2012-04-06 / Columnists

Beachcomber

PHC staffers certainly have the right to question the state Department of Health’s handling of the hospital’s laboratory problems. The DOH apparently reported to Lori Lapin Jones, the trustee appointed by the court, that the lab was still months from being ready for its reopening. Staffers say that contention is just plain wrong, that the lab is ready to reopen after a month of hard work and heavy spending. Staffers say that the state made its determination without even visiting the lab to see what had been done to renovate and remediate it. Jones’ letter to the court said that the state had completed a “preliminary review” of the lab. Everybody concerned took that to mean they had visited the lab and saw that it was not ready. That however is not what happened. The state never stepped foot in the lab after the February inspection that led to its closure. What they did this month was to review some incomplete and outdated data that was sent to the state against the advice of those working in the lab. One would think that the state would have actually visited the lab to see what was going on prior to closing the hospital forever, but it seems as if that never happened, We asked the state about it several times, but they never responded to our request to clarify the question of what “preliminary review” means.

With the state budget passed and with a guarantee that the city would get the money to fund the resident rebate program on the Cross Bay Bridge, you would think that the rebate would be back. The MTA, however, says that it will take some time to get the rebate back on line. They certainly had no trouble reprogramming their computers to delete the program when the decision was made to do away with it.

While the city’s Law Department says that it is not unusual for public agencies to use its allocation to sue the city, we still don’t understand why that should be. At question is the lawsuit that local charter school, Peninsula Preparatory Academy, brought against the city’s Department of Education because the DOE has determined that it should be shut down. When we questioned where the school was getting the money to hire a high-end Albany law firm to fight the suit, we were told that it was money from its allocation of public money. The city allocated the school the taxpayer money to educate its students, not to bring a lawsuit against the taxpayers of the city. Erika Walla, the school’s principal said that the board approved the expenditure on the grounds that “We have a right to defend ourselves.” There is a neighborhood watch program beginning on the west end of the peninsula. Residents will be asked to volunteer to be the eyes and ears of the police department in their own communities. Those interested should call the community affairs officers at the 100 Precinct in Rockaway Park at 718-318-4233.

While Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to crow about his startling turnaround of the public school system, a new study has found that the number of elementary schools in classes with more than 30 students has tripled in the last three years due to teacher attrition and budget cuts. Using data from the DOE, the report found that more than 31,000 students in the first through fifth grades were now in classes with more than 30 students as opposed to 9,756 in the 2008-2009 school year. While an agreement was made years ago to keep elementary class size below 25 students, the mayor continues to say that class size does not matter, arguing that he was in classes with as many as 40 students when he was in elementary school in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Seaside Senior Center, a longtime resident at Beach 90 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, moved last week to the St. John’s Residence for Boys, 144 Beach 11 Street. The new center opened late last month. It seems a strange mix, combining senior citizens with troubled youth, but Catholic Charities, which is involved in the operation of both, apparently thinks that it can work.

Americans have mixed feelings about the health care reform bill now before the Supreme Court for review. The CNN poll found that 43 percent want the court to strike down specific portions of the bill, but not the entire bill. Twenty-three percent think that the bill should be left as is. Support for the bill is growing. In 2011, only 38 percent approved of the bill. Today, 43 percent support the bill. About half of those who responded think that the court’s decision will be based on the political view of the justices rather than on the legal merits of the case.

Breezy Point resident Bob Turner continues to vote the straight Republican line in Congress. Now that he wants to be your Senator, you would think that he would moderate his position, but he clearly is hewing to the conservative line. He recently voted for a bill that would continue to allow prospective employers to demand an applicants Facebook login before hiring them. Then, he voted for a bill that would not have renewed the Violence Against Women Act, a bill that has tough penalties for domestic violence.

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