Controversy Over Flagpole Memorial
There are not many communities where the construction of a flagpole and memorial to a resident who died recently would cause a civil war among those who live on the block, but Rockaway is apparently one of those communities.
The family of Regina Somerville decided that, since the flagpole at the beach wall on Beach 128 Street had been removed because it was “too noisy,” it would replace the flagpole and add a very small plaque at its base memorializing the former resident. The controversy started immediately.
“This is a desecration of the beachfront, an abomination,” said one woman who claimed that the new pole blocked her view, but who asked not to be identified. “I don’t want to live in a cemetery, and this memorial insures just that.”
Not everybody agrees.
“The pole is a thing of beauty,” resident Enrico Luisi said in a letter to The Wave. “Everyone, from the beach front to the bay front loves it, and now it will be torn down or moved.”
“I was so happy to see the new flagpole and the flag flying from it,” said Christine Charles. “I don’t understand why it is an issue on this block. I see thousands of flags flying in our neighborhood. Every beach block in Belle Harbor and the rest of Rockaway has flags flying except for Beach 128 Street. The people who oppose the flag should not be pacified.”
The families who oppose the flag went to City Councilman Eric Ulrich.
In an email to Ulrich, Bob Somerville wrote, “Prior to erecting [the pole] we contacted every neighbor on the block for approval and other than a few neighbors that could not be reached because they were out of town, everybody not only agreed, but some offered donations, which were thankfully declined.”
He added, “One neighbor is objecting to the pole because she thinks it obstructs her view of the ocean.
It would be a displeasure to have to remove such a beautiful addition to the beach block.”
Ulrich told The Wave that he reached out to DOT Queens Commissioner Mora McCarthy and was told that the agency cannot give a permit to put up a flagpole without the consent of the city’s Arts Commission, and that was not done. “We are trying to work with the family to find another way for them to memorialize their relative, but the city says that the pole is not legal,” Ulrich said. “DOT has told me that they would be removing the flagpole since the family did not have a permit to put it up in the first place.”
“I understand your good intentions,” Ulrich told the family, “but it doesn’t seem likely that the city is going to budge on this one.”
Somerville says that he has a meeting set up with McCarthy on June 29 and will try to convince her to leave the pole in place while the family is going through the permit process.