Neponsit Homeowners: ‘Don’t Change Beach Rules’
The issue of changing the beach and boardwalk access rules and allowing such activities as surfing, fishing off the rocks and drinking beer on the beach took a new turn last week when a number of local residents and community groups took the time at a Town Hall meeting to indicate that they did not want any changes to the rules, that they wanted a quiet beachfront.
"Not everybody wants the beach rules changed," said Michael O’Connor the president of the Neponsit Property Owners Association. "The misuse of public land by those who use the beach is obvious. There are beer bottles all over the beach and I give credit to the police for stopping that kind of thing."
"Not everybody wants the hours changed," he said, referring to a rally on the boardwalk that drew more than a thousand people on July 9 in support of rules changes. "Our homeowners do not want changes."
Chief Thomas Lawless, the commanding officer of the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens South (PBQS), which includes the two Rockaway police precincts, told the 70 people in attendance that "People who live on the beach wanted a more peaceful community, and we are moving in that direction."
He also made it clear that, despite the recent demonstrations agains the beach rules, those rules are in place and the police have to enforce them.
"Was there a situation in this precinct that could have been handled differntly last July Fourth," he asked. "There are situations in every precinct that could have been handled differently."
Lawless added, "The rules have to be obeyed. People who don’t like the rules should reach out to the people who can change those rules."
"We are not looking to stop people from enjoying the beach," Lawless said. "Discretion is the key. Police officers should not be giving summonses unless the people are doing something wrong. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a person on the beach at night carrying a glass of wine."
Congressman Anthony Weiner, who sponsored the town hall meeting, urged residents not to "lose sight of the close relationship between the residents and the police."
"We have to exercise our rights forcefully while not losing sight of the fact that the police are on our side."
"Those beach rules are there to give the police a tool that they can use at their own discretion," Weiner added. "We don’t want a person who is enjoying a beer with his lunch on a hot day to be chased off the beach. We want people to enjoy the beach."
Not everybody agreed that the rules should remain the same, however.
Charles Meyer, an officer of the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association said that Rockaway "has a culture of beach use that does not appear anyplace else."
"We honored the Duke and then the police stopped people from surfing," he said. "We stopped fishing, we stopped everything. We need the lifeguards on the beach for the longest time possible. We need for people to enjoy the beach again."
When Democratic District Leader Lew Simon asked Chief Lawless if he was saying that it is okay to drink beer on the beach, Weiner jumped in.
"We can’t say that it is legal or illegal," he said. "Discretion is necessary."
Other issues were addressed at the meeting as well.
Region Five Supervising Administrator Kathleen Cashin was on hand to answer questions about the coming school year. She introduced her new team, including Roz German (the region’s staff development specialist) and Rita Geramita (a Rockaway instructional leader and the new district superintendent). She spoke about new curriculum and new programs for all of the district’s schools, but particularly for Beach Channel High School, which has both a new principal and a new curriculum. A number of those present at the meeting urged Cashin to bring back the Oceanography speciality program to the school, something it was constructed for in the first place, but Cashin would not commit to that program.
Many of the questions addressed to Weiner were about a memorial for those who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.
Weiner said that he was acting as a mediator for the community and that he knows what the community wants.
"You have to trust me on this one," Weiner said. "You elected me to represent you and I will do just that on this issue."
Asse,b;ywoman Audrey Pheffer and Councilman Joe Addabbo were present at the meeting as well.