Gateway Works To Keep Beach Clubs Open
Officials at the Gateway National Recreation Area have been in negotiations with the operator of the Silver Gull Club and Breezy Point Surf Club to keep the beach clubs open after their permit to operate the clubs expired in 2007. A temporary, one-year Special Park Use Permit has been issued to allow the clubs to operate during the 2008 season and talks are ongoing between the NPS and Tom August, chairman of the two clubs, about the short-term future of the current operation. The clubs are located within the park's Breezy Point District on the western end of the Rockaway peninsula.
The National Park Service's actions have come in response to a 2006 investigation by the Office of the Inspector General that examined Special Park Uses in lands administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, including Gateway NRA. The audit found that Gateway NRA had inappropriately issued a Special Use Permit that allowed the beach club operators to have exclusive use of federal lands and buildings. In response to the audit, the Director of the National Park Service signed an agreement that assured the Inspector General that Gateway NRA would bring the beach club operations into compliance with all applicable laws, policies and regulations.
To keep the clubs operating over the next three years, the NPS is offering the clubs' operator a three-year, noncompetitive emergency concession contract. This contract would require the clubs to operate in a fashion similar to other businesses that operate concessions at Gateway. Basic concession requirements include quality visitor services, building maintenance, environmental management, a visitor safety program, and payment of a specified franchise fee to the government. As of this date the concession agreement is still under development.
Gateway officials have stated their desire to have the contract signed no later than the end of this year to ensure that the beach clubs open on time in 2009. Regarding the proposed agreement, the park's General Superintendent Barry Sullivan said, "This short-term agreement is a win, win for all concerned. The beach clubs will continue to operate, the people who use them will have uninterrupted services, and the park will fulfill its obligation to comply with the law." Sullivan added, "While we obviously don't know what will happen in the future, when we work on our new General Management Plan we look forward to hearing from the public about our concession operations throughout the park. I know this will result in better visitor services."
During the three-year term of the temporary agreement, Gateway NRA will be updating the General Management Plan for the park.
The process will include preparations of a new Commercial Services Plan for all of Gateway NRA, including the beach clubs.
The public will have numerous opportunities to provide input into the General Management Plan during public meeting and formal comment periods.