2004-08-13 / Editorial/Opinion

Once Again, Who Speaks For Our Communities?

As the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation was bulldozing under a number of natural dunes in Rockaway Park last week, the phone lines at The Wave began to light up like the proverbial Christmas Tree with calls from angry residents who demanded that the city be taken to task for the wonton destruction of the much-needed dunes. As it turns out, the city was not totally to blame for the harebrained scheme, although the department that is supposed to look after our beaches certainly should have known better than to plow under a valuable beach resource. It seems, however, that the genesis of the idea to destroy the so-called “unofficial dunes” came from the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association through its president, Edward Re. We have spoken to many people who are members of Re’s organization, and we have not been able to find one who knew about a meeting where a vote would be taken on the dunes. In fact, the comment from most of them was that there has not been an organization election that they knew about in quite some time. We met one of the organization’s members, representing Re, at the Doe Fund press conference on Beach 116 Street last week. Although he refused to give us his name, he told us that he was angry about The Wave’s front-page coverage of the dune dozing incident. He said that there were two reasons that the organization’s board believed that the dunes needed to go: they attracted dogs and people who used them as garbage pails and the dunes would perhaps lure Piping Plovers and would then force a closing of “their beaches.” “Would you like to see your beach closed by Piping Plovers,” he angrily asked. He opined that we did not even live in the area and therefore should not stick our noses in the Rockaway Park community’s business. There are two issues here. The first is the fact that a small number of people in the three west end communities – Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor and Neponsit make major decisions for their homeowners without seeking advice from the members at large. That kind of situation leads to decisions such as the unconscionable decision to flatten natural dunes that had taken up to seven years to develop. This should not be allowed, and it is up to the residents in each of those communities to take back their local civic organizations so that they truly reflect the desires of all residents (including those who rent) and not just the favored few.

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