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2013-11-07 / Telling It Like It Is

Telling It Like It Is

I’m Fed Up With The Feds And Their Treatment Of The Pier
By Dara Mormile

Everyone has memories of that one hangout spot from when they were a child. Whether it's a community park, someone's stoop or backyard, or a street corner where everyone met up and “chilled out.” For some residents in Canarsie, the pier was one of those hangout spots – and it still might be...Okay, it’s not quite the way it was back in the day, but plenty of fisherman still call Canarsie Pier their second home. During my recent trips down there, a decent amount of bike riders made the pier a rest stop. The pier sees a lot of traffic and it's not abandoned – despite Gateway National Recreation Area (the federal agency who operates the site) refusing to make the parcel of land more attractive to visitors. The feds – make a dinky spot in our community attractive? Please...

What impressed me last week was that Gateway FINALLY demolished the old Abbracciamento building that was crumbling to nothingness. Our community was begging and pleading, with whoever they could, to have the dilapidated building torn down. I remember when the restaurant was open and there was a real community feel to the pier – there were boats stationed at a dock and families would gather for a day near the water. The feeling was just different even though the railings were old and wooden and so were the benches.

Now, when I go to the pier, there are foundational improvements that need to be made despite the “modern” benches and barriers put there by Gateway years ago. One of the things that bothers me personally about being at the pier is not being able to sit in peace and quiet. Yeah, I get it – it's a public place and it's not supposed to be quiet. But why do complete strangers feel the need to sit next to me and talk to me when I'm trying to GETAWAYfrom everything? Also, there are obnoxious visitors who blast their car stereos in the parking lot as if they're making the pier their own personal “club.”

This brings me to the next challenge: now that Gateway tore down the unsightly “memory” that was once part of Canarsie's history, what can be put in that space that will be appreciated by passersby as well as the handful of 'obnoxious' visitors? What will accommodate the masses?

First of all, if it wasn't for Hurricane Sandy, Canarsie Pier wouldn't have received the funds needed to demolish the abandoned restaurant (the feds were probably convinced that Sandy had her way with the building – so it took a natural disaster for them to do what thousands were requesting for years!). Second, Gateway's ownership of the site makes it nearly impossible to go through the red tape so that something sensible can be put at the pier.

How discouraging does this sound: You have to have A LOT of money to lease federal property and whatever is placed at the site has to follow Gateway's recreational guidelines, which means your business has to be one of “recreational nature.” You can have a food vendor or concessionaire with this “recreational business” but it all starts with applying for an RFP – a Request For Proposal. The RFP will outline the nature of your business, which probably won't even fit in the small space that's now flattened concrete.

Let's get real! The federal government will probably make it next to impossible for someone like you or me to invest in and lease their property. How much will it cost to build and maintain something on federal land? Of course it will all depend on how big the facility is and I can't imagine what would fit on that small parcel of land. Is Gateway making it difficult to lease that land, or are interested parties thinking it’s not worth investing money in a waterfront location where the visitors aren’t always courteous?

I think the feds need to open their options for what can be put at the pier. Most people want something simple and food-oriented there, but Gateway won't easily allow for a sandwich or coffee shop to set up in the small space. Come on – some of us don't want to go to Rockaway Parkway to hunt for a snack!

Shame on Gateway, I say, for making it so difficult to bring a quality business to one of our favorite hangout spots. Now, most of our pier memories, as well as our childrens', will be an empty space. Thanks Gateway!

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