Locals Questioned On Flight 587 Memorial
By Howard Schwach
The question of including the victims of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into the Rockaway Tribute Park on Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive has been put to many local residents for their approval of the proposal.
The Tribute Park, now scheduled to open in the spring, already includes two memorials – a glass cupola listing the names of all the Rockaway residents who died at the World Trade Center and another which honors all of the FDNY members lost on that day.
The new plan that is being put to locals is whether to include in the park memorial bricks and benches in honor of those who died in the crash as well.
The question is being put primarily to members of the Community Board 14 committee that has been working on the World Trade Center tribute since September of 2001, member of the Chamber of Commerce’s executive board and civic leaders in the west end.
In a letter that was prepared by Jonathon Gaska, the district manager of Community Board 14 and the Chamber of Commerce, residents are told, "The Chamber of Commerce/Rockaway Partnership has been contacted by several political entities concerning the inclusion of a ‘tribute’ to the victims of American Airlines Flight 587. The Executive Board of the Chamber/Partnership discussed the matter at great length and has agreed to offer only bricks in the pathway and benches so as not to disturb the overall concept of the park."
"There is no guarantee that the victim’s families will consider this offer, but according to the Mayor’s office, there are no other truly viable sites on which to construct any type of AA 587 Tribute."
At the bottom of the letter is a sign-off portion, asking residents to check either "I have no objection to the inclusion of bricks and benches in tribute to the victims of AA Flight 587," or "I object to the inclusion of bricks and benches in tribute to the victims of AA Flight 587."
Congressman Anthony Weiner, who had been negotiating a compromise between the family members of victims and the community, says that he expects an announcement about a permanent memorial by November 12, the second anniversary of the crash.
That compromise is expected to include a plaque in the sidewalk on the corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue as well as the inclusion of the crash victims into Tribute Park.
A number of locals who are close to the process say that opposition to the plan is expected from both the family members and from local residents, many of whom lost relatives in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in September of 2001.
"I do not think that the families will be satisfied with what Rockaway is offering," says one local who asked not to be identified. "They want a monument, not a few bricks."
That source added that some Rockaway residents are resistant to any memorial, even a small plaque, at the site.
"I guess that’s what compromise is all about," the source said. "Nobody is going to be satisfied."