State Senator Ada Smith has lots of detractors and that certainly seems to be well-deserved. The record shows that over the past 20 years, Smith has treated both her staff and her constituents with hauteur and disdain. The two latest incidents, which took place over the past two months, include throwing a scalding cup of coffee at an aide who dared make a joke about her diet, and a loud, contentious argument with an airline hostess for not placing her luggage in the overhead rack (she was escorted off the plane). She has also been arrested in the past for nearly running over a state trooper who dared to ask for her identification at a parking garage and biting a NYPD officer who wanted to question her about a traffic accident in Brooklyn. Our major concern with Smith, who represents Broad Channel, is that she has probably never set foot in that community. In fact, she treats the Channel as if it doesn't exist. When, for example, the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department held a ceremony to celebrate its new ambulance (to replace the one that was lost when the World Trade Center came down on top of it), the State Senate was represented by Senator Malcolm Smith, who represents Rockaway. Ada Smith was nowhere to be seen. As far as we can tell, she has never attended a BCVFD dinner or any other event in the community. She did not stand with St. Virgilius when it was in danger of closing. Perhaps she does not like the white constituents who live in the Channel. We understand that most of Smith's constituency is in the minority sections of Brooklyn, but she represents Broad Channel not at all and that community should be removed from her district and placed in the same district with Rockaway, where it belongs. What she has done to Broad Channel is far worse for a politician than what she did to her aides.
There are a number of west end communities who need the same type of downzoning help that some of Bayswater and Far Rockaway just received from the city. Most notably, those communities include Rockaway Park and Belle Harbor, where single-family homes are being razed to build either 'McMansions" or town houses, both out of scale with the other homes in the area. The Department of City Planning has come out with a comprehensive book that describes the various community zoning possibilities. The book makes a splendid attempt at keeping it all straight, but the science of zoning is still too arcane for the uninitiated. We know what we like, and out-of-scale houses in any neighborhood are alarming, even if they are allowed under the local zoning rules.
With two weeks to go, St. Virgilius continues to work towards an enrollment of 113 children, the number it promised the diocese it would have in place for the September term. At last count, parent activists say, the number was nearing 100, still way short of the necessary number. What will happen if the enrollment falls below the promised number on April 28? Nobody is sure. School parents were threatened with the immediate closure of the school back on April 1. They were told that the diocese would immediately lock the doors that day. A large protest forced the diocese to back off and provide a 28-day reprieve. A Brooklyn Diocese spokesperson told us that there have been no discussions on what will happen should the quota be missed at the end of this month. We would hope that the school would remain open until June and the end of the school year. Shuttering the small, wooden school at the end of April, scattering the students to the wind and forcing them to find seats in other buildings at this late date would show a insensitivity that should be an anathema to any religious organization.
Tribute Park is now complete. Last week's unveiling of local artist Patrick Clark's glass cupola was held in two parts - installing the cupola at noon and turning on the lights after dark. The cupola includes the names of all those Rockaway residents who died on September 11, 2001 in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and it was designed to literally be the centerpiece of the entire park. That the Parks Department physically moved it to the side does not diminish its power.
Firefighters from Engine 265, Ladder 121 rushed to the ocean at Beach 57 Street last week when they received a call for a "sick baby." The baby, however, turned out to be a beached baby Gray Seal. They kept the seal away from the water and waited until experts from the Riverhead Foundation came and took it away for rehabilitation. Experts at the Long Island facility say that the seal is in critical condition and is on antibiotics.
There is a memorial park planned in the upstate community of Chappaqua to honor the three community members who died in the World Trade Center. One of the widows got permission to get two small pieces of twisted steel from the WTC. She picked them up in her SUV and brought them home, awaiting a place in a small portion of Duck Pond. She immediately ran into trouble. Some who lived nearby the pond argued about too much traffic for the residential character of the neighborhood surrounding the pond. Does that sound familiar? Then, a small group objected not to the memorial, but to the twisted metal. One said, "The memory of September 11 should be a personal one, not a gathering for saluting and band playing. It should be a place of calm, a place for reflection and remembering." Does that sound familiar? We guess that Rockaway is not as unique as we thought we were after all.
We had a minor goof in last week's item about Kate Smith. Jean Fox called to say that she was not friendly with Smith's daughter, but with the daughter of her agent, Ted Collins, who lived here in Rockaway. In fact, another reader Emailed us to say that she had gone online to research Smith and found out that she was never married and never had any children. Sorry for the mistake.
The Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaway's held its annual "Summer Issues" meeting last week at the Beach Club but, except for a handful of usual suspects, nobody showed up. Too bad, the meeting is a good opportunity to speak one-on-one with people who make the community work - especially if you have a complaint or a compliment.
The Wave got lots of positive reaction to last week's editorial about gun violence in Rockaway. One man, who termed himself "A proud black man," called to say that he has lived in Far Rockaway all of his life and he agrees that the Black community has to aggresively attack the problem. "Thank you for your editorial," he said. "Black politicians tend to put their heads in the sand on this issue and our black leadership has completely failed the community when it comes to kids with guns. What are they afraid of?"