The controversy over the planned cell phone tower on the roof of the West End Temple in Neponsit once again illuminates the proposition that neighborhood ties are fragile, even for religious institutions. The decision to sign the contract with T-Mobile for a cell phone tower that would earn the cash-strapped temple more than $2,800 a month in much-needed revenue that could be used for programs was a "no-brainer," according to temple leaders. And, it appears on the surface that, in terms of the money, it was a good decision. There are other forces at play, however. There are many who believe that cell towers give off harmful radiation that may cause cancer. Some of the people who believe that live near the temple and they began a campaign to get rid of the tower even before it was in place. Who is right? Are the towers dangerous? Even the experts say that the technology is changing so fast that it will be years, perhaps decades, before that question can be answered with any clarity. Given that contention, opponents say, it is better to err on the side of caution, and they are probably right.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is desperate to get his congestion pricing plan approved. Proof of that is his approval of local parking permits that would prevent people from outside the zone from parking in already-impacted neighborhoods right at the border of the mayor's planned impact zone. For as long as we can remember, Bloomberg has said no to such plans in places such as Rockaway, where summer parking is problematic and draconian parking rules exist on summer weekends. Bloomberg says that he believes that the Manhattan residents would be willing to pay $10 to insure that they had reserved spaces on their neighborhood streets. Why not a similar program for Rockaway? Take away the No Parking Saturday and Sunday signs and let residents pay for reserved parking. It would be worth more than $10 to be allowed to park in front of your own home on summer weekends. Speaking of the mayor's plan, he needs the votes of several City Council members, who are reportedly balking about voting for it because their constituents are so opposed. As you would expect, those who ride the buses and subways regularly are in favor of the plan, because it promises improved mass transit spending. Those who must drive into Manhattan from the other boroughs for work, doctors appointments or cultural events are opposed to the plan, recent polls show. With many council members reaching their term limits and looking to run for some other office, those members do not want to anger constituents whose vote they might need for those new offices.
The Taft Institute at Queens College is offering all city public school teachers three free graduate credits in civic education. The program begins with three day-long session in August and continues with eight evening sessions during the fall semester. Refreshments, books and other materials are provided free to participants. Those interested should contact Professor Jack Zevin at the school, 718-997-5546.
Three Far Rockaway High School students have be selected to move to the second stage of the Broad Prize scholarship selection process. The selection is based on improvement over the high school years. The three moving on in the process are Cherise Bartow, Kerissa Patrick and Nadine Pierre.
Jose Merced, the principal of the new School of Medical Technology that will begin at the Far Rockaway Educational Campus in September called to say that the school will host an open house at the former Far Rockaway High School on Bay 25 Street from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 29. Merced, who was formerly the assistant principal in charge of Science at John Dewey High School and is a medical technologist as well, says that the school will be a college prep program for kids interested in the medical field. "We want to bring back the Far Rockaway kids who are leaving the peninsula to go to high schools elsewhere," he said.
This year's annual Rotary Sweet 'N Low Ocean Run will be dedicated to the memory of Rockaway activist Barbara Eisenstadt, who passed away last year. The run will reportedly move back to its former venue at Beach 116 Street and the boardwalk after one year at Riis Park.
On the "Talk About Chutzpah" front, the lawyer who is suing six Atlantic City casinos as well as one in Las Vegas for allowing her to lose nearly $1 million dollars at their facilities, was one of the major lawyers involved in arguing the cases of those from Washington Heights who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Rockaway in November of 2001. "It's like crack, only gambling is worse than crack, because it's mental," said Arelia Margarita Taveras. "It creeps up on you. It's a sickness." She claims that the casino owners should have stopped her when she spent days on end sitting at the gambling machines and table. She says they had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling practices and cut her off.
Anew book on Chinese restaurants in the United States, "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles," by Jennifer Lee has a section on success stories. Lee, who wrote for the New York Times, tells stories of Chinese immigrants in the Chinese restaurant business. Among them is a young man from Fuzhou, China, who spent four years in a federal prison after jumping off the Golden Venture, a ship smuggling illegal Chinese aliens into the United States that beached itself on a Breezy Point beach in June of 1993. In 2006, the immigrant owned a 150-seat restaurant in Ohio and was building a five-bedroom home for his wife and two children.