Rockaway Demands Interim  City Protection Plan


Rockaway made it through a unique summer season with beach closures in some of the most popular areas, due to erosion, however the spontaneous decision at the start of the season threw visitors, residents and local business owners for a loop. With seven months until the start of the next beach season, many are hoping that a plan is put in effect to prevent another summer of beach closures. So in true Rockaway fashion, several residents took to City Hall for a rally to let Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City know that Rockaway won’t be forgotten, and that a plan needs to be put in place before the Army Corps of Engineers gets to work, and before summer 2019.

On Sunday, October 7, a group of residents, civic leaders, elected officials and others took a morning ferry into Manhattan to gather on the steps of City Hall, behind a sign made last year, saying “Mayor de Blasio, What is Your Plan?” Unfortunately, the sign is still relevant, as nothing has been done to protect the beach since it was announced in May that some of the beaches would be closed for the summer due to safety concerns as a result of erosion. The City has repeatedly pointed fingers at the Army Corps of Engineers to save the beach with their plan that won’t even begin to be implemented until late 2019 or early 2020. Yet Rockaway is pointing the finger back at the City in the hopes that something can be done in the interim.

“We’re here to let the mayor know that we need protection, we need some help. We need some help for recreation and we need to get things going well before the Army Corps' plan,” John Cori, who spearheaded the latest rally, said. “We cannot wait until 2020.”

The crowd was joined by State Senator Joe Addabbo, who urged de Blasio and other agencies to listen to the residents of Rockaway. “It’s roughly seven months before the next summer season, but it’s never too early to start fighting for our beaches. We cannot sit back and wait for the Army Corps of Engineers. The mayor, the Army Corps and all the other agencies have to listen to the local residents,” Addabbo said.

Jeremy Jones, vice president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association (RBCA), said that Rockaway residents are trying to work with the mayor and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, and urged them to work with Rockaway. “We want to work with the Parks Department to satisfy the needs of our residents and visitors. And we’re demanding that you work with us as well. We love our beach, we want to make it better for everyone that lives here and visits, and that’s our main goal.”

RBCA secretary Clare Hilger reiterated the need for a plan for next summer. “We want to work with the Parks Department to have a plan. They’ve told us there is no plan for next summer. They’re leaving it all to the Army Corps and we want the city to become active in this and not leave it to the Army Corps alone,” Hilger said. “We all need to work on this, not let it go by until it’s the end of May and we get another surprise announcement that hurts businesses and hurts residents. We have time to plan, so lets plan.”

Noreen Ellis, president of the Rockaway Civic Association, said that Rockaway’s beach should be treated like any other NYC park. “If in Central Park, a sinkhole appeared, would they close around it and not do anything? No. Rockaway beaches bring in just as much tourism as Central Park, so we ask that they treat us no different than any other economic engine park in this city. Address the needs now and treat us with respect and open the dialogue now. Not in March when it’s too late. Now’s the time to start implementing it for the 2019 season.”

Alan Zwirn of Belle Harbor, longtime activist Joe Hartigan and Christine Puma also spoke, urging City leaders to work together so that something can be done quickly for the sake of Rockaway’s safety.