One year ago, an all-star team of public officials clambered up onto Rockaway’s fancy new boardwalk and patted themselves on the back for building a fancy jewel along the beach that had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
That day, their backs were to the ocean and to the anorexic sliver of sand that separated the boardwalk from the sea. Although sand had been pumped back onto the beach following the 2012 storm surge that flooded the Rockaways, the area had badly eroded after several years of winter storms. At the time, I rang a warning bell in a column that celebrated the boardwalk but noted that the sand is the only thing protecting the boardwalk and the rest of the peninsula from a surging ocean in a storm.
A year later, so much sand has washed away that the busiest half-mile stretch of the beach will be closed for the entire summer. It’s a typically-busy portion of the beach that abuts the only public parking lot in the Rockaways and the largest concession stand on the peninsula. There will be thousands of parents this summer who will have to explain to their children why they have to walk and walk before they can get into the water.
Beyond creating an inconvenience for summer visitors, the erosion of the beach calls into question whether the federal, state, and local governments are really committed to protecting a gorgeous neighborhood that was badly hammered by a hurricane just six years ago.
A short-term solution would be a bulldozer and several tons of sand. A long-term fix would involve building more rock jetties which are keeping other sections of the beach largely in place.
Let’s not wait for a hurricane to get a name and start bearing down on the city before we start worrying. Let’s get stronger – before there’s a storm.