Actions Speak Louder Than Words At BHPOA Meeting

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As Sandy survivors, many know that apathy is not an option when it comes to championing our beautiful community. And, while Rockaway has seen a great deal of development in the six years since Sandy, there’s still a long way to go. Strength in numbers through active community involvement will be key to the next six critical years if the community wishes to achieve the goal of a 100-Year Storm Protection plan throughout Rockaway. And, if knowledge is power, Belle Harbor Property Owners Association (BHPOA) President Hank Lori provided residents with a lightning bolt of information at the March 19 BHPOA meeting to fuel the ongoing fight with the city and state to protect and enhance our quality of life across the peninsula.

Iori provided an essential update on the meeting with the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the United State Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) regarding storm protection on our beaches and community safety, in general. While plans for dunes from Beach 9th to Beach 149th are funded, Iori identified many additional community concerns to be considered and addressed. For example, beach access areas with ADA compliant ramps from Beach 126th to 149th need to be developed with community input. And while USACE has funding for the construction of groins from Beach 90th to Beach 123rd, Beach 123rd to 149th are presently “groin-less,” so the community needs to keep the pressure on elected federal officials to be vigilant in their pursuit of the protection of these beaches as well. Shockingly, USACE does not have plans for bayside protective measures from Beach 116th to 149th. The existing bulkhead should be elevated several feet to prevent future floods. Storm drains need to be maintained on a regular basis. A sea wall needs to be installed from the groin on 149th Street to the bay. The bayside area from 116th to 108th Street needs sea walls to prevent flooding, as well as many other bayside areas from 108th Street to Far Rockaway. Naturally, ground water testing equipment and pumping systems should be installed as well.

Finally, Iori reminded the community to vehemently voice their disapproval of the Williams NESE Pipeline. He made it clear that it’s not simply an unnecessary imposition upon the community, but it will cause dire consequences regarding sea level rise, as well irrevocable harm to beloved marine life. Thankfully, JK Canepa of Sane Energy shared some positive developments in the fight. Firstly, all of our local elected officials are on board, signing a letter to Governor Cuomo opposing the pipeline. Next, Sane Energy, along with 350Brooklyn, Food & Water Watch, New York Communities for Change, and SurfriderNYC released a technical report proving what many of us expected: the pipeline is completely unnecessary. Says Canepa, “Coming at a time when National Grid is threatening moratoriums on new gas hookups if the pipeline isn’t built, the report exposes the falsehood behind these scare tactics and other justifications Williams and National Grid are using to get their risky pipeline approved.” Some findings from the report include: most boiler conversions from oil to gas in National Grid’s area are already complete; mainstream renewable alternatives to new gas hookups are readily available and affordable; Williams added new gas capacity as recently as two years ago and declared it more than adequate to meet heating needs; NYCHA heating problems have nothing to do with gas supply.

On another note: John Signorelli shared a positive update on the construction of the replacement for P.S. 256Q located on Cronston Avenue and Beach 135 Street—an aesthetic win for Belle Harbor and the students who will use it. While the original plans proposed a sore thumb of a structure resembling an industrial warehouse only a longshoreman could love, the current design will seamlessly nest in the neighborhood, mirroring the look and feel of P.S./M.S. 114. The school will house 130 special education students from Pre-K through fifth Grade and should be completed by fall 2020. 

Officers Mercado and Turner from the 100th Precinct also attended the meeting to update and reassure the community that the St. John’s Home for Boys on Beach 110th  Street is being actively monitored, and in the event of an issue, kids are placed on a “watch list.”  Furthermore, the police department is implementing positive programs such as virtual reality gaming geared toward helping the boys better understand consequences and facilitate thought processes that inspire better choices. While the boys are responding quite well to the program, it is still very much a “work in progress.” One neighbor commented that there seems to be a new influx of kids whose suspicious behavior is problematic. The officers asserted that the children are not “juvenile delinquents” and they are placed at St. John’s simply because NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) failed to find them a foster family. The officers stated that they are present at the facility every single day, with an additional squad car outside of the home at all times. Iori poignantly noted that the officers are doing “God’s work,” in a sense. “They are constantly watching over the boys and making every effort to prevent them from getting into trouble,” placing them on a path toward success.

One message was made clear at Tuesday’s meeting: that action can truly speak louder than words. To become active and stay informed, make sure to participate in your local civic meetings full with standing-room-only crowds.

 

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