2006-08-04 / Columnists

Beachcomber

Local realtors say that this may be the worst summer for selling homes in more than a decade. "People just can't afford the home prices in the west end," one realtor told The Wave. "People who bought their homes many years ago for $175,000 are balking at selling those same homes at $650,000 today because the homes were worth upwards of $1,000,000 a year of two ago. They think they are losing money on the deal. The sale prices, however, will probably continue to drop at least for the foreseeable future." Another realtor told us that many people who want to buy up cannot do so even though they have found a home they want and think they can afford, simply because they can't sell their old home for the price they need to fund the new purchase. The famed "bubble" is starting to burst and it is going to take lots of people down with it when it goes. That might be good news for the young people who want to stay in Rockaway, but can't now afford to buy a home in the community because of the inflated prices.

The word on the street is positive for three major properties that are being developed. First are the Wharton's apothecary and the dilapidated milk stand on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel. The owner of both, Charles Howard Jr., recently told The Wave that he is in the process of hiring a consultant to weed through the red tape that comes with opening a pharmacy, which are under strict government regulation, and plans to turn the old milk stand into a community medical facility have advanced through the Board of Standards and Appeal, so look for a demo sometime this year. We also learned from Gerard "Gerry" Romski of the Beechwood Organization that the agreement on Rockaway's YMCA - part of the Arverne by the Sea project - has been signed and a groundbreaking at the site on Beach 73 Street, north of Rockaway Beach Boulevard should happen at the end of August or the start of September.

More than 250 new Orion Low Floor Hybrid Buses will be on routes formerly run by Green Bus and Triboro bus will be on duty beginning in September of this year, the MTA has announced in its newsletter. Of the first 100 buses to be delivered, approximately 25 will be used on routes that impact Rockaway.

There has been a spate of robberies on the Rockaway boardwalk in past weeks. In some cases, a fake gun was used. In others, no weapon was shown, but there was an implied threat from the robbers that a weapon was at hand. Those robberies have taken place from Beach 20 Street to Beach 57 Street to Beach 110 Street. In almost every case, the robber was quickly corralled by local police officers, because there are not too many places to quickly hide nearby the boardwalk any more.

We wonder how it came to be that the lifeguards union holds sway over many things that are usually management prerogatives in other city agencies. For example, the union members test candidates for the position. The union decides which beaches will be open and which will be closed on any given day. The union decides on what hours the beaches will be open and who will man specific beaches. Can you imagine the Policeman's Benevolent Association (PBA), the police union, deciding who would become a cop, where they would work, which beats would be covered on any day? Of course not. How did the Parks Department ever give away all of its management power in the first place? In any case, it's clearly time for a change in light of all of the charges against that union and its leadership.

Every passing day brings another horror story about Shore Front Parkway in the wake of the Department of Transportation's changes to that once-beautiful oceanfront road. If you are heading eastbound nearby Beach 102 Street, the one lane you can drive in changes from the left lane to the right lane without warning to allow a left-turn only lane on Beach 93 Street. We saw a near accident there when a motorist in the left lane (who had just damaged his car on the huge bump in the road there) tried to get into the right lane and was almost run over by a large suburban trying to pass him on the right. What was the DOT thinking?

The Wave received a lot of feedback regarding our use of the word "shanghaied" to describe the robbery of a Chinese food delivery man, who delivered food to the Ocean Bay Houses and was stripped of the food and his money, cell phone and bicycle (he was not injured). We know the strict definition of the word involves someone being forced aboard a ship and forced to work, but the secondary def in our Merriam-Webster also allows: to trick or force into an undesirable position. So, to everyone who wants strict adherence to the primary meaning we make this offer: We'll only use the word to describe "true" shanghais, but you have to let us know if you hear of any. Thanks!

In the July 21 edition of The Wave, we did a front-page story about a wanted murderer who was brought back to Rockaway. Clayton Levy was arrested in Kingston, New York for the 1996 murder of Craig Wong on Beach 19 Street. New information shows that Levy and Wong had argued over a girl. Wong hit Levy with a bottle. Levy then went home and got a gun, returned and shot Wong to death while he was sitting in his automobile. Unfortunately, that's a pretty typical Rockaway homicide story.

Former Queens Democratic Leader (and Congressman) Thomas Manton died recently. Not many local people outside of our politicians knew Manton, but he controlled what happened in Rockaway (and the rest of Queens as well) with an iron fist. He will probably be replaced as Democratic Leader by Congressman Joseph Crowley, who was Manton's hand-picked successor when he gave up his congressional seat in the late 1990's. Manton was not always a friend of Rockaway and he controlled whom the party would run for local, state and even federal elected offices. He brokered the deal that made Gregory Meeks a Congressman when Floyd Flake stepped down. Meeks wanted to be a Congressman and Geraldine D. Chapey wanted to sit on the state Board of Regents. Chapey's daughter, Geraldine M. Chapey a local Democratic District Leader, cast the deciding vote to give Meeks the position. While Manton will be missed by those who supported him and by those he gave his loyalty, he will not be missed by those who he thought were not loyal to the party and who he punished for that disloyalty. One of those was City Councilman James Sanders who ran against the party candidate in the last election and beat him going away. To Manton, that was a disloyal act and Sanders was stripped of his Economic Development Committee chair, harming Rockaway's chances for an economic renaissance.

It seems as though the maiden flight of the new Airbus A-380 jumbo jet to JFK Airport may be even later than expected. Seems that tests of the tail section of the Airbus jet turned up "weaknesses in its tail section." Where have we heard of problems with Airbus tail sections? Think of American Airlines Flight 587, the plane that crashed into Belle Harbor when its tail fell off over Jamaica Bay.

We have been reporting for more than a year now that teachers sent to the "rubber room" by their principals were not always guilty of the 'crime" for which they were removed from their classrooms. Now comes the story of George Zanetis. In June of 2004, a student at Aviation High School bragged to other students that Zanetis had sex with her in his car at Jones Beach. The story got back to the school's administration and he was arrested and sent to the rubber room. He lost his job, his wife, his home and his reputation. Recently, however, the girl recanted her story and a judge tossed the statutory rape charge against him. The DOE continues to refuse to reinstate him, however.

While the MTA's A Line came in about the middle of a new survey on Subway quality of life conducted by the "Straphanger's Campaign," the survey showed that trains on our "lifeline to Manhattan" break down more often than the average and also run on a below-average rate of regularity. On the other hand, the line was cleaner than most and it is easier to get a seat on the line that on most others.

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