2006-07-21 / Columnists


Barry Sullivan, the new Superintendent for Gateway National Urban Recreation Area has turned down the proposal by actor Paul Newman and others to bring open-wheel auto racing to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. {Auto racing] is not appropriate for the park," Sullivan wrote to the plan's promoter, Geoffrey Wheeling, adding that park policy limits attendance at events to 10,000. The 10-day racing event would have brought upwards of 65,000 visitors a day to the park. Representative Anthony Weiner, an outspoken critic of the racing plan, welcomed Sullivan's decision. "This was neither smart nor recreation," Weiner said. "The [National Park Service] was smart to reject it." Wheeling, however, said that he would appeal the decision to Park Service officials in Washington, D.C.

The rate of firearm death in America for children 14 years and under is almost 12 times higher than in the other 25 industrialized nations combined, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Ten young people die each day in gun homicides, suicides and accidents. Yet, the House of Representatives recently barred the use of federal funds to enforce a law that requires child safety locks to be sold with every handgun. Talk about the power of the gun lobby. The Colorado Republican who put this law on the floor said that the federal law "only made the cost of gun ownership more expensive." More than 185 Republicans and 42 Democrats voted for the act. "Many things around the home are dangerous when used without supervision or proper instruction," said Representative Marilyn Musgrave. "But it is not government's job or responsibility to mandate every conceivable protective mechanism imaginable."

The people who write the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary like to keep up with the times, so their publication is ever-changing, adding words that have come into the lexicon and dropping those that are considered archaic. This year, the dictionary's editors have added about 100 new words, including "drama queen," "empty suit," "mouse potato," and "Google" as a noun. What definitions do the editors give to those words? A drama queen is "a person given to excessively emotional performances," An empty suit is defined as "an ineffectual executive," a mouse potato as "a person who uses the computer excessively" and to Google means to "look up information on the web by using a search engine."

The National Park Service, which runs Fort Tilden, Riis Park and Floyd Bennett Field, has a new rule in effect since May 15. That rule requires people who want their picture taken professionally anywhere within the national parks to pay a fee. The rule shows up most often at Fire Island, where brides often want their pictures taken with the popular lighthouse in the background. The permits cost anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on how many people are involved in the picture-taking event. What does that mean for locals? There are not many scenic sites at Gateway National Recreation Area, but if you want your wedding picture taken professionally with the historic Riis Park Bathhouse in the background, you'd better check first with park officials. You might be breaking the law.

Many local Jews expressed their displeasure with the New York Post's cover headline on Monday, July 10. The headline, trumpeting the hiring of a Hasidic police officer, said in 64-point type (The Wave typically uses 34-point type for its headlines) "NYPD Jew." At best, the headline was insensitive. At worst, many considered it racist. In fact, it was not even correct. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced the next day that the man in the story was four credits short of the educational requirement to become a police officer and therefore was not a member of the class that entered the academy on last week.

On Sunday, July 9, a jet airliner landing in Siberia suddenly veered off the runway, killing 122 people. The plane, An Airbus A-320 was virtually the same aircraft model that crashed in Belle Harbor in November of 2001 and that crashed while landing in Russia in May. According to eyewitnesses, the aircraft "became uncontrollable once it touched down on the ground." The plane struck a concrete wall and then slammed into a row of low concrete storage buildings. While officials say that it is too early to tell the cause of the crash, officials say in published reports that the investigation is focusing "problems with the aircraft and with communications with controllers on the ground." The Airbus A300 series planes have had repeated control problems both in the air and on the ground over the last ten years, but both the FAA and the NTSB continue to argue that the planes are safe. The great majority of the crashes are blamed on pilot error. In fact, Newsday recently reported that, over the period of 1990 to 2004, 56 percent of the civilian airline crashes were officially blamed on pilot error. Twenty percent were blamed on mechanical problems, eight percent equally on sabotage and weather problems while seven percent were blamed on "other human error."

People who own homes around the city but do not live in them, instead renting them to tenants are called "absentee landlords." Up until this year, those absentee landlords had to pay an extra 25 percent property tax surcharge. Under the new budget just approved by the City Council and the Mayor, however, that tax surcharge is gone, saving absentee landlords some $70 million. The argument was that the landlords just passed the cost on to their tenants, therefore exacerbating an already-grim rental housing market.

So it begins. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has used some of her campaign funds to commission an opinion poll on term limits for city officials. It is not apparently enough that the voters have spoken twice with the ballot box on the issue. Quinn and many others in the council want to increase the term limit to 12 years from the present eight. Want to bet that Quinn's poll shows that the majority of people want the extended limit? Quinn, by the way, says she has no "personal opinion" on the move.

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