2001-05-26 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes

by Howard Schwach

The Rockaway Ocean Run was not as heavily subscribed this year as it was in years past, but the enthusiasm seemed to be somehow greater. The run went off under cloudy skies and windy conditions, but that did not deter the runners. Jim McVey, the perennial winner of the event, promised to "jog" the course, but still came in second overall. Kudos have to go to those officers and members of the Rockaway Rotary Club who did a great job in coordinating the event.

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Those who believe that a kosher restaurant will not find its market in Rockaway should have seen it at about 2 p.m. on Sunday, its opening day. The lines were out the door waiting for the several tables in the establishment or for take-out. I went in after the Ocean Run to get my free frankfurter and was surprised how large and well appointed the eatery really is. I think it will prosper in Rockaway. Just as Chinese food is not just for Asians, kosher food is not just for Jews and, if the food is as good as it looks, it will quickly find a huge market on Beach 116 Street.

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The conspiracy theory did not die with the end of the Cold War. Follow the bouncing ball. The Democrats gave the Borough President nod to City Councilwoman Helen Marshall rather than to Audrey Pheffer or Carol Gresser (two who were considered favorites a few weeks ago). Black politicians such as Archie Spigner have been putting pressure on Dem bigshots recently to choose Marshall or face the loss of their backing in the mayoral race. One of the strangest rumors has been the persistent one that Pheffer will now become a Republican. "She (Pheffer) specifically said that she would drop out if she didn’t get the party’s endorsement," Leffler told reporters. "She (Pheffer) has been very close to the Democratic organization for many years and they have done a lot for her, so it surprises me that she would buck the party," Gresser said. What they are saying is that they believe the rumor that Pheffer has acceded to the demand of the Democratic power structure that she stay in the race with the hope that she will split the "White vote" among herself, Gresser and Leffler, thereby assuring Marshall, who, under the scenario, would get all the minority votes, the win. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Who said that? Why does it matter? It is truer in politics than in anything else.

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Talk about conspiracy theories. Bernie Blum has finally gotten what he wanted all along – notoriety, publicity, ink. Call it whatever you want; Blum has harassed city, state and federal authorities for years with letters that he sent in advance to the newspapers. Last Sunday, Newsday’s Merle English, who should have known better, wrote a long piece on Blum and his organization. I have said for years that Blum’s organization, "The Friends of Rockaway," had only three members. I was wrong. The organization, according to Blum, has "about a dozen members," but only five are active. I was not far from right. The question that arises from the confession is "why should we listen to anything you say?" Bernie means well, and he knows much more about environmental issues than I do, but he also comes across as something of a fanatic. Witness one of his quotes in the Newsday article. Blum was asked why nobody takes him seriously. He answered, "The bureaucracies have their own agendas and are subject to clandestine influences…" We all know that city agencies have their own agendas, but to talk of "clandestine influences" negates all of the things he has to say that ring true. Blum would like to see a mosquito museum set up on the boardwalk. Sure, Bernie. Tell it to the Friends of Rockaway next time you meet.

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I am already tired of the summer parking regulations on the West End and we are only one weekend into the season. Lots of people wonder why the cops wait until 12:01 on Saturday morning to ticket car owners who have lost track of the day and date. Why not give warnings the first weekend and begin the ticket blitz on the second. That certainly would be more humane, but it would create less revenue for the city and that is the name of the game.

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The Wave’s call for a convention center in the Arverne Urban Renewal Area makes a lot of sense. The waterfront property is too dear to waste on just any proposal and a convention center right on the water would certainly have a selling point to conventioneers that no other area in Queens could provide. I have been told that some high-powered developers have responded to the city’s RFP for the area, but once again the decision will be politically-driven rather than based on what the community needs. It has ever been so and will continue to be.

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The lifeguards are definitely not coming. Not this summer, perhaps never again. More than 70 percent of the 800 people who took the test to become a lifeguard failed that test. According to one expert who knows, the Parks Department has only hired 200 of the 1,000 lifeguards that it needs to staff the beaches and pools this summer, and the season is only a few weeks away. The expert tells us that 32 of the 140 beaches in Rockaway – about a quarter of the total – will be closed when the beaches open on Memorial Day and many of them will remain closed for the entire summer. That is a disaster for Rockaway. There are solutions. The Parks Department has so far refused to hire part time lifeguards. There are hundreds of teachers, firefighters, cops and other workers who would love to work part time and could probably qualify for the job. Hundreds of part time lifeguards are far better than no lifeguards at all. While the city is at it, it should raise the salary level. As with other city jobs, people leave because the salary is better elsewhere. Even the National Park Service pays lifeguards in Riis Park more than Rockaway lifeguards are paid just over the fence on the next beach. Let’s get busy. We need our beaches to be open and protected.

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The letters have begun coming, arguing that the sports complex slated for Floyd Bennett Field would somehow cheapen the park. What is the park like now? It is crumbling, falling apart. It is used by few Rockaway residents because there is little there that they can do. The sports complex would be used by Rockaway residents, young and old and I cannot understand the opposition to the sports complex plan.

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That’s it for this week. Remember to send comments, complaints and story tips to hschwach@nyc.rr.com or to editor@rockawave.com. Have a good week and safe home.


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