NYC Parks: Uptown Residents Will Be ‘Tremendously Inconvenienced’ with Beach Closures
By Kami-Leigh Agard
With Memorial Day Weekend just around the corner—signaling Rockaway’s feverish kickoff to the beach season—this past Tuesday, May 2, Rockaway Civic Association’s meeting at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club was brimming, standing room only, with locals demanding to get information about beach closures this summer. By the end of the meeting, there was still so much confusion—save the certainty, as expressed by NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Rockaway Administrator Eric Peterson—uptown Rockaway residents will be “tremendously inconvenienced.”
Before the rabble rousing about beach closures, NYPD 100th Precinct Neighborhood Community (NCO)-Sector C police officers updated residents about the Precinct’s summer beach detail.
“As part of the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau’s plan to protect residents and visitors coming to the beach, there will be cement blocks installed on the boardwalk to prevent any ramming or accidents with vehicles. This is a high priority especially with the electronic bicycles and motorcycles speeding on the boardwalk,” said P.O. Bryan Martini.
Also, the officers re-enforced that there will be increased police presence on the boardwalk to circumvent bikes, scooters and other electronic vehicles speeding down the boardwalk. However, it was mentioned that there is no speeding limit, though there are bike restrictions on the boardwalk. Regarding summer parking restrictions, as customary, illegally parked cars uptown will be issued summonses.
Now for the beach closures. This is where it became murky as residents pummeled NYC Parks Administrator Eric Peterson with questions.
One resident stated, “We have to plan this summer, and we have no idea what to expect. We have family and friends coming down to Rockaway to visit, and we don’t know if our beach will be accessible. We are tax-paying NYC residents and have no idea what’s going on.”
Peterson responded, “Unfortunately, you’ll be tremendously inconvenienced this summer. Tremendously inconvenienced.”
Harold Paez, president of the Rockaway Civic Association, emphasized that though residents feel inconvenienced, the Atlantic Shorefront Resiliency Project being conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is necessary.
Paez said, “All of the work USACE is doing is necessary for Rockaway. Let’s understand that the basis of this whole project is the resiliency of our shoreline and our homes being protected. It’s going to be an inconvenience, and the purpose of these meetings is to get information out to everyone.
The goal of the USACE’s ongoing Atlantic Shorefront Resiliency Project is to strengthen Rockaway’s shoreline by constructing 19 stone groin structures to stabilize and replenish the beach. This work will keep sand in place and eventually expand beach access. The USACE’s work has already brought back swimming to the Beach 30s area, which has not been open in years. This work is the result of more than ten years of partnership between NYC Parks, USACE, and the Rockaway community. Since the project began in 2020, the Army Corps has held monthly meetings with stakeholders to update the community on the project, and NYC Parks and USACE staff members have regularly attended local civic association meetings, Community Board 14, and communicated with concerned individual stakeholders.
So, exactly what streets’ beach access will be closed?
According to Peterson, east of Beach 116th Street will be open to all beachgoers. Going west, to Beach 131st, there will be construction Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The work zone on either side of the groins will be cordoned off due to piles of stone, plus constructions trucks running back and forth. As for the weekends, swimming will not be allowed. However, people can go in the water, ankle deep only.
As for the Neponsit area, Peterson said, “Between Beach 147th and Beach 149th, USACE is finishing up with work on the dunes, and I’m hoping by early summer, we’ll be able to have at least one or two blocks open for swimming. However, note, the lower Beach 140s to Beach 139th will not be open due to heavy construction, and the work will be progressing eastward over the course of the summer.”
Also, at the meeting was Councilwoman Joann Ariola’s Chief of Staff Phyllis Inserillo. She said, “If anyone has any questions or concerns, please reach out to the Councilwoman’s office, and we will be sure to assist you.”
NYC Parks beaches open for the 2023 season on Saturday, May 27, and will remain open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Beachgoers are directed not to swim in red-flagged areas, including construction zones. For updated USACE project information and ongoing service changes, visit NYC Parks’ webpage: www.nycgovparks.org/facility/beaches/beach-recovery/rockaway-beach-closures, which will be continually updated ahead of Memorial Day. Also, for additional questions and concerns, call Councilwoman Joann Ariola’s Rockaway district office at (718) 318-6411.