Christie Stirs Neponsit Thoughts
The national attention on the apparent abuse of power by the Christie administration reminds us of a similar abuse of power in Rockaway concerning the abrupt closing of the Neponsit Health Care Facility. Shortly after a Labor Day storm in 1998, the Health Department removed 279 long term patients from the city owned buildings along the beachfront adjacent to the Neponsit community and Riis Park. The patients were moved without notification to families and most of their personal property was left behind.
City building officials ordered an immediate demolition of the brick buildings which they claimed were in immediate danger of collapse. Rumors spread that this valuable shore front property would be used for upscale condos or hotels.
The potentially profitable plan was blocked by local Republican attorney Terry Flynn Sr. and Democratic District Leader Lew M. Simon who unearthed an old state law that required that this property could only be used for health or park purposes. April Neubauer of the Legal Aid Society won damages for the patients for damages suffered during and after the abrupt relocation. Although this matter was brought to the attention of the Queens D.A. no indictment was ever brought or, to my knowledge, even sought.
The first reports from NJ stressed the failure of the mayor of Fort Lee to endorse Gov. Christie for reelection. When Rudy Giuliani was running for reelection in 1997, his campaign attempted to gain as many Democratic endorsements as possible. Democratic elected officials were told to come to City Hall to present lists of projects of favors for their community. At the request of Lew Simon, I prepared a list of 15 items. The first was ending the Crossbay Bridge toll and the second was reopening the Rockaway Beach line. We gave the list to Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro.
Rudy Giuliani held a press conference at the Crossbay Bridge announcing the end of the toll. Simon thanked and praised Giuliani, but did not endorse him for reelection. Shortly after the election, Mayor Giuliani and his Commissioners held a public Town Hall meeting at Beach Channel High School. Questions were taken from the audience. Although Lew Simon and I raised our hands for questions repeatedly, we were never called. Several persons not known to us, but sitting near us were also ignored. At the end of the meeting, Lew protested to Randy Mastro. You never endorsed us, Mastro told him.
Now Mastro is leading a legal team for Gov. Christie. Charges against him and his administration include demanding endorsements from Democratic elected officials and pressuring for approval of lucrative construction projects. Mr. Mastro appears well qualified to deal with these charges.
My primary goal in writing is not to find an unusual coincidence in history but get attention on the neglect and waste of a valuable city facility at Neponsit as the buildings stand empty and unused. In the 1950s I recall elderly people in Brooklyn telling how they were on the waiting list for a place at the Neponsit Home for the Aged. They obtained letters attesting for their good health from their doctors and letters attesting to their good character from community leaders. They looked forward to spending the rest of their days at Neponsit. Now many successful older New Yorkers are forced to leave NYC to live out their lives. Many older Rockaway residents are facing the challenge of rebuilding and paying exorbitant insurance costs to keep their current homes. The city could reopen the Neponsit facility, charge reasonable rates, provide jobs for local health professionals and allow deserving older New Yorkers to remain in the city they love.
While some of the above facts are from my own experience, you can find stories about Neponsit Home by Corey Kilgannon in the NY Times 11/30/06, Brendon Brosh NY Daily News 4/21/08 and Joan Mettler WAVE 10/30/09. If you favor a legal investigation, it may help to contact the NYC Department of Investigation, NYS Attorney General, and U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of NY.