2005-08-25 / Editorial/Opinion

Another Summer Gone, Still No Beach Access Answers

With Labor Day only weeks away, it is time to look back at this summer’s beach experience. Generally speaking, local police officials kept their promise to enforce the laws with some common sense. With few exceptions, the police allowed locals and visitors alike to enjoy the Rockaway beach experience. Most of the summonses given out this summer were for drinking beer on the beach, something that is regularly observed in Rockaway but not in Coney Island or in other city parks, where drinking wine is perfectly acceptable. We wish we could say the same for the Parks Enforcement Police (PEP), who regularly meted out vigilante justice while driving their dune buggies at a reckless pace all over the beachfront. Those Parks Department employees ruined many a summer day here on the peninsula. Their bosses, of course, added to the woes by failing for the fifth year in a row to hire a sufficient number of lifeguards to keep beaches open. While Parks admittedly aimed for 95 percent opening on the weekends and 75 percent during the week, they failed miserably to achieve even that unacceptable standard. In many cases, half of our beaches were closed during the week and nearly 25 percent were closed on the weekends. The police get an A for the summer, the Parks Department a lowly D-. In addition, there has not been a resolution for the third year of the draconian beach access rules that keep people off the beach after 9 p.m. and off the boardwalk after 10 p.m. No other beach community in the world has restrictive rules such as those. A Wave editor recently returned from a vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Those beaches were kept open all night and people could be seen fishing, swimming (at their own risk), flying kites and even cooking over open fires late into the night. Beach rules in many of those communities are made up by a committee of National Park Service officials (lots of the Outer Banks is federal park land), conservationists, town leaders, recreational groups and citizens. Perhaps that is what we need for New York City. Why should Adrian Benepe, a Manhattanite from the toes up, decide what’s right for Rockaway’s beaches? Perhaps next year!

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