2003-10-31 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken
On The Bayfront By Elisa Hinken

The Rockaway Community is more than anxious to see a turnaround in the socioeconomic situation that currently exists in the Arverne and Edgemere areas. Past talks of technodomes and other developments never came to fruition. I for one am very understanding that proper financial investments in communities can make all the difference in successful growth and balance that we would like to see achieved. These same investments were the springboard for changes that occurred in nearby Long Beach over the last twenty years.

Development of 308 acres of bare land to accommodate high density housing such as the Arverne-By-The-Sea project must assure balance with the needs of the prospective homeowners and residents as well as community homeowners and residents to conform with local, state and federal environmental laws. Because of the current socioeconomic status of the Arverne/Edgemere community, there are certain specific rights this community must assert. These rights are outlined by the State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation as "Environmental Justice".

Environmental justice efforts focus on improving the environment in underserved communities, specifically minority and low-income communities and addressing disproportionate adverse environmental impacts that may exist in those communities.

Environmental justice is defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Fair treatment means that no group of people, including a racial, ethnic or socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs and policies.

The Arverne-By-The-Sea project is looking for the most "bang for their buck", or the most return on their investment. Again, this must be balanced against the needs of the community as a whole. This also includes the need to be environmentally sensitive to beach access, dune construction, etc. All housing models for this project includes living space on the first floors of these units. Are these houses to be adequately elevated from sea level so homeowners can purchase flood insurance? For instance, in Atlantic Beach, a beachfront condo could not purchase flood insurance (as required by the condo mortgage) because there were no dune protections and the condos were not built above sea level. Are high dunes to be constructed by the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers to assist homeowners to comply with federal laws governing homeowner flood insurance? Will this dune construction, the de-mapping of streets housing construction impede existing access to our waterfront?

The parking issue is another factor. The Arverne-By-The-Sea project creates one off-street parking spot per unit. The homes being constructed are two-family dwellings (which is considered one unit), attached to another two-family dwelling. We are now talking about four families and two off-street parking spaces. If there are additional adults with automobiles living in the home or if visitors were to drive over, on-street parking will be a nightmare.

Community Board 14 voted to accept the Arverne-By-The Sea project "as is". I can understand that we have waited since 1968 for something wonderful to happen to this oceanfront community. I lived through the tearing down of massive hotels and apartment buildings, bungalow colonies that once resonated with laughter and music and scores of little children who lived in bathing suits from Memorial Day until Labor Day for generations. A ritual summer migration that turned into a year around playground for most families in Rockaway is how it all began for most of us. For the love of the beach. However, we cannot lose sight of our rights to unimpeded beach and waterfront access. It is the law.

The Environmental Justice program wants to hear from the Arverne/ Edgemere community. If you have questions, concerns or complaints regarding the development that is going on you can call and speak with staff in the Office of Environmental Justice. The Toll-Free Number is: 1-866-229-0497 (Hours of Operation: 9:00 am - 3:30 pm). You can call this hotline for: Information on the NYSDEC Environmental Justice Program Environmental Issues in Minority or Low-income Communities Information on Environmental Laws, Regulations, Policies, Permitting and Enforcement Related to Environmental Justice Grant Opportunity Information.

Please Note: The purpose of this hotline is to service minority and low-income communities. It is not intended as a hotline for general environmental information unrelated to the issues of Environmental Justice.

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