2014-03-28 / Columnists

School Spotlight

PS 114: In the third installment of our survey entitled “Speak Out For The Rockaways”, the 5th-grade students of PS/MS 114 asked their family and neighbors the following questions: If you were an architect, how would you redesign Beach 116th Street and Beach 129th Street? How can we improve the boardwalk and beaches in the Rockaways? The suggestions that follow are both aesthetic appraisals of design and architecture, and practical solutions to the problems that local residents have endured silently for so long. We invite your comments and suggestions as well. - Joan Diehl, Creative Writing Teacher, PS/MS 114.

I interviewed my Dad, and these are his ideas: If I were an architect, I would redesign Beach 116th Street by designing a unique structure located where the large movie theater once stood. The new structure would not only serve as a new theater, but would be a unique attraction for the Rockaways. It might have a special design that everyone would like to see, like the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, or a special rooftop with a view of the ocean. I would redesign 129th Street to have the look of a small town shopping area. There would be matching awnings for stores. I would replace the lampposts with the antique ones. The sidewalks would be redone with antique-looking pavers or cobblestones. Tree pits would be replanted along the whole street and the empty corner lot would be made into a community garden with trees and benches. Also, the beaches can be improved first by protecting them with dunes and rock jetties, and letting natural sea grasses grow would stabilize the sand. The new boardwalks could have water fountains and restrooms every few blocks. They should also continue to support quality food stands and vendors. - Gabriel Paez

My other brother, who is 28 years old, had this to say about Beach 116th Street: Redesigning Beach 116th Street is not an issue of lack of interesting architecture or design in the traditional sense; the train station, the firehouse and the 9-11 Memorial are all historic structures that give the thoroughfare a diverse and timeless character. Yet, there is definitely something missing given the wonderful boardwalk, the beach, and the ease of transportation to this location. The issue is the lack of year-round pedestrian traffic to support a broader array of retail, hospitality and entertainment businesses that would create a more vibrant neighborhood. No one intervention or “design” would solve this issue. Instead, one needs to implement a series of measures to highlight the already attractive amenities of the area. For the last several years, Rockaway has attracted scores of young bohemians looking for a close yet remote place where they can enjoy the surf. This has created a resurgence of new cafes, restaurants and a new motel around the Beach 90s area where surfing is popular. There is no reason why this trend cannot extend to Beach 116th Street, where the area could use a new hotel in place of the old, dilapidated one Furthermore, social events such as the kite festival (which used to take place at Riis Park) or an antiques fair like Brooklyn Flea, or a food festival…would be a great boon to the area.

Next, a boardwalk should not be a place to pass through, but a place to “be”. Though not a traditional boardwalk, the best example of this is the Highline in lower Manhattan. Within just 10 blocks of the Highline, there is a café, galleries, sitting areas where you can watch the traffic go by, diverse and beautiful gardens, an event space, beer garden, and, of course, the beautiful and dynamic architecture of its surroundings. - Nathan Koramblyum

I can think of a number of ways the boardwalks can be improved. The first concerns length—I would make them stretch the whole of Rockaway. The second factor is food. Let’s say you are having a superb time on the beach and then get hungry. On the boardwalk there should be small stands such as Ben and Jerry’s and Twist It, Top It. Another issue is that there are no bathrooms on the beach; you need to walk all the way back home. It would also be an improvement if there were sets of locker rooms and you could reserve a locker to put your change of clothes and sunscreen. I would also implement some clubs for children to be part of on the beach, such as a snorkeling club and an astronomy club.

If I were an architect, this is how I would design Beach 129th Street. On the corner, I would put a diner. Next to the diner, I would have a pizzeria. After the pizzeria, there would be a big Boston Market. Next, I would add an internet café. A giant Barnes and Noble would be next to the café. Next to the bookstore would be Staples. After that, I would have ONE, small nail salon—mind you, only one! - William C. Kelly

My mom was very enthusiastic about this survey. This is what she said: Our beaches and boardwalks were in need of improvement before the storm. But now, more than ever, they require our immediate attention. The army has already started the process of rebuilding our dunes and reclaiming our beaches, but work is far from complete. We have to work on completely rebuilding our boardwalk in order to make our beaches more accessible. We also need to help the wildlife and ecosystems, which were an integral part of the area, to become re-established.

Rockaway, like any ocean-side community, relies heavily on the summer business that the location generates. We need to ensure that we keep tourists and day-trippers returning to the area. The only way that is possible is if we clean up the beaches, rebuild and establish a boardwalk with amenities: bars, restaurants, beach supplies, water sport enterprises, fast-food outlets and public transportation to support and make this environment accessible. We also need to ensure the rebuild for our residents, to keep them here and to remind them why they moved here—to help re-establish our infrastructure and beautify our area. Rockaway is about the beach, it is essential to our makeup, and so we need to claim them back to solidify our rebuild. - Rhiannon Friel

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