2004-10-08 / Front Page

Coastal Access Suit Put On Hold Until November 29

By Howard Schwach


The site map for the Arverne By The Sea project shows that a number of streets that now run from Rockaway Beach Boulevard to the boardwalk will be demapped. While the Borough President and others have promised that Shore Front Parkway will be extended and that a number of streets will remain to allow public access to the beach, the two locals who recently filed a federal lawsuit against the plan, say that the law requires that access to the beach should not be diminished by demapping streets.
The site map for the Arverne By The Sea project shows that a number of streets that now run from Rockaway Beach Boulevard to the boardwalk will be demapped. While the Borough President and others have promised that Shore Front Parkway will be extended and that a number of streets will remain to allow public access to the beach, the two locals who recently filed a federal lawsuit against the plan, say that the law requires that access to the beach should not be diminished by demapping streets. The lawsuit brought in federal court by local activists John Baxter and Richard George against 28 defendants, mostly city state and federal officials, has been put on hold until at least November 29 at the request of both the city and the state.

Melanie Sadok, an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York’s Law Department, asked Judge Lois Bloom for an extension on answering the charges.

“I have recently been assigned to this case and need to contact numerous client agencies and individuals to gather the information and records necessary to respond to the complaint,” Sadok wrote on September 27, seven days after the complaint was filed.

John Gibson, an assistant state attorney general in the office of the New York State Attorney General, wrote a similar letter to Bloom.

“My office represents the New York Department of State (DOS), the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DCHR), The New York State Inspector General (NYSIG) and the New York State Attorney General (NYSAG), (collectively, the “State Respondents),” Gibson wrote. “The state is asking for its first adjournment to November 29.”

George told The Wave that he had accepted the postponements because he and Baxter could not afford to serve all of the defendants personally and accepted a more informal service in return for the later court date.

Baxter and George have sued under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA) and the New York City Waterfront Revitalization Act (WRA) that came as a result of the mandates of the federal law.

The two locals argue that a number of recent developments that impact either coastal access or coastal site lines are illegal under those laws.

“The public’s rights are spelled out in Policy Eight of the WRA,” George told The Wave in an exclusive interview. “All the existing roads that run to the waterfront must be maintained unless the demand has decreased in that area. Reducing the number of streets in the Arverne By The Sea development reduces access and that is not allowed under the law.”

He argues that the same goes for site corridors that run to a waterfront area.

“When the city allowed Duane Reade to be built on a mapped extension of Beach 116 Street that ran to the bay, they violated the letter and the spirit of Policy Eight,” he said. “The law says that access and site lines cannot be reduced and the Duane Reade building did both.”

Developers say that the new road structure, with a road that runs along the beachfront and several that run from Rockaway Beach Boulevard to the beach would increase access, not reduce it, especially with many new homes being built in the area.

Neither of the two local men agrees with that argument, however.

“The law is clear,” George says. “Reducing the number of streets that run to ocean is not allowed. Reducing streets equals reducing access no matter what the developers and the city say.”

“We are not doing this for money or for a private agenda,” George added. “We have brought this suit because we want the public to have the enjoyment of their coastal area and we want the city to obey the federal law.”

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