Letters to The Editor: Week of April 20, 2020

Judy Richheimer poses outside a Democratic canvassing bus in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Judy was looking forward to canvassing out of state for the 2020 elections. | Photo by Donathan Salkaln

To The Editor:

I can’t say that Judy Richheimer and I were close friends. It was, unfortunately, more the typical New York type of thing where you’ve seen someone for a long time, but the closest you ever got to “friendship” was smiling, saying, “Hi” as you passed on the street, and every so often exchanging a few words beyond that.

Judy was a force in the neighborhood and never seemed to be going somewhere without a sense of urgency or even sitting in a chair concentrating on something critical, but always beaming a smile when she saw you.

Damnably, because of lack of political will and leadership, her life was claimed by a pernicious, detestable disease that’s forced most of us to wear masks and gloves when we go out, and forces us to deal with fools who jog down the sidewalk without benefit of either as they huff and puff who-knows-what into the air as they pass us, well within the required six feet. They have the same concept of civility and social conscience as the bicyclists who go the wrong way on one-way streets, speed, and generally cause mayhem. But enough about these buffoons.

I’m taking things as they come my way and pretty much staying very close to home. There’s very little pedestrian or vehicular traffic around 23rd Street, Chelsea’s main thoroughfare, and noon today looked the same as 6:30 on a very quiet Sunday morning. The shelves in the supermarket for the past month have looked like a swarm of vultures picked them over and left hardly anything more than dented cans. I see that as a potentially huge problem if people keep hoarding and the markets keep goods off the shelf, perhaps to raise prices. The politicians have to do something to spread the problems around evenly so no one area or group is left in desperation. I think we all know the chances of that happening. I can easily see civil unrest coming out of this. Not good. Not good at all.

I think this site should be the go-to place to get the latest correct news minus rumors and poor reporting and to come up with information straight from those who know what’s going on where the rubber meets the road, as the Firestone commercial used to say.

I also can’t understand that there are no protocols on the shelf for government at the local, state, and federal levels to have just pulled out several weeks ago and followed the established policies and procedures for a pandemic, and apply the general policies to the particular problem.

It’s not like it’s never happened before. Disaster Preparedness isn’t anything new. FDNY, especially, has been doing it and preaching it for generations. FD takes it seriously because they’re the ones who have to go into the seat of a problem to resolve it, and who have to rescue and deal with the victims who have horrific injuries. That’s not any easy thing and they want to avoid it in the future by public education, better operating procedures, and training. And they’re damn good at that.

As for the rule of “shelter in place and no one goes out,” it might sound good, but how are “essential personnel” defined?  FD, PD, EMS, MDs, RNs—sure, that’s obvious. But what about the truck driver who gets the food from the farmer to the factory, and the driver who gets it from the factory to the warehouse at Hunters Point, and the driver and helper who then get it from there to the supermarket? How about the woman who works at the checkout in the supermarket so I can pay for the food I buy, or the electrician who keeps the freezers going? How about the folks who work on the receiving dock at the hospital to unload and process the medical supplies coming into the hospital, and the distribution workers who get it to the patient care areas, and, oh yeah, the driver who got it there? And let’s not forget the storeroom or dietary personnel who are in there. Consider also the housekeeping people who keep the entire facility not just “clean,” but disinfected—kind of important in this situation. FD, PD, EMS? How about the administrative and medical people who keep the line people supplied, paid, and on the street? In just New York City, that’s more thousands of working men and women. Who will define “essential personnel,” and how shall that loosey-goosey term be implemented?

How could we not have planned for this?

I really didn’t mean to go off on a tare, but there’s a lot to consider here, and the politicians had damn well better get it right or a lot of us—not some unknown “them,” but “us”—are going to die. Meanwhile de Blasio, Cuomo, and Trump can’t seem to get on the same page.

Will we learn from all this? I doubt it. We’re still trying to figure out how to prevent major flooding in Lower Manhattan and other areas of the city, over seven years after Sandy.

And how many other Judy Richheimers are out there, and how shall they be mourned and memorialized?

Might a good memorial be for all of us to demand of, and get from, our political leaders on all levels, practical, workable, effective disaster preparedness plans?

Come on. We should be better than that.—Frank Meade

Reader Comments from Our Website:

Re: Judy Richheimer: Feline Adventurer (April 16, 2020)

I am a cousin of Judy and found your tribute to be wonderful and spot on. Her spunky personality, life long interests, and her love for NYC came through. Thanks.—Beth Dorsey

What a beautiful tribute to an incredibly interesting soul. Life well lived!—Therese

A beautiful tribute, Donathan. You captured Judy’s essence so well. I am sorry for your personal loss in losing your friend, and our collective loss. May her memory be a blessing.—Wendi Pastor

Sorry for Judy Richheimer, lost. I lost my husband, Victor Kapwaf, how die in nursing home with the Coronavirus—Susan Kapwaf

Donathan, you did a great job in capturing what was wonderful about Judy. I especially appreciated hearing about her early life. I prepared my own reflections of her that I thought I would share. Judy Richheimer was a true Chelsea institution: smart, hardworking, and forever knowledgeable on the issues facing our neighborhood. No matter how small the issue might be Judy new it inside and out, sharing the most minute details even if you actually did not want to know. In my years as Democratic District Leader of Chelsea I encouraged Judy to be a poll worker. She possessed the characteristics I believed to be essential for the job. She was patient, detailed oriented, but most importantly kind. She turned me down on several occasions, saying it was more important for her to be on the street getting people TO the polls–a fitting reply consistent with the grassroots philosophy she always brought to politics. Her passing is a loss for Chelsea and certainly a loss to all of us. Cheers, Judy!—Tom Schuler/former District Leader


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