2006-12-29 / Columnists


With three homicides in a little less than three weeks and several more shooting incidents, including one where the perpetrators took seven shots at police, officers from all over south Queens flooded Rockaway for a time, setting up roadblocks, making arrests and doing vertical patrols at buildings in the Redfern, Ocean Bay and Hammel housing complexes. The police are not the only ones responding to the crisis. Local politicians such as Gregory Meeks, Malcolm Smith and James Sanders, Jr., seem to have pulled their heads out of the sand to discover that there is a gun problem in Rockaway. We expect to see lots of activity on this front in the coming weeks of the New Year, but the main question is, will it do any good unless there is a real crackdown on guns and black-on-black crime. We do not see that happening, especially in light of the shooting of Sean Bell in Jamaica and knee-jerk reaction on the part of many black legislators, who now seek to stop the police from doing their job.

Speaking of City Councilman James Sanders, he was chagrined when he said in an interview with a Wave reporter that he favored a greatly increased police presence in Rockaway. “We have to bring in the cops and punish these people to the fullest extent of the law,” Sanders said, referring to those who were shooting up the peninsula since late November. When he was reminded that he recently marched with other black leaders and the New Black Panther Party demanding that the NYPD suspend all undercover operations and go back to using .38 caliber, six-shot weapons, Sanders was quiet for a moment and then agreed that there was a certain amount of hypocrisy involved. Sanders praised undercover officers such as the two who were killed in Staten Island and said that they were “true heroes.” Isn’t politics wonderful?

Vandals hit lots of Neponsit and Belle Harbor homes early in the holiday season. The young miscreants were caught on a security video and police are investigating. The teens took down decorations and threw them around the streets, pulling down lights and ruining other displays. A group of homeowners have chipped in to send the digital photos to a private lab to have them enhanced. Then, they hope to have locals or the police identify the vandals. In addition, somebody pilfered the collection box at the Little North Pole, money that was bound for the Juvenile Diabetes Fund and for Peninsula Hospital Center’s Angels On The Bay unit.

When we first learned that the City Council was about to tinker with the 421A tax abatement program, we worried that Rockaway, and especially Arverne By The Sea, would be impacted by the proposals that would cut the tax exemptions in certain “exclusion zones.” Those exemptions are critical to selling the new homes in the massive ABTS project and those homes are critical to the revitalization of Rockaway. We should not have worried. Jerry Romski, the man who knows about those things for ABTS dropped in to tell us that his homes are built under another 20-year tax abatement program called Urban Development Action Program Grants, a state program rather than a city program. People who buy homes or condos in ABTS can still count on those 20-year tax exemptions no matter what our City Council members vote.

Aviator Sports at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn has opened its Performance and Fitness Center. The new center, which is expected to attract Rockaway visitors promises a state-of-the-art fitness center with expert trainers and high-tech equipment. According to a press release provided by Aviator Sports, the new center offers free parking and free towel service. The fitness center is the latest addition to the complex, which features two NHL-sized hockey rinks, figure skating, a new rock-climbing wall and a gymnastics center. Many local birthday parties are being held there and the word is that it is a world-call facility.

Congressman Anthony Weiner took time off from marching down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with Al Sharpton and the New Black Panther Party demanding that police power in the city be truncated and that shoppers boycott white-owned stored during the Christmas season, to argue that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be prosecuted for inciting genocide. We guess that Weiner, who will probably run for mayor in three years, has to work both sides of the street.

You can tell right away that the majority of New York State voters are not too happy with their state legislators. In a recent poll that was released last week, two-thirds of New Yorkers supported term limits for such statewide elected officials as the governor. lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general. Similar term limits have been in place in New York City for nearly a decade, although some City Council members have plans to do away with them legislatively since the public keeps voting to keep them in place. According to the Quinnipiac poll, voters, by a 67-27 percent majority, would like to see two four-year terms for the statewide elected officials named above and only two two-year terms for local legislators who serve in the Senate and Assembly. We concur with those findings and it’s about time that they are implemented. The problem is, the legislators would never vote for the change, so it will have to be done by a change in the state constitution, something that is difficult to do.

City Council member Charles Barron, who once belonged to the Black Panther Party, called a summit of gang members to rally against the shooting of Rockaway resident Sean Bell by police officers. Andrea Peyser, the acerbic columnist for the New York Post covered the summit and found that few gang members attended. One who did was Michael Vasquez, who is 18 years old and a high school student from Far Rockaway. Vasquez told Peyser that he is a member of the Bloods and has been for three years. He told her that he joined the gang “because there’s like, an organization. We try to do right. We don’t mean no harm.” Peyser asked him if he ever hurt anybody in the pursuit of gang activities. “No,” he answered. “Not really. Sometimes, but only if it’s necessary.” Welcome to Rockaway thinking, Andrea. Perhaps she should have asked him if the Bloods are responsible for all the recent homicides on the peninsula.

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