Rockaway Beach community shows support on tough opening weekend

A shuttered strip of beach in Rockaway was closely patrolled on Monday as visitors ignored gray skies in search of sand and surf on Memorial Day.

Officers from the NYPD and the Parks Department fanned out across the boardwalk and rode along the shorefront to keep people away from the heavily-eroded beach from Beach 91st to Beach 102nd streets.

“They should at least let us walk on it,” said John Cori of Friends of Rockaway Beach, who lives on Beach 92nd Street.

Parks Department officials said the opening weekend drew more than 100,000 people to the beaches in Rockaway. There were no summonses issued and people voluntarily stayed off the closed sections.

A good-sized crowd gathered at the Beach 97th Street concessions to eat and listen to live music. Many said it was a local show of support during a tough opening weekend. The beach closure, announced just one week ago, caught many people by surprise.

“This is a community that supports each other no matter what, so people are going to come by and help us out,” said Alex Moule, who was working at the Boarders Surf Shop that sells beach accessories and rents bicycles.

Michael Powers, operating manager for the Beach 97th Street concession, said while they are concerned, it’s still too soon to tell what kind of impact the beach closure will have on business.

“This is sort of the center of the community here on the boardwalk,” he said.

Parks Department officials said they had no choice but to close that section for the summer because erosion had left the beach too small and unsafe. They pointed out more than 4.5 miles of beach are still open to the public.

Torey Schnupp, who lives on Beach 102nd Street said the closure has made quiet sections of the beach too crowded.

“Now there are mass amounts of people forced into small areas,” she said.