2004-02-13 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach

It’s amazing the response we get here at The Wave when we write stories or editorialize on the parking problems in the west end of Rockaway.

I haven’t received as many letters and emails as I got in response last week’s front-page story since I opined that public schools were better than parochial schools – but that’s another story for another day.

One local reader wrote to say that I am obviously against the people who live on the west end because I live in Bayswater and am jealous of those who live on the other end of the peninsula. None of that is true – not that I am against those who live on the west end, not that I am jealous of them, nor that I live in Bayswater.

Another write said that she is "getting bored" with the endless carping over the parking restrictions in Belle Harbor. She says, "Let’s face it, summer is coming and for three months out of the year, everybody within 50 miles of here wants to plunk down on that beautiful Belle Harbor sand (with their car parked as close as the law allows, of course) and spend the day complaining about how those lousy elitists in Belle Harbor try to stop everybody else from having a good time."

An entire family wrote to say that the new parking restrictions will help those who come down for the day (derisively called, "DFD’s), "realize that parking is not available and they will no longer be able to litter our beaches." Our beaches. Funny, I always thought that the beaches were public.

Unfortunately, those people miss an important point.

Those parking rules impact in a great er way on those who live in Rock away than those who come to use our beaches on a hot summer weekend.

It is our own residents, our own home owners who suffer from the rules.

I recently moved from one west end apartment to another. At the first, it cost me $100 a month to rent a parking spot about 250 yards from where I lived, and I was glad to find it, al though it was often a hardship to walk that distance in the rain and snow.

When my wife and I went looking for another apartment, the first question we asked was "is parking available all year-round?"

We would not think of taking an apartment without the requisite parking.

I have been told by a number of real estate agents who serve the west end that apartments without available parking are nearly impossible to rent at any price while those with parking bring a premium.

Pity the poor homeowner who cannot provide parking, particularly during the summer months. Is that homeowner a DFD? Of course not.

Then, we have those, like myself, who rent an apartment from that home owner.

Where am I supposed to park my car? Does an elderly person have to walk a dozen blocks from his parking spot to the apartment he rents simply because the local homeowners don’t want interlopers parking on their territory, DFD’s using their beach?

Those are the questions that need to be asked, the issues that need to be addressed – not whether or not I dislike the west end or live in Bayswater.

I understand that many homeowners in Belle Harbor do not consider the renter worthy of note.

I was actually drummed out of the Belle Harbor Property Owners As sociation by Jack King a number of years ago. King returned by dues and said that only homeowners were al lowed to have a say about important issues in the community because of the "financial interest and investment they have in the community."

So much for you guys who don’t have a down payment or simply don’t want to own a home. You don’t count!

That elitism is often carried to ex tremes.

A police officer who rented an apartment at the time on Beach 129 Street tried to join the Belle Harbor property Owners Association, not knowing that he was a pariah because he rented.

He spoke to official of the BHPOA about starting a community patrol in the area. He was rebuffed because, the association said, he did not live in Belle Harbor.

Although there is much indisputable historic proof that the original Belle Harbor Estates started on Beach 126 Street, where Rockaway Beach Boule vard widens, and the new malls begin, the property owners association continues to say that Belle Harbor begins further west, on Beach 130 Street.

Heavens, we don’t want those Rock away Park people believing that they live in Belle Harbor, do we?

To add to the foolishness, we now have people advertising in The Wave that they have homes for sale in "Up per Belle Harbor," which, I suppose, runs from Beach 138 Street to Beach 139 Street, from the ocean to the bay. The implication is that Upper Belle Harbor is closer to Neponsit and therefore somehow more worthy, more valuable.

We are also starting to get ads for homes in "Upper Rockaway Park," which puts them closer to Belle Har bor.

I guess that if it worked for "West Lawrence" it can work for "Upper Belle Harbor."

Soon, we will all be dealing with such minute distinctions as Lower Bel le Harbor (Beach 130 Street to Beach 132 Street), Central Belle Har bor (Beach 133 Street to Beach 136 Street) and Upper Belle Harbor (Beach 137 Street to Beach 139 Street). Then, perhaps, Southern Upper Belle Harbor (the beach block and the 200 block between Beach 137 and Beach 139 Street), which is certainly more valuable than the 400 and 500 blocks.

Where does it end?

The beach belongs to everybody, not only those who have enough money to buy a home nearby the beach.

The streets belong to everybody, not just to those who can afford to buy a home with a driveway.

Silly central malls and neighborhood distinctions aside, we are all in this together.

It’s time to pull together. To paraphrase what one great man (I still think that he’s a great man) said, "We must all stand together or we will certainly fall separately."

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