Could the Rockaways Survive Another Sandy?

“There’s no reason to leave Rockaway vulnerable when federal funds are available now for measures that can provide protection during future storms,’’ Mr. Schumer wrote in a letter to the Army Corps last month.

Indeed, agency officials acknowledge that the $400 million the agency already has in hand would pay for the work on the beachside.

The other $3.6 billion needed would pay for a proposed system of flood walls, levees and gates to control water levels in Jamaica Bay — a side of Rockaway mostly overshadowed by the beachside.

Though the vulnerability of the peninsula’s northern part became starkly clear when waters leapt over the bay and left houses four to 10 feet underwater during Hurricane Sandy, there have been virtually no improvements to the bayside since the storm.

“All of these neighborhoods, tens of thousands of people, will just get flooded again from the back in another Sandy event,” said Dan Mundy Jr., who lives on the bay and is the president of the Broad Channel Civic Association. “All our hopes are on the gate.”

Funding for improvements on the bayside could be appropriated through the Democrats’ proposed infrastructure plan, which suggests allocating $25 billion to resiliency projects, Mr. Schumer’s office said.

But the specifics of a large-scale, national infrastructure bill would most likely be determined by Republicans, who control Congress. Neither the Trump administration nor the Republicans in Congress have presented such a plan.


Rockaway Beach during high tide. Erosion is already taking place on the beach, which could cause problems when another hurricane hits. Credit Will Glaser/The New York Times

Rockaway residents acknowledge the post-Sandy improvements in their neighborhoods, but are bracing for the worst, wondering whether measures taken so far are enough to protect the community.

One of the most significant improvements was the city’s $341 million project that replaced the obliterated wooden boardwalk with a concrete promenade, which also serves as a storm barrier. The new boardwalk has a steel-reinforced concrete deck, a higher elevation and a retaining wall underneath it to prevent sand from spilling into the community.

Yet, some noted that the reinforced boardwalk does not extend to the western half of the peninsula.

“That concrete boardwalk will be there for a long time,” said John Cori, a 54-year-old Rockaway resident who is the president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association.

“Our homes will be gone, but we’ll be able to come back and walk the boardwalk,” he added, half-joking.

As the federal government slowly unfurls its long-awaited construction in Rockaway, the city points to other federally funded initiatives. The city plans to spend $120 million to finance the construction of seven parks designed to be more resilient than those destroyed in Rockaway during Sandy.

But, ultimately, city officials are looking at the federal government to do the heavy lifting.

“The short answer, I think on this, is that we really need our federal partners to step in here,” said Michael Shaikh, the deputy director for external affairs for climate policy and programs at the mayor’s office. “This is a huge, gigantic project.”

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Source: New York Times



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