2009-03-20 / Columnists


Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents Rockaway in the House of Representatives, has decided to put his mayoral campaign on hold, citing the important work of the House as a reason. More likely, Weiner, who would have to run in a Democratic primary and then in a general election against Mayor Mike Bloomberg, has decided that it may well not be his time. In a letter to supporters, Weiner said, "You won't see me holding campaign rallies. You won't see me knocking on doors asking for votes." He said that he is so consumed with events in Washington that he just doesn't have the focus on running for another office, but that he would decide by August whether or not he would run. Experts say, however, that pulling back at this time, when Thompson and Bloomberg are moving full speed ahead may spell doom for the Congressman even should he decide over the summer to run.

The annual St. Patrick's Day Parade was great and both the marchers and the parade-goers enjoyed themselves immensely. What happened afterwards, however, may one day kill the parade and the enjoyment of thousands of people. One local observer called it a "war zone," and a local monsignor said from his pulpit that he had "seen the good in Rockaway, the bad, but [St. Patrick's Parade evening] was the worst I have ever seen." Large groups of drunk and disorderly teens roamed the streets, fighting with each other and throwing bottles at passing cars. Some kids were so inebriated that they had to be picked up by ambulance. Cops raided the playground at St. Francis de Sales on Beach 129 Street and forced hundreds of young kids, the great majority younger than the legal drinking age, pour their beer onto the concrete and throw away the bottles and cups. Luckily for residents, the cops were prepared for the onslaught. Captain Tommy Barrett, the Commanding Officer of the 100 Precinct, had a detail made up of both supervisors and two dozen cops who came on duty after the parade ended to control the west end, and they did. Despite the drunken craziness, nobody was hurt and no property was destroyed. We would hope that local stores will think twice about selling even one beer, nontheless multiple sixpacks of beer to underage customers next time around.

City Council members such as James Sanders Jr. earns a salary of $112,500 a year. Sanders gets another $10 thousand for being named the chair of the Veterans Committee. You would think that he would at least show up to meetings. Sanders has a history of absenteeism and at one time had the worst attendance record in the council. Now, he has risen to third-worst. Remember, on average, councilmembers attend 86 percent of the meetings. Records show that Sanders attended only 71 percent of the meetings. Maria Baez, a Bronx Assemblywoman was worst with a 61 percent attendance record.

A recent article in the New York Times focused on Beach 116 Street and its problems. It was a negative story about closing stores and decay. One of those quoted in the story was Noni Signoretti, one of the owners of Brown's Hardware. She says that the quote attributed to her in the Times article was the one negative thing that she had said among many positive things. "It is important to me that all the people know that Brown's Hardware has been in business for more than forty years and would like to continue on for at least the next 40," she said. "Liz Hanna and I consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to make a living in the neighborhood where we grew up surrounded by a loyal and supportive customer base. Rockaway is a great place to do business, and like every other business in every other neighborhood, being successful takes hard work and dedication. I only wish we could attract more new business to the area. We have to stop bringing our hard-earned money over the bridge and spending it in other neighborhoods. Rockaway could and should have it all." In that article, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska painted a bleak picture of the west end shopping street. "Parts of the block have been dying for years," he said. "The combination of the SRO hotels, the adult home and the economy put a stranglehold on the block. It's a ghost town."

DWC - driving while chatting on your cell phone has become a big money-raiser for the city. Last year, cops handed out 195,579 summonses for talking on the phones while driving. At $120 a pop, that's quite an addition to the city's general fund. There seems to be a ticket blitz going on in all over the city, including a big-time blitz in Rockaway, so beware.

Newly-elected City Councilman Eric Ulrich and one of his challengers, Lew Simon, have trading charges of lying against each other in the wake of the recent election. Ulrich says that Simon held up his swearing in ceremony by challenging the vote even though there were not sufficient absentee and writein ballots to make a difference. Ulrich polled 3,424 votes to Simon's 2,472. There were only a little more than 300 absentee and affidavit ballots. Even if Simon had won each one of those, he still would have lost the election by a wide margin. Simon, on the other hand, charges that Ulrich went into court to force the Board of Election to seize and safeguard the ballots to keep him from checking to make sure the count was correct. Sounds like it's just politicians being politicians. The bottom line is that Ulrich was sworn in by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in Howard Beach on Sunday, March 15 and is now our councilman, at least until November, when he has to stand for reelection.

Ed O'Hare called to say that he is angry that we used the word "ousted" in last week's edition in relation to Eric Ulrich taking the Republican District Leader position that O'Hare held for many years. The Broad Channel activist said that he had not been "ousted," but that he decided that he no longer wanted to do the voluntary job, which does not pay a salary and turned it over to Ulrich. Of course, O'Hare's argument depends on your definition of the word "ousted," which means removed from a position of authority.

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