2013-06-14 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Meetings Mean What?
By Fran Honan

I have not been attending the local community meetings being held nearly every week in Rockaway for the past few months. My husband attended nearly all of them and usually comes home in a bad mood. So I decided to attend the meeting at P.S. 114, which was advertised as an opportunity to help plan for the future of Rockaway. Despite the rain and street flooding, which was mildly reminiscent of Sandy, I ventured out with optimism. The group started small, but eventually grew to nearly 100 people in the school`s lunchroom. Large charts were in the front of the room, topics were: Commercial Revitalization and Community Vision.

So far, so good, I thought as we were introduced to a group of professionals from around the United States. The leaders introduced themselves as architects, landscape architects, urban planners, parks and recreation people and all seemed committed and genuinely interested in helping Rockaway. They had traveled from Oregon, Oklahoma, Los Angeles and other places, so I felt I should give them an opportunity to explain their purpose. They each spoke briefly and then they asked the participants to shout out a word to describe Rockaway. The words chosen were a telling response to the many attitudes that reside here. Words like: resilient, family, forgotten, dependable, isolated, paradise, strong, fresh air, beach, home, remote, reinvented and others. Then we were asked to move into smaller groups to brainstorm this question: “What is good about Rockaway”? I was taken back to countless workshops I attended as a teacher where we did this and nothing was accomplished, so I was starting to get cynical. As the group responded enthusiastically, I presented a question that I felt need an answer. “I need to know what will become of these meetings where we imagine what we want, but who among you have the tools, financing and ability to make them happen? Where are the politicians, the Mayor, the Governor, the people with the funds who can bring our dreams to reality? Or are we just spinning our wheels in this exercise?”

I was told ‘good question’ and a representative from the city took over and was most gracious in attempting to explain that the city cares and is working on a plan that will be implemented soon.

But I am frustrated after seven months, where our beaches are not secured or safe from future storms. I am angry that the community has people, like this group of architects and others who wish to do good, but can they? I feel that we are drowning in meetings here in Rockaway. They are frequent and ongoing, with more coming.

Maybe we need to look at what was said at all the past meetings and act on some of those suggestions. But , if meetings are to be held, the voices of the people need to be listened to. There was the disaster of meetings where the bathroom sketches were despised by all, yet the city has those monstrosities now sitting on the sand. Few politicians show up at these meetings so it does seem fruitless.

While I appreciate their obvious concern for our community, the people who run the meetings are not in a position to offer us anything except a place to dream. Life here in Rockaway is no longer a dream and if something significant is not done soon, it will become a nightmare.

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