The word spread quickly early in the month that the Rockaway Sunset Diner would be closing down on February 12. Many of those who got the word early were shocked that a community landmark that was perceived to be doing well and was so necessary to the quality of life of west end residents would summarily close. What will replace the diner? At press time, nobody is sure. The buyer reportedly deals in retail and the site may become a store, a restaurant, or both. There were even rumors early in the week that a Wal-Mart was coming to Rockaway, but the site seems much too small for that kind of “big box” business. We guess that only time will tell.
The Mayor has announced that there will soon be a new middle school (grades 6 to 8) at Far Rockaway High School in Bayswater. Named “The Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VI (KAPPA VI – quite a mouthful), the school will open in September. The school will be run by Replications, Inc., a corporation “dedicated to the replication of successful schools so that every child, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, can attend an academically rigorous public school.” At least, that’s what it says in its online Website. The group works out of Columbia University and already runs the Frederick Douglass Academy High School at Far Rockaway High School. Right now, FRHS has 1,125 students, while the Douglass Academy has 181. We assume the 100 plus students who make up the new school will then move on to the high school unit.
The Department of Education, Region Five and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have all teamed up in a campaign to force Governor George Pataki to fork over the billions of dollars that a court order says should go to city schools. “This cannot continue,” Bloomberg recently said of the state’s failure to obey the court order. “You can do something about it. Call your local Assembly person, your State Senator or the governor’s office and tell them that you are not going to take it anymore.” The Campaign For Fiscal Equity lawsuit prompted the court order for the state to spend $5.6 billion a year more on the city’s schools, but the Governor is appealing the decision. The Governor’s office said that the state was “committed to continue to work to enact a comprehensive education reform package that will provide all the state’s schools with the money they need.” Bloomberg says, “Show us the money.”
A series of blood drives are being held by the New York Blood Center in honor of Matthew Long, a firefighter with Ladder 43, who was hit by a bus and severely injured while biking to work in Manhattan during the transit strike. While local blood drives were held in the last two weeks, there will be another in Mineola on Saturday, February 18 at 167 Mineola Boulevard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then another in Forest Hills on Saturday, March 11 at 107-15 Metropolitan Avenue from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) took over the Jamaica Bus Company on January 30. That leaves Triboro Bus as the only private company left to move into the city’s column. That should happen by the end of this month. Reports to date have praised the MTA’s takeover of the Green Bus Company. The word is that none of the routes run by the private buses will change for at least a year.
Monsignor Martin Geraghty, who has been the pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor for 18 years, has reportedly been reassigned to a Bayside parish by the diocese. Geraghty, an unassuming man, was shoved into the national spotlight when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed only blocks from the parish on November 12, 2001. The monsignor was also largely responsible for the warm welcome and special masses in Spanish for the Hispanic family members of those who died that day. He will be missed in Rockaway and we wish him well wherever he goes.
The Wave has learned that Joanne Ariola has left her position with the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit under what some say are mysterious circumstances. Ariola, who represented the mayor in Queens, has appeared many times on his behalf in Rockaway and Broad Channel. Some say that Ariola was fired by the mayor for political reasons. That rumor says Republican political insider Serf Maltese demanded her ouster as payment for his support of the mayor in the last election. Others, however, say that Ariola has some health problems and left her position with the mayor voluntarily to recuperate. Because this is a strictly political story, we’ll probably never know where the truth lies.
Remember that tomorrow (Saturday, February 11), is the day for the Plunge For Cystic Fibrosis. This year’s event will take place at Beach 126 Street and the oceanfront, with the traditional pre and post-plunge parties being held at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club, located on Beach Channel Drive between Beach 126 and Beach 127 Streets. The chilly dip itself will take place at 1 p.m.
The plan to help struggling students by keeping them in school an extra 37½ minutes from Monday to Thursday began on Monday. The plan, part of the new UFT contract between the city and its teachers, has caused lots of turmoil and anger As a result, an additional cost of $48 million has been added due to the cost of extra bus runs to handle the second dismissal each day. The city estimates that it will need 462 buses, to handle the 330,000 students that will have to stay late each day.
It is obvious that the local police have not yet received the word that parking is free on Sunday under a new law passed by the city council over Mayor Bloomberg’s veto. A few people have called The Wave to complain that they received tickets for parking and not feeding the meter. Police sources say that the signs prohibiting Sunday parking without feeding the meter are still in place and that allows them to write tickets. We wish the DOT would take down the signs and resolve the problem.