2008-07-18 / Columnists

Beachcomber

There is a great need for blood donations to alleviate a growing shortage of blood for medical transfusions. An adequate supply of blood is needed, officials say, for medical emergencies as well as scheduled procedures such as heart transplants and prostate cancer surgery. Currently, they say, supplies have dropped below the five-day safety net. Those who want to donate blood can call 311 for the location of a New York Blood Center nearby.

When the price of a pack of cigarettes topped $10 in some parts of the city last month, thousands of smokers crowded the city's 311 help line asking for help in stopping the addiction, officials say. In fact, the number of calls to the Department of Health during that time was nearly triple the number from the year before. More than 2,700 New Yorkers called 311 asking for nicotine patches to help end their smoking habit during a one week period, from June 2 to June 9.

The scene is getting too familiar. Local politicians and law enforcement officials get up and speak about how they are going to end the spate of drug, gun and gang violence in Far Rockaway. They come up with programs that have spiffy acronyms and promise the moon. Then, in following days, several teens are shot and some sioner Raymond Kelly spoke at the reopening of the Redfern Community Center. So did all the usual politicians - Meeks, Smith and Sanders. They all spoke glowingly of what they were doing to address "the problems that the community faces." That was the second time that Kelly had been in Rockaway since May. On July 4, three people were shot on Beach 63 Street in Arverne. On Monday, the same day that Kelly was here, another teen was shot in the head on Beach 15 Street. On Thursday, another teen was shot, this time to death, again on Beach 15 Street. In both the triple shooting and in the murder on Thursday, a shotgun was reportedly the weapon of choice. We expect that the politicians will rise again this week and speak in platitudes about what they are doing to stop the violence. Whatever it is, it's obviously just not enough. Even though the police acted to make arrests in the majority of the shooting incidents, there has to be something proactive that the police and the community can do to stop the shootings.

The little secret known to many New York City residents is now spreading throughout the nation. The secret is that the colleges and universities in the City University Of New York (CUNY) system are among the best in ties such as those in the Ivy League. Officials say that applications for the CUNY colleges and universities grew by more than five percent this year and out-of-state applications are up by a whopping 18.4 percent. Some say that the increase is simply due to the economy and the fact that many families can no longer pay the high freight for a university degree, but we'd like to think that it's at least partially because of the growing reputation of the CUNY schools.

Two locals assisted the lifeguards in a water rescue on July 4. Seems that Pat McCauley was going under off Beach 140 Street when Mat Courtney arrived on his surfboard and kept him afloat. Ed Cochran, another local, swam out to help and the two men managed to keep him safe until the lifeguards arrived to tow him to shore. The Wave could not find out much about the rescue other than what we were told by the participants, because the Parks Department won't comment on beach rescues and lifeguards can lose their jobs by talking to the press without permission of the city agency. It's too bad, because the lifeguards who keep us safe deserve the approbation of the community for the work they do.

Speaking of lifeguards, there was a three-page spread in the Daily News on July 10, detailing the "lifeguards who are worth whistling at." Three Rockaway lifeguards made the cut: Miguel Reyes, Kerry McGuire and Raquel Mundy. McGuire told the News that she has made lots of rescues, as has Mundy, who adds that she likes "helping little kids find their parents." Obviously, the agency gave the lifeguards the right to speak with the paper, or else the story would never have appeared. Rather than a story on good-looking lifeguards, however, we with those who do their jobs and save lives. That seems to us to be much more important than what they look like.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg swore in 1,094 new police recruits last week. The recruits, who will now enter the academy for training, are a different breed than those in past NYPD recruit classes, officials say. Nearly 400 of the new recruits hold bachelor's degrees. Seven have master's degrees and one holds a law degree from Hofstra University. More than 120 of the recruits have served in the military, and of those, 67 have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The average age of the class is 25, and more than half are city residents. And, finally, more than 20 percent of the class was born in another nation.

Three readers called to say that the recent shootings in Far Rockaway look to them to be mimicking the highlypopular "Grand Theft Auto II" computer game. "The whole scenario where a guy jumps out of a car with a shotgun, kills an innocent bystander and then jumps back into the car to escape is right out of the game," one woman said. "It's a little frightening to think that somebody is translating the video game into real life."

West End Realty and the Department of Parks and Recreation will once again hold a "Sandcastle Contest" on the beach this year. The contest will be held at Beach 118 Street on Sunday, July 27. Registration will begin at 10 a.m. and last until noon. The contest begins at 1 p.m. sharp, with judging beginning at 3 p.m. There are a number of categories, including one for children aged one to eight who work with their parents.

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