2007-07-27 / Community

Beachcomber

Lots of local residents are questioning why a relatively small peninsula such as Rockaway needs another major pharmacy chain store. The arguments were spiked by a story in last week's Wave that a new, 15,000 squarefoot Rite-Aid Pharmacy was being built on Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Beach 108 Street. The plan is for a large building with a "drive-through" window and a 21,730 square-foot parking lot that will accommodate 52 cars. It seems that every new facility in Rockaway is a bank, a pharmacy or a nail center. We need some variety. How about a movie theatre, a bowling alley, or a teen center?

The report that Rockaway's beaches got a poor grade from New Yorkers for Parks should come as no surprise to local residents. The advocacy group gave the beaches in Rockaway a "challenged" rating, which is way below "satisfactory" and slightly above "unsatisfactory." According to the report, the shoreline earned a grade of C- (70 percent) because of glass and other debris found along the shore. Pathways (the boardwalk in our case) got a grade of C (70 percent) because large chunks were found to be in disrepair and had weeds growing through the planks. Bathrooms were given an F (45 percent) in the report, because they were largely non-existent, closed without explanation, or filthy. Drinking fountains fared even worse, with a grade of F and a score of a lowly 31 percent. The drinking fountains that were working, the report says, were unsanitary, unsafe and nearly onethird had severe leaks. The report also chided the Department of Parks and Recreation for not hiring sufficient lifeguards to keep the beaches open. Did you need a report to tell you these things? We didn't think so.

Janet Fash is a genuine hero. The long-time lifeguard and lifeguard supervisor stood up to both her union and agency bosses to try and improve safety and security on the beach. For becoming a whistleblower, she says she is being subtly punished by having lifeguards taken from her beach and by harassment from her supervisors. She does not deserve that harassment and, indeed, it is against the law for public servants to be fired or harassed for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing. It is time for Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to step in and make things right for Fash and those who use her beach before somebody drowns because there were not sufficient lifeguards on duty. The last thing the city should be doing is to stifle employees who want to speak out about problems in their agencies.

A few weeks ago, the Daily News posed ten questions to City Councilman Joe Addabbo for its weekly "Queens Section." The story that accompanied the questions said, "Addabbo has worked to improve schools and expand mass transportation, including establishing a ferry service from the Rockaways to Manhattan. The questions he was asked were all "groundballs" like "What is the biggest issue facing your district" and what's your favorite place for breakfast, lunch and dinner? We have some questions for Addabbo as well. In your eight years on the Council's Parks Committee, you have failed to work to change the beach and boardwalk access rules and lifeguards remain scarce, causing numerous beaches to be closed to residents each day. Why haven't you done anything about those problems? You say that you have worked over the past eight years to improve schools and expand mass transportation, including establishing a ferry service. Where are the fruits of your eight-year labor? In short, Joe, now that you are about to leave us to run for the State Senate from the mainland district, the seminal question seems to be, in your eight years of office, what tangible things have you done for Rockaway?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows how to play the political game better than most. and he has the personal big bucks to back up his personal preferences. Just before the congestion-pricing deadline hit, thousands of Rockaway residents received a glossy, expensive piece of mail paid for by the New York League of Conservation Voters (and, probably, by Bloomberg's private funds), that says, "Join Clinton, Gore, Bloomberg and Spitzer" in telling Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer to vote for the mayor's cockeyed program or the city would lose lots of money. It even provided Pheffer's phone number in case you didn't know it. The mailing said, "Tell Assemblywoman Pheffer [to] act now or we'll lose $500 million" and "Tell Assemblywoman Pheffer to support NYC's clean air plan now." Nothing about the plan or its excessive charge for any Rockaway resident foolish enough to have to go to Manhattan for a doctor's visit. Nothing about what the plan would cost. Nothing about studies that show that the plan may very well not cut emissions significantly enough to meet the plan's goal of cutting those emission by 30 percent, improving mass transportation and reducing something called "traffic pollution." Nothing about the fact that the majority of New York City residents who live outside of Manhattan are opposed to the program. Nothing about the contention that the plan does not work in London, the city the mayor continually points to as the model for our own program. Thank goodness that Pheffer, State Senator Malcolm Smith and Assemblywoman Michele Titus stood up to the mayor, at least this time around. By the time you read this, the game might well have changed and the congestion-pricing plan may well be alive once again.

In last week's Wave, we identified the author of the "It's My Turn" column as the president of the Neponsit Homeowners Association. In fact, Peter Stubben, the author of the column, lives in Belle Harbor. Peter Sammon is the president of the Neponsit Homeowners Association and he had nothing to do with the column. Stubben issued a statement that read, "The opinions [in the column] were entirely my own. I am not a member of any community organization; and, in fact, do not live in the Neponsit community." We apologize to both Sammon and Stubben and regret any inconvenience our mistake caused either man.

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