2004-06-25 / Editorial/Opinion

Whose Beaches Are They, Anyway?

Whose Beaches Are They, Anyway?

A wave of tickets on Rockaway beaches is threatening to ruin another summer for those who live in Rockaway or simply come down for the day to enjoy a day at the beach. This is the third year in a row that this has happened and the third year in a row that local politicians have said that it would not happen this year. While the blame in the past fell on Captain Charles Talamo and his 100 Precinct police officers, this year’s problems seem to be coming not from the local cops, who have promised a quieter summer, and the local precincts are keeping their promises. The Parks Enforcement Police (PEP) as well as outside police units such as the Queens South Task Force, however, have picked up the slack and seem to be redoubling their efforts to make the beach experience as unpleasant as possible. The recent incidents with the PEP seem most troubling. PEP officers have been whistling fishermen out of the surf on east end beaches such as Beach 13 and Beach 15 Street. While those fishing from the beach have been wading into the surf for more years that most of us can count, this year the PEP has been keeping fishermen from their passion since the summer began, even on those beaches traditionally reserved strictly for fishing. On the west end, the PEP has been haunting that myriad of beaches that are closed for lack of enough lifeguards. People who sit on those beaches or who simply walk across them have been hit with multiple tickets for such things as "disorderly behaviort," "failure to obey beach signs" and "failure to obey the direction of a police officer." One man, who got those three tickets and a fourth for "endangering the safety of others" though he was nearly alone on the beach, says that a PEP Sergeant indicated to him that the sergeant believed that the beaches belong to the Parks Department and that the department simply allows residents to use them when they feel like it, as long as those residents obey the draconian rules laid down by the department for their use. That is not the way it works. The beaches belong to the public and the public should make the decisions about access and use. For a person to get a ticket for simply transiting a closed beach or for sitting on a closed beach is obviously ridiculous – to everybody but the Parks Department. That has to change. As long as people are acting reasonable and within the norms of civilized behavior, they should be left alone to enjoy their leisure on the beach and that includes boogey boarding, fishing, surfing, drinking beer and cooking. All within reason, of course. If a person gets drunk and disorderly for example, then the police should move in and remove that person. Until that time, however, leave us alone to enjoy the beaches that we own, not the PEP nor its under trained and often clueless minions.

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