2013-12-20 / Front Page

Boardwalk Forecast Brightens A Bit

By Kevin Boyle

The boardwalk timeline is firming up and looking somewhat sunnier. For months, Rockaway residents have been pushing NYC Parks and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for start and completion dates. Government shutdowns, permitting issues, and engineering challenges all contributed to a mix of uncertainty.

In July, the EDC, seeking an engineering and design firm to oversee the reconstruction of the boardwalk, issued a Request for Proposals (RFP). In that RFP, the DEC declared that the contract would commence in September, 2013 and be completed within 25 months.

As it was, 25 months struck some as too lengthy a time, especially compared to nearby Long Beach and New Jersey where new boardwalks were already completed or nearly so. And then, just a few weeks ago, a general uproar began when a Parks official said it might be “four years” before the boardwalk would be completed. Other Parks officials quickly denied that any timeframe was set, insisting too many variables made forecasting deadlines impossible.

At Tuesday night’s Community Board meeting both Parks and EDC signaled a shift and issued approximate timelines. Construction, in what was called Phase 1, would begin in spring 2014 from Beach 86th Street to Beach 97th Street. Phase 2, from Beach 98th Street to Beach 108th Street would begin “in the summer.” Phase 3 from Beach 109th to Beach 126th street would begin “in the fall of 2014.”

The first three phases are in areas where the boardwalk is missing, except for the islands which were constructed earlier this year.

Phase 4, due to start in the winter of 2014/2015, will cover Beach 86th to Beach 60th Street.

The start date for Phase 5, Beach 60th to Beach 19th Street, remains uncertain.

No completion dates were offered but some target dates will be offered at the next Community Board meeting in January, according to Greg Clancy, an engineer and senior vice president at EDC, who presented at the Tuesday night meeting.

Clancy said work on various phases could occur concurrently. Phase 2 could begin while Phase 1 is underway, for example. He said the bulk of work could be done in months but details and finishing touches would likely stretch out timelines, making it difficult to declare completion dates at this time.

In a best case scenario, some in the crowd speculated that a new continuous boardwalk might run from Beach 126th to Beach 60th Street by the summer of 2015.

Clancy resisted engaging in such speculation – although it didn’t stop others, including some optimists. Still, it was pointed out, even if a speedy construction schedule gets Rockaway the new stretch of boardwalk by the summer of 2015, Phase 5 presents a dilemma of sorts. Currently, the boardwalk is largely intact from Beach 60th to Beach 9th Street with a three block gap from Beach 38th to Beach 35th Street. There is talk that Parks and EDC are trying to figure a way to construct a temporary boardwalk in this gap so that a continuous boardwalk from Beach 60th to Beach 9th Street would be in place for next summer, 2014.

Should that occur, the agencies would have to decide about keeping it for the following summer, 2015. By keeping the temporary fix in place, a full boardwalk – a mix of new and old – could possibly be in place for summer 2015.

After that 2015 summer season, the rebuild from Beach 60th to Beach 19th Street would commence. (East of Beach 19th Street is already concrete).

The other choice is to have the new boardwalk in place from Beach 126th to Beach 60th but begin construction on the mid-to-east end in the Spring of 2015, which means work would be going on that summer and no full boardwalk would be in place.

It remains to be seen if the optimists are proved right and such decisions will have to be made.

Although Clancy wouldn’t commit much on completion dates, he was more firm on one aspect of the job. He said that beaches, in front of construction areas, will be kept open through the summer season.

In answering a question from Community Board chair Dolores Orr, Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh said baffle walls would be installed ahead of the boardwalk rebuild from Beach 126th to Beach 97th Street. Baffle walls will be on the north side of the boardwalk and are primarily used to keep sand on the beach. Clancy said, they will be “another layer of protection” in addition to berms and an extended beach following the coming beach replenishment.

The height of the boardwalk is another issue. At one end, Beach 126th Street, the new surface will be seven feet higher than the old boardwalk. To gain access to the higher walk, considerable ramps will be required. While designers are still at work with such challenges, Clancy said it was possible that ramps would run parallel to the new boardwalk rather than out toward the street.

As part of the presentation, EDC revealed some preliminary design renderings about what the new boardwalk will look like. One of those pictures accompanies this article and more can be found at nycgovparks.org

Full design plans and other building details will be presented to the Community Board at its January meeting.

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