2013-12-20 / Columnists

Commentary On Things Present

For Whom the Movie Tolls... It Tolls For Thee
By Pete Stubben

Please forgive the awkward John Donne reference.

Across the street and down the block from the Rockaway Ferry Landing is an open, remediated and strategicallysignificant parcel of land cleaned up by Nat Grid for commercial use. The land is centrally located and surrounded by four Rockaway schools and the Beach 116th Street Business District.

Does it make great sense to you, as it does to me, that a movie theatre and 'Culture' Mall be placed and developed there? Wouldn't that be an awesome boon for the Rockaways, especially after so many years with so few evening destinations here on the Peninsula?

Rockaway is blessed with an abundance of great and creative and talented New Yorkers...so why not create a blend of a 'for-profit' and 'non-profit' space to capture their talents and enrich all. The Ethel Barrymore Theater on West 47th Street for instance, is presently featuring 'Betrayal' by Harold Pinter with Daniel Craig and promoting 'A Raisin in the Sun' by Lorraine Hansberry with Denzel Washington for next year. That's two plays, while Rockaway's Theatre Company - the RTC - will be featuring four plays in 2014, and is presently offering two Christmas Spectaculars...'The Little Mermaid, Jr.' and 'Inspecting Carol'!

Even as we speak there are painters and artists and photographers between the bay and the ocean thinkin', creatin', workin'. Rockaway Artists Alliance - The RAA - will probably host three or four shows next year of original Rockaway featured and Rockaway-inspired work. Plus they will sponsor special summer sessions and workshops for Rockaway's youth. Amazing, no?

Don't these people deserve a home of their own?

For many years dedicated locals sponsored wildly-popular Summer Concerts and an annual Fall Festival that attracted people from all over Brooklyn and Queens. Wouldn't a Nat Grid Rotunda facing the bay, with killer views of a setting and blazing sun over the towers of Manhattan be a fabulous setting for such entertainments?

Boxing these spaces into a 'Culture Plaza' with a commercial movie theatre, local restaurants, shops and a center fountain lined with those springflowering mock-pear trees would create a Rockaway-worthy destination for locals as well as ferry boat commuters from around the city, no? Why shouldn't couples in Ozone Park, or Astoria, or Park Slope, or maybe even Battery Park City propose to themselves...'hey, why don't we drop into Rockaway for a show, a walk on the boardwalk and some fresh fish?'

Certainly no self-respecting Mall Developer and Movie Theater Chain Operator would entertain such prospects without first reading the tea leaves of demographics, zip-code info and census data...which might lead them to hesitate, as Rockaway's disposable income might fall short to support their investments. However, if that zone of access - think a wide-radius circle - included southern Brooklyn and the southern perimeter of Queens, a much more encouraging set of numbers unfolds.

The bridge tolls kill Rockaway's commercial development. There is no toll to Roosevelt Island, no toll to City Island, no toll to Manhattan Island over the Brooklyn Bridge, no toll to Queens over the Ed Koch Bridge, no toll to The Bronx over the Madison Avenue Bridge, and certainly no toll to Coney Island...but to Rockaway, you pay both ways: $3.75 each way.

When Will They End?

And, oh yeah...Season's Best, Merry Christmas, and may 2014 flourish with Rockaway's ingenuity & creativity!

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