2009-09-25 / Columnists

East End Matters...

Apathy, It's An East End Problem - Like It Or Not
By Miriam Rosenberg

Starting with this week's column, I will be adding something extra, following the main commentary. For now we will call it "Food for Thought."

Apathy. According to the Random House dictionary it is defined as "lack of interest or concern." For those who live on the east end, it is something more the norm than the unusual.

Every third Wednesday of the month the 101 Precinct Community Council and community members meet with Deputy Inspector Brian McMahon and his officers. The only problem is, only a handful of community members ever show up.

This is quite different from the attendance t the 100 Precinct Council meetings on the west end. According to its president, Danny Ruscillo, at least 70 to 80 people attend their monthly meetings. At the 101 Precinct's meetings the officials - police, assistant district attorneys, auxiliary officers, political representatives - outnumber the members of the community.

Many believe that the problem may lie in the fact the 101 Council meeting is held at the police precinct, which makes some people feel uncomfortable. Yet, as community members on the east end constantly point out, the other side of Rockaway always seems to get what they want because they go after things. So, what is really the cause for the lack of attendance at the meeting?

The answer is apathy. Oh, residents get worked up when there's a crisis, but soon things go back to normal. They go to monthly meetings for the organizations to which they belong - but, the numbers are low for those who show up at other meetings. There are usually a small handful of people who are all over the place. That's a few looking out for the many. And you ask why the voices of the east end are not heard? There are too few voices, too many organizations and too little coordination among the groups with sometimes narrow and overlapping agendas. The apathy here lies in groups caring about the few and not the many. We will return to these problems in a future column, For now, we need to start with the overall apathy in this community and the 101 Precinct Community Council meetings are a perfect example of the problem.

This is a meeting for local residents and business owners to share problems and ideas with the local police and for community members to be filled in on future events. People come when they have complaints such as burglaries in an area, graffiti vandals striking their homes, noise complaints or violence near where they live. But, once the problems are addressed the residents do not return. Business owners in the area also fail to show up.

Here is some of what can be learned at one of these meetings.

Each month, the status of the precinct is presented by the commanding officer. This month there was a discussion about recent shootings in the area, because members of the Church of God in Far Rockaway attended. One incident happened right outside their back door. They learned what Mc- Mahon plans to do to protect them and to catch those responsible. Last month residents who live near the bungalows came en masse to discuss burglaries in their area and got a response of extra protection from the precinct. What does set the 101 and 100 Precinct's meetings apart is the give and take that happens between McMahon and his officers, and the residents. But, community members and business owners can't be part of the exchange unless they are there.

Apathy is not an easy thing to overcome. It will be hard to change longstanding attitudes. Yet if east enders really want to see change, they have to start getting involved. It is time to stop complaining and start speaking up for yourself.

The next 101 Precinct Community Council meeting is on October 21 at the Beth Abraham Adult Day Care Center located at 1821 Cornaga Avenue at 6:30 p.m. Also, check the "It's What's Happening" column of this newspaper for the many meetings that take place each month.

It's time to change the culture of apathy in Rockaway. It's time for east enders to find their voice, because being apathetic just won't cut it anymore.

********************

Food for thought: The Congressional Budget Office, which, under current law, determines if there will be any increases for social security beneficiaries by using changes in the consumer price index based on urban wage earners for the third quarter of the previous calendar year, has said that there will be no cost of living increases for 2010 and 2011. The average monthly benefits for social security recipients is $1,061.50, or $12,738 yearly. Meanwhile, professional baseball players who make at least $400,000 a year, are already guaranteed a cost of living adjustment (COLA) in 2011 as a result of the last collective bargaining agreement the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) worked out with team owners. Minor league players in their second year on a 40-man roster, or with at least one day in the majors make $65,000. A new roster player in the minors gets $30,000. There's something not quite right when athletes are assured a cost of living increase, but not those who have worked all their lives or are disabled - many of whom live from check to check.

According to U.S. News and World Report, three bills - two in the House and one in the Senate - were introduced this month in Congress to give social security beneficiaries either a raise or a one-time extra payment in 2010. Congress should take this up immediately. When they do, our local representatives - Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Anthony Weiner, and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand - should vote in favor of the final bill that emerges. Or now that Donald Fehr, who headed the players union during the last contract negotiations, is leaving the MLBPA, maybe he should take up the cause of securing guaranteed COLAs for those who receive social security.

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