To the Editor:
During the public forum of the Oct. 11 meeting of Community Board 9, Paul Capocasale stood up and offered a warning to the members of the board who support Select Bus Service (SBS) on the Woodhaven Blvd/Cross Bay Blvd corridor.
“Blood will be on your hands,” he said, presumably holding pro-SBS board members accountable should anything happen to anyone on the boulevard, for example a car-on-pedestrian crash, after the SBS project is implemented. He also suggested, threateningly, that he would “see you down the road” and that anyone who supports SBS is “asking for kids to get killed.”
As a member of Community Board 9 and Woodhaven resident, I was offended by his suggestion and his threatening tone. Is this how we wish to hold ourselves accountable? It is offensive to suggest that as a member of the community board reaching the conclusions I have, that I would purposefully put members of my community at risk. Who is to blame for doing nothing while the deaths on the boulevard mount?
Such accusations are threatening and create a fever of hostile relations precisely when we need to listen to each other. In such an environment, the planned safety improvements that come with the SBS plan, which will calm traffic and create more safe for spaces for pedestrians, were never discussed. Instead, there was a chorus of nodding heads, all in bizarre agreement that safety = danger, all simply hoping to get it over with, and with some board members apologizing for their votes against SBS or wishing to qualify them. Who would dare vote their conscience in such an environment? Apparently only three. Would there have been more? We will never know.
Let me be perfectly clear: if we tolerate even rhetorical threats against our community board members, we may have trouble saying that their voted outcomes are legitimate.
In a year when the coarseness of American political rhetoric has reached depths not seen in generations, we should not accept even verbal bullying as the new normal. When the nominee of a major political party can urge his followers to assault protestors, casually mention the assassination of his rival, even go so far as to assert that he could kill someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose any followers, we should speak out when threats and intimidation are even jokingly or half-heartedly deployed by those seeking to manipulate the debate surrounding local issues.