East End Matters...
Two women were attacked in two days. Last Saturday morning, as a rapist walked around Arverne, most residents chose to remain in their homes as Councilman James Sanders Jr. led a march from Beach 54 Street, the site of the second attack, to where the first one took place in the parking lot of the Macedonia Baptist Church on Beach 67 Street. He stood on the corner of Ocean Bay Apartments and spoke about the violence that had occurred and implored tenants to come out and join him and those already assembled. A few did, but most did not.
Waiting at the church to head up a community meeting with up-to-date information on the crimes were Congressman Gregory Meeks and representatives from the New York City Police Department, including the Patrol Borough Queens South Commander, Chief Thomas Dale. By the time the march got to Beach 67 Street the group grew from approximately 20 to 45 people, making the church less than half full for the meeting.
What does it take to bring people out on the east end of Rockaway? When does apathy turn to rage? Or is it that, as the Macedonia Baptist Church's the Rev. Gray was heard to say during the march, "Nobody sees the importance until it happens to them."
Ed Williams, the president of the Far Rockaway NAACP, called the turnout for the march, "sad." The turnout for the meeting was also sad. Were residents relying on others to relay the information? Had they just decided to wait until The Wave published on Friday and then read about it? Or was it just plain apathy?
While we can all be relieved that the police caught their suspect earlier this week, what does last weekend's turnout say about the east end as a community?
The interesting thing is that the east end, up to Beach 90 Street, makes up the majority of the peninsula. Yet, people here ask why the west end gets more. The answer is simple - most people here want the other person to speak up for them. It doesn't work that way. It takes a whole community lifting their voice as one. Not just once or twice, but continuously.
Our community leaders also must take responsibility. Once the crisis is over, the dialogue and the action shouldn't stop. All too often that is what happens. For example, after several shootings and homicides at the end of 2006, politicians and residents came together, determined to find ways to stop the violence. Yet, after a while the furor died down and people moved on to other business until the next crisis. At that time even the president and founder of Mothers Against Guns, Liz Bishop-Goldsmith, let Far Rockaway down. She pledged to keep returning to Rockaway until the problem was solved. Sadly, that was not the case. It is time for the community to not only start working together, but with the local precinct. Come to the 101 Precinct Community Council meeting. Learn what is going on and ask your questions.
To our elected leaders - don't just send a representative. Come yourself. This is our community and the time for standing pat is over. The time to take a stand is now. Like the country song says, "You've Got to Stand for Something (Or You'll Fall for Any - thing)." Consider this call to action my contribution to the cause. What will be yours?
And to the women in the area, continue following the advice given at last week's meeting: when you are traveling alone talk on your cell phone or just keep it in your hand and call the police if you feel threatened; take the earphones out of your ears because they drown out surrounding noises; walk with a buddy or have someone meet you at the bus or train stop.
As Chief Dale said last week, "Don't let your guard down day or night."
Food for thought: How would you feel if the ocean and beach, what we hold so dear and what define Rockaway, suddenly disappeared? By man's own hand, yet. That is what is happening right now in Appalachian country. The mountains, which are to Appalachians what our beach and ocean are to us, are disappearing - never to return again. What do the Appalachians have to do with Rock - away? Everything, if you use electricity. The Appalachian Mountains are rich in coal, which is the main source of energy for this nation. I recently saw a screening of a film called "Coal Country." Through a process called Mountain Top Removal, the mountain tops are blown away to make it easier for the removal of the coal. While the process is supposed to be safer and less expensive than conventional mining, the black soot invades homes and ruins the health of the people who live in them. Residents live with the constant fear that explosions will shake their homes. I had intended to go into this much more, but the news of the week changed that. I'll address this further in another column. In the meantime, I urge you to go to www. - coalcountrythe movie.com and view the trailer. You can be witness as a mountain ex plodes, the top rolls and then sinks so miners can remove the coal. Then watch "Coal Country" when it airs on the Discovery's Planet Green channel on November 14 at 8 p.m. See if you are not moved by the destruction of what nature has blessed us with and what the people who live there are going through.
Then ask yourself, how would you feel if it were you? Is clean coal really possible? Would you support the idea of renewable energy and the proposal of a wind farm off the coast of Rockaway? How about solar energy? Or will the answer to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels be a combination of all three? There has to be a better way, and the time to start the discussion is way overdue.