Photo Courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver survey the Rockaway Beach surf from the boardwalk.
By Michael V. Cusenza
The City and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have reached an agreement to use dredged sand to re-nourish and restore Rockaway Beach between Beach 92nd and Beach 103rd streets, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and several other elected leaders announced on Monday.
According to officials, USACE New York District has awarded a contract for $10.7M to Weeks Marine of Cranford, N.J., to perform needed maintenance dredging of the East Rockaway Inlet Federal Navigation Channel. The City Department of Parks & Recreation is contributing $2.7M to pump the sand two and a half miles farther west in order to avoid potential environmental impacts. The work will restore and ensure safe passage for both commercial and recreational vessel traffic through the inlet, the administration confirmed on Monday. USACE is expected to remove approximately, 300,000 cubic yards of sand from the inlet and place it between Beach 92nd and Beach 103rd streets to replace lost sand due to heavy erosion after last March’s back-to-back nor’easters. Maintenance dredging of East Rockaway Inlet is expected to begin this spring.
The plan also calls for an increased beach berm with 1.6 million cubic yards of sand for initial placement, the extension of five groins already in place, and the construction of 13 new groins—all designed to help reduce the risk from future storms and provide additional resiliency for the residents of the coastal community.
The re-nourishment/restoration pact comes nine months after the City suddenly announced plans to shutter 12 blocks of Rockaway Beach (between Beach 91st and Beach 102nd streets) indefinitely due to erosion. The administration made the abrupt notification just three days before Memorial Day Weekend—the unofficial start of summer in the city, the crucial season for Rockaway small business owners as The World’s Borough’s beach becomes a top tourist destination.
“It drives the economy of the peninsula,” Katz noted.
Local entrepreneurs were devastated by the hasty closure. Area elected officials blasted the de Blasio administration.
“Thank you @NYCParks for once again screwing my constituents,” City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) fumed in a tweet.
On Monday, Ulrich said he was “pleased” that de Blasio “heeded our call” for more sand on the popular beach.
“While I am relieved the City is taking these important steps to protect our coastal communities, other areas of the beach remain vulnerable,” Ulrich added. “The City must continuously replenish sand throughout the Rockaway Peninsula while we wait for the USACE resiliency projects to begin.”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) said, “The replenishment will serve as temporary relief for the years-long erosion plaguing our beaches. This is a positive first step towards the complete re-nourishment and in order to fully protect our community we need permanent measures as soon as possible.”
Depending on when dredging work commences and the severity of spring storms, the project should allow for the reopening of the Beach 92nd to Beach 103rd stretch of Rockaway Beach this coming summer, according to City officials.