Almost 15 months after Hurricane Sandy ripped out two-thirds of the long boardwalk along Rockaway beach, city officials this week unveiled their ambitious rebuilding plans – with a very unambitious completion date of June 2017.
While the finished product promises to be a sparkling jewel along the beach, it’s startling to realize that the neighboring community of Long Beach on Long Island has already rebuilt its entire boardwalk, roughly two-thirds the length of Rockaway’s 5.5-mile boardwalk.
Officials for the city’s Economic Development Corporation have mapped out the 107-block project to be completed in five stages – with the first 11-block portion not even set to be done until Memorial Day of next year. Officials here point out that Long Beach used wood to rebuild its boardwalk while the city’s construction plans involve concrete and are further complicated by federally-protected birds -- the piping plovers – which nest in one large section of the beach.
Still, it seems unlikely that if the Brooklyn promenade or Union Square Park were devastated in a storm that it would take nearly five years for the project to come to fruition. While the boardwalk may not mean much for the average city resident, it’s the backbone of Rockaway’s community and a huge draw for the neighborhood during the summer months. With so much money and time being pumped into the community in the wake of the hurricane, getting the boardwalk rebuilt sooner would serve as a massive shot of adrenalin into the entire peninsula.
It’s relatively easy to hold a benefit concert in Madison Square Garden or to bring celebrities to your neighborhood with a shovel in the immediate wake of a disaster; it’s a lot trickier fighting bureaucrats who have a pretty PowerPoint presentation and a sluggish timeline. Mayor de Blasio didn’t mention the hurricane or rebuilding at all in his inaugural speech two weeks ago. But maybe that’s a good thing. Deeds are a lot stronger than words at this point. A good start would involve continuing ferry service to the Rockaways – which de Blasio pledged to do as a candidate. The city’s subsidy is set to run out at the end of the month – with no news from City Hall about whether it will continue through the rest of the chilly winter. Let’s see if New York is stronger than the storm.