It snowed on Saturday night into Sunday. By Sunday night, the snow had ended and most of the streets were plowed at least once, a tribute to the hard-working sanitation workers. Many people who had garbage and recycling collection on Tuesday put their stuff curbside on Monday night, figuring that the streets were plowed and the warm weather was going to melt whatever snow was left. They were wrong. On Thursday, that garbage still stood curbside. A call to 311 revealed that “garbage and recyclable materials would be picked up only sporadically until Tuesday, February 21. The 311 system told residents that no complaints about garbage or recycling collection would be taken until Wednesday, February 22. At the same time, we noticed long lines of sanitation trucks, all tricked out with plows and sanding equipment all over the west end of the peninsula although little snow remained after three warm days in a row.
The proliferation of cell phone towers throughout the city has led to an increased move to ban the towers nearby schools and other institutions. Cellular antennas and related equipment have flooded the peninsula as telephone companies try to keep up with the increased demand in mobile phone use. The federal government and company experts keep telling us that the technology is safe and that any radiation emitted is well below accepted exposure levels. There is a growing demand on the part of civic and parent groups in Rockaway and Broad Channel (where a plan for a cell tower in the center of town was beaten back) to ban the towers because the long-term health effects, even at low level, are unknown. Those groups have been joined by elected officials who call for more study and more regulation. One proposed bill in the Assembly would create a board of experts to vet the towers and a ban on towers within 500 feet of a school. Under current regulations, a building owner need only file an application with the Department of Buildings for an alteration permit (permits are routinely granted) and then have the tower erected by the company. Experts say that building owners can get up to $2,000 a month for each antenna. There is one building in Brooklyn that reportedly has 27 antennas on its roof. There are several buildings in Rockaway with multiple antennas as well.
Rookie cops have to resort to food stamps and other financial subsidies to stay alive, according to a report issued by the police union. Officials cited one young cop with a wife and three children who could not pay his bills on his new $25,100 salary and was steered to the city Human Resources Administration to see if he and his family qualified for food stamps. The pay for new police officers was slashed more than $11,000 as a result of the last contract. A spokesperson for the HRA said that a cop with several dependants does qualify for a potential $7,500 food stipend. City bus drivers, sanitation workers and even gardeners earn more than rookie cops.
Not to be outdone by Time Warner Cable (Cable TV, Roadrunner, Internet telephone service) and Verizon (telephone service, developing fiber optic Internet and television service), the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) will soon begin experimenting with Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL) technology that would bring television service and Internet service on the same lines that bring in your electricity. The two-year demonstration program will run in a Long Island venue, but Rockaway can’t be far behind if the company finds that it works. By the way, there are still many in Rockaway who believe that the recent week-long telephone outage in Rockaway was due not to a cut cable, but to Verizon’s work to place the fiber optic cable on the peninsula.
A year ago, The Wave reported on a media story that said Peninsula Hospital Center was in danger of being closed down. The Governor, responding to the story as well as the crisis, appointed a commission to look at hospitals throughout the city and come up with recommendations. That commission has yet to make a report back to the governor, but Queens Borough President Helen Marshall recently chimed into the controversy by announcing that the dwindling number of hospital beds in Queens is beginning to alarm health care experts. She has asked the Governor to rein in any plans by the State Health Department to cut more hospital beds. The Governor’s commission is expected to make its recommendations sometime at the end of this year.
The state’s high court has ruled that Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not have to pay much attention to law made by the New York City Council when he believes that those bills “violate state or federal statutes” – until the council can prove to his satisfaction that the new laws do not violate those statutes. While the bill in question dealt with forcing city contractors to provide equal benefits to their employee’s domestic partners, whether gay or straight. The 4-3 decision against the bill gives an advantage to the mayor by forcing the council to prove in court the legality of the laws it passes. The council argued that the Mayor had to implement any law that it has “duly enacted.” The court ended that delusion.
Triboro Coach, which previously ran the Q53 line from Rockaway to Woodside, became the last private bus line to be taken over by the MTA this past weekend. The new MTA Bus Company swallowed up the Green Bus and Jamaica lines last month in a takeover which took more than two years to complete. The city will continue to subsidize the former private lines and the MTA has already started to place newer buses on the routes. It remains to be seen in the long run though if the service will continue to improve. There are also rumors that routes such as the Q21 from Beach 116 Street to Rockaway Boulevard may be eliminated and more stops added to an already-elongated Q53. It takes at least an hour for the Q53 to snake its way through the middle of Queens for riders heading to the Queens Mall or for them to connect to express subway service into Manhattan.