2004-08-13 / Front Page

Needle, Detritus On Rockaway’s Beaches

By Shelly Banjo


Young children walk on the beach, unaware of the garbage left there both by people who use the beach and by those who dump their garbage at sea.
Young children walk on the beach, unaware of the garbage left there both by people who use the beach and by those who dump their garbage at sea. More than 4.4 million people visit Rockaway beaches every summer in search of sun, sand and swimming. What Rockaway resident, Terese Paskoff’s young daughter found instead, however, was a hypodermic needle on the oceanfront at Beach 134 Street.

“Thank God the [protective] tip was still on it so my daughter didn’t pierce herself,” Paskoff said.

Paskoff called 311 and filed a complaint but said the New York City Department of Health walked her through lots of red tape.

Trash sits in the tire marks left by Department of Parks vehicles tasked with cleaning the beach each day.
Trash sits in the tire marks left by Department of Parks vehicles tasked with cleaning the beach each day. The New York City Council recently echoed Paskoff’s complaints when its leadership released a report on August 8 entitled, “Swimming in Trash? A Look into Cleanliness at NYC Beaches.”

Council investigators found “disturbing amounts of floatable debris… including waste items such as tires, condoms, syringes, wigs, dead rodents and used sanitary napkins.”

While South Beach and Midland Beach in Staten Island were the dirtiest beaches surveyed, investigators found parts of Rockaway Beach “riddled with debris.”

Between Beach 66 and Beach 20 Streets investigators found “several tampon applicators, bits of broken glass and sacks of clothing.”

Under the boardwalk they found “some motor oil bottles, plastic bags, a few shoes and other miscellaneous bulky waste.”

The west end, however, was “clean enough that investigators roamed it without shoes on” and reported the “sand was clean with no garbage.”

Other dirty beaches included in the study were Coney Island and Manhattan Beaches in Brooklyn, Orchard Beach in the Bronx and Wolfe’s Pond Park in Staten Island.

Currently, the Parks Department cleans the beaches and conducts daily shoreline inspections, night cleanings and increases the number of workers during the summer.

“We’re out there everyday trying to make sure things like this don’t happen but there will always be people disregarding rules of the beach,” said Dana Rubinstein, a spokesperson for the Parks Department.

“We want the public to cooperate with us to keep the beaches safe and clean,” she said.

Rockaway resident, Loraine Shiel, who goes to the beach every morning, said there are at least 6-8 people always cleaning.

“After the weekend the beach is disgusting and looks like a garbage dump with dirty diapers and beer bottles everywhere, but every morning I see people cleaning it up,” she said.

Rubinstein said the City Council report conclusions lack basis in fact and the city beaches have never been better.

“Their results are disproved by the fact there are more people coming to the beaches this year than ever before, a million more than last year,” Rubinstein said.

Investigators did not employ any scientific methodology and visited each beach only twice. The study states it was conducted as a “qualitative analysis only…used to get a snapshot of the condition of City-operated public beaches.”

The City Council report suggests that the trash places public health at risk and recommends passing the Clean Beach Act of 2004.

This legislation would require posting clean beach standards and results online for all beaches and whether they meet federal water quality standards.

The council also recommends an increase in clean-up and routine trash pickups, requiring the Department of Parks and Recreation to market the Adopt-a-Beach Program and support the International Beach Cleanup Day on September 18.

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