Rockaway’s Declining Access To Water-Related Facilities
We have often written of the declining access for Rockaway residents to water-related facilities. For a community that lives between the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay, those facilities are often critical to our quality of life and, indeed, the reason many of us moved to the peninsula in the first place. The new beach and boardwalk access rules, the rules against fishing from the rocks along the oceanfront, the closing of the peninsula’s only boat ramp, the closing of the old Coast Guard station to fishing, the exclusion of fishermen from Rockaway’s two bridges after September 11, the rules against fishing along the bayfront; all served to reduce the way Rockaway residents can access the most beautiful oceanfront and bayfront in the nation. Now comes another blow. For at least ten years, Rockaway residents as well as divers from all over the tri-state area, have been coming to Beach 9 Street, in Reynold’s Channel, for a place to SCUBA in peace and serenity. The New York City Police Department, the Fire Department, the State Police, the Nassau County Police Department and other agencies used "Almost Paradise" as a training site for their dive programs. It has been a Mecca for divers of all ages and varied experience. All that will disappear on October 15, and with it will go the only place where such training and sport diving is available in our city. The land on which the dive school/restaurant has stood for ten years has been sold to a consortium from the five towns, a group that wants to develop the land for "residential and commercial uses." That most often means high-end condominiums. The condos planned right across the inlet in Atlantic Beach will start at $1 million. We can only assume the same for the Almost Paradise property. Rockaway, however, needs the dive site more than it needs more luxury condominiums. Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Gregory Meeks have asked the Parks Department to find somebody to keep the dive school going. That, however, is not the problem. The land does not belong to the city and the Parks Department therefore has no jurisdiction. What must happen is that the city must move quickly to take the beachfront between Beach 8 Street and Beach 9 Street by eminent domain. That beachfront does not belong to the developers or to the wealthy. It belongs to the people and it should be kept as a dive school for all to use.