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Civic Association Announces New Officers

West End Neighbor's new leaders look to help businesses rebuild.

Oceanview in the West End, the day after Hurricane Sandy struck Long Beach in October. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)
Oceanview in the West End, the day after Hurricane Sandy struck Long Beach in October. (Credit: Joseph Kellard)

John Bendo is stepping into a new position at a precarious time in Long Beach, as the hurricane-crippled beachtown is working to walk again, especially in his neighborhood.  

But the Maryland Avenue resident is up for the challenge as he succeeded Rick Hoffman as president of the West End Neighbors Civic Association (WENCA) this week. Former Vice President Karen McInnis was due to become president but step aside to let Bendo to take the leadership role.

“When Rick stepped down he asked if I would be willing to take over the position,” Bendo said. “Karen did not want to be president, so I said that I would be willing to do it. It’s an interesting time to have to be stepping into the role, to say the least.”

Bendo said WENCA will continue to take on projects firsthand and advocate for those in which its members have no direct control. “Obviously, we’re not going to rebuild the beach, but we would certainly advocate to make sure it’s done in the right way,” he said.  

The new officers are working with the Historic West End Business Association and the Walks Association toward that end, as well as to help refurbish the devastated business district on West Beech Street.

“Perhaps [we can] have a social nights at some of the restaurants when they reopen,” said Bendo, who chaired WENCA’s Events Committee that held two movie nights on the beach last summer. “And have events at some of the stores on the weekends during the day to try to draw people in to help the businesses.”

When he drove through the West End Tuesday night, Bendo found that many homes remained vacant. “If you look at a lot of the bungalows, they’re still dark,” he said. “The people haven’t come back. So even the businesses that are open are having a real tough time because the people just aren’t here.”

Joe Sinnona, an associate broker with Verdeschi Realty in the West End, told Patch that about a third of West End businesses have reopened, as of last week. The West End has approximately 71 businesses.

Bendo and new Vice President Jerry Romanoff said another pending project is the restoration of the planter boxes on streets that intersected with Oceanview, a roadway is used primarily as a pedestrian straightaway for bikers, joggers and walkers. The planters were either damaged or destroyed in the storm. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Romanoff said that without the planters Oceanview has become a “speedway.”

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” said Romanoff, who lives on the street.

He also urged the council to replenish the demolished West End dunes and beach entrances, invited its members to reach out to WENCA members, and made a request.  

“What we would like is a seat at the table when you address issues,” Romanoff said.

Looking ahead, WENCA would like to open a farmer’s market in the yard at West School on Maryland Avenue starting in spring, by teaming up with the people who organize the market at Kennedy Plaza at City Hall.  

In an email that McInnis sent out to WENCA members and media this week about the change of officers, she wrote: “Our esteemed President Rick Hoffman recently decided to step down from office for personal reasons. In accordance with our By-Laws, I as Vice President, became President. I then appointed John Bendo to the position of Vice President. I subsequently decided to step down as President for personal reasons as well.”  

On his appointment, Bendo appointed Romanoff the vice president and McInnis the treasurer. Maria Fitzgerald will remain in her position as secretary.

“We’re in a rebuilding and revitalization mode,” Bendo said. “Rick used to say all the time that the West End is ‘the jewel’ of Long Beach. Well, the jewel is a little bruised up and rough right now. We have to do some polishing.”
John Bendo January 12, 2013 at 10:39 AM
Wildman, the WENCA bylaws are pretty straight forward. We are an individual membership organization. Companies (i.e. businesses) do not join WENCA. Business owners that live in the West End can of course join/participate as individuals. You obviously have a view of what you want the West End to look like and it highlights an issue that (in my opinion) has been plaguing Long Beach for some time. Does Long Beach want to be the Hamptons west or a sleepy beach town for the residents? Right now the city is trying to have it both ways. Is it doing it successfully? It depends on who you ask. But it doesn’t seem to be happening in accordance with a well thought out plan. At a City Council meeting (before Sandy) I got up at a good and welfare session and proposed forming a committee of citizens to come up with recommendations for sensible development and quality of life improvement projects. The Council asked me if I would be willing to help set it up and I said I would. After that I worked with the City Manager’s office to set up a meeting to begin planning and implementation of this committee. Unfortunately, Sandy hit us before the meeting took place. Since we are in a rebuilding and revitalization mode, it is more important than ever to do it with a clear and well thought out end goal in mind. As such, I am again working to schedule a meeting with the City Manager to get this committee off the ground.
Mary Ellen Pollina January 12, 2013 at 11:56 AM
John, Wildman's point is well taken. Business owners in the West End often have different agendas than that of the residents. The most obvious examples are the bars and the restaurants that function as bars. And last summer, more and more food businesses were staying open till 5am to accommodate late night bar patrons, creating more litter and noise late into the night. Most of the bar and food business owners don't depend on the local West End residents for the bulk of their business. Plus, the owners of Rachel's Hair Salon hung up an illuminated "We Buy Gold" sign above her shop in the days after the hurricane. It has since been removed by the building dept. This summer, business owners and residents alike will be trying to recoup money lost in the storm. Illegal apartments and group rentals will be an even bigger problem. The mission of WENCA is to represent the needs of the residents of the West End. Tackle the tough stuff before the fun stuff.
John Bendo January 12, 2013 at 12:23 PM
Mary Ellen….the fun stuff? You really think people are stepping forward trying to rebuild and help this town for the fun of it. People are stepping up because they care. And many of the people that are stepping up are doing so while they are also trying to rebuild their homes and their lives, so they are doing double duty. Raising issues and posting complaints on the Patch is easy. It’s doing something about it that is the tough stuff. If the residents want to see change then people have to do more than complain, they have to step up to make change happen. People that know you know you are passionate about the issues you care about and you are willing to do more than talk. So I will make the same offer to you that I made to Wildman, come to the next WENCA meeting, propose an idea, and we will discuss it. If enough residents are of the same mind we will form a group to come up with suggestions and plans that we will bring forward to the appropriate people in government and the business community.
Mary Ellen Pollina January 12, 2013 at 06:45 PM
John, fun stuff: entertainment committee stuff, farmer's market, replacing the Welcome to Long Beach sign. There 's time for that after the West End community has stabilized. Resident property owners (like me) who are trying to rebuild their homes need reassurance that the community is taking steps to emerge stronger, so we can confidently commit serious money to construction. In the wake of the storm WEBA has stepped back to allow the DPW to address pressing clean-up issues without distraction. I believe that at this critical junction in the history of our city and especially the West End, WENCA needs to focus on a specific goal that represents the property owners, define a strategy for execution and follow through persistently with the appropriate City department. My recommendation is to address illegal apartments and group rentals because it speaks to the issue of property values, quality of life, taxes and parking. You're right. I don't just complain. I too have stepped up to effect change in our community and will continue to pursue specific beautification goals with City Hall. I love this neighborhood and wish you only the best in your new role with WENCA.
Hamburger January 12, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Can I get an Amen?!?
Beachguy January 12, 2013 at 07:50 PM
The by laws of WENCA were amended and revised A few years back . The proposed changes were made available both on line and in hard copy form at meeting after meeting. Any criticisms, suggestions or additions were asked for. Discussion was encouraged. They were not rushed through. As far as I remember there was no criticism of what was adopted. There were no objections to what was adopted. Any changes to them would have to be made according to the provisions for amendment contained in them. If you don't like something in them then start the amendment procedure and leave it up to the membership.
Karen McInnis January 12, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Thank you Beachguy for explaining how the current by-laws were amended and voted on. It is reassuring to know people remember the facts of went on.....especially as I figure out to rebuild my house (just closed on my six figure SBA disaster recover loan today) and continue to serve as an Officer of WENCA, which represents all residents of the West End.
Anne Farley January 12, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Congratulations, John, and thank you to the officers for being willing to serve WENCA while dealing with their own issues. Now is the time for all to pull together for the good of the neighborhood. I, like others, am working to repair my place. I wish everyone all the best. Here's to the West End!!
James Lynch January 13, 2013 at 09:52 PM
To the new leaders of the West End Neighbors Civic Association - Congratulations! To the members of the West End Neighbors Civic Association - you are in good hands with John and Jerry. John has been vigilant at many City Council meetings questioning our government on financial issues and speaking out on behalf of Long Beach residents. I wish them luck and look forward to working with them on many of their projects. I take exception to Mary Ellen Pollina's assessment of the function of WENCA. At this critical time, when we rebuild our city it is important that we have a strong commercial tax base. To that, while she vilifies the restaurant/bars she fails to understand that many people lost their jobs, and the restaurants lost their businesses and many of them are homeowners in the West End. That being said, I would like to point out some of the important things the restaurant/bar owners have done. The day after Sandy, Panini's and Bikini's put their entire inventory out for anyone who was in need, Shines opened their doors for hot dinners every night, Minnesota’s organized hot food and clothing for our residents, Swingbelly's with their portable units offered free food to rescue workers and those cleaning out their homes, the Cabana opened their parking lot and organized hot food for their neighbors. This is just to name a FEW of the wonderful things that our business owners in the West End have done, even while under the distress and destruction of their businesses and homes. That being said, this is a time for our community and business to work together as it is important that they co-exist.
Beachguy January 13, 2013 at 10:12 PM
I don't live near a bar or restaurant so don't experience the annoyances that those who do ,go through. But I think if I was looking to buy a place in WE I would take note of the long standing character of the area and not locate near these types of establishments if I was adverse to the situations that go along with them. It's like buying next to the airport then complaining about the planes and trying to shut down JFK.
Hamburger January 14, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Comparison understood, but it's not really quite the same
Beachguy January 14, 2013 at 09:03 PM
Close enough though .I've read that WE had over 20 speakeasies back in the day. The only one left is Shines. So nobody should be surprised that there are bars and what goes on with them. As I said I live on a street unaffected by this nonsense but I would never have bought near one either.
Hamburger January 15, 2013 at 09:38 AM
Fair point, but its almost akin to saying you should not have bought in the West End if you feel having people peeing up the side of your house is acceptable. This is the issue: quality of life. I'm all for a good time, but there is a quality of life issue that needs to be addressed. I don't think it would kill the Saloon to turn down their music just a touch at 3AM so our children can sleep, or that we can somehow get a handle on the "group/share house" type of rental arrangements that place alot of "young folk" out on the street at that time who don't seem to be aware that there are families on the block who don't appreciate their disrespectful behavior to the neighborhood. And it would only take some minor adjustments on the part of the bars and their patrons to fix the issue (or at alleviate it)
Beachguy January 15, 2013 at 09:53 AM
Can't argue with any of that. Most of the miscreants are out of towners . How about some police enforcement? Bike patrols. But TILB.
Hamburger January 15, 2013 at 10:01 AM
yeah - that would be good. What am i talking about, there are not many bars right now, and not many people for that matter.
toolittle January 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Mongo has some good points. I dont blame the bars, except that they should turn down the volume. The police need to continue to step up their bike patrols and enforce the share house rules. Now is the time to get rid of these share houses. All we need is tough enforcement and the troublemakers wont come back next summer.
delete me January 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM
People, it is not always the out of towners or the groups of people crammed in a summer share that are causing your annoyances. Locals can be worse. John Bendo it's nice to have another person in town interested in smart planning.
Rebecca January 15, 2013 at 02:36 PM
I agree the bars are a problem however this problem has temporarily been alleviated by so many being displaced by the storm. Is none else concerned about C-Town? The store is full of food; how long will it be until we have issues with rodents? The porta potties which were crucial after the storm and are no longer needed still smelling up the streets. Who is paying for the porta potties? Why are they still here? The wall that came down adjacent to the parking lot on Georgia still blocking the sidewalk so mothers have to cross or walk in the street to get around it. Yet worse than the broken glass, debris etc on the sidewalks is all the dog shit. Why the hell can't people pick up after their dogs.....
Beachguy January 15, 2013 at 07:14 PM
It's all about an ingrained ineptitude on the part of the City government and it's employees. why can't they get the bus schedule right so it's coordinated with the trains during non rush hours? In itself not a big deal. . But its just another symptom of the attitude that pervades the psyche of the city. If you complain too much you are looked on as a crank. So you finally throw in the towel. And that's what they expect and appreciate. Where I am the locals have a saying" Mai pen Rai". everything's fine. A sort of " what me worry" attitude about things. Holes in the sidewalk? Mai pen Rai . People ignoring red lights? . Mai pen Rai. Same in LB . Mai pen Rai. The test will be whether or not they stop the installation of illegal apartments now that restoration is beginning. If they do that's a step forward. If not it will be the same nonsense all over again. Mai pen Rai. TILB.
delete me January 16, 2013 at 11:24 AM
Beachguys "why can't they get the bus schedule right so it's coordinated with the trains during non rush hours?" Did you know that the bus also serves people who are not going to/from the train? It's amazing - it actually functions as a mode of transportation for some who aren't city commuters. Wacky, right?
Beachguy January 16, 2013 at 08:51 PM
I agree but can you explain why the bus arrives at the station just as the train is pulling out? Or why the bus leaves the station a few minutes before the train arrives so you have to wait a half hour for the next one. Or else spend $5 on a taxi? I know an awful lot of unsuspecting people who have missed trains into the city because of this. A few years back I raised this issue and was told" that's the way it's always been".also I was told that the union would have to be negotiated with over the drivers rest periods. . And lastly I was told by the then city manager" the rail road changes its schedule four times year" implying that our bus people are incapable or unwilling to do the same thing. I've given up. Also, try to get an up to date bus schedule. I needed one for a friend so went to the station. Two bus drivers told me they didn't have any. My friend tried also and was told " they don't print them anymore" I now check the bus schedule I have and if I'm going to miss the train or have a long wait I drive and park a few blocks away. I tried parking at the station but the daily parking system was inoperable. Not a big deal in the scheme of things but it's symptomatic of the way things are done in LB.
delete me January 16, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Beachguy you want the real answer to this? We once had a transportation department head with our last admin who was an effing moron. The new admin got rid of the position. There is no head of public transport in the city. There is a person who is semi-"overseeing" things but is not giving it nearly as much attention as a transportation needs. I'm going to get the current bus schedule tomorrow and will have it posted tomorrow. I've also created a bus map over the Winter that I can post as well. All of the stops need to be reevaluated and the shelters replaced (and more installed). For a city with a parking problem, it is shocking how its public transportation system is an utter failure...simply out of ignorance. Shame.
delete me January 16, 2013 at 10:14 PM
^ also it should be noted that we were told in those flashy "city beat" flyers and in new articles (including via the Patch) in 2011 that the city was awarded a $2million grant via the TEA-21 restoration bill and that it would used for 2 new buses and a (useless) bus arrival time system at the station. So where's the money? Ooops...they forgot to send in the completed paperwork. http://www.liherald.com/longbeach/longbeach/stories/City-awarded-2-million-grant,37398
Beachguy January 16, 2013 at 10:19 PM
It's not that complicated . Simply schedule the buses to arrive at the station 10 minutes before the train is scheduled to depart thus affording people ample time to buy tickets. Schedule buses to leave the station 5 minutes after the train arrives. There's no need to print schedules. Simply hand out LIRR timetables with a printed notification of the aforesaid arrangement. So when the rail road makes changes then the buses just automatically do the same. what's the big deal? But TILB. If they can't get this right why should I feel confidence in them safeguarding the city from future calamities?
Beachguy January 16, 2013 at 10:24 PM
The schedule is printed on the back of the calendar handed out by the city but shouldn't it be readily available on the buses? The shoppers special to me is a mystery bus. Where does it go? When does it go there, wherever there is? Another farce.
Beachguy January 16, 2013 at 10:35 PM
GPS systems? for Costello, whoever he is, to keep track of the buses? after all there are 3 routes and the shoppers special.or are they for the drivers so they don't get lost?so this is where Costello is now. Where's his partner Abbott?
delete me January 17, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Costello was let go. The GPS system was suppose to be so riders knew when the bus would arrive because Long Beach is so enormous- the travel distance from one end to the bus depot definitely requires high tech timing. (sarcasm) The Shoppers Special is a route that mostly overlaps the Loops though it does cruise down Broadway. It pulls into Walbaums. Yes, it is a waste of a bus because it extremely underutilized because wtf knows about its routes? Bummer of this is the entrance is wide to accommodate surf boards and bulky beach gear so it'd be super to transport beachers to different beaches and to bring them to the west or east end so there's more choice of food besides 5 guys.
Hamburger January 17, 2013 at 05:08 PM
and when are they going to bring back the Decobikes? I don't see how we can move forward as a City without Decobikes...
Beachguy January 17, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Let's put all the surfers and hockey players in charge, led by Sboopy, of a new, revitalized Decobike program. This is vital to the rebirth of a new and better Long Beach. If Fagen gets convicted maybe a job can be found for him? Filling the tires with proper air pressure?
Beachguy January 17, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Or maybe Fagen can get a job as the bus dispatcher. Better yet he can sit at a monitor watching the moveent of the vast bus fleet. If he has two jobs, air man for Decobike and bus watcher, will he be guilty of a felony if he claims unemployment again?

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