2004-03-05 / Letters



Rewriting History

Dear Editor,

It is my hope that you will print this letter to the community expressing my heartfelt gratitude to all those who came out to pay tribute and to celebrate the life of my son, James Con way Sullivan. Your presence at the street naming ceremony, as well as your kind words, cards, and phone calls over the past two years have sustained me and my family in ways I could never adequately express. I will be eternally grateful to you all.

As we commence in the celebration of The Saint Patrick's Day Parade season, I feel it an appropriate time to take public issue with the conduct of the parade committee since it is an organization that is supported and sustained by the community.

On December 10, 2001, exactly one week after my son's death, the committee held its regular monthly meeting that my daughter and I, as members, attended. It was at this meeting that a motion was made, seconded, and unanimously passed to rename the parade: The James Conway Sulli van Queens County Saint Patrick's Day Parade Committee. The minutes of this meeting, as per Robert's Rules of Order,A0were accepted as read at the following regular January 2002 meeting. There were no amendments to the motion and it was carried in its original entirety.

Now, more than two years and two parade seasons later, the committee, which my son founded, has decided recently to take my son's name off the parade. Aside from their deplorable timing to do this in the weeks before the street naming, their reasons are unconscionable.

While my daughter and I sit there and attend every monthly meeting as Jimmy would want us to and continue to take tables to all the parade festivities, we are continuously badgered and verbally abused. Their claim is that the vote, while it was presided over by the current President, was "illegal"; that they only intended to rename the parade in my son's honor for one year; and they are now even going so far as to rewrite historical fact by stating that my son was never the Founder of this parade.

It is unfathomable and beyond common decency the way many on this committee have behaved toward me, my family, the original members; and most importantly, toward my son's memory. Perhaps next they'll be saying that he never lived at all.

Every successful organization is built on the shoulders and dedication of those who came before. My son, for more than twenty-five years, was wedded to this parade. It is HIS legacy. He was proud of his heritage and his community; and while the Com munity Planning Board 14 and the City Council voted to honor Jimmy with a renaming of a significant portion of the parade route, the parade com mittee which he founded has dared to rescind the posthumous honor bestowed upon him.

Although I am ashamed of the be havior of many on this committee, I will continue to be an active founding member and march to ensure that my son's memory is accurately att ached to the parade he founded.


The Passion of Christ

Dear Editor,

On February 25, the controversial film written, directed and produced by Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, will open at several local theaters. This film depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and is portrayed by Gibson as an accurate historical account of Jesus' "passion" on film. As the trailer makes clear, though, this film will be a highly dramatic, Hollywood-style film to stir the emotions. It is, without a doubt, if not a historical presentation, certainly Mel Gibson's view of "how it was." His use of scripture and extra-Biblical sources, the utilization of Latin and Aramaic dialogue and dramatic photography (so-called Cara vaggio lighting) will all shape a version of the passion story according to an interpretation by Mel Gibson. Certainly it is his freedom as an artist to create such a work. Certainly his "work of art" may be inspiring - or not. It may succeed or fail just like other previous contributions from the arts such as Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ or Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Super star.

This film, though, has garnered an extraordinary amount of controversy. Because it is a "passion narrative," its genre is inherently controversial. Historically, such plays depicted the Jewish people as Jesus' adversaries as well as a people who bore a "divine curse for the sin of deicide ('God Killing')." Violence and anti-Semitic expression were encouraged by the genre, culminating in the historical incidence of more crimes of religious bias during the week preceding East er. Lately, many who seek to portray the Christian narrative with its high point of Good Friday and Easter resurrection have sought scholarly ad vice and the council of sensitive and knowledgeable Jewish experts to mitigate such outcomes. Both the famous 10-year cyclical drama in Oberam mergau, Germany, as well as our own local Union City, New Jersey passion play, due to such dialogue, have come to be seen as credible and worthy "pass ion" accounts.

But Mel Gibson's film may not share this commendation. In fact, Gib son has been criticized for being quite secretive throughout the film's production. Some few, who are committed to interfaith dialogue and who have seen "rough cuts" of the film have cautioned us about it. Therefore we feel that those who see the film should keep in mind what we would summarize from press accounts and reviews set forth thus far of The Passion of Christ as their main points for reflection:

The film may lack historical credibility on many details. The Anti-Defam a tion League has stated that Mr. Gibson has had a "willful disregard for many Catholic and Jewish scholars' advice on historicity."

Its theological conclusions may be in error. It seems that this film will fail to carry Christian theology's teaching that in some way, we all have "sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." We will look to see how the burden of guilt falls, according to the film.

The amount of violence in the film is so encompassing that the film has been rated "R." While Gibson seems to feel the audience should be asham ed if they are too weak to watch, many of us cannot believe that this violence is edifying.

We seek to deepen understanding and respect between Christians and Jews. We encourage you to partner with us in furthering that aim. We urge further dialogue between people of good faith.


Haiti's Current Problems

Dear Editor,

We are again cooking pretexts for an American invasion of a small country, and for American puppet-ization of that small country. This time the target is Haiti.

The underlying crime, as usual, is the advocacy of the interests of the non-rich by the sitting government of the target country, and impediment to unobstructed plunder of the country by American transnational corporations.

None of the wimp reporters allow ed into proximity of Colin Powell or George W. Bush dares to ask: "Have our intelligence agencies been funding or assisting the old death squad leadership that in recent weeks in vaded Haiti from the Dominican Rep ublic? Are you demanding that a democratically elected President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, compromise with killer terrorists?"

The initial 50 United States Mar in es introduced by Bush, without per mission from Haiti's government, are the forward scouts mapping and guiding the way to Port au Prince for the insurgent thugs and for more numerous American occupation forc es.

We are already playing the race card, dispensing Bush/Powell innuendo about "jungle" conditions. This next assault against international law by Bully America will not be amelio rated by adjoining non-Ameri can collaborators to our agg ression.

President Aristide, overwhelmingly supported by Haiti's poor, has said he needs help from "a few dozen" skilled soldiers to hold off the oncoming butchers. With his responsibility for and his right to defend Haiti's sovereignty, I suggest that President Aristide request and accept military help from Fidel Castro's free Cube, and from newly independent Venez uela and Brazil.


Always Dreamed Of Rockaway

Dear Editor;

We came to the beach on and off each and every weekend. My neighbors called us beach bums. We came back with glorious tans from the 7 a.m. wakeup call to hit the beaches, to avoid the 5 p.m. rush to get home before the evening crowd came because they wanted to avoid the sun and just hit the sand. We took long walks and soaked in the view, the atmosphere, the smell of the ocean and the sea. We saw the same folks almost every summer and our children played with the same kids.

How we envied those that lived in the Rockaways.

Funny, as I am writing this in my journal that I keep, I am riding the A train, from Beach 44 Street to the city. I see a father with his two children sitting next to the window. He is telling them about the oncoming bridge and that they will be going over the water soon. I can tell he lives here but the kids don't. You can see the anticipation on their faces. They are so excited about this and he tells them where Howard Beach is and then shows them JFK.

They remind me so much of my family 24 years ago.

About five years ago, my husband couldn't take the sun any more, so instead the kids went in our place. There were times that they said they were going to Long Beach instead. That saddens us but made us reminisce more and how we wanted to live in Rockaway and experience the winters and the long summers. Com ing home from work and enjoying what we dreamed about.

We wanted to be millionaires (as everyone does) and move to a Carib bean Island, but instead reality seeped in and we settle for that little peninsula. 3 years ago we decide to take a sneak peek back to our favor ite place again as a family. Now, we used to go and settle into our blankets in the sand anywhere in the 50's, but this time we went to the 80's. It wasn't the same. Pretty view but no memories.

We strolled along the water and picked up shells and watch the seagulls invade the territory of sand lovers. We knew what time the tide was coming in and watched those that were a little too close to the wa ter run back in with all their belongs as the sea threaten to swallow them. This of course came from experience-ours.

Late last year we decided it was time to own a home. The real estate agent mentioned Far Rockaway. We said at first no, only because we remember the 2-hour long bus and train rides we had to endure just for our pleasure. I guess we forgot our dreams we had, but after 2 minutes of reminiscing we decided to look at the house anyway. That same day we looked at a total of six houses. The 5th house was Far Rock, in the 40's.

If I told you we fell in instant love with the house, I would be telling you a lie. But, if I told you that I fell in love with the basin of water on three sides of us, or the birds flying around, or the airplanes zooming by that we could read their names. The thought of walking to the beach which was only 2 blocks from us, the A train 1 block from me for commuting to work (we own a car but you can't beat the view on the train), then the smell of the ocean, the sand and the shells around us - then that would be the truth. We put a bid on the house that day and named it the "lonely house".

You see the house stands tall, strong and proud. It was just waiting for a family to come into its life and share its love and history of Rock away. And that weekend we came back to reminisce about out long time dream. We were actually coming back to home and make our dreams come true.

We took a tour using our memories as our guide. We were both shocked and happy. You see, some of the old buildings that we walked past when we went to the beach were long gone. Most were re placed with new homes. But most were empty, abandoned and forgotten about. We remembered families living in homes that were literally fall ing apart.

Long ago, a mayor called the east end of Rockaway slums. He decided to demolish these homes. But he forgot to rebuild. Now the new homes are beautiful, but are surrounded by weeds, concrete, broken glass, really it's literally anything that used to be a home with land.

As we drove some more we noticed that this mayor had left some rotting homes. The new Rockaway peeked but the old Rockaway was still here to stay.

How it must have been for those that lived here many, many years ago.

When we move into our new home I bought a book about old rockaway. The wave said it would bring tears to my eyes. It did. I took my book and my digital camera and headed for every place that the book talked about. I was so amazed to find so much truth. I often wondered if anyone knows what they are walking past.

The stories about the stone post on Seagirt that served as an entrance to a neighborhood, now fenced in. The old Strand building in downtown Mott Street, once you could watch live Vaudeville acts. The wooden posts, that stand out of the ocean, once led to many hotels, now washed away with the tide. The hospital where patients who had TB would come hoping to relax and be cured with the scent of the ocean air, but after many years turned into a nursing home, but now sits empty with no one to listen to its stories. Then there are all the empty lands that sit homeless be cause of a major fire in Arvene, these are now memories.

Most people take the littlest things for granted, and I know I used to. I look around and see homes half built, or some built but no one to move into.

While many people find the bickering about parking spots that they don't want "down for the day" people to use so important, I tend to wonder what they think is important then.

I see that if we don't make Rock away beautiful again, we are not go ing to have to worry about parking spots. Maybe in the west side of the island they will have sun seekers that despite all, will make it to the shore, but on the east side, the homes will remain empty, the land will remain unused and the rotting homes will continue to fall apart. Far Rockaway will become a wasteland. The lost memories will never be found. They say if you build it they will come, I don't know if this is true or not.

One teacher told my husband that he was happy we moved here because he sees few families moving here. I don't blame the families for not coming; after all you have to look between the weeds to find the view.

This was my dream, despite all. I knew what I saw then and I know what I see now and I still feel the same.

I own a dog now and we take long strolls together. I soak in the history. I think of what must have been back then. I see the house with the double porch and the garden that was once thriving. I try to piece together items and think of what they used it for. I picked up a beautiful piece of blue stoneware that a family must have used for their many meals together.

Real estate agents come along and ask the older folks if they want to sell their homes, but they stand firm saying no. This is their home and you can't take that away from them.

I say finish what you started, clean up the abandoned lots and build from there. East side gets a bad rap, but you can easily get bored with what you see and the beauty that is hidden so we can't see it.

There is a history class that has been offered to the students of rockaway that will tell the history of where we live; I say lets open this up to everyone. Let's talk to those who live "old Rockaway" and let them teach us that what once was can be again.

24 years ago I used to dream of living in the Rockaways, now I am here85.to stay.


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