2014-03-28 / Columnists

Eye On Rockaway

SJEH, Charters, and Participatory Budget Voting
By Miriam Rosenberg

Let’s just say I have a lot to say this week.

I’m going to start with the St. John’s Hospital forum that took place two weeks ago. At that forum the hospital’s CEO Richard Brown talked about his attempt to turn PHC into a behavioral care center. The CEO said he went to Albany to propose the plan, which would have included a 24/7 urgent care center. He said that “at the time they [the state] were only concerned with repurposing the building code in the Rockaways relative to what happened with Hurricane Sandy.”

But Brown’s comment only leaves me with questions. Why would the building code need repurposing if PHC were already a medical building? An idea that would be more in line with what Rockaway needs. Especially since in January it was reported that a not-for-profit wants to create an independent living center for seniors, an adult day care program and transitional housing for returning veterans at the old PHC. Nothing against any of those groups for whom services are needed, but with only one hospital in Rockaway we desperately need another. And it needs to stay a medical center. SJEH reps should go back to Albany to request, once again, to reopen PHC as a medical services facility that would include an ER on the premises — which is exactly what the community needs.

A more elaborate explanation is required on this from St. John’s and Brown.

St. John’s also needs to find a better way to keep the community and staff informed of what is going on at the hospital. Silence only allows rumors to form and grow and it takes time, energy and focus away from turning SJEH into a hospital the community needs and deserves.

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So Success Academy decided to sue the city to protect the constitutional rights of its students to get an education. What about the rights of students who are forced to share their buildings with charter schools? What about their educational rights? What about the rights and needs of special needs students, who as Chancellor Farina pointed out, have been losing space for programs and seats in their schools to these charters? As for charters and performing better — of course, most do. They can ‘counsel out’ students that don’t perform up to their standards. Public schools — real public that must answer to the DOE for what they do and how they serve the whole community – cannot.

The disinformation campaign that Eva Moskowitz is forging should be looked at more carefully. Calling the charter in Harlem a ‘public’ school in their commercials to sway the public’s sentiment is misleading. I find it interesting that not once was the word “charter” used. And nowhere do they admit that Success Academy was pushing out special needs programs. Charters want to be public when they accept public funds, but when it comes to how they are run and decisions that are made, they are private. Can it actually be both ways?

Not all charters are bad. If ones like Challenge Prep here in Rockaway can obtain their own building, why can’t larger, more profitable ones?

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Remember that public voting for Participatory Budget projects in City Council District 31 begins this Sunday, March 29th to April 5th. Times and locations are in a separate article in this issue. How would you spend $1 million for the good of your community? This is your chance to answer that question.

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