2008-03-28 / Columnists

Beachcomber

It seems that the fate of the Lawrence Hotel, that deteriorating eyesore on Beach 116 Street depends largely on the city's plan to rezone the beachfront area. Juan Florez of Bergen Basin Realty, who is handling the property, said that he is working with several interested developers who want the property if it is rezoned for eight-story buildings. An early idea for the property is to build luxury condos with a "community facility" on the street level. Sounds familiar.

Tony Castro, FRHS class of 1974, has created a new Rockaway video, which can be viewed on YouTube. It's a tribute to Rockaway's past through the use of old photographs, backed by "Those Were The Day's My Friend." Great stuff. Many of the photos come from the Far Rockaway website. In addition, he took the old stuff and updated it with photos from Rockaway today. You can find the video on the Internet at www.farrockaway.com/ tonycastrovideo2.html. Give it a look. You'll be hooked.

With all that Far Rockaway needs, the city is finally going to produce. The plan is to plant hundreds of trees from Beach 59 Street to West Lawrence, because it is obvious to the mayor that trees are what Rockaway needs. Far Rockaway will be blessed with the trees because Far Rockaway has been officially identified as one of six neighborhoods citywide "that is most in need of trees." The program's coordinator says that Far Rockaway has a high incidence of asthma and that the trees will help, because the trees reduce the amount of pollutants in the air. Jonathon Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14 made the most cogent comment on the program to a reporter. "I would hope that people would want them," Gaska said, adding, "because they are going to get them whether they want them or not."

The Wave continues to grow as the community grows. In 2004, The Wave published one 100-page edition, the first time that an edition without a special section reached that milestone. In 2005, we published five 100-page editions. In 2006, the number jumped to 15. Last year, in 2007, more than half of the 52 weekly editions, 28 to be exact; reached the 100-page milestone and 15 of those ran more than 100 pages. At a time that daily papers are shrinking and the conventional wisdom is that nobody reads newspapers anymore, many local papers, including The Wave, continue to grow by producing hyper-local, vital information to our readers.

As chronicled in the front page of the Wave last week, the population growth in Rockaway has been nothing short of spectacular, at least to the people who like population growth. There are others, of course, who predict that the peninsula will sink under the weight of all the new people and the infrastructure to support them, or that there is no way they will all get off the peninsula should a hurricane come. In 1990, there were 98,135 residents in Rockaway. In January of last year (2007), there were 129,531, a growth of more than 30,000 people over the period, more new residents than the entire two or three decades previous to 1990. Edgemere gained more than 13,000 people in that period, and Arverne gained more than 5,000, thanks largely to new housing units that have come on-line recently.

It is spring, and the shooting incidents arrived with the robins. A man was shot and killed at the Ocean Village houses and two others were shot, but survived, in the Redfern Houses complex. Add that to a number of "shots fired" incidents and the two guys who were found in the torched Porsche on Cross Bay Boulevard, and you have the beginnings of a veritable crime wave. The bodies in the car, of course, were probably killed elsewhere and then dumped in the wildlife sanctuary, so shouldn't count against the 100 Precinct homicide statistics.

The mystery man in the Sean Bell saga has always been unidentified. He's the man who reportedly argued with Bell and who caused Bell's friend to say, "Yo, get my gun." Now, it turns out that he is another Rockaway resident, Fabio Coicou, who was reportedly waiting for his girlfriend to come out of the Jamaica strip club where she worked and where Bell and his friends were having a bachelor party. While he told police and other investigators early in the process and that he felt threatened by Bell and his friends, he recanted that testimony on the stand, saying instead that he felt comfortable with the situation, especially after he found out that both he and Bell were from Rockaway.

The city has decided that Rockaway is one of the neighborhoods that need more fruits and vegetables, in addition to more trees. That is why the Far Rockaway and Broad Channel areas will soon be getting "Green Carts," a modern variation of the pushcarts that once swept over the Lower East Side each day. Locals, however, argue that the carts will draw problems and take business away for locals. Sounds like another good idea gone badly in the execution.

AWave photographer happened to be in Far Rockaway when Breezy Point resident Brian McNamee plowed into the front of an MTA bus. Our freelancer was on the scene almost immediately and realized that McNamee was the man responsible for reporting that Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte took performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee says that he is diabetic and that he passed out, not realizing he was going to hit the bus until after the accident. The story was all over the news within minutes, but The Wave was the first one there, and the only one of the hundreds of newspapers around the nation that printed the story with photos of the accident and McNamee at the scene.

We're looking for stories about how the new MTA fare structure is impacting Rockaway residents. If you have a story to tell, Email it to us at editor@ rockawave.com or send it to us at 88- 08 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Beach, New York, 11693.

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