2008-05-09 / Columnists

Beachcomber

When Robert Hordt was recently named Managing Editor of Crain's New York Business, his biography in the paper said that he had started his career at The Wave in Rockaway. We called him to check, and sure enough, he spent two years or so working for Leon Locke at this paper in the 1970's. He also lived in Rockaway for a year before he moved on to a New Jersey newspaper. In any case, we wish him well.

State Senator Malcolm Smith is calling for a joint meeting of the Democrats in both the Senate and the Assembly to take legislative action "on police policies and procedures." Smith doesn't like the fact that the three detectives recently found not guilty in the Sean Bell case had the right to receive a bench trial rather than a jury trial - a fact in American jurisprudence from the very beginnings of our democracy. Smith wants the Democrats to push through a state law that would give the prosecutor's office, in this case District Attorney Richard Brown, the right to deny the defendants a bench trial and force them to face a jury. It's interesting to note that neither Audrey Pheffer nor Michelle Titus, our two Assembly representatives, were present at the press conference announcing Smith's initiative.

There is a new website that Rockaway residents can access if they want to comment on the passing scene. It allows people to post their comments and opinions without having to put their names on the post. While we would personally feel more comfortable if people had to identify their comments, there are many who would rather do it confidentially. The website can be found at www.voy. com/215256/.

We wondered why the city would enter into a contract with a cell phone provider that would allow antennas to be placed virtually anywhere in the city the company chose to put them. We spoke to the man who heads the city agency that is overseeing the contract, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, known to one and all as DOITT. Commissioner Paul Casgrove told us that the city was concerned that there would be haphazard growth in the area if the city stood on the sidelines. The agency's website is more pecuniary. It says that the city wanted to get in on the big bucks being made by people renting their private property to cell phone companies. In any case, the company siting the cell antennas (not towers as advertised), has the absolute right under the contract to place them wherever they want. The best the city can do is to ask them to consult with communities prior to installation, but Casgrove admits that they have no oversight rights at all under the contract.

Now that the city and Verizon have come to a primary agreement over bringing its FIOS system into city homes, many locals are eagerly awaiting switching from Time Warner to Verizon. Don't be too quick, however. Verizon plans call for virtually all of Staten Island and 60 percent of Manhattan to be wired by late this year or early next year. What about other areas of the city? FIOS will be available to less than ten percent of Queens this year, and you can bet that the percentage will be in Flushing and other areas of northern Queens. Wiring is already in place in some areas of Rockaway, primarily in the west end, but the company can't tell us whether those areas will actually get the service. In fact, most of Rockaway won't even be wired until 2011 at the earliest and perhaps 2014 as a worst-case scenario.

Temple Beth-El is building a new community center on Beach 122 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. It will include state-of-the-art classrooms and a computer center, officials say. The building on Beach 135 Street in which the community center was located for 50 years, was eventually shared with the Department of Education for special education classes. That building has been sold to the city agency to be used exclusively as a special education school. One thing will change, however. The cell tower on the roof of the building will be removed by September under a rule that does not allow such facilities on school buildings.

City Councilman James Sanders was one of the many members of that body that used campaign funds to hire relatives. While Sanders was not the worst offender - Larry Seabrook paid his brother more than $82,000 and Helen Sears paid her two kids and her daughter-in-law more than $113,000 - he did pay Raphael Sanders, his brother, more than $2,000 in 2001. Some politicians point to JFK, who hired his brother as Attorney General, but there are many citizens who look askance at public money being spent on friends, relatives and cronies.

If you think that you've received more parking tickets this year than ever before, you're right. This year, from January to March, more than 2,500,000 tickets have been issued in the city, up eight percent - nearly 200,000 more tickets - from the same time period in 2007. While drivers fume, the city gets rich. There was $162,000,000 collected in parking ticket revenue so far this year, officials say. That is up from the $150,000,000 collected during the first three months of last year. The quick uptick is probably due to the increased number of traffic enforcement agents working the streets. That number is 2,800, up from 1,900 in 2004, and 238 more will join the ranks on June 13. Motorists beware!

Ashley Flowers, a public relations specialist for Rite Aid Pharmacies called from Pennsylvania to say that we were in error in last week's newspaper. We said last week that the store manager who was involved in the melee outside the store last month was accompanied by a company attorney when he turned himself in on an assault charge on April 25. In fact, she states, he was accompanied by his own attorney and the company's district manager. Flowers said that the company is cooperating fully with the police investigation, but that confidentiality concerns would not allow her to speak about sanctions on any other employees.

City Councilman James Sanders called to say that The Wave created some misperceptions about his spending policies in our front page story about member items last week. Sanders said that the Rockaway Peninsula Civic Association does indeed still exist, but that The Wave lost track of it because the group is working with senior citizens rather than youth this year, operating at the Sorrentino Center in Far Rockaway rather than at their old address on Beach Channel Drive. He added that he gave none of his personal member item money to Geraldine Chapey's Trinity Seniors, but that he did give some money to her as part of the Queens delegation money. He added that all of the organizations that receive his money actually exist. "Most of my money went to the new YMCA," he said. "I may have done some things wrong, but I never misuse the people's money."

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