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FEMA allocates nearly $500 million to rebuild Rockaway boardwalk

Drawing courtesy of NYC Parks Dept.

The federal government has finally allocated nearly $500 million to repair the boardwalk in Rockaway, nearly a million square feet of which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

City and state officials are expected to sign off on the deal and give the go-ahead to the reconstruction effort.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Jerome Hatfield signed a $480 million “letter of understanding” last week. If all goes to plan, the boardwalk could be completed by Memorial Day 2017.

“It’s great news that FEMA has green-lighted this massive federal grant – financed by the Sandy relief bill that we all worked so hard to pass – for repairs and resiliency work to the Rockaway boardwalk,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “Federal sign-off is a significant step toward funding an accessible, pedestrian-friendly, and storm-resistant boardwalk, as well as related resiliency efforts to protect the many families who live nearby from future storms. We will make sure that nothing in this effort impacts other ongoing storm-mitigation measures to better protect the whole Rockaway Peninsula.”

The boardwalk stretches more than five miles along the peninsula’s oceanfront. Huge parts of the wood structure tore away and were driven inland during the storm, causing severe flooding and damage to the homes along the beach.

The boardwalk will not be constructed with the familiar Brazilian teak and walnut wood but of a more resilient concrete mixture. The structure will be elevated and a sand retaining wall will be installed along the north face of the boardwalk, according to FEMA’s letter of understanding.

Work on the new boardwalk has been underway since last year and sections will be opening as they are completed to ensure as much access for the community as possible. The boardwalk will be continuously open to the public by Memorial Day 2016 with the new sections linked together with one older section.

“While the (letter of understanding) has not been completely finalized yet, FEMA’s commitment marks an important step forward for the Rockaways and for a stronger, more resilient NYC,” a spokeswoman from the city Office of Management and Budget said. “The new boardwalk will rival the best in the world when it comes to withstanding the effects of climate change, while maintaining Rockaway tradition and providing the community with a key beach front amenity.

She added, “As a result of the de Blasio administration’s push, we’ll also be opening a continuous boardwalk next year, ahead of its full completion as brand new construction in 2017.”

The $480 million will go towards rebuilding the boardwalk, outfitting it with showers, electrical infrastructure, benches and stairs. The boardwalk will be made “more resilient” from floodwaters and rain with the use of sand barriers and other measures.

FEMA directed all the funds to the boardwalk. If any funds are left over after the boardwalk is completed, then there will be a conversations with the community on how the remaining money will be allocated to ensure better storm preparedness on the Peninsula.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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