2004-09-03 / Editorial/Opinion

Professionals + Community = Valid Decision-Making

The decision-making process is often a contentious one, especially in Rockaway, where each community has its own agenda and where each individual thinks that he or she is the voice of the community. Witness a few recent decisions that impacted on a wide range of residents but were made by a few, select residents who believe that they represent the desires of the community at large. The two decisions we are writing about, of course, are the decision to construct malls and restrict parking on the west end and the destruction of the “unofficial” dunes on west end beaches. In each of those cases, the procedure for making the decision was the reverse of what it should have been. In situations such as that, the professionals, after lots of study, should have gone to the community to make its case for change. In the case of the malls and the resulting loss of parking, the Department of Transportation, seeing a problem, should have gone to the relevant community organizations with a plan for remediation. The community should then have called a general meeting to address the DOT’s plan and a wide-ranging vote should have been taken in all of the relevant communities. In the case of the dunes, the request to remove them should have come not from the community, but from a professional agency involved with beach ecology – the Department of Parks or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example. The professional group should then have instituted a plan for change to bring to the community. In both cases, however, the community initiated the change request and the city agencies – the DOT and Parks responded politically rather than rationally, granting the small group of community people who made the decisions exactly what they wanted, much to the ire of many in the community who were never given a chance to voice their own opinion or vote. In both cases, the city agency involved should have known better. For the Department of Parks to destroy dunes is particularly disturbing and for the DOT to reduce parking availability in an already impacted area was plain foolish. Something has to change. Community organizations have to be more open to their own membership. City agencies have to show communities why their wants are sometimes self-defeating. That will not happen under the Bloomberg administration, however. Perhaps it is time for a change.

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