2013-07-26 / Editorial/Opinion

Community Leaders

Putting aside the issue of potentially crippling flood insurance for a moment – and it can’t be for much more than a moment because it is something we must pay attention to -- there is otherwise great cause for optimism in Rockaway. Considerable amounts of money are heading this way. Here’s hoping we don’t screw it up. And one way to avoid screwing things up is to forbid those with conflicts of interests to join any committees which will make proposals.

The City has pledged up to $18 million in its Game Changer competition. The $18 million will be in addition to what the winning entry brings to the table. Bottom line, there will be a multi-million dollar project that should give a huge boost to the economic future of Rockaway.

And then last Thursday, the State announced it will spend $25 million on the western part of Rockaway; $6 million in Broad Channel and another $23 million in Far Rockaway as part of its “New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program.”

Some quick addition means some $70+ million will be spent here. That’s SEVENTY million. And that doesn’t include the many, many millions to be spent on a boardwalk. This signals the possibility of a great Rockaway future.

But here’s the thing to be on the lookout for: who decides on what projects get the green light? Both the Game Changer Competition and the New York State Program call for “community leaders” to help choose those projects that will receive big money. Will conflicts of interests and special interests preclude the general community from having a say? Will the same people be on both committees? Will the fix be in?

We expect our elected officials will have great say in who actually serves on these committees. Quite frankly, “community leaders” is a broad term and there’s little reason to restrict the search to the Community Board or civic groups. Community leaders are found in merchant and entrepreneurial groups, churches, non-profits, and elsewhere.

Here’s hoping the leaders chosen are smart people with clean hands and visionary minds.

It’s only Rockaway’s future that’s at stake.

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