The City Parks Department said a new boardwalk at Rockaway Beach will not have a seawall, despite community efforts to push for more protection along the shoreline.
Plans for the new 4.7-mile $200 million stretch of boardwalk that was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy last year are moving quickly and city Parks Commissioner Veronica White has said the plan is to start construction by the end of the year.
But some are suggesting that a rush may not be the best thing for the Rockaways and costal protection should be included in a boardwalk project.
“I think she showed her misplaced priority to start the job before the mayor leaves office,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park). “My concern is that we get it right and not only have a boardwalk, but also have adequate protection for our families.”
Only sections of the boardwalk around concession stands have been rebuilt and sand-filled trap bags act as a makeshift seawall along the site of the old boardwalk, where the pilings still stand. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a massive beach restoration project that is due to be completed by next summer.
Goldfeder said the Parks Department would not include the seawall in its plans because it would cause the Army Corps of Engineers to lose its mandate to do shore protection work, that may include seawalls or even rock jetties in the future.
Zachary Feder, a spokesman for the Parks Department, confirmed that the new boardwalk will be concrete.
“It has proven to be more durable, cost effective and sustainable than any alternative,” he said in an email.
Concrete boardwalks have been built in some sections of the Jersey shore, such as Bradley Beach, and are common along beaches in California.
Sections of the old boardwalk were made of concrete and those survived the hurricane.
Feder added that the department is working with the city’s Economic Development Corp. to get a contractor for the job and pre-construction work is slated to begin by the end of the year.
But even as Parks Department officials held several meetings in the Rockaways to discuss the proposal, they were met with angry residents who had a lot to say about the plans, the agency and the city government itself.
“We don’t trust you. Why don’t we trust you? Because you lied to us,” Rockaway resident and activist Phil McManus said at a meeting last week in Rockaway.
Goldfeder said the ire in the Rockaways comes from a general mistrust for the city agency after the reconstruction of the boardwalk “islands” and installation of lifeguard shacks the community says was done without their input, and the lack of protection in the preliminary boardwalk plans.
But, he said, residents are looking to give input and be involved with the process to rebuild the boardwalk.
“People are engaged, and that’s a good thing,” Goldfeder said.