I ran into City Councilman Joe Addabbo at the naming ceremony for John Fitzgerald nearby where his famous bar once stood at Beach 108 Street and Shore Front Parkway. Today, that site houses three-story condos, but that’s a sign of the times, and another story.
Addabbo told me that the rules for access to the beach and the boardwalk would change for the better, at least for the rest of this summer.
"We can’t do this before July 9," Addabbo said, alluding to the massive rally that local activist Lew Simon plans to hold on the boardwalk that evening at 7:30. "But the hours for access to the beach and the boardwalk will change shortly after that."
Addabbo said that he probably would not be able to make the rally, because he has "a previous engagement on the mainland," but that he would see that the rules are changed "on a trial basis" for the remainder of the summer.
"We’ll take another look at the end of the summer and see how it worked out," Addabbo added.
The new rules, if they are implemented, would allow people to use the beach for walking, jogging and just about anything else with the exception of swimming, surfing and fishing, until midnight each evening. The rules now say that everybody has to be off the beach by 9 p.m.
The boardwalk would be open until 1 a.m. each night rather than the present 10 p.m. curfew.
Addabbo wanted to make clear that there was no swimming allowed when no life guards are on duty – from 6 p.m. at night until 10 a.m. in the morning.
Right after the renaming ceremony ended, I went onto the boardwalk and noticed that the red and white signs posted along the boards h ad changed slightly.
The old signs said "No dogs on beach." The new stickers that cover that restriction say, "No dogs on beach or boardwalk."
So much for loosening the restrictions.
The changes, if they really come, will be only a sop to the Rockaway community.
While the access times are important, there are other issues that will not be addressed until next summer, at the earliest.
Just last week, the Park Enforcement Police, who work for the Parks Department, tried to force some surfers out of the water at Beach 92 Street.
They refused to come in, and the police were called.
Before it was over, units of the 100 Precinct, the NYPD’s harbor unit and the NYPD’s aviation unit were mustered to get those poor surfers to stop breaking the law.
When Addabbo (who is the chair of the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee) was questioned about the incident, he said that "it was a breach of the agreement" not to enforce the beach and boardwalk laws, and that the surfers should not have been bothered.
I have to question again, however, laws that are put on the books without any expectation of enforcing them.
There is only one reason for a ploy like that and it is if you want to selectively enforce the laws, something that I can understand, but cannot condone.
For example, if you are walking along the beach with your significant other at 11 p.m. under the present rules, the agreement is, the police should not be asking you to leave or ticketing you.
If, however, a local homeowner calls that a group of teens on the beach at the same time is making too much noise for his or her taste, then the kids can be removed under the rules.
I watched Channel 2 News on Saturday morning. Weather reporter Genine D’Adamo was at Coney Island that morning, reporting from the boardwalk. There were no red and white signs along the boardwalk as there are in Rockaway.
There were people walking their dogs on the boardwalk, people riding bikes. There were people on the beach playing beach volleyball, people with beach tents, people surfing, people fishing.
There were cops on the boardwalk watching the passing parade. They did not hassle the people doing those things, all of which would have been illegal under the red and white signs.
Why the difference?
A Parks Department spokesperson told me that Rockaway is a residential area while Coney Island is not.
That is why the rules are enforced differently.
That is pure bologna. Both are beach areas and both depend on the summer beach business for success.
The rules should be the same, but they are not.
Last year, I came out of a Cyclone’s game at Coney Island and went onto the boardwalk. There were people in tents, people with open fires on the beach, people surfing and fishing. It was like a beach dream come true, especially to the Rockaway residents who viewed it with the knowledge that you could never do those things on the beach at Rockaway.
Nobody wants people swimming when lifeguards are off duty. Nobody wants people to drown, to be hurt.
Life is a beach, however, and things happen. You cannot restrict an entire population for doing its thing on the beach simply because something might happen.