Irene Proves That Dunes Are Necessary
Those of us on the west end who decided not to run away during Hurricane Irene’s unwanted visit to Rockaway last weekend, despite the mayor’s evacuation order, witnessed a sight that has not been seen in Rockaway since 1960; ocean water running like a river down the street from the ocean to the bay. On some streets, the ocean met the bay during high tide and on many streets the water inundated garages and basements. The exception, we are told, was those streets that had large man-made dunes on their beachfront. For years, there has been an ongoing debate about those dunes, which were financed by a donation from local residents to the non-profit parks commission. Other residents sued because their sightlines were hampered and because they could no longer see their children on the beach from their homes. They said that the dunes were dangerous and were being used by teens for drinking parties and other purposes. They lost in court. But the Parks Department did not keep the dunes in shape, and many began to deteriorate. Those that remained, however, did yeoman duty during Irene, keeping sand and water off many of those streets. Irene proved once again that the dunes should not be destroyed. In fact, they should be replicated along the entire Rockaway seashore. Dunes, in fact, replicate themselves if they are left alone. The Parks Department, however, has a way of destroying them in the guise of “grooming the beach.” One local had a good idea. He sees each of the civic associations on the west end forming community emergency response teams that would sandbag the beach walls and do other work necessary to keep the streets safe during storm conditions. They could also maintain the dunes that exist and insure that others grow. We like that idea. Neighbors helping neighbors is an ideal that we could easily reach. If the Parks Department is not going to help us, we have to begin to help ourselves.