Rockaway’s Beaches Slowly Disappearing?

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Come Out & Rally Against Beach Erosion

Imagine standing on the boardwalk, looking out to the ocean, and suddenly discovering that the beach has disappeared? According to the organizers of the rally, Walk for the Shore II, this bleak outcome could be a reality with erosion swiftly happening in Rockaway Beach, and other parts of the peninsula’s oceanfront.

Whether you are a homeowner, renter or Rockaway visitor, the Friends of Rockaway Beach (FORB), Belle Harbor Property Owners Association (BHPOA) and Neponsit Property Owners Association (NPOA) are imploring everyone to come out to the rally, Walk for the Shore II on Sunday, July 25 to demand that government agencies fast track beach erosion mitigations to save homes, business and beaches up and down the peninsula.

FORB co-organizer, John Cori, said, “If folks have to give up church, softball, volleyball — whatever — they need to come out, show their support and declare that the Mayor and the Governor need to do something now! If we don’t get some protection, not only will we lose our beach, but if another hurricane hits, not even half as powerful as Super Storm Sandy, our community would be propelled back to ground zero. If our government officials truly believe that sea levels are rising as reported everywhere, shouldn’t Rockaway, a coastal community, be a natural priority for natural disaster protection? Folks need to realize that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is not coming back. No one is going to again send $60B to the New York area for neighborhood recovery and restoration after a major storm. The ocean is coming, and if some mitigation with beach erosion is not done now, we are headed towards huge trouble.”

According to Eddy Pastore, also a FORB co-organizer and vigilant community activist, “More than 125,000 people live on the peninsula. Also if you think about it, nationwide, 25 percent of the U.S. population lives in coastal communities. Our city officials need to do something now before another tragedy hits. You have the government sending space ships to Mars, but they can’t protect our coastal communities from beach erosion? It is ridiculous. Every hurricane season, our beaches become more eroded, it’s almost as if our government officials are playing Russian Roulette with us.”

The Walk for the Shore II organizers are demanding government officials act now and secure Rockaway’s beachfronts with groins, sand replenishment and concrete/stone enforced dunes. “It’s like the game: rock, paper, scissors. Each mitigation measure could outdo the other, making sure that all avenues are exhausted to protect the peninsula from devastating storm surges,” Cori said.

BHPOA President Hank Iori protested, “The forecast for hurricanes show significant activity this year and into the future, just as the Rockaway peninsula is again becoming a destination for New Yorkers and visitors. We have worked hard to rebuild our community and businesses to thrive with the influx of visitors. The city, state and federal government must come together now to protect Rockaway!”

“The Army Corp of Engineers has disappeared after providing us with a permanent protection plan and asking our opinions”, Amanda Agoglia, president of NPOA, said. “The Parks Department told us just a few days ago on June 15 that engineering studies won’t start until 2020 or later.”

At the June 15 City Council hearing on erosion of NYC’s beaches, Rockaway’s District 32 Councilman Eric Ulrich was vehement about the neglect of Rockaway. “I represent the district that perhaps was the most severely affected by Hurricane Sandy and the coastal erosion that has happened since,” Ulrich said. For the past year, I have not heard from anybody at City Hall or the Mayor’s office. I have not heard from anybody, other than my friends in the Parks Department like First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, and Queens Borough Commissioner Dottie Lewandowski about what the Mayor’s Office plans to do to combat the fact that my district is now more at risk today than prior to Hurricane Sandy.

“When Mayor de Blasio comes to Queens, as he has done in the Bronx and Staten Island, he better bring a few cubic yards of sand with him, and plans to reform BIB, because when he comes to Rockaway, he will not be welcomed. The ocean is eating up the sand and the beach in my district, and many homeowners are still not back in their homes, which due to the beach erosion are now at more risk today, than the day before Hurricane Sandy. I haven’t heard a damn thing from anybody in City Hall about what they are going to do to speed up sand replenishment, rock jetties, groins or some long-term measure to curtail the erosion that is happening. I believe that they are allowing my district to disappear.

“If I was to grade the City’s response to beach erosion and Hurricane Sandy recovery, it would be F, zero, terrible job, absolutely disgraceful. When will this 90-day study be completed? What is taking you 90 days would take me 90 minutes. I’ll personally take you to Rockaway to see for yourself. When are the results of this study going to be made available to the public and local officials?" Ulrich asked.

Senator Charles Schumer has also been putting on the pressure. “The Army Corps should begin constructing projects that had consensus long ago – projects like jetties and groins that cover the length of Rockaway - while completing its study on Jamaica Bay,” Senator Schumer said. “There’s no reason to leave Rockaway vulnerable when federal funds are available now for measures that can provide protection during future storms. I urge the Corps to release a schedule for the completion of the Jamaica Bay Rockaway Reformulation Study, and move forward with any projects that are ready-to-go.  In the meantime the Army Corps must provide temporary relief through placing additional sand on erosion hotspots.”

Iori said, “Rockaway residents, by attending this demonstration you will see the vulnerability of the Peninsula due to storms, and the impact of the beach erosion. You will have the opportunity to engage, see and hear the urgency for protection and resiliency.” 

Walk for the Shore II rally will be this Sunday, June 25, 9 a.m. on Beach 87th Street, hosted by the FORB and at 10:30 AM on Beach 140th Street, hosted by the BHPOA and the NPOA. Prior to the walk, there will be a talk on Rockaway’s Eroding Beaches. Cori and Pastore will be discussing the issue at the Rockaway YMCA on Thursday, June 22 at 7 p.m.

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