By Gabriel Rom

The third section of new construction for the Rockaway Beach boardwalk has opened to the public significantly ahead of schedule, the city Parks Department announced last week. Residents and visitors can now stroll along 1.5 miles of rebuilt boardwalk from Beach 73rd Street to Beach 107th Street.

The completed phase brings the boardwalk one step closer to being entirely repaired in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed large portions of the old wooden promenade. Parks has divided the project into five phases and intends to complete the entire replacement of the boardwalk by Memorial Day 2017. However, Meghan Lalor, spokeswoman for Parks, said the boardwalk will be fully contiguous by Memorial Day 2016, with intact sections of the old boardwalk and new sections linked together.

“As we celebrate the reopening of another stretch of boardwalk at Rockaway Beach, we also celebrate a milestone for New Yorkers everywhere who were devastated by Sandy,” said state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach).

The historic boardwalk, and much of the surrounding community, were ravaged when Sandy tore through the peninsula on Oct. 29, 2012. The Federal Emergency Management Agency designated $480 million for boardwalk reconstruction, nearly a million square feet of which had been destroyed by Sandy and tossed in chunks across the sand.

From the sleek low-seating benches to the ambulance trailers that look like spaceships, the new boardwalk has a highly modern aesthetic.

The steel reinforced concrete deck, installed in July, spans Beach 97th Street to Beach 107th Street, joining up with the first stretch of opened boardwalk to give residents and visitors one continuous mile of newly constructed boardwalk.

Ed Hynes, 82, from Breezy Point, has been coming to the boardwalk since the 1950s, and he said that after decades of neglect, this is the best it has ever looked.

“The city never did nothing for this whole damn place until the storm. But now?” he said, surveying the sleek, new one-mile stretch of continuous boardwalk. “This is unbelievable, it’s really just unbelievable.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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