2010-04-30 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The meeting hosted by City Councilman Eric Ulrich to address the plight of the Rockaway commuter ferry service drew more than 150 people to the Belle Harbor Yacht Club last week. The service, which is slated to end on July 1, has a major problem: not enough riders. City officials told the crowd that the service needs an average of 300 riders each day in order to keep running, but the recent numbers are much lower – approximately 125 riders per day. Right now, the city says, it subsidizes the ridership to the tune of $3,000 a day, much more than it costs to subsidize the LIRR, Staten Island Ferry, subways and buses. There is some doubt in the community that those who advocate for the ferry will be able to extend the ridership to reach the magic number of 300 riders per day.

Despite the light drizzle, hundreds of young baseball players and their parents showed up for the opening day little league parade at Fort Tilden on April 17. It was quite a sight to see, with the kids in their colorful uniform jerseys and parents in rain slickers lined up outside the fort’s main gate, waiting for the parade to begin. The first annual parade was led off by units of the fire department and the band from the Scholars’ Academy. The day included a moving flag-raising ceremony and the dedication of each of the Fort Tilden fields to a Rockaway icon. Then, the party and the games began, with local politicians, including Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, City Councilman Eric Ulrich and Congressman Anthony Weiner throwing out the first pitches of the season. Those local parents who formed a little league committee last year and took over this year’s season are to be commended for what they have done for the youth of Rockaway.

Rockaway has been declared a “food desert,” by city government. The designation comes from the belief that there are few places to buy healthy food, such as fresh meat and produce, on the peninsula. Technically, it means that the majority of people have to travel more than a mile from their homes to buy the healthier fare. That, however, is not necessarily true. A quick check revealed that there are at least 35 places in Rockaway that sell fresh meat, fish and produce. They range from the mom and pop groceries to large supermarkets such as Bravo, Waldbaum’s, Key Food and NSA. It seems like another case of the city rushing to judgment in Rockaway without really knowing the facts.

The city is beginning the switch from a wooden boardwalk to a cement boardwalk in Coney Island, and Rockaway will not be far behind. A Parks Department spokesperson says that the new concrete slabs are an attempt to see if the concrete holds up better than wood. In addition, the spokesperson says, the move saves trees. The concrete will have a tan hue and will be textured to resemble sand and pebbles. One park’s advocate who took a look at the sample, told reporters that “It’s no longer a boardwalk. It’s a sidewalk.”

For those of you who are fans of author Nelson DeMille, his new novel, “The Lion,” will be published on June 8. The story brings back John Corey, a former NYPD detective who is now a special agent for the anti-terrorist task force. It also brings back Asad Khalil, the notorious Libyan terrorist who first appeared in “The Lion’s Game.” Khalil is back in New York and looking for revenge – against the city and Corey himself.

Now that a judge has ruled that the city did not follow proper procedure in its move to close Beach Channel High School, the DOE will have to begin the hearings and consultation anew, this time ensuring that the community and the UFT have their say. The new impact statement will have to reflect those consultations. Then, a meeting to address questions from the community and staff will have to be held at the school. This time, however, the DOE will have to send somebody who can actually answer the questions. Last time, they sent an elementary superintendent, Michelle Lloyd-Bay, who could do no more than say, “I can’t answer that question,” or, “I don’t have that information.” Closing a school is a big step, and should not be done lightly, certainly not to accommodate an elected official who wants the building for his charter school. In addition, experience has shown that the older the teachers who lose their jobs will have a hard time finding a new position, and the mayor has proposed firing all those excessed teachers who can’t find a new position within a year, regardless of how good a teacher that person was. The fact is, many of the older excessed teachers from closed school cannot find jobs because their salary is much higher than the younger teachers, and principals are doing everything they can to work within a tight budget. Apparently, when it comes to hiring teachers, experience does not count for much, but cheap cost does.

A staggering number of Americans have lost all faith in their government. A new poll shows that only 22 percent of all Americans trust the Congress and the President to do the right thing. This is the lowest trust rating since the Pew Poll began in 1980. Only 25 percent of those who responded to the poll, for example, had a favorable view of the Congress.

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