The RDRC Community Update
By Curtis Archer, Executive Director
I wanted take this time to say a little something about Assembly Member Pauline Rhodd-Cummings.
As mentioned in my earlier column, I joined Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC) as their Executive Director in August 1998. Before coming to RDRC, I knew Ms. Rhodd-Cummings as just the Assemblywoman for the 31st District, but I didn't know the full history or the big picture about her life in the Rockaways or how deep her activism went.
She was a longtime resident of Far Rockaway who traced her roots back to Jamaica, West Indies. And I did not know until I had attended a reception in her honor that she was the first woman of Caribbean decent to be elected to the New York State Assembly. I also discovered that Pauline always had the desire to help people and to that end she worked with the Deerfield Area Civic Association, Inc. achieving the role of President. While there, she was appointed to Community Board 14 where her hard work landed her as co-chair of the Economic Development Committee. During this period, Ms. Rhodd-Cummings was appointed to the Executive Board of the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation and while serving in these capacities, Ms. Rhodd-Cummings was appointed Vice President of the 101st Police Precinct Council.
When I was relatively new to RDRC, I first had the occasion to meet Ms. Rhodd-Cummings. There was a housing issue that was of great concern to her and she no qualms about letting me know exactly how she felt about the matter. Needless to say she was strongly opposed to our position on the matter and after a tense meeting in her office, I felt that if she believes this strongly in her position, there must be some truth and conviction behind it. In addition, I felt that either I agree, she wasn't about to let you bend her will in any way, or I slink off some secluded room and stroke my wounded ego.
What impressed me most was that she was someone who had tremendous perseverance. She believed that if you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time with a tremendous whack.
One issue she firmly believed in was the development of a technical and educational center on the Rockaway Peninsula. To that end the 6200 Beach Channel Drive Project was born. The project that is her legacy is the "Rockaway Education and Health Care Project". Through a joint venture partnership between Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation and the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center, the site at 6200 Beach Channel Drive will be renovated to house a new state-of-the-art educational and technical training center and a primary health care facility. This facility is intended to bring young adults into the work force with technical skills and to continue to provide health care services to the surrounding community, which is in dire need.
The project is to encompass the rehabilitation of the 27,000 square foot, city-owned building (6200 Beach Channel Drive) in the Arverne section of the Rockaway and the construction of a 24,000 square foot extension to the building. The Addabbo center will relocate its main operations to this site (they are in the Arverne Urban Renewal Area), York College will provide adult education and a basic liberal arts curriculum and the College of Aeronautics will provide industry specific training in support of the airline at nearby JFK international airport.
This was Pauline's vision; her legacy if you may. Let no one tell you that they had this idea first because it simply isn't true. In 2004, when the doors of this new facility are opened, I want Pauline to look down from heaven and say, "good job, I can now finally rest".
Yes, when Pauline Rhodd-Cummings died, the Rockaways lost more than just the Assembly Member from the 31st District. They lost an bright shinning star and someone of enormous stature. She was a real champion for her constituents. She didn't have to push or convince herself to "stick to it" for her community, she just did it. For her the drive and determination came naturally. It's rare when someone possesses these intangible qualities. Yes, I lost someone I respected and considered a friend.
Pauline, I will miss you dearly but I promise that your vision will be realized.