My parents rented a bungalow in Far Rockaway from â 1955 to 1961. In '61 they decided that they'd make Rockaway our year round home and we moved from the Bronx to a section of the peninsula I remember as idyllic. Our house was on an acre of property and about 2 miles from a pristine beach. You could walk that two miles in 1961 without touching cement pavement.
The City of New York didn't pave the sidewalks in Bayswater until around 1968. Looking back now, it was from that moment forward that the Rockaways began to change for the worse.
When my wife Audrey and I began looking for a community to raise our two children, I begged her to move to a town or village that didn't have sidewalks on the residential streets. A town or village where the lawns meet the curb, and cars must be parked on the driveways or in the garages overnight.
We looked at homes in Dix Hills, too expensive. Audrey cried when we drove out to Manorville, too far from her sister. So we settled in Plainview. I guess I knew we'd eventually settle in Plainview, as her sister had moved here five years before, and was having a wonderful time. The schools are excellent, the community has a close-knit feel, and for me, you can get to TOBAY Beach in less than 20 minutes. Oh, but alas, the streets all have sidewalks.
In the past ten years we've made a great life for ourselves in Plainview. Our kids have had an excellent social and educational experience. My wife and I have a circle of friends that have become an extended family. But you don't have to look further than the end of the sidewalk, the point where the curb meets the gutter, to see that our town is changing, and not for the better.
Plainview is changing because sidewalks are bringing commerce from outside our village. Hardworking people wait along Manetto Hill Road to catch a bus that brings them to and from work at Fairway Supermarket and the Úquot;light industrial parkÚquot; down Sunnyside Blvd. Aggressive marketers like Fairway Supermarket have advertised to bring shoppers into the heart of our town from villages all over Queens-Nassau-Suffolk counties.
Now Charles Wang and his company Northern Bay Management Group wants to Úquot;smart-growthÚquot; a 166-acre track of property in Plainview, into a multi-use site called Úquot;Old PlainviewÚquot;. The site will include a 300+ room Hyatt Regency Hotel and Conference Center. Mr. Wang proposes to build on the site 1000 residences for a mixture of buyers and renters; senior citizens, people over 55, and young adults 23-27 years old able to afford luxury apartments starting at $2,000 a month. Dozens of upscale retail stores, supermarkets and business condominiums are also part of Mr. Wang's Úquot;Old PlainviewÚquot; development. Oh yes, Mr. Wang so graciously will allow 40 acres of pristine soccer fields to remain untouched for our children to enjoy.
At a meeting Mr. Wang and his company put on at our local middle school last week, he was feted by local politicians he's already pocketed for support of the project, and told the audience that this type of development is exactly what our community needs. The only fact that Mr. Wang's contracted civil engineering firm was certain about regarding the logistical development of the project was that it would include sidewalks. Sidewalks along the 160+ acre property for the tens of thousands of new daily visitors to Plainview to get from store to store, office to office, parking lot to parking lot.
Every couple of years I have my family hostage in our car on some day-trip. We're driving somewhere on the South Shore and before they know what hit 'em, I have them peering out the car window at Beach 17th Street, (that's the beach I used to walk to as a kid). I drive them through the town that used to be Far Rockaway, all the car windows are up and the doors are locked. I snake through the streets I still remember so vividly from my childhood in Bayswater, and wind up on Waterview Street in front of my old house. I don't really stop in front of the house, or in front of any of my old buddies' homes. I want my wife and children to look at the place I grew up and see how wonderful it was, what a beautiful place it was to be a kid. They'll never see that, not since they put in the sidewalks.
As Mr. Wang gets the rubber-stamped approvals for the Old Plainview he'll build, I sadly realize that my kids will never be able to show my grandchildren the wonderful community where they were raised. New and different isn't always bad, but Old Plainview will create a new and different community from anything we recognize today. If this project is so in demand, if it is such a wonderful thing for our community, why didn't Mr. Wang think to subdivide his estate in Cove Neck, and build it there?
I know Audrey agrees with me now, and looking back 10 years ago we'd have bought a home in a town without sidewalks. Mr. Wang readily admits to wanting to make a profit with Old Plainview, the price will be the demise of the Plainview we've all come to know, sidewalks and all.