2015-08-21 / Front Page

Surf Turf Squabble

Ongoing debate focuses on beach access issues
By Angelia Roggie


NYC Parks Assistant Commissioner Liam Kavanagh stated “We do know we are going to add more swimming beaches next year, what beaches exactly I cannot tell you.” NYC Parks Assistant Commissioner Liam Kavanagh stated “We do know we are going to add more swimming beaches next year, what beaches exactly I cannot tell you.” On June 9, Community Board 14 decided to table a motion to create four more surfers-only beaches in Rockaway – Beach 60th to Beach 62nd Street and Beach 109th to Beach 111th Street were the proposed areas.

The reason given for the lack of a vote was insufficient input from those who would be directly affected.

Given the explosion of beachgoers coming to Rockaway, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder penned a letter to The New York City Department of Parks to compromise on the surfing issue, proposing to temporarily expand surf access, using a currently-unused stretch of beach between Beach 60th and Beach 63rd streets in Arverne.

The issue was reported by The Wave on July 31, in the cover story entitled “Let Them Surf.” The Wave began receiving calls and emails almost immediately. According to Goldfeder his office did as well.


At a town meeting to discuss increasing beach access, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder asked, “How do we make Rockaway better?” At a town meeting to discuss increasing beach access, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder asked, “How do we make Rockaway better?” In response, the Assemblyman decided to hold a town meeting on Aug. 13 at the Rockaway YMCA for Arverne by the Sea residents to voice their concerns about their beach access.

With more than 100 local residents, area surfers, community leaders and Parks Department officials in attendance, the night specifically focused on the pros and cons of expanding the proposed surfing and/or swimming beaches that are currently closed. However, individuals also brought up other issues that needed to be addressed because of the fast-growing nature of the Rockaway community.

Goldfeder started the evening on a positive note.

“We can find a way to make it work for everybody,” he said. “We must accept and evolve with the changing culture that is Rockaway.”


Despite inaccurate reports of the town meeting being “contentious,” Goldfeder’s format allowed for give and take from everyone in attendance, including informal conversations afterward. Despite inaccurate reports of the town meeting being “contentious,” Goldfeder’s format allowed for give and take from everyone in attendance, including informal conversations afterward. Goldfeder said he wants the area to grow and be better for every resident because Rockaway is his home as well.

“The fact that people are coming here in droves is a problem of our success.” Goldfeder said. “The question is: How do we make Rockaway better? How do we make it better for the families that live here and also for all the people who come to visit? I was born and raised here in Rockaway and want all the beaches to be utilized and our community to be strong for us and our children.”

He also told those in attendance that he had met earlier in the week with NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver at the agency’s headquarters in Central Park. According to Goldfeder, Silver expressed a willingness to find a compromise that would create space for more surfing, while also exploring ways to increase lifeguard coverage at new growing communities along the water.


Residents from Arverne By The Sea and the surrounding area want to know why they cannot use the beaches where they live for swimming. Residents from Arverne By The Sea and the surrounding area want to know why they cannot use the beaches where they live for swimming. Goldfeder then opened the floor for questions and statements from the public. Many concerned citizens spoke about their frustration with not having enough beaches for residents and visitors to enjoy, and some even argued that the Parks Department was holding up more progress by not hiring more lifeguards and not opening up more beaches.

Community member Chun Tom commented on what he called “crude behavior” of the Parks Enforcement Patrols in an open letter to the Assemblyman.

“Somewhere between Beach 73rd and Beach 69th Street, surfers were abundant and in the water but we were not allowed to even walk into the water without being harassed by Park Enforcement officers,” Tom commented. “I had a real tough time explaining to my two 5-year-olds, who are very good swimmers, why they were not allowed to even touch the water. To them, it just did not seem fair and equitable.”

Arverne by the Sea resident Edward Mallon advocated with his fellow ABTS homeowners for a swimming beach between Beach 63rd Street and Beach 66th Street.

“We pay money every month to the Parks Department. Why can’t we have three lifeguards with all the money we give them year after year?” Mallon said.

ABTS homeowner Edwin Williams added to Mallon’s sentiment with his speech.

“The Parks Department needs to take into consideration that the owners of ABTS, and maybe even Waters Edge, pay thousands of dollars every year for the piping plover project,” Williams said. “I also feel that the residents that purchase in The Tides condos won’t be happy that a beach in front of where they will pay a premium to live is closed off to swimmers. The surfers did not start the rebirth of Rockaway and need to respect the residents that live here.”

Alex Karinsky, the president of the Rockaway Surfing Association also spoke, explaining the surfing community wants more beach access organization, similar to what local residents are asking for.

“We want more beaches because of safety,” Karinsky said. “We aren’t trying to take up more land, the accidents out on the water are just getting too bad because of the crowds,” he said.

As more residents shared their opinions and ideas for compromise, Goldfeder encouraged his constituents to get involved. He urged those present to take advantage of the peninsula’s many active civic associations and monthly Community Board meetings to voice their concerns with beach access and other quality of life concerns. Goldfeder also noted that he personally responds to all emails and is readily available via social media.

“I have nothing but respect for the people who stand up for their community, and I am nothing but accessible,” he stated.

One woman in the crowd agreed very strongly with Goldfeder’s call-toaction and pushed those in attendance to be a part of the solution instead of just filing complaints.

“Everybody wants to point fingers, but no one wants to pull up their sleeves,” she said. “There’s always a reasonable way to come out of something if we really work together.”

She received roaring applause for her inspirational comments.

With the open forum drawing to a close, Parks Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh stepped up to the front of the room and elaborated on what his team was doing to help Rockaway.

“We do know we are going to add more swimming beaches next year, what beaches exactly I cannot tell you,” Kavanagh said. “We also have no limiting budget for lifeguards, we know we need more and we are recruiting aggressively.”

Goldfeder concluded the meeting by thanking everyone for beginning the important dialogue. He also encouraged residents to tell others about his survey calling for feedback on the condition and use of Rockaway’s beaches, which can still be filled out online by visiting www.ABTSForum.com.

In an exclusive statement to The Wave on how the meeting ultimately went, Goldfeder had this to say: “”Whether it’s surfing, swimming or any issue, our community is strongest when we can work together. This public forum showed that there is common ground in wanting to find a solution to beach access that has the needs and interests of every family in mind. It’s unfortunate that the Parks Department chose to spread misinformation and complicate our efforts to increase both lifeguard coverage and surfing access in Rockaway. I will continue to fight for families in Rockaway to ensure that everyone has a place along the 10 miles of beaches we share.”

Goldfeder will speak on this issue and more on The Wave’s podcast on Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. See the Beachcomber for details.

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As a surfer at Rockaway, I

As a surfer at Rockaway, I agree with both sides. As I've always said, all things Rockaway beach should be proposed and handled by Rockaway residents. We live there. What I would like to point out is to surfers, and swimmers, at Rockaway. Rockaway is a tough part of the Atlantic, it's unpredictable, it's strong and if you're not a good swimmer, do yourself a favor and don't swim far out. LEARN about the ocean, understand how rip currents and changing tides work, and take some swimming lessons. That brings me to my point: There should be swimming lessons offered to swimmers/surfer/SUP riders et al at Rockaway. Too many people are flocking to Rockaway, jumping on a surf board, and getting hurt. Why? They are not strong enough swimmers, nor strong enough surfers. Rockaway is not for beginners, there should be swimming lessons offered by people who can tackle this part of the ocean. As well, follow the general surf rules. Wait your turn, join a line, don't drop in. It's not just about who's next, it's about SAFETY people. Please, be careful out there.


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