No matter how many splinters they had pulled from their bare feet over the years, generations of Rockaway residents and visitors alike were heartbroken when the old wooden boardwalk was obliterated when Superstorm Sandy ravaged the peninsula nearly a decade ago.
Closed for more than a decade, Sunset Cove Park was restored and reopened in 2019 with a salt marsh and maritime upland, and on Wednesday, July 13, city officials joined Queens elected leaders and community members to break ground on the $4.2 million second phase of the project. The new eight-foot-wide boardwalk will lead to a covered outdoor classroom where children will learn about the environment and the importance of protecting it.
“Thanks to its unique location, Sunset Cove is well positioned to tell the story of how Jamaica Bay’s wetlands perform critical functions that safeguard our environment,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “The kids that will walk this boardwalk and use this classroom will be able to learn about their surroundings in a way they couldn’t before, giving them a more thorough understanding of the environment and the threats posed to it. Hopefully, the lessons learned here will prompt our next generation of leaders to be more supportive of what needs to be done to protect the environment and our communities, which have been devastated time and time again by Sandy, Ida and other severe weather events that have been exacerbated by climate change.”
Sunset Cove Park was built on 4.5 acres of an old waterfront dumping ground.
“I am thrilled to break ground in the second phase of the Sunset Cove project, as we continue to revitalize a space that was for years inaccessible to the community,” NYC Parks Commissioner Susan Donoghue said. “This project strikes at the core of our work here at parks, at the intersection of green space expansion, environmental resilience and fun educational amenities for the youth in our communities — we look forward to unveiling the new boardwalk and outdoor classroom in the near future.”
The project was partially funded through a NY Rising community reconstruction grant from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR).
“This new boardwalk and outdoor classroom at Sunset Cove will restore ecological habitat, enhance resiliency, and build the next generation of environmental leaders,” GOSR Executive Director Katie Brennan said. “GOSR is proud to help advance this project through our community-driven grassroots planning process and we thank NYC Parks for their partnership.”
Phase one of the project restored the 4.5 acres of salt marsh and seven acres of maritime upland in the park to improve habitat, enhance public waterfront access and reduce wave and wind impacts during storms.
“Projects like Sunset Cove demonstrate how we can reimagine our relationship to the land and water around us to meet our climate and resiliency goals,” Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Executive Director Kizzy Charles-Guzman said. “We are thrilled to see the inclusion of wetland and salt marsh restoration to reduce storm impacts, sustainable construction using reclaimed wood, and the opportunity for young New Yorkers to use this space to learn from the environment around them.”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato was born and raised in Rockaway Beach and has supported the Sunset Cove project since its inception.
“Sunset Cove will introduce a whole new generation to the splendor of Jamaica Bay,” Pheffer Amato said. “For years, my office has hosted monthly meetings to evaluate and provide updates on the Sunset Cove project. Organizing, budgeting and cutting through red tape to find answers to any problem was an enormous undertaking. These efforts will be visible through the beautiful boardwalk and provide a remarkable opportunity to our community and the city of New York.”