2010-09-24 / Columnists

East End Matters...

‘Bungalows’ A PBS Hit; Waterfront Plans Deserve Everyone’s Attention
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

The numbers are in. The director and co-producer of “The Bungalows of Rockaway,” Jennifer Callahan, said in an email Tuesday that the documentary, which premiered on PBS WNET Channel 13 on September 16, was that day’s number one show on the station with a viewership of 120,000 people. Congratulations to Callahan and her co-producer, Elizabeth Logan Harris, on their achievement.

* * * * * *

All of a sudden it seems everyone is

interested in Rockaway’s waterfront. As The Wave reported last week, the Department of City Planning has released a draft of its Vision 2020 New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan. In that plan recommendations are put forth for the Beach Channel West area and Beach Channel Park, Beach 108 Street, the Beach 88 Street DPR site, Beach 80 Street and the marina site, the Arverne Renewal Area, the Edgemere Landfill and Rockaway Community Park, as well as an overview of the peninsula.

As the city moves forward with its waterfront plans, the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance has joined forces with the Trust for Public Land and urban planners Jonathan Rose Companies for an open space waterfront vision plan. This is an outgrowth of what began as an idea for the Rockaway community to draw up a master plan, better known as a 197-a plan. In January community members and representatives of civic groups came together to decide if a master plan to decide the priorities of the Rockaway community should be developed. While a range of issues were discussed, from economic development to transportation to jobs to ecology and the waterfront, one thing was certain – there was huge support for the master plan idea put forward by Jeanne Dupont, who is the director of RWA. Of course, the idea of a community-based master plan is for the whole community to take part in all decisions, such as who to pick as a developer and a partner in the project. So, whether this is still considered a 197-a plan remains to be seen.

For too long this peninsula has jokingly been called the sixth borough. That is why the idea for Rockaway to decide its own priorities was, and still is, a good one. There will be three meetings hosted by RWA and its partners to gauge input from the community. The problem here is that the city – although they don’t have great track records in accomplishing everything in previous waterfront plans – is now in the midst of developing one citywide. One that includes Rockaway. But it will be an official city plan while a 197-a plan is considered only advisory.

This is something that RWA and all the stakeholders – that means residents and anyone who has any interest whatsoever in Rockaway – who take part in the planning sessions will need to remember.

RWA will have three focus areas – from Beach 3 to Beach 32 Streets, Beach 32 to Beach 101 Streets, and Beach 101 Street to Breezy Point.

Here are a few things to consider as the Greater Rockaway Planning Meetings, as they are called on RWA’s website, occur. First, is RWA’s venture still considered to be a 197-a plan? Next, since the city’s waterfront plan is currently in the works, will the two plans collide or come together? A good place for RWA to start, if they haven’t already, is taking a close look at the DCP draft. Then make sure any participants in their meetings also have copies. Community Board 14’s Committee for Parks and Environment already met to discuss the merits of the plan and reported back to the full board earlier this month. Next month, DCP will make a full presentation at October’s CB 14 meeting to gather community reaction.

If you are interested in what the city is proposing for the Rockaway waterfront go to www.nyc.gov/waterfront to read the draft for the borough of Queens and look for Reach 17 in the report. To find out about the RWA planning sessions go to www. rwalliance.org, click under events for the dates of the three open meetings.

This is not to support or not support either the city’s waterfront draft plan or RWA’s effort. The jury is still out on the particulars. But the particulars won’t matter much if you let someone else speak up for you. Get out and take part in these meetings – CB 14 and RWA. It is time for Rockaway to stop being the sixth borough. If I may paraphrase from RWA’s website – it’s not just your waterfront. It’s your transportation, your signage, and your access to the waterfront. It’s your community!

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