2012-07-13 / Top Stories

Gateway Says No To Wounded Warrior Parking

By Howard Schwach

For years, the Wounded Warriors have come to Rockaway for a weekend of good cheer, good food and two days of adaptive water sports.

This year is no different and 52 participating veterans hit the streets of Rockaway last evening with a gala motorcade down Rockaway Beach Boulevard, with hundreds cheering their passage.

There is one difference this year, however. The National Park Service, which administers Gateway National Recreation Area, has turned down a request for a permit that has traditionally allowed the warriors and their families to park in Breezy Point, behind the local yacht club where the water sport program is held.

Local NPS officials told the event sponsors that only the Washington, D.C. office could authorize the permit, something that could take weeks or even months.

The denial of the permit angered not only the sponsors of the event, but Senator Charles Schumer as well.

After Gateway declined to authorize the parking, Schumer appealed to the NPS Director’s Office in Washington to immediately issue the permits under their own authority and ensure the veterans’ program could proceed.

“Our veterans fought for us abroad – they shouldn’t have to fight for parking here at home,” said Schumer. “This parking venue has been made available to the Wounded Warriors for their event in years past, and it is unacceptable that the park is standing in the way of accommodating our veterans. Issuing the permit is a no-brainer and I will fight to make sure the event can continue as planned, and am calling on the National Park Service to resolve this situation with all due speed.”

Schumer told NPS officials that the annual Adaptive Water Sports Festival at Breezy Point is a special event for the country’s veterans and underlines the Breezy Point community’s great history of honoring servicemen and women. The event teaches adaptive waterskiing, surfing and other water sports, providing support for service members returning home with disabilities.

Schumer added, “The Wounded Warriors, under the leadership of Flip Mullen and the whole Breezy Point community, do an amazing job of honor- ing our service men and women. They welcome them with open arms and, through this weekend festival, provide some fun and a real measure of recognition and gratitude that is beyond well deserved. They should have every logistical detail facilitated, not complicated, by the feds.

John Harlen Warren, a spokesperson for Gateway, told The Wave on Wednesday afternoon that the national park “loves the wounded warriors in no uncertain terms” but that “parking in that lot is no longer legal.”

“It should never have been a parking lot in the first place,” Warren said. “It is a special use area that needs a permit, but parking is not one of the special uses.”

Warren says that he is working with the New York City Police Department to come up with some viable options that would allow the warriors the parking they need, including angled parking on Sunday on the State Road that runs through the community, or on Beach 193 Street in the Breezy Point Cooperative itself.

Schumer, in a letter to National Park officials, asked them to expedite a waiver to allow the special parking permit for this coming Sunday, but at press time there was not word that the park service had relented.

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