2004-12-17 / Columnists

Simon says...

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23 rd A.D. Part B

We wish all our readers, friends, family and constituents a joyous, happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season. Whether it is Chanukah, Christmas or Kwanzaa may your wishes, dreams and prayers be fulfilled. May there be peace on earth and peace in Iraq and all of the Middle East. We must keep all of our soldiers, men and women, in our prayers for peace and safety. God bless the soldiers for protecting us and God bless the families for having such courageous family members.

On Thursday December 2, Borough President Helen Marshall was the guest speaker at the Town Hall meeting of the Good Government Regular Democratic Club. The audience overflowed out the door. They heard the B.P. tell us of her great pride in the Borough of Queens. She called Rockaway the Hamptons West.

Helen said that her staff refers to plans for improvements in Queens as the “Marshall Plan.” These include an expo center in Willett’s Point, a new Shea Stadium and major residential development in Queens West. She recalled discussing Rockaway with Audrey Pheffer and Liz Sulik. She said that Liz spoke frankly of Rockaway as two communities, one poor and minority and one working class to wealthy and nonminority.

The Borough President believes all of Rockaway is improving. She referred to new tennis courts, restoration of Jamaica Bay marshes and Health Department efforts to reduce mosquitoes. Marshall praised the efforts of Dr. Kathleen Cashin, Superintendent of Region V, to improve local education. She referred to a new high school for nursing.

After recalling her own experience as head of education committees in the State Assembly and City Council, she proudly told of her role in obtaining funds for turning the old Rockaway Courthouse into a branch of the City University. She even managed to tour the vandalized building. $3 million has been set aside for construction. Marshall thanked five local CUNY presidents, and local legislators Audrey Pheffer, Michelle Titus, Malcolm Smith, Joseph Addabbo and James Sanders for their cooperation.Until the courthouse is ready for occupancy, students will use the J.H.S. 180 building after 3 P.M. and on weekends.

The B.P. welcomed the development of market rate housing in Arverne-by-the-Sea and affordable housing in Edgemere. Forty two family houses in Edgemere have been sold and 112 have been funded. An RFP for the eastern part of the Arverne area has been issued.

Marshall was challenged on some issues. When she said that Almost Paradise, the diving center and restaurant on Beach 9 Street was saved, local residents pointed out that the owner had relocated and the facility was closed this past year. When I pointed out that some ferry owners were ready to begin service from Rockaway to Manhattan, the B.P. said that Deputy Mayor Doctoroff said there would be no money for ferry subsidies.

Helen recounted her efforts to see that new buses were provided for the lines serving southern Queens. She does not believe we can survive with the old buses. Helen has asked the M.T.A.to release 100 buses now.

John Fazio, a Howard Beach civic leader, who is a member of Community Board 10, described the benefits of reopening the old Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR. He asked for the Borough President’s support, but she only said that she was looking into it. The Borough President’s staff has been unable to obtain a copy of the MTA study on a one seat ride from southern Queens to Manhattan which was done at the request of former Borough President Claire Shulman.

Marshall did offer support to homeowners who said that their neighborhood was being overwhelmed by out of scale construction. The Seagirt Beach community of small homes near the Atlantic Beach bridge said that their quiet community was being destroyed. The B.P. said that she could support a moratorium on construction in the area.

As District Leader, my hair stood up when the Borough President discussed the Rockaway Task Force. During her election campaign three years ago, Helen addressed our Democratic club and announced formation of a Rockaway Task Force that would discuss and decide policy for the Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point communities. She also mentioned that she would be so happy to have me on it (another free job).

Here we are three years later and we questioned her about the Task Force that must be Rockaway’s biggest secret. She immediately got defensive and grabbed my wrist and said that we have a Task Force.I asked how many people were on the Task Force and who they were. She stated that there were 30 members and that I knew some of them. I asked for a list, which we still have not received.

Our next Atlantic City trip will be on Saturday January 15, 2005. The cost is $32 with $25 returned and a 100 minute phone card. We leave at 5:30 P.M. and return at 8 A.M. Bagels and cream cheese courtesy of Beach Bagels  are served. Call 945-1216 for reservations.

On Monday evening we attended the annual meeting of the Dayton Towers Cooperative. We stopped by as usual to lend our full support to the residents, Board of Directors and management on any problem regarding quality of life. We have always made ourselves available to help out.

On Wednesday evening we attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at Channel View School for Research located at Beach Channel High School. The school was formerly known as ALPS and was located at JHS 180. It is a fantastic program that is the brainchild of Patricia J. Tubridy. Through her leadership, committment and constant lobbying they have succeeded.

Pat and her PTA Board fought diligently for a larger building with a great staff, security and education on the cutting edge. It is the best of the best. It will serve students in grades 6-12. Pat lobbied Dr. Kathleen Cashin even before she was installed as our Regional Superintendent and won her confidence and support. Dr. Cashin  has been a breath of fresh air in this community.

Assistant Principal Joseph Featherson is an outstanding individual, a dedicated and devoted educator who goes above and beyond as head of the Special Olympics. He has given endless hours of devotion and commitment to those with special needs. We believe that this dynamic duo in conjunction with the PTA President Sharon Hall-Frey and her board will make this program one of the best in Region V.

We were very impressed with the tour of the special wing being used by Channel View Academy. We went into each and every classroom and saw the students’ research work. We spoke with a number of teachers and saw their devotion and dedication to the program. We wish to give this program our complete support.

We attended the annual tree lighting on Beach 116 Street this past Friday. Unfortunately Mother Nature provided rain. Thanks to the graciousness of Steve and Kenny Good of Rockaway’s own Beach Club, a tent and refreshments were provided for all who attended. President John Lepore of the Chamber of Commerce which oversees this event was wonderful as wonderful could be. The Chamber’s Director Joan Omeste participated.

The St. Francis choir was absolutely beautiful. Yes, even a Jewish man like me enjoyed and sang all the Christmas carols. We must not forget Noiri Ostroy Signoretti of Brown’s Hardware who provided all the children and parents with glow sticks. Noiri is a real wonderful person with a heart of gold, a great mother and community activist. We loved her hat, which was a menorah with candles. We must remember to thank Santa Claus who was Harold Rochelle, one of our best community  activists, a gentleman and scholar who has real love for the Rockaways. Harold and his lovely wife, Rochelle made it special. If I left anyone out, I’m sorry.

We wish a speedy recovery to a man who always has the best interests of Rockaway at heart. Bernie Blum, get well soon.

We are saddened by the death of an outstanding individual, former NYPD detective John Heslin. John passed away after a long illness. Last year he served as a Deputy Grand Marshal of the Queens County St. Patrick’s Day parade.

A decorated World War II veteran who served in the army and navy, a great community neighbor, a wonderful husband, father and grandfather, he was devoted to many community causes. We know he earned his wings in God’s Kingdom in heaven. My sympathy to his lovely wife Ann who has devoted so much time at Claddagh Inn to feed the hungry. My sympathy goes out to you.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of a great community activist Melvina Lester. Often referred to as Sister by her church peers, Melvina lived in the Beach 41 Street Houses. She lived, ate and  thought Rockaway. Although she was physically handicapped she attended community meetings all over with her cane. This unselfish community leader will be missed by all. We know that God must have blessed her in heaven and cured her of her handicap and made her a special guardian angel.

Lew M. Simon

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