Commentary On Things Present
At first light 18-wheelers depart from the Hunts Point Market to deliver the freshest vegetables and ripest fruit to the 2.3 million people of Brooklyn and then to the 2.2 million people of Queens, but only arrive here in Rockaway after sunset with what’s left - the bruised peaches, the too-soft tomatoes, the brown bananas. Sometimes I see things through that fabricated prism.
New York City’s remarkable renaissance begun by Koch radiates outward from Broadway and Times Square to illuminate the five boroughs, but has left Rockaway largely in the murky shadows. Throughout the city murder and mayhem are way down; homes and high-risers way up; the old and cranky infrastructure retrofitted; the potholes filled; new stadiums magically arisen from the ashes of Coney Island, Randall’s Island and now the Atlantic Yards; and while businesses like Virgin Records and Tower Records may be gone, Nordstrom’s is moving in. Through it all Rockaway sits silent, stranded, somnolent.
The Bloomberg beautifications - waterfront restorations and rejuvenations, outdoor plaza recreations, seasonal and summer exhibitions, pedestrian promenades down the avenues, museum mile expos - are magnificent but largely invisible here on the Peninsula. Contrary to the city’s resurgence, for decades it’s been impossible to get a few jetties built, the treasure that is the Rockaway Boardwalk has been in constant disrepair and the awesome bay-side laps against a mess of junkyards, crumbling walls and abandoned homes. And forget about the Peninsula’s roads and high-schools!
In fact there are disincentives here: From Brooklyn to Manhattan there is no toll, from Manhattan to the Bronx there is no toll, from Queens to Manhattan there is no toll, from Brooklyn to Queens there is no toll - to go to Coney Island there is no toll, to go to City Island there is no toll, to go to Roosevelt Island there is no toll, but if you want to take a seaside platter at Dalton’s on Beach 108th, coming from either Brooklyn or Queens, you gotta pay $6.50 in tolls!
Last week I stopped into a midtown Manhattan community board meeting to defend the central library’s new plan for its 42nd Street library. I had to wait though. First came the reports...a rep from City Council Speaker Quinn, then a rep from the local Council-Member, then a report from a city commission, then a report from US House Rep Maloney, then the just-elected State Senator dropped in to thank everyone and report on his first vote up in Albany (the gun law), and then the Borough President’s Office filed a report. I was a bit taken back, as participatory democracy seems to be alive and well in NYC...at least in midtown.
Through it all of course - despite trickle-down negligence - Rockaway has remained beautiful, awesome and resiliently enviable, bolstered and inspired by its own home-grown youth-sports and arts scene...that is, until the savage destruction of October 29th.
Here’s my point...finally, after 80 days some $60 billion in Federal funds has just been legislated for ‘response, recovery and mitigation’ as The White House described the Sandy Aid Bill, and is to be dispersed, generally speaking, as follows...
$3.5 billion to The Army Corps of Engineers.
$5.5 B to Federal Transportation Corp for MTA and other transit.
$16.0 B for Community Development Block Grants to spend on utilities, roads, hospitals, small businesses and rent subsidies.
$11.5 B to FEMA.
$3.85 B to HUD for housing and small busiess development.
$780 million to the SBA for small business disaster relief.
$600 M to the EPA for drinking water and waste-water treatment plants.
$234 M for park repairs.
$118 M to Amtrak.
New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are all in competition for these funds.
Will trickle down prevail, or Rockaway?