Rockaways celebrate St. Pat’s Day

By Rich Bockmann

With plans on the horizon to restore the Rockaways’ beaches, the peninsula celebrated its durability and heritage over the weekend with the 39th Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

“It is amazing how strong Rockaways has been for the entire borough, and I want to thank you for that strength, that resiliency,” Borough President Melinda Katz, with the beach to her back, told a green-clad crowd that gathered along Shore Front Parkway on a mild afternoon Saturday.

“We’re out here celebrating Irish pride, but we’re also out here celebrating the strength that we know we have deep down inside and the Rockaways proves every single day. Thank you for your commitment.”

More than a year ago, and two St. Patrick’s Day parades after Superstorm Sandy battered the Rockaways in 2012, there is still much to do in the way of recovery on the peninsula.

Construction has yet to begin for the nearly 20,000 homeowners who applied to the city’s Build it Back program for home repairs, according to a report released last week, and for the most part the boardwalk remains little more than a skeleton of concrete supports that weathered the storm.

But plans are in the works to begin next month dredging 2.9 million cubic yards of sand offshore to elevate the stretch between Beach 19th and Beach 149th streets up to 14 feet above sea level.

Parade-goers said it was nice to enjoy the festivities.

“It’s great. It’s always a lot of fun,” said Andrea Hurley, who was celebrating along with her husband, Jim. “It was a terrible thing that happened.”

The procession brought out bagpipers, bands and fire trucks. Clad in green, city Sanitation Department workers received a showering of applause.

The parade chairman praised those who stood up for labor rights and invited to the stage Noel Kilkenny, the Irish consulate general for New York, who declared March St. Patrick’s Month. Kilkenny said he would be spending the time pushing for immigration reform.

“People think that immigration reform is an issue just for Hispanics,” he said. “It applies to the Asians and it applies to the Irish. We have 50,000 undocumented in this country, many in this city. We’re all here and we came here. Let’s make sure that those who are out there in the shadows, undocumented, let’s get them legalized.”

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who campaigned on the promise of creating a Sandy audit bureau, said there was still work to do to restore the peninsula.

“I just want to say we have to respect the people power of this community and the city has to do more — do more to make sure that we keep this community whole and I’m so proud to be here with all of you,” he said. “See you next year.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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