2003-12-26 / Columnists

From the

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

"Sometimes the diamond, sometimes the coal."

I think about that country-western song towards the end of each year in terms of Rockaway and the people who impact on the everyday quality of life for its residents.

Our professional first responders – the NYPD, FDNY and EMS get the first diamond each year. Without them, we would all be in trouble.

In addition, our volunteer first responders, our auxiliary police from both the 100 and 101 Precincts, the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department and the three volunteer companies in Breezy Point – Rockaway Point, Point Breeze and Breezy Point, deserve lots of diamonds as well.

Community School Board 27, led
by its president, Steve Greenberg, deserve diamonds for sticking in there when everybody was trying to find a way to get rid of them. Over the years, this board has done more for local school children than almost any other group. The mayor, who has been trying to get rid of the school board for more than two years, will probably find that the feds will reject his plan to replace them with parent councils elected by the school PA’s. If he does find a way to get rid of CSB 27, they will be missed.

Conversely, we have only a large bag of coal for the new Department of Education. It is truly "The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight." The DOE has put a gag rule on every supervisor in the city. Nobody in a school setting can talk without its permission, and it seems that the agency goes out of its way to keep any news – good or bad – away from public eyes.

Coal as well for the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), who has repeatedly over the past two years lied to Rockaway residents about departure and arrival paths over Rockaway.

Cross Bay Boulevard gets some coal for the continuing string of deaths on the often-isolated road. Experts tell us that the large trees lining the road provide for a death sentence for anybody who slips up and swerves or who speeds on the road. That experts advises that the trees should be removed, or at least moved further back from the road itself.

Diamonds to Jon Gaska and the staff at Community Board 14. They are unfailingly helpful and are always willing to assist Rockaway residents in their problems with the city bureaucracy.

Diamonds as well to the local members of the Voice of the Faithful, who are attempting to make the Catholic hierarchy more responsive to the members of the church.

Coal to Mayor Mike Bloomberg for any number of reasons, the major one being his intrusion in the question of a local memorial for those who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in November of 2001. He has no idea what the community wants in regard to the memorial, nor does he apparently care.

Diamonds to Patrick Clark for his design for the Rockaway Tribute Park. Clark tells us that work is proceeding and that the park should be ready in spring.

Three large bags of coal for Duane Reade. One is for suing Patrick Clark for complaining about their intrusive sign, a second for putting up the sign a second time after it was taken down (and, for doing so in the dark of night), and a third for the dangerous driveway that comes out of their facility on Beach Channel Drive. Actually, the Department of Transportation has to take lots of blame, and a bag of coal of its own, for allowing the company to get away with that dangerous driveway design.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who may soon run for mayor, gets a mixed bag of diamonds and coal. The pool for Riis Park that he promised when he first took office never materialized. He got hosed by the FAA for two years on flight paths over Belle Harbor and he failed, at least for now, to get some agreement on a local memorial for flight 587. Perhaps he gets the diamonds for trying and the coal for failing.

City Councilman Joe Addabbo would get a bag of diamonds if it were not for the beach access problems. We still believe that Addabbo, as the chair of the prestigious Parks Committee, should have been able to do something to remediate the problems that Rockaway residents had on the beach for the past two years. His response to the rally on the boardwalk that drew 1,500 people was abysmal. He has another chance this summer, and should do better now that there is a new precinct captain in the 100 Precinct. If not, he may become persona non grata in much of the west end of Rockaway.

A large bag of coal to Captain Charles Talamo, late of the 100 Precinct. He never did figure out what Rockaway was all about.

A bag of diamonds to the unidentified young man who reported that another student in the school had a gun and was threatening students. A bag of coal to the kid who brought the gun and to his friends, who later beat up the young man who reported the gun.

A bag of diamonds to MS 180 principal George Giberti who, under fire from the regional administration, takes the time to stay with the kids at local bus stops, comes in early in the morning, and who confronted the kid with the gun and took it away from him.

Diamonds to all of the local men and women who are fighting for their country, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anyplace else in this contentious world.

Diamonds to both British Airways and Air France for stopping Concorde service into JFK Airport. Now, perhaps Rockaway residents can get some peace and quiet.

Coal to those who are keeping the boat ramp at Beach Channel High School closed to everybody, including fishermen. This ramp is vitally needed by boaters in Jamaica Bay. Why else live in a waterfront community if you can’t use the waterfront?

Diamonds to the developers of Arverne By The Sea, who have made a success of the phase one housing now in construction. In one sense, they have the future of Rockaway in their hands. Let’s hope they don’t fumble.

Coal to both American Airlines and Airbus, who have effectively put a stop to the discovery process in the crash
of flight 587 by offering a joint financial package to the families of the
victims. Only after the money is paid will they fight over the reason for the crash. Coal to the NTSB as well for continuing to deny that there was any fire or explosions on the plane prior
to the crash despite many eyewit-
ness reports by firefighters and police officers.

A bag of coal to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for planning on placing toxic waste in the east end of Jamaica Bay once again. A share of that bag of coal has to go to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation as well. The DEC makes a big deal out of preserving the wetlands and the bay when individual homeowners encroach, but think nothing of allowing government agencies such as the city’s DEP and the U.S. Corps of Engineers to despoil the bay in a major way.

Diamonds to all of our loyal readers. May you have a great New Year.

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