Comments: December 17, 2007

1. This week, relatives of people involved in two separate stories wrote in to challenge the magazine’s portrayals of their loved ones. First, we received an e-mail from Zoe Goldberg, the 16-year-old sister of Alex, the hyperenterprising 14-year-old who is known around his Nolita neighborhood as “the mayor” (The Littlest Hustler,” by Geoffrey Gray, December 10). “The gift of Alex was completely missed,” Zoe wrote. “People love my brother for who he is, and he makes a difference every day, in our community and beyond. Oftentimes you can catch him helping out an elderly person with their groceries or just shoveling snow for the shopkeepers. I don’t mind being referred to as ‘the sister of the mayor’ because he’s always there for me. Alex is a loving, caring, extraordinary human being, the kid who brings a smile to everyone’s face.” The second family member we heard from was Margaret Johnson, who identified herself as Bumpy Johnson’s granddaughter. Johnson was the supposed mentor to Frank Lucas, the subject of two Mark Jacobson articles (The Return of Superfly,” August 14, 2000, and Lords of Dopetown,” November 5) as well as the movie American Gangster. Margaret wrote, “I know Frank very well. He is a big liar. First, he was not with Daddy when he had his heart attack, nor when he died. Secondly, he was not smart enough to set up the Vietnam connection. He was my dad’s driver for a very short time. He only knew ‘Bumpy’ for five years, not fifteen, like Frank says. Sad that he is only a legend in his own mind!”

2. Dan Rather could be right that the powers-that-be are out to get him (Dan Rather’s Last Big Story Is Himself,” by Joe Hagan, December 3), but he evidently has his supporters, too. Typical sentiments were voiced by Joseph Crompton of L.A.: “Rather didn’t deserve to be taken out to slaughter. Watergate would have been buried under today’s cowardly journalistic standards.” At least one couple, however, has been bearing a grudge against the former newscaster for some time. “Dan Rather sealed his fate when he disrespected the president of the United States, R. Nixon—to his face, in front of God and country,” wrote Jay and Linda Coughlin. “Consider this anagram: Dan Rather’s Fate = Tar and Feathers.” We don’t necessarily agree with the sentiment, but the anagram is a neat trick.

3. S. Jhoanna Robledo’s column on the condo boom and its effect on school overcrowding (Educating: Catchment-22,” December 3) inspired much commiserating. “Overcrowding is a serious issue, and no one seems to want to admit that it is even a problem,” wrote a reader registered on as SHB Rowne. “Getting rid of science labs, art rooms, etc. That is a ridiculous solution!” A teacher concurred: “I’m glad you’re drawing attention to this situation. I teach in a trailer behind a high school that regularly exceeds 250 percent capacity.” We received a less affirmative response from the Department of Education, which called us on two errors. For one, two separate parents at a public forum had reported to Robledo that Chancellor Joel Klein had told them, when they expressed frustration, to “send your kids to private school.” The Board of Ed supplied us with a recording of the meeting, which does not support the parents’ version. Also, the population of P.S. 199 has risen 20 percent, not doubled. The number of kindergarten classes, however, has doubled.

Corrections: In “Mrs. Astor’s Baby” (by Steve Fishman, November 19), it should have been noted that a friend of the Marshalls, not a butler, was assisting them in their home. In “West World” (by Anthony Weiss and Alec Appelbaum, December 10), only Steve Roth is a principal owner of the Hotel Pennsylvania property.

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Comments: December 17, 2007