2006-06-02 / Columnists

Simon says...

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Lew M. Simon
Lew M. Simon

We're finally back to our old self, keeping long and grueling hours. As many of you read in my last column, Maura McCarthy Queens Department of Transportation Commissioner has been keeping her word on my laundry list of what needs to be repaved in Rockaway. Since I personally drive and travel from one end of the peninsula to the other as well as to Broad Channel, I found improvements all over.

Beach Channel Drive to Fort Tilden has been milled and repaved. You will not have to worry about bottoming out due to pushups. The Rockaway Freeway from the beginning near Mott Avenue to Beach 73 Street has no more potholes otherwise known as large craters. Hats off and a special thank you to Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy. Keep up the great work.

On Wednesday May 17, Senator Malcolm Smith and his Chief of Staff Pat Rueben, Barbara Buffalino, President of SHAFT, and myself toured 1 Beach 105 Street, 106-20 and 107-10 Shorefront Parkway, Surfside, where maintenance workers are on strike. We found garbage piled up in locked rooms on the lobby floor, stench and roaches. We spoke with striking workers and other union members.

That night we attended the SHAFT meeting to lend our support to the residents and their striking maintenance workers. The tenants will have their own lawyer sue the management for failure to maintain the premises and for the shoddy work that was done. Barbara and her sister Karen Nevirs and her mother Elizabeth are a great working team on behalf of the residents of Surfside.

On Saturday morning the local rabble-rouser, AKA the pitbull, came with his bullhorn to help rally the troops in support of the superintendent, and maintenance workers of Local 32BJ. We screamed and hollered to make sure many hundreds of tenants came down to support the people who they trust around their children and in and out of their apartments.

In attendance that morning were Kyle Bragg VP of Local 32BJ SEIU; Congressman Gregory Meeks who represents an adjacent part of the Rockaway peninsula; Democratic District Leader Bob Simmons; Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer who is always there to lend her support; Democratic District Leader Geraldine Chapey, who lives in the development; State Committeewoman Patricia Young O'Connor, who also lives there; Barbara Buffalino who leads the Surfside Housing Tenants; and yours truly represented State Senator Malcolm Smith who couldn't attend.

After Eyewitness News left we led the union workers and tenants around the buildings chanting, "What do we want? Contract. When do we want it? Now. Who do we support? Local 32BJ." I was losing my voice because I still had my bronchitis and asthma. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer is a real trooper. She stayed with the tenants and me until the end.

On Thursday evening we had a hot and heavy meeting at the Good Government Regular Democratic Club. In attendance was MTA Chief of Operations Norman C. Silverman who is in charge of the private bus lines, which were recently taken over by the MTA. He was accompanied by Nick Morfogen, the Superintendent of Road Operations. Silverman made a presentation to a packed room with the crowd spilling over into the hall and down the steps.

Chris Rosetto Esq., an expert on transportation law, called us from Washington D.C. as we expected. He addressedthe audience via speakerphone. He told us that the city failed to comply with the Federal Transportation Act, which requires that a locally developed process to solicit comments be set up before service is changed or fares rise. We were advised that we could file letters of complaint with MTA headquarters describing individual harm caused by the service changes or increased costs.

Silverman denied that there had been any service reductions and said any additional travel timewas minimal. The large number of bus riders who were in the audience disagreed with the MTA official. They use many of the lines, which serve the Rockaway peninsula.

In an opening statement Silverman told us that MTA Bus had taken over seven private bus lines and eight depots. They have made some service changes and expect to make more. Their goal is to increase service and serve more riders. Service increases are planned for June 25. More new busses are expected in the fall.

My first question for the MTA was about the Q53, which has limited-stop service between Beach 116 Street and Woodside. Why couldn't they have a rotating service during peak hours with alternating buses eliminating the six extra stops followed by a bus serving the additional stops eight to ten minutes later? We stated that the current schedule is unacceptable, as it has added an extra 25 to 30 minutes riding time. Silverman stated that the increased time is minimal and the change in timetable is because the old schedule was not actually followed due to heavy traffic.

A regular rider on the QM17 has complained that this Express bus from Beach 116 Street to midtown Manhattan makes stops, which duplicate stops made by the QM15 which takes commuters from Lindenwood, Ozone Park and Woodhaven to 3rd Avenue and 57 Street in Manhattan. At one stop on Crossbay Boulevard and 156 Avenue only one passenger was waiting. Service on the QM17, which starts on Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway at 6:30 a.m., brings passengers to the end of the line at 7:55 a.m. Some people have to be at work earlier and want an earlier bus. There were questions about the additional stops on the Q35 on Flatbush Avenue, which were added several years ago. Silverman agreed that this duplication of service was unnecessary. This was one of the most interesting meetings we have held. We made it clear that we are not second-class citizens and will not accept a snow job. We made it clear to Norman Silverman that we want quarterly follow up meetings beginning in September. He hemmed and hawed with his answer. We stated that we will reach out to Senator Malcolm Smith who helped to arrange this meeting by speaking to Silverman's boss. Many people in the audience said maybe we do need a higher-up.

We did find some agreement. Silverman said he agrees with us that reopening the Rockaway Beach line would provide Rockaway residents with better service into Manhattan. This is a personal opinion and he is not in charge of subways and railroads. Silverman gave us a number to call if you need bus schedule information. We called (718) 445-3100 on Memorial Day evening and reached an operator who had Rockaway bus schedules. If a bus operator violates MTA rules you can give the date, time direction and the four- digit bus number to customer relations.

We are saddened by the death of Thomas Hennessy. Tom was an outstanding, loving individual. He gave of his time by assisting the Rockaway Point Volunteer Fire Department, and helping many of the Seniors with Life Alert alarm systems. Tom was a gracious and kind soul. He always had a smile on his face and was available to help no matter what the time of the day or night. His love and dedication will surely be missed. God must have needed another one of the Rockaway angels to be in His kingdom in heaven. My sympathy to the family.

Our next Atlantic City trip will be on Saturday, June 24. Trump Marina will have a free slot day. If you spend $50 you will get a check back for playing next month. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 8 a.m. The cost is $35 with $25 returned, which is the most cash back. Bagels and cream cheese from Beach Bagels are served and movies are shown. You must have tickets in advance. Call (718) 945-1216.

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