2008-02-29 / Community

Beachcomber

The incident at St. John's Episcopal Hospital was not all that unusual. The call came into police as an emotionally disturbed person (EDP in cop-speak) on the third floor. Police responding to the call found David Tarloff under restraint because he had threatened the nurses and tussled with a hospital security guard who reportedly saw Tarloff in bed with his sick mother in her critical care unit bed. Tarloff was arrested and held overnight in the hospital's psych unit. The next morning, after a quick evaluation by a psychiatrist, Dr. Reddy Bezwada, Tarloff was released. Bezwada checked a box on the release form that denoted that Tarloff was "not a danger to himself or to others." That checkoff also served Tarloff well in court, where an ADA allowed him to be released on his own recognizance. Ten days later, Tarloff was in a Manhattan building, butchering a therapist with a meat cleaver and injuring a psychiatrist who had put him away 17 years before. It is clear, at least to us, that the system failed once again with Tarloff. With several previous incidents at other hospitals where his mother was a patient, the system should have kept him under observation and perhaps under commitment, but that just doesn't happen very often. Statistics for this year alone show several incidents where patients were released similarly to Tarloff and then went off and committed murder or assault. The state has to get its act together and come up with a way of keeping EDP's off the street for good. Who's to blame? Blame the law that does not allow for confinement for violent EDP's. Blame Dr. Bezwada, who saw no harm in releasing Tarloff. Blame the ADA who allowed him to walk out of court on his own recognizance. Blame the liberal politicians who can't bring themselves to confine crazy people. In any case, something must be done.

Jonathan Gaska, the longtime district manager for our Community Board 14, got a nice profile in the Queens Courier this week. Gaska is one of the most amiable public servants around. Gaska is concerned about the decreasing number of members of civic organizations on the peninsula, he told the reporter. "Civic associations throughout the borough are dying," he said. "That kind of a sense of obligation to the process and to the community is starting to wane, and it's a shame. The community board and the civics are the groups that really fight. Some people think that government will take care of things in their community. Nothing could be further from the truth. The community board depends on civics to find out what the community wants."

Mayor Bloomberg had defended a state bill now before Governor Spitzer that would allow current teachers to retire with full pension benefits five years earlier than current law allows. While it was a strange statement by Bloomberg, who likes to keep pension costs low, it seems that his support of the bill was part of the agreement that brought a new contract that resulted in a merit pay deal, something that Bloomberg really wants. The bill would give present teachers the same 25 years of service and fifty-five years of age retirement possibilities that Tier I teachers enjoyed for many years.

The mayor says that Rockaway might have a subsidized commuter ferry service by this summer, but we've heard that song before. In order for a service to be useful to Rockaway residents, it has to be affordable - meaning around five bucks a trip. It has to make several runs each morning and again during the evening rush. And, it has to provide access to all residents, not simply those in the west end who have easy access to Riis Landing. Add those three together, and you have a tall order. Right now, the plans are to make the service affordable through subsidies. The plan also calls for several runs each day. The only access, however, will be through Riis Landing in Gateway National Recreation Area. A typical Far Rockaway commuter would have to travel 25 minutes by car (longer by bus) to get to Fort Tilden, park and get on the ferry, which would take 40 minutes to get to Wall Street. That's already more than an hour. And, unless the commuter works in the Wall Street area, there's another trip on the subway to complete the trip. It still seems to us that the express bus is a better option.

Some residents have called to say that a number of "No Parking" and "No Stopping" signs are missing from Shore Front Parkway, from Beach 73 Street all the way west to Beach 108 Street. They are asking that the signs be replaced by the Department of Transportation before the next summer season.

City cops conducted 40,000 fewer stopand frisks in 2007 than in the previous year, but the percentage of blacks and Hispanics stopped remained roughly the same, police sources say. The NYPD has been under fire in the past few years for racial profiling - stopping residents simply because they are minorities. Blacks made up 54 percent of the 468,932 people stopped, questioned and released, police say. In 2007, the percentage of blacks stopped was 55 percent. Hispanics made up 31 percent of those stopped by police officers in both years. Police respond to criticism by saying that their statistics show that 93 percent of the violent crime suspects in the city last year were described as either black or Hispanic. The NYCLU and minority advocacy groups, however, deny that the NYPD's statistics are accurate. "There's a racial basis to the whole process," one such advocate said. "They have done nothing to eliminate the disparity in the stop, question and frisk process. To say that the percentage has remained the same is nothing to brag about."

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