2010-03-05 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The daily bridge lifts that have been ongoing since early January on the Gil Hodges Marine Parkway Bridge will continue into March, a spokesperson for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority said this week. The lifts, which average about four times each day, require a 15-minute halt to vehicular traffic. The lifts are necessary to facilitate the transit of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction vessel, which is working on a marshland reclamation project in Jamaica Bay.

The city proudly announced this week that it has planted 20,000 trees in the New York area as part of its MillionTreesNYC program. What it forgets to trumpet is that each tree costs the city’s taxpayers $1,000. Do the math. That’s $20 million. We have to wonder whether or not there’s a better way to spend that kind of money in a city that is cutting services and laying off employees.

The Department of Education wants to do away with its teacher reassignment centers – better known as “rubber rooms.” It’s not that the city agency doesn’t want to suspend teachers, but they want to suspend them without pay once charges are leveled against them and then pay them back later on if they are cleared of the charges against them. That way, there is lots of pressure on the teacher, who is no longer getting a paycheck, to just give up and quit. In addition, the DOE wants to give those teachers excessed by closing schools just four months to find a job before they are fired. Just Bloomberg proving once again that he cares nothing for city workers, whom he seems to believe are interchangeable and expendable.

Under federal regulations, the U.S. Coast Guard has to hold one community meeting in each state impacted by the planned Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) island that will be 15 miles off the shore of Rockaway. The Coast Guard planned to hold the New York State meeting either in Long Beach (to our east) or in some other south-shore community. Congressman Anthony Weiner says, however, that he convinced the federal agency that is studying the plan to hold a second New York State meeting in Rockaway. At the meeting the Coast Guard will discuss details of its draft environmental impact study for the proposed development and residents will be able to ask questions of representatives of the Atlantic Sea Island Group, the company planning the man-made island, and of the federal agencies involved.

Who speaks for Rockaway? This is a question that has been kicking around for decades. Our elected officials, of course, do so in the various legislative bodies. Then, there is Community Board 14, which is made up of 50 local citizens chosen by those same politicians. The fact of life is that CB 14 members cross the politicians at their own peril. Then, we have dozens of civic and community organizations, many of which have leadership chosen by a minority of people who live in their communities. Recently, a group of residents got together to create a master plan for Rockaway. They are led by Jeanne Du- Pont, a woman who has lived in Rockaway for only a short time (if, in fact, she lives here year-round at all), and seems to know how to play the political game. DuPont says that somebody has to pick up the ball. Rockaway has become a laughingstock and change needs to come quickly. We wonder why a relative outsider, albeit one who knows how to play the city game when getting grants and city help, should be the one to lead us out of the wilderness – if, indeed, we are in the wilderness to begin with.

Amanda’s Law took effect last week. The law, which is named after an upstate teen who died from carbon monoxide poisoning while at a sleepover at a friends house, requires the installation of a carbon monoxide (CO) detector in all homes in New York State. Older homes can use a battery-powered unit, but all new homes have to include a hard-wired detector. Recent reports say that consultant contracts cost New York State $250 million a year, and that consultants, on the average, cost the city 54 percent more than the state workers, who are on salary and probably could do the job just as well or better. While New York City statistics on consultant costs are not readily available, it is clear just by looking at the Department of Education consultant contracts that are made public that the costsavings in doing away with consultant contracts would reduce the deficit considerably.

A group of pediatricians is looking to redesign hot dogs because kids sometimes choke on the favored food. The same is true of grapes, but the doctors are having a hard time figuring out how to redesign the fruit to make it less dangerous.

The U.S. Attorney General has filed suit against KeySpan and National Grid, alleging that the companies entered into a credit swap scheme that made them huge profits while allowing them to charge residential users more for their electricity. The government asked the court to rule that the deal was an illegal restraint in the sale of capacity in an urban market. In other words, it made more money for the company and cost you more.

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