2013-01-04 / Community

Sand Pyramids Rise At Riis Park

Pyramids of sand rise up from the Riis Park parking lot. (Photos by Dan Guarino) Pyramids of sand rise up from the Riis Park parking lot. (Photos by Dan Guarino) Passersby coming along the outer edge of the Riis Park parking lot may have taken a long second look at what appear to be large pyramids rising up in rows.

After hurricane Sandy, due to its large open surface area the parking lot became a major center for collected storm debris.

Tons of sand, household debris, trees, destroyed houses, cars, boats and other wreckage removed from the Rockaways and Broad Channel by the Department of Sanitation after the storm was deposited at Riis Park.

Estimates in mid-November put the amount of refuse piled up at 45,000 tons.

Though much has now been removed, FEMA, along with the Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with the DEP, EPA, KAM and others, is working now to clean up and clear out the remaining piles of recovered beach sand.

Under a $92 million standing contract with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Chemical Corporation, a global construction, remediation and response company, along with 32 subcontractors, has been tasked with the clean up.

The operation is also being carefully monitored by federal agencies for environmental issues.

The approximately 18 pyramids stand about 30 feet high.

According to workers at the hard-hat only area, each pyramid consists of beach sand recovered after the storm.

The current operation is focused on carefully filtering through each pile and separating out all outside elements.

The massive amounts of sand are combed through for household and general debris, metals, chemical and potentially hazardous materials and other waste.

Once separated out these materials are grouped into smaller piles to be handled appropriately and marked for proper disposal.

The remaining sand is then processed again to filter out any additional foreign material. Once it is completely cleaned, it can be returned to replenish Rockaways beaches.

All operations are carefully moni tored to prevent hazards.

The striking site has attracted both casual observers and photographers and artists such as Stephane Missier/ Charles le Brigand who has created otherworldly shots of the windswept sand pyramids.

Part of a $1.7 million upgrade initiated by Parks Department Commissioner Robert Moses, the Riis Park parking field was expanded to 70 acres in the 1930’s.

In 1937 it was noted as the world’s largest parking lot with space for 14,000 cars.

It is currently part of the Gateway National Recreational Area of the National Park Service.

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