Issues Highlighted At East End Task Force Meeting
Councilman James Sanders Jr., who hosted the November 15 meeting at the Goldie Maple Academy, spent the majority of the evening sitting with the audience and listening to those who spoke about problems that dominated previous Task Force meetings – transportation, jobs and economic development in the Rockaways.
“In the 30s and 40s there were businesses on the boardwalk, but that all changed in the 50s,” said Eddie O’Hare. “Maybe the city can put businesses back on the boardwalk.”
A mail carrier who found out about the meeting as she was picking up her child at Goldie Maple said, “[At Ocean Village] management should be held accountable for what’s happening there …. It’s an eyesore.”
Jackie Bassett suggested a vocational center.
“Ocean Village has a large facility,” said Bassett. “We could bring in motivational speakers to talk to our children.”
As for the vocational training, Bassett added, “They don’t do well in academics, but they will do well in vocational training.”
Other subjects addressed were: the possibility of turning the old Courthouse on Beach 90 Street into a visitors center; whether the community would be able to – in the future – utilize Bayswater State Park; and reopening the libraries on Saturdays.
Jonathan Gaska, who was appointed to the committee by City Hall to represent Community Board 14 as its district manager, laid out the most important issues presented to the Task Force.
“What’s been clear, this is the third meeting, the two greatest needs is economic development and jobs,” said Gaska. “We have the highest unemployment rate in the borough of Queens. One of the highest unemployment rates as a community board in the City of New York. Which, is not something we’re very proud of. So, jobs, jobs, jobs. Economic development is something we’re very concerned about and that will be one of our priorities. That also kind of dovetails into the issue of recreation and tourism. One of the things we’re looking at is doing some sort of retail along the boardwalk.
“The other thing is transportation. The fact that someone in the middle of Nassau County can commute to midtown Manhattan 35 to 40 minutes quicker than someone from Rockaway is a crime,” added Gaska, who said transportation and improving it is an absolute priority.
Other issues already discussed by the Task Force are ferry service, express bus service, improved bus service, the Far Rockaway Mall, movie theaters, hotels and retail, boardwalk improvements, and a bulkhead along Beach Channel Drive, according to Charles Jacobs, selected to the committee by Sanders.
As the evening ended, Task Force member Edwin Williams commented about the sparse attendance, “As I look at this room here it should be standing room only.” He added, “Don’t be afraid to engage your neighbors.”
The Task Force was formed in July through a mayoral initiative to examine and address local issues facing the peninsula. Now that the public meetings are finished, the task force will review all the information it received and submit a report to the Mayor’s Office that includes specific recommendations on how to improve the quality of life on the peninsula.
Sanders and Ulrich each named four people to serve on the Task Force. Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson is leading the Task Force effort.