The Rockaways suffered major damage during Tropical Storm Irene last August.
Significant erosion took away even more of our continuously diminishing beaches. The Rockaway Beach boardwalk sustained damage to its deck, beach side staircases and ramps, along with destruction of wood skirting along Shore Front Parkway. Aside from some sand cleanup and some safety netting and fencing, everything still looks the same today as it did a day after the storm. City Parks Department personnel in he Rockaways did the very best they could with what they had, according to an Op-Ed written by Friends of Rockawy Beach founder John Cory published in the New York Daily News.
Hurrican Irene battered the beaches and boardwalk in Rockaway Beach this summer. Local leaders said they are still waiting for much-needed repairs. (Photo: Craig Warga/NY Daily News)
Unfortunately what Parks didn’t have enough of was money, or so it says. In November, our beach activist group, Friends of Rockaway Beach, met with Queens Parks Commissioner Dorthy Lewandowski to discuss the deplorable conditions of the infrastructure at our beaches, parks and boardwalk here in the Rockaways and the damage caused by Irene.
At that meeting we receive a truly heartfelt apology that there was just no money in the $250 million Parks Department budget to address much needed major infrastructure repairs along Shore Front Parkway, no money to repair rapidly decaying boardwalk infrastructure and no money to repair storm damage. We were told that we would have to wait and see if the feds would come through with emergency funding to repair storm damage.
Parks is in the final stages of a $38 million renovation in Far Rockaway. This is a much needed, long overdue project that will serve that community for years to come, but is little relief to the rest of the peninsula.
Imagine Parks telling the people of Harlem, Washington Heights, or Inwood that there is just no money to renovate Fort Tryon Park or Inwood Hill Park, but feel free to use the High Line.
Recently $3 million was allocated by various government agencies to repair the boardwalk, and the work has begun. While we welcome this as good news, we here in the Rockaways were surprised to learn that the city plans to begin a $90 million expansion of the High Line on the West Side of Manhattan.
It boggles the mind how the city can find boat loads of cash for the High Line, yet we are told time and time again there’s just no money for the Rockaways. I’m sure we will be told that Friends of the High Line will raise a “good portion” of the $90 million, but it should be pointed out that Friends of the High Line put up less than 35% of the cost of the High Line’s first phase and the city contributed well over $100 million.
While we wait for funding for much needed revitalization of Rockaway beaches, parks and boardwalk, we’ve just been blindsided with devastating news of the suspension of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rockaway Beach Reformulation study. The $5-million, 10-year study began in 2003 to come up with a permanent solution to the erosion sustained year after year along our beaches.
Since it began, the study has been suspended several times due to lack of funding. The current federal budget did not include the $1.5 million needed for its completion, and without it, the beaches face possible long-term closure and our boardwalk and neighborhoods will face a greater susceptibility to storm surge during nor'easters, tropical storms or hurricanes.
For well over 100 years he Rockaway’s have provided millions of people a year some of the most authentic, traditional beach-going experiences they will ever find, bringing people together from all walks of life and every race and creed from every part of the world.
On a hot summer day we can have more people here than Central Park, Prospect Park and Flushing Meadow-Corona Park combined. Surfers from all over the world come to enjoy the greatest surf in the Northeast on two spectacular dedicated surfing beaches.
Repair of storm damage is very welcome news, but it is only a drop in the bucket considering the scope of the work that needs to be done.
To borrow a phrase from “The Lorax,” “Unless someone like our elected officials cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
John Cori is the founder of Friends of Rockaway Beach