There have been many calls in the past week from readers connected to Far Rockaway High School to say that they were told that the school would close in June and reopen as a re-organized, renamed school in September. The rumors said that the a team from the State Education Department made the determination. We called the State Ed Department and were told that the state had no such plans, that it was up to the city. We then called the Department of Education and spoke with Alicia Maxey, who checked and found out that there are no plans to close the school and there are no plans to make the school into a series of smaller schools. That should be good news for alumni, and we hope that the DOE is telling us the truth.
A week ago, people began coming to The Wave office, calling and emailing us to find out when we did a story about a Far Rockaway man who was going around, giving HIV-Aids to many women in the community. The request was always the same. When did we run the story and can they have a copy. The fact is, The Wave never ran that story and, when more than 50 people contacted us, we became curious about what was going on. From a few callers, we ascertained that the man’s name is Carl Murray. We decided to try and find him, but before we could, he found us. He came to the office to find out what we had written about him. When we assured him that we hadn’t written anything, he told us that an ex-girlfriend, angry at him for breaking it off, was spreading the story that he was spreading the disease, and he provided us with a copy of an report on an HIV-Aids test he had done in June of 2004 that was negative. He asked us to tell his story and use his name to let everybody, his ex-wife included, that the whole thing was a fabrication. So goes the world in Rockaway.
Both students and teachers in the city’s public schools look forward to the spring vacation each year. Traditionally, what used to be called the Holy Week vacation or the Easter Vacation took in both Easter and Passover and served to satisfy everybody. This year, however, Easter Sunday is March 27 and Passover begins on April 24, too far apart to make for one holiday. As a compromise, the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers negotiated the week to be held April 25 to 29, satisfying some but angering others. Under this year’s plan, Good Friday will be a holiday day, but neither Holy Thursday nor Easter Monday will be considered as a legitimate holiday for Catholic teachers. Many local teachers, however, say they will take the two days as part of their ten sick days or as their personal days. In addition, some will take them as “non-attendance days” that allow the teachers to be paid their salary minus the cost of a substitute for those days. At one Edgemere school, 40 teachers reportedly asked for at least one of those days off. Principals are concerned that they will not be able to run their programs on those two days. Chancellor Joel Klein sent a memo to principals urging them to remind teachers that religious obligations could be taken care of prior to school or after school hours and that many absences would hurt student performance. He added later on that teachers should be granted the day if it “does not burden the school.”
The City Council passed a measure called “The Equal Benefits Law,” that required all businesses that got contracts for city work worth more than $100,000 to pay benefits to domestic partners. The mayor, concerned that the law would force the city to hire more expensive contractors, vetoed the law. The Council passed it over his veto. Now, however, the courts have found the law to be in opposition to the state constitution. “The law expressly excludes a class of potential bidders for a reason unrelated to the quality or price of the goods or services they offer,” the court said in striking down the law. We agree. If the Council wants to make social policy, they should not beat down the constitution to do so.
Most New Yorker’s understand that the state is run by three men who make most of the important decisions that determine our quality of life: Governor George Pataki; Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. Now, however, we are beginning to understand that the people politically connected to those three men have lots of impact as well. Take the fight between the New York (New Jersey) Jets and Cablevision/MSG. There are a number of key lobbyists working for each side. In the NYJ’s corner is Michael McKeon of Mercury Public Affairs. He was once the chief spokesperson for Pataki. Ken Sunshine has his own PR firm in Albany. He was once the communications strategist for the state’s Democrats and worked closely with Sheldon Silver. Attorney Jeffrey Buley, who lobbies on behalf of the Jets was once the lawyer for the Republican State Committee and worked for Bruno. On the other side, former Republian Senator Al D’Amato, who lobbies for Cablevision, is an old confident of Governor Pataki’s. Patricia Lynch, who owns her own lobbying firm, was once the chief spokesperson for Silver. Kenneth Bruno, a big-time Albany lobbyist, is Joe Bruno’s son. Who can get the ears of the big three? Figure it out for yourself. Many locals are tuning out of the entire issue because it has become so political.
Two of the minority candidates for mayor, C. Virginia Fields and Fernando Ferrer, recently held a secret meeting (it didn’t remain secret for long) and agreed not to attack each other during the upcoming primary election. According to close associates of the two pols, they hoped to keep the tension between them to a minimum and to keep minority voters from becoming angered at either candidate. “We want to make sure that everybody treats everybody else well,” one spokesperson said when the meeting became public. “We’re not going to be attacking each other.” Some locals, however, wonder what would have happened if Anthony Weiner and Mike Bloomberg, two white pols, had gotten together to talk about a moratorium about attacking each other, but no problem in attacking the minority candidates. They probably would have been called racist and they might have been. So is the fact that the two minority candidates made a deal to attack only the white candidates, don’t you think?
A week ago we erred in stating that the new North Fork Bank branch (the former GreenPoint Bank) on Seagirt Boulevard would remain open until 9 p.m. on the three days it will remain open. In fact, it will remain open only until 3 p.m. We regrat any inconvenience our mistake might have caused our readers.
Mike Benn, the president of the Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee, will be honored at a city council ceremony on March 30. We offer Benn our congratulations.