2004-03-12 / Front Page

Beach 116 Street 'In Play' For 587 Memorial

By Brian Magoolaghan
Beach 116 Street ‘In Play’ For 587 Memorial

This area at the end of the parking median on Beach 116 Street is being considered as the site of the memorial.This area at the end of the parking median on Beach 116 Street is being considered as the site of the memorial.

The southern end of the parking med ian on Beach 116 Street emer ged as a possible location for the Flight 587 memorial at a City Hall meeting held last week.

"Beach 116 Street has become an alternative to Tribute Park," City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. said after the meeting. "It's a good possible site. My only con cern is the size of the memorial."

Several members of the Dominican community have suggested replicating the memorial in Bani, Dominican Republic, at whatever site is chosen in Rockaway, according to Silvia E. Alvarez, Deputy Press Secretary for the mayor's office. The Bani memorial is centered on a monument that is approximately 8 feet tall; Addabbo said he would like to see something that "would fit the area" and be considerably smaller.

Addabbo said he wants to hear community feedback on the available options.

The City Hall meeting, attended by local political, community board and property owner's association leadership, was the latest in a series hosted by the city's Community Assistance Unit. The purpose: to discuss suitable locations in the western section of Rockaway that all parties involved can live with.

The Beach 116 Street site appears to have a number of virtues: it's accessible by car, bus and train; the beach block of Beach 116 Street can be closed to motor vehicle traffic for the annual memorial service without blocking Rockaway Beach Boulevard; the site is in an area designed for pedestrian access; and it would meet the criteria for an independent memorial, which some Dom inican families have requested.

At least four other locations have been discussed so far: the crash site, Riis Park, the area on Beach Channel Drive between Beach 126 and 129 Streets and the south side of Tribute Park. While none have been publicly ruled out by the city, some appear to be much more likely than others.

All indications suggest that a memorial at the crash site is a closed issue. The ad-hoc memorial wall was remov ed last November and put in storage, and a plaque commemorating the disaster was placed at the crash site.

Riis Park also seems unlikely.

"The mayor seems intent about doing something in the area on city property," Addabbo said. Riis Park is on federal land.

The proposed spot on Beach Channel Drive has a number of logistical drawbacks, particularly with regard to access and safety.

"Beach Channel Drive is so dangerous - it seems out of the question," Community Board 14 District Man ager Jonathan Gaska said.

Tribute Park, which seemed to be a promising solution, is apparently losing popularity.

"We are listening to the requests of the Dominican families not to be included in Tribute Park," Alvarez said last week. Meanwhile, Addabbo doubted whether the Tribute Park could safely accommodate the number of people who have turned out for the first three memorial services.

Yet there is still support for placing the memorial in the unfinished bay-front park, and some say Tribute Park is where it is because that was best spot available.

"The prettiest spot, the most appropriate spot [for a 587 memorial], is Tribute Park," said Gaska. The Beach 116 Street site is "across from a place where people buy hotdogs and beer, single room occupancy hotels, new condos and the gateway of our commercial area and the beach," he said, adding that those reasons eliminated the area from consideration for Tri bute Park.

Liz Sulik, Executive Director of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, and a driving force behind Tribute Park, said the chamber is neutral on the issue, but has offered to poll local businesspeople on their thoughts on using the Beach 116 Street site.

"The mayor's office is doing the best job they can to move the process forward," said Sulik, who added that the chamber is committed to helping what she termed "the process of compromise."

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