2013-09-20 / Editorial/Opinion

Well Founded Mistrust

It’s long been a complaint that New York City Parks does not listen to the people of Rockaway. Sometimes it sounds like a gripe without much specificity. Sometimes Parks doesn’t seem to listen because they can always wriggle off the hook: Well, we listened but after getting input from many people we decided to do something else.

Parks Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh couldn’t wriggle off the hook at the Community Board committee meeting on Tuesday night. This time he had to deal with more than a gripe. He was confronted with proof that Parks and the City ignored Rockaway when they chose the toilets in the sky, the lifeguard and comfort trailers, that have irked so many locals.

As part of regular procedure, Parks and the Department of Design and Construction (the City agency that actually selected the firm that designed the rusting eyesores) were supposed to have gotten Community Board approval before giving the green light to the $3 million dollar shacks. The aforementioned City agencies did not seek Community Board approval.

Dolores Orr, chair of the Community Board, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to find out how such a selection and purchase was made. Part of the process includes submitting proposals to the City’s Design Commission (formerly the Public Arts Commission and separate from the Department of Design and Construction). This commission reviews permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture proposed on or over City-owned property. One of the items the Design Commission is supposed to require is Community Board approval for such permanent works – such as the lifeguard and comfort stations. On the forms submitted to the Design Commission, Parks left the part about community board approval blank. And yet it got approval.

How convenient! One Bloomberg agency leaves out the Community Board and another one overlooks that part of the process.

So what about the future? Will Parks listen this time? Well, Orr put it straight to Kavanagh. Yes or no – would the Parks follow the requirements of the Design Commission and get the community board’s approval for the new boardwalk design? Kavanagh answered: It is not a yes or no answer.

Sounds like a “no” to us!

Joe Hartigan followed up with a request to Kavanagh. Name one thing Parks has listened to the community about and implemented. There was no answer to that one.

More than a couple of people at the meeting told Parks they can’t be trusted. Parks can’t be surprised.

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