2008-04-04 / Columnists


The cell tower controversy that had embroiled the West End Temple and its neighbors has ended with a whimper rather than a bang. Both the company and the temple agreed that it was not a good idea for a religious institution to anger its congregants and the community as a whole. Most of the locals to whom we spoke were happy with the decision, because they think that you don't put the health of children at risk, even if that risk has so far proven very small. On the other hand, temple officials now have to come up with a fundraising plan to address the growing shortfall that would have been adequately filled by the $2,800 a month West End would have received for allowing the cell antennas to be placed on the roof. Perhaps it's time for those who opposed the plan to come to the aid of the temple and assist it in raising the much-needed money elsewhere.

There were not too many local people at the town hall meeting called by City Councilman Joe Addabbo on the mainland last week, but those who showed up were vociferous in their opposition to the mayor's Congestion Pricing Plan that would charge motorists $8 for driving into lower Manhattan on weekdays. The consensus among locals is that the plan would benefit Manhattan residents at the expense of middle-class residents of the outer boroughs who have to go to Manhattan for medical appointments and the like. The plan will next go to the City Council and then to the state legislature for approval. While many politicians say they are opposed to the plan, it looks like "whatever Bloomberg wants, Bloomberg gets."

Over the past five years, the 311 notification system has changed the way residents interface with their government. During the period of March 2007 until last week, nearly 25 percent of the 3.5 million calls to the system came from Queens. The majority of calls asked for repairs of street lighting conditions. Right behind lighting problems came sewer problems and then noise problems. The Department of Transportation (DOT) was the most-requested agency to solve a specific problem.

Closing the community center at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway makes little sense, except financially. The sprawling public housing complex on the Nassau County border has become the center of gun violence in the past year, far surpassing both Ocean Bay and Hammels in its gun activity. Those who say that Redfern residents can use one of the other public housing centers on the peninsula have neither a sense of history nor any street smarts. Mixing the teens from Redfern with the teens from Ocean Bay or Hammels is like mixing water and oil. What you will get is more violence, not less. The city needs to find a way to keep that center open and provide much-needed services to that isolated community.

The story of Rockaway's growth to 129,000 residents has sparked hopes that the peninsula would soon have a sufficient number of residents to meet the requirements for having its own state and local political representatives, rather than sharing representatives with the mainland. It looks, however, on a quick perusal, that, by the 2010 census we will still fall short of the varying requirements. Perhaps by 2020, Rockaway will be up to the 150,000 to 175,000 residents that it needs to be its own political district.

A group of Rockaway residents, led by east-end activist Floyd Smith, plans to petition the National Park Service for better facilities at Riis Park this coming summer. The Concerned Citizens for the Rockaways, Smith's group, will collect signatures on weekends during the beach season, beginning on the Memorial Day Weekend. They want to demonstrate their "frustration" with the federal park officials who, they say, have failed to maintain the park and beach. The group calls for better facilities and more entertainment programs at the park.

Fire Department Lieutenant Kevin Dowdell, a Breezy Point resident, was killed on 9/11 in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. His younger son, James, joined the fire department and recently marched with the FDNY Emerald Society pipe band in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Manhattan. His older son, Patrick, went to West Point and is now a first lieutenant on his way to Iraq for his first tour in the war zone. Everybody in Rockaway should wish this young man a "safe home."

Some state legislators are pushing for a notification system that would alert city residents when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood. In fact, if the two State Senators get their way, that notification could be popping up on your cell phone or computer screen by the end of the year. They want to use the city's new NY-Alert system to tell those residents who are registered in the program (Rockaway is one of the trial areas) when a pedophile moves into their zip code. According to a recent press release, there are 3,260 listed pedophiles in the city and that at least one more is added to the state's list each day.

Still no official word in the fate of the new YMCAplanned by Arverne By The Sea for Beach 73 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The development team is chomping at the bit to get started, but locals have asked for a larger pool and an enclosed gymnasium at the facility, which would cost an additional $5 million, experts say. Everybody is waiting to see if the city can somehow come up with the extra money, but time is getting short.

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