Opinion | Save the People’s Beach at Rockaway

Opinion | Save the People’s Beach at Rockaway


New Yorkers let out a collective gasp this week when the city said that one of the most popular stretches of Rockaway Beach would be closed for the summer because of erosion.

Those who spend their summer at Rockaway Beach know how awful this is. That beach — a beautiful expanse of white sand along the southern coastline of Queens — is one of the crown jewels of New York City, leaving anyone who visits marveling at the idea that such a thing could exist just 20 or so miles from Midtown Manhattan.

It is also the people’s beach, a breezy bit of heaven for the thousands of New Yorkers who can’t book a getaway to the Hamptons but need an escape from the city’s sticky summers all the same and love the ocean just as much.

A half-mile of the beach will be closed this summer, from Beach 91st Street to Beach 102nd Street. City officials made the announcement on Monday, five days before the city beaches were set to open. They said that part of the beach had eroded to the point where it was unsafe for swimming, because a lifeguard chair couldn’t be set back far enough to get a sufficiently wide view of the water. They also said there were concerns about beachgoers inadvertently harming the sand dunes built there in the wake of Superstorm Sandy to protect the coastline from major storms.

Small-business owners along Rockaway Beach who have worked their way back from near-extinction in the years since Superstorm Sandy, in 2012, were caught completely off guard. They have vowed to remain open, since customers can still gain access to the bars and food stands from the boardwalk.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city had waited until the last minute to make the announcement to see if the Army Corps of Engineers could do something to fix the erosion. The Army Corps has long promised to build jetties to protect Rockaway Beach. City officials say the huge project is already more than a year delayed, though the Army Corps disputes this, saying the project hasn’t yet been approved by the agency’s headquarters, in Washington.

“The only way we’re going to solve the underlying problem is with the Army Corps,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference.

In a way, the mayor is correct. The beach has been eroding for years, a problem worsened by Superstorm Sandy, which killed 44 people in New York City and devastated the Rockaway coastline. To restore the beach and protect against future storms, the Army Corps dumped 3.5 million cubic yards of sand in 2014 at a cost of about $37 million. But without the jetties, much of that sand has eroded over the past four years, washing away tens of millions of dollars’ worth of beach.

Mr. de Blasio met with Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the Army Corps’s top official, in January, after the city got word that funding for the project had been lost. City officials said the Army Corps agreed to begin building sometime next year.

“At Rockaway Beach we need to see shovels in the ground to build jetties, replenish sand, reinforce the seawall and more — not signs saying beach closed!” Senator Charles Schumer, the Brooklyn Democrat and Senate minority leader, said on Twitter this week. “Calling on Army Corps to hold public meeting and lock in a hard deadline for rebuilding our beaches!”

This is all well and good. But city officials had been warned about the erosion for at least a year. Instead of acting aggressively to prevent it, they commissioned a $200,000 study to examine the issue; in November, it found that the beach was the widest it had been in years. Federal and local officials could have pressed the Army Corps to move faster to build the jetties long ago, and made sure there was enough sand poured to keep the beach open and protected.

For many who live on the Rockaway Peninsula, this isn’t a matter only of recreation but also of survival, since the erosion is a threat to barriers that have been erected to protect their homes and local businesses from future storms.

In the meantime, the city should find a way to get more sand onto the beach to save next year’s summer season and provide a layer of temporary protection for the peninsula’s communities. Doing so would cost an estimated $10 million to $15 million. City officials say that would be too complicated and costly for a stopgap measure. But the city is flush with cash and expected to approve a near-$90 billion budget next month. It can afford to protect one of the few beaches New Yorkers can reach with only the cost of a MetroCard.

It was just three years ago that elected officials gathered excitedly on the first piece of the newly rebuilt Rockaway Boardwalk, congratulating themselves on building the city’s waterfront back stronger and more resilient in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Protecting that investment should be a priority for New York’s elected officials. So should preserving the simple summer joy of taking the A train straight to a sandy piece of paradise.



Source link

About The Author

Related posts

Leave a Reply