2011-10-14 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

By Tom Osborne, Community Resident

I have been a resident of the Rockaways for the past year. Over this year I have been reaffirmed in my decision to move to this beachfront oasis from Manhattan where I have lived for the last thirty years. I reside at the D Piper Inn on Beach 114 Street, which I am representing tonight in this discussion.

I have met many good people since moving here and I thank you for the warm welcome I have received. I am a journalist by profession and some of you may be familiar with my work with ABC News for many years where I covered the Northeast U.S. as reporter, and also served as UN bureau chief for a decade.

Last week many of you may have read in the New York Daily News an article by the real estate correspondent Jason Sheftell entitled, “A Piece of the Rock.” As is well-known to the life-long residents here, the point of Jason’s article was the great, but lost, potential of this beach community.

There were many wonderful things said in this article as he captured the thoughts and views of those he interviewed when he visited here:

“The surf here is one of the best on the East Coast.” “This is the best-kept secret known to man.” It was noted that people are once again “discovering this beautiful way of life and want to keep it that way – people from Williamsburg, hipsters, artists, attorneys, engineers, architects, doctors all coming to surf, people who delight in seeing the improving water quality and spotting dolphins, taking care of the ocean, voluntarily policing the beach.”

There were also difficult things to hear about our community which should give us all pause: “perilous,” “won’t shop here,” “dangerous,” “eyesore,” “no longer a summer destination,” “block after block totally abandoned,” “the dreariest beachfront shopping community in America,” “absolutely derelict,” “drug infested.”

These words are hard to hear when measured against all the good things, the possible things about this place. As one person put it, we should be asking ourselves what’s wrong with this picture?

In Mayor Bloomberg’s words, it is a “quality of life agenda.” I think what is going on in our neighborhood should be put back on the Mayor’s “quality of life agenda.”

The D Piper Inn, which I am representing this evening at this meeting, is a vintage B&B built over 100 years ago. Many of you know it as the old McMannus place.

It has always served as an inn to the community. Today, the D Piper Inn continues that wonderful tradition and the spirit of the old neighborhood so many of you remember — fully restored right down to the original woodwork, it is equipped with 12 fully equipped private suites.

The price of a one night stay starts at $150 per night. Limited or hourly rates are never permitted.

The D Piper Inn should be put on the list of the very good things about our neighborhood. It has been a regular and long-term host to this community. Its visitors include police and FDNY, their families and retirees, active federal officers, doctors, nurses, people from the tourist industry, airlines, print and broadcast journalists – foreign and domestic – including ABC, NBC, Redbook Magazine, and most recently, reporters from the French and Swiss press. The Piper has hosted sailing teams from around the world. It has been consistently honored by returning guests from Belle Harbor and other parts of the Rockaways, including families who offer their homes to The Wounded Warriors Project – welcomed for free at the D Piper.

Last year the inn grossed $137,000 and employed three persons. This year in 2011 the gross rental income is below $37,000. Employment has been reduced to one part-time housekeeper who works for tips. What is wrong with this picture?

Many of us have come to call “what is wrong with this picture” the Jay Deutchman Project. This last spring, the Jay Deutchman Project moved next door to the D Piper Inn. This project is a former vacation residence converted to house parolees. It is a project totally without supervision and it is being run in a way that is a danger and blight on the entire community.

Each morning we must pass through the adjoining alley way stepping over and through what has been thrown out of three stories of windows the night before: discarded condoms, cigarette butts, cigar wrappers, household and fast food containers.

Beginning just after dusk, and at all hours of the night people — who seem to have unlimited air time — hang from windows literally yelling into their cell phones with profanity and racial slurs. The ‘N’ word is used in diatribes from groups sitting or standing around on the front porch and on the sidewalk, sitting on the cars of guests of the Piper, not only at night but often in the day when mothers and small children, as well as patrons of the nursing home are passing by.

Permit me to summarize one letter received from a young lady who has been a faithful and enthusiastic guest of the Piper for years and comes for a welldeserved retreat. Here is what she said about the Deutchmann Project next door:

‘I want to thank you for my stay at D Piper Inn, I would like to point out however there seemed to be a house full of men that live next door to you and I felt uncomfortable this time. Guys yelling comments at me from the porch … in the alley, in the backyard, yelling out the windows, leering at me. In my room I had to pull the blinds and could not enjoy the ocean breeze because they would look in my windows and yell to me. I felt very paranoid. I could not even walk on the boardwalk as they would be there. At night I could not sleep because they would yell profanities into their cell phones to their girl- friends. … Sadly it goes on.

Which brings me to my final point. Mr. Jay Deutchmann is an irresponsible, absent landlord who should take care of this dangerously out of control establishment. His establishment is a danger to its unsupervised residents and a danger to our street, and to the community as a whole. Most importantly, as specified under supervision mandates of the Board of Parole there is clearly no control over this facility.

Specifically, there is no supervision of prohibited association with undesirable individuals. There is no parole officer present or entering the premises. Literally, persons are summoned to a patrol car by the officer honking the horn until someone responds. Parolees are summoned to the passenger side window while the officer remains safely inside the car. Officers never get out of the car. There is no enforced curfew, no enforcement of drug or alcohol.

On behalf of my neighbors and the D Piper Inn I am asking for our community to accept responsibility for something that has gone very wrong. Mr. Deutchman clearly hasn’t. I would ask for immediate attention to the “Contact” issue between police, parole officer and parolee at this residence. I would respectfully request that Mr. Ruscillo’s excellent proposal to increase officer patrols on Beach 116 Street be expanded to Beach 114 for the protection of residences and families 24/7. And I would like to extend an open invitation to any officer who is on patrol in these areas to feel welcome at the D Piper for breaks restroom or otherwise. You are most welcome.

What’s wrong with this picture? If we are seriously interested in answering this question, getting these Deutchman Projects under control or eliminating them is a good place to start.

But it also has to do with our thinking. If we think this is what the picture should look like then we should just go about our business as we are. But I don’t think you would agree with Mr. Deutchman who says that 116th Street and 114th Street just aren’t going to be the beautiful streets we think they are. No thanks to him. He is in Scarsdale. He has no idea what they could be and he obviously does not care. I think we know better and can do better. Thank you for listening and for your time.

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