2011-01-28 / Columnists


It was sad to see so few locals at the Department of Education meeting to begin the demise of Beach Channel High School. Approximately 75 people were seated in the large auditorium, and a dozen of them were DOE representatives. Although many of those present gave impassioned speeches about the importance of the school to both their life and the community, it is clear that the decision to phase out the school and then close it down in three years has already been made at the highest levels of city government. Perhaps the community understands that fact and was tired of beating its head against a brick wall. This is the final year of Far Rockaway High School’s threeyear phase-out program and the school will be closed forever in June, leaving behind a number of small schools, some of which, we hear, are not doing too well. Then, FRHS will become the Far Rockaway Educational Campus. In a few years, we will be playing a similar tune for Beach Channel High School. Word comes from Congressman Anthony Weiner that there is a new plan to place a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal (LNG) off the coast of Rockaway, albeit 30 miles offshore rather than the 15 miles that was planned by the Atlantic Sea Island Group. There are other differences in this plan as well. Instead of anchoring at a massive man-made island, the LNG tankers will connect to underwater nozzles and the gas would then be piped around Sandy Hook to New Jersey facilities rather than under Rockaway and into Jamaica Bay. Despite those differences, Weiner has called for public hearings on the plan to be held in Rockaway, and we agree. Residents here have the right to know what is going on off its shores.

It is sometimes amazing that our local schools have become so paranoid about the press. The Wave was calling local schools last week to ask them to submit student artwork and stories concerning Black History Week. When we called one school and asked to speak to the person in charge of the literacy program, the secretary asked us to wait a moment. Then, she came back on the line and said, “The school has no comment.” We laughed and explained what we wanted and the secretary said that her orders were to say “no comment” whenever a newspaper called, no matter what the reason.

First it was toxic caulk in the windows and then toxic PCB’s in the lighting fixtures. It seems clear that a number of Rockaway schools that were built prior to 1978, when the PCB’s were banned, are impacted by the toxic material in both the window installations and the light fixtures. The DOE says that it is studying the problem and will soon begin a pilot program to do something about it. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the toxins can cause cancer and that it is imperative to begin the work now, but the DOE has been dragging its feet, arguing that it would have to cut lots of teachers if it is forced by the feds to do the work now.

The Bayswater Civic Association called to say that it sponsored the Mayor’s visit to the community last Monday, not the Block Watcher’s Association. Bayswater Civic claims that the meeting was called for its membership only, and we had no right to do the story on page 2. When the mayor visits the community, however, it should be announced to everybody.

The possibility that Democratic Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer is in line for an appointment as Queens County Clerk has fueled a frenzy of rumors and speculation on the part of political insiders of both parties. That speculation centers on two issues, the first being whether or not Pheffer really has a chance for the job despite the fact that the state judge who gets the only vote is a lifelong Republican who was appointed to run the local courts by Governor George Pataki, another Republican. You never know, however, because the two parties have been making deals on judgeships and other court positions for 100 years. Then, should she get the job, the speculation turns to, who would run in a special election for her Assembly seat. The Democratic candidate will be chosen by the four local district leaders: Pheffer, Lew Simon, Frank Gulluscio and Geraldine Chapey (the younger). At least three of them are probably looking to the job for themselves. Insiders say that Pheffer favors her long-time aide, Joann Shapiro. The Republican candidate will be chosen by district leaders Eric Ulrich and Jane Deacy.

A number of people called or emailed to say that the Harbor Inn was located on the bayfront at Beach 116 Street, roughly where Duane Reade is today, during the 1930’s and 1940s. We found out that there was also a lighthouse in the vicinity and that the eatery put up a tent in the summer so that diners could eat al fresco. One long-time Rockaway senior citizen said that she went there with her family when she was a teenager and that it was a nice place to eat, especially in the summer, when you could sit outside and take in the bay breezes. Another said that he remembers summer stock being performed in the tent during the week.

The U.S. Post Office Department has designated Broad Channel Bagels as its satellite post office. The post office is open from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. on business days and from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays. Broad Channel Bagels is located at 1632 Cross Bay Boulevard.

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