2009-10-02 / Top Stories

Locals To National Park Service: Save Our Beach Clubs

By Howard Schwach

About 100 locals packed a hearing at Gateway National Recreation Area last week to tell park officials of the importance of the Breezy Point beach clubs.

Speaker after speaker took the microphone at the scheduled meeting to tell the panel that the clubs, which are on federal park land and may be closed down under a review plan, provide an affordable and safe alternative to the public beaches at both Rockaway and Riis Park.

"I'm concerned about the plans you people are going to make for our park," one resident, who asked not to be identified, said. "If you are going to turn our beautiful beach facility into a parking lot or a visitors center, then you will have ruined our family's summers forever."

In April, an agreement, brokered by Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Anthony Weiner, was hammered out between the National Park Service and the owner of both the Silver Gull Club and the Breezy Point Surf Club, allowing the two clubs to operate for three more summers.

In 2007, the federal agency's inspector general said in a report that the beach clubs "monopolized desirable beach locations" and should be closed down.

That sparked fear that the private clubs, located on public land, would be closed down that year.

The agreement kept them open, however, at least through September of 2012.

The National Park Service planning team hosted the September 23 open house to hear ideas for the park's General Management Plan (GMP). The plan will not be submitted until the summer of 2012.

The fate of the two beach clubs will most likely be spelled out in that plan, which will determine the future direction and growth of the park, which includes several units on the Rocka way peninsula and Broad Channel, including Fort Tilden, Riis Park and Broad Channel's Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

A number of local organizations utilize the facilities of Gateway, including the Rockaway Artists Alliance, which has two galleries in Fort Tilden; the Rockaway Theatre Company, which holds performances at Fort Tilden; the Rockaway Music and Arts Council, which hosts summer concerts and a Fall Festival at Riis Park and the Rockaway Little League, which has several fields at Fort Tilden. The future of those venues is also involved with the park's GMP, and several locals worry that the organizations' use of those facilities may end with the new park plan.

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