2007-06-29 / Community

Beachcomber

The city's Department of Transportation has updated the message on two major road closings in Rockaway. Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 73 and Beach 69 Streets was closed on January 17 and will remain closed until "mid-July," according to a DOT press release. Originally, the road was supposed to be reopened by mid-June. There are many motorists who use that stretch of road daily who do not believe that the new deadline is any more realistic than the original deadline. The second bottleneck on the peninsula is at Beach Channel Drive and Beach 62 Street. That sewer work, which has closed Beach 62 Street for months, is now scheduled to be completed sometime in late July. The Wave has received several complaints from motorists who said that they crushed their tie rods and pierced their tires on that stretch of Beach 73 Street between Shore Front Parkway and Beach Channel Drive, where several projects seem to be going on at the same time. That project is being done not by the city, but by contractors hired by Arverne By The Sea as part of its mandate to put in new infrastructure around the homes it is building.

We were discussing some impending changes to Rockaway with an east end activist last week and he decried the fact that the west end "had its act together" when it came to addressing city and state governmental agencies, while his end of the peninsula lagged well behind in the ability to get things done. We said that perhaps it's because there is a civic association for every couple of blocks and that they often worked at cross-purposes. In any case, he's hoping for a change in attitude and a renewed effort on the part of east end civic associations to get together for the good of all.

Tribute Park, located at Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive will remain open late on Wednesday, July 4 for Independence Day celebrants. Dolores Orr, a spokesperson for the Friends of Tribute Park, says that the park has the best view of the fireworks outside of Manhattan. The park is dedicated to those locals who died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and to all the firefighters who died that day.

You would think that the Parks Department would be trumpeting the beach rescues such as the one on the front page of last week's Wave, providing photos of the hero lifeguards and making them available for interviews. That is not so, however. In fact, the opposite is true. According to some of those involved in the rescue, the lifeguards were told in no uncertain terms that they were not to speak with the media and calls to the agency's press office for information were not returned. The problem seems to be that there are far fewer lifeguards than needed to safeguard even the paltry amount of beaches open each day. One lifeguard told a meeting at PS 114 that the lifeguard situation was becoming critical because officials removed lifeguards from some chairs to other slots to open beaches that were closed earlier in the day. In any case, lifeguards feel that their backup is disappearing and that it will lead to a tragedy one of these hot summer days. The question has to be asked once again: why are there too few lifeguards to open all of our beaches? The agency says that the majority of beaches that can be open are indeed open on any given day, but Rockaway residents know that such a statement is disingenuous at best.

The Wounded Warriors are once again coming to Rockaway. While the organizers have not yet announced their schedule on the peninsula, they will be arriving on Thursday, July 12 and will remain for the weekend.

The public can get up-to-date information about which beaches are open by dialing 311 and asking for the Department of Parks and Recreation's Beach Information Hotline. Once connected to the hotline, callers are prompted to select a borough (Queens is option 3). They then hear a pre-recorded greeting that is updated every morning and lists all of the city beaches that are open in that borough. The Rockaway-specific message lists open beaches in an east to west progression. Prospective beachgoers also hear important reminders to only swim where lifeguards are present and to leave glass containers and alcoholic beverages at home. The entire call to the city's non-emergency response line, which this week logged its 50-millionth call since its inception in 2003, takes less than five minutes. You can also call 311 to lodge a complaint with Parks if a particular beach is not open. Although The Wave heard this week that some callers were given the runaround last weekend, a 311 operator asked appropriate questions and was prepared to register a complaint for us when we called on Thursday.

The Associated Press moved a story last week about how school districts are working within the No Child Left Behind Act to change their schools for the better. In that article, Far Rockaway High School was touted as the poster child for a failing school. "The schools being labeled [as failing] are often in poor urban areas, like Far Rockaway at the end of the subway line in New York City," the article said. It goes on to tell how the principal has restructured the school, even "replacing three-fourths of the staff." The fact is the school is much worse off now with a large cadre of inexperienced teachers trying to address the same children that the "failing" teachers faced.

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