2008-08-08 / Columnists

Simon says...

Commentary From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Last week a Wave editorial criticized me and other Rockaway activists for asking for too much. As a leader I'm very proud to stand up for what I believe in. I am one who takes an issue and fights to the end, never being a political whore or cutting backroom deals.

Working along with community leaders we have opposed the use of hundreds of trucks to cart off the toxic soil from the old LIPA Rockaway Park gas manufacturing plant at Beach 108 Street. Fran Stathis, president of the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents, Barbara Larkin, president of the Belle Harbor Property Owners, Peter Sammon, president of the Neponsit Property Owners and numerous civic and community leaders. These leaders favor a plan to remove the toxic dirt by barge so that the trucks do not have to move through our neighborhoods.

Thanks for using my name in the editorial and the Beachcomber. My mother, God rest her soul, always said a knock is a boost. We'll keep the fight going and we'll always stand up to fight.

On Wednesday evening last week the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had an informational presentation on the Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) located on Beach 108 Street and Beach Channel Drive. We went there with our mind made up that barging out the toxic soil that covers the site is the only safe, cost effective method available.

Things only got worse as more details were revealed. Fifty to sixty trucks a day would be entering and leaving between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Trucks would come in over the Cross Bay Bridge, which is undergoing major reconstruction. When filled with toxic and carcinogenic materials like cyanide; volatile compounds like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene the trucks would travel via Beach Channel Drive from Beach 108 Street over the Marine Park Bridge, Flatbush Avenue, Church Avenue to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Unfortunately, not one elected official, community board, or civic association has ever been notified that these trucks will travel through their communities. Our local schools Beach Channel High School, Channel View Academy, Scholars' Academy, St. Camillus, P.S. 225, St. Francis or P.S. 114 have not been advised of the traffic impact or what to do in case an emergency arises.

The increase in daily traffic and the chance of a major catastrophe on the Marine Park Bridge led us to make it loud and clear that this project should go from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. and all waste should be in sealed and encapsulated containers.

It was suggested that an enclosed conveyor system carry this sealed waste over Beach Channel Drive to barges on the shore, avoiding traffic through our community and Brooklyn. Some old timers recalled that a tunnel under Beach Channel Drive was used to service the site many years ago. Perhaps this could be used to further reduce the impact on us.

Four years ago, when we met to discuss the cleanup of the site, all our public officials agreed that the use of barges was the best solution. Peter Sammon made suggestions on the routing of the barges. After the meeting, which angered every resident in the audience, our elected officials Congressman Anthony Weiner, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblywoman Pheffer and City Council Member Joseph Addabbo signed off on a letter to National Grid and DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis reminding them that a 1999 consent order on remedial action for the Rockaway Park site included community input. Current plans must include community input as well.

Many people in our community have suggested slowing down. We have waited at least 50 years to clean up this site and we can wait another six months if necessary. There will be more to come and we will stay on top of this matter. We will explore the possibility of a class action lawsuit if necessary.

We were very pleased to see that the Post Office has now made the Rockaway Park Post Office handicapped accessible. There is a button to open the door. We commend them for keeping their word. A little hard work pays off.

We had a great time at the Tribute Park fundraiser. Tribute Park has become a great part of the Rockaway community.

It is a place where I spend a lot of my time remembering so many of my beloved neighbors and friends who were lost on 9/11. I often look up at the dome made by Patrick Clarke and say a prayer in memory of those we lost. They include my best friend, Stephen Lefkowitz, who was my campaign treasurer in 2001. So many firefighters put their lives on the line on 9/11 for our safety.

We walk in Tribute Park and look at the names on the bricks. One can sit and enjoy the sunrise and sunset as well as the scenic view of Manhattan. Unfortunately, the landmark which holds a special place in our hearts, the Twin Towers, is missing. It is nice to see so many beautiful people there to support our one and only Tribute Park.

President Bernie Warnock, Vice President Dan Mundy, Treasurer Kevin O'Mealy, Secretary Dolores Orr, Director John LePore, our great Allstate agent, and Director Nadia Murphy, our horticulture expert who is not afraid to get her hands dirty, make this park a pleasure to visit. Nadia and her husband Fire Chief Tom Murphy spend many hours pruning the garden. Nadia has never looked so beautiful as she does now.

Her beautiful figure and her wonderful style and class make her a special person in our community.

Geoff Rawlings, president of the Rockaway Artists Alliance, who is extremely brilliant and talented, brings his artistic knowledge and talent to our great park. Ira Seplow Esq. brings his expertise and knowledge as a great lawyer to our community park. The who's who of Rockaway was there and we urge anyone who could not make it to send a contribution to Friends of Tribute Park, Post Office Box 930015, Rockaway Beach NY 11693.

My deepest sympathy to the family of Christopher W. Israel who passed away suddenly at the age of 37. My heart goes out to the family.

I'm sure that Christopher will be shining down as a special angel on his wonderful parents, Robert and Jeanette, his lovely daughter Caitlyn, his wife Annemarie and their expected child.

We are deeply saddened by the death of an outstanding dentist, great friend and a great lover of Rockaway, Dr. Joseph Fox who passed suddenly. He was a man who had traveled the seven seas and had a great love for the Rockaways.

He was one of the kindest, most loving individuals you could ever ask to meet. He and his lovely wife, Jean, have given so much to our community. We know he is going to be a superb angel in god's heaven. My deepest sympathy to the family.

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