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They Get It

As I was gathering a week’s worth of newspapers for recycling, I came across last Sunday’s “The City” section of the New York Times, which I had overlooked at the time.

The feature, ‘Obama, Pave Atlantic Avenue,’ comprises suggestions for a New Deal under the Obama administration from a wide swath of New Yorkers — from workers to artists to university presidents. After posting the UFT’s new TV ad, advice for Obama from students, and gearing up for the budget fight to protect classrooms, I was immediately struck by a few of these. Some New Yorkers really get it. [All emphases below are mine.]

City bus driver

I drive a bus for a living, but I’ve got two kids, and I’m a dad for life. So I’d say we need bigger and better schools and hospitals, especially in neighborhoods like Bushwick in Brooklyn, where I live. Roads and bridges, they have other chances to get fixed, but kids get only one chance to go to school.

If they asked me, maybe I might say, “Obama, pave Atlantic Avenue.” But that’s for me, and it’s peanuts compared to all the additional stuff we need to do, which is to invest in the schools and hospitals.

Musician and artist

Let’s assume, just for a minute, that we’ve learned a lesson: that amassing billions is no longer seen as a road to happiness and the enjoyment of life. Security, it may be dawning on us, lies elsewhere.

The educational system needs a huge influx of money. Schoolteachers should all be paid twice what they get now, as they are the ones who will make this city financially and socially livable in the future. An educated generation will create, will be employed, will be healthier and more involved. Crime will diminish, so money will be saved there as well as on welfare and unemployment (assuming there will be any jobs out there to be had). After a while, I think, the benefits will outweigh the costs.

A make-work policy that focuses on education, health, parks, public transportation and quality of life will make this city secure, safe and sexy.

Teacher of English as a Second Language, Francis Lewis High School, Fresh Meadows, Queens

I teach in a trailer in the back of a building. My school is built for 1,800 kids, and we have over 4,500. They build a wall in the middle of the room and say we have two rooms. It’s unconscionable.

There’s an entire school in the Bronx made of trailers. Meanwhile, we’re building more seats in stadiums down the street. What do you think will happen if we build stadiums and not schools? Kids get it. They’re smart.