Beach Use Part of ‘Rhythm Of Rockaway’
Beach Use Part of
‘Rhythm Of Rockaway’
By Howard Schwach
A spate of meetings to discuss the problem of beach access have been held in the past weeks, drawing local politicians and community activists into an argument that previously existed only between the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct and those who used the beach "off hours."
The controversy began with what many residents choose to call a "blitz of tickets and C summons" issued by police officers from the 100 Precinct to those who were fishing from ocean jetties, surfing when no lifeguards were on duty or simply walking on the beach after the beach was "closed" at 9 p.m.
Captain Charles Talamo, the commanding officer of the precinct, is sure that the majority of the public wants it that way. In a statement to The Wave two weeks ago, Talamo said, "there are many people in the community who have requested that the police address quality of life issues that arise from the beach area," and that "complaints have been personally related to me by our residents through local elected officials, local civic associations via telephone, written correspondence and in person."
He added, "Officers from the 100 Precinct, at my insistence, aggressively police our neighborhoods, attacking the complete spectrum of public safety hazards from the most minor quality of life violations to the most serious felony."
At a recent meeting, called by Talamo, he told invitees such as Congressman Anthony Weiner, Community Board 14 District Manager Jon Gaska, Belle Harbor Property Owner’s Association President Barbara Larkin, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and City Councilman Joe Addabbo that there has been no ticket blitz against Rockaway residents, that only six tickets have been given out and that none of them were given to those who live in Rockaway.
Despite that, The Wave continues to get many, many calls and e-mails from residents who have been ticketed or who have been asked to leave the beach area.
Those calls include calls from people who were fishing, surfing, walking on the boardwalk and sitting on the beach on a hot evening.
Weiner thinks that there has to be a balance between "protection and at-own-risk behavior."
I am satisfied that there has not been a ticket blitz against residents," Weiner told The Wave. "Fishermen, surfers and early morning joggers have always been part of the rhythm of Rockaway."
"We have to deter the troublemakers, but we can’t make the beach safe 100 percent of the time."
Gaska says that the captain showed them statistics proving that the officers of the 100 Precinct targeted no Rockaway residents.
"The community made its point and the captain made his," Gaska says of the recent meeting. "He showed us some information and dispelled some urban rumors."
"Time will tell whether this meeting will resolve anything," the district manager added.
City Councilman Joe Addabbo, the chair of the council’s Parks Committee, was at the meeting as well. Addabbo says that calling the meeting was a "smart thing to do, because it was the first time that everybody concerned was called together to discuss the problem."
Despite Addabbo’s optimism, a number of people involved with surfing groups and members of the Rockaway Park community were unhappy because nobody representing those constituencies was invited to the meeting.
Addabbo also attended an earlier meeting with an organization calling itself the Ocean Sports Committee. That group made several proposals to Addabbo that he will take to Adrian Benepe, the Parks Commissioner, when they meet.
Addabbo says that the proposals that he will bring to the Commissioner include extending the lifeguard hours on all of Rockaway’s beaches, allocating Beach 89 Street as a "Surfing Only Beach," where surfers would surf at their own risk.
"There has to be no liability to the city from any accidents arising from the surfing activity," Addabbo told The Wave.
Liam Kavanagh, the deputy parks commissioner for operations is concerned about liability as well.
He says that the parks enforcement agents and the police are only looking out for the safety of the residents. He did acknowledge to reporters, however, the criticism from the public and a skyrocketing number of lawsuits, including one brought by the families of the three girls who drowned in Rockaway last summer, have put pressure on the city.
"These accidents happen, and if we were to turn a blind eye to them, they would happen more frequently," Kavangh told reporters.
The meeting between Addabbo and Benepe was scheduled for early this week, but was postponed until after The Wave’s press deadline. It is expected that the decisions made at that meeting will be available for next week’s publication.