The Rockaway Beat
First, as a matter of full disclosure, my son, Rob the retired police lieutenant, is a Republican and working for Eric Ulrich, Addabbo’s opponent in the coming November 6 election.
Rob would be the first to tell you that we don’t agree on many political issues and that makes family dinners more interesting.
The bottom line is that I would not endorse a politician, especially a Republican simply because a member of my family worked for him or her.
Having said that, I have real problems with Senator Joe Addabbo, Jr.
They come from the time that he was Rockaway’s City Councilman and was the chair of the Council’s Parks Committee.
Those of you who remember Councilman Walter Ward, as I do, who represented Rockaway and was also the chair of the Parks Committee, will understand that the chair of that committee can do wonderful things for Rockaway
Under Ward, we got all of the lifeguards we needed. The police department’s summer detail program that brought many cops to both Rockaway precincts was started.
The beaches were cleaned and there were few problems with the enforcement of arcane rules.
You could actually dig a hole in the sand, play your radio, leave your belongings on a blanket when you went into the water, enjoy a cold brew, walk on the boardwalk at night.
That’s why there was some joy when Addabbo won the election and was named to head the Parks Committee.
It did not take long, however, to find out that Addabbo, a consummate politician in the worst sense of the words, was beholden to special interests and not to the people he was supposed to serve.
That was made most clear when 2,000 locals crowded the boardwalk at Beach 116 Street demanding that the hours that the beach and boardwalk were available be extended.
It was at the time that people walking on the boardwalk after 9 p.m. were ticketed and you could not even sit on a closed beach without being forced away by city police or parks enforcement police.
It was at the time that a firefighter celebrating the lives of those who were killed on 9-11 on the beach with his buddies was arrested and handcuffed to a pipe at the precinct house for several hours because he had a beer in his hand and no identification in his pocket.
It was a time when going to the beach in Rockaway became a time fraught with fear that an arrest was imminent.
All those complaints went to Addabbo, the chair of the parks committee who brushed them off without a thought.
When those 2,000 people gathered on the boardwalk, one of those tucked into the corner, out of the limelight, was Liam Cavanagh, the Director of Operations for the Parks Department.
I noticed him and went over to talk to him. He told me in no uncertain terms that the beach and boardwalk belonged to the department, not to the people. Addabbo apparently agreed, because he would not even discuss the changes the people on the boardwalk demanded.
It turned out that the Neponsit Homeowners and the Belle Harbor Property Owners did not want the changes. They wanted private beaches and they wanted quiet in the evening for those who live near the beach.
They had contributed to Addabbo’s campaign and they demanded fealty.
They got it.
Shortly after the demonstration on the boardwalk, Addabbo walked away from the chair of the parks committee and took the chair of the Social Services Committee, where the unions became the issue and where there was a much greater chance for large union campaign donations.
Helen Foster, a Bronx councilwoman who represented City Island and concentrated her efforts on getting that community what it needed, took over as the chair of the parks committee. She had no idea of the problems in Rockaway, nor did she care. I contacted her office several times for comment on issues, and she never even returned my calls.
Rockaway and its residents, except for the ones who contributed to Addabbo, were effectively out of the program.
Then, Addabbo saw an opening to run for the State Senate from the mainland and took it, leaving Rockaway flat and causing a special election, which was won by Ulrich.
Personally, I was glad that Addabbo was gone from Rockaway.
Although I like him personally, he was a disaster for Rockaway, perhaps worse than Al Stabile, who took over when Ward got too old to run anymore, and that’s saying something nearly impossible.
Stabile was a train wreck and Addabbo was close. Now, thanks to redistricting, Addabbo is back. He has been involving himself with Rockaway over the past two months although he no longer represents us.
He is still a nice guy, but I don’t want to see him back again.
First of all, I really believe that what Addabbo wants is his father’s old job in Congress. So, if Addabbo wins and then Congressman Gregory Meeks is indicted, as I expect he will be right after this election cycle, I fully expect that Addabbo would pick up and run for Congress, leaving the office he just won.
You can’t make it up. Actually, I like Eric Ulrich and what he has done for Rockaway. He has always been responsive to the needs of the community and to The Wave.
I hope that Ulrich takes Addabbo to school and that he becomes our state senator. And, that had nothing to do with my relationship to one of his staffers.