By Sadef Ali Kully
Dozens of Rockaway residents marched to the beach last week to mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. It was part of a memorial event at the Rockaway YMCA commemorating lost loved ones and neighbors as well as survivors.
The events included all-day workshops with representative from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on disaster financial relief and the state’s Empire State Development Corporation on opportunities for businesses owned by minorities and women.
The workshops and memorial event were sponsored by Rockaway resident state Sen. James Sanders (D-Rockaway), Borough President Melinda Katz, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton).
After 2 p.m., residents walked down Beach 73 Street to the boardwalk with Sanders, who recalled the moments before the storm began to intensify. “This was when it started getting worse,” he said.
“The dramatic thing was when I saw the boardwalk—it was gone,” Sanders said to the crowd.
He asked who had lost neighbors or loved ones and a few raised their arms, then he asked how many had spent thousands to rebuild and all of them raised their hands.
“The Rockaways are more together than ever—Sandy really brought us together,” Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said.
Gaska said the Rockaway community has always been a community that rallies during difficult times.
“When the Rockaways get together, we score victory. We should not forget and encourage everyone,” he said.
Around 4 p.m., Sanders then walked to the beach with the community.
“This was when the winds really started to pick up. By 6 p.m. we lost power and that’s when everything got real,” he said. “Everything was down for the count.”
Federal Emergency Management Agency director of the Sandy Recovery office in Forest Hills, John Covell said the repairs of the boardwalk cost an estimated $480 million in federal and state grants.
“The boardwalk sustained significant storm damage—this new boardwalk is much, much more resilient,” he said.
The memorial ended back on the boardwalk with a prayer led by Sanders. The prayer spoke to the community, reflecting the obstacles they had overcome, those who had come together in a time of need and peace for those who had lost their lives during Hurricane Sandy.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull