2011-07-15 / Columnists


Rockaway has been getting lots of press lately from the daily papers here in New York, a number of glossy magazines and on television news shows. There was even a long story in the Washington Post on July 1 telling the story of how Rockaway is “being saved” by foodies and hipsters coming from Brooklyn to try the new boardwalk restaurants and the “best surfing in New York City.” Even “The VOCA PEOPLE,” a new Broadway show, has gotten into the act. In a recent interview, one of the men who developed the hit show said, “While sitting in an upstate New York farmhouse I heard a blast and saw a spaceship crash near the cows.“ VOCA PEOPLE creator Lior Kalfo continued, “The aliens introduced themselves and explained their musical mission. We helped the VOCA PEOPLE create a show so that they can spread their unique musical talents throughout the galaxy. They are enthralled by the tall buildings of New York but are confused by the subway. The other day they ended up in Rockaway.” Now that the boardwalk restaurants are up and running, it seems, even aliens are drawn to Rockaway.

The city’s Department of Education has started a controversy by proposing a new middle school placement plan that would effectively do away with the whole concept of neighborhood schools, as it did more than a decade ago with the city’s high schools. What that means for the west end of Rockaway is that Belle Harbor, Neponsit and Breezy Point kids would no longer have guaranteed entrance into PS 114 for the sixth grade, even if they had attended the public school in that building. Local students would have to apply and might well wind up in a lottery that would place them in another District 27 school. Since home prices in the area are tightly tied to being in the PS 114 zone, implementing the plan might have unintended consequences for Rockaway. The district’s community education council is considering a resolution that would give absolute preference to neighborhood kids, but the city’s DOE will probably not let the local council, which functions as a rubber stamp for the DOE and the superintendent, get away with it. The DOE’s rule, which allows students to apply to only one middle school, would harm students in the PS 114 zone who apply to Scholars’ Academy and do not get accepted. They might then not have the right to a seat at PS 114 for the sixth grade even though it is their zoned school. Now that we know who will run in the September 13 special election to fill Audrey Pheffer’s seat for the Democrats (Phil Goldfeder) and the Republicans (Jane Deacy), we await the other parties with ballot lines to choose their candidates. Those “fringe” parties usually go along with the big boys. For example,

Deacy got the Conservative line and Goldfeder got the Working Families Party and Independent Party lines. What it comes down to is that Governor Andrew Cuomo, by declaring a special election rather than allowing a regular primary and general election vote, has once again handed party officials absolute say over who will get the seat with no input from the voters. It seems to us that neither of the candidates chosen by the party bosses would have survived a process that required campaigning for a primary election. There will be another special election on September 13, this one for the remaining time left on the Congressional seat vacated by the disgraced Anthony Weiner, who sexted himself out of office. This one is even more bizarre. The Republicans have picked Breezy Point resident Bob Turner to run for the seat. You’ll remember that Turner lost to Weiner last time around, at a time when Republicans were scooping up everything in sight. The truth is, he was not an appealing candidate to the electorate then, and the Republicans have lost a lot of their luster since that election. The Democratic candidate will be Assemblyman David Weprin, who was chosen by the party leaders in Queens and Brooklyn. The Queens leader is Joe Crowley, who wants to lose the Bronx portion of his present Congressional District and pick up more white voters in Queens. He covets Rockaway, and he will probably get the west end. So, whoever runs for the seat now will only have it for a year or a year and a half until the redistricting process is completed. Don’t you love politics.

One of the best things that has happened to Far Rockaway in the past few years is the NYPD’s Operation Impact, which brings lots of cops to areas with high crime and drug sales. It has quieted Rockaway at times of crisis and is badly needed. The program will end soon, however, because the cops will be redeployed to protect Ground Zero rather than crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Much of the national budget battle centers around tax breaks for the rich. The Republicans love them, the Democrats want them removed to pay for entitlement programs. A recent poll by the Daily News showed that 64 percent of New Yorkers want a tax hike for wealthy Americans. Twenty percent said no, and 15 percent said that it didn’t matter because the rich would find a way not to pay the tax anyway.

When the new East River ferry service began last month, it was free and nearly 6,000 people a day used the service. Now, there is a four dollar charge, and the ridership has fallen off to about 2,000 a day. Officials say that the service will be ended if more people do not use the daily commuter service.

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