On Sunday, Senator Joe Addabbo, Councilman Eric Ulrich and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder joined the Neponsit Homeowners Association and community leaders from across the Rockaway Peninsula at a rally, calling on the New York City Department of Parks and the National Park Service to replace a severely storm-damaged fence that has, for nearly 100 years, served as a barrier between the family-friendly beach in Neponsit and the more adult-friendly beach in Jacob Riis Park.
“For decades, families have felt secure in bringing their children to Rockaway Beach without having to worry about the potential of exposing them to the adult behaviors of the adjacent beach at Riis Park,” Assemblyman Goldfeder said. “The fence has served as an effective barrier, allowing all types of beachgoers to enjoy our beautiful beaches. The NYC Department of Parks and the National Park Service owe it to our families to replace this fence.”
“Public beaches are for everyone but displays of nudity and lewd behavior by some salty adult non-residents are not for everyone, especially not in front of our children,” New York State Senator Addabbo said. “Put a good fence back up like the one that has stood for almost 100 years. Then both sides win and become good neighbors.”
“The Parks Department has decided not to replace the fence without any consideration for the homeowners of the Neponsit community and that is unacceptable,” said New York City Councilman Ulrich. “I strongly urge Commissioner Benepe and Mayor Bloomberg to reconsider this misguided decision.”
Traditionally, the beaches – operated by the National Park Service and the NYC Department of Parks – have been separated by a fence to ensure appropriate behavior and specifically to clarify enforcement responsibility. With the eastern side of the fence fostering a more family-friendly atmosphere, the western beaches in the Jacob Riis Park have long catered to a more adult and mature crowd of beachgoers, community members noted.
“We expect the city to act responsively to maintain the fence that has been in place since 1914 separating two distinctly different types of beaches,” said Amanda Agoglia, President of the Neponsit Homeowners Association. “There are many fences along the coast in our area which still remain. We were told that there is money in the budget for the fence. The decision to remove the fence without consulting the community, our elected officials and the community board was inappropriate.”
The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation made the decision not to replace the fence without any community consultation, noted Assemblyman Goldfeder. This was a decision that left community members feeling uneasy and disregarded.
“The Community Board was not consulted on replacement of a fence that has been in place and maintained by the parks department for nearly a century and they should replace it immediately” said Jonathan Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14.
Elected leaders noted the criminal problems that have already begun since the fence has been removed. The barrier has served as a clear indicator for both policing agencies to identify jurisdiction and enforcement. In addition, the National Park police stated that the absence of a fence could cause confusion in jurisdiction and relaxed enforcement, leading to an increase in crime.
“By refusing to replace this fence, the NYC Department of Parks and the National Park Service is doing a great disservice to the many Rockaway families and visiting beachgoers,” Assemblyman Goldfeder said. “While public beaches are for everyone, displays of nudity are not, especially in front of families and children. In the absence of real enforcement by the National Park police, the fence is the only way to keep our families safe.”