2006-05-26 / Columnists


Possums have become a west end problem and some homeowners have addressed that problem by putting out poison nearby their garbage in an attempt to eradicate the pests. That has created a new problem. Some local have reported dead possums but others have reported dead cats. Seems that the poison does not discriminate between pests and pets and experts ask those who are putting the poison in place to leave the job to experts.

There have been a number of new polls throughout the nation that show the glaring fact that our middle school and high school students know little about American History and less about geography. One recent indicator of the problem came in a poll that revealed that, despite Hurricane Katrina and its attendant publicity, nearly one-third of young Americans could not point to Louisiana on a map. In addition, six in ten could not find Iraq on a map and 47 percent could not find the Indian Subcontinent. Part of the problem is that our schools no longer teach either history or geography to any extent, preferring instead to teach the test prep courses that guarantee higher scores on the high-stakes tests that come with the NCLB Law. It seems that it is not as important to actually know some facts or to find a place on a map, as it is to appear to be able to read. I use the term "appear to be able to read" because the reading tests do not really predict the ability to read a written work with any degree of accuracy.

The largest passenger airliner in history made a flight into Heathrow Airport in London last week. The Airbus A380 can hold up to 850 passengers, a scary thought when you understand that the plane's vertical fin and rudder are made of the same composite material that made up the tail of American Airlines Flight 587, An Airbus A300, that crashed into Belle Harbor nearly five years ago. Heathrow just spent $850 million to upgrade its runway system to accommodate the A380. Our own John F. Kennedy Airport will soon begin to spend a like amount of money on bringing its runway system up to snuff so that the A380 can come in and take off over the Rockaway peninsula. Sleep well!

Long Beach has turned down a plan that would have saved its ever-shrinking shoreline by dredging, rebuilding dunes on the beach, repairing existing jetties and building several new ones. The unanimous decision by the town council came after surfers said that the dredging would destroy the sport in Long Beach and homeowners complained that the dunes would cut down on their beach use and cause them to lose their sightlines to the ocean. There is a group in Rockaway's west end that wants to get rid of the 'legal' dunes that dots the beachfront for many of the same reasons. We can only hope that their homes are not wiped away by the first hurricane this summer, something that is much less likely to happen when dunes are present.

If you think that subway cars on the A Line have become dirtier over the past year, you're right. The Straphanger's Campaign recently released its report on the percentage of clean cars on each of the city's myriad of lines. In the 2004 survey, the A Line was one of the cleanest, with 81 percent of the cars rated as "clean." In 2005, however, that number dropped to 46 percent, a precipitous drop that left the local line somewhere in the middle of the list. What was Transit's response? "You should check the cars when they've just come from the yards, not when they have been in use for a while."

This Sunday, May 28, marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of transit service to Rockaway. The first A Line trains ran from Manhattan to Rockaway Park and Wavecrest (the Far Rockaway station at Mott Avenue was not ready) ran on May 28, 1956.

After years of lower numbers, gun violence is on the rise in New York City. Murders have jumped nearly five percent so far this year, spiked by a big jump in gun violence. Murders are up 4.8 percent and rape 13.2 percent. The numbers for such "indx crimes" as robbery, assault and burglary continue to drop, however.

School Chancellor Joel Klein obviously doesn't get the fact that "It's the students, stupid." When asked by a reporter if some of his new plan to track schools is redundant because we already know where the good schools are, Klein said, "I think we have a misconception that successful schools are schools that attract talented kids. I think that there are some schools that we think are successful on the East Side and West Side, where, under the new system, you'll see very little year to year gains." Of course, that is the case. When all of your students are reading at Level IV, at high school level in the sixth grade, you will see no growth from year to year because the kids are already at the max. He obviously does not understand that. A school where all the kids are at that level and can make no gains is worse than a school where the kids are all at Level I and half move to Level II over the year, he believes. That is laughable and somebody who really knows that education means should point that out to him.

A recent news article makes you wonder about what we are fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (you'll remember him holding hands with President Bush last year) has ordered Saudi newspapers to stop publishing pictures of women in the nation's newspapers because those pictures, even if the woman is properly dressed and covered, "will make young men go astray." You'll also remember that the king does not allow women to drive a car or to be out in public without a male chaperone. Oh, yes, women can't vote. During World War II, Hollywood made a series of movies called "For What We Fight." Perhaps we need to bring back that series.

Steve Yaeger, the new president of the Rockaway Music And Arts Council, Emailed us to say that he had made a mistake in the group picture of the people involved in the Music Memory program at PS 183. Seems he identified the principal of the school as Andrea Whitehurst, when she is, in fact, Rene Pert. We regret the error (and so does Yaeger). We hope it did not cause Principal Pert any embarrassment.

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