2001-11-10 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

The sight of John Baxter standing up on the stage at Beach Channel High School, waving a sheaf of papers that he claims is the "Charter for Rockaway City," is an intriguing one.

Who is Rockaway would not like New York City to go away, to take its housing projects and its nursing homes and its lack of interest in the Arverne Urban Renewal area and its patronizing ways and just go away?

Baxter claims that the charter is legitimate. He says that it was passed dozens of years ago and that all Rockaway residents have to do now is approve of the plan and Rockaway will be free.

It is an intriguing idea. A Rockaway on its own, free from the city bureaucracy. Free of city control.

The question, of course, is what would take the city’s place? Who would fund Rockaway’s infrastructure, its police, its fire services, and its schools?

Who would collect taxes? What would those taxes be in light of the need to fund all of the above?

That is the question.

Baxter has a couple of glib answers. He says that Lawrence did it long ago, and so could Rockaway. He is right that Lawrence did it, but it was a different time and a different place.

Nassau County was a young and vibrant place. They wanted Lawrence, with its wide streets and expensive (at the time) homes.

Baxter says that Nassau will take Rockaway today. As proof, he shows a letter from the Nassau County Democratic Party leader. That political leader would love to take Rockaway, he says. Why not add 50,000 registered Democrats?

The county, however, is heavily Republican. The Nassau County power structure does not want any more registered Democrats, particularly those who come from city housing projects and nursing homes. They don’t want our failing schools and our lack of industry. They would rather take a group of Venusians than they would take Rockaway residents.

So much for Rockaway City becoming a part of Nassau County.

What next, John?

John says that the city has dumped on Rockaway so many times for so long that it owes Rockaway repatriations for its treatment.

"New York City would owe Rockaway City billions of dollars," Baxter says.

Think about it. A city that has just suffered its worst economic disaster in history, losing a quarter of its office rental tax in one day, a city that can’t afford to pay its teachers and firefighters and police what they deserve, a city that is quickly going into the red, do you believe that city is going to give Rockaway billions of dollars and say, "it’s been fun, now go off on your own?"

What next, John?

Well, John says, Kennedy Airport is certainly within Rockaway City’s boundaries and the city can make good use of its massive revenue.

Sorry, John, even you do not believe that Kennedy Airport is in Rockaway.

One of John’s political supporters, the head of the city’s Independence Party, says that Rockaway City can fund itself by better utilizing the nursing home revenues already present generated by the homes on the peninsula.

John doesn’t agree. He wants to close down the nursing homes and make something useful out of them. He wants a college and a recreation center for the kids.

We all want those things. Who will fund them, John?

So, next time John Baxter waves his sheaf of papers and talks of Rockaway City, think about it.

It’s intriguing in the same way that a ride into space would be intriguing. Sorry, john, it just isn’t going to happen. Rockaway City is a fairy tale like Brigadoon, just out of reach and not very satisfying when it comes.

Love it or not, we are part of the city. We should not stop trying to get the city to address our needs, to assist in the revitalization of the peninsula. Fairy Tales such as Rockaway City will just get in the way of that goal.

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