2006-03-03 / Front Page

Memorial Build Starts Soon

Flight 587 Update Set, But Who
By Brian Magoolaghan

Construction of the Flight 587 memorial is set to begin on Beach 116 Street this month, and the city will host an update meeting in Rockaway Monday night for a select audience only, The Wave has learned.

Last week, a group including memorial designer Freddy Rodriguez, the Department of Parks and Recreation personnel, Borough President Helen Marshall and Rockaway representatives met at Borough Hall to try to limit the disruption caused by the project this summer, according to Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, who attended the meeting.

The memorial includes reconstruction of the public restrooms located below the sand on the south side of the boardwalk. That work was originally scheduled for the summertime, which would have inundated the site with porta-potties during the peak visitor season and the hottest months of the year.

Gaska said he, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer convinced Parks, the supervising agency, to begin work on the restrooms after Labor Day. He said they also negotiated an agreement whereby only one of the boardwalk entrance ramps on the north side would be closed at any given time.

“The issues regarding beach access are very important to us and we made that known: the bathroom accessibility, the parking on 116, the fact that half a million people cross that area in a given beach season,” Addabbo said of the talks. “We need to have it open for our visitors and our residents.”

Aside from those details, little is known about how the memorial will take shape. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has not updated the public since it announced the selection of Rodriguez’ design in November, 2005. Instead, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Community Assistance Unit have relied on invitation-only meetings in Washington Heights and Rockaway Park. The meetings “to update the [victims’] families and community representatives” are closed to the general public and the media, according to Silvia Alvarez, a Mayor’s Office spokesperson.

And just as the project is starting to heat up, Rockaway’s “community representatives” are finding themselves partially out of the loop. A private update meeting that was supposed to be held at the Beach Club last month was cancelled for lack of attendance. Gaska told The Wave he wasn’t invited and heard about the meeting from a third party at the last minute. Addabbo’s office found out by chance, according to a staff person.

“To date, the invitation part of every meeting has left a lot to be desired, and I’ve made my feelings known about that,” said Addabbo, who added that the process “should be open to all for input.

“What have they got to hide?” he continued.

Victims’ family members were recently asked to verify the “spellings and groupings of loved ones for the memorial wall,” according to a February 21 letter from Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares. The letter, obtained by The Wave, indicates that the Beach Club meeting has been rescheduled for March 6, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“Is this one of those secret meetings,” Gaska quipped when a reporter asked him if he was invited. He received a call this time, he said.

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