Thursday, March 11, 2004

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (3/11/04)


Why is Briarcliff Manor making such heavy weather of finding a site for the lovely old house that was donated to its historical society?

In a misguided attempt at political correctness, a movement is afoot to dump the Indian head that graces Croton's patrol cars, the patches on its police uniforms and its stationery. What's wrong with Croton's traditional logo? After all, Croton was named after an Indian chief, Kenotin or Knoten. On a 1732 survey of Van Cortlandt Manor by Philip Verplanck, the Croton River is shown as "Groatun's River."

Logo revisionists got a foot in the door by quietly substituting a sailboat logo on the Village's web site. With massive problems--brown water, offensive sewer odors, and a parking lot that floods regularly and totals parked cars--why is Croton futzing around with a boondoggle that portends unforeseen costs?

Tried to phone your local post office lately? It's impossible to reach it. All local post offices now have the same number: 800/275-8777. Dial it and you are offered a menu of numbered choices--none of which will connect you with your local post office.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers would have you believe that the costs of research and development make high drug prices necessary. Truth is that most research and development is done in laboratories funded by tax dollars. Many new drugs are duplicates of existing products that already effectively treat specific conditions. Valuable research time is wasted creating competing drugs only slightly different from current medications--with none of the price advantages that should result from competition.

And drug company advertising now borders on the unethical. I mean those ads describing their drugs in veiled terms or puzzling imagery and the message, "Ask your doctor about . . ." These try to turn doctors into little more than prescription writers on demand.

Local laws call for every building to display house numbers of prescribed size and legibility under penalty of a fine. These are to aid firefighters and police in an emergency. But ride around your community and see how seldom this law is obeyed. Why do we pass such laws and neglect to enforce them?

Whatever happened to the outsize figures of farm animals Metro North proposed to parade across the roof of the Croton train station? Where are they now?

Couldn't Westchester's villages and towns achieve greater efficiency and save money by consolidating the appointed position of manager with that of the mayor or supervisor to create one elective office responsive to voters? The town of Cortlandt seems to function well with that arrangement.

Food for thought: We all live in the shadow of two aging nuclear plants, the inactive shell of another and 1,500 tons of irradiated spent fuel rods. If the two hijacked airliners that struck the World Trade Center towers had peeled off over our part of the Hudson and smashed into Indian Point, you wouldn't be reading this.

When you shuffle off this mortal coil, your loved ones will have to shell out big bucks for your obituary in some newspapers. But not in The Gazette, where obituaries are still considered a public service rather than a source of advertising revenue. Adding extra expense to the already high cost of dying is unfair. Because of this unconscionable "death tariff," information about useful lives is lost to history.

An Italian proverb suggests, "Revenge is a soup that should be eaten cold." Booted from his job as Treasury Secretary, Thomas O'Neill took its advice literally and spilled the beans to author Ron Suskind. The Price of Loyalty is an account of his shabby treatment in Washington. Stone cold soup indeed.

Ever notice those long, narrow metal plates mounted on the trunk lids of some autos? Called "spoilers," they are modeled on similar devices on racing cars that reduce lift and increase the car's grip on the road or track at high speeds. Such a puny gimmick on a family sedan does nothing to make the car's rear wheels hold the road more tightly. They only add weight and increase gas consumption. It's time carmakers did away with them.

Millwood was named by the Putnam Division as the station stop for Lawrence & Vail's Rockdale Mills on the Pocantico River where Echo Lake is now located. Originally, it had been called Sarles' Corners or Sarlesville, and later became Merritt's Corners.

Unsalaried Planning and Zoning Board members in northwestern Westchester towns and villages deserve an award for patience. Complicated plans and proposals are frequently delivered just before board meetings, giving members little time to review them. And applicants frequently perform unauthorized construction and then plead with the board not to make them remove the unauthorized work.

For communing with nature, there's no better place to get away from it all than the lower reaches of the Croton River.

New England was once the textile capital of the nation--until mills moved to the South in quest of cheaper labor. Today, it's almost impossible to buy an article of clothing not manufactured overseas by even cheaper labor. Such industries will never return to Georgia or North Carolina. New England's solution was to turn the abandoned but still sturdy mill buildings into upscale housing.

Does anyone refer to the Hudson as the North River anymore? The practical Dutch called it that because it was north of the other main waterway of New Netherland, the South River. We know the latter today as the Delaware. Using the same logic, the East River got its name because it was east of the North River.

When I was a commuter to New York City, I developed the knack of being able to sleep sitting up, enabling me to get by with about two hours less sleep at night.

Montrose was known briefly as East Haverstraw between 1863 and 1868. Across the Hudson from the town the Dutch called "Haverstro," the name means oat straw, from the wild oats growing there.

In the upcoming Croton election, a Democrat is running as a Republican, and a Republican is running as a Democrat. Isn't it about time local political parties abandoned inappropriate national party labels and identified themselves more closely with local goals and values?


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