Wave Friday Update
A press conference on Beach 129 Street, school problems, the resumption of ferry service and the coming of President Barack Obama to the storm zone all highlighted this week in Rockaway.
With the electricity still out throughout the peninsula and with tens of thousands shivering in unheated homes and apartments, without gas, heat or power, LIPA announced that it is close to the ability to energize the system in Rockaway but cannot do so until every home that was flooded is inspected either by a licensed New York City electrician or by LIPA inspectors. Local politicians argue that there are not sufficient inspectors, but the city says it is training 300 people to do the inspections. So far, however, the city has refused to allow inspectors licensed in other venues to do the inspections. At a press conference in front of St. Francis de Sales Church on Beach 129 Street on Thursday, Community Board 14 District Manager Jon Gaska challenged Mayor Michael Bloomberg to waive that rule and allow qualified outsiders to come to Rockaway and other impacted areas to do the inspections. Broad Channel Civic Association President Dan Mundy Jr. said that electricians have been circulating in his community telling residents that it will cost upwards of $4,000 to get an approval for their home’s electrical system. Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder called the system “intolerable” in light of the number of homes that need the inspection and promised to put pressure in the city to change its rules.
Mayor Bloomberg announced on Friday morning that commuter ferry service from Beach 108 Street and the bayfront in Rockaway to Pier 11 in lower Manhattan would begin on Monday morning. There will be free transfers to East 34 Street. The cost of a one-way ride would be $2, and the first ferry will depart at 5:45 a.m., with four additional departures, the last being at 9:20. Returns tips will take place during the evening rush as well. The city’s EDC is running the temporary service and the trip from Rockaway to lower Manhattan will take approximately 50 minutes.
Also on Monday, the MTA will run the A-Train to Rockaway Boulevard in Ozone Park and then shuttle buses from there to Rockaway destinations. MTA officials say that Broad Channel station is still not usable because of debris, including a jet ski and a number of boats.
With virtually all of the Rockaway schools flooded and closed students were sent to open schools in other parts of the city. Statistics for the first two days of school say that most of them did not show up to those schools. According to Department of Education statistics, the attendance of Rockaway students was less than 20 percent. In fact, the DOE says, 460 Rockaway students transferred to other schools this week. Some went to other public schools, such as PS 27 in District 22. Officials say that 79 students, mostly from PS 114 in Belle Harbor, have registered at the school because their families are now living in that district. Parents say they have been told by workers from the School Construction authority that the school might not be reopened until February of next year. The one bright spot seems to be the Scholars’ Academy, a gifted magnet school that has relocated to an elementary school in Brooklyn with more than 60 percent of its students in attendance. The school hired its own private buses to bring students from Rockaway to the school and one parent involved with a catering business provided tables and chairs for the entire sixth grade – about 100 students.
PRESIDENT OBAMA TO ROCKAWAY NEXT THURSDAY
On Friday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama will be visiting the disaster areas in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau. A member of his staff said that he will most likely Visit Rockaway before going to Long Beach and the south shore of Long Island.