2002-01-05 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

I certainly am not prescient. If I were, I would be playing the stock market instead of buying "Bob The Builder" toys for my grandson. Sometimes, however, I do manage to get things right.

I was recently looking back at my "Rockaway Short Takes" column (I do indeed miss writing both Short Takes and School Scope) from January 1 2000 – exactly two years ago. Why did I look back at that issue? Because it was sitting on the shelf and I just grabbed it out of curiosity. It turned out to be interesting.

The column contained my "Diamond and Coal" awards for 1999. That already seems like a hundred years ago, a different world, but things seem not to have changed an awful lot since that time, except by degree. So, I thought that I would share some of what I had written those many years ago, and update some of what happened in the two intervening years.

My first award was "a diamond mine to all of the police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and volunteers in various communities who kept us safe for another year." That award certainly holds up, particularly in a year that included both the WTC terrorist attack and the crash of Flight 587.

Next came "a pile of diamonds to Ron Lauder for pushing the term limits initiative." We are about to find out just what term limits will actually mean to city residents. I still think that we have gained an enormous amount by trading in Juanita Watkins and Al Stabile for James Sanders and Joe Addabbo. As for Helen Marshall, who even knows what the borough president does any more?

I awarded a "scuttle of coal to Lew Simon, who believes that he is a legitimate candidate for the city council seat being vacated by Al Stabile. I know that a lot of people like Lew and that he does good for some local individuals, but his inability to tell the truth earns him this year’s coal." We all know how that came out. Lew lost going away in the primary, particularly on the credibility issue and now Joe Addabbo is our new councilman and Lew will probably have to face a tough contender if he wants to keep his Democratic District Leader slot in the next election. Many Dems are angry at his support (albeit stealth-like) of Republican Joann Ariola.

I awarded a handful of diamonds to the G-man, Gary Toms, another columnist for The Wave, for "coming back from his mistake," Now, Gary is my sidekick at The Wave and is an invaluable addition to the staff. Without Gary and his myriad of skills, this paper would not be the continuing success it is today.

I awarded diamonds to the school board and a special diamond to school board president Steve Greenberg "who has done wonders in keeping the board in a straight line and in keeping the dissident factions from slaughtering each other." The same could hold true if written today, except that the dissident factions are fewer and further between. This board functions so well that it is a shame that it has no power to make much-needed changes.

"Diamonds as well," I wrote, "to those who are working to redevelop and revitalize the peninsula. We see new homes springing up all over the place and even some new businesses taking root. That is what we need in Rockaway." This is even truer today. The building of new homes and businesses has accelerated and, if the Arverne By The Sea project actually begins on schedule (I fervently would like to believe that it will), then this might be the beginning of the beginning for Rockaway.

I awarded coal to Al Stabile and he deserves it more today than he did two years ago. Thank goodness for term limits. Al is gone, and perhaps we will never have to mention his name again in these pages.

I awarded diamonds to "all of the community activists who have the best interests of Rockaway at heart, people such as Mary Dever, Steve Cooper, Barbara Morris, Marty Ain, Ernest Brown, Jim Sanders and others too numerous to name in this space." Do you see any names in there that would not make this year’s list? Of course not. Community activists do not give up. They continue to work year after year without pay and without applause. By the way, I gave a special diamond to Jim Sanders, and said that I would support him should he run for city council. He did and I did and he won.

I gave diamonds to all of the "teachers and administrators who work on the peninsula, many of them under difficult and dangerous situations." That, unfortunately, has not changed at all. Should I write this column two years from now, it will probably still be the same, because the powers-that-be still do not get it. "It’s the students, stupid!"

A "mixed bag of diamonds and coal" went to Tony Weiner "While Weiner has been all over the peninsula and has begun to address our needs," I wrote, "he still has to learn that community is not always three wealthy people who get his ear." I now think that Weiner has learned that lesson and that he has become a stellar Representative. You can take out the coal and just leave the diamonds, Tony, and thanks for helping Rockaway.

My last award was a bag of diamonds to my loyal readers. Even though Short Takes is gone, and I am writing for a wider audience, I do want to thank all of you for your continued support of The Wave this year and into the next. It is always nice to know that you are read, even if you are not always appreciated. Have a safe home in 2002.

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