2003-03-15 / Columnists


Despite the fact that the mayor is talking about laying off cops and teachers and closing firehouses, his administration has found the money to hire a dozen or more inspectors to work each night to enforce the city's new anti-smoking laws. The new tobacco inspectors, who will be called "environmental technicians," will earn about $15 an hour. Not a bad salary for going from one bar to another, looking for those dangerous people who are smoking. The newly-minted environmental technicians will be empowered to issue summonses for smoking and other health code violations.

The City Council is building up steam to derail school chancellor Joel Klein's plan to allow the best schools in the city to opt out of the city's new standardized curriculum. "I simply wish you had focused on students, not on schools, because you have demoralized 90 percent of the parents in schools in my district," Councilman Oliver Koppell told Klein. Koppell and other councilman doubt that Klein can put his new plans into operation by September and they are planning a resolution that would force him to delay the plan for a year.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is about to put out a first class stamp honoring the Muslim holiday season and "patriots" have already begun to rile on the Internet that the project should be aborted. The E-mail that is making the rounds calls for a boycott of the stamp. "To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all the Americans who died at the hands of those whom the stamp honors," the E-mail says.

The "Greatest Show On Earth is once again in the New York City area. The 133rd annual edition of the show will play the Nassau Coliseum beginning on March 11 and Madison Square Garden beginning on March 20.

Rockaway residents have three major routes for getting off the peninsula: The Gil Hodges, Marine Parkway Bridge to Flatbush Avenue; the Cross Bay Bridge with access to Cross Bay Boulevard and Route 878, with access to Rockaway Turnpike. Two of those routes will soon be impacted with new, sprawling retail malls. Magnolia Court and Plaza, a new project at the intersection of Cross Bay Boulevard and North Conduit Avenue has just been approved by the city. The mall would be next to the new condominiums just built by the same developer. In addition, the new mall planned for Rockaway Turnpike and Brookville Boulevard (AKA, Snake Road), had just received a second wind just when environmentalists thought that it was dead.

Over the past year or so, The Wave has detailed a plan whereby residents with a computer can access flight information about aircraft passing over their homes. When we first called the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and the local airports about the plan, which has been used at other airports for more than two years, we were greeted with silence. Neither the FAA nor the Port Authority (PA), which runs our airports, has ever heard of it. Now, Congress has secured the $240 thousand necessary to set up the program and to run it for a year. The funding was included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act, which was approved two weeks ago. There is no word on when it will become operational.

There will be a street naming in honor of Firefighter Steve (Bells) Belson, who died on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center. The ceremony will be held 11 a.m. on March 22 at Beach 92 Street and Holland Avenue.

It is going to be more difficult for City Councilman Jim Sanders to argue that his junket to Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival was actually a fact-finding trip to find out how to increase tourism in New York City in light of the pictures that appeared in the daily papers last week of Councilwoman Diana Reyna and Planning Commissioner Dolly Williams all dressed up in revealing carnival dress. The photos were released by another councilwoman to the Caribbean newspapers in the hope that they would increase her popularity with that population. Perhaps that worked, but it made the others who took the trip look suspect. By the way, the trip was funded by a group that had just received a $50 thousand from the council last year, something that the DA should begin to look into. Sanders, who led the trip, says that he was sorry that he didn't know about that grant in advance, but that it did not negate the success of the trip or the fact that it did not cost the taxpayers a cent. In fact, it might have cost the taxpayers the $50 thousand that went to the West Indian-American Carnival Association (WIACA) in the form of last year's grant.

Bob Sarnoff's editorial cartoon in the last issue of The Wave asked the crucial question, the one on everybody's mind, "when will this winter be over?"

Caught Walter Ensor, Rockaway's troubadour, playing a gig at Gene Michael's in Rockville Center on Sunday night. While dining at the restaurant, which is named after a Rockaway firefighter who died on 9/11, is always a pleasure, Walter's music made it even more so.

A number of people e-mailed me and called to say that the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan is no longer awash in alcohol and that they believed that Howard Schwach's comment about that parade in last week's "From The Editor's Desk" was gratuitous. We checked with some police sources and they told us that there was no longer an alcohol problem at that parade, and we apologize to those we offended with our off-hand comment.

Hold the day of April 10 at 12:30 p.m. for the Chamber of Commerce's annual Bravest and Finest Luncheon at the Beach Club. This has quickly become one of Rockaway's premier events. The event will once again honor emergency responders from local fire houses and police precincts.

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