2003-08-15 / Community

Benepe: The Truth About Rockaway

Benepe: The Truth About Rockaway

This Op-ed piece was sent by New York City Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Adrian Benepe to the Daily News. We are reprinting it here since it affects Rockaway and Benepe did not see fit to send it to The Wave as well.

Since an incident on Rockaway Beach on the Fourth of July continues to receive attention, I’d like to set the record straight so we can finally put an end to all the misunderstanding.

More than 1.5 million people went to the city’s public beaches July 4. Because of the crowds, and in fairness to everyone, no permits for events were issued for that day on Rockaway Beach.

A group had sought and been denied a permit to have a large private party—including alcohol, barbecues and tents—without any mention of it being a fund-raiser or charity event of any kind. After being warned by the Parks and Police departments that it could not hold the event, the group held it anyway.

The police issued summonses and confiscated 13 coolers of alcohol. Several days later, rather than take responsibility for its actions, the group claimed that its illegal event—with hundreds of people in attendance—had been unfairly targeted by police. The rules against alcohol consumption in parks are based on promoting the common good and preserving public safety. The rules allow police to intervene when the liberties taken by individuals infringe on the rights or safety of others. While a beer or glass of wine at a well-regulated public concert with a 40-year history without major incident might not elicit a summons, the stakes are much higher at public beaches.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use is involved in up to 50% of adolescent deaths associated with water recreation. Rockaway Beach, with its strong currents, is especially dangerous.

In addition, bottles and cans left in the sand may cause injuries. And unlike most of the city’s beaches, the sands of Rockaway are adjacent to private homes and apartment buildings. One person’s fun time can be a neighbor’s sleepless nightmare.

There is an almost decade-long history of July 4 parties on that stretch of Rockaway Beach that leave truckloads of trash and broken glass behind.

The media have suggested that the city allows the elite to drink at classical music concerts in Central Park, but the coverage usually fails to mention that more than 130 summonses for drinking related offenses have been issued in Central Park and that classical music concerts are held in all boroughs, with the same policy enforced at each.

It is important that New Yorkers are able to enjoy themselves in our parks and on our beaches, and it is the city’s responsibility to sensibly enforce rules to ensure that they can do so in a responsible manner that will not negatively affect others or jeopardize safety and good fun.

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