2009-10-09 / Columnists

Beachcomber

If Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his stooge health commissioner have their way, you won't be able to smoke on the beach next summer. "The public is overwhelmingly in favor of banning [smoking] in parks," Bloomberg told a campaign audience last week. "So, you know we'll get it done." We wonder if Bloomberg bothered to ask the people who actually use the beach or who live near the beach whether they are in favor of banning smoking there.

We want to congratulate Thomas Barrett, the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct in Rockaway Park for his recent promotion to deputy inspector. It is a well-deserved promotion, and Barrett has done good things in the two years he has run the local precinct. Indicators in nearly all of the 'Index Crimes," the major crimes tracked by the FBI, are down since Barrett came to town.

There are young children all over the peninsula waiting to start their school careers, but the city just doesn't have enough kindergarten seats to accommodate them. That's the word from David Hooks, long-time community school board member. Hooks says that the problem is especially dire in Far Rockaway. One parent whose kid is at home waiting placement told The Wave that the city forced her child out of day care and into a city-run pre-K program, and now have told her that they have no room in kindergarten. She says that one DOE worker told her not to worry about it, that kindergarten isn't mandatory, so it doesn't matter that he does not have a seat. "How far behind do they want my son to be when he gets to the first grade," the worried mother asks.

Many media outlets continue to use scare tactics to stop health care reform. It is clear to everybody involved that some type of reform is necessary, but the devil is in the details. Even the local Rockaway Point News has been caught up in the hysteria. In a recent editorial, the paper's publisher, Noreen Schramm wrote, "What is being promulgated by the Obama administration under the public option means that socialized medicine will be the norm. Washington will be making the health care decision and though denied by the Administration, will most definitely involve rationing of health care with preset conditions."

The great majority of Rockaway residents rely on their EZ-Pass devices to get off the peninsula via the two bridges that tie us to the mainland. Those devices may soon be old technology, replaced instead by a windshield sticker. It seems that the contract with Mark IV, the company that manufac tures the tags, is up in August of next year, and a new company has put in a bid and is winning all the tests run by local officials. In the same vein, bus and subway riders will be able to abandon their MetroCards and use debit or credit cards to ride anywhere in New York City by 2014, according to MTA sources. Riders will have only to tap their credit or debit card against a reader to enter the system.

The City of Long Beach, just to the east of Rockaway has made an agreement with the state's Department of Environmental Conservation to repair the dune system it destroyed while expanding walkways along the beachfront. The state, arguing that Long Beach violated the state Tidal Wetlands Act, told the city it had to replace the sand and dune grass it had removed or plowed under during construction. Our own Parks Department destroys dunes on a regular basis under the guise of "beach grooming," but nobody in the state seems to care. We wonder why?

The purchase of the former sanitation garage on Amstel Boulevard and Beach 71 Street by Hunter Ambulance to use for its Access A-Ride division bodes well for Rockaway. The company says that the move to the peninsula will provide 300 jobs and new jobs are always good news. In addition, it will move the Access-A-Ride vans closer to the Rockaway senior population, a group that uses the city-subsidized van service on a regular basis to get to medical appointments both inside and outside the peninsula.

Although Owen Baxter no longer owns the Beautiful Palm Gardens Pub, he sees the jury verdict that neither he nor his bartender was responsible for the slashing of an underage drinker at the Rockaway Beach Boulevard pub four years ago. The underage man, who was slashed in a fight outside the bar, argued that the bar had provided alcohol to his attacker, "even though he was already intoxicated." The jury, however, vindicated the bar, something that Baxter thinks is important. "The plaintiff's lawyer portrayed bars and pubs as "dirty and dangerous places," Baxter said. "That's just not true."

The state is moving right along in cleaning up the former LILCO manufactured gas plant on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 108 Street. The clean-up involves the huge tent on the site and the tent is moved one section west every time the cleanup under that section of the tent is completed. The tent has already been moved three times, and the cleanup seems to be ahead of schedule.

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