2002-07-27 / Editorial/Opinion

Peninsula Residents Need Access To The Water

Peninsula Residents Need Access To The Water

The ticketing blitz directed at surfers who pursue the perfect wave at times when lifeguards are not on duty once again raises the entire question of fair access for Rockaway residents to the water that surrounds them. Many local residents live in Rockaway because the beach and the bay are nearby and they enjoy water-related activities such as boating, swimming, surfing and fishing – all legitimate pursuits for one who lives nearby the water. We have traveled to many locales around the world and the majority of those locales that are nearby water nurture the resource and make it available to residents and visitors alike. New York City does not, at least not in Rockaway or Broad Channel. Take a close look, and you will find that most of the bayfront is off limits to use because that area, we are told, is "environmentally fragile." It does not appear to be fragile when the Department of Environmental Conservation wants to dump millions of gallons of raw sewage into the bay, as it will again shortly or when the Army Corps of Engineers wants to dump toxic sludge into "borrow pits" at the east end of the bay. When a resident wants to build a dock or a bulkhead, however, it is a different story. Surfers cannot surf before or after beach hours because there are no lifeguards. They cannot surf during beach hours, because their activity is dangerous to swimmers and bathers. Personal watercraft is off limits to all but a truncated area along the shoreline. People cannot walk on the beach after 9 p.m., because the beach is a park that closes at that time. They cannot surf-cast on the beach. They cannot enjoy a nice bicycle ride with their kids on the boardwalk. The parking restrictions on the west end keep all but those who own homes in the area from accessing those beaches. Beaches are closed both because of Piping Plovers and by a lack of lifeguards. There is some talk that the Arverne By The Sea development will seek to keep the streets within their area "private" to those who live there and their guests, further reducing access to the ocean. Some compromises must be made, because both the water and visitors are important to Rockaway. The city and the state must open the bayfront to legitimate water-related use – more marinas, a pier, a launching area and a chance for homeowners who live on the bay to develop their own amenities. A surfing beach (or, better yet, a series of beaches) should be set aside for a "surf at your own risk" experience that should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The parking restrictions should be modified. The city should provide for the opening of all of Rockaway’s beaches. Water-related activities should become the norm rather than the curiosity. We live on the water, we should be able to reap the benefits rather than being punished for trying to enjoy our most important resource.

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