1999-12-04 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes

by Howard Schwach

I like Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14. He has always been honest and forthcoming in his relations with me and with the press in general. That is why I can’t understand how he can maintain the fact that he "does not remember" how the issue of the new housing to be built hard upon Wavecrest Gardens was promoted to the board. I called Jon to ask him, but he is on vacation and will not be back by press time, so his clarifications will have to wait until next week. Suffice it to say that the evidence is overwhelming that the community board was lied to and that those in the know did know from the beginning that the six-story buildings were going to be low-income housing. According to my sources, Gaska and others had seen the plans as early as February of 1997. They knew that the plans called for six-story buildings. Yet, the letter Gaska drafted for the board just months ago called them "garden apartments." I know that Wavecrest Gardens’ six-story buildings were called garden apartments in the early 1950’s, when the buildings first opened (my family was one of the first residents in the complex). Today, however, that appellation refers to two or three-story town houses grouped around a grassy square. All of the players stated that the apartments were for "moderate income families," while the reality is that they are for "low-income" residents. That is clear from the paperwork and from the owner’s statement before the court. The community board has long stated that they would allow only market-rate housing on the peninsula. Why, then, did they provide a letter of support for the project? Perhaps they have been taken by the Goldfarbs and by our local politicians. If I believed in conspiracies, I would believe that those local politicians received lots of campaign cash from the Goldfarbs and from the organizations they control. That is being checked out as I write this. More in this space next week. Meanwhile, I am waiting for the community board, for Gaska, for Audrey Pheffer, for Greg Meeks, for Juanita Watkins, for anybody in power, to disavow the project and to begin hearings to find out what they knew and when did they knew it.

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I am sorry that Gary Toms (AKA G-Man) is giving up the ghost and will no longer write his weekly column in The Wave. Toms was an authentic voice and had a lot to say. Some did not like what he said and some did not like the way he said it, but he never minced his words. I think, however, that giving up simply because he wrote a column that wrongly vilified somebody is silly. He should apologize (as he did) and move on. Writing a weekly column is not easy. As a person who has been writing two columns each week for nearly ten years, I can attest to that fact. Toms should get himself together and then begin to write once again. He will be missed and so will his voice.

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I love it when politicians who have done nothing but get elected reward each other at an elegant affair. The Association of Minority Enterprises of New York named councilman Al Stabile, who has done virtually nothing of substance for Rockaway, the organization’s "Man of the Year." Stabile was honored for "his commitment to business owners and the minority community." Perhaps you can tell me what Al has done for the minority enterprises in Rockaway. I certainly can’t think of anything. He doesn’t even maintain an office on the peninsula to assist business people. Representative Greg Meeks, who cannot even get the shopping center across the street from his office cleaned up, presented him the award. Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who would not even know where Rockaway was if he tripped over it, and Archie Spigner were there as well. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

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The city is taking the owner of Dayton-Seaside to court to collect the millions in back taxes ($53 million) that it owes. The tenants who live in Dayton-Seaside are withholding their rent, placing it instead in an escrow account as is required by law. The owners of Dayton-Seaside are suing the tenants for non-payment of rent. The owners of Dayton-Seaside are buttonholing every pol they can get their hands on, explaining why they can’t afford to make the necessary repairs to the building before somebody is killed. Given all that, it is easy to see who is getting the gold mine and who is getting the shaft. Lawyers for all sides will again make out like bandits while the political power structure screws the landlord and the landlord screws the residents. Oh, well, somebody has to come out on top and it might as well be the lawyers. I would say that it would be hard for the owners to find new tenants when a 200 percent rent increase hangs over the buildings. Meanwhile, the Democratic politicians that saw this coming years ago and did nothing to stop it are the real villains of the piece. Now, they just get good ink by spouting platitudes as they let the situation worsen. If the city would do the right thing and drop the penalties and interest, the owner has said that he would begin making repairs. The city pols have so far refused, despite the fact that the taxes are owed because they did not act on behalf of the tenants and the owners when they promised to do so many years ago.

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Now that Hillary has taken another step that will bring her closer to running for the senate, the question that was asked of the hapless Mets many years ago has to be asked here and now: Can’t anybody here play the game? Hillary’s faux pas in the Middle East and in choosing a fund-raiser that was in bed with the Swiss Banks prove once again that she does not have a clue as to how the game is played. Giuliani knows how to play the game – too well. Can you see him as a mediator, as a person trying to reach consensus on a major issue? C’mon, give me a break. Can’t the big money guys find a candidate that would be acceptable and that could actually do the job? I guess that is too much to ask.

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A recent study pointed to the 18 worst sites for bottlenecks in the United States, and guess what? No New York City roads were in the top 18. The worst is in Los Angeles, where The San Diego Freeway and the Santa Monica Freeway merge. Never been there, but it sounds really bad. My worst experience has been two hours on the Gowanus, but that road is nowhere to be seen in the study. In fact, four of the worst 10 sites are in Los Angeles. Two are in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. (I have been through there, and the Beltway can be the worst that anybody has seen). Houston, Seattle and Albuquerque (of all places) round out the top ten. Atlanta and Chicago each have a couple in the second level, as does Washington, D.C. I was sure that the Gowanus or the LIE merge coming out of the Midtown Tunnel would have qualified, but who knows? Perhaps we were robbed once again.

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Websites of the Week: One of my frequent correspondents, John LePore, passed on two interesting web sites. If you want to make free long distance phone calls (and have a microphone attached to your computer), contact Java at www.dialpad.com. It really works. If you are tired of completing those "forms" at each website, you can do it once at www.gator.com and forget about it for the rest of your web-surfing life. The site memorizes your password and all that other stuff and inserts it whenever it is required on any other website. There are some interesting shopping sites that can be used for the coming holidays. The retail site at www.town24.com can solve lots of your problems because it uses cartoon streets to bring you the sites of many vendors. It is fun and you might even find what you are looking for. For those who are looking for high-end gifts, try www.lenoxcollections.com or www.shopss.com, which features a few specialty stores such as Godiva Chocolates. One of the best sites for toys (tested by kids) can be found at www.redrocket.com. Good luck and good shopping. That’s it for this week. Remember to send comments and complaints to newsie42@aol.com. Have a good week and safe home.


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