2001-12-22 / Columnists


This must have been a slow news week for the New York Times Sunday edition. There were no less than three stories about Rockaway, none of which would have made the front page of The Wave. One story was about the problems of the Rockaway Point News, a small paper that services the gated communities on the West End of the peninsula. The second story dealt with the Breezy Point Watchtower, which was become the unofficial icon of the area. It was slated to be torn down, but public pressure on the National Park Service prodded them to protect and preserve it. The third story, slugged as "Belle Harbor Journal," by my old friend Sarah Kershaw, told of how the people around the crash site and particularly around Beach 129 Street have been dealing with the Christmas season.

Twenty years ago this week, jurors in Queens Supreme Court were pondering a sentence for five young men found guilty last week in the murder of Police Officer Robert Sorrentino of the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway. The five men were found guilty of 106 counts of murder, robbery and weapons possession. The police officer was gunned down in the schoolyard of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, after he followed four men suspected of robbing a local social club. District Attorney John Santucci asked for the maximum sentence, 25 years to life, for the men. Today, an excellent youth center in Far Rockaway is named for Sorrentino and another police officer who died in the line of duty.

Last week, we wrote in The Wave about Connor Geraghty, whose firefighter father was killed in the World Trade Center attack and who wanted to make September 11 a yearly national holiday called Firefighter’s Day. The only problem, we said that Connor was a female, when, in fact, Connor is a male. Sorry, Connor. It is still a good story, however, and one that our legislators should take a hard look at.

We want to congratulate newly elected New York State Supreme Court Judge Marty Ritholz, who was sworn in on Wednesday to his new position. The Bayswater resident has long been active in his community and in Rockaway in general and we wish him well.

Carl Icahn is a Rockaway boy, born and bred. He is a graduate of Far Rockaway High School. One has to wonder then, why the Carl Icahn Charter School is in the Bronx rather than in Rockaway. The school, which is authorized by the state, opened its doors in September with 108 students in grades kindergarten to 2.

Those who were interested in the Queens political scene always turned first to the columns written by Arthur Nitzburg, whose work appeared in some local papers and in Newsday as well. He always seemed to have the inside dope on who was doing what to whom in Queens and his columns made interesting reading. He died two weeks ago at 57 from a massive heart attack, and he will be missed.

Five firefighters from Ladder 137 and Engine 268 from the Beach 116 Street firehouse have plunged into a new type of fundraiser. They have all dyed their hair blonde and it is for a good cause. Saks Fifth Avenue, where the dye jobs were done, will contribute $1,000 to the FDNY Widow’s and Orphan’s Fund for each scalp it gets to work on. A similar fundraiser in Chicago raised nearly $1 million for the fund.

Rockaway residents can see artist Esther Grillo’s work in a number of local venues. Just take a ride along Shore Front Parkway and you will see her bus shelter murals. Nearly 10 years ago, Grillo completed a 34-foot long wall sculpture for the Howard Beach subway station. It was taken down in August as part of a renovation project and now the MTA does not want to put it up. While the work of art is worth upwards of $15 thousand, Grillo will give it away for $500, the cost of getting it ready for a new installation. We would have to ask why the MTA cannot bring it to Rockaway, where Grillo has lived and worked for the past several years, and install it in one of our stations. Seems like a simple deal, and the MTA can certainly find the $500 someplace. If not, the agency is in worse trouble than even we thought they were in.

There are reports that Representative Greg Meeks will soon move up to the number four spot among Democrats in Congress. Meeks has reportedly set his sights on becoming the vice chair of the National Democratic Caucus when that spot becomes open after the next general election.

There is so much new home building on the West End that it is hard to keep track of it all. Catholic Charities is involved with a middle-class housing project on the old Little League site. The homes on the old Playland site have spread out of that area and are still selling like hotcakes. Oceantree Homes, new brick two-family homes are being built on Beach 109 Street, across from PS 225. The new homes on Holland Avenue are selling well and a mid-rise apartment house will soon sprout there as well. Construction on the 2,100 homes in the Arverne By The Sea project will begin after the first of the year. Those who said that new housing would never sell in Rockaway because of the many city housing projects on the peninsula obviously have to take another look.

The Broad Channel Volies will soon break ground on their new firehouse on Cross Bay Boulevard. While much remains to be done and lots of money is still needed before the completion of the new, much-needed facility, the ground breaking will be the culmination of lots of work by the volunteer members of the organization.

Holiday activities throughout the peninsula drew large crowds this holiday season, perhaps because of everything that has happened since early September. The "Breakfast with Santa" at the Beach Club, sponsored by the 100 Precinct Community Council, was a large success. Nearly 700 people showed up for the west end Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and 400 showed up for the east end celebration. All in all, it was a banner holiday season.

Since G-man’s column appeared last week, "The Mystery of Flight 587", the office has received many calls and emails from community residents who have come forward to validate the claims of various eyewitnesses, including a former sergeant, and 23-year veteran, of the New York City Police Department. Someone even took the liberty of placing the column on a website called Free Republic. The website is home to news analysts from prominent publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Chicago Sun Times.

Two Rockaway high school football stars have been named to the Queens All Star Team by the Daily News. Jesse Velasquez, a defensive lineman from Beach Channel High School had 83 tackles and 11 sacks this season. Jesse played every game of his four years at Channel and maintained a 92 classroom average. Rashid Peterson of Far Rockaway High School is called one of the premier running backs in high school this year. He gained 1,125 yards this year, scored 11 touchdowns and six two-point conversions. He also made 39 tackles as a defensive back.

By popular demand the artists of the Studios of Pottery by Susan have extended their holiday sale to Saturday, December 22. The studio will be open from 11 am to 4 pm for last minute holiday shopping. Support the Memorial Fund, Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department, Rockaway Artist Alliance or Rockaway Museum with your purchase. Pottery by Susan is located at 88-08 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, 3rd floor. Ring bell # 7.

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