By David Brand
Here’s some welcome news for Rockaway beachgoers — and businesses. Work is underway to restore an eroded stretch of Rockaway Beach scheduled to reopen in time for summer.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that New Jersey contractor Weeks Marine had begun moving work vessels, pipes and other heavy equipment to begin dredging off East Rockaway Inlet. The dredged sand will restore the closed section of Rockaway Beach between Beach 92nd Street and Beach 103rd Street.
“It’s happening. Equipment is on the move, and work is starting that will restore the previously closed stretch of Rockaway Beach in time for summer,” de Blasio said in a statement. “The summer wouldn’t be the same for the community and for families across the city without this work.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, chair of the Queens County Democrats, said the equipment was a “welcome sight” for the community.
“Last year’s nor’easters were devastating for Rockaway, not just for beachgoers, but the businesses who make their year’s income during the summer months,” Meeks said. “By restoring the sand and moving forward with final approvals for erosion controls and flood reductions, we are not just restoring Rockaway, we’re reinforcing it.”
De Blasio first announced an agreement between the city and federal government to replenish a strip of sand between Beach 92nd Street and Beach 103rd Street that the city abruptly closed days before beaches were scheduled to open last Memorial Day weekend.
As part of the plan, the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will use dredged sand to restore the beach, de Blasio said.
“Rockaway Beach defines summer in New York City,” de Blasio said in March. “Reopening this beach means a lot to this community and families all over the city. We’ve worked months with the Army Corps and our federal partners on a solution to get it done.”
The initial decision to close the beach last year prompted protests from local residents and business-owners whose livelihoods depend on summer traffic.
In June 2018, Steve Costello, the director of operations at The Lobster Joint, told the Eagle he was bitter — even after the city opened two blocks between Beach 96th Street and Beach 98th Street.
“We feel we were bamboozled,” Costello said at the time. “I already had contacts signed, expenses paid—and suddenly they’re telling me, ‘Oh, your beach is closed.’”
Though the businesses around the beach stayed open, the city’s announcement diverted many potential visitors to Coney Island and other area beaches.
NYC Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard told the Eagle in June 2018 that the City “considered every conceivable way to keep the beach open.”
“Ultimately it had to be closed for the safety of beachgoers,” Howard said.