2003-07-18 / Columnists

Boyle-ing Points by Kevin Boyle

Boyle-ing Points by Kevin Boyle

Notes from the Take Back the Beach Rally….What a scene…It was so Rockaway—-so endearingly amateurish—no one knew what to do. This was a cross-section of grandmothers and kids, parents, and teens, I mean—not exactly the sorts who regularly sit down in traffic before getting hauled off in a paddy wagon. Nobody looked like the type to chant, "Attica! Attica!" Well, except for a few kooks—I’ll get to them later. But most of the crowd —all of whom were eager to make their concerns known about the spate of summonses, etc. in recent weeks—just didn’t know what to do. The boardwalk was like the IRT at rush hour. You were crammed next to somebody and you couldn’t hear what that conductor was saying.

In this case, the conductor was the honorable Lew Simon. Poor Lew. He looked beside himself with joy—there were so many people who’d come out for his rally. What a crowd, what a stage. What a success. But he looked a little shocked, too. How do you work a crowd like this? I mean, this wasn’t 50 senior citizens on the bus heading to Atlantic City. There were hundreds of people. His bullhorn needed better batteries and he started way too early with thanking people. Instead of leading the rally (say with a chant or with a march) he began by thanking everyone who’s ever voted democratic. I mean he thanked just about everybody—when he thanked erstwhile archenemy Howie Schwach I knew he was overexcited. The one person he should’ve thanked was Captain Talamo. Lost in the big media coverage was the fact that this rally was planned before the Fourth of July fiasco when cops raided the beach party at 131 street.

It’s a safe bet that Lew would’ve been the loneliest man on the boardwalk had the Captain not made the decision to visit the beach party/fundraiser with such, uhm, gusto. To be sure, people were miffed and disgruntled about "beach access rules"—and perhaps I exaggerate that Lew would’ve been by his lonesome up there—but without question the Fourth Fiasco made Lew’s rally a box office blockbuster.

As he warmed up and began to get his rally legs, he asked aloud if anybody from the mayor’s office was in attendance? Then asked if anyone from Audrey Pheffer’s office were in attendance. You couldn’t be sure if he was indicting them for their absence (Audrey’s name got a huge booooo) or asking them to step forward. A few chants rose from the crowd but mostly everyone stood around wondering what to do. And then, thankfully, Ed Shevlin, grabbed the bullhorn and said he was hot and sweaty, didn’t care if he was breaking the law—-he was going in the water NOW! And off he headed to the shore. And a couple hundred people followed. That’s what I’m talking about. A little civil disobedience. A little theater. This was taking back the beach. Dozens of people leaping into the waves. It was great.

With one exception. When I saw that guy in his underwear I screamed "Enforce the rules! Where are the cops!" Bad enough the whole city thinks this was about beer drinking—-now they’ve got to see that!

Meanwhile, far, far away, our elitist Boston born and bred nasally voiced mayor was spouting something about how drinking rules were being enforced in Rockaway rather than at park concert because he had "never heard of anyone drowning in a tuba." Someone said he’s obviously never been at a party when the St. Camillus band has played. Another said that it’s true, the opening in a tuba is not big enough for a human head so drowning is impossible. But since Mayor Bloomberg is a pinhead, he should only go near tubas when lifeguards are on duty.

Because this is Rockaway, kooks were conspicuous (but not overwhelming). There were a couple of guys who grabbed the bullhorn and barked stuff about commies and pinkos and nazis. When their drool seeped into the bullhorn, their ramblings became garbled. There was a big banner demanding the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a death row inmate. Another said something about ending the police occupation. Huh? I think there was a Save the Whales and a Free Patty Hearst banner, too. Fortunately, the news camera crews must be used to these guys showing up at every rally in the city because they gave them no heed or airtime.

All in all, it was an impressive turnout. (And it sure looked like a lot of registered voters were there). Lew Simon deserves credit for spearheading the rally and – who knows—with the momentum from this and his svelte new body he might be poised for bigger and better things. (But Lew, here’s a tip: lose the groupies from the Star Wars bar).

Now let’s hope all the issues about "beach access" doesn’t get lost. Yep, people should be able to enjoy a beer on the beach. If they get disorderly, then they deserve to answer to authorities. (But the idea that a lifeguard chair is positioned on the boardwalk at certain blocks just so cops can spot somebody having a brew—well, gimme a break). And people should be able to walk and ride their bikes on the boardwalk at all hours. And surfers should be left alone.

As for the city trying to keep people out of the water after 6 p.m. because of liability concerns…what’s wrong with posting "swim at your own risk" signs—in 10 different languages, if necessary. Florida, North Carolina, just about every coastal state in the country has beaches with NO LIFEGUARDS EVER. One last thing, Mayor Blunderberg, in Rockaway, people haven’t drowned because of alcohol—people have drowned because they can’t read and they can’t swim.

And lastly, the city is in a financial crunch. They could’ve saved money on those signs by printing what we can do instead of all the things we can’t do.

Good job, Lew—your bullhorn drowned out the Mayor.

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