2009-05-15 / Columnists

Simon says...

Commentary From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Lew M. Simon Lew M. Simon Last week was outstanding. We almost jumped out of our chair when we were made aware that the Cross Bay Bridge rebate program will not be ended. Thank God for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith whose ear I have gotten on many occasions. We constantly reminded him that Cross Bay Bridge tolls should remain free for residents of Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point. I will not stop and sleep until it is free for all Queens residents.

We also stood steadfast against tolls on East River bridges. Our Senator Smith stayed the course and did the right thing. As one who testified at various MTA public budget hearings, I was prepared to get arrested again for leading a protest march over the Cross Bay Bridge.

I'd like to thank all those from Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point who attended the meeting in Flushing in full force. At the MTA hearing in Manhattan we had a handful including myself, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, her chief of staff, Joanne Shapiro, Pat Rubin, Downstate Director for Sen. Smith, Bernie Feuer and Mickey Alvino.

It was amazing that Geraldine Chapey, who was a candidate for City Council, also attended. During the 15 years that I have served as District Leader, Chapey has never spoken out on local issues unless it had to do with Kingsborough Community College or Trinity Services. Thank God the voters were smart enough to see her for her true colors. In all the years we have been fighting against the toll, attending public hearings and leading protest marches we had never seen Geraldine Chapey.

In the 1970s Dan Tubridy led the fight against the toll. In the 1980s and 1990s yours truly led the fight. We spoke to Mayor Giuliani's Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington about the toll. Washington set up a meeting for us with Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro. Mastro told us to bring a list of items that our community needed. Giuliani was in the midst of a reelection campaign. I asked Norman Silverman, who was a member of the Bridge Toll committee, to come with me. We put removal of the toll at the top of the list. We thanked Mayor Giuliani when he appeared at a news conference announcing the removal of the toll for local residents.

We are very proud we don't sit on our laurels after we have been in office for 15 years. We are not tired and will continue to lead the fight to make sure our community is well represented.

Two weeks ago on Thursday we went on a site tour of the manufactured gas plant on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 108 Street. They led us around and showed how they fill and cover trucks. Only a small group attended. Of course, Noreen Ellis and Ronald Joseph gave them hell about anything and everything.

This past Wednesday, May 6 it was quite interesting to see that nine of their trucks loaded with toxic waste were stopped after crossing the Marine Park Bridge by NYC DOT enforcement agents who determined that some of the trucks were not properly covered.

We have been like white on rice with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, National Grid and now NYC Department of Transportation We will continue to stay steadfast as the pit bull that we are about the removal of toxic waste. Our concern is the time of day, traffic conditions and the weight of each truck. We will hold everyone accountable so that no major environmental disaster occurs.

On Thursday, May 7 we attended the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association meeting. We asked the first question of First Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh about hiring enough lifeguards for all of our beaches. We reminded him that we have been asking that lifeguards remain on duty until 8 p.m. We led a rally of 3500 people to change beach regulations in Rockaway. Most people who work in Manhattan do not get home before 7 p.m. after a disgusting ride on the A train. They must have the right to cool off in the ocean. We told Kavanagh to get rid of PEP officers and hire enough lifeguards.

We asked why the lifeguard testing process had not been changed as they agreed in 2006. Why is there no clock on the wall so that applicants will know that they have been timed correctly? Why is no independent monitor allowed to observe the testing? Why is Peter Stein, who is the long- time head of the lifeguards union, allowed to dictate the testing procedure?

Last year I toured the boardwalk with City Councilman Joe Addabbo. The carpenters who were doing repairs said that they could replace only seven boards a day. Why will the Coney Island boardwalk be completely renovated while our boardwalk is just as important? He said that they are coming up with new technology that uses concrete that looks just like wood. I told Kavanagh that it was unacceptable to have heavy Parks Department trucks riding on our boardwalk. We suggested that they ride on the sand in off hours to pick up trash.

As I finished most of the audience got up to continue the questions. They asked why local bathers were required to have ID when they were on the beach and why people were barred from walking on the boardwalk after dark. Kavanagh said that Community Board 14 asked for this rule. It is time for the NYC Parks Department to retire Liam Kavanagh and Peter Stein.

On Thursday, May 21 at 7 p.m. Timothy Warrington and Wendy Webb of the Mason Tenders apprenticeship program will give applications to people interested in union construction jobs. You must be at least 18-years-ofage with a high school diploma or GED and able to lift 50 to 75 pounds. Pay starts at $19.25 per hour. Come to the Good Government Regular Democratic Club, 112-20 Beach Channel Drive, to sign up.

Our next Atlantic City trip to the Taj Mahal will be on Saturday, May 16. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 7:30 a.m. The cost is $40 with $30 and a $5 food voucher returned. Bagels and cream cheese are courtesy of Beach Bagels. Call 945-1216 for tickets now.

On Tuesday, May 12 we were on the first anniversary voyage of the American Princess. The ferry to Manhattan is one of the most positive transportation changes in the district. There is a smooth ride to Manhattan. We look forward to assisting them in any possible way to continue to get the subsidy they need. May the boat continue to sail.

I almost fell off my chair when I heard the new City Councilman speak at Community Board 14. It is obvious that he has no experience or knowledge about our community. He spoke about building a school on the Neponsit home site. He does not seem to know that this site legally must be used for health services or parks. Any change requires state legislative approval. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Senator Smith favor one family zoning as the neighboring community wants. I think one should know the facts before speaking.

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