Op-Ed: Beach Access is Necessary For ALL!

By Sonia Moise

ECCA President

CB14 Board Member

(Response to “Considering the Piping Plovers” from the August 10 issue)

As a lifelong resident and homeowner of the Edgemere community, I find it disheartening that myself and many residents of this mile long neighborhood have been neglected for many years and the neglect, unfortunately, continues. What I also find disheartening is that some who live in this neighborhood are blinded by the neglect that has been bestowed upon us by past and present elected officials and some organizations.

Anyone who has been a resident of the Rockaways for more than 40 years, such as myself, is aware of the disadvantages this community faces. We are a dumping ground, no question about it! City officials and organizations come into this community and do what they please without input from the community. Since the creation of the bird sanctuary in 1995, the amount of neglect has heightened. The community understands the purpose and necessity of the bird sanctuary as it only occupied three to four blocks initially but as years approached, the sanctuary occupied the entire Edgemere community and a small part of the Arverne community.

Now let’s fast forward to the present and mention the NYC Plover Project. The founder of NYCPP is not a resident of the Rockaway peninsula and hasn’t been since he formed this non-profit organization. The founder is actually a native of New Jersey. The founder will tell you that he also has a bird sanctuary in his neighborhood, but guess what? The bird sanctuary that he claims is in his neighborhood has a pathway for beachgoers to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean during the nesting season. The Edwin B. Forsythe National Refuge located on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, has areas that are roped off to the shorebirds making it accessible to the beachgoers. In our neighboring community of Rockaway Point it’s set up the same way. So why is it that the Edgemere community can’t have the same access?

There are many questions from the community that need answers in which NYC Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and NYCPP haven’t answered. Why is it that the founder of NYCPP didn’t come out and speak to the Edgemere community to “educate” us about these endangered/ threatened shorebirds? It seems like NYCPP wants to educate everyone, so why not the folks in Edgemere? NYC Parks still hasn’t come up with a plan for the residents to regain access. Upon my visit this past weekend, access to the shore was open between Beach 51st and Beach 52nd Streets and in my opinion, it would’ve been best they not opened it at all. The amount of trash, high grass, unknown weeds and plants that covers most of the sand is a sight for sore eyes. NO ONE will ever be inclined to lay down their beach blankets or set up their beach chairs to enjoy the beach. There’s literally nothing to enjoy. All along the bird sanctuary are flags stating, “No Swimming.” Who would want to swim in this area when it’s totally unkempt? NYC Parks must do better! This is how it’s always been, even prior to the bird sanctuary, which is why very few people in the community visited this area of the beach. Again, this is an example of neglect that is seen nowhere else on the peninsula. NYC Parks, why did you neglect the Edgemere community when it came to us enjoying the beach? I’ll wait. U.S. Fish and Wildlife: why is it that some communities have access to the beach during nesting season, but Edgemere doesn’t? You write the laws to have local agencies enforce them. Why are the laws different for the folks in Edgemere? There are many unanswered questions, and this community has since received not one answer that makes sense. All we want is access to the Atlantic Ocean like others during nesting season, which is important for humans as well.

In closing, on my venture along the shore this past weekend, I walked amongst all the birds: oystercatchers, piping plovers, common terns, black skimmers and seagulls (I have a 30 minute video if anyone would like to watch). Not one bird ran away from me or the others who walked along the shore. Humans can live amongst the birds and vice versa. The Edgemere community’s request isn’t unique or far-fetched as some may think because many communities are actually co-existing amongst these shorebirds.

Please support our plight in regaining access by signing our petition: https://www.change.org/Birds-Over-People

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