Eye On Rockaway
Have you seen the YouTube video for the Harlem Shake made at our very own Teen Library in Far Rock-away? It stars our local youth and some very unusual characters, including a superhero or two and even Bugs Bunny (my favorite). It also has some nice special effects. It is fun and sure to put a smile on your face. And if there’s anything people in Rockaway could use are some smiles after the events of the last few months. Hats off to the Teen Library and our youth for doing a wonderful job.
The fact is there hasn’t been a lot to smile about since October 29th and Superstorm Sandy. It is six months since the storm that changed the lives of everyone in Rockaway. Things are nowhere near normal, and won’t be for some time. Our beaches are in desperate need of replenishment; many homeowners have not yet begun repairs; and many people are still displaced from the storm. While many businesses have begun repairs or reopened, others are still struggling to get on their feet. Some people are still living without phone service or are still using generators because of no electricity. Walk along the streets and you can tell when someone has just returned to their home. On the sidewalks you will find the remnants of their lives as they are, only now, beginning to decide what to keep or throw away.
Many locals barely got any money from FEMA or any other storm assistance. Instead they used their own or borrowed money to make repairs to their homes. On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg reversed his proposal not to use federal block grants to reimburse homeowners who made Sandy related repairs. Now “qualifying homeowners” will be reimbursed for repairs not covered by FEMA, insurance or other resources. This is the right move. Otherwise it would have been the haves and have-nots as the state reimbursed homeowners in Nassau (which borders Queens and Rockaway) and Suffolk counties for the very same expenses.
As for that sand replenishment, in June the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will replace one million cubic yards of sand along eroded beaches between Beach 89th and Beach 149th Streets. Of course areas being worked on – some of our most used beaches – will have to be closed during the replenishment. But, better late than never.
Meanwhile, the Parks Department is repairing parts of the boardwalk and getting the beach ready for the summer. Beach season for Rockaway is what businesses wait for all year, especially those by the beach. But first those establishments need to reopen. Then we need a way to get those beachgoers from out of Rockaway to our beaches. At the moment the ‘A’ train is set to return to direct service to Rockaway sometime in June. It could be four weeks of people not being able to get to our beaches. Earlier this week the MTA cut the amount of shuttle buses between Mott Avenue and Howard Beach. But let’s face it, if you have to take a train, then a shuttle bus, then another bus (Q22) to get to the beach you might as well take a train and go to Coney Island. While this would be a good time for the sand replenishment project, it doesn’t help our businesses along the beach.
On April 13th the deadline passed for New Yorkers to register for FEMA. Since then the agency has packed up and left the peninsula, even as some people are only now returning to their homes. At least one office should have been kept open here and New York’s deadline for registration should have been June 1st. Especially when you consider FEMA stayed for seven months in Louisiana after Katrina and the deadline in New Jersey is May 1st.
Then there is our boardwalk, most of which on the west end was destroyed. There’s a feeling of disbelief each time I, and probably all of us, look at where the boardwalk once was and is no more. It will be some time before we know the final decision on what will happen with it.
There is so much more to do and will be for a long time. But we are coming back.