2010-04-09 / Columnists

Beachcomber

We want to clarify a story concerning the Cross Bay Bridge Toll that ran on the front page of last week’s Wave. Rockaway and Broad Channel residents using their EZ-Pass devices will have to pay for the first two trips across the bridge each day. After those first two trips, however, the tolls for all other trips over the bridge that day will be rebated as they are presently.

 State Senator Malcolm Smith, who represents Rockaway, dropped in to the Wave office on Wednesday last week to “touch base” with the paper. When he was asked to sit down and discuss some of the charges against him on the record, however, he said that his timeline was tight and that he would get back to us on setting up an appointment. So far, we haven’t heard from the embattled Senate President Pro Tempore.

If you have not already mailed in your Census questionnaire, then you will one day soon be getting a visit from an enumerator. April 1 was Census Day, and the feds hoped that a large percentage of questionnaires would have been mailed back by then, but they were not. If you did not mail your original paperwork in, you should have received a replacement questionnaire sometime this week. Beginning on May 1 and running through July 10, enumerators will be spreading out all over the nation, visiting those homes that did not sent either the original or replacement questionnaire. It’s probably just easier to send the Census questionnaire to the bureau and forget about it. This count is important for Rockaway because we have a growing population that should be represented in the count.

The majority of Rockaway residents we have spoken to believe that the restoration of the toll on the Cross Bay Bridge will negatively impact both business and individuals on the peninsula. There are some, however, who believe that the toll will cut the number of people who go off the peninsula to shop for things that they can get in Rockaway. One west end man said, for example, that he would now rather go to Rogoff’s on Beach 116 Street for a ream of copy paper rather than run to Staple’s in Howard Beach to buy the paper.

The court ruling that the Bloomberg administration and the Department of Education ignored the new school governance law when it voted to close 19 schools gives Beach Channel High School and the other 18 “failing” schools a chance to regroup to fight the impending phase-out and closure. Some believe that the mayor and DOE ignored the new rules out of arrogance, convinced that they could subvert the law because they had the control. Others just believe that they wrongfully interpreted the law and got themselves in trouble. Now, they have to start the costly and divisive process all over again. Let’s hope they do it the right way this time around.

Now that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has erected a tree in front of your house, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has supplied information on how to keep that tree alive. Before watering, gently loosen the soil around the tree with a three-pronged claw to a depth of one or two inches. Once the soil is crumbly, the tree bed can absorb more water. The key to watering is to go slowly. Let the hose trickle water into the bed for about an hour or punch some holes in the bottom of a garbage pail and set it next to the tree. Water in the early morning when the cooler temperatures mean that the water will not evaporate as quickly. Plant annuals in the tree bed or add organic mulch. Remember too, to water the soil, not the sidewalk.

The city has stopped its program of offering cash rewards to poor families and students who “did the right thing,” such as showing up for school or dentist’s appointments. The program ended because the city determined that it was not working. The control group of people who did not get the money did as well on doing the right thing as those who did get the money. Participants in the program were given $50 for getting a library card, $600 for passing a Regents exam and $150 a month just for holding a full-time job.

Another ballyhooed city program that did not fly is the Mayor’s plan to place carts selling healthy fare such as vegetables in poor neighborhoods such as Arverne. The city promised 100 licenses for the vendors, but fewer that one-third of them were taken. Critics say that the licenses went unused because vendors know that you can’t make a buck selling healthy food in the inner-city. “If there were a demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in those neighborhoods, you wouldn’t need to have a campaign to put those carts there,” one detractor said.

The Queens Chronicle did a story on the Rockaway ferry two weeks ago. To illustrate the story, the paper used a photo of a high-speed New York Water Taxi boat. If the Rockaway ferry service had boats such as that, it probably would not have been closed down in the first place.

A number of senior citizens have called since we ran the health care story in last week’s Wave. Many of them said that they look at the new bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by President Barak Obama as a raid on Medicare, a program which is the bedrock of their retirement security. They say that the bill takes $500 million from the seniors who use the vital program and gives it to young workers who have previously been uninsured or underinsured. They wonder why the money to pay for the new insured could not have come from some other place.

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