2001-07-28 / Front Page

Plan For DWI Impound Lot Put On Hold After Community Opposition

Plan For DWI Impound Lot Put On Hold After Community Opposition

By Howard Schwach

A plan that would place a 2,400 car impound lot in the northeast corner of the Riis Park parking lot has "been put on hold until an analysis of the impact of the plan on the park and the community can be completed," according to Mark Koeninings, the General Superintendent of Gateway National Park.

The plan, which came to light only earlier this week, had drawn the opposition of many community groups and residents throughout the Rockaway peninsula.

Koeninings told The Wave that the details of the plan, which were still being negotiated between the National Park Service, which owns the parking lot and the New York City Corporation Counsel, was slated be in place as soon as the second week in August. Under the plan, up to 2,400 cars impounded by the New York City Police Department from drivers who have been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs would be parked in the area nearest the overpass and the connector between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach Channel Drive. The NYPD would then have erected a fence around that section of the parking lot and would have provided a mobile office for security purposes.

The plan had angered many local politicians and community leaders.

"To my mind, this parking plan is just something else that the city is dumping on Rockaway," says Liz Sulik, the president of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce. "This does not flatter the federal government, that they would even think of using our national park land for parking impounded cars."

Representative Anthony Weiner, who has often fought what he has called "intrusions" in the park, said that his general feeling is that "this is a non-park use and each of these uses make it easier to bring in other non-park uses."

Weiner told The Wave that he planned to send a letter to the park’s superintendent, Billy Garrett, asking him to "postpone indefinitely the plan to place an impound lot in Riis Park until the community has a chance to have its say."

It was not clear at press time whether or not Gateway officials had seen Weiner’s letter and responded to it by delaying the plan.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer agreed with Weiner.

"I am opposed to the proposal because an impound lot is not the proper use for a national park," Pheffer says. ‘New York City has not traditionally been a friend to Rockaway and we have not even seen a formal presentation about what Gateway will get out of the lot."

"They can promise us anything," she added, "and then they will impound the cars and drive them over the bridge and dump them on Rockaway. We never get what we want from the city and now we get an impound lot."

Billy Garrett, superintendent of the Jamaica Bay Unit, differs. He thinks that the plan will do nothing to harm either the community or the park.

"The city approached us with a request for a permit," Garrett says. "We did not see that using such a small part of the parking lot would have any adverse effect on the park of the community."

The parking lot holds 9,000 cars. Garrett says that, "on a good day" the lot draws upwards of 3,000 vehicles.

"Those 2,400 slots would have no effect on the availability of parking for those who use the beach or the park," he says.

The superintendent added that the revenue generated from the impound parking slots would assist the park administration in "fixing up all of those things that people complain need fixing."

"Twenty percent of the revenues go to the general federal budget," he says, "while the other 80 percent will be used to fix up the park."

"That will jump-start some of the projects we really want to complete," he added.

According to Koeninings, the plan is not dead, "just delayed until after the analysis."

There was no indication of whom would do the analysis or how long it would take. He estimated, however, that it "would take at least a month and probably longer.

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