2012-10-12 / Columnists

Simon Says...

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

We must start our column by asking everyone to help. It’s really sad that we must give out an SOS to help us. For more than 25 years the Good Government Regular Democratic Club under my leadership, first as President and later as District Leader, has been in the forefront of every battle for the quality of life in the Rockaways, Broad Channel and Breezy Point. Each and every day when my office phone rings I personally return every call. I promise to do only what I can do. We help all regardless of party affiliation, residence, even if they are not registered voters.

Between the rent, the phone, office insurance and electric bill it has become a tight noose upon my neck. We do not receive a salary or receive government grants. Our activity is supported by your dues and contributions. It’s time that everyone pitches in to help. Our yearly dues are $25 per year. Send your dues to the GGRDC at 114-20 Rockaway Beach Blvd. Rockaway Park NY 11694. Contributions of any amount will be appreciated. Please help us continue to help you.

On Thursday, September 27, we attended the Community Board 14 Land Use Committee. They had invited Gurbhej S. Sandu, the builder and owner of the hotel planned for construction at Beach 44 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The Committee chair is Al Moore with members Al Jackson, Harvey Rudnick, and Hazeron Mohammed. Delores Orr, chair of Board 14 also participated. Others who spoke for the developer were Thomas Guiliano, an executive of the La Quinta hotel chain, and Donna Daily, who is manager of the Comfort Inn in Ozone Park. The Peninsula Rehab Meditation Room was filled with members of the Frank Ave. Civic Association and their neighbors who are led by President Steve Cooper.

The Committee members opened by questioning the builder and expressing their opposition to the plan. One member mentioned that the area concerned was part of the Edgemere Urban Renewal Area which was designed as a modern residential area at considerable cost to the city only a few years ago. Wendell Walters, an Assistant Commissioner of HPD, who pleaded guilty to accepting $2.5 million in a racketeering and bribery conspiracy involving approval of affordable housing, may have been involved in allowing sale of part of the Urban Renewal Area to the developer. The parcel was designed for the location of small stores for the neighboring residents. Mr. Sandu recently decided to move ahead with the construction without consulting with the community.

We would not oppose a hotel if they found a beachfront location at another area where they had enough guest parking, other recreational facilities including beach access and the support of nearby residents. The proposal for a 98 room hotel with two parking spots has become a proposal for 12 underground parking spots in a flood zone. The location is directly abutting the A line subway. The beach has been closed for years because of the nesting of the endangered piping plovers. There are no stores, or restaurants nearby. Mr. Sandu said that he would include a commissary, possibly open until midnight.

The local residents put their savings into attractive new homes and continue to pay their mortgages in an area where the city demolished deteriorated houses and supervised the building of fine new homes. The plan never suggested a hotel in their midst. The residents believe that the planned hotel will be a business failure and will be taken over as a homeless shelter or other use which would endanger them and destroy their new attractive community.

Donna Daily tried to tell the meeting that the Comfort Inn that she manages is welcomed in the Ozone Park community. I am familiar with the area which is part of my community. I told her that nearby residents have been complaining about the lack of parking in the area. I told the meeting that I had spoken to Mr. Sandu on the phone when I learned of his proposal. At that time he stated that hotel guests would be foreigners who had arrived at LAG and JFK who would use the A train to get to midtown Manhattan in 45 minutes. What a joke!

We challenged Mr. Sandu to tell us what he would do if his business was a failure. He said that he had no Plan B. He said that he would have to consult with his still secret business partner. Mr. Guiliano said that La Quinta would remove its name from the hotel if they did not maintain standards and La Quinta would no longer be involved. He said that La Quinta had no role in choosing the location.

Isn’t it amazing how these interlopers come into a community and try to build what we don’t want. That was the sentiment of the local residents and all the Land Use Committee members. When a shelter for hundreds of homeless men was planned in this area, civic minded residents from the whole peninsula joined to stop the plans. If Mr. Sandu did not get the message that his plan was not welcome, we expect that our residents will speak out again. We commend Steve Cooper for his leadership and committee member Hazeron Mohammed, a nearby resident, who spoke eloquently about the foolishness of the proposal.

Shame on Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education for their attempt to close Peninsula Prep Academy. They stated that PPA did not meet the high standards that were their goals. The overall score for 2011 was actually 53.6 letter B which is quite impressive and definitely makes the grade. I commend Principal Erica Walla and the Peninsula Board under the leadership of Lisa George and Jasmar Trujillo for their role in hiring a lawyer and taking on the Department of Education. I am very proud of having spoken out and rallying with the PPA community. Right on PPA. Good luck in your new home at the former St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic School in Far Rockaway.

Hats off to my colleague in government, good friend and former student Phil Goldfeder for continuing to fight diligently for funding for proper studies for reopening of the old Rockaway Beach line. Let’s make it a reality.

I would like to recognize my dear friend Carol Gresser, former president of the Board of Education and candidate for Queens Borough President. She is currently a Democratic District Leader from Douglaston. We met at the Queens Democratic County Committee meeting and Judicial Convention. She commended me on our continuing fight for reopening the Rockaway Beach line and offered her continued support.

We are deeply saddened by the death of Irving Greenberg, a man I knew all my life. At the age of 8, I delivered the LI Press to him. Irving recently had a heart attack and stroke and passed away. His wife Alicia was my mother’s nurse’s aide at Peninsula Hospital. Their son Charlie was in my sister’s class in elementary school. I also know their son David and grandsons Justin, Joshua and Jack. Irving was a kind and loving individual. God must have needed another special angel in his kingdom in heaven. My deepest sympathy to the family.

It was great to see Senator Joe Addabbo had Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ear at the Columbus Day Parade. We hope that he got to tell him about the Rockaway Beach line and to make the elimination of the Crossbay Bridge toll permanent.

We are waiting for the completion of the sale of the Peninsula Hospital property to a group that will run it as a quality full service hospital.

We stand with the UFT in fighting to lower class size. Some teachers have classes of 36. Some classes meet in hallways, bathrooms and auditoriums. This is totally unacceptable.

Some of us have missed Board 14 committee meetings that we would like to have attended because we weren’t notified. Now Board 14 committee meetings should be found on their new website www.queenscb14.org Thanks to Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100 Precinct Community Council, who brought this to my attention, and Vivian Carter who questioned the lack of announcements. We would hope that our local newspapers would carry the schedule as well.

As of September 26, I was no longer part of Sen. Shirley Huntley’s staff. Her staff was recently reduced.

On Tuesday evening at 11 p.m. I saw a For Rent sign on the Wendy’s on Beach Channel Drive.

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