2011-09-23 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The low-flying jet fighters over Rockaway on the afternoon of September 11 brought back many memories to those who were on the peninsula on that day ten years ago; and to the west end residents who had déjà vu all over again just a month and a day later when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor. That tragedy killed all those on the plane and five local residents in their homes. The September 11 flyover was spurred by three passengers on an American Airlines flight (another coincidence) who spent too much time in the plane’s bathroom and spurred the interest of, first, a flight attendant and, then, an air marshal. The F-16 fighters were called in to escort the plane to JFK, particularly because Air Force One and the president were there after attending the 9-11 services at Ground Zero. One has to wonder what orders the F-16 pilots were given, what the rules of engagement were for the mission. Would they have shot down the airliner had it begun an abnormal move in the direction of the president and his plane?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg strikes at the middle class once again. Last week, DOT workers spread out along the peninsula, putting in new Muni-Meter machines and reworking the old ones to re-program all for new fees – a dollar for an hour rather than the 75 cents an hour that the machines formerly charged. The mayor and his drones claim that the new cost will keep traffic moving and mean more business for the stores where the Muni-Meters are located. Some locals, however, say they will visit the shopping streets on Beach 116 Street and Beach 129 Street less often, while a few say the new costs will spur them to ignore the meters completely and take a chance on a ticket. Almost everybody says that, in the past, the twenty minutes allowed by one quarter was sufficient to do their business, but the fifteen minutes allowed now is insufficient and forces them to drop in the extra quarter just to be sure. It’s not about the parking, it’s about the money, honey.

Most locals are glad that the special election is over. During the final weeks before the September 13 election, everybody in the west end of Rockaway was inundated with political telephone calls, calls from pollsters and junk mail in their mailboxes. One Wave staffer got 24 pieces of political mail in his mailbox on September 12, something of a personal record for the resident, who has been in Rockaway a long time.

Mark your calendar for the morning of November 12. This is the tenth anniversary of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street. This may well be the last year that the mayor hosts a full-scale memorial service at the AA 587 Memorial at the southern end of Beach 116 Street. As always, the service will include a reading of the names of all the 285 people who died that day – 280 on the plane and five locals. Many of the victims’ relatives are Hispanic residents of Washington Heights (the plane was heading for the Dominican Republic) who come to Rockaway to mourn, to visit the crash site and to attend a service at St. Francis de Sales Church.

Reports say that nearly half of the applicants for the next FDNY test are “people of color,” something that has to make federal judge Nicholas Garaufis very happy. The judge previously ruled that there was de facto discrimination in past firefighter tests because so few minorities passed them. Now, he has a special master overseeing both the test and the agency’s recruitment policies. As of last week at the deadline, 41,000 people had signed up for the test, which is used to fill about 3,000 vacancies each year. About 21 percent are black, 23 percent are Hispanic and seven percent are women. The trick is to get people who can do the job. If nothing else proves how tough the job of fighting fires really is, the tape from the 9-11 response to the World Trade Center certainly does the job.

Police in the 100 Precinct have been receiving information from west end residents that two people in a silver mini-van have been stalking kids walking home from school and riding their bikes from sports practice at Fort Tilden. Now that school has begun once again, residents should be on the lookout for the van and should report its location to 911.

The New York State Comptroller’s office has rejected a $27 million contract with News Corp to build a data system for tracking student performance. The no-bid contract had been given to Rupert Murdoch’s group, now under fire for hacking private cell phones, because it is headed by former NYC schools chancellor Joel Klein, who had great connections inside the state’s department of education. The state says that it can now do the job with the workers it already has and that a consultant contract is no longer necessary.

The turnover among school administrators is starting to cause a problem for the Department of Education. More than one in three city public schools has had a new principal over the past five years, a new study shows. Nearly 35 percent of school leaders – 464 of 1,364 schools – changed during that five year period, in some cases, multiple times. The study showed that in more than two dozen schools, there have been multiple changes of leadership over that period.

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