2003-02-08 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

Some odds and ends that need to be addressed as we move towards spring.

I feel badly for the four kids who died when they stole a boat and sailed off into the coldest, darkest night of the winter from a graveyard on City Island. I really do. I am sorry that their message was not understood by the 911 operator who took it, but I am not sure that I would have understood it or acted on it either. Shouldn’t there be some culpability in this on the part of the kids, who have all been portrayed as budding geniuses by the media. Andrea Peyser wrote in The Post that one of the young men, Andrew Melinikov, was "so young, so self-aware." He might have been self aware, but he was not aware of his actions that night, or else he would still be alive today. He was not so aware that he knew it was wrong to steal a small, leaky boat. He was not so aware that he knew it was pure stupidity to push off into Long Island Sound in the dark of the coldest night in years. He will be missed, and it is a shame that he died, but the fault is his and his friends, not the 911 operators.

The United Nations has long been a political joke, more interested in protecting political agendas than in real peace. Witness two recent events. Iraq (yes, that Iraq) has been chosen to chair the new United Nations Disarmament Conference. The May forum is one of the most important negotiated conferences on arms control that the world has, and it is being chaired by a nation led by a man who used chemical and biological weapons on his own people and who now seeks to build nuclear weapons. You say you’re not satisfied. You say you want more for your money. Gather around. Lybia, led by the man who is more responsible for terrorism than even Osama bin Laden, will chair the coming UN Commission On Human Rights. And, they wonder why most Americans consider the organization a sick joke.

The Sunday New York Times Magazine did a piece recently that was titled, "When the Man of The House is In the Big House." It was a story of a young man who was in prison, leaving his woman and several kids to fend for themselves, to travel each week to visit him in jail. The article, written by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, was designed to show how society has failed a segment of the population. Instead, as one writer to the paper said, it pointed out, "every predicament, every setback, every misfortune suffered by Toney and Lolli can be attributed either to poor judgment, immorality or the pathological inability to put the needs of their children over their own selfish interests." I have to wonder how often the Times can go to this particular well and still come up without their readers laughing at them.

The Board Channel Volunteers are having a hard time getting local politicians to work with them in getting a new firehouse. While it is not clear what the actual problem is, the organization’s leaders have asked a number of local politicians to meet with them this week to discuss the problem. We certainly hope the pols show up, because first responders are a prime segment of any community, especially one as isolated as Broad Channel.

The Voice of the Faithful held a meeting at the American Legion Hall in Rockaway last week and they drew an overflow crowd. More than 225 people took part in the meeting, which focused on the church’s abuse problem and the hierarchy’s reaction to that problem. The speakers went so long, however, that many of those in the audience who wanted to speak out did not get a chance to do so. The organizer’s sponsors say that the next meeting will be dedicated to local people having their say. There has to be something to the organization, which has been banned by the Bishop from using church property for their meetings, if it can draw that many people on a cold night.

There are those who believe that the incident that occurred on Beach 129 Street last week that included a confrontation between Jewish and Catholic teenagers was just "kid stuff" that did not deserve to be addressed in The Wave. The fact that two young men were arrested for harassment and some really vile things reportedly were said by both sides, added to the fact that wild rumors of a "sexual assault" were sweeping the neighborhood, made it imperative that we do address the truth. Of course, you might ask, what is the truth? Officials at the police department’s press office gave a very measured, legalistic report of what had happened. Rabbi Levi Dicker, who leads the yeshiva, gave his side of the story, which tended to blame the Catholic girls for the altercation, at least at the outset. Two parents of the girls who were involved in the incident, however, gave a third view, one that was compelling and could not be denied. Where is the truth? Probably, somewhere in the middle. The fact is, regardless of the genesis of the incident, that something must be done, and done quickly, to address the simmering religious warfare that is brewing around the kids from St. Francis de Sales Church and Yeshiva Mercaz Hatorah.

I really do not know much about "Month by Month Phonics," the program that Chancellor Joel Klein wants to use in elementary schools next year. I am not an elementary reading specialist by any stretch of the imagination. I do not like, however, the federal bureaucracy telling the city what programs it can and cannot use. The new federal No Child Left Behind Law (which former District 27 Superintendent Matt Bromme will soon be administering), allows the feds to withhold funds if the program used in the schools is not "scientifically proven to improve children’s reading skills." The last thing we want is some researcher who has never been in a classroom in his or her life, deciding what will and will not be used in this city.

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