Beach Blanket Bingo!
By Howard Schwach
Hold tight to your beach blankets and other possessions when you go into the ocean for a dip – at least within the confines of the 100 Precinct.
Leaving your blanket and possessions to go to the bathroom or to take a dip in the ocean can earn you a ticket that will cost you upwards of $50.
The Department of Parks and Recreation’s "Green Book," which details the rules for all city parks, including Rockaway’s beaches, says, under the heading of "Construction," that "No person shall store or leave personal belongings unattended within or adjacent to any park."
This rule has been on the books for at least 25 years, police officers say.
Old-timers, however, say that they have never heard of the rule being enforced in previous beach seasons.
"People come to the beach to swim and they can’t take their clothing into the water with them," said John Morris, a long-time Rockaway resident who was sitting alone on a beach blanket at Beach 88 Street recently. "How am I supposed to take my possessions with me?"
At least one visitor to the beach, who asked to remain anonymous, told City Councilman Joe Addabbo that he had received a ticket for leaving his blanket and his clothing while he went for a swim recently.
When Addabbo’s office called the 100 Precinct for clarification, a community affairs officer told his representative that the tickets were indeed being issued because there had been some thefts reported on the beach and the police were trying to safeguard those who use the beach.
Addabbo, who chairs the council’s Parks Committee, says that it is a matter of interpretation and that the police are interpreting it all wrong.
"Look at the context that the rule falls under, ‘construction’ and it is easy to see that the rule was meant for those who abandon construction material in a park, or who walk away from their property and leave it for good," Addabbo told The Wave. It cannot mean that it is illegal to walk away from a beach towel when you take a dip in the ocean."
"As a lawyer, I know that you have to look at the spirit of the law and where it falls in the book – why it was written," Addabbo added. "It is clear that, coming under the ‘construction’ title, it was not written in order to punish people who leave their personal belongings behind when they take a swim."
Parks Supervisor Joe Bonkowski told The Wave that he has never heard of that rule being enforced before.
"I’ve never even heard of that rule," he said with a laugh. "I guess that there are a lot of strange rules in the Green Book."
Bonkowski added that he "doubted" that the Park Enforcement Police enforce the rule.
Brian Feeney, a spokesperson for the National Park Service, says that there are no such rules at Riis Park.
"We don’t do anything like that on Federal property," he said. "I can see ticketing somebody who leaves an I-Beam, but Tonka toys or a blanket, I don’t think so."
Repeated calls to the 100 Precinct Community Affairs Office went unreturned at press time.