2005-06-24 / Columnists


By Joanie Omeste, Executive Director, Rockaway Chamber of Commerce

Joanie OmesteJoanie Omeste The Chamber’s Annual Public Meeting was held on June 20. In addition to our board members, it was good to see people from the public sector in attendance as well. The Chamber would like to thank everyone who came out and participated. Chamber President, John Lepore, reported on the work the Chamber has done throughout the year. He and Dan Mundy, the Project Coordinator for Tribute Park, reported on the progress of the Park (which is now visible). One of the Chamber’s biggest successes of the year is in working with Councilman Joe Addabbo to get the streets of the Beach 116 Street business district cleaned through partnership with The Doe Fund. It hasn’t been a year yet, and the businesses can’t even imagine what it was like without them!

Lepore also spoke about the Chamber’s commitment to serve the Far Rockaway area. To this end, we are working with Councilman Sanders to have The Doe Fund clean the streets of the Far Rockaway business district….this may begin sometime in July. The Chamber has also worked towards this goal by holding the first ever Business Card Exchange in cooperation with RDRC. This was a standing room only event because of the partnership of both organizations. The Chamber has committed to working with the Rockaway East Merchants Association (REMA) which has gone through its own changes and we are providing our full support to this organization as they reestablish themselves.

The Chamber is also working with Councilman Sanders, RDRC and Margert Community Corporation on the publication of a new Rockaway Map. And, again with the above organizations and Small Business Services to bring additional resources to the Far Rockaway businesses.

The establishment of a business improvement district is more than half way there. We have received the surveys from the business owners and property owners and are in the process of creating a report of our findings for the City. We received a huge response to the surveys and this is in no small part thanks to Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer personally handing out the surveys to the business owners. One of the next steps is to hold a public meeting…so stay tuned.

On Thursday, June 2, the Chamber and the 100 Precinct held a meeting to discuss issues specifically relating to the Beach 116 Street business district. Attended by over 30 merchants, Police Officer Lou Brust presented on the issues and was available for questions and answers. Also available from Transit District 23 was Lt. Tom Brady to address any matters regarding the subway station. Without a doubt, the most disturbing issue is panhandling and dealing with the people from the SRO’s and adult homes who use Beach 116 Street to take part in…I’m being kind….recreational drinking and taking of narcotics. The panhandlers are often accosting people aggressively, and are often found lying drunk in front of stores. Okay so we know all that, what do we do? First the Chamber is organizing a follow up meeting with Assemblywoman Pheffer’s office and the 100 Precinct to track who is coming from the Park Inn Adult Home. This information gives the Assemblywoman the resources to make sure the Park Inn is in compliance with all state regulations. We are also investigating programs to help these individuals and not just discard them. A very good point Office Brust made was for business owners to call the Precinct if they see something illegal or are plagued by a person lying drunk in front of their store. It is the only way the Precinct is aware of a problem and the only way they can keep a record of it. Officer Brust also informed the business owners that although the beat officer is sometimes utilized for other assignments, there are always police patrolling along Beach 116 Street. With Transit Police posted outside the subway entrance, the police cars from the 100 th Precinct patrolling the area and the addition of the Beach Patrol for the summer, there are officers present 24-hours a day.

The Chamber stressed at this meeting that upon forming a BID, public safety officers may help with these issues. It is important to understand that Public Safety Officers are not armed and are more of a presence to deter certain quality of life infringements. They work in cooperation with the NYPD and can report if they see a crime in progress. Other general concerns of the business owners were expressed and Officer Brust patiently, and intelligently answered every question thrown his way.

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