Parkies Did Their Part
When people think about NYC Parks’ post-Sandy response, they think about the rebuilding of lifeguard buildings, boardwalk islands and comfort stations. They might remember the removal of pieces of boardwalk around the neighborhood. While these were indeed significant parts of the work done, the maintenance and operations forces assigned to the peninsula also played a significant role in the Rockaway recovery. The weekend before Sandy, Rockaway staff were building sand berms along the beach and shoring up the areas along the boardwalk that were only recently restored from Hurricane Irene. Community volunteers helped us fill sand bags while surfers enjoyed a costume surf contest in the growing waves. The sand bags were placed in strategic areas around buildings, and trash cans and other loose objects were removed from the parks throughout the peninsula.
The night of the storm, the park manager, several park supervisors, equipment operators and mechanics remained in the garage at Beach 75th Street to ensure that they were on site when the storm moved off shore so they could immediately take care of necessary repairs. The storm overtook the bayside property and water quickly filled up the facility. The staff took to their cars, and sat in the vehicles overnight while they waited for the storm to recede. Like many others, we never anticipated the scale of Sandy. The staff lost their vehicles, and that garage facility was destroyed.
Many of the Parkies live locally, and their homes also were affected. But everyone made it in to work each day, many working seven days a week in double shifts for weeks. There was a lot of work to be done, and we took our responsibilities to the people of Rockaway and Broad Channel very seriously. Staff removed debris and excess sand from parks, playgrounds, undeveloped areas and the beach, as well as non-parks properties.
We worked tirelessly through the winter and spring with other government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and numerous volunteers to assist the community in its recovery, and were eager to open the parks and beach. We developed strategies to operate without the vehicles, tools, equipment and office space we had before the storm. We focused a lot of our efforts on “re-greening” the peninsula after removing numerous trees and shrubs that died from salt damage.
It has been a crazy and challenging year, filled with frustrations and achievements. We are proud to have played an important role in the city's response to Hurricane Sandy and look forward to continued improvements.
Jill Weber is the Rockaway Administrator, NYC Parks