2003-12-12 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken
On The Bayfront By Elisa Hinken

In an effort to further understand how our laws regarding beaches and waterfront access are written and enforced, I came across some interesting information that I would like to share.

A few months ago, when anglers met with Congressman Anthony Weiner at the Coast Guard Station in Riis Park, I pointed out a sign to the Congressman as well as a fence that was erected from one end of the bay and continued into the water. The sign, just west of the maintenance yard states "Private Property – No Trespassing, Breezy Point Cooperative". Just below this sign is where this fence I am talking about starts. I asked the Congressman if he knew that this beach area is public. The Congressman told me, as far as he knew, the beach is private. Fair enough I thought. Maybe the Congressman isn’t aware of certain laws. There are so many, who can remember them all! I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, as in this case. I did, however, give the Congressman loads of documentation for his reading leisure in order to further address the issue of waterfront access. I hope he had a chance to read it all.

Part of the documentation I gave him pertains to Title 16, Chapter 1, Subchapter LXXXVII, Section 460cc of the U.S. Code. This portion of federal law deals with the transfer of property from New York City to the National Park Service and the creation of the Gateway National Recreation Area in May, 1972. These laws are very specific.

Gateway National Recreation Area was established in order to preserve and protect for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations an area possessing outstanding natural and recreational features. The law then goes on to delineate composition and boundaries. Then, when the law comes to the part about the Breezy Point Unit, I quote the following: "Breezy Point Unit; public use and access; agreement for use of lands for single-family residential community; specific provisions; Rockaway parking lot conveyance; Within the Breezy Point Unit, (1) the Secretary shall acquire an adequate interest in the area depicted on the map referred to in section 460cc of this title to assure the public use of and access to the entire beach. The Secretary may enter into an agreement with any property owner or owners to assure the continued maintenance and use of all remaining lands in private ownership as a residential community composed of single-family dwellings. Any such agreement shall be irrevocable, unless terminated by mutual agreement, and shall specify, among other things: (A) that the Secretary may designate, establish and maintain a buffer zone on Federal lands separating the public use area and the private community; (B) that all construction commencing within the community, including the conversion of dwellings from seasonal to year-round residences, shall comply with standards to be established by the Secretary; (C) that additional commercial establishments shall be permitted only with the express prior approval of the Secretary or his designee."

Section 460cc-2 speaks about administration of the GNRA. Part (f) of Section 460cc-2 talks about Hunting, fishing, and trapping. "The Secretary shall permit hunting, fishing, shellfishing, trapping, and the taking of specimens on the lands and waters under his jurisdiction within the Gateway National Recreation Area in accordance with the applicable laws of the United States and the laws of the States of New York and New Jersey and political subdivisions thereof, except that the Secretary may designate zones where and establish periods when these activities may not be permitted, for reasons of public safety, administration, fish or wildlife management, or public use and enjoyment."

Peter Fleisher, a reporter from the Gotham Gazette recently wrote, "There is discontinuity in Queens (too). The National Park Service, through the Gateway National Recreation Area, administers a vast empire of bay and beach acreage around Jamaica Bay. Public access to much of this land is sharply limited. While some of these lands are wildlife refuge that must be protected, much of this waterfront is in effect locked up".

Did I miss something here? Where does it say that the sand in Breezy Point is PRIVATE? Why is fishing access continually threatened?

Now here is the kicker: Federal monies are used to replenish the sand at Breezy Point by the United States Army Corp. of Engineers on a regular basis. The last dredging of the outer (entrance) channel of Jamaica Bay was completed in 2002/2003 with the removal of approximately 366,000 cubic yards of dredged material and subsequent placement on the bay side beaches at Breezy Point and Roxbury. The dredging cycle for this project is two years. The recently completed maintenance dredging involved the removal of approximately 366,000 cubic yards of material, with placement on the beaches at the communities of Breezy Point and Roxbury. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company submitted the low bid of $1,711,729. The contract was awarded on September 28, 2002. Dredging began in mid-December and was completed on March 10, 2003. Funding in fiscal year 2004 will be utilized to initiate Engineering and Design for future maintenance of the inlet, expected to begin the fall of calendar year 2004.

I’m not picking on Breezy Point. It is a wonderful community. Just like Point Lookout in Nassau County. Oh yes, those beaches are "private" also. Let’s just say that "private" translates into "ILLEGAL" in this week’s column. We all need to educate our elected officials on the laws they represent.

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