As we write this column on Sunday evening, Tuesday, January 31 will be the 16th anniversary of my mom Jennie’s death. It feels just like yesterday. My mom instilled the proper values and taught me about sticking to my guns and fighting for what I believe in. She was my biggest supporter ever.
Many times I wish I had one more hour to sit down and discuss oh so many things. I’m always wanting to pick up the phone and discuss what went on at a community meeting or event. She loved going around with me to the various meetings and events. She looked forward to her yearly women’s group luncheon of the Philip Port Memorial Unit American Cancer Society. She loved to play bingo, was an outstanding cook and loved to go out for prime rib dinner.
We know that my mom must be having a great time in heaven with my Aunt Yeddy, Aunt Molly and the rest of the family. She always had a good time with some of her good friends; Alice Duck and Dorothy Jackson who are now in heaven. They must be in the casino in the sky. One of my good friends, Flo Altschuler, has taken over responsibility as my second mom. My mom was always there caring and sharing with those in need. Mom, I miss you dearly.
On Monday, January 16 I nearly jumped out of my skin when my cell phone rang. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder called to alert me about the best news in the longest time. The Governor was announcing that his budget would make the Cross Bay Bridge free for local residents. I congratulated Phil, and he congratulated me back, saying we made a great team.
Since 1981 we have been working diligently to get rid of the toll. We must tip our hat to Dan Tubridy who started the fight back in the 1970s with the first protests against the toll. On July 31, 1981 Assembly Bill # 4927, sponsored by Assemblywoman Gerdi Lipschutz and State Senator Jeremy Weinstein, made reduced rate tokens available for residents. To this day we pay about 1/3 of the posted toll. The late, great local attorney Terry Flynn Sr. had written this bill for Gerdi.
In 1992 we started having numerous rallies for elimination of the toll. I was chairman of the Rockaway Broad Channel Bridge Toll Committee. Along with Vice President Lew Kargman, Co- VP Abe Mintz, Sara Berger and Norman Silverman, we continued working. In 1996 we proudly got arrested after marching over the bridge for our rights.
In December 1997 Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington called me to set up a meeting with Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro. I was told to bring a laundry list of what was needed in our community. Norman Silverman assisted me in making up the list of 14 items and accompanied me to the meeting. Randy Mastro asked for our #1 item and we told him it was elimination of the toll. Mastro started to ask for our support for the reelection of Mayor Giuliani. When Mastro stepped out of the room, Norman reminded me that there was a Democratic candidate for mayor. Mastro came back and said that the request for the removal of the toll would be done. We later received a call from Rudy Washington that there would be a press conference at the bridge a week later. I thanked Mayor Giuliani. It was an extremely proud day for Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point.
In January 2009 there was a proposal to terminate the rebate program. We attended every meeting and hearing. We won that year, but the following year, 2010, we again had to attend public hearings and meetings to save the rebate. MTA Executive Director Jay Walder called me to tell me that he was asking the MTA to collect the toll for one round trip each day with additional crossings covered by the rebate. The toll went back into effect on July 23, 2010.
On October 5, 2010 we had the largest rally to eliminate the Crossbay Bridge toll with thousands of people marching across the bridge to Broad Channel and back. Janet Lindell of Arverne By the Sea did a great job of getting TV and newspaper coverage. Our mentor and idol in this fight, Dan Tubridy, marched with us and said that he was proud that he passed the torch to the right person.
After the rally we continued to harass Jay Walder, Jim Ferrar, president of the TBTA, and recently the new MTA director, Joe Lhota. They knew we meant business as we planned a rally for March 2012. Thank God the governor put the toll rebate in his proposed budget. We are now staying on top of our newly elected assemblyman to get legislation making the end of the toll permanent.
We are extra excited now with moving forward with the push to reopen the old Rockaway Beach branch of the LIRR because of the Genting opening of the Resort World Casino and possible convention center. We have the great support of our Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder who is helping us to champion the fight. We set up a meeting two weeks ago at my office at the Good Government Regular Democratic Club for Assemblyman Goldfeder with mass transit expert George Haikalis, an engineer who has been working to improve mass transit in the tri-state area since the Nelson Rockefeller administration. His knowledge and wisdom is above and beyond. Haikalis, a senior citizen, is a sincere believer in mass transit, who takes the A train from Manhattan and back after an evening meeting. We have every faith our new Assemblyman will work closely with us to make this a reality. This is the closest we have come in a long time.
The Good Government Regular Democratic Club will continue to work to make these dreams a reality. We will continue to fight to keep our hospitals and schools open. We will need your help. Come to our office at 114-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard every Thursday evening from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Come with your ideas and energy. Our dues are $25 a year, but you don’t have be a member to drop in. This year we will have elections for Assembly, State Senate, Congress, U.S. Senate and President.
We will have new districts and some new candidates. It is an exciting time to get involved. To get any further information or get help with any local problem you can call me at 718-945-1216.