2008-08-22 / Editorial/Opinion


Lifeguard Coverage Not A Black And White Issue

Denis Hamill has started a controversy in Rockaway by writing a Daily News column entitled "Beach Disparity A Black & White Issue." He said in his "My Backyard" column that the distribution of lifeguards on Rockaway beaches is "A tale of two Rockaways. Maybe it's about race. Maybe class. Maybe both. Whatever it is, there is definitely a double standard in Rockaway." We would like to point some things out to Hamill. First of all, Rockaway is not his backyard, it is ours, and he really should learn about the community and what is happening here before he comments. Secondly, it is not a 'Tale of Two Rockaways." It is a tale of one Rockaway and it is a sad story where everybody, black and white, rich and poor, young and old, get screwed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Had Hamill taken even a short look at The Wave's archives, he would have found out that the beaches on the west end of the peninsula were closed for lack of lifeguards just as much as those on the east end. Hamill doesn't think that is so, and he spent one whole day here to find out what he thinks he knows. "I was shocked to see that almost all of the beaches at the affluent west end of Belle Harbor and Neponsit were open. Each beach on the Rockaway's western Gold Coast - where houses go for millions, where there is no subway service, no public boardwalk, and where parking permits are required - had four lifeguards protecting the sparse, vastly white bathers," he wrote. "In contrast, several miles to the east in the less-affluent area of Far Rockaway - serving a largely minority community where more that 100,000 people are squashed into 2 square miles of housing projects - multiple dwellings and single-family homes, only two beaches from Beach 25 Street to Beach 72 Street are open to the public." If you know anything about Rockaway, you can already count the mistakes. The houses in Belle Harbor do not go in the millions, there are no parking permits, there are not 100,000 people squashed into a 2 square mile area (Rockaway has only 126,000 on the entire peninsula), and much of the area from Beach 35 Street to Beach 62 Street is part of the urban renewal area is vacant land where no one lives. We invite Hamill to come to Rockaway in late June, before the lifeguards gather from college. He will find beaches at both ends of the peninsula closed for lack of lifeguards. Then, return for two or three weekends in July and August. Take a tour. He will find that his column is replete with errors and, while we would never defend the Parks Department on its lifeguard process, we have to say that Hamill has no idea what he is talking about.

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