'Tanning Tables' Proposed for Rockaway Beach Boardwalk
ROCKAWAY BEACH — The Parks Department is proposing building "tanning tables" on the new Rockaway Boardwalk, but the idea has locals seeing red over concerns about people spending the night, improper use by skateboarders and the risk of skin cancer.
The beach furniture, with chaise lounges, was proposed after members of the city’s Public Design Commission told officials they didn’t like the concrete benches initially planned.
Instead, they wanted something more “beachy,” according to an official from the Parks Department.
Designers went back to the drawing board and came up with the wooden tanning tables, along with chaise lounges that are similar to ones already in place at Beach 15th Street in Far Rockaway and at Hunters Point South Park.
The sloping tanning tables would help fill the "no man's land" between the entrance ramp and the boardwalk, according to Emil Martone of the Economic Development Corporation, who spoke at the meeting Monday.
The tables, which range from 6- to 10-feet high and 30-feet deep, face the beach, while the seating portion faces the boardwalk access ramp, according to the plans.
It's not clear how many the city planned to install, or their exact location.
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But board members said they were concerned the tables would be misused by everyone from skateboarders to people looking to sleep on the beach.
They also were concerned about promoting tanning, which raises the risk of skin cancer, and voted against the plan when it was first presented in June, and at Monday's parks committee meeting.
Dolores Orr, chairwoman of Community Board 14, said the issue of sun protection was her biggest concern.
"Have you prepared a response for the American Cancer Society when they come out against the Parks Department's encouragement to lay and tan?" she asked Martone.
Skin cancer is one of the worst public health problems, especially among young people, according to Dr. Arnold Baskies, president of the local board of the ACS.
"Why would the City of New York want to increase the risk, to young people especially, to develop skin cancer?" he asked, noting that one person in the United States dies from skin cancer every hour.
"That whole idea should be rethought. What the city should be doing is encouraging people to lead healthy lifestyles — and that does not include sitting in the sun for long periods of time to acquire a tan."
Board members also wondered why the designs hadn’t been presented at any of the conceptual design and planning meetings about the boardwalk held since it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
“Why didn’t you bring the idea up in all our conceptual ideas? We had so many wonderful meetings with Parks,” said board member Sylvan Klein.
“Now you just throw this out at us. Where did it come from?”
Every construction project by the city has to go in front of the PDC, which was established in 1898 and is composed of 11 members from the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, painting and other art fields.
The Parks Department and the EDC said they presented the updated plan on May 20, weeks before showing it to the community board at a June 4 meeting.
The proposed tables wouldn’t be all over the boardwalk, just at entrance points — but the parks committee still shot down the idea.
“If you want to get a tan, go on the beach,” said member Peter Larkin.
“We want a boardwalk with benches, a bike lane and room for people to walk and talk and run...Who are these design geniuses that come up with these stupid ideas?”
Parks Department officials said the unique slope of the area of the boardwalk where the tanning tables would go presents a design challenge that can't have just any bench on it.
A spokesman for the agency said they will "continue to work with the Rockaway community on these designs."
The next step, Martone said, would be to find a compromise with the PDC, offering up the benches already in place at Hunters Point South as an option.
“I’m trying to take both of you forward,” he said.
Construction on the first phase of the boardwalk began in April, but the entire boardwalk project isn't scheduled to be completed until 2017.
The city Health Department did not immediately respond to an inquiry.