2008-10-17 / Columnists

Beachcomber

One of New York City's great institutions is coming back to town. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is back at Pier 86 and will reopen to the public on November 8 at 10 a.m. The Intrepid, a 900-foot-long aircraft carrier that saw duty in three wars - WW II, Korea and Vietnam - has been refurbished. Areas of the ship have been opened that had previously been closed to public view.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is working hard to keep one of the city's wastewater treatment plants from stinking up the neighborhood. The only problem is, the plant is in the Bronx and not in Rockaway. The west end of the peninsula has long suffered the toxic smells of the plant whenever the tanks fill up. This past summer, the smell was so bad that many people in the Beach 108 Street area abandoned their homes for a week or two to get away from the smell. The DEC has issued an amended permit that requires the city to place an air pressure alarm in the Bronx plant that will keep odors from escaping the plant and to undertake several new maintenance measures that will prevent excessive build-up of unprocessed sludge. Now, how about Rockaway?

New York City politics is always about the politicians and not about the people. City Councilman Simcha Felder has always Bloomberg's back pocket. For slavishly following the mayor's lead, Felder has earned more than $5.7 million in discretionary public funding for his district from the fund that the mayor personally controls. Turns out that Felder is the chair of the council's Governmental Relations Committee, that held a hearing on October 16 and will hold another today to address whether or not the term limits law should be changed to benefit the mayor and give him a third term. That vote in committee and then in the entire council should be raucous, but you already know how Felder and his committee will vote.

There was a time a few months ago when it seemed clear that the Democrats were about to take control of the state Senate, making our own senator, Malcolm Smith, the majority leader. Now, that possibility does not seem as sure as it was then. First of all, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr.'s run against Republican Serph Maltese for a mainland seat has been clouded by the fact that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has unexpectedly backed Maltese, reportedly both in words and in big bucks. We had to wonder how Maltese could afford to run ads on CNN, but Bloomberg's entry into the race could explain a large infusion of capital into the campaign. Addabbo is no longer a sure bet, despite his name recognition and the fact that his father represented that area for many years. Secondly, at least two upstate Democrats have been hinting that they may well move to the other side of the aisle after the coming election. Then, we have a longtime Democratic senator in Buffalo who is trailing his Republican challenger by 13 points going into mid-October. While the Dems need only one seat to take the lead in the Senate, and Addabbo was the great hope to gain that seat by beating Maltese, it looks as if lots of races are in play, making a takeover less likely as Election Day approaches.

A mentally-ill man accused of killing an upper East Side psychologist and critically wounding another just days after he attacked a staffer at St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway from which he was approved for release, is too deranged to stand trial, two courtappointed psychiatrists told a Manhattan judge last week. David Tarloff, 39, was at St. John's Episcopal Hospital last year when he attacked a security guard at the hospital. A psychiatrist there, however, declared him fit for discharge. A week later, he attacked the two people.

The Department of Education talks a good game about cutting school funding and streamlining the schools, even to the point of cutting Teachers' Choice money, which provides vital classroom supplies. It seems that it's fine to take money out of classrooms and add it to headquarters. The head count at Tweed Courthouse, the DOE's headquarters, has increased by nearly 400 between October of 2004, when Mayor Bloomberg took over the schools, and last April - a jump of more than 18 percent. Take a look at the DOE's website, and you will spot a number of new jobs, all with massive salaries, posted on the site. For example, there's the Knowledge Management Domain Leader for Leadership and Organizational Management ($170,000), Senior Achievement Facilitator ($170,000), Director of School Quality ($170,000) and Executive Director, Office of Arts and Special Projects ($188,000). Most of the new hires are for the Office of Accountability that had 19 people in 2004 and now has 79, the great majority of them earning far more than $100,000 a year. That goes along with the mayor's belief that testing and measurement are the be all and end all of education, a belief that has been accepted whole hog by his chancellor.

The owner of the Gristedes grocery chain, who is toying with running for mayor next year, wants to bring the World's Fair back to New York City in 2014. The good news is that he is looking at Rockaway for the site. The bad news is that he says he's looking at Rockaway because it is one of the "blighted areas" that could house it without moving people out of the way.

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