2011-05-13 / Editorial/Opinion

A Curious Parks Department Selection

As Alice once said when she dropped down the rabbit hole, this is getting curiouser and curiouser. A number of the Manhattan papers and magazines have trumpeted the “fact” that a concessionaire has been picked to run the eight-year concession to operate three food shacks and up to 20 food carts on the Rockaway boardwalk beginning this summer, although no announcement has yet been made. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says that this is the most transparent government in the city’s history, but the hypocrisy of the Parks Department in this matter has been colossal. Rockaway residents have questions about both the process and the concessionaire who won the lucrative bid. Who were the others who responded to the agency’s request for proposal? Parks says that they can’t tell us, and that we have to file under the Freedom of Information Law to get that information, even though the law is clear that business deals such as this made by public agencies are in the public domain. Why was the chosen concessionaire picked over the other vendors who applied? File a Freedom of Information request. What was the process in choosing a vendor? File a freedom of information request. What will the menus look like? File a Freedom of Information request. It makes one wonder what Parks is trying to cover up. It gets even curiouser. Anybody who has lived in Rockaway for the last decade knows that to drink a beer on the beach is to invite a summons and perhaps a short time at central booking. The new RFP allows alcoholic beverages on the boardwalk, as long as they are imbibed in a roped-off area adjacent to the concession stand. What is to stop a person from drinking a few on the boardwalk and then returning to the beach for a quick swim? Why is drinking alcoholic cocktails on the boardwalk and then going into the water any different from drinking a few beers on the beach and then going into the water? Why is the latter more dangerous than the former? We understand the importance of beach food and of providing a mix of items. We also understand that the Parks Department sees the food shacks and food carts as a potential moneymaker. The public, however, needs to know what they are getting from the chosen vendor and how he was chosen. Transparency is the key and there has been no transparency. You see how it goes. Very curious.

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