I have to say I was impressed with the 60 or so Rockawayites who came out for the “town hall” last evening. This was not your usual Rockaway gathering! Eric Ulrich and James Sanders of the City Council jointly ran a tight, effective 2-hour meeting and displayed extraordinary professionalism, in my opinion. I’m not kidding when I say that it was such an outstanding example of how all of our American communities can establish bi-partisan, multi-racial cooperation among people of many economic classes, that it’s a shame the major media missed it. The Wave was there–look for Miriam Rosenberg’s article this Friday.
The big news, in the “good” category: Deputy Mayor Wolfson’s stand-in at the meeting committed that the Mayor will grant a waiver so construction of the Arverne Y can go forward, even without LEED certification. Hold them to it! Gerard Romski of ABTS added that they’d like to have the Y foundation laid by this winter. Hurrah!
In the best supporting community activist category, rockviv played a behind-the-scenes role, corresponding with David Phelps of the YMCA in April 2000 to encourage the building of a Y in the west end of the peninsula, when my two children were ages 5 and 8. They’re in high school now. We’re a persistent lot in Rockaway.
The big news in the “bad” category: the existing Arverne East plans are deader than a doornail. Someone noticed that there’s kind of a weak market in the outer boroughs for homes priced at $300k+ in “pioneering” neighborhoods. Jon Gaska said the community board wants a “big box” store, recreation and lower density housing. Build that Target and they will come…
As to recreation, all I can say is that we are blessed to have Jill Weber and her NYC Parks crew (“shout out” to Jack Rohan and Roy Tellason), who work well with local not-for-profit groups to put on many great free entertainment and recreation programs for all. In this time of limited resources, I think it behooves us to look at what is already being done that works, and try to fix what doesn’t with more resources and well-informed ideas. If anyone needs suggestions of groups that excel at marshaling volunteers to build effective programs in Rockaway, browse my “Rock Solid” columns. The links are archived on a separate page in this blog.
Let me conclude by nominating my heroes of the Town Hall, all of whom spoke about what I view as THE most important topic–transit equity for the Rockaways. Seems that ferries are dead, for now. Can you say–MORE EXPRESS BUS SERVICE?
Hero #1–Dolores Orr, chair of CB 14, noticed that the evening express buses now serving Howard Beach come to Rockaway to sleep at night. Empty. My daughter rides them every day, and noticed this, too. Let them bring Rockaway passengers home from the theatre and the opera! It won’t cost more! It’s so simple, someone will figure out why it can’t work.
Hero #2–Len Kohn, proprietor of Rockaway Graphics and great champion of community causes, knows from a lifetime spent on the peninsula that the transportation downslide began when we lost LIRR service (40 minutes to midtown) in the 1950’s. Sadly, we’ve all learned that only a billionaire could restore such service to Rockaway. Are you listening, Mayor Mike?
Hero #3–Brian O’Connell, Principal of Scholars’ Academy, spoke about street safety and school bus issues near the school. All of us could learn a lesson from Brian. It seems that he and the parents of his students, coordinated by knowledgeable community activist Janet Brady, have become the biggest “PIAs” the Department of Transportation has ever known. They know how to use e-mail to nudge. They got a stoplight. The dangerous and illegal housing next to the school has been torn down. They do not let up, passionately advocating for greater safety around the Rockaway Freeway. They are getting their study from DOT. Whatever they are doing, it works. So does the school. It’s practically the only entity on The Rock that is single-handedly importing “year round” visitors from off the peninsula. Can’t count the taco stand, since it’s not open year-round.
Watch for more meetings in early October and early November. I think this effort really deserves our support.