2000-12-30 / Columnists

Short Takes

How many times over the years have I sat at Community Board meetings and heard the "experts" talk about a Request for Proposal (RFP) for "market rate" housing on the Arverne urban renewal area? Let me count the times. Sorry, there are just too many to count. We are now starting at ground zero one more time. The city HPD says it hopes to attract "top notch developers and designers with an eye for creativity and innovation" in developing a "pedestrian friendly, sustainable and environmentally conscious community that enhances the site’s natural setting and brings housing and jobs to Rockaway." That sounds familiar. The last time HPD put out an RFP for Arverne, six of the top developers in the city bid on the job. The one who got the right to build was a politically connected friend of the mayor’s and of the Democratic Party. He went broke and headed for Canada or somewhere and was never heard of again. Organizations such as Hovnanian and others who are still building (and selling) homes in this city were found wanting because they were not politically connected. That is the way our city has worked for generations and I am sure it still works that way. I have been writing about this since I began writing for the Rockaway Journal more than 15 years ago and I will probably be writing about it again 15 years from now. That is also the way our city works. I would still rather see a shopping mall on the site than more housing – even housing such as has been built recently and has sold out. We need to develop an economic base more than we need to develop a housing base. That is a reality that the community board and the Chamber of Commerce do not seem able to do anything about.

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I want to thank Chris Hynes for sending me a copy of "Slam" magazine, which is billed as "everything you want to know about basketball." A recent edition had an article about Rockaway resident Claire Droesch, entitled "Who’s That Girl?" Droesch, a senior at Christ the King is arguably the top high school female basketball player in the nation. She is certainly the best in the city. Last year, Droesch averaged 19.2 points, 5.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds a game. She is headed for Boston College to rejoin her friend, Janelle McManus, who is a freshman at the school this year. The title of the article comes from a comment made by a group of male high school stars that were watching Droesch play. "Who’s that girl?" one of them asked. "Damn, she can play." Indeed she can and her story parallels that of another Rockaway roundballer named Nancy Lieberman, and we all know how she came out.

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Floyd Flake took himself out of consideration for the position of secretary of education in the new Bush cabinet. He would have fit the Bush agenda perfectly because he is a Democrat who wants both vouchers and charter schools and who has management experience. Flake says that he does not want the job because he wants to stay with both his pulpit and with his position as the head of the Edison Corporation, a group that runs charter schools. "The things I left Washington for made me examine whether or not I really wanted to go back," Flake said. It is interesting that the Newsday article about the story does not mention the fact that Flake was indicted a few years ago for misappropriating federal funds. The case was dropped and many believe that it was dropped for political reasons rather than for legal reasons. The other daily papers did focus on that fact and conjectured that Congress might not have vetted him because of his past troubles.

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Jack King does not like people such as me. I have been tying up the line at the Rockaway Beach post office by buying a number of postal money orders. King is quoted in the New York Times as saying, "It’s horrendous, all of those money orders. In today’s world you’d think everybody has a checking account but you see people with a half dozen money orders and you say, ‘gee whiz.’" You’ll remember that King (who is called the president of the Belle Harbor Property Owner’s Association, but I don’t think that is true any longer) thinks that everybody should own a home with a driveway and that anybody who doesn’t, shouldn’t be allowed to become members of his organization (or, perhaps, even live in Belle Harbor). I have to tell you Jack that I do have a checking account but that I have been buying lots of postal money orders to satisfy E-Bay buys. You see, Jack, if you send a personal check you must wait ten days for that check to clear before the seller sends your merchandise. If you send a money order, it is shipped immediately. I am sorry that I make you wait on line and I know that people who must buy money orders to pay bills and who do not have homes with driveways do not count in your world, but that is the way life is sometimes. By the way, Paul, I look forward to hearing from you again.

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Greg Meeks wants to be the power broker in the coming mayoral election and he might just get his way. It seems that southeast Queens might become the swing vote in the Democratic Primary and in the election as well. Meeks is the statewide chair of the Council of Black Elected Officials. He wants to bring his group together with such luminaries as Al Sharpton (who recently pled poverty so that he can flout the law and so that he does not have to pay off the man he defamed for so many years) to choose a candidate. That candidate would most likely be Mark Green, the most liberal of all of the candidates. Giving the job to Green would be like giving it back to Dinkins or Koch and you know what the city was like when they were our leaders. "There is strength in unity," Meeks says and he is right.

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I often decry the rewriting of history. Many of our "docudramas" of recent years have included people and events that were simply made up. The fact is that many people get their history lessons from these movies and buy into the lies. Those who do the movies do not seem to care. Randall Wallace was the screenwriter for "Braveheart," and is the screenwriter for "Pearl Harbor." He recently told reporters, "I am a dramatist, not a historian. I feel that my duty as a dramatist is not to let the facts get in the way of truth." What does that mean? Is the truth, for example, that a British officer burned a church with civilians inside as shown in "The Patriot?" The fact is, that never happened. "It was a symbol," the movie’s director says. "The British really did much worse than that." Yet many people who saw the movie will swear that it happened because the movie was "based on an actual person" and the movie showed him burning down the church. Perhaps what we need is a disclaimer at the beginning and end of the movie saying that the movie is not factual.

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While crime is down in much of the city, it is up in the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway. In fact, murder is up 28.6 percent, rape is up 68.2 percent and auto theft is up 17.2 percent. In the west end’s 100 Precinct, most crimes are down, but rape is up a whopping 266.7 percent. There were three reported rapes in the precinct in 1999 and there were 11 in 2000. Robbery was up in the precinct by 3.3 percent and auto theft was up by six percent. All together, crime went down in the 100 Precinct by 8.6 percent and in the 101 Precinct by 1.2 percent.

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Thomas Yohe is not very famous, but he had a profound effect on those who were growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. He is the creator of "Schoolhouse Rock." You remember those jingles that taught you how a bill became a law (I’m Just a Bill), and how conjunctions work (Conjunction Junction). Yohe died last week at the age of 63, but his creation will live forever in the memory of those who still hum the tunes.

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That’s it for this week. Remember to send comments, complaints and story tips to newsie42@aol.com. Have a good week and safe home.


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