2004-12-31 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

The final issue of the year is upon us (doesn’t life seem to go more quickly the older we get) and it is time for my “2004 Diamond or Coal Awards.”

Without further ado, the envelope, please.

Bags full of diamonds to all of our first responders, whether they be from NYPD, FDNY, EMS or from the myriad of volunteer organizations that safeguard Rockaway and Broad Channel residents. And, of course, that includes all of our lifeguards who go the extra distance to safeguard our beaches each summer.

More bags full of diamonds to all of those local residents who are making the world safe for democracy on the frontiers of freedom. If that sounds like something from the Vietnam War, it is, but those men and women who are fighting a long and difficult battle for all of us deserve all the diamonds and support we can give them, even if we don’t support the war itself.

A bag of coal to Mayor Michael Bloomberg for all he has done to negatively impact Rockaway this year, including his regressive fines, his smoking ban and his decision to place the AA 587 memorial on Beach 116 Street without input from the community.

Some diamonds to the now-retired Community School Board 27, who did yeoman work for the community in the ten years it served. We never realized what the board did for the school community until it was gone, replaced by a group that has no power and no real ties to the educational community.

Coal to the Community Education Council that replaced CSB 27 for not having the guts to stand up to Bloomberg and Levy and for accepting its “rubber-stamp” role in education. They are as hapless as they are anonymous.

Diamonds to the Queens District Attorney and his office for being one of the most open government offices we have ever encountered. On the other side, coal to the Department of Education, which often acts as if it were an outgrowth of the Russian KGB.

Coal to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for raising fares when it should be cutting its fat instead.

Coal to the city’s Department of Transportation, the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association and to Community Board 14 for allowing the placement of disruptive “No Parking Any Time” signs in the west end when what is needed is more parking, not less.

Lots of coal to City Councilman Joe Addabbo, who ran away from the chair of the Parks Committee so he would not have to address issues critical to Rockaway and for not supporting Rockaway residents on beach and boardwalk issues. Three years later, Rockaway still has no legally-designated surfing beach and the restrictive and draconian hours on the beach and boardwalk remain in place.

Coal to Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. When she first came to office she said that she loves Rockaway and that she would soon set up a Rockaway Advisory Council to address our problems. Where is that council? We have repeatedly asked for the names of the people on the council and have been rebuffed. Is it possible the council does not exist? What have you done for use lately, BEEP Marshall?

Bags and bags of coal to Regional School Superintendent Kathleen Cashin. For what? Let me count the ways, but there are probably too many for one column or one 84-page newspaper. First, for running the most secretive public organization in the history of the United States. Secondly, for appointing administrators on the basis of loyalty rather than on competency. If you read this paper on a regular basis, you will be able to add lots of reasons of your own. Let’s leave it at that. I do have to say, however, that Cashin deserves a diamond or so for her reorganization of some of the worst schools in the district, but I am going to withhold that diamond until we see how it all works out.

Coal to John Trainor and the other derelicts that wander Beach 116 Street, causing problems, caging money and scaring people from that shopping street. Twice this year Trainor was arrested for starting altercations on the street and that is not what the street needs in light of the revitalization going on around it.

Many bags of coals to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the MTA for the way they have handled the takeover of the private bus lines that travel Rockaway’s streets. They could not have handled it worse and it recently led to a crippling strike that left many riders without a way to get to work.

Diamonds to the Graybeards, a organization of over-the-hill west end basketball players who have gone from zero to 100 on the Helpful Meter over the past two years.

Coal to those who have left Tribute Park to languish for the past three years and a diamond to Dan Mundy, who hopefully will make it all right before September 11, 2005.

Diamonds to Danny and Linda Ruscillo, who have taken on such Rockaway issues as the flight path over Belle Harbor and the No Park-

ing signs that sprang up earlier

this year. They have single-handedly proven that individuals can make a difference and that you can fight city hall.

Coal to the civic leaders throughout the peninsula (and, you know who you are), who make decisions for the entire community without getting some feedback before acting. The communities do not belong to them simply because a handful of residents elected them to a community office.

Diamonds to all of those men and women who work selflessly to bring good things to our kids – the coaches and teachers who do it all with little fanfare.

A diamond to City Councilman Joe Addabbo, who got the only boat ramp in Rockaway opened for the summer.

Diamonds to City Councilman James Sanders for bringing some development money to Rockaway for the first time in a long time.

Coal to the Parks Department for plowing under all the beach dunes that other beach communities protect as a matter of law.

A diamond to Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer for speaking up when the Parks Department lied about state involvement in a designated surfing beach. She told it like it is and should be rewarded with a nice diamond bracelet.

Many bags of coal to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for blaming the crash of AA 587 on its young first officer. We don’t know what caused the crash, but certainly would have liked to see the NTSB address all of the possibilities.

A diamond to the Broad Channel residents who held a would-be child molester at bay until police could respond and corral him. That the police did not have enough to hold him does not matter. They put themselves at risk for their community, as people there often do.

A diamond to coach Tom Kazalski and his Beach Channel High School baseball team, which went all the way to the city championship game this year.

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