2004-10-08 / Editorial/Opinion

Don’t Discount The Vital Question Of Water Access

It is easy to look at the lawsuit that was filed recently in federal court by two local activists and say, “there go those loony environmentalists again.” The fact is, should the lawsuit be upheld, the consequences could include the redesign of the much-needed Arverne By The Sea development (or, even its demise in certain areas), the destruction of the new Duane Reade Pharmacy in Rockaway Park and the destruction of the new housing development connected with Wavecrest Gardens. It is unlikely that the consequences would be so drastic, but one never knows what will happen once the government gets involved in environmental issues. Far more bizarre things have happened in the past in other venues and we would expect that, should the lawsuit be upheld, the city would, at the very least, face vast fines and the eastern phase of the Arverne By The Sea development would be halted for years. What is at stake is water access, both to The Atlantic Ocean and to Jamaica Bay. Congress passed a law in 1972 called the Coastal Zone Management Act. A number of New York State and New York City laws were piggybacked on that federal law. New York’s City’s law is called the Waterfront Revitalization Act. The intent of all of these laws is to “provide both physical and visual public access [to coastal waters] in a manner that balances the interests of public and private waterfront use.” A reading of the law makes clear that the city, in approving the Duane Reade building in an area where a public road was mapped (although not existent) violates that rule. So does the reduction of streets running to the beach in the Arverne area from 46 to 6, even though few people now use the beach in that area. So do a number of other projects that have been approved and built along the shore in Rockaway over the past several years. We do not hold with those who filed the suit that Arverne By The Sea should be stopped. The project is far too important to Rockaway’s survival. Perhaps, if the suit is upheld, a new plan for public access could be drawn that would satisfy the federal and city laws. Water access is important to every Rockaway resident, whether they use the beach and bay or not. There has to be a balance, and we favor more water use, not less, but ignoring a federal law is not the way to insure that development and access rights are balanced.

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