2011-11-11 / Columnists

Beachcomber

Locals have been wondering what would replace the burned-out rugby clubhouse on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 112 Street. Now that the construction fence is down, it has been revealed that the new building is a Social Security office to replace the closing office in Far Rockaway.

Remember to get out early tomorrow morning for the memorial service for those who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001. For the tenth anniversary of the crash, in which five locals died, the mayor will once again host the services at the beach end of Beach 116 Street, where a memorial to all the 285 people who died in the crash has been in place for several years. City sources have indicated that this may be the last mayoral appearance at the annual memorial ceremony. Attendance at the memorial has been dwindling year by year as more relatives hold private remembrances or go to Benin, in the Dominican Republic, where another memorial to those who died stands near the National Cathedral.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. announced last week that the Arverne Post Office will remain open thanks to his intervention and that of Congressman Gregory Meeks. While officials have not corroborated Sanders’ contention, it seems that Arverne will remain open. That leaves the Rockaway Park office on the chopping block. The official announcement on closings is slated for early next year.

Speaking of Meeks, he continues to be in the spotlight for the way he operates as our man in the House of Representatives. There have been several items in the daily papers about Meeks in recent days. First, it appears that he hasn’t paid his city water bill since November of 2008, racking up a past due bill of $11,489.22. Then, it turns out that Meeks is one of the most prolific spenders in travel costs between New York City and Washington, D.C. Meeks spent $17,947 on local travel, In addition, Meeks is one of the two dozen Congress members who missed more than ten percent of the 814 floor votes last year. The legislator with the worst record, of course, was Gabrielle Giffords, but she was shot in the head last January. Meeks missed 10.3 percent of the floor votes, blaming his absence on his wife’s surgery. Finally, for now at least, there is a story that broke last week about Meeks’ “gross disregard” of the federal election laws. Our Congressman was cited by the conservative National Legal and Police Center for playing fast and loose with the rules. That is all in addition to the ongoing probes by the House Ethics Committee and both federal and state law enforcement officers for his involvement in his non-profits and charities. Our cash-strapped state is paying New Yorkers $20 each to talk about their smoking habits. The survey, run by the state’s Health Department, costs an average of $80,000 a year to find out why people smoke and why they quit. The information is then used to develop “Quit Smoking” ads, but many pols see the expenditure as a waste of taxpayer money.

The City Council plan that will allow residents of some communities that are impacted by outside parking to have resident parking permits has lots of resonance in Rockaway. Those permits would set aside 80 percent of the parking for local residents who pay an administrative fee each year. While Rockaway is not mentioned in the press releases about the plan, it could be used during the summer months to allow Rockaway residents to park in front of their homes while keeping out the DFDs who become a problem each summer. One problem faced by Rockaway is that community organizations have to buy into the plan, and those who control our west end community organizations are largely homeowners who have no problem with parking because they have private driveways.

A dispute over when primary elections should be held has opened the costly possibility that New York State will wind up with three primary elections next year – one for President, a second for Congress and a third for state offices. Under current law, next year’s Presidential primary is scheduled for April 24. Congressional and state primaries are scheduled for September 11. The state legislative primaries are also set for September 11. The Justice Department, however, is asking that the primary for the Congressional seats be moved no later than August 18 to allow time for all of the absentee ballots to be sent out and returned, because military members must have at least 45 days prior to the November 6 election to receive and send back those ballots. The state is trying to work out a deal with the feds.

Cracks are showing in the city’s plan to replace sections of the Coney Island boardwalk with cement. The city’s design commission has refused to sign off on a $10 million Parks Department pilot project to pave parts of the boardwalk in cement – a precursor to paving the entire Coney Island boardwalk, with the exception of the four-block amusement section. What resonance this has for Rockaway is unclear. Parks has already done sections of our boardwalk in a composite material, not concrete. For all accounts, the composite material is standing up well, but we’ll have to wait and see.

What do the city’s cuts to public schools actually mean? Seventyfour percent of elementary students in city schools will have larger class sizes. There will be 56 percent fewer tutoring programs, 43 percent fewer middle school textbooks, 59 percent fewer extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports in the middle schools and 48 percent of high schools will have fewer teachers.

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