2011-06-24 / Columnists

Beachcomber

For years, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has assured Rockaway residents that the “toxic washing machine” under the old LILCO manufactured gas plant had not leached out of the site, either to the bay or to the shopping center that houses Waldbaum’s and a number of other stores. Now, however, the DEC says that there is chlorinated solvents contamination under Waldbaum’s and the agency will conduct a survey to find the extent of the contamination and to come up with a plan for getting rid of it.

The message is that the Ninth Congressional District of New York, formerly represented by the disgraced Anthony Weiner, will be split up when the state legislature does its reapportionment duties later this year. The fact is that New York must lose two seats based on the 2010 Census numbers. The deal is that one will be a Republican seat upstate and the other a Democratic seat downstate. We have been told that the western end of the peninsula will not go to Congressman Gregory Meeks because there are too many white voters to insure a minority candidate a victory – something guaranteed by the federal voting rights act. So, it looks as if Joe Crowley will get his wish and get to represent Rockaway, where, as a child and young adult, he spent lots of time.

Those who want to support our firefighters should mark their calendar for noon on June 27 and show up at the “Big House,” the firehouse on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway. Under the current budget proposal made recently by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the two engine companies housed at the firehouse – Engine 328 – would be cut, endangering the health and safety of those who live in the Far Rockaway area.

If Thursday and Friday, June 9 and 10, are any indication, it’s going to be a long, hot summer. There were large gang fights on the beach on each of those days and the Thursday battle in which several were arrested, led to a ‘shots fired’ incident on the A Train as the beachgoers made their way home to Brooklyn and Manhattan. Part of the problem this summer, experts say, is that few teens have been able to get the jobs that have formerly been funded by the city and state governments and will spend more of their days on our beaches.

When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn to crow about a new urban camping program at the former airfield, we were determined to ask him about the problems that Rockaway groups such as the Rockaway Music and Art Council, the Rockaway Little League, the Rockaway Artists Alliance and others have been experiencing because of the federal agency. We got our chance when Salazar asked for questions. After a few ground ball questions that he fielded easily, we pointed to Rockaway across Jamaica Bay and told him that many of its residents considered the park service its enemy, determined to rid the park of little league games, concerts, Broadway shows and the like as not being appropriate for a national park. He said that the park will bring in all the city’s communities, not drive them out. He pointed out that the term “limited organized recreation” in the park’s future plans was not what it sounded like, and that he was sure things could be worked out. He then asked an aide to find out what was going on and then moved on to another question. We hope that the feds are now aware of Rockaway’s anger and will act accordingly when the question arises again – as it will. It was confusing. Union members from Peninsula Hospital Center were outside the hospital building on Beach 51 Street and Beach Channel Drive on Wednesday. While the staff carried signs that asked for better pay and benefits, a union official told a Wave reporter that the workers were demonstrating for better health care for Rockaway residents, urging PHC to merge in some way with Far Rockaway’s St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. Despite the signs, the officials said the “informa tional picketing” had nothing to do with pay or benefits – just with good health care.

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon has moved to a new office at 114-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Simon says that his new office is handicap accessible and that it will be open to the public on Thursdays, from 7 to 10 p.m. We hope that Simon does not use the new sign that calls him the ‘Honorable” Lew Simon. That honorific title is reserved for elected officials, and Simon has never been elected to anything more than a party post that nobody else wants. Simon says that his phone number will remain the same as always.

City Comptroller John Liu has rejected a $2.7 million contract between Mike Bloomberg’s Department of Education and a company run by former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The contract with Wireless Generation – a company run by News Corp, where Klein now toils for Rupert Murdoch, was approved by the DOE in October of last year, when Klein was still chancellor. “Clearly, there remains some issue of the propriety of this deal in light of Klein’s move to the company,” a spokesperson for the comptroller said. A DOE spokesperson told the Daily News that the rejection was illegal, and that it was going ahead with the deal even over the comptroller’s objection.

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