THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Attention campers: Safety first

IT’S AUGUST, AND TO UNDERSTAND what is going on here, you should know that in New York City and the surrounding areas, summer camp is as important to some kids and their parents as college is later on. In much of the country, the concept of summer camp isn’t that well known but in New York, it’s big stuff. They are part of our culture.

Since I went to Hunter (then in the Bronx), Bronx House Emanuel Camps was the place where I was socialized and met a lot of life-long friends. Working there, first as a bunk counselor and then as a head counselor, was my first big responsibility and a crucial part of my maturation process. The director of that camp, Aaron Mitrani, was the wisest man I ever knew, bar none. I grew up in Manhattan and Fire Island but when it was time to move on to something different, camp provided that opportunity.

In any case, all hell recently broke loose in New York City in some orthodox Jewish communities where summer camp had been sacrosanct for years. Kids and their parents were out in the streets, protesting the ban on camps. I get it—it’s yet another one of the many institutions that have been profoundly and unhappily affected by the pandemic. It almost always comes down to protecting human lives versus giving people what they may want. College students want colleges to reopen. Ditto all those who want to see their kids back in elementary and high school. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Virus migrants trigger ancient animosities

IN THESE TIMES OF COVID-19 people are trying their best to survive. One way is to get out of town and in this case, town means the big cities and specifically New York. This is a real estate happy dream in the suburbs and in out-of-the-way vacation places like Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where I live.

The basis of all wars is territory, as in, “Take one step over this line and I’ll kill you.” This is nothing new—you read it all the time. It is not surprising that when there are fairly mass migrations from the city to other places, there will be resentments. There is a story that made the rounds in my town a few years back that someone was allegedly heard to say in a loud voice, “I wish the townspeople would remember to stay away on weekends. This is our time.” People swear that actually happened. This is the stuff of legends and goes a long way toward explaining some of the new resentments.

One relative newcomer, for example, is all bent out of shape that someone was illegally keeping chickens and, more importantly, a rooster. Can you imagine a Manhattanite who has lived so long with the constant sirens of ambulances and police cars blowing off steam about a rooster crowing and inadvertently waking her early in the morning? Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Opening schools is a close call

I KNOW THAT I WOULDN’T WANT to be governor of New York or frankly, any other politician. I once told Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario, that I thought many people must be indebted to him, using judicial appointments to make my point. He sarcastically responded that you end up with 12 people who hate your guts because you didn’t appoint them and one ingrate. I bitch when I get hate mail so I can only imagine what Andrew Cuomo has to put up with. You can only make a decision based on the best information that you have at the time and it may well be imperfect. You have to look no further than Andrew’s earlier pronouncements about nursing homes to see what I mean.

Now we are dealing with the issue of letting our kids to go back to school. About a week ago, Cuomo made some news with me on the radio when he said that if the positivity rate for Covid-19 stays as low as it currently is, schools can reopen. Cuomo must know, as we all do, that sooner or later a child will come down with the virus and the cheap-shot artists, some of whom are in the press, will be all over him, characterizing him as a near murderer. But just put yourself in his place. What would you have done?

There really are no good answers. Many families have two parents working to put food on the table. Many have one. If no one is at home to take care of the kids, there can be real trouble, up to and including violation of the child abandonment laws and tragedies like a kid burning down the house because he or she was playing with matches. But what about that food on the table? Read more…