2007-07-20 / Columnists


Rockaway received more notoriety and police attention than most residents wanted, two weeks ago, when three Rockaway men in a stolen SUV ambushed two NYPD cops in Brooklyn. All three men had long experience with the criminal justice system and all three might well have gone to prison for a long time had they been caught in the stolen car. Perhaps that was their rationale for shooting the cops without warning, or perhaps they just liked to shoot people in general. Soon after it became apparent that Rockaway men were involved, the peninsula was flooded with cops. In some cases, they knocked down doors in places where the three men were known to gather. Cops, many of them in riot gear, did "vertical patrols" at the public housing complexes in Rockaway and at Ocean Village, searching for the three men or for anybody who could tell them where the men had fled. Many people were reportedly arrested in the patrols for trespassing on public property. Car checkpoints found lots of people without driver's licenses or proper documentation for the autos they were driving. It was a tense time until the fugitives showed up in Pennsylvania and were quickly tracked down and arrested. It's a shame, however, that once again Rockaway achieves national recognition more for its violent residents than for its great beaches. There is massive opposition to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Congestion Pricing Plan outside of Manhattan. A new poll run by Marist College shows that citywide support for the plan runs at 29 percent, with 61 percent opposed and 10 percent unsure. In Manhattan, 48 percent of those questioned were in favor of the plan, with 46 percent in opposition and six percent unsure. The Queens numbers are 30 percent in favor, 59 percent in opposition and 11 percent unsure. Those numbers, however, will not deter the mayor, who is convinced that he knows best about everything from smoking to trans fats.

State Senator Malcolm Smith, who serves as the Senate's Minority Leader, has been provided with extra security from New York State Police Officers in the wake of threats against Smith and his family, who live in Rockaway. "I had a personal death threat against myself and my family," Smith said. "I have to use the state police." Smith is married with two children.

Edward Bain was sentenced last week to a sentence of four to twelve years in prison for crashing his car and killing his wife, Donna, who was a passenger, while driving impaired on Cross Bay Boulevard in 2005. Bain had earlier turned down a plea bargain that would have given the Belle Harbor man a two-year sentence. Had he taken it, he would have probably been out by the end of this month. Instead, he rolled the dice and went to a jury trial. This is a tragic case for all involved. Donna is dead and Edward is going to prison for at least four years. Their son, Tommy, 13, has become estranged from his maternal grandparents and family because he charges them with trying to put his father in jail. His paternal grandmother, whom he lived with for a while, died of cancer earlier in the year. The plan is for Tommy to live with the family of a school friend, but his maternal grandmother, Jackie Murtagh- Abrams, is challenging that in court, asking that Tommy be turned over to relatives who live out of state. For a while, there was some conjecture that Bain would wind up with probation because the court would be loath to leave the teen with no parent to take care of him. We are glad, however, that Bain received a reasonable punishment for his terrible act. For too long, drunk drivers have killed people with impunity under the theory that alcoholism and driving under the influences is a sickness, not a crime. We believe that in this case, the punishment fit the crime.

Anthony Weiner is "smoking." In support of his prospective 2009 run for mayor, he has raised nearly double the amount of donations as any of the other possible Democratic candidates. According to a recent report, Weiner has raised nearly $2 million in the past six months, leaving far behind such other luminaries as Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and Controller William Thompson. Weiner was a candidate in the last election, but stepped aside in favor of Mark Green to insure party cohesiveness. This time, he believes, it's his turn in the box.

Each year, the Americans For Tax Reform put out their Cost of Government Report that shows the date that residents finish paying their yearly taxes to federal, state and local governments. For the majority of taxpayers, July 11 is this year's COG Day. Last year, COG Day fell on July 9. It seems to get later each year as government spends more and more of our earned income on its pet projects. It gets worse for New York City taxpayers. Our COG Day is July 28, up more than three days since last year.

The Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, built 37 years ago, will undergo a major three-year rehabilitation project beginning later this month. Both the deck of the bridge and the access ramps will get refits, causing some delays getting into and out of Rockaway. During the construction, however, the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Agency promises that two lanes will remain open in each direction during peak traffic hours and one lane will be closed in each direction. None of the ramps will be closed during the summer season. After that, all bets are off, and some of the ramps may be closed all of the time, while all of the ramps might be closed some of the time. Watch for the signs and the flag-people who are promised to be stationed to keep traffic moving.

The city ambulance sitting at the corner of Beach 116 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard on Wednesday night was spewing so much black smoke from its exhaust that a resident went up to one of the EMT's and asked him to turn the engine off while he was sitting there. The response was that they had to keep the engine running to keep the air conditioning working. Then, a supervisor's car pulled up and he got out to pick up his dinner -- leaving the engine running as well. We have to wonder why the city is wasting so much gas in that manner.

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