2007-03-16 / Columnists


What could have been a deadly incident was averted during the St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 3. According to a LIPA spokesperson, some Mylar balloons were released by marchers nearby Beach 111 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Those balloons got tangled up with the main line electrical service running over the street and eventually caused the line to spark and fall. That portion of the street had been patched with tar after an earlier water main break in the area, and the sparking electrical wire ignited the tar. Luckily, the parade had passed that spot about ten minutes earlier or else many of the marchers, some of them young children, might have been badly burned or even electrocuted. As it was, the falling line knocked out electricity to a ten-block area for more than an hour, but nobody was injured in the incident.

The sudden closing of the Irish Circle restaurant by the Department of Health prompted us to look through the list of those restaurants that failed their most recent inspections. DOH uses a point system and an inspection that garners more than 28 points a failure and mandates a follow-up inspection or closure. According to the DOH, three Rockaway restaurants recently underwent failing inspections: The Irish Circle (101-9 Rockaway Beach Boulevard) with 49 points; The Ana Marisol Restaurant (18-23 Mott Avenue) with 35 points; and McDonald's at 21-41 Mott Avenue with 30 points. It should be noted that some of those points were garnered for such benign things as not having the proper signs on the wall or not having a permit displayed. There were five local restaurants that had perfect inspections - no points at all. Those five are Blackwater Inn, Jamesons Pub, P.J. Currans, Tiberio Dimare and The White Castle. The entire list is on line on the city's website at www.nyc.gov.

In last week's paper, a front page headline said that the National Park Service (NPS) had launched a design contest for a renovated Gateway National Park. In fact, while the process will one-day benefit the park, the design process was launched by The National Park Conservation Association, a private organization dedicated to the National Park System.

The weather was beautiful, there were more marching groups than ever before and more onlookers than we have seen in many a year crowding the sidewalks to watch and cheer. And, for the first time in many years, there were no arrests involved with the post-parade festivities. All in all, it was a good year for the Irish and congratulations are due to parade president Mike Benn and his committee. While Congressman Anthony Weiner was conspicuously absent from this year's parade, Mayor Mike Bloomberg made it his sixth in a row and even Senator Chuck Schumer showed up. We counted at least six people in the line of march who reportedly plan to run for Joe Addabbo's City Council seat when he takes up the challenge and runs for the State Senate.

Whenever the question of a subsidized commuter ferry service for Rockaway arises, as it does every two years or so, Mayor Mike Bloomberg quickly puts the question to rest by stating that the city does not subsidize commuter ferry services - that the commuters have to bear the cost of the service. Recently, however, it has come to light that the city subsidizes the Staten Island Ferry to the tune of $83.8 million a year. That "free" ferry is actually costing the taxpayers an inordinate amount of money. We understand that the service has been around for a long time and provides a certain cache for the city's tourist industry, but once the bridge connecting the island with Brooklyn was built, the ferry became largely redundant. The city picks up 63 percent of the cost, the state 31 percent and the feds the rest. Why not a similar deal for Rockaway? Are our commuters somehow less important than Staten Island's?

The report that Keyspan Energy and the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have joined for a study of a Brunswick Avenue site in Far Rockaway that once housed a Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) has touched off questions about what ever happened to the remediation plan for the former LILCO MGP site on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 108 Street in Rockaway Park. That site, once described as a "Toxic Washing Machine" by Keyspan investigators, has been sitting there without any cleanup since it was first put on the Superfund list in September of 1998. That's right, 1998 - nearly nine years ago. When last we heard, it was April of 2004 and the new substation on the site had been completed. At that time, nearly three years ago, we were promised that a final plan for cleaning up the site would be ready in the summer of 2004 and then it would take a year for a final plan of action to be adopted. That would have taken it into the summer of 2005. What's going on? Nobody wants to talk about it, except to say that the process "is ongoing." Within the last two weeks, the old substation building on the eastern end of the site was demolished, so perhaps something is stirring.

A homeowner at Arverne by the Sea has started an on-line petition calling for express train service from the Rockaways to Manhattan. According to the website, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes to travel between Manhattan and the Rockaways. The goal is to have 1,000 residents sign the petition. To help support this initiative, log on to www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/496712210.

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