2005-04-22 / Front Page

Meeting Held On Flight 587 Memorial

By Brian Magoolaghan


Daffodils abound on the traffic circle at the southern end of Beach 116 Street that may well one day in the next two years become a memorial to those who died when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue on November 12, 2001.Daffodils abound on the traffic circle at the southern end of Beach 116 Street that may well one day in the next two years become a memorial to those who died when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue on November 12, 2001. The mayor’s Community Assistance Unit met with key Rockaway representatives last week to discuss the memorial for Flight 587, officially welcoming the community into the decision-making process, The Wave has learned.

CAU Assistant Commissioner Joann Ariola told local reps that Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to complete the selection process for an artist/design concept in time for an announcement at this year’s memorial service, according to sources who attended the meeting.

With less than six months to make that happen, the city has started accepting portfolios from artists, and a request for proposals (RFP) will be issued shortly, sources said.

The focus of the meeting was to gauge local sentiment on the memorial and update representatives on progress since Bloomberg’s announcement, at last year’s memorial service, that the south end of Beach 116 Street had been selected as the site for a permanent memorial. “They wanted to hear from us what we’d like to see there, and what our feelings are,” said Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14 District Manager.

Representatives from the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr.’s office and the Rockaway Artists Alliance were present, Gaska said. The Belle Harbor Property Owners Association was invited but did not attend.

Geoff Rawling, Rockaway Artists Alliance president, said he and others stressed that the memorial should be harmonious with its surroundings – something Addabbo has stressed from the beginning.

“Our main concept was that we don’t want something big and dominating,” Rawling said.

Gaska told The Wave he shared that concern and raised another: the potential loss of parking spaces on the busy street. While it is unclear if the memorial will require the elimination of spaces, Gaska said it could bring about the elimination of the raised concrete parking median that zigzags up the middle of the street.

The median traps dirt, prevents mechanical street sweeping and is a constant tripping hazard, according to Gaska, who said replacement with painted lines has been “a long-standing community board request.” The Department of Transportation will play a role in the planning to help make the memorial safe for pedestrians, which could expedite the reconfiguration, he said.

The Rockaway meeting, held at The Beach Club, comes about one month after the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs met with Dominican families in Washington Heights to discuss fundraising and memorial design.

It was unclear when another meeting on the subject would be held in Rockaway, but those who attended this one described it as a positive experience.

“The mayor’s office has promised a collaborative effort,” Gaska said.

At press time, the CAU and Immigrant Affairs had not returned calls seeking comment.

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