2004-08-13 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter

BEVERLY BAXTER Since returning from vacation I have noticed profound changes to the look of Beach 116 Street. Perhaps you have noticed as well. The reason is due to the arrival of the Doe Fund to our town. On August 2nd a press conference was held by Councilman Joe Addabbo, The Chamber of Commerce, and George McDonald, President and Founder of the organization, to launch and introduce the Doe Fund to Rockaway. Now, exactly two weeks since its implementation, the results are clearly visible.

A non-profit homeless service organization, the Doe Fund provides jobs such as street cleaning, graffiti removal, painting of light poles and mail boxes, removal of unsightly flyers, etc...to those who are re-entering society. Its Ready, Willing, and Able program has been successfully implemented and there have been secured contracts for cleaning areas in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. In addition to our area, crews currently maintain Hudson River Park, neighborhoods in Midtown, Upper Manhattan, Forest Hills, White Plains Road in the Bronx, as well as Court, Montague, and Fulton Streets in Brooklyn.

I recently had the pleasure of discussing the program with Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joanie Omeste and Rockaway Homeowners and Residents Association Board Member John Lenihan who has strongly advocated for the program.

“Councilman Addabbo deserves the accolades for securing the thirty-five thousand dollar contract. He had been researching this endeavor and its success in other areas throughout the city. “He championed it”, states Joanie Omeste. The Rockaway Homeowners and Residents Association agreed with the proposal and pro-actively lobbied for the program as well. Since workers began on July 29, the consensus has been resoundingly positive. “We saw a difference within one hour!”, states Omeste. “The store owners are absolutely ecstatic! They are welcoming the workers, offering them water, and any other assistance.”

The Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Doe Fund, oversees and runs the day to day operation. The workers report to the chamber office. They work five days a week from 8:30 am ‘til 3:30 pm on Thursdays thru Mondays cleaning Beach 116 Street from the ocean to the Sunset Diner and Rockaway Beach Blvd. from Beach 112 Street to Beach 117 Street. “It’s a win-win for Rockaway Park and the beautification of our Business District”, states John Lenihan.

Hopefully, the Doe Fund is an important step of many in our revitalization. According to Joanie Omeste, “It all starts with a clean quality of life. We need to look like a clean thriving area and not one that’s in decline. As former Vice President of Tourism for the Times Square Business Improvement District (BID), Ms. Omeste brings to Rockaway a wealth of experience, as well as a fresh new pair of eyes. “People want change; but they can’t see it happening.” While driving each day to work from her home in Long Beach, she is always amazed by Rockaway’s resources and potential. “We just need a tweeking! We are a beach community; yet there isn’t a beach feel or theme to the area. We plan to make enhancements through our Awning Program, which reimburses storeowners fifty percent of the cost for new fabric.

In addition to the renovation of the subway station, other endeavors to beautify Beach 116 Street include new light poles, new parking stalls, and perhaps incentives to have storeowners stay open late one night a week so that residents can come out and ‘stroll’ the business area.

We are on the cusp of great changes happening here. And once our efforts take off, the momentum will have a life of its own.

We will be able to attract other businesses to come and take a chance here.

We have all of the ingredients and our community spirit is remarkable. Sure, its challenging, but that’s what makes life interesting!”

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