Seminar at Church on the Rock addresses sexual abuse against children

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Local resident Theresa Racine, one of the sponsors of the sexual abuse seminar at the House on the Rock Church on Saturday, speaks to the two dozen participants.

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Rabbi Diana Gerson was the main speaker and led participants through a guided discussion about the problem of sexual abuse against children.

The number of participants was small, but they were all eager to listen and learn about the problem of sexual assaults on children.

About two dozen showed up at the Church on the Rock on Beach 91 Street on Saturday afternoon for a seminar sponsored by local resident Theresa Racine and her organization, Xtrememeasures, the House on the Rock Church, Darkness Into Light and Dayenui, a Reform Jewish organization.

The chief speaker for the day was Rabbi Diana Gerson, a noted religious educator with funding from the City Council’s discretionary funding.

Racine introduced Gerson and told the participants why she was involved with the issue, including the fact that she herself had been a victim of abuse as a child and that her daughter was molested by her boyfriend’s brother when she was four years old.

She called the issue “extremely difficult” and urged participants to get involved with the issue on the community level.

Gerson said that her mission is to “safeguard kids” and to “Engage the community on the issue of sexual assault against children.”

“This issue impacts so many families,” she said. “There are so many mandated reporters – church officials, medical personnel, teachers, doctors, dentists – but that as citizens we all should be reporting sexual abuse against children, even if they have only a reasonable suspicion of the abuse.”

She pointed out that there are five steps for the community to protect children from abuse.

Community residents should learn the facts – the reason for the seminar – including the fact that one in ten children are sexually abused and more than 90 percent of them know their abuser.

The community should minimize the opportunity by reducing isolated, one-on-one situations where one adult is behind closed doors with one child.

Have open conversations with children about their bodies, sex and boundaries.

Recognize the signs of child abuse and how it impacts children.

React responsibly to risky behaviors and suspicions or reports of sexual abuse.

“Every child has the right to be safe,” she said.

Each of the participants in the 2 ½ hour seminar received a training certificate that allows for a reduction in the insurance required of their faith-based organizations.

Gerson will be hosting a similar seminar in May at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.

 

 

National Grid: BCD closure will be reopened for summer season

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The vital stretch of Beach Channel Drive between Beach 108 Street and the Rockaway Freeway extension, which was closed on New Year’s Day will be reopen by the summer season, National Grid said on Friday.

The good news is that the repair of the critical stretch of Beach Channel Drive that was closed on New Year’s Day because it was in imminent danger of collapsing will be completed before Memorial Day. The bad news is that Rockaway motorists hoped that it would be completed by May 1, but will now have to wait a little longer.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich announced on Friday that National Grid has said that voids and areas beneath the roadway from Beach 108 Street to the Rockaway Freeway extension have been filled in and the resurfacing design has been finalized.

A contractor for the resurfacing has been hired and work on the roadway will begin on May 3.

Locals feared that the work would go on into the summer season and police officials said at a meeting of the 100 Precinct Community Council on Monday that plans had been made to station traffic agents at major intersections around the detour to move traffic should that happen.

It appears, however, that the traffic agents will not be needed.

Cruel and Standardized Testing: The student’s take

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Editorial cartoon shows what many believe about high-stakes standardized testing.

BY JOAN DIEHL

 My daughter, MJ Diehl, has a fourth-grader who was subjected to the New York State ELA exams. She nicknamed the testing experience aptly—“Cruel and Standardized Punishment”. The reactions of my students, in The Fifth-Grade Writers’ Club at PS/MS 114 substantiate her indictment. I’ve taught children of various backgrounds and skill-sets for decades… and if there’s one thing I know, there’s a more humane and effective way to evaluate intelligence and tap into a child’s true potential. My students echo these sentiments below: 

 JOSHUA NATANZON

State Test Mayhem: Ring! The state test had begun. Sweat rained down my forehead, and I was in the presence of a beast, the ELA state test. I was trembling like a cute puppy stuck outside in icy cold snow. As I took my seat my heart beat so fast, I thought it would explode. The words looked like shooting arrows but I defended myself with my pencil sword. I said to myself, “I am smart, I can do it if I proceed and be the best I can be.” I took my pencil in my trembling hand and started to write. And like a marathon runner – exhausted-I finished the state test. It felt like I had destroyed a monster. 

 STACEY JIANG

I could feel the sweat on my shaky hands as the teacher gave out the test booklet. ” BAM!” My teacher slammed my booklet onto my desk and it stared at me like a cobra staring at its prey. “You’re going to fail the test,” it growled. “Now you can open your book and start the test,” announced my teacher. Once I opened my book, I could feel thousands of butterflies fluttering in my stomach. I felt like a terrified kid alone in the dark. There was no way to get out of it and nowhere to hide. I slowly read each passage and answered the questions. When I finished the test, I could feel the five tons of rocks that were in my head getting lighter and lighter. ” Whew!” The test was finally over.

 SEAN HANLEY 

I was sent into despair on test day, as sad as a dog with no bone. I took a pencil into my trembling hands. A chill ran up my spine as the Principal announced, “Begin the test.” I read through the first passage and wondered, why a passage on an artist? As I flipped the page, I stared at the first question. I felt like I was on a dead-end street. I had nowhere to go. Some questions stumped me. Instead of taking this test, I’d swim the Atlantic Ocean, climb Mount Everest, or even go backpacking in The North Pole. The ELA turns my world upside down.  The test throws me like a bucking bronco. The test is like a monster; even superman would tremble at its might. 

 SAMANTHA YERSHOV

I’ll be honest. At first, I wasn’t truly nervous. While everyone else was looking as if they’d seen a ghost, I thought that I would do just fine. So, when the bell rang to signify the start of the test, I didn’t hear that shrill scream of the demonic monster that would soon hold me in its jaws, like the others did. I just heard the same bell that rang every single day. But that was only until I actually opened the test book. Then, I became one of them—paralyzed with a wide-eyed look of shock and fear on my face. As I flipped through the book, every bit of confidence I ever had, slowly drained away. I had no clue where to begin! For once, I was scared of a test. The words on the page felt like daggers in my mind. I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle, and losing. Even though the test wasn’t timed, it still didn’t make a difference. I just felt like I was dying a slower, and more painful death. Looking around, I saw that many were finished, when I was merely half way through the test! With a few shallow breaths, I managed to calm myself just long enough to keep going. As I handed in my test, I let out all of the fear and frustration built up inside of me, in a single breath. As I walked back to my seat, I mentally prepared myself for the cycle that would repeat again, the next day. 

 GREGORY NICOLAS

The ELA is the test that makes even excellent students cower in fear. I limped towards my doom and a packet of tests was slammed into my hand.  Once I opened my packet, words stabbed my heart like spies sent to kill their target. Then, I encountered the beast, formally known as the multiple-choice. I filled in the bubble on my answer sheet and a list of regrets filled my mind—and, that was only question one. I thought the test was over since I just finished multiple choice but sadly it was just the beginning I soon reached the worst of the worst, the most diabolical of all villains, the extended response. Even though I had all the time in the world to finish, I felt like I was writing one wrong answer after the other. Soon, the onslaught was over. For adults, this would be just like ending your six-hour workday. I wish this test proves to my dad and mom how hard I’m working in school, but this is not the main point here. I think we should abolish the ELA test, end it forever. I think that one test shouldn’t determine how you are as a student- why do we have to take a test made by some guy in Albany? I think it’s so morbid and horrendous in its entirety. 

 

Childhood sexual Abuse target of Rockaway training Seminar Saturday

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New York City First Lady Charlene McRae, left, was one of the hosts of the citywide sexual abuse event called “Denim Day” in Manhattan. On Saturday, a training seminar on sexual abuse will be held at the Church of the Rock in Rockaway. Photo by Theresa Racine.

Sexual assault has become a major issue in the nation in recent years, with the issue impacting individuals as well as institutions ranging from local college campuses to the Catholic Church.

Each April, people join the movement to promote Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Month to raise awareness that child abuse is preventable.

On Saturday, April 30, the issue will come to Rockaway with a major teaching moment at the House of the Rock Church, 91-08 Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Rockaway Beach, which will host a seminar entitled, “Preventing Child Sexual Abuse is a Job for Adults.” The event will run from 1 to 3:30 p.m. and will bring parents, teachers, congregational leaders, clergy and concerned adults together for a training program that will count for two credit hours for continuing education.

Theresa M Racine Founder of xtrememeasure. Com is a community activist who fight against crimes of children, and crimes against woman and men. Her goal is to have the community equipped and prepared to be reactive in a very difficult situation such as child abuse or sexual assault.

Racine is no stranger to child sexual abuse. As a survivor of such abuse, and also her own daughter. Her life goal is prevention, so no one else will ever have to go through something so horrible such as child sexual abuse. She is inviting the community to become more involved as being part of a solution to a large problem, that sometimes goes unheard, never reported, giving voice a child who has no voice. Her motto is to see change then you must be the change and it begin with you .

She is partnering along with House on the Rock Church with the Stewards of Children which is an evidence-informed program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. It is designed for both youth serving organization and for individuals concerned about the safety of children. Engaging and thought provoking group led discussions include:

  • A two part DVD presentation with commentary from sexual abuse survivors, experts in the field and concerned adults.
  • Facilitator led discussion emphasizes important issues in prevention within the community and organizations that serve children.
  • Reinforcement of key concepts, and serves as an opportunity to develop a personal action plan to resolve child sexual abuse.

The training takes about 2.5 hours and is perfect for any community that cares about children.  It also counts for 2 continuing education credit hours for social workers or counselors. The training has been approved by the CDC and the DOJ because it is evidence-based and we know that it works in real-time. RSVP is required so we get material, This is a free event.

There is no charge for the program and everybody is urged to attend, according to Racine, one of the organizer’s of the event.

The local event follows up on a major city event held earlier in the week, hosted by First Lady Chirlane McCray and  the Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

Commissioner Cecile Noel stood with Denim Day NYC organizers Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer at the steps of City Hall alongside other senior Administration leadership, local elected officials, advocates and survivors on Wednesday to raise awareness about sexual assault and the City’s resources for victims and survivors in honor of the fifth annual Denim Day NYC.

“Despite generations of protest, one in three women still experience physical or sexual violence. Ninety percent of college students who are assaulted don’t report the assault. And in New York City, a man recently forced his girlfriend to parade naked down the sidewalk and proudly posted the video online,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, honorary Chair for the Commission on Gender Equity. “Enough. We must make our streets safe for women and girls. This Administration will not rest until New Yorkers are safe from sexual assault, and I’m proud to stand with so many others against sexual violence.”

“Today and every day, we honor the survivors of sexual violence and recommit ourselves to ending this epidemic once and for all. Too often, society ignores, shames, or blames sexual violence survivors for their experiences. Too often, we make excuses for those who perpetuate these terrible acts. We have a responsibility to shine a light on sexual violence, end dangerous stereotypes, and empower individuals and communities to stand up united against rape and sexual assault.  The bravery and strength of our survivors should not and cannot be in vain. I thank the New York City Council Women’s Caucus and all the allies here today for their unwavering commitment to this critical cause,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

“There is simply no excuse for sexual assault against any person,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “We must to do more to create a safe environment for victims – both men and women – to feel comfortable stepping out and speaking up about their experience so assailants cannot get away with these disgusting crimes. Today and every day we must remind survivors that they are not alone and we will continue doing all we can to support them and punish perpetrators to the full extent of the law.”

“Denim Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness about sexual assault and to show solidarity with survivors,” said Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel. “Consent is a simple concept, but as the Office to Combat Domestic Violence knows too well, our society still struggles to value, model and create relationships that are based in trust, respect and equality. Education, prevention and awareness are our most powerful tools to build a culture where every person feels safe and respected in their relationships. The New York City Family Justice Centers, our NYC Healthy Relationship Training Academy and the Office to Combat Domestic Violence Training Institute are invaluable resources to achieve  community partners to join us in bringing attention to this issue so others don’t have to.”

Racine said that one out of ten children  will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and that everybody in the Rockaway community can make a difference.

She urges everybody to attend the Saturday workshop to learn how to identify and prevent child sexual abuse.

 

Active anti-crime cop awarded at recent Precinct Community Council meeting

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Police officer Valerie Shepherd, left, receives Cop of the Month Award from new commanding officer Janice Holmes at the Precinct Community Council meeting on Monday night. Organization president Joe Young looks on.

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City Councilman Eric Ulrich, left, and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder share a smart phone moment at the meeting. The two spoke to the meeting and addressed hot-button Rockaway issues such as the boardwalk delay, the ferry plan and summer parking.

An active anti-crime cop was awarded the 100 Precinct’s Cop of the Month award and local politicians  spoke out about hot-button items such as the ferry and summer parking problems at the monthly meeting of the 100 Precinct Community Council on Monday night.

It was the first community council meeting for Captain Janice Holmes, the precinct’s new commanding officer, and she handled it with aplomb, answering questions from locals and detailing solutions to local problems.

Holmes handed out her first Cop of the Month award to Police Officer Valerie Shephard, a member of the command’s anti-crime team.

According to Holmes, Shephard had been reviewing reports on a number of burglaries that had hit the precinct recently earlier in the year. Later, on patrol, she saw a local business owner following a man she recognized as one of those wanted for questioning in connection with the spate of burglaries.

She arrested the suspect, who turned out to be the perpetrator, putting to an end the burglary spree.

Local politicians were on hand to answer questions as well.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and City Councilman Eric Ulrich spoke about their anger over the delay in completing the boardwalk and of the recent denial of Rockaway recommendations for the coming commuter ferry service.

 

 

Rockaway Little League ends week two with a plethora of exciting games

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Action during week two from the Rockaway Little League was both exciting and educational. Teams will continue play at the Fort Tilden fields over the weekend and into next week.

While the weather gave a mixed bag of goods, here’s hoping Mother Nature continues to shine her good weather on Rockaway Little League.

 Now that we are enjoying better weather, RLL is in full swing with our youngest player clinic programs. For the next few weeks, our Pee Wee Girls, (players as young as 3 years old) are learning the basic mechanics of the game in a fun modulated environment. In just a few weeks, our little girls will be showcasing their big new skills in their upcoming games.

 In other news, an exciting nail-biter of a game was played this week by the Pee Wee Seniors as the Rockies won over the Pirates by a score of 11-9. The Rockies scored 8 runs in their last at bat to complete the big comeback. Big hits were delivered by Dylan Keegan, Matt McDonald, Danny DeGrechie and Christian Cook. Excellent fielding was handled by Gerardo DeBenedetto and Owen Maloney. Sean Byrne came in to pitch the last inning to secure the win.

 Tremendous team spirit on display from both dugouts in the Minor Girls division this week as the Blue Devils shut out the Huskies in a score of 6-0. Maeve Grace did a wonderful job starting up the game with her reading of RLL’s ”We Will” team pledge. Noteworthy on the defensive were pitchers Ellen Zwerling and Nora Tubridy, with strong plays by Cassie McDade at shortstop and Carly Intrabartolo at third base. On the offensive, lots of developing hitting talent on the BlueDevils including up-and-coming second grader Maeve Grace…what a little firecracker!!!!!! Mary Doyle continues to crack the ball and it was an inspiring team effort by all the girls!!!

Major Boys Rockies – Reid Hyman and Chris McElhinney combined for a 3 hit shutout.  Game highlights include Nicholas Rodgers, 5 RBI’s, Catcher Nicholas Donohue firing a powerful throw out at second when the runner was caught stealing and a thrilling hit by Michael Light who just fell short of the ball going over the fence for a homerun! Great team work was on display as Brendan Daugherty threw from centerfield to Nicholas Donohue at home plate to get the man out. We also want to congratulate Jake Kase on amazing game with a single, and a steal to second.  Terrific hitting and fielding from the entire team!

 Last but certainly not least in Minor Boys, Pirates won on over the A’s in a score of 16 to 5. Ben Gressel scored a triple and a double for the A’s while Timothy Foley had his 1st hit of the season.

 We would like to thank families for their exuberance with our fundraiser efforts in conjunction with the New York Mets. Tickets were sold out in just one day for the June 17th Mets-Braves game.  All ticket-holders to receive a free Mets T-Shirt, and our little leaguers will get to go out on the field prior to the game. Stay tuned for more Rockaway Little League fundraiser events. 

 

 

Locals respond, mostly with anger, to city’s rebuff of commuter ferry recommendations

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Locals attended a dozen meetings with the EDC staff to give suggestions and make comments on the proposed ferry service. After the 12 meetings, virtually all of the suggestions were rebuffed by the city agency.

In the fall of 2015, representatives from the EDC hosted and attended at least a dozen public meetings to discuss plans for the Citywide Ferry Service, including new service to Rockaway.  These reps asked people to comment on the record, in writing or by email.  Despite dozens of suggestions from Rockaway residents, the EDC has said “no” to almost every one, and “maybe” to a few.

In its Draft Environmental Impact Study, the EDC said “no” to changes in schedules; no to the size of vessels; no to suggested routes; no to changes in the shuttle service that would have provided access to the eastern end of the peninsula, where the majority of Rockaway residents live and no to starting the vital service this coming summer rather than in the summer of 2017.

Their refusal has sparked ire from many who represent or live on the Rockaway peninsula. Here are some of those comments.

Joe Hartigan, activist often called “Mr. Ferry,” for his long-time advocacy of a commuter ferry for Rockaway.

“My initial reaction to the EIS is that they did not take anybody’s suggestion. I was just trying to insure more ridership with my suggestions, trying to ensure that the ferry program will be successful. What is ridership from Rockaway going to be like with only two runs every weekday morning rather than the three that we suggested? The service is being set up to fail.”

 Danny Ruscillo, Community Board 14 member and a co-chair for its Transportation Committee

“The EDC’s response ‘that a pricing structure for parking at the Beach 108th street lot/site has not been determined at this time’ is just unacceptable. This is very important and the ridership should definitely know what they really mean when they use the word structure, because the price that may be charged for parking could cause a big impact on the ridership for the Ferry. As for the Rockaway Shuttle Bus service response, still no answer on this instead they say exact locations will be identified as the project planning advances. My remarks to this is, we should have had this information already and how much longer is this process going to take before we get the information.”

Eddy Pastore, co-president of the Friends of Rockaway and a CB 14 member

“We have been through this with the EDC many times. We told them what we need, what we want, and it fell on deaf ears. They didn’t listen to anything we said once again. The ferry will fail if they carry out their plan without changes. They need a larger boat, particularly on the weekends and in the summer. They should be flexible and change in mid-stream when they have to. We will have to make a big stink when it’s not working to get the changes we want.”

Hank Iori, CB 14 member and community activist

“My major concern is with the size of the boats. They are going to fill up quickly and many locals won’t have a seat. The relief boats will be in the East River and it will take them an hour to get to Rockaway. Is anybody going to wait an extra hour after an overcrowded boat leaves without them?”

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder

“It’s exciting to see the citywide ferry plan move forward and bring Rockaway closer to having service again in 2017. In order to maximize ridership, we need to have as much access as possible to ensure the plan is successful and the city’s docks and shuttles benefit all our families. I look forward to working with the Economic Development Corporation to build on and improve this new draft impact statement so that we can create the best possible ferry service for Rockaway.”

Jonathan Gaska, District Manager for Community Board 14

“While we’re happy to have the ferry back, it’s disappointing that the EDC chose not to listen to the suggestions of Rockaway residents and electeds and will not implement any of those recommendations.”

John Cori, President of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association and CB 14 member

“Nothing surprises me about the EDC’s decision. It is evident that the whole citywide ferry plan is an election year scam perpetrated by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his economic development team. The mayor doesn’t seem to care if the Rockaway ferry is successful or not. The mayor is disgusting, a slime-ball sleaze who cares only for his reelection and not for the people he is supposed to serve. This is only an election year ploy. You’re going to see a hundred people standing on the dock, left there because the boat can’t handle the crowd. As for the shuttles, you’re going to see 150 people on line for a 50-seat bus. He better have multiple boats and multiple buses lined up, or the plan is going to fail and we will lose the ferry once and for all.”

Lew Simon, Democratic District Leader

“I am very upset that once again the EDC and the city have not listened to our comments and recommendations. I believe that all of our politicians and anybody who has ever ridden the ferry to get out and let the city know how we feel.  The EDC asked us for our input on the shuttle routes and where the stops should be and then they went ahead and did whatever they wanted to do. They turned down the earlier boat, needed by the construction workers, who have to be at work by 6 a.m. They really didn’t want to hear from us, but they had to by law. The way it is set up, it is doomed to fail.”

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Proposed plan calls for solar arrays from Riis Park to Far Rockaway; some on canopies, some on rooftops

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Clark Bruno speaks at the CB 14 committee meeting on Monday night, urging electric-generating solar arrays throughout peninsula, including covering the Riis Park parking lots with solar canopies.

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Solar canopies such as these would cover the Riis Park parking lots, providing shade as well as electricity. One local said he wanted to see them on the boardwalk as well.

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A small group of residents attended the meeting at the knights of Columbus on Monday night.

If a consortium of two electrical service companies has its way, Rockaway many one day be one big electrical generator from end to end.

A large sea cable that would bring 275 megawatts of power to Rockaway; a grid of solar canopies that would cover the entire Riis Park parking lot at the west end of the peninsula; solar arrays on rooftops of homes throughout Neponsit and Belle Harbor; city public housing buildings retrofitted to be more energy efficient; additions to the wastewater plant on Beach 108 Street that would provide both heat and power; solar panels covering a portion of the abandoned landfill on Beach 54 Street; new power alternatives at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital on Beach 19 Street and the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream topped off with solar arrays.

That’s the dream that might become a reality by the end of 2020, say Clark Bruno of Barrett Transmission and Dirk Van Ouwerkerk of Anbaric, who came to a meeting of the Community Board 14 economic development committee at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Monday night.

The plans outlined by the two men are an outgrowth of a request for proposals from PSEG/Long Island to create an energy grid that would be both “green” and sustainable in future storms.

Van Ouwerkerk came to a CB14 meeting at the Bayswater Jewish Center earlier in the year to push for a system of microgrids throughout the peninsula, but when the RFP was finally issued, it turned out that the massive utility wanted much more.

“The utility wants more than microgrids, it wants a large scale project that would help Rockaway’s quality of delivery and resiliency,” Ouwerkerk said. “[Anbaric] could not do that itself, so we reached out to our partners and Barrett has agreed to move its large sea transmission cable from central Long Island to Rockaway.” He said that the cable would connect to an existing substation on the peninsula. There are two – one at Beach 108 Street and the other in Bayswater.

Bruno said that “Rockaway is not sufficiently reliable right now, being in a power pocket. It does not meet federal standards, and that is a problem for local users.”

He added that the new transmission cable, which would bring “green” energy such as hydroelectric power and wind power, coupled with the new generating power of the amenities planned for Rockaway and the Five Towns, would provide for “clean and green” energy for the peninsula.

Bruno said there were three benefits to the plan.

In case a “black start” is needed when all power on the peninsula is out, the planned grid would repower the grid, but would also serve to keep the grid from going black in the first place.

The new system would be cleaner and more sustainable than the present electrical grid.

A large percentage of the electricity on the new grid would be from wind and hydro power as well as locally generated power.

The deadline for the RFP is May 13.

Shortly thereafter, responders will find out who will get the contract to address Rockaway’s needs.

Some of those on the committee expressed disagreement with the program, arguing that solar canopies have been problematic in other places and need heavy detail to keeping them operating. Others spoke about the cost to build the infrastructure and what that would mean to local ratepayers.

Board member Jon Cori suggested that solar canopies should be considered for the boardwalk, where they could provide shade as well as generate electricity.

Van Ouwerkerk said he liked the idea and it would be looked into.

Would electric rates go up, Bruno was asked.

“Electric rates will probably not go down,” he said in response to the question.

 

 

City puts hold on Far Rockaway foster care facility after Goldfeder’s complaint letter

 

 

1329 Cornaga

The proposed foster care center was set for 1329 Cornaga Avenue in Far Rockaway.

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Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder at a recent Rockaway Beach Civic Association meeting.

The proposed opening of a foster care facility on Cornaga Avenue in Far Rockaway by a controversial health provider will not move forward, thanks to efforts by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, officials say. Late last week, city officials announced the cancellation of an RFP awarded to SCO Family of Services, a foster care agency currently weathering numerous allegations of sexual abuse against staff and partners. 

“While we appreciate that the city has decided to revoke this proposal, it’s troubling that it would even be considered without proper input from the local community,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “What’s worse, the city appears to have put its own interests above the well-being of extremely vulnerable children. SCO Family of Services should not be considered for any future contracts so long as these deeply troubling cases remain pending and I will continue to work with community leaders to ensure the best for our children and families.” 

Last week, Assemblyman Goldfeder wrote to Mayor de Blasio calling on the city to halt plans by foster care agency SCO Family of Services (SCO) to open a new six-bed Agency Operated Boarding Home (AOBH) for youth at 1329 Cornaga Avenue. Goldfeder’s request was spurred by an April 11 letter from SCO to Queens Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska announcing the proposed facility.

In his letter to the Mayor, Goldfeder blasted the city for failing to engage the community board and local elected officials before deciding on the location. 

 Goldfeder also took the city to task for green-lighting the proposal amid numerous instances of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated by SCO employees and foster care partners. In March, a Suffolk County foster parent was charged in a 17-count indictment relating to the abuse of at least seven boys referred by SCO over the course of nearly two decades. Just weeks later, a $5.1 million civil suit was filed against SCO by the mother of a 14-year-old girl with special needs that was allegedly abused by an employee at an SCO-supervised facility. 

 Both cases coincide with reports that the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is currently investigating SCO as a result of the allegations. Citing the April 11th letter, in which SCO mentions its collaboration with ACS, Goldfeder urged the Mayor to intervene and delay the home’s opening until “all pending litigation is resolved and SCO has put in place all necessary mechanisms to safeguard children in its care.” 

 Responding to the Assemblyman’s request, SCO informed The Wave that the city cancelled the home’s RFP, adding that it would redesign and issue a new RFP. However, no further details were provided, Goldfeder said.

In the meantime, Goldfeder is renewing calls for greater transparency from city officials, adding that the community should be involved in the decision process and have the chance to review potentially troubling agreements before they are approved. 

 “Here in southern Queens and Rockaway, we have some of the greatest civic organizations in the entire city. No one is better at putting the community’s best interests first and that’s why they should be involved from the very beginning,” concluded Goldfeder. “This will help keep families safe and ensure that any new institution benefits the community and has our families’ best interests at heart.” 

 

 

Killer of Rockaway resident police officer says that confession was coerced

Dead Cop Guerra

Rockaway resident Dennis Guerra was a police officer in Coney Island when he died in a fire allegedly started by a teen who said he was “bored” when he started the fire. He now says that confession was coerced by police.

Marcell Dockery

Marcell Dockery originally said that he started the fire because he was bored. He is now on trial.

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Police officers, family and friends came to the deceased officer’s Wavecrest home the day after he died.

A Brooklyn teen who admitted to setting a mattress on fire out of boredom that lead to the death of an NYPD cop who lived in Wavecrest and seriously injured another police officer was coerced into giving the alleged confession, his attorney said Friday at the beginning of his trial.

Marcell Dockery, 18, is facing the rest of his life in prison for the murder of Rockaway resident PO Dennis Guerra and for seriously injuring Officer Rosa Rodriguez.

On April 6, 2014, Guerra and Rodriguez were returning to their Coney Island stationhouse after transporting prisoners to criminal court when they responded to a fire at 2007 Surf Avenue.

The partners took the elevator to the 13th floor where they were met with a fire, black-blinding smoke and soot.

“Officer Rodriguez tried to walk off to find the stairs, but her efforts were futile. She could barely breathe or barely talk.

Officer Guerra frantically called for backup.

The fire and smoke consumed and engulfed them into unconsciousness.

Three days later, Guerra died from his injuries and Rodriguez’s lungs were “so badly” damaged she may need a lung transplant and can no longer be a patrol officer.

On the day of the fatal fire, Dockery was allegedly hanging out in that hallway, knocking on neighbors’ doors as he waiting for a relative, who lived on that floor, to get home and let him into his apartment on the 12th floor, prosecutors said.

Dockery, who was 16 at the time, was spotted by two witnesses nearby the mattress before the fire.

On the first day of the trial, Dockery’s attorney Jesse Young declined to give an opening statement as a defense strategy, but told reporters outside of the courtroom that his client is innocent.

“Our position has always been that the alleged confession was false, not voluntary and not knowingly,” said Young.

Dockery turned down a 22-year plea bargain earlier this week. If convicted, Dockery faces 25 years to life for murder, arson, attempted murder and other charges.

The prosecutor disagreed.

“The evidence will show, they had no idea what was waiting for them,” said Assistant District Attorney Howard Jackson during his opening statements Friday in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

“You will hear Officer Guerra say, ‘Help! Help! Can’t breathe! 10-13,’” said Jackson as Guerra’s relatives sobbed in the gallery that was filled with at least 60 cops as well as Patrolmen’s

“You’ll hear from a fire marshal that will tell you that the fire was intentionally set as a result of arson,” said Jackson to the jury of six men and six women.

The alleged fire starter alerted the neighbors and his cousin that the fire was “out of control” and got them out of the building.

Later that evening, Dockery “voluntarily” went to the precinct, agreed to answer questions without an attorney and confessed.

“I started the fire…I was bored,” he allegedly told authorities in written, video and audiotaped statements.

Dockery also let the detectives know about his history of arsons, including a time where he spelled his name with rubbing alcohol in the bathtub and put it in flames.

 

 

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