A Little More Porridge, SIRR
Shortly after Sandy, the mayor put together a team called the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR). Their task was to come back with a plan about how to make New York more resilient as the impacts of climate change occur. The report, to be made public soon, is also supposed to include policy recommendations, infrastructure priorities, and community plans.
The SIRR team held community meetings and asked for ideas and suggestions from residents about what Rockaway needs. They contacted The Wave, too. Here are some of things we said the City must address:
A boardwalk. Combine it with a seawall. Look no further than Virginia Beach, Ocean City, Maryland, and Blackpool, England as models And for crying out loud, include enough space for a bike lane! Whatever geniuses they chose for the current boardwalk islands designed a perfect bottleneck at the concession stands.
We told the City to consider the High Line. Once that rusty, rotting old rail line became a park, the whole area was transformed. Make the boardwalk great so that people will come here for five or six months instead of two. Make the boardwalk great so hotels and other attractive businesses will see Rockaway in a new light.
A great boardwalk is an infrastructure need AND should be part of any “community plan.”
A bay wall. You can barricade the front door but you better not forget the back door. The bay could use a wall or promenade and storm drains should be maintained and repaired to allow for water to flow back into the bay after storms.
A ferry. One infrastructure step has been taken by fortifying the A Train. Parts of the track are protected by its own sea wall now. Infrastructure and community plans require a robust transportation system. The long ride on the A Train has already proven inadequate. A ferry service should serve Rockaway permanently. Staten Island only has four times the population of Rockaway yet they get $108 million a year for their free ferry. Staten Island also has more than 20 express bus lines all of which are subsidized. Why the disparity? Rockaway could use one fourth of what Staten Island gets. But here’s something simple: Why not run a ferry from JFK with a stop in Rockaway to Wall Street? Airport riders could pay a $20 fare that would help subsidize the Rockaway riders. If you’re a tourist you might jump at the chance to take a ferry for a skyline view of the city soon after arriving. If you’re a business traveler, the ferry might be a faster option than a taxi in rush hour.
As for a community plan?
Condemn and tear down buildings on Beach 116th Street and the Far Rockaway Shopping Center. The City wants to help the communities? Just how long should communities have to endure vacant eyesores that do nothing for the city tax base?
Oh, and while Rockaway is in the recovery stage, the City should have a headquarters on the peninsula in which reps from Housing Recovery, FEMA, Small Business Services, and Parks are present, all in one place. And each should be at every Community Board meeting.
We didn’t ask for the sky. We offered simple ideas about infrastructure and community. If the SIRR team listens, Rockaway will reach the potential everyone is always dreaming about. Our last piece of advice to the SIRR: Rockaway is now a blank canvas - don’t blow it.