2008-11-21 / Columnists

Beachcomber

It's clear that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's priorities are not those of the citizens who live in the outer boroughs. Speaking at the Apollo Theater last week, the mayor said that despite cutting police officers and firefighter training, he was going to maintain funding levels for his favorite art projects. "Culture is [as] vital to the quality of life of this city as the economy is," Bloomberg said. We understand that art programs enhance the city's quality of life, but we can't live very well without teachers, cops and highly-trained firefighters. By the way, at the same time that Bloomberg has cut 1,100 police jobs by canceling the next incoming class of recruits, he's madly hiring traffic enforcement officers so that more tickets can be issued and more revenue will be available for the mayor's pet programs - including arts programs. Some of the other "benefits" of Bloomberg's proposed budget are: the elimination of the seven percent property tax cut; $66 million more from parking tickets and double the noncriminal fines the city collects from building and sanitation tickets; an end to garbage collections on Sundays and holidays and unplugging lights on highway signs, leaving them to be illuminated solely by automobile headlights. Oh, and one more thing. Get ready to pay five cents for each plastic bag you use when you go to the supermarket (or any other store in New York City). Double-bagging will now cost you a dime.

The court hearing on the Kareem Bellamy case that was originally scheduled for Thursday, November 13, has been adjourned to December 4, reportedly to give Bellamy's new attorney, Steven Silberberg more time to research the case. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has asked Judge Joel Blumenthal to vacate his June 27 decision setting aside Bellamy's murder conviction for the 1994 stabbing death of James Abbott in Edgemere. Blumenthal vacated the conviction on the strength of a recording provided by the defense that purported to be the voice of the real murderer talking about what he had done. The person who recorded the tape and testified that it was the voice of the real killer later recanted and said that the tape was a fake, made by him and a friend to whom he had paid $100 to take the part of the murderer. The Wave has interviewed most of the major players, including Bellamy's old and new lawyers, the private investigator who was given the tape and the man who says that he falsified the tape, and we believe that Bellamy is innocent, despite the new evidence that the tape was faked. It seems to us that both the defense and the assistant district attorney involved in the case have begun to take the case personally. For example, we thought that it was strange that the man who made the false tape had been granted immunity from prosecution for perjury before he was actually charged with anything. There are some strange things going on that need to be sorted out by an outsider with no dog in the hunt. Perhaps it's time for the state to appoint a special prosecutor to hear the case and make a decision.

Federal prosecutors will soon meet with the family of Sean Bell, the Far Rockaway man who was shot and killed by undercover police officers two years ago. The meeting is thought by court experts to mean that the feds are close to making a decision on whether or not the cops, who were found not guilty in Queens Supreme Court last year, will now have to face federal civil rights charges in connection with the shooting. Bell's supporters, particularly Al Sharpton, have been pushing for the Justice Department to bring charges even though the men were found not guilty in state court.

On December 2, 1980, three nuns and a lay missioner, including Rockaway resident Maura Clarke, were found butchered in a field in El Salvador. The four were in Central America working with the poor. On that night, the four were driving from the airport in a van when it was stopped at a roadblock by members of El Salvador's National Guard. The four women were taken to an isolated field, raped and then shot and buried in a shallow grave along the roadside. When the bodies were found and identified, an international horror ensued and the guardsmen were arrested and tried. The middle school at Stella Maris High School in Rockaway Park is named in honor of Clarke. We should not forget her or her mission.

The Kosciusko Bridge connects Brooklyn and Queens, and it is falling apart. Because of that, officials recently announced a $630 million project to tear down the aging span and build a new one in its place. The project, however, has been put on hold by the feds because they say that some ancestral land of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Indian Tribe and the Delaware Nation might be impacted by the project and officials of those Wisconsin tribes have to sign off on the project before it can begin. Federal law requires that Native American tribes be consulted when a project impacts their ancestral land.

One of the major weapons in Time Warner Cable's battle against Verizon's FIOS system is its all-news channel called NY1 News. Now, the computer giant has started utilizing that weapon by insuring that any subscriber turning on their cable box will automatically tune to NY1. "We're proud of our news channel," said one Time Warner spokesperson when asked about the automatic channel choice. "We want everybody to enjoy what we believe is one of our premier channels."

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