Lawmakers want feds to move on coastal protection

Schumer and Meeks say erosion threatens Rockaway Peninsula, timeline needed

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to provide a timeline for completion of the Jamaica Bay Study and expedite construction for any other projects that are ready to be built.

In a letter to Colonel Thomas Asbery, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, Schumer and Meeks wrote: “The Corps must identify any nearby dredging projects that would allow emergency sand placement in Rockaway. In order to expedite construction the Corps should focus on these discrete pieces such as sand replenishment, groins and jetties to retain this sand, an ocean-side sea wall structure and standalone natural and hard bay-side features.”

In addition, the federal legislators called on the Corps to simultaneously complete the Rockaway Reformulation Study. The lawmakers obtained hundreds of millions in Hurricane Sandy relief funding for both the study and construction, however, more than four years have gone by and the study is not yet complete nor has construction yet begun.

Schumer said that it is unacceptable that these fully-funded projects languish for so long, leaving Rockaway residents vulnerable to erosion, storm surge and flooding. “There’s no reason to leave Rockaway vulnerable when federal funds are available now for measures that can provide protection during future storms,” Schumer said in a media release. “I urge the Corps to release a schedule for the completion of the Jamaica Bay Rockaway Reformulation Study, and move forward with any projects that are ready-to-go.  In the meantime the Army Corps must provide temporary relief through placing additional sand on erosion hotspots.”

The federally-funded Rockaway Reformulation Study, that Schumer has long supported, will ultimately determine the solution for long-term erosion control and coastal protection projects along the Atlantic Coast, between East Rockaway Inlet, Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay, officials said.

While the study dates back to a 2003 agreement with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, it had been subjected to various delays in funding and implementation. In the Sandy Supplemental Appropriation of 2013, Schumer secured full federal funding to finally complete both the Rockaway Reformulation Study and the construction of the preferred alternative. 

“Sandy devastated New York City and especially my district, including the Rockaways and Nassau County,” Meeks said in the same release. “Improving resilience in New York’s coastal neighborhoods should be done with expediency, since we cannot predict how soon the next superstorm will hit. Without further delay, we must leverage available federal and local resources to rebuild and harden New York’s infrastructure to withstand future climate events.”

Local Rockaway officials also believe that this work needs to be done. “Rockaway has become an emergency area with expedited erosion like I’ve never seen before,” said John Cori from Friends of Rockaway Beach, a charitable organization that has helped residents after Sandy. “We need to cut through the bureaucratic process and expedite construction of these vital protections projects now.”

Dolores Orr, chairperson of Community Board 14, said as another hurricane season gets underway residents become stressed and their anxiety grows, hoping there is not another major storm. “It has been more than for years since Sandy, plans are in place for ocean protection, there is no reason the work has not begun and the Jamaica Bay study must be completed immediately so this critical work can begin,” she said.

Calls for comment to Asbery and the Army Corps of Engineers were not returned by press time.