2012-08-17 / Columnists

Simon says...

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

Hello everybody. As I write this column on Sunday evening at 9:30 p.m., I am able to give you information that has not been reported here before. I have learned that Rabbi Michael Melnicke and his partners seem to be in the lead for winning the auction for the Peninsula Hospital and Rehab properties. Seeing the name Rabbi Michael Melnicke made my eyes roll in my head. Those of you who remember the mid 1990’s may remember that Melnicke and his partner Michael Andrews with their SueMe Corporation were notorious slumlords extraordinaire who owned a large number of SRO’s in the Rockaway Park community. They were destroying the community by renting SRO rooms to drug dealers, prostitutes, crackheads and gang members. People in our community feared for their lives. At a meeting of the Good Government Regular Democratic Club a group of community activists formed the Rockaway Action Committee. Mary Leahy, local attorney Ann Barbaro. Janet Fash, Harold Rochelle and a few others worked as a team to rid the community of these plagues. In 1996 I chaired and led the biggest rally and visited the slumlord’s SRO’s in our community. The Rockaway Action Committee under the leadership of Mary Leahy took a busload of local residents to protest at Michael Andrews’ home in Manalapan, New Jersey and let his neighbors know what he was doing to our community. We then went on to Michael Melnicke’s home in Borough Park to spread the word there. We learned that one SRO had more assault weapons than you could find in a village in Afghanistan. With the legal work done by Ann Barbaro and Lois Rosenblatt who helped at the request of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer we brought a case in State Supreme Court. The case was heard by Justice Herbert Posner who had formerly represented Rockaway in the NYS Assembly. We managed to beat the slumlords and a number of their houses were seized by the city. Some of these SRO’s were purchased by families and became one and two family homes. Rabbi Melnicke, who had served as Shaman for the NYPD, was removed by the Police Commissioner. On Sunday evening at 7:35 p.m. I reached out to Judy Eisen, counsel for the bankruptcy attorney and started to question her about what was going on with Peninsula. She referred me to Burton Weston and we talked a number of times as I waited for one of my volunteers so that we could take notes on the conversation. At 9:13 PM I asked him what happened to the RFP and what the real true process was.

Weston said that they had contacted 87 groups and 27 expressed interest. It came down to two bidders, Melnicke and his colleagues Leo Friedman and Joseph Brenner, and one other group whom Weston declined to name. Melnicke bid $16.75 million for the nursing home, $6.25 million for the hospital and $1 million for the clinic. The bids will be presented at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District on August 30. Other bidders will have 30 days to come forward. Any new bidder will have to pay Melnicke a 2% fee for the “stalking horse contract.” They will also have to go $100,000 above the current bid to be considered. In the example given me, a bidder of $16.75 million for the hospital would have to give Melnicke $340,000 to be considered. I was told that St. John’s Hospital was interested in leasing some space and the Addabbo Center was interested in taking over the clinic. There was no mention of an emergency room. Boy do I smell a rat. We still don’t understand how an RFP became a bid. What are the proposals and why is there a “confidentiality clause”?

Approximately one month ago, I received a call from a former Peninsula nurse who saw a sign on the property at 43-17 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. They are planning to build a six story 4250 sq. ft transient hotel. I remembered the fight we had in 1987 when I led the fight working with the All Rockaway Planning Council and civic associations from one end of the peninsula to the other to stop the city from sending 200 homeless men to sleep in the shelter at night and to wander the streets of Rockaway the rest of the day. We held large protest planing meetings at the 100 and 101 Precincts. Among the most active groups in the fight were the Frank Avenue Civics, Bayswater Civics, Beach 41 Street Tenants, Arverne Tenants, Nameoke Street Block Association, the late Bernie Blum and the Friends of Rockaway, the late Rose Stenzler and Gloria Warshofsky, Helen Hoffman, Mae Hegarty and my “grandparents” Mitzi and Earl Scholnick of Seaview Towers.

On Thursday evening I attended a meeting of the Frank Avenue Civic Association under the leadership of Steve Cooper and offered my full support as Democratic District Leader and on behalf of State Senator Shirley Huntley. Sen. Huntley vowed to work with the Frank Avenue Civics and to obtain buses to bring local residents to protest any nuisance to be imposed in our community. At 10:15 p.m. we had the brass ones to call the listed builder and set up a meeting with Sen. Huntley to learn more about the building plans and who is behind them.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to a man who is like a father to me, Andy McGee. He went to the hospital needing a heart bypass and valve replacement. While doing surgery they found more serious complications. Thank god Andy made it through and is recuperating in one of our local rehab centers. Please keep him in your prayers.

We need your cooperation to keep our office open. Send your dues of $25 to the Good government Regular Democratic Club, 114-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Rockaway Park, NY 11694. You can bring in your check on Thursday evenings and join in a discussion of community issues. If you have or are starting a small business or organization and want to share our office please call and we will discuss your plans. On Tuesday evening the Breezy Point Coop reelected five members of their board. Congratulations to Thomas Sullivan, Brandon Gallagher, Martin Ingram. Arthur Smith and Mathew Regan.

If you have any ideas or questions about this column or need any help with a community problem call me at 718-945-1216. I return all my calls personally.

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