2010-11-19 / Columnists

East End Matters...

Rockaway Task Force East End Meeting – Where Was The Community?
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

If there is one thing that people do with frequency in Rockaway it is, they complain. They complain about transportation. They complain about the roads. They complain about jobs. And if there is one thing that is true, it’s that these complaints are not unfounded. Unfortunately, when it came to putting things on the line earlier this week the community on the east end of the peninsula came up on the short end of the stick. On Monday the Rockaway Task Force held its third and final public fact-finding meeting at the Goldie Maple Academy and the turnout was not one that our residents should be proud of.

The first Task Force meeting hosted by both of our city councilmen in early September drew a full house to the Knights of Columbus Hall on Beach 90 Street. A good turnout was also reported for the second meeting, which was held on the west end of Rockaway. This last meeting was not so great. Of course, there were the politicos – Bayswater residents Councilman James Sanders Jr. (who hosted the meeting) and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. Both spent the evening listening to the concerns of their fellow residents. There were also representatives from local organizations and even some who live on the west end. Yet, the fact that only a small number of people came out to discuss the problems that face them, the issues that the Task Force will pass on to City Hall, is a sad one. The situation had this reporter and Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation’s Valerie West looking at each other and wondering, “Where is everybody?”

Edwin Williams, a member of the Task Force, was more vocal about the lack of turnout.

“As I look at it, this room here should be standing room only,” said Williams, as the meeting was coming to an end.

Williams was right. The attendance for the Task Force’s final public hearing was a sorry one. In this column in September 2009 I spoke about the apathy that fills the east end of Rockaway. Whether the small turnout was because of that, or had something to do with the meeting on the announced closure of Beach Channel High School that was taking place that same evening, or one of those, “oh, others will be there to discuss the issues so I don’t have to go,” or some other reason, only those who choose not to come can say. Was it the way Sanders’ office advertised the Task Force meeting as a Town Hall meeting? A Town Hall suggests a question and answer session. Some came with questions expecting just that. While the committee members did answer a few questions, the fact-finding format was mostly adhered to.

Next, people will say they didn’t hear about the meeting. While Sanders’ office was calling it a Town Hall meeting, The Wave alerted the public to the November 15 Task Force meeting as early as October 15.

Joe Hartigan asked the Task Force, “Why can’t the city make an investment in Rockaway as much [as it does] in Coney Island?” If Rockaway spoke up as much as other areas of the city such as Coney Island, Hartigan wouldn’t have to be asking that question. Instead we are still the sixth borough. The place where the city came and tore down bungalows and cleared land with the promise of urban renewal during the Lindsay administration in the 1960s, from which we are just beginning to recover – if you can call it that – today.

Elsewhere in this issue there’s an article on the Task Force meeting. There you will find that overwhelmingly the top issues of these last few months of hearings were economic development, jobs and transportation. There were other concerns as well. But did yours make the list that the committee will ponder and then turn in to City Hall? Or because you chose to stay home and you relied on someone else to speak for you – someone who also did not show up – did you miss your chance to have your say?

You can still make suggestions or voice your concerns at

rockawaytaskforce@gmail.com. Here’s a second chance to speak up and stop relying on others to do it for you. The Task Force wants to hear from you and the community needs you to get involved.

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