Open Space Usage Prime Objective Of RWA
Coming as an outgrowth of the January meeting at which community members and representatives of civic groups came together to decide if Rockaway should develop a master plan for its future, a meeting was held on Tuesday evening to discuss open space usage on the peninsula.
Under the umbrella of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA), which hosted the January meeting, representatives of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the planning firm of Jonathan Rose and Company addressed residents on the three-stage process of putting a plan together.
“We’ve worked a lot to preserve some land in the Rockaways,” said Andy Stone, the New York City director of TPL. “What this vision is all about is not about identifying things for other people to do. It’s about all of you working together with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance and your neighbors to come up with a community vision.”
The planning process is being divided into three phases.
“The first stage is the look and listen phase,” said Matthew Lister of Jonathan Rose and Company. “That’s what we’re here to do [tonight].”
Next is the design phase. “After we hear everything, we get to brainstorming new potential ideas that will come out of the concerns and the meetings like tonight,” said Lister. “Finally, later on in the fall, the third and final phase is making it real. That’s when we will take the proposals and great ideas that come out of the design meetings and figure out ways to make those ideas implementable and then also have the community prioritize which of those are the greatest ones or the best ones or the ones they think should be put forward.”
The Jonathan Rose representative assured residents that “we’re not bringing any proposals to the table. We’re not going to put a pen to paper until we hear as much as we can from community members, from all of you.”
The process will explore three things – how people use the waterfront, access to the waterfront and how existing spaces can be improved or finding new open spaces. These issues highlighted the workshop at which attendees at each table noted on maps of the area – using sticker dots – the good or bad ways they use the waterfront and – using markers – how they get there. A facilitator and note taker were there to help.
“What they did last night was like a mini-charette [planning session],” said Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14. “You look at maps and throw around ideas. We did it with Arverne By The Sea. It allows people to dialogue.”
Some of the issues that came out of Tuesday’s planning session included the need for access to the bay side of Rockaway along with increased recreation in that area, the need for more showers on the boardwalk, and the wish for more concessions on the boardwalk.
“There’s a whole movement taking place right now in New York City that’s very much grassroots advocacy where people have really come together,” said Jeanne DuPont, the director of RWA. “The challenge we have here in Rockaway is that we have 11 miles and there’s a lot of differences the whole stretch of the way. One of the things that I think is really important is that today there are people at your table you may have never met before and I think that is really important to partnerships. There’s businesses, there’s residents, there’s people from various companies that do business in Rockaway. Those are all part of the community. So it’s not just people who live here. It’s people who live here, work here and play here. Those are the people who are really part of the community and need to be engaged.”
Gaska said, “The proof is in the pudding” when it comes to whether CB 14 will back the plan.
“Ultimately, we have to see the final report before we support it,” said Gaska, who believes RWA’s outreach can help with the city’s Vision 2020 Waterfront Plan. “[The final report] can be used as a tool when decisions have to be made.”
Tuesday’s meeting at Peninsula Hospital Center focused on the central area of Rockaway from 32 Street to 101 Street. On October 5 the east end, Beach 3 to 32 Streets, will be the focus of a meeting at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital at 6:30 p.m. On October 21 the area from Beach 101 to Breezy Point will be discussed at PS 114 in Belle Harbor starting at 6:30 p.m.