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Rockaway Beach closure prompts residents to plan ‘funeral’

Some Rockaway residents want Sen. Chuck Schumer to hasten construction of permanent storm protections on the beach.

A popular swath of Rockaway Beach will be

A popular swath of Rockaway Beach will be closed on opening day Friday, and locals are planning to arrive in all black to mourn the closure. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Rockaway residents and merchants are planning to clad themselves in black when the beaches open on Friday, turning the annual celebration into a funeral.

The city’s decision Monday to close an 11-block portion of the beach, along one of the most popular sections from Beach 91st to Beach 102nd Street, has received vocal opposition from locals. Some residents are planning a rally to call on Sen. Chuck Schumer to use his clout to hasten construction of permanent storm protections on the beach.

The tough winter and spring storm season battered a vulnerable strip of Rockaway shoreline, making it impossible to open for the summer, Department of Parks and Recreation officials said on Tuesday.

Parks First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh said the agency “worked through every conceivable alternative” to avoiding closing that portion of the beach.

The erosion got worse after a series of storms in the winter and spring, Kavanagh said in a statement to amNewYork.

“As we began beach preparation across the city at the beginning of the month we took final measurements of the distance between the toe of the dune and the high and low tide lines to estimate how much space could be available for recreational use,” he said. “After conferring with various stakeholders including the lifeguards who are responsible for beach safety during the season, we determined it wasn’t safe to allow access to this section.”

In 2014, the Army Corps replenished Rockaway’s beaches with 3.5 million cubic yards of sand, in part to rebuild the area after superstorm Sandy. But portions of the shoreline were still eaten away by erosion.

“They should listen to the people of the peninsula instead of engineers,” said John Cori, founder of Friends of Rockaway Beach. “The people are always right.”

Cori and others have spent years lobbying city, state and federal officials to build rock jetties that will stave off erosion while protecting nearby homes.

But those costly projects hinge on the release of a long-awaited U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study slated to come out this summer — with work possibly starting after the 2019 beach season.

On Tuesday, Schumer called on the Army Corps to host a community meeting as soon as possible to provide a timeline of work. He pointed out that he had already helped hasten the timeline of the report’s release.

“While we cut massive red tape to expedite things, the bottom line is that recent developments show that we need shovels in the ground to build jetties, replenish sand, reinforce the seawall and more,” he said in a statement.

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