2000-01-01 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes

by Howard Schwach

Sometimes the diamond, sometimes the coal. It is time once again to dole out the diamonds and coal for 1999:

  • A diamond mine to all of the police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and volunteers in various communities who kept us safe for another year. Ditto to the hospital workers and all the others who work long, hard hours to make sure we stay healthy and safe.
  • A pile of diamonds to Ron Lauder for pushing the term limits initiative. Thanks to him, we soon won’t have Al Stabile, Juanita Watkins, Claire Shulman and Rudy Guiliani to kick around much longer.
  • A room full of coal to Hillary Clinton. She could have been a contender. Instead, she has blundered on too many occasions and is not falling out of the race.
  • A diamond bracelet to Rhia Warren, a district principal (MS 226) who hosted the first lady on two occasions and was recently invited to Christmas at the White House. Perhaps we’ll see the talented principal as Secretary of Education one day.
  • A scuttleful of coal to Lew Simon, who believes that he is a legitimate candidate for the city council seat being vacated by Al Stabile. I know that a lot of people like Lew and that he does good for some local individuals, but a recent column of his illustrates why his inability to tell the truth earns him this year’s coal. Lew says, "When I walked into the room (at the Broad Channel Volies Christmas party), everyone was screaming welcome to our next city councilman, Lew Simon. I was pleasantly shocked and surprised. When they handed me the mike, I wished everybody a happy holiday and stated ‘I’m just little old me, Lew Simon, district leader'." That was Lew’s description of what happened. Now, the truth as told to me by several people who were present. First of all, Lew crashed the party. Nobody in the room welcomed him and they certainly did not scream that he was the next city councilman. There was no mike at the meeting, but Lew yelled out a "Merry Christmas," to a chorus of muted boos. So much for the veracity of our "next city councilman." I know that many people see Lew as "quaint" and say that "he might lie, but he gets things done." That was fine for a non-job like district leader, but we are now talking about a citywide post and it is time to take a hard look at his repeated lies and credit-taking.
  • A handful of diamonds to the G-Man for having the fortitude to come back from his mistake.
  • Diamonds to the members of Community School Board 27 (all of them) who are heaped with abuse and keep on ticking month after month. It is a thankless job with no monetary rewards and very few psychic rewards. Many of the "powers" the board had in the past have now been taken away, yet its members hang in there, giving several nights a month to our school children.
  • A special diamond cluster to CSB 27 president Steve Greenberg, who has done wonders in keeping the board in a straight line and in keeping the dissident factions from slaughtering each other.
  • Some coal and a laugh track for Geraldine Chapey (the elder) who got appointed to the New York State Board of Regents because her daughter (our district leader) sold her vote to Greg Meeks and the Democrats in order to place her there. When she was on the local school board, she was the group’s monthly laugh as everybody waited to see how many times she would abstain at any given meeting. The Regents recently voted on an important issue, whether students would be allowed to achieve promotion based on portfolios rather than on standardized tests. How did Chapey vote? She abstained. Some things never change. That alone earns her this year’s coal.
  • Diamonds to those who are trying to rename Middle School 180 in Rockaway Park in memory of guidance counselor Gerry Dever, who passed away a little more than a year ago. It would be a fitting memorial to Dever and his actions should motivate generations of students.
  • Diamonds as well to those who are working to redevelop and revitalize this peninsula. We see new homes springing up all over the place and even some new businesses taking root. This is what we need in Rockaway.
  • Coal to the Canadians who are messing around with our heads in proposing Technodome. I think we all know that the project will never get off the ground. Why not look at a major developer such as the Tanger Mall instead. Such a discount mall would draw people to Rockaway from all over the region and would provide permanent jobs for thousands of people.
  • Coal to Al Stabile, who has still not reopened a Rockaway office and who constantly disdains the community. In one recent example, he did not even show up to a Rockaway event where he was the honoree.
  • Diamonds to all of the community activists who have the best interests of Rockaway at heart, people such as Mary Dever, Steve Cooper, Barbara Morris, Marty Ain, Ernest Brown, Jim Sanders, jr., and others too numerous to mention in this space. These are people who gain nothing from what they do. They just want to do the right thing and they should be applauded for it.
  • Diamonds to my son Rob and his wife, Belinda, for giving my wife and I the greatest grandson that any grandparents could possibly have.
  • A diamond especially to Jim Sanders, jr., who has given his time to the schools, to bringing distance learning to Rockaway and to many other ventures. He has my vote should he run for the city council seat being vacated by Juanita Watkins.
  • A bag of coal to Juanita Watkins, although she gave me a good laugh when she said that she did not believe that there was a "poverty industry" in our city.
  • Diamonds to the Beach Channel High School Football team, to the Far Rockaway High School soccer team and to the Rockaway girls who play for Christ the King for giving us lots of excitement this year.
  • Diamonds as well to all of the teachers and administrators who work on the peninsula, many under difficult and dangerous conditions. That they are vilified by the press and beat on by students and parents should not keep them from their very important duties.
  • Bags of coal to Rudy Giuliani, not for his cleaning up the city, but for his mistreatment of city workers and studied destruction of what was once the finest school system in the world. He has cut funding, forced many of the decent administrators and teachers to flee to Nassau County and has even offered the opinion that the whole thing should be blown up. At the same time, he plotted to give lots of public money to the parochial schools that he favored from the beginning.
  • Coal as well to those who continue to fight against the much-needed Doppler radar set to be placed in Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. Let them build it and maybe it will one day save some lives, including your own.
  • Diamonds to Al Waldon, who will be leaving the political battlefield for the greener pastures of a judge’s bench. I wish him well.
  • A mixed bag of diamonds and coal to Tony Weiner, our new representative. While Weiner has been all over the peninsula and has begun to address our needs, he still has to learn that the "community" is not always three wealthy people who get his ear. Having entrée to his office should not mean that those people are the only ones who are heard.
  • And, most of all, some diamonds to my loyal readers, wherever you might be. Keep safe this coming year and keep reading. Of all the things a columnist needs, his readers are number one on the list. Safe home this millennium year.



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