2009-05-22 / Community

The Rockaway Beat

A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That

The New York Post has once again proven that it has no feel for the lives of real New Yorkers. In the May 14 edition of the paper, there was an editorial pushing the plan of the Atlantic Sea Island Group to place a manmade island that would house a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal off the shore of Rockaway. The Post says, "any such gripes about the Atlantic Sea Island Group's project would be truly wacky: Plans there call for a well-insulated, man-made island terminal south of Long Island and some 25 miles from New York Harbor." I understand that to both Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Post and to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, everyplace outside of Manhattan is expendable, but what is "25 miles from New York Harbor" is less than 15 miles from Far Rockaway. The Post argues that the plan is vital for energy independence and inexpensive energy, but it really means more dependence on foreign gas. And, if it means cheaper energy costs, it does so for Manhattan and the Toney North Shore of Long Island, not for Rockaway.

There is no doubt in my mind that if some kid just out of an Arizona flight school and earning less than $20 thousand a year been flying the aircraft that crashed into the Hudson River a few months ago, all of the passengers and crew would now be dead. We all were lucky that the pilot of that plane got his license at 14, flew crop-dusters at 15 and F-4 Phantom's for the Air Force. In decades past, the airlines relied on retired military pilots to fill vacancies with the airlines. The pilots were highly-respected and highly-paid. When you walked onto a passenger plane, you were fairly certain that the pilot knew what he or she was doing. No longer. Now, you're more likely to get a pilot who is minimally-trained and low-paid. The old adage, "you get what you pay for" is true for both pilots and teachers. Experience does count, and doing it on the cheap will only lead to shoddy performance. That is irresponsible, both in schools and in the airline industry.

When people find out for the first time that I edit a newspaper, they often tell me that they never read papers anymore, that they get their news free from the Internet. The problem with that, I point out, is that much of the information on the Internet is just not accurate. Witness the latest hoax, where a student at Dublin University in Ireland went on the highly-popular Wikipedia site and added a made-up quote from a dead French composer. The phony quote quickly spread from blog to website and back again, even making some on-line newspaper obituaries. Because anybody can edit a Wikipedia entry, many of them are undeniably inaccurate, including the entry about the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Rockaway, an event about which I consider myself something of an expert. This is meant to be something of a warning. Don't believe everything you read on-line, even if it is on a reputable site, because, often, there is nobody checking what is posted. Any journalist, for example, who took the quote from Wikipedia knowing that the website is often edited by no-nothings and pranksters, should head back to journalism school for a lesson on vetting sources.

In February, a deranged man shot his wife on the Van Wyck Expressway service road and then headed for Rockaway. The NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit (TARU) tracked the GPS feature on the man's cell phone to Rockaway. He was sitting in his car in the Beach Channel High School parking lot when police finally tracked him down. He shot himself before police could take him alive. I remember thinking at the time that it was great the police could track him like that, because who wants a deranged man with a gun running around the peninsula. There are apparently some who do not agree. The New York Court of Appeals ruled this week in another case that police must first get a warrant before tracking criminals through their GPS devices. While the case is not an exact match to the Rockaway story (the state troopers actually placed the GPS on the man's car because they suspected him of burglary), it will have an impact on the way the NYPD catches the bad guys. The NYCLU, of course, thinks that the ruling is great. "The ruling firmly establishes that the police are not free to engage in unchecked surveillance of New Yorkers," a spokesperson for the organization said. "In an era of rapidly advancing technology, this is an extraordinarily important ruling." I often wonder what Chris Dunn, who made that comment would think if a deranged man with a gun was running around his neighborhood. Then, I am sure, he would want the police to use any means available to catch the guy. Remember the old saying, "a liberal is somebody has hasn't yet been mugged."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is both a bully and a manipulator. His main battle tactics to get what he wants is to throw money at the people who he needs on his side and then bully those who will not go along. For example, he "bribed" City Councilman James Sanders Jr. with a promise of a technical college for Rockaway. He will never deliver. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who once planned to run against the mayor and may do so again, has seen the bullying side of the Mayor. He charges Bloomberg with a concerted campaign of halftruths and innuendoes aimed at him and his candidacy. He is right. It is time to get rid of Bloomberg, his millions, his Manhattan-centrism and his bullying attitude. More next week in this space.

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