Rockaway Beach is open and lifeguards are on duty, but beachgoers may notice work going on beyond the repair of the boardwalk and rebuilding of the shoreline.
Along the beach in Neponsit and Belle Harbor, metal pilings line the border between sand and concrete, coming right up to the property lines of beachfront homes — or in some cases where homes once stood.
The metal pilings are part of a new baffle wall — a protective barrier that existed before Sandy, but was destroyed in the storm — being constructed by the city Parks Department.
The new wall, part of a $140 million project to repair and protect the Rockaway Beach shoreline, lines the beach from Beach 126th to Beach 149th streets where there was previously no boardwalk and where dunes that existed before Sandy were destroyed by the storm.
The department said the new wall is bigger and stronger than the one it is replacing and is attached to 25-foot steel pilings that are being driven into the ground.
The temporary fencing put up by the Parks Department will be taken down once the wall is completed.
Work on repairing sections of the boardwalk and restoring parts of the shore will continue through the summer, even as the beach is open to the public.
Among the other projects Parks will undertake this summer are the placement of sand-filled geotextile mesh bags next to the existing boardwalk piers. The first phase of that work will be from Beach 108th to Beach 126th streets, where there has been significant beach loss. The second phase will be run from Beach 26th to Beach 108th streets later this summer.
Much of the boardwalk that was destroyed in Sandy has not been replaced and discussions are ongoing on whether to rebuild it as it was, or construct it out of concrete. Parts of the boardwalk around the new lifeguard stations and concession stands are either open or will be open this summer.
As far as the beach, the Army Corps of Engineers will be replacing sand this month along much of the beach that was eroded.
Rockaway civic leaders have been critical of the city’s response to Sandy, even holding a rally on May 19 calling for the city to hasten shoreline protection projects to defend the community against further devastation during future nor’easters or hurricanes.
John Cori, a member of Friends of Rockaway Beach, which has been calling for quicker construction of shore protection infrastructure, said the wall is helpful but not a panacea.
“That’s not going to withstand a Sandy,” he said. “If that was all that they’re going to do, they would have to go another five or 10 feet higher.”
Cori said Parks can only do so much for the shoreline before the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers would need to step in. He said the shore will not be fully protected until a larger beach, dunes and jetties are built.
“It’s a long and convoluted process,” Cori said, adding that he had a meeting with Parks on the issue. “This is the best Parks can do right now until they get the sand to build dunes and the sand will need to be placed on the beach by the Army Corps of Engineers, and they’re moving too slow on protection. I think the ultimate goal is to add a larger beach and jetties.”