By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio returned to Rockaway last Friday for the first time since he was booed for his late arrival at the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on the peninsula. He was joined by an array of elected officials for the reopening of a new stretch of boardwalk which runs from Beach 87th Street to Beach 97th Street, 2 1/2 years after the previous boardwalk was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
A second new section, from Beach 97th Street to Beach 107th Street, is scheduled to open on July 4, with the entire 4.7-mile length is expected to be reconnected with intact sections of the old boardwalk in time for Memorial Day 2016. The boardwalk will be entirely completed as new construction by Memorial Day 2017.
“It is a particularly good day for the people of Rockaway,” de Blasio said. “After so much struggle, after so much fight, after so much fortitude (from) the people of the communities that make up this peninsula, (there is) real progress before our very eyes coming back stronger than ever after Sandy.”
Officials say the steel-reinforced concrete boardwalk will rival the best in the world in terms of resiliency to extreme weather and the effects of climate change, featuring multiple layers of protection that include sand retaining walls and planted dunes, more resilient planking, coated steel support piles, plant-stabilized berms, and elevation to three feet above the 100-year flood plain.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has designated $480 million for the entire project.
“Any funds that remain once work is complete will stay here to make the community even stronger, safer and more resilient,” de Blasio said.
Borough President Melinda Katz commended the administration’s commitment, saying “applying the full amount of funding to resiliency projects will bring much-needed relief to those who continue to call the peninsula home.”
Some 4 million people visited the Rockaways last year, and while that was 25 percent better than in 2013, it was still half the number of beachgoers Rockaway had in 2012 before Sandy tore through the peninsula.
“The devastation that occurred during Hurricane Sandy is still very much felt in the Rockaways,” city Development Corp. President Kyle Kimball said. “The increased investment and focus to this area’s resiliency and enrichment represents the city’s commitment to ensuring a successful future for this community, and we look forward to continuing to rebuild and increase opportunities for the people right here in the Rockaways.”
Much of the new boardwalk’s appearance—including its sand-colored decking, brightly colored ramps and designated bike lanes—was decided on during a series of collaborative design sessions with Rockaway residents. The new boardwalk is stronger than the old wood one and will act as a bulwark against flooding from storm surges, officials said.
“We learned a lot of very tough lessons after Sandy,” de Blasio said. “One of the most profound lessons is whatever we do from this point on, we have to plan for that unthinkable storm. We have to be ready for the unexpected. This boardwalk was built with that in mind. This is the first step of a bigger effort.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr