It’s My Turn
I am an actress/singer/potter a.k.a. artistic type who happily moved to the Rockaways after being priced out of Manhattan and Long Island City.
Gentrification had eradicated the affordable apartment in Manhattan’s borderline neighborhoods such as East Harlem. Gone was that $650/month loft in the transitioning ghetto of East Harlem. Then gentrification and building department crackdowns eliminated any possibility of striking an agreement with the landlord of an empty factory to allow artist-in-residence (A.I.R.) tenancy.
Again, gone was that $950/month loft in the Long Island City factory – accommodations had to be made for $1 million and above loft condos. Thus, cheaper rent and the shores of the Atlantic beckoned me to the Rockaway peninsula and I answered. Since 2006 I have joyously and gratefully resided in a rental unit at the beacon of quiet progress known as Arverne by the Sea. I was arrogantly confident that I was well out of the greedy reach of full throttle gentrification.
After all, a 60 minute A train ride could deter even the most ambitious redesign.
Summer 2011 has welcomed a new, higher end (and more expensive) food concession to the Rockaway boardwalk. And I, too. have celebrated this arrival of upgrade by frequenting these new, shinier neighbors. My friend Dave (a photographer living in Broad Channel) warned that now “Williamsburg” has arrived, gentrification may push us out of the Rockaways as it had pushed him from DUMBO and me from LIC years earlier.
Pshaw, Dave! Rockapulco is too far away and too much a mixed bag of tricks, i.e., too many housing projects! We are finally safe and untouchable.
On July 2, at 7:56pm I was leisurely riding my three-speed green Raleigh bike, which I have had since junior high school (yes, the mid-1970s), on the Rockaway boardwalk at Beach 76 Street. Whereupon I was approached by a police officer and asked to stop my bike and present identification.
Note that I have ridden the boardwalk during the week and on weekends hundreds of times since my 2006 transfer. Upon that first arrival I consulted the Parks Department website and read the boardwalk signs so I would know the rules and regulations.
According to the officer I was in violation of the park’s rules – bicycles were prohibited on the boardwalk on weekends after 10 a.m. I told her that I was following the rules because it was after 6 p.m. She then informed me the rules had changed and I should have read the signs AND most notably, the police were committed to enforcing this rule. Did she mean the signs which are replaced every year with the same but cleaner version of last year’s sign? I stopped reading after year 3 when I realized this was the seasonal sign keeping drill.
When I returned home, ticket in hand, I promptly checked http://www. nycgovparks.org/facilities/beaches which read:
“Bicycle and Skate Path: Yes (except between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays between May 1 and September 30)”
Typically, the people riding on the boardwalk after 6 p.m. in the evening, particularly on the weekends, are the residents of the Rockaways, the beach visitors having already packed up to head home. Thus, more peace, much less people traffic.
Perhaps Dave may have a point. New rules and strict enforcement traditionally have signaled an arrival of a new sensibility, a new culture, a new (perhaps more desirable) resident.
As I am typing this letter amidst the loud prevalent poppings of illegal fireworks I recall: breaking up a fight on the beach last week between two teenage boys because NYPD was nowhere to be found; the several occasions on which I intervened between groups of battling teenage boys on the A train because MTA police could not be found; and my recent insistence that a dog owner pick up her dog’s poop rather than cover it over with sand for a beachgoer to sit in the next day – enforcement was nowhere to be found.
Also, I consider the irony inherent in the fact that the police are enforcing the benign after-hours bicycling of a middle aged artist but the public must enforce the new outdoor non-smoking law. Hmmm.
The simple joy from the quiet enjoyment of a weekend sunset bike ride along the edge of the North American continent with the wind’s wild embrace has now become intolerable and, moreover, illegal.
What next? Should I consider returning to my hometown because soon my rent will become exorbitant? Aaah, this strategy has worked in other NYC neighborhoods, so why not on desirable beachfront property?