Parks Holds Listening Sessions On $40 Million Allocation
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation held two listening sessions this week to give residents of Rockaway a chance to weigh in on how to use $40 million that has been set aside for the peninsula.
The funds are part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 initiative. Rockaway is one of eight Parks areas, which will share $400 million.
"We have been allocated $40 million [to fix up the area] between Beach 9 and Beach 31 Streets," said Dorothy Lewandowski, Queens Commissioner of Parks.
While the city proposes to use the funds for comfort stations, a lifeguard building and playgrounds in Rockaway, it is looking to the community for input on how to best spend the money.
"We're here to listen to you and get a vision for the project," said Michael Bolger, landscape architect, consultant and project manager for Parks.
Jill Weber, the Parks Administrator for Rockaway, said several themes have popped up throughout the two-day sessions.
"Pools and performance space are popular," said Weber, at the session on Wednesday evening.
The most important item on residents' minds was the need for swimming instruction and proficiency.
"Swimming is really important in the Rockaways," said Victor Sinansky. "We need to make sure that classes can be available."
Peter Diaz echoed that feeling with a statement that seemed to sum up feelings for everyone there.
"We need a place in Rockaway where people can learn to swim in an ocean to prevent further drownings," he said.
Children were on most people's minds as suggestions were made for a playground and a children's education center.
"There's not a lot of activity for children downtown," said Sinansky. "Maybe you could do something that could teach ecology."
PS/MS 43 on Beach 29 Street is already using the land near the school to educate its students. Joanne Ellis, a teacher at the school, would like it to continue.
"A place to teach science, CPR, data statistics and collect water samples," said Ellis, giving examples for the use of the area.
As Otha Tindley spoke about his group's ideas, some of the suggestions - such as concession stands and arcade games - harked back to another time in Rockaway's history.
Kimberly T.S. Fallon, deputy team leader for Queens Capital Projects at Parks, told The Wave that the project is now in the scoping phase.
"We're working with raw data and the community," said Fallon. "We want the money to go as far as it can."
She also said they will try to make it as "green" as they can, which is the main idea behind PlaNYC. This could mean such things as the planting of trees and plants or using eco-friendly material to repave the parking near the ocean, between Beach 9 and Beach 15 Streets.
Bolger said a designer for the master plan has been selected, but Parks is waiting for the contract to be registered before announcing the name of the firm. The tentative schedule is to have a master plan by Thanksgiving of this year.
"We will start designing this winter," said Bolger. "It is a one-year process. In Spring 2009 we will be bidding out [for construction] and we will start construction in Fall 2009."
Weber said the public would be kept informed as the effort proceeds.
"When we are ready, I will get in touch with the people who are here and do some level of review through the community board," Weber told residents.
Weber concluded by saying, "I think we are going to get great results from this."
Also stopping by the June 27 meeting were Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and a representative for State Senator Malcolm Smith.
Both listening sessions were held at Peninsula Hospital Center.