2005-08-18 / Columnists

Beachcomber

Those who continually complain about A Train service (with some reason) should know that it if far from the worst on the MTA’s subway system. The Straphangers Campaign recently completed a study and rated the individual lines on a number of criteria. They then rated each line in terms of how much of the $2.00 ride the line is worth. The best-rated line, the 6 Line, was rated at $1.35. The worst, the G Line, was rated as $0.60. The A Line was rated at $0.85, putting it in 14 th place out of 22 subway lines. According to the study, the A Line trains are on time 86 percent of the time (the best is 95 percent). Seat availability on the line is 48 percent (about average) and cleanliness is rated at 70 percent (way below average).

Another school fiasco is in the making. New York State has issued English and Mathematics tests to be given this school year to grades three, five and seven. The tests mirror the city tests that the kids have been taking for some years. The question is, why give both if they test the same skills? The state says that its tests must be given. The city can do away with its tests. The problem is that the state takes several months to marks its tests and the scores are not available until well into the next school year. City school officials say they need the scores before the end of the school year in order to use the scores for remediation and in making promotion decisions. So, the kids get to take two similar tests and we are sure that both will force classroom teachers into more test prep, more practice test time resulting in less time for real education. Last year, more than 80 percent of those who took the state Social Studies test failed because the city no longer has time on class schedules for that subject (or, for that matter, for Science). The new state tests will mean even less time for those two major subjects as well as for subjects such as art, music and foreign language. All of the tests, both city and state, will be given in a three-month window, between January 10 and ending April 11 of next year.

Anthony Weiner’s campaign for mayor has finally turned to the issue of education. Weiner, who has had a problem in gaining traction in the race, has done a series of press conferences focusing on discipline in the classroom and the retention of teachers. He has taken a tough line, calling for “Boot Camp Charter Schools” to address the small percentage of kids who disrupt education in their home schools. He has also called for increased salary for teachers and perks such as home vouchers.

Let’s see. The city has a budget surplus, but it still has to cut firehouses. It can’t provide decent cost-of-living raises to teachers, firefighters and cops. It fully subsidizes the Staten Island ferry, but can’t come up with any money at all to subsidize a commuter ferry from Rockaway to Manhattan. It can’t cut class size or build the requisite new schools, but the MTA, which is raising fares once again, can build a multi-million dollar headquarters. And, oh yes, it can spend $1.8 million to save a carousel in Coney Island. Not only that, the same Parks Department that can’t afford decent salaries to hire enough lifeguards to keep beaches open will find a new venue for the carousel, pay to move it, install it and maintain it. What a city we live in.

In the last election, Mayor Mike Bloomberg received about 60,000 votes on the Independence Party line. That party is headed by Lenora Fluani, who has made some very anti-Semitic remarks over past years and whose organization, the “All Start Project” took kids to see a show that posited that the Jews were responsible for the violence during the Crown Heights riots. Recently, the organization and Fulani have been charged with child abuse in regard to her activities with kids in the program. Now, the “All Star Project” will soon receive $216,000 from the city to run after-school programs and State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is reportedly looking into the deal. Is this a payoff from Bloomberg to Fulani for her continuing support in his candidacy? Nobody can tell for sure, but it certainly does not look kosher.

When the Long Island Railroad recently started to observe its long-time ban on surfboards, many surfers who could no longer get from Manhattan to Long Beach complained long and loudly to the daily papers. One man said that he did not have a car and could no longer get to a surfing beach. When Rockaway by A Train was suggested, he said, “For people traveling by train, Rockaway is really the only alternative. The beach is not as nice, but the surf is pretty decent.” The controversy ended quickly when the railroad, realizing that it was losing money for no good reason, relented and removed the ban.

The New York Press Club has asked Wave Associate Editor Brian Magoolaghan to contribute to Byline Magazine, the club’s annual publication. Magoolaghan’s assignment, which comes from club president Rich Lamb of News Radio 880 and Byline Editor Tom Farley of Town and Country Magazine, is to capture the magic of the printing process. Magoolaghan will go behind the scenes at the plants that produce New York City’s newspapers and find out what makes press operators tick, how much ink they wear home, what it’s like to get the first glance at the latest edition of the papers and if they really do yell out, “Stop the presses!”

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