2003-05-30 / Columnists



Despite the driving rain and cold temperature, approximately 200 brave souls marched the course for the Rockaway Memorial Day Parade on Monday afternoon. When they reached the Memorial Circle at about 12:30 p.m. there were 50 hearty souls on hand for the quicker than usual ceremony. Amy Grosshandler, a member of the Beach Channel High School Band, played a moving rendition of Taps and then everybody moved eastward, soaking wet, but undaunted. For the first time, a large contingent form the Queens Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of American joined the line of march.

The Graybeards were the focus of a New York One television feature this week, collectively earning the title of "New Yorker of the Week." Rockaway residents Steve Stathis and Kevin Boyle were featured in the short bio of the organization.

Mayor Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe opened the city’s beaches last week, not in Rockaway, but in Coney Island. Even as he joyously opened the beaches, however, Benepe had a warning for beachgoers. "As a matter of public safety," Benepe said, "we remind beachgoers to observe all of the beach rules and regulations, and especially not to swim when there are no lifeguards on duty. If you want to see what you can’t do on Rockaway’s beaches and boardwalk, go up to the boardwalk and take a look at the new, red signs posted only late last week.

When The Oceana, a multi-million dollar condo project in Brighton Beach was first announced, many in the community complained that they would be priced out of the building. Prices for the condos range from $400 thousand for a two-bedroom overlooking the elevated structure to $1.2 million for a four-bedroom with terrace overlooking the water and Coney Island. The local community board had the courage to approve the plan despite the arguments of those who wanted to see affordable housing on the old Brighton Beach Baths site. Because the land was not city-owned, the expensive development was allowed to proceed. Now, two-thirds of the 850 apartments have been sold. Why not for Rockaway, you ask? First of all, our land is owned by the city, not by a private developer. Secondly, Rockaway is not Coney Island, as we are all finding out.

The city has announced that those who have not already applied for a permit for a street fair are out of luck. The city says that it had to cut down on the fairs to "curb overtime at the NYPD," and to save money on Sanitation Department cleanups. The 270 organizations that have already received their permits are set for the summer; those that have not will not have their permit applications approved. That may put a damper on many of the street fairs and festivals held in Rockaway each summer, including many block parties traditionally held during summer months.

School has not yet ended for the summer, but the city has announced that students will have four more days of vacation this summer. Public school students will begin classes on September 8, rather than right after Labor Day this year in order to give teachers three more training days to learn the new, city-wide curricula that has recently been imposed by the city’s Education Department.

Local artist Izobella Slobodoff will be showing her work at the Guises of Galatea: Six Sculptors of the Figure" exhibition at the Gallery North, 90 North County Road, Setauket, New York from June 1 to July 6. The opening reception will be held on June 1, from 2 to 5 p.m.

State Senator Ada Smith, who represents Broad Channel, is in trouble with the law once again. The acerbic legislator, who once reportedly bit a cop and then said, "I don’t eat raw meat," has been charged with trying to run over a state trooper who asked her for identification at an Albany, New York, parking garage last week. Officials say that Smith gunned her car through a checkpoint, narrowly missing a trooper on anti-terrorist duty in the official parking garage. According to published reports, Smith cursed at the trooper, telling him, "F___ You, I’ll park where I want," and telling him that the checkpoint is "Bull____." "Do you think that I am a terrorist," Smith later reportedly asked reporters. "You’re treating me like this because I am a Black woman."

Many residents, particularly those returning for the summer season, have questions about the city’s garbage collection schedule, and recycling program. Since collection in Rockaway varies according to address, the best thing to do is to dial 311, or visit the city’s website www.NYC.gov Meanwhile, here’s some info that applies to the entire peninsula: Glass, plastic, and beverage cartons are not recycled, budget cutbacks could reduce the frequency of collections, and in most cases, fines have doubled and are now $100.

Officials at Duane Reade told a New York Times reporter that the new store on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 116 Street would "be open in a few weeks." Some Rockaway residents saw the fact that the contentious sign was removed last week as a victory for the community, but those who say that should wait for the new sign prior to taking a victory lap.

Remember the USO gala being hosted by the Rockaway Music and Arts Council, which we be held on Saturday, June 8 at Floyd Bennett Field. If this doesn’t take you back to World War II, noting will.

The first weekend of the summer turned out to be a washout, what with rain almost every day during the Memorial Day weekend. For the most part, the lifeguards, huddled on their chairs wrapped in orange blankets, had the beach to themselves. If you do not count the seagulls and the Parks Department officials who constantly rode the beach and the boardwalk in their SUV’s.

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