2010-03-26 / Columnists

Notes from the High C’s

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel

It’s been a while since “The High C’s” has appeared and that is because I have been waiting to see if our negotiations with Gateway would have a successful conclusion. Unfortunately, that was not to be and I am very, very sad. As you read in The Wave recently, there will be no concerts and no festival this year because we could not come to successful discussions with Gateway and as the months passed many vendors called us asking for the dates of the festival and how soon would they get their applications to exhibit. We reached the point where we could not put the vendors off any longer as they had to make their plans for the summer. So we reluctantly had to cancel the Festival. As to the concerts, they also enter into the factor. At this time of the year we try to have our concerts set and start our publicity. However, again, we have to go back to Gateway. The final costs to us last year were $10,000 to the park to present our programs.

This is not something we can continue to do, considering the fact that for many years there was no cost at all and they were probably just happy to have people come to the park.

The Rockaway Music and Arts Council brings approximately 20,000 people to the park to attend our Festival; this is more than any other group that uses the park and if the Department of the Interior (Gateway’s parent) doesn’t feel that is enough, there is nothing we can do. As I have said over the years, we are not Yosemite, The Grand Canyon or Grand Teton, where millions visit every year.

There is basically nothing to draw people to our “Urban” park other than local people and if they are priced out of the park, the park will be the loser.

The Fall Festival was started 26 years ago, the brainchild of Barbara Eisenstadt, as a way to fund our concerts and turned out to be our biggest event. We had wonderful times planning the festival every year, arranging for our vendors, our children’s events and our food court and getting it all organized.

We had lots of fun and the staff at Gateway worked with us under the constraints of Washington and we were all friends. We could call on them and they were always there, working with us to make the event successful and bringing so many people to the park. All of that seemed to change a few years ago when the park staff was changed and has changed several times over the past few years. That was another problem; on any given day, you could not be sure that the same people were in charge and you had to start over again with meetings. I also want to say, that there were some people at the park who did work with us, but their bosses kept changing and that always altered the discussions.

Since we have what is called an “Urban” park I think our government should look up the meaning of the word. In my dictionary it says, “relating to or concerned with a city or densely populated area.”

Isn’t that what we have here in Rockaway and New York? Both Gateway National Recreation Area here and Golden Gate Recreation Area in San Fransico were an experiment in urban national parks. Why can’t our government understand that and work with us to bring some wonderful events to our “urban” park? We are sorry.

Our concerts were great and an added event was the raffle during the intermissions.

Our member, Fern Liberman, was unofficially in charge of making up the raffles and we all put in our two cents to help. The park even wanted to stop that because according to them selling raffles is “gambling.“ Give me a break!

I hope the park has a wonderful summer because they ended it for many of their neighbors. I am really very, very upset by the whole situation.

However, we are still here and are planning a great museum trip late in May to both the Police and Fire Museums and lunch at the South Street Seaport.

At the moment I am in the process of making all the arrangements with the above-mentioned sites. Keep watching this paper for more information.

In addition, we still have our music and dance programs in many of our local schools and we have to thank two of our members, Bernice Myers and Myra Berger, who have been wonderful in working with our schools to bring these two important arts back to our children.

Hopefully, we will be able to recreate our festival and concerts again next year if all things can be worked out with our park.

As I look out my window today I see a beautiful ocean, as calm as a lake, and think back to our horrendous winter. The snow was up to here and last weekend we almost drowned with the storm and today it’s beautiful.

I guess someone is watching over us and decided enough is enough, give them some light! The idea of no more snow boots, heavy coats and gloves, suits me just fine.

We are so lucky to live in this lovely area; fresh air as you cross the bridges, beautiful sand beaches and a glorious ocean out our windows. What more could you want, maybe, perhaps the use of our park?

See you around the neighborhood. Stop and say Hi!

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