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Work To Replenish Sand In Rockaways Underway

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Many Rockaway Beaches are still a far cry from what they looked like before Hurricane Sandy, but work is underway to try to make them better than they were before. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

With the 97th Street beach just a block away from her house, Melisa Ritchie wanted to catch some rays before heading to work, but a nearby park bench will have to do. The beach is closed while work is being done to replenish the sand Hurricane Sandy washed away.

For her, the construction is an inconvenient but welcoming sight.

"I'm happy but I wish I could be down there," she said. "Definitely good to see, but I wish there was some way for me to get down onto the beach."

Work is underway to replenish the sand from Beach 89th Street to Beach 149th Street in phase 1 of the project, and Beach 19th to 149th in the second phase. The corps is pushing to have it done by Memorial Day weekend.

"This is good, and quite frankly, the beach will bigger than most people remember when it's done," said Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14.

Workers are replacing more than 3 million cubic yards of sand. They're dredging off shore and laying three miles of pipeline to pump the sand onto the beaches. There will be rolling closures as a result, and work will continue through the winter.

"That's going to be more sand than I think Rockaways has seen since about 1970," said Col. Paul E. Owen, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Phase 3 of the project will look at ways to better protect the peninsula. Dunes, jetties, sea walls and floodgates are some of the ideas being talked about.

Many residents like those options, but not the current use of trap bags to help protect Rockaway from storm surges. Some see it as a short-term solution.

"The president of the trap bag company spoke at one of the local civic meetings and said that the trap bags would last anywhere from five to seven years," said Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100 Precinct Community Council.

To that, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "What I've got to worry about is over the next five months, getting everything we can done and in place for whoever comes after us to continue on into next year. So I don't know how to answer your question for five to seven years from now, but you're going to have to make sure you keep the pressure up on government."

As for the current project, most of the residents and local leaders NY1 spoke with seemed happy with the progress so far.

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