2012-06-08 / Letters

Look East Madame

The following letter was sent to New York City Department of City Planning Chair, Amanda Burden.

Dear Editor,

May I paraphrase one of New York City’s barons of the black ink and suggest to you…‘Look East Madame Chair, Look East’?

The Sunday Times did an inspiring bio on your 12-year tenure managing NYC’s Department of City Planning under the Bloomberg Administration, and I couldn’t agree more with the Times that the city – especially Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx – continue to resurrect wondrously. Central Park is a gem – thanks to a historic public-private partnership – and the beautification and transformation of the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts are spectacular. And of course Battery Park City added a new, a healthy and a lively dimension to NY’s historic Wall Street.

May I suggest Madame Chair you look a bit further east to our great boro of Queens and especially NYC’s neglected but wondrously beautiful oceanfront here in The Rockaways. What great world city contains 7 miles of ocean front, five miles of boardwalk, a 25,000-acre estuary that we call Jamaica Bay teeming with aquatic wildlife and a 9,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge? In addition to NYC, maybe Hong Kong…I dunno.

For many, many years locals here seek the strategic contextual planning and beautifications you are so famous for around Chelsea, Brooklyn Heights, Turtle Bay, East Harlem, Crown Heights and the South Bronx.

For instance Madame Chair our oceanfront beaches erode: time & tides wait for no city. Worse, last year’s Irene in one fell swoop washed away most of our Beach 90 Street beaches. Yet, nine months later – as has been their practice over the last 60 years – The Army Corps of Engineers (The NY District) is still studying the issue. No remediation now, and probably no remediation for our summer months, and maybe no remediation until the next storm blows away the entire Peninsula! Just last nite – with a lively tide – the surf swamped the entire beach and ocean water was kissing the boardwalk pilings… any surge would surely flood Shore-Front Parkway. When you meet with Commander John Boule Madame Chair, would you please remind him of the Corps’ obligation – or maybe I should say the corps’ obligation to stewardship – to protect and contextually improve New York City’s oceanfront? The corps has recently begun planting marsh grasses in Jamaica Bay and Stony Brook U is presently reseeding Jamaica Bay with oysters… all great stuff!!!…but the oceanfront continues DANGEROUSLY depleted, and needs the short-term fix of sand replenishment and the long-term fix of beach safeguards such as rock groins, geo-mattresses, etc., etc.

Our Peninsula is surrounded by blue water Madame Chair, yet as NYC’s Department of Transportation discusses their blue-water strategy (a ferry system serving NYC), Rockaway is not even an afterthought. How can that be? Would it not be wondrous to offer NYC’s 30 million visitors deplaning @ JFK a 40-minute ferry to Manhattan with one stop in Rockaway? Imagine passing through historic Jamaica Bay, under the Verrazano Bridge, and then emerging into NY Harbor as a commuting alternative to the Van Wyck Expressway. Jet Blue has considered it, but received zero – no – support from The Port Authority of NY & NJ, nor from NYC. Why?

By the way Madame Director when locals seek from Commissioner Sadik- Khan better transport, the DOT planners reduce our lanes rather than resolve our transport problems. Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway were designed in different eras and with different philosophies than Queens Boulevard and Woodhaven Boulevard, but why is there no contextual planning today to reclaim and reinvigorate our arteries of transport as in Brooklyn? Our boulevards have been tagged ‘valleys of death,’ Madame Director. Did you know that? And not a shred of greenery has been planted on Queens or Woodhaven Boulevards and they are desperately needed…at a minimum!

Speaking of Woodhaven & Queens Boulevards, at their junction lies New York City’s biggest volume shopping venue…the Queens Malls. There are three malls…all within 2 or 3 blocks. At their confluence with the LIE sit Macy’s, Macy’s Furniture, Target, JC Penney, Century 21, Best Buy, Costco, Aldi, H&M, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx, Sears (down Queens Blvd a bit) and a host of boutiques as well as family & franchised restaurants. If the planners @ NY Transit could ever see beyond the upper east side of Manhattan and instead looked out over Queens, they would extend the ‘M’ train to its logical termination and you could then take the J-Z-M trains from Wall Street to the Queens Mall in some 35 to 40 minutes. Wouldn’t that be an interesting planning achievement, Madame Chair?

Speaking of spending Madame Chair, at least NY’s Governor knows from where Queens is. The Governor has recently posited an upending proposition to relocate NY’s Convention Center to central Queens, adjacent to the Casino (the former Aqueduct Race- Track), and equidistant from NYC’s two airports. For NYC’s top Planner isn’t that an exciting proposition? Maybe someday soon metro-New Yorkers could actually drive their cars to the Car Show or Boat Show. With the convention center here in central Queens maybe NY’s Fashion District – the smallmanufacturing element of the Fashion Industry, that is – might migrate to neighborhoods such as Woodside, or Corona or Flushing, thereby freeing up those west-side Manhattan buildings for conversion to Class A building space for our blossoming hi-tech industry. Interesting & Exciting, no?

Returning to Rockaway Madame Chair, the Manhattan, Brooklyn & Bronx waterfronts have been wondrously re-envisioned by you, yet here – surrounded by blue water – Rockaway was barely an afterthought in your 10-year Waterfront Plan. Presently Rockaway’s 3-mile retainer wall overlooking Jamaica Bay is in dilapidated and dangerous conditions and Greg Clancy from EDC has done great work studying and worrying over our crumbling bulwark. Here now at this moment Madame Chair is another great opportunity for NYC Planning to boldly re-envision a Queens waterfront (yes a Queens waterfront that you can’t see from Manhattan), yet EDC under President Pinsky only plans to rebuild the wall. Why not waterfront rejuvenation Madame Chair? Our waterfront overlooks Jamaica Bay, The National Wildlife Refuge and on the horizon panoramic views of Midtown due north, and Wall Street north by northwest. If City Planning can provide a wondrous vision for the revitalization of the Manhattan waterfront and across the river to the Brooklyn & Bronx waterfronts too, and if the wartorn city of Beirut can restore and rejuvenate their waterfront, why not Queens and Rockaway, Madame Chair?

‘Look East Madame Chair, Look I hope you acknowledge & accept my request in the good faith in which it has been given, to an enormously successful Planning expert, whose good judgment, great vision and lasting accomplishments precede her.


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