Parks Department Proposals for Beach Roil Rockaway Residents

Friday, February 22, 2013

The boardwalk at Beach 116th Street in the Rockaways nearly four months after Sandy. The boardwalk at Beach 116th Street in the Rockaways nearly four months after Sandy. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Beach season is three months away and residents of the Rockaways have been eagerly anticipating news from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation on whether the beaches, badly damaged by Sandy, will be ready for the summer. Thursday night at Beach Channel High School, they got their first taste of what the future of the Rockaways may look like.

Members of the department, including First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh and Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, said May 24 is the goal, and they expect to be ready to open the beaches to the public. However, parts of Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden may have some sections that remain closed.

Much of the infrastructure on the beach was destroyed in the storm: the boardwalks, restaurants, lifeguard towers and comfort stations. The Parks Department didn’t present any innovative new boardwalk suggestions, like many residents had been hoping for.

But one slide in the presentation drew a visceral reaction from residents. Slipped in, innocuously, between renderings of before and after images of Sandy were new bathrooms perched above the beach.

The 12-foot tall, pre-fabricated trailers look like they're on stilts. From the slide it was hard to discern exactly how large they are, and the Parks Department wouldn’t give the dimensions, except to say, they’re 12 feet tall, and meet the requirements for FEMA’s 500-year flood plan. The new bathrooms will be placed in about eight locations, some of which will be lifeguard stations.

But what really galled residents was the Parks Department saying it is moving forward with the plans, without having consulted any residents.

“I don’t know if you realize, on Beach 66th on Beach 73rd there are homes that are just across the street, you’re essentially building restrooms in people’s front yards, backyards,” said one Arverne neighborhood homeowner, during the question and answer session afterwards. “Please consider the whole ecosystem, not just revamping the beach, but everything that makes the Rockaways beautiful.”

The department also said it has three RFPs (request for proposals) out for food stands on the beach, as well as kayak and bike rentals. Again, residents were disappointed, because this is the first they’d heard about this.

 “You’re putting a food court on 116th Street? Don’t you realize that all the local merchants on 116th Street are hurting for business?” another outraged residents said at the meeting.

This meeting comes less than two weeks after the Army Corps of Engineers presented plans for protecting the beach at a community board meeting. Engineers presented their plans for protecting the beach, which amounted to replacing the 1.5 million cubic yards of sand that was lost during Sandy and continuing to study what the best plan for the future would be.

That study may not even be completed for another year. In the meantime, the Parks Department says it is considering taking a few measures—like sand fencing, and dunes made of Christmas trees—to protect the beach.

None of this reassures a community still in recovery and about to face another hurricane season.


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Comments [6]


Most of the politicians in Queens seem to be CROOKS? How many of these politiicians took much needed money from the Parks dept. for the restoration of the beaches and used it for their own illegal purposes. I think the Parks Dept should be investigated because most of their plans are not helping Rockaway nor the people of Rockaway, Belle Harbor or Breezy Point. Where is all the money that was supposed to be used for rebuiilding?

Apr. 07 2013 04:59 PM

What I don't see here is any kind of resolution or positive planning to prevent another storm or nor'easter from destroying what we were able to salvage. JETTIES, STORM WALLS, A cement Replacement for the boardwalk that during the storm came unhinged and ran over cars and jammed its way into some of our homes. Yes we want something in place for the summer. Now is not the time for the city to think about making money but maybe doing what it should what is right and help us recover from the storm and prepare us and make us stronger to have a fighting chance when another storm, hurricane, coastal flooding or nor'easter hit our geographical location.
Also, Where is our train? is there an estimated date for the shuttle or the "A" train to be back up and running?

Mar. 01 2013 03:13 PM
Jeff rockaway from 122


Feb. 24 2013 11:11 AM
JoAnn Simonelli from Rockaway

I really hope that this summer will be different from last year and prior years when Beach 116 and I mean the beach was completely cluttered with trash - it looked like the city dump. I hope there will be a plan this year that works not something thought up by someone who never lived in Rockaway.

Feb. 23 2013 12:15 AM
Patrick Tubridy from Arverne

An open letter to Ms. Lewandowski:
Dear Ms. Lewandowski,
First let me say I will be copying every elected official in NYC I know on this email. NYC.GOV makes it hard to find their personal emails. I am writing to you from Arverne, NY. Arverne does not currently have a member of the City Council so I wonder whom voiced our opinions to you regarding the new proposed 2nd story mega bathroom facilities proposed for beach 66 and 73 streets? They look like "Star Wars" machines. How wonderful for a beach community to look like a Hollywood Sci Fi Movie. I live in a home for bought for a substantial amount of hard working money, I can only imagine how it will devalue the property. If I say thank you I am being sarcastic.
I attended the Community Board Meeting in January where the Parks Department had a speaker (forgive me for not knowing her name) and nothing was mentioned regarding these developments. If this is already a done deal why was this not mentioned to the community then? Did you know how much opposition it would face? Moves like this make the people angry and not trust our government. At the January meeting your representative said there would be community input before projects were to begin. did your rep misrepresent herself. We can go back to the minutes if you would like. Was last night's meeting the community input she was referring too?
We need bathroom facilities in the neighborhood but why put them in an area that already has issues with parking during the summer months. Would it not be better suited to put bathroom facilities, maybe municiple parking (generating money for our city), and possibly an amphitheater (wish list) in the beach 40's and 50's where, there is not only a subway station but plenty of room and vacant land?
It also puzzles me why new concession stands will be built on Beach 115 st. Do you know how hard it is for a year round, tax paying Rockaway business to get through the winter months? We pinch pennies to get to Memorial Day Weekend and dread Labor Day as it means the end of our money making season. The concession stands that have been reopened with new ownership have already affected businesses that have been here for years. I am a patron of these establishments, they are welcomed. I love them but adding more will directly hit those "mom and pop places" on Beach 116. Why not bring the public who use and abuse our beaches to another depot area like the one suggested in my letter. This would make all parties happy!
What really is just shocking to me is that there was no input from our community who live here year round. Why not?
Please respond to my questions and be ready to fight us on this, we are relentless here in the Rockaways and we think in terms of generations not quick fixes. Please feel free to contact me anytime by email or here is my phone number 718-945-5028.

Feb. 22 2013 10:04 AM
BJ Kelly from Rockaway Park, NY

I personally don't know any Rockaway residents whose anticipation was about whether beaches will be open this summer. What residents want from Parks are answers - and a stakeholder inclusive plan - regarding our damaged infrastructure. Boardwalks, sand replenishment, dunes, jetties...

Feb. 22 2013 09:51 AM

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