NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Just as the summer season approaches, city officials say an 11-block section of Rockaway Beach in Queens will be closed due to safety concerns related to erosion.
The section of sand between Beach 91st Street and Beach 102nd Street will be closed to the public to maintain a protective dune that was put in place after Superstorm Sandy.
“That’s a whole big span of beach,” said resident Casey Butler.
“You can’t really have it open with this much room,” said resident Robert Butler. “Where are lifeguards going to set up?”
“It’s not unexpected,” said resident John Cori. “We’ve been talking about this and warning the city.”
Queens Park Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said severe storms were to blame.
“We were optimistic that we would be able to open the areas that we did last summer. Unfortunately in March and April, we had those really severe storms and we had much more erosion than we expected,” she said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to begin work on the reformulation project sometime next year, but residents say it’s just not soon enough.
“We know the issue. They’re closing the beaches, we need to get the federal government in,” Cori said. “We need to get the project started.”
Some locals want to know why the dune hasn’t been maintained to begin with.
“We don’t have no jetties or nothing out there to protect it from the storms and everything,” said Michael Vola. “They should’ve done a lot more sooner. They just don’t care.”
“Nothing happens in Rockaway. They really don’t have no one to speak for Rockaway. So everything here, even with the boardwalk and everything just got rebuilt two years ago, ” added Joan Vola. “When Coney Island was rebuilt, they had a fire, rebuilt it again. Rockaway – there’s no one to speak for it, so nothing gets done here.”
Many worry the lack of beach could mean a bust for local businesses.
“All these people have their whole livelihoods,” Butler said. “Some of these businesses are only seasonal.”
“The summer time is really make it or break it for us so if we have to have less beaches, there’s going to be a lot less people here and it’ll be a lot harder to make a go of it,” said business owner Robert Kaskel.
Some owners like Martin Tubridy said they’ve been planning a protest.
“Instead of opening this season, we’re going to have a funeral, because they’re burying us,” he said. “We’re going to have black umbrellas, black suits, because basically we’re going to the ground.”
The full boardwalk and the surfing area from Beach 88th Street to Beach 91st Street will remain open. A section of the beach in front of the concessions and bathrooms at 97th Street will also be open, but there will be no access to the water.
A statement from the Army Corps of Engineers read:
“The US Army Corps of Engineers is aware of the concerns of the citizens of Rockaway Beach and has been closely monitoring the well-known erosional hot spots in several locations. Since Hurricane Sandy, the Corps has done significant work on the beaches in Rockaway, placing 3.5 million cubic yards of sand to restore the beaches to conditions not seen since the project’s initial construction in the 1970’s. Furthermore, the beaches are designed for flood risk reduction to provide protection for the communities and performed well during the last storm season in the face of 4 nor’easters.
Recreational management for the New York City Beaches fall under the jurisdiction of the land owner, the City of New York. We are currently working on the Draft Final Report of the Reevaluation Report which will make recommendations to further address erosion, flood risk reduction, and other issues to further protect the citizens of Rockaway Beach from violent storm events and to reduce their flood risk. The report will be released this summer. Once the report is released a public comment window will be opened, subsequently the report will be sent to our higher headquarters for final approval. Pending final approval, the Corps expects work to begin at Rockaway Beach after the 2019 beach season. We look forward to working with our partners on the state and local level to continue to find solutions for the challenges that beachside communities like Rockaway face each year.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) chimed in on Twitter, saying “we need to see shovels in the ground to build jetties, replenish sand, reinforce the seawall and more – not signs saying beach closed!”
City officials also say there’s still roughly 4.5 miles of sand outside that area that will remain open for swimming.