2000-06-10 / Columnists

A View From The Bridge

By Joan Mettler

With all of the recent controversy swirling around City Hall and the fourth estate's willingness to ignore past intimidation and write about it, our mayor continues to be Rockaway's worst nightmare. Let us face it, dear locals, despite the number of times our mayor marched in the local St. Patrick's Day Parade, Rudy Giuliani was never a friend to Rockaway. That Rockaway is on the mayor's hate list is no more apparent than during the tumultuous times surrounding the closing of the Neponsit Health Care facility, still referred to by lifers as Neponsit Home. And, although time is supposed to heal all wounds, the depth, profundity and devastation as a result of the closing of Neponsit will be etched in the hearts and minds of those effected forever. How can the Neponsit Home debacle be laid at the feet of Giuliani? Read on! How is it apparent that Giuliani is no friend of Rockaway? The answer is simple: Friends do not hurt friends. They don't kill them either.

It was a weekday late afternoon that some 300-plus Neponsit workers gathered in the auditorium at West End Temple to hear the HHC veep and our Councilman Stabile toll the final bell for Neponsit Home. Workers, many still in shock from following orders earlier in the week to evacuate the Home, sat silent worrying only how they would be able to put bread on their tables at home.

It was 2:00 a.m. when the workers were ordered to remove the residents, most elderly, some infirm, to busses for relocation under the guise that the buildings were in imminent danger of collapse. The residents were awakened and wheeled and herded from the only home they had known for years, to destinations unknown with only the possessions they could carry. In the scramble, medications, eyeglasses, teeth and possessions such as TV's, radios, photographs and clothing were left behind. No worker thought to defy, even though they knew there was no danger of building collapse. But, in the frenzy of the moment, and the bizarre middle of the night timing, they were just following orders.

In the days that followed, ugly facts about the transfer surfaced. Two residents died most probably due to their frail conditions, the inconsistency of medication and the unfamiliarity of surroundings to which they had been assigned. One resident found his way back to Neponsit in his quest to return to the lovely atmosphere where he was so nurtured. More than one worker, when asked about the deaths of the two residents, said that medications considered, they died of a broken heart. The locations where the residents were transferred were unprepared to accept them - many residents sleeping in hallways for days without medication or a change of underwear. And, who is to blame for the bums rush pogrom at Neponsit Home? Harry Truman knew where the buck stopped. So do we.

The veep of the HHC spoke lies at that meeting at West End Temple. The professional engineer, employed by the city reiterated that the buildings were in danger of collapse although this could never be and still has not been substantiated by outside sources. Workers begged for outside building inspectors to evaluate the complex to no avail. Then, Rockaway's councilman without Rockaway portfolio began his speech. Mid-speech, Stabile was called away by an aid to answer a phone call allegedly from Mayor Giuliani. "It's a done deal," Stabile proclaimed to the angry throngs. "I just hung up with the mayor and it's a done deal."

The day following the residents' removal from the Home, moving vans lined up and eliminated the office furniture, files, room furniture and anything that was not nailed down. The climax of the orchestrated evacuation occurred as demolition company trucks arrived at the scene to erase from history forever any reminder of Neponsit Home. How did this company get the demolition contract so quickly? What happened to the bidding process? Where was the asbestos check, the permits? When you think how long it takes for the city to demolish a single crack house, one can only conjecture the collusion behind the evacuation and near demolition of Neponsit Home.

Ladies and gentlemen, 350 peninsula residents lost their jobs with the closing of Neponsit Home -- our friends, our neighbors; our children's friends parents. Hey! With the departure of Loeb & Mayer and Weisman's Salvage, how many additional local jobs are we willing to sacrifice? Moreover, many of the employees of Neponsit, as single parents, needed for their work to be located close to their site of residence. Sadly, those former employees at Neponsit for whom a job was found, were sent miles and miles away from the peninsula. Transportation, forever a problem, made commutes to work nearly four hours per day.

The one intangible that anyone could never expect our mayor to take into consideration was the proud fact that Neponsit Home, a facility that was consistently financially in the black, was a family. And, our mayor, the very same mayor who couldn't wait to escort his mistress about town for all to see on the very night his wife and children planed to California to visit the first lady's parents this past Mother's Day, showed in what level of esteem he holds family.

Our mayor has made his reputation on the backs of the poor, the working poor, the elderly infirm, teachers, and street venders. He initially earned respect by ridding this town of the Mafia in carting and fish. But, he replaced the old Mafia with his own Mafia who stonewalled scandal and responded to the cries of constituents for help with a "sue the city" - let ‘em eat cake attitude, that only a man as sinister as Giuliani could wear like a banner in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Rudy, you continue to cut our local Parks workers and by so doing compromise the management of the sand on our beaches; you fail to replace the Rockaway boardwalk where it is flawed demanding us to show your Parks commissioner where the problem areas are; you turn your head when you are asked to enforce your own laws with respect to SRO's; and, worst of all, you continue to ignore the problems in our public schools for which you should be ashamed. Your public declaration of love for your new woman while still being married to the "old" one to the minimization of your family, signaled even to those who captain the State Republican Party that you had lost touch with the commoner and his morals. Your publication of and delight in releasing, post mortem, the Doeresmond rap sheet enraged those who believe in fair treatment to all and, more than likely, blew up any thought of a future in politics. Your eulogy of Neponsit Home was premature.

Rudy, during your tenure as mayor you continued to ignore Rockaway and have given its residents no pleasure. In fact, your propensity for not giving Rockawayites pleasure was no more apparent than when you dropped out of the Senate race. You see, by so doing, you have even deprived us of the pleasure of not voting for you.

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