1999-09-04 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes


by Howard Schwach

I got the idea while tooling around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on the way to Fell’s Point, which is a restaurant-shopping area of some renown. I was looking at the map supplied by the Water Taxi Company and it came to me as an epiphany. What we should do is forget about building anything on the Arverne Urban Renewal Area. What we should do is dredge it to make it into a harbor. Cut a channel through from that harbor to Jamaica Bay, and we have the real deal. The Water Taxi I wrote about above costs $4.50 for the whole day and covers the harbor from the Inner Harbor (Baltimore proper, where the National Aquarium, the Constellation, the hotels and many shops are found) to Fort McHenry (you all know what happened there). The taxi makes stops at such places as Little Italy, Fell’s Point, Fort McHenry, the Science Museum, and may others. Our water taxi could stop at Beach 116 street (with its famed Amusement Pier), JFK Airport, the Bird Sanctuary at Gateway National Park, Fort Tilden with its famous gun emplacements, Manhattan Beach, Coney Island, Fort Wadsworth, the Statue of Liberty and Wall Street. At its inception, at the Rockaway Harbour, would stand malls, restaurants and hotels. The world famous beach would stand as it is (with perhaps a few dunes added) to draw visitors from all over the world. I know it sounds silly, but think about it for a minute. Call up a map of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor from the Internet or from AOL and then compare it with a map of Rockaway and New York Harbor. You are sure to see what I mean.

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Speaking of Rockaway Harbor, what started as a joke has taken root in the fertile soil of neighborhood snobbery. I understand there are already four members of the newly formed Rockaway Harbour Civic Association, which is two more member than the Friends of Rockaway presently has. Let me know if you are interested in joining, and I will pass your name along to the organization’s founders.

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In case you were wondering, the Broad Channel Athletic Club has a city permit to run its Mardi Gras Parade on Labor Day. Organizers will review each float this year, unlike the past, when floats joined the parade at will. Nobody expects any problems this year because they all know that people will be watching closely for a repeat of last year’s "Black to the Future" float that got a police officer and two fireman fired from their city jobs. The parade steps off at noon on Monday.

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Stand there and let somebody hit you with a hammer, even a little one. Then tell me that you would not have liked to have a cop around to stop the action before you were hit. As soon as Busch, the lunatic from Brooklyn, hit a cop with the hammer and threatened the others, he deserved to draw fire. I have no compassion for anybody who attacks a cop (or, anybody else for that matter). He got just what he deserved.

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Quick question: Why are the beaches on the Jersey Coast and on Long Island closed because of high waves, yet the Rockaway beaches stay open? Do they know something we don’t, or are we smarter than everybody else is?

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War is hell and sometimes even practice for war is hell. Puerto Rican activists want to close down a U.S. Navy bombing range on the island of Vieques because a local worker was killed by an errant bomb. Sometime in late 1963 I visited the island as part of a Naval investigation team looking into the death of a Navy pilot whose A-1 Skyraider (we still had prop planes in those days) was blown out of the air by a bomb dropped by his wingman. The first plane got too low and dropped just as the second plane made its run. That plane ran into the concussion from the bomb dropped by the first place. The pilot got a "green board" and was discharged. Things happen when you’re preparing for war. That fact notwithstanding, we still need to prepare.

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There is a new device for fighting mosquitoes, and although Arverne and Bayswater residents are looking forward to its employment, it seems more like a Rube Goldberg device to me. It consists of a 20-pound propane tank and a net. The female mosquitoes are drawn to the propane tank and then are vacuumed into a net where they die of starvation. Friends of Rockaway please copy, because there may be an endangered species or two in here somewhere.

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Speaking of Bayswater, it seems as if the ever-changing community is changing once again. According to published reports, many members of the Satmar Hasidic Sect are thronging to the small bayfront community, forsaking Williamsburg for the more bucolic Rockaway setting. Since the Hasidic community traditionally isolates itself from the rest of the people, we can be sure that we will soon see Satmar schools, shops and restaurants in the area. One thing is certain, residents who own homes in the area will be pleased, because property values are sure to rise. The move will have little effect on local schools and other institutions, however.

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Newsday recently did a story about movie theaters becoming multiplexes. It made clear once again that we have no movie theaters in Rockaway, let alone a multiplex. The nearest existing unit is in Ozone Park and the nearest proposed unit will be in Springfield Gardens. If Bayside can have two and so can Fresh Meadows, why not Rockaway? Those of us who are old enough remember three theaters in Far Rockaway alone (The Strand, the Columbia and the Gem – later renamed the Pix). I am sure that our 100,000 people would support a multiplex somewhere in the center of the peninsula.

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I hate to use this column as a history lesson, but is it instructive to see why those 16 Puerto Rican FALN terrorists (or, Freedom Fighters, depending on how you look at it) that President Clinton wants to pardon, were sentenced to jail in the first place. The group, founded in 1974, killed six and left more than 70 injured in some 150 bombings and armed attacks in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere from the mid-1970s until 1983. Some of the group’s most famous escapades include the New Year’s Eve (1982) bombing of police headquarters, the Manhattan Correctional Center and the FBI office in our city. Three cops were seriously injured in those blasts. In January of 1975, four people were killed when a bomb racked Fraunces Tavern. Most of the terrorists were captured when eight members tried to rob an armored car outside of Chicago in 1980. One of the cops who was injured in the New York City blast, Detective Richard Pastorella, remains blind and partially deaf from the bomb blast. Why Clinton wants to let the terrorists go is beyond Pastorella and I agree. If Clinton wants his wife to get the city’s Hispanic vote, he can do it without resorting to allowing killers to get out of prison. The release may never take place, however, because most of those given the deal will not renounce violence, one of the deal’s main mandates.

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Almost Paradise, a restaurant and SCUBA diving Mecca on the ocean between Beach 8 and Beach 9 streets in Far Rockaway has been drawing divers for many years. It will probably be drawing many more after the great write-up the place got in last week's New York Times. "One attraction of Almost Paradise is that, because its location is near the mouth of the East Rockaway Inlet and about a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, marine life is bountiful. Divers have reported seeing Caribbean creatures like Groupers, Squirrelfish, Cornet fish and Trumpet fish. There are yellow sponges, soft North Atlantic coral, sea anemones and a range of indigenous fishes from bluefish to sand sharks," the article says. It also talks about a local shipwreck, the Black Warrior, a "passenger steamship that ran aground on Rockaway Bar in 1859 and was torn apart by a storm." It’s almost enough to make me get wet.

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With the hype abounding around the Senate race between Giuliani and Clinton (although neither has yet to announce for the seat), quieting down a bit, it is time to think about the Presidential election. It is still early, but I have to rule out Whats-his-name, the Vice President (Al Gore, I think). George W. is one Bush too many (did he really use drugs?) Liz Dole is barely breathing. Bill Bradley was an early choice, but he is too close with Al Sharpton and you know what I think about anybody who gets close to Al Sharpton. Steve Forbes should stick to his magazine. As an old Naval Aviation type, I have to take a close look at John McCain, a man who has been through more in his lifetime than most. I like his congressional record and I can write his hell-raising in his Navy years and after to being first a fighter pilot and then a prisoner of war and resident of the Hanoi Hilton for several years. Tailgate did not happen in a vacuum. I once saw three pilot types throw a barber out of a second story window in Naples because they did not like what he was trying to charge them for their haircuts. Although McCain is both Christian and Conservative, he is not a typical Religious Right lunatic. I like him at the outset. At least you know that he has experience life not in virtual reality, but in the most reality one could ever ask for.

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Is the Independence Party for real? Do they really want Donald Trump for President? That is too stupid to even consider. Next time you see something about the local leaders of the party in The Wave, remember that they are backing Trump for President and act accordingly.

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Remember the RMAC Fall Festival, which will be held at Riis Park on September 25 and 26. It is always a must-see event. Admission and parking are free, and there will be lots for kids to do as well as the traditional arts, crafts and music.

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Websites of the Week: If you are having problems with a business here in New York State, log into the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. Need some high-class pet food? Try www.petfood-direct.com. Want to introduce your kids to the Stock Market? Try www.smg2000.org, which will introduce your kids to how the market works and will allow them to play the Stock Market Game. For more mundane things to do with your kids on a rainy day, try the following site: www.familyfun.com-/filters/mainindex/crafts.html. Anot-her fun site for kids can be found at

www.members.home.net/leannee/index.htm. That’s it for this week. Send comments and complaints to me at newsie42@aol.com or hschwach@ hotmail.com. Have a good week and safe home.

 

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