2003-11-14 / Columnists



Governor George Pataki was in Rockaway on Sunday for a mass at St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor in memory of those who lost their lives in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 on November 12, 2001. His appearance was not given much advance notice – the press advisory went out on Saturday afternoon—and some locals thought that it was strange that a high-profile memorial service would be held on Sunday when the formal, official memorial service was scheduled for Wed-nesday at the same church. Politics can be so confusing sometimes.

Just as confusing is the question of a permanent memorial for those who died in the crash. While the mayor placed a plaque on Rockaway Beach Boulevard nearby Beach 131 Street, the site of the crash, locals have been working for an off-site memorial that would be attractive to the families of those who died. The Rockaway Chamber of Commerce and Community Board 14 have been canvassing the members of the Tribute Park committee to see if they would agree to a special portion of Tribute Park being set aside for memorial bricks and benches in honor of those who died. That poll should be completed early next week. Meanwhile, officials seem to have rejected the site on the bayfront north of Beach Channel Drive between Beach 126 and Beach 129 as an area for a memorial. They say that the site is "impracticable" because there is no parking nearby and because it would be dangerous for those who had to cross Beach Channel Drive to get to the memorial.

A pod of whales were spotted off the west end of Rockaway on Sunday. While experts say that it is a rare occurrence, both humpback and sperm whales are often spotted in New York Harbor and in Long Island Sound. A number have even washed up on our shores. Witnesses said that the whales were about 30 to 50 feet long.

Wave columnist Stu Mirsky is looking for a few good Republicans to restart a Republican Club in Rockaway. He is asking those interested in forming a viable Republican Club to contact him at swmirsky@aol.com.

Rockaway’s Madeline Chocolate stands on Beach Channel Drive nearby the Cross Bay Bridge and has for many years. Most Rockaway residents drive by the facility without realizing that it is one of the most famous chocolate factories in the nation. The Food Channel (Channel 50 on Time Warner Cable) recently devoted an entire show to the company and its wares. It seems that Madeline makes more than bunnies and Easter eggs. It makes chocolate replicas of the chips used in America’s major casinos that are reportedly sought-after throughout the nation.

The City Council has extended the bus franchise deal for Green Bus, Jamaica Bus and Triboro Coach for six months, hopefully putting an end to the threat to close those lines on January 1. Now, it is up to Governor Pataki and the MTA to work out a deal with Mayor Bloomberg that would allow either the city or the state to take over the troubled lines, which are given more than $190 million in public funds each year. The owners of the lines, however, say that if they don’t get more city subsidies, they may go out of business on the first despite the city council vote.

The mayor got together with parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe last week to announce that the Parks Foundation was going to spend $25 million to upgrade parks in four areas of the city. Guess which area gets no money at all? You got it, Rockaway gets the shaft once again. The money will go to Astoria and Long Island City (Queens), Harlem (Manhattan), Higbridge (Bronx) and Red Hook (Brooklyn).

Temple Beth-El of Rockaway Park is collecting gently-used winter coats for men, women and children to distribute to the needy. Collection boxes for the coats can be found in the temple office at 445 Beach 135 Street until November 20.

The grants that are given to states by the new Homeland Security Agency seem to us to be a little silly. When you look at the grants in terms of per capita money, you find that American Samoa gets more money New York State. Wyoming gets seven times more, per capita, than California. The agency says that they have to recognize all of the needs of states both large and small, but there has to be some recognition that New York City and California are in harm’s way and have a greater than need than American Samoa and Wyoming. What is the agency thinking? Must be political expediency over rationality.

The high-profile case of the alleged attack on local activist John Baxter by local attorney Howard Sirota, which occurred nearly two years ago, is ready to go to trial. You remember that the genesis of the problem was a series of letters in The Wave and a march on Sirota’s home by residents of Baxter’s Hotel. We understand that Sirota is now charged with Misdemeanor Assault in the Third Degree, and we have never heard anybody being tried in Queens on that particular charge. More often, it is taken care of in a plea bargain or by reducing the charge even further. We’ll let you know how it comes out.

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