2011-03-11 / Editorial/Opinion

What Is Appropriate For An Urban Park?

If you are a Rockaway resident whose kids play little league baseball or soccer at Fort Tilden; if you enjoy the musical shows produced by the Rockaway Theatre Company or the art shows hosted by the Rockaway Artists Alliance; if you enjoyed the RMAC’s summer concert series or the Fall Festival, then some of the recommendations now under consideration for the future of Gateway National Recreation Area might well drive you to despair. “Remove incompatible uses from the park,” one recommendation reads. “Expand public programming, ensuring that all of those programs are compatible for the park’s mission,” says another. Those are veiled comments that add up to “get those Rockaway people out of the park.” The original mission of the national recreational areas when they were created in 1972 was, “Provide for the maintenance of needed recreational open space.” The understanding is that they would be treated differently from the national parks such as Yosemite and Grand Canyon. In 1978, however, the environmentalists took control of the Interior Department and pushed through changes so that the national recreation areas such as Gateway would be governed in the same way and under the same rules as the national parks and monuments. Those now in control of the National Park Service are operating under the assumption that if you can’t put a little league field on the rim of the Grand Canyon, then you can’t put a field in Gateway. If the rules say there can’t be an art gallery next door to Old Faithful, then there can’t be one at Fort Tilden. That is short-sighted and unfriendly to the Rockaway community. What is appropriate for an urban park such as Gateway? We believe that the park should be open to recreational and artistic locals such as the ones we have in Rockaway and that those organizations should not be priced out of existence by a federal agency that the taxpayers are already funding. What will be the outcome? Unfortunately, unless our federal legislators who include Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Anthony Weiner and Gregory Meeks get involved, Rockaway will probably become the loser in this battle. Weiner has already spoken up for the little league and the RMAC, but to no avail. The deadline for comments on the park service’s website is March 15. We encourage everybody to speak out and leave a comment at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentform.cfm?documentid=36924. Then, only time will tell.

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