2013-01-25 / Columnists


By Rick Horan

Beach and Boardwalk Ideas Wanted!

Rockaway needs to answer Sandy with a super storm of our own, a super brainstorm. As a community we have an immediate need to share ideas as to how to get beloved boardwalk back, or maybe even improve it. We are now facing a unique opportunity, to define how our shoreline will look for generations to come. Our goals should be nothing less than upgrading the best urban beach in the world with the best boardwalk in the world. Dreaming in color, where all brainstorming needs to start, we must use our collective creativity to imagine, “what could be.” It’s like those concept cars that manufacturers display at auto shows. They are not necessarily practical, or a affordable, but it’s a necessary first step in visualizing the possibilities. The engineers, bean counters and ultimately the public ultimately decides what is achievable now, but if you want to get to “better,” you need to start with “best.”

Back to the boards, there are two boardwalk design projects before us, one permanent, the other temporary. The reality is that the “permanent” solution consisting of a sand retention, storm protection and boardwalk will require the input of many stakeholders and take years to complete. In the meantime, Rockaway requires a viable temporary solution that will provide some degree of storm and erosion protection while providing a functional, contiguous boardwalk that is literally the backbone of the Rockaways.

Ideally, we need it built this spring for the benefit of our safety, recreation and business. At the last Community Board meeting the Queens Parks commissioner welcomed public input on this permanent boardwalk and other shorefront amenities.

Unfortunately we seemed be left out of the short term planning for the temporary solution that may very well last for years. I have heard many residents complain that losing the boardwalk was bad enough, but the plan to limit beach access at the end of every block is adding insult to injury. The Park’s Department does the best they can with a limited budget but it not fair that we expect them to come up with great ideas on their own. Rockaway has never been at a loss for ideas, so here are a few that we’ve heard would like to share to prime the pump. 1). The Department of Parks and Recreation must involve the community in the design of the temporary solution as well as the permanent one 2). Civic associations and the Parks Department should immediately schedule meetings for people to share their ideas focusing on immediate solutions so we are ready for this season 3). A web site should be set up to share ideas on both short and long term boardwalk and shoreline protection solutions 4). Participatory Budgeting funds should be earmarked specifically for Beach and Boardwalk rebuilding.

For all our good ideas, we are not well connected politically here in Rockaway. For years our beach erosion problem has been getting a lot of lip service, studies and Band-Aids, but very little in the form of real, long term solutions. Perhaps the hurricane will help to set things right, or perhaps not, but the reality is that City Hall ultimately gets to set our safety standards and recreational needs so it should be no surprise that we often get short changed in both areas. The oft cited reason for this treatment is budget constraints, so we reluctantly take what we can get and no one is surprised when what we get is not what we really need, or want. The only way that has a hope of changing is if we can fund some of these important projects ourselves, or at least supplement them with private funds.

Towards that end, we are happy to announce the realization of an idea that has been kicking around our community for awhile, the formation of an independent, peninsula wide organization that will focus on the missing piece, money. Its mission is to work with local organizations, government agencies and concerned individuals to identify projects of strategic importance to the Rockaway shoreline while raising public and private funds to implement and sustain them. Good ideas often die because of lack of funding, but when it comes to shoreline projects, the Rockaway Beach Conservancy aims to fill that void.

The Rockaway Beach Conservancy is to be modeled after the successful Central Park Conservancy. Given the destruction and challenge created by Sandy, the time to act on this idea was now. An official announcement will follow soon.

Finally, money is not the only reason that new projects have not been started in Rockaway. Sometimes we also have a problem accepting or even listening to other people’s ideas. If our attitude is “our idea or nothing,” city officials are only too willing to oblige. Yes we are independent thinkers and yes we think our ideas are best, but after everyone has an opportunity to brainstorm we must arrive as a consensus and move forward as a community. If we don’t, we will have only ourselves to blame, again.

Please e-mail your shoreline ideas to Ideas@IdeasImprov.com.

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