2010-08-13 / Editorial/Opinion

Who Speaks For Rockaway?

Who speaks for Rockaway? That is not a philosophical question to ponder in small moments but which matters not. The answer to that question is important, because those who officially speak for the peninsula get to determine its future. Of course, there are several answers to the question. First and foremost, in a representative democracy such as ours, the people we elect to public office legally speak for us and make the laws that govern us. In Rockaway’s case, that can become a frightening thought given our elected leaders and the scrutiny that a number of them are “enjoying” at the moment. Then, there is Community Board 14. Of course, the 50 hard-working men and women who make up the community board are all chosen by local politicians and vetted by another politician – Borough President Helen Marshall. Are their voices legitimate ones? Luckily for Rockaway residents, the community board has little or no power under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They are there for show only, a buffer between politicians and the public. For many years, we had groups forming and then disappearing shortly thereafter – the All-Rockaway Planning Council comes immediately to mind. Now, we have a new official group speaking for us, a group with the ear of the mayor and his commissioners. There are eight people on the new Rockaway Task Force, four named by each of our two City Council members. It is instructive to see who our council members choose to “examine and address local issues facing the Rockaways and to come up with a comprehensive plan to try and resolve them.” Councilman James Sanders Jr., who represents most of the east end of the peninsula, chose, first of all, his wife, Andrea Sanders who, he says, represents a group called the “Victorious Women’s Organization,” which has not been much in evidence in Far Rockaway. Then, he chose Ed Williams, the longtime local head of the NAACP; Charles Jacobs, the head of one of the homeowner associations at Arverne By The Sea, who has lived in Rockaway only a short time and does not even reside in his Councilmanic district; and Sender Schwartz, a leader of the Orthodox Jewish community in West Lawrence, a group that does not even want to admit that they live in Far Rockaway. We think that Councilman Eric Ulrich did better. He named John Lepore, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways; Dan Mundy, a Broad Channel resident with great credentials as an environmentalist; Karen Sloan-Payne, the head of civic and political affairs for the Dayton Towers Cooperative; and Steve Greenberg, who once led both the community school board and the Breezy Point Cooperative. All in all, an interesting group of people. Do you want them, however, deciding the future of the peninsula with no input from anybody but the city? We surely don’t. If you want to have a task force, why not let the people decide who should sit at its table? Why not allow the myriad of civic leaders, all elected by their constituents, sit on the task force? Why not do it right, if you are going to do it at all?

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