2003-04-26 / Columnists



The first water rescue of the summer season took place on Sunday morning, when three young men decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather to go surfboarding off Beach 135 Street. Something went amiss and a call went to 911 for three people drowning in the surf. Police and fire units responded and quickly took the three young men from the water. The NYPD’s harbor and aviation units responded, as did a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter out of Sandy Point, New Jersey. We have a feeling that this is going to be a long summer.

There are lots of questions about whether the public boat ramp on Beach Channel Drive nearby Beach Channel High School will be reopened for this summer season. The ramp, the only available boat ramp in Rockaway between Breezy Point and Inwood, was closed at the end of last summer because it was deemed too dangerous to use. Part of the problem seems to be that the ramp belongs to the Board of Education and was never meant to be public in the first place, so nobody will take the responsibility for bringing it up to grade – especially in this day of tight budgets. It seems strange however, that a community that borders on water on both sides has no public boat ramp for its residents to use when every other body of water in the nation has a plethora of boat ramps, both private and public.

Environmentalists in Rockaway are gearing up to fight Paul Ariola’s proposal to place 12 three-family attached homes across Beach Channel Drive from the old courthouse at Beach 92 Street. They argue that residents have a legal right to see the bay and the people who live across from the site successfully killed a hotel project a number of years back for the same reason. We haven’t been able to find any law, however, that guarantees the right to look at the water. Five years ago, we would have been glad to see housing on that site. Now, however, with the glut of new housing in Rockaway, we are not so sure. We still think that would be a good site for a motel or a bed and breakfast – something that Rockaway desperately needs.

Despite the fact that the city will be closing firehouses and cutting the educational budget, the mayor has found the money to hire parking judges who will be tasked with squeezing even more money from the city’s motorists. The city will soon hire 87 full-time administrative law judges to take over from the part-timers who now do the job. The city believes that the plan will actually make money because the new judges will be tougher than the old ones and will thereby generate more revenue.

There are those who believe that simply cleaning out Iraq while leaving the rest of the Arab nations in the Middle East intact is like cleaning out a rotten tooth but not filling it again. They argue that American troops should keep going and take out Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, along with their terrorist-supporting regimes. There is no doubt in their minds that the terrorism that continually strikes Israel, as well as our own problems, comes from those nations. Witness a recent statement by a professor at a Saudi university. "The war in Iraq began to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Purim," the professor wrote in the state-controlled newspaper, "The Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare their holiday pastries. That affords the Jewish vampires great delight."

Work has begun on the Tribute Park on Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive. Despite the fact that the weather has been terrible and that the DEC put a temporary hold on the project, things seem to be moving along and the Chamber of Commerce hopes to meet its September 11 deadline.

A subsidized commuter ferry service for Rockaway took another hit this week when the city sunk a free Brooklyn ferry service that has been running since September 11, 2001. The city posted notices last week that the service, which ran between the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the Whitehall Ferry Terminal will end on April 30 because federal subsidies have dried up. "At $290 thousand a month, the city can’t afford to pick it up," said Iris Weinshall, the city transportation commissioner. A spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that the service was meant to be temporary from the beginning. So much for Rockaway’s chances for a FEMA-subsidized ferry, something that many local politicians have been working on for many years.

Last week, we saw an article in the Daily News stating that State Senator Malcolm Smith was among eight legislators backing a proposed bill to keep the mayor and the chancellor from reforming the New York City schools. We called Smith for comment and he told us that he had told the bill’s sponsor that he was not interested. He said that he was going to call both the sponsor and the newspaper to complain. He obviously did. On Sunday, the Daily News had a small article buried in its Queens section saying that Senator Smith had withdrawn his support of the bill. Not quite the truth, but close.

Because of the city’s budget crisis, Rockaway will soon be dirtier. Trash collection on the peninsula, and in the rest of Queens, will be reduced from twice a week to once a week. While a date has not yet been set, experts say that the change will probably take place on July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year. The city says that it targeted Queens and Staten Island for the cuts because "there are not high density areas."

Columnist Jimmy Breslin has gone off the deep end once again. In a recent column, he called for the city to ban dogs. He writes, "I detest dogs in the city and the way they are treated as important humans, which they are not. They have no souls, they have no position in life." That should make Breslin much-beloved among the dog lovers of our city.

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