2007-01-05 / Columnists


City Councilman James Sanders had us excited this week because he was actually going to address the gun violence and black on black crime problems on the Rockaway peninsula. In fact, he told us that he had a plan that he would reveal at a press conference that was held last Friday, December 22. He held the press conference, but, unfortunately, he has no plan. He calls whatever he does have, "Stop the Bleeding, Start the Breathing, Heal The Wounds," but the words far exceed the deed. What he does have is a litany of complaints, most of which we have heard dozens of times before. Rockaway has poor transportation. Rockaway has few local jobs and young black males are not hired for those that do exist. Rockaway has a saturation of guns and drugs. Rockaway has lots of dysfunctional families. Rockaway has a struggling education system with overcrowded buildings. Rockaway has no attractions for young people; Rockaway has increasing racial and economic segregation. Rockaway has an enormous number of parolees and returnees without adequate resources to reform. We know all that. So What? The question at hand is how to take guns out of the young black males who use those guns to kill other young black males. Will more jobs or more programs for recidivists in our midst stop that? Will a kid earning hundreds of dollars a day stop selling drugs and take an entry level job that pays two hundred dollars a week? Of course not. Sanders says that the usual fix for the gun problem is "aggressive policing, which results in the bad and the not so bad going to jail for awhile." He does not like that solution, but offers none of his own.

If you really want to see what Republican rule does to the middle class quality of life, take a look at the 2001 tax cut put in place by President Bush and a Republican Congress that cuts $30 billion in taxes from American's wealthiest taxpayers, the top 0.3 percent of Americans who are making one million dollars a year at the same time that administration and Congress cut $14 billion from a crucial state-federal program that provides health care for children whose working parents can't afford it on their own. Think about whether or not that kind of action is what you expect from your government.

Members of the City Council, including Councilman John Liu, the chair of the council's Transportation Committee, met two weeks ago to take testimony about the state of express bus service in Queens now that the MTA has taken over the private bus lines such as Green Bus and Triboro Bus. The council members expected to hear horror stories about how bad the service had become under the MTA and were prepared to excoriate the agency for its bad work. Instead, riders praised the new service, telling the councilmembers how much better express service is now than it was before. Not a few of the people who testified were from Rockaway and they told of the relative joys of the QM 17 and QM 18 runs. That surprised the councilmembers, and they didn't quite know how to reacts to the good news because it is not often that good news is heard. According to the MTA, it costs the agency $1.89 for each subway ride, $2.26 for each local bus ride and $11.98 for each express bus trip. The $5 fare for the express buses covers only 29 percent of the route's operating costs. Despite that, there are no plans, MTA officials say, to cut the vital service.

The daily weekday newspaper, AM NY, recently ran a poll that brought in 23,000 responses from city residents. That poll asked whether or not there should be some off-leash hours for dogs. The question that was asked was, "Should dogs always be on leashes in city parks?" Nearly 60 percent of the respondents (59.9 percent, to be exact), answered "No," that dogs should have some off-leash time in city parks. Now, how about that doggie park here in Rockaway?

Long-retired politicians such as Ed Koch and Jimmy Carter should take the advice of General Douglas Macarthur, who famously said, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away." In his dotage, Koch has morphed from an ultra-Liberal to a supporter of all things Republican. Carter has written a book about the Middle East, perhaps in a vain attempt to solidify his own legacy. In the book, he writes, "When I met with Yasir Arafat in 1990, he told me that the PLO had never advocated the annihilation of Israel. The Zionists started the 'drive the Jews into the sea' slogan and attributed it to the PLO." In fact, the PLO's charter contains multiple and vituperative demands for the elimination of the Jewish state and Arafat himself often called for the Jews to be driven into the sea. In 1980, he said, "Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war which will last for generations." Boy, was Arafat right. Unfortunately for history, Carter got it all wrong.

Rockaway has long been known as a haven for underage drinkers. Generations of Nassau County youth grew up and fell down drunk in local pubs. Now, the city has plans to crack down on underage drinkers who use phony ID's to get served. One of the proposals under the new plan is an automatic driver's license suspension for anybody underage who is found using a fake ID to buy alcohol. A new Florida law mandates jail time for the same offense. The state legislature would have to approve the new city plan.

The city's determination that it will soon find another use for the abandoned firehouse on Beach 57 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard has drawn some interest from local residents. A number of people have written or emailed us about the proper use for the property. One correspondent, who did not include his or her name, said that the site would be a place for a soup kitchen to feed Rockaway's hungry. "A soup kitchen that promotes an atmosphere of respect that would elevate the dignity of the needy is of prime importance," the writer said.

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