Parks Blasted At Community Meeting
Commissioner of Parks Veronica White and Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh called The Wave on Monday to clarify some issues causing anger and confusion among Rockaway residents.
The crowd erupted last Thursday evening at a Community Board committee meeting when it was announced that a comfort station would be placed at Beach 73rd Street and the Boardwalk and that it was a “done deal.” That news followed the Parks’ admission that vendors were being sought for concessions at Beach 116th Street without consulting with the merchants on that street. There was also confusion about whether “RFPs” had been issued for these vendor slots. (An RFP is a request for proposals – people make proposals of what kind of business they would like to operate.) The RFPs had apparently had been issued but with little or no effort to alert locals (the question asked: shouldn’t locals have a chance to submit proposals?).
Furthermore, rumors were circulating that a comfort station would also be installed at Beach 122nd Street; and residents left not knowing if beach walls or “baffle walls” as they are being called would be installed at beach entrances only or run continuously from Beach 126th through Beach 149th Street
In the telephone conversation, Kavanagh said “they could take another look” at where comfort stations will go. White said, however, because of current utilities (plumbing and electric) the choices of locations are limited. New locations would also require permits likely to slow down the beach opening planned for May 24th. When asked about trailers as temporary options, both White and Kavanagh said they prefer to build permanent structures, pointing to Coney Island where a temporary building remains in place 12 years later.
The size and look of the comfort stations also alarmed residents some of whom complained it would block their ocean views. The ocean view, they said, was a large part of why they chose to live in Arverne By The Sea in the first place. Also, the comfort stations have been presented in sketch form only. Because their design is unique Parks cannot offer examples of like-designs in other locations.
As for the vendors at Beach 116th Street, White said there have been no RFPs issued and if anything is permitted there it will be under the management of David Selig, current operator of the boardwalk concessions. Any concession established there would not be in direct competition with Beach 116th Street merchants, Kavanagh said. Both White and Kavanagh said they hoped concessions would draw more traffic and thereby help the established businesses on the block.
The RFPs, it turns out, will be for bike and kayak concessions and the particulars are still being formulated by Parks and the National Parks Service.
As for the comfort station rumor of one being erected at Beach 122nd Street, White flatly denied that was even considered. Parks, she said, is concerned with large gaps between comfort station such as Beach 59th to Beach 86th street.
White and Kavanagh acknowledged that communications between Parks and the Rockaway community has been poor. Their next community meeting to be held March 18 or 25th is likely to be conducted in a different manner than previous meetings which essentially consisted of a presentation followed by individuals asking questions or berating the Parks for a variety of missteps.
The Wave suggested doing more than alerting the Community Board about upcoming meetings. They were encouraged to alert The Wave and utilize social media to announce meetings and plans.