2009-09-25 / Columnists

It's My Turn

By Joan Mettler

Mettler is a long-time member of the Silver Gull Club and once wrote a column entitled "Big Mouth Bass" for The Wave

If, in the land of the blind, the oneeyed man is king, in the land of The Wave, the man with four weekly columns is a bully. Without doing his own research, depending upon others for information that could be gotten first hand with a nine minute drive, some interviews, and a few hours of observation, Mr. Schwach and his paper have once again shown distain for something about which they know nothing. Perhaps this column will finally put the conjecture and the jealousy with respect to the Silver Gull to rest.

Long before there was a Gateway National Park, there was a Silver Gull. Thus, the Gull, sat on City land for a decade or more until taken over by the USPS (United States Park Service). Were the club grandfathered under the city as it should have been, there would be no need for the cheap shots from the press. The fact that it now sits on federal land has journalists crying foul. What is really foul is the propensity of journalists for denigrating that which they know little about. Perhaps after having read this column, Mr. Schwach, Mr. Briano and others will feel differently about Silver Gull. You are invited to read and learn:

What purpose does the Gull serve to its members? What service does it serve the Rockaway community? What purpose does it serve our youth? Let us see.

Many S.G. members are elderly. Were it not for the Gull's accessibility, they would probably never get to enjoy the beach during the summer. Elderly folks can drive or be driven to the entrance of the Gull, have their cars parked by valet parking and have their packages carried to their accommodations by cabana attendants. The entire Gull is wheel chair accessible and counts among its clients those who are physically challenged. While here, these members of the Gull community can do water aerobics, play cards, dine and chat with summer friends - all while watching and listening to the Atlantic Ocean. For upper seniors, the Silver Gull is a godsend.

For parents of young children, the Gull provides a day camp for children from 4 to 12 years merely for the price of membership and accommodation. The only catch, here, is that one parent must be on the premises during camp hours. The camp offers a series of activities ranging from competitive sports to arts and crafts and, of course, swimming.

For those whose age groups do not fit in the above categories, the lure could be athletics: paddle ball, basket ball, paddle tennis, mini-golf, volley ball, lap or recreational swimming, tennis, tai chi, yoga, rhythmic dance, jazzercise and water exercise, Duplicate Bridge, or just taking the sun.

For teenagers, the Gull employs over 200 teens from Rockaway and Brooklyn making it the largest employer of teens on the west end. Life guards, cabana attendants, maintenance workers, camp counselors, kitchen help all find summer jobs at the Gull. Many of the teen workers are sons and daughters of members who grew up at the Gull. It is not uncommon to see three generations of Gullers on any given day.

For the Rockaway Community, the Gull serves as the goose that laid the golden egg. Ask the owners of Rockaway restaurants and delis how much greater their receipts are in the summer due to the Gullers. Although the Gull offers a dinner menu on weekends to those who wish, many Gullers enjoy dining at our Rockaway restaurants throughout the week, buying our pastries and frequenting our stores. What could be better than that?

Mr. Schwach, that your newspaper continues to address the Gull as a private club flies in the face of reality. The Gull is a pay club, not a private club. A pay club accepts as members those who pay and follow the rules. A private club, on the other hand, requires you be recommended by a member, seconded by two additional members; and, meet other criteria including, oft times, a financial threshold litmus test. This is hardly the case with the Gull's middle class clientele. Members are teachers, retirees, nurses, policemen, firemen and bus drivers. Some forego their winter vacations and whatever else is necessary in order to pay for their accommodations. And, for those retirees who opt to spend the money they earned in their working years at the Gull, it is their choice to do so. After all, where is the incentive to work and earn if one cannot spend the way one desires?

For those who cannot afford the Gull the reality is that fees are the way of the world and constitute no reason to shut the club down. If a family wants to see Yellowstone and has no car and can't afford bus fare, would you recommend they shut it down? I might like to live in Neponsit, but, the truth is I can't afford to. So I live in the bordering community that I can afford. If the Gull is unaffordable to some, Riis Park Beach is a close second cousin and is free. Get it?

A brief history of city beach clubs is in order: When Brooklyn's Palm Shore and Brighton Private Beach Clubs went out of business because the land on which they sat was more profitable filled with condos than cabanas, Brooklyn ex-patriots flocked to the Gull as their last best hope for summer fun. The Gull represents the last of its ilk. It has been memorialized in film ("The Flamigo Kid"). The knowledge that it occupies federal land gives Gullers solace knowing it can never be replaced by condos. Because the Silver Gull is the history of New York City beach clubs, the federal government should keep the Gull well beyond the two years it has left on its lease. Landmark it, grandfather it; but, don't close it. And, for pity sake, do not destroy it.

The fact that you referred to the Gull as a white club is intentionally offensive. The club does not now nor has it ever discriminated with respect to membership or hired personnel yet you continually harp on this and incessantly try to make this an issue. Let us put the shoe on the other foot, Mr. Schwach, and allow me to make the following observation: As merely an observer would I not be correct, Mr. Schwach, if I referred to the Wave as a white newspaper?

Once and for all, stop bashing the Gull. It is a moneymaker for the federal government, the lessee, the employees, Rockaway retailers and Rockaway teens. It is a great place for the elderly, teens, adolescents, athletes and families. Its positives surely outweigh any negatives you can conjure up. The only reason one can think of for you to malign the Gull using transparent innuendoes is that your vitriol sells newspapers. Hopefully, this article will put any further snide references to the club to rest. Long live Silver Gull.

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