2009-08-28 / Columnists


Rockaway has been much in the news lately because of all of the water-related deaths that have plagued the summer months. Just last week the New York Times ran a front-page story about swimming in Rockaway at night. The Times reporters spoke with a number of people who were on the beach after dark, some of them drinking beer, many of them going in for a dip after a few pops. The first thing you notice is that all of the people who were interviewed were from off the peninsula. There were no Rockaway residents present. Over the last decade, more than 20 people have died in the Rockaway surf, but we can't remember any who were actually from Rockaway. We know better and we know how dangerous the ocean can be.

Congressman Gregory Meeks held a town hall meeting on the seminal issue of health care reform at York College on Wednesday. Even though we would have liked him to hold a town hall in Rockaway, we have to praise him for holding the meeting and announcing it in advance. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents the west end of Rockaway, however, continues to waffle on holding a town hall nearby the peninsula. He did show up at a senior center in Howard Beach without notice and he attempted to keep the media out of a surprise meeting he held at a senior center in Forest Hills. Locals told us he showed up unannounced at the Hammel Houses Senior Center two weeks ago, but nobody will confirm that. Our calls to his office asking for a Rockaway meeting get a "Yeah, we're going to do that and we'll let you know when the arrangements are final," but we are not holding our breath. Weiner, by the way, has made this issue his own, calling for a "public option," and appearing on all the major networks, including CNN and MSNBC.

Ferry riders from Manhattan to Riis Landing at Gateway National Recreation Area will now be able to travel around the national park free of charge, thanks to a transport shuttle service that will pick them up at the incoming ferry and take them to such places as Riis Park, the Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel and Floyd Bennett Field (including Aviator Sports).

Speaking of the ferry, Rockaway commuters (who don't get a free shuttle) can petition the service for more boats and more runs to and from Manhattan. Those who are interested in increased ferry service between the peninsula and Manhattan can go to www.rockawayferry.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "petitions."

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. and the giant COSTCO wholesale warehouse in Lawrence have been battling because the national chain refused to take food stamps. Now, however, the Councilman has announced that the warehouse store will now allow customers to use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) vouchers.

Many of our readers correctly identified the old photographs of Rockaway that we ran two weeks ago. One that seemed to stump most of them, however, was the identity of the Far Rockaway High School teacher. He was Allie Metzger, who was both a teacher and an assistant football coach under Jack Kerchman in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The United States Lifesaving Association sent a letter to the New York Times in response to its article about the danger of Rockaway's ocean beaches. It said that Rockaway is the third most-dangerous beach in the nation, after Panama City in Florida and the beaches in San Diego, California. The association points out that The Wave beat the New York Times on the dangerous beaches story by a week. "The Wave, the Rockaway newspaper beat you to this story last week with an excellent headline story," the association wrote.

Those who are concerned with registered sex offenders living in their neighborhoods can now get e-mail alerts when one moves in. Those who are interested in the alerts can access www.parentsformeganslaw.com and click on Email alert registration. You can then register with an email and password and enter a zip code. You will then be notified when a registered sex offender moves into that zip code.

Our politicians handled the spate of drownings in Rockaway this summer very differently. City Councilman James Sanders Jr. intimated that the way the Parks Department allocates lifeguards is racist, providing more coverage on the west end than on the east end, creating a danger to minority swimmers. The fact is, however, that there were as many drowning incidents on the west end as there were on the east end. Congressman Anthony Weiner chimed in by calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the sandbars off Rockaway's shoreline to see if they can be altered to make it safer for swimmers. Those sandbars are reportedly the reason for the rip tides that have caused the majority of this summer's drowning deaths.

The Long Island Railroad has closed its ticket office at the Far Rockaway station as part of a cost-cutting move. Commuters who use that station (as well as all of the others on the Far Rockaway Branch) will now have to use electronic vending machines to get their tickets prior to getting on their train. The LIRR says that it expects the cut to save $2.2 million by 2010.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg will open his Rockaway campaign office at 114-09 Rockaway Beach Boulevard from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, August 30. Bloomberg is expected to be in attendance, at least for a portion of the time, and to give his stump speech.

Many locals were unhappy over the decision to close the beaches to swimmers on Friday, August 21 due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Bill. One local told a Channel 2 reporter at the Friday press conference that the closings were due not to the hurricane, but to the recent drownings at Rockaway beaches. The beaches remained closed until Tuesday.

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