2011-03-25 / Top Stories

New Civic Group Sparks Controversy

By Howard Schwach

Noreen Ellis Noreen Ellis There is a new civic group on the peninsula and its website has stirred up some controversy in neighboring communities.

What was formerly the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association and morphed into MyRockPark just last year, has now become the Rockaway Civic Association.

And, the group that formerly represented only Rockaway Park residents seeks to represent all of the residents who live between Beach 99 Street and Beach 149 Streets – not only Rockaway Park, but Belle Harbor and Neponsit as well.

“The city blocks of Beach 99 Street to Beach 149 Street in the areas of Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor and Neponsit, in addition to Riis Park, Fort Tilden, Gateway NPS will require the primary focus and attention of this association,” the group’s website says. “We understand that many issues affect our peninsula and will work together with Community Board 14 and fellow civic groups in order to be successful.”

There are, however, civic associations with elected leaders who already represent those two communities – the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association, led by Sylvan Klein, and the Neponsit Property Owners Association, led by Peter Sammon.

On Tuesday, Klein told The Wave, “The Belle Harbor Property Owners Association was established 63 years ago to serve the interests of our community. We are the voice in communicating the wants and desires of homeowners in our neighborhood to both elected officials and government agencies.”

What did Klein think of the new organization’s claim that it now represents the people who live in his community?

“I don’t think I want to comment on that,” he said.

Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, said that some of the leaders in the impacted area are “perturbed” by the new association.

“Ultimately, the civic groups are the strength of the communities they serve,” Gaska said. “Attendance at those meetings has been down the last few years, however, and if the new group can do better, it’s a good thing. They have to get on the same page with the established groups.”

“The new group could have handled it better,” he added.

Neponsit Civic head Peter Sammon was not available for comment.

Noreen Ellis, the president of the Rockaway Civic Association, submitted a written statement Wednesday afternoon, just as the story was set for press.

“The board of Rockaway Civic and I would like to make it clear that the intention of our new civic association is not to spark controversy, nor to hijack any fellow community groups’ membership.

“If we attain membership from residents in areas outside our boundaries, the reason may be attributed to residents in other areas feel we are doing a good job on issues that affect them also.

“Rockaway Civic Association – we emphasize CIVIC – was created to represent the residents within our boundaries. The name was decided to be more neutral as our boundaries encompass Rockaway Park and portions of Belle Harbor. Some confusion on the area we will cover may have come from the text on our new website.

“Our website was in the design phase when an email was circulated telling of its existence; many of the items on the site were are still not yet finalized.

“As I type this, our web designer will be updating the verbiage of our web site. This new text will clear up any confusion on territories”.

The information on our site will now read:Our Association’s coverage area will be from Beach 98th Street to Beach 129th Street from Beach to Bay. “We will represent our area in community and quality of life issues which affect the residents of this area. As some issues affect not only our residents, but residents throughout our peninsula, such as transportation, our beaches, and Gateway NPS, we will to work in alliance with fellow civic groups to focus on these issues.”

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