Residents Rip Rules
They came by boardwalk—on foot or with bikes and scooters. They brought their dogs, fishing poles and Budweiser coolers. They stood on the beach, after it was closed, wearing "Rockaway Remembers," "Bells," and "Rockaway….It’s a Lifestyle" shirts. Some even went for a swim long after the lifeguards left their chairs. Many of them were breaking the rules—to protest a long list of beach rules, not only those concerning beer.
The "Take Back the Beach Rally," led by local Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, was held Wednesday night on Beach 116 Street. By most accounts, more than 1,000 people attended the event. Police presence was light with just two uniformed officers present at the boardwalk.
The crowd’s message, that a growing number of residents are getting fed-up with beach rules and summonses, was carried on signs and shouted through megaphones.
Numerous representatives from major news outlets were there reporting that that Belle Harbor July Fourth beach incident sparked a rally for booze on the beach, when in fact the rally had been announced prior to the holiday weekend.
Ash Mills, of Beach 123 Street, wrote a letter expressing regret that the focus of the rally appeared to shift. "Lost in [Simon’s] tirade was our desire to simply be able to stroll on the boardwalk during late summer evenings, to be able to ride bicycles on it …to be able to be accompanied by our dogs, to be able to fish and surf, and to basically enjoy the things we all live in Rockaway to do," she said.
Widely reported or not, the dissatisfaction of locals seemed to reach each of the rules the city’s Parks Dept. has posted around the beach and boardwalk.
Some protest signs read, "Ticket Beach," and, "Transfer Talamo," the latter referring to the captain of the 100 Precinct. Many who were there told stories about tickets they or people they know received.
"Officers should learn how to use discretion," said Belle Harbor resident Kevin Dolan. He said his nephew, who was visiting from Hawaii, was detained for nearly an hour and given multiple dog-on-boardwalk related summonses. Dolan said the summonses were later dismissed.
Geoffrey Blank, who lives on Ocean Promenade and works as a Riis Park lifeguard carried a sign that read, "End the NYPD Occupation of Rockaway Beach." Blank said he was at the rally "protesting police harassment—ticketing people for enjoying the beach and boardwalk," which he said is "part of a bigger encroachment on our Constitutional rights and civil liberties." Blank was also one of the first to rip in to police and officials using the megaphone.
The crowd followed Simon as he shouted, "Who’s beach? Our Beach!" And they asked, "Where’s Joe?" referring to City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr., head of the council’s Parks and Recreation Committee, who did not attend the event.
Prior to the rally, Addabbo, who said he had previous engagements, told The Wave, "I need people to call me and tell me they have a problem." The day after the rally an Addabbo representative said the office was so flooded with calls that they could not tally the petition signatures they received the night before. Simon says he got more than 1,300 signatures during the rally.
"I was very pleased by the turnout….it goes to show the unity in Rockaway," Simon said, adding that he is confident that the "antiquated rules will be changed."