2010-03-12 / Columnists

Beachcomber

Officials of the Rockaway Music and Art Council have told The Wave that, after a 26-year run, there will be no Fall Festival this year. The annual festival, which traditionally drew thousands of visitors each year, is a victim of the new National Park Service policy of charging neighborhood groups who use Gateway National Park for everything from toilet paper to security. Last year’s festival cost the group in excess of $17,000, far more than the group earned in donations from the event. In addition, there is a question of whether or not the highlypopular Summer Picnic Concert Series will resume again this summer.

The “Freezin For A Reason” ocean plunge scheduled for Saturday, February 27 had to be called off due to the large snowstorm on Thursday night into Friday. Officials for the Special Olympics fundraiser said in an email that the safety of the participants was the paramount concern. No new date has yet been scheduled.

State Senator Malcolm Smith is under investigation by the feds because of his involvement in a non-profit that was set up to provide money to Hurricane Katrina survivors, so we guess that he has more to worry about than his press releases. However, a release he sent out last week had everybody at The Wave laughing. “Senator Smith Signs Bill Making Communities Safer For Sexual Predators,” read the headline on his press release. We have though for a long time that sexual predators need more protection from the communities they prey on.

Officials at the United States Post Office are increasing the pressure for dropping Saturday delivery. Seems that the quasi-federal agency is losing too much money because many people are not using it much any more – preferring email and private parcel delivery companies over the snail-mail that they once sent. The agency was $297 million in the hole from October to December of last year, usually the agency’s busy season due to holiday mailings. It is expected that Congress will honor its request and Saturday mail will go the way of twice-a-day delivery to businesses.

Portions of the eastbound lane of the Rockaway Freeway will be closed on an intermittent basis beginning in early March to allow for the ongoing rehabilitation of the subway stations on the A Line. The portions of the Freeway to be closed are from Beach 67 Street to Beach 56 Street and from Beach 38 To Beach 35 Streets. The MTA says that the closings are to facilitate the rehabilitation of the stations and to insure public safety.

One of the proposals that was presented at the Community Board 14 meeting last Tuesday night was to rename the Beach 67 Street (Gaston Avenue) subway station to “Beach 67 Street – Arverne By The Sea” to recognize the reality of the massive housing development and to point out that a new Transit Plaza with stores and condominiums will one day take over the site of the present station. It fits the history, because that area was, in the heyday of Rockaway, called Arverne By The Sea.

Rockaway residents are holding their collective breath waiting for the Department of Parks and Recreation to detail the ten percent cuts it must make in next summer’s budget. At the least, we have been told by a knowledgeable source that all of the seasonal employees that clean the beach and man the bathrooms will be cut, as will many of the Park Enforcement Police that patrolled the beachfront. At the worst, we will lose some lifeguards, which will mean more closed beaches next summer. We’ll have to wait and see.

Mayor Bloomberg has turned his nanny eye on street fairs and parades. Two weeks ago, he announced that parade routes would have to be cut by 25 percent and would have to run under five hours beginning this summer, which he says will save lots of police overtime. What that means is that next year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will, which traditionally runs from Beach 129 to Beach 95 Street, a distance of some 34 blocks, will have to stop somewhere around Beach 105 Street. As to the street fairs, the mayor wants them gone entirely, but he will continue to suffer some of the “more important” street fairs. “Look, I like going down and having one of those hot sausages like anybody else,” the mayor said on his weekly radio show. “But, you do disrupt traffic, you lose commerce and the police department has to provide overtime coverage.”

The recent ruling by federal judge Nicholas Garaufis that mentally ill residents must be moved out of more than a dozen adult homes in Rockaway has frightened many locals who see those residents moving out into the community and next door to his or her home. There is a distinct possibility that something like that could happen, because the advocacy groups that filed the lawsuit in the first place say that the mentally ill who can handle living in supported living units should stay in the community they are familiar with – meaning Rockaway. The fact is, however, most of the residents of those homes were not Rockaway residents when they were first placed in the homes, but were transplanted here from other parts of the city where the adult homes were un-welcome. It is interesting to note that the New York Post broke a story this week stating that Garaufis’s wife has been active as a board member of Fountain House, a housing advocacy group that runs supported housing programs. Is that a conflict of interest? Even though his wife probably does not benefit financially from her work with Fountain House, we believe it is a conflict of interest, and he should have recused himself.

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