July 28, 2006

Outside Manhattan, some New Yorkers feel forgotten

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Manhattan has the money and power of
Wall Street, the grandeur of the Empire State Building and the
pastoral respite of Central Park. Queens gets power outages.
The Bronx? A smelly compost plant.

That's the impression left with many New Yorkers from the
"outer boroughs" -- the four large districts that along with
the island of Manhattan make up America's largest city.

Resentment surfaced again this week after eight days of
power blackouts affecting up to 100,000 people in Queens.

Although Queens is the city's second-most-populous borough
after Brooklyn, many Queens residents claimed Manhattan's
denizens would never have to endure a week without air
conditioning in the middle of a steamy, humid summer.

Although Manhattan has the city's most famous landmarks,
people in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island pay the
same taxes and expect the same level of services.

"We're treated as second-class citizens. Maybe third. It's
because Queens is the home of immigrants, not the rich," said
Cemalettin Sakar, 45, a cook in a fancy Manhattan hotel who
lives in Queens and went a week without power.

"I came to America from Turkey hoping for a better life.
Recently I moved to Queens and look at what happens," he said.

Forty-six percent of the borough's residents are foreign
born, according to the U.S. Census bureau.

People directed anger not just at power utility Con Edison
but also Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who did not appear in the
affected area for several days after the blackouts and then
praised the performance of Con Ed's chief executive.


Bloomberg has made borough equality a centerpiece of his
five years in office, bragging that response times for
emergency services show there is no favoritism.

"The city government has certainly not tried to favor one
borough over another. Quite the contrary," Bloomberg said.

"We've worked very hard over the last five years to make
sure that every single community in this city gets the services
they need at the same level of sophistication and magnitude and
response time," he said.

The outer boroughs have their attractions, and one in the
Bronx is Soundview Park, where joggers and roller-bladers enjoy
a green retreat along the East River.

Abutting the park, behind barbed wire and a chain-link
fence, is a compost plant that New York state Assemblyman Ron
Diaz says, "smells like a giant uncleaned toilet bowl."

The stink's potency comes and goes, neighbors say.

"All that stink comes inside. Nobody can keep their windows
open," said Estrella Hernandez. "People have asthma, they
choke, they have to be running to the hospital for their
sinuses and all of that. Children when they go to school, it's
in the rooms no matter where you go."

Diaz, who lives in and represents the area, is pleased to
report a significant decrease in odor since public complaints
led to a meeting with a city waste-disposal official.

But he is still trying to get the plant relocated as the
park goes through a renovation. "This has always been the case
for us. There's always been dumping in our community."

His suggestion for a new location for the compost plant?

"Maybe Central Park."

(Additional reporting by Larry Fine)