The Atlantic Cities:
“How to Protect the Rockaways From Another Sandy
Sarah Goodyear. March 12, 2013
Just over four months after Superstorm Sandy swamped the Rockaway peninsula in New York City, leaving it battered and bewildered, I am standing where the boardwalk used to be with Dan Brown, a filmmaker, and John Cori, an electrician. Both are local guys who grew up in this remote part of Queens. Both are trying to figure out how to save this beach, and this neighborhood.
Today, there is a cold wind blowing in from the Atlantic, gusting up to 50 miles an hour. Waves of 8 to 14 feet are predicted. The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood warning. Facing into the stiff breeze is a little like being blasted with a cold hairdryer that is blowing sand.
We retreat for protection between concrete stanchions, former supports for the boardwalk where every day last summer thousands of New Yorkers walked, rode bikes, toted surfboards, ate ice cream, and washed the sand out from between their toes. That seems a long time ago now.
This is a relatively mild nor’easter, but here at Beach 86th Street the storm is driving the waves well up onto what is left of the beach, collapsing the chain-link fence that the city’s Parks Department has erected to secure the ruined concession stands. As the three of us talk about what we’re seeing, shouting to be heard over the surf and wind, we sometimes have to clamber up onto the crumbling cliff of sand next to the bare stanchions to avoid getting caught by the frothing water.
John Cori knows this beach as well as anyone. He grew up here. Over the course of his lifetime, he has watched the waves go in and out and the level of the sand rise and fall. “In the 70s, when I was a kid, we used to play under here,” he says. “There was probably 10 to 15 feet less of sand here. We used to swing out into the waves on a rope and ride the surf back into the boardwalk.”
The sand was replenished at times, but as for all beaches in the area, erosion is a constant problem. As Maura O’Connor wrote in an extensive article about the post-Sandy Rockaways last November in the New York World, Cori has been working for years to get anyone in power to listen to what he had to say about the Rockaways’ vulnerability to storm surges. Studies were commissioned and some sand was moved in, but a comprehensive response never materialized.”
Photo: Sarah Goodyear