2012-02-10 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Gaining The Ugly, Losing The Uglier
Commentary By Howard Schwach

At first, I thought that it must be a mistake. I had just spoken with Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who told me that the Assembly lines had changed little.

“I picked up some streets in Far Rockaway and lost some on the mainland,” he said. “Nothing major.”

I asked him about the State Senate lines, and he told me that he had not seen them and did not know if there were major changes there, but he suspected not.

Then, I saw the maps and the editorial that I was writing for last week’s paper changed radically.

Rockaway went from being represented by one Senator – albeit a corrupt Senator – to being represented by two Senators.

The peninsula had been cut in half once more, just as it had 20 years ago in terms of our representation in both the Assembly and the City Council.

So, we lost Malcolm Smith, who now has a district in central Queens. They will have to deal with his corruption and his money-grubbing ways. He will most likely be in jail before his next term ends, if what prosecutors tell me is the truth.

You might think that losing Smith as a political representative is a good thing, and it would be if what we got was any better, even slightly.

It is not. The west end of the peninsula, roughly from the Cross Bay Bridge west, will now be a part of District 15, presently represented by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.

You remember him. Addabbo was once the City Councilman for the west end of Rockaway.

Until he packed up and moved away to the greener pastures of the mainland and the State Senate.

Actually, he left Rockaway philosophically long before he physically deserted us to move up the political ladder.

He simply walked away from a committee appointment that was important to Rockaway and then walked away from the peninsula.

Addabbo was appointed to the City Council’s Parks Committee. I don’t have to tell you how important that committee is to Rockaway’s well-being, especially with more than six miles of beachfront and lots of park land.

When a large segment of the community rallied for longer beach hours and for more time on the boardwalk, more than 2,000 locals showed up to support the longer hours.

Addabbo declared that the number did not matter, that he had spoken with representatives of the community group and had decided that the community did not want the increased hours.

Six homeowners as against 2,000 residents and the decision is made for the six, who always will believe that the beaches belong to those who own homes along the beachfront.

That’s the kind of City Councilman that Addabbo was and it shows what kind of State Senator he will be for Rockaway.

Then, in a startling move, he gave his chair of the Parks Committee to Helen Foster from the Bronx and moved on to more prestigious committees. Did Rockaway need him on the Parks Committee? Who cares? He was on the way up.

Then, when the Senatorial seat on the mainland came up, he jumped at it. What he really wants is his father’s old Congressional seat, and he will probably have it one day.

Damn the community, full speed ahead.

At least we got Councilman Eric Ulrich out of his abandonment. That, at least, was a positive for Rockaway.

While Addabbo is not quite the crook that Smith is, he did show some flare during the Aqueduct Racino scandal, when Addabbo appeared to have lied to investigators about his role in getting the Aqueduct Entertainment Group and his old friend Floyd Flake the nod for the lucrative contract. Addabbo told investigators that he had never “rated” those who wanted the nod, when in fact he had done so to some of the conspirators in the scheme to get the Democrats the contract.

Then we have Shirley Huntley, who will represent District 15 in the eastern end of the peninsula,

Huntley previously represented only Broad Channel in the Rockaway sphere of influence.

Now, she gets the entire east end.

Huntley stepped right up and became a “Malcolm Smith Democrat” shortly after she took office and reinforced the belief that a great number of our elected officials are interested more in garnering money and power than in representing their constituents.

Late last year, two close associates of Huntley, including her niece and two others, were indicted in a Nassau County court for using a phony non-profit backed by her to fill their own pockets.

They started a non-profit designed to assist poor and minority parents in navigating the New York City school system.

She poured lots of public money into the non-profit, but has not yet been charged in relation to that scam.

Prosecutors, however, have told me that the investigation is not over and that she will most likely be touched before it is over.

That question of whether or not Huntley also filled her own pockets is still under investigation.

It appears, at least to me, that since Huntley’s niece lived at the same address as Huntley and the money was funneled through member items funded by the Senator, that she most likely was complicit, but that is something for the state and city investigators to ferret out.

It does not bode well for her representation of Rockaway, however.

The Governor has said on many occasions that he would veto any district lines that seem driven by politics. These lines certainly reflect the political angle.

In that case, he should veto the whole plan and throw the planning process to some sort of bipartisan committee that would do the right thing not only for our politicians, but for their constituents as well.

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