2006-10-20 / Editorial/Opinion


Trying To Sneak A Fastball Past Rockaway

City agencies are constantly trying to sneak a fastball past Rockaway, to do in relative secret, things that the Rockaway community would react badly to had they known it was coming. Look at the Shore Front Parkway situation. The community asked for two lights and wound up with a brand new paint scheme. Perhaps the most flagrant action against the community in the past several years is the Neponsit Home controversy that started with Mayor Rudy Giuliani and obviously continues today under Mayor Mike Bloomberg. A few weeks ago, the Health and Hospitals Corporation put a small ad in the Daily News advertising the fact that it was going to hold a public hearing at the Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica regarding "the transfer of land and buildings to the City of New York identified as approximately 5.6 acres of land with three buildings located on the campus of the former Neponsit Health Center."

Notice two things: There was never a notice in a local venue that the meeting would be held, and the meeting was to be held far from the Rockaway peninsula, which would feel the greatest impact from any decision there. As it turns out, local Democratic District Leader Lew Simon was notified of the meeting by an ex-resident who saw the small print story and he called the corporation to complain. It seems that the HHC, which has a mandate under the original grant to maintain the property as either a health facility or a park, would quickly and stealthily transfer the property to the city, which would quickly tear down all of the present buildings and then have the state change the mandate so that "low-rise, low-density housing could be built on the site." You'll remember that Giuliani had a deal with a local Republican developer to build a hotel on the property and that all of the facility's residents were turned out in the middle of the night several years ago under the theory that the buildings were dangerous. A later independent survey proved that the buildings could easily be repaired, but the city never reopened the facility. Now, another Republican mayor wants to put lots of 'market rate" housing on the site. We are not saying whether that would be a good deal for Rockaway or not. We are only saying that Rockaway and the residents who live nearby the site have the right to be connected to the decision. The city should stop trying to sneak the fastball past Rockaway. The meeting should be advertised in Rockaway (as was the meeting's cancellation "until further notice"), and the meeting should be held on the peninsula.

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