Kevin and Mitch Go To the Beach, Part Three


    As discussed in prior postings, Kevin Walsh and I decided to take Q’stoner with us to the very edge of New York City when we visited the Rockaways. Here’s Part One and here’s Part Two. This is the third installment, and Kevin will finish up the quartet tomorrow. Now, back to the beach.

    This shot is looking back at Riis Park, at the border of what must have surely been an enormous and quite recent industrial endeavor.

    From Wikipedia:

    The park was largely built on the site of the former Rockaway Naval Air Station, one of the first US naval air stations. Riis Park was designed by the politically powerful New York City Park Commissioner Robert Moses, who had also created Jones Beach as a state park further east on Long Island in 1929. Moses saw Riis Park as a Jones Beach for poor immigrants, and ensured that the location was accessible by public transportation and closer to Manhattan.


    A vast wall of sand was found, dissimilar in color to the beach sand which the bathers and sun worshippers at Riis were gamboling about upon. This beach is now the built environment, it seems.


    In the Rockaways, long stretches of sand are less weekend paradise and more construction zone. Forget your sun visor. This is hard-hat territory.

    “It looks like hell,” said Kevin Boyle, a Rockaway community activist. “It’s not exactly ready for the top 10 list anywhere, but it’s coming along. I’m pretty sure by 2020, the boardwalk will be there and the beach will look good.”


    It should be mentioned, by the way, that everybody seemed to be having a much better time than Kevin and myself. We were the two weird looking old guys walking around on the beach with cameras… the ones who looked uncomfortable and relatively pale. The suntans people sport out here are actually outrageous for this early in the summer.


    Walking up the slope of what turned out to be a sand berm, we got to see some of the structural elements which underlie the quite unstable and dynamic substance of the new elevation.


    After Hurricane Sandy, more than $140 million was invested to repair and restore Rockaway Beach. As part of this work, intact sections of boardwalk were repaired, damaged beach buildings were renovated with new boardwalk islands constructed around them, public restrooms and lifeguard stations were installed to replace destroyed facilities, and interim shoreline protection and anti-erosion measures were created. Thanks to this work, more than 3 million people visited Rockaway Beach last summer.


    A string of cells was observed, made out of something that very closely resembled “Tyvek” material (the stuff they make IKEA bags out of), all of which seemed to have been filled with sand. The individual cells looked as if there were seams joining them together into an enormous line. There was at least a half to three quarters of a building story drop from the edge of the berm to the native sand below where the cells were positioned.


    The TrapBag® flood protection barrier is designed for rapid and low-cost deployment to control floodwater, mudslide prevention, erosion control and infrastructure protection. The TrapBag® system is a continuous cellular barrier of pentagon-shaped, vertical bags with a common flexible portion separating each individual cell. Each cell is sloped on one side, vertical on the other, and open on top for filling. They are connected side by side like an accordion, typically in 100-foot-long segments, as tall as 6 feet and up to any height when stacked. Each segment comprises 34 common-partitioned bags. These segments are linked together to create barriers of any length from 100 feet to many miles. Once linked together the segments are filled with one of a multitude of products such as sand, river silt, gravel, crushed stone or concrete.


    Further up the beach, a similar methodology was at work, but here the concrete piers of the former boardwalk seemed to be incorporated into the armoring of the shoreline. My understanding of the plan here, which is limited, is that the shoreline will eventually be some 15-20 feet higher than it was pre-Sandy.

    That’s a pretty good plan there, United States Army Corps of Engineers.


    More than 7,000 sand-filled textile bags, called TrapBags, are being installed from Beach 149th St. to Beach 55th St. and will later be covered with sand as part of 14-foot-high dunes.

    “A reinforced barrier with a dune system is probably a very effective way to provide protection for the Rockaway community,” said Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh.

    Each 100-bag unit weighs about 94 tons — roughly the heft of a blue whale, officials said. But Kavanagh admitted there’s little anyone can do to protect against a “monster storm” like Sandy.


    Thing is, this is still a park, and it can be difficult climbing up to the top of the berm from street level. Especially challenging for those using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs.

    NYC.Gov has a listing of all the access points to Rockaway beach, and their accessibility details, here.


    As at Bay 126, the City has deployed so called “Mobi-Mat Rec Paths” here and there. These are metallic mats which have a roughly textured surface. There’s a structure under that textured surface, one which allows for a sure footing.


    Mobi-Mat® RecPath™ is a portable and removable rollout ADA Beach Access Mat that can be used for pedestrians, disabled persons, wheelchair users, beach floating wheelchair, surf chairs, strollers, bicycles and vehicles including ATVs, golf carts, maintenance and emergency trucks.


    Here’s a close up of the thing, whose design allows sand to filter down and away from the surface. Clever, this.

    Good show, Parks Department, good show.


    Striking and magnificent, the Hotel Del Mar drew Kevin and I to it like moths to a flame.

    After snapping a shot of it, I turned to Kevin and said “this is so Forgotten-NY right here, this Hotel Del Mar is yours.” Kevin made his tired face at me, and then turned his eyes at the building. I swear that I heard clockworks turning and whirring under that Mets cap as he scanned the structure.

    I will tell you that this building used to be a private home, then a hotel, and more recently an old age home.

    The rest is for Mr. Walsh to say, in Part Four of “Kevin and Mitch Go To the Beach.”

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

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