2002-03-16 / Columnists

Simon Says…. From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Simon Says….
From the Desk of Lew M. Simon,
Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

State Senator Malcolm Smith was the guest speaker at the Good Government Regular Democratic Club on Thursday March 7. Malcolm Smith has been representing the Rockaway peninsula for two years since the resignation of Al Waldon.

Malcolm told us that he might not be able to represent us in the future because of redistricting. The Legislative Task Force which recommends district lines is proposing to place Rockaway outside of the district in which Malcolm, a resident of Jamaica, resides. State Senator Ada Smith, a resident of Brooklyn, is establishing residence in South Ozone Park, which is part of the proposed district.

Malcolm said he does not want to lose Rockaway. He has started work on a number of initiatives for the peninsula, which he wants to see to completion. He noted the presence of Liz Sulik of the Chamber of Commerce with whom he works. He said that he worked with Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings and that it would be sinful to break up the team.

Senator Smith explained that the newly proposed State Senate districts were not equal in population. While the average population of the 61 districts according to U.S. Census figures should be 311,000, upstate districts were drawn to have 290,000 while New York City districts would have 318,000.

Smith expects numerous lawsuits against this redistricting if it is approved by the legislature. Among the organizations studying lawsuits are the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, NAACP, Asian American Legal Defense Fund, Common Cause and NYPIRG.

Some of the issues that the Senator is working on are education and transportation. He said that Governor Pataki has spent $11 million just to fight the decision on fiscal equity for New York City public schools. Now he wants the governor to drop the appeal. He also thought he could get funds to subsidize a ferry from Rockaway to Manhattan.

Our audience showed their strong support for reopening the Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR. I explained to Malcolm that we wanted the line to be opened and the MTA could decide to use subway trains or railroad trains on the right-of-way. Jack King and Norman Silverstein of the Rockaway Transit Coalition urged Smith to take the leadership in the fight for the Rockaway Beach line. Smith said, "If you get me ammunition, I could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge."

Addressing the predominantly white audience Malcolm Smith said the current battles were not about color, but about economic scale.

When Senator Smith asked us to attend the hearing on reapportionment, a club member offered to help arrange for a bus to Borough Hall.

A special thanks of gratitude to John Kearney whose vintage 1967 Cadillac DeVille personally drove me down the avenue and boulevard during the St. Patrick’s Day parade. This car as well as the 14 other vintage cars made the day very special for the honorees and community.

Last Sunday afternoon we attended the annual St. Camillus Irish dance. At this event they honored one of Rockaway’s finest people, Larry Kelly, who served as Deputy Grand Marshal of the parade. He is the Grand Knight of the Msgr. Burke Post of the Knights of Columbus in Rockaway.

Larry Kelly is the best carpenter on the beach. He is also available to lend a hand to any good cause, never saying no. We know Larry’s lovely wife, Mary, and their family were very proud. God bless you, Larry. Keep up the good work. These honors were well deserved.

One of our board members told us that in talking to crewmembers on a barge tied up near the sewage plant on Beach 108 Street, he was told that they are doing test borings for a sewage pipe from the 26th Ward plant near Starret City to the Rockaway plant. We have many concerns about such a pipeline. We recently invited DEP Commissioner Joel Miele as our guest speaker. He was unable to come and Miele was replaced by Chris Ward.

Ward is not yet making public appearances. Stay tuned for further information.

Our next Atlantic City trip to Trump Marina will be on Saturday March 16. The cost is $25 with $16 returned. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 8 a.m. Call my office at 945-1216 for reservations.

Thursday March 21 we have the honor and pleasure to have the Department of Transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall as our guest speaker. The meeting will be at 112-20 Beach Channel Drive, opposite Waldbaum’s, at 7:45 p.m. Topics of discussion will include the infrastructure of our roads in Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point, the reality of a subsidized ferry and a Rockaway Beach line under the MTA.

For all of us who complain about the conditions of our streets and roads, this is the time to stop talking to yourself. Speak up for your rights by attending our meeting. Bagels and cream cheese, and coffee and cake will be served. If you would like to reserve a seat call 945-1216.

Malcolm Smith is the only one who has represented us from the tip of Breezy Point to the end of Far Rockaway touching Nassau County. We feel it is very important to keep the Senator representing us. He is aware of ongoing problems, potential projects and the future of economic development of the Rockaways.

Malcolm has spent many years on the staff of Congressman Floyd Flake representing Rockaway. He started his own career running for City Council from Rockaway. We would like to see Rockaway put back together as they are in Community Board 14.

Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point have similar issues. Rockaway is an eleven mile peninsula that is plagued with the highest unemployment, largest number of nursing homes, health facilities, adult and social programs. Rockaway has been dumped on since the Wagner administration. Mayor John V. Lindsay attempted to destroy Rockaway.

It is ridiculous to draw lines and divide up the Rockaways. This division has caused animosity between the east and west end. We need to bring back the Rockaways, Broad Channel and Breezy communities as one.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ara Hagopian. I met Ara when my own mom was dying of cancer. As many of you are aware, I have been out with my can to find a cure for cancer. In 1995 we met Ara who was a cancer patient. He never passed us without putting a five, ten or twenty dollar bill in our can.

Prior to my campaign for City Council, Ara had major surgery for cancer involving his esophagus, stomach, etc. As sick as he was, he offered to help get signatures to get me on the ballot. He was a quite unique individual who had the gift of gab. He was not mad at God for his long illness with cancer. His love of life and helping others made him a mensch.

I’m sure God welcomed him as a great angel in heaven. My heart goes out to the family. Ara was indeed very special.


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