2009-04-24 / Columnists


Mark your school calendars for 1 p.m. on May 8 and shoot up to the Riis Park Bathhouse for the 90th anniversary of the flight of the NC- 4, the first plane to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Most people have never heard of the NC-4, which took off from Naval Air Station Rockaway, located where the Riis Park parking lot now stands. In 1919, however, the historic flight of the Navy flying boat was well known and documented on the front page of the New York Times. Most people today, think of the first flight across the Atlantic as the one that Charles Lindbergh took in 1927, eight years later. Lindbergh's flight was the first non-stop, solo flight, but a band of intrepid Naval aviators actually did the deed in 1919, taking off from Rockaway on May 8 and finally landing in England on May 31, after stops in Cape Cod, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Trepassey (Newfoundland), the Azores, Lisbon (Portugal), Ferrol (Spain) and, finally, Plymouth (England). Come to the May 8 shindig at Riis Park and learn all about the flight.

St. John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway is offering complimentary copies of its newly-printed Physician's Directory. The directory lists physicians, surgeons and specialists practicing in the Rockaways and the Five Towns. Doctors are listed both alphabetically and by specialty. To get a copy, visit the hospital at 327 Beach 19 Street or call 718-869-7750.

Comptroller William Thompson went to the Campaign Finance Board, asking for permission to level the playing field against billionaire Michael Bloomberg in the upcoming mayoral race. The board limits spending by any candidate who accepts public funds to $6 million dollars. This is the end of April, and Bloomberg has already spent more than $3 million of his own money. Since he takes no public funding, he can spend whatever he wants, giving him a huge advantage over Thompson and other candidates. The question the board faces is whether or not a billionaire can "buy an election" by outspending his non-billionaire opponent exponentially. The board, which is largely controlled by the mayor and the two major political parties, ruled that Bloomberg has not yet announced, and therefore there is no race. Talk about blinders.

The highly-popular Rockaway Rotary Ocean Run, sponsored by Sweet N' Low, will he be held this Sunday, April 26, on the boardwalk at Beach 116 Street. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. and the race will begin promptly at 10 a.m. The race after-party will once again be held at the Irish Circle on Beach 102 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard directly after the race is completed. This 31st annual edition of the race is being run in memory of Barbara Eisenstadt, Rockaway activist and arts patron.

The city is offering rewards of up to $500 for the arrest and conviction of anybody who commits graffiti vandalism. The New York City Police Department urges anybody who sees a graffiti crime in progress to call 911. To provide information about a past graffiti crime, call 311. All reports will remain confidential.

If you go to most of American's beachfront areas, you will see dunes stretching as far as the eye can see, beautiful and protective of the inhabited areas behind the beaches. In Rockaway, however, dunes seem to be an anathema to local residents and the Department of Parks and Recreation. Each year, as the city agency grooms the beach for the coming season, it destroys myriad dunes, plowing them under to keep the beach uniform. Residents in one area thought so highly of dunes that they funded their own on the Belle Harbor beachfront, donating money to the Parks Foundation, a private fundraising group, which then turned the money over to Parks to build the dunes. That was in 1996, and the lawsuit that resulted from the "private dunes" was just thrown out of court last week. Only in Rockaway would somebody bring a lawsuit over beach dunes. We would love to see the Parks Department leave the natural dunes alone so that they can develop and grow, but the agency will probably groom the beaches again this year, plowing under what nature develops each winter.

The city says that it can't come up with the $3 million that Rockaway needs to make the planned YMCA on Beach 73 Street into a yearround, state-of-the-art facility, but it will soon spend $2.6 million to turn a downtown Manhattan traffic triangle into a "lush urban oasis." The city says that the barren triangle at Fulton and Gold Streets will be transformed with trees, boulders, benches and a small waterfall. Waterfalls are nice, but how about an indoor basketball court in Rockaway to address the recreation needs of hundreds of kids?

The merger of the Peninsula Hospital Center with the massive health care group MediSys may have ramifications for the community, but it is still unclear as to what it means for Rockaway. Medisys is a New York non-for-profit corporation that already supports Jamaica Hospital, Flushing Hospital and Brookdale Hospital. In addition, it supports a number of nursing homes and rehabilitation centers and runs a network of 16 neighborhood-based family healtcare centers in Queens. Where PHC fits into the picture remains to be seen.

Most locals know the locations of the red light cameras in Rockaway, but there are a number in nearby Nassau County as well. Motorists beware. The cameras in areas that many locals use include one in Cedarhurst, at the intersection of Peninsula Boulevard and Rockaway Turnpike; in Hewlett at the intersection of Peninsula Boulevard and Mill Road; in Inwood at the intersections of Route 878 (Nassau Expressway) with Bay Boulevard and Burnside Avenue; in Woodmere at the intersection of Woodmere Boulevard and Peninsula Boulevard and in Oceanside at the intersections of Long Beach Road with Mott Street and with Daly Boulevard.

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