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Queens Chronicle

Spring Guide 2013: Life's a beach Shoreline comes back

Queens oceanfront open for business five months after Hurricane Sandy

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Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 4:00 am

After a long winter indoors, it’s fairly common that a bad case of cabin fever will set in.

But never fear, no matter where you are in Queens, you’re not too far from the shore. And the communities on the oceanfront want everyone to know that they are back in business — or at least close to it — after the devastating blow they took from Hurricane Sandy.

The recovery has been steady and much of the shore is open for those looking to enjoy the outdoors this spring.

In the hurricane relief aid bill passed in January, $160 million was allocated for storm recovery at Gateway National Recreation Area, according to a brochure of spring events released by the National Park Service last month. 

“We have an aggressive plan in place in order to reopen most areas of the park by Memorial Day weekend,” the brochure says. 

A slew of events are planned through springtime at Gateway National Recreation Area, especially at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel, which was badly affected by Sandy. A section of the nature trail that loops around West Pond was washed out in the storm when Jamaica Bay breached into the pond. Though significant damage was done to that section of the trail and the bird habitat in the bay, the trails are passable and open and shorebirds, like the woodcock, can be seen in the park. 

The rest of the trail is still open to the public and popular shorebirds, such as egrets and woodcocks, are still zipping through the skies over Jamaica Bay. A number of spring birding and nature events are planned including a nature hike to watch horseshoe crabs lay their eggs at the beach on the south end of Broad Channel near the ball fields. It will be held on May 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

According to the NPS, other areas of the park, including Canarsie Pier and Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn, are also open, as is Charles Park in Howard Beach.

Sandy practically destroyed much of the city’s oceanfront, including much of the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, as well as homes and businesses on the peninsula and other shoreline communities.

Rockaway Beach took a catastrophic hit from Sandy. The storm surge eroded away much of the beach east of Arverne, leaving little to no beachfront. The boardwalk is almost completely gone and plans to rebuild it are still in the early stages.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowksi said at a meeting of the borough board in December that the plan is for parts of the beach to be open this summer, along with “boardwalk islands” — sections of the boardwalk rebuilt around the concrete concession buildings, which were relatively unaffected structurally by Sandy’s storm surge, while sections of the boardwalk that were not badly damaged have or will soon be reopened. In fact, the section of the boardwalk at Beach 59th Street is slated to host Rockaway’s Earth Day celebrations on May 4 from 12 to 4 p.m. 

As of April 1, crews are already pouring concrete for one of the boardwalk islands at Beach 85th Street and work was beginning on another island to be built at Beach 98th Street, where one of the larger concession buildings stands, which is also being renovated. 

Elsewhere in the Rockaways, the Parks Department is planning on having most of the beach open by Memorial Day. Only areas of Fort Tilden’s beach are expected to remain closed at least through the spring. 

Less than a block from the beach, the Museum of Modern Art PS 1 museum in Long Island City installed a white dome at Beach 95th Street and Shore Front Parkway, similar to the one at PS 1 except it has a translucent window overlooking the ocean. The dome will be hosting arts events through the middle of May, including screening of “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors,” a film by Rockaway-based director Sam Fleischner about a teenage austic boy who gets lost on the subway. That screening will be held Saturday, April 27 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The dome will also be the meeting point for the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance’s Rockspot Historical Bike Tour, which wil be held on Sunday, April 28 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Rockaway’s Earth Day celebration on Saturday, May 4 from 12 to 4 p.m.

As far as the future, a permanent solution for a new boardwalk is being looked into, with the possibility of the entire length rebuilt from concrete being tossed around as a possibility. 

The heavily eroded beachfront is also being restored with mountains of sand, sifted through in another location and then being poured back onto the beach. After the storm, much of the sand was washed into the residential streets of the Rockaways and the beach was eroded right up to the boardwalk pilings. 

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) says he expects a study to commence on how to better protect the shoreline from the catastrophic erosion caused by storms such as Sandy and also by recent nor’easters. Among the ideas being thrown around are the possibilities of building more jetties along the coast. The oceanfront east of Beach 90th Street was hit far less hard than the western part of the peninsula and some attributed that to the presence of rock jetties on that part of the beach.  

“Finally, the world sees what we’ve seen for so many years,” Goldfeder said.

For more information on events going on at the shore, including at Gateway National Recreation Area and at Rockaway Beach, visit nps.gov/gate and nycparks.gov.  

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