Civic Action

Tackling community issues big and small.

In 2006, a 53-acre liquefied natural gas (LNG) deepwater terminal was proposed to be created 13.5 miles off the coast of Long Beach, New York. Many residents in the area expressed displeasure about the potential island dubbed "Safe Harbor Energy" by the Atlantic Sea Island Group. The North Merrick Community Association (NMCA) was one of the organizations protesting the LNG terminal.

Among the NMCA's concerns was the possibility that the offshore fuel facility could damage the surrounding ocean, Long Island beaches and wildlife if something went awry, echoing the effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The NMCA became the first civic association on Long Island to oppose the LNG island. It reached out to anyone who would listen and helped create a Long Island coalition of communities and organizations that worked with New York City and New Jersey residents to fight the proposal. The organization hosted presentations, held protest rallies and attended vigils, fishing and surfing events to spread the word about the dangers of the LNG terminal.

Recently, NMCA joined the worldwide Hands Across the Sand movement to further raise awareness and protest the LNG terminal. The mission of Hands Across the Sand is to "bring thousands of American citizens and peoples of the world to beaches and cities and...draw metaphorical and actual lines in the sand; human lines in the sand against the threat oil drilling poses to our cherished coastal economies, marine wildlife and marine environment."

The Hands Across the Sand event in Long Beach produced a turnout of about 100 concerned community members. NMCA and other participants expressed camaraderie with the people on the Gulf Coast by banding together to share their concern for the welfare of the oceans, pledging to fight to protect and preserve our coastline.

Someone somewhere heard. Due to local opposition, the plug was pulled on the LNG project. The grassroots movement, which began with one civic association, grew to a coalition that encompassed civic and other organizations. It succeeded in protecting and preserving our coastline for generations to come.

However, protecting local waters is just one concern of the NMCA. I was personally spurred to become more active in the NMCA and agreed to the title of president more than 18 months ago for an entirely different but also powerful reason. A woman was robbed by gunpoint in her driveway in Merrick. Houses throughout the area were being robbed, and the people in our community were feeling helpless.

More than 150 people came to my first NMCA meeting as president. We collectively initiated a Neighborhood Watch Program. The program now has about 1,000 members and has spread to surrounding communities.

NMCA leads monthly meetings and concentrates on local issues. We collaborate with our local governments to get our roads fixed and Stop signs installed. We work with the police for protection and hold annual holiday events for our children. When necessary, NMCA unites with surrounding communities for the common good.

We are currently fighting the inundation of cell towers and antennas near our homes, schools and libraries. The Town of Hempstead does not have a code to address wireless telecommunication installations. The people living near these proposed sites believe that a town must protect its residents. As a result, the Town of Hempstead has hired a consultant to write code to regulate, control and manage the placement of cell towers. NMCA visited Town Hall to request a moratorium on cell tower installations until a code is written to the satisfaction of the people of Hempstead.

The North Merrick Community Association strives to help our neighbors who are struggling with situations that are sometimes difficult to tackle alone. We are an active group that meets monthly and addresses the needs of the community. If you'd like to learn more about the NMCA, visit www.northmerrickcivic.org or call (516)972-6988.

Claudia Borecky is president of the North Merrick Community Association (NMCA) and chair of legislator Dave Denenberg's task force.