A Happy Thanksgiving, thanks to local volunteers and churches

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All photos by Theresa Racine for onrockaway.com

By Theresa M Racine

 Thanksgiving is a time where families and friends get together to celebrate a time of to give thanks for their blessings.

But, for some, it’s a time to give back some of the blessings they feel they already have. And for others they are searching for a great meal and some wonderful fellowship with total strangers.

Onrockaway.com’s first stop to check out some Thanksgiving giving was with a group called Rock and Wrap it Up, a non-profit organization that was formed by Syd Mandelbaum in 1994. The group was giving out Thanksgiving dinner at St. John’s the Baptist Church when we caught up with them.

Mandelbaum has more than 600 volunteers who work worldwide with his organization. Several people who work with him says he is an amazing, humble man.

At St. John’s, he was busy making sure everyone had a meal and felt welcomed. Everyone was treated like royalty and volunteers served the dinner with curtesy and compassion, those who attended said.

One senior citizen at the church said that she has been coming to this event every year because it made her feel special.

Another senior citizen said, “We come because there’s really nothing for people to do as we age here we can meet people and have an amazing meal.”

A young woman with three children said, “My family never celebrates like this.” She was invited by a worker in the rockaways and was very happy she came, also said she felt so special. People went home with food, and sweets and treats and bread

The next stop was St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish. They have been holding their thanksgiving event in the rockaways for 10 years. This event hosted 200 or more people. With no advertisement. The man who runs this wanted to withhold his name for he said, “This day is about the people about seeing people who have nothing to feel a sense of belonging. Having a good healthy meal and just being blessed. I spoke to a family of 7. Gabriel Rodriguez and his wife has been coming for four years.  They were happy there was event like this one, what they love the most is that people would give back what they have, that to Him was a blessing to see and it was nice.



Commentary: Trump’s Education Commissioner pick wants to destroy public education, and that’s not hyperbole


Betsy DeVos, pictured with President-Elect Donald Trump, has used her family’s fortune to push for school vouchers, charter schools, therapy for gays. And, she has a decided antipathy to public schools. She will be the new Secretary of Education under Trump.

By Howard Schwach

Commentary from onrockaway.com

 Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, has spent her entire life and her family fortune on destroying public education and monetizing education for the benefit of her billionaire friends. She has also spent millions on denigrating gays and transgender citizens while trying to defeat same-sex marriage.

That sounds like hyperbole, but it is not. It is fact.

I have often written that public education is the touchstone of our democracy. If kids or all races and religions are not brought together for their school years, they will never understand each other and democracy will suffer.

There is a broad consensus in America that public schools must be protected, despite the fact that many are struggling to fulfill their core mission of educating all children.

Perhaps Trump and DeVos don’t understand that mission. After all none of their kids ever went to public schools. Why would they want their kids going to school with “them?”

Look at DeVos’ record.

In 2000, DeVos and her husband bankrolled a multimillion-dollar ballot initiative to create school vouchers in Michigan. When voters overwhelmingly voted against the initiative, which would have taken money from public schools and given it instead to parents who could have used it for tuition to parochial schools, segregated schools, racist schools, or any other school they wanted to send their kids to.

When the initiative failed, they couple began to pour their millions into for-profit charter schools run by their billionaire hedge fund manager friends.

Published reports called Michigan the “wild west of charter schools” when many closed without warning and others failed to educate their students.

Last spring, DeVos and her husband poured more money into defeating a bill that would have provided oversight of the state’s charter schools.

The editorial board of the Detroit Free Press called the move “a filthy, moneyed kiss to the charter school industry at the expense of kids who’ve been victimized by those schools’ unaccountable inconsistency.”

In addition, her family has funded campaigns against marriage equality and has pushed for so-called gay therapy efforts.

Recently, DeVos wrote in the Capital Hill newspaper, Roll Call, that her family is the largest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee and that she has “decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point … We do expect something in return.”

Trump has long pushed for school vouchers, something that many believe will destabilize public schools and therefore destabilize democracy.

The choice of DeVos flies in the face of Trump’s contention that he is going to “drain the swamp” of million dollar donors making legislative decisions in Congress.

It would be hard to find a better representative of the “donor class” than DeVos, whose family has been allied with Charles and David Koch for years. Betsy, her husband Richard, Jr. (Dick), and her father-in-law, Richard, Sr., whose fortune was estimated by Forbes to be worth $5.1 billion, have turned up repeatedly on lists of attendees at the Kochs’ donor summits, and as contributors to the brothers’ political ventures.

In 2010, Charles Koch described Richard DeVos, Sr., as one of thirty-two “great partners” who had contributed a million dollars or more to the tens of millions of dollars that the Kochs planned to spend in that year’s campaign cycle.

While the DeVoses are less well known than the Kochs, they have played a similar role in bankrolling the rightward march of the Republican Party. Starting in 1970, the DeVos family, which is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, began directing at least two hundred million dollars into funding what was then called “The New Right.” The family supported conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation; academic organizations such as the Collegiate Studies Institute, which funded conservative publications on college campuses; and the secretive Council on National Policy, which the Times called “a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.” The Council’s membership list, which was kept secret, included leaders of the Christian right, such as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Phyllis Schlafly, and anti-tax and pro-gun groups. Richard DeVos, Sr., liked to say that it brought together “the doers and the donors.”

In 1980, the DeVos family contributed heavily to the election of Ronald Reagan, and DeVos, Sr., was named the finance chair of the Republican National Committee. Two years later, he was removed, after calling the brutal 1982 recession a “cleansing process,” and insisting that anyone who was unemployed simply didn’t want to work.

That same year, DeVos and his Amway co-founder, Jay Van Andel, were charged with criminal tax fraud in Canada. Eventually, Amway pleaded guilty and paid fines of twenty-five million dollars, and the criminal charges against DeVos and his partner were dropped. Despite these incidents, the DeVos clan remained a major political force. “There’s not a Republican president or presidential candidate in the last fifty years who hasn’t known the DeVoses,” said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.



Gun thug plugs round through window of Far Rockaway bakery


One shot was fired through the window of the Chapines Bakery and Coffee Shop in a Far Rockaway shopping strip last Friday evening.

An unidentified gun thug plugged a shot through the window of a Far Rockaway bakery and coffee shop right down the street from the 101 Precinct on November 25, police sources say.

The Chapines Bakery and Coffee Shop, located at 1858 Cornaga Avenue, in a small strip mall made up of mostly Orthodox Jewish businesses, was still open on Friday night at about 8:15 p.m. when the shot was fired through the window.

Police say that several customers were in the store ordering food when the shot splintered the window. Nobody was hit.

Store workers called 911 and police officials called a level one mobilization, bringing police from the strategic response unit to the scene for a search of the area.

Detectives from the 101 Precinct are investigating.

Crime wave of grand larceny incidents continue into December


Captain Timothy Morgan, the executive officer of the 100 Precinct in Rockaway Park (left) and his operations lieutenant told the community council in early November that the number of grand larceny incidents had grown, warning local residents to take better care of their possessions. Despite the warning, the numbers continue to grow into December.

The grand larceny crime wave in the west end of Rockaway continues into December.

At the November meeting of the 100 Precinct Community Council, Captain Timothy Morgan, the precinct’s executive officer told local residents that grand larceny incidents were up 19.8 percent for the year and 90 percent for the last 28 day period. Last year for the period ending in the second week of November, there were no grand larceny incidents in the precinct. This year, there have been seven during the same period.

The statistics released by the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information show that those frightening figures continue.

For the 28 day period ending on November 27, grand larceny incidents rose 214% over the same period in 2015. Last year, there were seven grand larceny incidents during that period in comparison with 22 the same period this year.

In fact, grand larceny is also up in the neighboring 101 Period, more than 200 percent in the last week.

Captain Morgan blames the rise in the west end on unlocked car doors, home doors, garages and delivered packages unattended on west end porches.

“We need the community’s help,” Morgan said at the early November meeting. “Trying to stop this is like shoveling sand against the tide. We need everybody to safeguard their property. Don’t leave car doors open, don’t leave garage doors and back doors unlocked. Don’t leave valuable property in direct view inside cars. Lock up bicycles out of view of the street. Help your neighbors out by reporting.”

Ulrich to host Rockaway Pearl Harbor remembrance on December 7


The iconic USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor still leaks oil 75 years after it was sunk by Japanese bombers on December 7, 1941.

Thanks to a local politician, the anniversary of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941 will not be forgotten in Rockaway this year.

At 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7, NYC Council Member Eric Ulrich will host a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The ceremony will take place at Memorial Circle, at Beach 120 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, where there is already an existing World War II memorial.

Local veterans and veterans groups are invited to attend, and the councilman’s staff expect to have veterans from World War Two join them for the ceremony.  Council Member Ulrich will present NYC Certificates to those who served in World War Two as part of the ceremony.

 An American flag that flew over the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii earlier this year will be donated to the group that maintains Memorial Circle, to be flown over the grounds for the remainder of this year.

 Schools have been invited to send contingents to the ceremony and so far, Scholars’ Academy and St Francis de Sales school have committed to attending…

“I’ve spent the last week online looking through DOD records, old issues of the WAVE and the LI Press, and several individual sites to research the stories of the men who are memorialized at the location, and came up with some interesting stories, said Ulrich staffer Rob Schwach.

Some of what he found in his research:

 Louis Seideman was a POW who lived through the Bataan Death March only to die when he was transferred back to japan later in the war. He and his family owned a gas station on Beach 116 Street.

Henry Dehnert lived on Beach Channel Drive near Beach 116 Street. He was killed in battle and is buried in the Netherlands. His father was an original Boston Celtic player and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, famous for popularizing the “pivot” play.

 Austin Kelly lived on Beach 130 Street and took part in the battle of Guadalcanal. He is still listed as Missing in Action.

Local attorney awarded by Queens District Attorney


Belle Harbor native Carolynn P. Fitzgerald (second from left) receives the Hal Weinstein Award from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown (behind lectern) as Supreme Court Justice Jeremy Weinstein (right) and Lloyd Weinstein (right).

A Belle Harbor attorney who works as a prosecutor for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has won a prestigious award from the DA.

 Brown announced on Tuesday that Assistant District Attorney Carolynn P. Fitzgerald has been named the recipient of the office’s twenty-fifth annual Hal Miller Weinstein Memorial Award.

 The award is given each year in honor of former Assistant District Attorney Hal Miller Weinstein who died tragically in a car accident on Seagirt Boulevard in Far Rockaway during his first year as a newly appointed prosecutor.

  Brown said, “The award is presented each year to one or more of our first year class assistants who most exemplifies and embodies Hal Weinstein’s exceptional spirit, his boundless enthusiasm and deep commitment to public service. Hal was a personally engaging young man who touched the lives of many of us here in this office.  His warmth and friendship were felt by all of us who had the privilege and honor of knowing him. The professionalism and career promise demonstrated by Carolynn Fitzgerald over the past year, as well as her deep commitment to the office, truly exemplified those personal qualities representative of Hal Weinstein.”

  In a ceremony held on Monday in the District Attorney’s third-floor conference room, the District Attorney presented the award to Fitzgerald.

  Among those present at the ceremony was the late Assistant District Attorney’s uncle, Queens Supreme Court Justice Jeremy S. Weinstein, Administrative Judge of the Civil Term of the Queens Supreme Court and his brother, Lloyd, who is also an attorney.   Also in attendance were members of the Class of 2015, as well as the Executive Staff of the District Attorney’s Office.

  Assistant District Attorney Fitzgerald obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of the Holy Cross in 2012 and received her Juris Doctorate degree from St. John’s University School of Law in 2015. As part of her internship with the Queens District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Bureau she prosecuted misdemeanor cases as an assistant district attorney (under a special practice order).  She also previously interned with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Corporation Counsel for the City of Long Beach and for the Law Office of Greenberg & Greenberg.  In addition, Ms. Fitzgerald interned at the New York City Fire Department’s Counseling Service Unit.

  Assistant District Attorney Fitzgerald is presently assigned to the District Attorney’s Kew Gardens I Trial Bureau.


Feds will measure wind force, direction, wave movement off Rockaway shoreline in advance of windfarm


Two LIDAR buoys such as this one will soon be placed off the Rockaway shoreline to measure wind and waves in advance of a planned windfarm off our shores.


The windfarm is planned for the triangular area off the shore of Rockaway and Long Beach.

The new metal objects floating off the shore of Rockaway and Long Beach will not be debris left over from some storm, but state-of-the-art technology designed to measure wind direction and intensity in advance of a possible wind farm in the area.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) took another step to advance offshore wind development off the south shore of Long Island by seeking comments on a draft plan to measure wind speed and ocean waves at the federal ocean site on which it plans to bid on December 15.

Offshore wind is critical to the state’s ambitious Clean Energy Standard to responsibly secure 50 percent of its electricity supply from renewable sources by 2030, which supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision.

The draft plan, called MetOcean, calls for the use of Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) technology mounted on two buoys to obtain wind and wave data. Accurate wind speed and direction measurements are critical to predicting offshore wind energy production potential at the site, and ocean waves impact the cost of building offshore wind facilities. The buoys are expected to be in place for 12 to 24 months with the associated data to be made available for public use. This data will provide developers and their funders with confidence to finance development of an offshore wind area, reducing uncertainty and project costs.

NYSERDA is requesting feedback on its plan from offshore wind energy developers, consultants, financiers, scientists, regulators and other stakeholders. Comments are due by December 15, 2016.

“Now more than ever, New York State is leading on clean energy development and combating climate change,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “If NYSERDA wins the bid for this ocean site, we will ensure offshore wind in New York is developed responsibly, competitively and most cost-effectively for consumers, we will actively protect the environment, and we will balance the needs of all constituents and stakeholders, including coastal communities and fishing and maritime industries.”

At a recent stakeholder meeting, NYSERDA received encouragement for its plans to bid on the 79,000-acre wind energy site in the lease auction to be administered by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. NYSERDA will incorporate extensive stakeholder outreach into offshore wind development decisions.

Not everybody is happy about the coming wind farm, however. The Coast Guard issued a report earlier this year that pinpointed its concerns about a wind far off the south shore.

The Coast Guard report said large-area wind-farms have the potential to alter current shipping lanes, driving ships potentially closer together, farther offshore or closer to shallower, in-shore areas. “As wind farms are developed, vessel traffic will be displaced and may also be funneled into smaller areas, increasing vessel density with a concurrent increase in risk of collision, loss of property, loss of life, and environmental damage,” the report stated.

Several charting maps listed with the report show dense vessel traffic in busy shipping lanes in a narrowing triangle where the Long Island Power Authority, other state agencies and Con Edison proposed a wind farm around 19 miles off the shore of the eastern end of Rockaway and Long Beach and extending eastward.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority became the lead state agency pursuing a lease for the 81,000 acres off the south shore of Long Island. NYSERDA said it “looks forward to working with the [Coast Guard] as it continues to evaluate potential navigational safety risks in the New York” wind-energy area.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Katie Braynard told Newsday that the agency’s “primary considerations are whether the presence of a wind farm will impede the conduct of Coast Guard missions and the safety of navigation and protection of the structure.”

She said the Coast Guard will evaluate placement of wind turbines off Long Island and make recommendations to BOEM that “could include downsizing the area.”

The large wind farm eyed for 81,000 acres off Long Beach and the Rockaways was initially proposed in 2008, with Con Edison and New York Power Authority. Fishing groups generally oppose it because of its location in a prime area for squid, scallops and other fish.

The Coast Guard study also found that “in many cases proposed wind-energy areas, if fully developed, would displace tugs and barges, forcing them to transit further inshore or offshore from their traditional routes.”

Larger, deep-hull vessels “appear to have less of a conflict with proposed wind energy areas” because they tend to sail in deeper waters. But conflicts “will occur at the entrances to major port areas where wind farms are proposed at or near harbor approaches.”

The study says that if those wind farms were sited “farther offshore, and away from port entrances, conflicts will be less of a navigation safety risk issue.”

Rockaway residents will not be seeing offshore turbines anytime soon, however. The process of planning the wind farm, which could take several years, involves environmental assessment, an auction, further assessments of the site and construction plans, and an environmental impact report. Much of the planning is also submitted to the public for comment.

In its proposal, the Power Authority said the site could host 194 wind turbines, each generating 3.6 megawatts for a total possible yield of 700 megawatts — or, enough to provide electricity to nearly 300,000 homes.



Parking fee at ferry landing becomes issue at CB 14 meeting


The parcel of land owned by National Grid was once a coal gasification plant. Plans are to use it for ferry parking, but motorists will have to pay a fee to use it.


One of the new ferry boats under construction at a Louisiana boatyard.


A model of the new ferry boats to be used on the Rockaway commuter run was unveiled at the recent CB 14 meeting.

The Rockaway commuter ferry plan is moving forward towards a summer of 2017 launch, but a number of locals continue to complain that the plan has problems and may even be designed to fail.

The feelings of distrust between the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the city agency moving the plan forward and locals was only exacerbated on Monday night when representatives of the city agency and Hornblower Yachts and Cruises, the company picked by the EDC to run the boats, met with members of Community Board 14’s Transportation Committee at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

There were four points of contention at the meeting, three of which have been heard many times previously – the daily schedule for the commuter boats, the route to be run by the free access shuttle bus and the passenger capacity. Committee leaders want the first boat in the morning to start its run earlier in the morning and want the boats used on the run, particularly in the summer, to carry more riders. In addition, many believe that the free shuttle service should run fully from one end of the peninsula to the other and to Broad Channel as well. The Rockaway service is the only one of the several planned routes citywide that includes a shuttle service to the terminal.

A new problem was introduced at the meeting. Community Board has continued to say that parking at the National Grid site across Beach Channel Drive from the ferry terminal would be free, as it was for the short time that a daily ferry service ran from that terminal after Sandy.

At the meeting, however, EDC officials announced that parking at the large National Grid site, once a liquid coal gasification plant, would cost a “nominal fee.”

According to EDC, the city has brokered a deal with the utility giant to use the lot and to pave it so that it will be compliant with federal regulations. The agreement calls for a fee to be charged those parking in the lot.

Danny Ruscillo, the co-chair of the committee reacted with anger to the announcement.

“There should be no fee for parking in the lot,” he said, adding that the EDC should ensure that only those using the ferry can park in the lot.

The worry was apparently that summer beach-goers would use the lot and then take the short two-block walk to the beach, reducing the number of slots for those actually using the ferry service.

Earlier in the month, officials from Hornblower and the New York City Economic Development Corporation toured the Horizon Shipyard facility and received an update on construction, which is on schedule, and inspected the first completed citywide ferry superstructure. 

The EDC said that the completion of the superstructure marks a significant milestone in what will become New York City’s first citywide ferry service and one of the largest commuter ferry operations in the United States

Hornblower’s CEO Terry MacRae, Senior Vice President and Citywide Ferry Project Manager Cameron Clark and NYCEDC Executive Vice President Seth Myers were among the officials on the tour led by Horizon Shipyard CEO Travis Short.  Also joining the tour was Chris Allard, the CEO of Metal Shark- the other shipyard building several of the 19 vessels.  Metal Shark is located in Jeanerette, Louisiana, about four hours west of Horizon Shipyard. Currently, eight boats are under construction at Horizon Shipyard and four boats are under construction at Metal Shark.

The boats for the Rockaway run have larger, more powerful engines and a higher freeboard than the boats built for the other city runs, officials said. That is due to the fact that the Rockaway boats have to run for a short time into the open ocean before entering New York Harbor while the boats for the other runs will be in the harbor at all times.

Two cops injured in tussle with emotionally disturbed woman


Police from the 101 Precinct confronted the emotionally disturbed woman at Beach Channel Drive and Hartman Lane in Bayswater. The building in the center of the photo is the Challenger Prep school.

Two patrol officers from the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway were injured on November 25 when they tangled with an emotionally disturbed woman at the corner of Beach Channel Drive and Hartman Lane in Bayswater, sources said.

The two officers responded to a call of a woman acting strangely at the Bayswater location at about 9:13 a.m.

When the police approached her, the unidentified woman grew agitated and then violent.

The woman had to be sedated by officers from the emergency services unit and EMS prior to being taken into custody.

She was transported to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.


Rockaway Beach man assaulted in what police are terming a ‘botched robbery’


The botched robbery and assault took place on Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Beach 86 Street, on the perimeter of the Hammel Houses and nearby stores.

A man was viciously attacked and beaten in Rockaway Beach on November 23 in what police are terming a botched robbery.

Police sources say that the unidentified male victim, 42-years-old, was approached from behind at Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 86 Street at approximately 2:30 a.m. and struck numerous times with a sharp instrument.

The assailant fled without any money or property, police say.

The 100 Precinct Detective Squad is investigating. Anybody with information should call the squad at 718-318-4233.

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