2004-10-01 / Front Page

Locals Sue For Beach, Bay Access Rights

By Howard Schwach

Two local activists have filed a federal lawsuit against Federal, State and City officials charging that those officials have violated the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act by allowing development that restricted both access and site lines to the beach and Jamaica Bay.

John Baxter the proprietor of Baxter’s Hotel on Beach 116 Street and a State Committeeman for the Independence Party has joined Richard George, the President of the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Society in bringing the suit in the Eastern District Federal Court in Brooklyn. The suit has been assigned to Judge Feuerstein, but no court date has yet been set.

There are 28 defendants listed in the 142-page allegations. Among them are Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Community Board District Manager Jonathan Gaska.

Others named in the suit are Secretary of State Randy Daniels, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, officials from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, officials from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Irene Wineshel, the head of the city’s Department of Transportation and the New York City Planning Department, to name only a few.

“All of Rockaway falls under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972,” Baxter says. “We are all within the coastal zone boundary and the city and state continue to violate the rules of the federal law.”

As examples of the failure of the city and state to obey the law, Baxter points to two local projects – the Duane Reade Pharmacy on Beach 116 Street and the Arverne By The Sea development that will one day include 2,300 new housing units.

“Each project that impacts either access or site lines to water has to be approved under the act,” Baxter said. “Duane Reade is so illegal because the city allowed it to be built despite the fact that it removes all of the site lines to the bay from Beach Channel Drive.”

He says that Arverne By the Sea is an illegal project because it will “eliminate 46 streets in Arverne and Edgemere, all that run from Rockaway Beach Boulevard to the ocean” and that “Community Board 14 never looked at the plan and approved a gated community that would keep out those who do not live in the homes there.”

Jonathan Gaska, one of those named in the suit as the district manager for Community Board 14, says that is just not true.

“There will be no gated streets,” Gaska told The Wave. “We have been assured by HPD and others that all of the environmental reviews were done and that the permits to build those projects were approved.”

Gaska said that the community board committee reviewed all of the plans for Arverne By The Sea development and that the majority of board members reviewed specific sections.

“The committee met four or five times over a few months and the plans were available in a number of places in the community,” Gaska said. “There were no improprieties.”

“New York City and New York State are selling waterfront property for the personal gain of private developers,” Baxter charges.

The lawsuit was filed on September 10 and respondents have 20 business days to respond.

Gaska says he has turned over his suit to the city’s Corporation Counsel.

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