2003-04-12 / Front Page

DEC Puts Tribute Park In Jeopardy

By Howard Schwach
DEC Puts Tribute Park In Jeopardy By Howard Schwach

DEC Puts Tribute Park In Jeopardy

Officials of the Chamber of Commerce and local politicians held their collective breath this week as the state's Depart-ment of Environmental Conservation (DEC) decided that it would not allow the development of the Rockaway Tribute Park on Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive to go forward.

Even though the Rockaway Partner-ship, a non-profit arm of the Chamber, had a permit, had chosen a local artist to develop the site and had raised the requisite funds to go ahead, DEC officials told the organization late last week that their permit had been pulled.

On Saturday, at the rally to support our troops, the crowd was abuzz with the news and there was a lot of anger directed at the state agency.

On Tuesday morning, however, the Chamber's Executive Director, Liz Sulik met with DEC official George Slotnick, the man who had pulled the permit and who will supervise the project for the agency, and with Steve Zahn of the DEC.

"The meeting went well," said Sulik. "We worked out a compromise that will allow us to start work immediately even though we have to modify our request and that modification has to go through all of the agencies involved."

According to Sulik, the problem lies in the fact that the Chamber's permit allowed them to leave 50 feet of bayfront on the north end of the site. Slotnick wanted 100 feet.

"We decided that we would put the revetment only at the top of the bayfront, not all the way down from the top to the waters of the bay."

The new permit still has to go through a regular approval process.

Will the delay make it impossible for artist Patrick Clark to complete the work by September 11, the date set aside for the dedication of the new park?

"We can't put up a structure until everything is ready," Sulik told The Wave. "I hope that it will be ready, but this could put us back a couple of weeks."

The organization has hired a park designer, Lynden Miller, the mother of council speaker Gifford Miller, to design the remainder of the park. She is expected to have the final design ready within a week or so.

Meanwhile, the DEC has forced Duane Reade, a company that is building a new store nearby the park, to remove the construction debris they dumped on the site while completing their new parking lot.

"This park is important to Rockaway," Sulik said. "We were afraid that we had lost it. We are glad that we have not, that we can go ahead."

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