2006-03-24 / 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

We were blessed to receive a phone call from Dr. Ernest Horowitz, a brilliant, knowledgeable mensch, who spent over two hours with us. Dr. Horowitz was Chief Lifeguard in Rockaway in the 1970's and an Instructor at the Municipal Lifeguard Training School. He came up to talk with us in response to my request in my last column in the WAVE.

Dr. Horowitz went on to become a specialist in gastroenterology and an instructor at Peninsula Hospital, but he clearly was great in his 15 years on the Rockaway beaches, with 1,000 rescues and his work as a lifeguard instructor. Clearly an expert in two lifesaving professions, Dr. Horowitz told us the details of the system used in his time.

A skeleton crew of experienced lifeguards set up the beaches before the season. Lifelines and barrels were an important part of the system. A heavy weight, or in a pinch a wire basket, was buried in a 6 foot hole above the high water mark. A rope would be tied to three or fourplastic barrelslong enough to reach beyond the end of the jetty. Lifeguards using a catamaran or dory would pull the rope and a 22 lb anchor out and bury it under the sand under the water.

On some beaches there were two ropes. They would mark the swimming area. Swimmers would keep in the area between the ropes in sight of the lifeguards and away from the rock jetties. A tired swimmer might hold the lifeline until he could begin swimming back. Lifeguards could hold the line with one hand to pull themselves in while holding the victim with the other arm. On beaches with one rope, the swimmers would swim in the vicinity of the rope and barrels. In the area close to Beach 9 Street where a strong current can pull a swimmer under the Atlantic Beach Bridge, a rope parallel to the beach would warn swimmers who drifted out into the strong current.

The doctor made a list of the pros and cons of installing the ropes. They define the swimming and non-swimming areas, and can be used as a support. They keep bathers together. They can be used as a lifesaving aid.

There are some cons. They could be a hazardous attraction, although Dr. Horowitz never heard of someone using them that way. There would be an initial cost for the ropes, barrels and anchors. A storage location would have to be located for the equipment after the swimming season. Current beach personnel would have to be trained to handle the placement of the lines and anchors.

Dr. Horowitz recalls lifeguards working from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but he feels a 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. shift would be more realistic today. A trained bioethicist, Dr. Horowitz feels that any argument that part time lifeguards would be in violation of the labor contract would be contradicted by the state public health law that protects the public safety.

Dr. Horowitz will be available to talk to those public officials who want know more about how to improve the safety of swimmers on our beaches. He is putting us in touch with other veteran lifeguards who may be able to give us more details. With his clear love of Rockaway and its beaches, it was a pleasure to hear from the good doctor after spending years arguing with some public officials whose only idea of water safety is to keep everyone off the beach. We are glad Dr. Horowitz moved back to Rockaway after being away. I am sure we will be hearing more from him. We are expecting Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum to help facilitate a meeting with Park Department brass.

The last few weeks have been really sad and stressful. In the Jewish religion they say when you hear one death, you usually hear them in threes. In the past few weeks so many great friends and neighbors have passed to God's Kingdom in Heaven.

Dr. Simra Shein was Director of Surgery at Peninsula Hospital Center. In Yiddish they have a word called mensch, a man with a good heart, full of kindness and love. He was an educated doctor and scholar, a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and uncle.

Yvonne Lewis, former president of the Bay Towers Tenants Association was a dear friend for over 35 years. She was a sweet, loving, intelligent friend that we lost.

We are also saddened by the loss of Edward J. Mills, stepfather of Father Peter Gillen. Mr. Mills was a great man, a lifetime resident of Broad Channel and an active member of the Broad Channel community.

Donald L. O'Toole Jr. was a wonderful gentleman and scholar who knew me all my life as I went to school with his son.

Victor N. Navarro was only in his 30's. He was a great young man, a wonderful father who had a lot of love to share with all. We watched him grow up to be a wonderful person. It seemed that every young man and woman from the Rockaway peninsula under the age of 40 was there to pay their respects. He was employed at Kings Pharmacy on Beach 116 Street.

It is quite obvious when you die in Rockaway you go straight to heaven. God must have had a special plan for these angels in heaven. My deepest sympathies for the families.

On Tuesday evening, I attended the Community Board 14 monthly meeting. One of the topics was the renaming of Rockaway Beach Boulevard from Beach 95 Street to Beach 102 Street for Msgr. William F. Burke. I was indeed very honored to be the only speaker to sign up to urge the board to vote the honor. Msgr. Burke was a great asset to the Rockaway community. He loved thepeople and the youth of this community. His heart and spirit was in the St. Camillus band. It was he who said to me that when you die in Rockaway, you go straight to heaven without paying a toll. We hope that one day it will be St. William F. Burke.

Leroy J. Temple, Parks and Recreation Manager for Rockaway, spoke about lifeguard jobs. The starting salary is $10.71 the first year, $12.24 the second year and $13.86 the third year. Call 311 for further information.

On Sunday, March 12, the Breezy Point Colony Theatre had a fantastic fundraiser. Sister Mary Beata and the O'Malley Step Dancers performed beautifully as usual, followed by the rebels of the 60's the Wolfetones. It was one of the best times I ever had. I worked the room selling 50-50's to help support the Colony Theatre.

On Tuesday afternoon we enjoyed the music, the food and the wonderful people of the Breezy Point Golden Age Club at St. Thomas More. This was a St. Patrick's Day celebration put together by President Ann Court and her committee. It was beautiful as always.

On Monday March 13, the New York City Department of Transportation appointed a new commissioner for Queens, Maura McCarthy, former chief of staff to first Deputy Commissioner Judith Bergtraum. She will be replacing Constance Moran, who is returning to be Bronx Commissioner. 

We feel that Maura will do a fine job. She is a hard worker with a great personality and the first hand knowledge and wisdom needed. Good luck and best wishes. We look forward to working with you.

Our next trip to Trump Marina will be on Saturday April 22. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 8 a.m.

The cost is $33 with $25 returned. 

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