2001-07-07 / Front Page

$4 Million Riis Pool:

$4 Million Riis Pool:

Maybe Yes, Maybe No

By Howard Schwach

It all depends on which of the following leads you believe.

This one:

"Hillary (Clinton) and Chuck (Schumer) want New Yorker’s to be able to enjoy a day at the beach."

"They announced last week that they’ve earmarked $4.13 million in federal funds toward fixing up Jacob Riis Park on the Rockaway peninsula." (New York Daily News, July 2).

Or, this one:

"US Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton (Representative Tony Weiner was included as well) today announced that $4.4 million from the National Park Service construction budget has been included in the fiscal year 2002 Appropriations Interior Subcommittee bill for a new pool at Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway, which has served as a public beach and recreation area for millions of New Yorkers since 1932."

(Charles Schumer Press Release, July 2).

The differences in the two news stories might seem slight, but how they are interpreted, and how the House and Senate Conference Committee writes the final allocation might make the difference between Riis Park getting a state-of-the art pool or the park getting a fence around the bathhouse and lots of cleaning supplies.

"We put in the money for a swimming pool," Congressman Charles Schumer told The Wave last Monday. "We want a pool and we will get up and say in Congress that the money is for a pool."

Unfortunately, Schumer admits, the National Park Service, the organization that administers the park, wants to use the money for reconstruction purposes. He also says that Congress has no control over the money once it is allocated unless the Conference Committee, made up of members of both the House and the Senate, specifically write the pool into its bill.

"If the conference bill is ambiguous in any way, they the NPS can go ahead and spend the money any way they want," an expert told The Wave. A spokesperson for the Park Service told the Daily News, "The new money will go to sprucing up the park. On the to-do list is the restoration of some of the 1930’s buildings in the park, including a bathhouse. Also on the planning board is a new beachfront restaurant and a small amphitheater in the west courtyard area."

Billy Garrett, the general superintendent for the park was unavailable for comment, but a call by The Wave to the National Park Service elicited the information that "Representative Weiner is handling all of the queries on this issue."

Weiner says only that "it is a clear victory that the $4 million was allocated for Riis Park. Now we have to hold our breath and hope that the language in the Conference Committee version of the bill will make it clear that the money is unambiguously money for a pool."

Debate on the allocation will be held just prior to Congress’ mid-August break.

Even though Schumer says that it is 95 percent certain that the allocation will pass, it is not as clear that the money will then be used for a pool.

"We do not tell the service how to spend each penny," he says, "but we will make it clear that we expect a pool for the money."

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