City Luminaries Descend on Bayswater–for an Hour or So

Those on the Mayor's Right-Hand--Doherty, Bruno, Farley & Parvizi

Well, the Mayor and his entourage of city agency heads came—and went.   An impressive array of bigwigs stretched across the dais—about 30 in all.  Seeing these individuals in a group makes you realize that women are well-represented in the Mayor’s cabinet, but African-Americans are not, given their population numbers in the city.  The header photo above shows some of the Mayor’s most important “right-hand guys” of the moment–Commissioners John Doherty of Sanitation, Joe Bruno of the Office of Emergency Management, and Tom Farley of Health and Mental Hygiene, all of whom sat immediately to the right of the podium.  To Farley’s right (just next to the podium) is Commissioner Nazli Parvizi of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.

The Mayor With Important Agency Heads of the Moment

My urge to gawk was completely satisfied by the experience of squeezing into the room at the Bayswater Jewish Center on the evening of Monday, January 24, with about 350 other residents.

Event Commences

Everyone important was there, from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to the new Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black. The event was tightly choreographed by the Bayswater Civic, with less than ten questions having been pre-selected for the Mayor and his agency heads. Topics included:

Concern about the closing of high schools like Far Rockaway and Beach Channel—we got the expected pat answer about how low the graduation rates have been, and how the new schools on the campuses are doing better.  The Mayor added his mea culpa that “yes, we can do better on community engagement.”  Then, they moved on to the next question. Quickly, so Cathie Black wouldn’t get a chance to stumble by commenting on birth control or some other politically incorrect solution…

A missing guardrail near Norton Basin in Bayswater was brought up, and the answer from Transportation Commissioner Maura McCarthy was that it had already been looked at earlier in the day, and the problem would be rectified in short order…

Clogged catch basins at a specific location were mentioned; Commissioner Cas Holloway said DEP would respond by tasking the appropriate local staff person for follow-up…

The adequacy of emergency evacuation plans for the Rockaways was questioned; Hizzoner referred us to the OEM website to read the plan (without acknowledging that the plan is, of course, inadequate).  If summer weekend visitors can back up both Flatbush Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard with bumper-to-bumper traffic on occasion, imagine what it would be like to try to get 130,000 or more people to safety at Aqueduct or Brooklyn College, almost exclusively via private automobile.   Yes, we WILL need ferries to evacuate this many people…

The S.R.O. Event Filled the Big Room at Bayswater Jewish Center

The mosquito problem in Bayswater was lamented, and the Mayor joked that he could assure us that it was not a problem as of today.  That got a chuckle from the audience.  Health Commissioner Thomas Farley explained the basics of when and how the city decides to eradicate mosquito larvae…      

Another query was odd; a senior who wanted to volunteer her time and talents with local youth asked these city agency heads for guidance on how to do so.  Are you kidding?  These people don’t read my columns in The Wave about the many volunteer groups operating effectively on the Peninsula?  The people on the panel (except for Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, filling in for Adrian Benepe, who got a waiver on attendance, for some reason) spend their days in Manhattan, and are probably almost completely clueless on what’s happening on the ground in Rockaway…   

A comment about the reduction of traffic lanes on Beach Channel Drive to accommodate bikes touched the raw nerve of the night.  Overt hostility reared its ugly head.  I’m always so embarrassed to be an outer borough resident when discussions turn to this topic, and I feel so out of step with my bike-bashing neighbors’ views.  Transportation Commissioner McCarthy was practically booed when she spoke of “traffic calming” that had resulted from the lanes. The audience wasn’t buying it.  The agency heads seated on the dais seemed to visibly recoil at the audience reaction.  I vividly recall being verbally attacked at this very location at a city council candidates’ forum about two years ago when I dared to speak of the health benefits of bike riding.  Based on these two data points, I’ve decided that the Bayswater area must be “Ground Zero” for Rockaway opponents of bike lanes.  After all, Howie Schwach (bike-basher in chief) apparently used to be a board member of the Bayswater Civic…    

There was a question about the problems with crime in the housing projects.  The questioner directed it specifically at the standards for people being admitted to public housing, and the agency head said that background checks are routinely required of all applicants.  I was surprised to learn that this much care and attention are expended… 

The most disappointing moment for me was to hear the Mayor praise Jay Walder and the job being done by the MTA.  I was shocked that he wasn’t heckled on that one, given the abomination that IS public transit operating out of Rockaway… 

The Mayor was NOT questioned about ferry service for Rockaway, nor was he asked about the devastating reimposition of the bridge toll.  Like I said, a carefully choreographed litany of queries.  Minor problems fixed.  Major issues ignored.  So it goes.

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About rockviv

You've entered the cyber-locale of Vivian Rattay Carter, a writer, teacher, advertising representative, and licensed sightseeing guide. I've lived and worked in the New York metro area since 1979, in diverse places like Astoria and Rockaway Beach (Queens), Kensington and Windsor Terrace (Brooklyn), Grand Street and Tribeca (Manhattan), and Norwood, Riverdale and Woodlawn (The Bronx). I treasure the amazing parks, civic architecture, and cultural institutions of our city, and love the inspiring stories of the outer borough pioneers. What an interesting apple this is!
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