2008-04-04 / Community

Locals Petition Feds For Riis Park Improvements

Plan Weekend,Holiday Petitions
By Howard Schwach

Plan Weekend,Holiday Petitions

A group of Rockaway residents plans to petition the federal government for improvements to Riis Park, part of the sprawling Gateway National Recreation Area that includes not only the beach at Riis Park, but Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Tilden and Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Far Rockaway activist Floyd Smith, the president of Concerned Citizens of the Rockaways, says that he and his group will be on the Riis Park boardwalk each holiday and weekend for the entire summer, gathering petitions that ask for repairs and additional amenities for the busy park.

"The feds are hard to deal with," Smith says. " They will only give me a one-week permit for us to gather signatures, and we have to reapply each week for the following weekend."

"We will have approximately 15 to 20 volunteers each weekend," he says. "They will set up a table on each side of the bathhouse and one in front of the lifeguard shack on the boardwalk. We don't plan on causing them any problems."

Smith states that his organization has several demands and other recommendations.

The prime problem, he says, is the proposed raise in the parking lot fees to $10 a day from the present $5 a day.

While the increase has been "temporarily suspended," Smith contiunes, he and his group would rather see it done away with permanently, with a promise that it won't come back in the near future.

He also argues that there are not enough lifeguards to protect the beaches. Even the promised increase of 19 new lifeguards is not enough, he says.

"We started with 72 [lifeguards] and the 19 new guards would only bring this year's total to 64," he explains.

His recommendations include more showers and concessions, longer hours for the bathrooms and more entertainment.

"There are not enough showers, and people have to go home with sandy bodies and dirty clothes," Smith says. "And, the food concessions have limited hours, a limited menu, and the food is really bad."

He recommends that the park host concerts featuring such shows as "Oldies but Goodies," jazz and countrywestern shows."

His final recommendation is for an emergency communications system that would include loudspeakers throughout the beachfront.

"There is no common way to notify patrons at the beach of emergencies such as storms, hurricanes or terrorist attacks," he said.

A park spokesperson said that Smith's demands and recommendations would be taken into advisement, but that there are budget constraints on all of the national parks.

He added that Smith and his group would definitely get permission to gather petitions at the park.

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