2011-06-03 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Commentary By Howard Schwach

I have known for some time that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had lost touch with the average residents of his city, preferring instead to laud the Manhattan glitterati and tourists over his own constituents.

He has spent millions of dollars for bike lanes and for tourist malls in Manhattan, but nothing to pave the streets of Queens.

He has spent billions for new technology initiatives and the consultants (many of whom are corrupt) who drive the programs but little for police officers, firefighters and libraries.

He has spent billions on devising and administering tests and building an infrastructure to track both student and teacher achievements, but little for the teaching of actual content area material other than in reading and mathematics – the two areas in which high-stakes standardized tests are given to everybody from grade three up.

Just listen to some of the comments Bloomberg has made in recent weeks and you can see just how out of touch he has become.

On panhandlers in the city’s subway:

There aren’t many panhandlers left [in the subway]. C’mon, don’t you have any real questions for me?”

Bloomberg says that he rides the subway most days from his home to his office. The fact is, he is driven to the subway one stop before his office and he is surrounded by an NYPD security detail. Who is going to dare ask him for a handout?

On parents heckling Cathie Black, his appointed school chancellor who lasted only three months because she knew nothing about either schools or managing a non-profit environment:

“This is embarrassing for New York City, for New York State, for America. This is not democracy, letting people yell and scream. That’s not freedom of expression – that’s just trying to take away somebody else’s rights.”

The fact is, those who were screaming at Black, who was busy at the time not listening to them and playing with her Blackberry, were parents and teachers who were trying to save their schools from the scrap heap and had no other outlet in the closed Bloomberg administration.

On corporate profits and the pharmaceutical industry:

“You know, the last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don’t make a lot of money and their executives don’t make a lot of money.

The fact is, pharmaceutical companies do make a lot of money and their executives all get salaries in the high six figures. Perhaps Bloomberg doesn’t consider that real money, but most New Yorkers would.

On parents who do not back his plan to close “failing” schools:

“There are some parents who never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of education. The old Norman Rockwell family is gone. Some of these kids don’t have parents. They don’t have anybody to stand up for them.”

The fact is that most of the parents who were at the PEP hearing and disagreed with the mayor were educated minority parents; many of them licensed teachers themselves. To say that those parents who are opposed to his educational smoke and mirrors do so because they are uneducated is the height of egoism and underlines his misunderstanding of what is actually happening as a result of his failed educational policies.

On crime against women:

“Women can walk in virtually every neighborhood in this city during the day and not look over their shoulder and most neighborhoods at night as well.”

While crime is down, rapes are up throughout the city and many older women are the targets of muggers and push-in burglars, even in Bloomberg’s beloved Manhattan.

On closing firehouses to save money:

“Today, response time is at a new low and the number of fire deaths is down. The new technology replaces the closed fire houses, especially since few of our homes are now made of wood.”

The fact is that the area surrounding Engine 328 in Far Rockaway – Bayswater, Far Rockaway and Edgemere, is made up primarily of wooden abodes. Even though E328 is the second engine in the “Big House,” closing it down would create a real hazard in those communities. With no mutual aid available because the area borders not another city community, but Nassau County, the engine is particularly valuable. Officials say that the response time would rise considerably above the national standard of four minutes. In the E328 area, officials say that response time would be more than five minutes, an unconscionable amount of time to wait when people are trapped in a working fire.

Joel Berger, who works with homeless people, says that Bloomberg “lives in a separate reality that bears no resemblance to the reality that everybody else knows. The bottom line is that he only sees what he wants to see. He refuses to see the [subway] panhandlers in the same way he refuses to see the growing poverty, the increasing hunger and homelessness in this city.”

On motorists getting tickets after the Christmas blizzard last year:

“It was easy to move your car. I don’t like to get up early in the morning and have to do anything either – I like to sleep in, too – but it was the right thing to do.”

The fact is that most New York City motorists were buried by the blizzard.

When Bloomberg went on television and told the city that Times Square and the theatre district were open and being enjoyed by tourists, the city moaned and even the most ardent Bloomberg supporters grimaced at his lack of both sensitivity and understanding of the consequences of the blizzard.

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