2009-01-01 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

2008: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly...
By Charles Rogers

View From The Middle

We started 2008 on a positive note, with our first issue citing the fact that, according to the NYPD, our 69th Precinct was able to boast that we had the second largest citywide decrease in overall crime for the previous year. The stats resulted from crime summaries announced at the monthly "CompStat" meetings of all the city's precinct commanders…The negative side appeared the following week when angry residents and elected officials here attended a hastily-called meeting about a proposal for the establishment of a medical waste transfer facility on Farragut Road at East 100th Street. Gershon Klein, the owner of Citiwaste Medical Waste Disposal, the company that will operate the facility, currently runs an ambulance service out of the 1500 square foot building and petitioned to make it bigger by adding a medical waste station. Throughout the year, meetings were held with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), local officials and local residents, but the situation still hasn't been resolved. There will be another meeting on January 13 (see our Community Guide)…While we're talking about unimportant matters, the government began issuing $40 coupons so that residents throughout the U.S. will have a chance to purchase converter boxes for non-digital TV sets, as all programming will be digital starting February 17. Exciting, huh?...The good old NYPD was on its toes in January when they picked up a fugitive murder suspect having a nice little nap in his car on Canarsie Pier. He'd been on the lam after allegedly killing a John Jay College coed in May.

The end of January brought on an announcement of the closing of the big Telco Store in the Rockaway Parkway business district. Its last days would be the end of February and, word had it at the time (later confirmed) that a Walgreen's Pharmacy would replace it. That way (level-headed minds confirmed) there will be two major pharmacies in one block (Rite-Aid and Walgreen's) and another one (Duane Reade) just down the street…Still in January, a Bergen Beach resident was chosen to be a delegate to the August Democratic Convention. Mitchell Partnow, 21, wound up being the delegate for the Ninth Congressional District.

February brought news that Canarsie High School, as we've known it, was being phased out over two years. To help raise our morale, the Department of Education announced there would be three new high schools in the Rockaway Parkway building: the High School of Advertising and Media; the High School for Medical Professions and the Urban Action Academy...Those teenage students got a whiff of reality in urban action from a legislative, public service standpoint when the gross details of Governor Elliot Spitzer's clandestine life were exposed and he resigned from office. Wiretaps and investigations by federal authorities disclosed he'd been allegedly "foolin' around" with "ladies of the night" for awhile. In his one-minute-long apology, with his wife at his side, the Governor said he "acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong." Spitzer's spot was immediately taken over by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson.

As the economy got worse, even in early March, State Assemblyman Alan Maisel reminded us that we'd better file a federal tax return if we want to get some of that Administration-issued "stimulus" money. Coupled with some business tax breaks, the stimulant was supposed to get us going so we wouldn't have a recession later (ha, ha)...Mary Anne Sallustro, president of the South Canarsie Civic Association, spearheaded a drive to turn down a proposal from a cell phone company to erect a 52-foot cell tower behind a bodega at the corner of East 92nd Street and Avenue N. City Councilman Lew Fidler said, "Unfortunately, we have very little say over where cell towers are placed." He noted that the process is governed by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), but he'd try to get things coordinated. Meanwhile — in the middle of all the consternation — the tower went up and now stands proudly overlooking our southern streets. Oh, yeah. The bodega is closed.

Reverting back to the Spitzer affair, we came upon another example of Elected Official Sleaze when four-term Assemblywoman Diane Gordon lost her job in the Legislature after a jury convicted her of eight counts of bribery and one count of official misconduct. She represented parts of Canarsie, Brownsville and East New York and helped steer city property to a "corrupt" developer in exchange for a $500,000 dream home he would build for a dollar. Turned out the developer was wearing a wire and working undercover for the city's Department of Investigation. Gordon is now serving two-to-six years in prison.

Councilman Fidler was in the news again when he hosted a local meeting with officials from the City Department of Planning and Zoning to discuss rezoning here. Community leaders had been protesting overdevelopment in our neighborhoods and Fidler said he wanted to meet with the zoning people before the proposals were brought to the public.

The commanding officer of the 69th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Ralph Monteforte was transferred (after four great years) and replaced by Captain Milt Marmara, who was immediately faced with a minor dilemma — the overnight closing of Canarsie Pier. After many discussions, it was decided that the jurisdiction of the park and pier belonged to the National Park Service. The new commander took charge, however, when crowds of teenagers decided the southwestern edge of the pier was THE place to hang out. After awhile, the regular teens turned out to apparently have gang members in their midst. Some alleged troublemakers were disbursed without incident.

Starrett City residents heaved a sigh of relief in early June when Senator Charles Schumer and Governor David Paterson told them, in a personal appearance, that the bidding process to sell the 140 acre housing development east of Canarsie included a signed agreement to preserve affordable housing and allow eligible residents to continue to pay below-market rents for the next 20 years. In 2007, officials blocked the $1.3 billion sale of the 5,880-unit complex to a private developer who would have taken Starrett out of government housing program and raised rents across the board, forcing thousands from their homes because they could not afford to live there any longer...Parents of children attending St. Jude's School were up in arms when, all of a sudden, the school's principal, Vincent Tannacore, was terminated. The move took place two years after our three parochial schools — St. Jude, Our Lady of Miracles and Holy Family — merged as campuses into the overall umbrella name of Our Lady of Trust School of Canarsie. Tannacore was just the first of three principals to go under the new regime, which would have one principal guiding all three…With the race for Mayor and many City Council seats ready for contention in 2009, lotsa people are getting ready for the run themselves. The mayor decided to run for a third term, having convinced the City Council to change the law. But, while others are setting their sights on that high post, community activist and president of the Avenue L Merchants Association Mercedes Narcisse announced she would be a candidate for the Council.

It was mid-summer when we received the news that a dear friend of the community, activist Jim Haver, passed away. Jim had been a staunch supporter of many neighborhood programs and was a stalwart member of the Holy Family Church community and St. Pius X Knights of Columbus Council….Senator Hillary Rodham, along with Rep. Edolphus Towns and other officials, showed up at Starrett City to announce their support for a housing relief bill that would continue to make the project affordable…Meanwhile, thousands throughout the city attended neighborhood commemorations of the 25th anniversary of the "Night Out Against Crime." Captain Marmara, along with members of the Community Council, hosted our festivities with a showcase on Foster Avenue, with lotsa people attending…The late John Denton, our local historian for years, will finally get his just deserts when a street sign will be erected in his honor this year. The "John Denton Way" sign will be located at the corner of East 92nd Street and Flatlands Avenue. Ironically, Mr. Denton was a part owner of the building that still rests on the corner — the former American Theater. In his columns in the Canarsie Courier, he would tell of being an usher there during the days of silent films.

Early November brought the news that most of the American public had been waiting for: the election of Barack Obama as the next president. After two years of campaigning, Democrat Obama defeated Republican John McCain and will become the nation's 44th president in 19 days...With crime going on everywhere, and a few bank robberies around our area, some tension was relieved when we got a good laugh out of one incident. This time, the bad guy went up to a teller at the HSBC Bank at the corner of Seaview Avenue and Rockaway Parkway one afternoon in November and handed her a note telling her he wanted money. Seconds went by, and then almost a full minute, and the would-be robber said, "Why are you so slow?" The teller said, "I can't read your note. I can't read some of the words!" The thief ran out without any money...As the holiday season came upon us, we temporarily postponed the happiness factor so we could reflect on a sad event that happened ten years ago. That was when three brave firefighters from the Rockaway Parkway firehouse gave their lives while fighting a blaze in the nearby Vandalia apartments near Starrett City. Lt. Joe Cavalieri and firefighters Chris Bopp and James Bohan died trying to save an elderly lady. A crowded commemorative service was held at the Shrine of St. Jude and a lone bagpiper reflected the thoughts of us all that the trio should rest in peace.

As we came to the year's end, with our country's national and international troubles, including two wars and an economic downturn that we haven't seen in decades, we could reflectively say that 2008 was not the best of years. We struggled through it, though, no matter what the burden might have been.

As Americans, we indeed have a lot to be thankful for. We can be divided in our politics, our incentives and even in our methods of achievement. But achieve we will. One of our most precious traits is, in the long run, the will to get things done together. In 19 days we will have a new leader. He'll be tested and tried and, God willing, Barack Obama will be the person we thought he would be, and 2009 will be better because he personifies the American Spirit — which gets better and better every year!









































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