2007-10-12 / Columnists


The good news is that MTA Bridges and Tunnels is fixing the two bridges that are the main access to Rockaway and they probably will not fall down anytime soon. The bad news is that the repair work will take upwards of eight or nine months and traffic patterns on the access bridges might shift almost without warning. You probably already know about the Marine Parkway Bridge, because work has already begun. One of two lanes on the southbound side of the bridge (towards Rockaway) will be closed on weekdays from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. until the end of 2007. The bridge is completely shut down (except for emergency vehicles) from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. on weekday nights until October 26. MTA officials urge you to use the Cross Bay Bridge, which is a long detour for west end residents. One person who works late nights at a bus terminal in Brooklyn called to say that his commute between work and his Belle Harbor home now takes him 45 minutes longer than it did before, but there's not much that can be done about it. Two of the Cross Bay Bridge ramps were closed on October 8 and will not reopen until May 23, 2008. The northbound ramp from Beach 94 Street and the southbound ramp from the bridge to Beach Channel Drive will be completely closed during that time period. Motorist should follow posted detour signs. In addition, one lane on the northbound side of the bridge was also recently closed down.

The United States Post Office has joined more than 20 other private groups to fight Internet fraud involving checks. The campaign is designed to assist people in recognizing and avoiding potential fraud. The campaign has a website that can be found at www.fakechecks.org. The checks in question usually resemble cashier's checks, but they are not and they are often drawn on business accounts that no longer exist. Two out of three computer users admit that they have received potential scams over the Internet. These scammers send a person a large check, asking them to deposit the check and then immediately send back a portion of the money as a fee. By the time the bank gets around to vetting the check and finds out that it's phony, the victim has usually already sent his or her portion of real funds to the scammer. Beware.

It now appears that the former Seaside Senior Center, located at 90-01 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, will not be reopened. Officials at the city's agency that deals with such facilities tells us that they are looking for a new venue for the center, and the word is that the owner is seeking to sell the building, which was closed during the summer because of a dangerous condition with the roof. A group of seniors who used the center has been looking for a new site, and they think they have found a perfect location in a former medical office at the Dayton Plaza Shopping Center, only a block from the old facility. They are asking for the public's help to contact local politicians and ask them to facilitate the acquisition of that site for a new senior center.

In the next few weeks, city officials are expected to conclude talks with Verizon over a new 15-year franchise that would allow the telephone company to offer cable television services to local resident, as well as residents throughout the city, as part of its FIOS package. Up to now, the company has been offering cable phone and Internet service, with the cable television service provided by a third party. This sounds like a positive event for those who feel they have been victimized by Time Warner, which has long been the only game in town when it comes to true cable television. Don't get too excited. The city deal with Verizon will probably be a case of "what can you do for us," rather than "what can you do for your subscribers." The deal will also most likely set the pattern for the renewal of Time Warner's franchise, which comes up for renewal next year. The bottom line is, don't expect competition to make your service any less expensive any time soon.

The National Association of Realtors reported last week that the trend is downward in an index that forecasts near-term home sales nationally. According to that report, the index of pending sales for existing homes fell 6.5 percent in the last month and 21.5 percent from the same time last year. With 100 as the "average level," August's index was 85.5, the lowest ever since the index was begun in 2000 and a few points lower than expected, experts say.

The rubber room phenomenon is growing. In March of 2005, there were 315 teachers and administrators citywide placed in nine regional reassignment centers for transgressions real and imagined. Last week, there were 757 staffers, each earning a full salary and doing no meaningful work, at those reassignment centers, awaiting hearings for charges that range from telling dirty jokes to sexual assault. Actually, some of the people in the rubber rooms have never been told why they are there. Our personal favorite is the clinician who worked at night as a stand-up comic at local clubs. He told and off-color joke in the teacher's room in a District 27 school one day and that offended a female teacher who complained to the principal. The principal told the clinician to never again tell a joke like that in that teacher's presence. About two weeks later, he told another joke just as the teacher walked into the teacher's room. He was sent to the rubber room, where he remained for more than two years - collecting his salary and writing new jokes. He never faced a hearing, and finally he retired out of the rubber room with a full pension. That's what you get for your education bucks, people.

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