Congressman Anthony Weiner dropped in at The Wave offices last week for a chat that lasted more than an hour and a half. His discussion with the paper's editorial board was wideranging and interesting. Weiner, who is on the Judiciary Committee, has a great interest in Gateway National Recreation Area as well as in keeping middle class residents in the city. While there are many on the peninsula who believe that Weiner has not been good for Rockaway and has reneged on some promises to the community, we are going to keep an open mind on the congressman and his prospective run for mayor.
It was a typical Rockaway "crisis" situation. Lew Simon called at 9:30 p.m. to say that the city was planning to put a cell phone antenna on top of a light post in front of 328 Beach 147 Street, only blocks from the West End Temple, which recently was the center of a battle over another cell tower. It seems that the city has a plan to make a few bucks by placing cell antennas on top of light poles, traffic signals and signs in areas where private facilities to house the towers do not exist. Simon, as is his wont, got everybody worked up and ready for a 2 p.m. protest in front of the pole on Thursday. Phone messages flew. City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. and the mayor's office were dragged into the story. And, just as Simon's press conference/protest ended, the mayor's office called Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska to say that the plan was being put on hold to "provide a chance to work with the community to find a proper site for the tower." Gaska called us and we put the comment in Friday's paper. On Saturday, however, Simon told The Wave that the mayor's office had lied to Gaska, that the plan was still very much alive. Simon held a protest at the site on Sunday afternoon, drawing about 75 angry residents.
Anumber of people sent us emails over the weekend about the funeral car with the flower display representing a bottle. Turns out that it was a wine bottle, not a liquor bottle that was displayed. The deceased, Alfred Fiorentino, was a chef at a Brooklyn restaurant, Fiorentino's, and had a passion for fine wine and fine dining. The flower arrangement was apparently flat against the other flowers when the trip started, but was brought vertical by the wind that day. All of the correspondents pointed out that Fiorentino was a fine man who will be missed by all and that many Rockaway residents frequented his restaurant.
Crain's New York Business is not bullish on housing. There were two stories in a recent online edition that point directly at the problems the city is facing. The first reported that residential permits issued in the city dropped by 46 percent in the first quarter of 2008 as compared with the first quarter of 2007. The total number of permits for new homes dropped to 558 from 1,038. The second story, this one national, reported that new home sales plunged to the lowest level in more than 16 years, and that prices for new homes dropped by the largest amount in nearly 40 years. Neither of those stories is good news for Rockaway, which is in the middle of a building boom that has begun to revitalize the peninsula. To add to the problem, that revitalization has not yet brought the promised commercial development, and some locals are worried that the housing slump will keep the economic boom in Rockaway from ever happening.
There have been some complaints about aggressive Verizon salespeople who have spread out over the west end, attempting to sell the company's FIOS System of fiber optic television, internet and phone service. The problem is, the company has no permission to bring its television service into New York City and may not gain that permission for a year or so, although the salespeople tell prospective subscribers that it will be on line by the beginning of the summer. The salesman told a Wave staffer that he would lose his Verizon phone service should he decide not to take the entire package, although a check with the company proved that to be false. So, while the cable and the telephone service are already available, the cable television service is not, and may not be for some time as the city negotiates with the company over the franchise rights. A draft agreement, which has to be ratified by the Public Service Commission, was issued on Tuesday. Under that agreement, 30 percent of the homes in the city, mostly on Staten Island and Manhattan, would be on line by the end of this year. Half of the homes would be hooked up by the end of 2010, eighty percent by 2012 and the entire city by 2014. You can bet that the poorest areas will be the last to be wired, including much of the Rockaway peninsula. Verizon has promised not to favor affluent areas, but that is where the money is and it will do everything it can to bring those neighborhoods on line before it addresses the rest of the city's needs. The agreement also includes lots of access channels and customer service protections.
Those who ride the MTA buses have the chance to rate their rides. A program that began on April 22 and will continue until May 7 will feature survey forms that will be provided by the drivers. Those survey forms will allow riders to comment on the services provided by the bus company. The report cards will be distributed on board the buses and at bus stops in a number of places, including Rockaway, primarily during the morning rush hour. Riders will be asked to rate, from Athrough F, or G for not observed, for each of 20 service attributes, including "seat availability" and "courtesy of drivers and dispatchers."
Linda Fairstein is one of the top crime writers in the country. She also ran the sex crime unit for the Manhattan District Attorney for more that two decades. That combination makes her an expert on both sex crimes and New York City. Her latest book, "Killer Heat," uses Breezy Point as one of the settings for the thriller. She talks of the west end community as a, "Gated, all-white, mostly-Irish" community and convinces a black detective who is one of her partners to stay in the car because he would stand out like a sore thumb. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but the truth.
While most people are watching the fascinating presidential election, some of the more politicallyattuned locals are busy watching the 2009 mayoral election, as well. So far, those who have declared and those who have dropped their hats in the ring to test the waters, include Congressman Anthony Weiner, Comptroller William Thompson, Manhattan Borough President Scott Springer, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblyman Tony Avella and black activist Lenora Fulani. Expect a few more before it is over, but it is clear that the election will be an interesting one, particularly in light of all the problems the City Council is having.