2003-07-25 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach
From the Editor’s Desk By Howard Schwach

City Councilman Joe Addabbo has done something that nobody else has been able to do for the past several years. He has made Democratic District Leader Lew Simon look good.

I have been covering Rockaway issues for more than a dozen years – first, as the editor for the Rockaway Journal and then with The Wave.

In all that time, I have never seen 1,500 people show up for a rally or a demonstration.

Never. Not in the days when the community was attempting to close the Edgemere Landfill, not during the LILCO site demonstrations, not for anything.

And, indeed, there were upwards of 1,500 people at the rally on the Boardwalk on July 9. I know that the daily papers are saying that there were only about 500 people, but that is not true. If you were not there, look at the picture on the front page of The Wave on July 11 and you will see for yourself.

Addabbo, however, blows off the rally and the people who attended.

His office had a couple of hundred calls about the beach access issue prior to the rally. There were 1,500 people on the boardwalk and his staff collected a few hundred more signatures. His phones were reportedly inundated the day after the rally with calls.

Yet, he says, the people of Rockaway "should take the positive from the rally and form a consensus."

He says that the 500 signatures that he has in his possession and the voices of those at the rally are "a number too low to spark change" along most of the peninsula’s coastline.

To my mind, 500 signatures plus 1,500 at the rally, plus the 2,000 signatures that Simon claims to have, add up to approximately 4,000. If that is not a consensus in Rockaway, then nothing will ever be.

I would say that we already have a consensus, one that Addabbo, for whatever reason, chooses to ignore.

If it is true that Addabbo is ignoring the consensus that is right in front of his face, the question must be, why?

Since Addabbo won’t answer that question himself, because he professes to believe that a consensus does not yet exist, what follows is pure speculation on my part.

You have to remember that Addabbo grew up with partisan Democratic politics. His father was the highly-respected Representative who chaired the Armed Services Committee for some time.

You have to also remember that his tenure as the chair of that most-powerful committee did nothing to ever bring defense-related industry to Rockaway, as other chairs have done for their districts.

His father, however, did know how to play the power game, and perhaps that’s what the son is doing now.

Addabbo has heard the rumors of Tony Weiner moving up or to the mayoralty. Whether that story is true or not, hardly matters. I am sure that Addabbo wants to be a member of the House of Representatives, just like his father.

To do that, he has to be true to the Democratic Party, and in the City Council, that means remaining true to Gifford Miller, the council’s speaker.

Miller, who likely has no idea where Rockaway is, does not want to rock the boat. I am sure that the Dems do not want to lock horns with the Mayor and his commissioner, Adrian Benepe, over something as small as beach access rules, when the heat will literally come off in less than two months, when the beach season ends.

I really believe that Addabbo has been told by both Miller and by Benepe (or his minions) to just keep saying that a consensus has not yet been reached until the summer is over and it is too late for this year.

The hope, then, is that the issue will resolve itself prior to next summer, just as last summer’s Wave of Tickets did not seem to drive anybody into overdrive at the beginning of this summer.

For his inaction, Addabbo gets the thanks of the party and the parks commissioner. He loses nothing, because his district is such that Rockaway alone cannot turn him out of office. Add that to the fact that most Howard Beach residents, Addabbo’s power base, do not care one way or the other about Rockaway or its beach access rules, and you have the situation we now live under.

I really thought that Addabbo would work with Benepe to change the access time for the beach and the boardwalk. He intimated that he would in a number of conversations.

Now, he just says that he can’t do anything until a consensus is reached and that has not yet happened.

What "horsehockey," as Colonel Potter would say.

Addabbo has a Republican challenger in the upcoming election. His name is Michael Mossa, and he has no chance of beating Addabbo, unless Addabbo makes a major mistake that effects his entire constituency.

Mossa is running with the beach access controversy in Rockaway, however, and it will probably earn him a couple of votes locally.

He is also for school vouchers, however, and that is a seminal issue for me, even more important than the beaches and I cannot support him for that reason.

Mossa is calling for a complete review of the beach rules, with input from local residents. That would be a breath of fresh air.

Addabbo, who has the power to do so, has not called for a review. He obviously likes the rules just as they are, or he is being told by some residents that the rules are just fine and he is listening to them rather than to the majority.

There are all sorts of possibility.

All we can know for sure is that the rules are draconian and unfairly enforced. We also know that Addabbo does not seem to care.

Add those together and draw your own conclusions.

Then call Addabbo and let him know how you feel. I don’t think that it will make a difference, but I have been surprised by politicians before.

One other thing is sure. Politicians act from self-interest more often than not. That maxim is a certain as death and taxes – and tickets on Rockaway’s beaches.

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