Surprising Response

 Surprising Response

Dear Editor:

Rockaway is surprising me.  Marine Park is surprising me.

I grew up in Marine Park and went to St. Thomas Aquinas in the 50s and 60s.  My husband grew up here in Rockaway and attended St. Francis de Sales. I remember Marine Park as a caring neighborhood.  My mother brought weekly bags of food to a poor family of seven who lived nearby–even though we were also struggling. My grandmother opened her door regularly in 1929 to feed men she didn’t know who they then called “hoboes”. Rockaway is also made up of very generous people. Many contribute to Graybeard food drives, donate to local pantries, give blood, shovel each other’s driveways, contribute to GoFundMes, and rush to help others during emergencies like Hurricane Sandy. We are proud that generosity is a characteristic of ours.

I think you know why I am surprised these days by both these neighborhoods. The anger directed by many here toward our recent migrant neighbors saddens me.

We have different political persuasions and many divergent opinions on what to do about increasing numbers of migrants in NYC. Even those of us who have been supporting the Floyd Bennett migrants with clothing and donations agree that Floyd Bennett is not an ideal place to provide housing due to regular flooding and high winds. But the anger directed against human beings escaping terrible conditions is appalling. We have to remember that every last human– Marine Park residents, Rockaway residents, and newly-arrived migrants– wants to live safely and securely.

We the People should not direct our anger toward immigrants. We should stop shouting slogans such as “close the border” or “asylum for all” and remember that we are all descendants of immigrants, and that the process of seeking asylum is completely legal. We should be angry at systems and not misdirect this energy. We need those systems to mitigate this problem without compromising our humane values. For example, we could speed up asylum hearings. We could revise the lengthy work permit process, so that immigrants could find jobs and support themselves.

When we see people struggling and wanting a better life for themselves and their children, we should empathize, remember our own forebears’ struggles, and be grateful that we are now better off.

“If you see something, say something.” I have seen Floyd Bennett, and this is what I say. These migrants are human beings. We should respond thoughtfully and compassionately.

Jane Canner
Member, Rockaway Women
for Progress

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