Rockaway Beach councilwoman calls out government agencies for backtracking on beach access

Rockaway Beach
Councilwoman Joann Ariola met with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager Dan Falt to see if a compromise on beach access could be found during ongoing coastal resilience construction. (Photo courtesy of Ariola’s office)

Rockaway Beach Councilwoman Joann Ariola is calling out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for “backtracking” on a plan to keep beaches open while it continues its necessary coastal resilience construction project this summer.

Ariola leveled her accusation after NYC Parks and the USACE issued a joint statement Tuesday on their summer 2022 operational plan that prohibits access to beachgoers from Beach 92nd Street to Beach 95th Street and from Beach 109th Street to Beach 111th Street from Memorial Day weekend until July 15. Beach 112th Street will be closed between July and September.

The USAC has been implementing a $336 million infrastructure project consisting of a reinforced dune system designed to block storm surges and new and extended tapered groins, jetty-like structures extending out into the ocean intended to trap sand and reduce beach erosion and help maintain a critical buffer between the Atlantic Ocean and beachfront communities.

“The critical resiliency work being done in the Rockaways will protect the local residents in the surrounding community from the increasing impacts of the severe storms we experience in New York City: it will slow down erosion caused by climate change, and ultimately expand beach access for decades to come,” the joint statement said. “The impact of the work that the Army Corps has already done in the Beach 30s is a prime example of how successful these groins are in keeping the sand in place. It has allowed us to bring swimming back to an area that has not been opened in years.”

Rockaway Beach

Ariola agrees the work on groin construction is crucial to mitigate coastal erosion but accused the USACE of “backtracking on their former statements,” and supporting NYC Parks’ plan to prohibit swimming along large stretches of Rockaway Beach.

“After weeks of playing the blame game, I’m not surprised that these government agencies agreed on a decision that does not support our residents, business owners, tourists or economy,” Ariola said. “We’ve worked hard to make sure that the Parks Department will suspend rent collection for the boardwalk concessionaires from Memorial Day through July, but this is still not enough.”

The operational plan for Rockaway Beach, which can be found on an NYC Parks dedicated webpage, clearly states that “all beach concessions will remain open for the summer at the discretion of the concessionaire.”

NYC Parks and the USACE also make clear that more than 60 blocks of beaches will remain open to visitors seven days a week beginning Memorial Day weekend and will remain open for the entire summer.

“We look forward to millions of New Yorkers flocking to these beaches this summer to enjoy the sun, sand and the great food that Rockaway has to offer,” the agencies said.

Ariola was not placated by the joint statement.

“We will continue to push for full beach access this summer, and closely monitor the project’s timeline to ensure the engineers meet the construction deadline of July 15 so that Rockaway’s shoreline can continue to serve as an attraction for all New Yorkers during the hottest months of the year,” Ariola said. “Being able to cool off in the water is the biggest draw for many beachgoers, and prohibiting this will no doubt be detrimental to those businesses who rely on tourist dollars to sustain themselves.”