2009-02-13 / Columnists


If you live in the west end of the peninsula, make sure that you mark your calendars for the special election being held on February 24 to fill the seat vacated by Joe Addabbo when he moved from the City Council to the State Senate. To vote, simply go to your regular polling place. As we write this, there are two Rockaway residents on the ballot - Democratic District Leaders Lew Simon and Geraldine Chapey. There are also two mainland candidates from whom to chose - conservative businessman Mike Ricatto and Republican District Leader Eric Ulrich. A third Rockaway resident, Glenn DiResto, is still fighting to remain on the ballot at press time after he was removed by the Board of Elections commissioners because his chosen name was too close to that of another political party.

The mayor and the Department of Buildings have some good news and some bad news for civic activists. The good news is that there is now a formal 30-day public challenge process for the public to contest new development in city neighborhoods based upon possible zoning infractions. All new development plans will have to be put online for everybody to see under the new procedure. Then, residents will have the full 30-day period to protest those plans. Which leads to the bad news. After the 30-day period is up, so is the right to protest the plans. Shady developers will only have to wait out the 30- day clock to begin projects that they know to be illegal and then be free and clear to complete the illegal job.

The Daily News asked more than 100 New Yorkers to identify photographs of Congressman Anthony Weiner and Comptroller William Thompson, the two leading Democratic candidates to run against Michael Bloomberg for mayor. Just 20 of them identified Thompson, while 29 identified Weiner. All of them could identify Bloomberg. That does not bode too well for the two challengers, and it means they have to get to places such as Rockaway more often. Both men, by the way, have visited The Wave office in the last six months to talk about their candidacy.

A number of senior citizens in Rockaway, and the rest of the city as well, did not get their hot meals from the longstanding "Meals on Wheels" program last week after Mayor Michael Bloomberg reduced the number of suppliers allowed to deliver the meals, from 39 down to three. "We're starting to hear complaints," City Councilman James Sanders Jr. told reporters. Sanders, who backed the mayor on the critical term limits vote and seems to now be his political ally, said, "It's a new system and it might take some time to work out the kinks." Others say, however, that the new plan will never work and that it places money and expediency over the needs of fragile senior citizens, whose only human contact each day may be the person who delivers those meals. The three vendors who now deliver all of the meals in Queens are the Visiting Nurse Service, Catholic Charities and the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged. In addition to consolidating the service providers, Bloomberg plans to soon provide a week's worth of frozen meals once each week rather than a hot meal each day. Opponents of the plan argue that many seniors do not have the capability to reheat the meals, while others do not know how to do it.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has a novel take on this year's search for lifeguards to staff Rockaway beaches. He believes that he will have no trouble finding the requisite number of recruits because of the current economic crisis. "One of the silver linings we're hoping for is that people with good swimming skills - people faced with the possibility of not having a job — may see a lifeguard job as a good opportunity," Benepe told reporters as he announced the yearly search for 1,200 lifeguards. "Some of our best lifeguards switched careers from indoor jobs. I think that people who might have been a swimmer and took a job in a financial position and lost their job, until they get something better to do will consider this." How about Bernie Madoff, who was on the Far Rockaway High School swimming team and was a lifeguard in Atlantic Beach? We hear that he might be looking for a summer job to tide him over.

The health care industry has geared up to fight the upcoming state cuts mandated by Governor David Paterson. Liz Sulik, the Director of External Affairs for Rockaway's Peninsula Hospital Center, recommends two websites that will give residents a look at what the cuts mean and present them with a chance to respond by contacting state legislators. The two sites that Sulik recommends to locals are www.helpour hospital.org and www.helpyournursinghome. org.

It is clear now that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will not do the paperwork necessary for the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department to get the federal money for its new firehouse. The city's refusal to allow the BCVFD to take the federal money rests largely on the fact that the New York City Fire Department does not want them to have it. Some believe that the FDNY would rather volunteer fire houses just fade away. In light of coming cuts, however, those volunteer companies become more valuable than ever. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who earmarked some of the original money, is reportedly looking for another way to get the available money to the volies, bypassing the city entirely.

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