2012-02-17 / Columnists

Simon says...

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Lew M. Simon Lew M. Simon The big word in our community is lack of transportation. As all those who have followed my column and my work know how we have been working since 1996 to bring back the LIRR service to central Queens and Manhattan. We have been screaming loudly, advocating, lobbying and fighting for reactivation of the old Rockaway Beach line. In 2000 we opposed the train to nowhere, or Airtrain, which cost $600 million but was not designed to help passengers from our community or from the Southeast Queens neighborhoods it passes over. We still believe the old RB line is the way to go.

Over the years we have reached out to the MTA chairmen E. Virgil Conway, Peter Kalikow, H. Dale Hemmerdinger; MTA executive directors Katherine Lapp, Elliot Sander, Jay Walder and now Joe Lhota; and NYC DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall.

We lobbied and got support from our former Councilman Al Stabile while he was eating dinner in the Pasta House next to Mary Park’s Theater.

In 1997 I became chair of the Rockaway Transit Coalition.

We held an outstanding meeting in the old Park Theater on Beach 116 Street.

We brought together transportation planners, engineers, railroad buffs and members of just about every civic group on the Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel.

Almost singlehanded I collected tens of thousands of signatures on petitions calling for reactivation of the RB line.

Copies of these petitions were delivered to the offices of Borough President Claire Shulman, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Governor George Pataki.

I even attended a public event at Morty Povman’s Democratic club and approached Senator Al D’Amato who was speaking at the podium to ask for his support and present him with a copy of the Apple Corridor plan which was the name we were using for the RB line.

We have always made it clear that we did not have any intention of cutting off service on the A line, which goes through central Brooklyn to lower Manhattan.

We want to restore service to central Queens and midtown Manhattan.

I made a great issue of our transportation when I ran for City Council in 2001. I even announced my intention of asking for a seat on the Transportation Committee and eventually becoming Chair.

Unfortunately, this plan was derailed as I lost the elections.

This past July we started to advise then candidate Phil Goldfeder, who is now our Assemblyman, on various issues.

When Phil spoke at our Good Government Regular Democratic Club, he pledged to end the tolls on the Crossbay Bridge and then work on the Rockaway Beach line.

He has kept his word. Phil never has wavered as a strong advocate of improved transportation.

Since Resorts World Casino opened in the fall of 2011, Phil and I have been working diligently in making the Rockaway Beach line a reality to help in bringing customers from Manhattan, central Queens and Long Island to Aqueduct.

Phil and I have been diligently lobbying Governor Cuomo, Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Helen Marshall and new MTA head Joe Lhota to get their support.

Just this past Friday afternoon we participated in a joint press conference at Liberty Ave-nue and 99 Street near where the A train bran-ches off from the old RB line. Joining Phil Gold-feder was Assemblyman Mike Miller who represents the 38th A.D., the Community Board 9 area, which covers Forest Park, Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens and other areas which woud be served by the reopened line.

In the past the previous Assemblyman opposed this line.

We welcome Assemblyman Miller’s efforts to get better transportation for his constituents.

It was a win-win for the 23rd and 38th A.D.s. Real estate values will go up.

Residents will be able to reach Penn Station in 32 minutes from Rockaway, 20 minutes from Howard Beach, 17 minutes from Ozone Park.

It will be a win-win for Genting and their casino and visitors to a future convention center.

Among those who spoke at the press conference were engineer George Haikalis, chair of the Regional Rail Working Group, who has been a leader in advocating for better mass transportation for the metropolitan region since Nelson Rockefeller was Governor. George, a senior, took public transportation, as he always does, from Manhattan.

Matt Kessler, Vice Chairman of the LIRR Commuters Council was there to offer his support.

Matt was raised in Far Rockaway and still lives there. Matt holds a degree in Transportation Management.

Vinnie Castellano, prominent Rockaway leader, and former Chair of Community Board 14, continued his support. He frequently speaks up at CB 14 meetings in support of the RB line. David Quintana, a well known Queens community activist and letter writer, spoke in support.

Also present were Carl Perrera and Norman Silverman of Far Rockaway, co-chairs of the Regional Rail Working Group Rockaway Subcommittee, who have kept a small group of transportation experts and mass transportation advocates together over the years studying plans and devising strategy for the Rockaway line.

Norman may be contacted at bkdodgers47@aol.com.

Joe Tiraco, is a longtime Forest Hills supporter who maintains the website Rockawaybeachline.org.

We urge those who want action now to contact Governor Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Both have websites with convenient spots for your comments.

We want immediate action to study and implement the opening of the RB line.

Gladys Frances Nicosia, whom I have known all my life, was one of the nicest, sweetest, kindest women I could ever meet.

She and her late husband Lou, were two peas in a pod.

Wherever you saw one you saw the other. They were a great loving couple. Gladys would always have pearls of wisdom that made your day.

Whenever I had my butt kicked by nasty comments, she was always there to praise me and always urged me to continue.

Gladys was a wonderful wife, mother, aunt and a true friend, I’m sure her husband Lou was outside heaven’s gate waiting to welcome Gladys into heaven.

Gladys is definitely an angel who earned her wings.

My deepest sympathy to the family.

We are also in mourning for the Queen of Pop, Whitney Houston, who died at the young age of 48.

She was a true music icon with the voice of an angel.

She was the daughter of Cissy Houston, niece of Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.

Her death was a major blow to the music industry and all who loved her voice and music.

She was honored by 6 Grammies, 2 Emmys, 16 Billboard music awards and 23 music awards. We will miss her.

While we are fighting for the RB line many of us use the express buses to Manhattan.

Ross Radusky has suggested better bus service by avoiding the 59th Street Bridge leaving Manhattan.

He proposes we redirect our buses out of the Midtown Tunnel to catch the LIE directly saving Rockaway and Howard Beach commuters 30 minutes each PM drive.

This route is already used by the BM5, which serves Lindenwood and Spring Creek.

If you have any questions or comments call my office at 718-945- 1216.

We hold meetings every Thursday evening at the Good Government Regular Democratic Club, 114-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

We welcome your membership dues of $25, but you don’t have be a member to attend.

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