2006-12-29 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor’s Desk

Sometimes The Diamond, Sometimes The Coal
Commentary By Howard Schwach


At the end of each year, my mind turns naturally to those who have served Rockaway well during the year and those who have not. Once again, for what it’s worth, my Diamond and Coal Awards for 2006.

A large bag of diamonds for all of the servicemen and women who defend our freedom around the world. When I was in the Navy in the early 1960’s, we joked about “Defending democracy on the frontiers of freedom,” as we sat on the beach in Cannes, but these people are doing it for real and we should realize that whether or not we support the war.

More diamonds for all of the first responders who work in Rockaway—the police officers, firefighters, medical technicians, volunteer firefighters and others who keep us safe locally. Some diamonds as well for all of those who work under difficult circumstances at our local hospitals trying to keep us health.

Lots of coal for all of the politicians and activists who marched with the Reverend Al Sharpton, City Councilman Charles Barron and the New Black Panther Party down Fifth Avenue to demand a boycott of white businesses and a decrease in police activity in black communities, or who supported those activities with their presence. You know who you are: Councilman James Sanders, Assemblywoman Michelle Titus, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Congressman Anthony Weiner, UFT President Randi Weingarten and NAACP President Ed Williams. Why not wait until all the facts have been heard? You shame your constituents.

Bags and bags of diamonds for those who work with Rockaway’s youth, those who coach the little league, officiate games, run youth programs and lead scout troops. Some extra diamond for Greg Carter and Stan Brown, who never fail to give their all for the kids in the Far Rockaway community.

Coal for all those who think that using a gun is the best way to settle a dispute. I know that there is a feeling, perhaps generated by popular music and culture, that you cannot be a man unless you carry a gun and disrespect women, but that belief will only destroy us all. On the other hand, diamonds to people such as Liz Bishop-Goldsmith, the head of Mothers Against Guns, who are fighting an uphill battle to tell the truth about gun use.

Coal as well to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for really screwing up Rockaway’s roads this year, particularly Shore Front Parkway and Beach Channel Drive. Bike lanes are fine, but not when they run for only two blocks and then disappear.

Coal to the Department of Education (DOE) and Region Five who have raised reading and math scores by refusing to teach social studies and science. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and those improved reading scores really mean that students are learning far less than they ever did before. Social studies and science lessons have been replaced with lessons on how to take tests and that is something that none of us should allow. Standardized test scores should not be the be-all and end-all of education.

Diamonds to the MTA for improving the express bus service between Rockaway and Manhattan. When the private bus companies were taken over by the city, I feared that the service would collapse, but riders of the express buses tell me that service is vastly improved over what Green Bus and Triboro Bus once ran. At the same time, coal to the same agency for the way it runs its subway service to Rockaway and for the deteriorating infrastructure that looks like it might soon collapse into the Rockaway Freeway,

Bags and bags of coal to the Parks Department for its lifeguard recruitment and testing program that is controlled by two men who, according to a number of insiders, run the program like a fiefdom, granting jobs only to those who they want to hire, not those who are qualified. On the other hand, diamonds to the lifeguards who risk their lives each day in heavy surf to keep swimmers safe.

Coal to the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn for closing the St. Virgilius School in Broad Channel. Certainly, something could have been done for the people of that isolated island community.

Diamonds to Aviator Sports, now running full-speed-ahead at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. The sports complex now includes a health club, basketball courts, two ice rinks, a gymnastics facility, a sports bar, food court, football fields, soccer fields and the Concorde. The complex has added a new dimension to the quality of life in Rockaway and I welcome its success.

Bags of coal to those who filed a lawsuit demanding that the Belle Harbor dunes be removed. Despite their argument that the dunes are dangerous and unhealthy, I wish that there were dunes from Beach 3 Street west to Riis Park. Rockaway is the only place in the nation that does not protect its dunes. In most venues, in fact, simply walking on a dune will land you in federal court. Here, people who don’t like the idea that they can’t see the ocean from their first floor windows sue to get rid of them. Only in Rockaway.

Diamonds to the locals who run the Wounded Warrior project. Seeing those men and women who gave their all for America in foreign climes enjoy themselves as the guests of Rockaway has become an annual joy. Those who run those programs deserve accolades from us all.

Coal to the traffic enforcement agents who skulk on Beach 116 Street, waiting for motorists to get out of their cars and walk to the Muni-meter machines, only to pounce and give the motorist a ticket before he or she can get back to their automobile. This has become high sport for some TEA’s in recent weeks. If the city is going to run parking plans where people have to walk away from their vehicles to get a receipt, then they are going to have to allow time to do that chore.

Diamonds to all of our arts organizations who add so much to our quality of life – the Rockaway Music and Arts Council, the Rockaway Artists Alliance and the Rockaway Theatre Company. Without them, our joy in life would be seriously diminished.

Diamonds as well to Arverne By The Sea. So far, it has kept its promise and I look forward to the new YMCA and to all the new shopping and restaurants it promises.

A last bag of diamonds to the two new memorials in our midst. The two, sitting astride Beach 116 Street, are like twin guardians, defining our pride in community and our grief at two events separated by a little more than two months.

And, one more bag of diamonds to our advertisers and readers who have made 2006 one of the most successful years in The Wave’s long 113-year history.

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