2005-11-11 / Community

Beachcomber

The opening of Tribute Park on Sunday was an exciting and wonderful ceremony. The park is truly stunning and it certainly looks much larger now than it did when it was a patch of dirt and rocks designated as an “artists park.” Everybody connected with the development of the park and the ceremony deserves kudos from the entire community. A few comments are in order, however, While her name was mentioned by a few of the speakers, not enough credit was given to Ezebella Slobodoff, the sculptor who was gravely ill when she completed the firefighter’s helmet that site atop the memorial to the firefighters who died on September 11, 2001. In addition, we have to note that while Tribute Park honors all of the Rockaway residents who died on that day, not one east end politician showed up – not Congressman Gregory Meeks, not Assemblywoman Michelle Titus and not City Councilman James Sanders. We wonder why they chose to ignore such an important community event.

Tomorrow, November 12, is the fourth anniversary of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into the streets of Belle Harbor. The crash, which killed 260 people on the plane and five on the ground, was the second worst aircraft accident in American history. Once again, the memorial services will be held at the crash site – Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue – with the mayor, the governor and other dignitaries expected to attend. We have been told that the committee of family members and others tasked with choosing a final design for a permanent memorial at the southern end of Beach 116 Street will meet on Tuesday, November 14 at the office of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to make its choice from the six finalists. The press has not been invited to that meeting, so we suppose we will have to wait for a press release to find out which finalist will get the nod. That memorial is expected to be in place for the November 12, 2006 memorial service and we understand that future events will be held on Beach 116 Street rather than at the crash site.

West end residents are saying that they never saw a city project completed as quickly as the parking changes on Beach 116 Street. While the city says it is actually one day behind schedule because of the inclement weather, it is clear that the new parking plan will be in place before the Thanksgiving deadline. While some worry that the new parking plan does not allow for deliveries to stores on the shopping strip and that double-parked trucks will hold up traffic, there are others who think the new set-up, with parallel parking rather than angle-in parking is much safer, especially with the proliferation of large SUV’s and Suburbans that often blocked a motorists view of oncoming traffic as he or she backed out.

The American Civil Liberties Union has gone into court, trying to stop the NYPD from checking bags and backpacks on our subway lines. One of the arguments that lawyers for the ACLU made in court is that a poll showed that the public thinks that the searches are effective at making passengers feel safer, but that they don’t really provide more security. Federal Judge Richard Berman was understandably incredulous at that argument. “I have a high regard for democratic input,” he told ACLU lawyers, “but do you really think that’s a way to design an anti-terrorism program?” Good for the judge.

Anybody looking at the pictures of the beach after the recent storm should understand that something needs to be done to protect not only the beaches, but also the houses nearby the beaches. If a minor nor’easter can do that much damage, imagine what a Category Four or Five storm would do. Everybody knows that Rockaway is vulnerable to a major storm and planning to evacuate the many senior citizens and nursing home patients must begin immediately. At the same time, it is time to plant dunes from one end of the Rockaway peninsula to the other. Virtually every expert in the world says that dunes protect beaches and beach areas and yet our Parks Department continues to destroy our dunes in the name of “grooming.” We really don’t care much whether Parks puts in their own dunes or allows the natural dunes to grow, but dunes seem to be one major answer to the beach erosion and flooding problem.

A few weeks ago, The Wave ran a page 2 story about Bette Weisser, who lives on the corner of Newport Avenue and Beach 131 street, right where AA 587 crashed. While her home was saved, a back room was destroyed and the sidewalk in front of her home was cracked and mottled by trucks and construction equipment. She told us that while the city fixed the sidewalk on Beach 131 Street, it refused to fix the sidewalk on Newport Avenue. On November 3, however, after our story ran and a week before the planned memorial service, several city trucks pulled up to her front door to repair the sidewalk. One worker came to her door and said that the work was “courtesy of Mayor Bloomberg.” Perhaps it was our story, or perhaps it was the upcoming memorial service. Anything can happen during the election season.

Mayor Bloomberg has angered the Hindu community by rejecting a proposal to suspend parking regulations on Diwali, a major Hindu holiday. The Mayor said that suspending the parking that day would add another day when there could be no street cleaning, making the city dirtier. Those who favor the plan, however, say that it is a matter of fairness. In fact, parking was suspended on the proposed day because it was also All Saints Day, a Catholic holiday. The City Council is expected to overrule the mayor’s veto on November 30.

Congressman Anthony Weiner fired the first local shot in the battle against the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito. Weiner, who is a Liberal Democrat, said that Alito’s ruling in “Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which he ruled that a woman needs her husband’s permission to obtain an abortion,” makes his nomination “an open and shut case.”

Last month was the wettest October on record. Central Park recorded 16.73 inches of rain during the moth, destroying the old record of 13.31 inches which was set 102 years ago. More than half of that total – 8.5 inches – fell over a three-day period from October 12 to October 14.

There are persistent rumors in fire department circles and in the general population that Mayor Mike Bloomberg will close a dozen firehouses right after the election. Those who subscribe to the rumor say that the list of houses to be closed came from both the department and the fire unions. A spokesperson for Bloomberg, however, said that the rumor is just another campaign ploy. One of the houses reportedly on the list is the Beach 116 Street firehouse.

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