2014-01-24 / Columnists

Who’s Who

Noreen Ellis, Community Activist
By Dan Guarino


Noreen Ellis Noreen Ellis Tell Us About Yourself

It’s funny, because in Rockaway terms, I am a newbie. Similar to many people, I came down to Rockaway over summers, on weekends for years. Finally we decided to take the plunge. In 2004, we sold the house in Brooklyn and bought an old, rundown 10 room SRO. We eventually decided to tear it down, start from the bottom up and build a green home.

I am the sixth of seven children. My siblings and I really extend the values we learned growing up. My sister started a school for disadvantaged kids in Augusta.

The philosophy of community being an integral part of one’s life is something that has been passed down generationally from my grandmother on Parnell Street in Limerick City, Ireland, to my mother with her dedicated activism all our lives in Brooklyn,- teaching us to have a voice for our community- and now to myself and my children.

My husband just retired after 33 years with the FDNY, with believe it or not, a Sandy related injury. We have two children.

Were you involved with community or civic affairs before Community Board 14 and the Rockaway Beach Civic Association?

I’ve was always involved when I was in Brooklyn. I was very involved in my kids’ school. For a long time I was a single parent. And through my mother I was always involved in lots of things. We grew up in Sunset Park. I was involved in the precinct, the girls’ softball league.

I must say in Rockaway I really stepped it up. A bunch of us just got together (when new zoning was an issue) to work to ensure that with the density of population, services on the peninsula did not have more people than it could handle.

What other civic activities are you involved with?

I’m involved with the Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, CB 14, Rockaway Civic Association (where the Rockaway Tool Library, www.RockawayToolLibrary.com is a great resource available to utilize), and the Queens Public Transit Committee, with Phil Mc- Manus. I’m also co-chair of the New York Rising Rockaway West Committee. They all feed into a better community.

What is the most important issue facing Rockaway?

Protection. From hurricanes, future storms. Without a doubt. And it’s not a single approach. Without this level of security, there can be no economic development. People just don’t want to take that risk.

Without advocacy for this, it won’t happen. People are not going to invest here in Rockaway, in Broad Channel without that.

Also health care on the peninsula and in Broad Channel is just the scariest option. That thought that there could be a day when I need immediate care is scary. The time it could take me to get somewhere, it’s life and death time. How does the city let a community of 100,000 or more look to one place, one hospital, and leave it at that?

What’s the best thing about living in Rockaway?

It’s the dynamic. The people are one component. And the beauty of the place; just being grounded, even on a day like today, where you can come over the bridge and see the water. It’s kind of that whole, living dynamic, with the people, the natural setting. Whether you are looking at the ocean or walking down the street and meeting people. It’s that old town feel.

It’s the camaraderie, the community. And not a bad backdrop! What can take away from the beauty of a sunset on my commute back from work at the end of a day?

Biggest complaint?

In my estimation Broad Channel and Rockaway don’t get the credit from outside for just how beautiful, how important they are. I always play that scene from Network, “I’m not going to take it anymore.” And we shouldn’t. We’re not 2nd class citizens.

We haven’t been serviced or paid attention to enough by various government agencies or our politicians. We have been underserved as a community, or over looked.

You hear it over and over again about being the dumping ground. We don’t want to be the dumping ground.

We have a lot of hard working people here. The effects of what the city does goes against that work. We can’t let that happen. I’m tired of being dumped on.

What advice or suggestions do you have for people who are not on the currently involved but are interested in helping Rockaway?

Understand that help comes in many forms. It can be as simple as today there’s a snowstorm and, knowing your neighbor is elderly, shoveling their path.

Find something you’re passionate about. Get involved in it. It doesn’t have to be a full time commitment. It can be helping, or bringing up an issue that you know about. Information is very important.

It isn’t just benefitting you; it is benefitting everyone as a whole.

If we all take a half hour a month to find something that will fulfill you and help our community simultaneously, it adds up.

And that emotional nourishment becomes addictive. It has greater value than anybody can ever gauge.

I saw Sandy and how it brought out neighbors helping neighbors. I don’t want that to get lost as time goes.

Shoveling, cooking a dinner, just even stopping to ask someone how they’re doing, do you need anything, can I take your garbage out?

When you know someone has your back, and you have someone else’s back, it doesn’t seem like work at all.

It’s not about me, it’s not about you— it’s about us. If one of us fails, we all fail. If one of us wins we all win.

Great things can come from those little things.

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well said Noreen, and thanks

well said Noreen, and thanks for all you do.


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