Volume 73, Number 39 | January 28 - February 03, 2004

Letters to the Editor

We can’t let Con Ed kill again

To The Editor:
Re: “Could police have saved electrocuted woman’s life?” (news article, Jan. 21):
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your coverage of Jodie Lane’s terrible, needless death.

  I lived for many years in the East Village, right around the block from where Jodie Lane was electrocuted because of Con Ed’s unconscionable practices. My elderly mother now lives in the neighborhood. Every day she walks her dog down the same street where Jodie Lane died. In fact, my mother’s dog may be one of the hapless creatures that stepped on Con Ed’s booby trap — my mom noticed her dog cringe and later limp for several hours on that horrible day. Having a parent living alone in Manhattan is worrisome; especially in a climate of constant threat from nameless terrorists. Must New Yorkers also live in fear of the very ground beneath their feet? 

  Why haven’t city and state government officials been the first and the loudest to raise a hue and cry about Con Ed’s despicable negligence? It’s apalling to read muted stories in the New York Times in which the very obvious fact that Jodie Lane was ELECTROCUTED is evaded and deferred by Con Ed and the city in the days following this tragedy. This must not pass quietly. Con Ed must not be permitted to kill another person, dog or horse. Jodie Lane’s agonizing death is not extraordinary. What’s extraordinary is that people aren’t killed by Con Ed’s negligence more often. And what’s extraordinary is the absence of our government’s outrage and intervention.
Molly Sackler

Thanks for getting story right

To The Editor:
Please take a moment and accept the wonderful praise The Villager and your reporter Lincoln Anderson deserve for the thorough reporting on the tragic death of my neighbor Jodie Lane: “Could police have saved electrocuted woman’s life?” (news article, Jan. 21).

All the major New York papers accepted Con Edison’s immediate response that this was a rare and freak occurrence. This is indeed false.

Dog owners have known and complained about electrified sidewalks for years. It was members of the Tompkins Sq. Dog Run community who immediately alerted the papers and the community board as well as the television news that these dangers were widespread. In fact, the dog run newsletter, The Scoop, had reported about the dangers of electrified sidewalks back in November. In addition, all of our complaints to 311 about the number of electrified “hotspots” in our neighborhood went ignored, since none of the electrified sidewalks were repaired.

I credit The Villager and Lincoln Andersen for taking our complaints seriously. More importantly, The Villager was the only paper to get the story correct.

Lincoln Andersen completed his piece with a quote from Community Board 3 member Susan Stetzer: “We hear answers about corrosion of wires [from Con Ed]. Well, we know that’s the problem — but what is Con Ed going to do?”

Thank you again for having the courage and expertise to frame a story accurately. And to correctly conclude your reporting in a manner that begs an answer.

The spirit of great journalists everywhere is alive at The Villager.

Garrett Rosso
Rosso is co-manager, Tompkins Sq. Dog Run

Guide dog and owner traumatized

To The Editor:
Re “Con Ed must answer for Villager’s death” (editorial, Jan. 21):

I was glad that you wrote an editorial about the death of Jodie Lane. Con Ed is too quick to say that electrical shocks on the street are a rare occurrence. Once is too often and it’s not a rare occurrence. Last winter, the dog of a colleague of mine at work was shocked on 65th St., while guiding his owner, who is blind, along the slushy street. She was not shocked, but in trying to understand why her dog was in hysterics, she reached down to him and he bit her on the hand she uses to hold his harness. Fortunately, he did not suffer seriously and was back in harness a few days later. However, it was nine months before he could walk calmly past the spot where he was shocked, and it has taken at least that long in physical therapy for my colleague to be able to comfortably use her left hand on the harness. She is now constantly fearful in slushy weather of the same sort of thing happening again, or worse, but she still goes out, because she must come to work.

Victoria Keller

‘Hot spots’ not being addressed

To The Editor:
Jodie Lane died while walking her dogs on E. 11th St. She was electrocuted. The explanation seems to be that salt had eaten through the insulation on wires buried under the street and the problem apparently exacerbated by the wet conditions and additions of salt due to the cold. Con Edison calls it a freak accident. This was not a freak accident. This was a frequent accident. “Hot spots” have created problems even before this one that killed Jodie Lane.

Con Edison does not seem to have done anything to eliminate the problem. Indeed, not only have they managed to not eliminate the problem, but they’ve remained very quiet about it over the years. There has been no public campaign to alert citizens to this problem. These metal plates bear no warnings or caution signs. Why not?

This is neither the first winter New York has experienced nor is it the first time salt has been spread on city streets and sidewalks. Why hasn’t Con Edison changed the materials it uses to withstand the damage caused by salt? Why hasn’t Con Edison seen to it that cable boxes aren’t better protected? And since salt is the problem, why are we still using it? Surely there are other products that can be used? But even if we continue to use salt, shouldn’t we at least be using it more judiciously? Far too much of it gets spread over the city in winter, a fact to which car owners and dog walkers can attest.

We need an investigation but not by Con Edison. Con Edison apparently finds it easier and cheaper to say and do very little and then, when a problem occurs, settle out of court and out of the public eye. That solution is no longer acceptable. Unless Con Edison is made to change its materials and procedures Jodie Lane will have died a meaningless death, as death not by electrocution, but by a cost-effectiveness strategy.

Linda Pankewicz

Glick: Con Ed must fix problem

To The Editor:
Re “Con Ed must answer for Villager’s death” (editorial, Jan. 21):

I want to thank you for the clear and forceful editorial in The Villager regarding Con Edison and the problem of electrified junction boxes and cover plates.

This terrible incident — the death of Jodie Lane — may finally force Con Ed to deal with a problem that has long existed, but that Con Ed has been unwilling to address.

I also want to thank you — in general — for a remarkably improved paper over the few years that it has been owned by Publisher John W. Sutter.

Deborah Glick
Glick is assemblymember for the 66th District

AIDS inscription is inaccurate

To The Editor:
Re “Design unveiled for AIDS monument in the Village” (news article, Nov. 26, 2003):

The article states:

“Into the backless bench would be carved words from a traditional Swedish hymn that was felt to be appropriate for the site near the water: ‘I can sail without wind; I can sail without oars. But I cannot part from my friend without tears.’ ”

I am afraid the AIDS Monument Committee has some more work to do. This is not a hymn. It is an old folk song. The text as quoted makes no sense at all (“sail without oars”?) and would look rather mystifying on the monument, as it does indeed in the illustration showing the bench with the inscription as it would be.

It would raise a few eyebrows in wonderment.

The correct traditional text goes:

Who can sail without wind, who can row without oars?

Who can part from his friend without shedding tears?

I can sail without wind, I can row without oars,

But not part from my friend without shedding tears.

The whole text, in Swedish, with French and English translations, can be found at http://ingeb.org/songs/ vemkanse.html. Please make sure the inscription goes on correctly: “I can row without oars.”

Viveka Janssen

Crime stats and Christopher St.

To The Editor:
Re: “Crime continues to decline, but at a slower rate” (news article, Jan. 14):

After moving to far western Christopher St. several months ago and reaching out to my neighbors in my capacity as a member of Community Board 2, I have been overwhelmed with the residents’ uniform chorus of frustration regarding the high level of crime and low quality of life in their community. Following innumerable failed efforts to persuade the Sixth Precinct to take a more aggressive approach towards enforcing the laws, the residents of Christopher St. and its surrounding areas have concluded that the police simply are unwilling to do so.

The police statistics that Mr. Amateau reports on are misleading in two important respects. First, when the police issue their year-end crime statistics report, and when they discuss it with the community as they did last month before the C.B. 2 Public Safety Committee (on which I sit), they pronounce that there has been a drop in “crime,” while all along they know full well that they are only reporting a decline in major felonies. While these major felonies may constitute the most severe crimes, it is disingenuous to use them as a sample of overall crime trends, given that they constitute a very small percentage of overall crime in the city.

Second, the Police Department’s statistics are broken down by precinct, but no further. This means that a collection of a few quiet streets can mask crime problems in other areas of the same precinct. I would not presume to comment on crime trends in my immediate neighborhood, given the limited time I have lived there, but I have spoken to many of my neighbors who have lived in the neighborhood for years, and their “on-the-ground year-end report” tells a very different tale: Over the last year, on Christopher St. and its surrounding areas, prostitution is up, littering is up, illegal drug sales are up, defacement of property (including graffiti) is up, noise that disturbs the peace is up, harassment is up minor thefts are up, and threats of violence are up.

In truth, the only thing that has declined in my neighborhood over the past year is the spirits of the people who live there.

Chad Marlow

Houston St. article clear, concise

To The Editor:
  Thank you for Al Amateau’s excellent piece detailing our community’s concerns with the city’s Houston St. reconstruction plan (“Houston St. plan rapped as pro-auto,” news article, Jan. 21). After years of needing pedestrian relief crossing this wide and dangerous thoroughfare, Mr. Amateau’s concise coverage of how plan proposals like left-turn bays and cutting down median havens on crosswalks will further endanger pedestrians is most welcome.

  I do want to point out, though, that I am not co-chairperson, as Mr. Amateau noted, but rather vice chairperson, of Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee. And I must admit I was surprised to learn from Mr. Amateu’s article that there’s any opposition to the proposal to widen the Houston St. sidewalk between Sixth Ave. and Varick St., where Gilda’s Club and Film Forum are located. After several past discussions dealing with this issue before our committee, my impression has been that sidewalk widening and preserving the street’s trees on this block were unanimously desired, and that the residents were tickled pink that it was part of the plan.

  That said, Mr. Amateau has presented the issues regarding this major street that affects our entire community with great thoroughness and clarity. So, many thanks again.
Shirley Secunda

‘Dr. Joe’ was one of a kind

To The Editor:
Re “Dr. Joseph P. Rocchio, Jr., Village pediatrician, 58” (obituary, Jan. 21):

I was devastated to learn of the passing of our beloved Dr. Joe Rocchio, our family’s pediatrician.

I called my friends and family today to tell them we had lost Dr. Rocchio, but those who did not know Dr. Joe don’t seem to get it. Sure, it’s upsetting to loose your children’s pediatrician, but why my hysterics?

You see, Dr. Rocchio was family. We had a 16 1/2-year relationship with Dr. Rocchio, and he knew and cared more about our lives than most people I call friends.

Our family’s relationship with Dr. Rocchio began when I was a frightened 22-year-old, on the verge of divorce from my first husband, with a six-day-old baby girl. It continued when that baby grew up to be a little girl who knocked her two front teeth out while skipping rope at a friend’s house.

He was there when my new husband started bringing my daughter in for appointments, telling me, yes, this one was a good guy. He was there to help fill out the forms so my husband could adopt her.

When our second daughter was born at St. Vincent’s in 1992, Dr. Joe was right there soon after her birth at 5 a.m. Dr. Rocchio was also there when I called in a panic, saying the 3-year-old baby sounded like Darth Vadar, and met me at St. Vincent’s when she was diagnosed with asthma. When she broke her arm at age 9, he was there to comfort us and tell us we would get through it. He was there a million other times; 2 a.m. calls about colic and ear infections. He was always so patient, so matter of fact, so calm, and made you feel like it was not the end of the world. Everything would be all right.

When our first daughter was 13 and decided she wanted to be just like Dr. Joe, he invited her to help out in his office for a summer.

When our son was born in 2001, Dr. Rocchio had been recently diagnosed with cancer. Nonetheless, when he saw our boy, he joyfully held him up, “Lion King” style, and proclaimed our newborn son’s beauty. Not a thought about himself or his own illness. He did not discuss it. He continued to work, caring for his kids.

Dr. Rocchio was far more than just your average physician; his droll humor and dry wit made you laugh in the face of adversity. When a parent felt scared and alone and most vulnerable, he let you know that he was there. I trusted Dr. Rocchio with my life and the lives of my three children.

My oldest, now almost 17, still wants to be a pediatrician just like Dr. Joe. I couldn’t wish for any more for her, or for the children she might care for one day. We were truly blessed to have had Dr. Rocchio in our lives. We will miss him more than you can imagine. He was family.

Nicole Regne


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