“You can’t respond fast enough, because our people always feel dumped on,” says State Senator Joe Addabbo, Jr. when discussing how hard it is to get definitive government help with problems in Rockaway post-Hurricane Sandy.
There is a sense of disappointment in his voice as the former councilman wishes there was a greater sense of urgency among politicians outside the area. The local politicians, however, share in the concern about what Rockaway needs to rebuild.
To put it bluntly, Rockaway’s problems get a nonpartisan effort from local politicians, and a nonpartisan chilly shoulder from the rest of the city. Studies on how to combat beach erosion, for example, take a long time and there is not enough empathy from lawmakers in other parts of the city regarding the importance.
The refusal from the city to continue to fund the Rockaway ferry was a big disappointment. Addabbo feels that the needed $5 million could have been found in the budget someplace. Other reps from the area – Councilman Eric Ulrich and Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder, to name two – wanted the ferry to continue as well.
These quality-of-life government services are necessary for the people in the Rockaways, and the concern cuts across party lines. This is a regional problem more than it is a political one.
In 2001, when Addabbo was running for the City Council, he was joined onstage at Beach Channel High School in a debate with other candidates, one of whom was the always entertaining John Baxter.
Baxter, it turns out, had researched that Rockaway was given permission in 1915 to secede and become its own city. He even held up a copy of the document. It was great political theater, but sometimes it appears that Rockaway really is on its own.
Addabbo has three district offices, which is not something that all state senators have, or need. But the 15th District spans from parts of Middle Village to Rockaway, and it is a balancing act.
“We’re trying to get the mayor to see the renaissance of Rockaway,” says the State senator.
The changes in the area in the last 10 years are significant, as Rockaway has become a hipster draw. With or without cultural changes, however, basic government services are a must.
Is the Queensway On Its Way?
Woodhaven homeowners, along with assembly members Mike Miller and Philip Goldfeder, have expressed concerns for almost two years about the High Line-style park that may cut through Queens.
There has been opposition from people who live near the old LIRR rail tracks, where the proposed park would run through their backyards. The Trust for Public Land is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, and the park is based on a study that they conducted.
Their location does not necessarily negate the value of the study. It says on their website “The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.” But protecting land for one part of the population may not mean the same thing to another.
Many in the area would like to see the old tracks brought back as a working rail line. Goldfeder thinks it could be a possibility. Despite the need for that – and there is always a need for better public transportation – it is way out of reach politically and financially, at least for now. Goldfeder, however, is thinking the right way.
The question right now is whether a park is a good idea, and at $120 million, which is what the study suggests it would cost, it’s going to cost some money. Maybe this idea should be a ballot initiative and voted on by the people. It would be a city park, so the entire city has an interest.
Let the people in Rockaway, who are being told that there is not $5 million in the budget for a ferry, vote on whether this is necessary. Let’s have the issue debated in an open forum. It may just mean that the city would welcome the idea, since some of these parks are quite nice, but at least there would be a greater sense of fairness.