2001-01-27 / Columnists

Short Takes...by Howard Schwach

Short Takes...by Howard Schwach

It is once again time for the yearly disclaimer. This is a column and as such is my opinion, my comment on the events of local interest. I appreciate the fact that you read it each week. As with all columns, it is the writer’s hope that it sparks some ideas, some indignation and some thought. Like it or dislike it as you will, but many of the things that appear in this column simply cannot be ignored.

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"Arverne by the Sea." It has a nice ring to it and I am sure that I have heard it all before – a number of times. The city is once again proposing a housing plan for the Arverne Urban Renewal Area that would include 1,000 units of low-density housing, a school, houses of worship, a community center and lots of open spaces. There might also be a golf course (don’t we already have an under-utilized course at Riis Park?) somewhere on the 308-acre site. Those of us who have been around for a while will remember "Oceanview Associates" and its plan for the AURA. The Oceanview plan was accepted by the city despite the fact that the community board clearly wanted Hovnanian to build the development. The Oceanview developers, of course, had close ties to the powers-that-be in city government and Hovnanian did not. The plan was accepted during a time of financial growth in the city and it died when the growth died. One can only wonder if this will happen again. Last time around, the city was going to effectively give the land to the developer in return for infrastructure improvements and two schools. This time around, however, the developer has to pay for the infrastructure improvements and pay for the land. Kim Brown is a spokesperson for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). She says, "What we want to come out of this is a brand new waterfront community that is viable on its own and will hopefully revitalize the Rockaway community." The RFP put out by HPD asks for a mix of home types that would draw people in the annual salary range of $32,000 to $70,500. That does not sound like beachfront market rate housing to me. The proposals from developers are due back at HPD on March 9. There will be a community review by CB 14, but that group has only an advisory authority. The final decision will be made by HPD, but the political force behind all decisions in this city is the mayor. He announced at his State of the City address that he was interested in seeing more "affordable housing" in the city and I think that Rockaway is the target. That is not the kind of housing, however, that would revitalize Rockaway. Not in the AURA, which is the only trump card Rockaway has left in its hand. I look forward to reviewing the proposals, but I already have a sick feeling that Rockaway is about to be raped once again.

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Tommy Johnson played football for Christ The King. So did Lakim Luster. Both lived in Arverne. Now Tommy Johnson is dead and Lakim Luster is serving a five-year sentence of attempted murder. I am not blaming Christ The King for either tragedy. I am blaming Arverne and the projects that line Beach Channel drive. Johnson is dead because he was involved in a dispute with a lowlife who lived in the projects. Lakim is in jail because he lived in the projects and the peer pressure was too great to escape the drag of crime and drugs. He and another young man shot a man during a 1999 robbery attempt. He was arrested at half time of a football game in which he was a major force. Crime has the same pull in the projects as the sun does to the planets. Some escape, but they are few and far between. The projects have a major effect on crime, on the cost of housing, on development, on revitalization, on the schools and they will have a major effect on the development of the AURA. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly, before more Tommy’s die and before more Lakim’s commit crimes against other Rockaway residents. Perhaps it is time to propose a draconian proposal – knock down the projects and build low-density affordable housing in its place. Perhaps it is past time.

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I have to admit that I was wrong. I really believed that President Clinton would pardon Jonathon Pollard just before he left office. I thought that he would do it to repay a political debt that his wife owed the Orthodox Jewish community for helping her get elected. I guess that even politics has a rational side once in a while.

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Today we have all sorts of scandals involving sports heroes, but 50 years ago this week I was only 11 years old and sports were pretty pristine if you did not include the players who drank too much booze and spent nights of partying before the big game. Fifty years ago, however, the naiveté ended. Sherman White and other players from CCNY (they had won both the Holiday Festival and the NCAA the year before at a time when the New York tournament was much more important than the NCAA) joined with other players to shave points in games so that gamblers could clean up on the point spread. The scandal started in the Catskills and Adolph Rupp of Kentucky had some justification in his politically incorrect statement that "it was only the New York blacks and Jews" that drove the scandal. The scandal eventually included Bradley and Kentucky, two Midwest powerhouses. Other New York schools, such as NYU, were also implicated. Only St. John’s managed to stay clean. This only goes to prove that everything old is new again.

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The old scandal brought up memories of the Holiday Festival at the old MSG on 51 street. During the late 1950’s I was a student at NYU and therefore got cheap tickets to each of the games. I remember that NYU had players such as Cal Ramsey and Satch Sanders (who later went on to coach Harvard), Temple University had Guy Rodgers, Seattle had Elgin Baylor, LaSalle had Tom Gola and Cincinnati had Oscar Robertson. Each of the team had great supporting players and I believe that Al Katz (a friend who attended Temple), Saul Weitz (who played for Pace) and I went to every game. We all lived in Wavecrest Gardens at the time and it was a long subway ride, but it was worth it and it was probably some of the best basketball ever played.

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 27) is the big Doo-Wop concert at Beach Channel High School. It is always a big bang for the concert buck and all those who enjoy the music of the 50’s and 60’s should plan to attend.

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A couple of local residents who play high school sports but do not play for local teams are in the spotlight this week. Taylor Murphy, who plays roundball for John Adams High School, was recently number one on the city in terms of points per game and number four in rebounding. Claire Droesch, who often gets ink in this spot, scored 19 points and had nine rebounds and six assists in a 48-47 win over Red Bank Catholic (NJ), the defending New Jersey champs and rated third nationally. CK is rated ninth nationally, largely thanks to Droesch. The CK win ended a RBC 24-game winning streak.

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Having congratulated our local sports heroes, I have to congratulate an academic hero as well. Julia Kolmakova of Rockaway Beach, a James Madison High School student, was recently named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search (which was once the coveted Westinghouse Talent Search). She won the prize for a "reliability study of a functional rotation test," whatever that is. It is probably harder than making a free throw in the final second while the crowd cheers of jeers. There might be other semifinalists, but I have not yet heard of them. If anybody knows of another semifinalist from the peninsula, please let me know.

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There seems to be a large number of candidates gearing up for the city council’s east end seat now held by Juanita Watkins. Three local activists have already shown some interest. David Hooks, jr. is a long time Democratic activist. The Reverend Henrietta Scott-Fullard is the pastor of the Bethel AME Church (can we forget Floyd Flake, who came from the same milieu) and James Sanders, jr., a long time school board member and community activist. There will be many "mainland" candidates as well and much will depend on whom the Democratic power structure favors for the job. Personally, I have to go with Sanders. Although we have been on different sides of many controversies, I have always found him to be honorable and truthful, traits you don’t find in many politicians these days. He has helped the school board in many ways and has instituted distance learning on the peninsula.

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Some thoughts on the Super Bowl. Despite the fact that the Giants have that "NY" on their helmets, they are a New Jersey team. They became a New Jersey team when they left the city to play across the river. If they do win (and I certainly hope they do), then the parade of champions should be in the parking lot of Giant’s Stadium or in Newark or someplace in the weed state that is equally unappealing. They do not deserve a parade up the "canyon of heroes," because they are not a New York team and that honor should be left for city teams.

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


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