2003-05-30 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach
From the Editor’s Desk By Howard Schwach

The signs are red, but they might well cause Rockaway residents to lose lots of green this summer.

Over the weekend, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation put up red plastic signs along the beachfront. Those signs codify the rules for using the beach and the boardwalk, and they are draconian in nature, taking away much of the reason why people live in Rockaway.

For example, people are prohibited from being on the beach at all, for any reason, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

What that does to that romantic midnight walk on the beach in the moonlight is clear. You cannot do it.

What that does to the early morning jogger, who has to be in Manhattan for work at 9 p.m. and likes to run on the beach or in the surf is also clear. You cannot do it.

The boardwalk is another story. You can actually stay on the boardwalk until 10 p.m. No more family walks on a hot summer evening. No more riding your bike on the boards on a hot August evening.

In fact, if you come to the boardwalk for the annual fireworks that traditionally begin about 9:30, better make it quick or you’re breaking the law.

There are lots of other rules, many of which have been around for lots of years, but were never enforced until last summer.

No dogs on the beach between May 1 and October 1 (I always thought that dogs were never allowed on the beach).

No barbequing. No tents or other shelters. No riding bikes on the boardwalk from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. No snorkels, surfboards, rafts or other devices in the water.

Of course, no swimming when there are no lifeguards on duty.

What will happen to those who disobey these rules? Remember last year, when a wave of tickets hit Rockaway, particularly in the 100 Precinct. Some tickets were $40, some $70, some more.

When asked at a precinct community council meeting if he would once again be enforcing all of the rules, Captain Charles Talamo, the CO of the 100 Precinct, winked, laughed, and told the audience that he enforces all of the laws.

Last summer, some residents got tickets simply for leaving their blankets unattended while they went into the water.

This year promises more of the same, and probably at an elevated level because the old rules are now codified on the new signs.

All of this might be looked on as part of the city’s ticket blitz, instituted not as a way to enforce the rules, but to earn much-needed money – to raise revenue as a new tax.

Two weeks ago, a team of NYPD cops called an "Atlas Team," were on Beach 116 Street issuing tickets to anybody who moved. Some of the residents who got tickets for illegal U-Turns (even though there were no signs), parking at the curb, failure to signal, masked license plats, inspection sticker improperly affixed to the car’s window," etc., were told by cops not to blame them, but to blame the mayor, who has set a quota for all sorts of tickets.

The NYPD says that there are no quotas, but there are "productivity goals" that each cop must meet.

A rose by any other name.

In fact, there are lots of tickets being given out by the NYPD and by other mayoral agencies.

Parking tickets are up four percent from last year. Moving violations are up almost seven percent. C-Summonses (such as the tickets that are issued on the beach and boardwalk) are up nearly 15 percent.

One Bronx man got a ticket for sitting on a milk crate. Did you know that sitting on a milk crate is illegal? It is.

A Rockaway man got a ticket for "obscuring his license plate" with a frame, although the entire number was showing.

A woman on the A Train was ticketed for putting her packages on another seat, even though the car was empty of other riders at the time. Taking up two seats is against the law.

A number of people in Rockaway were ticketed (the tickets are $105) over the Memorial Day Weekend for blocking their own driveways so that their guests could use their driveway spots.

The cost of tickets from the Department of Sanitation has risen dramatically as well as the tickets for parking.

One Rockaway woman reported that she got a $25 ticket for placing her newspapers in a cardboard box rather than bundling them up or putting them in a clear plastic bag. Many storeowners have been targeted for not cleaning the gutter nearby their stores, but the city’s own subway station on Beach 116 Street remains a pigsty both inside and out, and no tickets have reportedly been issued to that city agency.

A Manhattan man got a ticket for feeding pigeons.

"The NYPD has become a summons machine generating millions of dollars to close the city’s budget gap while eroding the relationship between the police and the communities that they serve," PBA President Pat Lynch said in a recent press release.

Now, the Department of Buildings (DOB) is getting into the spirit.

The DOB is now enforcing a law that it has not enforced for many years.

The law says that an awning (what is an awning, anyway? Is it what we traditionally think of as an awning or can it also be one of the newer canopies that most stores now favor) cannot be imprinted with anything but the name of the store and its addresses. As you well know, most of the awnings (canopies) in Rockaway display services, products, endorsements, etc. They are illegal and can be given a ticket that costs in excess of $100 each time it is given.

You can bet that the DOB will quickly find its way to Rockaway and will fine those businesses that have an "illegal" canopy or awning.

That is probably the majority of Rockaway businesses.

There have been grumbles of late from people who have lived in New York City all of their lives that it may be time to get out.

They don’t mind terrorists and they don’t mind crowds. They do mind being ticketed into oblivion, and that is just what Bloomberg has in mind.

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