2006-01-27 / Columnists

Simon says...

Lew M. Simon
Lew M. Simon

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23 rd A.D. Part B

As I sit and write this column, I am thinking about the tenth anniversary of my mom’s, Jennie Simon, death. My mom passed on January 31, 1996. She was buried on February 2. Although its been 10 years, it seems like it was just yesterday.

As most of you recall, my mom and I had a close relationship. She was not just my mother, she was my best friend and a strong supporter. She was very proud of my accomplishments and my love for helping people. Both my mom and dad instilled the right values of loving, sharing and helping mankind.

Just a few weeks ago one of my mom’s best friends, Alice Duck, passed away. When I received a call from her daughter Marguerite, I started to cry, but then had a funny thought that my mom must have met Alice Duck at the gates of heaven. Mom and Mrs. Duck were friends for over 30 years. They must be catching up on old times.          

I often wished I could call my mother and discuss different ideas and issues or ask a question.  My sister Fran and I fight over what we would do if we had an hour now with mom. She said she would make a roast beef dinner, nice and rare, which was all of our favorites. I said I would take her for a prime rib dinner, which we often did each weekend.

Mom loved to go to community meetings and advocate for many issues in our community. She also loved to play bingo during the day or night. She would call bingo for HILI Yeshiva, or the Yeshiva of Belle Harbor. She loved supporting the Philip Port Unit of the American Cancer Society. She attended meetings with bingo, buying raffles and bonanza tickets or going to their annual luncheons, which were held in the Washington Hotel.

Mom had a long list of friends. Florence Altschuler was like family to us. Her daughter Michelle and my sister Fran went to school together. Mom, Dad and myself worked bingo with Flo for many years at HILI. She and her husband Al, God rest him, were the best of the best. To this day Flo is like a mom to me and her daughter Michelle is like a sister to me.

Mom loved working bingo with Lois Bernstein. They used to talk and go to dinner. One of mom’s other good friends, Dorothy Jackson, used to spend evenings on the phone or in each other’s apartments. Mom loved her Atlantic City trips, going every month with Abe Mintz. Abe is the funniest, kindest gentlemen you could ask to meet.

Mom went every day to see her friends at the Hammels Center, Bernie and Ann Klein, Mary Seltzer, Abe Mintz, Goldie Rosenfarb, Phyllis and Jack Domfort and all of the many other people still alive and those who have since passed. She loved Al and Hazel DeStefano and Bea Shanker. God rest them.

Mom was the type that if you didn’t agree with her son, she told you where to fly. At one time we fought against a homeless shelter on Beach 44 Street. We attended a meeting of the Bayswater Civic Association where awards were given out to elected officials and other community officials for their efforts to stop the shelter. There was no award for Lew Simon. My mom got up and said “What about Lew Simon?” The late Gloria Warshofsky told her to sit down and shut up or we would be thrown out. But like John Baxter says, “You can spit on Lew Simon and he thinks it’s rain and goes back for more.”

Mom also served as president of the AARP during the 1980’s. She worked with the late Betty Montalvo. Mom loved advocating for seniors and especially for her Hammels Center, now called the Seaside Senior Center.  Each and every day it breaks my heart that I cannot have a dialogue with my mom. Thank God I have one aunt, my mom’s sister Yetta, who I speak with every day. We reminisce about the good old days.    

To all the readers of my column, if you are blessed to have a mother, pick up a phone and say I love you. For those who think I’m a dreamer my mom and I used to curse each other out as well as being there for each other at the end. No matter how old I was she picked the broomstick up and whacked me whenever I needed it. For those of you who can identify with this remember you only get one mother. Love her dearly.

On Tuesday evening we attended the Community District Educational Council 27 monthly meeting at P.S. 207. Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Carmen Farina addressed the Council and all those principals, assistant principals, Learning Instructional Superintendents and other District personnel who attended.

Carmen Farina opened by telling of her education in the Catholic school system, and work as a 4th grade teacher for the Board of Education. She also worked as a principal and in many other positions. She spoke about her years in the classroom and her knowledge of the methodology of successful instruction. Many educators nodded in agreement. Her pure charisma, knowledge and wisdom showed through her warm, charming personality. She spoke about programs instituted in our district and region. She took questions from a number of parents who asked if there was really a need for the recent ELA test instead of a student portfolio. She stated this is the way to see what the child is actually able to do. My question was about the need for additional funding for cultural subjects such as art and music as well as the need for more teachers, supplies and other staffing needs in the district. She agreed with me about the arts and stated some academies are being formed and opened for music and art. We also asked for a continued dialogue with her to improve the excellence of education in our district.

On Thursday evening we had a successful meeting with the Director of the Lower Manhattan-Jamaica/JFK Transportation Project, representatives of other interested agencies, members of the Good Government

Regular Democratic Club, members of the Regional Rail Working Group, Rockaway Transit Coalition and interested community members. Chris Bastien, MTA Project Director, presented a brief outline of the plans to provide direct, high speed mass transit between Lower Manhattan and JFK Airport via the Atlantic line of the LIRR.

At this point they have six goals including improving commuter travel between Lower Manhattan and the Jamaica LIRR station, improve travel to JFK, promote economic development and tourism in Lower Manhattan and the Region, develop commuter and airport transportation solutions to Lower Manhattan, maintain or improve environmental conditions and increase capacity/connectivity of the Region’s Transportation Network.

Use of part of the old Rockaway Beach LIRR line between Rockaway Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue is one of the alternative plans now under consideration. This would allow residents of Rockaway, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven to have access to the newly designed system. All passengers would not be forced to change at Jamaica. Service on the currently under utilized Atlantic line would reach a new transit hub in Lower Manhattan through a new East River tunnel or through existing tunnels much faster than at present. Newly designed trains may be used. The process of choosing among the many plans offered will continue over the next two years. Public participation is required. Local residents and their elected representatives will be allowed to speak up. People who know the system through daily use of our inadequate substitute and those  who have suggested specific improvements spoke up on Thursday. Representatives of the MTA, New York State Department of Transportation, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the New York City Economic Development Corporation heard us clearly.

We wish to thank Howie Schwach, editor of the WAVE, for providing the community with the announcement which made this meeting a success.

On Thursday February 2 at 7:45 PM sharp, Rockaway Postmaster George Buonocore will be our guest. He will address issues that affect all residents and businesses in the Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point communities. This is your chance to raise your voice with your suggestions. Simon says, “You asked for this. Be there.” The meeting is at 112-20 Beach Channel Drive opposite Waldbaum’s. Bagels and cream cheese by Beach Bagels and cakes by Key Food are served. Come one, come all.

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