Tag Archives: New York

In Memoriam (Mr. Basil Paterson)

One of New York’s greatest citizens passed away earlier this week, and for me, it hit home on a personal level.

Basil Paterson was a power in the politics of New York City and State. He was one of “The Four Horsemen“, the men generally credited with ruling Harlem and black New York for several decades — a matter of controversy, even today, amongst media critics.

The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen

 

I have had the pleasure of knowing all these icons, and worked for one them. Yet Basil Paterson was a true inspiration to me throughout my 40 year career in radio.

It was many, many years ago, at an event the fog of memory obscures. I was there covering it, with my trusty tape recorder and microphone with the WLIB-WBLS logo. I was at the time, still a kid, a bit wet behind the ears. At the end of the event, Basil Paterson called me over for a private chat. He said that he’d been following my work for a while, and he liked what I was doing. He urged me to continue to hone my skills, and he predicted great things for me.

I left that room on Cloud Nine. This was, after all, Basil Paterson!

During his life, he served as a New York state senator, deputy mayor of New York City, a labor negotiator, federal mediator, and New York’s secretary of state.

Even these impressive accomplishments don’t tell the whole story of Basil Paterson.

He had, as many might describe it, the common touch. For many years after he first encouraged me to move forward in my career, I would see him at events or press conferences. After a time, our handshakes turned to hugs. More often than not, he would talk to me about issues that were brought up on my talk show, and his insights weren’t just valuable, they were precious. I was among the many who were disappointed when he decided not to run for mayor against Ed Koch in 1985. There was a widespread belief that he could have beaten Koch that year. Four years later, ironically enough, another member of the Four Horsemen, David Dinkins, toppled Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary.

During that same period, I met and became friends with Basil Paterson’s son David. In fact, I was the first person to interview him after he announced he would run for the state senate seat his father held more than a decade earlier. I saw the pride in the elder Paterson’s face when his son became Lieutenant Governor, and later the state’s first black Governor.

David Paterson sworn in

 

David Paterson inherited his father’s concern for the plight of the poor, and his time as Governor spoke to that more than  most would admit, even now.

I saw Basil Paterson a few times last year at various events. His warmth toward me was the same as it was decades earlier. His passing is only partly about the four men who dominated Harlem politics for a generation. It’s about a kind, sophisticated, insightful human being who touched the lives of many, many people.

Basil PATERSON.

I am only one of them. Rest in Peace, Mr. Paterson.

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Haven’t Been Around, But I’ve Been to Port Authority

To all the readers of this blog: My most profound apologies for not posting for a while.

There are times when life intrudes, and this has been one. However, after settling into a new job and taking care of some important family business, it’s time to get back to the keyboard.

My new job involves using public transportation from the Garden State of New Jersey, and though this may appear to be a trivial place to start a new blog post, I feel compelled.

Anyone who uses the giant dowager this is the Port Authority Bus Terminal knows it has seen better days. In fact, much better days. Lately, however, Port Authority’s shortcomings have come into sharp focus, at least for me.

One night last week, I reached the mezzanine area to catch my bus to be presented with a scene of utter chaos.

Port Authority
Long lines to get onto a bus

 

Due to inclement weather, busses were running behind schedule. Yet that was only half the reason for what was going on.

Lines, four, five, six of them, were snaking throughout the floor. the worst part was that only a few people knew for sure which line led to their specific  bus.

Alas, there was no one from the terminal to assist them. All we heard was a drone-like announcement, something like “ATTENTION ATTENTION. Due to the inclement weather there are delays both inbound and outbound”. You can imagine how tired that sounded after a half hour on a line that didn’t move much.

To be clear, this isn’t the typical scene at Port Authority. Most days and nights it functions as intended, that is, a way station for people looking to go someplace.

However, for me this leads to another pet peeve.

During the snows of the past few days, commuters have been treated to the sight of numerous garbage cans, buckets, and those yellow warning boards spread throughout the terminal. The reason? The ceiling is leaking, leaking in multiple places. Look up, and you see sagging, aging tiles and ceiling fixtures that look like they’re o their last legs.

The upshot is this. Not only is the terminal old, but it hasn’t been well maintained. Now step back a bit and consider this. The same people responsible for those leaky ceilings are the ones who gifted Jersey residents with Bridgegate, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

You know, the authority that’s become a repository for all manner of political hackery, courtesy of the governors of both states. You’d think that with all the money they take in (and put in their pockets in the form of inflated salaries), they’d find a new bucks to fix the ceilings at the bus terminal. Now, there have been plans announced to “renovate” the Port Authority, plans that, if memory serves, go back several years. Don’t hold your breath.

Port authority bus terminal

What’s even more maddening is the recent announcement that this same Port Authority is planning to spend some $27.6 billion dollars over the next decade to “upgrade transportation infrastructure  in the metropolitan area”. Nice. Nowhere in the glossy release about fixing the area’s airports, bridges, tunnels, and the like is there much attention paid to the bus terminal. Maybe one day in the next 10 years they’ll fix those leaky ceilings.

Here’s hoping.

As a true blue new Yorker, I know these issues bear the same for the Long Island Railroad, Metro North, Path….post a comment about your commute experience. As always….I’m curious!

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Occupy Wall Street evicted? They Ain’t Done Yet!

So NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly pulled off an early morning police raid on Occupy Wall Street.

Police raid Occupy Wall Street - Courtesy S. Principato

Congratulations, and for shame!

The trumped up rationale for driving largely non violent protestors out of  Liberty Square (Zucotti Park) was shameless and transparent. It was also expected.

Also expected was the police excess normally reserved for communities other than Lower Manhattan. The arrest and detention of City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez should cost someone at 1 Police Plaza their job.

Sadly, the Mayor can’t be touched politically. He’s in the midst of an ill advised third term. Yet make no mistake. Mayor Bloomberg deserves to criticized for the raid on Occupy Wall St. the same way he was criticized for his handling of the blizzard.

For a sitting Deputy Mayor (Cas Holloway) to argue before a judge that OWS was stockpiling weapons sounds as hollow as GW Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction” argument for invading Iraq.

Cas Holloway

 

When the history of this time is written, it will be the police, not protestors, who will be remembered for their callous disregard for their fellow human beings. They didn’t even have sense enough not to go around arresting journalists!

The stealth raid, complete with keeping journalists at bay, ought to make people concerned with basic liberties hang their heads. However, out of adversity comes opportunity. Occupy Wall St. isn’t going away any more than other Occupy movements around the nation and world.

People like Bloomberg and Kelly will find out you can’t arrest, raid, beat down, or otherwise trample on an idea. The issues brought up by this movement won’t go away. The powers that be will find this out sooner than most people think.

What do you think about the Occupy Movement?

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