2011-02-25 / Columnists

Commentary On Things Present

Stop Saying No
By Peter Stubben

‘Mr. Mayor,’ had I the opportunity to address Mayor Bloomberg at last week’s Bayswater Summit, ‘please view The Rockaways holistically, not reflexively.’

For far too long, Mr. Mayor, City Hall has reflexively turned her bleary eyes to Rockaway to say No.

Why not view us for who we are and what we aspire to be? Our peninsula is bounded by blue water, glistening seashores and a great urban National Park. We are bordered by population centers larger than even Chicago ... America’s second largest city. Via Flatbush Avenue into Brooklyn; via Woodhaven Boulevard into Queens; and via Peninsula Boulevard into Nassau County some six millions are linked to good ole Rockaway. And just across our bay, Mr. Mayor, 50 million passengers per year pass into New York via the nation’s busiest international airport.

These past five decades, though, city hall has dodged, voided, derided or just plain denied Peninsula requests. For instance, for the last 50 years the people of Rockaway have asked City Hall to develop 20 blocks of prime oceanfront property sitting idle and fallow, and for fifty years City Planning said no to Rockaway. For 50 years various City Administrations were asked to stop aggregating the poor, marginalizing them at the city’s outer rim and concentrating them in bleak housing in far off Rockaway, and for fifty years HPD said no to Rockaway. For 50 years City Hall was petitioned to place the city’s ‘de-stabled’ and mentally challenged across the city and not amassed on her extreme perimeter here in Rockaway, and for fifty years Health and Hospitals has said no to Rockaway.

Stop saying No, Mr. Mayor.

Today, private real-estate interests are now investing some One Billion Dollars in Rockaway’s future, Mr. Mayor, and I think you and your twodozen Commissioners, flanked right and left before me, should consider Rockaway’s future, too!

So, Mr. Mayor, when the people of Rockaway seek solutions, please view us holistically, imaginatively and creatively – not reflexively – before you respond.

Re blue water development, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people suggest a ferry, maybe NYC DOT Commissioner Sadik-Khan might respond, ‘Hey, that’s very interesting, because we are trying to link up the city’s waterfront, and hey, how about extending that ferry to JFK ... wouldn’t that be a world-beating commute for all our tourists and business travelers. You know tourism is one of our biggest businesses and that would be neat to have a ferry link with one stop in Rockaway. Let me see what our NYC & Company Tourist Bureau thinks and let me ask the Port Authority and Jet-Blue what they think, too, and I will get back to you.’

Re schools, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people explain that in order to attract home buyers good schools are always an essential criteria; and when these same Rockaway residents seek to retain Beach Channel High, maybe Chancellor Black might respond, ‘Hey, I believe in charter schools and more choice for our students and their parents, and I believe in competition, too. But we do need a comprehensive school, as well as charter schools ... to improve both! Hey, maybe you guys need advanced scholarship programs, too?’

Re transportation to the city, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people explain how important the Manhattan commute is to new homebuyers, maybe Deputy Mayor Wolfson might respond, ‘Let me speak with the MTA about more express buses and improved Atrain service.’

Re distortionist housing policies, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people report on the crowding out of our small but growing surfer sub-culture by SRO owners who rent, not 1-bedrooms and studios to our new beach-lovers, but single rooms to exploit the city’s alltoo generous rental allowances, maybe HPD Commissioner Cestero might respond, ‘Please remember that HPD’s mission is also Community Preservation. We know Rockaway is blessed with these very large rooming homes from years back, and it’s very troubling to read recently in The Wave of serious concentrations of sexual abusers on city housing allowances in Rockaway neighborhoods bubbling with schools. We need to revisit these Section 8-type allowances in Rockaway, and let the free real-estate market prevail.’

Re the Beach 108 water treatment plant, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people ask that the obnoxious waste run-off be treated and capped, maybe DEP Commissioner Holloway might respond, ‘Our primary mission is a cleaner and greener NY. Let’s green-up this plant.‘

Re the MGP site, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people seek much-needed economic development there – maybe a culture mall anchored by a movie theater and an outdoor band-shell – maybe EDC President Seth Pinsky might respond, ‘Hey, that’s very interesting ... people might come from South Queens and South Brooklyn for dinner, a movie, and a walk on the boardwalk, no? Also, I just heard about that 10-minute ferry link to JFK ... don’t you think some sort of smallscale hotel development might make sense, too – like a ‘Radisson @ Rockaway’ or a ‘W on The Dunes’ – to advance that unique experience for our tourists and business travelers? Let’s see what we can do.’

Re the bay wall, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people remind you the wall needs restoration and improvement, maybe EDC-Capital Projects VP Dan Kane might respond, ‘There’s no doubt the wall needs restoration and we will coordinate with the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service to construct something palliative to local waterfront usage, like an Esplanade.’

Re Far Rockaway and early childhood development, Mr. Mayor, when Rockaway people tell you the children of The Peninsula Projects need fewer marchers and more Rhodes Scholars and maybe a Far Rock Children’s Zone funded by Far Rockaway- ite Carl Icahn, you might respond, ‘That’s enormously interesting to me because I have the greatest respect for all that Geoffrey Canada is doing in Harlem, and maybe his achievements would translate well in Far Rock, too. I didn’t know Carl Icahn was from Far Rockaway, but did you know he built a beautiful sports arena and track on Randall’s Island for The City of NY. Maybe Carl and I should sit down and speak about this.’

I’ve said far too much and I can see that Bayswater President Enid Glabman is about to cut me off. Please, Mr. Mayor, don’t cut Rockaway off ... ‘Stop Saying No.’

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