2003-07-18 / Front Page

Same Sand, Same Ocean, Very Different Rules

By Tommy Hallissey
Same Sand, Same Ocean, Very Different Rules By Tommy Hallissey

They have the same sand, sunshine and saltwater yet the beaches of Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis Park, two units of the Federal Gateway National Recreation Area operate very differently from the rest of Rockaway’s beaches.

Alcohol use is prohibited on Rockaway’s city beaches, and in the rest of the city’s parks and beaches, as made evident by the heavily publicized July Fourth ticket blitz on a party being held on Beach 130 Street.

While the Mayor and his park commissioner say that beer and other alcoholic beverages are not allowed in any city venue, it is evident from recent stories in the daily media that the rule is honored more in its breach at Manhattan and Brooklyn parks and beaches.

Riis Park, however, allows alcohol consumption in plastic bottles and aluminum cans - no glass. The federal park even sells beer in plastic bottles.

Therein lies the essential difference. Jacob Riis Park, funded with federal money, is patrolled by the U.S. Park Police, not the New York City Police Department, and actions at the park are not subject to city laws.

More than a few people in Rockaway have complained that they can no longer take a dip in the ocean after work since lifeguards leave at 6 p.m. Riis Park swimming hours are not quite as rigid. The time at which the lifeguard-stand goes down on weekends varies "depending upon the conditions, depending on the currents and the number of visitors," said Rita Mullally, the district manager for Fort Tilden and Riis Park. "We try not to go over 7 o’clock." So far this summer at least two swimmers have been rescued from the surf after 6 p.m., according to Mullally.

For those with an exhibitionist nature, Riis Park beaches allow topless sunbathing. The city does not.

Residents of Rockaway are prohibited from going for a walk on the beach after 9 p.m. but just down the road, the Riis Park beach and boardwalk are open till midnight. Rockaway boardwalks close at 10 p.m.

Bike riding on the boardwalks in Rockaway is prohibited between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. At Riis Park, bike riding on the boardwalk is permitted from 6 a.m. to midnight, said Brian Feeney, Public Affairs Officer for the National Parks of New York Harbor. Ironically, signs at Riis Park list ‘bicycling’ among those activities ‘prohibited on the beach and boardwalk at all times.

With its expansive parking lots, Riis Park offers a parking option for residents of Neponsit and Belle Harbor. If a family is planning to have a large number of guests for a party in those two neighborhoods, where parking on the street is prohibited, they can pre-purchase parking tickets for Riis Park and then hire a valet to juggle the cars.

The only catch is that it costs $4 for parking at Riis Park, while parking on Rockaway streets is free, if you can find a spot.

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