2007-09-21 / Columnists

Simon says...

Commentary From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Lew M. Simon Lew M. Simon L' Shana Tova, Happy New Year. May your name be inscribed in the Book of Life and have an easy fast.

Last Monday evening, Community Board 14 had its monthly meeting to hear the report of the Housing/Urban Renewal Committee co-chaired by Vince Castellano and Zandra Myers. They gave an update on the YMCA's design for the new community facility to be constructed by Benjamin Beechwood. Gerry Romski of Arverne By The Sea, and Paul Custer and Maria Del Toro of the YMCA of Greater New York explained the proposal. The proposed new Y would have an aquatic center, narrow lap pool and an outdoor gym.

A number of members of the Community Board addressed the issues. Longtime board member Mike Tubridy gave them hell and told them to hold up on building until they got an 8-lane pool. Jeff Cohen, longtime active CB 14 member, spoke of the importance of Rockaway getting its fair share. We've had enough of lies and promises. He and Mike reminded us that the facilities were promised to Rockaway 20 years ago.

Dr. Gerald David spoke of the need for an enclosed gym. Steve Cooper asked that membership fees be kept affordable. The Y has suggested that fees would be comparable to the $50 per month charged in the Bronx.

Hank Iori also spoke on the importance of getting a bigger, more adequate pool. Triathlete Kelley Brooke told how she had to stop swimming in a pool because it was too small and too crowded. Al Moore gave them hell and told them to hold up the pool, if necessary, until they got enough money for a proper pool.

Harvey Gordon stated that he thanked Benjamin Beechwood and said we ought to take what we have now, or we might not even get a Y. Barbara Morris asked if there was a daily rate. Danny Mundy asked how much is needed to expand the pool and enclose the gym. He was told it would cost $3 million for the pool and $1.5 million to enclose the gym. He asked if any grants are available through the federal, state, and city governments as well as our elected officials.

A number of members of the public spoke. Keith Goldberg, representing Scholars' Academy and St. Francis CYO, made it clear that the pool needs to be expanded. Chris Gann, a competitive swimmer, said this pool doesn't make sense and doesn't meet the needs of our community. Barbara Larkin, President of the Belle Harbor Property Owners, said we need an 8-lane pool and a real enclosed gym. She suggested tabling the proposal until funds are available.

Deacon Alfred Jordan spoke about the need of St. John Baptist Church for use of the parking lot at the Y for Sundays and special occasions. Diana Roberts, a former CB 14 member, thanked the board for all they do. She also requested parking facilities for St. John and a bigger pool and enclosed gym.

Mario Gomez, a new resident of Arverne By The Sea, said we should take what we get. Chung Tom, an ABTS resident, said they should proceed with building as it is now. Peter Diaz thanked the Community Board for the new surf beach. He is an ABTS resident and said we need a bigger pool now.

Norman Silverman, who was Secretary of the All Rockaway Planning Council in 1987, recalled that representatives of civic groups throughout our 11- mile peninsula agreed to support a community center for athletic training and competition and to bring together the young people of our diverse peninsula. He asked why community residents had not been asked to pledge life memberships and find other ways to raise needed funds. Silverman asked whether our elected officials who are seeking higher office should not take care of Rockaway before they leave. He continued to speak as the oneminute speaking time expired and got the loudest applause. Norman made the night.

Sean Tubridy said it doesn't make sense to build a small pool, because people will have to travel to other communities to find a real pool, instead of having one in our community. Adriana Sullivan, a resident of Rockaway for 34 years, asked, "Why must I travel to other areas to get what we need here?" Dan Tubridy, local community activist, commended the Y and Arverne By The Sea for what has been done and said we must get more money from elected officials.

Charles Jacobs, President of the Arverne by The Sea civic group, said indoor basketball courts and a 6-lane pool must happen. Do it right the first time, he said. Community activist and former Community Board member Kevin Callaghan spoke out as he did 20 years ago. "This plan does not meet our needs. Our children must be able to swim in competitive groups. Hold up building and do it right."

John Sullivan, swimming coach at Beach Channel High School, said that the pool at BCHS does not meet competitive standards and could not host swimming meets. He said it would be a mistake to build a 4-lane pool. Martin Tubridy, a new owner at ABTS, said a 4- lane pool was not good. Do it right and make it right.

Steve Stathis of the Graybeards, who has been in Rockaway his whole life, heard promises of a pool at Riis Park, which still doesn't exist.

Let's do it right. Schools and teams can support the upkeep of the pool. Caitlin McHale, born and raised here, spoke of the importance of a bigger pool. I want my daughter to have a dream and be able to become a lifeguard.

Local community activist Robert Rooney met and greeted everyone on the way into the meeting with something e-mailed from Elizabeth Bailey, a member of Senator Chuck Schumer's staff. Bailey put together a list of private foundations that might be funding sources for the new YMCA. They include the New York Community Trust, Barker Welfare Foundation, Booth Ferris Foundation, Pepsi Foundation and Kresge Foundation.

As these are private foundations, Schumer's office cannot vouch for any of them. YMCA grant writers should con- tact these organizations to determine eligibility for grants.

Aspecial "happy birthday" to two dear friends. Yolanda Nash, who is just as wonderful as wonderful can be. We look forward to seeing you at our annual dinner dance with your great Oxygen Bar which you donate to our organization. Happy birthday to Dawn Lazo, wife of one of the owners of the Last Stop Gourmet Restaurant, on Beach 116 Street, next to the subway. Happy birthday to both and many more.

The 20th anniversary annual dinner dance of the Good Government Regular Democratic Club will be held on Thursday November 15, at the El Caribe in Mill Basin. Honorees are Andrew Baumann, Kyle Bragg, Terri Cassidy, Patrick Concannon, Edward Figueroa, Sheila and Michael Finnegan, Martin Ingram, William Rahilly, Mary Romski, David J. Rosenzweig, Daniel Ruscillo, Honorable Malcolm Smith and Rabbi Boaz Tomsky.

Tickets are $75 per person with a table of 16 for $1,200. Dinner, live DJ, raffles for large prizes and 50/50 tickets. Send your check to the GGRDC at 112-20 Beach Channel Drive, Rockaway Park 11694. Call 718-945-1216 for information.

Our next Atlantic City trip will be on Saturday, October 15. The cost is $35, with $20 returned. We leave at 5:30 p.m. returning at.8 a.m. Call my office now for reservations.

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