2003-08-08 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter
Speaking With Councilman Joe
On The Beach With Beverly Baxter Speaking With Councilman Joe

With Beverly Baxter
Speaking With Councilman Joe

In the wake of the recent and enormously successful "Take Back The Beach Rally," Councilman Joe Addabbo and his Rockaway Staff have taken many "hits" for their seemingly indifference to or lack of understanding of the issues that have galvanized and incensed so many residents. I called upon Joe to respond to the frustrations of so many of his constituents.

"The Rally served an excellent purpose. It was an appropriate venue for the community to express its frustration and valid concerns. It certainly got the attention of the Mayor, Commissioner Kelly, and Chief Lawless. The issue here is excessiveness. The beach and boardwalk rules have always been in place. The only thing that is new are the new red signs displaying the regular rules. What has changed is the recent trend of excessive enforcement." Indeed it’s a delicate balance that the police must use to maintain safety; but according to the Councilman, this "Big Brother" mentality of randomly searching coolers, the foot patrol, and the use of binoculars must decrease.

Although Joe urged residents to call his office and sign petitions so that he could form some form of a cohesive consensus, this only seemed to exacerbate the frustration even more. There is a growing sentiment that perhaps the Councilman is loosing his grasp of the concerns that are germane to his Rockaway constituents. Joe was quick to explain that there are 104,000 people who reside on the peninsula and that although perhaps " 20% responded to this issue, it’s a daunting task to try and form a consensus when 80% have been left out." Although there were nearly 1500 people who attended the Rally, there are many, especially those who live on the oceanfront and have to contend with late night noise on the boardwalk, who feel that the rules make sense and work just fine.
   The Councilman states, "the issue is not so much the rules, but rather the aggressive and excessive enforcement of the rules. The NYPD need to use common sense. It’s always a judgment call." However, many feel that the current ticket blitz is merely a "cash cow" for the Mayor to satisfy the budget deficit and they’d like to see the Mayor, his administration, and 100 Precinct Commanding Officer Tallamo removed. Since the first two are accomplished through the voting or recall process, the removal of the current Commanding Office will not be accomplished by protest. According to Joe, "The Police Department won’t remove a Captain simply because a community doesn’t want him. It’s never done that way as it would set a precedent." But Joe did intimate to me that C.O. Tallamo may be leaving the 100th sooner than we think. He has had several conversations with Chief Lawless and Commissioner Kelly on the issue.

"Go out and have a good time! Enjoy yourselves, enjoy your summer and the activities you like to do. If you’re being excessively harassed by any Park or NYPD Officer, I want to know about it. As for the unfortunate incident that happened to the Herman family on Beach 104 Street, I’ve been speaking to the president of the lifeguard union. I emphatically stated that I will not tolerate any of my constituents being literally chased out of the water or off the beach. Yes, flotation devices, (boogie boards) are not allowed; however, it all comes back to common sense and appropriate judgment on the part of law enforcement. If a particular beach is crowded and there are many in the water, then the appropriate call might be to restrict the use of boogie boards on that day if it’s an issue of safety."

Councilman Joe has a proposal that would remedy this problem. He is calling for odd-numbered beaches, with the exception of Beach 91 Street, which is traditionally a surfer’s beach, to allow the use of boogie boards. Joe is hopeful that proper discretion will prevail and that residents can get back to enjoying the reason why so many of us live choose to live here.

On a sadder note, I asked Joe about the horrific events of the day another citycouncilman was shot and killed at City Hall, where a routine session turned deadly. "You know", he stated, "Although I bring to this job a tremendous passion and commitment, and there is always so much to learn, there are just certain things that are just not in the brochure of being a Councilman. I had said Goodbye to Councilman Davis just twenty minutes before. Just prior to the start of session, he came over and gave me a slap on the back. We had worked together on some of his proposed Legislation on the Parks Committee. He was very effective and I admired him a lot."

Our conversation then turned to the discussion of the street-renaming for those whom we have lost, particularly on September 11, 2001.

"This is a special part of my job, especially in the wake of 911. These people have made a positive contribution to the fabric of our lives, not just to Rockaway; but how we have evolved as a City. The memorializing of heroic people, like Steve "Bells" Belson, a firfighter who was lost on 9/11, or the much beloved Mr. Fitzgerald will prompt future generations to inquire and ask "Why were they important?" "Who were they?" And they will always be remembered. Their Bios listing their contributions will be documented for future generations to read. It’s a profound privilege to officiate these ceremonies." The next set of street name changes will go before the City Council on September 3 at which time they will be approved. The Mayor will then sign those name changes into law later that month. I will let you know the names next week.

See you..On the Beach!

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