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All photos: QNS/Vic Vaiana
All photos: QNS/Vic Vaiana

Rockaway Beach kicked off its swim season this past Friday, May 27. Despite the sweltering heat, members of The Rockaways community as well as local government officials convened at 94th Street Plaza to celebrate the occasion. The event also included a performance by the dance team from Waterside Children’s Studio.

Borough President Melinda Katz spoke at the event, joined by Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver and officials representing the Rockaways in local government, including Senator Joe Addabbo, Councilman Eric Ulrich, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilman Donovan Richards and Senator James Sanders. The officials highlighted the neighborhood’s progress in the years since Superstorm Sandy destroyed much of the boardwalk and beachfront property.

The ceremony also marked the official completion of the boardwalk from Beach 19th Street to Beach 109th Street, with the final stretch to Beach 126th Street due to open in July. President Katz said she hoped construction might end by July 4, adding that “a Queens girl can dream.” Officials also touted the Citywide Ferry system set to begin shuttling residents next year.

Many small businesses that shuttered in Sandy’s aftermath have reopened; a diverse group of concessions currently serve the beach, including La Cevicheria, Uma’s, Caracas Rockaway and Breezy’s BBQ. Members of the local community continue to rebuild their homes. Councilman Ulrich emphasized that despite the progress that has been made, many families have not yet fully recovered from the devastation and promised to ensure that insurance companies properly compensate residents.

Officials also stressed public safety. Senator James Sanders reminded locals of the “drop-off” point on the beach’s sandbar, advising them to tell their friends from outside the neighborhood about the hazard. Sen. Sanders also hopes for an extension of lifeguard hours past 6 p.m. Parks Department Officials were careful to note the dangers of swimming while lifeguards were off-duty — an important warning after a teenager tragically drowned while swimming with friends at the beach earlier this week.

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