State Considers Surfing Rule Change
St. Patrick’s Day brought not only luck for the Irish, but hope that the restrictive surfing and fishing rules that have ruined the past two summers for many Rockaway residents might well be changing.
On Wednesday, Assemblywoman Aud rey Pheffer announced that the state had begun a 45-day comment period so that locals can have their say on an amendment to the health rules that would allow both surfing and fishing on designated city beaches.
According to state officials, the rule change is to "clarify the definition of ‘bathing’ and after-hours activities on bathing beaches."
While the old rules defined "bathing" as including surfing and other water-related activities, the new rule would say, "Bathing shall mean to be partially or totally immersed in water and shall include swimming, wading and diving, but shall exclude fishing, scuba diving and surfboarding."
That change in the state’s Health Code will allow the city to designate certain beaches for surfing and fishing with the understanding that those who pursue those activities do so at their own risk.
The new rule codifies that fact by stating, "No boating, water skiing, fishing or surfboarding shall be permitted in the [swimming and] bathing [areas] during the hours that bathing is allowed. Sep arate areas for the above activities may be designated by floating lines and buoys."
Experts say that the rule change would allow surfing and fishing on specified beaches during the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. period that the beach is open each day and that all beaches would be available for surfing and fishing after 6 p.m. While state officials would not comment directly on the impact of the new rule on after-hours surfing and fishing, the New York State Register, where all new state rules must be posted, said, "The one alternative considered [to the new rule] was to make no changes. This alternative was rejected based on misinterpretation of the definition of ‘bathing,’ resulting in restriction of certain activities such as fishing and surfboarding, at areas not operated as beaches and/or at beaches during hours of the day when not open to bathing (emphasis is ours).
Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who has been pressing for the rule change, said, "the process might seem lengthy, but it allows for review by city agencies and comment from the public."
Pheffer added that the city’s Corporation Council, who has the final say from the city’s point of view, has already looked at the wording of the new rule and is "comfortable" with it.
"I would hope that this will be done by summer," Pheffer said. "So many surfers have commented on it and now it is imperative that they contact the state to have their voices heard."
City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, who represents the west end of Rockaway and, until recently, chaired the council’s Parks Committee, told The Wave that the change would allow the city to designate beaches. He has already told the Rockaway Beach Civic Association that he expected that Beach 91 Street would become one of the first beaches designated for surfing.
"This is the first step in a process that we hope to have completed by summer," Addabbo said. "As soon as I see the rule passed, I will ask the Corporation Council to allow those beaches to be designated."
Addabbo added that this is a "positive step" in resolving some of the past problems that surfers faced in Rockaway.
Anybody interested in commenting to the state about the new rules may do so by sending those comments to: William Johnson, Department of Health, Division of Legal Affairs, Office of Regulatory Reform, Corning Tower, Room 2415, Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12237.
Comments are due by April 30.