2008-01-04 / Community

Beachcomber

In order to be eligible to vote in the Super Tuesday primary on February 5, the Board of Elections must register you by January 16. You can register on line or in person at the Board of Elections headquarters.

Mayor Bloomberg has signed into law legislation strengthening punishment for "serial acts of public lewdness." Now, you might think that public lewdness is not a large enough program for the city council and the mayor to worry about, but it is obviously is. "Lewd behavior is not only offensive to the victims, it is frightening and violating," the mayor said. "It is more than a crime of exhibition. It is a crime of intimidation and it can have devastating effects on victims." Serial acts of lewdness requires intentionally exposing oneself two or more times over a three year period. It is now punishable by three years probation, up to a year in jail and a fine of one thousand dollars.

There is another issue that might well cause more immediate problems in Rockaway. We keep in touch with Barrett Byrnes, who is the union representative for the Air Traffic Controllers who work at the JFK Airport control tower. What goes on there is critical to the peninsula, because it is not saying too much to say that he and his colleagues keep planes from dropping in on Rockaway - usually. Byrnes told us last week that the staffing in the tower has become "deplorable," that the number of flights they must control over the peninsula keeps growing while the number of controllers who have to do it keeps shrinking. He says that the tower is 30 percent undermanned. To exacerbate the problem, a great majority of the present controllers were hired in the early 1980's when President Ronald Reagan fired the striking controllers. Those new hires in 1981 and 1982 are now reaching retirement age and will be leaving. Byrnes says that there is nobody to take their place. The FAA is hiring, he said, but too slowly to replace those who are leaving. He says that it takes three years to train a controller in a tower such as JFK and that the FAA is already "Well behind the curve." That could be a real problem for Rockaway, just minutes across the bay from JFK. One slip, and we could well have another American Airlines Flight 587 situation.

Two police officers from the 100 Precinct were injured and taken to the hospital last week when their car skidded on a wet road and struck a utility pole at Beach 73 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The two were responding to an "officer needs assistance call" in the 101 Precinct. The accident is reminiscent of one that killed Police Officer Joe Alcamo, also from the 100 Precinct and responding to an "officer needs assistance" call several years ago. In this case, however, both of the officers came through, if not unscathed, then at least in good shape.

The Supreme Court in Albany has upheld an August ruling by the state education commissioner barring the Lawrence school district, to our east in Nassau County, from providing bus service to private schools for its prekindergarten students. The fight over spending public money on busing private school students is only one of the divisive fights in a school district influenced by a growing population of Orthodox Jews who have taken over the school board and who prefer to educate their children in Yeshivas rather than in public schools. While this is not happening in New York City, where school board members must have children in the public schools, it is a cautionary tale of what can happen when a religious majority takes over public spending functions.

The Rockaway shuttle shared a D+ grade with the C,E and G Lines in a recent rider report card. Those who ride the shuttle on a regular basis did not need to be told that by a survey, several riders told us. The wait at Broad Channel for the Rockaway shuttle can be interminable, they say, especially during the winter months, when the wind blows off Jamaica Bay.

Roger Clemens will go on national television on Sunday night, January 6, at 7 p.m. on Channel Two. He will speak with Mike Wallace, of the famed "60 Minutes" program about the contention that he used performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids in the early 2000's. Clemens reportedly demanded that Mike Wallace, who often sits in the bosses box at Yankee Stadium, do the interview, so we can expect some ground ball questions from the reporter. To believe that Clemens is telling the truth that he has never used the substances, you have to believe that Brian McNamee, a Breezy Point man who is at the center of baseball's investigation into the use of such substances, told several lies not only to the Mitchell Commission, but to federal investigators as well. In any case, it should be an interesting evening of television and we would hope that Wallace does the right thing by including both McNamee and Mitchell in his broadcast story as well.

In 1993, nearly 15 years ago, the New York Times ran a story trumpeting a new and innovate plan for the Arverne Urban Renewal Area. The plan was called "Technodome," and it planned for a large facility that would stretch from Beach 25 Street to Beach 73 Street. One of the largest buildings in the world, it was to hold a ski mountain, a water-skiing pool, a hockey rink, and several other sports venues. Most of those in Rockaway always looked at the plan as a fairy tale, and now, looking back 15 years, we can see just how foolish it was.

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