Over the past few weeks, the fifthgrade students of PS/MS 114 and the members of The Writers’ Club took on the most important issues that affect life in the Rockaways today. Through interviews with their families and neighbors, they explored the very heart of our unique local challenges, and their thoughtful, practical solutions provide a great blueprint for a better tomorrow for our community. The topics addressed explored various ways to enhance our quality of life through much-needed improvements in our commercial districts, social organizations, architecture and infrastructure, and education. Now, if only we as a community can find a way to make them happen.
On a personal note, I’ve lived in the Rockaways most of my life and despite the matchless aesthetics of our neighborhood, I’ve listened to the constant cry for local improvements from many of my disgruntled friends and neighbors. Until now, their ideas and opinions have been merely feathers on the wind. Thanks to The Wave, and you Kevin Boyle, the recommendations promulgated by our survey will not blow away this time. Mr. Boyle you’ve provided the editorial microphone for our ideas and they’ve finally been heard. You’ve proved once again that The Wave is not a self-serving newspaper, but the loyal voice of our community. On behalf of PS/MS 114 and a grateful community, we thank you for your interest and support. —Joan Diehl, Creative Writing Teacher, PS/MS 114.
In the final installment of our survey, Speak Out for The Rockaways, my fifthgrade writing students asked two questions: What can be done to lessen the impact of future natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy? What kind of cultural activities/organizations could we bring to the Rockaways to expand the intellectual horizons of our children?
To ameliorate the impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, a consensus called for a system of protective dunes, a strong sea wall, a better storm water drainage system, the elevation of homes, concrete boardwalks, and jetties, jetties and more jetties! Additionally, when Diana Willoughby interviewed her mom, she suggested a better evacuation plan. Erin Frerks’ dad thought that a giant “temporary wall,” which could be installed just before a storm, would be helpful. And, William C. Kelly felt strongly about levees: “Levees could be installed out at sea. Levees are little more than mounds of less permeable soil like clay, which are wider at the base, that run in a long strip along a river, lake or ocean. Levees along the Mississippi River range from 10 to 20 feet and in Holland they can top 30 feet. Their measurements vary according to the storms the area receives.”
As an artist and writer, as well as a teacher, the lack of local cultural activities has always been an issue for me. Therefore, I was not surprised that the students found that residents generally bemoan the lack of a local arts museum or gallery, theater, concert space or simply creative lessons for children. For example, fifth-grader Peter Memoli writes, “Rockaway is a community rich in history. However, there are no cultural activities for families to engage in to learn of this neighborhood’s history and culture. We have no professional shows such as ballets, operas etc. There is not even a theater for these organizations to come into the Rockaways to expand the intellectual horizons of our children. It would be wonderful if we could have a Rockaway Children’s Museum here.” And, as student Mackenzie Markle points out, “There’s no place for kid’s to hang out, especially in the winter.”
I believe that bringing more cultural organizations to the Rockaways, like the Rockaway Arts Alliance, would engage our children more productively and provide “hang-outs” that are both safe and edifying.
Gabriel Paez interviewed his father, whose suggestions reflect not just our lack of cultural activities , but their profound impact on the education of our children: “We live in a city with some of the greatest cultural institutions in the world. It would be great to invite members of the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the Broadway Theater Society, New York City Ballet or the Fine Arts Society to the local schools. To tap the creative potential of children, local schools could develop relationships with world-class institutions that already exist in our great city like the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, the Museum of The Moving Image, and the Bronx Zoo. Schools should fully utilize the abundant natural resources that surround us like Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve, Riis Park and Fort Tilden. Students could learn about biology, ecology, earth science and many other fields by using our unique surroundings as an outdoor classroom.”