2007-05-25 / Editorial/Opinion

Parks Department Sinks Rockaway One More Time

For a few brief moments, there was hope. Hope that the lifeguard testing program would finally become equitable, giving Rockaway kids a chance to patrol their own beaches this coming season. Hope that the beaches would remain open in the evening during the week so that commuters who live in Rockaway would have a shot at a dip before dinner. Hope that the Parks Department and its Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, were finally addressing Rockaway's needs in a rational manner. Why did those hopes arise in the first place? Because Community Board 14 finally stood up to the city, demanding that the city agency take a look at its testing program, which is replete with secrecy and cronyism. It is a system that allows one man to be both the program head and the union head. Promises to open up the process and insure its fairness were made to the community board by the city, but, as of last week, it looks as if all those promises were illusionary. Illusionary as well was the Mayor's fine speech to Rockaway on the Boardwalk at Beach 126 Street two weeks ago. Bloomberg said in response to a question from local activist Mary Dever Kelly that it makes sense to keep the beaches open on a hot summer night for those who come from Manhattan after work. That hope for extended hours has been dashed as well. "I suspect we won't have anything for this [beach] season," Benepe told a City Council hearing earlier this week when the topic was broached by City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, who has been pushing for longer hours. Benepe cited the lack of enough lifeguards to staff the beaches during the traditional 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. period, nevertheless more lifeguards for extended hours. "We just don't have the bodies, but we are going to look at some other options, speak with the lifeguards [union], talk to the OMB [budget] people and we'll see what we can work out." To our ear, that sounds like a message to Rockaway and that message is, "Don't call us, we'll call you."

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