Photo Courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Councilman Ulrich called the closure announcement “an insult to the thousands of residents who have been tirelessly fighting for sand on our beaches.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
The City Parks Department this week was unequivocally excoriated by area elected officials for suddenly indicating that it plans to shutter 12 blocks of Rockaway Beach indefinitely and effective this weekend—Memorial Day Weekend, also known as the unofficial start of summer in the city—due to erosion.
The de Blasio administration noted that the area between Beach 91st and Beach 102nd streets, one of the more popular stretches of the borough tourist destination, will be closed for safety concerns.
“Thank you @NYCParks for once again screwing my constituents,” City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) fumed in a tweet early Tuesday morning.
Later in the day, Ulrich issued an equally strong statement.
“This is an insult to the thousands of residents who have been tirelessly fighting for sand on our beaches. It has been more than five years after Superstorm Sandy, and parts of the Rockaways are still recovering. It is a disgrace that the Parks Department would rather ignore the problem than work to address the needs of this community,” the councilman said. “My constituents cannot wait another three years for some sort of a remedy. Hurricane season is right around the corner and our coastal communities are still vulnerable. We need a solution now.”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) said “the City failed us.”
“We have been demanding sand and resiliency measures for our beaches for YEARS—and this is how the City reacts? By closing 12 blocks of the beach?” she added.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he “could not be more frustrated” by the news.
“The Army Corps of Engineers knew that this portion of the beach needed attention and should have acted years ago to remedy this situation,” Addabbo noted. “Now, the people and businesses of Rockaway that depend on the summer season will suffer because of their lack of action.”
The Hurricane Sandy Relief Act of 2013 provided the corps with over $5 billion in funding to protect the region’s most vulnerable areas, including fully funding the Rockaway Reformulation Study and construction of the Rockaway Beach coastal protection project. However, a year ago—four years after the law passed—Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica) blasted the Army for not delivering.
“It is simply unacceptable that a fully-funded project languish for so long, leaving Rockaway susceptible to erosion, storm surge and flooding,” the legislators wrote to the corps in June 2017.
On Monday, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that once again the people of Rockaway will be left holding the bag.
“The consequences of the City’s failure to act earlier will be disproportionately borne by the Rockaway community,” she noted.