2010-11-05 / Columnists


Several of out local politicians were mentioned prominently in the state Inspector General’s report on the Aqueduct Racino, including State Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Congressman Gregory Meeks and our former Councilman, Joe Addabbo Jr. Smith came out the worst, with a recommendation to both Andrew Cuomo, the state Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney that charges be brought against him. While Smith maintained that he had recused himself from the decision-making process because of his close ties to investors in Floyd Flake’s Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG), the IG’s report shows that he was lobbying hard for them to get the contract – and they did, at least for a while. As for Pheffer, the report said that she was so focused on the community benefits end of the program, she completely missed all the political chicanery that was going on around her. Meeks similarly gets a pass, although the report does say that he was involved in the process, but not in any meaningful way.

There were some comments about all the hubbub caused by the opening of the new Arverne-by-the-Sea Super Stop & Shop supermarket that opened on Beach 73 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard last week. After all, it’s only a supermarket opening and in most communities, it would have caused hardly a notice. In Rockaway, however, the birth of a new major retail outlet is a major story, because we have had so little of that over the past several decades. The new supermarket, the first of a number of stores to be developed by the ABTS group, marks the beginning of a retail renaissance of sorts and could well be a turning point in bringing some larger retail outlets to the peninsula. After all, with the influx of a middle-class population comes the need to build shops and restaurants where that population can shop for necessities and also for good they simply want. So, the “A store is born” story is really important for Rockaway.

When you write a newspaper, you get a feel for how long it takes a major criminal case to get from arrest to trial. As somebody once said, the mill of criminal justice grinds fine, but exceedingly slowly. For example, Derrick Redd killed his girlfriend, a Rockaway bank teller, and their unborn baby in October of 2008. He was arrested for the murders on November 18, 2008. He was arraigned the following day. His last court hearing date was October 15 of this year and officials say that they are not yet near setting a date for his trial to begin. If you are keeping track, two other cases of local interest have been adjourned pending final disposition. Kareem Bellamy, whose decadesold murder case drew national interest is due back in court for a decision on whether or not he will be retried for murder on December 23, right before Christmas. Michael Finnegan, who pled guilty to statutory rape for an affair with a 15-year-old student in July of 2008, had been undergoing treatment and his sentencing has been adjourned until January 25 of 2011.

We have to thank those organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the MyRockPark group for holding candidate forums prior to this week’s election. As Congressman Anthony Weiner noted at the chamber forum at the Bungalow Bar, “This is what democracy is all about, residents asking questions and getting answers from their political candidates.”

With all the construction going on in Rockaway, it is often difficult to get from one end of the peninsula to the other, even for ambulances and other emergency equipment. In addition, the subway reconstruction project going on in several parts of the community force street closings on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Edgemere Avenue at odd times. There is not much leeway for local motorists. With the Rockaway Freeway closed permanently at several locations, the closing of either Rock-away Beach Boulevard or Beach Channel Drive (or both) creates a chaos that could be deadly for somebody who needs an immediate response from emergency vehicles.

There was a “planting blitz” two weeks ago, with city workers and volunteers planting 20,000 trees in one week, mostly in city parks. More than 3,500 trees were planted in Van Cortland Park in the Bronx during the blitz period. The mayor has set a goal of 1 million new trees by 2017, and nearly 400,000 have been planted so far, the mayor crowed last week. What he doesn’t say, is that each of those trees costs $1,000 for site planning, purchase, planting and maintenance. If you do the math, the mayor has spent $400 million on trees in the past four years. One would think that, given the threat to close firehouses and fire city workers, that money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Yahoo News has come up with the 20 worst-paying college degrees of 2010, those college majors that earn you less than a good trade might do. The lowest-paying career that needs a college degree is child and family services where jobs pay an average of $38,400 a year. That is closely followed by elementary education and social work, which pays slightly more. Others on the list include culinary arts, theology, special education, recreation and leisure, art and secondary education.

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