2004-07-02 / Columnists

From the

By Howard Schwach

One morning in April, a number of the residents in Ilave, Peru, angered because the city council failed to keep a promise to pave a highway and build a market for local vendors, burst into a town council meeting, beat several of the council members and dragged the mayor through the streets before hanging him.

Now, I’m not saying that Rockaway residents should do the same to council members and city officials who fail to keep promises, but there is a lesson for errant politicians in the story nevertheless.

For the past two years, as Rockaway residents suffered under one of the most repressive ticket blitzes ever to hit the peninsula (perhaps not the worst. Ten years ago the Department of Transportation descended on the peninsula one day and booted hundreds of illegally parked cars), our politicians continued to promise that the terror would not continue.

They lied.

They lied about two issues.

The first was the establishment of designated surfing and fishing beaches. The second had to do with access to the beach and boardwalk.

First, the surfing and fishing issue.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, who then was the chair of the council’s prestigious Parks Committee, and now sits on the committee, said that surfing and fishing beaches could be set up only if the state changed the wording of its Sanitary Laws.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer did the job her constituents needed her to do. City officials from the Corporation Council’s Office reportedly sat down with state officials and assisted in wording the new law so that the city could accept it without further controversy.

A change was proposed. Dozens of citizens filed comments on the new law, every one of them in favor. The state changed the law and posted the change in its State Register.

The ball was now in the city’s court.

"They’ve given us no indication of what they’re going to do," Pheffer told The Wave last week. "They can’t use [the state law’s wording] as an excuse anymore. We’ve got to demand action [by the city] immediately."

Immediately! What a joke!

The Wave contacted the Corporation Council’s office to ask about the progress towards designating the surfing beaches.

"This is not an issue that we’re working on," a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson told us to contact the Parks Department instead.

A Parks spokesperson told The Wave, "Surfing only beaches. I don’t think that’s in the pipeline." Apparently, Parks had no idea that such a plan was in the works.

Liam Kavanagh is the Deputy Commissioner for Operations for the Parks Department. He stood on the boardwalk last July, quietly watching more than a thousand local residents protesting the restrictive beach rules and smirked at the exercise, said that the State change was only the first step in a two-step process that now required a change in the State’s General Obligation Law.

As the top operations guy at Parks, Kavanagh should know – I guess. Last year on the boardwalk I told him that the state law already allowed the designation of surfing beaches. He said that he did not know that. I sent him a copy of the law with the relevant sections of the law outlined.

I never heard from him again.

It is strange that neither Pheffer nor Addabbo ever mentioned the General Obligation Law. They didn’t, I believe, because that law was never at issue.

In fact, on Sunday evening I met Pheffer at the RMAC concert at Fort Tilden and we spoke about this issue. She was openly angry that the city was not keeping its obligation.

"That is ridiculous," she said. "The state did everything that the city said it needed to be done. We have to get on the city now to do what it promised in the first place."

This is just another way for the city to step on our necks and to continue to treat Rockaway residents as second-class citizens.

Go to Coney Island at night. People are on the boardwalk. People are on the beach, barbequing, drinking beer, having a good time on a hot night.

Go to Brighten Beach, and you will find the same. In fact, go almost anywhere in the world where there is a beach and the people would laugh at you if you told them about the beach and boardwalk rules in Rockaway.

You can bet the farm that the surfing beaches will not be designated any time soon, perhaps not this summer nor next.

Addabbo also promised us that the wave of tickets would stop this year, now that Captain Charles Talamo has moved from the 100 Precinct to the 107 precinct, an area that hopefully does not have a beach.

The tickets have not stopped.

Addabbo promised us continually that if the strict enforcement continued, he would work to change the restrictive and draconian rules.

The tickets did not stop and Addabbo has done nothing to change the rules.

Addabbo lied.

Kavanagh lied.

The mayor lied.

Pheffer is the only politician that comes out of this with some credibility.

Now, Addabbo’s office is inundated with calls from irate constituents every hot day.

Not enough lifeguards with a plethora of closed beaches.

Fishermen getting whistled out of the surf.

People being thrown off closed beaches simply for walking or sitting on the beach.

People being thrown off the boardwalk after curfew on hot nights.

People being hassled for trying to use the beaches that belong to them, not to Addabbo and not to Kavanagh.

This has got to stop. People are not going to spend big money for beach-front homes in Arverne By The Sea or anywhere else on the peninsula once they find out they cannot use those beaches on a regular basis.

That boardwalk rally last July 9 did Rockaway no good. Nobody listened, least of all our City Councilman.

Lew Simon, who organized last year’s rally, has called for another one this July 13.

Perhaps our city leaders would listen if thousands showed up to complain.

Probably not! Addabbo will continue to listen to the few who own homes nearby the beach and who wish that everybody else would just go elsewhere and leave "their" beaches alone..

Kavanagh and his minions at Parks will continue to smirk at Rockaway residents, sure in their belief that Rockaway is a residential area while Coney Island and other city beaches are commercial areas and therefore should be treated differently, not understanding what the restrictive rules mean to residents. Addabbo has to go to work for his constituents rather than for Kavanagh and the mayor.

Nice guy today, nice guy tomorrow, it’s always "What have you done for us lately."

The city council in Peru obviously did not understand that.

Look what happened to them in the end.

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