2007-02-02 / Columnists


The Far Rockaway High School Class of 1957 is planning a June reunion somewhere on Long Island, perhaps at the Marriott Hotel in Uniondale, nearby the Nassau Coliseum. The organizers are hoping to get graduates from all over the nation to attend the once-in-a-lifetime bash. While the reunion planning is still in infancy, Gail (Bookvar) Jurist seems to be the point woman for the party. Those interested in contacting her may do so on the web at doublegrafs@aol.com. One of the events being planned for the weekend is a tour of Rockaway. Give us a call and we'd be glad to play tour guide. Anybody who has not been in Rockaway for a while will be simply amazed with the development and revitalization that's going on.

When the City named a Manhattan street for Austin Corbin, who built the Manhattan Beach and Oriental Hotels and hunted with Teddy Roosevelt, they probably thought that it was a good idea. He was also a magnate who has lots to do with developing the Long Island Railroad. Corbin Place stands a block away from the Holocaust Memorial and it now seems that Corbin was one of the leading anti-Semites in the city as well as one of its leading builders. It has recently come to light that Corbin was a leader of the American Society for the Suppression of Jews. He often made it clear that Jews were not welcome either in his hotels or in his city. In one New York Times article from 1879, he noted, "Jews as a class have made themselves offensive to those who patronize his road and his hotel. They are vulgar and unclean, they find fault and they spend no money. Now, State Senator Carl Kruger wants the city to rename the street for somebody else - anybody but Corbin. It seems to us that there are a couple of streets in Rockaway that are named for people who perhaps did not deserve the designation. Over time, when sentimentality fades, perhaps we can move to change those as well.

There are those who believe that the southern end of Cross Bay Boulevard has become something of a "Devil's Triangle." Last December, a young off-duty police officer died on that stretch of road. There are many who believe that he fell asleep at the wheel. In early January there was another single-car crash there when a driver "lost control" of his car. Last week, there were two accidents on that stretch of road, where the boulevard comes out of the Bird Sanctuary and enters Broad Channel. Both of the drivers said that they "got dizzy" and lost control. We wonder what is going on. Perhaps it has something to do with the birds.

The gang war over drug territories that fueled the spate of homicides over the last part of 2006 seems to have quieted down now that the cold weather has settled in. We hope that this is more than just a pause in the action brought in by the weather and by increased police activity on the peninsula and that the action does not pick up when warm weather comes and the extra police officers from the specialized units now in Rockaway are assigned elsewhere.

The problems in using the east-west roads on the peninsula, brought by construction projects galore, was ameliorated somewhat last week by the use of flagmen who pulled the traffic through the Beach 62 Street bottleneck, where the Rockaway Freeway is closed westbound. There is a major sewer construction project on Beach Channel Drive and only a few blocks further west, Rockaway Beach Boulevard is closed. With a little luck and good weather, the roads should be open again before the summer rush.

Borough President Helen Marshall has always been a dreamer. One of her major dreams is to turn the old courthouse on Beach 92 Street and Beach Channel Drive into the Helen Marshall Campus of the City University Center. She has others, however, that she enunciated at her State of the Borough speech recently. One of those is her hope for another, high-tech hospital for Rockaway. Another, one that we have called The Rockaway Ferry Tale in our pages, is regular commuter ferry service for the peninsula. We trust that the university idea and the hospital idea are more doable than the ferry service has proven to be.

Legislators are allowed to use their campaign funds for more than getting elected. Some use the money to pay parking tickets, others to buy holiday treats for their constituents. The New York Post recently went through all of the campaign disclosure forms filed by our state legislators and came up with two Rockaway politicians who used their money in different ways. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer used $594 of her money to buy some novelties from Madelaine Chocolates here in Rockaway, perhaps for her holiday party. State Senator Malcolm Smith used $2,600 of his money for a more somber task. He paid that fee towards the funeral of Sean Bell, the Rockaway resident who was shot and killed by police in Jamaica last November.

Some local residents called to say that they were a little taken aback by the fact that "Lift Every Voice And Sing," considered to be "The Black National Anthem," was sung at the inauguration ceremonies of both State Senator Malcolm Smith (our new Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate) and newly-elected State Senator Shirley Huntley. Both were held at York College and widely-attended by an eclectic group of well-wishers. The consensus among those who called seems to be that there should be only one National Anthem and that should be used for all Americans. They felt that the use of the song was divisive and inappropriate.

The Daily News reported a story last week that said the Department of Environmental Protection's plan to reduce nitrogen in Jamaica Bay -- in an effort to curb the rapid die-off of the marshes -- is doomed because it can't be implemented fast enough. The plan would "cost billions over many years" to funnel wastewater directly to the Atlantic Ocean, according to the story. We predict that when the obituary is written for the marshes in about years, the phrase "studied to death" is in there near the top.

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