2007-01-26 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The Rockaway Music and Arts Council will be sponsoring a Literary Arts Festival at Ft. Tilden on April 22 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Bringing together writers, editors and agents from all over the tri-state area, and beyond, this first-time writers' event will offer public readings by authors, panel discussions, book signings and screenings of clips from recent films (as part of a larger discussion on screenwriting). A number of editors from major publishing houses and literary agencies have agreed to meet with aspiring authors on site to consider book proposals for possible future publication. A peninsula-wide writing contest will also be conducted, involving selection of the best poetry, short fiction and essays from local students. Musical entertainment will be provided and refreshments and books will be offered for sale on the premises. The RMAC Literary Arts Festival will be held in sTudios 6 and 7, and in the Rockaway Theatre Company's nearby theater building, within walking distance. Parking is available on site. For information e-mail rockirreg@ aol.com.

The Queens County St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee is looking for a few good bands to march in its March 3 parade. Those interested in joining the annual event, billed as the second largest Irish parade in New York, should contact the committee's president, Mike Benn at 718-634-7325.

Everybody is celebrating the warm weather we have been having this winter, at least until recent weeks. You would think that KeySpan Energy would welcome the warm weather and the decreased demand for gas and oil. Instead, it is charging its gas customers a "weather normalization charge" of ten bucks or so because it uses less gas in warm weather and has to make up for the loss of revenue. A state official says that the charge is normal and allowable under its regulations. "It's actually a mechanism that protects both the consumer and the utility," the official told reporters. "When warm weather prevails, the adjustment adds a charge to assure that KeySpan takes in enough revenue to cover its expenses and what the commission deems is a reasonable profit. When the temperatures plummet and gas sales soar, the adjustment turns into a bill credit and keeps KeySpan from earning more than the commission intended." Got that. You pay either way and the company makes their profit no matter what the weather.

There is no end to the government's determination to be "politically correct" in all circumstances. Recent word from the National Park Service is that it will no longer tell visitors to the Grand Canyon in Arizona the geologic age of the canyon for fear of offending creationists. At the same time, one of the books sold in the canyon's bookstore reportedly promotes the view that the canyon was formed during Noah's flood.

Speaking of energy, we might get more than we bargained for right off our shores. The Atlantic Sea Island Group of Manhattan has a proposal to place a $1 billion liquid gas processing facility in a man-made island that would be constructed about 13.5 miles south of Rockaway, out in the Atlantic Ocean. While the proposal is still in its early stages, environmentalists are already questioning what would happen if the whole place were hit by terrorists or even by a major hurricane. The 50-acre island would be visible from Rockaway and the rest of the south shore of Long Island. The target date for the completion of the project is 2014. Mark your calendars now.

It has been two months since Rockaway resident Sean Bell was shot and killed by police officers in Jamaica on November 25 of last year and we are getting closer to learning exactly what happened that night. Last week, prosecutors from the office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown began to bring evidence before a grand jury empanelled to hear the case, if there is one, against the five plainclothes NYPD officers who fired 50 rounds that morning. Four of the officers involved have reportedly already given their stories to Brown's investigators. The lone hold-out to this point is Detective Mike Oliver, who reportedly fired 31 rounds, including the four that hit Bell. While none of the three men who were in the car had weapons, police defense lawyers argue that the shots were justified because the officers believed that one of the men in the car was going for a gun. A number of our local politicians seem to have rushed to judgment on the Bell case and it will be good to finally get the whole story.

The plan for the Arverne East project reported in The Wave of January 12, a plan that includes a movie theater, hotel, school and lots of commercial enterprises has drawn lots of attention - some of it disbelieving. We know the feeling, because we were dismissive of the plans for Arverne By The Sea when they were first announced several years ago and now, there are people actually living in the homes developed by the massive project and more are being built each day. It is easy for Rockaway old-timers to become jaded and sarcastic about planned development on the peninsula, but the truth is that things are getting done at a pace that would not have been believed a few short years ago.

It is often hard to understand the criminal mind, but it is doubly hard when the crime seems to have no chance for success. So it is with the recent rash of illegal withdrawals from local banks. The first took place at the new Washington Mutual Bank when a teller signed a customer's name and took money from his account. Didn't the teller think that the customer would realize that the money was missing as soon as that person got his monthly bank statement? Did he really think that his actions would not be quickly discovered as soon as the bank statement was received? The second case, at the North Fork Bank branch was even more troubling. The teller simply removed more than six thousand dollars from his drawer before turning it in for audit at the end of the day. Did he think that the bank manager wouldn't notice a shortage of that amount of money? Since nobody is talking about motive in either case, we'll just have to keep wondering.

In last week's paper we ran a front-page story on a young bank teller, Daniel Lucas, who took thousands of dollars from his cash draw. His attorney, Lisa Saltzman declined comment on his case, as did the bank manager, Kevin O'Mealy. The last sentence in the story said, "Both "O'Mealy and Lucas' attorney declined to comment. We did not mean to imply that Saltzman was O'Mealy's attorney as well as Lucas'. We apologize for the construction that might be construed that way and hope that it did not cause anybody embarrassment.

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