East End Matters...
There’s a feeling on the east end that this part of Rockaway never gets its due. Well, there just may be signs that we will become known for more than shootings and violence. Last week it was my pleasure to attend the reopening of the Arverne Library. The transformation could not have been more distinct. From a crowded, uncarpeted facility to a light, airy building with a carpet for kids to sit on the floor and read their favorite books. The most visited library in the Queens Library system has now entered the 21st Century as it gives adults, teens and children sections of their own and a place of their own to meet with their peers. Last December the director of the Queens Library, Thomas Galante, told me what it would be like to walk into the renovated Arverne Library. “The best part is when you walk in the door, when it’s done, it’s like you walked into a new place.” That was a complete understatement. There are photos of the new library elsewhere in this issue.
If this can be done for the one floor of the Arverne Library, imagine what can be done with the Far Rockaway Library. In 2008, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall allocated $19.1 million to renovate the Far Rockaway branch. Planning is currently underway for a renovation that will see it being built up.
In addition, funds from the federal government’s stimulus Recovery and Reinvestment Act found its way to Far Rockaway through New York State’s NY Works program. A new Greenstreets has been constructed on Seagirt Boulevard between Beach 19 and Beach 20 Streets. Also, the shopping center on Beach 20 Street (between Seagirt Boulevard and St. John’s Hospital) went through a major renovation last winter. And there may be hope yet for the Far Rockaway Shopping Center on Mott Avenue in the business district, as Councilman James Sanders Jr. became the first local representative to have a face-to-face meeting with the owner, Rita Stark. Details are yet to come in on that meeting, but we can look upon it with cautious optimism. Oh yes, the boardwalk from Beach 23 to Beach 27 Street is also being replaced.
Plus the film “Bungalows of Rockaway” is soon to be premiered at the Museum of the City of New York and here on the peninsula at Fort Tilden. Its producers are working on a deal to have it shown on our local PBS station, Channel 13. So new interest could be popping up in that area, too.
But before you get those hopes raised too high, there are some things we – as a community – must think about.
With improvements come responsibilities. So why is it that the new Greenstreets have become the latest spot to throw everything from an empty gallon milk bottle to potato chip bags to paper plates to a large black garbage bag (at least it was empty), especially when there is a big green garbage can across from the plantings on Beach 20 Street? Why does graffiti pop up all over the east end? Why don’t people have more pride in where they live?
You may say, with the improvements may come the pride, but if places like the new Greenstreets become automatic places to dump garbage, there may be second thoughts by anyone who wants to bring improvements to the area. We have to start now or anyone willing to invest in the area may just take his or her money somewhere else.
About a week ago I was waiting for a bus when a young man, maybe in his early 20s, said he wanted to go to the beach and asked me which bus went to Long Beach or even Beach 116 Street. We were one block from a beach here in Far Rockaway, but he wanted to go elsewhere. Unfortunately, our reputation may precede us.
We must give visitors a reason to come here and investors a reason to say this is where I will put my time and money. We have already been recognized by several film companies who have made use of our locations – from the beach on Beach 17 Street to the bungalows on Beach 26 Street to The Wave newspaper building on Beach 88 Street. We have all these improvements in the pipeline. Now it is up to us to show we care enough about where we live to keep going.