Push For 587 Memorial On B. 116 Street
In a letter dated September 7, Guillermo Linares, Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, asks families to indicate whether or not they support Beach 116 Street “with the understanding that families will be consulted during the planning process...” The families may choose “No,” but the letter warns that “the timeframe for this process may be set back indefinitely,” if they do so.
Linares, who was appointed commissioner in the middle of July, is a founding member of the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans and helped establish the Dominican Studies Institute for the City University of New York. He called the memorial effort one of his top priorities and told The Wave this week that brokering the agreement on a location is his chief concern.
“Right now, the most important question is where [the memorial should go],” Linares said adding that he is mindful of the upcoming anniversary.
The letter follows a meeting on August 27 between Linares and some of the victim’s families. The next step could be a final site decision in which each family has one vote and the majority rules. The families were asked to respond to the letter by September 24 – that leaves about seven weeks to finalize any decisions before the third anniversary on the November 12.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg “really wants to settle this once and for all for the families of the victims and the residents of Rockaway,” said City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr.
Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14 District Manager, said the letter is a wake-up call to the Dominican families, which have broken into factions and have been divided on the memorial issue.
“I think what the mayor’s office is saying is, ‘You guys get your act together or we don’t know what we’re going to do,’” said Gaska.
The Wave first reported in March that the “Greenstreets” area at the southern end of the Beach 116 Street parking median was being considered for the memorial. The location has several positive attributes: it belongs to the city; it’s accessible by car, bus and train; the entire beach block can be closed to vehicle traffic without blocking Rockaway Beach Boulevard; and it meets the request of many of the Dominican families for an independent memorial. That last requirement seems to have eliminated Tribute Park, which has been limping towards completion, from the running.
Linares’ letter says the city is willing to take steps to make the “Greenstreets” location successful.
“The City is prepared to work with the families and the community of Belle Harbor to address any concern they may have regarding this site, including making modifications to the immediate area surrounding the site,” Linares says.
Still, there are drawbacks to the location. Addabbo said any memorial “should fit the existing look of Beach 116 Street,” but that could prove to be a challenge – the area is a mosaic of commercial and residential structures and public land. Addabbo has repeatedly stressed that the memorial should not become an “attractive nuisance.” There have been suggestions that the Rockaway memorial mirror the one built in Bani, Dominican Republic, but Addabbo said using the exact dimensions here would not create a good fit.
Whether the location will pass a vote remains to be seen. The Flight 587 Families Association rejected the Beach 116 Street location as soon as it surfaced, but Linares indicated that he has been in talks with members of that group as well as the others.
At least one family that received Linares’ letter, however, was confused by his ambiguous reference to a “memorial on 116 Street in Belle Harbor” and unsure which of the two sites on Beach 116 Street, in Rockaway Park, he meant.