The election last week went just about as expected. Mayor Michael Bloomberg beat Democratic challenger Fernando Ferrer by about 20 percent, although he won by far more locally. In the 23rd Election District, which includes Rockaway, Broad Channel and parts of Howard Beach, about 20,000 votes were cast. Of those votes, 15,662 went to Bloomberg, or a little more than 75 percent. The vote for the incumbent was much higher in Breezy Point and Neponsit, less in Far Rockaway and Arverne. There were no local races because both of our City Councilmembers ran unopposed. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum won with 89 percent of the vote. William Thompson was reelected as Comptroller with 92 percent. Borough President Helen Marshall, who faced a credible threat from Republican Philip Sica, won with 74 percent of the vote. Like most people, we will be relieved to get away from those omnipresent political ads on television.
The voting on the two New York State Proposals and two New York State Questions went about as expected as well. Proposal One, which would have effectively transferred the budget-making power of the state from the Governor to the Legislature failed. Proposal Two, the Transportation Bond Act passed as did the two procedural questions on New York City ballots. Both of the city questions passed with approximately 75 percent of the vote.
Enrollment in Catholic schools in the Brooklyn Diocese has dropped by 2,900 students this year, and officials are predicting that there will be more school closings before the end of this school year. The diocese closed 20 schools last year but allowed St. Virgilius School in Broad Channel to remain in operation because it produced a solid business plan and increased its enrollment. This year, there are 41,893 students enrolled in 127 diocesan elementary schools – a drop of 6.5 percent. The diocese says that 29 of those elementary schools have less than 250 students each. The one bright spot for the diocese is that enrollment in Catholic high schools remains high, with 17,965 students attending the 10 high schools.
The page 2 article about a North Carolina amusement park that is now the home for many of the former Rockaway Playland rides that appeared in The Wave two weeks ago sparked some interest and added another piece to the puzzle of how the rides wound up on the Outer Banks, another beachfront area. It seems that Rockaway resident Mark Blumenthal began working at Playland when he was 14 years of age. He worked at the park until college called him away, but he never got the amusement business out of his blood. When Playland closed, he bought the rides and took them to North Carolina. At the same time, he began to work at Coney Island’s Astroland. Today, Blumenthal is the general manager of the amusement complex and works for the revitalization of Coney Island as a tourist attraction. Perhaps one day the city will look at Rockaway as a tourist attraction once again and Blumenthal and his partners can bring the rides back home.
We guess it was to be expected, but the opening of Rockaway’s Tribute Park two weeks ago got virtually no play in the citywide media. Channel Two News did a 15-second bit on the Mayor’s attendance at the event. Channel One did a piece that was a bit longer, but not by much. Both focused on the Firefighter’s Memorial. The Daily News mentioned it in passing as part of the Mayor’s day with a few days to go in the election and ran a single picture of the Firefighter’s Monument the next day. That was all the coverage provided for what was really an important event in terms of its meaning to Rockaway. We guess that the fact that Paris Hilton broke up with her latest boyfriend was a much more important story in the scheme of things.
Even though the new Muni-meters on Beach 116 Street were not in place earlier in the month, we noticed the NYPD’s Transportation Bureau agents giving tickets along the street. When we checked closer, we found that the motorists had parked in the No Parking zones that are stripped off. It is common sense not to park in those stripped areas, but the motorists apparently believed that the entire block was a parking paradise until the meters are installed. It is not. In addition, we received some calls complaining that the center median across from Dunkin Donuts was designated for no parking although the curbside does allow for parking. It seems that the median side had to be left without parking to allow for buses and trucks that make a right turn from Newport Avenue onto the shopping street. So far, the whole parking concept seems to make sense to us.
By the time you read this, a decision should have been made by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and a committee of family members and officials as to which of the six finalists will get the nod to build the memorial to the 265 people who died when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor more than four years ago. We had thought that the decision would have been announced at the memorial service that was held last weekend, but the city could not get its act together in time. In fact, the vote was held the Tuesday following the memorial service. Which of the memorials will be built on the southern end of Beach 116 Street? We are not sure. The city has yet to announce the final choice, but that does not surprise us. An official notification of last Saturday’s ceremony came to us on the Thursday before the service.
A reminder that you no longer have to feed the meters on Sunday. Thanks to a new City Council law, called the “Pay to Pray” law, Sundays are now free to parkers, even though signs throughout the city might say that you still must pay. The city says it will take at least a year to replace the signs. We hope that something can be worked out, however, for the summer, when parking on Beach 116 Street and Beach 129 Street will become impossible if parkers are allowed to stay in a parking spot from Saturday to Monday.