2005-07-08 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

Nobody asked me, but …

.. Nicholas Manucci, the young man arrested for a racial incident in which a young black man was savagely beaten with an aluminum baseball bat, should have been in jail rather than roaming the streets of Howard Beach at 3 a.m. He was arrested on September 11, 2001 for beating a Sikh man, believing him to be a Moslem. In November of 2002, he was arrested for stabbing Broad Channel teen John Rich in the stomach multiple times with a serrated-edge knife and leaving him to die after an altercation outside a Broad Channel bayfront restaurant. When Rich died in a subway accident a year later before he could testify against Manucci, the Queens DA agreed to five years of probation rather than pushing the weak case to trial. That is why Manucci was out on the street and available to beat yet another man, albeit one who was in the neighborhood to steal a car.

.. Mayor Bloomberg and his commissioners have taken Rockaway out of the determination for a memorial to those who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in November of 2001. A week ago, officials from the three city agencies involved, the Department of Immigrant Affairs, the Department of Parks and the Department of Transportation met with the five finalists in the memorial design contest at the Beach 116 Street site. The Wave asked to be present and was told, “the press is not invited.” When we asked why, we were told that the answer could be provided, but only “off the record.” The wave makes it a policy not to go off the record with city agencies that should be providing information, not hiding it. We later learned that neither our elected officials nor the Chamber of Commerce were invited to meet with the finalists. This is a clear indication that Bloomberg and his minions have something to hide and that Rockaway will not have a say until the memorial is a done deal. By making the Department of Immigrant Affairs the lead agency, the Mayor has indicated that, when it comes to the Rockaway memorial, the people of Washington Heights are more important than the people of Rockaway.

.. The MTA under Bloomberg is not very people-oriented and certainly does not serve Rockaway well. Lately, we have the new $1 a month administrative charge on all EZ-Pass accounts. A buck today, five tomorrow, ten next year. Then, we have the “no more drinking from open containers” edict that has just been postponed for a month because everybody but the MTA officials and the mayor know that drinking water, coffee or juice on the subway is necessary for a commuter’s survival. To add to the insult, MTA officials said that sip-tip cups and plastic bottles were okay, as long as they are not open. What does that mean? How does liquid get from a bottle to your mouth without an opening? Just wait until the agency takes over the Green Bus Line.

.. Ok, the city has done away with social promotion. Those who fail the high-stakes standardized tests, fail their classes, are truant, are left back. Right? Yes and no. More than one thousand students who failed the tests, failed their classes and were absent more than ten percent of the time were promoted “after a review of a portfolio of their work.” What a joke. I have seen portfolios and many of them are low-impact works of bologna. There was even a time when a drawing that correctly represented a math problem, even if the correct answer was not give, was considered to be adequate. Standards are standards, however, and the city should not set them if they don’t intend to keep them if things go south. The same is true with the discipline standards, but more on that in this space next week.

.. Newsday did a piece about Breezy Point in its Real Estate Section on June 24. In the piece, Cara Trager, the author, says “Formed in 1961 and comprising three communities – Breezy Point, Rockaway Point and Roxbury, the cooperative bears little resemblance to the ethnically diverse and bustling borough to which it is connected.” That is a nice way of saying that certain people need not apply. The article says, “[The cooperative] is not just close-knit, it is homogeneous. The enclave, with 2,952 single-family homes and 4,226 residents is 99.2 percent white and 60 percent of the population is of Irish descent, according to the 2000 census.”

.. I certainly wish that the Manhattan media would get it right when they do articles about Rockaway. New York magazine did a piece last week on Fort Tilden State Park, one of the nicest, most isolated beaches in the city. It calls the “state park,” “an unspoiled island oasis.” First of all, Fort Tilden is not a state park, but a federal park. Secondly, Fort Tilden is hardly an island, being part of the Rockaway peninsula. Third of all, the beach the magazine talks about is right down the road from the park’s administration building and, while not highly used, is hardly isolated any more than the rest of Rockaway.

.. I got a letter from Kevin Sheekey, the campaign manager for Mayor Mike Bloomberg this week. Although I usually excoriate Bloomberg for his failure to treat anybody outside of his Manhattan friends as human beings with a free will, Sheekey wants me to join the Bloomberg team because of my belief in his mayoralty. Somehow, I think he’ll have to wait before seeing me on his Bloomberg team this year.

.. There is a law that forbids elected officials and candidates from visiting public schools beginning 60 days before the primary or general election. That means the schools should be politician-free from the first day school opens in September. Of course, there is a loophole for current elected officials who can go into the schools if their visit “is part of their officials duties.” What does that mean? Who knows, but you can bet that the pols, who will make education into a seminal issue this year, will use the schools for sound bites all that they can.

.. The activists who argue that police and school officials had no right to handcuff a 7-year-old boy who was kicking, biting and scratching both kids and adults have never been in a school setting and have never seen an emotionally handicapped kid “go off.” It is truly frightening and something that I have been involved in more times than I care to count. Actually, I have ordered a number of young children (although none as young as seven) to be cuffed because that was the only way to keep them from harming not only others, but themselves as well. What do you do with a nine-year-old who insists on putting his head through a glass window when he bites and kicks and scratches you as you try and restrain him. Try it sometime. It is not pretty. Often, handcuffs are the only device that will keep the child from harm.

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