Saturday, October 5, 2013

Rockaway’s Tale of Two Cities Under Bloomberg: Health Care vs. Bike Lanes

Norm in The Wave - School Scope, published Oct. 4, 2013

I wrote this Tuesday morning, Oct. 1 right before I went out to vote for Tish James. I had submitted the column to the writers group I belong to for comment later that evening and while they thought this was some of my better work, they made some suggestions, which I am incorporating for the Ed Notes version.

Rockaway’s Tale of Two Cities Under Bloomberg: Health Care vs. Bike Lanes
By Norm Scott

When it comes to health care, is Rockaway Mogadishu? WNYC reported, “The relief group Doctors of the World, which operates in war torn nations like Syria, Mali and Somalia is opening its first U.S. clinic, in the Rockaways. The organization provided aid immediately following Sandy and decided to set up a brick and mortar medical clinic in Rockaway Beach, Queens….The Rockaways stretches for 11-and-a-half miles, but there are few medical facilities. There's St. John’s Episcopal Hospital at Beach 19th Street and Joesph Addabbo Family Health Center on 62nd that serve a large elderly and vulnerable population.”

More hospitals have closed under 12 years of Bloomberg than under any other administration. Locally, if you compare the state of Rockaway healthcare with the number of bike lanes, you get a good idea about priorities. Bloomberg should have put Transportation Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan in charge of health. We could have bike lanes in the corridors of every hospital.

It’s not all bad news when it comes to Rockaway health care: Got a hangnail emergency? Or a smudge on your nail polish? Find a nail salon on almost every corner. Ahhh, the benefits of free market capitalism.

I know my free market pals out there may think it is not the responsibility of government to provide basic health care services – or much of anything else. If every hospital and health service in Rockaway were to close down, we would get a “not my problem, let the market decide” shrug from the powers that be.

I know boardwalks and flood insurance issues are on everyone’s minds. But think of the entire sordid story around the closing of Peninsula Hospital and all the other health care scams being pulled by so many forces. The WNYC story reported, “Noah Barth… the program coordinator for the charity said while Doctors of the World usually operates in distressed parts of the world, it was clear that residents of the Rockaways had severe medical needs.” Barth said, "We saw a lot of people with upper respiratory tract infections, a lot of people that went months without seeing a doctor that just needed routine stuff. Now you're starting to see the setting in of post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, depression.” I know one person facing post-traumatic stress disorder: a billionaire egomaniac mayor about to lose his bully pulpit.

“You’re advocating for the wrong things,” a good friend said to me recently, pointing to my work in the education wars and in defense of teachers. “You should advocate for your community.” What exactly is my community? My house? My block? Belle Harbor? The West End of Rockaway? All of Rockaway? There are many levels of parochialism. If you own a home (as I do) do homeowners’ interests get priority? Or do renters count? Do poor people gain entry into our concept of “community?” An estimated 21% of Rockaway residents do not have health insurance. Has anyone besides a doctors’ charity based in France noticed? I don’t have to tell anyone in Rockaway we have been living a tale of two cities here for a very long time.

Doctors of the World is hoping to get the free clinic on 102nd St. opened before the first anniversary of Sandy in a few weeks. In the absence of a city government plan to support adequate health care in every part of the city, having a French-based charity come to our rescue is very welcome.

I am writing this just before going out to vote for Leticia James in the runoff for Public Advocate. So by the time you read this the election will be decided. I was disappointed that Phil Goldfeder is/was supporting her opponent, Daniel Squadron. In his first campaign for office I ran into Phil outside Waldbaums and told him I expected to be disappointed in him on education issues like closing schools, charters, testing etc.

I do support him on general issues though I still haven’t made a judgment about where he really stands on ed deform. By endorsing the charter lobby-funded Squadron over James, who has stood up to big-chain charter invasions while Squadron has played politics, Goldfeder is making a statement on education deform – a disappointing statement. He is also making a statement on unions, which are mostly supporting James. I know, I know – he must show some fealty to Chuck Schumer and all the other special interests backing Squadron if he wants to get ahead. But still… James as a black woman lawyer from Brooklyn who has a proven record in the City Council, will be/would have been (depending on the results) a boon for all of the Rockaways, west and east ends – and the very growing and increasingly active middle. Once again, Rockaway – A Tale of Two Cities. Or maybe three.

Norm blogs at

The WNYC story is here.

Here's more on the clinic from DOTW:

Free Healthcare Clinic to Open in Rockaway

Doctors of the World USA will be providing free health care access from a clinic in Rockaway Park. The organization, which has offered services around the community since Hurricane Sandy hit, recently leased a property at 2-30 Beach 102nd Street, which will become a health clinic sometime in the next few months.

The nonprofit organization signed the lease at the end of July. This would be the first domestic project and flagship presence for Doctors of the World USA in the country. The clinic will offer primary medical services by experienced medical professionals to the community free of charge. It will be open three days a week, with hours that will accommodate working adults and families.

“The Doctors of the World Rockaways Free Clinic is about more than helping the community recover from Sandy,” Henry E. Chang, Executive Director of Doctors of the World USA said. “It’s about ensuring that communities like this one are prepared for eventualities of all kinds, from personal health crises to major disasters.”

Doctors of the World was in Rockaway within a few days after Hurricane Sandy, providing emergency health care to residents. They have been providing home visits ever since, but now they are looking to make a more permanent move by opening a clinic.

“Doctors of the World’s policy looks toward longer term solutions to problems, not just emergency care,” Noah Barth, Doctors of the World Program Coordinator said. “In the course of the work after the storm, it became clear that there was a long-term need and long-term desire for it.”

The move towards a permanent clinic is being done as there is a lack of healthcare services on the peninsula, with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital being the only remaining hospital in the community. “Residents have expressed a need for services. In general, Rockaway has such a shortage of healthcare services available,” Barth said.

The clinic will be free and will particularly target those who lack medical insurance, including the undocumented population. “Doctors of the World believes strongly in the principle that healthcare is a fundamental right,” Barth said.

The organization is looking for volunteers and they are recruiting pediatricians and psychiatrists in particular. Those interested in becoming a volunteer can visit or email

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