Just before Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer, Rockaway Beach is open to the public for months on end with sand, surf and summer fun.
In an effort to highlight the positive, and assuage the fears of the Rockaway Beach business community, NYC Parks officials joined Queens-elect leaders on Friday, May 27 to announce the city’s public beaches are open for the summer swimming season.
NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue speaks at a press conference on the sidewalk at Beach 17th Street in Far Rockaway, away from the popular stretch of Beach 95th Street to Beach 116th Street where there will be access to sand but no swimming in the Atlantic Ocean until July 15 at the earliest. .
The closure was necessary because of the Army Corps of Engineers’ ongoing construction project to complete construction of a rock groyne, or wharf, to slow the coastal erosion that has plagued Rockaway Beach for years.
“This resilience work we are doing will help protect this community for decades to come,” said Donoghue. “This work will slow down the erosion caused by climate change and ultimately improve beach access, which we all want, more beaches here.”
Donoghue said safety was his agency’s top priority, including safety from severe coastal storms and that beaches west of Beach 117th Street and east of Beach 95th Street would be open for swimming.
“Make no mistake, the Rockaways will open this summer, 62 blocks will be opened for swimming,” he said. “And more will be open for activities like surfing, sunbathing and as I saw this morning, great fishing. The entire boardwalk will be opened and [so will] our wonderful concessionaire.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards was also present to celebrate the opening of Rockaway Beach. Richards, who grew up in Edgemere, said a trip to the Rockaways was therapeutic, especially after two years of COVID.
Rockaway Beach is open, honey!” said Richards. “When we open this beach, we remember those who won’t be able to sit on the sand at Rockaway Beach, those who won’t be able to swim in the ocean because of this pandemic.”
Richards said he hopes the coast can be a beacon of inclusion despite the turmoil in the country.
“It’s a difficult time, without a doubt, in this country when we see everything that’s happened, but one thing that gives me comfort is on a day like this when we can open the beach because when you think about the beach. , beaches don’t discriminate, says Richards. “The beach is open to everyone, no matter what your socioeconomic status, Rockaway Beach is open to you no matter what your race, religion or belief. Rockaway Beach is open to you. It’s not just about beach opening. It’s about humanity, about freedom. And that’s what this opportunity gives us.”
Rockaway Beach Bazaar co-owners Aaron Broudo and Belvy Klein, who took over the NYC Parks lease for the sidewalk concession last year, have completely renovated the Beach 97th Street concession building and brought back most of the food vendors.
“There’s been a bit of confusion and miscommunication out there regarding the temporary beach closures, so let’s get this straight, Rockaways is open!” they said. “The area between Beach 95 and Beach 116 that was previously fenced off by Army Corps of Engineers work has now been fenced off to accommodate public access to the sand. It is expected that swimming will resume in the area from mid-July.”
They will also host free concerts throughout the summer and other activities from lobster boils and movie nights to yoga and volleyball.
“Let’s celebrate our beach,” said Assemblyman Stacey Pheffer Amato. “What we need to do is make sure people know our beaches will be closed for swimming. Our business is open. Our beaches are not closed, and that is our message.”
Jonathan Gaska, district manager for Community Board 14, looks forward to Memorial Day weekend every year.
“It’s always a great day,” said Gaska. “This is why you moved to Rockaway, this is why you are here, this is the season,” Gaska said. “Winter is hard, windy, cold. It’s beach season now, that’s why we came here. That’s why it’s a great place to live, a great place to work.”
Senator James Sanders Jr., who made an Earth Day appearance at Rockaway Surf for Earth Day, spoke about the ongoing issue of climate change.
“I’m really happy that we’re finally getting serious about the initiative we’re taking to do something about it,” Sanders said. “Because for those of us who live on this beach, we love this beach. We like living on this beach. And most importantly we love life. So we need to step up our efforts on the issue of global warming.”
Sanders also proposed that the government fund opening beaches early and closing them later and bringing more food vendors to the beach.
With additional reporting by Jenna Bagcal and Paul Frangipane.
See more photos from Rockaway Beach 2022 opening day.