2012-06-29 / Top Stories

Call To Close East Rockaway Inlet Beaches

Howard Schwach


Rescue workers pull a teenager from the surf at Beach 19 Street earlier this month. Rescue workers pull a teenager from the surf at Beach 19 Street earlier this month. A Far Rockaway activist who was instrumental in getting larger warning signs on east end beaches after three young girls drowned there more than 10 years ago is calling for the city to finally permanently close the beaches along the East Rockaway inlet, from Beach 3 Street to Beach 25 Street.

“Enough is enough,” says activist Floyd Smith, the president of Concerned Citizens of America. “More than a dozen people have died in or near the East Rockaway channel in the past 11 years, and now another teenager has died there, and it is time to close the beaches on that treacherous stretch of water for good.”

Smith says that the idea to close those beaches came to him in 2011, after the three young girls, swimming early in the morning before the lifeguards came on duty, were swept into the inlet by the deadly rip currents that come out of the Great South Bay, and drowned.


The area between the Atlantic Beach Bridge and Beach 25 Street is a dangerous stretch of beach, experts say. The area between the Atlantic Beach Bridge and Beach 25 Street is a dangerous stretch of beach, experts say. “At some spots, the inlet is 100 yards wide and 40 feet deep,” he says. Those tides are very difficult to negotiate, even for a strong swimmer.”

Experts say that 2009 was the worst year for Rockaway in terms of rip current drownings.

In that year, there were seven oceanrelated deaths in Rockaway, six of them directly related to rip currents, those experts say.

Four were on public beaches, two at Riis Park, operated by the Federal park service, and one in Breezy Point.

“When water flows out towards the ocean and there are gaps in the sandbars, the current pulls swimmers along for the ride,” said one longtime lifeguard who asked not to be identified because she has no permission to speak to the press. “Those currents can undermine somebody even standing in the water and can actually drag them out to sea.”


Specialized Police and Fire units respond to all water emergencies. Specialized Police and Fire units respond to all water emergencies. At the time, a parks department official told reporters, “In certain weather conditions, especially with a lot of wind from the south, the waves can create an opening in the sand bar that extends along the beachfront about 300 yards from the beach. When that happens, it’s like turning over a five gallon water cooler bottle and ripping the lid off – all the water comes rushing out. If you are in the water where the breach occurs, you get sucked out.”

The Parks Department has no official comment on Smith’s proposal to close the beach.

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I live on a beach block close

I live on a beach block close to the proposed closing and I am absolutely against it. Indeed it would be illegal to close the beach itself due to federal laws regarding beach access. I would instead like to see lifeguards there. There has been much talk of adding lifeguards to this area but no action. Let's not move to extremes but closing down a beautiful beach, but work to make it safer for all


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