2013-02-01 / Editorial/Opinion

Time Is Now For A Great Future

There are two issues. One is the short term. There is understandable concern about getting protection from ocean surges and having beach access this summer. The Army Corps of Engineers has to get sand on the beaches as soon as possible and Parks must make sensible decisions about allowing us to enjoy the beach with limited hassle. We expect to have more clarity on these issues within a couple of weeks.

The other issue is the long term plan for Rockaway and specifically the boardwalk. And although it’s the long term plan, it requires short term action. We need a design competition to be launched while the current administration is engaged. We have to hold the competition and then settle on a design that no mayoral successor would want to undo.

The Friends of Rockaway Beach held an idea session Wednesday night that unfortunately veered towards a City Parks bashing session but interesting ideas were presented nonetheless. Attendees learned about the possibility of using materials other than wood and concrete. We learned about beach protection methods used in Australia, France, and other countries. That’s what we have to do. Learn and open our minds.

We absolutely do not want to throw up boards because Long Beach or some town in Jersey is doing it. Unless you want the same old Rockaway with the same old problems. One reason the tolls are so unpopular is because visitors are paying for nothing. One reason we’ll always struggle for better transportation options to and from Rockaway is because there’s nothing here (except the ocean, of course).

Well, now here’s the chance. There are wonderful possibilities. The boardwalk is an open canvas. This is the absolute best shot for Rockaway to have a true renaissance. While everyone knows that the beach has become more popular the last couple of years, a lot of Rockaway remains a run-down slapdash town. The summer success of the last few years can be washed away by a few rainy weekends next summer. Or the summer after that. In other words, let’s not be fooled by being a fad.

This is New York. This is home to the greatest architects and engineers in the world. We can have a boardwalk that serves as an awesome promenade while also offering protection and resilience. A hurry up job won’t do that.

So, let’s shoot for amazing. We need more than functional. We need something that will extend the season to 5 or 6 months or more. We need something that would make a good hotel want to open. The ideas are out there.

The WPA built beautiful and durable things in the depths of the Great Depression. We can admire their work today. What a legacy. Don’t we want to be the ones who made Rockaway great? Don’t we want to be the ones who hand off a great beachfront to future generations?

We should open our eyes and ears to the imagination of others and a design competition would allow us to see the wonderful possibilities. Yes, the Rockaway community should have a say on what design is chosen but first the community should be exposed to the world of ideas.

We’ve heard Parks and The City say they want to “listen” to the community. Well, a design competition will allow the community to speak loud and clear. Unless we have a competition, the plan will feel forced upon us.

It’s an open canvas. Let the competition begin.

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