2011-04-01 / Columnists

Simon says...

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Lew M. Simon Lew M. Simon After a long day marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan, I received a phone call from Pamela Lagrega who called me regarding her autistic daughter, Kristin. She told me about her daughter's second departure out of P.S. 43/P.S. 256 during her gym period in the school yard when there was one teacher and three paras for six autistic children.

When she called me I immediately got into action and set up interviews for Mrs. Lagrega with Tim Fleisher of ABC (7) and Howie Schwach of The Wave. We questioned why a child who is not able to speak did not have a one-on-one health paraprofessional. Pamela and her husband Mike have been promised a whole lot of help for her two autistic twin daughters including help at home. I have to pat myself on the back because Channel 7 and our local news neglected to mention it.

Pamela is now keeping her daughters at home. She says that she warned the school authorities that Kristin wanted to go home and might leave as she had done before. She cannot understand why the adults present could not watch the children and the gate. She does not understand why they could not keep count of the children they were watching. Pamela says that she was promised home therapists for her daughters when they started school, but they are still on a waiting list. With no other programs for autistic children on the peninsula, she feels that she has no alternative to keeping them at home.

In light of the recent budget agreement in Albany, we have been made aware by State Senator Malcolm Smith that funding was restored so all Senior Centers will stay open. At his Town Hall meeting on Saturday I asked about the Seaside Senior Center on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 90 Street. He stated that the financing was put back in the budget. We have to watch that Mayor Bloomberg uses the funds as the legislature intended.

Representative Anthony Weiner discussed a broad range of issues ranging from Gateway National Recreation Area to Libya at his Town Hall meeting at the Knights of Columbus on Thursday night. Weiner supports the effort to get Khadafy out and protect the Libyan people, but he criticized President Obama for not explaining the reasons for our involvement before beginning the bombing.

Weiner told us that the huge federal deficit was caused by waging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without collecting taxes to pay for them, a big tax cut for wealthy Americans during the Bush administration and increased spending caused by the recession.

Our Rockaway and Breezy communities are most concerned with restrictions on the use of Gateway by local organizations. Rep. Weiner read from his letter to Interior Secretary Salazar explaining how we make use of the recreation area. The Interior Department has to understand the difference with managing natural park areas like Yosemite and Yellowstone and Gateway which has a long tradition of community events like the summer concerts, fall festival and Little League. The organizations that organized these events provided labor and made the park a success. Limiting the park to appreciation of its natural geographic features would deprive our local residents of many of our most cherished activities. Representative Weiner will continue to help Gateway officials to understand how they can serve our community and consider our organizations first among equals when approving applications for group use. Weiner expects to be successful because Gateway officials need his support for funds for improving and maintaining Gateway.

Rep. Weiner is supporting our efforts to end the toll on the Crossbay Bridge for local residents. He proposed using the unused $15,000,000 he obtained for the Rockaway ferry to subsidize the bridge toll rebate.

He detailed how he worked with city, state and federal agencies to work out responsibility for reconstructing the seawall along Beach Channel Drive. Weiner said that except for one small section near the Marine Bridge all these details had been agreed on. Rep. Weiner believes that experienced teachers are needed in our school system and praises his mother who taught for the Board of Education for 32 years.

Among other topics Weiner discussed were JFK Airport expansion (he is against), support for our hospitals (increased health coverage will help them), liquid natural gas (Weiner got a local public hearing but Gov. Christie killed it) and beach replenishment (more difficult under new rules against earmarking).

State Senator Malcolm Smith is in the process of setting up a meeting with MTA Executive Director Jay Walder which I will be attending. Our number one priority will be to get rid of the toll on the Crossbay Bridge for local residents. Other items which I have asked to be put on the agenda are improved service on the Q 35, Q 22, Q 21, Q 53 and Q 113, as well as getting more express buses to Manhattan and a 7-day express bus. I also said that I would be bringing up the reopening of the Rockaway Beach line.

We urge everyone to come together to show our concern over plans to extend the JFK runway into Jamaica Bay. As we have been reading the ecosystem has been improving. It is being used for sports, recreational fishing and even some commercial fishing. Extending the runways would reverse this progress and, even worse, the runways could approach parts of our community with many low flying planes taking off directly over our peninsula. We cannot allow additional flights over our heads.

Enough is enough with homes shaking, noise, air pollution and occasional aircraft fuel dumps.

We are planning a bus to take us to the Jamaica Bay Task Force meeting at the Bird Sanctuary on Crossbay Boulevard in Broad Channel. The bus will pick up passengers all along the Rockaway peninsula to get to the meeting before 6:30 p.m. and return at about 9 p.m. We will learn more about the airport expansion plans and meet the people who are already involved. It is easier to stop a plan when it is just started than when construction has started. Please call my office at 718-945-1216 to make reservations for the free bus.

Please hold the date of Saturday, June 25 when we resume our trips to Atlantic City. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 7:30 a.m. If you are looking forward to this trip call my office now so you will have reservations and we can make the necessary plans.

We are looking for volunteers for making our 24th Annual Dinner on Thursday, September 22 a success. Call now if you are able to join our hardworking committee.

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