2004-09-24 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

In the Saturday, September 8, 2001 issue of The Wave, I wrote in my weekly “From The Editor’s Desk” column, “The evening of September 11 should be an interesting Tuesday evening.”

I was not being prescient about the horrendous events that took place the following Tuesday at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. I was writing about the upcoming primary election.

It’s amazing how much we all have changed since that September day. Rockaway residents suffered not only that day, but also another day two months and a day later when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor.

The front page of that paper had four stories – an interview with NYPD Captain Charles Talamo, who had just taken over the 100 Precinct in Rockaway Park; a story about the halting of work on the LIPA site on Beach 108 Street and Beach Channel Drive due to community pressure over the work being done to erect a new electric substation on a portion of the site; a story about Lew Simon’s false testimony before a Department of Labor hearing in 1989, a story that may have had an impact on Simon’s candidacy for City Council and a story about a controversial new apartment building development on Beach 94 Street.

Today, three years later, all of those stories have been resolved and none of them any longer grace the front pages of The Wave in any negative sense.

Talamo is gone to the 107 Precinct, leaving in his wake lots of angry resident lots of ill will towards the NYPD and thousands of dollars in tickets.

The process to clean up the LIPA site is moving along and there is no longer community opposition to the way it is being handled. In fact, a meeting last week to discuss the clean-up drew only a handful of locals.

Lew Simon remains the Democratic District leader, but he was soundly defeated in the election and it is unlikely that he would run again for public office other than the one he now holds.

The apartment building that was in dispute three years ago has opened and none of the predicted problems of traffic and community have yet to arise.

On its editorial page that week, The Wave, in an unusual primary endorsement, chose Chris Jorge and James Sanders, Jr., for City Council. Sanders went on to become a City Councilman, but Jorge was beaten in the primary by Joseph Addabbo, Jr., who went on to wind the general election against Joann Ariola as well.

On Page 6, there was a story entitled, “RFP For Arverne By The Sea.” The article began, “It might sound like pie in the sky to those who have weathered the many visions for the Arverne Urban Renewal Area, but there might one day be a development called ‘Arverne By The Sea’ on that site that will include housing and a golf course, a hotel, recreational facilities and some outlet stores as well.”

Anybody who regularly reads this paper will know that the first phase of Arverne By The Sea, on Beach 73 Street, will soon open its doors to its first homeowners.

On page 15, there was a story entitled, “Weiner: Keep SST From JFK.” On page 64 was a small story with a picture entitled, “Concorde Gets Takeoff Clearance.”

Congressman Anthony Weiner was not successful at that time in keeping the Concorde from our doors, but now it is gone forever, a victim of rising costs and falling ridership.

During that week, the Rockaway Sunset Diner on Beach 116 Street planned a grand opening celebration for the weekend of September 15 and 16. On September 11, the owners of the diner, Steve and Ken Good, opened its doors to emergency workers and they did it again on November 12. Shortly after the crash of AA 587, debris from the plane was found on the diner’s roof. The celebration was cancelled until much later.

The Rockaway Theatre Company opened a new production of the play, “Death Trap” by Ira Levin. It was, needless to say, a poor choice for the times, but the show went on, even after September 11.

The paper that week was 96 pages, mostly because of full-page ads for those running in the City Council primary. Lew Simon led the way with five full pages of advertisements, Chris Jorge with three, Joe Addabbo had two pages. Henrietta Fullard, Jim Sanders and Tony Seminario each had one page.

Joann Ariola, the Republican candidate had one page asking “Fellow Democrats” to vote for her instead. Helen Marshall, who had recently been chosen by the Democratic machine to replace Claire Shulman at Borough Hall rather than our own Audrey Pheffer, had one page. Charlotte Jefferson, the Democrat’s choice, ran ½ of a page.

Another full page ad touted the new commuter ferry service, which was to run from Rockaway to the subway at Sheepshead Bay.

That was September 8. The following Tuesday the world turned around. To a lesser extent, it happened again to Rockaway on November 12.

On September 15, the font page of the paper showed an aircraft carrier standing off the coast of Rockaway, with a headline that blared, “Terrorism Touches Rockaway” and a story that posited that as many as 75 Rockaway residents had been killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, we were right.

In following weeks, the front pages featured stories such as “Is Anybody Else Out There Still Alive,” about the experience of four Broad Channel Volunteers who lost their ambulance and nearly lost their lives at the Trade Center and “Attacks bring Cancellations, Changes To Rockaway Events.”

The pages of the paper were full of memorial ads, letters, poems and patriotic writings.

On Saturday, September 29, The Wave ran on its front page a list of those locals who had died in the attack.

Today, three years later, the front page still addresses those days. There are stories about the a Rockaway Tribute Park to honor those who died that day, a park that is always just out of reach even after three years.

Three years later, we are still writing stories about the cause of the crash of AA 587.

Three years after the fact, we are still writing about the possibilities of why the American Airlines Airbus A300-600 crashed into the corner of Neponsit Avenue and Beach 131 Street– about a possible shoe bomber, about faked test results and about eyewitnesses who saw smoke and fire but were completely discounted by the safety board without even being heard.

We are still writing these stories even though the National Transportation Safety Board will reportedly soon rule that the accident was caused by the first officer, Sten Molin, who they will say over-controlled the rudder and caused it to fall off.

Three years. A lifetime of change for both the Rockaway community and for The Wave. We wonder what tne September 11, 2007 Wave will say.

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