2000-01-15 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes


by Howard Schwach

Once upon a time I covered all of the meetings of Community Board 14. They were often interesting and enlightening and the group took up real issues of note. Little be little, however, I noticed that many of the "old hands," those who knew what was going on, were leaving. Their replacements, named by Claire Shulman and Audrey Pheffer, seemed to be a different breed, chosen not for their expertise, but for their loyalty to the Democratic Party. On many occasions I sat for hours and listened to debates and discussions where not one of the debaters knew what he or she was talking about. They debated education issues and there was not one educator on the floor, not the committee chair, not any member. They turned an issue of auto safety into a debate over community rights. They mishandled the Arverne Urban Renewal Area issue a number of times. They mishandled the Playland property badly, allowing a zoning change that could have brought 25 story buildings to the property. More and more of the members seemed to be on hand simply to be heard. It did not matter what they said, as long as they were recognized and heard. I finally gave up covering the meetings. They were a waste of time. What, after all, has the community board done in recent years? They have moved a bus stop and approved some street name changes. They debate in a vacuum and nobody cares, except the politicians that use the body as a stooge and a sounding board. The one man who spoke his mind was Kevin Callaghan and he was unceremoniously removed from the board for his actions. There are some bright people on the board, but most are plodding political wannabes. Vince Castellano (the chairperson of the committee that asked that the bus stop be moved), who was once the body’s chair, says that The Wave is amiss for not covering the meetings. I say that the system is amiss for allowing community boards to operate as they do. It is a waste of time to attend the meetings, both for observers and for board members. The boards should be elected or they should be abolished. There is no middle ground.

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It will be interesting to watch John Baxter’s television show on Quics Cable next week. John promises to give the facts about "low income housing, 16 million dollars and Rockaway politics." John, as usual, has it all wrong, but that is OK, because his shows are such a hoot. They are funny despite the fact that he and his guests usually think that they are serious. If you need a good laugh, tune in channel 35 on Friday, January 21. I promise you a good belly laugh.

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Mayor Giuliani was defeated in his bid to gain control over the Board of Education last week, when Terri Thomson proved the swing vote against his candidate. Since Thomson angered both Giuliani and Claire Shulman (who appointed her to the job), she is probably not long for this world. That’s OK, because the school board is not her day job. If Giuliani keeps talking about teachers the way he has been recently, he will have to find a new day job when his term is up. Al D’Amato learned the hard way that you do not wrongly "dis" a politically savvy, activist group such as the teachers. They have a phone bank that is active and each teacher has lots of friends and relatives who live in New York State. D’Amato was an unbeatable senator until he ran afoul of the state teacher’s organizations. Now he lives in Island Park and plots his return. If Giuliani keeps it up, he may have to move next door to D’Amato and join his plotting.

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I want to add my voice to those who are grieving the loss of Broad Channel’s Dorothy Wilmarth, wife of Big Ed Wilmarth. Dotty did much for her community, particularly for the children, and she will be sorely missed by them and by the larger Rockaway community.

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Speaking of Broad Channel, its civic association has put out a great new calendar for the year 2000. While the yearly calendar usually shows scenes of old Broad Channel, this year’s shows scenes of how people live in "The Channel." Copies are available for five bucks from Barbara Toborg, P.O. Box 4, Broad Channel, NY, 11693. It’s a winner.

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By the way, another worthy channel organization is holding its annual fund-raiser. The Broad Channel Volunteers have begun to take journal ads for its upcoming installation dinner. Local organizations and businesses who want to support the volies can contact the fire house on Noel road.

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Every time I turn on Channel One News (which is not often these days), I see Al Sharpton being interviewed on one racial issue or another. He seems to be the "person of choice" whenever such an interview is called for. I wonder why I did not see the station do a story about the State Court of Appeals ordering Sharpton and his minions (Alton Maddox and C. Vernon Mason) to pay up the $345,000 in damages they owe Steve Pagones. You’ll remember that they were found guilty of defaming him for all those years over the phony Tawana Brawley case. How can the man be a charlatan and a spokesperson for his people at the same time? Adam Clayton Powell did it for many years, but at least he did it with style and grace. Sharpton is graceless. He is a racial arsonist and his word should not be accepted by Channel One News nor by any other viable news organization.

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Both of the Rockaway police precincts are reporting lower crime stats for 1999. The only anomaly in the constant crime drop can be found in the ultra-safe 100 precinct. That precinct had no murders in 1998 and had six in 1999. The paper that reprinted the stats showed that as an unknown gain, but it has to be around 600 percent. Besides that, crime is down 12.6 percent in the 100 precinct and 11.2 percent in the 101 precinct. By the way, the 101 had eight murders in 1998 and only seven in 1999, a 12.5 percent drop. Auto theft is down 18.8 percent in the west end and down 12.7 percent in the east end. All in all, there were 564 crimes in the 100 and 1,415 in the 101.

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Two men with local connections were honored by Newsday recently be being named as Newsday Queens Profile of the day. Nathaniel Feller, a native of Far Rockaway, is the president of the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaways. He is an attorney in private practice. I like his statement that, "I grew up in the community and I hope to raise my children here. It is important that we all get involved and that we think and act outside of ourselves…you can’t overestimate the importance of helping someone, even if it’s just one person." The other honoree is Steve Duch, the principal of Hillcrest High School. Steve was once a teacher and an acting assistant principal at PS 104 in Bayswater. Congratulations to them both.

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Congratulations also to Al Waldon, who was finally appointed to the Court of Claims. The fun can now begin to see who will win the upcoming special election to fill the seat. Mal Smith will run. Joanne Shapiro might join the race. Both of them were nupshlepers for prominent pols, Smith for Floyd Flake and Shapiro for Audrey Pheffer. Lew Simon has been prominently named as a candidate. Henry McCoy, a district leader in Eastern Queens, has indicated that he would be interested in running. And, those are just the Democrats. Should be interesting. Unfortunately, there is not one person on the list I would vote for in any race higher than dogcatcher. Stay tuned.

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That’s it for this week. For those of you who miss "Websites of the Week," hang in there. I am taking a sabbatical from the web, but it will return some day. Send comments and complaints to newsie42@aol.com. Have a good week and safe home.

 

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