Fuggetabout the geese — local residents want Gateway’s beaches for their own fun in the sun.
At an open house meeting convened to weigh the future of Gateway National Recreation Area held at Floyd Bennett Field this week, some 100 residents and park users gave officials an earful about the importance of the beach clubs to the social fabric.
“I’m concerned about my kids,” said Richie Gosh of Bergen Beach, whose family belongs to Silver Gull Club. “I have two kids, one 10 and one 15, and the club keeps them off the streets. I’m concerned that it will be gone, that they’re going to turn it into a visitor’s center or a bird sanctuary for the geese.”Gateway is home to a variety of species of birds, and is considered an ideal location for bird watching.
“We care about our families and our kids,” said Gosh’s wife, Martie, who joined her husband in taking advantage of the opportunity to step in front of a video camera to record their comments for future consideration by the planning team. “They learn to be active, social and healthy at the club. It benefits us in a lot of ways, it’s not just a nice place to look at the water. Upstate there are all kinds of parks and recreational activities. This is what we have in the city.”
In April, an agreement was hammered out between the park service and the operator of the Silver Gull in Far Rockaway and another nearby club, the Breezy Point Surf Club, allowing their operation for three more summers, but their future is less assured. In 2007, the Department of the Interior blasted the park service for allowing the clubs “to monopolize desirable locations.”
The National Park Service’s planning team hosted the Sept. 23 open house to educate and hear the public’s thoughts about the development of a new General Management Plan (GMP) for Gateway. The plan will not be completed until the summer of 2012, a time horizon its stewards hope will give the public ample time to comment. The fate of the clubs will likely be included in the plan, which will determine the future of the park’s resources and recreational facilities with respect to public preferences, ecological friendliness, environmental preservation, and community engagement, officials said.
The planning team hopes to market the Gateway experience — whatever that turns out to be. “A concern for us is raising our identity in the New York City area, and finding out what the national park experience in an urban environment should be,” said Mark Christiano, a geographic information system specialist who makes and analyzes maps for the planning team. “The people who have found us have really expressed how much they love the park.”
“We’ve been encouraging people to look to our Web site for the facts and the correct information,” said Helen Mahan, team leader of the GMP planning team. According to Mahan, other areas of public concern included access for the disabled and amenities for senior citizens.
“We are completely delighted that the number of people showed up that did,” Jane Ahern, Gateway’s public affairs officer, said after the meeting. She also stressed that NPS is just beginning to take comments from the public.“We’d love to hear more, people can join our list on www.nps.gov/gate.”
—with Gary Buiso