Sunday, March 30, 2008


UP FRONT News March 28, 2008
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."

I have on a number of occasions had some words with a "preacher" (I don't know if he is ordained) on the Staten Island Ferry who sometimes stands a few centimeters from me and others, loudly demanding that I accept Jesus as my savior. I usually inform him of the fact that I already have - as can be verified by a number of real ministers, churchgoers and others who know me.

I have always asked him to please give me some space and to please speak more softly (making no references to Theodore Roosevelt's "big stick"). This particular preacher's photograph appears in today's Staten Island Advance on page 10 with a good article by reporter Maura Yates, who attended last evening's meeting of the Staten Island Ferry Riders Committee that took place last evening at the Staten Island Museum in St. George.

It was a well attended and quite boisterous meeting as many people complained about the preacher who, at least in my experience, has consistently ignored polite requests that he lower his voice. On several occasions it was necessary for me to remind him that, based on biblical accounts, Jesus was (perhaps with the exception of the time He walked in on the moneylenders and real estate developers in the temple) never rude. In the face of the "preachers" rather anti-Christian and anti-christian egotism, I have sometime loudly reminded him that, with his approach, he is having an effect precisely the opposite of his presumed intentions. I've publicly told him that New York Bay is not in fact the Sea of Galilee and that with his rudenss he is "creating a boatload of atheists." On occasion, especially when my comment gets open support from other ferry riders, he tones things down. Sometimes her makes the mistake of persisting.
To my amazement, given the history of some political problems between the rather tightly "controlled" Staten Island Advance and myself, I was surprised when, at the end of the meeting, Advance reporter Maura Yates approached me (and a friend Peter Schultheis, whose view is different from mine), for comments. I was even more surprised to find my comment about the preacher's contribution to the spread of atheism in today's article.

The meeting was skillfully chaired by Committee Chairwoman Anne Marie Selzer, who gave Community Affairs Officer Clinton Hawthorne from the NYPD's 120th precinct some time to make a presentation and answer questions. As far as I am concerned, Officer Hawthorne, who also has problems with his manners (he called on me and then interrupted me as I was asking him a question that apparently made him uncomfortable and called on someone else) confused the issue considerably. On the one hand, he said that people had every right to complain to the police since the preacher often created what is known as a "nuisance." Then, PO Hawthorne, apparently mistaking himself for civil rights authority attorney Norman Siegel, started talking in general terms about "freedom of speech."

In the face of the boat "preacher's" rudenesses I have at time complained to ferry staff and been referred to the police who are on the boat. Different police have handled it diffently although there are written rules prohibitng "nuisance" behavior, which Ms. Selzer read at the meeting. Some officers have directed the preacher to tone down, a step that has consistently worked as apparently he does not want to save fellow inmates) and other police have ignored complaints. It was when I asked PO Hawthorne about the inconsistency in police response, in a situation where there are written rules, that the officer did his Dick Cheney impersonation.

There were other complaints as regards inadequate ferry schedules. My view is that if the City of New York stops giving tax abatements to real estate developers to build what we least need, i.e. luxury housing, and if Chistine Quinn and the City Council stops raising its already substantial salaries as they did in passing the outrageous Intro 458, over the objections of primarily good government City Councilman and mayoral candidate Tony Avella (D.- Queens), we can get every half-hour Ferry service during "off hours" 24/7.

And as far as the "preacher" is concerned, he needs to read up some more on Jesus.
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