2012-03-02 / Letters

Silver Gull RIP

Dear Editor,

On the 17th of February, our beloved Federal Government determined that the company, Ortega et.al., was more qualified to run the Silver Gull Beach Club than those who had been running it for over forty years.

Is this the end of an era for New York City beach clubs? Yes. Why? Because the Feds had and still have no concept of a beach club inside or outside the grand scheme of its NPS. What would make the NPS happy?

The obvious is that the club get in line with all of the national parks: creating hook-ups, then renting spaces for RVs, taking reservations for specific days during the summer for occupancy, creating gift shops where T-shirts and beach merchandise are offered to the public, opening a restaurant and cafeteria for vending food and opening its doors wide for all of the public, not just those from the 4 boroughs (no Bronx) who currently have membership.

We lost the concession because for 40 + years the club was run on leases first with NYC, then, with the Feds who, for years, saw the club as a leased situation run as a beach club with lease renegotiations every so many years.

As a concession, the Gull, in its operation, will probably be no different from all the other parks in the NPS which will make the NPS joyful at the prospect of not having a bastard son in its corral on the shoreline of Queens, New York.

On April 1, the keys to the Gull will officially be handed off to Ortega. That gives the new company 8 weeks to ready the club for the summer as we know it.

The NPS says it will still be a beach club. I question their statement. The club part will sink into the same sunset as we have seen countless times from cabanas looking west at dusk since no other NP has ‘clubs’ attached. Thus, the Silver Gull Club will most probably die.

In its place for the time being, will be a series of day trippers from all over the world for the summer months. Feds hardly recognize that people are not driving to NYC for a beach from Kansas, Oklahoma or Nebraska when gasoline is predicted to be $5 per gallon.

Where the Silver Gull made its money was on summer club membership. Since the government is not in the beach club business, if Ortega demolishes summer memberships, then where do they expect to make money? Day rates, whatever they may be when added to tolls, gas and food make the Gull unaffordable to day-trippers unless the Feds and Ortega are willing to take a bath on the rates.

Even at $25 per day, the Gull (or Gateway National Beach) will find few takers when Riis is free as are Manhattan Beach, Coney Island and Brighton. Coney Island has rides, baseball and the Aquarium, Brighton has shopping, Manhattan Beach is primarily local and Rockaway’s Gateway Beach has nada.

Looking into the future, it is quite possible that the Feds will discover they have not only made the wrong selection in Ortega, they had the wrong concept for a three month per year park.

After a brief dance with the Gull, Ortega could, recognizing its inability to make a profit from its ‘concession,’ walk away and try to sub-lease its concession to native New Yorkers with beach club experience. This would not be surprising at all.

What could be expected from Ortega is the closing of the camp, which will be reason enough for members with young children to opt out. Some predict the destruction of cabanas returning the shoreline to nature. Be this the case, how will the Feds ever see money from what was the Gull? Does it even matter to them?

For this summer, having a steady (or not so steady) stream of day-trippers parading on Gull grounds gives members second thoughts about the safety of Gull children who, in the past, could walk anywhere in Gulldom and feel protected.

Remember, members, that the children spending time in SG camp away from the pools and the hub of the club allowed adults to have unharried days Monday through Thursday. Bless the camp. Lo, that it would be no more.

Suggestions for the Gull post ‘elimination’ of the cabanas range from a resort casino to a bird sanctuary. It would be nice if the Feds would let Rockaway know what it has in store. I would be nicer if they had let well enough alone.

Feds have made an horrific mistake taking the institution that was the Silver Gull Beach Club away from its members.

For nine months a year, the Gull hibernated only to awaken to the bustling of children and adults, parents and grandparents, bridge players, canasta players, poker players, Mah Jong players, line dancers, social dancers, Yoga adherents, water aerobicists, lap swimmers, ocean swimmers, paddle ball players, basket ball and softball players, sun worshippers, readers and partiers.

The Gull was a haven for the handicapped and the elderly. The many teenagers who were employed at SG learned responsibility and trust and pride in effort. Those in maintenance kept the Gull going as did management.

Feds, by anointing Ortega, will make Rockaway a much poorer place. Ask if the Gull was a boon to local restaurants and business and the answer is, ‘it was.’

Ask if local businesses will feel the pinch without the ‘steadies’ of the summer. They will. Ask how many teenagers depended upon the Gull for summer employment? Many! However, none of what was, seems to affect the Feds. They want a conformist park called a concession with or without visitors.

Why would the Feds destroy an institution upon which so many of us depend when there is already a bird sanctuary a toll away? Beats me!

Nine months of the year Gull land lies dormant. If the Feds have their way beginning with the Ortega concession, add the other three months to it. Why would the Feds destroy the summer fun of SG members, devastate local businesses, and deprive local teens of employment when in the place of SG is nothing that adds to our community?

The answer is, “the Feds are not about community” which is why they should never have been given our beaches by the city from the outset. The Gull should have been grandfathered as the unique entity it was. If there is any way Rockaway’s beaches can be returned to the City and the Silver Gull saved, we must find it and demand the Feds reconsider. Personally, I am thinking what a jerk I was begging for the life of the Gull on video tape for the Feds to see when it appears they knew all along they were going in a different direction with the Gull.

Call Sen. Schumer. Contact our mayor. Get them to make a deal. In the realm of progress, the Feds, by failing to honor tradition, essentially destroying the Silver Gull, amounts to a giant leap backward.

JOAN METTLER

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