Archive for the ‘Disaster’ Category

Service of I Won’t Pay for That: I’m Not My Neighbor’s Keeper

Monday, February 27th, 2023

Natural disaster
Image by Barroa from Pixabay 

As it should be the taxes of parents who send their children to private school cover the cost of public school. Citizens who never call the fire department pay the freight for those who must. Those cared for in private hospitals pay for public ones.

When 50+ inches of snow fell in Buffalo, NY last December, and not a flake hit the streets of NYC, nobody squawked at the cost of helping with the cleanup. And on a national level, do citizens in Hawaii whine about FEMA funds sent to hurricane victims in Florida or Louisiana?

Subway cars
Image by RGY23 from Pixabay 

Yet, according to Ben Brachfeld of, “A group of suburban lawmakers are urging their Albany colleagues to restrict proposed payroll tax increases, meant to shore up the finances of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to businesses in the city — arguing the suburbs are already subject to ‘onerous’ taxes without service levels equivalent to residents of the five boroughs.” The tax, proposed by Governor Kathy Hochul, would be 0.5% from 0.34%.

According to Brachfeld, “In their letter, the suburban legislators suggest that municipalities outside the city should be exempted not only from the tax increase, but from the tax writ large, since it would post a levy on public funds used to run such municipalities. They also say community colleges and hospitals should be exempt from the payroll tax.”

Brachfeld reported that the levy impacts businesses in NYC’s five boroughs, two LI counties, five upstate counties that Metro-North serves. It has irritated the legislators in these places since  2009 when the tax was ratified. According to Brachfeld, MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said on WCBS radio, “It [the tax] would only apply to the biggest employers. Only 5% of all businesses would be subjected to this little incremental payroll mobility tax.”

Mayor Adams isn’t a fan either. “He says the city, not the suburbs, are getting shafted, as the Big Apple is the state’s only municipality being asked to contribute new annual subsidies to the MTA, to the tune of over $500 million per year, in addition to the payroll tax increase and fare hike,” according to Brachfeld.

I envision a child’s game of hot potato: Who will end up footing the bill when the music ends? Should suburban municipalities or their constituents who may use the MTA’s buses and subways when they work or visit NYC also pay for some?  Shouldn’t we be proud of the legacy in this country of helping those who need it when disaster strikes even if we are not directly impacted by the emergency?

Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay 

Service of Disasters

Monday, February 13th, 2023

Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

I’m still in awe at the havoc Hurricane Sandy foisted on Manhattan 11 years ago. I wonder what the city has done to protect essential properties such as the NYU Langone Hospital complex that’s next to the East River. It took years to set the building right from damage by intruding aggressive water.

The death toll and damage from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria has shocked the world.

The loss of almost 30,000 people in Turkey alone takes an insurmountable toll on a community. I lived for two years in Adana, a city from which now many journalists file their news reports. Its hospitals are bursting with injured victims. I often visited Gaziantep, closer to the eye of the natural upheaval. I spent a few hours in Syria because my mother wanted to see the Cedars of Lebanon when she visited me in the Middle East.

Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, speaking to Scott Simon on NPR Weekend Edition on Saturday said something I’d feared: that while such a catastrophe would have caused huge damage anywhere, it didn’t have to be as bad. She said that nothing changed from the last momentous earthquake in 1999 when 19,000 died. Building regulations are still not up to standards, she said, and as a result of widespread corruption the existing building codes weren’t followed. The upshot: more people than necessary died.

When the earthquake hit 24 years ago, politicians said they’d bring in stricter laws, rules and regulations which if they did, were not enforced said the author. Rescue efforts were too slow, she added, despite money collected from an earthquake tax. Since I heard the interview newscasts report that others share the same view.

Nevertheless, regardless of reason or fault, there are thousands dead, more to be found and millions suffering in the cold having lost everything. I looked into a few charities that are helping in the region. World Central Kitchen has been providing hot meals to victims for days. A well-regarded charity appraiser, Charity Navigator, rates it at 100. Also at the top of their ratings, in a list of charities helping victims of this disaster, are Doctors Without Borders USA, rated 91; American Red Cross, 96; Direct Relief, 100 and Operation Blessing International, 95.

I was upset when as a result of nasty storms we lost glorious old trees, electricity and phone service for weeks and burst pipes that caused extensive damage. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose everything in addition, perhaps, to loved ones. I think this after every disaster. We can’t control nature when it turns fierce. We can only try to mitigate potential damage with what we have learned about protecting coastlines and bolstering buildings with appropriate stringent codes and oversight. Apart from war, can you think of other examples of lives lost unnecessarily because precautions have not been taken?

Image by Angelo Giordano from Pixabay

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