It’s been nearly seven months since Hurricane Sandy barreled through the Rockaways, devastating the peninsula, badly eroding the beach and leaving residents vulnerable to the raging Atlantic Ocean.
And as another summer season — and with it another hurricane season — approaches, residents say the city hasn’t done much to help them.
Gathering under two canopies where the boardwalk once stood, dozens of Rockaway residents held signs that read “People before Tacos” and “Jetties- $50-$70 million, lost revenue from Sandy? Do the Math.”
Residents who gathered at the rally, organized by Friends of Rockaway Beach, called on the city to move faster in rebuilding the boardwalk and beach and constructing rock jetties, which some say lessened the devastation on the eastern end of the peninsula. Rockaway Beach has long rock jetties along the shore east of Beach 90th Street, but not west of it, where the majority of the devastation was.
“The city has rebuilt the concessions and the bathrooms,” Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) said. “That’s great, but what we need is better protection, not these spaceships.”
The “spaceships,” as Goldfeder and others termed them, are new raised pod-like structures at Beach 92nd and 87th streets that were constructed last week. Angelica Katz, Goldfeder’s chief of staff, said it was not clear what the new buildings will be used for, but published reports said they will be lifeguard stations.
The Parks Department did not respond to multiple requests for more information.
Most of the boardwalk that washed away in Sandy has not been rebuilt. The beaches are still badly eroded and Goldfeder said the Army Corps of Engineers is not scheduled to replace much of the beachfront that was destroyed until mid-June.
Nevertheless, the city plans to open the beaches this Friday.
Under the makeshift canopies, residents raised a banner, which had been signed by dozens of people, among them, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a candidate for borough president, who lent this support to the fight.
Eddy Pastore, one of the founders of Friends of Rockaway Beach, said Mayor Bloomberg has left the Rockaways behind.
“We are tired of being afterthoughts,” he said to a chorus of cheers. “It’s almost hurricane season and we’re still not protected.”
Other residents also took the opportunity to criticize the mayor, and the city government as well.
“Mayor Bloomberg says he is a businessman,” said one Belle Harbor resident who identified himself only as Mark. “Is this how he would run a business? I don’t think so.”
Some Rockaway natives were more optimistic, not about help from the city, but for others who made a place in the community before the storm.
“The hipsters will fix the Rockaways before the city ever does,” one resident blurted out during the rally.