2007-06-29 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

When The Dunes Go
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

Historical Views of the Rockaways
When The Dunes Go... Will The Dunnage Suffice???
From The Rockaway Museum
Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

When serious beach erosion struck the Rockaway peninsula in the 1970's and beyond, certain sections of our beachfront were affected more than others. In these specific areas, storm-driven surf had passed under the boardwalk to wash over the land and rush the Boulevard.

In other specific sections, the ocean's rage was checked, amazingly, by a tried-and-true, old-fashioned method, which is scoffed at today by our astute environmentalists.

No mention was ever made, to my knowledge, that huge chunks of concrete, old sidewalk sections, brick and mortar clumps, and sections of blacktop roadways were used to protect specific areas of the beachfront and checked the onslaught of the storm surge. The same has happened to many areas of our bayfront also, by dumped material so mentioned, that has been in place for decades.

This practice was common in the old days, and a prime example is Brant Point located in northwestern Arverne. The eastern portion of Brant has been spared drastic erosion from riptides, but the western side is losing marsh and ground at an alarming rate. Just to the west, Terrapin Point has lost one hundred feet or so of ground behind the rotten bulkhead, with the loss checked by dumped construction material, which was also used to fill up the entire Point before dredged material covered same back in the early 1900's. Even the Long Island Railroad dumped huge chunks of concrete "whatever" to protect its landing at old Hammels Station on the bay front at Beach 84 street. Strange as it seems, the dunes are gone, but the dunnage remains, if you will!

Under the dunes in Far Rockaway, on the beach side, old stone groins and old wooden bulkheads, and other ancient erosion protection structures of yore have been buried by beach fill, and protected by the Long Beach bar offshore, so to speak.

Winter dunes created by the Parks Department (while the sand was still available) protected Edgemere and Arverne beaches, and were flattened out for the next beach season.

The beaches west of Arverne an endangered species, while talking goes on over the cost of building stone groins, or doing the cheaper nourishment to our starving beaches.

Gateway National Park has protected its beachfront by building dunes behind the old bulkheads in the 1920's or so. Dunes to the east of Riis Park beach have been created by some residents, and complained about by others.

It seems that there is no happy medium between generations, especially the newest, which is ignorant of the past concerning the west end beaches.

They should all sit down and talk with and listen to older residents who went through years of erosion, before the city got around to protecting beaches at the west end in the late 1930's. Views has published photos of this old threat to the west end, but the new generation wants to have their cake and eat it too!

So here is another old photograph of the beachfront at Neponsit taken in the 1920's. We are looking westward at houses located from right to left, at 137 Beach 144 Street, up to 145 Beach 148 Street.

The bulkheads and jetties shown represent the old dunnage (if you will) put in to preserve the beaches there, and were probably buried when the new beachfront was built here. A stone groin has held onto the beach area at Neponsit for some time now, and according to the soothsayers of the present time, that will last forever! I have a bridge to sell them, if they believe that the 'big one," when it comes, will not harm the beach! They seem to have forgotten the recent, past beach-fills in this area, and the reason for the stone groin at Beach 149 Street. At one time in the past, the sand on the east side always was higher than the west side. At present it is about "Even Steven."

Many beach areas on the east coast are building dunes to protect their respective beachfronts. Without dunes here, will the old dunnage (if you will) suffice to protect streets and homes? I do not think so, how about you?

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