letters to the editor

Dear Editor,

Your article this past week about the proposed mega developments in our area was very interesting (From The Editor, “Power To The People,” July 29). You quoted the mayor of Cedarhurst who stated that he and his board relied on a traffic study showing minimal impact on traffic before approving the Pearsall project. I couldn’t understand how anyone could claim that having hundreds of cars added to our streets wouldn’t add to the traffic. Anyone who has driven down Central Avenue in the middle of the day, especially on a Friday afternoon recognizes that even a fraction of these additional cars on the road will exacerbate an already unbearable situation. Therefore, I checked out the traffic study and was surprised to see that it was conducted when traffic in our area is expected to be very light or non-existent.

The traffic study only considered traffic on local streets early in the morning when most of the stores in the area are shut and traffic is usually very light. It was also conducted on Friday afternoon right before and during the onset of Shabbos when practically all stores are shut, and traffic is almost non-existent. In addition, it only focused on traffic in the immediate area of Pearsall Avenue and did not consider the traffic further down on Rockaway Turnpike and Route 878, which is frequently slowed to a trickle or standstill. One doesn’t need to be a brain surgeon to realize that this study is seriously flawed. Maybe the times they conducted the study would make sense in Manhattan. However, they certainly don’t make sense in a community such as ours. I am surprised the mayor could claim with a straight face that he really believed the traffic study was legitimate.

Also, the mayor tried to claim that the $4 million the village is receiving didn’t affect his objectivity since the funds are going to be used to upgrade village streets and the Gourmet Glatt parking lot. However, the mayor neglected to mention that this $4 million “incentive” will in effect free up the rest of the village’s general fund to be used for his pet projects, including his salary and benefits (not to mention the rest of the Cedarhurst trustees’ salaries and benefits).

Sincerely,

Y. Rose

Mayor Weinstock Responds

Traffic studies are detailed and complex. It is utterly disingenuous to ignore a full 108-page traffic impact study and pretend the Village only looked at a short 18 page supplement. I encourage you to read the traffic study in its entirety. However, to simplify things considerably, the Pearsall traffic study was comprehensive and complete.

The traffic was studied at 6 key intersections—not only local streets, where traffic is very light at that time of the morning. The impacted key intersections were:

1. Rockaway Turnpike and Peninsula Boulevard

2. Rockaway Turnpike and Burnside Avenue

3. Rockaway Turnpike and Pearsall Avenue

4. Rockaway Turnpike and Central Avenue

5. Pearsall Avenue and Washington Avenue

6. Cedarhurst Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard

These intersections were studied in depth for, among other things, traffic turning movements and straight through traffic. The traffic study was conducted on Sunday, September 22, 2019 from 11:00 – 2:00, and Tuesday, September 24, 2019 from 7:00 – 9:00 AM and 4:00 – 6:00 PM. These dates were chosen to avoid Shabbos and holidays, and capture Sunday when peak travel is expected. With Rosh Hashanah only a week away, people were busily preparing for yom tov and all the shopping that goes with it. Note also that it was pre-pandemic and the streets were full of cars.

Traffic studies are tasked with identifying potential impacts to traffic flow quality measured in terms of intersection travel delay. No one assumes that there is no traffic in Cedarhurst or beyond, and no one assumes that peak travel periods do not cause delays. However, the level of delay was shown not to be significant. That is because Pearsall is one block long and as traffic fans out from Pearsall it dissipates rapidly. Traffic can go right or left at Pearsall Avenue, to Washington Avenue or Rockaway Turnpike. From there cars can go right, left, or straight at Central Avenue or any number of side streets. The widening of Pearsall and the addition of dedicated turn lanes further enhance this effect. The permutations are endless, but the fact remains that drivers will choose other streets over Rockaway Turnpike if it is congested.

Furthermore, the traffic study shows that only a small number of cars will enter or leave Pearsall Avenue at any given time. This will follow the same traffic pattern as other streets. Diluted among the thousands of trip intervals along Rockaway Turnpike, traffic will be delayed by only seconds.

The supplemental traffic study that was conducted on Friday, December 10, 2021 from 7:00 – 9:00 AM and 4:00 – 6:00 PM was for the limited purpose of counting cars that entered and left The Regency, a building that is 4 stories high with 144 apartments directly on Central Avenue. The traffic study showed that The Regency experienced slightly higher than expected weekend peak traffic. That is part of the reason that we cut the development from 4 stories to 3, and from 112 apartments to no more than 98.

With regard to the claim that $4 million going to the Village would free up the general funds of the Village to be used for “pet projects, including salaries and benefits” is not only untrue, it is offensive and insulting. We struggle to find money for capital projects in the Village and we are challenged enormously. The street paving projects, which are virtually the only capital projects we do, come from Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funds. They are outside the general fund and are very limited in scope. We can only do small portions of roads every year and have nothing left over for parking lot improvements, LED lighting, and enhancements to the park and playground. There are many other capital projects the Village is working on to enhance the lives of our residents as well. No one will use capital funds as a “piggy bank” to offset general expenses or pet projects like salary and benefits. We strive to make the Village beautiful and inviting. Every single dollar of the $4 million will be used upgrade the safety, convenience, and enhancement of the Village.

Mayor Ben Weinstock

Roe v. Wade

Dear Editor,

I am stunned by Rafi Metz’s rebuttal to my letter concerning abortion, in which I argued that Jewish organizations should not be jumping for joy at the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. Mr. Metz (Letters, July 8) specifically critiqued my assertion that whereas religious views concerning abortion vary not only among faiths, but even within Orthodox Judaism, we should not attempt to impose a restrictive stance.

Mr. Metz responded that it is not religion, but rather science, that informs the anti-abortion position. He wrote that the scientific fact that “the baby has its own unique set of DNA” renders it “a human being distinct from its mother.” This, he asserts, and not religion, is “the only argument that matters” to pro-lifers.

I fear that Mr. Metz has fallen into the secular humanist trap that has ensnared too many of our politicians and fellow citizens. His dangerous argument confuses the roles of science and religion. It is true that science presents facts about the natural world, but science plays no role in interpreting those facts. The latter is the sole province of religion.

Science will tell us that animals and humans both have a beating heart. However, science can make no value judgment concerning the difference between animals and humans. It is only religion that tells us that the human with the beating heart is infinitely more important than the animal with the equally beating heart! The reason is simple: science is, by definition, amoral (just as, for example, math is amoral). No moral calculus can be asserted by a discipline whose role it is to simply present facts.

Similarly, science can tell us about a fetus’s formation. While this information contributes to the religious calculations that ensue, science cannot, and must not, itself attempt a value judgment regarding a fetus. And as I detailed in my letter, halachic authorities disagree vigorously regarding circumstances when abortion is permitted. Other religions, whose opinions also matter, hold variegated opinions as well. It is these religious perspectives, not science, that should inform our public policy.

Even the basic notion that a beating heart indicates value emanates from a religious, not a scientific, assessment. Further, is a beating heart the only determinant of life? We find that leading Torah authorities disagree whether brain death, when the heart still beats, is halachically the cessation of life. The ramification is enormous. If brain death qualifies as the end of life, then transplantation of the brain-dead person’s heart does not constitute murder. If, however, brain death is not deemed the end of life as long as the individual’s heart still functions, removal of the heart may well be murder. This determination cannot be made by science, which dictates only the facts, not the moral evaluation.

The inherent danger of Mr. Metz’s view has been proven time and time again. It was scientists who, in Nazi Germany, were part and parcel of the Holocaust machine, as they made moral differentiations between Jews and others, between the elderly and the young, between the malformed and the physically able. Do we need look any further to understand how dangerous it is to entrust science to make such judgments?

Mr. Metz is also wrong on the facts. Contrary to his assertion, the vast majority of the anti-abortion movement does derive its position from religion, not from science.

Mr. Metz and I went to the same yeshiva. I cannot fathom that he and I absorbed such radically different worldviews in the mussar lessons we both diligently studied. I urge Rafi to reconsider his ill-informed, ill-advised, position.

Avi Goldstein

Far Rockaway

Tale Of Two Cities

Dear Editor,

Tel Aviv is an international destination for tourists, many of whom are not Jewish. It is also a place where many foreign workers who are not Jewish live and work, servicing Jewish establishments, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, schools, synagogues, and private residences. They need to have places where they can get food and drink after their night shifts on Friday night. They don’t go home to their candle-lit tables where refreshments are available. It is insensitive of you to assume that non-Jews who visit, work, or live in the city are served well by stores and restaurants that are closed for Shabbat. The Tel Aviv Municipality has even recognized the problem of not providing public transportation on Shabbat and provides a free weekend transportation system—BuSofash—that runs on Friday night and all-day Shabbat, which allows anyone who is visiting the city to move about freely on limited downtown lines, reducing the pollution of private taxi cabs. Jews who live in Tel Aviv don’t have to shop in stores that are open on Shabbat, but preventing EVERYONE from doing so is a hardship that is unrealistic, given their lack of shared values and beliefs, and would stifle the economic hub of Israel, a business model the world envies, unnecessarily. The existence of stores that are open on Shabbat (in the hotel district mainly) and free transportation on Shabbat has brought needed additional tax revenue to a city that must provide services, including security services, to half a million residents and hundreds of thousands of tourists and business visitors annually. If you are so offended by grocery stores in the hotel district (not in residential areas) providing food and other necessities to the army of foreign workers, visitors, and businesspeople in Tel Aviv (Heard In The Bagel Store, July 22), just stay home. The Talmud says “Hachnasat orchim yoter gadol mi hachnasat HaShekhinah.”

Rebecca Key

Ben Shapiro Sinks Noah’s Ark Theory

Dear Editor,

Rabbi Hoffman, in response to your article (July 15), I urge you to remember separation of church and state. Policy should be based on merits in the civic realm, not anyone’s religion. If your religion disagrees with my political viewpoint, I don’t want to hear it. Same if your religion agrees. Keep them separate! Jews are a minority everywhere except Israel. If religious points of view are part of the public policy debate, guess who’s going to be outvoted!

Jonathan

Isn’t It (Un)romantic

Dear Editor,

The article “Isn’t It (Un)romantic” by Keshet Starr (July 29) had so many mistruths I felt it needed a response.

I want to start with her premise that there is an actual agunah crisis. Keshet’s own website has a “wall of shame” with 17 men on it. Out of the thousands and thousands of divorces that took place in the frum world over the years, they have just 17 names. Keshet refers to get withholding as a “core challenge in Jewish divorce.” While my heart goes out for those 17 agunahs, 17 out of thousands doesn’t really seem like much of a core challenge at all. Percentage wise, it’s barely a drop in the bucket.

So, what gives? Why push the idea of a crisis when the math just isn’t there?

In America, over 70% of divorces are initiated by women. In most cases, family court awards these women with custody, property, alimony, and child support. If he’s lucky, the soon-to-be ex-husband gets to keep half of his paycheck and spend 4–5 days a month with his kids.

The reality is (this is also backed by statistics) that the courts today are looking out for the woman’s interest. By default, the men start off on the defense. We’ve all heard stories where fake abuse allegations were used as tactics by an angry woman and her attorneys. If there’s no get in play, who’s going to stop that? Is there an organization that pays for the insane legal fees it takes to defend false accusations?

In halacha we have a system if a marriage is on the rocks. The kesuba protects the woman (via financial penalty to the husband), and the get protects the man (via keeping her from being able to re-marry). It’s a system designed to keep a level playing field. Only a modern feminist would say otherwise.

There simply is no agunah crisis. Keshet is pushing a feminist agenda, and like all other modern radical movements, they view tradition (and in this case halacha) as oppressive.

The agenda has a narrative where all men are bad, all women are good, and only the man is capable of acting with malicious intent in a divorce. She’s attempting to twist reality and halacha under the guise of a solution to a non-existent problem.

The only part of her article I agree with is when she’s says, “We never know what tomorrow brings.”

Any man who signs away his last and only line of defense in a worst-case scenario situation is not being romantic or noble, he’s being an idiot.

Y. Horowitz

Woodmere

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