2003-12-05 / Columnists

From the

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

Moving into the final month of the year, there are still many issues on the front burner that need both to be discussed and to be resolved, issues that The Wave has addressed over and over again during the past year.

Here are just some of those issues.

The problems at Beach Channel High School: On January 4, The Wave reported that BCHS principal Andrea Holt would be replaced by February 1 due to the many pr oblems she was having at the school.

On February 8, we reported that an acting principal has been chosen. In late January, two of th e school’s assistant principals came to The Wave office, asking that the paper support one of them, Claude Monereau for the job. With him was Regine Lifranc, another AP and a Rockaway resident, who urged us to support Monereau editorially.

At the beginning of School in September, Barbara Pleener was appointed principal of BCHS, the fourth principal in a little more than a year.

On September 16, we reported in a front page story a "riot" at the school in which students were injured by another student using a billiard ball inside a sock as a weapon.

On October 17, we reported that a number of parents and community actives had picketed the school, pulling many students out of the building to join the protest. The protestors demanded that Pleener by replaced by Monereau.

On September 24, we reported a story about past problems that Pleener had at Jamaica High School, where she was found by an administrative board to have "created a hostile sexual environment" for a gym teacher at the school.

The day the story broke, Pleener resigned and Dr. David Morris was appointed in her place.

There have been ongoing problems at the school, problems with violence in the building and problems with dismissal. As late as last week, a student crossing Beach Channel Drive in the middle of the street was hit by a passing car.

The School Controversy: The majority of Rockaway’s public schools are considered by most to be sub-par. The only school in Rockaway that does not have to adhere to the chancellor’s new curriculum guidelines is PS 114 in Belle Harbor.

On January 6, The Wave reported that PS 114 would not be part of the new rezoning plan that moved a number of students from one school to another and crated a zone for a new Far Rockaway school.

On January 8, we reported the Mayor’s plan for new parent committees to replace Community School Boards. Those boards were due to go out of business on June 30, but are still in effect because the city could not meet its timetable and the feds have yet to approve (or, more likely, disapprove) the plan.

On February 15, we reported that the parents at PS 114 were so disaffected by their principal that they were planning to call for a boycott of the school until she was removed.

On February 22, Kathleen Cashin, the new Regional Superintendent for Region Five (the new designation for the group controlling the Rockaway schools), came to Rockaway and assured parents that she was willing to work with them to the benefit of their children’s education.

On September 5 we reported on the opening of school with a new reorganization and a new way of doing things.

While Cashin had replaced the PS 114 principal in September, many parents were still unhappy at the situation at MS 180. The feeling among many parents was that they could not safely send their children to that school and were accessing a number of Brooklyn schools instead.

On November 21 we reported on a plan to make major changes to Rockaway schools, a plan formulated by Cashin and her team to stop the "white flight" from the peninsula’s schools. Many minority parents, however, saw the plan as a move to make MS 180 an enclave for white gifted students at the expense of minority students who are already zoned for the school. That controversy is ongoing and will surely spill over into next year.

The Flight 587 Controversy: When American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001, hardly anybody thought that it would become a problem in terms of a permanent memorial to the 265 people who died that day,
but it has become on ongoing controversy.

On February 8, we ran a front page interview with three of the victim’s families, entitled, "We Don’t Want A Cemetery," in which they asked for a permanent memorial or park at the site.

On May 16, right after Mother’s Day, we ran a story about the people who came to Belle Harbor to mourn on that day and their demand for a permanent memorial at the site.

On June 6, The Wave reported on a new plan, dubbed "PELUE TWO," that was to keep aircraft from flying over Belle Harbor during nighttime hours.

On June 13, we reported on a joint offer by Airbus Industries and American Airlines to pay the families of the victims of Flight 587, a move that would halt the discovery process and would effectively end, at least for now, an attempt to find out what happened to the A300-600.

On September 12, we reported that the National Transportation Safety Board had asked the Federal Aviation Agency to require inspection of all aircraft that had been in some sort of "upset" condition.

On September 19, we reported on a plea by family members to keep the ad-hoc tribute wall at the site of the crash intact, at least until after the second anniversary of the crash.

On November 7, the week before the second anniversary, we ran a front-page story on the plans for the memorial service, as well as an update by crash expert Vic Trombettas.

On November 14, we ran a number of articles and picture units on the memorial services as well as updates. That included an page and a half of pictures of the services on November 12, story on the NTSB’s conjecture that a faulty lug might have caused the crash, an official NTSB update on the crash and a story about the problems the families and Belle Harbor residents face in getting compensated by the airline and the manufacturer.

On November 28, we ran a story about an offer to provide a memorial to those who died in the crash in the new Tribute Park on Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive.

The Development of Tribute Park: For nearly two years, a committee headed by the Chamber of Commerce and Community Board 14 has been working on plans for a park dedicated to those who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. While the park was slated to be dedicated on September 11 of this year, that date has been pushed back to next spring.

On February 15, The Wave reported that local artist Patrick Clark had been chosen to develop the memorial to be placed in the park. His proposal, a glass cupola with stars representing each of the local who died in the attack, was the majority favorite.

On April 12, we reported that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), a state agency, was giving the park’s developers trouble because it is on a wetland area.

On May 2, however, we reported that the park had been approved and was now on a "fast track" for development.

On July 18, we reported that it would not be ready for September 11 as planned.

On August 8, we reported that a second memorial would be added to Tribute Park in memory of all of the firefighters who died that day. The second memorial, a huge carved boulder, would be developed by another local artist.

The Wave reported on November 28 that a third memorial might become part of the Tribute Park, this one to those who died when Flight 587 crashed into Rockaway two months and a day after September 11.

The Duane Reade Sign/Parking Lot Controversy: When Duane Reade began building a new pharmacy building on the bay at Beach 116 Street, most people welcomed the new facility, although some environmentalists decried the fact that the building took away site lines to the bay.

Shortly after the building was completed, however, Duane Reade began constructing a large sign overlooking Tribute Park. That sign spurred some community comment, including an ad by artist Patrick Clark, complaining that the company was not really a good neighbor.

On March 15, we ran that ad, along with an editorial calling for the sign to be placed further back on the building, reduced in size or moved to another part of the roof.

On March 22, we ran a front-page story about the controversy that the sign had engendered.

Shortly thereafter, Duane Reade sued both Clark and The Wave for defamation. That case is slowly wending its way through the court system.

On April 15, The Wave ran a story reporting that the city’s Department of Buildings has given the owner of the property a violation for an improper sign.

On May 9, in response to a lot of community concern, we ran a story about the dangers of the driveway coming out of the Duane Reade facility with a number of pictures that graphically showed the dangerous conditions.

On May 23 we published the story that the city had approved the Duane Reade sign with modifications.

On November 28, we reported that
at least four accidents had occurred in front of the driveway, including one involving a police car. We also ran a picture of a new framework for a sign that had been put up at night.

The West End Beach Contro­versy: In response to the problems of beach access the previous story, The Wave ran a front page story on March 15, asking is there was going to be "another wave of tickets" the coming season.

On May 23, we reported that many of the seasonal workers who cleaned the beach had been laid off and replaced by welfare recipients and that the beaches might therefore be much dirtier this coming season.

On May 30 we ran a front page picture of the new beach rules signs that had been posted all along the boardwalk, making beach access much more restrictive than it had been the year before. In an interview, City Council­man Joe Addabbo, Jr. the chair for the council’s Parks Committee, said that he would try and change the rules prior to the end of the summer. That never happened.

On July 11, we reported on a massive rally on the boardwalk two days before, in which 1,500 residents de­manded better access to their beaches. We also reported on a controversial July 4 party in which a number of local residents were ticketed.

In that same issue, we ran an interview with Captain Charles Talamo of the 100 Precinct, defending the beach rules and his officer’s actions under the existing rules.

On July 18, we reported on a letter from the Parks Department, urging residents to put their complaints about the beach access rules in writing.

On September 15, we detailed some comments from west end residents who wanted the beach rules kept just as they are.

On October 10, we reported that Talamo was transferred to another precinct.

Going into a new year, with the beach season less than six months away, the beach rules stand.

Crime: The crime rate in Rockaway has always been one of its major problems. This year, with crime rates for index crimes falling all over the nation, Rockaway had its own mini crime wave.

Some examples from the headlines in The Wave:

January 14 – Three local arrested for Drug Sales.

January 25 – Shooting leads to Drug Find.

February 1 – Three Yeshiva Students Arrested for Harassing Catholic Girls.

March 1 — West End Burglary Suspect Nabbed.

March 8 – Accidental Shooting Kills 16-year-old.

March 15 – Ongoing Feud Finds Fresh Blood – Ten shot in Manhattan Melee a Result of Bad Blood Between Two Rockaway Housing Complexes.

March 22 – Man shot at Ocean Bay Houses.

April 15 – Man Charged in Beach 14 Street Murder.

April 12 – Couple Collared In Drug Bust.

April 25 – West End Drug Bust Nets Two.

May 9 – Beach 129 Street Bank Robber Nabbed By Police.

May 30 – Two New Shootings as Violence Escalates.

June 6 – Gun Violence Escalates with new shootings.

July 18 – Four Shootings Are Gang Related.

July 25 – "We Did It For Weed," two young arsonists admit.

July 25 – Two wounded in Far Rockaway Shootings.

August 1 – Two Murdered, One Wounded in New Violence.

August 1 – Women Arrested in Breezy Point Hate Crime.

August 15 – Three Busted In Crooked Body Shop.

August 22 – Illicit Harvest of Pot At Floyd Bennett Field.

September 12 – Belle Harbor Man Indicted in Murder Plot.

October 17 – Three Dead In New Violence.

November 21 – Teen Shot By ‘Best Friend’ Dies.

All of these issues are still very much alive as we move into December.

Beach Channel High School, despite its new administration, continues to have problems; the school plan put forth by Cashin faces a bumpy ride before it is approved; the mayor is moving into the Flight 587 Memorial controversy and may soon push a memorial down the throats of Rock­away residents who don’t want it; Tribute Park, now scheduled for opening in spring, may be overcrowded with three separate memorials when it finally does open; The Duane Reade suit goes on and so do the accidents near its parking lot; without a change in the rules, next year’s beach problems may well be worse that the previous year’s problems and crime will continue relatively unabated in Rock­away even as crime stats fall.

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