2005-10-28 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The Department of Education’s Region Five has teamed with the Parks Department and City Councilman Joseph Addabbo to start a development program for prospective lifeguards in an attempt to staff Rockaway beaches next summer. Candidates for the new program must be 16-years-old by March 31, 2006, must be in good physical condition and take a swimming test that shows that they can swim 50 yards in 45 seconds or less. Those who are interested should send an Email to esokolovski@nycboe.net. There are several testing and training sites, including Far Rockaway High School and John Adams High School.

The second annual Halloween Parade sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and City Councilman Joseph Addabbo will be held this year at 11 a.m. on October 30. Last year’s parade, the first ever, was a big hit with both kids and adults. The parade begins at the Beach Club, nearby the beachfront.

A few weeks ago we said that the one local vote on the panel that will make the final decision on which AA 587 Memorial will grace the southern end of Beach 116 Street belongs to Joanie Omeste, the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, who does not live in Rockaway. We were wrong. That one vote sits with John Lepore, the chamber’s president, who does live in Rockaway. It seems that Omeste had been sitting in for Lepore at the last two meetings, creating the impression that she was the one who would be casting the Rockaway vote. In any case, that decision should be made in early November, in time for an announcement by the mayor at this year’s November 12 memorial service. Two clear favorites have emerged from the six final proposals, according to the poll on The Wave’s Website. Option Number One, the two low walls forming an “embrace” with the names of those who died in the crash inscribed inside has garnered 42 percent of the vote, while the 100-foot high bell tower (Option Number Five in our poll) is up to 23 percent. Our poll results are not binding, but we’d like to think that the panel would at least take a look at it prior to voting.

There seems to be a movement in Rockaway schools to turn down the recently-negotiated pact between the city and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Most of the teachers who say they will vote no on the pact are angry with a number of issues. Those who have been around for a while remember that the union gave up two years of raises (remember the “double zeros” contract) in order to get out of cafeteria and hall patrol. Now, UFT President Randi Weingarten (who was never a teacher) seems to have given up that win too easily. In addition, the extra hours and the fact that teachers can no longer grieve negative letters in their files makes for an inflammable situation.

There are those who say that the housing “bubble” might not soon burst, but there are signs that the bubble is at least leaking air. In 2004, New York City approved building permits for 25,208 new housing units. That is up nearly 20 percent from any of the previous ten years. Look around Rockaway if you don’t believe it. There is construction on virtually every empty lot on the peninsula. As the bubble grew, so did home prices and evaluations. Take a look at the classified ads in this week’s Wave. New homebuyers can find nothing under $800 thousand in Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor and Neponsit. A two-bedroom apartment that rented for $850 a month three years ago now goes for $1,400 a month or more. There are those who worry that many of the new homes being sold in Rockaway have a rental unit that must be rented if the new owner is to meet the monthly mortgage payment. Should the apartment bubble burst, and many believe it will, then those people who bought homes based on the expected rental income might well find themselves in default. At the least, it’s something to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Here’s the problem. Camel jockeys in Qatar have to weigh less than 60 pounds if the camel is to have a chance of winning the often high stakes races held in that desert kingdom. They once used young boys, but so many kids were kidnapped or sold into slavery to provide the jockeys that a law was made saying that jockeys had to be older than 15 years-of-age, cutting down dramatically on the slavery market. In some places, boys as young as four are sold by their parents to become jockeys. Now, Qatar has come up with a solution – robot jockeys weighing 59 pounds. A Swiss robotic company has been hired to develop the robot jockeys. You can’t make this stuff up.

The City Council has come up with another idea that sounds good on paper but will cause havoc in the schools. The bill would require the Department of Education to translate student report cards and other school-related documents into nine different languages. Translating documents into various languages, which is done at the DOE headquarters is one thing – translating individual report cards run virtually at the last minute in local schools is quite another. Report cards are run on the school’s Automate The Schools (ATS) system by class. Should that one class require switching during the run from one language to another, chaos would reign and report cards would be late in coming across the board. The council really should have spoken to somebody who actually works with the ATS system prior to writing the bill, but the council rarely allows reality to get in the way of its good intentions.

NYPD Sergeants Joseph Cerrato and Anthony Macarino of the 100 Precinct were recently honored by their union, the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association, for pulling a woman from a flipped-over SUV in August of last year. The two, assisted by other officers, actually picked up the SUV and turned it over to release the trapped woman.

Connie Mack (no, not THAT Connie Mack, but his great-grandson) is the chair for President Bush’s tax-reform panel. He was interviewed in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine and his answer to one question proves once again how far out of the mainstream Bush’s advisors really are. The Times asked Mack about the plan to remove deductions for interest and taxes on homes between $300,000 and $1 million. “Aren’t you worried about hurting the middle class,” he was asked. “It depends on how you define middle class,” Mack answered. “I don’t think that there would be a large percentage of middle-income families who would have a $500 thousand house.” What planet does this guy live on? Perhaps he should come to Rockaway and find out about the middle class.

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