2007-10-26 / Columnists


The tragic crash in which one, and perhaps two, young men died could have been avoided if the occupants of the car had been in school, where they belonged, rather than driving a stolen car at high speed through the streets of Rockaway. Our hearts go out to the family or families of the young men who died, but their death can serve as a cautionary tale to others who believe that it is more of an imperative to break the law and "have some fun" than it is to get an education. Police sources, by the way, have not yet confirmed the death of the second youth, identified as Malcolm Wyse, who was driving the car.

Rockaway has been wary of planes overflying the peninsula ever since American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor nearly six years ago next month. All peninsula residents have to do is look up to know that many more planes are flying over us now than in past years. We don't have to look at the statistics to know that there are just too many planes using the airport. Now, that belief has been made official. The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a report that calls for a cut in the number of flights that use JFK Airport. The report says that 100 flights an hour land or depart from the nearby airport each hour of the day. The agency believes that 80 flights - a 20 percent cut - is more realistic given the physical limits of the facility, and would reduce the number of delayed flights as well as provide a safety buffer that does not exist at present. The airlines, which want even more flights because more flights mean more money, and the FAA, which panders to the airlines and cares little, it seems, for airline safety, belittled the report. It seems to us, however, that with too many flights, the use of three runways rather than two and the 30 percent cut in flight controllers in recent years, Rockaway might be in real danger from JFK.

One Rockaway resident has been getting lots of press recently as a consultant to the city's Administration For Children's Services (ACS), the beleaguered agency that many believe is responsible for the deaths of a number of children under its care. Susan Morley, a Rockaway resident who was once the head of the NYPD's Special Victims Unit and is now retired, has been given the task of training new ACS caseworkers in the intricacies of how to investigate cases of neglect and abuse. Her husband, Mike Morley, is an NYPD inspector. Their home was destroyed in the crash of AA587 on November 12, 2001, and they have since relocated in another Rockaway home.

The "untold stories" of Rockaway's bungalow culture will be told on November 13 at the Museum of The City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 104 Street). A new documentary by Jennifer Callahan and Elizabeth Logan Harris will be shown for the first time at the museum. There will also be a forum to discuss the bungalows after the showing. On that panel are Rockaway author Jill Eisenstadt and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

The gang-banger who shot a teen who was just looking out his Brooklyn window once again points to the supposition that some people belong in jail, not in the civilized world. Sean Gordon, 30, who has been arraigned on charges of firing the fatal shot, was on probation when he was picked up on a drug warrant on January 10. Gordon, a reputed Bloods gang member, had been arrested 17 times on charges of drug possession, attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon, and assault. When he was arrested in January, his probation could have been revoked and he could have been sentenced to five to 15 years in prison. Instead, he was set free in June and credited with five months service in jail for a previous drug bust. Had he been in jail, the young man who was shot and killed would probably be alive and well today. The shooting was the seventh this year in which an innocent bystander was killed, in Brooklyn alone.

Congressman Gregory Meeks has caught a break. His wife, Simone, has dropped out of the City Council race against one of his executive assistants. How do you choose between supporting your wife or a loyal assistant? Meeks no longer has to make that choice.

The Indian Casino proposed for Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park will probably never come to fruition, if city politicians have their way. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is the city's "Decider" with a capital D, says that gambling tends to be regressive and that it does not work as an economic development tool. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the three most powerful pols in the state (along with the Senate Majority Leader and the Governor) says that he does not believe the plan is "real." Lots of locals, particularly those who travel to Connecticut or New Jersey to gamble, would like to see the casino on Rockaway's doorstep.

There were 126 police-involved shooting incidents in 2006, up from 123 in 2005. That's the bad news. The good news is that the police fired fewer shots in each of those incidents last year than they did the year before. In 2005, 616 shots were fired, while only 540 were fired in those incidents last year. In addition, police are hitting the target more often. In the 16 gun battles between police and criminals in 2005, only 23 hits were recorded. In 2006, in 13 gun battles, 43 shots hit the mark.

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