2000-07-08 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes


by Howard Schwach

It was made clear again in the past two weeks that swimming in either the ocean or the bay without a lifeguard on duty is like playing Russian Roulette. First it was a young girl who went into the surf at Beach 20 street and her mom, who went to her rescue. They went into the water at 7 p.m., a full hour after the lifeguards went off duty. Later in the week a young boy went into the bay off Bayswater Park in Norton Basin. He was caught in an undertow and pulled under as his friends watched. Swimming is not allowed in the basin and no lifeguards were on duty. People who come to Rockaway do not realize that there is a strong undertow late in the day and that the sand under the water drops off quickly in many spots. They also do not realize that there is an undertow in the bay as well as in the ocean. Accidents happen even when lifeguards are present, but the chances are the lifeguards will make the rescue if they are present. If not, the chances of rescue drop rapidly towards zero.

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When better than the Fourth of July to talk about America’s two most popular patriotic songs. The first, of course, is God Bless America, which you heard often last weekend. It was written by Irving Berlin as a redo of an earlier song he had written for his WW I review, "Yap, Yap, Yaphank." Berlin gave the song to Kate Smith and she introduced it on her radio show on Armistice Day (November 11), 1938. By 1940 the song was a national best seller and played on every radio show. Everybody loved it, with the exception of an itinerant songwriter and singer named Woody Guthrie. Guthrie, a left-wing balladeer, traveled the nation’s byways, working at odd jobs and riding the rails. His guitar bore the sticker, "This machine kills Fascists." He disliked Berlin’s paean to America. In 1940, Guthrie landed in New York City. He wrote a song to the tune of a Baptist Hymn, "My Lovin Brother." It was called "God Blessed America," or "This Land was Meant for You and Me." It became "This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land." So is history made.

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The Rockaway community will soon have a website all its own. Community Board 14, which covers Rockaway and Broad Channel, has developed a site that it hopes will sell Rockaway’s charms to the rest of the world. In addition, the site will provide information about its role and the services it provides. The site will also provide a monthly community calendar, something that has been badly needed for some years. Questions about the site can be answered by e-mail at webmaster@cobo14.com.

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When The Wave called the city office of the Park’s Department to inquire about the vendors who are short circuiting our boardwalk, the caller was told by a department spokesperson that they would have to call the "Brooklyn office" for information. When told that Rockaway was in Queens, the Park’s official was chagrined. That’s how much the department cares for Rockaway. It does not even know what borough it is in.

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I’m a firm believer in the Satchel Paige school of exercise. For those of you who are too young to know, Paige was a Black pitcher who played in the major leagues into his 50’s. Paige once said "never run when you can walk, never walk when you can stand, never stand when you can sit down and never sit down when you can lie down." He then added the most famous portion of his statement, "never look back, because somebody might be gaining on you." I put this in to show that I am not a runner but those who do run tell me that the "craze" is slowing down. I have been told that the numbers of runners in the Rockaway boardwalk races such as the Rockaway Ocean Run are way down. It’s a shame, because those races have become Rockaway’s premier events.

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I have received a number of e-mails and calls from people who attended the Beach Channel High School graduation and were offended by its "church-like demeanor." One person who attended told me that the graduation was more like a church service, with gospel music and speeches that were more fitting for a pulpit than a graduation lectern. That made a number of attendees "uncomfortable" and that should not be an aim for a public school.

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I have been taken to task by a Broad Channel resident who says that I write about the Rockaway girls on the Christ the King basketball team, but leave out a local standout on the school’s baseball team. Eugene Brooks is from Rockaway and he recently helped his team beat Molloy in the Catholic school playoffs. Brooks hit the home run that won the game. Congratulations Eugene and I am sorry that I missed you in the first place.

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Noach Dear has been flooding The Wave with press releases and he plans to spend more time in Rockaway and on Rockaway issues. He recently got involved in the airplane noise issue. It seems that we see Dear and hear from him only when he is preparing to run for office. In this case, he is planning a run against Representative Tony Weiner. Does he really think that we are so politically naive that local voters will not see what he is up to?

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A recent Newsday editorial profiling the Queens’ congressional delegation is high on Weiner, calling him a "quick study and a quick wit." The editorial adds that Weiner "has been elected as freshman whip, giving him a valuable toehold on his party’s House leadership." It points out that he has "delivered for his district in the areas of refurbishing Gateway National Park and in developing quieter aircraft." Greg Meeks also got a favorable review for "plotting an independent course" and for "delivering for his district" (in this case, Jamaica).

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I understand that The Queens Tribune does not cover Rockaway, but when it purports to publish a special issue that covers "The Best of Queens, 2000," it should drop Rockaway in somewhere along the way. For example, it lists "The Best Views in Queens," without mentioning the views of Manhattan’s skyline from anywhere on the beachfront. It lists a Queens sports Hall of Fame without mentioning Nancy Lieberman, the Far Rockaway woman who practically single-handedly developed the WNBA. It picks the best natural sites in the borough without mentioning the Jamaica Bay Bird Sanctuary. The only place where Rockaway is mentioned is in a statement by Congressman Greg Meeks, who mentions "Far Rockaway Beach," in what he considers to be the best of Queens. I guess that if the Park’s Department can omit us from Queens, so can the Tribune.

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Speaking of beaches, with the coming of summer, our beaches are once again on the feature pages of the daily papers. Newsday had a story recently about Riis Beach. I always thought that it was called Riis Park Beach, but see how wrong you can be. Rockaway activist Floyd Smith decried the fact that there were not enough lifeguards at the beach and that "no swimming" signs are not in Spanish and Russian as well as English. I guess everybody has to have something to complain about. Hey, Floyd, we have a lifeguard shortage in Rockaway, right where you live. How about complaining about that. The Sunday Daily News has a long piece about local beaches. It speaks of Riis Park in glowing terms and states how great the beach is at Riis. I guess the writer didn’t get to speak with Floyd Smith. What a loss. It lists Neponsit Beach as "the Best Beach that No One Knows is Public." It calls Neponsit Beach "one of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast." It adds that "few people know of this community’s treasures and Neponsit residents would like to keep it that way. There is no legal parking on any street in Neponsit, on any day of the year. And locals are especially vigilant about calling the police to issue a summons within 30 seconds of seeing a car pull up in from of their homes." The article suggests dropping the family at the beachfront at Beach 147 or Beach 149 street and then parking at Riis Park and walking back. It also recommends the Silver Gull Club at Breezy Point as "the best beach club that will have you as a member." All in all, the beaches on the Rockaway peninsula got a generally favorable review.

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Frankie Saunders and Frazier Oaborne were among the New York City high school football players who took part in the invitation-only Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge. The game pitted the city’s best seniors against Nassau County’s best. While the city team lost 23-18, the two Rockaway players acquitted themselves well in the game. The two young men are to be congratulated for their fine play.

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Also to be congratulated is Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, the art docent from Rockaway who recently was named as the new executive director of the Queens Council on the Arts. She is the author of children’s books and an activist on Rockaway arts issues.

 


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