A demolished boardwalk. Contents of homes piled in the street. Cars tossed in all directions. Subway tracks washed out. Nine fatalities. More than 100 homes destroyed by fire. And a severely eroded coastline.
Few places were hit harder by Hurricane Sandy than the Rockaways in Queens, N.Y., a narrow, densely populated peninsula off Long Island’s south shore with 115,000+ residents. But changes are afoot: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, continue work on a $36.5 million coastline restoration project at Rockaway Beach placing nearly 3.5 million cubic yards of sand, restoring the beach that suffered extensive erosion from Sandy in October 2012.
“We are happy to repair and restore Rockaway Beach with this sand,” said project manager Dan Falt. “We are also working on the longer-term solution for reducing coastal-storm risk for Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay.”
CITY AND STATE ASSIST
Sand fill is creating a new, wide berm resulting in a fortified beach better able to absorb impact from high tides and waves during major storms, reducing the risk of flooding and inundation to homes and communities. In addition, NYC Parks and Recreation and the NYC Economic Development Corporation are adding resiliency to the project by providing funds for the Corps of Engineers to increase the height of the berm. Parks and Recreation will also plant beach grass to help hold sand in place and, with NYCEDC, are now constructing a concrete boardwalk replacing the wooden structure destroyed by Sandy. It is expected to be complete in 2017.
A MILES-LONG PROJECT
The project area stretches nearly six miles from Beach 19th ‒ Beach 149th Street. Sand placement for the latest contract began in April 2014 and will continue over the summer with expected completion this fall. The first contract, completed fall 2013, placed nearly 500,000 cubic yards of sand from Beach 89th ‒ Beach 149th Street, where erosion was most severe (that area will also receive additional sand from this project). The work is being carried out by Weeks Marine of Cransford, N.J., pumping sand from an offshore borrow area. In addition, the Corps is now conducting a re-evaluation study to examine potential longer-term solutions to mitigate erosion and flooding along the entire peninsula as well as Jamaica Bay.
The work is fully funded through the Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies Act (PL 84-99) authorizing the Corps of Engineers to restore previously constructed projects after a major storm like Sandy to pre-storm conditions, and the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (PL113-2), permitting the Corps to restore projects to their original design. This allows for the placement of significantly more sand, resulting in a wider beach that ─ in some areas ─ hasn’t been seen for decades. This is welcome news for residents that have ─ and still are ─ experiencing hardships from Sandy.
REPAIRING A STORIED BEACH
While coastal flood risk reduction is the priority, the Corps of Engineers is keenly aware of Rockaway Beach’s recreational, economic and historic value to the Rockaways as a whole ─ millions have made it their summer recreation area of choice for decades. In summer 2013, despite less-than-ideal conditions, more than three million people flocked to Rockaway Beach, one of the largest urban beaches in the U.S.
During construction, every effort is being made to minimize impact on recreation while ensuring public safety. Working closely with NYC Parks and Recreation which holds jurisdiction over beach closings throughout New York City, only 1,000-foot sections of beach will be closed at any one time. After an area is complete, it is re-opened to the public and work moves to the next section (each section takes approximately 7-10 days to complete). The last major beach replenishment in the Rockaways was in 2004; the Army Corps of Engineers has done smaller replenishments since then.
PART OF LARGER INITIATIVE
The work at Rockaway Beach is part of an ambitious initiative restoring coastal-storm risk reduction projects throughout the Northeast impacted by Sandy. In all, 27 million cubic yards of sand will be placed, eight million of that for projects in New York State, including Coney Island and the south shore of Long Island.