2000-02-19 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes


by Howard Schwach

I am amazed as I travel the peninsula at the amount of new housing being built in various Rockaway neighborhoods. The houses on the Playland site have been sold out and more property has been purchased to put up even more housing on adjacent sites. The houses on Beach 69 street are selling like hotcakes and that developer has even more homes on the drawing board. The infill housing on the Edgemere Urban Renewal Area will add even more new homes. This is what Rockaway needs and it might just signal the beginning of a renewal. When homes are built and people move in, services and stores cannot be far behind. What we need now is to find something strong for the Arverne Urban Renewal Area. It is clear that Technodome is going nowhere quickly. I have three thoughts: A NASCAR track (Donald Trump wants to build one within sight of the Empire State Building and what would be better than a seaside superspeedway); a retail outlet mall a la Tanger Mall in Riverhead or a man-made harbor that would rival what Baltimore’s Inner-Harbor has to offer. Somebody should get working before another local community takes one of these ideas and runs with it.

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When will Governor Pataki decide on a date for a special election to fill the vacancy left by Al Waldon when he became a judge? All sorts of things are going on in Albany and we are left without representation because we do not have a state senator. That disenfranchises Rockaway and the rest of the 10th Senatorial District. Perhaps Pataki likes it that way. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 10 to one in the district and the Republicans have not even decided on a candidate as yet. The Dems have already anointed Malcolm Smith, Floyd Flake’s former nupshleper and you can be sure that he will win the seat. That does not bode well for Rockaway, but that is a story for another day. Because there is a rule that voting machines have to be out of operation for at least 15 days after an election, and the presidential primary is coming up on March 7, the earliest the special election can be held is now in late March. There is no indication on Pataki’s part that he plans to announce a date anytime soon. Those who are cynical and who believe in such things say that Pataki is slow to call a special election here and in Buffalo because that makes two less Democrats for the Republican majority to deal with. Sounds good to me.

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The Rockaway Sports Association is once again calling for Rockaway youth who want to play Lacrosse. Don’t know anything about the game? The RSA will show you how it is done. There are leagues for boys from 9-11 years of age and from 12-14 years of age. There are two sites where sign-up will be held beginning in mid-February. They are the Rev. Mason Community Center at MS 198 (Beach 56 street and BCD) beginning on February 22 and ending February 24 and at Far Rockaway High School on February 23.

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When Chuck Schumer lobbied in the Senate for extra slots at JFK Airport for JetBlue airlines, it caused a stir because he previously had been against more flights into and out of the already overcrowded flight schedule. Schumer’s intervention guaranteed that there would be 75 more flights a day into and out of JFK. Not an insignificant amount when you live under the glidepath. He justified the extra flights on the grounds that it would bring low-cost service to the underserved cities in the northern and western parts of the state. He obviously is looking for upstate votes for his protégé, Hillary Clinton. Now, the mayor has horned in on the game. In a recent upstate swing, Giuliani took credit for the extra flights. "I think we assisted a great deal in making sure they (JetBlue) got the slots at Kennedy Airport," the mayor told an upstate radio station. While that should gain the ire of locals, Giuliani probably needs the upstate votes more than he needs votes in Queens. We should show him that he still needs us by withholding our vote.

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Having said that, I have to tell you that I can’t vote for either Hillary or Rudy. In my mind, she blew it once again by calling the tragic Diallo death a "murder" and later saying that she did not mean to use that characterization. "That was just a misstatement on my part," she told an interviewer. There have been too many misstatements and changes in direction on her part. As a social studies teacher and minor constitutional expert, I hate to tell people not to vote in a major election, but I sure wish one of the parties would come up with somebody worth going to the polls to vote for.

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The race between Clinton (isn’t it strange how seldom you hear her last name in her ads?) and Giuliani is a statistical dead heat. Both of the candidates stand at 46 percent with eight percent undecided. I really thought that it would be something like thirty percent for each with 40 percent undecided and unhappy.

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The NASCAR season begins in earnest tomorrow (Sunday) with the running of the Daytona 500. This is the premier race of the season and the one that started it all. It is a must see for NASCR fanatics. Those who are new to the sport, however, should watch it for a while and get into the strategy. Those who do will quickly see that the race is more than "drive fast and turn left." Those aficionados who attend races and listen on their handheld scanners to the drivers talk to their pits already know what it is all about. The commentating team that Channel 2 has put together can help the newcomers to understand why millions attend races in the middle of nowhere each year and then come back for more.

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While the jobless rate is way down nationally and runs about five percent in Queens, the rate is Rockaway is close to 15 percent. The politicians know why and they are unwilling to do anything about it.

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Mayor Giuliani wants to post the 10 Commandments in every schoolroom in the city. That’s about half-OK with me. I would post five of the commandments, those that are generally accepted by all the major religions. I mean, who can argue with "Thou shall not kill?" Then, we have the commandments against adultery (would the Mormons agree?), stealing, bearing false witness and the injunction to "honor thy father and thy mother." I might add the injunction against coveting thy neighbor’s wife, but that might be tough to explain to elementary school students and it might be tough for middle school students to explain that to their teachers. Let's take a look at the other four. They are not generally accepted by all religions and in our diverse community, they might even anger significant parts of the school community. For example, "Thou shall have no other Gods before me." Coming from a Judeo-Christian deity, this might anger just about everybody else. "Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy," might reasonably anger all sorts of people if the definition of "Sabbath" is taken literally. "thou shall not make for yourself a graven image," has little relevance in many of the Eastern religions. See what I mean. That is why our Founding Fathers wisely pushed for the First Amendment. Giuliani, being a lawyer first, does not believe in the First Amendment. He wants to give money to parochial schools so that they can teach religion disguised as "family values." He should be told that it is not right to do so, however, and telling him that the Ten Commandments are great, but not right for schoolrooms is only the first step. Remember that Americans are not supposed to foist their religious ideals on other Americans. That went out with the Church of England and it is why many people came to the New World in the first place.

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Ready or not, here it comes. The first Yankees spring training game of the season will be played at Legends Field in Tampa on March 2 (against Toronto). The first Met spring training game will be played in White Stadium in Port St. Lucie on March 3 (against the Cards). Can opening day be far off?

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That’s it for this week. My e-mail is down, so hold off sending me messages for a week or so. Those who want to comment or complain can send the messages to me in care of The Wave at the-wave@ix.netcom.com. Have a good week and safe home.

 

 

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