1999-10-23 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes


by Howard Schwach

The coming development of the old courthouse on Beach 92 street and Beach Channel drive is welcome indeed. It is good to see that there are still local people such as Marty Ain who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. Marty was often vilified by west end leaders because of his involvement in bringing dunes to Rockaway and his leadership in the Belle Harbor Alliance. It is people such as him who believe in Rockaway, however, and who are willing to use their resources to support that belief who will lead any renaissance that Rockaway will enjoy. We all owe him our thanks.

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One of the major problems in both ends of Rockaway is the fact that home owners are turning their homes into SRO’s. From Bayswater to Belle Harbor, people are building illegal apartments in their homes, hoping that the extra income will help them get through tough times. In some cases, they are actually buying single family homes and turning them into rooming houses, renting each room for hundreds of dollars a month. When I lived in Bayswater, a number of years ago, a well-respected member of the west end community took over the house that was semi-attached to where I lived. He took the two three-bedroom apartments and made them into ten bedrooms and a kitchen. He rented each of those rooms for $300. An apartment that would have brought him perhaps $600 a month was now bringing in $1,500 a month. The tenants soon drew the ire of both the police and the local community organization and the scheme collapsed, but not before many homeowners sold their homes at a loss to leave the neighborhood because of the SRO. Those institutions can destabilize a neighborhood faster than anything else can. The people who own them claim that they are harming nobody and that they are providing homes for people who would otherwise not be able to afford a place to live. There is one problem, however. Those conversions are illegal. Now, however, some brokers are saying that the law against the conversions is racist. "This whole scenario (fining owners with illegal conversions) here is racist," says Ozone Park Real Estate broker Leyland Roopnaraine reportedly said. "People here live as extended families. People use their basements in other neighborhoods." I certainly hope that the politically correct pols do not cave in on this issue, or the city will certainly be depopulated of middle class residents. I have seen it happen and it is not pretty.

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Just a point of information. The application deadline for the district superintendent position in District 27 is this Friday. By the time you read this, all of the applications will be in. Think you’ll see a list of those who applied in The Wave anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath. The list is a well-guarded secret, but I’ll keep trying and let you know.

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It was good to see an ad for a Carvel ice cream store in The Wave once again. It would have been more gratifying, however, if the store were in Rockaway. There are 100,000 residents in Rockaway and you would think that we would have enough of a population to support a Carvel, a movie theater, a bowling alley and the like, rather than several dozen nail parlors and hundreds of taverns.

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Speaking of movie theaters, Tony Weiner has begun a drive to get a multiplex for Rockaway and I have to applaud him for his actions (and, I don’t do that often). The siting of the theater will be crucial. I really believe that many west enders do not go east of the Cross Bay bridge preferring instead to go to Brooklyn. The perfect place for the theater would be on the old LILCO property on Beach 108 street and Beach Channel drive. That location would draw people from all over the peninsula and would be agreeable to those Brooklyn-oriented people on the west end.

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A group called the Southeast Queens Concerned Neighbors is suing the Port Authority to stop its Air Train program. The Air Train is a monorail intended to link JFK Airport with the Jamaica transportation hub. Rockaway residents have long fought the proposal, but there is no indication that they are part of this group. "Construction of the Air Train will turn the Van Wyck expressway into a parking lot for five years," says a spokesperson for the group. "At the end," he added, "it will not provide a train to the plane, but a train to another train." Perhaps the Rockaway group should get on board with the concerned neighbors.

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I have been saying for more than a year that Floyd Flake would probably be our next mayor and that he would do it as a Republican. There are more and more clues that I might be right. There he was, standing with George W., Governor Pataki and other minority leaders at a charter school in Harlem. He is constantly giving us clues to his party change and to his platform (public money for private schools such as his massive parochial school system). I wonder when he will drop the other shoe and tell us that he is changing parties.

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Most people of my age grew up with the Warren Supreme Court which extended both civil and minority rights (which most people agreed with) and the rights of the accused (which many people disagreed with). We thought that it would go on forever, just as we believed that the Yankees would win the World Series each year. The Yankee dynasty ended and has come back. The Warren court’s legacy is rapidly changing. There is a new majority that has grown and coalesced that has been moving back to the idea that the Federal government cannot infringe on the rights of the states. That could easily be a body blow to civil and individual rights. There has been a string of 5-4 decisions that are moving us in that direction. That majority includes Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor –the Conservative majority. Their decisions, as the New York Times puts it, "includes a radical narrowing of congressional leeway to legislate national remedies to protect basic civil rights." Is this a good thing? Many people will root for the new majority while others call it racist. Make up your own mind, but you should at least understand it because what that majority says may well decide what kind of life you have here in America in the next millennium.

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Congratulations to Ellen Connelly, the owner of the Connelly Dance Studio for being named the Newsday Queens Profile last Tuesday. She sets the right tone in pointing us to what self-esteem really means. "I want to create a center where people can come and have fun," she says. "And after they have fun they will learn that they can accomplish other things. We can turn a positive into a positive." Well Done!

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Beach Channel’s football team has gone 5-0 while Far Rockaway’s team has yet to win a game. On the other hand, the Dolphin soccer team is 4-0-1 after a 4-0 win over Edison High School. Marvin Nelson had two goals for the Seahorses while Shad Greaves and Jeff Wright each scored a single goal.

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Who is the greatest television character in the medium’s history? TV Guide has the answer and that answer is Louie De Palma of "Taxi" fame. He would not be my first choice (I liked Reverend Jim and Latka much better), but that is what the magazine says. Ed Norton, Lucy Ricardo, Fonzie, Archie Bunker, Mr. Spock (not the doctor), Lt. Columbo, Emma Peel, Barney Fife and George Costanza round out the top ten. Let me know what you think. On second thought, after some reflection, I like Ernie Bilko for the top spot.

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Web sites of the Week: Since 1997, Robert Garside has been running around the world—literally. He plans to end his run by arriving at New York City in time for the ball dropping ceremony ushering in the new millennium. You can track him and see pictures of his trip at his website at www.runningman.com. Where are Duncan Renaldo (The Cisco Kid), Helen Reddy and Bob Hope? You can find out by logging onto the Dead People Server (not that they are all dead) at www.dpsinfo.com. It’s kind of fun.

 

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