2001-10-13 / Columnists

Sprayview Sticks and Stones

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

By Environmental Reporter Bernard Blum

Anyone around from the late ‘70’s early ‘80’s remembers the guy with the Coastal Zone Management Map of New York State (Me) going to meetings and unfolding it to show that Rockaway was entirely mapped in. "We need an LWRP," he would say. It’s a democratically conceived coastal waterfront revitalization program that is local (the L of the LWRP as opposed to City). But no one or the Community Board 14 picked up on it. Associated with the lobbying effort a number of proposals were conceived eg. Dubos Point at Beach 63rd and DeCosta Avenue in Arverne, Duke Kahanamoku Way at Beach 38th in Edgemere, Terrapin Point at Beach 75th and Amstell Boulevard, Matthew Henson Park in the vicinity of Duke Kahanamoku Way, and a Spryview Promenade or Chaney Schwerner Goodman Promenade – a setback to the natural northeastern high tide line (by aerial maps and observation of a series of beach fills that year eroded back in one winter storm cycle to the back edge of the boardwalk from Beach 26th to 39th street and then castles of little permanence. (Each fill is blocks long and 300 feet wide with a lot of sand eroded.)

Again few listened but the Chamber of Commerce – a strong power at the Community Board 14 – did OK the Duke Kahanamoku Way proposal and Councilman Walter Ward did get it passed back in 1984 unanimously through the City Council. (Such is an entrance to a surfing beach generated.)

The Duke was an Asian Pacific Islander who faired well in society – for his swimming and surfing skills – when other Asians were viewed differently. The set of proposals mentioned was assembled in a proposal to foster racial and religious harmony and presented to Queens Governance with little impact other than the Dubos Point and the Duke proposal. As noted the Dubos Point proposal "was kept a mosquito hatchery" for promoting bulldozing of topsoil and living vegetation and the Duke Kahanamoku Way proposal was also neglected by the Parks Department. His wife only wanted that his name be spelled correctly on any sign.

The city received about five and one half million dollars for planning waterfronts out of about 10 and a half million dollars to NYS from the Dept of Commerce of the USA under the Federal-State-City Coastal Programs.

For friends of Rockaway I reviewed the State and City waterfront programs (the city won an insert into the state) and the USEPA took charge of the review process. Overall, Rockaway got zilch and obviou8sly the powers that be could care less. When in the recent past a Jamaica Bay element of the City version of the city waterfront plan was reviewed at Community Board 14 I was not permitted to make a presentation unless submitting beforehand what was to be spoken. So much for Community Board antics and its "golf course vision of the coast". Hopefully the golf balls will float!

With this background in mind let us pray that more visionary minds are still out there to remember that Rockaway is coastal and not "golfal." The Duke – as he was called – is considered the Father of American Surfing and was a great swimmer. In 1912 he came to California from Hawaii and popularized surfing. Local historian Emil Lucev researched and noted he surfed and swam in Atlantic City in 1912 and was here also that year. Whether he swam or bodysurfed or used his board he was in Rockaway and one would think the neglect by locals is pathetic!

The Eastern Surfing Association came up with a name to promote the Friends of Rockaway and their view of waterfront-type recreation for Rockaway and its dream unfulfilled. Tom Senna, of the Surf Shop and a noted expert on surfing, supported the original proposal and the idea for a postage stamp. He says that there are other stamp ideas that he is connected with. If a Rockaway stamp is supported, there should be a ceremony here in Rockaway and other initiatives to stop the dumping of material in that area. Steve Cooper, the president of the Frank Avenue Civic Association, also approved the idea.

The Duke was a member of every American Olympic swim team from 1916 until 1928. He won the Gold Medal in the 100-yard free style in both 1912 and 1920. When Hawaii won statehood, the Duke became official greeter and ambassador at large. He was even elected as sheriff of Honolulu for nine consecutive terms. In Hollywood, he often appeared in movies as a Polynesian King because of this stature and good looks.

Go down to Beach 38 Street and lament Rockaway’s "many lost domes."

If the "Keeper of Mosquitoes," also known as Park’s Commissioner Henry Stern, were prevailed upon by local officials, there could be a street sign for the Rockaway Museum. It could be stored there until such time as a facility could be built there as part of the dedication. Present and future lifeguards might be attracted to the event. (To be continued next week).


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