in Queens and the Democratic Party doesn’t challenge most incumbent
Republican officeholders — it seems almost like an unwritten deal.
Carl McCall was outspent and
out-campaigned; his effort was disappointing.
Basically all our analysis came before
the election. It was easy.
As a matter of fact, we are writing this
the weekend before the election and only have a couple of questions
concerning the outcome. You get the answers and we’ll discuss them in
weeks to come:
Did the Liberal Party get 50,000 votes
statewide for Andrew Cuomo or have they lost their line on the ballot? If
they did, will they return? And what does it mean?
Just how well did Tom Golisano do and
will it have any lasting effect on the process?
How narrow was Alan Hevesi’s victory
and why does he always start out with such a big lead and then proceed to
watch it disappear?
But we’re sure he won (actually will
win, as we write this) and salute our friend from Forest Hills as he goes
to Albany as our Comptroller.
But there are no surprises in this
election. There are few surprises in any.
Since we have another subject to write
about this week, we won’t belabor our strong feelings that campaign
reform is needed to make elections competitive and keep integrity in
When elections aren’t competitive,
candidates under indictment can run and win. It’s happened in our City
before and can happen again. Even if we think the incumbents are good, it
is essential to democracy to enable, no to insure, that serious challenges
are made to sitting officeholders. We must have a regular opportunity to
tell them how we feel.
Without competitive elections, term
limits offer the only viable alternative that distances officeholders from
the ugliest part of government and public service.
But we’ve been there before and
we’ll go there again.
This week our focus is elsewhere.
The Trib’s front cover:
some nations who have a part of Queens (l. to r.):
top: United States, England, Mexico, South Korea, Greece
2nd: Saudi Arabia, Russia, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Jamaica
3rd: United Kingdom, Pakistan, El Salvador, India, Puerto Rico
4th: Guyana, Israel, Italy, Ghana, Japan
5th: Dominican Republic, Australia,
Colombia, Ireland, China
WE ARE THE WORLD!
It is one of those special weeks for the
Tribune — a glossy covered anniversary edition.
This year, we focus on Queens as the
most multi-cultural place on earth. For those of you reading this in the Trib
special, we offer a tome of content paying tribute to, reporting on, and
analyzing the diverse ethnic make up of the borough we call home. I salute
the effort on the part of Trib editor Tamara Hartman and her
half-dozen newsroom denizens.
In addition to the editorial staff, the
art department, certainly the sales department, classifieds downstairs,
and the support staff upstairs, contribute to these special efforts. As a
matter of fact, they contribute to our effort week after week.
It is this Tribune family
that delivers to you, the most informative, readable, exciting,
attractive, thought-provoking weekly you’ll find anywhere in our
borough. And all too often as we read the paper, we forget the family
And apropos of our special edition on
the many colors of Queens faces, our Tribune family reflects
a similar variety of hue that mirrors the faces of Queens.
I’m in my home as I write this and
have not interviewed the staff on their ethnicity, religion or families
nation of origin. Some law might even make that illegal — even for a
Isn’t it wonderful when the law comes
into conflict with our desire to learn, grow and express ourselves? So as
an aside, you mean if I ask a staff member their ethnicity for a column, I
can’t fire them because I’m vulnerable to an ethnic discrimination
suit? Damn all the lawyers! Let me go back to the subject.
So, from my house, I look around the
office. I see: a handful of Italians; a larger handful of African
Americans (one from Hope, Arkansas, like Bill Clinton); roughly the same
number of Jewish staffers who presumably had family emigrate here from
Understanding that my ethnic survey is
largely guesswork, I continue.
There are, I think, three Latino
staffers — one of them from Cuba.
From Asia we have one Korean, one
Chinese, one Bengali (from Bangladesh), one Indian for sure and two others
whose names, appearances and accents could be from India or elsewhere —
I’ll find out.
There are several of Irish distraction
— I mean extraction. One German, one with Welsh blood, and a handful of
American type names that you can’t tell if their families came over on
the Mayflower or shortened their awkward European appellation. And there
is our editor Tamara, an avowed ethnic mutt: part Polish, part Lithuanian,
part German and even an American Indian in the mix.
Finally, there is our assistant art
director, Shiek. Shiek is a Muslim from Guyana, a South American country.
He’s been at the Trib for six or seven years — I don’t
know how long ago he came to the U.S. Last month, Shiek became a citizen.
Like thousands of other Queens residents this year, one of the Trib’s
own became part of this wonderful country. He typifies the spirit of the Tribune’s
special issue and in his quiet unassuming way stands for what is right
about our country, our City and our borough.
Welcome to Queens: the most culturally
diverse place on earth!
THE TORCH BURNS
The timing couldn’t have been better.
It was Saturday evening and I was trying to finish up my column before Lil
and I went out to dinner. With words still unwritten, the clock caused me
to run upstairs to get ready. The bathroom radio goes on with the light
and is tuned to CBS to constantly feed my news hunger.
And just after playing with the concept
of Shiek’s citizenship and our special issue proclaiming Queens as the
home to the world, the radio writes another page to the tale. I catch the
end of the report to learn the somewhere in Colorado, the U.S. Olympic
Committee announced that it had selected New York City as our country’s
choice to host the Olympics in 2012.
There was a little pride. There was a
little excitement. I recalled Dan Doctorow sitting in my office perhaps a
year ago making his presentation. I remember the map and the major role
Queens was to play in his Olympic dream.
Well, when Mike Bloomberg won the
Mayoral election and appointed Dan deputy mayor for hoohah, Dan’s dream
moved one step closer — and Queens moved one step closer to being at the
center of the world’s attention a decade from now.
Then the USOC narrowed it down to four
cities; then two; and today, Saturday, Nov. 2, selected New York City over
The Olympics, the world’s games, the
athletes of all nations competing; the televisions of all nations
watching, as Queens houses the Olympic Village and a variety of athletic
The International Olympic Committee
still must choose. And New York has some pretty heavy competition —
But my friends, when I heard the news,
it was true poetry.
Something magical happened.
I had the vision of the Tribune
cover in my head. I had the memories of the 1964 World’s Fair and the
Unisphere, emblematic of all this special issue represents. I had the
images of the ’39 Fair and the first meeting of the United Nations
General Assembly right here in Queens — in the very same building which
now is the Queens Museum. I knew that runners from 98 nations would be
running through our Queens streets in Sunday’s New York City Marathon.
It was all there, that spiritual link that connected our borough and the
world. The spirit of Queens conveyed in this very special 32nd anniversary issue now glowed as brightly as ever.
Even though it’s not a done deal, for
those few moments listening to the news, I knew that the stage was again
set for the people of Queens and the people of the world to be one. The
Olympic torch and the spirit glowed brightly in Queens.
Welcome to Queens: home to the world!
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com