2010-09-10 / Top Stories

Rockaway Task Force Hears Residents’ Concerns

By Miriam Rosenberg

Ryan Whalen, the chief of staff for the deputy mayor for governmental affairs, addresses residents as the meeting begins. Also pictured are Councilmen Eric Ulrich and James Sanders Jr. and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. Ryan Whalen, the chief of staff for the deputy mayor for governmental affairs, addresses residents as the meeting begins. Also pictured are Councilmen Eric Ulrich and James Sanders Jr. and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. Transportation, jobs and education. Those were some of the concerns put to members of the new Rockaway Task Force which held its first open meeting with area residents this week.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Rockaway Beach brought a full house that came to tell the members of the committee and heads of city agencies what the important issues are that currently face those living on the peninsula. It started on a high note as Ryan Whalen, the chief of staff for the deputy mayor for Governmental Affairs at City Hall announced the mayor would soon sign the needed waiver to allow the developers of the Arverne by the Sea to continue building the Y on Beach 73 Street.

As the meeting got into full swing, Councilman Eric Ulrich assured residents that this new effort was not a waste of time, as previous similar ones have been.

“Because we’re divided in two we tend to look at problems as parts, not a whole,” said Ulrich. “We have to get together … all in the same room under one roof.”

Councilman James Sanders Jr. admitted there had been meetings to fix Rockaway before, from which nothing was accomplished.

“Let this time be different,” said Sanders, who added, “Let’s be smart about problems. For every pot of money [available let’s do something].”

Sanders believes that eight issues should be identified, while Ulrich said the number should be 10.

“At the end of the day, if the city delivers on half, we’re better off,” said Ulrich.

Transportation was a key issue during the meeting. Said one woman, “We are isolated by the MTA by not being able to commute like everyone else.”

Dolores Orr, the chair for Community Board 14, believed that express buses in Rockaway should be expanded by adding an extra stop in Broad Channel and one in Rockaway. Leonard Kohn of Rockaway Graphics, said bringing back the old A line, would solve most problems. “If we bring that back, we wouldn’t have to worry about the economy. People would want to live here.”

Education was a concern of Edwin Williams, a member of the Task Force, who asked, “With the exception of Peninsula Prep, do we have any more schools [coming here].”

The renovation of the Thriftway Mall in Far Rockaway, a possible ocean front restaurant, or a small hotel – like the Marriott Courtyard – in what is now known as the Arverne East area were mentioned as part of the issue of economic development.

“Industries will come if they get money,” said Jonathan Gaska, CB 14 district manager and a member of the Task Force.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer told residents they shouldn’t have to wait so long “to see things that you care about become reality.”

The important thing is to “think Rockaway” as Sanders said. “[Think] what are the projects that have [effects] on the entire Rockaway [peninsula].”

Sanders and Ulrich each named four people to serve on the Task Force. Councilman Sanders nominated Charles Jacobs, President of Arverne by the Sea Homeowner’s Association; Sender Schwartz, Community Leader in Far Rockaway’s Orthodox Community; Andrea Sanders, president of Victorious Women’s Organization and local activist Edwin Williams. From the 32nd District, Councilman Ulrich tapped Karen Sloan-Payne, Dayton Towers’ Representative for Civic and Political Affairs; Steven Greenberg, former president of the Breezy Point Co-op; John Lepore, president of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce; and Dan Mundy Sr., a Community Board 14 member and environmentalist. Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14 has been appointed by the mayor’s office, as a representative for CB 14, to serve on the Task Force.

According to Ulrich there will be two more meetings, one on each end of the peninsula and then another meeting at City Hall. After the Task Force has completed its work, a list of issues for Rockaway will be given to City Hall. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, who is leading the Task Force effort, was not able to attend Tuesday night’s meeting, but he is expected to attend all the other meetings. Also attending Tuesday’s meeting were representatives from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

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