2010-03-19 / Columnists


Democratic District Leader Lew Simon has called for a rally at Riis Landing tonight, Friday March 19 at 6 p.m. Simon hopes that a large group is on hand to meet the final ferry run of what was a nearly two-year experiment in commuting by boat from Rockaway to lower Manhattan. By the city’s reckoning, the experiment was a failure, with far too few riders utilizing the subsidized service. From the rider’s point of view, the experiment was a large success, with a quicker and more comfortable ride from Breezy Point to Manhattan.

Mark you calendars for April 26 and the annual Rockaway Rotary Ocean Run, sponsored once again by Sweet ‘N Low. This year’s race will once again be run in memory of Barbara Eisenstadt, the community icon who passed away two years ago. The race will begin at Beach 116 Street and the boardwalk at 10 a.m., with some kid’s races prior to the main event.

The sad news came last week that the Rockaway Music and Art Council (RMAC) has cancelled both its annual Fall Festival and its series of Sunset Picnic Concerts for this year. The organization said that it had to cancel in the wake of massive fees charged by the Gateway National Recreation Area. RMAC officials say, for example, that the organization was charged more than $10,000 to run the festival, and it had to bring its own toilet paper. Each of the concerts cost $850 in fees in addition to paying the talent and obtaining insurance. Officials say that the fees began only three years ago, after running the festival and concert for free for decades.

Some court decisions seem to make no common sense. The ruling by the Supreme Court to allow unlimited spending in political campaigns by corporations and unions is one of those nonsensical decisions when you look at its impact, not as an abstraction, but in the real world. The decision by Judge Nicholas Garaufis to dismantle the adult homes in Rockaway and move their mentally-ill residents into community-based housing is another. I wonder if Garaufis, who by all accounts is a nice guy, has ever wandered down Beach 116 Street and spoken to the denizens of the Park Inn Hotel, or seen the people sitting in front of either the Belle Harbor Manor on Beach 125 Street or Surfside Manor on Beach 95 Street, interacting outside of those facilities? We wonder if sometimes the needs of the community should be balanced with the rights of the individual when deciding on whether or not to move the mentally ill into those communities.

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Lew Simon is one of the leaders in the fight to keep Beach Channel High School open. Last year, Lew earned $19,294 (according to a state website) as a spokesperson for State Senator Malcolm Smith at local meetings. Smith is under investigation by a number of state and federal agencies for his part in the Aqueduct Racino decision, his part in setting up a Hurricane Katrina charity from which thousands of dollars have disappeared and a non-profit dedicated to community development in Rockaway from which more than $200,000 disappeared. He is also thought to want space at Beach Channel High School for his Peninsula Preparatory Academy charter school. It is widely thought that Smith is the man most responsible for the closing of the comprehensive high school. How does Simon reconcile working for a man who is anathema to Rockaway? “I don’t know about any of those things,” he says. Read the newspaper, Lew. It might do you some good.

Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay thinks that the unemployed masses don’t really want jobs. “The unemployment benefits keep people from looking for a job,” the Republican said. “People don’t look for jobs until a week or two before their benefits run out.” He ought to come to Rockaway and talk to the people in the community with one of the highest unemployment rates in the city at 27 percent. Then, he can ask those people whether they would rather have jobs or live on the small amount of money provided by their unemployment insurance.

Now, they’ve gone too far. A City Council committee is looking into banning salt in all New York City restaurants. Chefs who continue to use the condiment – and, if you watch the Food Channel, you know that they all do – face fines of $1,000 for each pinch that they use. Diners would still have salt shakers on the table to allow them to add as much as they want, however.

The owner of 76-16 Aquatic Drive came in to say that Sal Vanuto, who was one of those busted in the drug sweep in Hammels two weeks ago, does not live at that address. The owner, who asked not to be identified, said that Vanuto once lived at 76-8 Aquatic Drive, but no longer does so. We passed him on the the District Attorney, who had the wrong address in his press release.

The Department of Education is at it again. It seems that the next school year begins on Wednesday, September 8. The next two days, Thursday and Friday, September 9 and 10 are school holidays due to Rosh Hashanah. One has to wonder why the DOE finds it necessary to open the school for one day and then close it for four. Why not just wait until Monday, September 13 and open it for good?

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