BY LUIS GRONDA
Beach season officially began last week and with it came news of progress.
Mayor Bill de Blasio held the annual press conference to ring in the start of the City’s beach season last week at Rockaway Beach. The event was also used to announce the opening of a portion of the boardwalk just before Memorial Day.
Officials said 2.2 miles of the Rockaway boardwalk, from Beach 86th Street to Beach 97th Street, will reopen to the public for this summer season.
They also announced a $480 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration toward its reconstruction. The mayor added that any money left over from that project would fund other initiatives in Rockaway.
The boardwalk has been closed since Superstorm Sandy ripped through New York City in 2012. It destroyed the walking surface along Rockaway Beach, which many consider a symbol of the area.
The City has since embarked on its rebuild, promising to bring the boardwalk back by Memorial Day next year with construction to be completed by May 2017. The new boardwalk will be rebuilt with new steel and concrete that will be able to withstand strong storms like Sandy, should another natural disaster occur in New York City.
“We learned a lot of very tough lessons after Sandy. One of the most profound lessons is whatever we do from this point on, we have to plan for that unthinkable storm. We have to be ready for the unexpected. This boardwalk was built with that mind. This is what is the first step of a bigger effort,” de Blasio said during Friday’s press conference.
According to the Parks Department website, the next step in the process is rebuilding the boardwalk from Beach 97th until Beach 107th Street, which is expected to be finished by July 4 this year. They will then rebuild between Beach 19th and Beach 39th streets during the fall and winter of 2016, according to Parks’ website.
The original plan was to reopen it by 2018, but both de Blasio and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said the rebuild is ahead of schedule.
“Yes, 2017 is the realistic number. In terms of all the concrete portion, there are portions that are already open with wood. What will happen over the summer 2016, they’ll start converting the wood sections to concrete, but we’re very confident that we can complete the project by the summer of 2017,” Silver said.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D- Middle Village), who also represents Rockaway, said the rebuild has gone “realistically as quick as it can go” and the key is to move forward and continue towards full recovery from Sandy.
Addabbo added that, while the news about the boardwalk is a positive, he was disappointed there was no talk about restoring ferry service to Rockaway.
Last year, the Mayor unveiled a ferry plan that would bring water service to all five boroughs, including Rockaway, by 2017.
Addabbo said the ferry should come back sooner than that to serve residents on the peninsula.
“You don’t need two years to figure out a ferry for Rockaway, even if it is temporarily,” he said. “If it’s done right, it will be one of the most successful ferries in the city.”
Rockaway Summer Fun
While the boardwalk is still under construction, there are plenty of restaurants to visit during beach season.
Two of the most known Rockaway eateries are Bungalow Bar and Thai Rock.
Bungalow Bar, located at 377 Beach 92nd St., offers a waterfront view of the Cross Bay Bridge as well as Jamaica Bay. The eatery offers several types of food for your choosing including burgers, pasta and seafood. They also offer a brunch menu for those that like to enjoy the popular late morning meal.
Bungalow also has a solid beer and wine options, including 12 different types of wine, split between red and white.
Another popular Rockaway business is right next door to Bungalow Bar, the Thai Rock Restaurant and music venue.
Located at 375 Beach 92nd St., Thai Rock offers delicious Thai food for those that are in the mood for the Asian cuisine.
It also functions as a concert venue, hosting live musical acts on the weekends. You can see a full listing of their upcoming shows at thairock.us/events.
Another popular Rockaway eatery, Rockaway Taco, shuttered its doors permanently, but its owner has opened another taco venture called Tacoway Beach, located at 302 Beach 87th St.
The new taco restaurant is located inside the Rockaway Beach Surf Club and it is more centrally located than the previous establishment. Rockaway Taco will reportedly return “in some form” next summer.
A new music venue is coming to the Rockaway peninsula as well.
The owners of the former Brooklyn Night Bazaar have signed a multi-year lease deal to open a new music hot spot at Jacob Riis Park.
The venue, called Riis Park Beach Bazaar, will host live music on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons.
As part of the experience, beach-goers will be able to rent chairs and umbrellas to sit and relax at the venue. You will also be able to order food and drinks from your phone to be delivering straight to where you are seated.
The Bazaar will also include several beach-related activities including beach volleyball, soccer, Frisbee and more.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.