Heroes honored at Veterans Day Parade

 

Photos by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

Though the temperature hovered in the 20s, patriotic New Yorkers and those who traveled to the city on Saturday made up a steady stream of spectators during the Veterans Day Parade.

As always, the event began at Madison Square Park, where the mayor and military officials gave remarks as did this year’s grand marshal, Buzz Aldrin.

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Veterans Day celebrated in Stuyvesant Town

Flags on lawn2 Kristy

Residents place flags on the Oval lawn. (Photos by Kristy Ye-Ling)

By Kristy Ye-Ling

Despite frigid temperatures, around 150 Stuyvesant Town residents gathered on the Oval on Saturday morning for a Veterans Day ceremony held by management. General Manager Rick Hayduk welcomed everyone in brief opening remarks and introduced a few veterans. Then, residents had the opportunity to place American flags on the Oval lawn. A total of 7,008 flags were planted to express gratitude towards the servicemen and women who lost their lives since September 11th, 2001. Additionally, yellow paper was tied in bands around the trees in the area where residents (eventually hundreds) wrote thank you messages to veterans.

One of the veterans in attendance was former Navy personnelman Daniel Murphy, who shared, “I was in the Mediterranean three times, the Caribbean four times.” His most memorable experience was having President Kennedy on his ship during the Cuban crisis where he led a flotilla of 86 ships as a flagship.

 

 

New entrance at Madison Square Park will highlight monument

A landscape renovation will make the Eternal Light monument, pictured during a Memorial Day ceremony, a focal point of the park. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has announced it will be creating a new park entrance at 24th Street for the Eternal Light Flagstaff.

The conservancy shared the plan at a flag-raising ceremony that was held just ahead of Memorial Day last Thursday.

The conservancy will be working with the United War Veterans Council and the Parks Department to renovate the landscape in the park and give the monument, which is located inside the park facing Broadway at 24th Street, street-facing prominence.

“We have to honor our veterans,” City Councilman Dan Garodnick said, who was at the event. “This is the single most important monument for veterans in New York City and it should be a focal point in the park.”

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How a Stuy Town veteran helped get pension buyback law signed

July14 Alperstein

Jerry Alperstein, of the Jewish War Veterans Post 1, had sent out a memo to legislators urging them to expand opportunities for veteran pension buybacks over a decade ago and has since seen a bill signed into law. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

New York’s veterans who will soon be eligible for a new pension buyback, through legislation recently signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, can thank a Stuyvesant Town veteran for the opportunity.

Jerry Alperstein, a Vietnam War Navy veteran, 72, and original Stuyvesant Town resident, had been pushing the legislation since 2005. This is when he, then serving as the legislative chair of the Jewish War Veterans of New York Post 1, sent a proposal memo to members of the state Assembly. A year later, Assembly Member Amy Paulin, of Scarsdale, signed on as a sponsor of a bill and in 2007, then-State Senator Vincent Leibel became a sponsor in that chamber.

During a recent interview, Alperstein explained that this bill will allow all veterans who served honorably and are employed by the State of New York, its municipalities or its school districts in perpetuity to buy back up to three years of military time toward their pension while still employed.

According to Alperstein, the law brings New York State more in line with most other states in their consideration for veterans who are public employees. Prior to its signing, which happened on May 31, there were other pension buyback opportunities, but they were time-limited to the point that many people they were intended for found themselves unable to collect.

A 1976 law gave the buyback only to World War II veterans; but those who were public employees on 20-year retirement had already retired and were no longer eligible to buy back. A 2000 law only applied to those who served during specified periods of armed conflict.  This meant that virtually all Korean War veterans had already retired as were the Vietnam War veterans on 20-year retirements.

“That’s a reprehensible history of buybacks,” said Alperstein. “They called the Korean War the forgotten war and that’s exactly what it was.”

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Hoylman bill would help LGBT veterans who’ve been denied benefits

State Senator Brad Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday, State Senator Brad Hoylman released a report focusing on how LGBT veterans have been denied a multitude of benefits for decades and announced his plan to introduce legislation that would address this longstanding issue. The reason, he explained in the report, is that over 50 state benefits are contingent upon a veteran’s discharge status. This would make those who were discharged solely for their sexual orientation or gender identity potentially ineligible to receive those benefits, which include scholarships, job opportunities, health screenings, tax breaks and even reimbursement for burial costs.

On his “New York Restoration of Honor Act,” Hoylman said, “It’s appalling that there are generations of LGBT veterans right here in New York who continue to be discriminated against and denied important benefits by the very government they fought to defend. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ thankfully is over (having ended in 2011), but my report shows that the holdover of the widespread injustice against LGBT service members remains.”

Around 114,000 U.S. service members have been discharged for their sexual orientation or gender identity since World War II.

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ST resident discovers discrepancy in veteran law, helps change it

Nov27 Vets Jerry

Vet Jerry Alperstein

By Sabina Mollot

On November 7, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill benefiting veterans that was written by a Stuyvesant Town resident.

While he doesn’t work in politics, the resident, Jerry Alperstein, is a Korean war vet and also the New York Department Legislative Committee Chair of the Jewish War Veterans group.

He’d been researching veteran-related legislation in 2010, when he discovered a discrepancy in a 2005 law that left some city employees who’d left their jobs for military duty ineligible for an existing pension credit.

The discrepancy in the 2005 law came from most – but not all – city employees called to active military service between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2005 being able to get the pension credit.

This was tied into a benefit program that allowed city employees called to active military service to continue receiving their full salary and benefits, including pension benefits, as long as they paid back their military pay or city pay (whichever was less) when returning to their city jobs.

However, city employees who elected not to receive their city pay while on active duty were not covered by the 2005 law. Alperstein said this wound up being 60-70 people.

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Nation’s veterans are remembered

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By Sabina Mollot
New York City’s 95th Veterans Day Parade, also known as America’s Parade, took place on Tuesday, attracting crowds of spectators, who, for nearly the entire route along Fifth Avenue, were at least three rows deep.
Many waved flags and all seemed to have as many cheers for the countless stream of veterans and current servicemen and women marching by as for the more high-profile guests.
Those included Mets player Jacob deGrom, who had just been named Rookie of the Year, and former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a parade grand marshal. DeGrom marched alongside his wife Stacey, and Kelly, a former Marine, marched with his wife Veronica, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard reserves. Others marching including Amanda Wirtz, Miss Veteran America 2014, members of different military organizations from around the country and numerous marching bands.
As always, the parade kicked off at Madison Square Park with a memorial ceremony, a wreath laying and shots fired in the air, before heading off to 56th Street.
At the park, several elected officials spoke about veterans issues, including U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who said more needs to be done to prevent suicide among veterans.
“The rate of suicide is far too high. We need better screenings,” he said, noting that a bill by an Indiana senator, which he’s pushing, is aimed at providing mental health screenings on an annual basis for all military service members. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who marched in the parade but didn’t attend the opening ceremony, spoke at a breakfast event.
He said more was being done to help veterans find jobs with special Workforce1 centers around the city which have placed over 1,000 veterans and spouses of veterans in jobs since January.
Additionally, he said, “They’ve helped more than 3,800 veterans with career counseling and workshops, and they’re expanding services to be available all over the city.”
Other elected officials to attend the parade included Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was also there, marching arm in arm with World War II veteran Frederick Carrier, who fought in the invasion of Normandy.
Among the spectators were countless people who held homemade signs saying “Thank you.” Others came bearing photos of deceased veteran family members, like Peter Cooper Village resident Linda Wray.
Wray held a recent photo of her husband, Korean War veteran and U.S. Air Force Colonel Bernard Wray, posing with Mayor Bloomberg. Upon seeing some other Korean War vets milling around the street in the their signature blue jackets, Wray noted, “There are fewer and fewer of them every year. Like the World War II veterans who are in their 90s, the Korean War vets are in their 80s.”
While not a veteran herself, Wray attended wearing a hat that identified her as a member of the local post of the Jewish War Veterans.
The Stuyvesant Town area post, which has marched in the parade in previous years, has opted out for the past couple of years to hold its own, private ceremony in front of the VA Medical Center.

Stuyvesant Town veteran receives medals at VA

At ceremony, Maloney says vets not taking advantage of 23rd St. hospital

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney pins a medal on Jerry Alperstein’s jacket during a ceremony on Tuesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney pins a medal on Jerry Alperstein’s jacket during a ceremony on Tuesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
A Stuyvesant Town veteran was among a group of vets honored at a ceremony at the VA Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon.
The ceremony, led by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, took place a few days ahead of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy to liberate France from the Nazis.
Though he didn’t serve in WWII, Vietnam War Navy vet Jerry Alperstein was presented with the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Alperstein, the former head of the local post of the Jewish War Veterans, said he only learned recently that he was entitled to the ribbons. All the others who served on his ship off the coast of North Vietnam during a period of combat in 1967 were entitled to them as well. A friend, who’d been doing some searching online, found about it on a defense website and alerted him.
“I’m grateful to Congress Member Maloney and her staff for doing all the paperwork for me,” quipped Alperstein. Maloney then pinned the medal onto his jacket.
Alperstein said the combat aboard his ship, the Charles R. Ware DD-865, involved shore bombardment, supply barge interdiction and evasive maneuvers when under fire from the shore.
Another speaker at the VA ceremony was 91-year-old Seymour “Sy” Beder of Peter Cooper Village, who’d been a lieutenant in the Airforce during WWII.
Beder said he was very grateful to others who’d served overseas since he was luckily allowed to return home before the war ended.

Seymour Beder, WWII vet from Peter Cooper Village

Seymour Beder, WWII vet from Peter Cooper Village

“They sent me home for rest and recuperation with no last mission to fly,” said Beder. He’d had the option to return to active duty after his rest period but didn’t take it.
“I wanted to be home with my wife who was pregnant,” said Beder, adding that his job as an accountant was also waiting for him upon his return. “It was a pleasure to be back.”
Alperstein also returned to his job, in his case as a unionized copy boy for the New York Post. He also went on to jobs at other newspapers, including at Town & Village, where he was the editor. He later went on to teach. Meanwhile, Rocco Moretto, a WWII veteran who fought in the Normandy invasion, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad company.
When at the podium, Maloney asked Moretto, an Astoria resident, who now uses a cane and a wheelchair, how he managed to survive Normandy when so few others did.
He responded, “It was mostly my mother’s prayers. I got lucky.”
According to Moretto, his unit had started with 219 men and ended with just two — including him — who weren’t killed or captured.
During the fighting, Moretto recalled once running with four other men through a mined beach and watching one of the men get sent flying into the air after hitting one of them. “I just kept running and so did the other three,” he said. The fighting lasted eight or nine days.
“We fought whatever was in front of us,” Moretto said

Honoree Jerry Alperstein of Stuyvesant Town, Vietnam vet

Honoree Jerry Alperstein of Stuyvesant Town, Vietnam vet

Vets not taking advantage of Manhattan VA, Maloney says
During a presentation, Maloney pointed out that they’re all now in their 80s and 90s and their numbers are dwindling.
“The services we promised them have never been more important,” she said.
Later, when asked about recent news reports about vets having to wait long periods for badly needed healthcare at VA centers, Maloney said she never heard complaints from any of her own constituents about long waits. Still, she recently called the Manhattan VA hospital anyway to ask about wait times and was told there’s no backlog. “And I’m not hearing anything different from the vets,” Maloney said.
What is a problem, she noted, is exactly the opposite, which is that veterans aren’t taking advantage of the East 23rd Street center for their health needs.
Once, after a veteran in her district came into her office and Maloney realized he was sick (she couldn’t recall with what), she personally brought him to the VA’s emergency room. But then, she said, “The guy gets up and leaves.”
Maloney added that she often recommends veterans go to the Manhattan facility, which she called “one of the best in the system,” but they don’t always heed her advice. “They’re independent people and they don’t want to be in a hospital.”
As for long wait times at other VA centers, Jodi Jackson, the Manhattan VA’s associate director for finance and information management, said the hospital is looking into ways to help veterans from other areas.

Letters to the Editor, Nov. 14

The year since Sandy at VA Medical Center

On Monday, November 11, Veterans Day, our nation paid tribute to America’s Veterans. As the director of VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, the charge of maintaining VA health care facilities to provide care to veterans is always foremost in my mind.  And this year has been a daunting challenge.
With safety as our priority, over 100 inpatients were evacuated to VA facilities in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Montrose, NY without incident one day prior to Hurricane Sandy’s landfall.  VA staff accompanied patients to the new locations to ensure uninterrupted care.
On October 29, the Manhattan VA Medical Center sustained catastrophic flood damage to mechanical and electrical switches, steam system, generators, elevators, heating/air conditioning/ventilation units and the Sterile Processing Service.  The storm left the facility flooded with no power, heat or fire suppression.  The ground floor, where 150,000 square feet of outpatient care suites and diagnostic imaging equipment was located, was completely devastated.
Centralized scheduling, a call center and clinic staff began calling veterans to reschedule Veteran appointments to nearby VA medical centers and VA community clinics. A Pharmacy Refill Program was established to enable Veterans to receive medication at several local pharmacies, and VA shuttles transported veterans to clinic appointments. VA mobile health units were positioned at the Manhattan VA Medical Center to triage patients, renew prescriptions, give vaccinations and schedule appointments.
Recovery efforts began immediately and lasted several months.  Mechanical, electrical and other utilities were reestablished and existing space to relocate outpatient clinics was identified, renovated and the clinics were moved.
Outpatient clinics were phased in by April and inpatient care, including surgery and the Emergency Department, were completely operational in May.  Several major projects, some underway now, will harden the facility against future flooding.
I am moved by the encouragement and support provided by veterans and grateful for a dedicated VA staff who worked tirelessly to restore services.  On this Veterans Day, we salute our veterans and take pride in overcoming the challenges to provide the quality health care and services they deserve at the Manhattan VA Medical Center.
Martina A. Parauda
Director,
VA New York Harbor Healthcare System

 

Do we have a say on 14th St. development?

Re: “Building across from Stuy Town to be redeveloped,” T&V, Oct. 24
My worst fears were confirmed in Town & Village about what’s happening on the south side of 14th St. The proposed buildings could have a monumental negative impact on our neighborhood in so many ways. How is Stuyvesant Town going to handle the onslaught of people living across the street?
The redevelopment could bring hundreds more people wanting some green space to not only sit in, but walk their dogs or just walk around. In addition, a once desirable sleepy part of 14th street will be hustling and bustling. Can the infrastructure handle all the new residents?  And, not to mention it’s going to be a major, major irreversible crime for residents who’ve enjoyed light and views all the way downtown to lose them! If ST ever goes condo or co-op, could this decrease property values?
Before it’s too late, where does Council Member Garodnick stand on this? Can he fight for us and win to limit the height and scope so the buildings are no higher then existing tenement buildings on the south side? Can he partner with Council Member Rosie Mendez to help us? Where does the TA stand on this and can they harness their power and influence to help us? Where does CWCapital stand on this?
It’s not to say that this stretch has not been blighted, but the character of the neighborhood could forever be changed for the worse. We’ve seen this type of building invade other neighborhoods. How can information be so hard to get? Is the zoning commission a secret organization? Someone, somewhere, somehow is approving plans. It’s time to rally and defeat this plan. Help!
Name withheld, ST

 

It’s time for some MCI reforms

Re: Letter, “MCIs then and now,” T&V, Nov. 7
To the Editor:
Regarding the rent increases from MCIs, Geraldine Levy asks “When and where will this end? Our legislators…regularly object to these outrages.”
Unfortunately, the majority of our legislators do NOT object to many outrages that harm New Yorkers financially, physically or psychologically. If they did, they would immediately correct this assault on affordable housing. I suggest two proposals.
First, these state reps would legislate that all legitimate MCI increases will end when the MCI is paid off.
For example, I’ve been paying for the same antique stove and refrigerator for 22 years; for what I’ve paid I could have bought new appliances every two years. These appliances may not be considered MCIs but they were considered improvements which raised the rent on my apartment and continues to this day.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I received a retroactive reimbursement for every penny I paid more than the cost of the stove and refrig, or for any other MCI that I’ve paid for many times over?
Second, these honest legislators (Is that an oximoron?) would transfer the DHCR and its authority over all housing matters for NYC including MCIs back to New York City.
Then our newly elected Democratic mayor, who promises to correct the abuse of our annual rent hikes courtesy of 20 years under Republican mayors, Bill de Blasio could fire every official in the current DHCR and hire new ones who support affordable housing in NYC, especially housing that already exists like ST and PCV and not those new housing developments that real estate moguls dream about.
Speaking of dreams, if we lived in Disneyland instead of New York State, my proposal might be the happy ending at the top of every tenant’s wish list.
But unfortunately as the saying goes,  “In your dreams! Fahhgeddaboudit!”
Perhaps under the leadership of the capable Dan Garodnick and the Tenants Association something might be accomplished to ease this burden on tenants so that our housing here in Stuy Town at least remains affordable. Let’s hope so.
Otherwise, it’s Hello, Mississippi!
John Cappelletti, ST