The 'Most Expensive Beach in America' Gets More So

Rockaway Beach to receive more nourishment after Sandy whittles down its size

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rockaway Beach at 90th Street where much of the sand has been eroded. Rockaway Beach at Beach 90th Street where much of the sand has been eroded. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

This summer the beaches in the Rockaways may be more crowded than in past years. That's because there is less beach to bask on: Sandy made it a lot narrower. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will start to replace that lost sand, making the most expensive beach in America even more costly.

Standing at Beach 86th Street on a recent afternoon, Rockaway-native John Cori, 50, remembers when Rockaway Beach was so eroded that waves had eaten away the sand under the boardwalk steps.

"There were 14 steps to get to the beach," he said. "And then you had to jump another 4 feet to get on the beach."

But at the end of the 1970s, Rockaway Beach got a federal cash infusion. The Army Corps added millions of dollars' worth of sand. But funding ran dry by 2004. And then came Sandy. The storm’s waves ate into the shore and sucked sand into deeper water, and some of it moved down the coast. All in all, the Army Corps estimated that 1.5 million cubic yards of sand disappeared, enough to fill the Empire State Building.

This summer, the Army Corps of Engineers will spend $10 million to restore half of the sand lost during Sandy to Rockaway Beach.

But even before these repairs, Rockaway Beach, which spans 6.2 miles, and nine neighborhoods from Beach 9th Street to Beach 149th Street was expensive to maintain. It’s received over $216,928,138 in today's dollars since 1926, according to Andy Coburn, the associate director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, located in Cullowhee, N.C. He crunched the cost of nourishment using available federal, state and local records and found Rockaway Beach cost more than any other beach in America.

The next most costly is Virginia Beach, Va., at $203,944,955, followed by Cape May, N.J., at $169,277,455.

Rockaway Beach at Beach 108th Street where the pilings of the boardwalk are nearly covered in sand. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)


Rockaway Beach at Beach 149th Street where the city is beginning to repair baffle walls. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Rockaway Beach at Beach 90th Street. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

John Cori, founder of Friends of Rockaway Beach, an advocacy group that is calling for more sand and protection of the beaches. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Trap bags at Rockaway Beach being installed to protect nearby residences from storm surges. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Construction on the beach at Beach 108th Street. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Swimming not allowed at certain sections of Rockaway Beach like at 90th Street. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)


Matthew Schuerman


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Comments [4]

Philip McManus from Rockaway Park, NY

Where does the extra money go when you don't have full lifeguard staffing in Queens, Rockaway Beach? This past Friday, 29 beaches in Rockaway were open to swimming. 111 beaches were closed for some pathetic and dishonest excuse. Please Mr. Mayor, investigate and audit the City Parks Department. Why take the Queens, Rockaway Ferry or go to a Rockaway restaurants or shop if our beaches are closed to swimming? Are we being set up to fail? Thirty two days since Memorial Day Weekend without a full staff of lifeguards? This is unacceptable. Our beach is our protection, recreation and a major source of revenue. Please help us.

Philip McManus
102-00 Shore Front Pkwy.
Rockaway Park, NY 11694
Apt. 11E

Jun. 24 2014 01:29 PM
Andy lauro from Rockaway Park, NY 11694

I am a Rockaway Park resident living on Beach 105th st for 40 years. The last time the parks dregged the beach was approximately 4 years ago. At which time they stopped at 92nd street leaving the stretch of narrow beach ( between Beach 92nd st and Beach 108th st)exposed to any size storm. Well Sandy detroyed this stretch of beach. Dayton Towers West were unoccupied for 3 months after the storm. There has been a lot of talk about putting in Jetties on this stretch of beach. every time I ask I'm told a study is being performed.Study? Just compare the beach in the Beach 70's & 80's, where damage from sandy was minimal compared to Rockaway Park and Bell Harbor.
Where are the Jetties? Please don't tell me a study is being performed.
Contact me with any questions.

Sep. 05 2013 03:02 PM
Georgina from the Bronx from San Deigo CA

Considering the use the beach gets. Per use it many not be the most expensive beach in the Country.

Jun. 20 2013 04:05 PM

Will there be any time in the future, as these storms come more frequently, where we agree that rebuilding is not the way to go? Maybe moving away from the shore would be more prudent? Feels as if the $$ we spend on the Rockaways - and many other shoreline areas - would be better spent. Perhaps relocating residents? Yes SeaBrite NJ, I'm looking at you.

Jun. 18 2013 07:11 PM

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