2012-12-14 / Columnists

Simon Says . . .

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

As we go on our perilous journey to rebuild and assist all, we have been assisted by the Graybeards who have been doing exceptional work in assisting hundreds of families who lost everything and received zero from FEMA. Steve Stathis and his organization deserve a medal of honor. People have been working diligently to contribute to help the needy, not the greedy.

The nerve of FEMA to pick up and pack themselves out of the Rockaway Park Waldbaum's shopping center and move on to Arverne by the Sea. So many people have been hitting red tape and now have lousy transportation with overcrowding of buses. They put a knife in our chest and left a central location that was easy to get to. FEMA seems to think that people who lost all will be able to reproduce receipts that were lost due to flood and fire.

People who lived on Rockaway Beach Boulevard have been denied assistance because their address does not exist and FEMA can't do an inspection. We personally know at least 10 people including families who have been refused by FEMA. It is now time for U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Rep. Gregory Meeks to bring President Obama to tour Rockaway, Broad Channel and Breezy Point. We are aware of the negotiations going on in Washington, but it is fitting and needed for President Obama to see us first hand, not just from a helicopter.

Once again I'd like to tip my hat and recognize our great Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder who held a Town Hall meeting at St. Francis de Sales Church bringing various agencies together except the Red Cross that didn't show. The Rapid Repair program has not been so rapid for many people who are waiting weeks.

We have asked Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik and Matt Gordon of the Mayor's office to tweak this program to include landlords who do not use their home as their primary residence and those who use their homes as seasonal residences. They have been told to apply for SBA loans. Many landlords are finding the need to walk away from their damaged homes leaving their tenants homeless.

It is very sad that small businesses striving to service our community will be forced to close their doors forever because they can't afford loans. Grants should be given to small businesses and not-for-profit community organizations that hit a wall as I did.

Many of our churches, synagogues and the Knights of Columbus are struggling for much needed funds for renovation and survival. Another great institution, the Yeshiva of Belle Harbor, was forced to move to Brooklyn because their building was destroyed.

We attended a meeting on Friday afternoon regarding Peninsula Library on Beach 94 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard which housed the Far Rockaway Literacy Zone. They are looking for trailers to continue to provide the only GED and Pre-GED program on the peninsula. They teach three levels of Basic Literacy, ESOL English classes, computer literacy, Job Readiness, citizenship, family literacy and have a resume preparation workshop. They are helping 600 students from the peninsula age 17 and up. Eighty percent of their GED students passed their GED. I have reached out to Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik to try to get trailers for this program before the end of the year. We expect to speak up at the Queensborough Library Board of Trustees meeting this week to get help in reopening this needed program.

Now is the opportune time to give our short and long term goals on transportation. We are demanding that the MTA step up to the plate with Manhattan Express buses 7 days a week to run from 4:45 a.m. through 1 a.m. the next morning. We are tired of being the stepchild of the city. We are also requesting reactivation of the old Rockaway Beach line. We need a new and improved trestle from the peninsula to Howard Beach. It should have space for four tracks and be above the height of storm surges. We are demanding that MTA head Joe Lhota and Governor Andrew Cuomo get started on this project. In the short term we need more Q53 buses running frequently to replace our lost subway service from Rockaway Boulevard to Beach 116 Street.

We'd like to wish our Jewish family a happy and peaceful Hanukah. May we have a miracle to help us through this recovery.

We are in desperate need of your assistance now. I have been trying my best to help everyone regardless of where they live or what party they enroll in.

We need a fax, copier and printer so we can help those who need to fax FEMA and insurance companies. There is no place to fax on the west end. My phone at 718-945-1216 is working. Call me if you can help or need help. Your Good Government Regular Democrat dues is now due. Send your $25, or more if you can afford it, to Lew Simon @ Good Government Regular Democratic Club c/o Ocean Promenade Rehabilitation Center, 140 Beach 113 Street, Rockaway Park, N.Y.11694. We need your dues as we all work to rebuild our community.

One of our stores is coming back. Verizon Wireless at 273 Beach 116 Street will reopen on Saturday, December 15. They will have balloons and face painting for the kids from 12 noon to 4 p.m. and our needed telephone equipment. Everyone is invited to welcome them back.

We are deeply saddened by the death of three outstanding ladies. Betty Raimondi, who I have known since my days attending Beach Channel High School, was an outstanding lady with a lot of love and a big heart. Connie Venturino was another fine pioneer who worked to reopen the Rockaway Park Senior Center at Temple Beth-El. She was a class act. Margaret Carney was a great asset to our community. She was loving with a heart of gold. God must have needed three special angels in heaven. My deepest sympathy to the families.

Congratulations to Larry Love, a long time member of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer's staff, who will be sworn in as a Civil Court Judge.

We have only three synagogues on the west end. The sanctuary on the first floor of the West End Temple at 147-02 Newport Avenue was destroyed by the storm. Rabbi Marjorie Slome is asking for help and supplies as they try to rebuild. We understand that all of our local churches suffered damage and can use your help. The volunteer fire companies in Broad Channel, Roxbury, Rockaway Point, Point Breeze and Hamilton Beach had our backs during and after the storm.

We would like to recognize their outstanding service to our community.

The New York City Department of Sanitation did an outstanding job cleaning the debris from our streets after the storm.

We ask the mayor to allow them to continue to pick up daily as residents clean out and continue to repair their houses. Piles of debris are coming back. We will have more health and air quality issues. NYC EMS was on the job through the storm. Our local police precincts and fire companies were out on the job every day. St. Johns Hospital, with its generator, was open as needed. The storm showed the major need to reopen Peninsula Hospital so they can serve our community.

The bankruptcy attorney controls the property and must see that it is used for the health of our residents. Thanks to her infinite wisdom there is no equipment or supplies left in the hospital.

Maria of Breezy Dog lost her truck to the storm, but is out selling trees and wreathes in her usual place outside Waldbaum's shopping center at Beach 115 Street on Beach Channel Drive.

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