2004-03-19 / Columnists


Fifty years ago this week, the big story on the front page of The Wave was about a zoning controversy in Belle Harbor. Seems that one of the "rich people" who lived in the community
at that time had some juice with Tammany Hall, which ruled the city, and got the Board of Estimate to pass a law outlawing two-family homes in the community. There was a hue and cry from those who had two-family homes and those who wanted to rent their spare apartments. Those who opposed the law said that the "elitist few" were ruining their community for their owns good. Sound familiar.

Even a simple act such as street naming can become a controversy in Rockaway. You would think that naming a street for a Rock away firefighter who died on Sep tember 11 at the World Trade Cen ter would be a done deal. Not in Rockaway, it isn’t! Friends and family of Richie Allen, a popular firefighter, surfer and lifeguard asked Community Board 14 to re name Beach 91 Street for Allen. That is where he surfed and where he often served as lifeguard. Somehow, the request got lost in the shuffle. CB 14, in the mean time, decided to rename Beach 91 Street for Duke Kaha namaku, the famous Hawaiian sur fer who may or may not have come to Rockaway circa 1920. The Duke already has Beach 38 Street named in his honor, but that is one of the streets being demapped by the Arverne By The Sea project, and some locals want to give him a new home. The Rockaway Beach Civic, led by Delores Orr, approved the renaming in honor of the Duke. Last week, Allen’s friends and family went to CB 14 to get the street renamed for Richie. Everybody at the CB seemed to be willing to move the Duke’s name to another beach block. Delores Orr obviously did not, and without a letter from her organization, the CB can’t, or won’t, change the designation. It comes down to who is more im portant to Rockaway, a man who may never really have stepped foot on Rockaway, and most certainly was not at the west end, or a firefighter who protected that beach and then died protecting the city that he loved. Those who want Beach 91 Street named for Allen are urged to call the Rock away Beach Civic Association of the community board.

The five District Attorneys in New York City all testified before the City Council last week, arguing that the crime rate was about to rise because recent budget cuts have forced them to go into more plea bargain agreements. It seems that fewer and fewer cases will go to trial and that more criminals will believe that they can get away with their crimes. In light of that, it is hard to understand how Queens Dis trict Attorney Richard Brown can keep pushing the prosecution of local attorney Howard Sirota for his alleged attack on John Baxter two years ago. The charge against Sirota is harassment three, and experts tell us that nobody in their memory ever went to court for harassment three. Some speculate that Baxter’s leadership in the Independence Party, which contributes heavily to Brown’s campaign fund, may have something to do with the continued prosecution, but there is no way to corroborate that supposition. At press time, The Wave learned that the trial has been put off once again, this time until April 16. "They won’t let me go and they won’t take me to trial," Sirota says. "Their conduct in my case is inconsistent with their claim that they lack the resources to prosecute real crimes."

The return of full recycling is here. What does that mean? It depends on who you talk to. The Department of Sanitation (DOS) says that, on April 1, recycling of glass will resume and so will weekly recycling pickups. What day will the recycling truck come to your home? Don’t ask. The DOS says that the truck will come the same day it comes now, but it will come each week. A call to 311, the city’s answer line got an answer that was less sure. Some of the new rules: recycle mixed paper (newspaper, magazines and catalogs, telephone books, paper, mail and envelopes, paper bags, soft-covered books, smooth cardboard) in clear bags or in green-labeled recycling containers; recycle metal, plastics and glass in clear bags or in blue-labeled containers. Do not use blue bags. Don’t recycle such things as plastic toys, electronic equipment or plastic cups or plates. When it doubt, dial 311. They might even know the answer to your question.

Speaking of 311, the city has issued a list of the information most-requested by callers. Noise complaints led the list, followed by landlord complaints and questions, air conditioner and refrigerator removal questions, block ed driveways, subway and bus information, traffic signal defects, and DOS schedule problems and questions.

At least one Department of Edu cation (DOE) regional supervisor has put into writing a policy that all of them have been following. Judy Chin, Region Three supervisor said in an email to the teachers and administrators in her re gion, "The policy in Region Three is that, if a reporter calls you, you are to call our contact our legal advisor." Nobody in the school system is allowed to speak with a reporter any more, and it is hard to understand why it is necessary to have a legal advisor when a reporter calls to find about something that happens in a school that is funded with public money.

Now that City Councilwoman Helen Foster has taken over the chair of the council’s Parks and Recreation Com mittee from Joe Addabbo, she has be come the point person for complaints about beach access rules and enforcement. The telephone number for Fos ter’s Bronx office is 718-588-7500. The number for her City Hall office is 212-788-6856. Give her a call and let her know what you think about the rules that kick you off the beach at 9 p.m. and the boardwalk at 10 p.m. on hot summer nights. Perhaps she’ll be able to do what Joe Addabbo apparently could not and change those draconian rules. The Wave plans to call Foster in the next week or so to find out how she eels about the city’s rules.

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