2010-12-31 / Columnists

Beachcomber

First of all, we want to wish all of our readers, advertisers and all those who live in Rockaway and Broad Channel a very happy and healthy 2011.

Those who are interested in keeping Beach Channel High School open should mark their calendar for 6 p.m. on January 13. A hearing with Department of Education officials will be held in the school auditorium at that time, but it is clear that the meeting is pro forma and that the decision to phase out and close the school has already been made. It can’t hurt, however, for the community, alumni, students and parents to stand up and be heard.

The blackout that hit Rockaway at about 4:30 p.m. on December 20 points out the vulnerability of our power supply. Rockaway is a “power pocket” in the sense that we do not connect to a grid on either the Queens or Brooklyn mainland. Our power, supplied by the Long Island Power Authority, comes via two transmission lines that run from Nassau County. When one of them was “down” for routine maintenance and the other one blew, Rockaway was brought back to the dark ages. Power officials have to find some way to connect us to the grid in Howard Beach or on Flatbush Avenue in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, those grids are maintained not by LIPA, but by Con Edison.

Tolls on the two bridges that are used by Rockaway residents – the Gil Hodges Marine Parkway Bridge and the Cross Bay Memorial Bridge – will go up tomorrow, January 1. The toll rise is less for those who have EZ-Pass and more costly for those who pay cash. Coupled with the rise in the cost of parking meters and the cost of gasoline, the outlook is bleak for motorists who must commute in and out of Rockaway each day.

For those of you who like to try something a little different, there are two activities tomorrow, New Year’s Day, that you might enjoy. First, the Fort Tilden Beach Walk, which will take place at 11 a.m. Meet at the Fort Tilden flagpole for a brisk walk on the beach and an attempt to contact by mirror a like group on the beach in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Then, at noon come to Beach 146 Street for a quick plunge into the icy ocean. If you you’re yearning for an earlier dip in the icy ocean, there is an 11 a.m. plunge at Beach 69 Street and the oceanfront. It all makes for an interesting day.

New York State will lose two seats in the House of Representatives because of the recent census, officials say. The chances are that the two seats will be carved out of upstate districts rather than in any of the state’s urban areas such as New York City, Buffalo or Albany. That cut reduces the power of the state’s delegation, however, and builds power in the red states where the new seats will go. The big political issue this year will be redistricting, not only for the House of Representatives, but for the State Senate and Assembly as well. While there is a growing movement to make the redistricting non-partisan, the chances are it will be difficult to get the politicians, especially at the state level, to give up the power to redistrict in such a way that they keep their seats safe for the next election.

There has been a spike in bicycle accidents in New York City that some officials have termed “alarming.” Over the past year, accidents have risen by 16 percent and investigators blame the spike, in part, on the city’s determination to put bike lanes where they don’t belong. “There are places where bike lanes do not belong and are outright dangerous to both the bicyclists and pedestrians,” one investigator said. “The idea of shared bike lanes, where cars, buses and trucks share a lane with the bikes is pure suicide.” Records show that there have been 3,830 accidents involving bicycles in New York City this year, 12 of them fatal.

Talk about management skills. A report by MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger says that infighting and faulty oversight have pushed the MTA’s bigticket megaprojects nearly $2 billion over budget and up to five years behind schedule. The extension of the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal will not be completed until 2018, five years late. The Second Avenue subway and the Fulton Avenue Transit Center projects are a combined $1.93 billion over budget already and growing by the day. The Second Avenue subway is already five years overdue, scheduled now for late 2017, but some officials say they doubt it will be completed until 2020 or later.

The city is using near-homeless residents as Guinea pigs in an attempt to find out if it can prevent homelessness. Half of the target population – those who can’t pay their rent and are on the verge of eviction from their homes or apartments – get help to keep their homes. The other half of the control group does not get any assistance from the city, although they would have under the former ground rules. Researchers from the Department of Homeless Services then track all of the “test” participants to see where they wind up, whether or not they wind up homeless. Seems a little cruel to some, but the city says it has a vested interest in finding out if its programs are needed and if they work. Some say that the program is not only illegal, but cruel and unusual as well. They wonder whether or not the city will ask locals if they want to participate in the plan.

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