2009-07-24 / Columnists

Beachcomber

In the 1958 Dolphin, the Far Rockaway High School yearbook, Ruth Alpern and Frank Pindyck were chosen as "Joe & Josie College," and they stand on the Senior Personalities page facing an uncertain future, what with the war in Vietnam and the contentious civil rights movement just over the horizon. I don't know what happened to Pindyck, but Alpern married Bernie Madoff (FRHS Class of 1955) and has now become one of the most reviled spouses in the nation. Now that Ruth has lost her Manhattan penthouse to the feds, perhaps she'll take back her maiden name and move to North Carolina to be close to Bernie, who will serve his lifetime term in prison in that state.

Last year's beach use statistics have recently been released and Coney Island beat Rockaway by a ratio of nearly two to one. Coney Island had 4,896,477 visitors in 2008, while Rockaway had a mere 2,842,700. We're not quite sure how the Department of Parks and Recreation comes up with those figures, but they are official. The New York Times recently did a story on New York's beaches and islands, and cited Hog Island, which was off the beach in Far Rockaway and disappeared in the 1893 hurricane and Ruffle Bar in Jamaica Bay, which once housed an entire community as two of the city's "Ghost Islands." Why does Coney Island get double the number of visitors that Rockaway "enjoys? " Perhaps it's the amusement component that Rockaway once had but lost to Bob Moses, or perhaps it's the unenlightened parking paradigm in Rockaway. In any case, Rockaway businesses suffer in the comparison.

Stud bachelor Anthony Weiner, who represents parts of Rockaway in the House of Representatives has plans to marry his long-time girlfriend, Huma Abedin, an aide to Senator Hillary Clinton. Neither party will discuss when and where they will tie the knot. We wish the couple well.

Digging in the sand might be dangerous to your health, a new study by the EPA and the University of North Carolina shows. According to the justreleased study, there is an increased chance of gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea due to fecal matter in the sand, particularly to children, who tend to put the sand in their mouths. The study coordinators urge people to continue to go to the beach, but to take precautions after playing in the sand or water.

We thought that dunes were a problem to residents only in Rockaway, but it seems as if the beach dunes have become an issue in Atlantic City as well. The Atlantic City Boardwalk Committee wants the Army Corps of Engineers to lower the dunes along the beachfront so that people strolling along the famous boardwalk will be able to see the ocean, something they now cannot do because of the tall dunes. "The city needs to have the appeal of being able to walk down the boardwalk and see the ocean… we have to do anything we can to lure people back to Atlantic City," said the chairman of the committee. The DEP, however, says that the dunes serve a "higher purpose" and that is to keep floods away from the billion dollar casinos that line the boardwalk.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg keeps stating that he is not trying to buy the coming election and that his money is his to spend as he sees fit, but people are starting to take notice of the fact that it is only July and he has already spent $36 million on his campaign. The spending record to date is Bloomberg's second campaign in which he spent a total of $85 million of his own money. The way things are going and with four months to go, it looks as if Bloomberg is sure to break his own record by November.

Congressman Anthony Weiner proudly announced recently that he had secured $237 thousand to provide a YMCA in Ridgewood with a "much-needed facelift." We wonder why he couldn't dig up some money for the Rockaway YMCA so that it could have at least included an enclosed gymnasium. By the way, we understand that Arverne By The Sea has just received the city's permission to begin building the facility on Beach 73 Street.

Jay Walder, who has just been appointed as the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) by Governor David Paterson is an old Arverne hand, having grown up in Rockaway. He worked for the agency from 1983 to 1995, and if he rode the subways from Rockaway to Manhattan during that time period, he certainly understands Rockaway's transportation problems.

Rockaway has a symbiotic relationship with our local national park. Large portions of Gateway National Recreation Area lie within Rockaway's borders and local organizations such as the little league, the Rockaway Artists Alliance and the Rockaway Theatre Company play a large part in bringing people to the park. At times, however, relations between the community and park officials has been contentious. With a new head, the National Park Service promises to be more communityfriendly. We urge Jon Jarvis to come to Gateway and see for himself what improvements can be made to the park, and to see the good that has been done by Rockaway groups and then to pump more money into the park.

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