2005-01-07 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The Wave’s managing editor recently awarded coal to Region Five and the Department of Education for being the most secretive public organization in the city. This week, a good example. Amid rumors that John Comer was being replaced as principal of MS 180, The Wave called the Department of Education press office on Tuesday morning, asking simply for verification of the move and the name of the new principal. We also asked for permission to speak with Denise Hallett, the principal of Far Rockaway High School, whose school was recently taken off the “most dangerous” list. Hallett cannot speak to us without the permission of the press office. A few hours later, we got a call from Ben Waxman, who is the new Local Instructional Supervisor for MS 180. He told us that he could not comment about Comer because it is a “personnel matter.” When it was pointed out that the name of a school principal could not be a personnel mater, he gave us this statement. “The final disposition of the question of who would be principal has not yet determined, but would be determined by the end of the week. We are looking at all the possibilities.” When he was asked if Comer was still the principal on Tuesday, his reply was, “John Comer is the principal today and we are sure he will be the principal at least for the rest of the week.” So goes the DOE’s response to the press, and through them, to the public.

The temperature was so warm on New Year’s Day and the water so mild that many of the polar bears who took the annual plunge on Beach 146 Street at noon complained that the day shouldn’t count. The mild temperatures drew many who would otherwise have stayed home in the warmth and hundreds dove into the water.

Local artist Steve Yaegar told us that his 90-year-old mom, Edith has told him a story for years about how, when she was a young girl, there was a tidal wave at Coney Island that forced the entire family inland. Yaegar took it with a grain of salt until he read last week’s Wave. On the front page was a story about a 1923 tsunami in Rockaway and another a year later in Coney Island. Edith told him that she was 13 at the time and was on the Coney Island beach with her family when people started to scream “tidal wave” and run away from the beach. She said that she looked at the water and it was very rough and very high. They had a tough time wheeling their baby carriage off the beach and finally left it there and fled back to their bungalow. The water was so high that it went a few blocks past the sand, according to Yaegar.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg was at Far Rockaway High School last Monday to announce that the school is no longer on the city’s impact list of “most dangerous” schools. During his press conference, a number of media beepers and walkie-talkies went off, earning the ire of the millionaire mayor. “Next time, we are just not going to have cell phones,” he said angrily. We’re going to have to check them at the door.” A few of the daily paper’s reporters then moved to the back of the hallway and paged mayoral aides. When their beepers went off behind the mayor, he gave them a look that said it all.

Floyd Flake, who was once our Democratic Representative and is now the pastor of the large and powerful Allen AME Church in Jamaica has come out with an early endorsement for Mayor. Flake, who often tweaked Democratic leaders, endorsed Mayor Mike Bloomberg for reelection, citing Bloomberg’s education policy as the main reason. Flake’s ministry has become a local behemoth, which is involved in building homes, senior centers and programs, schools for both children and adults in addition to his church activities.

There is a movement afoot to change the calendar so that it would be the same each year. For example, if your birthday is on a Monday one year, it would remain a Monday for every year to come into eternity. Sounds boring to our ears.

We would be remiss not to mention in these pages the passing of Jerry Orbach, the quintessential New Yorker who is perhaps best known for his role as Detective Lenny Briscoe in “Law and Order,” but who made his name on Broadway as a song and dance man long before the television show started shooting. He will be missed.

The “pork” generated by Congress continues unabated, even in the wake of the terrorist threat to America. For example, Congress provided $1 million to a public relations firm to persuade consumers to pay more for domestic shrimp taken off several southern states. One local lawmaker called that “The No Shrimp Left Behind Law.” Then, there was $225,000 to conserve wild turkeys and turkey hunting as a sport as well as $25 thousand to a Nevada school district to add Mariachi music to its curriculum. At a time when big cities on both the east and west coast are grearing up their response agencies in the wake of expected terrorist attacks, it seems that tax money could be better spent on that cause than on studying wild turkeys. We couldn’t make this stuff up if we wanted to.

Two of New York City’s daily papers had major stories about Rockaway during the New Year’s holiday. The Daily News made Rockaway the prime focus of a story about the dropping crime rate in the city, citing the 101 Precinct as the precinct with the most precipitous drop in crime in the city. The story quoted Captain Walter Salowski, the precinct’s CO as saying, “We still have our moments here, but now they’re few and far between.” Salowski is right about the fact that there are far fewer incidents on the peninsula, but guns in the hands of young men, particularly gang members, continues to be a problem on the eastern end of the peninsula. At the same time, Newsday ran a story about Ocean Village, on the far western boarder of the 101 Precinct, which it calls a “building in trouble.” In the wake of the murder of one of the maintenance workers in the complex, several reporters from the paper spoke with residents and workers alike. “Everyone here is afraid because you can become a victim at any time,” one resident told a Newsday reporter. “The kids and the teenagers just run wild.”

Steve and Ken Good, the proprietors of the Rockaway Sunset Diner are looking for the motorist who destroyed some of the brickwork on the side of the diner in the middle of the night last week. Steve told The Wave that they left about two in the morning and came back about five a.m. to find the large hole. “It must have been a truck,” Steve said. “A truck with lots of damage to its front end.”

Now that Snapple has taken over the drink franchise for the city with a sweetheart contract, a number of school regions are moving to make sure that kinds drink only from the school’s Snapple machines. Region Six, for example, has banned students from bringing any kind of drinks into the buildings, forcing those who want a beverage to buy the Snapple.

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