2001-07-28 / Columnists

Rockaway Short Takes by Howard Schwach

The recent discovery by a Board of Elections lawyer that it is illegal under current election law to have more than one polling place in each Election District might well bring havoc to Rockaway in the upcoming primary election. For the past 30 years, senior citizens have been able to vote in the buildings in which they live. An exceptional percentage of seniors have voted over that time. Often, a Democratic politician has benefited from that large senior citizen turnout. Most recently, it has been Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer who picked up the senior vote and retained it for several elections. Now, all bets are off. Seniors will have to travel to their official polling places or submit an absentee ballot. Teams of Board of Elections workers will fan out to assist seniors in filling out those ballots, but it probably will not be the same. The law has to be changed by the legislature and they should work quickly to make the change prior to the September 11 primary election. The Democrats will be quick to make the change, but the Republicans have never been helped by the added polling places and they might be resistant to making the change. Meanwhile, seniors will have fewer choices to make as to how and where they can vote and that is a shame.

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The Army Corps of Engineers once again has a plan to dump on Jamaica Bay – both literally and figuratively. The plan is to place contaminated, highly toxic sludge from the bottom of New York Harbor and dump it into the "borrow pits" at the bottom of the East end of the bay. Those borrow pits were dug out to provide fill for runway expansion at JFK Airport. They remain in place and there is some conjecture that they are the problem that has exacerbated the loss of marsh grass along the bay. In any case, there are some scientists who believe that filling in the borrow pits will stop the loss of marsh grass. Others disagree. I would venture to say that most environmentalists would agree that toxic material should be kept out of the bay. This is not the first time that this plan has surfaced. It has been around for a number of years and has always been turned around by local groups and politicians. Now, it has surfaced again. It is not what Rockaway needs, and we all have to join the fight to keep it from happening to us now, just when the bay is becoming clean enough to enjoy.

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There have been a few occasions when the Sunday New York Times has addressed Rockaway in its Metro Section. Each time the paper has done so, it has been a negative story about Beach 116 Street and its environs. In each case, the paper has portrayed the area as dark and dank, full of drunks and homeless people wandering the shopping street. They did it again on Sunday, with a story about the Surf Bar and those who "reside" within its confines. The article talks of "Mike the Jew," who quotes Eugene O’Neil and "Johnny Cool," a young alcoholic who "is the only one in the place with soul," two men who spend most of their lives drinking and turn them into characters from some noble novel. All in all, it makes the street look like the last refuge of the drunk and that is not what Beach 116 Street is all about.

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The chances of a regular commuter ferry beginning operations from "Riis Dock" before the summer ends are getting slimmer each week. The National Park Service says that there will be service – some day. Fox Navigation, which has the franchise, says that it can’t find a boat because there is a law that the boat must be built in America. Fox says that it will cost $13 bucks each way when it does begin. What happened to the $300 thousand in city subsidies? Your guess is as good as mine. None of the politicians running for mayor seem to care about the ferry. None of the people running for city council have made a statement on the issue. Very strange! Perhaps the pols do not think that it is a real issue, but it is.

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Lew Simon can only benefit from knocking both Chris Jorge and Palmer Doyle off the ballot (Doyle is off, and Jorge is hanging on the edge). With the two other Rockaway candidates out of the way, he has the peninsula all to himself. That leaves a dogfight on the mainland between John Seminario and Joe Addabbo for the votes in that area. Simon could sneak in and win the primary, leaving him in a fight with Joann Ariola in November.

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The mayoral election is also kicking up as we move towards the primary. Mark Green toured Rockaway last Sunday. Peter Vallone will be here for a luncheon on July 31. Al Hevesi has also agreed to show up in Rockaway in August. If nobody gets the necessary 40 percent in the primary, then there will be a run-off election two weeks later. Who will be involved in the run-off? I would bet on Vallone and Green. Who will win? Don’t even ask. In my opinion, electing Green would be like electing Dave Dinkins again. He is Ruth Messinger in a suit. I am not sure who I really like, but Green is not him. Keep tuned.

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

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