2006-11-17 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor's Desk

Nobody Asked Me, But ...(Pet Peeves Edition)
Commentary By Howard Schwach


... Rockaway Veterans Days are becoming something of a bust, as WW II and Korean Vets get older and less able to participate. At this year ceremony, perhaps a dozen or so vets showed up and there were perhaps another dozen from the ladies auxiliary and onlookers to fill out the "crowd." There seems to be a feeling among the populace that those older vets were the last that deserve any honor. The vets who fought in Vietnam were vilified when they came home and the current populace seems to feel that those who fought in the Gulf War and now in Iraq are somehow flawed by the experience. I'm a Navy veteran. I served at the cusp of Vietnam and was on active duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as the Tonkin Gulf Incident that led to that war. Yet, when I mention my military service, there are some (all of whom never served) who show some disdain and who even make it clear that they believe that I was somehow stupid for serving my country rather than establishing a career and becoming rich. It is unfortunate that those people will never understand what wearing the uniform of their country means. That is their loss.

... Now that the memorial to those who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 has been officially opened and has been turned over to the Parks Department, I want to share my disgust at the way the city in general and the Mayors Office of Immigrant Affairs specifically mistreated Rockaway and its residents. From the first minute that the mayor turned the memorial decision-making process over to the office of immigrant affairs, Rockaway was cut out of the process, even though the community had one seat on the memorial committee. That seat was vested in John Lepore as the President of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, but most often, his executive director, Joanie Omeste, who is not a Rockaway resident, attended the meetings in his stead. A number of family members of the five Rockaway people who died told me that their input was not only ignored, but the majority of the committee and the mayor's representatives considered them outsiders, deferring instead to the of the Washington Heights families. My experience with the process was that the the mayor's office and the committee always looked to the Hispanic group for decisions, I was told. When the mayor's office held a viewing of the various candidates for the memorial, I attended the meeting, hoping to provide photos for our readers so that they could informally provide their input to Lepore. I was told that the only way I could see the memorial proposals was to go to Manhattan even though they were plainly in sight at the Beach Club. I refused to leave and they tried to have me arrested. So much for serving the public. In fact, representatives from the office of immigrant affairs went out of their way to be nasty to The Wave and to keep it (and you) in the dark. At one meeting in Rockaway, a Hospanic family member mand it clear that that it was the victims that counted and that, since most of them were from Washington Heights, Rockaway should have no say in what shape the memorial should take or where it should be placed. As it turned out, we had neither.

... Speaking of the AA 587 memorial, it cost the city $9.2 million to build, about $7 million more than the mayor said it would cost at the outset. I have to wonder why the city (and the private donors the mayor rounded up to donate to the memorial) coughed up that amount of money when the community was told that there could be no public money whatsoever (except for grants) for a memorial to those who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center two months earlier. Was the crash of the plane in Rockaway more compelling than the WTC attack? The mayor seemed to think so. The original $2 million cost was supposed to be equally divided between public and private money. I have to wonder how the final cost was split.

... I could not do a column on pet peeves without once again addressing the parking problem in the west end of the peninsula. It should be clear to everybody that the restrictive parking rules that demand constant attention from May to September have one purpose only, and that is to keep visitors off our beaches. Those who say that keeping the non-beach block curbs clear during the summer months is done so for emergency vehicles should ask themselves why those emergency vehicles would only have a problem during the summer months but not in the winter. There have been a number of lawsuits challenging beach access rules and parking access nearby beaches throughout the nation, and the court's rulings have consistently said that municipalities must insure not only beach access routes, but parking access and bathroom access as well. That is not done in Rockaway and those rulings should be looked at by our city managers at the Parks Department before some lawsuit forces to the city into some radical fix for its lack of access. Building comfort stations every quarter mile would be an expensive proposition, but that is what the city might have to do. The first question asked when a prospective renter comes to look at an apartment is whether or not it comes with a parking spot or two.

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