2003-05-16 / Editorial/Opinion

A Renewed Demand For A Local 587 Memorial

A Renewed Demand For A Local 587 Memorial

Editorial Comment  by Robert SarnoffEditorial Comment by Robert Sarnoff

The memorial ceremony held at Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue early on Mother’s Day morning drew 30 mourners and a renewed call for a memorial to those who died when Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001. Jovanny Araujo, who lost his mom in the crash, told New York Post columnist Douglas Montero at the site that he came to spend the day with his mother, who is buried in the Dominican Republic. "This is the only place for me to go," he said. "This is the place where she died." Many of the other visitors felt the same way. Some of them told me that they were angry that the Belle Harbor community opposed a "tasteful memorial." Hector Algrobba, who heads one of the numerous organizations who represent the families of the victims said that he was looking at the property that once housed a home that was destroyed in the crash. He was angered that the land had reportedly been sold to a relative of the family whose home was lost and has since moved on. Others shared his anger that a relative wanted to build a new home on the land. "Why would anybody want to build a home on a cemetery," he asked me. For Rockaway residents, however, that is the point. That land is not a cemetery. Rather, the land is considered by local residents to be a part of the community they have lived in for many years. They do not want it to become a cemetery. Those residents understand the need for a place to grieve, but they do not want it to be next to their homes. They ask for an off-site memorial, perhaps on the bay or the ocean. Local residents want the site restored to what it once was – a quiet residential community. They do not want a memorial. They want homes and a restoration of what passes for normal in Rockaway. Who is right? This is not a question of right and wrong, but of conflicting rights. A number of local politicians, including Anthony Weiner, have attempted to work out a compromise that would be agreeable to both sides. It has now been 18 months since the crash, and the wounds have not yet healed, neither in Washington Heights nor in Rockaway. Some compromise must be worked out and it must be soon, before the festering anger takes another form.

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