Your Tax Dollars at Work on Long Beach West

Last week was the third anniversary of the cottage evictions on Long Beach West. I made my annual photo safari out to the peninsula to see how the stimulus-funded clean-up is progressing.

Beyond warning signs (ignore) and the construction road leading out through the dunes (great for running), I couldn’t see much difference once I arrived at the cottages. Perhaps slightly less detritus scattered about, but since there’s so much, it’s hard to tell if any of it has been taken away. The cottages themselves continue their deterioration and vehicles like the camper and the pickup truck remain. The blue above-ground water pipe, leading from a hydrant in Pleasure Beach to Long Beach West, is still smashed in several places, making it useless for fighting fires.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Post continues its superficial reporting about Pleasure Beach and LBW with a feature published last week on the status of the proposed water taxi from Bridgeport to the peninsula. I did some preliminary investigation earlier this year into the water taxi, and after fruitless phone calls and two absurd interviews with Elaine Ficarra, the mayor’s communications director, I realized there is no real plan. Bridgeport requested the funds ($1.9 million — an appropriation, not stimulus or recovery money as has sometimes been reported) without any hard ideas of what to do with them. All departments redirected my queries to the mayor’s office, where Ficarra was unable to answer the simplest questions. How much will be spent on renovation of the facilities already existent on the beach, the status of the docks, what (if anything) will be done with the burnt bridge, whether the water taxi will be publicly or privately O&Oed — “I don’t know” and “I’ll have to check” were Ficarra’s stock responses. It’s not even certain the taxi will run out of the East End, which this editorial assumes, or if it will be based at the Port Jeff ferry terminal clear on the other side of the city.

I asked Ficarra if she has been out to Pleasure Beach since the bridge fire. You can guess what her answer was. I can also guess whether the writer of the feature has been out there herself. I ask that question of everybody I interview regarding LBW and Pleasure Beach and an affirmative reply is the rare exception, not the rule. That to me is the most frustrating thing about covering this story: the disconnected conversations I have in which I inquire about things I’ve seen or experienced on the peninsula and the people making decisions about the place have no idea what I’m talking about.

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