2008-08-01 / Columnists


One of Rockaway's most famous sports professionals, Nancy Lieberman of Bayswater, a standout at Far Rockaway High School and in the Woman's Professional Basketball League, has, at age 50, played more than a couple of minutes with the Detroit Shock of the WPBL, making her the oldest player to ever suit up for a league game. She played her last game in 1997, at the age of 39, and was the oldest player ever at that time. Her new record will break the old, and probably never be topped, although some male players, notably Gordie Howe in the NHL and Satchel Paige in major league baseball both played symbolic games in their 50s.

Anybody who lives in Rockaway and is diabetic should find a way to St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway on the fourth Monday of each month at 1:30 p.m. That's the time for the hospital's series of diabetic workshops that address, sequentially, all of the things you need to know about the disease, from its etymology to its treatment. Over the past two months, for example, the lectures ranged from diet to exercise to choosing foods. The workshops are free and there are always drinks and health snacks to eat.

The meeting to address the community's concerns about the removal of toxic soil from the former coal gasification plant on Beach Channel Drive at Beach 108 Street was a typical Rockaway meeting. There was lots of yelling and posturing and anger over the Department of Environmental Conservation's plan to truck the dirt out of the community. Democratic District Leader Lew Simon again was the main protagonist, and his arguments got so convoluted that even the DEC officials began to laugh at him. What happens if the truck crashes on the bridge blocking off the major exit road from Rockaway, Simon asked. What happens if there's a hurricane and we can't get out? Sometimes, Rockaway becomes a joke in the eyes of city and state officials because they come to a meeting and are faced by this foolishness. The fact is, the toxic soil has to go and there are basically two ways to do it - truck it out or treat it on site. DEC officials say that taking it out by barge, as suggested by Simon and his allies, would be neither cost nor labor-effective and would tie up Beach Channel Drive for months as trucks lined up to dump their loads on barges moored in the bay. The same officials say that the technology to treat the soil on site does not yet exist. That leaves trucks. Some at the meeting asked that the plan be delayed for more discussion. That would leave the soil in Rockaway even longer. Let's get out of the way and let the DEC do its job.

The update provided last week by Gerri Romski, the CEO for Arverne By The Sea, was disappointing. We fully expected that the YMCA would have been nearly ready to open its doors by now and that the Super Stop & Shop and the facilities in the Transit Plaza would have been well into their construction phase. We were too optimistic. With luck, some shovels will go into the ground late in the fall for both projects. Why? A partial answer involves the demands of the Rockaway community and the vagaries of doing business in New York City. In reference to the YMCA, a year ago, just as construction on the Y was to begin, a group of Rockaway residents formed an ad-hoc committee to change the plans, adding two lanes to the pool and an indoor gymnasium. The community board bought into their demands, and construction was put on hold until the extra money could be found. The money still has not been found, and may never be found. Part of the problem is that the delay has caused the costs associated with the proposed YMCA to rise dramatically and some have voiced the fear that Rockaway may get a smaller facility than we would have a year ago, rather than the larger facility that has been demanded. We warned at the time that, although we liked the changes, half a loaf may well be better than none at all. We still have none of the loaf. As to the supermarket, the city's Transit Authority got mixed up in the deal because its tracks touch on the property. That added extra problems and extra paperwork that is only now being straightened out.

The tragic drowning death of Jamaica teen Tiara Coaxum on Friday, July 18 once again points out that ocean waters are dangerous, particularly to those who cannot swim or who don't understand where the danger lies, although even the strongest of swimmers can be pulled out to sea by a rip current. Most of those who have died in drowning incidents over the past ten years have been visitors to Rockaway. Locals have a better understanding of the dangers and how to survive them. At one time, every New York City student had to pass a swimming test to graduate from high school. Perhaps we need to go back to those days because the ability to swim is an important skill, particularly in a city surrounded by water.

Ridership on the Rockaway commuter ferry continues to grow, especially on the Friday afternoon return trips, where beer is openly consumed and everybody seems to be having a happy afternoon. There are some, however, who fear that the pilot program will end when the subsidies end at the end of two years unless more boats are added to the schedule, which, they say is not convenient to those who work outside of lower Manhattan. There may be another solution, however. The use of a high-speed boat rather than the fishing boat that is presently in service, might allow for more runs each day without adding another craft. One rider told us that the high-speed boat that leaves New Jersey gets to Manhattan at the same time that the Rockaway boat arrives, even though the New Jersey boat leaves its dock later and has a much longer run.

It has come to our attention that salespeople for supplemental Medicare programs are going door-to-door, hitting Rockaway seniors hard this summer, convincing many elderly to sign on the dotted line to get free extra services. The gullible seniors, however, find themselves locked out of their traditional doctors and service providers and forced to travel long distance to medical mills for treatment. It's all about the money, honey. Seniors should be careful about switching services for any medical care.

Several west end residents have called to say that bicycles were stolen from their front porches in recent weeks. Local police sources warn that even bikes that are locked up on porches and in driveways are targets for young theives. The police recommend that bikes be locked in a garage or basement, or at least be placed in the rear of the home, where they cannot be seen from the street. Police also urge residents to let them know when a bike is taken, so that records can be kept.

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