2007-07-20 / Front Page

Report: Rockaway's Beaches 'Challenged'

By Howard Schwach

Too many beaches without lifeguards, broken drinking fountains, closed bathrooms, littered shorelines and a deteriorating boardwalk. Those were just a few of the things found on Rockaway's beaches in a recent study by a parks conservation group that surveyed New York City's seven beaches and found all but one wanting.

According to a report by an advocacy group, Rockaway's 7.2 miles of beach are "challenged," because of problems with bathrooms, drinking fountains and closed beaches. According to a report by an advocacy group, Rockaway's 7.2 miles of beach are "challenged," because of problems with bathrooms, drinking fountains and closed beaches. In its recently released report, "The Report Card On Beaches 2007: An Independent Assessment Of New York City's Public Beaches" by the advocacy group New Yorkers For Parks, Rockaway's beaches and several others were found "Challenged." Only one beach, Midland Beach on Staten Island, was found to be "Satisfactory." Coney Island and Brighton Beach, both in Brooklyn, and Wolfe's Pond Beach in Staten Island were found to be "Unsatisfactory." Rockaway, Manhattan Beach, Orchard Beach and South Beach were rated as "Challenged."

Rockaway Beach is the longest in the city, with 7.2 miles of beach. The shortest is Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, which measures only three-tenths of a mile.

According to the report, Rockaway Beach's shoreline was one of the highest performing in the city, earning a 70 percent, or Crating. Several of the areas surveyed, however, were cordoned off to protect nesting piping plovers.

It added that shorelines were littered with broken glass and that during the survey period, done on both weekends and weekdays, nearly one-quarter of the beaches surveyed had no lifeguards on duty.

The section on Rockaway Beach bathrooms reported that more than 40 percent of the bathrooms were closed, with no signage to indicate why or when they would be open.

Of the bathrooms that were open, the report adds, soap, toilet paper and paper towels were a rarity, unavailable completely at more than half of the sites. Bathrooms received a 45 percent, or F rating.

Drinking fountains also received an F rating, with a 31 percent score.

"Drinking fountains frequently exhibited unsanitary or unsafe conditions and nearly one-third had severe leaks," the report said.

The boardwalk received a 75 percent or C rating with a note that the rating was the lowest in the city for "pathways" that led to the beach.

"Weeds and missing or raised sections were common," the report noted.

Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe, in a prepared statement issued in response to the report, said, "By every measure, New York City's beaches are in better shape now than in any other time, with more than $50 million invested in capital beach improvements and surrounding recreational resources."

Benepe told New York Times reporter Trymaine Lee that some beaches had to be closed because of a state requirement for a minimum number of lifeguards to open the beaches. Benepe said that the Parks Department goal is to have 75 percent of the beaches open on weekdays and 90 percent of the beaches open during the weekends.

"I think that the report card doesn't properly reflect the positive experience of our beachgoers," he said. "I think that the public votes with their feet by going to our beaches, and they have alternatives."

New Yorkers For Parks urged the city to make its reporting on beach conditions more transparent and to find a way to improve its lifeguard recruiting program so that fewer beaches are closed for lack of protection.

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