From the G-Man
By Gary G. Toms
A Look Back At 2002
Hey people! When the clock struck midnight on December 31, I could not help but take a moment to look back at the events of 2002. It was truly a year of transition, for the world, for Rockaway, and for me personally.
In 2002, there didn't seem to be a day that went by when we were not being warned by the F.B.I. and C.I.A. of looming terrorist attacks. Life became hectic, as many of us had to wonder if we were truly safe anymore.
The collapse of the corporate juggernauts (Enron, Tyco and others) forced many good, hard working people into poverty and despair. Many of the weasel executives that bilked America were shown taking the "perp walk," as onlookers applauded and cheered their torrid downfall.
The now deposed Republican Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott, reminded us that there are still people in America that would love to see blacks riding the back of the bus or drinking from segregated water fountains. Lott single-handedly destroyed any notion that the Republican Party had the best interest of blacks at heart, and the party will have to work like hell to convince black America that they truly care about them and their issues.
The Beltway Snipers spread a sense of terror and fear that was unprecedented. The psychotic killers picked their victims at random, and no one knew where the next bullet was going to come from or who was responsible for the shooting. It was the "Son of Sam" case all over again, but on a much larger scale. The situation showed America just how vulnerable we are, and how man can inflict unspeakable horror unto society.
Mayor Bloomberg has done his best to fend off a colossal monster called "The Budget," but his decisions are leading him on a path to become the most unpopular mayor in New York City history. The possible layoff of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical teams, and trauma specialists is a frightening thought these days. All it will take is another catastrophic attack on the city, or the outer-boroughs, and the Bloomberg administration is sure to feel the wrath of New York City residents. Pray!
With regard to the Rockaways, we are still grappling with the possibility of obtaining a ferry service.
The A-train is in a virtual tie with the Green Bus Line for the worst form of public transportation in Rockaway.
The enormous housing construction that is taking place, along with Arverne-By-The-Sea being launched, has many life long and low-income Rockaway residents (minority and elderly) wondering if they will still be able to call Rockaway their home in the next three to four years.
Crime has seen a sharp drop-off in the Rockaways, thanks to the work of the 101 and 100 Precincts, and community residents who have an active role in the NYPD's community councils.
The school rezoning issue has many people in Rockaway talking about race and how to go about obtaining what is best for each child on the peninsula. There may NEVER be a happy resolution to this matter.
With the stroke of a pen, the Mayor was given total control over the New York City school system, and community school boards were told that their services were no longer needed. Parents are left scratching their heads and asking, "How will I find justice for my child now?"
The Governor may order the state to seize the Far Rockaway Shopping Center, ending years of neglect and economic blight. There is talk of malls and movie theaters being constructed in Far Rockaway over the next few years, and the rumors have excited many in the area.
In 2002, Kevin Boyle, former Managing Editor of The Wave, found tremendous success as the author of "Braving The Waves...Rockaway Rises and Rises Again." From one writer to another, congratulations Kev!
Speaking of success, The Wave has experienced unprecedented success in 2002. An editorial written this week outlines all of the specifics, and as the Associate Editor, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment. Still, the paper would not have been as successful without the phenomenal art and graphics team that we have. They really make Howie and me look good! Their special creative touches make this paper better than it ever has been!
Personally, it has been a year of tremendous accomplishment at The Wave. Earlier on, I began to have doubts about the work I was doing because I let the letters and phone calls of hate get to me, many of which my staff has no idea of because I never discussed them. A 93-year old woman, who came into the Wave office earlier in the year, reminded me of what she called "my gift," and that moment changed everything.
"God bless you son. God bless you. It will be a hard road, but the Rockaway community needs you, especially the black community. It's because of you that our stories are finally being told. Anybody that has a problem with you, tell them to kiss your ass!" said the old woman.
She kissed me on the cheek, smiled, and walked out of the office. I was informed that she passed away shortly after her visit.
I received seven awards for journalism and community service this year from several of the local politicians and organizations, and I want to take this opportunity to thank them publicly. They are as follows:
Congressman Anthony Weiner
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith
Borough President Helen Marshall
City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr.
The Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC)
The Deerfield Area Association
The Solid Rock Seventh Day Adventists Church
Truth be told, I had a problem sharing the awards information in this column because I was concerned that it would come off as me bragging about my work, but my dear, sweet mother, Bertha Sutton, said something to me that made me decide to make it public.
"Are you crazy? You'd better print it. All those people who wrote those nasty letters and said you serve no purpose in the paper, or that you are a lousy journalist, they need to see that there are powerful people and organizations that beg to differ. I'll get my belt if you don't put it in your column."
Okay ma! You can put that dusty, old strap back in the closet.
Yes, 2002 was quite a year, and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge two people in particular.
Flornell Myers was featured in a front-page story we wrote back in March. She and her family were set upon by Queens narcotics officers and harassed for more than three hours. In the end, Myers brought the community together; met with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the National chapter of the NAACP; forced the NYPD to admit that police procedures were not followed and had them issue a formal apology; and worked with both agencies to ensure better relations between the police and the black community in Rockaway. Myers died suddenly in July. She found a voice as an activist, and she taught other "mutes" in the community how to speak. I miss you Flornell.
Dottie Taphouse, who wrote the column "Dot on Roxbury," was someone that I really did not know well at all, but I do know this. Her column brought pleasure to the hundreds of Rockaway residents that knew her, and that's all I need to know to salute this legendary columnist who died this year. She put smiles on many people's faces, and that is something that we all should strive to do in 2003.... and in life.
See you next week!