2007-10-19 / Columnists


A spokesperson for the Department of Education called it "a melee." The father of one of the girls who was pummeled by a group of other girls at Beach Channel High School two weeks ago calls it "an assault." The police say that it was typical of the interaction between Beach Channel High School and Far Rockaway High School students when they meet. Whatever you call it, the incident is typical of what happens in many of the high schools in the city, despite the fact that Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Mike Bloomberg say that the schools are much safer now that they have been in control for three years. The problem comes when the DOE tries to downplay the problem rather than addressing it head-on. We understand from a source inside the school that a parent tried to smuggle in a knife to her high-school daughter, ostensibly to use for her own protection. The woman was not arrested, the source said, because the woman could not be legally searched without probable cause and the school security agent who briefly saw the knife reported it as being in the wrong pocket. The NYCLU says that the danger in schools comes not from the students, but that there are too many police officers and too many SSA's. What nonsense. Take those agents out of the schools, and any education in the building will quickly turn to chaos.

The mayor's Congestion Pricing Plan has been getting a lot of flak from individuals and from groups concerned with transportation issues. Just last week, a spokesperson for a group called "Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free," issued a report that said that there were other ways to decrease traffic and emissions without the draconian tax package. The group recommends such alternatives as increasing the number of parking meters in the Central Business District (CBD), increasing the cost of those meters, setting up cab stands so that taxis do not have to cruise for fares, and eliminating the use of placards, which are issued to many city employees and allows free parking anywhere in the city, whether in legal or illegal parking spaces. The group says that its plan would reduce emissions by 11 percent and would cost far less than the mayor's plan, which is to tax cars moving into or out of the CBD.

Every major daily paper in the city wrote about a Long Island man who won the Medal of Honor after he gave his life for his country and his fellow Navy SEALS. Every paper, that is, with the exception of the New York Times. The "Gray Lady" studiously avoided the story, and that comes as no surprise to those who study the way the paper covers such stories as the war in Iraq and the fighting between Muslim militants and Israel in the Middle East. It is sad, however, for the once-great paper to have become a caricature of itself in recent years.

While the odds are long that it is ever going to happen, the idea of an Indian casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, right over the bridge from Rockaway, is intriguing. The Shinnecock Indians (a tribe not even recognized by the feds) want to build a $1.4 billion casino facility at the track to rival those in Connecticut and Atlantic City. Tribal leaders say they would give up their lawsuit of land on the South Fork of Long Island if they got the Queens site, something that might be attractive to state leaders. Some State legislators say, however, that there is little chance of the tribe getting the racetrack as their own until the government recognizes them as a legitimate tribe, which probably won't happen until 2014 at the earliest. The plan, however, is an attractive one to those who want to see development in that area, with a hotel and casino that would feature 10,500 slots machines, 350 gaming tables and 12,000 employees.

Lots of politicians are gearing up for the 2009 Mayoral election race. At this point, early in the day, there seem to be four or five major candidates: Congressman Anthony Weiner, who gave up in the last mayoral race under party pressure so that Mark Green could be anointed as the party's candidate. This time around, the party owes him one for that favor and he seems to be the insider; Controller William Thompson has a lot of support from interest groups and brings a large readymade constituency to his hunt for the job; City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was unknown outside of the council before she got that high-profile position. She is the first outwardly gay person to achieve a high position in city government; Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, who should remember Freddy Ferrer; and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who says that he doesn't want the job, but could probably be drafted by the Democratic Party should the others falter.

Two local politicians have found themselves in a political stew recently. Though neither is expected to be impacted too greatly by their "scandals," they are both tabbed as rising stars in the political firmament and will be tainted by their actions. Meeks, whose name has been mentioned for the Senate slot should Hillary win the Democratic nomination for President, allegedly spent $17,000 of his political funds on a personal trainer by placing the man on his payroll as a "district aide." That is a definite no-no, but Meeks told reporters that he needed the workouts to "relieve stress." So do we all. State Senator Malcolm Smith, who admitted that Governor Eliot Spitzer asked him to see if the IRS would address Senate Majority Leader's use of public money for his travels, is now reportedly in the dog house with the governor - not a good thing if you are the Senate Minority Leader, as Smith is. Should Clinton move to the White House and Meeks move to the Senate, Smith is a legitimate choice to move to the House of Representatives.

Word is that a new garden center will soon sprout up on Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Beach 111 Street. In addition, there is going to be a florist once again on Beach 116 Street, something has been lacking since Dragon's Den went out of business and the owner of Georges Florist disappeared. The Rockaway Beach Florist is reportedly moving to "Sweet 16."

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