2001-02-03 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes

by Howard Schwach

Colin Powell has always been one of my favorites. He recently made a statement that has lots to do with our educational establishment and with those who seek to represent us. "I am more interested in leadership than in management," Powell said upon taking over the State Department. What we have now are lots of managers but what we need are genuine leaders. They are in short supply both in our schools and in our government.

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There have been some strange doings on the west end. First, a couple of car windows were shot up on Beach 143 street. Then, a number of cars on Beach 117 street had their tires flattened late one night. Finally, there were some random shots into the window of the bank on Beach 129 street. Cops are baffled by the random acts and many believe that the same teenagers out looking for some action did them all.

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When George Washington first became president, he sent a letter to a Jewish community in Rhode Island. He told them that in the new nation, we would not speak of "mere toleration" because toleration implies that minorities such as the Jew derived their rights "by the indulgence of the majority." That has been our tradition and that is why I was a bit put out by the prayer given by the Reverend Franklin Graham at the Bush inaugural. The message sent out by Graham (and therefore by Bush) "was that this is a Christian nation and all of you non-Christians are welcome as long as you accept your status as a tolerated minority." Al Dershowitz wrote those words in a Los Angeles Times piece and I certainly can’t say it better than he can. "In effect," Dershowitz writes, "Bush is saying: This is our home and in our home we pray to Jesus as our savior. If you want to be a guest in my home, you must accept the way we pray." That is not what America is about and it is not the way to start a new "inclusive" administration.

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The Beach Channel High School marching band and its directors are to be congratulated for the fine job they did at the arrival of President Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary, at JFK Airport last week. It was an honor for the school and the community.

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A number of west end residents have e-mailed me to tell me of a letter they have received from a Howard Beach realtor named Martin Sharon. The "hand-written letter," obviously generated by computer, tells residents that he has a "prospect" for their house and asks if he could have the listing to show it. It is an obvious attempt to solicit the area for listings and it is clear that the "prospect" is pure fiction. Do not respond to the letter. Perhaps some local civic association or the Chamber of Commerce can contact Sharon and convince him that this is not the way we do business in Rockaway.

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A number of people who read last week’s Beachcomber contacted me or stopped me on the street to ask if the item stating that Lew Simon is engaged to Grace McCloskey is true. I have to say that I don’t know if it is true or not, but I can say that I often cannot believe the things that Lew tells me. They are generally designed more to draw some political advantage than they are to give the facts. If it is true, however, I would like to be one of the first to congratulate the happy couple.

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It is about time that the DOT came to its senses and allowed free parking on Beach 116 street on Sundays during the winter months. The signs should go up by April and drivers will have a month or so before they have to begin once again feeding the city during the summer months (which runs from May to September hereabouts).

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One of the major problems in Queens is its surface transportation. The Green Bus Company and the Jamaica Bus Company receive massive public subsidies and do little for riders. It is no wonder that the city refuses to open up the franchise bidding to other companies. The companies recently gave $4,500 to Audrey Pheffer’s campaign chest. Pheffer, who recently won reelection to her Assembly seat, is now running for borough president. If you want to find out just who is giving money to who, log into the Albany Times Union’s website at www.albanytimesunion.com. Claire Shulman, the current BP, has endorsed Audrey and held a Chanukah fundraiser for the Rockaway pol. The affair raised $20 thousand towards the $173 thousand that she has raised so far. The leader in the BP money race is reportedly Carol Gresser, the former Queens Board of Education rep who was supposed to be Shulman’s successor. Gresser has amassed more than $200 thousand for the run. I am still surprised, by the way, that Shulman anointed Pheffer rather than Gresser. Tis a puzzlement.

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OK, we are talking about a six or eight-foot wide concrete pathway that runs nearby Cross Bay boulevard. It would provide a safe alternative for cyclists and for those traversing the "Greenway." Think of that small area in relation to the Jamaica Bay bird sanctuary. Yet the birders are up in arms. They say that the pathway would "threaten one of the only two bird-watching areas in New York State." Give me a break. How can a small strip threaten the entire sanctuary? This is the Audubon Society (the group that had to give up Dubos Point because they could not protect it) and environmentalists at their worst. The group threatens to sue the National Park Service if the work on the path goes forward. They probably will, but they will probably lose, as well they should. If the path were really a threat to the beautiful bird sanctuary, then I would be opposed and so would the NPS. It is not a threat, however, and it should be built.

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Before Rick Lazio went down in flames in his battle with the Clinton mystique, he sponsored a bill that became a law on January 1. That law requires that public housing tenants perform eight hours of community service each month or face eviction. According to the law’s sponsors, this will apply to at least 70,000 of the city’s 600,000 public housing tenants. Those who are exempt from the new law include the elderly, the disabled, those working full time and full-time students. Everybody else is expected to fulfill the requirements of the law. Housing Authority officials have talked of using the people in their own complex or in some local community agency. Some of those who are affected are not happy. "It is like they are trying to criminalize us," says one resident. "This is a new form of slavery and there is nothing voluntary about it."

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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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