1999-06-19 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes

by Howard Schwach


I want to congratulate Senator Al Waldon on his appointment to a position as a judge on the New York State Court of Claims. The Democratic State Senator was nominated to the position by the Republican Governor, George Pataki. Before you laud Pataki for choosing a Democrat for such an important job, remember that Waldon, angry at his party for cutting him out of the Federal Representative position given instead to Greg Meeks, supported Pataki for Governor. Waldon will hold the job until at least 2005. I really like Waldon, and he upped his numbers with me when he was the only local legislator who voted against the commuter tax repeal bill. A special election will be held shortly to fill Waldon’s seat until the next regular election.

* * * * *

The upcoming special election to fill the State Senate seat opened by Waldon’s move to the state court will be an interesting one. It only takes 1,000 signatures or so to get on the ballot, so anything can happen. Among those who will supposedly vie for the seat are: Joanne Shapiro (chief of staff of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer), Henry McCoy (a Queens Democratic District Leader) and Helen Gregory (the head of the Black Bar Association in Queens). Other names mentioned are Lew Simon (Rockaway’s Democratic District Leader), Malcolm Smith (a developer who was once Floyd Flake’s Chief of Staff) and perhaps Al Stabile (City Councilman) and Joe Addabbo (mainland politician and civic leader who has already announced for Stabile’s City Council seat). More names will be added to the list as time goes by and the election draws closer. Keep tuned.

* * * * *

I want to add my congratulations to those of other Rockaway residents to the three students who were named top of their classes in their respective local high schools. Markinley Cherise was tops at Far Rockaway High School with a 95.3 average. He was active in the Chat, the school yearbook and on the soccer, handball and track teams. He lives in Far Rockaway and plans to attend City College. Patrick Drozdzik was tops at Beach Channel High School with a 94.9 average. In addition, he was the captain of the tennis team and participated in both soccer and swimming. He lives in Rockaway Park and plans to study economics in college. Katrina Gaines topped the list at Stella Maris with a 3.9 GPA. She was the co-captain of the softball team and she played tennis as well. In addition, Katrina was on the –math team and acted as a tutor for other students. The Rockaway beach resident plans to attend the College of Mt. St. Vincent and study Biology. Rockaway can be proud of them all.

* * * * *

Al Stabile is angry with me. He kidded about it when he was gracious enough to attend a Career Day that I hosted at JHS 226. I hope he doesn’t take it personally. My main argument with Al is the way he treated the city workers after the infamous Broad Channel Mardi Gras Parade last year. I think that Al can rehabilitate himself with his local constituents and me if he does the following: One, Al has to reopen an office in Rockaway. Two, Al has to make an honest attempt to get back the jobs of the three city workers (cops and firefighters) who lost their jobs because of that fiasco. They have been out of work long enough, and Al was as silent as the wind throughout the entire episode. As the local city council person and a Republican at that, it should be an easy deal for him. Three, Al has to stop attacking people who address problems in Rockaway and instead begin to work with them. He is entirely too confrontational. Fourth, he has to publicly acknowledge that the small group of yahoos who killed the Beacon Program for JHS 180 took him in. He still doesn’t know who the players are, who really represents "the community." If you do those things, Al, then come home because all is forgiven.

* * * * *

Last Sunday’s New York Post really lauded Rockaway and its beach amenities. "…Rockaway offers great waves, a long boardwalk and jetties that extend hundreds of yards out into the Atlantic," the article says. It goes on to praise Connolly’s, Smitty’s Fishing Station and Pier 92. It is unusual for the Post to run anything positive about Rockaway.

* * * * *

Robert Kaplan was a student of mine at JHS 198 back in 1965. He is a correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and author of a number of acclaimed books, including "Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History." His family still lives in Rockaway. He seems to have forgotten what history has taught him, however. In a recent Op-ed piece in the New York Times, Kaplan writes "He (a president) should intervene (in another nation’s problems) only because his or her own country can benefit from the intervention: strategically or morally or both." There is an old saying that those who do not understand history are destined to relive it. The Holocaust was deemed not to be America’s problem, either strategically or morally. We did not intervene because it was not in our national interest. If we had, many million might still be alive. We had a moral obligation in Kosovo even if it did not benefit our national interest.

* * * * *

Teachers have to graduate from college and then get a Master’s Degree. I have to tell you that they work hard for their money. Cops and firefighters have the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the city. They often face problems that you and I would not want to deal with. When there is a crisis, a fire, shots fired, citizens run the other way or duck under a table. Only cops and firefighters run towards the problem. That is their job. Both need 60 college credits to keep their jobs. Teachers start at about $28,000 a year. Cops and firefighters start at about $31,000. Why then, is the city offering the job of moving those blue barriers around to a new breed of workers? Those who apply need no skills other than a strong back, no college education, no formal training except for the ability to drive. Yet, the job starts at $41,635 a year -- $13,000 more than teachers and $10,000 more than cops and firefighters. Only in New York!

* * * * *

Speaking of raises, a panel of experts has recommended that the mayor get a $30,000 raise and that city council members get a $19,000 raise. That’s a 28 percent raise for the part-time council members and would raise their pay to $90,000 from $70,500. How many of you believe that this recommendation will not be honored? How come there is never money around when the real city workers come up to the trough?

* * * * *

Not that it matters, but many of the city council members have garnered pretty nice nest eggs over the years. Several members have assets in excess of a million dollars. According to published reports, Al Stabile, for example, owns between $950,000 and $1.5 million in real estate (minus $250,00 or so in mortgage obligation). In addition, he has between $20,000 and $60,000 in rental income and between $5,000 and $20,000 in Home Depot stock. Not bad for an ex-sanitation worker turned politician. Juanita Watkins, our other councilmember, a retired teacher, reportedly has up to $180,000 in IRA and retirement funds, up to $205,000 in real estate and up to $125,000 in CD’s and mutual funds. Not bad at that.

* * * * *

They call Hillary a "carpetbagger," that pejorative name given to the Northerners who came to the South to rule and rape after the Civil War. Those who do have not studied their history. Robert Kennedy was from Massachusetts, even though he had lived in the state for a few years as a kid. James Buckley lived in Connecticut. Daniel Patrick Moynihan lived in Massachusetts. Ramsey Clarke of Texas was nominated for the position and came close to winning. I don’t believe that the carpetbagger charge made by Giuliani and his supporters against the First Lady will stick. There are just too many important issues to address and voters know it.

* * * * *

Websites of the Week: Some sites I had fun fooling around with in the past week or so. For baseball fun, try

www.totalbaseball.com. If you want to see what the best schools are into, log into www.mars2030.com. The official Star Wars site can be found at www.starwars.com. Those who favor Austin Powers (and, I cannot fathom why that would be) can find his official site at www.austin-powers.com. You can always find some fun information at www.aint-it-cool-news.com. Those who dig South Park (even stranger) can hit www.paramount.com. That’s it for this week. Remember to send comments and complaints to hschwach@hotmail.com. Have a good week and safe home.

Return to top


Email Us
Contact Us

Copyright 1999 - 2014 Wave Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved

Neighborhoods | History