2012-04-13 / Columnists

Beachcomber

The Rockaway Little League will officially open its season on April 21 with a parade to the fields. The day will once again feature food, games, rides and all sorts of opening day activities. Tickets will be available the week before the event at the clubhouse. In case of rain, the event will be held on Sunday, April 22.

The participatory budgeting program in City Councilman Eric Ulrich’s district was a big success. Local residents worked for months to come up with fifteen proposals on how to spend more than $1 million of his discretionary dollars and then the community voted on those proposals. It was really an extended version of the town hall meeting process used in much of New England, and it worked. We hope that our other councilman, James Sanders Jr., will pick up on the program and use it next year. In fact, it is something that should be extended citywide. We have to congratulate Ulrich for being one of the first in our city to allow the process to be used.

It seems sometimes that the “regular” people who live in Rockaway live in a parallel universe with the thugs and gangbangers who also populate the peninsula and that neither group understands the other. This was brought back once again last week by our story about an MS-13 gangbanger who was killed on the beach in Far Rockaway in 2010. Most people in Rockaway would not even understand what MS-13 stands for or that it is the most violent and dangerous gang in the United States. According to court records provided by the Eastern District Federal Court, the victim was a member of MS-13, and had upset other members of the gang by “not putting in his work,” for the gang, namely, he was not engaging in acts of violence against rival gang members. He was given a final opportunity to carry out a shooting of a rival gang member, but he refused. The other gang members allegedly held a meeting where they discussed what to do about him and came to the conclusion that he must be killed for not complying with the gang’s rules. The victim was convinced to drive with them to a deserted beach in Far Rockaway. One of them attempted to shoot the victim, but the gun jammed. Then, the three took turns stabbing him with a knife and a machete, court records allege. One of the blows with the machete penetrated deep into his skull, which resulted in the weapon becoming lodged in his skull. FBI sources say that the murderer, a citizen of El Salvador, illegally entered the United States and that MS-13 is among the largest and most violent gangs in this area. More than 40 La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) members are facing charges or awaiting sentence on federal racketeering, murder, assault and conspiracy charges. Two years ago, MS-13 markings were found on Beach 113 Street. Several years ago, a group of MS-13 members from Nassau County, in an attempt to take over the drug business in Far Rockaway, pulled off a drive-by shooting in the shopping area, in which one local was killed and several others were wounded. Sometimes, we have no clue as to what is going on around us in our own community.

The new state law that brings back yellow school buses to seventh and eighth-graders who live in areas that do not have adequate public transportation alternatives is good news to many Rockaway and Breezy Point residents, particularly those with students at Scholars’ Academy and the local parochial schools. The funding for the buses was cut two years ago by the DOE as a costsaving method and the city steadfastly refused to reinstate the service even when several City Council members sued. Now, however, the state will fund the service.

The monitor appointed by federal judge Nicholas Garaufis to oversee the fire department’s hiring process in the upcoming testing cycle has billed the city for more than $6,000 a day – a total of $310,758.90 for his services. That has the city’s law department up in arms, and officials have asked the monitor, Mark Cohen, to explain the expenses. The billing cycle was for just over two months of work. Good work if you can get it, and you can get it if you know a federal judge, it seems.

We have been following the Kareem Bellamy story for several years now. Those of you who read The Wave regularly know that Bellamy was convicted of depraved indifference murder in the stabbing death of James Abbott Jr. on an Arverne street in 1994. Several years ago, a group of attorneys and investigators became involved in the case and eventually Bellamy was freed pending a new trial. A tape surfaced that seemed to show that another man was guilty of the murder – a man who had been fingered for the death right after the murder occurred – but the detectives never followed up on the tip. When it turned out that the new evidence was manufactured, the DA tried to put Bellamy back in prison, but a federal judge ruled that there was enough evidence that he was innocent to allow him to remain free. The Wave got involved in the case by interviewing the players and those interview tapes were eventually put into evidence to support Bellamy’s claim. Now, he is suing the original cops, their supervisors and the city for prosecutorial misconduct. Legal experts tell The Wave that he will probably win.

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