Mayor Bloomberg And Parks Commissioner White Open All Of The City's Beaches After Extensive Post-sandy Restoration Work

May 24, 2013

More Than $270 Million Spent Toward Preparing Beaches for This Summer; Project That Could Have Taken Four Years Completed in Five Months

$386 Million Budgeted For Future Work to Restore Boardwalks and Increase Shoreline Protection

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White today opened all 14 miles of New York City’s beaches for the 2013 season. These beaches – Coney Island/Brighton and Manhattan Beaches in Brooklyn; Rockaway Beach in Queens; Orchard Beach in the Bronx; and Midland, Wolfe’s Pond, Cedar Grove and South Beaches in Staten Island – were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy and underwent a $270 million-plus restoration to open them this summer, creating new access, making them more resilient and better protected. More than 20 million people are expected to visit New York City beaches this summer. The Mayor and Commissioner made the announcement in Coney Island, where they were also joined by Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David J. Burney, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and City Council Member Domenic Recchia.

“A few months ago, our region’s beaches were scenes of the tragic devastation left by Hurricane Sandy,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “In the wake of the storm, we promised New Yorkers that, no matter what it would take, every one of our City’s beaches would be open on Memorial Day. And today, I’m very excited to make it official: All eight of the City’s free public beaches will be open for the 2013 season beginning this Saturday.”

“Our beaches are a summer vacation for millions of people, a driver of local businesses, and a backyard for local residents,” said Commissioner White. “I am immensely proud of the work that the Parks Department’s employees have done, and grateful to all of the support that we have received from our many partners in government and thousands of community volunteers. Today’s opening an underscores how far we have come – and we will continue to work to fully restore the damaged boardwalks and implement shoreline protection.” 

“Getting the beaches reopened after Hurricane Sandy was one of the most challenging, complex, and time-sensitive construction projects undertaken in our city in recent years,” said David J. Burney, FAIA, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Design and Construction. “Since March of this year, hundreds of contractors have been working around the clock to build and deliver 35 modular comfort and lifeguard stations to beaches in three boroughs; construct new boardwalk ‘islands’ in the Rockaways; repair buildings damaged by the storm; and completely rebuild Steeplechase Pier on Coney Island. This massive mobilization of construction personnel would not have been possible without the leadership of Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Harris; our colleagues at the Departments of Parks, Transportation, Buildings and Environmental Protection, as well as Con Ed and National Grid; and a tireless, dedicated team of architects and engineers at DDC.  We at DDC wish all New Yorkers a safe and happy summer.”

“When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City last October, our beaches took an impact that severely damaged the boardwalks and shoreline,” said Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty. “For several weeks, the Department of Sanitation worked around the clock and removed over 430,000 tons of storm debris from our beach communities of the Rockaways, Staten Island, and parts of Brooklyn – where many of our Sanitation Workers lived -- so that the City’s beaches could start the recovery process for the coming Summer season. I am proud of the dedicated work and commitment displayed by the men and women of Sanitation in assisting other agencies and volunteers in reviving our beaches.”            

“The Parks Department and all of its partners have done a phenomenal job working around the clock to get the beaches up and running, and Workforce1 was happy to help hire more than 1,000 people to help Parks with the recovery efforts,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “The City has also been working hard to help small businesses impacted by Sandy get back on their feet. This summer when you visit the City’s beaches, take a short detour and support some of the small businesses that have reopened as well.”

“Despite damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy, our City’s fourteen miles of swimming beaches will again serve as a popular summer destination for New Yorkers and visitors alike, enhancing our coastal communities, generating important economic activity and serving again as a first line of defense against future extreme weather events,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Seth W. Pinsky. “As we work to develop comprehensive long-term plans to protect our entire coastline and make our City more resilient, I want to thank our partner agencies from all levels of government for their hard work and collaboration and to congratulate them on this significant milestone.”

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is pleased to be able to place roughly four and a half million cubic yards of sand along beaches in New York City that were so severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District Commander Col. Paul Owen. “We’ll start placing sand this summer, in coordination with our local partners in the city, at both Rockaway Beach and Coney Island where previously constructed coastal storm risk reduction projects were severely impacted and need to be restored to provide increased risk reduction in the near future while also providing recreational and economic benefits to these recovering communities as well.”

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we witnessed unlimited examples of the power that committed and civic-minded New Yorkers can have when their City needs them,” said Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford. “Thousands of volunteers mobilized to our beaches and parks to help City government clean and restore impacted areas. As we head into the summer season, we will continue to work with community partners to direct the talent and good-will of New Yorkers who want to give back towards addressing our City’s most pressing needs.”

“Today marks a great day for people with disabilities because more accessible amenities are being added in the reconstruction of our beaches,” said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. “I applaud the continued daily hard work of Commissioner White and her team at NYC Parks to ensure that parks, playgrounds and beaches are accessible to people with disabilities. With the addition of newly constructed accessible comfort stations, first aid stations and the inclusion of additional beach mats, everybody will be able to enjoy the summer months at our city's beaches.”

The work, totaling more than 500,000 person-hours, included debris removal and salvage operations, demolition work, repair of damaged boardwalks, renovation of damaged buildings, replacement of buildings with elevated and storm-resistant models, creation of boardwalk islands around beach amenities, installation of ramps and stairs for beach access, implementation of shoreline protective measures, repairs to playgrounds and other recreational facilities adjacent to the beaches, environmental monitoring, and installation of utilities. This work was made possible thanks to funding through the Office of Management and Budget, and support from the Public Design Commission.   

As part of the post-storm clean-up, more than 40,000 cubic yards of debris – enough to fill 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools – were removed. Nearly 8,000 volunteers came to beaches and parks in an effort organized with the help of the Partnerships for Parks and NYC Service. These volunteers carted sand out of playgrounds, gathered debris from shorelines and planted native, wetland plants. Further assistance was provided by thousands of temporary workers, funded by Disaster National Emergency Grants from the US Department of Labor and FEMA through the NYS Department of Labor and NYC Department of Small Business Services. The NYC Department of Small Business Services helped connect more than 1,000 New Yorkers to recovery jobs through its network of Workforce1 Career Centers. The NYC Department of Sanitation, with assistance from these volunteers and grant-funded workers gathered more than 200,000 cubic yards of displaced beach sand. This sand was cleaned, sifted of debris by the Army Corps of Engineers and City contractors, and then returned to the beaches.

New storm-resistant, accessible public restrooms and lifeguard stations, designed by Garrison Architects, have been installed in Coney Island, Brighton Beach and  Rockaway Beach to replace facilities that were destroyed by the storm. In the coming weeks, more of these buildings will be brought to some of Staten Island’s beaches. The new buildings were fabricated off-site, using modular construction, to minimize their impact on the communities and environment. The buildings are sustainably built – containing skylights and solar panels, and elevated on concrete pilings to better withstand future severe weather events. The buildings are also accessible to people with disabilities, with switchback ramps from the beach. Members of the design team included Sage and Coombe, Matthews Nielsen, ATL architects and McClaren Engineers, and Jacobs General Contractors.

An additional $386 million has been allocated from the City’s budget to allow restoration work to continue throughout the summer and in coming years, including a full restoration of the nearly 5 miles of damaged boardwalk citywide; installation of shoreline protection; and continued repairs to beaches, shorefront parks and playgrounds.

The Parks Department will soon begin installing emergency protective measures along Rockaway Beach and at South, New Dorp, Oakwood and Cedar Grove Beaches in Staten Island. This includes the installation of berms and sand-filled geotextile bags, and the replacement of damaged concrete baffle walls in Rockaway. The work will protect the beaches from erosion, and protect coastal communities from flooding and wave action. And this summer, the US Army Corps of Engineers will add nearly 1 million cubic yards of sand to Coney Island and 3.6 million cubic yards of sand Rockaway Beach as part of the Corps’ near-term coastal restoration efforts, restoring these beaches to their original design profiles. The Army Corps also assisted Parks with design work on emergency protective measures for Staten Island’s beaches, including almost 18,000 feet of berm and approximately 90,000 cubic yards of sand.

Beaches will open for swimming 10:00 AM tomorrow, and will be open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, daily through Labor Day, September 2. More than 1,400 lifeguards will be in place for opening day. Swimmers are reminded to observe the following beach safety tips. 

  • Swim only when lifeguards are present: Lifeguards are there for your protection. Follow their directions and all rules.

  • Swim with a friend: Drowning often involves single swimmers. A friend can signal for help if a problem develops.

  • Swim sober: Alcohol impairs swimming ability and is a major factor in drowning.

  • Supervise children: Watch children closely even when lifeguards are present.

  • Never chew gum or eat while swimming.

While enjoying themselves at the beach this summer, all New Yorkers are also reminded to dispose of their litter in the many trash receptacles that are provided.  Each summer day, Parks picks up nearly 200 tons of litter dropped on the ground or left behind at our beaches, picnic areas picnic areas, parks and playgrounds.  New Yorkers are encouraged to “bag it at the beach” by disposing of their litter and helping to keep our city lean, green and clean.

The Health Department regularly tests the city’s beach water and inspects beaches to ensure compliance with local, state and federal safety standards. When water near the beaches becomes contaminated, it can pose health risks – especially to infants, toddlers, people over 65, and those with underlying medical conditions. Beach advisories, closures and water quality test results will be posted at and updated regularly throughout the summer. You can also get this information by calling 311.

Since 2002 the Bloomberg Administration has invested over $9.5 billion towards projects that better treat wastewater and manage stormwater. As a result our waterways are cleaner than they have been in a century. Investments in wastewater infrastructure also helped ensure a quick recovery for the city’s waterways after Sandy. DEP was able to treat 99 percent of all wastewater within three days of the storm; and 100 percent of all wastewater within two weeks. The City’s 14 wastewater treatment plants – which all meet or exceed the highest national standards – prevented billions of gallons of toxic wastewater from being discharged into rivers, harbors and bays.

Alongside infrastructure upgrades, the City has launched the Green Infrastructure Plan, an alternative approach to improving harbor water quality that combines traditional infrastructure upgrades and the integration of green infrastructure to capture and retain storm-water runoff before it ever enters the sewer system.  Over the next 20 years, the Department of Environmental Protection is planning for $2.4 billion in public and private funding for targeted green infrastructure installations, as well as $2.9 billion in cost-effective grey infrastructure upgrades.  Taken together, these investments will lead to a greater improvement in harbor water quality, and at a lower cost to ratepayers, than traditional upgrades alone.

Marc LaVorgna / Julie Wood

(212) 788-2958
Arthur Pincus/ Zachary Feder
(212) 360-1311
Joe Soldevere
(718) 391-1641