2013-10-04 / Columnists

School Scope

Rockaway’s Tale Of Two Cities Under Bloomberg: Health Care vs. Bike Lanes
By Norm Scott

When it comes to health care, is Rockaway Mogadishu? WNYC reported, “The relief group Doctors of the World, which operates in war torn nations like Syria, Mali and Somalia is opening its first U.S. clinic, in the Rockaways. The organization provided aid immediately following Sandy and decided to set up a brick and mortar medical clinic in Rockaway Beach, Queens….The Rockaways stretches for 11-and-ahalf miles, but there are few medical facilities. There's St. John’s Episcopal Hospital at Beach 19th Street and Joseph Addabbo Family Health Center on Beach 62nd Street that serve a large elderly and vulnerable population.”

More hospitals have closed under 12 years of Bloomberg than under any other administration. Locally, if you compare the state of Rockaway healthcare with the number of bike lanes, you get a good idea about priorities. Bloomberg should have put Transportation Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan in charge of health. We could have a bike lane run down every hospital corridor.

It’s not all bad news when it comes to Rockaway health care: Got a hangnail emergency? Or a smudge on your nail polish? Find a nail salon on almost every corner. Ahhh, the benefits of free market capitalism.

I know my free market pals out there may think it is not the responsibility of government to provide basic health care services – or much of anything else. If every hospital and health service in Rockaway were to close down, we would get a “not my problem, let the market decide” shrug from the powers that be.

I know boardwalks and flood insurance issues are on everyone’s minds. But think of the entire sordid story around the closing of Peninsula Hospital and all the other health care scams being pulled by so many forces. The WNYC story reported, “Noah Barth… the program coordinator for the charity said while Doctors of the World usually operates in distressed parts of the world, it was clear that residents of the Rockaways had severe medical needs.” Barth said, "We saw a lot of people with upper respiratory tract infections, a lot of people that went months without seeing a doctor that just needed routine stuff. Now you're starting to see the setting in of post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, depression.” I know one person facing post-traumatic stress disorder: a billionaire egomaniac mayor about to lose his bully pulpit.

“You’re advocating for the wrong things,” a good friend said to me recently, pointing to my work in the education wars and in defense of teachers. “You should advocate for your community.” What exactly is my community? My house? My block? Belle Harbor? The West End of Rockaway? All of Rockaway?

There are many levels of parochialism. If you own a home (as I do) do homeowners’ interests get priority? Or do renters count? Do poor people gain entry into our concept of “community?” An estimated 21% of Rockaway residents do not have health insurance. Has anyone besides a doctors’ charity based in France noticed? I don’t have to tell anyone in Rockaway we have been living a tale of two cities here for a very long time.

Doctors of the World is hoping to get the free clinic on 102nd St. opened before the first anniversary of Sandy in a few weeks. In the absence of a city government plan to support adequate health care in every part of the city, having a French-based charity come to our rescue is very welcome.

I am writing this just before going out to vote for Leticia James in the runoff for Public Advocate. So by the time you read this the election will be decided.

I was disappointed that Phil Goldfeder is/was supporting her opponent, Daniel Squadron. In his first campaign for office I ran into Phil outside Waldbaum’s and told him I expected to be disappointed in him on education issues like closing schools, charters, testing etc. I still haven’t made a judgment but I do support him on general issues.

By endorsing the charter lobby-funded Squadron over James, who has stood up to big-chain charter invasions while Squadron has played politics, Goldfeder is making a statement on education reform – a disappointing statement. He is also making a statement on unions, mostly supporting James. I know, I know – loyalty to Chuck Schumer and all the other special interests backing Squadron. But still…James as a black woman lawyer from Brooklyn who has a proven record in the City Council, will be/would have been (depending on the results) a boon for all of the Rockaways, west and east ends – and the very growing and increasingly active middle.

Once again, Rockaway – A Tale of Two Cities. Or maybe three.

Norm blogs at ednotesonline.org

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