2011-02-25 / Editorial/Opinion

Who Speaks For Rockaway?

The Wave has asked this quintessential question again and again over the past 25 years, generally at times when somebody from outside the peninsula comes along to tell Rockaway residents what they should be doing to make the peninsula a better place in which to live. While the question is clear, the answer to the question has always been somewhat murky, muddied up by politics, by the makeup of Rockaway – one small peninsula with dozens of communities, each with its own agenda for maintaining the status quo – and by law. Of course, our elected city, state and federal officials are chosen to represent us, to make the laws that govern us, to speak for their constituents. While they do have a right to act for us, do they, however, speak for us? The fact that they don’t necessarily reflect the general will of the people was seen just last month, when hundreds of Rockaway residents from all over the peninsula loudly booed Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his DOT officials on the bike lane issue. First, his administration refused to accept community input and then lied when faced with opposition, saying that the community never voiced any opposition to the program. Similarly, many other elected officials on the city, state and federal level seem more interested in pushing their own agendas and lining their own pockets than they are in listening to what Rockaway residents have to say. We do, of course, have the local community board, a group that is supposed to be the liaison between community and government, but they are chosen by those same politicians who refuse to listen to us. When was the last time a city agency listened to what the community board had to say. Why this comes up now is because of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA). The group has been going through its own “what Rockaway needs” listening tour, holding meetings to detail “a future vision of Rockaway.” RWA’s president, Jeanne Dupont, seems to be able to get action when nobody else can. The Manhattan woman, who bought a long-unused bungalow a few years ago and now considers herself a Rockaway expert, has committees and subcommittees, the Trust for Public Land and the mayor’s office on her side. What is her vision? If you were at the last meeting, you would have heard the call for more bike lanes, not only east to west, but bay to beach; other bike enhancements to make the peninsula more “biker friendly.” We would argue that the RWA’s vision of Rockaway is not what Rockaway needs, or even wants. It is the agenda of a group focused on one small piece of the puzzle and then demanding that the rest of the peninsula somehow fit everything else around that piece of the puzzle. That is fine, but that it then insists that its agenda should also be Rockaway’s agenda speaks to the problem we face. Who truly should speak for Rockaway? It is not a purely Socratic question. It could well determine the future of the peninsula and all of those who live in its relatively small and secluded area.

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Rockaway divided. Is a

Rockaway divided. Is a divided town how to get anything done? NO. Examples of the internal fights (east vs west, ferry vs express trains or buses, bike lane vs better streets, new schools vs current schools) Rockaway complains about good things, so we get no things, or delayed. (YMCA ready in 2007 vs. make the YMCA better and still nothing is built yet in 2011) Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.Albert Einstein If we all join "the fight", that includes residents and politicans, we can get things done. So far, each little community gets little things done and then the neighboring town complains and gets it taken away or delayed. Cut off your nose to spite your face is the Rockaway I know.

The start of your editorial

The start of your editorial comment seemed to point out the obviously muddled sense of who leads the Rockaways into the future; the second half of your comment seems to bash the only visionary individual who is helping to "channel" the community input that was gathered at several open community meetings over the past year. Jeanne Dupont is an individual; she is not a politician, not an elected, salaried, theoretical "leader" concerned with an agenda that may serve the community but most definitely will serve in gaining votes or money for a politician's future. i would have expected that the second portion of your editorial comment would praise the individual who seems undeterred in making the Rockaways into a healthier, cleaner and more unified community by such additions as a bike lane. Your editorial comment draws an interesting "line in the sand": After how many years of not seeing progress in the Rockaways is it appropriate, according to you, for an individual to demonstrate self-empowerment and courage by trying to affect change in your community? David Selig

Why isn't the bike lane on

Why isn't the bike lane on the boardwalk?

Great editorial Howie!

Great editorial Howie!

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