Joel Berg, the Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, sent the following reply to Bill Keller of the New York Times, in response to his recent column, "Meet Sam Schwartz."
I was disturbed by a line in your recent column: "You have dodged the camping homeless at the Port Authority bus terminal, or wandered lost in the miasmal misery of Pennsylvania Station." You make it sound like homeless people are merely another eyesore to be avoided by the beleaguered commuter. Rather than suggesting that eliminating homelessness should be a top priority, it seems that your only solution is to spend massive new amounts on a new train station, which, presumably, would be so nice that homeless people would somehow be excluded from it.
You also wrote: "Mayor Michael Bloomberg has done much to make the city more livable." Yet, even before the recession, homelessness, hunger, and poverty were skyrocketing in New York City, due largely to the Mayor's failed economic and social policies. Fully 1.6 million City residents now live below the meager federal poverty line, a number larger than the entire population of Philadelphia. Thus, the Mayor has made the City far LESS livable to a sizable portion of its residents.
I have read your nuanced, balanced, excellently written columns on world and national affairs, and usually agree with you. But permit to suggest that you, and many of key people at the Times, have a vast, class-biased blind spot when it comes to everyone in your putative home town who doesn't happen to be part of the wealthy, highly-educated elite.
I use Penn Station quite frequently and, of course, I'd love a nicer space. But my problem with its homeless residents isn't that they ruin my view - it is that they are homeless in the first place.
If you would ever like to discuss these or related issues, feel free to contact me.
Joel Berg | Executive Director
New York City Coalition Against Hunger
Moving Society Beyond the Soup Kitchen
212 825 0028 ext. 204
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