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NY1 Exclusive: Crews Begin To Rebuild The Rockaways' Dunes

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A week after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced an ambitious flood-protection agenda for the city, the first stages of sand dunes are already rising along a stretch of the Rockaways. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following exclusive report.

A row of sand bags may be what separates flood-weary New Yorkers from yet another disaster.

"They're going to prevent more damage to their homes and businesses," said Liam Kavanagh of the city Parks Department.

The barrier of 7,590 bags, filled with more than 20,000 tons of sand, will stretch from Beach 55th to Beach 149th Streets.

Hurricane Sandy battered the area. Waves thought to be as high as 30 feet clawed holes into seafront houses and washed away the boardwalk in many places.

"Sandy was an enormous storm, beyond anything that we've seen before," Kavanagh said.

Worsening matters, in 2004, budget worries forced the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend sand replenishment in the area. The erosion reduced the beach's ability to withstand storms. Now, after Sandy, the sand is coming back.

Starting in July, the Army Corps of Engineers will be pumping literally thousands of tons of sand that it collects from out in the ocean, around and above the bags, creating dunes.

The barriers are temporary, while the Corps considers a longer-term solution. Officials say they will not stop surges as big as those brought in Sandy.

Storm protection also comes from a nearby concrete wall, being dug deeper than the previous one.

Some who experienced Sandy fear that even with that, the defense isn't strong enough.

Hank Iori of the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association said the area's homes remain in jeopardy. He wants not just one, but two layers of dunes, plus a boardwalk raised three feet higher than the 13 feet height it generally was before the storm.

"So if it has to climb through those three things, it will not make it," Iori said.

Officials say they have not decided the final height of the rebuilt boardwalk.

Double dunes are something Mayor Michael Bloomberg said should be studied, but so far calls for installation only in a Rockaway neighborhood hit even harder -- Breezy Point.

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