2003-06-06 / Columnists

From the Editor's Desk

Who's In Charge Here?
By Howard Schwach
From the Editor's Desk

From the Editor's Desk

Who's in charge here?

I want to know who elected Adrian Benepe, the New York City Parks Commissioner to his job and allowed him to make rules for our beaches without community input.

The rules are not only onerous, they are draconian.

Nobody allowed on the beach between 9 p.m. in the evening and 6 a.m. in the morning. Nobody allowed on the boardwalk between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. No surfing. No fishing. No sitting or walking on a beach that is closed to swimming. No erecting beach tents or tarps. No kite-flying. No leaving your blanket unattended while swimming.

The list goes on and on.

Joe Addabbo is our City Councilman. He is also the chair of the Council's Parks and Recreation Committee.

We elected him. We did not elect Benepe. He was appointed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a man who has shown that he considers every New York City resident as his serf, to tax and to do with as he, the lord of the manor, deems necessary.

There are those who will think that statement is a bit too strong.

I do not.

Do not smoke. Do not sit on milk crates. Do not sit on subway steps. Do not fall asleep in the subway. Do not do this. Do not do that.

Addabbo, who follows in the great tradition of City Councilman Walter Ward, who was also the chair of the parks committee, says that there is nothing he can do about the rules this summer. He says that the State of New York must give the city permission to change the rules.

That is pure bologna, and Addabbo knows it.

Ward was so good for Rockaway that mayors quaked when he asked for something for Rockaway and its beaches. More lifeguards? Sure. More cops to patrol the beaches? Sure. More money for cleanups? Sure.

Addabbo, on the other hand, says that there is nothing he can do to change the rules.

Where is Lew Simon and his trusty bullhorn when you need them?

There is no doubt who is in charge. It is Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Benepe, not the city council.

Now, Benepe and the cops will tell you that they are responding to the community, and they might not be far from the truth when they say that.

There are those who live in both Belle Harbor and in Neponsit, including the leadership of those communities, who think of the beach as a private enclave.

It is THEIR beach. Who would dare use THEIR beach?

They are the same people who forty years ago defeated the extension of the boardwalk beyond Beach 126 Street because they did not want easy access to THEIR community. They are the same people who talked local politicians into the restrictive parking regulations so that THEY could not come to THEIR beaches.

They do not want kids, or anybody else for that matter, using the beaches at night, because they do not use the beaches at night.

They have the juice and they use it to keep everybody else from using the beaches at night.

They are the same people who talked our legislators and community board into building the truly-stupid center mall that will run down the middle of Rockaway Beach Boulevard from Beach 126 Street to Beach 139 Street. The mall will restrict traffic and take up much-needed parking spots. Of course, parking on the street is for THEM. WE all have driveways, and WE are the only ones who count. The rest of THEM do not own homes, so they do not count at all.

Since Joe Addabbo can't do anything about the draconian rules that were just posted, the public should.

Perhaps thousands of people should gather on the boardwalk and on the beach at about 10:15 p.m. one night at Beach 116 Street. Wouldn't that be a good idea?

Those who organize the protest should invite Benepe and Addabbo and all of the media that will come. Perhaps the police should be invited as well, just in case they choose not to hear about it.

C'mon, Lew, the ball is in your court. Do something for the community for a change.

You talk bravely about wanting to get arrested on the Cross Bay Bridge to protest the tolls. Here is your chance to get arrested again. Perhaps it will help in your next election if you show up and Addabbo does not.

This is serious stuff, and Joe Addabbo should realize that his support in Rockaway might swing on this issue.

Many people came to live in Rockaway because the beach is here and the beach was accessible. It is still here, but it is no longer as accessible as it was in the past.

Both the beach and the boardwalk should be open to the public until 1 a.m. each night and joggers should be able to use those facilities as early in the morning as they chose.

The state allows the city to designate surfing and fishing beaches and then walk away with no liability for accidents on those beaches. The city is afraid to designate those beaches. Addabbo and his committee should do it for them.

If a crime is committed on the beach, then the police should step in and take care of it. They should not be giving C Summonses for leaving a beach blanket unattended and walking on the beach at night.

I fully understand the concept that kids hang out on the beach at night and cause problems. Those residents who cause problems, or who committ crimes such as drinking on the beach should be moved out, ticketed or arrested if the need arises. Those who are enjoying a peaceful night on the beach, however, should not be lumped with the wrongdoers. They should be left alone to enjoy the beach and the boardwalk. We do not ban all drivers simply because some break the law.

Rockaway is a beach community. The mayor, his parks commissioner and the police are taking the beach from the community and making summer a bad time for residents.

Addabbo should do something about it. If he cannot, then it is time for the community to take matters in its own hands and protest the laws that make it so.

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