2001-03-24 / Columnists

Short Takes

Those of you who have EZ-Pass should check their billing statement for the week of February 26 to March 2. It seems that the computer failed to deduct the charge for Rockaway residents on many of the accounts during that week. You all know that you get charged for the toll and then it is deducted if you are a Rockaway or Broad Channel resident. On those dates, many of the tolls were not deducted. Check it out and call the EZ- Pass number on your bill if there is, in fact, a mistake.

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Community Board 14 recently approved the insertion of an Off Track Betting (OTB) parlor inside of the Irish Circle. There was one vote and several abstentions. Jerry Rashkis, the president of the 100 Precinct Community Council, voted no because he is personally opposed to gambling. "I don’t think that it is a good idea," he said. "It feeds off the poor…those who can’t afford to gamble use it." What Rashkis and others do not understand is that people are going to gamble if they want to. It is so easy to do today, what with mobile phones and the internet, that anybody who wants to gamble will do so. Add to that the fact that neither Rashkis nor anybody else has the right to tell anybody that they "are too poor" to do anything, and I think that the community board certainly made the right decision. Those who want to use the OTB facility will do so and those who do not will stay away and that is as it should be.

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The Wave editorial last week called for a permanent ban on bombing at Vieques, the island off the coast of Puerto Rico that has been used for years as a bombing range for American service personnel. The editorial is wrong. I can say this with some authority, because I might just be the only Rockaway resident who actually has ever spent some time on the island. In 1963 I was a court reporter on board USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42). We had just completed an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) at Gunatanimo Bay in Cuba and moved to Puerto Rico for bombing exercises. One of our A-1 pilots (we still had prop-driven planes then) took his section too low on a bomb run and blew the second plane in the echelon out of the air. The plane was half buried in the surf on Vieques. I was part of the Line of Duty investigation team that went to the island. I got to talk with some of the people who live there (those who witnessed the accident) and many of the pilots who used the range for practice. I came away with the feeling that this was one of the most important pieces of real estate in the world because it was the only place in this hemisphere where live-fire exercises could be held on a large scale. This was prior to the build-up in Vietnam and the fact that live-fire practice became live fire for real. Pilots have to practice under "game" conditions just as athletes do. If not Vieques, then where? How about the Arverne Urban Renewal Area? How about Coney Island? See what I mean. The area is vital to the military and therefore vital to the survival of our nation. Sure, the statistics show that there are health problems, but the same statistical anomalies appear on the South Shore of Nassau County and we have not bombed them in years. The better solution would be to relocate the 10,000 residents on the other side of the island (far from the bombing) so that the entire island could become a bomb range.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about a friend who was parked behind Beach Channel High School and got a criminal Desk Appearance Ticket DAT) for trespassing. His story gets stranger. He was sitting there, eating his McDonald’s Big Meal, when a man in civilian clothes approached him. "How are you doing," the man asked. "I’m doing fine, but you can’t have my french fries." The man then identified himself as a cop and asked him what he was doing there. My friend explained that he often sat there to eat because it was relaxing and had such a great view of the Manhattan skyline. The cop then gave him a DAT for "criminal trespass," explaining that there had been some burglaries at the school. The cop told him that the "ticket would be only 10 bucks." Instead, my friend wound up standing before a judge in criminal court. His "trial" on the charges is set for April 16. I checked out the area. The open gate that he came through to reach the site has no sign. A gate further down has a sign that is so high and has type so small that it is unreadable under perfect conditions, nevertheless at night. If the site is off limits to residents, then the gates should be locked when school is not in session. At the least, new signs should be posted on both gates telling trespassers that they might face criminal charges for entering the property. As things stand, my friend is getting a raw deal. He has appealed to the school’s principal and others in the community. They should make it right.

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Little things often mean a lot. One new resident of Rockaway called to let me know that her friends told her that Neponsit and Belle Harbor were "perfect" communities. She is finding out that it not true. She told me that several of the mailboxes in Neponsit were covered with graffiti. It reminded her more of her old neighborhood that it should have of her new neighborhood. She called the post office and spoke with a supervisor. She was asked if she had seen who did it. She did not. The supervisor seemed not to be too concerned. "Our trucks are covered with graffiti also," she was told. After some argument, the supervisor said that he "would take care of it." That was a month ago and the graffiti still stands. It might not seem like much to us, but to a new resident it seems like Neponsit is not the perfect community to move to after all.

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Quote without comment from a letter to Newsday: "Regarding your column, ‘Prayer might be the Answer,’ did Bill Reel think that the Catholic girl who shot her classmate the same day your column ran just not recite the Lord’s Prayer enough? Or, in the right way? Maybe she did not mean it when she recited it. Or, maybe she forgot to say it on the day she brought the gun to school."

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Those who want to see the Long Island Railroad open up the old Rockaway Beach line will not give up despite the fact that everybody, from government to the LIRR, have told them that it is not a viable alternative. Warren Wiener, one of the group’s leaders, e-mailed me to tell me that they will not give up. "Although the MTA’s latest assessment has seemed to shut the door on any reactivation of the old Rockaway Beach line, we feel that me might still have a slight chance." I have to be honest and say that they never had a chance because the people in Forest Hills (the line passes right behind the homes) did not want it and they have the political clout. In any case, it is nice to see people fighting for a cause, even a hopeless cause.

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I patrolled Bayswater for several years as a member of the civilian patrol and I have to tell you that putting more turbine generators at the old LILCO site in that community should not disturb anybody. The site is so isolated from the community that many do not even know that it is there. The fact that the site provides power to both Rockaway and Nassau County does not bother me a bit. Rockaway has always been with LILCO rather than with Con Ed, as the rest of the city. BP Claire Shulman, who probably would not know Bayswater if she traveled through it, says, "I’m going to light up like a light bulb because I’m going to become the generating center of the entire universe." That statement is slightly disingenuous. The new generator would be good for both Rockaway and for Nassau County, and there is nothing wrong with that.

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Rumor has it that Geraldine Chapey (the younger) will soon throw her hat in the ring and run for the City Council seat being vacated by Al Stabile. It that is true, we can add her name to the litany of local pols and would-be pols who want the seat.

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Bushism of the Week: "The legislature’s job is to write law. It’s the executive branch’s job to interpret law."

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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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